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Earth Day - Bundling All Elements

by Nomad Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 09:06:19 AM EST

Early this afternoon (Saturday) I set out in my environmentally unfriendly car to drive to the city of Utrecht. My purpose: to attend a debate on durable energy and energy policies, organised by the Groen Links party (the Greens), inspired by the fact that it is today Earth Day. Tantalisingly, the flyer advertised that also the changing climate would be discussed, but there was none that I experienced. There were, however, interesting positions on renewable energies, policy regulation and the role of the hydrocarbon giants. And lots and lots of touted numbers.

From the diaries ~ whataboutbob


Inspired, I will start out with some numbers by myself: The return journey from where I live to the spot where I parked my car in Utrecht is about 60 kilometres. The Volvo I drove guzzles about 1 litre to displace me 15 kilometres. With petrol prices at roughly €1.50 per litre (I exaggerate, but only by 6 cents), I'm spending ten cents per kilometre. Note that parking costs were zero since I know where to park for free (I know the city well enough to know where I can park for free within 5 minutes walking distance from the old city centre). Even with high taxes on petrol and an exaggerated price, this still outweighs the charges demanded by the National Railways (a monopoly company) for a smaller distance: €7.50 for a return ticket, or 12.5 cents per kilometre. From the train station it's a stiff walk of 15 minutes to the venue of my interest: the Louis Hartlooper Complex.

One of the initiators of the earliest Earth Day event, Dennis Hayes, had been flown over from the States by an airplane without kerosene taxation and presumably he wants to be flown back in one with kerosene taxation.  He was given the honour to open an afternoon of lectures and documentaries by recapping for half an hour on energy production today, future projections of energy demand and how on earth we will manage to live our modern lifestyle with only hydrocarbon replacements.

The debate that took place after Hayes was between various speakers, from different backgrounds, led by a sometimes stridently Green chairwoman, Natasja van den Berg. Interactions with the public, where many more experts were gathered, also took place, especially in the latter half hour.

A brief introduction on the speakers:

Donald Pols
Campaign leader on Energy and Climate for the Dutch branch of Friends of the Earth, Milieudefensie.

Wim Sinke
Working both at ECN (Energy research Centre of the Netherlands) and the Utrecht University.

Ewald Breunesse
Business manager from Shell Netherlands, was (is?) part of Hydrogen development at Shell.

Jan Staman
Director of the the Rathenau Institute.

Wijnand Duijvendak
Former squatter-activist in the eighties, former director of Milieudefensie and presently member of Parliament for the Greens.

Numbers, numbers, if my notes are correct. In the Netherlands, we use 6 kWh per capita, ranking us shamefully at the 7th place of countries with the largest energy use per head. Predictably, the USA ranks first on this list with an estimated 10 kWh per head. The global average is about 2 - 3 Wh per capita. For the Netherlands, it means that we produce 13 tonnes of CO2 per head, whereas 2 tonnes of CO2 per head is estimated to be an acceptable value. Total value of global energy used today is estimated 15 TeraWatts, which is an insanely large number (1 TeraW = 10 to the power of 12). Future projection of global energy demand: 30 TeraWatts.

Hayes himself expressed little confidence in boosting either hydro or wind or tidal energy to levels which would take the largest portion of 30 TeraW. He used current hydropower outputs as an example: with every major river dammed at present, and yet forming about 0.8 TeraWatts from the 15 TeraW pie, he sees little space for output growth in the future. Efficiency increase (that is, conservation) brings you only so far and does not solve increase in demand. He also wondered whether it should be a wise choice to invest our money in nuclear energy as long as the waste product problem isn't sufficiently solved. Note: I think he left out specifically nuclear fusion, and focussed only on nuclear fission. He had similar doubts about biofuels, and used the argument of limited arable parts on this planet. He clearly expressed his preference in solar energy and hinted on very real large-scale solar plants to be built in, for instance, the Sahara.

When I reflect on Hayes and his solar plants in the African deserts, three thoughts came immediately to the fore:

  1. It would be interesting to have devastatingly poor desert countries at present going to hold power over the largest energy source of our planet and it would certainly give an interesting twist to neo-colonialism.
  2. Solutions to the transport problems were not addressed. As many know, long distance transmission of electricity is extremely ineffective; it's often a lot cheaper to transport the material (gas, coal) to the power plant nearby. With solar energy, that seems to me a bit of a challenge. Slightly to my astonishment, the public responded with complete dismissal to the inefficiency of electricity transport and someone even shouted "Nonsense!" The truth of the matter nevertheless remains: how do we transport solar generated energy to the places that need it? I suspect a similar problem exists for wind energy, as the best locations to place turbines are not in the vicinity of urban centres.
  3. Mass capturing of solar energy at a large scale might ultimately cost-effective but once again would replace the very urgent need of the individual awareness to the energy dynamics. I suspect that self-sustainability and energy-awareness would be once more victim to the easier plug-in mentality of today.

The panel further discussed a range of topics: Peak Oil was touched upon, but I felt irritated to the definitions that were given. I've heard them better here. Pols, from Milieudefensie, reflected that with increasing oil prices the advantages of durable energy starts outweighing hydrocarbons and that we're getting there. Sinke, from ECN, cautioned that a sudden jump in the energy sector triggered by Peak Oil could very well result in inefficient solutions or will even worsen the problem of energy shortage in the long run. The one man smiling at the table was Breunesse from Shell, who should be given props to enter the lion's den, but made himself very unbelievable to me by hinting on the "we don't know what we don't know" strategy: energy giants such as Shell and Exxon still don't know what's left of the oil reservoir underneath the ground. We still could get lower oil prices by finding larger reservoirs! (Perhaps he reads The Economist?) Breunesse also mentioned that investments in renewables remained an investment risk for Shell and others as long as it was uncertain which renewable would ultimately "win". In a room soaked with the idea that renewable energy comes as a portfolio, this "winner takes all" mentality seemed virtually unnoticed. Shell, BTW, clearly puts money on Hydrogen.

The next topic circled around investments in renewables. The role of Shell was now openly assaulted and, much to the bafflement of the audience, it turned out that of the billions of profit, Shell attributes a mere 200 million euros per year to a government committee for investments in R&D on durable energy. Sadly, it later turned out that this group largely suffers from Innovation Impotence (as I've dubbed it), a recurring problem in the relation between scientists and governmental we-know-better-than-thee agencies responsible for providing the money.

Duyvendak pointed here out once again that shareholders can practically hold companies hostage and demand short term profits over long term strategy, all too similar to politics. He stressed, once again, that the role of regulation and the government is crucial in this - a point he received applause for.

After a short reprieve on the returning debate on nuclear energy, the discussion settled on "Energising the Masses". Duyvendak remarked that the debate on climate change is gaining more and more traction and is part of the recurring interests in energy policy. Sinke noted that the debate on energy has been eclipsed the past years by the cultural and political ruminations in the Netherlands but is now on a comeback, also because of the sense of impending energy crises. The Gazprom tensions of early this year were footnoted as such an example.

The panel was divided on what topic would have the largest immediate impact, yet two clearly stood out: Traffic and building conservation. Duyvendak opted for traffic, as it had historically run faster out of control - he quoted a 40 percent increase in (car?) exhaust since 1990. Sinke disagreed and said that citizens could have a far larger and immediate role in adapting their houses than they could do with their cars, since car manufacturers have herein full control. There was a sense that (again) government regulation and stimulation could be the pebble to set off the landslide to cheaper durable products. Breunesse had earlier told about Pura, a more environmentally friendly petrol (whatever that is) but that was 4 cents more expensive than ordinary petrol and was thus almost completely ignored by Shell customers. (Well, duh. Changing to durable lifestyle when it costs money is only for the 5-10 percent of the converted.) It seemed to suggest (to me) that if the government had sponsored Pura for a while to artificially lower the price below ordinary Petrol, increased consuming might have automatically decreased the "real" price further. A similar scheme, I later learned, had once been executed to switch people from leaded to unleaded petrol - with success.

Finally, some entrepreneurs were allowed to the mike to give some free advertisement for their products, but I need to do some further homework on that.

All in all, a highly educated debate, which left me with the impression that one of the largest weaknesses in the portfolio of endurable energy lies in its fragmentation and in its invisibility, or lack of public exposure. The representative of Shell sadly confirmed all my ideas about their future strategies: they don't intend to start working on the problem yet and prefer to keep cashing in on the oil dollars. And finally, political will remains divided, and even where there is consensus, the monstrous apparatus of bureaucracy smothers implementation and goodwill. What's left, I guess, is the impetus of the masses to wrought change. Which is at least one good reason to post my personal summary as a diary here.

Energizing Europe still has a long way to go...

Display:
I have a question about carbon dioxide, which in terms of green-house gas polution is measured by the ton.  I once saw a figure for the amount of CO2 produced by a car per year, which exceeded in weight, by an order of magnitude, the weight of the gasoline which produced it.

I tried to find this citation, in the NY Times some time ago, but without success.

Could anyone explain, simply, how CO2 emmisions are measured?

by dmun on Sat Apr 22nd, 2006 at 10:21:57 PM EST
Huh...indeed simple question I wanted an answer for since a few weeks.
There is no simple answer.

One can measure CO2 in a lot of places, enviremental and other laws implement that in most country's. But there already you have differences between country's (different equipment, norms.......)

Not every car, home school nor factory measures his emissions, so this data have to be calculated. Most country's have institutions who set the rules for this....again different rules everywhere.
Every European country has now automated measering points on air quality, results are on the internet, updated (in Belgium) every hour. See this link for overwhelming info.

There is a tendency to agree on methods for measering and calculation of CO2 emissions. On this site you can find how far this evolution is.

 

The struggle of man against tyranny is the struggle of memory against forgetting.(Kundera)

by Elco B (elcob at scarlet dot be) on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 10:35:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I once saw a figure for the amount of CO2 produced by a car per year, which exceeded in weight, by an order of magnitude, the weight of the gasoline which produced it.

I doubt it was an order of magnitude, but it is certainly more than the weight of the gasoline.

Carbon has an atomic weight of 12, Hydrogen has one of 1, Oxygen of 16. In hydrocarbons (including the ingredients of gasoline), you'd get at most 4 hydrogen atoms per carbon atom (methane; lower in everything else). So by burning gasoline with air, the input would be less than 16 per carbon atom, the CO2 in the output one of 44 - three times as heavy.

On second thought, it may be that the figures you saw didn't just included gasoline burnt by the motor, but also some fraction of the CO2 emissions during the manufacturing of the car.

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

by DoDo on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 12:06:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A typical car will emit 100-200 g/km of "carbon", i.e. of CO2
Per km, a typical (European) car requires 0.05-0.10 liters of gas, i.e. just under 50-100 g/km. The difference comes form the extra oxygen in CO2.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 03:02:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In my native city, more and more attention is paid to energy efficiency projects. Problem is.. even entrepreneurs who want to and are engaged in such projects still do not get much support from the government. The government is giving money for public projects, not to SME. But in my city, SME can do much more for energy efficiency than the government. And they have more professional people than people in the gvt do..

-- Fighting my own apathy..
by Naneva (mnaneva at gmail dot com) on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 10:27:44 AM EST
Right on the ball. Or at least, I am fully in agreement with you.

Since recently mucking a little in this energy debate, the wealth of enterpreneurs coupled with their struggle to get in the limelight is the one issue that strikes me as most vexing. It needs to be addressed, pronto. There is lots of stuff floating around, and there is an increasing audience for it. It needs a platform.

by Nomad on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 02:20:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It needs a platform.
And support.

-- Fighting my own apathy..
by Naneva (mnaneva at gmail dot com) on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 02:35:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
that the media guided debate seems to reinforce the idea that there has to be one solution to the energy problem.Energy will only be solved by a myriad of solutions - many of which can be accomplished by people RIGHT NOW - drive less, use mass transit, favour fuel-efficient vehicles, turn off unused appliances, switch off lights, replace incandescents by neon, buy local produce, fly less, use video conferencing, etec etc

I would guess we could save up to 20% energy use if everyone really understood the immensity of the problem and that we have lots of answers already to be getting on with.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 03:49:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The media seems to be unable to hold more than one idea in their collective head at once.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 03:56:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"the media seem" (singular) ;-)

The greatest problem we face in the West is attention spans. Carpe diem gone crazy. Everything is on 'rotation' - there's a playlist of subjects and nothing has a longer life cycle than a mayfly.

That's why I see blog forums as symptomatic of the evolutionary transition from sea to land. This is just the beginning.

Right now I'm working on a global forum that could be used as a network for glocal problem solving. A kind of IT version of OR. I don't know if it can work - but a lot of people are getting interested. But the software has to be way more effective, offering interactive graphic collaboration etc.

Our aim is to make it self-organizing. An aim only at the moment. But in a way, ET has pioneered some aspects of this, but without the overall "solution documents" - apart from the brilliant Energy manifesto that J was involved in.

I guess this is the point of your wiki push - to distill these conversations into useful 'position papers'

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 04:24:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
what's "OR"?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 04:26:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Operational Research. Discuss with our mutual friend in Lyons.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 04:39:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But the software has to be way more effective, offering interactive graphic collaboration etc.
Huh? All you need is a screensaver to disply pretty pictures, like with Seti@home or the BBC climate project. I presume you know about distributed computing?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 05:01:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Linda Stone, an IT engineer working for both Microsoft and Apple, had an Opinion piece last week on "continually divided attention", a phrase she coined. I probably misquote and mis-translate, so cock-up guaranteed. In any case, she considers it the successor of multi-tasking and if I remember correctly Stone described it as a process of continuous searching for the most entertaining (or profitable) source of information. Much like constantly flipping channels. Her example was illustrative: how often have you had lunch with a friend/colleague who gets a phone call and answers it during lunch? Phone call overrules conversation. (OT, this is one reason why I resent cell phones. Too often, they are used as a social weapon in pecking order.)

As for the wiki-push, I'm onto that now on this subject, although not much is visible as yet.

by Nomad on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 05:25:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In the Netherlands, we use 6 kWh per capita

Per what timespan? One day?

1 TerraW = 10 to the power of 12

Nitpick: it's Tera (one r); but I guess your Earth Sciences education misled you :-)

As many know, long distance transmission of electricity is extremely ineffective

However, this problem shouldn't be overemphasized. There are electricity transports from the Czech Republic to the Netherlands (1000 km), from France to all parts of Italy (some of it through Germany and Austria) (500-2000 km); and the great dams in the USA (1-3000 km) and on the border of Paraguay and Brazil (1-4000 km) also supply cities rather far away. Solar power plants in Morocco would be well-placed to supply Spain and even France and BeNeLux.

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

by DoDo on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 12:17:36 PM EST
Line losses are smaller than 10 % and less than 5 % in most places.

I'd figure it's less efficient to pump natural gas in pipelines than sending an equally energetic current through a high voltage direct current line.

I might be wrong though.

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

by Starvid on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 02:07:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...and the fact I was writing in a one hour frenzy, whilst watching "Why We Fight" posted by ghandi. I can multitask, but my sense for perfection suffers.  Thanks. Besides, I now edited the post, so your reply looks really silly now. :)

Timespan: I think per day, it would make sense that way, but my notes don't include it.

On electricity loss: thanks for the clarification, that's helpful. When I pondered this, I wondered whether heat transport (such as compressed steam) in insulated pipelines would be a competitive alternative to transmission loss of electricity. Do people already transport "heat" on long distances?

by Nomad on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 02:08:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, that's a lot more inefficient. You can't transport hot steam more than 50-150 kilometres (Wild Ass Guess) before temperatures fall quite a lot.

The reason I have even remote knowledge on this subject is that we planned using the hot steam of the Forsmark nuclear power plant to heat Stockholm, in effect turning the plant into a nuclear combined heat and power plant (in Swedish it becomes the wonderful word "kärnkraftvärmeverk").

Anyway, Forsmark is 100-150 kilometres north of Stockholm. It would have worked technically but we had some nasty anti-nuclear opinion in the early 80's that killed the project (which might have had something to do with TMI and our phony anti-nuclear referendum ;)).

It was a great idea. If I get the numbers right (no guarantee) we would have used 100 MW electricity to turn 1000 MW useless 5-degrees-hotter-than-the-sea water into wonderful 1000 MW 100 degrees hot water (using massive heat exchangers). 100 MW power and the worthless cooling water of a single reactor could have heated the entire Stockholm area.

Alas! It was not to be.

Another wild idea we had in the 60's was that we should heat Gothenburg with hot water imported in tankers from the hot springs of Iceland. If my numbers are right, the temperature would fall from 100 degrees in Reykjavik to 60 degrees at arrival in Gothenburg.

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

by Starvid on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 02:20:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I just remember another thing. In the 60's and early 70's we did have a really small (55 MW heat, 10 MW power) cogeneration reactor (called Ågesta) in the Stockholm suburb Farsta. It was closed due to low oil prices in 1973 (ha!).

Anyway, it was probably just a screen for plutonium manufacture for our weapons program anyways, and it did have a pretty nasty accident (hushed down by Olof Palme himself to protect our nascent nuclear energy program from political fallout). No one heard of the accident until 1992.

Coverups are possible! ;)

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

by Starvid on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 02:25:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Anyway, it was probably just a screen for plutonium manufacture for our weapons program anyways, and it did have a pretty nasty accident (hushed down by Olof Palme himself to protect our nascent nuclear energy program from political fallout). No one heard of the accident until 1992.

and then you're (implicitly) impatient with the public for being mistrustful of nuke plants?  with this track record, why should they feel trust or confidence?

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 05:04:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Remarkable. We can transport liquid gas under super high pressures, but we can't insulate steam well enough. I don't "get" how steam can lose their heat if the insulation is well enough. But I don't "get" electricity loss either, so I'll shut up about it.

Figures on the heat transport. Then again, if heat transport would be more efficient, we probably would've been doing it already...

Does make you wonder whether the fascinating kärnkraftvärmeverk scheme is looked at more positively today. I'd expect that the heat exchangers are now even more effective than they were in the eighties.

The Reykjavik idea got shot down similarly, I presume?

by Nomad on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 02:30:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Containing high-pressure liquid is a matter of mechanical strength of the container (in this case, a metal pipeline or fuel tanker).

Heat insulation depends on building a container out of a material with low heat conductivity. Most good thermal insulators are amorphous materials like glass or clay. Glass is too fragile and I don't think building piping or tanks out of bricks is a reasonable possibility.

You could try two layers of metal with a vacuum in between as a heat insulator, but that sounds far-fetched.

We can deal with electricity losses on another day...


A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 02:37:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Electricity loss is easy to understand. Your kitchen toaster has wires that heat up when electricity goes though them. In exactly the same way, the power lines that carry electricity heat up (just a little, but enough to change the sag of the wires, due to the temperature change, depending on load). That heat represents lost electricity.
by asdf on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 03:11:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Alternate current also has losses by radiation (at 50Hz or 60Hz, usually).

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 03:13:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So it's dominantly heat loss, in the end. Damn that Q in thermodynamics.
by Nomad on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 04:58:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd like to see the balance between heat losses and radiation losses in high-voltage AC power lines, as well as in domestic low-voltage 50/60Hz AC wiring. It's purely heat loss only in DC circuits.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 05:12:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Remarkable. We can transport liquid gas under super high pressures, but we can't insulate steam well enough. I don't "get" how steam can lose their heat if the insulation is well enough.
I think one should be able to restate the second law of thermodynamics as "you cannot control heat". Damn that Q indeed, but we'd better learn to live with it because it will not, cannot, go away.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 06:25:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 06:53:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Forgot ceramics...

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 05:43:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know about there being technical or economical reasons not to use steam plant cooling water for heating.

You can just as well use the cooling water from a coal plant or a biofuel plant to supply the district heating. As a matter of fact we already do that in Sweden. A really big percentage of houses are plugged into district heating systems. That's why biofuels supply 17 % of our energy, compared with 13 % for nuclear and another 13 % for hydro (which together comprise 90-95 % of all our power).

As a said, I don't think economics or technology are the issue. I think the big issue is the required centralisation and large scale efforts, with high capital costs and long ROI times. This can probably not be done on a liberalised* energy market and it will be really hard even if the government plans everything centrally.

I mean, even building a district heating grid (to which all or almost all dwellings must be connected to reach cost efficiency) is hard enough with a 100 MW cogeneration plant in every small town.

Think of the massive effort to connect every house in a city of 1 million to a single hot water pipe grid, supplied by a single massive pipe.

I am not saying it is impossible, but I am saying it's hard and requires a firm government control.

Yeah, one more thing. NEVER privatise your district heating system. Everyone with 5 academic credits in economy (or a brain) understands it's a natural monopoly. The socialists sold our district heating grid, the righties sold the Stockholm heating grid (to the Finnish state owned company Fortum of all people!). Insane, all for a quick profit.

Need I tell you that heating prices have increased 50-100 %?

* Ironically, the liberal party (who support a liberalised energy market) are the only ones who have been making sounds about resurrecting the Forsmark hot water project.

The Iceland hot water tanker project never got off the ground. I guess there wasn't any economy in it.

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

by Starvid on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 03:01:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In our city, we had a system with steam.
Historical : there was (1950) a very big company here (over 5000 workers) who needed lots of energy and heat for the production-process. A energy plant was set up that produced electricity and steam. The insulated steam pipelines ran towards the factory (about 2km) but also sidelines were made thruog the city: every official building (city-house, schools..)was heated that way. Also everybody in a street were the lines came trough could connect to the system. Prices were unbeatable.
But 10 years ago the steam-plant , that ran on heavy-fuel, was shut down for several reasons. Most heard reasons ; outdated and to costly to invest, instead the broke open half of the city streets to install gas lines, in one year period all of the official buildings and hundreds of inhabitants had to change the heat system.
Most curious, we never obtained the figures that could prove this discision. I think, since this was a unique system in Belgium, the energy-plant owner (Electrabel) was not willing to invest in a small scale tecnology.

But I think our Russian friends could tell more on such steam technology.

The struggle of man against tyranny is the struggle of memory against forgetting.(Kundera)

by Elco B (elcob at scarlet dot be) on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 02:57:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll get it in DVD when its out-

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 03:51:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Instead of writing this post within one hour (as planned) it took me 3 instead...

Being a USA documentary, the more shocking war pictures are nothing new to the European public or anyone with a mind to look further than the constantly breaking news on the American networks. There are heartbreaking scenes, nevertheless. I also wish the entanglements between the military and the government had been more bared - it was a little scarce on background, and too much on snappy quotes. But insightful, yes.

by Nomad on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 05:04:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
funny, i just heard on tv yesterday that spain supplies electricity through underwater cable to morocco, or algeria, i can't remember.

they also receive gas piped from algeria.

seems like a stupid setup, anyway.

it's good how many more tv programs are talking about energy.

very little, very late, all the same...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 02:31:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The beauty of a smooth increase in oil prices is that people react thinking that it is the oil companies making the profit. If it would be a sharp increase everybody would blame it on lack of oil....but with this increase they all blame the same guys.

Therefore, there will be a lot of pressure to tax their profits, to make them invest in other sources of energy in the near future.

Another excellent effect of smooth increases in oil prices is that a smooth change in the energy portfolio can be made wihtout problems... nuclear is getting into the pool, wind is becoming widespread..

And even more...al lthe cars will improve efficiency rapidly taking the standard 80-90 MPG (already models over there).

So I think the key talk in any environemntal meeting is how to make the increase in oil prices smooth....
from the demand point of view, of course. And by smooth I mean a 20-40% increase in price each year (around ten times more than inflation)

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 Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 12:32:34 PM EST
He also wondered whether it should be a wise choice to invest our money in nuclear energy as long as the waste product problem isn't sufficiently solved.

Wow. Having nuclear energy mentioned as a possible option (even in a semi-negative context) is a huge success and quite a big step forward for the Green movement.

But I guess it wasn't that well received was it?

I remember seeing a video clip when Jared Diamond comes out supporting nuclear in front of hundreds of stunned California Greens. :)


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

by Starvid on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 02:03:22 PM EST
Well, unlike Jérôme, Plan9 and you, I still don't support it (just noting the presence of the other faction).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 02:13:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Also unlike yours truly, who supports it zealously.

The world's northernmost desert wind.
by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 02:16:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm open to rational arguments against nuclear, and indeed a number have been made on ET, but I really hate the stupid, sickening scaremongering of the anti-nuclear crowd. You never hear the same kind of bile against the coal industry which kills orders of magnitude more people and damages the environment so much more.

And as far as I am concerned, well run nuclear plants like those in France and a number of other European countries are, by far today, the cheapest form of power around.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 03:13:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I must agree. I've filmed in and around the Loviisa reactors, 80 kms east of Helsinki and talked at some length to an top-level engineer acquaintance who works there. I also have worked with VTT which has a major contribution to the engineering and diagnostic systems. I have no fears about the systems.

I have two problems. One, they are vulnerable to terrorist attack, two, the waste storage problem hasn't been solved. The Pre-Cambrian rock on which Finland sits like a skin is extremely stable, and plans have existed for 20 years for a very deep bore hole loaded with extremely durable containers (I think they are stainless steel plus something) that will last way beyond the half life.

But. as emerged from listening to some radio documentaries on the anniversary of Chernobyl, people's greatest fear is the invisibility of radiation.

Incidentally I was in Leningrad (as it was then) on a corporate outing during those fateful days. And come to think of it, I also attended May Day parade in Prague '68 - now there was another big upheaval.

It's clearly unlucky for me to attend May Day celebrations, so these days I sit at home with Swedish friends miming the words to their endless drinking songs. Finns tend to go totally bonkers on Vappu (May Day).Its the only time you can't get arrested for having a visible bottle of alcohol in public.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 03:37:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What do you mean by terrorism? The crashing jet liner is not much of an issue, the containment domes can take that. I'd worry a lot more about insider sabotage, but still, there is no big "self destruct"-button in a reactor. I can't see terrorism being a hard issue.

I worry a lot more about weapons proliferation which is, imho, the biggest problem for nuclear power.

Finland is a leading country when it comes to spent fuel (wonderful euphemism, innit? ;)) handling. The deep repository is already under construction next to the Olkiluoto nuclear power plant (where the new EPR is being built). I believe Finland is the first and only country where a repository is under construction as of yet (Sweden will follow in 2011).

The Finns will use the Swedish-developed KBS-3 method which is basically storing the waste 500 metres down in the bedrock in big copper canisters.

More info about KBS-3: http://www.skb.se/templates/SKBPage____8762.aspx

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

by Starvid on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 04:07:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You are clearly better informed than I.

I consulted a few years ago with the group that was planning the bore hole burial. They had overcome all hurdles except for the local population. They approached me to write a presentation to those locals. When they told me their budget for the production, I told them that they were thinking like the yellow pages - even some shoe shop  chain would spend more than they were allocating.

And sure enough, after spending billions on technological research, their project faltered for a hundred thousand old Finnish marks (100,000 €) to be spent in illuminating the population in the proposed area.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 04:34:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry I meant 17,000+ € in currency conversion

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 04:36:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
yet also illustrative as to why out of ten commercial projects, only four gain traction and only one of the four becomes a reasonable success. Marketing is everything.

Cue the point Naneva made upthread...

There's a reason why successful mine industries spend literally millions and millions to "sway" the local public. It's a significant number in itself, up to 250 million in total, but if a mining project is finished as planned, it's worth it compared to the 4.5 billion of total profit... (And these numbers I have from a relatively small mine in Romania...)

by Nomad on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 04:56:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
you know I am not talking about 'persuading' people that something is safe when it is not. I'm talking about the irrationalities of the argument inspired by media (short-term as ever) hysteria.

What chance has reasoned scientific debate in the current media climate?

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 05:05:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...in answer to your question, or so I feel. Media has a higher impact factor, but more importantly, a larger and easier accessibility. Critical rationale and nuance simply don't come in sound-bites and catchphrases and take too much a toll on our continually changing attention span...

Mega projects that make sense but face opposing public opinion only make a chance as long as it gets recycled for decades by governments, while glacially chipping away at the public opinion. (Excepting repressional governments who just push through.) I don't see how short term mega projects ever manage to sway public opposition by factual or scientific arguments. And in comes the money factor...

by Nomad on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 05:48:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My stance on nuclear power is the only thing that has kept me from signing up and being active with the Greens here in Toulouse.

One of their common arguments against nuclear power is that all the R&D money that has been invested in it, in far from transparent methods, could have been invested in R&D on renewables.

Another common argument is that Uranium 255 is limited in longevity terms equal to fossil fuels.

One of the common counter arguments they usually get is that mastering fission and developing parallel skills in the industry for a good 50 years, is the only development that can lead us to possibly mastering nuclear fusion.

Good reading for me on this issue has been Jancovici (an X graduate like you Jérôme!), who addresses the first argument with numbers, concluding that R&D on hydrocarbons is twice more costly than R&D on nuclear energy (in France, 1.9 billion euros yearly on petrol R&D, vs 1 billion on nuclear), thus implying that before condemning nuclear energy we should address the real enemy.

He also adresses the 2nd argument with an apparent penchant and élan towards breeding, using Uranium 238, Thorium 232 ...

His articles are not too greatly written in English, but they're readable:

Is Nuclear energy an enemy of renewables?

Common assumptions about nuclear energy

by Alex in Toulouse on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 03:57:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was just re-reading his article, and I particularly like his way of addressing the following point:

"nuclear energy produces lots of waste which we can't do anything about".

I quote him:

"Alas, human activities generate all kinds of waste, and many of them are produced in such quantities that they raise many more problems than those produced by nuclear power plants. [..] When electricity is produced from fossil fuels, the waste is called...carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas (the first source for this gas, in the world, is precisely electricity generation). What is preferable, then : getting solid waste (the radioactive one), that we can put into a kind of wastebin (la Hague, a facility designed for the waste treatment), and look after, or having gaseous waste (CO2), which, as soon as it is released in the atmosphere, escapes from any control, and is susceptible to generate global and irreversible consequences ?"
by Alex in Toulouse on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 04:06:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a good quote. It reminds me of something Hans Blix once wrote (roughly): nuclear waste is the biggest pro for nuclear power. The volume is comparably very small, it's solid and ceramic(?) and can be disposed off in a reasonable way.

Yes, a bit pointy, but still "out of the box" if you know what I mean.

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

by Starvid on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 04:12:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Jancovici wrote an opinion piece in Le Monde this week (with Nicolas Hulot): We have to prepare for hte post-oil era

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 04:29:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One thing I also generally answer to my hard-left friends, is that their argumentation comes from fear alone. Security risks that Chernobyl embodied pretty well .

No one seems to be as frightened about all the gaz moving under our cities.

by Alex in Toulouse on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 04:34:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
wouold you call deanander's synopsis of all the excellent reasons for not going nuclear 'stupid, scaremongering'?

for such an intelligent, clued in fellow, jerome, i am mystified you trust the french (or any) gvt to be telling you the truth.

unbefuckinglievable...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 03:18:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
synopsis of all the excellent reasons for not going nuclear

I don't know, decentralization to the point of everyone fending off for themselves with their own windmill is not my idea of progress, but DeAnander is right to point out that over-centralizing runs the risk of it falling in the wrong hands.

by Alex in Toulouse on Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 03:50:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Decentralization does not mean "everyone fending off for themselves with their own windmill", that is decomposition. What decentralization means is a non-hyerarchical network.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 05:19:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
and what exactly is not 'progress' about having sustainable energy sources that, once invested in, provide you with a way to cut pollution and monthly energy bills?

hello?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 10:54:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was commenting on the individual vs collective aspect of it (decentralisation vs centralisation). The former, pushed to the extreme, would be "every man for himself", and for me that is not progress. But Migeru told me that I was talking about decomposition, not decentralisation. So anyhow my comment seems irrelevant.
by Alex in Toulouse on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 09:01:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The former, pushed to the extreme, would be "every man for himself", and for me that is not progress.

another straw man.

as if 'pushing to the extreme' were part of migeru's comment.

'every man for himself' yet another.

people aren't always alone, and want naturally to take care of their families, friends, and hopefully the whole human race by extension.

every citizen reaching for as much energy independence from corporate control is a matter of personal responsibility, and spiritual liberation.

it's a win-win...

the less work you make the top-down system do on your behalf, the less system stress there will be, making more for others to share in, and ensuring higher survival probability in case of extended blackouts and the like.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 09:35:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What's this about a straw man?

I was commenting on DeAnander's comment (not Migeru's precision, which came in later) against centralisation of electricity.

In my perspective, the opposite of centralisation of energy, particularly when centralisation is presented after the example of a neighbour building his own windmill (I'm quoting DeAnander), meant neighbourly, broken-down, tribal, individual. But I was wrong in my interpretation, apparently. Just to precise where I stood anyhow:

I have nothing against people having their own solar panel on their house's roof, their own windmill in their backyard, on the contrary, that's great, in essence. I'm all proud to have my bicycle and to be independent of gas stations.

But then what about those who can't afford solar panels and windmills? What happens to the excess electricity produced by these solar panels and windmills, why can't it be redistributed to people in places with no sun, or no wind, or simply to those with no money? So I'm commenting on this aspect: centralisation of energy ressources to me means a way to ensure social equity.

Provided that it is not corporate of course (only a government thing, which electricity is, or at least has been up to now, in France), and provided like DeAnander says that it doesn't fall in the wrong hands.

by Alex in Toulouse on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 09:51:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This thread is degenerating rapidly into a nominalistic debate around "decentralisation". I may not have meant the same as DeAnander, never mind what you or melo think we each meant, or what (I think) you or melo meant.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 09:55:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But then what about those who can't afford solar panels and windmills? What happens to the excess electricity produced by these solar panels and windmills, why can't it be redistributed to people in places with no sun, or no wind, or simply to those with no money? So I'm commenting on this aspect: centralisation of energy ressources to me means a way to ensure social equity.
That's what the network is for, but there is no need for the network to be hyerarchical or production fully concentrated. Is it the fault of the small windmill or solar panel owner that utilities adamantly resist allowing excess power being fed back into the grid?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 09:58:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
for those who can't afford to buy alternative energy sources, reduce consumption and lobby for change in a green direction.

until you can....

how close do we have to come to gas line fistfights and mass refusals to pay bloated energy bills before governments stop trying to take the banana out of the bottle with a closed fist?

how many civilians, and brainwashed soldiers have to die and be maimed before we 'get it'?

a stitch in time...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 10:04:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think that pretty much sums it up, centralisation of energy meant centralised management of the network in my mind, I wasn't thinking of it in terms of concentrated production (which nuclear power plants portray really well in fact), so thanks for concisely putting all this to rest.
by Alex in Toulouse on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 10:04:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Centralised management of the network is probably a good idea anyway, as otherwise only the profitable backbone is maintained and the periphery suffers (as with rail lines).

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 10:21:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
it is in the wrong hands...that's the point.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 10:19:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Give power to the people ;))
by Alex in Toulouse on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 10:48:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
yup,  where it belongs

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 04:33:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is so cheap because the state assumes all insurance and civil liability. So private enterprise should not be allowed to run (or profit from) nuclear power plants.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 05:15:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
i don't support it either, for the reasons i've often given here, namely the reliably mendacious safety statements given by governments, (such as the one about cumbrian children the other day.

it makes me pretty angry to see it trotted out now so often as the cure-all.

if a half of the huge megabucks supporting this boondoggle industry were given to conservation and renewables, we wouldn't be in this false 'sophie's choice' situation.

how about MANDATORY solar water heating europe-wide NOW, for a start. would that cost even as much as ONE (uninsureable) nuclear plant?

likewise with worldwide CAFE standards.

i'm disappointed (and suspicious) of all the lovelock/diamond turncoating, as well.

i think they've been heavily leaned on, or bribed.

i feel also that the public has not forgotten the lies around chernobyl, and 3 mile island.

silkwood, anyone?

the bastards have been telling us renewables don't work, and burying patents, and foot-dragging for 30+ years, on purpose, fully aware that we would find ourselves boxed in to this situation, the better to sell us these dangerous behemoths.

plus bush has been winding the world up about iran, and how dangerous it will be to have all this potential terrorist activity around the increased amounts of fissible material.

reality says he can't have it both ways...cognitive dissonance can only go so far.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 02:48:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
f a half of the huge megabucks supporting this boondoggle industry were given to conservation and renewables

This price argument can be addressed with other price arguments which are equally valid.

  1. Investment costs for wind power are a good three times higher per kWh than investement costs for nuclear power, and exploitation costs are about twice higher. Should we thus conclude that wind power is a boondoggle industry compare to nuclear power?

  2. As mentioned above, nuclear R&D costs are half of petrol R&D costs even in France which engages in a lot of nuclear research (1 billion euros annually) ... thus petrol is the primary enemy of renewable R&D, nuclear can only be secondary in that respect.

The security risk argument can be addressed in a similar manner too:

Governments also provide generous safety statements for the miles of gaz and other hazardous material canalisations running underneath the major towns many of us live in. After the AZF explosion in Toulouse (which was unrelated to gaz), a pipeline to a major phosgene cuve was monitored as having cracks. The AZF explosion itself would have been nothing compared to what was waiting for us if they hadn't had a proper emergency all-verification plan in place (by which they discovered the cracks, as anticipated in the scenarios they had planned for before the accident). The same kind of plan you expect them to have in every state-of-the-art nuclear plant ... Phosgene is highly lethal (mustard gaz, used to produce polymeres, polycarbons ...), and if the cuve had opened up, 20 tonnes would have been released in a radius killing off the entire Toulouse population (300,000 dead). My point here: "dodgy safety statements" are not overblowingly enough to target nuclear energy specifically in the fight to develop renewables. Hell even cars are said to be safe by our esteemed leaders, yet they kill 2 million people in the world every year.

This is not to say that we should accept that nuclear energy is safe at face value, only that the argument that "because I think that it is safe, then we must replace it with renewables" is not a strong one.

The nuclear issue is complex, there are a lot of parameters to consider, so wide accusations cannot do the job in the debate, like Jérôme says above.

by Alex in Toulouse on Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 03:37:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
that "because I think that it is notsafe
by Alex in Toulouse on Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 03:40:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I hope I didn't come through as condoning the presence of phosgene cuves in town on the basis of proper emergency scenarios existing, because I don't.
by Alex in Toulouse on Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 03:45:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Investment costs for wind power are a good three times higher per kWh than investement costs for nuclear power, and exploitation costs are about twice higher. Should we thus conclude that wind power is a boondoggle industry compare to nuclear power?

i'm surprised to see a person of your obvious intelligence using a straw man argument like this...

wind power is an example of what appropriate use of technology can/will do to help us transition into a post-oil economy (in which smart conservation will be the sine qua non).

it has no downsides, afaik, now the birdkill ratio is down due to slower blades.

it is what we should be using the last of the 'affordable' oil for, along with solar and better battery technology.

hello?

any problem with insuring windplants?

any chernobyl situations?

any excuse for ramping up terrorism alerts or police state shenanigans?

didn't think so...

i hope you are not thinking i'm attacking france on this, i'm not.

do i think nuclear power is quite possibly the WORST idea ever occurred to man?

yup...


'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 10:43:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wind power has certain problems.

  • It is expensive. This might not be too much of a problem when it comes to workers and ordinary citizens, more expensive power only lowers the standard of living a little. But expensive power is the death knell to electricity intensive export industry, and that is very important in Sweden. That's why while electricity taxes are steep in Sweden corporations need not pay them.

  • Wind power is intermittent. You only get power when the wind blows. This can be mitigated by having the wind mills spread out in several geographic areas a long way from each other, or having really large amounts of hydroelectricity to compensate.

  • Wind is not baseload. Hence it is not a direct competitor to nuclear power, which primarily compete against other baseload power like coal and gas.

  • Not everyone have wind resources. For example the Swedish wind potential is 10 TWh (of which 1 TWh has been exploited as of yet) while our power consumption is 140 TWh.

  • NIMBY. No one wants a park with 30 120 metre high windmills in their back yard, while a lot of people living close to nuclear power plants like them.
http://www.nei.org/index.asp?catnum=4&catid=851

When we look at the studies where all social and environmental cost are included in the price of power (like in the EU Externe study) nuclear looks very attractive.

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

by Starvid on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 05:06:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would much rather live on the edge of a wind farm than within 15 Km of a nuclear power plant, thank you very much.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 05:15:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd prefer the nuke plant. As a matter of fact I do live about 60 km from Forsmark nuclear power plant. That plant has 3 reactors with a total effect of about 3100 MWe. If one were to replace that plant with big 3,1 MW wind turbines (hub height about 80 metres tall, and then maybe another extra 40 metres for the turbine wings (80 metre wing diameter)) you would need 9000 wind mills, if the capacity factor of the reactors is 90 % and the windmill capacity factor is 30 %.

Would you really rather live next to a veritable forest of 9000 100+ metre high windmills rather than 3 reactors?

I wouldn't.

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

by Starvid on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 07:55:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How much does the reactor operator pay for accident civil liability insurance?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 07:57:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How much does the hydro plant operator (dam bursts do happen!), or the coal plant or chemical factory pay for accident civil liability insurance?

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 08:16:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know, but they do have insurance, which nuclear power plants apparently don't because the risks are so great as to be uninsureable.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 08:17:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As far as I know none of those entities have any insurance for the costs and risks they incur on the public. If that were to happen all coal plants would go out of business (good riddance!).

Swedish hydro plants do not (AFAIK) have any insurance for dambursts, probably because the risk of such a big disaster is very small (but still extremely much bigger than that of a reactor meltdown).    

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

by Starvid on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 08:28:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Factor in all the hidden subsidies and then we can talk again about which power generation is the cheapest.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 08:30:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is not expensive. See my earlier posts on electricity costs: The real cost of electricity - some numbers. I'll post a new diary summarising all the various cost estimates, but here's a quick one:

It is intermittent, but that's not really an issue for any network until wind reaches 20% of production, a level we're still far away from except in a very small number of places (Denmark, Northern Germany)

It is baseload, because it has the cheapest marginal cost.

The argument that it is not sufficient altogether is not an a argument against using it as much as available.

NIMBY is indeed NIMBY, but you'll see that studies show that people that actually live near windfarms like them just fine (DoDo quoted an unambiguous Scottish study on ET some time ago about this)

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 05:43:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Starvid claims that people who actually live next to a nuclear reactor like it. So maybe people living next to just about anything grow accustomed to it and like it. It's not about NIMBY (not in my back yard) but about NNIMBY (nothing new in my back yard).

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 07:59:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You are probably right on that one. Jerome refers to a Scottish study which says that it's the same situation with wind farms.

But we do need a more catchy acronym than NNIMBY. ;)

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

by Starvid on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 08:19:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is not expensive. See my earlier posts on electricity costs: The real cost of electricity - some numbers.
Wind power might only cost $1000 per kW to install, but with capacity factors around 30 % (for a good site) it becomes in reality $3000 per kW compared to a coal, gas or nuclear plant.
I think it's even more expensive offshore where you have the bonus of avoiding NIMBY.

Without subsidies no one would ever build wind plants in Sweden.

It is intermittent, but that's not really an issue for any network until wind reaches 20% of production, a level we're still far away from except in a very small number of places (Denmark, Northern Germany)

True, of course. I have always wondered about that 20 % number. Is that a generic number or just a number relevant for the Danish situation (where massive amounts of Norwegian and Swedish hydropower are able to balance the grid)?

It is baseload, because it has the cheapest marginal cost.
Ok, you made me look stupid there. :)

The argument that it is not sufficient altogether is not an a argument against using it as much as available.
Sure, I support wind power (as long as it is NIMBY) and think it should be exploited. It's just that sometimes some people (not on the Eurotrib though) touts wind as the silver bullet to solve all our electricity problems, something it is not.

NIMBY is indeed NIMBY, but you'll see that studies show that people that actually live near windfarms like them just fine (DoDo quoted an unambiguous Scottish study on ET some time ago about this)
That might be so, but it doesn't make it easier to build the contraptions as people like them only after they have been built. I guess it is pretty hard to find new sites for nuclear reactors too because of NIMBY but you can always add more reactors at a current site. That option is not available for wind power.

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

by Starvid on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 08:14:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You would think the costs per KWh would take into account a factor of 30% already. Otherwise Jerome's bank (or at least his department) would go bankrupt.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 08:19:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's per kW, not per kWh. Jerome wrote:

initial investments are high, around 1000 $/kW. This is high because a kW of wind power produdes fewer kWh (typically, a third or a quarter as many) than a kW of coal, nuclear of gas)-fired power, due to the intermittent nature of wind. Thus the cost per kWh over the life of the plant of that investment is much higher. On the other hand, it is possible to invest small amounts as  individual wind turbines are relatively cheap ($2-3M today for modern models)

He also posted a graph showing wind and nuclear at about the same level, about $40 per MWh.

I think that's a little too high for nuclear and a little too low for wind, especially for offshore wind.

Why do I think that? Because people want to build nuclear power plants in Sweden without subsidies but only build wind plants with subsidies.

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

by Starvid on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 08:30:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You've also said that Sweden just doesn't have enough wind to make it profitable.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 08:31:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I didn't really say that.

I said that we have 10 TWh of potential to exploit. A small potential, but still 6-7 % of total demand. I don't know at what power price this is. A higher price should make more areas profitable I guess.

But shouldn't there be some windy place in Sweden were it is profitable to build windmills without subsidies? A single place at least? Apparently not.

But this might also have to do with Swedish power being the cheapest in Europe, except for Norway.

I might have sounded like I am negative to wind power. I am not, I like it. As long as it's not in my back yard (but I'd rather live next to a 1000 giant windmills than a coal plant).

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

by Starvid on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 08:40:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Without subsidies no one would ever build wind plants in Sweden.
Ok, so a one-size-fits-all policy won't work. But this is exactly why I asked on a previous thread whether the existing nuclear commitments of France, Sweden and others will be enough to provide the EU-wide share of nuclear power.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 08:25:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hey I'm just pointing out that the price and the safety argument are not string enough because they can be countered. I mean by this that if you want to argue against nuclear energy as a whole then you have to find arguments that are unbeatable.

I'm not saying wind energy is bad, nor that nuclear energy is good, so no need to go down that road.

by Alex in Toulouse on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 09:05:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
devil's avocado, huh?

i think there will always be (well-financed) counter-arguments to anything sensible.

at a certain point endless (however seemingly reasonable) arguments are fruitless...spin rules, unless people pull their heads out of the sand.

i believe in emotional intelligence, and its ultimate victory.

for this to occur, i think patience is a better friend than argumentation.

sorry i was a bit edgy there, i really like your contributions, i came off a bit ad hom.

rock on alex

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 09:11:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ok now that we're all set, let me say, quickly, that nuclear energy isn't all bad (alex grabs his tongs and runs as fast as he can away from melo, dodging chairs, doors, knives)

;))

by Alex in Toulouse on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 09:14:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
run alex run!

as a pacifist -with the accent on 'fist' - you don't have to worry about any of the above armaments, ideas and emotion are my only arms...except the ones i use to massage people and play instruments with!

and about those 'tongs' which are mentioned so often i'm starting to suspect a foot fetishism, 'tongs' are chinese gangs or tools to pull chestnuts out of fires.

both quite uncomfortable as footwear, i'd think.

perhaps you are referring to brazilian beachwear... that should help you dicretely navigate the street protests!

your retreat from my melo-dramatic comments will give you time to reconsider your difficulty with supporting the greens, i hope, when their only 'mistake' is not encouraging energy policies epic in their folly!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 10:14:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
perhaps you are referring to brazilian beachwear

hehehe viva las tongas!

when their only 'mistake' is not encouraging energy policies epic in their folly!

Well it's not their stance that is a problem but mine (which is a little bit incompatible with theirs in the sense that I can't strongly condemn nuclear energy like they do, but I do generally agree with almost everything else they propose).

I'll still vote for them though, and if they are elected to a prominent role and a consensus among them finds that we need to pull completely out of nuclear energy, then I'll support that. It's just that I wanted to register with them to get active in Toulouse (which has a small branch only, ideal for having nice responsabilities) but when I found out that their agenda in Toulouse is 100% consensus-based anti-nuclear, I concluded that I would have found myself in a tight spot.

by Alex in Toulouse on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 10:46:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
i humbly suggest focussing on what they want to do that's positive, not what they don't want...ultimately both roads converge.

or we die

with all the chernobyl coverage these last few days, it becomes ever clearer what lunacy nuclear power was, is and ever will be.

just as iraq is the most graphic example of the folly of war we've had in the last half-century, nuclear power is the most graphic example of the insanity inherent in renting power to the people, rather than really empowering them by putting it back in their hands.

saying it's cleaner than coal is like saying we should have gone into iraq, because saddam was a real bad guy.

just because you haven't had any meltdown in la belle france, do you really subscribe to the idea that this is a better model than renewable energy for the up'n'coming nations?

maybe the chinese will be the ones to turn it around...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 04:30:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, we can't decide what power plants the developing world will choose, can we?

We only know that they will choose the cheapest alternative, because they are poor and can afford nothing else.

If they have hydro they will build it. If they do not have it they will go for coal, gas or nuclear. It really is as simple as that.

Your Chernobyl and Iraq references are non sequitur.

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

by Starvid on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 06:05:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
all depends on your definition of 'cheap', i guess.

sorry you couldn't connect the dots between iraq as war and nuclear power as energy source.

 key word:  destruction, mendacity...

good luck

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Apr 26th, 2006 at 02:48:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Members of the panel (can't remember which ones) were clearly openly considering an increase in nuclear power. In his talk, Hayes himself did skim on the advancements in nuclear waste disposal and enlarged a number of oft touted disadvantages of nuclear waste (extreme long duration of dangerous radionuclear decay, insecurity of geological reservoirs, blah).

But for Greens with roots in radical protest groups such as Greenpeace, this was an enlightening take. There was not one booh from the crowd. It's clearly on the table, and no longer under it.

by Nomad on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 02:15:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Very interesting.

When I have been talking to Greens lately I have found them much more receptive to the nuclear argument. Cautios, sure, but the anti-nuclear backbone reflex has gone away especially among younger people. One can discuss the pros and cons of nuclear energy in a civilised manner, and while you might not convince them that nuclear energy is Jesus incarnate, at least they'll think about it. This is quite a new development.

I think this has basically to do with the fear of climate change and that we are emitting more and more greenhouse gases for every passing day with no end in sight, but rather a massive acceleration in emissions as the Chinese dragon and the Indian (what? Cow?) wakes, tearing hundreds, if not thousands of millions of people out of 17th century poverty and into 18th and 19th century poverty. And at least for some, even into 20th and 21th century wealth.

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

by Starvid on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 06:21:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]

One of the largest weaknesses in the portfolio of endurable energy lies in its fragmentation and in its invisibility, or lack of public exposure. The representative of Shell sadly confirmed all my ideas about their future strategies: they don't intend to start working on the problem yet and prefer to keep cashing in on the oil dollars.

The financial markets are investing massively in the sector today. Wind is almost drowning in money and is facing a number of bottlenecks (turbine manufacturing capacity all over the world, permitted sites in several countries), and people are looking at solar (PV), biomass, wave, the whole gamut.

And note that Shell is one of the biggest investors in the sector, the only one of the big oil companies to have a serious wind operation. Total is dabbling in, BP has stated intentions - but they are more active in PV - and the others are invisible.


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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 03:10:01 PM EST
... I'm left stumped why the Shell man in the panel continued to uphold the image Shell is leaning back and whistling... He had several golden opportunities to illustrate their investments in alternative energies, but instead the issue was shrugged off. Strange. Perhaps it was a lost cause to the specific audience in any case, but still...

Thanks for putting some nuance to my rather bold concluding statements.

by Nomad on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 03:58:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Caveat: I don't know what I'm talking about.  

I've often wondered if there couldn't be a way to construct a solar hot water heater that would heat the water that would be then put into a boiler to make steam (obviously need to use some energy to bring the water to a boil) to run a small electrical power plant -- and you'd get hot water, too!

Using some of the 'wasted' energy from that Great-NukePlant-in-the-Sky should lower the amount of energy needed for the system?  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 03:18:54 PM EST
You could, but it wouldn't be very efficient...
by asdf on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 04:30:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"solar stirling" is afaik a better bet -- same concept, just a more efficient mechanism -- and is in production in a few places.  the issue with most of these collect-and-focus schemes whether parabolic or fresnel is tracking -- for optimal efficiency they must track the sun, and this means either complex powered mounts (fragile, requiring high tech) or constant manual adjustment by human attendants.  now if we could just get sunflowers to carry wee solar panels on their heads :-)

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 05:01:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Solar stirling is exciting. It makes me happy when I otherwise feel sad over those useless photvoltaics.

(Don't misunderstand me, PV has it's niches but not as a large scale power source. Solar stirling might have.)

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

by Starvid on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 05:56:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll chime in on the anti-nuke side, for various reasons which I should really compile and put into a diary... one of these being that nuke plants are inherently megaprojects, i.e. you don't want your neighbour building one of these in his garage.  Whereas if your neighbour wants to build a wind turbine or install solar panels, the risk to you and the rest of the n'hood is slight.  The nuke plant keeps energy production firmly in the hands of the technocrats, in centralised, expensive, high-tech installations surrounded by a culture of secrecy and high security.  I see devolution and decentralisation as being better survival strategies, even in (perhaps especially in) urban areas.  

The massively centralised power grid I think is an engineering error, both physical and social.  It invests far too much in an optimistic forecast of political climate and social order.  It amuses me to hear many of the same people expressing deep dark concerns about Iran having a nuke plant, and then earnestly promoting the multiplication of nuke plants all over the Western world -- as if the Western world could never, ever spawn an extremist government, a dictator, a warlord, ever again.  Optimism to the point of folly, imho.

That's aside from all the other pragmatic concerns about waste transport and disposal, unhealthy ties to the weapons industry (which lends a further umbrella of secrecy and unaccountability), the normalising of radioactive munitions like DU for shell casings (as a way of "disposing of nuclear waste"), long term genetic damage, hazards of uranium mining and open tailings, devastation of uranium-bearing lands (mineral extraction seems to be invariably destructive and brutal whether it be coal, gold, copper, or uranium...) etc.  This is not to be read as a vote for the coal industry -- that's a sophomoric rhetorical trick, to pretend that every critic of nuclear energy schemes must be a gullible fan of "clean coal" -- it's a vote for getting away permanently from the habit of digging up and burning mineral resources, and learning to live within our biotic/solar annual energy budget.

There's an opportunity cost to devoting our remaining fossil nickels to a desperate jump to nuclear, while maintaining the same imho unwise conceptual framework for power consumption and distribution, i.e. reckless consumption and centralised, authoritarian distribution.  Household, village, farm and neighbourhood scale energy generation makes a lot more sense to me.  It seems that we are still stuck in this (imho) childish or suicidal insistence that "the American way of life is not negotiable" and that we must take whatever social risks we can envision rather than accept a lower energy budget.

My bet is that adopting nuclear as The Solution which will preserve our freedom-to consume as much energy as we feel like, will have severe impacts on the quality of life in many other areas.  Which gets us back into futurism...  But in the meantime, think about who will get the nuke plant contracts in the US.  Bechtel.  Halliburton. K&R.  People like that.  When the whole world has a centre/left moderate socialist French-style government, and benevolent alien overseers to make sure that that government never falls, I might start to think that nuke plants are a practical energy source.  In the current state of human development and particularly the climate of wildcat privatisation, corporate piracy and deep corruption, we might as well hand a hyperactive four-year-old a loaded Glock full auto...

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Sun Apr 23rd, 2006 at 05:25:25 PM EST
once again, deanander says it so much better....

thankyou for being so articulate with your common sense.

i totally agree...

a 4 year old with a glock cannot poison hundreds of square miles however.

small nitpick, the metaphor is perfect otherwise.

plus i'd trust most 4 year olds more than the snakes trying to brainwash us over this one.

i bet the reason the shell man was alluding only lightly to their investments in alternatives, because the ice is thin on this one.

if a whole roomful of people simultaneously woke up to the bullshit tokenism he was spouting, they may have strangled him in his chair!

this rage bubbling under the surface, and the whining about how the governments should 'do something about' petrol prices, are both products of how we've all been brainwashed into thinking things could go on forever like they were....asthmatic children and all.

once the general public realises how we've been SO gulled, while we could have charted a wise course for 30+years, i anticipate a fury on the level of when the bastille was stormed.

in terms of sheer human suffering (and that to come), the pols and energy company ceo's should end up in the hague for crimes against humanity for what they have (and most importantly haven't) done these last decades.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 03:11:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I won't address all the points you raise, partly because a lot of them are very good, and partly because I feel that not everything you say may pertain to France too (DU shell casing being one example).

But on just this one issue:

it's a vote for getting away permanently from the habit of digging up and burning mineral resources

I agree with the motive, evidently. But the albeit utopian promise of nuclear fusion, creates a model in which an all-developed world's forecast energy consumption needs could be met for millenia. Thus only shifting the problem in the hands of the generations that will come several thousand of years from now, but possibly offering them enough time to develop the technological needs to move from there on.

by Alex in Toulouse on Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 04:00:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]

The nuke plant keeps energy production firmly in the hands of the technocrats, in centralised, expensive, high-tech installations surrounded by a culture of secrecy and high security.

Sounds good to me. But then I come from a country that has mastered centralised government run by competent people.

...

(Cue onto the slums the unemployment, etc...)

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 05:38:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Always the X-arque...

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 05:40:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
until i saw the last line, i was going to blast you for being poster boy for the famous french national trait of SMUGNESS!!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 10:51:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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