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A real plan to save the world does exist

Written By: - Date published: 10:17 am, July 12th, 2011 - 112 comments
Categories: climate change, energy, Environment, sustainability - Tags:

A feasible plan to power 100 percent of the planet with complete renewables exists. This plan excludes Nuclear and Biofuels, which the Scientific American authors of this plan also considered to be ultimately unsustainable technologies as well. Instead this plan revolves around Wind, Water and Solar – WWS

Scientific American: A Path to Sustainable Energy by 2030

Such a plan is certainly achievable, and could be completed in twenty years, all that is missing is the political will.

The solid and respectable ‘Scientific American’, by no measure a leftwing journal, counters the doom merchants on the left, and the Climate Change Deniers on the right, and explains that it is feasible to transform the world’s energy systems.

That it could be accomplished in two decades.

Interesting facts from the Scientific American article:

(abridged)

The maximum power consumed worldwide at any given moment is about 12.5 trillion watts (terawatts, or TW)

1. Fifty One Percent of that demand, could be provided by 3.8 million large wind turbines (each rated at five megawatts) worldwide. Although that quantity may sound enormous, it is interesting to note that the world manufactures 73 million cars and light trucks every year.*

2. Another Forty Percent of the power could come from photovoltaics and concentrated solar plants, with about 30 percent of the photovoltaic output from rooftop panels on homes and commercial buildings. About 89,000 photovoltaic and concentrated solar power plants, averaging 300 megawatts apiece, would be needed.**

3. The rest would be made up of 900 hydroelectric stations worldwide, 70 percent of which are already in place.

*1.1 Only about 0.8 percent of the wind base is installed today. The worldwide footprint of the 3.8 million turbines would be less than 50 square kilometers (smaller than Manhattan). When the needed spacing between them is figured, they would occupy about 1 percent of the earth land, but the empty space among turbines could be used for agriculture or ranching or as open land or ocean.

*1.2 Enough concrete and steel exist for the millions of wind turbines, and both those commodities are fully recyclable. The most problematic materials may be rare-earth metals such as neodymium used in turbine gearboxes. Although the metals are not in short supply, the low-cost sources are concentrated in China, so countries such as the U.S. could be trading dependence on Middle Eastern oil for dependence on Far Eastern metals. Manufacturers are moving toward gearless turbines, however, so that limitation may become moot.

**2.1 Nonrooftop photovoltaics and concentrated solar plants would occupy about 0.33 percent of the planet land.

4. If we stick with fossil fuels, demand by 2030 will rise to 16.9TW, requiring about 13,000 large new coal plants, which themselves would occupy a lot more land, as would the mining to supply them. Where if we change to renewables demand will either drop or stay steady. This is because these forms of power are intrinsically more efficient and less wasteful with less hidden costs.

4.1 The average U.S. coal plant is offline 12.5 percent of the year for scheduled and unscheduled maintenance. Compared to Modern wind turbines which have a down time of less than 2 percent on land and less than 5 percent at sea. Photovoltaic systems are also at less than 2 percent. Moreover, when an individual wind, solar or wave device is down, only a small fraction of production is affected; when a coal, nuclear or natural gas plant goes offline, a large chunk of
generation is lost.

As Cheap as Coal

Today the cost of wind, geothermal and hydroelectric are all less than seven cents a kilowatt-hour; wave and solar are higher. But by 2020 and beyond wind, wave and hydro are expected to be 4/kWh or less.

For comparison, the average cost in the U.S. in 2007 of conventional power generation and transmission was about 7/kWh, and it is projected to be 8/kWh in 2020. Power from wind turbines, for example, already costs about the same or less than it does from a new coal or natural gas plant, and in the future wind power is expected to be the least costly of all options.

Solar power is relatively expensive now but should be competitive as early as 2020. A careful analysis by Vasilis Fthenakis of Brookhaven National Laboratory indicates that within 10 years, photovoltaic system costs could drop to about 10/kWh, including long-distance transmission and the cost of compressed-air storage of power for use at night. The same analysis estimates that concentrated solar power systems with enough thermal storage to generate electricity 24 hours a day in spring, summer and fall could deliver electricity at 10/kWh or less.

When the so-called externality costs (the monetary value of damages to human health, the environment and climate) of fossil-fuel generation are taken into account, these technologies become even more cost-competitive.

Overall construction cost for a Wind Water Solar system might be on the order of $100 trillion worldwide, over 20 years, not including transmission. But this is not money handed out by governments or consumers. It is investment that is paid back through the sale of electricity and energy. And again, relying on traditional sources would raise output from 12.5 to 16.9 TW, requiring thousands more of those plants, costing roughly $10 trillion, not to mention tens of trillions of dollars more in health, environmental and security costs. The WWS plan gives the world a new, clean, efficient energy system rather than an old, dirty, inefficient one.

Scientific American says that taxing fossil fuels or their use to reflect and mitigate their environmental costs would be good idea.

But even at a minimum eliminating existing subsidies and tax breaks for fossil fuel exploration and extraction would create a more even playing field for renewables.

Scientific American says that misguided alternatives like bio fuels need to be eliminated as well. This would mean removing the large subsidies these alternatives attract.

Scientific American says that, legislators crafting policy must find ways to resist lobbying by the entrenched energy industries. The obstacles are primarily political, not technical.

With sensible policies, nations could set a goal of generating 25 percent of their new energy supply with WWS sources in 10 to 15 years and almost 100 percent of new supply in 20 to 30 years. With extremely aggressive policies, all existing fossil-fuel capacity could theoretically be retired and replaced in the same period.

Society has achieved massive transformations before. During World War II, the U.S. retooled automobile factories to produce 300,000 aircraft, and other countries produced 486,000 more.

112 comments on “A real plan to save the world does exist”

  1. weka 1

    Who wrote this post?

    [lprent: It is a guest post. They get sent through the contribute or direct to our e-mail. They can put their name on it, a pseudonym, or no name at all. If they are reasonably written, don’t look too weird, and we have a slot in the queue – they will get run anywhere between immediately through to a week or so later. But what we don’t do is to disclose any more information than the author tells us to do in accordance with our privacy policy. Argue on what is written. ]

    • Jenny 1.1

      Kia ora Weka. I sent in this post, most of the writing is straight from Scientific American. Despite Lynne’s distaste for dumping huge amounts of text into a post I thought this was such an important contribution that he would let me get away with it this time.

      • lprent 1.1.1

        Actually posts run on different obvious rules to comments. Mostly because they are checked for relevance by editors before they dropped into the schedule whereas comments get a post publish scan – so we are harsher (otherwise the site would fill up with everyone’s press releases – just like the newspapers).

        I didn’t put this one up, but I did push it through to thestandard e-mail. But I would have put it up if I’d had time.

      • weka 1.1.2

        Ka pai Jenny, thanks for letting me know 🙂

  2. Colonial Viper 2

    A feasible plan to power 100 percent of the planet with complete renewables exists.

    EXCLUDING transport fuels I’m afraid. That’s a rather big exclusion.

    Today’s A380s and 747’s rolling off the production lines will not be using hydropower or solar to fly in 2030.

    Still, 100% electricity is achievable and we must aim for it.

    • Rob A 2.1

      Thats right we must aim for it.

      Roughly 2/3rds of the worlds electricity comes from fossil fuels so this plan would make a huge saving.

    • Deadly_NZ 2.2

      And even if there is such an animal as cheap, sustainable, and clean energy. Then this is as far as it will get, because the greedies in charge of the dirty, unsustainable, expensive energy have a vested interest to kill any such technology dead. And to bury it forever. either by A: buying the patents, or B: hey people disappear every day. Such is life.

    • Jenny 2.3

      EXCLUDING transport fuels I’m afraid. That’s a rather big exclusion.

      Colonial Viper

      Colonial Viper, nowhere in this plan is there an exclusion of transport fuels.

      I know people don’t follow links, but in this case it pays to read the source material.

      Here it is again.

      Scientific American: A path to sustainable energy

      As you will see if you read the link to Scientific American, the above plan does include transport fuels in the total sum of energy that the Scientific American authors claim can be covered by Wind Water Solar and is fully inclusive of energy for transport. (Hard to believe I know).

      In our plan, WWS will supply electric power for heating and transportation—industries that will have to revamp if the world has any hope of slowing climate change. We have assumed that most fossil-fuel heating (as well as ovens and stoves) can be replaced by electric systems and that most fossil-fuel transportation can be replaced by battery and fuel-cell vehicles. Hydrogen, produced by using WWS electricity to split water (electrolysis), would power fuel cells and be burned in airplanes and by industry.

      Scientific American

      However CV this was an easy mistake to make as I left this part out of my abridged version of the Scientific American plan. I deliberately did this because even though the authors claim that transport (in it’s current form I presume) can be covered by their plan. I disagree that this should be done.

      In my opinion the savings in CO2 emissions would be much greater, and the time window in which they could achieved, would be much smaller if transportation was switched from private vehicles to public transport.

      But in all this, I did not want to argue about the details of this plan, I am not a scientist and neither are most or our readers.

      Coming from a reputable Main Stream scientific journal I take it on trust that this is a feasible plan and that all the facts and figures put up by Scientific American are true and accurate and scientifically verifiable.

      The most important fact I took from this Scientific American article was their conclusion that the hindrance’s for implementing this plan, (or any other), are not technical or financial but political.

      This is where we as members of civil society can come in.

      What can we do?

      What should we do?

      If we accept, as I do that business as usual is not an option.

      If we accept as I do and Scientific American does, that we can avert the catastrophe if we take action.

      Then one thing we can do is set an example for the world.

      For instance:-

      We know that coal is the single biggest cause of CO2 pollution, so instead of talking about opening up Pike River we should be planning to wind down the coal industry. This is one concrete step we could take.

      If there is just one thing we could do to tell the world this is a serious problem and needs serious action this would be it.

      If the Greens and/or Labour are serious and are convinced of the dangers of climate change they should immediately announce as an election plank that on returning to office all coal exports will be halted.

      The message to the world being that the atmosphere knows no borders and it doesn’t matter if it is burnt here or overseas.

      This would be an immediate and urgent first step.

      If there is no political will for such a move then we must create one.

  3. weka 3

    Not sure how seriously we can take something that doesn’t take into account Peak Oil and Peak Everything.
     
    Besides, I don’t see how replacing oil with so called ‘renewables’ is a good thing. Won’t this just allow humans to keep on overpopulating, killing each other and a myriad of other life forms, and destroying the planet in lots of other ways other than climate change? This isn’t about saving the world, it’s about saving capitalism and the Western ideology of lifestyle.

    • Lanthanide 3.1

      Yip. As noted by CV this doesn’t seem to take into account transport fuels at all. For which biofuels are the only feasible solution.

      I also question why they consider nuclear to ultimately not be sustainable, but don’t have any qualms with photovoltaic cells? They use lots of rare earth elements (like lanthanides…) in their production, which are limited in supply and expensive, and compete with flat screen TV, cell phones and lots of other high-tech gadgets. So while it might be feasible to create enough acreage to provide the power required, is it actually possibly to build those cells in the required time frame at a realistic price? Probably not.

      I’ve also seen plans to fully power Europe by putting up solar power stations in northern Africa and using high voltage lines across the Mediterranean. Yet this article (haven’t read it, just the summary above) seems to only be talking about roof-top solar.

      • Colonial Viper 3.1.1

        For which biofuels are the only feasible solution.

        Mass agriculture as done today is impossible without liquid fuels. No tractors, no fertilisers, no crop dusting, no refrigerated road transport.

        So my question is – where is the biomass for millions of barrels of biofuel per day going to come from?

        My conclusion: biofuels is not a feasible solution.

        • Jeremy Harris 3.1.1.1

          So my question is – where is the biomass for millions of barrels of biofuel per day going to come from?

          Jatropha (sp?) is the best bet.

        • Lanthanide 3.1.1.2

          I say biofuels are the only feasible solution because 98% of the the existing worldwide car fleet is designed to run on liquid fuels, or a small proportion of them on CNG and other ‘exotic’ gas fuels.

          Converting the entire fleet to electric within 10-20 years isn’t going to happen. Even if it was converted, that would just make the electricity grid the weak point.

          There is a lot of varied progress being made on different biofuels. Particularly deriving fuel from existing waste streams doesn’t take up existing arable land. Also new crops that grow fast on marginal land needn’t divert land from food production. Hemp is particularly fast growing and produces a lot of fibre (just need the right type of bacteria to process it) but is banned in a lot of countries due to marijuana hysteria. There was also an article someone linked to here a few weeks ago about a new commercial plant in Oz creating a drop-in replacement for jet fuel. If the production volumes they forecast can be met, it will make a very big dent in jet fuel demand – although I don’t know what the EROEI is, which seems to be what you’re primarily concerned about.

          There’s also huge amounts of wasted food in the western world, particularly in the US. It’s wasted because it’s cheap – food left to rot in the fields due to oversupply, food wasted during processing because it’s not the highest quality, food left in supermarkets or stores that wasn’t bought (think baked goods especially), food left in the back of the fridge, food left on the plate. Raising food prices to reduce waste will be painful, but possible.

          Also note that judging everything by a strict EROEI basis is foolhardy. While it works as a very good guide to whether something will work in general, in absolute terms EROEI doesn’t matter if you’re converting a less-useful energy source into a more useful one, even if you lose total energy in the process. For a broad example purely to illustrate the concept with completely made up numbers, using a geothermal plant to generate crude oil from tar sands or oil shale – you might put in 5 times more geothermal energy than you get back from the crude, but the crude oil portable and can be used to drive cars and trucks while the source geothermal energy couldn’t. On strict EROEI you’re getting 0.2, but actually it doesn’t matter because the original geothermal energy would simply have been wasted anyway.

          • Draco T Bastard 3.1.1.2.1

            On strict EROEI you’re getting 0.2, but actually it doesn’t matter because the original geothermal energy would simply have been wasted anyway.

            You’d be better off just producing electricity and then feeding into the grid to power trains, trucks and buses.

            Real economics, rather than fanciful fluff, where you do more with less resource use.

            • Lanthanide 3.1.1.2.1.1

              In the broad example I gave, the specific geothermal energy source is completely useless for any other purpose. There are no trains, trucks or buses nearby that can benefit from the geothermal energy.

              It is an example of how an EROEI below 1 can still be economic – because you’re taking something that has absolutely no other use and making use of it.

      • Jenny 3.1.2

        Yes it looks like Lanthanides have a big future. However L. all joiking aside, it would pay to read the link. Roof top solar is only one part of the plan for solar, the other is a number of large scale solar power stations.

        The details are important, but more important is creating the will among our political leaders to take this issue seriously.

  4. mango 4

    When they talk about “biofuels” I hope they are only refering to first generation technologies. I agee totaly about the unsutainability of corn & grain to ethanol but it annoys me when technologies that haven’t even been fully developed yet get tarred with the same brush.

    • Lanthanide 4.1

      Yes, the 2nd and especially 3rd generation biofuels that have been predicted are a lot more reasonable as energy stores/sources. The problem is whether these goals can be met, when, and on what scale.

      • Rusty Shackleford 4.1.1

        Why favor one energy source? Why not make all forms tax free? After all, behind each unit of output is a unit of energy.

        • Lanthanide 4.1.1.1

          Because some forms of energy are very bad for the environment, duh.

          First it was whale oil. Then coal. Now oil.

          • Rusty Shackleford 4.1.1.1.1

            Picking winners is a dangerous game.

            • Colonial Viper 4.1.1.1.1.1

              Energy decisions have to be made ten to twenty years in advance. The private sector won’t do that, it will always follow government lead.

            • KJT 4.1.1.1.1.2

              Having no strategy for a country is even more dangerous.

              The same people who would sack a business manager for having no plan are happy to elect a Government that has no plan, apart from burgling the country.

            • Lanthanide 4.1.1.1.1.3

              Yes, it’s sad that all of the tax concessions have gone towards coal, oil and nuclear and not wind, solar and geothermal.

            • Draco T Bastard 4.1.1.1.1.4

              I’d prefer to pick winners rather than leave it to the uninformed free-market. Doing that is what’s got us to where we are today:

              Anthropogenic Climate Change
              Over population
              Peak Oil
              Declining fresh, unpolluted fresh water
              Massive over-use of resources (read massive inefficiencies) as the profit drive pushes consumption and unnecessary replacement
              Resource wars (Iraq, Afghanistan)

              And far far more that’s wrong with the world.

              • Rusty Shackleford

                They aren’t free market problems, they are ill defined property rights problems.

                • weka

                  Yeah, people go to war, or dump lead filled TVs in watersheds that provide food because no-one told them where the boundaries are.

                  • Rusty Shackleford

                    People rarely go to war. Govts do.

                    If someone dumps on your land, you simply take them to court and sue for reparations. That is common law dating way back. Which is why most illegal dumping happens on public land. The govt doesn’t have the resources to administer all that land.

                    • weka

                      “People rarely go to war. Govts do.”
                      So? You still seem to think it’s about poorly defined property rights.
                       

                      If someone dumps on your land, you simply take them to court and sue for reparations. That is common law dating way back. Which is why most illegal dumping happens on public land. The govt doesn’t have the resources to administer all that land.
                       

                      Like Bill, I’m trying to figure out if you are trolling or haven’t thought things through. How do you sue someone who dumps in the middle of the night and you don’t know who they are? Besides which, most of the dumping is completely legal. Where do you think all those old TVs are going?

                    • Rusty Shackleford

                      Well, yes. War is basically govts transgressing property rights, by definition.

                      How do you prosecute any crime?

                      As for dumping? Who makes it legal? If someone damages you or your property, they should be expected to pay restitution.

                    • weka

                      “Well, yes. War is basically govts transgressing property rights, by definition.”
                       
                      Yes, but your earlier point was that war is a result of “ill defined property rights”. I’m saying that is idiotic. You think anyone is going to care about well defined property rights once oil, water and food gets scarce for the first world?
                       
                       

                    • KJT

                      How do you go to court. No taxes= no Government=no court.

                    • Rusty Shackleford

                      Private courts.

                • Draco T Bastard

                  They aren’t free market problems, they are ill defined property rights problems.

                  No, they’re exactly what I said they were – the result of an uninformed free-market. We didn’t actually know for most of the time that we were burning fossil fuels that it would change the climate possibly bringing about an Extinction Level Event. If we’d known this before we started burning them as fast as we could suck them out of the ground do you think we would have done so?

                  But, of course, even if we had known we would have had to have government regulation to minimise the use of fossil fuels because there would always be some people who would decide that the science was BS and burn them anyway and when that happened others would follow because they wouldn’t be able to compete otherwise.

                  To make a profit requires that the market expand (more population), that product is used up ASAP (consumerism) and all of that requires that more and more resources are pulled out of the environment and an ever increasing pace.

                  No, the problems I listed are a direct result of the capitalist free-market.

            • Jenny 4.1.1.1.1.5

              Doing nothing must become to be seen as the most dangerous game of all.

        • Colonial Viper 4.1.1.2

          After all, behind each unit of output is a unit of energy.

          Takes ten to twenty units of energy to produce one unit of economic output. (Most of the energy applied is dispersed as low quality heat).

          • Jenny 4.1.1.2.1

            Takes ten to twenty units of energy to produce one unit of economic output. (Most of the energy applied is dispersed as low quality heat).

            Colonial Viper

            One of the details addressed in the plan by Scientific American. Fossil fuels are wasteful by nature, by dispensing with them energy use goes down, even on the same output. So overall inputs are less.

  5. Bill 5

    There’s an even simpler plan.

    Stop doing the shit we are doing.

    How much energy is used on pointless nonsense such as the production and distribution of ‘crap’? How much energy is used getting workers to those various points of production and how much is used in the logistical support of them…the support and service industries that spring up around those nodes of production?

    How much energy is wasted by the protection of economic and political power that accompanies centralised energy infrastructures?

    How much energy is wasted through the perpetuation of isolated and competitive nuclear family units that wastfully duplicate each others resource use and energy consumption?

    How much energy is wasted in maintaining remote agricultural and production facilities that are necessary only because of the nuclear family/ market interface?

    Etc, etc, etc.

    • Bored 5.1

      Well said Bill, we could save more than ahlf the energy we use if we used it judiciously and smartly. The issue around this is that we have to stop acting as “consumers” and become “conservators”, which kills off our current economic model.

      • Bill 5.1.1

        …we could save more than ahlf the energy we use…”

        Way more than half.

        Consider half a dozen households and the consequences of them materially ‘merging’.

        Instead of six hot water systems keeping themselves up to temperature, we have one.

        Instead of six kitchens consuming electricity/gas or whatever, we have one.

        Instead of six laundries, we have one.

        Instead of (say) twelve rooms being maintained at given temperatures through the utilisation of six different domestic energy systems, we have (say) three.

        Instead of twelve flatscreen TV’s or whatever other household appliances, we have two or three.

        And if those six households develop a communal business model to generate income, then we might have zero cars driving miles to a place of work if the workplace is developed as an integral component within the domestic location.

        And from the income generated, it would perhaps be more economically viable to install autonomous power generation that services the much reduced agregate power demands of the six houses than would be the case where we all stand alone as now.

        Then, given the freeing up of peoples’ time, instead of six households going off to the supermarket or wherever, we have one trip that need buy much less than the six seperate trips given that free time could be utilised to produce a proportion of food etc.

        And so on.

        • Colonial Viper 5.1.1.1

          Such communal residences with lower living expenses would free up residents’ capital and income allowing them to own and participate in co-op enterprises 🙂

          • Bill 5.1.1.1.1

            The way I look at it, capital and income would only be freed up in the initial stages, but that would supply the necessary investment to establish such situations.

            Thereafter, income would drop because people wouldn’t need the individual income levels needed at present and ‘free’ (ie non income generating) time could/would be spent on (perhaps) more personally rewarding or communally beneficial activities. (Building and infrastructure maintenance, child care, production and preparation of food….or whatever)

            The final analysis might reveal people living lives as active citizens rather than as passive consumers.

          • Rusty Shackleford 5.1.1.1.2

            If you guys want to do this, why don’t you?

            • Colonial Viper 5.1.1.1.2.1

              I reckon it’s happening already, albeit in much less sign posted ways.

              Working adults staying with their parents until they are 30 years old or beyond is an example of this.

              In other higher population density countries, its also not unusual to have two (or even three) generations of workers staying in the same home, complete with spouses and kids, all sharing the same heating, fridge, washing machine and television.

              Now currently, these communal living arrangements are driven by family ties. That might extend in the future.

            • Bill 5.1.1.1.2.2

              Have done. Not doing now. Am in the initial stages of laying the groundwork to do again.

              It’s not an easy option btw. There are major cultural and psychological obstacles lying between a life that is driven by individually targeted market rewards (the tokens of money, prestige, power etc) and one that is predicated on substantive social and individual well being.

              Individuals have put years of effort and energy into securing their present situation. Even where the present situation isn’t that flash, the belief persists that things can get better.

              Then there is the misconstrued notion that a communal focus would necessitate the loss of individual freedoms.

              The’ bogey man’ scenarios of religious cults or cults of personality are fairly well to the fore of peoples’ minds when communal ideas are put forward. Then there are the unfortunate examples, routinely regurgitated by the media, whereby self indulgent hippies set up communes in the hope that everything would naturally fall into place. What resulted was usually ‘noble immiseration’ and a pathetic shallow parody of the very social dynamics they claimed to be offering an alternative to.

  6. ECOGIRL 6

    And where does Geothermal fit in?
    We are experts in this field and should be assisting others to develop this in their back yards, if they have the raw materials.
    Japan being a prime example as they have a lot of geothermal activity
    We should then be forever clipping the ticket for the use of our technology, experience and clever brains.

    • Lanthanide 6.1

      Yeah, seems like a huge waste. The government should have been pushing geothermal in the 80’s and 90’s with tax subsidies and grants etc. Probably would have ended up with cheaper power, too.

    • Luxated 6.2

      Geothermal definitely has a place but unlike wind, water and solar it is highly localised. New Zealand, Australia (hot dry rock, needs fracking normally), the west coast of Americas, Iceland and some parts of the Mediterranean all have good resources but heavily populated areas like China, India the eastern USA and Western Europe have very little in the way of geothermal.

      I’ve left Japan off because I’m honestly not sure. They certainly have some hotspots there but there are other factors to consider. How deep the resource is, whether it is in ecologically sensitive area, under a city or just if you can find enough flat land to build the power plant on. There is almost certainly a lot more geothermal energy which Japan could use but I’m not convinced that it would necessarily be a significant part of their future power supply.

  7. Colonial Viper 7

    Speaking of hundreds of tonnes of non-renewable, non-replaceable resources being uselessly scrapped

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/5269009/Toxic-crisis-predicted-with-digital-TV-move

  8. randal 8

    there is no plan. humanity is just going to stagger on while all the plutocrats grab everything and then it will implode. hopefully after I die.

    • Rusty Shackleford 8.1

      Thankfully, there is no plan (especially considering the drongos we seem intent on democratically electing year on year). Living standards will probably continue to increase year on year and people will probably be complaining about the same stuff long after I die.

      • Colonial Viper 8.1.1

        Living standards will probably continue to increase year on year

        A higher living standard year on year, for each of tens of millions of new people year on year? Not sure how this dream can be accomplished.

        US wages have been static since the 1970’s, US debt is now at massive higher than Great Depression levels, reductions in govt spending is spiking unemployment higher and peak oil occurred at least five years ago (in the future, increased living standards will have to involved fewer kilometres travelled in fewer cars).

        The dream of ever increasing higher living standards has become a nightmare of personal debt, fraudulent foreclosures and long term unemployment.

        • Rusty Shackleford 8.1.1.1

          The capitalist system pulled the western world, and much of the eastern, out of dire poverty last century. It will do the same for the developing world if it is allowed to.

          “reductions in govt spending is spiking unemployment higher”
          The US isn’t cutting govt spending.

          “peak oil occurred at least five years ago”
          Production doesn’t seem to be declining.

          “The dream of ever increasing higher living standards has become a nightmare of personal debt, fraudulent foreclosures and long term unemployment.”
          You forgot inflation and warfare.

          • Colonial Viper 8.1.1.1.1

            The capitalist system pulled the western world, and much of the eastern, out of dire poverty last century. It will do the same for the developing world if it is allowed to.

            The world economy has to grow by around 50x to bring everyone to a near-western standard of living.

            The US isn’t cutting govt spending.

            It is at both the State and Federal level; and it is likely that the Republicans will win in their demands for another $4T of federal spending cuts.

            Please don’t waste my time Rusty. You know that Obama has been deadlocked with Republicans over the last month on these issues.

            (Oil) Production doesn’t seem to be declining.

            Sure, have it your way 🙂

            (In 2-3 years time it will be self evident to even the most casual observer, especially when you focus on trends in oil production available for export).

            • Rusty Shackleford 8.1.1.1.1.1

              “It is at both the State and Federal level; and it is likely that the Republicans will win in their demands for another $4T of federal spending cuts.”
              I genuinely forgot about this. The first round of cuts amounted to something hilariously small. Like 3 billion, or something. $4T will probably only take them back to Bush levels (or some such).

              “In 2-3 years time it will be self evident to even the most casual observer, especially when you focus on trends in oil production available for export.”
              How much are you willing to bet? Considering people have been saying this since about 1973, I like my odds.

              • Colonial Viper

                How much are you willing to bet?

                OK clear declining trend in total oil available for export visible by the end of 2014, viewed from a 10 year time period centred on that date (i.e. 2009-2019).

                I’ll bet you $500.

                Considering people have been saying this since about 1973, I like my odds.

                It was true for the US in 1973, and it has stayed true for the US since then.

                • Rusty Shackleford

                  Yea, OK. I will donate $500 to the charity of your choice.

                  The charity of my choice is the Mises Institute. I wanted to make it the Koch Foundation but they appear to be too rich to bother with small donations (not that I have any particular affinity with the Koch’s just that they seem to be particularly reviled by the left at the moment). I reserve the right to change it to the National Party at my discretion.

                  • Colonial Viper

                    Would prefer a NZ registered charity mate.

                    The fact that you would select a Koch Family Foundation – essentially charitable fronts for think tanks and activist groups pushing for the disadvantage of 98% of Americans – is telling.

              • Lanthanide

                “Considering people have been saying this since about 1973, I like my odds.”

                “People”, maybe. But the IEA in their annual report last year said that it appears conventional crude oil production peaked in 2005 or 2006. That’s the international energy agency, the group set up by the UN to monitor this stuff, that is, The Experts.

                • Draco T Bastard

                  Yeah, the “experts” who kept saying that oil would peak around 2030 – until last year when they realised that it had already peaked.

                  • Lanthanide

                    Yeah, I’m not trying to hold the IEA up as the paragon of information or anything.

                    But the fact that they were in the denial camp for so long only underscores the point.

          • Bill 8.1.1.1.2

            “The capitalist system pulled the western world, and much of the eastern, out of dire poverty last century.”

            That’s ardent bloody nonsense Rusty. Poverty is by far the main product of capitalism. I’m guessing you might be confusing the proliferation of purchasable materials or new technologies with measures of poverty and concluding that because there is more stuff and technology, there must be less poverty?

            Poverty can only ever be measured in relative terms. And capitalism exacerbates the differential between those who have and those who have not. ie inherent to capitalism is the creation and spread of poverty. (The big lie would have us hold that the opposite is true. But a moment of reflection on the situation of the majority of the humanity should put that lie to rest. Some got ‘better off’. But always at the expense of a far greater number of others.)

            • Rusty Shackleford 8.1.1.1.2.1

              How else do you measure prosperity? My life is better now (all things being equal) if I was born today than at any other time in history.

              “But a moment of reflection on the situation of the majority of the humanity should put that lie to rest.”
              The poorest people in the world basically live the same way they did 300 years ago. However more and more people are improving their standard of living. ie. they can afford the stuff that makes life better; fridges, phones, cars etc. That I live a relatively prosperous life does not mean there is another person made equally worse off.

              • Colonial Viper

                That I live a relatively prosperous life does not mean there is another person made equally worse off.

                Yes it does – where do you think the oil and ores you depend on come from? You use it, no one else can access it.

                The poorest people in the world basically live the same way they did 300 years ago.

                Yep. We tolerate hungry children in our own country even as the PM tucks into a multi-thousand dollar Michelin banquet.

                Of course you may shrug your shoulders and say “that child is still better off now than in the 1930’s or the 1830’s”, but to others, it’s a wholly acceptable state of affairs.

                • Rusty Shackleford

                  “Yes it does – where do you think the oil and ores you depend on come from? You use it, no one else can access it.”
                  So, I don’t get the ore and oil. I’m measurably worse off. How does that make the other person better off?

                  “Yep. We tolerate hungry children in our own country even as the PM tucks into a multi-thousand dollar Michelin banquet.”
                  We have a giant redistributive welfare apparatus. Why is it failing those kids?

                  • weka

                    We have a giant redistributive welfare apparatus. Why is it failing those kids?
                     

                    Because capitalism needs poor people to do the shit work. And apparently now it also needs a certain level of unemployment.
                     
                    The welfare system is hardly redistributive. Benefit rates are deliberately set at a level that ensures poverty.

                    • Rusty Shackleford

                      If it were really the case that the free market needed low level workers, why are firms so keen to robotize so much of their production?

                    • weka

                      If it were really the case that the free market needed low level workers, why are firms so keen to robotize so much of their production?
                       

                      Because robots are cheaper than cheap labour? And having the cheapest possible labour alongside the unemployment created is preferable to making sure that people have jobs that provide a livable wage, because profit is far more important than those people.

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    How does that make the other person better off?

                    Because they would still have it and use it to their own benefit you moron.

                    And don’t tell me that they got paid because, more often than not, they didn’t. Their oil was taken, their land poisoned and they got shafted and sometimes killed.

              • Bill

                I dunno whether you’re trolling or just not very thoughtful.

                300 years ago there were highly developed centers of population (cities) throughout areas of Africa. Then came colonialism, slavery and the ‘civilising’ of the natives.

                300 years ago the cultural and technological level of development in the main population centers of the likes of modern day Bangladesh were on a par with or surpassed those of London at the time. Now-a-days Dacca is one of the world’s most impoverished cities.

                300 years ago, Indian industrial innovation was more advanced than in Britain. (eg ship building, cotton manufacturing etc) The British elites got their hands on it all through the violence of colonialism

                And if the outward expressions of wealth are important then by your logic, Egyptians of 3000 years ago lived a far more prosperous life than Egyptians of today.

                And so on.

                • Rusty Shackleford

                  Was that technology and civilization available to all members of society?

                  Pyramids aren’t wealth. Well not for the average person anyway. Funny, Keynes loved pyramids.

                  • Bill

                    Is the technology and wealth in the US, Europe, Asia or the Pacific available to all members of US, European, Asian or Pacific societies? Is global wealth and the privileges that accompany it able to be accessed by the global population?

                    Ostentatious skyscrapers in downtown Manhatten and companies worth hundreds of billions aren’t wealth. Well not for the average person anyway…

                    Now fuck off and stop trolling. Thankyou.

                    • Rusty Shackleford

                      More so than the feudalistic societies you described previously.

                      Many of the sky scrapers (or the businesses that populate them) in NY are almost entirely worthless to society and the economy as a whole. They got that way by pulling the crank of govt power.

    • Jenny 8.2

      Another good excuse for doing nothing.

  9. marsman 9

    Have often wondered whether a small, VERY efficient wind turbine on every rooftop plus perhaps some VERY efficient solar panels would be enough to provide all our domestic electricity needs. Even a series of solar panels along our rail system?

    • Rusty Shackleford 9.1

      Why don’t you go and get some quotes for your own house?

    • Lanthanide 9.2

      Wind turbines by their very nature are more efficient (in terms of power/cost) the larger they are. What you’re suggesting doesn’t make sense, unless we discover new fundamental physical laws or clever designs no one thought of yet.

        • Colonial Viper 9.2.1.1

          Some think that you have to go to vertical axis systems for micro wind generation, but they are not clearly proven yet either.

          • marsman 9.2.1.1.1

            Vertical was my thought too… I have no scientific knowledge in this area but am very interested to read other people’s comments here. Thank you.

            • Drakula 9.2.1.1.1.1

              Marsman; I think that you are on the right track each house having it’s own wind turbine and solar panels is a very good idea and I have read articles of houses doing this and even selling power to the grid.

              As for wind turbines, the idea is not new the famous Norwegian explorer Amunsden had a solar wind mill that kept them going through an artic winter.

              The technology has been round for some time, and there is huge improvements so why can’t we buy these commodities at reasonable prices? And why is there so little political will to allow consumers to convert into producers?

              The capitalists argue that if alternative power production is large scale it can be cost effective, yes, but what we have to ask ourselves is; cost effective for who?

              The consumers or the shareholders? Is it about empowering the consumers by giving them/us a choice or is it about creating a depenency on the power producing corporate monopolies?

      • weka 9.2.2

        Wind turbines by their very nature are more efficient (in terms of power/cost) the larger they are.
         

        How does that compare to the energy loss of transporting power over long distances?

        • Lanthanide 9.2.2.1

          Small turbines compare very very poorly.

          That’s why we have large wind turbine farms on windy places with cables transporting the power over long distances.

          If small turbines closer to home were more efficient, that’s what we’d have. They aren’t, therefore we don’t.

          http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=can-north-africa-light-europe-solar-power

          “Africa is one of the best places in the world for concentrated solar power (CSP), largely because of vast tracts of unused land that are in close proximity to road networks and transmission grids. With solar resources in North Africa about 20 to 30 percent higher than in Europe, according to supporters, the difference more than makes up for the added transportation costs to get the electricity to Europe.”

          http://www.desertec.org/

          • weka 9.2.2.1.1

            If small turbines closer to home were more efficient, that’s what we’d have. They aren’t, therefore we don’t.
             

            There’s a difference between energy efficiency and what happens within a caplitalist economy.
             
            You still didn’t answer the question: does comparison of small wind vs big wind look at power loss over long distances?
             
            I think we’re also confusing turbine size with farm size.

            • Lanthanide 9.2.2.1.1.1

              “There’s a difference between energy efficiency and what happens within a caplitalist economy.”

              That’s true, energy efficiency is not the same as economic efficiency. But they go closely hand in hand for the most part. If something is really energy efficient but completely uneconomic, then it probably isn’t going to happen and so isn’t really worth considering, especially on a large scale (see: toroidal fusion).

              “You still didn’t answer the question: does comparison of small wind vs big wind look at power loss over long distances?”

              Yes. I gave an example with the Desertec stuff – the huge high voltage cables going from northern Africa to Europe still have low enough loss to make building solar in Africa economically feasible.

              Specifically for wind energy, you simply have to look at what the market is doing. The market doesn’t build small turbines because big turbines with transport works out better in the long run.

              • weka

                That’s true, energy efficiency is not the same as economic efficiency. But they go closely hand in hand for the most part. If something is really energy efficient but completely uneconomic, then it probably isn’t going to happen and so isn’t really worth considering, especially on a large scale (see: toroidal fusion).
                 

                But we know that passive solar is incredibly efficient and well within the realms of financial constraints. Power companies can’t make money out of it though, so who is going to promote it? Architects? The building industry? Why would they bother? If we wait for market reasons to sort our shit out we may as well give up now.

                • Lanthanide

                  “Power companies can’t make money out of it though, so who is going to promote it? Architects? The building industry? Why would they bother? If we wait for market reasons to sort our shit out we may as well give up now.”

                  If you want to build a passive house, there are companies that will do it for you.

                  • weka

                    Of course. But if we want NZ to find a useful way of managing the impending energy crisis, waiting until everyone ‘wants’ to build a passive house isn’t going to work.

        • Colonial Viper 9.2.2.2

          Future electricty production needs to be at a far more localised level. Town by town or neighbourhood by neighbourhood.

    • weka 9.3

      We can do even better than that Mars. If every new house in NZ was built using passive solar for heating and lighting, solar hot water and judicious use of solar panels, along side using less and wasting less power, we’d solve the problem for this generation and probably the next. Existing houses could be retrofitted to an extent.
       
      The issue isn’t political will. It’s that the general public don’t realise how bad the situation is and are still happy to work to spend as a way of living.

      • Lanthanide 9.3.1

        “we’d solve the problem for this generation and probably the next.”

        We’d only solve it for anyone lucky enough to live in one of the new houses. These houses would have a considerable markup per square metre compared to regular inefficient houses.

        “Existing houses could be retrofitted to an extent.”

        Not really. Solar hot water is too expensive unless you’re doing a new build, and that’s a big part of many of these systems. To really get decent levels of energy efficiency I think you’d be looking at costs of upwards of $50k per house, and some houses simply won’t be possible to retrofit at all (not north-facing or obscured by other buildings/trees/land).

        We should of course take the CHCH rebuild as an opportunity to make a big difference, though. But we won’t.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passive_house

        • weka 9.3.1.1

          We’d only solve it for anyone lucky enough to live in one of the new houses. These houses would have a considerable markup per square metre compared to regular inefficient houses.
           

          The easy solution there is to build smaller houses (we don’t need the size houses we are building currently). If passive solar were the standard, the costs would come down. Likewise any solar tech.
           

          Solar hot water is too expensive unless you’re doing a new build, and that’s a big part of many of these systems. To really get decent levels of energy efficiency I think you’d be looking at costs of upwards of $50k per house, and some houses simply won’t be possible to retrofit at all (not north-facing or obscured by other buildings/trees/land).
           

          Only if you think of housing and energy crises as individual responsibilities. And you seem to be not taking into account the need to stop using so much power in the first place. Many handy people could build and fit back up solar hot water themselves, it’s not that hard.
           
          I agree there are geographical issues.
           
          I suspect you’re also thinking from a limited palette. Retrofitting includes things like building glass conservatories on north sides of houses that have sun. These are not high tech, expensive solutions.
           
           

  10. Rusty Shackleford 10

    This article has zero footnotes. Also the link is broken.

    [lprent: Fixed the link. Got transcribed from the e-mail incorrectly. ]

  11. freedom 11

    The controlled supply of electricity is crucial to the operation of an oppressive authority over a populace. If free people had access to low cost reliable independant electricity production the lies that fuel the fires of fascism would begin to be questioned. Production of electricity is a large generator of commerce but this is merely an attractive aside for the actors in the farce we call Democracy. The goal of controlling electricity is to restrict freedom. The reliance upon the electricity grid infrastructure is intergrated into the very fabric of society. This is a tool of oppression against the free advance of human development but also an efficient defense against the human ability to turn technology into a weapon.

    When Tesla, amongst others, developed free energy technologies the powers that be had little choice but to close it down. The idea that people could receive free electricity scared the living nightmares out of them. When it became clear how the forces of nature could be manipulated to destroy itself it was a no-brainer that the science was distorted edited and forgotten. A few trinkets were allowed to remain because erasing Tesla only generates more problems. Instead of celebrating the success of the endeavour, they discredit the achievements of the technology and misinform the public as to its viability.

    The need for petroleum is only another arm of this misanthropic scheme. The illegal and concerted efforts to destroy the technology of electric cars and other low-cost, zero-harm forms of transportation are so well recorded it is now simply accepted that suppression is the norm of these industries.

    There are solar technologies which can and do replace the need for any external infrastructure of electrical services regardless of the environment they function in. The contemporary military applications of solar technology clearly show the disparity between authoritarian use and the publicly restrictive applications of these same devices. There exist today solar films that work atop any roofing materials producing a stable and continuous supply of electricity more than suitable for modern domestic needs.

    the only question is why you are not allowed to use them

    • Drakula 11.1

      Brillient Freedom, you are asking exactly the same questions as I am.

      There is also a voltaic film that can be stuck to the window that can act as double glazing as well as generate power.

      The above technocrats have completely missed the point havn’t they. It’s not all about getting 100% efficiency and being 100% dependant on a corporation, it’s about each household having a choice to purchase a device that will save them !% to 99%

      Even 1% saving is better than 0% my point and Freedoms point is that people should have a choice!!

      WHY???????????

  12. Jenny 12

    Coal Kills!

    Kill Coal!

  13. BR 13

    “When Tesla, amongst others, developed free energy technologies……….”

    Tesla developed nothing of the sort. You obviously do not understand science and physics.

    Do you also believe that people have invented cars that run on water?

    Bill.

    • freedom 13.1

      no i do not believe anyone has invented cars that run on water, but i sincerely believe people have invented engines that run on hydrogen produced through conversion of the water molecule.

    • Colonial Viper 13.2

      BR highly doubt you have studied the works of Tesla.

  14. BR 14

    “no i do not believe anyone has invented cars that run on water, but i sincerely believe people have invented engines that run on hydrogen produced through conversion of the water molecule.”

    You believe that it is possible run an internal combustion engine to which is attached an electrical generator. The electricity from this generator is then used to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, which are then used as the fuel to run the engine.

    Have I got that about right?

    Bill.

    • Colonial Viper 14.1

      Once you have the electricity why not just use that to motivate the vehicle instead of going yet an additional step of creating hydrogen?

  15. BR 15

    “BR highly doubt you have studied the works of Tesla.”

    Am I missing something here? Can you explain these “free energy technologies”?

    “Once you have the electricity why not just use that to motivate the vehicle instead of going yet an additional step of creating hydrogen?”

    I was asking whether “freedom” believed that people have invented cars that run on water; a widely held belief that is part of an equally widely perpetuated myth which says that the patents for all such vehicles have been purchased and shelved by prevailing interests, (oil companies, oil exporting countries etc.) to explain their complete absence from the marketplace.

    Bill.

    • Colonial Viper 15.1

      Am I missing something here? Can you explain these “free energy technologies”?

      Sorry I reckon I am reasonably intelligent but I am not a Tesla level genius.

      BTW diffuse energy appears available at the quantum level but AFAIK no human technology can harness and concentrate it.

  16. BR 16

    “Sorry I reckon I am reasonably intelligent but I am not a Tesla level genius.”

    You have just said that you doubt that I have studied Tesla.

    One doesn’t have to be a genius to explain the basic principles of an idea.

    It now appears that it is you who haven’t studied Tesla.

    “BTW diffuse energy appears available at the quantum level but AFAIK no human technology can harness and concentrate it.”

    So it’s not a capitalist conspiracy then.

    Bill.

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    Minister of Defence Ron Mark today announced New Zealand is sending three Royal New Zealand Air Force NH90 helicopters and crew, and two NZ Army Combat Engineer Sections as well as a command element to support the Australian Defence Force efforts in tackling the Australian fires.  The New Zealand Defence Force ...
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