Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Energy Efficiency

by rdf Wed Nov 8th, 2006 at 10:40:08 AM EST

I think we need to start a dialog on how to introduce energy savings. When this is proposed on a site like dKos we get many comments from individuals about the little things they do to make themselves feel virtuous.

So how about a discussion of where the savings could be found, who stands to benefit from the status quo, who would benefit from a change, and how and where to apply pressure so that this change will happen?

Promoted by Colman


In point of fact many of the largest energy uses are out of our control and will require national or international planning to change. For example, the single biggest user of liquid fuel in the US is the military. Another big use of power is fissile material enrichment. Much of this in the US is from hydro power, but this just means the power has been diverted from commercial uses.

There are many industrial energy uses that are inefficient especially in things like process control where pumps, motors, valves and the like could be redesigned. Walmart has gotten a lot of publicity about their "green" effort. They are going to cut truck fuel consumption, improve lighting in stores and promote compact fluorescents for the home. This will yield about 10% savings for them, they estimate. What they are not changing is their supply and distribution chain which moves their average product over 1500 miles from source to store.

Auto efficiency is another area where consumers have little they can do. Even if we all were to want to buy hybrids tomorrow there aren't enough being made to satisfy demand. The last time efficiency when up so did auto usage. The result was a wash.

To get the ball rolling, several of my pet peeves:

  1. Bottled drinks, especially water. In any place with a decent municipal water supply there is no need for people to be buying bottle water for home use. At most, if there is some slight impurity in the water a final filter at the tap using charcoal or similar is all that is required. Bottled water uses energy for pumping, preparation, transport, plastic containers and waste disposal. It also upsets the water table where excessive amounts are extracted for export from the region. Install many clean drink water fountains in all public spaces and prohibit or tax bottle water.

  2. Newspapers. I toss out half of my morning NY Times without opening the sections (it is even worse on Sunday). It is time that a serious development effort was made to distribute a usable electronic book reader. Sony has just come out with one, but it is still far from the mark. The technology can't be all the difficult look at the progress in mobile phones, PDA and Ipods over the past few years. A good electronic book would have a wireless connection to allow automatic download of subscribed reading material as well as books (and perhaps web pages). Transitory publications like newspapers consume huge amounts of natural resources (trees and water), require shipping bulky and heavy paper around the world and create a disposal problem.

  3. Packaging. Every electronic gizmo comes in a box with foam packing or in a plastic bubble pack which is immediately disposed of once the package is opened. The same is true for many grocery items, toys and other small items. Stores should carry one package with "eye appeal" on the shelf and then the actual items should be sold in a utilitarian package (or none at all for self contained items like shampoo or toothpaste). Supermarket carts could be redesigned so that the basket part belongs to the customer and is place on a rolling frame in the store. The cart is lifted off after the checkout and taken home for reuse. There is, thus no need for "paper or plastic". Different size (or multiple) baskets could be accommodated for different size families.

Your ideas?

Display:
See Nomad's diary here for the beginning of an attempt to collate  energy-saving sources and resources.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Nov 8th, 2006 at 11:46:50 AM EST
The beginning of an attempt says it well. And it sadly got stuck where it is, fragmented as my dedications to ET blogging are. The trouble is: ultimately I can't do the collating alone. Keep up the pressure, and I hope to get back with an updated version next week, including a call for renewed action...  
by Nomad on Wed Nov 8th, 2006 at 12:23:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My understanding of industrial control is that it comprises a lot more than the design of individual motors etc. But you could probably save a fair amount of energy simply by programming a machine to run motors just a less per cycle - especially in large volume production like cars.

If you consider that a typical - generous - cycle time in a car plant (the time to complete a single assembly step) is 120s, that means 30 cycles per hour, or 450 per day (two-shift operation). Multiply that by the number of machines in the line (most with multiple electric motors, great and small) and the number of parallel lines. The savings per machine are minute, but the cumulative power savings are likely to be meaningful.

And this would need no infrastructure - just requiring the PLC programmer to pay as much attention to shortening component operating times as he does to shortening cycle when he programs the machine.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Wed Nov 8th, 2006 at 12:03:07 PM EST
When this is proposed on a site like dKos we get many comments from individuals about the little things they do to make themselves feel virtuous.

You mean I can't save the world by unplugging my microwave to disable the LED readout?
by dmun on Wed Nov 8th, 2006 at 01:47:26 PM EST
recicling than pure energy conservation.

The best thing to conserve energy. Do not own a car if possible. get ultra-efficient ware in you r house and ahve the flat/house properly isolated and constructed towarsds the sun if possible. In case you can not change the direction of your house, just do not put the thermostat below 25 C in summer.

That would do it.. The biggest returns. recicling and ecological food are good .. but I thinkthe return is  less important...for the energy poitn of view (health and eocnomy .. priceless)

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Wed Nov 8th, 2006 at 02:25:58 PM EST
Bottled water, newspapers and packaging are examples of unnecessary energy and resource waste.  The savings is in cutting their production practically out, not just recycling them.

The home energy savings would help a lot if most people practiced them.  A lot of people are not willing to make the minor home improvements though.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Wed Nov 8th, 2006 at 05:55:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I would not agree with bottle water in some areas, or newspapers if the industry and the forest is managed properly. Regarding packages..well yes... useless but it generates an industry. But yes, indeed all ofthem would save enrgy, but not as much as others.

In any case it is good to have them in mind.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Thu Nov 9th, 2006 at 12:07:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Newspapers?!  Already forgotten WHY we "must" conserve energy?  Wasn't there something about CO2 emissions?  

Producing newspapers from wood, then disposing of them in a landfill actually traps CO2 from the atmosphere and puts it back into the ground.  (And being politically correct is a damn lame excuse to shut off your brain.)

by ustenzel on Fri Nov 10th, 2006 at 04:17:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I know this falls in the legislation category, but I want to see incandescent bulbs banned. We can figure something else out for lights with dimmers (long term, LED lights will work just fine with dimmers) and I'd be ok with little mini-bulbs staying on the market for apps where fluorescents are too big and other alternatives do not exist.

As far as the US military's fuel use, last I checked it was around 9% of oil consumption. Sure in terms of barrels that's massive, but it's only 9%.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Wed Nov 8th, 2006 at 02:36:09 PM EST
You make the claim that fissile enrichment is "a big use of power".  Can you provide a source for that?

How would power consumption of a uranium enrichment plant compare to power consumption of some other activity?  

Thanks.

by Plan9 on Wed Nov 8th, 2006 at 03:11:14 PM EST
It was a big use of power with gazeous diffusion: the Eurodif factory Georges Besse sited at Tricastin in France,   has been producing about a quarter of the fuel of the western world for the past 20 years. For that purpose, it was consuming full time the power of 3 out of 4 colocated commercial reactors (3x900 MW = 2700 MW).

The new fab "Georges Besse II", using ultra-centrifugation, will produce the same market share (which means, more fuel beacause nuclear use is planned to grow). with just 50 MW.

Pierre
by Pierre on Thu Nov 9th, 2006 at 09:29:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A similar new centrifuge operation is being built in the US.

I don't doubt that enrichment uses energy.  And in the US it is a riddle that the US Enrichment Corporation uses coal-fired plants.  But the product, uranium fuel, in turn represents a very large output of energy from a small volume of material.  

I was just puzzled about what the author of this diary was thinking and where he got his info--why he singled out fissile enrichment instead of, say, the manufacture of aluminum.

Industry is better at conserving energy than other sectors.  The EIA shows that in terms of carbon emissions in the US, industry is lower than the transportation and commercial sectors.

by Plan9 on Thu Nov 9th, 2006 at 12:48:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Two nuclear processing facilities (Hanford in Washington and Oak Ridge in Tennessee were put next to hydro electric projects (or vice versa). This was for the production of weapons-grade Uranium. They have been in existence since the 1940's. Producing Uranium for bombs is much more energy intensive than for fuel. Furthermore there is no payback (unless you count leveling the earth as an outcome). Therefore all the energy used is wasted.

New centrifuge technology is much more efficient that the prior gaseous diffusion technique, but the bulk of weapons-grade Uranium has already been produced. Mostly it is reprocessed as it degrades. Furthermore separating Plutonium from spent fuel is also a much easier task.

I just gave this an example of how militarism uses vast quantities of resources (first in weapons construction and later in maintenance). If the weapons are later used then this causes more destruction and waste. If they are not used they end up as scrap or resold to conflict areas.

Germany's military budget is on the order of $30 billion while the US is more like $500 billion. Given that the US has about four times the population it is easy to see that US spending is out of control (nobody  is invading Germany or preventing them from buying fuel on the world market). It is the elephants in the room that need to be addressed if resource use is to be controlled.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Thu Nov 9th, 2006 at 01:28:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the clarification.

Agree with all your points.  Fortunately the plutonium production reactors are now shut down.

The only little bright spot amid all this staggering waste of energy and money to make thousands of nuclear weapons is that the US is turning warheads into fuel to make electricity.

Through a multi-step process in Russia, the bomb-grade uranium material is diluted until it becomes suitable for use as fuel in commercial nuclear power reactors. USEC then purchases the fuel to market to its utility customers.

Since 1994, the Megatons to Megawatts program has significantly enhanced world security by steadily reducing stockpiles of nuclear bomb-grade materials, while creating a clean, valuable resource--nuclear fuel.

Virtually the entire U.S. nuclear reactor fleet has participated in this program by using Megatons to Megawatts fuel.
On average, one in 10 American homes, businesses, schools and hospitals receive electricity generated from Megatons to Megawatts fuel--and this ratio is much higher in certain areas of the country.

By 2013, when the program is completed, 500 metric tons of Russian nuclear warhead material (the equivalent of 20,000 warheads) will have been recycled into enough fuel to power the entire United States for about two years.

http://www.usec.com/v2001_02/HTML/megatons_howitworks.asp

Eventually a certain proportion of US warheads will also be turned into electricity as well.

PS The annual expenditure in the US for energy R&D by the government is around $3 billion, as opposed to the military's $70 billion.  It costs billions to keep the US Navy patrolling oil shipping lanes.

by Plan9 on Thu Nov 9th, 2006 at 04:21:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sure, but these ancient enrichment plants used a process that was even less efficient than gaseous diffusion, essential a large scale mass spectrometer.

You should actually have lumped this "enrichment for uranium bombs" under military.  Otherwise, one could get the impression, you got your information from www.stormsmith.nl (don't bother going there, these two are nuts).

(BTW, is the US still building uranium bombs?  I thought they only use plutonium these days.  And how can uranium or plutonium degrade on a time scale of decades?)

by ustenzel on Fri Nov 10th, 2006 at 04:23:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
don't know very well about the US, but in France the TNO/TNA program for the next generation nukes is based on  uranium. The bombs are designed for 50 year-shelf life instead of <20 for cold war designs (the change is reassuring, as much as it can get for a nuclear weapon). A less spontaneously fissile material simply lasts longer, and it's easier to eliminate "salts" (e.g. pu with even nucleon counts) in uranium. And those ballistic missile warheads must be extra light, which means they have just a few % more fissile material when leaving the factory, than the bare minimum to light the fusion stage (which has moved from tritium to lithium deuteroxyde for the same shelf life reasons). That's why they often rate at <.1 kt in testing.

Pierre
by Pierre on Sat Nov 11th, 2006 at 06:41:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I read somewhere that in Sweden the big energy savings are not to be found in the energy intensive process industry but in business, manufacturing and households, in spite of industry using like 1/3 of the power, and paper 12 % (IIRC) on it's own.

The reason? For heavy industry energy is such a big cost that they have already minimised their energy use to maximise profits.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Wed Nov 8th, 2006 at 05:44:38 PM EST
Unless you reduce the volume of some of the industrial processes ...
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Nov 8th, 2006 at 05:59:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Which gets back to the material throughput reduction strategies. The slogan "Reduce, re-use, recycle" is more than a slogan ... its in order of priority, especially with respect to energy saving.

Recycling tends to be less energy intensive than acquisition of new material resources, but that is a relative rather than an absolute comparison. Re-using material saves additional energy. And finding a way to avoid using the material in the first place can save the most of all.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Nov 8th, 2006 at 10:48:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And it seems this is exactly what the enviro-crazies are trying to do. Deindustrialize Sweden. Unsurprisingly they do not care for a second that heavy industry is the backbone of the Swedish economy.  

More surprisingly, they do not understand that forcing Swedish industry abroad results in more pollution as the Swedish process industry is among the most energy efficient in the world and the Swedish grid is among, if not the, cleanest grid in the world.

So their policies will actually increase total pollution and energy waste.

They are called enviro-crazies for a reason.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Thu Nov 9th, 2006 at 05:13:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They are called enviro-crazies for a reason.

To demonize them.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Nov 9th, 2006 at 05:34:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
http://www.issues.org/21.3/lorenzini.html

The author makes the interesting argument that certain fanciful ideologies have actually fostered the growth of fossil fuel usage.

The environmental movement has accomplished many good things, like pushing legislation to reduce water and air pollution.  But the extremists take positions that are short-sighted and that appear self-indulgent, as in the example you give.

I consider myself an enviro but not an enviro-crazy. I do know people who claim we should give up electricity.  I always reply, "You go first..."

by Plan9 on Thu Nov 9th, 2006 at 12:55:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I also usually tell them to give up electricity, especially if they have a computer with an internet connection.

That enviro-crazies have increased fossil fuel use by some of their actions is beyond question, the question is if all the good things and the bad taken together adds upp to less or more CO2 than if they had kept their mouths shut all the time.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Thu Nov 9th, 2006 at 05:11:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Having worked in the industrial control business, I can say with some authority that companies are very aware of their energy bills. Increasing efficiency is a simple matter of cost: If the cost of electricity goes up enough to outweigh the cost of a given efficiency improvement (factoring in capital depreciation, taxes, etc.) then efficiency will be added immediately. Process engineers worry about this all the time.

In my view, much of the waste comes from the public, which isn't nearly as careful about how it spends its money. For example, practically every American house has a programmable thermostat, but people don't let their houses cool down to 40 degrees (5 C) during the day. For example, people drive cars that are too big. So for consumer conservation to take effect, the cost has to be jacked up even a bit higher than for the commercial world, in order to get people off their butts to do something about it.

My proposals:

  • Install more demand-type hot water heaters, which are rare on this side of the pond. Instead, we keep 40 gallons of water in a tank at 140 degrees 365 days a year, leaking out heat all the time.
  • Exercise the control over your furnace that you already have available.
  • Buy a (much) smaller car. The argument that there aren't enough hybrids is bogus, because making a hybrid car is a perfectly well understood technology. The problem is the lack of demand.
  • Get going on that solar water heater project you have been dreaming about.
  • Become a vegetarian, eating locally grown food. The energy cost of meat is high, and transportation of that lettuce from Arizona (harveted by illegal aliens) to NYC is very energy-expensive.
  • Never get on an airplane again.
by asdf on Wed Nov 8th, 2006 at 11:22:39 PM EST
As a former process engineer, everyone knows what should be done in industry, but things like energy efficiency come out of operating capital, not new investment.  Usually the payback time is set absurdly short (1-2 years), which means not much ever gets done.

You're right that there is no new design required; high efficiency compressors and furnaces have been around for decades.

by tjbuff (timhess@adelphia.net) on Thu Nov 9th, 2006 at 10:59:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
things like energy efficiency come out of operating capital, not new investment.  Usually the payback time is set absurdly short
So it's an accounting issue?

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 9th, 2006 at 11:08:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Partly.  Partly it's because operating capital and new investment are segregated under different management in a lot of corporations.  Partly it's because careers are made on new investment, not upgrading existing facilities.

But if you want to find energy savings in process industries:

  1. Improved process control (like MPC) can buy you 2-3% by avoiding upsets.  Might cost $.5-1 million for a medium sized facility.

  2. Large motors can be switched to synchronous instead of induction.  Gets 1-2% power savings, but additional for system balancing.

  3. Newer compressors can get efficiencies in the high 80's.  

  4. More heat exchangers and cooling towers can be added for power savings.

Probably not so much in new valves or pumps.
by tjbuff (timhess@adelphia.net) on Thu Nov 9th, 2006 at 11:29:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree with your points. The bottom line is that if the accounting rules support it, the engineers are ready (and enthusiastic) to go.
by asdf on Thu Nov 9th, 2006 at 11:51:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The little things you do to be more efficient are useful, because some of the largest and cheapest savings can be made in the home. Good isolation, efficient applications and responsible behaviour can change a lot (and can be profitable on a not too-long term).

We could use our existing energy resources more efficiently if we only used combined heat and power plants at the latest level of technology. The emissions trading scheme in Europe will spur some replacement of the least efficient plants.

One big change that we can still make is the way we dispose of our waste. The European waste strategy favours energy recovery over incineration and incineration over dumping (landfill). But the end result is that a lot of incineration is still taking place without energy recovery. What we should have is a cold, hard requirement that all new incineration plants also produce energy, preferably CHP, and that all old incineration plants are replaced or upgraded to this standard in 10 or 15 years time.

Incidentally, this would also be good energy policy. The potential share of waste incineration is not that small...

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Nov 9th, 2006 at 03:55:49 AM EST
To avoid potential confusion:  Waste is NOT a renewable source of energy.  Burning waste is NOT efficient, clean or environmentally friendly in any sense of the word.

This is what to do with waste:

http://www.changingworldtech.com/

by ustenzel on Fri Nov 10th, 2006 at 04:00:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Definitely. Waste incineration is only marginally better than dumping wase, and only under certain conditions (like having effective end of pipe filtering technology). If energy is recovered in the process, it begins to become somewhat efficient (because a portion of the waste is re-used).

Interesting site!

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sat Nov 11th, 2006 at 08:47:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
  • impose RIGHT NOW standards on new houses and commercial buildings that incorporate the most energy efficient processes, with stiff penalties for energy consumption above certain levels (in kWh per square meter, adjusted for climate)

  • impose similar norms for older buildings, with a 10-year or less implementation period

  • impose fuel efficiency standards for cars. No car sold from 2010 may have less than 80 MPG, subject to stiff penalties. Full stop.

  • start a carbon tax, to be increased on a quarterly basis with no time limitation (I'd suggest the equivalent of 1$/boe per month as the increase rate), to apply to every single source of GHG

  • put a tax on all goods sold to reflect the full recycling of the good after its use - and use the money to actually organize the collection and recycling (including by buying the used goods from consumers) or subcontract it to those manufacturers who want to do it themselves.

  • more radical, impose penalties on utilities for sales above a baseline level: the penalty should be enough to incentivize them to get their consumers to consume less.


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Nov 9th, 2006 at 05:52:46 AM EST
The trick is how to get these ideas implemented. For example, any party imposing a big new gasoline tax will see itself out of office after the next election.

The will of the people has not yet come around to any energy savings which costs them upfront costs or cuts down of convenience.

Implementation is always the sticking point.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Thu Nov 9th, 2006 at 07:12:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
See my new diary on dKos:
Let's speak about energy (and a gas tax) now

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Nov 9th, 2006 at 07:54:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Mon dieu!

And those are the liberals?!

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Thu Nov 9th, 2006 at 05:34:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And you think you're a right winger... LOL

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 9th, 2006 at 06:36:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Swedish centre right= Continental centre left= US fringe left

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Fri Nov 10th, 2006 at 05:27:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Swedish centre right= Continental centre left

That's what you swedes tell yourselves, but you do sound a little on the right even for Spain.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 10th, 2006 at 07:25:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Only because I like provoking you guys. ;)

But do you remember the thread were we discussed income (in)equality? I think I was the most extreme left in that debate.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Fri Nov 10th, 2006 at 02:14:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Which thread was that?

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 10th, 2006 at 04:24:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I can't recall exactly, but there was something about Swedish government ministers earning less than the level you get aid for in New York, or somesuch.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sat Nov 11th, 2006 at 10:32:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Times: Spain makes solar panels mandatory in new buildings (November 09, 2004)
SPAIN wants to take advantage of its sunshine by making solar panels compulsory in new and renovated buildings -- to save fuel costs and to improve the environment.

Jose Montilla, the Industry Minister, has announced that from next year, anyone who intends to build a home will be obliged to include solar panels in their plans, with the aim of turning Spain from a straggler to a European leader in the use of renewable energy.

With the price of oil rising above $50 a barrel (£27), solar energy could produce savings of at least €80 (£50) a year on fuel to heat domestic water supplies per household, and reduce greenhouse gases, the Government said.

Jose Montilla is, after last week's elections and coalition negotiations, the president-elect of the Catalan regional government.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 9th, 2006 at 07:19:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I love your radical ideas. The 80 MPG requirement for cars will be pretty tough to meet, though. My Honda Insight gets 71 MPG, but it takes a fair amount of effort on the part of the driver. And it's only got two seats, weighs 1800 pounds, etc. For regular cars (like the Prius or Civic), 50 MPG is a good requirement with today's technology and performance expectations. If you want to get 80 MPG you are going to be forcing significant changes in driving habits in terms of acceleration.
by asdf on Thu Nov 9th, 2006 at 11:55:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The whole point would be to change what expectations we can have for our cars. 80 MPG (which could be increased every year after that) would make it clear than a car bigger than a Smart or similarly small car is a luxury.

It would force the industry to focus on that metric instead of endlessly adding amenities - and weight - to cars and in practice keeping MPG constant despite real technological progress.

The goal would not be to forbid ownership of larger cars, but make it expensive enough that people are strongly incited to change their expectations.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 10th, 2006 at 06:47:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you mean an 80MPG theoretical limit, as currently measured?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 10th, 2006 at 06:49:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, but this is completely nonsensical.  Energy should be treated like any other commodity, not as sacred or something equally silly.  Impose a tax on CO2 emissions and let the market adapt.  Or more generally, "internalize external costs".

I really wonder where you green wackos get your moral high ground that gives you the right to impose "stiff penalties" on people who set different priorities than you do.

by ustenzel on Fri Nov 10th, 2006 at 04:07:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
While you're about it, wonder where you get your moral high ground from which to insult other people.

You don't seem able to make a comment without being arrogant and rude. Do you have an inferiority complex you have to make up for?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Nov 10th, 2006 at 04:18:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you absolutely must know, mostly here, here and here.  And yes, I do have an axe to grind with Green wackos who continually set wrong priorities (such as valuing the life of some annoying bug higher than that of a human), leading to completely nonsensical political decisions.
by ustenzel on Sat Nov 11th, 2006 at 08:29:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You're not answering my question. You could make the points you have to make without being sneering and insulting, and yet that is your habitual manner. Do you feel inferior or insecure? Do you need help?
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Nov 11th, 2006 at 11:00:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If so, would you be qualified to help?  What, you are no psychologist?!  Then shut up.

Incidentally, why should I even try to be polite?  Apparently people like Helen Caldicott get away without that, too.

by ustenzel on Sat Nov 11th, 2006 at 08:08:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If all you have to contribute here is insults, it is you who should shut up.

(Helen Caldicott is a member of ET, perhaps? We are supposed to be judged by her standard? Talk about a straw woman...)

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Nov 12th, 2006 at 05:20:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have given you a 2 to warn you. All points of view are accepted here, even radical ones (except unacceptable racist or sexist ones), provided the poster respects the rules: no insults, no ad hominem, no rudeness.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Sun Nov 12th, 2006 at 07:02:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Impose a tax on CO2 emissions and let the market adapt.  Or more generally, "internalize external costs".

Proposing this is exactly what gets one to be called a "green wacko", so I fail to see the difference between what you propose and what I propose.

A sufficiently high carbon tax would indeed to the trick, and what I'm proposing is essentially that, in indirect ways. We only seem to differ on how to get there.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Nov 11th, 2006 at 11:06:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
impose penalties on utilities for sales above a baseline level

versus

energy should be treated like any other commodity

I fail to see any commonality.  Why the arbitrary cutoff at 80mpg?  Just because that would be enough for you?  Why not 70, why not 90?  Why a hard limit at all?!

Compare with the simple and predictable way:  Estimate external costs of CO2 emissions, tax them appropriately.  You get called a green wacko for trying to pinpoint The Bad Guys instead of treating all equally.

by ustenzel on Sat Nov 11th, 2006 at 08:09:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm making the objective more explicit to non-specialists (carbon-emitting consumption will have to go down), but how is anything I'm proposing substantially different from what you are?

How is taxing inefficient cars or utilities for their emissions above a given level any different from taxing carbon at an "appropriate level" in practice and in substance?

Are you sure that taxing carbon is going to be simpler? At what point do you tax it? How do you make sure that you tax all carbon, and tax it only once? Because otherwise you are also "pinpointing Bad Guys" instead of treating all equally.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Nov 12th, 2006 at 06:01:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Define "inefficient".

Just an example:  I (rarely) drive an average car.  Four seats, large trunk, weights more than a ton, gets something like 30mpg (if I remember correctly how much a gallon is).

Inefficient?  Well, when I drive it, it is often filled with three or four people and their climbing gear.  We'd need three of your 80mpg two-seaters to carry all this stuff, giving us effectively 26mpg.  If that, for hybrids have no advantage on the freeway.

And now define "inefficient".

If you set arbitrary hard limits or apply different standards to different sources of CO2, all you make is work for unemployed statisticians.  That doesn't work.  We have enough of this nonsense in Germany, and despite record high electricity prices, most new capacity comes from lignite plants.  (There goes the Kyoto protocol, whether useful or not.)

How to correctly tax carbon emissions you ask?  You tax fossil hydrocarbons the moment they are taken out of the earth.  Simple to do, because it's impossible to hide a coal mine or oil well.  The one who ultimately burns the stuff pays, because producers will add the tax to the price of their products.  There could be a tax credit for burying hydrocarbons.  Not hard at all, and also has the side effect of ascribing a value to most waste, preventing people from dumping it in the nearest forest.  Moreover, taxing coal, thereby increasing the price of concrete, puts nutheads like Storm & Smith out of work.  This is a good thing, too.

by ustenzel on Sun Nov 12th, 2006 at 07:05:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]

You tax fossil hydrocarbons the moment they are taken out of the earth.

That absolutely makes sense. But how do you get the countries where that happens to cooperate, though? And what do you do if they don't?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Nov 12th, 2006 at 09:55:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But how do you get the countries where that happens to cooperate, though? And what do you do if they don't?

Not at all and you just make a dumb face.  In short, neither China nor the US will cooperate.  

So what now?  You can forget about penalties, they don't work on a global scale.  Find another cleaner and cheaper source of energy than fossil fuels.  You know there is one.

by ustenzel on Sun Nov 12th, 2006 at 01:03:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was thinking of the oil producing countries (but China and the USA, as big coal producers, do indeed matter).

As rdf pointed in another thread, you can work on switching away from oil at your level (national or other) even if you can do almost nothing about carbon emissions, and you seem to be pointing the same way.

I've made clear the order of things that appears preferable to me:

  • energy savings
  • renewable energy sources
  • nuclear
  • hydrocarbon burning

I'd rather we made a big push towards energy savings first, but I acknowledge that nuclear is the least bad baseload source, by far,and should thus be preferred to coal or gas. Nuclear also has the advantage, in my view, of bringing back the State as an indispensable player in the sector.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Nov 12th, 2006 at 02:21:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Are you sure that taxing carbon is going to be simpler? At what point do you tax it? How do you make sure that you tax all carbon, and tax it only once?

As far upstream as possible. The tricky issue, of course, is taxing the carbon content of imports, which violates the way that present WTO are presently interpreted, and without taxing imports when they enter the system, it will just shift carbon intensive industries off-shore.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Nov 12th, 2006 at 09:50:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I really wonder where you turquoise wackos get your moral high ground that allows you to impose "a tax on CO2 emissions" on people who set different priorities than you do.
by glomp on Sun Nov 12th, 2006 at 05:38:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
See, you understand.  That's why I wrote "internalize external costs".  Because that's not a moral decision, but an economic one.  Afaik the only one that reliably prevents the Tragedy of The Commons.  If the tax is distributed to those suffering from the ill effects it is supposed to prevent, that's also absolutely fair.
by ustenzel on Sun Nov 12th, 2006 at 07:09:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The "reliably prevents the tragedy of the commons" statement begs to be proven. "Puts stitches and bandages" is an equally valid possible outcome.

Instead of such a tax leading to emission reductions, companies could just as well accomodate it into their accounting (and not do anything about emission reductions).

Just like, say, the Virgin Megastore in Paris which stays open on Sundays, although it is illegal and costs them a heavy fine each week.

But perhaps emission reduction is not the point, maybe as long as external emission costs are estimated, consequently taxed appropriately, and that tax is then distributed to those suffering from the ill effects of emissions, we'll all be fine and so will the reptiles.

by glomp on Sun Nov 12th, 2006 at 02:05:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In fact it's even simpler than that, anything extra you tax a company for ends up being paid for by customers - so there is no guarantee whatsoever that this will lead to emission reductions.
by glomp on Sun Nov 12th, 2006 at 02:11:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sure it will. It will make alternatives cheaper and hence more profitable so consumers will choose them instead.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sun Nov 12th, 2006 at 03:36:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In theory that is possible, and so is the opposite. I rarely put faith in the market to regulate itself nicely and save the world in the process. Call me a communist!
by glomp on Sun Nov 12th, 2006 at 04:37:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Communist!

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Nov 12th, 2006 at 05:28:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not you, Starvid!

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Nov 12th, 2006 at 05:30:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
anything extra you tax a company for ends up being paid for by customers

You're a clever one, aren't you?  That's the whole point.

But perhaps emission reduction is not the point

Darn it, of course it isn't!  Preventing human suffering is.  And you are in no better position to decide who suffers more by what decision than any of those poor oppressed customers.  What is to be done is to modify the market so that the locally optimal choice for the customers is also the globally optimal one.  

Btw, I don't give an fsck about reptiles.  If you'd like to trade human lives for reptilian ones, trade in your own.

by ustenzel on Mon Nov 13th, 2006 at 07:06:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You're a clever one too, it seems. Although your lack of care for reptiles, eminent members of the food chain, could indicate the opposite.
by glomp on Tue Nov 14th, 2006 at 06:15:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Emission reductions has to be the point. Preventing human suffering resulting from a failure to produce such reductions, is dealing with the consequence, not the cause. Stiches and bandages.
by glomp on Tue Nov 14th, 2006 at 06:57:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not at all.  If you insist, you can try to prevent human suffering BY reducing emissions.  If there's a cheaper way to prevent that same suffering, you're wasting resources.  

Moreover, I'm not talking about the suffering caused by a possible global warming, but about the suffering caused by not having access to dependable energy.  Try telling an african boy who is literally shitting himself to death that he cannot get access to electricity and clean water because of you trying to prevent his suffering from future global warming.

Giving the goal of reducing emissions a higher than that of reducing human suffering is just pseudoreligious nonsense.  Michael Crichton is right about that.  

by ustenzel on Tue Nov 21st, 2006 at 07:10:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Great time to be doing this, what with the heavy consumer season on the way...
by aoxomoxoa on Thu Nov 9th, 2006 at 07:51:46 AM EST
Here is an example of how strong government requirements can lead to a win for everyone:

Turning Toughened Rules Into an Advantage

What had changed at Cummins, and at other diesel engine manufacturers, was not just that they had learned to adapt to tougher environmental regulations. Instead, the new, cleaner engines have become a point of pride.

Cummins's overall sales, like those in the rest of the industry, have boomed for three years. Industry analysts say this is a product of a mini business cycle for the diesel industry: with regulatory deadlines approaching, customers are motivated to buy the last of the old trucks to delay as long as possible the purchase of new ones with emissions controls that can add as much as $7,000 to $10,000 to the price of a $100,000 truck.

Not only did they manage to meet the requirements, but opened up new business avenues for themselves and instead of facing collapse are now re-opening closed plants.

When governments set realistic, non-negotiable goals companies respond.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Fri Nov 10th, 2006 at 10:04:43 AM EST


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