Grover Norquist – Climate Warrior

November 13, 2012

Well not quite. Baby steps.

James Carville noted on Bill Maher last week, there’s nothing that clarifies the mind quite as well as a two by four upside the head.  “..And”, he added, “..that sound you hear’d on tuesday night? That was the sound of pine on skull..”

Are we seeing a crack in the door?

National Journal:

In a step that may help crack open the partisan impasse on climate change, Grover Norquist, the influential lobbyist who has bound hundreds of Republicans to a pledge never to raise taxes, told National Journal that a proposed “carbon tax swap”—taxing carbon pollution in exchange for cutting the income tax—would not violate his pledge.

Norquist’s assessment matters a lot, and could help pave the way for at least a handful of Republicans to support the policy. Over the past six months, a growing number of conservative voices, including former Republican officials and renowned economists, have amped up pressure on their party to finally address climate change.

One group, the Energy and Enterprise Initiative headed by former Rep. Bob Inglis, R-S.C., has been working for months to persuade the GOP to take up a carbon-tax swap as part of a broad tax-reform package next year. The idea is to create a market signal to drive consumers away from fossil fuels by taxing the carbon pollution caused by burning coal, oil, and natural gas.

The problem is that creating a new “energy tax” would be viewed by some as political suicide. And Republicans who have signed Norquist’s pledge would be barred from supporting it.

That’s where the “swap” side of the policy comes in: The new carbon tax would be paired with a cut in the income tax—something Republicans have long sought. The idea essentially would be to cut the tax on income and move it over to carbon pollution—keeping the proposal revenue-neutral.

“It’s possible you could structure something that wasn’t an increase and didn’t violate the pledge,” Norquist told National Journal.

See my interview with Rep. Inglis below:

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40 Responses to “Grover Norquist – Climate Warrior”

  1. greenman3610 Says:

    watch and learn. Germany is going to do this without nuclear, coal, or eventually, even gas.
    scientific american published a vision of a renewable economy some year ago.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=a-path-to-sustainable-energy-by-2030

    also, the “we need base load” thing is a canard. All power sources are intermittent. A well connected, diverse grid is the answer.Wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, some storage, and lots of efficiency will take us far.


  2. “the “we need base load” thing is a canard.”

    I’m going to flatly contradict that. You avow that “All power sources are intermittent.”, but that is true only in a simple-minded sense. There are a number of measurements here, including availability fact and capacity factor, and solar and wind are MUCH lower by those measures than the old thermal power plants.

    Do you actually claim that availability factors and capacity factors for solar and wind are no worse than those for thermal power plants?

    I agree that our grid can use a lot more solar and wind. I’d like more hydro, but we’ve already grabbed up all the good sites and there’s not much left there. Geothermal has some expansion capacity as well, and it definitely provides base load.

    But storage? Yes, there are a few geographically ideal locations for that, and I’m sure that, as the cost of electricity rises, we’ll be able to come up with more storage. But there’s still a lot of energy lost in that process.

    Let’s not let wishful thinking intrude into our analysis. That’s the basic mistake the deniers make.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      “Do you actually claim that availability factors and capacity factors for solar and wind are no worse than those for thermal power plants?”
      I don’t make such a claim, but it’s a measure of performance that is irrelevant – especially when fuel costs are free. Solar and wind perform well at lower availability because the fuel cost is zero and will never change.

      Not only are all power sources intermittent, large thermal power plants like coal and nuclear present challenges that solar and wind do not. Solar and wind are actually best described not as intermittent, but as “variable”. They are predictable – they do not cut out suddenly with no warning like large power plants are prone to.
      They compliment each other. In a recent trip to texas, I noted the enormous about of wind energy coming on line in the pan-handle/oil patch area. Turns out that wind power is great there most of the year, not so good in August. Of course, solar is abundant in august.
      Meanwhile, down on the gulf coast, august is a fine time for wind power, as warm air over land rises and draws in ocean breezes. As more offshore wind comes in, the system becomes more stable.
      Overlapping different energy sources have been shown – assuming a modern well connected smart grid, to compliment each other very nicely.

      Moreover, nuclear and coal have just about been priced out of the market at this point. Anyone wishing to build a large thermal plant, at a cost of several billions of dollars, minimum, must raise rates. There is no other way to finance such a project. Raising rates, in an era when it is so easy for customers to cut back on power use with available efficiency techniques, – means that utilities then lose revenue, and will quickly find themselves in a death spiral of rising rates and fleeing customers.
      This is why very few new coal plants are under construction, and nuclear has become impossible without massive government subsidy.
      Meanwhile, renewables are modular – you can build in 1, 10, or 100 megawatt modules, keeping your costs low, and without having 10 and 15 years of borrowing costs typical of a coal or nuclear project – since wind and solar go up quickly – in months, not years.
      We have already moved into a new era where the only large thermal projects being built will be natural gas. Most knowledgable observers tell us that current low gas prices will not stay low – gas will return to its historic volatility, and lose the allure that it currently has.
      Meanwhile, the cost of solar, wind, efficiency, and storage continue to drop monthly, and only become more attractive.
      We can use policy to support this transition, make it happen more rapidly and allow US companies to take the lead in deploying and manufacturing this tech – or we can wait and be flooded by foreign manufactured turbines and panels. That much is up to us – but the technology is coming, as surely as faster computers, and bigger hard drives have over the last 30 years. The curve is locked in, and those that ignore it or try to wish it away will simply get rolled over.


      • Greenman, we’re really far apart here. You correctly note that renewables have no fuel costs — but you completely ignore the capital costs, which are in fact the ENTIRE costs of renewables — and they’re huge! Sure, you can buy a little at a time; but then you get only a little power. And the whole basis for the learning curve is massive purchases. You can’t have it both ways (small capital costs through small purchases combined with a steep learning curve through big purchases).

        In like fashion, your claim that coal and nuclear are being priced out of the market is just so wrong-headed that I’m not sure there’s anything I can accomplish in explaining it to you. Yes, they’re being priced out of the market — by gas, not renewables! Both coal and nuclear are much cheaper than renewables, which is why we need a carbon tax in the first place: it will raise the price of coal, oil, and gas to levels that will make renewables competitive.

        Look, I don’t want to argue about this. If you’re more interested in justifying your beliefs than understanding the realities, that’s fine with me and I won’t bother you. If you want to understand why things are the way they are (without relying on some sort of ‘Evil Capitalist’ conspiracy theory), I’ll be glad to explain how the economics and the technology fit together here.

        But again, I have no interest in an argument.

        • greenman3610 Says:

          You keep making statements that I guess you just assume are true without backing them up.
          ‘coal and nuclear are much cheaper than renewables” for instance.
          Not where I’m from. New wind power purchase agreements in Michigan are going for 4 to 6 cents/kwh. New coal, according to the Public Service Commission, is estimated at 13 cents/kwh.
          Nuclear is cheap from existing plants, (many of which were bought up by operators like Exelon from the original owners who went bankrupt – from high costs – so the capital
          costs there got unloaded onto ratepayers and taxpayers) – so you have existing nuclear power at maybe as low as a few cents. But these plants are getting old, and NEW nuclear, you are talking more expensive than coal.
          EIA has both “advanced” nuclear and coal at a charitable 11+ cents, and wind at an inflated 9.

          http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/electricity_generation.cfm

          (we know that Lawrence Lab is predicting a further 30 percent drop in wind costs in coming years – no such predictions for coal and nuclear..)
          Your statement that wind capital costs are huge is unsupported. The only relevant number is levelized cost.
          A recent levelized cost estimate from the Lazard Consultant group is at

          http://votesolar.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Lazard-June-11-Levelized-Cost-of-Energy-and-proj-to-2020-copy.pdf

          It is true that gas is blowing nuclear and coal away. Wind has been a close second in recent years. The current bubble in gas prices will not be sustainable, as gas drillers are and have been losing money on every hole at these prices. That and in addition the impact of global prices as more gas export options come on line, will jack the price up – while renewables continue to drop. In any case, by the time coal and nuclear catch their breath, the competition will have made them irrelevant.
          And, any observer can see that where wind is being built, it is coming in incrementally, in large and small installations, which go up quickly – making for easier planning, and lowering another key cost — financing.
          Moreover, we are entering a revolution, lead by Germany, in electric production, away from centralized sources and towards an internet like distributed grid. It will be disruptive – and the better we prepare for it, the more smoothly we will transition.
          Bottom line, if you wish to make a case for coal and nuclear, make it with some real numbers, don’t just assume that the talking points you’ve heard are true. I am not interested in anyone’s “beliefs”, but rather prefer to support my statements with actual facts.


          • First off, I owe you an apology; after reading your claim that base loads, I concluded that you were unaware of the basic economics of power generation. Your most recent post is entirely different, so although I still think your claim about base loading is balderdash, it’s obvious now that we can reason together. So, let’s have at it!

            First off, I suggest that we refrain from using local examples. Sure, you can cite Arizona for solar PV costs, but I can counter with Washington State for solar PV costs. You can cite Michigan for wind, but I can counter with Tennessee. Let’s look at average costs for the whole country, OK?

            I agree that levelized costs are an excellent metric to rely on, and I was surprised that you referred to the EIA summary. If you would but read it, you will find that Table 1, Estimated Costs of New Generation Resources, 2017, presents the following total system levelized costs in dollars per MWhr:

            Conventional coal: $97.7
            Advanced nuclear: $111.4
            Wind: $96.0
            Solar PV: $152.7
            Hydro: $88.9

            As you can see, solar PV is completely out of the ballpark. Wind is the excellent, but consider this: hydro is the least expensive of all. Gee, why don’t we just put all of our money into hydro, then? Because we’ve already used up all the good hydro capacity. The INCREMENTAL cost of new hydro is much higher. Sure, we could put a dam across the Swanee River, but the power we’d get out of that dam would be horrendously expensive.

            The same reasoning applies to wind. Remember, the costs in this study are busbar costs, not end user costs. To actually use the wind-generated power, we have to transmit it to the user. There are plenty of places in this country where wind power is close enough to population centers to be cost-effective, but they still represent a small fraction of overall power consumption. If we want to tap wind as a major source of power, we need to transmit it long distances with HVDC lines. The best region for wind generation, IIRC, is in the northern mountain states — a good thousand miles away from any major population centers. When you factor in those transmission costs, wind power suddenly looks a lot more expensive.

            Wind suffers from negative economies of scale; the more we build, the higher the incremental cost. Nuclear, by contrast, enjoys positive economies of scale: the more we build, the lower the incremental cost. Yes, we want to build as much wind as we can afford, and there’s still plenty of cheap wind out there, but getting it up to even 10% of the total energy mix will push its costs way up.

            I certainly DON’T want to make a case for coal; I would like to phase it out as fast as economically feasible, and a carbon tax is the best way to do that.

            As for nuclear: first, I ask you to put aside prejudice and look at the technology coldly. It’s a carbon-free technology and it’s already large-scale, providing a good chunk of overall energy production in this country and a large fraction in a number of countries. Its problem is political, not technological. If voters were as icy-cold logical as Vulcans, the regulatory burden on construction would not be so crushing and costs would be lower. But nuclear scares people in the same way that airplane crashes scare people: the actual danger is microscopic, but it plays on irrational fears and so is hyped up beyond all reason.

            Lastly, I’d like to challenge you on your thoughts regarding decentralization. This seems to me to be part of some sort of anti-corporate philosophy rather than a logical analysis of costs and benefits. I’ll ask you to ditch any notions you may have that “corporations are evil”. I suggest that corporations are like sharks: they’re amoral, they’ll eat you if they can, but with reasonable measures you can keep the number of people they eat down to an acceptable level.

            Decentralization has benefits in its lower transmission costs; centralization has benefits in terms of its economies of scale. Every situation demands a careful analysis of the relative costs and benefits of each possibility. Decentralization is not a desirable goal in and of itself; maximization of benefits and minimization of costs is the desirable goal.


  3. Roger Lambert, I’m replying to your comment of Nov 14 2:59 PM here, as the board software does not seem to permit a reply below your comment.

    You write:
    “1) The sun is always shining in the Mojave”

    I suggest that you empirically test this claim by measuring the amount of sunshine incident upon the Mojave at midnight on any given night. I believe that your measurements will contradict your claim.

    “2) PV electricity can be stored for overnight. Other renewables such as wind can supplement, besides. And a 100% electric fleet is a huge battery storage device”

    It’s true that, when we finally get a huge stock of all-electric vehicles, we’ll be able to use them to store a lot of electricity. However, let me remind you that most electric vehicles would be recharged at night, when there isn’t any solar PV available, and are in use during the day, when recharging is more difficult to arrange. Moreover, the energy stored in electric vehicles will be used to power them; we still need a way to store electricity for all the other uses. Pumped storage is our best technology for this application, but it’s not that efficient and few appropriate sites are available. Lastly, wind and solar are not 180º out of phase in their diurnal supply curves; there are lots of times when neither source is productive.

    “3) You are wrong about sending electricity long distances. Turns out is is highly efficient.”

    The best technology for long-distance transmission is HVDC, which is rather expensive and suffers a loss of about 3% per 1,000 km. That’s not so bad, but then you have to factor the cost of the HVDC system into the cost of the generation technology, which raises the overall cost of that technology. This is most serious with wind and solar. If we take advantage of the wind resources in the northern mountain states and transmit that power to the both coasts, we’re talking about losses of 4% to 8% for the west coast and 10% to 15% to the east coast. We get similar results for placing big solar PV installations in the southwest.

    “4) Your economic fears are unfounded. We can afford this. We can not afford to NOT do this, unless you think that $1024 trillion is a smaller number than 5 trillion.”

    I think you’ll need to present the basis for these numbers before we can discuss them. Where do you get the number $1024 trillion? Where do you get the number 5 trillion?

    “And what is the payback time of such an investment? Seven years? ”

    Again, I’d like to see the underlying numbers supporting this claim.

    • MorinMoss Says:

      Most EVs would be parked during the day, except for taxis, company fleets, and delivery vans. Most commuters drive to work and park almost the entire workday so once we have millions of EVs and if Vehicle2Grid is used, there would be a substantial base of mobile battery storage for utlities to draw upon.

      Also, much of the US has the highest electrical consumption and peak load during the daytime therefore solar energy would be closely matched to the highest demand – that’s not usually the case with wind.


      • MorinMoss, you’re overlooking the importance of the availability factor in automobile use. Sure, Joe Commuter leaves his car unused in the parking lot 95% of the time — but I doubt he’ll be willing to give up the use of his car during that other 5% of the time that he might want to drive somewhere, as in:
        “Sorry honey, I can’t pick up the kids after school; my battery’s drained.”
        “Sorry boss, I can’t run over to the other site; my battery’s drained.”
        “Sorry Johnny; I know you’re sick but I can’t take you home; my battery’s drained.”

        The real problem is that every car in that fleet must be fully recharged by 5:00 PM so that all those people can get home. So even if you can suck out lots of power during they day, you still have to pump it all back out by 5:00 PM. And planning for people who get off work at other times of the day would be a nightmare.

        Using car batteries to store energy is idle fantasy.

        • greenman3610 Says:

          sorry, but your assumptions are wrong. there is no plan to completely drain car batteries – no storage plans are based on that idea.
          employers would provide charging stations for their employees, and both parties would split the revenue from any sharing of battery power that occurred during the work hours.
          We have these things now called “computers” – google it – that can be very small, and make sure that during the course of the day, any particular battery will only be used for a modest amount of time as storage, and will, at the end of the day, be charged to a required level, which might very well be spec’d by the owner.
          Since the average car is used only about one hour out of the 24 – the potential pool of batteries is so large that only a fraction would be shared at any particular time. The application of networking technology to the electric grid is so revolutionary that most people have not even begun to appreciate the potential.


          • OK, if the batteries aren’t going to share much power, there won’t be much power to share, will there? The real killer problem is that every joule of energy taken out of the car batteries has to be put back in by 5:00 — but peak electricity consumption is typically 3:00 PM to 10:00 PM. In other words, using car batteries to store energy during the day makes peak load even greater than it now is! This doesn’t help — it makes matters worse!

            Yes, smart grids will give us more efficiency, but you’re treating the concept of a smart grid as a magic wand that makes all our problems vanish. Smart grids don’t generate power, they allow us to allocate it more efficiently. And pushing load into the peak load times is most definitely NOT efficient.

          • greenman3610 Says:

            since the capacity of a fleet of electric cars would be many times larger than our total generating capability, only a small fraction would be needed at any time.
            I don’t know if you are just unwilling, or incapable, of grasping this.


    • “You write:
      “1) The sun is always shining in the Mojave”

      I suggest that you empirically test this claim by measuring the amount of sunshine incident upon the Mojave at midnight on any given night. I believe that your measurements will contradict your claim.”

      The Mojave Desert has not seen a cloudy day in about three years. Obviously, the sun goes down at night. But such an installation is capable of generating a huge excess of electricity, the potential energy of which can be stored over night in a variety of ways. You need to get educated on this, I think, as molten salt storage adjuncts, for one example, to solar installations have been tested as viable and are being constructed now.

      “4) Your economic fears are unfounded. We can afford this. We can not afford to NOT do this, unless you think that $1024 trillion is a smaller number than 5 trillion.”

      I think you’ll need to present the basis for these numbers before we can discuss them. Where do you get the number $1024 trillion? Where do you get the number 5 trillion?”

      1024 trillion actually should have been 1204 trillion and is from here:

      http://pubs.iied.org/pdfs/11501IIED.pdf

      Joe Romm writes about this here:

      http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2009/09/08/204561/climate-change-adaptation-impacts-iied/

      and here:

      http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/11/11/1176411/adaptation-mitigation-misery/

      And 1204 trillion is probably too low – many scientists feel we will be at 1000 ppm of CO2 by 2100.

      As for 5 trillion for a Federal project to provide 100% of our power from the sun – that number comes directly out of my ass. And the reason it comes out of my as is:

      Nobody is blogging about a Federal solution!

      I have seen estimates on what it would cost, based on current trajectories, to enable 100% of energy to come from renewables. These figures, I assume, are based on localized = rooftop installs, which would be WAY more expensive per watt than a huge government solar project. I also realize that our entire electrical grid would need to be upgraded to a smart grid, which would be many billions of bucks. I am also guestimating additional enormous costs for retrofitting homes and businesses to 100% electrical heating, cooling, cooking, etc. And additional huge sums to inductively electrify our roads.

      I am guessing 5 trillion would do it. What if I am wrong? What if it took ten trillion to do it?

      Well, the cost of NOT doing it is 1204 trillion. It really doesn’t matter what it costs, does it?

      As for payback:

      Assume it costs 10 trillion. Each American (adult and child) pays $3800 per year on energy, and there are 314 million people = about 1.2 trillion each year for energy. That’s about a payback in 8 years.

      Assuming the lifespan of a PV facility is 50 years, that is 42 years of pure profit.

      So, we could cut our CO2 emissions to zero, save civilization, save every person in the country $3800 per year in out-of-pocket expense, and break even on the project in 8 years.

      Or, we could keep sitting on our thumbs.


      • “I have seen estimates on what it would cost, based on current trajectories, to enable 100% of energy to come from renewables. [and that number is $2 trillion]

        • greenman3610 Says:

          important to remember, we are going to spend the trillions in any case.
          the question is, will we spend them on a sustainable system, or will we build a planetary suicide machine.


      • Roger, you need to clarify whether you’re referring to molten salt thermal storage or electrical storage with molten salt batteries. Both technologies are promising, but neither one has accumulated enough application experience for us to make reliable grand predictions about their application. I remind you, for example, that nuclear reactors had been in operation for more than 20 years, and had been used as power sources for nearly a decade when we began building lots of them for electricity supply in the 1960s. Were they truly ready for mass application? Electronics applications tend to deploy easily: we’ve seen applications such as microcomputers, cellphones, and flat panel televisions go from the lab to the consumer in record times. But big iron technologies don’t ramp up so quickly. Let’s not forget that liquid sodium burns fiercely when exposed to air; we don’t expect accidents that expose it to air, but then, nobody expects accidents.

        I’ll also caution you regarding a common tendency towards “the technological magic wand”. People will latch onto some new technology and decide that it’s the solution to all our problems, and if those blockheads in industry would just get moving, we could solve our problems in a few years. As it happens, molten salt batteries have been getting lots of industrial development; several hundred-million dollar companies pursuing this technology have failed or gone bankrupt. It takes time and money to deploy a technology. Maybe these technologies really will work out. Of course, they’re not as well-developed as the advanced nuclear reactor technologies. Is your technological optimism selective?

        It took me a while to find your number for total costs of climate change — you misquoted it again. The correct figure is $1240 trillion over 200 years. That’s still a lot of money, and I completely agree that the costs of climate change vastly exceed the costs of reduction, mitigation, and adaptation. I hadn’t seen that study; it’s a little speculative (I mean, projecting costs 200 years into the future?!?!?) but it’s still quite reasonable in its approach.

        However, the fact that climate change will impose horrific damages to our economy does not justify our ignoring cost-benefit considerations. There are lots of stupidly expensive ways to respond to climate change. We could, for example, shut down all production of fossil fuels overnight. That would cause our economy to collapse and billions of people would die. A steadily rising carbon tax is much preferable, as it slowly reduces use of fossil fuels, making economically inefficient carbon emissions too expensive. I think that the crash program for building solar energy that you seem to be advocating is an example of an overly expensive approach.

        You declare that you made up the $5 trillion cost of going to solar PV in a crash program. Do you know what percentage of US GDP that represents? Can you calculate the effect of such expenditures on interest rates? Can you then calculate the effects of such high interest rates on the rest of the economy? I suggest that you give deeper consideration to economic factors; your proposal as presented will likely cause the US economy to collapse.

        You argue that a cost of even $10 trillion is still vastly less than the quadrillion that climate change will cost us. You overlook the fact that the former figure applies to the USA and the latter figure applies to the entire world, but that’s a minor consideration. More important is the fact that the economy simply cannot handle such a huge investment over a short period of time. We all know that exercise is good for the health of the body, but that doesn’t mean that a person should engage in an exercise program so intense and violent that his body breaks down. The body needs time to adjust to change, and so does an economy.

        I think that, given the speculative nature of your original cost estimate, your subsequent calculations of payback time are not justified.

        I agree that we need to take strong and immediate action to address climate change; I would love to see a carbon tax implemented NOW. But your proposal of a crash program to build solar PV is just not economically realistic.


  4. Greenman, I’m responding to your post of Nov 15th at 5:27 PM because the board software won’t let me reply directly.

    I note that you refrained from addressing the “killer problem” that I described: that car batteries would need to be recharged during the peak use period, making our electricity supply problems, worse, not better.

    Did you change the subject because you know full well that this is the main reason why using electric car batteries to store solar and wind power is a dumb idea?

    • greenman3610 Says:

      the subject has been investigated by people a lot more knowledgable than I am, and I rely on those analyses rather than my own or that of blogosphere noodlers.
      you might try looking at a prominent one from DOE’s Batelle NW lab, here

      http://www.ferc.gov/about/com-mem/wellinghoff/5-24-07-technical-analy-wellinghoff.pdf

      which states, among other things,

      The current U.S. electric grid is underutilized and could generate and deliver the necessary energy to power the majority of the U.S. light-duty vehicle fleet. In so doing, it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve the economics of the electricity industry, and reduce the U.S. dependency on foreign oil.

      for further research, google “cash back hybrids”.
      another, more lengthy reply to one of your previous posts got eaten by wordpress, so I’ll have to get back when I can.


      • Greenman, did you actually READ the paper to which you linked? It’s not about using electric car batteries to store energy; it’s about power going the other way, from power plants during the night hours to electric vehicles. Its thrust is that such an arrangement would consume a lot more electricity during the hours when most power plants throttle back, making the overall electricity system more efficient. It explains the big environmental and economic benefits that would come from this change.

        I particularly encourage you to examine Figure 2 in that paper, which shows a typical daily load cycle, with the deep valley in the wee hours of the morning. They’re talking about filling that valley, not altering the peak.

        I don’t think we’re accomplishing anything with this discussion, so I’m going to let you have the last word.

        Best wishes.


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