Understanding Why the Green New Deal Won’t Really Work

The reasons why the Green New Deal won’t really work are fairly subtle. A person really has to look into the details to see what goes wrong. In this post, I try to explain at least a few of the issues involved.

[1] None of the new renewables can easily be relied upon to produce enough energy in winter. 

The world’s energy needs vary, depending on location. In locations near the poles, there will be a significant need for light and heat during the winter months. Energy needs will be relatively more equal throughout the year near the equator.

Solar energy is particularly a problem in winter. In northern latitudes, if utilities want to use solar energy to provide electricity in winter, they will likely need to build several times the amount of solar generation capacity required for summer to have enough electricity available for winter.

Figure 1. US daily average solar production, based on data of the US Energy Information Administration.

Hydroelectric tends to be a spring-dominated resource. Its quantity tends to vary significantly from year to year, making it difficult to count on.

Figure 2. US daily average hydroelectric production, based on data of the US Energy Information Administration.

Another issue with hydroelectric is the fact that most suitable locations have already been developed. Even if additional hydroelectric might help with winter energy needs, adding more hydroelectric is often not an option.

Wind energy (Figure 3) comes closest to being suitable for matching the winter consumption needs of the economy. In at least some parts of the world, wind energy seems to continue at a reasonable level during winter.

Figure 3. US daily average wind production, based on data of the US Energy Information Administration.

Unfortunately, wind tends to be quite variable from year to year and month to month. This makes it difficult to rely on without considerable overbuilding.

Wind energy is also very dependent upon the continuation of our current economy. With many moving parts, wind turbines need frequent replacement of parts. These parts need to be precisely correct, with virtually no tolerance for change. Sometimes, helicopters are needed to install the new parts. Because of the need for continued high-technology maintenance services, wind energy cannot be expected to continue to operate for very long unless the world economy, with all of its globalization, can continue pretty much as today.

[2] Depending upon burned biomass in winter is an option, but we already know that this path is likely to lead to massive deforestation.

Historically, people burned wood and other biomass to provide heat and light in winter. If biomass is burned for heat and light, it is an easy step to using charcoal for smelting metals for goods such as nails and shovels. But with today’s population of 7.7 billion people, the huge demand for biomass would quickly deforest the whole world. There is already a problem with growing deforestation, especially in tropical areas.

It is my understanding that the Green New Deal is focusing primarily on wind, hydroelectric, and solar rather than biomass, because of these issues.

[3] Battery backup for renewables is very expensive. Because of their high cost, batteries tend to be used only for very short time periods. At a 3-day storage level, batteries do nothing to smooth out season-to-season and year-to-year variation.

The cost of batteries is not simply their purchase price. There seem to be several related costs associated with the use of batteries:

  • The initial cost of the batteries
  • The cost of replacements, because batteries are typically not very long-lived compared to, say, solar panels
  • The cost of recycling the battery components rather than simply leaving the batteries to pollute the nearby surroundings
  • The loss of electric charge that occurs as the battery sits idle for a period of time and the loss related to electricity storage and retrieval

We can get some idea of the cost of batteries from an analysis by Roger Andrews of a Tesla/Solar City system installed on the island of Ta’u. The island is in American Samoa, near the equator. This island received a grant that was used to add solar panels, plus 3-day battery backup, to provide electricity for the tiny island. Any outages longer than the battery capacity would continue to be handled by a diesel generator. The goal was to reduce the quantity of diesel used, not to eliminate its use completely.

Based on Andrews’ analysis, adding a 3-day battery backup more than doubled the cost of the PV-alone system. (It added 1.6 times as much as the cost of the installed PV.) The catch, as I pointed out above, is that the cost doesn’t stop with purchasing the initial batteries. At least one set of replacement batteries is likely to be needed during the lifetime of the system. And there are other costs that are more subtle and difficult to evaluate.

Furthermore, this analysis was for a solar system. There seems to be more variation over longer periods for wind. It is not clear that the relative amount of batteries would be enough for 3-day backup of a wind system, or for a combination of wind, hydroelectric and solar. The long-term cost of a solar panel plus battery system might easily come to four times the cost of a wind or solar system alone.

There is also the issue of necessary overbuilding to make the system work. On Ta’u, near the equator, with diesel power backup, the system is set up in such a way that 40% of the solar generation is in excess of the island’s day-to-day electricity consumption. This constitutes another cost of the system, over and above the cost of the 3-day battery backup.

If we also eliminate the diesel backup, then we start adding more costs because the level of overbuilding would need to be even higher. And, if we were to create a similar system in a location with substantial seasonal temperature variation, even more overbuilding would be required if enough capacity is to be made available to provide sufficient generation in winter.

[4] Even in sunny, warm California, it appears that substantial excess capacity needs to be added to avoid the problem of inadequate generation during the winter months, if the electrical system used is based on wind, hydroelectric, solar, and a 3-day backup battery.

Suppose that we want to replace California’s electricity consumption (excluding other energy, including oil products) with a new system using wind, hydro, solar, and 3-day battery backup. Current California renewable generation, compared to current consumption, is as shown on Figure 4, based on EIA data.

Figure 4. California total electricity consumption compared to the sum of California solar, wind, and hydroelectric production, on a monthly average basis. Data used from the US Energy Information Administration through June 30, 2019.

California’s electricity consumption peaks about August, presumably due to all of its air conditioning usage (Figure 5). This is two months after the June peak in the output of solar panels. Also, electricity usage doesn’t drop back nearly as much during winter as solar production does. (Compare Figures 1 and 5.)

Figure 5. California electricity consumption by month, based on US Energy Information Administration data.

We note from Figure 4 that California hydroelectric production is extremely variable. It appears that hydroelectric generation can vary by a factor of five comparing high years to low years. California hydroelectric generation uses all available rivers, so any new energy generation will need to come from wind and solar.

Even with 3-day backup batteries, we need the system to reliably produce enough electricity that it can meet the average electricity generation needs of each separate month. I did a rough estimate of how much wind and solar the system would need to add to bring total generation sufficiently high so as to prevent electricity problems during the winter. In making the analysis, I assumed that the proportion of added wind and solar would be similar to their relative proportions on June 30, 2019.

My analysis suggests that to reliably bridge the gap between production and consumption (see Figure 4), approximately six times as much wind and solar would need to be added (making 7 = 6 +1 times as much generation in total), as was in place on June 30 , 2019. With this arrangement, there would be a huge amount of wind and solar whose production would need to be curtailed during the summer months.

Figure 6. Estimated share of wind and solar production that would need to be curtailed, to provide adequate winter generation. The assumption is made that hydroelectric generation would not be curtailed.

Figure 6 shows the proportion of wind and solar output that would be in excess of the system’s expected consumption. Note that in winter, this drops to close to zero.

[5] None of the researchers studying the usefulness of wind and solar have understood the need for overbuilding, or alternatively, paying backup electricity providers adequately for their services. Instead, they have assumed that the only costs involved relate to the devices themselves, plus the inverters. This approach makes wind and intermittent solar appear far more helpful than they really are.

Wind and solar have been operating in almost a fantasy world. They have been given the subsidy of “going first.” If we change to a renewables-only system, this subsidy of going first disappears. Instead, the system needs to be hugely overbuilt to provide the 24/7/365 generation that backup electricity providers have made possible with either no compensation at all, or with far too little compensation. (This lack of adequate compensation for backup providers is causing problems for the current system, but it is beyond the scope of this article to discuss them here.)

Analysts have not understood that there are substantial costs that are not being reimbursed today, which allow wind and solar to have the subsidy of going first. For example, if natural gas is to be used as backup during winter, there will still need to be underground storage allowing natural gas to be stored for use in winter. There will also need to be pipelines that are not used much of the year. Workers will need to be paid year around if they are to continue to specialize in natural gas work. Annual costs of the natural gas system will not be greatly reduced simply because wind, hydro, and water can replace natural gas usage most months of the year.

Analysts of many types have issued reports indicating that wind and solar have “positive net energy” or other favorable characteristics. These favorable analyses would disappear if either (a) the necessary overbuilding of the system or (b) the real cost of backup services were properly recognized. This problem pervades studies of many types, including Levelized Cost of Energy studies, Energy Returned on Energy Invested studies, and Life Cycle Analyses.

This strange but necessary overbuilding situation also has implications for how much homeowners should be paid for their rooftop solar electricity. Once it is clear that only a small fraction of the electricity provided by the solar panels will actually be used (because it comes in the summer, and the system has been overbuilt in order to produce enough generation in winter), then payments to homeowners for electricity generated by rooftop systems will need to decrease dramatically.

A question arises regarding what to do with all of the electricity production that is in excess of the needs of customers. Many people would suggest using this excess electricity to make liquid fuels. The catch with this approach is that the liquid fuel needs to be very inexpensive to be affordable by consumers. We cannot expect consumers to be able to afford higher prices than they are currently paying for fossil fuel products. Also, the new liquid fuels ideally should power current devices. If consumers need to purchase new devices in order to utilize the new fuels, this further reduces the affordability of a planned changeover to a new fuel.

Alternatively, owners of solar panels might be encouraged to use the summer overproduction themselves. They might set the temperatures of their air conditioners to a lower setting or heat a swimming pool. It is unlikely that the excess could be profitably sold to nearby utilities because they are likely encounter the same problem in summer, if they are using a similar generation mix.

[6] As appealing as an all-electric economy would seem to be, the transition to such an economy can be expected to take 150 years, based on the speed of the transition since 1985.

Clearly, the economy uses a lot of energy products that are not electricity. We are familiar with oil products burned in many vehicles, for example. Oil is also used in many ways that do not require burning (for example, lubricating oils and asphalt). Natural gas and propane are used to heat homes and cook food, among other uses. Coal is sometimes burned in making pig iron and cement in China.

Figure 7. Electricity as a share of total energy use for selected areas, based on BP’s 2019 Statistical Review of World Energy.

Electricity’s share of total energy consumption has gradually been rising (Figure 7).* We can make a rough estimate of how quickly the changeover has been taking place since 1985. For the world as a whole, electricity consumption amounted to 43.4% of energy consumption in 2018, rising from 31.2% in 1985. On average, the increase has been 0.37%, over the 33-year period shown. If we assume this same linear growth pattern holds going forward, it will take 153 years (until 2171) until the world economy can operate using only electricity. This is not a quick change!

[7] While moving away from fossil fuels sounds appealing, pretty much everything in today’s economy is made and transported to its final destination using fossil fuels. If a misstep takes place and leaves the world with too little total energy consumption, the world could be left without an operating financial system and with way too little food. 

Over 80% of today’s energy consumption is from fossil fuels. In fact, the other types of energy shown on Figure 8 would not be possible without the use of fossil fuels.

Figure 8. World Energy Consumption by Fuel, based on data of 2019 BP Statistical Review of World Energy.

With over 80% of energy consumption coming from fossil fuels, pretty much everything we have in our economy today is available thanks to fossil fuels. We wouldn’t have today’s homes, schools or grocery stores without fossil fuels. Even solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, and modern hydroelectric dams would not be possible without fossil fuels. In fact, for the foreseeable future, we cannot make any of these devices with electricity alone.

In Figure 8, the little notch in world energy consumption corresponds to the Great Recession of 2008-2009. The connection between low energy consumption and poor economic outcomes goes back to many earlier periods. Energy consumption growth was unusually low about the time of the Great Depression of the 1930s and about the time of the US Civil War. The vulnerability of the financial system and the possibility of major wars are two reasons why a person should be concerned about the possibility of an energy changeover that doesn’t provide the economic system with adequate energy to operate. The laws of physics require energy dissipation for essentially every activity that is part of GDP. Without adequate energy, an economy tends to collapse. Economists are generally not aware of this important point.

Agriculture is dependent upon fossil fuels, particularly oil. Petrochemicals are used directly to make herbicides, pesticides, medications for animals and nitrogen fertilizer. Huge quantities of energy are necessary to make metals of all kinds, such as the steel in agricultural equipment and in irrigation pumps. Refrigerated vehicles transport produce to market, using mostly oil-based fuel. If the transition does not go as favorably as hoped, food supplies could prove to be hopelessly inadequate.

[8] The scale of the transition to hydroelectric, wind, and solar would be unimaginably large.

Today, wind, hydroelectric, and solar amount to about 10% of world energy production. Hydroelectric amounts to about 7% of energy consumption, wind about 2%, and solar about 1%. This can be seen on Figure 8 above. A different way of seeing this same relationship is shown in Figure 9, below.

Figure 9. World hydroelectric, wind and solar production as share of world energy supply, based on BP’s 2019 Statistical Review of World Energy.

Figure 9 shows that hydroelectric power is pretty well maxed out, as a percentage of energy supply. This is especially the case in advanced economies. This means that any increases that are made in the future will likely have to come from wind and solar. If hydroelectric, wind and solar are together to produce 100% of the world’s energy supply, then wind and solar, which today comprise 3% of today’s energy supply, will need to ramp up to 93% of energy supply. This amounts to a 30-fold increase in wind and solar between 2018 and 2030, based on one version of the Green New Deal’s planned timing. We would need to be building wind and solar absolutely everywhere, very quickly, to accomplish this.

[9] Moving to electric vehicles (EVs) for private passenger autos is not likely to be as helpful as many people hope.

One issue is that it is possible to mandate the use of EVs, but if the automobiles cost more than citizens can afford, many citizens will simply stop buying cars at all. At least part of the worldwide reduction in automobile sales seems to be related to changes in rules that are intended to reduce auto emissions. The slowdown in auto sales is part of what is pushing the world into recession.

Another issue is that private passenger autos represent a smaller share of oil consumption than many people would expect. BP data indicate that 26% of worldwide oil consumption is gasoline. Gasoline powers the vast majority of the world’s private passenger automobiles today. While an oil savings of 26% would be good, there would still be a very long way to go.

One study of EV sales in Norway suggests that, with large subsidies, these cars are disproportionately sold to high-income families as a second vehicle. The new second vehicles are often used for commuting to work, when prior to the EV ownership, the owner had been taking public transportation. When this pattern is followed, the savings in oil use from the adoption of EVs becomes very small because building and transporting EVs also requires oil use.

Figure 10. Source: Holtsmark and Skonhoft The Norwegian support and subsidy policy of electric cars. Should it be adopted by other countries?

If one of the goals of the Green New Deal is to level out differences between the rich and the poor, mandating EVs would seem to be a step in the wrong direction. It would make more sense to mandate walking or the use of pedal bicycles, rather than EVs.

[10] Wind, solar, and hydroelectric have pollution problems themselves.

With respect to solar panels, a major concern is that if the panels are broken (for example, by a storm or near the end of their lives), water alone can leach toxic substances into the water supply. Another issue is that recycling needs to be subsidized, to be economic. The price of solar panels needs to be surcharged at the front end, if adequate funds are to be collected to cover recycling costs. This is not being done in the US.

Wind turbines are better in terms of not being made of toxic substances, but they disturb bird, bat, and marine life in their vicinity. Humans also complain about their vibrations, if the devices are close to homes. The fiberglass blades of wind turbines are not recyclable, and many of them are too big to fit into standard crushing machines. They need to be chopped into pieces, in order to fit into landfills.

Adding huge amounts of 3-day battery backup for wind turbines and solar panels will create a new set of recycling issues. The extent of the recycling issues will depend on the battery materials used.

Of course, if we try to ramp up wind and solar by a huge factor, pollution problems will rise accordingly. The chance that raw materials will prove to be scarce will increase as well.

There will also be an increasing problem with finding suitable sites to install all of the devices and batteries. There are limits on how densely wind turbines can be spaced before the output of one wind turbine interferes with the output of other nearby turbines. This problem is not too different from the problem of declining per-well oil production caused by too closely spaced shale wells.  

Afterword

I could explain further, but that would make this post too long. For example, using an overbuilt renewables system, there is not enough net energy to provide the high salaries almost everyone would like to see.

Also, the new renewable energy systems are likely to be more local than many have hoped. For example, I think it is highly unlikely that the people of North Africa would allow contractors to build a solar system in North Africa for the benefit of Europeans.

Note

*There are two different ways of comparing electricity’s value to that of total energy. Figure 7 uses the more generous approach. In it, the value of electricity is based on the amount of fossil fuels that would need to be burned to produce the electricity amounts shown. In the case of electricity types that do not involve the burning of fossil fuels, these amounts are estimated amounts. The less generous approach compares the heat value of the electricity produced to the total heat value of primary energy sources. Using the less generous approach, electricity corresponds to only about 20% of primary energy supply. The transition to an all-electric economy would be much farther away using the heat value approach.

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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1,326 Responses to Understanding Why the Green New Deal Won’t Really Work

  1. Xabier says:

    They seek them here, they seek them there: those damned derivatives are….everywhere!

    Talk about digging your own grave since 2008……..

  2. Harry McGibbs says:

    With Brexit looking potentially soluble and Trump reaching a “preliminary agreement” with the Chinese trade delegation, one dares to hope that the global economy might sputter on for a few more years – a terminally ill patient enjoying enough temporary respite from his symptoms to cross off a few more items on his bucket-list.

    • Denial says:

      How is Brexit looking soluble? The Trump and China Deal will break down; there have been no papers signed yet. Also without a stimulus bill in the U.S all signs point to an economic slowdown..And that is not going to happen with the current state of Washington .It is already happening all around the world without added debt there is no growth. Also one black swan event brings all the cards down can anyone say war in the middle east? Iran is being squeezed hard just like the U.S did to Japan before pearl harbor they will eventually strike most leaders don’t want to end up like Gadaffi so hold on to your seat…your comment few years might be adjusted to “few Months’?!

      • Harry McGibbs says:

        It is certainly true that any trade truce would be a temporary fudge, designed to delay problems in the US until after the election next year. China not sounding convinced:

        “The latest trade war negotiations between China and the United States were “constructive” but there remains a great deal of uncertainty as the two sides seek to find a long-term resolution to their dispute, Chinese state media said on Saturday.”

        https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3032639/beijing-warns-more-uncertainty-trade-war-negotiations-despite

      • Harry McGibbs says:

        Re Brexit, there has been a sudden and rather baffling sea change in the timbre of negotiations, which have swung from abject pessimism, with a no-deal all but guaranteed, on Monday to this:

        “The European Union and Britain will step up Brexit discussions over the coming days, following a breakthrough in talks between top EU and UK negotiators on Friday.”

        https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.dw.com/en/brexit-eu-uk-get-go-ahead-to-intensify-talks/a-50793872

        A sceptic might wonder if the plan all along has been to terrify everyone by taking this to the wire, so that a reheated version of the deal Theresa May thrice failed to get passed into law might wash safely through the Houses of Parliament on a wave of relief.

        • Xabier says:

          One might indeed suspect that, Sr Harry, were it not for the absolute confidence we can all have in the utter probity – and cast-iron integrity – of our ‘leaders’ in the UK and EU.

          Such corrosive scepticism may safely be banished away!

          • Harry McGibbs says:

            You have set this deeply cynical soul straight, Xabier. I am grateful and chastened in equal measure.

          • Tim Groves says:

            Reading the recent Brexit news, the image I have in mind runs along the lines of “Bravely bold Sir Boris, rode forth from Camelot….” I just can’t get it out of my head.

        • I will believe an agreement when I see one. The most I would expect is kicking the problem down the road a bit farther.

      • Harry McGibbs says:

        As far as the overall picture goes, you won’t find many gloomier prognosticators than me but the global economy has already confounded me with its resilience.

        There is good evidence that we are already in a global recession, which we can loosely define as global GDP growth below 2.5%, and the major central banks have very limited ammo to pull us out of a downturn, should it get more serious. There are worsening environmental pressures, too, of course.

        But who knows? Perhaps we have a few more years of inventive stimulus allowing an economic ‘bumpy plateau’ accompanied by increasingly eye-popping socio-political dramas before the whole thing craters. I hope so – I’m enjoying watching my boys grow up and I like my creature comforts.

        • Xabier says:

          ‘Just an inch of steel to kill a man, a charming Olde Englishe proverb.

          Well, a perfect insertion in a vital artery will lead to a quick bleed-out and death; but a man can take many dozens of stab wounds in non-vital places and survive.

          Or suffer a much slower death, from infection: I suggest we are at the stage of lying feverish and raving while the surgeon shakes his head, but tries ‘just one more thing.’

          The energy flows sufficient to sustain global trade and societal hyper-complexity look fairly good for at least another 5-10 years,and I am sure financial matters can be patched up adequately enough while impoverishment of the ordinary citizen spreads…

          Redistribution of our (fundamentally illusory) wealth will become the great political issue, we can be sure – certainly in Europe/UK.

          • Harry McGibbs says:

            Five to ten years… I would settle for that in a deal with the devil.

            • Xabier says:

              You’ll be going to Heaven to eat delicious things to the sound of drums and golden trumpets, not the Other Place; unless life is more decadent and sinful on that island of yours than one has ever imagined. Maybe that’s why you moved there? 🙂

            • Harry McGibbs says:

              I wish. 😀

            • Tim Groves says:

              Harry, do the locals build a wicker man on Islay?
              Or am I getting it mixed up with some more backward part of the Hebrides?

            • Harry McGibbs says:

              Tim, if they do, they haven’t told me… Oh, wait – I think I hear Britt Ekland banging on my bedroom wall…

    • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

      “… one dares to hope that the global economy might sputter on for a few more years – a terminally ill patient enjoying enough temporary respite from his symptoms…”

      yes, we can barely hope…

      the patient is ill because of the flat or decreasing energy supply… not enough healthy low cost energy to feed on…

      the symptoms are many, and getting weirder year by year…

      too low energy prices, negative interest rates(!), fast rising prices of cyber currencies, tariffs/trade wars, stealth QE…

      CBs and economists must think those are the illnesses, but they are just symptoms caused by the weakening energy supply of the patient…

      how long can the CBs etc keep the symptoms under control before something causes the patient to fall down?

      • Xabier says:

        Quivering away like Merkel, but still on out feet…..

        • Denial says:

          For the patient to keep going on there needs to be 0 black swan events….How likely is that? It will just take one to make the fire go like crazy…and because of the amount of tinder you will not be able to stop it. And by “you” I mean the Federal Reserve…..every day it looks like it is going to happen sooner than 2 years….too much debt is coming due

          • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

            debt, interest rates, forex, derivatives, tariffs, hyperinflation, deflation…

            there are lots of financial places where a black swan could arrive…

            as long as the black swan doesn’t arrive in an area of real energy supply/production, such as the Saudi drone strikes on 9/14 but much worse, then it will probably be in a financial area…

            in which case the real physical base of the world economy will remain intact…

            in which case the world CBs will have the task of keeping the economy from crashing after being struck by such a financial black swan…

            as others have been saying, the world is probably already in recession…

            this should be declared officially in 2020, and as a wild guess, I would say it will be very severe… down 5 to 10%… with no full recovery to the previous level, before the next recession in a few years…

            the new normal for the 2020s will be a series of recessions…

            unless we get The Collapse… which still remains at a low probability…

    • Sven Røgeberg says:

      As simple as this (sic!):
      Michael Mann, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, said the findings shone a light on the role of fossil fuel companies and called on politicians at the forthcoming climate talks in Chile in December to take urgent measures to rein in their activities.

      “The great tragedy of the climate crisis is that seven and a half billion people must pay the price – in the form of a degraded planet – so that a couple of dozen polluting interests can continue to make record profits. It is a great moral failing of our political system that we have allowed this to happen.”
      https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/09/revealed-20-firms-third-carbon-emissions

      • The is the story we keep reading. Of course, without fossil fuels, nearly all (or perhaps all) of us are dead.

      • GeT HaPpY says:

        From the article……
        The Guardian approached the 20 companies named in the polluters list. Eight of them have replied. Some argued that they were not directly responsible for how the oil, gas or coal they extracted were used by consumers. Several disputed claims that the environmental impact of fossil fuels was known as far back as the late 1950s or that the industry collectively had worked to delay action.
        Most explicitly said they accepted the climate science and some claimed to support the targets set out in the Paris agreement to reduce emissions and keep global temperature rises to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
        All pointed out efforts they were making to invest in renewable or low carbon energy sources and said fossil fuel companies had an important role to play in addressing the climate crisis. PetroChina said it was a separate company from its predecessor, China National Petroleum, so had no influence over, or responsibility for, its historical emissions. The companies’ replies can be read in full here.
        Of course this point can’t be overlooked…
        He added: “Even though global consumers from individuals to corporations are the ultimate emitters of carbon dioxide, the Climate Accountability Institute focuses its work on the fossil fuel companies that, in our view, have their collective hand on the throttle and the tiller determining the rate of carbon emissions and the shift to non-carbon fuels.

        Non carbon fuels??? As Gail has pointed out time and time again, not looking at the complete, total picture of so called “clean energy”.

        Of course, in the end the Atmosphere will heat up to the point where human nation states can no longer support itself.

        • Or not. Human nation states may be long gone, by the time the alleged warming problem takes place. Without understanding the trajectory of human population growth, one can’t say much at all. Climate models use nonsense projections of future fossil fuel consumption. Also, future population growth.

          • GeT HaPpY says:

            Well, in the end we really don’t or won’t know the material contributing tipping point factor.
            Probably a combination of all that have have been addressed here and elsewhere.

        • Xabier says:

          The ignorance of Guardian reporters generally surpasseth all understanding: ‘non-carbon fuels ‘ is delightful! Are they thinking of rush lights dipped in pig fat, and bundles of twigs gathered by hand in ancient forests?

          The idea that in this system the ff companies have ‘their hand on the tiller’: oh my……

          I wonder how much ff was expended, how much concrete poured and steel inserted, when The Guardian moved its HQ from the old building in Farringdon Road – still standing – to their swanky new King’s Place building in a distinctly more fashionable district of London?

          Or was it perhaps built by solar-powered elves?

          This requires fearless investigative journalism!

          • Robert Firth says:

            I remember when the Manchester Guardian was a trusted and respected newspaper. Today’s Guardian is close to being the nadir of gutter journalism.

            Their reporters might be aware that pig fat contains carbon, as do bundles of twigs. But they are clearly unaware that we passed the 1.5C threshold at least five years ago. The only reason it does not show on our thermometers is the dimming caused by industrial pollution. They also seem unaware that nations responsible for 80% of the world’s carbon emissions either did not sign the agreement or have subsequently failed to act on it.

            And, by the way, the first warning about the possible climate effects of manmade carbon dioxide was issued in 1896, by Greta’s relative Svante Arrhenius.

            But Guardian reporters don’t care about facts; all they have are agendas.

      • Xabier says:

        As if the ff companies were just like a Mexican drug cartel, and could be rounded up and shut away…….

      • Phil D says:

        Michael Mann is a fraud. He lost a seven year court case in Canada a couple of months ago because he refused to provide details of how he calculated the temperatures that went into his famous “hockey stick” temperature graph. Back in 2011 a Canadian climatologist called him out on his misrepresentation of global temperature history and so Mann sued him for libel. After stalling and blocking for seven years, Mann lost the case and was held in contempt by the judge for refusing to provide details of how his data were derived. This was the biggest scientific court case of the 21st century and no one is talking about it.

    • Of course, we know about a huge amount of unconventional oil that could be extracted, if it were possible to get the price up high enough.

  3. Tim Groves says:

    With poise and aplomb, and impeccably clad in haute couture, Jane Fonda gracefully joins the climate crusade!

    I know that it’s scary for a lot of people. I know that it seems vast and overwhelming. The Green New Deal, for example, is what I’m talking about. But (raising her finger) the reason that we have to do so much so quickly is because thirty years ago the fossil fuel industry lied to us. If they had told the truth we could have started thirty years ago and have the transition be much more moderate, much more incremental. So if we’re having to do things that appear radical, it’s because they lied to us and we’ve lost so much time. Our carbon budget has become very narrow and our time.. We have eleven years, and that’s it, you know. And when I say “that’s it”, I mean a tipping point will be reached when it will be too late. Systems will start to disintegrate and there’ll be nothing we can do about it It will affect every aspect of our lives; even those rich guys who think they’re above it all. They won’t be because the economy is gonna be shocked, health will go, health will go, mass migrations by the tens of millions. It’s gonna be a chain effect..

  4. Jason says:

    That’s like my wife being 200 pound overweight and finding out from the doctor that is she doesn’t lose the 200 pounds she will be dead in a year. “But my husband never told me I was fat, he lied to me and said I look good. He lied to me and let me eat whatever I wanted.”

  5. “India’s solar and wind boom is fizzling
    “India has been a bright spot for solar and wind growth, driven by government policies and ambitious targets. But new projects have stalled.
    “The background: India had aimed to install 175 gigawatts of renewable generation by 2022. But the Mumbai rating agency CRISIL now predicts the country is going to miss those goals, coming up more than 40% short.
    “What’s happening? One state simply stopped paying developers in a strong-arm effort to force them to slash rates. Meanwhile, state-owned distribution companies have pushed down prices for proposed projects to the point where they’re often not financially viable. These have chilled investment, and stalled projects.”
    https://www.technologyreview.com/f/614539/indias-solar-and-wind-boom-is-fizzling/?utm_source=newsletters&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=the_download.unpaid.engagement

    Of course, the emphasis of this piece is on the implications for “climate change”, not on the continuing non-existence of any AC power grid in the world which gets even nearly half its energy from IRE (intermittent renewable energy — wind, solar, tides, etc.), or on the necessity of fossil fuels to keep the whole techno-state-ist infrastructure going in the first place.

    • It seems like there have been a huge number of countries that have come to a similar conclusion after they added a certain amount of wind and solar. China, Germany, and Spain have all gone this route. It seems like countries need to figure out for themselves what the costs and benefits are before they decide to cut back substantially.

      • Dennis L. says:

        I suspect in many cases people don’t really want to know things will not work no matter how good the intentions. Is it possible that we have too much empathy in our political life? Could this be related to the increased number of women in politics? Merkel is a physicist , Germany does not have a great deal of sunlight, she should easily understand the underlying science yet there was a huge build out of solar. Some of these decisions are not pleasant and physics can defy the “if we can all only believe it will all work.” The underlying structure of our society seems to be tearing itself apart which may make all the other issues moot, or worse. There is so much anger it is hard to find actual solutions in many areas.

        Dennis L.

        • The issue with Merkel is that she was trained both science and political organizing, and at some point of her career she spent in aggregate 2-4-6x more time already as acting scheming pro politician than scientist.

          Even conformist msm biographer would agree with the realistic observation certain (most) type of political leaders are just preoccupied with cleansing the HR area near and around them to make it void of any direct competition to themselves. Now the gov transition looks quite shaky in Germany because the *replacement candidates are very substandard material.

          On the other hand a true statesman nurtures the system by helping to prop up promising talent to any key position, advise on any early mistakes and consults correction and yes also mercilessly eliminates disorderly elements. That’s just proven 101 lesson of history, this very often makes or brakes empires, war effort or any important gov turnaround maneuvers.


          *in the same way that’s large part of why the “Orange Jesus” survived so many attacks from the swamp so far, basically the system got so ineffectual due to ever recycling cadre of substandard players for decades that incoming minority faction could have gone so far on teflon shield only

          • Dennis L. says:

            Interesting thought, I keep recalling Shakespeare and others, it seems it has always been thus, your comment about the HR department was clever.

            Dennis L.

          • Xabier says:

            My step-mother is an MP and regional organiser for her (social-democratic) party in Spain, and it’s nearly all infighting and ideological wrangles, and, of course, photo ops and marches.

            Recently, she has tried to clean up corruption in internal voting, together with two other senior members, and it looks as though they will be disciplined and booted out of the party by the faction rigging the votes.

            I did warn her it would likely be a disillusioning experience……..

            As for background and preparation for politics, they are all former school teachers, lawyers and some with degrees in Political Science or Trade Union Studies – a very poor talent pool for a technological society in crisis!

            The other route for ambitious people who want to live off the public purse is NGO’s dealing with fashionable topics – helping migrants ‘integrate’, gender stuff, etc. You don’t even have to stand in an election…..

      • Robert Firth says:

        From an old book whose title I forget:

        “To make change happen, find out what will cause the change, and do it. Then find out what is preventing the change, and undo it.”

        It should by now be blindingly obvious what is preventing the change to large scale renewables: the grid. But nobody seems willing to face the problem square on.

  6. Xabier says:

    Delighted to hear that.

    Cynicism is so corrosive.

    Simple faith and trust in our leaders will not be proved wrong (as long as they have access to document shredders)… 🙂

  7. Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

    CA:

    https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2019-10-12/column-steve-lopez-california-power-outages

    Column: What the heck has gone wrong here in California? From owning the future to blacked out.

    “To be honest, it’s kind of embarrassing…

    But we’ve got tent villages up and down the state, a shameful rich-poor gap, three homeless people dying daily in Los Angeles County, and, in the midst of a housing shortage, homes going up in flames by the hundreds.

    And we’re not very good at fixing any of these things.”

    sounds like basic population overshoot…

    • doomphd says:

      the good news for California is the serious butt covering by PG&E is exposing it (their buttocks) for all to see. it’s like when Dorothy’s little dog Toto pulls back the curtain to reveal the man pulling the cords to animate the Great Wizard of Oz. moment of truth time.

    • Thinkstoomuch says:

      I disagree on the population overshoot.

      Sounds more like a VERY distraught and angry person with no understanding of cause and effect. Oh yeah and a healthy case of “not my/our fault!”. Despite the last line in your quoted material.

      Isn’t PG&E a public owned regulated utility? Where was the oversight to ensure maintenance is done? Why is this not a problem in any of the other western states? Is there a magic line at the Arizona, Oregon and Nevada borders?

      A link to derail my rant. Remember this is a CEO so believe as much as you think prudent.

      https://energynow.com/2019/10/chevron-ceo-mike-wirth-bemoans-california-home-while-praising-texas/

      T2M

      • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

        here’s the Wall Street Journal on PG&E:

        https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2019/10/11/wsj-blame-environmentalists-for-california-blackouts-wildfires/

        “For years the utility skimped on safety upgrades and repairs while pumping billions into green energy and electric-car subsidies to please its overlords in Sacramento. Credit Suisse has estimated that long-term contracts with renewable developers cost the utility $2.2 billion annually more than current market power rates.”

        so could it really be that they skimped on safety issues so they could Go Green?

        “oversight” is the right word…

        where were the politicians who allowed PG&E to behave so?

        was/is the problem PG&E or the authority above them?

        • Thinkstoomuch says:

          “was/is the problem PG&E or the authority above them?”

          *All of them!* No blame game, they all are at fault. Other places have managed this type of event.

          Like any accident, it is a ladder climbing to an end result. Remove any of the rungs and the accident doesn’t happen.

          Bad corporations/people exist. Bad politicians exist. Bad bureaucrats exist. Silly (and/or “cost averse”, short sighted) voters/customers exist. When the ladder is complete … Bad things happen. Break a rung …

          Or we can just assume it is just bad luck, god’s will, climate, weather, … or whatever each person picks his own hobby horse.

          Though from what I have heard of PG&E and the excuse PG&E gives in your cite … I’ll spare everyone my rant.

          T2M

    • Dennis L. says:

      I think this is what Gail is talking about, it is from Ecosophia comment section.

      “From sunny California, a big problem with their electric lines being so old and under-serviced that they’ve sparked some of the largest forest and wildfires California has ever seen. Rather than service the lines, they’re just cutting off electric service during the windy period.”

      It seems to me that this is very consistent with what has been discussed regarding electrical service. No matter who’s to blame, there are not the funds to support the infrastructure.

      Dennis L.

      • Chrome Mags says:

        My wife and I are in a pickle. We live in CA, and this latest outage was the 2nd this year. When the power goes out we can’t use the plumbing, because an electric holding tank when near full pumps up to the sewer under the street in front of our house. Obviously we are on a hillside. So not only is our life businesses interfered with by an outage but no plumbing is a real difficulty.

        The pickle is, if we spend approx. 12 thousand on a Generac backup system hardwired into the E panel, then to justify that expense the number of days it comes on during an outage need to be divided into the cost to determine a daily cost. So this year we’ve been out 6 days, so if we have spent that much our days with outage would have cost $2,000. each. Now if there are more days outages in future years, the cost comes down.

        But what I’m figuring is the whole power outage bit by PG&E is an attempt to get CA’s government to make it so any downed power line that causes a fire is an act of God, to exonerate the utility company, and that way PG&E doesn’t turn off power in anticipation of rough weather that may cause a fire from a downed line.

        So we are waiting to see if CA’s government does something like that, and if not by next Spring, then we’ll have to bite the bullet and get an expensive backup system wired in.

        Just as an aside, I noticed our portable back up generator that runs on unleaded, did not run the frig as well as grid power. It hummed, but did not get as cool. As soon as power came back on and I plugged it in, it kicked on with an audible sound it doesn’t from the generator. I’m not sure what the difference is, but we do have an energy saving frig.

        • Chrome Mags says:

          It could be that the gauge of wire in the ext. cord was too low. I’ll try a higher gauge and shorter cord next time.

          • Chrome Mags says:

            Scrap that – lower gauge is thicker, which is what I meant.

          • Thinkstoomuch says:

            Off topic so not the right place. Without more specifics hard to tell. Do a Duck Duck Go search.

            That said and ignoring it. 🙂 You may also want to check if the generator is putting out out a modified sine wave or true sine wave. Modified can cause issues with some things, according to what I have read.

            T2M

        • Leave California sooner rather than later?

  8. Artleads says:

    AESTHETICS AND ENERGY

    Do aesthetics reflect ecological, social and energetic efficacy? Do benign aesthetics affect them in the direction of sustainability and survival, and malign aesthetics affect them in the opposite fashion? Gail makes the compelling point that ideas of aesthetics coincide with and reflect respective contemporary needs to dissipate energy. Aesthetic signify the concern, the preoccupation, with beauty; it is not a formula for beauty, although there may be some universal indicators of beauty.

    Since the mass production of Fords predate that of other cars, it’s possible to look at Ford models distributed 20 years apart, starting in 1910, and with different energy regimes. I still don’t understand the business of energy having to be dissipated, but I try to check out how it might work with car design.

    1910 Ford
    https://search.aol.com/aol/image?p=1910+ford&s_it=img-ans&v_t=webmail-hawaii1-basicaol&fr=webmail-hawaii1-basicaol&imgurl=https%3A%2F%2Frmsothebys-cache.azureedge.net%2F9%2F8%2F5%2Ff%2Fb%2Fb%2F985fbb702c05b0f55ce2a26d2465439aba443ad3.jpg#id=3&iurl=https%3A%2F%2Frmsothebys-cache.azureedge.net%2F9%2F8%2F5%2Ff%2Fb%2Fb%2F985fbb702c05b0f55ce2a26d2465439aba443ad3.jpg&action=click

    1930 Ford
    https://search.aol.com/aol/image?p=1930+Fird&s_it=img-ans&v_t=webmail-hawaii1-basicaol&fr=webmail-hawaii1-basicaol&imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fi.ebayimg.com%2F00%2Fs%2FMTA2NlgxNjAw%2Fz%2F1dcAAOSw3xJVcFL9%2F%24_32.JPG#id=1&iurl=http%3A%2F%2Fi.ebayimg.com%2F00%2Fs%2FMTA2NlgxNjAw%2Fz%2F1dcAAOSw3xJVcFL9%2F%24_32.JPG&action=click

    1950 Ford
    https://search.aol.com/aol/image?p=1950+Ford&s_it=img-ans&v_t=webmail-hawaii1-basicaol&fr=webmail-hawaii1-basicaol&imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fst.hotrod.com%2Fuploads%2Fsites%2F21%2F2014%2F06%2F1950-ford-coupe.jpg#id=0&iurl=http%3A%2F%2Fst.hotrod.com%2Fuploads%2Fsites%2F21%2F2014%2F06%2F1950-ford-coupe.jpg&action=click

    1970 Ford
    https://search.aol.com/aol/image?p=1970+Ford&s_it=img-ans&v_t=webmail-hawaii1-basicaol&fr=webmail-hawaii1-basicaol&imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fst.hotrod.com%2Fuploads%2Fsites%2F21%2F2014%2F11%2F1970-ford-torino-parked-closeup.jpg#id=0&iurl=http%3A%2F%2Fst.hotrod.com%2Fuploads%2Fsites%2F21%2F2014%2F11%2F1970-ford-torino-parked-closeup.jpg&action=click

  9. GeT HaPpY says:

    Just noticed this and fits the topic here..
    California power lines spark wildfires and prompt blackouts. Why not just bury them?
    Janet Wilson, Palm Springs Desert Sun
    USA TODAY

    Why can’t California’s fire-prone power lines be buried underground, out of harm’s way?

    That was the question many were asking this week as hundreds of thousands of customers lost power in the Sacramento and San Francisco areas in preemptive shutoffs by Pacific Gas & Electric. Further south, another 200,000 customers of other utilities faced warnings that they too could lose power due to high winds.
    Experts say the answer is simple: money.
    “It’s very, very expensive,” said Severin Borenstein, a UC Berkeley professor of business administration and public policy who specializes in energy. Borenstein was speaking through the crackly static of a cellphone outside his darkened home in the San Francisco suburb of Orinda on Thursday evening. The Berkeley campus was shut down and his home had lost power, too, after PG&E instituted a mandatory “de-energization” across nearly 40 counties due to high fire threats.
    It costs about $3 million per mile to convert underground electric distribution lines from overhead, while the cost to build a mile of new overhead line is less than a third of that, at approximately $800,000 per mile, according to a section on PG&E’s website called Facts About Undergrounding Power Lines.
    ……..At a cost of $3 million per mile, undergrounding 81,000 miles of distribution lines would cost $243 billion. PG&E has 16 million customers; distributing that expense equally would amount to a bill of more than $15,000 per account.
    “It’s very expensive,” said Constance Gordon, a public information officer with the California Public Utilities Commission. “The utilities don’t want to pay for it out of their pockets, so ratepayers would have to pitch in, and people don’t want to pay for that.”
    ….What about solar panels and batteries?
    So if you can’t bury your power line outside your front door, what about going “off the grid” with batteries in case of power outages?
    Borenstein said that for most people, it’s out of reach. A Tesla-produced Powerwall — a big battery that can store energy produced by solar power on a home rooftop, or electricity sucked from the conventional grid — starts at $6,000. There are additional expenses for installing a switch to “island” a building’s electric system, isolating it from the grid.

    ……Earlier this month, Newsom signed into law over 20 wildfire-related bills.

    One example: SB 584, introduced by Sen. John Moorlach, would require electrical corporations to invest funds for overhead to underground electrical infrastructure conversion projects by July. The projects would be partially funded by grants from the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. But the bill has languished on the floor.
    Borenstein agreed that vegetation management and hardening transmission and distribution lines are better, more easily implemented alternatives than burying 100,000 miles of lines.
    “That means mowing, cutting trees, perhaps replacing wooden poles with concrete poles, and all the rusted transmission towers,” he said. “They’re trying to do these things, but they have a huge backlog of work.”
    Other possible measures include insulating exposed lines or installing sensors, including cameras or devices that can detect a spark or a short and even shut down a line automatically.

    Seems our infrastructure is overwhelmed to adapt to the changes …

    • I have read that Germany is burying some of their new power lines, and the cost is very expensive, more than four times the overhead line cost. They are often dealing with urban areas, and this no doubt raises costs.

      • Thinkstoomuch says:

        There is a reason that this line is in there:
        “Borenstein agreed that vegetation management and hardening transmission and distribution lines are better, more easily implemented alternatives than burying 100,000 miles of lines.”

        Look at pictures, topographical and geological maps, for the areas where these power lines go. A lot of rocky knife edge ridges, with deep narrow areas between. I marvel that people were able to place the poles/towers. 45+ degree bare stone slope. Cost to bury them would be … no clue what phrasing to use. Even a relatively few miles of high risk lines would be … . A few frost and freeze cycles. I am not even sure buried wires would last long before it failed. Especially now that the surface has been disturbed.

        Notice the lack of success for Germany’s North/South connectors to get wind power to the industrial south. Mostly stalled by “not in my backyard”. I infer that burying is not being contemplated for long distances, though I may be wrong. Assumptions and all that from thousands of miles away.

        T2M

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