Derp: An irregular verb

Following up on Noah Smith’s marvellous definition of derp, I thought I would add the first person to give the declension of this irregular verb

* I can’t see this happening
* You regularly restate your tight (low probability) prior
* He herped a flerp of derp, the twerp

The classic example, cited by Noah is that of people whose view that solar photovoltaics can never work has been unshaken by a decade of massive cost reductions and growth in installations (estimated at 55 GW this year, and predicted to exceed 100 GW in the near future). Even more important though, is the belief in market liberalism held by most people whose views were formed between 1975 and 1995, and haven’t been affected by the disasters of the subsequent two decades.

28 thoughts on “Derp: An irregular verb

  1. Hermit, I presume your point is desalination of seawater to supply western Qld would be prohibitively expensive and poo poohed by people like myself – which is true – but I don’t see how that demonstrates that my confidence that a irrevocable staged shift to renewables being feasible and not economically ruinous is purely a matter of tribal loyalty – ie that it’s unreasoned and unreasoning.

    I would think the cost differentials re Renewables vs fossil fuels are not nearly so extreme as the water example. My point has been that that differential has narrowed a lot in recent years and a continuing pipeline of innovation with flow through from lab to commercialisation makes it reasonable to forecast PV and storage costs at least will continue to drop significantly in the near future. I know there are significant issues around intermittency that need to be acknowledged and addressed but I think we have some established thinking – which may or may not include derps – that rejects the fundamental commitment to low emissions and preclude more creative possibilities. These include but are not confined to a presumption of 24/7 electricity supply being widely available at low cost – rather than variably priced based on variable rather than demand responsive supply – being so essential as to be considered inviolable.

    I would also point out that if it were simply a matter of up front cost – where the calculation of what energy costs excludes big externalities like the future impacts of effectively irreversible climate changes – then it can be claimed that costs of renewables remain excessive. However, leaving out those externalities is a form of institutionalised cheating and is sustained by derps – or at least misunderstandings and misrepresentations of various kinds – starting with active and passive rejection of mainstream evaluations of the future impacts of excessive fossil fuel burning.

    With appropriate pricing of those externalities, the situation is surely very different. Variable pricing around variable supply can induce significant shifts in usage patterns and reevaluating what power is actually essential – what base supply is really essential and what it is worth – impacts the viability of supply andstorage options, both existing and emerging. ie it’s not simply a matter of what the apparent up-front cost is.

    With impacts – and associated costs – that will persist for millennia I suggest that pricing future climate costs low is shortsighted, especially in the absence of planned and mandated transition to low/zero emissions. Categorising future climate costs that have yet to eventuate as purely hypothetical and dependent on a ‘disputed’ theory around Greenhouse gases – and therefore there should be no requirement to include any pricing is, if you accept that mainstream climate science is essentially correct – clearly wrong. Pricing those externalities is tricky and bound to be uncertain of course, so it’s not unreasonable that the pricing should be that sufficient to make it economically unviable to not displace non-CCS fitted fossil fuel plant in a timely fashion.

    It’s worth noting that I am talking about a staged transition, with room to adapt and shift priorities and choices of technologies along the way. What I see as most essential is continuing firm commitment to the fundamental goal of achieving a low to zero emissions energy economy. I’m inclined to reject arguments against that commitment that are predicated on requirement for a total, fully articulated solution, that must not be projected to be significantly more expensive – when those costs include the aforementioned cheating with respect to future climate costs and restricted to established, readily available technologies who’s costs are presumed to continue without significant change.

    It seems to get back to whether there is political will to face this problem squarely. I will say again that I believe that a genuine collapse of climate science denial and political obstructionism would mean mainstream political support for nuclear would be greatly strengthened – mainstream political groupings currently devoted to opposing commitment to a low emissions economy have a lot of innate support for nuclear that is currently muted and subsumed into that antithetical to nuclear goal. But their support for renewables be also be greatly strengthened, including the potential for more comprehensive planning of a framework that will work. I personally think some recognition of existing fossil fuel infrastructure’s potential as interim backup, that shifts it from direct competitor to complement to intermittent low emissions energy could emerge. And a significant increase support for R&D&D (deployment) of innovative solutions across the board seems like an expectable outcome.

    Meanwhile we are already seeing solar and wind being periodically, and in some places on average, being delivered at lower cost than coal or gas. In a free and open electricity market those should not face unfair competition from energy supplied at less than cost by CO2 emitters seeking to exclude them. Intermittency can become a kind of defacto carbon price on existing plant; unfortunately for nuclear, it would face the same intermittent competition. My own view is that if it gains sufficient support in the future it may have grounds – on the basis of it’s low emissions – to have special help to displace high emissions plant for proven ‘essential’ uninteruptible base supply. It should not, in my own opinion, ever have any special support to displace other low emissions energy supply ahead of any higher emitting supply simply because they are intermittent.

  2. the declension of this irregular verb

    Very irregular indeed. Nouns and adjectives have declensions. Verbs conjugate.

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