Sunday, November 03, 2013
Baffin Is. again
Don J. Easterbrook is the latest (below) to dynamite the stupid Baffin Is. study
Miller et al. radiocarbon dated 145 rooted tundra plants revealed by receding ice in the eastern Canadian Arctic and say that it constitutes the first direct evidence that recent temperatures now exceed those of any century in the Holocene, including the Holocene Thermal Maximum.
They further contend that (1) average summer temperatures of the last ~100 years were higher than any century in the past 44,000 years and suggest that present temperatures have not been exceeded in the past ~120,000 years, at or near the end of the last interglaciation, and (2) they conclude that this ‘unprecedented’ warming was caused by anthropogenic increases in greenhouse gases. So let’s look at some of the assumptions that form the basis for their conclusions and compare their conclusions to other Arctic data.
Assertions and assumptions by Miller et al.:
 Miller el al. contend that “although glaciers are frequently associated with deep and widespread erosion, small, cold-based ice caps that mantle relatively flat terrain typically advance by lateral accretion rather than by basal flow, and are thus capable of preserving even the most delicate features of the landscape. As these ice caps recede, they often reveal rooted tundra plants that were living at the time snow and ice last covered the site.” They further contend that “Surface-elevation contours of the continental Laurentide Ice Sheet (LIS) show that all four ice caps with pre-Holocene dated plants were above the surface of the LIS at its last glacial maximum. These sites thus supported only local ice caps then as now. And, because the ice caps occupy flat summits of less than 0.2 km2 surrounded by steep slopes, ice thicknesses of more than 70 meters could not have been sustained.”
The assumptions in these statements are:
Miller et al. assume that the ice caps are cold-based (i.e., basal ice is frozen to the ground below) and that there is no basal sliding of the ice and no basal erosion. However, deep fiords and ice-scoured scoured bedrock in the area attest to active subglacial erosion (i.e., basal sliding rather than frozen to the ground), although most of the obvious erosion is probably related to Pleistocene glaciation. The Greenland ice sheet just across the Davis Strait at the same latitude is not frozen to its base, and the average summer temperature at Clyde (north of the sample sites) is 3°C above freezing during June, July, August, and September (Fig. 5). Summer temperatures of all of the more than half dozen weather stations along the east coast of Baffin, where the sample sites are located, are above freezing during June, July, August, and September. Thus, the Miller et al. conclusion that the small ice caps in this study are frozen to their base is highly questionable and most likely not true.
Miller et al. contend that the Laurentide Ice Sheet did not cover the area of the ice caps and that there has been no erosion since the Eemian Interglacial 120,000 years ago. However, the Laurentide Ice Sheet (LIS) extended eastward beyond this area to the coast (Fig. 1) and reconstructed ice surface elevations show the area to be close to the 1000 m and 2000 m contours, i.e., close to or above the present ice caps. The scale of the ice surface reconstructions is not detailed enough to show exactly how high the LIS surface was at the sites, but at least suggest a good possibility that the area was overridden by the LIS. The importance of this is their conclusion that the older sites have not been disturbed for 120,000 years, but to make this assertion they need to provide adequate evidence.
The Miller et al. assertion that the ice caps were not more than 70m thick is highly questionable. The ice caps expanded noticeably during the Little Ice Age and even if the LIS didn’t overrun the ice cap sites, the ice caps must surely have thickened, especially since the surrounding lower areas were filled with LIS ice. Thus, their contention that the ice caps could not have been more than 70 m thick is most likely not valid.
 Miller et al. claim that recent exposure of moss by melting ice proves that modern temperatures at the site were as high or higher than at any time since the moss was covered by ice and that therefore present temperatures have not been exceeded in 120,000 years. But is this necessarily true? If a block of ice is placed on the floor of a room and the thermostat is turned to 90°F, the ice will begin to melt. If the thermostat is then turned down to 40°F before all of the ice has melted, ice will continue to melt until the floor is uncovered, but to conclude that the temperature had never risen above 40°F since the floor was first covered with ice would be totally false. The same is true of the Baffin ice caps—if moss is uncovered at today’s temperatures, that doesn’t mean that higher temperatures haven’t occurred previously. Thus, the Miller et al. conclusions that “temperatures of the past century must have exceeded those of any century in more than 44 ka” and “there has been no intervening century during which warmth exceeded that of the last 100 years” are illogical and badly flawed.
One wonders how this bad logic got past peer review. In addition, we know from data in the Greenland GISP2 ice core that temperatures in Greenland rose more than 20°F per century at least three times in the past 15,000 years, well within the 120,000 years claimed by Miller et al. to have never been warmer than recently.
 Among the 145 14C dates on exposed moss in this study are 10 dates ranging in age from 23,900 to 50,700 years, leading to their conclusion that temperatures today are the hottest in >50 ka and most likely in the past 120 ka. They explain the disparity between these old dates and the multitude of young Holocene dates as due to higher elevations of the older samples so the younger sites could be exposed by melting of ice while the higher, older sites remained ice covered. But as shown by their data, this really isn’t true. Figures 1 and 3 show site M10-231v as an ‘Eemian’ site with dates ranging from 23,900 to 44,300 years. But ages at two nearby sites, M10-B226v and M10-223v, whose ages are shown as 2-3,000 and 4-5,000 years old, are higher than the site with old dates (Figure 4).
This totally destroys their argument for no temperature as warm as the present since the Eemian Interglacial. All they have shown is that melting of the ice caps on Baffin Island wasn’t complete during the Holocene and recent warming has continued the melting.
Comparison of Miller et al. conclusons with other Arctic data.
The conclusions of the Miller et al. paper are that “there has been no intervening century during which summer warmth exceeded that of the last ~100 years” and “average summer temperatures of the last ~100 years are now higher than any century in more than 44,000 years.” How do these conclusions stack up against other data concerning past Arctic temperatures? Let’s compare them with recent recorded temperatures in Greenland and with past temperatures derived from Greenland ice core data.
More HERE (See the original for links, graphics etc.)
Rosenthal et al 2013
There has been considerable recent attention to Rosenthal et al 2013: WUWT here, Judy Curry here, Andy Revkin here.
The article itself presents a Holocene temperature reconstruction that is very much at odds both with Marcott et al 2013 and Mann et al 2008. And, only a few weeks after IPCC expressed great confidence in the non-worldwideness of the Medieval Warm Period, Rosenthal et al 2013 argued that the Little Ice Age, Medieval Warm Period and Holocene Optimum were all global events.
Although (or perhaps because) the article apparently contradicts heroes of the revolution, Rosenthal et al 2013 included a single sentence of genuflection to CAGW:
"The modern rate of Pacific OHC change is, however, the highest in the past 10,000 years (Fig. 4 and table S3)."
In the press release accompanying the article, this claim was ratcheted up into the much more grandiose assertion that modern warming is “15 times faster” than in previous warming cycles over the past 10,000 years (though the term “15 times faster” is not actually made in the peer reviewed article):
"In a reconstruction of Pacific Ocean temperatures in the last 10,000 years, researchers have found that its middle depths have warmed 15 times faster in the last 60 years than they did during apparent natural warming cycles in the previous 10,000."
Rather than quoting the article itself, Michael Mann, an academic activist at Penn State University, repeated the claim from the press release in an article at Huffington Post entitled “Pacific Ocean Warming at Fastest Rate in 10,000 Years”.
However, both the claim in the press release and the somewhat weaker claim in the article appear to be unsupported by the actual data.
More HERE (See the original for links, graphics etc.)
J’accuse! EPA’s carbon dioxide regulations would endanger public health and welfare
J’accuse! was the headline for Emile Zola’s famous 1898 article protesting a corrupt and anti-Semitic French military that had falsely convicted Alfred Dreyfus of treason. Today I use these same words — “I accuse” — to protest the Environmental Protection Agency’s attack on coal use, based on false scientific claims about the “dangers” of carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants, and on EPA’s failure to acknowledge the harmful effects that its regulations will have on human health and welfare.
J’accuse the EPA of imposing rules that would abolish coal use for power plants, unnecessarily increase electricity costs, harm our nation’s economy, kill millions of jobs, hurt people’s well-being and living standards, and shorten many lives — for no climate, health or environmental benefit.
J’accuse the EPA of planning to gradually extend its carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas regulations to cover nearly all the hydrocarbon energy that powers our economy: for cars and trucks, trains and airplanes, factories, shopping malls, large office and apartment buildings, and even farms and other sources — and ultimately everything Americans make, grow, transport, eat, drink and do.
J’accuse the EPA of cherry-picking studies that support this anti-fossil fuel agenda, while dismissing severe shortcomings and misrepresentations in IPCC documents, and ignoring a vast body of scientific studies and empirical observations that sharply contradict EPA’s claims and decisions. For five years the EPA has waged war on fossil fuels, to advance its misguided view that carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels causes catastrophic global warming.
By substituting the words “carbon pollution” for carbon dioxide, EPA further misleads the public about its aims. People think “carbon pollution” means soot, which conjures up images of blackened winter snow and black dirt on cars that was prevalent before 1970, before environmental controls all but eliminated these and other pollutants associated with burning coal. Modern power plants emit very little besides water vapor and CO2.
Even as the United States has dramatically reduced its pollution and its emissions of plant-fertilizing CO2 per unit of economic output, worldwide fossil fuel use has increased significantly, as developing nations try to bring decent living standards to their impoverished people. This caused atmospheric carbon dioxide to increase from 310 parts per million (ppm) in 1950 to 400 ppm in 2013 (0.04 percent of Earth’s atmosphere).
For more than a century, scientists have known that atmospheric carbon dioxide contributes slightly to a “greenhouse effect” that helps warm our planet. Water vapor produces the same effect, but far more so, since its average atmosphere concentration is 10,000 ppm. All of this also means planetary CO2 levels will keep increasing, even if the United States destroys its economy to slash its own CO2 emissions.
Concerns about global warming resulted in creation of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 1988. Since then, the IPCC has published five reports (1990, 1995, 2001, 2007, and 2013), each one insisting that human CO2 is now the dominant factor in climate change and relying on computer climate models that claim we face future disasters.
The EPA uses these IPCC reports, models, and predictions as its primary source of information on climate change, and its principal justification for restricting fossil fuel use. The IPPC and EPA have refused to engage in discussions or debates with the thousands of scientists who disagree with their claims that humans are responsible for climate change, and that any future warming or climate change will be disastrous. They have likewise been exempt from any real oversight. In fact, the 2007 IPCC report stirred up tremendous controversy over major errors, serious omissions, and fraudulent claims that student papers and environmental activist reports were “peer-reviewed scientific studies.”
The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) were creeated in 2003, to restore balance and scientific integrity to this process — and ensure that citizens, politicians, journalists, and other people have access to the scientific findings that the EPA and IPCC have ignored. In 2008, the NIPCC issued its own scientific analysis, Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate. To highlight more IPCC errors, the NIPCC then produced an 856-page report, Climate Change Reconsidered: The 2009 Report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change.
The Heartland Institute helped prepare and publish these reports, and held conferences and media briefings to publicize their findings. Anticipating that future IPCC reports would have similar shortcomings, the NIPCC produced a 2011 Climate Change Reconsidered interim report, featuring scientific evidence and information that was not available for its 2009 report. Both reports can be found at www.nipccreport.org.
As the IPCC prepared to publish its fifth report in 2013, a number of its charts and findings were leaked to the media. This enabled the NIPCC and other scientists to examine the IPCC data and challenge many of its assumptions and claims. The NIPCC released its 1000-page report, Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science and a 20-page Summary for Policymakers, on September 17, 2013. Their principal findings are that:
(1) human impacts on climate are very small;
(2) any changes in temperatures that might be occurring or will occur in the future are too small to be noticed against the climate’s entirely natural variability;
(3) the IPCC’s 2013 report glosses over the fact that there has been no global warming for 16 years; and
(4) the IPCC global climate models completely failed to forecast this hiatus in global warming and the record lulls in major hurricane and tornado activity.
These NIPCC reports are available at http://www.climatechangereconsidered.org . People can easily compare the NIPCC and IPCC summaries and findings, by going to http://ipcc.ch/ .
EPA refuses to acknowledge the clear benefits of CO2 and moderate global warming, the need for fossil fuels to power modern societies, or the fact that atmospheric CO2 causes negligible warming. Thousands of papers and books showcase these benefits, and British science journalist Matt Ridley’s October 19, 2013, article “Why climate change is good for the world” provides an excellent summary.
Warming saves lives, while cold kills. Some 29,000 Britons died in this past winter because they could not afford to heat their homes properly, due to soaring energy costs resulting from the UK’s renewable energy and climate change policies. Increasing atmospheric CO2 increases plant growth and makes them more drought resistant. We are able to feed our planet’s 7 billion people in part because the 40 percent rise in CO2 since the start of the Industrial Revolution has helped food crops grow better.
After EPA issued its September 2013 proposed regulations, the Investor’s Business Daily said the rules would “kill the coal industry.” The IBD editorial stated, “Far from being a plan to clean up the environment, it is in fact a road map to de-industrialization and poverty.” The article highlighted power plant shutdowns and threats of businesses to leave the country due to escalating electricity prices.
Gas turbine combined-cycle power plants can meet EPA’s proposed standards for no more than 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour (MWh). However, even high-performance coal-fired power plants typically emit 1,800 pounds of CO2 per MWh and cannot meet that standard without CO2 capture and sequestration — a technology that has not been demonstrated for large power plants.
The unproven process is very expensive, requires one-third of a power plant’s entire electricity production, and then must find places where billions of tons of high-pressure CO2 can be stored safely underground. Such underground storage of high-pressure CO2 presents human and wildlife safety problems that have never been encountered in the United States. Because CO2 is denser than typical air, leaking gas would spread along the earth’s surface and suffocate any people, domestic animals, and wildlife in its path.
In 1986, CO2 emerging from a natural reservoir under Lake Nyos in the Cameroon suffocated 1,700 people and thousands of cattle. Similar events have occurred elsewhere in Africa. How ironic that the agency charged with ensuring the safety, health, and welfare of American citizens is promoting regulations that will supposedly address a global warming and climate change problem that thousands of scientists say does not exist — and is addressing that non-existent hazard by creating rules that will kill jobs, harm human welfare, and threaten unsuspecting citizens with death from CO2 leaks.
In summary, using poor science and a lack of judgment, the EPA has promulgated CO2 rules that are intended to drastically reduce or even eliminate our nation’s use of its huge reservoirs of fossil fuels. Once these rules are implemented, even more onerous rules will follow. Great economic damage will result, leading to fewer jobs, increased poverty, greater hardships, and reduced nutrition, health, welfare, living standards and life spans for our citizens — all in the name of preventing global warming and climate changes that exist only in IPCC computer models and EPA press releases.
Let's get rid of all the useless wind farms
By TERRY MCCRANN, a much-read Australian financial journalist
I STILL have a dream. Of that one day when we start pulling down all the utterly useless, landscape-blighting, bird-killing, people-punishing, so-called wind farms.
We'll leave a few, some stripped of their turbines, some left with a blade to turn lazily and even more uselessly in the occasional breeze; all, like fragments of the Berlin Wall, as testimony to the time when insanity engulfed our supposed intellectual and policymaking elites.
Why, we could even keep one as a particular memorial to a certain former prime minister and his "greatest moral challenge of our time". This one, shorn of its blades, to mark his squibbing of that challenge.
The Climate Change Authority's 177 pages of sheer drivel, released today, as disconnected from reality as an abandoned wind farm is from the grid, comes close to ranking as the high-water mark of this insanity.
Although it came after a pretty competitive week, after the hysterical fires fanned by the ABC and Fairfax media, and in particular down at Climate Frenzy Central, the Age broadloid newspaper.
For the Big C, as the CCA styles itself, was not content with just doubling down on the climate stupidity, it tripled down in its draft report.
Indeed, it was even gathering its collective loins, to quintuple down in its final, and hopefully FINAL, as in ever, report early next year.
Thanks to Julia Gillard and Bob Brown - endorsed so memorably by that in-chamber kiss from the squibber, Kevin Rudd - Australia is legally committed to cutting its emissions of carbon dioxide by 5 per cent by 2020.
Thankfully, the way the legislation was constructed, the 23 million individual Australians are excused from having to reduce their bodily CO2 emissions by that 5 per cent; or required as an alternative to buy the appropriate permit to emit.
Well, the CCA says that's "inadequate". It said, we've got to shoot for at least 15 per cent; and it left little doubt that it really thought 25 per cent was where we should be aiming.
That's hardly surprising given the troika of professorial climate hysterics, Hamilton (Clive), Karoly (David) and Quiggin (John) that are the CCA's core. It's only surprising they didn't persuade their fellow members to shoot for something more tangible - like closing down all our real power stations by 2020.
The central argument from the CCA for bigger CO2 emission cuts, was that "evidence is also mounting" that several other comparable countries were "gearing up" to reduce their emissions even more aggressively by 2020.
This was followed by the usual 'what will they think of us' bleat from the policy activist, that a 5 per cent target would leave Australia lagging behind others, including the US.
Well, Greg Sheridan at our sister paper The Australian, utterly shredded that claim two weeks ago, so far as action through an emissions trading scheme is concerned.
Of the 195 members in the UN Framework Convention on Climate, only 34 had anything resembling an ETS and 27 of those were in the European Union - where the way it rigged the measurement of CO2 cuts around the closing down of inefficient former eastern European industry, has run out of steam anyway.
Japan had effectively abandoned plans for an ETS, Sheridan wrote. South Korea had one but was going to issue all permits for free. Some of the biggest emitters, like Indonesia and India, actually subsidised carbon-based fuels.
Yes, the US has an impressive target. It also stumbled on shale oil and gas - like winning the CO2-cut lottery. But it does not have either a carbon tax or an ETS and never will.
But it all really comes back to the carbon elephant in the room: China. Which of course buys a lot of coal and iron ore from us and turns that into steel, a little bit of power and a lot of CO2.
It is this context that the CCA lives up to its claim of independence. It just failed to add, that was, independence from reason. The world it projects of robust action on cutting CO2 emissions is like an alternative universe - a universe that exists only in the delusions of especially Hamilton and Quiggin. But now it would appear also, of their fellow CCA members.
The report claimed that China was stepping up its efforts to "reduce emissions." And that it was "investing heavily in renewable energy projects, closing inefficient coal power plants".
The first is simply and completely untrue. As the fine print of the CCA report itself noted, China is only aiming to cut CO2 emission intensity not emissions per se. By cutting emissions per unit of GDP by 40-45 per cent by 2020.
That might sound impressive, but given China's phenomenal pace of growth, its actual total emissions in 2020 will be significantly higher than they are today.
Do the math and the very best outcome would see China increase its emissions between now and 2020 by more than the total of Australia's emissions.
More realistic projections would see China increase its emissions by up to `10 Australia's.' That's to say, China would go up by perhaps 200 times as much as we cut at 5 per cent; by 67 times as much even if we cut by 15 per cent,
And that's assuming it actually met its target. It's not binding; and as even the Sydney Morning Herald has noted in an analysis from Reuters, China's actual carbon intensity was unchanged from 2009 to 2011.
The third CCA claim is a deliberate constructive lie. Yes, China is closing down old coal-fired power stations - to reduce REAL pollution, the dirty little bits of grit that really does kill people in poor energy-deprived countries.
But is replacing them with modern plants that pump out just as much CO2 plant food, but does it cleanly. Indeed, it's building far more than it replaces.
As the Economist Intelligence Unit noted in an analysis in July, China's CO2 emissions were headed for a 40 per cent INCREASE by 2020. Why? Because of rapidly expanding coal-fired power generation.
The CCA report is worse than a disgrace. It proposes wilful pain on all Australians and extraordinarily serious damage to the economy.
To cut emissions by 25 per cent in just seven years would require us to send the economy into recession, or write out multi-billion dollar cheques to foreigners, just for `permission' to keep our lights on and (any remaining) factories operating.
And all for utterly no point. Even if you believe the climate hysteria, it would make no difference to global or indeed Australian temperatures; and the CCA lies aside, the rest of the world is NOT following anyway.
The report could just as well have been written by Bob Brown and Christine Milne. It certainly channelled all their fantasies.
Biofuel Policy Follies
In this Policy Outlook, Institute CEO William O’Keefe examines federal biofuels policy concluding that history of federal subsidies and mandates for ethanol and its derivatives (notably, cellulosic ethanol) have failed.
O’Keefe argues that federal mandates and monetary supports for biofuels have had little positive impact, but have come at great cost to the American public. He argues: “For almost 30 years, the U.S. pursuit of a biofuels policy to reduce dependence on foreign oil and improve air quality has been a case study in misguided policy and unintended consequences, namely, promoting crony capitalism. “
A particularly acute example of policy follow is the decision to mandate specific targets and timetables for use of cellulosic ethanol, O’Keefe says. Energy legislation approved in 2007 mandated use of 100 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol in 2010, growing to 16 billion gallons in 2022.
“The mandate in EISA, as well as the commitment in the 2006 State of the Union, reflects breath-taking ignorance and political hubris,” states O’Keefe.” The notion that government believes it can mandate specific targets and timetables when no facility and no technology existed to achieve any of the mandate’s goals is incomprehensible.”
Not-Ready-for-Prime-Time Renewable Energy Technology
Model T energy tech is no way to address climate change
“We have the tools—the technologies, the resources, the economic models—to deliver cost-effective climate solutions at scale,” testified K.C. Golden of the U.S.-based NGO Climate Solutions before the Senate Public Works Committee in July 2013. Friends of the Earth issued a similar statement in September: “We have the technology we need [to address climate change] and we know what needs to happen. We just need to get politicians to do it.” Tove Maria Ryding, coordinator for climate policy at Greenpeace International, sounded the same note last year: “We have all the technology we need to solve the [climate] problem while creating new green jobs.”
The implication is that humanity could deploy a suite of currently available zero-carbon energy production technologies and energy efficiency improvements to avert the impending climate catastrophe. And the idea has been around for a while. Back in 2008, Al Gore urged America “to commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years,” a goal that he pronounced “achievable, affordable and transformative.” His plan was possible, he explained, because the price of the technologies needed to produce no-carbon electricity—solar, wind, and geothermal—were falling dramatically.
As it happens, America did not take up the former vice president’s challenge. In 2012, solar, geothermal, and wind energy generated 0.11, 0.41, and 3.46 percent respectively of electric power in the United States.
Was Gore right five years ago? And are the folks at Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and Climate Solutions right now that the no-carbon energy technologies needed to replace fossil fuels are readily available and ready to go?
Not really, concludes a new report, “Challenging the Clean Energy Deployment Consensus,” by the D.C.-based Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF). Such plans, the study argues, “are akin to attempting large-scale moon colonization using Apollo-age spacecraft technology.” Such a feat may be technically feasible, but only at vast expense.
Would you rather drive a 1913 Model T Ford or a 2013 Ford Fiesta? They both cost about the same amount of money in inflation-adjusted dollars. The ITIF analysts think the advocates of immediately deploying current zero-carbon energy production technologies are essentially arguing that we should all drive Model T Fords now.
To get some idea of what would be involved in “repowering” America using only the currently available zero-carbon technologies, let’s delve into one of the more ambitious of the studies that the ITIF folks criticize. In a 2011 paper, the Stanford engineer Mark Jacobson and the University of California–Davis transportation researcher Mark Delucchi calculated what it would take to produce all the energy (not just electric power generation) to fuel the United States using zero-carbon sources by 2030. They conclude that this would require 590,000 5-megawatt wind turbines, 110,000 wave devices, 830 geothermal plants, 140 new hydroelectric dams, 7,600 tidal turbines, 265 million roof-top solar photovoltaic systems, 6,200 300-megawatt solar photovoltaic power plants, and 7,600 300-megawatt concentrated solar power plants.
Let’s adjust those figures to take into account the fact that we currently use 40 percent of primary energy to generate electricity. Making the heroic assumption that Americans will consume no more electricity in 2030 than they do today, what would it take to “repower” the country’s 1,000-gigawatt electric generation sector entirely in zero-carbon renewable energy sources? Keep in mind that the total asset value of the entire U.S. electrical system, including generation, distribution, and transmission, amounted to $800 billion in 2003.
Well, first we would have to install 15,000 new wind turbines, 155 solar photovoltaic, and 190 concentrated solar power plants each year. In 2012, the U.S. wind industry installed a record 13 gigawatts of rated generating capacity; construction of 15,000 5-megawatt turbines annually for the next 16 years entails a five-fold jump in the installation rate. Building 13 gigawatts cost $25 billion, which implies an increase to $125 billion annually, reaching a total cost over the next 16 years of $2 trillion. And that’s just for wind power.
The world’s largest solar photovoltaic plant has just come online in Arizona at Agua Caliente. That facility, rated at 250 megwatts of generation capacity, cost $1.8 billion to build. Achieving the zero-carbon repowering goal implies constructing 155 of these each year for the next 16 years. The costs would amount to roughly $280 billion annually, for a total of $4.5 trillion. The U.S. is also home to the world’s largest concentrated solar power plant at Ivanpah, California. That 372-megawatt plant cost $2.2 billion to build that implies spending of about $440 billion annually for 190 such plants, adding up over 16 years to roughly $7 trillion.
That’s just to build enough rated zero-carbon generation capacity to replace what we have now. As the ITIF study makes clear, most renewable power sources are highly variable in their production. The deploy-now crowd hopes that somebody will invent some way to store electricity so that it could make up for shortfalls when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind fails to blow.
A 2013 study analyzed by the ITIF researchers cleverly solves this renewable energy storage problem by oversizing—that is by building two to three times more generating capacity than would be necessary if they could operate near their rated capacity all of the time. This suggests that at the low end of this estimate would raise the estimated costs in the repowering scenario by 2030 to $4 trillion for wind generation and to more than $23 trillion the total solar portion.
But my calculations assume that costs for constructing zero-carbon energy sources do not fall over the next 16 years. The price of the Model T Ford fell from $550 ($13,000 in 2013 dollars) to $260 ($3,500 in 2013 dollars) by its last year of production in 1927. Assuming that the costs of installing current versions of zero-carbon energy production technologies fell as much immediately, the total costs for would still amount to roughly $7 trillion by 2030.
The ITIF analysis alternatively adds up all of the costs in the Jacobson/Delucchi paper to estimate that weaning Americans off of fossil fuels entirely by 2030 would add up to a more modest total of $13 trillion, i.e., 5 percent of each year’s GDP over the next 16 years. The upshot is that this repowering would cost each American household an additional $5,664 per year until 2030.
Are Americans really willing to shell out that much cash for zero-carbon energy? The ITIF report observes that a 2011 poll found that Americans were willing to pay just under $10 per month ($120 per year) more for electricity generated by renewable sources. In addition, half of Americans can choose to pay about 10 percent more to purchase electricity generated from renewable sources, but only 1 percent actually do so.
These calculations are just for the United States. Somewhere around 1.3 billion people around the world still do not have access to electricity. Taking the Jacobson and Delucchi figures for the world, the total cost to completely eliminate fossil fuels by 2030 would amount to $100 trillion, i.e., eight percent of global annual GDP. The global cost per household per year would amount to $3,571. The nearly three billion people who live on less than $2,000 per year simply cannot pay the prices needed to deploy current versions of renewable power technologies.
The ITIF researchers conclude, “The key to mitigating climate change is to make clean energy cheap enough to replace conventional energy without mandates, subsidies, or carbon taxes.” That’s entirely correct. But how to do that? Chiefly they advocate boosting federally-funded energy research and development from $5 billion to $15 billion per year in search of technological breakthroughs aiming to achieve dramatic cost reductions.
That overstates the efficacy federal energy R&D. But it does make a lot more sense than trying to force everybody into the equivalent of a Model T Ford.
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Posted by JR at 5:32 PM