Bad news on the global climate

Carbon dioxide emissions rose strongly last year after several years of a near plateau. It appears that the main factor was increased use of oil, mainly as motor fuel. I’ll try to do a more detailed analysis later, but the central element of the required response is obvious. Just like coal-fired power stations, petrol-driven motor cars need to be phased out, as quickly as possible. Australia, as an oil importer with no domestic car production is in a position to pursue this target aggressively. We should, as others have done, commit to a date, say 2030, after which all new cars sold would be zero emission.

58 thoughts on “Bad news on the global climate

  1. I see no reason why we shouldn’t start taxing the sales price of vehicles based on their emissions. We will need to make sure car manufacturers aren’t cheating when it comes the the real fuel economy an emissions of their vehicles.

  2. “We should, as others have done, commit to a date, say 2030, after which all new cars sold would be zero emission.”

    Yes, that’s what we should do. After 20 years or more of failing to do what we should do, it’s reasonable to question if we will do it now. On the one hand, past behaviour is the best guide to future behaviour. On the other hand, changes in behaviour and newly emerging behaviours are possible too.

    With the increasing urgency of the problem interacting with our demonstrated incapacity for prompt responses, I would say the pace of change will accelerate, albeit the acceleration will still be too slow to meet the full requirements for saving the situation. But we have to try. Not trying guarantees a worse outcome.

    We need to start envisaging a set of fall-back or contingency plans. For example, rationing, price controls and some command economy elements may become necessary relatively soon. It will be better to have those plans developed and in the cupboard ready for action, if need be, than to be caught completely unprepared. It could be a threatened stick. Adopt voluntary restrictions and compliance (just like some water restrictions) or force the government to implement more rigid formal controls.

    Certainly, banning the sale of internal combustion automobiles (except for some exclusions perhaps) after 2030 should be part of the first serious stage of legislation-led change rather than market-led change in at least some sectors of the economy. If we wait for the market to do it all, homo sapiens is certainly all dead.

  3. I think a $25 per tonne tax on CO2 amounts to about a 7 cents per litre tax on fuel. A $250 per tonne carbon tax would be 35 cents per litre. These are not large figures and don’t in themselves suggest a case for an outright ban. What am I missing here?

  4. @harryrclarke Electric vehicles are roughly cost-competitive with petrol driven vehicles already
    A tax of 70 cents a litre would be prohibitive for petrol vehicles, once there was full adjustment (petrol stations closing, electric charging expanding, repair industries switching etc). The requirement for an ordered phaseout reflects the following facts
    * Price-based policies are politically impossible to implement (see Macron)
    * There is a huge co-ordination problem which would delay the process unacceptably

  5. We’ve been somewhat misled by the fact that even a modest carbon price is enough to make coal-fired electricity uneconomic. We’ll need an effective price of $100-$200/tonne or more to shift away from oil and gas.

  6. Harry Clarke, as you allude to, a 7 cent or even 35 cent per liter addition to petrol won’t have a massive effect on people’s car purchasing habits. This is because people mostly care about what they can afford at the time of purchase, performance, and how sexy they think it makes them. Buy basing the sales price of cars on their emissions we have an immediate effect on the fuel consumption of all new vehicles sold as people will have to pay upfront if they want a car with high emissions per kilometer.

    In addition, at least a portion of the health costs of vehicles should be built into vehicle purchase price. This alone could add thousands of dollars to the purchase price of a petrol guzzler.

    These two things will be enough to get most people to switch to low emission vehicles. The benefit of a ban is to help provide stability and predictability to the car market. No beating around the bush with conditions that may be soft peddled later.

  7. It’s a big ask for nothing but all-electric vehicles by 2030, but there’s no reason to think that all new cars couldn’t be either hybrids or all-electric. The latest hybrids don’t use much petrol and have the advantage of being self-charging.

  8. @John Quiggin

    I’m disappointed that you’ve raised France’s protest as an example of price based policy being politically impossible.

    The TICPE has been in place for more than a decade, replacing another tax which has been in place for even longer. Even back in 2012, the TICPE was already 44 Euro cents per litre for diesel and 61 Euro cents per litre for petrol (with regional variations). Plus, even after Macron backed down, the protest continues.

    Even the NY Times and the Guardian (to my surprise), has got articles pointing out the main reason for the protest is not the increase (emphasis) in the fuel tax which was already in place for a long time, but rising inequality and the poverty of the regional areas of France. I would put the blame of the protest at EU instead of fuel tax.

    Playing along with the rightwing media’s favorite line about fuel tax leading to protests and riots is unhelpful.

  9. It’s not a big ask to reduce the tax on vehicles that get 20+ kilometers per liter and increase it on vehicles that only get 10 or fewer kilometers per liter from the 1st of July. No need for it to be this simplistic, but you get the drift. We can very rapidly reduce emissions and improve health by shifting purchasing decisions in the very near term. This will save lives and give Australian families more money in their pockets each week. There is not a lot not to like about it.

  10. Certainly agree, John, with your point that a 70 cent tax on petrol would be politically unpopular. Perhaps, too, setting a ban may encourage innovation in the electric car industry and in the battery industry. My point was that bans are usually unpopular in economics because of unintended effects. They are normally only justified when the associated social marginal costs are close to infinite. That does not seem to be the case here. Of course the same social marginal costs of emissions should prevail across the board – in vehicles, electricity generation and farming.

  11. The fuel tax increase was clearly the trigger for the protests in France, though clearly they get their energy from wider and more structural frustrations.

    One important addition to JQ’s policy proposal is that cities can act when governments drag their feet. London’s ULEZ enjoys wide and bipartisan support. It’s a road pricing surcharge on polluting vehicles not an outright ban, so there is an escape hatch for emergencies. The fee (£10 a day IIRC) is big enough for a deterrent to car commuting, very low in London anyway, and for fleet logistics managers to plan switching to electric vans and trucks when they hit the market any day now.

  12. PS: if green mayors are accused of hijacking a responsibility of national government, their rejoinder is that the huge health costs of air pollution are local. May can’t tell Sadiq Khan that the health of Londoners is not part of his remit.

  13. A point in the data. The bad new comes from Le Queré at the Tyndall Centre and the IEA, the best sources we have on emissions. But 2018 isn’t over yet. The estimate is based on 9 or at most 10 months of data, some provisional. The uncertainty range must be fairly wide. If the news of high coal stocks at Chinese power stations is true, the final outturn could be somewhat less bad than today’s headline.

  14. It’s not just France that is a warning. Milosevic, Orban and Trump – and Brexit – all owe their political success to a disaffected rural/small town populace (and they are a significant force in Australian politics too, despite Australia’s very high levels of urbanisation and general “primate city” configuration). These people need more than a price hike and an admonishment to move to the city if they want to get ahead. For one thing, they control the food supply and, if you want to know how ugly that can get, read up on the Russian Civil War.

    Before Beecham, there were few places in Britain more than a few kms from a railway station. before Thatcher, there were subsidised country bus services. Before tariff “reform”, there were small food-processing and other industries scattered across Australia, providing decent skilled jobs. Now the herrings are caught in Scotland, sent to China to be packed and sent back to be sold in Edinburgh. If we are going to price their means of getting to the shops and doctors out of their meagre pockets, it might be a good idea to think about what alternatives we can supply.

  15. Using the U.K. as an example, the act of privatisation of rail and bus, with its subsequent failures, must have only helped to encourage travellers into cars.. If public transport is too costly for govt then a subsidy on electric cars could be cost effective.

  16. The country used to be able to withhold goods from the city (Russian civil war, etc) because the rural areas had peasants who had the alternative of eating the corn/pigs/wheat themselves. Now, even where the farmers aren’t the same megacorps that run the cities, farms have few people and many machines; even if you can keep production on the farm, you can’t consume it. Australia’s never had a peasantry: rural/city divisions are keyed to acceptance of modernity, not economics.

  17. IIRC, ten years ago we were talking on this blog about what we could and should do about global warming. Today, “can” and “should” still pepper the discussion. In J.Q.’s words, “Carbon dioxide emissions rose strongly last year after several years of a near plateau.”

    Certainly, the Keeling curve measured on Mauna Loa shows no sign of reflecting that near plateau by even the smallest inflection. Now, before anyone rushes to misconstrue this statement, let me say this. Of course, the Keeling Curve is not a measure of yearly human emissions. It is a measure, at a point on Mauna Loa, of the concentration of CO2 accumulated in the atmosphere. As such it will respond over time to these main factors:

    Natural Emissions + Human Emissions – Plant Photosythesis effects – Intakes by carbon sinks.

    Clearly, to have no appreciable effect on the progress of this curve, means any or possibly all of;

    (1) Natural emissions are rising from environmental and feedback effects;
    (2) Human Emissions are rising;
    (3) Photosynthesis intake of CO2 is declining;
    (4) Natural carbon sink intake of CO2 is declining.

    It is the final result that counts towards climate change. Since the curve has continued rising from 2000, in a slight but definite exponential manner, and without any noticeable inflections downwards, the only conclusion can be that our attempts, since that date, to control emissions have been wholly inadequate and ineffective (feeble) with respect to the rising total concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere.

    This was entirely predictable and many scientific realists who are also political economy realists did predict it. Namely, that we would completely fail while we continued to run a capitalist system. This system, in its late stage, is incapable of purely internally generated change. This is where I part company from left theorists who contend that timely, pre-emptive reform or revolution is still possible.

    To state that a system is incapable of purely internally generated change is merely to state that outside feed-backs are necessary to influence the system to change. In this case, the external feed-backs, from the environment system obviously, will need to be robust and highly disruptive. We need have no doubt that they will be robust and highly disruptive. Only under the influence of highly damaging and disruptive feed-backs from the environment will the mass of people be influenced to abandon capitalism.

  18. Has anyone worked out the net reduction in emissions if all cars were electric (bearing in mind that at present the electricity that would charge the cars is 60% made with coal)?

    Also, a lot of vehicles are not cars. They are trucks and vans, and no one (as far as I know) is making electric trucks and vans.

  19. Understand the political problems of a large one off increase in fuel cost. What about a gradual increase, say 3 cents per litre per month?

  20. This news item had me checking that it wasn’t April 1st.

    “COP24 President defends participation of coal companies at climate talks” – ABC.

    There was a coal display (a pile of coal), plus coal soap and coal jewellery. A coal miners’ band played and the event was held in a coal mining city in pro-coal Poland. The clear point of these stage-managed media “optics” was a strong pro-coal message. This is beyond insult and provocation. This is an arrogant display of untrammeled power. They are saying, “Even in the supposed inner sanctum of fossil fuel opposition we can come in and plaster coal everywhere. We can rub it in your face and you are powerless.”

    If it wasn’t so grotesque and tragic it would be laughable. As Richard Attenborough said, “We’re facing a man-made disaster of global scale”. Clearly, the political and economic powers of the world in ignoring this are 100% committed to fossil fuels and 100% committed to destroying our world.

    We have to wonder at this 100% commitment to destroy our world. It is no longer entirely composed of denial of climate change. It now contains a new element of realisation that the science might be right after all. But what it is saying is “Well, if we are wrong, if we can’t have the world the way we want it, with us in charge and getting all the wealth, then we are going to destroy it so nobody can have it.”

    I think matters have progressed to this point. Realising that they can’t win in the long term, that their system cannot be perpetual, certain players in the fossil fuel world and capitalist world have decided to deliberately destroy the world and have fun (for their own lifetimes) while they do it. No other thesis seems strong enough to explain the monstrous dimensions of cruel and destructive perversity on display. This is beyond mere stupidity. This is deliberate destructive perversity.

  21. @ John Quiggin: “Electric vehicles are roughly cost-competitive with petrol driven vehicles already”.

    The comparison you cite is for a $45,000 electric vehicle versus a $35,990 ICE vehicle. At least 8 ICE vehicles sell in Oz for under $16K.

    2018 Mitsubishi Mirage – $12,250. …
    2018 Holden Spark LS- $13,990. …
    2018 Kia Picanto S -$14,190. …
    2018 Mazda2 Neo – $14,990. …
    2018 Toyota Yaris Ascent – $15,390. …
    2018 Hyundai Accent Sport- $15,490. …
    2018 Ford Fiesta Ambiente- $15,825. …
    2018 Suzuki Swift GL -$15,990

    The cheapest EV on the Oz market is the Hyundai Ioniq at $45K. That’s $17.5K more expensive than the ICE Hyundai equivalent, the Hyundai Elantra.

    I doubt we’ll be seeing under $20K EVs until close to 2040 given there isn’t much scope left for making liquid lithium ion batteries more efficient and the lack of any replacement battery technology that is anywhere near the production stage. So I would support a nominal ban date of 2040 rather than 2030.

  22. @ Smith9: “Also, a lot of vehicles are not cars. They are trucks and vans, and no one (as far as I know) is making electric trucks and vans.”

    Actually some electric trucks and vans are already on the road.

    Check out the Tesla truck that will hopefully go in to production next year:

  23. The problem with coal is that for a long time it was a very good thing, it brought prosperity to many people, and only fairly recently it became a very bad thing. It will take some time to turn this around.

    In the mean time we need a Manhattan type of project on renewables as it is that urgent.

  24. Hugo, according to Elon Musk Tesla battery cells will be down to $100 US per kilowatt-hour by the end of this year. While I don’t know if that’s true, they will be close to it. Other battery manufacturers are supplying them at low — but not that low — prices. Putting a battery pack in a car for $200 Australian per kilowatt-hour before long seems clearly doable.

    An electric car sans battery pack is much cheaper to make than a standard car. The motor is far cheaper, it doesn’t need pollution control equipment, or a fuel tank, or fuel pump, or gears. I don’t know how much cheaper they will be to make once they are mass produced but I’ll just go with $3,000 cheaper than a roughly equivalent petrol car. So an electric car could have 15 kilowatt-hours of batteries and cost the same as a current petrol car. For a small car that’s over 100km range. Spend an extra $3,000 on batteries and the range goes up to over 200km. Electric cars are also much cheaper to maintain so if it saves $1,000 on fuel and maintenance per year then it will pay for itself pretty quickly so the expense of battery packs is not a serious problem.

    This will require electric cars to be cheaply mass produced like most internal combustion engine cars are and if there is a ban then this will happen.

    I also don’t expect batteries to just stop falling in price. I am sure lithium car battery packs can get down to $100 Australian per kilowatt-hour — unless something better is developed which replaces them.

  25. Hugo, Smith9: Tesla is not yet a player in trucks, it just has a glamorous project. Volvo and Mercedes are, and they are already trialling 25-tonne trucks for regional distribution, in deals with big logistics operators. They will have the technology sorted by the time the batteries are cheap enough to compete.

    Mercedes, VW and Renault have all launched electric panel vans in Europe this year, hoping that fleet logistics managers will be sufficiently worried by the possibility (or in London certainty) of future low-emission city regulations.

    Electric buses now dominate the new bus market in China, at about 100,000 a year. BNEF say that e-buses are already fully competitive with diesel ones for all use cases on a TCO basis. They will take over the market in the next few years, as mayors can gain green electoral cred and improve public health at no net financial cost.

  26. Human history post agricultural revolution is full of tales of societal collapse due to environmental degradation by human activity. They generally just innocently and absent mindedly adapted bit by bit over the generations as things changed, until it was too late. Some peoples managed to luck onto a more sustainable way of doing things .Its amazing to read of an island nation actually chopping down their last tree. Presumably we are a bit cleverer than our savage ancestors.

  27. Other than walking barefoot there is no zero emission transport, and there are problems even there. Barefeet may eliminate the embedded greenhouse gas pollution in footwear, but not the huge amounts of ghg embedded in the food occidentals* consume to fuel the walking. Is ‘zero’ emission personal motorised transport achievable for all who want it? According to Jean Marc Jancovici, crunching the numbers for the case in France, it is not likely on anything with more than two wheels.

    For life to carry on in Australia pretty much as now, dependant as it is on motor cars, something like massively expanding the amount of coal fired electricity generation or really getting to grips with the domestic gas situation might affordably allow sufficient power for ‘zero’ emission vehicles.

    *Occidental is a term used by Jean Marc Jancovici that is, I think, interchangeable with “western” or “industrialised first world”. This view may strike a chord in some on conventional economics, particularly growth and GDP, versus the real world:

  28. Svante, there’s no point in building coal or gas power stations to charge electric vehicles. It’s much cheaper to build renewable capacity. This is the case even if fossil fuels don’t have to pay for their externalities. Electric vehicles are really a good match for renewables as they will charge the most when electricity is cheapest which will be when renewable output is high and other demand is low. Just 2 kilowatts of rooftop solar is all that it takes to meet the average energy consumption of an electric car driven the average number of kilometers. That’s very doable.

  29. Ronald, where are we to magic up the energy to produce all the renewables needed? EROI? There’s much fossil energy embedded in those “renewables”. They’re only cheap due to cheap and still abundant fossil fuel. When that runs out, or somehow belatedly is banned, we will shortly thereafter be going over an energy cliff… but not in our cars.

  30. In the face of a broken climate absolutely everything has to change including transport bau. Continued unrestricted availability of motor cars for anyone who wants one is a dream, or rather a nightmare. We simply have to be able to walk again, or possibly cycle… or else.

    Enno Schröder and Servaas Storm – Why “Green Growth” Is an Illusion

    Bottom line:

    “Without a concerted (global) policy shift to deep de-carbonization (Sachs 2016; Fankhauser and Jotzo 2017), a rapid transition to renewable energy sources (Peters et al. 2017), structural change in production, consumption and transportation (Steffen et al. 2018), and a transformation of finance (Mazzucato and Semieniuk 2018), the decoupling will not even come close to what is needed (e.g. Storm 2017).

    Political support for such a strategy of deep de-carbonization is not in the cards—not just in the U.S., but also in Brazil, Australia, and elsewhere. Ostensibly more progressive “green growth” approaches unfortunately remain squarely within the realm of business-as-usual economics as well, proposing solutions which rely on technological fixes on the supply side and voluntary or “nudged” behavior change on the demand side, and which are bound to extend current unsustainable production, consumption and emission patterns into the future. The belief that any of this half-hearted tinkering will lead to drastic cuts in CO2 emissions in the future is plain self-deceit; and we know, with Ludwig von Wittgenstein, that nothing is so difficult as not deceiving oneself. Hence, if past performance is relevant for future outcomes, our results should put to bed the complacency concerning the possibility of “green growth.” There is no decoupling of growth and consumption-based CO2 emissions – “green growth” is a chimera.”

  31. Correct, EROEI for solar PV is now shown to be a non-issue. This is mainly due to the great progress in solar PV technology. Once, EROEI was an issue for solar PV, but now no more.

    Though simple in theory, EROEI calculations are tricky in practice due to boundary issues. What energy inputs are to be counted? Studies which still show solar PV failing on EROEI measures usually put expansive bounds on solar PV energy inputs and very constricted and limited bounds on energy inputs for fossil fuels, nuclear power etc. energy production. This unequal comparison is consciously or unconsciously motivated by an ideological or business bias for fossil fuels and nuclear power.

    A further issue is that a pure electrical economy does not need the same EREOI as a fossil fuel economy to be viable. An electric engine is about 4 times more efficient than an internal combustion engine (80% efficiency versus 20% efficiency). Even if we halve this factor for the entire electrical economy, we can safely posit that an electrical economy will be twice as efficient as a fossil fuel economy at converting returned (available) energy to useful work. Hence, if a fossil fuel economy requires an overall EROEI of 10:1 to be run successfully (until it runs out of fossil fuel or destroys the climate and environment), an electrical economy will require only an EROEI of 5:1.

  32. To add to my above comment, there is a clear sense in which EROEI comparisons that involve fossil fuels are meaningless. It is ultimately pointless (except for transition strategizing) to examine the EROEI of fossil fuels. This is so because if we burn more than 1/4 of the remaining fossil fuels (known deposits) we will effectively destroy the climate, the environment and civilization. No level of EROEI is viable if it destroys these three things.

    Therefore, we will have to use solar energy (and other sustainable renewable energies) and accept whatever level of civilization is sustainable with their use. This is a hard fact governed by the laws of physics and biology. Clearly, a medieval living standard, and even an early modern living standard circa 1750, is possible on renewable energy alone. However, that was possible in a far less damaged world, ecologically and climatologically speaking (and even that started to damage the world significantly, mainly via deforestation and soil depletion).

    With a damaged world working against us and (good) technology working for us, some sort of sustainable economy might be possible along with saving parts of our environment. (Many parts are already irreparably damaged on any timescale relevant to humans and human civilization.) It’s our only option. Fossil fuel use has to end. We have to get by in any way we can without it.

  33. Svante, I’d get energy to build new renewable capacity from the same magical place you’d get energy to build new coal power plants.

  34. Smith9, the range of the Tesla truck is 800km according to Elon Musk and 400 kilometers with a full load and 400km with an empty trailer at best according to the laws of physics. It can recharge 640 kilometers of range in 30 minutes — so we’ve been told.

    The range of electric trucks basically comes down to how much range do you want? At the moment the ranges are far less than what can be achieved by a diesel truck because there are plenty of applications where the range doesn’t need to be that long. If you want an electric truck to cross the Nullabor you build points where they can either recharge or swap batteries. (If you really wanted to it would be possible to swap batteries without the truck ever stopping, although that’s not really necessary.) Alternatively you could use a carbon neutral fuel of some sort, but it might have trouble competing with electric trucking on fuel and maintenance costs.

  35. @Smith9,

    Trucking companies are already placing orders for the Tesla truck so they are clearly happy with the range and charging time.

    Elon Musk suggested that drivers do the 30 minute recharge Ronald mentions while they have their lunch break. I assume the companies that are ordering the trucks find that satisfactory solution to the charging problem.

    Unfortunately Panasonic, who make Tesla’s batteries, say that solid state batteries won’t be on the market for at least 10 years. If and when that happens, charging times and energy density will no longer be a concern and it will be game over for ICE vehicles.

    Future generations will look back on the ICE vehicles as barbaric given the mortality and morbidity caused by the fine particulates, noxious fumes etc.

    Moving away from oil will also have the happy side benefit of draining the Islamist swamp or at least rendering it an impoverished and unimportant backwater. No more sucking on the teat of the House of Saud. Yippeee!

  36. Smith9: the Daimler press release on their electric truck trial (URL too long to paste but easy to google) gives details. There are two models, 18 and 25 tonnes. The battery is 250 kWh, the daily range 200 km, and the full recharge time 11 hours at 20kw and 2 hours at 150 Kw. Unlike the Tesla Semi, these are real trucks in use, if only as a trial. The Volvo products are similar.

  37. Electric vehicles: one very encouraging datum is that the growth rate in sales is absolutely staggering. This site gives it at 77% per year, starting 5 years ago (sales were negligible before then): *****

    This is twice the already high rate of solar pv, and implies doubling every 14 months. This is taking place while most EVs are dearer than comparable ICEVs, even with the limited subsidies on offer. Imagine what will happen when prices hit parity!

    Actually we don’t have to imagine. EVs are already just at parity in two sectors, buses and tuk-tuks. The etuks managed it with zero government support; there are already 1.5 million of them in India (***** I predict explosive growth for both in 2019.

    The very rapid rate of take-up, in the face of high prices and limited public charging infrastructure, suggests that actual consumers are far more open than motoring journalists to the advantages of EVs – no pollution, far nicer driving (instant torque, quiet, no gearbox), and much lower running costs – and are much less worried by the disadvantages, sticker price and the bugbear of “range anxiety.”

  38. And when automated driving takes off, which will be soon in high wage, good weather, non-insane road conditions by international standards Australia, we may only need one tenth the number of cars to provide the same level of transportation services. I don’t know how many people will stick with private car ownership, but imagine not having to bother with a garage when building a home or doing a bit of gardening where your driveway would otherwise be. But if you are lazy you can still have a driveway for your robotaxi.

  39. Smith9, you asked about charging cars with electricity that is 60% generated from coal. With 60% of the energy for charging coming from coal and the rest an even mix of gas and renewables electric cars will result in less greenhouse gas emissions than standard internal combustion engine cars. But it does depend on what your are comparing them to. A non-plug in hybrid that is optimized for economy and not high performance or cheating on fuel efficiency tests can have lower emissions. But Labor has a 50% renewable electricity target for 2030. We need to — and can easily do — much better than this, but any coal power plants still operating in 2030 will be on their last legs. It doesn’t matter who gets voted in, coal power stations will continue to degrade in reliability and they won’t be replaced with new coal generation. So after 2030 you can be certain most of our electricity is going to come from renewables.

  40. JW, “Tesla is not yet a player in trucks… Electric buses now dominate the new bus market in China, at about 100,000 a year”

    Buses, not long haul coaches, are particularly suited to EVs – lots of stops not far apart. Large trucks are very unsuited, and there is only quite limited scope for light trucks.

  41. Iko, “Though simple in theory, EROEI calculations are tricky in practice due to boundary issues. What energy inputs are to be counted? Studies which still show solar PV failing on EROEI measures usually put expansive bounds on solar PV energy inputs and very constricted and limited bounds on energy inputs for fossil fuels, nuclear power etc. energy production.”

    Expansive bounds? Or realistic, real world, rather than theoretically based on PV invested advocates’ optimum lab conditions and manufacturers’ questionable specs?

  42. Iconoclast: “To add to my above comment, there is a clear sense in which EROEI comparisons that involve fossil fuels are meaningless. It is ultimately pointless (except for transition strategizing) to examine the EROEI of fossil fuels. This is so because if we burn more than 1/4 of the remaining fossil fuels (known deposits) we will effectively destroy the climate, the environment and civilization. No level of EROEI is viable if it destroys these three things… With a damaged world working against us and (good) technology working for us, some sort of sustainable economy might be possible along with saving parts of our environment.”

    Wherever wind or solar electricity generation have been seriously adopted retail electricity prices have risen as has CO2 emissions! There is no free lunch. Fossil fuelled generation increases in line with renewables manufacturing and installation partly because ‘green’ power implementation like everything else is overwhelmingly powered by coal, oil, and gas. Green power EROI is intimately connected to fossil fuels and shall very likely remain so for many many decades to come. People won’t willingly give up the 500 or so energy slaves they have gotten used to over the last century and go back to circa 1750. Using muscle driven technology? Too much like hard work, and importantly not enough muscle to feed everyone. If fossil fuels are switched off growth of renewables, little as it is, crashes. And the modern world crashes. If fossil fuels are not switched off, and soon, the climate, civilisation, and probably life on Earth crashes.

  43. JQ: “EROEI is a non-issue. I got an EROEI of 10 as a back-of-the-envelope estimate here. A big team, doing a much more careful job, got the same result in this paper

    Updating your costings there ( using 5 grams/watt of polysilicon and 200 wafers per 1kg polysilicon (JQ), then at $11AUD/1kg polysilicon (~ current China) each wafer today costs $0.055AUD down from JQ earlier calculated cost of $0.10AUD. However, these figures are out of line and well below actual current weekly China trending prices. PV/Silicon Weekly Spot Prices

    Further, not to conflate the cost of polysilicon wafers with the total costs of pv power given that, for example –

    “According to Table 2 of the paper by Yao et al. (2014) it is possible to calculate, by using the correct conversion protocol, the quantity of coal needed per square meter of module (361 kg of coal) and also the cost, namely only 22 CHF/ m2 module at the present cost of coal in China.” (Ferroni) and that “Modules are sold on the basis of money per peak Watt, which is understood to come from a reference sunlight intensity level of 1 kW/m2.” (Ferroni et al 2017 )

    then at currency conversion rate 1CHF/1AUD = $1.41AUD the cost per m^2 of module = 22CHF*1.41=$31AUD. At an optimistic conversion efficiency of 20% or 200W/m^2 the cost per module Watt = AUD $31/200 = AUD$0.155

    So, another rough back of envelope figuring shows that a module Watt in China costs 3 times more than a wafer Watt, and that is before installation, maintenance, etc, etc… so indeed it shows nothing other than it being rather misleading and incomplete. Wafers already were about the least expensive part of a PV power generation system.

    As to PV embedded energy, and PV EROI, Ferroni had it correct. Raugei rebutted nothing but a straw man pumped up with errors. The analysis of what happens in proven practise in the field (eg. Hall, Prieto, Ferroni) will nearly always beat idealised academic laboratory ruminations based on industry marketing spin motivated to please said industry (eg. Raugei et al). Science sovietisation, or industry capture?

    That “big team” (size matters?) of PV industry advocates’, Raugei et al (2017) ( ), hack job on Ferroni and Hopkirk (2016) ( ) is horribly flawed as the rebuttal by Ferroni, Guekos and Hopkirk (2017) makes clear ( ). It is now 19 months on and Raugei has not formally replied. Though, if true to prior form, Raugei may well be delivering snarky rants on the sidelines of conferences, or vehemently lobbying journal editors and book publishers to shut out differing perspectives.

    “After this session one of the speakers, Marco Raugei, at Oxford Brookes University, came over. He was very upset by my question because he thought Prieto and Hall’s book was awful. He told me it was so bad that several scientists had tried to prevent Springer from printing it…” –

    Here’s the Ferroni (2017) cited (see Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE), 17Nov2016, Photovoltaics Report.

    I think it suspect that the Ferroni (2017) cited (see ) S.R. Kurtz, K. Emery, “Conversion Efficiencies of Best Research Solar Cells from 1976 Through 2016 for Various Photovoltaic Technologies. Efficiencies Determined by Certified Agencies/laboratory”, 12 August 2016, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) (2016) (, has been removed by U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). It seems it would contain inconvenient facts for PV invested industry advocates… facts a Trump appointed management might have found interesting?

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