Techno Optimism

The prospect of global warming induced by carbon emissions scares a lot of people. There are two reasons why I’m not scared. One is that I think the more alarmist predictions are overblown. The other reason is that I am very much a technology optimist. I think that technological advancement has an enormous capacity to solve most of the problems predicted by the likes of the IPCC. 

Whilst this is somewhat off the topic of politics and freedom I thought I’d allow myself the indulgence of discussing two of the technologies that I am keenly following the development of. However before I do that I should offer a couple of disclaimers. Firstly my track record at picking winning technologies is not great. For example in the late 1980s I was tipping that FRAM memory chips would replace hard disks within a few short years (and I sunk what was then a significant sum of my wealth into the company making FRAM). FRAM did eventually take off but in the mean time hard disks improved out of sight so my prediction proved to be very wrong (or at least very premature). Secondly very few attempts at futurology prove successful (thats why venture capitalists have broad portfolios).

The first technology that fascinates me is the Solar Tower being commercialised by Enviromission. I have being watching the commercialisation process for several years now. Unlike photovoltaics a Solar Tower delivers electricity 24 hours per days and irrespective of cloud cover. Unlike other renewable technologies such as wind and photovoltaics it achieves the baseload profile of a coal fired power station.

Essentially the Solar Tower technology being developed by Enviromission involves two components. The first is a giant concrete tower surrounded by a giant greenhouse. The greenhouse heats the air below it which then rises up the central tower to turn a turbine and generate electricity. Only about 1-2% of the heat captured is turned into electricity however the low relative costs of the structure mean that Enviromission claims they will be able to match the electricity costs of a coal fired power station. My own rough back of an envelope calculations suggest that they will certainly get within the required ballpark. Of couse the capital costs for such a structure are the determining factor.

The second technical component of their proposed power plant is the construction of giant salt water lakes capable of storing heat so that the output profile of the plant can be tweaked to match consumer demand for electricity.

The key things that make this technology so interesting in my view are:-

1. A prototype plant previously operated for eight years and confirmed the technical feasability.

2. The plant can deliver reliable baseload power.

3. Assertions that it will compete head to head with coal in terms of electricity production costs.

4. Unlike other solar technologies the plant would operate 24 hours per day and also when it is cloudy.

MORE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_updraft_tower 

The second technology of interest only popped onto my radar in the last couple of months. It is a new advanced electricity storage device being developed by a company called EEStor in Texas. Essentially it is a form of super capacitor that goes an order of magnitude beyond existing super capacitors on the market today and into the rhelm where it becomes possible to rival and replace existing chemical battery technology. The claim is that it can produce an energy storage device that is lighter than a lithium ion battery, ten times more powerful than a lead acid battery and with a vastly improved charge time. Essentially I accept that all of these things become possible if you can create the type of capacitor that they claim to have created.

The key things that make this technology so interesting in my view are:-

1. They are building commercial production fascilities now and intend shipping commercial grade product this year.

2. The claims represent a 50 fold improvement over existing super capacitors.

3. ZENN electric motor company appear to have banked their future on EEStors product.

4. The financial backers for EEStor were also backers for Google (so they’re not idiots).

MORE: http://www.technologyreview.com/Biztech/18086/page1/

The biggest application for a product such as EEStors would most likely be in power leveling on the electricity grid. However the most interesting application would be in the arena of high performance long range electric cars and plug-in hybrid electric cars.

Feel free to add your comments, thoughts or alternate futurology.

MORE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disruptive_technology

117 thoughts on “Techno Optimism

  1. I think you worry too much about power sources that can generate power 24 hours a day — they are no doubt needed in the long term, but since there are still going to huge amounts of gas/other power generators that can easily be reduced/increased depending on supply and demand, even power generators that only run during the day (like cheap solar cells) have a place. Not that I wan’t to make a prediction, but they also seem to be one of the most likely technologies to start making inroads in the closish future.

  2. Conrad,

    I don’t think you can build a successful power grid without a reliable baseload source. Otherwise I agree with your comments. There is a place for power sources that only work in the daytime when there are no clouds. However they will have an extremely hard time displacing fossil fuels as our primary electrical energy source due to these limitations. So yes it is entirely a question of scalability and the long term. As an energy source photovoltaics don’t scale well and having gas fired power stations that operate only at night involves a lot of wasted capital.

    The claims by Eestor would perhaps change that dynamic. Although I doubt it would change the fundamentals sufficiently to alter the need for good baseload power sources.

    If the government decides to subsidies nuclear or subsidies some giant new hydroelectric scheme then of course all manner of baseload alternatives become likely. However that would not be efficient.

    Regards,
    Terje.

    P.S. Is still expect significant growth in photovoltaics as the price continues to fall. They do have a valid place in the energy mix.

  3. Not sure if I’m a techo optimist or a free market optimist, but I agree that government intervention is not required.

    The alarmist predictions are not only overblown, but often complete nonsense anyway. Also, in addition to exaggerating the disadvantages of global warming, they totally ignore the advantages.

    Think about it: when they thought we were heading for an ice age, we were told that getting even one or two degrees cooler was a bad thing. Now that things are getting warmer by one or two degrees, we’re told that this is a bad thing. Are we to then believe that the Earth just happens to be at the optimum temperature, and that a move in either direction is bad news? Or, as is more likely, does each scenario have both advantages and disadvantages?

    Hopefully we won’t screw up the market too much with inefficient subsidies – because wind and solar actually does have potential. Without intervention, it is likely that these techs will be price competitive within 50 years. Well intentioned but misguided intervention could even slow this down – or worse, prevent investment in other new technologies that may be of some benefit.

    There’s also other techs like hydrogen, and probably a dozen others that we can’t even imagine at present…

    I am not in the slightest bit worried about GW. It’s disturbing when I see people on TV (inc Penn and Teller) talk about how it’s an issue that keeps them awake at night.

  4. I think it is the pace of temperature change rather than the direction that matters. I do agree that global warming offers a lot of benefits. And I agree that AGW may be a flawed theory anyway (it certainly has gaps).

    I actually think that photovoltaics will drop significantly in price within less than ten years. The same trend line on price has been progressing since the 1970s and it seems to be a bit like Moores law in computing (although slower). I think it will be a great technology for meeting daytime peaks but other technologies such as plug-in electric cars may ultimately change the demand profile such as to move peaks to the evenings. So predictions depend on timeframes and dynamics that may confound every budding futurologist.

    Leaving aside AGW the burning of fossil fuels has significant externalities including smog in cities, nuclear fallout from coal fired power plants and the risk of ocean acidification from rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

    Whilst Enviromission certainly intends on taking advantage of renewable energy subsidies (why wouldn’t they) I think that they may have a technology that does not ultimately depend on such subsidies to be price competitive (they seem to make that claim). Whilst the technology being promoted by Eestor would certainly seem to be very viable even in a purely free market depending of course on their claims being valid.

  5. Fleeced,

    Please don’t be confused by an article that appeared in a news weekly in the 1970’s (Newsweek, about global cooling) and a scientific report signed off by 100’s of scientists and dozens nations recently (IPCC, about global warming).

    Meanwhile don’t build too close to a coastline.

  6. Why do we need to pick any technology winners. We already know what the second best option is. Nuke energy wouldn’t be allowed by the left.

  7. Why do we need to pick any technology winners.

    Presumably so we know where to consider investing our money (or at least where not to).

    We already know what the second best option is.

    So you are into picking winners after all.

    Nuke energy wouldn’t be allowed by the left.

    Probably not. Nuke energy probably wouldn’t be favoured by a lot on the right either. I’d prefer coal myself.

  8. Okay I was being deliberately obtuse. So let me answer that question again.

    I don’t think governments should be picking technology winners. I do think that individual investors should be. And I do think that future gazing is entertaining.

  9. Trinifar wrote:
    “Please don’t be confused by an article that appeared in a news weekly in the 1970’s (Newsweek, about global cooling) and a scientific report signed off by 100’s of scientists and dozens nations recently (IPCC, about global warming).”

    The support for global cooling may not have been as mainstream as for warming – my point was simply to highlight that both cannot be entirely bad. That is, that the good aspects of warming are often ignoreed when people look at the costs (just as advantages of cooling were ignored when people looked at those costs).

    And yes, anybody with land near the coast should sell up now – let’s bring those prices down! 🙂

  10. I assumed coal was off the table. That’s why i didn’t include it. We have already picked a winner.. after coal. We have no conceivable choice but to go with nuke power if coal is nixed. That tech issue has already been decided.

    And the anti-science about nuke has been more than amply shown by the left.

    Politicians are in fact picking winnes. Those on the left have thrown nuke power off table. I never thought you were in trying to slice things down the middle like the way you are.

  11. We have no conceivable choice but to go with nuke power if coal is nixed.

    If we nixed coal in the next few years (madness in my view) then I’d agree that there was not much choise. And Nuclear could not readily come up to speed in Australia that quick anyway.

    However I am not in favour of nixing coal through legislation. I am interested in seeing what economical alternatives may emerge over time. And I fully expect that the market will throw up some surprises along the way.

    That tech issue has already been decided.

    By who. The ministry of decision?

    I never thought you were in trying to slice things down the middle like the way you are.

    I don’t understand this comment. I’m not trying to slice anything. I’m just talking about different technologies and what I think is interesting about them. I also think yo-yos are cool and have a promising future but I’m not slicing them either. I think you might be reading something into my comments that is not actually there.

  12. Actually if coal was nixed then I think we would head towards Nuclear only if all other other fossil fuel alternatives (eg Gas) were also nixed. But as I said I don’t think coal should be nixed.

  13. “One is that I think the more alarmist predictions are overblown. The other reason is that I am very much a technology optimist.”

    You’re are not worried because you are not worrying about the right thing.

    OVERBLOWN?

    Its a total fraud. Overblown is the wrong word.

    We will be getting cooler soon. We will definitely be cooler in the 2030’s then we are now.

    That we could even by some miracle be at risk of a catastrophic warming is such a total fucking fantasy, so anti-scientific, so utterly ridiculous that OVERBLOWN is just not the right word at all.

    We will be cooler in the 2030’s then we are now, and perhaps a great deal sooner, and this will put enourmous stress on our energy production, because the fraudsters are hampering investment of a very long-term nature.

    They are hampering this investment, have been hampering it for decades and will go on hampering it for they are wicked bastards with a great head-start on the rest of us.

    We’ve got to all snap out of it and be immensely concerned by where the rich-left is leading us all.

    Its leading us all to a place where many millions of people will experience great deprivation and an indeterminate amount an early death.

    You’ve got the wrong frame of mind here. Because you are thinking warming-and-not-cooling. And you are thinking the trouble is CO2 and not the toxic-ecologists.

    There is no doubt that the thinking of the toxic-leftist-ecologists has a grip on the nation… and this is something to be very uptight about.

    Now of course one can be zen in the face of all matters. But if one is prone to getting uptight about ANYTHING AT ALL then what the ecologists are doing to us ought to be one of those worrying items at the top of ones list of concerns…

    By Crikey we just had that television show on last night where known scientific commentators whored themselves to the fraudsters like Humphreys in full-blown compromise mode.

    The whole thing was just madness from start to finish.

  14. Sorry, I don’t think the geodynmics technology is commercially viable yet. It’s still being developed but they seem to have a fair bit of funding behind them.

  15. Well Tim all these things are currently financially viable IN SOME PLACES.

    Like wind-farming is viable in some very windy areas where the land is both pretty useless, and so very cheap, and yet close to a major population area.

    Hot rocks is viable now in those places where you don’t have to tunnel too far down to get at the hot rocks.

    But ultimately HOT ROCKS will be viable EVERYWHERE.

    To get to that future world where hot rocks is available EVERYWHERE, however, we need to go through the current evolution of energy sources in a natural free-enterprise way….

    And that means that most of the EXTRA energy we ought to be producing will come from coal and nuclear in the next few decades.

    Thats if we are doing things right.

    I expect that hot rocks will grow every year while we try to drill and dig for more Uranium and fossil fuels.

    And our ability to drill and dig will get better and better. And when this ability is so very fine we will invest more and more in this hot rocks energy source, which I expect will be the next primary energy source when coal and fission fall back some.

    But its not SAVING ON FOSSIL FUELS which will get us closer to that day.

    ITS SAVING MORE GENERALLY.

    Its not saving on coal to give an incentive to nuclear that describes the correct mindset.

    Or saving on nuclear to give an incentive to wind farms. Or saving on all of the above so we have more hot rocks.

    ITS SAVING SAVING SAVING that is going to guarantee us access to energy if an immense amount of savings are coupled with the appropriate anti-NIMBY regulatory framework…

    … that is to say Hernando-De-Soto-like clarity-in-property-rights for what has traditionally been seen to be “PUBLIC GOODS”.

    The more that we save IN THE FINANCIAL SENSE the more will be invested in capital goods.

    And under the right framework we will get an ENOURMOUS amount of this capital goods investment going into so-called infrastructural or public-goods investments.

    And a lot of these will be in various energy production projects.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    We have infinite energy available to us.

    But its a scarcity-of-savings-and property rights problem….

    … And not a scarcity of natural-resources problem.

    >>>>>>>>>>>

    Yes you are right Terge. I’m not trying to call Humphreys a fraud. He is too much of a righteous character for that.

    I was actually trying to call him a whore.

    But even thats using an immense amount of hyperbole and its a totally overblown accusation.

    But I will always put the backhand in if I see any of you guys compromising with these watermelon-commies even a little bit.

  16. I agree. The fastest way to achieving the most important new technologies is a free market system. There’s more money to invest and it is more likely to be applied to the most relevant R&D.

    Let’s hope the government doesn’t deny property rights to land containing hot rocks.

    I’m all favour of nuclear power but I was under the impression it wasn’t currently economically viable in Australia because of the cost of building a reactor and managing the waste.
    However recently three of Sth Austrlaia’s wealthiest men registered a company in order to look at the feasibility of building a nuclear reactor. Their might be some big rewards for building the 1st reactor or only reactor.

  17. “I’m all favour of nuclear power but I was under the impression it wasn’t currently economically viable in Australia because of the cost of building a reactor and managing the waste.”

    The cost is really in the excessive eco-nazi regulation.

    We should try real hard to keep a straight face and offer to take all the worlds radioactive ‘waste’ as the great former labour Prime Minister Bob Hawke suggested.

    We’d have to avoid not falling on the floor laughing at the dupes who would give us all this stuff for free thank us solemnly for taking it off their hands.

    Because one day we’ll be able to reprocess it, or use it in all sorts of commercial ventures.

    What you do with this gear is you whack it in breeder-reactors and re-process it and reuse it.

    Also background radiation has been shown to be a protective factor against cancer and other ailments and you just have to make sure the background radiation stays at these low levels.

    The danger of it is a total myth.

    Of course if the radiation is as high as it was on that John-Wayne-Movie-Set, where pretty much all the cast died within a couple of decades, obviously thats not acceptable.

    But now that we know that a small amount is good for us and prevents rather then causes extra cancers…..

    ……..((((thats what the stats say and who am I to argue?)))))….

    ….. Now that we know this we can easily contain the dangerous side of these materials in this massive and largely unpopulated continent of ours.

  18. Also background radiation has been shown to be a protective factor against cancer and other ailments and you just have to make sure the background radiation stays at these low levels.

    Thats why in my mind active dispersal of radioactive waste makes much more sence than attempts at concentrated storage.

  19. Terje

    ———————————————————–
    That tech issue has already been decided.

    By who. The ministry of decision?

    I never thought you were in trying to slice things down the middle like the way you are.

    I don’t understand this comment. I’m not trying to slice anything. I’m just talking about different technologies and what I think is interesting about them. I also think yo-yos are cool and have a promising future but I’m not slicing them either. I think you might be reading something into my comments that is not actually there.

    ————————————–

    By the fact that Nuke is the second best option we have. We don’t have that many tried and tested options, terje. We already know that Solar and wind cannot even go close to producing enough power.

    You are ignoring the fact that the left has placed nuke off the discussion table. Something which is obvious.

  20. There is no technical reason we couldn’t get 100% of our electricity from renewable sources. However there are currently good economic reasons (ie cost) not to.

    I’m aware that the left has politicised nuclear. What makes you assume that I am ignoring this?

  21. Because I see you trying to avoid it.

    ————————————–

    The left basically screwed up the US move towards nuke power after Three Mile Island. Thy stopped progression of nuke power in its tracks until the US was actually removing nuke plants rather than adding them as a result of economic sense.

    The US could have been 80% nuke by now and we could have been much further down the curve in tech development than we are now by relying on second rate Euro reactors.

    “There is no technical reason we couldn’t get 100% of our electricity from renewable sources. However there are currently good economic reasons (ie cost) not to.”

    That was assumed and therefore didn’t become part of the discussion.

  22. “There is no technical reason we couldn’t get 100% of our electricity from renewable sources.”

    What this ignores is the fact that we need to use fossil fuels and nuclear in order to be able to invest in wind power, fuel cells and hot rocks.

    One energy source therefore EVOLVES into prominence.

    You are only thinking of the ENERGY-GATHERING process.

    You are ignoring the INVESTMENT process and the evolutionary-economic process of how one energy source will grow to be the primary one and then will fade from that place slowly to where another takes its place.

    If we clamp down on this natural and poetic process because we smugly rely only on the physics of things, (only on physics and not on the natural evolution of the economy then what we will have is a sort of Cambrian mass-extinction event….

    … Which would be parallel to another depression and war.

    There’s no getting around it. We have to defeat the anti-energy and anti-CO2-left.

    Defeat them outright, entirely, with all due overkill, and shame their leaders.

  23. ““There is no technical reason we couldn’t get 100% of our electricity from renewable sources. However there are currently good economic reasons (ie cost) not to.”

    That was assumed and therefore didn’t become part of the discussion.”

    How many waves or investment and reinvestment do you guys think this would take.

    Maybe if we all had 70% savings rates the world over we could pull this off without mass slaughter but then WHY WOULD WE WANTTO TRY?

    Why deny ourselves the myriad benefits of CO2 and nuclear sophistication.

  24. You’re beginning to sound like the mirror image of the global warming fanatics there Graeme. If the amount of CO2 released wasn’t enough to stave off an Ice Age according to your alleged ‘theory’ would you be in favour of subsidising fossil fuels use?

  25. I have a big problem with people who claim that photovoltaic or wind farms are the solution. How exactly do you start a 18 MW motor with a whole pile of tiny photocells and windmills. Industry requires big power for big applications, simply to get the stability into a power system. This also means AC power, unless we are going to suddenly abandon the technology of rotating electric fields, then the DC power generated by windfarms and photcells need to be converted via power electronics, which simply don’t generate the stiffness of supply required to stabilise power systems.

    If this thermal tower is able to generate big power in a similar way to hydroelectric, then it may have a future in providing baseload. At the top we could add a space elevator as well 🙂

  26. “You’re beginning to sound like the mirror image of the global warming fanatics there Graeme.”

    No I’m not.

    “If the amount of CO2 released wasn’t enough to stave off an Ice Age according to your alleged ‘theory’ would you be in favour of subsidising fossil fuels use?”

    No because that wouldn’t increase CO2 use sufficiently. It would reduce economic output and indirectly therefore reduce CO2 output.

    What you want is massively expanded capitalist production.

    Now for starters lets get this right.

    We are in a punishing, brutal and pulverising ice age AS WE SPEAK.

    Its not a matter of staving it off. We are in the middle of it.

    The thing is this.

    We have to stop the white wall of death one way or another.

    You do understand that don’t you?

    So there’s no point being snide about it.

    The idea of spending money either publicly or privately to stop warming is just laughable.

    But we have to stop the pulverising ice age wiping out most of terrestrial life any way we can.

    Thats obvious right?

    I mean thats all very clear right?………………. (dumbass).

  27. And there’s another thing.

    Nothing I’ve said here is MY THEORY.

    Can we get this right and you stop being an idiot.

    Lets go again.

    We have been in an ice age for 39 million years.

    Its is an ice age that was getting progressively worse over time.

    But once North and South America fused about 3 and a half million years ago we went into a new and particularly brutal phase of this ice age.

    Thats not MY THEORY.

    This is the recognised science.

    This is what happened.

    And all the alarmists know it.

    Now thats the fucking science whether you like it or not.

    Now I suggest you stop being a fucking idiot (to the best of your abilities) on this matter.

  28. JC,

    You said:-

    We already know that Solar and wind cannot even go close to producing enough power.

    To which I responded:-

    There is no technical reason we couldn’t get 100% of our electricity from renewable sources. However there are currently good economic reasons (ie cost) not to.

    To which you responded:-

    That was assumed and therefore didn’t become part of the discussion.

    So I think we are agreeing on this point. The current crop of renewable energy technologies are not economically viable alternatives.

    On the question of nuclear I said:-

    I’m aware that the left has politicised nuclear. What makes you assume that I am ignoring this?

    To which you responded:-

    Because I see you trying to avoid it.

    Which means you are seeing things that are not there. Absents of comment is not avoiding of topic. I just have nothing much meaningful to add to what you have said about nuclear beyond what I have already said. Which is that I prefer coal. And if somebody bans coal then I’ll say “we should un-ban coal”. And if somebody bans coal and un-bans nuclear I’ll say “well that is a heck of a lot more sane then just just banning coal but banning coal is still terribly stupid”.

    Do we actually disagree or do you have some more subtle point that I am completely missing.

    Regards,
    Terje.

  29. Good to see you still pushing the solar tower Terje. By the way, in the Weekend Aus, a write up on some Aus physicist who pushes a similiar argument to yourself: we can utilise renewables much better than we currently we do but with the same caveat as yourself: cost remains a present problem.

  30. Well I keep seeing the socialists uusing the same jargon: “the government should pick winners”. But in their case they are really saying that the government should eliminate winners seeing nuke by far is the next best alternative to coal.

    I didn’t see you you being forceful enough in distancing yourself from the soicialist distortion. Now you’ve cleared it up I’m happy.

  31. Graeme,

    I admit, I’m as skeptical of your theories as I am of the GW’ists… but I’m interested – do you have a bunch of links that a “beginner” can look into?

    Regards,
    Kirk (aka Fleeced)

  32. Jc wrote:
    “Well I keep seeing the socialists using the same jargon: “the government should pick winners”. But in their case they are really saying that the government should eliminate winners… [snip]”

    THANK-YOU, Jc! That just sums it up…

  33. Pingback: Club Troppo » Missing Link

  34. Just look up ice ages… Then click my name and see how I’ve tried to work through the issue on my blog.

    Most of it isn’t my theory. Its where the science stands. But in any case if you go back you’ll see me trying to figure out just where that is.

    You’ll see how my thinking on this has evolved.

    You ought not be skeptical until the alarmists show up with some evidence.

    Put “evidence for the likelihood of catastrophic” in google and you will see that the alarmists cannot come up with a stitch of evidence for the likelihood of catastrophic warming.

    So far I’m winning by default.

  35. Fleeced writes:

    The support for global cooling may not have been as mainstream as for warming – my point was simply to highlight that both cannot be entirely bad. That is, that the good aspects of warming are often ignoreed when people look at the costs (just as advantages of cooling were ignored when people looked at those costs).

    This is like saying it is not entirely bad to have one of your children die: You now only have to provide for one less than before.

    Have you looked at the science of global warming? Yes, some regions will benefit in some very small ways (perhaps Canada) but those will be vastly overwhelmed by the incredible economic (and human) costs to the world as a whole. What happens in terms of global policital destablization when India and China can only produce half the grain they do now?

  36. Trinifar,

    Which reputal body of scientific literature is forcasting a halving of grain output in India and China. Or were you just making stuff up because it sounds spooky.

    Regards,
    Terje.

  37. China and India could produce more grain than ever with fairly awful global warming if they had microeconomic reforms.

    Or maybe all that GW will do is change agricultural comparative advantages.

    The real threat from GW is that change will occur too quickly for us to accumulate capital which can mitigate effects (rising sea levels) or change our agricultural and industrial production patterns.

    Look at the economics of global warming Trinifar. Over $9 billion of subsidies are given annually to carbon based fuel in Australia. What goes to the alternatives? Effectively, regulatory bias gives even more to non-renewable carbon based fuels.

  38. Over $9 billion of subsidies are given annually to carbon based fuel in Australia.

    I have heard this before. Can you give some more details. Is this in the form of industry support (ie development grants) or what?

  39. “Have you looked at the science of global warming? Yes, some regions will benefit in some very small ways (perhaps Canada) but those will be vastly overwhelmed by the incredible economic (and human) costs to the world as a whole.”

    There is no science backing this up.

    As it turns out the negative feedbacks to CO2-based warming are so comprehensive that global warming from this source cannot currently be seperated at the global level from the static.

    This idea of yours has two utter fantasy aspects to it.

    1. That CO2-based warming would be bad…. It wouldn’t. It would be a great thing.

    2. And the second fantasy is that we are likely to have much in the way of appreciable warming anytime soon.

    In fact we will fairly shortly be heading for cooling.

    What we can be pretty sure of is that the 2030’s are going to be colder then the 1990’s.

    But some cooling ought to begin to kick in well before that.

    But then think of your point of view?

    Where is the evidence for it?

    The closer you look at it the alarmist case the more it fades into thin air.

    THE ALARMIST WARMING MOVEMENT IS A TOTAL HOAX.

    It could not be MORE of a hoax and we have no seen a larger hoax in the scientific world ever.

    Where is the evidence really?

    You will find that you have no evidence for anything but the tiniest bit of human-induced warming and that is highly speculative.

    And there is nowhere to be found the slightest scrap of evidence for the likelihood of CATASTROPHIC warming.

  40. “Over $9 billion of subsidies are given annually to carbon based fuel in Australia.”

    Thats a lie.

    A tax deduction is not a subsidy.

    Even if we got rid of all taxes and charges from all energy producing companies…. all taxes and charges… state, local and federal.

    This is not the same as a subsidy.

    There is almost no subsidy to this industry. On the contrary this industry generates billions of tax dollars.

    It is a taxpaying industry not a tax-eating industry when viewed as an industry entire.

    Lefty Elitist kept plugging this lie relentlessly over at Prodeo.

    The second time he just went at it again even when I exposed his hateful lies.

    But he just kept going with it and by that time the commie sheep in commie-sheeps clothing…. Bahnish… had blocked me entirely.

    These guys will just lie about this stuff until their face falls off.

    It remains to be seen if our new guy is willing to look this all up and admit he’s been gypped.

    Lefty-elitist even posted a pdf making this sort of claim.

    And when you looked at the pdf there was only about two things on this extremely long list that even looked like a subsidy.

    All the rest were tax deductions.

    And let us not forget the ubiquitous NIMBY, greenie tormentors, and mountains of regulations weighing down on this industry the whole time.

    CO2 is good for plant life.

    So these mutants aren’t even fair dinkum in their protestations of being in favour of nature.

    Every constituent part of this hoax is totally and transparently ludicrous.

  41. Let’s understand one thing here. If we wish to normalize “subsidies” we should normalize down, not up.

    Otherwise this becomes a scam similar to the crap the frogs were trying to pull on Ireland. The argument the frogs presented was that pushing up Irish tax rates would harmonize with the rest of the EU.

    At the very least any remove of subsidies etc. should revert back to the rightful owners, the Australian people as a tax cut.

    So let’s not fall for the socialist nonsense about corporate welfare which is really a tax increase by stealth. Any subsidy removal should either be harmonized down for all or the removal should be spread to all of us.

  42. I obviously agree that any reduction in subsidies should be handed back as a tax cut.

    Some tax concessions clearly arn’t a subsidy. For instance if you reduce fuel tax you are not on balance giving any advantage to such fuels but merely reducing the disadvantage of the fuel tax. However the first article that Mark Hill linked to does appear to be mindful of such considerations.

  43. The problem is terje that I see no talk from the leftoid lawmakers that carbon tax proposals will in fact be revenue neutral. I feel the faint scent of a scam here.

  44. JC,

    If you look to the left to reduce taxes or adjust them in a way that is revenue neutral then of course that would be deluded. If they started making such arguments then we would not call them “the left”. So your point is merely a form of tautology. Its like saying that the socialists seem to be advocating socialism. duh.

    Regards,
    Terje.

  45. Look they’ll throw the nuclear carrot in front of you…

    … They’ll temp you with a tax cut…

    But because you are compromising with their lies you will not be able to nuance what it is they get up to.

    Ultimately they HAVE DESTROYED and CONTINUE TO DESTROY our ability to produce energy.

    If it weren’t a hoax then meeting these guys halfway wouldn’t give them so much power.

    If it weren’t a hoax and CO2 was harmful on THIS planet, rather then a planet long long ago, in a galaxy far far away…

    …. If that was the case the pro-liberty life-forms on that planet would just matter-of-factly shift the tax from one area to another if they had an authentic tax requirement.

    But by failing to call the fraud for what it is. By meeting the evil and anti-science bastards halfway… we don’t give ourselves the harmless second-best option.

    WE GIVE THE BAD BASTARDS ALL THE POWER.

    Thats why when these bad bastards talk to me they have to block my ass or run away.

    But if they talk to any of the super-sophisticated-in-economics-COMPROMISERS they wind up dominating the debate every goddamned time.

    Can you think of any example where this general principle DIDN’T hold?

  46. So what you’re saying is that we should take it and accept what these wankers dish out, is that what your saying terje? The tautology you accuse me of is basically an acceptance to get “re-raped”by these thieves and enjoy it. huh!

  47. From an article in the age: “Analysis of this year’s federal budget papers reveal that programs for activities that increase greenhouse gas emissions will attract total funding of about $8 billion in the 2006-07 financial year.”

    some of the subsidies:

    – For motorists $5 billion

    – For planes $790 million

    – For electricity to aluminium smelters $230 million

    – For Fringe Benefits Tax concessions on employer-provided cars $1.13 billion

    – For company tax deductions for oil exploration $200 million

    – For industry assistance to car manufacturers $570 million

  48. Also another thought – what would happen if one were to privatise the operation/construction of certain transport networks? It would at least force people to think about what monetary value they place on car trips and perhaps be a step towards reducing pollution and/or reaching the optimal level of congestion.

    It seems to me there are a variety of non-freedom diminishing ways to tackle global warming that would be desirable even if there were no such thing as global warming.. someone just needs to dig into the Australian situation more.

    For any students reading this, there is a free-market environmentalism camp worth checking out:

    http://www.perc.org/enviroprog/enviropreneur/camp/basics.php

  49. JC,

    No that is not what I said and not what I’m saying. I never said anything about rolling over and taking anything from anybody. What I said is that your statement about the left was self evidently true and essentially meaningless. You may as well have said “why is it that none of the fat people are ever really thin?”

    Regards,
    Terje.

  50. I don’t understand your complaints JC. Terje posted an interesting article about alternative energy, effectively showing that the market is naturally providing solutions to global warming and that government action isn’t needed — and somehow you’re accusing him of giving up.

    At no time has he said or implied anything in support of GW activism. It seems like your fighting enemies that don’t exist.

  51. John

    “What I said is that your statement about the left was self evidently true and essentially meaningless.”

    If it were meaningless we wouldn’t have a fight on our hands with the renewed attempt at stealing. What terje is saying is, “well yes of course they steal, so what”.

    In effect this is just de facto surrender.

    Renewables are a total waste of time and only become “economic” once a tax is imposed or a rationing system through carbon credits where people simply trade in ration cards.

    At max, a windmill can only produce at 59% of a coal fired or nuke plant. There no is way around the physics to change this. Solar may get a little better but only just. There is actually a formula for this that explains the process.

    The issue started when teje picked up on my point that we already know that nuke energy is the second best option after coal in the production of large scale energy output. He made a smart alec comment and it went from there. He deliberately conflated my first comment by implying I was suggesting “by who the ministry of decision”.

    He knew I never suggested such a thing and was being a smart alec.

    Incidentally he ought to one day explain how on earth a libertarian considers the EU to be a good thing…. but I digress.

  52. Terje,

    Completely off topic but something you have raised previously concerning sunset clauses on legislation. Look at the first link on this page:

    http://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/Leg_Info/info_publications.htm

    Automatic expiry of Subordinate Legislation [PDF 54k]
    Record of subordinate legislation that will automatically expire on 1 September first occurring after the 10th anniversary of the day of its making.
    [updated 26.09.2006]

  53. “Solar may get a little better but only just.”

    Doesn’t sound very techno optimist. Sounds like picking winners (or losers).

    “Renewables are a total waste of time and only become “economic” once a tax is imposed or a rationing system through carbon credits”

    http://peswiki.com/index.php/Directory:Cents_Per_Kilowatt-Hour

    And what about the downward trend in renewable costs?

    What about subsidies to fossil fuels?

  54. Fats
    Listen to me. The world uses about 24 Giga hours of electicity a year. It is estimated to go to 125 by 2100. Renewbles will play a part, but a small part-estimated to be about 5%. That’s it.

    The curely stuff still needs to be made by either coal or nuke. If we’re lucky fusion will make an entry in about 50 years ( we hope) and later anti-matter reactors in about 100 years. However a lot of this will depend on such things like real heavy r&d. However for that we need to ensure that our savings rate is very high as it is savings that fuels r&d.

    “What about subsidies to fossil fuels?”

    What about them?

    Remove them and send all taxpayers a refund or bring all others down to the same level as the subsidized. No problem.

    In any event what is all this subsidy stuff going around the traps. The corporate tax rate is 30% while the personal rate is 45%? Haven’t heard a groan from you about the outlandishly high personal tax rate that ought to be lowerd to the corp rate. Subsidy? Do you even know what it is without looking at an economics dictionary?

  55. I don’t share your pessimism JC… I am a technology optimist and I think Terje has mentioned a couple of interesting ideas. I don’t know what the future holds, but I would never dream of ruling something out because it isn’t perfect today.

    And Terje’s point wasn’t that a left-wing victory was inevitable… just that it’s not surprising to see left-wing people promoting left-wing ideas. He’s right. And I’m still at a loss to understand why you’re picking enemies where there aren’t any.

  56. It’s not a picking enemies thing. It was more of a personality scrap, John. I read his comment as suggesting I favoured the government picking winners when I said or implied no such thing if he had bothered to understand where I was coming from.

    I am far from being a tech pessimist. In fact I am far towards being most / very/ totally/ completely optimistic that tech will solve all our issues if the market is left alone and not tampered.

    However because I think nuke is superior to solar-wind doesn’t make me a pessimist. I cannot see how renewbles can ever account for more than 5% of raw energy needs.

    However by all means, if I am proved wrong then all the better.

  57. Here is a terrific techie site for all of us that believe the future belengs to man’s ability to create. I suggest all to put this site on the list of favs. Avoid the GOP stuff, if you want but his tech updates are great.

    http://futurist.typepad.com/my_weblog/

    Read the latest timeline he thinks we will see over the course of a short space of a few years. Its quite revealing.

    ———————————————–

    John look i have my doubts on this AGW thing, big doubts. However the public seems to want clean air so the best way forward is through tech.

  58. “I cannot see how renewbles can ever account for more than 5% of raw energy needs. However by all means, if I am proved wrong then all the better”

    I’ll bet the other way. I think you are too pessimistic on this — the main places where people need to save energy are going to be the US and China. Both of these places have oodles of sunshine and space, as well as other types of potential resources. If I remember correctly, the three gorges dam in China is already going to get China almost there (and would have gone far past if not for the increased consumption). My bet is that 5% should be easy, since it could be done just with solar, which I’ll guess (based on claims from solar companies trying to beat each other to it) will be priced similarly to coal in 10 years.

  59. JC,

    I did not seek to accuse you of picking winners. I sought to show you the weakness of your logic. You entered this discussion by asking whyd do we need to “picking winners” and then in the very next line you said that “we have no conceivable choice but to go with nuke power”. You were being far more assertive about which technology will or must succeed. You have in essence already picked the winner. However I know that you are not advocating a government subsidy for nuke power. Just as I don’t advocate subsidies for solar towers or supercapacitors. I was merely turning your logic back on you to show you how weak it was. Just because somebody expounds an interest in some innovation or technology and thinks that it shows promise does not automatically mean they want the government to pay for it.

    “Picking winners” is what ever successful investor/futurologist does. It is not something governments should do through public funding or enforcement.

    Regards,
    Terje.

  60. Brendan,

    You mentioned a problem with Solar and Wind producing DC power and that converting this to AC with power electronics would create a “brittle” grid. I don’t think the DC aspect of these energy sources should be a concern. Power electronics are well and truely up to the job of power conversion from AC to DC on a large scale. For example the new Basslink power transmission line under bass strait is from memory rated at 300MW and yet it transmits using DC which must then be converted to/from AC at either end.

    The original argument (Tesla versus Edison) for AC tranmission relates to the ease with which AC can be converted to different voltages. In the home we generally want a low voltage supply to increase safety and allow for cheaper forms of insulation. Whilst in power transmission we want a high voltage system because it means lower currents (ie less amps) which means vastly thinner wires and less energy loss within the wires. The reasons are both technical and economic (and Edison ultimately lost the argument.

    However if we were building power grids today the argument would not be as clear cut. It would still favour AC because transformers (the AC voltage converters) are such a reliable and proven technology. However as Basslink shows there are economic reasons to go with DC. And inside every major modern electronic device DC is the power of choice.

    Basslink is high voltage so it gets the same benefit of low current as other transmission systems. However by using DC they overcome a problem with AC which is known as the “skin effect”. Within an AC conductor the magnetic flux generated by the current tends to cause the core of the wire to lose some of it’s conductance. In essence at the same operating voltage and power you can get less AC power through a given conductor than the DC equivalent.

    In short the only real argument in favour of AC has been the low cost and effectiveness of transformers. Almost every other aspect of electrical design tends to favour DC. Power electronics is changing the game. And it is very much an economic game.

    When it comes to most motors used in industry (single phase AC induction motors) these are in fact less desirable in many way when compared to their DC equivalents. Such motors tend to have unbalanced second order harmonics that cause noise and vibration and shorten the life of machinery. When it comes to larger high torque motors as used on conveyer systems and in mining trucks these are almost universally DC due to superior speed and torque dynamics.

    The reason why photovoltaics and windmills if used on their own would cause networks to be brittle has next to nothing to do with DC versus AC or industry having big machines. The problem with these technologies is that energy is not produced to meet demand. It is produced when nature randomly permits. Any such grid would need to have masses of excess capacity as well as extensive demand management (through rationing or dynamic price adjustment). Whilst these are achievable they come at enormous expense both in infrastructure and in convenience.

    I fully expect demand management to become a bigger factor in the electrical power industry. However I am quite certain that whatever form power plants take in the future the majority of the capacity will be in technologies that can consistently deliver baseload power with reliability. From the technolgy menu on offer today that means fossil fuels, hydo, nuclear, geothermal or maybe solar towers.

    Regards,
    Terje.

  61. Interesting article Terje! My favourite theoretical primary energy source is Biological Hydrogen Production! Which would enable hydrogen to become the most prevelent energy storage medium. But that’s more for transport really!

    I think what would be useful would be to have some boffins draw up hypothetical ‘energy maps’ of what the energy infrasructure is going to look like in 10, 50 and 100 years. The maps would be based on what technology is currently being developed to get a better idea of what’s worth investing by looking at what translates into a real life infrastructure the best. Investment appears to be stand alone on individual technologies! I don’t think investors or anyone for that matter are looking deep enough into an evolving energy infrastucture and the co-existance of different technologies.

    But at the moment at least I think extreme techno-optimism should be approached with a little caution! Even though I am a techno-optimist. The thing is there is technology to help the environment and it’s available right now but it is being overlooked to a certain extent because of the hope that there may possibly be something better in the near future. And even though I think there will be. I don’t think profound new technology will come to save the earth as soon as some may have us believe. We should make more good current tech available now. Hypotetical tech is worth investing in as long as it doesn’t come at the exspense of the real tech we have now.

    Regards Sara

  62. I think we need to lower the cost of alternate technology in preference to raising the cost of existing technology (eg taxing coal). Prosperity comes from improving supply not artifically constraining supply.

    Biological Hydrogen Production sounds very interesting. Do you have any info on this.

  63. terje writes: Which reputal body of scientific literature is forcasting a halving of grain output in India and China. Or were you just making stuff up because it sounds spooky.

    (I appologize in advance, I thought this was common knowledge. Here is just one taste from the Financial Times:

    India’s agricultural productivity, already flagging, is thought likely to suffer because of high temperatures, drought, flood and soil degradation. The Chinese media have cited similar scenarios, including a fall in grain output by 10 per cent a year from 2030. Such threats run counter to the maintenance of food security, which both governments prize.

    China’s grain production has decreased in each of the last 6 years and IIRC in each year but one since 1999. India is having a similar problem. They are using up their water tables, and without irrigation all the high-yield grains in the world just do you no good.

  64. Not a scientific source, just the media reporting on what the media has to say. Grain production this year could be falling due to any number of factors including changes in comparative advantage, short term droughts etc. I think you are being unreasonably alarmist without any good cause.

  65. “China’s grain production has decreased in each of the last 6 years and IIRC in each year but one since 1999. India is having a similar problem. They are using up their water tables, and without irrigation all the high-yield grains in the world just do you no good.”

    Maybe they are not producing as much grain because they are producing other goods and importing grain?

    High yield grains are precisely what you need when you have less abundnant water. They would do them a world of good.

    Why are their water tables being used up? If they have floods their water tables should be fine.

  66. Mark- i think he means the aquifer, or deep-water resources, like our Artesian basin. that is also drying up, as everyone uses the ‘free’ good of unlimited water. Didn’t Rotarua, in EnZed (Kiwiland to everyone else) have a similar problem? Did they ever get their hot water back or is it all gone? where is Kiwibird when he could be useful?

  67. terje,

    Not a scientific source, just the media reporting on what the media has to say. Grain production this year could be falling due to any number of factors including changes in comparative advantage, short term droughts etc. I think you are being unreasonably alarmist without any good cause.

    and

    Britian has not produced enough food to feed itself for over 100 years. So far it has not been a problem.

    Well, if you don’t want to have a serious discussion — that’s fine. Enjoy your echo chamber. As I said above, that there are grain production shortfalls is not controversial; the only controversial bit is what to do about it (if anything). And if the three largest grain producers in the world (USA, China, and India) start having trouble producing enough to feed themselves — everyone is in trouble.

    I’m not refering to any data that isn’t mainstream. See http://www.earth-policy.org/Indicators/Grain/2006.htm for example — just one of many sources (if I put too many links in a comment it gets caught in the spam filter).

    Mark Hill,

    Maybe they are not producing as much grain because they are producing other goods and importing grain?

    In China’s case this is partly true; they have diverted water that would otherwise be used for irrigation to indrustial uses. Yet even so, they are pumping more water out of the ground than is going back in. But here’s the rub: When both China and India can not produce enough grain to feed themselves it has to come from somewhere else — mostly the USA and Canada — but North American grain surpluses are falling too due to aquifer depletion and expanding population. At some point there won’t be anything for China and India to import. That leads to trouble on scale that demands, or will demand, attention.

    High yield grains are precisely what you need when you have less abundnant water. They would do them a world of good.

    Both China and India been using high-yield grains for decades along with modern pesticides, fertilizers, and irrigation. That’s what is referred to as the Green Revolution. Now they are running out of water — so is the USA. From the article I linked above:

    In parts of the United States, such as the Texas panhandle and in western Oklahoma and Kansas, depletion of the Ogallala aquifer [one of the largest in the world] has forced farmers to return to lower-yield dryland farming.

    and

    The widespread overpumping of aquifers for irrigation means we are feeding ourselves with water that belongs to the next generation. While it is widely recognized that the world is facing a future of water shortages, not everyone has connected the dots to see that this likely also means a future of food shortages.

    Overpumping means we are taking the water out at a much higher rate than it is being refreshed — effectively mining fossil water.

    My question is how do free markets address this? There must be some libertarian literature on the subject, but I have not come across it.

    [nicholas gray, yes that is what I meant, thanks for the help]

  68. Trinifar — your quote doesn’t support your negativitiy.

    And your statement: “China’s grain production has decreased in each of the last 6 years” is a little odd because there has been no significant change in temperatures since 2002, and it is currently cooler than 1998. Temperatures increased by about 0.6 degrees between the mid-70s and late-90s… but this will actually be good for plant growth in many countries. And last time it was this warm (middle ages) China was perhaps the most advanced civilisation in the world.

  69. Power electronics are well and truely up to the job of power conversion from AC to DC on a large scale.

    Inverters are singularly bad at providing fault current, and fault current is what is needed to maintain voltage stability during the high current demands of motor starting and the magnitude of fault current to enable protection sytems to operate correctly. UPS systems are notorious for the inability to trip circuit breakers, and many use a bypass system to use the normal power supply to supply fault current or oversize the inverters in order to be able to supply enough energy to trip protection.

    However if we were building power grids today the argument would not be as clear cut. It would still favour AC because transformers (the AC voltage converters) are such a reliable and proven technology.

    Yes, it would be. A transformer is a lump of metal that needs very little maintenance, a rectifier is a power electronic with much greater maintenance and less reliability. It is difficult to compare AC and DC motors, as their comparitive advantages are basically down to application.

    Basslink is high voltage so it gets the same benefit of low current as other transmission systems. However by using DC they overcome a problem with AC which is known as the “skin effect”. Within an AC conductor the magnetic flux generated by the current tends to cause the core of the wire to lose some of it’s conductance. In essence at the same operating voltage and power you can get less AC power through a given conductor than the DC equivalent.

    DC transmission over a large distance is a specific application, and I agree that it does have applications. They are generally connected between large networks to supplement existing generation. It is the existing generation which is used to stiffen the network supply, supplemented by banks of reactors and capacitors for reactive power and voltage control. In the event of a system fault, the HVDC system may experience a commutation fault and subsequent interuption of supply, causing frequency control problems at either the sending or receiving end.

    I was involved for a short while investigating Bass Link, it seems a lifetime ago.

    In short the only real argument in favour of AC has been the low cost and effectiveness of transformers. Almost every other aspect of electrical design tends to favour DC. Power electronics is changing the game. And it is very much an economic game.

    Isn’t it always an economic game? I don’t really think I can agree with your assessment that DC is superior technically to AC, because if this was the case, industry would demand DC solutions for local applications (such as at isolated power systems like mine sites or oil and gas platforms, not a small part of the market), even if only to convert AC to DC for use. This is not what is happening, the greatest growth is in variable speed AC drives to control motors, not variable speed DC drives.

    When it comes to most motors used in industry (single phase AC induction motors) these are in fact less desirable in many way when compared to their DC equivalents.

    I’m not sure what industry you are referring to, but in my experience single phase motors are the least common (compared to 3 phase). Single phase motors (if used at all) are restricted to fractional kilowatt motors in mining, oil & gas and utility industries. They are more common in domestic use, since the majority of homes are only supplied with single phase supplies. For high power applications, three phase motors reign supreme. DC motors may be prevalent in manufacturing, but not big industry where we need to supply kW, not watts.

    The problem with these technologies is that energy is not produced to meet demand. It is produced when nature randomly permits.

    Yes, this is a big problem as well. The Bass Link system is designed to transmit power back into Tasmania when coal fired power is cheap to conserve hydroelectric power for peak times when prices are high and also to compensate for those times when there is not enough water in the dams. It is common practice for hydroelectric systems to pump water back into the reservoir at off peak times using coal generated power in order to be able to sell it during peak times.

    I fully expect demand management to become a bigger factor in the electrical power industry.

    Smart metering will always be the best form of demand management, charging more for peak electricity over non-peak consumption, flatening the demand curve. Increasing price is a pretty good motivator.

  70. Brendan,

    By the way you use the term fault current I assume you are also refering to the inrush current you get in starting a motor before the back EMF comes online. I think this point is a reasonable one and I must admit that I had not considered this issue extensively. What you are saying does seem to make some sence.

    If we were building power grids today we would on balance go with AC, no argument. However in the days when Tesla and Edison were having this debate it was not clear cut. My point was merely that if they had power electronics that operated on the same scale as todays devices the choice would have been even less clear. I agree that transformers are wonderfully reliable. I remember many years ago helping to service a utility transformer that had been in active use for 50 years. It was still in good nick.

    I don’t know but I would have thought that AC was popular in remote locations such as oil rigs simply because there are so many mass market AC appliances available that it would not pay them to go with anything different. However your argument is probably also valid.

    I agree that single phase motors are popular only in low power situations. I admit that I was mostly thinking of the construction industry. However I know that DC motors are very popular on mining trucks due to their ability to deliver torque across a great range of speeds. However this is another area where power electronics have a big impact and a lot of the traditional advantages of DC systems can now also be achieved in other ways (eg variable frequency inverters applied to synchronous motors and other innovative hybrid solutions).

    I don’t know but I presume that the solar tower will use synchronous generators since it is so frequently described as an upside down hydro-electric plant that uses rising hot air instead of falling water. Although such a setup would not involve the same mechanical inertia as a hydro-electric plant (because air is less dense than water) I wonder if it wouldn’t still provide the sorts of fault current that you are talking about. My guess is that it would.

    I would also ponder whether on a grid with a large number of reliable power sources of sufficient capacity whether spikes in current demand wouldn’t just momentarily bleed power away from other network loads (dipping the voltage ever so slightly) and effectively ride on the electrical momentum of the grid. And if not then whether additional capacitors (or reactive power sources such as purpose installed synchronous motors perhaps) couldn’t also kick in the necessary transient currents. Perhaps you don’t see these as sufficient or as desirable and in the extreme you may well be right.

    Either way I think we agree that photovoltaics and wind farms have significant scalability problems.

    Regards,
    Terje.

  71. P.S. Smart metering plus controllable loads (like water heaters) are the only forms of demand management that I really see as significant. Extolling the virtues of flurencent light bulbs may reduce overall consumption but it does not allow any dynamic minute to minute alteration in load. Hypothetically a fleet of plug-in electric vehicles all trickly charging and controllable via smart signalling (like hot water heaters) would offer signifcant flexibility in fine tuning the timing of demand.

  72. I don’t know but I presume that the solar tower will use synchronous generators

    Yes, they would. Even the majority of wind turbines produce electricity via synchronous generators, so I was wrong about that problem with respect to windfarms. However solar energy is DC, of that I am certain 😉

    Either way I think we agree that photovoltaics and wind farms have significant scalability problems.

    Yep, that’s why we use 200 brake horse power engines, rather than 200 horses to get around.

    Micro-gas turbines are being used on suburban estates in the USA to provide domestic supplies. The power systems hang off of the main network, gaining the advantage of the system’s stability, but generate the power locally thus avoiding some transmission losses. Although they do have to pay for the natural gas to be transmitted, and this has it own costs.

  73. Where you said “solar energy is DC, of that I am certain” I will presume you mean’t photovoltaics.

    From what I have read NEMMCO don’t treat wind farms as a power supplier because they can’t dispatch energy on demand. Instead they are treated as a form of negative demand for modelling and management purposes. In purely economic terms and over the short term such as hours, days or weeks wind farms are price inelastic suppliers. They sell when the wind blows, not when prices rise.

    P.S. Electric trains are a good example of a heavy industry using predominantly DC.

  74. The link you offered regarding the solar tower is interesting. It says this:-

    The generators proposed are 11kV synchronous machines with either static or brushless excitation. Static has a better response although response time variation is unlikely to be an issue. However there may be a need to provide sustained fault current due to network protection requirements. In this case a separately excited brushless system may be needed.

  75. P.S. Electric trains are a good example of a heavy industry using predominantly DC.

    In the past maybe, modern traction is predominantly done using asynchronous 3-phase AC motors.

    I remember 8-9 years ago when I was doing inspections on Melbourne’s rail and tram network, they run on 1500 VDC and 600 VDC respectively, and wandering around some of the old substations. These substations were works of art, with parquetry floors, big open bus bar switchboards with huge knife switches, and abandoned rectifier valves that looked like giant light globes. Fascinating stuff (if you’re an electrical engineer).

    The link you offered regarding the solar tower is interesting. It says this:-

    The generators proposed are 11kV synchronous machines with either static or brushless excitation. Static has a better response although response time variation is unlikely to be an issue. However there may be a need to provide sustained fault current due to network protection requirements. In this case a separately excited brushless system may be needed.

    I saw this as well, which is why I linked. You need to maintain excitation under fault conditions, a permanent magnet (static) excitation simply collapses under duress. This is way too technical though for a libertarian blog!

    Managing a system with many small generators is like trying to get huskies all going in the same direction pulling a dog sled. It can be done, but a snowmobile is much better at the job.

  76. Trinifar,

    You said:-

    Well, if you don’t want to have a serious discussion — that’s fine. Enjoy your echo chamber.

    I’m not sure why you found my statements to be non-serious. I merely questioned the validity of your assertions and the assumptions that underpin your negativity. Testing your assertions and the logic of your arguments is not intended to ridicule you or anybody else. Its a genuine concern after the truth of the matter.

    As I said above, that there are grain production shortfalls is not controversial; the only controversial bit is what to do about it (if anything).

    I did a little google searching on this issue to see how much talk there is of grain shortages in China. I found this following item:-

    http://www.thenews.com.pk/print1.asp?id=45088

    It seem to infer that the shortfalls being talked about are a product of growing demand (no doubt from prosperity) more so that declining production. In other words it suggests that we are talking about a gap between production and consumption more so than a trend line decline in production. So we should be careful not to confound the two.

    I also found the following economic paper discussion the declining grain output in China:-

    Click to access farmoutput.pdf

    It attributes the decline to:-

    1. The normal trend with industrialising nations (eg South Korea in earlier decades).
    2. A shift from grain farming to fruit and vegtable farming. This has been due in a large part to grain prices declining as China has opened up it’s economy to world markets.
    3. Changes to the pattern of rural land allocation.

    It also discusses the possibility that there is any impending food shortage in China and dismisses it as a mischaracterisation of the situation.

    However with all seriousness if you have some credible information that tells a different story and justifies fears of impending “policital destablization” due to food shortages in China then I’m open to learning new stuff.

    Regards,
    Terje.

  77. Hi there, well basically Biological hydrogen production is to due with obtaining Hydrogen from Water by photosythesis of Algae! The University of Queensland are meant to be world leaders in this kind of research at the moment.
    http://www.aibn.uq.edu.au/

    Basically they supercharge Algae so photosythesis occurs at a faster rate hyper-producing hydrogen!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biological_hydrogen_production
    http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,70273-0.html

    This means that our primary fuel sources would be water and sunlight : )!!

    But the technology is severly underdeveloped at the moment.
    “The Hype about Hydrogen, Fact and Fiction in the Race to Save the Climate” is a very good book about this. Joseph J. Romm

    http://www.polarpublishing.com/#hydridic this is also a good book about the Hydridic Earth theory.

    In the United States a lot of work has gone into research into hydrogen but not at the production level, Bush’s administration want it cracked from fossil fuels which defeats the points of clean, cost-efficient hydrogen. The government’s involvement is really hurting American research into because they are bullying scientists who don’t follow their pro-hydrogen stance, this is troubling because methanol might prove to be more efficient in the future! But never-the-less it has a lot of potential!!!
    Regards
    Sara!

  78. The wired article was interesting. It does seem that we have entered the biotech era.

  79. John Humphreys,

    And your statement: “China’s grain production has decreased in each of the last 6 years” is a little odd because there has been no significant change in temperatures since 2002, and it is currently cooler than 1998.

    But my point was about using up water (totally orthogonal to the global warming issue).

  80. Trinifar,

    It did not seem othogonal at the time:-

    Have you looked at the science of global warming? Yes, some regions will benefit in some very small ways (perhaps Canada) but those will be vastly overwhelmed by the incredible economic (and human) costs to the world as a whole. What happens in terms of global policital destablization when India and China can only produce half the grain they do now?

    Your infered linkage between “global warming” and grain production in China and India seemed pretty clear to me.

    Regards,
    Terje.

  81. Terje,

    The news article you point also says

    Production last year was 13.46 million tonnes more than in 2005, as annual grain output in China increased for the third year running [China also includes legumes, such as beans, and oil bearing seeds, as part of its grain statistics], but still short of the country’s demand.

    and

    The nation of 1.3 billion people needs to feed its growing population but its arable land is increasingly being lost to expanding cities and environmental degradation.

    and

    China faces the possibility of a 48 million tonne grain shortage in 2010, equal to nearly nine per cent of the country’s grain consumption, according to a recent study published by the ruling Communist Party’s central school.

    The paper by Dwight Perkins was interesting. Thanks for that, I had not seen it. The most interesting part to me was he makes no reference whatsoever to agricultural problems due to environmental degradation and water shortages that that even “developed nations” like the USA face and are rather obvious in the case of China.

    A report by the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology, the Chinese Meteorological Administration and Chinese Academy of Sciences says,

    If we do not take any measures, by the second half of the 21st century production of key agricultural products like wheat, rice and corn could fall by up to 37 percent.

  82. “China faces the possibility of a 48 million tonne grain shortage in 2010, equal to nearly nine per cent of the country’s grain consumption, according to a recent study published by the ruling Communist Party’s central school.”

    Australia doesn’t produce enough computers. We import them, problem solved.

    But what would you do about China’s “problem”?

  83. Trinifar, having a quick look at your website you seem to be very concerned about the world’s increasing population. Perhaps you envision a future where government’s control the amount of babies born or where people are killed off if they get to old?

    Going back to the topic of techno optimism. Technological development has proven to provide food for more people, personally I think this is a good thing, for example GM crops can be grown in harsher climates now. Pesticide and fertilizer development are other examples.
    Libertarians will argue technological development is most accelerated under a free market system and that this is the best way to feed the most people. This brings me to the next issue. Food distribution.
    Currently there is more than enough food in the world, poverty and distribution are the real problems. Libertarians will also argue that free trade is the most efficient and best way to both reduce poverty and increase product distribution. Unfortunately governments always seem to get in the way. For example, someone like Mugabe (Zimbabwe), who through socialist policies has transformed a once affluent country into a poverty stricken mess where people are now starving to death.

  84. Here’s an idea I thought of a while back- why not set up wind turbines in Bass Strait? They could tap the Roaring forties trade winds, and use the power to convert water, taken from the ocean, into hydrogen. And I don’t think any orange-stomached bird, or yellow-bellied minister, would get in the way!
    Of course, I don’t know as much about electrolysis as I should- would we need to purify the water of its’ salt? That might add to the cost. But it shouldn’t mean the project is unviable.

  85. Terje, fair enough, but in the same sense of fairness I was talking also about acquifer depletion which you’ll see if you look back through my comments. And the two problems, GW and water, are largely orthogonal.

  86. Tim, I appreciate your thoughtful reply, and thanks for having a look at my blog. You’ve raised some great issues, ones that I’ve been quite curious about, e.g. how market oriented solutions and techonology can be applied to solve problems related to population growth, consumption growth, and maintaining economic growth. Technology is seen by some as a panacea for the world’s ills. Since my whole career has been spent in the technology sector I think I have some perspective on what’s realistic and what’s not. But rather than blather on here, I’ll see if I can find a suitable way to write about it on my own blog (and not pollute this thread).

  87. Here is another good reason to get rid of coal power stations: they released vaporised mercury. Press reports today replicate what has been noted for years now: mercury is reaching dangerously high levels in fish and in this recent press report this was attributed to coal power stations; though probably a guess on the researcher’s part. Nonetheless this mercury issue is a big problem now.

    As to the background radiation protecting against cancer. That is hardly an argument for spreading radioactive waste around. It all depends on the type of radiation. If increased background radiation is safe then explain why radiographers hide behind a lead curtain when they do the x rays. The issue is complex, studies are contradictory, prudence should prevail.

    the first abstract indicates chromosomal damage to radiation workers, the second abstract suggest very low exposure. Prudence!

    Mutagenesis. 2002 Mar;17(2):135-9. Links
    The frequency of dicentrics and acentrics and the incidence of rogue cells in radiation workers.Rozgaj R, Kasuba V, Simic D.
    Mutagenesis Unit, Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health, Ksaverska c. 2, HR-10001 Zagreb, Croatia. rrozgaj@imi.hr

    Occupational exposure to ionizing radiation causes chromosomal damage. Some of the damaged cells show a large number of aberrations such as dicentrics, polycentrics, rings and numerous acentric fragments. This paper describes an analysis of the frequency of dicentric chromosomes and acentric fragments in 1260 subjects occupationally exposed to X-rays and 241 controls. Special attention was paid to the incidence of multi-aberrant cells. The 3 year cumulative dose was a significant predictor for all analyzed aberrations. The duration of exposure was a highly significant predictor of the frequency of rogue cells, but not of acentrics and dicentrics. Age and sex were not found to be significant predictors of the analyzed aberrations.

    Br J Radiol. 2001 Aug;74(884):720-6. Links
    Patient and staff dose during CT guided biopsy, drainage and coagulation.Teeuwisse WM, Geleijns J, Broerse JJ, Obermann WR, van Persijn van Meerten EL.
    Department of Radiology, Leiden University Medical Center, Albinusdreef 2, 2333 ZA Leiden, The Netherlands.

    Patient and staff dose during CT guided coagulation of osteoid osteoma, tissue biopsy and abscess drainage were evaluated retrospectively on a conventional CT scanner and prospectively on a scanner equipped with fluoroscopic CT. The computed tomography dose index (CTDI) and the individual dose equivalent, i.e. the penetrating dose for workers at a depth of 10 mm tissue, were measured. Evaluation of CTDI enabled effective dose and maximum skin entrance doses for the patient to be determined. Doses were assessed for 96 CT guided interventions, including 16 drainages with average effective doses of 13.5 mSv and 9.3 mSv for the conventional CT scanner and the scanner with spiral CT fluoroscopy, respectively, 49 biopsies (effective doses of 8 mSv and 6.1 mSv, respectively), and 31 coagulations of osteoid osteoma (effective doses of 2.1 mSv and 0.8 mSv, respectively). Effective doses to patients were in the same range as those observed for regular diagnostic CT examinations. Entrance skin doses were well below the 2 Gy threshold for deterministic skin effects on the CT scanner equipped with fluoroscopic function (0.03-0.33 Gy), whilst skin doses on the conventional scanner were considerably higher (0.09-1.61 Gy). This is mainly owing to the fact that on the conventional scanner mAs was rarely reduced for scans evaluating needle position whereas low mAs per rotation was selected on the scanner with the fluoroscopy option. The maximum dose to a worker measured outside the lead apron was 28 microSv for one single procedure. The mean dose per procedure was below 10 microSv for radiologists and below 1 microSv for radiographers. Correcting for attenuation of the lead apron, the doses to workers are very low.

  88. Dead Soul,

    If you dispersed nuclear waste evenly across the ocean (beyond the continental shelf) then it would not noticably increase background radiation. I think it would be less hazardous than storing it in concentrated form in barrels for eternity.

    Regards,
    Terje.

  89. Terje,

    Before that idea goes to far, how would you go about dispersing nuclear waste evenly across the oceans? That seems to be one of the first technical problems to think about, but this isn’t the showstopper.

    Then there is the biological problem: the food chain. I’m fairly certain the “waste” would become concentrated as it is consumed by small organisms which are then eaten by larger ones and so on until you would have to be concerned about the tuna or salmon on your plate. This is actually what happens today with respect to mercury in lakes in the USA and Canada. People who live around the Great Lakes region are quite used to warnings about not eating too much fish from there because of the mecury levels, especially pregnant women. To say nothing of the fish that die from mercury poisoning.

  90. Trinifar,

    Both concerns are valid and may be sufficient to rule out the idea. I certainly don’t pretend that the idea of dispersal should be implemented without appropriate review and consideration. At a very minimum you would want the input of some well informed bio-chemists.

    However creating concentrated waste fascilities that need to be managed for the next 1000 generations also entails some problems.

    I am not as bullish about nuclear energy as some other people here.

    Regards,
    Terje.

  91. I’m not bullish on nuclear energy either — but I think building new plants here in the USA will start in the next 10 years if not sooner. Just noticed a TV commercial about “clean nuclear energy” yesterday on NBC, the network owned by GE, the nuclear reactor manufacturer.

    How does your being bullish on coal, fit with your concern with ocean acidification, smog, etc. mentioned above?

  92. Coal is not generally the cause of urban smog, petrol fueled cars are. By comparison modern coal fired power stations burn extremely clean.

    Coal based electricity is cheap, the technology is improving and alternatives are not yet cost effective. Long term I think we need better/cheaper alternatives and I’m optimistic that we will have them. In the interum we should burn coal and weather the consequences. Life generally does not allow for perfect choices.

  93. And there is a lot of coal in the USA, Oz, and China. I’m not sure it is fair to say even a modern coal-fired plant burns “extremely clean” except in comparison to older coal power plants.

    I agree we don’t get to make perfect choices. So what I hear you saying is “Let’s accept ocean acidification for now, use coal as necessary to fuel the economy, and in parallel continue to develop cleaner alternatives.” Not an unreasonable plan.

    What do you think the propper way is to cost the CO2 generated by coal? Even if you don’t accept AGW (as you infer from one of your earlier comments), CO2 harms the oceans. It’s it fair and even necessary to somehow charge for that pollution? I’m thinking of Russell Means’ position for example.

  94. I don’t know who Russell Mean is so I can’t comment on his position.

    Charging for pollution might make sence if the revenue was then used to remediate the thing that was polluted (eg the atmosphere). However if that was possible or achievable then it would be simpler to just make the polluter stop the pollution or clean it up themselves in the first instance. However calling CO2 pollution is in my view quite problematic in any case. We all exhale. Most of us drive cars.

    We already pay huge amounts of petrol taxes so maybe the pollution is already paid for in that instance (I suspect so). However some would say that we don’t pay enough petrol taxes because we continue to buy petrol. At what point do you say that we have paid enough for our pollution?

    Pollution is obviously an externality that would not exist in an ideal world. However setting up structures and regulations to overcome the pollution also has externalities. In the case of CO2 I don’t think that intervention improves things sufficiently to be justified. It is certainly not as strong as the argument for removing lead from petrol for instance. However if I was forced to choose between alternate forms of intervention I’d probably opt for a carbon tax that was used to reduce other taxes (eg income tax or payroll tax). I certainly would not opt for any form of global treaty that reduced our options forever more (effectively). I’d prefer that individual nations were encouraged to do their best via moral suasion rather than treaties (in fact I’d prefer that individual households were encouraged through moral suasion rather than domestic taxes or regulations). I have not judged the data for myself but John Humphreys recently presented an argument here in which he stated that the USA and Australia were doing a better job of dealing with CO2 emissions than the European union, even though the latter is more vocal on the need for international regulation.

  95. There is already concentrated radioactive material on the ocean floor. The Russians dumped old worn out reactors from subs into the sea. Eventually … .

    Dispersing radioactive waste across a wide area is wishful thinking, too many unknowns, and given the reports of how fish are being increasingly contaminated with pollutants I can’t see logic in adding another potential pollutant to the oceans.

    Like Terje I have concerns about building lots of nuclear plants. If we start we give a green light to every country to start. I’m not worried about a pollution issue here but in many countries there simply won’t be the controls to prevent these facilities being sabotaged or used for nasty purposes.

    In all this debate what I cannot understand is the complete absence of addressing thorium nuclear power plants. These types of reactors will solve many problems.

  96. Pingback: libertarianism & growth « Trinifar

  97. For those with broadband I found the following video footage of a Solar Tower from the “Beyond 2000” TV program. It was recorded some time in the early 1980s and it took a look at the pilot plant in Madrid.

    The Madrid pilot plant was only 50kW. However for at a construction cost of US$1 million it was even then producing electricity at a viable price.

    The price of electricity from such a plant is very dependent on construction cost and the interest rate on construction finance. Obviously there are no fuel costs to worry about.

  98. Thanks for a good read. I agree that it can take a while before your investment in solar panels returns. But on the other hand, it is a very positive thing for our environment and it really helps!

    It took me some time before finally doing it, though. But I’ve stopped worrying about my energy bill since I got them installed, which is a big relief.

    Cheers,

  99. Pingback: Techno Optimism II « Thoughts on Freedom

Comments are closed.