Need proof Solar is not ready for Prime Time? Here ya go…

We have had repeated discussions here about the viability of some green technology, and I am certain everyone here knows my stance on solar energy. As someone educated in engineering, I know that technology is simply not ready for use and the cost is prohibitive. many have argued otherwise, but then you occasionally get stories like this one which illustrate the futility of pushing this unready technology. From the article;

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The 20 solar panels Jeffrey Punton installed in the backyard of his Rochester, N.Y., home won’t ever generate enough electricity to cover their cost. Which is the whole point.

He means them as a cautionary tale, one that Punton said cost him $13,000 and for which he received an additional $29,500 in state and federal subsidies and tax credits.

He installed the panels in 2009, and they work: He has generated about 15,000 kilowatt hours of electricity in four years, saving several hundred dollars a year on his energy bill.

That’s a lot of savings, but it’ll take many years to recoup his initial investment, let alone the public money involved. It’s that public money that chafes him, evidence of governmental intrusion in the marketplace.

It’s a message that runs counter to the prevailing trend, especially in New York’s Monroe County. Greece, N.Y., a town in the county, recently lured a solar manufacturer from California, a coup local and state officials are touting as part of the region’s future.

Punton doesn’t buy it — at least on the consumer scale. And spending $13,000 of his own money on a project he predicted would fail doesn’t bother him.

He considers the $29,500 the government gave him a foolish investment — throwing good money after bad — and misses no opportunity to point it out.

“It’s a billboard to talk about it to people as they come by,” he said. “It’s disappointing how little people know about the economics of it. … I don’t think it’s a smart investment to pay someone three times what they’re putting in.”

About $17,000 of the money for Punton’s panels came directly from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

The lesson here is absolutely indisputable. Without heavy government subsidy, this technology not only is prohibitively costly, but it will never pay for itself. Let’s not kid ourselves: any technology that is not at a point where it generates enough savings to warrant the total cost of production, setup, maintenance, and usage, is not ready fro prime time. And any technology that requires so much government subsidy to become marginally palatable, is definitely not worth it.

I got a tax deduction and subsidy a few years back in my state for window replacements. I got rid of some leaky and old windows & sliding doors and replaced them with newer, better insulated ones. The state gave me some $1000 credit (the maximum) towards my taxes, and another $1600 towards the manufacturer’s costs, and I ended paying some $6K out of pocket. I immediately saw improvement in my energy bill. It dropped by over 50% for both summer (cooling) and winter (heating) expenses, from a hefty averaged $245 a month to a little over $115. That’s a big saving. I recouped my investment a couple of years ago, and by now, even the subsidy and the tax deduction have been paid for in energy savings. Yes, my monthly bill is now higher, but that’s because the price of energy has all but doubled in the same timeframe. Consequently, the argument could be made that my savings also doubled, and that’s just awesome. This program was a good one.

That’s not even close to being the case with solar. I know. I researched it because I wanted to do that when I bought my house some 18 years ago. I abandoned it, just like I abandoned the idea of purchasing an electric or hybrid car, because the cost – the total cost, which includes maintenance, and disposal – was insane. I recently looked at it yet again. The numbers have moved a bit, but the cost is still prohibitive and the whole thing is still a loss.

Personally, I am not one of these fucking assholes that likes to tell people my fart doesn’t smell, (South Park – Smug Alert – episode) and is willing to piss away good money just to preen, and I don’t have anything to prove like the guy in this article did. Solar simply is not ready for prime time, and no amount of government manipulation or incentivizing will make a difference. Governments have been trying to change that equation for over 3 decades now, and it has not gone anywhere. The technological advances to make it viable will not come until they are absolutely needed and someone figures out there is huge money to be made. But this reality will never fly with the watermelons that want to steer energy money to their buddies, so we will keep pissing away money on something that’s still not able to deliver the value for the cost, and pretend it is a good thing.

Comments are closed.

  1. Hal_10000

    For some environments, solar is excellent. It works very well in my wife’s home town in Australia. For something as far north as New York, it’s dubious, especially if your house does not face south. That’s one of the problems with this one size fits all policy. They had this idea of painting roofs white to cut cooling bills. BUt that only benefits you in some areas, not in others.

    I just replaced my windows. Hoping to see as great savings as you got.

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  2. Seattle Outcast

    A coworker of mine is having her deck awning made of solar panels. She starts yacking about how cheap it is, and tosses in the $20K government rebate as “proof”, and that us taxpayers can just go suck it if we have a problem with subsidies (she’s Canadian).

    Apparently, since this “makes her home more energy efficient”, it would be OK if it was 100% paid for with tax dollars.

    She didn’t even want to discuss that in reality it’s a net loss, the only thing that matters is that it is “green technology that everyone should use.”

    This is also the same woman that tries to shame everyone else into getting rescue dogs, but goes to a breeder when she needs a puppy.

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  3. AlexInCT *

    For some environments, solar is excellent.

    If you live close to the equator or can set these up in space, then yeah, awesome power output and lots of generation (although beaming the power back from space is tricky). Still not sure if it will cover the cost, especially when you factor in such externals as cost to maintain/dispose of, life cycle, and environmental impacts. Until someone finds a better way to generate the power with ess loss, cheap, and then to transmit and store it, this technology will remain marginal or utilitarian in only specialized applications.

    I just replaced my windows. Hoping to see as great savings as you got.

    I readily admit I had serious doubt that this replacement move, costly as it was, would make any difference. But when I saw the difference in my utility bills, both electrical and heating oil, I became a convert. My electrical bill dropped to less than half during one of the hotest and nastiest summers we had that first year I got it, and I had my AC running overtime. The following winter happened to be a beast as well, but I still used up only half the oil I did the year before to keep the house at the same temperature I did before. Older leaky windows and doors are going to cost you more to cool and heat. And my place had bad ones despite being a relatively newer house. You won’t know until you replace them however how big of a difference there will be.

    Solar power in seattle? isn’t that like building a damn in the Mojave?

    That comment left a mark dude….

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  4. Seattle Outcast

    You’d be surprised at how dry it gets here in the summer; Phoenix gets more rain. Lawns all go brown from July to mid October when the rain starts up again, and once you add into that how far north we are and how much daylight we get during our peak, and it makes more sense. Also, during the winter it’s generally lightly overcast and drizzling off and on – plenty of light for an efficient solar panel.

    If the cost was about 1/3 of what it currently is it would actually make sense to install a few on a roof and run it into your electrical panel to power the fridge and lights.

    One of the things that actually does work out is solar-powered attic fans. Since the fans don’t actually take much power, you can run the thing for free most of the time with a small panel that sits on top of the fan housing.

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  5. hist_ed

    Solar power in seattle? isn’t that like building a damn in the Mojave?

    Had to add: My school was rebuilt a couple of years ago (Seattle suburb). It is the first middle school using our district’s new architectural philosophy. Spent close to a million on a big solar array (out of a total budget of 43 mil). For some reason the architects and district poobahs didn’t like my suggestion that we spend that million dollars putting up a solar array in Arizona instead-this would generate far more electricity and thus be a better choice if our purpose was to improve the environment. Someone finally admitted that it was really a public relations stunt, that the appearance of supporting the environment was the goal. There were some unspecified design problems and the array wasn’t even connected for at least a year after construction (not sure if it is now at year three-we were supposed to have an interactive energy monitoring system that would show us how much power it was generating, but that hasn’t happened yet). There were many other “green” design details that are just for show: either never get used or just cost way too much for their benefit (eg: hundreds of dollar worth of lighting control systems per classroom that save a few pennies a month, automatic windows that open and close randomly making loud noises and let birds into classroom, etc.). I learned to shut up about them.

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  6. stogy

    If the cost was about 1/3 of what it currently is it would actually make sense to install a few on a roof and run it into your electrical panel to power the fridge and lights.

    In quite a few countries it is actually a third of the price, and below many fossil fuels. The US has been a slow adopter, which has meant prices have taken longer to come down.

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  7. Section8

    In quite a few countries it is actually a third of the price, and below many fossil fuels. The US has been a slow adopter, which has meant prices have taken longer to come down.

    Yeah sadly the people who claim to love the environment here won’t step up and expect a government check to pay for their environmental good deeds. If they were really dedicated they’d foot the extra amount as all new technologies generally are more expensive. But hey, a new phone comes out with a slightly different voice for Siri, and I bet the money comes out of nowhere.

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  8. ScottE

    In quite a few countries it is actually a third of the price, and below many fossil fuels. The US has been a slow adopter, which has meant prices have taken longer to come down.

    You mean I could import solar panels from abroad at a third the cost, add a 100% markup and make millions of dollars selling domestically? Tell me more.

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  9. Miguelito

    In quite a few countries it is actually a third of the price, and below many fossil fuels. The US has been a slow adopter, which has meant prices have taken longer to come down.

    Which is because fossil fuels there are simply that much more expensive, not because solar is that much cheaper through some form of magic.

    Someone posted an article at work on a list about energy issues about how solar was cheaper than most fossil fuels in India now, and others rightly pointed out how the article even mentioned it was due mostly due increased costs, due to increased regulations added onto said other power sources there. Not due to solar just getting cheaper on it’s own. Then there’s the fact that a lot of places in third world countries (and plenty of areas in India) don’t have the infrastructure in place to deliver power from fossil fuels, so doing local/small solar installations makes sense.

    I’m reminded of when my relatives wanted to get cable to the cabin owned on Lake Sunapee in NH a couple decades ago. The cable company wanted something like $5k because a whole new run of cable was required to get anywhere near the cabin. They waited a couple years, one of the rich neighbors paid the crazy price to run the new cable. Called the company back up, now it was just a simple hook-up rate because there was a cable nearby now. The overall cost of getting cable there didn’t actually go down, someone else had simply footed the huge bill.

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  10. Seattle Outcast

    People keep forgetting that sunlight doesn’t have the energy density of other fuel sources. Even with 100% efficiency you still wouldn’t get enough electricity to power a home worth a fuck even if you covered 100% of your property with solar panels.

    At best you will be able to reduce your bill a small amount unless you decide to start doing without most modern amenities such as air conditioning, microwave ovens, televisions, cable, internet, etc. If you just want to run a small fridge and minimal lighting it will work out – welcome to 1910.

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  11. stogy

    People keep forgetting that sunlight doesn’t have the energy density of other fuel sources. Even with 100% efficiency you still wouldn’t get enough electricity to power a home worth a fuck even if you covered 100% of your property with solar panels.

    Installing solar doesn’t cost $40,000 any more – it’s more like a quarter of that now. The economics of solar have changed in the past 24 months, and I think now that prices in the US for PV would fall faster in the US without any kind of subsidies.

    But remember that they are also competing against a mature fossil fuel industry that is also heavily subsidised (for what reason, I do not know), and doesn’t pay anything like the cost of dealing with the environmental and health impacts of its production and usage. Pay the true cost of fossil fuels and things will change much faster.

    and others rightly pointed out how the article even mentioned it was due mostly due increased costs, due to increased regulations added onto said other power sources there. Not due to solar just getting cheaper on it’s own.

    You’re right about the regulations causing higher costs in the US. But PV solar panel prices have fallen through the floor (some of this was due to dumping by Chinese manufacturers). Now just at a time when inventories have fallen, the boom in Asia for solar PV is pushing prices back into profit, as there isn’t enough production to meet demand. Solar PV is taking off and the US is being left behind.

    You mean I could import solar panels from abroad at a third the cost, add a 100% markup and make millions of dollars selling domestically? Tell me more.

    No. It’s the cost of installations in the US that are keeping prices high. Companies are already importing cheaper PV units from abroad. IKEA are apparently about to bring out rooftop installation kits that any idiot can set up.

    At best you will be able to reduce your bill a small amount unless you decide to start doing without most modern amenities such as air conditioning, microwave ovens, televisions, cable, internet, etc. If you just want to run a small fridge and minimal lighting it will work out – welcome to 1910.

    Two houses of relatives of mine – one in snowy central Japan, one in sunny hot Brisbane – both living like normal people, both selling excess power into the grid, both will pay off their systems in 7 – 8 years.

    Did you see this story last week? Say, DC isn’t that far from New York is it?

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  12. stogy

    Installing solar doesn’t cost $40,000 any more – it’s more like a quarter of that now.

    Actually, I just checked. In Australia, you can install a 5KW system for as little as a A$1.40 per watt (or a total of about A$8,400, or about USD$7,600) now.

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  13. Section8

    Stogy, how are your solar panels doing? How much did you pay, how much is going back the grid? Is it enough to power your whole home all the time or do you still rely on the grid for some of the power? Also, as far as us falling behind is there a cutoff? I mean at some point will solar no longer be available? I have to act now since it’s only going to be around for a limited time? Is there a need to take the lead, or would that just make us arrogant assholes that need to be the first at everything and not get any credit anyhow?

    As far as the hidden cost of fossil fuels, that’s hard to calculate just like the hidden benefits such as being able to ship products that would not be possible at this time without fossil fuels, like say shipping solar panels.

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  14. stogy

    I live in a rental apartment building in a city somewhere in South Asia (there are reasons why I can’t say which country) so unfortunately I don’t really have much say in where my power comes from. But electricity generation here comes from a mix of hydro and dirty coal (about 50% each way). Electricity rates for usage are based on how much you use – so the more you use the higher the cost per unit. I know this probably goes against your free market principles (it’s a kind of redistribution model), but given how dirt poor most people are, 80% of the country would be in complete darkness come sunset – no economic activity, no studying, more children (because hey, what else is there to do when the lights go out). When they put up electricity rates recently, I decided to replace most of the bulbs in my apartment, and my bill went down. If I keep it under 300 units, I can get by on about US$60 per month. But for many families on salaries of about $200 per month, that’s pretty crippling.

    I do have a house in Japan (well, along with the bank that gave me the mortgage) and I am planning to install solar next year when I move back there. I am hoping for a good deal. Prices and models should be really great by then, but lots of my friends are switching over already.

    Is there a need to take the lead, or would that just make us arrogant assholes that need to be the first at everything and not get any credit anyhow?

    I think if you rushed out and got something soon (a small 5kw system should do it) you could still get some boasting rights for it. I mean the whole redneck environmentalist thing is still kind of new, right?

    Actually the holier than thou first adopters really shit me off too. Unless I get there first, that is.

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  15. Seattle Outcast

    Installing solar doesn’t cost $40,000 any more – it’s more like a quarter of that now.

    It’s running more than half of that now, before the tax subsidy of about $16K. Trust me, I get an earful of this shit on a daily basis by my Canadian coworker. And she’s not even doing that much, just a deck awning.

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  16. Seattle Outcast

    I think if you rushed out and got something soon (a small 5kw system should do it) you could still get some boasting rights for it. I mean the whole redneck environmentalist thing is still kind of new, right?

    My emergency generator puts out more than that, and I figure I can keep my fridge, freezer, lights, security system, and maybe a TV going. A standby generator that would “run my whole house” including washer, dryer, microwave, ovens, etc is supposedly about 35KW, with a recommendation of 40KW.

    Now, I think solar is a great idea to help conserve energy, along with LED lighting, insulated windows, etc. but I’m not going to punk out $20K knowing that all the panels will be in need of replacement before they’ve broke even on energy savings. When I can get enough juice, and battery power for the evenings, from solar for the cost of my natural gas generator, I’ll take advantage of it. But I know that the world’s power consumption cannot be sustained by solar power.

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  17. Xetrov

    Even with 100% efficiency you still wouldn’t get enough electricity to power a home worth a fuck even if you covered 100% of your property with solar panels.

    At best you will be able to reduce your bill a small amount unless you decide to start doing without most modern amenities such as air conditioning, microwave ovens, televisions, cable, internet, etc.

    A good friend of mine lives on about an acre. He covered his house and separate garage with panels. Not only does he power his home, he gets a check from the electric company every month for power he puts into the grid. He’s still on the internet, and sure as shit still has A/C since we live in a suburb of Phoenix. He didn’t do it to save money (it cost him an arm and a leg), he did it to get off-grid. It’s easily feasible to power your home with solar – it’s just not a money-saver.

    BTW – the only month we get more rain than Seattle on average is July and it’s because of the monsoons that roll through in a few afternoons dumping about an inch of rain in 20 minutes.

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  18. stogy

    I forgot you are in Seattle, and you’d need a bit more than 5kw – but 35kw is really high. 5kw systems are enough for most parts of Australia and sufficient to run an air conditioner and just about everything else. And excess needs can be pulled off the grid (remember that hot sunny weather is exactly when it’s going to be needed most). In Japan, they are building solar in Hokkaido where land is cheap and sunshine plentiful even though it’s fracking cold. They now have to redesign the grid so they can get the power where they need it more.

    but I’m not going to punk out $20K knowing that all the panels will be in need of replacement before they’ve broke even on energy savings.

    If costs are still high, it may be better to wait until they come down as they are gonna keep doing. Encourage your Canadian colleague to buy up big – every sale in the US helps introduce greater economies of scale into the system, and it will make it cheaper for you further down the line. But some of the new systems are being designed so you can just drop the new replacement cells straight in, thereby eliminating most of the costs of installing replacement cells.

    But I know that the world’s power consumption cannot be sustained by solar power.

    Not yet, but soon.

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  19. Seattle Outcast

    Good for your friend – I suspect he has a shitload more available space for solar panels than the average person living on a postage stamp of property, nor had to deal with troublesome HOA covenants. Also, most places don’t pay you for adding power to the grid – it was brought up with the local Puget Sound utilities a few years back and they said flat out that you could install all the generating capacity you wanted, but the meters would NOT run backwards. Personally, I thought it was major douchebag moment for them, particularly considering how many local laws & regulations there are mandating recycling, energy efficient construction, underground power lines, etc, etc.

    That thing about the rain is something the local news channel pumped out some time back to illustrate just how dry it is in Seattle during the summer months (our biggest secret, and why we don’t really encourage anyone from California to visit then). Basically, we don’t get a drop from early July though mid September. Hell, this year we even had a warmer summer than LA. Then sometime between September 15 and November 1 somebody turns a switch over to “rain every fucking day” and we get soggy through April.

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  20. Section8

    So Stogy, you’ve changed some light bulbs and “plan” on getting solar hoping for a deal, which is basically waiting all this time for the price to come down. How very redneck of you.I would have thought an environmentalist like you would have been on board long ago. Oh well, bullshit is a lot cheaper than commitment to one’s beliefs.

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  21. stogy

    So Stogy, you’ve changed some light bulbs and “plan” on getting solar hoping for a deal, which is basically waiting all this time for the price to come down. How very redneck of you.I would have thought an environmentalist like you would have been on board long ago. Oh well, bullshit is a lot cheaper than commitment to one’s beliefs.

    Oh, I am committed and I would have done it sooner, but I need to replace/restore the roof, walls, floors, stairs, kitchen, bathroom, wiring and pretty much everything else. All of that costs money. It’d be dumb to do the solar first. And I’m not living there at the moment anyway.

    I mentally justified any CO2 emissions because most of my power at the time came from nuclear. And I thought I could at least trust the Japanese government to run nuclear power safely. Right?

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  22. stogy

    You guys are supposed to be pro-free market right? So remove the barriers to solar, let people sell their excess power on the grid (minus a portion to pay for managing and repairing the grid), remove subsidies for fossil fuels, charge carbon emitters for the social cost of polluting, and let the market sort it out.

    And I believe it will.

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  23. Section8

    Oh, I am committed and I would have done it sooner, but I need to replace/restore the roof, walls, floors, stairs, kitchen, bathroom, wiring and pretty much everything else.

    Saving the world is on the back burner because you’re more worried about how your kitchen looks? How American of you.

    And I thought I could at least trust the Japanese government to run nuclear power safely. Right?

    You’ll have to ask the environmentalists. They successfully scared the shit out of everyone here to bring nuclear energy as a replacement for fossil fuels to a halt. They may tell you to not worry so much about your kitchen and get those panels up before a major meltdown. Of course just between you and me they’d be more worried about their kitchen too if it came right down to it.

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  24. Xetrov

    You hade me up until –

    charge carbon emitters for the social cost of polluting

    Only if we can throw Al Gore in prison for the farce that was his movie.

    And if we are going to charge people for the “social cost”, basically what they think it will cost our children in the future – can we charge/tax/imprison Congress/the POTUS for the “social cost” of the deficit/debt?

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  25. stogy

    Saving the world is on the back burner because you’re more worried about how your kitchen looks? How American of you.

    Heh! So I’m an Americal redneck environmentalist who’s worried only about the color of the bench tops ? It’s more a problem of the whole building falling down, which a substantial tremblor may well do. I bought a money pit because it’s an old bit of history worth saving. And as I said, if I was living in it now rather than working elsewhere, I would have done it by now.

    You hade me up until charge carbon emitters for the social cost of polluting

    I think we need to include some way of accounting for the cost of illnesses, displacement, storm activity and damage to properties caused by the use of fossil fuels. I actually don’t object to this being done for alternative fuels either, but in many cases, it will be a lot less. We already do this for cigarettes and alcohol – a tax to reduce undesirable consumption and pay for the social harm that a product is likely to cause. I’m fine with it being phased in, to minimize economic disruption, but not introducing it simply means you are picking winners and losers – why should one fuel form get a huge ‘get out of jail free card’ that others don’t.

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  26. Iconoclast

    …charge carbon emitters for the social cost of polluting…

    Every mammal on the planet “emits carbon” every time it exhales. How shall we collect money from the giraffes that roam the serengeti?

    Classifying carbon dioxide as a “pollutant” has got to be the greatest Orwellian Newspeak accomplishment of our era.

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  27. Section8

    Oh ok instead of shopping for an efficient and environmentally friendly house to begin with you chose the older inefficient model instead because the historical value to you takes precedence, but you’ll make it efficient one of these days (I’m sure) after all the extra costs and work of just making it structurally sound, and of course waiting for a good deal on solar. My guess is you’ve probably had that house for a while and could have taken care of it before you headed off to your other location. Perhaps things like costs which you already mentioned as a reason played a bigger factor which is understandable as money doesn’t grow on trees, but why sacrifice jumping into an efficient home and making it more efficient? Why instead buy a very inefficient home which will probably take some time to make efficient, if not a very long time, while having to save up money and find the time to fix it? Just seems like a selfish and not very environmentally conscious move.

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  28. Xetrov

    I think we need to include some way of accounting for the cost of illnesses

    Increased fossil fuel burning doesn’t cause Carbon Dioxide poisoning…

    displacement

    Increased fossil fuel burning doesn’t force people to move…

    storm activity and damage to properties caused by the use of fossil fuels

    *cough*

    As for one of the favorites of alarmism, hurricanes in recent years don’t indicate that storms are getting worse. Measured by total energy (Accumulated Cyclone Energy), hurricane activity is at a low not encountered since the 1970s. The U.S. is currently experiencing the longest absence of severe landfall hurricanes in over a century—the last Category 3 or stronger storm was Wilma, more than seven years ago.

    but not introducing it simply means you are picking winners and losers

    That’s one hell of a logic pretzel you’ve twisted your brain into. Basically saying – Not taxing Bill Gates for 100% of his profits off of M$ stock simply means you are picking winners and losers. Yup. Sounds ludicrous that way too.

    Damn it. I did it. I got into a GW discussion. I should know better.

    Link-Bomb in 3…2…1…

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  29. Miguelito

    I’m fine with it being phased in, to minimize economic disruption, but not introducing it simply means you are picking winners and losers – why should one fuel form get a huge ‘get out of jail free card’ that others don’t.

    Like, say, solar or just about every “green” energy that wouldn’t be anywhere near affordable for anyone without the huge subsidies and/or rebates being offered by governments all over to try to push them on people? Or, in places outside the US, they just tack more regulatory costs onto not-“green” and change the comparative costs that way.

    As for the whole meter spinning backwards thing. If you live somewhere in the US where you actually can net a profit, you’re damn lucky. Most places do like here in San Diego (at least this is the mot common from what I understand) which is to allow net metering. You can spin the meter backwards during the day, but never net a gain. And there’s a (continually, though at least slowly, rising) “fee” for things like “grid tie-in” that still has to be paid monthly. So if you got a monster install that generated >100% of your monthly needs, the best you could do is still pay the $5-10 or whatever it is today. Oh and the electricity can’t offset gas usage either, is my understanding. So they’ve rigged the system to make it a waste for those that really want to go off grid to try, because if you overdo it, you lose. If you under do it, you still basically lose paying the utility rates for use over what you generate.

    At the same time, I can totally see how being a utility company would suck right now too. Think about it, you’ve spent decades dealing with regulatory crap where you can’t do much of anything without years of review. It’s been near impossible to build new power plants for years, despite continued demand. The whole partial-deregulation fiasco in CA was a nightmare. Now you’ve got the same damn politicians who’ve been essentially tying your hands completely changing the system out from under you again, trying to appease the same people that blocked power generation and new power lines by expecting you to accept all sorts of random bursts of power all over the grid. Yet, you’re still expected to meet peak demands no matter what. I won’t be surprised if we live to see the huge inter-tied grid in the US broken down into much smaller regional grids (again?) just to keep the whole thing from being so complicated that simple mistakes can take out entire chunks of the nation’s power… as we’ve already seen a couple times now in the last few years.

    When my company went to build it’s last huge data center here, SDG&G told us they couldn’t provide the amount of power we asked for. They just flat out couldn’t do it, due to a mixture of generation and tie-ins to the specific grid section. So we had to scale down a bit, and also build in a cogen power plan on site to help generate a big chunk of our own power (add a lot of co-gen that many companies are doing along with big arrays of solar on the roof to the weird tie-ins the power companies have to deal with too). Of course, most companies do said solar panels on the roof for the same reason people do: tax breaks. Not because crunching the numbers showed it would net a savings.

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  30. Miguelito

    oops.. *most *SDG&E and a couple other minor mistakes there. The edit dialog will let me delete stuff but not add for some reason. Probably a “safari on ipad” glitch.

    I forgot one other huge issue. Most solar power tie-ins for homes have one big problem…. unless you shell out huge amounts for a full battery back-up system, you cannot live off the solar power during the day if/when the power grid goes down. Sort of defeats a big gain you’d normally expect from it. The inverters are specifically designed this way. No power on the grid side: shut down. Has to do with safety stuff that makes sense and all, but still, negates a big reason you’d want to have it in the first place. Ironically, many of the threads on the energy (and home improvement) lists at work started by people interested in getting solar specifically mention having it there for any time the power goes out. They’re always disappointed when they’re told it doesn’t work that way.

    My understanding (from the hugely active mailing lists at work and huge number of engineers on it, many with solar systems) is they’re just coming out with inverters now that allow for some off-grid usage during power outages. But from what it sounds like, it’s essentially a separate outlet that you have to tie into when needed. It’s not simply a smart enough system to cut off any connection to the power grid side until it’s power comes back again. So still a massive pain in the ass and really meant to be just enough to keep your fridge and essentials on while power is out short term.

    I’m actually planning on likely doing a full tear-down to 1 wall rebuild “remodel” of my house to fix a lot of things in the next year or so, and will actually look at solar myself at the same time. But I’m only going to do it if it makes any economic sense… I could care less about feeling good. I’d rather put more money into making the house more insulated and efficient before shelling out for solar if it doesn’t make sense. I currently regularly hit the 4th (highest) tier of usage here, so if I can be more efficient or bring my monthly net meter usage down a bit, it might make sense. We’ll see though.

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  31. hist_ed

    …charge carbon emitters for the social cost of polluting…

    Can we also credit them for the increased agricultural production? More CO2=more plant food in the air. Gotta be fair, right?

    So I may have written about this elsewhere, but I have seen a great use of solar power. My brother bought a bunch of ranch land in Eastern Washington 15 years ago or so (500 acres?). He wanted his own little hunting preserve. He built a small cabin on a beautiful site about as far from the road as you could be. The quote for getting power to the site was astounding (the surrounding land was all grazing land, maybe 3 or 4 homes within a mile) so he put in a a wood stove for heat, propane for cooking and water heating and solar for the lights. The solar was hooked up to batteries and he had a backup generator. The Okanagan Highlands aren’t like Seattle-almost no rain in the summer, little in the fall, so it worked. The cost of the solar system was far cheaper than getting power to the place and he was mostly only there in late summer and fall so that was the best time to generate power. The panels would generate enough to keep the lights on for most of the day (he had some candles and kerosene lamps too, just in case). For weird specialized situations solar works great.

    He did run the numbers once and it would have been cheaper in the long run to just use a diesel generator.

    Oh and regarding the storage problem, I read about an odd experiment a few years ago. I think it was windmills, not solar. The site was on a slope with an old dam above it. During time of high generation, they would use part of the output of the windmills to pump water back above the dam. When the windmills weren’t running, they could release more water through the dam’s turbines to compensate. The inefficiencies are pretty obvious, but I thought it was a clever idea.

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  32. stogy

    Every mammal on the planet “emits carbon” every time it exhales. How shall we collect money from the giraffes that roam the serengeti?

    Google “the carbon cycle” and read up on it. Hopefully you’ll realise how dumb the above sound bite really is, how it has no basis in science, and then come back we’ll talk about it

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  33. stogy

    Damn it. I did it. I got into a GW discussion. I should know better.

    Link-Bomb in 3…2…1…

    Sorry, I was a bit slow off the mark – on another field trip. I typed this out once already, but lost most of it due to a power cut. But if you are going to reproduce climate contrarian misinformation, then it does need to be challenged.

    Increased fossil fuel burning doesn’t cause Carbon Dioxide poisoning…

    No. But it causes millions of deaths per year in terms of increased heart disease, cancers, and a whole other range of illnesses, not to mention lost workdays. A study by Kunzli et al in 2000 (it’s paywalled) using cohorts in Europe and the US found that air pollution from fossil fuels may account for 6% of all deaths.

    Air pollution caused 6% of total mortality or more than 40,000 attributable cases per year. About half of all mortality caused by air pollution was attributed to motorised traffic, accounting also for: more than 25,000 new cases of chronic bronchitis (adults); more than 290 000 episodes of bronchitis (children); more than 0.5 million asthma attacks; and more than 16 million person-days of restricted activities.

    It’s not the carbon that kills, but the burning of it along with other chemcals. And something the pro-nuclear lobby always like to point out, coal is quite high in emissions of harmful radioactive substances.

    As far as linking to anything the Murdoch press publish about climate change, just don’t. News Limited is actively conducting a misinformation campaign – they misrepresent scientific papers and misquote scientists, or just leave out anything that doesn’t match the company platform. The Lomborg piece you linked cites a March 2012 Nature article, which I was able to look up. Lomborg says the wildfires have decreased without mentioning that the scale of the fires is far worse – property damage and acres burned is way up. Lomborg then goes on to miss the substance of the article he is citing from, just picking the bits that he can use – he misses the increases in precipitation, and devastating rainfall extremes, with

    Extreme rainfall (beyond the ninety- eighth percentile) in European winters has increased nearly eightfold over the past 150 years, related to changing circulation patterns

    and then:

    The number of observed local monthly heat records around the globe is now more than three times as high as expected in a stationary climate…Extremely hot summers (exceeding three standard deviations) are now observed in about 10% of the global land area, compared with only about 0.1–0.2% for the period from 1951 to 1980

    On storms, the authors conclude that

    It is possible that the large increase observed from 1980 to 2005 is partly due to stratospheric cooling, which enhances the vertical temperature gradient, and not just sur- face warming55. Globally, a signififcant increase in the intensity of tropical storms over the past three decades has been identififed in the satellite record56. Nevertheless, a recent review concluded that “it remains uncertain whether past changes in tropical cyclone activity have exceeded the variability expected from natural causes”.

    So some uncertainty – more data would help, and we’ll probably know more once this ENSO neutral phase ends. But the actual scientists Lomborg is quoting do not show the certainty he is expressing about the direction that storms are heading.

    He also says that the

    International Energy Agency estimates that just 2.4% of the world’s energy will come from wind and only 1% from solar

    I had a look at the IAE’s reports on renewables. Here’s what they are actually saying:

    The role of renewable sources in the global power mix continues to increase. On a percentage basis, renewables continue to be the fastest-growing power source. As global renewable electricity generation expands in absolute terms, it is expected to surpass that from natural gas and double that from nuclear power by 2016, becoming the second most important global electricity source, after coal. Globally, renewable generation is estimated to rise to 25% of gross power generation in 2018, up from 20% in 2011 and 19% in 2006. Driven by fast-growing generation from wind and solar photovoltaics (PV), the share of non-hydro renewable power is seen doubling, to 8% of gross generation in 2018, up from 4% in 2011 and 2% in 2006. In the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), non-hydro renewable power rises to 11% of OECD gross generation in 2018, up from 7% in 2012 and 3% in 2006.

    So Lomborg again misrepresents what the sources that he has actually chosen are saying. Fancy that. My advice before linking to him again would be to check every fact to see how and who he is misrepresenting.

    That’s one hell of a logic pretzel you’ve twisted your brain into. Basically saying – Not taxing Bill Gates for 100% of his profits off of M$ stock simply means you are picking winners and losers. Yup. Sounds ludicrous that way too.

    Sorry, that’s a false analogy. A better one would be this: if you are allowing a company to cut down a forest to sell the lumber without adding in the cost of growing new trees. Companies that are required to regrow the trees, or that practice a business model on sustainable harvesting of the trees are going to have their businesses unfairly impacted. They can’t compete with the slash and burn guys. You would be picking winners and losers. Just as you are now.

    It is possible to show that use of fossil fuels damages health and that effects on the environment. And even if we can’t quantify all of it, then it’s worth doing some of it. Remember I posted a link to a story about a town on the east coast that wants to raise the level of the town by 10 feet – costing hundreds of millions of dollars. The costs multiplied up and down the coast of mitigation are potentially catastrophic.

    Lomborg, again in the piece you linked to , acknowledges that climate change is going to be a problem. His solution: government funded research into alternative fuels. I think he’s wrong. I say that this will take too long and mean that we will almost certainly miss the 2 degree target. Let the market sort it out. A carbon tax (even a small one) would be enough to game the market into continuing the development of alternative fuels at more cost-effective rates. It’s already happening, but speeding up the process wouldn’t hurt.

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  34. Xetrov

    But if you are going to reproduce climate contrarian misinformation…

    Precisely why I said

    Damn it. I did it. I got into a GW discussion. I should know better.

    Link-Bomb in 3…2…1…

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  35. stogy

    Can we also credit them for the increased agricultural production? More CO2=more plant food in the air. Gotta be fair, right?

    Does it? I heard that the research showed some evidence of faster plant growth, but much of that went into thicker plant stems and not into increased crop production. It meant harvesting became more costly. And then CO2 is only one limiting factor in plant growth – there is also soil, water and other things. With increased rainfall in some areas, the is the prospect of faster erosion, followed by longer periods of drought.

    And then you’d have to account for the effects that ocean acidification is having on marine life. It is already affecting crustaceans, and lobsters. A big question mark hangs over whether it will affect fish catches as this works its way up through the food chain.

    For weird specialized situations solar works great.

    They’re putting cheap solar into villages in India and Africa – it costs a lot less than diesal there and means that communities are largely independent – they only have low energy needs (but studying at night is critical), and they don’t have to fork out every month for fuel expenses.

    Also the US military really wants solar as a way of reducing dependence on vulnerable supply lines. Fat fuel trucks are always a juicy target.

    He did run the numbers once and it would have been cheaper in the long run to just use a diesel generator.

    Be interesting to see what happened if he ran the numbers now, and then again in two-years time based on new installation. And then if the price of diesal keeps going up, he may break even with the system he got at some point.

    I’m actually planning on likely doing a full tear-down to 1 wall rebuild “remodel” of my house to fix a lot of things in the next year or so, and will actually look at solar myself at the same time.

    One thing you could do is look at how your new roof could be best aligned for solar harvesting. Even if it isn’t economical now, it should be in a few years – that’ll make it much easier to switch over.

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  36. Iconoclast

    Google “the carbon cycle” and read up on it. Hopefully you’ll realise how dumb the above sound bite really is…

    Apparently, it never occurred to you that it was meant to sound dumb…

    …how it has no basis in science…

    Well, everything I encountered in your little reading assignment mentioned “respiration”, so I must have failed to read anything that had any basis in science.

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  37. stogy

    Apparently, it never occurred to you that it was meant to sound dumb…

    Well it was dumb – who am I to argue?

    Well, everything I encountered in your little reading assignment mentioned “respiration”, so I must have failed to read anything that had any basis in science.

    I can’t really help it if you were unable to find the information simple enough to meet your needs. But here’s how it works:

    Living creatures don’t make carbon. When you breath in and out, and do other stuff related to living, you are just moving carbon around. You are not adding any more carbon into the atmosphere than you are removing. Same with the animals. Same with plants. They absorb lots of carbon in the spring. And release much of it back to the environment in the fall – more in the northern hemisphere than the south. This is why carbon levels in the atmosphere go up and down every year, although the overall trend is upward. The oceans absorb carbon from the atmosphere. They then release much of that back to the atmosphere. Volcanoes emit some as well.

    The carbon cycle also plays a role in causing ice ages – more carbon absorbed into oceans eventually leads to a colder atmosphere, and huge sheets of ice. Volcanoes slowly build up CO2 in the atmosphere, and then eventually the whole thing melts. But the whole thing has been in the semblance of a balance for several thousand years, with a slow drift towards absorption and in a few tens of thousands of years, possibly another ice age.

    Now we are reintroducing carbon that has been removed from the cycle for millions of years. It’s not much, but it’s slowly increasing the proportion of CO2 in the atmosphere. We know this. We can track the carbon isotopes from burned fossil fuels. So the planet is heating up as more heat is trapped in the atmosphere and now in particular the oceans. The principles are well understood. Most of the scientific “skepticism” focuses on the level of sensitivity and feedbacks in the system, not on these fundamentals.

    So when you make a dumb statement like

    Every mammal on the planet “emits carbon” every time it exhales. How shall we collect money from the giraffes that roam the serengeti?

    you basically disqualify yourself from informed comment on climate science.

    Hot! Thumb up 5

  38. ScottE

    Living creatures don’t make carbon. When you breath in and out, and do other stuff related to living, you are just moving carbon around. You are not adding any more carbon into the atmosphere than you are removing. Same with the animals.

    So we’ll stop hearing about cow farts causing global warming any time now?

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  39. Xetrov

    No really, It’s man-caused…We’re certain! Well, 95% certain…but apparently there’s no consensus on why the warming has stopped.

    But the article does outline exactly why I do not trust the IPCC –

    “The text is likely to change in response to comments from governments received in recent weeks and will also be considered by governments and scientists at a four-day approval session at the end of September,” the statement said. “It is therefore premature and could be misleading to attempt to draw conclusions from it.”

    “The text/conclusions will change because Governments are going to get involved, but it’s science, we promise.”

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  40. stogy

    ScottE, you did notice that they were referring much more to the problem of methane and nitrous oxide here as global warming gasses, more than CO2? From your link:

    When emissions from land use and land use change are included, the livestock sector accounts for 9 per cent of CO2 deriving from human-related activities, but produces a much larger share of even more harmful greenhouse gases. It generates 65 per cent of human-related nitrous oxide, which has 296 times the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of CO2. Most of this comes from manure.

    And it accounts for respectively 37 per cent of all human-induced methane (23 times as warming as CO2), which is largely produced by the digestive system of ruminants, and 64 per cent of ammonia, which contributes significantly to acid rain.

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  41. stogy

    No really, It’s man-caused…We’re certain! Well, 95% certain…but apparently there’s no consensus on why the warming has stopped.

    Well we know how much energy the earth is absorbing from the sun, and we know how much is being lost back to space. So the problem is more working out where that energy has gone since it hasn’t gone into land surface temperatures. Remember that we’ve had a long period of la nina and ENSO neutral weather. Also by starting the slowdown at 1997, when there was a massive el nino, the so-called slowdown looks a lot bigger than it actually is. But at least some of the missing heat appears to have gone into the oceans. There were a couple of big volcanic eruptions. All of this needs to be accounted for in assessing warming. There have been papers on this, such as this one by Foster and Rahmsdorf:

    We analyze five prominent time series of global temperature (over land and ocean) for their common time interval since 1979: three surface temperature records (from NASA/GISS, NOAA/NCDC and HadCRU) and two lower-troposphere (LT) temperature records based on satellite microwave sensors (from RSS and UAH). All five series show consistent global warming trends ranging from 0.014 to 0.018 K yr−1. When the data are adjusted to remove the estimated impact of known factors on short-term temperature variations (El Niño/southern oscillation, volcanic aerosols and solar variability), the global warming signal becomes even more evident as noise is reduced. Lower-troposphere temperature responds more strongly to El Niño/southern oscillation and to volcanic forcing than surface temperature data. The adjusted data show warming at very similar rates to the unadjusted data, with smaller probable errors, and the warming rate is steady over the whole time interval. In all adjusted series, the two hottest years are 2009 and 2010.

    The Fox story you linked to is a travesty of journalism, by the way. It starts with a quote from the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a leading source of climate misinformation, and then moves onto a quote from a ‘climate blogger’, Marc Morano who incidently just happens to be be a political science major – not a climate specialist – and former Senator Inhofe staffer.

    “The text/conclusions will change because Governments are going to get involved, but it’s science, we promise.”

    Some data in the report comes from governments, because governments, you know, collect data. Last time, the Netherlands government got some of its data wrong, and had to resubmit it.

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  42. CM

    Oh ok instead of shopping for an efficient and environmentally friendly house to begin with you chose the older inefficient model instead because the historical value to you takes precedence, but you’ll make it efficient one of these days (I’m sure) after all the extra costs and work of just making it structurally sound, and of course waiting for a good deal on solar. My guess is you’ve probably had that house for a while and could have taken care of it before you headed off to your other location. Perhaps things like costs which you already mentioned as a reason played a bigger factor which is understandable as money doesn’t grow on trees, but why sacrifice jumping into an efficient home and making it more efficient? Why instead buy a very inefficient home which will probably take some time to make efficient, if not a very long time, while having to save up money and find the time to fix it? Just seems like a selfish and not very environmentally conscious move.

    Ah I see, when you talk about people not telling others what they should do in other countries, you’re talking about yourself….

    That’s all you got left, huh?

    Yep, same old. It always gets a little difficult so then it’s some variation of the same old accusation instead.

    Marc Morano runs ‘Climate Depot’, a clearing-house for misinformation.

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  43. stogy

    Why instead buy a very inefficient home which will probably take some time to make efficient, if not a very long time, while having to save up money and find the time to fix it?

    Yeah, just on that. The house is naturally cool in the summer, but freezing in the winter. Running a couple of electric fans through summer and closing off the uninsulated parts of the house and heating just two rooms in the winter (plus a couple of lights and a TV) was hardly a big energy burden. Cooking was done on mostly on gas, but I also used a small electric oven I got off the street when I moved there 15 years ago.

    I was practically camping in the house. My energy usage was tiny – not because I made a conscious choice to reduce my environmental impact, but simply because that was the best and most cost effective way to live in the house.

    Perhaps you’d like to look at your own energy consumption before you dish out the ‘hypocrite’ label.

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  44. stogy

    Yep, same old. It always gets a little difficult so then it’s some variation of the same old accusation instead.

    It’s disappointing, CM. I went through everything point by point, showed how articles purporting to show skeptical positions have been misusing the sources that they actually quote from, how there are good, accessible scientific explanations for the soundbites they throw around, why they shouldn’t rely on disinformation sites for all their climate change data needs, and that the science is actually really solid, but it’s me that ends up being the true believer…

    There’s no logic to it.

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  45. CM

    It’s disappointing, CM. I went through everything point by point, showed how articles purporting to show skeptical positions have been misusing the sources that they actually quote from, how there are good, accessible scientific explanations for the soundbites they throw around, why they shouldn’t rely on disinformation sites for all their climate change data needs, and that the science is actually really solid, but it’s me that ends up being the true believer…

    I’ve been there more times than I can count.

    There’s no logic to it.

    That doesn’t seem to matter.
    Just like there is no logic having a go at you for apparently betraying your principles if that same person is betraying theirs by continue to use subsidy-reliant fossil fuels. Unless of course they conveniently claim to have no principles.

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  46. CM

    Even with 100% efficiency you still wouldn’t get enough electricity to power a home worth a fuck even if you covered 100% of your property with solar panels.

    What an obviously ridiculous thing to try and claim. I get you’re all up in arms at green subsidies, but you should at least try and reign in the more absurd nonsense. That’s as nutty as trying to claim that anyone suggests that solar is a solution to anything.

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  47. CM

    If you live close to the equator or can set these up in space, then yeah, awesome power output and lots of generation (although beaming the power back from space is tricky).

    Tell that to my folks who operate a large house and all the modern appliances almost entirely on solar, at 36.1667° S. That’s further south than the entire continent of Africa.

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  48. Section8

    Ah I see, when you talk about people not telling others what they should do in other countries, you’re talking about yourself….

    Oh no this was deliberate on my part. Just tired of you clowns lecturing us on an American blog which you still can’t seem to understand. I thought I’d turn the tables just a bit, and didn’t even go to a foreign blog to do it. Funny it didn’t take long for you to start getting annoyed by it. Just more foreign arrogance.

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  49. stogy

    Just more foreign arrogance.

    Yeah, much better to engage in a group-think demonstration of ignorance of the fundamentals of climate science than it is to have those attitudes ‘arrogantly’ corrected by a pesky New Zealander.

    Keep clicking on those thumbs down. So easy to hide what you don’t want to see.

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  50. Section8

    Which facts are those Stogy, that New Zealand provides no subsidies for solar and that solar as a contribution to their energy consumption isn’t any better than ours, in fact a bit worse? Kind of a weird isn’t it? Given that we’re so far backwards here.

    As far as your carbon claim, animals do emit more “carbon” (I’m assuming Iconoclast was referring to carbon in the form of CO2) than they take in. True unless you have a nuclear furnace that could create the carbon atom, the carbon you take in is what you put out, but your body can sure as shit change how that carbon is constructed in molecules, and fact is we and every other animal kick out more CO2 than we take in. It’s converted back elsewhere, and of course more breeding of carbon emitters would increase that CO2.

    Oh yeah, and you’ve been in that house for 15 years, but your recent travel is your excuse? Preach on as has been said here. As with all fundamentalists like you the rules should apply more to others than one’s self. The act of preaching apparently substitutes for any meaningful action.

    So go work on those panels dipshit, the world needs you.

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  51. Seattle Outcast

    I’m waiting for “spray-on solar panels” – turn any surface into a power source for the cost of a gallon of paint and the rental of an air compressor. Of course, we’ll need better nanotechnology than we have at the moment, but you really could turn every building into a contributor to the power grid during the day.

    If they come up with really cheap power storage, which appears to be only a few years away with the advent of new carbon based super-capacitors, the combination of them would radically change the face of the world as cheap power would be available to anyone on the planet 24 hours a day.

    Of course, increased power capacity will instantly be met with increased power usage and demand. Thinking that you can remain static in your power generating capacity and distribution is folly. When people install more energy efficient appliances, insulate their home, get new windows, lights, furnaces, hot water heaters, etc, they don’t just stop spending the money they save on their power bill – they tend to find more items that require electricity. Don’t believe me? How big is your television compared to 15 years ago? That 80″ plasma sucks up a lot more juice than that 27″ CRT beast it replaced.

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  52. stogy

    Which facts are those Stogy, that New Zealand provides no subsidies for solar

    You’ll have to ask the New Zealander about that.

    It’s converted back elsewhere, and of course more breeding of carbon emitters would increase that CO2.

    OK. So that CO2 is absorbed by plants, photosynthesized, and turned into glucose. The plant either dies and releases the carbon as CO2, or gets eaten by an animal, which respirates and turns the glucose back into CO2.

    I assume you know all this, as you kind of point it out, but if you do, then I can’t work out what your point would be in questioning this? The carbon moves around. More animals just move it around more. Even when you look at the carbon in food, some comes out as methane (or CH4), which contains carbon and is a very potent greenhouse gas. But again, carbon is not created or destroyed. Of course, if you are arguing that deforestation for grazing land removes a carbon sink and releases that carbon back into the atmosphere, then we are in agreement. But there still isn’t any extra actual carbon. It’s just moving around faster, and quite possibly staying in the atmosphere longer.

    And what about this?

    Oh yeah, and you’ve been in that house for 15 years,

    Who ever said I moved into that house 15 years ago? I said I got an oven off the street 15 years ago. Until recently, I rented and moved around. Saved up a deposit. Bought a lovely ruin. And then I got a chance to work elsewhere for a while.

    The act of preaching apparently substitutes for any meaningful action.

    Above, I said to Seattle Outcast that if the price of solar was too high, he wait until it comes down before buying (but that he encourages his neighbor to buy up big so that eventually, economies of scale reduce the prices). I also suggested to Miguelito that he orients his roof for solar harvesting so that when the prices come down to a point where it’s affordable, he’s all set to go. I didn’t tell anyone to go out and install solar right now if it wasn’t in their interests to do so. How is this “preaching” from a position that you allege I hold consistent with the actual statements I made here?

    So back to you – what’s your meaningful action? You preach here too, about all kinds of stuff. I mean, what do you actually do? What about subsidies that distort markets? How do you avoid buying subsidized products and services?

    So go work on those panels dipshit, the world needs you.

    For an empty house? I don’t think so, and nor do you. I get that you’re pissed. But is a hissy fit a good substitute for a reasoned argument?

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  53. Section8

    You’ll have to ask the New Zealander about that.

    I figured you would know given your supposed interest, but I guess since your real focus is on the US and whatever negative spin you can come up with regarding just about any subject involving this country, then it’s only America that’s falling behind. Doesn’t matter if this particular alternative source is even the best route to go at this point, the subject itself is useful for the moment for your American Derangement Syndrome views. When I asked what’s the point with us in being first in rushing out to buy these overpriced items we saw your response. As far as my interest in how NZ runs things, I really think it’s more up to them. I also really don’t care how you spend your money and prioritize it, but since you seem to feel it’s your duty to chime in about how we should run things, I thought I’d give the prick angle a shot there for a bit.

    So back to you – what’s your meaningful action? You preach here too, about all kinds of stuff. I mean, what do you actually do? What about subsidies that distort markets? How do you avoid buying subsidized products and services?

    What would my meaningful action be? Well I start by not going to other country’s blogs to tell them how I think they should run things. I think it’s rather dickish, but maybe it’s just different cultures. As far as subsidies, depends on how you define it. Like when we were talking plastic bags a while back your claim is that you are subsidizing the bags by shopping at a store that gives them out, but then again you are, as am I, are subsidizing the roof, the frozen foods section, and the produce section and every other part of the store whether you use those sections or care about a roof over the market or not. That’s just part of life. I view subsidies more from the angle of taxes where you can be incarcerated or have everything taken from you if you don’t comply. I’d prefer a smaller government, with subsidies kept at a minimum and more less controlled at state and local level, but then that’s a US thing, which you might find strange simply because I don’t think you have an understanding of it whatsoever.

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  54. Seattle Outcast

    Hey, I’m all for my neighbors wasting their money on their home. Hell, I’m going to install a standby generator that won’t get used more than twice a decade if I’m (un)lucky.

    Difference being that I’m not demanding a government subsidy to pay for my home improvement project.

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  55. CM

    Oh no this was deliberate on my part. Just tired of you clowns lecturing us on an American blog which you still can’t seem to understand. I thought I’d turn the tables just a bit, and didn’t even go to a foreign blog to do it. Funny it didn’t take long for you to start getting annoyed by it. Just more foreign arrogance.

    I wasn’t even remotely annoyed, I thought it was funny.

    Yeah, much better to engage in a group-think demonstration of ignorance of the fundamentals of climate science than it is to have those attitudes ‘arrogantly’ corrected by a pesky New Zealander.

    Keep clicking on those thumbs down. So easy to hide what you don’t want to see.

    Exactly.

    Preach on as has been said here. As with all fundamentalists like you the rules should apply more to others than one’s self. The act of preaching apparently substitutes for any meaningful action.

    So go work on those panels dipshit, the world needs you.

    Just as you and others preach on about subsidies for renewable energy while using fossil fuels that are subsidised substantially more?

    looks like the fucking kiwis in the government got wise to the game. Too bad it hasn’t trickled down to the populace

    I can’t see that quote anywhere else other than in that piece. I do note that it says “Eeca says affordability is getting better all the time” though.

    Around 75% of our electricity is generated from renewable sources (historically this has been mostly hydro and geothermal).

    In terms of solar, according to EECA:

    New Zealand has good solar radiation levels in many locations. Radiation levels in Invercargill are roughly as high as in Germany, where solar panels are commonly used.

    Many New Zealand homes are exposed annually to 20 – 30 times more energy from the sun than they use in electricity or gas, yet this energy source is vastly under-developed.

    On average, New Zealand has about 2000 hours of bright sunshine each year. In energy terms, New Zealand’s solar energy resource is about 4 kWh/m2 per day. To put that in perspective, if every New Zealand home had a 3kW photovoltaic (solar) panel array, they would collectively generate enough power in a year to satisfy over a quarter of New Zealand’s annual residential electricity needs.

    Around 1.6% of homeowners in New Zealand have now installed solar water heating systems, and currently there are around 3400 new solar water heating systems installed each year. This number is growing at around 30-40% annually.

    http://www.eeca.govt.nz/efficient-and-renewable-energy/renewable-energy/solar-energy-in-nz

    I also really don’t care how you spend your money and prioritize it, but since you seem to feel it’s your duty to chime in about how we should run things

    Well I start by not going to other country’s blogs to tell them how I think they should run things. I think it’s rather dickish, but maybe it’s just different cultures.

    Engaging in discussion and offering an opinion isn’t telling people how to run things.

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  56. Iconoclast

    So when you make a dumb statement like

    Every mammal on the planet “emits carbon” every time it exhales. How shall we collect money from the giraffes that roam the serengeti?

    you basically disqualify yourself from informed comment on climate science.

    I wasn’t trying to make an “informed comment on climate science”, that’s the point. I was making a comment on your advocating financial penalties for those who provide your electricity, on giving government more power to extract money from the private sector, based on a controversial “scientific theory”. I never claimed that “living creatures make carbon”, so telling me that they don’t is a classic straw man response. But then, burning fossil fuels doesn’t “make” carbon either, so it’s a straw man response on another level.

    …charge carbon emitters for the social cost of polluting…

    Perhaps you need to clarify when you mean by “carbon emitter”. Mammals do indeed emit CO2 when they exhale. If by “emit” you mean “transfer carbon from the ground — where it’s been stored for millennia — into the air”, then perhaps you should spell it out. Like it or lump it, all too often, the letter of the law is slavishly followed at the expense of the spirit of the law, the recent killing of Giggles the fawn being just one example. Once a law is on the books, it is no longer about doing what’s “right” (based on whomever gets to decide what “right” even means at the given moment), but doing whatever the law allows government to get away with. Hence Giggles, and “The Warrior Cop”, and so on and so on.

    No matter how “uninformed” you think it is, my “silly” scenario is, regrettably, tragically, perhaps not as far-fetched as you might wish it to be.

    And again, my main point was that classifying CO2 as a “pollutant” is simply an exercise in classic Orwellian doublethink/newspeak.

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  57. stogy

    I wasn’t trying to make an “informed comment on climate science”, that’s the point. I was making a comment on your advocating financial penalties for those who provide your electricity, on giving government more power to extract money from the private sector, based on a controversial “scientific theory”. I never claimed that “living creatures make carbon”, so telling me that they don’t is a classic straw man response.

    Then your entire statement was meaningless. If animals are not adding carbon to the carbon cycle, there is no point in charging them as if they were, and no point at all in saying what you did. It’s also a well known misleading ‘factoid’ that has been widely used by fake climate ‘sceptics. No-one has ever argued for taxing animal breath. So you went to a lot of trouble to make a non-argument, and then when you got caught out, you backtracked’. It’s not a straw man because I based my response on the actual claim that you made. You’ve gone from dumb to dumber in three sentences.

    But then, burning fossil fuels doesn’t “make” carbon either, so it’s a straw man response on another level.

    Right, they don’t. They take carbon that has been removed from the carbon cycle and add it back in. So carbon is accumulating in the atmosphere and disrupting the cycle. As I said. And this is something you confirm in the very next paragraph. So it’s not a straw man at all.

    Do you actually understand what a straw man fallacy is? Because that’s not actually coming through. You have to actually show that a person is making a weaker claim than the one tabled, and then knocking that down… However, it eh hem….might be a straw man to say that’s what I said, because you’ve actually misrepresented the claim I made.

    Perhaps you need to clarify when you mean by “carbon emitter”. Mammals do indeed emit CO2 when they exhale. If by “emit” you mean “transfer carbon from the ground — where it’s been stored for millennia — into the air”, then perhaps you should spell it out.

    OK. By emit, I meant fossil fuel producers, who are transferring carbon from the ground – where it’s been stored for millennia – into the air. Spelt out.

    No matter how “uninformed” you think it is, my “silly” scenario is, regrettably, tragically, perhaps not as far-fetched as you might wish it to be.

    I agree with you. It’s a silly scenario. I have absolutely no idea why this should be compared to Giggles the fawn, and you didn’t really say why. Carbon taxes are working well in other countries, and many governments have actually made them revenue neutral, so all the money collected is returned through the tax system. The function is to stimulate demand for market-based alternatives, not reduce economic output. And it has largely worked.

    But Giggles the fawn is an excellent example of a straw man! Well done!

    And again, my main point was that classifying CO2 as a “pollutant” is simply an exercise in classic Orwellian doublethink/newspeak.

    Oh for god’s sake. Perhaps you should spell out what ‘pollutant’ actually means. How about this as a functional definition?

    A pollutant is a substance or energy introduced into the environment that has undesired effects, or adversely affects the usefulness of a resource. A pollutant may cause long- or short-term damage by changing the growth rate of plant or animal species, or by interfering with human amenities, comfort, health, or property values.

    Or the OECD one?

    A pollutant is a substance that is present in concentrations that may harm organisms (humans, plants and animals) or exceed an environmental quality standard. The term is frequently used synonymously with contaminant.

    Almost anything is harmless if it is delivered in minimal quantities, and many things we actually classify as pollutants are essential for life. It’s the fact that there is too much of them in a system that makes them a pollutant. Fluoride is an important element for lifeforms, but too much of it and you die. That’s why it is often classified as a pollutant.

    Now, how it that Orwellian? Or perhaps you are redefining what Orwellian means. This, by the way, is known as a red herring fallacy.

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  58. Iconoclast

    I have absolutely no idea why this should be compared to Giggles the fawn, and you didn’t really say why.

    It’s an example of a ridiculous and tragic outcome when power is abused and the letter of the law trumps what the law was really passed for in the first place. No harm would have come to anyone had Giggles been allowed to recover and live. But sending in a battalion of marines (figure of speech alert) to kill a baby deer in an unarmed animal hospital is what we’ve come to. And all of the other scenarios in “The Warrior Cop”. And you want to give even more power to the state because of AGW, when history proves beyond any reasonable doubt that power will be abused.

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  59. Iconoclast

    Oh for god’s sake. Perhaps you should spell out what ‘pollutant’ actually means. How about this as a functional definition?

    …A pollutant is a substance or energy introduced into the environment that has undesired effects…interfering with human amenities, comfort, health, or property values…

    Oh for Marx sake, comfort? Property values? Water qualifies as a “pollutant” when it comes in the form of a flood. Fire qualifies when it’s a forest fire. A conveniently wide-open “definition” that can be applied to whatever is expedient at the moment, for whatever agenda…

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  60. stogy

    It’s an example of a ridiculous and tragic outcome when power is abused and the letter of the law trumps what the law was really passed for in the first place. No harm would have come to anyone had Giggles been allowed to recover and live. But sending in a battalion of marines (figure of speech alert) to kill a baby deer in an unarmed animal hospital is what we’ve come to. And all of the other scenarios in “The Warrior Cop”. And you want to give even more power to the state because of AGW, when history proves beyond any reasonable doubt that power will be abused.

    OK. Let’s look at the logic here, as a simple syllogism:

    Premise A: Giggles the fawn was killed because of an unjust law.
    Premise B: A carbon tax is also a law.
    Conclusion: Therefore a carbon tax is unjust.

    But you haven’t shown that all laws are unjust at all. Only that Giggles the fawn was killed because of an unjust law. Therefore the argument fails. I could just as easily find examples of just and useful laws as I could unjust and useless laws.

    It’s a straw man because it’s a very weak form of the argument that you’ve knocked down.

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  61. stogy

    Water qualifies as a “pollutant” when it comes in the form of a flood.

    Possibly, but we have other terms for floods that are more commonly used. But water can certainly be a pollutant in chemistry. Remember that pollutant and contaminant are often used interchangeably. Any chemist or biologist will tell you that condensation can damage or negate data from experiments. Food scientists spend huge amounts of time trying to keep excess moisture out of food packaging. Here’s a nice example of water as a pollutant:

    Moisture is generally referred to as a chemical contaminant when suspended in lubricating oils. Its destructive effects in bearing applications can reach or exceed that of particle contamination, depending on various conditions. Like particles, vigilant control must be exercised over entry of water to minimize its accumulation in the lubricants and its damage to bearing surfaces.

    But wait, there’s more:

    Water is also known to attack rust inhibitors, viscosity improvers, and the oil’s base stock. The effects are undesirable by-products such as varnish, sludge, organic and inorganic acids, surface deposits and lubricant thickening (polymerization). Large amounts of emulsified water can lower viscosity, thereby reducing a lubricant’s load carrying ability. When water is combined with metal catalysts such as iron or copper, accelerated stressing of the oil can occur. This results in base stock oxidation and the forming of free radicals (which continue the oxidation process), hydroperoxides, and acids.

    The problem really seems to me to be that you are not used to thinking of water as a pollutant, but it fits the definition, and certainly can work as a pollutant.

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  62. stogy

    Oh for Marx sake, comfort? Property values?

    Yeah. You should see what a layer of hazardous waste can do to the market value of your home. I am going to assume that this was another one of your ironic comments that contain absolutely no irony at all, and let you off this one.

    Fire qualifies when it’s a forest fire.

    Ah, now you are trying to dazzle me with facts! No, really.

    You do know what fire is and isn’t don’t you? And why the above statement once again illustrates your lack of understanding of basic science? You don’t get a free pass on this one. There is no way that fire could fit either the definitions that I cited above.

    Yet you feel perfectly free to make all kinds of comments about the work of scientists.

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  63. CM

    …based on a controversial “scientific theory”.

    Only within a very tiny bubble (predominantly comprising a section of the conservative/libertarian American right) is it considered to be “controversial”.

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  64. Iconoclast

    You don’t get a free pass on this one.

    Since when have you ever given me a “free pass”? Regardless, I can freely admit that I screwed the pooch with that example. I conflated “energy” with a process that produces energy. Nevertheless, a bad example does not invalidate a premise. Virtually anything can be considered a “pollutant”, and you basically confirmed that yourself.

    And as long as CO2 is considered a “pollutant”, then we emit a “pollutant” every time we exhale. The carbon cycle doesn’t enter into it.

    e·mit (-mt)
    tr.v. e·mit·ted, e·mit·ting, e·mits
    1. To give or send out (matter or energy):

    You can only club me over the head with “carbon cycle” if I were claiming that we “add CO2 to the atmoshpere” or “shift the balance” or whatever. But I’m not. I’m only saying that we emit CO2 when we exhale. The carbon cycle doen’t mitigate that.

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  65. Iconoclast

    OK. Let’s look at the logic here, as a simple syllogism:

    Premise A: Giggles the fawn was killed because of an unjust law.
    Premise B: A carbon tax is also a law.
    Conclusion: Therefore a carbon tax is unjust.

    Your “Premise A” is flawed. I never claimed that any law was “unjust”. “Unjust” is meaningless. Who decides what “just” even means? As I recall, Plato had to laboriously build an entire hypothetical Republic just to explore the question of what “justice” even is. But I digress.

    No, the point is that the law can be abused. And potentially taxing the very air we breath provides an enormous potential for abuse. You can drone on all you want about carbon cycles, but I doubt that your average government bureaucrat gives a tinker’s damn about carbon cycles. I suspect that they’re mainly interested in collecting their revenues and levying fines.

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  66. Iconoclast

    Yet you feel perfectly free to make all kinds of comments about the work of scientists.

    Absolutely, the occasional thoughtless, boneheaded comment on my part notwithstanding, and your self-righteous preening absolutely notwithstanding.

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  67. stogy

    “Unjust” is meaningless.

    It certainly is not meaningless. You can’t even have justice without a concept of injustice, as the purpose of justice is to set right injustice.

    And of course you can have unjust laws – laws that discriminate unfairly, laws that don’t produce their intended outcome, laws that jail people who shouldn’t be jailed. This was one of Gandhi’s whole points with the salt march, and then MLK’s argument that:

    “There are just laws and there are unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that an unjust law is no law at all… One who breaks an unjust law must do it openly, lovingly…I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the very highest respect for law.

    No, the point is that the law can be abused.

    Yes, but the law in the case of Giggles wasn’t abused. It was followed to the letter. And that was the problem. The whole outcry about Giggles was that she got put down unnecessarily and unjustly, because of the exact implementation of the law.

    So again, you need to show exactly why you think a specific law on a carbon tax is unjust if you want the argument to work. Are you arguing that all laws are inherently unjust, and that’s why we shouldn’t trust a carbon tax? Because that’s the corner you’ve talked yourself into.

    Of course, you could also show the law can be abused, but in that case, the Giggles argument wouldn’t be relevant. But I would be interested to know, how could it be abused?

    And potentially taxing the very air we breath provides an enormous potential for abuse.

    See again you are back to this. No-one is talking about taxing the air we breathe, because breathing isn’t adding to the carbon cycle. You admitted this yourself. The tax is specifically on the carbon added to the carbon cycle through the use of fossil fuels. There are many countries that have implemented it, none of the abuses you seem afraid of have happened. Many countries have made this tax revenue neutral. And if there is going to be abuse, it could happen anywhere in the tax system – there’s no need to introduce a carbon tax to abuse the tax system.

    So again, where is this potential for abuse specifically in a law on carbon tax?

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  68. CM

    Transitions to low-carbon fuels will likely need a global approach to externalities associated with burning the fuels. If carbon is the rationale, then a price on carbon (through a fee or an emissions trading scheme) is the most straightforward way to address this. That is one way to account for the economics of producers and consumers, technology investments, and global trade all in one go.

    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/plugged-in/2013/05/21/what-unconventional-fuels-tell-us-about-the-global-energy-system/

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  69. Seattle Outcast

    Switching from one energy source to another is generally determined by the economic realities of doing so, not whether or not something is “green” or “carbon neutral.” While those may be additional selling points to lock in the deal by appealing to emotional sensibilities, they are not primary drivers except for those that are mentally unhinged enough, and wealthy enough, to indulge in quasi-religious economics.

    Even die-hard environmentalists want their power to be affordable, glitch free, and available on demand; they’d be screaming their heads off if their macbook pro ran out of battery power in the middle of the night before they were done blogging about their new Prius.

    That being the case, solar can’t deliver the amount of energy needed to power today’s consumption needs. If you decide to switch over to solar, wind, hydro, & geothermal, etc for ALL your electricity, scarcity will drive up the cost and force people to deprive themselves of much, if not most, modern technology. Therefore, unless forced to do live under circumstances, the power needs will continually be met at the primary level by using energy dense sources that are run on-demand and scalable to daily/seasonal fluctuations.

    In other words, coal & natural gas for electricity, and gasoline for cars. At least until fusion is commercially feasible.

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  70. Iconoclast

    It certainly is not meaningless.

    If you are claiming that justice was served by killing a baby deer, then it certainly has become meaningless. Like I said, no harm would have come to anyone had Giggles been allowed to recover and set free. It takes bureaucratic thinking to believe killing Giggles served any kind of justice, or was a desired outcome of the law.

    Yes, but the law in the case of Giggles wasn’t abused. It was followed to the letter.

    For starters, following a law to the letter doesn’t preclude its being abused. Quite the contrary, it’s obsessing over the letter of the law to the detriment of the spirit of the law that arguably qualifies as abuse. The people at the no kill shelter are described as “illegally holding a wild animal in captivity”, which is bullshit. The fawn was taken there by a family that was worried it had been abandoned by its mother. It was scheduled to be released to a wildlife shelter the very next day. But none of that matters apparently. Gotta follow the letter of the law, all else be damned…

    “We were just doing our job” is what they said at Nuremberg, Godwin’s Law notwithstanding.

    It’s an example of a ridiculous and tragic outcome when power is abused and the letter of the law trumps what the law was really passed for in the first place. No harm would have come to anyone had Giggles been allowed to recover and live.

    Iconoclast, August 25, 2013 9:02 AM

    So obviously, I was not arguing that the letter of the law wasn’t being followed. Just the opposite, as anyone can see.

    The bottom line is that this had nothing to do with “justice”. Giggles was killed because certain people didn’t have the right government-issued pieces of paper. It’s all about bureaucracy and “policy”, not “justice”. This was treated like a drug raid, for Marx sake.

    So again, you need to show exactly why you think a specific law on a carbon tax is unjust…

    I don’t “need” to do shit. History already shows us that laws can be abused, and I’m not arguing that any law is “unjust”, because the term has no meaning when it come to government bureaucracy.

    You guys are supposed to be pro-free market right? So remove the barriers to solar, let people sell their excess power on the grid (minus a portion to pay for managing and repairing the grid), remove subsidies for fossil fuels, charge carbon emitters for the social cost of polluting, and let the market sort it out.

    stogy, August 18, 2013 9:43 PM

    You are trying to pretend that “charging carbon emitters for the social cost of polluting” somehow represents the “free market”, but it doesn’t. It represents government intervention. You may very well argue that government intervention is a necessity, but don’t go around trying to tell us that it represents the “free market”. And that is before we even redefined “carbon emitters” as “fossil fuel burners”. My silly example was meant to highlight that ambiguity, and as we all know, government bureaucrats never capitalize on ambiguity, and are always diligent about getting the wording of a law just right to mitigate any possibility of abuse. The Law of Unintended Consequences is just an expression of abject paranoia…

    </sarcasm>

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  71. CM

    You are trying to pretend that “charging carbon emitters for the social cost of polluting” somehow represents the “free market”, but it doesn’t. It represents government intervention. You may very well argue that government intervention is a necessity, but don’t go around trying to tell us that it represents the “free market”.

    It represents an attempt to correct more than a century of chronic free-market failure (to account for negative externalities, where costs have not been accurately allocated). It’s an attempt to reduce free-riding.

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  72. Iconoclast

    It represents an attempt to correct more than a century of chronic free-market failure (to account for negative externalities, where costs have not been accurately allocated). It’s an attempt to reduce free-riding.

    Of course, this assumes that the various predictive models do provide a way to “accurately allocate costs” in the first place, which is far from proven. Also, as I’ve been saying, the whole AGW alarmism bandwagon simply provides more excuses for government intervention, government expansion, and the inherent dangers of both, not that anybody in the AGW camp gives a damn, by all appearances. No, it appears to be all about punishing “carbon emitters”, as your mini-rant illustrates, using what could easily be taken as Marxist jargon about the alleged short-comings of free-market capitalism.

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  73. CM

    Of course, this assumes that the various predictive models do provide a way to “accurately allocate costs” in the first place, which is far from proven.

    Which is why I said it’s “an attempt”.

    Also, as I’ve been saying, the whole AGW alarmism bandwagon simply provides more excuses for government intervention, government expansion, and the inherent dangers of both, not that anybody in the AGW camp gives a damn, by all appearances.

    That’s very alarmist. ;-)
    I think most are concerned about what the scientific method is telling us about our world. What we do about it (if anything) comes after that.
    But anyway, putting a price on carbon would seem to be a relatively minimalist move, and more consistent with market ideology as it seek to reduce subsidisation.

    No, it appears to be all about punishing “carbon emitters”, as your mini-rant illustrates, using what could easily be taken as Marxist jargon about the alleged short-comings of free-market capitalism.

    Those two sentences constitute a ‘mini-rant’? Really? Wow, ok. I support capitalism, which is why I favour a market-based approach. Again, reducing subsidisation would seem to me to far more consistent with the market idea of costs being correctly allocating, and free-riding being minimised.
    I would assume that rallying against a market-based solution will only get you closer to greater/worse/actual “government intervention, government expansion”.

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  74. Iconoclast

    Which is why I said it’s “an attempt”.

    Using government to make market “corrections” based on unproven models doesn’t strike me as wise or intelligent at all.

    That’s very alarmist. ;-)

    Kidding aside, there is a world of difference between recognizing the dangers of ceding power to governments based on the historical record of what happens when governments get powerful, and ceding power to governments based on unproven models.

    But anyway, putting a price on carbon would seem to be a relatively minimalist move, and more consistent with market ideology as it seek to reduce subsidisation.

    One can reduce or eliminate subsidization without levying a tax — the two are quite independent of each other. The former would be in line with letting the free market work. The latter is the diametric opposite.

    Those two sentences constitute a ‘mini-rant’? Really?

    “Mini” means “small”, and in the two sentences you manage to pack in quite a bit of harsh criticism of perceived shortcomings of free-market capitalism, as I stated earlier. But perhaps I’m just “taking things the wrong way” again…

    Again, reducing subsidisation would seem to me to far more consistent with the market idea of costs being correctly allocating, and free-riding being minimised.

    And again, reducing or eliminating subsidies has absolutely nothing to do with levying taxes, which is what “charge carbon emitters for the social cost of polluting” would be, a tax. Stogy already admitted as much, so there is no rational reason to pretend otherwise.

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