Skip to main content

Can we run our society on alternative / green energy?

We know we need to get off of fossil fuels.  So what should we do?  I think it's possible that the green energy movement sees this question from a practical, marketing perspective.  (Of course not everyone, but let's say a large fraction.)  That is, it's thought to be hard to sell people on a low-energy life, so instead we should sell people on alternatives that will let them more or less keep their current lives.  But that's entirely a question of marketing, not of whether it's achievable.

What I'd like to address is whether it's possible for the world to seamlessly transition to alternative energy.

A friend and I have started writing a blog at contraposition.org on these issues (this post is cross-posted there).  Our "about" page, which reads as follows, might be a good starting point for this discussion:

We’ve noticed that much of the sustainability/green/environmental community likes to reason in only one direction:

(1) If we’re going to maintain the current economy (p), then we’ll need alternative fuels that meet current energy needs (q).

But why not contrapose?

(2) If we can’t get alternative fuels to meet current energy needs (~q), then we won’t be able to maintain the current economy (~p).


It seems we need to flesh out part of this argument: the part that discusses why "we can't get alternative fuels to meet current energy needs."  That is, we need to discuss what possible alternative sources of energy might be, and whether they are likely or unlikely to meet current or extrapolated energy demand.

I think it's possible that the sustainability/green movement sees this from a practical, marketing perspective.  That is, it's thought to be hard to sell people on an austere life, so instead we should sell people on alternatives that will let them keep their current life.  But that's entirely a question of marketing, not of whether it's achievable.

What I'd like to address is whether it's possible for the world to seamlessly transition to alternative energy.  There are a few dimensions to this question:

  1. What are the compounding constraints that will limit our choices?
  2. How much alternative energy would we need to build?
  3. What are we likely to be able to build?

Before I try to address each question, I want to add a disclaimer.  One of the difficulties in writing about the challenges of alternative energy is that it can easily be mistaken as coming from a very different perspective: the kind put forward by science-denying "skeptics".  Recently, to get a sense of what they've been writing, I wandered over to Reason and CATO, and was greeted by a number of posts arguing against environmental regulation, alternative energy, or saving energy.  They're arguing against even trying to develop alternative energy, and generally disagree with the notion that "if we’re going to maintain the current economy, then we’ll need alternative fuels that meet current energy needs."  My contention here is quite different - I believe that we need to switch to alternatives, but it's likely that alternatives will not deliver enough energy to replace today's sources so we need to factor that shortfall into our plans.

What are the compounding constraints that will limit our choices?

The two primary reasons to develop alternative energy sources sooner rather than later are peak oil and climate change (though in the longer term we'll have to switch to alternatives simply because our primary energy sources today are finite).

For climate change, scientists today generally agree that 2 degrees Celsius of warming (over pre-industrial) is the threshold at which positive feedbacks (such as the melting of the permafrost) become severe.  Therefore our aim should be to keep the climate from exceeding that threshold, which translates to a max of 450 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere.  Global emissions currently increase CO2 in the atmosphere by about 2.5 ppm per year, giving us a little over two decades to bring emissions to zero.  (This is crucial to ensure the health of the oceans too.)

We're within a couple of years of the peak of global oil production (depending on how you calculate "oil"), and the Hirsch report estimated that it'd take a minimum of two decades to achieve a successful mitigation of peak oil.  (The mitigation they suggest doesn't take into account environmental or climate impacts - they consider switching to coal-to-liquids, etc. - so it may actually be harder to achieve than they suggest.)

The combination of these factors indicates that our energy transition needs to occur within two decades.

How much alternative energy would we need to build?

Saul Griffith performed a number of calculations to answer this question in his talk Climate Change Recalculated.  To produce enough energy to replace the fossil fuels we use today, within two decades, we need to build (the sustained rate for 20 years):

  1. 100 m2 of solar panels / sec = 2 TW of solar photovoltaic
  2. 50 m2 of solar mirrors / sec = 2 TW of solar thermal
  3. 12 x 100m wind turbines / hour = 2 TW of wind
  4. 3 x 1GW plants / week = 3 TW of nuclear
  5. 3 x 100MW turbines / day = 2 TW of geothermal
  6. 1250 m2 oil algae / sec = 0.5 TW of biofuel

The scale is daunting, and brings us to our next question.

What are we likely to be able to build?

It's hard to get good data to answer this question, so I looked at industry press releases (which are generally optimistic) where available, and then overestimated to determine what, in a best-case scenario, we might be able to build and install:

  1. 20 m2 of solar panels / sec (vs. 100 m2 /sec required)
  2. > 50 m2 of solar mirrors (vs. 50 m2 / sec required)
  3. 6 x 100m turbines / hour (vs. 12 turbines / hour required)
  4. 0.5 x 1GW plants / week (vs. 3 plants / week required)
  5. 1.5 x 100MW turbines / day (vs. 3 turbines / day required)
  6. negligible (vs. 1250 m2 oil algae / sec required)

Summed up, this will yield, after 20 years, about 7 of the 15 TW we use today, so it would be a replacement for at most about half of current energy demand.  The rates of production I've listed here require all-out manufacturing (i.e. making the production of alternative energy a priority in the way making bombers was a priority during World War II).

What does this mean?

First, knowing that it's unlikely we'll be able to build alternatives fast enough helps confirm the notion that alternatives will not be able to power the economy in the way we do today.  But more than that, it's a reminder that we can't just focus on keeping our industrial society running the way it is - we're all going to have to use a lot less energy.  This, I think, is the central issue we should focus our attention on.

Compounding the problem, alternatives face many deployment issues as we try to scale them up, as I surveyed in the Nine Pitfalls of Alternative Energy.  A consequence of the likely shortfall in energy (any any sort) is that we are likely at or near the end of economic growth as we currently measure it.  As a result, economic challenges will make it harder still to build up alternative energy capacity.  This is an issue that I plan to continue to write about in more detail, but for now, here's a summary:

  1. Our economy depends upon fossil fuels, particularly oil.
  2. Oil and fossil fuels are finite.
  3. In the production of all finite resources, production must reach a peak at some time.
  4. Discoveries must precede production.
  5. Discoveries of oil are well past their peak and current geological  studies indicate we are near or at the peak of oil production.
  6. Fossil fuels more generally must be phased out due to their impacts on our climate.
  7. No alternatives can substitute for oil or fossil fuels in scale, malleability, or cost.
  8. The decline in oil production and energy availability has a direct, negative impact on industrial economies.
  9. Therefore we're at the end of economic growth as we currently measure it.

Until next time...

Originally posted to barath on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 09:42 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  That's a scary chart (6+ / 0-)

    Especially the population curve. There aren't any pleasant means by which population can be cut in half in 100 years. Where does the chart come from?

    •  The Limits to Growth (9+ / 0-)

      The chart is from the classic study The Limits to Growth:

      http://www.amazon.com/...

      They studied a number of world scenarios (first in the 1970s and then did two updates - this is from the 30 year update in 2004) and considered a baseline scenario (business as usual, i.e. what we're doing) and a number of others (e.g. population limits, more renewables, etc.).

      The chart is the business-as-usual scenario, which shows a peak of industrial society this decade.

      contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

      by barath on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 10:15:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  No, but most of the people who will live in this (4+ / 0-)

      century are not yet born. That means we can do something.

      --Female literacy and education rates
      --Average income per nation
      --Disincentives to have children (fines, legal penalties)

      These are the three main things we know have worked to lower or to appear in association with decreasing fertility.  The third is actually the most fast-acting.  We don't have a hundred years for Africa to pull into the middle-class. The UN has revised its estimates for world population upward by one billion...

      I notice that many recommends are given to the person who has a good answer, with hardly any given to the person who asks the right question. That is backwards to me; without that question, the good answer might never have come.

      by Nulwee on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 03:16:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  the space between generations can be nearly as (4+ / 0-)

        important as the total number of offspring in a given set, when talking about population growth. setting policy that encourages later marriage, later date of a mother's first birth, and longer spaces between children can have a huge effect on how many people we have at any given moment.

        the wan-xi-shao (later, further apart, fewer) program the chinese govt had in the 70s before the one child policy had a significant effect on overall fertility, and in some cases brought about as great a drop in the rate of pop. growth as the more draconian successor policy, esp. because it was accompanies with a shift to younger date of marriage first (only!) birth.

        also as important is radically reducing the disproportionate amount of energy and resources consumed by the tiny fraction of the globe that is affluent first world residents.

      •  Something to consider ... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ignacio Magaloni

        Government policy is, around the world, mainly focused on incentives to have children -- rather than not have -- with the notable exception of China.

        Consider the OECD nations -- tax benefits (and even payments) for more children in a household and such.  Some countries give women retirement credit for more children.  The OECD nations fear population falling due to traditional economic concepts.

        Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

        by A Siegel on Mon Jun 27, 2011 at 07:45:16 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  A Couple Things (9+ / 0-)

    One ... when it's the Earth's well being that is at stake, humanity, in my opinion can take a flying leap until the Earth has obtained equilibrium.

    Two ... even though, and regardless of the fact that every car on the road won't be electric tomorrow, and the energy that charges all of the batteries for all of those cars won't be sustainable energy by next week ...

    I will still push as though the formers are true.  Because only pushing back further than I have to will something of an acceptable compromise be obtained.

    As in politics wherein now a days just giving in equally on both sides will never do because we've already been moved so far to the right, that only a radical push to the far left is acceptable to me.

    The same here.  Death to oil companies.  Death to gas companies.  Death to fossil fuels.

    •  The politics of this are hard... (15+ / 0-)

      I guess I should have written some more about that - maybe in another diary.

      I fully expect that we won't actually get off of coal in the next 20 years, and there's a fair chance that some regions of the country (or even the whole country) will go the other way and will make a desperate attempt to produce oil from coal, excavate shale oil, etc.

      I agree that continuing to push is important.  I think we just need to prepare folks for a "both / and" situation: we both need to move to alternatives and massively downscale our lifestyles.

      contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

      by barath on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 10:23:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  IMO we will get off coal (7+ / 0-)

        just a little bit too late to avoid catastrophic climate change consequences.

        Thanks for writing this - I'm spending about 75% of my time these days on the algae question (not so much for fuel, as for renewably sourced feedstocks for industrial chemicals); you're absolutely right that this is the proper way to phrase the question.

      •  i wouldn't be surprised (0+ / 0-)

        if this eventually ends in sabotage of coal plants, through violent means in some cases.

      •  And people seem determined to make them as (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        A Siegel

        hard as possible.

        It kills me that the US is suffering long-term unemployment worse than the Great Depression, yet people are not seizing on employment as a wedge rather than an "oh, yeah, there'll be green jobs, too"

        The Chinese have become world leaders at green/alternative energy technologies, not because they are friends of the earth, but because they need the energy to keep their economies going.

        I think of those silly TV commercials where the mother looks at the screen while her little angel is happily eating some product and telling the viewers, "He doesn't know it's good for him!"

        Might be nice to see some folks leave the Pollyanna pitches behind and make the point that our national security and our economic well-being depend on our ability to do the things we need to do, and that depends on having the energy we need to do it, whether by generating more or using less.

        People need to work and there are jobs to be had creating those energy sources and creating those more-efficient ways of using it.

        Instead of focusing on the green, focus on the jobs, security,  and the other green ($).

        LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

        by dinotrac on Mon Jun 27, 2011 at 05:13:05 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  thanks for this (19+ / 0-)

    and don't take the anemic response to this diary personally.  Cassandras are never met with enthusiasm.  

    Most Kossacks prefer to discuss peak oil and global warming within the context of 'Republicans/Oil companies are responsible (dickheads)' ;  any notion of crimping the 'non-negotiable American way of life' runs counter to centrist electoral scorekeeping and is thus relegated to obscurity.   The notion that we may have to dial back our current orgy of consumerism is too painful for all but the most happily hypocritic.  

    The great 20th century economic surges that have driven American prosperity are all due to one thing- a glut of cheap, powerful fossil fuel.  Now that oil is officially a dwindling resource, we face an economic contractions that will result in a lowering of the vaunted American standard of living.   In a country where the most-attended spectator sport is NASCAR, that sentiment's sure not going to get anyone elected.  

    Seems your grim realism is too logical and nuanced for prime time here.  

    An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. -Benjamin Franklin

    by martinjedlicka on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 10:21:02 AM PDT

    •  thanks (10+ / 0-)

      I should say that a few years ago I used to think this point of view was grim, but nowadays I actually welcome the change of pace of life that will have to happen as we downscale society.  Change is hard, and you're right most folks don't want to think about it and any change that doesn't fit in the current box is feared.

      My hope is that once the change seems inevitable, things will change.  People have an amazing ability to rationalize, and given a new set of circumstances, they'll fit their understanding to that.  In other words, the limits to growth, peak oil, energy constraints, climate change, etc. might go from being nationally contentious to being "obvious" in the span of a few short years, once the reality of them can no longer be ignored.

      contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

      by barath on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 10:27:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I sincerely hope you are right (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Nulwee, barath, wonmug

        as my view on all this is more Hobbesian.  Powers of rationalization could as easily lead to a breakdown in civilization as we struggle to maintain our way of living at all costs.  It is only  through these optics that I can understand why we are so willing to bleed ourselves dry to maintain overwhelming military superiority over the rest of the planet.

        Looking at that last chart gives me chills.  I sure don't want American to end up in some Tobacco Road scenario, an inbred band of halfwits battling over the last can of motor oil in a roadside ditch.

        An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. -Benjamin Franklin

        by martinjedlicka on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 01:16:53 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  One of the drivers (pun intended)... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      A Siegel

      ...of vehicle innovation is racing; fuel efficiency means less-frequent pit stops.

      Indy Car racing has not used gasoline since 1964, when a catastrophic explosion during an accident killed two drivers.

      9-11 changed everything? Well, Katrina changed it back.

      by varro on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 04:32:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not one thing, 4 things (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      drewfromct, A Siegel

      Energy, Resources, Population and Productivity.

      We've now seen peak oil, peak iron, and peak population growth. 3 out of 4 aint bad.

      FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

      by Roger Fox on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 06:16:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not so much Cassandra (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      liz, drewfromct, A Siegel

      IMHO, this diary needs much more specific information to be "great".  I recommended it because it's a fresh viewpoint on the problem.

      Much of current analysis starts from a financial perspective.  Assume that col can produce electricity at 5c/kwh.  (any discussion of externalities is excluded for the purposes of this paragraph)  Assume that Wind is 6c/kwh.  Assume that we could magically replace all coal with wind.  What effect will a 16% rise in nominal energy prices have?  There's something there, but we're not making a lot of headway on understanding what that really tells us.

      When what you're trying isn't working, try something different.

      The diarist's production numbers are a great conversation starter, and one that Greens of all stripes need to understand.

      -7.75 -4.67

      "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

      There are no Christians in foxholes.

      by Odysseus on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 06:39:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I left out some specifics... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Odysseus

        I didn't want to get bogged down - I think people get bored when I drag them through a bunch of calculations.

        (Specifically I left out the calculations to yield the production numbers, plus the numbers from Griffith on what we need to produce, plus the numbers from the EIA / IEA / Exergy project on how much energy we use globally and what we use it for.)

        contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

        by barath on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 07:41:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You made good edits. (0+ / 0-)

          The thing is that this diary is just a skeleton.  There are dozens of supporting diaries needed to flesh it out.

          -7.75 -4.67

          "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

          There are no Christians in foxholes.

          by Odysseus on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 09:54:37 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yeah... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            A Siegel, wonmug

            Btw, I didn't really make any edits (I added one clarifying sentence, but that's it).

            I'm not sure I'm going to flesh out this diary too much - the main point is clear enough: we can't expect to live the way we do today and just do so using alternative energy.  My plan is to write about a whole slate of related issues (mostly at the blog, but sometimes here at DKos as well).

            contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

            by barath on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 09:59:18 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I recommend a companion diary for engineers: (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              jam, Odysseus

              Many of us would love to see the use of sources and calculations--this is valuable of itself, though most of it does belong in a separate diary.

              The labor of a human being is not a commodity or article of commerce. Clayton Act, Section 6.

              by Ignacio Magaloni on Mon Jun 27, 2011 at 07:59:39 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  I think you need to show your work (0+ / 0-)

          because pedantic pain in the ass engineers (cf jam) won't be able to get past the details to engage you on the bigger picture.

          Causation was, is, and ever shall be a slippery bitch, so we're best sticking with noting the facts

          by jam on Mon Jun 27, 2011 at 07:15:27 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I'm recommending for the discussion - (21+ / 0-)

    you've obviously put a lot of work into this. However, here's the thing: just as the Right is prone to denial, the Left is prone to despair. If we're going to find a solution - and on my bad days, I think we'll win the clean energy battle but lose the climate war - we need hope.

    There are a lot of studies and a lot of assumptions. I've seen some focusing on biofuels as being unscaleable. I've also seen some on solar, in particular, needing a fairly small area (maybe 1/10 the land mass of Libya?) to power the world. And the Limits To Growth assumptions have been questioned as well. I tend to think that when push comes to shove, we'll transition to renewables very fast, and we'll find ways to make that transition relatively smooth.

    Full disclosure: I have children and thus care about climate. @RL_Miller

    by RLMiller on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 10:26:35 AM PDT

    •  Hmm... (15+ / 0-)

      Thanks.

      So I guess I don't view this as a matter of dispair.  It's a matter of setting reasonable expectations.  You may well be right and we'll make the transition without a hitch.  But it seems to me that it's somewhat unlikely.

      I think it's quite possible you're right that we won't deal with the climate in time.  I think it's possible that we'll continue on a slow ramp up of alternative energy sources while not phasing out fossil fuels fast enough, and so we won't have electricity shortages (oil is a separate matter - that will be an issue regardless) but we won't keep emissions low enough to prevent strong natural climate feedbacks.

      Ultimately I think it's possible to sell people on using less - it's cheaper, it makes your life simpler, gives you more satisfaction doing more for yourself, etc.  It comes down to telling a story about what a life worth leading is really about (and a question my friend Adam is writing more about at our blog).

      contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

      by barath on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 10:33:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Different concept ... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ignacio Magaloni, PapaChach

        Rather than "less" pushes to changed expectations.

        Dean Baker laid out, from his persective, a way in which the 'envirionmental policy' community can be stovepiped.  He asserted, with some basis, that some of the most effective environmental steps could come from things that noone sees as environmental.  For example, what would happen if the US moved toward a European-level of vacations and shorter work weeks and earlier retireements?  The average cash payments (salaries / etc) might fall but this would reduce the pressures for exotic (high-cost, high carbon) vacations, the demand for some polluting purchases, etc as people might take more time in their own backyard and have a more relaxed (and satisficing) life-style.  This might represent "less" even as it represents richer.

        Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

        by A Siegel on Mon Jun 27, 2011 at 07:53:20 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  The article talks about Algae (9+ / 0-)

      which is the only biofuel I know of that has the potential to be scalable. There is significant private investment in researching algae-based solutions, but I spoke with a biochem prof at a big university who told me the government isn't putting much towards it at all. This is an area where we can help. All the government seems to think of when you talk biofuels is ethanol. Maybe a little biodiesel.

      Call your congresscritters and tell them we need investment in real solutions, not porkbarrel projects for early primary states. Based on recent votes I think they may be ready to listen.

      •  Definitely (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        PeterHug, Nulwee, ozsea1, A Siegel

        One of the reasons algae fuel is crucial as an alternative source is that it's substitutable for oil - none of the other alternatives can match that.

        That means while the price of oil will increase regardless of algae-oil production (simply because the scale of petroleum production is huge and we're not going to replace it in time), algae oil will help replace petroleum in shipping, aviation, plastics, etc.

        contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

        by barath on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 10:41:21 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Well ... (0+ / 0-)

        1.  The Navy and NASA are putting money and focus on Algae.   MIT Sloan's school did work for the Navy re cost-curves for Algae fuel with the result being cost-competitive with fossil fuel within the decade.

        2.  Congress put money into DOE for Algae.  I don't know how those funds are being spent.

        Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

        by A Siegel on Mon Jun 27, 2011 at 07:55:01 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  The Left is prone to despair. (8+ / 0-)

      Thank you for calling that out.

      I notice that many recommends are given to the person who has a good answer, with hardly any given to the person who asks the right question. That is backwards to me; without that question, the good answer might never have come.

      by Nulwee on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 03:17:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Some support for a fast switchover. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SCFrog, RLMiller, A Siegel

      In 2005, the Texas Legislature passed a weak Renewable Energy Standard.  10% of usage by 2025.  20 years to do 'a little'.  We surpassed that goal this year.

      The question is whether meeting that goal will take all of the momentum out of the transition.

      -7.75 -4.67

      "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

      There are no Christians in foxholes.

      by Odysseus on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 06:42:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  You might be a little pessimistic (11+ / 0-)

    about the rate of production for alternative energy.  The main problem is not lack of ability to produce these things, but lack of urgency to produce them.  Most people do not realize how bad the problem of peak oil and climate change will get.  Eventually these facts will have a big impact and people will realize that urgent measures are needed.  Then things might change very fast.  Remember how fast production increased during World War II, when everyone had a sense of urgency.

    We will also need huge improvements in infrastructure to make use of an alternative energy economy.

    I am still pessimistic, though.  By the time most people realize just how bad things will get, it will be too late to avoid big problems.  The conservative movement might try all sorts of extreme methods to try to pretend we can keep on doing things the way we did during the era of cheap oil.  We might get a much nastier conservative oligarchy in an attempt to keep control.

    In the long run, we can't get any sort of material prosperity for everyone in the world without a lower population.  For those who complain that population fears are hysteria, they better ask themselves why they are paying more for gas and food.

    "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." Bertrand Russell

    by Thutmose V on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 10:40:18 AM PDT

    •  Definitely - the problem is scale (6+ / 0-)

      As Saul Griffith mentioned in the talk I linked to, alternative energy isn't an Apollo or Manhattan project - it's a WWII project.

      The problem is this: during WWII we were the world's swing producer of oil.  We had no energy limits, a nation's worth of cheap resources and land, and a fraction of today's population.

      That means to embark on a WWII scale project (which this will definitely require), we'd have to give up on many industries - just like in WWII we'd have to stop building cars to build wind turbines, etc.  I'm not sure I see that being politically viable without another major war.

      contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

      by barath on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 10:45:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Oh, and... (11+ / 0-)

      I thought I'd mention.  If there were a will, we could definitely produce a massive amount of solar thermal.  It's my favorite alternative energy source because it's so simple: you concentrate solar energy.  That's it.  No fancy technology, no rare earths, no long supply chains, no unreliable components, etc.

      At a small scale, solar thermal really means solar hot water.

      At a large scale, solar thermal is great - storing excess heat as melted salt allows solar thermal to provide baseload electricity in a way that solar photovoltaic and wind can't.

      I think there isn't much discussion of it because it just isn't high-tech enough, but it's the best option we have because it can be done now at massive scale and uses 19th century technology.

      contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

      by barath on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 10:50:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Nitpick (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mike101, ozsea1, wu ming

        Large scale it's still going to use rare earths, because you're going to heat some fluid to drive some turbine that uses a rotating armature in a magnetic field to generate electricity. Anything magnetic is going to benefit immensely in both scale and efficiency (and cost, assuming non-monopolized supplies) from alloys using rare earth metals like neodymium.

        You could probably minimize utilization of rare earth minerals by developing efficient means of storage for solar PV and wind facilities. For example, improving existing technologies like flow batteries.

        We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard. - John F Kennedy

        by badger on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 03:04:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I dont see storage as a long term issue (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ozsea1, wu ming

          AS part of a national network, say 3 to 8 hundred gigs of generation (guessing) solar and wind generation should match up to demand fairly well. (Assuming smartgrid with HVDC).

          Demand in the midnight to 6am window is low, and that fts too. Overnight systems will be needed as we build up to a significant renewable supply, a vital cog at least thru 20% from solar and 20% from wind. Maybe even to a later point.

          FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

          by Roger Fox on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 06:30:51 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  having just driven across the mojave desert (0+ / 0-)

        i am boggled that it isn't peppered with wind farms and solar thermal plants. that place is insanely hot and windy, and right next to several tens of millions of people.

      •  right you are (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        A Siegel

        Despite the parade of advances in alternative energy we can see on an almost daily basis- that promise to revolutionize the field-only thermal solar has an end game that is plausible in terms of resource use.

        Meanwhile, I'm still in the "wondering of a fool" stage regarding the newer hydrino claims, and that whole area of cold fusion.  It just seems like such a basic thing to discover that energy extraction is a possible part of a refined water cycle.

        Propaganda is where someone uses the truth as a context for sneaking in their own bullshit.

        by jcrit on Mon Jun 27, 2011 at 05:56:21 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Most people don't realize how bad the problem (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      too many people

      of population is now, and how calamitous it will be.

      I notice that many recommends are given to the person who has a good answer, with hardly any given to the person who asks the right question. That is backwards to me; without that question, the good answer might never have come.

      by Nulwee on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 03:18:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It should not be a surprise that we cannot 100% (11+ / 0-)

    get off oil in 20 years. No plans I have seen anywhere in the world propose that as a serious possibility. We can't. We won't. And, even if everyone tried really hard, there will still be a lot of global warming that is inevitable.

    But, we can move further in that direction. We can mitigate the severity of future climate change. We can also keep increasing energy efficiency. 20 years ago we used twice as much energy to do the same amount of work. We could easily cut our energy intensity in half again and meet most, if not all our needs with alternative energy.

    But, we will not do it. At least not this much or this fast, because it costs money and people want to see short term returns on money, not promises of long term gains. They also psychologically cannot process that negative consequences for their actions take decades to occur. When oil prices skyrocket and there are no alternatives; when massive calamities strike, we will might start to act. But, many people will still be in denial. That is a typical coping mechanism. Things will go along in fits and starts. But, it's better than no action and it's more realistic than imagining a sudden grand crusade for alternative energy.

    We cannot keep selling alternative energy as a moral quest either. It really isn't. Neither visions of guilt or moral superiority will change our economic or energy decisions. We should do it because it just makes sense. We need a replacement for dwindling fossil fuels that are becoming increasingly expensive and are too toxic to deal with. If other people don't see that, then fuck 'em. They lose out.

    We also have to quit selling it as a global crisis. It is, but it's too late to stop most of that. People respond to a local crisis. Telling people to think of the poor people in the developing world works about as well as telling them to play nice, tell the truth, and clean their desks. It's not in our nature to do those things and nothing fails like guilt. Remember, too, that we're not the only selfish bastards and they're not he only innocents lambs. Their governments, like India, will be the last to give up massive coal use, come hell and come the high water.

    Doing my part to piss off the religious right...one smart ass comment at a time.

    by tekno2600 on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 11:07:50 AM PDT

    •  Exactly (16+ / 0-)

      I think talking about peak oil helps move the discussion away from it being a moral question towards being a practical one: if energy is going to be expensive your you and your family, what would you do?  If that increase in the cost of energy will cause the economy to stumble, how would your prepare?

      Dan Miller had a great summary of why people have a hard time responding to climate change - it's because of what sorts of threats we've evolved to respond to vs. what sort of threat climate change is:

      We respond to threats that are:
      1. Visible
      2. With historical precedent
      3. Immediate
      4. With simple causality
      5. Caused by others
      6. Have direct personal impact

      Climate change is:
      1. Invisible
      2. Unprecedented
      3. Drawn out
      4. With complex causality
      5. Caused by all of us
      6. Unpredictable and indirect

      While it's true that some of the effects of climate change are beginning to become visible, it's still ambiguous enough that people aren't hard-wired to respond.

      contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

      by barath on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 11:14:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  We can't. We won't. But we'll have to. (10+ / 0-)

      For two reasons:  first, because it will become blindingly obvious that not to do so will make an already horrible climate change situation catastrophically worse; and second, because the oil won't be available.

      As regards the supply situation, take a look at this article:  Export-Land Model.

      Figure 17 predicts available exports from the top five exporters (UAE, Iran, Norway, Saudi Arabia, and Russia) will be zero by 2030 (with 95% confidence intervals from 2020 - 2040).  Real impacts on the world economy will happen long before that (I think actually by 2015 - 2018 myself).

      •  The ELM is key. (7+ / 0-)

        I can't remember, but I think I mentioned it in a previous diary.  We can expect at best a 1% all liquids decline, 2% crude oil decline, and 4% net exports decline post peak (and I expect an all-liquids peak in the next 3 years or so).  That corresponds to perhaps a best-case of 4% annual GDP decline in importing nations (of course it won't be steady - it'll be boom-and-bust).

        contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

        by barath on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 12:38:25 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Absolutely agree. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          barath, ozsea1, wonmug

          I remember reading about this for the first time in 2005 or so...and thinking that it was a bit silly.

          But once you sit down and think about what it really means?  It will scare the crap out of you (or should).

        •  4% GDP growth is "very optimistic" (0+ / 0-)

          1960 to 2000 saw 4.48% GDP growth in the US. 4 factors drive or hinder GDP growth, Energy, Population, Resources, and productivity. Right now the first 3 out of 4 are hindering GDP growth.

          I think 3.5% is about all the US can do, unless something like Polywell fusion works out. Then as a power source Polywell gains us access to orbital resources. At that point 3 out of 4 are in our favor, Energy, Resources and productivity. But without that rewrite of the paradigm, the days of 4% growth are long gone.

          FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

          by Roger Fox on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 06:42:48 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  A nice thought, but I doubt any such "blindly (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ozsea1, wonmug

        obvious" events are in our near future. We're seeing effects of a climate crisis right now, but denial is easy to do. As it get worse, you'll hear more of the same. "Oh, it natural variation." Even if people were to suddenly start living like hippies and singing kumbayah, there would be a huge lag between any actions we took and reduced climate consequences. So, don't expect anything related to climate to obvious to most people...ever.

        Regarding major oil exporters running dry in less than 20 years, frankly it would be great if we were so lucky. That would certainly help with our climate problems and make the switch to alternative energy a no-brainer. I suspect it won't be quite like this. ELM looks interesting, but I have seen many models predicting vastly different outcomes. As oil becomes more expensive, it gets economical to extract all kinds of secondary and tertiary sources of oil: tar sands, shale, ultradeep water, etc. You will probably even see a push toward coal liquefactions (AKA "Nazi oil"), as well as extensive use of natural gas vehicles. In other words, there is way too much locked in fossil fuel capital and infrastructure to not squeeze every drop of use out of them. This will go on for a very long time. I do not expect it to run out during the 21st century. And, I expect there will still be oil after that, it will just be expensive. In other words, oil or liquid fossil fuel substitutes will probably last much longer than our ability to burn it can be tolerated by the atmosphere. Hell, we're already there. We will probably not get lucky enough for it just to run out, and thus we will have to find other ways to rein it in right now.  

        Doing my part to piss off the religious right...one smart ass comment at a time.

        by tekno2600 on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 10:00:52 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Price is key, but there's a threshold (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          tekno2600, wu ming
          As oil becomes more expensive, it gets economical to extract all kinds of secondary and tertiary sources of oil

          This is true, but there's also a threshold that's virtually certain to send our economy into recession.  Right now that oil price-range sweet spot - high enough to bring enough production on-line and low enough to not drive the economy into recession - is a very narrow range.  It's roughly between $70 - $95 / bbl.

          James Hamilton has written extensively on the recessionary effects of high oil prices.  Here are a few links:

          http://www.econbrowser.com/...

          http://www.econbrowser.com/...

          http://www.econbrowser.com/...

          http://www.econbrowser.com/...

          contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

          by barath on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 10:08:58 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I am sure we will have recessionary effects from (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ozsea1, WheninRome

            high oil prices. It's killing the recovery already, which is why Obama was forced to act. However, those secondary and tertiary oil sources may still be cheaper than traditional sources. So, these types of supplies will get seriously cranked up. Tar sands are already going full tilt in Alberta. So, people will continue to use oil, even as costs rise and economic growth declines. Unfortunately, the supply chain for viable alternatives like electric cars is in its infancy (thanks to automobile and fossil fuel industry lobbying), as is the supply for most types of renewable energy. The blind greed of the fossil fuel industry doesn't care if it brings everyone and everything to the brink of disaster. It just cares about getting more for itself for as long as possible.

            Doing my part to piss off the religious right...one smart ass comment at a time.

            by tekno2600 on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 10:22:48 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Solar and Wind Industry associations (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tekno2600, ozsea1

      suggest they can do 20% from wind in 20 yrs, and 20% from solar in 20 yrs. This would be a great start, but a far cry from whats ultimately needed.

      FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

      by Roger Fox on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 06:33:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  These are great goals, but I work closely with (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Roger Fox

        those industries and see major roadblocks to further integration of intermittent renewables. Even at fairly low penetration levels, it will take major investments to make further growth like this happen. We would be very lucky to have half of what you are calling calling just a "start." Of course, the pessimism I am expressing is what I think is happening now in the absence of serious government policy that creates market transformation and get major public buy-in. That could make a big difference, though I think even the Germans only expect to be 50% off fossil fuels by 2050...and they are the world leaders in alternative energy.

        Doing my part to piss off the religious right...one smart ass comment at a time.

        by tekno2600 on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 10:08:49 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Low penetration levels initially will be (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          tekno2600

          the worst. I think of it as a local effect.

          No system exists to integrate generation that varies both in Kw and geographically. But given 20 yrs its basically an engineering issue. Right now its probably the one of the major issues.

          But once we're talking about 100's of gigs, moving electricity to where its needed reduces that "local effect".

          We're starting to see some nice proposals, the Delaware to NJ offshore HVDC trunk line for wind turbines is one aspect of thinking that looks forward.

          FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

          by Roger Fox on Mon Jun 27, 2011 at 12:29:14 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Great analysis. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    barath, PeterHug, wonmug

    I think the food curve may decline a bit more dramatically because we are also at peak phosphate, which compounds the loss of energy for other food growing purposes.

    “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” -Aldous Huxley.

    by Fossil on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 12:31:10 PM PDT

  •  This just seems wrong, on many levels... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Andhakari, NoMoreLies, Joieau, afatjunco

    500

    Not knowing this diarist, I can only speculate and riff off of what has been stated in this diary, and how it's presented.

    It strikes me as just another weaseling Chamber of Commerce-style nuke advocate attempt to "prove" that we "need" nukes.

    I notice that it "cleverly" doesn't Even Try to argue how "safe" nukes supposedly are, here.

    AS IF that were a given, or an insignificant "concern", or just not a topic they want to address, in the wake of Fukushima, flooding threats on the Missouri, and the consensus of most biologists, environmental scientists, and the general public, who  recognize that nukes are NOT "safe"... "enough".

    Instead, the diarist brings other "popular" canards, like that energy "demand" and "need", presently, and projected,  going forward, are somehow "normal", "wanted", and "necessary", completely ignoring the demonstrable fact that energy consumption can be very substantially reduced through conservation and efficiency, and that this is a good thing that will materially improve our lives, the economy, and international relations.

    Then there's the canard that to reduce energy consumption has to mean "austerity", a slightly more subtle version of the old-school canard that enviros are irrational anti-science DFH luddites (and worse), wanting to drag us back to the stone age, such that consumers will suffer horrible deprivations, if we go green (and did I mention? It will destroy the economy, just like unions, and other such commie plots).

    The diary cleverly avoids explicitly stating the full implications and insinuations of their line in this regard, leaving such details to the comments sure to ensue from the ruder, more obstreperous nuke advocates who specialize in such diversionary adhominem insults and more...overt lies.

    This diarist, in conjunction with posturing an oh-so civil, rational, and reasonable, "scientific" approach, oh-so green (attacking the many evils of their competitors, coal, oil and gas), to "save the planet", even, brings some jive techno-babble, incomprehensible to the lay person, to "prove" that they know what they are talking about, and present it all with such precisely contrived "logic"....that we "need" nukes.

    The "blind spots" belong to the nuke advocates, seems to me, as their logic and "facts" are faulty, duplicitously presented, and thus unprincipled, as further evidenced by the rhetoric of their supporters, and thus not to be trusted.

    I know who I trust, and who I do not trust.

    Photobucket

    If Greenpeace and Union of Concerned Scientists say we can and must go green, all the way, immediately, to save the planet, and that present nukes are neither safe nor necessary, then I trust that.

    If the Chamber, industry, the right, the Republicans and Blue Dogs, are saying we can't, and musn't go green, that it's "impossible", will be "harmful", and "thus" that we "need" nukes, heh, then I know they are lying their asses off, no matter how "green" they suddenly, after all these years, are pretending to be (just like their oil, coal and gas company competitors, LOL, desperately weaseling, to try to co-opt the unavoidable, overwhelming popular democratic mandate to go green) ...or, to charitably maintain the civility of this diary...they have been "duped"...as they so like to imply about enviros, those deluded DFH drug-addled luddite commie faggot tree-hugging earth-worshipers, yada, yada, yada.  

    OK, OK, so I'm subjective, and prejudiced on this topic...and this diary makes my knee jerk, I'll admit it.  After all these years, I'm...very sensitive, to the kind of arguments presented in this diary.

    I'm no scientist, but I've seen more than enough evidence that we can and must go green, all the way, immediately, and that it's feasible, and viable, and will be a good thing.

    Personally, I think that should be the first priority, and then, further down the road, if and when we do prove to actually really need to develop further supplemental energy, maybe nukes will actually really be safe, by then...I wouldn't necessarily be against it, per se, if enough of the right people say it's safe "enough" to deploy.

    Meanwhile however, present nukes should be shut down, and new ones prohibited, until all regulatory agencies are fully staffed and funded, and more substantial enforcement is in place, at the very least.

    Anyway, however you look at it, it will clearly take many years to deploy any new nukes, let alone any new, actually safe nuke technology (which has yet to be developed).

    Meanwhile there is nothing really standing in the way of going green, all the way, immediately, with extant, readily available appropriate alternative tech, especially as economy of scale and increased R&D improve both costs and benefits, exponentially, going forward...

    Nothing standing in the way, that is, except the refusal of the dictatorship of the right to comply with the popular democratic will.

    Here on Dkos, there are several Group Diaries that document what going green is all about, including monitoring new breakthroughs in appropriate alternative tech, as well as following events at Fukushima and on the Missouri, right now, this very moment, as flooding threatens two big nuke plants and thus a huge swath of the vital heartland of our own nation.

    Just a few of the more popular dkos Groups include:

    Kosowatt

    Ecocities Emerging

    Nuclear Free DKos

    If you click on the Groups list at the top of your dkos page, you might be amazed at how many Groups there are here, heh...it's a looong list!

    Photobucket

    Bring the Better Democrats!

    All Out for 2012!

    Democracy is the most fundamental revolutionary principle. Information is the ultimate key.

    by Radical def on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 12:39:24 PM PDT

    •  Whoa.... (16+ / 0-)

      Your comment seems a bit knee-jerk given that the word "nuclear" appears once in the entire post, and I only included it because Saul Griffith included it in his analysis.  Personally, I don't think we should build more nuclear, and one of the conclusions of this diary (which wasn't part of his analysis) is that we can't really build much nuclear even if we wanted to.

      I'm not questioning the need to move off of fossil fuels to alternatives - I'm questioning whether we can do so while maintaining our current lifestyles.  Some argue (e.g. the chamber of commerce, etc.) that we shouldn't try, and instead should stick with fossil fuels and nuclear.  My viewpoint is that we should try to move to alternatives but also recognize that they won't let us keep our current lifestyles, so we'll have to do with less.

      contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

      by barath on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 12:48:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I find that there is a myopia . . . (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Elmar

        . . . by green energy proponents regarding integrated approaches, and that includes many different elements.

        Modern reactor design like pebble bed is necessary for baseload capacity.

        Renewable energy, such as industrial wind generation, needs to be paired with storage, yet, offshore or Great Lakes wind has no requirement for stored power.

        I have yet to hear from green energy proponents about the need to collapse back to high density living and eliminate personal automobiles for everyday transportation.

        And, rarely is there any thought to limiting the human population.  Personally, what I expect is that homo sapiens will be an example of punctuated equilibrium.  A successful species that proceeds to widespread colonization until changes in the environment cause the population of the mal-adapted phenotype to crash leaving small isolated groups.  I don't think that what remains will be a self-aware, intelligent species.

        “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” -Aldous Huxley.

        by Fossil on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 03:54:35 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm not sure... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          WheninRome

          I don't think it's wise to build more nuclear, but you're absolutely right that green energy proponents need to look at downscaling our lives rather than just focusing on supply-side solutions (i.e. building alternative energy infrastructure).  We need to decrease demand and increase alternative supply.

          I think for baseload our best bet is solar thermal since it's so low tech it doesn't require specialized infrastructure or knowledge to build or maintain, and has no major environmental downsides and if maintained properly could continue running for a very long time.

          contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

          by barath on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 04:47:18 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Do you see storage needed overnight? (0+ / 0-)

          Assuming say in 2040, we get 30% from wind and 30% from solar with smartgrid and HVDC.

          FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

          by Roger Fox on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 06:47:34 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Without renewable baseloac capacity (0+ / 0-)

            Any baseload will need to come from coal, gas, or nuclear which has to be kept hot but idle.  That is why, without storage to provide baseload there will probably be less reduction in carbon emissions that the percentage of renewables would otherwise indicate.

            If we want to get renewable sources off to a good start, then storage needs to be designed into projects.  Otherwise, what will happen is the short-term chase of profits then abandoment at decommissioning.

            “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” -Aldous Huxley.

            by Fossil on Mon Jun 27, 2011 at 04:35:00 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  In a large scale national network (0+ / 0-)

              Solar and wind supply is not too far from demand.

              Looking at wind, If we build out 200 gigs, we know statistically we'll get 66 gigs, we wont know from where.

              We know that currently solar will generate from 9am to 4pm, wind from 6 am to midnight. Demand hits its lowest level during those periods. I dont know what overnight demand might be, but for the foreseeable, the fission nukes and coal plants will be available.

              Currently fission nukes supply 20%, coal 48%, is that certainly enough for overnight demand? If we keep the current generation capacity pie slices, and grow solar and wind capacity, it expands our energy portfolio, and provides flexibility, even without storage, with storage the story is better.

              If in 20 yrs we have the same percents, nukes 20%- coal 48% etc, and just add solar and wind, storage is a canard.

              I see storgae playing a role at the begining, not so much later on

              FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

              by Roger Fox on Mon Jun 27, 2011 at 02:34:57 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  In your diary you (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Radical def, Roger Fox, afatjunco, ozsea1

        appear to insist that we need to "maintain the current economy," and that shapes your analysis of whether or not it's possible to go green. I think Radical def is reacting to that and its logical extrapolation per nukes. Which YOU did not argue specifically at all, but which we've seen so often that it's implicit in the way you describe the situation.

        The current economy sucks rocks. And even if it were 'fixed' back to the same old same status quo, it would still suck rocks for way, way too many people. The world changes that have to happen if civilization of some respectable description is to survive go far deeper and broader than just getting ourselves off fossil fuels.

        Nor did you mention anywhere that part of our civilization-wide investment in the changes that must be made MUST be to subsidize the citizenry - across the board - to cut their own energy requirements as well as help generate their own (and/or their neighborhood's). The efficiency of site generation is far higher than transmission from a remote gigaplant. With just a bit of 'social engineering' we could get people to time their loads and tap local sources and such. We need to subsidize white roofs and natural convection AC architecture for big buildings and tap the geological temperature gradient and... There are hundreds of small and large projects we could tackle. Maybe get to know our neighbors and work together and plant community gardens and develop chess gardens and green spaces and...

        It wouldn't hurt our Western civilization one bit to rationally approach the future and change our ways of living in and relating to the world. We'd be much healthier in mind and body for it, and might even learn to like it. You never know.

        I think this is a worthy diary. Please forgive our sensitivity on the subject of nukes at this point in time. They've launched their end game, and it's not pretty.

        Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

        by Joieau on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 03:55:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Hmm... (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Roger Fox, Dragon5616, Joieau, wonmug
          In your diary you appear to insist that we need to "maintain the current economy,"

          Definitely not.  My whole series of diaries has been about how we can't maintain our current economy.  I just didn't want to rehash that (since it's been the subject of the last 4-5 diaries I've written).

          Which YOU did not argue specifically at all, but which we've seen so often that it's implicit in the way you describe the situation.

          Yeah, it's too bad that it was read that way, especially since I wrote specifically how these sorts of diaries get misunderstood...and then it was misunderstood exactly in that way.  It's ok though.

          contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

          by barath on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 04:38:34 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I suppose I owe you an apology, somewhat... (0+ / 0-)

            ...even if I'm still annoyed that you gave me the impression you did, superficially, by seeming to assert that nukes are "necessary".

            Goddamn it, they are NOT necessary, but quite the opposite, and I just can't let that slide, no matter how correct every other word might be.

            And that wasn't the only error.

            But I do appreciate your clarifications, and more or less agree with your position, in that regard.

            The fact is, some 80% of the population wants to go green, and are even willing to pay more for it.

            We can do this, and I don't Even want to hear Any Moar freaking bullshit about how we can't, or shouldn't even try, to just go green, all the way, immediately...or that we "need" Any freakin' nukes to do it.

            This is not about my personal "opinion", it's about the popular democratic will, which is against nukes, and wants to go green, democratically, electorally, via the Democratic Party, plain and simple.

            Democracy is the most fundamental revolutionary principle. Information is the ultimate key.

            by Radical def on Mon Jun 27, 2011 at 02:02:28 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  A disclaimer (from above) (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      shaggies2009, Nulwee, Joieau
      One of the difficulties in writing about the challenges of alternative energy is that it can easily be mistaken as coming from a very different perspective: the kind put forward by science-denying "skeptics".  Recently, to get a sense of what they've been writing, I wandered over to Reason and CATO, and was greeted by a number of posts arguing against environmental regulation, alternative energy, or saving energy.  They're arguing against even trying to develop alternative energy, and generally disagree with the notion that "if we’re going to maintain the current economy, then we’ll need alternative fuels that meet current energy needs."  My contention here is quite different - I believe that we need to switch to alternatives, but it's likely that alternatives will not deliver enough energy to replace today's sources so we need to factor that shortfall into our plans.

      contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

      by barath on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 12:57:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah, well, I can see your "point"... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Nulwee, Joieau, afatjunco

        As acknowledged, my knee jerks, lol, and I AM subjective to this topic...

        I still don't see the "point" of promulgating nuke industry line, that we "need" nukes, and that alternatives won't cut it...

        Nor do I think you prove your "point", nor do I think it even matters, whether alternatives will ultimately suffice, in terms of whether, or how much we must go totally green, to the greatest extent conceivably possible, right now.

        Just saying...why even bother to bring such a meticulously contrived argument, casting such connotations of supposed insufficient viability of alternatives, unless your deliberate intention is to advocate nukes as "necessary"?

        Nukes are neither necessary nor viable, economically...not to mention being an unacceptable threat to the human genome and all life on earth.

        Sorry, but you just can't have it both ways, to advocate for nukes, and yet still claim to be so freakin' green, and "concerned" about the environment.  

        The contradictions...burn.

        Especially when you bring such canards about energy "needs", and "austerity", and selectively ignore other  aspects of the issue, especially including safety.

        Democracy is the most fundamental revolutionary principle. Information is the ultimate key.

        by Radical def on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 01:41:41 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Whoa again... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Roger Fox, Mortifyd
          I still don't see the "point" of promulgating nuke industry line, that we "need" nukes, and that alternatives won't cut it...

          Things are not black and white.  Things don't have to fit into the "nuke industry" box or the "alternatives will meet all current energy demand" box.  I'm saying that we shouldn't build nuclear plants, and that even if we were to we wouldn't be able to build much.

          Sorry, but you just can't have it both ways, to advocate for nukes, and yet still claim to be so freakin' green, and "concerned" about the environment.  

          I don't get it - I just said I don't think we should build nuclear plants.  If you have a chance, please re-read my comment.

          contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

          by barath on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 04:41:15 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  You know who else thinks we need nuclear power? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Nulwee

      Steven Chu.

      Meanwhile, Germany switches from nuclear back to coal.  Who are the greens now?

      •  It's all on us... (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Joieau, mike101, ashowboat, orange dog, ozsea1

        What the US does, the rest of the world will be compelled to emulate, more or less.

        If we seize the power, in our own country, from the vicious bloody grasp of our own right wing majority dictatorships, with substantial actual real progressive/moderate Democratic Majorities NOT rotten with Blue Dogs, conditions will rapidly and significantly change, at home and abroad.

        If not...not so much, except for the worse.

        This is ALL about relative right/left plurality in the US House and Senate, coming out of 2012.

        The Only way to call Obama's bluff, if that's what it, about "make me", is to swamp the elections, explicitly to purge the right, for blocking everything the Prez and Party have tried to do, and to give him the back up, or the jack up, that he needs in Congress.

        I'm confident that once the EPA is fully funded and staffed, they will soon put a report on the Prez' desk, informing him that there's no such thing as "safe" nukes, "clean" coal, or "cheap" frakin' gas, and that we must go green, right now, all the way, to save the planet.

        And the Prez will say "OK, let's do it".

        The electorate must be mobilized to seize the power, democratically, electorally, whether Obama and/or the Party like it, or want it, or help us "enough", or not.

        They are not our Daddy and Mommy.

        This is all on us, seems to me.  It's do or die.

        The ice caps are melting faster and faster.

        Democracy is the most fundamental revolutionary principle. Information is the ultimate key.

        by Radical def on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 03:34:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Give it a rest. n/t (0+ / 0-)

      Moderation in most things.

      by billmosby on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 03:53:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  it's too bad the environmental movement started (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nulwee

    when it did.  If it had started a bit later, it might have focused more on coal, and we could have carbon-free power by now.  People didn't always recognize the danger of climate change.

    •  Nukes push buttons.... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ozsea1, wonmug

      The reaction both pro and con toward nuclear energy has always had a high dose of the irrational. There's symbolism at work in nuclear energy and radioactivity that shuts down the ability to think critically unless actively resisted. (A good discussion of the symbolic aspect of nuclear energy can be found in Spencer Weart's book Nuclear Fear: a history of images.)

      One of the things that Weart discusses was the uniquely negative tone the mainstream media adopted toward nuclear energy, when compared with the tone it adopted to oil and gas. Looking back, it almost seems that nuclear energy was a decoy, something bright and shiny that the environmental movement ran after, leaving oil and gas companies to do as much damage as they pleased.

      I dance to Tom Paine's bones.

      by sagesource on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 10:47:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  like WWII (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joieau, Dragon5616, WheninRome

    No one thought the US could meet the industrial capacity required to turn a depression weary, mostly agricultural nation into the largest, best equipped military in a very short time. We did just that by nationalizing industry.

    We can do it again, and if we're going to burn dirty fuel to make things to get away from it, at least initially, we'd better do it now. It will get exponentially more expensive to convert.

    For the scientific folks, Skeptical Science is doing a series on this. The first one is here:

    Baseload

    As always, their entries contain the needed citations :-)

    •  Unlike WW II, (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      barath, Odysseus, Dragon5616, ozsea1, wonmug

      this has to last 20 years according to the diarist, and also our lifestyle downgrade has to last....much longer than that, perhaps.

      As the son of parents who came of age during WW II, I can tell you they only kept up their enthusiasm for the the efforts and their tolerance for sacrifice because they knew fairly early on that the war would end in a few years.

      This will be a much harder sell. It won't do to underestimate it.

      Moderation in most things.

      by billmosby on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 03:57:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You're correct, but it's doable. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ozsea1, WheninRome

        One of the strongest ways to get something done is to mobilize the entire nation. So I don't disagree at all with what's to be done and the need for sweeping change.

        It's not been done since WWII. NASA's moonshot was a tipping point in that attitude (in my opinion) because a small number of people with nearly unlimited resources did something great that made everyone feel wonderful, proud, accomplished, etc. Now it seems our whole culture is built around the celebration of a few people doing something "great." (Just look at our military now for example, less than one percent of the nation, a trillion a year, unapproachable public support for the people in uniform.)

        We have to reverse that, for many reasons and bring back an era of "shared sacrifice."

        Just like my parents, and yours, had to do.

        I just think the cultural change has to happen first, then the work of fixing the dirty energy mess will be possible.

        Far too many elected officials seem to tap dance around the energy issue and call for bits and pieces. I think we need to nationalize the energy industry starting Monday, throw in what's left of the industrial base (no new cars for  a few years, just like WWII), retool, retrain and do the hard work.

  •  The first start would be lifestyle change (9+ / 0-)

    The biggest issue with the green energy movement has to do with lifestyle change.  Sure, we can build more solar and wind generating energy plants, but much of our technology requires energy, and even in lithium-ion battery form, it requires recharging with electricity.

    But having said that, the real issue is our current lifestyle, which has people living miles away in gated suburban and exurban subdivisions in huge McManisons which require a lot of energy to heat and cool, plus most of these subdivisions have no sidewalks for people to move around the neighborhood, so people have to drive even to the local strip mall to get a loaf of bread, a gallon of milk, and a pound of butter.  Plus most of these residents have to drive several miles in wall to wall traffic just to get to and from work each day. This type of lifestyle simply is not sustainable.

    I'm sorry to go all James Howard Kuntsler on here; I'm not nearly as pessimistic on the future as he is, but if we were able to convince the general public to learn to live with a little less, we could cut our energy consumption significantly.  I'm not saying we need to live off the grid; we just need to cut back on our usage, like live in a home that is big enough to meet our needs and not necessarily our desires, maybe take public transportation to get to work when possible, and curtail the need to buy lots of "stuff".  Before you get that huge SUV or 75 inch flat panel TV, take 24 hours to ponder whether it will make a big difference in your life and bring you much happiness.  If so, then go ahead, but most likely you could go without it or get something more sensible.

    •  Exactly! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ashowboat, billmosby, Margfh

      It's all about using less energy, driving less, living smaller, etc.

      (I'm a little confused that some others misunderstood my point - in arguing that we are unlikely to be able to build enough alternative energy in time, I'm also saying that means we need to downscale our lives.)

      contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

      by barath on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 04:43:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        barath, ozsea1

        for the clarification.  I was a bit unclear on what you were saying, but now that you clarify, I agree completely.

        And the best part is it is relatively easy.  I have cut my energy consumption to less than 1/2 of what it was a decade ago and not impacted the quality of my life at all.  Most people can do this also, but unfortunately as I think you were pointing out, most are too lazy to do anything.

    •  Best Comment huey (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      barath, ozsea1, Margfh

      Thank you for the great comment. I was getting ready to say the same thing as you did, and you probably said it better that I would.

      I have been working on a diary about how lazy we are and how unwilling we are to make the slightest modifications in our lives to lower our energy usage.

      The diarist is probably correct that we will never be able to replace current production with alternate sources, but with very, very minor changes to our lives (and not decreasing our "standard of living") we can quickly reduce our energy needs which provide the quickest mitigation to climate change and make replacing a significant portion of our energy generation with alternative sources much more feasible.

      The problem is that even people who consider themselves "environmentalists" are too spoiled and lazy to make even the simplest life changes.  My guess is it will take a catastrophic situation for most people to get off their fat asses.  Regardless, promoting life changes that decrease energy needs is probably the most productive strategy to addressing our energy issues.

    •  Yeah, we (USA) could ... (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ashowboat, wu ming, Margfh, Fossil, Leftcandid

      cut per capita consumption by 50% w/ little or no change in lifestyle - e.g. Europe - just by common sense. OTOH, we (Earth) are still screwed as China, India, and ME energy consumption per capita is exploding and we (US) can't (shouldn't?) stop it. Population will be reduced by planning or catastrophic tragedy (probably the latter).

      •  I wonder about economic effects, though (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ashowboat, billmosby, Odysseus, ozsea1, Fossil

        There's a very strong correlation between energy use and GDP.  I wonder if we rapidly downscale energy use (either due to supply constraints, or proactively) whether the economy will tank in response.  It might, at least for a time, but it's worth it.

        As I mentioned in a previous diary, I think we need to plan on decreasing all forms of energy use by at least 5-6% annually, so that we beat energy depletion down the hill.

        contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

        by barath on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 05:57:40 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  yes, that is certainly true (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ashowboat, Odysseus, Roger Fox, Egalitare

          correlation of GDP and energy use, but US still as 2x energy use per capita compared to Europe which has similar GDP/capita, so I think we (USA) have a lot of low hanging fruit for conservation and can maintain GDP to a point - OTOH, I still think we're in deep do-do when SA production truly peaks.

        •  I think you are correct (0+ / 0-)

          in the short term it will cause an economic downturn.  But I see no alternative and in the long term we will be so much better off....

        •  Can't tank what's already been tunk, lol. n/t (0+ / 0-)

          Moderation in most things.

          by billmosby on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 06:24:10 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  hold on (0+ / 0-)

          GDP growth is reliant on energy, resources, population and productivity.

          If productivity increases offset the reduced energy usage, thats awesome. But youre right in the sense that.... say we shut down all nuke fission plants, as 20% of our electricity that would crush the economy.

          Thusly the need to add renewable capacity post haste to expand the US energy portfolio.

          FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

          by Roger Fox on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 07:00:39 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Not necessarly a given (0+ / 0-)

            If we shut down all nuke plants and conserve 20% it would not "crush the economy".

            Every household and business in the fat and lazy USA can easily conserve 20%, actually they can easily conserve 50%.  Europeans use about half the energy per capita that us spoiled lazy Americans use.

            •  "fat and lazy" (0+ / 0-)

              And you wonder why people don't pay attention to you.

              Hint: Don't insult them. Even if it's objectively true. You're just indulging your self-righteousness and making sure they will never listen to you.

              I dance to Tom Paine's bones.

              by sagesource on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 10:50:38 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  it's worth remembering, however (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              wonmug

              that those europeans don't just conserve that energy out of the goodness of their hearts, or through sheer force of will. their communities and economies are built upon a pattern and infrastructure that enable them to live without burning so much damn fossil fuel. just, as it's worth pointing out, as california does, relative to the rest of america.

              in both cases, it's because of public investments in efficiency and infrastructure that people then enjoy. it's true that all americans (and all europeans!) could save a ton of energy just by not wasting it, and enduring a bit of inconvenience now and then, but a big factor as to why some areas are more efficient than others is in infrastructure, not virtue.

              which means we're not just going to have to become less wasteful people, we're going to have to plan and pay for significant structural and infrastructural changes in our communities.

      •  Good point noladerf (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        noladerf

        The other key is control of population.  Unfortunately this is a topic that seems to be even more off-limits than lifestyle changes.

        I don't understand why.  When I was young, in the 60's it was the central core of environmental philosophy. Today very few "environmentalists" even discussed it.

        Anyone have any ideas on why this important point is seldom discussed by "environmentalists"?

    •  Many people cannot believe that... (8+ / 0-)

      ...the average NYC resident  has a smaller carbon footprint than any other collection of people in our nation. Density is a huge key to using less energy per person.

      But we also need more awareness of the energy we already waste. The recent story about DVRs using more energy than most new refrigerators is telling. European versions of this device have a "stand by mode" which uses 1/2 the power and a "deep sleep" mode that cuts power to under 10% of full operation at the (for me) acceptable cost of a two minute warm-up to full operation. I bought a timer today to turn off my DVR and LCD TV during "normal household use" which would be 10PM to 3PM the next day, to be over-ridden as needed (my 12 year old will complain that the cable guide takes 1/2 hr to reload when I do that, and I will patiently explain the situation. She won't stop complaining and then I will ignore her.)

      It's difficult for me to angst that are facing an energy bind that cannot be timely met by bringing true renewables online when we seem to be wasting at minimum nearly half of all energy currently generated. We are slaves not to necessity but to market researched convenience.

      The so-called "rising tide" is lifting only yachts.

      by Egalitare on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 06:08:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Ending immigration into the USA would be the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fossil

    single most important policy the USA could  implement to conserve energy.

    We won't find too much support for that even here where so many claim to want to conserve energy.

    I really doubt if our world will make much of an attempt at energy conservation until we run out of energy and conservation is forced upon us.

    •  Not popular or politically correct. (0+ / 0-)

      You are right that as immigration increases a nation's population it needs to stop.  You will get little traction here however damaging immigration is to the ability to create a sustainable future.

      Stabilizing and then reducing population will be necessary and if we do not do it, then it will be imposed upon us by the operation of natural limits.

      “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” -Aldous Huxley.

      by Fossil on Mon Jun 27, 2011 at 06:32:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  One can have immigration reform that ends abuse (0+ / 0-)

      of undocumented workers, AND policies that promote birth control and end tax credits for creating multiple children.  

      It's mathematically true that more people in the most consumptive nation consumes more global resources.  But we can't fall into a trap of Us vs Them with our economic brethren.  Us vs Them means Us vs The Rich who control the means of environmental destruction, not Them the uninformed consumers who would do the right thing if only they knew what it was.

    •  And how does that conserve energy? (0+ / 0-)

      Energy use in other countries doesn't count? Globally, what difference does it make on which side of a political border a light bulb is on?

      "So, am I right or what?"

      by itzik shpitzik on Wed Jun 29, 2011 at 11:38:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Right time. Wrong president. n/t (0+ / 0-)

    I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use - Galileo

    by hamm on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 07:38:58 PM PDT

  •  If your solutions depend on (0+ / 0-)

    massive, planet-wide behavior modification, you might as well give up now.

    It. Will. Not. Happen.

    There is simply no way to make people radically reduce their energy usage without levels of coercive government force far beyond what will stimulate revolution.

    The environmental movement has been waving this flag for four decades now, and it has never worked.

    It's not going to magically start working now.

    The only solutions, if there are any to be had, will be technological, not behavioral.

    People are not going to give up on modernity, not in sufficient numbers to matter. And while it may be self-rightously satisfying to keep telling them that they're going to have to, the fact is that they won't. So it's predestined to fail, and therefore we should stop doing it.

    Unless, of course, you've got more invested in the description of the problem than you do in actually solving it...

    But that seems sort of silly.

    --Shannon

    "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees." -- Emiliano Zapata Salazar
    "Dissent is patriotic. Blind obedience is treason." --me

    by Leftie Gunner on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 09:28:05 PM PDT

    •  I'm trying to reason about the situation (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      billmosby, wonmug

      I don't think we can plan top-down to change world wide energy use.  This diary is mostly a response to the numerous reports that say "we can solve the climate / energy crisis by switching the entire world to alternative energy sources".  Most of those reports look at it from a top-down, world-wide perspective.

      I think what will really happen is that we won't do anything until two recessions from now (say around 2018-2020 or so) when it'll be undeniable that oil is depleting and energy prices aren't going to every come back down.  That's when there might be collective action.  What I'd like to see, though, is individual action - not because individual action will do much in the big picture, but because individual action will help those individuals who act.

      contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

      by barath on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 09:43:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  They'll pay attention... (0+ / 0-)

        ....when half the population of Bangladesh is floating face-down in the Bay of Bengal.

        Massive disasters in the Third World will wake up the citizens of developed countries. Of course that isn't fair. But it's what is going to happen.

        I dance to Tom Paine's bones.

        by sagesource on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 10:54:36 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  they won't pay attention to the third world (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          wonmug

          it will have to bite first worlders in the ass, personally, for them to take notice.

          which will happen. is happening, really.

        •  No, they won't. (0+ / 0-)

          They'll chip in a few bucks to the "telethon" for the victims, but that's about it.

          You're seriously overestimating the average human's give-a-shit factor.

          --Shannon

          "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees." -- Emiliano Zapata Salazar
          "Dissent is patriotic. Blind obedience is treason." --me

          by Leftie Gunner on Mon Jun 27, 2011 at 06:13:08 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  You are far too optimistic . . . (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    billmosby

    Since I don't intend to write an essay I'll just note several points in no particular order:

    # "peak oil" does not mean that there will be a drop in petrolium gas or liquids production over the next 20 years . . . in fact there will be no drop, just a long plateau.

    # Coal production/consumption will increase over the next 20 years, as new coal fired plants are built and existing nuclear capacity shuts down.

    # Those two, taken together, will result in increased CO2 emissions over the next 20 years, not a "reduction to zero".

    # All renewables combined will not be sufficient to meet increasing demand for energy in the developing world, let alone to replace any significant portion of present consumption.

    # Because the visible effects of "global warming" lag the cause by decades at least, and the necessary corrective measures involve substantial "sacrifice" and time to implement, there will be no political will to do anything until it is far too late.

    # It is unlikely that sufficient nuclear capacity could be installed to meet growth demand and replace existing coal/oil/gas electric plants even if there was sufficient political will . . . costs are too great and lead times too long.  But it won't even be attempted in the necessary time frame because of political opposition from those who do not regard climate change as a "real" threat (compared to their "nuclear fears").

    # The overwhelming majority of those in the "sustainability/green movement" are functionally innumerate . . . and will persist in their belief that a couple solar panels on the roof will run their house and charge their car and make them wealthy from the sell-back to their local utility, all at the same time.  Nothing you say will convince them otherwise (or that nuclear can be made safe, or that Standard Oil did not buy and then suppress patents on a 200 mpg carburator).

     

    Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

    by Deward Hastings on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 09:57:15 PM PDT

    •  A couple of responses (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wu ming
      "peak oil" does not mean that there will be a drop in petrolium gas or liquids production over the next 20 years . . . in fact there will be no drop, just a long plateau.

      It is true that peak oil doesn't mean that there has to be a drop-off, but since every field follows roughly (of course not exactly) a bell curve, and worldwide production is basically the sum of those bell curves, multicyclic Hubbert models (and other similar approaches) indicate that there will be a dropoff, not an indefinite plateau.

      Coal production/consumption will increase over the next 20 years, as new coal fired plants are built and existing nuclear capacity shuts down.

      I think that peak coal (or really peak cheap coal) will quickly put a damper on that.  China already imports a lot of coal from Australia.  There's a limit to how much they can import, and the best reserves are gone.  A good study from last year indicated that we may be past peak net-energy from coal.

      contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

      by barath on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 10:04:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The plateau won't be "indefinite" (0+ / 0-)

        but it will last at least 20 years.  Discovery is already lagging production, but there is substantial unexploited reserve.  The production curve has already flattened and held relatively level . . . what would have been the "peak" is being witheld and will extend the plateau, as will new exploits like offshore Brazil (oil) and offshore Gaza (gas) . . . not to mention shale and tar sands, which become exploitable as price rises.

        China is building a new coal fired plant every week . . . Germany has announced new construction to replace the decomissioned nuclear plants.  Those plants have at least a 40 year projected life, and a majority of coal consumption in China and India is in plants less than 20 years old.  Sure, eventually coal will run out, or at least become substantially more expensive.  But not in the next 20 years.  There is lots of coal out there (especially lots of dirty coal, like they burn in Eastern Europe).  And there will be no "carbon capture" to reduce the emissions.  At best that would double the cost of the plants, and the generated electricity, and we can't even get people to vote for a gas tax.   Vote to double their electric bill ? ? ?  Not likely . . .

        Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

        by Deward Hastings on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 10:30:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Lots of coal? (0+ / 0-)

          http://en.wikipedia.org/...

          There are two different peaks: one measured by mass (i.e. metric tons) and another by energy output (i.e. petajoules). The energy output per mass has dropped significantly since 2000, so the energetic peak will come much sooner than the mass peak.

          The estimates for global peak coal production vary wildly. Many coal associations suggest the peak could occur in 200 years or more, while scholarly estimates predict the peak to occur as early as 2010. Research in 2009 by the University of Newcastle in Australia concluded that global coal production could peak sometime between 2010 and 2048.[1] Global coal reserve data is generally of poor quality and is often biased towards the high side.[2] Collective projections generally predict that global peak coal production may occur sometime around 2025 at 30 percent above current production in the worst case scenario, depending on future coal production rates.[3][4]

          Others have simply gotten old. I prefer to think I've been tempered by time.

          by Just Bob on Mon Jun 27, 2011 at 03:55:03 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yep . . . by your own account. (0+ / 0-)
            Collective projections generally predict that global peak coal production may occur sometime around 2025 at 30 percent above current production in the worst case scenario
             That gets us far past the OP's 20 year window to bring CO2 emissions to zero, at 30% above present consumption.  Just what all the coal fired plants under construction would suggest.  And that's (for coal production) the "worst case" . . . it will actually last a lot longer than that.

            And that's exactly what's going to happen.

            Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

            by Deward Hastings on Mon Jun 27, 2011 at 07:22:25 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  The history of our species. (5+ / 0-)

      Grow, trash, crash, move, repeat as necessary.

      Big crash coming.

      No place left to move.

      Once and for all proving that we are a force of nature just like the cyanobacteria were, and not all that different in our net ability to act on reason.

      Moderation in most things.

      by billmosby on Sun Jun 26, 2011 at 10:07:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The answer to your question lies in the common (0+ / 0-)

    The answer to your question lies in the common pickup.

    Your cutesy little electric motor won't do. The storage of enough power to pull heavy loads isn't there.

    The answer resides in an old fashioned steam engine. It has enough power to pull the biggest truck. But what to burn to make the steam. Simple H2 and O2, they make a very hot flame. Oh gee where to get them? From water. We do not have that much fresh water. Where are you going to get it? From reverse osmosis of sea water. Where are you going to get the electricity to break down the water into gas? From the sun.

    It is all there. There is no new science. Just the will to do it. Convert to an H2 economy. Oh yes it will require you to think in big sizes, vast osmosis pools, large pools to collect the gas, a large logistics system to distribute the gas (we got that), and people to stop thinking about internal combustion engines.  Oh yes it is macho you can really pull that boat with a steam engine.

  •  Interesting article (0+ / 0-)

    `and i know its an "article of faith" of the peak oil crowd but this simply isnt true -

    Discoveries of oil are well past their peak and current geological  studies indicate we are near or at the peak of oil production.

    It frankly isnt remotely true and the data says the opposite. Of course we're going to run out of oil. But this statement is false on its face.

    Maintaining blind faith in an Unfact in order to found ones arguments is a republican thing. And look where that got them. Lala land. Lets try basing our philosophy and policies on reality.

    A man is born as many men but dies as a single one.--Martin Heidegger

    by cdreid on Mon Jun 27, 2011 at 04:12:03 AM PDT

  •  Apropos to the topic (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wonmug

    Bottom line: We face an immense task and likely only have 3 or 4 years to get started in a serious way. I see no sign of this happening or even being considered by our political leaders.

    "We should invade the whole world & fix everything. Anything less means we support the terrorists, ne'er-do-wells, incompetents, grifters, drug lords, dead-enders, autocrats, and so on." - mightymouse

    by Sagebrush Bob on Mon Jun 27, 2011 at 04:14:37 AM PDT

  •  Correction requested and more (0+ / 0-)

    You said:

    Therefore our aim should be to keep the climate from exceeding that threshold, which translates to a max of 450 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere.

    http://arxiv.org/...

    If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm. The largest uncertainty in the target arises from possible changes of non-CO2 forcings. An initial 350 ppm CO2 target may be achievable by phasing out coal use except where CO2 is captured and adopting agricultural and forestry practices that sequester carbon. If the present overshoot of this target CO2 is not brief, there is a possibility of seeding irreversible catastrophic effects.

    So...if you can see your way clear, please change 450 ppm to 350 ppm.

    For the maximized negawatt approach, I highly recommend spending some time at the Rocky Mountain Institute site:
    http://www.rmi.org/...

    Don't miss the tour of Amory Lovins' house:
    http://www.rmi.org/...

    Don't be put off by the $500,000 price tag. Your dream house likely wouldn't serve as residence, corporate headquarters, demonstration show place, and laboratory. Even so, I foresee the high end of the housing market to more quickly and completely embrace energy savings simply because they can afford to. That will build the market and economies of scale will bring price reduction.

    Others have simply gotten old. I prefer to think I've been tempered by time.

    by Just Bob on Mon Jun 27, 2011 at 04:28:56 AM PDT

    •  Agreed, long term (0+ / 0-)

      I know about the 350 ppm target - I was being generous with a 450 ppm target here since we passed the 350 ppm target some time ago and there's still a little uncertainty about which target is absolutely 100% necessary.  (Personally I think there's good evidence for 350 ppm, so this was mostly for the sake of calculation.)

      contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

      by barath on Mon Jun 27, 2011 at 05:22:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Put off (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      billmosby, wonmug
      Don't be put off by the $500,000 price tag.

      That's in 1984 dollars. In today's money, the price is over $1 million.

      But, hey, who am I to stand between rich, snake-oil salesmen and their expensive eco-toys?

      Somehow, I doubt that the 1.4 billion people (1 out of every 5 people in the world) who live without access to any electricity at all could give a rat's ass about how nice Amory Lovins' house is. These are people who live in villages that couldn't begin to afford even the upkeep of such a house, much less the construction costs. They are the one's who are living the idiotic concept of "nega-watts."

      Perhaps they should move to Aspen and try to sell book about how wonderful it is.

      An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
      -- H. L. Mencken

      by bryfry on Mon Jun 27, 2011 at 05:33:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  On a dollar or two a day, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bryfry

        I am trying to think of anything we know about that they could afford at all.

        Moderation in most things.

        by billmosby on Mon Jun 27, 2011 at 06:23:41 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Harsh negativity (0+ / 0-)

        I'm old enough to have experienced first hand the ultimate negawatt existence; no indoor plumbing, no electricity. TVA had yet to extend their reach that far out.

        My grandparents had a small farm with chickens, pigs, and a huge garden. Cooking was done on a wood stove. Water was drawn from the well by hand. If you wanted chicken for dinner, you killed and plucked a chicken. I've had the experience of hand churning milk to make butter. Take my word for it. It's boring.

        The postmaster had the only car in the area. He delivered my grandmother's eggs as he made his rounds and brought her the money the next day. That egg money bought flour and salt. What little else they needed came from the Sears and Roebuck catalog. Clothing was homemade on a Singer pedal sewing machine.

        They worked hard from sunup to sundown. They ate well and use of lard and tobacco not withstanding, they lived into their mid-eighties.

        Somewhere between my grandparents' existence and profligate use of energy, there's a sweet spot that will be different for different people. If you want to go back to the land, more power (pun intended) to you.

        Do you think you could live like that?

        I'm too old and feeble to do it. Besides, I couldn't be communicating with you now and I'm internet addicted.

        Others have simply gotten old. I prefer to think I've been tempered by time.

        by Just Bob on Mon Jun 27, 2011 at 01:54:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Heh (0+ / 0-)

          I'm not that old, but my dad grew up on the farm without any indoor plumbing. I've already heard all the stories, so save your breath.

          Do you know what these people did when services such as plumbing and electricity arrived? They took advantage of them as much as they could, and that's exactly what 1.4 billion people would like to do.

          You can talk about "sweet spots" all you want, but what I see is someone promoting a "sweet spot" near Aspen that costs over $1 million and that somehow -- god knows how -- is supposed to be a solution for our energy needs.

          Sorry ... I just ain't buying it. I'm not into dreaming yuppie, greenie fantasies, while billions sit in the dark.

          An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
          -- H. L. Mencken

          by bryfry on Mon Jun 27, 2011 at 06:04:31 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  btw, I'm for the low-tech approach (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      billmosby

      Lovins is all about high tech solutions to these issues.  I think there are easier solutions that aren't as shiny and new.

      For example, I'd love to live in one of these if/when I buy a house someday:

      http://www.tumbleweedhouses.com/

      It takes a lot less energy to build and to heat a house that's, say, 300 sq. ft.  Add a solar hot water heater and some old solar panels with some Nickel-Iron batteries and you're set.  (In a cold climate you'd also need a wood furnace.)

      With such a small land footprint, a small house like that would leave plenty of space for a garden.

      There are even lower tech low-energy solutions out there, such as these:

      http://www.appropedia.org/...

      contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

      by barath on Mon Jun 27, 2011 at 05:34:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  But I thought going green was an excuse to buy (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bryfry, Just Bob

    more "stuff" to show one and all how green I am? A new hybrid SUV and solar array atop the 3500ft house with views? No tote bags with catchy sounding animal saving names?

    "Don't fall or we both go." Derek Hersey 1957-1993

    by ban nock on Mon Jun 27, 2011 at 05:15:48 AM PDT

  •  Your (Griffith's(?)) calcs are wrong (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Leftcandid

    to begin with. Assuming I understand your notation:
    12 x 100m wind turbines / hour = 2 TW of wind
    12 wind turbines on 100 m towers?
    (I can't watch video so I'm relying on your diary.)

    I've only checked wind so far -
    20 yr x 8760 hr/yr = 175,200 hr
    2 TW = 2,000,000 MW
    2,000,000 MW/175,200 hr = 11.4 MW/hr

    A single utility scale wind turbine is approximately 2-3 MW growing to 5-6 in the next few years. Assuming a ~3 MW average, then the requirement is

    4 x 100 m wind turbines / hour = 2 TW of wind
    which is less than your expected output.

    as far as solar is concerned, PV and CSP have approximately the same footprint so showing CSP as twice as efficient as PV is wrong (unless you mean thermal instead of electricity - but then you are wrong again as it would be approximately 3 times as efficient.)

    The solar calcs (assuming PV) are off by a factor of between 4 and 7. Leaving all of the ugly details aside, 2 TW over 20 years works out to a little less than 3.2 kW/s. Using SunPower's 20% efficient module (best available tech), that's 200 W/m2 or 3.2 kW/16m2.

    It's impossible to have this conversation when your technical comments are off by such a magnitude.

    Causation was, is, and ever shall be a slippery bitch, so we're best sticking with noting the facts

    by jam on Mon Jun 27, 2011 at 06:39:19 AM PDT

  •  Many inputs to alternative energy are rare, thus (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    barath

    it can be impossible to ramp up the scale.

  •  US needs 50% less energy to keep current level. (0+ / 0-)

    What the diary misses is that US can have exactly the current economy and standard of living using 50% less energy.

    Europe, Japan all the countries with equal or better standards of living use 50% less energy on a per capita or per GDP dollar basis.

    That means US could, by upgrading its energy efficiency to world standards (the green jobs economic revival) eliminate oil imports and Middle East oil wars, create 3-10 million jobs in doing it, cut greenhouse gases by 50%.

    All key goals to US survival.

    As for "marketing", energy efficiency and and alternative energy need to be sold as:

    1. National security priority No. 1 as demonstrated by oil wars, oil terrorism, oil cutoff economic black mail, economic threat of oil trad deficits, threat of climate change.

    2. National economic revival. Green economic revival to make US 50% more energy efficient is only way to recover the 14 million lost and never to be recovered jobs of the 2008 Great Reaganomics Recession.

    •  That's actually one of my points... (0+ / 0-)
      What the diary misses is that US can have exactly the current economy and standard of living using 50% less energy.

      That we can and must use significantly less energy is a major point of this diary.  More broadly, my point is that we should try to increase alternative energy use but at the same time need to drastically downscale energy use.

      I don't buy, however, that we can decrease energy use with no economic impact.  Many many industries are dependent upon energy intensive processes - whether it's the automotive industry, the shipping/trucking industry, agribusiness, plastics, etc.  Granted I don't mind these industries getting smaller, but it's not like this will be an overnight, seamless transition.

      Europe, Japan all the countries with equal or better standards of living use 50% less energy on a per capita or per GDP dollar basis.

      The investments they made and the city structures they have enable that level of energy efficiency.  To match it will take us a long time (maybe a couple of decades).  It's worth doing, but we shouldn't imagine that it'll happen quickly.

      contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

      by barath on Mon Jun 27, 2011 at 07:07:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Facts prove that wrong. Europe 50% less energy. (0+ / 0-)
        I don't buy, however, that we can decrease energy use with no economic impact.

        Facts of European living prove that statement wrong.  They have an equal lifestyle, arguable much better life style and standard of living than US and they do it with 50% less energy use.

        Most significantly is that the per dollar of GDP production on 50% less energy.

        US could produce exactly the same GDP with 50% less energy use.

        •  That's not my point. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          wonmug

          My point is that our economy is currently structured in a way that uses a lot of energy, and that a lot of industries rely upon high levels of energy use to do what they do.

          That Europe or Japan use less energy is not the point - their industries, transportation systems, etc. function somewhat differently.

          Yes, we can move towards what they do.  But it will take decades.  For example, we aren't going to eliminate suburbia in anything less than a couple of decades (really I doubt we ever will, since it'd cost too much to abandon that much property).  As a result, it'll be hard to take advantage of population density required to cut transportation energy use significantly.  This will necessarily be a slow transition.

          contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

          by barath on Mon Jun 27, 2011 at 07:25:12 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  And your point is factually wrong. (0+ / 0-)
            My point is that our economy is currently structured in a way that uses a lot of energy, and that a lot of industries rely upon high levels of energy use to do what they do.

            US economy is energy inefficient.  There's nothing "structural" about it.  Large poorly insulated homes with inefficient HVAC and applicances.  Inefficient cars and trucks.  Inefficient commercial and industrial plant with inefficient HVAC and mfg. process.

            US is simply old technology and needs a massive upgrade. When US could supply its own oil and gas it could mask the economic penalty of inefficiency.  No longer the case.

            Nothing structural, just bad design and old infrastructure.

            America 2.0 is needed. A Green Jobs revival, remodeling homes, commercial and industrial plant for energy efficiency.

            Selling the obvious to a stupid population that listens to and believes Fox News is hard but it is a question of national survival.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site