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By Russ Finley on Jan 26, 2015 with 119 responses

Google Engineers Conclude that Renewable Energy Will Not Result in Significant Emissions Reductions


Graphic from Stockholm Resilience Centre Study Combined with Pie Chart of WWF Study

Back in 2007, Google assembled a team of engineers to investigate the feasibility of replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy. The effort ended in 2011 with the conclusion that it can’t be done with existing technology. Two of the engineers on that team wrote about their efforts in Spectrum Some excerpts from that article:

Google’s boldest energy move was an effort known as RE<C [Renewables less than Coal], which aimed to develop renewable energy sources that would generate electricity more cheaply than coal-fired power plants do. The company announced that Google would help promising technologies mature by investing in start-ups and conducting its own internal R&D.

At the start of  RE<C, we had shared the attitude of many stalwart environmentalists: We felt that with steady improvements to today’s renewable energy technologies, our society could stave off catastrophic climate change. We now know that to be a false hope—but that doesn’t mean the planet is doomed.

As we reflected on the project, we came to the conclusion that even if Google and others had led the way toward a wholesale adoption of renewable energy, that switch would not have resulted in significant reductions of carbon dioxide emissions. Trying to combat climate change exclusively with today’s renewable energy technologies simply won’t work; we need a fundamentally different approach.

So our best-case scenario, which was based on our most optimistic forecasts for renewable energy, would still result in severe climate change, with all its dire consequences: shifting climatic zones, freshwater shortages, eroding coasts, and ocean acidification, among others. Our reckoning showed that reversing the trend would require both radical technological advances in cheap zero-carbon energy, as well as a method of extracting CO2 from the atmosphere and sequestering the carbon.

We’re glad that Google tried something ambitious with the RE<C initiative, and we’re proud to have been part of the project. But with 20/20 hindsight, we see that it didn’t go far enough, and that truly disruptive technologies are what our planet needs. To reverse climate change, our society requires something beyond today’s renewable energy technologies. Fortunately, new discoveries are changing the way we think about physics, nanotechnology, and biology all the time. While humanity is currently on a trajectory to severe climate change, this disaster can be averted if researchers aim for goals that seem nearly impossible.

The key is that as yet invented sources have to be cheaper than fossil fuels. The problem is that existing scalable low carbon energy sources (nuclear and renewables) are all more expensive than fossil fuels, which I’ve been pointing out for years. They make a stab at explaining why wind and solar are more expensive but trust me, their explanation will largely fall on deaf ears when presented to renewable energy enthusiasts who either don’t want to hear it or are incapable of comprehending it. They argue that subsidies for renewables and nuclear to compete with fossil fuels are essentially a financial penalty to fossil fuels which simply shift their use to another part of the planet (export of oil, gas, and coal, along with manufacturing jobs).

So …what does humanity do in the decades that it may take to find these new sources, assuming they exist? Certainly, we shouldn’t sit on our thumbs and wait to see what happens. The graphic shown below (which I borrowed from the article) is what they suggest.


There are two things that make the Google study stand out from all of the others:

  1. The frank admission that renewables won’t get us there.
  2. People listen to what Google has to say.

Others came to the conclusion that we don’t have the technology needed to pull this off long ago but the politicos and ideologues have a big advantage in that their message, although wrong, is simple enough for a journalist to understand and write a short article about. It’s a time honored formula. Read this 2012 blog post by NNadir as he mulls over a not-so-simple potential disruptive technology. I’ve always enjoyed his brilliant but acerbic style and tend to agree with almost everything he has to say but what he says isn’t what the public wants to hear.

The graphic at the top of this article (altered by me to add the WWF study pie chart) came from a revised version of a 2009 study done by the Stockholm Resilience Centre and has just been published in Science. I wrote about the 2009 study here. From the Stockholm Resilience Centre:

Four of nine planetary boundaries have now been crossed as a result of human activity, says an international team of 18 researchers in the journal Science (16 January 2015). The four are: climate change, loss of biosphere integrity, land-system change, altered biogeochemical cycles (phosphorus and nitrogen).

Two of these, climate change and biosphere integrity, are what the scientists call “core boundaries”. Significantly altering either of these “core boundaries” would “drive the Earth System into a new state”.

Note in the graphic at the top of this article that climate change is just one of the nine boundaries and it has not quite entered the high risk red zone although it inevitably will do so. Andrew Revkin wrote about this study a few days ago and invited some critics of the original 2009 study to weigh in. Shortly after they weighed in, Andy updated his post with counter-responses from the authors of the study. You can read Revkin’s article here.

In my last article I tried to make a few key points:

  1. Two writers (myself and one at Grist) often draw polar opposite conclusions from the same study.
  2. Pundits tend to focus almost exclusively on wind and solar power (as witnessed by the comments below my article).
  3. Wind and solar (as well as nuclear) are small pieces in a large climate change puzzle and if you look at the graphic at the top of this article you will note that climate change is just one piece of yet another puzzle.
  4. No entity can accurately predict energy trends three decades out.

And last but not least, it is time that real environmentalists started to question the wisdom of replacing fossil fuels solely with dams, biomass, biofuels, wind, and solar. It’s time to accept nuclear as part of the interim solution set.

Note that the three red zones in the graphic at the top of this post represent things like biodiversity loss, dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico, and expansion of agriculture that can be exacerbated by dams, biomass, biofuels, wind, and solar. More from the Google engineers:

To bring levels down below the safety threshold, Hansen’s models show that we must not only cease emitting CO2 as soon as possible but also actively remove the gas from the air and store the carbon in a stable form. Hansen suggests reforestation as a carbon sink.

Note that because biomass and biofuels require land, they tend to negate efforts to use reforestation to store carbon, not to mention compete with biodiversity for ecosystems and humanity for cropland.

Luckily, the future can’t be predicted, in large part because predictions alter the future. There is always hope. More real environmentalists need to make an effort to think more critically and join in the effort to counter those who are convinced that renewables are a silver bullet. They’re not, and neither is existing nuclear technology.

  1. By dcard88 on January 26, 2015 at 10:07 am

    LOL! so 2010 technology won’t do it? How about 2020? Any suggestion that we can’t get there by 2025 is a waste of breath. Why should 5 year old technology be part of any discussion of the future? If the major advances of the last 5 years are included, all the numbers change. They started this study in 2007, so how about they do another study in 2017 and lets see what comes up?

    • By Russ Finley on January 27, 2015 at 1:28 am

      We are all hoping for breakthrough low carbon technologies but according to the 2014 BP statistical review, non-hydro renewables gained three tenths of a percent last year, going from ~ 1.9% of our energy to 2.2%.
      Nuclear held steady at ~ 4.4%. That is the result of competition with lower cost fossil fuels. That rate of growth of low carbon energy strongly suggests that the Google engineers may know what they’re talking about. 2.2% + (15 x 0.3%) = 6.7% by 2025 and the costs don’t start going exponential until wind and solar reach about 15%-20% of the energy mix each. That’s why even Germany is hoping to get no more that 20-25% of its total energy from solar by 2030 or so.

      • By dcard88 on January 27, 2015 at 9:38 am

        7.5 % or our total use last year and probably 8% by the end of this year and 10% by 2020

        • By Russ Finley on January 27, 2015 at 5:32 pm

          Humanity has never dealt with a “global” problem. All problems have been less than global. Any emission anywhere is a global one. Focusing on the emissions from one home, city, state, or country does not describe the global warming state. You have to look at global statistics. Globally, non-hydro renewables gained three tenths of a percent last year. Some years they actually lose ground relative to fossil fuel growth.

      • By Corey Barcus on January 27, 2015 at 9:56 am

        “We are all hoping for breakthrough low carbon technologies…”

        Here is your breakthrough:

        Their system is based upon the very successful MSRE from the 1960s, and should be able to bring the cost of nuclear below $1/watt.

  2. By Shiggity on January 26, 2015 at 10:34 am

    Google would be facepalming right now. You’ve completely missed the point of why they ended that program.

    They ended the program because they recognized the economics of solar pv were largely solving the problem for them. They no longer had to put money into solving the problem, the problem has been solved.

    Ignore cable news and please read 2014 articles about solar PV in countries, India, China, Australia, England, and Japan. Every single country is going through a dramatic shift, RIGHT NOW.

    Any article that isn’t from 2014 is largely worthless. The economics are improving *every business quarter*.

    • By Corey Barcus on January 26, 2015 at 12:08 pm

      Solar and wind farms are merely an extension of a conventional power system, and this is essentially why we must use nuclear to decarbonize. Solar will continue to fall in cost, but that will not make up for the costs inherent in intermittent and diffuse power generation.

      Consider what has been proposed as an alternative to backing up renewable generation with gas:

      1) massive redundancy with wind farms to try and eliminate the time when the wind does not blow (a major energy sink)

      2) massive storage (GWe-weeks) with pumped hydro, compressed gas, energy carrier storage (synthesize hydrogen while power is not needed), or batteries

      3) burn biomass

      Both 1 & 2 are incredible energy sinks that will devastate the EROI of the power system. #3 would be very environmentally destructive as biomass produces very little energy per surface area (less than 1 watt/sq meter).

      So, renewables are really only an expensive form of emissions reduction, and pretending that we are going to drive coal out of the market with this strategy is delusional. We require a carbon-free dispatchable power source that can be deployed fast enough to eliminate the use of coal globally.

      • By John Coller on January 26, 2015 at 3:15 pm

        Intermittent power sources hydro/wind/solar work very well together. Hydro works best in winter and solar in summer. Super grids are cost effective and already span multiple time zones. Hydro has storage built in.

        Lab tests show the newer batteries last 10,000 charge cycles, up from about 1,000 charge cycles, which would makes them fairly cheap per kwh of stored charge. (e.g. Lithium-Ion with titanium dioxide or zinc air)

        Cyanobacteria ethanol will probably be cheaper than fossil fuels to produce. ( Greater than 53 000 watts / sq meter per year)

        There is also energy saving to consider, the German Passivhaus standard barely requires any heating or cooling. Things like Aerogel plasterboard makes converting existing houses feasible and many insulation materials lock away more carbon than they take to produce, whether man made or natural.

        • By Corey Barcus on January 26, 2015 at 4:34 pm

          Sure, hydroelectric works well with intermittent sources, but are you suggesting that hydroelectric power is as scalable as either natural gas or coal? Hydro is geologically limited, dams silt up, and they have a major environmental impact.

          Batteries are not going to be cheaper than pumped hydro or compressed gas storage at the GWe-day to week scale, and they are all major energy sinks within the renewable system. This will devastate energy return, which is the whole point of energy production. So, while our goal is to make carbon free generation cheaper, renewables remain an expensive dead end for emissions reduction.

          And algae production has far too low EROI to ever be a serious fossil substitute, even though it has the highest power density among biomass.

          The truth of the matter is that renewable advocates have never really understood the implications of providing for Civilization’s power needs, and they have no viable long term plan.

          Here is an example of a nuclear technology that could lead to something competitive with fossil fuels:

  3. By Forrest on January 26, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    It’s hypocritical for environmentalist to claim CO2 is the death knell of planet, but won’t even consider nuclear. How, can this reasoning be justified if they believe the first?
    Science studies I’ve read have mature forest carbon neutral. Rotting matter about equal to growth. Even the Amazon has thin soil, microbial activity, and insects converting decay so fast not much sequestration occuring. Now, as far as photosynthesis and cellulose conversion efficiency the Amazon is powerful, but not as impressive as the lowly corn fields that achieve more and do so away from tropic zone of sun power during the growth season. This amazing fact reveled per orbiting space station. Corn field produces more tonnage of cellulose per acre than average forest. Also, modern genetics of plant life expected to produce 20 tons per acre per season, that’s about double current rates. Grassland is superior C5 plant life as compared to trees. The modern farming practices increase diversity of insect, bird, and animal life. They recently found the most productive habitat is biomass grassland next to wet marsh land. Computer application of nitrogen extremely efficient nowadays. The dead zone of Mississippi delta a factor of municipal runoff more than agriculture, but non the less the dead zone is steadily decreasing.

    Nature is the 200# gorilla of CO2 production as compared to man, but man’s portion is a relatively new addition. It is currently theorized to gradually increase in concentration. These minute additions of a few hundredths of one percentile to our atmosphere expected to cause all planetary harm. Computer modeling software is indicating severe weather change. Of course this is speculative as the experiment can’t be conducted to validate. We can achieve a more robust understanding and compare reality with computer model to increase comfort level of the science, but crux of the problem probably never will be fully calculated, especially the damage speculation. But, to this my question is why are we hitting man made CO2 so hard and forget nature contribution? Their is no difference per the CO2 molecule. Nature produces the majority and should be the easy pickings to decrease. I’m guessing the environmentalist just don’t want to go there. They lust over solutions that involve big brother government. They have a need to regulate free citizens to their wonderful solutions and do not want competition.

    • By zlop on January 27, 2015 at 4:00 pm

      “Of course this is speculative as the experiment can’t be conducted to validate.”
      Mapping of Centrifugal and Gravitational force, is one to one and onto.
      Build a large centrifuge and put a Sun Lamp in the middle.

  4. By Vaengineer on January 26, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    If the goal of society appears to be to maximize GDP growth, how can any energy source be a solution? We will just grow our way to the point where that source negatively impacts the environment.

    • By Corey Barcus on January 26, 2015 at 6:38 pm

      We need to maximize the growth of a carbon free power system so that we can grow the sustainable economy and displace fossils. Please remember that it is the economy that keeps us alive. If we are going to improve the general quality of life, then we will have to input more energy into the economy. Per capita energy use in Western Europe is about 5 kW, whereas the global average is less than half that.

      We can greatly reduce per capita environmental impact by growing the use of nuclear power. Consider the current environmental impact of coal use:

      • By ben on January 27, 2015 at 5:26 pm


        In fairness, I really think you may be rashly underestimating the progressive spirits of the “authors” cited in your recent contribution.

        Not too sure how small government, free market a “carbon fee and dividend” might actually be, but I won’t dismiss the merits of anything aiming at greater truth-in-pricing of energy supplies with total (production/distribution/use) costs more accurately reflected in the final product’s sticker price.

        Given a more thoroughly aggregated cost calculation of energy sources, we might promote energy efficiency measures with an eye toward better use of existing energy supplies ahead of subsidizing various alternatives failing to pass even the most basic of blush tests when confronting unbiased, cost/benefit analysis bearing directly on technical/commercial efficacy. Guess we should take funding obligations of scientific R&D out of the hands of politicians.

        If this (efficiency and transparency) is essentially your aim, well, I welcome adding a sturdy shoulder to the grinding of the grist.

        Ben G

    • By Vikram on January 27, 2015 at 12:56 am

      Well said. Completely agree!

    • By zlop on January 27, 2015 at 3:55 pm

      “We will just grow our way to the point where that source negatively
      impacts the environment.”? Development enhances the environment.
      Coal use to pollute severely. Now, with scrubbers, less impact.

    • By Optimist on January 29, 2015 at 6:38 pm

      No, we just keep getting better at producing more GDP $/g CO2. The solution is already happening. You can relax now.

  5. By Andrew H Mackay on January 26, 2015 at 6:38 pm

    The ‘yet to be invented’ has already been invented over five years ago – its called Getec WaTS – we can continue to be silly and build more junk electricity generators or wise up and generate thermally from renewable heat stores – Simples!!

  6. By ben on January 26, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    Thanks, RF, for revisiting Google’s earlier research activity and the bottom-line conclusions reached about the near-term potential of renewables in meeting the challenges posed by CO2 emissions. I agree, there were no particular revelations in the study nor panaceas for meeting the challenges associated with global climate change. Alas, there is, as we have noted here before, “nothing new under the sun.”

    I happen to subscribe to the view that greater energy efficiency through the advancement of disruptive technologies, along with the rigorous adoption of existing energy-savings measures, can add significantly to sustaining global economic growth and sensibly addressing environmental protection. Arguably, the wisest way to augment energy supply is to gain greater economic bang for the buck from existing production even as we look to relevant market signals/pricing mechanisms to guide the allocation of limited resources across a range of innovations. Yes, nuclear power is one of those options, so long as the attendant financial risks of technical failure and economic forecasts are prudently taken into account. And, yes, there is relevant role for government in backstopping the financing of nuclear projects where project cost savings inure to the benefit of consumers as readily as applicable shareholders.

    Re: Corey Barcus

    Thanks for the citation from Ron Adam’s blog, Atomic Insights, which has long been a credible source for the ongoing development of nuclear technology, to include the right-sizing of projects to help mitigate the incidence of poorly designed capacity. Getting the next generation of nuclear sites properly developed will likely prove invaluable to the wider adoption of this energy source.

    Again, thanks for taking this issue on with an eye toward the future.

    Ben G

    • By Robert Rapier on January 26, 2015 at 9:32 pm

      I talked to a Reuters reporter yesterday for half an hour about the U.S.-India nuclear announcement, and he asked if there was anyone else he should talk to. I said “Yeah, a guy name Rod Adams. Here is his contact info.”

      • By ben on January 27, 2015 at 2:37 pm

        A s ever, RR still trying to get folks to put a round peg in a round hole without much worry of who gets credit or from which side of the political spectrum the idea might originate. Why can’t Washington embrace such pragmatism? No need to proffer a reply to this one; slurping over at the fiscal trough will likely drown out any well-reasoned arguments despite the actual merits. Rather sad to take such a dim view of our nation’s
        public life.

        Ben G

  7. By jcfool on January 26, 2015 at 11:58 pm

    Hey fellow posters, Instead of arguing which imaginary black box is the best and will save our collective asses, how about focusing on what is a guaranteed winner – namely using way less energy. Here is the deal as I see it: – Nuclear is the most expensive and immoral power source ever devised and besides, the build out time to replace FFs stretches past the century mark. – Peak oil happened in 2005, unless you want to use the shinny new definition of oil which includes condensates, in which case you have a few years left. – All renewable are ultimately dependent on FFs, have their own enviro impacts, don’t scale, and just suck at powering the type of lifestyle we have come to believe we are entitled to.

    So like it or not we will be using less in the next little while because it was never about exactly how much is left be rather about how much consumers can afford in the long run. Well, I figure that question has been answered, what with the collapse in demand after 4+ years at over $100/brl and all. And it sure doesn’t look like there is anything, ANYTHING, out there that will stay below that threshold. So get used to not having a car, or a cushy office job with a pension, or going on a trip outside your region, or a 1000 channels of shitty TV. Yup, what you will have will be a life very similar to the lives that almost every one of your ancestors had. Your existence proves it can be done and done with passion. The only thing that will make this change unfeasible will be the refusal of people to embrace it.

    I strongly urge that people who are concerned about energy to the divest themselves of the notion that there will always be more of everything. Put at least one foot outside the box and use some imagination to envisage another type of functional world, one that’s more Fred Flintstone than George Jetson. Good life is not about how much crap you can accumulate or how much tech is at your finger tips. It is about the hard but rewarding work of building and supporting loving relationships with those that you care about. That is both the history and the future of humanity.

    • By ben on January 27, 2015 at 1:35 pm

      JC Fool

      Hmm, I sense a frustration that conflates an inconvenient fact; consumers in free societies exercise choice based on personal preferences trumps an alternative presumption that dire foreboding about imminent limits to growth somehow sway such liberty. A more objective-minded bow to reality suggests that the road ahead, while admittedly bumpy, will not differ significantly from the ride of the past few decades. Since the advent of OPEC, and the painfully slow (but inexorable) transition toward a diversification of primary energy sources that fuel today’s commerce, a reconciliation of the market’s relentless demand for energy with incremental constraints imposed on production remains fairly constant. Fortunately, technology has historically introduced a measure (albeit fairly modest in most cases) of relief to such ongoing adjustments.

      So, rather than surrendering in an emotional pique sounding pretty much like an old scold, offering little more than a harangue about of we are going to hell in a hand- basket, please take another look at RR’s most recent (and earlier) piece where he objectively describes how energy (oil/gas) demand continues apace notwithstanding the inevitable ebb and flow of prices. A fundamental tenet of economics is that energy requirements propel output in order to meet global population growth and, inevitably, humanity’s aspirational interests.

      Will there ultimately be a set of inflexible input barriers to the continued growth of economic output? Perhaps. Yet, such barriers do not currently constrain economic growth contrary to what we have experienced in recent decades in the midst of remarkable technological change and geopolitical shifts in the way international trade and financial exchange continues to evolve in often unexpected ways.

      Take heart contemporary Chicken Littles, the sky is not falling–though some of these rain clouds surely appear ominous!

      Ben G

    • By Optimist on January 29, 2015 at 6:53 pm

      Wow, those are Just Completely Foolish facts:
      1. Peak has not happened yet, no matter how you count it. Unlike say the way inflation is calculated, the method is NOT the problem here.
      2. As repeatedly pointed out by RR, demand is NOT collapsing, see To the contrary, supply is exploding. Demand will, in fact, grow even faster at $50/bbl.
      3. As the exploding supplies show, FFs are NOT going anywhere. Any challenger better be in great shape!
      4. NOT ALL renewables are dependent on FFs, just the ones grown on farms. Examples of renewables that does NOT depend on FFs include all the organics going into landfills (~85% by mass) and sewage sludge. Hint: independent renewables are NOT “clean”.
      5. If you take a look at the size of some wastewater treatment plants and some landfills it is obvious: renewables do in fact scale.
      6. Do you know ANYBODY who got rid of his/her car because of gas prices? If it is a trend, it is sure an underreported one.
      7. Travelling over the last few years may have dipped a tad, but people still travel. And will keep doing so, regardless of oil prices. They may, of course, cut back. The beauty of a (relatively) free market, eh?
      8. Relax: going back to Fred Flinstone is not progress and not required.

      9. You’re right: it makes sense to conserve. It’s just that at $100/bbl everybody is so much better at it.

      So don’t worry and let’s hope $100/bbl is back soon!

    • By Corey Barcus on January 29, 2015 at 8:07 pm

      We must grow the sustainable economy faster than fossils are deployed. To reduce global poverty, we must greatly expand energy use by lowering the cost of energy. Nuclear power is the only source of energy that has this potential. Contrary to popular belief, nuclear power can be efficient, easy to deploy, easy to decommission, inherently safe, clean, and powerful.

      Here is an innovative take on nuclear power that aims to drive capital costs below $1/watt with mass production:

    • By uncaffegrazie on February 14, 2015 at 5:51 am

      Sounds idyllic but I personally doubt global impoverishment could come without a lot of pain. The transition would be hard, there would be political upheaval, wars etc.
      If renewables fail and fossil fuels become too hard to pull out of the ground self-fertilizing nuclear reactors will be built, it’s a proven technology and could provide abundant energy for centuries. Yes it is dangerous and ugly but there is *zero* possibility of major human societies politically choosing a descent into poverty when a viable alternative exists.

  8. By Vikram on January 27, 2015 at 12:59 am

    “energy needs” … we need to look into what it really means

  9. By jfreed27 on January 27, 2015 at 8:22 am

    The authors are unaware of how a price on pollution can effectively lower emissions and at the same time bring enormous economic benefits.. A recent study by REMI puts Google’s conclusions out of date.

    A price on pollution is levied on all sources of carbon and the resultant fees are rebated.

    The “carbon fee and dividend” (100% of carbon fees returned to households as a monthly check, for example) was studied by Regional Economic Modeling, a blue ribbon, non-partisan panel of economists.

    A small ramped up fee on carbon would, in 20 years, reduce
    emissions by 50% (much faster than the EPA regs), create almost 3 million jobs
    (with the stimulus of the dividend), save hundreds of thousands of lives
    (pollution kills), and add to GDP.

    This is a small government, free market solution (favored by many top conservative economists, such as George Schults), and avoids the command and control of EPA regs.
    And, it would bring enormous economic benefits.

    So, will the GOP in Congress stand by these conservative
    principles, or by the fossil fuel lobbyists? Will they show both courage and concern for their fellow Americans; or will they cave to the Kochs?

    • By Russ Finley on January 27, 2015 at 8:49 pm

      The authors are unaware of how a price on pollution can effectively
      lower emissions and at the same time bring enormous economic benefits

      According to my article that I’m not sure you read, they concluded that schemes like a price on carbon would increase electric bills, which is why they are calling for new forms of energy production that are cheaper than what is available now. If cost didn’t matter, we could simply replace all fossil fuels with solar for the sake of simplicity. Right?

      Also, if a carbon pricing scheme is all the world needs, it would favor all low carbon technologies, nuclear and renewable. The carbon pricing idea has been around for a long time now. Remember, global warming is global. The actions of one country barely make any difference on a global scale.

      • By jfreed27 on January 27, 2015 at 10:09 pm

        I understand. You missed the critical point I was making.

        Namely, the author did not (as far as I know) consider a ‘price on carbon’ with ALL REVENUES REBATED. That is the plan that REMI presented (did you see the link I provided? Did you read the study?) This has only been very recently critically studied, so Google missed it.

        Of course, electricity (from coal and oil) would increase in price. That is why emissions would go down. The 100% rebates to citizens would, in most cases, more than compensate for those increases, and low carbon choices would be incentivized as dirty energy products get more expensive.

        So, we use the free market to pivot away from ff once the externalities of dirty energy is paid for by polluters, at least in part

        It doesn’t matter what we do? Along with a carbon fee and dividend are proposals for a ‘border tax adjustment’, or a carbon fee on imports. That would reward other nations to reduce emissions – in order to avoid the import duties. This is a powerful incentive that would ripple around the world. No other scheme has such leverage.

        • By Russ Finley on January 28, 2015 at 12:51 am

          I was writing articles at Grist about the ALL REVENUES REBATED version of carbon taxes about a decade ago. It is not a new idea.

          • By jfreed27 on January 28, 2015 at 8:47 am

            Can you cite previous studies?

            Are you familiar with the REMI study? Put a price on pollution and rebate those fees to citizens.

            In 20 years we would see

            a. 50% reduction in emissons
            b. almost 3 million jobs created
            c. 1.4 trillion dollars added to GDP
            d. hundreds of thousands of premature deaths prevented


            Where is the error here?

            • By Russ Finley on January 29, 2015 at 1:59 am

              …I hope they are right and that they manage to find a way to get their idea implemented. If they are right, and if they can impement their scheme, nuclear, wind, and solar will quickly replace fossil fuels. Good luck with that.

            • By jfreed27 on January 29, 2015 at 7:49 am

              REMI is used by many states to evaluate economic impacts of various projects and is held in high regard. Carbon fee and dividend is a small government solution using the power of a more free market, so conservatives should be comfortable with it.

              I know you are well aware of the dangers of doing little about growing emissions. Unfortunately, the ff lobbyists may call the tune in Congress. Citizens Climate Lobby last year went to virtually every Congressional office in DC to make sure that the REMI study was clearly explained. Ignorance is no excuse.

            • By Forrest on January 29, 2015 at 9:26 am

              FF influence upon politicians is spread out quite well. Feinstein seems a bit to entrenched. The huge pro petrol advertising budget is centered within DC boundaries, why is that? Fred Upton is on Powerful Energy Chair, my Representative, and the guy doesn’t appear to be a shill for oil. Meanwhile the political force of wind and solar is a bit troubling. Corn has nothing over this force. You notice how all businesses run to DC as step one for success. Russ with his Libertarian sensibilities per corn ethanol, would guess be outraged upon all these energy providers crony capitalism efforts. Right? I think Carbon free and dividend sound like a backhanded way to tax citizens per increase product cost via punishing industry and utility companies with cost to change. I never liked the clever populous efforts by shrewd politicians to hold up bushiness and industry per revenue then turn around and play the tune that these same companies are screwing the public per higher profits and need ever more powerful government control. The editor of this blog make the case per Europe’s approach to level playing field of competing alternative energy the best approach. Something like cost tariff to support higher priced energy production. Also, a plain carbon tax would be beneficial if the Left offered ditching Obama Care and lighten up the Administrative law branch of modern government since it is illegal i.e. EPA law makers. Oh, it’s funny the solutions to GW always bend not to reality, but to envisioned world of catastrophe and glorious wind and solar power, while a study I read easily placed the wood stove far above solar power per CO2 savings, yet cost taxpayer nothing. Also, a lions share of benefit to conclude with simple act of EPA II regs to improve the device.

            • By Forrest on January 31, 2015 at 7:58 am

              I was listening to meteorologists explain why the poor predication of the recent Eastern seaboard snowstorm. He always referred to the professional standard that will overestimate damming forecast as the thinking goes, better to scare everyone to prepare than not. So, this thinking goes right down the line with government leadership blasting public of dire and life threatening forecast. Then public grows ever more skeptic of Chicken Little approach to predictions and ignores the sensational attention grabbing and viewer ship ratings of politicians and news channel delights. This meteorologists also explained how difficult job to utilize computer data and project future events and how small differences make huge differences to report. That accuracy quickly diminishes for even a few days out and impossible to have any accuracy ten days out. He basically said all the parameters, inputs, calculations, were terribly complex and with maximum variability so accuracy just plain nonexistent for a long time frame, that venture would placed within climatologist realm. But, he did infer computer data weakens greatly in any such attempt. So, are we heaving way to much weight upon shoulders of climatologist that have, indeed, utilize very weak tools to know much of anything upon predicting the weather hundreds of years out? I think so and this guy whom studies shoulder to shoulder with climatologist didn’t give me any confidence that these guys have a lock on forecasting ability either. Doesn’t bode well that this group probably in the mindset of Chicken Little reporting to scare public as well! Watch the political rhetoric of Left and the focus to use Climate as a political tool much like woe of minorities, poor, starving overweight children, and female rights . All this just all another talking point that goes unsolved as to do so would lose grip on voter constituency values. I see no evidence that the Left see’s any value in GW other than the usual political.

        • By Forrest on January 28, 2015 at 8:56 am

          No need to infer the Right would be obstructionist and hypocrites. They will always warm up to open market actions vs the inefficient and crude approach of gov’t regs, but they are not fully on board with the analysis, science, and speculation of damage to society. Do you blame them since the science has such a large political element and such extremists? Also, the Environmentalist a bit picky on solutions, much to much to believe they really believe the science and destruction estimates. For instance all the engineered (non nature) solutions are quickly dissed. Interesting example would be the ability of mountain eruptions to cool planet for years by two degrees. We can copy this forever. How about the simple act of reflecting more radiant heat back to space. Some believe our blacktop activity a big contributor to warming. Mild climates should all utilize cement or white topping. Even simple act of metal roof especially plain galvanize would radiate a tremendous heat load to space and save a boat load of AC not least the cost of roofing overall least expensive. Nuclear energy really discloses a dishonest evaluation of damage to environment of GW. Also, note Environmentalist bristle when solutions arise that don’t empower large federal or international controls. This indicates to me, they exploit environmental scare tactic to stampede public to bad solutions of which they ultimately lust for. If the Environmentalist really fear GW, they need to adapt your solution. The Right would easily go on board with compromise of Constitutional Amendment to ax the horrible pox invented per hatred of earning public, yes Income Tax scheme that takes fully 30% of the revenue collected to operate. Also, probably the biggest factor for loss of national productivity per ever growing conformance cost. Much, much better ways to finance government and control excessive wealth or generational hierarchy of wealth.

          • By jfreed27 on January 28, 2015 at 9:34 am

            Well, if the Right warms up to solutions they better freaking do it quickly! “Winning too slowly is losing”. The suicidal climate change we blithely ignore will wait for no man.

            I agree that conservatives OUGHT TO like small government, free market solutions. But, then there are their ff friends. hmmm…

            • By Forrest on January 28, 2015 at 2:32 pm

              If Obama, Reid, and Pelosi had thought global warming were serious, don’t you think they would have forgone government health care battle, especial the in your face approach shove it down your throat per scorched earth partisan actions? How about the CIC going out of his way for antagonizing the Right, when a productive cooperative approach would have been good for country since as you say we have real problems. We have some equally large problems if we lose our economy or suffer catastrophic terrorist attack. I do think someone pragmatic like Bill Clinton would have had the government working productive per respect of other viewpoints. Working more nonpartisan Presidential like to compromise and adjust to foment majority decisions of citizenry. Conversely, nowadays the rhetoric is harsh and CIC is in continuous campaign mode thrilling constituency. I could easily vision a less controversial President (if the concern of GW was of serious threat) working with right in compromise to cut government spending, decrease growth of government and winning elimination of coal power. If GW is truly dangerous, well the Right is supportive of nuclear, so whats stopping that solution? The Left probably could have got all they wanted for GW concerns if willing to give up or modify their pet programs that haven’t proven to be efficient or effective i.e. public ed, social security, welfare system, IRS, and gov’t run health care. The job creation and economy would be impressive as result and we would have max resources to the job of international renewable power.

  10. By Forrest on January 27, 2015 at 8:28 am

    Just heard the Millennial generation has the highest rates of poverty within U.S. to date. Read the below comments and one understands the mentality to “drop out” and live life per eliminating the productive lifestyle. Cheers with the home made wine and illegal trades (tax free) of needed wares, oh and pat oneself on back upon saving the planet. The elders have no wisdom of quality of life values such as couch surfing, bumming a ride, getting free music, entertainment, public lands, internet, and basement living. Oh, it is nice to be supported by the boomers whom seem to not have learned to spoil their middle aged kids. To much of this mentality has poisoned minds, probably per viewing of to many “friends” TV shows at young age. Their is a lot of hungry youth out in the world that would love this generation to keep satiated with such notions of living easy. A lot of the youth have already claimed the status of our nation unsustainable. To much debt and health care costs. Also, just to lucrative to low achievers to swell up with self indignation of tribal, minority, and low income suffrage with demands of others to pick up the tab. The majority don’t share the viewpoint or described per the comment, but one should guard from indoctrination of media and education institutions that have done much damage to thinking skills of Americans. I believe those that foster these attitudes serve another master and not beneficial to plight of mankind or environment.

  11. By zlop on January 27, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    “We felt that with steady improvements to today’s renewable energy technologies,
    our society could stave off catastrophic climate change”

    Cannot prevent the Ice Age, by reducing greenhouse gases.
    Rothschilds, Gore and Blood are running a Carbon Tax Extortion Racket.
    By playing along, Google is complicit and Evil.
    “Google, Yahoo Criticized Over Foreign Censorship – Businessweek”

  12. By Forrest on January 28, 2015 at 7:20 am

    Man has triggered nine planetary boundaries that threaten life as we know it? Wow, didn’t know the earth is so unsuited for mankind and his inventions. Is this when we should hang our head and go back to inner city apartments and start walking or take the bus? Best to watch TV on nature and let the environmentalist tread, photograph, and camp within wilderness for our viewing. That would take powerful central control to crush human spirit to the likes of intoxicants and free sex for tomorrow we die attitudes. The rich and influential could then enjoy life to extreme and jet around to enjoy without the dirty masses.
    The reason hydro is left out of study, because the renewable power is capable and easily adapted by international community. It is the lowest cost power to date. Energy department has studied U.S. hydro and claims we can easily double power production to accomplish one third our power needs. First many smaller dams go without power production as they were constructed for recreation and tourism benefits. Converting these dams to power production should be first priority. Also, upgrade current dams to the more efficient turbines. Then utilize the siting software to maximize new dam construction worth and low environmental impact. Also, we must realize dam construction to the environment is a trade off, really a net sum balance of little impact if done right. Secondly, those potential dam locations that are just to remote to be practical, may be practical per hydrogen production and storage. Same with remote wind turbine power. If ever a disruptive energy was to be foretold it would be the hydrogen solution. Nuclear is a no brainer to employ. Just the energy source should be placed on path of maximum sustainability of the industry. Meaning commitment to long term construction and replacement of old plants. To utilize best in class designs and not suddenly invoke a Manhattan style rush to construct and then stop. We need an intelligent path, a non political hyperbole nonsense approach. This endeavor takes best minds and engineers to slowly progress the sector and they need support and freedom to make it possible.

  13. By Forrest on February 1, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    The Google engineer link was interesting. N Nadir link was hard to read (with out vomiting) as the author has such sarcastic bent and acerbic style. He is very arrogant talking of history of humanity and dark philosophy of which he apparently doesn’t reside within. This guy reminds me of other marketing ploys that work the crowd like a politician whom continually insults the opposition as ignorant, dumb, and Luddites labels. But, those of you who prescribe to his idea’s will then (naturally) be part of smart crowd. His continuous dispersion of the clean, inert, and life supporting gas aka CO2 is laughable. You would think after reading the mess, the gas is the most evil and planet destroying poison in nature.
    First, what I got out of the Google link, from the comments section and what you often post, nuclear energy the most important asset in human race to slow down progression of GW. Second, Hansen idea of increasing forests for carbon sink is good, yet must be tempered with maximum forestry effort to prune and log mature tree and keep forest growing at max yield. The third point of utilizing bio crop genetics to utilize nature’s process to harvest more CO2 and sequester in ground sounds like the endeavor of biomass crops that far surpass forest land for CO2 conversion per acre. Were just beginning to appreciate the fungi, mold, bacteria, spores, etc of the under world root growth zone of corn and biomass plantings that make these plants very capable for carbon sequestration. The last point of needed process to pull CO2 out of atmosphere, well nature is probably best at that especially algae, just we need to intercept the carbon cycle before nature dumps the carbon back out. Anaerobic digester just the tool for that. Also, the sawmill production lumber a great way to store carbon. Similarly landfills meet much of the criteria with the conversion of methane production and burial of carbon. Waste heat of electrical power plants a problem unless we adapt the CHP technology. High temperature hydrolysis for hydrogen generation from nuclear would appear so solve problems of load balancing of grid and carbon less fuel production. That would be disruptive energy as the fuel cell is proving it’s grit. The notion they alluded to but went undefined, if rooftop solar systems with battery storage of power became cost efficient with off grid capability and per the high value of retail power, this would put fossil fuel power at disadvantage. I like this and the position is close especially with fuel cell attributes of CHP, biomass heat, etc. Again the fuel cell may play a pivotal role.

    • By Forrest on February 2, 2015 at 6:33 am

      Read that CO2 is responsible for 60% GW? In my book that is a little over half, so why the huge focus only on this emission and fed regulations to inflict massive cost to consumers? Might we attack the low hanging fruit first? Also, just to put some of the “science” into prescriptive, was reading of earth worm study per emissions. The little wiggler emission is either a problem or a benefit to GW. Also, the progression of the creature is either prolific or minimal. Scientist need more $$. So, just how accurate is GW computer generated forecast 100 yrs out, if for one example, this little creature’s contribution unable to forecast? Also, it may becoming apparent from the authors post and links that charcoal and biomass may be the second best tool in GW arsenal. Considering that charcoal locks up carbon for 1,000 years, it’s easy to produce, and greatly improves soil efficiency for both water and nutrient component. So, common wood stove is looking pretty good as the fuel eliminates waste and interrupts the ensuing decomposition production of methane and CO2, also decreasing termite consumption of waste wood and horrible methane pollutant. A bonus is the 10% charcoal production. Not bad per Google engineer search for green fuels costing less than fossil, either. I operate my stove probably like most and eliminate hundreds of pounds of cardboard and wood waste. Does it get any better for environmental concerns? Process plants like Cool Planet that gasify biomass for both fuel and biochar should do exceptional per similar benefits. Nuclear, hydro, biomass, and charcoal seem to be sensible solutions to CO2. Wind and solar will fit in and we do need to migrate to BEV and especially fuel cell. What new pathway need be invented?

      • By Forrest on February 2, 2015 at 7:52 am

        Oh, by the way, some below attempt to malign the Right per their resistance to embrace Environmentalist hyper expensive solutions. The solutions that not only expensive and disruptive to put in place, but have a high price of energy production attached. Still, given in time and with proper siting wind and solar are attractive, we should avoid thinking of them as quick solutions or the only tool in the box. We’re disparately close to unstable economics upon changing economic winds. We have no room within the national deficit for wasteful spending nor room within the economic engine for expensive power. So, if GW is of primary concern, honest nonpartisan brokers can accomplish much if giving up the political attacks, name calling, and gamesmanship. We need leadership to bring the country together and avoid the business as usual so popular nowadays. The Right would be all for the most powerful tools to avoid GW. Nuclear, hydro. biomass, and even biofuel is not a bad choice for political compromise. You take away the proposed heavy handed expansion of central control, always attempted per discovery of a problem or potential need, well much can happen. The private sector if energized, a most powerful resource. It’s much more flexible and ingenious than staunch, slow, and evolutionary process of government. This endeavor should be the primary focus of America. Privatize is nothing more than handing off to private sector. No need to fear such action or to allow them more freedom to do the work of improvement.

  14. By Forrest on February 3, 2015 at 8:32 am

    Information and reports referenced in this post unreliable. First, the complicated science of nature is highly unknowable or at least man’s ability to predict is very weak. After all we continually amaze ourselves on ability of nature and how little we know. The study of science is not obsolete. Why are the Environmentalist all sitting with hands out to understand GW? So, we should tread very lightly when making predictions 100 years out per computer modeling. Same with prediction of man’s ability per the huge market of ideas and research on the hunt to make improvements. As an example, Environment science has determined farm ethanol has ILUC deterrents to benefits of GW. Often Environmentalist spout forest destruction or starving overweight children needs. Take reality, for instance, Haitian citizens destroyed 98% of the tropical forest. Why? They did so before farmers growing ethanol crops and during unchallenged crude oil supply. Come to find out an organization that is currently solving this environmental problem by establishment of local manufacturing of stoves that both supply heat and light, powered with clean ethanol fuel. Citizens can avoid walking and harvesting wood miles away and pay more attention to improving their plight. Health of citizens is expected to increase as well as reforestation as ethanol is so adaptable to the job and has low price tag. Because growing crops is an economic activity, the economic boost from biofuel is expected to improve the food production as well as create local jobs not to mention decreasing import costs and improving self reliance and reforestation and ability to utilize valuable resources wisely.

  15. By Forrest on February 4, 2015 at 11:27 am

    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign just published science study of cellulosic ethanol. Miscanthus, rated very high as feed stock. The study covered counties in Indiana, Illinois, and Alabama. When summing up environmental benefits of producing CHP benefits for power, fuel, and sequestration of carbon within soil the fuel rated to decrease carbon CO2 emissions by -160% as compared to gasoline. Not bad since the fuel is superior to gasoline for majority of emission concerns as well. Not least the fuel has a trend line in cost downward as compared to gasoline trend line cost up. When the auto manufactures decide to maximize ethanol advantage as a base fuel the environmental benefits would make another jump up. It will be a long time before power grid and BEV will approach this benefit, especially since biomass can sequester carbon within soil. Nice that this technology is already in the works and stands ready to solve environmental problems. Current costs run three and a quarter per gallon and trending down. Don’t forget Cummins the diesel engine manufacturer has developed a truck high torque E85 engine with impressive performance of small size, less weight, and high carbon efficiency.

    • By Corey Barcus on February 4, 2015 at 2:13 pm

      How many gallons of cellulosic ethanol do you think the United States can produce? I think it would take a great deal of land area to replace the 6 to 7 billion barrels of oil consumed each annum, perhaps a million square miles, so roughly 25% percent of our land area would have to contribute to this. I would be careful not to misrepresent the potential of this technology.

      It would be far better to synthesize fuels with a high temperature nuclear power plant as we would be able to economically scale this process up to terawatts with minimal environmental impact.

      • By Optimist on February 4, 2015 at 8:34 pm

        Get (and keep) farmers out of fuel production! We need farmers to produce food. In spite of market distortions brought on by generous subsidies, food has much more value than fuel.

        The obvious place to start renewable fuel production is from waste products: sewage sludge, municipal waste, industrial waste, etc. And no need to produce ethanol (ethanol is for drinking!) – anaerobic digestion (far more robust than ethanol fermentation, AND the fuel naturally separates from the fermentation broth) can deliver clean renewable biogas, easily (and efficiently) upgraded for use in CNG vehicles.

        • By Ben on February 5, 2015 at 12:08 pm

          I couldn’t agree more, but until the subsidies/RFS blending mandate are removed, corn growers/brokers will continue to act rationally–and continue feeding at the public treasury. The likelihood of a precipitous change in public policy is unlikely despite Republican majorities in both houses of Congress.
          This is not because of any threat of a presidential veto (which is hardly in the cards from an State of Illinois politician). Rather, so-called conservative, farm state Republicans continue to champion the constituent interests of rural communities and their economic reliance on agricultural revenue and jobs.

          Given the inertia of vested interests, change comes ever so slowly despite the logic of wiser policies to meet today’s challenges. Yet, in the end, change does evolve to a point where old paradigms shift to accommodate a new understanding of how human action must reconcile to underlying constraints imposed by the reality of science and economics. Change is a coming and while it will take the balance of this decade and beyond to disclose the extent of new arrangements, the wishful thinking out of those promoting the merits of biomass-based fuels now stands shorn of its pretensions of being little more than a temporary jobs program for the Midwest that has been unapologetically lining the pockets of the clever few.

          Will $50 oil accompanied by improved US energy independence help shake out residual support for the status-quo? Possibly. But let’s just say that I’m not holding my breath.

          Ben G

          • By MikeH123 on February 10, 2015 at 12:49 pm

            Ben and Optimist share a common misconception that biomass equals corn.

            • By Optimist on February 10, 2015 at 2:31 pm

              Nope we don’t, if I may speak for Ben.

              It’s just that corn has been the biggest beneficiary of the misguided US renewable fuels policy.

              If you bother to read my posts, you’ll notice I’m always hammering on the fact that renewable fuels should use low value feed stock (i.e. waste) and produce products fully miscible with existing fuel supplies, such as biogas. That way renewable fuel would at least stand a chance to survive without subsidies.

            • By MikeH123 on February 10, 2015 at 2:43 pm

              Nope I have only read your responses to me, which have all involved only corn, and not any other crops.

            • By Optimist on February 10, 2015 at 2:54 pm

              Let’s go back to ~4 days ago: you mentioned two alternatives: cane ethanol, and your firm’s secret product. I gave you some thoughts on cane ethanol and made a polite inquiry about your firm’s product. Don’t blame me if the discussion ended right there…

            • By MikeH123 on February 10, 2015 at 3:07 pm

              I brought up sugar cane, which is a somewhat similar cane sugar crop compared to our sweet sorghum crop (except sweet sorghum requires far less water and nitrogen fertilizer, also lower seed costs). Hopefully in the future when you are critiquing biomass, you will at least recognize the potential of biomass as demonstrated by cane sugar crops that can produce high yields of both sugar for ethanol and fiber for electricity.

            • By Optimist on February 10, 2015 at 3:48 pm

              You’re missing the larger point: I believe we should not be setting land and other resources aside to grow fuel crops. I don’t think in a free market anybody would pay a farmer enough for an energy crop to make it worth his while. At least not as long as we have perfectly useful biomass rotting away in our landfills.

              Now granted, you can’t power society off its own waste, the laws of thermodynamics won’t allow that. So, where, might you ask, do we go if some happy day in the future we hit 100% recovery of all that energy in our landfills? What else can be used to produce renewable fuels?

              I can only see one viable option: grow algae in the open ocean. Crank up primary production and reduce global CO2 levels while we’re at it. According to some studies iron is the limiting nutrient in much of the open ocean. All those old warships, planes and other hardware may find a good use yet. The technological challenges include finding a low power way to harvest the algae, concentrate it and convert it to something a refinery can use.

              The obvious place to start the study would be the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. While we perfect the technology for harvesting algal biomass we’d be cleaning up the ocean free of charge.

            • By MikeH123 on February 10, 2015 at 4:17 pm

              Just as I thought, you still don’t get it. Again you are picking winners and losers by saying “we should not be setting land and other resources aside to grow fuel crops.” And you don’t know anything about what a free market would do. Again I ask the US to remove all mandates, subsidies, monopolies and environmental exemptions, and let the free market decide.

            • By Optimist on February 10, 2015 at 4:31 pm

              No, I’m NOT picking, I’m predicting what a free market would do. We need a lot more fuel than food. We need high volumes of fuel, at low cost. Agriculture simply isn’t set up to meet that need.

              But I agree: let’s remove all the mandates, subsidies and other external interference. My prediction: sayonara to all ethanol. Let’s hope we get to find out some time….

            • By MikeH123 on February 11, 2015 at 8:11 am

              You need to get a better handle on real world oil equivalent costs:
              Another reason sweet sorghum would be even lower-cost than sugar cane is because it can be grown on marginal farm land like the Great Plains.
              So let’s have a free market. Then, I will pursue sweet sorghum while you pursue your algae dream and may the best man win.

        • By MikeH123 on February 5, 2015 at 1:55 pm

          Typical authoritarian non-sense. Ethanol is for drinking? Why not tell Americans to stop eating so much and becoming obese? Why not tell them to stop eating meat and sugar? These unhealthy habits use far more land while requiring excessive subsidies and producing high CO2. Food has much more value than fuel? Tell that to poor farmers in the third world that must rely on manual labor to produce food crops because oil prices are so high. Moreover, biogas production from wastes needs heavy subsidy. The only thing you said that makes any sense was the complaint about market distortions (which any one individual can’t predict). The government needs to get out of energy and food.

          • By Optimist on February 5, 2015 at 2:20 pm

            Wait Mike, you’ve lost me: how is this authoritarian? I would propose to you that without all those authoritarian subsidies none of our food would go to fuel production. Of course, we will never know, because it seems a majority of Americans prefer authoritarianism to free markets when it comes to food production.

            Farmers in the third world are hurt more by US agricultural subsidies (which makes it possible for the US to dump cheap food in other countries) than by the price of oil. Of course, the main problem in the third world is corrupt governments, that won’t allow farmers and other entrepreneurs to lift themselves out of poverty the old fashioned way: through hard work.

            Biogas needs NO subsidy. It happens at the vast majority of large wastewater treatment plants (it usually pays for itself if you treat more than about 10 million gallons per day), and at many landfills. The CA state government tried to promote fuel cells over gas engines, but lets hope they’re over it now.

            “The government needs to get out of energy and food.” Amen to that. As I said above I don’t see it happening with food anytime soon. Maybe we can start with energy.


            • By MikeH123 on February 5, 2015 at 3:11 pm

              Telling farmers they must produce only food, and not fuel, is authoritarian.

              The fact farmers in the third world are hurt more by US agricultural subsidies (which makes it possible for the US to dump cheap food in other countries) is another reason for US farmers to produce fuel instead of excess food for export.

              Although there are some large applications for biogas like landfills and wastewater treatment plants that require no subsidy, the production of significant amounts of biogas would require heavy subsidy.

            • By Optimist on February 5, 2015 at 3:34 pm

              Not interested in telling the farmers anything. Let’s have a free market and see what happens.

              We simply don’t have the land and other resources available to contribute to a meaningful level of fuel production. You basically end up having a large impact on food markets and little noticeable impact on fuel markets.

              The impact on the third world is even worse: first we kill the local agricultural markets by dumping cheap corn on them. Next we cancel exports to make fuel, leaving the third world without corn and without the local market in a working order.

              There is enough significant biogas production out there. We need the federal and state governments to stop overregulating CNG vehicles, so that people can start taking advantage of cheap NG for transport. Biogas will eventually grow its contribution.

            • By MikeH123 on February 5, 2015 at 3:57 pm

              The world most certainly does have the land and other resources for biofuels to contribute to a meaningful level of fuel production. The recent global biofuel boom used a mere 25 million hectares of over 1 billion available hectares. Land used to produce unhealthy meat is far greater.

              The temporary and minor impact on food markets had more to do with using corn land (the subsidization of corn over alternative crops is ridiculous). The impact on the third world could be even more positive since we could open both food and fuel markets for local farmers.

              The US has done too much deregulating of natural gas already. Allowing fracking sans regulatory oversight threatens the water supply no matter what studies by Texas colleges and commercials try to tell us otherwise.

            • By Optimist on February 6, 2015 at 4:19 pm

              “The recent global biofuel boom used a mere 25 million hectares of over 1 billion available hectares.”
              I beg to differ. It also not just land. It is all resources, including fertilizer and fuel. By most estimates you get ~1 bbl oil equivalent of renewable fuel out for every barrel of oil equivalent fossil fuel you use. While the supporters and detractors argue about whether it is 1.X or 0.X, the simple question remains: why bother? Answer: everybody love a subsidy!

              You seem to be confusing deregulation of fracking with overregulation of CNG vehicles. Since we have all that natural gas, we might as well use it for transportation, especially since it allows an easy entry for biogas into the market.

            • By MikeH123 on February 6, 2015 at 5:12 pm

              You beg to differ with my statement and then present no explanation??? You also provide no evidence to counter my view that there will be no supply problems with fertilizer and fuel. Your knowledge of the energy ratio indicates your understanding is limited to corn ethanol. Check out cane ethanol at 8 to 1 which is far higher than even the oil industry. My point about fracking is we should not be even using gas for electricity, let alone vehicles, at least until regulatory oversight of these frackers has been restored.

            • By Optimist on February 6, 2015 at 5:46 pm

              Well, opposing corn ethanol is a good start.

              Cane ethanol does appear somewhat more promising. Again, should we turn good sugar into fuel? And why did Brazil get to energy independence the old fashioned way – drilling, like America is doing now – if cane ethanol is so great? And this is all academic from a US perspective, since cane won’t grow outside FL and HI.

              The fracking risk to water supplies can surely be managed, assuming we can get the government to act like an adult. Agreed, that seems increasingly like a quaint, antiquated idea. Fracking is, nonetheless, the only industry that seems to be adding jobs in noticeable numbers.

            • By MikeH123 on February 6, 2015 at 5:53 pm

              Our company offers a technology even better than sugar cane in every respect. All we ask is that the US stop picking winners and losers with mandates, subsidies, monopolies and environmental exemptions

            • By Optimist on February 6, 2015 at 6:02 pm

              Love to hear about that technology.

              Amen to that request, too.It is a huge mess, isn’t it? And it won’t be hard to fix either. Instead of spending tax $$$ on day 1 on the best marketer/smooth talker/show pony (who may or may not have honest intentions), you offer incentives for the first to produce X units of green fuel/energy/whatever and let the investors pick which “winner” they want to bet their own money (imagine that) on.

              Unfortunately, congressmen (and the occasional president) like to pose next to freshly poured concrete structures, complete with a hard hat, like he knows what the phrase “an honest day’s work” means.

            • By Forrest on February 7, 2015 at 8:36 am

              Sounds like you got religion upon your effort to rid the U.S. of evil corn ethanol. Funny, given the success of the industry to produce 15 billion gallons last year, the cost savings to consuming public, the environmental benefits, the lower subsidies to agriculture, the job creation, ability to dampen gasoline price spikes, the advent of nutritious distillery grains that carry more protein than the original bushel and in doing so only process the bad component out of corn in which health experts claim making beef unfit, taking the other bad component, corn oil, out of feed that is unhealthy for animals, and the 40% lower carbon rating of the fuel. How, about the ability of the fuel to rid the business of usual petrol additives that replace ethanol and the unhealthy carcinogenic component. The oxygenate and octane boost ability of ethanol at basement prices goes unchallenged. Ya, your a raging Libertarian when attempting to rid petrol of any competition, yet a little short sighted upon evaluation of petrol feeding at gov’t trough and the corrosive element to empower those super wealthy International Corporations have have more assets than most countries. Ya, we should all fear the small domestic corn farmer.

            • By Forrest on February 7, 2015 at 9:06 am

              To the often spoken thought of wasted opportunity to use corn when other better method or plants available. Well, most are not in position to really understand the market intellectual decision making process, but mostly the market gets it right. GW and conventional thinking back when petrol ravaged American consumers had to put a plan in place to produce alternative fuel ASAP. They came up with brilliant plan of attack to defend U.S. energy security and thwart OPEC objectives. Corn would and has played most important role as first out of gate with success and ability with shoe strings to pull infrastructure, consumption, along with it. Same with competing alternative fuel that have to nod in thankfulness to corn ethanol for making the road to success smoother. We have to be diligent to defend against those attempts to pull nation down to good old days of crude oil control of fuel market, per spread of miss truths and lies in attempt to empower their investment portfolio. Those same alternative fuel markets are in the hunt for better technology, genetics, microbes, yeast, processing equipment, farming equipment, agronomics, all of which make renewable fuels more cost effective and better for environment. There is promise and current production in sugar cane, energy cane, sorghum, sugar beets, and a whole array of fast growing trees and grass. Digester technology is just entering into the processing mix of ethanol plants as the algal production of biodisel and yet better distillery grain nutrition. This is attractive per the pure CO2 gas stream of fermentation. Ethanol plants also just getting into plastic feed stock production and food process. They refer to themselves as bio-processors as the only thing in common to each other is that they process plant wood and grain feed stock. Some expected to gain ability to convert ethanol to jet fuel as well or produce other alcohols. These plants rapidly gaining ability to flex production to market demands i.e. use natural gas or utilize lignite. Use biomass for ethanol or process for pellets for space heating or power production needs.

            • By Forrest on February 7, 2015 at 9:23 am

              Non the least of the attractions to these biological process centers in their role to supplant normal fossil fuel use, is the character of low temperature needs that fits so well within waste heat of power plants. These processing plants fit within a very good heat range to maximize CHP efficiency. They can double the efficiency of these power plants. Suddenly coal can jump to natural gas efficiency and match environment benefit. Of course other fuels could increase efficiency as well. In closing will say it is comical if one ever visited a ethanol plant and get blown over by high wind. Yet, I guess it never dawned on these business people to tap into wind energy?

            • By Optimist on February 9, 2015 at 3:42 pm

              Oh, shut up already!
              Libertarian means per definition means doing without the help of Uncle Sam. In other words, the exact opposite of the evil (your term) corn ethanol industry.

              As stated before, it is rich, not to mention ridiculous) for you ethanol cheerleaders to claim that adding ~2% to the fuel pool resulted in cheaper oil. If it was that simple, America could kill the oil market just by properly inflating its tires.

              How is ethanol any better any of the other additives? One could argue that it is quite a bit worse: It causes water to separate out, hence the requirement for separate storage, transportation and flexfuel vehicles (for a nominal f$$). It increases the vapor pressure, whicj means more emissions and evaporative losses.

              Maybe someday you’ll give up your religious devotion to ethanol and start looking at the facts. Until then I guess you won’t let the facts get in the way of your fairy tales….

            • By MikeH123 on February 7, 2015 at 10:02 am

              Republicans = monopolization
              Democrats = nationalization
              Compromise = government-big business partnerships
              US = Fascism
              (which also pertains to it as a police state)
              Need revolution

            • By Optimist on February 9, 2015 at 3:47 pm

              Easy Tiger!
              Revolutions have a tendency to get out of hand, and be hijacked by the worst elements in society, as the Arab Spring confirms.

              You are right, in broad terms, of course. But there is an easier solution. We need to open the door to a third party. To do that we need to get rid of the electoral college – you know, it’s high time we tried democracy in America.

              Hard to believe anybody would support the current system, where Ohio, Pennsylvania and sometimes Florida alone decide who will be president. Whatever you call such a system, it certainly ain’t no democracy…

            • By MikeH123 on February 9, 2015 at 4:15 pm

              Ideally, I believe in democracy but in practice Americans aren’t smart or aware or good enough. If anybody tries to challenge the special interests, they will be destroyed in the media. Maybe someday the internet will level the playing field.

            • By Optimist on February 9, 2015 at 4:27 pm

              That’s a pretty broad and depressing point of view: Americans aren’t that smart. Why is the country overall so successful then? BTW, I’m not buying Jared Diamond’s it’s-all-geography.

              Nor do I believe you can pin it on the liberal media: while most journalists are certainly liberal, the fact that the Republicans continue to win elections, sometimes even landslides, suggest that people aren’t as easily influenced as some would have you believe.

              The problem is a bit more subtle, IMHO. In celebrating American exceptionalism, which is certainly worth celebrating, people seem to think that it means, per extension, that the existing system is flawless, and no adjustments are needed. This is the exact line of thinking that has claimed so many civilizations, sometimes indeed by revolution, and may do so again…

            • By MikeH123 on February 9, 2015 at 5:33 pm

              America exceptionalism is mostly propaganda. Before the nation went bankrupt and decimated its middle class, its strength was largely due to geography, including its distance from the destructiveness of the 1st and 2nd world wars and the resulting export opportunities. The nation was also good at using the wealth to create new industries using free markets, but soon there after the industries were monopolized and/or nationalized by politician-buying special interests. The public did nothing because of the nation’s corrupt media but it isn’t all liberal, see Fox News.

            • By Optimist on February 9, 2015 at 6:56 pm

              Wow, Mike,
              That’s a bit dark. I do see some of the same major themes, though.

              The biggest threat IMHO, is Uncle Sam playing the role of Anti-Robin Hood: taking from the middle class and giving to the ivy league crowd, who now are in complete control of the Supreme Court and much of Wall Street. Complain about it, and you’re accused of starting a class war on those rich, hard working people…

            • By MikeH123 on February 9, 2015 at 9:07 pm

              It is far more pervasive (more industries) and I wouldn’t describe it happening that way. But the upper 0.1% is gaining incredible wealth at the expense of the rest of us. And the rich don’t get rich from hard work but rather preferential polices bought from politicians.

            • By Optimist on February 10, 2015 at 2:06 pm

              While there is much truth to what you say, you need to get out more. If you think the US government is corrupt, I suggest a visit to Africa. Or Asia. Or South America. Or just south of the border. Of course, it’s great to hold Uncle Sam to a high standard, and insist on continuous improvement, but let’s not get too depressed about the current state of affairs.

              Indeed, it is the height of absurdity that passive income (for people sitting on their backsides) gets taxed at a lower rate than active income (for you the working poor). What is even odder, is that many middle class folks would defend the practice on the grounds that the money has already been taxed. As if taxing a lazy guy’s passive income = socialism. Gotta love the jihadists of the Cult of Capitalism.

              Of course, congress is increasingly made up of rich people living off passive income, so don’t expect them to act on this. It gets even worse in the executive branch: the last middle class president was …?

            • By MikeH123 on February 10, 2015 at 2:41 pm

              Transparency International rates 15 countries as less corrupt than the US. I am not too concerned about taxes -the US already has the highest corporate tax rate in the world. What upsets me is the monopolization by Republicans and the nationalization by Democrats. They are preventing people from even competing and improving everyone’s lives. We are not allowed to develop new energy and food sources. But what is bankrupting this country is health care. The US limits the supply of doctors and hospitals. Continental Western Europe has 40% more per population and the result is half the health care costs. The US led the world in creating a bubble in the housing markets and then bailed out the banks but not homeowners. It wastes money invading countries. The pols are taking the nation into economic collapse and you say let’s not get too depressed.

            • By Optimist on February 10, 2015 at 3:05 pm

              Well, that’s one (depressing) way of looking at it.

              Indeed, both W and O have used the war on terror as a great excuse to tar and feather any concept of transparency. It’s a matter of national security, you understand? But, unfortunately, rather than go after the substance, the opposing party always seeks out the sensational: W’s IQ, Darth Vader’s secret meetings with Big Oil, the birth certificate, he’s a secret Muslim, etc. etc.

              There is no simple explanation for how we got here, and no simple way of snapping out of it. There are some things that would help, though: engaging in serious discussions, pointing out the inconsistencies in the messaging of both parties, asking probing questions, etc.

              Getting depressed will only make matters worse, no matter how well it can be motivated…

            • By MikeH123 on February 10, 2015 at 3:11 pm

              Hopefully, (both emotional and economic) depression can serve as call to arms.

            • By MikeH123 on February 10, 2015 at 6:16 pm

              America is exceptionally stupid. I just got an article from a friend describing how educational testing companies are making billions by lobbying (bribing) politicians to require students to take their stupid tests.

            • By Optimist on February 11, 2015 at 2:28 pm

              That’s not stupidity, that’s unfettered capitalism. Not to be confused with free markets. Unfortunately, unfettered capitalism has become a bit of a religion, since the fall of the Soviet Union.

            • By MikeH123 on February 11, 2015 at 7:03 pm

              If you describe something as unfettered, you mean that it is not controlled or limited by anyone or anything. In this case, the pols are selecting and thus controlling which educational testing company is used.

            • By ben on February 11, 2015 at 7:46 pm

              I’m a bit curious about your distinctions between “unfettered capitalism” and “free markets.” Are free markets not supposed to be largely unfettered by an over-intrusive state erecting obstacles to capital formation, economic growth and job creation in the hope of advancing toward a more perfect union?

              Ben G

            • By Optimist on February 11, 2015 at 8:02 pm

              Well, that’s where it gets interesting. Capitalism, especially the unfettered kind, tends to concentrate the profits into fewer and fewer hands. It is in some regards a completely natural process: the rich can afford better education for their children, among other things. But it is easier to understand when you consider corporations: The large corporations use regulations and lawyers to make it more difficult for small players to enter the market and compete. They tend to buy out the competition, until there are too few players to have a free market. Again: more money and power in fewer hands.

              To keep the market free, you need the government to play the role of referee. Make sure the little guy is able to get a foothold, and grow from there, without artificial support. Ideally, the referee should favor no team, and apply the rules without bias. For this reason, and some others, the free market is an ideal that can never be fully realized. At the same time, we need to keep trying. The closer we can get, the better off we all are.

              The current idea, popular among Republicans, that a free market is what happens when you kick the government out of the room is equivalent to saying that the children would do fine on the playground, if we just got rid of the pesky adult supervision.

            • By MikeH123 on February 11, 2015 at 8:47 pm

              I would call it crony capitalism

            • By ben on February 11, 2015 at 9:14 pm

              Funny, I sort of warm to the idea of less (over)supervision by adults of youth recreational activities. Today’s news about the Great Lakes Little League championship team strikes a familiar note! :)

              As for a tutorial on the modalities of Capitalism, I’ll defer to some of my instructors, who were a combination of Post-Keynesians, Monetarists and assorted “hybrid-Austrians,”
              argued that a concentration of wealth is often, and regrettably, as much attributable to government policies, as the inclination toward capital accumulation in free market conditions. Fortunes are made, and lost, where risk is left unmitigated by the politics of government fiat (“too big to fail” comes to mind) and the wealthy are given safe haven from the petty nuisance called competitive forces and unwieldy market dynamics.

              Like it or not, a new generation of Libertarian-leaning, digital entrepreneurs and technologists are pressing ahead with designs on upsetting the traditional order of things. Today’s social media is steadily eroding the way business has been conducted since the advent of the first market-trade transactions at the dawn of the Enlightenment–and the inevitable decline of Feudalism. We might do well to keep an itical open mind about what that means for the forces of “creative destruction” and the possible emergence of a less-fettered marketplace supporting a rising tide capable of lifting more (if not all) boats. We could do worse than inspiring human enterprise rather than political intrigue!

              How about a little more optimism, Mr. Optimism?

              Ben G

            • By ben on February 10, 2015 at 8:47 am

              - Optimist

              While I’ve found merit in many of your past comments, I’m not sure picking on Ivy league grads, as an easy stereotype, is an effective (or fair) way at getting at the truth. In fact, such a generalization bends back against most of the logic that you’ve routinely brought to bear on the thin gruel of MikeH123 and the aimless rambling of Forrest.

              Grain fuels clearly represents a small fraction of our current/future energy mix here on the US and globally. More than anything, the Laws of Thermodynamics can be blamed for that. A point that RR has attempted to impress upon readers from the outset of this blog and a thread that runs through all his writing. Like it or not, objective analysis does not yield much evidence in support of US renewable fuels policy, as we strive to achieve greater energy security. For the incredible level of public resources invested (tens of billions), to date, we have achieved modest benefits, indeed. Yet, the lobby behind these policies and appropriations surely speaks volumes about how Washington works. Change is a slow, tedious process that is, on average, guided more by market dynamics over the long haul than transitory government policy. Though I’m reminded here of an old line from the late Congressman, and former cabinet officer, Jack Kemp (R-NY). This old NFL quarterback would sometimes quip that the average temper in Buffalo was nearly 60 degrees, but that hardly meant that he hadn’t purchased a winter coat!

              US voters should insist on nudging energy policy to a wiser place than where it has been stuck since the advent of global oil geopolitics, and all the misguided arguments that have been offered up in defense of, or opposition to, the use of fossil fuels. We are bigger than that and we’d do well, in borrowing another line from an old New England woodsman, “to keep our eye on the donut and not on the hole.”

              Keep to the high road in your observations and we’ll be all the better for it. Thanks.

              Ben G

            • By MikeH123 on February 10, 2015 at 10:24 am

              You are just plain wrong that change is guided by markets and not government. Here is my thick version:


            • By Optimist on February 10, 2015 at 2:26 pm

              Stepped on your toe, did I? Apologies for that.

              In all seriousness: there is an increasing divide between the 1% (or is it the 0.1%?) and the rest. While ivy league may not be an absolute barrier, the fact is that many of these institutions give preference to the children of graduates, and candidates who can pay their own way (wink). So W gets in and some deserving middle class kid has to go elsewhere. We all know how that story ended.

              Of course, many at the ivy league institutions wish to change this, but there is that exceptionalism thing again. We got tradition, old boy, and we can’t tolerate any changes to that!

              Here is the underlying problem with US renewable fuels policy: most Americans hate Big Oil so much they can’t think straight. So instead of seeking renewable fuels, most seek to replace oil with *anything*. Food? Sure! Who needs to eat anyway? Doctor said I need to lose weight…

              A workable renewable fuels policy would be based on this approach:
              1. Start with a waste product. Making fuel should involve adding value, not destroying it.
              2. Stop treating Big Oil like the enemy: Big Oil has a lot of infrastructure, as well as knowledge, that would be helpful in producing renewable fuels. We need to tap it.
              3. Renewable fuel should be completely miscible with existing fuel supplies (like biogas and unlike ethanol). This would allow for a seamless transition from fossil to renewable, as well as allowing some regions to lead the way while others catch up.
              4. Subsidize only by offering to buy the first million (or whatever the right number is) kWh of renewable energy that is produced, meeting these standards. Leave it to venture capitalists to invest with their own money. Unlike the employees of DOE, these guys know how to read a business plan and how to spot fatal flaws.

            • By Ben on February 11, 2015 at 7:33 pm

              Thanks, but the Ivy League toes are just fine. If I was defensive, it was more for dad (Harvard PhD by way of London School of Economics). As a first generation American (West African family), I always chuckle at the stereotypes out there about where folks get educated and what they think. Fortunately, in a free society most old assumptions get swept aside by the rising tide of change.

              Now, as for your past and recent comments about renewable transportation fuels, I generally agree with your points. There are clearly major constraints to the level of benefits from reformulated fuels regardless of the feedstock source. To the extent that wastes serve as a principal source, well, that’s surely preferable over the use of the EROI of biomass crops. Quite apart from process energy inefficiencies, the inevitable demand on water resources is equally unsettling. We may have a good deal of marginally-productive land available, but the concomitant demand for water is alarming.
              So, while the issue of food vs. fuel is key, the additional burden of water resources is no less critical.

              As for MikeH123 and his interest in a close reading of RR’s recent piece about $50 oil, well, I actually volunteered several responses, to include this:

              “I couldn’t agree more. Though a price rebound will likely be much less dramatic than in 2008, an adjustment is coming and the economic impact will logically take a bit of starch out of the current (financial repression-induced) economic recovery heading into 2016. The recent relief in energy prices (a major tax cut-equivalent boost to the economy’s performance) helps offset otherwise anemic growth in household incomes notwithstanding steady job growth.

              The leading members of OPEC remain confident that world prices will rebound even as member-state production remains uneven with the ad hoc increases in supply among several temporarily non-compliant countries. The benchmark range of prices remains closer to $90 than $50 and that will presumably remain the case given the practical demands on national treasuries.

              Thanks for putting things in proper perspective. Wish we could get some of this out of Washington!”

              Maybe he’s of the opinion that I’ve missed the relevance of corruption in Washington or in any other capital city. If that’s his viewpoint, well, he obviously hasn’t seen more than a dozen of my past posts where I have spoken directly to the challenge that government dysfunction, and an absence of decent ethics, poses to the well-functioning of a market economy and democratic governance. Hopefully, a closer read may invite a modest recalibration on his part. Then again, folks who are bent of the rightness of their opinion are generally hard-pressed to entertain the inconvenience of facts.

              Thanks for the exchange and the postings.

              Ben G

      • By Firrest on February 5, 2015 at 6:56 am

        I just think biomass based energy supply goes underrated. It is truly renewable and sustainable. Dept of Energy and Ag study had one and one third billion tons of biomass available with some adjustment to farming and forestry. I’ve read up to two billion tons annual potential with genetic material designed for purpose. Cellulosic ethanol production at 75 gallons per ton, but the conversion efficiency will gradually increase to 100 g. High energy lignin currently burned for energy needs and power sales, but more valuable for fuel production. The feed stock has competing uses such as pellet fuel and cofiring of coal power plants. Exports to Europe has doubled last year alone. Energy Department offers comment that cellulose could easily claim 30% of fuel market. IMHO, that would be a good goal for U.S.. Really good if a “Super Premium” E30 could be standardized as this would eliminate the worst portion of unhealthy gasoline constituents and do a good job bumping up gasoline environmental rating. Also, the slow introduction of efficient IC new model cars exploiting the fuel would match up with developing production. This would keep E10 as base fuel. Of course blender pumps make the matter moot. Nuclear should be the primo power choice of honest Environmentalist who claim worried of GW. As you post high temperature a good resource as well for high efficiency CHP processes.

        • By Forrest on February 5, 2015 at 8:43 am

          Oh, the blender pump won’t make E30 blend moot as the pump is expensive and probably would not be available in low biofuel production states. Having a standard super high test E30 blend dispensed at all U.S. gas station would pull auto makers to utilize the fuel in efforts to maximize engine carbon efficiency and would be available per normal gas station infrastructure. This type of conformity and standardization good for consumers and those supplying their needs. It needs to be cooperative comprise per international market as well. U.S. regulators have a nasty habit of reinventing the wheel and ignoring all international data. Europe has superior regs for auto manufactures. It’s not good to spend our money foolishly and force such expense on consumers for nothing. We would do better working or coordinating efforts with China and Brazil as well. Very good to move the international ball and not so good to sit within U.S. with closed doors and spending ever more consumer and tax payer money on less and less environmental benefit. Better to share decision making and implement standard improvement across the board.

  16. By MikeH123 on February 5, 2015 at 10:32 am

    It is simply pathetic that Americans still don’t realize that investors will not invest in the research and development of new low-cost and reliable renewable energies until the energy industries have been de-monopolized. What is the incentive???

  17. By Forrest on February 6, 2015 at 7:58 am

    I’ve posted before on the dishonesty of some Environmentalist (not Russ) who post doomsday future of unscientific public bias and then blast nuclear solutions. Also, the ability of science to predict damage of weather 100 years out per the unlimited complications of nature and lack of any way to predict the progress of society inventiveness. Think of the professional standard practice employed by meteorologist and climatologist to pick and chose data that would be at the end of most damaging results in the defense of saving damage and life by scarring public to prepare for most damaging scenario. These professionals believe it is their job to scare public into action, to prepare if some part of their forecast would come true. The attitude, better safe than sorry and if nothing comes of their predictions well, what’s the damage in that? The problem is if we took these projections seriously and crippled economies, gave up freedoms, empowered central control, and busted our deficit spending for any future American and realize no benefit. That scenario is more scary to me.

    • By Forrest on February 6, 2015 at 8:40 am

      Think of the low cost solutions that get shoved to back of the bus per desire of most popular and favored ones. Nuclear for one. Also, was it Bosch that projected batteries in five years will be 2x as energy dense and cost half as much. But, the kicker is the hybrid technology will benefit the most, especially the most expensive SUV purchases. The technology will kick the internal combustion engines mileage up. So, why does the internal combustion engine reign supreme? In short value. Low cost, high reliability, low maintenance, and very high mileage gives budget consumers no reason to purchase more expensive solutions. This infers California like regulations to make “it happen” will probably not survive once the public sees the price tag. Is this horrible prospect of environment. Not really, as again, the low cost solutions get dissed per hypocritical Environmentalist that lust for their solutions only. Take ethanol solution and the positive indicators of low fuel cost, high international production capability, positive benefit to economy, positive benefit of job creation, positive benefit to non petrol nations, ability to curtail petrol cost, and the negative carbon rating of some cellulosic fuels. Well, what the heck did these Google engineers study? Nice that the solutions don’t require wholesale disturbance of old investments, huge shift in societal progress, and break the bank investments. No, it’s not THE solution but must be respected as a primary one for fuel market. I’ve read by 2050 international shipping carbon emissions will be above that of our over the road transportation. IOWs road transportation is rapidly deflating concern and current solutions will work. Best to work on converting freighters to natural gas, ethanol, or fuel cell and quit the practice using low grade fossil fuel.

  18. By Forrest on February 8, 2015 at 5:59 am

    Count me as a skeptic to this entire GW science and solutions. Just to many ulterior motives. I read of SMR nuclear solutions and befuddled why the roadblock Environmentalist put up per defining (restricting) solutions to their most favored renewable choice. They will quickly avoid talking about biomass, biofuel, and hydro. In addition while spouting of GW global wreckage they appear not to embrace these SMRs. That’s odd as they do have huge potential for international zero carbon energy. Also, the thermal ones appear to be a powerful solution to low cost hydrogen production. Align that with fuel cell and fertilizer needs and the future looks very promising. How about the biology sector offering low cost way to harvest CO2 in which the Google engineers stated we absolutely needed. These biologist are attracted to the corn plant per the acreage and success of the plant. The ability of plant to convert sunshine more efficiently that Amazon Jungle and do so away from tropical conditions. The corn plants has many desirable traits for the task. Unlike forest they are not prone to burn up or be plagued by bark beetle infestation. The corn plant can be easily harvested and doing so avoid the termite methane, aerobic CO2 production, or worse yet the anaerobic methane from rotting leaf and wood matter. They suspect the corn plant can be engineered with carbon sequestration trait and become a formidable tool for CO2 reduction. The new task of the corn plant would decrease yield, but may be more attractive outcome.

    • By Forrest on February 9, 2015 at 7:21 am

      How about the fuel cell process? Very useful tool for GW concerns. GE recent foray into marketplace . Natural gas small super efficient power plants sitting within view of consumers that could benefit from the heat production as well. Those large industrial power plants held at disadvantage per lower efficiency, long distribution, and wasteful heat loss. This particular SOFC fuel cell does produce CO2, but the gas is pure and much easier to deal with. Their is a half dozen companies invested to direct conversion of CO2 to CO research and downstream energy products. Solid fuel (coal) and biomass is likewise invested in development of similar technology per the gasification process. Processes like these, look to cogeneration and CHP technology to maximize use of fuel. Fuel cell has good ability to maximize these processes. Increasing evidence of steady improvements to fuel cell makes it more apparent the scale of power production to sit within homes, transportation, and power stations. Power production may become a by product upon heat production needs. Hydrogen production from nuclear and coal may likewise become attractive fuel supply. We often sit and fret of potential GW damage hundreds of years out, but fail to envision powerful tools invented to make the problem disappear and do so relatively cheap and with little need to reinvent society and governance.

  19. By ben on February 10, 2015 at 9:30 am


    Given the level of feedback accompanying your post, a follow-up piece seems in order. An emphasis on the mix of renewable/conservation technologies that might contribute significantly to national energy supplies in the years ahead may be a place to fan the flame.

    Getting away from the zero-sum mindset of recent decades remains central to navigating the choppy waters of reform. Regrettably, the command directives coming from the bridge in Washington remain garbled, to put it charitably. Current low oil/gas prices simply fosters a false sense of security where affordability remains the principal focus rather than one of sustainability/resilience. As a biodiversity man, you certainly grasp this very critical distinction. Thanks for the thoughtful analysis and insights!

    Ben G

    • By Russ Finley on February 12, 2015 at 12:25 am

      Good points, Ben. The Google engineers are right. We need more weapons. The bridge needs to be investing a lot more in researching new energy technologies.

      • By ben on February 12, 2015 at 11:22 am

        Yes, but public investments of the past couple of decades have been consistently (and unsurprisingly) slanted toward marquis platforms/players and well-connected venture deals brokered by the Club rather than blowing some wind into the sails of entrepreneurs with actual skin in the game. There are hundreds of pilot-scale tested projects capable of securing private financing for right-sized deals save for essential off-take commitments. Yet, the public sector poorly exercises its procurement footprint due to a lack of imagination and vision. If the government placed a fraction of its focus on energy, as it had on the over-leveraging of the secondary mortgage market in recent decades, imagine the capacity that would have resulted.

        With a bit more strategic planning, numerous technology-driven energy initiatives could help drive the fuel-switching transition to a new era of energy security and truly sustainable economic growth; the very brand of growth that might help bridge the gap between environmental protection and the need for economic opportunities for a new generation of citizens.

        Can we get there without more enlightened leadership in Washington and the state houses? Sure. Regrettably, the process will take longer than is otherwise necessary absent much better productivity out of limited fiscal resources. Renewable fuels, as a case in point, have achieved a very poor return on investment, with equally dim prospects for the future given the natural constraints of thermodynamics.

        Thanks for your thoughtful, long-run orientation to the discussion.

        Ben G

  20. By Forrest on February 11, 2015 at 7:51 am

    Berkeley link interesting. . It appears to jive with my posts of benefit and power of bioMass per CO2 emissions. The article talks of benefit of carbon sequestration and the carbon cycle of biocrops. California power needs could be carbon negative by 2035 if employing these solutions, even with current fleet of coal and gas power plants. This may have merit based on success of a ethanol plant near Chicago, that sequesters the pure CO2 from brewing process. The 700 foot well displaces the gas within sandstone formation to tone of a million tons per year. I did notice the articles point of maintaining forestland. Meaning as I’ve pointed out never good to let forest stagnate to fire hazard, bug hazard, and decompose. Utilize modern forestry practice to maximize growth rate, instead.
    The article doesn’t mention the recent news of Miscanthus cellulose feed stock merit to naturally sequester carbon and maximize poor soil benefit. Nor the eventual engineering of these crops to include the trait for carbon sequestration. Also, the technology of fuel cell will double up on the power of this math to concentrate CO2 and increase power production efficiency. Europe must be ahead of our solutions on this one, because they quickly I.D. the benefit of pellet stove and cofiring coal plants. Me thinks our solutions to lower CO2 got contaminated per politics and wishes of Environmentalists that apparently not that worried of GW to utilize other solutions.

    • By Forrest on February 11, 2015 at 9:28 am

      Ha, the author’s position is that biomass is to valuable to waste on fuel and should be, instead, utilized within power sector. The negative carbon rating of power can offset transportation. While impressive as this sounds, it’s just attempting to dissuade any competition to beloved battery car. I am thinking more and more Environmentalist hate biofuel as they desire no competition to their beloved BEV. That doesn’t bode well for their real perception of GW. Meaning they feel free from danger to push their solutions, no matter. Also, the author left the reader with perception that only large central power plants capable of sequestration, whereas it is known the early adapters of ICCS will be ethanol per the purity of the CO2 stream and benefit. ADM is accomplishing the feat at their Decatur ethanol plant, wiping out the entire brew process CO2 generation. The application of this technology upon ethanol plants would wipe out 40 million annual tons of CO2. That is until processes fully develop to convert the gas to fuel products.

  21. By Forrest on February 12, 2015 at 7:03 am

    The recent comments on gov’t intrusion into markets are interesting, but miss the point (within the fuel market) of benefit of handicapping emerging competition that serves the public good. It does take sustained support to pull competition into existence. How much support, what timeline, and how to accomplish is up to debate, but artificial support is a good thing and will foment open market competition. Not to long ago we had a national conversion on alternative energy and the national interest in promotion. We realized the sustainability problems, cost problems, environmental problems, trade imbalance, wealth imbalance and unsavory clientele trades of single source crude oil. Programs in place such as the RFS have worked extremely well to pull production, supporting infrastructure, R&D, and investor capital to the production of such fuel. The national investment within such endeavor should stabilize weak competitors in attempt to strengthen their hand and do so long term. At what pace and cost is hard to establish, but this effort should be put on stable long term path to maximize ability of the sector to develop long term solutions, but at a cost that merits the future benefit and a cost that is sustainable. It is bad to push and pull incentives upon politics and flop around in convulsions per political opportunism attempts to hold up corporation wealth per their political activities. That’s a horrible way to run the country. What good will government investment be, long term, if you can’t trust the laws passed. If the RFS can be maligned per political cronyism, why should one trust G’vt health care operations, SS, medicare?

    • By Forrest on February 12, 2015 at 8:06 am

      Also, the hubris of those whom extol the virtues of solar and wind a bit much. They claim others will follow and we must lead per their inferiority of intelligence to understand. Ya, I’m sure they all desire to spend great grandsons wealth and bankrupt their country to follow are benevolent rulers wisdom. We may act locally, but must have global strategy. To put our head in sand and think coal power will extinguish is misguided. Once over that hump of reality, we then have to make the energy source the least destructive as possible. Same with theory of food production vs fuel per invention to curtail the development. I don’t think international community is so gullible to think robbing farmers of wealth just the ticket for food production and their nations benefit to rid itself of oil imports and job creation within rural areas. How, about the U.S. regulation industry and activist attempts to bankrupt pipeline construction, hydro, nuclear per their biases. Don’t think China is so impressed with typical shenanigans and thinking skills. Oh, and the typical U.S. deep pocket corp ploys to destroy competition. You all know of crony politics, but one must know the marketing attempt to dis competition upon public opinion. Negative campaigns very powerful tool. Marketing budgets in the millions to corrupt public opinion. Twitter manipulation, internet activities, media manipulation, and bad science all fair game in this arena. You will read a blitzkrieg of negative report on water consumption, air quality, return on energy, engine damage, or Mississippi delta destruction all based on a very poor quality test or science report. It will take weeks or months to get to the bottom and report (while enjoying very little media attention) the error. So, we only later read the report utilized rain water attributed to water use of corn ethanol or sunshine per energy calculations, or using way outdated data, or jumping to false conclusions. I’m sure the average citizen is real careful, before jumping to quick opinions.

  22. By Forrest on February 13, 2015 at 8:13 am

    AWEH group claims wind turbine has achieved same reliability of other power plants. That is operation reliability, not power production reliability. They must have improved as last I’ve read they suffered half of advertised lifespan per gear train weakest link problems. This group claims their power production fluctuations not a problem as grid operators are now capable and have learned to adjust per the back up power plants. So, how much of that investment and cost not accounted to wind? You, know the single stage low efficient gas turbine, idling base load suffering low efficiency, etc. Wind claim they will produce 10% of our power by 2020, but they sit at 5.2 % for 2016. What is status of PTC? I’ve read the industry in throws of winding down after expiration of credits, suffering losing more than half of the jobs. Pumped hydro per
    efficient turbine is touted as solution to intermittent power. Well, if so it will make all power production more efficient as well. Also, doesn’t this make the case of free pumped hydro per solar hydrology cycle aka hydro power? Shouldn’t the country focus first on this low hanging fruit since the energy source about equal to wind in generation capacity and already well tested, in production, and lowest cost? Convert the recreational and flood control dams to efficient low pressure turbine power. Update the old turbines to efficient ones as well. Construct new dams per the developed environmental sensitive software designed for the task. Be willing to hookup remote dam power in similar justification as remote wind.

    Try justification these alternative power solutions for home. Use the $/kwh figures posted within the below comments. My business acuity of ROI would not be attracted to $32k investment for solar for my $50/month electric bill and 3-1/2 hr solar production cycle. I’ve often crunched the raw investment numbers for wind and solar. They apparently are tapping into regulation empowerment, ratepayer money, and taxpayer money to make the energy source viable. And why is nuclear impossible?
    You know since the energy source so well proven with safety track record, low cost, and dependability. Especially since our competitors enjoying rapidly improving economies appear to be able to make it happen. Instead we look to Europe for
    economic solutions? Ya, they’re doing good!

    • By Forrest on February 17, 2015 at 7:45 am

      Wind and solar can generate economic return, but very site specific. I read a turbine system to power a household $50-80K. I wouldn’t look at such a system unless savings were in the $650/mo range. Does your utility bill run $700/month? Commercial turbines run $2 million for 2Mw installed. If the generator sited at attractive location close to grid and consumer need, it can be a good investment. If it’s your land and you do the maintenance a raw calculation of 5,800 Mw annual power generated and sales of non dispatchable power of 3-6 cents. The investment alone better generate over $20k per month. Looks like the turbine could generate $14-$28k per month. Not exactly a gee wiz investment, unless one could sell depreciation tax write offs to wealthy and receive production tax credits, but then your in the business of harvesting tax revenue and not so much in business to meet needs of grid power.

  23. By Forrest on February 16, 2015 at 8:25 am

    EIA and Exxon, as well, predict global energy consumption to 2040 will not change much. Crude oil sits at the top 32%. Natural gas 26%. Since they both share production process and same corporate provider, together 58%. Coal doesn’t change much either at 19%. Nuclear and biomass 8% each. Hydro claims 3%. All of this has minimal change, but wind is expected to have growth to 4%. Big whoop. Environmentalist are busy fighting against biofuel, nuclear, biomass, hydro as they compete against their beloved battery car, wind, and solar. Ya, that’s the juice of GW solutions. Meanwhile hat’s off to oil companies that develop new harvesting techniques and resources. Improvements of efficiency of combustion engines make the resource very attractive. American production of NG and crude oil together with increased efficiency of the combustion engines result in leveled global demand, even with new customers of the developing economies. Prices of conventional energy supplies are stable and lower that result in holding alternatives at bay. No need to invest precious capital in new solutions. U.S. is expected to continue to spend and regulate in attempt to hold fossil fuel up, but the results appear to be anemic and not what the environmentalist envision. If they truly desire global change, best to maximize empowerment of all non fossil energy. Appears global community mostly interested in low cost energy solutions. The preaching is not effective. So, since the conventional auto fleet maintains dominance, best to maximize biofuel blends and production of the fuel. Maximize the ability and potential of hydro, nuclear, and fuel cell effectiveness once we get over the mindset hump. Give global communities reason to chose alternatives such as improved economy.

    • By Forrest on February 16, 2015 at 9:46 am

      Another imperative to international security, especially U.S.. The Middle East is the cross roads of fanaticism per Islamic tenants, tribal law, racial hatred, and by the way that giant sucking sound is international wealth going to these boys whom utilize the wealth to wreak destruction and human agony. It won’t change and few of the powerful want it to change. It’s sad, but our good intentions making things worse as we may be foolishly empowering less evil with rewards of getting a bigger target on our back. We may want to stay out and just cut the wealth and ensuing power out of the region. Better to knock out oil well infrastructure so even black market wealth dries up. But, we can’t do that per our international dependence and economic stability concerns. Exactly, and hence the problem even if we become oil and gas independent. It may be an imperative to world peace to usher in alternatives to crude oil. An everything on the table except crude oil. Utilize domestic production as strategic weapon to deflate Middle East wealth. Pump coal up to the max with least environmental cost. Put new emphasis on all alternatives to lowering cost, increasing production to displace Middle East wealth. If they attempt hurting U.S. interests stomp on them hard and quickly. Draw a nuclear free line in sand and immediate attack any attempt. Teach them not to mess with U.S..

  24. By ThisOldMan on February 18, 2015 at 9:19 pm

    Somehow this article does not make me feel as hopeful as it seems to make its authors, but regardless of the “cost” of renewables today, all that’s needed to make them cost less than fossil fuels is a good stiff global price on carbon. Even if it crimps our profligate consumption today, future generations will have a lot more respect for us because of it. Not to mention our own self respect, or at least those of us who ever have or could have had any in the first place (homo “sapiens” you called us?).

    • By Forrest on February 19, 2015 at 8:30 am

      I see your point on exploiting future per benefit of the current. The nation has become more selfish, maybe per loss of religious perspective? The most abusive practice being high deficit spending and ever increasing national debt in tandem with continued increase in the use of federal public purse to finance social welfare programs that undermine security, cost effectiveness, merits of hard productive work ethics, family structure, benefits of savings, loss of freedom, self reliance, integrity, etc. The federal solutions combined with political opportunism has made us all a nation of whiners, complainers, cheaters, and poke at our dark side jealousies. Were just going the wrong direction. GW damage is evaluated in time spans of centuries. Much can happen in that time frame. Battery car may make inner city light duty transportation commonplace. Biofuels will become severely green when utilizing alternative energy sources such as solar, wind, and digestor technology to power operations upon the farm and processing plant. Carbon sequestration is potent upon pure CO2 process stream of fermenting making the fuel carbon negative. Hydrogen is positioning itself within solar, wind, nuclear, natural gas, and biomass processes to solve energy production and storage problems and level load power production. Fuel cells gaining ground on optimum environmental solution for transportation, power production, heating, and CHP solutions for home, business, and industry. Still heavy industry such as steel, concrete, and aluminum production will require energy parks with power station next door, but that might include nuclear. I am more hopeful on merits of clean energy and fear the growing unrest inflicted upon humanity per terrorist actions and federal spending intoxicants.

  25. By Random Walk on March 16, 2015 at 6:07 am

    Problem is that Europe is investing a lot in energy transition towards remewable soursec (as explained here –>…art-investment/). These investment are causing bills cost increasing for final customers and the final results will be low emission reduction and huge profit for banks and investment companies

  26. By Forrest on March 17, 2015 at 8:03 am

    Comments as above “Note that because biomass and biofuels require land, they tend to negate efforts to use reforestation to store carbon, not to mention compete with biodiversity for ecosystems and humanity for cropland.” always thrown out like common public knowledge as why biofuel and biomass unsuitable. Consider, Repreve Renewables has developed planting and harvesting equipment for Miscantus grass. The perennial grass grows up to 12 ft high and achieves 25 tons per acre harvests. The grass grows well on marginal land that often goes unused. It helps with water runoff problems, erosion of soil, and improves soil per addition of organic matter. The crop requires no tillage, weed control, and once established no fertilizer. Compare this “farm crop” to forest land per CO2 concerns. Tuffs University calculated a 25 yr old forest removes 1,760 pounds per acre. Old mature forest nothing. Miscanthus on the other hand is rated at 43 tons CO2 conversion per acre. University of Iowa is converting boiler plant fuel to Miscanthus and is expected to suffer no extra fuel cost. Note, the crop works to improve land to farmland soil quality, improve the prairie land status of Midwest lands and support wildlife that enjoy such grass. So, why do people think that farming practices that turbo charge the plant kingdom to convert CO2 and produce crops the wrong way to go? That some how lichens on rocks or rotting tree tops or compost piles emitting CO2 and methane wonderful for global warming solution. How about battery cars fueling up on large portion of fossil fuel power plant product so good?

    • By Forrest on March 17, 2015 at 8:27 am

      Also, forest land harvested on 24 year cycle to maximize CO2 reduction will produce 4-8 Tons of biomass per acre (remember Miscanthus 25 tons). The C4 biological plant of the grass family have high performance and corn is one such. I read a comparison of taxpayer burden for solar vs benefits to environment. Public could do twice the good and cost the taxpayer nothing if avoiding the battery car and utilize fire wood stove for heat. Take that benefit up a few notches if fueling your car up on E85. Superlative action to take at little cost to taxpayer would be to fuel up on cellulosic E85 and heat with Miscanthus pellet fuel.

      • By Forrest on March 20, 2015 at 9:12 am

        Environmentalist from the Left whom, apparently, own global warming fears, science, and solutions mainly from politics hide from the public such solutions as above. Consider the awesome cost savings and huge benefit to environment of biofuel. Miscanthus grass for one is on production path with projected cellulosic conversion efficiency of 3,000 gallons per acre. This based on field trials and accepted science of conversion technology. Add to the incredible CO2 conversion rates of this grass to ethanol, high mileage vehicles such as Elio Motors in process of manufacturing ( customers placing orders). They have a unique three wheel car design that entail extreme low air drag. The car achieves 84 mpg on unleaded over the road. The car reminds me of the X-Factor prize winning design that utilized E85 fuel for the super high mileage vehicle. Their strategy was like the Elio a super light weight chassis (four passenger). Going light and strong does not deter the crash worthiness either. X-factor chose E85 per fuel character of ethanol to run well at very high EGR rates. IOWs they utilized exhaust gas to throttle down engine displacement to match need. So, you can easily envision the benefits of low cost $8k vehicle gaining huge sales to public that would otherwise be driving polluting clunkers and by the new car purchase enjoy 1/4 the fuel costs, a much safer car, and more reliable transportation. Also, the potential to double the environmental value by offering a optimized E85 variant. Sales would jump pass the 1,000x mark of Chevy Volt sales whom target to rich that enjoy novelty attention. No, budget busting federal and state incentive requir’d. So, where are the Environmentalist shouting to maximize this common sense low cost solution that would benefit the masses? -silence-

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