Re: Metathread

1

The are completely unselfconscious dancers and I envy them their joy.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 5:51 PM
horizontal rule
2

Dave Barry once described the attendees at the Republican National Convention as people who were unable to clap on the beat. I thought this was such an awesome description that I practiced clapping at the wrong time.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 5:51 PM
horizontal rule
3

+y


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 5:52 PM
horizontal rule
4

You know, it's tough for me to judge how cliquey the site is, since my commenting has always been driven by a desparate desire for the approval of random people on the internet.

No, I'm just kidding. I was just trying to meet girls. Boy howdy did that work out!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 5:52 PM
horizontal rule
5

Just how many mambos have you mamboed at the DNC, horizontal apostropher?


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 5:52 PM
horizontal rule
6

Will that change with a black President? The bad dancing I mean. I'm sure that the Unfoggedetariat will continue to be snarky to those of opposing views, no matter who is elected.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 5:54 PM
horizontal rule
7

I practiced clapping at the wrong time.

I do not need to practice this. It comes naturally.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 5:54 PM
horizontal rule
8

My sense of conventions can be summed up by the pic of that dude in the elephant hat from the last RNC. Nerdalicious.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 5:55 PM
horizontal rule
9

What the fuck's with you people talking about the convention in this thread?

That said, the fact that Michael McDonald's on the program does not bode well for the dancing.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 5:56 PM
horizontal rule
10

this guy shows up at every public event in Missoula, Montana and dances. He's my favorite: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6IGIKlwZrPU


Posted by: Cecily | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 5:57 PM
horizontal rule
11

Who else is reading this thread title as "Meathead?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 5:58 PM
horizontal rule
12

Dammit, this whole thread is out of the clique.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 5:58 PM
horizontal rule
13

Look, Sifu, we didn't want to say anything, but...


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 5:59 PM
horizontal rule
14

11: me, every time I look at the sidebar.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 5:59 PM
horizontal rule
15

11: yes


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 5:59 PM
horizontal rule
16

Like hell I'm reading a 950 comment thread.

My convention thoughts: the cover band that's been playing everyone's exit music really sucks.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 6:01 PM
horizontal rule
17

OT: Can anyone recommend an affordable, annotated edition of (or containing) Pope's Essay on Man?


Posted by: Tiny Hermaphrodite | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 6:05 PM
horizontal rule
18

Hi, everybody!


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 6:07 PM
horizontal rule
19

Hi, Teo!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 6:08 PM
horizontal rule
20

Hi teo. Cool pictures.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 6:09 PM
horizontal rule
21

Cool pictures.

Thanks. Wait 'till you see the Chaco ones.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 6:11 PM
horizontal rule
22

17: The Oxford World's Classics of Pope is $18.95, and has decent (if somewhat minimal) annotations.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 6:11 PM
horizontal rule
23

It also contains both Pope's annotations and the editor's. If that's the only poem you need, you could just photocopy it out of a library book, but having lots of Pope around never hurts.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 6:14 PM
horizontal rule
24

OK, to make things more fruitfully meta around here, allow me to quote form the previous thread:

Can't we just link to the previous meta-thread from the New Pseud Day?

No, because I missed that day, dammit.

If you changed up your commenting style to interweave requests for advice on how to train your standard poodle to fetch, or bragging about your flower garden, or something else non-inflammatory, with the arguments, people would probably get nicer to you too. Not that I'm suggesting you should, just pointing out that you get uniform hostility largely because your online persona has nothing to it beyond unpopular political positions.

This is the biggest point stras refused to get: he didn't like the fluffy threads (or at least complained when they were predominant), but those are the threads that establish community cohesion. In that semi-nasty Ask The Mineshaft thread a couple weeks ago, Lunette nodded to my new baby as a way of saying, "I recognize you're part of the community, but I think you're being an asshole."* That's a very different sentiment than Shearer gets, and a slightly different one than stras got. It's not because I'm "in" - I've never met any of you, and find the idea a bit odd - but because I treat this place as a community where I share things not always part of the immediate conversation.

I'd say the only useful definition of 'in'ness is whether or not you get the benefit of the doubt when you say something foolish or assholish (or that could be read that way). Which isn't to say that there isn't a more 'in' crowd than that, but as apo says, there's no actual benefit to being in that smaller crowd. When I was still new-ish here, m. leblanc jumped on my shit over something in a feminism thread, and B got my back because she had noticed me enough to recognize my comment wasn't bad faith. If the only response had been from m., it would have gotten ugly, or I would have just left. But it wasn't any social tie between me and B; she just had seen enough comments form me to know I wasn't being a feminism troll.

OK, dinner.**

* Actually, I think the clauses in there should be reversed

** See, James? That's how it's done. Now everyone has a nice image of me sitting around a table with my lovely wife and two adorable children, and they can't help but forgive me next time I say that baseball is awesome, or HRC isn't a monster.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 6:14 PM
horizontal rule
25

7: I practiced clapping at the wrong time.

I do not need to practice this. It comes naturally.

That answers this. Apparently the clique is *not* a claque.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 6:16 PM
horizontal rule
26

baseball is awesome

You dick.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 6:18 PM
horizontal rule
27

You dick.

You tube.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 6:20 PM
horizontal rule
28

The sucky band that's been playing people's exit music is the house band from the Apollo. Which surprises me because they sound totally white.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 6:29 PM
horizontal rule
29

Meatthread!


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 6:29 PM
horizontal rule
30

Get yourselves over to the convention thread, wouldya?


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 6:33 PM
horizontal rule
31

29: Meatthread!

Which is used to hold this together.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 6:34 PM
horizontal rule
32

Okay, I'll cop to being a nerd and worrying about the big picture even as we watch this historic convention.

My comment 952 in the previous meta-thread was about facts on the ground. About half of the Democrats voted for the Iraq war, including Hillary, and as much as I hate this war, I'm not sure they were wrong. But that vote contributed to her loss of this election.

Asked a different way, did Hillary lose her chance at this Presidency by being strategically "right" in a country that couldn't be told the bigger picture about oil and food and water and resource wars?

It's obvious that the public political dance is about distractions. You don't have to be an engineer to see a real storm is coming, and the world won't have 6 billion people when it's all over.

The Republicans have decided to simply horde the life boats for themselves. The Democrats, misguided as they often are, struggle to include everyone, "we're all in this together." I stand with Obama.


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 6:38 PM
horizontal rule
33

Like any honest discussion is going to take place out in public on this thread! Even now, the in-crowd is making mocking comments about me in private email.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 6:40 PM
horizontal rule
34

having lots of Pope around never hurts.
Say that in Pisa, Rome, or Avignon. Schism, bitches!


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 6:41 PM
horizontal rule
35

Eh, I still have a certain amount of hope that we'll transition away from fossil fuels without too much carnage.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 6:41 PM
horizontal rule
36

Even now, the in-crowd is making mocking comments about me in private email.

The lurkers deride you in email?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 6:42 PM
horizontal rule
37

Stras, i'm sorry to see you go, and I'm sorry that you felt that you had to comment under a pseudo-pseudonym.

JRoth--people remember plenty of details about you, and I remember lots of details about a lot of people who have posted them. I don't, however, know anything about togolosh other than that he grew up Baptist and is an atheist. I know bupkis about his location, and I don't know that much about zadfrack other than that he's embarassed by his racist relatives.

You have a lovely daughter named Iris, a wonderful wife named AB and spent years with the Bad Old GF.

The only really in in-crowd is the New Yorkers who seem to meet up a lot off-blog. Plus Bave Dee and White Bear are friends, but I think that predates the blog.

Speaking of people from Pittsburgh, does anyone know what happened to Cryptic Ned?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 6:45 PM
horizontal rule
38

Eh, I still have a certain amount of hope that we'll transition away from fossil fuels without too much carnage.

If there is enough money to be made in the transition, I think you have a chance. Otherwise, best to bet with the tried and true. War over resources is not exactly new.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 6:47 PM
horizontal rule
39

The lurkers deride you in email?

Now laughing friends deride / tears I cannot hide.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 6:47 PM
horizontal rule
40

36: The lurkers deride you[PGD] in email?

No, but Roxy Music does.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 6:47 PM
horizontal rule
41

SomeCallMeTim is definitely part of the in-crowd, and I don't think anybody knows the first thing about him, including me.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 6:51 PM
horizontal rule
42

41: Sure we do. He's a brain in a vat.

Seriously, he's got a sister -- I remember noticing that he'd slipped and mentioned a biographical fact when he let that out. And he's said enough about generational stuff that I'm sure he's right around your/my age -- fortyish, or a couple years younger, but not much.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 6:54 PM
horizontal rule
43

41. That's totally true, but he also has strong feelings about basketball and you do know what sports teams he favors.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 6:55 PM
horizontal rule
44

Perhaps I owe the courtesy of an explanation. Simple: I wasn't gesturing toward any in-group cliquishness around here. I just like stras, and am sad to see him go. Yes, he's received a lot of hostility, uncharitable readings, and what I chiefly cringed to see were some of the vastly overstated snotty remarks to the effect that everything he says is stupid. That's just not true, which fact renders it a personal attack.

I myself have no problem with people who are passionate about particular issues, and in stras's case, I've been glad that someone's willing to go to the mat over environmental questions as he sees them. It doesn't matter whether I agree with him all the time or not. He's linked to some things I appreciated being pointed to.

LB raised, and JRoth echoed above, a good point about incorporating non-political talk with other, more inflammatory discussion. Of course that's how you build goodwill. But you know what else is not true: that stras never did that. Why, why I distinctly remember a thread in which he enthusiastically talked about Herzog's film Grizzly Man, and excitedly told me that I must see it!

So anyway. That's all. I honestly don't want to take part in a metadiscussion. I just think that stras got beat up, over a long time, and some people were jerks about it: there was a 'get lost' message there which I'd rather see reserved for real, true assholes. I sort of wish he'd ever included an email address with any of his comments.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 6:55 PM
horizontal rule
45

37: Bave and Bear know each other through the blog originally, and Ned is still commenting under CN. You can tell it's him because he uses a consistent non-working email address, something like s@s.d. That's not it, but close.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 6:56 PM
horizontal rule
46

ss@dd, which I've always taken to be same shit at different day.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 6:59 PM
horizontal rule
47

44: I agree with you generally about Stras as a good person to have around, but it's not like several people didn't tell him that. I was cross at the name changing because I felt like an idiot having asked people to stop hassling him about it early in the thread, but that doesn't mean I wanted him gone, and I certainly said so, and wasn't alone in saying so.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 6:59 PM
horizontal rule
48

44: Yeah, if he had an e-mail address, I'd send him a message to say that I wish he wouldn't go, but I can't.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:02 PM
horizontal rule
49

It is unfortunate that Apo had to close the other thread before 956 got its full measure of recognition as the Greatest Unfogged Comment Ever.

The group dynamics around here feel less congenial to me than they did six months or a year ago, but to the extent that I can identify causes, they aren't susceptible to being managed.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:02 PM
horizontal rule
50

does anyone know what happened to Cryptic Ned?

He still pops in as CN - in fact, he commented on the straswhitheld foofaraw.

BUt we never hang out or anything.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:04 PM
horizontal rule
51

but to the extent that I can identify causes, they aren't susceptible to being managed.

I can be banned, or bought off with bud. At my age, I am told HQ sense might kill me. Think about it.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:05 PM
horizontal rule
52

49: I'm really sorry to hear that NPH, because I've missed having you around. Is attendantlord at gmail dot com a real address?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:05 PM
horizontal rule
53

48: He'd be inhuman if he weren't lurking for a while at least, so I'm sure he'll see your comment.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:05 PM
horizontal rule
54

50: That's because he said that he uses this blog as an escape from real life and shares things here that he would never say in person. He had absolutely no interest in meeting anyone.

Also, right now I miss ogged.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:06 PM
horizontal rule
55

49: 956? Are you sure that's the right number?


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:07 PM
horizontal rule
56

The group dynamics around here feel less congenial to me than they did six months or a year ago

That's because we don't have ogged around to draw fire.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:08 PM
horizontal rule
57

52: Oh, I didn't mean that I'd been staying away because it was less congenial, just that that's how it seems to me. I've been commenting less because I've been busier than hell, but I'm still at least skimming the majority of threads sooner or later.

The e-mail address is real, albeit not checked very consistently.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:10 PM
horizontal rule
58

48: Stras did include an email address in some of his comments. strasjones at-symbol gmmail dot com, or something. Presumably one of the "m"s was to be removed.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:11 PM
horizontal rule
59

47: LB, I didn't mean you, at all.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:13 PM
horizontal rule
60

35 ... The problem of scale is huge.

The world burns 30 billion barrels of oil a year. Imagine producing 30 billion barrels of anything every year -- milk, pencils, socks, peanuts, corn.

Now do it without the essentially "free" energy of oil, which until recently cost less as gasoline than the price of bottled water.

Now tell me how you're going to replace fertilizers, pesticides, plastics, and lubricants -- which are all made from oil. We even make clothes out of oil.

We're in real trouble here and there's very little time to find alternatives, not just to our energy demands, but our entire culture of oil-based products.

We're exhausted our aquifers, mined everything of value within a mile of the surface of the planet, and emptied the seas of fish, all with cheap energy. Now go get those things with expensive energy.

We can't yet make a solar panel which generates more power in its usable lifecycle than it cost to make, or someone would simply build a plant in the desert (powered by solar cells) and crank them out for pure profit.

At the same time we've awakened to the fact that releasing sequestered carbon will destroy us. So our new solutions have to be carbon neutral. You've can use coal, but you have to capture all the carbon or you're just killing your children.

This is a tough one and after twenty years in government hanging out with engineers of every stripe, not a single person I know is optimistic.




Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:15 PM
horizontal rule
61

But the Stras pseud thing from earlier today was sort of ridiculous -- I mean he kept denying his identity for 24 hours and hundreds and hundreds of comments after being asked point-blank if he was Stras. I mean, I was defending Name Withheld pretty much the whole way, I generally defend people with unpopular positions because I think the minority view tends to add the most to the discussion. Plus, I sympathize with how tough it is to take the abuse an unpopular view can take around here. People are awfully quick to label disagreement as "trolling", heap abuse on it, etc.

At the same time, though, there's very little real censorship or banning -- Stras could certainly have stuck around if he wanted to. So if you can put up with the abuse then there's nothing to stop you from sticking around. The funny thing about Stras' reappearance is that it was most likely because he genuinely missed Unfogged, but his pride was preventing him from returning as himself. I mean, nobody conducts extended "experiments" just to prove a point about the cliqueishness in a community unless they genuinely care about that community and their place in it.

All Stras really ever needed to do to become less annoying was to be less insistent on having the last word all the time. He didn't have to change his views at all.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:15 PM
horizontal rule
62

55: Absolutely. It is a thing to be savored, the distilled essence of...oh hell, I'm not sure of what, but I like it.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:18 PM
horizontal rule
63

SomeCallMeTim likes to dance. But that's all I know about him.

Stras and I agree a fair amount on environmental stuff.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:19 PM
horizontal rule
64

60: Emerson, how many of us do you figure the hog farm can support? Maybe the in-group thing is important after all.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:21 PM
horizontal rule
65

Stras and I agree a fair amount on environmental stuff.

I'd guess that most people here agree with stras a fair amount about environmental stuff. That's part of what makes/made his attitude so fucking annoying.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:21 PM
horizontal rule
66

The group dynamics around here feel less congenial to me than they did six months or a year ago

Well, Ogged was just a genius blog host. When he was on, he could deliver criticism and rein people in with this extraordinarily light and graceful touch. I don't think it takes anything from our current hosts to say there's a sense in which Ogged is not replaceable.

Plus, all the politics/primary stuff is tough. It was more of a bonding experience when the Bush Republicans were in charge of everything in the world and everyone could agree that they were EVIL.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:26 PM
horizontal rule
67

60: That might make sense if the oil spigot stopped running tomorrow, but it wont. We've got decades of oil left, albeit at progressively higher prices. At the same time, new technologies, such as wind and solar, are coming on line that will be able to provide more energy as price structures tip more in that favor. And, yeah, we could stand to do a better job at conservation.

Sure, there will be challenges. But it ain't Armageddon.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:27 PM
horizontal rule
68

he could deliver criticism and rein people in with this extraordinarily light and graceful touch.

Pshaw. I could do that. I just don't have the authority.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:29 PM
horizontal rule
69

Wait, does Emerson really have a new pseud? And stras left? Slow down you bastards. I just got a free gun with 17 round mags. Don't make me start waving that thing around in here.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:31 PM
horizontal rule
70

68 may be the wrongest thing on the whole internets.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:32 PM
horizontal rule
71

Oh noes! It's the police! Hide the comments!


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:33 PM
horizontal rule
72

64 ... don't confuse me for Emerson. He's way smarter than I am and I wish I wrote most of his comments. I think he's got a couple of years on me though, so I might eventually amount to as much.

In group is just another term for gated communities, and the wealthy are building them and figuring out how to include generators, medical, and law enforcement services behind secure walls. If you want to see what a big one looks like, try the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, complete with car dealerships and all the fast food joints you already know.


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:34 PM
horizontal rule
73

Wait, does Emerson really have a new pseud?

No, Not Prince Hamlet is just shouting out to him.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:35 PM
horizontal rule
74

69, 72:

60: Doom! Doom! Doom!

64: Oh shit, what will we do? Hmm, Emerson has a hog farm planned with a sustainable source of feed...maybe high-status Unfogged commenters could ride out the Doom! Doom! Doom! on a diet of delicious pork products?

/Standpipe's Blog


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:40 PM
horizontal rule
75

Let's not make "we just can't do it without ogged" into a self-fulfilling prophecy. We're doing fine. (Hi, ogged! I sure do miss those swimming posts, though.)


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:42 PM
horizontal rule
76

70: You noticed that, did you? No but really I could! I just don't want to. Like, seriously. Which is an obstacle.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:43 PM
horizontal rule
77

Also, I don't know exactly what happened, but I'm sorry that stras left (if that's what happened). With certain sorrowful and alphabetical exceptions, anyone can come back, so I don't see why he can't, if he wants to.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:43 PM
horizontal rule
78

(Hi, ogged! I sure do miss those swimming posts, though.)

I was hoping someone would post about those "marathon" swimming events at the Olympics. 10k is a long time to be in the water.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:44 PM
horizontal rule
79

HI OGGED!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:48 PM
horizontal rule
80

67 ...

Unless you're older than 50, the spigot will stop in your lifetime ... and unless I'm mistaken, you haven't a clue how you'll make heat then, or what you'll use for fertilizer to grow food. The days of sticking a straw in the sand and having free money flow out are over.

Water wars have already begun. The Israel-Palestine conflict is now more about water than land. Food riots have begun in a number of countries and food wars will get more serious in one decade. Everyone that can is beefing up their military. Don't you understand the real reason the right wing wants a physical wall between the U.S. and Mexico ... and know that we'll build it?


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:48 PM
horizontal rule
81

Eh, I still have a certain amount of hope that we'll transition away from fossil fuels without too much carnage.

Hope is a wonderful thing, but it's not the way to bet on current information.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:55 PM
horizontal rule
82

Tweety drunkenly talks shit at the perfectly reasonable hour of 11 to 12 odd and now you all are wailing and gnashing? Ogged's special superpower was his ability to troll B with a graceful touch. It's not rocket surgery.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:56 PM
horizontal rule
83

OK, here I am. Sorry I missed the end of the other thread, though I'm glad that I went on my bike ride.

I'm probably the least hospitable of the Unfoggetariat, partly because I tend to lose my temper and partly because I don't want to dialogue with everyone. In other words, I'm the biggest cunt here.

I'm less apologetic, probably, than anybody here about this being an in-groupy place. It's not like we control the fate of the world, or make rulings condemning the people we reject to lives of servitude.

With regard to Stras, he pissed me off because he always had to have the last word, because he seemed to believe that everyone who failed to agree with him on everything whatsoever was The Man, and because there was no back and forth or dialogue. But what turned me was his attacks on Read as a troll, and also a personal attack on me during that debate. That's the solution to that mystery.

Others I've been harsh to include Baa, Idealist, Shearer, McManus, Tripp, SCMTim and B. AFAIK I'm OK with Tim and B, and I'm working on Tripp.

I'll add my voice to the chorus of those who admire Ogged's management of the site. But may he be happy forever with the BPL!


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:56 PM
horizontal rule
84

Don't you understand the real reason the right wing wants a physical wall between the U.S. and Mexico ... and know that we'll build it?

I had assumed it was just a ruse to get the yokels up in arms about a stupid distraction, so they would continue to vote Republican and focus their anger on poor people instead of rich people. I had no idea it was really a plot to keep the Mexicans from drinking our water.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:58 PM
horizontal rule
85

-


Posted by: - | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 7:59 PM
horizontal rule
86

85: Just what we need.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 8:00 PM
horizontal rule
87

80 - the wall isn't anything but a jingoistic symbol for the racist faction of the right. It has no defensive utility and it will do nearly nothing to slow illegal immigration.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 8:00 PM
horizontal rule
88

rethinking 81 ... we've had this conversation. The outlook is a bit bleak under rational analysis, but it's hardly the sure-fire disaster some love to pronounce as `certainty'. I don't know that were likely to go anywhere new if we take it up again.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 8:00 PM
horizontal rule
89

Since we're in confessional mode: I'm actually Emerson's parole officer.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 8:01 PM
horizontal rule
90

I'm mean, but I'm pretty sure I don't count as a clique all on my own.

singletons are cliques too, Sifu.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 8:07 PM
horizontal rule
91

88 ... I agree. But where we started was a very long conversation about whether the facts on the ground supported a Democratic President taking us into Iraq.


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 8:08 PM
horizontal rule
92

I'm probably the least hospitable of the Unfoggetariat, partly because I tend to lose my temper and partly because I don't want to dialogue with everyone. In other words, I'm the biggest cunt here.

Whatever. You're prickly, but fundamentally here to interact with other people on something resembling a good-faith basis. There are plenty of other people who are only here in search of an audience (possibly without realizing it).


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 8:10 PM
horizontal rule
93

35

"Eh, I still have a certain amount of hope that we'll transition away from fossil fuels without too much carnage."

As the saying goes hope is not a plan. The problem is while there are substitutes for fossil fuels they are and appear likely to remain much more expensive. In one sense this is not an impossible problem at least for rich countries like the United States. If the transition means an annual 3% decrease in per capita gdp for 50 years this would just take us back to 1940 or so which is not the end of the world. However it is likely this would severely stress our political system and it might not react well.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 8:16 PM
horizontal rule
94

If the transition means an annual 3% decrease in per capita gdp for 50 years this would

This seems about as likely as a 3% increase in efficiency every year.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 8:23 PM
horizontal rule
95

Two random thoughts on the subject:

1) I fully recognize that the in-group contribute more. The most recognizable people are the ones that have the most and the smartest things to say.

2) I think that JRoth made a good point in the previous thread: It's actually striking to read really old threads and see how tight-knit it was, because there were a couple dozen regulars, most of whom had never met. Now a lot more people have met, but there are also tons more regular commenters, many of whom are newer. In fact, I think the famous unfogged affinity for in-jokes has declined. There are the old chestnuts, but it feels much less like a group of people joking with each other.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 8:30 PM
horizontal rule
96

The problem is while there are substitutes for fossil fuels they are and appear likely to remain much more expensive.

As alternatives are more widely deployed economies of scale will drive costs down substantially. I'm pretty hopeful that the transition to non-fossil fuels will be relatively straightforward, with only minor hiccups. More of a worry to me is a sense I have that the end of fossil fuel use will only come with the end of fossil fuels, by which time the greenhouse impact is likely to be quite severe.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 8:31 PM
horizontal rule
97

22: Thank you AWB. My local library is in a small town in Germany and does not have a decent contempory english editon available, so buying it will probably be the fastest way for me. So Oxford World Classic's it is.


Posted by: Tiny Hermaphrodite | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 8:41 PM
horizontal rule
98

96

"As alternatives are more widely deployed economies of scale will drive costs down substantially. ... "

Some of the alternatives like wind power don't scale very well.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 8:46 PM
horizontal rule
99

98 - there is so much money to be made that the R&D efforts are nearly certain to find solutions. This is based in part on personal experience. The company I work for is in the process of fund raising for some long term energy technologies, and there is tons of venture money around for anyone with a better than half-baked idea. It's not Internet circa 1996 level of ease of fund raising, but there is real money out there in large quantities. If a suitable set of technologies exist, they will be found.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 8:57 PM
horizontal rule
100

there is so much money to be made that the R&D efforts are nearly certain to find solutions. ... If a suitable set of technologies exist, they will be found.

These two statements are a poor picture of how new technology development actually works. Lots of funding and lots of eyes is a great way to incrementally improve some known technologies, it's at best a hit and miss way to find anything fundamentally.

We're definitely going to see incremental improvements in wind and solar, for example. Both of these have storage problems, etc. which are by no means certain to be solved.

That isn't to say that many improvement in existing infrastructure plus reduced usage where practicable can make a large dent. This has to be balanced against global demand growth of course. Depending where exactly we are (and nobody knows) this all may fall badly short, or it may not. Starting to transition out of dependence now as quickly as is not too disruptive would be smart (regardless of the tech) but isn't likely.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 9:05 PM
horizontal rule
101

Loved Obama's speech. He's promised to land on the moon -- energy independence in 10 years.

This is the most hopeful thing I've heard since Gore began preaching this goal. We know how to do the short-term piece, with clean coal, and nuclear as a stopgap, but that's only good for a few decades, not even a century. We either get to fusion, which always seems 20 years out, or solar collectors in orbit with beamed power. Nothing we can do on the surface of the planet can equal the tremendous amounts of power we use per capita.

This needs to be understood for what it is -- and Gore made the case tonight. This is a race for the survival of mankind on this planet. This is the first time either political party has embraced the deep reality of our current crisis and responded with a program of commensurate importance.

I'm actually kind of giddy.

I'll bet right now that Obama has a Nobel Peace Prize in his future.


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 9:07 PM
horizontal rule
102

99

"... If a suitable set of technologies exist, they will be found."

That was the premise behind the War on Cancer and the results were disappointing.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 9:15 PM
horizontal rule
103

Back to the metathread, now that I'm drunk, I just remembered that this comment isn't right: LB was mean to me too. I think she apologized, though, once she realized that my true belief was as absurd as I was stating, and that I wasn't just bullshitting. (By the way, the replacement of "bullshitting" with "trolling" is every bit as annoying and far more ubiquitous than the replacement of "yuppie" with "swipple". Stop it.)

Anyway, I only mention this because it probably means that other people have been hostile, and that I've just forgotten about it. I'm somewhat bad at holding grudges, especially against people I don't know for meaningless offenses.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 9:19 PM
horizontal rule
104

energy independence in 10 years.

That isn't what he said. He said independence from Middle East oil. We get much more oil from Veneuela,


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 9:27 PM
horizontal rule
105

I'm somewhat bad at holding grudges, especially against people I don't know for meaningless offenses

So WTF are you doing on the internets?


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 9:28 PM
horizontal rule
106

103: Brock ♥s drunken trolling.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 9:28 PM
horizontal rule
107

100These two statements are a poor picture of how new technology development actually works. Lots of funding and lots of eyes is a great way to incrementally improve some known technologies, it's at best a hit and miss way to find anything fundamentally.

Being actually involved in new technology development, I'm going to play the "real life experience" card here. Lots of funding and lots of eyes is *exactly* how you develop genuinely new technologies. There's no recipe that guarantees a particular outcome, but if you want to foster innovation you need to try a lot of different things and the best way to do that is to tap the creativity of as many different people as you can and give them the resources to try out their ideas. Market oriented approaches are ideal because they encourage not just multiple attempts at new technologies, but also multiple approaches to evaluating the risk/reward balance for potential technologies.

More to the point, we don't actually need genuinely new technologies, despite the doomsayer's predictions. We need substantial, but still incremental, improvements in existing technologies for generating and storing energy in a sustainable manner. The things holding back solar and wind, for example, are cost, not fundamental physics issues.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 9:31 PM
horizontal rule
108

104: like it matters who/where you get your oil from.


Posted by: disaggregated | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 9:32 PM
horizontal rule
109

Brock, I can't even believe that LB was mean to you, but I agree with you that "swipple" has got to go. If only because of it reminds me of "Swiffer," which, to quote from the infomercials, "gives cleaning a whole new meaning."


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 9:34 PM
horizontal rule
110

Sometimes you are so funny MC that I'm almost willing to forgive you for supporting HRC.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 9:35 PM
horizontal rule
111

The things holding back solar and wind, for example, are cost, not fundamental physics issues.

Two sides of the same coin.


Posted by: disaggregated | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 9:35 PM
horizontal rule
112

"swipple" has got to go

Yupple.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 9:36 PM
horizontal rule
113

Whenever I see "swipple," all I can think, via Mean Girls, is "Stop trying to make "swipple" happen!"


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 9:39 PM
horizontal rule
114

Yurple

yurple yip yurple yip yurples | its goin down!


Posted by: disaggregated | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 9:39 PM
horizontal rule
115

More to the point, we don't actually need genuinely new technologies, despite the doomsayer's predictions. We need substantial, but still incremental, improvements in existing technologies for generating and storing energy in a sustainable manner. The things holding back solar and wind, for example, are cost, not fundamental physics issues.

And we understand the laws of physics.

We don't understand the cells of the human body. "War on Cancer" is a completely different and much more impossible sort of challenge.


Posted by: satan mayo | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 9:40 PM
horizontal rule
116

As long as we're having this meta/meatthread, a question: as a newcomer, can somebody explain the provenance of "comity" as an in-joke?


Posted by: Pliggett Darcy | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 9:47 PM
horizontal rule
117

And, when it comes to the "War on Cancer", it shouldn't be discounted that survival rates today are a hell of a lot better than they were 40 years ago. It hasn't brought us a cure, but it has brought us significant incremental improvement.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 9:49 PM
horizontal rule
118

116: Nope. It means comity.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 9:49 PM
horizontal rule
119

107

"... The things holding back solar and wind, for example, are cost, not fundamental physics issues."

The facts that there are a limited number of good sites for wind, that a lot of these sites are in the middle of nowhere and that even at good sites the wind doesn't blow all the time are pretty fundamental.

Anyway replacing coal for generating electricity is the easy problem, replacing natural gas for heating is harder and replacing oil for transportation even harder. It is possible that things like mass commercial air travel are just going to go away.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 9:50 PM
horizontal rule
120

118: Really? That makes it funnier in both senses.


Posted by: Pliggett Darcy | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 9:52 PM
horizontal rule
121

115

"And we understand the laws of physics.

We don't understand the cells of the human body. "War on Cancer" is a completely different and much more impossible sort of challenge."

This cuts both ways. We understand the laws of physics and we don't know how to replace fossil fuels at reasonable cost so it is likely difficult or impossible.

We don't understand cells very well so maybe when we do curing cancer will be easy.

I think I would bet on a "cure" for cancer before cost competitive alternatives to fossil fuels.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 9:54 PM
horizontal rule
122

117

"And, when it comes to the "War on Cancer", it shouldn't be discounted that survival rates today are a hell of a lot better than they were 40 years ago. It hasn't brought us a cure, but it has brought us significant incremental improvement."

It is my understanding that this is just true for some forms (often rare) of cancer and there has been little progress for many of the big killers.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 9:57 PM
horizontal rule
123

I think I would bet on a "cure" for cancer before cost competitive alternatives to fossil fuels.

This is profoundly and provably untrue if by "cost competitive" you mean, as you should, "cost competitive after externalities are taken into account.


Posted by: Pliggett Darcy | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 9:58 PM
horizontal rule
124

You want to talk about physics? Electricity doesn't travel or store well, so as soon as we get serious about an electrical economy, we're going to need a superconducting infrastructure. $150 billion right there.


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 9:59 PM
horizontal rule
125

124: Yeah, can you imagine this country spending $150 billion on anything?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 10:01 PM
horizontal rule
126

123: You're right, but we won't agree on how to internalize the externality. I think we'll be stuck at just cost competitive for a while.

I should say that I'm incredibly pessimistic on the global externalities coordination front.


Posted by: disaggregated | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 10:02 PM
horizontal rule
127

I'm incredibly pessimistic on the global externalities coordination front

New mouseover.

Is someone keeping a log of these damn things?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 10:06 PM
horizontal rule
128

In the interest of keeping things on topic, I deem this the Stras Environmental Discussion Tribute Thread. You may proceed.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 10:09 PM
horizontal rule
129

Right now they are working on bacteria that can poop gasoline. They are making cellulose ethanol out of algae. They've just figured out how to get solar collectors to get power out of the infra-red portions of the spectrum, not just visible and ultra violet light.

There is some pretty amazing ingenuity out there, and there are more smart people alive now with more resources available to them than at any time in human history. Progress in energy development was stagnant during the era of cheap oil. But prices are high now, which means that funding is readily available. In 20 years, things will be achieved that you never imagined possible.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 10:11 PM
horizontal rule
130

It is my understanding that this is just true for some forms (often rare) of cancer and there has been little progress for many of the big killers.

It is my understanding that the condition of mortality still triumphs over the conditions of mortality.

Take that! o ye puny mortals involved in cancer research and such-like...the Grim Reaper will net his harvest in the end!...and your efforts will all have been in vain...

(Sorry James, but there's just something about how you tend to state things, that just sort of makes it impossible to resist the snarkitude).


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 10:15 PM
horizontal rule
131

Spike is clearly some kind of singularity-loving nano-groupie.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 10:17 PM
horizontal rule
132

131: No, I just spend a lot of time reading about people with jobs cooler than mine.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 10:23 PM
horizontal rule
133

Ice miners?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 10:27 PM
horizontal rule
134

IP lawyers!


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 10:31 PM
horizontal rule
135

Really, I envy anyone who doesn't work in a cube.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 10:36 PM
horizontal rule
136

IP lawyers!

I shit right-wing pundits!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 10:37 PM
horizontal rule
137

Spike does not envy me.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 10:41 PM
horizontal rule
138

I work in a tesseract.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 10:45 PM
horizontal rule
139

137: I think I recall that you once worked in a rhombahedron.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 10:48 PM
horizontal rule
140

That McCain's got charisma, though.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 10:48 PM
horizontal rule
141

123

"This is profoundly and provably untrue if by "cost competitive" you mean, as you should, "cost competitive after externalities are taken into account."

No, I meant market pricing. What do you think I should add to the prices of oil, natural gas and coal to account for externalities?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 11:03 PM
horizontal rule
142

I'm incredibly pessimistic on the global externalities coordination front

I seem to be having tremendous difficulty with my lifestyle.

Wow, I'm really glad I missed the Name Witheld thread. What the hell is up with that. Honestly.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 11:04 PM
horizontal rule
143

141: a pony


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 11:12 PM
horizontal rule
144

DS, sweetheart, I can explain it if you like. It depends on whether you like Stras. I would hate it, hate it, if someone drove you off in like manner.

Uh, seriously, people weren't paying enough attention to what was happening.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 11:15 PM
horizontal rule
145

What the hell is up with that.

Everyone shared recipes for tuna tartare, and then ogged showed up and killed some caterpillars with glue. It was just like old times.

OT: Why, when a fly lands on my screen, doesn't my pointer scare him? I'm creating movement underneath and around you, fool! Move! Why must I move my hand from my mouse to shoo you? I am teh lazy.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 11:16 PM
horizontal rule
146

You can spit on the screen. Or just blow air at it.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 11:29 PM
horizontal rule
147

146: The mouseover texts are coming in quick tonight, I tell you what.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 11:33 PM
horizontal rule
148

Stanley, just get the fly-swatter and smash the fly against the screen. Then wipe it off. Do it gently if it's a laptop.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 11:38 PM
horizontal rule
149

Being actually involved in new technology development, I'm going to play the "real life experience" card here.

Yeah, me too (it's a sideline). There is no current technology that will plausibly replace fossils used the ways they are at the moment. That doesn't mean we won't find it, and certainly a lot can be done with what we do have.

It's truly stupid given the state of things to assume that a tech fix will be found and move forward from that assumption. Far better to assume it won't but work for it anyway alongside doing the best impact reduction we can. A drop in replacement is pretty much a pipe dream, and even fully mitigating fossil fall off is highly unlikely if it happens fast enough (we can't really timeline this)


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 11:39 PM
horizontal rule
150

beginning of 149 should have specified energy stuff (very narrowly) is a sideline --- i do new tech all the time, just mostly not energy related.

Lots of funding and lots of eyes is *exactly* how you develop genuinely new technologies.

This is misleading, by the way. Without out funding and support, we're unlikely to develop new technologies, true. But genuinely new technologies are never arrived at by just throwing money at them. You need luck and convergence of ideas and a bunch of basic research too. And you can't timeline this stuff. Obviously you can't make progress without trying, but even if you try hard, you might not make much progress (battery tech, tokomak's etc.).

Pushing really hard only ever works reliably on refining technology (and even then, it can be a long slog with modest return sometimes)


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 11:48 PM
horizontal rule
151

it can be a long slog with modest return sometimes

New hovertext!


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 11:51 PM
horizontal rule
152

144: Driven off? The Unfoggedtariat are pussycats. This was a tough room.

I liked Stras fine, but never understood the whole persecution complex thing. Why cultivate an adversarial style of you're going to... and then what's with thinking a different pseud is going to... echhh.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-28-08 11:51 PM
horizontal rule
153

I'd guess that most people here agree with stras a fair amount about environmental stuff.

I would guess that many, if not most, people here agree with stras a fair amount about a whole lot of stuff, and that part of the reaction he gets derives from people's discomfort with being confronted with someone who holds positions with which they basically agree, but regarding which they've made many compromises, who has (apparently) determined not to make any


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:02 AM
horizontal rule
154

153: ben, you know, I want to agree, but I've doggedly averred to end my sentences with a period. And you, sir, are out of line with that convention.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:06 AM
horizontal rule
155

That's ok, Stanley, because I've vowed never to use "aver" incorrectly.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:11 AM
horizontal rule
156

155: I realized my error, but I hate you for it. So it's fine.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:13 AM
horizontal rule
157

153: Hi, ben. Yes, I agree with you regarding the way in which stras makes people uncomfortable.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:14 AM
horizontal rule
158

My middle name is "Insight", you know.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:19 AM
horizontal rule
159

153: To phrase it another way, stras is the inverse McMegan. His politics are good but he's unpleasant to associate with, while her politics are bad but she seems basically nice.

His politics got him enough benefit of the doubt for his personality to really shine through, while someone with different politics and the same personality would have been driven off immediately but with much less thought.

I seem to remember him saying that he used to be a Republican, and the born-again are frequently the most devout and the least tolerant of anything that hints of heresy.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:24 AM
horizontal rule
160

158: I thought that was a rumo(u)r.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:28 AM
horizontal rule
161

I am with soup biscuit on this. I think it is not simple to develop alternative technologies to supplant oil, and there are considerable technical challenges, both in basic science and engineering (yes, we know the laws of physics, but knowing newton's laws does not imply being able to understand the atmosphere, and similarly knowing quantum mechanics does not imply understanding the dynamics of chemical reactions). The problem is not one of funding alone. I am personally pessimistic about time horizons as short as
10-20 years, and I also agree that it is better to be ambitious about the work but keep expectations low.

There is an additional problem, in that an entire chemical and materials industry exists and is mostly based on oil. Even if alternatives to oil become viable, these industries will need to alter their basic technologies, and I don't think these sort of transitions are going to be painless or easy.


Posted by: TBF | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:28 AM
horizontal rule
162

search of an audience (possibly without realizing it)

When it comes to humor, this isn't always a bad thing. And by "isn't always" I mean "when it's actually funny."


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:29 AM
horizontal rule
163

Nope. Named after the car.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:29 AM
horizontal rule
164

163: Hybrid freak.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:38 AM
horizontal rule
165

152: DS, this is way past due, but I scanned that. Good work. I'm not familiar with that venue; that counts as a short thread! Can't tell if there's a community there, but that makes all the difference.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:56 AM
horizontal rule
166

Despite its various hierarchies, Unfogged can also be affectingly generous, even to forgettable occasional commenters like me. I know he's a recent part of this thread, and that makes me feel like a kissass, but I'm still extraordinarily grateful for inclusive gestures like the one W-lfs-n made last December. He made and mailed homemade mix-CD's to in- and out-groupers alike, and I really, sincerely appreciated that. It's just a small thing, but I try to remember it when I'm feeling cranky about the social dynamic around here.


Posted by: NickFranklin | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:59 AM
horizontal rule
167

I'm sure he's right around your/my age -- fortyish, or a couple years younger, but not much

So it's fortyish or a couple of years younger now, is it? I'm sticking with mid-thirties, thanks. My glass is half full.


Posted by: Charlie | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 1:53 AM
horizontal rule
168

Shearer:No, I meant market pricing. What do you think I should add to the prices of oil, natural gas and coal to account for externalities?

What would price would you, James, add to oil, natural gas and coal to account for the various indirect production and usage subsidies that the energy industries receive to produce at a reasonable cost? I say that because...

This cuts both ways. We understand the laws of physics and we don't know how to replace fossil fuels at reasonable cost so it is likely difficult or impossible.

...you seem to know what a reasonable cost (or an unreasonable cost) IS. What is it, anyways? 200$ per barrel of oil? 500$ A thousand?

If I was cynical, I suspect that you decided that alternative energy is unacceptable and then constructed your arguments to prove it. It's certainly valuable in such an argument to be the one defining 'reasonable cost'.

We don't understand cells very well so maybe when we do curing cancer will be easy. I think I would bet on a "cure" for cancer before cost competitive alternatives to fossil fuels.

So if we do have peak oil (I'm not convinced) and oil becomes even more scarce and expensive then alternative energy will become acceptable?

If I was jaded, suspicious, cynical and grumpy, instead of being the wide-eyed, inexperienced, groovy hippie moonbat that I presumably am, I'd suspect that you had rigged your argument to make the perfect the enemy of the good. So in Shearer world it turns out that we have replace the entire energy infrastructure at once in a week or two and since that would difficult or impossible and because oil and gas and coal will always somehow turn out to be cheaper no matter how much they cost, then obviously we should never ever do any research or build things because that would cost money. Money that could be much more profitably spent on ever more expensive coal, oil and natural gas.

max
['Luckily, I am totally groovy.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 2:12 AM
horizontal rule
169

This is going to be an unhelpful comment that illuminates nothing about in-group/out-group dynamics or anything else about Unfogged. Or at least if it does, it's not planned. I just wanted to say it once and get it off my chest. :)

Unfogged is interesting to me as a window onto how my life might - probably - would have gone without disability getting in the way. I can recognize shared values and...background culture, I guess is the term I'm looking for. But nearly all of you lead lives I find unutterably strange. Home ownership, jobs with schedules, travel, fancy appliances, eating out, expensive foods at home...heck, the ability to make impulse purchases with significant dollar values involved. My interior life remains solidly middle-class, but it's interesting to get these repeated reminders of how semi-working poor my exterior life is.


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 2:17 AM
horizontal rule
170

While we're being all meta and such, I guess I might mention that I still feel fairly bitter about treatment I've received about some of my tech-related positions, and I imagine that's one of the more minor factors causing me to comment here less, the main ones being the usual busyness, etc.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 2:47 AM
horizontal rule
171

Actually, I think the negative mood round here is down to either:

(1) The weather: it's windy where commenters are at, or there's a low pressure system in effect, or some such, as was suggested earlier, or;

(2) The convention: there's this horrible worry that Obama might give a bad speech, or seem aloof, or some such.

I really hope he does good, of course.


Posted by: Charlie | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 3:21 AM
horizontal rule
172

171 Naah, that whole thread was just Stras/Name not quite Witheld and Sifu being asses and everybody else piling in. Classic Usenet flamewar, the way the pressure build up. It was bound to happen.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 3:42 AM
horizontal rule
173

171.

(3) The election: there's this horrible worry that Obama might give the best speech since the Sermon on the Mount*, and still lose, because the small-d democratic process is so broken.

It's not true that this place is no fun any more, but certainly a spring has gone out of its step. People are feeling old and tired: trust me, I know.

I think I might go away for a while, it's not like I add much.

(*According to some accounts, he did.)


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 3:51 AM
horizontal rule
174

The facts that there are a limited number of good sites for wind, that a lot of these sites are in the middle of nowhere and that even at good sites the wind doesn't blow all the time are pretty fundamental.

The jet stream blows all the time, everywhere, much more powerfully than winds near the ground. You think just because it's three miles up we can't get at it?

http://www.abc.net.au/science/news/enviro/EnviroRepublish_182107.htm


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 4:26 AM
horizontal rule
175

More about grudges and hostility! Now that I'm sober I remembered this. Text and I are still enemies.

See, all my self-doubt last night was unwarranted--I can be good at holding grudges against people I don't know for meaningless offenses!


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 5:09 AM
horizontal rule
176

it's not like I add much.

So not true, OFE. So not true.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 5:14 AM
horizontal rule
177

We knew you had it in you, Brock.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 5:19 AM
horizontal rule
178

If you follow Brocks link make sure to scroll down to comment 266 by the rosytoed one. It left me, well, giggling like a fool.


Posted by: Tiny Hermaphrodite | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 5:54 AM
horizontal rule
179

This whole thing is a pretty interesting study in human behavior. Of course individual people will develop affinities, based on commonalities and convenience.

My job sends me on the road a bit, and in the time I've been commenting (what, 27 months with a couple of hiati) I've met fellow commenters in New York, Boston, Oxford, Kansas City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, and of course DC. I wouldn't think of going to Richmond on business and not seeing if Will is free for lunch. Or Oakland without looking up Megan. If I was to be heading for read's neck of the woods, would I reach out to see if she was interested? Of course I would. Who wouldn't? And if the answer is no, that's totally cool. It's a voluntary association, and we each get to define the parameters.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 6:04 AM
horizontal rule
180

179: stay away from my house, you freaks!


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 6:15 AM
horizontal rule
181

AJ, I don't (yet) know where you are, but that sounds like a challenge worth taking up.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 6:21 AM
horizontal rule
182

I suppose I should add that I also look up cousins, old classmates, crushes new and old, etc., etc when I'm on the road. Adding some few of you people to that mix isn't some huge departure in the way my life is lived. At present.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 6:25 AM
horizontal rule
183

Like any honest discussion is going to take place out in public on this thread! Even now, the in-crowd is making mocking comments about me in private email.

What is that three syllable word that starts with a P and means that you think everyone is out to get you?

Perceptive!

I kid. I kid.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 6:26 AM
horizontal rule
184

Is there a list of who is in the in-crowd? It is controlled by W-lfs-n and based entirely on one's grammar, isnt it?!?!

And Napi sends cool books!


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 6:28 AM
horizontal rule
185

||
Do we need a thread for nutsy GOP VP speculation? Pawlenty and Romney say it's not them (sorry Ben, I cannot say "they" there). Mystery Gulfstreams arriving from Anchorage, AK! Will Hillary Holdouts be EXTRA offended if JSM thinks he can win them over with the anti-choice Jesus lady?
|>


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 6:42 AM
horizontal rule
186

David Brooks is unspeakably bad and may be losing it.

Here's a nice takedown of Brooks

With Brooks it's all sly malice and deliberate monkeywrenching.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 6:46 AM
horizontal rule
187

Damn, I was working on a Pawlenty campaign song based on "London Bridge is Falling Down".


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 6:48 AM
horizontal rule
188

Sarah Palin's a great choice. Ready to be President after 18 months as governor of Alaska. She was Miss Congeniality in the Miss Alaska contest, which fits Sifu's vision of the vice-presidency perfectly.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 6:51 AM
horizontal rule
189

173 - oh no, do stay, we need to maintain (at least) the number of non-US commenters.

Maybe this summer is just a time of general disgruntledness. I'm 'on hiatus' from a small board of which I've been a fairly stalwart member for about 5 years. It's making me think about the unreality of the internet - it's a lot easier to walk away from these women who have been my friends for years (and I have long considered them proper friends), than it is to just ignore someone in real life. I might go back, I suppose, but I'm not exactly missing them.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 6:51 AM
horizontal rule
190

188: Hee. Now that they think it may be Palin, the folks at the Corner are saying things like: "a lot of the experience talk is overblown when it comes to foreign affairs."

Whee!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 6:52 AM
horizontal rule
191

Soup @149
I think we're talking about somewhat different scenarios. It looks to me like you are talking about making particular technologies work, whereas I'm talking about finding at least one technology out of the many available that can be made to work. The problem domain I'm looking at is therefore much larger and the probability of at least one success correspondingly higher.

Throwing money at battery technology may not work because it may turn out that the most promising energy storage technology isn't batteries. The ideal approach is to find ways to encourage market based solutions to these problems rather than top-down approaches because the top down approach inevitably has to pick probable winners. Government can (and IMO should) play a role in pushing the basic underlying R&D, but getting the technology from proof of concept to the point of ready for the marketplace has to be done privately both because the private sector is more efficient at that sort of thing and because having government involved suppresses potentially promising competing efforts by driving up their risk.

The upshot is that IMO the best thing that could happen for alternative energy development (both new sources and new infrastructure) is high oil prices. In particular high oil prices with a guarantee of continuing high oil prices down the line.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 6:52 AM
horizontal rule
192

"173 - oh no, do stay, we need to maintain (at least) the number of non-US commenters."

Yes, seconded.

This comments section needs you!

[I think the Kitchener 'tache looks rather fetching on me]


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 6:53 AM
horizontal rule
193

Will, for most people it's their grammar and, of course, a graduate degree that counts. You're in the in crowd because of the marvellous BR, and that whole single father shtick you've got going.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 6:56 AM
horizontal rule
194

On the fossil fuel replacement front, I'm going to lay some things out not because they're insightful but because no one seems to be piecing them together:

conservation=production
oil right now costs what it did ~30 years ago
We already know how to do certain things; we just haven't yet.

To flesh these out:

After the conservation measures of the Carter years, it took 10 years of economic growth to reach 1977 energy usage again, during which time the economy grew 50%, and during which time oil was cheap and Reagan shit on conservation. Some of that was low-hanging fruit, but at the same time, there wasn't enough time to make structural changes to save energy. So from a global warming POV, the old goals of dialing back carbon output to Year X were always realistic, even without significant alternative energies. It was just that people - and in particular Republicans - didn't want to do them.

For dire predictions of the poverty of an expensive energy future, just bear in mind that prices over the last 2 years are no higher than they were in the 70s. Yes, that was a painful time, but it was mostly the shock of it, plus the huge sectors of the economy that had been built on the premise of unlimited, near-free energy. We are not yet looking at anything unprecendented, which means we still have a zone for relatively low-pain transition.

We shouldn't be in the mindset that 2008 levels of energy usage are the baseline for the future. We could, in theory, duplicate our society and our economy using something like half the energy input, half of which is easily switched out for existing alternative sources. Quick example, because someone up above said, "how will you heat your homes?" Put a couple pairs of geothermal loops in the center of every residential block, and with modest electricity inputs, you get (potentially-)fossil fuel-free heating and cooling for every house on the block. That's a lot of infrastructure, but there's nothing magical or crazy-expensive about it - I have clients looking at doing it right now.

Things will have to change A LOT going forward, whether voluntarily as above, or involuntarily due to climate change and economic collapse. We've gone way too far down this road, and we'd be 100X better off had Dems won in 1980 or 2000. But, if we move quickly enough, we should be able to maintain our fundamental way of life* in a low-carbon future.

* As you may recall, my definition of "our fundamental way of life" doesn't fit with the exurban SUV driver's. While I recognize that, politically, that's my problem, ultimately, it's his.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 6:57 AM
horizontal rule
195

192: Are these 'stache pix in the flickr pool?


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 6:58 AM
horizontal rule
196

192 - can just picture it! Anyway, must not tell OFE we actually *like* him - he'd think we were arselickers. Framing it as his patriotic duty is *bound* to work.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 6:59 AM
horizontal rule
197

And . . . it's not Palin! Lieberman?!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 7:01 AM
horizontal rule
198

Romney's reportedly flying into Dayton, too.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 7:03 AM
horizontal rule
199

181: Grozny. 134/6 Prospekt Kavkazy. Don't use the main door, it's booby trapped.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 7:07 AM
horizontal rule
200

Pleasepleaseplease let it be Romney.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 7:09 AM
horizontal rule
201
A legislative panel has launched a $100,000 investigation to determine if Palin dismissed Alaska's public safety commissioner because he would not fire the trooper, Mike Wooten. Wooten went through a messy divorce from Palin's sister. Palin has denied the commissioner's dismissal had anything to do with her former brother-in-law. And she denied orchestrating the dozens of telephone calls made by her husband and members of her administration to Wooten's bosses. Palin said she welcomes the investigation: "Hold me accountable." Still, the allegations she abused her office could prove embarrassing for Palin, who got elected in 2006 on an ethics reform platform.

You don't win or lose elections with VP candidates, but it's really odd that the Republicans can't find someone without an ongoing scandal. The Alaskan Republican Party is probably the crookedest in the nation, the worst of a bad lot, with all important figures (Stevens, Young, Murkowski, Palin) in some kind of hot water.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 7:11 AM
horizontal rule
202

Damn, not Palin either, they say! Romney? Lieberman?

Has anyone been an unsuccessful VP candidate for two different parties before? Will this be a first?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 7:20 AM
horizontal rule
203

God, I sososo want it to be Mittens, but "they" say it is not -- leaving us with Droopy Dog, I think.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 7:21 AM
horizontal rule
204

It's gonna be Bob Dole, to make McCain look younger.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 7:24 AM
horizontal rule
205

Oh man, I so want it to Joementum.


Posted by: Chopper | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 7:25 AM
horizontal rule
206

There's got to be a warehouse full of "Loserman" and "LIE-berman" merch out there somewhere.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 7:28 AM
horizontal rule
207

So, was Obama's tie dark pink? I thought it was a stripey red, but in the pictures with his wife and daughters, and the girls are wearing pink.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 7:28 AM
horizontal rule
208

And he matches, was the point.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 7:29 AM
horizontal rule
209

Mickey Kaus remains an idiot.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 7:33 AM
horizontal rule
210

One of Chalabi's men has just been arrested for involvement in attacks on American troops.

Lieberman - Chalabi

Laura Bush - Chalabi

Dubya-Chalabi


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 7:35 AM
horizontal rule
211

210: Yikes!

So, it's not Palin, Pawlenty, Romney, Lieberman . . . Kay Bailey Hutchinson?? Bobby Jindal?! Petraeus???


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 7:38 AM
horizontal rule
212

Re: Palin:

Thursday night's arrival of a private jet from Alaska at the Middleton, Ohio, airport raised speculation that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin would be McCain's pick. Middleton is 25 miles from Dayton.

Rich Bevis, an airport manager at the Middleton airport, said that a woman, two men and two teenagers were onboard.

"This is the most secretive flight we've ever had," Bevis said.

Huh.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 7:38 AM
horizontal rule
213

209 - he's clearly unhappy. Airdrop him some goats, stat.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 7:41 AM
horizontal rule
214

Upon reflection, I'm holding out hope that the Alaska flight was actually a charter for Ted Stevens. Please please please.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 7:44 AM
horizontal rule
215

212: But they called her office who say she is in AK. Unless folks are lying.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 7:45 AM
horizontal rule
216

Wouldn't that call have been at like 4 in the morning in Alaska?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 7:49 AM
horizontal rule
217

216: Hee. Well, they called her spokesperson. Apparently they can wake that sucker up.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 7:50 AM
horizontal rule
218

It's gonna be Bob Dole, to make McCain look younger.

No, Ted Stevens!


Posted by: Ardent reader | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 7:51 AM
horizontal rule
219

It looks to me like you are talking about making particular technologies work, whereas I'm talking about finding at least one technology out of the many available that can be made to work.

No, you misunderstand me. None of the current non-fossil energy approaches is up for the task. A weak analogy: we're at the pre-digital computer `revolution' stage of playing around with vacuum tubes. Someone needs to figure out what the hell a transistor is.

And that sort of research does not occur on a time line, isn't particularly helped by mobbing it, and will never be particularly amenable to the start up model (so small companies are out. `market solutions', as you put it, have proven to be lousy at basic research, while pretty spiffy at the development side of things.

This latter is your `getting from proof of concept', and broadly speaking we agree -- but there is no proof of concept and it has to come first.

High oil prices will help motivate things, but like I said it's pretty much insane to *assume* we'll find a tech fix. There is a lot that can be done with conventional approaches + changing the way we do things. If energy supplies decline quickly, the latter part will be traumatic any way we do it.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 7:59 AM
horizontal rule
220

Who else is reading this thread title as "Meathead?

Every time Apo posts.


Posted by: asl | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 8:05 AM
horizontal rule
221

I have an energy storage question: How much of US power production goes to fertilizer production? Fertilizer is important for civilized life, is a store of energy, need not be made in cities. I don't know if fertilizer production is rounding error or not, though, and haven't found useful numbers yet.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 8:09 AM
horizontal rule
222

219 - It looks like we're disagreeing on the promise of existing proven concepts as well as our other points of disagreement. I'm pretty hopeful that solar and wind will provide a substantial chunk of future energy needs, along with biomass (not corn ethanol). There is also plenty of room for innovation in fission; I'm particularly fond of the Energy Amplifier concept, which has the potential to burn waste.

Anyway, I think we may have reached the point where we either have to deploy math or fight a duel. Perhaps both? Slide rules for two, breakfast for one?


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 8:20 AM
horizontal rule
223

Chris Matthews was actually going after some Republican PUMAs, demanding that they provide their source for their claim that Obama went to a Muslim Madrassah. (It's on the Huffington Post.)

Further, he even said, "This is a great day for America. Vote your politics, but I think we can all say that it's a wonderful thing for America that a black man is the nominee of a major party." Matthews was once a Democrat. He almost seemed like he might be again.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 8:41 AM
horizontal rule
224

My meta-complaint is that you all go off and start commenting in a new thread before i even notice it's there.

Hello?

Anyone?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 8:42 AM
horizontal rule
225

It looks like we're disagreeing on the promise of existing proven concepts

Yes. All the global analysis I've seen looks pretty bad if there is relatively quick falloff in fossils (this is the big unknown), even under extremely charitable assumptions about development an deployment of current tech.

None of this means we should expect the worst case scenarios to happen. I'm pretty much convinced we can weather these things reasonably well, but under anything but the best-of-best case scenarios it will involve restructuring large parts of major economies and the way we are living. Not that this is inherently a bad thing, but large changes are traumatic.

Anyway, I agree we should probably leave it at that superficial level; I really haven't the time today to get into it.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 8:44 AM
horizontal rule
226

221: I've wondered the exact same thing.

One of my big questions is how much non-fungible oil/NG usage there is. Shearer has noted jet fuel, there's fertilizer, and a million chemical processes. But I don't know if those are such small amounts (well, other than jet fuel) that they could go on indefinitely once we stop burning oil to make houses warm and SUVs idle.

A literally petrochemical-free future is unimaginable.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 8:46 AM
horizontal rule
227

223: Olbermann is top dog and Matthews is figuring that out. My guess is that within a month Matthews will be #3 at MSNBC after Olbermann and Maddow, and it would make sense then to put Maddow in Matthews slot and either switch Matthews into hers or sent him out on the market.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 8:46 AM
horizontal rule
228

225: Comity.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 8:46 AM
horizontal rule
229

re: 192

It's a joke. There was a famous recruitment poster of Kitchener. "Your country needs you".

http://www.silentmajority.co.uk/EUrorealist/HMQLetter/images/kitchener.jpg



Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 8:48 AM
horizontal rule
230

186: That Brooks column has to be the most delirious chunk of weird ever to appear in the NYT. The man must be writing in an Ambien trance.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 8:49 AM
horizontal rule
231

230: I was going to say Ambien.

Brooks could have been successful in an honest field of work. Going into hackery was a deliberate choice, and I think that he's sniffed the possibility that, after having thrown away his integrity, within a few years he might be an irrelevant, losing, discontinued hack.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 8:53 AM
horizontal rule
232

A literally petrochemical-free future is unimaginable.

I literally don't know what I'm talking about here, so feel free to dismiss this as uninformed speculation. But as I understand it, petrochemicals are important feedstocks for the chemical industry in terms of fertilizer and plastics and so forth because not only are they a cheap source of energy, they're a cheap source of organic molecules -- you need all those long-chain hydrocarbons to make stuff out of. It doesn't appear to me impossible in principle to, at some point down the road, substitute other biological materials -- whatever kind of bacteria grown in tanks or something -- for oil as that kind of feedstock.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 8:53 AM
horizontal rule
233

Plastics yes, but I think only energy for fertilizer. Heavy fractions of crude oil get used for plastics, light for energy. Deposits useless for energy because they're tar would in theory be useful for plastic and paint, though existing processes for purifying might need expensive alteration. Alberta oil sands are enormous. I think running out of plastic is far down on the list of concerns, myself.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 9:01 AM
horizontal rule
234

I think running out of plastic is far down on the list of concerns, myself.

Elitist DFH.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 9:04 AM
horizontal rule
235

One of my big questions is how much non-fungible oil/NG usage there is. Shearer has noted jet fuel, there's fertilizer

Pesticides are a big chemical input to industrial ag., as is the food processing chain (necessary for things like field corn, as it's inedible). Transportation kicks in as well.

Sorry for no cites I've got to run to a meeting. Fertilizer use is only unavoidable at current scale if you presume the current industrial agriculture approach, which isn't necessary. However, getting off the corn wagon would be pretty traumatic for the US.

The problem isn't petrochemical-free, it's that so much of current practice is predicated on the existence of cheap and available fossils. Re-evaluating that assumption could lead to really significant reduction in consumption, but it would surely reduce economic growth to some degree. Of course, we may be forced to (so better to do it on our own schedule).


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 9:15 AM
horizontal rule
236

above s/b pesticides are also a big input (in addition to fertilizer, which is currently mostly NG, which requires some import)


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 9:17 AM
horizontal rule
237

as a regular recent reader (c.12 months) and very occasional poster i would say

i: not clique-ish so much as clannish (and not unusually so) (and it's not a bad thing)
ii: in order to maintain a broadish range of types of voice you are quite fierce against certain kinds of intolerance (or -- rather less fairly -- characteristics and allegiances you collectively associate with intolerance)
iii: neither friendly nor unfriendly to newcomers, judging by my own experience; it takes time to get noticed if you aren't hunting (by being outrageous) to be noticed; usually when i post, ppl carry on chatting with each other as if i hadn't, bcz ppl are here mainly to talk to their chums and i'm not one yet
iv: this is a funny and affectionate and clever site which reminds me of one i loved years back which eventually fell out of love with itself
v: i miss ogged
vi: never end a list on (v)


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 9:30 AM
horizontal rule
238

I find your pseud intriguing, tierce de lollardie. Is it true that the Lollard religious movement was focused on reading the funny parts of the bible?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 9:45 AM
horizontal rule
239

168

"So if we do have peak oil (I'm not convinced) and oil becomes even more scarce and expensive then alternative energy will become acceptable?

If I was jaded, suspicious, cynical and grumpy, instead of being the wide-eyed, inexperienced, groovy hippie moonbat that I presumably am, I'd suspect that you had rigged your argument to make the perfect the enemy of the good. So in Shearer world it turns out that we have replace the entire energy infrastructure at once in a week or two and since that would difficult or impossible and because oil and gas and coal will always somehow turn out to be cheaper no matter how much they cost, then obviously we should never ever do any research or build things because that would cost money. Money that could be much more profitably spent on ever more expensive coal, oil and natural gas."

I do believe in peak oil and suspect we are there now. As the oil runs out the price will go to infinity. At some point (for each use of oil) alternatives will become cheaper. I just suspect the price at which they become cheaper (for things like jet fuel) is very high which means major reductions in consumption are inevitable. These reductions will be painful.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 9:52 AM
horizontal rule
240

what other parts are there?


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 9:52 AM
horizontal rule
241

The parts that aren't funny.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 9:53 AM
horizontal rule
242

Ecclesiastes and Job, much of Psalms.

I keep hoping to find that the later prophets, and especially Jeremiah, will turn out to be satire, but everyone I've asked who knows anything tells me that no such tradition exists.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 9:56 AM
horizontal rule
243

I could draw Leviathan with a hook, if I also had some ink.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 9:57 AM
horizontal rule
244

< flyby >

239: Whoa. Shearer and I are (worrisomely?) in agreement here.

< /flyby >


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 10:07 AM
horizontal rule
245

244: That's half the fun of having him around, no? The doubletakes when he says something that makes perfect sense.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 10:10 AM
horizontal rule
246

The problem isn't petrochemical-free, it's that so much of current practice is predicated on the existence of cheap and available fossils.

Well, and I guess my thought is that we could, conceivably shift enough of the current oil load onto other energy sources that the remaining unshiftables are affordable on the remaining, post-peak oil.

IOW, someone said 60bbl annually. If 40-50 of that is used for surface transport and home heating oil, then it's easy to see how we can stretch out the remaining 10-20 bbl for air transport and lubricants indefinitely (or at least 3-6X longer).

I'm just wondering if the split looks anything like that. From what I know, I think that we can get to that relatively low-hanging fruit without wrecking the economy or creating backlash*; I just don't know how much of the total energy basket is in that category.

* For instance, ~35% of all US energy goes into heating and lighting buildings; it would be simple to reduce that number by 1/3, and feasible to chip it down another 1/3, at which point you're well within reach of renewables.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 10:16 AM
horizontal rule
247

what other parts are there?

There's the Jim begat Joe begat John begat Jack parts.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 10:23 AM
horizontal rule
248

Those parts are too funny. Tolad Abinadab Bildad Hodad


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 10:35 AM
horizontal rule
249

246

"Well, and I guess my thought is that we could, conceivably shift enough of the current oil load onto other energy sources that the remaining unshiftables are affordable on the remaining, post-peak oil.

IOW, someone said 60bbl annually. If 40-50 of that is used for surface transport and home heating oil, then it's easy to see how we can stretch out the remaining 10-20 bbl for air transport and lubricants indefinitely (or at least 3-6X longer)."

But people aren't going to voluntarily stop using oil for gasoline, they are only going to stop when it becomes unaffordable (or alternatives become cheaper). I suspect finding substitutes for oil for lubricants may be cheaper and occur first. In any case I think the price is going to go up a lot.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 10:42 AM
horizontal rule
250

I think the famous unfogged affinity for in-jokes has declined. There are the old chestnuts,

… but you can only go to the oral-sex well so often.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 10:59 AM
horizontal rule
251

165: Thank you! The proprietor was (at least at that time, I haven't read him in a while) one of these "even-the-liberal" types the bulk of whose commentariat were eagerly pro-Bush. So there was a community of sorts, but the liberal commenters were definitely the turds in the punchbowl.

On the energy stuff, I'll say again that radical pessimism about tech "fixes" for Peak Oil pretty much buys into oil industry propaganda about alternative technologies and ignores a great deal of the technical progress happening right now, especially in materials science and solar energy. (The development of photovoltaic cells is rather a ways beyond soup's comparative example of people trying to figure out the transistor.) Having the technology is a near- to mid-term thing, not far-term and not pie-in-the-sky; and once oil's decline as the Single Big Technology is clearly established, I have a feeling that willingness to make money off the alternatives will grow by leaps and bounds. (We are seeing the early stages of this already, though as the article notes, a transition to solar power won't obviate the ugly geopolitics that came with oil; the Saudi Arabia of solar power is... Saudi Arabia.)


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 11:05 AM
horizontal rule
252

Oil provides 90% of transportation energy. When you start thinking about pulling that energy from a solar-powered electric grid, you get some painful numbers, so that even back-of-the-envelope accuracy is sufficient to frame the scaling problem. Given current technology, we'd need around $50 trillion of solar panel investment to run the USA on a grid.

~~~

DoE measures energy consumption in BTUs, the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound (0.45 kg) of water 1 degree Fahrenheit (0.56 degrees Celsius). America consumed 98 quadrillion BTUs in 2003, or 338 million BTUs per person (290 million of them).

That's 926,000 BTU every day for each American.

1 BTU = 1,055 joules (and) 3,600 joules = 1 watt-hour

Thus 926,000 BTUs = 271,369 watt-hours per day (or) 11,307 watt-hours per hour (or) 11.3 kilowatts (running continuously).

The amount of energy consumed every day by each American citizen is the equivalent of 113 lights of 100 watts operating continuously.  In a single 24-hour period, the bill would be for 271,369 watt-hours.

A high-quality 4-ft by 6-ft solar panel can be rated at 300 watts (in an environment with bright consistent light).  That's 12.5 watts per square foot.  Sunlight falls on a solar panel for 5 hours per day; so under excellent conditions we can get 62.5 watt-hours per square foot.

We would need 4,342 square feet of solar panel to return 271,369 watt-hours, or 926,000 BTU each day.  That's 181 panels of typical 4-ft by 6-ft dimension.  Let's say that in bulk, 300 watt panels (and their ancillary connectivity infrastructure) cost $1,000 each, so just the panels for this project would cost $181,000.

4,342 square feet is a square 66 feet by 66 feet.  That is the necessary energy for just one American. If it's not on your roof gathering power for you (and the energy for your manufactured goods), it has to be somewhere.

An acre is 43,500 square feet, or almost exactly the amount of solar panel surface area needed for 10 people.

For the 300 million people we have today, we would need 30 million acres of solar panel.

A square mile contains 640 acres.  The conversion gives us 46,875 square miles of solar panel.

By a nice coincidence, Mississippi has 46,907 square miles. So we need an area the size of Mississippi in a desert with:

$181K (panel per person) x (300 million people) or $54,300,000,000,000 worth of panel -- again, for infrastructure with a lifecycle limited to 15-20 years -- so each generation must wash, rinse, and repeat.

We're looking at needing an awful lot of improvement and conservation to bring that cost down a whole lot of orders of magnitude, and it doesn't even include the cost of rainy days, electricity transport and storage, and the cost of the energy in the stuff we don't even make here anymore but import.


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 11:05 AM
horizontal rule
253

But people aren't going to voluntarily stop using oil for gasoline, they are only going to stop when it becomes unaffordable (or alternatives become cheaper)

But to some extent it's path-dependent: kerosene is dirt cheap, but no one is going back to lighting with it just because of that. If plug-in electrics (which can do a lot of work as distributed batteries in an alt-energy near future) become ubiquitous and transit-oriented development becomes the norm, then we don't need to maintain the $8/gal. it takes to get there. Sure, people will pull out their old gas-guzzlers for joy riding, but once it becomes ingrained that we aren't going back to cheap gas, ever, then little fluctuations in the price won't get the SUV plants up and working again (at least not with ICEs).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 11:11 AM
horizontal rule
254

Given current technology, we'd need around $50 trillion of solar panel investment to run the USA on a grid.

This number is completely fucking meaningless, as anyone who puts any serious thought into the situation will realize.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 11:14 AM
horizontal rule
255

The development of photovoltaic cells is rather a ways beyond soup's comparative example of people trying to figure out the transistor.)

Don't misunderstand ... photovoltaic cells are well past that point, but they are not plausibly going to solve the problem. Same with hydro. Same with wind tech. Same with fission. Same with geothermal and all the other marginal effect ones. Same with *all of these put together* So yes, we actually are in that pre-transistor stage. We've got some idea of what might be possible, and we have clunky tech that won't scale up to it.

My analogy with the transistor was to point out how if there is a quick tech fix, it simply does not exist today, and it's really hard to predict when it will. We can do a whole lot with what tech we have, but the only plausible way it gets us out of the bind is in conjunction with radically restructuring our lives (and this part is more important than the tech)

Radical pessimism about tech fixes isn't `we aren't going to find one in time'. Radical pessimism about tech fixes is `we're all going to die'.
Radical optimism about tech fixes is that one will magically occur in time to save us from fossil decline without adverse affect on our lives and livelihoods.

neither positions are unsupported by fact.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 11:16 AM
horizontal rule
256

whups. "unsupported" should be "supported". I should probably stop typing fast and just not bother commenting when I'm in a rush.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 11:16 AM
horizontal rule
257

This number is completely fucking meaningless, as anyone who puts any serious thought into the situation will realize.

What do you mean?


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 11:17 AM
horizontal rule
258

There are the old chestnuts

Most people's hang considerably lower than that.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 11:18 AM
horizontal rule
259

254 well, i was hoping when i dashed off 252 i was drunk enough to be really really wrong. thanks for letting me know.


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 11:20 AM
horizontal rule
260

255: soup biscuit

I agree with that. I'll let you carry the torch for awhile.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 11:22 AM
horizontal rule
261

Is anyone building giant solar plants in the Sahara? If not, why not?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 11:23 AM
horizontal rule
262

261, we're not because we haven't developed a complete solar cell collection system that nets more energy during its lifecycle than it cost (in energy, not $) to manufacture.

This is the hardest part of the challenge to get people to understand. They price everything in their experience based on their life history, which is based on the price of the energy in everything around them being less than bottled water.

When we start pricing things in the energy it takes to make them, we'll wake up fast.


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 11:27 AM
horizontal rule
263

Is anyone building giant solar plants in the Sahara? If not, why not?

Because it's marginally competitive at best right now, and they're sure that the tech will improve at some point in the future. Plus, of course, no investment capital in Africa.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 11:27 AM
horizontal rule
264

Apparently they are.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 11:27 AM
horizontal rule
265

264 ... we have to build experimental systems and try scaling them to solve the technical problems of even having them. but current systems can only pay for themselves by being purchased with cheap energy based components.

we have to solve this problem. we have to keep trying until we get it. but we do not have a workable (system that nets energy) technology in hand yet.

note also that remote locations with good sunlight are a good fit for solar over generator or piped power.


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 11:34 AM
horizontal rule
266

255: in conjunction with radically restructuring our lives (and this part is more important than the tech)

I love it when soup says things like this.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 11:36 AM
horizontal rule
267

There's going to be a looong transition period. The world consumes less than 30 billion barrels per year, and estimated world proven oil reserves are 1.2-1.3 trillion barrels -- over 40 years at current consumption rates. Increasing oil prices will lead to more exploration in currently uneconomic areas, increasing reserves and making things like tar sands and shale oil more economically competitive. There are lots of natural gas reserves, and if anyone can make coal cleaner then there's enough of that to easily last centuries. Finally, there's nuclear, which I think has huge potential -- if people can crack the battery storage problem then so much could be run off power plant energy.

To add to that, conservation efforts totally collapsed after the 1970s, there's much that could be done with conservation.

I'm not worried about the collapse of industrial civilization or "running out of energy", just lower economic growth rates during an extended transition toward new energy sources. And possibly significantly increased pollution / greenhouse gases from coal use.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 11:36 AM
horizontal rule
268

Right, I seem to remember that one of the very practical current uses for solar is telephone systems in remote parts of developing countries. They don't need all that much power, but they do need it all over the place, and so powering with solar cells can keep a phone system going where there isn't a power grid.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 11:37 AM
horizontal rule
269

255: photovoltaic cells are well past that point, but they are not plausibly going to solve the problem.

Actually, solar has more energy potential than any other combination of technologies combined, and is the only plausible alternative to petroleum as the basis of an energy economy. Which is not to say that combinations of technologies won't be needed.

255: Radical optimism about tech fixes is that one will magically occur in time to save us from fossil decline without adverse affect on our lives and livelihoods.

Which, given that Peak Oil is already having adverse affect on our lives and livelihoods, would be completely wrong, obviously.

257: He means that numbers based on "current technology" don't take into account little things like R&D, which is sort of a major factor.

When I talk about oil industry propagangda, comments like 252 are chiefly what I have in mind. All of ehj2's numbers are based on current commercially available technology and the tacit assumption that there is no prospect of advances beyond it, but the R&D envelope is already past 40% efficiency and climbing, which changes the picture more than a little and explains why the rush to reposition for the advent of highly-efficient solar is already in the works.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 11:42 AM
horizontal rule
270

What do you mean?

I think the PV industry in the US is currently single-digit billions of dollars in size. This pays for production and indirectly for privately funded R&D. If the market for installed watts of PV power grows dramatically, it's suddenly much more lucrative to figure out how to bring down the cost of PV cells and you'll see hugely more effort spent doing so, and there's no reason to expect it not to work.

The photovoltaic industry has some specific issues in this regard. Right now, most semiconductor manufacturing research is driven by the electronics industry. Photovoltaic cells have much looser wafer purity requirements than traditional integrated circuits so it should be possible to create a lower-cost manufacturing process. But with the current small size of the photovoltaic market (or more realistically, the small size of the PV market five years ago), solar cell plants still use integrated-circuit quality wafers, or possibly integrated-circuit-reject quality wafers.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 11:42 AM
horizontal rule
271

254, 257, 259: I think 254 is too flip, but the point is that it treats several numbers as fixed that shouldn't be, the giant red flag ones being consumption and solar cell efficiency. The latter number hasn't seen any quantum leaps that make the things magic energy machines, but they've improved more, with less investment, than, say, batteries.

But it's the former number that matters. The current energy consumption per capita is incredibly price-contingent. As I said above, in the area I know best, buildings, literally 10% of our entire national energy bill goes up in foolish waste because energy was too cheap.* Our national fleet fuel efficiency is something like half that of Europeans' - and they could be doing better without driving funny 3-wheeled micro-cars that are anti-American. Remember that some significant amount of energy replacement doesn't require wind or solar: walking, biking, and living closer together can cut from both the consumer side and the supply side (in the sense of reducing distribution costs).

So let's say that ehj2's numbers work as they are, and we don't presume any improvement in solar effectiveness. They're still 2-3X too high, based on readily-achieved conservation alone. Oh, and ehjs is building solar panels to replace hydroelectric and wind power, which is probably unnecessary. And, of course, if we're literally eliminating all oil, then we can (from a greenhouse POV) afford to keep using an awful lot of coal.

* I used to work with a contractor building houses for ~$150k cost. We asked if we could get 2x6 walls instead of 2x4, for energy savings. He told us it would cost $1000 - and that he wouldn't do it. Screwed up his numbers (this was affordable housing, so the numbers were, indeed, tight). But this should give you an idea of how low hangs the fruit of energy efficiency in American buildings.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 11:44 AM
horizontal rule
272

Increasing oil prices will lead to more exploration in currently uneconomic areas, increasing reserves and making things like tar sands and shale oil more economically competitive.

This is worth emphasizing. Saskatchewan, to take one example, is at the beginning of an economic boom. They know there's oil under there; it just hasn't been worth it to try to get given the prices. Prices are high, and refining technology is getting better (and Alberta changed its tax structure), so oil companies are starting to commission exploration out there. Saudi Arabia is reportedly thinking of looking for more. (The technology they use to look underground changes very quickly.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 11:44 AM
horizontal rule
273

267: It might be 40. It might be 100. It might be 15. Estimated world proven reserves are a joke, as estimates. Much the same holds for NG, etc (which is falling off faster than expected in most places, aiui).


if people can crack the battery storage problem
We've been trying this, hard, for more than your 40 years and not got far. There are lots of breakthroughs that would change everything. That's why they're called breakthroughs.

We might have an extended transition, and we might have a breakthrough or two. But under perfectly reasonable assumptions and conditions, we might not have either. The smartest thing to do is plan for this.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 11:44 AM
horizontal rule
274

267 ... every oil engineer i know doubts those numbers for proven oil reserves. but let's posit you're right because i want you to be right. 40 years goes in a flash. we just wasted 8 years, and worse, during that time we increased the percentage of the American energy basket that is imported from 60% to 65%. We need to turn this around. And we need to get off carbon. And solving both problems at the same time is going to be really really hard.

I would write your second sentence differently -- the world burns through a billion barrels of oil every twelve days. If you realized how much energy that is, you would be numbed.


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 11:46 AM
horizontal rule
275

No one (other than Julian Simon, who's dead, so fuck him) is saying that magic technology fairies are going to fix everything with no changes in our lives. We as a society have only made half-hearted attempts to switch away from oil, and we waste energy like crazy. There's a lot we could do while not being plunged into dire poverty.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 11:47 AM
horizontal rule
276

When we start pricing things in the energy it takes to make them, we'll wake up fast.

The thing is, not all energy is created equal. Thermal energy stored in a room-temperature liquid is different from thermal energy delivered to individual homes is different from electrical energy delivered to individual homes which is different from bulk electrical energy delivered to one location. Ideally one might have a way to easily calculate the tradeoffs between using different kinds of energy for the task at hand. Of course, the task at hand is not predefined in terms of energy usage - there are certainly more or less energy-efficient ways to accomplish the higher level goal (moving from point A to point B, not shivering). You'd want your means of comparison to be able to take this into account too, and to come up with a single number that you could use to compare to other wildly different uses for the same energy.

You might call such a system "money".


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 11:53 AM
horizontal rule
277

and is the only plausible alternative to petroleum as the basis of an energy economy.

Oh, I agree solar is great and has great potential. It's a lousy drop in replacement for oil though, for many reasons. I agree ehj2's back of the envelope stuff is too simplistic to be useful, but as far as I can see reasonably optimistic estimates of cost & efficiency + roll out times just don't get you there if it's a fast transition.

So I just don't see it as plausible that we'll get to a largely solar-based energy economy without radical, traumatic change.

I don't think we're that far apart here, DS. I'm saying some large scale economic and social shifts plus smarter technology (in that order) can probably carry us through, you're concentrating on the latter (which isn't nearly enough, I think).

would be completely wrong, obviously.
yes. but it's a surprisingly common and current view, and a lot of policy largely supports it still.


it just hasn't been worth it to try to get given the prices.
You have to be careful here too, there is a lot of shale etc. out there, but some of it will never be energetically reasonable to go after, regardless of cost. There are some hard limits here that no amount of wishful thinking will make go away. It's going to be an economic boost to some areas, but it doesn't make the problem go away.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 11:55 AM
horizontal rule
278

Walt,

we waste energy like crazy.

I somewhat disagree with this statement. Many of our processes use energy nearly as efficiently as they can, which means that maybe a fourth the energy is not being used. Still, there is no way to increase that efficiency much, and you reach the point of diminishing returns.

Even so, replace every car with a super efficient car and you've bought a couple more years for the world, that's all.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 11:59 AM
horizontal rule
279

We've been trying this, hard, for more than your 40 years and not got far. There are lots of breakthroughs that would change everything. That's why they're called breakthroughs.

Huh? Current state of the rechargeable battery art is something like 5x the energy density of ye old NiCad cell. I think the Brits just flew the first electric plane that gets enough extra solar energy during the day to fly throughout the night, which is quite the milestone.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 11:59 AM
horizontal rule
280

276 ... loosely, money is a stored claim on future labor ... more accurately, because there isn't much labor in anything, it is a stored claim on future energy. in the commodities markets this is clear; any price over energy is just paying for branding.


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:00 PM
horizontal rule
281

277: regardless of cost s/b regardless of price


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:00 PM
horizontal rule
282

279: Oh, they've been impressive incremental increases, to be sure. But for decades, everyone has been looking for a transformative battery tech, and it has not happened. Not for lack of trying.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:02 PM
horizontal rule
283

Soup biscuit,

The biggest problem with solar and wind is that they create electricity and there is no good way to store massive amounts of electricity for later use. There is really no efficient way to transport electrical energy over long distances either.

Convert that electrical energy to chemical (batteries) or kinetic (flywheel) or potential (compressed air, water pumped uphill) energy and back again and you've introduced big systemic inefficiencies.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:03 PM
horizontal rule
284

Tripp, was that really to me? Or to DS? 'cause that's basically what I was saying (implicitly, mostly) before.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:04 PM
horizontal rule
285

282: Right. But if you want to quintuple the energy density of your battery, it doesn't really matter if you do so in one fell swoop or 10% at a time.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:06 PM
horizontal rule
286

Sorry soup, not a disagreement, merely trying to flesh out this: It's a lousy drop in replacement for oil though, for many reasons.

So I was not rebutting you, just trying to reinforce your argument. I was rushed.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:06 PM
horizontal rule
287

There was that article I linked a while back on processes to make 'gasoline' from atmospheric CO2 -- obviously using a great deal of energy in the process. But if the efficiency isn't too bad (which it probably is now, but may not always be), then that's a heck of a battery, and if the plant is running on solar, it's carbon neutral.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:06 PM
horizontal rule
288

loosely, money is a stored claim on future labor ... more accurately, because there isn't much labor in anything, it is a stored claim on future energy. in the commodities markets this is clear; any price over energy is just paying for branding.

There are two means by which energy gets delivered to my house and I pay for it. One of them costs three times as much per Joule as the other. I don't see how using "energy", by which I assume you mean Joules (or kW-h, or BTUs, or whatever) as a means of comparison is valid in any way.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:09 PM
horizontal rule
289

285: But those incremental changes aren't getting there *, or at least not getting there soon enough, or scalable enough.

[*] there being where battery tech starts changing this particular game


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:09 PM
horizontal rule
290

253

"But to some extent it's path-dependent: kerosene is dirt cheap, but no one is going back to lighting with it just because of that. If plug-in electrics (which can do a lot of work as distributed batteries in an alt-energy near future) become ubiquitous and transit-oriented development becomes the norm, then we don't need to maintain the $8/gal. it takes to get there. Sure, people will pull out their old gas-guzzlers for joy riding, but once it becomes ingrained that we aren't going back to cheap gas, ever, then little fluctuations in the price won't get the SUV plants up and working again (at least not with ICEs)."

It won't take $8/gal to get there, I expect it will take more like $80/gal.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:10 PM
horizontal rule
291

283 ... Absent a superconducting national infrastructure, which helps the transport problem, one of the best storage technologies for electricity is to run it through water and make hydrogen. Not individually, I'd hate to see hydrogen made in commercial buildings or used in a fleet of cars, but at individual generating stations and burned back into electricity during off hours for solar and wind.


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:10 PM
horizontal rule
292

LB,

The thing is if you are gonna do that the making hydrogen might be better, but I see the argument for gasoline. It is horribly inefficient and incredibly hard to scale up and I doubt the inefficiencies would ever be overcome.

But humans seem to think we can reproduce what it took nature millenniums to create. Most of us lack the understanding of what a hugely massive gift fossils fuels are. Few of us have experienced what it felt like to do big manual labor and then see the miracle that a fossil fuel labor saving device is. We take it all for granted.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:10 PM
horizontal rule
293

Few of us have experienced what it felt like to do big manual labor and then see the miracle that a fossil fuel labor saving device is.

I found the switch from a power mower to a push mower wasn't really all that bad. Push mowers manufactured these days are a hell of a lot better than those leftover pieces of junk from the 40s, which really are a pain.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:13 PM
horizontal rule
294

I don't want to derail the energy discussion, but one more thing on the meta theme.

One of the things ogged mentioned a number of moons ago regarding his increasing dissatisfaction with the blog was the ever-building compendium of residual resentments over time. True, that. It results in people falling off, oddly inflected comments, thin skins, and a gradual loss of good cheer. It may be the inevitable fate of a large-ish blog with a history. Falling out of love with itself, as tierce said above.

So as much as there's obligatory eye-rolling over occasional metadiscussion, such discussion has an important place. Unless it's preferred that people who've begun muttering to themselves a little too much just go away. I'd rather see comity achieved, though. If that takes occasional metadiscussion, fine; the alternative is just increasing alienation and sneering, which is not my scene anyway, man.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:13 PM
horizontal rule
295

Have any of you people advocating electric cars actually talked to your local power plant about that? I have.

Crap, even in the Globalcorp computer business our customers are complaining that they can't get more juice to run the big computers and you think you'll be able to get the extra juice to run your car!?

How is that different from thinking we can all run our cars from the waste vegetable oil that Chinese restaurants throw away?


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:14 PM
horizontal rule
296

263

"Because it's marginally competitive at best right now, ..."

Completely uncompetitive is what I would say.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:14 PM
horizontal rule
297

289: GM claims that they are developing a plug-in hybrid that will be able to do most trips on battery power alone. I'm not one to put much faith in anything GM says, but I think that if such a thing existed it'd be approaching at least partial game-changer status, and that we don't need a revolutionary change in battery technology to get there from here.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:14 PM
horizontal rule
298

Brock,

I found the switch from a power mower to a push mower wasn't really all that bad. Push mowers manufactured these days are a hell of a lot better than those leftover pieces of junk from the 40s, which really are a pain.

I see your point, and no offense but just this summer I cut sod and hauled it up a little hill and then hauled rock down and mowing the grass pales in comparison.

I've seen an Amish field where they use horses and pick the corn by hand and mowing a lawn pales by comparison.

Mowing our grass will be the least of our problems.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:18 PM
horizontal rule
299

283.1: So, power grids do not exist? (I mean, there's no disputing that adapting solar power to feed into a power grid is one of the technological challenges, but that's different from there being "no efficient way to transport electricity over long distances.")


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:18 PM
horizontal rule
300

264

"Apparently they are."

Skimming the link, the power will mostly (80+%)come from natural gas.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:19 PM
horizontal rule
301

Tripp, 293 wasn't serious (despite being completely true). I do understand there are mechanical tasks more arduous than mowing the lawn.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:20 PM
horizontal rule
302

297 - 295

well yeah GM says that, they sell cars. What does your local electric company say about that? How is your electric bill today? Take your pick, brownouts or a tenfold increase in the electrical rate.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:20 PM
horizontal rule
303

If we continue this discussion then pretty soon people are gonna be pissed and call names and make sarcastic comments like 'So we are all supposed to just give up and die, right?'

I can't tell you how many times I've been down this road.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:22 PM
horizontal rule
304

one of the best storage technologies for electricity is to run it through water and make hydrogen.

Where do you get this stuff? Hydrogen storage is a royal pain in the ass, regenerative fuel cells have decent energy efficiency but are piss-poor compared to a battery, and actually burning hydrogen in a heat engine coupled to a generator is much less efficient than that. Moving hydrogen around is an even further pain in the ass due to its incredibly low density and boiling point. RFCs can be good for severely weight-limited applications with long storage durations, but for terrestrial solar?


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:27 PM
horizontal rule
305

Brock,

Little things help, don't get me wrong. I shouldn't automatically include you when I say that from what I can see few people actually do, in their gut, at a very basic level, understand how arduous the mechanical tasks are that support our civilization as we now know it.

We don't see them and even when we do few people appreciate what it is they are seeing.

Most people also don't want to hear it either. Nope.

We are in a trap. We can't tell people how dire the situation is and yet we must convince people to make huge changes in most everything that identifies them.

So we nibble around the edges and kick the can down the road. We buy carbon credits and think we've solved it. We buy hybrids. We promote bio-fuels. We add insulation. We buy the new light bulbs.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:28 PM
horizontal rule
306

295, Tripp, I could kiss you. We have an utterly inadequate national electrical grid to do any more than begin daydreaming about an electric economy. We need to nationalize it, like the highway system, because some states will have significant competitive advantage in the capturing of solar power, generation of wind power, and fission, and we currently have no way to shunt any of it around.

297, Water Moccasin, GM will likely succeed but perhaps a year or two late. It's just one tiny piece of the huge puzzle, though. Where's the electricity coming from? The country burns a billion tons of coal per year now, at the cost of the complete top of a mountain every few days and the rivers and watershed around it. That's now, while we're burning more than 20 million barrels of oil every day.

I happen to be an engineer and an optimist, but I also happen to know we can't solve this problem without stupendous commitment.

Unfortunately, my numbers in 252 are inarguable, and the best anyone can do with them is hope that technologies will cut them in half or a tenth. I'll posit that we can cut them to 100th. The point of those numbers is to frame the scaling problem. The world uses a lot of oil energy and we have no easy alternative.

293 ... Brock, thanks for mowing your lawn manually. But the real point is the labor it took to make the steel and components to fabricate that lawn mower. It's not the 100 watt light bulb in your house that's the problem. It's everything else.


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:29 PM
horizontal rule
307

It's a mistake to dismiss Julian Simon, I think. His main point was that people look very hard for replacement materials but only when it makes economic sense, and that every single former specific prediction of doom through scarcity has gone wrong for this reason. People are only now looking seriously at alternative energy and at using existing technologies for conservation; the point about using fab technology created for circuit chips for photovoltaics where it's suboptimal is an example.

Wind and solar do not fit with the way power is consumed now. However, if the choices are intermittent and cheap or switchable and expensive, retooling everything possible will happen. This will cost GDP growth, thus incur lifestyle adjustments. But unless people really fuck up a big problem that is recognized as important. As others say, the discussion is about the pace of change and its magnitude. IMO, the US will probably lose Phoenix in 100 years, and flying to a big resort will sound as strange as keeping families of servants does now. But I don't see reason to expect anything worse than a GDP haircut-- that is, I do not believe that adjustments will be so fast to disrupt either medicine or a controlled economy.

I'd still like to know how much fertilizer we make-- maybe Megan would know.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:29 PM
horizontal rule
308

water moccasin,

piss-poor compared to a battery

I get that from the same place you get the battery that will store a day's output from my local electric plant and use it for the night.

And my town is pretty small. Once you've done that do it for New Your City and then the country and we'll talk about which method is best.

Sorry but people who think about cell phone batteries for storing electricity are really missing the picture.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:32 PM
horizontal rule
309

307,

I know this - fertilizer comes from Natural Gas and they are now using it even in Kenya to grow their foods. Without it they are screwed. So are we. So is the world.

And if you mention animal waste I'm gonna mention the Amish farm and greatly diminished production.

I haven't looked at this situation in terms of money. I've started with the assumption that the entire world GDP with the exception of basic life support is dedicated to switching us to something else and today, even then, as I've said, the sustainable carrying capacity of the Earth after switching will be about 3 Billion.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:36 PM
horizontal rule
310

So we are all supposed to just give up and die, right?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:37 PM
horizontal rule
311

308 ... i could kiss you again. there's no way i could beat that.


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:37 PM
horizontal rule
312

I'd still like to know how much fertilizer we make-- maybe Megan would know.

If I recall correctly the US has recently gone from at large net exported of fertilizer to a large net importer.

USDA info, might help


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:38 PM
horizontal rule
313

208: Good lord. Yes, if the only thing you let people change is the way power is generated, all other alternatives will look really bad. If you accept that energy usage patterns can change (and given that the alternatives being suggested are massive societal upheaval this seems like a safe bet), things are different.

Why does your local coal power plant run all night? Because starting up and shutting down coal power plants is expensive, so if they can sell energy in the middle of the night for as little as one tenth what they sell it for during the day, they come out ahead. This leads to some follow-on effects where users of electricity with time flexibility use their electricity in the middle of the night when it's cheaper. If middle-of-the-night electricity becomes more expensive, people will use less of it. Possibly much less.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:42 PM
horizontal rule
314

310: No, I think we're supposed to have a revolution leading to global socialism.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:45 PM
horizontal rule
315

310

"So we are all supposed to just give up and die, right?"

No, we are supposed to figure things out so that the people we care about are among the 3 billion that live.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:45 PM
horizontal rule
316

310, Walt,

No, you're not supposed to die. You're supposed to start understanding the magnitude of the problem and begin demanding your representatives do something about it.

You're supposed to start understanding what resource and energy shortages might mean to the world at large and our role as a military and visionary power should be. For some countries, the Titanic is going to hit the iceburg and leave a lot of people dying in the water. What are we going to do about it?

If we have 40 years, the first 10 are crucial, because we have to replace infrastructure using the cheap energy we have while it lasts. We have to invigorate our relationship with the international community and start making some hard decisions. Will we share (sell) coal the way the other countries shared (sold) oil? Or will we hoard it the way we hoard nuclear power?

Will we be a leader and a visionary, or will we roll up behind our borders and say "get lost"?


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:45 PM
horizontal rule
317

302

"well yeah GM says that, they sell cars. What does your local electric company say about that? How is your electric bill today? Take your pick, brownouts or a tenfold increase in the electrical rate."

There is no immediate problem in increasing electricity generation, just build some more coal power plants.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:49 PM
horizontal rule
318

Huh-- OK, given tons of K and N fetrilizers, now I need BTUs per ton of each. Not today, but an easier task. Thanks.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:54 PM
horizontal rule
319

James, there's no grid to move that electricity on. It's all at over-capacity. There are wind systems now around the country that have to be turned off because there's no carrying capacity for the power they could provide.

But this has already been said at least twice.


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 12:57 PM
horizontal rule
320

I'm skeptical of a great many of the predictions in this thread just because humans are horrible, horrible predictors of the future. Has anyone been right, ever, in a way that can't be attributed to random chance?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 1:01 PM
horizontal rule
321

There are wind systems now around the country that have to be turned off because there's no carrying capacity for the power they could provide.

Sounds like someone should have drafted their tax credit or generating capacity mix legislation more carefully.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 1:06 PM
horizontal rule
322

I'm skeptical of a great many of the predictions in this thread

That's why you don't want to look at predictions as policy tools. You want to look at reasonable expected outcomes, aim there, but cover yourself for worse cases.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 1:06 PM
horizontal rule
323

318 ... grins ...

If you're going to keep talking about BTU's in various kinds of fertilizer, people in my line of business will wonder if you're thinking about manufacturing explosives. Just saying.


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 1:06 PM
horizontal rule
324

319

"James, there's no grid to move that electricity on. It's all at over-capacity. There are wind systems now around the country that have to be turned off because there's no carrying capacity for the power they could provide.

But this has already been said at least twice."

This is not an insurmountable problem, you add transmission capacity as needed. And coal plants (unlike wind farms) can be built where the power is needed. Of course you have to account for the cost of shipping the coal but this is cheaper (I believe) than moving electricity. Part of the cost of a wind farm is the cost of the transmission capacity to move the electricity somewhere useful. Which is why it is a problem for wind that a lot of the best sites are in remote areas.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 1:09 PM
horizontal rule
325

322: Reasonable.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 1:33 PM
horizontal rule
326

208, water moccasin

Why does your local coal power plant run all night?

My local power plant, which you are correct burns relatively clean Indiana coal, runs all night because the amount of power it generates must very closely match the current demand for power.

It has nothing to do with cost or shutting down.

If there is much of a mis-match between the power generated and the power required safety circuits will switch in to stop it before that difference gets out on the grid and we have a cascading failure.

Remember the east coast electric shutdown a few years ago?

I really really wish people would actually go down and talk to their local power people. They are a public utility and answer questions.

Anyway the generation must closely match the load at all times. So what about nighttime you ask? Can't we all just power our cars off the spare capacity at night?

Well, no, not really. Most plants at night are running a little more than half peak capacity. Assuming we operate all the plants at peak capacity all night long you could power some cars, sure, but not all the cars in my town and not all the towns in New York City or the US and certainly not the world.

And for completeness if the demand exceeds the current supply from the power plant they increase production and if it still increases they may have auxiliary generators powered by diesel or natural gas which are more expensive or they may request more power from the grid if they can get it.

Solar power from Africa or even here is no good if it doesn't get here right when we need it. Solar can supplement the base power plant but without electrical storage solar and wind cannot replace the current electrical plants.

Oh, and most modern plants use natural gas because it is cleaner but that is running out and is used for fertilizer. And nuclear fuel is finite and running out, unless you use the dirty breeder reactor which makes weapons grade plutonium just great for a terrorist nuke.

And ehj2 please don't kiss me but do you have a sister?


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 1:35 PM
horizontal rule
327

320 ... Dear Skeptical,

If we're in a bus in the middle of a desert with a half a tank of gas remaining (almost the definition of peak oil) and a thousand miles to go before we reach civilization and a dealership with a nuclear-powered space-car, I know we can't predict the future, but here's the way to bet.

We're going to end up stranded. No magic fairy is going to fly up and refill our tank. Now really is the best time to start figuring out a better way to get across that desert.

I hope you're in this to be part of the solution.

And now I have to stop having fun and write a paper.


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 1:40 PM
horizontal rule
328

James,

This is not an insurmountable problem, you add transmission capacity as needed. And coal plants (unlike wind farms) can be built where the power is needed

Positives - proven technology. Very doable.
Negatives - Triple the number of number of electric plants in the world and have them burn coal, of which the best cleanest stuff is running out? And more transmission lines over people's land? You'll see strip mining and acid rain and Beijing quality air all over the world. But hey, yeah, we *could* do it.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 1:40 PM
horizontal rule
329

326

"... And nuclear fuel is finite and running out, unless you use the dirty breeder reactor which makes weapons grade plutonium just great for a terrorist nuke."

Or unless you can economically extract uranium from sea water which if I recall correctly is not totally implausible.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 1:41 PM
horizontal rule
330

327 - wait, what about your sister?

You know what else? We could magically overnight change everything in the US to be green, whatever that means, and China and India would still kill us.

We moved all our crap over there to buy us another ten years or so of the high life and we've broken our military in a God forsaken desert and we don't call the shots anymore. So all this talk is doubly academic now because we've pissed away half our ability to do something about it.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 1:44 PM
horizontal rule
331

326 ... before someone else says it, even my sister won't kiss me.


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 1:44 PM
horizontal rule
332

329 - And a pony.

Sorry to be snarky but maybe we could extract the gold from seawater and buy the uranium. How about that?


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 1:46 PM
horizontal rule
333

Al Gore's energy plan calls for a huge investment in transmission infrastructure. Capacity not just to move the solar and wind generated power to cities, but also to fueling stations (I almost said gas stations) all along the highways. His kickoff speech touched on this, but he didn't dwell on it, presumably because we know how to do this part, it just needs money.

I don't care about Al Gore or the planet right now, though: I care about me. My son and I were thinking of a road trip to Boston this weekend, but Amtrak won't let me use my miles. No way are we flying. And it's just too crappy out to drive all that way, especially given the likely traffic on the NJ Turnpike. The new idea is to maybe go to Cleveland instead, side trip to Pittsburgh on the way. I've been thinking I'd like to take a look at Albert Gallatin's home in southwestern PA -- maybe instead of Pittsburgh, maybe on the way home. Has anyone been there?


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 1:46 PM
horizontal rule
334

328

"Positives - proven technology. Very doable.
Negatives - Triple the number of number of electric plants in the world and have them burn coal, of which the best cleanest stuff is running out? And more transmission lines over people's land? You'll see strip mining and acid rain and Beijing quality air all over the world. But hey, yeah, we *could* do it."

None of the alternatives look very appealing so this is a lesser evil situation. You don't like this scenario you need something better. An alternative is you build a lot of coal to gasoline plants and avoid the problems of electric cars all together. Again very bad environmentally of course but otherwise quite plausible in my opinion.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 1:48 PM
horizontal rule
335

Nápi,

What do these potential power lines do when the wind ain't blowing and the sun ain't shining and the lines are backing up at the filling stations?


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 1:50 PM
horizontal rule
336

Again very bad environmentally of course but otherwise quite plausible in my opinion.

James, I can't argue with that as long as you are willing to dismiss the bad environmental effects with a wave of your hand. Maybe we could locate all the polluting plants in Africa. Nobody really cares about that place.

As long as we are waving hands I propose we go with the dirty nuclear and a worldwide police state to keep the terrorists at bay. At least we'd be comfortable and the trains would run on time.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 1:54 PM
horizontal rule
337

336:

Oh, and I want the police state to protect me from the angry mobs pissed at my generation for getting us into this mess.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 1:55 PM
horizontal rule
338

Crooked Timber ...comments

I think the pick is going to backfire. To begin with, it's obviously a craven political choice. Palin wasn't chosen because she brings anything substantive to the ticket, but rather because the McCain camp thinks having a woman on the ticket--no matter which woman--will swing undecided women voters toward the GOP. But American women aren't stupid, they're going to see through the trick. And, more to the point, they're going to see that McCain didn't nominate a woman--Kay Bailey Hutchinson, for example--who could interact with him as a peer. No, he picked a lightweight with a pretty face.
I'm hoping that people won't vote on the basis of who is a hottie, but this is the electorate who voted for Bush because he seemed "likable."
I hope the Dems' oppo research is ready to do a number on little Sarah. And if they find pictures, so much the better

And hell, Yglesias himself, who has made a crusade of "judgement over experience", fails to credit the valuable kinds of experience and wisdom women, having been shut out of traditional positions of power, have created on their own. What kind of advice can VP Palin give President McCain?

Maybe "war bad"? Would McCain get that advice from O'Hanlon, Pollack, Albright, Holbrooke, Power?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 1:55 PM
horizontal rule
339

there's no grid to move that electricity on

OOOOOOOOO scary. Surely we couldn't possibly build a new electricity grid. It would cost 6 whole fucking months worth of Iraqi occupation. Insurmountable.

Look, the demonstration in 252 was valuable for giving some sense of the scale of problem. But, as has been demonstrated, it's off by orders of magnitude, and that's if technology never improves.

You want to talk food production (per 309)? Over 1/3 of all grain goes towards meats, with worldwide meat consumption (per capita) double what it was 50 years ago. Return to mid-century meat habits*, and you've effectively increased worldwide grain availability by 20%. Alternatively, you've moved to 20% less fertilizer usage. Not to mention made a huge dent in greenhouse gases - a quarter of all methane comes from ruminants (and at a higher rate when they have more grain), and methane is ~9% of GHGs.

The point is that there's no magic tech bullet, but there's also no reason to think that a tolerable transition is infeasible under current tech. It will require big changes, some of which will feel impoverishing (meat as treat or garnish), some of which will hardly be noticeable (a Saturn has more power than a vintage GTO - we can live with less powerful vehicles). The Chicken Little act makes solving the problems seem impossible, not merely difficult, and it's hard to convince people of the impossible; either they dismiss you (things couldn't possibly be that bad) or they take a different lesson (protect what's ours).

* Actually, modify them to reduce our intake; the developing world can keep their gains


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 1:58 PM
horizontal rule
340

Look at them. Artists can paint them. Poets can sing about them. Scolds can wring their hands. I have no idea.

We seem to have survived the transition from whale oil. Gore's bon mot is 'the stone age didn't end because we ran out of stones.'


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 2:01 PM
horizontal rule
341

I've been thinking I'd like to take a look at Albert Gallatin's home in southwestern PA -- maybe instead of Pittsburgh, maybe on the way home. Has anyone been there?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 2:03 PM
horizontal rule
342

also no reason to think that a tolerable transition is infeasible under current tech.

Agreed on this. The emphasis really has to be on changing economic & social models rather than tech, but I'm convinced it's quite do-able. It will be traumatic if it's done quickly, though.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 2:05 PM
horizontal rule
343

JRoth, are you toying with me?


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 2:06 PM
horizontal rule
344

Damnit. What happened to my reply in 341?

Anyway:

The site itself is a bit thin, AFAIR, but combined with other nearby things (mostly National Road stuff), there's plenty to look at. Good food in Uniontown, the county seat. Brownsville, a few miles downriver, is an interesting town, featuring the oldest cast iron bridge in the country, still in use (looks like a road from above, but you can get out and look from below, where it's pretty cool).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 2:07 PM
horizontal rule
345

Nápi,

In terms of energy use the industrial revolution went from timber to coal to rock oil. Whale oil never was big enough. Also, the US pretty much skipped the timber phase and went to coal. That's why we still have many of our trees.

Gore is essentially saying "wish for a miracle." Buy time and hope for a miracle.

Maybe we can learn to reach down into the quantum sea and extract the huge amount of latent energy that is in even a cubic inch of supposedly empty space. That's what I'm hoping for.

I'm making the website now and applying for my grant tomorrow.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 2:08 PM
horizontal rule
346

Hey, here is a fun fact. Does anyone remember when England was almost entirely wooded?

Where did the trees go I wonder.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 2:10 PM
horizontal rule
347

Here is another. Does anyone remember when London fog meant fatal pollution (from burning dirty coal) worse than Beijing's today?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 2:15 PM
horizontal rule
348

Tripp, it has everything to do with cost, in the medium to long term. You have to pay the mortgage on the plant whether it's running or not. You have to pay for the fuel when you generate electricity. And you have to pay operational costs when you do stuff. Coal plants are big, expensive, have cheap fuel, and don't react quickly. Nuclear plants are even more expensive, have even cheaper fuel, and like being shut down even less. Hydro reacts very quickly, and has complicated "fuel" pricing. Gas turbines are smaller, and somewhat in the middle in terms of cost. This leads to the baseload/peaking power generation architecture that we have today, and the electrical pricing strategies are set up to make the most of it by shifting demand around. Change the economic parameters, and you'll change the power usage patterns.

And the possibility of a terrorist nuke sucks, but it sucks less than the lights not working, and certainly sucks less than everyone dying.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 2:15 PM
horizontal rule
349

soup,

The emphasis really has to be on changing economic & social models

Why do you think this? Seriously. Our current model of screwing the poor would work pretty well on a global scale, at least for us.

Sure we'd need a barrier to keep them out so they starve in peace and we'd probably need big detention centers in places like Texas which could be built by KBR and staffed by Blackwater but those are already underway and are on schedule.

I mean we'll be ready for when we stop exporting food. And is it our fault that stupid Africans, driven from their lands and now unable to earn a living will starve? Shoot, that is just global economics baby. Somebody has to pay for us to live. What's the problem?

Oh, and during the transition we'll need to use our military to convince anyone with oil that they need to sell their oil to us, at "fair" rates of course, all for the global good. Yeah, so we do need to build our military back up, but that is doable.

I think things are progressing nicely, don't you?


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 2:17 PM
horizontal rule
350

It's not wish for a miracle. It's invest real money in what we know and research we think will work. You can say that putting a man on the moon was a miracle -- viewed from 1950 certainly, and 1961 probably. A huge set of technical problems, that smart people worked through. The idea that I'd be communicating with you people, known and unknown, sitting on the front stoop, with a laptop not connected to power or a telephone wire, would have seemed a miracle a pretty short while ago.

Gore's point that while costs rise as demand for coal/oil goes up, but fall as demand for solar goes up is valid. And if you count something for the gross externalities of coal/oil, from climate change to defending the Straits of Hormuz, the investment starts to look attractive.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 2:20 PM
horizontal rule
351

348:
water,
Change the economic parameters, and you'll change the power usage patterns.

Are you an economist by chance?

Change the economics any way you want and the power generated must closely match the load. Nothing changes that fact.

But, yeah, when we make the power very expensive poor people will stop using it. That is what you mean by the power usage patterns? Cause that's what you are saying.

Shoot, we've already changed the economic parameters around food and the global usage patterns are changing. People in Indonesia are starving as we speak because they can no longer afford a basic number of calories a day.

I get kinda upset when people use euphemisms like 'economic parameters' and 'usage patterns' when the bottom line is they mean it will get more expensive and people will starve.

Currently in the US food prices are at their historical low requiring, what, about 10% of our wages. Tripling the price of food here hurts, but not that much. Tell that to the people in Indonesia where food is 70% of their budget.

Many americans seem to think it has always been like this and it is like this all over the world.

"Economic parameter" and "usage patterns" don't cut it with me. At least be honest and say starve the poor.

And even if we somehow had global socialism we are still gonna see massive starvation. The rich don't have enough to feed everyone.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 2:26 PM
horizontal rule
352

Tripp, it has everything to do with cost, in the medium to long term. You have to pay the mortgage on the plant whether it's running or not. You have to pay for the fuel when you generate electricity. And you have to pay operational costs when you do stuff. Coal plants are big, expensive, have cheap fuel, and don't react quickly. Nuclear plants are even more expensive, have even cheaper fuel, and like being shut down even less. Hydro reacts very quickly, and has complicated "fuel" pricing. Gas turbines are smaller, and somewhat in the middle in terms of cost. This leads to the baseload/peaking power generation architecture that we have today, and the electrical pricing strategies are set up to make the most of it by shifting demand around. Change the economic parameters, and you'll change the power usage patterns.

And the possibility of a terrorist nuke sucks, but it sucks less than the lights not working, and certainly sucks less than everyone dying.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 2:27 PM
horizontal rule
353

It's not wish for a miracle. It's invest real money in what we know and research we think will work. You can say that putting a man on the moon was a miracle -- viewed from 1950 certainly, and 1961 probably. A huge set of technical problems, that smart people worked through. The idea that I'd be communicating with you people, known and unknown, sitting on the front stoop, with a laptop not connected to power or a telephone wire, would have seemed a miracle a pretty short while ago.

Gore's point that while costs rise as demand for coal/oil goes up, but fall as demand for solar goes up is valid. And if you count something for the gross externalities of coal/oil, from climate change to defending the Straits of Hormuz, the investment starts to look attractive.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 2:30 PM
horizontal rule
354

It's not wish for a miracle. It's invest real money in what we know and research we think will work. You can say that putting a man on the moon was a miracle -- viewed from 1950 certainly, and 1961 probably. A huge set of technical problems, that smart people worked through. The idea that I'd be communicating with you people, known and unknown, sitting on the front stoop, with a laptop not connected to power or a telephone wire, would have seemed a miracle a pretty short while ago.

Gore's point that while costs rise as demand for coal/oil goes up, but fall as demand for solar goes up is valid. And if you count something for the gross externalities of coal/oil, from climate change to defending the Straits of Hormuz, the investment starts to look attractive.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 2:31 PM
horizontal rule
355

350:

Nápi,

With all due respect, in this case you do not know what you are talking about. You are making false analogies. I'm sorry but that is what you are doing.

Do the math. Use real numbers.

I know you won't and real soon now you are gonna yell at me but I'm not trying to be mean. The facts are bad, real bad, and there is not a whole lot we can do about them.

It is getting close to the time when I hear "Then I suppose you want to give up and die! Well you go to hell and I will continue to hope." or something like that.

If we get past that point I will say "No, we need to keep up the good fight and we need to understand that we need to protect ours first even when others are dieing."

Most people stop listening before that point though. It takes awhile for this to sink in and most people really don't want to hear it.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 2:33 PM
horizontal rule
356

Shit, double post. Yes, if 1000 calories ends up costing five dollars, a shitload of people who make one dollar a day will starve. It really sucks to be that poor, generally always has, and probably always will. But that's got pretty much fuck all to do with coal plants in Indiana, unless we can figure out ways to use the energy available to us more efficiently so than there's more left to make fertilizer.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 2:33 PM
horizontal rule
357

Napi, for what it's worth putting a man on the moon was a much, much simpler proposition when it was floated. Most of the bits were already in place, they needed improving.... and the other bits were considered solvable, just needing a lot of work. This is not true of the energy problem.

The idea that I'd be communicating with you people, known and unknown

And this one relied on unschedule-able, uexpected new tech.

Your comment is dangerously close to a mix of rah-rah technology and `look at the neat stuff we've done in the past, surely we can fix this' line that is often repeated but terribly inept.

I'm certain that if we were to look back 50 or a 100 years from now on today we'll find other things that changed in amazing ways and `would seem like a miracle'. I'm equally certain few of them will be because they were planned out. This is the nature of disruptive technologies, you mostly can't plan them (or plan for them)


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 2:34 PM
horizontal rule
358

the US pretty much skipped the timber phase and went to coal. That's why we still have many of our trees.

I don't know how important this is, but it's blindingly wrong. Pretty much everyplace that was settled prior to the 1920s was denuded of its trees for industrial purposes. It's all second growth. All over the east you see little historical markers near old iron furnaces that ran until there was no more timber within economical distance. Go to eastern Forests and you see little groves designated Ancient Growth. Meaning that every other tree you see grew up after the place became a protected Forest.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 2:38 PM
horizontal rule
359

terribly inept.

"apt," unless you meant to be insulting.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 2:41 PM
horizontal rule
360

water,

Yes, if 1000 calories ends up costing five dollars,

You mean 'when' not 'if.' The price of a food calorie will most certainly go up. Way up.

From a moral perspective which is better - use your resources as quickly and furiously as possible so a lot of people can be born and survive and live, but will die before they should , or use those resources slower so fewer people are born in the first place?

We have taken the first path because the people running the world after WWII decided that was the path to take and got everyone on board without even openly talking about it.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 2:41 PM
horizontal rule
361

358 Jroth - Oh, sorry, you are correct. The US pretty much skipped the coal phase, not the timber phase. Thank you for correcting that.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 2:43 PM
horizontal rule
362

It's a mistake to dismiss Julian Simon, I think. His main point was that people look very hard for replacement materials but only when it makes economic sense, and that every single former specific prediction of doom through scarcity has gone wrong for this reason.

The whole Mediterranean area and much of the Middle East have declined greatly during historical times because of reduced agricultural productivity partly caused by overuse. Declining productivity has been a factor in the decline of many nations and civilizations.

There's no substitute for fresh water or for topsoil, and none has been suggested. At this point we're asking whether oil is substitutable.

Simon's generalization over all of existing history was false, but even if it had been true, history isn't homogenous. We've only now started to touch the physical limits of the finite quantities of energy source and agricultural land that there actually are. Virgin lands were still being developed into the twentieth century, but there is very little undeveloped land left any more (mostly in war zones).

This is a bit like the fisherman saying "There are still fish out there, you just have to find them" ot the timber man saying "There will always be trees somewhere". The more successful these guys are, the less true what they say is.

Simon's statement that because there are an infinite number of points on a line, we can never run out of resources should teach people that he's a visionary who doesn't self-edit.

It's characteristic of economists (and academics) to begin by translating all concrete actualities into formalizations, and then win arguments by manipulating the formalizations while laughing at less-intelligent people (geographers, climatologists, oceanographers, stupid people like that) who still think somewhat concretely.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 2:44 PM
horizontal rule
363

362 - John, bravo! Sincerely. I have often seen exactly what you wrote about.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 2:53 PM
horizontal rule
364

re: 347

The early 1950s, was the last, I think. Anyway, really bloody recent.

re: 346

As it happens, I live right next to an ancient forest. I've no idea how old exactly, but it's recorded in the Domesday Book.

http://tinyurl.com/6zjyke

England has been deforested a long time, though. Scotland much more recently.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 2:59 PM
horizontal rule
365

I'm not going to yell at anybody. I know that none of us knows what the economics of solar generation are going to look like 5 years hence, especially with a very serious research initiative. You haven't convinced me that the technical constraints are really impossible to overcome: feel free to keep trying.

(My experience in this area is small scale, to be sure. I have friends who built their house in a remote area, and are completely self-sufficient wrt electricity. Which they use for cooking, baseboard heat, lights, fridge, computers, TV, etc. Scaling this up to me doesn't seem so far fetched that the comparison of John Glenn's hour [whatever] orbit scaling up to going to the moon and back is really all the way out there).

Whether our economy stops exporting food or not is going to be the sum of a million individual decisions, not an intentional societal decision. I don't export food. I'm going to continue the eat food. If it costs more, I'm going to pay more. Of course it's too bad if people around the world starve.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 3:01 PM
horizontal rule
366

"apt," unless you meant to be insulting.

quite.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 3:02 PM
horizontal rule
367

347, 364: I may be making this up, but I could swear my mother's mentioned seeing weird London fogs, which would put it sometime in the '60s when she started working as a flight attendant. But I suppose if the last deadly one was in the '50s, they might still have been impressively bizarre, just not deadly, for a while afterward.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 3:03 PM
horizontal rule
368

One note on world population, and I've never read anyone addressing this from the POV of the actual models that are out there:

I've been seeing for some time that we will plateau around 9B people in 40-50 years. Now, I assume that that number is independent of any CC-caused dislocations (ie, direct starvation/submersion). I read a number of years ago that population growth is primarily driven by optimism - part of the reason that the 3rd World hasn't come down to 1st World birth rates isn't that things are so bad, but rather that they seem to be getting better. Now I don't know if that's still considered to be true. But it seems to me that, in a world where 1000 calories costs more than a day's wages for half the planet, birth rates should go down long before we reach 9B.

Developing populations are very young; is there some reason that, if birth rates drop drastically in response to food shocks, the shape of the global demographic curve can't shift pretty far pretty fast?

What am I missing? Why, in a world of food scarcity, would the population increase 50% in 40 years?

[I realize that this sounds rather First World-centric - 'if only the masses would control themselves, there's be enough to go around' - but the First World is largely zero growth already - population reduction won't be coming from our sector]


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 3:04 PM
horizontal rule
369

re: 367

The Great Smog was 52. I checked.

But yeah, I imagine it took a while for the legislation passed as a result [1956, and again later] to clean things up.

Growing up we had a coal fire and were required to burn smokeless fuel as a result of various pieces of clean air legislation.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 3:05 PM
horizontal rule
370

"Ept" is a shoe that fits.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 3:05 PM
horizontal rule
371

Even the normal, healthy, non-killer London fog is capable of killing non-Londoners who happen to be trapped there. Like Bolivians, Londoners have developed unique vascular capacities.

If the London air had not been cleaned up, the weak Londoners would have continued to be weeded out, and Londoners' superiority in this respect would have become even more pronounced. But no. The nanny state ruined everything.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 3:07 PM
horizontal rule
372

368: I have a vague belief that short of acute famine, the worse things are, the faster population grows -- that is, I haven't looked at data recently, but that's my memory of how it works out. Children are an economic asset to very poor people.

Isn't the truism that the easiest way to cut population is to increase education for women? That women who've completed secondary school, anywhere, tend to have many fewer children than people who haven't?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 3:08 PM
horizontal rule
373

372: I thought that it was hard to tease apart the relationship between declining birth rates, wealth, and education of women. I'd also expect the effects of famine on population to be largely in the increased death rate rather than decreased birth rate.

But yeah - at some point there is going to be an American and ten Kenyans bidding for the same bit of natural gas, with the American planning on using it to light his house and the Kenyans planning on using it to grow food. The American will have more money, so for the Kenyan not to starve you'll have to convince the American to pay more to light his house by some means other than natural gas (solar panel + battery, say). How much more should the American (or Canadian, or Brazilian, or Chinaperson) be expected or willing to pay to save someone on the other side of the world that they have never met and have very little in common with? I don't think the answer is large enough to prevent lots of people from starving, which depresses me, so I try not to think about it. We can start throwing numbers around if people want, but I don't think it's going to make anyone happy.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 3:15 PM
horizontal rule
374

368: I don't think that we should rely too much on the prediction that population growth will stop in 50 years. That seems to be a prime example of the kind of thing that can't be predicted, more like a scenario than a prediction.

The idea that population growth will level off because of scarcity and deprivation, even without mass starvation and famine, isn't really reassuring or consoling. It's more like the very thing we were trying to keep from happening.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 3:20 PM
horizontal rule
375

368: Jroth

I admit my population predictions do not match the official predictions. I think the official predictions are based on the officially stated amounts of oil in reserve and I'm fairly sure that number is greatly exaggerated.

When Obama is elected he is going to learn this stuff if he doesn't already know it and watch what he does with the knowledge.

That is if I am correct. Watch what people do and not what they say.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 3:35 PM
horizontal rule
376

uk clean air act was 1956, following the great smog -- i think i remember my dad saying they lasted till the early 60s, though much less virulent; people still burnt coal in lots of houses even though it wasn't allowed any more

when i first moved to london in the early 80s i remember misty days now and then when the nitric acid in the air (from car exhuast?) made yr eyes sting and yr asthma play up -- don't know why this changed between then and now


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 3:41 PM
horizontal rule
377

tierce,

Welcome! I like you accent.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 3:46 PM
horizontal rule
378

The idea that population growth will level off because of scarcity and deprivation, even without mass starvation and famine, isn't really reassuring or consoling. It's more like the very thing we were trying to keep from happening.

Well, yes but. It's hard not to think that developing world (inc. China & India and others) populations aren't, basically, nuts. We're 5% of the world, with ~25% of the resource usage. If China were to reach our per capita usage, they would use everything on earth, and still come up short.

Now, that's mostly because our level is crazy high, but it's also because 3B humans can't live first world lives, at least not unless the magic widget is invented (and probably not then). Wipe us off the planet and hand our stuff over to everyone else, and there's still unimaginable poverty everywhere. It's hard to see any kind of future that doesn't include population reversal. Of course, everyone got very mad at Megan when she said this, but that's largely because she thought Californiacentrism was somehow relevant.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 3:52 PM
horizontal rule
379

373:

Uh huh. That ties in with the ethical question we mull over about who owes what to whom and where do our loyalties lie?

The facts and the decisions and the ethics around global resource constraints are too big for us to handle so we kick the can down the road and let what happens happen.

We keep on keeping on until we can't. History tells us the poor perish first and then death works its way up.

Unless we confront it and somehow force a different choice. But we won't. Because ultimately power means survival and the first to not survive will be those with the least power.

On the bright side I didn't get yelled at yet and I did get an offer for a kiss - even if it was from a guy!

So there is that!


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 3:55 PM
horizontal rule
380

I think my reaction to stories about coming global famine is pretty much like most everyone else's: it'd be a bad thing sure, but what are you actually asking me to do? I'll support reasonable collective action, but I'm not going be the first one to stop eating meat, just because that might work.

Am I going to get yelled at that it will work? That depends on what happens to the productive capacity now being used to produce meat. It might be turned to feeding the world's hungry. It might become a Buffalo Commons. It might go the way of Vermont, which has very substantially re-forested itself in the last 100 years.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 4:11 PM
horizontal rule
381

I'm not going to yell at you, Tripp, but pessimism is not an argument, anymore than optimism is. Confident predictions of the future have a terrible track record. Pessimists of the 70s completely misjudged the next 30 years, not out of any character flaw, but because all attempts at prediction run afoul of the fact that no one has any idea of what the future will be like.

I like soup's formulation of planning for the worst. I think we should plan for the worst, including global famine from the disappearance of fertilizer. But to confidently assert that you know how the future is going to unfold shows that you are radically overestimating your ability -- or any human's ability -- to weigh all the factors and say what's going to happen. You want to invoke the lessons that history teaches us without keeping in mind the history of everyone before you who invoked the lessons of history to little success.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 4:23 PM
horizontal rule
382

but I'm not going be the first one to stop eating meat, just because that might work.

FWIW, in this context deciding to forgo CAFO meat is nearly all upside. It'll cost you a bit more (or you'll eat less, whatever) but steering those dollars into the relatively tiny non-CAFO market now can actually make a real difference in what's done there. Modest increase in cost, quite attainable by most here I'm sure. Also, better quality food. What's not to like?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 4:44 PM
horizontal rule
383

But my ancestors thrived on the veldt hunting cafoes. Their blood flows in my veins.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 4:55 PM
horizontal rule
384

Walt's family has impressive disease resistance.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 4:59 PM
horizontal rule
385

332

"Sorry to be snarky but maybe we could extract the gold from seawater and buy the uranium. How about that?"

By weight gold is 1.e-14 of sea water whereas uranium is 3.e-9. Getting uranium from sea water may prove not to be economically feasible but it is not totally ridiculous. There is some chance the required technology can be developed.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 5:24 PM
horizontal rule
386

336

"James, I can't argue with that as long as you are willing to dismiss the bad environmental effects with a wave of your hand. Maybe we could locate all the polluting plants in Africa. Nobody really cares about that place."

I am not advocating this exactly just saying it looks a lot like the path of least resistence. As you may have noticed Americans like their cheap gas. At some point gas from coal will be price competitive. At which point Exxon or somebody will ante up $10 billion or whatever and build a production facility. And if that facility is a financial success people will build more and before you know it, we will be getting half our gas from coal. You don't like this scenario you need an alternative when gas hits $10 or $20 or $50 a gallon and people are screaming for something to be done.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 5:34 PM
horizontal rule
387

just saying it looks a lot like the path of least resistence. As you may have noticed Americans like their cheap gas. At some point gas from coal will be price competitive.

James is being reasonable here, but I still think that other paths will prove more efficient, obviating searches for Rube Goldbergesque things like gasoline from coal. Coal>electricity>hypercars is a lot more BTU-effective than turning coal into gasoline, and also permits of other future electricity/generating techs.

We really need to recognize where fossil fuels are irreplaceable (either due to cost or effectiveness) and where they are merely ultra-convenient/cheap. We can no longer have our cake and eat it, but it's too much to think that we will have neither.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 5:45 PM
horizontal rule
388

360

"We have taken the first path because the people running the world after WWII decided that was the path to take and got everyone on board without even openly talking about it."

No, they did what people do, made decisions based on their local short term effects.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 5:45 PM
horizontal rule
389

BTW, this is clearly the most meta thread ever. For newbies, here's how it goes:

A blended renewable energy portfolio is LB. Bovine methane capture is apo. Muddling along and hoping for a tech fix is either Sifu or Tim. Hog farms are, obviously, Emerson. And hydrogen power is ogged - did it ever even really exist?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 5:48 PM
horizontal rule
390

173 - we need to maintain (at least) the number of non-US commenters.

It's really hard joining in when one is so many time zones from the punch bowl. One comes back from work and the conversation is hundreds of posts deep and by the time one decides to try to catch up, well, bedtime.

Usually, anyway.


Posted by: disaggregated | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 6:03 PM
horizontal rule
391

It's depressing to think that the most impossible thing about this whole issue is figuring out a way to get a lot of tremendously comfortable, pampered Americans to consent to slightly less luxury and pampering. In Carter's day simple proposals like driving slower or lowering the thermostat setting brought such screams of rage that conservation was a dead issue nationally for 20 years or so.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 6:14 PM
horizontal rule
392

391: Exactly why recent price signals are welcome.


Posted by: disaggregated | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 6:23 PM
horizontal rule
393

Will photovoltaics be limited by Peak Silicon at some point? You can't use sand to make solar cells; you need silicon ore.

I've heard complaints (from chip vendors) that the price of silicon has gone up because of all the solar cells that are being made, but we're barely even using solar. What happens if we really try to switch? Is the number of ore refineries the limiting factor, or is it the amount of high-grade silicon in the ground?


Posted by: amb | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 6:24 PM
horizontal rule
394

Are you sure you can't start with sand? SiO2 is in fact the single most common compound in the earth's crust, so it seems quite unlikely that we'd run out.

Silicon refining is very capital intensive, so if the demand suddenly increases it'll take time to decide to build new refineries and then more time to actually build them. No one wants to get caught with a huge factory and no customers.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 7:52 PM
horizontal rule
395

Tripp,

We touched briefly on the labor contribution of energy to the quality of our lives, and it occurred to me after our conversation to run the conversion.

A kilowatt is approximately equivalent to 1.34 horsepower, so the per capita consumption of 926,000 BTU's per day in the USA is equivalent to 15.142 horsepower. Again, this is the equivalent of 113 lights of 100 watts operating continuously for each person.

Said differently, the energy consumption of America is the equivalent of 15 horses working 24 hours per day for every one of our 300 million people.

If you look at America from low earth orbit at night, you can see those light bulbs, just shinning away.


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 9:42 PM
horizontal rule
396

I'm down with non-CAFO meat.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 08-29-08 10:03 PM
horizontal rule
397

357: Most of the bits were already in place, they needed improving.... and the other bits were considered solvable, just needing a lot of work. This is not true of the energy problem.

Actually... it sort of is true of the energy problem. With solar, frex, most of the bits are already in place but need improving, and the others bits are considered solvable, just needing a lot of work. This is not "rah, rah, technology," it's just a fairly reasonable assessment of the state of the industry.

There's a certain brand of Peak Oil rhetoric that isn't just being overconfident in predicting the future, as Walt notes; it's being deliberately blinkered about how it views the present, presumably out of a misguided sense that cranking up this rhetoric will wake people up to environmental issues. And so, once you can no longer float misleading number-crunches about how unworkable solar power supposedly is (in the minds of oil engineers, anyway), you wind up with howlers like Tripp produced earlier about there being no way to efficiently transport electricity over long distances, and furthermore how Al Gore is looking for "miracles" yadda yadda yadda. At which point, when someone like Tripp tells me how obvious it is that there's no possible alternative to "petroleum fertilizers," I simply don't believe they know what they're talking about; what they're interested in is eschatology, not the actual conditions of the problem.

(Does that qualify as "yelling" at Tripp? I'd hate to disappoint him.)


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 3:07 AM
horizontal rule
398

397 ... DS,

[1] I'm not an "oil" engineer, but I'm surprised you think this should be an epithet or a barrier to clear thinking.

[2] In my comment at [252], I did not give you a misleading number-crunch. Those numbers are simple, open calculations based on DoE data, and tell you the scale of the challenges and replacement investment needed to depart an oil culture. To get from $50 trillion to even $500 billion for "just the panel" in a solar America, you have to get $300 watts down from $1000 to $10. And none of us here can guarantee the technology will manage that. And without a whole lot of batteries, you'll still without power at night. Can you imagine how much lead we're talking about?

[3] I could as easily have picked nuclear power and calculated for you that if we go straight nuclear, you'll need the equivalent of a Yucca waste site every 12 years for the annual production of 6,000 metric tons of highly radioactive metal.

[4] What you call Tripp's "howler" about the difficulty of "efficiently transporting electricity over long distances" is grade school physics. Your TV heats up because the molecules in wire heat up when you push electrons through them. Power lines in the U.S. lose about 7% of their energy due to resistance and the work performed heating up transmission lines and the air around them. That's 8 quadrillion BTU's a year.

[5] The entire electrical grid is at overcapacity now. Systems, including new windmill plants, that could and should be providing electricity to the grid must currently be turned off to keep from sagging and melting the power lines of the grid.

[6] The number you should laugh at is the completely unsupported one given you by JROTH in comment [339] ... "there's no grid to move that electricity on ... OOOOOOOOO scary. Surely we couldn't possibly build a new electricity grid. It would cost 6 whole fucking months worth of Iraqi occupation. Insurmountable." I don't think you are used to dealing with large numbers, but in a country of 300 million people, infrastructure numbers are BIG, and the $60 billion suggested here is utterly inadequate. You accept this number pulled out of the air (because it might seem reasonable) but project that I'm the one running "misleading number crunches" after providing you open calculations.

[6] Neither Tripp nor I have said the problems are insurmountable or that you should simply melt in despair. On the contrary, we're working hard to get you to simply begin working on the problem at all. What I see is a country of people sitting on their hands thinking "the market will save me." And the reality is that you -- you personally, informed citizen "DS" -- have no idea where this country is going to find the energy to continue providing you and everyone else the equivalent of 15 horsepower [see comment 395] -- and in consequence you're part of the problem as long as you continue telling people not to worry, or to worry less, or not to trust oil engineers.


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 6:14 AM
horizontal rule
399

398: I'm surprised you think this should be an epithet or a barrier to clear thinking.

About alternatives to oil, I certainly do, since the oil industry has a proven track record in this regard. (I wasn't meaning to imply that you're an oilman, however.)

Those numbers are simple, open calculations based on DoE data

... aaaand a misleading assumption that present commercial photovoltaic cells are the relevant example.

I could as easily have picked nuclear power

Yes, I'm sure you could have. But then I wasn't talking about nuclear power, was I.

What you call Tripp's "howler" about the difficulty of "efficiently transporting electricity over long distances" is grade school physics.

It's his implication that systemic inefficiencies would make solar power unworkable that's the howler. That a percentage of power is lost in the transmission is not news, nor is it especially relevant in context.

The entire electrical grid is at overcapacity now.

It's a known fact that all aspects of North American infrastructure, in both your country and mine, are in urgent need of upgrade.

Since I didn't mention JRoth's post, I'm a bit bemused that you're flailing at me as though I quoted it as gospel, but:

The number you should laugh at is the completely unsupported one given you by JROTH in comment [339] ... "there's no grid to move that electricity on ... OOOOOOOOO scary. Surely we couldn't possibly build a new electricity grid. It would cost 6 whole fucking months worth of Iraqi occupation. Insurmountable."

His basic point that prioritizing infrastructure over pointless wars is a good one. There's no doubting that considerable strides in US infrastructure, including energy infrastructure, could have been made with the the trillion and counting dollars already spent in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I don't think you are used to dealing with large numbers

Oh my, getting a bit defensive, are we?

On the contrary, we're working hard to get you to simply begin working on the problem at all.

You see, my entire point is that if you're distorting or ignoring the facts about the present state of research and future prospects of alternative energy sources, you're not in fact "working hard to get people working on the problem," whatever it is you imagine yourself to be doing. And when you accuse people who correct your of innumeracy and happytalk and market worship and burying their heads in the sand, you're actually... part of the problem.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 7:50 AM
horizontal rule
400

it's just a fairly reasonable assessment of the state of the industry.

Obviously, we disagree on this. But that's ok, and we've been around this one before, here.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 8:00 AM
horizontal rule
401

The number you should laugh at is the completely unsupported one given you by JROTH in comment [339]

Support, asshole.

I suppose I could have come up with a number you'd accept by starting out with a spool of #12 AWG from the hardware store. Silly me, relying on the actual DOE plan for creating a high voltage backbone for nationwide transmission of wind power.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 8:02 AM
horizontal rule
402

This comment proves to have been more apt than expected.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 8:05 AM
horizontal rule
403

401, JROTH,

the article you cite makes it clear that it's only the beginning of a 20% solution that enables us to move power currently provided by more local coal burners to more remote locations. Not the provision of more electricity, simply the same amount from more distant locations. But right up front we have to multiply the $60 billion by 5 to talk about an electric American economy with truly distributed power contributors (but without any increased demand).

The project described (and I'm familiar with the work) does not begin to address the needs of an electrical backbone supporting transportation needs, i.e., the conversion of gasoline powered vehicles to battery. And those numbers are huge.

Think about it. You probably run a few light bulbs at home and some air conditioning and a stove on electricity. Now you're thinking about charging up your car every night with enough stored power to move you and 2500 lbs of metal 40 miles.

Multiply that demand by 300 million and drop it on your beginning of a $60 billion "backbone" for an electric economy.

I don't want you frustrated and I'm truly sorry I'm making you frustrated. I'm sorry I don't know how to say this more politely or make the reality more accessible. We face some big challenges and making them smaller than they really are makes them insurmountable.


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 8:38 AM
horizontal rule
404

With wind power, some energy-intensive industries would have good reason to move to Minnesota, ND, Oklahoma, etc. It would help if electricity was billed according to transmission cost.

Rebuilding cities for less commuting will increasingly make sense too.

These discussions tend to zero in on single elements one at a time -- renewable energy, improved efficiency, technological change, changed lifestyles, population limitation, etc. Obviously no one of them will be enough, and it's hard to discuss all of them at once. But a combined approach is what is needed.

Economists, as far as I know, all assume that tech change will be enough to allow economic growth indefinitely into the future. Hermann Daly made a preliminary attempt to block out what steady-state economics would be like, and his ideas sank like a rock. Economists believe in growth the way wingers believe in the Bible.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 8:54 AM
horizontal rule
405

404 ...

Economists should be locked in a room until THEY provide scalable clean fusion or inform us how to safely place thousands of square miles of solar fabric in orbit and beam the power down.

Hope you enjoyed your bike ride. I do about 2,000 miles a year on my mountain bike, an early assembly line Cannondale outfitted for two- and three-day trips along logging roads and winding rivers.


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 9:08 AM
horizontal rule
406

You're making me frustrated because you're being an asshole. The relevant phrase after someone provides support for a claim you call "unsupported" is "Sorry, I didn't mean to be an asshole."

If you want to add to that, feel free, but without it, you're not doing the work of participating in a civil, productive conversation.

I'm awfully surprised to learn that 300 million Americans drive 40 miles/day. I'm even more surprised to learn that they will do so in an energy-scarce future.

I'm also surprised to learn that 6 months of something we can afford times 5 is unaffordable. Given that we won't be building a new grid in 6 months flat, there's no reason that we can't afford it over 30 months. Some of the numbers are scary; this one isn't, so let it go.

Look, there's no point in continuing this - you don't want to listen to anything that isn't doom and gloom, and I don't need you to tell me we're in trouble. Goodbye.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 9:10 AM
horizontal rule
407

I bar hop on my bicycle. My goal is to go to every country bar within 25 miles by the end of the summer. Five more trips and I've done it.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 9:12 AM
horizontal rule
408

405 ...

"Smaller scale ethanol & methanol the way to go."

Fine. I need 22 million barrels a day across a range of fuels including, but not limited to, aviation, heating, and your basic car&truck fraction. Please tell me where I get that.


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 9:14 AM
horizontal rule
409

407 ... that's exactly the way i want to do Ireland ... pub to pub and b&b to b&b ...

i figure i might end up needing to put training wheels on the thing to sort of control the induced coefficient of wobbliness ... and maybe a little thermal pack to keep my harps (beer) chilled.

i've been planning to do this for about a decade, then a few years ago my country went goofy and i got involved in a few other projects.


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 9:18 AM
horizontal rule
410

I limit myself to three beers per trip. Mostly because I get sleepy and unenergetic with more than that, but I imagine that with more than three I'd get absent minded more likely to fail to notice a rut or obstruction and have a spill.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 9:25 AM
horizontal rule
411

-


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 9:26 AM
horizontal rule
412

406, JRoth,

"Sorry, I didn't mean to be an asshole." I mean that. After more than two decades of having to apologize almost daily at DoS or DoE or DoC for being an asshole, I know I'm an asshole. I know that being an asshole detracts from my message and I keep trying to get better.

Again, my apologizes. Have a great day.


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 9:26 AM
horizontal rule
413

Well, if I use really large mugs, I'm willing to stop at three also. But it feels so disciplined when I do that, and the idea is to court a little irrational exuberance, you know, like Jeff Daniels in "Something Wild."


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 9:30 AM
horizontal rule
414

I actually have blocked out a 75 mile trip with 7 beers on the return 37 miles. I did the route with 3 beer plus one at the end a couple of days ago. The country bars are spaced out at about 5 mile intervals around here.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 9:32 AM
horizontal rule
415

Oh, "country bars" sounds so inviting. There are no bars within many miles of me. I have a nice little cabin on a ridge surrounded by forest, and a 0.7 mile walk to my own mail box, but there I hit a major truck road and I've seen too many squished squirrels to want to join them. I can throw a rock at West Virginia, and there are many beautiful biking places all around me. When I'm not traveling (working) or gardening, I'm biking. Except for now. And in fifteen minutes (on weekends I live on Hemingway's rule) it will be noon and I get my first beer of the day.


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 9:44 AM
horizontal rule
416

DS: It's his (Tripp's) implication that systemic inefficiencies would make solar power unworkable that's the howler. That a percentage of power is lost in the transmission is not news, nor is it especially relevant in context.

I know I'm cherry picking here but it seems I was discussed after leaving.

Combine the systemic inefficiencies with the fact that usable sunlight shine at most for 12 hours on a location is what makes solar - not unworkable, and I never said that thank you very much, but not much of a solution.

For example, where will New York city get its solar power electricity when it is nighttime in North America?

If you propose a global grid of solar electrical generation so that some plant somewhere is always in daylight then how do you get that electricity from, say, China over to the US?

Seriously? Trans-pacific cables which carry not fiber but super-conducting cables that need to be kept very very cold?

I know you know cables add loss and I know you know the sun doesn't shine everywhere or all day but have you really thought through how those two factors combine?

I know, for a fact, that some computer companies are choosing to locate their server farms in some remote-ish locations where they can buy electricity cheaper but will we be moving New York City there? We can't bring the juice to us, at least not enough of it efficiently enough so what do we do?

Taking a pot shot at Gore's plan - I agree with the economics of it. Companies will invest where they can make money, no doubt about that. Even so, just because you can make a profit selling pet rocks doesn't mean people can eat them.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 10:59 AM
horizontal rule
417

I think that solar power or wind power would motivate migration.

Solar power isn't a single solution any more than anything else is, and both have specific problems that would have to be solved. Specifically, storage and transport of power. Nonetheless, it seems to me that both could contribute a lot.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 11:06 AM
horizontal rule
418

The best common denominator is electricity, and the key to all these contibuting systems is going to be a national backbone that allows any end point to add power to the grid or pull it. Eventually the core transports of the grid will be superconducting.

I suspect that Nevada (or a place like it) will become a hub. We can mark out 30-mile diameter circles and place nuclear power parks in there, with land and air space absolutely restricted. Eventually fusion goes there. Eventually we put power plants and square miles of solar fabric in orbit and beam power there. When the lights start going out, people will demand solutions and still won't want nuclear reactors in their neighborhoods.

Every known terrestial technology is no more than a stopgap for the way we use power and want to continue using power. Except for nuclear (with horrific externalities), they're all based on sunlight and there is more in orbit.

The challenge I've faced in the last fifteen years of conversation on this is the right wing can't stand the idea that the private sector can't come up with the trillions of investment needed or a model for risk management, and also can't stand the idea of national investment on a scale approaching "let's go to the moon."

In addition, I think we're going to need to rebuild something like Bell Labs and fund the hell out of it.


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 12:27 PM
horizontal rule
419

394: Nope, not sure at all; that's just what I recall from the two-minute how-we-get-silicon-wafers spiel the prof gave at the start of my undergrad solid state course.

I don't see why why you couldn't get pure silicon from the oxide. It seems like it would be awfully expensive (in terms of both energy and cost), though. But I'm not a chemist. Maybe there's some simple, cheap, reaction that will do it.


Posted by: amb | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 12:44 PM
horizontal rule
420

387

"James is being reasonable here, but I still think that other paths will prove more efficient, obviating searches for Rube Goldbergesque things like gasoline from coal. Coal>electricity>hypercars is a lot more BTU-effective than turning coal into gasoline, and also permits of other future electricity/generating techs."

You can call it Rube Goldbergesque all you want but coal to oil really is proven technology. South Africa currently gets 30% of its liquid fuels from coal. Here is a 2006 article about it:

"In June, two senators from coal-producing states, Barack Obama of Illinois and Jim Bunning of Kentucky, introduced a bill to offer loan guarantees and tax incentives for U.S. coal-to-liquid plants.

Sasol has found a particularly receptive audience in Montana's Democratic governor, Brian Schweitzer, who says he carries a lump of coal and a vial of liquefied coal with him at all times. He is lobbying coal companies and others to build coal-to-liquid plants across his state, which has some of the biggest coal reserves in the U.S."

...

"Coal-to-oil "is coming to the United States," Gov. Schweitzer proclaims. When it does, he says, other countries "will be scrambling to protect their oil supplies -- and we'll be energy independent.""


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 3:28 PM
horizontal rule
421

397

"Actually... it sort of is true of the energy problem. With solar, frex, most of the bits are already in place but need improving, and the others bits are considered solvable, just needing a lot of work. This is not "rah, rah, technology," it's just a fairly reasonable assessment of the state of the industry."

This is just wrong. The immediate energy problem is that we are running out of oil. This means major politically painful increases in the price of gasoline. Solar is little help here. Solar may eventually be a useful way to generate electricity but that is not an immediate problem. Even in terms of generating electricity solar is not currently competitive without subsidies and it appears to me that solar generated electricty is unlikely ever to be as cheap as coal generated electricity currently is. We can survive with electricity costing say 5 times as much as today but this is not an ideal solution.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 3:40 PM
horizontal rule
422

398

"[5] The entire electrical grid is at overcapacity now. Systems, including new windmill plants, that could and should be providing electricity to the grid must currently be turned off to keep from sagging and melting the power lines of the grid."

This is basically nonsense. The windmill plants were built in the middle of nowhere with the expectation that someone else would pay for the transmission capacity required to make them useful. This should be the responsibility of the power generator.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 3:47 PM
horizontal rule
423

422: I'm pretty sure you missed the point. He was saying that we generate more electricity than can be delivered. This includes but is not limited to windmill-generated electricity. He was basically just pointing out a present weakness of our system. I have no idea what you mean by "nonsense".


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 3:54 PM
horizontal rule
424

I think Shearer is saying that the windmill owners should not be subsidized by providing public transmission capacity. But, you know, there's a reason why the grid was originally developed as a public utility -- it's a natural monopoly.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 4:13 PM
horizontal rule
425

423

"I'm pretty sure you missed the point. He was saying that we generate more electricity than can be delivered. This includes but is not limited to windmill-generated electricity. He was basically just pointing out a present weakness of our system. I have no idea what you mean by "nonsense"."

I mean this is not a major problem at the moment. There are no widespread blackouts (or brownouts) occurring because of lack of transmission capacity. The power not supplied by windmills was supplied instead by someone with a power plant in a more convenient location. This is just propaganda by wind power producers who want somebody else to pay for the transmission lines they need. I am sure the oil companies would be have been happy if the government had built the trans-Alaska pipeline for them but there was no reason to subsidize them.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 4:19 PM
horizontal rule
426

425, James, "This is not a major problem at the moment."

How "major" a problem do you need beyond the one Tripp and I have been explaining -- there's no infrastructure to support electric cars right now.

It is easy to find articles like the following:

~~~

In 2005, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave the power grid a 'D' rating in its report card on the state of domestic infrastructure. The group issues "report cards" every four years.

"The U.S. power transmission system is in urgent need of modernization," a summary of ASCE's report says. "Growth in electricity demand and investment in new power plants has not been matched by investment in new transmission facilities. Maintenance expenditures have decreased 1% per year since 1992. Existing transmission facilities were not designed for the current level of demand, resulting in an increased number of "bottlenecks," which increase costs to consumers and elevate the risk of blackouts."

A study conducted earlier this year by the Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center concluded, "Despite efforts to mitigate blackout risk, the data available from the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) for 1984-2006 indicate that the frequency of large blackouts in the United States is not decreasing."

Since July, all seven of the country's regional grid operators that monitor power flow throughout the nation reported record electricity consumption as temperatures increased. Blackouts struck many parts of the country during the month of July, not because of a shortage of supply, but because the dilapidated power grid could not handle the amount of electricity that was sent back and forth across the transmission lines.

http://www.baltimorechronicle.com/2008/081208Leopold.shtml


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 8:11 PM
horizontal rule
427

283: Possibly stupid question: what about using solar-electric energy to run motors all day to either pump water up into a reservoir or lift ginormous weights, then reverse with a generator to recover it at night? Gravitational potential energy stores very well.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 8:34 PM
horizontal rule
428

426

"How "major" a problem do you need beyond the one Tripp and I have been explaining -- there's no infrastructure to support electric cars right now."

If and when we start switching to electric cars we can easily add the electrical infrastructure needed to support them.

"... Blackouts struck many parts of the country during the month of July, not because of a shortage of supply, but because the dilapidated power grid could not handle the amount of electricity that was sent back and forth across the transmission lines."

If and when this becomes a real problem the grid will be patched up. There were some bad storm related problems where I live a few years ago and the utilities have been hacking trees away from the power lines ever since.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 8:42 PM
horizontal rule
429

Not stupid. If the gravitational gradiant already exists, like a cliff near a body of water, we'll do it, even using cyclic wave motion to drive small pumps. We will learn to capture every erg we can.

I'm waiting to see a smart plan to pull geothermal off Mt. Saint Helens. Yosemite could easily net power.


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 8:43 PM
horizontal rule
430

427

"Possibly stupid question: what about using solar-electric energy to run motors all day to either pump water up into a reservoir or lift ginormous weights, then reverse with a generator to recover it at night? Gravitational potential energy stores very well."

Pumped hydro storage is a proven technology which is in use in a few places. One problem is you need a suitable site. Also it is not 100% efficient but I expect this or other storage schemes would reduce the day night cost differential (with respect to solar power) to a factor of two or so. Winter summer may be a bigger problem.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 8:50 PM
horizontal rule
431

We will learn to capture every erg we can.

No, we need to preserve a viable wild erg population. A National Wild Erg refuge is crucial.

Sorry, I shouldn't make light of an informative discussion of a serious topic, but that's just such a wonderful phrase.


Posted by: Save The Ergs! | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 8:51 PM
horizontal rule
432

It's our patriotic duty to have more saved ergs than any other nation.

USA! First in Ergs!


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 8:58 PM
horizontal rule
433

431: Sorry

You'd better be, no jokes allowed in the Stras Environmental Discussion Tribute Thread.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 8:59 PM
horizontal rule
434

JP, is that acronym pronounced "sedated"?


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 9:01 PM
horizontal rule
435

I'm waiting to see a smart plan to pull geothermal off Mt. Saint Helens.

Imagine what you could do with a massive pyroclastic flow. Not easy to harness that energy, but let's get on it.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 9:04 PM
horizontal rule
436

A National Wild Erg refuge is crucial.

That's exactly what a free-running river or waterfall is. Hands off Yosemite, you renewable energy motherfuckers!


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 9:05 PM
horizontal rule
437

436 to 429 also.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 9:06 PM
horizontal rule
438

pyroclastic flow.

i had to look that up. thanks for the new term. sort of a naturally occuring plasma weapon.

~~~

There is testimonial evidence from the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, supported by experimental evidence, that pyroclastic flows can cross significant bodies of water; one flow reached the Sumatran coast as much as 25 miles (40 km) away, having apparently moved across the water on a "cushion" of superheated steam.


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 9:10 PM
horizontal rule
439

Pyroclastic flows, despite being fairly heavy, move like vapor, right?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 9:14 PM
horizontal rule
440

PGD, it is renewable. You just have the carry the water back up there.

But I was thinking geothermal, which can all be underground (tastefully invisible) not dams.


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 9:15 PM
horizontal rule
441

439: Like the wind. As 438 suggests, they have a large gaseous component. This nifty map indicates that an eruption of Mount Rainier could wipe out much of Tacoma with a lahar, which is similar.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 08-30-08 9:28 PM
horizontal rule
442
Because of the special geological situation in Iceland, the high concentration of volcanoes and geothermal energy are very often used for heating and production of electricity. The energy is so inexpensive that in the wintertime, some pavements in Reykjavík and Akureyri are heated.
In Iceland, there are five major geothermal power plants which produce about 26% (2006) of the country's electricity. In addition, geothermal heating meets the heating and hot water requirements for around 87% of the nation's buildings.

Once country down, 180 to go!


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-31-08 7:52 AM
horizontal rule
443

421: We're not talking about immediate-term, James, we're talking about near- to mid-term. Near- to mid-term solutions of course require action in the immediate-term, I'm not saying solar is going to solve the problem tomorrow. If the US ever musters the will to address this that it musters for wars, chances are that it would bring the prospect of such a solution nearer considerably faster.

it appears to me that solar generated electricty is unlikely ever to be as cheap as coal generated electricity currently is.

With 40% efficiency cells already theoretically possible, it doesn't appear unlikely to me at all.

Of course for solar to fulfill its potential, it will require subsidies, which in turn require public awareness that it's a viable alternative. Considerable investment would also be necessary for transmission infrastructure (a switch the HVDC from AC would be necessary), and as Tripp notes some solution for power storage would be needed to overcome the day-night differential (this extremely conservative article about solar recommends compressed-air storage).


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-31-08 8:52 AM
horizontal rule
444

416: I guess I don't see much daylight between claims that it's unworkable and "not much of a solution." You are, however, right that I was wrong to skirt over the questions of transmission and storage; we should be explicit about these things.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-31-08 9:20 AM
horizontal rule
445

443, respectfully, I am talking about immediate and near term. I was hoping the article cited at comment 426 would put to rest any remaining optimism about the status of our national electrical grid. As of July this year, "all seven of the country's regional grid operators that monitor power flow throughout the nation reported record electricity consumption as temperatures increased ... blackouts struck many parts of the country during the month of July, not because of a shortage of supply, but because the dilapidated power grid could not handle the amount of electricity that was sent back and forth across the transmission lines."

There's no slack. Consequently, a storm, a tornado, an accident in the wrong place, could take down huge swathes of our grid tomorrow. It should be apodictically clear that we can't start to base a transportation system on electric power until it is reliable. People need to get to work.

James [comment 421], coal is part of the carbon problem, not part of a viable long-term solution. I imagine PGD (who defends waterfalls above) is as tired as I am of watching the tops of whole mountain chains vanish to sustain our current consumption of 1 billion tons of coal a year. That rate is poised to double in two decades as we shift to electric rail in cities and battery-powered cars.


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-31-08 9:34 AM
horizontal rule
446

445: I was hoping the article cited at comment 426 would put to rest any remaining optimism about the status of our national electrical grid.

Respectfully, didn't I already say that considerable infrastructure upgrades are necessary? Why are you blathering about "optimism about the status of our national electrical grid"?


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-31-08 9:40 AM
horizontal rule
447

DS 444,

Civilization has always kind of tottered at the precarious edge of "not much of a solution."

If we'd gone electric when Carter started us on that path, and built an energy-industrial-complex instead of allowing Reagan to distract us in spending several $trillion on a military-industrial-complex, we'd be in reasonable shape to solve the carbon problem today. But we lost three decades. Now we have to solve both problems -- getting off oil AND carbon -- at the same time, and within just a few decades, and persuade the rest of the world to go with us.

History will mark Reagan as the most expensive error in human history.


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-31-08 9:47 AM
horizontal rule
448

447: Most of that, I agree with. (Except the part about "persuade the rest of the world to go with" you. The point is rather that the rest of the world needs the US to be an active participant instead of a holdout.)


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08-31-08 10:03 AM
horizontal rule
449

448, agreed.

One of the largest frustrations for me at the state department during the last administration was watching us decide international law was for losers.

We're going to have to do something we don't like doing, and that's give away the technology. We have to help China and India have access to the ways and means of clean, renewable energy, or two billion people will burn coal and oil until it's dark out.


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-31-08 10:16 AM
horizontal rule
450

447: The collapse or destruction of the Carter administration is an enormous story that I haven't seen told in a comprehensive way.

There's ample evidence that the Reagan people were working with the kidnappers, and that part of Iran-Contra was a payoff. No one's been called to account for that, and Oliver North is still making a living off his hero status.

It's pure speculation on my part, but I'd like to be reassured that Carter's inflation disaster wasn't inflicted upon him by malign forces in finance or in the Federal Reserve. I know that during the early-mid Seventies there was a turn away from labor-friendly, social-spending-friendly policies by a lot of big industry and finance people.

And the oil price crisis and Carter's attempts to deal with it made federal government encouragement of conservation or lifestyle change, or even energy policy at all, toxic for a generation. Again, there were external forces involved. Not just OPEC, either.

Yes, I'm a conspiracy theorist. There have been a lot of actual conspiracies in history.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-31-08 10:26 AM
horizontal rule
451

If I were a powerful person I would definitely conspire with other powerful people in order to enhance my/our power. but I'm definitely less moral and public-spirited than Henry Kessinger.


Posted by: peter | Link to this comment | 08-31-08 10:28 AM
horizontal rule
452

sorry, I mean Don Kessinger.


Posted by: peter | Link to this comment | 08-31-08 10:34 AM
horizontal rule
453

We're pretty adept at, and have no compunctions about, false flag operations. We know the Reagan people were terrified the hostages would be released on Carter's watch. The oil folks ran a full-court press to crush him.

Most people aren't aware of North's involvement in the Desert One debacle, or the possibility it was not intended to succeed. Little about the mission "as designed" made any sense.

http://www.donhopkins.com/drupal/node/104

With respect to conspiracies, I tend to follow the money and the power. With the rise of a plutocratic class with shared interests across national boundaries, balance of power politics has indeed shifted into inter-corporate and class warfare across states. Misinformation is a powerful weapon. And people are lazy. To pretend the U.S. doesn't engage in a considerable number of conspiracies all the time is to imagine we've outgrown war and don't care about power. To those who don't think we're a very imperial state, Dennis Perrin and atinyrevolution are must reads.

If you [the govt] have to hide what you're doing [like Cheney's Energy Task Force] you don't get to tell me I'm going to benefit. It's up to you to prove it; and absent an open accounting, I'm a fool not to suspect conspiracy, and that our current energy plan will in fact only benefit our corporatist masters.

I was worried you were going to hit me on the "last administration" gaff. For some reason I am already in the psychological space that Obama has won. God I hope so. If we lose four more years because Americans are really this stupid and uninformed and lazy, I have little more thread at the end of my rope to tie a knot in and hang on. It's to the desert then for me.


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-31-08 10:55 AM
horizontal rule
454

Who benefitted then from the failure of the Desert One mission? The military had every sector of its budget massively expanded and knew what they had to gain from a Reagan presidency. And they had an inbuilt massive fear of an already weakening Soviet Bear.

All organizations plan for their own survival and expansion, and the Pentagon plans for everything. Someday we'll have to ask ourselves who really is in charge.


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-31-08 11:07 AM
horizontal rule
455

people have thrown games for a stack of $100s.

wouldn't you throw a mission for a $trillion check?


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-31-08 11:12 AM
horizontal rule
456

and if you're in the organizatin of the guy (North) who did it, wouldn't you make sure he was known forever as A PATRIOT ...


Posted by: ehj2 | Link to this comment | 08-31-08 11:13 AM
horizontal rule