Rethinking Renewable Mandates

Powering the world’s economy with wind, water and solar, and perhaps a little wood sounds like a good idea until a person looks at the details. The economy can use small amounts of wind, water and solar, but adding these types of energy in large quantities is not necessarily beneficial to the system.

While a change to renewables may, in theory, help save world ecosystems, it will also tend to make the electric grid increasingly unstable. To prevent grid failure, electrical systems will need to pay substantial subsidies to fossil fuel and nuclear electricity providers that can offer backup generation when intermittent generation is not available. Modelers have tended to overlook these difficulties. As a result, the models they provide offer an unrealistically favorable view of the benefit (energy payback) of wind and solar.

If the approach of mandating wind, water, and solar were carried far enough, it might have the unfortunate effect of saving the world’s ecosystem by wiping out most of the people living within the ecosystem. It is almost certain that this was not the intended impact when legislators initially passed the mandates.

[1] History suggests that in the past, wind and water never provided a very large percentage of total energy supply.

Figure 1. Annual energy consumption per person (megajoules) in England and Wales 1561-70 to 1850-9 and in Italy 1861-70. Figure by Tony Wrigley, Cambridge University.

Figure 1 shows that before and during the Industrial Revolution, wind and water energy provided 1% to 3% of total energy consumption.

For an energy source to work well, it needs to be able to produce an adequate “return” for the effort that is put into gathering it and putting it to use. Wind and water seemed to produce an adequate return for a few specialized tasks that could be done intermittently and that didn’t require heat energy.

When I visited Holland a few years ago, I saw windmills from the 17th and 18th centuries. These windmills pumped water out of low areas in Holland, when needed. A family would live inside each windmill. The family would regulate the level of pumping desired by adding or removing cloths over the blades of the windmill. To earn much of their income, they would also till a nearby plot of land.

This overall arrangement seems to have provided adequate income for the family. We might conclude, from the inability of wind and water energy to spread farther than 1% -3% of total energy consumption, that the energy return from the windmills was not very high. It was adequate for the arrangement I described, but it didn’t provide enough extra energy to encourage greatly expanded use of the devices.

[2] At the time of the Industrial Revolution, coal worked vastly better for most tasks of the economy than did wind or water.

Economic historian Tony Wrigley, in his book Energy and the English Industrial Revolution, discusses the differences between an organic economy (one whose energy sources are human labor, energy from draft animals such as oxen and horses, and wind and water energy) and an energy-rich economy (one that also has the benefit of coal and perhaps other energy sources). Wrigley notes the following benefits of a coal-based energy-rich economy during the period shown in Figure 1:

  • Deforestation could be reduced. Before coal was added, there was huge demand for wood for heating homes and businesses, cooking food, and for making charcoal, with which metals could be smelted. When coal became available, it was inexpensive enough that it reduced the use of wood, benefiting the environment.
  • The quantity of metals and tools was greatly increased using coal. As long as the source of heat for making metals was charcoal from trees, the total quantity of metals that could be produced was capped at a very low level.
  • Roads to mines were greatly improved, to accommodate coal movement. These better roads benefitted the rest of the economy as well.
  • Farming became a much more productive endeavor. The crop yield from cereal crops, net of the amount fed to draft animals, nearly tripled between 1600 and 1800.
  • The Malthusian limit on population could be avoided. England’s population grew from 4.2 million to 16.7 million between 1600 and 1850. Without the addition of coal to make the economy energy-rich, the population would have been capped by the low food output from the organic economy.

[3] Today’s wind, water, and solar are not part of what Wrigley called the organic economy. Instead, they are utterly dependent on the fossil fuel system.

The name renewables reflects the fact that wind turbines, solar panels, and hydroelectric dams do not burn fossil fuels in their capture of energy from the environment.

Modern hydroelectric dams are constructed with concrete and steel. They are built and repaired using fossil fuels. Wind turbines and solar panels use somewhat different materials, but these too are available only thanks to the use of fossil fuels. If we have difficulty with the fossil fuel system, we will not be able to maintain and repair any of these devices or the electricity transmission system used for distributing the energy that they capture.

[4] With the 7.7 billion people in the world today, adequate energy supplies are an absolute requirement if we do not want population to fall to a very low level. 

There is a myth that the world can get along without fossil fuels. Wrigley writes that in a purely organic economy, the vast majority of roads were deeply rutted dirt roads that could not be traversed by wheeled vehicles. This made overland transport very difficult. Canals were used to provide water transport at that time, but we have virtually no canals available today that would serve the same purpose.

It is true that buildings for homes and businesses can be built with wood, but such buildings tend to burn down frequently. Buildings of stone or brick can also be used. But with only the use of human and animal labor, and having few roads that would accommodate wheeled carts, brick or stone homes tend to be very labor-intensive. So, except for the very wealthy, most homes will be made of wood or of other locally available materials such as sod.

Wrigley’s analysis shows that before coal was added to the economy, human labor productivity was very low. If, today, we were to try to operate the world economy using only human labor, draft animals, and wind and water energy, we likely could not grow food for very many people. World population in 1650 was only about 550 million, or about 7% of today’s population. It would not be possible to provide for the basic needs of today’s population with an organic economy as described by Wrigley.

(Note that organic here has a different meaning than in “organic agriculture.” Today’s organic agriculture is also powered by fossil fuel energy. Organic agriculture brings soil amendments by truck, irrigates land and makes “organic sprays” for fruit, all using fossil fuels.)

[5] Wind, water and solar only provided about 11% of the world’s total energy consumption for the year 2018. Trying to ramp up the 11% production to come anywhere close to 100% of total energy consumption seems like an impossible task.

Figure 2. World Energy Consumption by Fuel, based on data of 2019 BP Statistical Review of World Energy.

Let’s look at what it would take to ramp up the current renewables percentage from 11% to 100%. The average growth rate over the past five years of the combined group that might be considered renewable (Hydro + Biomass etc + Wind&Solar) has been 5.8%. Maintaining such a high growth rate in the future is likely to be difficult because new locations for hydroelectric dams are hard to find and because biomass supply is limited. Let’s suppose that despite these difficulties, this 5.8% growth rate can be maintained going forward.

To increase the quantity from 2018’s low level of renewable supply to the 2018 total energy supply at a 5.8% growth rate would take 39 years. If population grows between 2018 and 2057, even more energy supply would likely be required. Based on this analysis, increasing the use of renewables from a 11% base to close to a 100% level does not look like an approach that has any reasonable chance of fixing our energy problems in a timeframe shorter than “generations.”

The situation is not quite as bad if we look at the task of producing an amount of electricity equal to the world’s current total electricity generation with renewables (Hydro + Biomass etc + Wind&Solar); renewables in this case provided 26% of the world’s electricity supply in 2018.

Figure 3. World electricity production by type, based on data from 2019 BP Statistical Review of World Energy.

The catch with replacing electricity (Figure 3) but not energy supplies is the fact that electricity is only a portion of the world’s energy supply. Different calculations give different percentages, with electricity varying between 19% and 43% of total energy consumption.1 Either way, substituting wind, water and solar in electricity production alone does not seem to be sufficient to make the desired reduction in carbon emissions.

[6] A major drawback of wind and solar energy is its variability from hour-to-hour, day-to-day, and season-to-season. Water energy has season-to-season variability as well, with spring or wet seasons providing the most electricity.

Back when modelers first looked at the variability of electricity produced by wind, solar and water, they hoped that as an increasing quantity of these electricity sources were added, the variability would tend to offset. This happens a little, but not nearly as much as one would like. Instead, the variability becomes an increasing problem as more is added to the electric grid.

When an area first adds a small percentage of wind and/or solar electricity to the electric grid (perhaps 10%), the electrical system’s usual operating reserves are able to handle the variability. These were put in place to handle small fluctuations in supply or demand, such as a major coal plant needing to be taken off line for repairs, or a major industrial client reducing its demand.

But once the quantity of wind and/or solar increases materially, different strategies are needed. At times, production of wind and/or solar may need to be curtailed, to prevent overburdening the electric grid. Batteries are likely to be needed to help ease the abrupt transition that occurs when the sun goes down at the end of the day while electricity demand is still high. These same batteries can also help ease abrupt transitions in wind supply during wind storms.

Apart from brief intermittencies, there is an even more serious problem with seasonal fluctuations in supply that do not match up with seasonal fluctuations in demand. For example, in winter, electricity from solar panels is likely to be low. This may not be a problem in a warm country, but if a country is cold and using electricity for heat, it could be a major issue.

The only real way of handling seasonal intermittencies is by having fossil fuel or nuclear plants available for backup. (Battery backup does not seem to be feasible for such huge quantities for such long periods.) These back-up plants cannot sit idle all year to provide these services. They need trained staff who are willing and able to work all year. Unfortunately, the pricing system does not provide enough funds to adequately compensate these backup systems for those times when their services are not specifically required by the grid. Somehow, they need to be paid for the service of standing by, to offset the inevitable seasonal variability of wind, solar and water.

[7] The pricing system for electricity tends to produce rates that are too low for those electricity providers offering backup services to the electric grid.

As a little background, the economy is a self-organizing system that operates through the laws of physics. Under normal conditions (without mandates or subsidies) it sends signals through prices and profitability regarding which types of energy supply will “work” in the economy and which kinds will simply produce too much distortion or create problems for the system.

If legislators mandate that intermittent wind and solar will be allowed to “go first,” this mandate is by itself a substantial subsidy. Allowing wind and solar to go first tends to send prices too low for other producers because it tends to reduce prices below what those producers with high fixed costs require.2

If energy officials decide to add wind and solar to the electric grid when the grid does not really need these supplies, this action will also tend to push other suppliers off the grid through low rates. Nuclear power plants, which have already been built and are adding zero CO2 to the atmosphere, are particularly at risk because of the low rates. The Ohio legislature recently passed a $1.1 billion bailout for two nuclear power plants because of this issue.

If a mandate produces a market distortion, it is quite possible (in fact, likely) that the distortion will get worse and worse, as more wind and solar is added to the grid. With more mandated (inefficient) electricity, customers will find themselves needing to subsidize essentially all electricity providers if they want to continue to have electricity.

The physics-based economic system without mandates and subsidies provides incentives to efficient electricity providers and disincentives to inefficient electricity suppliers. But once legislators start tinkering with the system, they are likely to find a system dominated by very inefficient production. As the costs of handling intermittency explode and the pricing system gets increasingly distorted, customers are likely to become more and more unhappy.

[8] Modelers of how the system might work did not understand how a system with significant wind and solar would work. Instead, they modeled the most benign initial situation, in which the operating reserves would handle variability, and curtailment of supply would not be an issue. 

Various modelers attempted to figure out whether the return from wind and solar would be adequate, to justify all of the costs of supporting it. Their models were very simple: Energy Out compared to Energy In, over the lifetime of a device. Or, they would calculate Energy Payback Periods. But the situation they modeled did not correspond well to the real world. They tended to model a situation that was close to the best possible situation, one in which variability, batteries and backup electricity providers were not considerations. Thus, these models tended to give a far too optimistic estimates of the expected benefit of intermittent wind and solar devices.

Furthermore, another type of model, the Levelized Cost of Electricity model, also provides distorted results because it does not consider the subsidies needed for backup providers if the system is to work. The modelers likely also leave out the need for backup batteries.

In the engineering world, I am told that computer models of expected costs and income are not considered to be nearly enough. Real-world tests of proposed new designs are first tested on a small scale and then at progressively larger scales, to see whether they will work in practice. The idea of pushing “renewables” sounded so good that no one thought about the idea of testing the plan before it was put into practice.

Unfortunately, the real-world tests that Germany and other countries have tried have shown that intermittent renewables are a very expensive way to produce electricity when all costs are considered. Neighboring countries become unhappy when excess electricity is simply dumped on the grid. Total CO2 emissions don’t necessarily go down either.

[9] Long distance transmission lines are part of the problem, not part of the solution. 

Early models suggested that long-distance transmission lines might be used to smooth out variability, but this has not worked well in practice. This happens partly because wind conditions tend to be similar over wide areas, and partly because a broad East-West mixture is needed to even-out the rapid ramp-down problem in the evening, when families are still cooking dinner and the sun goes down.

Also, long distance transmission lines tend to take many years to permit and install, partly because many landowners do not want them crossing their property. In some cases, the lines need to be buried underground. Reports indicate that an underground 230 kV line costs 10 to 15 times what a comparable overhead line costs. The life expectancy of underground cables seems to be shorter, as well.

Once long-distance transmission lines are in place, maintenance is very fossil fuel dependent. If storms are in the area, repairs are often needed. If roads are not available in the area, helicopters may need to be used to help make the repairs.

An issue that most people are not aware of is the fact that above ground long-distance transmission lines often cause fires, especially when they pass through hot, dry areas. The Northern California utility PG&E filed for bankruptcy because of fires caused by its transmission lines. Furthermore, at least one of Venezuela’s major outages seems to have been related to sparks from transmission lines from its largest hydroelectric plant causing fires. These fire costs should also be part of any analysis of whether a transition to renewables makes sense, in terms of either cost or energy returns.

[10] If wind turbines and solar panels are truly providing a major net benefit to the economy, they should not need subsidies, even the subsidy of going first.

To make wind and solar electricity producers able to compete with other electricity providers without the subsidy of going first, these providers need a substantial amount of battery backup. For example, wind turbines and solar panels might be required to provide enough backup batteries (perhaps 8 to 12 hours’ worth) so that they can compete with other grid members, without the subsidy of going first. If it really makes sense to use such intermittent energy, these providers should be able to still make a profit even with battery usage. They should also be able to pay taxes on the income they receive, to pay for the government services that they are receiving and hopefully pay some extra taxes to help out the rest of the system.

In Item [2] above, I mentioned that when coal mines were added in England, roads to the mines were substantially improved, befitting the economy as a whole. A true source of energy (one whose investment cost is not too high relative to its output) is supposed to be generating “surplus energy” that assists the economy as a whole. We can observe an impact of this type in the improved roads that benefited England’s economy as a whole. Any so-called energy provider that cannot even pay its own fair share of taxes acts more like a leech, sucking energy and resources from others, than a provider of surplus energy to the rest of the economy.

Recommendations

In my opinion, it is time to eliminate renewable energy mandates. There will be some instances where renewable energy will make sense, but this will be obvious to everyone involved. For example, an island with its electricity generation from oil may want to use some wind or solar generation to try to reduce its total costs. This cost saving occurs because of the high price of oil as fuel to make electricity.

Regulators, in locations where substantial wind and/or solar has already been installed, need to be aware of the likely need to provide subsidies to backup providers, in order to keep the electrical system operating. Otherwise, the grid will likely fail from lack of adequate backup electricity supply.

Intermittent electricity, because of its tendency to drive other providers to bankruptcy, will tend to make the grid fail more quickly than it would otherwise. The big danger ahead seems to be bankruptcy of electricity providers and of fossil fuel producers, rather than running out of a fuel such as oil or natural gas. For this reason, I see little reason for the belief by many that electricity will “last longer” than oil. It is a question of which group is most affected by bankruptcies first.

I do not see any real reason to use subsidies to encourage the use of electric cars. The problem we have today with oil prices is that they are too low for oil producers. If we want to keep oil production from collapsing, we need to keep oil demand up. We do this by encouraging the production of cars that are as inexpensive as possible. Generally, this will mean producing cars that operate using petroleum products.

(I recognize that my view is the opposite one from what many Peak Oilers have. But I see the limit ahead as being one of too low prices for producers, rather than too high prices for consumers. The CO2 issue tends to disappear as parts of the system collapse.)

Notes:

[1] BP bases its count on the equivalent fossil fuel energy needed to create the electricity; IEA counts the heat energy of the resulting electrical output. Using BP’s way of counting electricity, electricity worldwide amounts to 43% of total energy consumption. Using the International Energy Agency’s approach to counting electricity, electricity worldwide amounts to only about 19% of world energy consumption.

[2] In some locations, “utility pricing” is used. In these cases, pricing is set in a way needed to provide a fair return to all providers. With utility pricing, intermittent renewables would not be expected to cause low prices for backup producers.

About Gail Tverberg

My name is Gail Tverberg. I am an actuary interested in finite world issues - oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. Oil limits look very different from what most expect, with high prices leading to recession, and low prices leading to financial problems for oil producers and for oil exporting countries. We are really dealing with a physics problem that affects many parts of the economy at once, including wages and the financial system. I try to look at the overall problem.
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1,461 Responses to Rethinking Renewable Mandates

  1. Pingback: Atom – nadzieja i rozum – Dlaczego ludzie wycinają drzewa

  2. Tim Groves says:

    That should have been “voter roll”. The voters’ role is to cast their vote with a view to electing a candidate, etc., etc.

  3. It's different this time around....NO says:

    Was following a story regarding two teen fugitives that unfortunately lost it and sent on a joyride in the woods of Canada that ended up with them found in the bush and a sad tale .
    For those thinking some folks will escape the end of BAU going out in the wild country of Canada, think again !
    from the article
    https://www.news.com.au/world/north-america/fugitive-teens-told-man-they-were-on-joy-ride-as-he-helped-them-out-of-mud/news-story/58f1aecea296d387c5b61e9b0c9dd3fe

    ‘THE BUGS WILL EAT YOU ALIVE’
    Dave Arama is one of Canada’s leading survival experts.
    He knows the dangers lurking in the swampy sub-Arctic boreal forest around Gillam, Manitoba, where the accused teen killers are suspected of hiding out for a week.
    If the duo did enter the wilderness and did not find some type of shelter, Mr Arama predicts they are dead or close to it.
    It is not the black bears, polar bears or wolves Mr Arama places high on his top 10 list of dangers the teenagers would face.
    It’s the insects.
    There’s relentless blood-sucking deer flies, mosquitos, sand flies and other bugs.
    “They eat you alive,” Mr Arama, owner of the Ontario-based WSC Survival School, told AAP on Tuesday.They won’t stop biting until until your eyes close and you can’t see no more.
    “Or, if you get enough bites you can go anaphylaxis and then end up in a serious life-threatening reaction.”
    Water might be plentiful in northern Canada during summer but instead of keeping the teenagers alive it also could be highly-hazardous.
    “If they drink any water it is likely filled with parasites,giardia and they’d get sick as hell from that,” he said.
    “I’ll be honest. With 40 years of experience, if you threw me out there with no knife, no tin can, no flint to start a fire, no tarp, no nothing, I’d rather die.
    “This is no Crocodile Dundee movie. This is real

    • We tend not to consider all of the bad things that can happen in an undeveloped area. I suppose if people had lived in the area for thousands of years, doing hunting and gathering, natural selection would have chosen a population that was more immune to the effects of these pests and parasites.

      In the US, we use sprays to keep the mosquito population down. I expect that the population of other insects is down as well, with all of the short grasses we keep. We have no idea of what to expect in a wild state.

      • It's different this time around....NO says:

        As you also pointed out drinkable water is another key issue we take for granted!
        Parasites, like the one mentioned in the article can make life not worth living.
        Giardia also called Beaver Fever…Giardia is a microscopic parasite that causes the diarrheal illness known as giardiasis. Giardia (also known as Giardia intestinalis, Giardia lamblia, or Giardia duodenalis) is found on surfaces or in soil, food, or water that has been contaminated with feces (poop) from infected humans or animals.
        Giardia is protected by an outer shell that allows it to survive outside the body for long periods of time and makes it tolerant to chlorine disinfection. While the parasite can be spread in different ways, water (drinking water and recreational water) is the most common mode of transmission. Very common in North America.
        Very good idea to buy a portable water filter for that specific reason!
        https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/water-treatment-backcountry.html

        • If you have the fuel to boil all of your water, as well as a container and a way to start the fire, you can solve this problem, also.

          • It's different this time around....NO says:

            Yes, exactly, read the reason why the Victorian English adopted hot tea drinking was it gave them a reason to boil water! Added benefit was the tea flavor…..and added reason to be an Imperial world power!

            • The Chinese and Indians drink tea for the same reason. Even boiled water can be an acceptable drink to some Chinese.

            • beidawei says:

              The still-prevailing theory among Chinese people with more or less traditional views is that cold water is bad for you, perhaps because it lowers the body temperature.

      • Xabier says:

        There are ruins of cities from the Ancient World which actually were abandoned due to excessive malaria making it impossible to function – I went to one in what is now Turkey. All that trouble building a city in fine stone, and then the bugs get yer…… It must have been bad,as humans will usually cling on in dreadful places if there is money to be made.

        • It's different this time around....NO says:

          Yes, exactly, Constantine the Great was thought to have died from malaria in Turkey while planning a war with the Persians. He was about 55 years old and he was upset on how the Christians were being mistreated. If not for Constantine we may be very well worshipping the Sun God , Mars or Jupiter instead of Jesus! Actually, Constantine very well could have merged the Sun God and Christ at first.
          Regardless, in ancient times 55 was considered a ripe old age.
          Seems we are still warring over things that we consider important

    • aaaa says:

      As a revenge fantasy, that’s quite a satisfying end to those two punks. It’s also nice to know that some places in the world are still spared from “human progress” (I just borrowed that from Marty Stauford as he mentioned it on a wild America episode)

    • DJ says:

      This should be easy to verfiy for someone who has done any hiking in Canada. I suspect its BS.

      • Tim Groves says:

        Canada is a huge place–four million square miles. There are surely lots of places where you may not have hiked yet where the bugs will eat an unprepared human alive—just ask any lumberjack.

        I’ve heard reports from Siberia of sand flies, horse flies, and mosquitoes as big as dragonflies harassing wild horses to the point where the unfortunate tormented mammals have been observed to jump into rivers, ponds, or bogs in order to avoid being bitten further.

        And I’m sure Sir Harry can confirm that even in cosy and comfortable Scotland, there are places along the west coast where people’s afternoon tea on the castle terrace is ruined by gnats and other biting insects. Not even bagpipes will drive these critters away.

        And we actually get people in these comments (most of them living in air-conditioned bliss behind screen doors and windows) lamenting the decline of so many nasty vicious insect species!! You folks should be happy you don’t have to endure the torture of having to share your living space with the winged six-legged hordes.

        • DJ says:

          Of course, the article talked interchangably about northern canada and a specific swamp.

          I was honestly curious, but mostly skeptical. Earlier when he called himself Fast Eddy he claimed even in scandinavia you would get killed from insects, which “everyone” know isnt true. Here you can hang around in the forest until starvation gets you.

        • Harry McGibbs says:

          “And I’m sure Sir Harry can confirm that even in cosy and comfortable Scotland, there are places along the west coast where people’s afternoon tea on the castle terrace is ruined by gnats and other biting insects. Not even bagpipes will drive these critters away.”

          I most certainly can. This summer has been pretty good for midges where I am but the little b*stards were out in force this morning when I took the Labrador out.

    • “Apparent suicide.”

      • Rodster says:

        Gotta love it!

        I remember seeing a funny cartoon pic of Jeffrey Epstein sleeping in his jail cell with one eye opened and the caption above his head said “on suicide watch”. But the dumb Americans will just about believe anything the News Media tells them.

      • Hubbs says:

        My theory is that Epstein was killed NOTbecause he might “sing.” In fact the reverse. He had nothing to plea bargain with, because the Deep State already knew every pedophile. Epstein was just the ticket collector. Epstein’s “death” is useful insofar as it allows the Deep State to “terminate” the investigation and contain all the damaging evidence. Another public deception.
        “Too bad Epstein is dead, because he took all the names of the perpetrators with him to the grave. I guess we’ll have to close the investigation.” How convenient.

        • Robert Firth says:

          I hope not. If Epstein had the sense God gave a tree sloth, he had a large cache of secret documents stashed away somewhere, with instructions that, in the event of his death, they were to be made as public as possible.

          I hope that, like a Sumerian king, he had plans for others to follow him into the world beyond. The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceeding small.

        • ominux says:

          I tend to agree with you, Hubbs. Too bad that the press still found time to raise smoke about those British saints Prince Andrew and Tony Blair. Mind you, Blair did convert to Roman Catholicism, which is always a bad sign. I thought, tho, that they were trying to get to Trump somehow via Epstein, but evidently they found nothing on him.

      • Tim Groves says:

        Whodunnit?

        Could Mr. Epstein have killed himself, either on purpose out of fear of what was to come, or accidentally while practicing the boy scout art of tying knots.

        Could someone else have killed him? They say he didn’t have an enemy, but a lot of his friends will be sleeping easier knowing he can’t talk further.

        If he has already ratted on the mafia, they would be honor bound to take revenge, although leaving him alive and having to go through years of interrogation, trial and incarceration seems like punishment enough.

        The Deep State, the CIA, Mossad, MI6 and others may have gotten rid of him as what used to be called a sandbagging operation.

        Some, according to their political stripe, will also suspect the Clintons, Trump, and the Duke of Edinburgh of doing some damage control. However, the reputations of all of the above are so far beyond repair that, to repeat a phrase of Hilary’s, “What difference at this point does it make?”

        My own theory, which I only half believe, is that Epstein’s friends have spirited him away from justice and he will be given a brand new face, a brand new identity, and a brand new life drinking cocktails and sunning himself on Mediterranean beaches.

    • Chrome Mags says:

      If he was murdered (and I suspect he was) to eliminate any damning testimony against Trump’s pedophilia dalliances, then the US is becoming more and more like Russia. Putin probably called Trump to explain how to do it.

      How far off are we from Trump jailing whomever has the best chance against him in the upcoming election? That’s what Putin does.

      Do people realize we’ve lost our country to corrupt powers.

      • Tim Groves says:

        On the other hand, POTUS could have had Jeffrey killed at any time with a presidential drone strike. He could have called Obama or Bush to ask them to explain how to do it. There’s a video game consul, apparently, in the White House Situation Room, where the Prez can blast anyone who he considers a serious threat to the nation.

        Or he could have sneakily arranged to have Jeffrey snuffed out like Seth Rich or Vince Foster and added him to the Clinton Body Count. Or had him buried in the cement when laying the foundations of the latest Trump Tower like Jimmy Hoffa.

        If Jeffrey was murdered, and I’m sure he was, I suspect it was because he had been arrested and was in the process of cooperating with the investigating authorities against his former friends. I suspect some of his former friends killed him to stop him from blabbing.

        As to who “they” are, it’s interesting that the indictment against Epstein came during Trump’s tenure and not during Obama’s, and that “they” could do nothing to prevent that. “They” killed him because they couldn’t allow him to cooperate with the authorities.

        And you may remember that, according to journalist Vicky Ward, former Labor Secretary Acosta’s explanation as to why he went easy on Epstein in 2009: “I was told Epstein ‘belonged to intelligence’ and to leave it alone.”

        You may also remember that Trump’s Justice Department under Jeff Sessions began a major effort to finally do something to combat human trafficking—a field of criminal activity that had been sadly neglected by previous administrations. In January 2018, Trump designated National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month and signed the Combating Human Trafficking in Commercial Vehicles Act and the No Human Trafficking on Our Roads Act, both focused on limiting human trafficking through federal law.

        And in February of the same Justice Department began an investigation into how prosecutors had handled the Epstein case in Florida a decade ago. This led in July to the arrest of Epstein and a federal indictment against him brought jointly by the FBI and the New York authorities.

        So it doesn7t look like “they” were Trump. It looks more like “they” were sending a message to Trump: “We can take out anyone and you can’t stop us. We got your guy. We got him. You thought you were going to get to the bottom of this sex trafficking. You also thought he was going to tear open the case on the many Hollywood people who hate you.”

        More interesting still was that the authorities stashed Epstein away in MCC—they might as well have put him in Rikers Island—rather than in a secure facility where he would have been safely locked away. That looks like a case gross negligence, incompetence, and/or criminal activity on somebody’s part.

  4. “Clean, Renewable, Limitless | AT&T
    “As one of the largest corporate purchasers of renewable energy in the U.S., AT&T invests in wind energy and the people who bring clean power to the grid. It’s just one of the ways we’re working to help address climate change and create a better, more sustainable world.”

    Well, I watched it — none of the crape-hanger-istic stuff on OFW!

  5. Hubbs says:

    I’m sure this has been posted before, but stumbled upon it. Was initially going to dismiss this due to some false assumptions/misinformation. But what he did do is highlight the fact that the more green energy we try to introduce, the greater the deficiency introduced by periods where there is no sun or wind during times of peak use, requiring ever more costly battery back up. Price of green energy increases the more we try to rely on it.

    • I hadn’t seen this. I am glad someone is starting to put pencil and paper to what it would cost to go to 100% (or 80% renewables) with batteries. Maybe at least a few people will start to see the silliness of this whole idea.

      Of course, batteries don’t last forever. This presents another challenge not mentioned in the video: How is this accomplished? At this point, less than 5% of lithium in repro cessed, none in the US. We heed to ship all of this material back and forth to reprocessing plants, and use huge amounts of energy for reprocessing.

      The cost of electricity becomes more and more outrageous. Of course, this still doesn’t fix all our energy needs. We use oil for a whole lot more than just private passenger automobiles. We will continue to need oil.

      And California has a mild climate. Other states would do a lot worse than this.

      • CTG says:

        I think the hype and the noise related to renewables had died down. The peak excitement on renewables was probably in 2015-2017 when eveyone seems to be talking about it. There was nothing then on how bad renewables are. No newspaper will carry it. Now, I think we are past peak hype and there are more rebuttals coming out like this one

        https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/ab2da8/pdf
        Are e-scooters polluters? The environmental impacts of shared dockless electric scooters

        • On your later point, these lite dockless escooters are joke, this obviously can’t compete with streetcars and trolleybuses etc. However, if we look at real scooters, i.e. the classic ClubMed sized proper street scooters ala Italy/Paris/Asian hubs/.. which can be used for longer commutes (incl. cargo for shopping), there should be the overall situation more favorable to them. But this is not US thing culturally..

        • Yes, We are past peak hype but we have a long way to go. People have not figured out that the more intermittent renewables you add to the grid, the bigger a problem they become. And that batteries are OK for smoothing quick transitions, but they quickly become too expensive for long-term storage. Also, because of the battery storage problem, renewables can’t ever become a very big share of total electricity, much less total electricity.

    • Dennis L. says:

      Rough EROI is at about 22:10, skip the rest. There is no number of solar cells that can do this and these machines work 24/7. Some of these are in Greece and parts manufactured in Germany.
      This is an example of Gail’s coal story, very large machines.

      For those interested in food, Welker Farms has a YouTube channel and the latest videos are on what I think are Garbanzo beans, notice where they are storing them, no market, no demand. The combine harvesting them is 45 feet across, larger ones are now available.

      We grew soybeans this year, China has lost half its pig herd, definite lack of demand there. It is part of the rotation, corn would have been better economically, worse soil wise, ethanol plants are hustling for corn.

      Dennis L.

      • Mining coal gives you wings, e.g. I’ve heard that since their incorporation into the German supplier chain, their living standards in Poland jumped massively (cheap somewhat qualified labor and lot of coal = exporting sub assemblies sold globally inside DE products), so now with the cash inflow even about to build high speed rail network for the country, which kind of makes sense for these distances.. Not sure there is enough time pending recession/GFC2 wise though..

      • Xabier says:

        Big Machines: Creating Mars on Earth For Your Little Essentials….

        This sort of film should be shown to the teenage Greta fans, and indeed to the girl herself -a nice dose of energy and capital-intensive reality for them.

      • Hubbs says:

        Songs about mining and machines:

      • You can bet that no one can power these big machines using electricity with batteries. I expect that they are currently oil powered.

        I haven’t figured out where the EROI figure comes in. (Didn’t watch enough of the video to find the EROI discussion.) EROI is for trying to evaluate whether a device or process is worthwhile, from a point of view of trying to capture electricity or extract fossil fuels. The part of the video I watched wasn’t about that.

        • hkeithhenson says:

          ” I expect that they are currently oil powered. ”

          Actually, that’s not the case for the biggest. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragline_excavator#Draglines_in_mining

          “Most mining draglines are not diesel-powered like most other mining equipment. Their power consumption on order of several megawatts is so great[quantify] that they have a direct connection to the high-voltage grid at voltages of between 6.6 and 22 kV. A typical[further explanation needed] dragline weighing 4000 to 6000 tons, with a 55-cubic-metre bucket, can use up to 6 megawatts during normal digging operations. ”

          Same with the Bagger 288 bucket-wheel excavator, The 288 Bagger’s operation requires 16.56 megawatts of externally supplied electricity. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bagger_288

          At some point, diesel engines get too massive and electrical motors are a better solution.

          • Tim Groves says:

            Interesting that electricity IS up to the task! Thanks for that Keith.

            Now, anyone want to gave a guess at how many solar panels you’d need to supply 16.56 megawatts?

            From Suncyclopedia:
            A simple rule of thumb is to take 100 sqft for every 1kW of solar panels. Extrapolating this, a 1 MW solar PV power plant should require about 100000 sqft (about 2.5 acres, or 1 hectare).

            Multiply that last figure by 16 and you have about 1,556,000 sqft (about 41.4 acres, or 16.56 hectares). This is about 40% the area of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square (109 acres or 44.05 hectares – 880×500 m).

            Putting it another way, assuming the average solar rooftop system supplies around 1.5 kilowatts, a back of the envelope calculation indicates that the Bagger 288 bucket-wheel excavator would require something on the order of the output of 11,000 average solar rooftop systems operating in sunny weather, or else a humongous backup battery.

          • Direct current, connected up, will work. What does not work is batteries!

            • hkeithhenson says:

              “Direct current”

              These big machines are run on ordinary AC.

              There could be batteries in the energy chain, but it’s not obvious that they are needed. It might be more economical to just run the machines when the sun shines.

        • Dennis L. says:

          At timeline 22:10 gives the number of homes equivalent energy to run and the number of homes given output, actually done by city size I believe. Tom Groves has a more exact number below. The ratio is sobering, the size incredible.

          You have stated all along the importance of coal, some of the machines shown are in Greece, supply about half the electricity for the nation if I recall correctly. The gear boxes are made in Germany(recall Greece borrowed a great deal of money to purchase things from Germany), lose a supplier of gears and when repairs are needed no spares, again a point you have made over and over about maintenance.

          Germany, the source of much of the infrastructure to run the mining equipment has made a choice to close nuclear, coal and go renewable. It is an experiment, being wrong could lose a link in the energy supply chain which might cascade and be a challenge to replace.

          The scale necessary to make parts of the economy work is incredible, solar and wind have some growing and maturing to do before they are up to the task.

          Dennis L.

          • Sorry, I didn’t figure out what 22:10 meant earlier. Devices such as these clearly depend on the whole fossil fuel economy operating. You will never make them building up from a few intermittent renewables. If nothing else, think of the roads that need to be in place to ship these devices, or the parts for them.

  6. It's different this time around....NO says:

    Last Man standing
    https://finance.yahoo.com/news/china-ex-central-bankers-warn-052125447.html?bcmt=1ormer China central bankers warned Saturday of currency-war risks with the U.S. after an abrupt escalation of trade tensions between the world’s two biggest economies this week.
    The U.S.’s labeling of China as a currency manipulator “signifies the trade war is evolving into a financial war and a currency war,” and policy makers must prepare for long-term conflicts, Chen Yuan, former deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China, said at a China Finance 40 meeting in Yichun, Heilongjiang.
    Former PBOC Governor Zhou Xiaochuan said at the gathering that conflicts with the U.S. could expand from the trade front into other areas, including politics, military and technology. He called for efforts to improve the yuan’s global role to deal with the challenges of a dollar-denominated financial system
    ….The U.S.’s move is an “appalling” act to gain an advantage during trade negotiations and is doomed to fail, the Communist Party’s flagship newspaper People’s Daily said in a commentary Saturday.
    While markets haven’t reacted too strongly to the weakening yuan this week, it is possible that “the yuan could weaken further on unexpected shocks in the future,” Yu Yongding, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said in Yichun
    What is overlooked is the financial system itself is set up to fail!
    When it is predicted on the Simpsons, I’ll believe it!

    • Hm, that’s going to be a tough one, because the preponderance and over pressure of Chinese elites to escape with their wealth is just mind blowing, it’s like opening a mini tap which in milliseconds changes to a gusher. Nope. So it has to be in a controlled way and that means necessary cooperation on the other end of the story, so US+ will put pressure on Chinese potential partners to tame such biz opportunities. But it seems the cat is out of the bag already, because for example the Gulfies also want to hedge their bets into the future, also wider Asians are torn between past-present Japanese and Chinese forms of imperialism so they would have to vote on that one as well ASAP..
      In summary, some sort of formation of regional blocks and balkanization seems more likely than just one hegemonic side (old-new) taking it all..

  7. Yoshua says:

    German car production has fallen below the GFC level and with no bottom in sight yet.

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EBrsZ1FXUAE3JM6?format=jpg&name=900×900

    • It would be nice to see the brake down into segments though.
      I guess most of this aggregate fall is due to diesel sales into US, continuous relentless rise of Koreans into formerly German stronghold territory, demographic and income shift both in Germany and S Europe..

    • From what I read, the new rules will make new cars much more expensive. Europe’s small cars an endangered species

      The fundamental problem? The technology required to meet the new regulations will price small cars out of the market.

      “New CO2 rules will require automakers to fit thousands of euros of tech to each car,” Max Warburton, an analyst at research and brokerage firm Sanford C. Bernstein wrote in a report this spring. “Big cars have the price points and margins to cover these costs. Small cars simply do not. These segments may soon be abandoned by many manufacturers.”

      The fundamental problem? The technology required to meet the new regulations will price small cars out of the market.

      “New CO2 rules will require automakers to fit thousands of euros of tech to each car,” Max Warburton, an analyst at research and brokerage firm Sanford C. Bernstein wrote in a report this spring. “Big cars have the price points and margins to cover these costs. Small cars simply do not. These segments may soon be abandoned by many manufacturers.”

      “Ironically, the smaller vehicles are toughest to reduce CO2 in,” Ford of Europe Chairman Steve Armstrong told Automotive News Europe at the April unveiling of the Kuga crossover. “The smaller the vehicle, the tighter the margin, the harder it is to meet emissions targets.”

      The European car makers cannot make cars inexpensive enough for people to afford, using these rules. I imagine quite a few are thinking, “I will keep what I have as long as I can.” Or, “I will wait and see.”

      • Yep, that’s what I described previously, as just few yrs ago the econobox segment (mind you standard mass production car not clown buggy) started near ~8k, since then it climb few thousands up chiefly because of the emission related upgrade mandates..

        But you still can get good overall value (family station-wagons) for models made by usual global brands in cheap labor factories (Fiat-Turkey; Koreans-Slovakia) these start roughly at 14k.

        Entry level EVs start at 25k incl. gov subsidies, mild hybrids could be a bit cheaper but not very popular, plugin hybrids expensive. Middle class and luxury full EVs 40k and way up (2-3x)..

        • When given a choice between buying (a) one of these entry level EVs or (b) nothing at all, the choice is easy: nothing at all.

          • Yep, that’s the endgame, but for now the internal combustion carz are still available on credit for large segments of population severely under water financially already..
            In short the system is still sort of freewheeling.

  8. Federico says:

    Have you ever thought about the oil and gas industry critical size?. Similar concept to what happened to the western nuclear industry or the space industry. Should we have followed the same investment trends to when the moon was reached, 15 years later we would have reached Mars, now maybe in 30 years time we will see it. Is a matter of when you stop it, is forever. This industry will be as the size it is today or bigger if we want it to deliver what it has to deliver. Thinking on an industry of an smaller size will mean it to disappear in a decade or so. All supply chain will stop R&D to be able to deliver new challenges the industry face, exploration and frontier exploration will stop, incorporation of new resources will be reduced, shipowners will collapse…., maybe gulf oil will be marketed all the rest will cease production. These industries reach a complexity point, such as pharma, that are to keep growing or ceased. Another completely think is if we want to live una completely different world that no one has yet been able to explain how it will look. So this is my argument, as it is today or bigger, if is to be smaller, then a completely different world is to be next door.

    • I think you are right. Each of these industries must grow or collapse. For example, in the medical industry, they can’t just says, “What we have is good enough. Let’s figure out a way to make what we have cheaper. This will allow other parts of the economy to grow while ours shrinks.”

      We really cannot pay an increasing share of GDP for medical care. The situation today is already absurd. But we don’t have a good way to fix it. Even Kaiser Permanente needs to keep up with what everyone else is doing. If everyone else uses way to many medical tests, they find themselves doing way too many tests too, even though they operate more as a self-contained group, because that is what is expected.

      • Dennis L. says:

        It seems to be an accounting problem as well as a human issue. If the invested capital is depreciated correctly then income is correctly stated, the issue is estimating lifetimes and the human tendency to over estimate useful life when reporting earnings to the public, and use IRS depreciation when reporting to IRS. When the tax depreciation is fully expensed , taxable income increases before the capital is at the end of its useful life, time to purchase more capital equipment. The Federal government drives this through tax laws to maintain growth in the economy.

        Dennis L.

      • Dennis L. says:

        I cannot speak to medical, but I had extensive experience in dental over 41 years, the last 15 of which were public health. In public health we measured outcomes and fortunately for the patients the number of extractions/fillings per encounter declined over time. As this was government funded there was no to increase income so the revenue per encounter declined along with procedures per encounter. It was all great except with regards to funding the clinic. Dental was simpler than medical and measuring outcomes simpler, but it has been done in medicine and more treatment does not always improve outcomes.
        Measuring outcomes is straight forward with modern medical records, cardiac surgery was measured this way in the 1970’s in Milwaukee with results that did not correlate well with the public reputation of the surgeons. Those studies quietly disappeared.
        Single payer with measured outcomes would solve much of the cost issue in health care, but please, postpone it until my passing, I like my doctor and I want to keep him.

        Dennis L.

        • Kaiser Permanente is a large organization that basically charges per person, not per medical procedure. So doctors cannot make money by recommending more procedures than are necessary. They also keep an extensive data base of what seems to work in terms of treatments. And they have a very integrated system that uses lots of nurses, physician assistants and specialists, besides primary care doctors.

          We have used the Kaiser for years, because I am concerned about the over treatment problem. US healthcare is a lot more expensive than that of other countries, but the outcomes are a whole lot worse. (Part of this is what people eat, and their lack of exercise.) My father was a physician, so I heard stories from him about what other doctors were doing. I also worked in malpractice insurance, as an actuary. I have been very impressed with Kaiser.

          This is an article about Kaiser. https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/mckinsey/dotcom/client_service/Healthcare%20Systems%20and%20Services/Health%20International/HI08_Kaiser_Permanente.ashx

          • Duncan Idaho says:

            I used Kaiser (in Hawaii and CA) with good results.
            The US is rated in the 30’s (between Costa Rica and Serbia) by WHO, but we spend twice as much as anyone.(actually Costa Rica and Serbia use 1/5 as much).
            Does anyone know why? It is really quite simple.

            • The system is not set up to get patients well; it is set up so doctors can make money. There is relatively little incentive to get the patient well, since a well patient does not use health care services as much.

            • Yorchichan says:

              “The system is not set up to get patients well; it is set up so doctors can make money”

              Seems like a good reason to take charge of your own health and not place your faith in those who don’t really care about you. Most modern health problems are caused by poor diet, lack of exercise, lack of sleep and stress; oh, and not forgetting drugs prescribed by doctors, which almost invariably do more harm than good. The remedies are obvious.

          • Robert Firth says:

            When I lived in the US I absolutely hated the health “care” system. Many of the doctors were good, but the accountants kept pushing them to generate more revenue, and the insurance companies kept creating more bureaucracy to inflate the premiums while delivering less outcome. Thankfully, I stayed clear of it by paying privately and taking care of my own health.

            But the upper echelons of the medical profession have an even better scam: persuading healthy people that they are sick. The started by medicalising pregnancy and childbirth, so now the US has far far the highest rate of Caesarian births and one of the worst infant mortality rates in the developed world.

            Then they medicalised childhood, and started drugging young boys for behaving like boys, in which they were abetted by a primary education establishment dominated by misandrist feminists. Attention deficit disorder used to be called “boredom”, and it was a teacher’s duty to ensure her charges were not bored. No longer.

            But they have now found an even more profitable and destructive scam: transgenderism. Every doctor knows that XX means you are a girl, and XY means you are a boy. But there is a lot of money, and potentially a lifetime of treatment, if you can persuade a confused child otherwise. This is child abuse, plain and simple, but it is politically correct, and so immune from criticism.

            • Tim Groves says:

              I strongly agree with what Robert says. This is child abuse. And it goes without saying that a nation that allows its children to be abused and actively connives in the abuse is in for an unpleasant future.

              There have also been periods when in both the US and the UK when mainstream medical opinion favored preventive circumcision to reduce the chance of developing genital worts, preventive tonsillectomy to reduce the incidents of sore throats, and preventive appendectomy while the patient is being opened up on the table for other procedures because, well, you never know when you might need one.

              Also, Angelina Jolie recently apparently became a poster child for preventive double mastectomy, and children in the US are shot up with so many vaccines these days that the majority of GPs can’t even remember the full schedule.

              These days there is also growing craze for medical testing, just on the off-chance that you have something seriously wrong with you—due to following the standard American Diet, not exercising enough, working until you drop, and being worried sick over money, debt, and whether you are still going to have a job next month— so that it can be treated while it’s still treatable.

            • Of course, if the testing produces an “incidental result” (something that no one was looking for and is producing no symptoms), there is an obligation to follow up endlessly on this. I am being followed for two (almost certainly benign) thyroid nodules, because a CT scan, taken outside of a Kaiser facility, showed these nodules, over a year ago.

              In the rare even someone actually does have thyroid cancer, it seems to be easily treatable.

              Following up on thyroid nodules seems to be the US medical system’s latest addition to the list of not very necessary things to be concerned about. I just recently had an ultrasound of the nodules, after an ultrasound and biopsy last year. Hopefully, the new ultrasound will put an end to the cycle.

            • I just got a message from Kaiser. “Thyroid nodules remain stable. Please repeat imaging in 2 years.”

              So I guess I am not quite off the hook. Ultrasound is pretty non-invasive and cheap. It should be easily sufficient.

            • Gail, you are a critical part of the wiring in the global early warning system

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