The only thing we can be sure of about the future is that it will be absolutely fantastic. So if what I say now seems to you to be very reasonable, then I have failed completely. Only if what I tell you appears absolutely unbelievable, have we any chance of visualizing the future as it really will happen.

- Arthur C. Clarke (h/t Brin)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Problem and the Problem with the Problem


The prolific (and arguably indispensable) Joe Romm has a terrifying summary about global warming which appears to me to be pretty much on the mark.

Joe believes that people who understand the situation in this way should stick together. Given the scope of the problem, and the vast difference between the perspectives of those few who understand it and those many who don't, you'd think we ought to stick together through thick and thin.

Matt Yglesias makes a similar point:
Where he goes wrong is that he seems to see this primarily as a political calamity in terms of the administration’s standing both domestically and in the eyes of international participants at the coming Copenhagen conference. That’s all true enough, but I think it’s important for people not to write about this issue without mentioning that failure to start reducing carbon emissions in the very near term is a substantive human and ecological catastrophe. Absent emissions reductions, the globe will continue to warm. That will, year after year, keep altering weather patterns around the world. A world inhabited by six billion people based on patterns of settlement established under existing climactic patterns. Climate change means drought and famine, flood and forest fire, all in new and unprepared places. People will die.
Well, people will die anyway, but let's not split hairs. This is starting to look like the whole world is a complete idiot and will march over the cliff in some sort of hypnotic trance.

The problem with the problem is that people don't actually believe it. They think we are, not to put too fine a point on it, making shit up. Why they think that is obvious enough. Some people are trying very hard to confuse matters. And being very effective at it.

The question that immediately follows, the motivating question of "In It" is "so what should we do about it"? And here we have a problem: the confusers have managed to convince the public that people who express deep concern do so for personal gain. In my own case, it has been nothing of the sort, at least insofar as personal gain reduces to wealth.

I very much appreciate and enjoy any encouragement I get form my readers. It has been one of the nicest aspects of the past couple of years. Indeed, I would like to be able to get a tiny amount of personal gain from doing what I do here. While not everybody could do the work I currently do for pay, I'd have to admit I'm replaceable. I could make a much better contribution given the time.

But that leads to an interesting problem of credibility. Lawrence Lessig, at a very impressive talk at SXSW, argued that a big problem with government nowadays is the corrupting power of money which mostly flows through issue advocacy. Once you associate yourself with a position for pay, your opinion, your arguments, even your soundest unassailable proofs, automatically lose value in the discourse.

Unfortunately we have entered a period when the truth itself "has a liberal bias". Things are really serious.

Does that mean that one has to toe the line for fear of injuring one's allies? Many people seem to think so.

But I'd like CSS on the table, and nuclear, and also reduced growth and economic decline. All of these options are anathema to the engine of green politics. And as for the cap and trade vs carbon tax thing, I'm just completely dazed and confused. I'd like to take it up as a neutral party.

I am no longer interested in debating the "Ravens" of the world on their terms. They are a problem but I find it odd that people persist in engaging them as if they had any intention of examining their beliefs. But we have to find some way to make it visible to the world that they are not actually the real thing.

To do that we need credibility, and to gain credibility we have to avoid lining up behind ideas that make little sense.

For instance? I'm glad you asked.

I am interested in debating the proposition that "green jobs" will "revive the economy" in the short run. It's considered heresy to question this in some circles, but there's a simple argument that in traditional economic terms it just can't be true, else it would have happened already.

Yes, it will cost. The longer we wait the more it will cost. We have to get started regardless of the cost; there is no limit to the cost of never shifting to sutainability. No limit short of the end of life.

Does it really help matters to pretend that there is some conspiracy behind the use of coal instead of wind and solar? How shall we think about these things if nobody is allowed to say anything other than the most cheerful nonsense on their side?

Well, it's not disallowed, it just doesn't have much presence in the "marketplace of ideas". Scientists are funded to talk to scientists. Anti-scientists are funded to talk to the public. Even the political parties aligned with the science scowl furiously at any effort to publicly think things through.

So how to fund a voice that is perceived as intelligent and independent, that engages with politics while representing science? The traditional structures of science and of politics and of journalism all fail us: not just me, who really would like to do that sort work if it existed somehow, but all of us, who need to think our way out of our quandary collectively.

Like Lyndon Johnson, we should recall the words of the prophet Isaiah: "Come, let us reason together." That doesn't mean ignoring the seriousness of our predicament, but on the other hand it doesn't mean marching in lockstep either.

We have to butt heads or we won't get anywhere.
There's my paraphrase of Isaiah 1:18.


I am going to try to do better with image credits, but I can't track down the page the excellent drought photo was on. It is from a government site in New South Wales, Oz.
The grackle is available at
Stuffed Ark .

33 comments:

gmcrews said...

Hi Michael,

I would cast the-problem-with-the-problem as one of quality assurance. Climate scientists have been unable to completely assure the quality of their data, theory, or computer models to the general public. Since the costs and consequences are potentially so high, this is the problem. The quality assurance of the science has become a bigger issue than the science itself. As you stated a different way, these are two related but separate issues.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems you think the key to the-problem-within-the-problem is one of credibility. The public will be confident/assured in the science only to the extent the scientists are credible. But I would point out that quality assurance engineers depend on credible processes, not their credible reputations. Why should this be any different?

Raven said...

gncrews,

You hit the nail on the head. If the pro-IPCC types are really so certain about their science then they should not be afraid to subject it to QA processes that are required by law in disciplines from medicine to engineering to finance.

Michael,

I don't believe that anyone in this debate is primarily motivated by money and that people who express strident opinions most likely fervently believe them.

However, the sincerity of belief does not demonstrate its correctness.

Anonymous said...

Nice raven puppet!

Don't give the "confusers" too much credit.
Is there a (mostly) unbiased poll showing that they've managed to convince the public about the "personal gain" thing or about the "QA" thing?
The public doesn't make policy anyway.

It's the solutions that have a credibility issue. The ones that could actually change the outcome won't fly politically.
Not that credibility matters very much: those like myself who would favor the solutions regardless of their climate impact are going to back them and those who have a political issue with the solutions will have little trouble rationalizing their opposition.

bi -- International Journal of Inactivism said...

Michael Tobis:

"I am interested in debating the proposition that 'green jobs' will 'revive the economy' in the short run. [...] there's a simple argument that in traditional economic terms it just can't be true, else it would have happened already."

I suspect it's something like the computer software wars, if you get my drift. Microsoft Windows is the dominant desktop OS not necessarily because it's superior, or because it's cheap, but because it's what everyone else uses. And to get on to my pet peeve (!), Web 2.0 sucks, but it's what my browser understands, and it's what everyone else's browsers understand. Bummer.

Green energy and green jobs aren't necessarily inferior, and they aren't being blocked by some worldwide conspiracy either, but there does seem to be some sort of gridlock in the current system that's hindering its adoption for no really good reason.

-- bi

lgcarey said...

Re the "green jobs" issue I agree with bi - "the market" is not working correctly, as it excludes the pricing of externalities.

I'd also like to suggest that there are two related problems regarding the whole AGW mitigation issue. First, the implications of the AGW issue is way outside anyone's range of normal experience - we simply have no prior experience coping with problems with planet-wide impacts which (if most AGW projections are correct) basically put the entire world population at risk, and require a coordinated world wide response in order to resolve. Secondly, there are no "obvious" solutions that have attracted wide agreement even within the segment of society that agrees there is a really big problem here - in this case "the best" is not just the enemy of "the good", it's the enemy of "doing anything at all". Cap and trade vs. carbon tax; nuclear vs. solar; biodiesel vs. rainforest preservation; CSS coal vs. wind. Discussion is normally good to find the best solutions, but this issue is so complex, that I don't know how we're ever going to get to a critical mass of support for SOME package of policies. Even worse, there appear to be physics based deadlines looming (or even worse, perhaps already past) - see, e.g., Fred Pearce's new article in the New Scientist regarding apparently accelerating Arctic permafrost melting and methane release: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20127011.500-arctic-meltdown-is-a-threat-to-humanity.html?full=true

Dano said...

the confusers have managed to convince the public that people who express deep concern do so for personal gain.

There are multiple prongs in the FUD pitchfork. That is only one of them. It is only part of the argument, designed to appeal to 10-20% of the populace. Fight that only and you fight a losing battle.

I am no longer interested in debating the "Ravens" of the world on their terms.

YAAAAAAAY! Finally!

But enough of this 'debate' bit. You need to discuss policy and societal responses to adaptation and mitigation actions.

So how to fund a voice that is perceived as intelligent and independent, that engages with politics while representing science?

You may want to spend some time speaking with Mooney and Kirschenbaum. They asked this a while ago. Chris is younger and on his own path which I perceive as different than yours, but he'll have some things to say that are useful for you, I strongly suspect.

I see where you are going. It is definitely needed. You are ahead of me by 8-12 months, so I'll be watching your journey closely.

Best,

D

(word verification says 'hemardr', not sure that is the best sign...)

Rich Puchalsky said...

This is a confusing post, but I think the heart of it is that there's a particular role that you want to play, and that has perhaps influenced you towards thinking that that role is needed. But what if it's not?

The independent voice of science is, well, science. The reason that some parts of the public don't find it credible is not because there is no credible source; it's because of propaganda. And the attempt to counter propaganda with raw trustworthiness is futile.

To take only the particular example that you keep bringing up, it makes no difference whether someone is working for an advocacy group or not. Denialists will say that they are in it for the money no matter what the actual case is. So the creation of an extra-special independent voice would have no effect.

As for the bits about CSS, nuclear, and so on: no one is actually stopping anyone from discussing anything. One of the things that confused me about your post was that from its setup, I expected the Ramm and / or Yglesias pieces to be saying something like that, but as far as I can tell, they didn't.

Those discussions, however, do encompass politics as well as technical matters. You can, if you wish, stress that the situation will lead to an environmental catastrophe rather than merely a political failure, but it is also a political failure, and has to be dealt with at that level or nothing will be fixed. And you seem to have a bit of trouble understanding explanations of why certain solutions that appear technically feasible under a rational, technocratic regime actually might be counterproductive under our actual one.

bi -- International Journal of Inactivism said...

lgcarey:

"Re the 'green jobs' issue I agree with bi - 'the market' is not working correctly, as it excludes the pricing of externalities."

Well, that, and even with externalities priced in, there's simply some systemic gridlock that must be overcome. Nuclear vs. coal + CSS can probably be 'resolved' by leaving the two to fight it out in the marketplace. But converting entire energy grid from AC to DC (say) isn't merely something that some entrepreneur can decide to do.

* * *

Dano:

"There are multiple prongs in the FUD pitchfork. That is only one of them. It is only part of the argument, designed to appeal to 10-20% of the populace. Fight that only and you fight a losing battle."

To me, at least for now, the most pernicious inactivist argument is the idea that there's some sort of 'middle ground' in the 'debate' that lies between the 'alarmists' and the 'denialists'.

If we can convince the world that the so-called 'middle ground' is precisely the wingnut position, then we win.

-- bi

tidal said...

Good old mom sent a heads up to this new site along. I'm surprised I missed it. Here is a contribution from IPCC member Dr. Andrew Weaver that I think is germane to mt's post w.r.t. content/message.
"There are many depressing things about being a climate scientist these days. The emerging data is going from bad to worse and the political leadership is still acting as if we have all the time in the world to deal with global warming... The scientific community has a very solid understanding of what is causing global warming: it is overwhelmingly because of the combustion of fossil fuels. Thus, the primary solution to the problem is as simple as it is daunting: the elimination of fossil fuel use in our economies... Few people outside the scientific and engineering community have yet come to terms with the immensity of that task...
The public debate has become a caricature. People complain about windmills blocking their view. Kayakers complain about seeing a transmission line on their weekend excursions. The public dialogue is riddled with outlandish and demonstrably false assertions such as windmills will devastate local bird populations or a hydro project will create more greenhouse emissions than it will displace by eliminating a coal-burning power plant. Some of the most insidious arguments attempt to slow things down: that we should do more planning, that we should do energy conservation first and build renewable energy later, that we shouldn’t do anything until China does... These arguments are fundamentally not serious. They come from groups and spokespeople that have simply not grappled with the math — with the scale and speed at which we must eliminate fossil fuel emissions..."
cont'd...

So, it is a scientist taking it directly to the public (next day the article in the Vancouver Sun).

I am curious what exactly the mission/founders are here, and who the content contributors are likely to be. Chris Hatch is, or was, with Environmental Defence Canada. Tyler Hamilton looks to be involved. Bill McKibben contributed a cross-posted article today. Actually, poking around, it becomes clearer here. So it is a coaltion of advocacy groups (e.g. EDF, Pembina, etc.), and other interested groups and individuals are joining. They are encouraging direct political pressure from citizens.

I hope this is supposed to more than just "Canadian Gristmill". On the other hand, it's not "The Green Party", so I suspect a lot of ideas will be tolerated... Except a certain type. They have an interesting comment policy!:
We're here to debate issues and generate action on global warming, the green economy and climate politics in Canada. These issues are deadly serious so be forewarned: we will delete rude or abusive comments, comments not about global warming, and those aimed at individuals.

We have a lot of work to do so if you want to reject the science and regurgitate long-debunked arguments against global warming, go elsewhere. Same goes for comments rejecting the scientists' solutions without offering realistic alternatives.

ATTN climate change denier trolls: you are cooking our kids and will be deleted.


Anyway, I know that's not exactly what mt has in mind (and I still don't know how you get paid!) but there are some interesting aspects to it. Eh? You hosers.

tidal said...

The point about encouraging direct citizen action was supposed to link here.

That is really an interesting group of founders... hmmm...

tidal said...

Ok, so I just off-handedly write "Canadian Gristmill" above. And then this song started endlessly looping in mind. Arrrgh!!!

Set my compass north, I got winter in my blood
"Canadian gristmill", gypsy tail wind
They call my home the land of snow
Canadian cold front movin' in
What a way to ride, oh, what a way to go

chriscolose said...

Michael,

you are very articulate as always. Great post.

Raven said...

"Green Jobs" is a nice buzz word but trying to sell "Green Jobs" as a benefit of acting on the GHGs will undermine any effort in the long run.

The reason is basic economics.

Technologies that require more labour to deploy are going cost more and this money has to come from somewhere. These extra costs will result in lost jobs elsewhere.

To make matters worse, governments that try to use "green jobs" as a way to sell "green" policies will likely favour technologies based on the number of potential jobs instead of the cost/joule. This would simply exacerbate the pain created by the higher energy costs.

There is also a huge danger of "green wash" where unsustainable technologies such as corn-to-ethanol are favoured despite the fact that they offer no real reductions in GHG production.

If the real goal is a mass conversion to rewewable energy technologies then we have to focus on minimizing the cost/joule instead of the jobs/joule.

Anonymous said...

Your economics are even stranger than your epistemology, Raven.

What basic economics has been saying since the lase depression is that this kind of government spending in such a circumstance creates indirectly creates even more jobs. Look up "multiplier".

Money is a social convention. It's managed by the government in the US nowawdays so the government gets to spend as much as it feels like. Look up "monetization".
What matters is concrete productive capacity. This being a depression, there's plenty of unemployment, much capacity laying fallow and cheap commodities. The time is right for ambitious programs.

That said, I find this selling of "green jobs" repellent as well. The greenwashing bothers me bit but my beef is really with the paternalism.

Raven said...

Anonymous,

If the multiplier effect was so effective then the government can forget about building roads and other infrastructure with trucks and heavy equipment since many more people could be employed if they used shovels and wheel barrows. In fact, why stop there? Think of all of the jobs that could be created if we had crews of people digging ditches with spoons!

If you think about you will realize that digging ditches with spoons would not benefit the economy much because it is an unproductive use of labour.

That is why selecting renewable technologies based on the number of jobs created is a bad idea. If the government is going to invest money it needs to make choices that provide the best return on investment and that will generally mean that technologies which require less labour are better.

David B. Benson said...

The problem with the problem.

Yup.

bi -- International Journal of Inactivism said...

Raven:

Nobody's proposing to select green technologies based on the number of jobs created. But it is a fact that even beginning the switch to green energy will require quite a lot of work upfront, whichever way you cut it.

-- bi

Raven said...

Bi,

If politicians use green jobs as a way to sell the investments you can bet that companies with products to sell will use the number of jobs created as a lobbying tactic. And you can bet that politicians will listen.

Steve Bloom said...

Frank, kindly ignore our feathered friend. Completely.

Raven said...

Steve,

Michael said:

"I am interested in debating the proposition that "green jobs" will "revive the economy" in the short run."

I am contributing to that debate without wasting time on the question about whether action is necessary in the first place.

I will leave to Michael to indicate whether my contributions along these lines are unwelcome.

Michael Tobis said...

Raven, it is a very close call.

Anonymous said...

Raven is doing little more than rehasing the arguments from the wingnut link Michael Tobis posted. Yet that's borderline off-topic and whatnot... because?
As far as I'm concerned, Raven is making more sense by the way (anybody get what "else it would have happened already" means?).

The multiplier works quite well and doesn't require the money to be spent productively. Policy makers the world over are working from that premise.
The first policy goal in a depression is to keep people solvent. Make-work is indeed a way to do this. It's not the way I favor and I find this "job creation" business quite depressing but I'm afraid discussion of the underpinnings of our economic system would be off-topic.
Please note that green jobs do not have a monopoly on pork or make-work. If you really have a problem with that, please look into defense spending.

gravityloss said...

Once two people meet, politics start. Actually, politics starts already with one people motivating him/herself with various thought models.

The larger an organization, idea or movement grows in terms of people, the larger share of mental power it uses for internal politics, and the less for the actual issues.

So, the greens and green party in a sense suffers from the fact that it has grown so large. But since this seems to be inevitable, it's possible one can't do anything about it.

If one were to found a new movement and new parties based on very tightly chosen core values, they would all the same very quickly be a collection of peripheral issues.

That's just a reality and practical way things go when individual humans work together.

We can't agree on everything and we are strongly disagreeing on many things and still can help each other forwarding our goals if we see it better than not.

That's not to say that it's completely inevitable or should not be talked about.

Over here the green party has all kinds of politicians nowadays, almost nobody cares about nature protection (that the whole party was founded on in the eighties), but it's more about multiculturalism and no nuclear power and some other things that I see as not entirely well based (although I can understand the thought model, I just don't think the assumptions are valid or that the logic leading from assumptions to actions is).

What is the green party's strategy over here? Well, they want to get more places in the parliament so they are openly trying to become more of a general party, not really that much into green issues. There are three big ones and a few smaller ones and then a few tiny ones.

I still think they have managed to do something useful, and their lesser usefulness has mostly not been because of wrong values, but because of being too damn timid, passive, listening, unsure and non-credible.

Of course, Mamet's principle plays into all this too. The truth can not retreat or advance, the truth is self critical. At the same time the truth is an unattainable concept and always approximate and probable.

In that light, this is a very interesting discussion in the comments.
http://www.scruffydan.com/blog/?p=2095

Of course, it would take huge resources to have this discussion with every "sceptic" - to make them realize how they actually are not sceptics.
Someone should probably make a movie.

The world deserves a lot better than Al Gore's stuff. (And it is politically impossible to view for about half of the US populace.) This is just a practical view. The film should be carefully made and pre-checked so that a million really stupid errors would not creep in.

Raven said...

Anonymous,

Money, like any other resource, is finite and the govenment needs to make sure that any spending provides a good return on investment. If the government wastes this money non-productive short term job creation schemes then the country will be in worse shape once the bills come due.

Money is finite even if the central bank is printing new money by buying government debt because this will eventually lead to high inflation and collapsing currency.

That is why I think that any spending be focused on the number one priority: minimizing the costs associated with the switch to higher cost renewables. Showing any preference for higher cost technologies that happen to create domestic jobs will hurt the economy in the long run.

That said, investments in straight R&D into green technologies or defence spending are a special case because the ROI of some future technology can be quite high. But even then there is a limit to how fast R&D money can be spent effectively.

bi -- International Journal of Inactivism said...

Raven:

"Showing any preference for higher cost technologies that happen to create domestic jobs will hurt the economy in the long run."

Stop repeating that straw man.

* * *

Anonymous 1:34am:

"(anybody get what 'else it would have happened already' means?)."

In brief, 'if green jobs are so good and great, then why haven't they solved the current unemployment problem and started taking over the market already?'

As I mentioned, one possible cause is the systemic gridlock in the current scheme of things.

"The first policy goal in a depression is to keep people solvent. It's not the way I favor and I find this 'job creation' business quite depressing"

It is, but what if the crisis you're looking at is the climate crisis, and the first policy goal is simply to create a sustainable energy regime? It's not just make-work, it's useful work that also happens to mitigate the unemployment problem.

-- bi

Anonymous said...

In order for green jobs to solve the unemployment problem (what you mean, quantitatively?) you'd need a policy to do that as well as patience. There's no such policy obviously. Every green job still does its little bit.
I'm not sure what market green jobs are supposed to take over.

I'm afraid there's no road to sustainability in sight, with or without green jobs. Green jobs are a "more" policy while sustainability would call for "less".
As to the climate crisis, let's not kid ourselves: green jobs aren't even addressing it. A comprehensive global policy is required.
But yeah, green jobs are supposed to have added value as compared with random make-work. And I would expect at least a modicum of success on that front.

bi -- International Journal of Inactivism said...

"Green jobs are a 'more' policy while sustainability would call for 'less'."

You're just engaging in word-play.

-- bi

Raven said...

Bi,

Perhaps a concrete example:

10 years ago politicians jumped on the corn-to-ethanol bandwagon because it gave them way to pander to key constituants while claiming it was a positive move for the environment. That move created a legion of vested interests which still command a significant portion of the 'green funding' from the government despite the fact that corn-to-ethanol contributes very little towards dealing with the GHG problem.

We are seeing similar issues with wind power and I fully expect to be talking about the wind power boondoogle in 10 years that costs huge sums of money but does nothing for GHGs. Yet wind power is attractive to politicians because it is visible and provides a way to spread the green wealth around to important rural constituancies.

If we want to deal with the GHG issue then we should be putting every available cent into building nuclear plants. We need 1000s of them by 2050 if we want to have any serious chance at meeting targets demanded by the IPCC. Investment in other technologies has to be limited to R&D and pilot projects until we know they can be deployed effectly at large scales (we already know that wind can't be deployed effectively at large scales).

Of course, you could argue that the job creation schemes don't need to actually do anything for GHGs but with that attitude you are simply enabling politicians that are more than happy to delay concrete action while claiming environmental virtue due to all of the 'green jobs' that they created.

Michael Tobis said...

Grackle, "we already know that wind can't be deployed effectively at large scales". Oh? And how do we know this?

Raven said...

Michael,

Denmark has invested heavily in wind and produces close to 40% of its domestic power consumption with wind. The trouble is the Danes can only use 6-10% of the power because the wind does not blow at the right times. The rest is sold at a loss to its neighbors. In order to make up the difference Denmark buys more electricity at market rates from coal and nuclear plants in Sweden and Germany.

The Danes have to sell their wind power at a loss because the wind often blows at times when nobody really needs it so the price has to attractive enough to convince the operators of nuclear/coal/hydro plants to reduce production in order to allow the extra power into the grid. These economics will doom wind power no matter where it is deployed.

In fact here is a story about how wind turbines in Texas often *pay* the grid operator to take the power that they produce:

http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/texas-wind-farms-bring-free-energy-and-cash-bonuses--5347.html

"Because of intense competition, the way wind tax credits work, the location of the wind farms and the fact that the wind often blows at night, wind farms in Texas are generating power they can't sell. To get rid of it, they are paying the state's main grid operator to accept it. $40 a megawatt hour is roughly the going rate."

Michael Tobis said...

Yeah I just came across article that myself.

-$40/MWhr = -4c/KWhr; this may be a perverse behavior compared to shutting off the device economically, but only very slightly so, and only insofar as you neglect externalities. They do it because the subsidy covers the four cents. So long as that power still replaces carbon emissions the subsidy is perfectly reasonable.

If we move to an electric vehicle fleet, cars by day can be powered by wind power generated at night: the car batteries become the storage device we need. It's a win-win.

A drive through the territory south of Abilene is required to get a feel for the enormous scale of the wind deployment to date in Texas.

That said, I agree that nukes probably need to be in the mix. It certainly needs to be on the table. Everything except non-CCS coal is on the table, including economic decline and abstention from meat.

I wish I could say "nobody said this was going to be easy" but unfortunately people say that all the time.

Anyway, I say this is not going to be easy.

Green jobs, yes please. Green jobs magically fix everything, um, no I don't think so. Constraints are always a net cost, and anyway, Humpty will never be quite the same again, sorry.

Raven said...

Michael,

My understanding in the Denmark case it is the hydro power that goes offline when the wind blows because the cost of stopping/restarting coal/nuke production is too expensive. This means that you cannot assume that the -4c/KWh is actually resulting in a reduction of GHGs.

As for the fleets of car batteries being charged at night: a nice idea once we have the cars. Until then the electrical grid needs to match current consumption patterns.

The wind infrastructure being built in Texas is probably impressive to look at but the rated capacity is only 4GWh which is equivalent to 8 coal plants (the US alone has 600 coal plants). Once you factor in the intermittant nature of wind it is unlikely that those turbines replace more than 2 coal plants.

Sure its progress, but I am arguing there are more cost effective ways to get more progress faster.

gravityloss said...

Raven, it goes like this on the open Nordpool market:
When there's wind, hydro goes off.
When there's enough demand and little enough production so the electricity is expensive, hydro goes on.

The hydro produced *during the year* is exactly similar, as in the "without wind" case.

Mostly natural gas is replaced, since that is the most expensive (the most expensive is always cut first in an open electricity market), but some coal probably too, especially that coal whose waste heat is not used.


I do not think "green jobs" solves things - building sandcastles would give people jobs too, and it doesn't help. (Actually building huge houses just for speculation is pretty much equivalent to building sandcastles, and it might seem for a while that everything is fine while you're taking more and more debt, but it's ultimately just a wasted effort.)

My view of a working near future energy mix:
1 baseload always-on nuclear (at the bottom)
2 hydro for load balancing (at the top)
3 wind and solar in between, depending on how much hydro there is to allow them so that production still meets demand