Hansen, WG3 and Green Kool-aid

In today’s post, I’m going to discuss three articles on renewables by representatives of three green factions:

(1) Hansen’s comparison of belief in renewables to belief in the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy and his comparison of such policies to forcing his grandchildren to drink kool-aid. Hansen placed part of the “intellectual” blame for widespread belief in such policies on Amory Lovins, a prominent American environmentalist who was the first proponent of soft renewables as a large footprint energy solution. It appears to me that there appears to be a direct lineage from Lovins’ fantasies criticized by Hansen to the IPCC Greenpeace scenario in the recent WG3 report on renewables.

(2) a critique of the IPCC WG3 Report on Renewables by Ted Trainer, along very similar lines (but in greater depth) to criticisms originally made at Climate Audit here.

(3) a self-serving editorial by WG3 chairman Ottmar Edenhofer in an IPCC trade journal (Nature), purporting tp defending their report on renewables, but, if anything, further demonstrating IPCC’s failure to address criticism.

Hansen on the Easter Bunny
Hansen likened the belief in renewables as a large footprint solution to climate and energy policy as akin to believing in the Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy:

Can renewable energies provide all of society’s energy needs in the foreseeable future? It is conceivable in a few places, such as New Zealand and Norway. But suggesting that renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels in the United States, China, India, or the world as a whole is almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.

Hansen went on to criticize policies that are based on belief in soft renewables as “being worse than useless”, equating such polices to “drinking the kool-aid”. Green kool-aid, I guess. “Drinking the kool-aid” is a perhaps generational metaphor based on the mass homicide of cult followers and children at Jonestown (mentioned at CA here) that caused a sensation when Hansen and I were younger. Hansen:

Indeed, it [reliance on soft renewables] is much less than worthless. If you drink the kool-aid represented in the right part of Fig. 7 [Amory Lovins’ soft renewables fantasy], you are a big part of the problem. The problem is that, by drinking the kool-aid, you are also pouring it down the throats of my dear grandchildren and yours. The tragedy in doing so is much greater than that of Jim Jones’ gullible followers, who forced their children to drink his kool-aid. All life will bear the consequences.

Although I haven’t used the technical terms Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy to describe policies on renewables at Climate Audit, I’ve used these terms from time to time in conversations with friends. (I was actually a little surprised that I hadn’t used these terms here.) However, in one of the few CA posts on policy here, I used a related metaphor: if climate is a “big” problem, then it seemed to me that the green prescription of soft renewables was comparable to prescribing laetrile for cancer (again, perhaps a generational metaphor: laetrile was a quack remedy that was notorious about 25 years ago.)

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.)

Hansen’s sensible criticism of renewable fantasies is marred by self-indulgent baby pictures of his grandchildren. Scientists in their 30s don’t introduce their scientific lectures with baby pictures. Nor should grandfathers in their 1960s. On the latter, I speak as a grandfather of similar age as Hansen, who also dotes on grandchildren of almost precisely the same age. Indeed, I’ve even accompanied my grandchildren to important recent documentaries – who says that investigative journalism is dead – on topics directly addressed in Hansen’s article: on the Easter Bunny (Hop! starring Russell Brand here) and The Tooth Fairy (with Duane The Rock Johnson). Both are arguably as realistic as Amory Lovins’ projections that Hansen criticized or Ottmar Edenhofer’s WG3 reporting of their Greenpeace descendant.

Amory Lovins
Hansen places some of the “intellectual” blame for present-day belief in Easter Bunny policies on Amory Lovins, one of the most influential prophets of soft renewables.

Amory Lovins is the most popular person that I know and has received uncountable awards.

Hansen compared Lovins’ predictions from the 1970s for 2000-2025 to actual statistics, observing that, contrary to Lovins’ predictions, “soft renewables are still nearly invisible after 30 years”. Lovins’ popularity does not arise from the acumen of his forecasts.

Amory Lovins has not been previously discussed at this blog. He is almost exactly the same age as me (six days apart). It also turns out that we were both at Oxford in 1970-71. In 1971, Lovins joined Friends of the Earth, described here as the most radical of the major green organizations, originally as their UK representative, then returning to the US. Friends of the Earth had originated a couple of years earlier (in 1969) in San Francisco. Oddly, the institution giving rise to the original kool-aid metaphor (Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple) was also prominent in San Francisco’s hippy world of the 1970s.

Lovins’ “soft energy path” for the US (see left below) was articulated in a Foreign Affairs article in 1976. On the right on approximately the same scale is a corresponding graph derived from IPCC’s Greenpeace scenario for OECD North America (USA and Canada). The major features – other than the calendar years – are, in climate science terminology, “remarkably similar”.

Both Friends of the Earth in the 1970s and Greenpeace in 2011 project a dramatic ascendancy of soft renewables to provide almost 100% of U.S. energy in about 40-50 years.

Left – from Lovins 1976. Right – drawn from data in Greenpeace 2011.

As Hansen observed, 2011 has now arrived. Hansen compared Lovins’ predictions with reality, noting the obvious: soft renewables remain invisible on the energy horizon. Nearly all of the present-day green footprint results from “traditional” renewables: hydro and waste biomass. Curiously the Greenpeace scenario substantially retains Lovins’ original schedule for the phasing out of coal power, with most of the decrease taking place between 2010 and 2025 and large bites being taken by 2015.

Trainer’s Criticism of IPCC and its Greenpeace Scenario

As CA readers are aware, in June, I sharply criticized IPCC’s failure to fulfil the public’s expectation that it would assess the various scenarios of future energy supply collated in its Special Report on Renewables and, in particular, its unwise declaration that the “right enabling public policies” could achieve an Amory Lovins future:

Close to 80 percent of the world‘s energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century if backed by the right enabling public policies a new report shows.

See here and here. This criticism has attracted favorable coverage from (on the surface) unlikely quarters e.g. Mark Lynas and Oliver Morton of the Economist. Judy Curry has recently drawn attention to an article by Ted Trainer, a radical environmentalist, that also criticized IPCC’s renewable reports (pdf).

Although Trainer’s radical environmentalism seems to anticipate a society based on Pol Pot-type ruralism, Trainer’s criticisms of Edenhofer’s WG3 are pretty similar to mine – that, above all, they failed to assess the scenarios, including the Greenpeace scenario, and by failing to assess the scenarios, they miserably failed in their duty to the public. In my original post on the topic, I had said:

The public and policy-makers are starving for independent and authoritative analysis of precisely how much weight can be placed on renewables in the energy future.

Trainer’s criticism is almost identical:

The IPCC does not evaluate these studies; we do not know how valid their conclusions are.


In the key Chapter 10 most attention is given to one study which concludes that by 2050 70% of world energy could come from renewables. This study, by Greenpeace, is highly challengeable. It does not establish its claims, and it fails to discuss a number of problems confronting renewable energy.


The document is puzzling. It does not do what it should have done, and is being taken to have done, i.e., critically examine as much of the evidence as possible on the potential and limits of renewable energy in order to derive demonstrably convincing conclusions which deal thoroughly with all the relevant difficulties. It does not advance the issue; it just summarises what some others have said, without assessing the validity of what they have said. Most difficult to understand is why it gives so much attention to one clearly problematic study, and allows its highly optimistic conclusions to be taken as those the IPCC has come to. It is likely that as the Report is examined it will damage the credibility of the IPCC.

All of which is pretty much along the lines of my CA posts. Trailer did not cite the Climate Audit series but referred to an edited reprint by Financial Post of my original post as follows:

As the title of Macintyre’s brief critical response says, the IPCC has in effect chosen simply to sing the song written by Greenpeace. (“Junk Science Week: The IPCC’s Greenpeace Karaoke”, Special to Financial Post June 16, 2011.)

Ottmar and the Green Kool-aid
In Hansen’s editorial, he observed:

Many well-meaning people proceed under the illusion that ‘soft’ renewable energies will replace fossil fuels if the government tries harder and provides more subsidies.

One of the reasons is, of course, statements like the following from IPCC WG3 (which Hansen conspicuously did not criticize):

Close to 80 percent of the world‘s energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century if backed by the right enabling public policies a new report shows.

The “illusion” that Hansen criticized so sharply was a central conclusion of the IPCC WG3 report. No wonder “well meaning” people succumb to the illusion. Although Hansen did not directly criticize IPCC WG3, it has been criticized at Climate Audit and elsewhere and, in a recent editorial in Nature (see here), Ottmar Edenhofer, Chairman of IPCC WG3, responded. (Also see Shub Niggurath’s commentary at Anthony’s here.) Edenhofer’s editorial conceded nothing, instead engaging in the hairsplitting, Gavinesque misdirection and wordsmithing that seems to be second nature in the climate “community”.

For example, my original criticism was that IPCC had not supported their claim that, borrowing Hansen’s words, “‘soft’ renewable energies will replace fossil fuels if the government tries harder and provides more subsidies.” Instead of confronting the actual criticism, Edenhofer (aided by his refusal to cite actual critics) twisted the criticism into whether IPCC had “endorsed” an 80% deployment rate, a claim that Edenhofer indignantly “rebutted”:

it was suggested that the IPCC endorses an 80% deployment rate of renewables — allegedly following a scenario carried out by Greenpeace.

Edenhofer then denied that IPCC had “endorsed” any deployment level:

the IPCC does not endorse a specific deployment level of renewables ….Neither the SPM nor the press release endorses any single scenario.

And rather than repeat the actual lead quoted above, a lead that obviously contributed to “well-meaning people” succumbing to the illusion criticized by Hansen that “‘soft’ renewable energies will replace fossil fuels if the government tries harder and provides more subsidies”, Edenhofer attempted to camouflage the untrue lead as follows:

Even though the press release starts with a statement about the upper end scenario of renewables deployment that could be achieved, it also puts the 80% figure into perspective:

Edenhofer’s attempted camouflage was a “trick” (TM – climate science.) The press release did not actually start with a “statement about the upper end scenario of renewables deployment that could be achieved” (as can be seen by examining the actual quotation). The opening lead had no such caveats. It was a categorical statement fostering the illusion criticized by Hansen: that the new IPCC report “shows” that 80% of all energy requirements could be met by renewables “if backed by the right enabling public policies”.

Edenhofer then went on with a legalistic defence that Greenpeace employee Sven Teske did not violate IPCC policies by participating either in the assessment of his own work or in the selection of the Greenpeace scenario as one of four lead scenarios highlighted in the key chapter 10 – completely tone deaf to why the public expects something better.

Edenhofer defended IPCC’s reporting of the Easter Bunny scenario on the basis that it had been published in the “peer reviewed” literature, but did not address criticisms of the failure of IPCC to assess the merit of the apparent fable.

Edenhofer at least avoided arguing, as some Greenpeace defenders had, that the Greenpeace scenario was not the most extreme, since the WWF’s scenario was the even more extreme claim that renewables could achieve 100% by 2050, not a trifling 80%. In the WG3 land of fables, I suppose that anything goes, but, to anyone outside the IPCC “community”, this seems a bit like defending belief in the Easter Bunny by arguing that some people believe in the even more improbable Tooth Fairy.

Hansen spent a little time in his article wondering why policy-makers pay homage to the scenarios that he characterized as Easter Bunny fables. Hansen appears to conclude that no policy maker could be so stupid as to actually believe such drivel and therefore is forced to postulate that they have ulterior and unscrupulous motives:

Because they [politicians] realize that renewable energies are grossly inadequate for our energy needs now and in the foreseeable future and they have no real plan.. They pay homage to the Easter Bunny fantasy, because it is the easy thing to do in politics. They are reluctant to explain what is actually needed to phase out our need for fossil fuels.

I’m not sure why Hansen thinks that politicians are so much more insightful than IPCC WG3. It seems to me that many politicians have taken the soft renewables message at face value and have made investment decisions and policies in good faith on the basis that the soft renewables path is feasible.In Ontario, the government has made or encouraged large investments in soft renewables and, in my opinion, did so in good faith on advice from so-called specialists and scientists on the feasibility of soft renewables. Perhaps they should have seen through Amory Lovins and his descendants, and, like Hansen, realized that the soft renewables path advocated by Lovins, Greenpeace and IPCC was an Easter Bunny fable, a Tooth Fairy mirage.

But I don’t believe that they had any such realization. It’s too bad that Hansen didn’t speak out earlier.


  1. Roddy Campbell
    Posted Aug 13, 2011 at 1:11 PM | Permalink

    Steve, I prefer the Tom Wolfe Kool-Aid analogy, as in Electric Test, as in blocking out reality, in one case by faith, in the other pharmaceutically. Less death-wishy. 🙂

  2. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Aug 13, 2011 at 1:13 PM | Permalink

    Tell that to Hansen, It’s his image, not mine.

    • Don McIlvin
      Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 12:58 AM | Permalink

      Actually “Kool-Aid drinking” is a rather common idiomatic insult especially in the American political discourse. Even Bill O’Reilly uses it (He often calls the far left “Kool-Aid drinkers”). I see it all the time in political comment wars in various blogs. Wikipedia does associate the term with the massacre, but also indicates an alternative reference to acid laced Kool-Aid from the 60s.

  3. Roddy Campbell
    Posted Aug 13, 2011 at 1:14 PM | Permalink

    It’s the same generation, he might well have meant that. I doubt he wishes to equate Lovins and Jones!

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted Aug 13, 2011 at 1:17 PM | Permalink

      Read the Hansen article linked in the post: http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2011/20110729_BabyLauren.pdf and directly quoted on the point. It is precisely what he is saying. That environmentalists taking inspiration from Lovins are, in effect, pouring kool-aid down his grandchildren’s throats.

      My only contribution to the metaphor is calling it “green” kool-aid.

      • Jeroen B.
        Posted Aug 17, 2011 at 5:18 AM | Permalink

        Dunno if it helps but —


      • Bebben
        Posted Aug 23, 2011 at 6:46 PM | Permalink

        Steve, Walter Russel Mead used the same phrase in a similar way in his post-Climategate and COP-15 blogpost “How Al Gore Wrecked Planet Earth”:


        “The climate change movement now needs to regroup, and at some point it will have to confront a central, unpalatable fact: the wounds from which it is bleeding so profusely are mostly its own fault. (…)
        “Foundation staff, activists and sympathetic journalists cocooned themselves in an echo chamber of comfortable group-think, and as they toasted one another in green Kool-Aid they thought they were making progress when actually they were slowly and painfully digging themselves into an ever-deeper hole.”

        From February 19, 2010, post-Climategate and pre-inquiries – I think it’s still worth a read.

  4. Roddy Campbell
    Posted Aug 13, 2011 at 1:21 PM | Permalink

    You are right. I had read the article a while back, but had not noticed the specific mention of Jim Jones on page 8.

  5. Jeff C
    Posted Aug 13, 2011 at 1:35 PM | Permalink

    “Scientists in their 30s don’t introduce their scientific lectures with baby pictures. Nor should grandfathers in their 1960s.”

    Assuming that’s not a typo, it’s a very nice play on words. PJ O’Rourke noted a similar phenomenon in “Give War a Chance”

    “At first glance the Birkenstock Bolshies seem young. They wear “youth” clothes and have adolescent body language—constantly distributing hugs and touches and squirming with emotion rather than sitting still in thought. But, looking closely at the uniform ponytails and earrings (many of the women wear them too), I noticed that the tresses that were still long in back were oft-times gone on top, and the lady sandalistas, their underarm hair was streaked with gray.”

    Most realize in early in life the folly of pretending things are as they aren’t. When I first read of carbon credits, I was baffled. Who in their right mind would willingly pay their hard-earned money for something with no value? Of course, it quickly became apparent these folks planned to use the force of law to give this bogus commodity value. Same thing applied to the fantasy of green jobs. Who would hire people to produce energy that was more costly, less reliable, and without any apparent superiority to existing sources? Again, the answer was the same, have the state deem it so via force of law.

    I do have to give Hansen some credit for recognizing the idiocy of such thought.

  6. Willis Eschenbach
    Posted Aug 13, 2011 at 1:43 PM | Permalink

    I loved your throw-away line, “Pol Pot-type ruralism”


    • Dishman
      Posted Aug 13, 2011 at 2:59 PM | Permalink

      We have numbers on how that scenario works.

      20% excess mortality in four years.

  7. dearieme
    Posted Aug 13, 2011 at 2:11 PM | Permalink

    “..an IPCC trade journal (Nature)..”: gotcha!

    • chris y
      Posted Aug 13, 2011 at 3:42 PM | Permalink

      Yep, that one caught my eye as well!

      Thanks for another wonderful post, Steve.

  8. DeWitt Payne
    Posted Aug 13, 2011 at 3:09 PM | Permalink

    Don’t forget Jeremy “Small is Beautiful” Rifkin. He became active about the same time as Lovins.

    • Faustino
      Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 3:04 AM | Permalink

      I’ve always associated the phrase “Small is Beautiful” with Ernst Schumacher’s 1973 book of that title; it was sub-titled “economics as if people mattered.” An excellent work by a very good economist, rooted in reality rather than fantasy (he also went to Burma to practise Vipassana meditation, which also involves observation of reality).

  9. Jack Maloney
    Posted Aug 13, 2011 at 4:05 PM | Permalink

    Hansen’s first paragraph describes his grandson’s size as projecting to eventual 2 m height, if you believe long extrapolations).

    Isn’t the credibility of long extrapolations – backward as well as forward – exactly what the climate warmist/skeptic debate is all about?

    • Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 7:11 AM | Permalink

      We find that there is a high correlation between Jake’s height and CO2 levels measured at ESRL (Mauna Loa). Each 1 ppm increase in CO2 appears to cause a 2.5 inch increase in height. Therefore we find that in 2025, Jake will be 8 feet 9 inches tall, reaching a height of 40 feet by 2100, unless a stringent carbon tax is instituted.

  10. SteveGinIL
    Posted Aug 13, 2011 at 4:20 PM | Permalink

    [Trailer]”Although Trailer’s radical environmentalism seems to anticipate a society based on Pol Pot-type ruralism.”

    Seriously, one of the first – and most swaying – realizations I had when turning the skeptical corner was exactly this point (though, Steve, I DO like the Pol Pot reference – though I am pretty sure he caught the virus from Mao). I saw immediately that to go back to ruralism, which I termed “agrarian,” just isn’t possible without taking the world back to pre-Induistrial Revolution days. But we can’t do that with (now) almost 7B people in the world. Just getting food grown and to 7B people is probably a bigger industry by itself than the entire world economy of 1840. The world population was ~1.2B that year, when the Industrial Revoluton was being born.

    Even then the western world couldn’t feed itself – people were leaving the farms which couldn’t sustain all the extra farm hands being born, and they were heading for the cities. It was the failure of the farms to provide them jobs, every bit as much as it had to do with the birth of the factories. So, world population would have to get even below that level, perhaps to ~0.8B to be a sustainable agrarian world.

    So, the question I saw in what the ultra-greens advocated was not how are WE going to get there from here, but what do THEY intend to do to get us there? Were they going to take responsibility for erasing 5B people from the face of the Earth? Of course not. It wasn’t possible in 1980 at the beginning of global warming issue – and it is even less possible now.

    It was a patently untenable goal, and was more sinister, if you think about it, than the actions of a few historical characters of the Pol Pot type (which will remain unnamed). Taking out 5B people ranks someone up there pretty darned high on that scale of mass murderers.

    But, no, they weren’t advocating that we get rid of so many people. They just never thought the thing through. If they had, they’d be looking at it as crazy, just like Trailers is doing now. You just can’t have an agrarian society with 7B people on the planet. Without industry, we are all screwed.

    • DeWitt Payne
      Posted Aug 13, 2011 at 4:46 PM | Permalink

      Have you seen the movie 12 Monkeys? Deep ecology carried to its logical conclusion.

    • Faustino
      Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 3:08 AM | Permalink

      Many “Deep Greens” do in fact argue for a massive reduction in human population, though they tend to argue for birth-restriction rather than mass killing. Anyone advocating that a smaller population is essential can of course remove themselves from it, but that logical response doesn’t appear to happen.

    • gahrie
      Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 11:29 PM | Permalink

      Try reading Rainbow Six by Tom Clancy. Pretty scary, especially since their have been several real world occurrences that resemble his plot lines.

  11. SteveGinIL
    Posted Aug 13, 2011 at 4:48 PM | Permalink

    One of the reasons is, of course, statements like the following from IPCC WG3 (which Hansen conspicuously did not criticize):

    Close to 80 percent of the world‘s energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century if backed by the right enabling public policies a new report shows.

    Well, Steve, perhaps Hansen cut them some slack for being conservative with the 80% figure, because the charts showed it being 100% by 2050. He might have thought that was being more realistic. /snarc

  12. R.S.Brown
    Posted Aug 13, 2011 at 5:14 PM | Permalink


    Your memory isn’t what it used to be.

    My grandfather underwent ineffective laetrile treatments here in the U.S. in the late 1960’s.

    That’s more like 50 years ago.

    As I recall, the primary source for laetril was derived from apricot pits (?), and it supposedly
    served as an alternative to the chemo/rad treatment regimes that were much less developed and
    refined than now.

    You’re right that laetril was essentially a “quack” cure… the survival rate was way below
    10% with it’s use. My grandfather was not among those lucky few.

    • Andrew Russell
      Posted Aug 13, 2011 at 11:55 PM | Permalink

      Heh. http://www.gocomics.com/doonesbury/1977/07/18

      Doonesbury (cartoon strip), late ’70’s. Uncle Duke decided to buy an apricot orchard.

      In 1980, Steve McQueen went to Mexico for futile laetrile treatments for the cancer that killed him that year.

  13. Noblesse Oblige
    Posted Aug 13, 2011 at 7:58 PM | Permalink

    Hansen long ago crossed the border between science and obsession. But like many who are obsessed, he occasionally displays flashes of insight and common sense. Unfortunately, these flashes are still served up in the eccentric language and imagery of the obsessed.

  14. chris y
    Posted Aug 13, 2011 at 8:31 PM | Permalink


  15. DaleC
    Posted Aug 13, 2011 at 8:42 PM | Permalink

    The name at the top of the PDF is Ted Trainer, not Tim Trailer?

  16. Ron Paul for Pres
    Posted Aug 13, 2011 at 9:32 PM | Permalink


    ‘Nor should grandfathers in their 1960s’, should be ’60’s’

    • theduke
      Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 11:05 AM | Permalink

      Nope. Entirely purposeful and appropriate.

  17. jorgekafkazar
    Posted Aug 13, 2011 at 9:40 PM | Permalink

    I read Edenhofer’s statement this way: “Even though the press release starts with a statement about the upper end scenario of renewables deployment that could be achieved, [the press release] also puts the 80% figure into perspective…”

    Unfortunately, the putting into perspective is just three quotations regarding maximum renewables strategy: (1) “very challenging;” (2) “can trigger sharply polarized views;” and (3) “the lowest of the four scenarios [is]…15 percent in 2050.”

    Everything else in the press release is on-message, full speed ahead, damn the torpedoes and the facts as well. Not much perspective, as I read it, despite Edenhofer’s attempt to spin it otherwise.

  18. Grizzled Bear
    Posted Aug 13, 2011 at 10:19 PM | Permalink

    I wish that those who insist on calling solar and wind “renewables” would instead call them what they truly are: “unreliables”. The fact is, until somebody comes up with a way of turning the kinetic energy of the wind as captured by a turbine, or the solar energy of the sun as captured by a photo cell, into a form of storable potential energy, available on demand, then these “renewables” are worse than useless. Because we can’t store electricity in anything like what would be required for a city sized entity, we would HAVE TO have double the generating capacity for when the “unreliables” are not producing. And when you factor in the subsidized super-prices that are currently being guaranteed by governments for the energy produced by the so-called renewables, plus the cost of traditional “back-up” generating capacity that would still be necessary to stop the lights from going out on calm nights, can we really afford it? Here in lovely Ontario, with the deal our (/sarc on) illustrious provincial government (/sarc off) just made for a ton of those nifty whirly windmills, my guess is that the general public won’t really wake up until the lights go out that first time, and then the questions of “how could this happen” will start.

    • Phil
      Posted Aug 13, 2011 at 11:53 PM | Permalink

      The fact is, until somebody comes up with a way of turning the kinetic energy of the wind as captured by a turbine, or the solar energy of the sun as captured by a photo cell, into a form of storable potential energy, available on demand,

      The technology to do just that exists and has existed for decades. It is simple, cost effective and can completely eliminate the need for backup base load generating capacity for when the wind stops blowing or a cloud blocks the sun. It has also been effectively prohibited by the very ideologues that are pushing wind and solar. So the very technology that would enable their utopia has been nixed by them. It is sad. The technology is called pumped storage. Build a reservoir and pump water uphill when the wind is blowing and the sun is out. Generate electricity from the reservoir when you need it. You are only limited in storage by the size of the reservoir you choose to build. The only real limitation to pumped storage is that you do require a difference in elevation.

      • Don McIlvin
        Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 1:55 AM | Permalink

        or just use batteries. Why waste energy pumping water up hill where pump friction, evaporation, introduces loss – never mind infrastructure and land use cost. But for regional power in the plains we would certainly need a BFB, at great expense.

        Maybe it would be cheaper to adapt to the effect rising CO2 has on climate change, whatever that may be – if anything at all.

        • Phil
          Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 3:55 AM | Permalink

          Re: Don McIlvin (Aug 14 01:55),

          or just use batteries.

          It is my understanding that you could store weeks or maybe a couple of months’ worth of electricity using pumped storage. It all depends on the size of the reservoir. Any storage scheme will have to deal with losses, but I am not aware of any type of battery storage that can store enough electricity to supply a city for any length of time. Pumped storage offers very large storage capacity.

        • Grizzled Bear
          Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 7:00 AM | Permalink

          Re: Don McIlvin (Aug 14 01:55),

          Do you know anyone who uses wind/solar to power, say, a cottage? They need a BANK of batteries as backup to keep the lights on. For one measly little cottage. Now expand that out to a city the size of New York. Or Mexico City. Or Beijing. There aren’t enough batteries in the world to be able to do it, even if money was no object. Not to mention that the car batteries that people generally use are rather nasty things for the environment to both manufacture, and dispose of.

          Let me revise my first comment: “The fact is, until somebody comes up with” reasonably inexpensive, cost effective, not-harmful-to-the-environment “way of turning the kinetic energy of the wind as captured by a turbine…. etc”

        • Navy Bob
          Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 7:37 AM | Permalink

          Very interesting analysis of battery requirements at the Oil Drum – “A Nation-Sized Battery.”


          Using proven lead-acid technology and a backup requirement of 2 TW of power for 7 days for a completely renewabled US, the author concludes

          – Running 2 TW electrified country for 7 days requires 336 billion kWh of storage.
          – This battery would demand 5 trillion kg (5 billion tons) of lead.
          – A USGS report from 2011 reports 80 million tons (Mt) of lead in known reserves worldwide, with 7 Mt in the U.S.
          – At today’s price for lead, $2.50/kg, the national battery would cost $13 trillion in lead alone, and perhaps double this to fashion the raw materials into a battery (today’s deep cycle batteries retail for four times the cost of the lead within them).
          – the national battery would require a rotating service schedule to recycle each part once every 5 years or so. This servicing would be a massive, expensive, and never-ending undertaking.

          The Oil Drum an unusual site in that while it appears to have an underlying lefty “carbon bad renewables good” philosophy, (e.g., they approvingly cite articles in The Nation) the posts provide exceptional technical depth and expertise, with many graphs and detailed graphics. Their coverage of the Macondo blowout was outstanding.

        • Grizzled Bear
          Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 9:09 PM | Permalink

          re: Navy Bob

          Now THAT was a cool read. Thanks for the link. Made me think about the old question: What’s heavier – 5 billion tons of lead, or 5 billion tons of feathers?

        • theduke
          Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 11:12 AM | Permalink

          @grizzly: I knew a guy who was on solar and had old batteries he got, I believe, from the New York subway system. They weren’t holding as much charge as they once did, but he could run his timberframe shop for several hours during the day, and his cottage in the evening with them. They were big and old.

          Of course, battery storage of energy has its own objectionable environmental problems.

      • Grizzled Bear
        Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 6:49 AM | Permalink

        So, even more infrastructure would be needed before we could even begin = more money that has to be spent = higher costs in the form of utility bills or taxes. Here in resource rich Ontario we’d have no problems finding the water to fill the reservoirs, once built (at monumental cost to the taxpayer, no doubt). But I suspect that Texans might have a bit more of a problem right now. Would they be expected to choose between having no water to drink, or the lights going out? Or maybe they could build pipelines from the ocean. There’s even more dollars that they can spend. But then again, they wouldn’t need a pipeline every year. And their drought will, eventually come to an end (until the next one). So, do they build an ocean pipeline, for when the next drought hits? The problem seems to be like a mythical hydra. Although, I suppose it could be a boon to the construction industry for a while.
        I’m not meaning to ridicule the idea of pumped storage, but it seems like a step backwards. That’s why I didn’t even consider it in my first comment. Remember that when you build any kind of reservoir/dam, there has to be both a source of the water as well as a place for the water to go when you put the machine into action. Considering the negative opinions that those on the green side of the political spectrum already have about big, destructive, evil hydroelectric projects around the world, how do you think the idea of all these reservoirs/”spillways” is going to go over? That’s ONE of my problems with greens: they want to have their cake and eat it too.

      • Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 6:36 PM | Permalink

        Phil, pumped storage has its own issues, primarily siting and cost. While pumped storage is definitely a proven and economically viable technology, how much it can be expanded, where, and at what cost requires more than just an assertion that is is good and it works.

        Back in early 2009 we had a very knowledgeable commenter, Water Nerd, post the following on WUWT:

        BTW, for those calling for more dams in California, I would ask – where? What un-captured water are you planning to capture, and where are you planning to store it, and what will be the cost per acre foot ( in dollars and in stream flow impacts) for that storage? If you have good answers for this, I know the state DWR would love to hear it, because this has been a topic of conversation and much study there since at least the early 1960s – and the available answers ain’t all that good.

        For example there are 12 potential storage sites north of the Delta that are currently considered potentially feasible, organized into 4 potential projects. The best of these, Dippingvat-Schoenfield (also known as Red Bank Project), would create at most about 380,000 AF of storage. This was extensively studied in the late 1980s, and at that time the cost per acre foot was projected to be an order of magnitude, at least, higher than any other water storage in the state. In short, the project was discontinued because the storage capacity was too small to make a significant impact, and the cost was prohibitive.

        Thomes-Newville, Colusa,and Sites projects, the only other potentially feasible storage projects north of the delta, were even worse.

        He was discussing water storage, not specifically energy storage, but his comment was pertinent to both.

        My own naive and unquantified dream is that solar costs eventually come down for large projects, and excess electricity generated during the day is used to electrolyze hydrogen in large plants. At night the hydrogen is burned at the same location to feed electricity back into the grid and thus no need for transporting the hydrogen.

        And of course nuclear and, if possible, thorium need to be prominently featured in the mix as Hansen also wishes.

        I could go on about other issues where current policies have a negative impact, but I’d like to stay as close to on topic as I can.

        • James Sexton
          Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 8:44 PM | Permalink

          CTM, I’m a big fan of hydro. It’s cheap and effective. I wouldn’t store it per se, but what I’d do is make several successive dams. In this manner, we multiply the available energy, but we don’t stop the flow. There are plenty of places to expand, just think of every dam that doesn’t have turbines. All that said, hydro will always only be a supplement. There are places in the world where damning isn’t an option. And transport of electricity is a losing proposition. The further one moves it, the more loss there is, the more mechanisms required and more infrastructure needed and maintenance thereof.

        • Posted Aug 15, 2011 at 3:25 AM | Permalink

          There is also the question of efficiency. The wikipedia article on the Dinorwig pumped storage station in Wales says it has 75% efficiency which sounds suspiciously high to me if you think of all the potential losses in the process.

      • Posted Aug 17, 2011 at 5:30 AM | Permalink


        I have been more than 45 years in the hydro industry. I have done studies on real pumped storage schemes. They store enough water for 6-10 hours and they have losses of 25%. The storage is vey expensive.

        For it to be useful for wind/solar, we need to store energy for days weeks and even months. There are very, very few sites in the world that will allow you to do this. And if there were there are still major problems. To provide all the power for a 10,000 MW load from wind requires 30,000 MW of wind and 20,000 MW of pumped storage. 50,000 MW of capacity for 10,000 MW of load. Guess the cost!

        But the BIG problem is that you can’t find sites with ~700 m head difference capable of storing huge amounts of water in a head pond and a tail pond. Or the water required to makeup for evaporation.

  19. Bernie
    Posted Aug 13, 2011 at 10:29 PM | Permalink

    Has Gavin endorsed his boss’ position?

  20. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Aug 13, 2011 at 10:33 PM | Permalink

    By coincidence – I assume, given the surname – many of the same points are made in a new Australian book “The Greens: Policy, Realities & Consequences” by Andrew McIntyre. (Connor Court Publishing, 2011).
    I’m a bit older than Steve, but we have travelled similar paths and I relate well to his opening. In our younger days, we faced the menace of the Greens, selected the worst portions of their philosophy and provided strong rebuttals of them for the Press to spread.
    These days, the policies of the Greens remain largely unexamined because the Press has failed to continue this procedure.
    Forget cuddy feel-good soft energy from the Greens and recall Jackboots. It’s no coincidence that the IPCC is heavily influenced by some Germans who have failed to learn from history, but it is strange that “Nature” has retained English language. Germany has been the focus of this revolution-in-making from the beginning, with California close second.

  21. Anthony Watts
    Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 1:02 AM | Permalink

    Are sure he didn’t mean “Easter Rabett”?

  22. Don McIlvin
    Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 1:29 AM | Permalink

    The irony of Hansen’s reference to Kool-Aid drinking, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy in discribing Lovins and the Green Peace solution, is that it aptly applies to his own “Real Solution” beginning on Page 8.

  23. alex verlinden
    Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 2:06 AM | Permalink

    as DaleC remarked above, the Australian professor is Ted Trainer, not Tim Trainer … he writes a lot about the possibilities and (in)capacities of renewables …

    (got to know him via the site of prof Barry Brook, bravenewclimate.com, who believes in the theory of warming, but is a very firm advocate of nuclear power in order to diminish CO2 … worth a visit also …)

  24. AntonyIndia
    Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 3:55 AM | Permalink

    The Fukushima disaster gave the “anti-nukes” ammo to mess up Hansen’s “CO2-safe future” vision: he was and is a big fan of nuclear power:

    “Pushker Kharecha and I will write a paper with an objective post-Fukushima assessment of the role of nuclear power..” “However, a few comments on safety5, technology status6, nuclear waste7, fuel supply and cost9 are warranted to balance the opportunistic barrage of misinformation from dedicated ‘anti-nukes’ and an undiscerning sensation-minded media”
    See page 7 and 8 of Hansen’s “Baby Lauren and the Kool-Aid”.

  25. Speed
    Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 5:52 AM | Permalink

    Laetrile: the cult of cyanide
    Promoting poison for profit

    The laetrile empire is a highly organized and lucrative industry using sophisticated computerized technology, levels of funding undreamed of by the “snake oil salesmen” of old, with enormous impact on federal, state and local levels of government. It has the ability by push-button to generate avalanches of mail, massive funding for candidates supporting laetrile. It has an interlocking network with other organizations promoting health quackery, exerts unrelenting pressures on elected officials, and is not above smearing and threatening responsible scientists who dare to challenge it.
    The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 32: MAY 1979, pp. 1121-1158.

    • Hu McCulloch
      Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 8:45 AM | Permalink

      During the laetrile flap, my sister and I once drove from Seattle to Vancouver, and had packed some snacks, including apricots, for the road. At the border, the Canadian guards made us pitch the apricots, lest their pits fall into unscrupulous hands. We pulled off on the American side and feasted on them before crossing.

      • Mark F
        Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 9:20 AM | Permalink

        More likely they were protecting the local crops from infestation by biological threats from across the border. Same thing happens with citrus fruits into California, if you check, maybe also Florida. Cherries were OK from WA into BC, but peaches and apricots wouldn’t have been. But it makes a good story.

        • Hu McCulloch
          Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 10:25 AM | Permalink

          My recollection is that they gave us the option of bringing the flesh in, so long as we left the pits behind. Carrying a bag full of fragrant apricot mush in a close car on a long trip did not appeal to us, so we ate them at the border instead.

  26. Rob MW
    Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 6:53 AM | Permalink


    In my mind, the self hopelessness and propagated suicidal generation that gave us the likes of Jim Jones have now become the current generational educators and rather than being in isolation or periodic, they have permeating nearly every classroom and University in the western world. Hansen et al are amongst the leaders of these current educators who are merely fulfilling the dreams they so inspired to in their youth.

    It is more than a little late now for Hansen et al to unsubscribe to their collective irrational self hopelessness, for the damage is too great, and too deep-seated within our children and grandchildren, and they (the current educators) will now have to suffer the consequences of their revelations.

    I am a father and grandfather, and I curse the ground, and ideologies, of all that have acted to instil in our children a skewed and manipulated outlook on their yet to be commenced lives, and the world that surrounds them.

  27. John Whitman
    Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 8:19 AM | Permalink

    We should resist being naïve about Trainer’s activism.

    Here is my summary of Trainer’s worldview based on his article.

    My summary of Trainers worldview => The fully renewable future is necessary ‘a priori’. The IPCC is screwing up its assessments and recommendations on the need for fully renewable. That is delaying the inevitable “transition to full dependence on renewables”. Stop it IPCC. Any delay should not be tolerated in the ending of “consumer-capitalist society” which is required to achieve “full dependence on renewables”. [end of JW summary]

    In other words the IPCC is a merely complicit means to his ends . . . ending “consumer-capitalist society”.

    As a reminder here are Trainer’s words, “It is also my view that we should transition to full dependence on renewables as soon as possible…although this will not be possible in a consumer-capitalist society.”


  28. manicbeancounter
    Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 9:13 AM | Permalink

    Hansen’s belief that policy-makers know what they are doing is a trite naive. We are told that the IPCC is a consensus on the world’s best scientists – and with conclusions that cover not just the basic science but the policy as well.
    There are few politicians who will speak out against such a vocal consensus. Further, there are few politicians who have the ability to properly assess the effectiveness of renewables in meeting future energy needs.

  29. Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 9:16 AM | Permalink

    You talk about the fairy tales of the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy but you consistently seem to miss the real non-fairy-tale The Gorilla In The Room, which is the issue of oil depletion and Peak Oil.

    You have resisted this topic for years on this blog, have you no choice now that you have chosen to dive into the topic of renewables. The decline of availability in non-renewables will make eventually make up the majority of the trade-off criteria, so you might start to want to write about depletion.

    Steve: I can’t cover every issue. There are many other blogs in the world. As you observe, peak oil is an important issue and has coverage elsewhere.

  30. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 9:31 AM | Permalink

    As a matter of editorial policy, I would appreciate it if readers would make an effort to tie comments to the specific articles and issues of the thread – interpreted narrowly. Rather than using the post as a platform to vent opinions on more general matters.

  31. Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 9:50 AM | Permalink

    Steve, I hate to quibble, but the analogy to Laetrile is a fail. I’ll explain….. As you stated, Laetrile was a useless drug. While many wasted time and money seeking Laetrile treatment, most would have died anyway. (At that time, treatments and knowledge for the various cancers have improved significantly.) So, while the drug was a horrible scam, it was fairly innocuous. (In general terms, I’m certain it was horrible for the people personally touched by the scam.)

    Having entire nations and societies embrace renewables, causes much more damage. It saps the resources of our nations and disproportionately effects the underclasses of our society. I’ll give a recent real-world example.

    As most know, there recently was a drought/heatwave in the mid-section of the U.S. I work for a small rural electric co-operative in Kansas. The U.S. and Kansas to a greater degree has embraced renewables. This embracing is hand-in-hand with rejecting the more traditional sources of electricity generation. …. So, we’ve quit building traditional sources of electricity and erected countless pinwheels and whirlygigs and hopes they would generate electricity. A couple of weeks ago, at the height of the heatwave, my company broke a record for the most electricity sold in one day…(indeed, we broke our monthly record on the 20th, having another 1/3 of the month to go.) On that day, a nuke plant was down for maintenance and repairs, a coal plant had been flooded by the floods this summer. These two places are where we get most of our energy. Hydro ….well, drought is the Achilles heel of hydro power. And the wind? Our return on the billions of dollars (mostly from public funds) invested in these pinwheels? Well, the wind wasn’t blowing that day. We got nothing!

    What this meant, because we are no longer allowed to build traditional energy generation plants(allowed is the proper word because we have a private company begging to invest $4 billion in western Kansas but has been thwarted for years.) Coupled with the ineffectiveness of wind, we had to buy energy off of the market at an exorbitantly high cost, which, we have to pass on to our membership. Recall that I work for a small, rural, electric provider. Our membership consists mostly of farmers who’s livelihood had been jeopardize by the weather and retirees, seeking only the smallest of comforts in their twilight years on their fixed incomes. They received their bills Friday. We’ve indebted them to our insanity of embracing and encouraging renewables. We’ve sapped the public monies to a point where there is no cushion available. We’ve increased the cost of every good and service that is reliant upon electricity. We’ve thwarted job creation so there is little hope their financial condition will change anytime soon, and if it does, it will only mean some one else’ has turned for the worse.

    What I described above is the vision and legacy of our headlong rush toward depravity. Not just in SE Kansas, not just Kansas, nor simply the U.S., but all across the world we’ve done this. We’ve victimized the current populace and sentenced the next several generations to financial ruin and economic squalor in order to fulfill some dystopian vision. If the decision makers had thought for more than a second about this issue they would have to have known that anything other than cheap, reliable and available electricity severely hobbles the advancement of mankind and unnecessarily imposes on the less fortunate of our societies. By comparison, Laetrile is a panacea.


  32. theduke
    Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 11:00 AM | Permalink

    Excellent essay, Steve. I particularly like the Big Picture aspect of it. As one who doesn’t always understand the science behind your posts, I appreciate the occasional attempts at analyzing from a broader perspective.

    Minor criticism: Jim Jones was not merely prominent in the “hippy world” of San Francisco, he was prominent in California politics and known to national politicians. He had the endorsement of Mayor Moscone, Harvey Milk, Willie Brown, and Jerry Brown. He had a private meeting with Walter Mondale during the 76 campaign, and met several times with Rosalyn Carter.

    For those interested, his wiki is fascinating.


  33. Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 12:20 PM | Permalink

    David MacKay’s book is quite good for back of the envelope calculations on energy storage. His conclusion on this question is pretty much in line with his overall conclusion: it’s possible but only with considerable effort and by combining lots of different approaches (he envisages a mixture of demand management, battery storage, pumped storage hydro, and conventional backup). Not impossible but not easy.

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 1:02 PM | Permalink

      All of which goes to show just how disappointing the IPCC Report on Renewables is. It really doesn’t do the job. Much of the problem IMO arises from the fact that a literature review of articles published in academic literature is not an engineering-quality assessment, which is what the public presumes that the IPCC would do. Nor do green academics seem to understand the difference.

      Storage is obviously region and site specific, but WG3 could surely have shed more light on this.

      • Tom Gray
        Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 1:21 PM | Permalink

        Does this imply that the IPCC effort should be changed from academic scientific research to an engineering project to deal with AGW? That is an effort staffed by people who know how to develop knowledge to justify and further large projects. That is a system in which the quality of the inputs would be justified beyond the level of being published in an academic journal.

  34. ferd berple
    Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 3:06 PM | Permalink

    Ted Trainer
    “Thus the probability of a loss of load event might be very low, but if and when it happens the entire wind contribution would have to be made up by some other source, and as Lenzen notes the capital cost of this provision should be accounted to the wind system.”

    Either that, or the cost to society of having unreliable power. Third world tropical countries maybe can get by without reliable power. Modern countries outside the tropics cannot. Think of all the equipment that relies on reliable power supplies, from refrigerators to elevators to traffic lights to heating to air conditioning to computers and communications.

    What happens to our modern societies, our food supplies and our way of life without these? The idea that modern societies can substantially do without power when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shinning is suicidal nonsense. The idea that we can somehow change this by placing ever increasing taxes on low cost energy is similarly economic suicide, which simply drives jobs and prosperity from one country to the next, largely paid for by these same tax.

    Placing a tax on CO2 makes it more profitable for many companies to relocate to countries with lower CO2 taxes than it does to reduce CO2 emissions. Hansen is only looking at the consumer, who largely cannot relocate due to immigration barriers. Companies do not face this burden. The only way that high labor cost countries can compete with countries like China and India is to reduce non labor costs such as energy.

  35. Bill Hunter
    Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 4:48 PM | Permalink

    “Friends of the Earth had originated a couple of years earlier (in 1969) in San Francisco. Oddly, the institution giving rise to the original kool-aid metaphor (Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple) was also prominent in San Francisco’s hippy world of the 1970s.”

    Hippies of the 60’s, particularly San Francisco, would swallow anything! Literally! I know I was there!

  36. RoyFOMR
    Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 6:57 PM | Permalink

    I’d love renewables but only if I could get my head around the concept.
    What does it actually mean? Is it zero-lag energy availability, shortly-available or what?
    PV or similar is pretty close to zero-lag. The sun shines, we get our solar-energy almost instantly. Just like plants, I’d guess.
    Wind is not that far behind, perhaps, but trickier to model.
    Tidal is, likely, easier to mathematicise but still an engineering issue waiting for an economic solution.
    Fossil is a renewable but the time-scales are more than a tad longer than the above examples.
    As for radioactivity – I haven’t a clue and others tell me that Geo is a possibility short of an answer.
    So were do we draw the line? Short-term renewables like solar, tidal or wind. Intermittent and energy-diffuse and still lacking off-line storage unless we really ramp-up hydro.
    So my question is. What is a Renewable source of Energy?

  37. Mesa
    Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 8:31 PM | Permalink

    I don’t think this post is very insightful or useful. It’s straight from the straw man genre. It may well be that the IPCC report or Greenpeace report on alternative energy sources overstates their potential importance – that’s not surprising. It’s a pretty big leap from there to the tooth fairy language. If we forget about AGW and focus instead on energy as a national security issue, there may well be an economic justification for a portfolio of energy solutions that are uneconomic unless you cost in the cost of policing the Middle East, for example. For example, solar energy works, it’s just expensive. We can extract more Crude Oil here, it’s just expensive. However, so is a trillion dollars or so over the past 10 yrs policing dangerous parts of the world. This post misses some of those nuances in a a way the CA often does – it’s a sort of a passive/aggressive style – “wait – I didn’t mean that! – i meant something really specific!” No energy source has to be able to supply more than a small fraction of the total picture to be worth pursuing in some applications.

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 8:58 PM | Permalink

      The Tooth Fairy terminology was Hansen’s. Have you asked Gavin Schmidt for a comment?

      My criticism (also Trainer’s) was with IPCC’s failure to provide a useful assessment of the alternatives. I presume that Greenpeace might well overstate the importance – I knew that before I picked up the IPCC report. What offended me (and Trainer) was that IPCC merely catalogued this alternative on the basis that it had been published in academic literature and did not assess it.

      • Mesa
        Posted Aug 15, 2011 at 1:18 PM | Permalink

        Here’s what you wrote:

        “In Ontario, the government has made or encouraged large investments in soft renewables and, in my opinion, did so in good faith on advice from so-called specialists and scientists on the feasibility of soft renewables. Perhaps they should have seen through Amory Lovins and his descendants, and, like Hansen, realized that the soft renewables path advocated by Lovins, Greenpeace and IPCC was an Easter Bunny fable, a Tooth Fairy mirage.”

        My point is that just because the feasibility of using alternative energy sources for large parts (80%) of the developed world’s energy portfolio is wildly overstated by the sources you identify, doesn’t imply that some amount of investment in them is not appropriate or justified. Its a complete non sequitur, and that’s what the conclusion of your post implies. It’s really an example of the type of sophistry that you seem to dislike in others, and seems designed to throw red meat to the base, as it were.

        • Steve McIntyre
          Posted Aug 15, 2011 at 3:00 PM | Permalink

          It doesn’t imply that “some investment” is unreasonable. however, in Ontario (and in other jurisdictions), we’re not talking about “some” investment, we’re talking about very large investments.

          We’re also talking about the future – is it reasonable for governments to place a large bet on renewables for a large footprint solution?

        • Mesa
          Posted Aug 15, 2011 at 3:08 PM | Permalink

          I guess I would counter with the question: “is it reasonable for the US govt to place a large bet on the Middle East for its energy future?”

        • Bruce
          Posted Aug 15, 2011 at 4:50 PM | Permalink

          “The top five exporting countries accounted for 67 percent of United States crude oil imports in May while the top ten sources accounted for approximately 87 percent of all U.S. crude oil imports. The top five sources of US crude oil imports for May were Canada (2,006 thousand barrels per day), Saudi Arabia (1,197 thousand barrels per day), Mexico (1,154 thousand barrels per day), Venezuela (895 thousand barrels per day), and Nigeria (808 thousand barrels per day).”

        • Mesa
          Posted Aug 15, 2011 at 9:47 PM | Permalink

          Data is correct – the point is due to the inelastic nature of crude oil (gasoline) demand, interruption in Middle Eastern supplies lead to enormous prioe changes. The point is to provide substitution for those supplies.

        • James Sexton
          Posted Aug 15, 2011 at 6:37 PM | Permalink

          @Mesa, I think it would be more sensible to distinguish two entirely different discussions. When discussing renewables, one is generally referring to electric generation. While there certainly are some generation plants that run on crude, it isn’t significant in any manner. (Note, this is specific to the U.S.) So, even if windmills and solar were successful, (they are not, nor will they be) it wouldn’t effect our consumption of oil and oil products.

          If we are to move our attention to oil product replacement, then one should discuss the wisdom of pouring our food down our fuel tanks. In my estimation its a net negative, but, knowing we can make alcohol out of any plant, I’d suggest some weed. I’ve drunk dandelion wine before, I can say we shouldn’t be worried about effecting a market there.

          Biomass, seems to be stuck. Every now and then someone announces the next great development, but nothing ever materializes, for either fueling electricity generation or fuel for our autos.

          (continuing with a more general comment)

          snip – sorry, more general comments discouraged for editorial reasons

        • Mesa
          Posted Aug 15, 2011 at 9:52 PM | Permalink

          No support for ethanol here.

    • theduke
      Posted Aug 14, 2011 at 9:56 PM | Permalink


      Read the first paragraph of Trainer’s report. Does that fit your description of a straw man? Or a country of straw men?

      The legion of people described therein may be straw men now, but only because people like Steve spend the time and energy to expose them.

      • Mesa
        Posted Aug 15, 2011 at 1:23 PM | Permalink

        Point taken that the activities of SM and others have been invaluable in discrediting the IPCC process….no argument there. My point is that even without AGW there are good reasons to consider investments in alternative energy sources, and if that puts you in some type of partial alignment with AGW types on that issue you shouldn’t reject it for that reason alone.

        • Posted Aug 15, 2011 at 2:40 PM | Permalink

          I cannot think of any reason to invest in alternative energy except for personal use or inability to provide other energy…

          Wind Power? Don’t think so … Consider this:

          Particularly in summer wind turbines produce less than 17% of face plate value more than 50% of the time.

          I would happily quote you Solar Power numbers from Ontario — but all the installations are non-reporting. I wonder why….???

          You can verify the numbers yourself by downloading the production numbers from IESO. Renewable energy appears to be a losing proposition on all but the smallest of scales.

        • Mesa
          Posted Aug 15, 2011 at 3:12 PM | Permalink

          I’m not big fan of wind energy – my definition of practical currently feasible alternative energy sources includes hydro, solar and nuclear. They all have problems and are all much more expensive than imported oil and/or coal at this point.

        • Posted Aug 15, 2011 at 4:21 PM | Permalink


          If you can point me to Canadian numbers showing the feasibility of Solar I would greatly appreciate it.

          Here, in Ontario, the Solar Producers are paid up to $0.805 per kwh ($805/MWH) — so it would be nice to see that Solar can actually be useful. The claim I have seen is that Solar (Grid) power is even more intermittent than wind — as well as only being truly useful for a short time centered on the local Solar noon. Also I have heard claims (believable) that Solar produces about the equivalent of four hours worth of full output per day. That makes me think that Solar should be removed from the list of feasible power sources unless someone can produce better figures showing feasibility.

        • Posted Aug 15, 2011 at 4:35 PM | Permalink

          I just wanted to add a link that will make “Solar Intermittency” more clear.

          I believe that the graphs tell the tale.

  38. EdeF
    Posted Aug 15, 2011 at 8:42 AM | Permalink

    Trainer is right on with his comments. Good to see someone employing critical thinking on a problem. Have not read his solution yet.

  39. Craig Loehle
    Posted Aug 15, 2011 at 9:02 AM | Permalink

    I work in the forest sector. We have conducted several workshops on biomass energy. The concept is simple, but in practice barriers exist. The sexy liquid fuels path for using wood that Dept of Energy has spent millions on is still not close to reality despite decades of work. Wood is very hard to separate into its components due to lignins etc. The simple path of adding wood to a coal slurry runs into problems of complicating the pollution control problem because wood burning creates different byproducts than coal and regulations do not easily accomodate it. Getting more wood from the forest runs into problems of sustainability if waste wood is used and competes with paper mills if logs are used. There is a fantasy that lots of waste wood is just laying around waiting to be picked up–in reality salvaging tops to burn is labor intensive and costly.

    • Posted Aug 15, 2011 at 10:18 AM | Permalink

      Re: Craig Loehle (Aug 15 09:02), Competition for wood chips and waste products has driven up the cost of composite/manufactured wood products as well. The idea of “Green Energy” and renewable energy is appealing — but in practice it is difficult to find a biofuel energy source that does not upset some other aspect of the economy. You can track composite wood prices here. — randomlengths.com/base.asp?s1=Daily_WoodWire&s2=Market_News&s3=Random_Lengths — There appears to have been an affect on the prices over the last few years… Anyway — it is not just paper and corrugated paper (cardboard) mills that face increased competition.

    • Tom Gray
      Posted Aug 15, 2011 at 10:47 AM | Permalink

      There is an entire forest industry on the verge of collapse here in Quebec. Many mills have shut down because there is no demand for the paper they make in the face of competition from Brazil and elsewhere. In my are, all of the paper mills have been shut down. Getting wood quota for the mills that are operating out of the area is very difficult. There is extremely large unemployment among the forest workers. There seems to be lot of government make work programs around here.

      There may be other difficulties but the supply of workers and wood from Quebec would seem to be there. Is it teh same in othr regaiosn facing competition from new supplers. The US softwood lobby’s actions to protect its market (and raise the price of houses for Americans) would seem to inidcate so.

  40. Craig Loehle
    Posted Aug 15, 2011 at 10:57 AM | Permalink

    As a further comment on wood-based renewables, EPA has a mandate for cellulosic liquid fuels be blended into gasoline. Penalties for failure to add it begin soon (or began already). But such fuels do not yet exist. The magic wand is not working to summon up idealized technologies.
    On the idea that “waste” wood can be used: The wood products industry is the biggest user of waste wood. Sawdust goes to make particle board, wood chips to paper, waste to boilers to make steam and electricity. Very little is left. They also have spent 35 yrs+ increasing the ability to recycle paper (not so easy–it is full of plastic & junk).

    • EdeF
      Posted Aug 15, 2011 at 8:39 PM | Permalink

      Ditto what Craig says. Every chip of wood is valuable and is used. Many times over.

  41. Bob
    Posted Aug 15, 2011 at 11:56 AM | Permalink

    So Hansen is now not only an expert on the climate but also on energy? Fossil fuels, solar energy, wind turbines and delivery of electricity and transmission problems and solutions – he’s an expert? I know the renewables myth is a load of crap but one would think a “scientist” would stick to their area of expertise. This shows how the whole global warming bandwagon has gotten off track. They are all suddenly experts in ALL the facets of the big picture. They can’t keep their mouths shut on a topic because their egos are so inflated. Sad days for science.

  42. Jonathan Schafer
    Posted Aug 15, 2011 at 12:09 PM | Permalink

    Steve, you said

    I’m not sure why Hansen thinks that politicians are so much more insightful than IPCC WG3. It seems to me that many politicians have taken the soft renewables message at face value and have made investment decisions and policies in good faith on the basis that the soft renewables path is feasible.

    This can only be true if the politicians are completely ignorant. I don’t know of any “scientists” who are saying the soft renewables path is feasible. I hear them saying that the fossil future is infeasible and I hear startups as well as well established companies pitching green to get gov’t handouts and subsidies, ala GE. The same GE that lobbies hard for green energy and distributes a lot of campaign donations.

    To me, it reeks of crony capitalism and opportunism, not good faith.

  43. Posted Aug 15, 2011 at 6:44 PM | Permalink

    “Close to 80 percent of the world‘s energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century if backed by the right enabling public policies a new report shows. ”

    This statement is perfectly plausible, depending on what the “right enabling public policies” are (for example: public policies resulting in a reduction in global population on the order of 90%).

  44. alex verlinden
    Posted Aug 16, 2011 at 3:28 AM | Permalink

    snip –

    sorry about this. I repeatedly ask readers not to make general editorials or to try to debate the “big picture” in a few sentences, even if they seem well chosen to the commenter. Otherwise every thread quickly looks the same. This is an editorial policy here, even if the line is not drawn as clearly on threads like this one.

  45. Rob Bradley
    Posted Aug 17, 2011 at 8:08 PM | Permalink

    Some energy history on Amory Lovins is here: http://www.masterresource.org/2011/05/birth-conservationism-ii-amory-lovins/

5 Trackbacks

  1. […] McIntyre commented today on (inter alia) a self-serving editorial by WG3 chairman Ottmar Edenhofer in an IPCC trade […]

  2. By Niche Modeling » The Problem with Renewables on Aug 15, 2011 at 12:43 AM

    […] kindness than Jim is shown by Steve McIntyre in reviewing two other articles on renewables by […]

  3. […] voilà. Dal blog di Steve McIntyre, le immagini e l’idea. Cambiano gli anni e le proiezioni temporali, restano salde le utopie. […]

  4. […] Source: https://climateaudit.org/2011/08/13/hansen-and-ipccs-green-kool-aid/ […]

  5. […] nonsense about solar and wind, a topic on which James Hansen, to his credit, has spoken out, condemning as sentencing his grandchildren to drinking green […]

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