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Make the Rich Pay for Their Own Green Ideas

What’s happening to Emmanuel Macron’s green agenda in France ought also to throw a scare into America’s green politicians. That is, to a green-minded politico searching for greatness on the international stage, all the glittering conferences, all the praising op-eds, all the lionizing profiles—none of that means much if you find yourself in a collision with your own voters. A green politician without political support at home is, well, the future head of a foundation or international organization, not the re-elected head of a country.

In particular, the wave of protests [1] against Macron’s new tax—aimed at reducing fossil fuel consumption in keeping with the de-carbonization goals of climate change activists—has been met by a populist buzzsaw. The so-called “yellow jackets” have been out in force for weeks, leaving hundreds arrested and injured. The demonstrations are the worst in France since 1968, when the legendary Charles De Gaulle was forced into retirement. And so on December 4 came the news that Macron’s government was suspending the fuel tax for six months [2].

So now Macron, the onetime golden boy of French politics, elected in a landslide just last year, is staring into the abyss of a 26 percent approval rating [3]. In fact, Macron’s rating is 20 points lower than that of his predecessor in the Élysée Palace, François Hollande, at the same point in his presidency—and Hollande was a one-termer.

As CNBC explains [4], Macron is “seen as aloof and well-off and representing the elite.” So while Macron’s approval rating among the well off—to say nothing of the haute salons of London, New York, and Brussels—is probably much higher than it is in France as a whole, the plutocrats and chatterers can’t do much for Macron now.

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Indeed, the fuel tax proved to be the perfect crystallization of Macron’s aloof style, which he himself volunteered to be Jupiterian [5]. From the lofty green Mount Olympus of Macron’s world, the solution to climate change seemed as clear as the Aegean Sea on a halcyon day: impose new taxes on carbon consumption.

Greens mostly like carbon taxes because they hate fossil fuels, and, by extension, the whole consumer world of automobiles, lawnmowers, and microwave ovens. In the meantime, mainstream economists tend to favor consumption taxes because they are simple to collect. And over on the right, free marketeers are often okay with consumption taxes because they don’t involve raising rates on income and investment.

Yet there’s just one thing: in this elite technocratic conversation as to how best to proceed on decarbonization, ordinary people are left out. That is, someone without a Ph.D. or an FT subscription is unlikely to be consulted as the great and the good hammer out policy. Yet in pluralist nations, when the folks finally figure out what’s happening to them, they have ways of making their voices heard.

Hence this December 2 headline [6] from Reuters: “France’s Macron learns the hard way: green taxes carry political risks.” As the article explained, “Macron’s plight illustrates a conundrum: How do political leaders introduce policies that will do long-term good for the environment without inflicting extra costs on voters that may damage their chances of re-election?”

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Here we might pause to note that the fuel taxes in question aren’t that large—the equivalent of 12 to 24 cents a gallon. Moreover, the French are hardly strangers to big government: the state’s share of the economy has hovered between 56 and 57 percent of GDP for a decade.  

Yet even if the French are used to lots of taxes, it does appear that the, er, insouciance of the new tax has stuck in their collective craw. That is, Macron seems to have indulged himself in the snobby Gallic temptation to épater (skewer) le bourgeoisie. Such skewering is hardly good politics in a democracy, but then nobody should need to be reminded that the rich are different.

Thus the fuel tax protests have morphed into a larger uprising against “Davocracy,” [7] that being a sly reference to Davos, the site of the globalist World Economic Forum. And of course, Macron, a former Rothschilds investment banker [8], is a Davos Man [9] par excellence.

So yes, it was from a high throne that Macron decreed that French carbon emissions should fall by 40 percent by 2030 and that internal combustion cars should be banned altogether by 2040.

From an Al Gore point of view, these pronouncements are not only fine but vital. Yet to the French public, those green deadlines are starting to look a little too close. And the fuel taxes are just a taste of things to come.

Indeed, the people of France might have noticed that their country accounts for less than 1 percent of world CO2 emissions [10]. So what’s the big deal about France?

Meanwhile, around the world, CO2 emissions are rising [11], not falling. In fact, in China [12] and other Asian countries [13], even coal consumption is rising. It would seem that the Chinese are happy to tell the green elites what they wish to hear at international conferences, even as back home they themselves continue to burn as they please. Yes, the People’s Republic is eager to sell us solar panels, but it reserves the right to pick the best energy source for itself.

Moreover, The New York Times recently reported [14] that Indonesia, a country of 264 million, boasting the 16th largest economy in the world, is busy tearing up its carbon-sinking rain forest to grow palm oil, which can be used as a fuel that, yes, releases even more carbon dioxide. In other words, Indonesia isn’t even pretending to cooperate with the global greens.

So what was the reaction of the green elite when Asians in the East ignored international climate rules and emitted their merry way? Why, that’s easy: they cracked down harder…on Westerners. In fact, the Macronian impulse to regulate French carbon is fully consistent with the longstanding desire of past Sun Kings to regulate the peasantry: other countries, of course, have similar top-down traditions.

Indeed, it’s hard to think of an elite anywhere that doesn’t believe that it knows what’s best for the peons. Yes, there is such a thing as improving the commonweal. But as Lincoln once said, human nature can be improved but only slowly. And yet the greens, as we know, are in a hurry.

The greens in America might wish to study what’s happening in France, because they might be destined for the same blowback. After all, perhaps the quickest way to reanimate the dreaded Tea Party would be to impose a new green tax.

So what then should be done about climate change? Or at least could be done? One answer that never seems to get considered in Davosian conclaves is to finance the desired de-carbonization with taxes on the rich, as opposed to the middle and working classes. That is, instead of a Macron-style frontal assault on working stiffs, in the form of a consumption tax, what if the elite decided to finance de-carbonization out of its own wealth? What if the French government announced that henceforth, taxes on the rich will finance the production of electric cars that will then be made available, on favorable terms, to ordinary motorists? In other words, what if the rich paid for the greening of the economy?

Of course, it might be argued that the rich don’t have enough money to pay for any such green transformation. And that might well be true.

Indeed, the idea of the rich paying for the greening that so many fat cats advocate is so abstract as to perhaps qualify as a crypto-Marxist thought experiment and nothing more. Still, that thought experiment reminds us that for the greens, there are issues more important than de-carbonization, such as wealth preservation. Yet if wealth preservation is important to the rich, maybe it’s important to the middle class, too.

In the meantime, so long as the petit bourgeoisie see their green betters flying around in private jets and living in big homes, it’s a safe bet that they’ll grow increasingly resistant to hectoring dictates.

So if they’re in search of an actual, workable plan for carbon reduction, the greens will have to look beyond austerity. One such answer is atmospheric carbon capture, as argued by this author here [15] at TAC in 2017. After all, if green plants—as in vegetation—have been capturing carbon for eons, we ought to be able to figure out how to do it, too. Carbon capture is an obvious win-win: get the benefit of the fuel and protect the environment.

It’s always seemed to me that if the elite were truly elite—that is, as smart and fit to lead as they think they are—then they’d be thinking up popular and effective solutions to problems as opposed to unpopular and ineffective solutions to problems. Macron, of course, found the latter, and now he’s probably a goner.  

Yet it’s not too late for America’s greens. They’re not in power yet, and so they still have time to figure out ways to solve ecological problems without doing violence to Americans’ financial or psychological well-being.

So that’s the choice: learn from Macron’s mistakes or share Macron’s fate.

James P. Pinkerton is an author and contributing editor at The American Conservative. He served as a White House policy aide to both Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

46 Comments (Open | Close)

46 Comments To "Make the Rich Pay for Their Own Green Ideas"

#1 Comment By spite On December 5, 2018 @ 5:01 am

Ask any limousine liberal if they could save the world from global warming with a 99% tax rate and you will very quickly see where the priority REALLY lies.

#2 Comment By Michael Kenny On December 5, 2018 @ 7:11 am

I don’t really see how Macron is a “goner”. He was elected for five years in 2017. I see this article as much more the frustration of the American anti-EU faction at their failure to manipulate us into destroying the EU than any serious analysis of the current situation in France.

#3 Comment By Johann On December 5, 2018 @ 8:00 am

“Correcting” people’s behavior with taxes never works. Its the typical big govmint ideological method that keeps not working. So lets quit bashing our collective heads against the wall. Lets encourage development of new less harmful or beneficial technologies which are cheaper for the consumer than the existing harmful technologies. In fact, the developed world has already greatly reduced their CO2 emissions by cleaner technologies. Newly developed fracking methods for extraction of natural gas is but one example. There is no reason that additional technological improvements cannot continue to provide cleaner and cleaner energy. Forget the punishment route which impoverishes people and kills economies.

#4 Comment By JeffK On December 5, 2018 @ 8:12 am

Education is the key: “Green Energy is energy that can be extracted, generated, and/or consumed without any significant negative impact to the environment. The planet has a natural capability to recover which means pollution that does not go beyond that capability can still be termed green. ”
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From this article in TAC: “Moreover, The New York Times recently reported that Indonesia, a country of 264 million, boasting the 16th largest economy in the world, is busy tearing up its carbon-sinking rain forest to grow palm oil, which can be used as a fuel that, yes, releases even more carbon dioxide. In other words, Indonesia isn’t even pretending to cooperate with the global greens.” – Yes, this is not good. But, most of that carbon would have been released into the atmosphere over the next 50 years anyway, when those rain forest trees died. Only to be recaptured when new trees grow (either palm or natural rainforest). This growth – death – regrowth cycle is the basis for green energy, and life on earth.

This is what most people don’t understand. Bioenergy uses the ability of plants to extract CO2 from the air and turn it into energy we can use. Green energy accelerates the CO2 capture – release – capture cycles. In contrast, burning fossils fuels releases CO2 that nature took hundreds of millions of years to gradually capture. During those hundreds of millions of years the earth gradually became cooler and wetter due to the reduction of the CO2 greenhouse effect.

The earth will survive climate change. It will just be a very different place. If that change took place gradually, say over 1000 years, humans would naturally adapt by moving away from the equator to wetter, cooler areas. But if temperatures rise very rapidly, say over 50 years from 2030 to 2080, much of humanity will be severely and negatively impact. Manywill not be able to move in that short period of time.

How about this: Direct current fossil fuel subsidies to green energy. The fossil fuel industry has been getting subsidies and tax breaks for the last 50 years. When will it end?

From the wiki link below: “According to a Congressional Budget Office testimony, roughly three-fourths of the projected cost of tax preferences for energy in 2016 was for renewable energy and energy efficiency. An estimated $10.9 billion was directed toward renewable energy; $2.7 billion, went to energy efficiency or electricity transmission. Fossil fuels accounted for most of the remaining cost of energy-related tax preferences—an estimated $4.6 billion.[33]” – The fossil fuel industry is mature, the renewable energy industry is just getting started. Why should fossil fuels receive any subsidy? BTW, I am intentionally showing renewable energy subsidies. Nothing to hide.
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The VOX article takes a slightly different view, but it aligns with the wiki. “US fossil fuel production is subsidized to the tune of $20 billion annually” – We need to understand a problem before we can solve a problem.
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#5 Comment By Ken T On December 5, 2018 @ 8:51 am

Yes, James, the sun rises in the East, water is wet, and use taxes are regressive. Nice of you to have finally noticed what liberals have been pointing out for decades. But since THE cornerstone of conservative philosophy is “the rich shouldn’t have to pay taxes” that leaves you in a bit of a bind, doesn’t it? I anxiously await hearing your proposed solution to your self-created dilemma.

#6 Comment By SteveK9 On December 5, 2018 @ 9:05 am

The solution to ‘decarbonization’ is simple and right in front of us. It’s nuclear power. The problem is that the people in favor of nuclear power don’t believe in climate change and those people who believe in climate change are opposed to nuclear power (with some notable exceptions). Both groups are anti-Science nitwits.

#7 Comment By Mark B. On December 5, 2018 @ 9:12 am

The neo-liberal elites in Europe (Macron is one of these examples only the French can come up with, before you know it he will offer the French free cake) are thinking the effects of climate change will make ‘les deplorables’ accept the transition to green energy while keeping the neo-liberal order of rogue capitalism and extreme inequality as it is.

Such fools.

#8 Comment By Jack H On December 5, 2018 @ 10:31 am

SteveK9, I believe that climate change is driven heavily by carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases generated by human activity. I also think that nuclear power is highly desirable. But it won’t by itself provide decarbonization. Just for example, you would need to replace our existing fleet of gas-burning cars and trucks with vehicles running on electricity or hydrogen, plus the necessary infrastructure for electricity or hydrogen.

BTW, calling people nitwits is impolite. Even if accurate, it is not a good way to persuade them.

#9 Comment By John_M On December 5, 2018 @ 11:33 am

We have a tragedy of commons situation here. Instead of decrying ‘elites’ is is worthwhile working from our best understanding of the situation. I am a physicist and Ph.D. engineer and no, I don’t subscribe to the FT, although I think it is very good. I make do with ‘The Economist’. For almost 50 years I have argued for nuclear power over carbon fuels. At this point I am dubious of the economics of nuclear power – by the way, I like the Thorium fuel cycle for technical reasons. The cost of solar and wind is now substantially lower and if excess solar and wind power are devoted to the production of fuels, can be used to provide fuel where batteries will not due. Personally, I find storage of hydrogen as anhydrous ammonia to be particularly interesting.

I am convinced that the greenhouse effects are going to have catastrophic impact of society and the economy – choosing not to believe because you don’t want to contemplate it is intellectual cowardice.

Carbon taxes are the most efficient approach to moving the economy away from carbon – you can get away from the entire mileage and efficiency regulations. But it is painful because the increased price drives your behavior. Do you buy that big pickup or a little hybrid sedan. If you only need the capacity of the pickup occasionally, you may make do with a trailer or a rented truck, as needed. Some people truly can justify the big vehicle. High fuel prices force users to consider this in their daily lives – and irritate them daily.

Batteries are going to be adequate for short distance transportation. For long haul transportation, this is much less obvious. It seems likely that fuel will be needed for higher energy density by weight or volume. For land and ocean vehicles, ammonia will certainly do, and for long haul air travel, biofuels will do. But transportation is likely to get more expensive.

#10 Comment By Egypt Steve On December 5, 2018 @ 11:39 am

I’m a liberal, sans limousine, but a marginal 99 percent tax rate is A-OK with me. You just have to understand how tax rates work. A 99 percent tax rate on, say, incomes above 10 million would be a very great social benefit. But anyone hit with that rate wouldn’t pay it for their *first* ten million. They’d pay (e.g., just making up some tax hypothetical tax brackets) zero percent on their first $20,000, 20 percent on their next $60,000, 30 percent on their next $140,000, 50 percent on income between $200,000 and 5 million, 75 percent on their income between 5 million and 10 million, and 99 percent on everything about 10 million. I’m all in for it.

#11 Comment By b. On December 5, 2018 @ 12:10 pm

TAC is pushing the ‘Elites want to “save the planet” at any cost’ BS rather hard these days.

I hesitate to blame Buchanan for a tagline that might well be an editorial misfire, but he an Pinkerton are selling the same narrative, putting the “con” in “conservative.”

Just to be clear: the elites do not want to save the planet. Nobody wants to save the planet. Everybody wants to save themselves. The question is, are there people who want to save the unborn? Because railing against abortion in the expectation that it will not ever affect yourself is hardly a display of courage, and refusing to consider sacrifice at cost to yourself is the exact opposite of courage.

We might have to bleed to roll back and contain the mistakes and criminal negligence of our generation and our parent’s generation, but it appears that Buchanan is, solidly, a member of those “elites” he poses to criticize.

One important and valid point is that, regardless of what sacrifices we will have to make, the real elite interest in climate change “mitigation” is Clintonian – the tried and true biparty con of P4 – Public-Private “Partnership” for Profit, from carbon sequestration all the way to the money shot concepts of “geoengineering”. However, unlike movements for sustainability, resilience, and decentralization, those elite profit extraction moves have absolutely nothing to do with fixing what we are doing wrong, and just want to add more subsidized dysfunction right alongside the congressional-oil-industrial complex.

One other valid concern would be the Bernanke-Yellen bubble financing of a fracking Ponzi scheme that threatens to run just long enough to irrecoverably commit billions to pipelines and terminals that will never serve a purpose.

But the snake oil that Pinkerton is selling will not get anybody to where the money changes hands.

#12 Comment By Kent On December 5, 2018 @ 12:15 pm

Macron is just being stupid. Raising carbon taxes is the right thing to do. But offset it by a greater reduction in income taxes on the working class. Why isn’t this obvious?

#13 Comment By One Guy On December 5, 2018 @ 1:44 pm

I thought we were all about cutting taxes on the rich? Consistency?

#14 Comment By Rabiner On December 5, 2018 @ 2:36 pm

“It’s always seemed to me that if the elite were truly elite—that is, as smart and fit to lead as they think they are—then they’d be thinking up popular and effective solutions to problems as opposed to unpopular and ineffective solutions to problems. Macron, of course, found the latter, and now he’s probably a goner. ”

Under the current technology it’s the best solution although unpopular due to the costs. Still better than relying on a technological advancement that doesn’t exist. Also if trees capture carbon and convert it to oxygen, shouldn’t reforestation be a solution to the issue as well?

#15 Comment By fabian On December 5, 2018 @ 2:52 pm

Micahel Kenny; if after one year you stand at 25% in ratings, your capital city is a war zone and food is blocked to enter the country, you’re not even a goner, you never existed.

#16 Comment By fabian On December 5, 2018 @ 2:54 pm

Taxing the rich in France is not possible. First, they all moved away to Switzerland or Belgium. Second, for the few who are left, taxes during the Holland reign were sometimes higher than the gross income (because they tax assets heavily). Thus, forcing people to sell assets in order to pay taxes.

#17 Comment By MM On December 5, 2018 @ 7:20 pm

One Guy: “I thought we were all about cutting taxes on the rich? Consistency?”

Oh, you’re quite wrong about that one.

The tax overhaul that was passed last year increased effective tax rates on the rich, particularly wealthy Democrats in blue states, who squealed like the pigs they are when their itemized deductions for property taxes and state income taxes were capped.

Consistency? They should be happy to pay more in federal income taxes.

I wholeheartedly agree with such policies, and would also support a 25% excise tax on top of it, but only for registered Democrats and Greens who make over the median income. Progressives who won’t put their money where their mouth is ought to be forced to via the tax code…

#18 Comment By Jack H On December 5, 2018 @ 7:37 pm

I don’t think Pinkerton knows what’s happening out there. Some people ARE talking about financing de-carbonization by taxes on the rich, at least in part. The “Green New Deal” that Ocasio-Cortez and her colleagues are pushing calls for “taxes on carbon and other emissions and progressive wealth taxes.” To repeat and emphasize, “PROGRESSIVE WEALTH TAXES.” That doesn’t fit Pinkerton’s narrative. (I pulled the quote from [19]) It also calls for the Fed to print money to get the job done, just like it did in WWII and 2008-09.

#19 Comment By Countme-a-Demon On December 5, 2018 @ 8:00 pm

“Taxing the rich in France is not possible. First, they all moved away to Switzerland or Belgium.”

France’s rich can count their money better than you can count the number of France’s rich.

1,617,000 millionaires in France at last count:

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Roughly 42,000 millionaires, not a negligible number, but less than 3% of the total, left France between the years 2000 and 2014.

No word on how many millionaires moved TO France from other countries.

I’d say do the math, but the word “all” seems to be the only number available to you.

#20 Comment By JeffK On December 6, 2018 @ 9:21 am

An article describing the coal industry’s absolutely dismal future.

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Obama didn’t kill coal. Natural gas and renewables did. From the article.

“Under the existing market structure, US energy companies face $78 billion in stranded asset risk from coal, according to a Carbon Tracker study released last week. The think tank estimates that it costs more to run 70% of US coal capacity than to build new renewable generation. And that figure will rise to 100% by 2030.”

Like I said before, once you build a water, solar, or wind powered facility the fuel is free.

#21 Comment By mrscracker On December 6, 2018 @ 11:23 am

This reminds me a of a family member who owns homes on both coasts & worries about carbon emissions effects on the planet-all while they fly back & forth across the continent in first class.
🙂

#22 Comment By MM On December 6, 2018 @ 1:43 pm

“Obama didn’t kill coal. Natural gas and renewables did.”

Natural gas far more than renewables has been killing coal:

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Which President Obama took credit for, even though he had nothing to do with the natural gas boom that began in 2006. At most, he stayed out of the way despite environmentalists demand to crack down on fracking.

“Once you build a water, solar, or wind powered facility the fuel is free.”

Fuel may be low or no cost, but energy generation is never free:

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Geothermal, advanced natural gas, and onshore wind are the cheapest. Solar thermal and offshore wind are the most expensive, by far.

If you’re trying to convince people of a particular position, the least you could do is include all relevant facts.

That is what an open-minded person would do, isn’t it?

#23 Comment By JeffK On December 6, 2018 @ 5:25 pm

@MM says:
December 6, 2018 at 1:43 pm

Your trolling gets tiring, therefore I don’t want to get into a back and forth with you. But.

From about 2012 thru 2015 I was the on-site system implementation consultant at a major mid-stream natural gas processor’s 4 sites in Western PA, Eastern OH, and WV. I did everything, from setting up their systems, training their users, and helping them put their inventory into stock so that it could be controlled and accounted for. I understand the industry, from the processor’s perspective pretty well. Much better than you, I suspect.

Including renewables with nat gas is perfectly sensible when discussing the demise of coal, even though nat gas is much more of a threat to coal than renewables, at this time. That, however, is changing as renewables become less expensive as the technologies mature. If you fly into Corpus Christ from the north you will fly over a massive windfarm right in the heart of oil and gas country. And it’s getting bigger. Companies wouldn’t be installing significant new wind generating capacity if it wasn’t cost competitive.

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Also, I never said free fuel makes energy generation free. I am not going to defend that strawman logical fallacy.

“If you’re trying to convince people of a particular position, the least you could do is include all relevant facts.”

I wasn’t trying to convince anybody of anything. I just stated supported facts to let others draw their own conclusions. Another strawman logical fallacy I won’t defend.

Your air of condescension wafts right through your comments.

Here’s a suggestion. Find a job where you actually have to deliver real, measurable results that you can take pride in. Something that directly affects the profit and loss of the business. Spend less time trolling others in a vain attempt to demonstrate some level of intellectual superiority.

Additionally, since you typically complain about living in CA, do what Sam Kinison suggests regarding world hunger. Move! Move to Texas, which is booming, and get a job that doesn’t have you chained to a desk. They need people so bad for field work they will probably even take a chance on an economist. I think you will be much more satisfied with your life if you make a change.

Sam Kinison
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Logical Fallacies
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Regarding your anticipated response…. Whatever

#24 Comment By One Guy On December 6, 2018 @ 5:45 pm

@MM:
“The tax overhaul that was passed last year increased effective tax rates on the rich…”

Well, gee, if you say so, it MUST be true!! Next you’ll tell us that Trump’s tariffs have brought prices down, and Midwest soybean farmers are getting rich. Because you say so.

#25 Comment By MM On December 6, 2018 @ 9:51 pm

Zero Guy: “Well, gee, if you say so, it MUST be true!”

Well, I read the news and can educate myself on financial matters. That’s more than I can say for you.

Top marginal income tax rates only adjusted slightly. State income and local property tax deductions, the two biggest by the way, were capped at $5,000 per person, and hit filers at the high end of the income ladder. Standard deduction was doubled, which helps everyone at the low end of the income ladder. The federal income tax system became more progressive with the passage of last year’s tax bill.

Basic math is pretty hard for you, huh?

#26 Comment By MM On December 6, 2018 @ 10:23 pm

JeffKrank: ” I am not going to defend that strawman logical fallacy.”

You accuse others of lying by omission, then do it yourself, and then cry like a baby when someone points out the facts you omit?

There’s an easy solution for that, sir. Quit lying!

I don’t give a damn what you call a logical fallacy. Calling outsome someone like you for his intellectual dishonesty is always worth doing, whether you like it or not.

“Your air of condescension wafts right through your comments.”

Have you ever read your own comments? Ever looked in the mirror? All you’ve done since you started commenting at TAC is to disparage anyone who dares disagree with you on anything. And then you complain when people call out your crap?

Give me a break. Act your age. Unless you are an autistic troll living in your parents’ basement, which wouldn’t surprise me.

And I’m quite content in California, for the time being.

But you complain about America all the time. For example, who the President is, how he was elected, bad energy policies, not enough gun control, taxes aren’t high enough, etc.

Why don’t take your own stupid advice and become at ex pat?

#27 Comment By Alex (the one that likes Ike) On December 7, 2018 @ 10:26 am

SteveK9,

The solution to ‘decarbonization’ is simple and right in front of us. It’s nuclear power. The problem is that the people in favor of nuclear power don’t believe in climate change and those people who believe in climate change are opposed to nuclear power (with some notable exceptions). Both groups are anti-Science nitwits.

Well, you expect too much from them. They don’t even seem to grasp that the “clean” electric cars obtain their “fuel” through burning the same hydrocarbons at TPPs.

#28 Comment By JeffK On December 7, 2018 @ 11:28 am

@Alex (the one that likes Ike) says:
December 7, 2018 at 10:26 am

“They don’t even seem to grasp that the “clean” electric cars obtain their “fuel” through burning the same hydrocarbons at TPPs.”

Absolutely correct, per the Wiki below, a power plant that only burns coal has 37% thermal efficiency. Efficiency improves to about 60% when the waste heat is used to do other useful things, like heating buildings.

Thermal efficiency in gasoline engines in cars varies between 25% and 50%. So, from an environmental perspective, there is some benefits to an electric car. The benefits, from an environmental perspective, are much much greater if green power is used to charge an electric car’s battery.

Nuclear power, however, has huge risks and potential costs. The fukushima nuclear disaster is estimated to cost $189 billion.

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#29 Comment By Alex (the one that likes Ike) On December 7, 2018 @ 2:00 pm

JeffK,

Absolutely correct, per the Wiki below, a power plant that only burns coal has 37% thermal efficiency. Efficiency improves to about 60% when the waste heat is used to do other useful things, like heating buildings.

Thermal efficiency in gasoline engines in cars varies between 25% and 50%. So, from an environmental perspective, there is some benefits to an electric car. The benefits, from an environmental perspective, are much much greater if green power is used to charge an electric car’s battery.

There’s only one cost-effective type of “green” power – hydroelectric power plants. Problem is, Colorado Rivers are not everywhere to build such things. Most rivers are too small.

Unless you want to run a small-time economy in some coastal area, where the use of wind power might be profitable. But only until the moment you want your heavy industry. And yes, “heavy industry” includes hi-tech too – you won’t have a single computer without steel mills and copper refineries.

Nuclear power, however, has huge risks and potential costs. The fukushima nuclear disaster is estimated to cost $189 billion.

Well, don’t build NPPs in seismically dangerous areas, and those risks evaporate together with their potential costs. While reaching the closed fuel cycle will make the whole thing a one-horse race for decades, if not centuries. Nothing will be able to compete with the nuclear power when it happens.

P. S. Also, you might wonder why the EU countries, with all the supposed efficiency of their “green” energy, seek new sources of hydrocarbons so desperately that Germany vehemently opposes US sanctions against Iran, while France and Italy nearly clash over who controls Libya.

#30 Comment By Cas On December 7, 2018 @ 5:42 pm

It seems a bit disingenuous to argue that Macron’s green taxes are what have people riled up, when you IGNORE the actions that Macron took to get to this point. What might get a populist riled up and make them don a yellow jacket? How about a tax cut for the wealthy that ignores the bulk of French citizens?

How do you think Macron got that “elitist, out of touch” label? By pandering to the wealthy in the hope of increasing economic growth–tax cuts for the wealthy. Awesome. I can imagine how average French citizens took that and then added the green taxes on top of that!

Maybe the French would have reacted the same, but I have to wonder what would have happened if Macron had instituted the green tax and then followed it up with relief for lower and middle class French citizens? Perhaps the wealthy would be out screaming in yellow jackets? The French values of fraternity and equality got violated big time with Macron’s approach–and he is paying the price for his arrogance.

#31 Comment By JeffK On December 8, 2018 @ 3:00 pm

@Alex (the one that likes Ike) says:
December 7, 2018 at 2:00 pm

“There’s only one cost-effective type of “green” power – hydroelectric power plants. Problem is, Colorado Rivers are not everywhere to build such things. Most rivers are too small.”

Not so sure about that. Per Forbes:
“The cost of renewable energy is now falling so fast that it should be a consistently cheaper source of electricity generation than traditional fossil fuels within just a few years, according to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

The organisation – which has more than 150 member countries – says the cost of generating power from onshore wind has fallen by around 23% since 2010 while the cost of solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity has fallen by 73% in that time. With further price falls expected for these and other green energy options, IRENA says all renewable energy technologies should be competitive on price with fossil fuels by 2020.

Globally, onshore wind schemes are now costing an average of $0.06 per kilowatt hour (kWh), although some schemes are coming in at $0.04 per KwH, while the cost of solar PV is down to $0.10 per KwH. In comparison, the cost of electricity generation based on fossil fuels typically falls in a range of $0.05 to $0.17 per KwH.”

Seems like the cost of renewables is gaining momentum downward like a large snowball rolling down a hill.

Big utilities in the US are not making substantive investments in fossil fuels anymore.

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“The dynamic (retiring coal plants nationwide) amounts to an existential crisis for the U.S. coal industry. While coal still accounts for roughly a third of U.S. power generation, the industry is slowly contracting as plants retire and utilities replace them with natural gas and renewables. American Electric Power Co. Inc., one of the country’s largest coal-burning utilities, recently announced plans to build a $4.5 billion wind farm in Oklahoma (Energywire. July 27). PacifiCorp, another coal-centric power company, has similar plans to upgrade its wind fleet while slowly transitioning away from power plants fueled by the black mineral (Climatewire, April 6).”

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Wind energy is getting much more reliable, but the industry certainly has a way to go. That being said, the greater the number of wind turbines in a wind farm makes the overall output of the windfarm much more predictable. And many manufacturing facilities require reliability. From the link below:

“Reliability of wind turbines has improved with time and has achieved an availability of 98%, but wind turbines fail at least once per year, on average, with larger wind turbines failing relatively more frequently.7 A recent study of US wind turbines found that when all sources of downtime are accounted for, the average wind turbine actively generates power for 1.5 days between downtime events and that the average downtime is 1.6 hours.”

Not great reliability, but it will improve, because that’s what capitalism and failure effect mode analysis (FEMA) and resulting design and operational improvements do. Like I said before “Once you build a water, solar, or wind powered facility the fuel is free.” And secure. And significantly less vulnerable to terrorism. Which is a powerful incentive to make it work and be profitable.

BTW. In PA you can choose your electricity source. I have been buying green power for at least 5 years.

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#32 Comment By JeffK On December 8, 2018 @ 5:00 pm

@Alex (the one that likes Ike) says:
December 7, 2018 at 2:00 pm

“Nuclear power, however, has huge risks and potential costs. The fukushima nuclear disaster is estimated to cost $189 billion.”

“Well, don’t build NPPs in seismically dangerous areas, and those risks evaporate together with their potential costs.”

I fly out of Harrisburg when I fly to Montreal or other destinations south. Often flying within eyesight of the dead containment building of 3 Mile Island.

I never knew Harrisburg was a seismically dangerous area.

Sorry, I just couldn’t help it. Snark off.

#33 Comment By Alex (the one that likes Ike) On December 9, 2018 @ 1:33 am

JeffK,

Not so sure about that. Per Forbes:
“The cost of renewable energy is now falling so fast that it should be a consistently cheaper source of electricity generation than traditional fossil fuels within just a few years, according to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

The organisation – which has more than 150 member countries – says the cost of generating power from onshore wind has fallen by around 23% since 2010 while the cost of solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity has fallen by 73% in that time. With further price falls expected for these and other green energy options, IRENA says all renewable energy technologies should be competitive on price with fossil fuels by 2020.

Globally, onshore wind schemes are now costing an average of $0.06 per kilowatt hour (kWh), although some schemes are coming in at $0.04 per KwH, while the cost of solar PV is down to $0.10 per KwH. In comparison, the cost of electricity generation based on fossil fuels typically falls in a range of $0.05 to $0.17 per KwH.”

Seems like the cost of renewables is gaining momentum downward like a large snowball rolling down a hill.

Big utilities in the US are not making substantive investments in fossil fuels anymore.

Yup. And that’s why the EU countries – the world’s “green” vanguard – cling to every source of hydrocarbons they can find so desperately that even the fact that the said source might be in a war zone doesn’t stop them. That’s why America invests so heavily in her shale industry, even though the whole industry is expensive like hell when compared to traditional oil and natural gas sources. You know how “researchers” writing… epistolary essays about the alleged “cheapness” of green energy begin to look like when the harsh reality disproves their pink unicorns at every turn. Like hacks. Artless hacks, I would add.

“The dynamic (retiring coal plants nationwide) amounts to an existential crisis for the U.S. coal industry. While coal still accounts for roughly a third of U.S. power generation, the industry is slowly contracting as plants retire and utilities replace them with natural gas and renewables. American Electric Power Co. Inc., one of the country’s largest coal-burning utilities, recently announced plans to build a $4.5 billion wind farm in Oklahoma (Energywire. July 27). PacifiCorp, another coal-centric power company, has similar plans to upgrade its wind fleet while slowly transitioning away from power plants fueled by the black mineral (Climatewire, April 6).”

How cute. The coal is still “a third of US power generation” but it faces “an existential crisis” because the Electric Power Co. is planning to build a windfarm in Oklahoma? Seriously? You know, I can name many MIC companies that produce civilian goods. MIC is facing an existential crisis? This excerpt doesn’t even need to wait for the reality to disprove it. It merrily refutes itself.

Wind energy is getting much more reliable, but the industry certainly has a way to go. That being said, the greater the number of wind turbines in a wind farm makes the overall output of the windfarm much more predictable. And many manufacturing facilities require reliability. From the link below:

“Reliability of wind turbines has improved with time and has achieved an availability of 98%, but wind turbines fail at least once per year, on average, with larger wind turbines failing relatively more frequently.7 A recent study of US wind turbines found that when all sources of downtime are accounted for, the average wind turbine actively generates power for 1.5 days between downtime events and that the average downtime is 1.6 hours.”

Not great reliability, but it will improve, because that’s what capitalism and failure effect mode analysis (FEMA) and resulting design and operational improvements do. Like I said before “Once you build a water, solar, or wind powered facility the fuel is free.” And secure. And significantly less vulnerable to terrorism. Which is a powerful incentive to make it work and be profitable.

I guess that’s why Italy, which is, basically, one big shore – an ideal place for windfarms – is fighting with France over Libya, that hot spot of a country, to control its hydrocarbons. Again the harsh reality refutes the fantasy world of “green future”. That’s Europe, I stress it, not the US with its “evil corporations”.

BTW. In PA you can choose your electricity source. I have been buying green power for at least 5 years.

You can also pay for a T-shirt with “Giorgio Armani” or “Christian Dior” on that. I fail to see what’s the difference with the one I have on me while writing this comment, though.

I fly out of Harrisburg when I fly to Montreal or other destinations south. Often flying within eyesight of the dead containment building of 3 Mile Island.

I never knew Harrisburg was a seismically dangerous area.

Sorry, I just couldn’t help it. Snark off.

Oh, how sweet. And how many children with radiation-induced pathologies were born in that area? How many cases of ARS recorded? Facts, boring and quantitative. Not the emotional “it looks scary” things.

#34 Comment By JeffK On December 9, 2018 @ 3:49 pm

@Alex (the one that likes Ike) says:
December 9, 2018 at 1:33 am

Alex,
The lack of investment in new fossil fuel facilities is a clear indicator that the industry is in serious decline. Of course industry executives will wring out the last dollar out of their fixed assets. But they aren’t reinvesting in them to make them last significantly longer. And in many cases they are closing them instead of making even modest repairs. And then investing that money in renewables instead.

Those same executives, whose compensation totals many tens of millions of dollars a year to make correct business decisions, are choosing to invest in renewables because they see the future quite clearly. Per the Forbes article I linked, renewables will produce power cheaper than coal by 2020. Less than 2 years away.

Utility industry leadership could probably care less about the environment. And they could probably care less about what the idiot president of the US says. They deal in cold hard reality. Their concern is ROI and their performance bonuses based on that ROI. And they are directing their investment $$s to renewables. People with skin in the game are the ones to watch when decisions are being made. And those execs have a lot more skin in the game than you or I.

Regarding Europe, they have little fossil fuels on the continent. There is no viable alternative yet for fossil fuels for transportation, although CNG is on the horizon. Europeans need transportation, so they need fossil fuels. But energy for buildings and industry is another matter. Their investment in renewables serves those types of customers. See the Economist article below.

My focus is on economics. Fukushima will cost an estimated $189B to clean up. TEPCO, the owner of the dead reactor, currently has a stock price of less than $6/share. It used to trade in a range of $25 – $30/share. That bet on nuclear and the dead reactor didn’t work out too well for them nor their shareholders.

Three mile island is going to close soon. Probably in 2019. From the linked article below.

“In May, plant owner Exelon said it would prematurely close Three Mile Island… The point of no return for Three Mile Island may still be a year away, in December 2018. The company would need to order more fuel about 10 months in advance. Fein says it’s possible to do that in a shorter time frame, but it’s not ideal.

That comes with a cost though. The longer you go, the more costly it is for the fuel purchase.”

Regarding Fukushima design, according to the article linked below there are 20 plants in the US with the same design, which is now seriously being questioned. Disasters happen. Some designs are more robust than others.

All of your talk about “evil corporations”, “radiation induced pathologies” and “ARS” is your deflection. I did not bring them up. I commented from a pure financial investment, ROI, operating cost, maintenance cost, and risk of stranded investments. I am not saying anything emotional about “it looks scary”. You are. Strawman logical fallacy.

Market capitalization in green industries is accelerating significantly. From the linked article below: “Specifically, the firm said the green economy represents 6 percent of the market capitalization of global listed companies, amounting to about $4 trillion. “This represents a significant investment opportunity, approximately the same size as the fossil fuel sector,” the report stated.”

From an Economist article titled “How to lose half a trillion euros” Europe’s electricity providers face an existential threat. From the article: “ON JUNE 16th something very peculiar happened in Germany’s electricity market. The wholesale price of electricity fell to minus €100 per megawatt hour (MWh). That is, generating companies were having to pay the managers of the grid to take their electricity. It was a bright, breezy Sunday. Demand was low. Between 2pm and 3pm, solar and wind generators produced 28.9 gigawatts (GW) of power, more than half the total. The grid at that time could not cope with more than 45GW without becoming unstable. At the peak, total generation was over 51GW; so prices went negative to encourage cutbacks and protect the grid from overloading.” And more:

“The trouble is that power plants using nuclear fuel or brown coal are designed to run full blast and cannot easily reduce production, whereas the extra energy from solar and wind power is free. So the burden of adjustment fell on gas-fired and hard-coal power plants, whose output plummeted to only about 10% of capacity.” And more:

“The decline of Europe’s utilities has certainly been startling. At their peak in 2008, the top 20 energy utilities were worth roughly €1 trillion ($1.3 trillion). Now they are worth less than half that (see chart 1). Since September 2008, utilities have been the worst-performing sector in the Morgan Stanley index of global share prices. In 2008 the top ten European utilities all had credit ratings of A or better. Now only five do.”

If you are bullish on companies using fossil fuels for generating electricity then get some skin in the game. Invest in them. Put a significant amount of your net worth in them. Even better, invest in them on margin. That way, you may make a lot more money based on the same $$s invested. Of course, you will lose a lot more money if you invest wrong. Just make sure you can afford to lose that money.

I comment on TAC a lot. Not to troll, but to provide a point of view that focuses on facts, logic, trends, and least of all emotion. I do this to hopefully provide others with a POV that, even though it may not align with the Faux News ‘conservative’ bubble, may prove enlightening.

For that I express my appreciation to the editors and those that read and appreciate my perspectives.

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#35 Comment By JeffK On December 9, 2018 @ 5:18 pm

@Alex (the one that likes Ike) says:
December 9, 2018 at 1:33 am

Interesting that you passed on commenting on this from the previously linked Scientific American article below: “Utilities entered 2017 with plans to retire 4.5 gigawatts of coal—or 2 percent of 2016 U.S. coal capacity—and add 11 GW of natural gas and 8.5 GW of wind, according to figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.”

Let that sink in. In 2020 zero additional coal fired capacity will be brought online. Instead coal-fired capacity will be reduced by 2%. Capacity will increase 11% from nat gas, and 8.5% from wind. 20 years ago all of that additional capacity would have come from coal. Now none of it does.

And there is NOTHING on the horizon that will reduce that trend. The economics do not support adding coal capacity, nor often even in investing in keeping it going. No matter what The Cheeto Messiah currently occupying the whitehouse says.

For the last 8 years I have been implementing advanced maintenance software for large capital intensive companies. When I first got into the field I was amazed at how expensive and difficult it is to maintain huge plants.

Coal plants are very capital intensive, are expensive to operate, and cost an unbelievable amount of money to maintain. Often the maintenance crews are larger than the operating crews.

Experiences at 2 steel plants, and 1 nat gas midstream processor clearly demonstrated to me that anything that significantly reduces maintenance cost is a real competitive disruptor, since maintenance is probably the 2nd largest expense, after fuel.

A large coal plant could easily have 10,000 things to maintain; boilers, conveyors, furnaces, pumps, air and water piping and systems, cranes and lifts, trucks and forklifts, rail systems, environmental systems, gates, roads, buildings, water treatment, and security systems. And that’s just what comes to mind easily.

What is maintained at a solar plant? I don’t know. No solar power company has ever approached us with a need for a maintenance system. I guess they just maintain the roads that allow them to periodically clean the solar panels and replace any wiring infrastructure and electronics. I bet all of the panels are self-monitoring and indicate when there are issues. Coal plants require lots of skilled trades: Operators, pipefitters, welders, electricians, mechanics, etc. Solar plants, not so much.

Now considering solar compared to coal. Per the Forbes linked article “… while the cost of solar PV is down to $0.10 per KwH. In comparison, the cost of electricity generation based on fossil fuels typically falls in a range of $0.05 to $0.17 per KwH.” Do you really think those coal plants will somehow magically become cheaper to maintain as they age?

I googled, but there aren’t many articles that address industrial solar plant maintenance costs. The articles I found indicated panels last about 25-30 years, often with warranties. Very few things in a power plant last that long without either being rebuilt or replaced.

When a utility is faced with massive refurbishment projects (which happens regularly and predictably) the utility often spends hundreds of millions of $$s. I suspect that’s why the industry is not reinvesting in coal.

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#36 Comment By Alex (the one that likes Ike) On December 10, 2018 @ 3:52 am

JeffK,

The lack of investment in new fossil fuel facilities is a clear indicator that the industry is in serious decline. Of course industry executives will wring out the last dollar out of their fixed assets. But they aren’t reinvesting in them to make them last significantly longer. And in many cases they are closing them instead of making even modest repairs. And then investing that money in renewables instead.

Those same executives, whose compensation totals many tens of millions of dollars a year to make correct business decisions, are choosing to invest in renewables because they see the future quite clearly. Per the Forbes article I linked, renewables will produce power cheaper than coal by 2020. Less than 2 years away.

Utility industry leadership could probably care less about the environment. And they could probably care less about what the idiot president of the US says. They deal in cold hard reality. Their concern is ROI and their performance bonuses based on that ROI. And they are directing their investment $$s to renewables. People with skin in the game are the ones to watch when decisions are being made. And those execs have a lot more skin in the game than you or I.

Which kind of “lack of investment”? Show me one single region with heavy industry where the said industry is wind- or solar-powered – and then we’ll at least have something tangible to talk about. Until then “renewables producing power cheaper than coal” will remain a sheer theory out of touch with the objective reality. It even might become cheaper at some point. Problem is, it ain’t gonna produce enough power. You’ll simply need to have too many windfarms to give you the same output.

The idea that “companies don’t invest in something that is not profitable” is risible to the core. Two words: government subsidies. They still get their profits from the unprofitable. At the entire country’s expense.

Regarding Europe, they have little fossil fuels on the continent. There is no viable alternative yet for fossil fuels for transportation, although CNG is on the horizon. Europeans need transportation, so they need fossil fuels. But energy for buildings and industry is another matter. Their investment in renewables serves those types of customers. See the Economist article below.

Hmmm… Are you even aware that the natural gas (comressed or not) is a hydrocarbon as well? That it’s used to fuel TPP as much as coal? That Iran and Libya are exactly the countries that have huge natural gas fields? Thus, I repeat my question: why the EU countries seek new hydrocarbon (including natural gas) sources so desperately, if their “green” power is so efficient?

My focus is on economics. Fukushima will cost an estimated $189B to clean up. TEPCO, the owner of the dead reactor, currently has a stock price of less than $6/share. It used to trade in a range of $25 – $30/share. That bet on nuclear and the dead reactor didn’t work out too well for them nor their shareholders.

Three mile island is going to close soon. Probably in 2019. From the linked article below.

“In May, plant owner Exelon said it would prematurely close Three Mile Island… The point of no return for Three Mile Island may still be a year away, in December 2018. The company would need to order more fuel about 10 months in advance. Fein says it’s possible to do that in a shorter time frame, but it’s not ideal.

That comes with a cost though. The longer you go, the more costly it is for the fuel purchase.”

Regarding Fukushima design, according to the article linked below there are 20 plants in the US with the same design, which is now seriously being questioned. Disasters happen. Some designs are more robust than others.

Nope, your focus is purely on emotions. Fukushima NPP was built where it shouldn’t have been. Period. Whether the Japanese had much of a choice is another question. But the fact remains: don’t build NPPs in seismically dangerous areas – and it will be perfectly safe. And when the closed fuel cycle is reached, its profitability skyrockets.

All of your talk about “evil corporations”, “radiation induced pathologies” and “ARS” is your deflection. I did not bring them up. I commented from a pure financial investment, ROI, operating cost, maintenance cost, and risk of stranded investments. I am not saying anything emotional about “it looks scary”. You are. Strawman logical fallacy.

Nope, you didn’t comment from those viewpoints. You’re still idly chatting about them without giving any numerical data to prove it. You haven’t yet offered anything different from argumentorum ad passiones. I’m not buying it. I wasn’t even when I was young.

Market capitalization in green industries is accelerating significantly. From the linked article below: “Specifically, the firm said the green economy represents 6 percent of the market capitalization of global listed companies, amounting to about $4 trillion. “This represents a significant investment opportunity, approximately the same size as the fossil fuel sector,” the report stated.”

Market capitalization? Seriously? I can name you a company producing useless electronic toys for the price of a decent Japanese motorcycle. Its market capitalization is growing as well.

From an Economist article titled “How to lose half a trillion euros” Europe’s electricity providers face an existential threat. From the article: “ON JUNE 16th something very peculiar happened in Germany’s electricity market. The wholesale price of electricity fell to minus €100 per megawatt hour (MWh). That is, generating companies were having to pay the managers of the grid to take their electricity. It was a bright, breezy Sunday. Demand was low. Between 2pm and 3pm, solar and wind generators produced 28.9 gigawatts (GW) of power, more than half the total. The grid at that time could not cope with more than 45GW without becoming unstable. At the peak, total generation was over 51GW; so prices went negative to encourage cutbacks and protect the grid from overloading.” And more:

“The trouble is that power plants using nuclear fuel or brown coal are designed to run full blast and cannot easily reduce production, whereas the extra energy from solar and wind power is free. So the burden of adjustment fell on gas-fired and hard-coal power plants, whose output plummeted to only about 10% of capacity.” And more:

“The decline of Europe’s utilities has certainly been startling. At their peak in 2008, the top 20 energy utilities were worth roughly €1 trillion ($1.3 trillion). Now they are worth less than half that (see chart 1). Since September 2008, utilities have been the worst-performing sector in the Morgan Stanley index of global share prices. In 2008 the top ten European utilities all had credit ratings of A or better. Now only five do.”

If you are bullish on companies using fossil fuels for generating electricity then get some skin in the game. Invest in them. Put a significant amount of your net worth in them. Even better, invest in them on margin. That way, you may make a lot more money based on the same $$s invested. Of course, you will lose a lot more money if you invest wrong. Just make sure you can afford to lose that money.

And yet the EU seeks more and more new sources of hydrocarbons. Mostly those used to fuel TPPs, not motor vehicles. Eager to lose their money, huh? Again the objective reality disproves the fantasy world of the “researchers” inhabiting pink unicorn-infested ivory towers.

I comment on TAC a lot. Not to troll, but to provide a point of view that focuses on facts, logic, trends, and least of all emotion. I do this to hopefully provide others with a POV that, even though it may not align with the Faux News ‘conservative’ bubble, may prove enlightening.

For that I express my appreciation to the editors and those that read and appreciate my perspectives.

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Trying to defeat the “conservative bubble” with yet bigger liberal one is not the most productive type of crusade. You’re free to keep on going Sisyphean, though.

Interesting that you passed on commenting on this from the previously linked Scientific American article below: “Utilities entered 2017 with plans to retire 4.5 gigawatts of coal—or 2 percent of 2016 U.S. coal capacity—and add 11 GW of natural gas and 8.5 GW of wind, according to figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.”

Let that sink in. In 2020 zero additional coal fired capacity will be brought online. Instead coal-fired capacity will be reduced by 2%. Capacity will increase 11% from nat gas, and 8.5% from wind. 20 years ago all of that additional capacity would have come from coal. Now none of it does.

And there is NOTHING on the horizon that will reduce that trend. The economics do not support adding coal capacity, nor often even in investing in keeping it going. No matter what The Cheeto Messiah currently occupying the whitehouse says.

For the last 8 years I have been implementing advanced maintenance software for large capital intensive companies. When I first got into the field I was amazed at how expensive and difficult it is to maintain huge plants.

Coal plants are very capital intensive, are expensive to operate, and cost an unbelievable amount of money to maintain. Often the maintenance crews are larger than the operating crews.

Experiences at 2 steel plants, and 1 nat gas midstream processor clearly demonstrated to me that anything that significantly reduces maintenance cost is a real competitive disruptor, since maintenance is probably the 2nd largest expense, after fuel.

A large coal plant could easily have 10,000 things to maintain; boilers, conveyors, furnaces, pumps, air and water piping and systems, cranes and lifts, trucks and forklifts, rail systems, environmental systems, gates, roads, buildings, water treatment, and security systems. And that’s just what comes to mind easily.

What is maintained at a solar plant? I don’t know. No solar power company has ever approached us with a need for a maintenance system. I guess they just maintain the roads that allow them to periodically clean the solar panels and replace any wiring infrastructure and electronics. I bet all of the panels are self-monitoring and indicate when there are issues. Coal plants require lots of skilled trades: Operators, pipefitters, welders, electricians, mechanics, etc. Solar plants, not so much.

Now considering solar compared to coal. Per the Forbes linked article “… while the cost of solar PV is down to $0.10 per KwH. In comparison, the cost of electricity generation based on fossil fuels typically falls in a range of $0.05 to $0.17 per KwH.” Do you really think those coal plants will somehow magically become cheaper to maintain as they age?

I googled, but there aren’t many articles that address industrial solar plant maintenance costs. The articles I found indicated panels last about 25-30 years, often with warranties. Very few things in a power plant last that long without either being rebuilt or replaced.

When a utility is faced with massive refurbishment projects (which happens regularly and predictably) the utility often spends hundreds of millions of $$s. I suspect that’s why the industry is not reinvesting in coal.

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The only interesting thing is that I have answered this, perhaps, three times already. But I’ll repeat: name one single region (not necessarily in the US) where the heavy industry is solar- or wind-powered. To see how these theories are put into practice. Then and only then we’ll have something real to talk about.

#37 Comment By JeffK On December 10, 2018 @ 11:25 am

@Alex (the one that likes Ike) says:
December 10, 2018 at 3:52 am

Your contention that I must show a heavy industry that is *directly* powered by solar or wind is a strawman. It cannot be done. Electricity is fungible. Pump it into the grid and it goes wherever it goes.

I spent over a year at a steel minimill in Indiana. It was the largest consumer of electricity in Indiana. Within 50 miles there is a large windfarm, pumping electricity into the grid. Coincidence? I don’t know. Some of that electricity probably goes to the minimill. Who knows. Doesn’t matter. it goes into the grid. Megawatts of it. Day and night.

Instead of refuting a single thing I said about investment, operating and maintenance costs, retiring of coal plants, retiring of nuclear plants, bringing wind and solar online as a replacement for coal, etc, you choose to get me to try to respond to a strawman argument.

Sad. Very typical of right wing debating tactics.

Plus, your condescending ” Are you even aware that the natural gas (comressed or not) is a hydrocarbon as well?” is just ridiculous. Of course I know nat gas (methane) is a hydrocarbon. It’s a compound composed entirely of hydrogen and carbon (CH4). 4 Hydrogen atoms for every carbon atom. That’s why you can burn it, unvented, into your house (with well maintained equipment). Other than pure hydrogen it’s one of the cleanest burning fuels on earth, if not the cleanest.

That’s one of the reasons it is being adopted for so many applications. Convert a gasoline or diesel engine to nat gas and it will probably last 2-3 times as long as the petroleum version (assuming proper maintenance). There are at least 3 reasons: One, there is very little carbon buildup in the engine and lubricating oil; Two, the nat gas vapor does not wash the oil film off the cylinder walls like gasoline does, which reduces cylinder and piston ring wear; Three, it’s more of a progressive burn than an explosive burn, lessening stress on engine components. I know a little about engines. I used to race motorcycles, and can tear down and rebuild an engine.

You have your opinions. I have mine. You believe wind and solar don’t scale. I believe they do, and everything I read indicates costs are just starting to come down based upon economics of scale. Seems like most industry executives believe the same based upon where they are investing their money.

Also, I always hear fossil fuel advocates complain about subsidies for wind and solar. How about the fossil fuel industry, and their subsidies? Per The Guardian the US fossil fuel industry receives $20 BILLION a year in subsidies. Why not a word about those?

Right now, over half of the coal produced in the US is produced by companies that have declared bankruptcy. Fantastic business model. I strongly suggest you buy their shares into your 401K so that you can retire comfortably after they miraculously rebound (not).

Here is my premise, which I believe I have more than adequately defended.

The coal industry is dying. Dead man walking. Nat gas and renewables killed it. Not Obama. And Trump will not revive it with his stupid repeal of EPA regulations. However, there will be some coal used for awhile due to local economics. Nat gas will be a bridge fuel to the future, for both transportation and electrical generation. It will, in many cases, be replaced by wind and solar for generating electricity, due to the incredibly low maintenance costs and the fuel being free. Probably within the next 15 years.

Now, back to work for me. Have a great day.

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#38 Comment By Alex (the one that likes Ike) On December 11, 2018 @ 7:26 am

Everything in this world is powered directly. With the entire amount of electricity produced in a given region. Thus, it would be a very easy task to show a region with heavy industry which gets most of its power (or even simply a considerable, relevant part of it) from wind and sunrays. If it existed, of course. But something makes me think it doesn’t.

And, due to that fact, all this talking about the “death of the coal industry” remains just another case of wishful thinking out of touch with the objective reality. A fuel source can’t fall in disuse if you ain’t got nothing to replace it with. There is, actually, a type of fuel that can replace coal. The aforementioned natural gas. And it’s probably the best medium-term solution for most countries. Atom is better, but you either have to be the US or Russia (maybe France) to have the technologies required to build NPPs yourself or rich enough to order an NPP construction from one of the above. So, natural gas. But it’s a) hydrocarbon b) specifically in the US is extracted mostly through fracking, which ain’t great for the ecology. Hence – one more “a, b, c” thing – you a) accept those ecological risks b) import it like oil c) keep on using coal. Hydrocarbons in any case.

Or atom.

#39 Comment By JeffK On December 12, 2018 @ 7:15 am

Alex,
Per the linked article below: “There are three grids in the Lower 48 states: the Eastern Interconnection, the Western Interconnection — and Texas.”

Thems some pretty big grids.

Have a great day.

JK

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A visual map shows the same.

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#40 Comment By Alex (the one that likes Ike) On December 13, 2018 @ 11:58 am

And this is meant to be a response to…?

What’s the percentage of “green” power in their overall output? It would be easy to cite those numbers if they supported your narrative, wouldn’t it?

#41 Comment By JeffK On December 14, 2018 @ 1:42 pm

Alex (the one that likes Ike) says:
December 13, 2018 at 11:58 am

“And this is meant to be a response to…?”

That energy derived from renewables has to be close to the point of use, either in a grid or a region, for renewables to be seen as valid sources of energy for industry.

There are 3 grids. Hundreds of power producers, millions of power consumers. Producers direct power in. Consumers, by definition, consume. How far apart they are is immaterial, since they are in the same grid. Your contention that renewable producers have to be in the same ‘region’ as industrial consumers just doesn’t make any sense.

Regarding renewables as a percentage of power, per the Deloitte article below: “Having only recently been recognized as a “mainstream” energy source, renewable energy is now rapidly becoming a preferred one. A powerful combination of enabling trends and demand trends—evident in multiple developed and developing nations globally—is helping solar and wind compete on par with conventional sources and win.”

Bottom line, renewable generation and use is becoming mainstream. I believe the trend is irreversible, since, as I noted before virtually ZERO coal fired energy plants are coming online in the near future in the US.

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From the article below, regarding the retiring of coal fired plants: “America’s coal plants closing despite Trump. US utilities will take 11.4 GW of coal-fired power plant capacity offline in 2018, in spite of Trump’s orders. Why? Simple economics, explains Michael Buchsbaum.”

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And “U.S. coal plant closures expected to accelerate. Competition from cheap natural gas and renewables threatens to close half of the remaining U.S. coal fleet by 2030, according to a new report. (Greentech Media)”

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Regarding percentages of power generation by fuel type, currently, coal produces 30% of electricity in the US. Nat gas, 32%, and other fossil fuels produce about 1%). Nuclear produces 20%. Renewables produce about 17%.

But I am talking about FUTURE TRENDS. All of which indicates renewables are ascending rapidly and replacing coal, nat gas is ascending and replacing coal, but not at the same rate as renewables. The coal and nuclear industries are declining rapidly.

That is the point I am making. Coal is dying. Dead man walking. How long it takes for coal to become irrelevant as an energy source in the US is TBD, but probably 10-15 years max, since it doesn’t make economic sense to make major repairs to most coal plants.

Failure to acknowledge clear trends on your part is just another sign of demagoguery. You believe what you believe. I believe what I believe. Others can make up their own minds.

I’m pretty much done with this discussion. I think all valid points have been made.

#42 Comment By JeffK On December 14, 2018 @ 8:51 pm

@Alex

And now, it was announced today, that a consortium just bid $405 Million for the rights to build a very large windfarm off the coast of Massachusetts. This is a record amount. For the RIGHTS to build the windfarm. They will invest hundreds of millions more on the equipment.

Here’s my challenge to you. Find a future fossil fuel electrical generation project of similar size in the US. I doubt you can.

#43 Comment By Alex (the one that likes Ike) On December 17, 2018 @ 12:14 pm

Bah. I can easily find you *dozens* of projects of much bigger size *already built and working*, thus not requiring new ones right until the time the real reindustrialization hits. But, since you’ve asked, check the amounts of shale investments in 2017:

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Scores of *billions*. Not some meager 405 millions. Oil and *gas*, I stress it. Gas ain’t used for fueling motor vehicles that much to make such numbers.

This is regarding you’ve called “challenge”. And now to the sweetest point we go. How many of those 17 renewable per cent will remain if we stike out the hydroelectricity, which exists for many decades already, in the US and worldwide? Click. How does this number shrink further, if we do the same to the onshore wind power? Click. Finally, what does it become, when we remember that the geothermal energy (known since Romans, though, obviously, used for other purposes, like heating, by the way) is also regionally-dependent? Click. I’ll give you a hint: it shall become either less or significantly less than 10%.

And please, don’t tell me that you’re “done” or whatevs. After your already beaten “challenge” it’ll sound disingenuously at best.

#44 Comment By JeffK On December 17, 2018 @ 8:20 pm

Alex,
We are clearly having 2 different conversations. I am saying that coal is dying. You are pushing oil and gas.

In 2012 thru 2015 I worked in Western PA, Eastern OH, and VW putting in supply chain systems that run midstream gas processing facilities. In those 3 years I spent 4 days a week at 5 different processing facilities, 2 in the middle of nowhere in WV.

You are 100% correct that oil is flowing like crazy out of those fracked sites. As is a ton of natural gas (remember, CH4)and lighter hydrocarbons (all the XXXthanes), along with a lot of oil. So much gas that Shell is building a $6Billion ethane cracker outside of Pittsburgh. So much oil we really don’t import it for domestic use much anymore. Although we do refine Canadian tar sands sludge in TX, brought through the pipelines down to there.

But coal is dying. Dying. Dying. And those coal plants are being retired at a huge rate. And most of the new ELECTRICAL energy being produced is being produced from natural gas and renewables. BOTH of them.

Let me repeat. Coal is dying. Dying. Dying.

An unlimited number of links to oil and gas articles will not refute that.

And I wish I had linked to the article with percentages for energy sources. But the 17% for renewables did not include hydroelectric power. It was a separate source.

Renewables includes solar, wind, biomass, agri/garbage methane, etc. Like I said, hydro is a different sourcetype from the article I read.

As far as your argument goes, if you take every source categorized as renewable, and subtract them from the renewable category one-by-one, you will get to zero. And would that prove coal is somehow going to magically become revitalized? If so, please provide some EVIDENCE for that assumption. I don’t see any.

That being said, if you read the Institute of Natural Gas (INGAA) article you will see they consider nat gas a COMPLEMENT to renewables, in that nat gas electrical plants can surge to accommodate fluctuations in renewable facility output.

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And it shows coal at 34% in 2014. That, I am not buying.

#45 Comment By Alex (the one that likes Ike) On December 19, 2018 @ 6:42 am

The fact that you’re repeating “the coal is dying” so many times, while your *own* data explicitly contradicts that – 34% against 17% of renewables, including the long-existing hyrdroelectricity – only shows your outright denial of reality. Sorry, but the term “renewables” does include hydropower. Just open the appropriately named article “Hydroelectricity” in Wikipedia and face it. 49% of all renewable energy in the US and 70% of it worldwide. So, even if the renewables indeed are 17% of all American energy (which the aforementioned Wikipedia article makes one doubt about, if that one has at least basic skills in math, by the way, but let’s assume it’s actually 17%), you’ve already got that number halved. Strike out the onshore wind, strike out the geothermal energy, which are both as regionally-dependent. What will remain? Five percent? Four? But coal, with its 34%, is somehow “dying”, and natural gas, with its 28-30% is a “complement” to a single-digit number bordering statistical error. Right. Which country and which planet are we talking about, namely?

#46 Comment By JeffK On February 15, 2019 @ 10:34 am

And now, the Tennessee Valley Authority closes 2 more coal plants as ‘not economically viable’, against Bob Murray’s wish list for POTUS Trump. Note that Murray gave Trump’s inaugural campaign $300K AFTER the election.

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