The Myth of Energy Storage vs Baseload

July 19, 2014

Great graphics to describe why renewables are inevitable, and taking over now.

From Amory Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute.

176 Responses to “The Myth of Energy Storage vs Baseload”

  1. This makes it clear how inappropriate nuclear and other slow responding power plants are as peakers to folllow load changes and/or renewable variation.

    • What you don’t say (because it is literally unthinkable to you) is that without all the unreliable generation from wind and PV, you don’t need to track its variation.

    • How many times have we heard this canard? Renewables require 100% backup. But wonderful nuclear doesn’t. Except its wrong. Peakers are traditionally needed to track the variation in demand, not supply. They are already there. But old canards never die.

  2. Nick Carter Says:

    Curiously absent from all these energy discussions is the demand side of the argument. More from Lovins:

    • Good point, Nick. Conservation is cheapest. I do worry that conservation might be like the sales that say 50% off. But you are still spending money. When do we get to the point where we balance instead of borrowing against the future.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        And are you aware that Hansen also places conservation and efficiency first on his priorities list, followed by increased reliance on renewables? And that nuclear power only makes the lower part of his priorities list because he doesn’t see the world making adequate progress in those areas as CO2 continues its relentless climb?

        Pretty good thinking for a dentist (or was it a barber? or a 12-year-old telling a fart joke? I get so confused sometimes).

      • andrewfez Says:

        What happened to the CC article on efficiency?

        Over there I was saying that if I had $1 trillion, i’d leverage it all into efficiency schemes. I wouldn’t build one single power generator, but i bet several existing ones would close…

        Quick! – someone give me a trillion dollars and i’ll see how far i can stretch it…

        • Andrew – Conservation has really cut into utility profits. Thats not their model. I wish we could stay at the same level and conserve. Jevons paradox says that an increase in conservation only leads to more consumption. I think its because a cultural meme is behind it. Conspicuous consumption, status symbol, keeping up with the Joneses. Its a culture driven by the ego, nurtured by advertising, produced by Freuds nephew, Edward Bernays. Its what fills garages with unused items, and keeps the assembly lines going. All a slave to that little beast, compound growth, compound interest, the GNP in percent growth and on.
          I keep seeing another pattern. What reduces consumption is cost. FF are growing expensive by natural depletion. Maybe the only way to keep them in the ground is to tax them. It works in Europe. Higher costs invite higher efficiency and reduced demand.

          • Correction. Increase in efficiency, not conservation.

          • andrewfez Says:

            I remember Bernays because of a myth that existed when my father was growing up in the 1940’s/50’s out in small town coal country (my grandfather was an engineer for one of the coal companies). Apparently people thought it was healthy to eat heavily: big breakfasts were in vogue and that was coincidentally what Bernays had been pushing (eating lots of bacon and eggs for breakfast).

            However in late Medieval and Renaissance England, serfs/workers could regularly consume 4000 kcal per day (similar to a modern athlete) because they were constantly physically working outside 24/7. So there also lies the possibility that the rumor was something kept in societies revolving around physical labor.

            It’s just that by the 1900’s we had so many machines doing physical work for us that the heavy food consumption for healthy living idea no longer applied. [Enter Bernays]


            With regard to transport, the short term rebound effect is empirically 1 to 10% and the long term is 5 to 30%, so it’s not 100% elastic. However the important thing to know is that there is a rebound effect and to take action against it: As you said, higher prices, etc. Peak cheap oil will probably start to help with that more as we surf farther down the Hubbart curve.

            And restructuring how we pay for and use energy could help: People want the service of having their room conditioned between 70 and 78F, or having cold food storage, or hot water, regardless of how much or little energy such uses; so figuring out a way for them to buy those services whilst minimizing energy, where the less that is used the more profitable it is to the provider could be a good business model).

            Can’t find my Dept of Transportation study, but found this thing in lieu:

            Click to access The_Rebound_Effect.pdf

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Looking at that link, the numbers are all over the place, and some seem to be almost PFTA. Although it seems that there IS a rebound effect, it doesn’t seem to be a big problem—-“backfire” seems to be a very remote possibility, and there are only so many hours in the day for people to drive more because their fuel costs have gone down some. Time is more my limiting factor—-I drive where I NEED or WANT to go and pay the price, whatever it may be, and have never said to the wife “Gas is down 30 cents—let’s go up to WV for the weekend”. We go full speed ahead because we want to and damn the torpedoes at the gas station. I also tend to take the van on longer trips rather than the econo-car because it’s more comfortable.

        • Andrew- Thanks. Nice article about Jevons and the rebound effect. Nice to know that there is some evidence that conservation has some lasting effects.

  3. The connection between pumped storage and thermal PP including nuclear is clear from the EIA.A
    “Pumped storage plants play an important role in electric load shifting (see the May 21, 2012 Today in Energy article for a thorough discussion of load shifting and arbitrage opportunities in power markets). They typically consume electricity during low-demand hours (e.g., nighttime), helping baseload plants to operate more efficiently by minimizing unwanted cycling on and off (a particular concern for nuclear plants, where cycling is extremely expensive and time-consuming)”
    Also highlighting nuclear’s inflexibility. Nuclear needs pumped storage to follow loads that it cannot. That or gas peakers. Not much different from renewables, really.

    • Except nuclear only needs gas peakers for the fraction of load above the base load; the unreliables need gas peakers for EVERYTHING.

    • Take a look at the fraction of generation that exists at the lowest demand in California today. It was in the low 20s, about 22. The peak was at about 40. 2 to 1. As much generation above the base as below it. As much peaking generation as base load. Thats how much peaking a base load system requires sometimes. Sometimes its around 1.5 to 1. Seldom less. Yet no one would ever run around crying , OMG base load requires 100% backup! The sky is falling. Oh no, Mr Bill.

      • This may shock you, but (aside from NG-fired generators subject to common pipeline congestion/outages) base load plants do not have correlated failures.  1 GW of reserve can back up 20 GW of 1-GW base load plants.  Backing up 20 GW of unreliables takes 20 GW of generation.

    • Its not the failure rate that makes inflexible base load require peakers. Its the demand variation. The failure rate requires reserves, not peak generation.
      Don’t get confused.

  4. We are rolling in myths. Yes, you can charge EVs without nuclear. How dumbfounding. What are EVs if not storage? Didn’t we just talk about day time rates being negative? And that was because solar produced excess during the day. EVs are not a problem for the grid. They are a benefit! They are parked 95% of the time and can be plugged in anytime they are parked. That is an opportunity. I see lots of EVs plugged in at work. Its just as easy to charge in the day as at night. And if rates go negative, it could be cheaper.

    • What are EVs if not storage? Didn’t we just talk about day time rates being negative? And that was because solar produced excess during the day.

      Then who’s paying those FITs to the solar generators?

      EVs are not a problem for the grid. They are a benefit!

      The EV is only useful as a vehicle if it has charge in the battery when needed.  Waiting around for a few sunny hours to charge the battery seriously impairs its function.

  5. EVs are like portable phones. You plug them in anytime you are not using them. Then they are always charged. 90% of trips are less than 30 miles. That’s the reason people are buying EVs now, not waiting for 200 mile range. Cars are in use 5% of the time. We can manage to charge them the other 23 hours in the day. fUD won’t stop that.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Nor will what you call FUD be overcome by the power of positive thinking.

      What you call FUD is really an objective acceptance of reality by those of us who are not “bright siders” like you, and bright-sidedness actually contributes to FUD because it muddies the waters and confuses those who are seeking objective truth.

      What we and the rest of the developed world do with our EV’s is small potatoes, and all these arcane debates about grid, base load, storage, PV, EV, wind, renewables, (freaking) Solar Roadways, Clean Wind Energy Towers, and Solar Wind Mills mean little in the context of the ongoing specter of CHINA, INDIA, COAL, CO2, GHG, AGW (and so on).

      You seem to understand that in some of your comments. Will you PLEASE read the book Bright-Sided by Ehrenreich. It will help you overcome your cognitive dissonance. The last chapter is the best in the book.

      Ray Duray? Are you out there and have you gotten the book and read it? You said you would. Any reaction yet?

    • EVs are like portable phones. You plug them in anytime you are not using them. Then they are always charged.

      That’s how I use mine, but it only works if you always have power available to charge them.  The “renewable everything” model, however, cuts loads when insufficient power is available.  EV charging would be one of those loads.

      90% of trips are less than 30 miles. That’s the reason people are buying EVs now, not waiting for 200 mile range. Cars are in use 5% of the time. We can manage to charge them the other 23 hours in the day.

      When your wind farms go on a 2-week vacation as they did in the Bonneville Power Administration this past January, exactly what are you going to charge your EV with?  Winter in the Washington-Oregon-Idaho belt isn’t exactly sunny, and it’s the same or less so here in the Great Lakes region with lake-effect clouds and now the stumbling-drunk polar vortex making life “interesting”.

      fUD won’t stop that.

      If you live in a fantasy world, you can claim any challenge as FUD.  But fantasy won’t put food on your table, a roof over your head or clothes on your back.  It sure won’t keep the lights on.  The only thing I wish is that all you fantasists could enjoy the product of your delusions immediately, so that the survivors would have the sense to shut up and listen to people who know what needs to be done.

    • Maybe if you could picture in your mind a calm, heavily-clouded day with cold weather forcing most generation to be used for heat, with nothing left over for discretionary loads like charging vehicles.  THEN you might get it.

      Sadly, I think you are so fixated on the One True Renewable Faith that not even hammer blows could get contrary information through your skull.

      • Gingerbaker Says:

        Picture in your mind a solar project in the Mojave so large it could supply all the energy the U.S. needs all by itself. Every single day of the year, pretty much, as it is almost never cloudy in the Mojave.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          A significant portion of CA’s electricity comes from coal-fired plants OUTSIDE the state, although they may have a couple of very small plants in state. I remember reading that the little coal they DID actually burn in CA was imported from a mountain-top removal mine in my home state of VA, which makes little sense since other coal is closer.

          The question is, WHY isn’t the Mohave covered with solar plants so that CA can stop burning coal or importing electricity generated with coal? I’ve driven across the Mojave during the hottest part of the day—-an experience I do not recommend—-I had to open the windows and turn the heater on full blast to avoid overheating the engine, and what came in the windows was hotter than what came from the heater. It certainly is both hot and sunny—-WHY is CA not taking advantage of that?

          • MorinMoss Says:

            I’m all for making good use of the solar resources of the sunny South but picking on the Mohave is a bit shortsighted when there’s so much rooftop & parking lot blacktop that’s baking away 250 days a year.
            Think about it – supply well-matched to demand and no need for hundreds of miles of new transmission.

            Also, CA has had solar thermal for a long time in the form of the various SEGS installs. Arizona and especially Texas are complete laggards in solar deployment.

        • I picture in my mind enough Ivanpahs to equal a single San Onofre, and then the number of San Onofres which could be built with the same amount of money (at least three).

          Then I think of the gas pipeline that Ivanpah requires in order to function, and San Onofre (and Diablo Canyon) had no use for… and I wonder, “What sort of idiot holds up this gas-burning, bird-frying, tortoise-killing monstrosity as green?”

        • greenman3610 Says:

          West Texas comes to mind as well.

          • We did this calculation already. 40% of US electricity from rooftops estimated at the then efficiencies. Thats rooftop only. No need to wonder. I remember it. It was not a renewable basher that prompted that discussion. It was someone who preferred large public solar farms in the Southwest instead. That amount is even greater. Those numbers should never be confused for the reality of how a mix of renewables would be used in the real world. Eons of time are wasted with comments about how solar alone can or cannot do this, or wind alone can or cannot do that. Its a mix. It always will be. Thats how it works. Thats what makes it reliable. Is why the current system already has reserves. It might even contain some occasional FF. And the mix depends on location. Comments abound about how renewables can’t work up North. Where its cloudy. Like Germany. Which gets about as much solar as southern Canada and parts of Alaska. Just couldn’t be done. But it already is.

    • Maybe you could picture Germany. A land as far North and as cold and cloudy as southern Canada and parts of Alaska. A land with less and less nuclear and more and more solar. Could it be? Could it really, really, ever, ever, ever happen?

      • Ah, German PV, capacity factor a whole 11 percent.  Massive peaks on the occasional sunny noon, and absolutely nothing during many times of great need.

        I really would have liked you to be here during the January polar vortex cold snap, and watch you try to survive on solar energy (even with wind).  The term “enviro-sicle” would be apt for your resulting state.

  6. This is what you find when you look into BPA and Wind Energy.
    “n fact, just last month President Obama announced his plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing coal facilities – a necessary step to combat climate change. Given the president’s plan, Montana must actively replace coal exports with new renewable energy or we will lose the broad economic benefits we currently enjoy from energy production.

    That is why anyone interested in economic opportunity for Montana should be concerned with the Bonneville Power Administration’s transmission policies.

    BPA is a federal agency within the Department of Energy that controls much of the region’s transmission system. Last week, BPA upheld a discriminatory transmission fee that charges Montana energy generators 50 percent more to travel across BPA’s transmission network than any other Pacific Northwest state. The fee is essentially a tax on Montana energy to travel across a 90-mile section of the Colstrip transmission line, while energy traveling across the other 14,000 miles of BPA’s network is not subject to this extra charge. The fee is so uneconomic that it has resulted in 184 megawatts of transmission capacity being left unutilized for more than 20 years.

    If this unnecessary fee were removed it could allow for the development of a 184-megawatt wind farm, earning BPA additional revenue, and creating $389 million in investment, 369 construction jobs and 24 permanent jobs in Montana. Removing this fee would be a zero-cost way to create economic opportunity for Montanans.

    In addition to its discriminatory rate treatment of energy from Montana, BPA is dragging its feet on a transmission upgrade that would present tremendous economic opportunity.

    Earlier this month, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., urged Obama to direct BPA to speed up a proposed upgrade of the Colstrip transmission line (a priority he and other Montana political leaders have communicated to BPA). The upgrade project would add 600 megawatts of capacity with no new wires or transmission footprint. With the upgrade, wind energy from Montana could access West Coast markets.

    The upgrade would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to complete, which is a steal of a deal in the transmission world. But if BPA won’t take a zero-cost approach to utilizing 184 megawatts of unused capacity by eliminating the discriminatory fee, one must question if the agency will ever spend real money to allow 600 megawatts of Montana wind into West Coast markets.

    Montana wind power would be a hot commodity in the West if it were granted fair access to markets. The state’s wind is stronger and steadier than the winds elsewhere. And our wind matches up well with the needs of the region, tending to blow at times of day and year when energy demand is great.

    Federal policy goals on transmission are clear: Our existing infrastructure should be optimized and fully utilized. BPA should reconsider its discriminatory rate treatment of Montana’s wind energy and it should move forward on upgrading existing transmission.”

  7. BPA wind is primarily from a stretch of turbines strung along the Columbia River. Not spread over a wide enough area that enjoys negative correlation. It really strike one as odd to be complaining about intermittency in area with abundant storage. More FUD? Montana has wind that correlates better with load. That might help. There seems to be too much power in the Pacific Northwest, not too little. Montanas wind is cheaper than coal. Might be good to displace coal there instead of shipping it West. Come to think of it, its ironic that we are even discussing renewables, storage, and maybe cost. Washington is home to WPSS, the grandaddy of all nuclear cost over runs.
    Speaking of Bright-Sided,
    “Well-meaning officials believed that building nuclear power plants was the best way to supply clean and cheap electricity to customers. Events and human inadequacies produced the largest municipal bond default in U.S. history. The system’s acronym, pronounced “whoops,” came to represent how not to run a public works project. “

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Yes, only someone who is a “bright-sider” would look back into the ancient history of 40 years ago and try to bolster their bright-sided cognitive dissonance with a reference to WPPS, which was sunk by managerial incompetence mainly, aided by inflation, and rising antinuclear fervor. It’s like pointing out a game in which Mickey Mantle didn’t get a hit. Big whoop!

      Mistakes and failures happen, and we need them to fully define and appreciate successes. A real mess, but one of the “whoops” plants is still providing a lot of electricity at a fairly cheap price, if I’m not mistaken.

      You have made a whole series of recent comments—-almost a “gallop”—-in an attempt to convince us (and yourself) that all is well. Can we talk about root concerns and go back to CO2 for a while, which has risen from 280 PPM to 400 PPM in the last 200 years or so and is now increasing at ~ 2 PPM per year? At that rate, we will hit 450 PPM around 2040 and 500 PPM by 2065. Considering the global warming due to CO2 and its effects that have occurred over just the past couple of decades, can anyone say that levels of 450 and 500 PPM are not going to be disastrous? Can anyone deny Hansen’s concerns? If and when we hit the tipping points with arctic sea ice, Greenland ice melt, and methane release from melting permafrost and seabed clathrates, we will then likely be seeing reinforcing feedback loops that make all the arguments about baseload, storage, economics, and grid irrelevant?

      I will say again—-look at the WORLDWIDE picture and follow the COAL. Brightsidedness, wishful positive thinking, and self-deluded fantasizing lead nowhere.

      • jimbills Says:

        Meh. Solar will double every two years (Kurzweil):

        If that fails, we’ll merge our consciousness with AI and become immortal.

        If that fails, we’ll blast off into outer space and start afresh.

        If that fails, our wealthiest bright-siders will have themselves cryogenically frozen – to be awoken and cured from death and all disease in the future utopia:

        Onward and upward! Tally ho!

      • Do you want to do something? You have a bright mind and an ability to write. What about Congress? You are closer to there. I believe you mentioned going over there. Are there any people you can team up with there to influence whats going on in the smoky halls? Elections and laws matter.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          A better question is does ARCUS “do anything” along the lines of what he suggests except rant here on Crock. We are all “close” to our legislators in the modern electronic world—-you can e-mail your reps from Antarctica, and you can drop in on your legislator’s local offices and chew on the staffers there.

          I myself am “teamed up” with the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, NRDC, EDF, UCS, the League of Conservation Voters, Oceana, the Ocean Conservancy, a bunch of liberal-progressive politicians and groups like PFAW, Public Citizen, Common Cause, and many of the petition-writing groups. I’ve contributed to Dark Snow and the CSLDF as well after hearing about them on crock, and I’d have to look in my checkbook to remember the other groups and causes I’ve sent a few bucks to.

          I said in another comment that the problem is too big, and group action is our only hope. It is discouraging to get the typical waffling “canned” responses from my congressman and senators when I write or call, but they DO make tally marks on the wall and DO eventually respond to the weight of numbers. Unfortunately, Citizens United and McCutcheon (courtesy of the insane conservatives) means that $$$$ speaks louder than truth or the wishes of the people, and we know who has the money in this country.

          “Elections and laws matter”. Thanks for educating me there—-I had no idea.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            PS I forgot to mention that when one calls or writes to say that the waffling and canned response is inadequate and the legislator in question needs to do better, the response is typically MORE waffling and canned BS. I expect that from my idiot Republican congressman (Wittman), but Virginia’s two senators (Warner and Kaine) are good men and should do better.

            It is actually disheartening to read their responses on such things as requests that they take action on mountain-top removal coal mining or toughening air and water quality rules. It is obvious that they are in great fear of alienating the coal interests in the backwaters of the state, and it’s like trying to nail jellyfish to the wall (or throwing snowballs into the gates of hell) to get them to commit.

  8. Remember the myth of baseload? Speaking of dreams, there seems to be adrift off topic. The baseload myth is a dark side effort to derail renewables. A perusal of these pages looks like bright side until one realizes that it does not even come close to balancing the FUD and ignorance of renewable deniers. What’s the next commenter? But you need 100% backup. Nope. Only nuclear is reliable… Nope. BWR and pwr would be cheap if only it were not for the NRC and unions, …
    Solar is too expensive… Oops, scratch that one…. Wind is too expensive… Oops scratch that canard… There is this dream reactor….if only we used thorium all the worlds problems would go away… Who is being bright sided here? WPSS was just a mistake…. The nuclear renaissance is just around the corner… Excuses excuses.
    The wind PTC was killed.. That’s true.. China is burning coal… That’s true…we are running out if time… That’s true.. One thing is true, nothing has done the trick yet. What’s it gonna take? Lay the cards down. Make some concrete suggestions for solutions… Something with some ideas and numbers. Something akin to what NREL and Lovins and Jacobson, are doing… Make it real, not just a blog comment.

    • jimbills Says:

      Chris, there is no hope. That’s an inherently unattractive possibility to consider, so pretty much everyone rejects it out of hand.

      All this striving for greater and greater technology only allows us to increase environmental decline, as it aids economic growth and expansion. The vast majority of humans buy into the myth of neverending progress with the passionate fervor of the zealot, so we won’t change on this aspect.

      We won’t voluntarily give up economic growth. The wealthiest love it and try to keep it going as long as possible. The bottom 99% just want to keep their families fed and maybe go to a concert once in a while.

      We can’t agree on the simplest things politically, and real progress addressing our environmental decline requires total and global support. It won’t happen.

      Full technological switching of all fossil carbon from human use will require 100+ years of that total and global support.

      The only hope is a deus ex machina event – like Gilding’s ‘Great Awakening’ – which I personally think is too optimistic. Humans aren’t that wise.

      The sad truth is that we’re like any other organism, which exploits the resources in its surroundings until it can’t. Our brains allow us to significantly expand past limits faced by other organisms, but as we do so we eat away many other support systems we rely on but take for granted. We’ll be able to continue surpassing limits until those limits hit a convergence point – at which point it will be too late to change, anyway.

      It’s okay. We were always just dust in the wind, anyway.

      I’m not saying we should sit on our hands and do nothing. We should still try to switch out fossil carbon, cut energy and resource use, grow food locally, build walkable communities, care for each other with compassion and forgiveness, strive to be better people, and so on. Our position in history doesn’t change our worthiness as human beings and shouldn’t change our aspirations to build a better place for those that follow us.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        see my 2:10 comment in response—-it may get separated

      • If there is no hope, why are you blogging instead of preparing your grave?

        • jimbills Says:

          Read my last paragraph again, please. I’ve already made my peace with all this.

          • Then why not give it a shot? What do you have to lose? I don’t get the point. If you are still alive and breathing, keep kicking. I am glad to see you still have aspirations. In a way, my philosophy is the same. I just kick kick a little harder, maybe. The time to give up was in the 60s with nuclear death and the Vietnam War. Life was not worth spit to an 18 year old. Yet we hung in there. Was it naiveté? Maybe. Is it really any different now? Global thermonuclear or Global warming. Whats the difference. Living in those times offers perspective. Some of us really thought it was the end of the world. It could have been. But our grandparents told us about the great Influenza Epidemic. And WWI. Its always happening. And it may all end. Life is still for living. Don’t let it get you down. And if you feel depressed, get help. I mean it. I do get what you mean about the staggering reality of it. I have been facing it every day for about four decades. Keeping FF in the ground? Getting the coal companies to voluntarily shut down? Like you say, a limit to consumption will happen either way. And it looks like the stupidest way is the most likely. Still, I cannot help to be amazed that after all these years I am going to be able to see affordable electric vehicles and vast rows of wind turbines across the Great Plains stretching for miles. I dreamed of it. But I never thought I would live to see it. Or experience it first hand. And the naysayers abounded for a long, long, time. Without that, I would definitely be much more pessimistic, and have been for some time. But seeing those things has convinced me I was wrong. There might just be a chance. I never thought GW would be on us this soon, either. And everyone has forgotten that we need some source of energy before we run out of FF. Even without GW. What will it be? I think something between Ecotopia and Dystopia. A world with very low population living in harmony with the land. Or a baked, radioactive wasteland starring Charlton Heston. Could be both. Its remarkable how many SciFi predict TSHTF between now and then.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            “Is it really any different now? Global thermonuclear or Global warming. Whats the difference”.

            You are really getting carried away with your rhetoric and “speechifying”. What is it that you are trying to convince yourself of?

            To answer your question, yes, it IS quite “different now”. There were 3.5 billion humans on the planet in the mid-60’s—-50 years later there are 7 billion. Globalization and the “consumption society” you like to rant about were just getting started. Capitalism had not begun to run away and the plutocracy and Republicans were not yet destroying the country and by extension, the earth. It was “the golden age of the middle class” in the U.S., if you recall.

            But most importantly, “Global thermonuclear” DIDN’T happen, but Global warming DID. And global warming continues. And global warming is being driven by forces that barely existed in the 1960’s. A big difference all around.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          So smug, and even heroic in the implication that Arcus cum Omnologos sees all and will tilt at the windmills until the very end. Those of us who are able to recognize what’s coming and have made peace with it are not some sort of cult that will commit mass suicide at some point. We will keep plugging in our personal lives and hit a lick in the greater world until what will happen happens.

          The problem is that the problem is just too big and too complex for any of us to make a difference, especially in light of the fact that the forces of evil—-capitalism, over-consumption, and non-sustainability have such a lead in the race.

          (You worry me with your mental thrashing and flipping between bright-sidedness and reality. Such internal conflict is not healthy).

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Yes, chasing you around with blog comments is pretty much an exercise in futility. For the most part, so is seeking out and posting allegedly “precise, accurate, peer-reviewed” numbers and projections gleaned from extensive research on the web.

      Unlike the projections regarding climate change, which are science-based and reasonably believable (if usually conservative), all those projections on renewables are based on the shaky non-science of economics and what the plutocrats, capitalists, and free-marketers see as the best way to get richer, and those folks own the political process too.

      Lay the cards down? Get concrete? Make it real? OK, try this—-some broad ideas, but the numbers are harder to come up with.

      1) Go to a “global war against CO2” footing tomorrow.
      2) Institute a substantial carbon tax tomorrow.
      3) Just as was done in the US in WW2, have the governments of the world order all automobile production to stop tomorrow. Rather than switch to tanks and planes, mandate that only vehicles that get 55+MPH can be manufactured.
      4) Ground most aircraft, particularly those that haul tourists to far off places.
      5) Go to a crash program of developing renewable energy sources of all kinds.
      6) Go to a crash program of increasing energy efficiency in homes and businesses.
      7) Go to a crash program of developing the next generation of nuclear reactors, and start building them in substantial numbers if CO2 levels continue to rise. If CO2 effects worsen because of “delayed action” even after levels stabilize, build even more reactors and institute CCS strategies to bring CO2 down.
      8) Rewrite the U.S. tax code so that we return to historic tax rates on the rich and rein in the abuses of the corporations and Wall Street.
      9) Appoint a “czar” to oversee Wall Street and the financial sector (Elizabeth Warren?), and prosecute the SOB’s that are destroying the country.
      10) Continue to babble on about Germany because it helps some folks deny reality and feel better.

      • MorinMoss Says:

        DoG, I hope the freedom-lovers don’t know where you live. Any of them reading your posts would be flipping out.
        E-Pot, otoh, must be doing his victory dance.

        I think you meant either vehicles that get 55+ mpg or have a MAX speed of 55 mph.
        You may want to add something about the fuel burned by ships & something about coal plants. If you are going to switch to highly efficient autos, I think it would be better to burn some of the petroleum saved if you can phase out coal more quickly but so doing.

        • Since petroleum is only about 35-40% of US carbon emissions, and China’s coal consumption alone is sufficient to keep atmospheric CO2 levels rising, it’s pretty obvious that the measures DOG describes would be insufficient by themselves to accomplish his end.

          On the other hand, if you could engineer a major social upheaval in China which collapsed its energy systems, a lot of the problem would resolve itself in short order as production and shipping shut down and famine took care of the excess.  IIUC this is more or less what happened multiple times in Chinese history when dynasties fell and social order dissolved into chaos.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Uh, E-Pot? Did you not notice that I said it would have to be a global mobilization and “governments” was plural? So all the world will be “doing the right thing” together and CO2 will be brought under control.

            Actually, by the time things get bad enough to adopt these measures, many millions of Chinese will likely have died early on. How many died during the famines brought on by Mao’s Great Leap Forward?—-30 million? 50 million?

          • andrewfez Says:

            The US stock market is now dependent on growth in emerging markets. If China goes down, there is some probability it takes us all down, depending on our sensitivity to, and the magnitude of the volatility such would create . I’ve forgotten the number, but something like 40% of all S&P earnings come from overseas now. And something as benign as a Greek default did cause some big waves on the charts a few years ago (not discounting the state of the western economies at that moment in time; yet we ain’t in much better shape now). ‘course all that cheap junk we get from over there was what kept our middle class blinded these last few decades to under-performance concerning its wage inflation with respect to that of the 1% and actual inflation…

            There was some talk a while back of China’s shadow banking system and/or real estate bubble being of concern…

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Have you read Gilding’s The Great Disruption yet? You had better convert some of your stock holdings to cash and put them under your mattress. Also convert some to precious metals and barterable items, because your money may become next to worthless. Buy some guns too, because when it all goes to pieces and your neighbors find out you’re better prepared than they are, you will have to fend them off. Apocalypse movies are not all fiction (even though zombie and vampire movies are).

          • andrewfez Says:

            Right now I’m 50% cash, 48% equities, 2% bonds. But I’m still 30 years from retirement.

            Since ~2000 twice i’ve watched some of my investments plummet to half their principle value and take years to recover. I’ve seen the value of my town home in Los Angeles go from $255k up to $330k, then plummet to $140k and presently reach back to $255k courtesy of the big banks, the Fed, and the Treasury manipulating the system in a manner that makes the USSR look like free market enthusiasts. I’m no stranger to financial tragedy.

            But most of that stuff happened when i wasn’t even paying attention nor had any interest in following the markets; when I was too young to care, really. Now, after realizing we’ve hit significant limitations on this planet and that if you just dump money into mutual funds/index funds and hope the economy will grow 10 times its present value by the time you retire that your not going to get very far, and I’ve converted into actively managing my own retirement account.

            No one can time the market but what they can do is react to it based on probabilistic reason, so that you make decisions on what volatility you should respect versus what volatility you should ignore. Next time we get into a situation where there is probability to respect regarding a large drop, I’ll start to reduce my positions further. Hedge funds and JPM et alia are already pulling out of small caps and momentum stuff and repositioning into blue chip value stuff at present. They realize we’re at overbought territory or we’re getting close to it (though to be fair, S&P multiples in the 20 range can defiantly stay that way for years before a large correction occurs). Their next step is to pull out and crash the system if things start to look relatively more spooky. Then of course, because they are fanatical in their desire to make even more money, they’ll eventually creep back in, adding one more leg to the new near-net-zero ‘roller coaster’ economy/market until they have extracted all the wealth on the planet. They are also buying up farmland and the water that exists on it all around the world.

            I’m currently fixing up my townhome that it can be rented out, and am trying to get back to the WV/VA/NC region where land is still cheap enough that I can prepare for bad things ahead. My guns are presently at my fathers house. He hunts deer and grows a lot of his own vegetables in multiple gardens on his land. He also has nut trees, pawpaw trees, and berry bushes in the forest behind his property. In ten years time, I’d like to have a PV/battery set up with natgas generator backup. I follow some of the prepper stuff on youtube. I read a lot about the state of agricultural science in the 1800’s before commercial fertilizer. Here is one guy I follow who is an engineer talking about a gravity powered water pump:

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Ten years is too long—–start shooting for five.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          Thanks. Yes, I meant 55 MPG—-the G & H keys keep changing position on my computer. Actually I was going to go for 75 but realized that 55 is a good enough place to start.

          The “freedom lovers” might surprise you. Once things have gotten so bad that their freedom to simply keep living is compromised, they may be big supporters of drastic action.

          As for E-Pot, he won’t be be doing any victory dance over what I said. Nuclear power is only part of the answer, and not at the top of the list.

          Yeah, ships need to be mentioned—they burn some of the dirtiest fuel, and r
          trains, but I was thinking that the 55MPG cars would be a stopgap—-we would move to EV ASAP. We will have to move totally away from fossil carbon-based fuels if we hope to succeed. Actually this list reflects Gilding’s Great Disruption and Great Awakening ideas, and isn’t complete by any means.

          • MorinMoss Says:

            I keep hoping to be surprised by the “Real Americans” or at least hope to see a resurgence of the sensible, reasonable Republicans of Peter’s youth.
            I had a faint hope with the Green Tea coalitions but that’s fading since the GOP is ramping up the pandering and the lines are being drawn starkly in an election year.

            To quote an old Vulcan proverb, “only Nixon could go to China” so we may need a semi-sane Republican to win in 2016 to have a hope of moving forward.
            Regrettably, just the sight of the Kenyan Muslim causes the rightwingnuts to lose all sphincter control and I don’t think a win by Hilary Clinton or Elizabeth Warren was help restore any sanity – they’ll only go into full batshit-mode digging up Clinton dirt or, if Warren wins, non-stop mockery of her claim of Native American heritage.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Is there such a thing as a “semi-sane” Republican anymore? Under the impact of Citizens United and McCutcheon, even a lot of Democrats have lost their minds.

          • MorinMoss Says:

            Hence my continuing dismay.

  9. dumboldguy Says:

    I wouldn’t go quite as far as to say there is NO hope. IMO, there is ALMOST no hope. We are in fact, pretty much sitting on our hands at this point and doing little, and certainly not enough, to avoid some level of catastrophe. Humans are not wise enough to have a Great Awakening without having the Great Disruption smack them between the eyes. Perhaps that will happen—–enough bad things piled one on top of the other that denial becomes impossible. There may be time to turn things around if that happens very soon. I am not optimistic.

    Your next to the last comments….”the sad truth….” and “…..dust in the wind” say it all. I wonder who the “those that will follow us” will be? If there is some much reduced number of humans among them, we will be leaving little for them to thank us for, and our “worthiness as human beings” is pure bright-sidedness—-we are perhaps the most unworthy organism to ever blight this planet.

    • jimbills Says:

      “we are perhaps the most unworthy organism to ever blight this planet.”

      No, not really. The lesson is that we are just like any other organism – no better, no worse. Plenty of other organisms have killed off other species in the natural arms race, have altered the physical landscape, and have created new environmental conditions:

      We thank those little cyanobacteria today, but they changed the atmosphere, shutting off the possible evolution of other different lines of organisms, and probably killing many other organisms. We’re doing the same thing – shutting off the evolution of some species, possibly creating new lines for others.

      I don’t think we’re looking at a Venus effect, where all life is snuffed out. The science doesn’t really indicate that. I’m doubtful we’ll really kill ourselves off, too.

      Let’s take a human living 100,000 years ago and plop them down in our culture today. They’d have to adapt to today’s culture to survive, and they’d be like anyone else living today, or really any human living at any time, adapted to their particular surroundings to survive. They are no less worthy today, or yesterday, or tomorrow.

      We’re very judgmental towards ourselves and others, but again, we’re acting like any other organism does. We consume and expand until we can’t.

      If we had evolved from grasshoppers instead of monkeys and lived at this point in history, we’d be no different, and no less or more worthy than ourselves.

      What we do with our considerable intelligence is rationalize over-expansion and over-exploitation of our environment instead of halting it. We have entire political and economic philosophies devoted towards this rationalization. Our mental and physical wiring as biological organisms virtually requires it. Our culture enforces it.

      Again, it’s okay. Maybe we can escape these chains, but I don’t see any signs of us doing so – historically, biologically, or currently. That leaves Gilding’s deus ex machina. Maybe it will happen – I’m doubtful. I think we’re more likely to continue our exasperating denial despite disruptions until the convergence point of multiple and unavoidable limiting factors hits us at once.

      • Stay on that tune. Our culture. Thats the problem. There will be a cultural revolution whether we like it or not. It will be forced upon us if we don’t get there first. Exponential growth and consumption is impossible. Compound growth. Not just linear. Compound. Interest. GNP. The banking system. All impossible. Really, a bit of a fraud. Since the average math score is probably a D on exponentials, I have to agree with you about the high probability of humanity failing the test. There is only one sign of hope and its temporary. That the same growth can help supply a solution using the same math. Either way. We still have to get to ZPG. And sustainability. And zero growth. (or balanced, whatever that is). Thats why I like your philosophy. Same as mine. I don’t go for technical panaceas that avoid that. Even efficiency does not work if it leads to more consumption. Nothing works without sustainability.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          You display symptoms of schizophrenia when you make a sensible and rational comment like this in the middle of a manic “Gish gallop” of renewables bright-sidedness and anti-nuclear BS. You are dreaming if you think there is much hope of the human race returning to sanity of its own accord, and beginning to deal with global warming in an “exponential progress” way. We are the mule that needs to be hit between the eyes with the 2 X 4 to get our attention. I for one hope the 2 X 4 hits us in my lifetime.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        “we are perhaps the most unworthy organism to ever blight this planet.”;

        Yes, really!. We are most definitely NOT “just like any other organism” in the way you imply. The “natural arms race” of which you speak is evolution, and it is a natural LAW that has operated since life appeared on the planet. Cyanobacteria and an oxygen-rich atmosphere EVOLVED according to that law, and it is senseless to talk about “shutting off POSSIBLE evolution” and “PROBABLY killing other organisms”. It all just happened, and in actuality, the descendants of most pre-existing life forms are still with us and oxygen allowed life on earth as we know it to develop—-there was little here before oxygen.

        The difference with humans is that the damage we have done did not “just happen”. It is the result of the fact that we are the ONLY species whose activities can destroy the GLOBAL environment and that we CHOSE to do what we have done to the planet. That’s why I think we’re “unworthy”.

        Of course, there is no concept of “worthiness” in the natural world—-it just “is”, and if man causes the extinction of all life on the planet, so be it, and that’s a form of evolution as well. The planet will still evolve, but it will be a purely chemical and physical evolution.

        You don’t think we’re looking at a Venus effect, where all life is snuffed out and the science doesn’t really indicate that? You’re doubtful we’ll really kill ourselves off, too? Time will tell—-you and I won'[t be here to see it.

        The 100,000 year old man argument makes little sense, and adaptation is impossible if we “consume and expand until we can’t”. Again, other living things do it because that’s the way the world works—-we have short-circuited the process by using our brains and technology to force things beyond the level of “can’t”.

        “If we had evolved from grasshoppers instead of monkeys and lived at this point in history, we’d be no different, and no less or more worthy than ourselves”. WOW! Attempts at argumentation can lead to some wild dead ends—-we didn’t evolve from monkeys, and couldn’t have evolved from grasshoppers, so the if-then is meaningless.

        This makes far better sense. “What we do with our considerable intelligence is rationalize over-expansion and over-exploitation of our environment instead of halting it. We have entire political and economic philosophies devoted towards this rationalization. Our mental and physical wiring as biological organisms virtually requires it. Our culture enforces it”.

        As does this. “Maybe we can escape these chains, but I don’t see any signs of us doing so – historically, biologically, or currently. That leaves Gilding’s deus ex machina. Maybe it will happen – I’m doubtful. I think we’re more likely to continue our exasperating denial despite disruptions until the convergence point of multiple and unavoidable limiting factors hits us at once”. And it’s not OK to me. It actually pisses me off greatly, and that brings us back around to man being being most unworthy and a blight.

        • jimbills Says:

          I know I’m being argumentative on this point, but there is a reason. A significant driver for man’s destructiveness is the human belief that man is ‘special’ or superior to nature, when the more proper view should be that we are all part of nature.

          Our intelligence allows us to create narratives about ourselves that elevate that status and confuse us as to our true position. I worry that the ‘enemy’ label is just another form of narrative. Perhaps it is not as destructive as some other far more popular narratives, but I don’t see it as particularly helpful.

          Also, I’m not sure that as a collective we are really choosing this path. As individuals (and perhaps it’s limited to handful of individuals who care/dare to really think rationally on these matters) we do have choices, but I see humanity as a collective acting just like every other species. The vast majority of human action is explained by simple biological drives and nothing more.

          We can greatly extend our capabilities to satisfy these biological drives by the evolutionary experiment of our higher intelligence, and so our destructiveness extends far beyond other species, but until we take the true evolutionary leap of UNDERSTANDING combined with our intelligence, I don’t see us as any more special (with negative or positive connotations) than those cyanobacteria. We’re just acting like animals fulfilling our needs/desires, using our intelligence to fulfill those needs and not towards any worthier purpose.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            How most of mankind sees itself and whether or not we have choice or are “driven by biology” is really a moot point gor the most part. Yes, many humans in the undeveloped world live at a level that makes them almost just like any other species and are driven by simple survival needs. I say almost because very few of them are totally untouched by “modernity”. Even such things as a few fishhooks and some steel tools can and do make a huge difference to them

            But those of us in the developed world particularly and in the developing world DO have more of an ability to choose, and the dominant model right now is grow, consume, despoil, and exploit, and in general override the natural laws that govern populations.

            I would restate this as “The vast majority of DESTRUCTIVE human action is explained by man’s getting away from his original place in the environment and adopting such concepts as “economic models”, “civilizations”, and “societies”.

            I wouldn’t characterize these as “biological drives” per se—-there are lots of other animals that have the same basic “drives” and are nearly as smart as man. Why haven’t they been “driven” in the same paths? We have simply evolved to such a level of intelligence that we are able to transcend and actually short circuit that simple biology that governs lower creatures. I myself don’t see us as “special” at all in the global sense—-yes, we’re smart and have developed technology, but we are not, as you say, working to any “worthier purpose”.

            Cyanobacteria are actually one of the “worthiest”organisms on the planet, at least from the standpoint of making a contribution that has enabled and facilitated so many other forms of life—-if life even matters, that is—–is Jupiter any less “worthy” because it has always been lifeless?

            And don’t apologize for being “argumentative”. This is all value judgments and opinion anyway—–good anti-Alzheimer’s therapy, and that’s enough.

          • andrewfez Says:

            Regarding the rural third world, a man’s net worth is a function of his ability to exploit transportation (energy). Pulling oneself out of poverty revolves around saving up for a bicycle, which allows you to carry food to market faster, or get medical care faster, etc. Then with your new found transport, you maximize its utility, the proceeds then going to pay for a motorized bicycle which open up even greater doors to wealth creation, and so on and so forth until you have enough to be a car owner. You go from being a $1/day earner to $10/day earner to $100/day earner as you graduate up the transport ladder.

            Incidentally around $30/day is what it means to be at the poverty line in the US. Our poorest Americans are rich compared to rural African farmers or the like.

            Hmm, forgot my point or what i was responding to…gonna hit ‘post’ anyway and hope it makes some sense….

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Actually, the cell phone has been more transformative in the third world than the bicycle. We are pushing near 4 billion cell phones in use on the planet, and cell phone usage is higher in third world countries than in the U.S.

            Read Stewart Brand’s “Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto” for a slightly wild ride into the future—-he talks about the role of cell phones at length. (Brand did the Green Earth Catalog that was such a big hit back around Earth Day One, and he has some really unique and great perspectives—-cities are green, nukes are now green, there is hope for us all—-a very interesting and thought-provoking read).

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