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How does privatizing the companies make them more inclined to use more expensive, cleaner technologies?

State agencies may be immune from prosecution for environmental crime and have no incentive to account for payment of legal damages. Additionally, they may be immune to demand shocks and have no incentive to account for consumer boycott over harmful business practices.

Small changes in incentives have large effects:


It causes the factories that are operating at a loss but being supported by subsidies to shut down, the cleanest technology of all.

Getting rid of the agricultural price supports in the US would probably help the runoff situation in the Gulf of Mexico, too.

And this is the problem with analyzing things in isolation.

Tell me, what do you think the next step will be after they shutdown?

People need that energy after all - it's not like people will just shrug and go "oh well, no heat for me".

You will actually end up making things worse, under the guise of making things better. Just like a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, an analysis in isolation is worse than useless - it can actually cause you to promote actions that result in the diametric opposite of what you want.

You have good company: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5051285 did the same as you and was rightly skewered for it.

Efficient power plants produce less pollution for the same energy output. So replacing old power plants often reduces pollution even when that's not the goal.

Most industrial sized power plants have pretty similar efficiency levels. Maybe you'll get an extra 10% for a really good model, but the difference is not dramatic.

Pollution controls cost money, and some energy. They will only be installed if customers (or customers via the government) demand it.

Don't forget that's ~10% thermal efficiency so your really talking about 30% increase in power from the same coal. On top of that they they go for a more complete burn which reduces things like CO and NOx which would otherwise produce smog.

I'm not following your math of 10% suddenly becoming 30%.

I pulled the 10% number out of thin air, so I'm kinda curious how you decided that was thermal efficiency.

Who is this "they" that goes for a more complete burn? Power plant operators will go for the cheapest unit that works reasonably.

Ahh, I did not think you where pulling numbers from thin air so I just parced it as thermal efficiency so the numbers worked out.

Average coal power plant in the US has ~32-33% thermal efficiency with plenty in the sub 30% range. The best singe cycle coal power plant has 42% thermal efficiency so saying there is a 10% difference is a good ballpark a for thermal efficiency. X thermal energy times (0.3 + .1) is ~30% more than X thermal energy times 0.3.

PS: I do find it hard to be clear when doing lots of efficiency calculations using %'s.

A lot of the SOE's aren't economical and flat-out wouldn't exist in a private marketplace. Further, many times, the most wasteful, old, and inefficient equipment is also the worst polluting.

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