The “Hartwell Paper”

Pielke Jr and 13 other authors have published a paper advocating a “re-framing” of climate policy. Co-authors that may be somewhat familiar to CA readers include Atte Korhola and Mike Hulme (a seemingly anomalous search term in the Climategate letters). Daniel Sarewitz checked in briefly at CA a few years ago. The coauthors tend to be economists.

They observe the lack of accomplishment of climate policy over the past 15 years and argue that policy has been too heavily focused on mechanisms like cap-and-trade and demand targets and insufficiently focused on supply-side (they express it a little differently, but I think that this characterization is fair.)

They argue that the confluence of Copenhagen and Climategate creates an excellent opportunity for re-framing.

Contrary to much present spin, they say that Climategate was an extremely important event, calling it, together with the Copenhagen, one of two “watersheds” in climate policy:

The second watershed is to be found within the science of climate change. It was crossed on 17th November. The climate science community has experienced an accelerated erosion of public trust following the posting on that date of more than a 1,000 emails from the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit.[2] These emails, whose authenticity is not denied, suggested that scientists may have been acting outside publicly understood norms of science in their efforts to bolster their own views and to discredit the views of those with whom they disagreed.[3]

They provide a nice citation [3] of Andrew Montford’s book:

The principal e-mails of concern are reproduced and discussed in A.W. Montford, The Hockey Stick Illusion, London: Stacey International, 2010, pp. 402–49. This work conveniently relates the topics back to a detailed narrative of the major disputes in climate science, and specifically paleoclimate studies, with which much of the Climatic Research Unit archive is concerned.

They repudiate the disinformation from the climate science community that any of the inquiries have actually investigated matters at issue:

Hitherto, none of the specific critiques of this work by those auditing it have been adjudicated by reviews of the matter, and indeed were explicitly not investigated by the Oxburgh review (para. 9)

They dance around nuclear power, arguing that radical new technologies are needed to meet acceptable cost targets, but do not mention that Deutch et al 2009 url (which they cite) had observed that there were then about 44 nuclear plants under construction around the world in 12 countries, principally China, Russia, India and Korea – which suggests to me that a major reason why there were no new nuclear plants then under construction in the U.S. (one was being refurbished) is due at least in part to self-imposed regulatory issues and the huge costs associated with running the gauntlet of the present U.S. regulatory system.

I haven’t examined the policy options closely and the following point is an opinion that is a general impression only – one in which I’m speaking as a (Canadian) citizen rather than a specialist. Surely one of the nettles that has to be grasped by the environmental movement in the U.S. and Europe is confronting the fact that prescribing feel-good remedies like wind power and tree-planting carbon credits as a solution for present energy and climate problems is no better than prescribing Laetrile for cancer. (They may not do any actual harm, but, to the extent that people are tricked into thinking that they might be a solution, they do do harm.) Once this nettle is grasped, then there would probably be an opportunity to reform the regulatory system so that nuclear plants can be built in the U.S. as well as in Pakistan and the Ukraine.

Peter Gleick and his claque say that we have to do “something” right away – though the “something” seems all too often to be no better than Laetrile or the sale of indulgences. Better that we have “change we can believe in”.


  1. Charles Hart
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 2:46 PM | Permalink

    Nuclear can play a much bigger role in the US if two things happen.

    a) The NRC is funded to approve alternative cheaper and greener nuclear technology than is currently deployed. I expect the Obama administration’s BRC (Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future) will address the NCR funding issue.

    b) Nuclear technology like LFTR is pulled of the shelf, update and widely deployed.

    Steve: Interesting article. I notice that the author of (b), David Leblanc, is in Canada.

    • vboring
      Posted May 12, 2010 at 9:26 AM | Permalink

      Pre-NRC, nuke plants cost about the same to build as a coal plant per MW. In today’s dollars that is about $1000 per MW. A 1GW coal plant costs about $1B to build today.

      Just the loan guarantees to build a nuke plant in the post-NRC world are $8.3B.

      Westinghouse claims the AP1000 costs about $1000/MW to build in China:

      Assuming any new nuke plants ever get built in the US, the NRC will have succeeded in increasing the cost of the plants by an order of magnitude.

  2. John Eggert
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 2:56 PM | Permalink


    This is the crux of the issue for many in this debate. I was listening to an interview on (I believe) The Current where a climate scientist from U Vic referred to deniers, such as myself, as ‘libertarian scientists’, implying that questioning of AGW implied a republican / anti-environmental slant. James Hansen would not argue with the moniker of ‘environmentalist’. A fairly large percentage of the experts in climate science are overt supporters of Greenpeace at least and Sea Sheppard types in the extreme. And as those of us old enough to remember the 1970’s can tell you, nothing galvanized the environmental movement more than nukes. If nuclear is to be embraced, one must then reject the raison d’etre of many in that movement. The one person who has remained true to his origins is Lawrence Solomon. Energy probe was and is anti-nuclear. He saw clearly the end result of all of this as clearly as you do now and he rejected AGW then and there. I guess I’m saying . . . That’s a nettle that will never get grasped.



    • Mark F
      Posted May 11, 2010 at 3:13 PM | Permalink

      The rhetoric from said UVic prof. is simply typical of the polarized BC political situation. Dr. Weaver was a prime mover behind BC’s carbon tax, and I must say that I’d rather that than something that takes money out of the province.
      If Godwin’s law were applied to Weaver’s rants, we might see more science and less alarmism. But then again, it’s his ox being gored by climategate and the grown of public skepticism…

    • Chris M.
      Posted May 12, 2010 at 9:50 PM | Permalink

      Interesting that you should point that out, John. My brother and I got into a heated discussion over the use of nuclear power last year, with his background and topic position stemming from the very environmentalist organizations you mentioned. Ironically, he is too young to recall the events of the 1970’s and 80’s, but believes in “the Cause” with a fervor that runs quite deep. Since he is now working at the EPA, surrounded by many like-minded individuals, I am often left wondering what future regulations will look like.

  3. Ted Swart
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 3:08 PM | Permalink

    It is worth mentioning that James Lovelock (Mr Gaia)decries wind farms and advocates a move to nuclear energy. This despite the fact that he accepts AGW. Obama’s Blue Ribbon Commission had better move swiftly if North Americe is not to be left standing in the dust.

  4. Fred
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 3:39 PM | Permalink

    And the whole paper is based on the perceived need to reduce the production of carbon dioxide becasue it is causing global warming, nee climate change.

    Will that need, in the near term future, trump the need for inexpensive energy to power and help repair western economies battered by Himalayas of debt?

    I doubt it. When desperate people are faced with “being” green or “having” green, having will trump the warm & fuzzy being every time.

    Especially as the planet refuses to comply with the IPCC forecasts of hockey stick temperature increases.

    Especially-especially if the planet cools off.

    Cue the astrophysicists to take over as our favorite scientists for awhile.

  5. Mesa
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 3:55 PM | Permalink

    I think the paper is rational. Main points:

    –separate energy policy from climate policy
    –don’t enter into intractable global negotiations
    –do whatever low cost things can be done to mitigate pollution
    –realize that carbon based energy has problems besides CO2
    –invest in alternative plausible energy sources (like nuclear)

    This isn’t really new – lots of people have been calling for energy policies that move away from oil for national security and economic stability reasons for a long time. The climate argument has sucked up all the mind-share for a long time – this paper at least gets the point right that in terms of energy and economic policy it should be a minor consideration, although maybe not zero.

    • DEEBEE
      Posted May 14, 2010 at 5:59 AM | Permalink

      Guess you have a specialdictionary or a specially translated version of the paper. All I read was “hide the Carbon fetish” a la “Hide the decline”

  6. Posted May 11, 2010 at 4:17 PM | Permalink

    Roger Pielke Jnr as one oft he authors is typical of the attitude behind this paper and its approach.

    Something must be done, because. Just because. As in, “we should decarbonise the economy, because.”

    A logic free zone.

  7. R T Barker
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 4:34 PM | Permalink

    Steve wrote “which suggests to me that a major reason why there were no new nuclear plants then under construction in the U.S. (one was being refurbished) is due at least in part to self-imposed regulatory issues and the huge costs associated with running the gauntlet of the present U.S. regulatory system.”

    I have often wondered about how closely linked the anti-nuclear power, the AGW and the environmental activists seem to be. It is a bit ironic that had the U S been allowed to continue converting the electric power industry to nuclear, the AGW movement would not have found much traction in the U S.

  8. Mike Davis
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 5:19 PM | Permalink

    I second the Logic Free Zone!

  9. harrywr2
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 5:19 PM | Permalink

    “Dancing around nuclear power”

    The CBO did a study in 2008. Basically using ‘levelized costs’ nuclear power becomes cost competitive with coal at a price of $85/ton. This is in line with various proclamations by the world nuclear association that nuclear power is cost competitive at $4/MBtu.

    Australian,Chinese and South African Steam coal are already above $100/ton plus delivery.

    Chinese coal mine productivity is 590 tons/miner/year compared to a US central Appalachian productivity of 6,000 tons/miner/year and an Australian productivity of 13,000 tons/miner/year.

    Any sort of wage pressure in China or if they did something like enforced safety standards and the price of coal will go off the charts.

    So refocusing the ‘climate debate’ talking points from ‘saving drowning polar bears’ to
    ‘securing a future of cheap, plentiful and clean energy’ makes sense as coal in most of the world is no longer ‘cheap’ or ‘plentiful’ or ‘clean’.

  10. Posted May 11, 2010 at 5:25 PM | Permalink

    Your comments on policies that really address the issues of energy use are appropriate. Ultimately there are two things that must be fully addressed to succeed in stopping human environmental craziness. they are:

    1. Human population must be got under control. To some extent this is happening through education etc – in this regard I highly recommend the videos of Hans Rosling available at TED and YouTube.

    2. Per capita energy use has to stop growing and start shrinking. Although people today are using many times more energy that a generation or two ago, they are in fact no better off or happier. Go figure!

    In the news recently a report that UK fishing expense is 17 times higher for the same catch than a century or more ago. Purely the result of human over-fishing as a result of human over-population.

    I see no signs that nations are ready to address these issues (except China has on population – but in a crazy way as they now have an extreme sex imbalance). In USA it is considered suicidal for a politician to address these issues. So we all go to hell together because an SUV to drive the children to school is more important than the children’s future well-being.

    Malthus worked it out centuries ago. Do the maths!

    • QBeamus
      Posted May 12, 2010 at 10:00 AM | Permalink

      Malthus was wrong. The idea that we should be working to reduce population is one of the most pernicious in modern thought. As Julian Simon recognized, people are a net source of resources, not a net drain. The reason is that human innovation is the requisite ingredient of essentially everything of value beyond a subsistence economy. Consider, for example, that even when (and if) we do run out of oil, we’ll be no worse off than we were before people invented ways to use the stuff, that, until then, had been little more than an unsightly nuisance. Or, to put Malthus’ specific assertions to the test, in the actual event agricultural output per acre has not increased at a slower pace than population–in fact, as a result of human innovation, we have had an ever dwindling percentage of our population and land area devoted to agriculture. In fact, even the idea that there is a finite supply of land area turns out not to have been a safe assumption, since there is now good reason to hope that we’ll eventually be able to collonize other planets (or moons, or what-have-you).

      Likewise, the idea that we need to reduce per capita energy consumption is backwards–a modern equivalent to mercantilist economic theory. One of my physics profs once commented that the history of mankind can be thought of as a series of breakthroughs in energy technology, each one leading to a new golden era of prosperity. And, in most cases, those energy revolutions have been driven by an apparent “energy crisis,” as the present crop of energy sources dry up.

      To the extent that there is a population problem, it is that so many people live in destitution or under an oppressive regime. Both conditions are inhospitable environments for innovation.

      • Posted May 12, 2010 at 1:48 PM | Permalink

        I am stupified by this comment. I truly am. I want to accept it. It all sounds so wonderful, optimistic, and I cannot help but think – utterly a pipe dream. I’m honest with myself, perhaps I’m simply totally limited in my intellectual capacity and emotional negativity BUT I cannot get beyond the total reverse logic of the comments.
        Does innovation truly = resources?
        Does less actually = more to come?
        Did the author actually suggest we’ll be able to colonize other planets?
        Or even the most accurate line: “it is that so many people live in destitution or under an oppressive regime” but hey, remove them and net innovation will go up!
        I’m neither this optimistic, deluded or faithful.
        I guess I need a new deity because to me, it is this line of thinking that got us in this planetary sized mess.

        • Keith W.
          Posted May 12, 2010 at 2:49 PM | Permalink

          I guess you do not read James Hogan then. He has advocated the idea of unleashing the potential of the human mind for years. Think about it. How many “problems” exist that have existing possible “solutions” that are hampered because we do not have adequate power sources?

          Sufficient drinking water for drought areas? One common side product of nuclear plants is to run water desalination processes. So additional nuclear power can aid in alleviating droughts by converting sea water to potable.

          Power sources for transit? Nuclear based electricity can be used for powering monorail and similar transports. As technology is employed, efficiency and innovation lead to miniaturization. Smaller plants could possibly be used to power trucks.

          The possibilities of the human mind to create engineering marvels are only barely tapped in the field of nuclear energy. Engineering develops as a science is developed and pushed. We have hampered nuclear energy for the last forty years. What can it hurt to see what developing it will do?

        • QBeamus
          Posted May 13, 2010 at 10:52 AM | Permalink

          I’m not surprised by your reaction. In fact, it was mine, too, when I was first confronted with the idea. But don’t “accept” it. Think about it. The logic is powerful, and it’s backed up by empirical evidence. (Simon won his bet with Erlich, for another example.) I don’t know about “innovation=resources,” but innovation does create resources, by discovering uses for things that used to be useless.

        • Dishman
          Posted May 13, 2010 at 11:56 AM | Permalink

          jlinzel wrote:
          Does innovation truly = resources?


          See reference ‘sand’. It’s a completely new resource since Malthus. Its innovative use directly or indirectly touches nearly every aspect of our economy and lives, greatly increasing our efficiency and wealth.

          Life is not a zero-sum game.

        • Posted May 13, 2010 at 1:37 PM | Permalink

          Yep, Abraham could have told you the sand was speaking of massive blessing to multitudes of peoples. That’s no doubt out of bounds as a comment – even in the new CA liberalism. But hey, silicon’s cheap and that’s the point.

        • TYoke
          Posted May 16, 2010 at 11:48 PM | Permalink

          “It is this line of thinking that got us in this planetary sized mess.”

          From where I sit this statement is exactly backwards. It would be more accurate to argue that the most worrisome current ‘line of thinking’ is an environmentalist philosophy that is primarily fueled not by sound science, and most certainly not by sound economics, but instead by dubious moral claims.

          In its purest form that moral claim amounts to a boast in the first person singular as follows: ‘I at least care enough about Mother Earth to denounce the overpopulated consumerist greed of the wealthy West. If you disagree then you are probably a greedy over-consumer yourself, and as a morally corrupted participant should therefore be humbly silent and defer to those who are more selflessly motivated.’

          There is nothing fundamentally new in this moral dynamic. After all, the Original Sin that some in the Judeo-Christian church have used for millennia to influence adherents refers to Genesis and the expulsion from Eden after the first humans wickedly ate from the Tree of Knowledge.

          Much of present environmental alarm-ism including much of the science of the claimed ‘planetary mess’, bears a different aspect when considered in the above context. The nuclear power issue is a good example since it would certainly seem to be the “low hanging fruit” in a move away from carbon. It is nonetheless very unlikely to happen in the current political climate. The last thing the powerful environmental lobby wants to see is a TECHNICAL fix that allows prosperous westerners to keep on consuming, since it is guiltless comfort and consumption that really gets them itching in the first place.
          What the activists need if they are to retain and expand influence is submission and deference (from the rest of us), and their judgments about nuclear power will thus tend strongly to be driven by the requirements of the moral calculus. We’ve seen comments like, “It would be typical of greedy over-consuming Americans to carelessly pollute the planet with their radioactive waste (or CO2, or whatever).” For 50 years, we’ve gone into an often silent, morally defensive crouch in the face of such onslaughts, and that, rather than the scientific truth of such assertions, is the point.

          QBeamus, Keith W., etc. can offer all the sound arguments in the world about free market economics, Malthus dis-proven, Erhlich dis-proven, steadily rising incomes for 400 years and beyond due to innovation, etc., but until we find a robust response to the claim of superior altruism by environmentalists, we can virtually be guaranteed that guilt-mongering environmentalists will be the most assertive participants in the debate, and will consequently tend to shape the ideas and worldview of casual observers like Jlinzel.

        • Tom Ganley
          Posted May 17, 2010 at 2:51 AM | Permalink

          Really liked your post TYoke, read it a couple of times. But surely you realize that your hope for a ‘robust response’ is hopeless. There is no compromise with any kind of fundamentalism. The only hope is to live in a society that doesn’t require your conversion.

  11. Steve McIntyre
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 5:28 PM | Permalink

    The nuclear backstory is pretty interesting and not necessarily what you think.

    Much early climate change research, including the Jones CRUTEM data set, was financed by the Carbon Dioxide Information Agency (CDIAC), which appears to have been a front for the US nuclear industry, in the wake of Three Mile Island. (CDIAC was housed and still is housed in the Oak Ridges National Laboratory.) Mann’s Alexaner Hollander fellowship came from Oak Ridges. Santer is at another nuclear lab – Livermore. In a way, it was a pretty farsighted bit of venture research for the nuclear agencies.

    • TAC
      Posted May 11, 2010 at 6:19 PM | Permalink

      AGW provides a compelling argument for nuclear power. Strange bedfellows.

    • Anton
      Posted May 11, 2010 at 6:45 PM | Permalink

      …and never forget that in France most of the AGW research institute come from or are fund by …. C.E.A. (Commissariat de l’Energie Atomique).
      EDF (Electricité de France, french state owned electrical utility company) is also one of the most active player in research pro AGW….. with mote than 80% of the electricity produced by …nuclear plants.

      To be honest there is also a non-nuke organization, the Institut Pierre Simon Laplace IPSL (Le Treut, Jouzel, 2 major IPCC vice presidents) … Pierre Simon (XVIIIth century) was famous for his research in …. mathematics and probabilistic theories…. The Institute may have lost his publications…..

      Maybe CRU was first called Institute Ronald Aylmer Fisher… who knows.

    • John Eggert
      Posted May 11, 2010 at 11:52 PM | Permalink

      If this is true, and I have no reason to doubt its veracity, I have a sudden and sincere sympathy for Mann et. al. As you probably know Steve, when selling moose pasture, don’t try to sell it to orphans and little old ladies. They run right to the law and scream bloody blue murder. Sell it to the smartest guys in the room. They will be more likely to cover up the fact that they bought moose pasture, lest they be seen to be fools.



      • j ferguson
        Posted May 12, 2010 at 5:54 AM | Permalink

        What is moose pasture?

        • Anton
          Posted May 12, 2010 at 6:05 AM | Permalink

          That could be translate by :

          “Canadian formal stath analysis considered to be useful, esp when lacking in extractable data tree deposits”

        • Gordon Ford
          Posted May 12, 2010 at 10:41 AM | Permalink

          Moose pasture is a tract of the Canadian bush (often swampy) promoted as possibly having immense mineral wealth. Usually rich in black flies and mosquitoes in summer and snow and ice in winter. The best moose pasture is found reasonably close to a highly publicised mineral discovery.

    • Geoff Sherrington
      Posted May 12, 2010 at 6:37 AM | Permalink

      It was logical that the USA military machine was early into climate research. ICBMs did not have any steering once launched and they had to be aimed before blastoff in accordance with local weather around the launch pad. Plus the later problems of Polaris type lauch at sea. Also, IIRC, at ORNL there was responsible research done about the consequences of a leak and its transport by climate factors. There are likely to be medium term temperature records at many silos, taken by the military, but not yet public. One wonders how they compare with CRU etc.

      The price of large scale nuclear power was always fundamentally competitive with coal (especially for those many years when U3O8 was $8 a lb. ex mine). The social and compliance costs that were heaped on it made it appear more expensive. Only hydro could beat it at large scale.

      BTW, if you regulary read “World Nuclear New”, you will see that China has about 50 nukes above 1000 MWe under consruction or planned/approved. Good material for economic analysis without green lead in the saddle.

  12. Sean
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 5:38 PM | Permalink

    I think the AGW fixation is momument error for environmentalists. We need to work on managing fossile fuels, not least as they are running low and more folks are getting rich enough to be big consumer. Plus dirt fuels kill through local air pollution. But carbon footprint fixations gets you all sorts of polices which do no favours to the environment. No-one can work out a carbon footprint with any kind objectivity.

    It can be argued that deaths due to nuker are lower than say coal or wood, but that calculation probably will not hold up if the nuclear technology is commercialised for power generation everywhere, including the less friendly and or less stable states.

    In the west we worry more about a nuclear spill than an oil spill. The logic is oil kills bird, Nuclear kill kids. So the countries most likely to be able to build new plants are ones were the locals are less able to effectivily object. Do we really want a nuclear West Bank, or Ethiopia, or do folks think their government will accept being poor forever as they are energy poor and dependant on windmills if we are pushing nuclear for our friends?

    The best we can hope for is cleaner carbon, less brown coal. The rising price of fossil fuel as demand rises and supply limits is probably what will generate real alterantives.

    • woodNfish
      Posted May 12, 2010 at 10:24 AM | Permalink

      Fossil fuels are not “running low”. That is a fallacy. The US alone has enough coal reserves to power the country for another 200 years, and more oil reserves are discovered every year. The technology to extract oil is also constantly improving which allows us to continue to produce from existing reserves.

      The only reason the US is not increasing oil production and refining is because of government regulation, the same problem as nuclear energy.

    • DEEBEE
      Posted May 14, 2010 at 6:20 AM | Permalink

      “nuclear kill kids”
      That must be the reason why the French have to import people, because their own kids are being killed by all the nuclear power they use.

  13. Harry Eagar
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 6:11 PM | Permalink

    ‘Cue the astrophysicists to take over as our favorite scientists for awhile.’


    If it turns out that orbital eccentricities dominate climate (the view of the astros down the road from me), a lot of people are going to be . . . well, not embarrassed, most of them appear to be beyond embarrassment, but standing around rather awkwardly at the new party.

    • Posted May 12, 2010 at 1:56 PM | Permalink

      We know about them:
      Could be? Maybe. Seems the rapidity is out of whack though. Generally discounted by most.
      I love physicists, I really do, but they are neither climatologists or biologists. I’m not going to ask a proctologist to diagnose my neurological problems.

      • QBeamus
        Posted May 17, 2010 at 2:23 PM | Permalink

        Well, it’s a valid point, but I should think that intellectual consistency would require you to take an equally skeptical view of the environmentalists’ projections. After all, if one is unwilling to accept the opinion of one kind of scientist about matters in another field of science, one should be even more unwilling to accept the opinons based on no kind of science at all about those matters. The scientific method has several more steps in it that the present crop of climatologists seem to realize.

        The most elegant formulation I know of for how one knows that something has been scientifically demonstrated is, “When one is able to make accurate (but falsifiable) predictions of the future with it.” So far, climatology flunks this test.

      • Harold
        Posted May 22, 2010 at 5:49 AM | Permalink

        “I love physicists, I really do, but they are neither climatologists or biologists. I’m not going to ask a proctologist to diagnose my neurological problems.”

        There are at least some similarities between investigating climate and investigating something like breast cancer. The possibility of missing very important factors as well as misinterpreting the results is very high. I watched an interesting critique by an epidemiological expert explaining why a very well respected cancer researcher came to incorrect conclusions – it all boiled down to getting the statistical analysis and (especially) interpretation wrong, but in a way that wasn’t obvious at all – the research was published in a refereed journal.

        From what I’ve seen, statistical experts aren’t used routinely in any of the Climatology research areas, so the conclusions, to me, may raise some interesting questions, but don’t provide any reliable answers.

  14. Posted May 11, 2010 at 6:23 PM | Permalink

    An interesting edition of Engineering and Technology 24th April 2010 vol 5 iss 6 (a professional magazine of the IET institute of Engineering and Technology)

    Dr Ian Fairlie believes unborn babies are particularly susceptible to so-called spike radioactive emissions that occur at nuclear power plants when their reactors are opened, typically once a year, to replace nuclear fuel. This could explain the cancer increases in under five-year- olds living near German nuclear power stations.
    “This temporarily large increase in radionuclide concentration could reach foetuses and embryos,” he explains. “Embryos lay down cells at a rapid rate of knots and foetuses get bigger every day; these cells could have the [radionuclides] in them, which doesn’t go away. By the time the babies are born, they have raised concentrations in them:’ Fairlie now questions whether pregnant women and women of child-bearing age should actually be advised to move away from nuclear facilities. “This is anecdotal and there’s no published data but German women of a child bearing age are already moving away from nuclear power stations,” he adds. “I’ve heard this at conferences, am when I ask if this were true, they [fellow delegates] say ‘yes of course’

    • AMac
      Posted May 11, 2010 at 6:46 PM | Permalink

      Re: thefordprefect (May 11 18:23),

      > Dr Ian Fairlie believes…

      I am sure he does. Many people have many beliefs. Some of them turn out to be correct. Most, not so much.

      What we need is a way to sort through the flood of ideas, and pick out ones that are falsifiable, and yet nonetheless have a high likelihood of being true, as evaluated by some quantitative procedure.

      What are the prospects that such a branch of science could be invented, any time soon?

    • Bernie
      Posted May 11, 2010 at 6:51 PM | Permalink

      I believe nuclear is a viable and realistic alternative to fossil fuels and we will need to follow France and build our primary power generating capacity with the latest NP technology. It makes sense with this kind of issue to clearly state your view on the issue when presenting what appears to be empirical data. It allows readers to understand where you are coming from.

      I have not read the article. Unless the finding has been identified at other NPS with similar designs and maintenance operations, the article is IMHO not very compelling. I live close to an NPS that has been operating for 30 years with no cancer or other health issues identified.

    • Dave Dardinger
      Posted May 11, 2010 at 7:41 PM | Permalink

      Re: thefordprefect (May 11 18:23),

      Did a quick check on Dr Fairlie and he’s a professional scare-monger with a consultancy to make people believe that previous scientific studies are off by 1000-10000 times in terms of health hazards. I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him.

    • Doug Badgero
      Posted May 11, 2010 at 8:52 PM | Permalink

      You do realize that radioactivity can be measured and quantified, right? “Spike radioactivity emissions” don’t exist during refueling or at any other time that would approach what these poor unborn babies were receiving from natural sources. It would reduce their dose more to tell the pregnant women to stop eating bananas.

      • normrubin
        Posted May 12, 2010 at 1:24 PM | Permalink

        The myth that consuming foods like bananas that are rich in Potassium (some of which is naturally radioactive) increases a person’s radiation dose is based on an initial analysis that was Just Plain Wrong. The guy used the wrong coefficient, and the correct answer is zero.

        The Potassium in our bodies is exactly as radioactive as the Potassium in a banana, and our bodies are pretty good at flushing any extra Potassium down the toilet. Radiation dose is measured in energy per unit mass, and eating the banana also adds to my mass.

        Put it all together, and it’s right up there with “electricity too cheap to meter” — except that it’s still repeated, and often by people who should know better, but haven’t bothered to re-check the analysis.

        If you consume a banana’s-worth of purified radioactive Potassium, without the accompanying stable (non-radioactive) Potassium, you WILL incur an incremental dose of radiation — and THAT’s the dose that the first guy calculated. Garbage in, garbage out, the right answer to the wrong question. Get over it!

        • Keith W.
          Posted May 12, 2010 at 3:15 PM | Permalink

          OK, if you don’t like the banana analogy, how about just tell the mother to not take that plane trip from Berlin to New York. The cruising altitude of the plane is sufficiently high to expose the child to increased cosmic radiation of the same level.

          Also tell them to not move to Colorado or Wyoming. The background radiation difference between Germany and either of those states to equal the exposure described.

          Or, even simpler, tell them not to go sunbathing. The UV radiation absorbed sitting on the beach for a couple of hours is easily equal to this claim. And there has been proof that sunbathing can lead to skin cancer, unlike the data from this “study”

        • Doug Badgero
          Posted May 12, 2010 at 5:25 PM | Permalink

          I hate to break the news to you but when we do whole body counts one of the obvious peaks is radioactive potassium. If you didn’t eat foods rich in potassium your dose from radioactive potassium would be zero. Your logic only works if K has built up to equilibrium based on your intake and the biologic half-life.

        • normrubin
          Posted May 13, 2010 at 3:43 PM | Permalink

          Yes, our bodies contain potassium, and yes, terrestrial potassium contains K40, which is radioactive. That’s not the myth/error.

          “If you didn’t eat foods rich in potassium your dose from radioactive potassium would be zero” — AND you’d die without the potassium! Even less extreme dietary shortages have consequences, which we virtually never see in developed countries.

          So, yes, I expect that your pregnant women are already close to equilibrium, like you and me.

          Bottom line is that the guy at the US national lab who first did this great debating-point calculation used the wrong coefficient, and the right coefficient is zero, at least to a first and second approximation. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop otherwise intelligent people from repeating it as if it’s not wrong.

    • Geoff Sherrington
      Posted May 12, 2010 at 7:11 AM | Permalink

      thefordprefect, many years ago the myth was spread that the semen of workers at Sellafield UK was affected by radioactivity and was causing deformities in children. You can believe in this sort of drivel if you like.

      Your ideas tend to stay in the ford prefect era of the badly informed nun Rosalie Bertell who opined without evidence that doses from nukes were damaging, “If the radiation damage occurs in germ cells, the sperm or ovum, it can cause defective offspring. The defective offspring will in turn produce defective sperm or ova, and the genetic `mistake’ will be passed on to succeeding generations, reducing their quality of life until the family line terminates in sterilisation and/or death. A blighted or abnormal embryonic growth can result in what is called a hydatidiform mole instead of a baby”.

      Response is at

      Click to access BSEMReportandResponse.pdf

      It’s a bit long and thorough so you might not get to the end, but what the heck?

      • Posted May 15, 2010 at 7:15 AM | Permalink

        Re. Geoff Sherrington Posted May 12, 2010
        Cancer Clusters

        Click to access COMARE11thReport.pdf

        Nuclear power stations
        5.3 The results for nuclear power stations are unambiguous and, as might be expected from their very low discharges, there is no indication of any effect on the incidence of childhood cancer (see Tables 5.1 and 5.2). For leukaemia and non-Hodgkin lymphomas there were only three sites with marginally higher than expected numbers and ten where the numbers were less than expected. None of these was remotely significant from a statistical point of view. For solid tumours, there were five sites with very slightly raised values and eight sites with lower values. Again, none of these exhibited statistical significance. Moreover, within the 25-km circles there was no evidence of any trend for rates to be higher nearer to the sites. We can, therefore, say quite categorically that there is no evidence from this very large study that living within 25 km of a nuclear generating site within Britain is associated with an increased risk of childhood cancer.

        Other nuclear sites
        5.4 The situation with the other nuclear sites is more complicated. For leukaemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (Table 5.3) there are four sites where there is some evidence of a raised incidence close to the installation, namely Sellafield, Burghfield, Dounreay and Rosyth. Each of these sites has been identified previously as having a possibly increased risk in the vicinity. The most important finding in this new analysis is that none of the other sites in this
        group has a significantly increased rate of leukaemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Five of these other sites have registration rates slightly higher than the expected value, whereas six sites have slightly lower rates than this value.

  15. Posted May 11, 2010 at 6:28 PM | Permalink

    Engineering and Technology 24th April 2010 vol 5 iss 6

    After almost 25 years in the planning and almost £90bn wasted, the United States has abandoned its plans for a high-level nuclear waste storage facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. So where does that leave the future for storage of nuclear waste? Sean Davies reports

    The nuclear industry would argue that the volume of HLW is small, but to the layman the numbers will seem quite staggering. At present there are some 270,000t of HLW around the globe, stored in storage pools at the reactor sites. Each year another 3,500t is added that burden.
    In terms of radioactivity, HLW is the major issue, arising from the use of nuclear reactors to generate electricity. Highly radioactive fission products and transuranic elements are produced from uranium and plutonium during reactor opera- tions, and are contained within the used fuel.

    A 2MW “windmill” will cost around £1.5M and give about 600kW average.
    £90G would have provided 36GW of averaged power (about 10% of us requirements)

    • Skip Smith
      Posted May 11, 2010 at 7:18 PM | Permalink

      >>A 2MW “windmill” will cost around £1.5M and give about 600kW average.
      £90G would have provided 36GW of averaged power (about 10% of us requirements)<<

      Assuming there were suitable sites for that many windmills, and they would face no political opposition.

      • Anton
        Posted May 12, 2010 at 4:28 AM | Permalink

        Windmill is the worst solution (or at least cannot be a strong alternative) because it requires secondary energy supplier with stop and go cycles of production to balance the lack of wind. Increasing global cost and strong CO2 emission (see Germany and Spain).
        It is a noisy solution and none appreciate to see very large surface of his neighborhood destroyed by huge windmills plants.
        Individual geothermal and solar energy with nuclear small plants or hydroelectrical sites to cover off peak hours is a good compromise.

    • tty
      Posted May 12, 2010 at 12:49 PM | Permalink

      ” A 2MW “windmill” will cost around £1.5M and give about 600kW average.”

      A 2 MV windmill will give <500 kW average anywhere except offshore where it will cost vastly more than £1.5M. Even on land £2.5M is a more realistic figure. If you want realistic production figures visit: and click "Översikt". It gives real-time data for about a thousand swedish windmills. At the moment they are producing 6% of nominal power.
      "Historia Dag-1 , -2 -3" gives cumulative data for the last three days.
      There are also monthly data going back to 2002. You might be interested in finding out how many of those windmills have been producing 30% of nominal.

      • eddieo
        Posted May 13, 2010 at 7:23 AM | Permalink

        You have to dig deeper to get to the true production of wind farms. In Scotland the average “capacity factor” is just under 30% but some locations in Shetland are over 50%. However for Germany the capacity factor is usually below 20%. The capacity factor is a simple ratio of the nominal power output of the turbines divided by the actual average power they produce in operation. This is overly simplistic as the turbines produce much of their electricity electricity when it is not required. A more informative measure of the effectiveness of a wind farm can be the “dispatchability” factor which tends to be about 50% of the capacity factor. So a 1MW machine in Germany will only produce around 100kW of useful electricity at the correct time even if its capacity factor is 20%. Until we manage to store the output from wind turbines efficiently and in huge quantities we cannot rely on them to provide our energy needs. It makes me cringe when I hear news reports claiming a new 300MW wind farm has been opened in the hills near my home as in reality it can only provide us with 10-15% of this power.

        • Posted May 14, 2010 at 1:41 AM | Permalink

          It’s not that complicated people. Wind is the most predictable force in its inherent unpredictability. I grabbed the data from several years worth of measurements from Ontario and plotted the energy generated according to the maximum entropy principle and it comes out precisely as one would expect.

          Unpredictable, yet predictable, get it?

          We have to just get off our duffs, understand what we are dealing with and make it work.

    • Duster
      Posted May 12, 2010 at 1:52 PM | Permalink

      Research Thorium reactors, then consider the biological and aesthetic impacts (solar and wind plant are out-right ugly) on thousands of acres of land, then consider your question again. You might ALSO look into just what the real volume of HLW reactor produces is and how the French handle it. They seem to be pretty satisfied with their solutions. Then, look at what Thorium reactors produce in the nature of waste. After that you might find reactors far less scary. The truth is reactors are immensely less of a health threat than automobiles are. And the risk of a serious accident at even a conventional reactor is less than being hit by a falling plane. Ask the residents of Lockerbie if you doubt this.

      • normrubin
        Posted May 12, 2010 at 2:29 PM | Permalink

        I LOVE it when pro-nukes discuss the VOLUME of nuclear waste! If the mechanism of harm were volumetric displacement — think about a balloon, expanding until it crushes us to death against the walls! — then this would be a highly relevant metric. But no.

        We’re not in any danger of being volumetrically displaced or crushed by rad-waste. The danger is that it will POISON us, or our descendants (or be made into bombs that will destroy us). That’s why we have to talk about its TOXICITY and its CARCINOGENICITY. On those scales, it’s off the scale, and remains so for roughly a million years. (It also contains materials for a huge number of bombs.)

        The quantities and the timeframes are both, I believe, “unthinkably” large. At least I have real trouble wrapping my mind around either of them, even with the help of scientific notation and other mental tricks.

        • Dagfinn
          Posted May 12, 2010 at 4:16 PM | Permalink

          “Off the scale” is just rhetoric. You need numbers. For a toxic problem, try mercury from coal-fired power plants instead. Instead of decaying, it stays toxic forever. And instead of being stored in a repository, it gets released into the atmosphere.

        • normrubin
          Posted May 13, 2010 at 3:14 PM | Permalink

          Dagfinn, I don’t think you really want to try to compete on this playing field.

          But if you really do, feel free to try to find the largest, nastiest, most toxic single-installation collection of poisons (carcinogenic or not, your choice) you can, and calculate the total toxic inventory in any reasonably way you choose. E.g., number of LD50 doses, volume of water required to dilute, etc.

          After you do that, I’ll try to dredge up the parallel numbers for one large nuclear reactor.

          If I’m wrong, I’m wrong, but whenever I’ve glanced at those numbers, I’ve never found a toxic facility that could lay a glove on a single large nuclear reactor. (Personally, I think I gave you a chance to save a LOT of time and effort, if you’d only gone along with my quite fair “off the scale”!)

        • Dagfinn
          Posted May 14, 2010 at 1:02 AM | Permalink

          Well, believe it or not, my intention is not to “compete”. But let me just remind you that you did say it would remain off the scale for a million years. Therefore, your suggested competition involving an existing nuclear reactor (less than one million years old) is not fair.

        • normrubin
          Posted May 15, 2010 at 2:43 AM | Permalink

          The toxicity of a single reactor is (I believe) unthinkably large and without equal on the planet. If you don’t think it’s true, let’s try some numbers and find out. If it is true, “off the scale” isn’t “just rhetoric”, it’s simply a reasonable way to summarize the reality.

          The timescale before those toxic materials decay to their level of toxicity before they were fisshioned and irradiated in the reactor has recently been acknowledged by nuclear-industry sources to be a bit longer than a million years.

          I do admit that they certainly do NOT retain 100% of their initial toxicity for the whole million years. I apologize if my original comment implied the contrary. But the million-year timeframe is (I believe) unthinkably long, and can also reasonably called “off the scale”.

          For you to complain that I’m “not fair” while not objecting to Duster’s earlier dismissal of the significance of nuclear waste because of its VOLUME (which is what I was criticizing), suggests that you have forgotten what being fair feels like.

        • Dave Dardinger
          Posted May 15, 2010 at 10:27 AM | Permalink

          Re: normrubin (May 15 02:43),

          What you’re not really considering is that the original Uranium was decaying and thus being “toxic” all along. Yes, building a reactor concentrates things and introduces some new decay products in the form of fission products, but to be fair we’d have to determine when the decay of products of a fusion reactor drops below what would be produced by the material in situ.

          But even when that’s done, it would have to be shown that the physical situation of the products were dangerous in the context of the society in which they exist. This requires not just knowing the chances of the release of some of the products but also the capability of remediation given present and projected technology.

        • Geoff Sherrington
          Posted May 13, 2010 at 3:51 AM | Permalink


          You are clueless about the physics of nuclear reactor waste. It actually stays radioactive forever. But its hazard decreases.

          Its radioactive danger decreases with time, in ways that depend on how it was managed in the reactor and what type of reactor it was. So, you need a time measure for how long it it dangerous to manage. There are many calculations showing that from a few hundred to a few thousand years after removal from the rector, undiluted, it drops back to the same danger as the ore from which it was mined. Because we are getting essentially zero radiation deaths now from mining uranium, one would safely assume that your figure of “roughly a million years” has no reason to enter a scientific discussion.

          I have stood at ground zero at Nagasaki. it’s a thriving complex of shops and apartments in a large city. It was more hostile in 1945, but all nuclear radiation decays if left alone.

          I have also many times stood in the pit at Ranger One, one of the great uranium mines. I have zero evidence of harm.

        • normrubin
          Posted May 13, 2010 at 3:26 PM | Permalink

          Geoff, if you’ve really located a radioactive material that “actually stays radioactive forever”, then you should be up for the Nobel Prize for redefining the Laws of Physics! (I hate to use rude words like “clueless”.)

          Or perhaps you’re just acknowledging that once you get to 3-7 orders of magnitude in years, the specific lifetimes are so unthinkably long (some might say “off the scale”) that the specifics don’t matter. If that’s the case, then watch out for Dagfinn, because he’ll criticize you for using “just rhetoric”!

          And you’re right, there are indeed “many calculations showing that from a few hundred to a few thousand years after removal from the rector, undiluted, it drops back to the same danger as the ore from which it was mined.”

          Problem is, those calculations are all WRONG!! They were reviewed in some depth a decade or so ago, in a 10-year Canadian Environmental Assessment review (popularly called the “Seaborn” review), and more recently re-examined in the first comprehensive review of a Canadian nuclear-industry organization called the Nuclear Waste Management Organization — at . NWMO clearly acknowledged that the time needed to reach that state — in TOXICITY, not some bogus characteristic — is at least one MILLION years. Deal with the science or don’t, but don’t exclude the best information from a scientific discussion.

          Sorry, I’ve seen too many photos of macho guys drinking DDT (to prove how safe it is) to be impressed with your last two paragraphs.

        • Doug Badgero
          Posted May 13, 2010 at 7:45 PM | Permalink

          As a plant operator and engineer I am not familiar with the studies you speak of but I can assure you that I am very familiar with the characteristics of radioactive materials. Uranium in a reactor can absorb neutrons and become activated as heavy transuranic isotopes, such as Pu-239, with relatively long half lives or, they can fission and become lighter isotopes with shorter half lives. These heavy isotopes can be re-burned to also fission either after separation via reprocessing or breeding, if K effective remains greater than 1. That is, you create more fissionable material than you use during reactor operation. Obviously, breeding is not used in any commercial plant right now. However, at end of core life about 30% of the power in a commercial reactor comes from the fission of Pu-239 as I understand it.

          Now the crux of this discussion is what we leave as waste. If we choose to continue to call the long lived transuranic elements waste, then no doubt it must be stored for a very long time. However, if we are left with just the short lived fission fragments as waste then they don’t need to be stored nearly so long. For instance, one of the most abundant radioactive elements still persistent from Chernobyl and atmospheric atomic bomb testing is Cesium and it has a half life on the order of 30 years not E4 to E8 years like most transuranic elements.

        • Geoff Sherrington
          Posted May 13, 2010 at 9:09 PM | Permalink


          One is allowed some figurative speaking about “forever” versus “10^6 years” of radioactivity. There are 6.023 x 10^23 atoms of U-238 in 238g of U-238. Each will decay, some day, if the Earth is still here. There are tens of thousands of tonnes of U-238 mined annually, so we have a very large number of atoms in the equation and (although it is not essential to note this) the half life of U-238 is 1.41 × 10^17 seconds. It is therefore likely that before the last atom of U-238 on Earth decomposes, the Earth will no longer resemble its present state and what we now call Earth will have been radioactive forever. That’s semantics. It’s kids’ stuff.

          Please see the report You quote the report “Choosing a Way Forward” as an appeal to authority and you quote from it selectively, wrongly. There are people writing opinion into reports like this almost continuously and the mere fact that you claim that this one is right and all others are wrong arouses suspicion. Please re-examine Figure A3-2 on page 341, where you will see my assertion completely justified. Your selective use of a million years relates to a different scenario, being
          “After approximately
          one million years, the radioactivity in used fuel
          approaches that of natural uranium (AECL
          1994; NWMO 2003; McMurry et al. 2003).”

          My comparison was NOT with natural uranium, it was with uranium ore as you would well know. And I suspect that you know that you know, which is naughty rather than clueless.

          Are you seeking a job at East Anglia?

        • chopbox
          Posted May 14, 2010 at 2:04 PM | Permalink

          Geoff, NormRubin:
          I am not as well-versed in the actual dangers of spent-fuel storage as either of you. I thank you both for bringing up good points. I have gone to look at the report Geoff cites and in the first paragraph find this:

          For decades Canadians have been using electricity
          generated by nuclear power reactors.
          When used nuclear fuel is removed from a
          reactor, it is highly radioactive and requires
          proper shielding and careful handling to protect
          humans and the environment. Although the
          radioactivity decreases with time, used fuel will
          remain a potential health risk for a very long
          period, likely hundreds of thousands of years or
          (my italics, my bold)

          I would like to emphasize that I have not finished reading the report but will as soon as I can. In the meantime, I ask you if it really matters if it’s “for roughly a million years” (NormRubin) or “likely hundreds of thousands of years” (the report Geoff cites).

        • Duster
          Posted May 13, 2010 at 5:52 PM | Permalink

          That is easily the most irrelevant response to something I have seen in a long time. Are you a politician by chance? Volume is highly relevant regarding toxicity and toxic materials (I even know what LD50 means, BTW). Reactor waste is never simply released into the environment, unlike motor vehicle exhaust. It departs a site in a containment, just as it arrives in a containment. Unlike many potential toxic wastes generated by humanity from car exhaust (NOT CO2) to the material accumulating in land fills and being dumped from barges off the east coast, nuclear material is and has always been very tightly controlled. Consequently, volume is in fact a key factor in dealing with it. Assuming that safe engineering can achieved for long term containment – and it has, then just how difficult would managing reactor waste be? In fact, not very. Even now the engineering required is several orders of magnitude past “safe” and is so because there are people out there who shiver at the idea of “radioactivity” as it were the boogey man. “Please, Mr. EPA person. It scares me. Don’t let anyone use it until I feel safe.”

          Scary, nukes may be, but don’t bother pretending they are not less of a hazard to our health than numerous risks we subject ourselves to every day, from poisonous car exhaust to volatiles in the scents that some many love to slather themselves with.

        • snowmaneasy
          Posted May 16, 2010 at 3:48 PM | Permalink

          Excert from a book by G Cravens….32 degrees N 164 degrees W …. One of the best sites to dispose of nuclear waste is a location 600 miles north of Hawaii, where the ocean floor is a thick blanket of dirt that forms gently rolling abyssal hills over crustal rock. This piece of real estate, a marine desert situated at the center of a tectonic plate, lies in perpetual darkness under about four miles of water and covers about the 39,000 square miles. The temperature stays at 2 degrees C. Over millions of years skeletons of sea creatures, volcanic ash and fine grains of dust have drifted down to form a bed of viscous clay 325 feet deep… The mud is self-healing quicksand like. This abyssal plain, vertically and laterally uniform, has remained undisturbed by any volcanic or seismic activity for 35 million years and is likely to stay calm for millions more. Any object dropped into these sediments would sink into them and remain undisturbed for millions of years. The enormous pressure and the continous hail of sediments from above would prevent any radionuclides from escaping. Ultimately the waste would be subducted down at the plate margin.

    • Dave Andrews
      Posted May 12, 2010 at 3:04 PM | Permalink

      I’m surprised you don’t see the similarities between Yucca Mt and AGW.90 billion dollars was thrown at Yucca Mountain, many thousands of USDOE bureaucrats and scientists as well as university scientists, made a reasonable living out of it and it resulted in no solution.

      Did any of them stand up and say all this money is being wasted?

      AGW is now a cash cow like Yucca Mt was, albeit on a much larger scale. It takes an exceedingly brave person to buck the trend and endanger their mortgage etc.

  16. Posted May 11, 2010 at 6:41 PM | Permalink

    Nuclear would be a lot cheaper if we would just develop Liquid Flouride Thorium Reactor (LiFTR) technology. This technology development path was defunded largely because it was unsuitable for nuclear weapons production, but what was once a negative would now be a plus especially with respect to proliferation.

    Among the myriad advantages over conventional nuclear power are that a LiFTR:

    (1) is passively safe (no meltdown risk, therefore no expensive safety systems)
    (2) is low pressure (no expensive high pressure containment structure)
    (3) generates a low volume of radioactive waste
    (4) can burn the waste of the current gen 3 nuclear plants
    (5) has much simpler maintenance requirements
    (6) uses thorium which is cheaper than uranium
    and the U.S. has large deposits in Idaho
    (7) has been “proven” in that a test reactor was run successfully for several years

    Kirk Sorenson gave a talk at Google which can be viewed here:

    and additional information is available here

  17. EdeF
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 6:43 PM | Permalink

    The chances are zero that nuclear power plants are going to have a revival in the west, ie UK, US, Canada, OZ, New Zealand. Aint going to happen. The environmental movement has effectively stopped NP for the
    near term. It is a bit ironic, but in the UK residents pat themselves on the back on how they have halted nuclear power, all the time a large percentage of their electricity is coming from French NPPs.
    (I would remind readers that the US Navy has safely operated NPPs on
    subs and ships for 50 years. ) Not only do the environmentalists not want nuclear power, but they seem to want no power, anywhere, next to nothing, at no time. Case in point is the wind power farm off the coast of Massachussets that the Kennedy clan and friends have blocked. We have large scale solar thermal and solar photovoltaic sites up for development out here in the Mojave Desert that they are trying to kill. It might be the case that all large scale power stations will increasingly be built in China or other places where the environmental movement is not as strong. I see NP and coal plants in Mexico that pipe electricity into Malibu and Beverly Hills. We have reached a point in the west where we have reached the near infantilization of the populace where the people and their representatives are unable to make serious trade-offs with regards to energy.

  18. WillR
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 6:43 PM | Permalink

    Canada has quite a lively discussion of “alternative energy” right now. There are people who argue that Wind Power does do harm — and they come form all over the world. However if people want to discuss that then Wind Concerns might be a better forum. If you look in the viability section there is an article “Watts with The Wind” that looks at the production numbers from Ontario.

    That aside I saw a link to the paper earlier and looked at it. I am not sure that there is anything that would truly change the course of history in that paper.

  19. kim
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 6:46 PM | Permalink

    I celebrate the championship of human dignity over human guilt. Wait, didn’t we do that centuries ago?

  20. RedS10
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 6:47 PM | Permalink

    Just reading the Executive Summary gave me a hair ache. I couldn’t possibly have read the entire paper. The summery was hard to parse & try to understand where they were going… so excuse the following comments, lest I offend!

    It sounded like they were saying: the last approach didn’t work so lets change the vocabulary, the idiomatic expressions, some of the iconic, etc, etc.

    Then we’ll go about reducing our “carbon butt print” by the same ol’ methods & the common idiots will not know that they are being “taxed” anyway to the exact same end.

    Sorry, “Warmers” just don’t get it! AGM failed, not because it’s solutions were orchestrated by the dolts at the UN, but because people found out that they’d have to pay a “tax” to make the world safe 100 years from now!!!

    Right, people learned that the solution was a tax today for a problem to be solved 100 years from now.

  21. Ed Waage
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 7:23 PM | Permalink

    According to the Nuclear Energy Institute website:

    “The US Nuclear U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is actively reviewing 13 combined license applications from 12 companies and consortia for 22 nuclear power plants.”

    These license applications are for advanced design reactors which are easier to build and maintain.

    In California, new reactors are banned until the “waste problem” is solved. With the Yucca Mountain project on ice, the Dept of Energy has convened a blue ribbon panel to discuss options for dealing with nuclear waste although the options are already pretty clear and the biggest obstacles are political.

    Reprocessing nuclear waste is a better option than storage and Energy Secretary Steven Chu has stated he favors this option during his confirmation hearings. Reprocessing reduces the quantity of waste and reuses remaining uranium and plutonium in the spent fuel.

    The UK and Germany are taking another look at nuclear as they discover how difficult it is to meet Kyoto Protocol emission targets without it.

    • cpike
      Posted May 12, 2010 at 9:39 PM | Permalink

      According to this web site

      license applications have been submitted in the US to build 26 new nuclear plants since 2007. The earliest of these would come online in 2018. The Bush administration got one thing right anyway.

  22. Steve McIntyre
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 7:23 PM | Permalink

    Ontario, where I live, gets over 50% of its electricity from nuclear plants, most of which were built a generation ago. If we could afford to build them a generation ago, I’d like to know how much of the additional cost today is due to regulatory costs.

    Maybe what’s needed is a sort of regulatory equivalent of tort reform. Maybe the Peter Gleick claque would support this under their “do anything” policy.

    • Posted May 14, 2010 at 1:46 AM | Permalink

      Analysis of 36,000 hours worth of collected wind energy statistics of southern Ontario by me here:

    • Geoff Sherrington
      Posted May 14, 2010 at 6:50 AM | Permalink

      here’s a small example of the regulatory costs associated with holding up nuclear. From a Congressional paper of Feb 2009,

      Click to access R40202.pdf

      “If the Yucca Mountain site were abandoned without an alternative storage or disposal process in
      place, court judgments against DOE could rise far higher. The nuclear industry has raised the
      possibility that DOE could be found in complete default on its NWPA contracts and be ordered to
      refund all the nuclear waste fees that had been collected, in addition to paying utilities’ extra at reactor
      storage costs. Through the end of FY2008, DOE had collected more than $28 billion in
      fees and interest payments – an amount that has been growing at about $1.5 billion per year. In
      at least one of the nuclear utility cases before the Federal Court of Claims, a judge issued a showcause
      order for why the DOE nuclear waste contracts should not be voided and all payments
      returned to utilities, although that step was not included in the court’s final decision.”

      If you and your colleagues had been forced to pay $28 billion + interest for a nothingness beyond your control, I guess you could just write that off as a risk overhead. OTOH, you might be a bit upset about it and seek a refund, as one utility has started to do.

  23. RB
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 7:39 PM | Permalink

    I don’t know this, but then the other question becomes how much of the regulatory cost is due to safety issues. For instance, the offshore drilling accident is the equivalent of the Three Mile Island accident for nuclear power. Apparently talk is that it is highly likely that the $75 million liability for offshore drilling will be raised to $10 billion as a consequence.

    • Geoff Sherrington
      Posted May 12, 2010 at 6:42 AM | Permalink

      Do you think the Chinese would penalise themselves in this manner? It’s so artificial.

      • David S
        Posted May 13, 2010 at 4:57 PM | Permalink

        Not just yet, Geoff, but the time is coming. The biggest threat to the Chinese economic miracle is their atrocious pollution, and if their mining and manufacturing sectors continue to grow they will reach crisis point sooner or later when their hospitals are swamped with cases of pollution-related sickness and their crop yields suffer. Right now they are gung-ho but eventually they will need to penalise polluters or find some other way of paying for a massive clean up. Chinese People’s EPA?

      • RB
        Posted May 15, 2010 at 10:19 AM | Permalink

        One could argue that good corporate behavior doesn’t just happen by magic.

  24. JT
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 7:52 PM | Permalink

    This post on Integral Fast Reactors may be of interest in this context

  25. Charles Hart
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 8:00 PM | Permalink

    I disagree with the comment that nuclear will never be accepted in the US. Advanced nuclear energy (e.g. LFTR) is much greener than that currently deployed. Many environmentalists previously opposed to nuclear will accept this greener version. For example, I think it is interesting to note that Dr. James Hansen (familiar name to most participating in this blog) has endorsed LFTR et al as a serious solution to concerns about co2.

    For those who don’t believe a serious competitive economy can be built on wind/solar we have we have LFTR with is both co2 less and serious 24/7 power.

    Selected Dr. Hansen quotes from

    Click to access 20081121_Obama.pdf

    “Nuclear Power. Some discussion about nuclear power is needed. Fourth generation nuclear power has the potential to provide safe base-load electric power with negligible CO2 emissions.”

    “The other compelling alternative is to use thorium as the fuel in thermal reactors. Thorium can be used in ways that practically eliminate buildup of long-lived nuclear waste.

    “Prompt development of safe 4th generation nuclear power is needed to allow energy options for countries such as China and India, and for countries in the West in the event that energy efficiency and renewable energies cannot satisfy all energy requirements.”

    “Deployment of 4th generation nuclear power can be hastened via cooperation with China, India and other countries. It is essential that dogmatic ‘environmentalists’, opposed to all nuclear power, not be allowed to delay the R&D on 4th generation nuclear power. Thus it is desirable to avoid appointing to key energy positions persons with a history of opposition to nuclear power development. Of course, deployment of nuclear power is an option, and some countries or regions may prefer to rely entirely on other energy sources, but opponents of nuclear power should not be allowed to deny that option to everyone.”

  26. harrywr2
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 8:06 PM | Permalink

    Posted May 11, 2010 at 6:28 PM | Permalink | Reply

    “A 2MW “windmill” will cost around £1.5M and give about 600kW average.
    £90G would have provided 36GW of averaged power (about 10% of us requirements)”

    The problem is ‘when’ and ‘where’.

    The US has 1.1 million megawatts of generating capacity. The ‘average’ amount of electricity being produced at any one time is 500 thousand megawatts. The peak is 1.1 million megawatts. Coal plants only account for 30% of our generating capacity.

    The South Eastern US, which consumes roughly 20% of all US electricity doesn’t have suitable wind for wind power. They also don’t have hydro and they are a very long way from ‘cheap coal’.

    In Washington State, we already get 85% of our electricity from wind,hydro and nuclear.
    We have 1,900 megawatts of wind capacity with another 170 megawatts planned.

  27. Doug Badgero
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 8:09 PM | Permalink

    I have worked in Nuclear Power for 25 years. I work for American Electric Power at the DC Cook Nuclear Plant in Michigan. For the record, I speak for myself on this subject not AEP. I was a licensed Reactor Operator for 8 years and licensed Senior Reactor Operator (SRO) for 8 more years (1993-2009). I currently maintain an SRO certification as a Training Instructor.

    Nuclear is expensive to build and cheap to operate. Basically, total operating costs are made up of levelized capitol, fixed operating, and variable operating costs. Nuclear has relatively high levelized capitol costs – they are expensive to build. The variable operating cost for most power sources is dominated by fuel costs. For nuclear power, fuel costs are relatively cheap. This provides some cost certainty against fuel price swings. For instance, natural gas is currently about $4.00, but a few years ago it was as high as $14.00 or so.

    The link below is from the US energy information administration. It is the EIA’s guess regarding the cost of different types of generation in dollars per MwH in 2016. Note that since the cost is per MwH it adjusts for capability factor differences between different technologies. Nuclear is not the cheapest, but remember, this is a snapshot of costs in 2016. Would anyone care to guess what the cost of coal or natural gas will be in 30 to 40 years? 5 to 10 years? Nuclear is much less affected by the swings in energy commodity prices. Take a look at the cost per MwH of wind and solar, we will go bankrupt if we keep spending a dollar to create something that has an economic value of only 50 cents.

    Note that nuclear must operate as baseload generation (the plant is always at full power when it is available to operate) to make sense. It would not be economically sound for something with such a high levelized capitol cost to sit idle. My guess is that no more than about 50-70% of our power should ever come from nuclear – beyond this nukes could be forced to load follow (the plant power level is changed to follow power demand).

    • JEM
      Posted May 11, 2010 at 11:31 PM | Permalink

      I’d note that Pacific Gas and Electric (yes, the ones that built their nuke to upside-down blueprints) built the Helms Canyon Pumped Storage development to deal with off-peak use of what was supposed to be a lot of surplus off-peak Diablo Canyon power.

      You’ve got three turbines with roughly 900MW generating capacity in between two lakes (Courtright and Wishon) in the foothills east of Fresno. Water runs downhill during the day and is pumped back uphill at night. A net energy consumer (1100MW to pump vs 900MW generation) but a lot of quickly-dispatched peak-load power during the day.

      • harrywr2
        Posted May 12, 2010 at 10:16 AM | Permalink

        A fundamental problem with EPA’s cost estimates is that the price of coal is location dependent.

        Coal goes for $12/ton in Gillette, Wyoming and $60/ton in West Virgina.
        So the US Government uses an average price of $40/ton.

        A significant portion of US electric energy consumption occurs in the South Eastern US.
        Once one adds shipping costs the West Virgina coal ends up costing $70+/ton in South Carolina and adjusting for BTU content so does the Wyoming coal.

        New Nuclear power won’t make economic sense in Wyoming for at least 100 years, if ever.
        If one uses applies any sort of inflation factor to coal new nuclear power makes economic sense in the South Eastern US.

      • Keith Herbert
        Posted May 12, 2010 at 4:07 PM | Permalink

        Actually PG&E didn’t “build their nuke to upside-down blueprints” That was exaggerated to discredit the nuclear industry and Diablo Canyon.

        Some pipe supports were intalled improperly as sepia images were used backward. Sepia drawings were easier to change and were read from the opposite side the image was drawn on. This was a standard used before CAD made them obsolete.
        The pipes could not be installed as the mounts were not properly located. It was a blunder and someone paid for the mistake, but it was in no way a dangerous situation.

        But misperceptions such as these do tend to influence people and discourage new technologies.

        John Stossel once queried a panel, asking if they would approve a new type of energy that was cheap and plentiful but highly explosive and could kill 40 people per year. All of the panelists said the human cost was too high and would not approve it. Of course what he was describing was natural gas.

  28. RB
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 8:26 PM | Permalink

    Cost of a standard nuclear power plant: $7B to $10B

    • harrywr2
      Posted May 12, 2010 at 2:31 PM | Permalink

      The UAE managed to buy 4 South Korean nuclear plants for $20 billion.
      Today Russia announced building a 4.8 Gigawatt Nuclear complex in Turkey for $18-$20 billion.
      The Chinese can manage to build 2 Westinghouse AP1000 reactors for $3.8 billion.

      Here’s a nice 650 Megawatt ‘Clean Coal’ plant being built in Indiana for just $2.9 billion. That’s without carbon capture.

  29. Pat Frank
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 8:37 PM | Permalink

    “claque” — new at CA but a long favored word of Richard North’s over at EUReferendum. Is that where you got it, Steve? 🙂

    • Anton
      Posted May 12, 2010 at 4:46 AM | Permalink

      Could be seen in a pejorative way too …
      “La claque” is, in french, the people paid to clap (claquer) blindly at the end of a theatre representation to support the author/actors.

      Is also a piece of a shoe for the Quebec… not sure it was Steve idea despite is citizenship ….but who knows …the picture of a horde of skepticals attending a IPCC meeting with shoes in their hands could be …. funny.

      • Geoff Sherrington
        Posted May 12, 2010 at 7:14 AM | Permalink

        Venerate the sandal, as in “The Life of Brian”. Or the Turin shroud, or whatever fake object seems to stir the masses.

  30. Willem Kernkamp
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 9:01 PM | Permalink

    It is not seriously in doubt that nuclear power is easily the cheapest form of energy for thousands of years into the future. The waste problem is also not a show stopper, because we can simply leave it on site, or breed it and re-burn until the end product is no more radioactive than the uranium ore.

    The focus has to be on the possible diversion for terrorist purposes of the intermediate products of the nuclear fuel cycle. This is no joke and certainly a good reason to stick with fossil fuels a bit longer. Who knows, maybe we will get ignition at the national ignition facility.


  31. Sean
    Posted May 12, 2010 at 1:33 AM | Permalink

    Doug Badgero,
    Leaving waste in place and waiting a hundred years to clean up has technical advantages. Hard to cost a cleanup when you do not know what the rules will be, suspect the company generating the power will not be around to do it, and the country itself may not exist.

    You can not cost nuclear fuel as there is not an open commercial market. Its political deals with relativily low demand. Expanding Nuclear by a factor of ten world wide, and you are taking about a whole new poltical ball game. New dictators to suck up to to ensure supply. Massive environment impact getting the raw materials. Ships with yellow cake being taken by pirates, or running aground.

    • Doug Badgero
      Posted May 12, 2010 at 5:59 PM | Permalink

      Rate payers have paid billions of dollars in nuclear decommissioning costs. It is not clear to me why you believe nukes will be so very difficult to dismantle and decommission. There is no reason that it will take hundreds of years beyond the economic life of the plant. At some point we have to decide what to do with high level waste. My personal opinion is we should reprocess like most of the rest of the world does. This removes the long lived transuranic elements and leaves the short lived lighter fission products which must be stored for a few hundred years not a few million.

      There is no shortage of uranium deposits. Canada, US, and Australia all have significant deposits. Not exactly despotic nations IMHO. And we haven’t even started to discuss the available fissionable material from dismantled cold war weapons, or breeding, or thorium. Perhaps the greatest cost of our illogical fear of nuclear technology is foregone advancements because we stopped R&D. After all, who could have predicted the Bugatti Veyron when the first Model T rolled of the assembly line.

      Finally, fuel that has not been irradiated is not particularly dangerous so I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over a ship running aground with it aboard. Proliferation is somewhat of a concern but no matter how we much we wish, the production of weapons grade U just isn’t that difficult. North Korea and Iran don’t seem to need to steal it from anyone.

  32. Thomas H
    Posted May 12, 2010 at 2:12 AM | Permalink

    I think this paper should be seen as a “re-framing” of sound environmental policy in a language that people today are familiar with. In effect climate change/global warming is being abandoned for old school conservation and care for our common environment. You know the kind pretty much everyone can agree on. The “new” bad guys: Toxic effluents (air/water). The good guys: Using the limited resources we have at our disposal as efficiently as possible.

  33. Dagfinn
    Posted May 12, 2010 at 3:27 AM | Permalink

    Laetrile is probably not a good example. “This leads to an unpredictable and potentially lethal toxicity when amygdalin or laetrile is taken orally.”

  34. toby
    Posted May 12, 2010 at 4:25 AM | Permalink

    The authors banging on about so-called “Climategate” is a recipe for failure. Sounds to me like an effort to settle some irrelevant professional grudges. The public took very little note of the affair – Pielke et al confuse some British Tory newspapers, a handful of blogs and Fox News with “the public”.

    The cold winter had a bigger effect on public opinion than “Climategate”. It was not the biggest thing since 9/11.

    Pielke and his co-authors are pretty much outsiders, so I do not expect this paper to have much effect.

  35. kilted Mushroom
    Posted May 12, 2010 at 4:57 AM | Permalink

    I am one of the older “illiterate” but feel obliged to ask Sean the following.
    Nuclear fuel can not be valued as there is no “open market”. Why is there no “open” market. is this an esoterical argument?
    “Political deals with low demand”? I do not understand this statement, my stupidity I suppose.
    “A new political ball game” I can see, How it means “sucking up to “new dictators” I do not understand and will come back to.
    “Massive environmental impact” seems both emotive and subjective requirng more explaination before consideration.
    “Pirates” taking yellow cake would assume they have the means to turn the dirt into a dangerous product.
    “Running aground” again consider me stupid, how is this a problem.

    Coming back to the question of supply and dictatorship I have a “stupid mans idea”. Australia has an abundance of uranium. Australia is politically stable. Australia has geological stable areas for waste storage. Australia is a large area with a small population, unable to defend it’s borders without AN outside political alliance.
    One outside alliance does not guarantee stability. However if Australia was a world supplier and world storage facility then there would be a “new political ball game”. The countries of the world would have a vested interest in the protection of Australia in a military, financial and politicaly neutral manner.
    In the realm of energy it could be seen as a “new world order” limited to a small population and area. Everyone with a vested interest, limited enverionmental problems and Australia with a secure future guaranteed by all political persuasions, a true democracy.
    Am I dreaming or just stupid?

  36. Posted May 12, 2010 at 5:45 AM | Permalink

    This is off-topic, but readers here might be interested in something I’ve written, drawing a parallel between Luther and McIntyre, and defending the right of outsiders to investigate climate science:

    “The issue is whether the current practice of peer-review is sufficient for establishing truth, or whether, in this particular case as an exemplar, the process of peer-review has been corrupted, allowing vested interests to control the flow of funding and research. In other words, in just the same way as the medieval church preserved the rhetoric of Christianity whilst collapsing into corruption and turning salvation into a cash-cow, is the scientific establishment now colluding in the covering up of malpractice in order to keep the lines of funding open?”

  37. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted May 12, 2010 at 6:48 AM | Permalink

    Please read the following and have a weep for Australia:

    In the 2010 budget released yesterday, “the government will invest more than $652 million over four years in a Renewable Energy Future Fund to drive the development and deployment of clean energy technologies”.

    The government has ceased to perform the work the people want. It has earmarked an immediate $30 million to “educate” the populace about climate change. That’s not democracy in action, that’s ordinary communism.

    • Posted May 16, 2010 at 7:37 AM | Permalink

      Re: Geoff Sherrington (May 12 06:48), Also the ETS has not been stopped, rather paused for a few years. Also do not forget the super tax on big mining profits (nice of the government to take all the cream without incurring any of the risk). Also do not forget the large amount of tax payer money being badly spent on new school buildings (i.e. glorified metal roof covered areas for millions; new kitchen canteens smaller than the old, etc) with a larger lack of consultation (the new canteen wasn’t wanted, schools halls only good for meeting in and not high enough for racket sports or truly multifunction). Its right spending mess.

      Unfortunately I’m old enough to just remember the 3 day working week in the UK the last time a labour government there ran the country into the ground – I remember the rubbish in the streets and sitting around candles when the power was turned off..

      The sooner the government in Australia is out the better; I certainly do not want my children seeing what I experienced when I was a kid.

      Sorry if that was off topic – but I get the horrid feeling this is all interconnected.

    Posted May 12, 2010 at 9:51 AM | Permalink

    The Laetrile comment was interesting…

    Laetrile was a quack cure promoted by folks who did not follow accepted scientific practices, yet made remarkable claims. When these remarkable claims were finally questioned, the proponents stated that “orthodox medicine was not qualified” to evaluate the effectiveness of the “therapy”. Many folks believed these claims, paid large sums of money for “treatment”, and experienced no evidence of benefit and often experienced symptoms of cyanide poisoning or actual cyanide death.

    Not only was the treatment not effective, it was expensive, produced toxic effects in many patients and death in some patients, AND denied patients from receiving more appropriate therapy. But, people believed (and still believe) in the utility of the treatment.

    Seems eerily similar to ACGM.


  39. Leonard Weinstein
    Posted May 12, 2010 at 10:20 AM | Permalink

    Coal and gas and nuclear can manage the energy part of the problem. However, fuel for transportation is a separate issue. The problem is Oil. The US balance of payments and dependence on possibly less secure supplies is a big problem, and the probably limited resources compared to increasing demand is a biggie. Talking about coal and gas distracts from the secure oil issue. Until more hybrid cars/trucks/buses and possibly eventual plug in electric are widely used, we are going to have a problem. Nuclear is probably the best source of electric for that future need. This makes the CO2 issue moot, although I do not consider it a problem anyway.

  40. Posted May 12, 2010 at 11:49 AM | Permalink

    Something familiar with this post;

    Brilliant metaphor.

    • chopbox
      Posted May 14, 2010 at 2:07 PM | Permalink

      Interesting, OregonGuy! Good on ya.

  41. Anton
    Posted May 12, 2010 at 12:10 PM | Permalink

    USA climate bill Senate discussion (yesterday)

    “….while offering major new incentives for nuclear power, coal, natural gas and offshore drilling.”

    But in general the word “incentive” always belong in politic to any thin tails of any statistic distribution law.

  42. Kenneth Fritsch
    Posted May 12, 2010 at 12:22 PM | Permalink

    First of all I was surprised to see a thread related to policy as I thought that subject was off limits here at CA.

    Below I have excerpted some comments that I judge give some impression of what the authors had in mind. It is my opinion that the article reads like a babbling government white paper intended to support some new approach or policy with suggestions on how to make it more appealing to the voting public. Evidently the authors do not feel that the current approach to doing R&D on energy sources and efficiencies is working with sufficient speed. They appear to realize the politicization that can occur under the current attempts to mitigate AGW, but evidently feel that their approach is somehow immune from these problems. I recall the Carter administration pushing for exactly what the authors of this paper are suggesting. Most of what was started fell by the way side with no major break-throughs or practical solutions realized when the oil prices went low.

    Excerpts from paper:

    One important reason that more than 1.5 billion people presently lack access to
    electricity is that energy simply costs too much. Obviously, if energy were
    free, then its provision would be simple. Even if such access could be supplied
    from fossil fuels – which is plausible but also debatable – this demand for
    access to energy, for reasons of cost and security should not be satisfied by
    locking in long-term dependence on fossil fuels.

    Providing the world with massive amounts of new energy supply to meet
    expected growth in demand, while simultaneously vigorously increasing
    access to energy for people currently without it, will therefore require
    diversification of supply. Diversification beyond fossil fuels necessarily implies
    an accelerated pace of decarbonisation. Such diversification ought to be a
    leading incentive to decarbonise future energy supplies.

    As The Economist wrote in its special survey of climate science on
    20th March 2010, “Action on climate is justified, not because the science is certain,
    but precisely because it is not.”42 Its view is close to ours.
    The cases of France and Sweden teach two other important lessons. The
    general lesson is that governments must not only push innovation through
    R&D, standards setting or demonstration; they must also pull new energy
    technologies into the market through their role as large, early-adopting
    purchasing customers. Indeed, the role of government as a customer for
    emerging technologies has been a key catalyst – arguably the key catalyst – for
    technological innovation across most of the important areas of new
    technology since World War II, from aircraft and jet engines to
    telecommunication systems and information technologies.

    It is wrong to assume that a price on carbon can induce the
    generality of firms to undertake the requisite R&D.80 This is for a simple and
    powerful reason. Generally, basic research, development and demonstration
    cannot be easily patented. So the market has no incentive to fund it. The
    endless business battles in the pharmaceutical industry tend to revolve
    around the control and release of intellectual property and illustrate this
    point. As explained above, since much of the energy technology revolution
    will require just such basic RDD&D investment, public funding on a long term
    basis is essential; and that is why an hypothecated tax is so important.

    • Geoff Sherrington
      Posted May 13, 2010 at 6:48 AM | Permalink


      While I agree with much of what you quote, I differ at the end. It is not necessary nor desirable that Governments undertake the development or provision of electrical power and mobile power. A carbon consumption by a tax to raise the funds is not needed. History shows again and again that private sector efficiency far exceeds that of Government; and that the profit motive is powerful.

      If you look at this whole carbon footprint matter, what is so glaringly lacking is a list produced by a Government of what should be given up so that (a) people can be more efficiently used for labour and (b) less money is wasted on non-critical to useless personal expenditure.

      When did you see a Government list that mandated or suggested avoiding using airlines or vehicles for recreation, doing business by more teleconferencing, limiting the number of children per family (China apart), reducing health care costs by greatly limiting access to alcohol, doing away with horse racing and other forms of gambling, banning cosmetics, banning organic farming, curtailing entertainment film making, banning homeopathy, iridology and wellness massage, etc etc. There are huge savings to be made by measures like this. The idea of taxing electricity generators was just the easy first step in a part-considered process.

      A hallmark of the GHG fiasco is that the John Citizens seem to have accepted that some sacrifice is needed; but being normal, they are happy to see others sacrifice – not themselves. If they genuinely believe that GHG is a threat, then they have to accept these consequences. Volunteers, anyone?

  43. normrubin
    Posted May 12, 2010 at 1:43 PM | Permalink

    If your only tool is a hammer, all your problems look like nails. (Mark Twain?)

    If your only technology is incredibly toxic, inherently hazardous, and creates materials that can be readily converted into nuclear WMD, all your problems look like rabidly aggressive, irrational regulators. (Me.)

    • Kenneth Fritsch
      Posted May 12, 2010 at 2:47 PM | Permalink

      If your only tool is regulation than all your problems look like they are incredibly toxic, hazardous and convertible to something that could end the world.

      • Tolz
        Posted May 12, 2010 at 3:33 PM | Permalink


        • normrubin
          Posted May 13, 2010 at 3:33 PM | Permalink

          Here’s an alternative solution: Instead of over-regulating nuclear safety, lets just ensure that plant operators are completely liable for accidents and health impacts without limits, and let government just check that their pockets are deep enough.

          Instead of arguing about theoretical costs or values of competing sources of electricity, lets just let willing investors generate electricity into a fair grid/marketplace, to be purchased by willing customers! No subsidies, no feed-in-tariffs, just “fear and greed” all around. If you expect to see any new reactors built under that scenario, you haven’t been paying attention the industry’s (clearly stated) need for subsidies. This is a great technology for the People’s Republic of China, and it’s even being dwarfed by other forms of generation there.

        • Geoff Sherrington
          Posted May 14, 2010 at 6:19 AM | Permalink

          In similar vein, why not use the Ross McKitrick idea and tax CO2 emitters in relation to the change of climate, including a rebate when the temperature falls.

          Where are you going to draw the line of responsibility? Will the nuclear power generators have to pay their share of the cost of electrical deaths and accidents? Have the solar and wind people factored in future claim costs for their share of this?

          In the USA, from one set of official statistics in the workplace, from 1999 through 2002, 4.7% of all occupational deaths were caused by electricity. An additional 46,598 workers were nonfatally injured by electricity.

          If you work back the line a bit more, the rear end generator of a nuke is rather similar to a fossil fuel plant. Do you penalise this part because it’s connected to a nuke? Let’s have a bit of logic. It’s people like you with a hate of nuclear, but little understanding of it, that are causing needless deaths.

        • Doug Badgero
          Posted May 14, 2010 at 6:39 PM | Permalink

          I am fine with eliminating all federal subsidies for all power sources. Just remember the electric infrastructure in the United States was not built in a free market. It was built within state regulatory structures. So no free market is going to decide what fuel dominates, politics will always be involved.

          By the way subsidies by fuel type are available here (per MwH in Table ES5):

          Click to access execsum.pdf

          Wind and solar – $23-24 per MwH

          Nuclear – 1.59 per MwH

        • QBeamus
          Posted May 17, 2010 at 2:48 PM | Permalink

          “Instead of over-regulating nuclear safety, lets just ensure that plant operators are completely liable for accidents and health impacts without limits, and let government just check that their pockets are deep enough.”

          So, do you have in mind that we’ll hold nuclear plant operators “completely liable” for harms that were not foreseeable? And, if so, what’s your test for forseeability. Would a previously unknown link to a so-far unlinked cancer create liability, in your plan? How about a previously unknown link to some non-cancer illness? The problem, of course, is that if your plan involves extending liability to unforseeable harms, then there really is no way to assure that the nuke operators are “completely liable,” since we have no idea how large of a bond to insist on.

  44. bill
    Posted May 12, 2010 at 2:50 PM | Permalink

    Isn’t it the case that uranium will peak in aout 40 years, on present consumption levels? So could the AGW hysteria be governments responses to intractable problems as peak uranium folows peak coal? Having no solution, they divert attention to a false problem, man made globaL warming, and offer ‘solutions’ to it instead

    • Willem Kernkamp
      Posted May 12, 2010 at 6:24 PM | Permalink

      No, Uranium will not peak in 40 years. There are two reasons:

      1. Exploration is driven by demand
      There has been very little effort to find Uranium. However, so much was quickly identified that the fuel cost is essentially nothing. As with other minerals, more effort leads to more finds. Such efforts are only made when there is a need. What you see is that each mineral has identified reserves that will last the coming 20 to 40 years. This number stays pretty constant, because when it reaches the lower bound, more exploration effort creates more resource. Seems impossible, but is nonetheless true, because there is an incredible amount of dirt under our feet. Some percentage of that dirt is going to be Uranium. Some small fraction of that Uranium is easily accessible and some small fraction thereof has been located: Already enough for 40 years.

      2. Spent Fuel can be re-processed
      A breeder reactor can turn spent fuel into Plutonium, which can be used again in a normal reactor. This re-use can extract 20 times more energy from the ore. An added benefit is that the final waste from this process is not more radio-active than the original ore. You could dump it back into the original mine. This process is not used because it is not worth the effort considering the current low price of the ore. Also, the intermediate product, Plutonium, is nasty stuff. With this process, we have already enough for 40×20 = 800 years.

  45. bill
    Posted May 12, 2010 at 2:52 PM | Permalink

    sorry for peak coal, read peak oil

  46. Sean
    Posted May 12, 2010 at 3:00 PM | Permalink

    Kilted Mushroom,
    There is a current world surplus of Uranium due to the end of the cold war but Iran is having troubling more due pressure from the west. Purchasing yellowcake was one of the justifications for invading Iraq. Not what I would call an open market.

    If you want to take coal out of the picture you need an awful lot of nuclear power. The USA, Canada, Australia can be expected to managed the environmental impact. Of open case mining. That will make them more expensive, and limit what deposits they exploit. Open cast mines in general have a bad record of leaking waste into the air, ground water and the food chain. I understand it is often not slag heaps for Uranium, rather sludge lakes, which even in Canada and Austria have been known to leak.

    We know there have been leaks, cleanups, and human nuclear exposure, it is less clear what that means in terms of deaths. The estimates effects of low level nuclear exposure is highly speculative, and range from zero to 65 million deaths. I take the point that “massive” was the wrong word as I can not back it up with anything solid. I have looked again at the sources which lead me to use this word, and they are more advocacy and less objective than they should have been.

    If nuclear is generalise, I still think there will be a gold rush and standards will drop.
    Namibia which is said to have trouble with child trafficking, Niger which has intermittent military rule, Uzbekistan which is known for its human rights issues will probably not apply the same high standards as Australia. But fossil fuels which would be displace have not been exactly without impact. Estimate deaths due to air pollution are also in the millions.

    Leonard Weinstein, if you have the power to produce it hydrogen is clean and mobile. The whole exploding thing is over played.

    • Harrywr2
      Posted May 12, 2010 at 4:14 PM | Permalink

      “If nuclear is generalise, I still think there will be a gold rush and standards will drop.”

      In the 1980’s the vast majority of nuclear power plant components were fabricated on site.

      In all ‘large scale’ construction projects one doesn’t get to ‘hand pick the workers’. One calls down to the local union hall and orders ’12 journeyman welders’, and the Union Boss sends who he thinks is appropriate.

      My brother in law worked for a power plant construction company and refused to work on nuclear projects because he couldn’t control the quality of the welders which meant he couldn’t control the quality of the welds.

      The ‘new generation’ of nuclear power designs minimize on site fabrication. Critical components are made in factories where the quality of the welder can be controlled and the welds can easily be inspected. Of course if one is going to build parts in factories then having a minimal number of design variations lowers costs as well.

    • snowmaneasy
      Posted May 16, 2010 at 4:16 PM | Permalink

      In Namibia they have been mining uranium for some time now and to suggest …child trafficking…is in any related to uranium mining is wrong. Of all mining operations, uranium mining is the most benign. Its environmental impact is in reality very minimal. The concept of Peak Uranium is meaningless since we use so little of it and exploration for it has really only just started.

  47. Scott Brim
    Posted May 12, 2010 at 3:43 PM | Permalink

    Steve McIntyre: “… I’d like to know how much of the additional cost today is due to regulatory costs.”

    If we are talking regulatory oversight from the NRC — construction licensing, operational oversight, etc. — the regulatory burden on nuclear construction isn’t any heavier than it was twenty years ago, back when there was still a fairly substantial nuclear construction industry in America, in comparison with what we have today.

    For all practical purposes, the primary roadblock to nuclear construction has been in the past, and still remains today, its high upfront capital cost. This problem is more acute in 2010 than it was twenty years ago, because we don’t have the nuclear construction infrastructure we had twenty years ago, and because America is no longer an industrial nation. For example, the list of nuclear-qualified industrial equipment suppliers in the US is one-quarter of what it was in 1990.

    In the US, the costs of all large-scale industrial construction projects have risen substantially over the last twenty years for a variety of reasons. Issues include a lack of experienced engineers, technicians, and skilled craft labor; a lack of experienced industrial equipment suppliers; higher costs for industrial commodities; and competition for local land resources and local civil infrastructure resources from competing business and residential users.

    It would be a great mistake to suddenly pour lots of money into nuclear construction in an attempt to accelerate the pace of the limited renaissance the industry is now experiencing. The nuclear construction industry must have the time it needs to rebuild the very capable and very efficient nuclear industrial base that existed at the end of the 1980s.

    In the meantime, there is much to be gained from the ongoing and continuous search for improved energy efficiency. Moreover, in the short term, that’s the only practical alternative to constructing ever more coal-fired and natural gas-fired generation plants.

    • harrywr2
      Posted May 12, 2010 at 6:14 PM | Permalink

      I would posit the road block is the high up front costs and the need for accurate demand projections 10-12 years into the future.

      Whoops II and Whoops III in Washington State had cleared all the regulatory hurdles. The projected demand never materialized. 20 years later the demand still doesn’t exist.

      • Scott Brim
        Posted May 12, 2010 at 6:47 PM | Permalink

        One reason why the projected demand in the Northwest for electricity didn’t materialize is that industrial consumption of energy didn’t grow nearly as fast as was estimated twenty years ago.

        The fact that electricity demand didn’t grow nearly as quickly is partly the result of the general migration of American industry offshore to low cost manufacturing nations in Asia.

        I do not foresee any new nuclear plants being constructed in Oregon or Washington within the next two decades, and probably not in California either. Ditto for the Mountain West.

        In the American West, uncertainties in projected demand are a key reason why it’s too risky for investors to think seriously about nuclear, at least for the near to mid-term future.

        The mid-Atlantic region and the Southeast are where the nuclear renaissance will occur. But it will be done carefully, and in measured steps.

        • harrywr2
          Posted May 13, 2010 at 9:15 AM | Permalink

          I’m not so sure.

          Idaho has there hand up for a nuclear power plant. Various politico’s out near Hanford are beating the drum for another nuclear power plant.

          There is a coal fired plant in Oregon that is slated for closure. The coal fired plant in Centralia has probably got another 10-15 years life but isn’t nearly so profitable now that the Centralia Coal mines are finished.

          So we have some supply dropping out in the next few years.

          On the demand side BMW is building a Carbon Fiber plant out in Moses Lake which is energy intensive, which is why they are locating it in the Pacific Northwest…stable energy prices.

  48. Posted May 12, 2010 at 4:02 PM | Permalink

    Just got back from hearing Roger in person at Policy Exchange, a stone’s throw away from the first-UK-coalition-in-70-years drama in Westminster today. Much too much to process for this bear of little brain. But one big positive: the 1.5 billion without electricity suddenly have the spotlight on them – if they’ll forgive the phrase. That is a major correction to the narrative and such a necessary one. Two negatives: the assumption throughout, based on GCMs, that decarbonisation is needed to avoid dangerous climate problems. Not convinced. And doesn’t Jesse Ausubel show that we’ve been steadily decarbonising since the 1850s? But despite going along with the consensus in this regard, Roger is a master of his subject and a humane one. His book The Climate Fix – out in November – is likely to be a must-read.

  49. justinert
    Posted May 12, 2010 at 6:09 PM | Permalink

    Hypothecated carbon tax anyone? The most miserable aspect of this post normal reframing of the climate narrative for me was the disappointing proximity of Pielke Jnr to Mike Hulme in the drafting of yet another it-was-a-communication-problem-all-along excuse paper. How many more reframing’s of climate policy are there going to be in pursuit of the modification of “consumer behaviour by settling a carbon price”.
    As many as it takes it seems, and being eclectic might just be the tipping point.

    Just belief-defying pomposity that they describe a walk through Capability Brown’s gardens as analogous “to delivering an ambitious objective harmoniously” as if carbon taxation should be dressed up as a beautiful journey that leads us “in an amused frame of mind” to the gates of “radical decarbonisation”, which would be “priced as high as is politically acceptable”.

    No, this piece of post normal, value laden, Lysenkoist drivel concluded with the typical socialist lexicon more fitting of the Club of Rome: “Building resilience to surprise and to extremes of weather is a practical expression of true global solidarity.” Really? Does that mean global solidarity is a cause or an effect?

    • Posted May 13, 2010 at 1:22 AM | Permalink

      Pielke spoke warmly of Hulme last night, as you might expect of a co-author of such a prestigious piece. Gwyn Prins, presumably the main author after the Hartwell discussions (first in an otherwise alphabetical list), was definitely there but not I think any of the others. David Henderson and Benny Peiser were among those present who had questions but both obviously appreciated a great deal of what Roger had to say, as I did. Mostly though it felt like a room full of eager, young policy wonks lapping up a distinctive perspective on a vital matter of public interest at a crucial juncture in our political history. Fun and disturbing would be a fair summary of the whole of yesterday in Westminster – and this was no exception.

      As I said to Andrew Montford yesterday morning – who tipped me off about the do at in the evening, thanks! – I also have questions about the ubiquitous UEA man, who published his summary of the new line in After the crash – a new direction for climate policy, courtesy of our national broadcaster on Tuesday. But before all that, what did Steve McIntyre mean by Hulme being a ‘seemingly anomalous search term in the Climategate letters’? I think we should be told 🙂

    • Posted May 21, 2010 at 8:53 PM | Permalink

      Amen justinert — my response exactly! Postnormal pomo drivel. Made me ashamed for my profession.

  50. Steve McIntyre
    Posted May 12, 2010 at 7:11 PM | Permalink

    There is also a fantastic amount of uranium in seawater. At Erice in 2009, one presenter described a system for solvent extraction of uranium from seawater that had been tested. Another presenter described how breeders worked. ONe guy discussed placing reactors underground for safety – from a mining point of view, this seems feasible to me.

    • Arthur Dent
      Posted May 13, 2010 at 3:10 AM | Permalink

      There is a “lot” of pretty much every element in seawater including gold and silver but that doesn’t mean that they are economically recoverable. The only elements that have been successfully harvested from seawater have been the major elements calcium and magnesium, and bromine.

      The pumping costs (and energy requirements)alone are usually sufficient to eliminate seawater as a source of useful minerals. Of course if the seawater was already being extracted for another purpose (e.g. cooling water) or some passive extraction mechanism were to be invented then the economics might change.

      • Ponytail Express
        Posted May 13, 2010 at 12:30 PM | Permalink

        As far as I know, the only economical metal extraction from seawater now is magnesium. But there’s a relatively large concentration of magnesium in sea water. However, I could picture plants in the future where multiple rare metals are all extracted at the same time from sea water, thus spreading some of the costs of pumping and other processing out over a slate of products. This may be the only way we’re ever going to get enough lithium, for example, to mass produce electric cars.

      • rml
        Posted May 14, 2010 at 9:23 PM | Permalink


        This is old news – surely you read Rick Brant, “Sea Gold”, as ayoungster? 🙂


    • Geoff Sherrington
      Posted May 13, 2010 at 6:30 AM | Permalink

      Re uranium in sea water. In the 1970s the Israelis had on sale an ion exchange resin named Srafion NMRR that was custom made for the task. Knowledge that it could be a means for any country to get uranium played a part in non-proliferation considerations. As Arthur Dent points out, extraction economics can be assisted by methods such as combining with water pumping, e.g. at a desalination plant.

      You won’t find too much on Google because it has not been put up yet. It remains a big problem that important early work cannot be searched on the Web. It was different one one was active in the research in the pre-Google days. It is a problem that many arguments on blogs are deficient because bloggers don’t use books so much as before, same problem in stats.

      Even when you have studied the technology, it continues to surprise. A large number of very bright people worked on the uranium fuel and weapons cycles. When I make a generalisation that uranium has few drawbacks as the fuel of choice for large scale electricity, I get people objecting as if objecting is the ‘correct’ reaction. On closer questioning, it almost always happens that they know less than they thought.

      The high artificial cost that is the lead in the nuclear saddle has been there from the start. People who were professional objectors to man-made chemicals and smoking cigarettes and other past apocalypses merely shifted their attention to uranium and carried on protesting. Never mind that, like thefordprefect, they wereand are innocents abroad.

      • Posted May 14, 2010 at 2:30 PM | Permalink

        some tima age I pointed out a japanese polymer in developement:

        Click to access 2009_Tamada.pdf

        May 26, 2009 at 4:28 am
        Yellow cake from sea water – an infinite resouce?
        The French Nuclear generators use 12400 tonnes of Uranium oxide per year
        =12.4*10^6 kg/year
        1kg of yellow cake from (latest 2006 figures) 250kg of polymer per 240 days
        =1.5kg/year from 250kg polymer

        To satisfy the French will require (12.4/1.5)*10^6 *250 /1000 tonnes polymer
        which is (if I haven’t slipped on the decimal) a rather unbelievable 2.1*10^6 tonnes of polymer.

        sea water has 3*10^-3 gms uranium in 1 cu metre
        so the polymer will need to see 12.4*10^9/(3*10^-3) cu metres of fresh sea water over the year. i.e. 4*10^12 cu metres.

        The polymer will therfore have to be sunk into a deep water current
        all 2 million tonnes dragged up from many meters down.

        However someone pointed out this was acheivable using current technology.

        • Dave Dardinger
          Posted May 14, 2010 at 6:00 PM | Permalink

          Re: thefordprefect (May 14 14:30),

          Your math looks ok. But the article gives the total cost per pound of about $100, so all the things you’re pointing out have been figured in. Since they actually did the tests, it doesn’t look like there’s any particular problem. I doubt there’s much problem with the “dragging” since the polymer probably isn’t much heavier than water so it’d not take much energy. And even if it was rather heavier that can simply be overcome by attaching a counterweight which is sunk to bring up the loaded polymer and then a new one attached and let drop down raising the counterweight up again.

    • tty
      Posted May 14, 2010 at 4:12 PM | Permalink

      Underground reactors are definitely practiccal. Sweden operated an underground 65 MW deuterium-cooled reactor in Ågesta just outside Stockholm from 1963 to 1974. It was used both for electricity and for area heating and was closed down as uneconomical on account of the low oil prices!

  51. EdeF
    Posted May 12, 2010 at 7:14 PM | Permalink

    Southern California Edison is building the world’s largest solar photovoltaic site in a most unusual way. If you have ever flown into
    Los Angeles International airport (LAX) you will notice on approach the hundreds of wharehouses to the east located in Ontario, Riverside, etc. The plan is to locate PV collectors on hundreds of these roofs and tie them in to the local grid. The effective output will be close to 0.5 GW which is the size of a medium size Coal or Nuclear plant. The idea is to use PV power to cover peak demand from noon to 2 pm local time. Minimal environmental impact, minimal security impact. Cost is near parity with other forms of power since they will be getting the California energy credit (if the state stays out of bankruptcy that is). Increased demand for PV solar may lower the manufacturing costs. Looks like they have been coming down the last two decades. There are some new features such as ridging the cell front edge to reduce reflection, higher efficiencies. If it is cost effective, lets build everything.

    • Doug Badgero
      Posted May 12, 2010 at 9:27 PM | Permalink

      From the EIA report in my previous post, total cost for various technologies NOT including subsidies (US Dollars/MwH):

      Solar PV $396

      Solar Thermal $256

      On Shore Wind $149

      Off Shore Wind $191

      Nuclear $119

      Nat Gas $80-140 depending on technology chosen

      Coal $100-130 depending on technology chosen

      Maybe someday we will make solar economic but for now it’s not even close.

      • Charles Hart
        Posted May 12, 2010 at 11:50 PM | Permalink

        Assuming your EIA numbers …

        It is easy to see that if LFTR et al technology can reduce nuclear costs by 25-50% then we have a game changer. Nuclear becomes cheaper than coal.

      • EdeF
        Posted May 13, 2010 at 12:53 PM | Permalink

        Doug, let me try to make the case for the SCE PV solar project to the best that I can. First off, the state of California is requiring utilities to have a certain part of their energy mix in so-called renewables, excluding hydro. That would be wind, solar PV and thermal, etc. To a certain degree they are just checking the box. As this blog and this discussion has pointed out, our energy mix decisions are being made with price or cost as only one factor. In the plus side for this specific PV solar project, there is very little environmental costs or remediation since you are using existing buildings. On top of that you have negligible site prep costs. Sites out of town usually have to be cleared, concrete pads poured, panels, wires and inverters installed and if you are far away from a substation a new one has to be put in. Additionally, once you install the PV site there is very little maintenance costs over a 30 yr period. You have a system that can suffer graceful degradation, is not a target of any kind of terrorist attack,
        produces minimal GHGs or other polluants and by-products. Demoliton costs
        are negligible and the crystalline silicon can be re-used economically. From an asthetic point of view no one will complain about solar cells on the roof of wharehouses. Once the site is finished there are no fuel costs and so you have no future fuel cost uncertainty. Nobody knows what the cost of oil, natural gas, uranium or coal wll be in 30 yrs. On the negative side, you have high initial costs and technology risk since you dont know that in 5-10 years someone may have a breakthrough in silicon or gallium arsenide cells that undercut you. You also can only operate during the daytime and are subject to loss of power in cloudy weather. Funny thing is that if we could increase the energy storage density of car batteries, we could use the family auto as a giant storage device for any excess capacity. Doesn’t compete on price alone, but has some good characteristics.

        • Doug Badgero
          Posted May 13, 2010 at 3:05 PM | Permalink


          The only fact that needed referenced was the California RPS, which I am aware of, they exist in many other states also. I was just trying to point out how far away solar is from being economically competitive. I know that nothing I say here will change what is happening in CA. I don’t think the non-economic benefits can make up for the excess economic costs. Like I said in a previous post – We will go bankrupt if we keep spending a dollar to produce something that has an economic value of 50 cents.

    • Greg F
      Posted May 15, 2010 at 11:19 AM | Permalink

      Increased demand for PV solar may lower the manufacturing costs. Looks like they have been coming down the last two decades.

      I think significant reductions are unlikely. The lion’s share of the cost of producing a solar cell is in the materials. The assembly costs are a much smaller portion and even less so as production is moved to places like China. The price drops since the economic collapse in 2008 has been driven by the collapse of polysilicon prices. In early 2008 polysilicon was going for $450 to $500 per kilogram. It is now about a tenth that price. All the materials used to produce solar cells are already mass produced mature technologies. In the last decade they have gone up and down but look like they have flattend out.

      The “peak watt” rating is also misleading as to the amount of power they will generate. Comparison to cost of traditional generation is apples and oranges. The peak watt rating for solar cells is 1000 watts per square meter at a cell temperature of 25C. This is not a realistic measure of output in real world applications. Cell output drops with temperature and temperature increases with irradiance. Also, solar cells output degrades at roughly 0.7%/year. Add in the losses from the inverters and the “peak watt” rating becomes an even more distorted rating of what you will really get. I have looked at the actual output for real systems including the 40kW system where I work. On that system the highest output last year for one hour was in August and was less then 75% of the “peak watt” rating even when assuming a generous 95% conversion efficiency from the inverters.

      Maintenance costs are not insignificant. Last time I checked the MTBF for the inverters was on the order of 10 years. A 2500 watt inverter is going to run you about $2000. Repair costs in most industries is half of new cost or $1000 in this case. Repair might not even be an option in 10 years due to product life cycles. Replacement at 10 cents a kWh it is going to take you 20,000 kWh’s to recover the cost of a failed inverter if it has to be replaced. The school system where I live has a 2000 watt system complements of the state. The best it did in a year was 2400 kWh’s. A failed inverter would take over 8 years to recover the cost of replacement. Even a repair would be over 4 years. The chances of the inverter being replaced are next zero. There will be a non zero number of systems that will go out of service permanently due to such a scenario lowering the average life span to considerably less then 30 years. The glass gets dirty and depending on the location cleaning of the panels could be a significant cost to maintenance considering the location is on a roof in most cases. Snow will essentially shut them down unless you have a way to clear it off. Payback time on any real system I have looked at, under any reasonable assumption, is never.

      The elephant in the room for significant increases in production of silicon cells is silver. The bus bars that provide the connection on the top the cell to the outside world have to be made with silver. Can you say peak silver?

      • EdeF
        Posted May 15, 2010 at 2:13 PM | Permalink

        You have correctly identified several of the factors that would cause PV solar to perform less than optimally, inverter reliability problems and
        high temps. The other one is off-axis losses if the panel is not orthogonal to the incoming sunlight (although you do get some diffuse sunlight). I live in one of the sunniest places on earth and have went through the cost comparisons and even with a 40% Calif. subsidy and $2k
        US subsidy I can’t justify the cost. Additionally, my next door neighbor has a giant Eucalyptus tree that blocks my noon-2 pm sunlight! Not to be outdone, I believe the utilities are now offering to install the solar system at no cost to the home owner as long as they get to use the electicity, plus you get a break on your bill. Looks like I need to go long on silver, gold and uranium.

  52. Posted May 12, 2010 at 9:56 PM | Permalink

    Energy from Uranium
    Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen, July 2006

    A reasoned look at nuclear power and fuel

    Click to access Energy%20from%20Uranium%20-%20July%202006.pdf



  53. Antti Halkka
    Posted May 13, 2010 at 2:14 AM | Permalink

    What is missing from the discussion is that 6 of the 14 Hartwell-authors are connected to the Breakthrought institute (TBI). The authors include the chairman and president of the institute plus four senior fellows (and a japanese industry representant). Also one of the principal funders is the same that provides basic funding for TBI.

  54. Posted May 13, 2010 at 5:32 AM | Permalink

    A bit off-topic, but I didn’t realize the climategate thing happened on November 17. Since I haven’t heard that we know who was really responsible, do you suppose there is a connection to the group?

    It’s probably nothing, but if it is something.. why would Marxists want to release those e-mails? To spur the world to take action on a non-issue?

    • Posted May 13, 2010 at 7:36 AM | Permalink

      17 November was also my birthday – something that has been true for as long as I can remember. I’m sure as a matter of personal pride that this had more to do with it than the naming convention of a bunch of has-been Marxist guerillas.

  55. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted May 13, 2010 at 7:09 AM | Permalink

    Sorry if this is a bit OT, but it’s hard to know where to put it. Seems like Climategate methods are contagious.

    From John Roskam | Thursday, 13 May 2010

    This graph was in the Budget Papers on Tuesday night. It compares the size of stimulus packages against growth projections made by the International Monetary Fund.


    Treasury claims the graph demonstrates the bigger the stimulus, the bigger the difference between what the IMF predicted would happen and what actually happened (ie the bigger the stimulus the bigger the recovery).

    But the IPA’s Professor Sinclair Davidson asked himself – why are there are only 11 countries in the graph??? The original IMF document Treasury got the data from was a list of all the countries in the G20. (There’s 19 countries in the G20 plus the European Union.)

    Sinclair plotted all 19 countries. And guess what? THERE’S NO STATISTICAL SIGNIFICANCE between the size of stimulus packages and economic recovery. Sinclair explains it here.


    Why did Treasury include China in their graph but not Russia? or Brazil but not Mexico? … mmm … have Treasury officials learned statistics from the folks from the University of East Anglia?

    Institute of Public Affairs | Level 2 | 410 Collins Street | Melbourne | Victoria | 3000 | Australia

  56. Ron Cram
    Posted May 13, 2010 at 7:25 AM | Permalink

    I thought policy discussions were off limits. What does this change mean? Are you declaring victory in the science area so that you can now move on to policy? Does this change open the door for commenters to discuss policy whenever they want? I hope not. I’m far more interested in the science than policy… just like I’m far more interested in discussing the work of Pielke Sr than Pielke Jr.

    • Keith Herbert
      Posted May 13, 2010 at 12:38 PM | Permalink

      It does seem uncharacteristic of this site, though I notice policy comments are still snipped on other threads.

      It is interesting that nuclear energy gets so much discussion these days. 30 years ago it was a conversation killer unless you were planning a protest.

      From time to time Steve relaxes and let’s us opine. Remember when he took the day off to recommend we vote for Obama? (I’m still bristling…)

  57. Posted May 13, 2010 at 10:34 AM | Permalink

    There’s a some quiet discussion at HvS website, where one of the paper’s authors posts regularly there.

  58. Scott Brim
    Posted May 13, 2010 at 10:58 AM | Permalink

    harrywr2: “I’m not so sure.”

    As a bona fide nuke puke, I would like to be less certain myself that new nuclear construction won’t be pursued in the American West in the near to mid-term future. But I just don’t see it happening.

    There are just too many uncertainties as to what the future demand for electricity will be out here, and as to how effective the region’s ongoing and very aggressive pursuit of energy conservation will be.

    The outcome of these efforts at a serious pursuit of energy conservation must be clearly evident before nuclear is given any truly serious consideration. IMHO, it will be decades before there is clear evidence of the need for resumed nuclear construction in the American west.

    harrywr2: “Idaho has there hand up for a nuclear power plant. Various politico’s out near Hanford are beating the drum for another nuclear power plant.”

    The politicos can beat their drums all they want to, but the decisions are made elsewhere by Wall Street investors whose bottom line priority is near-term to mid-term profit.

    The Idaho plant is merely a proposal at this stage. Until we see a license application in the NRC pipeline, it will remain just that, a proposal.

    Even if a license application appears within the next few years, the fact remains that as things currently stand in the US, there is only a very limited supply of experienced nuclear construction personnel and a limited supply of nuclear reactor technology.

    Utilities in the Southeast and in the mid-Atlantic have these limited resources locked up for at least a decade, if not longer.

    harrywr2: “There is a coal fired plant in Oregon that is slated for closure. The coal fired plant in Centralia has probably got another 10-15 years life but isn’t nearly so profitable now that the Centralia Coal mines are finished. ….. So we have some supply dropping out in the next few years.”

    The region’s current thinking is that energy conservation will close the gap. But, if things don’t actually work out that way ….. oh well.

    • normrubin
      Posted May 13, 2010 at 11:42 PM | Permalink

      Scott, I think you and I have similar forecasts, though we obviously have different wishes. I see the “nuclear renaissance” collapsing of its own dead weight (unanswerable financial costs and risks despite huge subsidies and non-financial government support), and I don’t mind at all.

      Steve, your point about regulatory stringency suggests that you believe that it outweighs all the open largesse and the back-room favoritism that nuclear power has always gotten — do you really?

      In Canada, the federal government “only” created the industry, shelters it from most commercial risks, subsidizes it, and flies junkets around the world trying to sell its reactors! Personally, I’d also add “under-regulates it” to the list — especially since the feds fired the industry’s first semi-independent regulator! — but maybe reasonable people can disagree about that one.

      • Scott Brim
        Posted May 14, 2010 at 8:29 AM | Permalink

        Our forecasts are not the same. The nuclear renaissance will go forward, mostly in the Southeast and the mid-Atlantic, but it will proceed at a measured, deliberate pace.

        In the next decade, I expect construction to start on four to six new reactor units. More will come after that.

        There will not be a blind rush into nuclear. The cost and schedule performance of the initial construction projects will be watched carefully; and if significant issues develop, these will be resolved before other new projects proceed.

        Many lessons were learned in the 1980s as to how to keep nuclear construction projects on cost and on schedule, and I have every expectation these lessons will be applied as new construction moves forward.

  59. Posted May 13, 2010 at 4:51 PM | Permalink

    Chris Huhne, the UK’s new energy secretary, has opened the door to nuclear, regulatory costs permitting and with no government help, the BBC is reporting. The news about policy agreement and cabinet positions was dripping out all afternoon yesterday to ensure that all of us at Policy Exchange were lacking in some area: thus I told Benny Peiser that Huhne was the choice for Energy and he told me some of the stuff about carbon reduction. We were all in the dark in some area though the atmosphere was electric. Yep, the puns come that easily. Roger Pielke made the essential joke at the beginning that Gwyn Prins had said “Let’s do it a week after the election, when all the fuss has died down.” Yeah, right. For me, such demonstration of our inability to predict the future is always good. Let’s hope we all learned from it.

    • EdeF
      Posted May 13, 2010 at 9:15 PM | Permalink

      From reading the Telegraph I get the impression that the Lib-Dems are not as enthusiastic about replacing the nuclear power infrastructure in the UK as the Tories. Having a Lib-Dem Energy Secretary seems to be a new hurdle for nuclear to overcome. Does the new secretary have to carry out Conservative energy policies?

      • Posted May 14, 2010 at 2:21 AM | Permalink

        We don’t have a clue – not been this way since Winston set up shop in 1940, the day that Hitler brilliantly invaded France through the Ardennes, taking our and the French troops totally by surprise. Plans had to change pretty quickly in that case. John Lukacs is good on what happened next. I’m praying for more of the same. The interventions of Pielke Jnr and McIntyre are well-timed indeed.

      • Posted May 15, 2010 at 2:16 PM | Permalink

        Nobody knows in any detail, though he’s obviously constrained by the majority coalition partner. But just now I decided it was time to add an item for Chris Huhne to my personal wiki. (A tiddler, not a page, as I’m using my own variant of the gorgeous TiddlyWiki from Jeremy Ruston and his open source team at BT in London – highly recommended.) A quick check on existing references and – of course, Huhne was part of the Westminster arm of GLOBE, alongside old friends like Lord Oxburgh, disgraced Labour high-flyer Stephen Byers and my old school chum Barry Gardiner. They only felt the need for three Lib Dems and the senior of those now gets Energy and Climate Change. I merely point out the fact, not wishing to imply anything untoward, needless to say.

  60. Posted May 13, 2010 at 5:00 PM | Permalink

    Energy from Uranium
    Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen, July 2006

    Worth a read

    • Posted May 13, 2010 at 5:04 PM | Permalink

      Nuclear power the energy balance

      Ps when will it be possible to include more than one link in a post without it getting consigned to the spam bin?

      Steve: Don’t know how. But your reference is pretty close to spam – this is a sort of engineering calculation – and, as an engineering calculation, this “report” is embarrassing. Assumptions and calculations seem to materialize out of thin air. The conclusions don’t make sense to me, but I don’t have time or inclination to dissect it. If you’re really interested in the topic, why don’t you see if you can replicate the calculations from actual data and report back.

      • EdeF
        Posted May 14, 2010 at 10:57 AM | Permalink

        This is more a diatribe than an engineering analysis.

    • Tim
      Posted May 13, 2010 at 5:30 PM | Permalink

      An interesting analysis. I am willing to bet that a similar analyses done on wind and solar that includes the mining of metals required to make the equipment would so that they are much worse than nuclear. In fact, I doubt they even produce more energy than they consume once all life cycle costs are considered (i.e. the need for gas powered backup plants).

      • thefordprefect
        Posted May 14, 2010 at 6:17 AM | Permalink

        The first reference is a sort of glossy rendering of the second reference I gave:
        check out these pages:

        I have to admit I have not rigorously checked the derivation. But it looke as if the authors reference many nuclear industry documents and provided the full derivation of equations used.

        Are you criticising the glossy or the second referencI gave?

        Steve: The whole thing doesn’t make sense from a mining point of view. In a very quick browse, I don’t get the idea that the authors know anything about mining. As a ball park, mining costs are about 1/3 energy; 1/3 labor and 1/3 equipment maintenance and depreciation and say there’s a 30% operating profit. I vaguely recall numbers that the operating fuel costs of nuclear were about 15% of natural gas. I don’t swear to this and if the number is twice this, it doesn’t matter for the back of this envelope. So the “operating energy cost” of nuclear is about 1/3 of 15% or 5% of natural gas. Of the energy used in a mine, a very large proportion (for the sake of argument, let’s say 75% but it might be higher) are contributed by milling and crushing costs, ventilation costs and pumping costs – all of which are electrically powered and, if the mine uses nuclear electricity, would not themselves, contribute CO2. You could probably operate some mines nearly all with electricity. So the operating CO2 budget of the mine would be a negligible fraction of burning natural gas. If some guy’s calculation is getting to 100% equivalency, there’s something wrong with the calculation somewhere.

        • tty
          Posted May 14, 2010 at 4:29 PM | Permalink

          The Kiruna iron mine in Sweden is already very nearly all-electric powered:

        • Posted May 14, 2010 at 9:41 PM | Permalink

          Powerstations require water. Water is not always available at site. Most are isolated and so there would be little need for local power.

          Uranium is usually open cast.

          Yellow cake (unsuitable for fuel until further refined) is 0.1% of mined material – coal/oil/gas require little further processing

          A bit more process is here

        • Geoff Sherrington
          Posted May 14, 2010 at 11:51 PM | Permalink


          If your worry is about CO2 reduction, take the time to study this paper:

          Click to access peter-lang-wind-power.pdf

          It’s for the relatively simple case of the main electrical grid of Australia, which has no nukes yet.

          A significant conclusion from the paper is –

          “The cost to avoid 1 tonne of CO2-e per MWh is $830 to $1149 with wind
          power compared with $22 with nuclear power. If the emissions and cost of back up
          generation are ignored then wind power avoids about 0.5 t CO2-e/MWh at a cost of
          about $134/t CO2-e avoided. Even if the costs of and emissions from back up
          generation are ignored, wind is still over six time more costly than nuclear as a way to
          avoid emissions.”

          This finding is essentially similar to a major British study referenced.

      • thefordprefect
        Posted May 14, 2010 at 6:46 AM | Permalink

        Tim Posted May 13, 2010 at 5:30 PM
        I doubt they even produce more energy than they consume once all life cycle costs are considered (i.e. the need for gas powered backup plants).

        Any figures to back this statement up?

        Remember – when a wind turbine is wiped out it reduces the generated power by at most 6MW take out a nuclear and you remove perhaps 1GW.

        The system must be able to cope with both eventualities very quickly (minutes or less for large losses or the system starts to shut down) This means there must be spinning reserve for the biggest single loss and that would be nuclear. In the UK May 2008, National Grid was forced to perform a protective shutdown of parts of the network due to a sudden loss of generating capacity. Two of Britain’s largest power stations, Sizewell B in Suffolk and Longannet in Fife, shut down unexpectedly, resulting in a 1,510 megawatt shortfall in supply.

        From Wiki
        pumped storage schemes at Dinorwig and Ffestiniog can offer up to 2 GW of power within 15 seconds. (Incidentally, at the time Dinorwig was built, which was solely to cope with the inflexibility of nuclear power and the inherent unreliability/indeterminacy of large power stations, a further similar station was planned on Exmoor but was never built, so presumably it could still be built if the need arose.)
        These rapid response systms are backed up with worm start generation 20 minute response cold start (hours) mothballed(days) generation.
        So what is easiest to cope with in a transmission system?

        • thefordprefect
          Posted May 14, 2010 at 7:01 AM | Permalink

          The May 2008 National grid Tripout:

          Click to access 27_May_2008Event_final.pdf

        • Tom Gray
          Posted May 14, 2010 at 7:41 AM | Permalink

          Remember – when a wind turbine is wiped out it reduces the generated power by at most 6MW take out a nuclear and you remove perhaps 1GW.

          A couple of real questions:

          a) what are the relative probabilities of these two events?

          b) Also recall that when the wind in an area falls, there will be far more than one wind turbine taken out of service. How does that affect your calculations?

          There is a wind installation on an island in Lake Ontario near my home town with quite a number to turbines. At any one time a number of these turbines are out of service for some reason. In any event they are not spinning. So the probability that an individual turbine will fail or be otherwise out of service must be quite high. So with the variability of the wind and the failure or planned service rate of teh turbines, what level of backup is required?

        • Posted May 14, 2010 at 9:46 AM | Permalink

          Wind does not suddenly cut out, If you assume grouped turbines but spread out over a country then as some loose wind others will still be in full strenght until the calm travels across the country to them. This allows time to get the warm reserve powered. Wind can also be forecast!!!.

          In my view there MUST be sufficient base load providers to cover the total energy requirements There are many days of calm at times that heating is required. But renewables are simply a means to preserve fuel for future generations (and of course to cut down pollution)

          It should also be understood that nuclear and fossil fuels do not have load factors of 100%. In the outage I referenced above most of the Longannet turbines were being serviced or broken leaving a mere 350MW generating. I have seen reports of 70% or less load factors but these are from wind energy sites. Wind in the UK is about 25-30%.

          When Storage of excess electricity is possible then wind will be ideal .

        • WillR
          Posted May 14, 2010 at 10:25 AM | Permalink

          Re: thefordprefect (May 14 09:46), Ford Prefect: Yes more research is needed, but mostly on your part. Most of what you raise has been studied. I refer you to the Tom Adams Energy Web Site.

          At least in Ontario Canada he has looked at the correlation of Wind Turbine sites. The degree of correlation in many areas of the world might surprise you. If you then look at the cost of transmission across a dispersed grid the cost of distribution could outweigh the cost of generation in some circumstances.

          This effect can be seen in the paper I referenced elsewhere — if you take some time to understand the graphs. I won’t bother with the link as that usually puts a post in the bin these days, but do use a search engine. The first few articles could answer some of your questions.

        • Dave Dardinger
          Posted May 14, 2010 at 11:16 AM | Permalink

          Re: thefordprefect (May 14 09:46),

          It should also be understood that nuclear and fossil fuels do not have load factors of 100%.

          Except that it needs to be understood that almost all the outages for nuclear and fossil fuels are planned outages. I used to work for a company that provided services (heat treating and machining) during such outages. They were planned far in advance and took care not to plan them during times of peak demand (AC in summer or heating in winter). So most of our work happened in the spring and fall. This isn’t the case, by and large, for wind turbines.

        • harrywr2
          Posted May 14, 2010 at 12:45 PM | Permalink

          The fundamental problem of wind is that it tends not to blow when demand is greatest.

          I’ve lived quite a few places, the wind doesn’t blow much when the temps get above 90 degrees F or below 0 degrees F.

          Pumped storage is a great idea. Unfortunately one needs to get a land use permit to flood a large area. Good luck with that.

          In Washington State the hydro-power companies employ a small army of lawyers just to defend against an endless parade of cases where this or that species of insect or fish is endangered as a result of the 60 year old hydro-dams.

        • tty
          Posted May 14, 2010 at 4:38 PM | Permalink

          Unfortunately not true. Windpower production is wildly unstable even when averaged over very large areas. Have a look at real world data from about 1000 windmills in Sweden (450 000 square kilometers, ranging over more than 10 degrees of latitude):

          click “översikt” to see the last 30 days production (running at 4% of nominal at the moment)

        • normrubin
          Posted May 15, 2010 at 2:28 AM | Permalink

          “In my view there MUST be sufficient base load providers to cover the total energy requirements There are many days of calm at times that heating is required. But renewables are simply a means to preserve fuel for future generations (and of course to cut down pollution)”

          I agree with your characterization of wind as primarily a “fuel saver” in a system that gets reliability from coal or gas. Unfortunately, you have the terminology EXACTLY BACKWARDS when you use the (oft-misused) term “Baseload”. The term — which technically refers to the units that are dispatched first (at the base of the “pyramid”) onto the grid — applies to the “take or pay” sources like wind and nuclear, and NOT to the dispatchable sources like coal and gas that stand by when the wind blows and rush in when it doesn’t. The correct term for such flexible, dispatchable, and reliable units is PEAKING, the very opposite end of the spectrum from BASELOAD.

          Mind you, in places with a modern marketplace for electricity, that market has largely supplanted the centrally-planned grid-design that used baseload and peaking units as palette colors on a huge planned grid. Each unit gets paid roughly what its contribution is worth to the grid — including NEGATIVE payments for nuclear power and for wind, except where government “freebies” like special feed-in-tarrifs shield some units from this harsh reality.

          And your notion that ALL renewables are unreliable “fuel savers” is also wrong. Peaking hydroelectricity (with dams that can store excess water, and oversized turbines and generators that can use it faster than the river provides it) can do a marvelous job of adding reliability to a grid, and it’s renewable. Biomass ditto.

          Even solar electricity, while technically baseload, has a generation profile in time that matches the demand of our increasingly Air-Conditioning-peaking grids far better than wind or nuclear or baseload hydroelectric. That’s why it doesn’t need protection from those crazy times when the market price of electricity goes below zero — and nobody should get protection from those times!

        • cgh
          Posted May 17, 2010 at 8:46 PM | Permalink

          Ah Norm, of course renewables are inefficient. That’s why they were abandoned centuries ago. Or haven’t you been keeping up with EOn’s performance reports of their wind fleets and their diminishing system production as the proportion of wind rises on the system?

          Fact is, as a 30-year professional agitator for Energy Probe, your only agenda is bashing nuclear. Now let’s see, how many public hearings has it been that your advice has been soundly rejected? ONSR? Seaborn? Energy Probe vs. Regina 1994? The list gets too long to remember them all. The simple fact is the world doesn’t need tired old hippies foisting their nuclear paranoia on it. Like Amory Lovins and the rest of the soft power crowd, you’re obsolete. Does it never occur to you what a curious coincidence it is that every other large industrializing nation in the world today that when they want to add kilowatt-hours in huge quantities, like China, like India, like Brazil, they are turning to nuclear power.

          But no, Norm Rubin of Energy Probe knows far more about the supposed hazards of nuclear power than tens or hundreds of thousands of others, most of whom have studied the problems from a far greater depth of scientific and technical understanding. I pity you, Norm. It doesn’t matter what we do in Canada. China and India and soon Brazil are turning to nuclear power in a gigantic way.

          And you, why there’s not a single thing you can do about it.

          You lost, just like you’ve lost all the previous encounters.

        • Geoff Sherrington
          Posted May 15, 2010 at 4:08 AM | Permalink

          Tom Gray

          Let’s dispel this myth about wind turbines not spinning.

          When an operational turbine generates power, it does so at the expense of slowing down the rotation of the blades. The more power you draw from the windmill, the slower it goes, until, at the limit, the blades are not turning at all but the generator is putting out an immense amount of grunt. A windmill that is spinning really fast is not exercising its generator and is just there for show. Example, a car engine red lining in first gear, but not travelling fast over the ground.

          Or so I was told by an expert environmentalist.

        • JamesG
          Posted May 15, 2010 at 5:35 AM | Permalink

          Very interesting Geoff. Funny how often the perception is opposite to the reality.

        • Posted May 15, 2010 at 7:59 AM | Permalink

          Geoff Sherrington Posted May 15,

          The are 2 main (only?) types of turbine.
          1. Synchronous machines that have to rotate at fixed speeds to create 60/50Hz waveforms to couple into the grid. Once phase synchronous to the grid coupled power is supplied. These machines require gearboxes and the blades in a farm all rotate together.

          2. non sychronous generator creating DC (through rectification usually) is coupled into an electronic circuit that creates the required grid synchronous frequency (The turbines by enercon do not contain gearboxes – a useful life extender!):

          Click to access Netzintegration_Windpark_eng.pdf

          Even when synchronised in this type the rotor speed is not fixed. It is allowed to rotate at a speed that generates optimum wind power converion.

          When the wind speed reaches maximum for rated power then the blades are progressively feathered to maintain this power. At this point all turbines in a farm may appear to have the same rotational speed.

          A broken turbine is feathered and brakes are locked to stop rotation

          A synchronous type turbine running fast or slow is broken and not grid connected

          An electronic grid connection allows a variable rotational rate but still has to be speed limited.

          If you read the Enercon info you will see that the electronics actually allows the turbine to do usful (to the grid) work when a grid fault occurs

        • WillR
          Posted May 15, 2010 at 8:18 AM | Permalink

          Re: Thefordprefect (May 15 07:59), And despite all the verbiage the data still shows that Wind Farms produce little power, are inefficient and require additional grids and control mechanisms which are expensive to install and difficult to manage. Please read the paper at the link I provided as that is real data from Ontario Wind Turbines. The data sources are provided. Feel free to prove other results. You can download the results to a spreadsheet and prove for yourself that the graphs and figures are correct and accurate. The paper will also teach you how to read a load graph which should help your understanding greatly.

          Also view the Tom Adams Energy site for another independent view that confirms the problems with Wind Turbines.

          Don’t believe every marketing brochure that you read.

        • thefordprefect
          Posted May 15, 2010 at 12:22 PM | Permalink

          Figures for the UK to 2009

          Click to access ref%20reds%20wind%201109.pdf

          Wind does not have to enable decomissioning of ossil power plants – all it has to do is reduce the power requirements from these sources.

          Instead of charging batteries/generating hydrogen every watt saved is 3+watt equivalents of fossil fuel saved to allow future generations to have simple energy.

        • WillR
          Posted May 15, 2010 at 12:53 PM | Permalink

          Re: thefordprefect (May 15 12:22), Clearly you don’t have a lot of education in electrical engineering and control systems and I don’t feel it’s my task to improve your knowledge. It requires a large time investment. I believe that your link proved my point.

          Further your comment:

          If you read the Enercon info you will see that the electronics actually allows the turbine to do useful (to the grid) work when a grid fault occurs

          Shows that you really did not understand the brochure. Their control circuitry contains fault protection mechanisms that safely shut down the system and prevent turbine burnout and line burnout — this is true. This is simply a requirement of a good control system. It’s not an admirable feature — simply a requirement. The rest of your points are simply about features. They do not address the value — or lack thereof of wind power.

          Gearboxes — or not — simply represent another design trade-off. Whether this would be useful would be site-specific and in some conditions might decrease the useful life or the efficacy of the local grid. I could not tell you whether this was desirable without examining a specific proposal.

          I don’t think you have the education or the skills to determine whether or not what you are reading and considering represents any particular value. Perhaps your attention would best be directed elsewhere.

        • Posted May 16, 2010 at 9:04 AM | Permalink

          WillR Posted May 15,
          Blimey! Why the insults!
          You say: Their control circuitry contains fault protection mechanisms that safely shut down the system and prevent turbine burnout and line burnout
          You are totally wrong about enercon and fault conditions.
          “No matter what type of short circuit occurs, ENERCON wind turbines can ‘ride through’ faults for several seconds, even if they were operating at rated power before the fault.”

          The ride through can be:
          .Zero Power Mode – Fault ride-through without any current injection (as you claim)
          .Constant ratio P/Q
          .Mainly reactive power in case of fault
          .Only active power in case of fault

          See page 6 – there are even diagrams illustrating the options.

          The control system is electronic therefore flexible.

          Gear boxes are one of the more unreliable aspects of older turbines (insufficient rating?). A single shaft with no gears MUST be more reliable The loads on this must be the same as on the gearbox version, but there are no lossy gears between the power input and output.

          I do not try to post all positive points – just what I have discovered. The REF site reports the output from all “windmills” individually but averaged the UK is about 28%+ load factor. The site is not particulary wind friendly!

          Page 6 – gear box.


        • MrPete
          Posted May 15, 2010 at 8:08 AM | Permalink

          Re: Geoff Sherrington (May 15 04:08),
          Well… not exactly.

          If it is not turning at all, it is not generating any power.

          The motion of the blades turns the generator and creates power.

          Power (kW) = Torque (N.m) x Speed (RPM) / 9.5488
          Power (HP) = Torque ( x Speed (RPM) / 63,025

          You can use gears to change the torque/speed ratio, but it all comes down to both torque AND speed.

          If the blades of a windmill aren’t turning, I guarantee it is not generating any power.

        • EdeF
          Posted May 15, 2010 at 9:35 AM | Permalink

          Power goes up as the square of the windspeed.

        • Tom Gray
          Posted May 15, 2010 at 11:55 AM | Permalink

          Or so I was told by an expert environmentalist

          I see the irony in your posting. I see that McIntyre is not the only one to fail see the truths revealed by experimental science in general and climate science in particular. 19th centurey scientists such as Gauss, Faraday and Maxwell tried hard but they did not have eh advnatage of understanding late 20th century environmental science.

        • Geoff Sherrington
          Posted May 18, 2010 at 12:39 AM | Permalink

          Mr Pete & Tom Gray, the CA rules do not exclude a little fun. Of course I know the workings of windmills and generators. I was interested in the quality of responses to a silly pice of locic and I was not disappointed.

          Tom, you are right that I do not have the advantage of understanding late 20th century environment science. Indeed, I doubt if it is understood by most of its main authors. Read the Wegman report again. If you set up a club and use the name “science” for it, you have to do worthy science or you get black balled. I can name about half a dozen such movements in my working life, where hindsight has shown disbelief and scepticism to be the better approaches. One trouble is that some earlier people who wrote on topics like the Club of Rome fairy stories have reappeared in different costume to champion another set of “apocalyptic data” to frighten small children.

        • Tim
          Posted May 15, 2010 at 1:47 AM | Permalink


          SolarPV require rare earths and produce a lot of toxic waste.

          Wind requires a large transmission grid which (as much as 10 times larger for the same energy). This requires the mining of steel and copper. There also access roads and other infrastructure that needs to be built.

          I have never heard of a report that actually takes these costs into account. So the real question is do you have any similar analyses that would allow an apples to apples comparison of nuclear to these other alternatives?

          If not the report you linked is interesting but not that relevant.

    • Willem Kernkamp
      Posted May 13, 2010 at 6:47 PM | Permalink

      Me thinks there is a job waiting for Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen at the IPCC.

    • WillR
      Posted May 13, 2010 at 7:29 PM | Permalink

      Re: thefordprefect (May 13 17:00), The there are studies on wind power (Watts with the Wind) that suggest it might not be the greatest thing since sliced bread.

      Right now nuclear power look like a much better bet — see the IESO web site for Power figures for Ontario. See what is providing reliable power. Alternative energy is a non-starter.

    • Charles Hart
      Posted May 14, 2010 at 1:09 AM | Permalink

      If correct, it seems to me you are making the case to switch to the thorium fuel cycle in a LFTR. With a LFTR one doesn’t need all the fuel preprocessing and the waste stream is more than 10,000 times less toxic.

  61. Posted May 14, 2010 at 1:35 AM | Permalink

    “outside publicly understood norms of science”

    I work outside the norms of science as well by using a blog to advance ideas.

    Taking potshots at windpower seems a bit misguided as you probably know nothing about the energy statistics of wind. Audit this:

    • Skip Smith
      Posted May 14, 2010 at 1:54 AM | Permalink

      So has your blog traffic improved since you started posting links to it in every Climate Audit thread?

    • Posted May 14, 2010 at 1:55 AM | Permalink

      I work outside the norms of science as well by using a blog to advance ideas.

      “I’m shocked, shocked I tell you to hear that blogging is going on in here.”

      Audit this: [URL]

      That’s even better. Haven’t read the defence of windpower – just got up, truth be known – but had to thank you for the immediate belly laugh. The new English usage, again bringing back the old movies: “Take that: [right to jaw]. And that: [left hook].”

      And like Clint, Steve stands impassive: “Go ahead, punk, make my day.”

      • Posted May 14, 2010 at 10:39 AM | Permalink

        I am glad you found it entertaining.

        I definitely think there is a paucity of good statistical analysis out there. I take the tact of applying more ideas from the field of probability, but gain some insight from what goes on here.

  62. P Solar
    Posted May 15, 2010 at 12:07 AM | Permalink


    Steve , much as I respect your usual critical and incisive reasoning , I think you are shooting from the hip here. It seems, as you state, that you have not checked out the policy options … or what lies behind them.

    India an Korea are most likely interested in the military use of nuclear more than energy options.

    China is building massive amounts of any source of energy production they can think of, like several large coal fired power stations _per week_ IIRC.

    One reason there is less nuclear building in the US is that it is not run by the state , as in France, or offered back-door subventions such as the out-going UK government promising to take on the cost of cleaning up any accidents, thereby freeing the industry from its requirement insure the uninsurable. If you take away the subsidies, it’s hard to justify it economically.

    If you want to see why european governments are so keen to get the world to commit to extreme, legally binding cuts in CO2 emissions and carbon trading, you may want to reflect on how this will affect the economics of “naughty, dirty” coal vs “clean, green” nuclear power generation.

    • Dave Dardinger
      Posted May 15, 2010 at 12:53 AM | Permalink

      Re: P Solar (May 15 00:07),

      freeing the industry from its requirement insure the uninsurable.

      So just were are the cases where nuclear plant owners weren’t able to settle claims against them? Why should they be forced to buy insurance in the first place? The whole purpose of a corporation is to free people to engage in business without having to worry about unlimited liability. Yes the company could lose everything. And yes a bank would want to have insurance in place to assure their loans would be repaid, but the fact is that from a safety standpoint, nuclear plants have been good risks. The west has never had the sort of plant which could produce a Chernobyl type accident. 3 Mile Island was disaster for its owners, but the radiation leakage wasn’t very dangerous, and given all the tests and research on the people in the area, I expect that more lives were saved from early detection of cancer than was lost to new cancers.

      • JamesG
        Posted May 15, 2010 at 5:48 AM | Permalink

        Up till now offshore oil was a good risk too. The acid test for nuclear is when any company invests with no government support. I thought these new Chinese Candu reactors, being ontime and underbudget were showing the way ahead, and at only 3 billion for the pair quite cheap too as well as being a great design and multifuel (Canadians be proud!). But then I discovered it was based on a %100 loan from the Canadian government. Will the Chinese risk their own money next time? We’ll see.

        My own little guideline is that when we see commercial nuclear container ships then that will be the moment when nuclear energy is commercially viable because these little pwrs are virtually turnkey. There have been attempts but they all failed due to ongoing operating costs (according to wikipedia anyway). If that’s true then we are being spun a yarn even about the supposedly cheap nuclear running costs too (ie quite apart from all other nuclear costs that advocates just ignore or push to the future).

    • Doug Badgero
      Posted May 15, 2010 at 7:51 AM | Permalink

      Why do we believe nuclear is un-insurable? The industry carries 10 billion in insurance each plant carrying 300 million with an obligation to cover up to 100 million apiece for an accident at another plant. The government would cover the costs being paid back by the plants over time. To date this system has paid about 150 million in total claims and legal expenses about half of that from TMI. It has cost the US taxpayer exactly nothing. As a nuclear plant operator for 25 years it is hard for me to imagine an accident at a US plant worse than TMI.

      These federally subsidized schemes exist for many other industries such as financial, agricultural, and maritime to name a few. Some of these other industries have cost taxpayers millions or billions (e.g. financial).

      • EdeF
        Posted May 15, 2010 at 9:27 AM | Permalink

        There is a giant disconnect between what people are afraid of and what really kills people. People feel that its unsafe to fly and yet commercial air travel is remarkably safe, whereas traveling by automobiles will do you in to the tune of about 50,000 a year in the states. Outside of Chernobyl, I don’t really recall any large scale nuclear accidents. Does anyone else? The only word to explain it is irrational fear. “The China Syndrome” didn’t help. I believe the CEO of one of the French NP companies has built a house to live in next door to one of his plants. Shows a bit of leadership. Bank bailouts have probably cost hundreds of billions of dollars. By far the largest gov’t subsidy of all, the grand-daddy of them all is the subsidy given to middle eastern oil over the last 70 years in the form of having to provide military protection to the region and to the international shipping lanes heading to Japan, Europe and N. America. We have now spent over a trillion dollars in stationing troops in the region, fighting wars, naval patrols, overseeing the no-fly zone over Iraq, etc. If the region did not have 50% of the world’s oil supply, I doubt we would be so interested. Can anyone say cost externalities. Outside of oil subsidies everything else looks like peanuts. Oil seems to be found in some of the nastiest places around. From a security point of view I would rather subsidize nuclear, hydro, solar, wind, conservation in my own back yard then to send money over to some thugocrats.

  63. Posted May 15, 2010 at 12:34 AM | Permalink

    I see nobody’s being snipped for discussing the drawbacks of nuclear energy, but for a truly balanced discussion of ‘lack of accomplishment of climate policy’ we would need to discuss the Senate Minority Report, which would certainly be snipped.

  64. JamesG
    Posted May 15, 2010 at 6:01 AM | Permalink

    Is there some reason why we aren’t considering using captured (and stored underground) compressed CO2 as back-up reservoir power? Seems that new compressed air car shows that compressed gas is as good as lead acid batteries and compressed air systems have been considered for that already. CO2 seems safer to me than air. Perhaps a good application for wind power? No point assuming that the CO2 capture won’t happen. The trick is to find a use for it.

    Of course another good use for wind power and captured CO2 is to create methane or methanol directly. There’s an interesting new article on that in by Lewis Page. Apparently though the crafty icelanders are doing that already as one commenter pointed out.

    • harrywr2
      Posted May 15, 2010 at 12:19 PM | Permalink

      Commercially available air compressors have an efficiency of 12%. I.E. It takes 8 KW input to compress enough air to produce 1 KW output. So a windmill would have to run 8 hours to compress enough air to last an hour.

      A 1,000 megawatt wind farm costs very roughly a billion dollars and will optimistically produce electric 1/3 of the time.

      To compress enough air to make up for the other 2/3’s of the time we would need we would need an additional 16,000 megawatts of windmill.

      The compressed air car that Tata motors was proclaiming as ‘commercially viable’ was quietly shelved.

      • JamesG
        Posted May 15, 2010 at 1:52 PM | Permalink

        Thanks Harry but you aren’t quite grasping the concept. It’s all about load-balancing, not total load. The wind often blows too much and that energy is normally unusable hence wasted. So storing this excess energy in the form of air compression is entirely free at those times. Denmark currently sends its excess to Swedish hydro plants.

        Also while the air car was not viable it appears it was just as good as a battery car, which of course is also not currently viable. But that doesn’t stop either technology being viable as energy backup. In fact lead acid batteries are commonly used for just that and nobody bothers to calculate whether it’s worth keeping those batteries because of course it is – the alternative is a blackout. If compressed air is as good then it’s perhaps a viable replacement. This has actually been studied by experts – it’s not off the top of my head.

        Also bear in mind that such backup would be nice to have even in a coal, oil or nuclear base load system because it might provide peak power and therefore avoid the use of the gas turbines which are currently used at peak periods.

        • Greg F
          Posted May 15, 2010 at 2:11 PM | Permalink

          The wind often blows too much and that energy is normally unusable hence wasted. So storing this excess energy in the form of air compression is entirely free at those times.

          Adding another level of complexity in the form of compressed air, batteries, or whatever is not FREE. What your going to end up with is a very expensive Rube Goldberg machine.

        • JamesG
          Posted May 15, 2010 at 2:29 PM | Permalink

          You do realize the complexity of nuclear power plants don’t you? Coal plants are also ridiculously complex. We also currently have complex gas turbine backup for peak periods as well as that existing battery backup.

          Base load power generation is meant for contant loading but the demand requires flexibilty, hence load balancing is something of a predictive art, eg you need to know what’s on TV on a given day because commercial breaks cause a sudden spike in demand. A decent coordinated backup system could actually simplify things.

        • Greg F
          Posted May 15, 2010 at 4:04 PM | Permalink


          A Rube Goldberg machine is a complex machine made of simple parts connected in a complex way to perform a simple task. Whenever wind power is discussed it seems the objections due to its limitations are always met with Rube Goldberg type solutions.

          Demand relative to wind is far more predictable as can be seen in the following:
          Ontario Hourly Wind Generation
          Ontario Hourly Demand

        • harrywr2
          Posted May 15, 2010 at 6:44 PM | Permalink


          “The wind often blows too much and that energy is normally unusable hence wasted.”

          It’s wasted because if you attempted to use the wind the blades on the windmill would snap off. Windmill blades have a ‘maximum strength’, once the wind is blowing too hard you can feather them or snap them off.

        • JamesG
          Posted May 16, 2010 at 12:42 PM | Permalink

          I’m not that daft Harry. This link explains it better; the otherwise unusable excess energy is sent to Sweden’s grid where load balancing is done via the hydro-electric network.

          To rerepeat the point, while wind power is highly variable, so is power demand so every system can benefit from better load balancing. The current fossil-fuel/nuclear base load system is far from perfect and a lot of energy is just plain wasted – especially by running base load power at night time. However you might read the first link I posted which shows another potential use for wind power.

        • harrywr2
          Posted May 16, 2010 at 4:41 PM | Permalink

          A nice summary of the ‘challenges’ of wind power by the Bonneville Power Authority.

          The Bonneville Power Administration can manage 6,400 megawatt watts of ‘load balancing’ using their existing hydro capacity. They are already providing 2,800 megawatts of load balancing for wind.

          Click to access Mainzer_BPA_FinalTestimonyforSenate121009.pdf

          I’ll be the first to concede that ‘some’ wind power can successfully be integrated into the power grid in some locations.

          The largest demand for electricity is in the South Eastern US, they have no hydro and they have no usable wind resource.

          A study was done on the cost of the transmission system requirements if one wanted to achieve 20% wind power in the US. $60 billion in new high voltage transmission systems to move the wind energy from where there is good wind to places people actually live.

          Then one has to start adding in the transmission losses. If we spend $60 billion on a transmission system , we still lose 2 or 3%/hundred miles in transmission losses. 1,500 miles from South Dakota that has good wind to South Carolina that has no wind. 30-45% in transmission losses

          250 Miles from the Swedish Wind Farm in Malmo to Hamburg Germany. 5-7% in transmission losses.

          Click to access EnablerforCleanEnergy.pdf

        • JamesG
          Posted May 16, 2010 at 5:48 PM | Permalink

          Point taken but 50% of Americans live by the coast. Keep your eye on Cape Wind – Oddly the Nimby’s and phony environmentalists are actually the biggest challenge.

        • QBeamus
          Posted May 17, 2010 at 3:09 PM | Permalink

          The NIMBYs and the BANANAs?

          Interesting stuff on the compressed gas storage. 12% return is WAY more than I would have expected. And my guess is that, if we seriously turn our attention to this as a strategy for rebalancing we’ll engineer that figure up at least 50-100%. (Look what’s happened to battery engineering in the past 15 years.)

          Yeah, I’m confident you’re right–the most serious obstacle are the neo-ludites. Any time any kind of energy source looks likely to provide enough energy to relieve the “crisis” you can bet your sweet bippy some environmental issues will be discovered.

  65. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted May 15, 2010 at 10:34 PM | Permalink

    As one who has lectured by invitation at several international conferences on ornamental horticulture, I take some difference with the Hartwell paper’s use of the work of landscaper Capability Brown as an example of a tactical approach.

    Capability Brown was noted for his clever placement of large trees, trees that did not reach full magnificence in his lifetime. His fame grew posthumously. There were other landscapers competing with him, but it took decades before the respective works could be compared in maturity, often in favour of Brown.

    Brown’s personality or conduct caused clients to refer him to affluent others needing landcaping. Thus, he had a “political/marketing” function as well as a “technical/botanical” function. The first function was integral to his success, which would not have arisen if he had made merely one or two large gardens. The second function became appreciated later.

    The authors of the Hartwell letter are promoting thir efforts in the political/marketing sense rather than in the technical/climate change sense. As with Brown, they have little idea if their plan will succeed in competition with others, within their lifetimes.

    The Hartwell plan is based on many residual uncertainties of knowledge. It starts too far down the path of assumption of correct knowledge, whether that path is straight or seductively curved.

    It would be more sensible to step back further, to separate what is known from what is thought to be known, with the humility to recognise that which is not yet known to be unknown – which might be large. This is named a “back to grass roots” approach.

    More succinctly, too little solid knowledge exists to allow planning of the nature described in the Hartwell paper. If massive concerns exist, then massive effort is needed to improve their knowledge. It comes from measurement and observation and replication and review, not from imagination.

    This was essentialy the first theme that Steve McIntyre highlighted when starting Climate Audit, that and open documentation. Now, as then, it needs to be better addressed.

  66. Posted May 16, 2010 at 2:56 AM | Permalink

    OT: Hi Steve!
    Im writing an article on the temperature decline 1940-75, and i have not had succes in retrieving Raobcore NH 1958-2010 data. This data appears locked away rather effectively.
    Does these exist or perhaps just a 20N – 90 N or the like?
    Im sorry to ask you to use time but it would be very appreciated, and who knows, useful 🙂
    K.R. Frank

  67. Bob Koss
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 8:20 AM | Permalink

    This data from the Bonneville Power Administration in the NW US is a stunning example of the unreliability of wind power. 59% greater wind capacity resulted in 29% less power generated.

    WINTER 2008-09 (DEC-FEB)WINTER___2009-10 (DEC-FEB)_______DIFFERENCE
    Avg Wind Capacity: 1695__________Avg Wind Capacity: 2692___+59%
    Avg Actual Wind Gen: 403_________Avg Actual Wind Gen: 286__-29%
    Avg Wind Capacity Factor: 24%____Avg Wind Capacity Factor:_11%

    The data comes from link 15 on this page. Other data and graphs are available on the page.

  68. Posted May 16, 2010 at 10:10 AM | Permalink

    Please add http:// to these references
    Energy sources compared:

    A survey of world fuel resources and their impact on the development of wind energy

    • WillR
      Posted May 16, 2010 at 11:14 AM | Permalink

      Re: Thefordprefect (May 16 10:10), It appears to be a marketing brochure for these guys.

      WHO ARE WE?
      RES is one of the world’s leading renewable energy developers

      RES is one of the world’s leading renewable energy developers working across the globe to develop, construct and operate projects that contribute to our goal of a sustainable future.

      In the quarter of a century since RES was formed, we have played a central role in the development of the global renewable energy market and we have helped to move the sustainable energy debate from the margin to the mainstream.

      We have a portfolio of low-carbon energy technologies and a range of services which together can meet demand from the industrial, public and commercial sectors on whatever scale.

      Not sure how it adds to the discussion.

  69. Posted May 16, 2010 at 6:48 PM | Permalink

    O/T but thought readers might be interested in knowing that at 8:05 p.m. CDT, Steve is scheduled to be the 2nd Keynote Speaker at the Chicago Conference – and that the proceedings are being streamed live by PJTV:

    • Geoff Sherrington
      Posted May 16, 2010 at 9:41 PM | Permalink

      And Steve did a good job, an unemotional, calm, scientific dissection of some strange events in the science of others.

      Although Steve criticises the ‘hockey stick’ and ‘hide the decline’ style of work, has anyone seen a serious counter-argument showing his conclusions are wrong? I have not.

    • EdeF
      Posted May 19, 2010 at 12:50 PM | Permalink

      I had the day off yesterday while the cabinet guys were installing a new kitchen, so I had time to check out several of the videos from the Climate Conference, including Steve’s, Pat Michaels’s, Richard Lindzen’s and Roy Spencer’s. For some reason I could only see the first 21 minutes of Steve’s video, don’t know what was going on there. Nice to see he got a standing O at the beginning of his talk. As someone who has been on the site for awhile my impression was that it was a classical Steve M performance, competent, clear, calm, just laying out the facts. Hopefully I will be able to see the last 19 minutes some time. My home computer is kind of slow, so when I was watching Pat Michael’s talk, it kept pausing, and let me tell you, Pat can make some funny mugs! I was cracking up. Enjoyed his talk very much also.

  70. Norm Rhett
    Posted May 17, 2010 at 1:43 AM | Permalink

    You might recall news of an “Ice Man” found in a melting alpine glacier in 1991. The body had been frozen there for 5300 years. I can think of no climate influence other than anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions that coincides so precisely with that temperature history. Any ideas?

    • Geoff Sherrington
      Posted May 17, 2010 at 4:19 AM | Permalink

      Yes, the body had existed for 5,300 years encased in ice, just below the surface. Then along came the hockey stick and bingo!

      Of course, the ice might have grown a lot thicker for half the intervening 5,300 years, then thinned in the other half, or even slid down the mountain a bit, or had an asphalt road made beside it when they installed a weather station, but like you, I can think of no other mechanism ……. Why I can’t even think how it became so cool so soon after his death that he was completely encased in ice. As if he fell into a lake that then froze and stayed extra cold for 5,300 minus the last 50 years.

      • Norm Rhett
        Posted May 17, 2010 at 2:08 PM | Permalink

        Glaciers are formed by compaction of snow. He fell in a shallow depression, probably during or shortly before a snowstorm. For reasons we might never know, the weather became cold enough to form the glacier that flowed over the site. A modern photo shows no sign of the glacier. I have presented this evidence to many audiences. So far only AGW accounts for it. Why do deniers persist in arguing for other causes?

        • Brian B
          Posted May 17, 2010 at 2:38 PM | Permalink

          –For reasons we might never know, the weather became cold enough to form the glacier that flowed over the site.–

          Since AGW seems to be without doubt the cause of his recent exposure, because you can think of no other cause, the reason the weather became so cold will also no doubt be revealed once you do think of one.
          While you’re at it see if you can think of a reason why it was apparently so warm before it got so cold.

        • Dave Andrews
          Posted May 17, 2010 at 2:44 PM | Permalink

          Isn’t there some evidence that he was murdered? He could have then been thrown down a crevasse. As glaciers flow he would eventually end up some considerable distance from where he died. The position in which he was found would bear no relation to that where he died.

        • Anton
          Posted May 17, 2010 at 5:03 PM | Permalink

          With such argument, my dear Norm Rhett, it is true that “deniers” are dead… science too.
          Somebody told me that glaciers are supposed to … move…another lie from skeptical camp ?
          Coming back from Egypt I learnt that the country was, 8 thousand years ago, as cool as continental Europe can be today. Do we have to assess that the current desert climate is a perfect example of AGW linked to pyramids building CO2 emissions ?

          Coming back to a more serious discussion I would like, if he minds, to ask one thing to Geoff Sherrington about what he said above :

          “Although Steve criticises the ‘hockey stick’ and ‘hide the decline’ style of work, has anyone seen a serious counter-argument showing his conclusions are wrong? I have not.”

          Having a maths/stats background I totally (and humbly) understand and subscribe to the different criticisms Steve revealed on several major IPCC contributions.
          What I don’t understand it is why we still find “hockey stick”-like publications among the most serious reviews ? There is not a day without “XXth century exponential temperature increase”, “Medieval Optimum was a local phenomenom”, “my dear friends the trees told me….”….
          Does it mean that the global scientist community use the same “smoothed data” ? That there is not staths specialist to control ? They use the same blind and stupid staths tools ?
          I know that climate science has a serious problem with noisy data series and seems happy with low correlation models…. but is it as simple (stupid) as that ?

        • Geoff Sherrington
          Posted May 18, 2010 at 12:19 AM | Permalink


          To my understanding, anthropogenic global warming becomes a viable concept only if one can show it is now warmer than at some past time plausibly unaffected by man. So, there is effort to jiggle the past observational record to show that historic accounts like the Medieval Warming Period were either not really warm or just isolated happenings. Hence the shaft of the hockey stick is made smooth and horizontal and the blade shows a dramatic upturn. Seemingly endless argument ensues because this could be a killer argument if won, one way or another.

          In pre-thermometer times, we resort to proxies; so much examination goes into examination of the realism of any particular proxy. In post-thermometer times, measured temperatures are used to calibrate the early proxy projections. This places pressure on the need to have an accurate temperature record, so there was much dismay as “outsiders” discerned that all might not be correct or supportable. Not only did the thermometer data start to fall apart under examination, but the proxy calibration started to fall apart as well (e.g. many tree rings since 1950 have diverged from their pure path, so have to be “fixed” by the “hide the decline” and “Mike’s trick” etc).

          One does not have to express a particular position on global warming to do a dispassionate examination of the evidence, as the bulk of the Climate Audit contributors do. One gains an impression that many CA contributors cannot make enough sense out of past work to draw any solid conclusion.

    • Keith Herbert
      Posted May 17, 2010 at 8:13 PM | Permalink

      Surely Steve Mc is on vacation for that comment to have persisted!

      I had a hundred snippable responses but Doug’s reasoned approach dissuaded me.

      I felt nauseous the night before the recent stock collapse. Prove my illness wasn’t the cause.

      Okay, where are those scissors?

    • Greg F
      Posted May 17, 2010 at 8:53 PM | Permalink

      I can think of no climate influence other than anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions that coincides so precisely with that temperature history. Any ideas?

      Yea. Start with this.

      Thus, the Iceman reveals that at about 5300–5050 cal yr B.P., a rapid climatic change took place, producing a persistent snow cover on previously deglaciated areas; this can only have been caused by a newly established regime of positive mass balance with a sudden and persistent lowering of the equilibrium-line altitude. This deterioration in climate marks the beginning of Neoglaciation (sensu Porter and Denton, 1967) in the Alps, which induced a glacier expansion, as is well documented at Rutor Glacier where the front advanced after 5740–5605 cal yr B.P. (UZ 2790).

      From the same paper you will read the glacier has been receding for over 100 years well before AGW would have been an issue. The paper was written in 1995. FYI, he died from an arrow wound to his back.

  71. Posted May 17, 2010 at 1:55 AM | Permalink

    Me too, as I said right away on Bishop Hill.

  72. Norm Rhett
    Posted May 17, 2010 at 3:34 PM | Permalink

    Brian, aren’t you just dodging the question? AGW only needs to explain the present. It and nothing else does.

    Dave, a “river of ice” would have shredded a human body. Only rounded pebbles make it to the bottom.

    • Tom Gray
      Posted May 17, 2010 at 4:03 PM | Permalink

      Glaciers have been retreating since at least the 19th century. The IPCC indicates that AGW accounts for the warming post-1950.So natural causes have been ascribed to the retreat prior to that date.

      So AGW is not the only reason that can be adduced for this.

      • Tom Gray
        Posted May 17, 2010 at 4:06 PM | Permalink

        The above illustrates why Steve McIntyre prohibits one paragraph explanations of why AGW theory is false. One paragraph explanations of why AGW theory is correct are just as specious.

        • Tom Gray
          Posted May 17, 2010 at 4:13 PM | Permalink

          And, as well, mummies have been found in the Andes that have been preserved naturally because of the cold dry air. There is no need for a glacier in their creation.

          As indicated above, glaciers may act to destroy mummies.

      • Norm Rhett
        Posted May 17, 2010 at 5:17 PM | Permalink does report glacial retreat, but “Since 1980, a significant global warming has led to glacier retreat becoming increasingly rapid and ubiquitous, so much so that some glaciers have disappeared altogether.” Warming has accelerated.

        In any case, my argument relies only on the fact that a body melted in 1991 after staying frozen for 5300 years. No cause other than massive human caused emissions of GHGs can account for that fact.

        • harrywr2
          Posted May 17, 2010 at 6:23 PM | Permalink

          20,000 years ago the city of Seattle was under 3,000 feet of ice, 13,000 years ago the ice was gone. I wonder what theory explains that?

        • Doug Badgero
          Posted May 17, 2010 at 7:01 PM | Permalink


          You have the wrong null hypothesis IMO, a common mistake in the CAGW debate. Apparently, your null hypothesis is “Man made CO2 emissions are causing climate change.” I believe a more appropriate null hypothesis is “Recent changes in climate are caused by natural processes.”

          This changes the debate markedly. To falsify your hypothesis we would need to understand everything that effects climate with statistically significant confidence levels (Perhaps the wrong terminology, I am not a statistician.) As a practical matter your hypothesis can not be falsified.

          My hypothesis is more appropriate because we know that earth has been both warmer and colder than it is today. Since we know that earth’s temperature is a continuous function, earth has also been the same temperature as today. All of this, of course, without the aid of anthro CO2 emissions.

        • Theo Goodwin
          Posted May 17, 2010 at 7:54 PM | Permalink

          Unless the frozen body was that of a man who died on the glacier or was transported to the glacier, the man died on ground that was habitable 5300 years ago. Maybe the day the man died it was snowing and that snowfall became part of a glaicer that led a dynamic life over the last 5300 years, as all glaciers do. So the frozen body is evidence either of the absence of a glacier at the time of death or of a practice of carrying the dead to a glacier. The simpler hypothesis is the former: the man died and the glacier formed over him. The frozen body is not evidence that the glacier was in place 5300 years ago.

        • Tom Gray
          Posted May 17, 2010 at 9:00 PM | Permalink

          In any case, my argument relies only on the fact that a body melted in 1991 after staying frozen for 5300 years. No cause other than massive human caused emissions of GHGs can account for that fact.

          And why is that so. What would you say about debris that appeared in 1900 after the warming and glacial retreat in the 18th and 19th centuries. Afterall if what you say is true then debris that appeared then would have been buried at a later date than the body.

        • Norm Rhett
          Posted May 17, 2010 at 9:36 PM | Permalink

          harrywr2, I haven’t checked, but I think the Milankovitch Theory (orbital effects) is usally cited.

          Doug, you can falsify my hypothesis by identifying a natural cause that accounts for the Ice Man staying frozen for 5300 years and then suddenly melting.

          Theo, the glacier probably did form over him. My point is that it didn’t melt for 5300 years and then, just as humans ramped up emissions, it did melt.

          Keith, that your illness caused the collapse is virtually impossible. That the Ice Man remained frozen because his temperature never rose to the current level is obvious.

          Greg, interesting paper, but I couldn’t find the proposed cause of the Neoglaciation in the Alps. One of the few comments on the present, “Are we approaching the highest snowline altitude of the warmest environmental interval reached during the past 10,000 yr? In any case, it is significant that in a very brief time (about 150 yr) alpine glaciers passed from the Neoglacial maximum to the minimal ice extent of the past 5000 yr (Haeberli, 1994).” begs the question, “Why are we so lucky or unlucky, depending on ones view of the future, to be living just when some unidentified natural cause brought warming?” I maintain that we are the cause.

          Tom, sorry, I couldn’t see your point.

        • Doug Badgero
          Posted May 17, 2010 at 9:55 PM | Permalink


          Look up deterministically chaotic. I cannot falsify your hypothesis with a single cause in a non-linear chaotic system with multiple co-variants.

        • Greg F
          Posted May 17, 2010 at 10:02 PM | Permalink

          My point is that it didn’t melt for 5300 years and then, just as humans ramped up emissions, it did melt.

          Wrong. It was melting well before “humans ramped up emissions”. It was melting over 115 years ago. The emissions didn’t start ramping up till about 1950.

        • Jason Miller
          Posted May 18, 2010 at 1:17 AM | Permalink

          “No cause other than massive human caused emissions of GHGs can account for that fact.”

          How about the soot emitted from Western European countries in the 1800’s and afterward? The black soot has been shown to be an accelerator of glacial decline. This is man-made though, but the melting influence would have nothing to do with CO2 or other greenhouse gases.

        • Keith Herbert
          Posted May 18, 2010 at 11:24 AM | Permalink

          If you are arguing that CO2 is causing significant warming and offering as evidence that CO2 is responsible for the melting of the 5300 year old frozen man, that is begging the question in that you cite the conclusion as evidence for the conclusion.

          My point with the illness caused stock crash is there is no linkage provided between the stock crash and my illness. If I showed you I was the one who made the error while I was at the exchange and it was because I was not of sound mind it would provide a linkage.

          You have provided no linkage other than to state something to the effect of “prove it’s not this”. But that is the whole climate change discussion. Natural variability, solar influences, ablation due to natural or man made causes, CO2, cloud cover and on and on…

        • Theo Goodwin
          Posted May 18, 2010 at 3:18 PM | Permalink

          If you agree that the glacier was not there 5300 years ago then the fact that it is not there today cannot be evidence for CO2 caused global warming. The fact that the glacier was not there 5300 years ago could not have been caused by CO2 levels. For that reason, you cannot infer that the fact of the glacier not being there today is caused by rising CO2 levels. There is a natural variation in temperatures that produces temperatures as great as those that you believe to be produced by rising CO2 concentrations.

        • Norm Rhett
          Posted May 18, 2010 at 4:02 PM | Permalink

          There are probably many causes of past warming. Milankovitch (orbital) cycles show good correlations at 21, 26, and 41 thousand years. I have seen no proposed cause for the warming prior to 5300 years ago but CO2 seems unlikely. That in no way precludes CO2 as the present cause. Again, please identify a specific natural variation that was absent for 5300 years.

        • MrPete
          Posted May 19, 2010 at 6:47 AM | Permalink

          Re: Norm Rhett (May 18 16:02),
          Your logic is specious.
          You admit there was natural warming 5300 years ago, not due to CO2.
          You claim this does not preclude CO2 as the present cause.

          You’re right! It also doesn’t preclude effluent from a Vogon Constructor Fleet as the present cause.

          It simply demonstrates that natural climate variation has historically been higher than today’s warming; that we aren’t doing a good job of accounting for natural variability, and can hardly claim AGW as the primary driver if we haven’t properly accounted for natural sources.

          Folks, it’s time to move on from Norm’s simplistic, illogical, anti-scientific argument.

        • QBeamus
          Posted May 19, 2010 at 10:37 AM | Permalink

          When I was in law school, every day, right after my contracts class, there was a constitutional law class. I can think of no other explanation except that contracts classes cause constitutional law classes.

          That falacy you’re elevating to a religious principle is known as “post hoc ergo propter hoc.” Since mankind had identified it at least as early as Plato’s writings, you’re only 2,500 years or so behind the curve of human learning on this one.

    • MrPete
      Posted May 17, 2010 at 10:45 PM | Permalink

      Re: Norm Rhett (May 17 15:34),
      Norm, AGW must also explain the warm past.

      It was not THAT long ago that arctic treelines were much further north than they are today. Strong evidence of past warmth. Today’s warmth is not at all unique.

      AGW must explain the warmth of the 1930’s… 1950’s…

      AGW must explain the warmth pre-LIA. That it warms as we emerge from a little ice age is no surprise.

      As has been said, it is specious to imagine one can support (or dissuade) AGW in a one-liner.

      It is more complicated than that.

      • rpink
        Posted May 18, 2010 at 1:57 PM | Permalink

        Really, it’s just pre hoc, ergo propter hoc. I rather like it!

  73. Anton
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 4:41 AM | Permalink

    A letter of 250 NAS members (on their behalf).
    With a fantastic title : “Climate Change and the Integrity of Science” and the usual “little poor bear on a melting iceberg” picture.

    And a good letter cannot finish without a good conclusion:

    “We also call for an end to McCarthy-like threats of criminal prosecution against our colleagues based on innuendo and guilt by association, the harassment of scientists by politicians seeking distractions to avoid taking action, and the outright lies being spread about them. Society has two choices: We can ignore the science and hide our heads in the sand and hope we are lucky, or we can act in the public interest to reduce the threat of global climate change quickly and substantively. The good news is that smart and effective actions are possible. But delay must not be an option.”

    What they don’t understand is that “delay” IS an option. In finance it would be an Out of the Money option: low fee, low delta and gamma, zero delta-vega (it’s only climate change)… in one word a reasonable risk to take.

    NB: many thx to Geoff for his answer.

  74. stephen richards
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 4:45 AM | Permalink

    Norm Rhett

    You omit the probability of the body being discovered in the past. There are more climbers/walkers on the alps in mordern times. Better equipment/ transport/safety etc and therefore the likelyhood of the body being found was higher in 1991 than in 1881 or 1001 etc. It could well have been exposed before but not found. Also, it worth remembering that the body was still frozen even in’91. Your evidence is typical of the norm in the ‘science’ of climate distortion.

    • See - owe to Rich
      Posted May 18, 2010 at 4:22 PM | Permalink

      Stephen – phew! I was reading that long thread thinking “but why has no-one thought of the possibility that it was exposed earlier, for example in the MWP”. BTW has anyone explained what state the ‘body’ was in?


  75. Norm Rhett
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 2:38 PM | Permalink

    Doug, my hypothesis is that there is a dominant human cause of climate change. You need only reasonably show a single alternative.

    Greg, I was referring to the Ice Man, not the glacier.

    MrPete, the Ice Man evidence is that today’s warmth is unique in the last several millenia. There are many effects on climate, which is effectively chaotic, particularly at small scale. The warming of 1931, as measured by much less comprehensive coverage than today’s, might have been a result of reduced sun-blocking sulphur emissions from industries idled by the Depression. Or, it might have only been coincidental.

    Jason, I doubt that black soot is a factor in the Austro-Italian Alps.

    Stephen, any earlier melting would have exposed the body to scavengers and other natural degradation.

    Keith, I assert that recent, massive anthropogenic GHG emissions are the best explanation for the Ice Man’s history, which shows only recent significant warming. If you disagree, select one or more of your “Natural variability, solar influences, ablation due to natural or man made causes, [CO2,] cloud cover and on and on…” and show how it/they too could have occurred only recently and provide a better explanation. Why only now?

    rplink, my argument is not just that the Ice Man’s melting followed AGW. AGW occurred after he stayed frozen for several millenia. AGW could be a cause of his melting and it is the only cause that occurred only now. Therefore it is the dominant cause.

    • Theo Goodwin
      Posted May 18, 2010 at 3:47 PM | Permalink

      Norm Rhett writes:

      “Doug, my hypothesis is that there is a dominant human cause of climate change. You need only reasonably show a single alternative.”

      You do not have a hypothesis but a hunch, and I am not engaging in ad hominem. If you had a set of hypotheses which could be used to explain and predict the behavior of Earth’s atmosphere as it affects temperature then you could reasonably talk about looking at alternative causes for a phenomenon. However, without such a science, bringing up what you call alternative causes is just speculation. There is no set of hypotheses that connect one of these alternatives to the others.

    • harrywr2
      Posted May 18, 2010 at 5:21 PM | Permalink

      From The Icemans ‘official’ biography.

      “He must have been covered by snow shortly after his death and later by ice. Only in this way could the body have been protected from predators and decomposition.
      Whether the mummy ever resurfaced again in the course of several thousand years cannot be determined with certainty.”

      Your hypothesis is based on a conjecture.

      • See - owe to Rich
        Posted May 19, 2010 at 2:05 PM | Permalink

        Thanks for that link. From it I conclude that at some unknown time (but could be immediately) after the death, the body reached this gully at which time ice flowed over it without moving it. But we don’t know how much higher up the mountain this death occurred (or, therefore, whether the gully itself was ice-free at the time of death).

        BTW, there was a thread about a year ago on a different uncovering, of a tree dated to about 900AD which had just now been revealed by a melting glacier – with obvious implications.


    • Keith Herbert
      Posted May 18, 2010 at 6:17 PM | Permalink

      I think you are too attached to your “gotcha proof” to accept criticism of your reasoning.
      You want to prove that anthro greenhouse gasses are responsible for global warming. Your proof is that a frozen man is finally exposed after 5000 years. You only look at CO2 as a cause and surprising find it to be the cause. Again, I ask you to review the fallacy “begging the question”.

      You seem to view the frozen man and his environment as a static event until late last century when climate finally changed. But it is unreasonable to think climate did not vary in 5000 years. Can you prove that he wasn’t buried at different depths over those 5000 years. And if the depths did vary, why? Perhaps he was 5′ deep 4000 years ago, 20 feet deep 2000 years ago, but only a few feet deep in the last 1000 years. Many things could contibute to that, not just CO2 and not just warming/cooling.

      All the climate influences are dynamic yet you paint them as static. So you can’t keep asking someone to show you something that was only present recently as all of the influences are always present in some form.

      And lastly, the “why now” argument is not compelling. There is no reason why we can’t experience extraordinary events unrelated to our own doing. I think it is an improper way to look at odds.

    • kuhnkat
      Posted May 18, 2010 at 6:33 PM | Permalink

      Norm Rhett,

      your hypothesis does not take into account the probability that he became frozen higher up on the mountain than where he was found. Normal movement of the glacier, including cycles of warming and cooling, eventually brought the body to the terminus where it became exposed.

      It is not possible to determine whether he was on or below the glacier when he was frozen. The glacier would have pushed or carried him further down from wherever he was actually frozen.

      The only reasonable assumption is that where he was found is the furthest down the mountain the body has been since originally freezing, unless you wish to offer a mechanism for the body being carried up the mountain?

      There is very little paleo evidence that current temps are highest in “millenia” and many studies that say they are not.

      I do not need to show an alternate hypothesis. I only need to show that your hypothesis has a substantial flaw.

      The fact that I could not offer an alternative to phlogistone would not mean that I could not disprove the flawed theory.

    • Jason Miller
      Posted May 18, 2010 at 7:47 PM | Permalink


      You really should read the whole short paper referenced by the link posted May 17, 2010 at 8:53 PM by Greg F, above. It describes the state of the body, the terrain of the area, how the body froze and under what conditions the body was revealed. The paper has answers to almost all the above questions. It is also a very interesting read!

      Click to access alpine_iceman.pdf

    • Greg F
      Posted May 18, 2010 at 10:39 PM | Permalink

      Greg, I was referring to the Ice Man, not the glacier.

      Really? Here is the full quote:

      Theo, the glacier probably did form over him. My point is that it didn’t melt for 5300 years and then, just as humans ramped up emissions, it did melt.

      The first sentence you refer to the Ice Man as “him”. Then you say “it didn’t melt” and “it did melt”. One would not normally use “it” to describe a person, they would use “he” or “him” as in your first sentence. Your still wrong. The Ice Man’s frozen grave was melting away well before “humans ramped up emissions”.

      To sum up your belief you said:

      Doug, my hypothesis is that there is a dominant human cause of climate change. You need only reasonably show a single alternative.

      The reasonable alternative is the glacier was melting well before “humans ramped up emissions”. It was melting over 115 years ago before human emissions were a possible cause. A reasonable hypothesis is that the warming today is primarily a continuation of the warming that happened before “humans ramped up emissions” and that the human contributions are but a minor player in the climate. OTOH, you have not provided a hypothesis on why it was warming before “humans ramped up emissions”.

    • MrPete
      Posted May 18, 2010 at 10:48 PM | Permalink

      Re: Norm Rhett (May 18 14:38),

      the Ice Man evidence is that today’s warmth is unique in the last several millenia

      Shows nothing of the kind. Ice takes time to melt. One must integrate over a period of time to see the overall picture.

      Ice man, melted alpine mountain passes, and more, have already been discussed here.

      So have tree lines.

      Bottom line: there’s plenty of mixed evidence.

      It’s more complicated than “wow, something got warm recently — it must be AGW.”

      Cherry picked evidence simply shows that you might know how to make cherry pie.

    • Dagfinn
      Posted May 19, 2010 at 11:11 AM | Permalink

      Here’s a description of how bodies may be carried downward by a glacier. “Like the thousands of glaciers sprinkled around the world, Rainier’s glaciers are flowing, organic entities.

      Their movements are the reason Stevens and Callaghan, last seen Aug. 14, 1909, as they approached the summit from the 12,660-foot Gibraltar Rock, could eventually re-emerge thousands of feet lower.”

      Glaciers flow. How could the ice man have stayed in one place for 5300 years? On what do you base your claim that only rounded pebbles make it to the bottom?

    • Tom Ganley
      Posted May 19, 2010 at 2:40 PM | Permalink

      This is a really nice site giving an illustrated description of glacier movement.


      This info on this site yields two solid alternatives to your contention.

      1. He could have fallen in and travelled slowly enough to take 5300 years to get to a place where it was warm enough to thaw. The article posted by Dagfin above gives opinion by experts that a human body can make the trip intact. (For what that’s worth. After reading Pielke’s post on his blog about scientific fudging, I’m starting to wondering if expert opinion actually means anything.)

      2. “Today most glaciers are retreating because of the general warming of global temperatures since the beginning of this century (Figure 10ae-7).” i.e., glacial recession started longer ago than can be accounted for by AGW.

      (Interesting aside; Capability for motion is the definition of a glacier.)

    • Norm Rhett
      Posted May 19, 2010 at 9:49 PM | Permalink

      harrywr2, my assertion is that present temperatures, which have left the whole area free of snow or ice, would have destroyed the body, so the present temperatures are the highest in 5300 years.

      Keith, I am comparing the present climatic conditions to those of the preceding 5300 years. The only generally agreed difference is that modern humans have had a significant impact, namely the atmospheric concentration of CO2. If you can think of some other specific effect that would account for the Ice Man’s persistence, please present it. Regarding your comments about the body having moved, please refer to harrywr2’s link:

      Dagfinn, Rich & Tom, please see note 2 at the above link. It is apparently known that the body was found where it fell. Photos of the site show a rock strewn gully, not a smooth mountainside.

      Jason, the paper you referenced includes the statement, “We therefore deduce that during the past 5000 yr in this area conditions of greater glacier thickness and extent have prevailed.” An interesting read indeed.

      Mr Pete, whatever happened in the last 5300 years is not what has happened in the present. I’d be happy to “move on”. Other than AGW, no cause for present warming has been identified that was absent for 5300 years. Let us know when you have one.

      • Geoff Sherrington
        Posted May 19, 2010 at 10:19 PM | Permalink

        Norm Rhett,

        Please tidy up your logic before posting again. An keep on topic where possible.

        The very concept that “no cause for present warming has been identified that was absent for 5300 years” merely reflects that we do not know the details of the conditions that existed in that last 5,300 years. It proves absolutely nothing about AGW, for even if AGW has the intensity that you seem to accept, it is impossible to say if it was matched by natural processes some time in the past 5,300 years, either at that very spot or globally, with the required degree of certainty.

      • MrPete
        Posted May 19, 2010 at 10:45 PM | Permalink

        Re: Norm Rhett (May 19 21:49),

        whatever happened in the last 5300 years is not what has happened in the present…so the present temperatures are the highest in 5300 years.

        Your first statement goes against one of the fundamental assumptions of climate science: they assume that what happened in the past continues to happen in the present. You have zero evidence that natural causes of the past are no longer at work. You also have zero evidence that the present results are independent of past climate.

        In other words, ice melts over time, not instantaneously. Think about heating-degree-days and cooling-degree-days, a concept much of the public deals with every summer or winter.

        For ice, total warming-degree-years has finally accumulated sufficiently to melt the ice.

        It has been warming since the LIA, and most of the warming was pre-anthro. It was warmer than today in the MWP, but that wasn’t enough to fully melt IceMan. Warmer than today in the 1930’s but that wasn’t enough to fully melt. Etc etc… so now we have a plausibly natural-warming that finally finishes off the melt, and you want to attribute the entire melt to today’s CO2? Hardly likely, let alone proven.

        It is not as if IceMan stayed completely encased in 1km of ice (or whatever) for 5290 years, then suddenly all the ice melted.

        I think we’ve been quite patient with your lack of logic. Please provide something stronger than ever more strident claims that it Must Be The CO2.

      • Norm Rhett
        Posted May 20, 2010 at 12:19 AM | Permalink

        Geoff, you state, “… it is impossible to say if it [AGW] was matched by natural processes some time in the past 5,300 years …” and yet deniers assert that the MWP (~AD900-1300) was warmer than today. Are you saying that 400 years of global (as asserted by deniers) temperatures higher than today’s was not enough to thaw the Ice Man? The graph of annual Global Fossil Carbon Emissions in shows that about 50 years (of cumulative emissions, so most of the effect was over a shorter time) was long enough to do the job. Yes, I’m assuming AGW was the cause, but you have identified no other.

        MrPete, my statement refers to large human effects, which certainly did not happen in the past. I do not assert that natural causes are no longer at work. I only ask which of those causes exceeds the effect of AGW and why didn’t it/they thaw the Ice Man? I have been quite patient with your refusal to identify what that cause is.

        • Geoff Sherrington
          Posted May 20, 2010 at 3:19 AM | Permalink

          Norm Rhett,

          Let’s suppose that the hot AGW sun beat down on the bum of ice-warrior for a month to finally melt him from the ice.

          The time discrimination of events up to 5,300 years ago is nowhere near adequate to say if there has or has not been a past month at this particular spot, that mimics the conditions seen today. You should be careful when looking at error envelopes of proxies, because they can be, and often are, unbelievable.

          We cannot even reconstruct event with a year of resolution; and we do not even know the precise position of that particular body over this term.

          Now will you please think about giving up on this quest, which is a non-event to everyone who has commented, except you.

        • Norm Rhett
          Posted May 21, 2010 at 2:18 PM | Permalink

          Geoff, in comparing today’s conditions to those of the past we are not talking about days or months. Oetzi’s remains were found in 1991. Global temperatures are higher and rising (2009 is officially the warmest on record.) I’m not leading this discussion, only responding.

        • MrPete
          Posted May 23, 2010 at 2:07 PM | Permalink

          Re: Norm Rhett (May 21 14:18),

          Global temperatures are higher and rising (2009 is officially the warmest on record.)

          “On record” covers a bit more than a century of very poor measurements, or ~30 years of satellite measures. Global temperatures were not measured before then. So no, we can’t reliably compare today’s temperatures to those in the past.

          And that’s the problem: when we say “warmest on record” it really doesn’t mean much.

        • John M
          Posted May 23, 2010 at 3:24 PM | Permalink

          2009 officially the warmest on record?

          Whose record?

        • Norm Rhett
          Posted May 23, 2010 at 8:27 PM | Permalink

          John, sorry, I was confused.
 reports 2009 was the second warmest year.
 reports that Jan-April 2010 was the warmest for that period.
          The point is that the slight cooling in a few previous years is not evidence of a trend.

        • MrPete
          Posted May 24, 2010 at 10:57 PM | Permalink

          Re: Norm Rhett (May 23 20:27),
          Norm, you still are confused. These things have been covered extensively here and elsewhere. It is not as simple as a pronouncement from a place like GISS. Do you even understand their own press release? GISS extrapolates from a small number of measurements to imply temperature for the entire arctic, while their “competitors” use more stations and less extrapolation… yet still base their model on data with huge gaps. From this they claim to understand whether the globe is seeing record warmth. Plenty of analysis shows their understanding is faulty.

          * The models are heavily based on extrapolations
          * The models vary more than the underlying data
          * Bottom line: there’s huge uncertainty in data, in models and in parameters. About as bad as it can get.
          * And that, the uncertainty, is something even IPCC scientists agreed on, before the political activists revised their report. (e.g. see page 11 here.)

          This whole thread is a bit silly… trying to encapsulate the entire discussion of AGW (un)certainty in a single discussion. It’s not so obvious.

        • Norm Rhett
          Posted May 25, 2010 at 1:37 PM | Permalink

          snip – sorry. blog policies prohibit attempts to solve the big picture in a couple of paragraphs. Otherwise every thread becomes the same in about 20 comments.

        • Tom Ganley
          Posted May 20, 2010 at 5:40 AM | Permalink


          “I do not assert that natural causes are no longer at work. I only ask which of those causes exceeds the effect of AGW and why didn’t it/they thaw the Ice Man?”

          They may have, according to the site you linked:

          “Whether the mummy ever resurfaced again in the course of several thousand years cannot be determined with certainty. Paeleoclimatic data show that warm phases occurred in the second half of the third century BC and during the Roman period. During these phases the ice in the gully may have melted.”

          So I think before you cite AGW as the cause of the discovery of Iceman, you need to prove that he has never resurfaced before.

        • Norm Rhett
          Posted May 21, 2010 at 2:20 PM | Permalink

          Tom, whether the mummy melted or not, it was not subjected to today’s conditions, which induced rot within days.

        • MrPete
          Posted May 20, 2010 at 7:19 AM | Permalink

          Re: Norm Rhett (May 20 00:19),

          MrPete, my statement refers to large human effects, which certainly did not happen in the past.

          What you do not know, and cannot evaluate, is this: the relative strength of these “large human effects” vs the strength of natural effects.

          Natural effects are clearly very powerful, as it has been warmer in the past than today, not only 5300 years ago but also more recently. Not only in absolute terms but also in terms of ice-melt. Your chosen proxy is completely insufficient to demonstrate whether AGW is a significant cause for melting Ice Man, and insufficient to demonstrate whether or not AGW is “the” cause of recent warming.

          To show this, you must first demonstrate that Ice Man melting cannot be due to natural effects. Yet it is obviously within the realm of natural effects because 5300 years ago it was melted, may have melted since then, and there’s been plenty of opportunity for it to melt as well… we’ve got plenty of evidence for natural variability to show it could have melted, whether or not it did before today.

          Even then, because Ice Man melted over a long period of time, and AGW is incredibly recent in glacial time, it’s a poor proxy. Glaciers advance and retreat all the time. So what?

          The graph certainly cannot show that the last 50 years was sufficient. To do so we’d need to:
          * show how much warming was required to melt the glacier in that place,
          * show how much natural warming did or could have helped melt it,
          * show how much AGW did or could have helped melt it, and then
          * show that the AGW effect was primary.

          We don’t have any of those analyses AFAIK.

          In general, the null hypothesis of natural variability is being ignored or avoided more than properly addressed. This is one of the key blind spots of much of climate science today.

        • Tom Gray
          Posted May 21, 2010 at 8:09 AM | Permalink

          MrPete, my statement refers to large human effects, which certainly did not happen in the past.

          Ihave read of one theory that links the development of agriculture to the postponement of a new ice age. Agriculture resulted in massive deforestation and the release of green house gasses such as methane. The development of rie farming has been linked to this.

          So there have been massive human effects in the past.

          Also recall that there has been a massive reforestation of eastern North America with the abandonment of agriculture there.

        • Norm Rhett
          Posted May 21, 2010 at 2:45 PM | Permalink

          Tom, could you suggest a web link? Methane is a potent wildcard and, along with suspended particulates (volcanic and deforestation ash), a worthwhile area for research into past warming/cooling.

  76. michel
    Posted May 20, 2010 at 2:54 AM | Permalink

    Good posting, the original one by SM. The critical issue in the science seems to be climate sensitivity, what exactly is it, and what are the feedbacks.

    The critical social issue with the AGW movement seems to be the one that SM put his finger on in the last para. Why is that the movement continually advocates taking action which is enormously expensive, and also, if they are right about the science, totally ineffective?

    It is incomprehensible. It is indeed a bit like Laetrile, but its probably worse, its as if you should have some theory of load bearing structures which explains why a given building will fall over. This theory also states that strengthening it with a different kind of mortar at vast expense will have minimal strengthening effects. But you advocate doing just that. Why?

  77. TomVonk
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 6:54 AM | Permalink

    Just for fun some real (and simple) science about the Ice Man .
    Simplified ssumptions :
    – glacier moves with a constant speed V (Vz projection on vertical axis)
    – the part of glacier below altitude Z0 melts during 6 months (summer) for x% of its mass . X is supposed constant .
    – the part of glacier above altitude Z0 acquires mass for 6 months (winter snowfall) for Y% of its mass . Y is some function of time .

    Initial conditions :
    the glacier extends from the top at altitude Zt to bottom at altitude Zb .
    Z0 E [Zb , Zt] .
    Its mass is M and its thickness is T(z) = H.(Z-Zb) . E.g it’s maximum at top and 0 at the bottom .

    Exercice :

    At time t=0 there is a frozen Ice man at altitude ZI (between Zt and Zb) .
    We will assume that the glacier flows around him so that ZI = constant . Trivially if he moves with the glacier , he will melt depending only on V (speed of the glacier) .

    Question :

    Find one function (there is an infinity) Y(t) such as Zb(5300) = ZI .
    This translates the fact that the bottom of the glacier is at the Ice Man position EXACTLY after 5300 years .
    This particular function (I remind that it describes the snowfall) will be one of the infinity of alternative explanation of our poor Norm’s “mystery “of the Ice Man .
    Once you get the feel of it you may amuse yourself by making X vary with time too but then it gets much more complicated 🙂

    • Anton
      Posted May 21, 2010 at 9:30 AM | Permalink

      Very good :=)

      Yet your first assumption is deeply wrong. Just in the same region (Italian/austrian Alps) your function will be non linear : speed can be slow at the beginning (150 meters/year in average), faster close to any valley ( 250 meters). I saw that the Scoresby glacier (Groenland) speed could reach 10 km per year !!! During the LIA or similar, the speed decreased (excess of ice’s weight). The local topology could even force your function to take into account possible rises of the Iceman, slowing the trend but decreasing the C°, … but increasing the wind exposure. The initial body position will also change the direction and the downward evolution inside the glacier (friction effect)…. a nightmare

      I propose to kill someone and let his corpse at the same initial point than our Iceman and wait for 5.300 years (maybe we could be forced to extend our panel to a larger panel of dead to cover a reasonable sample of starting points). Remains the issue for long life battery for the GPS to follow the body…. A good proxy could be to make a test with 1 kilo of meat in my fridge’s freezer, accelerating time and cold/warm periods, testing the time it will take to join the down vegetables compartment. Any idea to find money to fund my research ?

    • Norm Rhett
      Posted May 21, 2010 at 2:26 PM | Permalink

      TomVonk, describes “where he trekked to his death”, which is unknowable if the glacier moved his remains.

5 Trackbacks

  1. […] That, it seems to me, is a very long bow to draw. To see the Hartwell take on the emails applauded by Steve McIntyre and that they approvingly reference Andrew (Bishop Hill) Montford’s book The Hockey Stick […]

  2. […] zur Diskussion bei ClimateAudit […]

  3. […] came across the reference to the Hartwell Paper over at CA. It seems that McI has done a couple of things that surprised his readership lately. One was to […]

  4. […] kräver Hulme en radikal omstöpning av klimatpolitiken till förmån för ett betydligt mer pragmatiskt synsätt.  Alltid en […]

  5. […] of intellectuals such as those gathered at Hartwell House. No wonder the Hartwell paper has been greeted warmly on climate denier […]

%d bloggers like this: