Solar energy cannot economically compete in electricity generation

The Arizona Corporation Commission has imposed a renewable energy mandate that requires electric utilities to produce 15% of electricity from renewable resources by 2025.  In Arizona the utilities are turning mainly to solar power to meet the requirement.  That policy means that the cost of generating electricity and our electric bills will soar.  Who benefits?

The graph below shows the relative costs of producing electricity by various means.  The data are from the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook for 2011. (Link).  The data were graphed by Willis Eschenbach.  The costs are in cents per kilowatt hour. The blue part represents capital and transmission costs; the red part represents fuel, operation, and maintenance costs.

estimated-levelized-cost-new-gen-resources-20161

As you can plainly see, solar energy is much more expensive and would not be considered for utility-scale electricity generation were it not for government mandates and subsidies.  Another problem with solar generation is that it requires backup power because even in Arizona, the sun doesn’t shine all the time.  Solar plants typically produce just a fraction of their rated capacity.  For instance, TEP operates one of the largest solar PV arrays in the United States, a 5-MW system. But over two years of operation, the capacity factor for that generator has averaged 19%, meaning it produced only 19% of its rated capacity most of the time.

One of the rationales for using solar (and wind) energy is that it is supposed to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions, but that isn’t necessarily so if the backup generation comes from fossil-fuel powered plants.  A study in the Netherlands shows that the intermittent generation by wind actually increases carbon dioxide emissions because the fossil fuel-run backup generators have to cycle up and down constantly rather than being run efficiently at a constant output.  That cycling uses more fuel. (Note, the study was specific to wind power, but it could be applied to intermittent solar power also due to variable generation on cloudy days.)

Some may argue that the cost of solar cells is rapidly falling.  But, the cost of the cells themselves is a small part of what goes into a utility scale power plant.

Our modern society depends upon having a reliable source of electricity.  Wind and solar generation are not reliable.  As we increase our dependence of these unreliable sources we increase the risk of electrical brownouts or blackouts which disrupt vital services and commerce.

Perhaps our corporation commissioners think they are doing the right thing for the planet, but their benighted mandate may actually be doing the opposite because it ties up money and resources that could perhaps be put to better use to help solve real problems.  Again, who benefits?

Our state legislators should repeal the renewable energy standards mandate and let the utility companies produce electricity by less expensive and more reliable means.

Then we will see whether or not the utilities employ solar energy voluntarily.

See also:

APS wants electric energy efficiency to cost more

Arizona Corporation Commission May Ration Electricity

Smart Grid may ration electricity

Will you let the power company control your air conditioner?

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51 comments

  1. One word you seem to have forgotten is YET. I have zero problems with the government mandating the use of solar power, and I’d rather pay more for the energy produced by renewable sources.
    It may not be economically feasible NOW, but I remember my dad getting a brand-new microwave in 1976 for $1500. I don’t think they cost that much any more.
    I also remember him buying a Betamax for $1200. Before they became obsolete, VCRs were available for $59.99
     

    1. Rai, even if solar panels were free, the cost of installation, balance of system, and inverter replacement makes the whole activity hopelessly uneconomic. 

      The companies that built the expensive microwaves in 1976 used legitamate market forces and built the units without subsidies and they were correct (and honest & fair) in their business plan.   The government did not need to subsidize the microwaves, since there was a real market, which grew naturally over time.  

      But solar companies have been making panels since before that and the complete systems are still about 4x too expenive to be viable on-grid.

      Your dad was free to buy a microwave and he did.  You’re free to buy solar panel if you want, but unfortunately the rest of us are being forced to pay for your panels.  That’s a big difference form your dad’s situation.

      WHEN solar systems are more cost effective, more people will buy them, just like the microwave and VCR.

      But I think solar is more like the BETAMAX product.  I’m fairly sure it will not be the technology of choice for on-grid energy.    

  2.  You’re a nut! I have solar on my house and the panels have been producing over their rated capacity ever since I turned the system on. Now granted I went with a batter backup system that can be taxing on my system to keep the batteries charged but I was sure thankful for that during the power outage during the hurricanes we had this summer… And you state.. As we increase our dependence on these unreliable sources we risk electrical brownouts and blackouts. Hmmmm.. well right now it’s raining, winter time at my house and I’m still generating 12 amps of consistent current.. THAT’S FREE…. FOREVER… what, you just want these companies to continue dipping into your pocket.. I have an all electric house/neighborhood and this has been one of the best decisions of an investment I could think of.. Sure I could have bought a brand new ski boat or something else like that but instead I put it into a plan on getting people to stop taking my hard earned money out of my pocket. If we had done this back in the 70s think of where we’d be now… Oh wait.. seems to me we still have brownouts and blackout in this country… Yeah.. how’s that working out for you.. Adding solar and wind power just makes our electrical system stronger and more diverse. Everyone keeps taking and taking from us… when is it going to stop? We have to proactive and stop being reactive on where we’re going to be in the future…

    JD
    Richmond VA 

    1. James, the post was about utility-scale generation, not individual installations. However, here in Tucson, individual installations of solar are tied into the grid so that excess generation can be sold back to the power company. Unfortunately, because of the tie-in, if the grid goes down, so does your individual power. I’m guessing you got your solar by choice not because of government mandate, although the government is still subsidizing home installations.

      BTW I have solar water heating.

    2. JD, Jonathon’s article is very good.  Solar and wind are intermittent, unreliable, expensive, and give the grid new load problems to manage.  A town the size of Tucson can go from full sun to full cloud cover in about 10 minutes,  That creates a power slew rate that is tough for the most efficient plants to manage, so as we add the intermitant power sources, we’ll  have to shutter our more efficient generation equipment and use faster responding, but less efficient backing equipment.  This is why, in some cases, CO2 output can increase as renewablws are added to the grid.  Google “Bentek wind study.”

      Jonathon is no nut, he’s trying to help Arizonans rationally manage energy.   You might want to educate yourself a bit more on energy, but till then, why not give us a break and focus your attention to your state of Virginia.

  3. Unfortunately, you data on costs are sorely out of date.  Current utiltiy-scale PV prices are being bid in the 8 to 9 cents/kWh range to California and Arizona utilities.  Solar thermal, with storage and 24 hour operating capability is more in the 12 to 13 cents/kWh and dropping.  Keep in mind that these have no fuel escalators so pricing remains pretty flat for decades.

    Natural gas is at historically low prices so keep in mind that the price of electricity fluctuates year on year at gas prices.  Where will gas prices be at 5, 10 or 25 years with all the “proposed conversions” to natural gas?  Certainly not at the same price as today.

    You nuclear prices are way low as well – closer to 20 cents/kWh, but very few utilties are willing to take the economic risk.  Nuclear egts massive subsidies, but very few takers.  Only one nucler project under construction in the southeast, thanks to an $8.3 billion government guarnatee for the debt.  Not a bad idea to spur growth, but very few takers.

    It will be a solar world my friend.  Even the Saudi’s are embarking on a big solar push. 

    1. Interesting.   Lets say “utility scale” PV is being sold for 8-9 cents/kWh.  How much of the generating facility was government subsidized?  The very basic energy issue is that the sun is down for about 12 hours of every day.  But also the fact is that energy density from the sun is very low compared to the energy density of other fuels.    And yes, solar CAN be useful.  In 1978 (the days of Jimmy Carter) my father bought a solar hot water heater which pre-heated the water going into the hot water heater.  This was heavily subsidized by the federal governement (Tax rebate).  It worked, but you would have to bypass it during the winter, and drain it in the winter to prevent breaking the panels. 
       
      Another great use for solar is swimming pool heaters.
       
      And, coming (today, not in the future) from your neighboring state to the west.  California has mandated that 33% of all electrical energy must be green —- by 2020.  So, we will have another scarcity market of green energy driving by government mandate.   I (and I am sure the solar generation industry) see a massive sellers market as local utility companies try to buy their electricity from anywhere (including Arizona) at any price.   A smart move by Arizona (and I am sure Nevada and Utah will figure this out) is to generate energy in their states, not mandate it for local use, and sell it to the fools in California for an exorbitant price.

    2. Kevin, the data is not out of date.  I think you’re confusing the artifical evonomics of solar when federal subsidies are coupled with utility mandates.  Please read the following post I wrote on he topic: 

      http://theenergygame.blogspot.com/2011/09/levelized-cost-of-energy.html  

      I read the DOE EIA report and it agrees with current cost very well.  I also have very recent data on utility scale solar and appreciarte that the cost is under $4/w installed, but it need to be about 75 cent/W to complete without any subsidy.  Its a long way form that price point and the current prices of panels might be artificially low if indeed China is dumping.

      Solar is about 15 cents/kWh as best I can calculate without subsidy.  But unfortunately, solar is not competing against the cost of traditinoal generation, it’s conpeting against the marginal cost, since we still must build traditional plants.  We still need to build these traditional plants because solar is intermittent and when Tucson is at peak demand around 6pm, solar has considerably dimished output.  Solar thermal helps here, but it is much more expensive than you seem to indicate.   Again, I think the DOE EIA report data is reliable.  I’m not sure where you are getting your numbers.

    1. This is probably a supply and demand issue.  My guess is that even with government subsidies, companies and individuals do not have the cash on hand to purchase solar panels.  When the demand drops, the price drops, even if the selling company is losing money (a la Solyndra).

  4. That’s pretty cute how you left out the part about how solar panel technology has come down in price by10X in past 15 years and how fast and cheap Solar power is becoming. You could get your facts from paid advertising from Oil companies or you could “RESEARCH”.

    1. Yes, solar has come down, but even if the panels were free, the balance of system cost, which is much flatter in price trajectory, making the venture hopelessly uneconomic.  It’s a bad bet today.       

  5. Jon, Your last sentence: “Then we will see whether or not the utilities employ solar energy voluntarily.” Of course they won’t do it voluntarily. Why would they, when they get to dump their pollutants into our air for free? That’s a huge subsidy we all pay for. At the end of your opening paragraph, you ask “Who benefits?” We all benefit. When the Commons is polluted we all suffer. When we stop that pollution, we all benefit. And when I say ‘we’, I mean nearly every living thing. JP

    1. Dr. JP,  Yes there are externalities which should be priced.  But is solar the best solution?  If we taxed plant & mine polution and it drove the cost of coal powered electricity to 50 cents a kWh, would we rationally respond with solar PV?  How about natural gas, nuclear, conservation, biomass, geothermal?  I bet these are the responses of a rational market, not on-grid PV.   PV is an artificial, political solution. 

  6. All of this may be interesting for all of you to pretend to undesrtand, but is of little substance. The real problem is government getting ever deeper into the fabric of our lives through “subsidies” and other extortion schemes to make you and I more reliant on big fed. As we become addicted to OPM (Other People’s Money) Green becomse the new Red, and we’re all excited? Follow the money, do your homework and don’t run with scissors. What happened in Europe when the socialists were forced to ween their population off of the government dole? Yup.  

  7.  
    If there were panels on every home/business built in a the US all connected to a grid. Can anyone fathom how well off we’d be right now… how much cleaner in general the planet would be.. The powers that be don’t want us to have that… Energy should become free and the big push to start is now… The price of PV would be the lowest price on the market and this would be a better planet to boot. I mean come on… God gives us the gift of knowledge of science.. we create the ability to get energy from the Sun… and human nature decides there’s no money to be made going that way… So lets keep sticking it and make as difficult for the common man to be free of one less bill to pay… It’s sickening.
     

  8. I was surprised when I started reading this article. It made me doubtful to what I already know. however, after reading the comments, I realized what was wrong. All what is confirmed is that investing in renewable solar energy will beat the best investment stock market. Risk free. whether it is the government or individuals’ investment.
    For example Masdar city in Abu Dhabi/UAE is running fully on solar power. That includes, solar panels for lighting and power equipments, solar air conditioning/heating and solar water heating. Abu Dhabi has 10% of world oil reserve. So how can a third world country go solar while the largest economic country in the world isn’t doing it?

    1. UAE is currently #5 in per capita income, 5 places ahead of the US.  This is NOT a third world country.  Additionally, there is a huge gap between the imported service workers, and the real UAE residents – UAE is truly a playground of the rich.  For UAE residents, they are at the top of the per capita income.  This is all fueled by exports of oil and gas.  You can’t swing a dead cat in Abu Dubai without hitting a Ferrari.
      And so what do bored people with lots of money and time on their hands do?  They get involved in “socially aware” playthings so they fit in with the mores of their international traveler friends.  In this respect, Hollywood and UAE is the same.  Which brings us to Masdar City.  UAE is just about he optimal place to do solar.  But make no mistake, the Mubadala Company (who owns Masdar City) is spending more on power via solar than if the used UAE produced oil and gas to power the city.  They do it for show.
      So, how can a “third world” country do this when we can’t?  It is because they have a ton of our money that we spent for oil.  You can only buy so many Ferraris.

      1. Mark, You are right about UAE’s economy. But you would seriously have us believe they are doing this “for show”. I’ve discussed these issues with you a lot over the last few weeks, Mark, and you’ve raised some good points. This is not one. JP

      2. Dr. JP, I guess you think their indoor ski resport is economical?

        It is a play ground and they are having fun and, I guess, hopeful about solar, but if you calculate the cost and benefit, you’ll see it is a long long way from financial viability.

  9. Jon,

    Looking over this article, and some of your prior ones, I recommend you apply for a job with Fox News.  You seem to share a similar view of ‘reality’. 😉  

    The key here is cost per Kwh.  Current projections show solar having similar costs to fossil fuel in 2018.  By 2030 it will be half  that of coal.  And, this doesn’t take into account the true costs of fossil fuel sources, which are considerably more.

    No question about it, the future is solar.  The tax breaks and incentives are absolutely appropriate — and smart.

  10. Jon,

    Did you take a look at how much each energy sector gets in government subsidies?  Would it surprise you to learn that oil, gas, and coal get about 70%?  Wind, solar, and geothermal get less than 5%.

    What’s even more sad is that some of the subsidy for oil is for production outside our the U.S. — a tax break that was passed in the 1950’s.

    The choice here is to keep supporting dead-end technologies, that are harming the planet, including as an economic resource, or moving more quickly to clean technologies. 

    There are powerful special interests that will fight to the bitter end to protect their investments, and subsidies.  It’s up to us, the people, to demand something different, and better.

    1. George,
      So, what does that “subsidy” include?  In similar slated reviews, the following items were considered a subsidy by oil/gas:
      Depreciation of capital expenses
      R&D costs
      Marketing costs
      Estimated costs to society from the “pollution” that has been released, including costs for the sea level to rise by feet, and other impacts due to AGW.
       
      Oil and Gas exploration is a high risk venture.  When a company spends $100 million to find oil, our tax system allows them to deduct that from the future income.  Do you wish to deny this?
       
      So, what if we start rolling additional costs into what are considered to be the subsidies for Solar
      Grants by the DOE to fund the AGW crowd to scare the country into using Green Energy.
      The wages lost by people who lose jobs solely because the government wants less CO2 in the air.
      Payments to the UN to support their AGW activities
      Welfare payments to people out of work
      Death benefits to people in third world nations that die because the first world is obsessed with green fear.
       
      Oil and gas companies employ people, produce a product that is critical for society, and they pay a ton of taxes and use fees.  If you only talk about the real subsidies (not tax deductions as a cost of doing business and nebulous estimated societal costs), the oil and gas industry is a big time net plus.

      1. Mark, You are absolutely right. If you don’t count tax subsidies and you don’t count costs to our society (and environment), oil and gas are a plus. Unfortunately, for our world and your philosophy, those things do count. “Big time”, to use your words. JP

    2. I wonder about your source of information. Got a link?According to U.S. Energy Information Administration data, federal subsidies to renewable energy (solar, wind, biofuels,  hydro, etc) have tripled over the past decade, to where they now receive more total  annual subsidies  than all fuels sources combined. I suppose if I were the recipient of such a generous windfall, I would be lobbying and promoting  green energy, as well.   “Clean energy technologies “ are in reality neither clean nor cheap, are more capital and materials intensive as the graph above illustrates, are visually obtrusive, and utilize toxic elements in their construction.   Your so-called dead- end pollutants have lead to the most advanced civilization and highest life expectancy and standard of living the world has ever known.  I for one wouldn’t want to return to the dark ages of pre-industrial renewable energy sources.  

      1. Rich, The horse and saddle also led to the most advanced civilization and highest standard of living in the world. And then, their time was up. Now, time is up for fossil fuels. JP

      2. By the way Rich, No one is calling for us to “return to the dark ages of pre-industrial renewable resources”. We want to move to post-industrial sustainable resources. (I must have missed pre-industrial photovoltaics). JP

      3. Who benefits from the use of inefficient renewable energy and skkyrocketing electric bills?  Certainly not the ratepayers, taxpayers and working families.  And certainly not our advanced economy and modern life style, which depend on a cheap abundance of reliable, fuel-based electricity.  Higher electric bills mean higher prices across the board, increased inflation, jobs loss, drop in exports and worsening trade imbalance, as if things weren’t bad enough already.   Mandating of politically-favored, expensive power will only lead to a worsened economy with minimal environmental benefits.  Just ask our friends in  Europe with constricted economies who have been chasing the green folly for decades, are fed up with it and are and are cutting back and  eliminating subsidies for solar and wind.

      4. Rich, As long as you believe that the use of fossil fuels Is benign, your thesis is correct. The scientific consensus is that it is not benign. On my recent trip to Germany and Switzerland, I was stunned at the proliferation of photovoltaics. The people I spoke with there would heartily disagree with your assertion that they are “fed up” with sustainable, renewable energy. They are very proud of their accomplishments and are surprised that an innovative country like the U.S. is so backwards in regard to modern sustainable energy solutions. I haven’t been to Denmark in many years, but I understand that they are even more advanced on the road to a sustainable energy future. I don’t know what Europeans you were talking to, Rich, but it sure wasn’t the folks I met. The train’s leaving the station Rich, and it isn’t burning coal. We can get on board or we can be left behind.JP

      5. “Consensus” is a term used most appropriately by the politically motivated, and has no basis in science, JP and I am surprised you use the term, unless, perhaps, you are no scientist?
        “Sustainability” is a Utopian ideal, for which there is no biological or geological equivalent, a fantasy that drives a superstitious backsplash that is smothering us with burdensome and irrational regulations, hobbling and depressing our  competitiveness, and economic well-being. 
        What I said about European subsidies is no bull–do some google.  

  11. Rich, Scientific consensus is the collective judgment, position, and opinion of the community of scientists in a particular field of study. You are right to suggest that it is not part of the scientific method. It is a means by which scientists can communicate the majority opinion. It’s just a fact about general agreement on a subject. It doesn’t mean it’s written in stone and there are examples of consensus scientific opinion being overturned. It is, however, a very useful method of informing those who haven’t the time to read hundreds or thousands of scientific papers about the state of the art. Here’s another fact: most of the time it’s right.

    Rich, you can “…do some google.” and find support for any opinion you can think of and then some. It is the quality of the source and the quality of the research that matters. The anecdote (and I understand that that’s all it was) was what I saw with my own eyes and heard with my own ears. It wasn’t intended to be the end of the conversation.

    You may believe sustainable energy is an “Utopian ideal”, but one way or another humanity is going to get off the stone age energy source of burning carbon; if for no other reason than it is not an unlimited resource. We can do it before we irrevocably harm our environment or after. I choose the former. JP

    1. JP, for decades now, resource pessimists and depletionists, Malthusians and environmentists,  have been trying to get us off carbon fuels, some with good intentions- like yourself, and others with desire  of realizing an untapped potential in the energy market.   Remember the energy “crisis” of the 70’s, predictions of “peak oil”; the Carter era and predictions of a new solar technology revolution?  Well, solar got put off for awhile,  and peak oil was postponed.   It seems that the more we used the more we found, and  new exploration technologies enabled  new discoveries worldwide. More recent US discoveries include  for example, the massive oil find in the Bakken shale of North Dakota  and  huge natural gas discoveries in Pennsylvania and New York.  With so-called “anthropogenic global warming”,  pessimists think they have achieved  the ultimate nirvana, with government regulation and taxation of carbon fuels and green energy solutions.   Yes, I am a skeptic, or denialist ( whatever you want to call it), and proud of it.  But  unlike you, I am not impressed with the “science” and its dire predictions.   I’m also a resource optimist who believes natural resources are meant for human benefit and survivability, rather than sustainability , and the record proves that tomorrow’s resource discoveries are yet to be found.  Yes, ultimately in the distant future we may run out of energy- efficient carbon fuels;  hopefully before then we will have found that  new “master resource”.   Meantime, in my view, renewable energy is nothing more than a wasteful experiment in socialized energy that won’t make the cutoff in a market-based capitalist economy.  Sorry ‘bout the extended diatribe. 

      1. Rich, Not a diatribe at all. It is in fact a very clear exposition of your position. If you are right, and we can fill our atmosphere with 500 or 600 ppm CO2 in the next century, without serious consequence; then what you say (other than the motivation of people like me) is largely true. If, however, you are wrong, we will have settled our fate and that of much of the world’s living things for a thousand years or more.

        What if we take 1% to 2 % of our GWP and implement the mitigation protocols that the IPCC thinks we should, and in twenty or thirty years we find out that we were wrong. That it was unnecessary. We made a mistake and some yet undiscovered fact of nature self-regulated our climate. If that were the case, we could undo the carbon tax and the subsidies and the regulations. We would have spent a lot of money, but we would doubtless have added new technologies, created some jobs, and had cleaner air and water.

        But what if you are wrong Rich. If you are wrong, there’s no way to undo that. That CO2 will last a thousand years. There would be no turning back from the road you would have us travel. Are you that sure Rich? Are you that sure you are right and 97 out of every 100 earth scientists are wrong? Are you that sure you are right and NASA is wrong? Are you that sure you are right and The National Academy of Science is wrong? Are you sure you are right and The National Climate Data Center is wrong? Are you sure you are right and the National Science Academies of over a hundred nations are wrong? Are you sure you are right and NOAA is wrong? Are you sure you are right and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is wrong? Are you sure you are right and every major Professional Association in America is wrong?

        With the stakes as high as they are, isn’t it reasonable to buy some insurance. I’m not saying you are wrong Rich, I’m saying you could be wrong. And the reasonable, conservative thing to do in that case is to buy some time until we know. JP

      2. John,

        Nature has already conducted that experiment. For much of the time carbon dioxide has been above 1,000ppm.

      3. Jon, How many people were counting on a complex civilization when the pCO2 was that high? How many species went extinct when it transitioned 200% in two centuries? How many times did C02 go up 100% within 150 years with modern humans on the planet? Jon, Why do you always leave out the rate? It makes a difference if you go 100 miles a day rather than 100 miles per second. JP

      4. Dr. John,
        While it may be just a 1-2% tax to fund the worldwide bureaucracy, what about the impact that this army of regulators have on people that are really trying to accomplish commerce.  An example is the implementation of the “Cross Border Pollution Rule.”  The EPA created a new rule that said
         
        The benefits of the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule far outweigh the costs of the rule”, and “This rule will not disrupt a reliable flow of affordable electricity for American consumers and businesses
         
        The result is much of the coal-based power generation will need to be shut down to comply with these new rules (slated to start Jan 1st).  So, new powerplants will need to be built, and the costs to do so will come from where???????  Oh yeah, we are all good because the administration spent $500 million on Solyndra.
         
        In the early 2000’s, experienced brownouts due to a stupid Grey Davis deal with power generation companies, because the State of California felt they needed to have more control over the power in the state.  The result that summer was brownouts, and the requirement for many businesses to shut down in the afternoons.  Does this “1-2%” include the production lost due to enabling the army of business-ignorant regulators with time and energy to assert their POWER?  Also during the 2000’s, I know that our company of 50 took a big financial hit (for us) in that we had 10 workstations and a couple servers that the power hits affected.  Add to that the cost of providing UPS for each workstation.  All of these costs are not included in the 1-2% cost that you are talking about for new global tax. But those are precisely the costs of over regulation that cause the 20% true unemployment (official unemployed, plus those that have stopped looking for work) that we see today.  Hey, that it working so good for us now, lets get another trillion dollars a year going down the hole.

      5. JP:  There you go again.  Must you constantly revert to  consensus and  appeal to authority as if the whole world has or should buy into your  plan, and disbelievers had better just shut up?   What is your basis for “97% of earth scientists” agree with AGW?   Did you take a survey?   I happen to be a seasoned earth scientist,  but  now  I’m the only fool in the bunch?   JP, trust me,  I  have many associates, good scientists, who like myself are very skeptical of AGW,   seeing it as no  basis for rational public policy.  You tend toward  rather careless assertion,  and I know  you are better than that.     

      6. Rich, Many surveys of the scientific literature have been done in regard to AGW. Contrary to what many think, consensus is vital to the process of scientific inquiry. That’s the very reason that work is published and peer-reviewed, so that the current state of knowledge is known and communicated. This allows scientists to use each others work, to build on that work or to challenge that work. Consensus is NOT part of the scientific method, however. This is an important distinction.

        You can find the studies I based my statement on just as easily as can I, Rich.
        Several studies confirm that “…the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely nonexistent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes”. (Doran 2009). The Doran paper will lead you to much more of the scientific literature.

        I make mistakes, Rich, just like any human being. But I work hard at not making careless statements. The 97% figure comes from a study done from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is current (2010), and can be found at their website. The fact that you have anecdotal evidence to the contrary should be weighted accordingly. JP

      7. JP,  how many times do you close your argument with a clever pitch for us to “buy some insurance” (ie: Cap and Trade?).    Not knowing your background I can’t speak to your expertise.   No offense intended,  but  I do hope that your repeated call for insurance doesn’t make you an insurance salesman?     The usual sales pitch is to generate a need with “what if?” and then go for the close. Fear is the basis of the argument, and “I will save you”  is the close.  So, if we buy your protection policy where does the money end up?  And  what about the real costs to this nation’s economy with cap and tax?   Energy from fuels sources are the basis of our economy,  making  possible the most productive and affluent capitalist economic system the world has ever known.  Your estimate of 1-2% tax on GNP is no small potatoes considering the potential cost to our national wealth, over time.    Don’t kid yourself;  with annual US  GNP of around $16 trillion, even  a  small percentage year-by-year of US GNP, would be a major drain of hundreds of billions or evenly  trillions total of our national wealth.  Overregulate and shut down the fossil fuels plants, force costly and inefficient solar and wind as non-solutions,   and at what cost to  consumers,  manufacturing,  jobs lost, overall national competitiveness and economy ?  How long before that mere 1% becomes 3%, 5%?   And  how many billions of our national wealth will go to undeveloped nations so they can “battle global warming”?   .  No small price to pay for drastic governmental policy based on marginal science.  Sorry, JP, no sale. 

      8. Rich, I agree with much of what you say. And I have very little expertise on policy, particularly government policy. My effort is simply to get folks to recognize that we have a problem. Only then can the proper policy formulations be made. I must reiterate: I agree with most of what you say. But, denial is not an option. It offends reason. If someone were to say that what science tells us about AGW is likely true, but there’s nothing that can be done about it. I could respect that. I do not accept or tolerate denial of reason. JP

      9. Rich, You are doing all your accounting on one side of the ledger. If you want to do a cost/benefit analysis you’ll need another column. JP

      10. Rich, I agree with much of what you say. And I have very little expertise on policy, particularly government policy. My effort is simply to get folks to recognize that we have a problem. Only then can the proper policy formulations be made. I must reiterate: I agree with much of what you say. But, denial is not an option. It offends reason. If someone were to say that what science tells us about AGW is likely true, but there’s nothing that can be done about it. I could respect that. I do not accept or tolerate denial of reason. JP

  12. Mark, I can see where you and Rich; and Jon, for that matter, are going. You each have serious questions about Government. I have questions about Government too, but I don’t have enough knowledge about the subject to add much to the conversation. I could propose an analogy: What if scientists discovered an asteroid was on a course that had a 95% probability of striking the Earth with very serious consequences. I would suggest that you look out our present situation in that context. I can’t make apologies for our Government. I’m not a political scientist or even a policy wonk. I imagine we would all agree on a lot of political issues. JP

    1. John,

      I understand and share your concern about CO2 levels, but on-grid solar is not financialy sustainable.   The subsidies for solar are sending the exact opposite price signals to the market that the market needs in order to honestly deal with this problem. 

      http://theenergygame.blogspot.com/2011/11/we-need-to-feel-pain.html

      CO2 is a problem.  On-grid solar is not likely the answer, and is probably making the situation worse.

          

  13. Jon, Sorry about the double post. It seems to be something out of my control. Just part of Safari, I guess. Got to make some money, back this evening.. JP

  14. Thanks Jonathan!  Good article.  Not a message the pro-solar crowd will quickly embrace. 

    We have a group of engineers and planetary & climate scientists that meet to discuss energy topics.  Let me know if you are interested.  It usually involves beverages with naturally occuring CO2.  We’re meeting tomorrow (Tuesday at noon).
     
    david135711@gmail.com.

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