The Gap Between Climate & Energy Reality

By Keith Kloor | October 28, 2011 10:56 pm

I imagine that some folks in the climate policy and politics arena have been growling at this essay in Nature by Jane C. S. Long. Why would that be? Let’s just say that some advocates for climate reality have a little problem with energy reality.

And some of them are probably howling at Andy Revkin for his follow-on interview with Long. Here’s an excerpt:

Q: If the need for breakthroughs is so clear cut, do you foresee any path “” particularly in an era of prolonged economic uncertainty “” to building political and social support for the kind of sustained “energy quest” (my term) that would be required to have a chance of making leaps instead of tweaks?

A: Interestingly, your term energy “quest” was used by Dan Yergin in his new book, which in 800 pages (!) largely seems to agree with our estimate of what the “quest” is. And I, ironically, have been saying that emission-free fuel which is not based on biomass is the new “prize.”

I think the world is looking at Germany. They have taken the “common wisdom” renewables approach, which we think may be really a difficult path, but they are very committed to making it work. It probably can work up to a point, and the question is will they do the ancillary work (i.e., make load balancing work without emissions or leakage) to result in a reliable, truly emission-free electricity system. And the question is how much will it cost them to do it this way? They will still have the fuel problem. They have at least tried to prevent their low-carbon fuel standards from impacting food supply. I think its a good bet there won’t be enough biomass for their needs. So watching Germany will be one factor societal learning.

If I knew the answer to your question, though, I would be shouting it from the mountaintops. One idea is that now is the time for philanthropy to kick in big-time. Our government is clearly broken on this issue. Members of the administration have said that they can’t even go on the Hill and say the word climate anymore I think there are foundations out there that have been spending a lot of money on trying to get a climate agreement and not getting progress. Perhaps instead of pushing for an agreement which is hard because we really don’t how to implement the required changes, they might turn their attention to more strategic elements of the energy system itself so the world has options.

The only other answer I can think of, is to help enable people to be better citizens through simple clarity, accuracy and honesty in describing what the energy system is all about and what is required to change it.


The whole exchange at Dot Earth, which also includes input from other energy experts, is well worth the read.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: climate change, Energy
  • Tom Fuller

    Lots of meat in both pieces, and both Long and Revkin did extremely well.

    I have some questions. To what extent is an 80% cut in emissions anything other than a political goal?  By which I mean they find a path to glory for 60%–but that is considered a defeat. Is there a reason apart from Bill McKibben’s ranting that 60% below 1990 levels is not acceptable?

    Second–Long writes frequently of the need for carbon capture and sequestration for California to meet its goals. But that doesn’t exist today–we don’t have proof of concept, we don’t have a pilot program, we don’t have adequate research pursuing it. If a skeptic were writing like that, s/he would be given short shrift summarily.

    Third–Why make clean California the test case? As Alan Nogee notes at the end of Revkin’s piece, California doesn’t have the coal usage that would provide easy wins in other locales. Again, other than the political righteousness of the cause, what is the rationale for spending billions to make California 99 & 3/4% pure, when for millions we can make a real difference in China and Indonesia? If it’s a global problem (and I believe it is), California would get more bang for its buck by buying stack scrubbers for South African coal plants. It’d be better than planting phantom trees, at least.

    California already gets more than 33% of its energy from renewable sources–they just redefined renewable (excluding large hydropower) for political reasons. There’s no logical reason to start there–California should be the final place money is spent on this, not the first.

    There’s a lot more to be said about this. Lots of meat in those two pieces… 

  • intrepid_wanders

    Tom #1 –

    I have a curious question since you are familiar with the EIA reports.  

    Why is it that the “US government” (military and non-military) only follows the commercial/residential/industrial/transportation sectors in these changes in efficiencies and technological developments?

    Long is correct in the “missing the target” concept, but, like Tom, the “sequester” beast is between bigfoot and the loch ness monster.

    I did appreciate the honesty with wind turbines being backed-up with with equal energy of something else reliable.  I have seen the Mojave turbines just sit and not spin for weeks at a time.  Funny thing, if you actually read a EIA report, they have a US map of wind productive areas, and California is not close to average (in-land).  Mojave is a good solar area, but wind, not so much.  Palm Springs is only slightly better, but I am not sure about the Napa Valley installation.  Why the only California coal plant is in the Mojave desert, Long is the only one that would know.

    Tom #1 –
    33% renewables?  Citation, if you please.  Burning garbage is nice, but does not reduce CO2 (CH4, perhaps…).

    @ Anyone.

    Which organization is responsible for collecting and reporting CO2/GHG information?  I used to use CDIAC, but they seem to be far behind EIA and EPA data.  I tried UN data, but it doe not match either.  Is it all IEA now?

  • Tom Fuller

    That’s what I get for believing Wikipedia. They said 31% (I misremembered that stat). But, according to the California Energy Commission, “In 2009, 11.6 percent of all electricity came from renewable resources such as wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and small hydroelectric facilities. Large hydro plants generated another 9.2 percent of our electricity.”

    Another 14% comes from nuclear. If you count that, that’s 34%. (I would count it, but I also understand the reluctance of many to do so.)

    Of course, solar has doubled twice since 2009… but that probably doesn’t change the total by more than 1%. 

  • Tom Fuller

    I do not understand your first question, intrepid_wanders.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    a few points based on a quick skim of the report by Long et al.

    because of it’s energy mix and existing investments in energy efficiency, using California as the model for what it would take to get an 80% reduction from current emission levels is a bit misleading and overstates the challenge.  Many other states/countries are starting from a much higher base, so there are far more low hanging fruits to be picked that California has already taken advantage (or didn’t need to begin with).

    2. they assume that equivalent amounts of dispatchable generation will be needed to offset the intermittency associated with renewables. I’m not convinced this assumption is reasonable on a 2050 timescale, as the penetration (e.g. wind will be blowing somewhere) and diversification of renewables (e.g. solar on hot days when wind isn’t blowing) will mitigate some of the intermittency issues.  Feel free to jump in at anytime BBD and Harry :-) .  This is the argument that  Dan Kamen et al make.

    3. related to point #2.  the report makes no provision for V2G technologies and the enabling function that they could play in significantly improving the penetration and economics of both renewables and electric vehicles.  This seems like a bit of a glaring oversight when thinking about 2050 timeframes when V2G technologies will almost certainly be widespread.

    4. from an R&D POV the holy grail is almost certainly in the area of energy storage technologies, rather than next gen nuclear IMO.  The latter is far more important (and likely) when considering the impact on these sorts of medium term timescales.  Next gen nuclear IMO is more of a 2080 and beyond, if that.

    5. What David Victor says over at Andy’s.  A lot of this amounts to intellectual masturbation. Arguing about optimal strategies is all well and good, but if they aren’t informed by fundamental considerations of political constraints, they aren’t terribly valuable to policy makers, or crystal-ball types.

  • harrywr2

    Tom #1

    Why make clean California the test case?
    Because California wants to create an ‘energy valley’ that will provide the kind of economic boost that ‘silicon valley’ did.

    My brother in law has been buildings power-plants for 40 years. For the first 15 years of his career he made his money selling engineering services and technology to US Utilities. Then he spent 25 years selling engineering services and technology to the Chinese. The Chinese don’t need him much anymore..good thing he is at retirement age.
    Exporting energy related services and technology has historically been ‘very big business’.
    If I look into the Chinese coal mines, the cupboard isn’t as full of ‘cheap coal’ as some would believe. So if someone could demonstrate to the Chinese how to provide affordable,reliable power to their people there is ‘big money’ to be made.
    Unfortunately, when the Chinese end up being the ‘test case’ they will insist on ‘reproduction’ rights. Westinghouse sold it’s soul to the Chinese on the AP1000 since they couldn’t convince anyone in the developed world to build one.(The first of it’s kind installations always run over budget. Areva is in better shape as they convinced the Finn’s to build the first model of their reactor)
    The Germans think they can build a reliable, affordable grid with solar panels and windmills, if they succeed Siemen’s will make a lot of money. (Nuclear and intermittent energy are incompatible. To be anywhere close to financially viable nuclear has to be ‘first on’ the grid, the wind blowing at 3AM means someone is going to lose money.)
    The Governor of California apparently believes the same and wants California to get in on the ‘gravy train’.
    The Government’s in the developed world have a long history of attempting to maintain a ‘technology gap’ between their countries and other countries by setting a ‘currently technologically impossible’ goal.
    Of course governments in the developed world also have a long history of betting on ‘dogs that won’t hunt’. The British Concorde was clearly a model of technological superiority. Unfortunately not many people could afford a ticket.
    I haven’t been following the 33% renewables goal in California. Was it made before or after Solyndra tanked?
    Politico’s like ‘twofers’. Pushing a plan that involves importing large quantities of Chinese Solar panels and paying the Chinese significant sums for rare earth metals for windmills isn’t a ‘twofer’. All those ‘free trade’ agreements seemed like a good idea when US made products had a large technological edge.

  • RickA

    Very interesting article.

    I think that California is doing the entire USA a big favor by setting this goal.

    It has already lead to the realization that current technology just won’t cut it to meet the goal.

    So we will have to invest in creating new technology, both in energy production and energy storage.

    We will need a lot more nuclear – perhaps 50% instead of 20%.

    I don’t think that rebuilding or retrofitting all the buildings in California is politically realistic, but maybe I am wrong about that.

  • cagw_skeptic99

    “intellectual masturbation” is a good description of the discussion about replacing the carbon fuel based electrical generating capacity of the planet with windmills and solar panels.  What is referred to here as ‘climate reality’ probably fits the same category.


  • Jarmo

    Nobody has mentioned the cost of these policies.

    Germany achieved a very rapid solar PV construction rate by a generous subsidy – I think it’s around 12 billion euros annually. They are going to put a lot of money in building wind and solar. This far, very little has been done to upgrade the grid for intermittent power sources.

    Since renewable energy has a right of way in power generation – meaning that gas and coal plants have to be either shut down when the wind blows hard and the sun shines or power plants run and  energy prices go low or even negative – the operation costs of coal and gas plants will also go up. Germany has also pledged that it will a)not use imported nuclear power to bridge the gap
    b)not increase the subsidy consumers pay for renewable energy.
    c) not increase its CO2 emissions

    Since they also scrapped the CCS pilot scheme, I am kind of doubtful that these goals can be achieved.


  • EdG

    “I think the world is looking at Germany.”

    They should.

    Green energy used to be Germany’s great hope for its economic future. But now the German solar industry is in trouble amid huge losses, job cuts and the threat of bankruptcies. Chinese firms are gaining an ever greater share of the German market — and are benefiting from German subsidies for renewable energy.”,1518,784653,00.html

    Of note for bankrupt California:

    “The Rhenish-Westphalian Institute for Economic Research (RWI) calculates that, up until the end of 2010, electricity consumers paid roughly €81.5 billion for the expansion of photovoltaic technology alone. This “tsunami of costs” will only continue to grow, says the RWI.”

  • EdG

    Yes, the world really should look at Germany. The whole story:

    “Marketplace, Thursday, June 9, 2011
    Faced with the dilemma of how to fill the energy gap left by its recent decision to move away from nuclear power, Germany is increasing fossil fuel power generation.
    Tess Vigeland: Today the German government unveiled a new vision for the country’s energy needs. Chancellor Angela Merkel announced last week that nuclear power was no longer an option, in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan. Germany is instead going back to the future, with plans to double the number of gas and coal-fired power stations to be built.”

    Natural gas. Why are the greens against this obvious step for the USA?

  • BBD

    Marlowe Johnson @ 5
    Burton Richter says exactly what I have previously said to you (and NYJ):

    If you read the fine print of the NREL study called Western Wind and Solar Integration, you will find that if you go as high as 35% wind and solar you have to have conventional backup equal to the total capacity of the wind and solar systems.

    Where’s the emissions saving? And why do you have to pay for a hugely expensive, large-footprint renewables capacity plus the hugely expensive large-scale grid extensions it requires and an equivalent capacity of CO2-emitting OCGT spinning reserve as well? (I have little faith in CCS by the way. More hand-waving).

    It makes no sense from an engineering point of view or an economic one. It mystifies me why very smart people such as yourself won’t admit to this.

    Were I truly cynical, I would be forced to ascribe it to anti-nuclear bias 😉

  • harrywr2

    I invite you to read the Pacific Northwest Twenty year power plan.
    It’s 300+ pages and the summary is 8+ pages.
    The NW Council is a body appointed by the Governors of Idaho,Washington,Oregon and Montana to study the issue of adequate power supply with a 20 year time frame.
    The ‘firm’ reliability of the existing wind power in the Pacific Northwest(Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana) is judged to be 5% of capacity, that could change with grid expansion. California adds nothing. There are plenty of days when California and the PNW both had ‘no wind’.  ‘Smart Meters’ may result in a ‘load smoothing’ of ‘up to 5% of peak load’. They’ve also calculated in expected PHEV vehicle penetration into their model.
    I particularly like this statement pertaining to nuclear.
    Construction of a new unit in the Northwest would likely require the successful completion and operation of at least one of the
    proposed new units elsewhere in the United States, established spent-nuclear fuel disposal policy, and aggressive development of equally cost-effective conservation and renewable resources.These conditions would likely preclude operation of a new conventional nuclear plant
    in the Northwest prior to the early to mid-2020s

    In all fairness to the anti-nuclear crowd. Nuclear  represents a socialized risk. A risk exists regardless of how small it is. The judgment of the Northwest Regional Reliability Council is that it isn’t build-able until all the other methods of achieving a reliable, cost effective power supply without incurring an additional socialized risk have been exhausted.
    The timeframe of early 2020’s for large scale roll out of nuclear is  a fair estimate. It’ll be 2014 or 2015 before accurate cost data on Vogtle #3 and #4 and VC Summer #2 and #3 are available.
    Early to mid 2020’s is when the bulk of US coal fired capacity reaches the end of ‘useful life’. 2014-2015 will be the ‘decision point’ for replacement.
    By 2014-2015 time-frame we will have made some grid expansions and will have a better geographic distribution of windmills. We will have a better idea of what is going to happen with electric vehicles. Rather then academic studies paid for by various ‘interest groups’ we will have  hard data.
    There is nothing wrong in trying to ‘find a better way’. Nothing wrong with large scale demonstration projects. Making an irrevokable decision about the future when the results of the large scale demonstration projects are unknown seems to me to be a bit reckless.
    There is no shortage of examples in history where ‘well founded’ assumptions about how something would work out in practice ended up being horribly wrong.

  • Mark Miller


    The California Energy Commission (CEC) has a wealth of information on energy related topics-
    California Electricity Statistics & Data web page-

    The in-state electrical generation that is carbon neutral is 42% (which includes the 6% direct coal imports, mostly for use by LA DWP last time I checked the raw data) for 2010 as noted in the attached file-

    California Electrical Energy Generation, 1997 to 2010*
    Total Production, by Resource Type
    (Gigawatt Hours)

    I copied the 2010 data below and added the % column.



    Generation type





    In-state Coal








    Direct Coal Imports**


    Other Imports***

    Total (sans imports except coal)

    Carbon neutral



    Each private generator (PG&E, SCE, etc) is currently required to list their generation source and this information can be found on their web sites. In terms of cost effectiveness  CARB reported that for CA to go from our previously mandated 20%RES to the 33%RES will cost us about $200.00 to remove a ton (CO2).   The folks down in LA (LADWP) can expect to see the biggest price increase (percentage wise) in the electrical bills as they are required to meet the 33%RES.

  • Marlowe Johnson


    it seems to me that you’re again overstating the challenges of integrating a large percentage of renewables into the grid — at least in a california (WECC) context.  Yes you’ll need additional dispatchable backup  and yes integration with other regional grids helps but is a cost (i.e. transmission lines).  However you can’t have it both ways.  Think about it.  For what you’re saying to make sense, you’d have to assume that none of the renewables anywhere in the regional grid are producing power.  This is an unsupportable assumption based on all of the lit I’ve seen.  The larger the grid (via investments in grid interconnections) the less significant the potential intermittency and therefore the less fossil generating assets you need.  The authors of the NREL study say much the same thing…

    That’s all for today — pumpkin carving with power tools and other Halloween prep activities await :)

  • harrywr2

    that none of the renewables anywhere in the regional grid are producing power
    IIRC October 19th, 2011 none of the wind on the west coast of the US was producing. none in California, none is Oregon, none in Washington. As part of that period was darkness I assume the solar wasn’t working as well.
    The size of the grid needs to be in excess of 1,000 miles north to south, east to west. A 3 GW overhead transmission line costs around $2 million a mile.
    If I want a simple reliable 3 GW system I need to put 3 GW worth of windmills in each of the corners of the 1,000 x 1,000 mile grid. So 12 GW worrth of windmill at $1.5 billion/GW = $18 billion, Then I need 4,000 miles transmission line at $2 million a mile for an addition $8 billion.
    I would need to spend a total $26 billion for a 3 GW system. The windmills will all need to be replaced in 20-25 years. Of course if it works out I need a 2,000 x 2,000 mile grid then the cost is $34 billion.
    The UAE recently bought a 5.6GW nuclear system from the South Korean’s for $20 billion. Their nuclear system has a design life of 60 years.

  • BBD


    harrywr2 has answered for me, and perhaps more cogently than I would have managed.

    Another complicating factor here is capacity shortfall. Electricity demand is projected to rise (EVs; phaseout of gas for heating/cooking etc).

    Renewables won’t generate enough to meet current demand, never mind 2020, 2030 etc.

    Have fun with the pumpkins etc. We’ve managed to get away with cutting out ‘scary’ faces in coloured card this year (one child, age 4). But it’s only putting off the inevitable… and I’m not a fan of pumpkin pie/soup etc :-)

  • intrepid_wanders

    Sorry Tom.  EIA/AER2010 – fig. 1.11

    What I found curious is the fall off from 1990-2000 then the pop-up (understandably for “defense” post 9/11) for the “non-defense”.   I was curious if there was a good test group before a cap in trade or California, one would check the viability within.  I assumed you might shed some light.

    @Mark Miller #14 –

    I do not see where 42% as “carbon neutral”.  That 8% will go
    “bye-bye” when the 86,193 GW/h of IMPORTED electricity from GAS sources take back 30% because the import sources must be carbon free as well.  Are we going to import wind energy from Texas?

    You would need to subtract the import tables from the total tables to make the “non-sense” make more non-sense.  While noble or brave, California is equally stupid with the numbers.  Only 6x3GW nuclear power plants would be a noticeable improvement.  Long knows this to be true as well.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @16 and BBD

    To be clear I’m not ‘anti-nuclear’, nor do I claim that renewables deployed in 2050 will be cheaper than nuclear deployed in 2020.  I’m merely pointing out that it isn’t unreasonable to assume that we could get significantly higher penetration of renewables in the next 30-50 years at moderate extra cost (BBD the study you linked to assumes a $30/tCO2e price, which is what BC is paying right now).

    IMO the market for energy storage is one area where things could get very interesting.  Consider for example 30 years from now when we may have upwards of 100 million EVs, each with 16-30 kW batteries that need replacing…

  • Marlowe Johnson

    oh and the pumpkin carving was an epic fail.  thankfully the wife stepped in with her fine motor skills and saved the day….

  • harrywr2

    it isn’t unreasonable to assume that we could get significantly higher penetration of renewables in the next 30-50 years at moderate extra cost
    It really depends on existing load/generation balancing assets.
    In June 2010 in the PNW Bonneville Power reach maximum legal spill rate(water over the dam rather then thru the generations), all the fossil generation was off, all the power export transmissions lines where at capacity and it then ordered our NPP down to 20% power because the windmills are ‘must take’.
    Of course the windmill developers didn’t get the message and kept building. In June 2011 we had a repeat and they got curtailed.
    All the cost calculations for renewables are based on 100% utilization when available.(nuclear as well). With the exception of solar..building nuclear and wind beyond ‘off peak’ load becomes very expensive. Solar is still expensive but it has some correlation with load.
    I.E. The ‘crossing point’ where $30/ton CO2e if no longer adequate is when nuclear + minimum stream flow for hydro + renewable peak capacity > off peak load.
    At that point something we have to start throwing away electricity that has no marginal cost.
    If you look at the generation mix in the US states put together by the coal shills we are running out of places that are not already beyond the point where nuclear + minimum hydro + renewables is less than off peak.
    Yes, storage might be interesting but at the moment it’s cheaper to throw away power then store it. A large use for off peak power would also be helpful. It takes 17 years to turn over the automobile fleet.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    fleet turnover is closer to 12 years based on current scrappage rates, and EVs represent exactly the kind of ‘large use for off peak power’ that you’re looking for.  

    “Of course the windmill developers didn’t get the message and kept building. ”

    I agree that this is an issue that needs to be addressed.  But it’s fundamentally a contractual issue between the system operator and the developer; as renewable capacity expands I’d expect that the ‘must take’ provisions would phase out.

    Also, remember, not all grids are the same.  As we’ve both pointed out before, the mix that works in one jurisdiction may not work in another (e.g. try building a nuke plant in a desert). I guess my beef with the rigid sort of thinking that you and BBD seem to be pushing boils down to implicit assumptions about:

    – wind being the only renewable in town for now and ever more,

    – pessimistic cost curves for renewables and storage, and

    – projecting the constraints imposed by the current grid indefinitely into the future.

    – glossing over the trade-offs that inevitably come with l
    arge scale nuclear projects.  To whit, concerns about the Korea-UAE deal (which will cost an additional $20 billion over 60yrs btw):

    “the high-profile contract may burden the incumbent government because suspicions continue to spring up that it offered overly generous promises to win the largest energy deal in the Middle East. 

    The first controversy was over the military dispatch of around 130 combat troops to the UAE after obtaining parliamentary approval last December amid an opposition boycott of the vote. 

    They plan to help train the special forces of the Middle Eastern state for two years. Opposition parties contended that the deployment was associated with the nuclear plant contract. 

    Further doubts were raised this week that Korea’s Export-Import Bank was found to have pledged to lend up to half of the $18.6 billion so that the UAE is supposed to repay the debts over almost three decades. 

    This infuriated opposition parties and civic groups such as the Energy Justice Actions (EJA), which is keeping an eye on the contract.

    “The Seoul administration initially claimed that the mega-sized agreement is worth $40 billion. But it later said that its value is $20 billion and the amount may double in the case the UAE entrusts the plants’ operation to us,” EJA head Lee Heon-seok said. ” 

    So if you’re going to complain about generous terms for renewable projects, at the very least I’d expect you to also complain about the direct and indirect subsidies (via below market and/or risk free financing) that inevitably come with nuclear power projects…

  • harrywr2

    @22 Marlowe
    I guess my beef with the rigid sort of thinking that you and BBD seem to be pushing boils down to implicit assumptions about:
    I used to believe that wind in the Pacific Northwest could be 3 parts wind and 1 part hydro, a common belief among many wind advocates that included myself.
    Now that I’ve been informed by actual data my belief has been modified to 1 part wind and 3 parts hydro. We have 1 part wind and 3 parts hydro in the PNW and so does California. Outside of Niagara Falls  there isn’t much hydro left in the US for balancing.
    As far as battery powered cars being a ‘large off peak demand’ GM isn’t going to make their 10,000 Volt unit production target this year, they were just shy of 4,000 at the start of October.
    Electric vehicles sales totally 1/10th of 1% of the US market despite $7,500 tax incentives doesn’t bode well for an ‘all electric vehicle future’ or even a ‘substantial market penetration’ anytime soon. When electric vehicle sales hit 10% I’ll modify my position.
    Electric vehicles were 28% of the US Market 110 years ago. 110 years of ‘next year’ will be the ‘comeback year’ for electric vehicles is a very old story. If it turns true happy, happy.
    As far as this
    The first controversy was over the military dispatch of around 130 combat troops to the UAE
    Caldwell praised the UAE’s leading role in the field of education and training of Afghan forces, and also said that the UAE, along with the US, is one of the largest contributors in this respect.
    But it later said that its value is $20 billion and the amount may double in the case the UAE entrusts the plants’ operation to us,”
    The fixed O&M costs for nuclear plants are about the same as windmills. Nuclear has a small variable fuel cost that wind doesn’t have.
    As far as the ‘future of energy storage’.
    Just today an energy storage company with federal tax dollar backing went bankrupt.

    I’m still waiting for my Tata Motor’s Air car and my 100 MPG ceramic engined pickup truck  to arrive.
    I’m still waiting for Hamilton Standard to deliver the ‘neighborhood fuel cell’ that the engineers(actually fathers of my classmates) that gave presentations at my elementary school promised to do in the  1960’s. Within 5 years they were going to solve the ‘cost’ problem and we would get a neighborhood fuel cell and all heat our homes with the waste heat.


  • BBD


    Unlike Harrywr2, I know next-to-nothing about the US energy market. So I will keep quiet and read.

    This means I can say stuff about pumpkins which, in a way, is a relief.

    Ban them! Now! 😉

    And thank goodness for the organised and practical female mind. As you observe @ 20.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    I’m sympathetic to your concerns about technology projections.  Having seen close-up the repeated failure of cellulosic ethanol to reach commercial viability, healthy skepticism isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  OTOH, if you’re talking about climate change mitigation, there is no getting around the fact that there are multiple risk trade-offs involved. Which risk do you take:
    -multi-billion dollar nuclear cost overruns (e.g. Ontario, Finland)?
    -profit taking from overly generous FIT programs for renewables?
    -indirect health and environmental costs from fossil combustion?
    -lost tax payer dollars from high risk loan guarantees to green technologies (e.g. Solyndra, Beacon)?

    It’s not immediately clear to me that there is a strictly ‘rational’ way of evaluating these trade-offs that avoids explicit or implicit value judgments that are necessarily subjective.  Personally, I’d rather err on the side of too rapid deployment of non-fossil alternatives, but I nevertheless can understand why others hold a different view.

  • harrywr2


    multi-billion dollar nuclear cost overruns (e.g. Ontario, Finland)?
    The Finns appear poised to build yet another nuclear plant.
    Even with the cost overruns Okiluto 3 works out to be about $5 billion a gigawatt,  30% more then the South Koreans quoted the UAE per GW.
    ‘First of a kind’ costs always run high. The budget for Vogtle #3 and #4 AP1000 reactors is $3 billion higher then the VC Summer AP1000 reactors.
    Here is a 630MW coal fired ‘first of its kind’ plant…it’s $1 billion over budget for a cost of almost $3 billion or $4.7 billion cost per GW.


  • Marlowe Johnson

    As a the son of a Finn living in Ontario, it pains me to see this sort of thing…I’m still paying the ‘debt retirement’ charge on my utility bill.

    In for a penny in for a pound eh? 

  • ivp0

    With over 100 years of testing, observation, and refinement, windmills still do one thing pretty well.  They move water uphill for future use.
      As to windmills ever becoming a significant, viable, affordable, source of electrical power to the grid… pffffft!  Never gonna happen.  If we are serious about eliminating CO2 based electric generation we need to keep looking.  Wind doesn’t work in California and it won’t work in a town near you.  Wind generation is a dead end street.


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About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.


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