So, alternative energy cannot support itself

Sydde

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Aug 17, 2009
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Looks like neither can fossil fuels
[url=http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-27142377]BBC: Energy Subsidies Raise Concerns[/url] said:
Government subsidies for renewable energy cause great consternation to those who believe in the sanctity of free markets."If they can't stand on their own feet, then why support them?" the argument goes.

But in actual fact, most energy sources are subsidised, and none more so than fossil fuels. Indeed in straight numerical terms, subsidies for oil, coal and gas far outweigh those for renewables. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), in 2012 global fossil fuel subsidies totalled $544bn (£323bn; 392bn euros), while those for renewables amounted to $101bn.
the inclusion of "electricity" in the right-hand graphic looks like a semantic error that would reduce the comparative subsidy ratio to just over 4:1


The fuels we use the most are heavily subsidized, greatly distorting our economy. If QE and the national debt are problems, so is this, and it looks severe. When the energy market starts to fail due to supply/demand instability brought on by peak oil, which seems rather likely to me, this subsidy structure is going to make the market collapse that much worse. Unless, of course, we can get alternative energy sources ramped up fast enough to soften the blow before it can hit us full force.
 

Technarchy

macrumors 604
May 21, 2012
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I think energy is a national concern and crisis waiting to happen.

We should for dozens of reasons be looking to expand solar, nuclear, and electrical power production and consumption.

And the low hanging fruit is cars. Even if we could get a paltry 10% of cars on the road to be electric it would dramatically shrink American demand for fossil fuels, and drop pollution levels.

Doing so would get us out the middle east as well.
 

bradl

macrumors 601
Jun 16, 2008
4,006
11,823
I think energy is a national concern and crisis waiting to happen.

We should for dozens of reasons be looking to expand solar, nuclear, and electrical power production and consumption.

And the low hanging fruit is cars. Even if we could get a paltry 10% of cars on the road to be electric it would dramatically shrink American demand for fossil fuels, and drop pollution levels.

Doing so would get us out the middle east as well.
Yet meanwhile, back at good 'ol Southfork Ranch, while Governor Ricky Perry is trying to convince the gringos and free lovin' yank businesses out there in California to come 'on down to Texas, he can't even keep the ones already there from going under.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/04/29/308063613/texas-biggest-power-company-files-for-bankruptcy

Texas' Biggest Power Company Files For Bankruptcy
by EYDER PERALTA
April 29, 2014 3:43 PM ET

As they say: Everything is bigger in Texas.

Today, the state's biggest power company filed for one of the biggest Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings in corporate history.

The filing also marks the colossal collapse of a heavily-leveraged $45 billion bet taken by Wall Street private equity firms. As The New York Times reports, back in 2007 firms including "Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, TPG Capital and the private equity arm of Goldman Sachs" took Energy Future Holdings, which used to be known as TXU, private, betting that electricity prices would continue to climb.

Instead, there was a natural gas boom that drove electricity prices down.

"Their investments are expected to be all but be wiped out in the bankruptcy," the Times reports.

Bloomberg reports:
"In the past three years, independent power producers Dynegy Inc. and Edison Mission Energy, a unit of Edison International, have sought bankruptcy protection amid a collapse in electricity prices.

"Today's filing has already drawn objections from one group of creditors, who accused Dallas-based Energy Future's executives of mismanagement.

"The trustee for some junior noteholders of the Energy Future unit Texas Competitive Electric Holdings attacked the bankruptcy deal, accusing managers of 'disabling conflicts of interest.'"
Reuters reports that Energy Future's bankruptcy "was on par with those of Pacific Gas & Electric Co and Enron in 2001 but trailed behind the $691 billion in assets the investment bank Lehman Brothers had when it blew up in 2008, according to Bankruptcydata.com."
By that book, EFH is one of the top 5 biggest bankruptcies over the past 100 years. and funnily enough, two of the biggest happen to be in Perry's home state?

Instead of trying to gloat about Toyota and getting others to move to Texas, he should concentrate on keeping the ones he already has from going under.

BL.
 

iMacFarlane

macrumors 65816
Apr 5, 2012
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The best solution is to drop the needless fear and political constraints built up around nuclear energy. Anyone that seriously believes we can power the world with wind and sunlight, or thinks that coal is preferable to nuclear with regards to human safety, doesn't know the facts or the science behind the technologies in question.

Short term fix : breeder fission reactors. You re-use the waste, and generate much more power for the same amount of Uranium mined with considerably less waste.

Long term fix : figure out fusion power already. Seriously. Looks like the first functional positive gain power unit (the ITER) will be on line in about 20 years, but we need to get it in gear if we're going to stop burning dead dinosaurs.
 

Southern Dad

macrumors 68000
May 23, 2010
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Shady Dale, Georgia
The best solution is to drop the needless fear and political constraints built up around nuclear energy. Anyone that seriously believes we can power the world with wind and sunlight, or thinks that coal is preferable to nuclear with regards to human safety, doesn't know the facts or the science behind the technologies in question.

Short term fix : breeder fission reactors. You re-use the waste, and generate much more power for the same amount of Uranium mined with considerably less waste.

Long term fix : figure out fusion power already. Seriously. Looks like the first functional positive gain power unit (the ITER) will be on line in about 20 years, but we need to get it in gear if we're going to stop burning dead dinosaurs.
The problem with nuclear energy is that no one wants it in their backyard. The fact that there have been very few safety incidents or deaths involving nuclear energy facilities over the decades does not sway the fierce opponents.
 

Technarchy

macrumors 604
May 21, 2012
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The problem with nuclear energy is that no one wants it in their backyard. The fact that there have been very few safety incidents or deaths involving nuclear energy facilities over the decades does not sway the fierce opponents.
Considering about 75% of the midwest is just federal land sitting there, we have plenty of space for power plants where the nearest home is over 100 miles away.

Hell, stick it in Detroit. They could use the jobs.
 

Southern Dad

macrumors 68000
May 23, 2010
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Considering about 75% of the midwest is just federal land sitting there, we have plenty of space for power plants where the nearest home is over 100 miles away.

Hell, stick it in Detroit. They could use the jobs.
Both great suggestions, however keep in mind that from the midwest they would have to run those high tension power lines. The longer the distance, the higher the costs. Also keep in mind that someone would find a one eyes, speckled headed, spider that was endangered and the whole project would be derailed for a decade until they found out it was actually a common daddy long legs.
 

Southern Dad

macrumors 68000
May 23, 2010
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Why don't you explain to us why we can't?
Sometimes the wind doesn't blow and sometimes the sun doesn't shine. Both of these two methods are unpredictable and expensive. They can work in small setting but there are difficulties in making them work large scale. One issue is the NIMBY crowd. Remember when they thought wind turbines were a good idea, until they found out the wind farm was off the coast of Matha's Vineyard. The tide turned on that one in a hurry.

With solar you have to worry about the heat reflected… Are we cooking any birds flying over, etc. No matter where you build it, someone is going to think it can hurt either the planet or some endangered animal.
 

iBlazed

macrumors 68000
Feb 27, 2014
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Sometimes the wind doesn't blow and sometimes the sun doesn't shine. Both of these two methods are unpredictable and expensive. They can work in small setting but there are difficulties in making them work large scale. One issue is the NIMBY crowd. Remember when they thought wind turbines were a good idea, until they found out the wind farm was off the coast of Matha's Vineyard. The tide turned on that one in a hurry.

With solar you have to worry about the heat reflected… Are we cooking any birds flying over, etc. No matter where you build it, someone is going to think it can hurt either the planet or some endangered animal.
Expensive perhaps. Unpredictable, not so much. Depends where you put them. Also, 2/3 of heat that hits panels are absorbed, only 1/3 has the potential to be reflected. Solar panels are great at absorbing heat. Actually, there really aren't many down sides to solar panels come to think of it. I can see more problems with wind turbines. But those problems are insignificant in comparison to nuclear energy.
 

Southern Dad

macrumors 68000
May 23, 2010
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Expensive perhaps. Unpredictable, not so much. Depends where you put them. Also, 2/3 of heat that hits panels are absorbed, only 1/3 has the potential to be reflected. Solar panels are great at absorbing heat. Actually, there really aren't many down sides to solar panels come to think of it. I can see more problems with wind turbines. But those problems are insignificant in comparison to nuclear energy.
There is that little factor of costs. It does have to be paid for by someone.
 

iMacFarlane

macrumors 65816
Apr 5, 2012
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Adrift in a sea of possibilities
Why don't you explain to us why we can't?
It's just that there is no such thing as a free lunch. I've read quite a bit on the subject, and here's two compelling cases that come to mind:

- Wind energy (windmills). In order to provide 100% of the energy needs for the state of California, the number of windmills required to be erected on the windy faces of the western mountain range would number in the millions. Besides the obvious threat to the ecosystem and the eyesore that would result, there have been assertions that the amount of energy transferred from the wind into the windmills could change the weather patterns (possibly) across the US, growing deserts, increasing tornado activity, decreasing rainfall, who knows?

- Solar energy (panels). Again, the amount of acreage required to fully power a city is much larger than the city itself. This fact alone requires one to realize that this option is only viable if we decide to have a planet that is comprised of oceans, and land, and the land is divided into usable areas for cities and people (about 10%), and the rest is covered with solar farms. Another downside is the chemicals required in fabrication of soar panels. Many toxic, carcinogenic, nasty chemicals. Imagine how many large industrial manufacturing facilities would need to be in place to support the construction, manufacture, and repair infrastructure for the world's massive fields of solar panels. Now, an earthquake and subsequent tsunami occurs, and millions of gallons of said nasty chemicals get washed all over the land and out to sea. That would make Fukushima Daiichi seem insignificant in comparison when considering the toll on world health or environmental impact.
 

iBlazed

macrumors 68000
Feb 27, 2014
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It's just that there is no such thing as a free lunch. I've read quite a bit on the subject, and here's two compelling cases that come to mind:

- Wind energy (windmills). In order to provide 100% of the energy needs for the state of California, the number of windmills required to be erected on the windy faces of the western mountain range would number in the millions. Besides the obvious threat to the ecosystem and the eyesore that would result, there have been assertions that the amount of energy transferred from the wind into the windmills could change the weather patterns (possibly) across the US, growing deserts, increasing tornado activity, decreasing rainfall, who knows?

- Solar energy (panels). Again, the amount of acreage required to fully power a city is much larger than the city itself. This fact alone requires one to realize that this option is only viable if we decide to have a planet that is comprised of oceans, and land, and the land is divided into usable areas for cities and people (about 10%), and the rest is covered with solar farms. Another downside is the chemicals required in fabrication of soar panels. Many toxic, carcinogenic, nasty chemicals. Imagine how many large industrial manufacturing facilities would need to be in place to support the construction, manufacture, and repair infrastructure for the world's massive fields of solar panels. Now, an earthquake and subsequent tsunami occurs, and millions of gallons of said nasty chemicals get washed all over the land and out to sea. That would make Fukushima Daiichi seem insignificant in comparison when considering the toll on world health or environmental impact.
Hmm, interesting take on it. I simply don't know enough about this topic to debate it.
 

mactastic

macrumors 68040
Apr 24, 2003
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The best solution is to drop the needless fear and political constraints built up around nuclear energy. Anyone that seriously believes we can power the world with wind and sunlight, or thinks that coal is preferable to nuclear with regards to human safety, doesn't know the facts or the science behind the technologies in question.

Short term fix : breeder fission reactors. You re-use the waste, and generate much more power for the same amount of Uranium mined with considerably less waste.

Long term fix : figure out fusion power already. Seriously. Looks like the first functional positive gain power unit (the ITER) will be on line in about 20 years, but we need to get it in gear if we're going to stop burning dead dinosaurs.
Repeal the Price-Andersen Act, and we can talk about nuclear. That kind of subsidy just makes nuke operators lazy.
 

iMacFarlane

macrumors 65816
Apr 5, 2012
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Adrift in a sea of possibilities
Hmm, interesting take on it. I simply don't know enough about this topic to debate it.
I am not poo-pooing solar or wind. I think they're wonderful, and I hope to have a few panels and a windmill on my property someday. It's just a somewhat naive approach that most people take to say we're going to power the planet with either of those technologies. Physics simply won't allow it.

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Repeal the Price-Andersen Act, and we can talk about nuclear. That kind of subsidy just makes nuke operators lazy.
Googled. Interesting read, thanks for the ref.

I don't know if I'd go so far as to say nuke operators would be lazy due to subsidized insurance, though. Hopefully there aren't too many motorists who drive carelessly because they are insured . . . ?
 

mactastic

macrumors 68040
Apr 24, 2003
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661
Colly-fornia
I am not poo-pooing solar or wind. I think they're wonderful, and I hope to have a few panels and a windmill on my property someday. It's just a somewhat naive approach that most people take to say we're going to power the planet with either of those technologies. Physics simply won't allow it.

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Googled. Interesting read, thanks for the ref.

I don't know if I'd go so far as to say nuke operators would be lazy due to subsidized insurance, though. Hopefully there aren't too many motorists who drive carelessly because they are insured . . . ?
Lets just say the incentive to make sure your plant was as safe as possible would be stronger if you knew you were liable for an unlimited amount if things went bad. It's a market distortion at the very least.
 

Southern Dad

macrumors 68000
May 23, 2010
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Shady Dale, Georgia
Lets just say the incentive to make sure your plant was as safe as possible would be stronger if you knew you were liable for an unlimited amount if things went bad. It's a market distortion at the very least.
There is a big problem with that… It's called bankruptcy. You can only hold them responsible until they are bankrupt. This plant would be in the name of some holding company that only owned the plant and was saddled with debt. Then when an issue happened there would be zero assets.
 

Desertrat

macrumors newbie
Jul 4, 2003
2
706
Terlingua, Texas
As near as I can tell, if you want nukes, go thorium or do pebble-beds. Wholly different deals from historical designs. Uranium was used because of military needs. With thorium, you don't get the long-lived nasties. Pebble-beds aren't high-pressure systems, and barely go critical; they don't or can't go super-crit.

Most wind units make about 1.3 megawatts to maybe 2.1 or so. Look up your state's demand to get an idea of how many would be needed in replacement of existing systems. Trouble is, existing systems are needed for when the wind quits, as happened in Texas for almost a week. Same sort of deal for solar, with reduced output on cloudy days and during the short days of winter. Great augmentation, but not "replacement".

Coal plants are closing because of the added costs imposed by new and stricter anti-pollution requirements. Too much new capital investment would be needed for profitability to continue. Plus, the fracking process has produced a surplus of natural gas as a competitive fuel with lesser pollution concerns.

For all that we're making the US cleaner, our exports of coal make the world-wide pollution picture a break-even. Air mass movement brings China's grunge to our west coast, e.g.

As far as subsidies go, for coal it's mostly reduced taxation. For the "alternatives", it's direct expenditures of tax dollars.
 

mactastic

macrumors 68040
Apr 24, 2003
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Colly-fornia
There is a big problem with that… It's called bankruptcy. You can only hold them responsible until they are bankrupt. This plant would be in the name of some holding company that only owned the plant and was saddled with debt. Then when an issue happened there would be zero assets.
Yes, that is the limit of their liability. But the Act caps it below that point. Don't you agree that makes the plant owners lazy?
 

NT1440

macrumors G5
May 18, 2008
12,141
13,987
Sometimes the wind doesn't blow and sometimes the sun doesn't shine. Both of these two methods are unpredictable and expensive. They can work in small setting but there are difficulties in making them work large scale. One issue is the NIMBY crowd. Remember when they thought wind turbines were a good idea, until they found out the wind farm was off the coast of Matha's Vineyard. The tide turned on that one in a hurry.

With solar you have to worry about the heat reflected… Are we cooking any birds flying over, etc. No matter where you build it, someone is going to think it can hurt either the planet or some endangered animal.
So what you're talking about, without realizing it, the the dire need to build a modern decentralized smart energy grid combined with a massive push to revolutionize battery technology (which from what I gather is closer than you'd realize). Lets see what happens when the Gigafactory dramatically lowers battery production costs given economies of scale.
 

Sydde

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Aug 17, 2009
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One of the biggest power draws in southern California is A/C. Given that, in the early 20th century, they had refrigerators that ran on a pilot light (water/ammonia closed evaporation cycle), it seems like just outfitting homes with sun-heat-driven cooling systems based on such a design would reduce demand drastically.

Because, quite honestly, one way to address demand is to make as much of it as possible go away, through efficiency, streamlining and alternate strategies. As long as our only approach to dealing with energy demand is to attempt to increase supply, I doubt the situation can stabilize.