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Friday, September 16, 2016

David Roberts of Vox, on Exploiting "Clean Energy (whatever that is)" Rifts

Consider this article to be a comment under David's article which has no comment field.

Here's an idea, how about using the term non-fossil fuel energy instead of clean energy?

I can see where this might cause readers to realize you're including nuclear, and yes, I can see why antinuclear bloggers in sheep's clothing might want to avoid doing that. At no point in this article does Roberts say that nuclear is included in his definition of clean energy.

...that he identified as champions of clean energy ... have broken with their party on a few climate or clean energy votes ... the House guarantees inaction on climate and clean energy ... incline the party against climate and clean energy ... it seems to me that clean energy solutions stand or fall together ... no form of clean energy will ever get the support it needs ... part of a growing number of purple and red states with clean energy hubs ... Here is a rift within the party on the subject of clean energy ... Helpfully, the anti–clean energy side is represented by Trump ... while the clean energy side is represented by a longtime, rock-ribbed Republican ... and tying clean energy opposition tightly to Donald Trump ... Conservative opinions on clean energy are still mutable ... this is an opportunity to visibly signal that clean energy support is perfectly consonant ... backs powerful incumbents against clean energy challengers ... institutional stance on climate and clean energy... make mildly supportive noises about clean energy.

It's not easy having an intelligent discussion when words being used have no clear definition. Because readers all have different definitions in their heads, they all walk away with a different interpretation of what has been said, like with David's sixteen instances of the use of the term "clean energy." Now, admittedly, everybody uses that term, so there's safety in numbers. However, it's obvious when a strong nuclear advocate uses it that they are including nuclear. When David uses it, renewable enthusiasts assume he's excluding nuclear, nuclear enthusiasts suspect he may be including it ...but maybe not.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Brad Plumer of Vox on Wilderness and Costa Rica's Renewables

I think both of Brad's articles are excellent. I'm just adding comment and although some of it may come off sounding anti-renewables, let me just state for the record that I'm "not anti-renewables." No, seriously, I'm fine with rooftop solar, properly sited wind farms, and I think we should keep most existing hydroelectric. Nuclear certainly can't do it all.

Money quote:

A new study in Current Biology reports that Earth has lost 10 percent of its wilderness since the early 1990s —an area twice the size of Alaska. "The amount of wilderness loss in just two decades is staggering and very saddening," said lead author James Watson of the University of Queensland.

A wilderness area is, by definition, free of human industry (roads, agriculture, mining, etc) which includes the the sight of power stations on distant ridge lines and hilltops as well as the forest cleared to provide corridors for the power lines that lead from them.

The loss of wilderness is only part of the story. As was mentioned in Plumer's article, you can't recreate intact ecosystems once you destroy them, including those that are not part of a wilderness area. A case in point is the Ivanpah solar thermal power station that usurped intact desert tortoise habitat , and never mind that it may also be incinerating up to 6,000 birds a year.

Kudos to Plumer for including a link to a report from the Breakthrough Institute about using technology and innovation to shrink our environmental footprint (GMO-free organic gardening, grass-fed beef, wood stoves, and the 100 mile diet are not in the game plan).

Thursday, September 8, 2016

David Roberts on Coal Company Environmental Remediation

There are groups out there dedicated to stopping every energy source you can imagine. Antinuclear organizations have convinced their supporters that nuclear power is evil incarnate. They can't change their policies now if they wanted to because they actually have created a monster. Acknowledging the truth about nuclear energy at this point would likely bankrupt many environmental organizations.

David's article: As coal companies sink into bankruptcy, who will pay to clean up their old mines? reflects what I have called his good versus evil world view. I have, on rare occasion, made mention of this propensity in the Grist comment field.

As a philosophy major, Roberts might enjoy this 2008 article by Steven Pinker, author of The Better Angels of Our Nature titled The Moral Instinct:

At the very least, the science tells us that even when our adversaries’ agenda is most baffling, they may not be amoral psychopaths but in the throes of a moral mind-set that appears to them to be every bit as mandatory and universal as ours does to us. Of course, some adversaries really are psychopaths, and others are so poisoned by a punitive moralization that they are beyond the pale of reason. (The actor Will Smith had many historians on his side when he recently speculated to the press that Hitler thought he was acting morally.) But in any conflict in which a meeting of the minds is not completely hopeless, a recognition that the other guy is acting from moral rather than venal reasons can be a first patch of common ground. One side can acknowledge the other’s concern for community or stability or fairness or dignity, even while arguing that some other value should trump it in that instance. With affirmative action, for example, the opponents can be seen as arguing from a sense of fairness, not racism, and the defenders can be seen as acting from a concern with community, not bureaucratic power. Liberals can ratify conservatives’ concern with families while noting that gay marriage is perfectly consistent with that concern.

In short, it would help to stop pouring gas on the fire. He seems to have a really hard time empathizing with his opponents, be they conservative Republicans or fossil fuel companies. Now, you may be tempted at this point to stereotype me as a shill apologist for big coal and also take this opportunity to show readers in the comment field that you have heard of the Godwin's Law meme. My environmental credentials likely put yours to shame, nobody is paying me anything to write, and we have all heard of Godwin's law. Coal took the pressure off of our forests just as oil did for whales, but it's time for coal to go just as a time came to stop using wood for energy, whales for oil.

Monday, September 5, 2016

David Roberts on the latest NREL 30% wind and solar study

As suggested in my earlier article, consider this article to be a comment under David's article: The Eastern US could get a third of its power from renewables within 10years. Theoretically, which has no comment field.

Because David is a self-labeled climate hawk, I'm going to start by addressing (what should be but isn't) the overarching concern of climate hawks with regard to energy production--carbon emissions. Had the study also replaced all remaining coal with nuclear, which technically, is certainly possible as France proved long ago, there would have been a 30% + 33% (see Figure 2) = 63% reduction in emissions. Even more simply, they could have replaced all coal with nuclear from the start and added no renewable energy for an emissions reduction of 46%. But because this study was done by the National Renewable Energy Lab, that possibility was not considered.

Why did they stop at 30% penetration? Why was no attempt made to show what it would cost to implement? We do know what it has cost Germany to get to this approximate level of renewables, as I have pointed out uncounted times before:

I don’t know any other economy that can bear this burden [$30billion a year]...We have to make sure that we connect the energy switch to economic success, or at least not endanger it. Germany must focus on the cheapest clean-energy sources as well as efficient fossil-fuel-fired plants to stop spiraling power prices.

While renewable aid costs are at the “limit” of what the economy can bear, Germany will keep pushing wind and solar power, the most cost-effective renewable sources, Gabriel said. Biomass energy is too expensive and its cost structure hasn’t improved, he said.

Germany is demonstrating the real world cost of trying to reduce emissions with only renewables; $30 billion a year, according to Germany's economics ministry. $30 billion a year would pay for forty custom built $7.5 billion Generation III AP1000 reactors over ten years ($30B/year x 10years  = $300B, $300B/$7.5B = 40 AP1000 reactors). Add those to existing reactors and they could supply about 97% of Germany's electricity by 2025.

The Eastern US could get a third of its power from renewables within 10 years. Theoretically.

That word David stuck on the end of his title is all important and should be in the preface of any of these studies. But what does theoretically mean? David takes a stab at it below:

Saturday, September 3, 2016

David Roberts of Vox (formerly of Grist) -- Not "Pro-nuclear"

A little history from Grist:

Climate Hawk takes flight

"It is with great sadness but also no small degree of pride that I'm writing to share the news that David Roberts will be leaving Team Grist shortly to join Vox ...

...When he applied to be a news writer at Grist in 2003, he didn't know much about climate change or any issues we covered--I.e., he was a philosophy grad who used to write movie reviews for IMDb--but he definitively knew how to write, so we took a chance on him."

Although he wrote for an environmental website, David does not consider himself to be an environmentalist (whatever exactly that is):

From David's Twitter account:

Why is he compelled to point out that he isn't a doctor? Because, believe it or not, less astute readers out there fairly routinely think the dr in his Twitter moniker stands for doctor instead of David Roberts. There is a Dr David Roberts who writes for Foreign Affairs, so maybe that's part of the confusion but more than likely it's an artifact of a roughly bell-shaped IQ distribution.

Nature just isn't his thing. David's thing is climate change. I don't recall him ever writing about nature in the decade or so he was at Grist. A climate hawk does not "focus on things like land preservation or biodiversity." When put to a vote by Grist readers to pick a term that describes someone who wants to focus on climate change instead of, say, nature, the term Climate Hawk was chosen ...which is somewhat ironic considering that raptor deaths have always been and continue to be a major concern with improperly sited wind farms (not a problem if properly sited). The irony can be taken a step further considering that every self-proclaimed climate hawk I've ever encountered is also antinuclear energy--the second largest source of zero-emission energy on the planet.

Global Zero Emissions Sources of Electricity