We hear this all the time. Portugal legalized drugs and it worked, but they’re small. Iceland forged their own path after the banking collapse, but they’re small. The Nordic countries have great education systems that cost less, but they’re small.
Always a great excuse when you really don’t want to learn from others.
The problem in the US is the opposite - national policy is almost exclusively influenced by interest groups with very limited intellectual and cultural diversity.
There could easily have been a crash space-race type of program of renewables development at any time from the mid-70s onwards.
If that had happened, it's likely there would have been astounding developments in collection efficiency and energy storage.
But the Jurassic energy cos were never going the loss of face, I mean loss of profits, that would have led to.
So - here we are now.
A very small luggage industry can demand absurd luggage protectionism because people in that industry care a lot, and people outside of it are barely even aware that it's a thing. I won't change my vote based on whether you put massive tariffs on foreign-made suitcases, but people whose jobs depend on it will.
China avoids this by not caring about what people say.
Just saying it works both ways.
I wouldn't even phrase it as smart versus dumb. They accomplished it because they wanted to, and we don't because we don't. Maybe we don't want to because we're dumb, but I think it's good to frame it as "We could if we wanted to. Do we want to? Maybe we should want to."
It would be a small problem to provide socialized health care in Boston or San Francisco relative to West Virginia, for example. It would be a bigger problem to provide equivalent care. It is a bigger problem still to handle the bureaucracy to provide optimal care based on the problems each see.
I want socialized health care, but I don't pretend it is merely an issue of will.
You can always find something that's different, of course. Scale shouldn't matter, but the US is less densely populated than all those European countries. Canada doesn't count because 90% of the population is crammed against the southern border.
In one respect, these are very difficult problems, so you're right that it's not just an issue of will. In another respect, they have been solved, so we know it can be done. In that sense, is it not just an issue of will? If you decide to do it, and you put sufficient resources behind it, you know it can be done. If you're not doing it, it's because you ultimately don't want to.
And yet it does. Try administering all the various socialized healthcare systems in Europe strictly from Brussels. Get back to me when the whole thing has become a shambles.
> If you decide to do it, and you put sufficient resources behind it, you know it can be done.
The point isn't "can it be done" but rather "can it be done efficiently" because right now the spending in the US is only about 2x as bad as anywhere else. Shameful and embarrassing for sure! But the problem is largely one of economics, not will. Maybe we socialized and costs go down 50%, or maybe they only go down 20%, or maybe they go up 30%. There's no way to know until we try it.
As far as I can tell there's been no country thus far that's done socialized healthcare with the kind of genetic diversity that the US has. The US has sizable populations of people from all over the earth, so we have the "good fortune" to have to specialize in basically every genetic condition, predisposition, etc. That absolutely does increase costs.
I'm not saying that the healthcare model that the US has is optimal, or even good. But to suggest that it can't get any worse is to show a prodigious lack of imagination.
Imagine that everything is the same as it is right now, but that insurance companies manage to get the various 80-90% payout laws overturned and start paying out at only a 50% rate. That means premiums nearly double in very short order.
Or maybe a new law that really makes the electronic records requirements stick gets passed, but it's done in such a poor fashion that all of our records end up getting sold to bankers, who then figure out a way to make bets on people (ala Walmart's life insurance "scandal") and then the insurance companies get wind of this and start dropping people once their bank calculated risk profile gets too high.
See, look! It's that easy.
I was trying to preempt the inevitable "but things are so bad here in the US, surely making any change would be an improvement!" argument that always seems to get trotted out the second healthcare gets discussed.
And you seemed to be making that argument, in the very beginning.
> They accomplished it because they wanted to, and we don't because we don't.
If you truly can't imagine any possible way in which healthcare in American could get worse, then I really do stand by my statement. Further, I would suggest that you actually can imagine how it could be worse, but you're pretending that you can't to make a point. And if we're going to do that, then point willfully ignored.
1. With size comes disparity and diversity. Iceland, Portugal, Nordic countries are definitely ideals to work towards. But failure to reach the ideals as a monolithic country doesn't mean things are bad.
2. Federal policies are much harder to change because it is like steering a ship that is also not a rigid body! Size plays a role here because it brings with it diversity. In smaller countries, you do not have equivalents for under-performing components of the whole, such as Mississippi, tea party, and inner-city neighborhoods, that are often out of reach of federal policies / majority opinions.
While there may be much to learn from Nordic schools, they do have the advantages (in education) of a smaller scale. Studies show that larger school sizes are less effective.
: (PDF) http://economics.mit.edu/files/9158
: (PDF) http://www.uaedreform.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Egalite...
Imagine a Norway with a single high school, which is a boarding school for all of the high school students in the country. In that case Norway is small, compared to the US, and the school system is small, with a single very large high school.
Or the other way around, if the average school in Sweden has 20 students per grade, while the "small" schools for NYC have ~80 students per grade (both papers use ~100 as the threshold between small and not-small), then since the population of Sweden and NYC are about the same, this would mean that Sweden would have more schools, and so work on a larger scale than NYC.
Without knowing what the school sizes for the Nordic countries, I don't think you can make a conclusion from the information you presented.
I found the information which closes that loop, for Denmark, at http://ftp.iza.org/dp8032.pdf :
> The average school size in our sample was about 450 in 1986, decreasing to about 400 students in the middle of the 1990s (mainly due to small birth cohorts born in the 1980s) and then increasing to 450 again in 2004,
The schools in that Danish study cover grades 0-9, so fall well into the "small" category. They conclude (emphasis is mine)
> With these reservations in mind, we find that for students attending grade 9 in Danish public schools, school size tends to have no effect or even a positive effect on educational outcomes and earnings later in life, at the age of 30. This result is different from the results found in a number of studies from mainly the UK and the US. However, Danish schools are on average much smaller than schools in the US and the UK. The average school size in this study which covers almost all public schools with grade 9 in Denmark was about 460 students. Another interesting result is that the positive effects of school size tend to be larger for boys when we consider educational outcomes like the probability of completing high school or a vocational education and training program, and for children who have fathers with a low education level. Thus, students who are traditionally considered more vulnerable seem to benefit from larger schools. Finally, part of the non-negative or positive school size effect seems to be driven by schools in urban areas contrary to rural areas.
I think that the reason for better results in Nordic schools is that they have not as many students who are unable to understand teaching language. The population is ethnically rather uniform and there is relatively strong social cohesion.
http://ftp.iza.org/dp8032.pdf has commentary on school sizes in Denmark. They are much smaller than in the US and UK. It describes some of the reasons that people think larger schools are better:
> Policymakers often appear to prefer large schools due to scale economies associated with administrative costs. In addition large schools are generally able to offer a broader curriculum and better career prospects for teachers. This may attract more experienced and more qualified teachers. The students (and teachers) in larger schools typically come from larger geographical areas and may have a more diverse social background. To the extent that diversity and being exposed to students and teachers with different social and demographic background is a positive production factor in the human capital production function, this may be an argument for large schools. Further, in large schools it may be easier for students and teachers to change classrooms or peer groups if, for example, a match between a teacher and the students in a given class is not optimal.
Never mind that at least in Norway there have over the years developed a perverse incentive to transport kids for hours to centralized schools because the transport costs are covered by a different administrative tier than the schools themselves.
Thus a few large schools supposedly save on administration and maintenance costs by punting the transport costs onto a different office.
In other words, this is a bigger deal than your post seems to suggest.
The management weren't terribly happy with the presentation I gave at the end of the summer where using a few simple models I showed that even their smallest power station was polluting on a scale that was orders of magnitude greater than the impact of their entire fleet.
We have mostly coal and peat powered plants here. Nuclear is completely off the table for political reasons, but there is a huge untapped wind energy resource.
This really is great news for Costa Rica. I think we should also be exploring Nuclear energy more to bridge the gap in most other countries though.
But yeah, automobile emissions in general are relatively limited in comparison to other sources.
People don't realise we're destroying a natural resource.
ps Flann O'Brien fan, or Robert Anton Wilson fan?
Should I check Robert Anton Wilson out?
I don't advocate for the use of coal in generating power but this is what seems to be going on.
The largest (MW/GW wise) expansion projects in terms of power generation are all coal projects as far as I'm aware on the entire African continent.
Typically each unit/turbine generates close to 1 GW. It's hard to find something with the equivalent cost (including the use of a small amount of space) with renewable energy.
Even the best geothermal well in Kenya, on the rift valley geothermal reservoir, only gives out near 5 MW.
The renewable scaling issue is something that needs to be faced. Costa Rica truly has achieved a milestone much larger than it sounds.
It is possible I'm not saying its not. The three gorges dam hydroelectric plant is able to produce near 22 GW, also the largest power plant in the world (including non renewable energy)
Surely you must be joking. Nuclear plants take years, if not a decade to build. Coal must be trucked in. Wind and solar deployment speed is limited to only your logistical supply chain to get the parts to the generation site and your on-site installation talent.
If the first world wanted to help the third world, they'd give them renewable generation equipment free or at cost.
"China, the country that is building more nuclear reactors than any other, continued to get more electricity from the wind than from nuclear power plants in 2014. This came despite below-average wind speeds for the year. The electricity generated by China’s wind farms in 2014—16 percent more than the year before—could power more than 110 million Chinese homes."
"China added a world record 23 gigawatts of new wind power capacity in 2014, for a cumulative installed capacity of nearly 115 gigawatts (1 gigawatt = 1,000 megawatts). Some 84 percent of this total—or 96 gigawatts—is connected to the grid, sending carbon-free electricity to consumers."
However, I would add: Coal plants use only a relatively small local surface area, but when you add the size of the coal mines, the infrastructure required to ship those tons of coal, the space required to store the tons coal ash produced each day (often contaminated with heavy metals; it's earth we're burning after all).... that becomes a very different discussion.
I'm unsure why people are so keen on geothermal, though. I thought it was relatively well-known that geothermal generates power in the order of milli-watts-per-square-meter, thus much smaller than solar (hundreds of watts per square meter), or even hydroelectric.
Regardless, I don't think energy from vehicle/road production is a valid consideration for a company assessing the environmental impact of their fleet.
And furtherfurthermore, coal-fired electricity plants are by far the worst polluters among electricity generating facilities that burn fuel.
This is a big win for Costa Rica, but the rest of the planet would be hard-pressed to replicate the achievement without going bankrupt. That accomplishment would be surpassed many times over by even one technology that could be used to refine coal or bunker fuel to make it cleaner-burning in the existing infrastructure at or near the same price per ton.
• Energy supply: 26%
• Transport: 13% (certainly less, but "a relatively tiny part"?)
• Buildings: 8%
• Waste & wastewater: 3% (definitely a tiny part)
Also, quite a bit of Costa Rica's rail is electrified:
And then there is 'off-grid' electricity, local installations of solar power. These are typically smaller but there are quite a few of them.
All of those railroads have been shut down for ages - there are no working railroads here, other than a revived diesel commuter railroad with a few cars that goes back and forth across the central valley.
Historically, yes, costa rica was one of the first countries to adopt electric power as a nation, including for railroads and stuff... but that time is over.
You can drive from the carribean to the pacific on highway in a few hours here.
That translates out to "What Costa Rica runs on is 100% renewable." It's likely pedantic to discuss it, but I will wager that no, the construction of that title was less than explicitly mindful. The ambiguity is reinforced multiple times throughout the article.
This is a subjective grammatical nitpick, but it would be foolish to say that it's not there at all. Further, the article text isn't mindful of the distinction either , so I'm happy that I raised the topic, with the resulting discussion around the share of total energy used for transport vs grid, and with my original wording of "as the title might suggest". (emphasis now on "might". YMMV. )
No it doesn't. You changed the meaning.
And it's not a milestone.. it's a sensationalized headline.
As much as I'm proud of my little adopted country - this doesn't represent some new investment or initiative. We had more rain than usual this year so ran on renewables longer than average this year (dropping electricity prices 10% for a while, which is fantastic).
>And the country's economy relies on tourism and agriculture, not energy-sucking industries like manufacturing.
Of course tourism is energy-sucking. Its just not grid electricity and most likely the energy use is attributed to European or American airlines and passengers.
Also I find it really dismaying the degree to which nuclear has been downplayed. It has risks, but what are those risks against the certainty of global warming?
Despite a couple of bad preventable accidents, Nuclear is safe and the only clear economic solution to the CO2 emission issue.
at pointing out that this is a temporary blip caused by record rainfall following a record drought.
"Green energy is only possible for tiny countries that suffer from global warming and even then not really" is a fine bit of trolling and I salute the author's skill in this game.
But here, this article is quite well with enough info and pitches in a few more things than just Costa Rica.
I don't understand why do so many people equate climate change and global warming with drought?
If only it was only that simple?
One of the most noticeable, measurable effects of climate change is the warming of the oceans.
That warming adds energy to the oceans and that energy then causes big changes to barometric pressure, resulting in wind directional changes.
The warming oceans warm the air above them and that causing the air to rise. That rising warm air sucks in colder surrounding air. That air movement changes the prevailing wind patterns.
It is those changes to local wind patterns that cause the changes to local weather. If suddenly you’re country is seeing more onshore winds, you’ll be seeing more drought. But if you’re seeing more offshore winds you’ll see more flooding.
The climate models are so complex it’s impossible to predict how these changes will pan out at a local level.
But as someone living here in Oz, it's clear that over the last few years the local wind patterns have changed and those changes have caused changes to local weather.
Some areas are seeing warming, others are seeing cooling, some areas are in drought, others are in constant flooding, but in the end it just depends on how the the prevailing winds have changed.
> Regional climate models predict that the area will become warmer and drier as climate change accelerates.
Give them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they are talking specifically about the best current models for Costa Rica, instead of suggesting every place will have drought.
Although the models are complex and may change, there's no reason not to run with the best current models, changing your plans only when these long-term forecasts change.
For much more on the subject, a great book is Six Degrees by Mark Lynas, who reviewed about 3000 papers on the projected effects of climate change (and referenced them extensively). I don't remember all the details, but one issue is that more heat brings more evaporation, drying out the soil. Rainfall tends to be less frequent and harder, which washes away the dried-out topsoil.
Another issue is that rain clouds tend to form over the warmer ocean, instead of drifting over land. Rain falling in the Indian Ocean is expected to cause severe drought in Africa (and that's already been seen to some extent).
This story should be told more often and Costa rica should be a model for the world in this regard.
My wife's brother was crossing the street and was hit by a car, pretty badly at around 8pm. He was able to get able, and they took him to this public hospital. He has bleeding, vomiting (from concussion) and he waiting over 12 hours to be attended. The only they did was give him an IV for his dehydration (due to excessive vomiting for 12 hours from concussion), told him he was fine and to go home. He asked for a pill for vomiting, and doctor told him to go across the street to the pharmacy to buy it. Yes, really.
The private healthcare sector here is pretty good. A bit expensive, but good. I could have had my kids here in the "Caja" (public hospital) for free, but after hearing tons of complaints and horror stories it was better to just pay a $5000-$6000 fee to the doctors and hospital in the private sector to have each of my kids born.
Costa Rica is absolutely not a model for it's healthcare system. It's expensive, in huge debt, it's terrible, and no one cares about you. Would not recommend.
Irrespective of that, discounting oil production from "share of renewables in energy production" is just nonsensical.
I think it's simplest to force the consumer to pay.
> Irrespective of that, discounting oil production from "share of renewables in energy production" is just nonsensical.
I disagree. There are other things you can do with oil, and it doesn't pollute anything sitting in a tank. It's the energy production that matters.
Regarding accounting re. renewables share in energy production, yes, I think their oil exports should be taken into account, and we should say that Saudis aren't model citizens of renewable energy production.
Regarding political responsibility, I think we should definitely hold producers responsible as well. We can't burn all the oil that's still in the ground without devastating climate effects, and it's in every nation's interest to reduce oil production and consumption in an orderly but swift fashion.
EDIT: responding here as I can't reply below anymore.
This discussion was about energy PRODUCTION, you are below talking about energy CONSUMPTION. US oil imports should indeed count as energy production in the exporting country. Re electricty production - this subthread was about general energy production, not electricity!
In the end, I think the fact that they produce all of their electricity from hydro is a fantastic achievement. That you (and many others, including a lot of people in Norway) would like them to stop pumping oil from the North Sea is (for me) a different issue.
I don't think Norway producing less oil would reduce global oil consumption.
FWIW, they produce about half of what they did in the early '00s.
Norway uses no fossil fuels for its electricity production. Norway happens to export a lot of oil. How does the second statement negate the first one?
(If "oil" means "crude oil and petroleum products").
Flood a forest for a dam, and you have less sequestration...
"Renewable" makes you think of "some of this stuff is going to run out!" which is all wrong. Sure, oil and coal and gas are finite, but if we actually burn through a good chunk of the reserves, the emissions will totally screw us long before we actually run out of stuff to burn. The problem with fossil fuels isn't their finiteness, it's the long-term effects of their use on the planet. If there were an infinite supply they would still be just as bad.
Alternatives are clean, in that they don't emit nearly as much harmful stuff, and they're sustainable, in that they can keep being used for centuries without massive ill effects. Nuclear fits into that just fine, even though it's not really renewable.
And it is also true that the extraction and refining is completely dependent on fossil fuels, but so are renewables.
So is gold, which is back up over US$1200/oz, while the spot price on U3O8 is US$39.50/pound. If it isn't economically viable to extract Au from seawater, it's certainly not for U.
I can somewhat see the reason (of course, it's arguable) in the fact that there is some identification of renewable sources of energy with their "cleanness".
 Quick google search! And wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_proposed_as_rene...
Only partly tongue-in-cheek. Fission power will also last hundreds of millions of years, so although it is "non-renewable", it shouldn't carry the same connotations of "will therefore run out".
I expect that's a more limiting factor than the availability of nuclear fuel, but I could be wrong.
My understanding is that this is a difficult technical challenge and an active area of research. It is difficult to predict which geological structures on Earth will be stable and inaccessible by life forms or geologic volatility on timescales > 10,000 years.
I'm not an expert in this area, just that we spent considerable time discussing the challenges in some earth science courses I took, but that was several years ago. So if you have some good review sources to suggest, that would be helpful.
My starting point is merely:
This is about renewable energy, which nuclear isn't considered to be?
Nevertheless, great achievement.
"... he asks the central question of the film: what will the energy transition look like for the rest of us? ...travels the world to find out.
The expertise of the interviewees and the access to restricted energy sites is unparalleled in other energy films.
After his journey, he assembles his findings to map out the likely energy future. While coal and oil will continue to play a large role especially in developing countries, a global transition to where their alternatives become dominant will happen in about 50 years. Renewables see by far the largest growth rate, while natural gas makes up the largest portion of the replacement, with nuclear approximately equal in share to renewables."
Of course some dams are not so "good" and some are not so "bad," so you have to be specific. Being able to export electricity (think Plan Puebla Panamá) adds very positively into the math, so all the "indios" and bad environmentalists shut up.
EDIT: Just found this in another comment http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/30/truth-b...
There are certainly different kinds of hydropower. Some generating a large lake for a little power output while others in the mountains of an area with heavy rainfall generate a lot of power without flooding a large area. Yet, it seems that all hydropower projects are either labelled "good" or "bad".
Dams create huge reservoir of water, which flood a lot of land upstream, causing the river lines to expand.
however people forget to mention that gravity is a zero-sum game. every area that is being rendered unusable upstream results in creation of new area downstream. More often than not these areas are near large cities which are usually located downstream.
Also it opens up new fertile river bed for agriculture.
Now coming back to your question. Sometimes government do not properly compensate the people that are being displaced or take care of the animals etc. But that is a fault of the government and not the science behind hydro-electrical.
That's not right. Once the lake is created, nearly the same amount of water will be flowing downstream.
The absence of lumps, i.e. floods downstream, is of course not always good for nature of the water systems, as in many places the river system ecology is based on having some floods. And specific arrangements need to be made for fish to pass dams and power plants.
What? The area taken up by artificial bodies of water is not a zero-sum game. If you build a reservoir which is as large or larger in area as the whole river downstream - conceivably possible in some cases - the river downstream does not vanish or become negative area.
Flood control brought by dams may make the waterways downstream behave differently and lose area, but those impacts aren't all positive either (ecologically or economically).
It may be true that damage caused by hydro-electrical plants is very often blown out of proportion, but I don't follow your logic regarding the areas at all.
Blanket statement. Which hydro-electrical plant? Very important point. That's a point the "let's reduce carbon emission with hydro-power" camp misses all too often.
The only way you could do this with renewable energy is if you had a way of 'storing' electricity, which could be used to meet demand if there was a shortfall in supply -- and this becomes incredibly expensive very quickly.
The most efficient approach to the electricty supply is to have a base-load of electricity being supplied by something which is 'always on', e.g. fossil fuels or nuclear energy, and then having renewables top up the rest.
[All this is just my opinion, by the way, but didn't want to litter the whole post with "in my opinion..."! You get the idea!]
Using those for the base-load, as you suggest, however does not make sense. The base load has to be supplied by renewables and nuclear energy. On top of that a quick-to-regulate energy source is needed. Nuclear only really makes sense for the base load as it best runs full power all day. About 50% Nuclear plus coal plus a bit gas is a good idea for a stable grid but not so good CO2-wise. Mixing a high percentage of nuclear with wind and solar does not make too much sense. Then you either need to throttle nuclear power or add another source many times. That leaves coal, oil, gas or hydropower for the grid security. The cleanest here is hydropower where additional turbines are installed but only activated when the demand is high. Using excess energy to pump water back up in the storage lake is also a possibility but more expensive than using what's already there.
An alternative to alleviate the strain on the grid is to regulate consumption. This is best done by having some large consumers getting cheap electricity but having to shut off when the grid demands it. Another idea is to use price regulation and the "smart grid". E.g. electric cars shifting their overnight charging time to adjust the demand with the supply. We'll have to see how far the "smart grid" takes us. When a large percentage of cars are electric cars with batteries it might make sense.
Nuclear is the typical baseload source, as adjusting output is not that fast.
But of course, if your hydro is really plentiful, then it doesn't matter.
Take the case of Norway and Denmark: Denmark has wind energy, which is very erratic. Norway has lots of hydro power which is perfectly dispatchable. When there's wind and not much consumption, Norway can buy wind electricity cheaply from Denmark (in fact the price may be negative because the excess production has to be sunk somewhere). The hydro plants are stopped. When there's no wind and there's a lot of consumption, Norway can sell electricity at a very good price to Denmark.
So, capacity is not the only thing that matters, dispatchability is important, and Norway clearly has the upper hand here because its wattage capacity is of a better kind.
In Brazil, a lot has been discussed about Belo Monte Dam(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belo_Monte_Dam#Social_effects) as it's bringing serious social and economical issues to native residents.
 The chain breaks on the weakest link.
 Take the case of the WWF http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/wwf-helps-industry... . Or this case of a hydropower project in my country Panama https://intercontinentalcry.org/un-registered-barro-blanco-h... which our local breed of "pragmatic environmentalists" dared not to object.
As it relates to the topic, it should say "not electricity-sucking industries". This is an important point however. The U.S. uses 7.3x as much electricity per capita. It would be extremely difficult and costly to build the renewable infrastructure to replace what we have now. Sure, if you're in a warm climate and not used to consuming so much electricity, then renewables are great, but insisting that all developing economies use renewables, or imposing that cost on workers who haven't seen much wage growth in a while, you're asking for trouble. Solve the nuclear waste issue and we can really improve living conditions all over the world, while helping to prevent CAGW.