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More Hot Air

October 31, 2014

When the EIA and AWEA calculate the cost of electricity produced by wind turbines, all the additional costs embodied in the production and transmission of electricity are ignored.

Because these costs are ignored, the LCOE (Levelized Cost of Electricity) from wind is purported to be nearly as low as the LCOE from coal and natural gas power plants.

It’s misleading to the point of being dishonest.

A good example of how costs are ignored is the proposal to build huge salt caverns in which to store compressed air that can be used to generate electricity using turbines.

The proposed storage installation will produce 60 MWh of electricity.

Once again, we are being driven to adopt an uneconomic proposal, at tax payer expense, because of a misguided fear of global warming.

The proposal to build salt caverns, compressor stations, turbine generators and a ten mile transmission line will cost $1.5 billion.

This cost should be added to the cost of generating electricity from the proposed wind farm, but it isn’t.

The wind farm alone, rated at 2,100 MW, without compressed air storage, will cost at least $4.2 billion, which is twice the cost of building natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) power plants rated 2,100 MW.

In addition, the NGCC power plants with a capacity factor of 85%, can produce 2.5 times as much electricity as the 2,100 MW wind farm that might, in Wyoming, have a capacity factor of 34%. The average capacity factor for land based wind farms is less than 30%.

The proposed system to produce electricity from wind, convert it to compressed air, then regenerate electricity from the compressed air, also wastes energy.

First, there will be an energy loss attributed to the compressors. At best, this will be a 10% loss for the compressor, but the compressor must be driven by an electric motor or gas turbine. If electricity is used, it will reduce the available electricity from the wind farm. If natural gas is used, it will consume energy and emit CO2.

Then there will be an energy loss when the compressed air is used in the turbine generators to generate electricity for transmission on the grid. Information on the type of turbine to be used is not available, so the amount of the loss can’t be established with certainty.

Only two compressed air energy storage (CAES) installations have been built thus far, one in Germany, the other in Alabama. The McIntosh CAES facility in Alabama, that went online in 1991, also incurs an energy loss when compressing the air. The compressed air is used as the air supply for natural gas peaking turbines, improving their efficiency, but still resulting in an overall energy loss.

Huntorf, Germany, CAES plant. Photo from DOE.

Huntorf, Germany, CAES plant. Photo from DOE.

The Huntorf CAES plant in Germany became operational in 1978, and essentially operates in the same manner as the McIntosh facility.

The sole reason for CAES is to compensate for wind energy being unreliable, because wind is intermittent.

Wind turbines either have to be backed up by gas turbines that can instantly replace the loss of electricity when the wind stops blowing, or have a method for storing the electricity produced by wind farms when it isn’t needed.

Batteries, pumped storage, fly wheels and CAES are different methods for storing energy that can be used to produce electricity, when its actually needed.

All storage is expensive and would increases the LCOE of electricity from wind if the costs were added to the cost of building the wind farms.

Wind energy advocates are intent on developing and building storage facilities, because it’s generally recognized that wind, combined with solar, can’t provide more than around 20% of the electricity on the grid.

Because of this, storage is becoming a big business with government subsidies. There is also an industry group, the Energy Storage Association, based in Washington, DC, that lobbies lawmakers and other groups in support of energy storage.

California, for example, is mandating that 33% of its electricity come from unreliable renewables by 2020, and has mandated that 1,300 MW of energy storage be built before then.

You’ll note that it is defined as MW rather than MWh, which makes the issue unclear as to how much storage is actually needed to allow the grid to function reliably when more than 20% of the electricity comes from wind and solar.

No matter what the requirement, storage is very expensive. None would be required if it weren’t that the government has mandated that wind and solar must be added to the grid.

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Hydro Power, Real Renewable Energy

October 28, 2014

There are 54,000 dams in the United States, higher than 5 Ft., which are not currently equipped to generate electricity.

The Department of Energy (DOE) determined that these non-powered dams (NPDs) could provide 12,000 MW of generating capacity.

A mere 100 of them could provide 8,000 MW of generating capacity.

One would think that this would be good news, especially for those who are clamoring for more renewable energy.

But NPDs have a stigma attached to them. According to Andreas Maeck, University of Koblenz-Landau, Germany, small hydro dams produce Methane, a green house gas 25 times more powerful than CO2.

Environmentalists around the world have fought against large hydro projects, such as the Three Gorges Dam in China, because they damage the river’s ecology and produce Methane gas.

But now, they oppose small dams too. But environmentalists need energy storage to support unreliable wind and solar, and are proposing pumped storage, which requires building dams, as a method for storing energy.

One wonders why environmentalists can’t agree on what is a renewable energy source and what isn’t.

A Connecticut energy bill, for example, was tied up for months because environmentalists opposed categorizing hydropower from Quebec, Canada, as renewable, but finally agreed to make it a “last resort renewable” for the state’s renewable energy program.

The US has over 2,500 dams that provide 78,000 MW of conventional and 22,000 MW of pumped-storage hydropower.

Adding an additional 8,000 MW of new hydropower, at low cost, since the dams are already built, would seem to be a valuable addition to the U.S. renewable energy portfolio.

DOE Report on Non-Powered Dams

DOE Report on Non-Powered Dams

In several ways, NPDs are better than wind turbines. First, they don’t kill birds and bats. Second, the power would be dispatchable. Third, their capacity factor could easily be twice that of wind turbines.

Supporting these advantages is a DOE study that estimated the capacity factor (CF) for dams installed with generation equipment would average around 43%. The location of the 100 NPDs having the best potential are in areas where the capacity factor could easily be higher.

Figure 9 in the report shows CFs for these areas of between 43% and 67%.

Adding generating equipment to these 100 NPDs would be equivalent to building four nuclear power plants, each rated 1,000 MW with capacity factors of 90%.

Building four nuclear power planets will cost around $24 billion. While the DOE report didn’t estimate how much it would cost to equip the 100 NPDs to generate electricity, it’s obviously much less than the cost of four nuclear power plants, and probably between $4 and $6 billion.

In addition, the design life of a nuclear power plant is 40 years, with a planned extension of an additional 20 years. Hydropower plants will easily last longer than the 60 year potential life of a nuclear power plant.

Building wind farms that would generate a comparable amount of electricity, though it would be unreliable, would cost over $20 billion if the capacity factor of the NPDs is 43%, the lower end of the projected range for NPDs, or over $30 billion if the capacity factor of the NPDs is 67%.

And the NPD power plants would last at least four times as long as wind farms and solar power plants.

Hydropower from the 100 NPDs is a renewable energy source that is more beneficial and less costly than building wind farms or solar power plants.

Where is the hue and cry to have these 100 NPDs equipped to generate electricity?

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Implications of Fusion Power

October 24, 2014

The hype accompanying the Lockheed announcement of its fusion power development distorted the potential benefits of fusion power.

There is no question that fusion power has great potential, and could be the primary source of electricity when other power generation methods are no longer available, but it has limitations.

The hype surrounding the Lockheed announcement included making electric cars viable, allowing farming in deserts, providing clean electricity for millions and powering airplanes.

There was little explanation about these claims in the announcement. In fact, little is known about how the energy will be extracted from the fusion reactor, and how the energy it produces can be used in applications such as power generation.

The inference in the announcement was that there would be a heat exchanger inside the fusion reactor that would carry the heat away from the reactor. This is essentially the same as in present day fission reactors.

In present day nuclear and coal-fired power plants, some form of energy is used to boil water, which becomes steam that can drive turbines that drive electric generators to produce electricity.

The transfer medium leaving the reactor doesn’t have to be water. It can be sodium, or any material that can absorb and then release heat, which can be used to boil water and produce steam.

The University of Washington claimed its reactor could produce electricity at the same cost as a coal-fired power plant. Its cost for the fusion reactor, and presumably the related generation equipment, was $2,700 per KW, which is about the same as an Ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plant.

If that is true, then the fusion reactor wouldn’t be able to compete with natural gas in the United States for generating electricity, as a natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) power plant costs $1,100 per KW, and the added fuel cost, at $3 /Million BTU, wouldn’t justify the difference in construction costs.

The University of Washington’s fusion reactor could compete with coal in countries where low-cost natural gas isn’t available. India lacks both coal and natural gas and could be a major beneficiary of fusion reactors.

For comparison purposes, current nuclear reactors cost around $6,000 per KW.

The Lockheed announcement indicated its fusion reactor would be smaller. If so, its reactor and power plant might be less costly, but the cost would have to be around $1,800 per KW for it to compete with low cost natural gas.

The fusion reactors being proposed by the University of Washington and Lockheed probably wouldn’t be the low-cost producer of electricity in the United States, but could be elsewhere in the world.

NGCC power plants would remain the workhorse for power generation in the United States and Canada, and possibly other countries, such as Argentina, if they are able to obtain cheap natural gas from shale.

Another potential benefit of fusion reactors would be for them to replace, at a lower cost, nuclear reactors in aircraft carriers and other U. S. Navy ships, assuming the University of Washington’s cost estimate is correct. Fusion reactors would also eliminate nuclear waste and costly refueling cycles that affect time at sea.

The Lockheed announcement contained some hype that should be examined.

  • Fusion power would have little effect on the development of EVs and PHEVs as it is the cost of the battery, not the cost of electricity, that is the deciding metric. Fusion reactors would probably have little direct effect on the oil industry as most oil is used for transportation.
  • Creating agricultural abundance in desert areas as the result of fusion power seems unlikely.

The claim is based on low-cost electricity for use in the desalinization of sea water.

Countries, such as Saudi Arabia, already use desalinization to produce fresh drinking water. Virtually free natural gas, such as in Qatar, or very inexpensive oil, such as in Saudi Arabia, produce low-cost electricity, and it’s doubtful fusion reactors, as described in the various press releases, would displace natural gas or oil in these situations.

The cost of converting deserts to green agriculture would be prohibitive unless fusion reactors would cost far less than is now being claimed.

Fusion reactors could have some important secondary consequences.

  • Fusion power plants would probably be used in Europe, where the cost of natural gas is very high. This would eliminate Russia’s cash cow of supplying Europe with natural gas. Russia’s economy is largely based on exporting natural gas and without an export market Russia would have serious financial problems.
  • If fusion reactors were used in countries such as Japan and China, it would probably destroy the LNG export market. LNG imports, by countries needing natural gas, are very expensive at around $16 per million BTU. Australia, the United States and Qatar could see this market disappear.
  • Except for the manufacture of steel, coal would have few uses.

The development of fusion reactors would have important far-reaching consequences, but both Lockheed and the University of Washington need to provide more information before it’s possible to reach firm conclusions about their proposals.

Everything about future consequences and benefits are pure conjecture at this point in time, as fusion is still confined to the laboratory. Even Lockheed admits it will take a decade or more before it could build a working model.

Currently, Lockheed and the University of Washington have very intriguing proposals that would give the United States a huge advantage if they are successful in developing a working power plant based on a fusion reactor.

It would result in American companies building and exporting fusion reactors to the rest of the world.

While the risk of failure is great, this is an instance where government funding could reap huge rewards if private capital is unable to take the risk.

DOE funding of ITER in United States

DOE funding of ITER in United States

DOE funding of over $632 million has primarily been in support of ITER technology, or the Tokamak process.

For those who worry about CO2 emissions, fusion power would produce electricity without CO2 emissions.

Funding for determining the viability of the Lockheed and University of Washington’s proposals should be done first, and quickly, before spending huge sums on either proposal.

It certainly makes more sense for the United States to fund these homegrown alternatives if they are viable, than to fund ITER.

 

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Extraordinary Potential of Fusion

October 21, 2014

Lockheed Martin made an astonishing claim on October 15, that they had developed an approach that would make energy from fusion a reality in the next decade or so.

Fusion has long been the Holy Grail of nuclear physics.

The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), has been a multinational project for developing a fusion reactor. The project has been funded by seven countries, including the United Sates.

Suddenly, in addition to ITER, there are two new approaches for developing a fusion reactor.

There is the Lockheed announcement, and a project under development by the University of Washington that was announced last spring.

Simply stated, fusion is the process of two atoms fusing together when subjected to tremendous heat and pressure, and where the combination creates new atoms and releases huge amounts of energy.

Fusion is the opposite of fission. Fission is where an atom is split and releases large quantities of energy. All current nuclear reactors use fission, the splitting of atoms, to generate the heat to produce steam that drives turbine generators that produce electricity.

The basic problem in developing a fusion reactor is that it has required more energy to control the plasma in which the reaction takes place, than the amount of energy produced by the reaction.

The proposals from Lockheed and UW will supposedly create ten times more energy than the energy required to run the process.

The Lockheed lab unit, called the compact fusion reactor (CFR), is only a few square feet in size. It supposedly can be increased in size so that a 100 MW reactor would measure around 23 by 43 feet, and could be mounted on a trailer.

All of this is highly theoretical, and Lockheed admits it will take five years in which to develop a prototype. They also say it will take an additional ten years to produce a working installation.

Needless to say, many scientists are very skeptical of the Lockheed announcement.

The University of Washington design uses a concept called a “spheromak” that drives the electrical currents into the plasma to create the magnetic fields to contain the plasma.

The University of Washington experimental unit is about one-tenth the size of an operational unit, so an operational unit would fit into a space of less than 60 by 60 feet.

More importantly, according to researchers at the University, a large working unit would cost slightly less than a coal-fired power plant of equal output, or about $2,700 per KW.

Then there is ITER, a project that has benefitted from 20 years of previous experimentation with Tokamak coils.

ITER Tokamak from ITER Web Site

ITER Tokamak from ITER Web Site

The Tokamak design utilizes a vacuum vessel, shaped like a huge donut, with a massive magnetic field constraining the plasma.

The entire Tokamak unit, consisting of electromagnets, vacuum vessel, blanket modules, solenoid (transformer) and correction coils, is contained in a cryogenic vessel, depicted above, which is essentially a thermal insulating blanket, 91 feet tall, 89 feet in diameter, and weighing 23,000 tons.

Thus far, it has cost $50 billion. The ITER construction and development program is to take until around 2030, and is intended to merely prepare for the building of a demonstration power plant.

The Lockheed and University of Washington programs have the potential to develop fusion power generation more rapidly than the ITER project, and at far less cost.

Fusion power generation holds out the prospect of unlimited power using easily obtained materials, deuterium, i.e., heavy water, and tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. The deuterium is separated from water, while the tritium can be produced in existing nuclear reactors using lithium rods in place of control rods. It may also be possible to produce tritium from within the fusion reactor using lithium.

Diagram from ITER

Diagram from ITER

Only small quantities of deuterium and tritium are required, with Lockheed estimating that a mere 25 pounds of deuterium and tritium, combined, will be needed to operate a 1,000 MW power plant for a year.

While the potential of fusion is staggering, the facts are not very encouraging.

When compared with the work being done by Lockheed and the University of Washington, the ITER project would seem to be an expensive boondoggle, where success could take many decades.

The Lockheed announcement consisted of more hype than substance, and Lockheed will need to answer many questions before its proposal can be taken seriously.

The University of Washington’s proposal, however, has been couched in conservative terms, and the announcement last spring was not given much attention. If a prototype could be developed in five years, as the Lockheed team is claiming for its approach, it would seem very worthwhile to supply the needed funding.

DOE has provided grants for many bad ideas, but this one has the potential to change the world.

The consequences of fusion power will be examined in the next article.

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Impact of Electric Vehicles on Grid

October 17, 2014

While EVs and PHEVs are still few in number, we should understand their effect on the grid if their numbers grow significantly.

Remember, hybrids, i.e., HEVs such as the Prius, do not affect the grid.

The following are some potential hidden costs of EVs and PHEVs.

1. Cost of building new power plants to supply the additional electricity needed for recharging batteries

2. Cost of replacing distribution and substation transformers as loads increase from charging batteries

From top left clockwise, transmission lines, sub-station, overhead distribution transformers and distribution lines, underground pad mounted transformers for underground distribution. Photos by D. Dears

From top left clockwise, transmission lines, sub-station, overhead distribution transformers and distribution lines, underground pad mounted transformers for underground distribution. Photos by D. Dears

Item 1:

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) determined that 73% of the existing cars in the lower 48 states, or 142 million vehicles, not including trucks, could be EVs and PHEVs before it would be necessary to build new power plants.

While this would mean that EVs and PHEVs wouldn’t require new power plants until many years in the future, the PNNL study assumed that recharging would be spread throughout the 24-hour day, filling the valleys when the regular load was below the peak. This essentially assumed that the system could be operated at its peak available load throughout the day, which is unrealistic.

Restricting battery charging to off-peak hours reduces the number of vehicles before new power plants are needed to approximately 78 million vehicles.

Assuming the PNNL study is correct, it will be many years before EVs and PHEVs will require the building of new power plants.

There are two caveats to this conclusion:

  • EVs and PHEVs aren’t concentrated in a small number of metropolitan areas
  • Recharging is done at night and not primarily during the day, especially during periods where the grid is operating near its peak

Studies have not yet been done to ascertain the effect of EVs and PHEVs if they are concentrated in various metropolitan areas or where charging is done during the day.

Governments and environmental organizations encourage the building of charging stations in downtown areas so that vehicles can be charged away from home, during the day.

If 240-volt charging stations, costing $2,500 each, are used to charge batteries, with charging spread out over several hours from 8 am to 5 pm, charging will take place during peak periods. If people use rapid charging for only an hour, with charging stations that cost $25,000, the charging load will be greater, and, depending on when the daily peak occurs, could be done during peak periods.

Charging batteries downtown during the day will require building new power plants sooner rather than later.

While EVs and PHEVs are still small in number, the effect of charging during the day needs further study, especially in areas where these vehicles are concentrated.

The key is whether charging during the day increases the peak and encroaches on reserve margins.

Item 2:

When distribution and substation transformers become overloaded, they fail.

The distribution transformer is the green box sitting in the yard of a home or the blue or grey-can hanging from a utility pole down the street.

When a distribution transformer becomes overloaded and fails, it cuts the electricity to all the homes being served by the transformer. It can take several hours to replace failed units. Condos and apartments have significantly larger distribution transformers located on the property to supply all the residences.

Substation transformers supply distribution transformers and as the load on the distribution transformers increases, the load on substation transformers also increases.

Each residential distribution transformer supplies the electricity to four or five homes, and is usually a 25, 371/2 or 50 KVA unit, depending on the number of homes being served and the electrical load in those homes.

It’s difficult to determine how many EVs or PHEVs can be garaged (and recharged) in homes served by a distribution transformer before the distribution transformer becomes overloaded and causes an outage.

The existing load on distribution transformers is unknown to virtually every utility.

Homeowners have been adding appliances, such as flat panel TVs, so the load on the transformer has gradually increased to the point where the additional battery charging load could cause the transformer to become overloaded and fail.

If two or three EVs and PHEVs are charged simultaneously at night, between the hours of 10 pm and 6 am, when homes generally have very low loads, it’s unlikely the transformer serving the homes will fail.

Transformers typically fail without warning and the utility will have to rush to replace the failed unit to restore electrical service to the affected customers.

It’s a relatively simple matter to change out a smaller distribution transformer with a larger unit. There are few weight limitations for pole-type units, and the pads for pad-mounted residential units are usually large enough to accommodate up to a 100-KVA pad-mounted transformer.

Condominiums and commercial properties use larger distribution transformers where failures affect more people, and replacement transformers cost considerably more.

Transformers increase in size from small single phase units rated 15 KVA to 100 KVA, serving 4 to 6 homes, to transformers rated 167 KVA to around 4,000 KVA, single and three phase, serving commercial areas and condominiums. Next in the hierarchy are substation transformers that supply electricity to the distribution transformers located within a geographic area in a town or city. Next are the very large transmission transformers that are not likely to be affected by the use of EVs and PHEVs.

Substation transformers, which can easily cost as much as a million dollars, will require advance planning. If the transformer fails without notice, there could be several days, or even weeks, before the transformer can be replaced. An emergency spare, perhaps a mobile unit, might have to be installed temporarily at an additional cost.

When a transformer becomes overloaded and must be replaced with a larger unit, there is the cost of the new transformer, the cost of having a utility crew remove and replace the existing transformer, and the cost of re-inventorying or disposing of the old transformer.

The cost of changing out one 50 KVA distribution transformer, and replacing it with a 75 KVA unit is well over $3,000. The cost of replacing a substation transformer can exceed $1 million.

Conclusion

Eventually, as the population of EVs and PHEVs increases, these hidden costs will become apparent and affect the public and economy. These hidden costs could be substantial, especially for metropolitan areas where EVs and PHEVs are concentrated.

If it’s assumed one distribution transformer will have to be replaced, at a cost of $3,000 for every 10 EVs or PHEVs sold, and assuming 20 million EVs and PHEVs on the road in 2024, it would cost over $6 billion to replace the distribution transformers serving homes.

If it’s assumed that one substation transformer, with a cost of $1,000,000, will have to be replaced for every 5,000 EVs or PHEVs sold, it would cost $4 billion for substation transformer replacements.

While these assumptions may be more applicable to metropolitan areas than nationally, they provide a preview of the hidden costs and reliability issues associated with EVs and PHEVs.

EV and PHEV sales would have to be wildly more successful than they have been for hidden costs to become a major problem, but policy makers, and especially mayors and utility executives in major metropolitan areas, should be alert to how these vehicles can affect the grid.

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Electric Vehicle Update

October 14, 2014

Tesla continues to grab the headlines, but how are EVs and PHEVs really doing?

Year over year, the sale of EVs and PHEVs have increased by 29.7%.

Interestingly, the YOY sale of Hybrids has been a negative 8.7%.

Here are year-to-date sales for 2014.

US Sales of Electric Vehicles, Including HEVs YTD 2014

Hybrids (HEVs)

PHEVs

Battery (BEVs)

Total for EVs & PHEVs

January

27,085

2,934

2,971

5,905

February

30,561

3,721

3,324

7,045

March

43,790

4,594

4,578

9,172

April

39,430

4,718

4,187

8,905

May

52,227

6,651

5,802

12,453

June

39,225

6,511

4,982

11,493

July

44,488

5,740

5,693

11,433

August

48,208

5,920

6,483

12,403

September

31,385

3,357

5,983

9,340

Total

356,399

44,146

44,003

88,149

2013 YTD

389,725

32,718

35,261

67,979

YOY %

-8.6%

34.9%

24.8%

29.7%

While a 29.7% increase for EVs and PHEVs seems impressive, the absolute numbers should be very discouraging for those who support these types of vehicles.

When these vehicles were introduced, it was expected that there would be 1,000,000 sold by the end of 2015. This was the forecast made by President Obama.

Total cumulative sales since these vehicles were introduced in 2011 are:

PHEVs = 139,409

EVs = 116,012

Total EVs and PHEVs, 2011 – 2014 ytd = 255,421

Even if sales were to increase 30% every year, it wouldn’t be until 2020 that there would be one million of these vehicles on the road. This should be compared with the 250 million cars and light trucks currently on the road, to gain a perspective on the value of EVs and PHEVs in reducing the consumption of oil, or reducing CO2 emissions.

Volt and Leaf

Volt and Leaf

It also brings into question whether the proposed $5 billion dollar battery factory will be a sound investment, or a good use of tax payer subsidies with perhaps $1.5 billion in subsidies from Nevada alone.

The factory is being built to support the sale of 500,000 EVs per year, by 2020.

It’s important to recognize that HEVs, such as the Prius, are not the same as EVs and PHEVs.

They do not recharge their batteries from the grid and have no effect on the grid, whereas EVs and PHEVs do affect the grid as explained in the next article.

HEVs use electric motors to improve the overall efficiency of a vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine. HEVs use gasoline, or diesel fuel, as the primary source of energy for propelling the vehicle.

This is different from EVs, which are designed to use only batteries and eliminate the use of gasoline, and PHEVs, which are intended to use battery power for commuting distances. EVs have a range of around 100 miles, while PHEVs have a range of around 35 miles on battery power, and use an auxiliary internal combustion engine to allow the PHEV to travel longer distances.

Some commentators mistakenly combine HEVs, EVs and PHEVs when describing electric vehicles. This distorts the actual market penetration of cars that rely on battery power, either exclusively, such as the Tesla, an EV, or for commuting distances, such as the GM Volt, a PHEV.

Half of the EVs sold so far this year have reportedly been the Nissan Leaf. Tesla doesn’t report its sales by country, so Tesla’s U.S. sales are unknown.

Starting prices are around $29,000 for the Nissan Leaf and $69,000 for the Tesla S. Tesla is betting that the new giga factory can bring the cost of the Lithium-ion battery down by 30%, so that its new lower-price model can be competitive.

Whether this is achievable will have to be seen.

So far, EVs and PHEVs have been toys for the rich and famous, with middle class families subsidizing these purchases with tax payer dollars.

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Alarmists Pull Out All the Stops

October 10, 2014

Big marches, emotional speeches and new reports about climate change are part of the big push to achieve a new climate treaty in Paris next year.

Among the plethora of misinformation about global warming is a new report, Better Growth, Better Climate, by The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.

Impressive name, but merely a cover for climate alarmists.

The commission isn’t global, but merely sponsored by seven countries — Colombia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Norway, South Korea, Sweden and the UK. The chair is Felipe Calderon, former President of Mexico, with Nicolas Stern, of the highly controversial, and some say discredited, Stern Review, as co-chair.

The underlying premiss of the report is that Climate Change must be stopped by cutting CO2 emissions.

The report tries to show that the world can cut CO2 emissions while achieving economic growth: Fossil fuels can be eliminated and replaced with renewables at no increase in cost and with benefits to humanity.

Of course, the world must conform to what these people say we must do, which is always the problem with leftist theology.

Cover of Report by Global Commission on the Economy and Climate 2014

Cover of Report by Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, 2014

One message is that cities must be constructed around mass transit. This requires mixed use with people forced to live around mass transit stations. Suburban sprawl must be avoided at all cost. It infers that the American model of suburbia is a threat to mankind, and that the automobile is a weapon against humanity.

The report calls for setting a price on carbon to make renewables seem more economically competitive. This, of course, means higher electricity costs for people, but it will supposedly save them from climate change.

The war on coal goes global, without any recognition that new Ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants produce cheap electricity with much lower emissions of all types, actually almost as low as emissions from natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) power plants … but NGCC power plants are also ultimately a threat because they emit CO2.

Here are the 10 action plans proposed by this report.

  1. Accelerate low-carbon transformation by integrating climate into core economic decision-making processes
  2. Enter into a strong, lasting and equitable international climate agreement
  3. Phase out subsidies for fossil fuels and agricultural inputs, and incentives for urban sprawl
  4. Introduce strong, predictable carbon prices
  5. Substantially reduce capital costs for low-carbon infrastructure investments
  6. Scale up innovation in key low-carbon and climate-resilient technologies
  7. Make connected and compact cities the preferred form of urban development
  8. Stop deforestation of natural forests by 2030
  9. Restore at least 500 million hectares of lost or degraded forests and agricultural lands
  10. Accelerate the shift away from polluting coal-fired power generation

It’s impossible in a short article to cover all these ten items, but here are a few comments.

Item 1 infers that government should dictate how people live. Many things people do, such as driving cars, eating meat, or living where and how they want, affect climate.

It reminds me of the policy actually proposed by a member of the UK parliament to give a carbon debit card to all UK citizens.

“Each time a person did something, the card would be debited for the carbon usage resulting from the transaction. Filling the gas tank would debit the card for the CO2 caused by the amount of gasoline purchased. Lamb chops would debit the card for the green house gasses caused by sheep. Buying an airplane ticket would debit the card for the CO2 released by the jet engines.”

In essence, government would control what people do.

Item 2 would be Kyoto redux, locking the US into committing national suicide while other countries would likely cheat. It would force the US to cut per capita emissions from 16.6 tons per person to 2.3 tons by 2050, an impossible task without destroying the US economy. The last time the US had per capita emissions of 2.3 tons was in 1900.

How many cars, airplanes, refrigerators and air conditioning units did the US have in 1900?

Virtually none. How do Americans cut CO2 emissions 80% without eliminating these necessities?

CO2 emissions with 80% cut

CO2 emissions with 80% cut

With respect to item 3, eliminating fossil fuel subsidies. The report claims fossil fuel subsidies amount to $600 billion per year, but nowhere in the report does it itemize or identify the subsidies, except that countries, such as Venezuela, subsidize the use of gasoline by charging 6 cents per gallon.

The report claims fossil fuels are subsidized, but doesn’t say how.

With respect to item 8, the forested area in the United States is the same as it was in 1900, while population has increased by over 400%. There’s no need to increase forested area in the United States, unless it is to return it to the way it was when the Pilgrims arrived.

Item 10 is merely a continuation of the war on coal, even though coal is the lowest cost method for generating electricity in most undeveloped countries around the world. And many of these poor countries have substantial deposits of coal. (India is an exception.) It asks that export credit agencies restrict loans for building coal-fired power plants in developing countries.

The war on coal deprives poor people, such as in Africa, of electricity for heating and cooking, forcing them to continue to use dung and wood with resulting damage to their health. Burning wood also contributes to deforestation, so cheap electricity produced by coal-fired power plants would help stop deforestation.

Another major fallacy of the report is that it repeatedly claims that carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) works. This is a flagrant error. No one has demonstrated that sequestration will keep billions of tons of liquid CO2 under high pressure, locked-up, underground for centuries.

There are many other items in the report that should be of concern to all who live in freedom.

For example, the report says governments should promote a shift in diet from meats.
And it distorts the truth by using the EIA’s Levelized Cost of Electricity for coal that includes a charge for carbon. This artificially increases the cost of electricity from coal-fired power plants, which is then used in an attempt to demonstrate that solar and wind are competitive with coal.

Reports like this, and there have been many before it, try to gin up support for cutting CO2 emissions.

They are long on rhetoric and short on objective commentary and facts.

This report’s rhetoric says, “Unchecked emissions from coal, oil and natural gas represent a potentially grave risk to future generations.”

But their proposed cure; curtailing freedom, reducing economic growth, and condemning people to live in poverty, is hardly the answer, and is likely to present an even greater risk to future generations … especially if global warming is not caused by CO2 emissions.

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© Power For USA, 2010 – 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author, Donn Dears, LLC, is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Power For USA with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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