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February 26, 2008



See David Archibald's paper prepared for the skeptics' conference in New York City, March 2-4, 2008. In it he lays out the case for the sun's role in climate change, and the myriad ways in which carbon dioxide is beneficial, and not the bogeyman that it is usually called.

Charles Barton

Such optimism concerning the future of renewables may not be entirely realistic. Renewables are at present a very limited and expensive, stopgap solution to the control of CO2 emissions. Solar electrical generation provides power on average five and a half hours a day. Wind power generation offers limited and irregular power production, and is least productive, during typical periods of peak electrical demand. Thus renewables can never be more than a fully replace fossil fuel generating capacity.

In other to stop producing CO2 during the generation of electricity, we must replace fossil fueled plants with nuclear generators.

In addition, the price of basic construction materials including steel, concrete and copper is rising rapidly. The use per MW of generating capacity by renewables of these materials is far more intensive than the use in the construction of nuclear facilities. Thus the future costs of increasing renewable generation facilities is likely to rise more quickly than the future cost of building nuclear facilities. This problem is compounded by the lower capacity factor of renewables, which necessitates the installation of up to 5 times the generation capacity of a nuclear plant in order to equal its output.


==David Archibald's paper==

Why? Archibald publishes his crap in a scientific tabloid.

If he could actually get his stuff into a Peer Reviewed Physical Science Journal, then maybe people might start to listen to him.

But he can't.

Hell, he can't even do spell checking.


Pretty much anyone who publishes their science papers in the "unreviewed social science journal" called Energy and Environment you know is just feeding you bullshit.

Because of it's amazingly lax review process (No Ever a SpellCheck?!?), it's not surprising that most "skeptics" papers you see get published there.


The skeptics never change. They think one guy who invents some theory trumps the work of thousands of supersmart scientists who have been studying the issue for decades. If you want to understand the issues -not just generate obsucatory noise, visit realclimate.org.

Charles: I'm not nearly as pessimistic about renewables as you. With the exception of wind these are all in very early stages of development. That doesn't mean that we should abandon Nuclear though, an aggressive Nuclear expansion program would be an important part of any sane energy policy. I just doubt that we are ready to overcome the fearmongering in time for it to make much difference.


Well the reason we can't have an aggressive expansion of Nuclear energy is because of the overhead costs associated with proliferation.

Especially when you consider state sponsored terrorism where the operators are complicit.

Certainly it could be done, however it'd be rather irresponsible to act like that cost doesn't/won't/shouldn't exist.

Additionally, Nuclear gets so many subsidies right now, that it largely exists almost purely as a Federal Institution in the world. Not something which would readily scale globally.

Just like new Coal Plants, Nuclear power plants CANNOT get financing, no matter how hard they try, unless it comes from TaxPayers.


That said, I'm none to happy with Yergin's analysis.

Like Barton, Yergin pretty much assumes the only growth in low carbon energy will be from more Hydropower and Nuclear.


Andre Angelantoni

Personally, I don't hold much hope for energy sources other than medium-scale distributed, both renewable and fossil-based. Why?

  • non-biological renewables (solar, tidal, geo, wind) make up less than 1% of the world's primary energy. This ratio isn't expected to increase relative to the overall energy mix of the planet, although it will increase in absolute terms (see any IEA forecast). This is simply because the rate of the increase in overall energy use is almost outpacing the rate renewable energy is coming online. The world is adding 70 million people per year.
  • the nuclear industry supply chain in America is mostly non-functioning. The Canadians still have some know-how with their CANDU reactors and could build a few but the Americans haven't built nuclear reactors for a long time and are facing a baby-boom retirement. They will certainly manage somehow to build some plants but a "nuclear renaissance" will take up to two decades to materialize. Nuclear engineering hasn't exactly been a favorite topic to study for the past two decades.
  • as someone else pointed out, costs are skyrocketing because of "peak everything" and not many of the most expensive of the large projects will get fiscally sanctioned (i.e. nuclear plants)
  • oil is peaking or will soon peak. I don't quibble over 2012 or 2020 — either date is a disaster for humanity because we can't get ready in time.
Given all the above, it seems that distributed energy generation, which has lower capital requirements, shorter lead times (generally, for an exception to this, try to get a permit to build a wind farm off the East Coast...) and smaller energy inputs per project is likely what the economy will soon be able to support.

The day of the megaprojects, which were possible when oil was abundant, may be coming to a close.

-Andre Angelantoni

Charles Barton

bigTom, I am far less optimistic about renewables than I was two years ago. Even without energy storage, building renewable generating facilities is going to be at least as expensive as nuclear plants, while the facilities will produce between 25% and 45% of electricity of that the nuclear plant will. The most significant cost of solar power in not the price of PV modules, it is the cost of installation.

A PV facility, recently completed in Spain (http://technology4life.wordpress.com/2008/01/31/the-world´s-largest-pv-solar-plant-open-in-southern-spain/) officially cost130 million euros, but unofficial cost estimates places the cost closer to a quarter billion Euros with cost over runs. 400 workers worked for 11 months to build the facility, which is officially rated at 20MWs. In fact the facility can be expected to produce 4MWh per day, on the basis of the power output of other PV facilities in southern Spain. Hence the capitol cost of PV facilities can be expected to run as high as $18.5 billion per name plate GW, with capacity factors running around 20%.

TVA has recently stated that it expects to pay no more than $3 billion each for its first two new 1 GW+ AP-1000 reactors. Even taking the most pessimistic estimates of $8 billion per GW costs with reactors, the cost of nuclear power seems positively bargain basement compared to the cost of PV installations. If we look at the cost by capacity factor, rather than name plate power, wind is also far more expensive than nuclear power.

The advocates of renewable energy need to take a long hard look at cost and performance in the real world.

Charles Barton

"the nuclear industry supply chain in America is mostly non-functioning. The Canadians still have some know-how with their CANDU reactors and could build a few but the Americans haven't built nuclear reactors for a long time and are facing a baby-boom retirement." - Andre Angelantoni

This in in fact not true if you look at the big picture. First TVA never stopped building reactors. The completed one in 1996, another in 2007, and are expecting to complete still another reactor in 2012. In addition TVA has ordered two more reactors slated for completion around 2015. Existing nuclear power plants continue to be modified and up rated.

American reactor manufactures continued to design reactors and GE and Westinghouse have designed the two most advanced reactors offered on the market. At least 16 Westinghouse AP-1000 reactors have been ordered or are in the planning stage in the United States. In addition the chinese have ordered 4 Westinghouse AP-1000s, and chosen AP-1000 technology as the spearhead of their effort to nuclearize the generation of chinese electricity.

The Navy has built dozens of reactors during the last 20 years using American supply sources. .
In addition.

There are 22 academic programs in nuclear engineering at American Universities.
Enrollment is expanding.

Not all costs are skyrocketing because of "peak everything." Materials demand from rapidly expanding Asian economies that exceed the short term supply chain, has more to do with the inflation in cost of building new electrical generating facilities than running out of raw materials. Designers of reactors at GE and Westinghouse have already shown ingenuity is lowering materials requirements. In addition, radical new reactor technologies like the Molten Salt Reactor, have the potential to lower materials requirement for new reactor production dramatically.

Thus given some leadership, some official nurturing, solutions are near at hand.

Al Fin

Yergin is actually being pessimistic to the nitwitted governors, since no one would ever believe the truth.

US companies are building nuclear reactors and power plants IN CHINA!!! And in Europe. So, in fact they never stopped.

Biomass is booming for Combined Heat Power (CHP) installations. Cogeneration is being retrofitted to all types of processes that generate huge amounts of heat. With new drilling technology (InnovaRig) the new Enhanced Geothermal has a chance to take off. Raytheon's microwave process for in situ conversion of oil shales, tar sands, and heavy oils to sweet crude should kick in within the decade.

All the while, simple economics forces big energy users to practise conservation and efficiencies.

Bask in CO2 hysteria all you want, but that is not what is driving us to clean energy. Economics and quality of life issues are doing that.

Barry C. Smith

This is just a blog test.

Steven Earl Salmony

What concerns most of all me is this: the family of humanity appears not to have more than several more years in which to make necessary changes in its conspicuous over-consumption lifestyles, in the unsustainable overproduction practices of big-business enterprises, and its overpopulation activities. Humankind may not be able to protect life as we know it and to preserve the integrity of Earth for even one more decade.

If we project the fully anticipated growth of increasing and unbridled per-capita consumption, of rampantly expanding economic globalization and of propagating 70 to 75 million newborns per annum, will someone please explain to me how our seemingly endless growth civilization proceeds beyond the end of year 2012.

According to my admittedly simple estimations, if humankind keeps doing just as it is doing now, without doing whatsoever is necessary to begin modifying the business-as-usual course of our gigantic, endless-growth-oriented global economy, then the Earth could sustain life as we know it for a time period of about 5 more years.

It appears to me that all the chatter, including that heard in most “normal science” circles, of a benign path to the future by “leap-frogging” through a ‘bottleneck’ to population stabilization, and to good times ahead in 2050, is nothing more than wishful and magical thinking.

Unfortunately, even top rank scientists have not found adequate ways of communicating to humanity what people somehow need to hear, see and understand: the reckless dissipation of Earth’s limited resources, the relentless degradation of Earth’s frangible environment, and the approaching destruction of the Earth as a fit place for human habitation by the human species, when taken together, appear to be proceeding toward the precipitation of a catastrophic ecological wreckage of some sort unless, of course, the world’s colossal, ever expanding, artificially designed, manmade global economy continues to speed headlong toward the monolithic ‘wall’ called “unsustainability” at which point the runaway economy crashes before Earth’s ecology is collapsed.

Steven Earl Salmony
AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population,
established 2001

Charles Barton

Steven Earl Salmony

You are an advocate to the absurd "Club of Rome" theory. The earth is not running out of resources. Basic resources like iron will last longer than we humans do, and when we are gone almost all will still be left. There is enough uranium and thorium to power a world wide economy that will consume at present day American level for tens of thousands of years. We can actually produce many metals and minerals that are in short supply through nuclear alchemy, while we are producing electricity in reactors. The notion that our lifestyle is not sustainable is an out and out fraud.


The question to answer is this: if the Earth, by chance, had been endowed with only a third of its actual economically extractable fossil fuel reserves, such that production has peaked in say, 1950, how would we be meeting global energy needs?

Enough sunlight falls on the Earth in one hour to meet all human energy demand. The problem for human society is the same one that a pine tree in Canada faces: how do you trap that energy in usable form for use as needed?

Plants rely on a two-stage process that converts light energy (photons) to electronic energy in the first step, and then stores that electricity by making sugars out of CO2 and water.

The analogy for a power plant would be a solar photovoltaic installation that powered a water-splitting, hydrogen and oxygen producing electrolyzer.

That's just one example of how to store intermittent renewable energy sources. For people to do this effectively, we'll need a high quality electricity grid, efficient load-balancing strategies for integrating wind, solar and biofuel power sources with consumer demand.

On the demand side, energy conservation by the public and highly efficient technology (refrigerators, etc.) will be needed to avoid blackouts.

The new technical challenge is indeed distributed generation - and a robust and intelligent electricity grid will be a key part of the equation. The solutions will be highly local in nature - some areas will be integrating wind and solar, others geothermal and wind, and other some areas will rely heavily on biofuels. In all cases, a mix of renewable energy sources will be needed to meet demand.

This really is being done today - see what Germany is doing using integrated biogas, solar and wind power systems:

If we had run out of fossil fuels starting back in 1950, we'd probably be running our entire economy on wind, solar and biofuels - perhaps with a small role for nuclear power in some areas.

If this is so, what's been keeping up progress? The most likely explanation is economic inertia - neither investors nor industry wanted to spend billions building renewable infrastructure and manufacturing capacity as long as cheap fossil fuels were widely available - which, as many now realize, is no longer the case.

It's also clear that if we actually exhaust fossil fuel deposits, we'll have a CO2 concentration well over 1000 ppm - at least 4X preindustrial levels. That means the world is going to have to voluntarily end the use of fossil fuels to avoid catastrophic changes.

Charles Barton

If we had run out of fossil fuels starting back in 1950, we'd probably be running our entire economy on wind, solar and biofuels - perhaps with a small role for nuclear power in some areas. - Ike

Ike, If we had run out of fossil fuels starting back in 1950, we'd probably be running our entire economy on nuclear power.

"see what Germany is doing using integrated biogas, solar and wind power systems" - Ike

The German's are not doing so well. In order to give up nuclear power they propose to build 26 new coal fired power plants. German CO2 emissions are far higher than France, which gets 80% of its electricity fro nuclear energy, and Sweden that gets 50% from nuclear and 50% from hydro. The German government is worried about the effects of green energy solutions on the German economy. Without enough electricity, industries will be forced to leave Germany, and well paying jobs will be lost. Advocates of green solutions haven't the slightest idea how the human world of advanced societies work.

David B. Benson

Rutledge, I think his name is, anyway at CalTech, states that Peak Coal will occur around 2025 CE.

Are you ready for that?

Brave New Leaf

Recently Arizona announced that they're going to bring the world's largest solar plant online in 2011. Even at the world's largest, it still will only power 70k homes.

What's it going to take to invest in some sort of grand solar or wind plan? We all know that doing so is inevitable. It will need to happen in ten years, fifty years, or a hundred years (or if you're me, you think it needs to happen now). What will finally be the catalyst to push a large-scale effort over the hump?


Toss these in for Yergin
Big Oil on Clean Energy: More Mandates (and Subsidies), Please

Group bets $100,000 against CERA supply forecast

Because of escalating costs of steel, concrete and other basic commodities used in nuclear plants, CERA's cost estimate for nuclear reactors has risen from $2,000 per kilowatt three years ago to $3,500 per kw, Hansen said.

Charles Barton

TVA is still estimating that its first two AP-1000 will come in for under $3 Billion. TVA is the only American reactor operator that never stopped building reactors. TVA finished its Watts Bar 1 Unit in 1996, It began reconstrucdtion of the Browns Ferry Unit 1, dammaged by a fire in 1975, in 2002. The reconstruction of the Browns ferry unit was completed last year. In addition late in 2007 TVA recomenced construction of Watts Bar Unit 2. Rgat Unit will be completed by 2012 when TVA anticiplates commencing construction of its first AP-1000 at Bellefonte, Alabama. China commenced construction of its first AP-1000 today. The Chinese anticipate completing their AP-1000's at under $1400 per KW. The greater cost of American Labor accounts for the price differential between American and Chinese reactors, Materials cost will be basically the same.

Paul F. Dietz

The greater cost of American Labor accounts for the price differential between American and Chinese reactors, Materials cost will be basically the same.

I'll add that if cost of concrete (say) rules out nuclear, it also rules out wind, since the mass of concrete per unit of average power production is comparable or higher for wind.

Charles Barton

I'll add that if cost of concrete (say) rules out nuclear, it also rules out wind, since the mass of concrete per unit of average power production is comparable or higher for wind. - Paul F. Dietz

Both wind and solar require higher materials input (Steel, concrete, copper, etc.) than nuclear as well as greater labor input.


Many areas are completely unsuitable for nuclear power, but are excellent for wind and solar.

The problems with nuclear are well-documented:

1) Disposal of the hot fuel rods (95% U-238, <0.5% U-235, and the rest being plutonium (1%), americium, and a wide variety of fission products - the strontium, caesium, and iodine isotopes being the most dangerous). A main issue here is proliferation of plutonium-based nuclear weapons.

2) Potential for catastrophic failures exist - cooling systems and neutron-absorbing safety systems can both fail, resulting in Chernobyl-like events. In today's world, we should also include susceptibility to bombings, etc.

3) Cooling water is a big issue! A 1 GW nuclear reactor sucks up massive amounts of cold water to cool the reactor and to generate steam for the power turbines. During heat waves and droughts, many reactors have to be shut down due to lack of cooling water. The American Southwest, or Sub-Saharan Africa, are thus poor sites for nuclear (but excellent for solar thermal and PV!).

Thus, nuclear will only have a limited role to play in the future. It's also worth noting that without the Price-Anderson nuclear liability insurance Act and the billions in U.S. government guarantees for nuclear, not a single new plant would be being considered.

The fact is that solar, wind and biogas-powered electricity grids are entirely possible. Put it this way: if we did not have access to uranium or fossil fuels, would we all be reduced to pre-industrial civilization?

Charles Barton

1. how many people have died due to exposure to hot fuel rods? Are you aware of how many billions of dollars it would cost to build a nuclear weapon from spent reactor fuel?
2. Do you know the difference between a RBMK-1000 reactor, and a Light Water Reactor? If you did you would know why a Chernobyl-like events would be impossible in the United States. Dams also can be bombed, with disastrous consequences. Should we not bild dams? Sould we dismantle the ones we have built?
3. Reactors use far less water than people use to water their lawns in the south west. Reactors can be located by the sea, where sustainable water supplies exist. Reactors on a few occasions have neen briefly shut down due to water shortages, yet despite last years once in 500 years drought in the southeast, many reactors there set power production records. In contrast hydro-electrical power generation was down significantly.

Finally yesterday here in Texas, grid operators were forced to declare an emergency when winds suddenly dropped and the grid suddenly lost 82% of its wind generated power.


Tell me, why are all the major "big oil" companies coming out with green renewable formats in their commercials and advert.? They are racing to get a leg up as usual. I think that's why the govt. is suppressing this technology and want to veto any changes to the energy bill and status quo. They are giving all the good old boys in the huge oil and energy industry preference. Those companies can in turn grind all the little guys under their heel as usual.


Answer to the energy problem:

Nuclear AND PV
(...and CST, wind, waves, geothermal, clean coal, and conservation/efficiency)

At 48% per year growth rate since 2002:
...PV will be one of the larger energy providers in 10 to 15 years when new nuclear plants are starting to come on line.
3.8 GW per year world production for 2007
2017 @ 48% per year = 3.8 x 50.4 = 191.6 GW
2021 @ 48% per year = 3.8 x 241.9 = 919.2 GW

191 GW per year PV production in 10 years
919 GW per year PV production in 14 years

Over a Terawatt PER YEAR by 2022 at current growth rate. Hard to break paradigms of current thinking to imagine this, but we have cell phones that are cameras now. Who would have guessed this ten years ago.

Solar PV AND Nuclear
All the power we'll need for at least a couple hundred years. What energy problem?

Cor Treffers

The price for a barrel of crude oil should be in euros, not in dollars.
That should ease things down in the financial markets.
The EU already seems to do so at http://www.energy.eu/#prices

auto scanner

Those companies can in turn grind all the little guys under their heel as usual.

Tablet PCs

You can discover what Steven Carew "has got" by visiting wholesale the website for Rhino Hydro. There are a few "update" items there, dated 2004.

But, the essence of Steve's invention is described under the "technical" menu selection, as follows:

"This electro generating plant employs magnets and springs to help create a perpetual motion which hiphone drives a generator. Thus giving you the electricity you need."

Get the picture, Jason? Hard to imagine Steve can't get funding . . .2945abc45 0422


The call to reduce the use of coals is valid for western countries but unfortunately, coal reports show developing economies are more likely to increase their use of coal in coming years because of its affordability and to meet increasing demands for electricity and steel for the coal industry. www.coalportal.com

Car Lease Broker Los Angeles

This is a 'flight to the oil' and as consumers instead of coughing up the money we should find alternative methods to transportation and fuel.

Dentist Hollywood

I hope that we are coming into an era of clean energy.

Air Purifier

Why did this have to happen due to climate change? We should have been working on clean energy long ago.

Rug Cleaning Los Angeles

Wind energy would be great, hope we can learn to harness its' power.

fish tv

So glad to read this!!

Therapist New york

What's hydroelectric energy? I haven't heard of that one.

seo services

Glad to hear the US and china will work on clean coal, they should be working on it right now.

furniture stores burbank

Oil prices are ridiculous nowadays, if I didn't live in southern california I would sell my car, but public transportation stinks here!

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