Friday, September 07, 2012

Meta Lewandowsky

Stephan Lewandowsky's conspiracy theory is metastasizing.  Prof. L. has a paper in print base on an on line survey which was advertised in several blogs, but none denizened by those who deny humans are changing the global and local climates.  He dropped a remark that he had asked five of the latter to post a link, and well, you can figure out the uproar by reading the three posts he has placed at Shaping Tomorrow's World.

Sou here, there and at Rabett Run has been dipping her stick in, and a great time is being had by all in spite of the absence of popcorn, which, thanks to the mid-west drought in the US is too expensive for popping.   Sou points out that the survey's main point is that extreme free market types are attracted to climate change denial as moths to flames.  Others think that the paper claims (right or wrong) to show that denial is a family business, with all types on sale in the same head.  Many are speculating that the original survey was designed to poe the denialists.

The latest entry comes from John Cook at the Conversation.  The interesting part about that one is how John threw down the gauntlet

To reduce the influence of those who reject the science, confirmation bias and misleading rhetorical arguments need to be exposed. Now is as good a time as any to start practising so I recommend beginning with the inevitable deluge of comments to this article. Look for cherry picking, conspiracy theories, comments magnifying the significance of dissenters (or non-experts) and logical fallacies such as non sequiturs.

You might think those who reject climate science would refrain from employing these methods in such an obvious fashion. But consider the Arctic sea ice example. On one contrarian climate blog, a commenter predicted five ways that people would avoid the inevitable implications of the precipitous drop in Arctic sea ice. Climate sceptic blogger Anthony Watts fulfilled all five predictions.
And sure enough, go read the comments, full of conspiracy theories, cherry picking, etc.

So the question is why can't the poor dears help themselves, and the answer is subtle, but it explains why Prof. L's survey can not be dismissed.  Conspiracy theories are important parts of the denialists' world view.  Of course there are the few conspiracy examples as well as the all arounders but single conspiracy folk are rare on the ground.  Chris Monckton can no more not be a birther than he can stop denying that humans have anything to do with climate change.  It's his birthwrong.  Libertarianism is not a longing for liberty, but a denial of obligation to other humans.

It may take a village, but there are plenty of arsonists for hire.


Unknown said...

Nuclear waste is an abomination that can never be disposed of therefore carbon capture is too expensive?

John Mashey said...

See comments, #38-39, for a return to the dog astrology journal, plus flat-earther-dom.

Anonymous said...

The good Dr Rabett doesn't make a habit of being wrong, but in this case I'm afraid he's been eating some dodgy carrots. Hint: stick to the orange pointy ones.

The problem with citing a psychology study and claiming "they can't help themselves" is that it cuts both ways. If they can't, neither can we.

And the response to the controversy from our side is kind of proving that point. We want the study to be right too badly.

Sou said...

Am blushing with the mention as only a bunny can blush.

Having taken a step back it's evident that there are only a handful of empty vessels shouting 'conspiracy, (deny,deny), we were set up' on the blogs, but they sure do make a lot of noise.

Anonymous said...


You perceive a symmetry where there is none.

We don't "want" the study to be right, it just, very obviously, is.

Anonymous Etc

Anonymous said...

This episode of Jesse Ventura's CONSPIRACY THEORY supports the finding of the study though I don't think that was what was intended.

The HAARP episode was also a hoot!

bill said...

Agreed. The study - whatever the method - just confirmed something anyone who's been doing this for a while was only-too-aware of already - 'who knew?' as Monbiot sarcastically tweeted - but the subsequent reaction nailed the argument squarely in place for all to see (probably using some of the apparently endless supply of 'final coffin nails' they've had lying about...)

bill said...

John Cook (I'd call him JC, but clearly he's not the messiah*) has now meta-ed the meta over at SkS, looking at the reaction at The Conversation in the context of his own predictions...

*John Cleese

PS, love the posts' closing line ('arsonists'); shall shamelessly borrow it...

Anonymous said...

-- by Horatio Algeranon

Our messodology
Is slyentific.
Our blog survey
Is just terrific.

Worthy of
A Nobel prize,
For proving
Denierandayn ties.

Jeffrey Davis said...

"We want the study to be right too badly."

I have no idea what that means about anything. If it were true, what impact does that have on anything? It's as if you're saying this:

A child falls down a well. Reports for hours are ambiguous, but at last there's a glimmer of hope. Ooops. I want it to be right too badly. And because of that the child dies.

I think most of us here understand a lot of the problems with surveys. Particularly on line surveys. Who thinks the result of the survey is Truth Writ Large? Nobody. What's funny is the way the behavior of the denialist group seemingly can't help but run to type. It's as if Pee Wee Herman had decided to enter the Extreme Games in bicycle tricks. They've painted themselves (or their genes have) into a corner, and since they've been so nasty about so many things (slander, libel, helping to keep civilization from collapsing -- things like that) this is like watching people tar and feather themselves.

david lewis said...

Dan Kahan has been studying "motivated reasoning", and trying to understand why certain groups reject some scientific findings. Chris Mooney, author of The Republican War on Science, has had Kahan on his show, Point of Inquiry, several times. The last time was an extended debate between Kahan and Mooney in which Mooney tried to convince Kahan that the "right" suffers from "motivated reasoning to a far greater extent than the "left". Kahan says he can't yet distinguish the signal from the noise if there is one. Kahan says his research doesn't show that the motivated reasoning of the right is so much worse than that of the left. His prime illustration is that the right denies basic facts about climate science, while the left denies basic facts about nuclear power.

(Take a look at John Cook's book Climate Change Denial and compare his views on nuclear power with those of say, MIT The Future of Nuclear Power, or Stephen Chu, etc.)

I wonder how it was in Rome when the Huns were closing in?

Mooney's first interview with Kahan

The second

Kahan in Nature taking a "critical stance against the pop-psychology claim... that public controversy over climate change reflects limitations in human rationality"....

Anonymous said...

Dr. Lumpus Spookytooth, phd.

Hmm. Why would Lewandowsky not call any of these people? That's really bad due diligence. If I simply emailed a customer and did not call them on the phone, I'd be fired. Eli you live in your own little world my friend. Nobody believes in global warming, and nobody cares what Gambino thinks either. Plenty of people like myself think pollution is bad but we don't believe in the 400% positive feedback fairy. It's 100% clear from the satellite imagery and the rapid arctic ice recovery that the storm is what caused the rapid ice loss. Otherwise, please post the temperature change, which you didn't do because there was no change.

I linked to the satellite imagery to show the amount of ice loss during the storm. You basically chalked it up to coincidence, somebody else said the storm was caused by global warming.

Anonymous said...

Life in the universe and the universe itself is a long series of coincidences, toothless. Science is what allows us to discern those coincidences over the undetectable frozen Bose-Einstein condensate or the undetectable Fermi gas that would be here otherwise. You should try it sometime. Science I mean.

Anonymous said...

David Lewis:

There is a difference between right and left being equally susceptible to motivated reasoning, and whether right and left are denying scientific fact based on motivated reasoning.

I am puzzled by the left denying basic facts about nuclear power.

Do many on the left say nuclear power is a hoax, or it is the sun? How many? Is the left composed of a large faction of actively misinformed voters (who is propagating this misinformation and how?). What does the Democratic Party platform (where the most motivated people like to put stuff in) say about nuclear power.

I am going to do something crazy - look it up (I really don't know what is in there):

Huh, not even mentioned, at least here:

Genetically modified food is a better example.

Rib Smokin' Bunny

Anonymous said...

I am puzzled by the left denying basic facts about nuclear power.

It would help if the astute anonymous commenter could describe to us the 'facts' that the 'left' deny about nuclear power. Here are some minor little facts about nuclear power for you to contemplate. The energy required for all of your comfort needs is more or less at most 25-35 meV, whereas the energy of fission reactions are roughly 250 MeV, roughly ten billion times higher than your ambient needs, which can easily be provided by freely available optical fluxes 100 times higher than your basic comfort requires. With regards to fusion reactions, we already have a wonderful fusion reactor that also conveniently provides the easily convertible optical flux that is readily down converted to your comfort levels. Think it through.

You can do it!

dhogaza said...

" It's 100% clear from the satellite imagery and the rapid arctic ice recovery that the storm is what caused the rapid ice loss."

Lumpy has fallen for the Bastardi Gambit, looking at a image displaying Sea Surface Temperatures and claiming it is a graphic showing Sea Ice Extent.


In reality sea ice extent is still dropping rapidly ...

J Bowers said...

Lumpus, go check out the DMI source page for Bastardi's graphs. Now look left at the dropdown menus. What does it say beneath 'Select Parameter'? Have a nice weekend and don't lose any sleep over Bastardi taking you for a fool with his cropped screengrab, he ain't worth it.

david lewis said...

re: knee jerk anti nuke sentiment on the left

Go over to Joe Romm's blog and post remarks favoring nuclear power that are consistent with what's in the Democratic Party platform and see how long it takes for you to be banned from commenting on his site.

Kahan's point is that the left suffers from motivated reasoning.

I agree, but I don't understand what the motivation is, given that nuke power is very low carbon.

My observation is that it appears that the longstanding agenda against nukes in the mostly left environmental movement has been absorbed into the left's perception about what to do about climate. Instead of seeing the solution to climate change as "low carbon" power, the left advances an agenda of "renewables".

Electricity costs on average 25 EU cents kwhr in Germany and is projected to be rising quickly as they implement their plan to lower CO2 emissions while phasing out nukes. The Dalai Lama commented that this is fine for a rich country like that, but....

I share Stephen Chu's views on nukes - they are an economical low carbon power source that will be needed if civilization is to address climate change. I find this view upsets many who are concerned about climate change.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand what the motivation is, given that nuke power is very low carbon.

Apparently the effects and fallacy of using a 250 MeV particle to boil water escapes your thought processes.

Thus spake Fukushima. Try physics.

Anonymous said...

Actually upon review it's closer to 200 MeV but who's counting. If you are looking for a world conspiracy you need only look towards your nearest nuclear weapons laboratory.

badger badger badger said...

Krauthammer on Dems' inside track on weather:

It's Richard Hofstadter's world, we just live here.

David B. Benson said...

A nuclear power reactor bears less resemblence to a nuclear weapons laboratory than modern 'blasting powder' does to ordinary bombs.

[The level of commenting here seems to reach a new low when people demonstrate their prejudiced ignorance of matters nuclear and electric.]

Anonymous said...

I see. So nuclear weapons plutonium is chemically different than nuclear reactor plutonium? I can't read your mind or even parse your post, David, perhaps you are referring to 'concentration'. I always thought these atoms split on an atom by atom basis.

carrot eater said...


What on earth are you trying to say?

Anonymous said...

David Lewis at 7/9/12 8:48 AM.

Dan Kahan's message seems to be that there are no stupid people, only stupid science communicators. Having watched over the years a lot of people in the global warming debacle, both online and in real life, I'd have to say that if Kahan really believes that then he is waaay off base.

Of course, if the problem isn't with the communication of science itself but rather with its contamination by propagandists, then the public's inability to sift through the propaganda would seem to imply some irrationality after all, which then contradicts Kahan's original thesis.

I find his last sentence in the Nature essay to be deliciously (and doubly) ironic:

"But to apply the insights that social science has already given us, we will have to be smart enough to avoid reducing what we learn to catchy simplifications."

Bernard J. Hyphen-Anonymous XVII, Esq.

Anonymous said...

As if to prove my point, Der Chocolate Rottentooth posts, in the very next message after David Lewis', his typical and recalcitrant irrational nonsense.


Bernard J. Hyphen-Anonymous XVII, Esq.

David B. Benson said...

kT --- All existing nuclear power reactors use (mostly) uranium. Proposed fast reactors use plutonium, but ordinarily an isotope unuseable for making bombs; further, it is not pure, being mixed with fission products and other actinides.

Anonymous said...

Basically I'm saying that plutonium 239 atoms are indistinguishable and are split individually releasing an energy of 207.1 MeV, an energy level totally unsuitable and unnecessary to boil water for your comfort and convenience, creating huge messes that are both uncomfortable and inconvenient, in direct contrast to the east that optical light can heat your shower water or make your tea. When the concentration, pressure and temperature of those atoms are sufficient, the result is extremely inconvenient for all.

You, sir, are a curmudgeon in righteous service of the status quo, who somehow has missed the management's change of blog theme here to satire and snark, for reasons that are obvious to most of the rest of us who enjoy this.

carrot eater said...

I don't even know where to start.

I'll not bother.

Anonymous said...

All existing nuclear power reactors use (mostly) uranium

I guess that makes it ok then, after all, to you, bombs are just 'ordinary'. It's what's left after you run your reactors and build and ignite your bombs that I have a problem with. For some reason I am not surprised that after two cities have been destroyed and three reactors have been melted down you are still supporting nuclear power for your water boiling and further global warming preventing needs.

David B. Benson said...

kT --- By that mislogic it seems you support banning mining and tunneling because the miners and tunnelers use chemical explosives and, after all, people use chemical explosives (in guns and bombs) to kill people.

I've looked at all fit-for-service alternatives to generate electricity for the power grid. For the baseload component nuclear power plants are the least bad of the available alternatives.

[Disclosure: I'm an engineer.]

John Mashey said...

Arguments can easily go off in the weeds once they get misframed.

Let me try a different frame, with ‘R2-D2’ and Other Lessons From Bell Labs for some of my context.

1) People sometimes mix together 3 things:

a) SCIENCE, which tries to gather data about the world and build models of how it works.
Sometimes scientists have to do engineering to build what they need.

b) ENGINEERING, which tries to build things. Sometimes engineers have to do some science to figure out how to build something.

c) POLICY, which in this case determines whether or not to build something, how much it can cost, who pays, who benefits, how widely it might be deployed, etc. This might be policy within a private company, or it might be government or other form of collective action.

c) Should we research geoengineering? Should we do it if at all feasible?
(Some natural sciences have obvious, well-established engineering disciplines attached.
Some don't. This is one of them, like astronomy. The rest here do. If a scientist actually gets rich, it's usually because they go off into the attached engineering ... or else go be a quant on Wall Street, like some old Bell Labs folks did.)

a) Chemistry, physics
b) Energy systems engineering
c) What mix of things we can build should we build? CLIMATE+ENERGY are conjoined, so the elephant is clash between CLIMATE SCIENCE and the current fossil energy system.

a) Nuclear physics
b) Nuclear engineering, for example: CAN we actually build GEN IV reactors to clean up the mess/
c) Should we build more reactors of existing design, should we wait to see if GEN IV can be made to work, if they do, should we build them?

a) Research ... Burt thinks that any practical use is 50 years off ... when Nobel physicist says that, he means don't hold your breath.

a) Biochemistry
b) Drug design
c) Is it worthwhile making a specific drug? Is that drug a good idea?

GM foods
a) Biochemistry
b) Bio engineering
c) If we can construct something, is it a good idea? How much care needs to be taken?
In some cases, people simply don't understand the science (or even the long history of plant breeding ... or even durum wheat for pasta.)

NOW, I would suggest that some people dislike the implications of CLIMATE SCIENCE on policy, and to avoid consideration of the policy, try to make the science go away.

That is different from the NUCLEAR POWER and GM FOOD arguments, where the arguments are directly about policy. As far as I know, no one argues against the first by claiming that fission does not happen and no one argues against the second by claiming biochemistry is all wrong. (Yes, I know creationists argue against the science, but for different reasons.)

Anyway, science, engineering and policy are not the same things, and it is a good idea to know which is which.

Sou said...

John Mashey your distinctions are very worthwhile. I don't know that people's opinions can be categorised as easily (by the people who hold them).

In regard to nuclear power and GMO lots of people with strong views (either way) aren't too clear on the science, nor on exactly why they are opposed. So it's not quite as clear cut as distinguishing between science and engineering and policy. Other areas where there are strong views more ideological than rational include organic farming, use of
chemicals generally, vaccinations etc.

Leftist ideology can be based on concern for environmental sustainability or social well-being or industrial / workplace issues and often conflicts. It can be just as emotional (and irrational) as right wing ideologies.

From what I've read some issues cut across political boundaries - eg anti-vaxxers can be anyone AFAIK.

Conspiracies especially of the paranoid kind are something else again - getting close to if not categorised as an emotional or psychiatric disorder.

Anonymous said...

I've looked at all fit-for-service alternatives to generate electricity for the power grid. For the baseload component nuclear power plants are the least bad of the available alternatives.

I guess you missed the fact that science and engineering and our understanding of them 'evolve'.

The subject of this thread is conspiracy theories and their effect of human understanding of science and engineering, but the only conspiracy I see here is a conspiracy of stupid, and there isn't even a proper coverup. I happen to be of the opinion that science and engineering and scientists and engineers are not exempt from this phenomenon and you just happen to be an ideal human subject for me to study it. The recent arctic ice meltdown is just another meltdown like Fukushima, and I anticipate many future meltdowns of every different variety yet to come, financial, economic, nuclear, climate, geological and personal. Given your long history of comments in this area, I don't expect you will adapt to the changes necessary to avert these inevitable human disasters, since you don't seem to be able to even acknowledge the severity of the ones that are already upon us, and seem to be obsessed with climate.

Just as an example, just to get to the UW research libraries and laboratories installed in big crappy buildings with their coal fired steam plants, I have to traverse habitation areas of unimaginable horrors, and I live in a first world paradise here.

So ... good luck with stupidity. You and I are not exempt from it, nor in the modern world will we be isolated from it in the future, unless of course, massive changes are made to how we approach it.

Anonymous said...

science, engineering and policy are not the same things, and it is a good idea to know which is which.

Thank you very much for illuminating that point, John.

I would just note that 'cost" is also a very important part of the mix (which falls under policy) since we obviously do not have unlimited money and there are tradeoffs to be made.

For example, there are some folks (eg, Joe Romm) who are opposed to use of nuclear power based largely on cost, arguing that it makes the most sense to pursue mitigation policies that produce the maximum CO2 reductions per dollar and that every dollar spent on nuclear power is one that is not spent on other things (eg, renewables, energy efficiency improvements, etc)

The point being that someone might have a very rational reason for opposing something and just because one can not see (or understand) that reason, does not render it "irrational" -- which is really what Mooney and others are talking about when they use the term "motivated reasoning".

The term is actually very unfortunate because humans have "motivations" for all of the things they do and (hopefully) not all of them are "irrational". If the latter is actually the case, we are in even deeper doo-doo that it appears and there is no hope.


John Mashey said...

Re Sou:
Yes, of course. That wasn't a left/right thing.

For what it's worth:
1) NUCLEAR: (science) some people think there is zero danger from radiation (including a particular board member of Sandia) while others cringe from the very word radiation, without knowing much about different forms, background levels, radon in homes, polonium in cigarettes, x-rays, etc.

(engineering) some claim we can build all sorts if things, at reasonable cost. (engineering always has a cost component both for NRE and for manufacturing/deployment/support). Some claim we can build things that work with very low risk.
Others claim that some ideas cannot really be made to work, or will be too expensive or too high a risk.
Of these various arguments , some are well-reasoned,
some seem kneejerk, some doubly so.

My opinion is that current designs are really pretty safe (I'd much rather live next to a modern nuke than a coal plant, although where we live will never have either).
My opinion is that TMI was really unfortunate, as it set back progress, but also, I have been unimpressed by the nuclear indusry's inability to lower costs. To be fair, I'm a computer industry guy do I expect much :-). I think the safety record in US is actually pretty good. I'm scared of the safety problems in countries that don't have the regulatory history and expertise, mostly because ive talked to world-class nuclear energy experts and they ate scared. I think the real open engineering question is whether or not one of the GEN IV reactor designs can be economically engineered. As was noted, some oppose new nuclear power on capital cost reasons, and that is a legitimate concern as the nuclear industry (in US) has not done so well.

(policy) Assume for the moment that one actually accepts the science from the climate science. BAU implies serious problems. Some areas can do pretty well via energy efficiency, hydro, solar, geothermal and/or wind. Other areas are going to have a rough time replacing the energy density of fossil fuels for electricity. Consider US Northeast or UK. IF someone can make GEN IV rectors work, and IF they can be made economically, then they are probably part of the solution.

In this case, neither the kneejerk "nuclear is THE answer" nor the "no nukes, ever, anywhere" are very useful.

On GM foods: of course, as an old farmboy and one who reveres Norman Borlaug, you might guess my views. Read Mendel in the Kitchen. The viewpoint parallels with nuclear are strong, including:
- at one extreme, GM forever

-at Other extreme, no GM ever for anything

-in middle, people who think one needs to be careful, but that it is just a logical extension of thousands of years of altering plants, and that GM may be necessary to solve some challenges fast enough. All this is entirely orthogonal to whether it not one likes Monsanto.

There are always legitimate arguments on policy, where reasonable people can differ, especially when it comes to predicting some kinds of future effects. The problem is, in the real world, ideological viewpoints have zero influence on scientific facts, like GW from CO2 (or on the other side) the unfortunately diffuse nature of sunlight. I'm fond of Mackay's Sustsunable Energy without the hot air as the sort of analysis one has to do. Politics can ignore physics for a while, but in the long run, that doesn't work very well.

Anonymous said...

In this case, neither the kneejerk "nuclear is THE answer" nor the "no nukes, ever, anywhere" are very useful.

On the other hand, when you look insightfully at the fraud that is our civilization and the ease at which its financial and economic demise will occur in the very near future, the prospect of nuclear proliferation is far more serious than even nuclear waste storage.

Then consider ease in which an earthquake and resulting tsunami can instantly take out a quarter of a million human beings, the prospect of yet another city biting the radioactive dust is easier to take. All in a days work.

Examples are rampant. I like the idea of see in the dark glasses replacing all of the street lights everywhere. Or large space based telescopes in near Earth orbit replacing the need for vehicles requiring Pu238 heating elements, as if planetary deep space exploration missions are a pressing priority over reusable launch vehicles and space based solar power, for instance. If you will recall, NASA is gleefully spending three billion dollars a year for an EXPENDABLE monster rocket without any missions, that will never fly, as a jobs program for rocket scientists, construction workers and pad rats, at the expense of planetary and Earth sciences, which consumes money that could be invested in even more pressing and urgent national priorities. Is this a conspiracy of congress and scientists? Or is it just plain stupid? When does curiosity trump necessity? All interesting questions if you take the time to think about them, or if you have the time and money to think about them, or even better if you are paid to think. People need to think about where their paycheck comes from and what environmental costs are associated with it. For that they need an education that enlightens them to the evolutionary forces and occurrences that brought us to this peculiar point in time and space. I posit that most rank and file career scientists and engineers more or less live in the moment, and don't think about it.

Sou said...

John Mashey "Yes, of course. That wasn't a left/right thing."

Oh I agree. Yet very often people make it out to be a 'left/right' thing.

The thing is that it seems to me there are at least as many arguments between people who could all be described as leftists (and are often described as such by those on the right) - as between right and left. If that's not getting too tortuous.

Eg unionists want to keep jobs mining coal and drilling for oil, environmentalists want to stop them. Social welfare advocates want to produce more food, anti-GMO don't want any GM research at all. Some 'greenies' are against any use of chemicals in agriculture.

(The nuclear issue might be one that crosses political viewpoints not just within the 'left' but within the 'right' as well.)

These days unfortunately the right seems to have shifted to the extreme right in some countries (USA, Australia, Canada) and are more united against anything and everything that is to do with the environment, workers and social well-being.

Your point about politics ignoring physics for a while is a good one. Eventually physics will win the day - let's hope that politics gives in to physics before physics 'disappears' the polis.

Turboblocke said...

The UK has more than enough off-shore wind potential to supply itself with energy without nukes.

My objection to nukes compared to renewables are:
- long lead time to build nukes
- high level of engineering expertise required to build them
- who is going to insure them?
- waste problem
- cooling water availability.

Renewables like on-shore wind and solar PV are not complicated to make: the technology is within the grasp of most nations. They can be added quickly and piecemeal to the grid. They also provide a means of supplying power to rural communities that would be expensive to add to the grid due to the length of the transmission lines required. Raw materials are available world wide so eliminating dependence on other countries.

Holly Stick said...

That's a nice elegant explanation, but there needs to be allowance for human error, as in:

Engineer: this nuclear plant will work as long as people behave sensibly.

Humanist: But people are sometimes not sensible; sometimes they are stupid, thoughtless, greedy, lazy, stingy, short-sighted, etc., etc.

Enbridge says they don't want an oil spill from their next pipeline. Well, I'm sure they didn't want one at Kalamazoo either, but they produced one all the same.

J Bowers said...

Top management, accountants, execs and engineers having to live within 5km of a nuke plant, i.e. share the jeopardy: thumbs up from me. If they won't, why not?

David B. Benson said...

Turboblocke --- Unfortunately, perhaps, wind off-shore or on-shore, alone, fails to meet the requirement for reliable, on demand electric power. I deeply doubt that the UK has enough locations to sacrifice as pumped storage facilities, but in any case new pumped hydro is quite expen$ive.

The current LCOE estimate for off-shore wind turbines is considerably higher than the LCOE from new nuclear power plants. My conclusion is that nuclear power is fit-for-service while off-shore wind turbines are rich people's toys.

Your statement about wide availability of all materials necessary to build wind turbines is currently incorrect. Almost all of a rare earth needed to make permanent magnets comes of China. The is an operation just starting in Maylasia and another being reopened in the USA. I don't find even 3 locations to be an instance of 'wide availability'.

Lotharsson said...

For the baseload component nuclear power plants are the least bad of the available alternatives.

It seems to me this is answering the wrong question.

The right question is what would a low-/no-carbon baseload-capable system look like? This question opens up additional degrees of freedom. You can, for example, find academic papers arguing that in 20 years we could feasibly supply the entire globe's energy needs - baseload included - using not much more than a combination of solar, wind, wave, storage technologies and smarter grids - and likely at lower cost than today's technologies. (Whether they're reasonably good arguments or not is another thing.)

Also, I'd argue that looking at current costs of deployment isn't asking right-enough questions either. Time-to-deployment matters big-time when externalised costs of delay are growing geometrically, as many now argue. It's like an inverse Moore's Law.

And as hinted at in some comments above, scalability matters enormously too.

carrot eater said...


If carbon were priced, than the most economical alternatives would win (and it won't always be the same mix in all places, and yes it will be a mix of different things), and all the bickering and personal opinions would be exposed as irrelevant.

Well, except that you'd still need government intervention to get some of these shows on the road - nuclear needs loan guarantees and probably liability caps to be built; and some alternatives will need subsidizing even if a carbon price were put in place.

There are various arguments against nuclear (capital cost, safety, waste disposal), but alluding to nuclear weapons and trying to make some sort of connection - that's just bizarre and illogical.

David B. Benson said...

Lotharsson --- I and others have considered that mixture of generators. Unfortunately the current lack of fit-for-service storage technologies makes that plan much less attractive than one using a high proportin of nuclear power plants.

I don't understand the scalability comment, but nuclear power plants can be built almost anywhere and in great numbers.

Anonymous said...

but alluding to nuclear weapons and trying to make some sort of connection - that's just bizarre and illogical.

So says some guy named carrot top on some blog. It will be fun to watch carrot top be the first guy to zombify in his tattered gray suit crawling around in the woods eating bark and grass at the first sign of economic or financial trouble, when agriculture collapses or the inevitable first world financial default occurs under in inexorable pressure and forcing of trillions upon trillions of dollars of debt. Now extrapolate that in a world where all energy is produced in nuclear reactors run by shady corporations and religious soaked governments and illegitimate fascist regimes. No, wait, we have that right now!

Nukular bums make people stupid.

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

Uh, kT, you might want to take your meds. You are making less sense with every post. Really, dude.

David B. Benson said...

What a_ray_in_dilbert_space just wrote.

EliRabett said...

Friends don't let friends babble:)

EliRabett said...

db, UK is using French nuclear and Norse Hydro storage facilities with under channel transmission lines.

"The point of these interconnects is to balance load between a variety of green and greenish generation methods. The French link, of course, can network in the nuclear plants in France, the Norway links take advantage of pumped water storage and other hydro capabilities. Spain, in addition to rain has a lot of wind on the plain which it already covers a significant fraction of its electrical needs from. Ireland has potential excess wind generating capacity and there are plans for new tidal electric generation in France. Although not shown here, Sahara solar could easily be linked to Europe by the same technology. A hidden implication is that as long as a number of countries continue to develop nuclear political decisions to forego may not have much of an effect on the continental scale, with the developers selling power to the others. If this is the case we may see many such links between Japan and Asia."

EliRabett said...

Ooops, sorry just killed off a comment directing bunnies to the food fight.

Anonymous said...

Sure Dilbert, David, Eli.

You got it all under control.

How is that popcorn crop coming along? How is that $16 trillion dollar debt working out for you?

Where do you think your salaries come from guys? Even Homeland Security is trying to prepare you for the zombie apocalypse. How do you think you are going to fare against a bunch of well prepared Libertarians when suddenly the grocery stores are cleared of goods? It is so comforting to know that water is being consumed for fracking so you can drive your cars and that in the future carbon dioxide would be fracked into the seafloor and nuclear power will be too cheap to meter. Who would have thought that in the future water and food would be used for energy for our mechanized transportation needs. Who needs respiration and metabolism anyways. Not us humans.

Are you guys thinking this through at all? Somehow, I doubt it. I apologize that you haven't got a clue what I am saying to you here.

Good luck with the Borg thing.

David B. Benson said...

EliRabett --- Yes, some interconnects certainly help. But except in France these actually are not doing much to aid in retiring coal burners, just avoiding building (very much) new dispatchable generators.

What we do observe is a result of the German decision to forgo nuclear power: the Czechs and the Poles have immediate plans to build more nuclear power plants for the express purpose of selling to the Germans; the Russians in Kaliningrad are seriously studying the idea of an underwater transmission line from Kaliningrad (with its new nuclear power plant under pre-construction) to also sell to the Germans.

The down side of that German decision is that the Germans are going to build 4 new lignite burners. Ugh.

David B. Benson said...

For those desirous of further information:

MikeH said...

Those of you who choose to follow David B. Benson's link to BNC should be aware that many of the renewables bashing articles on that site - for example here.
have been written by Peter Lang, a particularly virulent climate science denier. Here is a link to a article on The Conversation by John Cook where Lang goes on the attack.
"You choose selectively to spin the ideological message you want to propogate. Just like the rest of the CAGW alarmists"
"CAGW is clearly an ideology. It is purely and simply advocacy for a cause. You select and spin the numbers to scare people into supporting your beliefs. IPCC AR4 is clearly an advocacy document. Throughout it uses adjectives to scare. It is not science and not objective"

Lang attacks wind energy by exaggerating the amount of backup required - for example here

The irony is that in Barry Brooks home state of South Australia where wind power is generating about 25% of the state's electricity, reality is proving him wrong.
"emissions from South Australia's power sector have fallen every year since 2005 and have dropped 27 per cent over the last five years."

"Contrary to what the anti-wind lobby would have us believe about generators spinning in the background burning the same amount of coal and gas in order to be ready to back-up wind, fossil fuel consumption has declined in spite of overall electricity consumption increasing"

John Mashey said...

Really, it is worth studying David MacKay's analyses, the book is freely available.
His conclusions may or may not be right, but they are infinitely better than passionate views without supporting numbers. See sections 4 and 10 on wind, 24 on nuclear. (I have talked to him, heard him speak at Stanford, and he's at Cambridge, and he comes recommend by folks I trust, like Ron Oxburgh.)

Note that this is UK-specific, important as good energy mixes differ radically by geography, but the style of analysis can be applied elsewhere.

See also Gen IV:

'Relative to current nuclear power plant technology, the claimed benefits for 4th generation reactors include:

Nuclear waste that remains radioactive for a few centuries instead of millennia [6]
100-300 times more energy yield from the same amount of nuclear fuel [7]
The ability to consume existing nuclear waste in the production of electricity
Improved operating safety

One disadvantage of any new reactor technology is that safety risks may be greater initially as reactor operators have little experience with the new design. Nuclear engineer David Lochbaum has explained that almost all serious nuclear accidents have occurred with what was at the time the most recent technology. He argues that "the problem with new reactors and accidents is twofold: scenarios arise that are impossible to plan for in simulations; and humans make mistakes".[8] As one director of a U.S. research laboratory put it, "fabrication, construction, operation, and maintenance of new reactors will face a steep learning curve: advanced technologies will have a heightened risk of accidents and mistakes. The technology may be proven, but people are not".[8]

MikeH said...

@John Mashey.
Yes. MacKay's book is a good grounding in what is possible. He is also responsible for an open source energy pathways calculator.
I believe that the Melbourne University Energy Research Institute has funding to develop a similar model for Australia.

On Gen IV. My issue is that despite what the nuclear advocates claim, at this stage it is largely vaporware. Your link spells that out "Generation IV reactors (Gen IV) are a set of theoretical nuclear reactor designs currently being researched. Most of these designs are generally not expected to be available for commercial construction before 2030". Vaporware to production quality - what could go wrong!

You say
"Nuclear engineer David Lochbaum has explained that almost all serious nuclear accidents have occurred with what was at the time the most recent technology"
Try reading the report from "The Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission"
"THE EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI of March 11, 2011 were natural disasters of a magnitude that shocked the entire world. Although triggered by these cataclysmic events, the subsequent accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant cannot be regarded as a natural disaster. It was a profoundly manmade disaster – that could and should have been foreseen and prevented"
"Our report catalogues a multitude of errors and willful negligence that left the Fukushima plant unprepared for the events of March 11. And it examines serious deficiencies in the response to the accident by TEPCO, regulators and the government."

One of the persistent myths (alluded to in comments above) is that nuclear energy is only being prevented because of opposition from greenies. In Australia at least that is total bollocks. Greenies cannot even get plastic bags in supermarkets banned! We do not have nuclear because compared to our plentiful cheap coal it is expensive. This is recognised by many nuclear advocates (including Peter Lang who I referred to above) who while greenie-bashing, at the same argue that nuclear energy is over regulated. Lang also castigated a poster for suggesting that the nuclear plants be built in remote areas - because as he pointed out, that would make them more expensive.

Deregulating the nuclear industry - a very frightening argument - particularly when you read the NAIIC report.

The great irony in Australia is that the Greens who have argued for a carbon price are probably at the moment nuclear's best friend - although it would still be more expensive than renewables.

I am a nuclear skeptic - I think the advice that Mackay offers re renewable energy needs to apply to the nuclear advocates also - ie. stop with the fantasising and the downplaying of the costs and risks of nuclear energy.

Louise said...

WUWT is attempting to replicate the survey, some of the comments are particularly amusing:

"the warmists will be discussing this secretly" - wot, you mean a conspiracy?

"I won’t be completing the survey. Here’s why. First, I strongly agree with several of the conspiracy theories, (secret services assassinate people – that’s their job) and I don’t want that fact being used to dirty the name of scepticism." - Hmm, again, not a conspiracy believer?

"Also, I would note that not all “conspiracy theories” are wrong, and not all conspiracy theorists are whack-jobs. Almost noone believes the lone gunman and magic bullet theories of the JFK assassination"

"I, like many sceptics, accept that fossil fuels are having an influence on the climate but I also believe that its influence is exaggerated by “scientists who wish to spend more taxpayer money on climate “research””. "

Bern said...

A fascinating comment thread.

However, I've been reading a bit recently on nuclear power, and I would like to correct a few misapprehensions some of the bunnies here seem to have.

1) kT above seems to think Pu-239 is the only isotope produced by nuclear reactors. In fact, all reactors produce a range of Plutonium isotopes, including Pu-238,-240,-241, and -242. Pu-240 in particular is highly radioactive, making precision manufacture of weapons cores very difficult & dangerous, plus giving them a propensity to 'fizzle' (produce sub-kiloton yields).

On the other hand, natural Uranium contains U-238 & 0.7% U-235, which can be separated out by high-speed centrifuges (like the Iranians are doing) without the need for a nuclear reactor. U-235 can be handled with gloves, and goes 'bang' in a satisfactory fashion even for very simple bomb designs (just ask the folks in Hiroshima - that bomb design wasn't even tested before being deployed, unlike the Plutonium bomb used on Nagasaki, which was tested in New Mexico first at Trinity).

2) Folks seem to think Gen IV nuclear designs are 'vapourware', never having been tested. The obvious exception is the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR), where the basic reactor type (metal fuelled fast reactor) had a prototype, EBR-II, which ran from 1964-1994 without any significant accidents, and in fact passed, with flying colours, tests that used similar conditions (loss of coolant, etc) to those that caused the disasters at Chernobyl and Fukushima.
When I say "passed", I mean "shut down to a low power level, with no intervention by manual or automatic safety systems, without melting fuel rods or causing any release of radiation to the environment". Yes, they actually ran these tests in the mid 80s (just a few months before Chernobyl, in fact).

Now, a prototype is not a commercial reactor, so there's still a lot of development to do, but it really does sound like promising technology. Burns spent fuel from existing reactors, too, reducing waste hazardous life to 300-400 years.

There's a good reason why some environmentalists (including James Hansen, I believe) are in favour of the IFR being developed.

Anonymous said...

I am vaguely away of all of the high mass nuclides and there basic properties and uses, the basic problem I have with the reasoning I am observing here is mathematical and physical. Entropy and basic physics. If you want to transmute heavy elements, obviously nuclear fission is the way to go, hence, the mess. Clearly the process can be made less messy through clever designs. But if you want to push electrons through metals, then a particle of the approximate Fermi energy of mobile electrons in metals seems more appropriate, i.e. - photons. Everything that you do eventually reduces to heat (since energy is conserved) which is why most modern processes us cogeneration techniques, generally involving water and other fluids. The general problem is more local verses global, do you want to be independent and do these things yourself in your own home, or do you want to be beholden to a shady or greedy corporation or some fascist government or village administrator. It's a personal choice, one that many would like to take away from you. Fortunately basic physics gives you some good options. I merely suggest you choose wisely. That involves knowing what those options are.

Unknown said...

Compare the arguments made by John Cook and his co-author Haydn Washington in their anti nuke section of "Climate Change Denial" with the nuke chapter in the MacKay "Sustainable Energy without all the Hot Air" book.

If you confront Cook about this he says Washington wrote the anti nuke section.

Cook/Washington: "we can't reject denial about climate change but then deny the serious problems around nuclear power".

If you believe anything MacKay says what Cook/Washington have done is publish a load of rubbish about nukes. On how much CO2 is emitted over the nuclear power lifecycle, whether enough nuke plants could be built to make a difference, whether there is enough nuke fuel, and how dangerous the nuke waste problem is, the two books are diametrically opposed.

Cook/Washington even say "the nuclear fuel cycle produces weapons grade uranium and plutonium". I sure hope the Iranians don't get a copy of that book.

It seems to me that Cook's credentials as someone capable of analyzing what a poor argument is can be questioned, given the existence of this nuclear analysis in a book with his name on it.

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

I merely suggest that perhaps you might want to join us in the real world of >7 billion people, going to 10 billion by 2050, that is going to have to negotiate a variety of threats to our global civilization if not to our continued existence.

Yes, fission and fusion occur at an energy scale different from that of chemistry and optics. Believe it or not, you are not the first to observe this. However, merely observing this and failing to take into acount the fact that you are dealing with a system, and not merely with a bare nucleus is just flat stupid.

Take your meds and get real.

Anonymous said...

Sure Dilbert, but meds or not I am able to discern that nine billion people on a planet with a failing climate and economy powered by nuclear reactors producing fissionable bomb materials is a recipe for premature disaster.

Religion makes it all the worse. Scientist embracing religion and not doing their basic entropy accounting (as in arithmetic) produces even more additional unnecessary forcings to the system. Add a bit of basic geology (as in California fault systems) and it won't take much to topple it. I'll make a deal with you though, you produce a government that tolerates my meds then I'll take them, and if you create an educational system that produces scientists and engineers not wearing blinders and rose colored glasses, then I'll quit posting.

You guys are a forgetful lot, you keep repeating the same mistakes. One ice storm and it's all over, until the next one comes along.

Anonymous said...

I should add that you don't need to hire arsonists, although there are plenty enough available at very cheap rates, because nature provides them for free, and a large variety of them as well. Real life human arsonists just make the natural ones much more effective.

carrot eater said...


If you want to say that various very bad things can happen if a nuclear reactor loses its coolant, well, yes, that's true. Nuclear plants have a variety of hazards that you won't find with other modes.

But your approach is more than a little reminiscent of the rambling loons at WUWT.

J Bowers said...

"How is that $16 trillion dollar debt working out for you?"

That's probably payable by introducing seignage on money created for electronic transactions. 18th and 19th Century legislators couldn't really anticipate plastic and the internet.

Anonymous said...

Yes, so nuclear nuclear reactors possess highly inconvenient hazards, high costs, extreme waste storage problems, fuel availability issues to say nothing of fundamental and gross energy conversion energy disparities, and are solely responsible for international nuclear proliferation problems that exist now and that are surely to arise in a future where economic, financial and geological disasters are sure to occur on a regular basis in a world inhabited by nine billion religiously stupid and scientifically illiterate human beings.

That makes it unviable and not a credible solution to an easily solved problem in my opinion. Easily solved as in a wide variety of alternative energy conversion and utilization approaches (solar, thermal, wind, space based solutions, etc), not even considering any novel or disruptive scientific breakthroughs or technological advances that we all know also occur on a regular basis, all of which inevitably create new industries, more jobs and further economic growth and prosperity. The problem is not America comfort and convenience, the problem is a finite surface are of the planet for the rest of life that has to live here, and stupid people breeding beyond their means.

But you can't address those issues because you are obsessed with my approach to discussing them. In other words, you can't argue the evidence, and seem obsessed with criticizing the messenger. I see your type behavior all the time, carrot top, but it never seems to dissuade me from my approach to analyzing and discussing the problems or participating in the technological development that contributes to their solutions (physics, software, computers, solar and wind power, the internet, rockets, etc).

But do keep up your good work. Make sure you bring up the meds and associate me with denialism. That works every time and is so effective at producing results.

Anonymous said...

That's probably payable by introducing seignage on money created for electronic transactions.

You will have to define and describe that in detail to distinguish it from nonsense. But I agree, post catastrophe inflation and default will handle the debt effectively. The resulting zombie apocalypse will suddenly make perfect sense. I'm glad to see Homeland Security is ahead of the curve on that one.

David B. Benson said...

The Russians have run a fast reactor (so I suppose Gen IV) to generate electricity for many years now. That is the BN-600 and the bigger BN-800 is currently under construction next door. Then next year they'll start on the BN-1200; when finished the BN-600 will be shut down after a long, successful run. [That should put paid to the claim that fast reactors are new.]

The EBR-II fast reactor design has been commercialized by GE-Hitachi (GEH) in the double sized (633 MWe) PRISM. GEH has offered a pair to the UK to use in consuming the Brits excess bomb plutonium. [That should put paid to the claim that there is a nuclear waste problem.]

David B. Benson said...

To use wind turbines there has to be a blanancing agent capable of ramping sufficiently quickly. In this region we primarily do this with hydro power. Otherwise, a combined cycle natgas turbine (CCGT) is the preferred solution [which is not low carbon]. Without CCGTs one is forced to use coal burners (and in Ireland even peat burners). Existing such units then operate sufficiently inefficiently that the net CO2 is worse than before installing the wind turbines.

[Peter Lang is a bit odd, but he is a carefully analytical engineer. Ignore his politics and his 'climate science' to pay attention to his analysis. It is probably not far wrong.]

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

To predict impending disaster given the current state of human affairs on this planet is hardly an impressive feat of prognostication. I would contend what matters is what we choose to do about it. I will keep trying to minimize the damage and find ways to preserve a vestige of civilization. You can either join us or continut to pontificate the obvious in a nihilistic, self-satisfied pose wearing your sphincter as a collar.

MikeH said...

David B Benson
Your arguments are one of the reasons I have little time for nuclear spruikers. You refuse to concede the issues with Gen IV and continue to promote the idea that it is ready to go - i.e. there will be financing, engineering, regulatory or training problems.

Here is an article from Professor Brook written in early August and promoting nuclear power in Australia. He does not even mention Gen IV.

Here is the latest report I could find on the PRISM proposal for the UK which is only at the feasibility stage.
"Whichever technology is selected, there will be an extensive licensing and consultation process. This and the construction of the new facility will most likely take around 10 years, according to the NDA, which said it expects the new plant to be up and running in the early years of the next decade".

Yet when it comes to renewable energy (which is being deployed right now), you take the opinion of a poisonous and vicious climate science denier (a person you yourself describe as odd) over real world experience which shows that wind power does mitigate substantial carbon and that Lang's claims about the amount of backup required are vastly inflated.

MikeH said...

That should be
"i.e. there will be NO financing, engineering, regulatory or training problems.

Bern said...

"real world experience which shows that wind power does mitigate substantial carbon"

You're right, it does mitigate substantial carbon. I tend to think that, while coal-burners will lose efficiency if used to load-follow, the efficiency loss will not go anywhere near compensating for the coal not burned in the first place.

On the other hand, we can also point to real-world experience that suggests going beyond about 30% market penetration by wind/solarPV causes some serious grid instabilities. They wont be fixed until someone invents a form of electricity storage that is cheap, fast-acting, and scalable. And by "fast-acting", I mean "can be brought on-line in seconds at most". If you've looked at an output graph of a solar array with fine enough resolution, you will see that output can vary from 100% down to as low as 10-20% in a matter of minutes, as clouds drift by. Multiply that by a city full of panels, all bouncing up and down, and it's easy to see why the grid guys don't like solar all that much...

David B. Benson said...

MikeH --- Yes, it takes a long time to plan a significant addition or replacement to the grid such as a new nuclear power plant. A decade sounds likely to me.

I don't take Peter Lang's word for anything. I look at his calculations (which are based on the pecular nature of the population distribution in Australia) together with actual experiences here in the Pacific Northwest and also in Europe. [I still need to find better sources for the experiences in the American Midwest.] I plug all this into my fictionous reference grid, which is roughly typical of most localities but doesn't describe any particular one. I then detrmine the LCOE for various mixtures of generation sources; I always include enough reserves so as to maintain the reliability requires set by FERC.

Except for the time for ppp (planning, permitting and site preparation) and time-to-construct issues, LCOE informs me about which are the most economic mixtures of generators. It always turns out that for a low carbon grid it is hard to beat having a mixture quite similar to that in France, about 80% nuclear. The main difference is for regions with substantial sunshine adding up to around 30% solar PV (maximum generation at noon) is clearly going to be (if it isn't already) advantageous for residential and business consumers, so the grid operators hade better be prepared for that. So far California and Arizona grid operators are coping.

For a 100% low carbon grid it is difficult to find much use for wind turbines because of the backup (balancing agent) requirement. Just now almost everybody uses coal or natgas dispatchable generators and that is not low carbon, just (sometimes) lower than not having the wind turbines. [In that regard the situation in Ireland and in The Netherlands is rather dismaying.]

I've attempted to find a technical solution which is least cost and low carbon which incorporates wind turbines but unless the LCOE for wind turbines drops to about 2/7ths of the current value I don't have a solution. So I conclude that wind turbines are not currently the best idea.

David B. Benson said...

Bern --- There are at least two solutions to the solar PV 'bounce' problem. The best one I can devise is certainly feasible although nobody has built it yet, adding a thermal store to a nuclear power plant. The thermal store is used to run small steam turbines, hence units which quickly begin generating. This is not as efficient as the current way of utilizing the heat from the reactor. To pay for this difference the solar PV owners would receive only a quite small payment for sending their generation back into the grid. Despite this, in some localities it still is financially wise to install solar PV on your residence's or business's roof.

Lotharsson said...

Might be worth perusing and some of the other papers it references.

It appears to run at odds with some of the claims/assumptions made on this thread. It argues that a portfolio of different renewable-only sources geographically spread to provide redundancy across major weather systems, and embedded in a suitable distribution system can be made sufficient for global needs and will end up cheaper - even disregarding carbon externalities.

Then again, I haven't looked for critique of the proposed approach, so it could be fatally flawed or quite robust, or anywhere in between.

On another note I'm surprised no-one has yet mentioned the Spanish solar concentrator + molten salt storage station that's up and running and providing something approaching baseload power for a town. Obviously it's not a single silver bullet, but it's a useful arrow in the quiver.

And no-one seems to have mentioned estimates that the costs of delaying global scale CO2 mitigation are said to be growing fast - probably geometrically. If that is accurate, then there is additional implicit cost to technologies that (say) 10 years to deploy as opposed to 1-2 years and that needs to be factored in. I'm not sure I've seen that factored into the typical set of figures bandied about on blogs. Or I could have missed it.

Lotharsson said...

Forgot the link to the paper I mentioned.

Anonymous said...

Dilbert, if you read this thread and the other thread I have participated in here recently you will see that I have outlined what needs to be done.

You could read my blog or read my papers as well. Go for it. I'm pretty sure it won't involve an expendable monster rocket though. But I do look forward to Obama or his successor flying that core stage straight to GEO if they ever get around to building it. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure the NASA rank and file are too stupid to understand how reusable rockets and the development of space works, or even the education of kinds into innovative minds on the scale that is necessary to solve our immediate cultural problems.

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

kT, Why on Earth would I want to read any more of your writing that what you spew here?

David B. Benson said...

Lotharsson --- Thank you for the link. I read the paper. Like all similar studies I have read it is overly optimistic and understates the actual reliability problems. It is currently the case that a blocking high can sit on a region for up to 6 weeks. There is essentially no wind generation during that time. That happened here in the Pacific Northwest last fall and in Texas the summer just before (2011). Transmitting Texas sized blocks of electicity from somewhere the wind is actually blowing is likely to be expensive (to put it mildly).

In the near future it may well be the case that blocking highs will persist longer.

But worse, for a paper published in 2011 you think they could have found more up-to-date costs; their estimates are much to low (I have access to actual utilty cost data for selected current projects.)

For example, what they call solar thermal and most call concentrated solar power (CSP) is much more expensive, much more, than even their highest estimate. Nuclear power plants in the USA under constructionhave a LCOE cost of about 0.5--0.6 as much per kWh as CSP and doesn't suffer the cloudy day problem.

Asfor big projects taking a long time, that is a matter of the planning and permitting. Once that is accomplished a big nuclear power plant takes about 50 months, a 500 km transmission line about 36 months, and a small modular reactor will take but 24 months on site but require ordering 12--24 months in advance of on site work commencement.

Anonymous said...

It's your choice, Dilbert. Thus far the choices you and your ilk have made with respect to a sustainable biosphere on the planet Earth have been less than stellar, and that result has been independent of my 'spewing'. It would be nice though if you and your ilk could overcome your fear of losing your government and corporate funded jobs and speak up and out against the governments and corporations who are the majority stakeholders and causative agents of the carnage and waste that passes as civilization and civilized behavior on this planet.

Anonymous said...

what happened to Rubbia's Accelerator Based Reactor ? I thought at the time he proposed it that it was worth pursuing, given the fail safe nature (no reaction unless the particle beam is on) and the possibility of burning waste rom other reactors...

Lotharsson said...

David Benson, they do provide references for their cost estimates. FWIW if you trace the reference for "solar thermal", you end up at this article which cites "marginalized leveled costs in the US" via (for solar thermal) "U.S. Energy Information Administration, Cost and Performance Characteristics of New Central Station Electricity Generating Technologies, Electricity Market Module, DOE/EIA-0554, June 2008." I cannot vouch that this source is not over-optimistic or that costs have dramatically risen for some technologies over four years, and for a recent solar thermal project I recall seeing significantly higher prices quoted - although that included the cost of a thermal storage system, and it was in Europe rather than the US.

They also claim to have factored in an estimate of the costs of a larger scale distribution network. I can't vouch for its accuracy, but at least there is a better attempt than merely claiming "it is likely to be expensive (to put it mildly)".

When you discuss blocking highs only in terms of the effect on wind generation, I wonder if you grokked that the paper was proposing a mix of wind, solar and wave + over-capacity + longer distance distribution networks to balance load across geographical regions and types of sources?

When there is a blocking high in a region that severely reduces wind power, what are the chances that solar and wave power are also severely reduced, and that neighbouring regions are similarly affected?

David B. Benson said...

Lotharsson --- Indeed I noted their references. However, I know how much it has cost to add the 500 km OR to ID intertie (along an easy route). I know that several projects in AZ and CA which were going to use CSP decided to switch to solar PV after adding up all the costs. [Incidently, adding a respectable thermal store adds relatively little to the total price.]

You missed my point about just how far it is from the Pacific Northwest or from Texas to alternate sources of power.

Every plan for every localitity or region has to be worked out in detail to find an acceptably low cost solution. As an example, the UAE has lotsa natgas and planty of sunshine. Nonetheless their major new source of power is the 4 nuclear power plants, namples 1400 MWe, which the South Koreans are currently building. As another example, Vietnam has wisely decided to forgo additional hydro dams and instead is starting on a plan which includes 10 new nuclear power plants.

I pay close attention to what the professionals decide is best for each region.

Anonymous said...

How sad it is to see so many Global Cooling Deniers rodents in one place.

Yes dear alarmed little rodents ,
scientists ( the good ones ) are now reasonably confident we are
rapidly moving in to a mini-ice age.

Not that I expect you to collect
any acorns or make other preparations because your supreme
confidence in politically driven
junk science will keep you fluffy little heads buried in your fluffy little tails until you freeze to death .

I would provide you with links to the supporting scientific but I am sure it would be a total waste of time .

WossWabit .

ligne said...

is troo. i'm sure it'll start cooling any moment now.

any moment......NOW!