Comments by Jesse Jenkins Subscribe

On Fueling Wind's Surge

"Second, how forcefully should the government be promoting wind power, which has developed into the most competitive and mainstream of our new energy sources? Fairly soon the focus should turn to how we might eventually wean wind power off subsidies, altogether, rather than continuing to accelerate them in a manner more appropriate to less well-developed, less-competitive energy sources."

Indeed, the debate over the pending 2012 expiration/renewal of the wind production tax credit will pose just such a question. I hope it will provide a key opportunity to re-rationalize our clean energy deployment subsidies and market creation policies not simply to drive megawatts into the ground, but rather to drive continual, incremental price and performance improvements towards the point where ongoing subsidy is not required.  That should be the end goal of our 'deployment' policies, which should probably be better thought of as a continuation of our clean energy innovation policies.  Make clean energy cheap enough to compete w/neither permanent subsidy or high carbon prices. That's the aim if we either (a) want to tap global export markets in the developing world where the bulk of energy demand will be for affordable energy products and governments lack resources to impose costly carbon fees or subsidies for clean energy; and (b) want to get a handle on climate change, which will ultimately hinge on our ability to fuel rapid global development with zero-carbon power sources...

April 14, 2010    View Comment    

On Cap and Trade: Right Debate, Wrong Solution

David, I'm glad you found my graphics and post comparing cap and trade for acid rain with cap and trade for global warming helpful. Despite the number of brilliant people, like Paul Krugman, working on these issues, it's incredible how often I hear people repeat the same, obviously ignorant statement that cap and trade worked for acid rain, so the same logic will work for global warming.

But after reading your proposal, which is well presented and interesting on a number of fronts, I'm left with a question: is what's wrong with cap and trade the logic behind the trading, or the logic behind carbon pricing more generally?

In the end, a cap and trade policy is functionally equivalent as a carbon tax, and motivated by much the same logic: price carbon emissions to spur private investment in low-carbon alternatives. Especially once cap and trade bills include the inevitable cost containment measures, as each Congressional proposal ultimately does, they wind up establishing a variable carbon price with a fixed upper limit, much like what you propose here. Yes, there are many problems with trading, particularly with the system envisioned in Waxman-Markey (vs., say the Cantwell-Collins CLEAR Act), but isn't the real reason to be skeptical of carbon pricing in general the fact that we need major technological and infrastructural change to tackle climate risks - nothing short of a shift in the global energy system - and we have little if any evidence that government-imposed price signals can spur such changes.

In fact, we should remember that we didn't get the Internet or personal computers by taxing telegraphs or typewriters. We got the IT revolution after decades of smart, public investments (mostly via DOD) in computer science, communications infrastructure, and the government procurement of a whole host of technologies at the cutting edges of their fields, from radios to radar and microchips to the Internet. For that matter, without critical public investments in innovation, education, infrastructure and technology procurement or market creation, we would not have a whole host of the major technologies and industries of the 20th century, including jet engines and commercial aviation, gas turbines and gas-fired power plants, nuclear plants, hydropower (and a habitable American West), wind and solar power, highways, etc. etc.

When America is serious about technology or infrastructure transformations, the government leads the way with public investments that catalyze the entrepreneurship, research, innovation and infrastructure we need. Why should we expect the clean energy transformation to be spurred by anything different? Why should we expect carbon taxes or similar pricing regimes to lead the way?

Jesse Jenkins
Breakthrough Institute
April 13, 2010    View Comment    

On After "Drill, Baby, Drill," Obama Should Embrace Another GOP Energy Plan

Hi Geoff

Thanks for the comment. If you can point us to more information regarding the way oil and gas lease payments are structured - e.g. portion of revenues due to initial bid premia vs. production-based royalties - we'd be much obliged. This isn't my area of expertise and still learning a lot about this area of policy. Thanks,

April 5, 2010    View Comment    

On Colorado Gov Signs Renewable Energy Jobs Bill

Osha, you're right, but that's not the same as capacity factor ratings though.  A nuclear plant runs at close to 90% (or higher) of it's rated nameplate electrical capacity.  That's different from the thermal-to-electric efficiency of the plant.  On conversion efficiency of thermal energy (from solar insolation or fission) to electricity, a CSP plant is roughly equivalent to a nuclear plant (or coal plant for that matter), but their capacity factors are still a world apart (maybe 20-40% for a CSP plant with thermal storage, compared to ~90% for a nuclear plant).
March 29, 2010    View Comment    

On Who Killed Cap-and-Trade?

You are right, Dr. Stavins, that cap and trade is far from 'dead,' although I wouldn't place my bets on the passage of whatever Frankenstein concoction Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman manage to cobble together (and dub something other than "cap and trade") this year.

Of course, with public support for climate change action low, the alternative route, at least for now,  could be to fight for action that undeniably helps reduce emissions but is motivated by other concerns - the economic imperative posed by the global clean energy race, for example, or the ever-present motivation to do something about our nation's dependence on oil.  Another potential motivating moment: the $80 billion in clean energy investments under the stimulus act will come to a close shortly.  With thousands upon thousands of real jobs in real Congressional districts now tied to favorable clean energy policies, could the specter of a clean energy boom-and-bust driven by the stimulus clean energy funds, and their expiration, motivated expanded, long-term clean energy policy support?  There are likely multiple routes to meaningful action in the year(s) ahead...
March 28, 2010    View Comment    

On Small Modular Reactors Could Be An American Export - But We Need to Move Faster

Rod, would a DOD-run demonstration program that procured and built the first 10-20 modular reactors (half dozen each of 2-3 designs) and deployed them to power military bases at home or in American territories overseas (e.g. the new Marines base in Guam, etc.) be required to secure NRC licensing to build and operate the plants? Do they have to follow the same guidelines as civilian reactors? Or is there a possible route to expedited demonstration of these designs through DOD.  After all, as you point out so well, the Navy already has plenty of familiarity owning and operating very similar reactor designs...
March 23, 2010    View Comment    

On Growth vs. Emissions

A keen, realistic look at the challenges ahead. Thanks for the post Geoff.  You might enjoy Andy Revkin's talk (video here) that raises similar challenges.  Carbon is not the totality of our energy challenges in a world of 6.7-going-on-9 billion people, so many of whom lack access to basic, modern energy supplies.
March 22, 2010    View Comment    

On Revkin: “The idea that we’re going to fix the climate change problem or solve global warming has always been a fantasy, totally wishful, from my standpoint.”

Revkin has an excellent post up responding to Romm's latest snipe here. I encourage everyone to watch the brief video embeded in that post for a real look at Revkin's views on climate and energy challenges on our 'dot Earth.'
March 22, 2010    View Comment    

On The inside game at Oyster Creek

"Environmental groups" might win, but hard to say that the environment wins if we shut down another GW of zero-carbon power at a time when green groups are also fighting to avert potentially-disastrous climate change.  This reminds me of the debates over breaching Snake River dams in my native Northwest. This kind of thing may have made since for environmentalists 30 years ago, before climate change became as dire a concern.  But until we're shuttering the last coal-fired power plants, you won't find much support from this environmentalist and clean energy advocate for breaching hundreds of MWs of zero-carbon dams or GWs of existing zero-carbon nuclear reactors.  This is foolishness.
March 19, 2010    View Comment    

On Home Star Gets A Hearing: Is It Really A Win-Win-Win?

All a person from my generation is likely to think of when you say "Home Star" is this I'm afraid...
March 11, 2010    View Comment    

On Can we restore U.S. leadership in solar manufacturing?

Dr. Romm continues to say "the only way to win the clean energy race is to pass the clean energy bill." What clean energy bill is that exactly? The House's Waxman-Markey bill was DOA in the Senate. Cantwell-Collins' CLEAR act is a marker bill with little support. Kerry, Lieberman and Graham are now constructing a frankenstein bill cobbling together whatever they think can pass, along with nuclear loan guarantees, offshore drilling and natural gas incentives, and who knows what else. Details are non-existent (which isn't holding back E&E from publishing a stream of speculative 'reporting' pieces). So again, what clean energy bill is that exactly, and how will it secure our clean energy potential against the intense competition of our overseas clean energy competitors, including the rising clean tech tigers in Asia (China, Japan and South Korea)?

Romm seems to insist that a price on carbon - any price at all - will magically secure our clean energy competitiveness (never mind that China, South Korea and Japan are each cleaning our clean tech clock without any carbon price at all). Throw in a renewable electricity standard and Romm seems happy (never mind that neither of the RES versions that have passed the House and the Senate would do little-to-nothing to boost renewable energy deployment above BAU levels). Even Romm's employers, the Center for American Progress, recently released a report calling for a truly comprehensive strategy to secure America's clean energy competitiveness which includes a couple dozen policy priorities, of which a carbon price is just one policy part of just one of the several components of a real clean tech competitiveness plan (spurring market demand).

When will Joe Romm stop using every single data point as an excuse for the passage of any climate bill whatsoever, no matter how watered down? America needs a real clean energy competitiveness strategy, and we need it fast.
March 8, 2010    View Comment    

On Climate debate missing the point

Sounds like we're pretty closely aligned then Barry. Thanks for the post!
March 4, 2010    View Comment