This Seems Significant

California regulators are considering changes to the ‘net metering’ rules, which allow owners of home solar panels to sell excess electricity back to the grid.   These changes may include a connection fee of several hundred dollars per year.

People who have rooftop solar–and who also have grid connections–usually expect the grid to be there for them, with whatever power they need, when night, clouds, etc cut their solar output to a low level. This certainly implies capital costs for the utility power generators and transmission/distribution companies.  The concern is that those who get solar when it’s available, but rely on grid power at other times, are not paying their fare share of the infrastructure’s capital costs.

As an indicator of these costs, a modern combined-cycle gas turbine plant costs about $970 per peak kilowatt..  So a simplistic analysis would suggest that if a homeowner has a peak demand of 10 kw, he is driving $9700 in capital costs for the grid.  This is probably somewhat excessive, since everyone’s peaks won’t occur at exactly the same moment…but the number is not trivial.  A lot of assumptions would need to go into estimating a ‘correct’ cost, and those assumptions will surely be argued about fervently in California in the near future.

Key question: Could this be a turning point leading to a more realistic understanding of wind/solar costs in situations where reliable electricity is important, as opposed to the simplistic narratives about wind/solar’s ‘cheapness’?  I mean, if even California is seeing a need to do something that would surely slow the uptake of ‘renewable’ energy…


Zero Hedge




The Political Economy of Environmentalism

“People, like any creature with no natural predator, will continue to spread beyond the capacity of their environment.”

Should I live to 80, the global population will have increased fourfold in my lifetime, more than double the population when the Club of Rome called for zero growth in 1972. For the average non environmental scientist, it is easier to divide the environment into the original Greek elements: fire, water, earth and air. Fires are currently raging, considered (unscientifically) as evidence of “global warming,” modified to “climate change” when the planet started cooling. Land use is also a serious global problem as the run-off into rivers and oceans is unbounded.

People respond to visual cues: when the Cuyahoga River burned in downtown Cleveland for weeks, America cleaned up its rivers. When scientists vividly described a hole in the ozone layer, consumers replaced chlorofluorocarbons in cars and refrigerators in 1987 as part of the Montreal Protocol.

Unlike the Cuyahoga River fire, environmentalism today is rather like the US debt, another intergenerational transfer that also reflects human nature. Current sacrifices can potentially reduce the projected magnitude of sacrifices forced upon future generations, but some economists argue based on UN income forecasts that future generations will be so wealthy that the high costs we would bear today will be relatively painless in the future, the environmental equivalent of “growing out of the debt problem.”

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We Need to Talk About Joe

The fictional mass murderer Kevin is most often described as a psychopath and his mother Eva a sociopath in book and movie reviews, the latter defined the same as the former, but without the insanity defense, i.e., a physical brain disorder rather than a choice. President Biden isn’t suspected of any such brain disorder (although dementia has long been suspected, common for his age). But Bruce Cannon Gibney argues that Baby Boomers, those born between 1940 and 1964, are A Generation of Sociopaths (2017) based primarily on their over-consuming at the expense of future generations, a massive inter-generational injustice. He allows for exceptions, but not among the Baby Boom political leaders, of which Joe Biden was the first on the national scene.

Sociopaths are defined as narcissists with additional characteristics, among which are: superficial charm, glib, manipulative, self serving, grandiose, pathological lairs, without remorse, self-centered, untrustworthy, physically aggressive, impulsive, blaming others, lacking in empathy, break promises, an ability to avoid persecution for illegal acts, and a belief they deserve to rule the world. As a result of the Obama/Biden “Good War” over half the current population of Afghanistan was born under American protection. These and thousands of those who assisted the American occupation and their families have been left behind by Joe to meet repression, and, for many, death at the hands of his captors and other Islamic radicals. His press conferences revealed almost all these sociopathic tendencies, leaving no doubt as to the applicability of Gibney’s diagnosis.

Like Kevin, Joe is competitive among his sociopathic political peers. For sheer narcissism it would be difficult to top former President Trump, and the Clintons are unlikely to ever be surpassed in the team sociopath competition. But Joe Biden, whose first attempt to rule the world over three decades ago was thwarted by a plagiarism scandal, seeks to exceed FDR, the record holder by size of Mall Monument, as a world leader not on his foreign policy experience, but by spending his way to a risky “fundamental transformation” of the US economy and society. Should we trust in Joe, or is he the “Borax Man” (a soap salesman)?

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Quote of the Day

The Antiplanner:

Despite continued and growing preferences for single-family homes, a web search for “single-family zoning” reveals enormous animosity to such housing. Like the animosity to the automobile, this comes from a minority of people who refuse to recognize that Americans not only want but are better off in single-family homes and automobiles.
People should be allowed to choose to live in single-family or multifamily homes based on the actual costs of such housing, not costs that are artificially inflated by planning regulations. People should also be allowed to choose to live in single-family neighborhoods, protected by either deed restrictions or zoning, if they prefer such neighborhoods. Free-market advocates who want to “restore property rights” by abolishing single-family zoning are falling into a trap set for them by the central planners who want to ignore people’s preferences and cram more families into multifamily housing.

Koonin Offers a Check on “The Science”

I ordered Steven Koonin’s Unsettled? more out of perversity than honest curiosity. It was a vote for a skeptic, for a man labelled a “denier” and thus worthy of canceling. I was wrong on several counts: it is holding on Amazon with a fairly high rating, and, I was able to get something out of it. He clearly wants to reach people like me, bewildered by charts and graphs. The tables are there, but his style and analogies accessible. (Which means it is dumbed down, but I appreciate his desire for a larger audience.) He has some of the commonsense of Lomborg: practical, prioritizing what is certain, seldom emphasizing the “wrong” and more often the imprecise, the unknown. Some reviewers found him full of himself, but his voice is that of a close reader, looking at the body of reports, comparing assertions and data with the summaries and interpretations. I assume his readings are honest and he is a good physicist but what do I know.

What struck me were the assumptions of a method he promotes, one other disciplines use and he sees as appropriate. In Chapter 11, “Fixing the Broken Science,” he suggests major reports on climate would benefit from being “Red Teamed.” The “Red Team” critiques it, “trying to identify and evaluate its weak spots,” “a qualified adversarial group would be asked ‘What’s wrong with this argument?’” Then the authors, the “Blue Team” rebuts, seeking more information, firming up arguments, gaining precision. He looks at examples where a report’s data did not support the conclusions or summaries (sometimes leading to popular articles with further overstatements). Perhaps the authors had more data, perhaps the summaries were written by those holding too strong an opinion to let the results stand on their own. Perhaps. . . But, of course, if conclusions don’t match research, that’s important.

Traditionally, peer review even in the humanities is designed to note such problems, but these have been less and less rigorous as more subjective definitions of “truth” evolve (or perhaps of careerism). More importantly, “The Science” (climate consensus) is not limited to the ivory tower; it influences awards of positions, grants, research. And, it affects policy. Seeing “The Science” as “settled” tempts those doing “science.”

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