"Almost half of all the coal produced in the United States is mined by companies that have recently gone bankrupt. This Article explains how those bankruptcy proceedings have undermined federal environmental and labor laws. In particular, coal companies have used the Bankruptcy Code to evade congressionally imposed liabilities requiring that they pay lifetime health benefits to coal miners and restore land degraded by surface mining. Using financial information reported in filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission and in the companies’ reorganization agreements, we show that between 2012 and 2017, four of the largest coal companies in the United States succeeded in shedding almost $5.2 billion of environmental and retiree liabilities."
In my country, pension funds are always separate companies from the employers; they have to deposit part of your wage into the pension fund, after which they can no longer touch it (because well, it's your money).
Of course, whether the pension companies handle it appropriately is another matter.
Defined contribution means the employer puts away a certain defined amount for every employee and the employee is entitled to that. This removes the risk of mismanagement of funds and gives employees responsibility to manage their own investments. An example is a 401k account. Most private businesses in the US switched over to defined contribution as its more sustainable and predictable. As an employee I also prefer defined contribution since my retirement is no longer dependent on the health of an employer a few decades from now.
This is a very loaded characterization. You're describing pension beneficiaries as using some kind of leverage ("held hostage") to extract resources that current employees might have a better claim to ("forcing [them] to suffer").
But defined-benefit pensions are a form of deferred compensation. Those employees from 30 years ago accepted lower wages in exchange for future pension payments, and the company received something of value (employee labor) on partial credit. So pension beneficiaries aren't extracting rents from the company. They're creditors of the company, literally. There's nothing untoward about them expecting payment, and if the company has mismanaged funds, they're not the ones to bear that risk. (If the company flourishes and increases in value, pension payments don't increase. If retirees don't benefit from the upside, they shouldn't bear the downside risk, either, which is just another way of saying that pension obligations represent a debt, not any kind of equity.)
That may be true, but that doesn't mean that another competitor without those legacy costs can come in and better compete, unless the benefit from being able to pay less for the workers from long ago is big enough to create a sustainable competitive advantage. I would also note that the term is likely much longer than many debt agreements (most debt is 5-10 years) and is not subject to the proper credit risk considerations as normal corporate debt.
> There's nothing untoward about them expecting payment, and if the company has mismanaged funds, they're not the ones to bear that risk
Employees are the ones that bear the risk as a company can always renegotiate or go out of business. I'm not sure where pension liabilities fall in bankruptcy, but I certainly wouldn't want to bet my retirement savings on my current employer's health 30 years from now.
That might or might not be true. You can pay everybody well now and give them a pension, leaving the next generation to figure out how to pay out the pension that doesn't have any money in it. There are laws in place that try to prevent this.
Defined-benefit pensions are basically a scam. They promise you a lot of "guaranteed" money with hidden risks (what if the investment returns are lower than expected? what if the company's business fails?) and then the managers who made that deal are long gone by the time the workers find out whether the gamble that was quietly made with their retirement money actually paid out or not.
It's possible to structure them as an annuity from a financial institution that actually has the assets to back them up, but then the lower risk would be priced in, which reduces the ROI so much that it makes them highly unattractive compared to investment vehicles with greater variability and correspondingly higher returns.
People only like them because they're perceived as guaranteed even though they carry significant risk. It feels a lot like the mortgage crisis in that way -- people rating high risk mortgages as AAA because they expect to be long gone by the time the dust settles.
You do wonder if the Accounting profession deliberately altered the rules around DB pensions to allow employers to shut them down.
Basically in the UK if the worst case scenarios that DB pensions have to match came true you would be talking about a major break down in civil society and making sure you had a shotgun to defend your stash of tinned goods.
Employers shut them down because insuring such risks decades into the future is too costly, not to mention the inability to reliably predict events that far into the future.
If you think I am joking look at the recent audit scandals in the UK by the Big 4
You could historically get close to their targets with higher risk investments (although even then they were optimistic), but that involves the risk of losing a significant amount of the principal. Which doesn't mesh with providing a guaranteed payout to retirees. But if you stick to lower risk investments, the amount of the shortfall is enormous.
So it was historically fraud. They guaranteed a payout and then did things that may have resulted in them not having the money. Once you do the accounting accurately and restrict yourself to investments that can't result in being unable to make the promised payouts, it turns out the cost of a guaranteed payout is large.
and you are ignoring the fact that DB schemes are immortal or very very long lived.
You don't have to trust them at all, you can do the math for yourself.
> and you are ignoring the fact that DB schemes are immortal or very very long lived.
That's the fraud. Nothing actually lasts forever. When you use today's payments to pay yesterday's benefits, you have nothing to pay what you owe to today's workers. If the company's business ever fails, the workers lose their retirement because the money they paid in was already paid out to their predecessors.
On top of that, companies with huge unfunded pension liabilities have a competitive disadvantage against newer companies without them, which makes it more likely those companies will fail.
And the same is true of governments. A state that promises retirees half its GDP is going to have low economic growth, low population growth because young people can't afford to start a family there, and reduced immigration because people won't want to to move to a place where they pay half their income in taxes to fund a retirement program that will be bankrupt by the time it's their turn to collect it.
It’s pretty well established that if you give a small group of people control of a large pot of money and the ability to fudge numbers decades into the future, it’s going to be corrupted and the future is going to end up paying.
Edit: thread with lots of examples: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10596814
In particular: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10597070
But for other companies, normal limited liability bankruptcy is the default solution. Nobody thought coal companies would be a special risk in the sense of having liabilities way after their income. It's like if you invent an ice cream that turns out to give people cancer in 20 years, there's no recourse beyond what money the company has at that time.
I have noticed a chain of rationalization cropping up a lot with preventable human health crises - often on a generational time scale.
The sequence seems to be similiar to an ironic reshuffled subsection of stages of grief.
1. Bargining: "Yeah it is bad but is better than the alternative." (It makes money/keeps us from freezing to death.)
2. Acceptance: "It is a neccessity now." (Most of our industrial and personal exonomy is dependent on it.)
3. Denial: "It can't be harmful!"
4. Anger: "How could we know that it was bad?"
1) People must be held responsible for their actions no matter if it's in their free time or at work. You do it, you are responsible for it.
2) Those that give unlawful tasks to others as their boss must personally be held responsible no matter whether the task actually got implemented, or not.
3) The investors of avtivities must personally be held responsible for the activities they fund. It's their responsibility to know what they are funding.
Nearly 100,000 coal miners at risk of losing pension money by 2022
But it won't get implemented, why? It would be in many billions because the bond needs to cover clean up costs, etc. Companies want this risk to be borne by government and indirectly, the population/environment.
A better approach is to make the mine operator come up with some sort of remediation plan as part of the approvals process and then insist that they follow it, backed with the threat of massive fines. Se a standard so that remediation has to be ongoing or commence before the economic phase of extraction is over (to prevent bankruptcy from being a rational out).
That does front-load the costs and so push out smaller operators from starting mines; but that is pretty much inevitable when tightening environmental standards. If the goal is to force a company to do something that isn't economically rational, a determined regulator is a reasonable way.
When you buy a stake in a corporation(especially one that comes with voting rights), and the corporation goes on to cause damages to life, property, the environment etc, you should be held personally liable in proportion with your share(or voting share).
I can see the argument for limited liability in case of debts: the issuer of the debt has the opportunity to do due diligence and take the risk of bankruptcy into account. But in the case of damages, I don't see how limited liability can ever be justified.
To put it another way, we managed to run the industrial revolution with pervasive unlimited liability, so it seems likely that 'completely critical' is substantively overstating it.
We should be striving to equalise access by both the poor and the wealthy to making money. Limited liability makes it safe for little investors (the people who can't afford a personal lawyer and accountant) to invest in a company.
Take away the limits, and it is no longer safe for small investors to invest in large companies. A big scandal and small shareholders could be wiped out. People who, realistically, had no actual control over the corporation and who were just trying to tap in to the wealth creation engines of the broader economy.
Removing limited liability provisions (1) doesn't target the executives, who are decision makers and (2) tips the field towards an "only the wealthy can afford the risk of investing in stock" equilibrium - even if just a little bit.
LLC isn't a serious mechanism to "privatise gains, socialise losses". That is achieved when the US government sweeps in and gives large cash infusions to incompetent bankers so they can pretend that bankruptcy is a mysterious phenomenon that threatens consumers rather than being a realisation of the incredible damage that they are doing with their own bad decisions. You can easily have both well remediated minesites and LLC laws in the same story. Just beef the regulation up a little.
I’d argue that limited liability mostly benefits the wealthy, as they’re the ones that:
1. Can afford to set up their affairs as a corporation instead of a sole proprietorship or partnership
2. Keep the rest of their assets safe (because they have a lot!) if something goes awry
You don’t need limited liability if you have few assets to go after anyway.
2. What's a lot? Losing even a $100K house is devastating. Having a failed business's creditors take away everything because a customer fails to pay a bill in a timely manner and causes a cascade of failed bill payments from the business is crazy... which is the main reason you incorporate - routine business risks are... riskier than most people's personal life.
Limited liability is a tool for everyone and I would argue matters more the less wealthy you are. I say that having started four businesses, with about a month worth of operating cash... Started three part time on the side, and without the corporation self-employment tax alone would have crushed the business, let alone a lawsuit against my family because of a routine business issue. It also helps in reverse - a financial problem a partner in a small business has generally is not able to reach through the business to take assets from the company. It might change who the owners are, but it doesn not allow people to reach through to the business.
These are not issues of the rich.
Bills and other debts can be subject to limited liability when the other party explicitly agrees to it.
My point was that damages to 3rd parties who didn't agree to the conditions of limited liability, like people affected by hazardous chemicals(see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhopal_disaster), unsound structures, unsafe workplaces, environmental damage and so on should not be denied restitution because of limited liability. Neither should the taxpayers pick up the tab in such cases.
To the last point, losing everything, even if it's less, would be more devastating than a richer person losing half of what they have in a judgement. So a poor person needs a LLC to avoid the calamity of everything being taken.
Before LLCs it was only established families or folks with very wealthy patrons/backers who started companies. Now millions of people from every financial status do so. The proof of the pudding is in the eating.
The people with resources would set up ad-hoc schemes like that would limit their liability somehow, slipping loopholes in to the legal system. The small players wouldn't have the resources to play that sort of game. The more there is to lose the more effort would be diverted into protecting it.
The beneficial owners of the shells should be revealed anyway.
I’m okay with the wealthy having to hire an army of accountants instead of just pocketing it all. Taxes would be better though.
It’s all an academic exercise though as some country will allow limited liability.
I'm slightly surprised to have to argue on a site built on providing venture capital as equity to startups that also issue equity to employees that exposing all those investors to the risk of losing their homes as a result of action by those they have only a very limited control over is a bad idea.
> what do you think happens in countries that don't have limited liability companies?
There is an excellent book on this, The Other Path by the economist Hernando de Soto, on extra-legal systems in Peru.
And in Third World countries where you don't have good formal legal systems, the environmentally destructive exploitation projects still happen, with the complicity of the political structure - and often substantial amounts of extra-legal violence. At least in the US you can sue Cloud Peak Energy without getting your legs broken.
It's also worth looking at what happened to the Lloyds "Names", who were supposed to be unlimited-liability reinsurers.
None of this is to say that coal companies should be allowed to commit environmental damage and get away with it, but it does mean that the system needs to be better in preventing this in the first place.
I believe law firms still go for the insurance approach in the UK.
It’s also why you’ll see professionals put their home in their spouse’s name, just in case.
Its funny that every time when poor people ask for something like student debt relief, the familiar old sermons about personal responsibility are trotted out. But when the rich are asked to be held to the same standards, we are told that it is just not possible, society itself would collapse and so on.
Why are people so crazy about money as to rationalizing fucking others and even themselves over?
Profiting by draining public resources abd values is a special kind of evil.
Also, with pension funds, you generally don't have the power to vote. In the case of an uninsured pension-like fund, I prefer it that the fund manager/whoever holds the voting power be the one that is primarily held accountable. If institution managing the fund is wiped out and the liability still remains, then we can move on to the the shareholders without voting rights.
My guess is that insurers would look for ways to make their risk assessable and stop the potential losses by insuring you only against assessable risks. They'd insure you against a list of types of events, and nuclear war, force majeure, Nick Leeson and Knight Capital wouldn't be on the list.
Even if the officers serve a prison term and forfeit all personal fortune, companies will still put them on some comfortable position (pre-bribing other officers as a side effect) after they get out.
Companies don't have a good track record of lasting more than 60 years. It's only a matter of time before they go bankrupt. And when bankruptcy is a way of shedding your pension obligations, they'll go out of their way to go bankrupt to shed it.
There are ways that companies can and do game the system. For example, during a merger the company might claim that the combined pension fund is overfunded and then stop making payments until the supposed net liability returns to 0. The "excess" funds often find their way into executives' pockets as bonuses, compensation for the several quarters where the company's ledger miraculously showed unexpected profits.
There are problems that need to be resolved, but they're resolvable. Private pensions can work, and have worked. Don't believe the rhetoric about pensions--it's largely driven by executives trying to raid pension funds. Executives don't like them because as compared to 401(k)s the ratio of executive compensation to worker compensation is lower. There are federal rules that require workers receive the same benefits as executives, and for various reasons executives will come out ahead with 401(k) packages.
The book Retirement Heist by then WSJ investigative journalist Ellen Schultz explains all the gory details.
Municipal pensions are irreparably broken, though, precisely because the federal rules regarding funding don't apply to them.
An index fund will underdiversify by only selecting public companies, and over-represent companies with short-term interests (the total opposite of a pension plan!).
The underdiversification or index funds is a particular issue ex-US where stock markets only represent a few sectors.
Pension plans can sure screw up, but they can also be unbeatable.
They’re actually overfunded and have been (carefully) increasing benefits.
Then there is inflation. $5000/month for retirement sounds good now, but will it be when you actually get to retirement?
The techniques are just very different methods than how companies in many countries have defrauded their employees on pension liabilities.
My chief complaint about semi-forced annuity purchases is that those that opt-out and retire without savings get back-stopped by the state anyway.
Don't forget that you should have long term care insurance that covers a good nursing home (get this as soon as you retire when it is still cheap because odds are you will never need it).
With this plan you can outlive your savings and still have an okay life.
1) Canada Pension Plan, a worker-funded defined benefit pension managed by the government via an arms-length investment board.
2) Old Age Security, a guaranteed income program for everyone 65 and older.
3) Registered Retirement Savings Plan, an income tax sheltering program where you can contribute up to 18% of your income into registered accounts and have the contributions deducted from your taxable income. This gets drawn down during retirement for income.
Private companies have mostly stopped their pensions. Government employees usually have pensions, and they’re very well managed.
Has it ever occurred to you that some people think complaining about the existence of rich people is not an issue that needs to be “solved” by risking the destruction of an economy that encourages innovation?
Speaking of which, I'd love to see the temporal evolution of a histogram of ages of founders of all the IPOs in a given year. In a good economy, I bet it would be a fixed density across the spectrum, in an ok economy it might be bimodal and in a poor economy it would be a single peak.
This is a good thought! You've identified a factor holding people back and thought about what might happen if it was removed.
Yet, is it perhaps possible that there could be more complexity to this? Several countried with strong single-payer health care systems spring to mind. France and Germany and the UK are not generally regarded as having 100x the startups as the US. Self-funding and creative bootstrapping has not replaced VCs.
It could be worth considering the possibility that access to health care might not be the thing preventing endless fields of startups. Perhaps there could be some other factors at work?
Single-payer is a policy whose time has come in the US. But it might not be a silver bullet for conjuring startups ex nihilo.
The consensus is that it's too hard to fire in those countries. (Look at the lawsuit that bankrupted Mandriva for an especially pointed example). I'm not aware of any country that combines socialized healthcare with US-style at-will employment, but perhaps that's the ideal combination - you can lose your job at any time, but losing your job does not mean losing access to medicine.
> Self-funding and creative bootstrapping has not replaced VCs.
It sort of has. VCs have shown very poor returns and a lot of companies have bypassed them.
> Single-payer is a policy whose time has come in the US. But it might not be a silver bullet for conjuring startups ex nihilo.
There's a noticeable spike in people starting businesses once they reach medicaid eligibility age (50 I think?) So while it won't fix everything it should make a significant difference.
I've heard the same. I know it's true that it's very hard to fire in many places. At the same time, it might be worth considering that this could be more silver bullet thinking.
It is perhaps more likely that instead of there being one thing holding back an endless wave of startups in each country, there is instead a series of interacting forces producing the same effect.
Doing so with the expectation that one change will permanently 100x something might be considered by some to be slightly less than maximally reasonable.
At least in the UK this is hard to agree with. It's fairly easy fire people, I've done it myself. No problem at all.
I also wonder about non-medical insurance costs and how much that is propped up by high medical costs. Would my business’s general liability or workers comp be half the price if we had single payer? A lot less? After all, most injury claims are for cost recovery.
How expensive is private health insurance in the US? I've seen numbers as low as $6k a year, but from your post it sounds more like $20k a year.
I doubt that it would massively increase the amount of startups. We have all that (and more) in Germany, and you don't see companies popping up everywhere, and the ones that are founded are mostly copy cats.
I would budget $500 per person per month with a $7.5k deductible for a family.
Are those regionally different? I understand that rent is much more expensive than this in sought after areas.
Perhaps, but I think most of the difference is between healthcare provider plans. In other words, depends on who employs you.
I was referring to the cost of insuring someone, regardless of who is paying. I’ve compared costs on healthcare.gov to employer based options in a few states, and they’re not far off from each other unless the employer has many younger employees and few old employees.
Many countries have a generous medical system. No, it is due to their injury compensation laws.
European style welfare: Big government which takes care of people so companies don't have to.
American style welfare: Small government which doesn't take care of people, but lots of regulations on companies forcing them to provide welfare normally provided by government.
Letting people be separate from the company they own has caused a century of irresponsibility.
The case for continuing to kill people with smog is pretty weak and cleaning up remaining plants is not going to make operating them any cheaper. It's also a great argument against building more (although entirely redundant considering the economics of coal in general).
New technology can seem impossibly expensive, but if it's on a consistent tech curve of decreasing costs, it's impossibly expensive one day and then the only option the next. There's a non-linear transition when the new tech becomes the cheaper one.
We are seeing electrical energy storage following that curve. In the right geographic locations solar and wind are far cheaper sources of energy than anything else. If hydrogen from renewable energy, or methanates hydrogen (ie natural gas made from renewable energy) becomes cheap, it will eliminate all oil extraction except for things like plastics. And without selling diesel and gasoline, will it be worth it to pull out the oil instead of synthesizing plastics?
The world is changing, and there are currently a ton of investments in natural resources that will never be extracted.
I'm wondering what is the consensus about this statement. AFAIK solar and wind may be cheap at the margin, in specific areas, when they are supported by coal/nuclear. But can we reasonably think they can replace fossil fuel at a large scale in a near future? I have little knowledge on this issue, but I heard reasonable experts [1,2] saying it was doubtful.
Add in other tech like HVDC, and as I said in my post, conversion of electrical energy into chemical energy storage in hydrogen or methane, and it all becomes quite feasible.
Why is coal dying over the past 5 years? Because huge government subsidies kick started fracking technology which ended up making US natural gas incredibly cheap, as the tech descended the cost curve.
Why are solar and wind the cheapest (non-dispatchable) electrons in much of the US? Because we are far enough along on the tech curve.
Why are solar+storage and wind+storage project bids for 2022 and 2023 coming in under the cost of combined cycle gas turbines? Because lithium ion batteries are transitioning to cheap from impossibly expensive, particularly as vehicle demand drives massive scale up in lithium ion battery production.
All that stuff in "without the hot air" that made it hard in the UK is coming within reach. And the UK is pretty much one of the worst possible situations for solar, one of the main legs of renewable tech, and it will still work out. Offshore deep sea wind is getting super cheap and it has much better intermittency properties, making it require even less daily storage . seasonal storage still would be great to minimize overprovisioning of generators, but how much we overprovision versus how much we store will just be a cost optimization between the relative prices.
This plant is a good example of a typical nuclear project. It was slated to be open in 2009, within the scope of HotAir's publication, but instead, it's now more than 10 years late, 3x over budget, and "expected" to open in 2020, but who knows how much that will get delayed.
The UK has tried to build a few more reactors, starting with Hinkley but also more planned. Hinkely is turning into a disaster, and for the further plans they can't even find any contractors that are willing to build nuclear anymore. It's failing from all sides, even when governments are eager to write checks.
This is endemic with all nuclear construction, and why nuclear will play nearly no role at all in mitigating climate change. Not because it's stopped by fear and public panic, but because those who try to build nuclear fail and cause massive financial losses.
If we could build nuclear like we have in the past, it wouldn't necessarily be much better. There's a survivor bias about the reactors that did get built, and for every success there's enough failure that discourages new attempts. I always hear France and South Korea cited as outliers, but South Korea's success is turning out to be a story of deception and corruption, and I've never had a chance to fully investigate France. Nuclear succeeds when the government needs to build nuclear weapons, and has massive government backing; when nuclear is on its own in the marketplace it doesn't do so well.
Meanwhile, the alternatives to nuclear are getting cheaper, faster to deploy, and can be scaled large or small. They will allow developing countries to deploy electricity without having to build massively expensive transmission grids, so it's likely that large parts of the world will leapfrog like they have with wireless cell phone technology.
The current term “clean coal” is obviously BS, but is it possible either now or in the future, but just uneconomic?
It is an immense resource if we could extract the energy of coal in a clean way.
There exist “high efficiency low emissions” (HELE) coal stations, but that moniker is only true in relation to conventional coal stations. They’re still some of the dirtiest generation we have. From the experience of the ones we have in Australia, they appear to be more unreliable in hot weather than older coal plants too - I believe probably because they would operate at higher temperature/pressures to improve efficiency.
*Citation not handy but easily googleable.
Filtration is good enough that it could technically capture everything.
Technically you could plant enough trees to capture all the CO2 as well.
The energy required to make all the filters and plant and maintain all the trees might be greater than the energy produced by coal though, and that is the issue.
No they don't. They need to be harvested and used for timber products, where the carbon can stay locked in for decades or longer. The land can then be replanted for more carbon removal.
Ideally you would use trees to make engineered wood products that replace steel and concrete, the production of which also release large amounts of CO2.
'Tropical rainforests, the revered "lungs of the planet," were once thought to take the cake when it comes to carbon sequestration. But a new study adds to a growing body of evidence that other types of forest may actually be better at sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere. Specifically it finds that young temperate forests may be more effective carbon sinks than are old rainforests.'
Imagine if nuclear reactors were allowed to dump waste in air/river.
The buildings have stacks.
I'd suggest calculating the volume of gas produced by the combustion of 3750 MTOe of coal, the amount presently extracted and consumed annually.
It is significant.
1. https://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/energy-economics/stat... https://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/energy-economics/stat... https://www.bp.com/content/dam/bp/business-sites/en/global/c...
> In the United Kingdom, spent fuel is reprocessed at the Sellafield facility in Cumbria on the North West coast of England. Waste generated at the site comprises a wide range of radionuclides including radiocarbon (14C) which is disposed of in various forms including highly soluble inorganic carbon within the low level liquid radioactive effluent, via pipelines into the Irish Sea. This 14C is rapidly incorporated into the dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) reservoir and marine calcifying organisms, e.g. molluscs, readily utilise DIC for shell formation.
Capture it and convert it to fuel
Capture it and convert it to plastics
I personally believe that in addition to pricing carbon governments are going to have to self fund massive sequestration projects as well to avoid catastrophic change.
The best way to sequester carbon is to turn it into coal or oil and bury it deep underground where it will remain for hundreds of millions of years.
It's insane to dig up coal and oil, burn it for energy, then spend MORE energy capturing all that CO2, converting it back into a long-term storage formfactor, and burying it again.
Much simpler to leave the coal/oil buried and get your energy from other sources.
Carbon sequestration makes way less sense than simply not digging up the carbon and burning it in the first place.
This is false. There are several tests of capture underway, where it's working at least within other parameters. 
As for economic viability, that may or may not come with scale and integration.
The bigger question is obviously the long term implications of storing CO2 (i.e. will it leak) etc..
"It's insane to dig up coal and oil, burn it for energy, then spend MORE energy capturing all that CO"
No, if sequestration can be viable, it would be 'insane' to ignore it.
If it increased the cost of burning natural gas by 2x, it'd still be cheaper than anything else.
It'd be irresponsible to ignore possible vectors of innovation.
Why would you build solar equipment with unreliable output at 7 cents kww instead a reliable natural gas / sequestered operation with 3 cents kwh?
"Much simpler to leave the coal/oil buried and get your energy from other sources."
There is no plan to going to get all of our energy needs from wind and solar, so I don't know what you mean by 'simpler'.
Carbon fuels are by far our best source of power, if we can capture CO2 efficiently, than we should.
The apparent 'anti sequestration' attitude that seems to prevailing here in HN is naive.
I wish people who'd down vote my comment would reply if there is a factual error or misrepresentation of some kind on my part.
"The reasons that CCS is expected to cause such power price increases are several. Firstly, the increased energy requirements of capturing and compressing CO
2 significantly raises the operating costs of CCS-equipped power plants. In addition, there are added investment and capital costs. The process would increase the fuel requirement of a plant with CCS by about 25% for a coal-fired plant"
This is on top of the new reality that building solar and wind is cheaper than the cost to just operate existing coal plants , and therefore far cheaper than building new coal plants or retrofitting old coal plants with expensive (both CapEx and OpEx) CCS systems.
"[The C02 sequestration process steals] up to 30% of the energy produced by a coal-fired power plant, reducing its efficiency and raising its electricity price. Second-generation facilities capture and reuse waste heat, among other things, but their costs are still too high, Brickett says."
a) Solar was 'not feasible' only 10 years ago, with more innovation and otherwise more expensive prices, it's feasible in some scenarios. There's no reason we can't innovate along other vectors. If the operating costs of solar can be reduced, surely they can with carbon fuel plants as well.
b) My point was specifically regarding burning any carbon fuel, not just coal. Natural Gas is by far the cheapest way to make electricity (depending on how you amortize Hydro I think), so 'Carbon Sequestration' would be a massive opportunity. Why would we ignore it?
c) A '30% cost increase' is actually pretty small considering most other alternatives and issues. In fact, that's good news because most energy schemes are not remotely feasible - if some clean energy scheme were only '30% away from being competitive' we'd be celebrating. If we could save the planet merely by raising electricity costs by 30% that would probably be a viable plan, globally.
d) There are places that exist 'outside the US' - like Canada, where way up north there isn't nearly as much sunlight, and the days are exceedingly short in winter, and this changes the nature of the electricity equation quite a lot and it's not actually feasible, and neither is wind in many places.
e) Carbon fuels burn in a predictable manner, which has all sorts of utility beyond the simple price. Something you can plan for is considerably more valuable than something that's inherently variable, so much so that in many cases the 'variable power' has little utility.
Particularly given there's tons of carbon fuels in the ground, I don't see why people would be against sequestration as long as it actually works.
Nobody is against anyone trying, but people are entitled to their doubts. If there were significant potential in CCS, investment dollars would respond accordingly. So far the results haven't gotten anywhere near the value proposition offered by renewables, especially in OpEx. Maybe that will change, maybe it won't.
Today, the industry in decline by any definition and as companies try to awl out some sort of profit they cut corners which create unsafe conditions. When accidents happen, the company will skirt responsibility to the very end (someone else has a nice link here ). The "Last Week Tonight" on coal from a few years ago (start at 8:39) goes through some rather aggressive coal executives who don't want to fairly compensate workers. Here are a few recent coal disasters you can read about: [5,6]
Consider the Navajo Generating Station, which has its own dedicated rail line that leads directly to its own dedicated coal mine. That's about as good as you can possibly get, in terms of unit costs for coal, and it's still shutting down because it can't compete.
It doesn't often make sense for factories to have their own power sources, because their power draw varies during the day, while solar and wind output also varies. So they'd need a huge amount of overcapacity to ensure that there's always enough power. The grid is the efficient way of averaging out all the supply and demand fluctuations so the supply is used as efficiently as possible.
At the same time, homeowners understand why they need to be on the grid: they are at work during the day and run their appliances in the early mornings and evenings when their own solar panels are less than optimal.
Thus the power purchase agreement is the deal that makes sense.
That's not true. Power consumption tends to peak around 1900-2100, while solar energy production will peak around 1300-1500. The typical load profile is that you have a minimum load around 300 that ramps up to a peak around 900-1200, then plateaus/slowly declines until about 1600-1800, ramps up to a second, higher peak around 1900-2100, and then declines rapidly to the 300 minimum. Exact times and amounts will vary depending on time of year and the local weather and climatic concerns: A/C-heavy summer climates will see an earlier peak consumption and much less of an intra-day climb, while cold winter climates will see later peak consumption with a more prominent higher evening peak.
The extra fun thing that kicks in is that northern climates tend to have minimum solar production during the time of year when energy consumption is highest (winter!), while southern climates tend to have maximum solar production during peak energy consumption. The economics of solar power are quite different for California versus Massachusetts, let alone places such as Alaska.
This varies by area, but could quickly become a death spiral over much of the US.
The issue is more that wind and solar don't change their generation capacity in response to demand (it's either sunny or windy that day or it isn't), so you need a battery of some sort to store up output in excess of current demand and/or the ability to add generating capacity when hit with peak demand; that's where natural gas / coal plants are necessary given present technology.
Factory ceiling solar it about as big as solar on any other ceiling, that is, everybody is looking into it right now. But solar is severally supply-limited, so you won't see it growing any faster or slower than residential or solar farms.
If you don’t like it, tell your senator or representative. Go out and vote. This country’s voter turnout is dismal.
If we had a functional Congress, that's the sort of thing we would be doing.
Coal jobs are in that waning category of blue collar jobs that you can have a decent life on. So it’s lamented the same way as when auto plants close, manufacturing plants close, etc.
You’re right it has too much power, but you have to put more effort into understanding why.
If we still had widespread apprenticeship as a way to learn, this would be fine. Classroom training isn't really the greatest way to learn something. But it's the way our society has doubled down on in the last generation or so, to the point that high schools shut down shop class programs and expanded AP, regarding anyone who didn't go to college as a failure.
Again, I don't know if it applies to the case you're discussing, just raising it as a possible explanation.
It’s also partially why calls for UBI and other alternative solutions are gaining traction nowadays (although, atm only one person is running on that platform for President in the states)
I'm genuinely curious as to whether it could replace other existing welfare programs, or if it would exacerbate self-destructive behaviors in the absence of opportunities for earned and delayed gratification.
Many of these trials are cut short due to ‘unsustainability’- generally due to the fact that the programs aren’t actually paid for by anything- UBI on its own is unsustainable ! As such, the candidate I mentioned above is running on a platform that looks to consolidate existing welfare programs and implement a VAT to help afford the policy.
Alaska program akin to UBI : https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alaska_Permanent_Fund
Finland UBI trial results : https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/02/the-results-finlands-...
(Political page) 35 UBI or cash transfer experiments: https://www.yang2020.com/35-ubi-programs-cash-transfer-exper...
The government paid out some amount, to all residents, regardless of income, to be used unconditionally. Pretty much the defn of UBI.
To your point about standard deduction - it on the other hand does not pay out anything if you don’t make anything. The petro fund is an actual dividend, very much not a deduction.
1) It is sufficient to provide a "basic" level of income
2) It is more efficient than targeted welfare programs (medicare, medicaid, food stamps, etc)
3) Community outcomes are improved by way of economic (retraining / small business starting), health (less stress / more treatment) and poverty (less stress = smarter financial choices)
So far, I haven't seen any experiment actually test any of those things. I don't know of any where participation has been contingent upon giving up other programs (so we don't know if it's better than targeted welfare), and none have lasted long enough to know if any behavior changes were influenced by the knowledge that the cash was going to be cut off in the future.
As such, I haven't seen much "success" in the way of UBI experiments.
BIEN lists the following five defining characteristics of basic income:
Periodic: Distributed in regular payments,
Cash payment: Distributed as funds rather than, for example, vouchers for goods or services.
Individual: Each citizen (or adult citizen) receives the payment, rather than each household.
Universal: All citizens receive the payment.
Unconditional: Recipients are not required to demonstrate need or willingness to work.
Your points 1, 2, and 3 are not definitions of UBI.
EDIT: the Finland trial looked at many of the outcomes you described above- linked above. Only half of the results are currently available. As I'd already mentioned, there hasn't been much in the way of negative outcomes in existing UBI and UBI-like trials.
That doesn't mean that any of this is good public policy, that it would be better than current policies, or that it would improve long-term outcomes.
Notably, your Finland link indicated that there was no change to employment rates, which is unfortunate, and I think undermines a lot of the arguments I've heard from proponents of UBI- that people who are less stressed financially will be able to make better use of their time training into new industries, start small businesses, etc.
Moreover, all these positive outcomes you seem to dismiss (and add that in the long term money doesn’t buy happiness- which is neither here nor there) doesn't mean that any of this is NOT good public policy, that it would NOT be better or that it would NOT improve long-term outcomes.
If anything, all the outcomes: lower stress, greater happiness, etc, are all known to lead to healthier individuals, with more fulfilling lives, with plenty of potential benefits for society as a whole.
Moreover, trialing UBI is a red herring. How many welfare programs have been trialed before implementation? How many have been researched thoroughly on their per dollar outcome? The fact is, many of these programs are implemented without any trial and only on the basis of perceived outcomes that would lean positive. Why should UBI be any different?
There are also plenty of examples that show that direct cash is oftentimes more favourable than some other variant; see the charity GiveDirectly’s entire premise.
To argue that no successful trial has been run, that outcomes have not been favourable, or that the general idea of UBI is flawed until we research it to death, is to be overtly skeptical.
It's the "U" part. Taking money from the middle and upper classes just to give it back to them is inherently inefficient and entirely pointless.
Additionally, I disagree that it has been researched to death. People have infinite wants, and we have finite means. I would personally rather see this play out at a smaller level in reality (not a time limited trial that biases the outcome) before we go all in on 300 million people. And if we are not going to be replacing existing programs with it, I would rather not see it happen at all. That's my personal preferences based on what I currently know, at least.
On these points we don’t disagree.
But again, not saying it's not a good thing, just that it doesn't really solve this problem.
This is why we need to price in carbon externalities in energy markets.
Damn fracking pulled the bottom out of electricity prices, screwing over nuclear plants whose O&M is pretty high. They were fine when electricity revenue was normal. But fracking dropped it off.
“The most likely candidates for a coal-to-gas conversion are 50-plus year old units, less than 300 megawatts in capacity and generally early generation sub-critical utility boilers – the least efficient, most costly to operate and with the lowest overall capacity factor in the coal fleet,” he wrote. “Most plants west of the Mississippi River built in the 1960s or later aren’t as attractive as candidates for fuel switching since they are often larger, more efficient and tend to burn Powder River Basin coal, a cost effective fuel with a more favorable emission profile than the bituminous burned by many eastern plants.”
Sidenote: Power River Basin coal is that which is mined by the company this article refers to as having entered bankruptcy.
Those jobs are often not easy to replace financially for the people working them. It involves uprooting their families, or being away for weeks at a time, working in the natural gas industry or similar, and they still don't make more than they were making in coal. I grew up around coal country Appalachia. Making $50,000 per year in a coal mine in the early 1990s, anywhere in Appalachia, was a financial godsend for those workers. I knew a lot of families that it provided a solid middle class life for, people that otherwise were going to be stuck working low wage jobs in those regions, if there were any jobs at all (and it was a hard, dirty, unhealthy, dangerous job; they all knew that).
A typical Sears worker has plenty of other opportunities at comparable or higher pay. There isn't a shortage of $13-$15 / hour jobs in the US, particularly in the locations where most Sears stores operated historically.
It's awful because real people are losing their jobs and probably don't have the best prospects. It's necessary though. It's one of the reasons a good government has social programs to support those whose jobs become obsolete.
One significant difference: coal employees are concentrated in a relatively small number of communities, which means that those communities are collectively suffering greatly, and the employees have fewer opportunities because there are no more jobs locally.
Farriers and ice deliverers were relatively evenly distributed, lessening the overall community impact and making it much easier to find a new career.
You should go read about the Battle of Blair Mountain and the Coal Wars. Big Coal more or less committed genocide in Appalachia and not only got away with it but had some assistance from the US government. That's how powerful they are. The number of senators these states have is pretty irrelevant in the grand scheme.
You could for instance encourage solar companies to hire ex coal miners and pay them good wages.
There's reasons the whole "just replace coal jobs with solar jobs" thing has never played out. It's not for a lack of trying or because nobody here ever coming up with the idea. It's because the powers that be sure as hell weren't gonna let it fly.
(TVA continues to be the least green utility in the South btw. Promotion of the welfare of the people of the Tennessee Valley my ass.)
When shifting an experienced miner to the natural gas industry, the problem isn't education, it's replacement pay. They're usually technically, industrially competent people, and are well suited to the oil and natural gas industries as far as ease of skill adaptation goes. It's something our government/s should be pursuing aggressively (except usually the states where the coal industry exists don't want to go against those jobs and actively encourage that shift). If done correctly, you could make the job shift from coal to other energy industries far easier, buffering the labor hit, and drain the coal industry of the labor it needs to operate (accelerating its demise).
And who would have thought: exactly those regions are, no matter the country, the ones where the right-wing populists easily gained and kept ground. I mean, sure, the people there will wake up once they realize that no amount of kicking out foreigners will bring back their coal jerbs, but for now democracy is stuck with the aftermath of decades of ignorance.