Three things the US has (just about) seen the last of [Crooked Timber Crosspost]

Here’s an assorted list of things that once seemed archetypally American, but have pretty much reached the end of the line. More precisely, there are no new ones, or hardly any, and the existing examples look increasingly down at heel

    Shopping malls
    Nuclear power stations
    Republican intellectuals

Feel free to discuss, deny, add to the list and so on.

121 thoughts on “Three things the US has (just about) seen the last of [Crooked Timber Crosspost]

  1. Ootz your link makes wonder if there’s a Bulletin of Aromatherapists urging us not to visit doctors. We accept risk every time we get in a plane or motor vehicle. One airline lost 537 passengers in 2014. As dramatic as Fukushima was it is unlikely that excess radiation deaths can be statistically determined.

    64% of Australia’s electricity comes from burning coal. Since we like to follow the US that will probably increase as the gas price rises. Those two forms of generation provide power on demand even after a week of rain or becalmed weather. That’s the minimum we need to replace. There’s also the 40% of our primary energy demand met by oil which will be effectively gone by mid century. Whatever can replace fossil fuels must be affordable and it must arrive soon.

  2. @Hermit

    64% of Australia’s electricity comes from burning coal. Since we like to follow the US that will probably increase as the gas price rises. Those two forms of generation provide power on demand even after a week of rain or becalmed weather.

    That’s what we do now. The question really is though — how much of that 64% (or more if it goes up due to less gas being available) could in practice be supplied by wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, waste biomass, tidal-wave-marine?

    Clearly, if we had a very significant electrical vehicle fleet and a grid capable of using their batteries as storage then all surplus energy created could be stored and used to meet demand at times when insolation and wind are below what is needed.

    Demand management is also possible.

    It would be interesting to see how little FHC we could get away with if we were determined to use/store RE as much as possible and demand manage the rest.

    I’d be very surprised if we weren’t capable in a setting where plug-in EVs were the domninant light road vehicles, rooftop solar was ubiquitous (including at public car parks, warehouses, shopping centres), where waste biomass gas was used as backup where pumped storage was sharply increased and where we took demand management seriously, if we couldn’t get FHC inputs below 10%.

  3. @Hermit

    Renewables can replace fossil fuels and they are arriving now. The accelerating pace of this arrival would be far better is the huge subsidies for fossil fuels and fission fuels were removed now.

  4. @Fran Barlow

    One hundred percent of all our energy needs can come from renewables. This has been demonstrated by Stanford scientists. Search for “Stanford scientist unveils 50-state plan to transform U.S. to renewable energy”.

    I think this transition will be quite difficult. But “difficult” does not equal impossible. The reasons I think the transition will be difficult are;

    (a) entrenched corporate and political opposition to renewable power.
    (b) entrenched subsidies for fossil and fission fuels.
    (c) public disinformation campaigns by fossil and fission fuel interests.
    (d) general limits to growth acting as a drag on meeting transition costs.
    (e) quite difficult psychological, social, political and economic adjusments for the new style of society and economy required.

    There is even a possibility that our very maladaptive and sclerotic political economy will fail to make the necessary adaptations and transitions in time. The main danger now is the destruction of democracy by corporate power and our rapid drift towards corporate dictatorship. If genuine democracy is not reinstituted and is not made the guiding force for our decisions I doubt very much that we will make the necessary transitions.

    We need to find a way again to make mass demands effective. For example, it is clear in Australia that the majority want less privatisation and more government control of public utitilities and natural monopolies. Until this kind of mass democratic demand is made effective once again, we are in great danger of not being able to make the necessary decisions and not taking the necessary actions.

    It is clear we need to break corporate power and reinstitute genuine democracy. Representative democarcy as it stands is too subvertible by monied and corporate interests. We do indeed need a democratic revolution. The most likely triggering factor in the West, IMO, is the coming collapse of the middle class. The middle class is collapsing rapidly in the US and rapidly losing wealth and security. At some stage, most of the middle class will realise it is desperate trouble. I expect rapid political changes at that stage. The entire system will get very unstable, chaotic and possibly even dangerous at that point. It’s very difficult to predict the outcome.

  5. Lots of noble sentiments perhaps not so much hard headed realism. In 2013 Australia got 13.1% of its electricity from renewables about half of that from decades old hydro, now hard to expand. Newer wind power contributed 2.9% and solar 1.5%. Apart from a sip of biofuel and some pooled input to electric trains renewables contributed very little to transport.

    Personally I think you’d be mug to buy a $90k electric car when you could thrash several buzzboxes for that price. I think you’d be an even bigger mug to let the grid shorten the battery life by sucking out charge. Could be why nobody is keen on the idea in the real world.

  6. Hermit: “Lots of noble sentiments perhaps not so much hard headed realism.”

    Hermit, how much are Vogtle 3 & 4 costing again? Is there some reason you can’t provide a figure for us?

  7. “In 2013 Australia got 13.1% of its electricity from renewables”

    The US is the world’s largest commercial supplier of nuclear reactors.

    In 2013, the US got 19% of its electricity from nuclear.

  8. @Hermit

    I’m not suggesting that it could be done by 2013 (your reference point), but we could absolutely get 60% of stationary power decarbonised by 2030.

    It is possible to build new hydro in a closed loop using inland terrain and of course there are places where we could build littoral hydro. Yes, it wouldn’t be cheap but it could be done. Those facilities’ costs could be amortised over the remainder of the century.

    PEVs are already obtainable at under $40k and assuming battery prices track where the Tesla folk say retrofitting would be viable. Most of your old barinas and festivas could be converted for well short of about $15k. Once you’ve done 200k in the vehicle, the sunk cost of your old ICE and diff/gearbox and water pump/timing chain is going to be zero. You’d be lucky to get $1000 for the beast. Effectively, you’re getting a new car with substantial resale value which will be very cheap to run, and more mechanically reliable. If you can use it to trade in RE why wouldn’t you?

  9. “Nick kudos to the US they have 13X our population. Why not compare us to France?”

    Hermit, 1) I’m not sure what your point is. So what if the US has a larger population? 2) If you search the archives, I’m pretty sure you’ll find we’ve trod these boards before.

    What took place in France in the 1970s was, for all intents and purposes, a lifetime ago. You may as well ask ‘why don’t 10 million people go marching off to war these days’?

    If you think it can be easily repeated, why isn’t it being repeated? Anywhere.

    What matters is the present cost (Vogtle 3 & 4 being a perfect example), and currently achievable rates of installation.

    As was made clear at the time, we’d need something like 50 countries installing nuclear at the rate of France in the 70s, to make any difference whatsoever to climate change.

    What was also made clear was that, even accounting for capacity factor, the current rate of renewables installation around the world is greater than anything France, and in fact every nuclear country in the world put together, ever achieved.

  10. FWIW, btw:

    – the estimated cost of Vogtle 3 & 4 is currently up around USD$16 billion

    – the population of Georgia is smaller than Victoria

    – Vogtle 3 & 4 when completed will supply approx. 13% of Georgia’s power

    – therefore, it would cost 1/2 the price of our National Broadband Network to bring power to roughly 10% of Victoria

    And you think this somehow represents a feasible solution for the future.

  11. @Hermit

    Thanks for the link. The costs cited in this report though high in some cases aren’t extravagant and in other cases, quite low — assuming 8% CF anywhere from $14.30 MWh to $143MWh depending on the site. They’ve assumed a lead time of about ten years to build each facility.

    The Franklin Dam case was fairly unique and in any event took place when even amongst conservationists, the challenges of climate change were still very much a secondary issue.

  12. @Fran Barlow
    If you think this sort of terra-forming madness is any sort of way forward then all I can say is that your view is so far out of step with forces on the ground, how they they think and feel, as to be worthy of consideration as a type of delusion.

  13. I’m always a bit dubious about oversimplistic radiation exposure vs risk calculations. I expect the contamination issues are less about exposure to non specific low level ionising radiation than about long term risks from exposure and ingestion of things like Iodine 131, Cesium 137 and Strotium 90 which do raise long term cancer risks. Likewise the risks from living around granite are not strictly about exposure to radiation per se but exposure to something more specific, ie Radon. Whether these cancer risks are overstated or not I do think they are real and any ‘no deaths’ claim is premature.

    Nuclear is struggling to gain traction even in nations with long and relatively safe history of use. It’s certainly in a PR hole that it seems unable to dig itself out of. Climbing it’s way out by pulling renewables and ‘green’ politics down doesn’t seem to be working too well so far. I think it’s unfortunate that too many proponents seem to be overly taken with targeting renewable energy and ‘green’ politics for criticism whilst seeming unwilling to address climate science denial within mainstream politics or within their own ranks. Until it’s absolutely clear that a transition to low emissions is the goal of nuclear advocacy – rather than being another form of ‘greenie’ bashing by allegedly nuclear ‘friendly’ conservatives who hate environmental regulation and who, in the absence of ‘green’ politics would not lift a regulatory finger against fossil fuels – it is tainted and suspect. I haven’t followed BraveNewClimate closely of late but it was an unhealthy obsession is with ‘green’ and ‘left’ politics whilst remaining remarkably quiet and uncritical of the ‘right’s’ entrenched climate science denial and obstructionism turned me off. It’s apparently enough to express a liking for nuclear to be ‘better than greenies’ at confronting the climate problem – which looks to me more like desperate unwillingness to alienate anyone who likes nuclear. But that is not true; an actual commitment to the goal of a transition to low emissions is required and that is more true of nuclear even than of renewables; where renewables can incrementally intrude into the energy game, nuclear needs a strong, long running cross partisan mainstream political commitment, including planned intervention in the energy sector on nuclear’s behalf. It ain’t anti nuclear greenies that are preventing that; rather, they are the convenient, ever present excuse for the real spoilers of action on climate to fail to commit to anything beyond keeping the fossil fueled status quo.

    Except that renewables are making enough of an impact that the incumbents are seeking to encourage regulatory interventions to prevent their further uptake. Globally they are making up a bigger portion of new energy than ever before, certainly exceeding nuclear. Given that 2013 was probably about when renewables crossed the cost threshold that makes them periodically lower in cost than coal or gas or nuclear I think writing them off on their pre 2013 performance is misleading. I think storage is the new frontier and presuming it must fail is as shortsighted as presuming wind and PV could never deliver low cost power, even intermittently. Whether it’s improved LiIon or quinone based organic flow batteries or Pumped Heat Energy Storage or just investment in solar thermal with molten salt, the last word has not been heard yet.

  14. @jungney

    I’m not sure how exactly to quantify ‘terra forming madness’. I’m also uncertain how far out of step with forces on the ground one has to be before one is worthy of being dubbed delusional, or if being out of step with ‘forces on the ground’ is one of the criteria for delusional. I’m mostly out of step with ‘forces on the ground’ (and quite possibly forces in the atmosphere or in or on the water) but I’m OK with that.

    I’d say you need to be a little more specific. Then again, if you believe I’m delusional, maybe it’s not worth the effort. Maybe do it for the benefit of the not quite delusionals on this page. High dudgeon is a sentiment, not an argument.

  15. @Nick

    The population of Georgia, USA, is close to 10 million. The population of Victoria is about 5.8 million. This doesn’t affect your point but still we need to get basic facts right.

  16. dismantling nukes Germany – flat or negative GDP
    building nukes UK – steady economic growth hence $3bn ‘donation’ to EU

  17. Thanks, Hermit. I went to bed thinking that can’t be right…Victoria doesn’t have 25GW of electrical capacity installed. Read the wrong google result for the wrong Georgia!

  18. @Ken Fabian

    I agree. You sum up the nuclear lobby and program very well.

    Almost all entrenched capitalist interests in the energy field (fossil fuels and nuclear power) have waged a long campaign against renewable energy. They have spread disinformation and propaganda continuously. They have lobbied governments to keep their own MASSIVE subsidies and to stop or roll back new and modest subsidies for renewable energy. Despite all this, despite having the playing field outrageously tilted against it, renewable energy has still made rapid, indeed exponential progress. I think this tells us something about the on-coming viability of renewable power.

    This is not to say the transition to renewables will be easy. Some aspects will be relatively easy (replacing stationary generation) but some aspects will be quite difficult (replacing our petroleum powered transport fleet). Then there are industrial processes which release a lot of CO2 like cement making and steel making. These too will have to be dealt with in the long run. However, the early big ticket items are thermal coal power stations and the personal internal combustion engine automobile. These must both disappear by 2030 at the latest.

  19. @Fran Barlow

    I hope you are being ironic. It’s schmaltz.

    “In American English, via Yiddish, schmaltz (adj. schmaltzy) has an informal meaning of “excessively sentimental or florid music or art” or “maudlin sentimentality”, similar to one of the uses of the words “corn” or “corny”. Its earliest usage in this sense dates to the mid-1930s. In German, schmalzig is also used in the same sense.” – Wikipedia.

  20. Ikon! Sure it’s a tad schmaltzy, but it’s a lovely old number.

    My daughter’s 16 months now…when she was a few weeks old I used to play her Willie Nelson’s Stardust to get her to sleep.

    Another to add to the thread list: The Great American Popular Song

  21. @Ikonoclast

    I’m hopeful that the more difficult usages to avoid can be covered by drawdown and biosequestration of atmospheric inventories of CO2, since plainly, we are going to need to do that for the already released emissions if we are going to return rapidly to, or slightly below pre-industrial concentrations to allow the heat already stored in the deep oceans to be released to the atmosphere and thereafter, out of the atmosphere.

  22. @Fran Barlow

    Some are talking about sequestering carbon in building materials as carbon fibre reinforcing and so on. However, the source of the carbon for carbon fibre is the issue.

    “About 90% of the carbon fibers produced are made from polyacrylonitrile (PAN). The remaining 10% are made from rayon or petroleum pitch. All of these materials are organic polymers, characterized by long strings of molecules bound together by carbon atoms.”

    Clearly, carbon in petroleum pitch (for example) is already sequestered. Moving it to carbon fibre (using energy) has no sequestration gain. Polyacrylonitrile is made from acrylonitrile which in turn is is produced by catalytic ammoxidation of propylene also known as propene. Propene is produced from fossil fuels—petroleum, natural gas, and, to a much lesser extent, coal. Propene is a byproduct of oil refining and natural gas processing.

    Once again, there is no gain in sequestration terms. To change to say a sustainable process of wood to charcoal to… eventually to carbon fibre would be feasible in chemical terms but not in economic terms. The whole business of sequestration is very difficult. It’s better to not emit in the first place but the thorny issue is what to do about our CO2 emissions overshoot to date. I can’t see any options here except long term ones like massive reforestation. Such corrections will take centuries if not millenia to have an impact. The damage we have done is not easily undone.

  23. @Ikonoclast

    I’m still hopeful that algae can do at high speed the work you hope re-afforestation will only take centuries to do — and better in another way too, because once the carbon has been taken up by the algae in lipid and carbodydrate form, we can dry it, compress it, perhaps coating it in some innert and abundant material — like salt and then dump it at depth in the ocean where lack of light, ocygen and high pressure should sequester it for much longer than anyone alive now need trouble about.

    Algae grows far faster than any other plant and requires far less nutrient input, and the nutrients it does use tend to be organic wastes that would be outgasssing/oxidising in any event. It’s easier to manage than lignins and requires less space, so it seems a plausible candidate.

  24. In reply to Fran.

    They are working on it and give more research dollars to them I say.

    However, some words of sober caution are needed.

    (a) If algal products are turned into biofuel (as often envisaged) they have no sequestration value. They do have a zero-net-emissions value which is good in itself but it does not address sequestration.

    (b) If algal products are to be dumped for sequestration purposes someone has to subsidise it. There is no product for sale except the indirect, long-term product of a better climate. We know the standard free market will not support this so a tax or another carbon price would have to support it.

    (c) Sequestration in infrastructure and built environment would be good if it could be made to pay. It would be better to incorporate the algal derived carbon in a permanent product. This presumes that it would remain in rubble even after demolition and dumping.

    I actually like (a) if it can economically replace petroleum and (c) if it can be made economically viable. The option (b) I think has the least going for it. The economics, logistics and environmental impacts of this sort of ocean dumping would have me worried at a number of levels. But for sure, people have to brainstorm, research, test and pilot all these possibilities to sort the viable from the non-viable.

  25. @Ikonoclast

    I’d say b) has the most going for it, since it involves the least handling, the lowest energy inputs, is the most scaleable, requires the least novel technology and is the least reversible.

    Biofuels require far more energy inputs and are much more complex exercises in engineering from the initial stock through transformation. There are some niche products — polymer seals, pharmaceutical bases and even possibly some foods and packaging materials. We might get some wood substitutes in conjunction with other waste biomass.

    But these are very market dependent.

    The carbon offset market could pay for biosequestration.

  26. @Fran Barlow

    Well option (a) is not a sequestration option as I mentioned.

    Option (b) involves making, handling and transporting a product with no other use. Option (c) could kill two birds with one stone. The sequestration costs are already paid for in the standard building, lifecycle, demolition and dumpung costs. There is no separate and especial cost for handling the sequestered carbon.

    But I have learnt that once we disagree further argument is fruitless from both sides. 🙂

    Time will tell. Presuming we do start doing something effective about both CO2 emissions and carbon sequestration then the most effective and economical approaches discovered and piloted will get utilised.

  27. @Ootz

    It also doesn’t excuse the poor design of the plant at Fukushima, which had no redundant power back up for its SCRAM and which rejected a proposal to install one based on the fact that the plant was considered to be end of life and slated for closure. Even earlier, it doesn’t excuse the original plant builders in 1964 from excavating to build it at sea level only four years after the tsunami that had begun at ValVerde (a 9.0 quake) had crossed the Pacific and reached Fukushima 22 hours later.

    They kept rolling the dice and eventually lost.

  28. Fran, I gave up debating Hermit when he slurred me with the Aromatherapy analogy, while demonstrating his utter lack of comprehension on differences in radiation between Radon and caesium et al. Thanks to Ken Fabian for clearing that up with his critique on “oversimplistic radiation exposure vs risk calculations”. Further, I’ll add to that public risk perceptions. Again Hermit is shooting into his, by now glowing green in the dark, foot, by quoting people injured or death in the evacuation process. Well, as I pointed out previously, the earliest data and accurate information was offered by third parties, not TEPCO, not Japanese Government, not IAEA! The relevant authorities lost all credibility as well as had no clear plan how to manage the incident and risk thereof. It was everyone for her/his own!!!

    As to the regulatory failures leading upto the event, I looked at these issues shortly after the incident and commented on the relevant threads on LP at the time. All I can remember how surprised I was at how slap dash that industry operated and was regulated from the planning stage right up to the last inspection of the Japanese nuclear fleet.

    To me nuclear energy now is a big white elephant in developed countries, because of the public risk perception and monolithic inability to adapt to the fundanetal changes we are undergoing. People, even the most rusted on deniers, buy renewables because it gives them independence from the gold plating and price gouging monopolies. And most importantly they are cheaper and instant off the shelf. Bring on affordable storage and it will be a stampede. Although we may lose some Super in stranded assets, hence I suggest draw on your super and become energy independent.
    Apropo big white elephants, that applies to shopping centres and right wing intellectuals too for different reasons.

  29. Hermit, you really do confirm Ken’s point above.

    Unless you have a nuclear-powered car waiting in the wings for us, what on earth do you have against *electric cars*?

    I would have thought you’d welcome them, and simply prefer they be charged from nuclear power…

    Instead, you talk them down at every opportunity.

  30. @Ootz
    Yep. The nuke industry doesn’t understand the concept of social licence. Therefore, it doesn’t understand how a long history of coverups, lies, duplicity and outright technological failure has given it a ‘social licence’ well below the gas frackin’ cowboys. That’s real low.

  31. @Fran Barlow
    You’ve heard of the anthropocene, yes? When we finally realise that we are a bio-force on the planet; one without the self reflexive capacity to organize along ‘do no harm principles’ no more sophisticated than ‘don’t sh*t in your own nest’?

    So, to me:

    It is possible to build new hydro in a closed loop using inland terrain and of course there are places where we could build littoral hydro. Yes, it wouldn’t be cheap but it could be done. Those facilities’ costs could be amortised over the remainder of the century.

    …looks like exactly the sort of engineering hubris that has trashed Lake Baikal and environs forever.

    So, if you want to advocate hydro in Australia, you’ll need to provide some sort of evidence as to its availability, and one that includes a realistic ecological accounting, of the costs. You could start with the disaster of the Snowy Hydro and the Snowy River.

    As a greenie, it is clear that you believe in, as a matter of faith, that the ‘technological fix’ will somehow solve all of our problems when our problems are as much derived from a perverted type of human inte-rsubjecivity that flourishes within neo-liberalism. Short: you can’t fix a sick system with sick people or it’s all up for grabs.

    The land itself will no longer be the plaything of imaginative technocrats. The land itself now has a new breed of protectors who have and are learning from Aboriginal people how to defend land with nothing on your side but love of country.

    And you’re proposing to dam a river or two and bulldoze habitat at the stroke of an administerial pen?

    Have a look at “front line action on coal” to observe meaningful and realistic behaviour.

  32. @Hermit

    Hmmmn, hydro power alone (only one form of renewable energy) produced 16.2% of the world’s electricity whereas pitiful old nuclear produced only 13.4% (in 2008). This shows how wimpy nuclear power really is and it’s going backwards. Generation from nuclear power in TWh peaked in 2006 and has declined every year since apart from a slight blip up in 2010. This is data up to 2012. The nuclear share in the world’s power generation declined steadily from a historic peak of 17 percent in 1993 to about 10 percent in 2012. Thus, the clear signs are that nuclear power is in long run decline.

    These facts come from the World Nuclear Association site. The facts are theirs. The slighting but fully deserved comments are mine. No matter which way you slice it, nuclear fission power is FAILING to deliver and going BACKWARDS.

    Hermit, you ought to start wondering why nuclear power is going backwards when it has had enormous subsidies for over 50 years, still gets enormous subsidies and is heavily supported by the military-industrial complex and rent-seeking corporate capital. Why, when it has all these things in its favour, is it still going backwards?

    The answer resides in empirical reality. It is highly expensive, highly dangerous, highly difficult technically and highly inflexible. Add in the fact that its fuel is running out (peak uranium) and you have the answers.

    Hint: Read the World Nuclear Industry Status Report.

  33. Nearly 5% of our energy supply is not a small or insignificant amount, especially given it was mostly done before anything like price parity for wind or solar had been achieved, within a framework that the most generous reading would describe as deeply flawed, compromised and lacking the necessary depth of commitment. Is there anywhere that has had a continuing commitment to a low energy transition before or after 2013 that was and is not deeply compromised? Whether it’s broad exemptions for commerce and industry from clean energy surcharges, specific exemptions for the highest emissions industries, including fossil fuel generators, dodgy permits under various emissions trading schemes, unhelpful concessions to populism and policy flip flopping, a firm and clear and long running commitment to the minimum that is necessary is almost universally lacking.

    I suggest that Australia did not and still does not have a genuine commitment to much more than keeping up appearances and the current crop of mainstream politicians are putting more effort into justifying giving up on even that much. Achieving near to 5% of supply from new renewable under these circumstances actually looks very encouraging; how much better could we do with genuine, cross partisan commitment and the application of forethought and planning?

  34. I agree that overnight nuclear baseload would sync with charging electric cars. However the Carnegie Mellon study raises doubts whether the low paid will ever be able to afford practical electric cars. FWIW I make biodiesel from used cooking oil, a triglyceride like algae oil. Combining all different sources like waste veg oil, palm oil, algae etc it will simply never make a serious replacement for petroleum. It also requires major fossil fuel inputs at various stages.

    To be ‘on track’ for 80% decarbonisation 2000-2050 we should should be on about 22% new (21st century) low carbon sources by now. We’re way behind. However local oil and gas depletion will sneak up on us before 2020. It seems we’ll be short of most forms of on-tap energy except coal fired electricity. Then when we’re down the big coal fired plants (eg in the Hunter and Latrobe valleys) will need to be replaced. We’re definitely not on track.

  35. @Hermit

    I agree we are not on track. However, the facts are that nuclear fission power is contributing all it can to our power mix. Nuclear fission power cannot do any more and even if it could (which it can’t) it could not come on-stream fast enough to get us on track. Please answer these questions for yourself and for us. Put yourself through the discipline of answering or attempting to answer the substantive questions.

    1. The peer-reviewed study, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, “The end of cheap uranium” by Michael Dittmar concludes: “… a global uranium mining peak of at most 58 ± 4 ktons around the year 2015 is obtained. Thereafter we predict that uranium mine production will decline to at most 54 ± 5 ktons by 2025 and, with the decline steepening, to at most 41 ± 5 ktons around 2030. This amount will not be sufficient to fuel the existing and planned nuclear power plants during the next 10–20 years. In fact, we find that it will be difficult to avoid supply shortages even under a slow 1%/year worldwide nuclear energy phase-out scenario up to 2025.”

    What alternative data do you have that uranium supplies will not be constrained? Please cite peer-reviewed scientific papers not business management or pro-nuclear industry papers.

    2. With respect to the “World Nuclear Industry Status Report”, have you read it yet? What do you say to the incontrovertable facts presented in the report? Namely that;

    “The nuclear industry is in decline: The 388 operating reactors are 50 fewer than the peak in 2002, while the total installed capacity peaked in 2010 at 367 GW before declining to the
    current level, which is comparable to levels last seen two decades ago. Annual nuclear electricity generation reached a maximum of 2,660 TWh in 2006 and dropped to 2,359 TWh
    in 2013, which represents however a stabilization (+0.6 percent) after two consecutive years of significant decline (-4 percent in 2011, -7 percent in 2012), corresponding to a level
    previously seen in 1999.

    The nuclear share of the world’s power generation declined steadily from a historic peak of 17.6 percent in 19966 to 10.8 percent in 20137. Nuclear power’s share of global commercial primary energy production declined from the 2012 low of 4.5 percent, a level last seen in
    19848, to a new low of 4.4 percent.”

    The “Economics and Finances” of nuclear power are becoming untenable. See page 8 of the report.

    “Installed Capacity.

    Globally, since 2000, the annual growth rates for wind power have averaged 25 percent and for solar photovoltaics 43 percent. This has resulted in 2013 alone in 32 GW of
    wind and 37 GW of solar being added. Nuclear generating capacity declined by 19 GW compared to the 2000 level.14 In the European Union, in the same time frame, wind increased by 105 GW outpacing natural gas plants with 103 GW and solar with 80 GW, while nuclear decreased by 13 GW.

    In 2013, wind and solar added 11 GW each to the European grids, while all fossil fuels decreased and nuclear remained stable. By the end of 2013, China had a total of 91 GW of operating wind power capacity. China’s 18 GW of installed solar capacity for the first
    time exceeded operating nuclear capacity. China added a new world record of at least 12 GW of solar in just one year (vs. 3 GW of nuclear), overtaking Germany’s previous 7.6 GW record and
    exceeding cumulative U.S. additions since it invented photovoltaics in the 1950s. China now aims at 40 GW solar and will probably exceed the 100 GW wind power target for 2015.”

    To sum up, how do you answer these facts? How can maintain that renewable energy is not increasing rapidly (albeit still not rapidly enough for AGW ameleioration)? How can you maintain that nuclear fission power can be expanded in the face of the fuel problems and finance, economic and cost problems so clearly delineated in the above reports? What credible, reputable, scientific peer-reviwed data can you point to in an effort to refute the above reports and data?

    The plain facts are that nuclear fission power is failing and declining. Renewable energy is succeeding and growing very rapidly. The fact that renewable energy needs to grow even faster is not a strike against it, it is a strike against all the perverse policies, especially subsidies for fossil and fissile fuels, which are holding renewable power back.

    You need to deal in verifiable scientific and economic facts instead of simply having a blind belief in the efficacy of nuclear power to meet all our needs; a belief which, I might add, runs counter to all the real evidence.

  36. Hermit can always find a market segment to suit his case.

    Shorter Hermit: Until we have a complete renewable solution for every conceivable need, we should leave the whole idea well and truly alone.

  37. @John Quiggin

    I would be interested if you could make a specific (hopefully long and a bit wonkish) post on agriculture, cultivation and irrigation from the perspective of taking fossil fuels out of it. How, in the long term, could we run industrial agriculture in an electrical economy?

    I ask not to put you on the spot, as I believe it can be done, but it will be one of these transitions which I think will be challenging but far from impossible.

    After all, electrically powered heavy machinery is feasible, real and has been with us for a long time. We can note electric railways and open-cut draglines for a start. Electrically powered heavy machinery tends to need transmission wires or rails (railways, subways or trolley-buses) or it needs to be “tethered” i.e plugged in with a giant power cord to a heavy mains power system.

    Vehicles up to light tractors (for towing and light hay cutting but probably not plowing and full harvesting) can and will use battery packs. Some are on the market now.

    All the heavier agricultural work will require tethered electrical machinery. This seems much, much more likely than aerial paddock wires, LOL. The logical approach would be “radial cultivation” using centre pivot power on the model of center pivot irrigation.

    Any thoughts? Any interest in writing an entry or even a paper on this? Or maybe you or a colleague has already done so.

    I suppose another area is hydroponics which might prove very adaptable to the full electrical economy.

  38. Ikonoclast,

    Beyond Zero Emissions just released their land use report discussion paper.

    I haven’t had time to read it properly , but was a bit disappointed initially glancing through it because I think they only have accounted for reforestation drawing down land use related emissions not other emissions. So, for example, if in my shire people wanted to still have some cows and sheep – then we would reforest enough land to offset these local cow and sheep emissions. So the amount of reforestation is not as much as I think we need, and maybe too many ghg emissions are included as able to continue through this mechanism.

    The report is here

  39. Here ya go, Hermit:

    Ignore for the moment that price from several months ago is already less than your report authors’ *most optimistic* predictions for the future.

    And consider: when an electric vehicle has a price tag of $35,000, and the battery pack only costs $5,500 (or 15% of the total cost)…

    It’s not actually the batteries that need to come down significantly in price to make it affordable to the masses.

    It’s the cost of the *vehicle* itself which needs to come down.

    Feel free to link to any modelling you can find which suggests – given equivalent production numbers and economies of scale – an electric vehicle with 10x less moving parts can’t be manufactured for the same or less cost than a vehicle with a petrol combustion engine.

  40. @ZM
    Thanks ZM, I’ve been looking forward to seeing that report, which was discussed at the recent Climate Action Summit in Brisbane. I will read it at leisure, but just want to draw your (and others’) attention to the case study of Colin Seis at Winona on p 148. I saw Colin’s presentation at an Oceania Ecohealth forum last year, and was able to talk briefly to him about his farm.

    What Colin is doing is so interesting, and innovative, that the authors of the report obviously feel they can’t yet fully bring it into their accounting, however I’d really like to commend it. Just the degree of knowledge that he has about native grasses is impressive. I will try to put some more info about this on my blog when I have time.

    Just a bit tangential to your request, but I’m thinking about the recent debate we had here over how much land would you need to grow your own food. I’m thinking of putting my money where my mouth is, so to speak ( although it’s actually a bad metaphor because I’d save money) and doing an experiment to see if I can live for a week off what I grow on a rather small amount of land, plus what I can forage or swap.

    It’s not really an experiment in could I? – I’m pretty sure I could – but more an experiment in could I stand it? What would it be like to give up all the little everyday luxuries (I’m talking very low level luxury here, things like commercially produced oats, yoghurt, bread and tea!)? It would be challenging and require a bit of thought, but it would be interesting to document it.

    You do see people claiming to live off what they grow – as we saw on the previous thread – and of course lots of people have to do it, in poorer parts of the world (and in the Second World War many people had to) but I haven’t seen anyone carefully documenting what’s involved in doing this in Australia. (I think it’s possible or likely people have documented it, but it’s not well known). So will let you know if I can get up the enthusiasm to do this.

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