By Chris Nelder
Posting in Energy
Energy columnist Chris Nelder reviews public opinion polls and finds that money is no longer able to stop the energy transition juggernaut.
Poll after poll show that citizens of the Western world want more renewable power and are willing to pay for it. So what's the hold-up?
A new poll conducted by Yale and Harvard researchers and published in the science journal Nature this week found that the average U.S. citizen is willing to pay between $128 and $260 more per year in electricity bills ($162 on average, or 13 percent more) to achieve 80 percent clean energy by 2035. Support varies by demographics, of course—it's lower among Republicans, people of color, and older individuals—and support drops further if the clean energy standard includes nuclear power and natural gas. As a practical matter, the researchers found in a voting simulation that the cost increase would have to be under $48 a year to pass the House, and under $59 a year to be filibuster-proof in the Senate. Even so, it's clear that the overwhelming majority of Americans and their elected representatives would support the "80 percent by 2035" standard if it increased electricity prices by less than 5 percent.
Similarly, clean air enjoys overwhelming bipartisan support among U.S. voters. In October last year, a poll of 1,400 voters by Hart Research and GS Strategy Group found that, "by a wide margin, voters of both political parties and in all regions of the U.S. disagree with Congress’ anti-Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agenda and support the EPA’s new rules to limit air pollution from coal-fired power plants." A whopping 88 percent of Democrats, 85 percent of Independents, and 58 percent of Republicans opposed Congressional attempts to delay implementation of the rules, and 79 percent of voters supported the rules due to health concerns about polluted air. “Regardless of affiliation, voters want a healthy environment and an end to foot-dragging to upgrade dirty power plants. Despite the rhetoric in Washington, clean air is not a partisan issue among Americans, and Congress would do well to take notice,” said Mindy Lubber, president of sustainability advocacy group Ceres, which sponsored the poll.
One might well ask why Congress does not seem to have so noticed, but we'll get to that in a moment.
Another poll by ORC International of 1,019 Americans, released in April this year and conducted by the non-partisan Civil Society Institute, found that 77 percent of Americans surveyed, including 65 percent of the Republicans, believe “the U.S. needs to be a clean energy technology leader and it should invest in the research and domestic manufacturing of wind, solar and energy efficiency technologies.” When given a choice between subsidizing either renewables or fossil fuels only, three times as many respondents chose renewables.
More significantly, respondents were clearly looking beyond their pocketbooks, even while struggling with high gasoline prices. More than two-thirds of respondents said that progress toward clean energy should not be 'put on hold' due to ongoing economic problems. Fully 76 percent of Republicans, 87 percent of Independents, and 91 percent of Democrats agreed with the statement "energy development should be balanced with health and environmental concerns," while only 13 percent said that "health and environmental concerns should not block energy development."
Two-thirds of respondents in the ORC International poll believe that "political leaders should help to steer the U.S. to greater use of cleaner energy sources - such as increased efficiency, wind and solar - that result in fewer environmental and health damages." But when framed as a jobs issue, rather than a health and environment issue, support zooms higher.
That conclusion came from a comprehensive analysis of international and U.S. polls on "the world's most pressing challenges," released in January by the Council on Foreign Relations' International Institutions and Global Governance program and worldpublicopinion.org. It found that 91 percent of Americans believed that investing in renewable energy was important for the U.S. to remain competitive on the global stage, and that 80 percent favored strong tax incentives for renewables as a way to cut dependence on foreign energy sources.
Further, it found that three-quarters of the American public believes the U.S. government "should assume that oil is running out and will need to be replaced as a primary source of energy," and that large majorities are worried about environmental damage, and the destabilizing effects of impending energy shortages and higher prices.
The same analysis found that clear majorities in all 27 members of the European Union approved of increasing the share of renewable energy to 20 percent or more by 2020, and believed that they would be personally affected by the consequences of energy dependence.
Two recent opinion polls in the UK support those conclusions, finding that a majority of the public see wind power subsidies as a good deal, and a large majority favor renewable energy in general. The nation's Renewables Obligation strategy (similar to the state Renewable Portfolio Standards in the U.S.) costs the average citizen about two pence per day, and most thought it a good value.
Australians are overwhelmingly in favor of renewables, too. A face-to-face poll of 14,000 Australians last year found that 91 percent of the public think the government should take more action to push for renewable power, and 86 percent are in favor of a plan to get to 100 percent renewables.
A new paper on the German Energy Transition found that support for nuclear power is fading across the continent, with only France, the Czech republic, and Poland still favoring it. Over 80 percent of Germans and 90 percent of Austrians are against nuclear power, but, the paper argues, this is not simply "the reaction of a spooked people to Fukushima." Germans have favored a transition to renewables since the early 1990s, "every political party says it's on board," and Germans are willing to pay higher energy bills to make it happen.
But they may not have to pay more, according to a study by the Fraunhofer Energy Alliance released in July 2011. As costs for solar PV continue to drop, the researchers predict that electricity generation in Germany would fall to 11 to 14 cents per kilowatt hour as early as 2016, or about one-third the current retail price of electricity. Another cited study, "Vision for a 100 percent renewable energy system," found that the cost of expanding renewable energy would peak in 2015, then sink; from 2010 to 2050, it projected an overall savings of 730 billion Euro.
Solar is already reducing electricity costs in Germany on a daily basis. A widely-circulated pair of graphs on the Renewables International site show that as the sun fires up solar systems around 9 am, the cost of "peak" power generation now crashes to around 35 Euro per megawatt hour, and stays there until around 6 pm. Just four years ago, peak power prices in Germany held firmly around 55 to 60 Euro over the same hours. As Australian journalist Giles Parkinson observed, "solar PV is not just licking the cream off the profits of the fossil fuel generators. . . it is in fact eating their entire cake."
Further, the net impact of energy transition would result in more jobs, and a greater benefit to the overall economy. "The negative impact of a shift to alternative energy is far outweighed by the remaining positive net effect of some 400,000 additional jobs in the EU as a whole," the Fraunhofer study says, and moreover, "Europe's GDP is expected to grow by 0.24 % (some 35 billion Euro)." Another cited study showed that transition to renewables would result in a net new 120,000 to 140,000 jobs, after "all negative effects and influences on the economic cycle are taken into account." Across the EU, some 2.8 million people are expected to find jobs in Europe's renewable energy sector by 2020.
The rise of the precautionary principle
The public has clearly become sensitized to the risks of producing fossil fuels from our remaining, increasingly marginal resources. The last several years have offered a handful of hard object lessons: The Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, and its lingering effects on the ecosystem, replete with the ongoing spectacle of eyeless shrimp, clawless crabs and fish with lesions. A series of reports about water contaminated by shale fracking activities, with tone-deaf industry responses. Small towns turned upside-down by the sudden influx of trucks and roughnecks drilling for shale oil and gas. Even nuclear power is now suspect after the specter of the Fukushima plant meltdown, with low levels of its radiation turning up in California a few days later.
Is it any surprise that the public is becoming risk-averse, and embracing renewables as never before?
An overwhelming majority of citizens now support the "precautionary principle": Rather than letting industry do whatever it wants and putting the burden on the public to prove that those activities are risky or damaging to the environment and the public health, voters would rather put the onus on industry to show that its activities are safe before being allowed to proceed.
As Steve Coll points out in his excellent new book, Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power, the company has prosecuted a long war against the precautionary principle. He traces the popular rise of the concept back to the West German environmental movement of the 1970s, where it was known as Vorsorge (precaution). In his chapter on the ExxonMobil chemical division's fight to preserve the use of phthalates (plastic softeners) in children's toys, he cites a company slide deck claiming that "Politics, not science, is the reason" for a proposed ban on the chemicals, and observes that "'Politics,' however, was in fact a synonym for the rise of the precautionary principle as a popularly supported basis of chemical regulation in Europe—and there was little reason to believe that philosophy would remain sequestered there."
Indeed, it has not. The ORC International survey found that more than two-thirds of Americans, including 60 percent of Republicans, 76 percent of Independents, and 74 percent of Democrats, think the precautionary principle should guide our energy future. But ExxonMobil remains staunchly opposed. In an article in Fortune last month, CEO Rex Tillerson sneered that precautionary principle "will absolutely undermine the economy," adding, "If you want to live by the precautionary principle, then crawl up in a ball and live in a cave."
A political boomerang
The fossil fuel industry seems to believe that ratcheting up their rhetoric and blowing huge wads of cash on disinformation campaigns can tilt the odds back into their favor, but with enormous majorities of Western citizens now looking to renewables, I suspect those efforts will backfire.
One week ago, the Guardian broke a story about a confidential memo showing that a network of right-wing organizations in the U.S. were planning a national PR campaign to cause "subversion in message of industry so that [wind power] effectively because [sic] so bad that no one wants to admit in public they are for it." National advocacy groups funded by the fossil fuel industry, including several organizations backed by the oil and coal industry billionaire baron brothers Koch, were identified as the source. The documents suggested setting up "dummy businesses" to hide the backers of anti-wind billboards, and a "counter-intelligence branch" to dog the wind industry. Further, it called for creating a tax-exempt organization with paid staffers, backed by $750,000 in funding, to persuade the public against policies favorable to wind energy.
The majority of the free world now believes that climate change is a serious problem; a Yale study released in March found that two thirds of Americans believe the planet is warming. (However, as a testament to the effectiveness of the fossil fuel industry's disinformation campaigns thus far, just 46 percent believe that it's due to human activities, down four points from the previous study in November 2011.) Europeans and Australians have long been running far ahead of Americans on that issue.
Despite four ardent (and expensive) decades of campaigning by the fossil fuel industry, the majority also want an electricity supply powered by renewables, and believe that remaining on the fossil fuel path poses serious risks to health, security, the economy, and the environment. It's a modest stretch to suppose that that same majority increasingly understand that all of those issues are intrinsically intertwined.
At the same time, the Yale study found that on the global warming issue, the vast majority trust scientists; distrust the mainstream news media; distrust the oil, gas, coal, and auto companies; and distrust Mitt Romney.
It seems that money is no longer able to stop the energy transition juggernaut, at least in terms of public opinion. If our so-called representative governments actually represented us, we would have an all-out push to leave fossil fuels in the dust and build every last feasible kilowatt of renewable capacity ASAP. But they do not; they are beholden to their corporate donors. In the U.S., the fossil fuel industry still outspends the renewable industry in lobbying by about 12 to 1. "Legislative capture" is the reason why we continue to see Congress slap-fighting about a mere $4 billion in subsidies for the oil industry instead figuring out how to execute transportation transition. It's why we still don’t have a feed-in tariff, like everyone else in the world who are serious about energy transition do. It's why we haven't yet taken the bit of energy transition between our teeth and run with it.
But we will. We may have to wait until the dinosaurs of the fossil fuel regime die or are voted out of office before policymakers catch up with the public. In the meantime, we'll have to shift for ourselves, build as much renewable capacity as we can manage, and be content to throw popcorn at the TV when those glossy ads about jobs in the oil patch come on. We know better than to believe the claims of incipient energy independence. The longer our legislators defy the will of the people, the more they will lose our trust, and eventually, their lobbying support. The age of renewables is here. There is no turning back.
Photo: BP protest sign in New Orleans (derek_b/Flickr)
May 15, 2012
Solar and wind energy capturing devices as well as nuclear are not alternative energy sources. They are extensions of the fossil fuel supply system. There is an illusion of looking at the trees and not the forest in the ???Renewable??? energy world. Not seeing the systems, machineries, fossil fuel uses and environmental degradation that create the devices to capture the sun, wind and biofuels allows myopia and false claims of renewable, clean, green and sustainable. Energy Return on Energy Invested (ERoEI) is only a part of the equation. There is a massive infrastructure of mining, processing, manufacturing, fabricating, installation, transportation and the associated environmental assaults. Each of these processes and machines may only add a miniscule amount of energy to the final component of solar or wind devices yet the devices cannot arise without them. There would be no devices with out this infrastructure.
Where in the Hell do these people come from. Stating they surveyed a number of people and on average they would be willing to pay $162.00 more in cost, are they kidding? I always find these polls interesting because I have never known even one person that was included. I cant even afford my bill now...What else are they going to steal from people until they finally stand up and say with a unified voice, " your not taking anything else from me ever again".
is to get behind it and make it successful. If that ever happens, the current opponents of the energy sources we currently have available will most likely find some fatal fault with it. I believe most of them simply hate success and support the improbable. Those who believe that our consumption of fossil fuels is responsible for Climate Change conveniently ignore any evidence that refutes their beliefs (even to the point of inventing the data that does support them), and when Global Warming became an embarrasment they defined the problem as Climate Change. The arrogance is quite astounding, almost as though no one has the intelligence to notice the switch. The folks who are involved in the production of energy through "traditional means," i.e. the combustion of fossil fuels or nuclear fuels, are required to defend their industries from their detractors who atack them through public opinion and government meddling. This is described in the article as attacking the new "Green" or renewable technologies and attempting to suppress them. The idea of "free" energy from the sun through solar cells sounds like a grand accomplishment, and I would very much like to see it work. The problems with that technology are many, and it will be probably decades before a solar cell will make economic sense. I have never seen a photovoltaic cell, for example, that would ever be able to produce the amount of energy that was required to produce the photocell itself. Somehow, the energy required to produce the photocell was never included in the cost analysis. Nothing is free. The laws of thermodynamics are not going to be revoked.
These polls illustrate one more time that if the general populace is subjected to the BIG LIE continuously they will believe it. So it is with the energy situation. We are subjected to tremendous propaganda pressure to change the systems that work. And then we are told we can be pure and holy if we spend more for less energy.
GOOGLE: Prop 87 (510) 537-1796 Bill Clinton, Al Gore & Senator Obama supported the California 2006 Prop. 87, a GMO corn ethanol welfare program. Bill, Al, have changed opinion on the ethanol mandate, I wonder if Obama will make this the time for CHANGE? I support a waiver of the ethanol mandate, voluntary use of ethanol in my gas. Federal ethanol policy increases Government motors oil use and Big oil profit. It is reported that today California is using Brazil sugar cane ethanol at $0.16 per gal increase over using GMO corn fuel ethanol. In this game the cars and trucks get to pay and Big oil profits are the result that may be ready for change. We do NOT support AB 523 or SB 1396 unless the ethanol mandate is changed to voluntary ethanol in our gas. Folks that pay more at the pump for less from Cars, trucks, food, water & air need better, it is time. The car tax of AB 118 Nunez is just a simple Big oil welfare program, AAA questioned the policy and some folks still agree. AB 523 & SB 1326 are just a short put (waiver) from better results. GOOGLE: Prop 87 (510) 537-1796
The reason the US appears to have dichotomy on the subject is that the fact of the matter is when push comes to shove price does matter. Outside of the Urban Centers, price is a huge consideration. Do I pay 9 cents a kilowatt hour for natural gas generated electricity or 14 cents for wind generated electricity? I don't know about you but don't really want to spend an extra nickel per KwH just so I can feel warm and fuzzy about where my electricity comes from. Not when that nickel per KwH can add up to a substantial monthly deposit into my children???s college fund account. Here is your American reality in a nutshell, 10% shop at Whole Foods / Boutiques, 40% at Grocers / Malls, and 50% shop at Wal-Mart, the same goes for energy. That's why I don't trust polls, it's a person???s actions with their pocketbook that tell the truth.
You're the only Smarter Planet writer who gets this sort of engaged, heated responses. You must be doing something right. And thanks for also using a spell checker.
The answer is technology. We just are not close enough to the technolgical breakthroughs necessary to make fully-renewable energy viable. Wind power is highly capital and maintenance intensive and it faces strong local objections based on aesthetic and environmental grounds. Same is true of solar electric power which is capital intensive with high depreciation due to the long-term degradation of solar panels. Solar gets heavy government subsidies and still fails to be profitable (Solyndra, and growing list of other failures). Research on promising renewable energy options will and should continue while we shift fossil fuel power generation to natural gas and move forward with newer, better and cleaner nuclear power, such as the thorium reactor being built in India. Research will decline rather than progress in the face of a crippled economy where $10 per gallon gasoline, rationed power and other "tolls" favored by the green tyranny. Public opinion shifts much like the wind that drives (sometimes) the wind turbines and whichever way it blows, it will not make renewable power materialize out of half-baked technology.
I live in Boulder, CO. Last fall, after years of debate about renewable energy, the city voted to break away from our current power utility Xcel and start on the path towards our own municipal power utility which would heavily focus on renewables. For those who don't know, Boulder is a very liberal community. It has one of the highest-educated populations in the country. It is home to several national labs -- NIST, NCAR, and NOAA -- which do world-class research on climate change. The windmills from the National Wind Technology Center peek over the foothills south of town. Several years ago the city even passed a tax to move itself towards meeting the Kyoto carbon emission goals. Last year demonstrations by Boulder citizens forced Xcel to commit to shutting down its coal-fired power plant here in the city. People even actually talk about renewable energy in everyday conversation. So a vote to move the city towards a renewable energy future should have been a lock, right? Well, it did pass -- but only by 51.93% to 48.07% (see "City of Boulder Ballot Question No. 2C" at http://webpubapps.bouldercounty.org/clerk/voterresults2011/IssueResults.aspx?issue=all ; there was also a corresponding issue 2B to fund the process which passed by a narrower margin). To be fair, Xcel and its allies (which were not surprisingly against the measure) outspent the pro-municipalization forces by about 10 to 1. But people here are educated enough not to fall victim to scare tactics. There is no doubt the vast majority of people here believe global warming is man-made and that something must be done to prevent it. On a practical level, I got just as many pro-municipalization phone calls as those against the issue. Just as many pro-municipalization volunteers knocked at my door as hired guns against the measure did. My point is that people talk a good game when things are theoretical. But if a real vote on the issue barely passed here in Boulder, then how would such a vote actually do in the general population?
Unfortunately, the public has no idea of the actual costs of achieving 80% clean energy. The survey said Americans might be willing to spend $260 per year more for the next 23 years to achieve 80% clean energy. Terrific. Unfortunately, that's only $6000 each. That's not nearly enough to, for example, put solar cells on your house with some kind of energy storage. So even if you paid that to your local utility to put in solar and wind with enough energy storage to deal with the erratic nature of these sources to achieve the 80% clean energy standard, it's highly unlikely that will be enough. The other side of the precautionary principle is that no large country has ever before trusted something so critical as energy generation to something that today only provides a few percent of our power. Making the transition will require new transmission monitoring and management technologies. It will require massive investment in storage technologies that are expensive, ill-defined, and have never been tried on such a large scale. And nobody is in any position to tell us what the final cost of the transition will be. It took decades, indeed most of the 20th century, to get us to our present energy infrastructure. You may not like how it produces power, but the fact is that it provides our needs with an extremely high reliability. Trying to force such a radical transition in under 25 years has never happened in any major industry I can think of. Why we should risk this in an industry as critical as energy production is beyond me, especially when there exist much safer and proven stepping stones to that goal such as natural gas.
Chris "swing and a miss" Nelder is the tone-deaf one here, as usual. The piublic is actually solidly behind Obama's "all of the above" energy policy, to include fracking and off-shore drilling. http://vote4energy.org/2012/03/19/poll-shows-public-support-for-increased-u-s-oil-and-gas-production/ As to waiting for the oil and gas industry die-off - there isn't much doubt here as to which will last longer - the American oil and gas renaissance or the histrionics of Mr. Nelder. Like his partner in wild and wooly theories, Matt Simmons, Mr. Nelder will likely see his "green energy" fantasies drowning in a sea of shale energy for the rest of his life. I wish him a long and healthy rant.
I'm all for true renewals - wind, solar, tide, perhaps geothermal, waste generated biofuels, but not NPK generated biofuels (dependent on imported petroleum based/controlled and or especially phosphate fertilizers) that compete with food production for those fertilizers. I've studied and or been a part of a number of commodity type market surveys, with similar results to this one - and their results (like alternative energy in general) have to be considered very carefully. What many commodity consumer survey"study after study"(ies) really show is that only a less than significant number of people are willing to pay a even minor amounts more for a "better" commodity product. That's the definition of a commodity after all. In many of these type commodity studies - the number of people willing to pay more is less than 5% of the market. Unfortunately, most commodities are generated at very large scales where capturing just 5% of the market is meaningless to impractical. I agree with Chris that there is no "turning back" from renewables, but the current surplus of low priced domestic NG could certainly delay alternative energy competitiveness, development and adoption temporally - even though NG doesn't change our long range critical energy shortfalls. So, far only solar is competitive with petroleum - and that's only if you assume that there will be some kind of workable storage technology in the near future. Wind is competitive in some areas, not in others, and or only with subsidies - and has the same energy variability/storage problem as solar. Waste generated biofuels while renewable, lack significant logistical/economic feasibility to have competitiveness at scale so they aren't likely to contribute more than about 3% to our energy needs. NPK generated biofuels (including NPK algae biofuels) are totally non-renewable and only complicate our foreign energy dependency. According to the 2011 USDA Fertilizer Imports/Exports Summary: "U.S. nitrogen and potash supplies largely depend on imports. More than 54 percent of nitrogen (N) and 85 percent of potash (K2O) supply was from imports in calendar year 2011." Phosphorus is the most critical ingredient in NPK and of which up until a decade ago the US was self-sufficient, but now we are importing 15% or more of our phosphates mostly from Morocco. Using imported critical production materials to grow algae and other biofuels - doesn't make NPK biofuels a tool for energy independence (or for military fuel) - quite the opposite. Bottom line - renewables will advance as they have economic competitiveness with other energy, or by catastrophe driven panic (i.e. climate disaster or existing energy disruption.). Thinking otherwise denies demonstrable market history and scientific facts.
Poll after poll show American want healthy food and are willing to pay more for it....yet they don't. I bet if you did a poll and asked "Are you a racist?" the result would be 0.001% of Americans are racist. My point, don't blindly trust polls.
Inertia. Going back to the old TVO [u]Eureka![/u] cartoons (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6snX4M2_8U&feature=related), inertia is described as "Things like to keep on doing what they are already doing." But inertia applies to society and people as well. It takes [i]energy[/i] to change the state of inertia in a very large rock. People may be willing to pay a higher price for energy if it comes from renewables, but they are expecting someone else to actually do the work of installing those renewables. It's very hard to get the average home owner to get off their butts and install solar panels and a small wind generator, or to hire someone to install those things for them. The act of installing or even trying to find someone to do the installation for them, requires work. Work requires energy. But before you can even start working, you need to apply enough energy to overcome the initial inertia. How to do that? Opportunism within a free-market is one way but it has only a small impact. Desperation is another way. When people become desperate enough, many, but not all, find the energy to overcome their inertia. But some just get so depressed about their desperation, they cannot summon enough energy to overcome their inertia. The only method I've seen that allows a society to overcome inertia and move is strong leadership. History has given us numerous good and bad examples. Going to the moon required overcoming a huge amount of societal inertia, but strong leadership made it happen. What's needed now isn't huge funds to make it happen. A FIT would be a good start but it won't make much of a difference. What is needed is for someone in a leadership role to stand up and tell the United States that it is time the U.S. stepped out of yesterday and into tomorrow.
It worked for nuclear so why not for renewable energy after all people are the tool fool for energy interests fear mongering are they not? Bush likes it so much they he adopted it as an executive order. Artful mixture of truth and lies ignorant masses like to live in fear its better than learning the truth. No politician has ever truly went wrong by relying on the ignorance of the electorate. The Guardian story (highly controlled media) will probably not be carried in American media (no censorship of American media) The what and why is obvious by control of the media the nation is controlled. A right wing conspiracy wahhaha you said conspiracy. Nobody here will believe in conspiracy no matter how many we participate in or be subject to, no.... people don't do that!
"Poll after poll show that citizens of the Western world want more renewable power and are willing to pay for it. So what???s the hold-up?" For one thing, they are willing to pay more for renewable energy as long as someone else does the paying. Many if not most of these wonderful people clamoring for renewable energy have no clue the bulk of the funding for it are paid by taxes. I live off-grid and do so not because it is cost-effective because it is not. I simply choose not to be dependent on the flailing of politicians and the ignorantly hysterical masses demanding their own economical demise. Regarding LENR www.newenergytimes.com is a far more honest discussion about the feasibility of LENR.
The opening sentence of this piece exposes its conceit: [i]"Poll after poll show that citizens of the Western world want more renewable power and are willing to pay for it. So whats the hold-up?"[/i] Perhaps reality. If any of this were the least bit true, we wouldn't need government prodding the energy marketplace into making these changes. It already would have happened. The only purpose of polls like this is to provide political cover for what politicians want to impose. Polls about what people say they are [i]hypothetically willing to pay[/i] are absolutely meaningless. Is it really a surprise that the majority of people will respond with a politically/ecologically correct answer to a poll that when that answer to a hypothetical question costs them absolutely nothing? You might as well ask if people are in favor of clubbing baby harp seals. I'm sure they'd say they'd be happy to pay higher taxes to prevent that too. Talk is cheap. It's what people actually do with their money that counts. But don't just believe me. The President's energy policy has always been about making energy more expensive; He and his energy secretary are on the record favoring $8/gallon gasoline. (And if the goal is to get people to use less of it, then [i]this is the correct policy[/i]) And yet, what is one of the biggest election year issues right now? $4 gasoline, and that same President says [i]"I want gas prices lower because they hurt families; because I meet folks every day who have to drive a long way to get to work and them filling up this gas tank gets more and more painful, and its a tax out of their pocketbooks, out of their paychecks, and a lot of folks are already operating on the margins right now.[/i] So why is he lying when all your polls tell us that everyone doesn't mind higher energy costs? I guess he hasn't seen all your polls. People [i]really want higher energy prices![/i] No wonder he's going to lose. He's not touting his own supposedly popular policy!
Basically, the author of the above article must not know about this new energy technology LENR Ni-H, which save us lots of money cutting our GHG emissions. "A volume about the size of a #2 pencil eraser of water provides as much energy as two 48-gallon drums of gasoline. That is 355,000 times the amount of energy per volume ??? five orders of magnitude." ( http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/New-LENR-Machine-is-the-Best-Yet.html ). This phenomenon (LENR) has been confirmed in hundreds of published scientific papers: http://lenr-canr.org/acrobat/RothwellJtallyofcol.pdf "Over 2 decades with over 100 experiments worldwide indicate LENR is real, much greater than chemical..." --Dennis M. Bushnell, Chief Scientist, NASA Langley Research Center "Total replacement of fossil fuels for everything but synthetic organic chemistry." --Dr. Joseph M. Zawodny, NASA By the way, here is a survey of all the companies that are bringing LENR to commercialization: http://www.cleantechblog.com/2011/08/the-new-breed-of-energy-catalyzers-ready-for-commercialization.html
...people answer polls much differently than they act with their own money. Throw in some psychology about appearances, and such polls become utterly meaningless. A stranger asks a question, and the polled person hears "Are you willing to pay $162 more a year to save the planet, or are you willing to screw it all just for your own selfish desires?".
I think the population as a whole supports some subsidization of renewables. I agree, a 50% price hike is not acceptable, but something like 10% is probably OK. But the other piece is the incredible support for increased American drilling. Obama didn't jump on "all of the above" for nothing ... unlike Nelder, Obama really understands what the population supports.
Bill Clinton was known for taking on positions completely at odds with his actual views and arguing them behind closed doors in front of his staff, to force them to know their stuff as well as he did. Nelder is good for that - in as much as he argues for an imminent clean energy revolution right now (as opposed to 20 years from now). He's making lots of predictions that are going to look silly in another 5 years though .... the US energy numbers are changing by a lot, and pretending they aren't doesn't promote credibility.
Well said zackers. The future for the next 20-30 years is the "golden age of gas". Solar (or nuclear) will probably be the next phase after that -- once the storage and transmission tech gets up to speed (which is the real problem with renewables, not generating kwHr itself). Ironically, the solution to storage and transmission might actually be synthetic fossil fuels.... turning electricity into hydrogen, and hyrdrogen into CH4 (i.e. natural gas). The natural gas infrastructure is large and growing, and the technology for "synthetic methane" is real (albeit currently somewhat expensive). Roof top solar will become more common ... in some places much more common, but it will plateau at around 5-10% of the total energy portfolio, max. However, I wouldn't be surprised if rooftop solar enjoys another 20 years of nice growth, complementing the increase in natural gas usage.
Zackers, That's some piece of math to start off your distortion. That average American pays some $1250/year for electricity not the average $160/year that they would be willing to pay extra to do things right. Add the 2 together and at today's prices that is well over $30,000 for 23 years. Only a fossil fool would try to argue that today's prices will hold for 23 years with increased demand and diminishing supply. Not even close. Double or Triple that and doing things right and renewable really starts to look like the economic choice. A friend of mine put solar panels on his house in Milwaukee 3 years ago when it cost twice as much as today to do so. As we speak he is doubling his panels. No fossil fool there. You whine about renewables being only 3% of our electricity today. In Germany it's over 20% and growing like mad. The greens say that it could be 100% by 2030, the conservatives say it will be 100% by 2050. We dither and distort. The Germans aren't a bunch of hippies and it isn't killing their economy. They're doing better than we are without making the bulk of their folks suffer like we are. Another friend just flew out of the same German city during the day that he flew out of 3 years ago and was really startled. The city now looks like a Christmas tree with all the solar panels on roofs and unused spaces twinkling in the sun. And they get more of their renewables from wind than solar. Don't BS about it can't be done, because they are doing it and will clean our clocks if we don't respond in kind. Cleanliness is kind of a thing with them. We can't afford to continue to be the dirty hicks down the road.
That will happen and when it does it will have a profound effect. We'll have more healthy food available because we'll have a much better idea what is healthy and what is not. People aren't as stupid as some commenters want to contend. As a Monsanto guy once quipped words to the effect that if GMO content had to be labeled, they might as well put a skull and crossbones on the package. Back to topic. Yeah, polls can be misleading and bogus, but the number and range of polls that Chris identified does have weight, which is probably why he bored even me with them. I say it again, these polls indicate that the bulk of folks aren't stupid, not as stupid and avaricious as the pols and their fossil fool corporate handlers. They may not be paying the best attention, but they aren't stupid and as weather anomalies, eco-devastation and economic decline mount, I agree with Chris that we are reaching critical mass. When more folks realize what Germany and much of Northern Europe is doing without any more economic dislocation than we are experiencing and more future possiblity, they'll realize that we have to get off the pot. They already know that something is very wrong and definitely not working.
Inertia may be a factor but paying more for energy is not the answer. People need to see a real reason to pay more and they will move to alternatives. The questionable reasons provided by politically motivated individuals such as the hole in the ozone layer, global warming and other 'reasons" to go green leave much to be discussed. The world was to be destroyed by the hole in the ozone layer and when the law was passed banning various Freon products the concern about the hole in the ozone layer simply vanished. The changed law did little to reduce the actual use world wide of Freon. What did happen was that DuPont's patent was running out and they lobbied for the law so their new Freon-like product was be the new "required" product. OH, and hole in the ozone layer...not there, not related to Freon, never existed and great example of a political con job. A few years from now the "global warming" fraud will be relegated to the same "it was never real" junk yard. When alternative energies are cost effective then we will move to them. Until then the few (such as myself) who install solar panels and wind generator are attempting be free from the government intrusion that comes with the "greening" of America.
Keep being a parrot for GOP talking points. You really believe Mittens has a clue. What is GOP energy policy. Drill Baby Drill Stick your head back in the sand.
John, Unlike people like you and me most people are not that conscious of how they spend their money. They won't go out of their way to to make the choice for renewable power but just want it to become part of their bill with no extra effort on their part. Regarding your comments on the President's energy policy, it's amazing how people twist things to suit their own biases or agenda. Here is an essay on the very subject from FactCheck.org http://www.factcheck.org/2012/03/obama-wanted-higher-gasoline-prices/
The potential for an unlimited source of power, with no ill side effects (pollution), is so enticing that it was worth investigation. However, after nearly 15 years of research, with no reproducible results, changing the name will not alter the results.
My hunch is Boulder will do fine transitioning to renewables- it's very sunny and windy in that part of the country. It's also pretty flat - they could set up a pumped hydro storage plant without much trouble. Or just use battieries. They will pay more for juice, but perhaps not as big a penalty as you might think. Maybe 50% more .... which, considering the increased efficiency of newer light bulbs, air conditioners, and refrigerators, could be recouped pretty easily.
While we make the transition, people will still have to be getting most of their electricity from coal, natural gas, and nuclear. You can't turn that stuff off one day and the next day turn on renewables. To pretend otherwise is ridiculous. So the real question is how much extra will we need to pay to make the transition. As for your friend, what does he do for electricity during the night and cloudy days? My guess is that he still is hooked up to the public utility. It's possible that your friend might even become a net electricity provider, but that's only part of the problem because he still can't provide for his needs at night or during storms. For our society as a whole to go to renewables, we have to crack the storage and variability problems. To get to 80% renewables, nobody has any idea of how to do that, or at what cost. Right now, our current infrastructure can handle about 20% renewables without major concerns about storage or the variability. See, for example, page 447 of http://www.nerc.com/files/2011%20LTRA_Final.pdf . Beyond that we face major hurdles that could significantly affect our grid's ability to provide us reliable power. What's interesting is that California and Colorado have renewable mandates which require them to get above 30% renewables by 2020 or so. These are state laws with numbers pulled out of hat; we shall soon see if they reflect reality. If you don't look at the whole system, you're missing the problem.
Renewable clean energy for all of its good points is just as prone to exaggeration and out right miss representation of the facts it seems as dirty energy. Take Ron's assertions for example. German PV is only about 3.2% (claimed by solar proponents, and only 2% by non-solar proponents) of it's total renewable energy platform which in 2011 was 19.9% of it's total energy production. Or in actual math terms that means solar PV was a total of less than 0.16% (3.2%/19.9%) of Germany' total energy production. Some how 0.16% doesn't sound like the roof tops are covered with panels and not nearly as dramatic as Ron makes it sound. Even the German solar advocates inflate the significance of their very low efficiency solar power system. ???Solar energy has become an indispensable ingredient of a successful energy strategy shift,??? said Managing Director of BSW (national solar industry) Carsten Koernig. Sorry Carsten ole bud, but a 0.16% component of the nations energy is highly and easily dispensed of - if it isn't competitive, or if its dangerous - just ask the German nuclear industry that supplied 22.5% of Germany's power up until Fukishima. Germany is also progressively eliminating it's solar subsidies and two German solar manufacturers went bankrupt in 2011. Solar will be problematic for Germany in the best case, while wind is likely to be the bigger player in renewables. Visit Germany in the winter time and you'll know why. Refs,: (http://cleantechnica.com/2011/12/30/german-solar-power-production-surges-60-renewables-20-of-total-electricity-supply/) (http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf43.html)
Germany uses a ton of fossil fuel energy - if you look at their total energy portfolio, "renewables" are more like 5%. Home heating, running the factories, etc. largely down with coal and gas. And where is this renewable energy coming from? Principally, wind and biomass. In other words, giant noisy bird cuisnarts that messes up sailing for the Kennedy family, and burning things in giant furnaces with massive smokestacks. The German example is a canard - stop getting your info from mouth breathing 9-11 truther types and check out the real world.
The ozone hole is still there, it's just not getting worse like it was in the 1980s. I know the conspiracy theory about DuPont's patent running out is popular in some circles but it's just ignorant of the science. Just like your little shot at global warming is ignorant of the science. Did you know that there was no life on the land surface of the Earth until the ozone layer developed and started blocking the Sun's UV radiation? The ozone layer is critical to life on Earth.
I guess you're not paying attention. Obama energy plan = all of the above = solar + wind + nukes + fracking + offshore drilling Nelder = Obama critic = peak oil believer = shale energy denialist
...and they are also greedy. When they say they don't mind that prices go up, what they usually mean is that they don't mind if [i]other people's prices[/i] go up. It's no different than the President's gutless tax and health care policies. Everyone is in favor of raising taxes on someone else. Which, of course, is why it's impossible to take such surveys the lest bit seriously. Again, the only purpose they serve is providing political cover. As for the President's "policy", I'll just quote he and Secretary Chu directly instead of relying upon the Annenberg Foundation to spin it: "Somehow, we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe." Hard to take that out of context. Again, I don't dispute their strategy. It's valid. What disgusts me is their rank dishonesty.
before claiming to know the results! I repeat the most pertinent: This phenomenon (LENR) has been confirmed in hundreds of published scientific papers: http://lenr-canr.org/acrobat/RothwellJtallyofcol.pdf Read 'em Steve, then come back and talk about "no reproducible results". Ol' Bab
Thanks for clarifying that your opinions are based on second hand anecdotal evidence and not real fact. You're the perfect Chris Nelder fan! Glad he's found one...
I reported what a friend saw, not myself. I believe he said that he was flying out of Stuttgart which may very well be a city with a higher or much higher than normal solar PV presence than other German locals. But this is just in the early stages. You got lost in your ideology which shut your brain down and caused you to set up a nonsensical equation. First, the 19.9% is the percentage of electrical production from renewables and doesn't measure anything about the country's total energy usage. The actual figure which measures the percentage of total energy consumed in the form of electricity is around 15%, as it is in with any modern industrial nation. The figures I found put electricity as a percentage of total energy use at slightly over 15% for Germans and slightly under 15% for Americans. Secondly, you don't divide by a percentage, you multiply to find the percentage of total German energy use supplied by solar. Currently the numbers and equation are 3.2% times 15% which amounts to about 1/2percent of total energy use supplied by solar, three times the amount you posted. Yes, it's still a small percentage, but you exaggerated the smallness considerably. The point is how far the Germans have come in a very short time and where they are headed. Note that the 20% renewable figure for electrical production only accounts for about 3% of total energy use (20%*15%). Note also that a significant percentage today of renewables for electricity (about 40%) is from Hydro and biomass burning. Hydro and biomass cannot grow significantly, if at all, so solar and wind must take up the slack and provide the growth. I'm saying that even the conservative Germans think that they can get to 80-100% of electricity production from renewables by mid-century. They know that they'd better damn well do it or suffer immeasurably, because fossils from other parts of the world will rapidly become unavailable as those folks use more and more of their own fossils and have less to export. Can they make it to keep the same energy profligacy as today? Probably on the basis of the current energy mix, they can, but I very much doubt if the current energy mix will be similar in 2050. By then it's likely that electricity will account for 40-50% of the energy mix, rather than 15%, as the electrical transport, industry and heating economy grows. That makes the renewable solution 4 times as difficult and expensive. But at least they'll be able to hunker down and survive. We won't, if we don't get off our asses. I'm guessing that every word that Chris writes is informed by this urgency and you-all who po-po it with your cornucopian fossil fool fantasies are doing our nation great harm. Whether it's 3 years or 20 years before the energy crunch, that crunch is inevitable and catastrophic if we don't act to deal with it now, with all speed, into renewables. If we don't, we'll end up with a nation turned into a drilled, fracked, mined wasteland with nothing to show for it other than despair. The time of extraction and exploitation is at a well deserved end, and its only ethical justification is to use it to bury it. And then there is climate change!
But after he took office in 2009, he filled his cabinet with like-minded intellectuals who's philosophies were quite clear, including Chu. Chu was hired because of his positions, not in spite of them. And the social security payroll tax cut is a fraud. First of all, it's supposedly not a "tax", but a "contribution". It's hypocritical of Democrats and Republicans to decry the state of Social Security while voting to literally defund it.
You're quoting (out of context) a Berkely professor who went on to be Obama's energy professor 5 months later. I seriously doubt Obama would even in private moments discussing European style gasoline taxes without some other form of balancing tax reductions. The usual trade off here is against the social security payroll, which is a regressive tax anyway. I.e. trade a regressive tax that penalizes working for one that penalizes pollution. You seem to think Obama has flip flopped on energy. Your whole basis for this is an off the cuff remark from a Berkeley professor. Seems like you have a Fox-news level of understanding.
The President's energy secretary from 2008: [i]"Somehow, we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe."[/i] Now, it is true that he later recanted that statement when the spotlight got a bit too hot. But that's not the point. [i]Character is what you do when you don't think people are watching you,[/i] not what you do when a call comes in from the Oval Office expressing their concern. And if you'd actually read my post above, you'd have noticed that I said [i]"...if the goal is to get people to use less of it, then this is the correct policy"[/i]. But it doesn't look like you got that far. My problem isn't with $8 gas. It's with the dishonesty of our leaders who feel they need to lie to achieve their objective. If you wish to defend that, then go right ahead.
Sadly, we are lazy. So lazy, it seems, that we don't even challenge our own beliefs anymore. John, you have not proven any hypothesis, only provided anecdotal opinion to support your position. riverrat1 already refuted you with this link: http://www.factcheck.org/2012/03/obama-wanted-higher-gasoline-prices/ So I put the onus on you to prove your side as well. Read your history. Had the government not subsidized oil development when in it's infancy, it would have taken decades more to get anywhere, if it would have at all. If not for government funding, the railroads would not have been built. If not for government funding, we'd have lousy hihgways, phone systems, agriculture - EVERY ASPECT OF YOUR LIFE relies on government funding in some way. Why should renewable energy be any different? Sometimes good things need a kick-start because we, the public, don't seem to care enough to make things happen until we have absolutely no other option. If $8 per gallon of gas is what it takes to shift energy management through private means, then I say let it go to $20, and the sooner the better.
Chu stood by that price remark until mid 2011. He actually repeated it almost word for word in a Congressional hearing in 2009. I will bet you did not know that Chu has not owned a car in over 15 years. Every job he had he was provided with a car and driver. He has not had to pay for gas since he got out of collage.
...when all is said and done. First, I think you've gotten way off track here. This thread is supposedly about a bunch of surveys that suggest that Americans are all for higher energy costs. I say, if that's really the case, then why isn't the Obama Administration pushing that as a central campaign theme, instead of saying [i]"just from a political perspective, do you think the President of the United States going into reelection wants gas prices to go up higher? (Laughter.) Is that -- is there anybody here who thinks that makes a lot of sense?"[/i] Which is it? Incidentally, I actually believe that higher energy prices will be what ultimately leads to solutions to the problem. What I dislike is the dishonesty and crony capitalism that these people sell as the solution to a problem that will solve itself much better without their help.
You're going to make an a$$ out of you and .... well, in this case, just out of you. Obama and Chu have a solid "all of the above" energy policy, with almost 4 years of consistent policy positions behind it. The point here is that, unlike the nonsense being pushed by Nelder, both the Obama administration and the American people strongly support drilling and fracking. Of course, what Chu was perhaps getting at it is some form of carbon pricing. This isn't the same thing as being against drilling and fracking. Ohio's governor Kaisch is a good example of a pro-drilling, pro-taxes-on-drilling. Part of the carbon pricing idea is that you actually raise money, which requires, you know, fossil fuel extraction and usage. And the key part of carbon pricing is that it would hit coal the hardest (at least traditional coal mining - coal gasification wouldn't fare too badly). At any rate, I'm not sure how much reality can be absorbed be someone who reads deep policy beliefs into an off-the-cuff remark by a Berkely professor.
...one would have to make the logical assumption that Obama appointed [i]precisely because[/i] of his beliefs, not in spite of them.
"Somehow, we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe." That's from Steven Chu in Sept 2008. What was Dr. Chu doing at the time? Working as Obama's Secretary of Energy? Nope. Obama was campaigning for President, and Chu was a professor at Berkely. So you're not quoting President Obama directly, nor are you quoting any of his cabinet members. You're just making yourself look silly. Chu and Obama have consistently pursued an "all of the above" energy policy while actually in office and enacting policy. They have never wavered from a pro-nuclear position, even after Fukushima. They have never wavered from a pro-offshore-drilling position, even after Deepwater Horizon. And, if anything, their position on fracking has become more friendly to industry. It seems reasonable to point to Obama's significantly pro-fracking 2012 SOTU speech, followed by proposed drilling standards so industry friendly that they were endorsed by the Wall Street Journal (!), as the beginning of the end of the "fractivist" movement. So John, perhaps get off that high horse and do a little research before you try to portray Obama and Chu as having drunk the sort of kool aide Nelder is pushing here. People are lazy - yourself included.
www.newenergytimes.com is the only LENR site that is not selling something, being paid to promote something or basically fishing for money. Anyone interested in examining all of the "published" papers and relevant info on LENR should visit this site. I know of no other site that is simply reporting the truth about LENR without trying to get people to invest in a pipe dream. So Ol' Bab, "follow the links before claiming to know the results!" When you actually research LENR you will then be able to criticize others. Reading propaganda sites is not research.