Going Nuclear

An epic tweetspat with pseudo-modern engineers made me think of the following confutation of the Breakthrough playbook:

First, nuclear energy needs to compete with fossil fuels, not renewables like wind or solar. This point rests on the basic observation that the only way to replace fossil fuels is to replace fossil fuels. This point also rests on the idea that the path toward sustainable energy requires more nuclear energy than anything else, a conclusion that seems to be supported by the work of David Mackay [1].

Second, the capital intensity required to go nuclear is quite substantial. The total costs of building nuclear power plants is what matters most. As Bernard L. Cohen says:

It is useless to develop new plant designs if they will be too expensive for utilities to purchase.

Most working American reactors were commissioned before 1975. Investing in nuclear is done over decades. Generations in fact: one builds nuclear plants for one’s grandchildren. Intergenerational justice is involved: if you invest money now for your grand kids, that’s less money for your kids. To estimate that kind of investments, discount rates matter. Institutional investors must step in and play harder than GRRROWTH enthusiasts usually promote.

(A remarkable corrolary is that the more you crank discount rates, the more nuclear becomes costly. So there’s a crucial tension between the pseudo-modern and the lukewarm playbooks. At least Richie’s or Matt King Coal’s version of it.)

Third, even if in small dose can be beneficial, hippie punching is a path of least resistance that can’t stand alone. It won’t reduce carbon emissions, and amounts to the same kind of scapegoating that contains any populist playbook. It’s a distraction, like if APPL started to whine about Linux. The difference of scale shows it’d be tilting at windmills. The alpha to beat is fossil fuels.

Fourth, the main financial obstacle to reduce fossil fuels are subsidies. According to Coady et al 2017, we’re talking about a $5 trillion dollars ballpark worldwide. That’s more than 5% of the global GDP. This is lightyears away from what we give solar and wind. To give you an idea of what we can do with that much money, 0.3% of the world’s 2014 income would be enough to achieve the Millenium development hunger target.

In short, divestment from fossil fuels will be required, whether we go nuclear or not. Hippies are winning more than their caricature make it seems. They at least picked to right target, i.e. fossil fuels, something that still escapes the BTI guys, whose proposition, I duly submit, has been confuted with this note.

I’m all for going nuclear. I live in Canada. Many uranium bases belong to us. I’ve been waiting for a decade now to go long on uranium. But I’m no dummy – I won’t invest in a market that low energy prices could kill in a whim just because gaz guzzlers decide to keep subsidizing fossil fuels.

Kevin Anderson suggests that we’d need 4000 new nuclear plants by 2050 to meet 25% of our total energy consumption. We are building 65. Going nuclear means regulating the energy market for a long time. That doesn’t imply nationalization, although this is tried, tested, and true. I suppose market-based solutions exist: the trick is to make sure corporations are kept in check.

To paraphrase Scott Denning, if Freedom Fighters shirk their responsibility, decisions will be made without them. They had all the time to make themselves heard. So much the worse if they waste everyone’s time punching hippies and tilting at windmills.

And that’s the memo.

[1]: This claim has been revised on 2017-11-29 (17:11 EDT), based on BBD’s suggestions in the comments.

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160 Responses to Going Nuclear

  1. afeman says:

    I just find it delicious who favors the energy solution that is most thoroughly statist (not that that’s a disqualifier).

  2. jacksmith4tx says:

    It seems to me the DNA of technology want’s to move to a more decentralize ecosystem. It’s more resilient and can deployed many times faster than centralized systems like massive power plants and millions of miles of grid infrastructure. A close analogy is what has happened to communication networks as they transitioned from wired to wireless. The explosion of IoT (Internet of Things) devices is clear evidence there is a paradigm shift underway. In 2017 IoT devices already outnumber humans.
    https://diginomica.com/2017/11/29/paradigm-shift-decentralizing-energy/
    Currently it seems the limiting factor is on site energy storage (batteries?). Once that problem is solved FF and nuclear will become obsolete.

    Another approach to the problem is slash demand. I noticed there is a stealth program working to limit global population by injecting lots of fake medicine into 3rd. world health care systems. It’s just withholding some key drugs and letting nature do it’s thing so nobody has blood on their hands.
    “Approximately 10.5% of medicines in low and middle income countries including India are sub-standard and falsified”
    http://www.livemint.com/Industry/6i5W6D4n07yGwmZDV2JalN/India-among-countries-where-10-of-drugs-are-substandard-WH.html
    “According to the study, the failure rate for commonly used antiepileptic medicines was very high at 65% and for genito-urinary and sex hormone drugs, the observed failure rate was 56%.”

  3. Willard says:

    Indeed, afeman.

    My inner cynic makes me suspect that Californian techno-communists are preaching for that kind of scheme:

  4. Willard says:

    Wireless energy transmission would indeed be great, JackS.

    An alternative explanation to your stealth program is a Pharma gold rush:

    The sheer number of studies has sparked fears that some companies are engaging in a medical gold rush, hoping to chance upon the right cocktail without doing the appropriate scientific groundwork.

    Almost 800 clinical trials involving a checkpoint are under way in the US, according to a government database, more than 700 of which are testing the drugs in combination with one or more additional medicines. This compares with about 200 in 2015.

    Some investors are unnerved by such haste, says Brad Loncar, who runs an exchange-traded fund focused on immunotherapy: “People are concerned there is not as much scientific rigour as there should be.”

    Pascal Soriot, chief executive AstraZeneca, which is trialling its own immunotherapy combination, admitted as much in a recent interview with the Financial Times.

    “The field is very competitive. Right now you have a lot of companies that take bets . . . without a lot of data,” he said. “So we also have to consider the speed, and sometimes we’re going to have to take educated risks with maybe not as much conviction or data to support the clinical programme, but enough of it.”

    https://www.cnbc.com/2017/07/03/fears-over-a-medical-gold-rush-in-cancer-drug-race.html

  5. jacksmith4tx says:

    Willard,
    But we already have wireless energy… solar power from the sun. I generate excess energy an average of 320 days of the year, every year, since 2011. But because I don’t have an affordable battery storage system I have exported over 9.3 MWh ($1,290 earned with net metering). I even bought a Chevy Volt to boost my self consumption but I’m still getting a credit on my electric bill every month. This is with only a 6.7KW PV system that cost $23,000 (my money, no tax credits or government support).

    Death by withholding treatment.
    The key difference is that cancer drugs sell for billions and are targeted at populations that can afford them (or the insurance coverage that does). The other problem with drugs is that genetic engineering will actually cure cancer (someday) and not just treat the symptoms, again assuming you are rich enough to afford the treatment PLUS using gene drive technology the cure is inheritable. The plan to distributed fake medicine is way more effective at global population control and much easier to avoid responsibility by the ruling class.

  6. Willard says:

    My vision of wireless solar would be if the sun’s energy is transformed into an electricity that goes directly into my phone without any cords, JackS, if possible without any storage whatsoever.

    What actual configuration would be nearest to that ideal?

  7. Willard says:

    > The plan to distributed fake medicine is way more effective at global population control and much easier to avoid responsibility by the ruling class.

    It might be wiser if we don’t conspire to go that far in this thread, JackS. Please.

  8. BBD says:

    This point also rests on Mackay’s conclusion that the path toward sustainable energy requires more nuclear energy than anything else.

    I don’t really think that this was MacKay’s conclusion but I’m not sure what exactly you are thinking of (there’s quite a lot of that book…). Is there a specific statement you have in mind?

  9. Canman says:

    Breakthrough Institute founder, Michael Shellenberger, appears to be the worlds leading advocate for nuclear energy. The best place to follow this issue is his Twitter feed. He even has some recent victories:

  10. Willard says:

    I may be mistaken, BBD, but here’s for instance one passage where I read it:

    [W]hat’s required are big changes in demand and in supply. Demand for power could be reduced in three ways:

    – by reducing our population (figure 19.2);
    – by changing our lifestyle;
    – by keeping our lifestyle, but reducing its energy intensity through “efficiency” and “technology.”

    Supply could be increased in three ways:

    We could get off fossil fuels by investing in “clean coal” technology. […]

    We could invest in nuclear fission. Is current nuclear technology “sustainable”? Is it at least a stop-gap that might last for 100 years?

    We could buy, beg, or steal renewable energy from other countries – bearing in mind that most countries will be in the same boat as Britain and will have no renewable energy to spare; and also bearing in mind that sourcing renewable energy from another country doesn’t magically shrink the renewable power facilities required.

    http://withouthotair.com/c19/page_115.shtml

    I don’t think we should expect solving AGW by reducing demand alone, nor do I think “clean coal” is the way to go. The only alternative for UK to go nuclear therefore seems to be that someone else goes nuclear elsewhere.

  11. jacksmith4tx says:

    Willard,
    “What actual configuration would be nearest to that ideal?”

    Forget the phone and lets just go with telepathy.
    “But with scientists beginning to understand the link between specific neurons lighting up and speech – even down to individual words and phrases – we are looking ahead to a world where humans may be communicating each other through a kind of machine-enabled telepathy”
    http://www.idgconnect.com/abstract/28859/is-google-inspired-moonshot-factory-model-tech-r-d

    The Read/Write mind interface with light:
    “Carefully crafted light pulses control neuron activity”
    https://phys.org/news/2017-11-carefully-crafted-pulses-neuron.html

  12. Willard says:

    If only I could see these tweets, Canman.

    I still can read his “manifesto,” however. There are 23 occurences of “climate.” Here’s one:

    Significant climate mitigation, therefore, will require that humans rapidly accelerate existing processes of decarbonization.

    Here is another one:

    [A] variety of social, economic, and institutional challenges make deployment of present-day nuclear technologies at scales necessary to achieve significant climate mitigation unlikely.

    Hippie punching covers the first variety, but does little for the two other ones. In fact, the only reason why the “institutional challenges” aren’t being adressed is that these challenges are harder to sell. Hence the focus on hippie punching. Hippie punching is the laziest non-solution to the decarbonization problem.

    In any case, I don’t think it’s possible to reconcile the two quotes.

  13. Willard says:

    Well, it seems I can see MikeS’ tweets when included in webpages!

    MikeS is wrong about France, BTW:

  14. Canman,

    The best place to follow this issue is his Twitter feed.

    Some of us can’t.

  15. BBD says:

    Willard

    MacKay’s statement is not prescriptive:

    We could invest in nuclear fission.

    We could look here in Without Hot Air:

    If we are to get off our current fossil fuel addiction we need a plan for
    radical action. And the plan needs to add up. The plan also needs a
    political and financial roadmap. Politics and economics are not part of this
    book’s brief, so here I will simply discuss what the technical side of a plan
    that adds up might look like.

    There are many plans that add up. In this chapter I will describe five.
    Please don’t take any of the plans I present as “the author’s recommended
    solution.” My sole recommendation is this:

    Make sure your policies include a plan that adds up!

    As far as I can find, that really is the limit of MacKay’s prescriptiveness wrt energy mix choices, including nuclear. He never goes anywhere near saying this:

    This point also rests on Mackay’s conclusion that the path toward sustainable energy requires more nuclear energy than anything else.

    The reason I labour this point a little is that there are some people out there who claim that MacKay is a shill for the nuclear industry, something not borne out by what he actually says.

  16. BBD says:

    Expanding the focus from the UK to the world, MacKay goes on to say:

    The bottom line

    The non-solar numbers add up as follows. Wind: 24 kWh/d/p; hydro: 3.6 kWh/d/p; tide: 0.3 kWh/d/p; wave: 0.5 kWh/d/p; geothermal: 8 kWh/d/p – a total of 36 kWh/d/p. Our target was a post-European consumption of 80 kWh/d per person. We have a clear conclusion: the non-solar renewables may be “huge,” but they are not huge enough. To complete a plan that adds up, we must rely on one or more forms of solar power. Or use nuclear power. Or both.

  17. Ragnaar says:

    Is it $5 trillion a year or less?

    https://www.carbonbrief.org/explainer-the-challenge-of-defining-fossil-fuel-subsidies

    Coady was compared to whatever they thought it should be compared to. And others are closer to $500 billion a year.

    People have been arguing for a long time as to what the definition of a subsidy is? Minnesota doesn’t have a sales tax on grocery store food. McDonald’s fries yes. So is that a subsidy for eating?

    With this complicated web of subsidies and kind of subsidies, we in the United States got something. Cheap reliable energy along with our share of global warming which about 0.2 C.

    Assume subsides. We got, yes that’s some good energy. Will it work for wind and solar? We don’t know but we are seeing signs already. Are we even talking about wind and solar? Once they are sufficiently blunted as an alternative, nuclear power looks more promising.

  18. Willard says:

    The last part has a “we must rely,” BBD, which looks like prescriptive to me. If you suggest a way to reformulate what I said, I’ll gladly edit it. After all, you’re my goto guy for all things Mackay.

    I know of no scenario where solar alone can fill in 50 kWh/d. Do you?

  19. Willard says:

    Too much rhetorical questions, Ragnaar.

    If you have a point, make it.

  20. Mackay’s point can be simply summarized: whatever choices you make as a nation, make sure you do the maths. For Britain, his personal view was that nuclear was difficult (but not immpossible) to avoid as a component of UK’s electricity generation. That would not necessarily be true of Spain or Italy, for example.

    The civil nuclear energy industry is UK started as at least in part a source of Plutonium for UK’s weapons development. It has had many mishaps along the way that have damaged public trust, but has still received huge levels of support. They have had numerous chances. Now it has had an Nth chance of rebirth leading to the cathedral-within-a-cathedral design that in Hinckley C.

    Those silly people at the Centre for Alternative Technology, messing about with Heath-Robinson wind power in the 1970s (here Creatan windmill with Rod James and George Collier) …

    … that everyone laughed at …

    Who’s laughing now?

    CAT’s Zero Carbon Britain may require some radical changes to how will live, but it illustrates what is possible, and indeed what may be necessary …
    http://zerocarbonbritain.com/en/

    Nuclear has had it’s day, and lost the plot.

  21. BBD says:

    The last part has a “we must rely,” BBD, which looks like prescriptive to me.

    Well, MacKay did first list all the other energy sources and estimated potential outputs then say that we must therefore rely on additional energy from solar or nuclear or both, which I didn’t read as prescriptive so much as descriptive of our choices.

    I know of no scenario where solar alone can fill in 50 kWh/d. Do you?

    As you know, solar has the raw potential to deliver this and far more, but whether actually accessing this potential and distributing the electricity is feasible is less clear, particularly as even Big Solar in N Africa might only yield about 16kWh/d per person to 1bn people.

    Personally, I think it will be very, very difficult to get anything in the order of 50kWh/d/p from solar, which is why I’ve never been persuaded by the 100% renewables argument and believe that nuclear is going to be a necessary part of the decarbonisation toolkit if we ever actually start seriously trying to do this.

  22. Willard says:

    Thanks, BBD.

    Someone over the tweeter suggested Reinventing Fire by Armory Lovins:

    https://www.rmi.org/insights/reinventing-fire/

    I’ll revise my statement later on tonight. On don’t need that strong of a claim.

  23. Willard says:

    BBD,

    I’ve changed my claim to This point also rests on the idea that the path toward sustainable energy requires more nuclear energy than anything else, a conclusion that seems to be supported by the work of David Mackay.

    Tell me if that’s OK with you.

  24. BBD says:

    Yes, that’s fine, I think (sorry for the slow reply – sleep intervened). It’s a shame we can no longer just ask MacKay himself.

  25. Andrew Dodds says:

    Given that my day job involved telecoms, I find the idea that the internet is decentralized quite interesting. Really, nowadays especially, when talking about The Internet you are talking about a relatively small number of huge server farms and very high-speed/high capacity connections. Not dissimilar to centralized power grids.. and although it’s true in theory that you don’t *need* all this centralized stuff, take a few high-speed links and data centers out and the cumulative demand will swamp the rest. It’s really not as decentralized as you think.

    As far as Hippy-punching goes.. here’s the problem: Often, in online discussions around climate, the subject of nuclear power comes up. And no matter how gently I try to broach the subject that it might just be handy to have a relatively dependable source of electricity that is very low-carbon, there tends to be the inevitable replies from those who have quite obviously decided that nuclear power is unacceptable and therefore any anti-nuclear argument will do, however flimsy. Is it hippy-punching to get annoyed with such an approach?

  26. BBD says:

    Someone over the tweeter suggested Reinventing Fire by Armory Lovins

    I think it’s fair to argue that MacKay’s approach incorporates substantial energy efficiency assumptions per Reinventing Fire. MacKay’s global per capita energy consumption estimate of 80kWh/d/p contrasts sharply with the current 250kWh/d/p for the US, the 125kWh/d/p European average and 125kWh/d/p for the UK.

  27. Andrew Dodds says:

    Looking at the RMI site..

    The problem is one I often have with this area: lots of verbosity, lots of context-light facts with detail, if any, deeply buried. So you have to dig to find out that hydrogen cars seem to be a big part of the proposal..or that renewable indeterminacy can be hand-waved away with a few choice phrases. It’s frustratingly insubstantial.

  28. Steven Mosher says:

    “Many uranium bases are belong to us.”

  29. Steven Mosher says:

    “To paraphrase Scott Denning, if Freedom Fighters shirk their responsibility, decisions will be made without them. They had all the time to make themselves heard. So much the worse if they waste everyone’s time punching hippies and tilting at windmills.”

    he pretty much nails it.

  30. Magma says:

    The nuclear industry has to 1) get its engineering, construction, and maintenance costs under control and 2) reduce the expected number of multi-hundred billion dollar disasters. Based on its record to date, with costs continuing to spiral upwards and with n(very bad things) = 2 for <10,000 nuclear plant-years, this is a challenge it may have difficulty meeting, especially given the rate at which renewable energy sources and storage are advancing.

    Personally, if I was starting over as a young physicist or engineer, I would not choose nuclear power as my future career path, as technically interesting as it may be.

    http://www-pub.iaea.org/books/IAEABooks/12246/Operating-Experience-with-Nuclear-Power-Stations-in-Member-States-in-2016

  31. BBD says:

    Based on its record to date, with costs continuing to spiral upwards and with n(very bad things) = 2 for <10,000 nuclear plant-years

    The problem with this argument is that the bad things happen to very old plant which is inherently more dangerous compared to modern plant. Better to focus on more robust concerns such as engineering and maintenance costs.

  32. Willard says:

    > It’s a shame we can no longer just ask MacKay himself.

    Yes, it is. I don’t need his authority, as it’s an assumption that comes from the pseudo-modern manifesto. I can say it now that no pseudo-modern came up to doubt it. Wink wink.

  33. BBD says:

    Shocking 🙂

  34. Willard says:

    > The nuclear industry has to 1) get its engineering, construction, and maintenance costs under control

    Indeed, Magma. As I said in my first tweet that started my tweetspat, costs matter. At one point I couldn’t resist to push back against Joris’ engineered snobishness:

  35. Willard says:

    Thanks for the point about decentralization, Andrew. As always, the difference between theory and practice is higher in theory than in practice.

    Getting annoyed never solves anything. If that makes you punch hippies harder, then it’s more than counterproductive. It makes you look like a bully, and it reinforces the belief that they’re right. What doesn’t work with your kids won’t work with random people on the Internet. (I admit being less patient IRL.)

    Since some give and take is involved, my own strategy would be to acknowledge that going nuclear is more by necessity than by choice. It involves risks, costs, and regulations. Nevertheless, if we’re serious about decarbonizing our energy consumption, it will have to play a more or less big role in many parts of the world. The only alternative I see is going solar, but that’s not something I would suggest to people living 45 degrees North.

  36. Willard says:

    > The problem is one I often have with this area: lots of verbosity, lots of context-light facts with detail, if any, deeply buried.

    Exactly. And when I asked for details to the tweeter that mentioned Armory’s work, I got some handwaving to a book. That’s not something I like very much:

    If techno-utopias could be more accessible, that’d be great.

  37. Willard says:

    Here’s what I could find on Armory’s point against the baseload argument:

    The electricity system doesn’t rely on any plant’s ability to run continuously; rather, all plants together supply the grid, and the grid serves all loads. That’s necessary because no kind of power plant can run all the time, as Stewart says they must do to meet steady loads. I repeat: there is not and has never been a need for any particular plant or kind of plant to run all the time, and none can. All power plants fail, varying only in their failures’ size, duration, frequency, predictability, and cause. Solar cells’ and windpower’s variation with night and weather is no different from the intermittence of coal and nuclear plants, except that it affects less capacity at once, more briefly, far more predictably, and is no harder and probably easier and cheaper to manage. In short, the ability to serve steady loads is a statistical attribute of all plants on the grid, not an operational requirement for one plant. Variability (predictable failure) and intermittence (unpredictable failure) must be managed by diversifying type and location, forecasting, and integrating with other resources. Utilities do this every day, balancing diverse resources to meet fluctuating demand and offset outages. Even with a largely (or probably a wholly) renewable grid, this is not a significant problem or cost, either in theory or in practice—as illustrated by areas that are already 30-40% wind-powered.

    http://grist.org/article/2009-11-09-do-we-need-nuclear-and-clean-coal-plants-for-baseload-power/

    That article refers to a PDF entitled Four Nuclear Myths. It leads nowhere on MRI’s website. It can be found here.

    There’s also his Carbon Brief interview, which I enjoyed:

    https://www.carbonbrief.org/carbon-brief-interview-amory-lovins

    So far, a likeable chap.

  38. Willard says:

    Solid pitchin’ beats hippie punchin’:

    [W]hat we found is you can run a very prosperous U.S. economy, 2.6 times today, in 2050, with no oil, no coal, also no nuclear energy and a third less natural gas. It’s $5 trillion cheaper in that present value than business as usual. The transition requires no new inventions, no acts of Congress, and it’s led by business for profit.

    https://www.npr.org/2011/10/21/141591191/reinventing-fire-getting-beyond-fossil-fuels

    Now that gets my attention. I still won’t buy Amory’s book, but I gotta admit the guy knows how to pitch.

  39. BBD says:

    Solar cells’ and windpower’s variation with night and weather is no different from the intermittence of coal and nuclear plants, except that it affects less capacity at once, more briefly, far more predictably, and is no harder and probably easier and cheaper to manage.

    This *might* be true in some geographical areas, but for Europe it just isn’t so. In winter, there are unpredictable multi-day wind lulls that reduce wind farm output over very large areas (eg. all UK; all Germany). These pop up most years and typically last for 3 – 5 days. Since it is winter, solar output is also very low (~10% of summer average). In a future energy mix heavily dependent on W&S, these wind output dropouts will require something else to step up and meet perhaps 50% of national scale demand for several consecutive days. This is a very, very major challenge for a future energy mix to meet and waving it away as Lovins and many others do is not acceptable.

  40. Willard says:

    > CAT’s Zero Carbon Britain may require some radical changes to how will live, but it illustrates what is possible, and indeed what may be necessary … http://zerocarbonbritain.com/en/

    Thanks for the link, RichardE. I’ll take a look.

    For some unknown reason, your comment ended up in spam. If it happens often, ask Akismet for help.

  41. @Willard – no problem. On CAT’s ZCB plan, I have personally challenged politicians as to why they do not have a similar plan, or indeed, any plan. Whatever we do, it needs less waffle and hand -waving and more details. I am not saying ZCB is the answer, but it is at least an answer.

    A personal anecdote that makes me skeptical of a nuclear renaissance (even ignoring Kevin Anderson’s mathetical critique). I was doing an information strategy a few years ago for a country in the middle east planning to build a nuclear industry, pretty much from scratch. As I walked around I noticed something that most of the senior roles were grey-haired expats from USA, Britain, and a few other countries with faded nuclear industries. Some told me they’d been tempted out of retirement and each were shadowed by young locals with no experience. I think that tells us all we need to know about a proposed rapid scale up of nuclear globally.

    Lack of skills capacity, and time to scale up these skills, is a huge limiter on any renaissance..

    The Ecomodernists hate low-tech (solar and wind) because it goes against their high-tech vision of energy intensive, Singapore-like cities, separated from nature; which nuclear aligns so well to (even modular ‘small and safe’ sitting in the middle of these cities); or so the fantasy goes. But of course low(er) tech RE are much easier to scale – both vertically (bigger) or horizontally (more of and/or more spread out) – and at an increasingly competitve cost per MWhr.

  42. Canman says:

    If you’re blocked by someone on Twitter, you can still read their tweets (by not being signed in) and they still show up on a WordPress blog.

  43. Willard says:

    > If you’re blocked by someone on Twitter, you can still read their tweets

    I know (Tweetdeck is also good for that), but I don’t think MikeS’s tweets are worth the effort.

  44. Willard says:

    > Lack of skills capacity, and time to scale up these skills, is a huge limiter on any renaissance.

    That’s a problem that seems to be more acute in ClimateBall ™, RichardE. Being able to knock-down the pseudo-modern playbook with the fact that nuclear needs to compete with fossil fuels is underwhelming to say the least.

    In my opinion, the choice between nuclear and Sun, Sea, and Wind (SSW) is simply a false dilemma. The main choice is between sustainable energy and unsustainable energy. That’s it.

    I don’t think going nuclear hinders going SSW. In my mind, they’re more or less complementary, because I don’t see any reason why we won’t need every weapon we have to get enough sustainable energy to replace fossil fuels. This is the problem Anderson, Mackay or Lovins’ calculations try to solve. For lack of a better term, I’ll call this the energy output problem.

    (I’m looking for ways to name problems like this one. Suggestions welcome.)

    The same argument applies to the output energy problem, i.e. reducing our energy intensity, our energy consumption. In the end, we need to stop beating around the bush and ask ourselves: is the proposal under consideration helps us stop dumping carbon in the atmosphere like there’s no tomorrow fast enough? If not, then it’s a non-solution.

    As you can see, my argument is a logical one, and applies to any solution, scenario, mix model, or whatever. It just so happens that this simple, logical argument refutes pseudo-modernism. If going nuclear is needed, then its advocates need to face its socio-economic consequences and stop punching hippies.

    Incoherent manifestos don’t cut it.

  45. izen says:

    @-BBD
    “In a future energy mix heavily dependent on W&S, these wind output dropouts will require something else to step up and meet perhaps 50% of national scale demand for several consecutive days.”

    Or not.
    It might be cheaper to copy the 1970s and have power cuts and a 3 day week if conditions require a transient reduction in consumption.

    Some of the dispute in on this issue derives from the unspoken assumption that any replacement for the current mix of energy generation from fossil fuels must exactly match or exceed the quality and cost of provision by CO2 emitters.

    If you are not using fossil fuels then replacing some of the capacity with nuclear just to match current baseload demand more than 90% of the time may be less adaptive than altering usage patterns in response to seasonal climate variations.

    3 hour power cuts during winter calms would be a wonderful incentive for the home storage 1Kwh lights and computer/tablet/phone backup power package. No doubt being designed in China as we type…

  46. Willard says:

    > a 3 day week

    I’m interested. Go on.

  47. izen says:

    @-W
    “I’m interested. Go on.”

    Okay.
    despite Ugo Bardi and his Seneca cliff being somewhat persuasive, I think Mosher had it right in his assesment of the future impacts and responses to climate change. He doubted any great catstrophic collapse or calamity, or a sudden enlightenment and global conversion to reducing fossil fuel use. In his apposite phrase, “things just get incrementally shitty.”

    In the UK the last time there was insufficient power generated to sustain the usual level of economic and social activity it did eventually prompt a transition to an alternative power source. But the immediate response to the shortage of coal (as a result of an industrial dispute) was to adjust consumption patterns by fiat.
    This also how the mismatch between demand and supply is managed in communities without the level of provision in the modern industrial society. Brownouts and blackouts.

    Democracies will balance the amount of hardship they can impose aganist the cost of transition to a low carbon energy regieme according to the horizon of the next election.
    The idea that fossil fuels will be abandonded for a system that is capable of providing the same level of service is unrealistic. It will either be replaced with a system that is as bad as the suppliers can get a way with. and sometimes worse. Or the fossil fuel generation will continue.

    Any emergent system of power supply will have to match FF use in terms of profitability, not level of service.

  48. Willard says:

    > Any emergent system of power supply will have to match FF use in terms of profitability, not level of service.

    I thought you were talking about the three days work week, izen.

    Wait. I am the in-house cynic!

    (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻)

  49. izen says:

    @-W
    “I thought you were talking about the three days work week, izen.”

    I am.
    If fossil fuels are not available and SSW are incapable of meeting demand, either due to a temporary weather condition, or they consistently fail at high demand peaks, then the adaption will be;-
    1) Use fossil fuels despite the risk of exceeding your Paris promises.
    2) Impose an enforced holiday or limited hours on industry with high power demands combined with rolling power cuts. The historical precedent is clear, that is politically feasible, if dangerous, and avoids excessive financial costs for marginal gain.

    Building high cost, high financial risk nuclear might happen if a government throws enough money at it, (China?) but the expectation that demand will be met when using SSW by adding high cost additions rather than ‘managed’ when it exceeds profitable levels is realism not cynicism.

  50. Nick says:

    Never have posted here, but try my best to follow the blog.
    Just saw this short piece in the SF Chronicle that Shellenberger is going to run to replace Jerry Brown (being termed out) a an independent. Doubt he’ll win, but kind of amazed by his hubris, and (I’m guessing) a way to spend Pritzker money.
    http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Pro-nuke-activist-from-Berkeley-to-run-for-Calif-12396711.php

  51. Ken Fabian says:

    As far as manifestos go the Ecomodernist one looks good. On paper. Or in this case on screen as a nicely formatted PDF. I just doubt the sincerity of it’s principle advocates and their priorities. I’ve been (mostly) consistent in urging mainstream not-hippies to show commitment and leadership; attacking those who are most committed to addressing climate risks because adequately addressing them is, itself, deemed to be an (economically) extremist act isn’t the same as mainstream commitment to addressing them by other less (economically) extremist means.

    Ecomodernism does have many of the rhetorical flourishes of what mainstream commitment to climate stability might look like – a focus on long term future of our economic prosperity and security, with (optimistically) a flow on effect of taking pressure off and preserving the natural ecosystems that have been a primary focus of environmentalist led early commitment. But it’s advocates look more concerned with opposing, diminishing and perhaps displacing environmentalism than concerned about advancing a transition to low emissions.

    Hippie punching – (an appalling phrase IMO – that just shows that most people have no innate aversion to violence … that it’s even something to be amused by as long as you dislike the victims) – “hippie punching” in the context of nuclear for climate, has the presumption that in the absence of opposition to nuclear by political environmentalists, that nuclear would face no political impediments and the problem would be solved. The continuing opposition to strong climate action is framed as primarily a reactive response to environmentalism rather than a rejection of climate responsibility. ie that if it weren’t for environmentalists the climate problem would get solved, easily, with nuclear. I don’t believe it would; the same reasons for opposition to strong climate action would still be there. The rhetoric might change but the goal of climate responsibility avoidance would remain and continue to have enormous political influence.

    Whatever my personal reservations with thousands of rapid build nuclear plants around the world, I continue to believe that it is not even within the realms of achievable possibility without an overarching commitment to fixing the climate problem from those mainstream influences that currently oppose and obstruct it – because “the only way to replace fossil fuels is to replace fossil fuels”. Renewables at the scales needed would be greatly aided by the end of political obstruction but nuclear at the scales needed requires and depends upon it.

  52. William says:

    McKay, towards the end of his last video interview, said he would not build any wind or solar, if I remember correctly.

  53. Ragnaar says:

    “…ie that if it weren’t for environmentalists the climate problem would get solved, easily, with nuclear.”

    It would be some environmentalists. And it would also be some Republicans. The opposition is varied.

    “The Democratic platform is completely silent on nuclear energy.”

    There’s a lot of Democrats. Silent. With the recent campaign and Trump calling climate change a hoax, what did they say about nuclear power? It’s worse than we thought. Sit on your hands.

    It’s not easy. Another billion dollars over budget in the latest news. We’re going to need nuclear power plants to sneak in from Mexico at this rate.

    If the Democrats changed their platform to favor nuclear power, I imagine some will feel split off and pushed to the Green Party. The Republicans would be signaled to not fear the Democrats on the issue. This is trying to set up a nuclear power solution and it involves leaving some out. We can ask, what is preventing nuclear power? And then of that list, which are the easiest to remedy?

    We can also blame the Republicans for not pushing harder, and nuclear power is in contest with fossil fuels politically. The harder it is to build nuclear, the more coal and natural gas gets sold. Which oddly make the anti-nukers have something in common with fossil fuel companies.

  54. Willard says:

    > The continuing opposition to strong climate action is framed as primarily a reactive response to environmentalism rather than a rejection of climate responsibility. ie that if it weren’t for environmentalists the climate problem would get solved, easily, with nuclear.

    Well said.

    I’m tempted to write a post with all the sentences that mention climate in the manifesto.

  55. Canman says:

    I had no idea when I made my comment:

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2017/11/29/going-nuclear/#comment-107064

    I don’t think there’s anybody in politics who has his potential to generate an interesting, open discusion of climate and energy. If I lived in CA, I’d be happy to vote and even campaign for him. Those tweets I posted show that he can deliver!

  56. Nick,

    Just saw this short piece in the SF Chronicle that Shellenberger is going to run to replace Jerry Brown (being termed out) a an independent.

    Thanks. I’m also rather amazed by his hubris. He has a facebook post about it too, in which he both claims to be wanting to clean up politics and that he is willing to do whatever it takes to win. I think the latter is one of the reasons why politics isn’t as clean as we might like.

  57. Canman says:

    Hubris? Wrong! He’s got youth, energy, vision and drive! There’s no one else in politics with his potential. Is there any specific facts you can refute in his facebook post?

  58. BBD says:

    @ izen

    You aren’t the first person who has suggested this to me but my answer remains the same: it isn’t politically survivable. Power off for much of the country for 3 days or more? People die. The electorate didn’t like what happened in the ’70s in the UK very much IIRC and it was nothing compared to what would happen if we loose ~50% of capacity for 3 days or more. And of course business and industry would move to where the energy supply is more reliable which would mean a rapid collapse of GDP. It’s difficult to imagine how any government could survive this.

  59. Andrew Dodds says:

    Izen –

    We know from third world countries what happens if mains power is not 99.99% reliable.. people buy diesel backup generators. Something of a step backwards..

    In the UK at least, most gas central heating systems are electric appliances as well, so a loss of power also means no heating or hot water. Combi boilers with no hot water tank are promoted for energy efficiency, which is fine, but absolutely depend on 24/7 power.

    Willard –

    Yes, the test is to see the reaction of the breakthrough boys to a plan where the government invests $500 billion over a decade to bring those passively safe, mass produced, modular reactors to reality. That’s the sort of thing that a nuclear solution requires.. which is why even though I think it’s the best way to address global warming, it’s very unlikely to happen.

  60. Steven Mosher says:

    i love willards links.
    the article on state ownership in France was interesting for 2010.
    interesting to get an updated view that also references nuclear power.

    https://www.ft.com/content/9be75d5c-a72e-11e6-8898-79a99e2a4de6

    shrugs.

  61. BBD says:

    Yes, the test is to see the reaction of the breakthrough boys to a plan where the government invests $500 billion over a decade to bring those passively safe, mass produced, modular reactors to reality.

    Meanwhile, here in the UK, Ernst & Young appears to have buggered up its analysis of SMR costs (my emphasis):

    These arguments will be called into question by the EY report but SMR developers insist the findings are based on outdated information and did not include the Rolls-Royce technology which is among the frontrunners for government backing.

    An apparently fatally incomplete analysis which is anyway based on a misconception of the cost of W&S:

    Development of SMRs is regarded as crucial to the future of the nuclear industry as it struggles to remain competitive against the rapidly falling cost of renewable wind and solar power.

    Solar modules and turbines are the cheap part of the total system cost of a major scaling of W&S. The expensive bit is the parallel scaling of PHES, long distance transmission capacity upgrades and grid interconnections necessary to make it all work, all the time. Presumably someone will eventually work out that presenting the cheapest part of the system as the total cost is, to put it mildly, misleading, but it certainly hasn’t happened yet.

  62. BBD says:

    We know from third world countries what happens if mains power is not 99.99% reliable.. people buy diesel backup generators. Something of a step backwards.

    Guess what…

  63. Willard says:

    > Those tweets I posted show that he can deliver!

    I’m afraid MikeS has little to do with France’s energy policy, Canman.

  64. Canman says:

    Willard, he definitely made a difference in S Korea:

  65. Marco says:

    Canman, Shellenberger is being decidedly dishonest in that tweet. It’s like New Zealand claiming it beat Nazi-Germany, ignoring all other parties involved. In this case Shellenberger completely ignores the powerful nuclear power lobby in Korea itself (to indicate its economic power: export of nuclear facilities worth 400 BILLION, not million, projected by 2030).

    There is little evidence that EP’s actions had any measurable impact on the recommendation by the citizen panel that Moon installed.

    Oh, and the “victory” is rather small: South Korea will still phase out nuclear power (as per the panel’s recommendation), and the planned construction of 6 plants has been scrapped. The “victory” was that two plants under early construction will be build anyway. Even that was already a possibility anyway, as the permits had been given, and litigation thus likely.

  66. BBD says:

    I’m hitting a paywall.

    Ah. I thought that article was open access. Could be because you aren’t in the UK. I’m sorry about that. Paywalled links are irritating.

  67. BBD says:

    Given South Korea’s rather lively tectonics, not to mention the neighbours, maybe a big nuclear expansion isn’t such a brilliant idea.

  68. Joshua says:

    I’m hitting a paywall.

    You can sometimes get around the WSJ paywall (if you don’t see it as a violation of ethics to do so) if you use archive.is…but it didn’t work for the FT URL for that link. Can someone tell me the headline it’s under?

  69. Joshua says:

    Ken –

    I don’t believe it would; the same reasons for opposition to strong climate action would still be there. The rhetoric might change but the goal of climate responsibility avoidance would remain and continue to have enormous political influence.

    I’m not entirely sure that “climate responsibility avoidance,” is a complete description. For example, if we woke up tomorrow and found that hippies had just disappeared, my guess is that many of those who currently present as advocates of nuclear would dig in with resistance at the federal funding and energy policy centralization that would be required to make a massive nuclear build out feasible.

  70. Joshua says:

    My point being that the resistance could be considered tax avoidance, or responsible government avoidance, or personal responsibility avoidance. Or just plain maturation and intellectual consistency avoidance – in the case of libertarians 🙂

  71. BBD says:

    Can someone tell me the headline it’s under?

    Sorry – afk – it’s “Development of small nuclear power plants gathers pace”

  72. Joshua says:

    BBD –

    Thanks. Archive.is didn’t work – but surprisingly going in via The Google (and the headline as the search string) worked just fine.

  73. BBD says:

    Thanks Joshua for finding the article and posting the tip.

  74. BBD says:

    Okay, belated due diligence finally got done. I have to admit that I’d never seen MacKay’s final interview.

    Upthread, William said:

    McKay, towards the end of his last video interview, said he would not build any wind or solar, if I remember correctly.

    And that may be at the heart of the pseudo-modernist misrepresentation of MacKay.

    Here is a Guardian article with link to the actual video interview which Prof. MacKay gave before his death in April last year.

    What MacKay said is very clear indeed: energy plans must be tailored to the region or country they serve. The UK would be better served by more nuclear because of seasonal solar dropout and periodic winter windspeed lulls.

    MacKay did not argue that the global energy mix should favour nuclear. He argued only for the UK. An important distinction, I’m sure you’d agree.

  75. Ragnaar says:

    This from MIT:

    https://www.technologyreview.com/s/608271/small-reactors-could-kick-start-the-stalled-nuclear-sector/

    It says Trump is not on board.

    $3 billion for 600 Megawatts or as I figure it, $5000 per kilowatt. Wind is about $2000 per kilowatt. With a 40% up time for wind and 100% for this nuclear, the cost is the same. But there are other costs to consider and SMR’s numbers have a lot of uncertainty.

    Since theirs is transportable, remote locations, for instance Puerto Rico and Hawaii are potential users. One module would provide 50,000 kilowatts, which is roughly 50,000 households in the United States.

  76. Willard says:

    > It says [teh Donald] is not on board.

    Teh Donald does a lot of board switching:

  77. Ken Fabian says:

    Joshua – I sometimes use “climate responsibility avoidance” to try and be more inclusive; not all opposition to strong climate policy is based on explicit rejection of climate science although I think it is implicit in a lot of the economics based opposition that comes with “we accept climate science”
    declaimers. Such as using relative costs of energy choices that don’t include the de-facto subsidy to fossil fuels from an enduring amnesty on externalities.

    I haven’t seen any consideration of the impacts of climate risk denial/responsibility denial on the nuclear “alternative” approach from the leading Ecomodernists – and I continue to think it’s impacts are profound and wide reaching. Ecomodernists seem mostly focused on blaming and stopping pro-renewables climate activists like they are not only an impediment, they are the only significant impediment. There is a strong element of “if the whole issue was treated differently, solutions would be straightforward” (and no doubt that is true) but no credible pathways for doing so are offered. Most of those activists, despite the attempt to broadly apply the (pejorative) label, bear no resemblance to hippies.

  78. Ben McMillan says:

    The bit that needs a repeated reminder in an analysis like Mackay’s is that the vast majority of energy is not currently distributed via the electricity grid.

    A very large fraction of it is process heat for things like making cement, fossil fuels for making fertiliser, and aviation fuel (hard for batteries to take on this role): these kind of bulk commodities would likely be made (in a low-CO2 scenario) while electrical power prices were low, or at least not made for the few weeks when they are high.

    So ‘use less power when there is a lull in the wind’ is mostly going to mean shutting down a small number of the most energy-intensive industries for a couple of weeks, and storing some energy-intensive outputs, not shutting down the whole economy.

    The other (UK-specific) thing is that most of these energy-intensive goods probably wouldn’t be made in the UK: the UK currently imports a large fraction of its primary energy and will continue to do so. This idea that countries should be self-sufficient in energy is frankly a bit weird and strikes me as a bit of a straw-man.

  79. BBD says:

    So ‘use less power when there is a lull in the wind’ is mostly going to mean shutting down a small number of the most energy-intensive industries for a couple of weeks, and storing some energy-intensive outputs, not shutting down the whole economy.

    The standard decarbonisation scenario is to move substantially to electrification and away from FFs. This makes the national infrastructure somewhat more dependent on electricity supply than it is at present. But consider only the present. How well do you think the UK would cope if electricity generation capacity was cut by 50% for a week?

    This idea that countries should be self-sufficient in energy is frankly a bit weird and strikes me as a bit of a straw-man.

    The idea that capacity should at all times be capable of meeting demand is a basic requirement of a functional national infrastructure.

  80. Willard says:

    > The bit that needs a repeated reminder in an analysis like Mackay’s is that the vast majority of energy is not currently distributed via the electricity grid.

    Agreed. It’s important to distinguish between electricity production and energy production. For instance, Canada produces North of 650 kWh of electricity, This only covers 80% of its electricity supply. Its energy production is most probably quite bigger: the sum of its energy assets are North of $550 billion.

    When we’re speaking of 100% renewables or sustainable energy, I believe we refer to electricity production, not energy production. In the end, it’s the energy production that really matters. If we’re serious about reducing fossil fuels, we can’t satisfy ourselves with generating 100% electricity with sustainable energy. In fact, we could worsen our situation in cases where more fossil fuels are being produced at the same time. This implies, as BBD observes, that we need to increase electricity generation, unless of course we find a way to reduce our need for energy.

    Hence why we need to get all the sustainable energy we can, including nuclear energy. This doesn’t mean our need for fossil fuels will stop, but if we don’t reduce our fossil fuel consumption it’ll be hard to reduce our fossil fuel consumption.

  81. Willard says:

    Alex Gilbert has really good thread over the tweeter. A relevant tweet:

    Another one:

  82. BBD says:

    When we’re speaking of 100% renewables or sustainable energy, I believe we refer to electricity production, not energy production. In the end, it’s the energy production that really matters. If we’re serious about reducing fossil fuels, we can’t satisfy ourselves with generating 100% electricity with sustainable energy.

    Yes. Decarbonising electricity generation is the ‘easy’ part. Continuing to decarbonise total primary energy production is necessary for deep decarbonisation, which is what we actually have to do. Or try to do.

    Just touching back on Ben’s point about embodied energy (that which is imported in the form of stuff made elsewhere). Embodied energy also needs to be from a low carbon source or there’s a failure in the decarbonisation process.

  83. BBD says:

    I don’t share your enthusiasm for Alex Gilbert btw.

    . Nuclear’s characteristics make it terrible for terrestrial commercial electricity. Rather, its ideal for CHP, military, and space

    That’s the ‘nuclear can’t load follow’ myth.

    The 100% RE fight is annoying because both sides are right and just talking past one another

    And that’s meaningless. Either you can feasibly get to 100% RE without nuclear, or you can’t.

  84. Joshua says:

    Ken –

    Ecomodernists seem mostly focused on blaming and stopping pro-renewables climate activists like they are not only an impediment, they are the only significant impediment. There is a strong element of “if the whole issue was treated differently, solutions would be straightforward” (and no doubt that is true) but no credible pathways for doing so are offered.

    Agreed. Everybody loves a counterfactual. They’re very useful for advancing agendas.

  85. Willard says:

    > That’s the ‘nuclear can’t load follow’ myth.

    No, that’s the “nuclear can’t compete with the markets we have” fact.

    ***

    > And that’s meaningless.

    C’mon, BDD. That makes plenty of sense. There are issues with nuclear. There are issues with WSS. Most points against both are more than less valid.

    Bickering over these issues distracts us from the main ones, the first one being that dumping fossil fuels byproducts into the earth systems like there’s no tomorrow is a Very Bad Thing.

  86. BBD says:

    Okay, well, we’ve read those tweets differently. I’d agree with your readings. And I’d certainly agree with the Very Bad Thing clause.

  87. Eli Rabett says:

    Ms Rabett’s sister lives out in the country, or about as out in the country as anybunny can get on the east coast of the US. Everybunny has a diesel generator, or two, for the frequent times during the year when the power goes out because of a storm.

  88. See also Richard Heinberg’s renewable energy plan for the US:
    https://www.ecowatch.com/heres-how-we-get-to-100-renewable-energy-1891172891.html

    As with MacKay, he doesn’t see a way to get back to the amount currently in use. (He doesn’t propose nuclear, he proposes a society that uses much less energy; MacKay liked the idea of dropping demand too.)

    In this hour-long video, Saul Griffith offers a comprehensive view of energy and infrastructure solutions:
    http://longnow.org/seminars/02015/sep/21/infrastructure-and-climate-change/

    In this 8 minute video from 2012, Griffith offered a better way to use stimulus money.

    Griffith and his team made a great interactive Sankey diagram:
    http://energyliteracy.com/

    And they made a video to demo it. Former Energy Secretary Chu makes a cameo at the end. I cued it to an interesting story, referencing a conversation Griffith had with MacKay.

    David MacKay initiated this global simulator project, also interesting:
    globalcalculator.org
    Try different recipes.

    re: Wind power without city-scale storage; not likely, I’d think. People aren’t going to plan a society that runs down when the wind stops. This would defeat the purpose of refrigerators, HVAC, subways, and hospitals.

    We’re working on a wind plan for NYC that would entail harnessing the enormous reservoirs of the water system (and some new ones) for pumped hydro. It’s unlikely, but then *everything* is unlikely.

    Asia is going to need nuclear, because a billion new air conditioners (already on the way in China, and soon India) will need a terawatt, which would be about a thousand mile by 250 mile patch of ocean covered in wind turbines, matched with storage that doesn’t exist.

    Another good read pondering this sort of question: Powering the Planet, by Nathan Lewis at CalTech. (2007)
    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0rWjVMvjHb0YmNYUzZNWndtWHc/view?usp=sharing

    A succinct take from MacKay.
    http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/371/1996/20110431
    His central point is that people per square meter is the key factor on renewables, which are diffuse as well as intermittent. Low density places with a lot of sun are easy. New York State with two million people could run off of Niagara Falls with plenty left over.

  89. Joshua says:

    Rick! –

    Personally, I love it when advocates decry the problems of advocacy:

    These economic problems are solvable. China and South Korea can build reactors at one-sixth the current cost in the United States.

    Conveniently ignores the vast differences in leveraging centralized policies in China and Korea, with respect to the U.S.

    Currently, fourth-generation nuclear power receives rare bipartisan agreement in Congress,…

    Interesting. So if there is such widespread support, why haven’t the policies followed?

    All this, however, depends on overcoming an irrational dread among the public and many activists.

    Ahj. Got it. Call those who disagree with you “irrational.” Hey, that’s the way to get it done, eh?

    Once again, I see nuclear advocacy that ignores the political realities that would be entailed in enacting pro-nuclear policies in the U.S., largely by leveraging and hiding behind pointing fingers and polemics.

    Same old, same old.

  90. izen says:

    @-jeffn
    “these studies typically find that wind and solar at current (very low) penetrations are more expensive than advertised”

    I wonder what you would count as very low penetration ?

    As it happens, at the moment it is dark in the UK and the wind has dropped so renewables are only supplying ~7%.

    But as you can see from this link, earlier they were at 25%, less than yesterday when it was windy.
    So far this year the daily average is 30.69%(9.39 GW). minimum:10.55%(3.8 GW) maximum:51.23%(14.08 GW)

    http://gridwatch.co.uk/Renewables

  91. izen says:

    @-jeffn

    What the Forbes article on the N2 gas pipeline fails to mention is that the price of US gas (after shipping and tie-in to 20 year contracts) is considerably above the Dutch TTF spot price and therefore the N2 price from Russia.
    Presumably this is why Trump et al are making a POLITICAL argument against it because the economic one fails.

  92. jeffnsails850 says: “But we inexplicably call that “punching hippies” while Germany ignores us both: [Links to North Stream article] Where’s the “leave in the ground” protest against pipelines? Ooops, landed one on a hippie.

    The debate about North Stream is mostly about geopolitics, hardly about the environment. Private parties are welcome to build a pipeline that is not needed any more soon. That is their investment risk.

    As Izen already mentioned it is Trump who tries to keep Russian gas in the group. Donald Hippie Trump working for the American natural gas industry trying to sell overpriced liquid gas. I am sure they bought a nice condo in a Trump tower as a thank you.

  93. Izen, Victor, Der Spiegel has a big issue out on wind/solar. It concludes by basically saying that if Germany gets serious, ignores citizen complaints and goes all in, they might be able to transition if it spends 70 billion Euros a year- 153 Euros per household per month. Because, you know, wind and solar are cheaper than what powers Germany now.
    Here’s the article in an awful English translation: https://docs.google.com/document/d/148Lym3a487S8lha50QXGJfjQ1HmlNyj3QfLqAt0k0ng/edit

    Nordstream-
    Why would Merkel risk political isolation for a fossil fuel she doesn’t need? Because she realizes she needs it.
    US gas is less than 1% of European imports. The political argument against Russian gas started before Trump took office, under president Obama. The Obama and Trump administration both sought increased imports of American gas and both cautioned against European reliance on Vladimir Putin.
    Germany issued the permits for Volkswagen to spend a half-billion dollars to transition it’s plants to natural gas from coal. And most forecasters see gas replacing nuclear and coal plants as they come offline. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-02-28/germany-natural-gas-demand-set-to-soar-as-coal-plants-close
    Both the pipeline or the LNG ports will have plenty of business for a very long time to come in Germany. You don’t spend a half billion dollars for a “temporary” fix. Der Spiegel’s optimism for future massive cost increases for German energy users is tempered by their discovery that wind and solar growth has stalled.

  94. Der Spiegel has a big issue out on wind/solar.

    For those who know Der Spiegel from their glory days. It is nowadays a click-bait tabloid of the worst quality and is best avoided.

    Why would Merkel risk political isolation for a fossil fuel she doesn’t need?

    Like I said, geopolitics. It makes Germany stronger by being less dependent on the authoritarian and corrupt (i.e. Trumpian) regimes in Poland and the Ukraine.

    Even during the cold war gas delivery from Russia was reliable. That is a codependency.

  95. Or maybe not “the worst quality”, but definitely not something you would read voluntarily in a country that still has a functioning good quality press. In Anglo-America Der Spiegel would be a quality newspaper/website.

  96. For a country that is allegedly all-in on wind/solar, they sure are booking a lot of gas for a very long time, whatever the source.
    Germany, Russia, Poland, the US, and the Ukraine are investing billions and fighting over who gets what percent of an natural gas order that everyone understands is going to get larger and isn’t going to be replaced by windmills and solar panels for the next generation or two.

    But at least it’s not nuclear, say the climate concerned.

  97. I would call the gas consumption in Germany stable. Some may call it declining.
    https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/164119/umfrage/erdgasverbrauch-in-deutschland-seit-1999/

    > But at least it’s not nuclear, say the climate concerned.

    I know the climate debate is an American thing and one should not expect too much intelligence or knowledge, but after some time in this childish climate “debate” you should be able to know the difference between environmental degradation and one of its aspects climate change.

  98. Ben McMillan says:

    The graphs here give a pretty good overview of what Germany have been doing with electricity generation over the last 30 years:
    https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/germanys-energy-consumption-and-power-mix-charts

    One interesting detail is that Germany has become a significant exporter of electrical power recently.

    The MIT ‘Future of nuclear energy’ report is interesting: they suggest that (in nominal nuclear price scenario) that there is little advantage to nuclear except in scenarios with extreme decarbonisation (carbon intensity 500x lower than current grid rather than 50x). But these scenarios also all rely heavily on non-existent CCS technology, which makes it all a bit irrelevant.

    The UK simulations (in the MIT report) are particularly at odds with reality: the UK is at ~150g/kWh right now, but no-one is planning on CCS at all.

  99. “I know the climate debate is an American thing…”

    That’s a pleasant fiction.
    Yellow Vests in France protesting “climate action” gasoline tax increases leading Macron to reverse course and cancel them.

    Angela Merkel joins Poland and Italy limiting climate “ambition” https://www.forbes.com/sites/davekeating/2019/03/22/merkel-and-macron-in-battle-over-eu-climate-ambition/#4df6c2c36230

    German industry is complaining that the doubling of energy prices since 2016 are making them less competitive with the US and China https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-09-24/electricity-power-prices-surge-for-german-mittelstand-merkel

    German people are fighting the massive industrial facilities known as wind farms going into their forests and through their neighborhoods (Der Spiegel).

    UK and US environmentalists are (finally) pushing back on the absurd “climate action” plan to burn entire American forests in British power plants. https://www.dogwoodalliance.org/2018/08/release-environmental-groups-applaud-uks-decision-to-stop-subsidizing-new-wood-pellet-imports/

    For defenders of science, you seem unusually opposed to applying the scientific method- observe the results of the hundreds of billions of Euros spent to date on experiments designed to test the theory that wind and solar can power modern industrial economies at all, much less at theorized cost parity with fossil fuels.
    In response you cite stats celebrating the high variability of wind in the UK- you might get 7% of power, you might get over 30%, who knows, who cares right? It’s not like there are competing needs for state spending. Especially in aging societies with generous national retirement systems.

    Meanwhile, climate action “heros” such as Sweden use hydro-electric and nuclear for 80% of electricity. Because it’s less expensive, allows global competitiveness, reduces economic harm to its citizens and has no CO2 emissions.

  100. Jeff said:

    “That’s a pleasant fiction.
    Yellow Vests in France protesting “climate action” gasoline tax increases leading Macron to reverse course and cancel them.”

    The yellow vests are protesting the disappearance of cheap and abundant crude oil, which impacts the poor the most. It has little to do with “climate action” and everything to do with the nature of finite and non-renewable fossil fuel energy sources.

  101. Willard says:

    > That’s a pleasant fiction.

    Not sure how this fiction is different than the one you used to bypass the fact that your own study acknowledged that nukes were too expensive for the actual Western world, JeffN, i.e.:

    Let’s view it another way- say you passed a carbon tax designed to move the nation away from fossil fuels and that tax was designed (numbers are for illustrative purposes) to increase coal-derived electricity prices by 30% because a panel of experts has determined that is the price of AGW.

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2019/05/04/the-debate-has-changed/#comment-156347

    It’s always hard to hide behind three dots.

  102. poor willy, reduced to selective quotation. Nuclear is more expensive that fossil fuels. Wind and Solar are far more expensive than nuclear. We know this. That’s why you hide the pea under half-quotes.
    Now address the question- why should people have to pay significantly more than necessary to reduce CO2 emissions just to satisfy your anti-nuke fetish?

    Paul- The Yellow Vests specifically protested a tax hike that Macron specifically cancelled. Oil is a global commodity. I paid $2.65 a gallon last night. The $3 a gallon difference between what I pay and what the French pay is a political choice. One that President Obama decided against, and it didn’t hurt his standing with the climate glitteratti
    You’ve remarked before that energy transition policy in Europe was driven by peak oil concerns, I’ve seen that elsewhere as well. If so, it was based on astoundingly bad forecasting of both fossil fuel prices and the cost effectiveness of renewable policy. Is all the table pounding for solar and wind now just an attempt to shout over the fact that there was a terrible blunder? Why shouldn’t politicians expect the science-based forecasts of AGW to be just as accurate as the science based forecasts of peak oil? You aren’t suggesting peak oil was less rigorous than AGW research, are you?

  103. Willard says:

    > Nuclear is more expensive that fossil fuels. Wind and Solar are far more expensive than nuclear. We know this.

    No, we don’t:

    > there is zero evidence (and much to the contrary) that wind and solar are more competitive

    Come on, JeffN. You’re fighting old news:

    Natural gas-fired power plants will be facing more price competition from solar farms in some parts of the U.S. as falling battery costs make it possible to deliver electricity produced from sunshine even after dark.

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-09-17/solar-with-batteries-cheaper-than-gas-in-parts-of-u-s-southwest

    That may explain why are you rope-a-doping to “but Germany.”

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2019/05/04/the-debate-has-changed/#comment-156358

    So after the German squirrel, you return to hippie punching.

    Please beware that your next tentative to start a food fight will be snipped.

  104. Willard says:

    > The $3 a gallon difference between what I pay and what the French pay is a political choice.

    Indeed it is:

  105. Take a look at the recent EIA Short-Term Energy Outlook. Obvious that they are saying that an increase in the world total liquids (crude + equivalent) production will ultimately come from the USA alone.

    Your problem, Jeff, is that you take a provincial look at the state of the world, and downplay the difference between the haves and the have-nots when it comes to liquid FF. Good for you that “I paid $2.65 a gallon last night”, how thrilling considering that extracting the Bakken was highly leveraged

  106. Joshua says:

    Jeff –

    Nuclear is more expensive that fossil fuels. Wind and Solar are far more expensive than nuclear. We know this.

    Are negative externalities costs?

    [Released. Mind your new ID, J. -W]

  107. Marco says:

    “Paul- The Yellow Vests specifically protested a tax hike that Macron specifically cancelled. ”

    Jeff, this would be a bit oversimplified. This is France. People protest. There’s a trigger, but that hardly ever is the (one or main) cause. The triggering issue here is that Macron wanted to increase the TICPE, right after he had removed a taxation that benefited the rich in the society, and at the time that oil prices had just risen substantially. Add the fact that the TICPE was largely used to help the financial situation of the government, rather than as an Investment in greener technologies, and you get the typical French trigger for just about all protests: “we’re being screwed over by the government helping the elite. Again”.

  108. “The triggering issue here is that Macron wanted to increase the TICPE, right after he had removed a taxation that benefited the rich in the society,…”
    Are you referring here to the taxation implemented by the previous socialist administration? The one that was so popular in France that the socialists didn’t make it to the runoffs and the only candidates who did had pledged to reverse the tax?

    “…and at the time that oil prices had just risen substantially. ”
    Yes, there is a limit to what people are willing to pay for energy. France found it, protests ensued.

    “Add the fact that the TICPE was largely used to help the financial situation of the government, rather than as an Investment in greener technologies, ”
    The two are connected. The French government cannot spend on greener technologies if it has a poor “financial situation”. Please correct me if I’m wrong, you want the French government to spend more on greener technologies. How does France spend more on greener technologies if it needs unpopular tax increases just to get it’s financial house in order to the point where it can consider even more tax increases to pay for greener technology?

    France is 70%+ nuclear powered, the climate concerned want to raise taxes to replace zero emissions power with more expensive zero emissions power. And they wish to do this in a nation that is protesting tax increases. Can you not grasp why intelligent people on the left, the right, and the climate change movement assert that this makes no sense from CO2, political, and financial perspectives?

  109. Jeff said:

    “France is 70%+ nuclear powered, the climate concerned want to raise taxes to replace zero emissions power with more expensive zero emissions power. And they wish to do this in a nation that is protesting tax increases. Can you not grasp why intelligent people on the left, the right, and the climate change movement assert that this makes no sense from CO2, political, and financial perspectives?”

    I see that it’s very hard for you to grasp the simple concept that crude oil is a finite and non-renewable resource, and available only from a dwindling number of countries, with France now excluded from that select group. Even at their peak, France could only produce in a year what the USA could consume in a few days

  110. Willard says:

    > How does France spend more on greener technologies if it needs unpopular tax increases just to get it’s financial house in order to the point where it can consider even more tax increases to pay for greener technology?

    Perhaps the same way your own country could do it, JeffN. By changing its priorities, e,g,:

    The operation Occupy Irak costed more than 6K per American citizen. Add that to your gallon price. We could argue that the counter is still running as western oil companies persist over there:

    Through its 80 known oil fields, Iraq is estimated to have almost 10% of the world’s proven reserves (143 billion barrels) and 2% of the world’s natural gas reserves, making it the largest EITI implementing country by oil and gas reserves. The Rumaila and West Qurna fields together hold more proven oil reserves than the entire United States. According to the International Energy Agency, Iraq has the potential to earn USD 5 trillion in oil revenues between 2013 and 2035. For the same time period, it is estimated that Iraq will provide 45% of global production growth and become the world’s second largest exporter of oil. Internal conflict and cut-backs in investment due to low oil prices are among the factors hampering Iraq’s ability to reach this potential.

    https://eiti.org/es/implementing_country/41

    The answer to your rhetorical question is known since at least the 50s: we ought to guide our fiscal in light of its economic impact. Like we always did, notwithstanding monetarists’ denial.

    The elephants in the room are oil giants and eternal warmongers, not hippies.

  111. Marco says:

    Jeff:

    The problem wasn’t so much that the price of energy went up, but that the price of energy went up in part to pay for the poor financial situation of the government…and that the rich didn’t have to contribute as much.

    “Are you referring here to the taxation implemented by the previous socialist administration? The one that was so popular in France that the socialists didn’t make it to the runoffs and the only candidates who did had pledged to reverse the tax?”

    Not sure what you are referring to here. I’ve looked at the programmes of the presidential candidates of 2017, and didn’t see such a pledge. Macron explicitly stated he would have a carbon tax in his programme.

  112. Paul- how is your response relevant to the comment you cited? France doesn’t use oil for electricity. It could use electricity to replace the engines in automobiles that currently use oil-based products. But that would require plentiful, reliable, low cost electricity. Which France currently has, and which is emissions free. The climate concerned aim for less electricity at higher cost and less reliability. Hard to plan on charging car batteries with that.

    So France will burn oil, which as you know is abundantly available thanks to the twin facts that oil is a global commodity and there really was an explosion in exploration and production globally.

    To address your prior “haves and have-nots” comment- My house has zero pants production. Never has. We are pants “have-nots”. Yet today, my wife and I and all my kids are wearing pants. Most weren’t even made in the U.S. Weird how that works, eh?
    For the next 30-50 years or more, France will not be an oil “have not” unless someone contrives to eliminate it’s GDP.

  113. Marco says:

    “France is 70%+ nuclear powered, the climate concerned want to raise taxes to replace zero emissions power with more expensive zero emissions power. ”

    I also don’t quite get this. The carbon tax in France is not meant to replace nuclear with renewables. It is meant to replace fossil fuels.

  114. Willard says France’s government finances are bad because the US spends money on defense. Got a link for how that impacts French government finance? The topic was Marco’s claim that the French gas tax increase was being used to “help the financial situation of the French government” instead of to green tech.

    But I get where you’re going and welcome it. There’s a big election coming up. I want to see the climate concerned on television and in newspapers saying the Democrats will make gasoline $6 a gallon (at least) and that they will cut the defense department by at least half.
    Based on comments here, that would be popular, the Democrats will embrace it, the GOP will be killed on the issue, and a landslide victory is certain.
    And because it’s primary season, hold these politicians to their word. All of this revenue and cost savings goes only to windmills, solar panels, batteries and pumped storage. Marco already demonstrated that tax increases are only unpopular when the government fails to spend the money on green technologies.

  115. Marco- I made one error- the ’17 candidates pledged not to bring the “super-tax” back, not to reverse it. Macron pledged to reverse other socialist policies around workdays and employment guarantees.
    What I was referring to was: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jonhartley/2015/02/02/frances-75-supertax-failure-a-blow-to-pikettys-economics/#4152ce175df2

    Taxing the rich doesn’t work.

    France gets over 72% of its electricity from nuclear power (down from 80%) and has pledged to start shutting them down and replacing them with wind and solar: https://www.power-technology.com/news/france-renewables-budget-wind/
    Eight billion Euros a year in government spending alone to replace zero emissions energy with more expensive zero emissions energy for a net increase in global emissions as manufacturing moves to less expensive nations that the IPCC has specifically exempted from emissions cuts.

  116. Ben McMillan says:

    That seems like a pretty direct misrepresentation of the source:

    In his speech, Macron stressed that “reducing the role of nuclear energy does not mean renouncing it”. He added: “It is indispensable that French people continue to benefit from it so long as the nuclear reactors are functioning.”

  117. Joshua says:

    Jeff –

    with more expensive zero emissions energy.

    I’m assuming you don’t have any way to quantify the ratio of positive to negative externalities. If so, then how can you make such an authoritative statement?

    Don’t you have respect for uncertainties?

  118. Joshua says:

    Jeff *

    I want to see the climate concerned on television and in newspapers saying the Democrats will make gasoline $6 a gallon (at least) and that they will cut the defense department by at least half.

    Good to see your for at least presenting an argument to have the price of gas reflect externalities.

    Although I’m surprised by that. Given your politics, I’d think you’d favor politicians advocate artificially propping up fossil fuel use by subsidizing the cost price of gasoline, as Republicans usually do. 😁

  119. Willard says:

    > Willard says France’s government finances are bad because the US spends money on defense.

    Strawman much, JeffN. I was answering your what-about-Joe-with-a-yellow-vest. The response is the same as everywhere else – basic functional finance.

    Let’s recap.

    You peddle “but nuclear” in a thread and cite a report. It appears the report does not mean what you make it mean, as Ben underlines. So you wave your arms. Then you get redirected to a thread dedicated to “but nukes.”

    In this thread, you rope-a-dope to Germany, over which you get corrected by VeeV. Then you switch to the yellow vests, a jaquerie you misinterpret as Marco shows. Now you strawman my response.

    Here we are.

    I suggest you stick to your nuclear point, and desist from rehearsing your playbook all over again. You’ve pulled enough legs as it is.

    Thank you for your concerns.

  120. Marco says:

    Jeff, it is not *replacing* nuclear with renewables, it is creating electricity generation capacity that will disappear. The shutdowns are planned because those nuclear power plants are simply getting too old. Building new nuclear power plants is turning into a nightmare, with the Flamanville reactor already more than a factor 3 over budget, so there’s a major concern there. Instead, they work on upgrading many existing ones (but not all can be upgraded so easily). There’s a 50+ billion investment right there.
    http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS-EDF-faces-EUR100-billion-reactor-upgrade-bill-says-audit-office-1102164.html

  121. Jeff says:

    “So France will burn oil, which as you know is abundantly available thanks to the twin facts that oil is a global commodity and there really was an explosion in exploration and production globally”

    There’s your problem. Jeff is one of those guys that we call cornucopians. The fact of the matter is that the explosion in exploration is already in the past. No one buys when you just assert a future abundance without a citation.

  122. France gets over 72% of its electricity from nuclear power (down from 80%) and has pledged to start shutting them down and replacing them with wind and solar:

    They are clearly not doing that to fight climate change. They do that to save costs, because nuclear power is terribly expensive.

    The yellow vests did not have a leadership or a clear message. You can say they really hate climate. I will simply say they were protesting the French government using taxes to transfer wealth from the poor to the rich. Just like Trump does. 82% of his tax cut went to the rich; that part is permanent, the crumbs for us are temporary and we will also have to pay back the debt this created.

    Apparently a policy you like when you wrongly claim that taxing rich people does not work. The alternative is to tax the poor and increase inequality, increase corruption, speed up the transition from democracy to oligarchy. I prefer to drain the corrupt swamp, one of Trump’s many broken campaign promises.

  123. Mark B says:

    “France gets over 72% of its electricity from nuclear power (down from 80%) and has pledged to start shutting them down and replacing them with wind and solar:”

    To reiterate Marco’s point, some French nuclear plants are to go offline because they are at the end of their service life. They have to be replaced by something so it seems disingenuous to point to the replacement cost by wind and solar without consideration of the replacement cost by other technologies. It’s the net cost including externalities that is relevant.

  124. JCH says:

    I own ExxMob, so $6 gasoline sounds great. If the President can do it for washing machines, cars, and sneakers (tariffs in the works,) why not gasoline?

  125. “Although I’m surprised by that. Given your politics, I’d think you’d favor politicians advocate artificially propping up fossil fuel use by subsidizing the cost price of gasoline, as Republicans usually do. ”

    Josh, consider the possibility that I know what will happen when you pledge to charge people the externalities. But, prove me wrong- the 2020 election should be about the Democrats’ pledge to double the price of gasoline, double your power bill, and – per Willard – drastically reduce defense spending. Can you indicate which politician is pledging that? Bernie implies it, but claims it’s a fake right-wing attack to say anyone but the 1% will pay anything.

    Marco, Victor: France pays 69% less for electricity than Germany. That’s not because their nuclear power is more expensive than German wind and solar. https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Electricity_price_statistics
    If France and Germany replace nuclear power with something else, a big if at this point, it will ultimately be natural gas and coal. We’re already seeing clear signs of that- Nordstream2, German approval of Volkswagen’s factory switch to gas, Merkel’s rejection of 2050 goals, Polish opposition to EU mandates, citizen pushback on price hikes in France, France’s energy minister quits over “hollow” green energy promises, American demands for a piece of the coming gas orders, and just last week France released it’s energy policy to criticism from green groups that contains no initiatives and delays the phase out of nuclear. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-energy/new-french-energy-law-puts-off-difficult-climate-decisions-idUSKCN1S61X1

    Paul- https://www.iea.org/newsroom/news/2019/march/united-states-to-lead-global-oil-supply-growth-while-no-peak-in-oil-demand-in-si.html
    To recap, you’re argument is basically that you believe that an international agency featuring every major EU nation would mislead the world on science-based forecasting for political reasons. Sounds like WattsUpWithThat. Peak oilers have been attacking the EIA stats for a long, long time and the comparison between the accuracy of the two sides is embarrassing to peak oilers.

  126. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    jeffnsails850 says:

    Josh, consider the possibility that I know what will happen when you pledge to charge people the externalities. But, prove me wrong- the 2020 election should be about the Democrats’ pledge to double the price of gasoline, double your power bill, and – per Willard – drastically reduce defense spending. Can you indicate which politician is pledging that?

    People will end up paying for ‘the externalities’ one way or another. TANSTAAFL.

    Perhaps the outcome of the 2020 election in the U.S. of A. (if, in fact, an election occurs) is not the best metric for determining the course of climate policy for the balance of humanity, who don’t get a gerrymandered vote anyway…

    But since we’re here:


    O’Rourke’s plan calls for the United States to tighten regulations of greenhouse gas emissions to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, while also investing $5 trillion over 10 years to improve technology and expand infrastructure for clean energy sources such as wind and solar. That spending would be funded by raising taxes on the wealthy and ending tax breaks for fossil fuels.

    With front-runners Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., pledging support for the Green New Deal to fight climate change — and the massive government spending it would require — pressure is building on candidates to come out firmly on the issue ahead of next year’s Democratic primary.

    In addition to Sanders and Harris, other Democratic candidates supporting the Green New Deal include Sens. Corey Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind.

    https://www.chron.com/business/energy/article/Looking-at-2020-Democratic-presidential-13803672.php

  127. Willard says:

    > Can you indicate which politician is pledging that?

    You go first, JeffN – where are all the politicians buying into Shellenbergian slogans and put nukes on their platform? Only Yang comes to mind. The candidate online Pepes decided to meme.

    Freedom Fighters are not punching hippies for no reason.

    ***

    > [C]onsider the possibility that I know what will happen when you pledge to charge people the externalities. But, prove me wrong.

    How to reverse the burden of proof in one single step.

    Nevertheless, challenge accepted:

    China will plow 2.5 trillion yuan ($361 billion) into renewable power generation by 2020, the country’s energy agency said on Thursday, as the world’s largest energy market continues to shift away from dirty coal power towards cleaner fuels.

    https://unfccc.int/news/china-pledges-usd-361-billion-investment-in-renewable-energy

    Non-traditional hippies are harder to punch.

  128. Jeff said:

    “Peak oilers have been attacking the EIA stats for a long, long time and the comparison between the accuracy of the two sides is embarrassing to peak oilers.”

    Have to laugh over this one. If the EIA was right in their forecasts of crude oil production/consumption that they made in 2001, this planet would be frying in CO2 emissions much more than it is now:

    And remember that the current production isn’t even cast in terms of “crude oil” any longer but something called “liquid fuels” which includes biofuels, natural gas liquids, refinery gains… The crude oil production is relatively flat or “plateaued” which many oil depletion experts predicted would be more likely than an actual peak.

    So Jeff, maybe you want to cite the stats next time before you embarrass yourself.

  129. Willard: “You go first, JeffN – where are all the politicians buying into Shellenbergian slogans and put nukes on their platform?”
    Okay. All of the candidates for both Democrats and Republicans (except maybe Bernie) will do what Obama did and Trump is now doing- switch to natural gas. Some will say they are going to spend trillions on renewables, but if elected will not, just like President Obama did.

    Paul- Let’s see Heinberg’s forecast from 2003. The year “The Party’s Over” came out and the year before “Power Down”. I actually read the first one. Wish I had that time back.

  130. Jeff, One should ask: who is Heinberg? I guess he’s a writer of doomsday books who didn’t finish college.

    Jeff said:
    ” I actually read the first one. Wish I had that time back.”

    Well, maybe if you had known that he was a disciple of the pseudo-scientist Velikovsky, you wouldn’t have picked it up.

  131. I’ll be gentle to my friend Paul. Here’s The Oil Drum in 2009 after having to postpone doomsday a few times already. The peak oiler’s forecast is the second chart. Actual global production this year would be off of that chart- ie higher than it goes.
    http://theoildrum.com/node/5395

  132. Marco says:

    Jeff, I may have a comment in moderation, but it could also have disappeared in cyberspace, so as either an additional comment or as a response: please look up how much France will need to invest to upgrade its current nuclear power plants, construct new nuclear power plants, and how much its own state audit agency believes EDF underestimates future costs of decommissioning and storing waste. You’ll then maybe understand that the current electricity prices of old plants does not equal the expected future prices. There’s even a report from the French environmental agency that indicates savings of billions by replacing nuclear with renewables.

  133. Paul, the chart you posted is from the Post Carbon Institute. Heinberg is their senior fellow in residence.

  134. Marco, nuclear is expensive. More expensive than fossil fuels. It’s less expensive than renewables unless you dam rivers. I don’t think France will dam rivers.
    This is not just rambling from some guy on the internet. There are nuclear and renewable power plants and actual stats for both. MIT, U of Chicago, James Hansen, lots and lots of very smart people have looked at this comprehensively. If you accept that cost is an issue, then look at the science on the options. If don’t accept that cost is an issue, that’s a different matter.

  135. Jeff, In our book from earlier this year, half of which is on oil depletion analysis, we were discouraged from citing Heinberg or some guy on a blog named “Ace”. So we didn’t.

    The reality is that the conventional crude oil production rates are plateauing and unconventional oil is picking up the slack. Thus, the new total liquids category for oil production accounting. This is a good way of looking at the production trends, where one can see the underlying plateau in conventional crude:

    How long the unconventional sources can keep producing is a question. Just about all of this slack production is due to USA (shale oil) and Canada (tar sands).

  136. Paul- I only read the book at the request of one of the oildrum regulars, who is a distant relative. I can see why Heinberg is someone to shy away from. The more I think about it, I’m actually not sure if I read Power Down or Party’s Over. Whichever one it was, the only thing that sticks out all these years later was a section recommending having local government committees set the number of allowed births, the ration per couple, and appeals.
    To be frank, one of the things that drives my skepticism is that relative’s pivot to climate change and equal zeal in belief that this new prophesy of doom is right and, purely coincidentally of course, just happens to fit all of the same policy ideas he already held. The guy was adamant about collapse over Y2K, peak oil, global warming. I sensed a different trend.

    if Heinberg is untrustworthy, don’t use his charts please. The chart I linked to at the oil drum isn’t much different from the rather famous Scientific American article on peak oil that came out in ’98 or ’99 I believe. Eyeballing that one, current global oil production is also off of that chart. And then, I could pull some numbers from The Population Bomb. But the point remains- the forecasting of peak oil is not reliable, the solution is either bio synfuels, fuel cells, or electric cars (I can’t wait to own one, lots to like about them). The last requires abundant, low cost, reliable electricity. Although you can make a lot of hydrogen with wind for fuel cells.

    I get the difference between conventional and unconventional oil, but if the question is whether or not there is oil then the answer is yes for a long while ahead.

  137. Joshua says:

    Jeff –

    Josh, consider the possibility that I know what will happen when you pledge to charge people the externalities. But, prove me wrong- the 2020 election should be about the Democrats’ pledge to double the price of gasoline, double your power bill, and – per Willard – drastically reduce defense spending. Can you indicate which politician is pledging that? Bernie implies it, but claims it’s a fake right-wing attack to say anyone but the 1% will pay anything.

    I’ll make my point more explicitly. We are already, indirectly paying for externalities currently to some extent, and will continue to do so increasingly as we go forward.

    I’m not arguing about the policiallly palatability of being honest about costs. I am pointing out that Pub politicians are, if anything, less honest about costs than Dem politicians.

    So when you say something like this:

    I want to see the climate concerned on television and in newspapers saying the Democrats will make gasoline $6 a gallon (at least) and that they will cut the defense department by at least half.

    You are being politically expedient w/r/t politicians being unwilling or reluctant to be honest about costs.

    Unwillingness or reluctance to be direct about costs is not apportioned differently across the political divide, IMO. We can see evidence of a similar brand of hypocrisy by looking at Pubz rhetoric about debt pre- compared to post-Trump election.

    Here my more focused point: advocacy that seeks to exploit the costs of energy to advance a political agenda are counterproductive. They don’t deal with the actual costs, but effectively only perpetuate the status quo by focusing on costs as a political issue.

    I made the same basic point about right wing advocacy for nucular energy.

  138. Jeff said:

    “But the point remains- the forecasting of peak oil is not reliable, the solution is either bio synfuels, fuel cells, or electric cars (I can’t wait to own one, lots to like about them).”

    No, the forecasting is reliable if one knows what they are doing. Here is a forecast chart from over 12 years ago. Note the split between the forecast for conventional crude (the lower curve) and that of optimistic production levels (the upper two curves). Those upper curves are forecasts based on what was deemed necessary to maintain world economic growth, since all growth is essentially linked to cheap and plentiful fossil fuels. So what happened was the economic crash of 2008 and then a regrouping based on a leveraged investment in shale oil, tar sands oil, and other unconventional sources of oil. This allowed growth to continue, but not at the rate predicted by cornucopians like yourself. That’s the nature of relying on a finite and non-renewable source of energy.

  139. Willard says:

    > It’s less expensive than renewables unless you dam rivers.

    When does repeating a false claim becomes lying, JeffN:

    Nuclear plants do not emit the high levels of carbon dioxide created by fossil fuels. They also have a high “capacity factor,” meaning they generate more consistent electricity over a given period of time relative to intermittent sources like solar and wind. While this can be an advantage in providing power at a consistent rate, it does not necessarily compensate for the higher cost of nuclear compared to gas and renewables.

    The levelized cost of nuclear power is relatively high compared to other energy sources: the minimum cost per megawatt hour to build a new nuclear plant is $112, compared to $46 for utility-scale solar, $42 for combined cycle gas, and $30 for wind. Nuclear power is only able to remain viable in power markets due to subsidies. Capital costs to build nuclear plants can run into the tens of billions of dollars, and are much more expensive compared to wind, solar and gas plants. Continued government support for building new plants and operating existing ones is a key factor in maintaining the U.S. nuclear industry.

    https://climatenexus.org/climate-news-archive/nuclear-energy-us-expensive-source-competing-cheap-gas-renewables/

    Again notwithstanding risks and wastes.

    The reason why we’d need nukes isn’t price, but capacity.

  140. Willard calls me a liar and cites an advocacy organization. You aren’t calling me a liar, you’re calling MIT that. And the German electric bills. And what happened to electricity bills when nuclear was built out in 70s and ’80s.

    Josh- so you don’t want to charge people for externalities. Or at least you reserve the right of Democrats to refuse to charge people for externalities on the basis that because they are the ones who demand it, someone else should do it.
    How big was the carbon tax that produced the wave of nuclear power buildout? How about the natural gas switch?
    See why we don’t think you need to charge people for externalities?
    A quick reminder- I think more countries, including in the EU, are going to switch to gas. That will be a bridge fuel for the next few decades to either advanced nuclear or advanced nuclear with some peaking from renewables. A massive transition to renewables right now isn’t going to happen. Too expensive.
    Have a nice weekend.

  141. Willard says:

    > You aren’t calling me a liar, you’re calling MIT that.

    The MIT has been covered in the page I just cited:

    A study from the MIT Energy Initiative concludes that climate change will be much more difficult and expensive to solve without nuclear energy incorporated into the global portfolio of low-carbon energy technologies. The study includes recommendations for how government can support nuclear energy, which the authors say is crucial.

    Op. cit. The authors suggest as a key action for policy makers in their summary:

    Decarbonization policies should create a level playing field that allows all low-carbon generation technologies to compete on their merits.

    Just as I told you. There’s a reason why the authors are asking for a floor price and it’s not because nuclear is cheaper than renewables. As I said in the OP you still have not read, I am far from being against nuclear energy development. Canada owns large uranium deposits. All I’m waiting is a signal to buy.

    Furthermore, let’s recall BenM’s comment:

    The MIT ‘Future of nuclear energy’ report is interesting: they suggest that (in nominal nuclear price scenario) that there is little advantage to nuclear except in scenarios with extreme decarbonisation (carbon intensity 500x lower than current grid rather than 50x). But these scenarios also all rely heavily on non-existent CCS technology, which makes it all a bit irrelevant.

    There is absolutely no need to punch hippies over this.

  142. Marco says:

    “It’s less expensive than renewables unless you dam rivers. ”

    You keep on repeating this claim, but the French environmental agency disagrees:
    https://www.reuters.com/article/france-nuclearpower/building-new-nuclear-plants-in-france-uneconomical-environment-agency-idUSL8N1YF5HC

  143. Joshua says:

    Jeff –

    Josh- so you don’t want to charge people for externalities.

    ??

    No, that’s not what I want. (It’s interesting that I so managed to miscommunicate what I “want”).

    I want people to be direct about the externalities, and to factor them in to their approach to low probability/high damage function risk over long time frames.

    I don’t want people to leverage externalities expediently, by making authoritative analyses of the “costs” of different energy use pathways without accounting for externalities.

    Or at least you reserve the right of Democrats to refuse to charge people for externalities on the basis that because they are the ones who demand it, someone else should do it.

    No. I don’t think that Demz or Pubz should take a politically expedient approach to externalities. I think they should be up front. I think that in general, Demz and Pubz try to avoid being up front w/t/t the “costs” of any variety of issues – because they take a political hit if they are up front. While acknowledging my own biases, I tend to argue that Pubz may be worse in that regard, but that isn’t the important point, IMO. Focusing on differences around the margins w/r/t being up front with costs only, IMO, serves to perpetuate stagnation: people can focus on relatively minor differences to advance polarization and partisanship and effectively, avoid the difficult issues altogether.

    How big was the carbon tax that produced the wave of nuclear power buildout?

    That’s an interesting question. I’ve never really thought much about a carbon tax being used for nuclear as well as solar, wind, etc. It would be fascinating to see how right wing nuclear advocates would fall out on that. My perception is that they are (mostly) in love with nuclear as long as they don’t have to actually think about paying for it. Advocating for nuclear w/o taking seriously the cost of nuclear is a very convenient political strategy; it opens up a lot of space for finger pointing and avoiding accountability. So would they support a carbon tax to fund nuclear? I tend to think not, but we won’t find out because righrwingers and Pubz and nuclear advocates won’t be up front about the costs of nuclear. Much easier is to blame “others” for the lack of nuclear.

    How about the natural gas switch?

    I don’t get your point there.

    See why we don’t think you need to charge people for externalities?

    Nor there.,

    A quick reminder- I think more countries, including in the EU, are going to switch to gas. That will be a bridge fuel for the next few decades to either advanced nuclear or advanced nuclear with some peaking from renewables. A massive transition to renewables right now isn’t going to happen.

    I wouldn’t venture a guess w/r/t gas. I agree that a massive transition to renewables is unlikely, except if the effects of climate change accelerate more rapidly than predicted, and the signal of damages is unambiguous in the every day lives of citizens in wealthy countries.

    Too expensive.

    Oy. Do me a favor. At least when you’re directing your comments to me, don’t say shit like that. I ask you over and over to include externalities in a determination of “expense.” You fail to do so, and still pronounce an authoritative bottom line conclusion w/r/t “expense.” It gets to the point where, if you make comments like that to me, without even actually addressing the necessity of accounting for externalities to reach bottom line conclusions about “expense,” your responses to me begin to look like poor faith engagement.

    Have a nice weekend.

    You too.,

  144. Marco says: “Jeff, …: please look up how much France will need to invest to upgrade its current nuclear power plants, construct new nuclear power plants, and how much its own state audit agency believes EDF underestimates future costs of decommissioning and storing waste.

    “Fun” fact. In Germany the utilities blackmailed the government. They were only willing to pay a small fixed amount for the decommissioning and forced us to pay the additional costs. They threatened that otherwise they would go bankrupt and we would have to pay everything.

    The ideal power source for authoritarians.

    Given that Jeff does not respond to my arguments and repeats wrong talking points we already responded to, I think I will sign off. Have a nice weekend everyone.

  145. “Oy. Do me a favor. At least when you’re directing your comments to me, don’t say shit like that. I ask you over and over to include externalities in a determination of “expense.””

    Every source has externalities – including all the rare earth minding, steel and concrete production, large amounts of mountaintops, land or ocean needed and miles and miles of copper cable all necessary for renewables. Every alternative to fossil fuels apparently needs subsidy, otherwise we wouldn’t be demanding (and promising) billions of dollars from governments around the world.
    What I’m saying boils down to- if and when the world says “stop using fossil fuels by X date” there will be a debate about what to use as the alternative. That debate will include the cost of the various options. Any attempt to arbitrarily limit one or more of those options will lead to status quo.

    Take a carbon tax for example. If you impose one for the purpose of reducing emissions, people will seek the lowest cost alternative to lower emissions. If that option is right there in front of people, but you wish to prohibit it, you won’t get the carbon tax.
    Right now the lowest cost is natural gas. MIT and U of Chicago, plus four decades of real world experience, suggest nuclear and hydro-electric are the next lowest cost after gas for baseload and renewables the next after that. So, if you want a carbon tax, and you want it high enough to make natural gas unaffordable, then to pass it you need to allow science to determine which non-fossil fuel to support. (That, Willard, is why MIT notes that all alternatives need government support, some (renewables) need more than others.)

    But we shouldn’t even be arguing about it on blogs anymore. We should have a high level scientific and engineering review of what the options are and the costs of alternatives to fossil fuels- all alternatives – to power modern industrial nations. MIT has done one, I look forward to yours. All the ones I’ve seen so far promoting renewables assume very large costs ending in “lifestyle changes” which, depending on the source, range from stopping people from doing laundry or using air conditioning to retrofitting every building in the United States and ending economic growth. I welcome this review- the nuclear option has bi-partisan support, including support from prominent climate scientists such as Hansen. It’s hard because there are some folks who would have to say they were wrong for a long time, is that good enough reason to delay emissions reductions?

  146. Joshua says:

    Jeff +

    Every source has externalities – including all the rare earth minding, steel and concrete production, large amounts of mountaintops, land or ocean needed and miles and miles of copper cable all necessary for renewables. Every alternative to fossil fuels apparently needs subsidy, otherwise we wouldn’t be demanding (and promising) billions of dollars from governments around the world

    Yes, all sources have their externalities. So does that mean we should just assume that they all balance each other out? Nope. But that’s what you’re doing when you determine, with complete authoritativeness, which source is more costly. Unless you have calculated the externalities ratio. In which case, please show your work.

    I don’t really think that ratio can be calculated with much precision. But I do think that probabilities can be estimated, and then you can factor in probabilities for a low probability/high damage function approach to risk.

    If you impose one for the purpose of reducing emissions, people will seek the lowest cost alternative to lower emissions.

    Again, you seem to be not hearing my point. My point is that people are not really making these decisions based on cost. How can they, when they don’t even really know what the costs are? No, they’re making these decisions on the basis of price, which may or may not reflect true costs to the extent that it accounts for externalities.

    Again, what I’m saying is that for us to have any real exhange of views, you would have to actually deal with what I’m saying instead of just spinning a narrative as if I never said anything. Stop taking about cost as if you know what the costs actually are. Or account for externalities. Or offer a robust argument as to why you can know the cost without accounting for externalities. Just saying that yes, all energy sources have associated externalities doesn’t actually add anything to the convo. It’s basically the same thing as just ignoring the existence of externalities.

  147. Joshua says:

    Jeff –

    Here’s my other point.

    All the ones I’ve seen so far promoting renewables assume very large costs ending in “lifestyle changes”

    For all the talk that I see from “skeptics” and rightwingers about the impracticality of estimating external costs, I also see them ready to start talking about the negative externalities of renewables, or the positive externalities of fossil fuels, at the drop of a hat.

    You see? You were just talking about the negative externalities of renewables. But where is your talk of “lifestyle” negative externalities associated with fossil fuel usage. The list of such externalities is long. We could start with the negative externality of enriching oppressive regimes in the Middle East that oppress so many people and prevent them from access to the civil and civic institutions that enable people to progress.

    I get skeptical when people eschew a robust discussion of externalities but then embed a selective inclusion of externalities in their arguments.

    Do you see why that makes me skeptical?

  148. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    Every alternative to fossil fuels apparently needs subsidy, otherwise we wouldn’t be demanding (and promising) billions of dollars from governments around the world.

    Not only are fossil fuels heavily subsidized, but the mounting externalized costs of fossil fuels should by now be obvious to everyone.


    In the United States, the federal government has paid US$145 billion for energy subsidies to support R&D for nuclear power ($85 billion) and fossil fuels ($60 billion) from 1950 to 2016. During this same timeframe, renewable energy technologies received a total of US $34 billion.

    According to a 2015 estimate by the Obama administration, the US oil industry benefited from subsidies of about $4.6 billion per year. A 2017 study by researchers at Stockholm Environment Institute published in the journal Nature Energy estimated that nearly half of U.S. oil production would be unprofitable without subsidies.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_subsidies

    You think the USA spent over $ 1 trillion in Iraq because of all the sand?

    You think fixing climate change is gonna be free?


    All the ones I’ve seen so far promoting renewables assume very large costs ending in “lifestyle changes” which, depending on the source, range from stopping people from doing laundry or using air conditioning to retrofitting every building in the United States and ending economic growth.

    Hot, dirty, and smelly, poor people will be everywhere, according to Forbes and Bloomberg?

    Your econo-alarmist concerns have been noted.

  149. Willard says:

    > MIT and U of Chicago, plus four decades of real world experience, suggest nuclear and hydro-electric are the next lowest cost after gas for baseload and renewables the next after that.

    Repeating won’t make this claim true, JeffN:

    As LCOE values for alternative energy technologies continue to decline, in some scenarios the full lifecycle costs of building and operating renewables-based projects have dropped below the operating costs alone of conventional generation technologies such as coal or nuclear. This is expected to lead to ongoing and significant deployment of alternative energy capacity.

    https://www.lazard.com/media/450344/lazard-releases-annual-levelized-cost-of-energy_2017.pdf

  150. Willard, your link has links. In which they caution that it’s extremely difficult to compare LCOE of dispatchable alternatives to non-dispatachable sources. Thankfully MIT took on the task.
    So let’s simplify-
    To replace one existing 100MW nuclear power plant or coal-fired plant, you would need:
    1. To build one 100MW nuclear power plant on several hundred acres…
    or…
    2. build one 100MW solar farm plus one wind farm on several thousand acres, buy one 100MW battery, and install 100MWs of gas or oil-fired back up generation, and substantially rebuild the power grid. Plus politically impose “lifestyle changes” to reduce energy use.

    Both of those choices are more expensive than natural gas.
    MIT looked at those choices using the scientific method and published their results. Their results are different than your claim. You haven’t addressed their results- they directly addressed the comparison of 100MW of solar panels to a 100MW nuclear power plant, your source did not.

    Josh- If you’re going to fixate on externalities, you need to look at the externalities of fossil fuels, nuclear, natural gas, hydro, bio, wind, solar, wave, etc. All of them have externalities.
    Lay them all out, see which alternative to fossil fuels is best. I get the sense- and I’m not seeing anything here to change my mind – that you view “externalities” as a magic word that should allow you to say the price of electricity didn’t really double in Germany over the last three years, they simply applied the “true cost.”
    I get the argument, it’s not wrong it’s just flawed. You can persuade me that the cost of a can of tuna needs to go up 75-cents to reflect the “true” cost and prompt me to eat something else. But I still care about the cost of that something else, will expect to see the menu, and don’t really care if you have a political proclivity for tofu.

  151. Willard says:

    > Their results are different than your claim.

    I’m the only one who quoted from that report, JeffN. Show me what you got.

    As far as I can tell, you’re conflating the price of nuclear energy with the price for decarbonization.

  152. Marco says:

    “the price of electricity didn’t really double in Germany over the last three years”

    Indeed it didn’t.

  153. Willard
    You quoted Lazard.com. Which also said this in the same link:
    “Although alternative energy is increasingly cost-competitive and storage technology holds great promise, alternative energy systems alone will not be capable of meeting the baseload generation needs of a developed economy for the foreseeable future. Therefore, the optimal solution for many regions of the world is to use complementary conventional and alternative energy resources in adiversified generation fleet.”

    They list nuclear as part of the conventional resources.

    Why is anybody discussing 100% renewable if it “will not be capable” of doing the job? Any politician or advocate who claims wind and solar can power Germany or the US (at any cost) isn’t being honest.
    If we have to have conventional baseload anyway, it should be emissions free if the goal is to reduce emissions. That means nukes or dams, as I’ve been saying all along, with wind and solar possibly taking up some of the tasks of providing peak power. If they’re cost effective as bit player in the energy future of modern countries, have at it, but they’re an unnecessary waste of money as baseload.

    Before that, you cited Climate Nexus, which cited this report on LCOE, also from Lazard, which warned against comparing nuclear to solar LCOE because they’re very different animals.
    https://www.lazard.com/perspective/levelized-cost-of-energy-2017/

  154. Joshua says:

    Jeff –

    I get the sense- and I’m not seeing anything here to change my mind – that you view “externalities” as a magic word that should allow you to say the price of electricity didn’t really double in Germany over the last three years, they simply applied the “true cost.”

    Please reread my comments. What you think my view is, isn’t what my view is. I’ve tried to lay it out a few times now.

    I’ll try again.

    I think that authoritative arguments about the relative costs of different energy sources are necessarily inadequate unless they include a robust analysis of externalities.

    Price is not the same as cost.

    Selective discussion of externalities looks to me like ideologically expediency.

    Discussion about energy sources is easily used to rationalize ideological agendas. The discussion is structurally linked to a number of political controversies. A robust discussion of externalities is one way to control for allowing ideogical agendas to infiltrate one’s discussion of the relative merits of different energy sources.

    Selective treatment of externalities looks to me like one way of allowing political biases to infiltrate discussion of the relative merits of different energy sources.

    You can’t really meaningfully determine the cost of different energy sources if you haven’t had a non-selective discussion of external costs.

    Given that evaluating external costs is inherently extremely complex, it only makes sense to have the discussion of energy-related policies in the context of recognizing uncertainties.

    Authoritative statements about the costs of various energy sources fail to account for externalities, unless they include a robust discussion of externalities.

    Referencing only the negative externalities of some energy sources, or the positive externalities of other energy sources, is not an optimal way to approach a robust discussion of the cost of different energy sources.

    Selectively referencing negative externalities of some energy sources only, or the positive externalities of some energy sources only, does not actually address uncertainties effectively, and tends to look to me like political expediency.

    …..

    Maybe if I try a few more times I’ll be able to explain my view clearly enough for you to reframe it accurately?

  155. Willard says:

    JeffN,

    From your own quote:

    Alternative energy systems alone will not be capable of meeting the baseload generation needs of a developed economy for the foreseeable future

    This means nuclear energy helps solve the capacity problem. This echoes what I already told you four days ago, the reason why we’d need nukes isn’t price, but capacity. To recall an example covered at the first iteration of that thread, we simply cannot power the UK with solar panels and windmills. There’s not enough place.

    Only if and when we’d go all in on a carbon zero objective would nuclear become competitive. Not because of cost of nuclear will be lower – the energy prices will go way up if we do. And if we go nuclear the capital required would only be obtained up on front with good garantees, which again means more expensive energy overall. It makes no sense to invest in a power plant with too much risk of a loss because of some unforeseen subsidized gas boom.

  156. Lazard is essentially making a cost argument. People who want a 100% renewable solution believe we can overcome the fact that wind and solar are “incapable” of powering modern economies by spending huge amounts on redundancies (plus economic and lifestyle changes). Lazard is basically saying that probably isn’t true and even it if were, won’t happen “in the foreseeable future” because it would be far more expensive than any nation would accept.

    “Only if and when we’d go all in on a carbon zero objective would nuclear become competitive.”

    That’s a good argument for using natural gas a bridge fuel to a nuclear future (which I think and have said is already going to happen – is happening – due to the cost of gas these days). It also means that wind and solar will provide only a small fraction of the electricity in a zero carbon future- you literally don’t need it over a certain point once you build the nuclear plants. It also means that advocating for nukes isn’t “hippie punching.”

    Let me try to say it another way and see if we can agree:
    The current amount of renewables penetration is expensive. Nuclear is expensive. When we go all-in, to attempt to have renewables provide baseload for modern economies would be more expensive than nuclear. Advocates on the climate change issue should accept that nuclear will provide the bulk of electricity in a zero carbon future and support its adoption. Skeptics of renewables should accept that they can play a role in infilling power needs in modern economies (mid-day peaking, hot water for examples) and larger roles in certain places with limited energy needs and favorable geography, and support its adoption. To give clarity to investors and policy makers, scientist and engineers should continue to work on the right target mix of nuclear and renewable energy to achieve reliable, lowest-cost power (understanding that this mix can vary by geography- ie solar makes more sense in southern California than Maine).

    Sound reasonable?

  157. Willard says:

    > Lazard is essentially making a cost argument.

    Of course they do:

    Which leads them to conclude:

    Despite the modestly slowing rate of cost declines for utility-scale alternative energy generation, the gap between the costs of certain alternative energy technologies (e.g., utility-scale solar and onshore wind) and conventional generation technologies continues to widen as the cost profiles of such conventional generation remain flat (e.g., coal) and, in certain instances, increase (e.g., nuclear). Specifically, the estimated levelized cost of energy for nuclear generation increased ~35% versus prior estimates, reflecting increased capital costs at various nuclear facilities currently in development.

    https://www.lazard.com/perspective/levelized-cost-of-energy-2017/

    But they also admit that cost isn’t everything:

    Although alternative energy is increasingly cost-competitive and storage technology holds great promise, alternative energy systems alone will not be capable of meeting the base-load generation needs of a developed economy for the foreseeable future. Therefore, the optimal solution for many regions of the world is to use complementary conventional and alternative energy resources in a diversified generation fleet.

    They also concede that the unconventional energy package will be bigger elsewhere:

    The increasing economic advantage of renewables in the US has global implications, because in the US, conventional energy technologies are relatively cheaper to operate than in other developed economies. Given the higher costs of conventional energy sources in these other countries, the economics of alternative energy sources become even more attractive.

    So I guess that in the end we’re in violent agreement?

  158. We are in agreement, but politically you have a big task in front of you. These exist and need to be rewritten: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/these-dosen-states-could-move-to-100-percent-renewable-electricity/
    It’s not a small matter or just me being mean, it’s the reason why politicizing science is a bad idea.
    I know I’m a broken record on Germany, but it’s an interesting case study- it’s not going to be easy at all for Merkel and her party, or any other German party, to reverse course on nuclear and there isn’t a single Republican to blame. In fact, it’s going to be easier politically to pivot to gas, declare victory on climate and move on to the next topic.
    What can the climate concerned do to help their allies out of this dilemma?

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