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On A Common Fallacy in the Energy and Climate Debate

This is not a serious article.  You're making all kinds of assumption errors that range from the causes of unemployment (energy isn't one worth mentioning here) to what people value ("the developed world has a willingness to pay for benefits such as cleaner air" ...come on).

And you ignore and debase human equality when you assume that developing nations can't see the forest for the trees regarding the consequences of climate change.  These just aren't serious arguements because they lack a holistic view of the problem and intellectual honesty for causes and effects.

September 13, 2013    View Comment    

On Nuclear Power, Simply Put

Robert,

You make good points (that commenters will argue over) but the reality is even more simple than you've stated.  To build a nuclear power facility you need to answer two questions for investers:

1. How long will this take to build?

2. How much will this cost?

In our current environment neither of these can be answered which is why in spite of awesome offers for subsidy no one is building any.

September 13, 2013    View Comment    

On Renewable Energy Grid Parity Reality Check

Schalk,

Thank you for the article.  Two quick points.  Your math on the subsidies appears to be a direct calculation of wind subsidies / last year's production = $0.048/kwh.  The problem with that is that those subsidies are largely for capacity building.  That would mean that you've front loaded the cost of the lifetime of production into your figure for one year's energy which gives you an incorrect number.  

Second, the entire arguement for renewables is silly if you don't value carbon.  It's just not an intellectually valid arguement to say that carbon-negative and carbon-intensive processes should be valued the same.

June 14, 2013    View Comment    

On What Would the Recently Proposed Senate Climate Legislation Accomplish?

Wow.

Thank you, Mr. Miller, for the article and please accept the appology of the internet for the tone with which it was answered.  Messrs. Kennedy & Elliot are full of snark but (at least in the case of Mr. Kennedy) raise fair points.  The interconnectedness of reallocating public money from "carbon heavy" incentives to "efficiency heavy" incentives will indeed have a substantial carbon-negative impact on the system.  The Regional Greenhouse Gas Reduction program in New England would be a good example of a feedback loop I think the Senators are attempting to emmulate in that way.

Some of the other points brought up in your article (and the response) are also worth tinkering for accuracty but I suspect much of the push back you've received could have been moderated or avoided if you had some more political analysis of the legislation.  We are after all, talking about the US Congress and the Boxer-Sanders plan, although good, is incapable of surviving intact through the bill writing process.

Brian Reynolds

Founder, Global Power Solutions LLC

March 2, 2013    View Comment    

On How a Warm Earth fueled Hurricane Sandy

Jim, Ramon, Trevor, Scannit & Shivering,

Thank you all for you comments, they are certainly appreciated.

The point of this piece isn't the exact temperature of the ocean, which is admittedly hard to calculate (You'll note in reading one other comments that you don't agree with me or one another after all) but rather that the earth isn't a closed system.  The vast preponderance of energy into and out of the system is in the form of solar radiation the day side and energy loss on the night side.  The albedo effect that retains a healthy portion of that energy is the result of a tremendously small amount of the atmosphere.  Human activity on this planet is not so great that we have massively changed the constitution of the whole atmosphere but it is great enough that we have made a substantial change to the very tiny part of the atmosphere responsible for a stable climate.

In the piece above you'll note that the facts stipulated are 5 degrees, the first inch of ocean water and a stable area.  Under these three criteria I've said that Sandy was energized substantially.  If you would prefer we look at a 0.5 degree change (or any other change) that's fine but any refinement of these numbers should also address the facts you've chosen not to challenge.  Sandy drew energy from an area an order of magnitude larger than the one stated and from ocean waters of far greater than one inch.  Refining these will only serve to increase the total energy available to fuel this horrible storm.

If anyone produces a conclusion based on a better mathematical model of the energy in the Atlantic for this storm on the dates in question vs. historic norms I will gladly eat my words.  Sadly, there will be no such model.  We will continue to have larger, less frequent, more devastating storms fueled by much warmer oceans and breaking all previous records for damages.  Last night on the telethon for Sandy this was referred to as "What will surely be remembered as the storm of the century".  There is no question, there will be far worst storms.

Thanks again for you attention.

Brian 

 

November 3, 2012    View Comment    

On Using insights from social science to understand climate change deniers

Karen-

That's really interesting.  I'm curious what you mean when you say "By bringing the social science along with the facts, people become much more open minded."  The realities of the climate crisis are by definition problems of the entire population.  What does direct messaging look like that exposes a general audience to it's own psychological shortcomings and still wins them over?

Brian Reynolds

Global Power Solutions, LLC

www.RenewableGPS.com

July 27, 2012    View Comment    

On Using insights from social science to understand climate change deniers

Karen-

Thanks for the great article.  All this summer I and the marketing and development teams here at Global Power Solutions have been wrestling with this issue.  The intersection between what people believe, what they say they believe and how they act has been on the main stage in our office because of a new product offering we're working on.  We've covered George Lackoff's writings on the minds of liberals and conservatives, "action-reinforcing-misconception" activities like describing a suspect prior to seeing him in a lineup (you're more likely to be confused, uncertain or wrong at a lineup if you try to describe a suspect orally first - a serious law enforcement problem), public radio pledge strategies and a gang of other resources.

What I've come to understand is that it's a losing arguement to try and convince an individual of the veracity of the climate crisis.  An understanding is helpful but not required for the crisis to be addressed.  However, there are a lot of in-obvious levers that can be thrown to influence the comfort level a person has with taking actions that address climate.

One of the big problems that many in climate conflict have is that they put disproportional weight on the value of being right.  Being right isn't a goal.  It isn't even the most valuable tool to achieve the goal.  I think you're article (and the effort of social scientists in general) makes it clear that there are a large swaths of the public to which direct conversation on this topic is a waste of time.  We'd all be better off designing more clever messaging plans that don't run headlong into the same brick walls we've been running into for years.

Brian Reynolds

Global Power Solutions LLC

www.RenewableGPS.com

July 27, 2012    View Comment    

On Global Carbon Dioxide Emissions — Facts and Figures

Robert,

This is an excellent article, and well written, but I think it's a good idea to submit another element to the analysis.  Look at CO2 emissions on a country-to-country basis and you may be getting a distorted view.  As the nominal manufacturing center for the world; China's emissions really aren't it's own.  The conveniences of western countries are a byproduct of outsourcing a substantial part of the west's carbon footprint to a foreign manufacturing base.  Were we to source the production of all goods globally to the countries they will ultimately be consumed in the scales would be tilled to the west immensely.

This reality also turns the mind to different kinds of solutions to CO2 problems.  Let's look at a simple consumer product: the iPad.  According to Apple's own numbers the current version of the iPad has a carbon footprint of 180kgs of CO2 (production through usage) with 121kgs of that from manufacture alone.  Sales for the product are expected to break the 40 million unit mark in 2012.  This is one product in less than one calendar year producing over 4.8 Billion KGs of CO2 and it's very hard to imagine saying that these figures are Chinese emissions.  Yes the product is made in China, yes the product is subject to Chinese regulations (or lack thereof) but the most important factor is that the outsourced nature of consumer product manufacturing is that it can be changed by extra-national factors.

Here then are three examples of politically possible scenarios that could radically change a nation's CO2 emissions despite its own best efforts:

1. Consumer demand- Apple and other manufacturers could make a calculation to go to carbon neutral manufacturing.  Decisions like this are more likely than you'd expect.  Marketing often drives manufacturing choices.

2. One or more western countries decide to impose a modest carbon tariff (or carbon tax with a holiday for domestic production) on imports.  This could be surprisingly popular. Every country is looking for ways to grow their jobs figures and outsourced work is a great political punching bag.  The US could place a modest price on the carbon life of imports as a jobs-repatriation move.  This could seriously effect the pan-asian manufacturing base and radically alter emissions.

3. Global economic growth resumes.  A point and a half of global economic growth or decline radically alters CO2 ppm numbers not just for this year but for the entire curve moving forward.

The point of these arguments isn't their likelihood.  It's to shed light on the reality that emission in 2012 are oversimplified when looked at on a nation-state to nation-state basis.  You wisely point out, Robert, the per-capita difference between countries.  That point, though, is worse than the numbers would let you believe and subject to more complicated factors.

-Brian Reynolds

Managing Partner

Global Power Solutions, LLC

www.RenewableGPS.com

July 9, 2012    View Comment    

On Can Market Forces Really be Employed to Address Climate Change?

Putting a market price on externalities is clearly a good idea the question is how to structure that is such a manner that is actually fair to citizens.  Cap-and-trade appears to be a good approximation on this front but we should be honest about what the limits of cap-and-trade are.  There are significant environmental impacts not accounted for here; fracking groundwater contamination and mountaintop removal being a few of the more headline-worthy.

Imagine instead of cap-and-trade that all the external costs of carbon were factored into the cost of mining for carbon rich energy sources.

We have a great deal of data from EPA and FEMA for the public cost of clean-ups for things like oil spills.  We have a great deal of data from the US Forestry Service and Park Services (not to mention academia) about the cost to grow and acre of vegetation and the amount of carbon an acre of vegetation can sequester.  We have a great deal of data from the Superfund and countless legal fights (all public records) about the cost of decontaminating rivers/streams/aquifers poluted by coal mining and tar sand runoff.  Essentially, let's start by assuming that industry isn't going to do anything right then compile all the costs the public would suffer if that assumption hold true.  Industry should be charges that on an acre-by-acre basis at the point of extraction based on the maximum output of that land.  Individual extractors can then refunded their costs as they prove the safety and proper handling of the national resource as it is extracted.  This is just as easily done for imported oil.

This is clearly a crazy idea but hard to argue with the principle.

June 7, 2012    View Comment    

On Here comes the sun... not!

Thanks Marc for a great article!  Several posters have expressed hesitation on the role and cost for various subsidies in the German market and markets in general and the boom-bust cycles seem to be good evidence that there is something wrong there.  Having said that it's worth noting that the general size of the boom and size of the busts is really the story worth telling.  Looking at this problem (how to correctly incent the market to carbon neutral energy) you quickly get to the validity of a carbon tax.  Let's put that aside though because governments worldwide have proven that they have an easier time with supply side incentives than they do with demand side taxes.

Looked at strictly from as a supply-side problem the issue isn't "What is the correct subsidy to spur growth in the market?"  The question is "What does the declining curve of subsidies look like that will bring down costs and how do we build a corrective measure into legislation that will adjust down the subsidy if adoption rates exceed our expectations?"

The problem in Germany (or Pennsylvania, or New Jersey, California, Spain or any many others) is that the initial subsidies were good but because the industry was still so small (relative to the size of demand) companies had no incentive to innovate, just to push manufacturers for a cost savings.  In others words the subsidies allowed for artificially high profit margins and companies got away from innovation on everything but the technology.  Innovation on marketing, sales, supply chain etc. are at least as important as innovation on solar panels.  By way of example consider Apple (mentioned above by Rick).  Apple sells products that have a strong desire for adoption and command a premium but really aren't any better than their competitors products.  The innovation is not just in the tech there and they've know that at Apple for a long time.

Energy needs to make that leap.  A good incentive would be built with a feedback mechanism in it so that rocketing adoption rates would be seen for what they are: overinvestment of public funds.  Avoiding that trap also forces business to stay sharper and help drive down consumer costs while extending the life of a government program that only has so many dollars to spend.

April 13, 2012    View Comment