America's clean energy policies need a reality check

May 01, 2012
America's clean energy policies need a reality check, say Stanford researchers
In the fast-globalizing clean-energy industry, the US should press its advantage in engineering, high-value manufacturing, installation and finance, writes Stanford researcher Jeffrey Ball. Credit: NAIT/Creative Commons

America's approach to clean energy needs to be reformed if it is to meaningfully affect energy security or the environment, according to two new articles by Stanford writers.

The debate over how to fundamentally change the world's massive system comes amid taxpayers' $500 million tab for the bankruptcy of Fremont, Calif., solar company Solyndra, the , government budget cuts and plunging U.S. prices for natural gas. Making the change cost-effectively will be crucial, write Jeffrey Ball and Kassia Yanosek, both based at Stanford University's Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance.

Ball, scholar-in-residence at the Stanford center and former energy reporter and environment editor for the Wall Street Journal, writes in the current edition of Foreign Affairs that the world's renewable-energy push has been sloppy so far. It can be fixed through a new approach that forces these technologies to become more economically efficient, he writes in the article, "Tough Love for Renewable Energy."

"It is time to push harder for , but to push in a smarter way," Ball writes.

Kassia Yanosek, entrepreneur-in-residence at the Stanford center and a private-equity investor, writes in Daedalus, the journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, that attempting to accelerate a transition to a low-carbon economy is expensive and risky. Policymakers, says Yanosek, need to realize that achieving a transition with government-aided commercialization programs will require putting billions of taxpayer dollars at risk, often in a high-profile way.

"If government officials wish to accelerate the next , they will need a different strategy to develop an industry that can survive without major subsidies, one that prioritizes funding to commercialize decarbonized energy technologies that can compete dollar-for-dollar against carbon-based energy," Yanosek said.

With natural gas prices so low due to huge new supplies of shale gas, besting the current energy system has become tougher.

Reinvention, not rejection

Ball writes that governments and investors have spent big money on renewable power, slashing the cost of many renewable technologies and creating jobs. And yet, he notes, modern renewables remain a very small percentage of the global energy mix.

"Wind and solar power will never reach the scale necessary to make a difference to national security or the environment unless they can be produced economically," he writes. "The objective is not wind turbines or solar panels. It is an affordable, convenient, secure, and sustainable stream of electrons."

Taken together, the analyses by Ball and Yanosek argue for driving down the costs of key technologies and speeding up their deployment, said Dan Reicher, the executive director of the Steyer-Taylor Center, launched a little more than a year ago at Stanford Law School and the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

"This will require the right mix of targeted government policy and hard-nosed private sector investment," said Reicher, also a Stanford law professor and business school lecturer, and formerly an assistant U.S. energy secretary and private-equity investor.

Ball, in Foreign Affairs, writes that rationalizing "the conflicting patchwork of energy subsidies that has been stitched together over the decades" is essential. Supporters of renewable energy point out that public subsidies for these technologies are a fraction of those for fossil fuels, both globally and in the United States. Realistically, Ball figures, subsidies should be examined not just in total dollar amounts, but also per unit of energy produced. This more apples-to-apples comparison would help foster an honest debate about which subsidies best promote the type of energy system countries want.

Also key to America pursuing clean energy in the most economically efficient way is for the country to exploit globalization rather than fight it, Ball writes. Despite mounting trade-war tensions with China over wind and solar power, he writes: "If the goal of the renewable-power push is a cleaner, more diversified power supply, then low-cost solar equipment, from China or anywhere else, is a good thing."

In the fast-globalizing clean-energy industry, Ball writes, the United States should press its advantage in engineering, high-value manufacturing, installation and finance. "Much of the machinery used in Chinese solar-panel factories today is made in America," he writes. Installation remains a domestic business, and the U.S. financial system allows homeowners to install rooftop solar panels at no upfront cost. Ball notes that two other energy shifts will be at least as important as renewable sources: cleaning up the process of burning of fossil fuels, which provide most of the world's energy; and using energy from all sources more efficiently.

Nevertheless, Ball writes, America's renewable-energy tax credits need to be changed. He and Yanosek agree the current credits have contributed to an inefficient, boom-and-bust approach to renewable energy.

Yanosek writes that smarter government polices could help innovative technologies overcome what she describes as the main financial barrier – the "commercialization gap." To do this, though, politicians and taxpayers must realize that government efforts to help accelerate an energy transition will require massive and risky investments, she says. A project like building a next-generation nuclear power station or a new type of utility-scale solar thermal plant can require hundreds of millions, or even billions, of dollars.

The commercialization gap

After developers show that new technologies can work in prototype, they often cannot get the backing of traditional investors to build the first commercial project because the risk/return profile is not attractive to private investors, writes Yanosek, who invests in the energy sector at Quadrant Management. Such projects require more money than venture capital investors are willing to bet. But, says Yanosek, the risks of failure in such first-time projects are too great for private equity funds or corporate balance sheets.

If policymakers decide that funding commercialization is a priority, Yanosek's article provides a roadmap for government support. First, limited public dollars would be best spent moving a bunch of promising new technologies to the next stage.

That leads to Yanosek's next rule of the road: Government clean energy technologies must not become hostage to stimulus spending and job creation objectives. The legitimate beneficiaries of commercialization-gap support are promising but unproven technologies with no steady revenue stream. They have the potential for cutting prices, but by nature are not likely to ramp up employment significantly until after they have successfully crossed the commercialization gap.

Loan guarantees in many cases are not the best structure for funding companies that push the boundaries of cost and efficiency, Yanosek argues. Instead, the government should invest equity and thus profit proportionately when a beneficiary succeeds, setting up a revenue stream for continued funding. The funding body, furthermore, should take advantage of private-sector expertise and maintain independence from the Department of Energy, where awards can be slow in coming and may be politicized.

Ultimately, Yanosek says, policymakers and taxpayers must embrace the incremental advances and understand that there will be failures along the way. For government to push an energy transition faster than the historical pace, it cannot remove the steps, but only hope to take them more quickly.

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Lurker2358
3.6 / 5 (12) May 01, 2012
I wonder how much money convenience stores and grocery stores could save by covering their roof with solar panels?

Why is it so hard for commercial shopping centers to install panels on all their buildings?

This would have to save obscene amounts of money in energy costs for lighting, climate control, and food preservation, etc.

Take something very, very big like a Wal-Mart, and you can get 6600 KW-hours per day, per hectare roof space, which they have easily, just counting the 6 peak hours of each day.
axemaster
4.9 / 5 (7) May 01, 2012
I wonder how much money convenience stores and grocery stores could save by covering their roof with solar panels?

Yeah, I did this calculation a while back and they would produce something like 200%-300% of their energy needs, so they would make money in net. The installation cost might be the sticking point, depending on where you are.

Overall I think the most important point here is that we need a stable, long term energy policy. People are afraid to build companies and invest in this technology when there's no way of knowing what the finances will look like the next year.
RealScience
4.3 / 5 (3) May 01, 2012
@Lurker - Wal-Mart actually does a lot in this direction.
Ultra-efficient LED lighting in their freezers, skylights combined with electric lights that automatically dim when the sun is shining through the skylights, and solar on the roof starting at stores in the sunniest locations.
Wal-Mart says that it does this wherever it makes economic sense (part of everyday low costs leading to everyday low prices).
Deadbolt
3.1 / 5 (7) May 01, 2012
More R&D is needed in improving solar cells and making them cheaper and more efficient. We need less installation of models which are considered risky, and will become obsolete 3 years later anyway.

More R&D.
ab3a
3.9 / 5 (11) May 01, 2012
Lurker, you owe it to yourself and to your many disgusted readers to work this in to a full fledged business plan. Yes, you can put up solar panels. Have you priced them? Have you priced a synchronous inverter? Have you figured in how much you'll make when a cloud passes overhead?

I keep running the numbers every few years. When I reach a five year payback, I'm all over this technology. I have other friends with farms who are eager to set this up, but who keep running the numbers and coming up short.

Remember that as solar energy takes hold, the price of utility power will drop due to lowered demand. I need some buffer to act as a hedge against dropping energy prices. I have arbitrarily set my hedge to a five year payback. That's where my risk perception is.

We're not there yet. I look forward to the day when the financial numbers work. Until then, this is just a dream.
ryggesogn2
1.5 / 5 (32) May 01, 2012
NOW the 'progressives' are wondering why their socialist policies gob-smacked them.
Maybe the unwashed masses will finally understand the consequences of 'progressive' socialist polices is negative economic growth. Which IS the intended consequence of the 'progressive' socialist.
Lurker2358
3.4 / 5 (18) May 01, 2012
Maybe the unwashed masses will finally understand the consequences of 'progressive' socialist polices is negative economic growth. Which IS the intended consequence of the 'progressive' socialist.


Oh yes, fool, all of us "Socialists" just love the idea of negative economic growth.

It is my dream to destroy modern civilization by actually giving normal people a chance in life.

rygg, get real man.

I want "freedom" to also mean "fairness" instead of the FARCE it is now in this country.

Why are you so opposed to freedom and cheap, clean energy?

Do you have a "piss on the environment" sticker on your back window or something?

goodness.
Lurker2358
3.5 / 5 (14) May 01, 2012
Hey rygg:

Come to think of it, protecting the environment would be a "conservative" thing, if you really thought about it.

If you believe in God, then you should want to be a better steward of the Earth and keep it clean and pristine, and clean, renewable energies are the best way to do that.

You'd think all the right wingers would have that mode of thinking, since most of them claim to be Christians or Jews, and since God created man to be stewards over the Earth, but no, it's the "conservatives" who apparently don't give two bits about the environment or future generation's wealth or health. How ironic.
skytimelapse
4.6 / 5 (14) May 01, 2012
WHY does every article about solar and wind have to be degraded into politics. Ask yourself that- on a science website- why ALL the trolls come out trolling hard in discussions that should be science based.
The bottom line everyone gets sidetracked into ignoring is simple. Whoever wins the science race wins the energy race. Whoever wins the energy race wins the world. Yes, it is a never ending race but future energy will be the key to America's future in the next 50 years.
This is no place to let politics take over, and sadly it is politics that will keep the U.S. from winning with polarizing idiots running around.
ryggesogn2
1.5 / 5 (21) May 01, 2012
This is no place to let politics take over,

But that is exactly what you are saying when you write this:
Whoever wins the energy race wins the world.

So of course it is political when you want to steal OPM to 'win' the energy race. Govt subsidies are plundered wealth.
It is NOT political when companies use shareholder's money, venture capital money or their own profits to invest in the capital needed to 'win the energy race'. But then everyone will win as the technology will be licensed and more and more producers will compete, innovate spiraling into more efficient, cheaper energy. This is called win-win.
This happened in the oil industry over 100 years ago.
ryggesogn2
1.6 / 5 (23) May 01, 2012
protecting the environment would be a "conservative" thing, if you really thought about it.

It's too bad you have to think so hard about it.
Free markets and private property rights have a long record of conserving the environment.
What's really sad is how the 'progressives' get a pass on the environment when it is the socialist govts that have the worst environmental record. This includes govt owned facilities in the USA. Hooker Chemical was forced to sell Love Canal to the local school board so they could build houses. The school board is a govt entity that wanted more tax revenue.
alq131
2 / 5 (4) May 01, 2012
One thing that people often forget to factor in is the cost to make the solar panels: are they Si (requires lots of heat/energy to produce, are they CIGS (In is comparitively expensive and Se can be toxic--the manufacturing process creates a fair amount of Se waste), are they CdTe or "worse" HgCdTe (hazardous materials both in manufacturing and the waste stream). Solar PV (of which we're talking) isn't necessarily cheap or clean. Solar thermal on the other hand might actually be best from a clean point of view--steam and liquid salts as thermal batteries. If anyone can point us to a good analysis that factors all of these things in, then we can have a discussion as a country on a real solution that is cheap, clean, and realistically sized for consumers.
gregor1
2.5 / 5 (15) May 01, 2012
The biggest threat to the environment is a decline in the economy.
ryggesogn2
1.4 / 5 (16) May 01, 2012
I used to have a C-band satellite dish in my Tucson backyard.
I considered mirroring its surface, adding a solar tracker and putting a Stirling engine at the focal point to either generate electricity or drive a n A/C compressor: solar powered A/C.
I have seen some research here. Germany was putting huge systems in Saudia Arabia. More research is probably needed to lower costs for the Stirling engine and its heat converter.
axemaster
4 / 5 (12) May 01, 2012
Maybe the unwashed masses will finally understand the consequences of 'progressive' socialist polices is negative economic growth. Which IS the intended consequence of the 'progressive' socialist.

I guess you don't remember how successful Pres. Clinton's progressive policies were, right? Or how bad Bush's conservative policies were? Actually, does your viewpoint hold any water at all?
Lurker2358
3.9 / 5 (14) May 01, 2012

Free markets and private property rights have a long record of conserving the environment.


The EPA and FDA were created because that is NOT true, and regulation had to be forced.

Before the EPA, rivers used to literally burn with pollution from your "eco-friendly" capitalist corporations.

Before FDA, there was no standards of sanitation in the food industry, the only notable exception being Heinz corporation already exceeded the first standards. The other food companies actually hated on Heinz for supporting standards of food sanitation!
NotParker
1.7 / 5 (18) May 01, 2012
Germany is leading the way ...

"Every year 600,000 households (2 million people) are getting their power switched off in Germany because they cant afford the skyrocketing electric bills. At that rate the country (population 80 million) will become blacked-out like North Korea by 2050."

http://notrickszo...nnually/

And the UK. 100 billion pounds. Half a percent of UK electricity.

http://www.gridwa...r.co.uk/
ryggesogn2
1.5 / 5 (17) May 01, 2012

Free markets and private property rights have a long record of conserving the environment.


The EPA and FDA were created because that is NOT true, and regulation had to be forced.

Noooo, they were created by 'progressive' govts at the behest of corporate interests to limit their competitors and for govt to acquire more power.
http://www.theatl...#slide10
Looking at the pictures here, all were the result of govts at all levels failing to protect property rights.
Before FDA, there was no standards of sanitation in the food industry,

BS!
gregor1
1.6 / 5 (13) May 01, 2012
WHY does every article about solar and wind have to be degraded into politics?
Because when anything is said regarding climate groupthink is envolved
http://wattsupwit...upthink/
zz5555
3.7 / 5 (9) May 01, 2012
I keep running the numbers every few years. When I reach a five year payback, I'm all over this technology. I have other friends with farms who are eager to set this up, but who keep running the numbers and coming up short.


It's got to be pretty close. My solar is on an 8 year payback timeline right now. It'd be quicker, but I'm something of an energy hog, so the checks from the power company aren't as large as they could be.
Estevan57
2.9 / 5 (17) May 01, 2012
So the EPA and FDA were created by the "progressive" Nixon administration at the behest of corporations? Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha
Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha good one.

Shabs42
4 / 5 (9) May 01, 2012
Free markets and private property rights have a long record of conserving the environment.


Bah, I tried to post a let me google that for you and it won't format correctly or let me use a bit.ly. It would have been so very witty too. Anyways, do a google search for "history of corporate pollution in america" and look at just about any of the 77,700,000 results that come up.
RobPaulG
1.8 / 5 (10) May 02, 2012
Quit posting these political articles physorg. They are ridiculous.
Parsec
4.8 / 5 (4) May 02, 2012
It makes sense to subsidize companies as well as individuals to install solar panels at little or no cost, and then pay for them over a 5 or 10 year period. This effectively removes 90% of the obstacles associated with solar, which is the high initial cost.

Since the lifetime of almost all homes, and most business buildings are > 10 years, after the loans are paid back to the government, and the payback period has passed (something like 6-7 years at present) everyone wins.

In addition, the demand for solar panels would soar beyond belief as everyone would want to sign up (at least business building owners would), the panel costs would continue to plummet just as they have for the last few years. This sets up a virtuous cycle, lower costs decreasing payback times, making solar more attractive, increasing demand, lowering costs etc.

And by all means... who cares who manufacturers them? People should buy them from China if their cheaper.
Vendicar_Decarian
4.5 / 5 (6) May 02, 2012
"Why is it so hard for commercial shopping centers to install panels on all their buildings?" - Lurker

First, flat roofs are not designed to hold such panels and there is the potential for leakage should the panels perforate the roofing material, and they have to be anchored in order for them to be blown off in high winds, with potential liability.

There is also the issue of requiring a secondary wiring system, or the ability to pump the power into the grid.

And then there is the cost.

The first problems (above) are very easily solved with building codes that require roofs to be designed to provide access to panels.

The actual wiring is pretty trivial, but there needs to be some place for feed in to the grid in the building design. Again this is best addressed with modified building codes.

The cost of panels, is also a problem of course, but one that is growing less and less so every day.

Cont.
Vendicar_Decarian
3.7 / 5 (9) May 02, 2012
Ultimately the failure is the failure of government regulation in the design and construction of new buildings, and this failure is entirely caused by the opposition to every regulation by mindless Republicans and Libertarians.

They are hell bent on destroying America.

Vendicar_Decarian
3.9 / 5 (7) May 02, 2012
On the contrary, they are wondering why Republicans keep electing Conservative/libertarian traitors to high office who have a real agenda to destroy their own country.

"NOW the 'progressives' are wondering why their socialist policies gob-smacked them." - RyggTard

"Maybe the unwashed masses will finally understand the consequences of 'progressive' socialist polices is negative economic growth" - RyggTard

The only cause of the negative economic growth over the last few recessions has been a result of the free market and deregulatory policies of Conservatives who have chosen to run massive deficits and give away the nation to corporate interests rather than run a sound fiscal house.

History shows that Republicans do their best to run their nation into the ground, and then Liberals are left to pick up the pieces.

American style Capitalism is pure failure.

Vendicar_Decarian
4 / 5 (8) May 02, 2012
100% correct.

"This is no place to let politics take over, and sadly it is politics that will keep the U.S. from winning with polarizing idiots running around." - Sky

Yet you are a hostage of Borrow and Spend Republicans and their "true believer" surrogates like RyggTard.

Until they are eliminated as a power, America has no future.
Vendicar_Decarian
4.5 / 5 (8) May 02, 2012
If taxation - stealing Other People's money" is theft then the U.S. constitution is an instrument of theft.

"So of course it is political when you want to steal OPM to 'win' the energy race." - RyggTard

Odd how True Believers like RyggTard always defend their treason as constitutionally based, when in fact they are really the enemies of the Constitution, and unless they get their way, they are content to continue to destroy their own country and the lives of their own countrymen.

It is no coincidence that the most dishonest news network in American History (Faux News) is owned and operated by Libertarians who share RyggTard's views.

Vendicar_Decarian
4.1 / 5 (9) May 02, 2012
What decline in the economy? Corporations have never been more profitable than today.

"The biggest threat to the environment is a decline in the economy." - GregorTard
Vendicar_Decarian
4.2 / 5 (10) May 02, 2012
Liar.

"Free markets and private property rights have a long record of conserving the environment." - RyggTard

http://upload.wik...pill.jpg

http://www.youtub...wvFfv0Ho

http://www.youtub...-VfbfxcU

http://www.youtub...rV_WSkMw

etc... etc... etc...
Vendicar_Decarian
4 / 5 (8) May 02, 2012
Vendicar_Decarian
3.9 / 5 (7) May 02, 2012
Actually it is the open socialist states who have the best environmental record.

States with the worst environmental record are those that are run like corporations - closed states - where the people do not have a voice to effect change.

"What's really sad is how the 'progressives' get a pass on the environment when it is the socialist govts that have the worst environmental record." - RyggTard

Poor RyggTard. He just can't stop lying.
Vendicar_Decarian
4 / 5 (8) May 02, 2012
Wow. According to ParkerTard, in another 10 years, Germany will be back in neolithic times.

"Every year 600,000 households (2 million people) are getting their power switched off in Germany because they cant afford the skyrocketing electric bills." - ParkerTard

Fear and greed are the only motivation Conservatives know. Logic, and the fact that peak oil was reached back in 1997 eludes them.

Thank God American Democrats managed to get a rural electification program for America. If not then 25% of Americans would be without electricity today.

God bless Government.
Vendicar_Decarian
4 / 5 (8) May 02, 2012
Absolutely, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration are just Illuminati conspiracies designed to keep the American people from rising to greatness by the ingestion of fake drugs, rat droppings sold as rice, and through the rampant pollution of their country.

"Noooo, they were created by 'progressive' govts at the behest of corporate interests to limit their competitors and for govt to acquire more power."- RyggTard

Less Regulation = more Corporate Freedom = Less individual Liberty.
Vendicar_Decarian
4 / 5 (8) May 02, 2012
I like Gregor's link to the article by Paul MacRae.

But who is Paul MacRae other than a random blogger who has self published a very small "book" that is available on KOBO for $4.99

"I cant claim to be an expert on climate science." - Paul MacRae

It seems to me that what is needed to comment on the validity of climate science is an expert in climate science.

This doesn't appear to be a requirement for GregorTard.

"Because when anything is said regarding climate groupthink is envolved" - GregorTard

Eikka
5 / 5 (2) May 02, 2012
Remember that as solar energy takes hold, the price of utility power will drop due to lowered demand.


It's not only the demand that is lowered, but the supply that is increased when everyone tries to push energy into the grid at the same time. Same effect though. Prices will plummet and payback time is increased.

For the individual producers, solving the grid scale electricity buffering problem doesn't help with the payback times, because they're still collectively producing much more than the grid would sink, so it's a buyer's market. A solution is to buy your own battery, but that is disproportionally expensive since you lose the economy of scale, and many/most of the technologies simply don't work efficiently at such a small scale.

This is the hidden cost of intermittent "cheap" energy, which is often neglected when discussing the price of renewable energy. It's a reason to the subsidy lock-ins where the gov pays tariffs so that the producers can sell below actual cost.
Vendicar_Decarian
4 / 5 (8) May 02, 2012
It has been a long running meme in the Libertarian group mind.

I remember reading the exact same nonsense in Libertarian publications 40 years ago.

"So the EPA and FDA were created by the "progressive" Nixon administration at the behest of corporations?" - Estevan

The Insanity of Libertarian/Randite groupthink is timeless.
ryggesogn2
1.4 / 5 (9) May 02, 2012
"if the profit motive is the primary cause of pollution, one would not expect to find much pollution in socialist countries, such as the former Soviet Union, China, and in the former Communist countries of Eastern and Central Europe. That is, in theory. In reality exactly the opposite is true: The socialist world suffers from the worst pollution on earth. Could it be that free enterprise is not so incompatible with environmental protection after all?"
"DOD now generates more than 400,000 tons of hazardous waste a year more than is produced by the five largest chemical companies combined. To make matters worse, the Environmental Protection Agency lacks the enforcement power over the public sector that it possesses over the private sector. "
"federal government enterprise, it could be exempt from environmental regulations with which private sector and local government power plants must comply. "
http://www.thefre...llution/
Vendicar_Decarian
3.8 / 5 (10) May 02, 2012
This is why renewables are best used for base load, and boilers to make up the difference.

"It's not only the demand that is lowered, but the supply that is increased when everyone tries to push energy into the grid at the same time." - Eikka
Vendicar_Decarian
4.1 / 5 (9) May 02, 2012
No one has said that profit is the source of pollution. The Source of pollution is the production of material goods.

The reason for the accumulation is the lack of power people have over those pushing the stuff into the environment.

In America the problem was just as bad as in the communist countries, until the EPA was created along with various environmental laws that constrained the ability of corporations to despoil the environment.

A similar transition is currently occurring in China.

"if the profit motive is the primary cause of pollution... Blah, Blah, Blah..." - RyggTard's Libertarian Claptrap.

Larkus
4.3 / 5 (6) May 02, 2012
WHY does every article about solar and wind have to be degraded into politics. Ask yourself that- on a science website- why ALL the trolls come out trolling hard in discussions that should be science based.

I have the suspicion that at least some of them troll on this site as part of their day job.
Terriva
2.2 / 5 (10) May 02, 2012
WHY does every article about solar and wind have to be degraded into politics.
Check the Vendicar_Decarian troll..
ryggesogn2
1.6 / 5 (13) May 02, 2012
WHY does every article about solar and wind have to be degraded into politics.

Because there are thousands of local govts, 50 state governments and a federal govt with power to regulate all energy.
Vendicar_Decarian
4.3 / 5 (6) May 03, 2012
Correct.

"I have the suspicion that at least some of them troll on this site as part of their day job." - Terriva
Vendicar_Decarian
4.3 / 5 (6) May 03, 2012
And once the state is powerless to control the corporations....

"Because there are thousands of local govts, 50 state governments and a federal govt with power to regulate all energy." - RyggTard

The corporations will control the people.

This is the Libertarian corporate ruled "paradise" that RyggTard and his compatriots demand for America.

Eikka
2 / 5 (4) May 03, 2012
This is why renewables are best used for base load


And therein lies the second problem of renewable power. The difference between their nominal power and their average power.

Suppose your baseload demand is 80% of the total.
Then suppose your solar panels produce 15% of their nominal power on average. It stands to reason then that at times you hit that 80% maximum, so you can build no more, but then you are getting only 12% of your total energy from your solar panels.

To increase that, you need a storage medium, which is what I suppose you meant with 'boilers'. Trouble is, hot water boilers aren't exactly a great storage medium. Water only holds 4.19 kJ per kilogram per kelvin, so a typical household water boiler can recieve roughly 10 kWh from "empty" before it starts to boil over, and it doesn't help to add more boilers because you don't need any more hot water than what you're using.

What you'd need is an electric battery, but those are much more expensive.
Burnerjack
1 / 5 (6) May 05, 2012
If solar were cost effective compared to other energy sources, government subsidies, and "saving the planet" marketing schemes would not be necessary. Fact is, the "folding" green economy trumps the other green economy. I am beginning to suspect that the true business model of solar companies much like researchers is harvesting government funding more than anything tangible.
Vendicar_Decarian
4.3 / 5 (6) May 06, 2012
What makes you think that cost effective solutions are what is needed? Do you believe that money is the proper valuation of all things?

How much do you love your wife, your children, your dog? State your answer in dollars.

How much do you value clean air, or not having cancer?
State your answer in dollars.

How much do you like the color red? State your answer in dollars.

How knowledgeable are you? State your answer in dollars.

What is your IQ? State your answer in dollars.

How long did your parents live? State your answer in dollars.

"If solar were cost effective compared to other energy sources, government subsidies, and "saving the planet" marketing schemes would not be necessary." - Burnerjack
antialias_physorg
4.2 / 5 (6) May 06, 2012
Why is it so hard for commercial shopping centers to install panels on all their buildings?

I'd hazard an alternative idea: Companies that build/own shopping centers are in the multi million/billion dollar net-worth range. they can invest in other stuff that has a much shorter return on investment (weapons manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, ... ).
SteveL
5 / 5 (2) May 06, 2012
It is no coincidence that the most dishonest news network in American History (Faux News) is owned and operated by Libertarians who share RyggTard's views.


Publically available historical facts don't consistantly bear this out. Rupert Murdoch who is the head of News Corp, which owns Fox news had a left-of-center record by American standards, which includes support of the Australian Labor Party and socializing Australia's mineral, gas and oil resources before he came to the States. Later he was on the Board of Directors for the libertarian Cato Institute. So, which is he Libertarian or socialist? I'd say he's really neither.

Rupert Murdoch is all about money and uses politics as a tool. As a good businessman he simply saw a market demand for a conservative news organization as a source of revenue and took advantage of the opportunity. His investors; liberal, conservative and libertarian seem to have no problem with the money he is making them.
ryggesogn2
1.7 / 5 (11) May 06, 2012
"Fox News Channel attracts a more balanced audience: Currently, 39 percent of regular Fox News viewers are Republicans while 33 percent are Democrats; in 2006, the margin was 38 percent to 31 percent."

"The public continues to express skepticism about what they see, hear and read in the media. No major news outlet -- whether broadcast or cable, print or online - stands out as particularly credible.

"Democrats continue to give most news organizations much higher credibility ratings than do Republicans."

Read more: http://newsbuster...u6SLITEQ

kochevnik
2.6 / 5 (5) May 06, 2012
Rupert Murdoch is all about money and uses politics as a tool.
In other words, he's a zionist.
DavidW
1.6 / 5 (8) May 06, 2012
Stop raising live stock =

Enough energy
Enough food
Enough water
Enough land
Enough hope

Or we can behave as blood thirsty killers and get the just reward. A child is dying every three seconds so people can happily kill animals...
Time to get real.
kaasinees
1.5 / 5 (8) May 06, 2012
Advertise pescetarianism and we might stop poisoning ourselves by living like savages...
SteveL
5 / 5 (3) May 07, 2012
@DavidW: Happily killing animals is causing children to die every three seconds? Do you have proof? Any idea on the ratio of number of happily killed animals per number of children dying?

Unsubstantiated statements like yours tend to cause me to agree with you on one part anyhow; it is "Time to get real."
axemaster
4.3 / 5 (6) May 07, 2012
@DavidW: Happily killing animals is causing children to die every three seconds? Do you have proof? Any idea on the ratio of number of happily killed animals per number of children dying?

Unsubstantiated statements like yours tend to cause me to agree with you on one part anyhow; it is "Time to get real."

I would imagine his figure has something to do with the fact that livestock eat truly astounding volumes of food that could otherwise go to humans (i.e. grains). To wit:

"At present, the US livestock population consumes more than 7 times as much grain as is consumed directly by the entire American population (11). The amount of grains fed to US livestock is sufficient to feed about 840 million people who follow a plant-based diet (7)."

Source: http://www.ajcn.o...60S.full

About 6 million children starve to death every year, thus yielding one child dead every 5 seconds.

Source: http://en.wikiped...arvation
ryggesogn2
1.5 / 5 (12) May 07, 2012
It is socialism that is killing the children.
But why to 'progressives' care whether children die before or after they are born?
Zimbabwe used to export food. Under socialism, they are starving.
axemaster
5 / 5 (4) May 07, 2012
It is socialism that is killing the children.
But why to 'progressives' care whether children die before or after they are born?
Zimbabwe used to export food. Under socialism, they are starving.

I don't think the starvation problem is really a "form of government" issue. Sure, in North Korea it is, but overall it's definitely not in most governments best interest, if only because of revolts and so on.

More realistically it's a economic systems problem. Countries that rely on a small number of very valuable natural resources (oil, diamonds, minerals) tend to never develop what one might call a "balanced" economy, instead remaining dependent on the natural resource until it runs out - at which point their economies crash. In other words, these countries tend to have very homogeneous economies - they never have tech companies or other diverse stuff. This is pretty well studied at this point, so feel free to browse.
ryggesogn2
1.5 / 5 (8) May 07, 2012
I don't think the starvation problem is really a "form of government" issue. Sure, in North Korea it is, but overall it's definitely not in most governments best interest, if only because of revolts and so on.

Every place I can think of that has starving people have govts that do not protect property enabling the farmers to import the tools needed to raise food and create wealth so they can buy food.
Again, Zimbabwe used to export food. Their govt changed and now they are starving.
Correlate with the rankings here: http://www.herita.../ranking
hey never have tech companies or other diverse stuff.

This is an economic liberty, aka a govt control,aka socialism, problem.
ryggesogn2
2 / 5 (12) May 07, 2012
840 million people who follow a plant-based diet

How many people live on grass, alfalfa and corn silage?
Cattle and sheep are ruminants converting plants humans can't eat to delicious meat, milk, butter, and yogurt and leather and wool.
ryggesogn2
2.2 / 5 (13) May 07, 2012
Do the vegans support using all arable land to produce human food? If so, then say good bye to beer, whiskey, vodka, ...cotton for clothes, ...marijuana, cocaine, heroin, .....
No wonder vegans are so unpopular.
SteveL
5 / 5 (1) May 10, 2012
I'd suggest that the worst killer of children are their parents. How many parents bring children into the world without the ability or even the intention of properly caring for and nurturing their children? While this issue may be more visible in "advanced" cultures the numbers are significantly higher in 3rd world countries.

Simply put; some people are having far more children than they can properly care for. I'd be for a program like they have in China that limits the number of children you can have, unless you can demonstrate the financial capacity to care for more than the set number of children.

Starvation doesn't care if we have more children than required to replace the parents due to cultural or religious reasons. It simply doesn't matter to a starving child why it is here. "Saving" our planet comes down to using less resources. The best way to do that is for there to be less people. Perhaps if parents had less children the few they had would be more valuable.
ryggesogn2
1.9 / 5 (13) May 10, 2012
I'd be for a program like they have in China that limits the number of children you can have,

What a 'progressive' idea!
Gee, why not try a really progressive idea and promote economic prosperity by limiting the power of the state to control your life?
NotParker
1.7 / 5 (12) May 10, 2012

"At present, the US livestock population consumes more than 7 times as much grain as is consumed directly by the entire American population


36 - 40% of the US corn crop is burned in cars as biofuels. Your green cult is depriving people of inexpensive food.
NotParker
1.6 / 5 (7) May 10, 2012

"At present, the US livestock population consumes more than 7 times as much grain as is consumed directly by the entire American population


36 - 40% of the US corn crop is burned in cars as biofuels. Your green cult is depriving people of inexpensive food.


"The U.S. grew about 12 billion bushels of corn last year. The bulk of that was used for animal feed and for fuel, around 5 billion bushels for each. (Last year, for the first time, slightly more of our corn was used for ethanol than for feed.)

Only about 20 percent of the corn grown in the U.S. is used for human food in corn products like chips and tacos, and as corn syrup, both high-fructose and the simple kind. The sweet corn you like to eat on the cob in the summer accounts for only about 1 percent of the corn grown in the United States."
NotParker
1.6 / 5 (7) May 10, 2012

Only about 20 percent of the corn grown in the U.S. is used for human food in corn products like chips and tacos,


Hey axemaster, if we use more corn for tacos and less corn for cattle, what are we going to put in our tacos? Bigot.
axemaster
5 / 5 (4) May 10, 2012
Hey axemaster, if we use more corn for tacos and less corn for cattle, what are we going to put in our tacos? Bigot.

Do you have some sort of psychiatric disorder? Because I can't follow a word you're saying!

How many people live on grass, alfalfa and corn silage?
Cattle and sheep are ruminants converting plants humans can't eat to delicious meat, milk, butter, and yogurt and leather and wool.

Well, I'm sure all the people who have literally nothing to eat can appreciate your condemnation of non-delicious food. I'm sure they'll support your views after finishing their mud cakes (no really).
http://www.guardi...elopment
NotParker
1.6 / 5 (7) May 11, 2012

Well, I'm sure all the people who have literally nothing to eat ...


... were not helped by 40% of the corn acreage diverted to growing corn to burn in cars.

"ethanol policy has been a major contributor to reduced red meat production. Per capita beef supplies for next year are projected to be at their lowest level since 1955. Food inflation is rampant?--?especially in categories where corn is a significant input. To date, poultry prices are up 3.4 percent over last year, milk and dairy is up 9.1 percent, pork is up 7.5 percent, and hamburger is up 10.4 percent. All categories are projected to increase even more next year. Moreover, the impact is not just domestic, as more than 60 percent of the world's tradable corn supply originates in the United States."

http://www.cbsnew...-fiasco/
antialias_physorg
4 / 5 (6) May 11, 2012
Well, I'm sure all the people who have literally nothing to eat can appreciate your condemnation of non-delicious food.

There probably isn't just a black/white side to this issue. But I think we can agree that first worlders consume far too much meat on average. Reduction to zero would not be sensible.

There are some essential vitamins/nutrients you can't get solely through plant foods - even though they may be nominally contained within we just don't have the digestive system to get at all of them. There's a reason why herbivores chew their cud, have multiple stomaches and/or very much longer intestines than we do.
The deficiencies won't show up right away - because humans do have reservoirs/buffer systems - but they do show up eventually.

The balance would be much better if we reduced animal farming somewhat. Whether that would be enough to merit biofuel farming is debateable. Current land productivity is already forced above the natural limit.
ryggesogn2
1.8 / 5 (10) May 11, 2012
Current land productivity is already forced above the natural limit.

No its not. Especially not is the socialist paradises of DPRK, Zimbabwe or Haiti.
NotParker
1.6 / 5 (7) May 11, 2012
Well, I'm sure all the people who have literally nothing to eat can appreciate your condemnation of non-delicious food.

There probably isn't just a black/white side to this issue. But I think we can agree that first worlders consume far too much meat on average.


The rest of the world consumes too little. Raise their prosperity level, have them eat more meat and magically their birthrate will drop.
RealScience
3 / 5 (4) May 11, 2012
I don't often agree with NP and Rygg2, but in this case they are correct that CURRENT biofuels are an environmentally destructive travesty perpetuated by politics.

Food diverted to ethanol is ultimately replaced by clearing forest. Biodiesel is even worse, causing direct deforestation that propelled Indonesia to become the world's 4th largest emitter of CO2. Even co-firing biomass with coal is marginal - forests in the U.S. southeast are being cut for fuel rather than allowed to grow and absorb CO2.

That's not to say that biofuels will always be bad, just that current biofuel policies, no matter how well-intentioned, are poorly thought out and do more harm than good.

And that's in addition to the human tragedy of biofuels increasing food shortages and prices.
antialias_physorg
3.4 / 5 (5) May 11, 2012
There could be a middle ground, here. Most food plants produce some waste (corn stalks, etc. ) which may well be used to make biofuels without harming the food producton. We may even go so far as to breed plants that produce 'better' stalks (more biofuel per plant) just a we breed plants to be more bountiful.

The wholesale takeoer of African farmeland is something that needs to be stopped. Though I have no idea how this could be accomplished.
RealScience
2 / 5 (4) May 11, 2012
@AP - Although celluosic ethanol would be a big improvement, the stalks and similar parts are normally to build the soil.
We may learn to fertilize areas of ocean and harvest the algae and cyanobacteria for biofuels. Since ocean productivity is generally highly mineral limited, fertilizing the oceans can greatly increase the total biomass, leaving some for increased food as well as some for biofuels.
antialias_physorg
3.3 / 5 (4) May 11, 2012
Fertilizing the oceans is something we really shouldn't do. That's very close to geoengineering without an 'undo' function (dumping stuff into the oceans affects the entire food chain - not just the algae you want to feed).

At least on land, when you screw up, it stays within a limited region - which you can clean up at your leisure. Doing this on a patch of ocean...not so much.

Closed off lagoons, shallow artificial lakes on land (basically the way we do it now) that would be acceptable. For anything else the possibility of a major fuck up is just too unnerving.
ryggesogn2
2 / 5 (4) May 11, 2012
The wholesale takeoer of African farmeland is something that needs to be stopped. Though I have no idea how this could be accomplished.

Not surprised you would not know about free markets and property rights.
If your only tool is a hammer (and sickle), all problems look like nails.
axemaster
5 / 5 (2) May 11, 2012
... were not helped by 40% of the corn acreage diverted to growing corn to burn in cars.

I actually agree with you on this issue. Producing biofuels consumes absurd amounts of acreage and doesn't provide nearly enough benefit to be worth it. Our use of biofuel in the USA has directly led to dramatically increased food prices in other countries. It causes unrest in the affected countries, which in turn worsens our own national security situation.

geoengineering stuff

Antialias_physorg, I couldn't agree with you more. As a scientist, the prospect of hardcore geoengineering sends a chill down my spine - partially because it would likely be decided by f*** up politicians, and also because it provides short term gains that would likely lead us to put off solving the long term problems.
RealScience
5 / 5 (2) May 11, 2012
@AP and Axemaster - Humans have already unintentionally altered the oceans to a very great extent. Killing the bulk of the whales reduced the nutrients available dramatically (whale poop floats and releases key nutrients slowly right where photosynthesizing life forms need it). Evidence of whale populations inferred from genetic diversity of pre-whaling samples indicate that the oceans were far more productive (3x to 5x more) before we started this unintentional geoengineering.

I agree that blindly trying large-scale fertilization would be insane, but given the evidence that we would be getting closer to the 'natural' condition of the oceans, cautiously exploring a possibility that could restore the largest ecosystems on the planet, greatly increase the food supply, and reduce the CO2 burden we are placing on the oceans and climate makes sense.

Politicians are going to push geoengineering on us anyway - let's at least get a sound scientific foundation in place first.
axemaster
5 / 5 (1) May 11, 2012
I understand your point, but I think that geoengineering in general is probably going to be used as an excuse for continued CO2 production, since we will be able to "mitigate" the effects. All the problems potentially solved by geoengineering (albeit at great risk) can also be solved at far lower risk by simply lowering CO2 output. Hence why I am extremely reluctant to endorse geoengineering.

In effect perfecting geoengineering would be like handing the world to the oil companies / big business on a silver platter. It would delay action until the damage was far worse than it would otherwise be. That's my view.

Politicians are going to push geoengineering on us anyway - let's at least get a sound scientific foundation in place first.

Politicians won't be able to sell geoengineering to the public unless it is actually doable - thus we shouldn't be researching it. I know you think we can "just gather information", but the world just doesn't work that way sadly.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) May 12, 2012
but given the evidence that we would be getting closer to the 'natural' condition of the oceans

Humans think to monocausal when it comes to dreaming up solutions. That works fine in a lab or a technical process.

The ecosystem, however, is fantastically complex - full of positive and negative feedback, buffer systems of unknown size and capacity, and host to species whose evolutionary vector we cannot even guess at in the presence of a new stimulus.

We're dealing here with an unknown number of sticks and spinning platters while saying that using one red platter on the 7th stick will solve our problems. I just don't find that likely (and more likley than not to cause consequences we have no way of mitigating after the fact)
RealScience
5 / 5 (1) May 12, 2012
@ AP & AM - I completely agree with you for most geoengineering. For example, sulfate injection or orbital particles would block heating but not acidification, and if we stopped these mitigation efforts we would quite quickly be plunged into an unshielded CO2-rich climate. And by blocking sunshine these would also make utilizing solar harder.

However if we can sequester CO2 by restoring (even if imperfectly) a productive ecosystem, even if we were to stop restoring the ecosystem we would have prevented some increase in CO2 and the partially restored ecosystem would continue to absorb some CO2.

Furthermore restoring ecosystems has positive side effects, slowing genetic diversity loss and reducing world hunger. People who are less poor tend to think more about the future and also tend to have fewer children, which also helps solve the problems.

- continued -
RealScience
5 / 5 (1) May 12, 2012
Restoring ecosystems is MUCH lower risk than aggressive geoengineering such as sulfate injection. For example, letting the eastern U.S. regrow into forest sucks up a decent portion of the CO2 emitted by fossil fuels even from a major emitter such as the U.S. This is significant geoengineering, but because it is restoring a more natural state I do not find it a cause for worry.

As for not selling geoengineering to the public, please look at the proportion of the U.S. that currently doubts evolution, global warming, etc. Politicians would let things build to crises levels, and then, with methane bubbling from permafrost at an alarming rate, even sensible scientists would agree that we had to act fast.

The only non-malthusian way to solve the current environmental crises is with more knowledge rather than by avoiding learning.
That includes ecosystem restoration as well as low-cost renewable energy (my current field).
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) May 12, 2012
However if we can sequester CO2 by restoring (even if imperfectly) a productive ecosystem

Such an ecosystem is carbon neutral. It sequesters (next to) nothing (only the amount being in play by the biomass at any one time - which is pretty negligible. The fossil fuels we are using up are fantastically more than reforestration of a continent. It's the combined biomass of a billion years).

Furthermore restoring ecosystems has positive side effects, slowing genetic diversity loss and reducing world hunger.

Why would it slow genetic diversity? (And why would slowing genetiv diversity be a good thing - I'd argue the opposite would be true.)

I'm also not seeing how this would help (even in a minimal way) to solve world hunger. Care to explain?

RealScience
4 / 5 (1) May 12, 2012
@AP You missed the 'loss' in "slowing genetic diversity loss". Habitat loss is a main driver of genetic diversity loss, both within species and of whole species.

The increase in photosynthetic organisms can suffer several fates:
1) they can be eaten by larger creature, that we in turn can eat, reducing world hunger and reducing pressure on terrestrial protein sources (which slows clearing of forests.
2) they can be harvested for fuel, replacing fossil fuels with CO2-neutral fuels
3) When the die without being eaten some sink to the ocean floor, sequestering carbon (eventually forming oil shales, for example).
These are good outcomes.

4) They can decay to CO2 - a neutral outcome.

5) They can decay to methane - a bad outcome that must be avoided.

Other significant dangers are getting the wrong organisms (e.g., red tide) or having sufficient decay rates to use up the water's oxygen (dead zones).

Small-scale experimentation would be needed to learn how to get good outcome.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.8 / 5 (5) May 13, 2012
@DavidW: Happily killing animals is causing children to die every three seconds? Do you have proof? Any idea on the ratio of number of happily killed animals per number of children dying?

Unsubstantiated statements like yours tend to cause me to agree with you on one part anyhow; it is "Time to get real."
DavidW likes to spout off about truth but is not above fabricating it when he thinks it is necessary. Much like the religionists he seems to favor.

Farmers are paid not to grow food in this country.
http://en.wikiped...ment_Act
SteveL
not rated yet May 15, 2012
4) They can decay to CO2 - a neutral outcome.

5) They can decay to methane - a bad outcome that must be avoided.

So, in the fall; burn my leaves and create CO2 or let them decay and create methane?
RealScience
5 / 5 (1) May 15, 2012
@SteveL: Unless you let them decay under water or otherwise exclude oxygen, they'll decay to CO2 anyway.

Best:
1) Mix with manure in a sealed anaerobic digester, use the methane to generate electricity while using the waste heat to heat your hot water and/or your house, and use the digestion sludge to build your soil.
2) Reduce to bio-char with concentrated-solar pyrolysis, use the gas given off to generate electricity (while using the waste heat), and use the bio-char to build your soil.

Good and practical: Compost them and build your soil.
Or rake them into the woods, where nature will do it for you.

Neutral: burn them and release the CO2, spread the ashes back on the plants.

Worst: Bury them in swamp mud and let the methane go into the air.

Vendicar_Decarian
2.3 / 5 (3) May 15, 2012
Not everyone is as mentally ill as you are RyggTard.

"Not surprised you would not know about free markets and property rights." - RyggTard