Article

Energy Lies, Damn Lies

2037l

It used to be that the most rancorous online debate was reserved for questions about religion, especially how and what to teach children about their origins. But today as the climate crisis deepens and world leaders begin to act, policies are beginning to shift as they inevitably must. The energy transition is well underway, and the pyromaniac neanderthals are furious. Their lies, disinformation and just plain mean-spirited carping about energy questions have no equal.

They know that the world will eventually stop burning carbon. This inevitable shift will be of a magnitude not seen since the  industrial revolution. It will affect every area of human life and will ultimately save humanity tens of trillions of dollars. It will improve our quality of life dramatically. It will potentially cost some lesser number of trillions to make the shift. We have backed ourselves into a tight fossil-fueled corner. The winners in the transition will be newly industrializing countries, inventors of new energy technology, and consumers. First-world economies also stand to benefit enormously, with the creation of millions of non-exportable jobs actually manufacturing energy locally, instead of simply moving it from underground to above and/or shipping it across oceans.

But there will be huge losses for an establishment who, for generations, have been used to digging dollars out of the earth. And their sheeplike consuming colluders, who only care about direct out-of-pocket costs and short-term “git ‘er done.” Their chief goal seems to be to throw out as much bluster as they can, to scare the public as much as possible, to undermine and water down President Obama’s initiatives, and to prevent change. They paint a picture of renewable energy as something that’s ‘socialist,’ expensive, doesn’t work and will leave us not only bankrupt but shivering in the dark. And now, they’ve been exposed over at World Changing as using “denial-bots” to post climate-denialist comment spam. Shameful, but far from surprising. The carbon clan is fighting for its life. It has a death-grip on the world and doesn’t want to let go. Well I’m here to stamp on its bony fingers and watch it fall to its death.

As I’ll show in this article, the carbon clan’s positions are a self-serving, status-quo justifying, fossil-fuel-pollution-apologizing crock of coal-ash-slurry. And that’s putting it very politely. Every day of inaction not only poses potential existential risks to humanity in terms of greenhouse gas production, but imposes other direct social costs far into the future.

Lie #1 “Electricity from wind and solar costs 10 times as much as from coal.”

Source: David Frum on Bill Maher, April 3, 2009.

Truth: Wind has approximately 50% higher capital cost per megawatt as coal or natural gas, but this ignores the fact that it requires no fuel for the life of the turbine (20-40 years). Wind is marginally cheaper than nuclear and has no waste disposal problem. Total global energy usage is 16 TW. The global wind resource has been estimated at 72 TW.

Source: US Energy Information Administration

Lie #2 “New mileage standards will add $1,300 to the cost of an automobile.”

Source: Drudge Report (in red letters) linking to a Yahoo news article.

Truth: Is that the best the conservamorons can do? Automakers have been using this ploy for years, most famously in 1977 to oppose air-bags when they claimed it would add $300 ($1,054 in current dollars). While it’s possible that certain improvements in efficiency temporarily add costs to a vehicle, this differential nearly always narrows with time and competition. Manufacturers find better and cheaper ways of doing things, especially when the changes ripple through the global supply chain and change approaches and methods. The statement is also misleading, because it counts only upfront capital cost, but not the accompanying energy savings, which the same article states will offset the difference in 3 years. This kind of deliberatlely sloppy analysis also ignores the artificially low price of carbon-based fuel, which cost (pollution, future climate mitigation) is borne by the taxpayers. Oddly, this time the automakers stood with the President to support the current standards. Yet the neanderthal testosterone-monkeys are still whining: “No personal monster trucks *snif* it’s socialism, dammit, they’re not making the (oversized and inefficient) cars people want to buy *whinge*.”

Lie #3 “Hybrid cars don’t make a profit for their manufacturers, their batteries wear out, and are polluting, they’re noisy and horrible to drive, and they only make sense for rich, smug eco-nuts who have more money than brains.”

Source: Various hybrid naysayer articles over the years, topped by Jeremy Clarkson’s May 17, 2009 vicious Honda Insight review in the UK Times, one of the meanest, sloppiest and most sarcastic screeds ever written about an automobile. No joke, it’s worth reading just for train-wreck entertainment value. What a horrid little self-important gasbag Clarkson is!

Truth: Lifecycle analysis of hybrid cars shows that they produce only about half the CO2 of conventional cars of the same size. This study was done back in 2001, so I’m confident things have improved since then. The repeating of this lie by detractors is anything but an accident. Hybrid cars continue to grow in popularity, even proving their robustness in San Francisco’s taxi fleet, where rules required the retirement of Ford Escape Hybrids which were still going strong at 300,000 miles. Toyota has sold well over a million of its hybrids, even in a world of mostly cheap oil. Clarkson’s savaging of the hybrid CVT (continuously variable transmission) is just another example of how people would rather keep their conventional auto esthetic at any cost to the planet. I had a similar reaction when driving my Prius for the first time. I was on the freeway and had the distinct sense that the car was as gutless as an old Ford Pinto. That is–until I looked down and saw that I had accelerated to over 80 mph! Problem is, CVTs make it sound as if the engine is in overdrive without accelerating. But the car accelerates by keeping constant engine rpms and changing the gear ratio. A brilliant piece of engineering that saves a ton of fuel. And the Prius has a respectable 0-60 time of 10 seconds. Not a sports car, but not gutless by any stretch. I can break the front tires loose from a dead stop. And the car is still going strong with 55,000 miles, and a lifetime average fuel economy of about 46 mpg. Prediction: Non-hybrid internal combustion engine cars will be reduced to an antique auto-show curiosity by 2020. Get used to it.

Lie #4 “There’s one question that is the test of seriousness on this [alternative energy] issue, and that is nuclear power, yes or no.”

Source: David Frum on Bill Maher, April 3, 2009

Truth: Nuclear power is the most expensive method of electricity production ever devised by humans. And this is without even taking into account the non-existent waste disposal methods. Billed in the 1950’s a miraculous electricity solution that would be “too cheap to meter,” nuclear power has been reduced to a niche player everywhere but France. Nuclear electricity generation contributes about 15% of the global total, with coal plants producing about 41%. So to replace just the existing coal plants (not to mention the one new coal plant per week China is building) would require building triple the existing number of nuclear reactors. That’s a “when pigs fly” kind of goal. Only 4 steel companies in the world can produce reactor vessels, so it would seem a tall order even if it were economic. Frum must know this, and is therefore lying through his teeth. Jon Wellinghoff, head of the US Federal Electrical Regulatory Commission stated in the above linked Bloomberg article that the US has enough wind and solar resources to meet all its needs and “may never need another coal or nuclear plant.”

That’s all the debunking I can stomach for today. On a side note, I’m anxiously awaiting the delivery of my first test unit of a 3000K dimmable LED PAR30 halogen replacement bulb. It’s 500 lumens of precision spot lighting at 14 watts or 1/5 the electricity of a halogen. Expensive? Right now at $89, horribly so. But these will come down in a few years to $10 or less. They’re silicon, for crying out loud, the second most abundant element on earth. So no mercury disposal problem (as with CFLs). Replacing all our bulbs with these solid-state beauties could allow us to close dozens of coal-fired plants. Let’s get started!


Comments (23 comments)

db0 / May 20th, 2009, 12:38 pm / #1

I may not agree with your politics but when you pwn, you pwn :)

I'll need to channel you the next time someone denies global waming.

CybrgnX / May 20th, 2009, 8:32 pm / #2

Another common lie is that the small 50mi/gal cars are too dangerous to have on US highways. The fact they are doing just fine on other hyghways speaks volumes about american driving skills!!! As an X-cycle rider I can tell you that the little cars are safer then the bikes. But people driving while talking on the phone, doing makeup, reading the paper, smoking and sleeping all at once will probably be killed in the small cars…So what!!!
Drive safe like you are suppose to.

db0 / May 21st, 2009, 7:24 am / #3

Man, it's funny. Soon after I see you write this, I get linked to by "Anarcho"-Capitalist promoting the exact opposites
of what you're saying :)

BlackSun / May 21st, 2009, 7:35 am / #4

Oh, man, what gibberish. These guys have twisted themselves in knots to justify their position. You can always tell someone has an agenda when they start using the word "scientism." What that means is that "I don't like it when science contradicts me, so I refuse to accept science as the final answer."

What gets me about libertarians and resource cornucopians is that they act as if we live on an infinite planet. If we did, then they would be more or less right. I know we could disagree about notions of private property and enterprise. But it would be hard to argue against maximum production for human benefit if the planet posessed infinite resources. The other place Libertarians get it wrong is that they refuse to accept the concept of unpaid externalities as something worth addressing either economically or politically. Even on an infinite planet, you could still have localized problems with pollution which might require a Pigovian tax to discourage. Thanks for the link.

Valhar2000 / May 29th, 2009, 1:06 pm / #5

Would these guys deny the scientific community if it suddenyl turned around and said that climate change was wrong? I doubt it: they'd be all over the climatologists, going on about how good and reliable they are (though not before patting themselves on the back, of course).

db0 / May 21st, 2009, 7:24 am / #6

Man, it's funny. Soon after I see you write this, I get linked to by "Anarcho"-Capitalist promoting the exact opposites
of what you're saying :)

Steve / May 22nd, 2009, 11:37 am / #7

Sean,

Your polemic against "neanderthal testosterone-monkeys" rocks the house!

When are you going to start writing a book!?

Steve

Kerry Soloway / June 5th, 2009, 6:46 pm / #8

Sean,

There is a reason that some of us question global warming. That is, this is the same scientific community that told us, around thirty years ago, that burning all of these fossil fuels would lead to global cooling.

What will they tell us thirty years from now?

Don't get me wrong. There are plenty of other reasons to be for wind energy, geothermal, ocean currents, whatever. Simply to keep our money in this country and out of the hands of those that are opposed to the American way of life is reason enough. And there are other reasons as well.

But being a global warming agnostic doesn't make one an idiot or the devil.

I would think that you, of all people, would question a charismatic leader like Al Gore (okay, charismatic is going too far), who says that his way is the only way. It is an inconvenient truth that Al Gore uses 20 times the energy for his home than the average American. We have all known hypocrites and they don't exist only in the spiritual community.

Yes, I may be a global warming agnostic but that doesn't stop me from purchasing the most energy efficient products that I am able. If dimmable cfls were less expensive I would be virtually incandescent free at this point.

It is possible to question climate change and remain a conservationist.

Kerry

BlackSun / June 5th, 2009, 10:10 pm / #9

Hey, Kerry,
Actually the reports of a controversy are overblown. It's always been a media controversy, not a scientific one. No serious climatologist questions what's happening. As for the "science was wrong before" defense, remember what computers were like 30 years ago? Well that's what they were using to run climate models. I'll trust the modern models, which are (no exaggeration) being run on computers that are at least a billion times more powerful. There's also a bunch of climate measuring satellites that didn't exist back then. They all agree. Just take a look at the NASA data at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies. It's unequivocal.
As for something simple and intuituve, maybe you're referring to the idea that carbon soot reduces the amount of energy hitting the earth? But C02 is a much more powerful driver of the climate. If it weren't for soot in the atmosphere causing a slight amount of cooling, the situation would be even worse.

BlackSun / June 5th, 2009, 10:11 pm / #10

You're right there are many other reasons to switch to renewables. But manufactured controversy is as bad a problem as climate change. Because if you can't trust your scientists, how do you make good policy? There's no such thing as being "agnostic" about science. There's a method, and you follow it.
As for Al Gore, about the only thing he has to apologize for is that he may have actually understated the dangers. He will be remembered as a sage and a prescient voice in our time. That is, if we listen to what he said and don't cook our grandchildren.
If you really want to get a sense of the epic scope and scale of the problem, and what kind of heroic actions will be needed to solve it, you need to read Thomas Friedman's "Hot, Flat, and Crowded." The good news is that in fixing this we will actually create a more livable and prosperous world. But we can't underestimate the opposition from both the well-intentioned and those with ulterior motives.

BlackSun / June 5th, 2009, 10:14 pm / #11

Doing the right thing for the wrong reason is better than nothing. But best of all would be to just listen to the people who know what the hell they're talking about. We need to look at every aspect of human existence from a systems perspective and make the right choices about everything from growing food to how we get around, how we inhabit the landscape, and how we get our energy. It's going to take far, far, far more than changing light bulbs.

BlackSun / June 5th, 2009, 10:14 pm / #12

Our thinking has to catch up with our technology. The earth cannot continue to be treated as an unregulated commons. All of us are interconnected by resource use and waste disposal. It was never an infinite resource to begin with. But 30 years ago there were four billiion people. Now there are seven. In 30 more years, there will be nine billion. Every new birth reduces the available resources per person even further. Americans are the real hypocrites–with 5% of the earth's population, we use 30% of its resources. This is a problem by any stretch, and other countries are trying their damndest to imitate us. If we keep it up, it's not just warming we'll have to worry about. We are headed straight into a brick wall in at least a dozen areas.
Really, check out the Friedman book. You won't regret it.

Kerry Soloway / June 6th, 2009, 1:09 am / #13

"As most of you have heard many times, the consensus of climate scientists believes in global warming. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had." Michael Crichton-The Case for Environmental Skepticism (http://tinyurl.com/qzp85a)

It may be that computers as a billion times more powerful, but even computers more powerful than those that we are using are dependent: A) on the data that is input, the accuracy of that data and the completeness of it; and B) on the programming that goes into the computer. These are still dependent on the limitations and biases of those collecting the data and designing the programs.

I am not saying that there is anything deliberate about possible errors but the fact that we are still all human.

"In climate science, it's permissible for raw data to be "touched," or modified, by many hands. Gaps in temperature and proxy records are filled in. Suspect values are deleted because a scientist deems them erroneous. A researcher may elect to use parts of existing records, ignoring other parts. But the fact that the data has been modified in so many ways inevitably raises the question of whether the results of a given study are wholly or partially caused by the modifications themselves. " Michael Crichton-Testimony to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (http://tinyurl.com/o6kb8n)

I look at the late Michael Crichton as a genius without an ax to grind. He has exhibited prescience in his fiction, a modern Jules Verne. Since he comes from a medical background and is accustomed to randomized double-blind studies, he bemoans the fact that nothing close to that exists in climate science. And that is why the predictions (and that is all they are–predictions) as to what lies ahead of us may be mistaken.

He has stated the problem far better than I could. Please take the time to read his testimony.

BlackSun / June 6th, 2009, 1:49 am / #14

Kerry,

Michael Crighton is simply not a credible source. I'm familiar with his rhetoric. This goes way beyond any single data stream or something that could be attributable to human error.

The experiment is running and we're in the test tube. Good luck to us.

Kerry Soloway / June 6th, 2009, 12:44 pm / #15

Well, I will leave it at that. It is impossible to have a discussion with one who says that there is nothing to discuss.

And yes, good luck to us.

BlackSun / June 6th, 2009, 5:26 pm / #16

I didn't say there was nothing to discuss. I said Michael Chrichton had nothing to add to the discussion. I discussed a lot, with detailed references. We are talking NASA, for crying out loud. You dismissed them all based on the glib statements of an author/doctor who is not trained as a climatologist. This you choose to believe, up against the entire, yes, consensus of the world's scientists, who have studied this problem with the dedication and resources greater than has ever been devoted to any other in the history of said world.

If you call that saying there's "nothing to discuss" then you have better logic than me. Hats off to you.

Black Lightning / June 14th, 2009, 8:08 am / #17

G'day,
I would just like to say that my Dad who has been a fisherman all his life can predict the weather better than any computer. Our weather reports here are just about always wrong, but my Dad gets it every time. I guess when you work your life dealing with the weather , the weather teaches you something.
The energy debate is all out of control, a guy here in Australia invented a car that runs on water, yes water as afuel, fantastic invention. Splitting H2O into 2 hydrogen and one oxygen atom and burning the hydrogen. Very simple although some American scientists have complicated the issue with the use of particle acceleraters etc.

Black Lightning / June 14th, 2009, 8:08 am / #18

G'day,
I would just like to say that my Dad who has been a fisherman all his life can predict the weather better than any computer. Our weather reports here are just about always wrong, but my Dad gets it every time. I guess when you work your life dealing with the weather , the weather teaches you something.
The energy debate is all out of control, a guy here in Australia invented a car that runs on water, yes water as afuel, fantastic invention. Splitting H2O into 2 hydrogen and one oxygen atom and burning the hydrogen. Very simple although some American scientists have complicated the issue with the use of particle acceleraters etc.

Black Lightning / June 14th, 2009, 8:08 am / #19

G'day,
I would just like to say that my Dad who has been a fisherman all his life can predict the weather better than any computer. Our weather reports here are just about always wrong, but my Dad gets it every time. I guess when you work your life dealing with the weather , the weather teaches you something.
The energy debate is all out of control, a guy here in Australia invented a car that runs on water, yes water as afuel, fantastic invention. Splitting H2O into 2 hydrogen and one oxygen atom and burning the hydrogen. Very simple although some American scientists have complicated the issue with the use of particle acceleraters etc.

Black Lightning / June 14th, 2009, 8:08 am / #20

And then there is the big disapointment of GMs decision about the EV-1 electric car that was set to be big until they recalled all products, crushed and scraped them and bet all their money on the Hummer. Bad move, no wonder GM has gone down the dunny. With decisions like that, that is where they deserve to be in my opinion.
I believe the best renewable energy is Tidal power, especially for places near the equator where the tide is absolutely massive. But you know Tesla has already worked out a way to use the earth to pass free energy around the planet. but that is the problem, it will be free. No power lines needed. So unfortunately for the capitalists there will be no profits, and because capitalism is the controlling force at the moment, we will not be seeing free energy.
So the three things I would like people to look into here are
1 Browns gas, as invented by Yull Brown
2 the EV-1 and the conspiracy of the electric car
and 3 Tesla's design for free electricity world wide
I admit I am no scientist, and have a limited understanding, but in these subjects I always have an unnerving feeling, something is always missing

Black Lightning / June 14th, 2009, 8:08 am / #21

And then there is the big disapointment of GMs decision about the EV-1 electric car that was set to be big until they recalled all products, crushed and scraped them and bet all their money on the Hummer. Bad move, no wonder GM has gone down the dunny. With decisions like that, that is where they deserve to be in my opinion.
I believe the best renewable energy is Tidal power, especially for places near the equator where the tide is absolutely massive. But you know Tesla has already worked out a way to use the earth to pass free energy around the planet. but that is the problem, it will be free. No power lines needed. So unfortunately for the capitalists there will be no profits, and because capitalism is the controlling force at the moment, we will not be seeing free energy.
So the three things I would like people to look into here are
1 Browns gas, as invented by Yull Brown
2 the EV-1 and the conspiracy of the electric car
and 3 Tesla's design for free electricity world wide
I admit I am no scientist, and have a limited understanding, but in these subjects I always have an unnerving feeling, something is always missing

Black Lightning / June 14th, 2009, 8:08 am / #22

And then there is the big disapointment of GMs decision about the EV-1 electric car that was set to be big until they recalled all products, crushed and scraped them and bet all their money on the Hummer. Bad move, no wonder GM has gone down the dunny. With decisions like that, that is where they deserve to be in my opinion.
I believe the best renewable energy is Tidal power, especially for places near the equator where the tide is absolutely massive. But you know Tesla has already worked out a way to use the earth to pass free energy around the planet. but that is the problem, it will be free. No power lines needed. So unfortunately for the capitalists there will be no profits, and because capitalism is the controlling force at the moment, we will not be seeing free energy.
So the three things I would like people to look into here are
1 Browns gas, as invented by Yull Brown
2 the EV-1 and the conspiracy of the electric car
and 3 Tesla's design for free electricity world wide
I admit I am no scientist, and have a limited understanding, but in these subjects I always have an unnerving feeling, something is always missing

Black Lightning / June 14th, 2009, 8:08 am / #23

And then there is the big disapointment of GMs decision about the EV-1 electric car that was set to be big until they recalled all products, crushed and scraped them and bet all their money on the Hummer. Bad move, no wonder GM has gone down the dunny. With decisions like that, that is where they deserve to be in my opinion.
I believe the best renewable energy is Tidal power, especially for places near the equator where the tide is absolutely massive. But you know Tesla has already worked out a way to use the earth to pass free energy around the planet. but that is the problem, it will be free. No power lines needed. So unfortunately for the capitalists there will be no profits, and because capitalism is the controlling force at the moment, we will not be seeing free energy.
So the three things I would like people to look into here are
1 Browns gas, as invented by Yull Brown
2 the EV-1 and the conspiracy of the electric car
and 3 Tesla's design for free electricity world wide
I admit I am no scientist, and have a limited understanding, but in these subjects I always have an unnerving feeling, something is always missing

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