Different perspectives

I’ve been reflecting a little on some of the recent discussions I’ve had, mostly on Twitter, with those who have more expertise in emission scenarios, and energy systems, than in physical climate science specifically. I’ve found it a somewhat frustrating experience, but it seems that there’s also frustration on the other side too, specifically with the use of RCP8.5, which many seem to think is unrealistic.

One simple issue is that I think many climate scientists simply see the representative concentration pathways (RCPs) as bracketing the range of possible concentration pathways that we could follow, without thinking specifically about how we might do so. One reason for the latter is that there isn’t an easy way to determine how we might follow a specific concentration pathway; it will depend on our future energy pathway, how the carbon sinks respond, and on whether or not some carbon cycle feedbacks start to operate.

My impression is that many emission/energy experts think that we should put more focus on considering the impact of following a pathway that is likely, rather than simply considering a small sample of concentration pathways, at least one of which is seen as very unlikely. Climate models are, however, very computationally expensive, and so there is a limit to how many scenarios can be considered. It’s also important to be able to compare different climate models, so using the same basic scenarios can be important for that reason too. It’s also often possible to extrapolate between scenarios to work out how the system might respond if we followed some scenario that hadn’t explicitly been considered by a climate model.

One might think that if the highest concentration pathway isn’t really all that plausible anymore, that there shouldn’t be as much focus on it. There is certainly some merit to this. However, there are also reasons to still consider this scenario. One is that the impact of climate change depends mostly on how much we are likely to warm, which depends on how sensitive the climate is to these radiative perturbations. If you use RCP8.5 with a climate model that has a climate sensitivity near the middle, or lower half, of the range, then this can also represent what might happen if we follow a lower concentration pathway, but climate sensitivity turns out to be higher.

This is essentially my perspective; until someone can rule out the higher levels of warming (by considering both the plausible range of concentrations pathways and the range of climate sensitivity) then I think it is still important to understand the impact of these higher levels of warming.

I also think that this whole basic debate ignores something that I happen to think is key. We’re moving the Earth’s climate into a regime that we have probably never experienced before. We have some idea of what might happen, but we can’t really know for sure. Maybe we’ll be very lucky and find that it evolves smoothly and in ways that we can manage. Maybe, however, we’ll discover that some natural processes have been masking some of the forced warming, and that we have more warming in the pipeline than we expected, or that we’ve crossed some tipping points that lead to substantial, irreversible, changes on a short timescale.

Clearly we can’t avoid some future warming, since we can’t simply stop using fossil fuels overnight. However, rather than arguing about whether or not climate scientists are using the optimal concentration pathways in their models, maybe we should just recognise that we might not want to face too much more future warming and should spend our time finding ways to limit our future emissions. That’s just my view, of course. Other people probably have a different perspective.

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147 Responses to Different perspectives

  1. I think Oreskes and Stern make a lot of solid points here:

    “For some time now it has been clear that the effects of climate change are appearing faster than scientists anticipated. Now it turns out that there is another form of underestimation as bad or worse than the scientific one: the underestimating by economists of the costs.

    The result of this failure by economists is that world leaders understand neither the magnitude of the risks to lives and livelihoods, nor the urgency of action. How and why this has occurred is explained in a recent report by scientists and economists at the London School of Economics and Political Science, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the Earth Institute at Columbia University.”

    It’s seems quite perverse to me to work to undermine action that could reduce the impact of the climate crisis, yet there is a well-funded industry that engages in that action. I think it probably correct to assume that a lot of folks engaged/working/connected to the IEA function within that well-funded industry.

    Those of us who are not part of the well-funded industry and wish to be persuasive with the electorate and the public institutions that set policy might want to engage in a significant amount of solidarity around the message that folks like Oreskes and Stern are putting out.

    Or, maybe global emissions are on the brink of a long plateau. If you buy that story, you will find Oreskes and Stern to be unconvincing.

    Cheers

    Mike

  2. Willard says:

    You know what I’m craving? A little perspective. That’s it. I’d like some fresh, clear, well seasoned perspective. Can you suggest a good wine to go with that?

  3. Interesting argument about RCP8.5 that I had never heard before. If you use RCP8.5 to plan adaptation strategies for 2050, then these strategies would essentially be effective until later in the century if we end up following something like RCP4.5. It may be that we did more now than we needed to, but it’s unlikely to be wasted effort in the long run.

  4. Jai Mitchell says:

    With the emergence of CMIP6 models that confirmed my independent study showing a higher ECS that was based on a literature review between 2011 and 2014, I see mitigation as a class struggle instead of a technological or market driven one. From this perspective, the forces allied against mitigation are so overwhelming, so venal and self-deluding that they could be considered sociopathic.

    The combination of these two inferences indicate that 3C is now ensured and that, in the absence of complete societal transformation through mass protest over the next 3-5 years, 4-5C by 2070 and complete societal collapse.

    Indeed, even at 3C, with complete loss of Arctic Summer sea ice, the northern hemisphere countries, under intense pressure from crop and water supply failure, massive tropical country migration and increased regional conflicts driven by shifting resource availability (as well as extreme weather and ecological response) will very likely lose any semblance of representative democracy by this time.

    Either we all fix it together or we all die together.

  5. David B. Benson says:

    Willard, fresh and well-seasoned?

  6. Willard says:

    The word “perspective” always makes me remember this scene from Ratatouille:

  7. attp says: “If you use RCP8.5 to plan adaptation strategies for 2050, then these strategies would essentially be effective until later in the century if we end up following something like RCP4.5. It may be that we did more now than we needed to, but it’s unlikely to be wasted effort in the long run.”

    Exactly right, climate change is almost certainly a challenge that we will not over-solve or address. All the evidence points in the direction of under-solving addressing. Addressing (and over-addressing, if that were to happen) will require huge amounts of effort and economic activity. So, a real attempt to change our trajectory is a huge economic engine. There is a question of how we help the folks who over invested in assets that will be stranded by the changes required, but it is unlikely that addressing climate change will necessarily wreck the global economy. That is a story peddled (and a situation created) by folks who would rather wring the last dollar out of assets than see those assets stranded, even if it wrecks the ecosystem of the planet.

    This is not short-sighted if you are 50 and over and your vision extends only to the question of ticking off the items on your personal bucket list. Young folks think it looks short-sighted because the bucket lists of older folks are funded directly from prospects. The generations have different perspectives on these questions.

  8. I’ve found it a somewhat frustrating experience, but it seems that there’s also frustration on the other side too, specifically with the use of RCP8.5, which many seem to think is unrealistic.

    Should we take people seriously who are frustrated by RCP8.5, but not by RCP2.6?

    My impression is that many emission/energy experts think that we should put more focus on considering the impact of following a pathway that is likely,

    That would be a really irresponsible way to deal with the risks of climate change. A large part of the risk is in the warming being larger than expected. Only considering the most likely scenario and not unlikely but very impactful scenarios seriously underestimates the risks we are exposing humanity to.

    You have mentioned it often before, but for new people: we still have the problem of the difference between concentration and emission pathways. Even if we follow the most likely emissions scenario, we cannot exclude a bad concentration scenario due to carbon feedbacks.

    That being said, now that we have some climate models with a high climate sensitivity, we can use those to sample the hot tail of the distribution and need RCP8.5 less. But then we should take those seriously and not also there argue that they are unrealistic. We need to sample the worst case scenarios on way or the other.

  9. Joshua says:

    VV –

    “My impression is that many emission/energy experts think that we should put more focus on considering the impact of following a pathway that is likely,”

    That would be a really irresponsible way to deal with the risks of climate change. A large part of the risk is in the warming being larger than expected. Only considering the most likely scenario and not unlikely but very impactful scenarios seriously underestimates the risks we are exposing humanity to.

    There is some relevance to the implications of “more” there. It is possible to put *less* focus on the highest emission pathways without dismissing them altogether. The question might be whether currently, “we” (as if there is some kind of meaningful collective constituency w/r/t to climate change) place an emphasis on low probability scenarios that is disproportionate to the level of risk they present. In itself, I think that is a reasonable and important question. But it is a really, really difficult question to answer. And much easier is to find individuals or groups to who we can feel confident are answering that questuon incorrectly (in either direction as we wish).

    IMO, the most operative problem is the very human tendency to go out hunting for scapegoats – largely because of a dearth of “cognitive empathy” and because of the uncomfortableness of dealing with uncertainty.

  10. Joshua says:

    VV –

    > . Even if we follow the most likely emissions scenario, we cannot exclude a bad concentration scenario due to carbon feedbacks

    Not to mention (as Anders frequently does), there is also the balance between a potentially lower emissions pathway and a sensitive that is at the higher end of “likely. “

  11. Steven Mosher says:

    “Should we take people seriously who are frustrated by RCP8.5, but not by RCP2.6?”

    frustrated by both. In isolation.

    From a purely analytical view I would think like this.

    1. I definately want to run some worst case sceanrios. Take RCP 8.5.
    Then I want to layer on to that some worst case assumptions about the carbon cycle
    and ECS:
    2. I definately want to run some equally crazy best case scenarios. RCP 2.6 over even better
    From an analytical perspective I definiately want to run some “go to zero now” scenarios
    again with a broad range of assumptions about ECS and carbon cycle.

    These are done to bracket the reality we will face, and to understand the system. and
    to compare models

    Once these are done I really only want to revisit them sporatically because wall time is expensive.
    So while in the first stage (imagine AR4) I may want to run a series of RCP8.5 ( ECS1-6) after than I probably only want to pick 1 to calibrate across

    3. To inform policy I want to concentrate my limited wall time on scenarios deemed more
    likely. For example, we have paris commitments. I’d want to concentrate a bunch of
    wall time there, again perturbing the scenarios with various assumptions about the carbon cycle and ECS. In short if we have a plan for the future we should probably dedicate a bunch of wall time to exploring that plan.

    The tension I see is between a “pure science” approach which wants to look at a full spectrum of
    uncertainties ( emissions, carbon cycle, ECS) with unlimited wall time (maybe GCM emulators would be better) and applied science which wants to inform policy.

    The folks involved are in an tough position from a design of experiments standpoint. whatever they do can and will be criticized from either purely analytical grounds or from applied grounds

  12. izen says:

    As has been pointed out repeatedly it is the total cumulative emissions that matter. The various emissions pathways if continued without reducing to near zero emissions all lead to the same point, just over different timescales.

    The only credible way that a certain atmospheric CO2 loading can be refuted is if there is insufficient fossil fuel to generate those emissions.
    But as the leader of the free world has pointed out;

  13. Ben McMillan says:

    I don’t think it is plausible to claim that if emissions follow an RCP4.5 emissions scenario (fine, it is really a concentrations scenario) for the next 50 years, we are still going to burn all the coal over the following 100 years and end up with huge cumulative emissions.

    Basically in the case where emissions are flat (or increase at, say, 0.6% per year) over the next 50 years, we will have to have built essentially no new coal plants, and a large fraction of power will be generated by zero-carbon plant. Also, most transport would be electrified.

    I can’t see how, in 50 years time, in that scenario, that building a coal-burning or peat-burning power plant would be a good idea. Or running transport on fossil fuels.

    Basically, by spending some resources now deploying low carbon infrastructure, we have already got to the point where it is competitive on cost grounds. In 50 years, in this scenario where we deploy lots of zero-carbon tech, it will be a complete no-brainer.

    That is, if RCP8.5-type cumulative emissions are going to happen, they will happen in 2100, not 2200. (although there are ways to still get to that concentration scenario)

  14. Ben,
    Yes, I agree that we have probably got to the point where we are very unlikely to follow an emission pathway typically associated with RCP8.5. However, I do find the apparent complacency a bit concerning. There are a lot of people in the developing world who would (justifiably) like better lifestyles. Is that going to happen through a significant expansion of alternatives, or will some grow their fossil fuel infrastructure first? Can we be sure that something won’t happen in the next few decades (some major conflict, for example) that could lead to an increased use of fossil fuels? So, I don’t think anyone who is pushing back against the objections to RCP8.5 are doing so because they think it’s likely; they’re doing so because they’re not yet convinced that it’s been ruled out.

    That is, if RCP8.5-type cumulative emissions are going to happen, they will happen in 2100, not 2200.

    Do you mean happen in 2200, not 2100? This is also a point to consider. If we haven’t got emissions to zero by 2100, then concentrations will continue to rise. Given the long atmospheric lifetime of CO2 I don’t think we should regard reaching RCP8.5-like concentrations in 2150, for example, as being something we shouldn’t be concerned about today.

  15. Chubbs says:

    Perfectly OK to discuss scenarios and point out their weakpoints (they all have them). Saying that climate scientists are using RCP85 to scare people is BS and borders on denialism. Why? Only climate geeks care about CMIP scenarios and the implied message is that it takes an unrealistic scenario to make climate science scary.

  16. Ben McMillan says:

    Well, actually I think “bad stuff happens in next 30 years and we burn a lot of fuel” is actually somewhat plausible (but not most likely scenario). Some kind of nightmare scenario where spiteful nutcases take over the major industrial countries and indulge in coal-burning as a weird vice-signalling mechanism and there is a race to the bottom.

    The “energy experts” and economists have terrible records of accurate long-term predictions, so their claims that RCP8.5 concentrations in 2100 are impossible don’t deserve to be taken too seriously. Sure, it seems low-probability. People like Nordhaus have predicted RCP8.5-like scenarios before, after all. (I’m ignoring the never-ending politically driven attacks on RCP8.5/scientists from the usual suspects).

    But I think a path where fossil fuel becomes uncompetitive with alternatives, and we stop burning it because we don’t need to, is much more likely. That is, basically an extension of what is happening now, where in certain places, and certain sectors, electrification and zero-carbon tech is cheaper than the alternatives, but fossil usage increases elsewhere. So a plateau or slow rise in emissions like the last 10 years or continuing in the near term (again, this implies >2C climate change).

    What I think is implausible is that we follow this RCP4.5-like scenario, but then continue emitting substantial amounts of CO2 between 2070-2200. I mean, why would someone in 2070 build a coal plant? Population probably levels off, which also helps. OK, I’m also happy to let someone else worry about making choices about what happens after 2100, as long as we haven’t done too much irreversible damage.

  17. Greg Robie says:

    Given our global economic paradigm of GREED-as-go_d, which is predicated on an every expanding pool of viable credit, isn’t it ‘easy’ to determine what pathway our species has, is, and will choose … until the climate changes are sufficient to collapse this paradigm/’civilization’?

    Credit, the lifeblood of CapitalismFail’s, now – and delusionarily so – limited liability law construct, must grow debt to live. This can be accomplished at least five ways: (1) increase the per capita debt; (2) increase the credit worthiness on a per capita basis; (3) inflate the currency; (4) increase the social need for consumables; (5) increase the population that can be viably indebted. “Check”, regarding all five. With peak ‘conventional’ oil, the systemic limits to continued growth of credit are increasingly visible to those who are ‘cursed’/gifted with an open mind. Given the increasing inequitable distribution of ‘wealth’ among the species’ populations, are not some waking up from the underlying and overarching trusted delusion?

    This awakening is caused by the psychic noise (irrationality) that is fundamental to the socially trusted limited liability law enabled construct of GREED-as-go_d. As a social construct it is in conflict with our human emotional need to cooperate (oxytocin). The energy equivalent slaves of the oil era are the lynch pin regarding maintaining ‘hope’/wishful thinking relative to our trust in GREED’s house-of-cards foundation of debt. Motivated reasoning is the glue holding it together. (Or, wake up … if you can … and smell the rubble.) Our kids are!

    …Or, aren’t death, taxes, and collapse our three human social constants?

    If I recall the recent Real Climate post on climate sensitivity model runs, three of them are now generating a number for climate sensitivity in excess of 5°C. Again, if I remember correctly, the lowest number for climate sensitivity was generated by modeling an all water planet (& the relevance of this?!?). The time constraints of reporting out to the IPCC has dictated a one model/one vote approach to “consensus”.

    That is silly.

    Isn’t such an approach simply sloppy science and affects a naming of a metaphorical lowest common denominator? The concerns noted in that Real Climate post about the approach suggested as much.

    The Inuit observations concerning two increasing seasonal lifts in the Arctic tropopause regarding increased refraction (and hat I’ve shared here about how this is both a new and additional top-of-the-troposphere ‘functional insolation’ – heat transfer by conduction), suggest to me that some of this additional heat is showing up in some of the current climate sensitivity model runs.

    Like Ed Dlugokencky’s scientifically ‘silly’ two year ‘study’ around 2009, which, by convention, averaged away an observed increase in atmospheric methane in the Arctic (which, BTW, was discounted by a University of Edinburg analysis of satellite data by Bloom et. al. around the same time), academic science is not immune to being cooped to ‘confirm’ delusional observer [cultural] biases.

    Or, isn’t it just as reasonable, if not more so, to reframe this post and affirm that it is easy for emission and energy experts to constrain the RPCs they need to focus on. Simply eliminate the ones that depend on unicorn NET (negative emission technologies) at scale. Given that 2° Nordhaus has a boatload of unicorns in his assumptions, his significantly equivocated 2°C can be placed in the dust bin and the scientific 1°C upper boundary regarding catastrophic perturbation of the climate system can be returned to the table of CapitalismFail to address.

    It couldn’t before, and it can’t now … because we are blowing through that limit as I tap this on this screen.

    https://paulbeckwith.net/the-miracle-of-the-momentthe-terror-of-the-now/

    Or:

    And/Or isn’t it way past time for the University of Edinburg to place itself at a cooperative table with the rest of ‘civil’ society’s academic institutions and effect a zero carbon business model by 2025 … as social proof that scientific knowledge is significantly different from mysticism-by-another-name.

    sNAILmALEnotHAIL …but pace’n myself

    life is for learning

    so all my failures must mean

    that I’m wicked smart

    >

  18. Ben,
    Yes, I agree that if alternatives start to dominate then it will become increasingly unlikely that we will return to increasing fossil fuel use.

  19. Please do not link to Paul Beckwith, he is as bad as Monckton.

  20. Everett F Sargent says:

    Well I think that all SSP’s are currently off the table. In the perfect is the enemy of the hood (yes hood not good) department, 1.9, 2.6, 3.4, 4.5 and 6.0 are too low and 7.0 and 8.5 are way too high. Goldilocks (sekrit c0de w0rd for someone else in this thread) goes home empty handed.

    But if I had to pick just one it would be 6.0 …
    https://tntcat.iiasa.ac.at/SspDb/dsd?Action=htmlpage&page=50
    (CMIP6 Emissions)
    https://tntcat.iiasa.ac.at/SspDb/dsd?Action=htmlpage&page=40
    (IAM Scenarios (atmospheric concentrations are in there you just have to look))

    You may need to login at least as guest AFAIK, but these are the official IAM numbers that will be used in CMIP6 AFAIK.

  21. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    Are you going to post about the Palmer and Stevens paper? I’d be curious to get your take.

  22. Joshua,
    Is that the one where they suggested we needed even bigger models?

  23. Joshua says:

    Yah –

    FWIW – I think they kind of miss the point in that they are arguing that the high level of uncertainty with existing modeling means society can’t take action, whereas I think the high level of uncertainty with existing modeling is actually a reason for society take action.

    Iow, imo, the problem isn’t with the level of uncertainty, but with how people deal with uncertainty.

    They seem to think that defining “fit for purpose” is some kind of objective scientific standard.

  24. There are mitigation and pre-adaptation actions we can take that are appropriate for RCP 2.5 and necessary for RCP 6.0. We’re actually working on some of them at a rather glacial pace.

    We could focus more attention on them instead of playing capture the flag.

  25. Joshua says:

    > We could focus more attention on them instead of playing capture the flag.

    The reason why society hasn’t taken action appropriate for 2.5 and necessary for 6.0 is most decidedly NOT singularly attributable to people misusing 8.5.

    In fact, I haven’t seen convincing (to me) evidence that a putative misuse of 8.5 has actually had any material effect. Seems to me it may have had some marginal impact – but the direction of the impact seems unknowable. What’s interesting is that people are so sure about the impact absent any convincing evidence.

    Making such claims may not help at all, and if anything may only contribute to the inaction.

    But it does satisfy certain tribal impulses.

  26. Everett F Sargent says:

    Joshua, ATTP,

    That paper appears to be somewhat self serving. Two climate modelers (go figure) propose ‘so called’ fidelity in some form of high resolution non-parameterized modelling of indeterminate origins (they bring up the NS equations AND talk about their theoretical limitation all in he same paper no less).

    They seem to think that high fidelity climate models are possible, but when if ever? You can certainly have high fidelity models, but are these still missing the bulk properties of the climate system (e. h. stratified ocean currents salinities temperatures and densities).

    I am somewhat at a loss for words.

  27. EFS,
    Yes, that was similar to my views.

  28. ecoquant says:

    I’m surprised the implication buried in @Jai Mitchell’s comment

    The combination of these two inferences indicate that 3C is now ensured and that, in the absence of complete societal transformation through mass protest over the next 3-5 years, 4-5C by 2070 and complete societal collapse.

    (emphasis added)

    was missed. Lest people think this is being overly alarmist, I think it is worth considering in the context of what has been suggested about the Nordhaus-like “I’m sure it will all work out in the end” school, the findings reported by Sir David King, who is not only no fool, but is a deep systems thinker in this interview:

    Sir David King on Climate Repair, “Talking Politics” podcast

    If “tl;dr” or, rather, “tl;dl”, he reports on a UK study where actuaries and the like were brought in to assess what would happen in a >3C world, tracing impacts to many things, but particularly upon food chains, given that these in many places have been replaced by long range ones. The findings were that, indeed, these would break down and, to the degree governments could no longer supply basic necessities, this would be soon followed by breakdown in civil order and governance, echoing that part of @Jai Mitchell’s comment. I hate the idea, but there well might be a fragility in the social fabric that no one is considering, or modeling, since these are also highly nonlinear.

    And as far as

    Should we take people seriously who are frustrated by RCP8.5, but not by RCP2.6?

    goes, that implies a truly false equivalence. Applying entropy maximization on possible modeling and risk errors, facts are ECS 2C or even ECS > 3C. So there’s a lot more to worry about north of 3C, unless you have a lot of confidence that you understand the density function and know that mass is under 3C or 2C. But all I hear from the crowd which champions the < 3C case is that "everything is so uncertain”. As has been said many times before, uncertainty here is not your friend.

  29. mrkenfabian says:

    The whole climate issue so far looks like a case of gross mismanagement making a manageable problem less manageable – but it is not a case of either/or; we are still capable of making things a lot worse through bad decision making, just as we can make things less bad through good decisions.

    I do think our civilisation, such as it is, is inherently fragile – if the institutions and practices that moderate our shortsighted and self/tribe-serving behaviors break down, or, whilst maintaining the outward forms are getting bent out of shape, e.g. populist majorities “democratically” turning those institutions to shortsighted and self/tribe-serving ends that are at the expense of others – social/ethnic others or as a legacy to future others within their own polity, or at the expense of those of other nation… then we are in serious trouble. Especially because the physical climate consequences are cumulative and effectively irreversible

    So, yes I think we face a genuine existential threat, not, I think, from the direct climate impacts but indirectly from bad decision making. Which makes good management even more important.

  30. Steven Mosher says:

    “The only credible way that a certain atmospheric CO2 loading can be refuted is if there is insufficient fossil fuel to generate those emissions.”

    Biggest challenge will be replacing the coal income from export for indonesia and australia.

  31. David B. Benson says:

    Willard wants something both fresh and well-seasoned:
    https://www.e-education.psu.edu/ebf483/node/527
    is about day ahead and real time electricity markets, MJP style.

  32. sidd says:

    Prof. Venema (and others) point out that concentration paths are not the same as emission paths. This is very important. We have signs that arctic is becoming carbon source and other carbon sinks may also falter.

    I just found the DVD and watched Ratatouile a few nights ago …

    sidd

  33. dikranmarsupial says:

    “The only credible way that a certain atmospheric CO2 loading can be refuted is if there is insufficient fossil fuel to generate those emissions.”

    unless there is substantial positive carbon cycle feedback?

  34. unless there is substantial positive carbon cycle feedback?

    Indeed. My understanding is that this is probably limited to around 100 GtC this century, but I don’t know how well constrained this actually is. One could also include that the maximum airborne fraction is probably around 0.8.

  35. David B. Benson says:

    Amazing. The USA has Too Much Natural Gas.

    This does not bode well, but it does mean early retirement for coal burners.

  36. dikranmarsupial says:

    ATTP presumably that doesn’t include something like a big burp of melted ocean calthrate hydrates?

  37. No, I think it’s purely considers the ocean uptake (standard carbonate chemistry) and the land.

  38. verytallguy says:

    I don’t think there’s any evidence that clathrates are a real risk this century.

    Unless someone can point to reputable evidence saying otherwise?

  39. vtg,
    No, I’m not aware of any evidence to suggest that clathrates are a real risk this century.

  40. dikranmarsupial says:

    Nor me, however what happens in subsequent centuries should not have zero weight in deciding current policy (IMHO) and there can also be nasty surprises. I mainly just wanted to check that the diagrams were for the standard mechanisms only (I’m assuming they do include Arctic permafrost).

  41. Ben McMillan says:

    Could someone outline the reasons why RCP8.5 is considered so improbable? There seem to be enough fossil reserves to go around, and it doesn’t seem that hard to imagine a 1.3% or so annual growth in world energy usage.

  42. Chubbs says:

    After soaking on this for a few days, I am struck by the emotional energy invested in CMIP emission scenarios. May be telling us more about how we think about the future than the 2100 conditions themselves.

  43. Ben,
    The general argument is that the only way to get the required missions is to have a very large increase in the use of coal, which energy experts regard as highly improbable. I tend to agree with them. However, there are two issues I have with being too confident about this. One is that it is clearly very difficult to predict the long-timescale evolution of socio-economic systems. It’s not as if we’re not known for doing stupid things. The other is the uncertainty in carbon cycle feedbacks. If we emit enough to get reasonably close, then I don’t think we can rule out nature closing the gap.

    On top of that, there are other reasons for still using an RCP8.5 pathway. It’s a useful worst case, it allows us to study the impact of high levels of warming that could still occur if climate sensitivity turns out to be on the high side, and it’s useful to have a common pathway for model inter-comparison.

  44. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/08/180816143035.htm

    “Thermokarst lakes provide a completely different scenario. When the lakes form, they flash-thaw these permafrost areas,” said Walter Anthony, an associate professor with UAF’s Water and Environmental Research Center. “Instead of centimeters of thaw, which is common for terrestrial environments, we’ve seen 15 meters of thaw beneath newly formed lakes in Goldstream Valley within the past 60 years.”

    Emissions from thermokarst lakes aren’t currently factored into global climate models because their small size makes individual lakes difficult to include. However, the study’s authors show that these lakes are hotspots of permafrost carbon release. They argue that not including them in global climate models overlooks their feedback effect, which occurs when the release of greenhouse gases from permafrost increases warming. That feedback is significant because methane is about 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a heat-trapping gas.

    I think there is some evidence that clathrates could be a real risk in this century, and, as dikran mentions, perhaps what happens in subsequent centuries should not have zero weight.

    Cheers all,

    Mike

  45. Ben McMillan says:

    Hmm, OK, I guess my question is, why do these experts think, assuming that energy usage does increase a factor of 3 over 2020 levels by 2100, using lots of coal is unlikely? Where is the energy coming from?

    The overwhelming majority of our energy consumption (in primary energy terms) at the moment is fossil fuels. So assuming that continues to be the case doesn’t seem so unreasonable. Coal is pretty cheap, and can substitute for most uses for other fossil fuels, although making liquid fuel out of it would be inconvenient.

    Of course I don’t think this will happen for two reasons:
    1) Humans aren’t stupid enough to follow RCP8.5 and trash the climate.
    2) Renewables are already cheaper than coal in most places.

    Of course arguing that RCP8.5 wasn’t worth studying because studies of RCP8.5 show that we shouldn’t follow RCP8.5 is a comprehensively self-defeating argument. And argument 2 seems to be ‘not universally accepted’ to put it mildly.

  46. Ben,

    Hmm, OK, I guess my question is, why do these experts think

    Well, my experience is that one reason might be that the happen to be extremely confident about their views.

    As an aside, there was a bizarre exchange where they discussed developing a scenario that extended to 2100 and decided that they would take the IEA scenarios that go to about 2040 and then use continuation of trends and educated guesses to take it to 2100. It’s beyond me why people don’t accept their assertions that RCP8.5 is essentially impossible 😀

  47. dikranmarsupial says:

    “The general argument is that the only way to get the required missions is to have a very large increase in the use of coal, which energy experts regard as highly improbable.”

    Ironically, I suspect the one reason why this is improbable is because we were told what would likely happen under A1FI and didn’t like what we saw. I don’t see a problem with reminding politicians of this, with RCP8.5, when we have leaders like Donald Trump.

  48. Somewhat bizarrely some of the arguments seem to suggest that we’ve achieved some of this without climate policy. Although this may be true in the sense that we haven’t implemented something like a global carbon tax, it seems clear that the issue has been prominent enough to have influenced what we’ve done (i.e., it’s not independent of the fact that people have been highlighting what would happen if we ended up following an RCP8.5-like pathway).

  49. verytallguy says:

    I am very sceptical of claims that RCP8.5 is not achievable regardless of policy.

    There are sufficient fossil fuels. History shows that resources tend to be used until they are all gone, followed by a sudden collapse.

    There are sectors (transport in particular, military, some aspects of agriculture) where renewables are far inferior, or not technically possible (aviation).

    There are countries (Australia, Russia, Saudi) whose entire prosperity depends on fossil fuel extraction.

  50. verytallguy says:

    Meant to add that forecasts of future resource use have a very poor record, in both directions.

  51. ecoquant says:

    @Ben McMillan,

    (“Ooh, pick me! Pick me!”)

    A third: Climate impacts come early or governments see the light or both, and a deep climate impacts recession ensues, with huge losses in real estate on coasts, skyrocketing insurance premiums, knock on effects as people flee from ICE vehicles, and construction industry depresses, not only because demand collapses below the speculation floor, but because states and locales become embroiled in arguments about whether or not it pays to rebuild in place or move instead.

  52. Everett F Sargent says:

    The basic argument for RCP 8.5, the Business As Usual (BAU) pathway is a primary fossil fueled future through to, at least 2100.

    So what exactly happens in this so-called BAU scenario? Well, the reserves and resources of oil and gas are depleted or peak but energy usage does not peak (think growth. economic growth, population growth and per capita growth).

    So in a BAU scenario we lose two FF’s, namely oil and gas (very simplified, but our future limits occur 1st with these two FF reserves/resources). So, as should be rather obvious by now, in a predominately FF future we all are left with coal. And, not withstanding arguments that only employ proven reserves of coal, there is a tremendous amount of coal resources.

    So, in a FF future, we use and have to use coal. Any arguments to the contrary must admit to WWS and nuclear as the dominant energy sources in the last half of the 20th century. In other words, when you argue against BAU, you ARE arguing for primarily renewables.

    So, when you hear contrarians arguing against BAU, please remember, that they ARE arguing for a renewables future, a glacial pace of renewables to be sure, but nonetheless a renewables future. 🙂

    Oh, and I have the reports and spreadsheets to prove the above …
    https://www.bgr.bund.de/EN/Themen/Energie/Produkte/produkte_node_en.html?tab=Energy+Studies
    https://www.bgr.bund.de/DE/Themen/Energie/Produkte/produkte_node.html?tab=Energiestudien

  53. Ben McMillan says:

    Well, I had a read through
    “Why do climate change scenarios return to coal?”
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.energy.2017.08.083

    And the arguments against lot of coal use in 2100 seem to be that
    1) Future discoveries of economic coal are massively overstated (as far as I can tell that doesn’t matter as current proven reserves are big enough for RCP8.5).
    2) Coal usage would have to increase to well above current trends, and that is inconceivable.
    3) Maybe we won’t run out of oil+gas (seems possible, although this wouldn’t make much difference).

    None of it was very strong, but it certainly beat the posturing on twitter.

  54. https://www.truthdig.com/articles/the-scariest-climate-stories-emerging-from-the-arctic/

    If/when the trends on warming/thawing/melting move from the long/slow x axis to a steep/fast y axis and the graph begins to remind us of the shape of a hockey stick, things may happen more quickly than we would think as we look backward down the x axis and think/hope we can know the future by observing the past.

    If we hit that acceleration to the y axis and can spot the change and identify a new trend that overcomes noise, we will see projections about impacts in the century change in major ways. Uncertainty is not our friend.

    as Jason Box said in the article linked below: “Even if a small fraction of the Arctic carbon were released to the atmosphere, we’re fucked,” he told me. What alarmed him was that “the methane bubbles were reaching the surface. That was something new in my survey of methane bubbles,” he said.

    https://www.salon.com/2014/08/06/climate_scientist_drops_the_f_bomb_after_startling_arctic_discovery/

    I think it was Woody Allen who once said, I am not afraid of dying, I just don’t want to be there when it happens. I think that sentiment works with carbon releases from the Arctic. It won’t hurt us as long as we aren’t alive when it happens.

    Cheers,

    Mike

  55. Steven Mosher says:

    There are countries (Australia, Russia, Saudi) whose entire prosperity depends on fossil fuel extraction.

    Add indonesia.

    Kill coal and indonesia dies or gets radicalized.

    I can imagine that people will come up with schemes to prop up/assist countries that rely on
    FF extraction. The opportunity for fraud ( especially in places like indonesia) will be enormous.

    or take russia. you will either have to convince russia to transition on its own or assist them or force them. good luck forcing them to keep the gas in the ground. Anybody want to volunteer
    to send cash to russia to help them transition away from FF? Bueller?
    If you do I have some agents who will take all your cash and make some awesome awesome promises.
    good luck collecting when they dont deliver.

  56. Everett F Sargent says:

    “The opportunity for fraud ( especially in places like indonesia) will be enormous.”

    Especially with thimble sized ships, trucks and digging apparati (that even the world’s most powerful electron microscope can’t see) …

    Uge? Bigly Uge!

  57. paulski0 says:

    I’ve had a look into some of the scenario comparisons going around twitter and they basically all seem to be flawed. Most obvious being one from Roger Pielke Jr which compares total CO2 emissions (FF+land use) from SSPs to FF-only from GCP.

    Similarly, Justin Ritchie’s plot showing 2040 comparisons with RCP and SSP baselines, which has been cited around, compares all FF & industry emissions from IPCC data with only primary energy FF emissions from IEA.

    Justin Ritchie has now put one up which purports to compare like-for-like Energy FF CO2 emissions from IEA (past + forecast) with SSPs. But I’ve found the underlying IEA primary energy data and compared with the SSP primary energy data, and it suggests there’s something wrong with Ritchie’s comparison. How can 2010 IEA fossil fuel primary energy be above all SSPs but IEA primary energy CO2 emissions be below all SSPs?

    The SSP database doesn’t provide an energy-only FF CO2 emissions output, so I’ve asked Ritchie how he calculated the SSP figures. In the meantime I’ve reconstructed my own version of the graph using like-for-like primary energy data and then applying like-for-like CO2 emissions conversion factors for each of oil, gas and coal obtained from the IEA data. This seems to me the best way to do a like-for-like comparison with the IEA WEO 2019 forecasts.

    It shows the Current Policies Scenario tracking about half way between baseline RCP6 and RCP7 level scenarios. According to the MAGICC integration of scenarios in this range (presumably using 3ºC ECS?), this would suggest 2100 warming above pre-industrial of 3-4ºC.

    The Stated Policies Scenario is almost exactly on the low end of the SSP baseline FF energy range by 2040, a SSP1 scenario. The 2100 warming in that particular scenario run is 3.4ºC, which is the second highest under SSP1 despite the lowest FF CO2 emissions. That’s because land use emissions drop slower under this scenario, methane and N2O emissions are the highest, negative aerosol forcing reduces relatively quickly and relatively high F-gas emissions. The MAGICC warming range across all SSP1 runs is 3-3.5ºC.

  58. paulski0 says:

    Ben McMillan,

    I read that paper too, got to the Summary and Conclusions section with the first line…

    This paper has described how IAMs produce upwardly biased scenarios of future RF with a return to coal hypothesis which is an unlikely reference case for the 21st-century global energy system

    …and thought “Wait, when did they show that?”.

    Pretty sure RCP8.5 level (assuming oil and gas do start running out fairly quickly) scenarios do require quite a bit more than current proven coal reserves. That’s where the paper was strongest I think, in explaining how the (effectively unlimited) creation of new coal reserves over time is based on a model of future developments in the coal industry which is unproven, and of course probably wrong (as are all models etc.). But showing that this particular model is unproven and wrong, without demonstrating a correct model can’t possibly rule out potential developments of coal extraction required for RCP8.5.

    There also seems to be an inherent assumption among many supply-side academics that current proven reserves are overstated and much of it will never be extracted.

  59. Ben McMillan says:

    Well, the World Coal Association claims proven reserves of 1.1 trillion tonnes of coal. That is 32ZJ if I’ve managed to convert it right (3.2×10^22 J). ‘Global Energy Assessment’ suggests 20ZJ of reserves.

    The RCP8.5 coal use rises steeply after 2040 from about 200EJ/year to about 800EJ/year, so I make it roughly 500EJ for 60 years (until 2100), so that makes 30ZJ.

    So it doesn’t seem like we need lots more new coal discovery.

  60. ecoquant says:

    @paulski0, @Everett F Sargent,

    Well, clearly, if the international community — or, for that matter, any individual country — is serious about cutting fossil fuel emissions, they will need to:

    (a) do independent audits of emissions in addition to relying upon self-reporting, the practice which the U.S. EPA has used for years; these needn’t be comprehensive: a sampling plan without notification should suffice

    (b) impose stiff fines on abusers

    (c) have a global monitoring regime set up which can pinpoint and attribute emissions in a forensic manner, providing evidence which can be associated with specific times

    (d) have an administrative courts system for implementing these

    (e) perhaps have a means of embarrassing specific polluters on an international level.

    In addition to failing to declare tough standards for countries to meet, the lack of will to engage in these kinds of measures indicates the international community is not yet serious about these things.

    Increasingly, particularly with the collapse or at least deflation of international cooperation regimes, and with the re-emergence of some kind of Cold War mentality, at least on scientific cooperation, I don’t see how any of this is going to happen.

    Accordingly, I think we all — and especially investors — need to prepare for essentially nothing being done until costs of climate disruption are visited upon their holdings and properties, at a level beyond the willingness or capacity of governments and their publics to pay. There is a role for insurers and for more astute central bankers and the like, but they cannot force people to care about their perceived self-interests.

    It’s going to be an expensive self half of the 21st century ….

  61. paulski0 says:

    Ben McMillan,

    Not something I’ve checked before. I make it cumulative coal primary energy in the headline SSP5 scenario comes to 44.6ZJ from 2005 to 2100, though I think that might be more than in AR5 RCP8.5 (Riahi et al. 2011). The SSP3-RCP7 scenario comes to 31.1ZJ.

    But there is a strong belief in the supply-side academic community that current proven reserve estimates represent an upper bound on all the coal which will ever be extracted, though the basis for this belief seems shaky to me. This is from a supplementary document for Ritchie and Dowlatabadi 2018

    Ritchie and Dowlatabadi (2017a) discuss the history of continuous downward revisions in coal reserves, highlighting how ongoing declines reflect many important factors which indicate the total amount of hard coal reserves is the plausible upper bound on future combustion

    This is a common view expressed by supply side peeps though seems to be flatly contradicted by World Energy Council reports on coal, which suggest coal reserves are underestimated and official reserve figures are pretty meaningless.

    So I think the idea is that you need a lot more proven reserves in order to ultimately extract the current amount of proven reserves.

  62. Everett F Sargent says:

    PP,

    IAM (pun intended) skeptical of anything R&D have produced to date. I don’t see either as 1st hand energy experts or economists.

    1989 is what most sane people would call an outlier.

  63. Ben McMillan says:

    Paulskio:
    So basically R+D are arguing that not only will we never discover significantly more coal, we won’t be able to exploit most of what we have already discovered, even if we run out of oil and gas. Also that we should ignore high estimates of ultimately recoverable resources.

    The irritating thing is not that the actual argument is implausible: it is the implication that anyone who thinks differently, or even takes into account a higher figure as a serious possibility, is incompetent or biased.

    I guess this comes back to ATTPs ‘extremely confident of their views’ (less polite phrases come to mind).

    I’m happy to believe that ultimately we might not be able to recover 35EJ of coal, but there are plenty of plausible sources that suggest we can, so surely that’s a reasonable starting point for a pathway with relatively high fossil fuel usage?

    I think the statement “RCP8.5 is consistent with high (i.e. rather than extreme) estimates of ultimately recoverable coal reserves” is reasonable.

  64. Willard says:

    > I guess this comes back to ATTPs ‘extremely confident of their views’ (less polite phrases come to mind).

    Not sure which version I would use for that kind of response:

    On the one hand, it’s fine to set up one’s limits. On the other, you clearly made some homework, PaulS. It’s not like you’re asking for room service. Some feedback on what you did would seem warranted here.

  65. mrkenfabian says:

    If global climate agreements commitments break down (there are interests and governments around the world, like my own nation’s, that would welcome that), if international relations and trade become more conflicted and less cooperative, if corruption thrives and integrity withers, if electrical transport fails to scale up and coal to oil takes off in a big way (there are nations that would welcome that) – then I think an ongoing shift away from fossil fuels can be turned back. Some of these possibilities could be exacerbated by climate impacts themselves.

    I do not think the potential for making things worse through poor management and corrupt governance can be ruled out, so I do not think RCP8.5 levels of emissions can be ruled out.

  66. High estimates of coal use are an artifact of the peak oil scare. Some planners assumed nations would be converting coal to synthetic oil to burn in cars and gasifiying it for heating etc.
    Hydraulic fracturing is producing gas so cheap that it’s killing coal use in power plants (and reducing emissions) and oil is abundant and cheap. Coal use is only going to go up in nations that don’t have gas fields or easy access to Russian or American gas exports- China, India to name the big two. Since both know wind and solar aren’t the answer, they will use coal, hydro and nuclear.

  67. Steven Mosher says:

    “(a) do independent audits of emissions in addition to relying upon self-reporting, the practice which the U.S. EPA has used for years; these needn’t be comprehensive: a sampling plan without notification should suffice

    (b) impose stiff fines on abusers

    (c) have a global monitoring regime set up which can pinpoint and attribute emissions in a forensic manner, providing evidence which can be associated with specific times

    (d) have an administrative courts system for implementing these

    (e) perhaps have a means of embarrassing specific polluters on an international level.

    truly funny.

    the EPA can impose fines because it has an enforcement mechanism.
    Now, the entire fucking world cannot get North Korea to stop building nuclear capable missiles
    how are you going to force Russia to cease with FF extraction? or even indonesia.

    establish a court system that Russia and indonesia will submit to? or else? or else what?
    embarass Russia on a global scale? embarass the Saudis? the guys who kill journalists
    embarass them, how? exactly? scream how dare you?

  68. ecoquant says:

    @Steven Mosher,

    My point is that the futility of establishing such mechanisms which you highlight is the very reason for being pessimistic that any system of international enforcement on climate mitigation is likely to work, let alone a system which pursues clear air capture or, Flying Spaghetti Monster help us, SRM. I don’t think it’s as futile as you think, but I understand the obstacles.

    I just wanted to point out what kinds of things are needed.

    The EPA seldom has imposed enforcement penalties which make the penalized blink. Indeed, the bigger punishment is the negative publicity. Worse, my point was, their very detection mechanism is biased in favor of prospective violators. They initially denied the intensity of methane emissions from wells and fractured shale sites, until independent investigators quantified the discrepancies.

    And presumed economic incentives don’t work well in energy industries …. People do things because they’ve always done them in a certain way and, more or less, have been able to get away with doing them that way.

  69. Ben McMillan says:

    RCP8.5 indeed assumes that there is a return to coal after 2040, and that does make things worse. What happens if oil+gas don’t run out?

    Let’s instead assume the same energy demand profile, but with roughly fixed proportions of coal, oil and gas as a function of time. Then coal use is halved in 2100 (to about 400EJ/year), and unconventional oil/gas picks up the slack (with 50% lower emissions intensity). So you have reduced emissions by ~20% in 2100, but not changed things much in 2040. Overall cumulative emissions are down ~10% from RCP8.5.

    It seems like a lot of outrage over 10%: how accurate a high-end projection do we need? I have a sneaking suspicion that if the scientists had gone for RCP7.7 instead, the same people would still be outraged.

    But obviously if oil and gas don’t run out (i.e. current estimates of unconventional gas and oil reserves are about right), then there’s no reason that fossil energy demand couldn’t be a bit higher and land you at RCP8.5 or above. As far as I can tell, the scientists setting these pathways actually low-balled the available resources, but they are being attacked for overestimating them.

  70. paulski0 says:

    jeffnsails850,

    Hydraulic fracturing is producing gas so cheap that it’s killing coal use in power plants (and reducing emissions) and oil is abundant and cheap.

    Because of the focus on coal it’s kind of missed that a key facet of headline-SSP5 is that it is a scenario of relatively huge abundance of cheap oil and gas. Up until 2030 CO2 emissions growth is driven almost entirely by sharp increases in oil and gas consumption while coal plateaus. In OECD countries coal consumption for energy drops by 33% between 2005 and 2030.

    But from 2030 the oil supply stops being able to satisfy the rapidly rising demand for liquid fuel for transport and coal liquification starts to fill in the gap. Of course, people get hung up on the details on such things. I would think it’s also plausible that this results in a turn towards electric vehicles and coal is currently the largest and fastest growing (arithmetically) source of electricity generation.

    In reality, according to official records, oil consumption growth is currently quite a long way below where SSP5 projected. That would suggest the “return to coal” might be delayed by a couple of decades.

  71. “That would suggest the “return to coal” might be delayed by a couple of decades.”

    I don’t think there is any reason to expect a return to coal. Electric cars work and are getting better, they simply need low cost, abundant electricity. And we have solutions for that.

  72. As the Heritage piece points out, the emissions reductions are still there, the only thing he did was stop the federal government from forcing the closure of existing coal plants. Nobody is going to build new coal plants- the only one on the drawing board in the US is for a university in Fairbanks Alaska, which will use it to heat the campus. It’s oddly difficult to use solar panels to heat a campus in subzero winter temps in places where the sun doesn’t come out in winter.
    It will be the first new one in the US since 2015 (who was president that year?)
    And the US is still rapidly retiring coal plants thanks to natural gas.
    The US coal industry is doing ok exporting coal- they hit record exports thanks in part to global climate policies based on the novel theory that CO2 from American and Australian coal doesn’t count if it’s burned outside those countries.

    https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060140743

    There is plenty of oil, plenty of natural gas, and electric cars are selling. Liquification of coal will only happen if the world suddenly gets a whole lot less wealthy.

  73. ecoquant says:

    Yeah, but Mr Market is exhibiting a tremendous lack of imagination and creativity for some reason. Natural gas fuel cells anyone? How about cracking off Hydrogen from Methane and capturing the resulting CO2?

  74. paulski0 says:

    jeffnsails850,

    I don’t think there is any reason to expect a return to coal. Electric cars work and are getting better, they simply need low cost, abundant electricity.

    How would the transport sector moving towards an energy source dominated by coal prevent a return to coal?

    Liquification of coal will only happen if the world suddenly gets a whole lot less wealthy.

    Liquification of coal isn’t cheap. The only reason it would happen is if we run out of oil and want liquid fuels. That’s why it happens in scenarios in which we run out of oil and want liquid fuels. Coal-To-Liquid actually only happens in 2 of the 5 SSP5 baseline scenarios in the database. In the other 3 there is more of a movement away from liquid fuels for transport towards electric vehicles. But this simply results in more coal burned in power plants to supply the additional electricity needed.

    Looking through the various IAM mitigation scenarios there doesn’t seem to be a lot of support for vehicle-electrification being a particularly effective means of reducing CO2 emissions, over the next few decades at least. Without a strong renewable energy network in place it largely results in building of more coal plants and burning more coal to satisfy the growing electricity demand.

  75. Ben McMillan says:

    Well, any option where primary energy use is primarily supplied by fossil fuels lands you somewhere in the neighbourhood of RCP6 or RCP8.5 (regardless of ‘but electric cars’).

    My understanding is that estimates of fossil fuel reserves have in fact dramatically increased since these RCP/SSPs were laid out though: there is now around as much proved reserve of unconventional gas as there is coal. So this makes things like RCP8.5 more likely, not less.

    I didn’t realise there was an academic contingent of peak-X people (supply-siders): I had mostly read the big international agency reports and things like the BP statistical report.

  76. “How would the transport sector moving towards an energy source dominated by coal prevent a return to coal?”
    Coal is not necessary for cheap, abundant, emissions-free electricity. Ask France. By-the-by, I think the sudden and extensive rise in nuclear power in the ’70s and ’80s was also an artifact of the peak oil scare. If you think you need to put your coal reserves in the gas tanks of Chevrolets, you don’t want to burn it by the megaton for dishwashers and air conditioners.
    Coal is 30% of US electricity and falling. Gas is replacing it because it’s cheap, it works, and it’s also necessary in areas pretending that solar/wind are meaningful.

    “….there is now around as much proved reserve of unconventional gas as there is coal. So this makes things like RCP8.5 more likely, not less.”
    Doesn’t RCP8.5 rely on forecasts of coal burning rather than natural gas, which has half the CO2 emissions? If you cut the emissions forecast of 8.5 in half, it changes the forecast of your warming, no?

  77. paulski0 says:

    jeffnsails850,

    Doesn’t RCP8.5 rely on forecasts of coal burning rather than natural gas

    RCP8.5 doesn’t “rely” on anything, other than perhaps high total primary energy consumption. The headline SSP5 scenario includes much faster growth in natural gas than coal out to mid-Century, and natural gas quickly overtakes coal as the main source for electricity generation.

    The reason for high coal consumption in SSP5 scenarios is that supply of oil and gas, and other energy sources, is not sufficient (or not sufficiently cheap) to get near satisfying the rising demand – for electricity, for liquid fuels.

    Don’t know how well this will work, but here is natural gas primary energy consumption across the five SSP5 scenarios:

    https://tntcat.iiasa.ac.at/SspDb/dsd?Action=linechart&pgId=40&regions=R342&variable=V362&width=680&height=384&ypar=d,d&scenarios=R4130,R4265,R4170,R4075,R4003

    And here’s coal:

    https://tntcat.iiasa.ac.at/SspDb/dsd?Action=linechart&pgId=40&regions=R342&variable=V358&width=680&height=384&ypar=d,d&scenarios=R4130,R4265,R4170,R4075,R4003

  78. Links didn’t work for me. RCP8.5 is based on a presumption that the world will be burning many times more coal than it is today. It is a fairy tale used to scare children.

  79. David B. Benson says:

    Less coal demand:
    https://oilprice.com/Energy/Coal/Russian-Coal-Exporters-Face-Nightmare-Scenario-In-Asia.html

    This article doesn’t consider metallurgical coal, just thermal coal.

  80. From your link about Russian coal exports:
    “However, the increase in supply came across a slowdown in demand (for coal) in the four largest Asian markets – in Japan, South Korea, India and China…

    US exports of LNG to those countries in 2016 and 2018 (2016/2018)
    Japan – 11,000 mcf/125,500 mcf
    South Korea- 10,000/ 252,000
    India- 16,000/57,000
    China- 17,000/90,000
    https://www.eia.gov/dnav/ng/ng_move_expc_s1_a.htm

    Note this is just US exports. China is eagerly replacing coal with gas from where ever they can get it. For a guy who is alleged to be Putin’s stooge, the US president is putting a real hurting on Russian energy revenue, using exports to reduce their revenue from gas, oil, and coal. All of the people vying to run against the current president would stop that, and give Putin a cash windfall.

    There is no reason to believe coal is coming back. It’s an interesting question as to what will replace natural gas eventually, but that’s 30 years away at least. Which gives time for real scientists and engineers to either make wind/solar functional or improve nuclear. Meanwhile, emissions will go down everywhere except in nations that have set, as their highest priority, the urgent need to shutdown existing nuclear power plants.

  81. paulski0 says:

    jeffnsails850,

    RCP8.5 is based on a presumption that the world will be burning many times more coal than it is today.

    This is a fictional narrative which has been spread about RCP8.5, and has led to nonsensical beliefs like people thinking they can burn unlimited quantities of natural gas and somehow never reach RCP8.5 forcing, because “RCP8.5 is just about coal”. The only really fundamental thing RCP8.5 scenarios have in common is high primary energy demand. High coal consumption is simply a plausible relatively cheap way that this demand can be met given our understanding of how the various energy sources will develop in terms of technology and availability over the century without climate policy. There is no a priori presumption about multiples of coal burning.

    many times more coal than it is today

    It’s incredible to me that just quoting some multiple of today’s coal consumption has become considered by some to be a serious argument against RCP8.5 level forcing. Or even an argument at all.

    Across the five SSP5 baseline scenarios the multiples for coal burning at 2100 vs today range from 3.2x to 5.5x. I’ve seen people quote higher figures but these are based on 2100 vs 2000/2005 and/or against more recent figures for the headline SSP5 scenario, which has much slower near-term coal growth than happened in reality. The fact is, global coal consumption has gone up by 65% over the past 20 years, which is, somewhat ironically, why those higher multiples some people quote are wrong. At that empirically-observed rate for the past 20 years we would reach 12x today’s coal consumption by 2100. Over the past 100 years coal consumption has increased by about 4.5x. What exactly is the basis for thinking a ~ 4x increase in coal consumption by 2100 is impossible?

    Meanwhile, global nuclear electricity generation has not increased at all over the past 20 years. Yet somehow people have come to the conclusion that a 10-20x increase in nuclear is conversely no problem at all.

    There is no reason to believe coal is coming back.

    There’s no reason to believe coal went away, so the question of whether or not to believe in it coming back doesn’t make much sense.

    Which gives time for real scientists and engineers to either make wind/solar functional or improve nuclear.

    And why aren’t those real scientists and engineers working to improve coal extraction to make coal power cheaper?

  82. Ben McMillan says:

    The bottom figure on page 11 of the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2019 is helpful: basically coal as a proportion of world primary energy use has varied in a narrow band around 28% of world energy consumption for the last 40 years.

    On the world scale (i.e. outside the US) there is no recent ‘gas revolution’, just a slow increase in gas usage compared to oil as it replaces oil fired heating/electrical plant.

    If the proportions of fuels used for primary energy don’t change much over the next 80 years, or even if coal drops in relative importance by a factor of two, we are going to land somewhere near RCP8.5, if the long-term growth rate of total energy use continues to hold steady.

    I still find the insistence that we can’t extract much of the world’s coal resources weird: there are existing technologies (like underground coal gasification) that would massively increase available coal reserves in a scenario where coal was the only thing left. Unfortunately there really are a lot of engineers/scientists working on improving coal-mining on marginal seams, because China would really prefer not to import energy.

  83. David B. Benson says:

    Ben McMillan, that was quite thoughtful. Thank you. However, at least for northeast China working marginal coal seams is all the employment there is, baring agriculture. So in my opinion it is about continued work locally, not some national policy goal.

  84. Willard says:

    > I still find the insistence that we can’t extract much of the world’s coal resources weird: there are existing technologies (like underground coal gasification) that would massively increase available coal reserves in a scenario where coal was the only thing left.

    And that notwithstanding calthrates.

  85. Marco says:

    Jeff, to give you a few “different perspectives”: Russia hardly sold any gas to any of those countries in the list you provide, so I don’t quite see how those American sales are hurting Putin. Remember that the vast majority of the gas produced in Russia comes from the western part of the country. Since that part also contains the bulk of the population, pipelines are primarily going to the west – and onwards into Europe – not to the east.

    Also, China and Russia have long had political tensions. That, however, seems to have gone now. What should worry the US is that Russia has just opened a connection with China a few weeks ago – it will transport more than ten times the annual amount of LNG that the US shipped to China last year.

  86. “Russia hardly sold any gas to any of those countries in the list you provide….”

    “What should worry the US is that Russia has just opened a connection with China a few weeks ago – it will transport more than ten times the annual amount of LNG that the US shipped to China last year.”

    Those two statements are at odds with each other. Russia wants to export fossil fuels- coal, gas, oil. Those markets are global- when other countries (like the US) export coal, gas and oil the price goes down, people either buy less from Russia or pay them less for it and the revenue Russia receives goes down.
    For all of 2014, Russia was selling gas for between $11.50 to $9.90. In 2015, Obama allowed US companies to begin exporting the very cheap gas they produce. Russia is selling gas for $5.15 now.
    https://www.indexmundi.com/commodities/?commodity=russian-natural-gas&months=120
    That “connection with China,” by the way, means China can re-export Russian gas to a gas-hungry Japan or South Korea if it wishes. Competition with the US (and Australia for coal) means Russia can no longer command the “premium” they were getting for their exports. They have to spend more on fossil fuels infrastructure to get less profit.
    The energy market is global. The gas (and oil) revolution is real. A Chinese factory can get energy from a variety of sources at a low cost. Gas is cheap and getting cheaper and doesn’t blanket the cities with a pollution fog like coal. Coal is losing, emissions will go down because gas is winning and has fewer emissions, and your task now s to figure out what will replace natural gas, Coal can only “come back” if the climate concerned continue to ignore cost or basic economics. Coal can also only “come back” if the world gets less wealthy and therefore more reliant on the cheapest energy.

  87. Marco says:

    Jeff, lots of energy prices made the same movement as Russian gas. For all we know, Russian gas prices went down because energy prices in general went down:
    https://www.indexmundi.com/commodities/?commodity=energy-price-index&months=120
    Much of these prices are linked to oil prices. That is, gas prices are low because oil prices are low.

    And of course China could re-export the gas, but Japan already has agreements (and major investments) in place with Russia to get cheap gas. South Korea has the challenge of getting the gas, as the easiest way goes through the most difficult route: North Korea. .

    Oh, and thanks for now thanking Obama for American LNG exports, rather than Trump.

  88. Ben McMillan says:

    Best not to mention the clathrates. Don’t want anybody getting any ideas.

    Apart from the decline in the relative importance of oil, an interesting milestone in energy is the bottom two curves about to cross each other on that figure (bottom of page 11, 2019 BP statistical review of world energy). Probably happened this year.

  89. “Jeff, lots of energy prices made the same movement as Russian gas. For all we know, Russian gas prices went down because energy prices in general went down:”

    Well, yes, that’s my point. The oil and gas revolution was real and the market is global. Russia used to be able to charge a lot of money- a premium – for their gas, oil and coal because those items were harder to get. They have to charge less these days because of competition. Competition that is growing.
    David provided a link to a story about Russia’s “premium” (high) price for coal disappearing, I provided a link showing Russia’s “premium” (high) price for gas has disappeared. To make the same amount of money on natural gas that it did a few years ago, Russia must sell twice as much of the stuff and must invest billions in order to be able to do it. A trans-Siberian pipeline to China, a new pipeline to Germany, and LNG infrastructure to service Japan.
    Meanwhile Japan’s “agreement” with Russia will hold as long as Russian gas is as cheap as American gas.

    I’ve always given Obama credit for doubling US production of oil and natural gas, allowing export, and helping create the global glut in oil and gas.
    The production really started with George W Bush, but the export was all Obama’s baby (and Hillary Clinton’s) and the reality is that Obama saw the political benefit of cutting gasoline prices almost in half as well as dramatically reducing home heating and electric bills, so he enthusiastically supported it. You aren’t supposed to admit this to climate concerned audiences, but if the gas boom put us on the path to RCP8.5, then Obama certainly gets the credit.
    I don’t believe it will do that, of course. Gas will continue to replace coal, continue to reduce emissions (except in nations that shutter nuclear power for it like Germany and Japan) and will eventually be replaced by something else. When Greta’s in her 50s.

  90. ecoquant says:

    @jeffnsails850,

    I don’t believe it will do that, of course. Gas will continue to replace coal, continue to reduce emissions (except in nations that shutter nuclear power for it like Germany and Japan) and will eventually be replaced by something else. When Greta’s in her 50s.

    The Bank of England of today is stress testing their banks and insurers for impacts to their stability of various degrees of climate disruption. The outgoing (in February 2020) BoE governor, Mark Carney, described these in the Financial Times today, prefacing:

    The BoE has been focusing on improving measurement and management of climate risks, building on the expectations our supervisors set for banks and insurers on their governance, risk management, scenario analysis and disclosure. Now we are publishing our groundbreaking new framework to stress test the largest UK banks and insurers for climate risks. We will ask firms to model their exposures to three climate scenarios: the catastrophic business-as-usual scenario where no further climate action is taken, a scenario where early policy action delivers an orderly transition to the targets set in Paris, and a third where late policy action leads to a disorderly and disruptive transition.

    The most severe case is a scenario where “lenders and insurers [are] tested against temperature rises of as much as 4C by 2080”.

    This is part of the international Task Force for Climate-Related Financial Disclosures.

    I think that defines pretty well where we are.

  91. Ben McMillan says:

    I know PaulS has said this before, but it is worth repeating that RCP8.5 involves relatively little coal as a proportion of primary energy until 2050, when coal goes up past 30% of primary energy.

    So we are at 28% coal now, and if that stays relatively constant (which is the long-term trend), and energy follows an RCP8.5 pathway, we’ll have a bit more coal and more emissions now than RCP8.5 until 2050, and a bit less from 2050-2100.

    Although it would be nice if, worldwide, fossil fuel were getting cleaner because gas was replacing coal, unfortunately what is actually happening (i.e. look at the data) is that gas is replacing oil.

  92. David B. Benson says:

    Ben McMillan, that is a provocative perspective.

  93. Ben McMillan says:

    DBB: thanks.

    The worrying thing is I came to this discussion thinking that RCP8.5 was a somewhat extreme scenario. But I’ve managed to convince myself that to reach RCP8.5 emissions levels (OK, actually these are SSP) all it would take is for our current energy mix and energy growth rate to continue. The per-capita energy use in RCP8.5 is not even particularly high by US/EU standards. That is not an extreme scenario.

    Its starting to get to the point where proved reserves of fossil fuels (assuming no new discoveries/better tech/higher prices at all) are enough to reach RCP8.5.

    Still, I don’t think this RCP8.5 is going to happen because I think non-fossil energy is going to grow massively. And people will actually do things like insulate their houses properly.

  94. JCH says:

    For energy use to plateau means a lot of new people are about to have far less. Who are they?

  95. Ben McMillan says:

    JCH: I’m not sure that was directed at me, but I’m not expecting primary energy use to plateau any time soon. But maybe just not grow as much as the RCP8.5-SSP suggests, because of efficiency improvements.

    e.g. electric cars powered by renewables use a lot less primary energy than ICEs (maybe factor of 5). Well insulated houses are a factor ~3 better than typical UK houses in terms of heat consumption, and heat pumps in primary energy terms (in a renewables-dominated grid) are a factor of ~3 lower than burning stuff in your house to stay warm.

  96. Taking action on this scale requires energy:  vast amounts of emissions-free energy.  And we need it NOW.  We don’t just need it to replace fossil fuels, we need it to power CO2 removal systems to put the climate back the way it was before we broke it.

    It’s this exact reason, the urgency of action regardless, why I think the USA should immediately launch the construction of many copies of the only commercial fast-breeder reactor ever operated here:  Fermi 1.  (As designed, not with the off-blueprint addition which broke loose, clogged coolant flow to the core and caused the partial meltdown.)  The Fermi 1 design is well-understood and fits the definition of “small modular reactor”; the core is a mere 80 inches across and less than six feet tall, but at 430 megawatts rated output it is a “mighty mite”.  It would be no serious difficulty to set up a factory to crank out reactors one after another and ship them to plant sites on trucks.  All construction and inspection of the nuclear sections could be done in one place, in shirtsleeves.

    The USA should build at least as many copies as we have surplus weapons-grade Pu to fuel.  This will take care of our START treaty obligations to denature this material and make it unusable for weapons.  I would argue that the reprocessing plants required to close the fuel cycle should have additional capacity so that used nuclear fuel could be “mined” for material to start even more FBRs. †  This also empties those pools full of old fuel rods.

    The reason to build FBRs, as opposed to anything else, is because a massive upscaling of nuclear power via e.g. light-water reactors would cause a proportional increase in uranium consumption.  Nuclear only accounts for about 10% of worldwide electric generation and a much smaller fraction of total energy consumption.  Scaling up from the current ~300 GW of thermal output to anything close to the full 3.3 TW of primary energy used by the USA would send shockwaves through uranium markets if only light-water reactors were used.  It would also make the USA dangerously dependent upon foreign supplies.

    Fast-breeder reactors change the equation completely.  They are about 200x as economical with uranium as light-water reactors, and the USA is already sitting on tens of thousands of tons of “depleted uranium” (DU) leftovers (depleted in U-235) from previous enrichment.  Fast-breeders make more fissiles (mostly Pu-239) than they consume, so even if some new uranium is required to start them, it is a one-time need.  After starting they generate their own “fuel” from DU, with a small surplus amounting to perhaps 2% per year.  As a bonus, they can “burn” (fission) the troublesome isotopes of Pu, Am and Cm from other used fuel and literally make them go away.

    Maybe there are other roads forward (though Power Engineering agrees with Hansen and many others that “renewables” aren’t one of them) but we have no more time to waste.  We have to start doing something NOW, as we are already 30 years too late.

  97. “Although it would be nice if, worldwide, fossil fuel were getting cleaner because gas was replacing coal, unfortunately what is actually happening (i.e. look at the data) is that gas is replacing oil.”
    That’s an interesting comment. What data are you looking at? I’m not disputing it, I’m simply saying I see a whole lot of data about gas replacing coal. I imagine there are some places that burn oil for electricity. Cuba is one, Hawaii does as well. And there are still a lot of people in cold climates with fuel oil furnaces, but everything I’ve seen says oil is a pretty small part of electricity.
    There are some popular natural gas powered car models in Europe and I’ve read they intend to increase production.

    Heat pumps are fine in places where it doesn’t get very cold, not so much in places where it does. Those cold places are also dark in the winter (little solar). When it’s below zero (F) in Chicago in a storm that causes power grid operators to take windmills offline, it gets dark at 4:30 p.m., a heat pump can’t keep up with the temperature drop, and batteries lose a significant part of their efficiency, how do you envision people staying warm and moving about?

  98. Ben McMillan says:

    Jeff:
    The bottom figure on page 11 of the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2019. See also the figure at the bottom of p55 for electricity. I was also surprised that oil was used so much for electricity (but it is finally down to almost zero now). Keep in mind most gas is not used for generating electricity.

    In very cold climates people use ground source heat pumps, which work fine in winter.

  99. ecoquant says:

    Heat pumps are fine in places where it doesn’t get very cold, not so much in places where it does. Those cold places are also dark in the winter (little solar). When it’s below zero (F) in Chicago in a storm that causes power grid operators to take windmills offline, it gets dark at 4:30 p.m., a heat pump can’t keep up with the temperature drop, and batteries lose a significant part of their efficiency, how do you envision people staying warm and moving about?

    Mythology!

    The newest Mitsubishi air source heat pump we own has 70% heating capacity at -25 degrees C. There aren’t many places that get colder than that, not very often. South Dakota has so much wind, they could use resistive electrical heating a piece of the time.

    Modern land-based wind turbines don’t go offline until 60 mph, and, indeed, given the Massachusetts experience with wind turbines during a January storm in 2018, the turbines were curtailed because they were generating too much power. It’s important not to confound the inadequacies of the present day grid with its lack of storage with apocryphal interpretations of why turbines are taken offline.

    (That’s from here.)

    Also, when a project is designed and built, the per copy cost of a wind turbine is low compared to competitors, so a location which has a highly variable mix of wind speeds puts in a variety of different models which operate at different speed classes. Models can be adjusted for lower temperatures. These considerations and the profile of wind speed versus altitude contributes to the engineering optimization of the best mix per dollar for a location.

    Besides, for good or ill the set of places where it gets really cold is going to diminish over the 21st century.

    Ignorance of how a renewable technology differs from conventional ones is really no defense for continuing to spout such טְרֵפָה (treif). These are favorite propaganda of the uneducated, used to mislead the public.

  100. Ecoquant- so… they solved the frozen lubricating oil problem in windmills? When the wind farm is turning itself on and off during a winter storm as the gusts allow, what’s powering the city?
    https://www.energy.gov/eere/articles/how-do-wind-turbines-survive-severe-storms
    That’s got to be a fun engineering challenge for grid operators- it’s at 30% of capacity, 100%, Zero, Zero, 100%, 100%, 30%, 100%, zero. What will it be in 10 minutes? One of those.
    You posted about your Mitsubishi before with a link to your blog about it. My recollection was that you have the high-end heat pump, solar panels, a generator, grid connection (fossil fuels) and I think you had an oil or propane tank but I could be wrong. It’s been a while. Might get a bit pricey to have every house in the US have a new heat pump and three our four power sources.
    My system is duel fuel, it uses a heat pump until it detects an outside temperature where the gas furnace is more efficient. I live in Virginia, so most of the time I’m on heat pump. Friends and family with heat pumps were very, very unhappy during a polar vortex. Nothing a complete rebuild of their homes can’t fix though.

  101. ecoquant says:

    @Engineer-Poet,

    … [W]e need it to power CO2 removal systems to put the climate back the way it was before we broke it.

    Not gonna and can’t happen. Granted, in principle — but the engineering has not been done — we could drawdown CO2 from atmosphere. The economics of that are horrifically bad and the engineering is impossible as long as we continue to emit appreciable amounts of the stuff. The limitation is not energy, which is where, I think, you were going. The limitation is making, paying for, deploying, and operating millions of clear air capture units and powering them in remote areas, putting the stuff some place where it can’t leak out (I favor converting to plastic and burying), and doing it without gads of additional CO2 emissions.

    The climate will not go “back the way it was before we broke it” for the simple reason that the heat energy which we’ve placed into the oceans will not come out for 20,000 years or so. And, while there are plans proposed for re-freezing the surface of the Arctic, it seems more and more that because the Arctic Ocean is warming below, this would be an ongoing thing rather than the one-off which was originally proposed.

    Sorry, it’s already irreversible. But additional damage is avoidable, even if government confiscatory power is becoming increasingly necessary.

  102. ecoquant says:

    @jeffnsails850,

    The propane generator is purely to replace an unreliable grid (Eversource). In a real, long-lasting storm, the propane will run out and there’ll be no replacement. The generator is puny, a 8.5 kW thing and it’s connected to our parallel 115V circuit, so it is useless for powering the heat pumps, both in size and voltage.

    In a real, long-lasting storm, until we install behind the meter storage and our town has more liberal by-laws which permit us to put up more solar, and due to the PV being in front of the meter, our power structure will go down, and we drop back to the oil furnace, which can be powered by the propane generator, as long as it lasts. Once it doesn’t, the oil furnace goes down, too.

    The bet presently is this won’t happen too often. But we are primarily constrained by restrictive zoning by-laws and utility regulations. This is true throughout New England, where even commercial farmers are not permitted to use their land as they wish to mount solar farms and land wind turbines. It is the dissonance between a stated desire for fossil fuel-free power, and what people are willing to give up to get it. I call them hypocrites.

  103. “It is the dissonance between a stated desire for fossil fuel-free power, and what people are willing to give up to get it. ”
    I get that and I think you are nice and sincere person, but I have to point out that you do not have fossil-fuel-free power and the reason is technical, not willpower or hypocrisy. Your back up electricity is fossil, your grid power is fossil and your backup heating source is fossil. This is not because you don’t care, it’s because the technology isn’t present for you to go fossil free and at the end of the day you aren’t going to freeze your family.
    It appears you’ve invested a great deal of time and money into a fossil fuel free quest that you can’t achieve. Bearing that in mind, please be considerate of those who don’t wish to follow suit. Instead, find comfort in the fact that what you’ve invested in has made at least some difference, and direct about the fact that it has very real limitations and costs.

  104. David B. Benson says:

    Running low on concrete-grade sand:
    https://www.bbc.com/news/business-50629100

    Such as bases for on-shore wind turbines.

  105. Everett F Sargent says:

    DBB,

    There ain’t no shortage of sand for concrete.

    http://www.ce.memphis.edu/1101/notes/concrete/PCA_manual/Chap05.pdf


    Figure 5-5 would be me back in 1973, 1976-7, AAS in Civil Engineering Technology, BSCE and Coastal Engineer since 1983. Oh and I live very close to the Mississippi River.

    You could say I’ve been around sand all my life (Lake Champlain starting about 1958).

  106. David B. Benson says:

    Everett F Sargent — Ah, but there is a limited supply. Did you bother to read the BBC report I linked? Also, Morocco is losing it’s beaches to stolen sand merchants.

    Your Chapter 5 says essentially nothing about availability. Why did you link it?

  107. Everett F Sargent says:

    OMFG, there is a GLOBAL shortage of sand! /:

    Sorry to be short with you, but then turnabout is fair play, isn’t it?

  108. ecoquant says:

    @jeffnsails850,

    I suspect you are becoming trollish, and, so, will ignore you after this response. Too many other important things to do.

    … the frozen lubricating oil problem in windmills?

    If the turbine is turning, even in very cold weather, the primary problem is heat rejection, not frozen lubrication. Ice buildup is an issue, particularly if generation is curtailed. Modern turbines can spin without generating power. Modern turbines also have ice shedding modes, weather they feather blades, or, rather than pushing power to consumption, they use power locally for heating.

    That’s got to be a fun engineering challenge for grid operators- it’s at 30% of capacity, 100%, Zero, Zero, 100%, 100%, 30%, 100%, zero. What will it be in 10 minutes? One of those.

    It’s not renewables problem that the existing grid cannot deal with short term fluctuations in supply. There are many ways of dealing with that, including dumping these into a smoother, like a big storage bank, and having the grid pull off of that, or introducing smart digital controls throughout the grid, controls which have the added benefit of self-repair and automatic re-routing. For PV, there are now smart inverters that can offer auxiliary services including voltage and phase management. There are no technical obstacles to rolling these out. However, from what I have seen, existing utilities backed by fossil fuel (read here natural gas) interests fight these tooth-and-nail, and wage publicity campaigns against such modifications. (Are you part of one of those?)

    In the end, the superior technology and the market will win, and, I see little evidence that incumbency is going to protect utilities who oppose this from financial devastation. In part that’s because there are other utility companies who do get it which are beginning to compete against utilities in their own backyards offering services. I was hoping it would not come to this, but it looks like the increasingly balkanized path is going to be the way this goes, until the creaky, sloppy, inefficient centralized grid architecture falls over because they have too few customers to support themselves, especially big customers which have found them too unreliable and expensive and have installed their own microgrids. They’ll try to get the public sector to buy them out. Maybe some will fool them into doing that. I say let them die. There’ll be some people who won’t have reliable power for a time during the transition. Who’s fault is that? Renewables?

    Friends and family with heat pumps were very, very unhappy during a polar vortex. Nothing a complete rebuild of their homes can’t fix though.

    They have the wrong kind of heat pumps, particularly in Virginia. Some of the American models and some of the Fujitsu models really suck. We replaced a Fujitsu model and had them take it away with the Mitsubishi. Fujitsu tried repairing it three times. Because it was 4 years later, we got a more efficient Mitsubishi model for less than the original price of the Fujitsu it replaced. (Technology is wonderful.)

    Regarding,

    Your back up electricity is fossil, your grid power is fossil and your backup heating source is fossil. This is not because you don’t care, it’s because the technology isn’t present for you to go fossil free and at the end of the day you aren’t going to freeze your family.

    This is annoying. You readily criticize our situation but you haven’t read enough to know much about it. The only thing blocking us from owning all the renewables we use are local zoning regulations, which we can do nothing about (although we continue to try), and utility regulations (which we are also nothing we can do about). If the grid is there, we are 100% renewal because our setup pulls any additional electrical power we need from local wind turbines, per a consumption agreement. What fossil fuels we have are there as a matter of cover in case the grid goes down. And, as I said, if we could put up more solar PV or even a local, small wind turbine, we’d install batteries, or some other storage, and we have cover for that.

    You don’t seem to consider the reliability factor for the grid whatsoever, not to the concentrator in the centralized network, but to end users, yet you blame wind turbines for going offline or having variable generation. The distribution system is as much a part of the centralized utility model as centralized fossil fuel generation, and it is poorly maintained, expensive, and crude, at least compared to networks in Europe. Microgrids can get around some of that. But utilities fight these as if they were competing utilities, and inhibit their growth. (A local IKEA wanted to become one, and the utilities’ lawyers testified against them, bringing up minor objection after minor objection. I was there.)

    But it won’t stop there, and we will continue to fight to kill off the local utility management in our purchasing choices and lobbying, in favor of storage-as-a-service regimes, and being able to share power locally among like-minded in our town and neighborhood.

    And technology is coming along. Tesla is working on a means of using the battery in the EV to back up power for the home. While they might not be a utility, technology will allow them to squeak around that … An hour on a supercharger, and your home has enough electrical power to run for a couple of days (at least if it is efficient).

    And we’ll still oppose new natural gas (per Brookline, Cambridge, and the “third rail of Massachusetts politics”, pipelines), so the matter will eventually come to a head.

    G’day.

  109. ecoquant says:

    @David B Benson,

    Yeah, the world is running out of high quality sand, because idiots are refurbishing beaches due to increased storm activity and sea level rise rather than moving away.

    Fixtures for turbines don’t need high quality sand, though. And alternative foundations are available.

    In the end, however, PV-with-smart-controls-and-storage is going to outcompete even wind turbines, so this problem will be self-limiting. In that day, buildings will be wrapped in PV, and routing of power will be done using crossbar networks with random tree overlays.

  110. “I suspect you are becoming trollish, and, so, will ignore you after this response. ”
    Ok. I will respect that and not respond unless you wish.

  111. Everett F Sargent says:

    Mekong Delta so-called sand …

    It is mainly very fine sand, silts and some clay. It looks a lot like loess (you can see so in the near vertical striations/structures mostly near the top) …

    But, i already knew that so-called sand from flatland deltas or rivers of low relief would be mostly fines bordering on cohesive sediments.

    I am not even sure that a no aggregate mortar using only this so-called sand would even be structurally sound, but whatever, just add some rebar to this so-called sand, add some cement and make sure you don’t ever end up living there …
    Poor-Quality Chinese Concrete Could Lead to Skyscraper Collapses
    https://www.wired.com/2013/03/poor-quality-chinese-concrete-could-lead-to-skyscraper-collapses/
    The Influence of Hybrid Aggregates on Different Types of Concrete
    https://www.intechopen.com/online-first/the-influence-of-hybrid-aggregates-on-different-types-of-concrete

  112. David B. Benson says:
  113. ecoquant manages to get things backwards:

    It’s not renewables problem that the existing grid cannot deal with short term fluctuations in supply.

    Do you seriously think that the purpose of the grid is to serve unreliable “renewables”, rather than to power the things we need powered?

    Wind and PV in large amounts are inherently unfit for purpose;† they cannot supply energy as needed, nor can they decarbonize even an electric grid by themselves.  This inherent unfitness is why Germany’s CO2 emissions remain stubbornly high.  Germany outright abandoned its 2020 emissions targets because they are impossible to meet with the mandated energy sources.

    There are many ways of dealing with that, including dumping these into a smoother, like a big storage bank, and having the grid pull off of that

    Everything else already has a smoother.  The usual word is “fuel”, and it generally comes at low cost.  If wind and PV had to pay for their own smoothing (the term of art is “firming”), they’d cost multiples of the LCOE numbers the advocates quote.  That firmed cost is the true cost, but it’s covered up.  This results in a huge misallocation of resources which we are just beginning to straighten out.

    † One of the original uses of wind power is to pump water; Holland used it for centuries to drain its polders.  This worked, because polders refill slowly.  But when coal mines in England attempted to use wind to pump their mines dry, calm periods kept allowing the mines to flood.  Flooded mine = miners can’t work = no coal produced = no coal to sell = nobody eats; this was understandably unpopular with both miners and mine owners.  The invention of water-pumping engines allowed the mines to stay dry, wind or no wind.  This is why, dirty as they were, they became popular almost immediately.

    If you propose a new source of energy for anything, it has to be fit for purpose.

    If the grid is there, we are 100% renewal because our setup pulls any additional electrical power we need from local wind turbines, per a consumption agreement.

    You actually believe that your power comes from wind, even if the wind isn’t blowing right then?  And you call yourself a “quant”?

    Let me tell you what really happens:  You buy X kWh of grid electricity.  That grid electricity comes from whatever’s generating that split second, meaning largely fossil fuels.  But you’ve cut a side deal that X kWh of wind power is generated somewhere, sometime and mostly consumed by others as part of the general mix, while you get a piece of paper that says you’re “green” (and they don’t get one, so they’re “not green”).  This does not scale, because the cost of “firming” provided by the fossil fuels skyrockets as they become an ever-smaller part of the grid mix.  Basically, it’s fraud.

  114. Ben McMillan says:

    For EU grid carbon intensity the following is useful:
    https://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/indicators/overview-of-the-electricity-production-2/assessment-4

    EU as a whole (and countries like UK and Germany) have substantially lower grid carbon intensity than 20 years ago.

    UK is particularly impressive: it is down at around 200g/kWh now from 450g/kWh in 2000. This is mostly because coal generation has basically gone to zero since then and been replaced by a combination of less energy use and renewables.

  115. ecoquant says:

    Do you seriously think that the purpose of the grid is to serve unreliable “renewables”, rather than to power the things we need powered?

    The purpose of utilities is to serve whatever the public power commissions, as representatives of the citizenry, say they are supposed to serve, even if that means they operate at a loss. That they make a profit and have shareholders is their own choice, and their own problem. I hope they stop doing that and go bankrupt. I’d rather see public cooperatives.

    Wind and PV in large amounts are inherently unfit for purpose; they cannot supply energy as needed, nor can they decarbonize even an electric grid by themselves.

    This inherent unfitness is why Germany’s CO2 emissions remain stubbornly high. Germany outright abandoned its 2020 emissions targets because they are impossible to meet with the mandated energy sources.

    The reason Germany is burning more fossil is because they prematurely and foolishly shut down their nuclear power, rather than relying upon it as a bridge to a clean energy future. Also, the federal provisions in the original Energiewende to prohibit states and towns from passing the equivalent of bylaws to prohibit erecting wind and solar were weakened. Also, the utilities whined and complained about having to borrow so heavily to upgrade their grid, that they got federal legislators to slow that up, making congestion a problem, but an artificial one.

    You actually believe that your power comes from wind, even if the wind isn’t blowing right then? And you call yourself a “quant”?

    Restoring to argumentum ad hominem is a pretty good indication that the party doing it is debating disingenuously, particularly when that’s an opening for a new line of argument.

    Let me tell you what really happens: You buy X kWh of grid electricity. That grid electricity comes from whatever’s generating that split second, meaning largely fossil fuels. But you’ve cut a side deal that X kWh of wind power is generated somewhere, sometime and mostly consumed by others as part of the general mix, while you get a piece of paper that says you’re “green” (and they don’t get one, so they’re “not green”). This does not scale, because the cost of “firming” provided by the fossil fuels skyrockets as they become an ever-smaller part of the grid mix. Basically, it’s fraud.

    Even in the worst case, over the year only 20% of our total electric power comes from the grid. And the part of the equation you are deliberately omitting is that when we generate way more than we need, that gets pushed out to our neighbors who then do not need to draw from fossil fuels to supply their energy. So, if, indeed, a fossil fuel electron is powering our home for five minutes today, how do you account for the anti-fossil fuel electrons we generate at the grid in peak generation season, which we do not consume? You have nothing in your calculation to account for those. This is why your presentation is misleading. And, given the tussles I’ve had with defenders of the grid, I’m sure the misrepresentation is deliberate.

    Our generation isn’t some small piece but, overall, is a profit center. Payback for the arrays is 7 years.

    The above does not reflect the income stream we receive from Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) which, at about $200 per MWh, reflect the services we provide to the grid. In peak season (March through September) we generate about 1.1 MWh per month.

  116. E-P said:

    “You actually believe that your power comes from wind, even if the wind isn’t blowing right then? And you call yourself a “quant”?”

    Jan is an excellent quant. I imagine his employer would agree; in forums he has always been helpful and offered up interesting ideas to pursue.
    Wind turbines => raise the water level => flow of water even when wind isn’t blowing.
    QED

  117. David B. Benson says:

    There are now many ways to design the market for electric power. All generators must be adequately compensated. That includes the various forms of storage. The transmission operators also have to be adequately compensated, often highly contentious to determine who pays. For example, ERCOT doesn’t do this fairly in my opinion, but it isn’t so bad as to try something different.

    The remaining absolute requirement is provided adequate ancillary services and reserves. Without these the grid collapses, often in the form of so-called rolling blackouts. All have to pay for this, not just raw power.

    Finally there are retail services such as local distribution and also simply billing.

    In conclusion, note that there is no so-called free market for electric power. Possibly the closest, at least in the USA, is the ERCOT Texas grid. Check out how that went last summer.

  118. David B. Benson says:

    ecoquant, it is unclear to me just when you send power to the grid. If at the time of maximum demand then you aid in reducing the need for so-called peak shavers, aka peakers. This are OGCTs, open cycle gas turbines, which rarely run. Therefore the rates charged are prodigious, thousands of dollars per MWh.

  119. David B. Benson says:

    ecoquant, your 2nd link comes up 404.

  120. ecoquant says:

    Sorry, @David B Benson, here’s a better version:

    https://bit.ly/35Uv777

    I tried to shorten it, but apparently the surgery was unsuccessful.

  121. David B. Benson says:

    ecoquant, thank you.

    I should mention that ancillary services includes the frequency control required to maintain a functioning grid. One way is to provide a battery with a short duration just for that purpose, not as a store of energy against future needs.

  122. Ben McMillan says:

    Batteries are so effective at supplying frequency control and ancillary services that they have crushed the market in South Australia. This is despite the ‘big battery’ having a capacity of only 10% of the mean SA grid power (discharge duration is about an hour).

    https://www.windpowermonthly.com/article/1520406/hornsdale-battery-significant-impact-market

    Think most grids are now actively investigating/installing batteries to help with short-term control and fault-response, and this requires very little battery.

    Partly as a result, largely-wind/solar grids don’t look like they will have much issue with fault response/stability on the seconds-half hour timescale.

  123. ecoquant says:

    As I mentioned some place along the way, such auxiliary services are built into some PV inverters, although none, AFAIK, have been approved for connection in the U.S. Also the digital automation attached to a smarter grid can manage some of these aspects on its own.

    One local utility was given proceeds from rate increases to begin to roll out some of these digital improvements, but took the monies and repurposed them for power line repair. This resulted in a lawsuit from the Massachusetts Attorney General. Not sure of its status.

  124. Willard says:

    Both claims:

    [Q1] I suspect you are becoming trollish, and, so, will ignore you after this response. Too many other important things to do.

    [Q2] Restoring to argumentum ad hominem is a pretty good indication that the party doing it is debating disingenuously, particularly when that’s an opening for a new line of argument.

    may be hard to reconcile.

    Play the ball. Play the man. Play both. But decide.

  125. ecoquant says:

    @Willard,

    Okay.

    Is being a troll an insult or slight? I thought it was a part-time career.

  126. Pingback: More reasons why centralized grids and ISOs/RTOs cannot be trusted, with an afterthought | hypergeometric

  127. Willard says:

    > Is being a troll an insult or slight? I thought it was a part-time career.

    I believe you’re asking this question on your own free time.

  128. David B. Benson says:
  129. eco-want wrote:

    The purpose of utilities is to serve whatever the public power commissions, as representatives of the citizenry, say they are supposed to serve, even if that means they operate at a loss. That they make a profit and have shareholders is their own choice, and their own problem. I hope they stop doing that and go bankrupt. I’d rather see public cooperatives.

    Public cooperatives run by people like you, I presume?

    Your kind of naked grab for property and power has been done many times all over the world.  EVERY SINGLE TIME it ends in disaster, because ideologues like you have no idea how to run an industry, even if you’re subsidized so you can run at a loss.  When that industry is electric power, collapse means blackouts which e.g. shut down water treatment plants and allow drinking water to be contaminated when pipes lose pressure.  People can die because they drink bad water.  Boiling contaminated water to make it potable comes at a huge cost in energy and emissions.

    Socialism works until you run out of other people’s money.  You’d set us on the road to such things, and call it progress.

    Wind and PV in large amounts are inherently unfit for purpose; they cannot supply energy as needed, nor can they decarbonize even an electric grid by themselves.

    [embeds a video which has no transcript enabled]

    A half truth is a whole lie, and Osborne comes out of the gate with this one:

    “The truth is, is, every, every power plant is, is intermittent one way or another…”

    Osborne conflates unreliability (one minus availability) with intermittency.  They are not even remotely similar.  Failures of other power sources are independent of each other.  The generation from wind is highly correlated over large areas, and 100% of PV is down across the continental USA for hours every night.

    “… and to expect renewables to provide 100% backup is expecting too much of that particular technology.”

    Meaning that to expect “renewables” to fully decarbonize just electric power is expecting too much.  However, we REQUIRE 100% decarbonization.  Ergo, “renewables” are unfit for running zero-emission power grids, QED.

    “For example, when our nuclear plant goes down, it goes down unexpectedly.”

    Nuclear fueling and maintenance outages are scheduled years in advance.  Unscheduled outages are rare.

    “Well, we don’t expect our nuclear plant to have 100% backup…”

    The grid requires 100% backup (spinning reserve) for the largest generator in the region.  “Renewables” add to those requirements, because lulls in wind and passing clouds are unpredictable and plants which run at 100% without storage cannot cover for each other.

    “… that’s part of that system, the nuclear system, because the whole system works as a whole.”

    This is weasel-wording.  His crap goes on another 4x as long but I’m not going to even listen to it, let alone transcribe and refute it.  He forfeited his right to further hearing in just 35 seconds.

    THAT is the clown you cite as an authority.

    Germany outright abandoned its 2020 emissions targets because they are impossible to meet with the mandated energy sources.

    The reason Germany is burning more fossil is because they prematurely and foolishly shut down their nuclear power, rather than relying upon it as a bridge to a clean energy future.

    As Bas Gresnigt said over and over at the old Energy Collective, the FIRST demand of the Energiewende is “All Nuclear Out”.  That supercedes every other priority, including GHG emissions.  Germany put de-carbonization as the second priority, and mirabile dictu! it is FAILING before our eyes.  Who knew?!

    Also, the federal provisions in the original Energiewende to prohibit states and towns from passing the equivalent of bylaws to prohibit erecting wind and solar were weakened.

    So, having been enabled by default, why hasn’t the “renewable” capacity to replace the lost nuclear plants gone in and done the job?  I mean, could there SERIOUSLY be any flaw in the notion that “renewables” can replace nuclear 1:1?  /sarc

    You actually believe that your power comes from wind, even if the wind isn’t blowing right then? And you call yourself a “quant”?

    Restoring to argumentum ad hominem is a pretty good indication that the party doing it is debating disingenuously

    No, you clown.  A posteriori critiques of fact are the opposite of ad hominem; you are being taken to task for the lie of your nom de plume as proven by your manifest failure to live up to it.

    Even in the worst case, over the year only 20% of our total electric power comes from the grid.

    Oh, so 20% fossil is okay?  And what about the REST of your energy?  Is your space heat renewable?  How about your transport?  Embodied energy of purchased food?  Energy of industrial products you consume?

    If you can’t address those things, you’re a long way from solving the real problem facing us.

    And the part of the equation you are deliberately omitting is that when we generate way more than we need, that gets pushed out to our neighbors who then do not need to draw from fossil fuels to supply their energy.

    The thing you are too dense to realize is you can only do this because your neighbors are using fossil fuels almost exclusively; if they were attempting to do the same as you there would be no demand “sink” for your surplus power.  Your claim to be “renewable” requires that your neighbors are not.  Your scheme cannot scale; it is doomed to failure as any sort of solution.  THAT is why you are a fraud.

    Let me remind you:  it is IMPOSSIBLE for everyone on the grid to be a generator all at once.  The grid is not a battery and cannot deal with net surpluses.  Yet that is what you “renewable” advocates insist will happen.  No one who says that is remotely like a “quant”.

    Now if you actually add storage, things can be different.  Cal Abel’s molten-salt scheme for storing nuclear heat for load-following could easily have electric heaters added to stash excess grid power away in the salt, allowing the power plant to be a net load for balancing purposes.  Your round-trip efficiency will be low, perhaps 40%, but “solar salt” has the virtue of being very cheap and low-maintenance (a little nitric acid now and then to replace decomposed nitrate and you’re good).  You can make salt tanks practically as big as you want, at some cost in materials and greater heat loss.

    That’s all off-the-shelf technology.  Why aren’t you pushing it as a solution, or element thereof?

    Even in the worst case, over the year only 20% of our total electric power comes from the grid.

    Electricity is but a small fraction of your total energy consumption.  I call this “electricity tunnel vision”.  Are you REMOTELY close to carbon neutrality?

    And the part of the equation you are deliberately omitting is that when we generate way more than we need, that gets pushed out to our neighbors who then do not need to draw from fossil fuels to supply their energy.

    Which, as I pointed out above, is ONLY possible because they run on fossil-fired electricity more than not.  Were they to build out systems like yours, you would ALL be trying to back-feed the grid at once when the sun was good… and you simply cannot do that.  Your scheme does not scale; it cannot be expanded into a solution.

    Now, I have to admit that I feel for you somewhat.  Here you are, having invested large amounts of cash and lots of effort into making yourself “green” (and hoovering up Federal subsidies and net metering profits), and I am telling you that it’s both unsustainable/unscalable and grossly inadequate.  That’s gotta hurt.  Problem is, it’s true.  Railing at me won’t make truth go away.  The quant in you should be going over the numbers and figuring out what to do next, or instead… if he exists, that is.

    how do you account for the anti-fossil fuel electrons we generate at the grid in peak generation season, which we do not consume? You have nothing in your calculation to account for those.

    Accounted for completely.  Absent something like the use of solar-salt heat batteries as dump loads, you can’t even make use of total net temporary surpluses.  You have no way to store them for the off-season; your storage budget can only pay for hours, not months.

    This is why your presentation is misleading. And, given the tussles I’ve had with defenders of the grid, I’m sure the misrepresentation is deliberate.

    As someone who admits being dependent upon the grid for power when your own supplies run low, you’re awfully funny painting yourself as the “enemy of the evil, exploitative grid”.  The grid is a way of sharing generation, achieving economies of scale and benefits of specialization of labor.  You pay the utility to keep generators running so you don’t have to.  You share big generators with millions of other customers so that output doesn’t have to jump 3x when your refrigerator kicks on.  Sometimes you’re even one of those generators.  You derive considerable benefit from the grid; give it credit.

    There is no future for e.g. zero-emission vehicles WITHOUT the grid.  What we need is a grid fed almost entirely by 24/7 zero-emission power (there’s some role for backup generators fired by carbon-based fuels, just not a big one).  If we are going to decarbonize we have to electrify most things and base as much of the backup as possible on carbon-neutral fuels.  Further, if we are going to pull the excess 60 ppm of CO2 out of the atmosphere to get back down to 350, we’re going to need quite a bit more carbon-free energy to do it.  I don’t know enough about the energy cost of the different possibilities for doing that; I’d need to see a quantification of e.g. the energy requirements of enhanced weathering to know if it’s easier than direct atmospheric capture, and that’s not information I’ve got.  Maybe we can turn powdered mafic rock into soil, soaking up CO2 emitted by plant roots and mineralizing it.  That’s just not something I know.  Yet.  Don’t have time, really.

  130. David B. Benson says:

    Here in the Pacific Northwest we have at least two county level public utility districts. The two I know about always provide electricity at modest, not-for-profit prices. Require no taxpayer support.

    Also there is public utility which mainly runs the sole nuclear power plant, Columbia Generating Station. It is the best run commercial reactor in the USA.

    Lastly there is BPA, Bonneville Power Administration, which runs the federal dams on the Columbia River system, charging not-for-profit prices to other publicly owned utilities and a bit more to other entities. The excess revenues go to improving fisheries. There is no draw on the federal treasury.

    So Engineer-Poet is just wrong in that respect.

  131. Ben McMillan wrote:

    Batteries are so effective at supplying frequency control and ancillary services that they have crushed the market in South Australia. This is despite the ‘big battery’ having a capacity of only 10% of the mean SA grid power (discharge duration is about an hour).

    The SA battery has a capacity of 129 MWh, roughly the same as 2000 Tesla Model 3’s.  17 years ago now, AC Propulsion issued its final report on the use of PEV batteries for grid regulation.  It worked famously.  PEVs totalling 200 MWh or so of storage (vehicle count depending on battery capacity) could do the job of that Tesla battery AND decarbonize a great deal of transportation.

    Why are we wasting batteries doing just one thing, when we could be decarbonizing transport and eliminating oil imports too?  Why do one good thing when you can do THREE good things?

    Electricity tunnel vision, that’s why.  It’s an inability to see connections/synergies between systems.

  132. eco-want wrote:

    https://www.conedsolutions.com/energy-storage-capabilities/

    No specifics.

    https://www.renewableenergyworld.com/2019/12/10/con-edison-will-reduce-peak-demand-with-nycs-largest-battery-storage-system/

    A whole 4.8 megawatts.  Indian Point is over 2000 MW.

    https://www.greentechmedia.com/amp/article/new-york-approves-316-mw-battery-plant-for-peak-power

    (note corrected URL) A whole 316 MW, less than 1/6 of the capacity being forced out of business by political edict… which itself supplies about 1/4 of the power consumed in the greater NYC area.

    This is at least borderline greenwashing.  The batteries are there for power-quality improvement and peaker-replacement, not anything remotely like making a “renewable economy”; they are far too small for that.  An actual quant would have understood this instantly.

  133. David B. Benson says:

    Nobody will void their car battery warrenty by offering services to the utilities. The batteries in South Australia and soon in NYC have 24/7 availability for frequency control. Good investments.

  134. Willard says:

    > An actual quant would have understood this instantly.

    One time is fine, Poet. Two times is not.

    Show some class, please.

  135. DBB wrote:

    So Engineer-Poet is just wrong in that respect.

    Either specify exactly what I am wrong about, or retract the claim.

  136. Can we try to keep the discussion pleasant and constructive. It is Christmas tomorrow 🙂

  137. Everett F Sargent says:

    “Can we try to keep the discussion pleasant and constructive. It is Christmas tomorrow”

    Happy Holidays to you and yours and all the great people who post here.

  138. David B. Benson says:

    Engineer-Poet wrote “socialism works until …” and much more of a similar vein. I gave examples of cooperatively owned and operated, i.e., public, electric utilities here in the Pacific Northwest which do not draw on the public purse, refuting his paragraphs of claims.

  139. Engineer-Poet wrote “socialism works until …” and much more of a similar vein.

    I was referring to this:

    The purpose of utilities is to serve whatever the public power commissions, as representatives of the citizenry, say they are supposed to serve, even if that means they operate at a loss. That they make a profit and have shareholders is their own choice, and their own problem. I hope they stop doing that and go bankrupt.

    What is “I want to use government power to drive the private operators out of business so I can seize their capital assets and run them the way I want to” but socialism?  (And pretty much a guarantee of disaster?)

    I gave examples of cooperatively owned and operated, i.e., public, electric utilities here in the Pacific Northwest which do not draw on the public purse

    And the TVA is another example.  But none of those entities started or grew by uncompensated seizure of private utilities.

  140. David B. Benson says:

    Engineer-Poet, uncompensated seizure is not socialism
    https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/socialism
    but rather theft. I gave examples of socialism in the electric power industry in the Pacific Northwest.

    Just so there is no confusion, TVA is in the Southeast USA. Moreover, it seems now half private thus a less pure example. Also note that under the broadest interpretation of socialism all electrical power providers are socialistic as such are regulated by the state commission.

    An example of what happens when a power company cannot pay it’s bills is PG&E in California. So far has fended off being broken up into public utiity districts. So ecoquant is unlikely to get his wish. But do note that PG&E is broke, so in some worthless.

  141. Pingback: 2019: A year in review | …and Then There's Physics

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