Monday Message Board

Another Monday Message Board. Post comments on any topic. Civil discussion and no coarse language please. Side discussions and idees fixes to the sandpits, please.

42 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. @Jim Birch

    Why would you fabricate strange words and then say “departed from reality”. The lunacy is all yours.

    If you want to invent the phrase – “only capitalism produces CO2” then YOU should take responsibility for it. You are the counterfactual writ large.

    Capitalism cannot operate carbon-neutrally because any such capitalists in one nation will always be outcompeted by other capitalists who use fossil fuels.

    It is not necessary for business to be carbon neutral – society can emit carbon but only at the rate that is matched by the Earth’s carbon sinks.

  2. A couple of points.

    1. I am sure Ronald Brak, as a renewable energy and wind energy advocate is being humourous and ironical in his post. However, the humour and irony are too subtle for me. I just don’t get it.

    2. The “Capitalism and CO2” argument above has sort of gone off the rails as I see it. Forgive me for starting off with what is a glaringly obvious point.

    (a.) Capitalism is not the only industrial-scale mass economic system which would/does emit excess CO2 when relying on fossil fuels. Very obviously, any industrial-scale mass economic system using fossil fuels will emit excess CO2. The reaction C+O2 = CO2 is ideology neutral.

    (b.) What has characterised really existing capitalist democracy (RECD) in the last two decades or so has been a TOO-SLOW changeover from fossil fuels to renewable energy. This has occurred despite the ability of the RECD system to research and bring on stream cost efficient and effective renewable energy.

    (c.) The battle has been between entrepreneurial new capital, mostly small at least initially, and entrenched old capital. Entrenched old capital (fossil capital in this case) has had the advantage of an established infrastructure (both the production and consumption infrastructures) built around their mode of production and a large “war-chest” to buy political favours and lobby for and retain the largest subsidies.

    In summary, the RECD system has proven able to develop the new technology required but not able to implement it fast enough to prevent a high likelihood of dangerous global warming. This system is too slow at adaptive implementation. In computer game analysis terms you would say the market’s (and bourgeois democracy’s) look-ahead routines are too truncated or short-sighted and do not and cannot properly factor in the insights of other disciplines, like science, which can actually look further ahead.

    This system also is not nimble enough to deal with what lies ahead. It cannot see far enough ahead and when it finally sees something it alters course too slowly. This system cannot alter its basic systemic nature. Witness the failure of the system to change since the GFC. I mean financially-economically in this case. However, the failure to change fast enough financially-economically and the failure to change fast enough energetically and materially are joined at the hip. These failures are systematically and systemically linked.

  3. @Ikonoclast

    I am sure Ronald Brak, as a renewable energy and wind energy advocate is being humourous and ironical in his post.

    Yes, I thought he was being ironic too.

  4. @Ken Fabian

    Another thread ending up in a nuclear vs renewables stoush.

    Blame me Ken. I deliberately provoked this.

    renewables are, for various reasons the only real pathway available to us.

    It’s been explained elsewhere that an advanced civilization must use energy resources with an ERoEI at least 12. ERoEI: Energy return on energy invested. ERoEI is just a ratio between the energy used to gather it and the payback we get when harvesting it. Renewables have low to very low ERoEI figures so are just not able to sustain us.

    Q: Why does nuclear power have an ERoEI so much higher than intermittent renewables like wind and solar?

    A: Because of (1) power density, (2) energy density and (3) renewable intermittency. The energy density of nuclear power is potentially a billion times that of a lithium battery. The power density of nukes is tens of billions times wind. Low renewable power density means vast numbers of renewable energy machines must be build, covering huge areas, destroying ecosystems and producing unimaginable environmental harm. All of it must soon be scrapped. Quite soon too. A wind mill lasts only 20 years and solar PV barely more than 25. Energy/power density alone does not kill renewables as an effective solution, but intermittency does. Because it can’t supply energy on demand, intermittents need supporting sources like natural gas and/or hydro. [Batteries won’t do: (1) too expensive, (2) Low energy density means too many will be required. ] Fake environmentalists promoting renewable energy are the biggest threat to the environment today. They are funded by billion dollar, mostly, US Foundations (some of them listed in my posts above) with the express aim of promoting Luddism, and a neo-Malthusian mindset. Rich people who want nothing more than to pull the ladder up after them to keep the rest of the world poor. Done in the name of protecting the environment. They are not environmentalists in the true sense. Not socialists in any sense at all apart from a mindless one.

    ERoEI for Beginners, by Euan Mearns.
    GETTING TO ZERO: Is renewable energy economically viable? By Keith Pickering
    The Catch-22 of Energy Storage, by Barry Brook

  5. Mr Pawelek, do you believe that human activity is responsible for at least a large portion of the global warming that has occurred over the past 100 years?

  6. @Ivor

    Capitalism cannot operate carbon-neutrally because any such capitalists in one nation will always be outcompeted by other capitalists who use fossil fuels.

    “Cannot”? You appear to have repeated the claim.

    My understanding is that corporations (aka “capitalists”) want to turn a profit. CO2 production is incidental. In a regulated environment where CO2 is taxed, CO2 production will be avoided by capitalists exactly because it cuts profits.

    If tax regimes differ in different places this poses a practical problem, that would need to be solved. However, I think you would find that businesses in the regulated environment would favour some kind of CO2 attribution on imports that compete with their products.

    Other economic systems will have different incentives and different problems but I don’t see a body of historical evidence for alternate systems operating with great level of environmental awareness. Do you?

  7. @Jim Birch

    Corporations can either produce – no profit, normal profit or capitalist profit, or monopolist profit.

    Under capitalism, competition ensures that specifically “capitalist” corporations move to the right on this spectrum.

    Socialist corporations occupy the centre or move left.

    It is not possible to solve differences between different national tax regimes, or wage-cost regimes or carbon-mitigation regimes.

    Socialist systems seeking to compete with Western capitalism will also tend to discount ecological issues in pursuit of growth.

    However, unlike capitalism, there is nothing inherent in socialist political economy, to generate such drives to compete that necessarily cut wages, ecological standards or public welfare.

  8. @Mark Pawelek

    It’s been explained elsewhere that an advanced civilization must use energy resources with an ERoEI at least 12.

    I’m curious where you got the figure of 12 from. I haven’t come across it before in EROEI literature, and it’s not in any of the sources you’ve cited in your comment (they’re mostly in agreement that the figure is around 7, for what it’s worth).

  9. @Tim Macknay

    This is nicotine science.

    There is no reason why energy return may be less than energy invested.

    Paweleks own source says:

    It is assumed that ERoEI >5 to 7 is required for modern society to function.

    So why not just double it and spin a pro-nuke canard?

  10. Ivor :
    However, unlike capitalism, there is nothing inherent in socialist political economy, to generate such drives to compete that necessarily cut wages, ecological standards or public welfare.

    This sounds rosy in theory but fails on real world reality testing, doesn’t it? There are numerous examples of major environmental fails outside capitalist states.

    In fact, it seems way more reasonable to me to believe that “capitalists” will adapt to more-or-less any regulatory regime thrown at them, include CO2 regulation. They may resist regulation, but if it put in place and policed it will basically work, as evidenced by eg CFCs, vehicle emissions, safe working environments, lead-free petrol, product safety requirements. None of these changes required the downfall of capitalism to be implemented despite your theoretical pronouncements. There is an ongoing, non-trivial problem of building the required political will, countering objections and designing and implementing good regulatory systems but the evidence is that these things can be achieved without capitalism’s demise. And, in fact, another bunch of capitalists will generally start facilitating the process if there is money in it. 🙂

  11. @Tim Macknay

    I have made a certain point about EROEI a few times on this blog. Forgive me if you have heard it before.

    (1) Let us assume the worst case scenario of an EROEI of 12:1 for advanced economies to survive and prosper.

    (2) Let us assume that this factor of 12:1 applies to a pure fossil fuel economy.

    (3) Let us assume that the overall efficiency of a pure fossil fuel economy equates to the efficiency of an ICE motor. That is 20% of produced energy is turned into useful work.

    (4) Let us assume that a renewable economy, fully electrical, delivers an EROEI of only 4:1. Again this is a worst case scenario so we have applied two worst case scenarios AGAINST the renewables economy.

    (5) Now, let us assume that the overall efficiency of a pure electrical economy equates to the efficiency of an electric motor. That is 80% of produced energy is turned into useful work.

    (6) The 4:1 of an electrical economy delivers as much energy for useful work as the 16:1 of a fossil fuel economy.

    There are a lot of assumptions above, including two severe worst case assumptions against renewable energy. Even with these assumptions, an electrical renewable economy with a 4:1 EROEI comes out better (33% better) than a fossil fuel economy with a 12:1 EROEI in terms of finally delivered useful energy. This seems to me to be a logically deducible fact if the above assumptions hold.

    I would be interested to see if anyone can debunk my reasoning. Issues might arise in how EROEI is calculated for each form of energy. I will leave it at this point now.

  12. @Jim Birch

    As long as capitalism remains viable and it is technically possible, then regulation is plausible.

    We all know that capitalism corrected some injustices through the post War welfare state and promising people jobs, holidays, housing, and a decent retirement. These are now being stripped away.

    So vehicle emissions, CFC’s etc can be regulated provided capitalism remains viable and it is technically possible.

    Carbon emissions or rather fossil fuel and methane is a completely different beast.

    The required regulation is to ensure that CO2 emissions are no more than 1 tonne per capita pa and there is zero population growth. A ecologically stable world requires less industrial growth in some parts of the globe while others catch up.

    In this context this paper is critical:

    http://www.globalcarbonproject.org/global/pdf/Canadell.2007.SinkSaturation.Springer.pdf

    I interpret this as meaning that the globe can only emit around 3 Gigatonne of carbon from fossil reserves per year or 11 Gigatonnes of CO2.

    The global population will soon be 8 billion and possibly 11 for the next generation.

    If you use any common carbon foot print calculator – you will see that it is going to be impossible to regulate capitalism so that each individual only emits 1 tonne CO2 per annum, particularly as capitalism is in a long-run descending crisis.

    However, reducing fossil fuel CO2 emissions to 1 tonne per capita will be a lot easier without the added burden of capitalism insisting on maximising profits or just focussing on the short-term interests of shareholders and funding nicotine science and denialists.

    If you know of any other benchmark that capitalism can meet, please provide it.

  13. @Jim Birch

    As long as capitalism remains viable and it is technically possible, then regulation is plausible.

    We all know that capitalism corrected some injustices through the post War welfare state and promising people jobs, holidays, housing, and a decent retirement. These are now being stripped away.

    So vehicle emissions, CFC’s etc can be regulated provided capitalism remains viable and it is technically possible.

    Carbon emissions or rather fossil fuel and methane is a completely different beast.

    The required regulation is to ensure that CO2 emissions are no more than 1 tonne per capita pa and there is zero population growth. A ecologically stable world requires less industrial growth in some parts of the globe while others catch up.

    In this context this paper is critical:

    http://www.globalcarbonproject.org/global/pdf/Canadell.2007.SinkSaturation.Springer.pdf

    I interpret this as meaning that the globe can only emit around 3 Gigatonne of carbon from fossil reserves per year or 11 Gigatonnes of CO2.

    The global population will soon be 8 billion and possibly 11 for the next generation.

    If you use any common carbon foot print calculator – you will see that it is going to be impossible to regulate capitalism so that each individual only emits 1 tonne CO2 per annum, particularly as capitalism is in a long-run descending crisis.

    However, reducing fossil fuel CO2 emissions to 1 tonne per capita will be a lot easier without the added burden of capitalism insisting on maximising profits or just focussing on the short-term interests of shareholders and funding nicotine science and denialists.

    If you know of any other benchmark that capitalism can meet, please provide it.

  14. @Mark Pawelek
    I think the relative energy and power densities are essentially irrelevant and having lower EROI than nuclear is not, in and of itself going to limit RE growth.

    RE has not yet reached it’s ultimate optimised form which means that prior measures of costs and energy returns are not reliable guides to their future effectiveness – on the contrary and given that they are lower cost now than ever before they are almost certain to inflate estimates of future costs. The well of innovation is far from running dry; continuing cost reductions are almost certain just from what’s in the pipeline.

    If that all adds up to taking the leap before knowing how deep the water then I suggest we compare that to continuing the fossil fueled leap, knowing with virtual certainty that it’s a recipe for disaster. Nuclear, at the scales required is as much a blind leap in my view as RE.

    Nuclear has simply failed to inspire the necessary depth of support and thus failed to be a trigger for real change; it’s historic low emissions achievements have been mostly incidental, an unintended consequence of investment decisions for other reasons. Without climate as motivation the extent of it’s capability to displace fossil fuels must remain limited, ie I must disagree with those who count anyone who professes to favour nuclear, whether they accept the science on climate or not, as preferable to those who accept it but seek to address emissions by other means; without the climate change motivation support for nuclear cannot be mobilised effectively as climate solution.

    Given how nuclear’s advocacy is deeply intertwined with anti-environmentalist, anti-climate action politics it cannot inspire trust from existing supporters of climate action by other means. And if nuclear advocacy can’t even mobilise it’s existing supporters effectively, then a strategy of attacking renewable energy and allowing unconstrained use of fossil fuels until “common sense” prevails – and that is what it looks like to me – seems very unlikely to yield any tangible results.

    Yes the politics of climate and energy is messed up and it’s going to stay messed up. Nuclear more than any other option requires unwavering support of the fundamental goal of addressing climate change to break it’s impasse – preferring it to renewables is useless unless it comes with, and unequivocally comes with preference for low emissions over fossil fuels. It doesn’t.

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