Electricity - No Easy Answers

Electricity is something we are coming to depend more and more on as liquid fuels become less certain. At the same time, big changes are planned for electricity, both in terms of fuel mix and in terms carbon treatment. In this post, I show a few graphs relating to US Electricity, and offer some comments on how what I see relates to the challenges at hand.

Figure 1

This graph shows that US electricity generation has been growing fairly steadily since 1970, unlike petroleum use. To the extent there was change from the long-term trend, it was between 1981 and 1990, when production from natural gas was lower due to a change in regulation. The other dip was in 2008, when net generation is down about 1%.

Figure 1 also shows that coal is the largest source of generation, and production as grown over the years. Natural gas and nuclear have been the big sources of electric growth over the years--natural gas because of building more plants, and nuclear because of running nuclear plants at closer to full capacity.

Graphs on the EIA website break down electricity growth into the various sectors - residential, commercial, industrial, and a tiny amount of transportation. (I think of commercial as office buildings and stores.)

Figure 2 - From EIA website

One can see from Figure 2 that Residential and Commercial purchases of electricity has continued to grow, regardless of recessions or change in petroleum supply, since 1975. Industrial consumption has been pretty flat, regardless. In 2008, total consumption is down, but most of the decrease is in industrial.

Figure 3

Figure 3 shows recent growth in US electricity generation capacity, based on EIA data. Electricity and nuclear have been absolutely flat in terms of capacity. Growth in production shown in Figure 1 came from greater use of existing capacity, rather than more capacity.

There has been a huge ramp-up of natural gas capacity in recent years. When this capacity was built in the early 1990s, natural gas was thought to be cheap (and it is looking increasingly that way now, again, but cheapness has bad implications for long term supply). While gas prices were high, electricity from natural gas was expensive, so much of the additional capacity is not used very heavily. Part of the low usage is by design as well-to add temporary higher capacity when needed. If necessary (and adequate is available), considerably more electricity could be generated using natural gas without building more plants.

Wind capacity can be barely be seen near the top as a thin blue line, next to the top. It clearly has a long way to go, to replace any substantial amount of the other fuels. Solar is not shown separately on the graph. It is part of "Other".

Figure 4 - From EIA Website

Figure 4 shows that electricity prices ramped up steeply in the 1973 to 1983 period, then were fairly flat until 2003 or 2004. After that they started ramping up again, as natural gas prices rose. If a person compares Figure 4 with Figure 2, it appears that the price of electricity is almost immaterial to residential and commercial consumers, when it comes to the amount of electricity purchased. The growth in demand is almost the same when prices were increasing rapidly as when they were flat. This makes one wonder how much difference carbon tax or cap and trade legislation will have on electricity usage, at least in the short term for residential and commercial consumers. More likely, a high price will result primarily in a drop in the purchase of other goods--perhaps restaurant meals, or a drop in new hires at a commercial establishment. Over the long term there may be a change in behavior because of higher prices, but short-term price-sensitivity seems to be quite low.

The only type of electrical demand which has not been growing is industrial use. It was growing very little, even when electricity prices were flat. Thus, it doesn't seem to be all that dependent on the price of electricity either. It may depend on other factors--cheaper labor overseas, or a general recession.

A cap and trade program or a carbon tax would likely raise the price of electricity, but it is not clear whether the higher price would have much impact on total electrical consumption, except perhaps in the very long run. Short run demand seems very inelastic. If the price of electricity rises, consumers are likely to reduce the purchase of something else, rather than the electricity. Total electrical consumption will likely depend more on how the economy as a whole is doing. If families move in together, and stores close, consumption will be down. Thus, it seems like the big impact of a cap and trade program or carbon tax will be on the rest of the economy (unless they are somehow revenue neutral), not on electricity usage per se.

What happens to total electricity demand going forward?

In 2008, we are seeing a dip in demand, particularly for industrial use. If the recession gets worse, we could see this dip in demand continue, as families move in with each other, stores close, and industrial demand worsens. This scenario may actually be fairly likely, if the economy begins to contract significantly.

On the other hand, what most forecasters are expecting is that electricity use will continue to escalate in the years ahead, especially for residential and commercial users. In addition, if transportation is increasingly fueled by electricity, this will further add to demand. Because of this, they believe that total generation will need to continue to increase.

It seems to me that there are likely to be problems, regardless of whether total electricity use contracts or expands.

If demand contracts

If electricity demand contracts, electricity prices are likely to start increasing. One reason this happens is that a significant share of electricity costs are fixed, and do not decrease, even if the amount of electricity sold decreases. Also, new electricity generation will overlap with existing capacity, and the cost of renewable generation will be doubly high. This is the situation is already happening, as described in this article quoted in yesterday's Drumbeat.

In Arizona, Tucson Electric Power in January raised rates 6%, or $4.29 a month for an average customer, to fund new solar power to meet state quotas. Solar is pricey, costing more than twice as much as natural-gas-fired electricity. And since Arizona has surplus natural-gas power, the solar energy is not replacing generators that would be built otherwise, says the utility's Joe Salkowski.

One issue is that utilities generally finance new capacity. They will need to pay the cost of this capacity, whether or not something else (like wind) replaces its production, so their costs don't necessarily go down, except by the price of the fuel they no longer need, which is only a small share of total costs.

If demand rises

If, on the other hand, electrical consumption continues to rise, it is hard to see where the necessary capacity will come from, especially if fossil fuels are out of favor. It will take a huge capital expenditure to provide enough wind capacity to compensate for growth. If wind or solar is expected to replace coal or natural gas, or nuclear, that will be an additional challenge. If transportation is to be increasingly powered by electricity, this makes keeping up with demand all the more difficult. One can see from Figure 1 what a low percentage of electricity generation now comes from wind and solar.

On this site, we have been looking at the peak oil problem. If one talks to people in the electricity sector, their problems are almost as insurmountable, but for different reasons. It seems like every rock a person turns over reveals new problems.

Since increasing demand will be hard to meet then rationing will be necessary by price or otherwise. By very heavy overdemand blackouts and brownouts would fulfill the rationing. Otherwise it could be done electronically. Regulation of electronics, etc. would also fulfill a role. All electronics would have to fulfill efficiency standards befoe coming on the market.

Perhaps possession and availability could be controlled as well to limit the constant growth of the numbers of electronic gadgets in households. So each household/person would have an energy quota of electrical and electronic articles (so much theoretical maximal usage capacity if they were running X hours per month). On the other hand sales of electronics could be based on ration coupons for which one had to wait and demonstrate need.

One might argue that this would not work in a capitalistic system but if blackouts are the alternative it might be accepted. In the same way that the market system allows bubbles in demand to create a roller coaster ride of over and undercapacity in the economy as a whole, demand vs. supply for electricity will be similarly unplannable when no large scale flexibiity to the upside exists due to lack of capacity. So US is left with the choice of unplanned decline, like in Pakistan or some sort of planned decline as maybe Japan or Switzerland might attempt.

Demand-side management is one way to reduce demand and level out peaks and valleys.

Enter frequency responsive heat pumps, much cheaper & easier to store energy as useful heat (especially if it can offset peak demand)


Alternatively, a utility can pay demand-response companies to reduce use. For instance, a utility might pay Comverge $70,000 to $80,000 a year for each megawatt that the company can commit to eliminating from the load. By contrast, if a utility builds a power plant, it could pay $400,000 to $2 million for each new megawatt of capacity, depending on the type of power plant.

There are such low return rates on cash savings, and huge potential for capital intensive demand management and renewable / nuclear energy schemes which fit the pension investment model, it could all work very well.

A cap and trade program or a carbon tax would likely raise the price of electricity

And if the approach is revenue-neutral (e.g., refund all residential customers equally), then the tax is redistributed back, making it virtually the same price. Those who conserve pay the least; those are profligate in their consumption pay the most.

If the price of electricity rises, consumers are likely to reduce the purchase of something else, rather than the electricity.

I'm curious to know what you base this opinion on, aside from a hunch.

It will take a huge capital expenditure to provide enough wind capacity to compensate for growth.

It would take a huge capital expenditure to provide enough of any capacity to compensate for growth, so why you pick on wind is unclear. Dirty coal might be cheaper at the meter, but expensive from the aspects of air pollution (NOx, SO2, mercury, particulate matter, etc), GHG emissions, mountaintop destruction, and fly ash disposal issues.

Higher electricity rates should indeed translate into lower discretionary spending or lower savings. The money's got to come from somewhere, right? It's a lot easier to make sizable saving on other expenses than on electricity. And since the savings rate is quite low already, I'd say this argument makes sense.

But what Gail doesn't say is how small the effect would be. Electricity is dirt cheap.

It's a lot easier to make sizable saving on other expenses than on electricity.

Unless a home is already highly energy efficient with occupants that practice a conservation lifestyle, there is likely quite a bit of electricity savings that can be realized.

Ways to Save Energy In and Around the Home

Home Energy Projects

Sure... and the savings would amount to what?

For most people, saving electricity is more of a moral thing.

the savings would amount to what?

Whatever amount their efforts led to. There's certainly no one set number.

For most people, saving electricity is more of a moral thing.

Interesting; would you say 'most people' are moral or immoral?


Most are moral in my limited experience. Right or wrong is another question entirely.

Moral and amoral generally have circles. A person may behave morally to his wife and children and amorally at work or to people of a different ethnicity or sexual orientation. In the AGW and Peak Oil sphere we have to add the dimension of future generations, humanity as a species, other species etc. One might make a moral decision to burn a bit less electricity or other fuels and yet be perceived as amoral by future generations for not cutting back more.

Remember that many Nazi guards were good husbands and fathers. It all depends on how you draw the circle. In the light of what the world will look like for future humans I would say that all first world and second world people (mayself included) will be judged as amoral or immoral by humans of the future (should any exist)

I see people trying to save the tiniest amount of electricity all the time. And I see people from around the world talking about it on the web. They're not doing that to save enough money to buy a beer every other week or something.

People may be superficial, weak, willfully ignorant and so on. This may make them watt-wise and kW-foolish. But amoral? A minority for sure.

The way the first and second worlders are living is using up the ancient energy sources that might be spread out for use by future generations. The way first and second worlders are using that fuel is causing climate change that could possibly make the world uninhabitable for most or even all future humans. Hardly anyone in the first or second world views those actions as immoral or amoral. They might have twinges of concern or guilt and take some small actions to change how they live but by an large they feel their lifestyle is earned (or even I have had people tell me their right as Americans). However no doubt future generations should humanity continue to exist will feel that they they were greedy, irresponsible, evil, immoral, amoral etc. If it was us living in that hot depleted world and we knew that a few generation earlier people lived may levels of energy use higher than humans had ever lived before and did not change when the scientists told them Global Warming Disaster was coming, Peak Oil was coming, we would no doubt feel the same.

Its easy to say foolish, weak, ignorant when we are the ones bringing the disaster to its final stages, but no doubt those who have to live in the disaster will have quite different words for this generation. Perhaps amoral is not relevant, perhaps we are just not programmed to such energy wealth and incapable of responding correctly. No morals need apply, just a species that created a niche it could no longer live in much like the early anaerobic bacteria that created an oxygenated world and then had to move underground. But we humans label each other guilty or not, moral or not and I do believe that future generations will judge us harshly - I can't blame them.

I think we still have a lot of elasticity in our energy use per capita, especially electricty. Compare with Pakistan, Morocco or Ghana. Even South Americans use < 1/4 of what we use on average.

(click to enlarge)

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There are certainly places people can cut back. But once a person has bought all the expensive new electronic toys, electricity seems such a minor part of the total that the first thought is to just not buy another electronic toy (and use the others a little longer) rather than cut back on electricity use.

Getting a person's house sealed tighter, or adding insulation requires some thought and an additional expenditure, so people tend to put it off. Changing light bulbs could help too, but the light bulbs look more expensive.

But once a person has bought all the expensive new electronic toys, electricity seems such a minor part of the total that the first thought is to just not buy another electronic toy (and use the others a little longer) rather than cut back on electricity use.

What do you base this opinion on?

Getting a person's house sealed tighter, or adding insulation requires some thought and an additional expenditure, so people tend to put it off.

With cheap electricity, perhaps. If cap and trade (or a carbon tax) is instituted, then that provides a greater incentive to start taking measures, many of which cost little to nothing.

Changing light bulbs could help too, but the light bulbs look more expensive.

It's well known that CFLs are much less expensive overall, so it's hard to understand where you are getting your opinion from.

But once a person has bought all the expensive new electronic toys, electricity seems such a minor part of the total that the first thought is to just not buy another electronic toy (and use the others a little longer) rather than cut back on electricity use.

That may be what your intuition says, but it doesn't seem to be true.

Take a look at per-state electricity data. Take a look at the residential price/consumption figures - there seems to be a strong correlation between higher prices and lower consumption, both within regions (the North Central regions in the table show this very clearly) and between regions (compare North Centrals to New England or Mid Atlantic).

Available data seems to suggest that residential customers in the US are actually fairly sensitive to electricity prices, and that higher prices (due to shortages and/or carbon taxes) are likely to result in significantly lower consumption.

Higher electricity rates should indeed translate into lower discretionary spending or lower savings.

That depends upon how the extra (electric sales) revenue is spent/distributed. Any portion that is collected as say a redistributed carbon tax, is returned to consumers. If it is simply that the resource supplier gets a higher price, where does the delta for his profit go? If it means our investment into our electrical infrastructure is less efficient (on a purely cost to build basis) (say more expensive solar displaces cheap fossil fuel), then a case can be made, that the economy has spent more to provide the same. But otherwise one person's cost increase can be thought of as someone else's revenue increase.

One's person cost increase is indeed another's revenue. But the argument was that cost and revenue would merely be reshuffled so that a third party would lose revenue.
Whether this is a realistic assumption or not depends on a lot of things, the chief of which is indeed public policy. I don't think it's reasonable to expect a redistributive, high employment policy in most countries at this juncture. So I would not expect much additional employment in the electricity sector without offsetting job losses elsewhere.

Efficiency is a different issue because physical productive potential and money are linked but separate.
There's no policy solution to lower physical efficiency. It isn't necessarily a big deal however as long as the limiting resources aren't too scarce. And if there's lots of productive capacity laying around idle, throwing money at the problem can keep output up without hurting other sectors too much. But hurt it will, one way or another. The thing is, pollution would hurt too.
Notice the lack of numbers. Even if I was knowledgeable and skilled enough, coming up with good numbers would be hard work.

Where does the extra cost of higher electricity rates go to?

I don't think anyone is talking a carbon tax, and returning the money to the taxpayer. If that was what was being done, then at least the majority would get back to the people, and it would be fairly transparent.

One issue is that you are often substituting higher cost generation for current lower cost generation, so just because of the higher costs, rates will be higher.

Another issue is that unless electricity demand is really ramping up, very often what you are doing is not a substitution of a higher cost product for a lower cost product, but something like an "add on" of a higher cost product to the existing lower cost product. (See the blockquote in my post.) If you are building a new wind facility, or a new solar facility, you generally have to have natural gas as backup. In most cases, you already have a gas-fired facility that provides that capacity, you will just use it a little less. Building the new wind or solar facility will cut down on the amount of natural gas you will use, but will leave the utility with debt payments on two sets of facilities, instead of one. There will probably be two sets of staffing costs. The big savings will be in the purchase of natural gas, but that won't be very big in relationship to the cost of the new wind or solar facility.

A third issue arises if there is a cap and trade program, which is more likely what will be passed than a carbon tax. This has big (?) middle men costs, and these affect whatever might come back. Also, the amounts collected tend to go to someone else, for reducing carbon use, rather than coming back to the electricity purchaser payer. I think it is the availability of all of these payments to middlemen and to folks reducing carbon use that is one reason many back the plan. If there weren't $$ in it for them, they would forget it.

Where does the extra cost of higher electricity rates go to? I don't think anyone is talking a carbon tax, and returning the money to the taxpayer.

No, the program being considered is Cap and Trade, with one option having the carbon auction proceeds returned to the consumer.

One issue is that you are often substituting higher cost generation for current lower cost generation, so just because of the higher costs, rates will be higher.

That's correct, though it's only fair to point out that the external costs are not part of that equation.


In most cases, you already have a gas-fired facility that provides that capacity, you will just use it a little less.

That depends on a number of factors, some of which are;
- Was this a peaker plant or a continuous operation plant?
- Will this be part of a very diverse mix (i.e., wind, solar, hydro, nuclear)
or just as a backfill for high wind penetration without storage?

There will probably be two sets of staffing costs.

Staffing for current design NG plants, wind farms, and solar farms is very low, especially when compared to coal and nuclear. For example, for the first two, they can be operated remotely, with no one on site.

Building the new wind or solar facility will cut down on the amount of natural gas you will use, but will leave the utility with debt payments on two sets of facilities, instead of one.

Yes, but that would be the same if you are adding more generation capacity reflecting the scenario under discussion (demand growth).

The big savings will be in the purchase of natural gas, but that won't be very big in relationship to the cost of the new wind or solar facility.

Nor would it be with a cost of a new nuclear plant, for example. Of course, many here at TOD don't assume NG will stay at its current low price and may become quite expensive.

A third issue arises if there is a cap and trade program, which is more likely what will be passed than a carbon tax. This has big (?) middle men costs

Can you provide more information on these costs? Would you assume them to be similar to current costs of current SO2 and NOx cap and trade?

Also, the amounts collected tend to go to someone else, for reducing carbon use, rather than coming back to the electricity purchaser payer.

What are you basing this on? If the policy was to rebate the auction proceedings to the consumer, who else would it go to, specifically?

I think it is the availability of all of these payments to middlemen and to folks reducing carbon use that is one reason many back the plan.

What middle men are you referring to, specifically? Might you be conflating this with renewable energy certificate traders? Different subject altogether.

If there weren't $$ in it for them, they would forget it.

The program would be run like the current SO2 and NOx programs. An auction is held, allowances are sold to the highest bidder. In one of the CO2 cap and trade options under consideration, the money is then refunded to consumers. Those who keep their electricity consumption low (or take measures to lower it), get more back in refund than they paid in taxes. Those who use more electricity than average, will pay more in taxes than is refunded to them.

And in today's Drumbeat;

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. may never need to build new nuclear or coal-fired power plants because renewable energy and improved efficiency can meet future power demand, the head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said.

They’re too expensive,” Jon Wellinghoff told reporters today at a press conference in Washington hosted by the U.S. Energy Association. “The last price I saw for a nuke was north of $7,000 a kilowatt. That’s more expensive than a solar system.”

(Bloomberg) -- A proposed law to limit U.S. greenhouse gas emissions would price carbon dioxide permits in a range of $13 to $26 a metric ton by 2015, according to a preliminary government analysis.

Permit prices would nearly double if the U.S. banned greenhouse gas reduction projects in developing countries from selling so-called “offsets” to domestic industry, the Environmental Protection Agency said in a report late yesterday.

There are a lot of people with tight budgets. If electricity costs more, they can either cut back on electricity or they cut back on something else. Looking at the steadiness of the increases in Residential and Commercial in Figure 2, it doesn't look like much of anything has had an impact on electricity purchases in the past--recession, or the much higher growth in electricity prices in the 1975-1982 period, as indicated in Figure 4. My conclusion is that people tend to use their appliances as much as ever, and cut back elsewhere.

I suppose, if a great deal of effort is made, people can be trained to think differently, but my point is that I don't think a small increase in price is going to be enough by itself to make a difference in consumption patterns.

I have seen a graph showing that California, with much higher rates, has tended to have little growth in electricity usage. I don't know how much of this was industry, moving out of the state, and how much was a change in residential/commercial patterns. With much higher rates, and clear limited availability (think rolling blackouts a few years ago), California has been able to limit the growth in electricity utilization.

Austin is planning to conserve an extra 700 MW to reduce the per capita (but not absolute) consumption (Austin is still planning on rapid population growth).


Look particularly at slides 6 & 7. Gail, the entire story of Austin Energy is worth studying to expand your range of "what is possible & practical".

Austin looks for lower electric bills, NOT lower rates/kWh.

Austin is a clear success story for conservation being cheaper than new generation. A message that should be repeated 300 fold across the USA & Canada.


Austin Energy was a leader in sealing air ducts to reduce leaks. Save energy & money at relatively low cost. The techniques developed in Austin should be mandatory throughout the USA.

On both inner liner and outer covering do the following. Tie wrap to sheet metal nipple, then use approved ($9/roll) duct tape to seal and then cover seal with approved mastic. IMHO, this will not leak for a century.

The electric bill on a 2br apartment cost about $40-42. Swapping CFLs for everything dropped it by about $8. Either way, it's a pretty small expense. We did certainly have rationing by capacity.

The rolling blackouts were summer of 2000. Even before the rolling blackouts, we had a big blackout in summer of '96 during a heatwave. The utilities have been running conservation campaigns for a long time: buybacks of extra refrigerators, encouraging us to limit use of appliances at peak summer hours, and subsidizing CFLs (as low as $0.33 each). In the latest incarnation since 2001, it's called Flex Your Power.

Will --

I appreciate your contributions and your position, so I mainly offer these thoughts as a 'devil's advocate'. I would like to get us all off fossil fuels, and soon, but it's hard.

Improvements in the cost of windpower are encouraging, but at scale windpower is still demonstrably inferior to fossil generation. We are getting better at mitigating intermittancy and at forecasting intermittancy but don't yet approach the level of control of dispatchable generation. This puts us in an unenviable position of putting new money behind a pricey solution that has lower functionality. Externality costs may justify this, but it is still hard to swallow.

Regarding coal-fired generation, we have in place well-developed trading systems for SOx and NOx that capture these externalities, and EPA clearly has the appetite and mandate to leverage these systems further. It is one of the successes of emissions regulation that the costs to reduce acid rain and ozone pollution have been less than we thought they would be.

I am skeptical that we can replicate that success with GHG. A revenue-neutral carbon tax would encourage energy efficiency and mitigate the impact to consumers, but it would take a tax level on the order of $30/ton (around the highest price levels observed in Europe's ETS) to have an impact on coal. It is currently that much cheaper. And, the principle effect would be to shift us from coal to natural gas (it would give impetus to nuclear as well for future construction).

To make clean energy work, we need to figure out how to store the stuff at a level that approaches the stored energy of fossil fuels. A battery-electric transport sector seems like a possibility. If electric cars, trains, etc. can be made to buffer the variability of solar and wind without impairing their functionality (too much), that might be workable. Combination solar/wind would also help since their generation profiles are often complementary.

Right now, we are plugging wind and solar into the 20th century grid fairly haphazardly, and hoping for a better result than we are likely to get.

don't yet approach the level of control of dispatchable generation.

Wind power never has and likely never will be dispatchable; that's not a goal. Peaks and valleys from intermittency can be mitigated via storage, other renewable sources, peaker NG plants, and demand side management.

I am skeptical that we can replicate that success with GHG.

I don't see anything from you that supports that skepticism.

the principle effect would be to shift us from coal to natural gas (it would give impetus to nuclear as well for future construction).

Since natural gas would be subject to the same cost increases via a carbon tax, they would enjoy little advantage, given it's carbon content is roughly 60% that of coal. And NG electricity generation is expensive, even while NG is relatively inexpensive at the moment; I don't think many here expect the low NG prices to last, so NG electricity will see significant price hikes that will obviate any perceived economic attractiveness vis a vis coal.

I don't have an issue with some new nuclear construction, though I'm not the type to say "Let's go 100% nuclear".

To make clean energy work, we need to figure out how to store the stuff at a level that approaches the stored energy of fossil fuels.

Hydro already does that, and another 45GW of hydro is realistically available. On top of that is additional storage in the form of pumped hydro storage, which does not require a running river. There are other storage means available to us, including CAES, flywheels, etc. And as you point out, other renewables can be complementary, and those such as geothermal can be dispatchable.

Again, one of the most important tools in the toolbox for addressing intermittency is demand side management. All of the above combined with a Smart Grid will enable high penetrations of renewable energy sources.

I am skeptical that we can replicate that success with GHG.

I don't see anything from you that supports that skepticism.

I'll expand on this point a bit. By 'success' I mean reduction in GHGs at a moderate cost. In the case of emissions trading for SOx and NOx, technical solutions to reduce emissions had been available and commercially deployed well in advance of the cap and trade programs. These programs incentivized cost-effective implementation of the technology.

I don't see similar technical fixes for GHGs (or more precisely CO2), which makes me skeptical that a trading system can be as successful as for SOx/NOx. The only big 'get' is in reducing energy i.e, via conservation and DSM. It is maybe a little early to judge the European ETS, but I believe that politics has so far played a much bigger role in that market than have substantive fixes for CO2.

Given your passion for and knowledge of end-use efficiency, you are probably ok with a carbon tax (or cap/trade) even if all it did was incentivize a variety of conservation strategies. And I would hasten to agree. But I'll caution that the resulting conservation will tend to undercut the cost effectiveness of putting new generation sources on the grid -- and getting well rid of the old ones. IMHO, if we don't pay attention to the cross-currents we could end up frustrated with the results.

But I'll caution that the resulting conservation will tend to undercut the cost effectiveness of putting new generation sources on the grid -- and getting well rid of the old ones.

Any cap and trade or carbon tax will put increasing pressure on fossil fuel burning plants.
The older coal plants are the highest carbon emitters, and any successful conservation effort tied to an incremental cap and trade or carbon tax will make those old plants increasingly uneconomical and subject to an overdue retirement. Conversely, it provides an expanding market for non-GHG emitting electrical generation.

IMHO, if we don't pay attention to the cross-currents we could end up frustrated with the results.

What we have now is frustrating. If we don't start taking steps, there will be no results and we will stay frustrated. Is there a magical perfect end result that would be extremely difficult to 100% obtain? Of course, but that's how life is for the most part anyway. 75% attainment of a goal is better than 0% any day.

Don't forget what Gail is saying: electricity is too cheap to save. Much higher rates would be needed.

So why not welcome the higher costs? Bring them on!
If the message was loud and clear, if a political consensus was built for a huge carbon tax (or cap and trade) down the road, chances are that decent planning would be undertaken so that something halfway decent would be built with the money instead of the incremental mess system steve_piper is afraid of.

Taking steps feels nice but you need to pick a direction first. Sometimes 75% doesn't cut it and the first steps for that and 95% might be different.

Too many people are too poor for a rise in electricity prices to be considered moral or just for those people. This should be considered.

Too many people worry about the rights of the rich to use whatever they can afford without interference, and not enough worry about the rights of the poor to establish what is (IMO) a legitimate claim to a slice of the pie.

Many jurisdictions have "lifeline" rates for the first kWh. Austin Energy has residential rates of

3.55 cents/kWh for first 500 kWh
6.02 cents/kWh for 500+ kWh

3.35 cents/kWh for first 500 kWh
7.82 cents/kWh for 500+ kWh

Regardless of income.

These rate schedules encourage conservation (I would have set the price and limit lower, say 2 cents/kWh for the first 300 kWh) and a proviso for those with high efficiency heat pumps.


I am still shocked when I see the rates or electricity in the US. In Holland we pay 23 eurocents per kWh!

I assume that the amount o energy is per month? My mother lives well on 2500 kWh /year. OK, she needs gas or the heating and warm watter.

Just a thought rom my side: what will happen i the costs or electricity would rise with 0.05? Europe will live (my mother would go from 0.23 to 0.28) but what would happen in the US?

The rates above do not include the fuel cost, which is calculated each month. Somewhere between 4 and 10 cents/kWh. And a base charge for service of $6.50/month.

Still cheap.


On Long Island, the average LIPA (Long Island Power Authority) rate is $.17/KWH, which is among the highest rates in the country. Hell, on the bright side, it does make solar more attractive :-)

It's poverty that's not moral and just.

The poor have bigger problems than electricity. If your concern is genuine, there are a number of more important issues to work on. The most important aren't about prices at all but, if you want to look at prices, look at housing, health care and food for starters.

electricity is too cheap to save. Much higher rates would be needed.

That does not appear to be true. Look at the EIA data and see for yourself. All indications are that even modestly higher prices will lead to significantly reduced consumption.

Sure, you can define "modestly" and "significantly" any way to want. There is of course a relationship. The question is, how strong is it?
I've looked at the data and, though I don't claim to be able to eyeball the strength of correlations, this one looks pretty weak to me. I don't think there's much point in quantifying it anyway because we don't have a theory that would explain it.

What Gail did was quite reasonable: looking at how consumption changes with price movements across time.
What you want to do is fraught with issues: you'd need to adjust for income (and distribution), climate, rates of adoption of various electrical appliances and so on.
And even if you had a way to adjust apples into oranges that yields a strong correlation, that still wouldn't prove your point. Causation could run either way or even follow from a common cause. It stands to reason that, the more electricity is used per customer, the cheaper it's gong to be.

The bottom line is that electric bills are quite small. How much, as a fraction of their income, would households save by cutting into waste?
There's more potential for price-sensitivity among business. And even there, bean-counters seem to be asleep at the switch. Look at the picture of a retail outlet posted in this thread. The potential for savings by switching lightbulbs is noted, but how many of these bulbs are needed to begin with? How high need prices go before such waste is reconsidered?

Sure, can you define "too cheap" and "much higher rates"?

What you want to do is fraught with issues: you'd need to adjust for income (and distribution), climate, rates of adoption of various electrical appliances and so on.

Why would that be necessary with the trends in the EIA data, but not with Gail's hunch based on non-constant dollars? If we look at the costs using year 2000 as a marker, we get the following;


What do you take away from this data?

And even if you had a way to adjust apples into oranges that yields a strong correlation, that still wouldn't prove your point.

In other words, you are saying you won't accept any datasets and corresponding analysis as you have a strong opinion on this matter? I have no problem with that, just don't expect others to be of the same mindset...

The bottom line is that electric bills are quite small.

So then we can believe that cap and trade won't bother people at all, and any complaints are unwarranted.

How high need prices go before such waste is reconsidered?

As the cap and trade under consideration is incremental and the allowances will continue to rise in price, businesses will have to look at cost models to find out what makes sense to them in the near, mid, and long terms.

Look, you don't show a causal relationship by showing there's a correlation between any two sets of values. I hope you understand this. It is not the same thing as not accepting any datasets or analysis.

I wasn't talking about trends in EIA data but about inter-state or inter-regional comparisons.
There are generally less structural differences (changes in climate, income, cooling practices and so on) across a few years or decades (you don't need to take the whole chart into account) free of major wars or catastrophes. This is why I think Gail's approach was better.

Nominal prices are a problem whenever you deal with prices. The official inflation rate is not a good fix and it's a problem for inter-regional comparisons too.
By looking at Gail's chart, someone who's got even a vague idea about how prices evolved in the last 35 years can easily figure that the relative price of electricity looks vaguely like your chart.
The trends in your chart do not match the consumption chart. This does not indicate that there is no link of course (we know there is one) but that other factors are more important in this price range. This finding (that there are more important factors) is also relevant when comparing across regions and I think it is one of several reasonable arguments to question the significance of any correlation in the regional data.

Whether cap and trade is an issue for consumers is going to depend on the cap and on the upper limit for the permits obviously.
It's going to hurt producers and their employees sooner than consumers. So some complaints are warranted for anything more than an ineffectual program. If no one complains, it's not working.

I wasn't talking about trends in EIA data but about inter-state or inter-regional comparisons. This is why I think Gail's approach was better. Nominal prices are a problem whenever you deal with prices. The official inflation rate is not a good fix and it's a problem for inter-regional comparisons too.

This is a complete equivocation, meant to obfuscate the casual reader; I note that Gail's approach did not address what you are referring to, so you are holding forth a double standard. I don't buy it for a minute.

By looking at Gail's chart, someone who's got even a vague idea about how prices evolved in the last 35 years can easily figure that the relative price of electricity looks vaguely like your chart.

This from the person who admits "I don't claim to be able to eyeball the strength of correlations", yet has the last 35 years of CPI data memorized and translates financial charts on the fly. I don't buy it either, more obfuscatory quibbling...

It's going to hurt producers and their employees sooner than consumers.

Perhaps the coal-burning plants, and to a smaller degree the NG plants, but what else? Is this your complaint via connections to fossil fuel industries? I don't see any issue with this from hydro, nuclear, wind, solar, geothermal, etc producers.

If no one complains, it's not working.

So complaints about cap and trade would mean that it is working (or is expected to work). That's good news then...

You're not listening. Of course Gail didn't address the issues I raised. My choice of the word "less" indicates that I think Gail's approach is also plagued my these issues... just not as much.
Acknowledging that crude methods are flawed and stating that one is likely to be less flawed than the other does not constitute obfuscation or a double-standard.

Yes, I actually find statistics by eyeball very difficult. You must be an extraordinary statistician if you take that to be obfuscation on my part.

Are you suggesting I am connected to the fossil fuel industry? This is downright paranoid.
I'm in favor not only of a ban on coal-fired generation (though not in one fell swoop) but also of the nationalization (with prejudice) of the industry... but that's apparently not enough for your taste.
Are you done with the ad homs?

Finally, no: complaints are not a reliable indication that a policy is working. A implies B but B does not imply A.

You're not listening.

More precisely, I'm not falling for obfuscation; there's a considerable difference...

Are you suggesting I am connected to the fossil fuel industry? This is downright paranoid.

I simply asked, and hence am not the one who is paranoid.

Steve - I agree.

SOx and NOx were quite different. We have already seen how badly the European cap and trade system is working (with the cost of the caps now down to $10/ton I understand), especially when demand dips.

The way to judge the success of a CAP and trade system is the CAP, not the trade price. Is the CAP reducing CO2 emissions? If conservation and improved efficiency reduces demand would expect the trade price to decline, that's the advantage over a carbon tax. A low CO2 price means that either the CAP was too high, or replacing coal with renewable, nuclear and conservation has worked.

Alan has made a good point about both renewable energy and efficiency gains displacing expensive NG fired electricity. Only the NG producers suffer due to lower NG prices, but as you have shown on previous posts, this NG surplus is temporary.

One problem with the smart grid and appliances using power opportunistically to compensate for rapid changes in the supply is the need to retrofit old appliances. If only new appliances can be made to work with a smart grid, then there will be a problem. If the system is based around dynamic adjustment of electricity prices which are available from the internet in real time, and the system is open enough to allow 3rd party and/or open source apps to interface with it and control devices in the home, then this could be quite a big deal.

Based on quick research, a fridge takes around 2kwh of electricity per day. If the fridge has a 10% duty cycle, this implies 2 kwh / 2.4 h = 833 watts per home which can be used to smooth spikes out. Depending on the frequency/size of the spikes, thermal masses (water) could be added to fridges to allow the fridge to go longer without requiring cooling. In addition, heat storage heaters are even better than fridges at this because their power consumption can be very high without significantly increasing the cost of the unit. I never thought I would say on a peak oil site that increasing the ability of an appliance to consume electricity is a good thing.

However, PHEVs and BEVs aside, the present system has no native ability to actually supply power, there is just a few energy-intensive appliances that have small duty cycles and can therefore be used to turn spikes of excess electricity into useful work.


Will Stewert says,
"Wind power never has and likely never will be dispatchable; that's not a goal."

I would differ strongly with your contention "that's not a goal". Dispatchable renewable power is to many in the renewable industry the absolute holy grail of advanced renewable energy. The only powerful player that seems to have overlooked the effort toward dispatchable renewable energy seems to be the U.S. government, which to this day treats energy storage as the ugly stepchild of the energy industry.

The problem is simple. Almost all electricity must be produced as it is used. This means that the utility grid must be built to sustain the highest consumption hour of the highest consumption day of the year or 100% maximum consumption:


For much of the day, however, consumption is barely 70% of maximum consumption for most of the day all of the night. There is also a large seasonable variation in demand, meaning that if longer term storage can be developed (seasonal ice chilling or heat storage for example) even greater efficiencies could be acheived. One of the reasons that hydrogen fuel production and ethanol are still supported, despite thier obvious flaws, is because they offer the hope of truly dispatchable energy.

So not only is renewable energy intermittant in production, energy consumers are intermittent in demand. Energy storage is also intermittent in being supported, and in fact, support for research and development of energy storage systems has all but collapsed, as is shown in a slide by the now moribound organization Energy Storage Council (pdf file, but not all that large and very interesting):

An advanced arrangement combining energy storage, distributed energy http://www.distributedenergy.com and methane recapture from sewer, agricultural and biomass waste could reduce electricity by easily a third or more in the advanced nations, thus making wind, solar and tidal renewable energy all the more scalable and dispatchable, while also reducing the critical problem or methane release and water pollution by way of manures from agriculture. Each year that we wait we waste away more of our precious store of natural gas, a natural endowment that can never be replaced.

Several years ago, Matthew Simmons said that the natural gas supply crisis may be a greater threat to modern world economies than the problem of peak oil. That should send chills up our spine.


Actually, we are fully in agreement, with a difference of only a semantic twist. I'm all in favor of renewable energy as a system being dispatchable (with hydro, solar, geothermal, CAES, flywheels, DSM, etc); I was only pointing out the wind in and of itself is not dispatchable.


I agree with you. If we had a good plan, with adequate storage built into the plan, and adequate transmission capability, it would be a lot easier to get enthusiastic about a big increase in wind use.

Then the Texas electrical island of ERCOT meets your criteria.

In 2007, the PUC announced its approval for additional transmission lines that could deliver 10,000 more megawatts of renewable power by 2012. New transmission infrastructure will allow all Texans to access the the state's vast wind resources.


Cost, from memory, $4+ billion for new transmission.

Since Texas uses large amounts of natural gas for generating electricity, and coal can ramp up and down, the existing grid can accept this level of wind generation

Austin Energy is about to invest in a $2.3 billion wood waste generation plant to give it dispatchable renewable energy.



This shows that much higher levels of wind penetration can be accomplished, especially with Smart Grid technology, smart appliances (and smart adapters for existing appliances), and diverse sources of generation. It admittedly can be difficult for some non-engineers to understand how renewable energy can be integrated into grid operations, though one can look at CA right now to see that in 2007, 11.8 percent of all their electricity came from renewable resources such as wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and small hydroelectric facilities, while large hydro plants generated another 11.7 percent of their electricity, totaling 23.5% from renewable sources.

Washington State did even better, with over 66% of their electricity generation from renewables.


According to the latest figures published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) in its "Electric Power Monthly" report released on March 24, 2009, non-hydro renewable sources of electricity enjoyed double-digit growth during the past year while coal, natural gas, and petroleum experienced notable declines and nuclear power remained stagnant. So the trend of continued growth in renewable energy is clear.

Iceland is 100% renewable grid (mostly hydro with significant geothermal).

The devil is in the details. Reactive power, spinning reserve, transmission losses, load following and much more.

I can see a North American grid with 50% wind but not more. And 90% non-GHG. The last 10% is an intractable problem IMVHO.

A 100% dispatchable hydro grid is child's play to set up. Other renewables are progressively more difficult to integrate. Biomass, geothermal, landfill gas are relatively easy. Wind is fairly hard.

One significant issue, often overlooked, is the near absence of reactive power in wind turbines.

Best Hopes for More Renewables (and more nukes),


Can't wait to get those wind and solar numbers up and finally be a role model for the rest of the world.

-Eric T.

This is really the rub. Industry got it, that electricity is and will continue to be expensive, but residential and commercial people missed the entire message, thinking they would be living in a Star Trek episode. I've noticed the continuing creep of energy wasteful devices everywhere, bought on credit.

I wonder if industrial use sort of inversely tracks outsourcing.

I think outsourcing is probably part of it. That and doing more manufacturing using electricity overseas.

These things may not have as much to do with electricity price as salaries.

I wonder if industrial use sort of inversely tracks outsourcing.

I would like to see a breakdown. I do think that industry tends to be in larger sized units than commercial. So the odds of having professional cost managers, who can optimize is much greater. Cost conscious management, which is aware of energy cost savings opportunities, and incentivized to find and exploit them would go a long ways. Do you think your average grocery store manager has a clue? Or your average homeowner? The main incentive for the smart meter stuff they are trying in Miami is to get people to have some understanding of the costs of running the various
demand sources in their houses.

Electricity is expensive now? Flagellating much?

From the article: "Tucson Electric Power in January raised rates 6%, or $4.29 a month for an average customer"

How are people who can't afford bills like that (and most people's bills are probably a good bit smaller) going to be able to pay medical bills for instance? How could they afford the devices you talk about? There are much bigger problems than electricity prices and consumer credit regulation might indeed be one.

Maybe the rest of the country should work on consumption...

Any analysis of why? Perhaps Californians maxed out on air-con early (back in the 70s and the rest of America was playing catch up? Or maybe its because Electricity has been priced higher there...?)


Probably all due to one guy from Cal :>)
We never looked back after the '73 oil crisis.

The Power of Less
Lisa Margonelli

Early one November evening, 1973: Gasoline supplies have been cut by the month-old Arab Oil Embargo and people wait in long lines to buy gas. Inside Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories, particle physicist Art Rosenfeld’s office is lit by 12 dazzling 60-watt fluorescent lights, which allows him to make a startling calculation. The light bulbs in his office are burning the equivalent of .05 gallons of oil per hour, and if he leaves them on all weekend, as nearly everyone does, his empty office will have burned the equivalent of four gallons of gasoline by the time he returns on Monday morning. "So this was the funny thing," he says, "There are 20 lights filling the rooms between my office and the door of the building, and I figure it’ll save 60 gallons of oil if I switch them off." But he can’t—bookshelves and posters hide the switches. Forty-five minutes later, having rearranged the furniture and turned out the lights, he exits the building thinking "there’s something wrong."
I wish they all could be California's plans
Energy efficiency, part 4
Posted by Joseph Romm (Guest Contributor) at 5:06 PM on 30 Jul 2008

California and its utilities have achieved remarkably consistent energy efficiency gains for three decades. How did they do it?

In part, a smart California Energy Commission has promoted strong building standards and the aggressive deployment of energy-efficient technologies and strategies -- and has done so with support of both Democratic and Republican leadership over three decades. I talked to California energy commissioner Art Rosenfeld -- a former DOE colleague and the godfather of energy efficiency -- about what the state does, and here are some interesting details he offered, as discussed in "Why we never need to build another polluting power plant":

Many of the strategies are obvious: better insulation, energy-efficient lighting, heating and cooling. But some of the strategies were unexpected. The state found that the average residential air duct leaked 20 to 30 percent of the heated and cooled air it carried. It then required leakage rates below 6 percent, and every seventh new house is inspected. The state found that in outdoor lighting for parking lots and streets, about 15 percent of the light was directed up, illuminating nothing but the sky. The state required new outdoor lighting to cut that to below 6 percent. Flat roofs on commercial buildings must be white, which reflects the sunlight and keeps the buildings cooler, reducing air-conditioning energy demands. The state subsidized high-efficiency LED traffic lights for cities that lacked the money, ultimately converting the entire state.
California adopted regulations so that utility company profits are not tied to how much electricity they sell. This is called "decoupling." It also allowed utilities to take a share of any energy savings they help consumers and businesses achieve. The bottom line is that California utilities can make money when their customers save money. That puts energy-efficiency investments on the same competitive playing field as generation from new power plants.

If you really want the specific strategies that California utilites use to save energy, here are the "approved program implementation plans" for 2006-2008 from one of the state's largest utilities, Southern California Edison.

The cost of efficiency programs has averaged 2 to 3 cents per avoided kilowatt hour, which is about one-fifth the cost of electricity generated from new nuclear, coal, and natural gas-fired plants. And, of course, energy efficiency does not require new power lines and does not generate greenhouse-gas emissions or long-lived radioactive waste. While California is far more efficient than the rest of the country, the state still thinks that with an even more aggressive effort, it can achieve as much additional electricity savings by 2020 as it has in the past three decades.

The energy-efficiency resource is enormous, and it is as limitless.

It is time to stop building polluting power plants.

California actually took steps itself to figure out where savings could be made. It is this kind of pro-activity that is needed, not just a little increase in cost, if one really wants to get electricity use down.

Any analysis of why? Perhaps Californians maxed out on air-con early

But the overcrowding and cost of housing is pushing an evergrowing portion of the population away
from the coast. With typical summer temperature gradients of about 1F per mile from the coast, the population weighted climate in California is getting hotter at an astonishing rate.

Now I will give you that higher prices -especially at the margin (utility rates are much higher after
the first few thousand KwHr/month), had a big part in it. But higher prices are a part of the conservation story

I agree that California has done better on consumption than the rest of the country. But there is a lot of mixing and matching of data going on here. Gail's information is sorted by customer class. If the California data in the above chart were similarly sorted, I think we would see that industrial use has gone down while residential/commercial has increased. Also, your chart shows per capita use. California's total population has of course grown, so total usage is up even as per capita stays constant.

Again, not to cast aspersions on California. It has shrugged off numerous predictions of economic catastrophe due to high electricity rates and environmental regulations. It's performance in this regard has been admirable, but I agree with Steven Chu its looming water issues will be a bigger challenge still. If California per capita use grew as fast as the rest of the country, it would have had to confront this issue a lot sooner.

Good point Steve about the apples to oranges comparison. Per capita usage doesn't seem to tell much: is it more efficiency or just more folks added to the lower side of the income scale bringing down the average? In absolute terms it's had to imagine that CA has been leading the charge in increased e-consumption. The booming housing market there just over the last 10 years must have swelled demand significantly. Looking at Gail's numbers regarding a fairly constant increase in e-consumption for residential/commercial I wonder if that isn't just the reality of a growing population combined to a growing commercial sector. Population growth rates aren't going to change much anytime soon but this recession may put a big dent in commercial as well as the obvious massive decline in new housing construction.

US consumption (excluding industrial) is actually growing on a per capita basis by about 1.6% per year. On a total basis, it is growing about 2.6% a year--population growth is about 1% a year.

I think your point about adding a lot of low income residents may be one of the things that helped California. Also, I would be willing to bet there has been a drop in industrial.

CA also took the early initiative with high appliance and HVAC efficiency standards, which have driven down consumption.

I haven't seen any data that shows that CA lost more industrial electricity demand than other similar states around the country.

"California's total population has of course grown, so total usage is up even as per capita stays constant."

Can't do much about that (<: (First census I recall was '50; about 6 mil. Now, 36 mil)

Current Appliance Regulations
California's Appliance Efficiency Regulations were established in 1976 in response to a legislative mandate to reduce California's energy consumption. The regulations are updated periodically to allow consideration and possible incorporation of new energy efficiency technologies and methods
today’s refrigerator uses just a quarter of the electricity it did in 1973.
Per capita consumption of electricity in California homes in 2005
(kWh) 2,379
U.S. per capita consumption of electricity in homes in 2005
(kWh) 4,594
State rank 51

bit of an increase...2,197 KWH in 1980, now 2,378.


California state regulators, who have limited automobile emissions and required large utilities to increase use of renewable energy, now are taking aim at a ubiquitous household item - the television.

Consumer demand for bigger, flatter and fancier TVs has dramatically increased the amount of energy needed to watch the tube, officials say. The California Energy Commission says a 42-inch plasma television uses more energy than a large refrigerator.
The proposed rules would take effect from 2011 to 2013, eventually cutting the use of power by 50 percent...
That position is backed by Vizio, the second-largest flat-panel television manufacturer in North America.

Vizio supports the standards and "would also support earlier implementations" than the dates set by the commission, Kenneth Lowe, vice president and co-founder of Vizio, wrote in a letter to the commission.

This year the Irvine TV maker is selling a line of televisions, known as EcoHD, that meet the 2013 standards.

I'm guessing that the answer on California is "a bit of both". Agreed California has been a leader in efficiency legislation, but none of the measures I've seen or heard of account for such a large difference in per-capita on the graph. (If Georgia painted it's flat roofs white instead of grey stone covered, would it make that much difference? Perhaps insulation and duct leakage differences are that significant, but I doubt. My impression is that California de-industrialized somewhat faster and earlier than the rest of N America, and had generally completed air conditioning everything long before the rest of the nation. How much of that recent population increase are relatively poorer migrant workers from the south who would dramatically reduce a per-capita measure?

2378 kwh/yr is really quite amazing. Is that per year?

"California's total population has of course grown, so total usage is up even as per capita stays constant."

Can't do much about that (<: (First census I recall was '50; about 6 mil. Now, 36 mil)

I disagree. China certainy did something about it to curb that kind of population growth. We need a radical change of thinking that says that it is not OK to have 14 babies because it takes resources out of the hands of others.... just like I think it is not okay to commute to the office in a Hummer that could power 100s of electric-assisted bikes.

God, if we could only limit ALL parents to one children for a few generations, think of how we might actually beat the fossil fuel decline curve.

"I disagree. China certainy did something about it "

It's hard to do retroactively. The people are already here. We can limit their kids, but we can't kill off half the people in the state.

Who said kill them? People die naturally. If you limit one child per woman for life (excluding twins, or whatever) you would about half the population per generation (though it would take time for the current generations to die, you would still see some immediate results quickly as the boomers die and each new crop is smaller). By the end of the century we could probably get down to less than a billion easy, if this could be implemented and enforced. Obviously, I am speaking hypothetically, this would be hard to do globally, but I do think it would be possible in the developed/and much of the developing world (and in police states) if the people understood what was at stake.

There are problems with this, as China saw, with one child having to care for four grandparents, but the State could step in and help. It would be cheaper than the alternative.

If I thought the planet was gonna give us anywhere near 90 years to get our population act together, I wouldn't be on TOD.

or, allow the purchasing power of a big utility, say AEP, to allow (require?) the average homeowner and business to purchase, install and connect batteries (at a favorable price and common type) to the grid. This would allow the generating stations to be more or less base loaded(with the operating efficiencies this brings) all the time (near future)while alternatives are brought on line. Sorta like your own personal pump storage. Might buy us a few years before rolling blackouts hit and would position consumers to install solar when it finally comes down to local price of purchased power. Also, would provide a few real technical jobs.

The economics of this idea (house-to-grid) can only improve in relative terms. Not only will cap and trade kick it along but it avoids the cost of new transmission lines.

A similar idea is a home rainwater tank that is topped up via a float valve from the piped water network. While it doesn't give back to the network like energy stored in batteries both systems have powerful psychology. When the external system (water or electricity) is stressed the homeowner is acutely aware of the need to conserve and can free up supply to more vulnerable users. The problem is capital cost.

I'm posting this again (last time, promised) as the Sunday Drumbeat got so few comments. Rethin and Jokuhl replied to my previous post - thanks! and I am passing along the information to my parents' friend. Jokuhl has a good point that in the absence of animation of some sort, this is hard to fully understand, but I have full confidence in you engineering types.

Here goes:

A friend of my parents' says he has come up with a great new way to harness hydro or wind energy. He has registered his patent at http://www.wipo.int/pctdb/en/wo.jsp?WO=2008038055. I am wondering whether anyone can give him feedback concerning the possible merit of this idea and where he should go next with it. He is fairly elderly at this point and legally blind. I would love to help him if his idea makes any sense.

It doesn't make sense to me Paranoid - how does it turn up-and-down motion into rotation?

Paranoid -

Unfortunately, the patent abstract is a translation from the Greek, and not a very good one at that. The description of how this thing is supposed to work is quite vague and not at all clear. Important details are lacking.

But as best I can tell (and I may be wrong), it appears that this device is but a variation on a general large group of wave energy converters that rely on buoyant forces acting on a floating object to which is connected some sort of restraint that in turn causes something else to move against the resistance and turn a generator to produce electricity.

Quite frankly, unless I am missing something here, I see little that is truly unique in this patent. Additionally, the main problem with concepts involving buoys acting against a restraint is that they inherently have to take tremendous amount of punishment from the waves during severe storm conditions. Survivability is the key, and a wave power system such as that being used by Pelamis appears to have largely solved the survivability problem (even though it has had some maintenance problems mostly of a mechanical nature).

I really don't think that this patent (as described) adds much of anything to the 'art', as they say in patent lingo. Plus, the commercialization process of just about anything requires much capital and a long developmental period, even under the best of circumstances. I would not be optimistic about its prospects.

Thanks both bugmeister and joule. As an MD, I really don't begin to understand how this might work, so I can't help either of you. I know it is supposed to be used in streams or rivers, but it seems (from the responses I got) that it has more in common with devices used to harness wave energy. My parents' friend is a smart man but an inventor in his 70's without any real breakthrough to lay claim to.

Thanks again for your time...

I looked at it also, drawings and all, but did not comment. Unfortunately the patent game is rigged such that people who try the DIY route (Do It Yourself) get crushed. There are some interesting concepts in there but regrettably your parent's friend (YPF) did not know how to write patent claims (one needs a legal background to know how to do it) or how to write the rest of it clearly and concisely.

With that as an aside, the use of all those anchors seems to create a technical problem: how to lay them out in the desired patterns and keep them there in a real world scenario where currents shift all the time and anchors don't stay put.

Maybe some inventors out there will take YPF's ideas and extend them to the next level. Thanks for posting them on TOD.

Gail, Just a small nit. It would be helpful reading color graphs if the sources were sorted in the same color order as the graph.

I think sorting is in the proper order on the ones I made. I don't have any control over the EIA graphs. They didn't give the numbers for all of the individual years, so it wasn't possible to remake the graphs.

Edit: Maybe part of the problem is that some of the layers are too small to see. In the layered graphs, the layers are all in the right order, it is just that it is virtually impossible to distinguish anything above natural gas--all of the layers are too small. Biomass (mostly wood derived) has historically been bigger than wind, but wind is catching up.

In addition, if transportation is increasingly fueled by electricity, this will further add to demand

Electrified rail will not have a significant impact on total US electrical demand. EVs will.

The USA currently used 0.19% of it's electricity for transportation. France (with lower per capita demand) uses 2.3% of their electricity for transportation; almost entirely electrified rail for both nations.

Even a $100 billion/year investment in electrified rail is unlikely to increase US demand by 2% in a decade (gross without calculating savings). The net will be quite possibly zero or negative.

Reducing Suburban housing and retail space (US retail space/capita is 10x 1950 and multiples of EU * Japan), will reduce electrical demand. Suburbia uses about 2x as much electricity as Urban housing; TOD even less. TOD also reduces retail space/capita.

I strongly suspect that the electrical savings from Urban Rail TOD are greater than (by x2 to x20 ?) the electricity actually used by Urban Rail.

Urban Rail can save enough electricity to power our electrified inter-city railroads. Net zero or negative for all.

Heat pumps are likely to have a much bigger new demand than transportation.

Best Hopes for Electrified Rail,


From yesterday's Trains Newswire:

BNSF takes steps toward electrification

FORT WORTH, Texas - BNSF Railway is in talks to see major power lines installed over or beneath some of its routes, which CEO Matt Rose said could lead to electrification, the Journal of Commerce has reported. Rose said the plan is in its infancy, and would require some federal money to make happen.

"We have had conversations with two, if not three, outside organizations," Rose said, "around using railroad right-of-way for different opportunities of electrification." Though he said nothing will be happening immediately, he said the railroad is in "serious" talks with two companies.

In all, Rose said electrifying all of BNSF's mainline routes would cost about $10 billion. He said that's too expensive for BNSF to contemplate now, but that the power line projects would be a starting point.

$10B seems cheap for a railroad BNSF's size.

Published two weeks before BNSF President floated the same idea.



2008 Revenue - $18.0 billion
2008 Income - $2.1 billion


A $10 billion capital investment *IS* a big deal to BNSF.

Best Hopes for Groundbreaking Electrification in the USA,


I agree that $10B is a lot, but total capex for the company must be in the $2B range. Diesel is not an insignificant cost either. I would imagine this would envision electrification of the WY coal lines, ex-GN, ex-ATSF and ex-CB&Q mains. Gotta be over 10,000 miles of electrification -- that is **only** $1M/mi -- this assumes somebody else is paying for the transmission.

Your analysis of capital costs driving up the cost of electricity is faulty on several counts.

In deregulated markets, surplus capital costs are not passed on. Absorbed by merchant with highest marginal costs.

In regulated markets, some old plants are always being retired (typically depreciated over 30 years). Simply do not build replacement FF plants.

Many of these plants about to retire are inefficient (lots of fuel burned/kWh). so speeding their retirement is generally a "good thing". (Some are kept on the books to delay paying costs of removing asbestos & lead paint, run a few times a year).

Also, the cost of fuel (even at low NG prices today) is higher than the cost of the generators for simple natural gas turbines and (it is close) for combined cycle NG generation. So idling NG generation is always a good thing.


There is a third way: socialized ownership and production.

I'm not sure I understand your definitions. So far as I know, electricity is always regulated. What you call "regulated markets" are really regulated monopolies, right? Or is it a distinction between types of competitive regulations?

I think the assumption was a "regulated market" and much earlier dates for decommissioning than originally planned. I don't know why that's implausible.
But since there are other arrangements the analysis is not considering, I agree: it's faulty.

If electricity demand contracts, electricity prices are likely to start increasing. One reason this happens is that a significant share of electricity costs are fixed, and do not decrease, even if the amount of electricity sold decreases. Also, new electricity generation will overlap with existing capacity, and the cost of renewable generation will be doubly high.

Is this statement due to some strange monopoly situation in US states? Either that, or the author of the article doesn't understand basic economics very well. If electricity demand constracts, then competition will lower prices, resulting in the most expensive generation taken off grid and in halting all investements whose full costs per kWh cannot compete with the marginal costs of existing installations.

Existing wind, hydro, nuclear and solar will stay online, since their marginal costs are negible. NG and/or coal will draw down.

On this site, we have been looking at the peak oil problem. If one talks to people in the electricity sector, their problems are almost as insurmountable, but for different reasons.

I can't understand what the problem would be. You have so many options to grow your electricity supply if you need to. Wind, coal, nuclear, hydro are all reasonable alternatives.

~2/3 of the energy is used in buildings, which if designed from the start to be as energy efficient as possible can typicaly use half as much energy for heating, cooling and lighting with only slightly increased capital costs and repayments within a year.


I think long term (10-20 years) any renewable capacity built today will have repaid its capital costs, and due to zero fuel and low running costs it will act to drive electricity prices down.

There is no reason why the US can't shave at least 20% of electricity demand with efficiency savings, and roll out enough nuclear, CHP, solar and wind capacity to meet the remains of the demand.

Coal production on a BTU/ton (hence EROEI) basis has already peaked, and due to this an environmental reasons any expansion in traditional coal fired electricity should be discouraged. Coal fired CHP can deliver nearly 3 times as much useful energy as a centralised coal plant, and CSP with fossil fuel boosting is an interesting transitional technology.


This article is too negative IMO.

It is technically feasible to create an electric grid producing the same amount of electrical energy(4000 Twh) as we do now while reducing GHG 80%.

It involves building a .5TW baseload grid from 3TW of wind. The excess electricity would be used to reduce gas consumption
of backup turbines with a CAES(compressed air eneregy storage) strategy. Baseload is about 50% of the US energy load(2000Twh). It would feed your local distribution network like any other power source.

The rest(2000Twh) is the variable loading. Typically every day
demand reaches a low about 3 AM and that rises to a peak at 6AM, amounting to a triangular distribution. This peaking energy amounts to the other 50% of electricity. This quite dependable form of energy is available 12 hours on average each day (range of 8-16 hours per day). On the local level a large enough solar could cut this triangular load down by 40%, leaving 1200 Twh for backup gas turbines. Here again solar powered CAES could power compressors during the day for the back up gas generators operating in the evening. CAES raises the thermal efficiency of gas turbines from 50% to 75%.

A .5TW HVDC national grid would provide all baseload from 3TW wind with .5TW of backup gas turbines.
Local renewable electricity from .3TW of solar PV would shave the daytime electrical demand and another .350 TW of solar PV would charge up CAES for the local grid backup generators.
The current nameplate of gas generation at 450GW running 6000 hours per year (instead of 2000 hours on average) would be adequate for late day 'peaking' as well as wind fluctuations.


The system would reduce GHG emissions from electricity by 80% though it would double natural gas use. Coal and nuclear electricity could be phased out completely.


I think nuclear plants would actually benefit a lot from CAES providing a market for off peak electricity, and providing peak capacity.

CAES might also be a good match for coal & biomass gasification.

Pumped storage yes. CAES is still unproven and has low cycle efficiency.


The inefficiency of CAES is caused by the fact that much of the mechanical energy used to compress gas is lost as waste heat. Pumped hydro doesn't have this problem because water can't be compressed. Of course, pumped hydro has it's own limitations, namely a scarcity of suitable available sites.

In some CAES systems natural gas is actually burned to maintain the thermal energy stored in the compressed gas! Not a great idea....

More advanced CAES systems use "adiabatic CAES" which is an attempt to capture and use the waste heat generated in the process of compressing air. It is presumably more efficient than conventional compressed air energy storage. Here's a good article from a G.E. blog:


Thanks for the link. Didn't know there was a GE renewables blog.

Its hard to read your link, but it seems that you are overbuilding with 3TW wind capacity and >300GW solar.
Present base load is 290GW(200GW coal, 90GW nuclear). Present additional peak capacity is 600GW(440GW NG,75GW hydro, 100GW coal) but only contributing 160GWaverage(100GW NG, 35GW hydro,25GW coal, for a total of 450GW average(4,000 Twh/8760).

3TW wind will give 1000GW average and 300GW solar(50-100GW average).
You seem to be loosing 600GW average.

Why phase out nuclear?

CAES seems to have big energy losses, storing solar heat may be a better use of resources as this will reduce turbine and transmission capacity.
The most efficient storage is not releasing hydro until needed(zero loss) the second best is pumped hydro using existing dams.

Neil, I've seen you post a lot about nuclear, so I am putting this to you, but also anyone else that knows about it.

We often hear that nuclear is baseload power only because a reactor can not be ramped down quickly the way that gas turbines can be shut off.

But does this really matter? First off, if Gen 4 thorium reactors are all that is promised, wouldn't we have so much energy we could afford to run near full "peak" all the time? Couldn't the excess be sent off to do nothing, turn motors that do nothing, be grounded, etc? Obviously this is not optimal use, but wouldn't it at least be feasible?

Second, this begs the obvious question, if we had all this excess electricity at off peak hours, couldn't it be sold for less? I am sure industry would LOVE to run their factories at night if they got electricity at a premium. This sort of thing seems like it would do a lot to smooth out the crests and troughs.

Third, couldn't excess nuclear be used to pump water, create hydrogen, charge batteries, desalinate water, during low demand times? (The storage idea has already been more discussed, just bring it up.)

But I am no expert, I am applying common sense, not industry knowledge. Anyone, please correct me if what I say is not feasable.

What you are saying is true of nuclear now, but a big cost is the capital costs, so it's expensive to have the plant idle or dumping power. In Australia off-peak power is only 20-30% normal peak power costs, and some of it is used to pump back hydro. We don't have any nuclear but if we did we would need to replace some coal or build more peak capacity or accept more expensive nuclear power because it was not used 24/7.

Thank you.

I still think a use for it could be found, if nothing else, desalination and pumping water. I also personally think PHEVs will begin to reduce the peak differences over the next decade.

I used the data from the EIA.

You get the following(2007):
coal--2016Twh with ~314 Gw of power =6400 hours per year *
petroleum gas,coke--65 Twh with ~62 Gw =1000 hours per year
natural gas-- 878 Twh with ~422 GW = 2122 hours per year
nuclear--806 Twh with 101 GW = 7980 hours per year*
hydro--250 Twh with 78 GW = 3200 hours per year
renewables(geo,wind,etc)--125 Twh with 302GW=413 hours peryear
Total 4140 Twh with 1102 GW =3756 hours per year

* coal and nukes are running almost continuously=baseload.
We don't run any plants continuously except nuclear so it is incorrect IMO to figure generation based on 8760 hours.

I agree there is waste in this system( I give 1160 Twh of waste) but it is largely unavoidable. Perhaps it can go to making hydrogen for ammonia fertilizer.
If we aim at a national grid being able to
provide a steady level(500GW-24/7) of baseload power 100% of the time(with NG backup help 21% of the time) we need to overbuild wind.

As for the excess, it can boost the efficiency of gas turbines with CAES saving valuable natural gas reserves.

If our energy use followed the sun, solar would match our triangular 'peak' very well, at least in the summer but in fact we stay up in the evenings means we need back up for the evening.
Reminds me of that scene from Gattaca with everyone waiting for the solar mirrors to catch the dawn.

Why phase out nuclear?

The most basic reason is that we don't need any more pure baseload and that's all nukes do( they take weeks to turn on and off).

The way you make a nuke into a peaker is by producing hydrogen gas unber the iodine-sulfur cycle for burning in gas turbines. But to do this you need a high temp nuclear reactor and those aren't safe.

Besides, we have plenty of natural gas or coal to gas fossil so that's not necessary.

Nuclear is safe in really only the lightwater reactor LWR configuration(all the rest have failed). This is a big problem because the IAEA has issued reports indicating that natural uranium supplies will peak in less than 40 years and then declines. So we look at the prospect of building these monsters(1GWe!) only to have them run out of fuel soon after.

Or we can build a menagerie of new reactor designs and hope for the best despite 60 years of intense governmental pressure.
Where are the gas reactors, the thorium reactors, the pebble bed reactors, the breeder reactors? Closed, decommissioned.
Nuclear engineering is NOT a slam-dunk! Of all those designs we have only the LWR has really succeeded. I have nothing against research but the idea of filling the world with unproven and designs is insane IMO.

What about reprocessing? Even France which has a national commitment to reprocessing has only reprocessed a few thousand tons--again much easier said then done. And without reprocessing we have huge amounts of waste fuel( of rather low radioactivity as almost all of the metal is inert U-238 which makes good sheilding).

So the marvelously safe LWRs, eat up large amounts of limited natural uranium and also produce lots of waste. IMO, the IAEA is right in predicting a Uranium Peak and we know about Yucca Mountain.

What about thorium? The molten thorium reactor is a dumb joke from the 1960s. The Indians have a national goal of thorium for 40 years and have produced almost nothing.

There is one interesting way that was demonstrated by Jimmy Carter's DOE. It involves thermal breeding of a MOX-thorium fuel in garden variety LWRs. I think this is what the Indians are trying now with the RUssian VVR LWRs they just bought.
Again interesting but unproven in commercial plants.

In a gas turbine about 25% of the energy from the turbine goes to compress (and heat)air. In CAES, electricity made during windy days when nobody needs it, is used to do that ahead of time; so it boosts a 50% efficient turbine to 75% and that saves natural gas. Rather than create new forms of storage like hydrogen or megabatteries why not just use natural gas.

One reason I don't like hydro is that it is a natural peaking(local) generator and I don't think that should backup a national wind grid to maintain .5TW of continuous electricity.

Conventional is also too small; 78 GW can't maintain a 500 GW national grid.
Most all the big hydro has been done. For local peaking I have no problem with hydro(micro hydro).
Pumped hydro is a joke IMO. You DRAIN baseload(coal-nukes) electricity from the grid to do it--crazy. We need MORE electricity not less.

So my electricity is provided by a joke? Cool! I hope they'll find another one before this one gets old.


"I agree there is waste in this system( I give 1160 Twh of waste) but it is largely unavoidable."

this represents(120GWa) >20% of total electricity consumption. You don't need to back-up 500GWa continuous production, you need back-up for 900-950GW peak demand( a few hours per day). It's relatively inexpensive to add more hydro capacity and the US also has access to Canadian hydro. Transmission lines are a limitation.


"Pumped hydro is a joke IMO".

One of the values of pumped hydro is that it "drains" base-load during off-peak periods when coal and nuclear are not needed. The US generates 18GW additional peak using pumped hydro, and would probably like to have more. I would agree that CAES can be useful in regions that don't have pumped hydro near-bye(Texas), but at a cost of lower efficiency.

A 500 GW dedicated national HVDC grid is intended to eliminate coal and nuclear(400 GW) entirely and IMO that means 24/7 continuous current available for local baseload needs. If the price of that turns out to be 1160 Twh of wind energy harvested going to waste, that's okay. The only way to take coal and nukes off the table is replace them with a reliable, constant(in effect) electric source.
I don't think a national HVDC grid should be subject to wild fluctations in current.

So coal and nuclear, limited fuels are used just to make pumped storage? Wouldn't it be better to use renewables to make storage--but that's a problem, they are too unpredictable and may shut-off before you've stored anything. We have the (almost)perfect fuel--natural gas and we could make more from coal as syn gas gasification is +60% efficient, far more efficient than coal/nukes electricity at 33% efficiency: 33% (coal-nuke)x 75% (pumped hydro) versus wind-CAES at 75%--a gas turbine is 50% efficient and using 'excess' wind electricity to do the compression work raises the efficieny to 75%(ignoring the unusable excess electricity)--the McIntosh Alabama plant recorded a thermal efficiency of 85% or using syn gas from coal we have 60% x 75% still twice as efficient as pumped-storage.

People get so caught up in the mantra of 'efficiency' they end up ignoring the real possibilities.

Here's another real-world example of the potential to reduce electrical demand within the commercial sector, at a fraction of the cost of new supplies. The file currently open on my laptop is that of a small gas station and convenience store. It's mid morning when I meet this client, and the first thing I notice as I drive up is that the eight 400-watt metal halide lights above the gas court are on. Now, this is pretty much standard practice in the industry and is intended to signal to drivers that the station is open for business. Nonetheless, having spotted a photo-eye on the side of the building I ask the manager if this is intentional. "No", she says, "we'd prefer to turn them off during the day, but we don't know how". A quick pop into the electrical room and I locate a relay with a three position switch labeled "Off", "Auto" and "Hand". I flip it to "Auto" and **clunk** the relays open and the canopy lights go out.

Demand savings: 3.64 kW. Energy savings (at an average of 12 hrs/day): 15,943 kWh/year. Cost per kW saved: $0.00. Key point: don't let your assumptions stand in the way of the facts; had I not asked the question, I would have missed out on a significant, zero-cost opportunity and the customer would have been poorly served by my efforts.

Next up, the convenience store. As true of the gas bar, it operates 24 hours a day, 364 days of the year. The area is illuminated by ten 4-lamp F34T12 troffers. These will be upgraded to 4-lamp 28-watt T8s which will drop the load from 1,600-watts to 840-watts. Demand savings: 0.76 kW Energy savings: 6,639 kWh/year. Cost per kW saved: $662.00 CDN ($US 535.00).

Above the coffee/snack counter are three 75-watt track lights and these will be replaced by 23-watt hard glass PAR38 CFLs. Demand savings: 0.156 kW Energy savings: 1,366 kWh/year. Cost per kW saved: $192.00 CDN ($US 155.00). Upgrading the lighting in the washrooms, office and storeroom will further reduce their load by 0.304 kW and save roughly an additional 2,500 kWh/year.

Combined demand and energy savings: 4.86 kW and 26,448 kWh/year, respectively. Cost per kW saved (including the canopy lights): less than $226.00 CDN ($US 183.00).


I realized after I posted this that I often refer to the cost per kW saved, but not the cost of energy. If we assume our DSM measures have a ten-year service life (and that's a conservative estimate given that the physical life of these investments, generally speaking, is much longer), we can expect these numbers to fall between 1 and 4 cents. That price remains fixed, and at the end of those ten years the cost per kWh saved is effectively nil.

Of course, the direct benefit to the customer, in terms of the dollar savings on their utility costs is even more significant. The following graphs show the savings for a mid-size pharmacy that operates an average of 13.5 hours per day; their blended demand and energy cost is currently $0.118 per kWh.

Note that if this particular pharmacy operated 24 hours a day, you could multiple the above by 1.8. Also, we assume electricity rates will remain unchanged over the next five years; a more likely scenario is that they will increase by an average of 5 to 10 per cent per year.


In residential applications, sealing the ductwork (outside conditioning space) is very low cost and 10% of heated and air conditioned air is routinely lost.

Gaskets behind switches and outlets are cheap (say $8 to $10 and a couple of hours work) and return air infiltration by an average of 10%. Payback < 1 year (worth doing in apartments).

The attic doorway (if in conditioned space) is another "easy target"

Best Hopes for Conservation,


Hi Alan,

There are, thankfully, any number of ways we can lower our energy needs right across the board and, as in the examples you provide, at very modest cost. In one respect, it's comforting to know we have the means to slash consumption by large measure, if and when circumstances should warrant; the disappointment is in knowing that, for whatever reason, much of this potential will go unrealized.

As you may recall, in one of our recent jobs, we replaced one hundred and fifty one 75-watt halogen track heads and forty fluorescent wall washers (the latter at 75-watts each) with one hundred and twenty 24-watt ceramic metal halide PAR38s (see insert). We also replaced three hundred and sixty 700 series 32-watt T8 lamps with 28-watt high performance T8s (relatively modest energy savings in this case of the T8s, but still quite cost effective nonetheless).

In any event, a couple days ago I stopped in to speak with the store manager to make sure they were still pleased with the upgrade, and she made a comment I found quite heartening. I'm told that even in the dead of winter, the store's a/c system would kick on a half hour or so after they turned on the lights. Now, although daytime temperatures are running well above winter lows, the rooftop units remain off until about 11h00 or 11h30 -- that's a good two or more hours past their normal wake-up time. We know most commercial and retail spaces are air conditioned near year round even here in Canada, but these secondary savings are never included in our analysis (hopefully, these a/c units are equipped with ecomomizers so that outside air is used for cooling whenever conditions permit, but I wouldn't count on it).

BTW, this is just one of four retail outlets we upgraded for this chain. They have over nine hundred locations across Canada operating under various banners and I'm guessing, collectively, some one hundred and twenty to one hundred and fifty thousand halogen sockets that have yet to be converted.


At some point in the 20th Century, electricity stopped being a luxury and turned into a necessity.

The discussions here all presuppose that electricity is a necessity, that we must meet this need, and the problem is how--by what methods and at what cost.

I wonder if we should not consider electricity not only as a necessity, but as a luxury, and consider how society could be organized and function without electricity. I now, like everyone else, take electricity for granted, but for the first decade of my life electricity was nowhere to be found, and I certainly didn't consider our lives to be lacking. We had light at night--from Coleman lanterns, a gas refrigerator, and everything else but a switch and instant, on-demand light. When electricity arrived, it opened new avenues for living and gave us new ways of doing things, but our lives didn't change substantially.

Instead of a mad rush to spend trillions that we don't have on ways of generating electricity other than through coal, maybe we could ask: Do we really need electricity? Could we do without it? Could natural ways replace the cooling, heating, washing and drying uses to which we put most of our electricity? Do we really need 200 million electric cars (assuming our current population)? Do we really need our buildings lighted 24x7? Have we perhaps made a contingent thing into a necessity--unnecessarily? Are we shackling ourselves to a certain lifestyle just because we cannot imagine ourselves without electricity?

Who is "we"?

Society as a whole does not have to worry about trillions. As many trillions as is deemed appropriate can be spent but that won't help because the problems that society faces are scarce resources, not lack of money.

One can indeed question many "needs" but we certainly need electricity more than money. So are we shackling to ourselves to a certain lifestyle because we cannot imagine ourselves without money? I don't think so. It is well known that there are people who live without either. But what good does it do?

For energy, we need some realism from some simple observations on five points:

First, for electric power, cost is IMPORTANT, to consumers, for new uses, e.g., more computing and more Internet, and just CRUCIAL for industry. Any significant increases in costs will bring wild, angry howls of protest from rate payers, public utility commissions, state governors, etc. Each single penny per KWh (kilo-watt hour) is like unanesthetized molar extraction (OUCH!).

So, for costs, as at


the average costs in the US for the year 2007 in cents per KWh were nuclear 01.76, coal 02.47, gas 06.78, petroleum 10.26.

So, REALLY tough to compete with nuclear and coal. These two are mostly just for 'base load', that is, run nearly 24 x 7.

Gas? That has been used mostly just for peak loads, e.g., for air conditioning for just a few hours on a hot day in the summer. For peak loads it is, net, cheaper to use gas and spend less on the equipment than to use nuclear or coal and save on the fuel but spend much more on the equipment.

So, due to costs, we should expect to see new base load capacity from essentially only nuclear and coal.

Now that we have gotten Jane Fonda no longer our default Secretary of Energy, we are more free to use nuclear like nearly every other sensible country in the world -- France, Japan, Russia, etc.

Second, for 'clean coal', that is, that does not put CO2 in the atmosphere, there is a short answer: F'get about it. Here is a little on just why: Look at a railroad yard full of coal trains -- it's an impressive sight. Then remember that the atomic weight of carbon is 12 and oxygen, 16. So, each ton of coal burned to CO2 weighs, let's see, 12 + 16 + 16 = 44 tons, as a GAS. Think that that volume of coal was big -- wait until you see the volume of the CO2! And, just what are you going to do with all that CO2?

Third, for CO2 causing 'global warming' or 'climate change', here's the short answer: F'get about it. Here's a little of just why:

(1) As in the graph on page 2 of

Committee on Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years, National Research Council, 'Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years', ISBN 0-309-66264-8, 196 pages, National Academies Press, 2006, available at


in year 900 the temperature was rising quickly, reached a peak in year 1000, fell to the coldest part of The Little Ice Age by year 1600, has increased since then, and now is essentially exactly were it was in the year 1000. Moreover the increase for the past 100 years has been much like that from year 900 to year 1000. So, first-cut, all we have done since year 1600 is pull out of The Little Ice age, and all human activity of the industrial revolution has had, net, zip, zilch, zero effect on temperature.

Notice that the 'global warming' charlatans keep talking about the temperature now the highest in the past 400 years without mentioning that 400 years ago was the coldest part of The Little Ice Age and we do NOT want to go back to that. So, they picked their 400 years carefully hoping that they were going to be able to get financial contributions and good jobs selling hysteria to neurotics too dumb to notice that 400 years ago was The Little Ice Age.

(2) Notice that the now famous graph of CO2 and temperature over the past few hundred thousand years, e.g., in Dr. Chu's Princeton talk, also used in Saint Laureate Guru's movie, shows CO2 and temperature rising and falling together but does NOT say if (A) something caused higher temperature and that caused more biological activity and more CO2 or (B) something caused more CO2 and that caused more temperature. But the graph DOES show that CO2 concentrations NOW are relatively high but that temperature, for that CO2 concentration, is NOT higher. So, we have solid evidence, from both Chu and Guru, that the current higher CO2 concentrations are not causing higher temperatures. How 'bout that!

This is not surprising: CO2 absorbs infrared in three narrow bands due to each of bending, stretching, and twisting of the molecule. The infrared is radiated from the surface heated mostly by visible light. And the CO2 is more dense than the rest of the air and, thus, closer to the ground. So, as CO2 concentration rises, fairly soon CO2 will have absorbed all the infrared there is in the three narrow bands and absorb no more.

(3) The temperature of the earth is far too complicated for accurate prediction over decades. So, 'global warming' is a problem tough to debunk with solid science and, thus, is open season for the charlatans. The situation for the Mayan charlatans was similar: They claimed that human sacrifices were needed to pour blood on a certain rock or the sun would stop moving across the sky. They poured the blood, and the sun kept moving -- all because they had no good science on the movement of the sun. So the charlatans got jobs. Same for the global warming charlatans now except they are out to sacrifice the industrial revolution.

E.g., Tom Friedman claimed that CO2 heats the atmosphere by absorbing sunlight. He's wrong. He doesn't need to be correct just to sell hysteria to neurotic idiots, and that is all he's trying to do.

The IPCC? It's a political organization dominated by third world countries that want to throttle economic activity in the developed countries.

The 'climate scientists'? They want to scream "the sky could fall" and, thus, get research grants.

If want to worry about "it could happen", then note the evidence that a gamma ray burst anywhere in our galaxy could blow the atmosphere off the earth. Since the burst would come at us at the speed of light, we can get no advance warning at all.

Or, it's about time for Yellowstone to erupt again. Last time it put a layer of ash 10 feet thick 1000 miles downwind. That would destroy nearly all plant and animal life in the US.

Fourth, for the all-electric car, the simple answer for a long time is: F'get about it. Why: Because so far no one knows of an effective means of storing enough electric energy to power a car. That is, all the known means have too much cost, volume, and weight per unit of energy. There are also concerns about durability, safety, and charging time.

For more, one gallon of gasoline, burned, releases, what is compared with readily available sources of electric energy, a LOT of energy. E.g., as at


one gallon of gasoline, burned, releases about

36,650 watt-hours

of energy. Commonly the electrical supply of a house has a maximum current of 100 Amperes at about 115 volts. So, using all the power of such a house, to get the energy from one gallon of gasoline would take

36,650 / ( 100 * 115 ) = 3.2

hours. For 10 gallons, 32 hours.

Okay, considering the efficiencies of a gasoline engine and an electric motor, for the electric equivalent of 10 gallons of gasoline may need, say, only 33% = 1/3 rd of that electric energy so could get the charge in about 10 hours or about one hour per gallon.

So, for the equivalent of a 10 gallon fill-up, need to use 100 Amperes at 115 volts for 10 hours. At 10,000 Amperes get that 10 gallon fill-up down to 6 minutes, but don't look for a cable able to carry 10,000 Amperes at your local hardware store. The ad of the guy charging up his pickup truck with a flimsy little cable is a really funny joke by some total incompetents who can't do simple high school physics arithmetic.

For such uses of electric power, the electric grid from the sockets all the way back to the generating plants are not nearly ready.

So, mostly we are going to be running our cars and trucks on gasoline and Diesel. We can get those from oil, tar sands, shale oil, and coal now and maybe from other sources in the future. Yes, if we can get some better batteries and/or storage capacitors, then we can get some savings from having a gasoline or Diesel engine and the brakes charge a battery or storage capacitor, but here, still, essentially all the energy is coming from gasoline or Diesel and not from the electric grid.

Fifth, for high speed rail, the simple answer is: F'get about it. Why? In Baltimore they built a subway. When it was done there was a calculation at Johns Hopkins that indicated the most efficient way to operate the thing: Seal up the openings with bricks and f'get about it. The reason is, if add up all the costs and all the benefits, as some old laws require, even assuming that the construction costs were zero, then for the benefits the costs are just too darned high compared with existing alternatives. In particular, without high, necessarily wasteful, subsidies, nearly no one would use the thing. Or, 100 years ago we had a rail network that could take anyone between nearly any two small towns in the country. As soon as people got cars and trucks, they quit the trains as fast as they could. They rushed to buy Model-T cars and f'get about the trains. They were correct. Yes, the roads and bridges are expensive, but they are supposed to be paid for by motor fuel taxes. So, cars and trucks are paying their own way. Passenger trains can't. Now cars are MUCH better than the Model-T of 100 years ago but the trains are not. Sorry 'bout that. I know; I know: The trains are SO 'romantic'. Especially if don't think about the costs.

the average costs in the US for the year 2007 in cents per KWh were nuclear 01.76, coal 02.47, gas 06.78

While I support additional nuclear power generation, it would be best if realistic numbers were used for generation costs, not just propaganda charts from vested interests that ignores stranded cost payments, etc.

(2006 dollars per megawatt hour)

So, first-cut, all we have done since year 1600 is pull out of The Little Ice age, and all human activity of the industrial revolution has had, net, zip, zilch, zero effect on temperature.

The National Research Council performed a study on this exact topic, and found that globally the current timeframe is warmer that the "medieval warm period".

You might just stop and see where scientific organizations stand on this subject; I'm sure you'll likely be surprised...

The 'climate scientists'? They want to scream "the sky could fall" and, thus, get research grants.

Oh, so we should just listen to you, a guy with keyboard? Do you realize what you are asking of a readership with above average educational backgrounds?

Yes, my figures on cost came from the NEI. Sorry 'bout that. Those are the only actual, at least somewhat credible, numbers I have seen. If you have some better sources, by all means let's have some references. I did give my source; only a tiny fraction of people writing on this subject do that; you didn't.

My point about cost was not clear enough: I was trying to show how low the cost has to be from wind, solar, geothermal, tides, running gerbils, etc. to compete with nuclear fission and coal combustion. Your figures reinforce this point because they are lower than mine.

It appears that the graph you showed is the same as the one I mentioned in the report I referenced. If you have another study, then by all means let's see a reference.

In what I wrote, I read the graph: The temperature in year 1000 is essentially, within the accuracy we can expect in the data, the same as in year 1950 or, essentially, as now.

If you have some data that the temperature now is significantly higher than near year 1000, then let's see a reference.

You realize that 400 years ago was the coldest part of The Little Ice Age. So, then the Saint Guru herd screams "hottest inf 400 years", you don't conclude that they picked the 400 years carefully and are trying to deceive people? The Guru herd is a bunch of charlatans.

For your "You might just stop and see where scientific organizations stand on this subject; I'm sure you'll likely be surprised...", thanks for the Wikipedia entry. I hadn't seen that. But I am more influenced by objective, numerical data on temperatures than by consensus of groups.

For your "Oh, so we should just listen to you, a guy with keyboard? Do you realize what you are asking of a readership with above average educational backgrounds?", let's don't compare "educational backgrounds": You will likely lose and can't win. In the words in the movie 'Pretty Woman', in school "I went all the way".

Shooting at my educational background and being so badly wrong shows you are willing to form and state beliefs that are based on no data and are badly wrong. You need to let this warn you about how you are forming beliefs on global warming.

Again, this whole climate change, global warming debate is on a subject too difficult to debunk or settle with good science. So only really simple, robust data makes much sense, and detailed, first principles, calculations with radiometry, fluid dynamics, biological responses, etc. can't hope to be accurate.

I don't have solid, scientific debunking of the hysteria of the Saint Guru herd, but what they are doing is much the same as a long list of charlatans selling hysteria from the Mayans asking for blood to keep the sun moving to "the sky is falling", "Oh we got trouble, right here in River City", "we're destroying the good ozone" (in the months of no sunlight at South Pole from CFCs released in the northern hemisphere!), "we're about to freeze from global cooling", "we're about to be buried in our garbage from our sinful, filthy, wasteful lifestyle", etc. And some of the loudest noise makers, e.g., Tom Friedman, get even the high school physics of the CO2 'greenhouse effect' totally wrong.

For the data I got from the NEI, you mentioned "vested interests". Okay, look at the presentation before the 2008 Winter US National Governors Association" by Tom Friedman, John Doerr, and Jeffrey Immelt where the end point confession was that none of the 'renewable energy' projects could hope to go forward financially without a 'carbon tax' to which the Governor of Michigan was openly unhappy and the whole conference, that evening, said "HELL NO". Friedman wants to sell books about 'terrible threats'; Doerr wants to blow a stock market bubble for 'clean energy' companies; and Immelt wants to sell wind turbines and solar panels. The global warming crowd, from the IPCC and the 'climate scientists' to the 'clean energy' venture capitalists and the people selling books, is just awash in "vested interests".

As in 'The Music Man' screaming about the threat of "pool", they are trying to get into "boodle bags".

The global warming crowd is giving us from bad science down to no data and no science. Their actual information content is NOT science; it's just BS. The best response is not solid science but just a little data and some common sense so that we can save the industrial revolution.

If people sell nonsense and you buy it, then you have no one to blame but yourself.

The global warming crowd is just trying to pick your pocket. The proper response is not a lot of science but just to push them away.

Then the charlatans will pick some other topic: They are smart enough to pick a threat too difficult to debunk with solid science, so they will find another such topic. Such manipulations go back to grade school; some little girls did that to me in the fifth grade, said that my handwriting (which was not as pretty as theirs) was illegible. I wrote more and more clearly until finally I printed block characters that today a computer could read, and they still said "illegible". I gave up, and they laughed. It's much the same. Also part of the strategy is to go back to the old English morality plays where claim was sin, corruption, greed, etc. to play on human guilt. You're being manipulated; you're being HAD, by the highly sophisticated, 'highly educated' tricks of a long list of charlatans and girls in the fifth grade. Wake up.

You're being manipulated; you're being HAD, by the highly sophisticated, 'highly educated' tricks of a long list of charlatans

The problem with your assertions is that the "charlatans" have web sites (i.e. RealClimate.com) where they respond scientifically to the anti-AGW charges.

On the other hand, the anti-AGW people (yes, I do mean YOU people) have no similar counter part and always resort to ad hominem tactics.

This is how you sound to those of us who do buy in to the AGW "charlatan" theories:
1. People who believe the Earth is round are "charlatans",
2. People who believe the Earth goes around the Sun are "charlatans",
3. People who believe the Sun works on fusion of hydrogen are "charlatans",
4. And on and on

I'm sorry those girls made fun of you. It was wrong of them. But that doesn't make AGW false.

I've been to Web sites such as you mention. I didn't like their science. Net, I concluded that the best
data I've found was just that one graph in that National Academy of Sciences report I referenced. Yup, the situation on basic, objective, numerical data readily available totally sucks. At least in the NAS report they had some good people, e.g., time series statistics by Brillinger, Tukey student, now at Berkeley.

Al Guru's movie was a real black mark on any claims that the global warming crowd is objective or correct.

There is a skeptic at MIT, Lindzen or some such. And there's Dyson at the Institute.

To the global warming crowd, let me point out that carbon is 'organic', and all environmentalists just love organic!

Some skeptic!

If you reject all available evidence then you can draw whatever conclusion you want.

That isn't skepticism, it's dogma.

I'm not rejecting any meaningful data I've seen. None. Zip, zilch, zero. Nichts, nil, nada.

But getting meaningful data in the global warming debate is like pulling tiger's teeth.

What I have seen from the global warming alarmists is overwhelmingly just sickening junk apparently aimed at creating drama to appeal to, say, formula fiction addicts on TV. Sickest stuff in our civilization; we'll be lucky to live through it.

We need to back up: We're talking about, let's say it VERY slowly and listen to the words one by one, global warming. Now let's focus on the second word, warming. That means hotter.

Now, for hotter, we can tell by how fast the ice melts, how fast the grass grows, what the clouds look like, when the birds arrive in the spring? Or, can we think of a better way, that is, with more. if you will, 'reliability and validity'?

Yup. Thanks to some absolutely first class work in physics, we can MEASURE TEMPERATURE. When I was working at the National Bureau of Standards and Technology, we routinely measured and controlled the temperature in one of our laboratories to less than 0.01 C. We can measure temperature quite accurately. Thankfully.

So, if we are going to talk about 'warming', then we want to know the temperature. Just the temperature. Pictures of polar bears are NOT a substitute; given good data on temperature, the pictures don't add anything (think about Markov processes). Same for pictures of glaciers in Patagonia.

I'm flexible and will accept temperature in any or all of degrees F, C, or K. But omit specifying which, and you get turned off in a milli-micro-nano second, for a LONG time.

Next I want to know HOW the temperature was measured, by whom, where, and where I can look up the details.

Next I want to know how temperature has varied over time.

That's just a start.

People who talk global warming without careful attention to temperature get their data and claims tossed into my trash collection -- I will thank them for their contribution to my winter fireplace fuel supply. Such data on the Internet goes into my bit bucket or I keep it: First to remind me how much I like theoretical physics. Second to discourage them from creating any more such data.

So, in the whole thing, the whole screaming mess about global warming for the last several years, I've found one, exactly one, thankfully more than zero, but NOT as many as two, pieces of such temperature data worth considering, and I gave the reference, page 2 of the NAS report. And I gave a URL where you can look it up.

Here are some of the alternatives to such temperature data that totally excoriate, eviscerate, draw, quarter, hang, smoke, roast, ground, and destroy the credibility of the global warming alarmists, take their credibility to a new low, a place of unique contemptability, below the worst late night TV 'infomercials' or anything else that readily comes to mind:

There are the icebergs crashing into the sea. SO WHAT? When a glacier reaches the sea, its ice falls into the sea. This is what happens now, and it is no doubt what happened in the ice ages. What the HECK is the alternative? Want the glacier to stop moving? Want the icebergs to fly? Drama, drama, .... NO: Just silly, insulting, brain-dead BS. Contemptible.

Polar bears swimming in water without visible ice. SO WHAT? Right: If all the ice near the North Pole melted, then polar bears would have only such water to swim in. But that someone found such a polar bear in such water means just a grotesque insult to the audience.

Claims that the ice at the North Pole is melting. Not a weak little hollow hoot of a tiny chance. If you are unsure, then by all means in December take a boat to the North Pole and see. Uh, you might want to take along a heavy sweater just in case there is some cold weather there instead of the balmy tropic breezes you expect. Take Al Guru and Tom Friedman with you. Likely you will commonly find a lot of hours with -60 F at 50 MPH. You will discover grand new definitions of pain and suffering but find little melting.

But, but, but the amount of ice around the North Pole is SHRINKING. How do we know? Because someone put some buoys in the water, took data on where they went, and did a 'simulation' that produced realistic looking pictures, like maybe they were satellite photographs. They weren't.

Basic facts about the North Pole. First, it's all water up there, that is, no land above sea level. Second, there's a LOT of wind up there. Third, there are a LOT of ocean currents up there. So, when ice forms, it MOVES around. Turns out, it moves around a LOT and, apparently, differently from year to year.

Again, to measure WARMING at the North Pole, measure TEMPERATURE and report the measurement of TEMPERATURE. Then forget the sea ice or patterns in the sea ice or how much sea ice one, two, and three years old piles up next to some island in Canada.

Glaciers in Patagonia. Right: Someone found a glacier that shrank. There may be thousands of glaciers in the world. That some shrink is not a surprise. A bigger concern would be if ALL of them were growing. Why do I suspect that if even one glacier were shrinking then that would be the one in Guru's movie?

Sea levels are rising! But by how much since when? We're talking a nanometer since Christ? No one says. Again we need a time series graph, and the alarmists provide none.

Snows on Kilimanjaro. One claim is that the cause was a change in the local climate due to cutting of trees around the mountain.

Again, all these qualitative, anecdotal, dramatic, gut grabbers are not TEMPERATURE. And why not? Clearly the alarmists are using the best data they have. Either they don't have temperature data or believe that it would not support their case so don't show it.

Next there is that other word, global. So, the claim is global warming. Okay: Right away I ask, what is the definition of global temperature? So it's going to be an average of some kind, right? Okay, let's see the definition of how the average is to be calculated. Then let's see how operationally we can get a decently good estimate of that theoretical average. But all, 100%, of this detail is missing. So, they talk about it, are alarmed about it, want to destroy the industrial revolution over it, but don't define it. They got this from the Zimbabwe Academy of Sciences?

Then there's the "the hottest ten years in history". They don't say how far back their history goes, but that's the smaller objection. If could get $0.01 per million tons of BS, this one would be worth at least a billion dollars. There's some cute work. I correct myself: It's high among the top, center crown jewels of civilization. We can take one dimensional Brownian motion and plot the position on the Y axis with time on the X axis. So, this thing will wander around, fluctuate, both up and down (is there another kind?). Next, there are two curves, from the law of the iterated logarithm. Yes, the Wikipedia entry is good, and references Breiman, that's Leo, at Berkeley, and one of my all-time favorite authors. The two curves, one below the X axis and one above, as time increases, separate quickly at first and then very slowly. For any number h > 0, no matter how small, with probability 1 will be more than h outside these curves only finitely often and within h inside the curves infinitely often. ASTOUNDING! Standing ovation time! So, as time goes on, Brownian motion keeps setting new records, and the curves provide a shockingly accurate specification of just where the records will be and when.

So, even Brownian motion keeps setting new records of extremes. But Brownian motion, net, doesn't go anywhere and always has expectation zero.

So, any complicated natural process that wanders around, even if the process is not going anywhere, will likely continue to set new records right along.

So, that a process is setting new records does not mean that the process is increasing or decreasing.

Sorry 'bout that.

The BS goes on and on.

I'm pissed: I've been wanting data, waiting for data, willing for data, but the alarmists give me only especially low grade, insulting BS.

My BS alarms are, and have been, sounding loud and clear, never louder than during Al Guru's absurd movie.

I'll make it simple: As in the graph on page 2 of the NAS report, the temperature in year 1950 was essentially EXACTLY the same as in the year 1000.

The global warming crowd is charlatans, and their dupes, selling hysteria to ignorant neurotics. I'm neither ignorant nor neurotic and am not buying. Not a chance. Not even close. I wouldn't even flush it. No one should.

It sounds to me like you reject all the data that disagrees with your notions.

The north polar icecap is melting. The fact that it is thus far refreezing fairly completely in winter doesn't change the fact that it is thinning and melting more every summer.

If I could, as you suggest, take a boat to the north pole in December, it would not be melting. It would be melted. The ice thickness and extent is not measured by buoys these days either, they have satellites that fly over and directly measure the ice. As well they have satellites up there directly measuring global temperatures.

The data shows that all ice masses are shrinking and the average global temperature is increasing.

Now, you can believe what you want, and you can be as angry as you like, but reality happens whether you choose to believe in it or now.

Skeptic does not mean unbeliever.

December at the North Pole the ice is melted? With temperatures of -60 F common? Hmm ...

Sure, we should have satellite data on temperature and satellite images of the ice cover at the North Pole, etc. Got some references?

But, for global warming, ice and patterns of ice are too indirect: What we need is TEMPERATURE.

One piece of data I did see: Around the world are about four stations that measure temperature. Somewhere I have their actual numerical data. Curiously it ended with temperature falling!

But that's just four stations with poor details and not a very long time series.

A good definition of global temperature would be an average over one year and over the surface of the earth, and a satellite that is in, say, a polar orbit, should in a year provide an excellent estimate of that average. Got a reference? I don't.

Again, best data on the temperature of the earth over a meaningfully long interval of time, with some high credibility, is just the plot on page 2 of the NAS report I referenced. Again, temperature in year 1000 = that in year 1950. For the claim of global warming from human activity that put out CO2, that T(1000) = T(1950) is a SERIOUS problem.

To start on an answer, just to continue the discussion, should have a SOLID explanation for the cause of the start of The Little Ice Age, and we don't have that. And, we have to suspect that once we know what caused The Little Ice Age, we will get a hint of what ended it, and that hint may not be CO2 from humans. That is, we know that humans didn't cause the start of The Little Ice Age so that tough to believe that only human CO2 ended it. So if we reduce CO2 we will return to The Little Ice Age? No: We just are not at all clear on either what started or ended The Little Ice Age. In particular we are not at all sure what, if anything, human CO2 had to do with it. Sorry 'bout that.

So, the discussion starts to grind to a halt quite early on. Again, solid science for this problem is TOO DARNED DIFFICULT.

Or here is just a little of why: Solid science goes back to first principles and calculates directly from there. When doing this for global warming, first-cut, there is no royal road around just calculating the temperature in a very fine grid in all of the atmosphere and in all of the oceans in very small time steps, tomorrow, the next day, the next day, etc., and, as a special case, able to provide accurate local weather predictions, for months, years, decades, etc., and as we know very well that calculation turns into garbage in about one week. Sorry 'bout that. Moreover, that is not how weather predictions are made: Instead they just see what the weather is in Iowa today, see the wind direction and velocity, and conclude that the weather will be the same in PA tomorrow and MA the day after or some such. That technique also breaks down in just a few days.

Here's another problem: For conditions at each point in a fine grid in all of the atmosphere and all of the oceans, we don't even have the initial data!

Here's another problem: As soon as changes start to happen, even small ones, say, for the corn crop in Iowa this year, have to calculate how the system responds to the changes. Now we are into a LOT of biological activity, ocean currents, right, down to 3 miles deep, etc. So, we have to be able to model, from first principles, all such possible changes. NO HOPE soon.

We cannot hope to address global warming with solid science. I wish we could, but we can't. So we're just NOT talking about science.

So the most we have is just some, hopefully detailed, accurate, descriptive data, especially on temperature. Sorry 'bout that.

Apparently what the global warming people did was get the recent CO2 data and go bonkers with the 'greenhouse' effect and start building climate models. The first models were just of a single column of air. And they are still building models. But it's not, it can't yet be, good science.

Then we come to the policy question: Are we going to reverse the industrial revolution because we cannot yet solidly prove that human CO2 won't be a problem in, say, 100 years? My answer: HELL NO.

Like I said, you seem to be ignoring any data that disagrees with you. The state of the art has advanced since 1950.

It's the same old argument of ignorance or obfuscation, that if we do not know everything to an arbitrarily fine scale, one that is always much better than the state of the art permits, then we do not know anything.

Here's another problem: For conditions at each point in a fine grid in all of the atmosphere and all of the oceans, we don't even have the initial data!

We cannot have perfect knowledge, therefore we can have no knowledge?

Or here is just a little of why: Solid science goes back to first principles and calculates directly from there.

An awful lot of hard science involves working backward from observation. Working forward from first principles accurately is the ideal state that demonstrates that a theory is rock solid. It is the target of the process, not the process itself.

I scoff in your general direction.

You wrote:

"Like I said, you seem to be ignoring any data that disagrees with you. The state of the art has advanced since 1950."

Since 1950? WHAT???????

The NAS report I referenced was published in 2006 and contains data as recent as 2006.

If read the graph, then have to conclude that the temperature in the year 1950 was essentially exactly the same as in the year 1000. Since 1950 the temperature may have increased by 2/3 C, but the graph is not very clear on this point.

The report is not from 1950, and your "The state of the art has advanced since 1950.", while true, is irrelevant to the data I referenced.

I referenced the best data I have been able to find.

If you have some more solid data on temperatures, then I'm eager for references. But, the NAS study was carefully done and likely includes about all credible data on the temperature of the earth for 2000 years to year 2006. Finding temperature data that is credible and adds a lot won't be easy.

What good data am I ignoring? The video clips of swimming polar bears? The Eskimo that said that there used to be ice on this shore? The pictures of icebergs falling into the sea? Instead of these, for global 'warming', use temperature, just temperature.

We can have a detailed discussion on what is science and how science works and what constitutes good science and calculating from first principles, but the result of this discussion is fairly clear now: We can't hope to have solid science on global warming for at least some years.

Instead we can have scientists working on the problem and making progress of various kinds on various small details. Problem is, we still won't have enough solid science to be sure about public policy, especially, reversing the industrial revolution as is essentially the proposal now.

So, we will do SOMETHING, and for that we won't have solid science.

That doesn't mean we have nothing. Instead we will do much the same as we always do, have to do, when we don't have solid science: We collect good data. We look at some extreme cases to set boundaries about what might or might not happen. We form judgments.

My judgment is: CO2 from human activities has at most a tiny and trivial effect on the temperature of the earth, and we should forget about CO2 emissions and save the industrial revolution.

If read the graph, then have to conclude that the temperature in the year 1950 was essentially exactly the same as in the year 1000.

Bad assumption. Your eyesight needs checking. Are you using an average of the proxies or cherry-picking the highest in 1000? Cherry-pickers are ignored here.

Since 1950 the temperature may have increased by 2/3 C, but the graph is not very clear on this point.

Obfuscatory BS. The graphs I provided are crystal clear.

the NAS study was carefully done

Then you'll note their conclusions;

- It can be said with a high level of confidence that global mean surface temperature was higher during the last few decades of the 20th century than during any comparable period during the preceding four centuries. This statement is justified by the consistency of the evidence from a wide variety of geographically diverse proxies.

- Less confidence can be placed in large-scale surface temperature reconstructions for the period from A.D. 900 to 1600. Presently available proxy evidence indicates that temperatures at many, but not all, individual locations were higher during the past 25 years than during any period of comparable length since A.D. 900. The uncertainties associated with reconstructing hemispheric mean or global mean temperatures from these data increase substantially backward in time through this period and are not yet fully quantified.

The graph I referenced from the NSA study is not clear on just how much temperature increase there has been since 1950. My guess is 2/3 C.

For the conclusions of the NAS report you quoted, I agree with them. In simple terms, in year 1000 we started into The Little Ice Age; by 400 years ago we were in the coldest part; now we have pulled out and are back to where we were in year 1000.

The evidence indicates that maybe the temperature now is higher by a little than in year 1000. But this difference is uncertain, and how much higher is also uncertain although the difference looks small in nearly every sense. My reading of the graph, which is not easy to do to, say, 0.1 C, is that the temperature in 1950 was essentially, as far as we can tell, exactly as in year 1000. Since 1950 there appear to have been some increases, but the NAS data is tough to read on how much. Again, my guess from the graph is 2/3 C.

As I wrote when I first read the graph here, after year 1000 we started into The Little Ice Age. We don't really know why except that there is essentially no proposed cause from humans. Maybe the issue was the orbit of the earth, e.g., does summer correspond to when the earth is at its closest point to the sun or the most distant? Yes, this data is available and is rock solid (thankfully something is in this subject), but I'm not well informed on this data. Maybe the sun changed its output level for a while. Then might look for volcanos.

Whatever, starting in about 1600, we started out of The Little Ice Age. The obvious reason why is that what caused the start of The Little Ice Age went away. Since humans didn't start The Little Ice Age, a bit tough to believe that humans are what ended it. But to argue that human CO2 did end The Little Ice Age, really should have a good explanation for what did cause The Little Ice Age and why the reversal of that cause didn't end it.

Could the CO2 from human activities increase temperature as in the graphs? I'd like to see some calculations.

How much CAN CO2 increase temperature? That is, CO2 only absorbs in three narrow bands in the infrared, and they really are narrow. I'd like to see the spectrum, and super high quality data does exist (my main undergraduate physics prof was an expert in transmission of the infrared in the atmosphere -- yup, the USAF liked him), but I've not seen such data although I did look for it. With the spectrum, and, say, the spectrum of light from the sun (first cut, Planck black body radiation at, what, 6000 K?), could multiply the two spectra and integrate and get a first-cut estimate of the maximum energy that CO2 could absorb. Doing this, what is the result? Never saw any such data.

There's the issue of "CO2 staying in the atmosphere for 1000 years". Doesn't pass the sniff test with me, so I'd like to see the argument and a simple test: For the test, estimate how much CO2 has entered the atmosphere in the last 1000 years and compare with the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere now. How much CO2 is in the atmosphere now? First, weigh the atmosphere. How to do that? First-cut, just take the pressure in pounds per square inch at the surface and multiply by the surface area of the earth. The result will be the weight in pounds. For the amount of CO2, take, say, the concentration measured by Al Guru's Yale prof in Hawaii, assume that the concentration is uniform around the earth and at all altitudes (first-cut simplifying assumption). My a priori guess is that much more has entered than is there now. If so, then the CO2 didn't stay in the atmosphere for 1000 years. Then can get a crude, very crude, estimate for how much CO2 left the atmosphere. Where'd it go? Now it's starting to get tough: Oceans, seashells, plants, animals that eat the plants. That is, we get into biology.

Some such calculations could establish some broad boundaries that, say, could not be crossed and, thus, constrain what the solution could be. If we can get enough such calculations to get the area within the boundaries small, then we have a shot at an answer, but my guess is that such simple boundary calculations will leave a lot of uncertainty.

Again, I don't think we can get solid calculations of what CO2 levels will do to temperature or weather over the next few decades. Wish we could.

The data can't be much clearer for those with eyes to see;

Yup, as in the graph on page 2 of the reference I gave, since 1600 or so, we've been pulling out of The Little Ice Age.

But now for the cause. That's TOUGH.

CO2 is a 'greenhouse' gas. Yup, it sure is, along with water vapor, methane, and some more.

Since 1850 you are looking at an increase of about 1 C. Okay.

If you look at the graph in my reference you will see that the increase between 1850 and 1950 was much like that from year 900 to 1000. Amazing but true. Sadly it's not clear what caused either increase except we are quite sure that human CO2 didn't cause the increase from 900 to 1000.

So, you are ready to blame the increases from 1850 on human activity and sacrifice the industrial revolution? Apparently.

Like most denialists, you seem to forget that 59 years have passed since 1950 and that temperatures have risen as shown in the charts far above where they were in 1000AD. Take off the blinders...

Wrong: I'll let you count how many times on this thread I have estimated from the NAS graph that the increase from 1950 to 2006 was about 2/3 C.

You mention the vested interests of the Global Warming Crowd, yet neglect the vested interests of the Anti-Global Warming Crowd.

I'd say that the fossil fuel industry has a vested interest in keeping people using its products. This is a group with a lot of money and lobbying power, picked from the people's pockets if you will. If global warming advocates are looking to get our money I'd say they've done a pretty poor job of doing so so far by comparison.

Forget what you know, look at the issue again with a truly skeptical eye, and the credibility gap may swing the other way for you.

Naw, there's a BIG difference: The global warming crowd wants in nearly every case to INCREASE my costs, along with making my cars less reliable and less powerful, etc. Or, the old stuff you mention is the 'base case', and the global warming people want COST INCREASES from that.

Anyone who can find cheaper ways to make gasoline and Diesel oil has my approval! Maybe Venter with his engineered bugs can. There's more in the labs with bugs, etc. Such work might LOWER costs from the base case. If oil gets back to $150 a barrel, there's a good chance what's in the labs could lower prices.

For more, the base case is really mostly just the industrial revolution and not just some narrow economic interest or interest group.

For coal, I am willing to be concerned: I don't mind their CO2 but I could be concerned about the sulphur, mercury, other heavy metals, and even radioactivity they pump out.

Like I said, forget what you know and look again carefully.

Why would anybody want to increase your costs when they do not personally stand to benefit from it?

Do you really think that climate researchers make that much money for doing the research?

XOM Gross Profit (ttm)(FY2008): $188.55B (Yahoo! Finance )

NSF Climate Change Research Budget for 2008: $205.3B (US Global Change Research Program)

So, one company with a vested interest in denying they have a role in global warming had almost as much profit over 2008 as the total NSF budget for climate change research.

Follow the money, see where it leads. Total revenues for Exxon over 2008 were $459 billion, or over twice as much as the NSF climate change research budget and a much more appropriate comparison if you are looking at how much benefit any individual stands to make from either one.

I can't think of anything I got from Exxon. I gave my main data, the NAS report.

You said you got it from an NEI report above, from which you cherry picked one table that agreed with your views and threw out the rest.



All I got from the NEI report was the 2007 data on cost at the plant per KWh for nuclear fission, coal, etc. All I used the data for was to argue that wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, tides, low-head hydro, running gerbils, etc. would have to have costs quite low, MUCH lower than I've heard for the 'alternatives' so far, or electric rates would go up significantly, enough to get LOTS of push-back.

The first response I got gave even lower cost figures for nuclear and coal and, thus, helped my argument.

The NEI data was from a PPT file, and I am unaware of any important data in that file I ignored.

I didn't "cherry pick" or ignore anything: I just wanted some data on costs per KWh at the plant, and the NEI data was the best I was able to find.

I welcome better data on costs, ESPECIALLY for the 'alternatives'. So far the best I have is just the statement at the 2008 Winter Governors conference that without a carbon tax all the alternatives are dead.

Well, you argued vehemently and emotionally that the global warming advocates were "out to pick our pockets". If that is the case they are doing a really bad job of it.

I countered with referenced data on the amounts of money involved on both sides of the global warming debate. I referenced one oil major, and they have almost enough in resources to match the whole NSF. Renewable energy businesses are a tiny fraction of the size of the oil majors.

The money says the louder voices will be opposing the merest thought that people have anything to do with global warming. After all, if people actually believe that they need to use less oil, coal, and gas to preserve their coastal land values they might actually do so. That would be very bad for XOM profits and stock values.

The facts say that warming is real and that CO2 plays a major role in the retention of solar heat.

That, and the last few years have been the warmest in a millenia or longer. It looks like 5 or 6 years ago nobody could claim back more than about 600 years by the graph above. You aren't playing with obsolete data now, are you?

There are plenty of environmental groups using global warming to get contributions. So far the current White House is at least playing along, but some of what they said is scary: Recall the SF newspaper interview where Obama said that carbon taxes would "bankrupt" coal fired electric generating plants that couldn't bury their CO2. Well, they CAN'T even remotely hope to bury their CO2, and our economy CAN'T hope to do without the coal burning plants soon. The hope is that Obama was just pandering to get some votes, will pass out a little money for this and that 'renewable' project, and otherwise find an excuse, which will be painfully easy, not actually to do significantly more on cutting CO2 or pushing 'renewables'.

So, there is some pocket picking.

Even in 'The Music Man', only the salesman himself made money out of the great threat of "pool". Still, it's fair to say that his whole band effort was because he was after money.

Clearly not everyone on the global warming side is making money out of all this. Some people are sincere; some are misinformed.

I'm sincere, and this argument is keeping me from writing software for my project, which has NOTHING to do with global warming or energy in any significant sense. So I'm sincere with no significant financial interest.

I got struck, e.g., by the Audubon Society: They are now not interested in saving just the birds but want to raise funds to fight global warming. So, basically they just want to find concerns and then raise money.

I have no interest in Exxon and little respect for them.

For all the old energy companies, they just came out of the industrial revolution and do what they do. I don't like them, don't care about their CO2, know that we still need them, can't hope for anything much better at what they do, but would like to see some bugs, etc., make gasoline dirt cheap.

But the global warming people basically want to reverse the industrial revolution, and that would be a grand disaster. Well, they won't get that far because as soon as they start to force significant costs or changes, there will be a LOT of push-back, but in the meanwhile they can cause a LOT of discussion, raise a lot of funds, pass a lot of laws, and cause a LOT of trouble.

I'm saying, there is a lot more money to be had on the anti-global warming of the equation. I chose Exxon as an example because I happened to remember their ticker symbol off the top of my head, any of a dozen other companies across the fossil fuel industry would have sufficed to illustrate my point just as well.

The Audubon Society probably sees global warming, and the resulting shifts in biomes, as a threat to birds. Big surprise there. As a non-profit they have to do fund raising, so they will be asking anyone they can for money. Your choice whether you want to give them any, they can't force you.

Big oil companies get your money every time you drive to the store. They don't need to be in your face about lifting your wallet. It's better for them if you don't notice. Better for them, they can quietly bribe a few folks to make inflammatory comments about those horrible godless communist scientists who are using global warming to force you to give up the finer pleasures in life! and enough people will buy the line to do most of the dirty work for them, gratis.

Check your personal assumptions or your presentation skills, because I'm not buying what you're selling.

My personal assumptions are fine, but my position on global warming is challenging to present clearly to this audience. The main reason is, there's a lot of doubt because the real, core natural system -- the weather of the earth -- is complicated, too complicated for solid science now. So, no one has answers from solid science on the important policy questions.

So, where do we stand?


As in the NAS graph, temperature went up surprisingly quickly, for reasons we don't understand at all well, except humans didn't have much to do with it, from year 900 to year 1000. Then, for reasons we don't understand except again we can't blame humans, temperature fell slowly to the coldest part of The Little Ice Age near year 1600 -- that was significantly colder, and we don't want to go back to that. Then temperature rose slowly, and we don't know why, and has continued to rise to the present, although maybe the last year or three have been a little cooler. The increase from year 1850 to 1950 was much like that from year 900 to year 1000. By 1950 the temperature was essentially exactly where it was in 1000. From 1950 to 2006, the increase has been, maybe, 2/3 C. Some quite accurate data on temperature for the past few decades may be available but was not in the NAS report.

Greenhouse Gasses:

Human activity -- along with many other earth processes -- releases CO2 and methane, and these two are greenhouse gasses. That is, they pass visible light that heats the surface of the earth but absorb some of the infrared light that is radiated by the surface of the earth. In simple, first-cut terms, with everything else held constant, more of a greenhouse gas gives a higher temperature. But, CO2 absorbs only in three narrow bands so that for higher concentrations eventually it will have absorbed all the infrared there is in those three bands and absorb no more.

CO2 Concentrations:

We have some good data that in recent decades CO2 concentrations have increased significantly and are now significantly higher than at any time in the past few hundred thousand years. Actually we don't need to say the rather indefinite 'significantly' since actual good numerical data is available although I do not have a source on my computer.

We do not know just where this extra CO2 came from: Increased biological activity from increased temperature may have generated some of the CO2. Human activities have generated some, but I have seen no credible data that compares the extra CO2 with estimates of CO2 from human activities (again, good data is TOUGH to find). Some CO2 may have entered the oceans and maybe been taken up by plant life there.

Some of What We Don't Know:

What causes temperature fluctuations? We can list volcanoes, greenhouses gasses, solar activity, the reflectivity of the surface of the earth, and some issues in the orbit of the earth, etc. but we have poor details for each of these (e.g., how much CO2 results in how much temperature change?), and our list seems not nearly comprehensive, that is, does not explain the ups and downs I mentioned from 900 to 1600.

We are not able to say with solid science how much temperature increased since, say, 1600 from greenhouses gasses from humans.

We are not able to say with solid science what will happen to temperature or the rest of the weather over the next few decades from greenhouse gasses emitted at something like current rates from human activity.

The Public Discussion:

Overwhelmingly the public discussion is from people convinced that temperature is rising rapidly and dangerously due to CO2 and methane from human activity.

The public discussion, however, is full of heat with little light.

Good, objective data is tough to find.

People who are skeptical about the evidence are mostly silent.

The Media:

The global warming 'story' is something the media really likes so they can get eyeballs for their ad revenue: The story has threat and danger, human sin and corruption, and, from formula fiction, the 'compelling drama' of good protagonists, Eskimos, polar bears, suffering from encountering the threat and danger from human sin and corruption.

The media concentrates on emotional grabbers, pictures, qualitative descriptions, adjectives, anecdotal 'stories', and omits objective, carefully collected, relevant numerical data, even on just temperature, and essentially everything on the way to science. E.g., the media will take nearly every opportunity to scream "increasing" even if the evidence for any increase is of poor quality and if any actual increase is tiny and trivial.


Since the first Earth Day some decades ago, there have been university groups and departments studying earth science, the environment, etc., and some of these are hot into studying global warming and claiming that humans are about to destroy the planet.

These groups have intense, one-sided fervor much like a women's studies program and totally unacceptable in departments of mathematics, physics, chemistry, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and computer science.

These groups are high on heat and low on scientific qualifications in mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, and computing.

The Charlatans:

With Saint Guru, Tom Friedman, and others, there are charlatans getting famous and making money selling global warming hysteria to ignorant neurotics.

Some of the charlatans are trying to make money with one of the best ways: Create some public hysteria and get some laws passed that suddenly force new money in certain directions. Give the media 'stories' to create hype. Then make money from the resulting business opportunities.


With enough headlines on a topic, some politicians will be close at hand, and some are.

International Committees:

One of the job scams that has become common in the past few decades is to form some international committee to work on some problem. There have been a lot of such committees in telecommunications standards. So, get some big organization, e.g., the UN, to sponsor the committee. Then get people from various countries to join and have their large organization employers pay the fees. Have meetings, say, once a quarter in all the usual suspects -- London, Paris, Rome, Tokyo, Singapore, New York, Los Angeles, Montreal, etc. Fly first class. Stay in top hotels. The meetings break for lunch at 10:30 AM, have about 1 bottle of Beaujolais per person, and get going again for the afternoon session at about 3:30 PM, more or less, before the adjournment at about 4:00 PM. Staff writes thick reports that are nearly unreadable, and there is some voting at the next meeting before some more Beaujolais. Hard work. Very hard work. The IPCC comes to mind except it has the additional goal of letting the less developed countries dominate and use the committee to try to throttle the economies of the developed countries.

Base Reality:

Essentially everything that would 'solve human caused global warming', e.g., stop human activities that release greenhouse gasses, with maybe an exception for breathing but not for eating beans (Boston Bean Tax!), would be expensive, e.g., add another 20, 30, or 40 cents per KWh to electric power rates, add another $2, $4, or $6 per gallon or its equivalent in motor fuel costs, bankrupt coal burning electric power plants, shutdown essentially all livestock farming, etc. In total the proposed changes would basically reverse the industrial revolution. When these costs start to become real and significant, there will be a LOT of very powerful resistance.

In the meanwhile, the hottest thing about 'global warming' is the hot air of people talking about it. But the talk is cheap: Without some major new legislation, nothing much will change. So the talking goes on. If something significant and real does happen, then, from the resistance, the talking will likely be silenced for some decades. But, as long as nothing much does happen, the talking, and fund raising, research grant chasing, Beaujolais drinking, etc. can continue.

My Opinion:

The weather is COMPLICATED, too complicated to answer the important public policy questions with solid science. So, no one has enough solid science, and neither do I.

From the data I have seen, what I do understand about the science, and my judgment, I am not at all concerned about greenhouse gasses from human activity causing significant global warming. I'm just not. Sorry 'bout that.

this whole climate change, global warming debate is on a subject too difficult to debunk or settle with good science... I don't have solid, scientific debunking

Ok, now you've shot yourself in the the foot AND the head... you may find eager audiences on blogs with readerships who've never had more than a high school science education, but that guff won't fly here ("f'get about it"). If you reject the National Research Council's findings I provided above and throw out all other scientific findings just because it doesn't fit your propaganda-induced opinion, you are a lost cause who has become a troll. I sincerely hope you come to your senses...

It appears that we are looking at the same data, the graph on page 2 of the NAS report I referenced. I DID give the reference and the URL. Again, your graph appears to be just the graph from that page of that report.

And I read you the graph: The temperature in the year 1000 was essentially EXACTLY the same as in the year 1950. Since 1950 we may have had 2/3 C increase, but the data is not very clear.

Again, mostly the global warming people are not talking about temperature data. Some of the best data they have is just CO2 concentrations as measured in Hawaii by one of Al Guru's Yale profs. Then the climate simulation model builders rush off and try to argue that the extra CO2 will stay in the atmosphere for 1000 years (no details) and cook us all. That connection is BAD science.

In what I wrote, I read the graph: The temperature in year 1000 is essentially, within the accuracy we can expect in the data, the same as in year 1950 or, essentially, as now.

If you have some data that the temperature now is significantly higher than near year 1000, then let's see a reference.

2/3 degree C average is significant for a 50 year spread.

Thank you for providing what you wished for above.

Why do you have to re-charge overnight 10kWh in 6 minutes? you should have 6-8 hours.

My figure was that for an electric charge equivalent to a 10 gallon gasoline fill-up, 10,000 Amperes at 115 volts would take 6 minutes. That's much like being at a filling station now, although next time I will try to time how long it takes to pump 10 gallons since I suspect it is less than 6 minutes.

To do the charge overnight at home, will have to use your house electric power, and you will likely not have more than about 100 Amperes at 115 volts available. My house, 4BR, 2 1/2 baths, etc. has a TOTAL of 100 Amperes at 115 volts. Then your charge would take 100 times longer, 10 hours.

Also, you better be nearly the only one in your neighborhood drawing the 100 Amperes all night long!

The electric grid, wall sockets to generating stations, is not nearly ready for charging all electric cars.

I'm all for all electric cars IF they can be made to work because they have some really nice advantages: They use electric motors that have, in simple terms, infinitely large torque at 0 RPM. So standing start acceleration is FANTASTIC. Can put one electric motor, of less than about 70 pounds, at each wheel and get the nicest form of full time four wheel drive, with no differentials at all, in particular, without the three differentials current cars need. Can use the electric motors also as the brakes and recharge the batteries. There's no transmission at all -- no clutches, torque converters, planetary gears, nothing! There's no radiator or cooling system. Get to run the air conditioning off electric power so, as in a home refrigerator, get to put the electric motor inside the sealed volume of the working fluid and, thus, greatly reduce the problem with leaking working fluid. There's much better mechanical efficiency, simplicity, and durability. Initial cost has to be lower than an internal combustion engine, transmission, differntial gears, disk brakes, etc. Since everything is electrical, get some really nice options for really simple, reliable, effective automatic control systems for traction control, stability control, anti-lock brakes, etc. In particular, it's easy to have standing start acceleration much better than nearly any driver can do with throttle and clutch in a high performance, gasoline engine 'supercar'. The drive train and brakes of the car are much lighter which means that the frame can be lighter, the drive train still lighter, etc. so that the whole car is much more efficient in use of energy.

I'm sold: BUT, (1) we don't have an effective means of storing the electric power in a car because the available means are all too high in cost, volume, and weight per unit of electric energy, and (2) the electric grid, from wall sockets to generating plants, is not nearly ready.

There is a chance that storage capacitors with barium titanate will do for the storage, but the electric grid will be MUCH more difficult.

"Also, you better be nearly the only one in your neighborhood drawing the 100 Amperes all night long!"
you have made an error in calculating, a wall socket drawing 30A at 115V will re-charge a Chevy Volt in <3hours. Your neighbors seem to manage with A/C all on all day( max 30A/115V), the grid can definitely handle the same number of cars being re-charged at night.

My calculations are correct.

A Chevy Volt makes different assumptions.

I assumed the 'equivalent' of 10 gallons of gasoline in part because, as for gasoline powered cars, it is a PAIN to have a 'gas tank' smaller than that. But the electric energy capacity of current electric cars is much less than the equivalent of 10 gallons of gasoline even assuming that an electric car is three times as energy efficient as a gasoline car.

Lesson: If you can charge the thing quickly just at your house, then don't plan on driving very far!


You continue to lecture about things you clearly do not have a clue about.

10 gallon gas equivalent??? The Volt can go ~40 miles on batteries, and will get roughly 40 mpg in ICE mode. That's 1 gallon gas equivalent.

My calculations are correct.

I hear you say this over and over on a number of subjects you clearly have no grasp of. We don't buy it.

The 'climate scientists'? They want to scream "the sky could fall" and, thus, get research grants.

My best friend is a climate scientist. I've spent quite a few hours over the last week talking with him about the immense lengths he's going to in order to determine realistic values for one tiny part of a larger climate simulation, and how other researchers have gone to immense lengths to determine realistic values for the tiny parts of his climate simulation. He had a number of job offers to choose from, and took this one in large part because it allowed him to work on what he considers to be the most important problem facing humanity.

So I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that you have no idea what you're talking about.

Climate scientists aren't doing this for money. They aren't doing this on a whim. They aren't doing this to support "The Man". They aren't doing this for any of the nonsensical reasons conspiracy theorists love to dream up. If they're all saying something, it's because they're committed to following where some of the best science in the world is taking them.

Glad your friend is dedicated.

Still, to be successful in academic research, and essentially all of this research is in academics, have to be funded by research grants. So, he has to chase research grants.

Likely the whole group and department he is in are dedicated, dedicated especially to the quasi-religious goal of 'saving the beautiful, delicate, sensitive, 100% all-natural, pure, pristine, environment' from the 'beast, the hideous beast of terrible rapacity, sin, filth, corruption, greed of ugly humans'. So this beauty and the beast drama is part of the catechism of him, his graduate students, his faculty colleagues, his department chair, the site visitation committee, the reviewers of his research papers and grant applications, and the problem sponsor at his funding source.

Without the drama of the quasi-religious beauty and the beast problem, there would be no funding. No one will fund for long research that concludes that there is no problem. In this field, if he argues that there is no problem, that the sky is not falling, then he will have committed academic suicide. His academic career will be over.

I can believe he is sincere; I've seen such people; but he still has his career tied solidly to the beauty and the beast problem and the whole global warming herd mentality.

He has another problem: One of the most important pieces of work is good problem selection. Sadly, he has selected a problem that is too difficult to address with good science. He can struggle all he wants to get "realistic values for one tiny part of a larger climate simulation", but he will still be doomed because the problem is too difficult.

One of the amazing things about the climate is just how stable it actually is. That is, minute by minute, the climate blows, rains, etc., yet nearly every year, nearly to the week, spring, summer, fall, and winter come. Why? We don't know.

I have no serious objection to the efforts to do science on this problem. Gee, maybe they will learn more good mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, and computing and, eventually, use them for something useful!

Some of the best work I did was some computing that did a lot to help the US economy, and I learned that computing in a situation that at first glance looked like terrible government waste! Yup, the work was mostly a waste, but the computing I learned was terrific!

My objection is the charlatans who want sacrifices, like the Mayans who wanted to kill people to get blood to pour on a rock. The charlatans ruined the air conditioning two of my cars and now are trying to increase my costs of electric power, motor fuel, transportation, really, reverse the industrial revolution, all just so that they can get financial contributions and jobs pouring blood, sometimes my blood, on their rock. That's my gripe. I should be torqued, and I am. And you should be torqued too.

There's more: It's all part of a big pattern to talk up some threat, get financial contributions, get jobs, and cause trouble passing laws, etc. One of the problems is 'WATER, we're about to run out of WATER. We MUST conserve WATER and protect the purity and essence of our precious bodily fluids!'.

Sooooo, my 'low-flow' toilet doesn't flush worth a darn. My shower head puts out a weak stream. And when I build a house I may have to smuggle in some hot, illegal toilets and shower heads. All this when I live in an area with high rainfall and no water shortage at all. Indeed, each spring the ground is saturated, and inches of the stuff run off and soon into the Hudson River. And I get my water from a well. I have no darned water shortage at all. None. Zip, zilch, zero.

The water shortage charlatans get their examples from people living in deserts. I don't live in a desert.

The water shortage charlatans are causing me trouble for no good reason.

The global warming charlatans are trying hard to cause still more trouble.

Of course, the media, they are in on it. Why? Because they can tell the global warming charlatans, "You want your story told, and I desperately want a story to tell". The media want eyeballs for ad revenue, and the charlatans want financial contributions.

the charlatans want financial contributions

Yeah, but so do your "clean coal" friends.
And your clean nuke friends.
And your BAU friends.

I don't have any "clean coal friends" -- just read my others posts on this thread.

Don't even know what the BAU TLA is.

Let's not feed the troll...

BAU= Business As Usual
TLA= Trolling Like Always

We don't wish you ill Skeptic, but you've painted yourself into a See-No-Bad-News, Hear-No-Bad-News corner by rejecting all scientific web sites and insisting on a world model that is filled with scheming "charlatans" who have nothing better to do with their lives than dedicate those lives to focusing on how they can increase YOUR costs.

Hint: This world is not about you. Each of us is just one tiny bacteria leaching out a life on the 3rd rock from the source. Let's cooperate rather than tearing one another apart.

p.s. Yes I understood, TLA= 3 letter acronym ha ha

I'm wanting good data, waiting for good data, wishing for good data. I just don't get much.

The 'scientific Web sites' I've seen don't have much. I went looking; I was hoping. Basically they just sound a little more analytical and objective but actually provide nothing more solid than just the NAS report I referenced. It appears that they just hope that a FAQ of a few dozen questions will wear down skeptics. Not me! Sorry to be blunt, but they are not "scientific". That very high standard aside, neither do they sound very objective.

I have claimed that the problem is too difficult for solid science. The NAS report is just some of the best available data but is nothing like a solid scientific attack on this problem. We're not going to get such an attack at all soon. Problem's TOO DARNED HARD. Just think about for at least a millisecond.

So, if not science, and even not much good temperature data, then what is the cause of the noise? It's charlatans. Sorry 'bout that.

An objective, open-minded person is at a serious disadvantage when debating a charlatan if they just keep responding only with high quality science and otherwise accepting what the charlatan says. When debating a charlatan, have to recognize this fact.

Right, it's not really about me and my costs, although I have a right to be concerned about my costs. It's mostly about reversing the industrial revolution, which is what would have to happen if the global warming crowd got their way. Reversing the industrial revolution, even just seriously hurting the more industrial economies, should be a big concern to all of us.

I'm wanting "good" data also.

I'm wanting data that shows GW is not real and that it's all a bad dream.
But the data coming in keeps confirming that GW is real and that we as a species are in big trouble because of that.

Now this bad GW data is not bad for all species. Take mosquitoes for example. GW means that they get to move to higher latitudes and higher altitudes and feast on individuals who have heretofore been withholding their vital bodily fluids from mosquito-kind.

I'm wanting "good" data on other fronts also.

I'm wanting data that shows Peak Oil is not real and that it's all a bad dream.
But the data coming in keeps confirming that Peak Oil is real and that we as a species are in big trouble because of that.

Now this bad Peak Oil data is not bad for all species. Take vultures for example. .... :-)

There's some good data to show that GW is real. I'm not doubting that, at all.

And, yes, CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Tom Friedman doesn't understand how a greenhouse gas warms the earth, but I do. Yup, greenhouse gas warms the earth.

Where the issue starts to get tough is estimating how much warming is due to human CO2.

Where the issue starts to get tough is estimating how much warming is due to human CO2.

The issue also "gets tough" in estimating how much lung cancer is due to human smoking of tobacco.

The issue also "gets tough" in estimating how much influence is exerted on people like you by petro-industry funded, denialist coalitions.

Did you read about the leaked court papers in today's New York Times?

Where the issue starts to get tough is estimating how much warming is due to human CO2.

I have ignored you because you are not worth debating. You have a conclusion (quite wrong BTW) and search for facts to and twisted analysis to fit it.

However, I will answer your question this time.

All warming caused by above 270 ppm CO2, plus 100% of CFCs, PFCs and other man made chemicals is due to humans. We are boiling the planet at a rate that has probably never been seen before; i.e. that natural processes have never caused.

Sounds like you threw in the towel!

No, I threw out the used bathwater...

My friend, you're a conceited ass.

Your definition of a charlatan is somebody you disagree with, somebody who is trying to 'sell' you something you don't want.

If a doctor tells you that you have cancer do you want to argue with him? Okay, you can get a second opinion.

Well, with the exception of one or two scientists of questionable repute or on somebody's payroll, you can't find a scientist with a significantly different opinion. Every day their are reports and studies with new evidence of global warming. But that's a giant conspiracy, right(because you disagree with their conclusions)?

So now, do you go to the faith-healer or the crazy lady with the home remedies?

You're moving out on to the fringe. Over time, you'll have problems finding people who agree with you.

Did ever occur to you that you just might be WRONG?

Your into insulting name calling, and most discussion fora would remove your post. You don't deserve a response.

Could I be wrong? Since we can't address global warming with solid science, yes.

Could the global warming people who propose reversing the industrial revolution be wrong and, thus, cripple the world economy for no good reason? Yes. While they want to sacrifice the industrial revolution, at least they don't seem to want to sacrifice the virgins.

You wrote, "Well, with the exception of one or two scientists of questionable repute or on somebody's payroll, you can't find a scientist with a significantly different opinion." No. First counterexample: Richard S. Lindzen. Second, Freeman Dyson. Some more I know who are not public people.

But, again, I'm not taking a vote. Instead I'm looking at the evidence, especially that provided by the global warming people. Beyond the NAS report I referenced, their public evidence 99 44/100% sucks and is just an insult to their audience and a humiliation of themselves. Video clips of swimming polar bears -- GADS. Some Eskimo who -- passion, pathos, poignancy time -- says that there used to be ice here. Yup. But it MOVES, and this year is all piled up somewhere else, maybe in Canada, next to Greenland, next to Russia. Sorry 'bout that. Then there's the 'ice is melting' stuff, without data on TEMPERATURE, and even without mentioning the time of the year or the location of the video clip. Then there are the people on some islands in the Indian Ocean or some such worried about 'rising sea levels' due to 'human caused global warming' -- with zip, zilch, zero for evidence or even any numerical data at all on how much increase in sea level since when. It's just cheap TV drama, 'great wasteland' stuff. Upchuck time.

There's the NYT: They have been flogging the global warming story for years now. They're just trying to MAKE a story, create anxiety and then feed it. If they did the same thing for stocks, they could be arrested.

You wrote, "Every day their are reports and studies with new evidence of global warming. But that's a giant conspiracy, right(because you disagree with their conclusions)?" Look, let me help you out a LOT: The main evidence for global warming is just ONE measure, TEMPERATURE. Nearly all other evidence, while perhaps of some interest by itself, GIVEN TEMPERATURE, is useless (again, think Markov processes). When we hear evidence for global warming, we should hear about temperature. Anecdotal evidence and evidence that could obviously have been cherry picked -- especially with cute, lovable, all white polar bears -- don't count.

Next, for time number 183,295,294,220, of COURSE there is 'global warming' since year 1600. We ALL admit that. We have high quality data, e.g., on page 2 of the NAS report. The big question is, what has been, and will be, the effect of CO2 from human activity. THAT'S the tough question. For that question, you do NOT get a lot of good new evidence each day. Indeed, there is nearly NO such evidence anywhere in the public discussion if only because no one is willing to discuss infrared absorption spectra or Planck black body spectra or anything about radiometry. In fact, the public discussion is close to having a phobia about anything numerical, and that alone is crippling for anything like science.

I'm not going to make following everything in global warming my full time job, but essentially everything I see is total, made up, drama nonsense. So, the media form a herd and run around finding anecdotal 'evidence'. It's easy to do: Take any change at all in the weather, find someone who believes the cause was human caused global warming, and report it. Jerk people by the gut and get eyeballs for ad revenue. Everyone in the media knows that they are safe in the herd reporting these 'stories'.

Who are the charlatans? The best example I know, who deserves the grand crown of charlatans, complete with funny hat and long robes, is Saint Laureate Al Guru, the high priest of global warming catechism. His movie was just SICKENINGLY stupid.

(1) He just does NOT understand that anecdotal evidence and evidence that could easily have been from cherry picking are JUNK that excoriate his credibility. To me he has zero credibility.

(2) He just LOVES to show pictures of ice falling into the sea which means NOTHING. Why? Apparently because too many people in his audience guess that somehow falling ice must mean something bad. Garbage.

(3) For his big graph that covered a few hundred thousand years, he wouldn't show the axes clearly or discuss the sources. He, like nearly everyone in the media, treats a graph as a case of dramatic graphic art (which is at best USELESS for anything like science) instead of a display of numerical data.

He just insisted, with zip for evidence, that when temperature and CO2 went up and down together, it was CO2 increases that caused the higher temperatures and CO2 decreases that caused lower temperatures. At least Chu, with, as I eventually discovered, much the same graph, in his Princeton lecture was careful and explicit in not jumping to that conclusion. Chu, while now wanting to be a politician, still knows what good science is -- sometimes.

(4) One of his worst was his "hottest in the past 400 years" deception. Of COURSE it's the hottest in 400 years since we have been pulling out of The Little Ice Age and do NOT want to go back to that.

A good second to The Guru is Tom Friedman. While he's out to kill off the industrial revolution, just a little thing like that, he seems to take pride in not understanding any of even the first details of what he is talking about.

For the Audubon Society, their expansion from protecting birds to raising funds to fight global warming just looks opportunistic. Maybe they are really interested just in money and not even the birds, either.

I get e-mail from various environmental this and that, the Rocky Mountain Institute (looks like they have a lot of strong funny stuff to smoke up there), and their stuff looks AWFUL. They are not trying to provide solid information and are just trying to raise money by selling hysteria to ignorant neurotics.

The NAS report was well done. Not easy to find more well done pieces.

It's time to include Obama: He keeps on the catechism of 'clean, renewable, domestic, carbon-free' energy from wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, tides, low-head hydro, maybe gerbils in cylindrical cages, all the while ignoring nuclear fission. I believe that he is pushing fission, but it isn't what he talks about to his true believer audiences. Why? Because nuclear fission, the only proven, cheap. reliable, plentiful (can't build many more Hoover, Bonneville, or TVA dams) source we have for electric power that does not emit CO2, might offend the Jane Fonda crowd. So, he's out pandering to his audiences. In his SF Chronicle interview about a year ago (there's a YouTube clip), he pointed out that his direction would bankrupt the coal burning electric generating plants. He also claimed that nuclear fission was too expensive, which is nonsense. Heck, even the French know better -- MUCH better. And maybe, just maybe, he actually believes his nonsense. Problem is, he's coming close to making it possible in Congress to go with the earth worshiping, tree hugging, ignorant, self-destructive, neurotic wackos following Saint Guru and out to destroy the industrial revolution.

It's great here in the US to have fantastic achievements such as our electric power grid, gasoline supply chain, etc. so that ignorant, neurotic, self-destructive wackos can sit around in comfort smoking funny stuff and fantasize about destroying these achievements.

Let me guess, you are a Republican.

Global warming was real before Al Gore made his movie, just because a Democrat believes something is true and argues for it doesn't make it false. The Democrats' proposed path to a solution won't work, but the Republicans are too busy denying that there is a problem to propose a counter solution. I wish they would, with both parties facing reality we might get a plan that would work. If not to fix the problem, at least a recognition that we needed a plan for dealing with coastal property.

Neither party is right all the time, and the truth doesn't know party or religious affiliation.

Read it and weep

Dear Skeptic,

Too bad the NYT hadn't published this story earlier. It comes as no surprise to many of us that our system of greed and profits would generate denialist "Coalitions" for tobacco or for coal/oil or for any other profit making organization that stands to lose if science were allowed to tell the truth. Their goal, as always, is to suppress the truth.

“I’m amazed and astonished,” Dr. Santer said, “that the Global Climate Coalition had in their possession scientific information that substantiated our cautious findings and then chose to suppress that information.” ...

Throughout the 1990s, when the [industry-backed Global Climate] Coalition conducted a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign challenging the merits of an international agreement, policy makers and pundits were fiercely debating whether humans could dangerously warm the planet. Today, with general agreement on the basics of warming, the debate has largely moved on to the question of how extensively to respond to rising temperatures.