Sign up | Login with →

Comments by Jesse Jenkins Subscribe

On The Future of Energy: Why Power Density Matters

I'm not 100% sure, but I believe this post sets the record!

Jesse Jenkins
Digital Community Strategist,
TheEnergyCollective.com

August 12, 2013    View Comment    

On The Future of Energy: Why Power Density Matters

I'm not 100% sure, but I believe this post sets the record!

Jesse Jenkins
Digital Community Strategist,
TheEnergyCollective.com

August 12, 2013    View Comment    

On Rethinking the Role of Carbon Prices in Climate Change Policy

The whole idea behind a carbon tax is to shift relative incentives for purchasing decisions by all economic actors. That means that the price signal created by the tax necessarily has to be passed along to all purchasers. So even if you could somehow force producers of fossil fuels to pay the tax and not pass along the resulting increase in their costs of business to their customers (and I'm not sure how you would do that), you wouldn't want to. It would defeat the whole purpose of the carbon pricing measure. 

August 2, 2013    View Comment    

On Rethinking the Role of Carbon Prices in Climate Change Policy

In the long-run Max, sure. Point well taken. But that's a little bit like saying, "In the long run, we're all dead."

In the short-run, I challenge you to find a government anywhere committed to the idea of ceasing economic growth. And how soon physical limits are relevant to the path of economic growth is itself a function of what kind of growth we pursue and how we pursue it. I encourage you to watch this interview with Ramez Naam on a similar topic.

July 31, 2013    View Comment    

On Cost of Closing San Onofre Nuclear Plant: 13.6 Billion

"Suggestion: The American people need balanced information and The Energy Collective should provide Pro-Con articles which would help promote balanced discussions on critical energy matters facing all of us."

Thanks for the suggestion. We  may try to do something like this. Overall, we aim to foster a wide range of views and opinions at the Energy Collective, provided they are all well researched and substantiated. While we don't generally do point-counterpoint stories like that, if you look at our home page on any given day or week, you will likely see articles with positions that starkly contrast one another. And we rely on our comment community to further the discussion on each article (as has happened here). Thanks for commenting,

Jesse 


July 30, 2013    View Comment    

On Rethinking the Role of Carbon Prices in Climate Change Policy

The idea that declines in non-module costs are impossible is a highly contested claim! Just as the DOE SunShot program. 

July 30, 2013    View Comment    

On Cost of Closing San Onofre Nuclear Plant: 13.6 Billion

"Capt D," our apologies, some of your comments got held up in our moderation queue over night. They should all be published now. 

"I K," you've been warned repeatedly to keep comments constructive and on topic and to avoid insults and snide remarks. This is a forum for a civilized conversation. 

Jesse Jenkins

Digital Community Strategist
TheEnergyCollective.com

July 30, 2013    View Comment    

On Rethinking the Role of Carbon Prices in Climate Change Policy

We certainly need young scientists. But the energy-climate-human system is the perfect example of a socio-scientific-technical system. It's going to require engineers, scientists, social scientists, policy researchers and all kinds of other types to unravel this challenge. As a current graduate student in technology & policy and socio-technical systems, I hope you don't narrowly exclude those approaching this challenge from a social science or regulatory/policy end of things as well. We need "policy engineers" who "have a clue" as much as we need scientists and technology engineers!

July 29, 2013    View Comment    

On Rethinking the Role of Carbon Prices in Climate Change Policy

We can certainly quibble over recent cost trends and the role of China. While acknowledging the recent role played by subsidies in China, analysts like GTM Research nevertheless project further declines in module costs over the next three years, and regardless, the largest cost gains can be made in non-module costs at this point, which make up about 75% of installed costs now. More to the point, the short-term abberations say nothing to change the drammatic 100x cost decline seen overall. That should speak to the power of technology innovation writ large.

I of course fully acknowledge the system-wide challenges to large-scale solar PV integration. I only chose the solar example to illustrate why I see the technological change lever as likely to move much further than efforts to directly increase consumer willingness to pay for mitigation. I don't see how any of this responds to my larger point here: technology change can clearly be drammatic, while political change is likely to be incremental. Knowing the relative strength of each lever at out disposal is important to prioritize limited political and financial capital...

July 29, 2013    View Comment    

On Rethinking the Role of Carbon Prices in Climate Change Policy

Hi Robert,

Great questions/prodding as always.

"So, it feels as if there is a strong element of false advertising here. I agree that alternative proposals will not achieve 450 ppm, however your case would be much more persuasive if you cut the public relations language, and just stated things more soberly."

By "get the climate job done" I mean achieve climate stabilization short of civilization-destabilizing impacts. I think my proposal can do that. I'm pretty confident actually. But there's more than enough moving parts in the human-climate system to make it foolish for anyone to pronounce a guaranteed end-point. Direction of travel is far more important, and that's what this is all about. So I'm sorry if using "get the climate job done" in a conversational tone doesn't pass muster with you. I don't think it's misleading at all however. Only if you think "getting the job done" is implictly linked to some oft-stated and never guaranteed specific target or timetable (80% by 2050 of 450 ppm or whatnot). I'd say those who promise such outcomes are the ones engaged in the false advertising, not me.

On energy consumption, its fine to say it would be great to reduce per capita energy consumption, but clearly that is not a cost-less activity. There is condirable debate whether or not truly "below-cost" or net-positive-cost efficiency opportunities await -- the so-called "efficiency gap" is much debated, see this recent paper for example. Those that do exist will trigger rebound effects, eroding a substantial share of the climate benefits as well (see my article in Ensia here). Plenty of efficiency and conservation can indeed be  captured at a net economic cost as well. But how are you going to force that? Anything that comes with an economic cost necessarily means a reduction in welfare. You can say "there's no evidence we are better off" in the US versus other nations with lower per capita energy consumption. But revealed economic preference would indicate millions of economic actors believe they are better off. So any effort to force them to behave otherwise surely meets plenty of political economy constraints as well. My point isn't that reducing energy use is a bad idea in the developed world. It is. Even you frugal Brits can cut back I'm sure. But it's no magic bullet and certainly not exempt from the kinds of political economy constraints this post is all about.

Finally, you ask a very good question, "do you have any evidence that the prospects for technological change are greater than those of political change?" I'd say my case is pretty strong here. Technological change has already dropped the cost of solar PV by a factor of 100! They've dropped by 75% in the last four years or so, and most analysts believe solar costs can be further reduced by at least a factor of 2. Cost curves for other energy technologies are not quite as drammatic, but plenty strong as well. It is pretty hard to imagine the political tolerance for higher energy prices to increase by a factor of even 2-4, let alone 100. 

BTW, Matthew Stepp and I made many similar arguments a year and a half ago in a 5-part series on the Future of Global Climate Policy. Part 3 specifically talks about the ability to move the political window versus the technological window, and why we put more stock in the latter than the former (not to discount the former entirely). Parts 1 and 2 are also brutally honest about the fact that we're not promising 450ppm or 2 degrees C or anything like that. No false advertising here.

Jesse

July 29, 2013    View Comment    

On Rethinking the Role of Carbon Prices in Climate Change Policy

"Kids who want to study economics or political science excluded."

Ouch! ;)

Thanks for the interesting perspective.

July 29, 2013    View Comment    

On Rethinking the Role of Carbon Prices in Climate Change Policy

Dear Robert,

First off, what do I mean by "innovation?" I mean an improvement in the price or performance of a good or service or introduction of a new and improved good or service. In the context of energy, that means an improvement (price or performance) in the provision of energy services or a new way to provide energy services that offers superior price or performance. That clear?

RE the "obvious flaw" in my proposal, I don't think you've really read this fully. I'm not even close to advocating just throwing "innovation at it" let alone an "innovation-first" strategy here. What I propose is making fossil energy as expensive as is politically feasible via a carbon tax, and then making good use of the revenues to (1) subsidize remaining abatement opportunities that are more expensive than the carbon price signal alone allows for, (2) to structure most (all hopefully) of those investments to actually drive down the real cost of those abatement opportunities over time, so as to conserve limited resources/maximize long-run abatement subject to political economy constraints, and (3) devote some portion of revenues to addressing substantial innovation-related market failures to ensure we continue to drive improvements in the price and performance of abatement opportunties, further maximizing abatement. That's a plan to specifically address the fact that fossil fuels may remain quite cheap, even over the long term.

You charge that I ignore the role of conservation or efficiency in reducing energy use and thus contributing to both abatement and increasing WTP by reducing household carbon footprint. That's half fair. Efficiency is certainly one of the abatement opportunities this policy suite aims to unlock. Although as we all know, there are a host of other non-price related market failures to address to fully unlock efficiency opportunities. But you are absolutely correct that where cost effective, reducing energy consumption could help improve WTP for climate policy. I could have (should have) made that a clearer part of my case. Thanks for the addition. It is also fair to say that while efficiency is part of the package of abatement I have in mind, my language is biased towards the supply side. 

Finally, RE "getting the climate job done," this is indeed deliberately vague. I personally don't see any climate policy strategy, real or proposed, that looks like a realistic strategy to get to 450ppm at this point in time. If we hadn't blown the last 20 years on policies that failed to recognize and plan for the fundamental political economy constraints on climate policy design, perhaps we would still have a shot. But probably not any more. 

I can't actually predict or promise a specific outcome as far as concentrations of CO2 or temperature stabilization. No one really can. Policy makers have no direct control over those factors. What they cna try to influence is the decarbonization rate of the economy (changes in CO2/GDP). That was Roger Pielke's point in the letter to the FT editors that sparked this exchange. 

What I can tell you is that a policy suite that is designed around the multiple constraints on climate policy design, not just around economic efficiency, will succeed at accelerating decarbonization much faster than those that do not. And I can certainly say that if political economy constraints are binding, preventing the carbon price from reaching the social cost of carbon, then making good use of revenues is absolutely essential to maximizing the rate of decarbonization. 

I don't see this as wishful thinking. I see it as our best hope. Do you have another alternative in mind?

Cheers,

Jesse

p.s. I know I promised you a longer direct exchange on this topic a while back. I hope we can return to that soon. My apologies for getting sucked up in this and other work. 

July 29, 2013    View Comment