The Green Fleet

Good:

On Monday, the U.S. Navy will officially announce the ships for its demonstration of the “Great Green Fleet” — an entire aircraft carrier strike group powered by biofuels and other eco-friendly energy sources. If a powerful congressional panel has its way, it could be the last time the Navy ever uses biofuels to run its ships and jets.

In its report on next year’s Pentagon budget, the House Armed Services Committee banned the Defense Department from making or buying an alternative fuel that costs more than a “traditional fossil fuel.” It’s a standard that may be almost impossible to meet, energy experts believe; there’s almost no way the tiny, experimental biofuel industry can hope to compete on price with the massive, century-old fossil fuels business.

The greens are up in arms about this but the shouldn’t be. Biofuels cost anywhere from four to ten times as much as fossil fuels. And as I keep saying, price communicates information. In this case, the information that biofuels are inefficient, dirty and environmentally unsound (read Rolling Stone’s article on ethanol here). Moreover, many of the fuels they are using — such as waste grease — are unlikely to be sustainable on a large scales.

There is one thing to complain about: the bill removes the restrictions on alternative fuels that pollute more than traditional fuels, which could open up the dirty methods like Fischer-Tropsch (which Wired, in a remarkable display of journalistic objectivity, reminds us was used by Nazi Germany and Apartheid South Africa).

But biofuels are simply not ready for prime time. This isn’t “stimulating” an industry to develop. This is corporate welfare designed to prop up dirty inefficiency fuels that can not compete with fossil fuels — let alone nuclear — in efficiency, price or environmental impact.

There are some energy efficiencies the military is finding — using solar power in Aghanistan or software that runs ships more efficiently. But this is simply playing politics and wasting money. End it.

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  1. CM

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  2. CM

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  3. Seattle Outcast

    Once again, you’re wrong, know it, yet keep trying to keep a fake argument going.

    Ever get tired of trolling?

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  4. blameme

    So, if we were to shift the dollars to even the subsidy levels….what would our ROI be? It seems to me it is much higher with fossil fuels and will be for the foreseeable future than over our poor hippy green alternatives.

    Apples to apples still has fossil fuels way ahead. Of course, feel free to create vague categories to make the “total cost” of fossil fuels skyrocket to reduce the ROI to nearly green fuel ROI levels, but the fact of the matter is, even if the cost of fossil fuels increases by many orders of magnitude, fossil fuels are still cheaper, more reliable, more accessible and more useable and will be for many generations.

    I wish it weren’t so – but it is. I would be happy to see a viable alternative to oil. It probably won’t happen in my lifetime. Even if oil costs skyrocket via cap and trade to “level the playing field,” I will still need oil for generations. Alternative fuels just aren’t ready for prime time and won’t be for some time.

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  5. CM

    Once again, you’re wrong, know it, yet keep trying to keep a fake argument going.

    WTF? Where is the ‘fake’ argument? You’re suggesting the fossil fuel industry HASN’T been subsidised for decades? What evidence are you going to use to demonstrate that?
    Why would I want to keep a ‘fake argument’ going? WTF to every part of your comment. It’s illogical and ridiculous.

    Ever get tired of trolling?

    I’m sure I would if that’s what I did.
    Do you? All you seem to do is hump my leg.

    So, if we were to shift the dollars to even the subsidy levels….what would our ROI be? It seems to me it is much higher with fossil fuels and will be for the foreseeable future than over our poor hippy green alternatives.

    ROI over what timeframe? Over a short timeframe, for sure. But only because those non-renewable industries have such a head start when it comes to subsidies.

    Apples to apples still has fossil fuels way ahead. Of course, feel free to create vague categories to make the “total cost” of fossil fuels skyrocket to reduce the ROI to nearly green fuel ROI levels,

    Again, if you want to look at this properly you need to consider ALL costs. If you want to ignore costs (because they’re just too hard) you’re not going to end up with an accurate comparison. And that’s what happens – people who purport to be supporters of the free market actually support pricing that’s distorted because it doesn’t take into account the actual costs. I.e. they’re hypocrites.
    But even if the ROI for renewable energy was lower, that doesn’t show us the whole pictures. Keep investing, and the ROI rises. Just as it did with fossil fuel subsidies.

    even if the cost of fossil fuels increases by many orders of magnitude, fossil fuels are still cheaper, more reliable, more accessible and more useable and will be for many generations.

    Depends what you’re considering, including for what purpose. You’d need to reject climate science for a start. But we all know we can’t talk about that. Which effectively means a whole side of the argument is required to be ignored. Which renders the discussion meaningless because there is always an elephant in the room to ignore.

    I wish it weren’t so – but it is. I would be happy to see a viable alternative to oil. It probably won’t happen in my lifetime. Even if oil costs skyrocket via cap and trade to “level the playing field,” I will still need oil for generations. Alternative fuels just aren’t ready for prime time and won’t be for some time.

    Cap and Trade wouldn’t be an attempt to ‘level the playing field’ it would be an attempt to introduce realistic pricing into the market. New-renewables currently have a huge market advantage because not only do they receive substantially more in the usual forms of subsidies, but they’re underpriced according to their actual cost in terms of the environment and healthcare.

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  6. Hal_10000 *

    Of course fossil fuels have enjoyed decades of substantial subsidy, both economically, environmentally, and in terms of health. That obviously has to be factored into any objective comparison.

    CM, I think you have a legitimate point. The subsidies are not nearly as much per unit energy (fossil fuel subsidies are larger, but they produce a lot more energy). But all subsidies should be deep-sixed.

    However, it should be realized that much of the fossil fuel subsidy is beyond our control. Bloomberg recently estimated it as $160 billion world-wide, much of it from oiligariches supporting state-owned oil industries. So it’s not as easy to untangle.

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  7. CM

    Thanks Hal. I agree with your points there. No matter how much people like everything to be simplistic, this is another example of a complex area.

    Emerging technologies are ALWAYS going to have a higher per unit subsidy. Surely it would have been the same for the fossil fuel industry at the relevant stage. Did people complain about that? It seems a little short sighted really.

    In general I’m not a supporter of subsidies as they distort the market (in agriculture it’s an appalling state of affairs). However in areas where there is a very clear benefit to society (not just certain sectors), I’m willing to let Govt speed up the rate of progress, so that costs come down faster, and the ‘other’ costs of fossil fuels I mentioned can be reduced at a greater rate.

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  8. Kimpost

    On top of those subsidies, we could (should?) add the cost of geopolitical power plays (sometimes war) in energy rich regions.

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  9. Mississippi Yankee

    CM, I think you have a legitimate point. The subsidies are not nearly as much per unit energy (fossil fuel subsidies are larger, but they produce a lot more energy). But all subsidies should be deep-sixed.

    If we’re (US) going to “deep-six” subsidies we should also de-regulate oil production too.
    Everything from exploration, drilling, transportation and most of all refining oil for gas and diesel.

    Just look around where-ever your you’re sitting right now and try to calculate how many items you can see that are oil based products. Imagine how great the the economic boom would be.
    It will be fuckin Utopia I tell ya!

    Oh wait, you say you believe in Cap-n-Trade? You would fine them and their customers, take away their subsidies and employ stricter regulations.

    Ya I know, “It’s for the Children” right?

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  10. CM

    C&T is a market solution to a market problem. Prices should accurately reflect costs. Subsidies distort the market, they don’t attempt to correct it.

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  11. balthazar

    Really CM, the subsidy thing again?

    I’ve pointed this out to you multiple times with links to multiple sources. Its in multiple energy threads here, go refresh your memory.

    Bottom line, YES there are subsidies for Big Oil Coal etc, they are miniscule per unit compared to the subsidies for solar wind etc. on the order of FOURTY TIMES OR MORE SMALLER PER UNIT. Are there any chickens, hell fowl at all, that you havent fucked to death?

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  12. CM

    See above, where I stated: “Emerging technologies are ALWAYS going to have a higher per unit subsidy.” So yes, I agree with your “bottom line”. So your point is?

    Are there any chickens, hell fowl at all, that you havent fucked to death?

    Are you capable of an original thought?

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  13. Seattle Outcast

    How many times does it have to be pointed out to your retarded ass that “green” energy is incapable of actually producing the energy required to run a technological society? You know why “fossil fuels”, nuclear and hydro, are used instead of solar, wave, wind, biofuel or other asinine alternatives pushed on us by ecotard socialists such as yourselves?

    1) Unrealiable; cannot produce energy on demand

    2) Energy density is too low

    3) Resource is too limited to be of practical use

    4) Energy output is less than the energy input

    These limitations aren’t something that can be overcome by research or throwing money at them – they are limitations imposed by simple physics.

    Until you actually acknowledge basic physics and reality, you will get nothing but scorn at this site.

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  14. CM

    How many times does it have to be pointed out to your retarded ass that “green” energy is incapable of actually producing the energy required to run a technological society?

    You can keep pointing it out as many times as you like. It’s beside the point, as I’ve never advocated turning off the tap on non-renewables. Again, you’re inventing arguments.

    You know why “fossil fuels”, nuclear and hydro, are used instead of solar, wave, wind, biofuel or other asinine alternatives pushed on us by ecotard socialists such as yourselves?

    1) Unrealiable; cannot produce energy on demand

    2) Energy density is too low

    3) Resource is too limited to be of practical use

    4) Energy output is less than the energy input

    These limitations aren’t something that can be overcome by research or throwing money at them – they are limitations imposed by simple physics.

    As I said above “Depends what you’re considering, including for what purpose”.
    But you continue mangling everything. Don’t really know what you bother. On what planet does seeking to correct a gross and obvious market failure make one a socialist? Specifically what opinions do I hold that make me an ‘ecotard’? Because I don’t buy into ridiculous conspiracy theories that defy logic and rationality? The correct and obvious answers are: no planet, none, and yes apparently.
    That you demonstrate such extreme and warped hatred towards someone with moderate views shows how far out on the fringe you live.

    Until you actually acknowledge basic physics and reality, you will get nothing but scorn at this site.

    Only from some people, and they continue to demonstrate that their opinions are worthless.
    Anyway, I do acknowledge basic physics. Often explicitly when some regurgitated long-debunked climate change denial point rears it’s stupid head once again. Apparently those physics work differently though.

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  15. West Virginia Rebel

    Part of the problem is that the “green” energy crowd expects their ideas to happen overnight-an example of our instant gratification society.

    Efficiency is what sells. This is part of the reason Henry Ford was able to take the internal combustion engine and make it affordable-he knew how to do it efficiently for mass production. Right now, the green industry is about where the automobile industry was circa 1900. The difference is, the green industry advocates want people to use it immediately when it simply isn’t ready-the free market allowed the auto industry time to develop, and for Ford to take the next step with the Model T.

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  16. CM

    the free market allowed the auto industry time to develop, and for Ford to take the next step with the Model T.

    Ford benefitted hugely from a massive failure in the free market. His invention resulted in significant costs that were never reflected in the price. He therefore benefitted from those subsidies.

    Part of the problem is that the “green” energy crowd expects their ideas to happen overnight-an example of our instant gratification society.

    ‘Green energy’ is ready and available for projects/developments now. Just because it can’t immediately replace fossil fuels in total, doesn’t mean that it can’t be applied at appropriate levels. I don’t understand the argument that if it can’t immediately solve all our energy needs, it’s therefore a failure. Seems like a huge straw man argument.

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  17. Seattle Outcast

    CM – please provide, in exacting detail and your own words (with references from neutral and accepted sources) exactly how Ford benefited from “massive failure in the free market” and what the “significant costs that were never reflected in the price” are.

    Also, you might want to rethink your definition of “subsidy”, you apparently don’t know what one is.

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  18. CM

    Nothing I haven’t already mentioned. By everyone taking on the lower air quality and associated health risks/costs and the environmental damage, Ford (and others) have been subsidised. Their prices haven’t included all the costs. If they’d had to price their products inclusive of all actual costs, the prices would have been higher. I’m talking about negative externalities, which act as subsidies. I.e market failure.
    If you don’t agree, I’d be interested in why/how this is not the case. How/why aren’t large scale negative externalities effectively subsidies?

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  19. Seattle Outcast

    God, that is such bullshit. You didn’t even go the slightly plausible route of trade tariffs and protectionism and went straight into full-on envirotard stupid.

    You can’t argue economics by converting it to religious grounds you moron.

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  20. blameme

    Again, CM, it seems to me that you want to use “intangibles” to raise the price of oil so high that almost any alternative fuel source is viable.

    You may not want to turn off the spigot of non-renewable fuels, but you want to make the cost so prohibitive that no one will touch the spigot to turn them on.

    Reminds of of the 2nd amendment battle – sure you can have your guns, but the bullets to use them will be taxed at 1000%, thereby making owning a gun moot. The same tactic is raising its ugly head here.

    You can’t make oil so expensive that it cripples the economy and then say that you are not asking for it to be turned off. Oil has to be at the prices it is today – period. Or we have no economy and we have no monies to subsidize green energy.

    Green energy is not a bust (unless you use the grandiose claims of those pushing it and compare those clams to reality). It is experimental and will be for the foreseeable future. Raising the price of oil to ridiculous levels does not make green energy more storable, easier to consume and create. It just ain’t ready yet no matter how costly oil gets. Let’s not wreck the economy so that green energy seems ready before it is.

    Lastly, as long as the lights come on and the car cranks – I don’t care if the energy is coming from oil or from a hippy riding a bike in the back yard attached to a generator. I am not against green energy – I will use it happily when it is ready. HAPPILY. WHEN IT IS READY.

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  21. Kimpost

    Oil has to be at the prices it is today – period. Or we have no economy and we have no monies to subsidize green energy.

    Care to elaborate?

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  22. blameme

    The whole world is dependent upon oil. You upset that price drastically and watch the markets tumble.

    Can the price be corrected maybe 10-30%? Maybe. >100% no – not without causing worldwide economies to stop – due to the cost of goods rising so high no one could afford them, which means no jobs as there would be no one needed to build/transport expensive products that no one can buy etc.

    Do you really think you can put drastic price “corrections” on oil and there not be a major worldwide collapse?

    I have seen folks wanting gas prices to be upwards of $8 a gallon in the US to reflect the “real” cost.

    Try it out and see how many people instantly are laid off, can’t afford to drive to work if they are lucky enough to have a job and are able to even eat.

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  23. Kimpost

    Drastic changes are rarely good, so I’d agree with you on that. But if we are talking long term? Could we become better at calculating actual cost? I think we could, and if so, it might help us cutting costs. It’s hard to cut what we can’t see, after all. Transparency.

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  24. Seattle Outcast

    You need to replace fossil fuels with something of equal energy density – you can’t just turn off all the coal and natural gas fired electricity generating facilities and replace them with a few solar panels. Modern civilization sucks up vast quantities of power for everything from transportation to manufacturing to running our homes and offices.

    Quite simply, the amount of windmills, solar panels, and wave generators needed to replace even a fraction of the current demand for power would have such a massive impact on the environment that nobody would stand for it. They simply don’t/can’t generate the power needed. Nuclear power will do it, but nukes are evil, so you have to oppose them at every turn.

    Therefore, the true purpose of “green energy” isn’t to replace the use of fossil fuels with “clean” energy, it’s to reduce the demand for power by 99.99% and force everyone back to a pre-industrial agrarian society. Of course, that’s even worse on the environment, so the human population will need to be scaled back as well. Only then will the planet be free of those damned people that keep ruining “nature”…

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  25. CM

    God, that is such bullshit. You didn’t even go the slightly plausible route of trade tariffs and protectionism and went straight into full-on envirotard stupid.

    I haven’t really gone into the possible ways of the price reflecting the cost. The starting point is identifying the massive market failure.
    I’d be really interested in how you define ‘envirotard stupid’ given that I’m attempting to use a market model. Why are you so very determined to be a socialist on this issue?

    You can’t argue economics by converting it to religious grounds you moron.

    No religion involved. Why are you so against using the market when it comes to more accurately reflecting costs in price? Obviously one sector of socieity is being heavily subsidised by all of society. Why do those who usually scream their hatred of that so loudly take the opposite side on this issue?

    Again, CM, it seems to me that you want to use “intangibles” to raise the price of oil so high that almost any alternative fuel source is viable.

    You may not want to turn off the spigot of non-renewable fuels, but you want to make the cost so prohibitive that no one will touch the spigot to turn them on.

    No, sorry, I never said anything of the sort.

    Green energy is not a bust (unless you use the grandiose claims of those pushing it and compare those clams to reality). It is experimental and will be for the foreseeable future.

    It works excellently when applied appropriately, e.g. micro-sites likes houses, office-buildings, infrastructure.

    Lastly, as long as the lights come on and the car cranks – I don’t care if the energy is coming from oil or from a hippy riding a bike in the back yard attached to a generator.

    The current generation has nothing to gain from reducing emissions and every subsequent one has more at stake than its predecessor. In game-theoretical terms, this means that the current generation has no incentive to co-operate even if every other generation were willing to do so, and that the same will be true of the next generation if the present one has failed to co-operate and passed the buck instead. If successive generations were distinct in this way, it would never be rational to do anything about global warming.

    Adam Smith once noted that we are less troubled by the prospect of a hundred million people dying as a result of an earthquake in some distant location than of losing our little finger, but would nevertheless be horrified by the idea we might allow them to die in order to save it. Climate change effectively transforms the former scenario into the latter, and so places unprecedented demands on our moral imagination. Almost every little thing we do contributes to our carbon footprint, which increases greenhouse gases, which could in turn ultimately threaten hundreds of millions of lives in some remote time and place – the uncertainty only adding to the sublime awfulness of our responsibilities.

    http://www.lrb.co.uk/v34/n10/malcolm-bull/what-is-the-rational-response

    (I have no intention of turning this into another climate change thread, you just wrote something that immediately reminded me of this interesting book review I read yesterday)

    Do you really think you can put drastic price “corrections” on oil and there not be a major worldwide collapse?

    I have seen folks wanting gas prices to be upwards of $8 a gallon in the US to reflect the “real” cost.

    So price reflecting cost (i.e. a more realistic market price) is outweighed by the reality of what it means? I’ve only ever seen that line of thinking ridiculed by the right.

    you can’t just turn off all the coal and natural gas fired electricity generating facilities and replace them with a few solar panels.

    Totally agree. It’s a huge and long transition.

    Therefore, the true purpose of “green energy” isn’t to replace the use of fossil fuels with “clean” energy, it’s to reduce the demand for power by 99.99% and force everyone back to a pre-industrial agrarian society. Of course, that’s even worse on the environment, so the human population will need to be scaled back as well. Only then will the planet be free of those damned people that keep ruining “nature”…

    Pre-industrial agrarian society? Wooah, just hang on a second. It doesn’t have to be one extreme or the other. Yes, people like that exist. But why would you want to let them dictate the discussion?

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  26. hist_ed

    Hey CM how would you price the inflation hitting food over the last decade or so into your green energy v oil subsidy formula? Shouldn’t that be priced in as well? There are people starving in the Third World because an increasing share of the US corn crop is turned into a gasoline alternative. How much does that raise the subsidy for bio fuels?

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  27. Seattle Outcast

    CM – just like MooGoo, your lack of basic knowledge on physics and economics is showing. Also, the “I’m rubber, you’re glue” approach is laughable.

    As I’ve said before, you’re just too ignorant to actually debate, and you’ve proved it yet again.

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  28. CM

    Again my argument is that ALL relevant costs should be considered when making comparisons, not just the costs that are convenient. So yes, that should absolutely be considered when determining the actual subsidy for biofuels. It would intellecually dishonest otherwise.

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  29. CM

    CM – just like MooGoo, your lack of basic knowledge on physics and economics is showing. Also, the “I’m rubber, you’re glue” approach is laughable.

    As I’ve said before, you’re just too ignorant to actually debate, and you’ve proved it yet again.

    Thanks. Sorry to hear that you’re having another terrible day. I hope things start improving for you soon.

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  30. Seattle Outcast

    1) What you consider to be “relevant costs” is not mutually agreed upon. Most people actually disagree with you in most of your claims in no uncertain terms.

    2) You are pretty much the poster child for intellectual dishonesty

    3) I’m having a great day. You, on the other hand, are an idiot.

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  31. blameme

    Again, my main issue is that we do not agree on the “costs” that you would like to include. Many are intangible costs, which can be made to be any figure to justify green energy by making oil based energy catastrophically high in comparative cost.

    I agree that in micro situations, some green energy could be applicable. I would stipulate though that pushing oil prices through the roof based on “intangible” costs is not the appropriate way to make green more viable.

    Green needs to be more viable via better technology – more usable, more convenient and more efficient. Bringing down “big oil” so that green can prosper by default is wrong headed.

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  32. CM

    1) What you consider to be “relevant costs” is not mutually agreed upon. Most people actually disagree with you in most of your claims in no uncertain terms.

    I have no doubt that certain people will discount what they don’t consider to be convenient. Effects on the environment and human health for example.

    2) You are pretty much the poster child for intellectual dishonesty

    I am sorry your day continues to go so badly. Perhaps at some stage you could stop and look back and consider what you could have differently. Just a thought.

    3) I’m having a great day. You, on the other hand, are an idiot.

    That’s a strange hand.

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  33. CM

    Again, my main issue is that we do not agree on the “costs” that you would like to include. Many are intangible costs, which can be made to be any figure to justify green energy by making oil based energy catastrophically high in comparative cost.

    Forget green energy for a second. The fact that green energy becomes more competitive is just the result, not the starting point. If we look at this from a market point of view, where price is supposed to reflect costs, so that producers aren’t relying on subsidies, there are very clearly costs that aren’t being accounted for.

    I agree that the costs are not easy to determine. However that doesn’t mean the best idea is to give up and do nothing. That’s just accepting failure.

    I agree that in micro situations, some green energy could be applicable.

    Not just could, it is. And it increases every single day. I’m using it at my house (e.g. hot water heat pump). It’s going to save me money over the time I live in the house. And it’s going to help make it even cheaper for someone else down the track, when they buy the place. And by purchasing it I’m helping drive down the cost/price, as the company who makes and sells the product will presumably be able (at some stage) to do so at a cheaper price.

    I would stipulate though that pushing oil prices through the roof based on “intangible” costs is not the appropriate way to make green more viable.

    As above. I think making green energy more viable by subsidising it makes sense on it’s own. However, I think there’s a separate argument that the costs of non-renewable energy are not reflected in the price, and they should be (more than they do anyway). The market should be telling people what to buy based on price, which should as accurately as possible reflect cost.

    Green needs to be more viable via better technology – more usable, more convenient and more efficient. Bringing down “big oil” so that green can prosper by default is wrong headed.

    Again I think the two points can be argued seperately. And I certainly wouldn’t consider it “bringing down” Big Oil. It’s about reducing the huge and distorted unfair advantage that non-renewables have. By itself that automatically acts as a de-facto subsidy for green energy.

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  34. HARLEY

    you know if we just install micropiles and a full blown nuke in our CG’s, and make then CNG’s it would be cheaper in the long run,.
    Given the power requirements in the near future for rail guns and directed energy weapons having nuke aboard would be ideal.

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  35. Mississippi Yankee

    CM I don’t read Spanish… does she say she wants me?

    Please get back to me ASAP, these pills don’t last forever yanno!

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