"hey fossil fuels, let's 1v1"
(From Forbes: United States Spend Ten Times More On Fossil Fuel Subsidies Than Education)
1) That's not what was spent, it's what this paper projected was spent.
2) I think this paper is defining subsidy in a way that we don't usually use that word. They're calling the costs associated with anthropogenic climate change and pollution "subsidies", most people would just call those things "costs."
Using the word "subsidy" implies that governments are actively taking tax dollars and giving it to fossil fuel companies and consumers. That doesn't appear to be what's going on for the most part.
Look at Figure 4, the bulk of the so-called "subsidies" are "global warming" and "local pollution" those aren't what most people would call subsidies, they're costs.
I'm saying this just to clarify things, personally I am supportive of massive tax increases on carbon and massive subsidies for renewables.
Imagine a garbage company. The government pays them so they can buy land where they dump their garbage. Obviously a subsidy.
Now, let’s say the government buys the land themselves then gives it to the company for dumping. No money changes hands but this is still pretty clearly a subsidy.
Instead of giving the company land, the government retains ownership, but lets the company dump there for free. Still a pretty clear subsidy.
Instead of buying the land, the government just takes it. Now no money is involved at all, but it’s still a subsidy.
Instead of taking the land, the government just declares that it’s legal for the garbage company to dump trash on other people’s land, and the owners just have to deal with it. This is quite different in the details from the original subsidy, but the overall effect is essentially the same.
Polluters are in a situation that’s exactly like this last scenario. They get to dump their trash on everyone’s property and don’t have to pay for the privilege. They’re being subsidized in an amount equal to whatever payment it would take to get everyone to willingly accept this trash.
This is important for a couple of reasons: The main one is that it's confusing to redefine subsidy when you can just say "cost" and have people understand you. People reading this survey might see the $5.2T number and assume that that cost is in addition to whatever the cost of climate change is and will have to read the paper to understand otherwise. This is unnecessarily confusing even if one were to grant the logic of it.
In addition, when people discuss subsidies, they are often most interested in government policy. The purpose of a subsidy often is to increase a certain kind of business, so we might worry about unnecessarily funding the fossil fuels and thus encouraging climate change in a manner above and beyond simply allowing them to be used the way we've always done, but that's not quite what's going on here.
One thing to keep in mind is that it's a lot easier to measure a genuine government subsidy than an externality. So the distinction matters in that regard as well. Any measure of the cost of climate change is to at least some degree speculation, whereas any attempt to measure the direct amount of money given to fossil fuel companies can probably be much more exact.
They can be but that's less common. The key difference is that a subsidy is direct and an active policy.
For example, when people talk about subsidies for renewables, they aren't talking about any externalized costs of manufacture, which do exist, they are talking about direct government gifts and tax breaks deliberately put in place to encourage investment in renewables. When people talk about subsidies given to fossil fuels the same is true, especially when they are being compared to renewables as is the case in this discussion.
Edit: removed word "decision" to clarify my meaning
When I litter, I get fined, but those companies are not when they litter e.g. carbon all over. When I dump chemicals into nature, I get fined for polluting the environment or even imprisoned outright, those companies do not e.g. when it's in the form of "emissions". Cars in my country get taxed directly or indirectly (through fuel) based in part on emissions, while a lot of commercial vehicles and fuels for these vehikles get a reduced rate or even excluded from taxation. But cars here are taxed far less so than in other European countries. etc.
The governments are clearly aware that pollution and dumping your garbage are things you should not do or at least minimize. They made laws against it, but actively decided to exclude certain business sectors and/or certain types of pollution, or actively decided not to regulate or tax certain types of pollution while regulating/taxing others.
Unless these emmission taxes are calibrated to the cost of climate change then this argument is missing the point. Taxes and subsidies are often instituted in response to negative and positive externalities, but that doesn't change the fact that they are different things. This is important when trying to draw policy comparisons which is our situation here.
You seem to want to argue that subsidizing a business and not taxing them on an externality is somehow morally the same thing, and that's an entirely different discussion, but it doesn't mean that they are factually the same thing. There is a practical difference in terms of how things are measured and how policies are compared across industries and governments and that difference matters.
The stated policy goal in part is to reduce emissions to met climate targets to fight climate change, so yes.
>You seem to want to argue that subsidizing a business and not taxing them on an externality is somehow morally the same thing
>but it doesn't mean that they are factually the same thing.
First of all, the meaning of words and political concepts are never factual.
But I'd still argue that at a high level they are the same, and both are subsidies. In both cases the government refuses money it would otherwise collect from different parties, thereby gifting those entities value you can put a price tag on.
Those decisions are active decisions NOT to do something (while doing something about the same thing or very similar things when it comes to other parts of the population), at least at this point.
The only distinction I'd make is between direct subsidies (the government forks over money) and indirect/implicit subsidies (the government decides not to make certain entities pay for certain things for which other entities have to pay the government).
First of all, the meaning of words and political concepts are never factual."
You're still missing the point. The point is that there is a distinction between a subsidy and an externality and that distinction is important. It's important for measurement reasons (The exact monetary amount a government spends on something is easier to measure than the indirect cost of a policy,) and for simple communication reasons. It makes no sense to talk about instituting a tax to cover a subsidy. You institute a tax to cover an externality. It also matters because there are ways of dealing with externalities other than taxes and subsidies and reducing the language makes this more confusing. It's especially confusing when the distinction is made in one discussion (about renewables) but not in the other (about fossil fuels.)
There is a term for using an unexpected definition for a word that already has a widely used definition during a discussion, that is a 'stipulative definition'. It's dishonest to do so without being clear upfront or in response to a discussion where the original definition is in use. This results in equivocation. Whether or not a subsidy is morally equivalent to an externality is a moot point if you're willing toss about with the language. My work involves financial reporting and if my employer asked for one set of numbers and I gave him another that I argued were 'morally equivalent' would pretty clearly be in the wrong, even if the point I was making about moral equivalence was correct.
There are direct and indirect subsidies. Indirect subsidies include externalities: external costs paid by everyone else (that the government should be incentivizing reductions in by requiring the folks causing them to pay)
Semantic digressions aside, they're earning while everyone else pays costs resultant from their operations (and from our apparent inability to allocate with e.g. long term security, health, and prosperity as primary objectives for the public sphere)
"Subsidy" carries a connotation of purposeful action to help something. Subsidizing a bad thing is worse than merely allowing it to happen or looking the other way. It seems like you want to re-label things in "B" by the label for "A" to make it sound worse.
Purpouseful action implies awareness and intention.
Externality implies not yet recognized.
Having 2 words for similar concepts does not mean they are different concepts. "heavy" and "massive" are two different words but they convey essentially the same thing.
I would agree that unrecognized externalities are not subsidies, say CO2 pollution before it was recognized, but then again since they were literally not recognized as externalities (yet).
But the very moment CO2 pollution is recognized, the previously unrecognized externality is to be instantly viewed as a subsidy.
History repeats itself, the first time as a tragedy, from then on as a farce.
You’re right, when people talk about fossil fuel subsidies, that’s thinking of government gifts and tax breaks. My point is that this is a deeply inadequate way to think about it. If you only look at these, and compare fossil fuels to renewables, you’ll come away thinking that fossil fuels are far cheaper than they actually are.
In the case of this discussion, you're looking at it backwards. The subject of fossil fuel subsidies was brought up in comparison to subsidies for renewables which in this case were already defined as specific government programs. If it weren't for that, I wouldn't be being such a stickler. However given that we are comparing renewables to fossil fuels we need to be sure that we are measuring the same thing and to include externalities when measuring fossil fuels and not when measuring renewables is to be not measuring the same thing. (I actually got confused when I first saw the IMF link so I know my concern isn't hypothetical.)
Yes, I get that the case can be made that cost of using fossil fuels is more that the sum of direct gifts by the government to fossil fuel companies (fucking duh!) but that can be expressed without implying that governments gave $5.2T in tax dollars directly to fossil fuel companies in 2017. Where confusion is possible, it's best to make distinctions and clarify what is meant.
We can measure direct subsidies by measuring real and effective tax rates.
We can measure indirect subsidies like healthcare costs paid by Medicare with subjective valuations of human life and rough estimates of the value of a person's health and contribution to growth in GDP, and future economic security.
But who has the time for this when we're busy paying to help folks who require disaster relief services from the government and NGOs (neither of which are preventing further escalations in costs)
Define the terms however you like, as long as you are careful to not to induce people to believe someone that is untrue.
If you compare fossil fuels and renewables based on the number of letters in their names, that’s the same thing for both, but it’s not useful.
Comparing explicit monetary subsidies is like that. If you want to include the implicit ones for renewables as well, you definitely should. But giving up and only comparing direct monetary subsidies gives you a woefully incomplete and misleading picture.
There's another reason this is important and it is with regard to the big picture. A lot of people already know what subsidy means and understand it to mean direct government gifts. When you use a different definition of a commonly understood word, what you are doing is defining it stipulatively. If you don't clarify that you are using a stipulative definition ahead of time, then you are committing a fallacy of equivocation. It doesn't matter if you think that your stipulative definition makes more sense or is more useful, people have to be using words the same way in order to communicate. I'd rather not give climate denialists any more fuel than is absolutely necessary and confusing equivocations are unnecessary. Talking about subsidies when you mean subsidy and talking about costs when you mean cost helps avoid them.
No, it's a passive policy decision by definition.
The refusal to collect costs those polluters put on everybody is as active an decision as the decision not to collect taxes (tax breaks) that you'd otherwise use to keep the country running for everybody.
It's an active policy decision to have the state stay passive and do nothing.
It's not hard to make good arguments for decarbonization of energy production, so using rhetoric with questionable intellectual honesty is often counterproductive.
Here's my reply to your comment below, HN is probably limiting a shared IP:
Your question is self-contradicting. "What if an entity doesn’t possess those resources, but gives them anyway" If an entity does not possess those resources, it cannot give them away. So the crux of the question is whether taking resources from another entity is a subsidy and the answer is no. When the Romans enslaved their neighbors and took their land, it'd be ridiculous to say that the Gauls, Carthaginians, etc. "subsidized" the Roman Republic and Empire. They did not help the Romans expand, in fact they resisted their expansion through force. Affecting climate through greenhouse gas emissions is much less direct than military conquest, but the dynamic is the same.
Good arguments can be made by pointing out that emissions are harmful and degrade our ability to live in our environments, even though carbon free energy production is more expensive. The consequence of people resorting to intellectual dishonesty to try and inflate the cost of fossil fuels make people think that proponents of climate change are naive to the economic reality that carbon free energy, especially renewables, are much more expensive to produce.
Except they're not more expensive. The sheer economic damage that greenhouse emissions produceare just as inherent as if your groceries are delivered by a truck that regularly smashes through people's houses on the way.
You can't say the truck delivery is "cheaper" than taking the road route, just because the government hasn't forced the truck driver to pay for the houses that were wrecked. I mean you can, but it's an accounting trick. It only exists on paper.
You could say "it's not subsidy", but semantics aside, what is it called when the government makes something cheaper through its deliberate choice to charge less than normal (or none) for a certain group? In common parlance, if EVs get 50% off their registration fees, people say "the government subsidises EV registration fees", even if technically they're simply not charging the money in the first place. How is this different to fossil fuels? You could say that they reduced the fees from historical pricing, but then Australia had a carbon price that was abolished (for purely political reasons, FYI) - does that count as subsidising fossil fuels?
like most words, "subsidy" may have a more specific meaning in a particular context, but understood differently in a general context. so taking a stance that one definition is better than another is relatively futile (in the sense that it convinces no one who's not already sympathetic).
so rather than relying on semantics, make the argument you're really trying to make, which, by context, seems to be that you don't think externalized costs should be used in the comparison.
No, externalized costs are important to take into account when making policy decision. Obviously we should be worried about the costs of climate change.
The point I really want to make is that this is the wrong context in which to include externalities in the definition of subsidy because we are already implicitly using a definition of subsidy provided by the OP which excludes externalities.
the real question is whether we should consider the externalized costs of fossil fuels in policy decisions, and if so, when and how?
fossil fuels have favored status (not undeservedly) across the world. given what we know now about how it's extraction/use effects the world, including on us humans, should we continue to favor it over other energy sources?
in my estimation, fossil fuels have a useful place in our energy history (as an energy intermediary), but can only be a stepping stone to a more sustainable energy future that more directly harnesses energy from the sun (our ultimate energy source anyway). on the way, we should reduce the harmful impacts of fossil fuels as much as possible, without regard to the profits of oil magnates.
Actually, this is important. The original article talks about government subsidies in the renewable energy market. It's only talking about direct subsidies and tax breaks, not externalities. In response, someone posted an IMF report about subsidies in the fossil fuel market as a comparison. This report does include externalities. This means that we are not comparing apples to apples. It creates the impression that governments directly gave $5.2T to fossil fuel companies in 2017, which is not the case.
My broader point though, is that the distinction between an externality and a government policy meant to deal with that externality is a useful and important distinction to make. Some people on this thread seem to be arguing that because they see no moral distinction between the two (this is debatable but doesn't matter to my argument,) that there should be no semantic distinction, but I disagree, and strongly.
For one, these things are measured differently, and the government policy is usually set in terms of the externality. Subsidies and taxes directly impact a government's budget whereas externalities don't (at least not in the same way) which matters when doing public accounting. Subsidies and taxes are mandated by law whereas exxternalities exist as a result of economic activity. Externalities can also be addressed by means other than taxes or subsidies.
By way of analogy, consider the reverse. There are both positive and negative externalities. We sometimes subsidize industries in order to encourage positive externalities. For example, schooling is often publicaly funded in first world nations because having an educated populace is a positive externality. If an untaxed negative externality is the same as a subsidy then it stands to reason that an unsubsidised positive externality is a tax. If in improving the appearance of my home I improve the value of my neighborhood (a positive externality) did I just get taxed the value of my neighborhood's value increase and am I owed a subsidy as a result? I think that most people would answer 'no'.
And a negative externality of education might be forcing older workers out of jobs. (Admittedly a stretch, but making this just for the sake of argument.)
The point is once you start including externalities in your subsidy calculations things get super fuzzy fast.
Net result lives saved from cleaner air without undo burdens on the poor.
anyways, these are unimportant relative to the acute problem that burning fossil fuels kills people as well as other creatures great and small (not to mention other retaliations by our planet), especially considering that renewable alternatives are becoming economically attractive.
so let's price in those negative externalities (which on the flipside is reasonable to view as subsidies to the fossil fuel industry due to their market distorting effects) so that the invisible hand considers all costs in its march toward the optimal allocation of global resources.
It's dishonest to differentiate these and just opens up the agents to game your definitions. Which they of course are doing.
For an example, trade tariffs and quotas are similar in almost the exact same way you describe here and have very similar effects. However the distinction is in how the financing for the costs works. Who pays? How directly do they pay? The answers explain why tariff isn't a quota.
In your example as well, you change a payment from a direct monetary one to a diffuse externalized cost, thus creating a distinction. The language has evolved to capture that distinction, your desire to conflate the two notwithstanding.
A subsidy is a direct monetary grant.
I'm just gonna stop you right here.
If your goal is to communicate effectively and honestly, using unconventional usages of words is not the way to do it. Language is a convention for transferring ideas from one person's brain to another person's brain. If you have an idea in your head and you say something that puts a different (and in this case, incorrect) idea in someone else's head, you're miscommunicating. If you do that intentionally, that's lying.
When people read the phrase "The US government subsidizes fossil fuel companies", people think that the US government is giving money or other resources to fossil fuel companies. So if that's not what you mean, when you say it, you're not saying the truth.
The rest of your post is just trying to justify why the not-truth you're saying is kinda-sorta the same as the truth, but that's really not an argument I'm interested in entertaining. Let's just say the truth, please.
It is completely adequate to say, "Solar currently needs subsidies to compete with fossil fuels, but when you figure in the cost of damages caused by fossil fuels, solar is cheaper." We don't need to lie about this.
Breathing isn’t an issue only because it’s a negligible quantity. If it was more significant, we’d have to have rules around it just like we do for other human waste.
a grant or gift of money: such as
a : a sum of money formerly granted by the British Parliament to the crown and raised by special taxation
b : money granted by one state to another
c : a grant by a government to a private person or company to assist an enterprise deemed advantageous to the public
The only reason the paper authors called it a subsidy is because people sadly don’t care about externalities nearly as much as subsidies.
It's one thing to argue that we should consider unpriced externalities subsidies -- I'd even agree -- but it's quite another to use this alternative proposed definition/classifcation in order to intentionally cultivate a misrepresentation of the underlying facts.
People notice shit like this and don't take kindly to being misled.
The difference is that I don't object to the terminology, just it's intentionally deceptive application.
Reminded me of this exchange:
Bart: Uh, say, are you guys crooks?
Fat Tony: Bart, um, is it wrong to steal a loaf of bread to feed your starving family?
Tony: Well, suppose you got a large starving family. Is it wrong to steal a truckload of bread to feed them?
Bart: Uh uh.
Tony: And, what if your family don't like bread? They like... cigarettes?
Bart: I guess that's okay.
Tony: Now, what if instead of giving them away, you sold them at a price that was practically giving them away. Would that be a crime, Bart?
Bart: Hell, no!
I’m curious which part of my comment you think plays that role.
When you're right, there's no need to stretch the truth.
Reply to your comment below, HN is not letting me respond:
> Amazon would have used city services without paying for them. Who pays for these services? The people, with their tax dollars..
No, Amazon still would have paid taxes - an estimated $25 billion in taxes over the next 5 years. This is the same erroneous thinking as people who think that they're gaming the system by buying stuff on Steam summer sales. You're not actually getting any money, the company is generating greater sales by offering customers a better deal.
> A partial truth is often the best lie.
But not when people are smart enough to see that your truth is incomplete. And while some people may fall for the conflation of externalities with subsidies, people with power and influence are less likely to do so and when they spot this ruse they're going to be even more adverse to whatever point you were trying to make because you've demonstrated as willingness to tell mistruths.
A partial truth is often the best lie.
This isn't a tortured analogy, it isn't an unconventional use of the term, these things are economically equivalent.
Most people don't know the word "externality," so using a less precise term that they do know is not in any way deceptive.
"Most people don't know the word "externality," so using a less precise term that they do know is not in any way deceptive."
People do know the word 'subsidy' and most know that it means a direct gift or tax benefit by the government which is not the same thing as an externality. What's more, they do know the word 'cost' as well, which is much clearer in this case than 'subsidy'.
A subsidy is a direct monetary transfer. A diffuse externalized cost does not qualify.
All of them?
>This isn't a tortured analogy, it isn't an unconventional use of the term, these things are economically equivalent.
No they are not. This isn't the equivalent of a tax break that other companies are being taxed for. It's a think for which no taxes exist for anyone. No industries are being taxed for these externalities.
It doesn't fit any of the dictionary definitions: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/subsidy
>Most people don't know the word "externality," so using a less precise term that they do know is not in any way deceptive.
It's not a less precise term. It's the wrong term. Might as well call it a bailout if you're going for political outrage.
The WTO are happy to include money not spent, or tax not received as valid when deciding if a subsidy is in place.
Now, if you object to it being called a subsidy, fine. (Although I’d like to know which step in my story stops qualifying as one.) But “a tortured analogy”? No way.
Then why are you talking about a garbage company? Your whole comment is building an analogy.
>Although I’d like to know which step in my story stops qualifying as one.
This is where it stops qualifying:
>Instead of taking the land, the government just declares that it’s legal for the garbage company to dump trash on other people’s land, and the owners just have to deal with it. This is quite different in the details from the original subsidy, but the overall effect is essentially the same.
The government saying "it's legal to do X" and all companies in any industry and any individual (what we're talking about is CO2 emissions) are allowed to do it, it's not a subsidy. It's just behavior with an externality that the government doesn't tax.
There are certain tax breaks for gas in us, govt could take those same $ and subsidize something else. That’s a subsidy.
Is this the kind of thinking climate science overall is built on? Very worrying if so
That kind of thinking leads to a Logan's Run scenario. Instead, why not think of it as a part of life and work to find a solution that doesn't require the wholesale curtailment of liberties all in the name of the environment?
But fossil fuels, on the other hand, are massive stores of an atmospheric state tens or hundreds of millions of years before humans existed. CO2 levels were so high, the modern human physiology isn't well suited, and your mental state would be as if you were in a stuffy room. The sun even was slightly dimmer at the time, it was so far ago.
And secondly, the amount of oxygen humans need and CO2 we expel is about two orders of magnitude less than that of burning of fossil fuels. To make that comparison is extreme dishonesty.
Requiring companies to pay for the externalities they foist on others is not "wholesale curtailment of liberties." In fact, companies levying those externalities on us without paying for it is stealing, i.e. the wholesale curtailment of the liberty of everyone on the planet. You have it exactly backwards.
No one suggested "the wholesale curtailment of liberties". That's a strawman.
There are negative externalities associated with many activities, coal power generation is one of them. The external cost of coal power is at least more than twice the normal market price of the electricity. This is the when you ignore external effects such as those that take place through water, soils, noise, or carbon dioxide and its effect on climate change.
So the actual price is actually at least three times higher. Why not just bill the polluter for the damage they do and then let the market decide which is better based on the true price?
YOU are the customer if each of these externalities that you are arguing against. Are you willing to shoulder the cost?
If that means some businesses are no longer viable, they go the same way as horse buggy manufacturers. Maybe far fewer will be willing to take international holidays every year. Business will seek more sustainable ways of doing the things we enjoy.
How can a market be expected to function fairly with secret information (an externality)? It's intentionally distorted. Pollution, waste and the rest comes with negligible immediate cost, but far reaching consequences to everyone else's freedoms. If all those externalities are priced in, customers can make informed decisions.
Courts are responsible for determining fiction from reality. This is true whether we're talking about gunshot murder, or climate damage.
Whether you produce CO2 is irrelevant to truth or fiction.
>YOU are the customer if each of these externalities that you are arguing against. Are you willing to shoulder the cost?
You're also the target of the damages. If you think climate change won't absolutely skyrocket food prices, I have a bridge in the Sahara to sell you.
Our peaceful and sustainable coexistence with the rest of the world (natural or otherwise) has always required the curtailment of some liberties.
You cannot sell tubercular beef and poison the population. For the same reason, you cannot submerge island nations and cause droughts that make other regions of the world inhabitable. Deal with it.
out of curiosity, what island nations have been submerged ?
Other links were mostly "could","will","may" etc.
That's just off the top of my head
> In addition, because the sea level is rising on the islands, Tuvaluans must continually deal with their homes flooding, as well as soil salination.
> Soil salination is a problem because it is making it difficult to get clean drinking water and is harming crops as they cannot grow with the saltier water. As a result, the country is becoming more and more dependent on foreign imports.
> Tuvalu has adopted a national plan of action as the observable transformations over the last ten to fifteen years show Tuvaluans that there have been changes to the sea levels. These include sea water bubbling up through the porous coral rock to form pools at high tide and the flooding of low-lying areas including the airport during spring tides and king tides.
Re: land increase
2% is within the margin of error and experts have raised issues about the accuracy of data collected prior to 1993.
Source : http://probeinternational.org/library/wp-content/uploads/201...
It is also understood that growing coral reefs combat sea level rises to an extent, but that this biological mechanism is not infallible.
In any case, the rising sea levels are a matter of fact :
> The 2011 report of the Pacific Climate Change Science Program published by the Australian Government, concludes: "The sea-level rise near Tuvalu measured by satellite altimeters since 1993 is about 5 mm (0.2 in) per year."
Lastly, there is no meaningful difference in this context between a completely submerged island and an island that is in the process of becoming submerged by the sea. You are arguing a moot point.
I mean, how is it considered rude to fart in someone's face but not rude to idle in front of their house?
Not penalizing harmful externalities is bad policy. Subsidizing them is lunacy.
Manipulating the global energy market by making the US very competitive (or just able to compete in the market) means that Saudia Arabia, Venezuela, Russia, Iran, etc. can't push us or anyone else around by threatening our energy supply.
No matter how supportive you are of renewable energy, the very solid reality is that we aren't there yet and we still very much need oil.
When it comes down to it, much of US foreign policy revolves around convincing everyone else that we could win WWIII - explicitly so it does not happen. The nuclear deterrent is weakening as time goes by as people are less and less confident that their own leaders and the leaders of their adversaries would ever actually be willing to press the "destroy the world" button. Then they get to thinking there could actually be a shooting war that didn't turn into apocalypse (we don't need nukes any more, we have precision weapons that can take out a single room in a house being fired on the other side of the planet, being able to destroy a city doesn't really seem that helpful in war any more)
The world is a more complicated place than most people really want to think about, and the wonderful period of peace we are experiencing is the result of a complex game that is being played around the world.
People grew up in peaceful times and just assume everyone will be nice forever, it's just not true. If there is some way for a player to take advantage of another, eventually it will happen, it should be obvious by now that general human decency isn't guaranteed.
War is prevented by eliminating weakness, the United States adopted all sorts of policies after WWII to ensure it had no weakness and no comparable adversary. (why do we spend such a huge portion on military when our NATO allies spend so little? we want them to spend little so that military conflict within NATO isn't even a hint of an idea)
Energy would be a huge source of weakness which could not just be magically fixed over night (or in a decade or five) by renewables. Our oil policy is a power policy, not an environmental one. Pour money into energy companies to make sure that we have a huge refinery capacity here, to make sure that we have and actively develop fossil fuel resources and maintain the expertise to continue doing so)
I'm in more or less complete agreement with what you've written here as it pertains to the past.
However, once renewables become practical for even a subset of energy production, from a national security perspective they are an absolute clear winner, because:
1) Unlike fossil fuels, solar panels and wind turbines can be imported from rivals without impacting energy independence. If the imports are cut off, the existing assets still continue to produce power. The equivalent of an OPEC has zero influence because the best they can do is force you to change your long term planning.
2) Displacing fossil fuel consumption means your domestic reserves last for longer, and can mean the difference between having energy independence or not (obviously today in the States, that's not an issue).
3) Global warming is going to create a lot of instability and that's bad for domestic security. Unlike smaller nations, the US actually has a singular impact in global emissions, but even setting this aside, contributing to the economy of scale of the global market brings the price down for everyone and shortens the transition.
A world powered by renewables is a lot safer and more stable than what we have today, and it's one that concentrates power more tightly in the hands of diversified, advanced economies without giving leverage to regimes that just happen to be sitting on reserves.
This is totally reasonable.
You're usually expected to fix the things you damage in any activity you do. The fact that fossil fuel users are not expected to do so is clearly a subsidy.
2. By calling it a subsidy they treat the cost as a precise quantifiable value which is most certainly is not.
The authors have taken a completely justifiable position and then thrown away their legitimacy by misrepresenting the data in an attempt to strengthen their position. You can agree with the top-level premise and agenda but how we get their is important.
That is completely inaccurate.
The very first line of the summary of the referenced article says:
>> This paper updates estimates of fossil fuel subsidies, defined as fuel consumption times the gap between existing and efficient prices (i.e., prices warranted by supply costs, environmental costs, and revenue considerations), for 191 countries.
I don't disagree that the externalities are worse for fossil fuels than other energy sources, and that's a good reason to decarbonize our energy supply. But externalities are exactly that: impacts external to the cost of power generation. When someone says "we subsidized X industry by $Y" to me it means that $Y worth of goods and services was given to that industry. In reality, the fossil fuel industry received nowhere near that amount of money. This "subsidy" is really a speculative cost of externalities. Especially when the projected cost of externalities vary widely, equating externalities with subsidies comes off as intellectually dishonest. If externalities account for effectively the entirety of this so called subsidy, you're better off calling it an externality rather than trying to redefine a term.
Are you willing to say that any portion of that not paid for by criminals is a “subsidy to criminals”? If so, then you’re at least using your terms in good faith. If not, you’re applying the label unfairly.
Companies are different entities entirely, we don't talk about profit when we educate schoolkids, and I can't write off expenses before paying income tax, while companies can.
a) “Letting polluters get away with not compensating victims of pollution is a subsidy.” vs
b) “Letting muggers get away with not compensating their victims is a subsidy.”
"he" is not just some evil, fat-cat oil company exec; they are entire communities and large groups of broad-based people
"he" is not an absolute position that global warming doesn't exist; it's a broad spectrum of opinions ranging from climate deniers to those concerned with the painful impact of treatment that may be widely ineffective.
in short: discount huge portions of the population at your own peril; don't expect them to rally to your cause if they're beneath your consideration.
No, you can't simply shift the ideological division line. Someone who is convinced that climate is changing doesn't believe "CO2 is not a pollutant", regardless of how concern they are with the impact of the treatment, and it's disrespectful to put them in the same bag.
Says who? There are plenty of people who term untaxed externalities as 'implicit subsidies', it isn't just this paper. Wikipedia lists "environmental externalities" under its "Types of subsidides".
So while I think there is clarity added by saying "Note that this paper includes 'implicit subsidies' such as...", there is very little value gained by telling people they cannot use the term "subsidy" when talking about this issue.
I've been advocating that for the last 20 years. Finally getting some traction!
It's also time to start taxing pesticides, plastics, and raw land development.
The important point is that fossil fuels receive far more government support than renewables do.
It's not even what was actually spent, but what the projected economic cost was due to externalities such as excess mortality from air pollution.
So, if someone from the US dies due to air pollution, that's 6.1 million dollars down the drain. The report puts that rate at 4.9 deaths per thousand, which is absurdly high in my estimation.
The US spends around $35 billion/year in actual subsidies on fossil fuels. (About $20 billion to producers, and about $15 billion to consumers.
Further more, the cost of not charging the fossil fuel industry for carbon emissions should absolutely be counted as a real subsidy, although its value is harder to calculate. But we force industries to clean up other pollutants, or we otherwise regulate their environmental impact, which costs them. If we gave one industry a pass on those regulations, that would be uncontroversially a subsidy.
A subsidy is the government forcing more resources to be allocated to something than people with money think is good. An externality is when we believe that outcomes are affecting people who weren't the buyer/seller.
The environmental lobby wants to claim that fossil fuels are subsidised therefore we must stamp them out because it is Free Market. Charitably speaking, that really just shows the environmentalists are making an effort to use other people's language but don't understand the free market philosophy at a fundamental level. If the use of something has to stop for environmental reasons then it is taxed. Claiming that it is really reversing a subsidy comes out more as trying to shout the opposition down by changing what words mean on them. It is bad form.
In common speech "subsidize" is frequently used in the context of people being made to involuntarily bear externalities.
For example, people who live in areas with a lot of truck traffic often complain that they are being forced to "subsidize" trucking due to the damage to their local roads. What they mean is that they are being forced to bear the externality of excessive road damage, not that they are literally writing a check to the trucking company.
I.e. You are demonstrating the exact same error but don't seem to understand what's going on with the use of the word.
There is value in clarifying what is meant be a specific usage of 'subsidy', (which the linked paper does in the first sentence of its summary). There is value to calling people out for not doing this clarification when they use the word in its less standard meaning.
However, there is no value in saying that a fairly widespread usage of the word "subsidy" is incorrect.
It's like trying to pretend that "literally" doesn't figuratively have the same meaning as "figuratively". That boat has sailed and all we can do now is distinguish be between literal and figurative uses of "literally".
There are a range of actions that are appropriate to take when dealing with an unwanted subsidy. If we redefine what 'subsidy' means then the range of appropriate actions changes and we have to talk about what the new actions are. It would be far easier to use the right word, so word and action line up without the need for analogies.
I can't figure out what you are trying to say. Can you give a concrete example? What is the confusion that is added by the term 'implicit subsidies'?
That money they are lobbying for comes from their taxes, especially if it's local roads, so yes, if the trucking company isn't paying for the damage, the taxpayer is indirectly subsidizing them.
If say 10% of a city's budget goes to fixing truck damage to roads without at least commensurate benefit, then it's a more important issue than whether .05% went to cleaning up cotton candy after the town fair.
It also doesn't even have to be about tax expenditure. The healthcare cost of using fossil fuels is realized in private spending on treatment for pollution triggered respiratory illnesses, and the economic cost of climate change effect mitigation, which is already being accounted for in business planning.
Electricity is considered a human right - it is required maintain the most basic modern standard of living - and the externalities of it's production with fossil fuels are borne by everyone in some way. Therefore it's a matter of massively broader consequence and greater cost than the example you used.
The better alternative would be to provide the subsidy in cash and let the poor decide what they need for themselves, instead of trying to choose for them between heating oil vs. investing in heat pumps vs. better insulation vs. turning down the thermostat and using the money for something else they need more.
Stuff is fungible. If you give someone money for heating oil then they'll spend it on heating oil and use the money they would have spent on heating oil for blackjack and hookers if they want to. The only thing you're really doing is forcing them to buy heating oil instead of actual substitutes for burning more heating oil, like heat pumps or better insulation. Because one way or another they need to heat their living space, but if you satisfy that requirement for them in a specific way, it still frees up resources that they would have had to use for that and can now use for unrelated things like blackjack and hookers.
Buying oil is already expensive, yet we buy too much of it.
I'm in New Zealand, and plenty of us have serious gas guzzlers even though petrol is far more expensive than in the US. A bunch of Scandinavian countries are twice as expensive as the US.
For example, if you build roads and don't charge users to use them, they are going to use those roads more than if you charged users the costs that they incur for construction and maintenance. Building roads but not charging for their use is a subsidy to vehicle use, which is also a subsidy to all of the inputs of vehicle use, including mining, manufacturing, and yes, fossil fuel consumption.
The same goes for environmental costs. You either pay for them with cash or you pay for them with a destroyed environment. And even with a destroyed environment, you're probably still paying in cash, just indirectly, deferred substantially, and with significant interest.
Edit: That money is actually spent, though indirectly through health care etc.
Transit is mostly a fixed cost business (step-fixed cost technically). That means that the marginal rider brings marginal revenue, but no additional costs. Transit operations have a break-even point: when you have X riders, you break even. Anything more is pure profit, and anything less is a negative cash flow.
When you rob transit of customers by subsidizing cars, you make transit less sustainable. Subsidizing cars literally means you'll end up subsidizing transit too. The opposite is true, and it's provable: Transit is dramatically more profitable in countries where driving is less subsidized. It was wildly profitable in the US too, before we started subsidizing cars.
The answer to getting more transit funding isn't to pay more in general fund taxes or fares, it is actually to tax road users. Tax road users appropriately, and transit will have more more users, more revenues, and little to no increase in costs. A 5% reduction in car use could double transit ridership nationwide. Oh, and our roads will have more maintenance funding, less congestion, and less wear and tear. A win-win if there ever was one.
The way to make mass transit work is to make mass transit better, not to make driving worse. Nobody wants something which is worse than what they already have.
It also has failure built into the mechanism, because it only "works" by making the bus lane better relative to driving, which is only effective when there is heavy congestion in the car lanes. Which means it's impossible for it to relieve that congestion or else it would lose its effectiveness. Methods that require failure and inefficiency in order to operate are inherently ridiculous.
The best way to make mass transit better is to build taller buildings. Then you can run more trains and buses while still having them full, which means they arrive more frequently and you waste less time waiting for them, which means more people willingly choose to use them over driving.
The second best way (which is complementary) is to not charge mass transit fares. Then more people use it because it's cheaper, which again justifies more frequent service and reduces the inconvenience. Yet you're not making driving worse, you're making it better by allowing more people to willingly choose mass transit rather than being pressured into it with penalties, which reduces congestion for cars. You also save a huge pile of money for not needing a fare collection infrastructure, and improve privacy because it's all too common for transit payment systems to be coupled to movement tracking infrastructure (which you also then don't have to pay for either).
It's more efficient, not less. Bus lanes don't get built for buses that only have 12 trips a day. They're typically for places that have 10 minute frequencies or better. At 10 minute frequencies, with standard 40 foot buses, the lane capacity is about equal. With 2 minute frequencies, a single bus lane has a capacity about four regular lanes.
Under peak loads, during rush hour, that lane is worth every second of inconvenience to drivers. If they would rather have an extra lane and 3,000 additional drivers on the road, they'll regret it.
At 10 minute intervals at 40 MPH, you have 35200 feet -- more than six miles -- of empty lane between each bus. At a 15 foot car length and one car length between each car, you could fit more than a thousand cars in that lane instead of that one bus.
Even if every car has only one occupant and not one of the bus passengers are people who would have taken the bus if not for the bus lane, buses don't carry more than a thousand people, so you've reduced the carrying capacity of the road.
Using two minute intervals would still be consuming space that could fit hundreds of cars, so to be worthwhile you would have to have very large buses, they would have to be entirely full on every trip, and every passenger would have to displace a whole car, which is implausible because some people would have taken the bus either way and some cars would have had more than one occupant.
Moreover, if you would fill a bus every two minutes then you have enough density to justify operating a subway, in which case you still don't have a bus lane.
This isn't quite right. There are many reasons people use public transit besides convenience (poverty, disability, inebriation). My home town is very spread out (1000 per square mile) and many of its buses run only every hour or two. This doesn't mean there are no riders, it just means that people who can drive do.
Density impacts the costs of operating transit and makes it more cost effective to provide higher quality transit. Higher quality transit means more people will use that transit.
> Nobody wants something which is worse than what they already have.
I want something better than what we have, which is walk-able city centers and less space wasted on mandatory parking. Just because driving has been subsidized for decades doesn't mean we can't stop subsidizing driving and shift that money to subsidizing mass transit instead.
Sure, but those aren't really helpful ways to increase ridership. Increasing the number of people with a disability or promoting poverty or alcoholism in order to increase use of mass transit is not a reasonable plan even if it would be effective.
> I want something better than what we have, which is walk-able city centers and less space wasted on mandatory parking.
Mandatory parking is indeed very stupid. If there isn't enough parking then people will build more. There is no legitimate reason to mandate it by law.
Density is too low for it because driving is artificially cheap.
Literally we're in the middle of this fight right now in Canada with carbon taxes. The right wing party is losing their mind over a 4c/L price hike on gasoline even though there was an upfront rebate before the tax kicked in this summer. Check out the madness: https://arealplan.ca/about-our-plan/#failedTrudeauCarbonTax
So we know where we need to go. What's the sane political path that gets us there?
Then you have to sell it, and that's where Canada doesn't seem to be doing it right. For the vast majority of road users, this would be a net win. For those that drive a lot of miles, to the point where it would not be a financial win, it's still a quality of life win: most of the cost is offset, and some of it goes towards reducing traffic and having better roads to drive on. Those points need to be hammered home. Hell, I'm mostly a tax-hating libertarian, but I'm practically begging for this.
And that doesn't even get into distractions like the provincial government in Ontario putting propaganda stickers on pumps and a tempest in a teapot about how sales tax is being charged after the carbon tax, and the sales tax is not also being rebated, therefore the whole thing is a giant fraud.
The government could deal with its deficit problems and have a de facto carbon tax just by auditing the oil companies and making them pay the royalties they agreed to pay.
I'm pro-solar, a TSLA investor, but also feel it seems dishonest to use the word subsidy to mean long-term environmental costs. Those costs are obviously not good for us, but they are not subsidies per-se, using that word gives the impression that the government is directly wiring money to oil corporations.
Climate studies have wide error bars.
I would imagine the error bars on a 1m sea rise to be a lot narrower than the error bars for Earth turning into Venus.
For example, obviously that won't do anything to mitigate the temperature increases, agricultural problems, or ecological damage.
Renewable subsidies in the US cost 14 billion/year, which could be spent on cancer research instead.
The average cancer drug costs 1,4 billion dollars to develop, so renewable subsidies are equivalent to 10 cancer drugs.
Let's say that there's 30,000 cases of cancer annually that each of these drugs can treat successfully. Let's take the "mortality value" of $6,1 million per US citizen straight out of the IMF report: That's 10 x 30,000 x 6.1million = 1.83 trillion dollars.
In other words, by using the same kind of spurious reasoning, fossil fuel subsidies in the US alone would account for almost two trillion dollars.
Let's do it. Let's see how well solar does at night, or on a cloudy day, or during winters, or evenings, or early in the mornings.
The problem with solar (and wind) is not really the price. The problem is that it is intermittent power source that cannot, by itself, power a modern economy and there is no battery technology to bridge the intermittency gap. That's why it needs to be paired with natural gas (or bio-fuels, or another carbon-based energy source) to make it remotely viable. This is why natural gas companies are one of the biggest lobby groups for wind and solar.
Worse, wind and solar are atrocious for nuclear, because nuclear cannot wind-up and wind-down the way a natural gas generator can.
First off, yes there is battery technology to bridge the gap. Solar+battery storage is an increasingly common purchase for utilities today, there are home-batteries for purchase for consumers from multiple companies. To say battery storage doesn't exist and isn't cheaper than oil/coal grid power is simply false.
Second, renewables can have higher capacity factors than many fossil-fuel plants, so saying they're intermittent and fossil-fuel is not is false. Surely, solar is weaker in winter, but wind is stronger at night, and seasonal storage is the main issue here. Yes, we will be using natural gas for winter and certain Northerly regions for decades to come, but it will become increasingly niche/reserve as batteries, solar, and wind get even cheaper.
Renewables absolutely do not need to be paired with natural gas to make it "remotely viable". There are numerous markets with very high % of renewables already, and it turns out utility operators are very smart and know how to plan very well. Renewables can reach very high market penetration, given solar is a day resource and wind is a night resource, in general. The main issue is bringing demand response online to tailor your loads to fit your renewables: charge EVs, batteries, use AC/heating, industrial processes, all can be tailored to the price of electricity, given a smart utility.
Reality itself is pro-fossil. Fossil fuel is very damaging, but it's also an excellent, almost free, source of huge amounts of stored energy left for us to discover and use...
Solar/wind are much cleaner, but oversold.
If we got rid of fossils tonight, we'd be in the dark ages for decades (if not permanently). Even building solar/wind installations, at the moment, relies on fossil fuel infrastructure, plus the traditional grid required...
>First off, yes there is battery technology to bridge the gap.
Not at the scale requited to bridge the gap. "home-batteries for purchase for consumers" do their job because the demand and use is still very small...
>(...) so saying they're intermittent and fossil-fuel is not is false (...) Yes, we will be using natural gas for winter and certain Northerly regions for decades to come
Well, they are intermittent, and fossil fuel is not.
>Renewables absolutely do not need to be paired with natural gas to make it "remotely viable".
You just wrote: "we will be using natural gas for winter and certain Northerly regions for decades to come"...
Countries don't spend trillions on fossil fuels because "solar/wind is cheaper" and storage is "a solved problem", or because of some big conspiracy - they do it because it's not...
Battery do not solve seasonal storage, for the USA it needs 8 to 16 weeks of it, and Tesla global battery output is just a few minutes of it per years.
Higher capacity factor still doesn't mean on demand.
Markets with very high % of renewables all benefits form big hydro or geothermal sources, it doesn't apply in every countries.
And intermittency for wind is completely overblown (no pun intended). Tower-height winds are much steadier than surface-height winds, due to lack of surface-related turbulence. And we have a couple of decades of measurement of large wind installations, so the expected variation isn't exactly a surprise unknown.
It's called a flywheel, batteries, pumps to power hydro reservoirs, and more. The solutions are there, you refuse to see them.
The answer I kept seeing from pro-renewable/anti-nuclear people is that banning fossil fuels is unrealistic and impossible. Battery is a tiny part of a tiny part when solar/wind is not producing, as can be seen in sites that provide real time data from EU.
Take a random country in EU. Look at how much energy is produced by wind at peak. Compare it to the lowest lowest point, remove nuclear and hydro, and you get how much fossil fuels that country use at peak. For most countries that is natural gas or coal and it matches wind production almost (only almost as natural gas is a bit more expensive than peak wind, as peak wind can even get negative in purchasing price).
There is also numbers on what power plants countries are currently building. The top one: natural gas power plants. Second one, wind. The power plants we build today is what will produce power tomorrow, and the vector of where investment and constructions is being put is in favor of more natural gas, not less. Nuclear is in many places being replaced by natural gas.
But to get back on track, lets have this ban of fossil fuels in energy and heating. I wish it would happen. It would be great for the environment, force an answer with money on the table on question if nuclear is cheaper than battery, and finally distance the renewable movement away from natural gas. The Northerly regions are not really a big coal/gas users anyway because they also tend to have mountains, rivers, and few people. Hydro will work perfectly fine as long the energy does need to go to southern regions.
To put it simply: countries need to stop building natural gas powers plants and put those investments into battery or nuclear. That is the progress bar for a completely renewable energy grid. As far as I can read it stand right now at almost 0%.
If that were true, nobody would be using either fossil source.
Of course it’s not cheaper. Battery technology costs so much it’s the whole reason we have the base load discussion all of the time.
Nobody is building coal plants now, period. Most of the nuclear projects on the drawing board are getting canceled before ground is broken, because they can't hit the necessary price targets.
China is doing much better, and so is France and even Russia is doing ok, as they have a larger and more experienced workforce regularly building reactors.
I live in the UK and for the past decade every major construction project I can remember was massively delayed and over budget. Currently its HS2 and crossrail. So the faults don't appear to be specific to nuclear in industry.
Sunk costs are a thing.
>There are numerous markets with very high % of renewables already
And what do those markets do when the sun ain't shining and wind ain't blowing?
>all can be tailored to the price of electricity, given a smart utility.
And this 'smart utility' it exists in the real world? Where?
How much wind and solar you need depends on how good you are with lowering demand, for example by insulating homes, shifting transportation to trains and building heat pumps.
The efficiency of this process is like 35%. (power to gas to power with methane).
If you're making a bunch of methane anyways, it might be OK to fill in a little with this, but this does not sound like a great overall strategy.
Why not just throw in a little nuclear for base load, and then everything looks a lot better/easier?
Nuclear is basically dead right now because of cost. The biggest factor in nuclear cost is financing and interest rates, which are very risk-sensitive. When existing nuclear plants are shutting down right now, because they're losing major customers to cheaper wind power, what happens to the risk on 50 year investment scales? Risk goes up, interest goes up, and plant cost skyrockets. So the very fact that nuclear costs more than renewables makes nuclear even more expensive than before.
Because power to gas to power delivers a fraction of the input power, and has a bunch of cost itself-- it isn't free.
The cost of PV solar has dropped over 80% in the past decade, and we don't know what the bottom is yet.
So reaching parity seems difficult.
On the other side, gas turbines are incredibly cheap. A simple cycle gas turbine plant costs as little as $400/kW, vs. $10,000/kW for a nuclear plant.
It's this huge cost advantage of combustion turbines that is making natural gas such a killer competitor these days (along with fracking).
> If solar costs less than a third what nuclear does (which is where we're headed, we're already down to half), why do you need nuclear base load? Why not just do this gas conversion?
I objected, because energy to gas costs money, and gas to energy uses money. You have to count the other costs before you can assume cost parity.
It blows the socks off nuclear at other times.
But nuclear needs to get its high prices 24/7 to make economic sense. Otherwise, the cost of that 20% capacity factor nuclear is going to balloon even higher.
Stick to the argument here. It is very simple.
Power->gas->power requires capital costs and operating costs. Even if PV is 3x as cost-efficient as nuclear, PV power divided by three and then paying for p->g->p is not cost neutral.
P->g->p has to pay for its costs over the narrow times where it is actually filling in. The rest of the time it is a dead weight.
(The p->g part can be spread out over longer time periods, with the gas stored underground.)
This is hardly negligible-- indeed it's nearly half the capital cost of nuclear, and doesn't include the costs of storage, the cheap combustion turbine, or the infrastructure to produce the extra input power. Duty cycle for this infrastructure is going to suck, too, because presumably we're not going to be overproducing all the time.
Also, burning the fuel may not be so cheap. Best way to improve the capital cost of p->g relative to actual work done is to do combined heat and power... but this adds its own complexities and costs.
It may prove to be an important piece of the mix, but again: diversity is good.
Consider a system intended to cover occasional shortages, happing 10% of the time. The p->g->p system would have to generate hydrogen at ~1/10th the rate it is consumed. So, if the turbines are 40% efficient, 1 kW of output capacity would require .25 kW of hydrogen generation capacity (measured in the energy content of the hydrogen; multiply by another smallish factor for efficiency of the electrolyzers).
In contrast, 1 kW of coverage from nuclear would require 1 kW of expensive nuclear capacity. You might be able to claw back some of that cost by selling power at other times, but you'll be getting only a small fraction of the total cost of making it at those times. So, the fixed costs of that nuclear capacity are going to have to be earned during that 10%, and the rate that would have to be charged would be ruinous.
I don't see how nuclear could possibly be competitive for this, if one analyzes the situation properly.
Which means, in turn, that renewable has to be engineered to be sufficient for 90th percentile circumstances.
And that GTP has to have turbines sufficient for 99.99th percentile - 90th percentile circumstances. This may be a rather long tail-- in the 99.99th percentile circumstance, renewables may be making very little and demand high.
And that PTG has to have electrolyzers that have enough capacity on, say, 0-60th percentile circumstances (because you don't want to tap some things, like reservoir hydroelectric, to run PTG) to make enough gas for those outcomes.
If you have 20% of your power coming from a reliable, constant source, every step in the above chain can be much more than 20% smaller, because you absorb a lot more of the long tail and because load shedding, etc, is more effective against the remaining unreliable power.
As an aside, there's a bit of an analogy to investing. Having a bit of a low-return, reliable instrument in your portfolio is helpful. Yes, it "costs a lot" compared to investing in the market-- that 2% interest bond costs 5x as much as investing in the market to 10% average returns-- but it is a stable source of value and reduces the volatility of the cost of spending money a whole lot.
It's almost like you're saying that having 30% of the power completely reliable and non-variable doesn't make the problem considerably easier.
Nuclear makes an annoyingly constant amount that has little to do with demand. Wind makes an annoyingly variable amount that has nothing to do with demand.
That's right. And we know that they work and they can scale with our needs. We know we can make them cleaner and more efficient.
Maybe wind and solar just isn't the technology of the future for anything by niche applications.
Talk about an understatement. Imagine the trillions of tons of CO2 that would not have been emitted into the atmosphere had the developed world invested in nuclear to the same level as France. It would maybe bought us another 50 years.
Really puts into perspective the destructive force of anti-nuclear environmentalism.
>We have less than ten years of current emissions left if we want to stay below 1.5°
Hate to break it to you, solar/wind/battery isn't going to do it. It can't do it today, and there's nothing forthcoming to change that. Germany who went all in, is projecting 2060s as the time they wean themselves off of fossil fuels. France on the other hand is essential fossil-fuel free from power generation today, as is my home province on most days (thanks to Nuclear and Hydro) .
So fix that broken process. This is a nonsense result.
But at some point, the variability of renewables is going to start costing two arms and a leg, too. So a bit of dependable, low-carbon power in the mix sounds really good.
Then you size wind and solar for the remaining 70-90% of load, say 70th percentile.
During the remaining 30% of the time, you use agreements that allow you to shed load and you draw upon intermittent hydroelectric resources.
The solar/wind overcapacity factor and the remaining bit of battery or power->gas->power you need can be much, much smaller because the reliable nuclear base load really stretches the hydro and load shedding.
And you can use the "extra nuclear power" when wind/solar are overproducing to pump hydro, charge batteries, or make gas for power->gas->power.
Put another way: the reliable nuclear energy just subtracts a constant amount from grid demand, and the remaining wind/solar production variability is reduced proportionally.
Nuclear is expensive, and you can't shuffle that expense around under three walnut shells hoping it will somehow disappear.
You're playing with apples and oranges. You want us to look the other way while all the exotic things done to fill in for renewable supply/demand mismatches are not amortized over a tiny number of hours of operation, but want to point to the same problem with nuclear.
A diversity of power sources, each with their own problems (cost [nuclear/storage], invariability [nuclear], volatility [wind/pv], total resources available [hydro/geothermal] is what will get us through this. Especially since we're really maxing out what we can do with wind and solar and it's not going to ramp high enough in time to save us.
France's past system is irrelevant, since it was built at a time when renewables were completely noncompetitive. The world has changed now, and changed radically. Going forward, France will be going renewable too.
Sure, it's expensive, but all the things we'll have to do to have an all-renewable grid are pretty expensive themselves and unproven.
Yes, we should end up with a much smaller mix of nuclear than France had, to help optimize cost. But it is an option available now that we know will work, and I believe that the optimum point is not 0% nuclear. (In western democracies, though, nuclear has become practically impossible. This hasn't stopped a large amount of reactor construction in China, so obviously planners there disagree with your assessment).
Further, nuclear and wind are comparable in CO2 emissions, and PV is a few times worse. So if we really care about minimizing CO2 there will be some nuclear in the mix.
Betting everything on power->gas->power when we have basically no evidence that this will be economical at scale is crazy. Betting on pumped hydro or battery storage is also dubious. We should be pursuing all avenues available to us.
Also, making a pure opportunity cost argument is a little weird as well. The investments are not purely fungible. That's why we should both give extensive resources to ramp PV and resources to ramp nuclear and resources to ramp p->g->p, because they're not the same resources.
It is not an option we know will work. The inability of France to replicate their previous putative success means we can't take any of that for granted.
We have evidence that nuclear will NOT be economical at scale. The evidence is there in a cavalcade of disastrous experiences, even in places like France were experience supposedly, by your reasoning, would have told us to expect otherwise.
There are several different ways.
Demand response is significant. Large users are already paid to reduce their usage during times of tight supply. It should be economical at some level to push that much further down the list. Some utilities today already do time-of-day pricing, so make it much more explicit and allow many more people to participate. The idea that we must allow anyone to use as much electricity as they want at any time is ridiculous.
For seasonal and time of day issues, the intermittency issue is mitigated by the fact that different technologies are strong at different times. Wind is most active at night. So the answer to "what do you do when the sun isn't shining" is in fact "install wind". Similarly, wind is weak in summer. Guess what? Summer has the longest daylight periods. So solar panels produce electricity for many more hours per day. "Use electricity during the day and use much less at night" is a reasonable solution. Again, the bullshit idea that we need to allow everyone to use all of the electricity that they want at any time needs to go die in a fire.
And as you said a significant proportion of 'baseload' customers will chase price whatever it is.
No it isn't! Wind speed goes down at night! Wind is also highly variable across seasons and across years. Wind and solar do not complement one another very well (though, geography permitting, they may - see Texas).
>the bullshit idea that we need to allow everyone to use all of the electricity that they want at any time needs to go die in a fire.
This is your problem. You're expecting that our energy use will go down and align with what solar and wind can do. This isn't going to happen. The population is growing. Energy use is growing faster than population is growing. Third-world has still decades of growth to go. Energy use will go up. Accept that, and internalize it.
Maybe if we had no options I would be amenable to hoping for lower energy use, but we have nuclear technology that can scale to our needs, is carbon-free, and has tiny land-use. All the alternatives have major downsides. Biofuels require thousands of acres of corn or whatever. Wind is terrible for birds, requires building high-tech machines (equivalent of jet-engines) with a lot of moving parts, needing lots of maintenance. Solar has huge land-use requirements. Both wind and solar contain rare earth elements which need huge mines to extract and we're not even sure we have enough of those to meet demand if everyone switches to those technologies.
Meanwhile, there's nuclear. All ready for a major renaissance, and people who purport to care about fossil fuel emissions are still spreading FUD about it.
Not really, worldwide production capacity is several magnitudes below what would be necessary to buffer a large renewable rollout. The most realistic way to do it is natural gas, as they do in Australia.
Plus, current battery production requires materials that are highly problematic from an environmental standpoint.
> There are numerous markets with very high % of renewables already, and it turns out utility operators are very smart and know how to plan very well.
Which ones would that be? Look at Germany: Total failure to reduce CO2, high reliance on coal. Look at Australia: Supported almost entirely by natural gas. Those are the biggest rollouts of wind energy besides China, but you cannot trust any numbers coming out of China.
Which definition of 'buffer' are you using here? Enough to supply day to day drops, or some kind of year-round system?
Wind and solar would need to scale up two orders of magnitude, and it's not hard to imagine batteries scaling along with them. How many more orders of magnitude would batteries need to scale up?
That is 100% fine. It only has to scale as fast as the power production. If they're both scaling two orders of magnitude, they should work hand in hand just fine.
> Day to day drops are realistic, but buffering from summer to winter is out of question really.
Good! Day to day is all you need. It's ridiculous to use batteries between seasons, and there are far better technologies to use.
The current battery prices are reflective of relatively small spale, high value needs of consumer electronics industry and a nascent electric car industry.
Hopefully the price will drop massively, like it did for solar panels, but currently we can't even produce enough for cars
Kit out a nation with wholly solar, wind, hydro etc. Add whatever pumped storage and battery the grid might require. Start moving to modern standards of insulation and community heat and power schemes. Stable, secure, and cheaper heat and power.
If, as you claim, there is a gap in the capability of renewables (which I don't believe for a moment), we need to learn how large it is, as soon as possible.
I suspect it's only vested interests stopping us.
Orkneys is a tiny (20k) region, that is connected to the national grid. That's how they solve their intermittency. That they produce excess energy during peak, is fine and dandy, but that's not what we're trying to solve here.
>Add whatever pumped storage and battery the grid might require.
Woah woah woah woah. You just yadda-yadda over the MOST important part. You know, the thing that makes solar/wind unworkable. Pumped storage requires very specific geography and huge land-use. It is not a general purpose answer. And there is no battery technology to power a modern city (much less a nation) for even minutes, much less weeks.
>I suspect it's only vested interests stopping us.
No. It's not. It really isn't.
Of course pumped storage, and other storage is a general purpose answer. You don't need 100% capacity to power a nation for weeks. Chances of no sun at all, no rain and empty rivers, and no wind across the whole British Isles, or Europe, including offshore? Nil. So now it needs an appropriate balance of sources, and storage. I don't know what that is in TWh, but I know with certainty it is not "running a nation for weeks".
In reasonable terms, some mix of new projects like Dinorwig, that can run for about 6 hours at max power, battery, managed battery and the more exotic like power to hydrogen - already in use in Orkney, and molten salt that can cover some period far less than weeks will be the right answer.
It is completely orthogonal to the intermittency problem mentioned.
The grid isn't "storage". And yes, Orkney is tiny, but it also needs proportionally less storage.
A house that is an overall exporter still needs coverage for the night time. Maybe household battery, maybe import from the grid. It does not need a battery capable of weeks or even an entire day.
A city needs some TWh capacity when solar is not functioning, some other capacity when wind is not functioning, etc. It's perfectly reasonable to import some of that from other parts of the country or region which aren't currently cloudy or wind-free, and export when there is excess. Storage needs to cover any shortfall, and some excess to cover growth and the unforeseen. It doesn't need to run for weeks assuming zero replacement for a period of dead calm, or assuming country or continent wide dead calm.
If you want every house or city a self contained island without grid interconnect, then your storage requirements ramp up markedly.
However, it's inescapable that you need a whole lot of storage. As we conceptualize it now, the grid has to remain available during 1% and 0.1% events.
Again, your point is orthogonal to what was said. If someone grouses about storage, mentioning a net exporter provides zero information. Mentioning that my house is a net exporter does nothing to inform them.
Last summer in Denmark was amazing. The best we have had in a long time, the result was that the wind didn't blow wich meant no energy.
So Denmark had to buy their energy from Germany, another country who is all in on trying to use alternatives.
Of course that couldnt' deliver and instead they got energy from coal.
There is so much misinformation going on when it comes to how wonderful solar and wind is.
The reality is that they are less than 1% of the worlds energy production and not projected to be more than around 30% in 2040.
In short. You are as wrong as you can be with regards to your believe in wind and solar.
Hydro is better but only works in some places.
Electricity can be used to replace all uses of energy we have today more or less economically. AFAIK anything but airplanes has replacements that are as good or better than the fossil fuel variant. Problematic are things like concrete and steel production, where we don't have good replacements yet.
Hydrogen powered aircraft are hypothesized, but require lightweight hydrogen vessels. Maritime vessels can only be feasibly powered by nuclear power. The energy density of batteries is orders of magnitude less than fossil fuels, and sail boats cannot feasibly fulfill demand for shipping. There's a very strong aversion to nuclear energy, so we'll probably be burning fossil fuels in ships for a long time.
We already have a large nuclear fleet of ships, but they are mostly warships and ice breakers. But as soon as you mention that giant containerships should be nuclear people go ballistic!
They also miss the fact that a nuclear container ship would be 2-3 times faster as fuel economy is a non-issue. That means it would go a long way in replacing air freight and land freight, where you don't need shipment in a day but can't wait a month.
By the looks of it's due to public fear, we will end up using synthetic fuel.
You might have a point on offsetting normal fuel by sequestation, but in terms of policing and managing abuse, synthetic fuel might be easier.
Synthetic fuels either require considerably greater arable land and water consumption to grow biofuel, or the use of things like algae cultivation and accelerated decomposition. It's probably more effective on a $ / CO2 mass basis to just sequester carbon and keep using refined fossil fuels. Airplanes account for a single digit fraction of the CO2 emissions from transportation, though, as their mass and drag are both tiny as compared to cargo ships.
Reply to your post below, HN is not letting me respond:
Those synthetic fuels are effectively the same as biofuels. You're using energy to sequester carbon out of the atmosphere (or a body of water, in the case of algae based biofuels) and using that carbon to power a machine.
You can either do this by using electricity generated from another artificial power source, as in your example. Or you can do this by harnessing natural energy, like setting up transparent pipes to collect solar energy into algae or by farming biomass on land. Since most energy decarbonization plans assume modest energy consumption growth, and sometimes even an overall energy consumption reduction the former plan is less feasible than harnessing naturally occurring energy.
Solars capacity factor is around 20-30 or something like that. It's not even close to being a realistic deliverer and wind doesn't change that either.
I am not joking here. If you can point me to any solution that can economically power ex. the shipping industry using electricity please point me to it so I can invest in it right away.
The reality is that we are decades if not longer away from anything close to the dream scenario you read about everywere around you which becomes very very obvious the second you start looking for investment opportunities and is a good reason why it's primarily driven by politicians, not the market.
Investments in solar and wind are declining too because china is reducing its investments. If it was so great why wouldn't the private market just take over?
My guess is that in 5 years a lot of people are going to get a rude awakening when they finally realize they've been told dreams rather than reality.
But as I said. If you can point to actual solutions to these problems then please let me know so I can invest.
That being said, if you google around a bit you find a number of studies showing how 100% or close to 100% renewable energy can be achieved with today's technology. There is for example
or this (just for Germany)
Fusion is theoretically possible that doesn't mean we are even close to it and neither wind nor solar will be able to deliver anything close to the amount of energy (not just electricity) we need.
Again point me to a concrete solution that is currently being developed and I will invest instantly.
With regards to climate change then, first of all, it's not going to be catastrophic not even IPCC thinks that. Second of all the climate has always been changing and giving us challenges with fossil fuel we've managed to combat most of that.
You live in a rich society BECAUSE of its use of fossil fuels not despite of it.
Nature doesn't give us a safe and friendly environment we make unsafe, it gives us a hostile and dangerous environment we then make safe.
Try and give me a single example of a scientifically demonstrated consequence of the climate changing we can't deal with today.
In other words not even close to being a realistic alternative.
- high distance vs local
- high output ? (we waste 30% of food, have tons of electronic waste too)
- high frequency vs calm
I'm not trying to troll you, I'm really asking people to consider how much of this feverish economy we need.
If we cut fossil fuel for most and keep it for those with too low solar input, how would be our current society ?
It annoys me to know end when people consider the world as a fixed absolute best. Especially since there are clearly flaws.
You don't have to convince me fossil fuels are shitty and need to be replaced. I'm with you. Tell me how solar/wind replaces those.
Fossil fuels have an artificial advantage simply due to oil subsidies. Even Germany is 20% wind power already.
Point me to a battery deployment that can store enough energy to power a modern reasonably-sized city for even hours at a time, much less days or weeks.
That Tesla battery deployment in Australia? It provides a few seconds of energy.
>We know how to store energy.
No. We don't. Not at the scale we need to power an economy. That's the problem.
>Even Germany is 20% wind power already.
Sure. And the rest?
Germany is signing multi-decade, multi-billion dollar deals with autocratic Russia to import their natural gas. Is that because they believe that wind and solar can fully replace fossil fuels? Or is that they know, that solar and wind have a hard ceiling on how much power they can provide and the rest needs to be bridged by burning natural gas, or coal, or biofuels (i.e. garbage, or corn, or whatever) to make it work?
> That Tesla battery deployment in Australia? It provides a few seconds of energy.
The 20th largest city in Australia has about 90 thousand people.
One estimate says that if this battery is drained at the designed 100MW it can power 30 thousand homes. And there's 2.6 people per household. So if the battery was adjusted to drain at 115MW it would power that city for over an hour.
Another estimate is that Australia averages 10MWh per person per year, that's about 103 megawatts for 90k people.
So if we pick the 23rd largest city instead then we can supply 100% of the city's power with this single installation for well over an hour.
That's a lot better than "a few seconds".
You can't drain lithium ion batteries in "a few seconds" anyway.
And for that many people, it cost around a thousand dollars each. With electricity around 30 cents a kWh, you could take a third of that and install another hour of battery each year.
Color me unimpressed.
>That's a lot better than "a few seconds".
It's also a lot smaller than any city that matters. 90K people is more like a town (and small at that) than a city...
It would be seconds for a city with a few million people...
Australia only has two of those.
If you get picky enough about what counts as a city, then the problem solves itself; they become irrelevant compared to the bulk of the population.
You don't need one facility to feed an entire city.
What matters are the per capita numbers. $1000 per head, lasts an entire hour.
Install 300 of those batteries and it will cover the entire country.
And "seconds" is still wrong.
Brisbane, Perth, and Adelaide. 3rd, 4th, and 5th largest cities in the entire country. If you feed one of them off 129 megawatt hours, it's somewhere in the low hundreds of seconds.
Australian GDP per capita is $53k. So a national battery deployment to supply overnight power is roughly 1/5 the GDP of Australia. But we need more than overnight storage, since we need to account for daily and seasonal variability. Estimates range at around 8-16 weeks of storage. This isn't even remotely in the realm of reality. For comparison, at the peak of World War 2, American defense spending was roughly 1/3 of GDP.
Come on man. This is all unicorns and rainbows.
1/5 of one year of GDP is not unreasonable for a major component of energy infrastructure. It's not going to be built all at once. I can't find the exact numbers for Australia, but the US has a similar GDP, similar use, much cheaper electricity, and pays 6-8% of GDP for energy. That does include more than electricity, but it's all relevant expenditure.
A fraction of 20% of GDP, because it's across many years, is firmly inside the realm of possibility. If we had to double energy costs it would still be feasible, but that's overkill. We need less than that feasible amount to fund all the necessary construction.
You think I'm saying these things because I hate renewables. I'm trying to understand what people are arguing for! So you say Lithium ion batteries shouldn't be used for seasonal storage. News to me. News to a ton of people who believe that Tesla battery site can scale to that level. What is the battery technology that can store enough energy for weeks at national-scale.
Maybe there is no battery technology? Then why are coming up with these examples that you know don't work! If you look at my original post that all I said is that there is no battery technology that scales to economy-size and therefore you need fossil fuel backup for solar and wind... Which part of that is wrong?
This is my frustration because regular people and experts just handwave the answers. Germany is all on in solar and wind and fighting climate change and is hailed as a model for the world and also invest billions into gas pipelines to Russia to provide them with huge volumes of natural gas for decades!!!
What the fuck is going on? I just want to know. I'll post something, told I'm wrong but nobody will post the answer.
If you build enough generators for the weakest season, then you don't need to store energy for seasonal variations.
It's an option that exists as a worst case, and it's not that bad. If you're extremely worried that all your renewable generation might fail for over a week then you can have backup fossil power plants that run an average of a couple days per year.
It's not cheap but it's not outrageously expensive either. It's entirely possible to afford if it was a priority. I might even argue that it's easy for the US to afford it, if we increased electricity prices to match Australia's...
But as for long term storage, there are a few options. Other kinds of batteries exist, and are in development. Producing hydrogen or other fuels is possible, and would be carbon neutral. Even if it has bad efficiency, we'd have tons of extra electricity during the good seasons.
> all I said is that there is no battery technology that scales to economy-size and therefore you need fossil fuel backup
Well that's not the post I was arguing with. The post I was arguing with was calling it impractical to store energy for a few hours!
If we can't store for a few hours, then we need a base load backup half the time.
If we can store for a few days but not more, then we need a base load backup 1% of the time.
Huge difference. We can do the former. We can maybe do seasonal storage, but it's the former that matters.
Also wind does not stop overnight. You don't need to supply all the power.
That gives funny dynamics, where for some days electricity prices could be 0 or even negative.
Try 10 to 15 years. And we've never even attempted to hold energy for days or weeks at a time in these large scale deployments.
Wouldn't that greatly reduce the wear rate?
We are not in a mode where we can wait to deploy perfect technology. We will also not be going solar 100% anytime soon, but perhaps in the next few decades. The atmosphere and ocean are already unhappy, and maybe if we also invest in carbon sequestration technology we can roll back a century or so worth of damage.
You're in this mindset that immediately it's all or nothing, and that's not the case. But we do need to start investing large sums of money now instead of making oil cheaper than it would normally be on a free market.
The subsidies are part of the economy too, so clearly fossil fuels are capable to power a modern day economy. Else the economy would have gone down (due to the subsidies cost).
The problem with solar/wind is that even with the same or larger subsidies we haven't yet solved many problems for powering a modern economy with them. Even if we had a huge budget to do so with just the proviso that no fossil/nuclear is used.
And that doesn't even include the problem of replacing the fossil fuel based infrastructure itself. We don't even have enough electric battery making capacity for double the insignificant amount of electric cars sold now for example, much less for replacing every gas based car with an electric equivalent...
Hi, I work in solar, specifically cell and panel design and construction and testing. You're so dead wrong in your assumptive non-answering statement that you might as well just bury yourself.
~someone with real semiconductor experience - what do you have?
They factor in what they should have been paid because of externalities.
What should then be deducted because of the positive externalities? All the positive things that are the very reason why most of us are even alive today which is a direct consequence of fossil fuel.
Without fossil fuels, we would be living like they do in the poor areas of the world.
Then there are no positive externalities of fossil fuels. All of their benefits are already priced into their cost. Otherwise someone would be profiting off the arbitrage no?
Our use of fossil fuels secures:
(access to water, safer buildings, the ability to build infrastructure, healthier citizens, food supply security)
The ability to innovate:
No matter which innovation you want to talk about it requires fossil fuels, without fossil fuels no ability to innovate like we don. All of the alternative energy developments require access to fossil fuels).
You can use oil from so many different things pesticides, plastic, energy, medicin, building materials, steel and I could go on. This is from the same "mining" of one material. What do you think it would cost the environment if you had to pick different material up for each of the things fossil fuels can be used as.
These are advantages not built into the price of oil. You don't pay for that but that's what you get.
There is currently no realistic useful alternative to fossil fuels and no person I know who started looking into this came out negative about fossil fuels.
Yes, there are some negative consequences as with all other things we do in life but they are by far dwarfed by the positive attributes.
Nature doesn't give us a safe and friendly environment we made unsafely, it gave us a hostile and dangerous environment we through our use of fossil fuels have managed to make much much safer.