Monday Message Board

Back again with 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. If you would like to receive my (hopefully) regular email news, please sign up using the following link


http://eepurl.com/dAv6sX You can also follow me on Twitter @JohnQuiggin, at my Facebook public page   and at my Economics in Two Lessons page

26 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. “‘The tyranny of merit’ is tearing America apart

    “Obama said it more than 140 times, but his mantra is a symptom of what’s tearing America apart

    “Remember, Bill and Hillary Clinton were guests at the wedding of Donald and Melania Trump.

    “The meritocracy has rigged the game to suit themselves, getting richer while the poor are getting poorer. Their children dominate entry to the best universities, a pathway to the richest careers ensuring this new royalty shores up its status for another generation.

    “So entrenched and immovable is this elite that the Brookings Institution showed that, on current trends, “it would take six generations for family economic advantage to disappear”.**
    https://abc.net.au/news/2020-10-18/us-tyranny-of-merit/12774726

    **
    “Six facts about wealth in the United States
    ” American households held over $98 trillion of wealth in 2018.

    “In 2018, U.S. households held over $113 trillion in assets. For context, that is over five times as much as all the goods and services produced in the U.S. economy in a single year. If that amount were divided evenly across the U.S. population of 329 million, it would result in over $343,000 for each person. For a family of three, that’s over a million dollars in assets.”…
    https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2019/06/25/six-facts-about-wealth-in-the-united-states/

    https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/about/news-room/press-releases-and-statements/2008/02/20/economic-mobility-project-releases-comprehensive-study-of-income-mobility-in-the-us

  2. “Red” Bob turning from greying to purple in that american’s flagship reiterates a theme from his Senate valedictory speech where he also spoke up similarly after being rolled and silenced on it similarly about another decade before by the party he founded and now unrecognisable:

    If Bob Brown fell in a wood, but no Green saw it, did it happen?

    By David Llewellyn-Smith in Australian Politics, Carbon Economy at 12:10 am on October 19, 2020 | 152 comments

    https://www.macrobusiness.com.au/2020/10/if-bob-brown-fell-in-a-wood-but-no-green-saw-it-did-it-happen/

    Yep, it’s population.

  3. Australia as renewables leader? Surprising news:
    “The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has joined five power system operators around the world that have more than 50% renewables in their mix, in forming a new partnership — the Global Power System Transformation Consortium (G-PST) — with the mission to use their combined knowledge and resources “to foment a rapid clean-energy transition at unprecedented scope and scale”.”

    The 50% must be a hope, as it isn’t yet a reality outside Denmark, except for peaks. The other members are “California (CAISO), Denmark (Energinet), Ireland (EirGrid Group), Texas (ERCOT) and the UK (National Grid ESO).” Imperial College (London) are leading the curriculum development and training angle. https://www.pv-magazine.com/2020/10/19/australia-a-key-player-in-new-global-power-system-transformation-team-of-6/

  4. James, South Australia generations over 50% of its electricity consumption from wind and solar and is weakly connected to the neighboring state of Victoria. Demark has well over 6 gigawatts of interconnector capacity and a much less peaky grid, so they got it easy. (Well, apart from the fact their grid is split in two.) South Australia has the same problems and issues and is hitting them first and so definitely should be in the group regardless of whether it has to drag in the rest of Australia or not.

    Of course, we should make sure we are getting value for money from these sorts of things. Australians are great believers in getting their money’s worth, you know. We pay the chair of the ACCC $760,000 a year to make sure we’re not ripped off.

  5. Geoff Miell, you said;
    “KT2, COVID-19 deaths are just part of the story… and then there’s “Long Covid”.”
    https://johnquiggin.com/2020/10/12/monday-message-board-482/#comment-229096

    Very long & costly…

    “The $16-Trillion Virus

    ● $2.6 trillion in health-care costs associated with long-term complications among survivors; “…
    https://www.harvardmagazine.com/2020/10/16-trillion-virus

    And a possible long term vector. Once in and inflamed, any system may be effected, in my very wonkish interpretation.

    “The human brain vasculature shows a distinct expression pattern of SARS-CoV-2 entry factors”
    …” we detected a distinct pattern of SARS-CoV-2 entry associated genes’ transcripts in brain vascular endothelial cells and microglia, providing a potential explanation for an inflammatory response in the brain endothelium upon SARS-CoV-2 infection.”…
    https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.10.10.334664v1

    Moheb Ghobrial, Jason Charish, Shigeki Takada,Taufik Valiante, PhilippeP. Monnier,Ivan Radovanovic, Gary D. Bader, Thomas Wälchli
    doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.10.10.334664

  6. It’s worth looking at this very interesting document:

    “Upside-Down Markets: Profits, Inflation and Equity Valuation in Fiscal Policy Regimes” by JESSE LIVERMORE” (pseudonym).

    https://www.philosophicaleconomics.com/

    It deals with what could transpire from nominal growth targeting. Here is an excerpt.

    QUOTE

    “Unfortunately, monetary policy is limited in what it can accomplish as a form of stimulus. It therefore offers a weak foundation for upside-down markets. We can celebrate economic problems (sic) as catalysts for interest rate cuts, but the cuts won’t usually avert the problems, at least not in full. They may buoy stock prices through portfolio preference channels, but the damage to fundamentals will tend to outweigh the buoyancy.

    Fiscal policy is an entirely different matter. If deployed in sufficient quantities, it can achieve any nominal level of spending or income that it wants. When policymakers commit to using it alongside monetary policy to achieve desired economic outcomes, markets have solid reasons to turn upside-down.

    To illustrate with a concrete example, imagine a policy regime in which U.S. congressional lawmakers, acting with the support of the Federal Reserve (“Fed”), set a 5% nominal growth target for the U.S. economy. They pledge to do “whatever it takes” from a fiscal perspective to reach that target, including driving up the inflation rate, if the economy’s real growth rate fails to keep up. Suppose that under this policy regime, the economy gets hit with a contagious, lethal, incurable virus that forces everyone to aggressively socially distance, not just for several months, but forever. The emergence of such a virus would obviously be terrible news for humanity. But would it be terrible news for stock prices?

    The virus would force the economy to undertake a permanent reorganization away from activities that involve close human contact and towards activities that are compatible with social distancing. Economically, the reorganization would be excruciating, bringing about enormous levels of unemployment and bankruptcy. But remember that Congress is in-play. To reach its promised 5% nominal growth target, it would inject massive amounts of fiscal stimulus into the economy—whatever amount is needed to ensure that this year’s spending exceeds last year’s spending by the targeted 5%. To support the effort, the Fed would cut interest rates to zero, or maybe even below zero, provoking a buying frenzy among investors seeking to escape the guaranteed losses of cash positions.

    The interest rate cuts, possibly into negative territory, would make stocks more attractive relative to cash and bonds. Additionally, the massive issuance of new government securities to fund the spending would shrink the relative supply of equity in the system, making stocks more scarce as growth-linked assets. Finally, the virus would give corporations financial cover to cut unnecessary labor expenses, allowing them to capitalize on any untapped sources of productivity that might be embedded in their operations. This action, which takes income away from households, would normally come back to hurt the corporate sector in the form of declining demand and declining revenue. But if the government is using fiscal policy to achieve a nominal growth target, then there won’t be any income or revenue declines in aggregate. The government will inject whatever amount of fiscal stimulus it needs to inject in order to keep aggregate incomes and revenues growing on target, accepting inflation as a substitute for real growth where necessary.

    If you are a diversified equity investor in this scenario, you will end up with a windfall on all fronts. Your equity holdings will be more attractive from a relative yield perspective, more scarce from a supply perspective, and more profitable from an earnings perspective. The bad news won’t just be good news, it will be fantastic news, as twisted as that might sound.

    It may seem strange to think that stocks could benefit from bad news, but other asset classes that offer insured income streams, such as government bonds, behave that way. If the government is effectively insuring the income streams of the aggregate corporate sector, why shouldn’t a diversified portfolio of stocks behave in the same way?

    To be clear, the upside-down situation that I’ve described here is not the situation that we’re currently in. From a policy perspective, legislators and central bankers have not implemented a nominal growth targeting regime, and the policy hawks that would normally serve as obstacles to such a regime have not yet been run out of town. But people on both sides of the aisle are increasingly coming to realize that fiscal policy is the “cheat code” of economics. If you’re willing to tolerate inflation risk, you can use it to achieve any nominal outcome that you want.

    As people become more aware of this fact, they’re going to increasingly challenge traditional approaches, demanding that fiscal policy be used to safeguard expansions and eliminate downturns. Upside-down markets will then become the norm.”

    END QUOTE.

    My comment is that if nations go down this path, without other changes, it will strengthen the position of shareholding capitalists even further. Yet, like many on the left, I advocate fiscal stimulus. The document goes on to explain how the flows of fiscal stimulus. in the current system, will always end up in the capitalists’ pockets, expanding their balance sheets, increasing their wealth. It’s a “trickle up” system. Without other measures, the concentration of the ownership of capital will increase.

  7. KT2, thanks for the info.

    I note that the Harvard Magazine article you reference for the “$16 trillion Virus” is an estimate for US only costs – not global. It also includes:
    “$1.6 trillion in increased mental-health costs attributable to the pandemic if the mental-health effects last just a year.”

    Who knows how long the COVID-19 pandemic will last? The so-called Spanish Flu (or H1N1 virus), that was first noticed in 1918, is still with us, but far less lethal than in the 1918 to early 1920s period.
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2020/09/01/1918-flu-pandemic-end/

    Will COVID-19 be with us for a long time? Past pandemics suggest to me it could be.

    Who’s funding the so-called “Great Barrington declaration” bad science, and to what end?
    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/oct/18/covid-herd-immunity-funding-bad-science-anti-lockdown

  8. Think your unlisted phone number is safe? From the neocons?

    This is  THE UBI – Universal Basic Information, used by… “the covert pro-coal campaign dubbed “Project Caesar”, which the CT group had been involved in. According to the Guardian, Project Caesar was a sophisticated attempt at using digital and social media to “shift public sentiment towards coal, using messaging informed by research, focus groups and polling conducted in multiple countries”.

    “A Pushy Number: Libs’ pollster Crosby Textor granted access to 27 million unlisted mobiles

    by Jommy Tee | Oct 16, 2020 | Government

    “When the Coalition quietly changed the regulations to enable access to millions of unlisted mobile phone numbers for ‘political research’, the Liberal Party’s pollster Crosby Textor was quick out of the blocks with an application to access the database, writes Jommy Tee. Now, the lobby group closest to Scott Morrison has access to 27 million phone numbers heading into the next Federal election.

    “The Liberal Party’s pollsters, the Crosby Textor Group (CT Group), tried to access 27 million unlisted mobile phones before last year’s May federal election.

    “Access to unlisted numbers only became possible from 14 December 2018, when the then communications minister, Mitch Fifield, very quietly changed the regulations. Michael West Media can find no media release by the minister detailing the significant regulatory change.

    “The regulations give “researchers” carte blanche to access the unlisted numbers as long as the research relates to federal, state and local government electoral matters.

    “While there was no media release heralding the changes, the CT Group was nonetheless quick off the mark, filing an application to access the government’s Integrated Public Number Database in February 2019, according to documents obtained by Michael West Media under Freedom of Information.

    “The move coincided with the winding down of the covert pro-coal campaign dubbed “Project Caesar”, which the CT group had been involved in. According to the Guardian, Project Caesar was a sophisticated attempt at using digital and social media to “shift public sentiment towards coal, using messaging informed by research, focus groups and polling conducted in multiple countries”.
    https://www.michaelwest.com.au/a-pushy-number-libs-pollster-crosby-textor-granted-access-to-27-million-unlisted-mobiles/

    “Australia’s election watchdog lacks power to investigate who is paying for Facebook political ads
        “Electoral commission admits it doesn’t have the resources to scrutinise covert campaigns to influence voters”…
    https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/dec/06/australias-election-watchdog-lacks-power-to-investigate-who-is-paying-for-facebook-political-ads

    “‘National disgrace’: Glencore coal campaign revelations prompt calls for reform
    “Transparency advocates say secret campaigns such as Project Caesar have to be brought out of the shadows”
    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/mar/08/national-disgrace-glencore-coal-campaign-revelations-prompt-calls-for-reform

  9. From the Guardian:
    “Air pollution last year caused the premature death of nearly half a million babies in their first month of life, with most of the infants being in the developing world, data shows. Exposure to airborne pollutants is harmful also for babies in the womb. It can cause a premature birth or low birth weight. Both of these factors are associated with higher infant mortality. Nearly two-thirds of the 500,000 deaths of infants documented were associated with indoor air pollution, particularly arising from solid fuels such as charcoal, wood, and animal dung for cooking.”
    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/oct/21/polluted-air-killing-half-a-million-babies-a-year-across-globe

    Forgive me for repeating this, but there is a simple technical solution: bottled butane gas. The argument:
    1. Cooking is a core part of culture. It is very difficult, as well as arrogant, to try to force change in cooking methods and times. Do-gooders should try to meet the demand for cooking energy the way it is, and forget about solar stoves that don’t work in the evening. Technology and the market will bring some changes, as with microwaves and cookpots for rice.
    2. Cooking energy demand is very spiky and synchronised. My induction cooktop can draw 5 kw, almost all my metered supply. Absent superior cheap batteries hooked up to a very muscular microgrid, electrification requires a grid connection, which is out of reach for most of rural Africa for at least the next decade.
    3. Butane uses an existing and flexible distribution infrastructure. Oil companies may be evil, “mais elles ont le mérite d’exister”. In my middle-class Spanish housing estate, with no gas grid, the Repsol gas truck comes round every Thursday. A bottle lasts for months if only used for cooking. In rural Africa, you can transport a butane bottle along a jungle truck on a moped.
    4. The total CO2 emissions would be modest, and over time the source can be switched to renewable syngas.

    PS: 67,000 baby deaths a year from outdoor air pollution are not trivial either. This comes from car and truck exhausts in cities and from coal smokestacks, with different but equally available alternatives.

  10. James Wimberley.
    You state: “Forgive me for repeating this, but there is a simple technical solution: bottled butane gas.”

    I’m being picky – butane is not useful in freezing climates – propane is more versatile.
    “Butane has a higher boiling point than propane. Propane has a lower boiling point than butane at -42°C vs -0.4°C. Butane does not work as a fuel in a below freezing climate but butane has a slightly higher energy content by volume.”
    https://www.elgas.com.au/blog/1688-butane-vs-propane-vs-lpg-isobutane-liquefied-petroleum-gas

    You state: “My induction cooktop can draw 5 kw, almost all my metered supply.”
    How many hobs does your cooktop have, James? Four? Do you use them all simultaneously and all at max power?

    There are portable single hob induction cooktops, and some double hob units available.
    See as examples: NuWave PIC Flex (1300 W), PIC Gold (1500 W), PIC Pro (1800 W), PIC Platinum (1800 W), PIC Double (1800 W), PIC ProChef (1800 W). There are other brands. Some campers use them using battery power (charged with solar-PV).

    Perhaps one or two induction hobs would do, and the peak power demand would not be as high? Something to ponder…

    You state: “Butane uses an existing and flexible distribution infrastructure.”
    Indeed, derived from the oil and gas industry.
    We/humanity need to get off coal, fossil gas and petroleum oil or we likely won’t have many habitable places to live in later this century.
    I’d suggest thermal coal will go first, then fossil gas; oil will be the last to go as it will be the most difficult to transition away from.
    https://johnquiggin.com/2020/09/28/no-planet-b/comment-page-2/#comment-229280

    You state: “The total CO2 emissions would be modest, and over time the source can be switched to renewable syngas.”
    How modest? How much would renewable syngas cost in comparison?
    Poor gas combustion can produce carbon monoxide emissions, which can be lethal in a confined space. Combustion products are normally CO2 and water vapour.
    Induction cooktops already outcompete (energetically and monetarily) gas cooktops where a stable adequate electricity supply is already available.
    https://www.thefifthestate.com.au/energy-lead/energy/tim-forcey-on-how-to-beat-the-winter-gas-blues-and-save-money-and-health/

    We need to stop burning carbon – no excuses; and I’d suggest developed countries need to lead the way, not be laggards.

  11. A single induction hob at a minimum 1300W makes my point. Cooking for a family of four, you need two hobs minimum. Many of the households in the village are cooking at the same time, defying the African blizzards.The microgrid is overloaded. (My four hobs are a bit of a luxury for two adults, but I had a 70cm hole to fill from the old five-burner gas top.)

    Fossil fuels must die. The current oil and gas companies may survive by reinventing themselves as renewable hydrogen and syngas suppliers. Good luck to any that try.

  12. On the topic of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even on the most optimistic of assumptions, the crisis will not be over until mid or late 2024.

    The most optimistic assumptions:

    (a) A safe and effective vaccine will be developed;
    (b) This will occur by end of 2021
    (c) This will be rolled out over 2022 – 2023 to vaccinate whole population.
    (d) It will take all of 2023 to do assessments to establish if herd immunity is being achieved.

    End result prediction, this crisis has a minimum of 4 years to run.

    If anything goes wrong (which is more probable than not) then this crisis could easily run longer. Some of these can perhaps overlap;

    (i) a safe and effective vaccine may prove impossible to develop;
    (ii) the disease may mutate (and do so more than once);
    (iii) herd immunity and/or eradication may prove impossible to achieve;
    (iv) whole of population vaccination may take longer or prove impossible for social or economic reasons;
    (v) humans and nations may act in various ways to self-sabotage and cross-sabotage efforts.

    Some natural factors may operate to help us from short-term natural selection (the most vulnerable rapidly die off) and even early evolution of humans to the evolution of less deadly strains of the virus itself.

    These are my estimates from my general knowledge. It seems my estimates agree with science estimates.

    https://www.kff.org/news-summary/covid-19-pandemic-could-last-4-5-years-who-scientist-predicts-u-n-calls-for-more-attention-on-mental-health-needs/

    It’s time replace blithe optimism with some hard-headed realism. The world cannot go back to the way it was. The shutting down of domestic economic disease vector activities needs to last until domestic near-eradication. The shut-down of international economic disease vector has to last until global near-eradication or global control by vaccine or mutation to a less deadly strain. In addition, many economic disease vector activities are also climate change vector activities in any case. These need to be permanently shut down in any case.

    Shut down over-consumption or go extinct. That is the message from the natural world to humankind. Hopefully, we are not too greedy and/or obtuse to hear that message. The performance of humanity to date gives us little hope but we should continue on with what little hope we have left.

  13. Before financialisation? – new types of risk insurance.

    G20 as per Munich Re’s ‘Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services’ index.

    Australia –
    Share of fragile ecosystems – 34%
    Only Sth Africa higher at 40%

    Share if intact ecosystems – 2% (!!!)
    Sth Africa #1 @ ZERO% intact.

    GDP dependancy on BES (indexed)
    Australia – 0.30
    Sth Africa – 0.40
    India – 0.71

    “The Swiss Re Institute report that accompanies the launch of the index, “Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services: A business case for re/insurance”, highlights several real-life cases of how BES impact economies. ”
    https://www.swissre.com/media/news-releases/nr-20200923-biodiversity-and-ecosystems-services.html

    Swiss Re Institute’s report, “Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services: A business case for re/insurance” (English version):

    https://www.swissre.com/institute/research/topics-and-risk-dialogues/climate-and-natural-catastrophe-risk/expertise-publication-biodiversity-and-ecosystems-services

    Click to access nr-20200923-swiss-re-biodiversity-ecosystem-index-en.pdf

  14. I’m less optimistic about the vaccine. I think more likely we’re going to see a race between the vaccine developers and the mutation rate to see which gives us a survivable rate of infection. From what I’ve been reading the second problem is how long immunity lasts, because vaccinating even half the population every 3-6 months would be a challenge much greater than only having to refresh the dose every 5 years. But I don’t think there’s evidence for immunity to any coronavirus lasting more than a year.

    What’s possible in Aotearoa might become necessary anywhere that wants to have a relatively normal society. And that might mean hard border closures within Australia for a very long time indeed, just to cut the size of each super-spreading event. Viz, it’s bad enough if NSW has to go into lockdown for 3 months while 50 cases are tracked and traced, then isolated. But if one of those people was a Sydney-Melbourne or Sydney-Canberra commuter we could instead have to lock down half of Australia.

    If we’re lucky the travel restrictions will go on long enough to utterly ruin the airline and internation tourism industries. There’s only so long they can afford to keep hundreds of long-haul aircraft in warm standby, but once they stop firing them up every week they decay really fast. Likewise the accommodation sector and so on. From my point of view that has to happen if we’re going to have more than a billion people alive in 2100, so whining that people will lose their jobs is like all the poor armaments manufacturers after WWII who has to close down or switch to making something else. Yeah, it was sad, but killing tens of millions of people every year wasn’t a sustainable business model either.

    Which leads us right back to the UBI discussion: with something like that in place people won’t be faced with “concentration camp guard to starve” as their career options. And yes, Centrelink will cut your benefit if you refuse to work in the euphemistically named “immigration detention centres”.

  15. Moz,

    As I said, those were my most optimistic assessments. Things could be a lot worse as you point out. I agree on the airline and international tourism industries. I don’t believe in bailouts for non-essential businesses and only for essential businesses if the national government gets a stake in the business for the money it puts up That is if it decides the business is a strategic national requirement or natural monopoly. And yes, I know the national government can just print the money. That makes no difference. The people own nationalized businesses not the government as such.

    Losing money or a business is the risk people take when they go into private business or investing. No special sympathy for them. They will still have access to UBI, once its implemented, just like anyone else. Special deals for private investors and business owners have to be taken completely off the table.

  16. Ratings agencies – ” we do not find that superior forecasting capacities can explain the [ ratings ] agencies’ growing importance”.

    “To Err is Human: Rating Agencies and the Interwar Foreign Government Debt Crisis

    “Abstract
    During the 1930s, rating agencies took up a central role in regulatory supervision that they still have today. The proximate cause for this changeover was the economic shock of the Great Depression. Exploring the performance of rating agencies in assessing the risks of sovereign debt, an important segment of the bond market, we do not find that superior forecasting capacities can explain the agencies’ growing importance.”

    Keywords: sovereign credit ratings, Great Depression, financial crisis, international bond markets

    Citation
    Flandreau, Marc and Gaillard, Norbert and Packer, Frank, To Err is Human: Rating Agencies and the Interwar Foreign Government Debt Crisis (December 2010). BIS Working Paper No. 335, Available at SSRN:https://ssrn.com/abstract=1858565

    BIS Working Paper No. 335. 6 Jun 2011
    Marc Flandreau
    Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)
    Norbert Gaillard
    NG Consulting
    Frank Packer
    Bank for International Settlements (BIS)
    There are 2 versions of this paper
    December 2010
    https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1858565

    Via – and an interesting read;
    Psychology, Behavior & Markets
    https://investoramnesia.com/2020/10/18/psychology-behavior-markets/

  17. If you want this;
    “A huge reason that our politics is not so extremely polarised and so far out there is because we no longer have Murdoch-owned press in New Zealand, and it’s never taken a foothold,” said David Cormack, the co-founder of a public relations firm and a former head of policy and communications for the left-leaning Green party.”
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/19/why-new-zealand-rejected-populist-ideas-other-nations-have-embraced

    … sign this-
    Petition EN1938 – Royal Commission to ensure a strong, diverse Australian news media
    Closing date:
    04 November 2020 (11.59pm AEST)
    https://www.aph.gov.au/petition_list?id=EN1938

  18. Idle question, or perhaps not. Why do flue gas CCS projects all fail? The observation is undoubted; but I can’t find a simple explanation. It could be useful to know *where* in the process the thing breaks down. First-wave CCS is dead, but a lot of faith – too much – is being placed on bolting similar technology on to biodigesters (BECCS) and other sources of concentrated CO2. Simply put, you have:
    1. Capturing CO2 from a hot mixture of flue gases and other pollutants
    2. Liquefying the CO2
    3. Disposing permanently of the CO2, eg by burying it.
    Step 2 is straightforward chemical engineering, so the problem lies with 1 or 3. If it’s 3, then changing the source of the CO2 won’t help. If it’s 1, then a fresh start might: but it’s not a good bet. There has been progress in separation membranes, as here: https://www.uni-bayreuth.de/en/university/press/press-releases/2020/145-carbon-dioxide-separation/index.html

    For now, it looks as if sequestration research should give priority to dispersed technologies that soup up natural processes (reafforestation, biochar, seaweed dumping, olivine weathering, basalt on farmland https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/energy/news/applying-rock-dust-croplands-could-absorb-2-billion-tonnes-co2-atmosphere-research-shows). Once you forget about rescuing doomed coal power stations, it really does not matter where CO2 sequestration takes place.

    BTW, the inimitable iEA is putting its faith in CCS rather than hydrogen DRI to decarbonise steelmaking. Funny that people who actually make steel – SSAB, Voestalpine, Arcelor-Mittal, Baowu – are investing in hydrogen DRI pilots and not CCS. https://www.kallanishenergy.com/2020/10/09/ccus-hydrogen-key-to-sustainable-steel-future-iea/

  19. James Wimberley,

    Flue gas CCS projects all fail because;

    (a) The end-to-end process is too costly energetically;
    (b) The end-to-end process is too costly financially; and
    (c) the pollution and ecological risks are still considerable.

    Point (b) is a result of point (a) and related technical difficulties. Ultimately, point (a) sinks the whole process. CCS coal power is incredibly costly and inefficient. Point (c) covers some very significant costs and dangers as well. All the stages are technically feasible but much too costly. It’s a lot cheaper (energetically and financially) to deploy renewable energy.

    https://www.energyjustice.net/index.php/coal/ccs

    “Carbon capture will add over 30 percent to the cost of electricity for new “clean” coal plants (integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC)) and over 80 percent to the cost of electricity if retrofitted to existing pulverized coal (PC) units. Source: Dept. of Energy”

    “Retrofitting existing coal plants with CCS technology is uneconomical and inefficient as net energy produced from that plant is reduced by 20-30% due to the energy needs of compressing and storing carbon dioxide (US Department of Energy). In addition, the lost power (from inefficiency) needs to be made up and the plant needs to be connected to new or existing pipelines to transport the C02.”

    Finally,

    “While CCS technology reduces emissions of carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas), it may increase emissions of nitrogen and sulfur oxides. Koornneef, an environmental scientist at Utrecht University found that CCS technology caused nitrogen and sulfur oxides to rise up to 40 percent higher than the total cradle-to-grave emissions of a modern plant that doesn’t capture its CO2.

    CCS removes (most) carbon dioxide emissions, but it does nothing to reduce or eliminate emissions of fine particulate pollution that contribute to lung cancer, asthma attacks, cardiac and respiratory problems.

    Transporting carbon dioxide by pipeline introduces many problems, including potential for leaking carbon dioxide gas, and pipelines cutting through residential properties.”

    Also, they could have added that final storage is not necessarily safe, dependable or permanent. CO2 escape to atmosphere can occur and/or escape to ground water, making the water more acidic (carbonic acid). This water can escape to the sea eventually, further increasing ocean acidity which is already becoming a problem.

    I having been saying for years to anyone who would listen “don’t invest in coal, airlines or international tourism.” Hopefully a lot of investors in those industries are now losing a lot of money. I don’t have much faith in capitalism as a set of “look-ahead” algorithms precisely because it does not look very far ahead and it does not evaluate stuff which is off its game-board (unpriced negative externalities). However, the final breaking of fossil capital could cause a tipping point or phase shift where capitalism rapidly, albeit very belatedly, reprices energy and invests heavily in renewables.

    Personally, I think it’s too late and we are doomed. But just like a person late to get diagnosed and treated for a treatable cancer, we have to attack the problem aggressively and keep hoping anyway.

  20. James Wimberley,
    You ask: “Idle question, or perhaps not. Why do flue gas CCS projects all fail? The observation is undoubted; but I can’t find a simple explanation.”

    The processes for CCS you outline in your comment (at OCTOBER 24, 2020 AT 9:05 AM) all require extra resources and energy to enable and operate. Why bother if there is not an adequate (or any) price put on GHG emissions? CCS is not economically competitive with GHG emissions-intensive generators or processes without CCS.

    “CCS fails from a technological perspective, an economic perspective, and a pollution reduction perspective.”
    https://reneweconomy.com.au/coal-industrys-carbon-capture-dream-dangerous-fantasy-41399/

  21. Ikonoclast,
    You state: “Personally, I think it’s too late and we are doomed. But just like a person late to get diagnosed and treated for a treatable cancer, we have to attack the problem aggressively and keep hoping anyway.”

    I’d suggest most people are still oblivious of their/our predicament emerging.

    Art Berman tweeted earlier today:
    “Conservation has always been the only true game.

    People just didn’t want to be bothered. Now they can’t afford to be wasteful.

    Trauma is the only remedy for human behavior.”

    It was always thus.

  22. “Trauma is the only remedy for human behavior.” – Art Berman. A very pithy statement. I have been saying for several years that the only thing(s) that will change human behavior in this system in the direction required will be a series of unfortunate events. Only I termed them “salutary disasters” rather than “unfortunate events”. One could also term them “harsh lessons”. Yes, we are now going to face a a series of very harsh lessons from nature.

    The COVID-19 pandemic is the first major salutary disaster of the comprehensive collapse era. The outbreak and its severity are directly related to how an over-sized, over-producing, over-consuming, over-connected and foolishly ideological and anti-science (apart from production science) system interacts with natural systems. Like a harsh Old Testament Jeremiah (though I am not religious) I kinda feel we deserve what’s coming. But the younger generations and children do not deserve it and it’s for their sake that we have to try to ameliorate and change course.

  23. Thanks for the useful responses to my question. They confirm what we all knew already, that coal flue CCS is a bust. Geoff Miell’s last link is however the only one that answers my specific question, whether it’s a technical failure or merely an economic one. This is important for the future: costs normally go down with deployment, but technical problems are often insoluble. Contrast solar tower CSP and nuclear, which work but are too expensive, and wave energy, where the sea destroys the machinery. It does look as if it’s both. I’m not expecting BECCS to work either. It remains vital to work on more promising approaches to sequestration that are not lifelines to fossil fuels.

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