Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Answering the Question

A bit over a week ago in the so called town hall debate between major party presidential candidates, a character by the name of Ken Bone asked an interesting question
What steps will your energy policy take to meet our energy needs, while at the same time remaining environmentally friendly and minimizing job loss for fossil plant workers?
Mr. Bone has had to answer to a few femurs tossed at him for this and that reason, some of the usual stuff that he posted on line here and there previously, his employment in the coal industry, etc. but be that as it may, it is not a bad question.  Eli will put up links to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump's answers, but here he is more interested in providing a useful answer.

First, what appears to have been missed in the discussions that Eli has seen is that the question itself assumes that fossil fuels are going away, that, by itself was important.  It slipped through with nary a whimper from the denial industry.  Eli's answer (remember the candidates only had a minute or so, would go something like this.

"Thank you for that question Mr. Bone (even Eli can be polite on occasion).  I would like to start by discussing some of its deeper implications.  As you acknowledge, the changes we are making to the atmosphere and oceans by burning huge amounts of fossil fuel cannot continue without causing immense harm to creation and the creatures in it including us. We must replace them.

This will be difficult but the challenge contains within itself opportunities which, if we are serious, can be used to support those displaced from the fossil fuel industry and build new industries.  We will need millions of workers to erect and maintain the new energy sources and their supporting infrastructure, solar, wind, hydro and nuclear and the new smart electrical transmission and transportation networks.  New industries are being built. Let us build them here.

In closing let me provide a bit of historical background.  The fossil fuel industries which were, and I stress were, necessary for the creation of the industrial world are not old.  The coal industry is roughly 200 years oil,  oil  about 100 and gas pipelines only about 50.  Given that history we can see that building new energy systems to replace them in a 50 year time frame can be done, given the best science we have we can see that it must be done.  Economics and ethics tells us how it can be done while improving the lives of all in this country and on the Earth."

Anybunny else want to try?


Anonymous said...

Send me a check and I'll get right on it.

Canman said...

"First, what appears to have been missed in the discussions that Eli has seen is that the question itself assumes that fossil fuels are going away, that, by itself was important."

Michael Shellenberger doesn't agree:


William Connolley said...

> to creation and the creatures in it

You really think its necessary to throw that much of a sop to the religious folk? How far are all candidates from having to prefix every statement with the equivalent of "In the name of Allah the most merciful..."?

JDM said...

I think making the point that oil, and even coal, as industrial power, are not old is extremely good. I hadn't really thought about that as something to remind people. It does show that the idea of changing a massive power infrastructure is not far-fetched at all.

Fernando Leanme said...

The way the oil industry is evolving, the impact on jobs, due to government regulations in the USA, will be negligible. The industry saw over 300,000 job losses over the last 24 months, but the oil market has already hit bottom, and there are signs that prices are rebounding. The industry has periodic swings of this nature, but the overall trend is towards a gradual increase, caused by the depletion of conventional oil, and the fact that new oil sources cost a lot more to extract.

The gas industry is in a slightly different situation, the USA market is somewhat isolated, because there's insufficient transport capacity to move USA gas to Europe, Japan, and other potential markets. Another issue that's coming up in recent years is the obstruction of gas pipeline construction in NE states, which will make them import coal and electricity from nearby states. If this policy continues energy prices will skyrocket, which will lead to shipments of LNG from USA plants in the Gulf of Mexico to receiving plants in the NE, thus bypassing those areas where pipeline construction is blocked.

Coal is a different issue. It is evident that coal will lose to natural gas, due to both pricing and regulations. Coal is also at a technical disadvantage because it doesn't work as well as a load follower to grid instabilities and surges caused by too much wind and solar intermittency. Natural gas turbines, in the other hand, do have the ability to react very fast to renewable current surges which can shut down a grid.

Thus over time we should see steadily increasing jobs in the oil and gas industries, which may go on for at least two decades, followed by gradual decreases as the oil and gas resources are depleted and renewables and nuclear fill the gap. Coal should experience a gradual drop, but the coal industry will be buoyed by exports to countries which will be using it simply because it will be the cheapest fuel available.

EliRabett said...

OK 8 \________

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Eli, I'll watch for it. $3 Million USD would help me get the dark matter and origin of life problems off my desk, since they aren't particularly relevant to the condensed matter physics problems I have.

I've recently had some interesting ideas about how to go about deploying vast and comfortable refugee housing and feeding facilities in the desert as well, since this is basically a terrestrial planetary colonization problem. You know, take the pressure off the biosphere stuff.

Fernando Leanme said...

Dont forget it seldom rains, it gets really hot during the day, and the dust is a hassle.

Russell Seitz said...

As even I can try to be disinterested, may I point out to Eli that while the Age of Steel began 200 years ago, Eastern & Western civilizations had to switch to coal some few centuries earlier t,o keep the Iron Age on track as population boomed and charcoal supplies dwindled.

The US switched back to coal with a vengeance back when we were in grad school , after OPEC decarbonized the economy with an oil embargo , a gambit that collapsed into the Oil Glut after the CONAES report pointed out that we had 200 years worth of coal in the ground, and a lot of former coal miners and boilermakers on the dole.

It being easier & cheaper to re-employ them than reeducate them as wind turbine or nucear reactor builders, we got out of ( politically incorrect phrase trigger warning ) The Last Energy Crisis that way.

Anonymous said...

That's all part of the solution I have come up with, Ferdie.

I call this the 'Pimlico' solution, in honor of the West Pimlico Cays.

EliRabett said...

The Watt steam engine came on line in 1781, and was the driver for industrialization. So OK, 240 years, but close enough.

Russell Seitz said...

Let's make it 440- by the time of Harry viii , ye Worshypeful Compagnie of Yrone-founders were chopping down the Forest of Arden at an obscenely Anthropocene pace trying to provide all the cannons the Royal Navy could carry.

Kevin O'Neill said...

Russell, humans have been affecting the landscape for millennia, but one does have to keep in mind scale. History of the Royal Navy: "By the time of Henry's death in 1547 his fleet had grown to 58 vessels, although armed merchantmen owned by private individuals still comprised a large proportion of war-fleets.

And the entire world population was ≈ 600 million. I.e., a dozen or more generations to equal one generation today with average carbon footprint a force multiplier.

Russell Seitz said...

Kevin is invited to calculate the forest acreage needed to produce a ton of wrought iron by charcoal reduction , the most recent example being Brazil's wholesale production of the stuff in an effort to improve its balance of trade.

A large fraction of the anthropogenic land surface transformation to date ( thus far about half the continental aresa of the Earth) was accomplished before the Industrial Revolution by relatively small populations acting over large numbers of generations.

BBD said...

Arguably, anthropogenic influence goes back millennia. See Ruddiman's early anthropogenic hypothesis gaining ever more traction.