Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Cheaper Cleaner Energy

I had 3 Liberals tell me that we use the forms of energy we do because of some corporate conspiracy puts profits before lives, and that there are cheaper and cleaner energy forms out there that they won't give us access to. (see below)  Of course I asked them to tell me more about these cheaper cleaner energy forms and got no answers.

Todd's comment was interesting, though I am thinking the "cost to stop pollution" is already built into these forms of energy.  By this, I mean the costs we spend on engine emissions, scrubbers, etc.

So what forms of energy should we encourage, are they cleaner, are they cheaper, etc?
"The "skepticism" of the deniers is just a cover. The truth is, they don't WANT to acknowledge that global warming is real, and that it is caused by humans. They want to keep their big ol' trucks, they want to keep their fossil fuel industries running, they want to stick it to the tree-hugging libruls." RB

"Oil and coal are only cheap if you don't factor in the cost of pollution." Todd

"Once again, stereotypical thinking trumps reality. You're assuming there's a "free" market somewhere that's produced the best outcome. We don't use coal and crude because they're cheap, we use them because our existing infrastructure is organized around them. Other forms of energy are more economical but there's are powerful energy monopolies and an existing infrastructure that's not engineered to distribute and utilize other forms of energy. In effect, the exact opposite is true, the reason cheaper forms of energy are not being deployed is because they are so cheap no one has yet figured out how to make money distributing them. The problem with renewable energy is that it's so cheap its hard to charge enough to provide it.

The truth is that as an economy we're spending too much on energy and we have an inefficient energy structure. Again, it's a myth that cheaper energy will cost us more or deliver some kind of blow to our economy. It would deliver a blow to existing energy producers but the spending would simply shift to other segments of the economy... and that would be actually be good for the economy." Paul


John said...

Update from Paul on MP.

At the risk of repeating other comments I'll answer John's question as to which energy sources are "cheaper" than fossil fuels.

1) You can't just look at the current price comparisons. Coal for instance incurs around $500 billion in external costs that are not reflected in the per watt price. If were to factor the price of externailities into the price of coal, that price would double from 4.1 cents per kwh to 8.2 cents, that would make it more expensive than either wind or solar which currently sit at 4.s and 7.7 respectively. Forbes Cost Driving Towards Natural Gas

2) When making public policy and energy decisions the CURRENT price of a particular energy source is a poor guide. You have to consider future projections. The price of solar for example has dropped something like 90% in the last few decades while the cost of coal has increased around13%. We can expect those trends will continue and renewable's will reach parody with fossil fuels. Most observers are predicting that even at current rates, solar will match coal for instance at .25 per kilowatt hour when you factor in coals external costs.

3) Again, its the infrastructure not the price of fossil fuels pers se that keeps them going. Consider for instance a scenario where we have no energy supply and are about build one. The "start-up" costs of a fossil fuel infrastructure would dwarf renewable's. Finding, extracting, refining, and distributing fossil fuels from scratch would be prohibitively expensive. It's taken over 100 years to build the fossil fuel infrastructure we currently have. If we had to build all the refineries, hundreds of thousand of miles of pipelines, thousands of tanker cars, ships, and trucks trailers, etc. In effect fossil fuels have little if any "start-up" costs compared to renewables at this point. That doesn't mean that if we were to invest in renewables they would never be more cost effective or efficient.

4) Certain costs of fossil fuel are almost impossible to calculate even as externalities. We can kind of calculate the cost of maintaining a military capable of securing mid-east oil supplies for instance, but when we lose 20% of our coastline, the entire city of Miami for instance, to rising sea levels, what's that worth? Look at the damage more extreme climates inflict, New York floods, California droughts, etc. Current estimates triple the costs of fossil fuels.

5) Finally, using the "cheapest" energy isn't necessarily the best public policy priority in the first place. On balance its entirely possible that paying a little more for energy will yield a better more efficient system of energy supply and distribution in the long run.

John said...

My MP response:

"When one compares alternatives, all "sunk" costs are ignored because they have been spent and there is nothing one can do about that. (ie except maybe salvage/scrap value) So the existing infastructure costs are ignored, and only the future maintenance, operations, etc costs should be considered. With that in mind, fossil fuels are cheaper for now. (except if one believes in CAGW causation & consequence "end of world" statements)

Now as for new power generation facilities, you may be correct and that is likely why we have so many windmills back home in SW MN. However that does not mean that we scrap out our "already paid for" power systems before their end of life.


jerrye92002 said...

Obviously his "externalities costs" include the terrible, awful catastrophic costs of CAGW. Since that is a hoax, his whole argument is meaningless. And if you really want to consider CO2 as a cost, along with everything else, why isn't the US energy economy run entirely on breeder reactors? No CO2 at all, and we burn up all the waste!

And he really needs to do the math before insisting that alternative energy is less expensive and easy to obtain. For example, we could generate 20% of US power from wind if we converted the entire state of Minnesota to windmills. No lakes, rivers, homes, farms, roads, nothing but windmills, power lines and service roads, and dead birds.

A little messy math, if I did it right, says that we could power Minnesota completely with solar cells if we completely covered the State with them, and they were 5000% efficient. Of course, there would be no place to live or drive or farm, so we wouldn't need the energy.

And the funny thing in all this? Fossil fuels are simply stored solar energy!

John said...

I thought it was most interesting that his source was "Actual Energy Costs Are Driving Us Towards a Natural Gas Nation" (ie not solar, wind, etc)

This is kind of interesting. Wiki Power Stations

This analysis says that you are exagerating again. EIA MN Power Apparently 1/7th of our power is wind generated already.

jerrye92002 said...

My math could be off, but I was considering TOTAL power use, not just electricity, and I find that "one seventh" number highly suspect, especially when the wind doesn't blow all the time. The other thing is that we buy a lot of power from elsewhere, so 1/7 of MN-only capacity doesn't tell the story. If wind was that big a part of the total, and all the costs (i.e. minus subsidies) were included, our electric bills would be much higher than they are, and they aren't. Excuse me for considering which facts I trust as contributing to the truth.

Now it is true that many people are saying that the new fracking boom may make natural gas our new preferred fuel. Certainly for home heating it's hard to beat, and it burns cleaner than coal-- fewer sulfides, especially. But what I find amusing is that burning natgas or even ethanol, while it produces less energy per pound and considerably less CO2, produces huge amounts of water vapor, the most prevalent greenhouse gas! I thought we were all about controlling greenhouse gasses?

Why don't we just say what we mean? These radical environmentalists don't like people using certain kinds of energy, but rather than offer something cheaper, more reliable and more readily available, they want to force our existing choices off the market and force us to accept the energy THEY like. To them I always say, "you first." When their homes, cars, and businesses are entirely run on CO2-free energy that's non-nuclear (and doesn't kill eagles), we'll talk.

jerrye92002 said...

By the way, have you heard that the new solar plant in Nevada is threatening air traffic? Solar power has already killed more people in the US than nuclear.

John said...

Blinded by the Light...

John said...

Energy Comparisons

jerrye92002 said...

VERY interesting. It lends credence to the notion that natgas is the best fuel, UNLESS we are worried about CO2. It also indicates that the second best source of electricity is nuclear. But imagine if we would simply recycle our nuclear fuel (as Jimmy Carter prohibited) or use breeder reactors. The cost per unit would be cut by 99%, making it the vastly superior choice!

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