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On The U.S. Can and Must Rise to the Global Challenge of Climate Change

Hops, that's a big topic. The short version:

It began with a 2012 maintenance issue when steam turbines were found to be leaking 3-1/2 gallons of water per hour. Six months would have been required to fix it at a cost of $900 million, of which some or all would be covered by a manufacturer warranty (the amount is currently in litigation). There was never any danger to the public.

Antinuclear groups seized on the opportunity to engage in a series of legal stalling tactics (NRDC filed an amicus brief to intervene) with the goal of preventing SONGS from restarting. With legal expenses and the costs of keeping an idle plant open reaching $1million/day, Southern California Edison instead shut the plant down and is now in the process of replacing 90% of its generation with new natural gas capacity.

An added wrinkle surfaced in January, with evidence suggesting California's ex-public utility commission chairman may have conspired with SoCal Edison to help the company profit from this arrangement.

Including the cost of decommissioning, the total expected cost to replace SONGS is $13.6 billion. Before the maintenance issue, the plant was generating as much carbon-free energy as all of California solar and wind combined.

April 25, 2015    View Comment    

On Patents Forecast Technological Change

The fallacy behind the premise of MIT's article is succinctly exemplified by Doyne Farmer of Oxford:

Making the right bets on technological progress is essential for solving problems such as climate change.

During a recent foray into the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's database, I was struck by the number (thousands) of patents related to improving the golf swings of amateur players. This number is dwarfed by the number of amateur players with hopeless golf swings (millions) who are willing to plop down hard cash in the mistaken belief they can buy a respectable one.

Technological progress in 2015 is exclusively the result of investment. The logical leap here, of course, is that investors seek to solve problems - what they seek is to make money. When the two coincide is largely a matter of happenstance.

April 25, 2015    View Comment    

On The U.S. Can and Must Rise to the Global Challenge of Climate Change

Jake, the misguided efforts of NRDC and others to close California's largest point source of carbon-free energy - San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station - raised California's carbon emissions by 8 million tons per year.

How do the actions of your organization support your lofty rhetoric?

April 25, 2015    View Comment    

On Will Natural Gas Peaker Plants Become Obsolete?

Clayton, the amount of information everyone's willing to share is a personal choice, so I'm curious to see whether Nest will be able to expand its market beyond niche status. An interesting article in Wired:

But even anonymized user data would give Google incredible new insights into our behavior in the physical world that its vast roster of very smart people could figure out how to leverage in order to advance its business.

Perhaps Google could pair our movements with how we shop — say, using Google’s own same-day delivery service. Or some choice we make offline that compels us to perform a particular search.

This may sound creepy, but much like using Google for search, it could become the price of admission for participation in the internet of things.

Personally, I'll pass. I don't need a lot of help from Google deciding what I like and don't like.

April 24, 2015    View Comment    

On Going Solar Should Be No More Difficult than Getting Cable TV

Geoffrey, then throw in the requirement that Comcast has to pay a full "retail" price for the programming.

It couldn't be worse than Home Shopping Network - could it?

April 24, 2015    View Comment    

On Will Natural Gas Peaker Plants Become Obsolete?

Deborah, there's a lot to like about smart thermostats, but is the Nest too smart? Because it communicates regularly with its real boss - Google - there's also an issue of privacy.

http://arstechnica.com/business/2014/01/what-google-can-really-do-with-nest-or-really-nests-data/

April 24, 2015    View Comment    

On Why Have U.S. Energy Policies Stopped Reducing Carbon Emissions? - Part 1

Mark, I'm including all energy, not just electricity consumption. As of 2011 electricity was responsible for 38% of that total.

April 24, 2015    View Comment    

On Will Natural Gas Peaker Plants Become Obsolete?

Deborah, I'm not sure we should be enthusiastically welcoming a future where utilities can lower our electrical consumption on the hottest days of the year, when it's most convenient for them.

In Chicago, ComEd is planning to save themselves money on building new peakers by simply lowering everyone's voltage by 3%. Instead of 120 volts, customers would be served 116.3, and the company is bracing for customer complaints and the "control irregularities" which may result. Billed as "Voltage Optimization", the plan has captivated activists like Dick Munson of the Environmental Defense Fund, who wonders whether the energy savings are "magic".

What's magic is the ease with which ComEd has been able to bewitch people like Dick who don't know any better.

A mandatory, post-high-school stint in the Peace Corps would help American consumers of the future appreciate the value of the steady supply of alternating current which makes their lifestyle possible. At the moment, it's completely taken for granted.

April 24, 2015    View Comment    

On Is the End Really Nigh for Fossil Fuels? Or is the Future Simply Advanced Energy?

Lexie, of course there's a long way to go in the race to replace fossil fuels by 2100. But it's encouraging to see GreenTech Media welcoming renewable nuclear energy into the fold of advanced, clean energy solutions which will be required to accomplish that feat.

April 24, 2015    View Comment    

On Throwing the Carbon Capture Baby Out with the Coal Bath Water

Ed, it's actually the antithesis of a philosophical approach. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), warns that

The unrestricted use of fossil fuels should be phased out by 2100 if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change.

There's no doubt that fossil fuels are the problem:

CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes contributed about 78 % of the total GHG emission increase from 1970 to 2010.

The report has examples of numerous "pathways" to limit climate change to +2C, however:

To achieve near-zero emission with carbonaceous energy, carriers will need CCS facilities though market penetration of this technology is still highly uncertain and only limited examples are in place so far.

We could make the future of the biosphere and health of the oceans reliant on tech which is "highly uncertain", but it would be more prudent to work under the assumption, until proven otherwise, that CCS will be unable to offer significant potential for mitigation.

April 23, 2015    View Comment    

On White, Wealthy, and Whiney: An Environmental Movement in Need of a Makeover

Thanks Clayton, but Joe's chart shows that GWEC does not predict wind to grow exponentially - the cumulative installed growth rate is already declining, and the annual installed growth rate will begin to decline after 2018.

April 23, 2015    View Comment    

On Why Have U.S. Energy Policies Stopped Reducing Carbon Emissions? - Part 1

John, thanks for assembling this information. I know how frustrating it can be to find statistics on the EIA website, especially current ones in the fast-changing energy environment.

For all the talk about efficiency and battery storage, it's clear that renewables are not remotely keeping pace with energy consumption, which will increasingly depend on clean electricity if we're serious about addressing climate change.

For once I'll stay off my pro-nuclear soapbox and let your statistics speak for themselves.

April 23, 2015    View Comment