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April 08, 2008

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Comments

Kirk Sorensen

In my opinion a moratorium on coal-fired power plants is an excellent idea and I fully support the bill.

Jim Holm

It's very important to keep in mind that, after 25 years of building wind and solar, only 1/2 of one percent of the world's energy is wind and solar (IPCC). Since we may have less than 25 more years before "Tipping Point," it is obvious wind and solar are simply not viable as a means to save the world from Climate Change.

It's also very important to keep in mind that there are several different kinds of nuclear power reactors and that only the biggest, slowest to build, and most costly type is being built world wide for public electricity production. What we have going in the world of nuclear electricity is a form of silly madness perverted by fear.

To my way of thinking the Hybrid Pebble offers a quick-to-build, low cost alternative to coal fired power plants. The Hybrid's main drawbacks are higher fuel cost and bulkier per-megawatt reactors, an added advantage is seven layers of radiation isolation instead of one or two.

Make no mistake about it, conventional reactors are built for profit first.

Andre Angelantoni

Why is more electricity generating capacity required? Are you thinking that overall electricity use will go up or go down after peak oil?

Given that the economy is likely to decline in approximately a 1:1 ratio with oil, and that oil will decline somewhere between 2% and 5% per year, my understanding of the situation is that as businesses start to fail less energy will be needed, not more.

Estimating the Economic Impact of Peak Oil

We will have plenty of generating capacity given what we have now.

If you don't believe that oil is going be a problem, read what the CEO of Shell said at the World Economic Forum in February:
http://indpress.wordpress.com/2008/02/05/shell-ceo-admits-peak-oil-could-be-here-in-7-years

"“Regardless of which route we choose, the world’s current predicament limits our maneuvering room. We are experiencing a step-change in the growth rate of energy demand due to population growth and economic development, and Shell estimates that after 2015 supplies of easy-to-access oil and gas will no longer keep up with demand.”

He went on to criticize the sluggish response by policymakers to the coming energy crisis:

“Taking the path of least resistance, policymakers pay little attention to curbing energy consumption - until supplies run short. Likewise, despite much rhetoric, greenhouse gas emissions are not seriously addressed until major shocks trigger political reactions. Since these responses are overdue, they are severe and lead to energy price spikes and volatility."

Don't you worry...there will be plenty of generating capacity with what we've got. What there won't be is businesses (which have already begun to fail in part because of high oil prices) to use the capacity we have.

John Sterling

I'm agnostic regarding coal's outlook in the U.S., but globally it's been the fastest growing fossil fuel. In 2006 consumption rose 4.5%, faster than the 10-year average. You can find the stats in this pdf file. Hassling Citigroup or coal projects in Kansas is one thing, but the marginal coal project is in East Asia and they seem to be proceeding apace.

Alex

A coal firing plant is set into operation in China every four days.

Bob Wallace

I think the operator of this site stated that around 22% of the US (residential?) electricity went to lighting.

We've basically outlawed the incandescent ligh bulb, replacing 100 watt bulbs with 18 watt bulbs. In a short time we should see that 22% figure falling.

We've basically discarded the CRT tube for TVs and computers. We are in the process of moving from desktops to laptops. (For me the move to a laptop cut my power draw from well over 200 watts to less than 20 watts.)

Refrigerators have gotten much more efficient in the last few years.

(When was the last time I turned on that power sucking stereo?)

Don't discount conservation.

Wind and solar might make up only 0.5% of current power generation in the US but that does take into account what has happened in those industries in the last few years.

Right now wind would be a larger percent if there was more manufacturing capacity. And that is being developed.

Nano Solar and First Solar are both shipping solar at under $2 a watt and selling all they can produce. You can bet that manufacturing capacity will be rapidly increased.

Wind and solar just weren't cost competitive with cheap oil and dirty coal. But the economic picture has changed drastically from what it was during the previous 25 years.


jcwinnie

If destruction of life as we know it on our planet was unthinkable, then we would be finding the solutions rather than making such unaccountable assertions as "renewable energy simply cannot be brought up to speed fast enough to meet all our needs." Unfortunately, when Pogo holds the mirror up, all we do is admire the glint of our armament.

RoySV

I add to those supporting a ban on non-capture coal. The climate situation is indeed clearly more dire then we all realize. I encourage people to consider the latest information from James Hansen.

For an example from yesterday, click RoySV.

Also please consider support groups who are actively fighting coal burning such as Greenpeace.

George Bruce

And I propose a ban on de-industrialization. Any ideology that requires 25-50% of everyone to die very soon, and relegates most of the rest of us to a 40 year life span is a moral non-starter.

Fortunately, that is not going to happen. People who know that food does not come from supermarkets ( and money does not come from Washington), such as people in India and China, will never stand for it. The will tell the greenies to stick it where the sun don’t shine, politely if possible, forcibly if necessary. The emotionally juvenile populations of developed countries will grow up when they are told they must do without electricity for 12 hours day. At that point, the greenies will turn black and white as they are tarred and feathered and ridden out of town.

Carl Hage

I disagree that energy conservation or capture of waste energy could not be applied faster than new plant construction. Yes, it's been written about for a while (and has the highest return on investment) but the fundamental problem is that electric utilities profit the most by encouraging energy waste rather than profiting from energy conservation. Our market regulation and corporate structure favors waste.

Besides changing laws so utilities can profit from conservation incentives, etc., the pricing structure can be changed so people pay more for waste and pay less if they improve. In California, the more you use, the higher it costs. Quite a lot of people qualified for a 20% refund by reducing consumption. Instead of paying for a new plant, offer to give it back to customers if they free it up!

The opportunities from conservation/efficiecy are huge, quick, and cheap compared to renewables. I would say we (the US) haven't even tried yet for the most part. See per-capita electric consumption by state (except TN..CT are off by a factor of 10).

Rather than banning coal or mandating coal with future CCS, it would be best to just set the price for CO2 emission, and make sure the price is high enough so utilities would profit by using CCS in the future. A tax refunded to people would be simplest and would make conservation pay. Trading only between CO2 emitters means conservation is excluded.

Cyril R.

New nuclear builds in the US have been costed at 5 to 8 bucks per Watt.

At this cost, conservation and efficiency is where the fruit is. Get the lower apples first, the higher ones will come later.

David M

One partial solution I'd like to see:

Nuclear batteries with 20+ year lifetimes. Get the oil companies/gas stations to invest and they have the power they need for fast charge stations. Excess power can go to grid to ensure a decent ROI. This also covers the possibility of slow EV and PEV adoption (with fast charge abilities).

If the batteries are put in concrete "crypts" and buried 6-10 feet underground with radiation sensors (to detect leaks) then proliferation and terrorist attacks won't happen.

Ya, I know, environmentalists' heads would explode. It could be pointed out to them that the soil at most gas stations could be qualified as toxic waste from all the fuel leakage.

Clee

Why is more electricity generating capacity required? Are you thinking that overall electricity use will go up or go down after peak oil?

I think overall electricity use will go up, because as oil becomes less available, people will turn to other sources of energy, such as electricity, to make up the shortfall. If push comes to shove, I bet we'll start building more coal and nuclear plants again.

From 1978 to 1983, US oil consumption dropped 20 percent.
http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/25opec/sld007.htm
The country went into recession, people conserved, efficiency was the word of the day, and yet did electricity usage drop? No, electricity continued increasing. It did drop 3% in 1982, (that's much less than 20%) but was back above 1981 levels in 1983 and electricity usage continued its rise.
http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/ftproot/presentations/oiaf/speeches/0503eia_fig3.pdf

Roger Brown
And I propose a ban on de-industrialization. Any ideology that requires 25-50% of everyone to die very soon, and relegates most of the rest of us to a 40 year life span is a moral non-starter.
The question is not whether we should de-industrialize, but whether we need to go on manufacturing 40 inch plasma screen televisions, 100watt/channel stereo systems, jet skis, SUVs, muscle cars, six thousand square foot starter castles, etc. The obvious answer is: No we don’t. If the OECD countries reduce their resource use by concentrating on maintaining a decent quality of life with a minimum consumption of resources, then resources will be freed up to allow the developing world to rise to meet us on some reasonable common ground. The idea is not to stop using energy, but to use as much as we really need.

Your concept of who is condemning humanity to great suffering is completely ass backwards; It is the people who insist that we need to live within the earth’s ecological budget who want to prevent a catastrophic collapse of the earth’s human population, and it is the people who believe that rich have to go on getting richer forever who are insuring that the transition from a wealth increasing economy to a wealth maintaining economy will be as painful as possible.

steve

I am not a big fan of coal but it has a great advantage of being a domestic energy source we have a huge amount of. No matter how you feel about global warming it is hard argue we would not be better off having a domestic energy source. I have some concerns on how well this new carbon sequestration is going to work and what it will actually cost. I saw some of the plans and they look like they could be a maintenance nightmare. The emissions systems we have on our present plants can be a pain to make work properly. I was in a meeting the other day and we were told that new coal plants were just about impossible to get permitted in any areas we are operating. That being said I feel we will eventually start building new plants out of necessity.

Ok about a couple of other statements made on here. The reason wind and solar are not bigger is there was not the need until now. Pretty hard to get billion dollar solar plant off the ground when natural gas was so cheap and easy to build. They are growing a huge rate now and will continue to do for a while. They are never going to be our primary source of power unless we can come up with an efficient, long term storage system.

There are a couple of reasons we need to build new plants. First off energy efficiency is great but it will never solve all our problems. For a sound economy we need to have adequate and reliable generation to take care of any industry or future industry that may need to be built. Populations are growing and they do not always stay in the same area. Out West we have had some huge population growth in some areas. We also have a large number of inefficient plants that need to be retired. Often times it is part of the permitting process for new plants, that is, the operator agrees to retire an old inefficient plant in order to get permission to build a new one.

One more thing is have worked for a couple of utilities and I don’t believe they have any vested interest in keeping us inefficient. Really I believe it is just the opposite of that. The more power we use the more expensive upgrades they have to make to the lines. Also most of the new generation, they have to purchase, is more expensive than the old contracts they already have. The thing they hate the most is very uneven power usage or generation. Then they have to go out and buy, at very high cost, electricity on the open market.

ChipSeal

A little load shedding in the present will nullify concerns of a few degrees warmer a generation or two in the future.

Marcus

Personally I think its time to recognize our present limits on clean energy production and at least try to live within them. If we are truly smarter than bacteria then we can do this, whether it takes incentives to slow population growth or disincentives for moving into locations that are already maxed out. Otherwise its going to be over shoot and dye off. Isn't this what sustainability is all about?

Al Fin

How did the "back to the stone-agers" get control of so much of the environmental political lobby industry? Clearly the cavepeople in the US Congress are taking them a bit too seriously.

JohnBo

I have read through this web log and I am amazed at what I see. In the great words of Pogo, "We have found the enemy and he are us".

We killed off nuclear power growth. We blocked 85 % of the off shore for drilling. There is a potential to greatly increase hydro but the spotted ant or some such insignificant thing has stopped that. Maybe we should just shut down all the existing dirty coal and dangerous nuke plants tomorrow. In this way, we can all live a clean and better life on that 0.5% of renewable power we have. There will be much less oil needed because the gasoline pumps will have no electricity. Heck… lets just give up and kill ourselves since we are to blame for all the problems in the universe.

Just Watching

Our congress people is heavely invested in the oil, gas, coal and defense contractors. Their meat grinder keeps taking our kids to keep the mid East destabelized.
The seven sisters oil companies tell us there is 1 trillion barels of recoverable oil at $100 or more per barel left. Does anyone think they will leave 100+ trillion dollars of business in the ground?
If we go for a clean safe world we the people will have to do it without the government. I have already started without them.

Marcus

I guess I didn't really express myself too well. However it should be obvious that there is a difference between halting an expansion of coal power plants and going back to the stone age. I think we have to seek something other than the status quo.

Paul F. Dietz

A little load shedding in the present will nullify concerns of a few degrees warmer a generation or two in the future.

Yes, once the lights start going out regularly you will find most people don't give a damn about a few degrees of global warming.

Roger Brown
Yes, once the lights start going out regularly you will find most people don't give a damn about a few degrees of global warming.

In case you did not read it before here is the question I asked up post:

The question is not whether we should de-industrialize, but whether we need to go on manufacturing 40 inch plasma screen televisions, 100watt/channel stereo systems, jet skis, SUVs, muscle cars, six thousand square foot starter castles, etc.?

Stopping manufacturing these things (and a whole host of other things which anyone with an IQ greater than that of peat moss could think of in a few minutes time) would not force us to turn out the lights. In fact eliminating such things would make it easier to keep the lights on. If we do not confront the issue of economic growth, and the irresistable tendency of the current economic system to leverage technology and efficiency improvements to create ever larger piles of toys and ever more elaborate and wasteful leisure activities, then all of the clever engineering in the world will not save us from eventual ecological disaster. You really need to confront the fundamental problem that we are facing rather than attacking the strawman of the environmentalist who want to return us to the stone age.

Personally I do not think of myself as an environmentalist. I am person who desires that the human race should have a long and productive history on this planet. I am not opposed to the use of any specific energy source. Not nuclear energy, and not even coal as a part of a transition strategy to a sustainable future. But the longer we delay confronting the wasteful and destructive tendencies of our current economic system, the worse our problems are going to be when our greed runs up against the finite limits of our ability to dominate the material and natural world.

Roger Brown
Yes, once the lights start going out regularly you will find most people don't give a damn about a few degrees of global warming.

In case you did not read it before here is the question I asked up post:

The question is not whether we should de-industrialize, but whether we need to go on manufacturing 40 inch plasma screen televisions, 100watt/channel stereo systems, jet skis, SUVs, muscle cars, six thousand square foot starter castles, etc.?

Stopping manufacturing these things (and a whole host of other things which anyone with an IQ greater than that of peat moss could think of in a few minutes time) would not force us to turn out the lights. In fact eliminating such things would make it easier to keep the lights on. If we do not confront the issue of economic growth, and the irresistable tendency of the current economic system to leverage technology and efficiency improvements to create ever larger piles of toys and ever more elaborate and wasteful leisure activities, then all of the clever engineering in the world will not save us from eventual ecological disaster. You really need to confront the fundamental problem that we are facing rather than attacking the strawman of the environmentalist who want to return us to the stone age.

Personally I do not think of myself as an environmentalist. I am person who desires that the human race should have a long and productive history on this planet. I am not opposed to the use of any specific energy source. Not nuclear energy, and not even coal as a part of a transition strategy to a sustainable future. But the longer we delay confronting the wasteful and destructive tendencies of our current economic system, the worse our problems are going to be when our greed runs up against the finite limits of our ability to dominate the material and natural world.

ChipSeal

"Stopping manufacturing these things... would not force us to turn out the lights. In fact eliminating such things would make it easier to keep the lights on."

Perhaps congress ought to pass a law...?

Do you suppose you can convince manufactures to stop providing goods that consumers are demanding? Do you propose to direct the incomes of your neighbors directly or just convince them to spend it differently? It is unlikely that you can convince the majority of them that your preferences are superior to theirs.

It is not our "economic system" victimizing us. You are complaining about the fundamental natural desire of every human being to improve his lot and that of his family. Expecting to change that seems a rather tall order, don't you think?

bob

In Soviet Russia, luxury taxes you!

So ... you want to stop manufacturing luxury goods and instead produce ... what, praytell? It was clever of you to *claim* that the stone-age-loving environmentalist is a strawman. Sadly, you failed to demonstrate that it really *is* a strawman.

Roger Brown
It is not our "economic system" victimizing us. You are complaining about the fundamental natural desire of every human being to improve his lot and that of his family. Expecting to change that seems a rather tall order, don't you think?

It is indeed a tall order, but if we do not step up to the task then civilizational collapse is certain. I am sure that the Roman generals and the French aristocracy were convinced that if 'normality' as they had experienced it all of their lives was not continued indefinitely, then the world would descend permanently into chaos. They were wrong.

I am not convinced that the desire to become continuously become richer is natural and inevitable. I do not desire to improve my lot with respect to material wealth. I do not want a fancy sports car, or a larger house, or more electronic toys. I do desire future security (in the form of adequate shelter, food, clothing and health care) for myself and the people I care about. Within the context of today's economic system obtaining such security means keeping the stock market 'healthy': i.e. increasing the the total volume of economic transactions as rapidly as possible. In a finite world such an economic system is structurally insane. If our current economic system is the only one compatible with human nature then we are genetically demented, and the sooner we vanish from the earth the better. However, I do not believe such nonsense for a minute.

Our future security depends upon the continuing existence of a healthy economic community. The people who are still working produce food, clothing, etc. and give it to the people who are retired. This assertion is just as true for retired multi-billionaire CEOs as for widows living on social security pensions. We need to create an economic system whose primary goal is work to insure the health of the true source of our long term wealth rather than plundering it for the sake of accumulating short term personal fortunes.

I do not propose to monitor how people spend their income. I do propose to flatten the income distribution so that the market will not cater to people who have enough disposable income to buy muscle cars, monster houses and so forth. I also propose to limit what is being manufactured by replacing private finance by public interest free finance. We should have private enterprise but community finance. Since we will desire to keep our community banks solvent, the motivation to finance successful enterprises (i.e. ones that produce products that people want to buy) will be strong. If banks are public institutions then democratic input into what kinds of enterprises are to be financed can be made. Yes, this will subject your consumption choices to tyranny of the majority. Tough luck. Democracy is a better choice than collapse.

I also propose a system of universal social security. Retirement income would depend upon the total amount of money earned in your lifetime plus the age at which you retired. Private financial investments would no longer exist, but you you could still save money (i.e. forgo current economic consumption) in order to enable early retirement if you valued future freedom over present luxury. While you are working you are supporting the aged and the infirm, and when your turn comes the community that you spent your life supporting will support you. Financial independence is an illusion even in today's economic system. Once person's 'independence' is the power to command the output of another person's labor.

Roger Brown

It was clever of you to *claim* that the stone-age-loving environmentalist is a strawman. Sadly, you failed to demonstrate that it really *is* a strawman.

I admit that people really do exist who would welcome a return to neolithic or even paleolithic (i.e. hunter/gather) techniques of economic production. However, such people are a tiny tiny minority within the environmental movement. The vast majority of environmentalists are like Al Gore; They want to have their cake and eat it too. They want to clean up the planet and still live high consumption lifestyles and have stock market growth to the end of the century and beyond. If you are contending that such people are completely clueless, then I am 100% in agreement with you.

I am not sure, however, in what way you are trying to differentiate yourself from such people. Are you saying that you want your present style of living to continue until you die, and you don't give a damn what happens afterwards? If so, then I will admit that you are logically consistent and I have no basis for a further argument with you. If, on the other hand, you claim to be concerned about the long term destiny of humanity on this planet and you refuse to confront the problem of economic growth, then I maintain that you are just as clueless as the greenie 'morons' whom you are deriding.

bob

Why do we have to stop our "high consumption" lifestyles, as you put it? Here's an admittedly-rosy vision: we implement large-scale nuclear power (clean fission and/or cost-effective fusion), supplement it with cheap solar panels on everyone's roofs, use electric cars, and increase our efficiency.

If that can happen, why do we need a lifestyle change? The lifestyle change you propose is NOT a logical conclusion from caring about the environment. You want to talk about logical fallacies, strawmen in particular, what the hell are you doing claiming I don't care about the planet after I leave?

I skimmed your rambling post/diatribe, it sounds to me that you're a hardcore socialist because you think your way is the best way. Good for you. You're claiming your socio-political views follow directly from caring about the environment, and that's either a blatant lie or a tragic misconception.

The only difference between you and the prehistory-ophiles is the type of society you ultimately desire.

Bob Wallace

"The vast majority of environmentalists are like Al Gore; They want to have their cake and eat it too. They want to clean up the planet and still live high consumption lifestyles and have stock market growth to the end of the century and beyond. If you are contending that such people are completely clueless, then I am 100% in agreement with you."

I think you misstated what the majority of environmentalists want.

I think it more accurate to summarize the position of most of us who are worried about the future of the planet as wanting to find solutions to problems such as pollution and global warming in ways that leave us a quality lifestyle.

Roger Brown

You want to talk about logical fallacies, strawmen in particular, what the hell are you doing claiming I don't care about the planet after I leave?

I said that if you do care about the future of the planet (which you obviously do) then refusing to confront the problem of economic growth is a logical inconsistency. Our economic system requires growth for 'healthy' functioning. I have a sister who is a small business owner with debts. She does not wish to grow her business into a mega-corporation or make a financial killing through an IPO. She just wants to earn a living and save money for retirement. However, if the economy does not grow she is screwed. This need for constant growth is a structural problem that has to be fixed. I have explicitly said that I do not reject the use any specific technology. I also do not make any specific predictions about what quality of life can be attained to in a post fossil fuel world. I am not a hard core believer in any sort of 'ism'. I am just a person trying to figure out how we can create an economic and social system that does not depend on constant growth. If you have a detailed proposal for how to accomplish this goal I would be happy to hear it. But simply planning to engineer our way out of our problems under the assumption that the global economy can keep on growing for the rest of the century and beyond seems to me to be a strategy with almost no chance of success.

Roger Brown

I think it more accurate to summarize the position of most of us who are worried about the future of the planet as wanting to find solutions to problems such as pollution and global warming in ways that leave us a quality lifestyle.

Are you planning on having your 401K fund growing 8% per year until the middle of the century? If so then you are deluding yourself about what you want. I agree that our goal should be to produce a decent quality of life while minimizing environmental impact. I am skeptical that 7 billion plus people can consume resources at anywhere near the current OECD country rate. Increased efficiency may be able to make up for some of the necessary reductions in per capital resource use.

However, I believe that it is vital that we create an economic system that has a different goal than increasing the total volume of economic transactions as rapidly as possible. If you have figured out a way to accomplish this in the context of an economic system in which manufacturing infrastructure investments are driven primarily by the desire of money to make money, please give me the details.

petr

well strictly speaking if you ban coal plants that do not sequester carbon (Im all for it), there should be a carbon tariff charged to products from countries such as China that do build them. Of course the bulk of the c02 buildup was done by the west over the past 150 yrs..
it is a problem that while products are more energy efficient such as lighting and fridges,
people are building big houses with strip lighting and putting the old fridge in the basement and ultimately wasting more..
(I guess a carbon tax on electricity that isnt renewable might be a way to address that) but ultimately a lifestyle of jetskis and bigger tvs and more consumption isnt sustainable. Neither is an economic model based on continous growth.

sunfitt

Lots of nuclear waste that nobody wants to touch...Hell! The stuff we produced 50 yrs ago is still waiting to be disposed of properly! How about the millions of gallons(H2O) in evaporative losses those cooling towers lose each day?! In case nobody's noticed, fresh water is becoming more scarce...
DOMESTIC ENERGY SOURCES: Yes, we have coal! But, as we enter the 21st century, Societial Costs are finally being factored into the cost/design of coal plants.
Yes, the sun still shines on North America! In fact, we receive more solar energy (insolation) in one day than this country uses in one year! A lot of people still have electric water heaters in their homes and businesses...using solar panels would create a very measurable load reduction.
I work in the Auto industry here in Michigan (I don't design them...just keeping thingz running...don't blame me!). We have excess manufacturing capacity and are closing plants left & right! Our governor (Granholm) wants to offer tax incentives and other assistance to lure R.E. businesses here to Michigan (to create "green collar" jobs). She is trying to lure some windmill mfrs to set up operations in our vacant manufacturing facilities. It only makes sense to build close to where you are going to site them. Michigan has shoreline on 4 of the 5 Great Lakes...with excellent year-round windspeeds....Problem is she's a Democrat and the legislature's Republican (you know the rest of the story)!
"CONSERVATION DOESN'T WORK".... People who think this way: 1) either haven't tried it 2) never studied it and don't know the market potential 3) own a lot of stock in GE/Bechtel! 25 yrs ago in Oregon, a utility decided to meet forecasted future demand thru aggressively promoting conservation VS building another generation plant....worked just fine!

Don B.

NorCalMatt

Steve says: "First off energy efficiency is great but it will never solve all our problems."

Wrong!

So much cheer-leading for new generation, so little actual knowledge.

Energy efficiency, conservation, peak-load shifting and other forms of demand-side management (DSM) have proven over and over that they can indeed solve all our energy problems. And quite frankly, anyone who says otherwise obviously has no experience in this area.

DSM is practically free and extremely effective. It is the main reason Californians have the lowest energy bills in the country (despite very high rates), even adjusted for the relatively mild climate. It is the only state, as far as I know, that has found a way for its utilities to make money off of DSM, and the results are stupendous. In an amazing number of cases, businesses were able to cut their peak demand by 50 or even 70 percent by using readily available and cheap technology, and all the utility had to do was ask.

The fact that Americans consume four times the energy of the average European (and eight times the average human) should by more than enough proof that we quite obviously can drastically cut our energy use without affecting our quality of life. All we have to do is try.

Steve also says: "We also have a large number of inefficient plants that need to be retired."

Again, wrong! I know this is a popular issue among a select group of policy makers, but they have no proof. Study after study has shown that retiring all our older boiler plants and replacing them with new combined-cycle plants would make absolutely no difference to overall system efficiency nor to system air emissions (criteria or greenhouse), while greatly increasing costs. The reason is that the older plants simply do not run enough to make a difference.

It's sort of like having a family with three drivers owning three cars, two of which are new and one is older. It generally is quite rare that all three drivers would be driving at the same time, and most of the time only one or two cars are driven on a day-to-day basis. So, would it make sense to replace that older third car with a brand new one getting 15 percent better mileage, at a cost of $20,000 or so, even if it is only driven a few days per year? Almost certainly not.

That's exactly what's going on in the "aging plants are dirty dogs" argument. Turns out they are neither dirty nor dogs.

There are many better ways to spend our money than replacing less-efficient but seldom-running plants with brand new ones.

Like DSM, for example.

Bob Wallace

The problems that coal faced in the past year (and a bit) are fleshed out here....

There's a time line of events such as this one.

"2 July 2007 - The Florida Public Service Commission denies Florida Power & Light the permits needed to move forward with the massive 1,960-megawatt coal-fired Glades Power Park, citing uncertainty surrounding future carbon costs."


http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/04/long-year-life-coal-industry.php

--

"Study after study has shown that retiring all our older boiler plants and replacing them with new combined-cycle plants would make absolutely no difference to overall system efficiency nor to system air emissions (criteria or greenhouse), while greatly increasing costs."

Can you point me to a good summary of those studies?

steve

Well Matt I guess I don’t have any knowledge about the subject. So happy you could show me the error in my ways. I grew up in Northern California too. I agree that California has done a remarkable job with energy efficiency. I am guessing you are on PG&E. They were big into it five years ago when I worked for them. I just have one question for you. We both agree that California has done a good job with energy efficiency. I know I don’t have any light bulbs, that are not florescent, in my home, because of the subsidized ones, they almost give away. SO WITH ALL THIS CONSERVATION, WHY HAS CALIFORNIA SEEN AN INCREASE IN ITS ELECTRICAL USAGE EVERY YEAR SINCE 2001? During this time a 1500 MWH coal plant was also shut down near Laughlin Nevada. About 1000 MWH's of this was going to California.

And just how to you expect to get all of this forced energy efficiency and more importantly how to do you expect to pay for it? How do you compensate for changing demographics? How do you compensate for future population growth? Do you really believe there are no coal plants that should be retired? I agree that energy efficiency is very important and many states could be doing much more to improve it. The simple fact is that new power plants are going to be built. These utilities are not building plants for fun. They are building them because they expect future growth and the public gets pissed when the lights don’t work. My belief is the inevitable rate increases will do more to force energy efficiency than any law ever will.

Bob Wallace

Is that increased usage normalized for population growth?

A very quick search stated that CA population has been growing about 2% per year. And energy usage has been growing about 2% a year.

(Don't take that data to the bank. I just checked a couple of sources.)

steve

No it does not account for population increases but then again it does not matter. You still need more generation to keep up with the population. Populations shift all the time in this country. Just look at the explosive growth in the Desert Southwest. Another thing I would really like to see some data on how we use 4 times the amount of electricity per capita as Europe. Most of the Data I have seen is about twice. I agree that is still very high but we are lower than Canada or Australia. I like the car analogy too but as our populations increase and our need for generation increases we are going to have to be running those “old dirty dogs” more and more to keep up.

NiraliSherni

If oil is running out so will coal eventually. I believe that the Mississippi is being tapped for wave generated electricity and places like Santa Rosa have their waste-water electricity project, so a lot of ways to generate sustainable and renewable electricity.

An Educated Person

Amazing comments!!!
I do not think I have seen such a group of mis-informed idiots all in one place at one time. Unless, of course, one happens to be observing the actions of Congress.

Yeah, lets shut down all power production in all forms. I would enjoy watching you silly bastards freeze in the dark...

The rest of us sane people will be working towards two things:
First, spreading the word that human-induced global warming is not a scientifically valid theory and is not occurring. Go ahead, I dare any of you to come up with valid data derived by the scientific method that proves human generated carbon dioxide is causing the observed variations in temperatures.

Second, to encourage the development of every form of energy available to the U.S..

Yes, coal, nuclear, oil and gas, and hydroelectric.

Bob Wallace

Interesting.

The vast majority of climate scientists say that the data is clear. The planet is warming.

And you, An Educated Person, thinks that he can change minds with insult and misrepresentation.

bob

If you're going to wait for definitive proof, An Educated Person, you're going to be waiting for a long time. The scientific method doesn't provide capital-p Proofs, it demonstrates the best available hypotheses and theories to explain the available data. I guess, by your reasoning, we shouldn't launch any spacecraft ... after all, there isn't "valid data derived by the scientific method that proves" general relativity.

I think someone needs to educate themselves a bit more ...

Kit P


“I do not think I have seen such a group of mis-informed idiots all in one place at one time.”

Wasn't me but I must admit thinking it sometimes. Clearly AEP is wrong. He left out Lester Brown and his friends at EPI, the NYT, NPR, CNN and so forth.

Clearly announcements of the demise of coal are premature. If the criteria is the number of canceled projects, renewable energy is DOA. It takes a lot of elements to make power projects actually produce power.

NorCalMatt

Steve says: "Well Matt I guess I don’t have any knowledge about the subject. So happy you could show me the error in my ways."

You're welcome. (I know, I'm an a-hole. Deal with it.)

California's growth in electric power has been significantly below it's growth in population. Pop growth is about 2 percent per year (hard to tell because of lack of accurate census data), but power growth has been around 1.2 percent. Still not flat but getting there.

We're already there with water. Water use in Cal has been flat for nearly 10 years now, thanks to efficiency and conservation. Of course, we've had no choice there. There's only so much water available, and we're pretty much producing all we can, so the only choice to accommodate growth was to greatly reduce the use per capita, which we have done.

The power world is a little behind, but is learning a lot from the water world. One great program in SoCal was to replace commercial and restaurant kitchen spray nozzles with high-pressure, low-flow nozzles, paid for by the Metropolitan Water District (no cost to the customer). Turns out that not only did MWD and its wholesale customers save a huge amount of water, SoCal Gas saved a bunch of gas from not having to heat so much water, and SoCal Edison and LADWP saved a bunch of electricity from not having to pump as much water. Win-win-win, at WAY less cost than building a new power plant, new water treatment facility, new wastewater treatment facility, etc.

Another example is the policy in most SoCal counties that any new development (subdivision, mall or whatever) must offset their expected water demand at a greater than 1-to-1 ratio, through conservation and efficiency for existing customers, before they can build their project. This alone has greatly helped keep water demand flat, again at no cost to the ratepayers, and actually quite modest costs to the developers.

There's literally thousands of similar examples of the synergies we can find when we work together instead of in isolation. Again, at little or no cost to the ratepayer, and certainly NO FORCED CONSERVATION (I get to shout too!). ALL WE HAVE TO DO IS TRY!!!

The "freeze in the dark" line is such a sham that it has absolutely no credence any more in the industry, so I'd advise the apparently ironically named "Educated Person" to just shut the h--- up.

Re. dirty dogs, see the latest report from California Energy Commission staff about meeting greenhouse gas emissions (and ignore the "official policy" produced by the appointed commission, which largely came from one now-gone Commissioner). Their study showed what several others before have said: shutting down every single aging boiler unit in California will make NO difference in greenhouse gas emissions in the state, but would greatly increase costs because of all the new plants that would have to be built, even though many would only run a few days per year. That agrees with similar studies I've read and participated in. Search for "aging power plants" and you'll find them.

As far as accommodating "changing demographics" (which I take to mean, "How we gonna get all them immigrants to participate?"), that seems like a very minor problem. Give people the chance to save some money on their energy bills, and they will participate. It might take some work, like translating things into Spanish (Oh, the horrors!), but I don't think anyone in the DSM sector see that as a problem. There's more than enough potential in the commercial and industrial sector for the moment, anyway. So we can burn that bridge when we get to it (so to speak).

Of course we'll need new power plants in the future. Many have been built recently, and many more are in the planning pipeline. I'm by no means a market economist, but I do think this is one area the market will take care of. Companies and financiers will build new plants when it makes economic sense to do so, and most of those will be repowers at existing sites.

The power market needs no help when it comes to new plants. It will build what is needed. But unfortunately, the industry still needs lots of help in fully realizing the benefits of efficiency and conservation, thanks to a tremendous amount of mis-information floating around about the true costs and benefits, as is apparent in the comments on this site.

When it comes to the potential benefits of conservation and efficiency, we haven't even seen the tip of the tip of the iceberg.

JEFF ANTHONY

"we would be dependent on renewable energy, nuclear power and conservation to provide the power in the near term. Since these options would not be sufficient"

Wow. There's an ignorant statement if I have ever heard one....

Kit P

I have been hearing for 30 years about how conservation can be used in California to keep from building new power plants. NorCalMatt it is nice to hear that they have finally started. Of course my utility in Washington State was giving low flow shower nozzles in 1993. When I built my house in California, low flow nozzles were requires by code.

I have lived in both California and Spain. Clearly if you live a house in mild climate and do not use electricity for heating/cooling or hot water, you will use less electricity than those in harsh with all electric houses.

NorCalMatt is correct that he does not have to worry about "freeze in the dark." It is your climate stupid, not your skill in conservation. I have also lived where it is 30 below or above 100 on a regular basis. When my utility n

Kit P

"we would be dependent on renewable energy, nuclear power and conservation to provide the power in the near term. Since these options would not be sufficient"

Jeff, that would be an accurate, well informed, and realistic statement.

Not building coal plants would be irresponsible. Jeff I am willing to hear your plan about how the folks who are responsible for providing electricity 24/7.

Clee

Bob W, I think I found a slide presentation of one of the studies that NorCalMatt was talking about.
http://www.energy.ca.gov/2004_policy_update/documents/2004-06-09_workshop/2004-06-09_APPS.PDF
Page 40 is interesting.
Operation or retirements of aging units will have a limited effect on emissions and air quality because:
•All the units use natural gas;
•Most of the units are already well controlled;
•Aging plant air emissions are small compared to other sectors and the total inventory.

That may be true in California where there are only 2 coal plants in operation, but California is not the entire country. I don't think Steve was talking about natural gas boilers, and he didn't say why the inefficient plants need to be retired. He didn't even call them "dirty dogs", so it looks to me like a NorCalMatt was making a strawman argument.
What Steve wrote was:
We also have a large number of inefficient plants that need to be retired. Often times it is part of the permitting process for new plants, that is, the operator agrees to retire an old inefficient plant in order to get permission to build a new one.

which is exactly what Duke Energy is doing.
http://www.duke-energy.com/news/releases/2008012901.asp
under "The carbon mitigation plan, which is part of the permit,"
"Duke Energy has also agreed to a scheduled retirement of 800 additional megawatts of older, less efficient coal capacity in North Carolina."

Some of the plants to be retired were built in the 1940's. After 60 years, old age may be reason enough for them to need retirement and replacement with new plants of whatever type.

Kit P

Clee thanks for the link. I remember air pollution. I used to live in the Bay area and I remember when the air was clean (does that give my age away?). Looking at the pie charts, you will notice the tiny slivers are the part of pollution from power plants.

There are no coal fired electricity generating units in California unless they are COGEN. This does not mean California does not get a huge amount of electricity from out of state coal.

For those of you who like clean air you may want to move close to one of those "dirty dogs" because our air is clean. It just amazes me that places with millions of cars burning fossil fuels crating tire wear and road wear are also full of people who want to blame a coal plant for all their problems.

Just ignore all the gas fired hot water heaters and furnaces. Ignore all the 'clean' gas fired power plants that replaced the nuke plant. Go ahead and talk about all the renewable energy that you are going to build but don't.

The word 'clueless' was invented for California.

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