July 14th, 2008

Slim Pickens for energy alternatives?

You’ve probably heard the radio ads. T. Boone Pickens, the man with the thickest Oklahoma/Texas accent any side of the Pecos, has a plan to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Pickens’ plan relies heavily on wind turbine power and natural gas. Pickens himself has sunk a lot of money into wind power lately, so he stands to gain an awful lot if his plan is implemented.

This doesn’t mean he’s wrong, or that the plan is a poor one. I haven’t studied the plan myself, and even if I had, I’m no scientist and this is very technical stuff. The one thing I do know about this is that the principle that we need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil is an excellent one, and I think lifting the ban on offshore drilling would be a good start, although we’d be slow to see the results.

When I hear about plans such as Pickens’, I think of one of my favorite bloggers, Steven Den Beste, and a post he wrote evaluating the prospects for alternative energy sources. It made for quite sobering reading back in 2002 when he published it; the hurdles to most of the substitutes for oil are formidable. Here’s Den Beste on wind power:

Wind: It isn’t where we need it, and it isn’t when we need it, and there ain’t enough of it. The power grid has to adjust its energy generation to match consumption, and we can’t turn the wind on when we need more energy. The source is diffuse and it requires a massive investment to make and install all the windmills. There are not all that many appropriate sites where the wind is regularly strong and a lot of the places where that’s true (e.g. the Columbia River Gorge) are protected areas. Windmill farms are an eyesore, and they kill a lot of birds. (A lot of birds.) The equipment is large, complicated and will require a lot of repair to keep working; the resulting energy will be inadequate and unreasonably expensive per unit energy yield. And I’m still not convinced that it won’t take years before any given windmill finally yields as much total energy as it took to make it, transport it and install it. Ireland is making a massive investment in wind power, but when they’re finished and have fully deployed all sites it’s only going to generate 520 megawatts, when the wind is blowing. That’s one eighth of the power generated by The Dalles Dam.

However, perhaps that “massive investment” required to install the windmills—which the Pickens article estimates as being one trillion dollars, with an additional seventy billion for the distribution system—will be more cost effective, now that the price of oil has skyrocketed.

Den Beste, by the way, favored coal. But he was rather terse about it, and it can’t be used to power automobiles:

Coal works really well. That’s why it’s our primary source of energy.

Coal still drives a great deal of our electric power, and they’re working on the environmental problems connected with coal emissions. The US is certainly sitting on a big hunk of it: one-fourth of the world’s supply, which has the potential of supplying more power than all the known oil reserves of the world combined.

136 Responses to “Slim Pickens for energy alternatives?”

  1. Good Ole Charlie Says:


    I suspect that T. Boone is trying to unload his debts on us rubes.

    A lot of people are going to hustle their own agendas during The Great American Energy Panic. Pickens is no better or worse than any other garden variety scoundrel.

    As far as wind bloweth, den Beste was dead on. Maxed Out Momma has a comparison with Wind Power on her blog.

    The Danes have extensive wind farms, but reliance on having a continuous source has caused them to build standby generation capacity too. This secondary capacity capital costs have economically sunk the wind farm. The capacity is too great to idle, but not enough to make a difference.

    So the Danes are trying to sell expensive standby power into the EU grid. And loosing money.

    I don’t have time to check with MoM. But, I think I have the facts more or less right. And I’m sure the economics are right: too expensive power at too inconvenient times.

    Again, T. Boone is basically hustling us rubes.

  2. Dennis Says:

    This speaks nothing to the fact that almost everything we use is delivered by some sort of transportation. Until one deals with getting transportation costs down then all of the rest is just ideas that have limited applicability.
    There should be no reason why we cannot drill for oil and protect the environment as well. This is not an either or solution set.
    I think most of us would like to see the US gradually move away from its dependance on oil, but not at the expense of ruining the economy and creating wide spread hardship.
    It is hard for me to believe that we cannot develop an energy policy that utilizes what we have and moves to take benefit from alternative sources of energy as they become economically viable.

  3. stumbley Says:

    Unless and until we recognize that the only really viable alternative energy source capable of providing the amount of energy we need for power generation is nuclear, we will be tied to oil. It’s as simple as that, and is explained very well by Den Beste in his series on energy. No other alternative scales up to the amounts needed to drive our economy. It’s why oil continues to be necessary.

    Given that fact, however, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t pursue ALL available possibilities.

  4. Gringo Says:

    For those who are concerned about wind energy and birds, here is an excerpt from the National Research Council’s study on Environmental Impacts of Wind-Energy Projects:

    “ Clearly, bird deaths caused by wind turbines are a minute fraction of the total anthropogenic bird deaths—less than 0.003% in 2003 based on the estimates of Erickson et al. (2005)”

  5. Gringo Says:


  6. James Says:

    Hi Neo,

    T. Boone may be wrong, but I don’t think he is trying to hustle anyone. As far as I know, you can’t invest in his wind project. That is for him and his associates, so he’s not looking for you to buy his debt or equity.

    If the massive investment that he is suggesting were to get built, it would probably decrease his return, not increase it. The money he makes on his wind project is there whether windmills cover Oklahoma to the Dakotas, or not.

    He also has an invenstment in natural gas distribution for automobiles. Its mostly for trucks now. He would make more money on that if more electricity was produced with wind – making natural gas less expensive (because it was no longer used to make electricity).

    Energy is obviously where the money is right now. It also has much bigger political implications in the high tech boom of the 90s. So everyone has a plan. The winner is nearly impossible to predict. I would currently put my money on biomass conversion to alcohol – with and without gasification – through microbes. I could easily be wrong, as its one of many possibilities. All of the possibilities have schedules of implementation in the 2010-2012 range – when we will find out the answer the market prefers.

    Incidently, T. Boone’s wind farm is scheduled to be built in 2010-2012. He can’t get the turbines any faster than that. Carbon fiber for the blades is the main bottleneck. If T. Boone is right (which I doubt), most of the windmills won’t be built until 2015 or later. Industrial machines are much harder to scale than software.


  7. Grizzly Recare Says:

    ENERGY – the 6 most misunderstood letters in the English language…

    First, let me admit that I haven’t read Mr. Pickens energy plan. However what I’ve gleaned from the advert is that the plan suggests that we could move from oil as a transportation fuel to natural gas. This makes sense to me (I’ve done no research). Many fleets use CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) instead of gasoline.

    So Mr. Pickens is suggesting that we use more wind to make electrons and use the Nat. Gas currently used to make electrons to move cars & trucks.

    While on the surface this makes sense. The reality is that wind is not “dispatchable”. Dispatchability is the key issue and can not be ignored. We could, however, modify Mr. Pickens strategy and replace Wind Power, and Nat. Gas base load generation with nuclear base load generation. That frees up all that Nat Gas for use in vehicles. I kinda like that idea.

    It’s also my contention that we’re stuck in the 70’s when the discussion turns to nuclear energy. I’d like to have a dollar for every time I’ve heard the “Where will we put the nuclear waste!!!” argument. Please see a short discussion on the Integral Fast Reactor at http://www.nuc.berkeley.edu/designs/ifr/ifr1.html

  8. strcpy Says:

    Gringo, that is true now but how about if we built enough of the things to power what people are talking about? Look at it this way – A glass or two of wine a day is healthy for you, a magnum of wine a day will kill you. Yes, of the *current* man made sources it is a small fraction, however if you look at how many a single windmill kills and then expand that to what would be needed the the outcome is VERY different.

    The other problem with many of the alternative power sources is that the energy isn’t free – it has to come from someplace. It can not be made, only converted. We convert the energy stored in coal into heat and convert that heat into electricity – this releases extra energy and some by products into the air that wasn’t there before so we get some type of climate change (hard to tell how much and what).

    Now we take wind – take enough energy out of the movement of our atmosphere to actually power us (along with the inefficiencies of changing the form of said energy) and you will most likely have a *really* profound change in our weather – enough to make even the wildest predictions of global warming look tame.

    Tidal power? Well we can’t take enough out to change the tides, WAY too much energy there however the energy still has to be taken from someplace. In France they have tried them on a larger scale and it turns out that energy gets taken from the small currents that move sand an nutrients around the beaches – that kills tidal creatures in large quantities even on the modestly sized installations.

    You will note that with the above two things it isn’t how efficient the technology works it is inherent in the system. No amount of technology is going to fix that as we can not make energy. As of right now the best in terms of cost, impact, and energy output is nuclear but it has so many political issues I don’t know that it will ever get used – the next best is coal. Hydroelectric already works well in everything but energy output and there isn’t much we can do about that (can only build them on rivers).

    Other forms of alternative energy may get “fixed” one day but they are still far off – solar is probably the most promising. Geothermal usually has some *really* bad waste materials, much worse than any of the others, but that may also get fixed one day.

  9. Grizzly Recare Says:

    Here’s a better link to information about the Integral Fast Reactor project at Argonne Natl Labs.


    I’d love to hear an explanation of why we aren’t discussing this type of reactor for nuclear generation.


  10. FredHjr Says:

    I would like to know why Mr. Pickens is so pessimistic about the oil resources available to us in our own country, as well as the huge finds off the coast of Brazil. His predictions about energy and the economy presume the the same worst-case scenario that some of our elected representatives, one Saudi oil executive, and the U.N. people use.

    Wind will never yield enough for our needs. It’s a niche solution for very few localities. Ditto for solar power.

    Hydrogen cells are a loooooong way away from being economically feasible. What’s the ratio on that? 15 units of energy to produce one unit of hydrogen power?

    Drill. Drill more. Enact higher fuel efficiency standards. Find ways to conserve. Look at creating synfuels using coal. Build more nuclear power plants.

    I say do it all. There is no single solution.

  11. Joan of Argghh! Says:

    Maybe someone should investigate the government subsidy on wind farms. You know. Just a thought.

    I’d do it myself, but then I’ d have to change the title of my blog!

    My money says that there’s serious coin to be made from the taxpayers on this, and it’s also why TBP doesn’t want other investors, lest it cut down on his take from the government if not exclude him altogether.

  12. vanderleun Says:

    Dear Mr. Pickens,

    Blow me.

    G. Van der Leun

  13. vanderleun Says:

    ” As far as I know, you can’t invest in his wind project. ”


    Why have shareholders when you can get the money free from the taxpayers?

  14. physicsguy Says:

    “ENERGY – the 6 most misunderstood letters in the English language…”

    Ain’t it the truth. I could bore you all with the cold hard facts of wind and solar, but I think I would preaching to the choir here. The efficiencies ae just too low, the energy density too low. Yes, they are useful in certain circumstances, but as a replacement for the grid?? Fuhgettabouttit.

    I just keep waiting for Scotty (RIP James Doohan) to say to all these folks what he used to say to Captain Kirk: “I can’t change the laws of physics!”

  15. Jimmy J. Says:

    Sorry this is so long, but the energy problem is multifaceted. I sent this to my Senators – Cantwell & Murray, my Representative – Larsen, and to John McCain. No replies thus far.

    As I see it the problem can be broken down into three areas. The first and most immediate is providing fuel for transportation in this country. Without adequate supplies of fuel (gasoline, diesel, ethanol, biodiesel, jet fuel), prices will increase to the point where our economy and even our military will be crippled and produce far below their potential. A crippled economy provides less of everything that allows Americans to enjoy their present high standard of living.

    The transportation problem can be broken down into three divisions, Immediate action (now to 3 years), Intermediate action (3years – 10 years), and long term (10 years – 50 years).

    What can be done immediately (now to 3 years) to help alleviate soaring fuel prices?
    1. Investigate the oil commodities market to see if, in fact, there is any chicanery going on there. There are rumors of this. It seems that steps should be taken to dispel the rumors or verify them. If there is chicanery and oil prices are artificially inflated, steps can be taken to stop the chicanery. This would reduce prices immediately.
    2. Announce that the Federal Government will release 1/3 of the strategic oil reserve in daily amounts that would tilt the supply demand equation slightly into surplus supply.
    3. Eliminate the tariff on Brazilian ethanol. This would bring much more ethanol into the system at reasonable prices. In addition, pass legislation requiring all autos in this country to have flex fuel engines. (Cost – about $100/car.)
    4. Authorize new refinery capacity or additional capacity for old refineries bypassing the onerous permitting and environmental roadblocks to such action. The refinery capacity in this country needs to be increased by at least 15% as quickly as possible.
    5. Implement a policy of aggressive exploration for oil in this country.This would mean opening up for drilling the Intercontinental shelf areas off both coasts and the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Enact strict measures to make the drilling and production facilities environmentally safe. Open up not only ANWR, but also the Naval Petroleum Reserve that is west of Prudhoe Bay in northern Alaska.
    6. Allow large pilot programs for developing our oil shale reserves in the Green River Shale of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. Encourage development of coal to liquid projects near large coal deposits. These coal based liquids can provide fuel for diesel trucks and jet engines, two of our biggest users of transportation fuels.
    7. Encourage telecommuting, 4 day (10 hour/day) work weeks, video-conferencing, and other such fuel saving ideas that can save workers both money and fuel. A lot seems to be happening here already.
    8. Brazil has just found two huge oil fields in their offshore area. Now would be a good time to provide expertise and incentives to get that oil in the pipeline with the U. S. as a major customer.

    What can be done in the intermediate term. (3 – 10 years.)?
    1. It takes about ten years for the truck and auto fleet in this country to become more efficient overall. Give tax incentives to people to buy more fuel efficient cars during this entire period.
    2. Push forward aggressively in reforming the Air Traffic Control System in the U.S. This neanderthal, inefficient system costs the airlines and their passengers much wasted fuel and time every day. Consider privatizing the Air Traffic Control System to accomplish the goal.
    3. Give the auto makers incentives to produce more fuel efficient cars. High mpg diesel engines may well be the way forward over the intermediate term. The technology is available, easy to implement, and cheaper than hybrids or all electric cars. Hybrids are also worth pushing.
    4. This is when opening up the offshore and Alaskan areas will begin to pay off. Oil from that exploration and drilling will come to market allowing us to import much less oil.
    5. The work started on coal liquids, ethanol and bio-diesel 3 years ago will start paying off.

    What can be done in the long term (10 – 50 years.)
    1. Provide incentives for research on clean new fuels for transportation. Electric and hydrogen power now seem to be the leaders, but they must first be made practical and available at a price that won’t destroy the economy. Any such new mode of transportation power would take 25 – 50 years to implement, so it is for the long term.
    2. It is at this point that our efforts to utilize coal-liquids and oil shale will come to fruition. While the U.S. will be shifting to other energy for transportation, many nations will still be dependent on oil based products. We could then become an exporter of petroleum.
    3. We mustn’t lose sight of the fact that we will continue to need oil/petroleum based products to produce plastics, medicines, fertilizer, and fabrics. We must also recognize that fuel for our aircraft will be petroleum based much longer than for trucks/autos.

    The second part of our energy problem relates to the energy to provide plentiful supplies of electricity. At present our electricity is produced by hydro-electric power, coal-fired plants, natural gas fired plants, nuclear plants, wind generators, tidal generators, solar panel arrays, and geothermal heat. It is estimated that we will need to double our electric generating capacity in the next fifty years. Maybe more than that if electric cars become practical.

    1. We seem to be going full speed ahead on solar, tidal, wind, and geothermal. Unfortunately, at best, those sources probably will not produce more than 20% of our total electricity needs. Natural gas is limited and is more valuable at present as a source for heating buildings. Coal produces most of our electricity, but is dirty. The one alternative that is clean and abundant is nuclear. This country needs to get cracking on building nuclear power plants now. They take time to build and we will need a lot of them over the next 50 years. The U.S. Navy has been using nuclear power in their ships for 50 years with no major accidents. The new pebble bed nuclear units are simpler, safer, and more efficient than old technology.
    2. There are still many places in the U.S. where small hydro-electric plants could be installed. The Swiss have put in small plants all over their country. Wherever there is water running downhill, hydroelectric can be made to work. This should be encouraged. Once a plant is built the cost to produce clean electricity is quite small.
    3. Clean coal technology may well be possible and should be pursued because we have a lot of coal. There may be other clean energy sources for electricity and research for those new sources should be ongoing.

    The third part of the energy equation relates to heating our buildings. Much has already been done in this area. Improved building codes, better windows, tighter sealing, heavier insulation, more efficient furnaces and water heaters are all part of the mix. We have come a long way in conservation, but there is still more that can be done. However, sealing up houses too tightly is unhealthy for the occupants. So there is an upper limit to gains in that area. In the Northeast many houses are still heated with heating oil. Natural gas is presently cleaner and more efficient for home heating. Oil heat should be phased out and replaced by natural gas wherever possible. It seems to me that geo-thermal heat pumps are the building heating systems of the future. (5 – 50 years) They are much, much more efficient than a regular heat pump. Work needs to be done to make them easier and less disruptive to install (their coils have to be below ground or underwater) as well as priced comparably to a natural gas furnace (Presently about 2-3 times as expensive).

    I hope you will look at these ideas and realize that our present problem is the result of not utilizing the resources we have here in this country while relying on buying them from other countries, some of whom do not have our best interests at heart.

  16. FredHjr Says:


    Like all the suggestions in your letter. However, there’s a reason why Congress’ approval rating is in the single digits. So far, they remain intransigent against the will of the American people and the President.

    Bang the drum on Congress and drive its approval rating to ZERO. If that’s what it will take to make those doofusses pay attention, so be it.

  17. stumbley Says:

    JimmyJ, the problem is that most in Congress have the attention span to get only about two paragraphs in to your letter. Great ideas, though.

  18. Grizzly Recare Says:

    Hello physicsguy,

    I’m also an energy professional. Electrical Engineer in fact.

    It’s interesting that you bring up the laws of physics. I was recently having a conversation with a niece that just graduated from HS and is soon to be entering one of the finest indoctrination sites in the US. She was giving me her take on energy production and how we might “fix” the problem. When I told her that the laws of physics were pretty fixed and we need to operate within those laws.

    She gave me a dumbfounded look and said “Physics has laws???”.

    Yes, she’s an honors graduate…

  19. expat Says:


    I am not competent to comment on the specifics of your proposal, although it sounds good. I think the important aspect of your approach is psychological: it gives people a plan and a feeling of once again being masters of their fate. It also takes the whole energy/climate issue out of the hands of ignorant activists and puts it in the hands of knowledgeable adults. It challenges the people to assess their own energy needs and usage in a rational way–not in the ecochic cause du jour way proposed by celebrities.

    Good work. Let us know if you get responses.

  20. Gringo Says:

    I find it interesting that Neo is discussing Boone Pickens’s wind proposals, because last week someone mentioned the issue of our energy future in a comment. I replied in a comment that linked to the Pickens plan, but the software ate my posting. One embedded link plus two boldfaces= shut down. Sorry, Neo, I do not have kind words for your software.

    Back to the subject. Here are two presentations on the cost of wind power. Note how the cost has gone down in the last 30 years w better design of wind towers.

    http://www.awea.org/utility/040602_DeMeo_Why_Utils_Should_Invest.ppt cost down from 40 cents/KWH in 1979
    http://www.awea.org/pubs/documents/Outlook_2007.pdf current cost of wind

  21. Coaliano Says:


    You can use nuclear process heat to create a liquid diesel fuel from coal. Liquid fuel is the key to transportation–trains, planes, trucks, cars and boats.

  22. Grizzly Recare Says:

    Gringo, please read my lips – Wind is not dispatchable.

    There are only 2 general types of electrical generation; base load and peak load.

    Wind isn’t very dependable therefore not suitable for base load generation. Wind isn’t dispatchable, so it’s not good for peak load generation either…

    Yes, utility companies are investing in wind. It is a PR game… Nothing else… All sorts of folks are telling utilities that they need to have a renewables in their generation mix. But at the end of the day everyone in the business knows that wind and solar are distractions.

  23. Gringo Says:

    Coliano: Yes indeed.

    http://www.awea.org/legislative/#PTC wind tax credit

    http://www.awea.org/pubs/factsheets/Subsidy.pdf energy subsidies for wind compared to fossil fuels.

  24. Perfected democrat Says:

    1. When the economics are feasible, the solutions will materialize. There’s no shortage of energy, only a shortage of cheap energy for too many people; Supply and demand, like the “laws of physics”, rules…

    2. We’re being played like suckers by the gangsters in Opec, particularly the muslims. The more they rattle their sabers over the issue of Israel and their nuclear ambitions, the higher the price of oil goes. The sooner the mullahs are removed from power in Iran, Assad in Syria, and the Saudi “royalty”, the better off we will all be. The best we can then hope for concerning the energy dilemna is an environment of free and fair markets.

  25. Gringo Says:

    Grizzly Recare:
    Gringo, please read my lips – Wind is not dispatchable.

    Expanding the Wind Power Market by Making Wind Dispatchable


    Dispatchable Wind turbine System

  26. Mitsu Says:

    The problem with coal and drilling for oil is simple: global warming. I don’t want to get into some shouting match over global warming, particularly in the comments section of this blog, but suffice it to say it is an extremely serious problem, in my view, and perhaps the single most pressing national security problem we face. Anyway, if you want to debate it, believe me, I am well-versed in the science, which is truly overwhelming. The conservative characterization of the science is, basically, just way, way off the mark. (And yes, I have a degree in physics, not that this ought to guarantee anything, but I am at least somewhat competent to review the scientific evidence).

    However, I do think the only reasonable solution to the problem is going to have to be a massive rollout of nuclear power. The problem of power plant safety is solvable: using “inherently safe” designs you can get plant safety to be virtually foolproof. There remains a serious problem of waste disposal but I think even that is a solvable problem, with enough engineering thought put into it. Of course we ought to do what we can to expand use of renewable energy — my building has solar panels that produce enough power to pay for most of the residential use in the building (11 units). Solar, wind, etc., will help but we will need nuclear in the end, I believe, to fill in the gaps.

  27. Gringo Says:


    Dispatchable wind power valuation in Texas
    “Summary: The value of dispatchable wind power is studied with a regional power market, Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). After we shortly address wind power development and issues in Texas, we introduce a valuation framework using the net market revenue increment concept. Under the framework, two different levels of studies are done. In order to get a high level insight on the dispatchable wind power value in Texas, we tried a simple historical market data based analysis. The result shows that the benefit related with transmission issue will he significant in Texas electricity market. For the detailed analysis for a specific technology option-compressed air energy storage (CAES), we introduce a market simulation analysis framework.”
    You Seok Son,Power Engineering Society General Meeting, 2005. IEEE,Volume , Issue , 12-16 June 2005 Page(s): 1944 – 1947 Vol. 2,Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/PES.2005.1489405

  28. stumbley Says:


    The problem is, and always will be, transportation, particularly in the wide open west. Renewable fuels are wonderful ideas for power generation, but they do nothing for transportation, even considering electric cars (and talk about waste—anyone looked into battery disposal lately, for the tens of thousands of Prius and other batteries that will be due for replacement in four or so years?).

    I agree, the answer is definitely nuclear. Even the founder of Greenpeace says so.

  29. Vince P Says:

    “The problem with drilling is global warming”


  30. Vince P Says:

    Sorry abou that, I thought it would word-wrap

  31. huxley Says:

    Mitsu — Thanks for the “perhaps” in “most pressing national security problem.” I’m persuaded that there is some validity to global warming, though I don’t get the impression that the GW crowd has this nailed down as thoroughly as they say, or how much we can do about it without plunging the world economy into a tailspin worse than the effects of warming.

    In any event, there are other good reasons to phase out of oil and coal. Some day solar may do the trick, but in the interim I agree that nuclear is the way to go. I’m champing at the bit for any candidate who will solidly back nuclear power.

  32. FredHjr Says:

    The climate warming that ended in 1998 was caused by a combination of intensification of solar radiation (sunspot activity) and a concurrent period of unusually active geothermal energy release in the deep oceans from the earth’s core. The role of CO2 emissions from human activity is NON QUANTIFIABLE. Also, correlation does not equal causation. I know the science – I even saw Al Gore’s film. I think Prof. Revelle would be ashamed of what Gore did with his life’s work.

    Are we going to let junk science drive economic and energy policy? If we do, then we deserve the ill-effects that attend that irrationality.

  33. maneocon Says:

    No other source of energy known to man is as efficient, as compact and as clean – all complaints to the contrary. One other source of energy, Nuclear – is as efficient, is neither compact nor clean nor safe. Can you imagine a wind-powered car?

    Until we run out of all forms of hydrocarbons or its use is inefficient and uneconomical, humans will continue to consume it. And when it does come to that, we would have moved onto the next optimal source of energy. This is how humans evolved.

  34. huxley Says:

    Fred & Mitsu — I’m not taking anyone’s certainty on global warming. There are scientists on both sides of this — yes, even with degrees in physics, Mitsu, and I’ll take Freeman Dyson’s opinion over yours any day — who differ. The IPCC reports always couch their certainties at 80-90% which, while high, are something less than 100%.

    Global warming scientists have not predicted the plateau we’ve been on since 1998, much less the cooling of the past year.

    My prediction is that this will be settled, like Iraq, by the facts on the ground. If the temperatures get decisively hotter, then we will start to act. By then it may be late or too late, but that’s how it’s going to be. And any environmentalist or scientist who complains will have to remember all the false cries of wolf they have made since the 1950s about the world on the brink of one catastrophe or another.

  35. Grizzly Recare Says:

    I’m voting for Mr. Fusion. Anyone know where I can get one?? 😉


  36. SteveH Says:

    “”I am well-versed in the science, which is truly overwhelming.

    Shouldn’t overwhelming evidence of warming..uhhh..include warming? I’m at a loss for words how obviously intelligent people buy into such an obvious scam.
    A good test is for these people to ask themselves one question about global warming. If it were demonstrably proved that mankind and his commerce couldn’t possibly have a measurable effect on climate; would you be dissappointed?

    I think i know that answer for 95% of GW people. Who BELIEVE only on faith because the facts are unknowable, hence unprovable.

    There is no room for emotion in authentic science. Emotion is exactly whats given us a global warming crisis when there IS NO WARMING.

    I’m personally sick to death of the overhyped subject and its absurdity.

  37. Mitsu Says:

    Just to set a few things straight about global warming — there has not been a “plateau since 1998” — that’s a talking point which comes from biased think tanks who conveniently leave out the fact that they’re only talking about surface temperatures *in the United States*. Don’t you think it’s rather interesting that those trumpting the NASA temperature data never mention this fact? In fact, when it comes to *global* temperature, 2005 is the warmest year on record, and all ten of the hottest years *globally* have been since 1989. In reality, temperature will vary locally quite a bit, with average temperature going up but some local areas actually getting cooler. This is what you would expect from massive climate change and what the models predict. So the fact that the United States hasn’t been as warm as the planet as a whole doesn’t mean much of anything against the thesis.

    As for Freeman Dyson, he believes global warming is happening, is caused primarily by human activity, and is likely to be major. He simply thinks that we’ll be able to solve the problem through land management (carbon sequestration, replanting forests, etc.) and mitigation (putting money into mitigating the impact as well as prevention). He also thinks the GCM models are unreliable, which isn’t to say he thinks they’re wrong. The fact is, even if the GCM models are unreliable, they still represent the best available predictive tool we have, and the climate observations we have indicate that if they’re wrong they’re certainly not far wrong. But basically Dyson thinks we’ll be able to solve the problems of global warming through massive scale ecological engineering projects and other mitigation strategies — he’s a technological optimist. He’s a charming man who thinks people will do the rational thing. I, on the other hand, am far less sanguine. I’m certainly open to his suggestions — massive replanting of forests, moving cities away from coasts, etc., but to think these things are likely to occur with ease is rather naive. It’s not surprising coming from a guy who imagines building things like the Dyson sphere … he thinks big. But most people don’t. Dyson isn’t saying global warming isn’t a problem or isn’t happening: he’s saying we can deal with it in other ways than stopping burning carbon-based fuels. Sure — but conservatives have not been talking about any strategies for dealing with warming, they’re busy denying it is even a problem.

    You have to keep in mind, there really isn’t a big debate about whether or not global warming is occuring in the scientific world. There are a tiny minority of “skeptics” and a vast, vast majority who can see the evidence. There have always been a tiny number of skeptics on any given issue in science — that’s to the good. But it’s really not a balance. The evidence is stark. Ask Freeman Dyson: “One of the main causes of warming is the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere resulting from our burning of fossil fuels such as oil and coal and natural gas.”

    But back to power generation. I should note that Obama has supported nuclear power generation in the past, in fact he was attacked for his support of it by the left. I believe nuclear power is essential — it’s going to be crucial. I am hopeful Obama will lead the way towards encouraging the development of new technologies, including nuclear power. It’s the right approach for American energy security.

    As for transportation: I agree, this is a problem. But there are a variety of potential solutions. For one thing, electric and hybrid vehicles are coming quickly — the Aptera Typ-1 for instance will go on sale next year for $30,000. It gets 300 mpg for shorter trips and 130mpg for long trips. It’s only a two-seater but I think it’s the shape of things to come in personal transportation. As for long haul freight, I think we’re going to have to invest heavily in a rail infrastructure. Transporting things by train is 10x more efficient than by air. If we beef up the rail system we can run it on electricity and transport many of the things we currently transport by truck. Through a variety of initiatives we can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels dramatically, perhaps to the point where we can use biofuels and the dwindling liquid petroleum supply with much more efficient personal vehicles and train transportation between hubs, with trucks used primarily for local delivery of goods and services.

  38. Vince P Says:

    There’s been no warming the whole decade. In fact it’s cooled a little.

    The ocean temps have cooled too.

    However, there’s more Co2 in the air than ever.

    There goes that theory.

    The Sun is very inactive .. has been all year. The new sunspot cycle has not begun. it’s more than half a year late.

    The last time this happened, they had what was called the Little Ice Age.

    Just like with the Iran stuff.. people willingly close their eyes and ears to the obvious open facts.

    these peolpe scare the hell out of me.

  39. SteveH Says:

    Nuclear power is nothing less than a miraculous energy source. In fact its so miraculous that it fits nowhere in the plans of people for whom this whole energy crisis is about limiting mankinds commerce.

  40. FredHjr Says:

    There most certainly is plenty of debate about what caused the warming period of the 1980’s on up to 1998. The consensus may tell thousands of dissenting scientists to STFU, but that does not mean that the hypothesis of man made global warming has gone unchallenged.

    Again, please read the articles about the hypothesis. Take another gander at Al Gore’s film. Note that they do not establish causation in any way. Moreover, the computer modeling has been impossibly snagged by the daunting task of prediction.

    I reject mitsu’s assertions that a highly controversial and certainly debatable hypothesis should drive energy policy.

    Moreover, the debate about this demonstrates, rather openly, what happens when you disagree with Leftists: they tell you to shut the f**k up, leave the room, and leave your profession and professional associations. They ostracize you and slander your work. There are plenty of scientists and students out there who disagree with The Consensus, but are afraid to do so publicly, for fear of losing their jobs, their funding, and their reputations.

  41. Mitsu Says:

    Vince P: you obviously are posting without reading. Allow me to repeat: the claim that there hasn’t been warming in this decade is FALSE. That only applies to local temperatures *in the United States*. WORLD temperatures have continued to rise in this decade, with 2005 the hottest year on record, and all 10 of the hottest years on record occurring after 1989. Yes, that is the stark reality and the NASA temperature “correction” doesn’t change this in the least — they were merely talking about temperatures in the US.

  42. Mitsu Says:

    And also, FredHjr, you are also clearly posting without reading.

  43. Jamie Says:

    Whether or not the globe is warming (or cooling), whether or not it’s warming (or cooling) due to human activity, the engines of the sun and of plate tectonics continue to chug. The Earth, and its landmasses, which are very important to us humans from a food production standpoint (today, at any rate), will both warm and cool, no matter what we do. This being the case, ISTM we ought to focus our attention much more urgently on adaptability rather than on a Canute-y effort to hold back the tide.

    We’re the first species on Earth with the ability to adapt profoundly to environmental change. We have a strength here; we ought to use it, even if it’s not immediately necessary.

    BTW, I also find it mighty presumptuous to assume that the Earth’s climate exactly as it is today is the ideal we should be striving to maintain. Ask the denizens of the Sahara…

  44. Jamie Says:

    Mitsu, remember when there was broad scientific consensus that humans had 48 chromosomes?

  45. Perfected democrat Says:

    GW is “the single most pressing national security problem we face…”; The problem with coal and drilling for oil is simple: global warming.”

    Preach to the Chinese, India, Russia, OPEC and the burgeoning third world, who have demonstrated no serious intent to deal with the problem from their ends; If indeed, other than deforestation, it is a man made problem which can and needs to be “corrected”, then the high cost of carbon based energy will ultimately be the natural brake on it’s usage. More likely, and according to an authentically politically neutral, but very academically qualified, credible and growing circle of the scientific community, GW is more significantly related to natural phenomena to which we need to learn to adapt, and perhaps even harness for the betterment of civilization. The “most pressing national security problem” is not the sky falling next year or the year after, it is blackmail by an alliance of nuclear empowered muslim fanatics, coordinated with Chinese communist and Putin Russia ambitions, people who, more than anything, desire the diminution of American strength, the only thing standing in the way of their own totalitarian conquests.

  46. Mitsu Says:

    I actually agree that we should add mitigation to our toolkit of strategies, as Freeman Dyson and others suggest. But, really, burning less carbon-based fuels doesn’t mean we have to cut back on our standard of living. It simply means investing in new technologies, becoming more efficient, perhaps making a big push into nuclear energy, etc. I firmly believe we can simultaneously preserve our way of life while becoming more environmentally friendly AND perhaps also mitigate the consequences of warming. We can and should do all of that, ideas from the left and right. But partisan bickering or sticking our heads in the sand in the face of a major energy crisis I don’t think is the right course of action. We face both peak oil AND global warming and as a nation I believe we have the ingenuity to deal with these problems creatively and constructively.

  47. douglas Says:

    Keep in mind that nuclear can be used for transportation. Plug in electric (batteries still an issue), but perhaps much better suited would be rail transport. Couldn’t we have rail running on electricity generated by nukes instead of diesel? I’m thinking electrified lines or mag-lev, not nuke locomotives.

    Lots of stuff people like to tout as ‘solutions’ can be, but usually not on a large scale (grid). However, every house that gets solar panels lightens the burden a bit. Certainly their is value in diversity of power sources.

    I also believe it’s important to continue using enough oil to keep the economy of the middle east stable. Letting the bottom drop out would be a bad idea (if we suddenly developed cold fusion or something).

  48. Jimmy J. Says:

    The AGW proponents and environmentalists believe that somehow we can wean ourselves off fossil fuels and proceed into a glorious future through a combination of conservation and renewable energy. It might be possible, but I don’t think many of us would enjoy the decreased standard of living it would require.

    If we can find and use every barrel of oil left in the ground we may have 75-100 years supply at present rates of use. The Peak Oil proponents will tell you 50 years tops, but I’m more optimistic than they.

    Our job in the USA is, if we care to accept it, to find and use all the fossil fuels we can to power us through to the energy that is going to replace fossil fuels. That is why I drew up the plan, which I posted earlier. I’m no genius, but we do have geniuses around who know a lot more than I do about these issues. If they follow my idea of breaking the problem down into its components and then working all the possible solutions, I believe we can do this successfully just like we invented the atomic bomb and put a crew of men on the moon. If the oil runs out in 75 years and we have transitioned successfully to nuclear, hydro, wind, and solar for electricity; electric, hydrogen, or ?? for transportation; and solar, geothermal heat pumps, and/or ??? for building heating, the CO2 problem will be solved too. AGW proponents would be happy and civilization as we know it would be just fine.

    It’s a big, complex problem and, if we are to maintain a modern standard of living while addressing it, we need to make plans and get moving in the right direction. As expat says, it gives us a goal to work toward and a feeling of being in control. Any plan like this is just like a war plan. Things will change as you go along, but adjustments can be made. What looks possible today, may turn out to be impossible , but something that looks impossible may turn out to be workable.

    I hope some of you will write to your Congressional represntatives and propose just such an approach. Feel free to use any part of my plan to send to anyone you think might make a difference. What is really required is leadership.

  49. Truth Says:

    Bush says “one of the most important steps we can take to expand American oil production is to increase access to off-shore exploration on the Outer Continental Shelf.”

    He cites estimates that suggest oil from that area “could eventually produce nearly 10 years worth of America’s current annual oil production.”


    Will that help?

  50. Perfected democrat Says:

    Eventually the bottom will drop out of their virtually sole oil resourced middle-east economy, and when it does they will be at each other’s throats, and it couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch… They’ll be wishing that they had worked with the Israelis, instead of against them, all those decades, in developing agricultural, desalinization, and other scientific solutions to the problem of large populations surviving on a planet with limited water, energy and other resources.

  51. Mitsu Says:

    The problem with Peak Oil is not that oil is running out soon. It is that oil *production* is peaking. This means that, though there is still oil, the price of oil is going to skyrocket (as it already has). Economics are going to force us to conserve, and to become more efficient. As I say, I see no reason why we have to give up our standard of living — but if we don’t do anything to invest in a better rail network, renewables, AND nuclear energy — we WILL see a drastically lowered standard of living. We ought to start now; we should have started years ago. Hoping that we won’t have to become more efficient is not a way of stabilizing our way of life; it is not a strategy.

  52. Sergey Says:

    Neo, I happend to study the problem of economics and engineering of energetics at great length when translating a book “Projecting energy markets” for Russian government agency planning privatization of the industry. Both proposals – wind and natural gas – are not economically feasible. Gas turbine plants has the only advantage that capital costs are five times less than for building coal plant, but fuel cost is is five times higher than coal. These turbines can be put on operation fast when energy consumption peaks, and quickly shut down when it plummets. So these turbines are used only for peak load, and coal plants for base load – roughly a half of maximum load of the grid. Any economically sound scheme should employ this combination of low cost base load plants and high cost peak load plants; the cost of generation can vary ten times between these two types of energy plants.
    The only feasible alternatives for base load plants are coal and nuclear, but capital costs of construction are very high for both. And peak load can be served only by gas turbines that can be switched on in minutes. Peak hours are evenings, so solar energy can be used during this time, and the only use of it is providing base load for isolated houses, like swimming pool heating and house heating in cold season. Wind turbines are out of question for any serious energy projects: they can not compete with anything by cost/efficency ratio.

  53. Sergey Says:

    Coprrection: can not be used this time (solar energy).

  54. Sergey Says:

    I can only agree with Mitzu that rail network mass transit systems are much more energy effective than cars, trucks, buses and aviation, and they need not liqud motor fuel, so they can drastically reduce oil consumption. The only use of aviation in future will be transcontinental flights, and they, too, will be replaced by Zeppellins.

  55. FredHjr Says:


    I am reading the posts, sir.

    I am not against any of the ways we can decrease our dependence on fossil fuels, but for the foreseeable future fossil fuels remain an important part of the equation. mitsu, for your information I happen to like rail transport, and if I lived in an urban setting I would use it frequently. But, much of America does not live in urban settings and trains cannot solve every transportation need.

    I am against the Kyoto protocols driving energy policy. The reason is not hard to figure out: why should our economy be wracked by paying gargantuan penalties to a corrupt institution that lets the biggest polluters off the hook? I believe the man made global warming hypothesis to be junk science. I did not used to think that way, but stayed with the topic and kept following where the evidence seemed to be pointing. There are some, for political and ideological reasons, stopped growing and stretching.

    Natural processes are responsible for this cycle. Melting of the Arctic Ice can now be attributable to underwater volcanic eruptions in the Arctic. Information we have been getting from Mars indicates that Mars has experienced a warming trend concurrent with ours. It’s mainly the solar radiation.

    I do not consent to having energy policy be driven by a highly questionable hypothesis.

  56. SteveH Says:

    The past 200 years is a history of us moving from higher to lower carbon based fuels (ie: firewood and coal to natural gas and oil). Whats remarkable about it is we did it without central bureacratic planning. The free market did it with a natural efficiency akin to the way water doesn’t need to be told where low ground is.

    Everything about our current govt makeup thwarts and impedes this process. The Thomas Edisons and Wright Brothers exist still today. They just can’t seem to get a foothold past the lawyers, codes, regulations, taxes and environmental impact studies. Not to mention they are surrounded by hostile attitudes that want to make damn sure that their rewards for this innovation is kept in check. Heaven forbid they even try to attempt this without pandering to employees who think they are owed a job in the first place.

    We will advance mankind into an optimistic future when we finally figure out centralized bureacracy has been a giant step backwards. You know….The same issue we all saw so clearly as a problem for the SOVIETS!

    Our best bet to solving energy resources is to stop crushing the most valuable resource we have. Free people.

  57. Jamie Says:

    The Earth has been utterly devoid of ice, as nearly as we can tell, more than once in its history; land temps in the interior of the supercontinents Pangaea, Gondwanaland, and Laurasia were somewhere around 150 degrees, IIRC after many years, based on microfossil evidence. (Luckily there was a lot of waterfront property back then.) Ice Ages have been common too.

    I don’t discount the possibility that human activity can affect climate. I do doubt that our effect is as profound as we’d either like to believe, or fear. The Earth can do plenty to hurt us without our help (to say nothing of what a random asteroid hit can do). But it’s up to us to stave off our own extinction, if we can. (Not having children, not vaccinating the ones we do have, returning to all-organic farming, and curtailing the ability of developing nations to, you know, develop – esp. in terms of improving their life expectancy and reducing their infant/maternal mortality rates – are NOT useful tactics in the fight against extinction.)

  58. physicsguy Says:


    I’ve been through this AGW debate many times, and I believe you are wrong in some of your assertions with regard to the data.

    Second, there are 31,000 scientists who have signed on to a petition disputing the AGW hypothesis. Not exactly a “small minority”.


    Look at the following data which includes the UAH satellite data which is much more accurate than any ground based data and also has the advantage of looking at the whole earth. Examine the data objectively with in mind an overlay of a monotonically increasing CO2 level and then ask yourself if the data supports the hypothesis of human produced CO2 driven climate change.


  59. Gringo Says:

    Sergey: Wind turbines are out of question for any serious energy projects: they can not compete with anything by cost/efficency ratio.

    Not so, Sergey. I pay 6 cents /kwh for wind energy, which is definitely competitive. Since natural gas has increased in price from $2 to $12 /mcf in the last 6 years, that is in favor of wind energy.

    I posted on costs July 14th, 2008 at 6:48 pm. Did you go to the links I gave?
    Wind energy cost 40 cents/KWH in 1979. Today, wind turbines, much taller than those from the 1970s, are competitive.

  60. Sergey Says:

    The most concise summary of scientific facts about global warming:
    The summary of this summary:
    1. Main factors driving world temperature are cyclic oscillation of Earth orbit parametres and solar activity – both beyond human control.
    2. Human contribution to greenhouse effect is negligible, around of 0.2-0,3% of natural greenhouse gases emmission.
    3. If we are in period of rising trend, no policy can measurably change it beyond statistical error.

  61. scotty Says:

    Pickens Energy Plan Discussion Forum at : http://www.pickensenergyplan.com
    Cheers !

  62. SteveH Says:

    Al Gore says the debate is over. I want to know just exactly when and where was this debate and can i get a dvd copy of it.

    Of course i can’t. Because there was no debate. Al Gore has refused to debate. Any debate thet may have taken place at the UN would be akin to Bob Jones and Liberty University having a debate on the validity of Christianity.

    This one incredible attempt at slight of hand has dealt a major blow to the credibility of the current generation of scientist turned out of a radically left of center academia. Perhaps the first clue that this is certainly the case can be found in the fact that there hasn’t been a decade in the history of the world, where todays criteria of evidence wouldn’t most certainly point to AGW even before man existed.

    Meanwhile, the scientific method sits in hibernation awaiting objective personel to rediscover its actual purpose.

  63. Gringo Says:

    A series of comments on Den Best’s postings on wind follow. I would put them into one posting, but Neo’s software blocks out too many HTML tags and links.

    “Ireland is making a massive investment in wind power, but when they’re finished and have fully deployed all sites it’s only going to generate 520 megawatts, when the wind is blowing. That’s one eighth of the power generated by The Dalles Dam.”

    Texas added 1465

  64. Gringo Says:

    Sorry about the previous posting cutoff
    Texas added 1465 megawatts of wind power in 2007. BTW, there is an Irish company that is involved in wind energy in Texas. I’ll try to find out its name.

  65. Gringo Says:

    Den Best: “Wind: It isn’t where we need it.”

    Den Best is correct. For example, the Great Plains Wind Tunnel is far from population centers. We need inproved transmission lines from areas that generate wind energy to population centers that will be using that energy.

    From the NYT

    Texas is better equipped to deal with the transmission problems that snarl wind energy in other states because a single agency operates the electrical grid and manages the deregulated utility market in most of the state.
    Last July, the Texas Public Utility Commission approved transmission lines across the state capable of delivering as much as 25,000 megawatts of wind energy by 2012, presuming the boom continues. That would be five times the wind power generated in the state today, and it would drive future national growth.

    Where there are problems, there are also solutions.

  66. harry McHitlerburtonstein the COnservative Extremist Says:

    “I don’t want to get into some shouting match over global warming, particularly in the comments section of this blog, but suffice it to say it is an extremely serious problem, in my view, and perhaps the single most pressing national security problem we face.”

    Said with all the conviction liberals usually devote to a feverently held beliefs.

    Have Mr. Gore’s lear jet spooled up on the tarmac. He’s got an AGW rock concert to appear in.

  67. Sergey Says:

    Gringo, it is not cost itself, but overall market competitiveness uncluding other factors except price. There are essentually two different markets in energy generation: base load market and peak load market. Base load energy is five times cheaper, but it does not influence peak load market prices, because it can not be delivered when needed. Wind turbines are not sutable for both segments of energy market, since we need a reliable supply for base load market and easily controlable, operatively delivered energy at peak load market, and wind power is neither reliable nor easily controllable. You still can use it to warm your swimming pool, but not to power your computer.
    There is trade-off between capital cost of building an energy plant and operative cost of run it. For coal and nuclear plants capital costs are high, but fuel is cheap. But you can not switch off these plants quickly, and they never should be switched of so they can pay off constructing costs. Gas turbine is cheap to build, can be stopped and put under load in seconds, but expensive due fuel cost. Wind turbines are appoximatedly as capital-intensive as coal, but unsuitable for base load due unrealibility of supply.

  68. Gringo Says:

    Den Beste: “And I’m still not convinced that it won’t take years before any given windmill finally yields as much total energy as it took to make it, transport it and install it.”
    From Wind Power Myths versus Facts, from the AWEA website.

    “The energy payback time for wind is in fact similar to or better than that of conventional power plants. A recent study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison calculated the average energy payback of Midwestern wind farms to be between 17 and 39 times as much energy as they consume (depending on the average wind speeds at the site), while nuclear power plants generate only about 16 times and coal plants 11 times as much energy as they consume.”

    The older windmills were less efficient. For example , the Patterson Pass project in the Altamont Pass in northern California ( near where I attended that historic Rolling Stones concert in 1969) used 15 units per MW capacity(21.84 MW, 336 units), whereas the more recent projects in California and Texas use around 0.5 units per MW capacity ( 0.3-1, depending on the capcity). Bigger, more eficient.

  69. Gringo Says:

    source follows. I don’t like dong it this way, but Neo’s software is not friendly, and ate another of my postings. According to Neo’s software: source= spam.

    for info regarding MW per unit, or vice versa:
    awea.org/projects will lead you there.

  70. Gringo Says:


  71. Sergey Says:

    To minimize costs, operator of the grid who buys energy from generators should know beforehand how much energy he can by from whom, and prices can differ 10 times and more. Electricity can’t be stored, and by laws of physics its supply always is equal to consumption. With wind farms, he could not buy their energy in schedule to fill expected gaps, for he does not know next day weather. So, their energy is not sutable for grid and can be used only locally for not vital needs. After market reform in California the energy market run amok, prices were sometimes 100 times higher to balance supply and demand, and imbalance can lead to total blackout of large segments of the grid.

  72. Sergey Says:

    To balance unpredictability of wind energy, you need more gas turbines as back-ups, but their energy is several times more expensive than that of coal stations. So overall economic calculation do not allow to rise their share above 10% of base load, and even this would be too risky for grid reliability.

  73. Sergey Says:

    Gringo, the facts from AWEA website that you cited, even if true, are misleading. It is useless to compare payback times for wind farms and coal or nuclear plants, because they belong to different segments of energy market, and can not substitute each other.

  74. Grizzly Recare Says:

    WOW Sergey!!!

    I’m impressed!!!

  75. Gringo Says:

    Sergey: “Gringo, it is not cost itself, but overall market competitiveness uncluding other factors except price……..”

    Sergey, you posted on price, and I replied on price. PERIOD. I will be very glad to continue to pay 6 cents per KWH for my wind-generated electrical energy, thank you very much.

    I will now reply to your CHANGING OF THE GOALPOSTS.

    I do not know of anyone who is advocating that wind energy be the sole source of our electrical energy. It is part of the mix. At what percentage of our (US) electric capacity will the intermittent capacity of wind energy become an issue needs to be further investigated. Yes, it is an issue. Thus far in Texas, the biggest wind energy producer in the US, it has not yet become an issue.

    Regarding the intermittent nature of electrical energy, I refer you to my previous postings that link to research involving making wind energy despatchable. To the degree that becomes feasible, wind energy will be able to used as base load in the future. I tend to gravitate towards batteries instead of compressed air, at least for small applications. Perhaps this is where hydrogen comes in, with a BIG emphasis on “perhaps.” (While electrical energy cannot be stored, it can be transferred into another form of energy, which can then be transferred back into electrical energy, with an accompanied loss of energy in the transfer. Ex: compressed air and batteries. Ex: pumping water uphill, which then passes through turbine. Pumping water uphill is not feasible at all for the flat and dry Great Plains, which are the greatest potential source for wind energy in the US.)

    One potential ameliorating factor regarding intermittent wind is that as wind goes up and down in different places at different times, this might balance out with wind energy coming from a variety of locations.

    I now will stop my reply to Sergey and go onto another topic.

    I prefer replacing coal power plants w nuclear, with the coal then liquified for transportation.

    In 2002, the US consumed 97 quads of energy (quadrillion BTUs). Of the 38 quads used in the production of electrical energy, approximately 27 quads came from fossil fuels. There is the possibility of replacing some of that fossil fuel production with wind energy and nuclear. Some of this fossil fuel use no longer used in electricity production could be freed up for transportation. At the same time, as very little fossil fuel electrical production comes from oil ( 0.9 quads), this would necessitate coal-oil conversion or natural-gas fueled vehicles ( not my macro-level recommendation, though it is good for gas-rich Bolivia.).

    Transportation used 27 quads of petroleum in 2002. Some of this petroleum could be replaced with coal-oil conversion or natural gas freed up from electrical energy consumption. To the degree that hybrid or all-electric cars can directly replace some oil consumption in transportation, this would be where wind energy production could have a direct effect on one’s personal car. Because petroleum has long been the best dollar per weight/volume choice for fueling transport, any replacement of petroleum for transportation uses will not come quickly.

  76. Gringo Says:

    source for quad data.

  77. Sergey Says:

    If you need both cost-effectivity and reliability, you have no other alternatives as coal plants in short-term perspective (say, 10-15 years) and nuclear energy in long-term perspective (say, 30-50 years). Later, thermonuclear energy may (or may not) become feasible. Everything else does not deserve serious consideration.

  78. Gringo Says:

    Sergey: “Gringo, the facts from AWEA website that you cited, even if true, are misleading. It is useless to compare payback times for wind farms and coal or nuclear plants, because they belong to different segments of energy market, and can not substitute each other.”

    My posting was with regards to Den Beste’s opinion that ‘“And I’m still not convinced that it won’t take years before any given windmill finally yields as much total energy as it took to make it, transport it and install it.”

    THAT is what I was posting on. Again, changing of the goalposts.

    Here is further support for my reply to Den Beste’s comment.

    . The “energy payback time” (a measure of how long a power plant must operate to generate the amount of electricity required for its manufacture and construction) of a wind project is 3 to 8 months, depending on the wind speed at the site – one of the shortest of any generation technology.

    . Try changing the goalposts on THAT, Sergey!

  79. Sergey Says:

    Of course, high capacity and cheap batteries can change everything, but they does not exist yet, and those that can accumulate enough energy per gram of weght are too expensive to use in transportation and energetics, they are fit only to cell telephones and notebooks. Forget about compressed air: by the laws of thermodynamics, you can recover only 40% of energy used to compress it. For hydroaccumulating stations chances are better, they can be 95% effective, but construction costs are ruinous. Only in mountains you can build them with acceptable costs, but nuclear energy is still more effective.

  80. Sergey Says:

    I am not arguing with Den Beste, I have my own considerations about energetics, based on actual knowlege of the subject. Den Beste is self-educated blogger and journalist, with zero engineering background. I am a specialist in physico-chemical hydrodynamics and thermodynamics and holder of patents in mechanical engineering. I was invited to project of planning Russian energy markets by Chubais team (RAO ES) and worked there with real specialists in energetics, so I know economics of this industry, too.

  81. Gringo Says:

    Sergey, your comments of 10:52 are on the money.

    Regarding the energy losses of compressed air: agreed. Similarly by the laws of thermodynamics, energy efficiencies of thermoelectric plants using fossil fuels are 30-40%. Delta T’s and all that.

    One point about batteries is that the energy involved in their construction needs to be taken into account in any net energy analysis. I have read some that claim that due to energy used in making batteries, a Hummer uses less net energy than a Prius. I am not claiming this myself, just to point out that it is something to investigate.

  82. vanderleun Says:

    Actually Den Beste IS an engineer.

    Here’s the link:

    Dean’s World – Steven Den Beste – Godfather of Bloggers

    So, as I said to T. Boone Pickens high above:

    “Blow me” with your wild, wild wind.

  83. Sergey Says:

    “Energy payback time” is not a meaningful metric for any engineering project, it does not include actual construction costs, maintenance costs and, most important, logistics – cost of transportation of materials, building of transmitting grid and so on. The last item Den Beste included in his considiration, and quite reasonably so, because too little power in a remote location hardly can payback construction and maintenance of a transmission line to a big population center. Long transmission lines require high-voltage technology, with transformers on both ends, and they are expensive, too.

  84. Donna Says:

    So why aren’t the environmentalists upset about the birds dying due to wind power? I grew up on a farm in Kansas with a windmill used to pump water to the house. And we had a lot of wind, believe me. But still, when electricity came in 1954 my older brothers quickly installed an electric pump to assist. Guess there wasn’t enough wind power.

    I now live in California, Silicon Valley. Solar power all over the place, mostly for swimming pools. Solar power companies are trying to compete, but still too expensive to be feasible. We have sun over 300 days a year, but San Francisco doesn’t, nor do any of the coastal areas. And Michigan, where I moved from, forget about it! They have over 300 cloudy days a year!

    Nuclear is the way to go. Britain is ordering 9 new plants to be built. Maybe after the election we can come up with something. Let’s hope.

  85. Sergey Says:

    vanderleun, he is SOFWARE Engineer. I meant HARDWARE engineering. Two very different beasts.

  86. Sergey Says:

    To your knowlege, recently Russia announced plans to build 30 new nuclear stations in Russia and 24 more in India in 15 years.

  87. Jimmy J. Says:

    All the debate about wind versus coal or natural gas to produce electricity is good and increases our knowledge. These are the types of debates that should be taking place at the highest levels of government and the enrgy industry.

    The primary reason we are in the spot we are vis a vis oil is that the environmenatl movement has managed to influence the government to stop drilling in many areas that are known to hold large reserves. What government can do is recognize we are going to need those reserves to get to the energy of the future. Right now if an oil company wants to drill on publicland that is open to drilling, it takes two years and a lot of money to get the permit. Even if they do get a permit, the enviros can file an injunction and delay them almost indefinitely. The government could and should put a stop to this kind of harrassment of the oil companies. Opening up the outer continental shelves (we know where much of the oil is off of California and Florida), ANWR and the areas west of Prudhoe Bay in Alaska (we also know where much of thet oil is), and authorize large scale pilot projects in both oil shale and coal liquefication would result in much more fuel for transportation in just 5 years.

    Encouraging the buying of high mpg autos and trucks through tax incentives is another thing government can do to reduce total use of transportation fuels.

    One area of conservation that no one talks about is the practice of leaving lights on in big city buildings. During the oil embargo in the 70s all unnecessary lights were turned off. The result was such a great saving of electricity that the electric utilities revolted, claiming it threatened their ability to stay in business. Don’t know if it could work this time, but if I was mayor of New York or any other major city, I would explore this avenue of conservation. Maybe just shutting off 1/3 of the unnecessary lights would help without threatening the utilities survival.

    What I have laid out above is an overall plan , which would probably have to be promulgated by the government, but the various parts of the plan would be implemented by private enterprise. Government’s role would be to stay out of the way as much as possible.

    All this is verey hard to implement because the enviromental movement, which only represents 15-20% of the population, is well organized and funded. Many of them have positions high up in the government and many of them are lawyers or judges who, through the use of injunctions filed on behalf of the Endangered Species Act, are able to stymie energy companies quite effectively.

    An example would be the recent expansion of a refinery in Illinois: “ConocoPhillips in Illinois, an American company, had their oil refinery
    expansion blocked today by the federal EPA even though the Illinois EPA approved of the expansion. The expansion for processing Canadian crude (oil sands crude) would have increased volume from 60,000 barrels a day to more than 500,000 barrels. The company said the state of art technology at the refinery would significantly reduce air emissions, including a 95% reduction in sulfur dioxide and a 25% reduction in nitrogen oxides.

    The American Bottom Conservancy, the Illinois chapter of the Sierra Club and the National Resource Defense council all huge donors to the Democrat party effectively blocked the expansion. ”

    If we are to regain control of our ability to use the energy we have here in the USA, the voices of citizens will have to be louder than those of the environmentalists. Write your Congress persons today!

  88. Sergey Says:

    Stop thinking in kilowatt-hours, this is a blind alley even for electrical engineer. Think in dollars. This is the only relevant metric in economic planning, for economics of energetics too.

  89. Mitsu Says:

    physicsguy: Most of the claims that lower troposphere measurements do not show warming were based on uncorrected analyses — corrected analyses show a warming trend in the satellite data.

    Regarding whether or not we’re even contributing to greenhouse gases — that’s one of the most peculiar claims I’ve read (that we’re not even contributing to greenhouse gases significantly?) Surely that’s one data trend that is undisputed by anyone serious. The current CO2 level is over 380 ppm, which is over 80 ppm higher than the highest level we’ve been able to measure going back as far as we can (800,000 years).

  90. Vince P Says:

    Yeah.. the CO2 is that high and the temps are going down.

    What does that tell you about CO2’s effect on temps?

    It’s irreverent at the minute level that it is.

  91. physicsguy Says:

    What “corrected trend”? What correction is applied? I haven’t seen such a corrected trend and I wouldn’t believe it until someone explains what the correction is. Is it the time base for zero degrees, instrumental error, or what? Do you know?

    Yes, CO2 is rising and the historic data also shows that the CO2 rise LAGS behind the temperature trend. This bit of data suggests that the largest sink of CO2, the oceans, begin outgassing with warmer temps. i.e. the historic data suggests that CO2 is a SYMPTOM , not a cause of wamer temps.

    I agree the temps have been rising, but there is not a single shred of conclusive evidence that CO2 is the primary cause, and even less evidence that humans are behind anyof this. It’s just part of the natural cycle of the earth.

    If you want I can give you references to some papers about a strong solar link to temps related to the magnetic field of the sun influencing cosmic ray flux and cloud formation. There’s also very strong evidenc of the ENSO being a major player in the shorter term trends over the last 100 years.

  92. Tom Says:

    The enviros are a huge part of our problem. To tediously restate the ovious, they are seen as nobly battling the government, and, of course, evil big business. Our air and water are vastly cleaner now (indeed, a recent article in a respected natural sciences journal posited that GW is enhanced by the reduced particulate air pollution, allowing more solar radiation to reach the earth’s surface), but if the enviros rested on their laurels, their contribution revenues would dry up. Maxim: follow their money!

    The government is us! That should be obvious, but oddly is not.

  93. Sergey Says:

    Internal combustion engine is an anachronism, it will never give more than 40% efficiency. Fuel cells are not constrained by this theoretical limit, so every effort in making them less costly and more efficient can be amply rewarded. If any research field in energetics deserve more funding, my first choice would be fuel cell technology.

  94. Sergey Says:

    Based on the analysis of entrapped air from ice cores extracted from permanent glaciers from various regions around the globe, it has been demonstrated that global warming began 18,000 years ago, accompanied by a steady rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide. What caused this phenomenon is a matter of ongoing debate. Clearly, though, global warming and rising CO2 levels in Earth’s atmosphere started long before the industrial revolution.

  95. harry McHitlerburtonstein the COnservative Extremist Says:

    “it has been demonstrated that global warming began 18,000 years ago, accompanied by a steady rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide.”

    Lets not forget that within this time there have been cyclical ups-and-downs in temperature trends. The medieval warm period and the “little ice age” being examples that climate alarmist have been attempting to hide.

  96. Robohobo Says:

    I do not have time to read 94 comments but has anyone looked at the efficiencies of nuclear? Much safer that it used to be and more efficient than it used to be also. Hell, launch the waste into the sun ya’ll are that all fired worried about it. Or bury it in Carlsbad salt caves (WIPP) or Yucca Mountain. Lasts a long, long time. And we have huge reserves of yellowcake. I seem to remember we just came into a bunch recently.

  97. SteveH Says:

    I tell you what i find absurd about proposed AGW solutions. One very natural volcano can erase a trillion dollars worth of man’s attempt at climate control.

    The phallacy of climate control is along the same lines of insisting the Titanic might have been saved if the passengers had only been equipped with state of the art baling buckets.

  98. physicsguy Says:

    Sergey and Robohobo,

    Yes, the internal combustion engine is limited to about 40%, and nuclear is also around 40%. (net thermal efficiency) .

    However, EVERY energy conversion process is limited by the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. This is known as the Carnot efficiency which in it’s simplest form is

    1 – Tc/Th

    where Tc is the low temp of the conversion process and Th is the high temp. This is the limit for a perfect engine. Note that even for a perfect engine there can not be 100% efficiency. All real processes have effciencies usually much less than the Carnot efficiency.

    This is one of those laws that Nature plays by, and that the Greens don’t seem to have a clue about.

  99. njcommuter Says:

    Forget about compressed air: by the laws of thermodynamics, you can recover only 40% of energy used to compress it.

    Is that with or without heat recovery (so-called adiabatic compression)?

  100. Sergey Says:

    “EVERY energy conversion process is limited by the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics”
    Wrong. First, this is not due 2nd law, but due the 3d law; and second, this limit apply only to heat engine, and do not apply to electrochemical cells. They, just like semiconductor solar cells, can be close to 100% efficiency of conversion. Internal combustion, gas or steam turbines are all examples of a heat engine. Nuclear plants also use steam turbines. That is why I advocate fuel cells. Like your car battery, they give out almost all energy you put in them, but you put it in form of fuel, not electricity, which was generated with lucklustre efficiency below 40%.

  101. Sergey Says:

    Heat can not be converted into mechanical energy with efficiency higher 40%. In compressors it usually simply discarded.

  102. Gray Says:

    Most of the claims that lower troposphere measurements do not show warming were based on uncorrected analyses — corrected analyses show a warming trend in the satellite data.

    “Corrected analyses” means adding Special Sauce to the data to show it’s warming–‘cuz everybody knows it’s warming!

    In case you missed it, the true believers changed the name the “Climate Change” instead of “Global Warming” ‘cuz even they now concede “The Earth” isn’t even warming.

    Mitsu just hasn’t gotten the memo yet.

    It’s a psychosis: notice how as Baby Boomers get older and sicker, “The Earth” gets old and sick too?

    If you set out right now to invent the cheapest, most efficient, safest, most reliable, most available fuel technology in the world for transportation, you’d end up reinventing gasoline.

  103. Gray Says:

    They, just like semiconductor solar cells, can be close to 100% efficiency of conversion.

    Sorry, Sergey, I respect your thoughts and views, but this in incorrect. Solar cells have just broken the 40% barrier at 40.7%:


    However, solar cells take up a lot of space and use more nasty chemicals and energy to produce than an internal combustion engine.

    You may as well use ethanol!

  104. Vince P Says:

    Gray I think we need to put down all the boomers

  105. Gray Says:

    That is why I advocate fuel cells. Like your car battery, they give out almost all energy you put in them, but you put it in form of fuel, not electricity, which was generated with lucklustre efficiency below 40%.

    Fuel cells aren’t safe in a crash and the first time an American family of 4 gets incinerated, fuel cells will be banned….

    I can already hear the crying:

    “Woe…. Woe…. Woe and fie…. Why didn’t anyone tell us that this was a bomb in our car!”

  106. Gray Says:

    Gray I think we need to put down all the boomers

    No, no… Our hostess is one of the good ones.

    I’m just busting on the ones like Mitsu who suffer from the “Pathetic Fallacy”:


    “NOUN: The attribution of human emotions or characteristics to inanimate objects or to nature; for example, angry clouds; a cruel wind.

    an Earth in the Balance, a sick world

    It’s not the world that’s getting sick and feeble, it’s the gigantic generational cohort who has influenced every market, every idea and every culture since they were born.

    They’ve recently realized they can’t cheat the reaper and they are very unhappy. Some of them find God.

    Some find animism: “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Earth”:


    Just substitute “Earth” for “God” in there and you’ll understand.


  107. FredHjr Says:

    Hey, I’m a Boomer. You want to “put me down” for the long dirt nap? Try it. Or, should I say, try getting past my Smith & Wesson 9mm pistol. And even when I was on the Left thirty years ago at least I was an intelligent, inquiring one. Not one of the dumb f***kers on the Left these days.

    I had not much influence over the course of where our culture is going. I’m going against the trend, which is Leftward. I’m going Right while most others are going Left. I started out where they are drifting towards.

  108. Gray Says:

    Hey, I’m a Boomer. You want to “put me down” for the long dirt nap?

    No, no… I meant ‘put down’ in the arguing sense, not the veterinarian sense.

    However, many baby boomers think euthanasia, abortion and suicide is good for “The Earth”.

    It’s like the old blood sacrifice to Baal….

  109. Vince P Says:

    I meant in the vet sense 🙂

    I should I shoud make it conditional on some sort of test of common sense. Clear thinkers can live.

  110. Gray Says:

    I should I shoud make it conditional on some sort of test of common sense.

    Global Warmism?

    Honestly, if it means enough to the believers to pester me and tax me and wreck my economy, they should show their devotion by snuffing themselves!

    What can we call Global Warmists who won’t kill themselves to limit our “carbon footprint”?

    Chickenecofreaks? Chickenwarmists?

    Vanderleun! Need a little help over here!

  111. harry McHitlerburtonstein the COnservative Extremist Says:

    Gray, be informed that when we boomers finally leave this world, we’re taking with us everything that isnt nailed down. Do you hear me? Everything.


    (on the road to spending my descendants inheritance)

  112. SteveH Says:

    “”What can we call Global Warmists who won’t kill themselves to limit our “carbon footprint”?

    How about “Consensusosaurus” or “Algoraphile”?

  113. Gray Says:

    Gray, be informed that when we boomers finally leave this world, we’re taking with us everything that isnt nailed down. Do you hear me? Everything.

    That’s the best description of Global Warmism
    I’ve ever read….

  114. FredHjr Says:

    There are two cohorts to the Baby Boomers: the Older Cohort (1945-1954) and the Younger Cohort (1955-1965). I was born in ’55, so I’m just into the Younger Cohort. The Younger Cohort tends to be more conservative, although I didn’t start out that way. The Older Cohort tends to be more Leftist, exceptions being many of the guys who served in the Republic of Vietnam and those who supported them. I never bought a Jane Fonda workout video; I boycott EVERYTHING about her. I despise people like her and Tom Hayden. Even when I was a Leftist I had zero respect for and tolerance of those kinds of Leftists: brainless, sycophantic, historically-stupid, and parroting morons.

  115. FredHjr Says:

    The socialists care not a whit about the environment and conservation. Look at the mind-bending levels of pollution and contamination in places like Russia and China.

    Their Western Leftist allies just want to destroy capitalism, and the best way to truly harm our economy is to strangle its energy needs.

  116. harry McHitlerburtonstein the COnservative Extremist Says:

    Yep. It aint about controlling climate. Its about controlling people.

  117. Perfected democrat Says:

    Plant more trees, a lot more trees…

  118. njcommuter Says:

    Internal combustion engine is an anachronism, it will never give more than 40% efficiency. Fuel cells are not constrained by this theoretical limit, so every effort in making them less costly and more efficient can be amply rewarded. If any research field in energetics deserve more funding, my first choice would be fuel cell technology.

    Lets inject a few facts. The maximum conversion efficiency of a heat engine is given by ( T.high – T.low ) / T.high, where T.high is the temperature at which heat enters the engine and T.low is the temperature at which it leaves the engine. In the internal combustion engine, the heat is produced by combustion within the ‘working fluid’ and it is released to the atmosphere in the exhaust.

    Note that the temperatures are absolute temperatures.

    The internal combustion engine in a vehicle has an efficiency advantage: mechanical drive trains can exceed 90% efficiency, particularly when there is no torque converter, or the torque converter is locked up. Anything that involves generating, transmitting, and storing electricity and turning it back to energy via a motor will have an efficiency considerably less than the efficiency of a purely mechanical drivetrain. This is the core logic behind the two-mode hybrid: at anything above stop-and-go speeds, a ‘parallel’ hybrid, with the electrical system boosting a mechanical drive, will give better efficiency.

  119. Mitsu Says:

    physicsguy: The correction is quite simple — the apparent cooling trend was caused by the initial analyses not taking into account the decay of the orbit of the satellites due to atmospheric drag:


    Gray, yet again I have no idea what you’re going on about. I don’t think the Earth is “angry”, etc. I’m simply talking about basic physics. Greenhouse gases trap energy, it’s as simple as that. Sure, Dyson is right that the GCM models are not precise, but he believes in global warming, he just thinks it will have drastically varying local effects. And he’s right, but that doesn’t mean nothing is happening.

    In any event, to get back to topic: I believe the best course is a combination — more efficient vehicles. New technologies. Expansion of the rail system. Renewable energy. And, yes, nuclear power.

  120. douglas Says:

    Well, then you’d better start killing all the herbivores. They pump Methane out like there’s no tomorrow (pardon the pun), and of course, Methane has about 23 times the impact as a greenhouse gas than CO2.

  121. Sergey Says:

    Gray, there is no theoretical limit to efficiency of solar cells. I asserted just that. Their low efficiency now is not a principal feature, it can be improved up to 100%.

  122. Sergey Says:

    Douglas, herbivores are not the main methan suppliers. Termites do just this, and there are hundred trillons of them. But even more egregious violators are bacteria in the swamps and other oxigen-depleted environments. They keep us alive preventing a new Ice Age.

  123. Sergey Says:

    “Anything that involves generating, transmitting, and storing electricity and turning it back to energy via a motor will have an efficiency considerably less than the efficiency of a purely mechanical drivetrain”
    Wrong. Electric motors and generators have efficiency from 95 to 98%, rechargable plumbum/sulphuric acid batteries more than 90%, transmission grid losses do not exceed 5%. Heat engines are exception, but very important exception, because 90% of electric energy is generated by heat engines, and 95% of non-rail vechicles, including aviation, are driven by heat engines. This is a powerful argument for rail nets expantion and development of efficient and safe fuel cells for cars. As for “bomb”, every gasoline tank is a bomb, and people are incinerated in their cars in serious accidents, may be, hundreds of them every year. You simply can not store large quantity of energy in a small volume without creating a bomb. Cell telephone batteries do explode if short-circuted.

  124. harry McHitlerburtonstein the COnservative Extremist Says:

    And besides, warmer weather and higher C02 is beneficial. It put the “green” in Greenland and food on the table during the medieval warm period.

  125. physicsguy Says:

    “physicsguy: The correction is quite simple — the apparent cooling trend was caused by the initial analyses not taking into account the decay of the orbit of the satellites due to atmospheric drag:”


    It’s interesting that it is Hanson who is applying this “correction” the the UAH data and basing the correction on the GISS surface station data. That would normally be alright, except that the surface station data that Hanson is using is itself much more suspect as being wrong. Currently there is a project ongoing to survey all the NOAA stations that go into the GISS data. As of now, almost 60% of the stations are improperly sited according to NOAA’s own guidelines; many of which are subject to the urban heat effect. So when Hanson corrects the satellite data based on his own suspect data, that is something not to be taken too seriously.


    Sergey: the 3rd law (cannot reach absolute zero; entropy always increases) is really just a more precise re-statement of the 2nd law. the 2nd law, as you correctly point out, applies mainly to thermal engines, but is still really a statement that such engines also increase the overall entropy.
    A photon may knock out an electron from its bound state to near 100% efficiency (limited by the uncertainty principle.. hmmmm?? 🙂 ), but try getting that electron’s kinetic energy (now thermal energy) into mechanical energy and you run right back into the 2nd or 3rd law; whatever you want to call it.

  126. Gray Says:

    Gray, yet again I have no idea what you’re going on about.

    No, of course you don’t.

  127. Mitsu Says:

    >No, of course you don’t

    What I mean is: what you’re talking about has nothing to do with what I either believe or have said. You’re projecting fantasies onto me.


    I don’t know where you get the idea that they corrected the satellite readings based on surface temperature readings. They corrected it by simply applying the orbital decay data. The original UAH data assumed the satelittes were at the precise same distance from the Earth, but that is not correct, because the orbit decays in a known fashion. Also, it wasn’t Hansen who corrected the data, also, it was Wentz and Schabel. Hansen was merely discussing the correction in the above-linked article.

    You are correct, of course, that there are fundamental limits to efficiency, but more importantly practical limits. Fuel cell systems as a whole will probably not go over about 40% efficiency for a variety of practical reasons. Solar cells currently max out around 43%, though there are reasons to believe we can go as high as 60% or thereabouts, but then theoretical limits start to set in, depending on the precise design of the solar energy system. However, considering the fact that the Aptera Typ-1 gets 130 mpg running on gas alone, and 200-300 mpg running as a hybrid, it’s evident that we can get massive improvements in efficiency for transportation with more efficient vehicles.

  128. FredHjr Says:

    I would like to toss the question out there:

    Why should the hypothesis of man made global warming drive energy and economic policy, through the imposed penalties and parameters of the as-yet ratified Kyoto Protocols?

    mitsu, into your corner…

    Bear in mind that almost all the costs of paying those enormous penalties to the U.N. would fall on working and poor Americans. Corporations and wealthy individuals have ways of passing on those costs to the consumer or buying the carbon credits.

    Will wealthy Democrats be willing to ante up to working and poorer Americans the losses in jobs and income that will accrue to us?

  129. Mitsu Says:

    I’m not necessarily arguing in favor of the Kyoto approach or any other specific approach. The whole thing has to come down to a cost-benefit analysis. There are many ways to deal with the situation. We can increase efficiency, we can generate power via non-carbon fuels (nuclear), we can increase our use of renewable power, etc. We can also work to mitigate the impact of warmer temperatures. I see every reason to think that such changes to our economy would not only preserve our standard of living but perhaps even increase it. Moving to cleaner, more efficient technologies could well have myriad benefits. The question is, what are the costs that we will likely face by doing nothing? The potential costs are immense, but we need to of course do a sober analysis of likely costs and try to find a combination of strategies that are likely to reduce the long-term costs of global warming while preserving our standard of living. Clearly, doing “too much” may be senseless — we want to do what we can to maximize cost/benefit, in my view.

  130. harry McHitlerburtonstein the COnservative Extremist Says:

    Mitsu, let me work up a cost/benefit analysis for you right now:

    Any money spent correcting a problem that does not exist is a waste of money.

    Are we clear?

  131. FredHjr Says:


    I’m not against doing any and all things to increase both the supply of energy, finding efficiencies and conservation, and becoming less dependent upon fossil fuels. We should do it ALL. I’ve always advocated an approach that is diversified. I just do not want our energy policy hogtied by the environmentalist lobby. BTW, I am not against protecting the environment and conservation. I’m just not sold by Al Gore’s hypothesis. If we are going to reduce pollutants and carbon emissions. we should bring into the orbit of these goals those nations that are rapidly becoming the biggest polluters on the planet, which is why I will never accept the U.N. regime’s remedies.

    I would prefer that we go to synfuels, which can be made from coal. And it can be done cleanly. I am against using grains to make ethanol because this has precipitated enormous inflation in the cost of food, which not only hits us hard but really slams many Third World nations. It is plain stupid to grow food for the purpose of using it for fuel additives. I consider it sinful. The Good Lord put food in our hands to feed us, not motor us.

    One of our two cars is a Toyota Prius. We like it, and we bought it primarily for savings on our fuel bills. The fact that it is also somewhat environmentally friendly is nice, but it is besides the point. We’ll probably trade in our Subaru Forester at some point for a hybrid too, and we are hoping that Subaru will come up with a hybrid, since we love the all wheel drive feature. Where I live (New Hampshire) having all wheel drive comes in handy in the snow and ice storms.

    But, there are enormous supply pressures for oil. And they are coming mainly from Asia. Asia is where the economy of the future will continue to boom. And they are not encumbered by environmental regulations and fuel efficiency standards over there, and I see no signs that this will change in the near future.

    We most certainly can find more efficiencies, but that takes many years to implement. Yet, unless we take measures to increase the supply of oil in the short to intermediate term our economy and much of the economy of the developed world will be in big trouble.

  132. Jimmy J. Says:

    You can read a review of the book by William Nordhaus, which weighs the economic choices we have in combatting AGW. It is here:

    For another discussion of Nordhaus’s conclusions go to:

    Scroll down to the entry on “Five ways to fight global warming.” He’s got some nice diagrams and explanations there.

    Conservation and alternative energies are definitely part of the answer, but, in order to continue to maintain our present standard of living, it will be necessary to extract as much energy as possible from fossil fuels as we transition to the clean, safe, abundant fuels of 75 years from now.

  133. OmegaPaladin Says:

    Nuclear is the way to go for electric power generation. You can build in just about anywhere there is cooling water, and they are inherently safe. I would feel comfortable living right next to a US or Canadian or French nuclear power plant with all of my family and friends. Zero emissions and a hardened concrete bunker around the reactor is very cool.

    Dry cask storage is fairly cheap and basically answers the fuel question.

    Refinery building sounds good on paper, but these things aren’t necessarily clean and safe. They can have toxic/carcinogenic emissions, and they can also explode when run unsafely. They are not inherently safe. Removing environmental and safety regulations will get people killed. You need to actually site it at good distance from people, with appropriate safeguards. Eminent Domain might come in handy to get the site built. It would be nice to see refineries built with modern engineering principles and to environmental standards, after all. Better production and less harmful in all probability.

  134. Mitsu Says:

    >inherently safe

    I support nuclear power but I wouldn’t go so far as to say all existing plants are “inherently safe”. There are in fact inherently safe designs — i.e., designs for reactors that will shut down due to the laws of physics when something goes wrong — but most of the designs of current reactors depend upon control systems functioning correctly to prevent a meltdown. Three Mile Island was a good example of what can happen when there is a control systems failure. Chernobyl is an example of what happens due to severe human error (though admittedly US designs are far safer than the design of the Chernobyl plant). What I am in favor of is a transition to inherently safe designs for new nuclear plants and careful regulation and inspection of older plants. As for waste storage, I don’t know that the problem has been definitively solved, but it seems to me the problem is solvable. The main problem there is ensuring safe storage over the very long term. But it seems to me such a problem is solvable.

  135. OmegaPaladin Says:


    I meant inherently safe to the general public. Russian nuclear design was more dangerous than the idiocy of the control room supervisor. Definitely watch the RBMKs like a hawk, and see about adding a containment. The concrete containment kept Three Mile Island’s radioactivity inside, despite leakage of radioactive steam from the reactor and a partial melting of the core. No one died from the incident. That’s what I meant by inherently safe.

    Gas cooled reactors like the PBMR and HTGR are walkaway-safe, and I think most liquid metal fast reactors are as well. Those designs are what you must have been referring to. They actually cannot really melt down.

  136. ricketyclick » Blog Archive » The Cold Equations of Alternative Energy Says:

    […] course, you should read Neo-Neocon’s article concerning T. Boone Pickens’ wind power project that SDB linked to, and SDB’s […]

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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