1. The diffuse, weather dependent sources that qualify for the renewable brand controlled by organizations like the American Council On Renewable Energy are not capable of providing the quantity of reliable power needed for economic prosperity. That’s why I prefer to call them by the technically more accurate term of “unreliable.”

    @Rod Adams

    You’re sounding a lot like a Malthusian these days … seeing wealth in purely finite and quantitative terms, and not in qualitative terms (with respect to distribution of benefits). Ok … an energy dense resource creates great “wealth” for the owners of that resource, and ordinary benefits for consumers (in the form of available energy at a low cost to do work). But what if there was an energy resource that delivered the same benefit to consumers (with respect to cost and availability), but also distributed “wealth” among the owners of that resource in a more equitable (with respect to “compensated risk”) and distributed fashion. You don’t think qualitative concerns are just as important as quantitative ones?

    If your argument is that corporate concentration of wealth is hindered by the advancement of “unreliables”, I think I see your point (here). If you’re argument is that unreliables can’t be integrated in a sufficient way to provide ordinary benefits to consumers (reliability of supply and a hedge against future price increases), I don’t see your point. There appears to be a great deal of evidence to the contrary.

    1. @EL

      I’m not defending corporate concentration of wealth. I am attacking the evident and measurable concentration of wealth from all of the rest of us into the coffers of a small minority of people involved in extracting and distributing hydrocarbons around the world.

      If unreliables could produce the product that people want – controllable power at their fingertips – then I would be all for them. However, the only wind projects that are actually price competitive with fossil fuels in producing electricity under current conditions are those that are enormous farms that take advantage of scale to produce the overall low cost. Those low cost projects involve machines that are placed onto poles that are more than 100 meters in elevation. They are huge machines whose parts need special convoys for delivery. They are beneficial to people who own substantial tracts of land; they cannot be placed on a suburban lot, for example, which is the only kind of land I have ever owned.

      Technically speaking, atomic energy can be made economical and reliable in very small, personal sizes if mass produced. It can certainly be economical in moderate village or city sized grids that deliver affordable energy without emissions whenever people want it.

      I’m not a Malthusian. When I speak about hoarding wealth and power, I am aiming directly at people who are real Malthusians that believe if all of the rest of us develop to our maximum capacity, their tight little circles of the right kinds of people will have fewer resources. Even if they maintain their resources, perhaps they are worried about their relative dominance; I’ve met some enormously wealthy people who don’t really care about money for anything other than a way to keep score so they can feel superior.

      My vision is a complete alteration of the conventional view that the only way to do nuclear is to build enormous machines and surround them with multiple security barriers. There is plenty of uranium to go around. A quantity that can be held in a human hand could provide all of the fuel that person needed for their entire lifetime energy demands and it would cost less than a smart phone.

    2. @All:
      John Morgan has a sobering piece over at BNC: The Catch-22 of Energy Storage. I (we) need to carefully go through his primary reference: Energy intensities, EROIs, and energy payback times of electricity generating power plants, because the issue is a bit more complicated than John’s overview. But the conclusion is that not only are wind and solar unreliable, they are also unsustainable in the sense that their near-term economic viability is dependent upon the availability of cheap fossils for their manufacture, deployment, and the balancing plant or storage — pumped hydro being most efficient by a fair sketch if you can get it — needed for their reliable operation. Turn off the gas and the “renewable” world sinks into a state of energy poverty.

      There are but four energy sources dense enough and reliable enough to support Life As We Know It in the West: in increasing order gas, coal, hydro, and nuclear. This thermodynamic limitation assumes no storage technology will be more energy efficient than pumped hydro. It does not mean there isn’t room on the edges for limited wind/solar with limited storage for niche parts of variable load.

      1. Read that too. The comments are also informative. There is a lot of detail to understand there, but if he is correct it is a pretty devastating indictment of the idea that an advanced civilization could power itself with wind/solar.

        1. There is of course a type of civilization that could survive on low EROEI energy sources. That is the kind of civilization where the bulk of humanity lives just far enough above the poverty-line to prevent general revolution. There are people pushing renewable energy and other lifestyle changing ‘sustainability’ policies with precisely this future in mind, presumably with themselves as part of an elite who are able to maintain a semblance of comfortable and healthy life while the rest sees their standard of life degrade inexorably.

          A low EROEI civilization is expected by these elites to consists only of low-energy economic activities which do not harm the environment. In order to save the planet, the low EROEI of non-nuclear clean energy is then seen as a benefit by these elites, because it will increase the cost of living to the point where aggregate consumption is significantly reduced. Low consumer spending is seen to be the only antidote against ‘wasteful consumerism’.

          Indeed, the greatest risk of nuclear energy according to these elites is that it would supply abundant affordable clean power, because according to these elites the availability of such power would only be used by humanity to exacerbate global environmental problems.

          I think we need to keep in mind this possibility: that some or many advocates of non-nuclear clean energies fully understand the poor social and economic performance of such energies, but that they see this as a great benefit of those energies rather than as a serous drawback.

          1. @Joris van Dorp wrote:

            I think we need to keep in mind this possibility: that some or many advocates of non-nuclear clean energies fully understand the poor social and economic performance of such energies, but that they see this as a great benefit of those energies rather than as a serous drawback. (Emphasis in original)

            There’s no doubt that a portion of the antinuclear movement has this elitist attitude. My experience has been, however, that it is a relatively small portion. Though there are certainly some “trust fund babies” who believe that money magically appears in a bank account in roughly the same way that electricity appears at a wall socket, the portion of Americans who have that experience is quite small. Most of the people that I know who have money recognize that their income is dependent on living in a vibrant economy that is full of middle class consumers that can purchase a growing quantity of products and services, many of which provide a growing quality of experience with less and less material input.

            Example: Though my iPhone and iPad are not cheap devices, both of them together weigh less than 2 pounds. Their value to me is in ephemeral “software” and firmware that enable them to replace many hundreds of pounds worth of paper, vinyl, and magnetic tape. I now can carry my music collection, a far number of movies, and a pretty decent book library on two different devices, one of which slips easily into my pants pocket and one of which is smaller and lighter than the scheduler I used to carry.

            The fact that those devices exist and are now in the hands of tens of millions of people creates a vast amount of wealth in the form of new jobs and new creative outlets for people. Someone has to produce the software products that we all love to accumulate and use. Those devices and many like them, however, require continuous energy inputs that were not necessarily needed by the passive storage means they replaced. It is a good thing that Fermi and friends helped us to find a power source that requires tiny amounts of material for vast amounts of energy.

      2. The focus there is on energy return on investment, with the premise that you require some fairly large multiple of energy out over energy in to have an advanced civilization. It is less an argument about economics, although there has got to be some relationship there, since money is a stand-in for resources in the real world.

      3. @Ed Leaver

        You’ll find discussion of this paper starting here:


        There’s nothing wrong with the EROEI for wind or solar. EROEIs are well within range of other common and widely used energy resources (e.g, OPEC or unconventional oil which appears to be doing fine on a energy utilization basis). Assumptions on storage are incorrect, and significantly inflated to irrational levels in the paper. Take away irrational assumptions, and the numbers look fine. EROEI for wind and utility solar exceed that for other energy resources that are common and widely used in today’s energy markets.

          1. @Engineer-Poet

            As I said. EROEI for wind and CSP are at the top of the range for oil (twice that for tar sands). Solar PV is too low in report (reflecting non-utility deployments and low end of range). A generally accepted global average for solar PV is 6.8 (and rising each year). An EROEI of 80 for nuclear is also far too high (and is inconsistent with most available independent studies on the topic). EROEI projections are highly sensitive to inputs and assumptions, and notoriously difficult to compare. This study appears to be an excellent example of this, with irrational assumptions on energy storage added to it.

          2. Your sources are mostly various recyclings of the fraudulent Storm & Smith study.


            No it’s not. Lenzen summarizes the “Main areas of disagreement with Storm van Leeuwen and Smith’s study” here.

            As previously discussed, Vattenfall is flawed on the following bases:

            Most of the energy inputs are from non-fossil fuel sources (in particular hydro). They account for transportation of waste to fuel repositories (but not construction of those facilities). Service life is 50 years (not a more typical 40). It’s basically a material and transport inventory … Lenzen reports many upstream contributions were omitted: auxiliary services, insurance, service inputs. Weissbach faults Vattenfall for subtracting enrichment energy demands from the output rather than adding it to the input: “it was argued that the enrichment is done by nuclear power in Tricastin (France), but this happens outside the analyzed plant, Forsmark, so it should be treated as an (external) input” (p. 219).

            As previously discussed, system boundaries and assumptions are not available for WNA result (cited references either don’t exist or are out of print).

            There is no Kivisto 2000, Uchiyama 1991, or Inst. Policy Science 1977, in their source list. IAEA TecDoc Series No. 753 is out of print [and is unavailable on-line]

            1. @EL

              I just reread the thread to which you linked. Apparently, you are under the quite mistaken impression that your arguments were persuasive.

              They were wrong then and continue to be wrong now. As I said then, it is absurd for Sovacool to admit that Storm-Smith was flawed and controversial and yet still include it, along with several derivatives of it, in a meta study that excludes inputs just because they are not academically “peer-reviewed.”

              Do you think that reviews by regulatory bodies and internal reviews to ensure numerical accuracy and methodology legitimacy are somehow less stringent than an academic “peer-review?”

              It is obvious to all of us that you are a “social scientist”, a term that is often considered among hard scientists and engineers to be an oxymoron.

              Your litany of contributions that were omitted is revealing for its “see what sticks” methodology. How the heck do insurance and service inputs affect the results of an EROEI calculation? If those are the best examples Lenzen can come up with for items that were ignored — because they were far too small to matter — it increases my confidence that Vattenfall’s numbers are reasonable, especially since there are plenty of improvements remaining in nuclear fission technology.

              As you have stated in response to inquiries about your background, you have shared your real identity with me. I will continue to respect your wishes to remain anonymous, but I will also report to the rest of the readers that I can find no evidence of any of work by you indicating any reason why your comments about technical details like EROEI or grid operations challenges imposed by unreliables should hold any weight at all. I’ve search pretty extensively. The ability to find and cite a source for a number that you like does not make that number accurate or reflective of reality.

              It is possible to find a source backing up almost any number, the important talent in science or engineering is the ability to discern the actual number out of a chaff cloud that is often purposely created to obscure reality.

              As one more point of reference for those people who are curious about your background, I have not yet been able to find any published work in your claimed field in the past 5 years. The best I can find is a reference to you as a contributor on a 2008 document.

          3. The ability to find and cite a source for a number that you like does not make that number accurate or reflective of reality.

            @Rod Adams

            You apparently overlooked my comment above: “EROEI projections are highly sensitive to inputs and assumptions, and notoriously difficult to compare.” So yes, I agree with you, there is a great deal of inconsistency out there, and as some have described: many “off-the-cuff calculations” of poor quality (see Murphy and Hall below). Which raises the obvious question: why are you apparently so eager to dismiss quality peer reviewed studies (limited in number as they are) for more highly speculative studies (drawing on source material that can’t be easily reviewed, and may not even exist). This makes no sense (to both those who engage in these debates on a regular basis, or those who don’t or who have training in other fields).

            As I said then, it is absurd for Sovacool to admit that Storm-Smith was flawed and controversial and yet …

            Huh? I never made a case regarding EROEI and Sovocool, but regarding the following comprehensive and peer reviewed study by Murphy and Hall (here), which draws heavily on the work of Lenzen (and differs in substantial ways from Storm-Smith). And yes, I stated that a meta review of available studies on EROEI should cite Storm and Smith (since much of the subsequent work engages this research, either on a supportive or contrasting basis). To leave it out of a meta review of the literature would be incomplete and academically very bizarre.

            On Vattenfall, it is broadly accepted that Vattenfall has provided a material and transport inventory (and that a more comprehensive picture of EROEI is incomplete on this basis). See Lenzen. Inputs come from a high share of hydro (and is not comparable to other established approaches). The have an unconventional way of handling energy inputs from enrichment (according to Weissbach). And they exclude some upstream inputs. If you draw from this that we have the best and most rigorous estimate for nuclear, the more power to you. But it doesn’t make you correct, and it doesn’t mean we have a fully relevant and informative basis to compare these results to other studies (using different methodologies and different system boundaries). So yes, we agree on the high variability of these results (but not necessarily on what is informing them). The issue is not centrifuge enrichment, since Lenzen includes this in his result.

            How the heck do insurance and service inputs affect the results of an EROEI calculation.

            It appears he considers insurance a transportation input (and a very small one as you suggest), as well as energy to light, cool, and heat buildings and equipment associated with this activity. Storm-Smith specifically calculates this input as GDP share of plant and “economy wide average energy or greenhouse gas intensity,” but Lenzen specifically disagrees with this method (and says their estimate is far too high). He cites Wagner (“The energy cost of building and operating selected energy supply system technologies,” 1978), and comes up with a figure 8% of Storm-Smith. Vattenfall, apparently, excludes this figure entirely.

            … I will also report to the rest of the readers that I can find no evidence of any of work by you indicating any reason why your comments about technical details like EROEI or grid operations challenges imposed by unreliables should hold any weight at all.

            Besides the fact that I read in English (and have been well trained to do so), I have never given any argument that my background gives me special standing and that my comments need to be given special weight in these debates. Ultimately, one’s arguments stand on their own merit or not, whether there is adequate supporting evidence or not, and people make up their own minds about this … hopefully following the evidence and the merits of the case. I made a “public” statement that you know my identity not to bolster my case here (as you suggest), but to rebut charges that I am somehow paid (or have ulterior motives for contributing here … beyond my own personal interest). I do not. If you think I have spoken incorrectly about EROEI, all you have to do is point out my error. Not everything is a conspiracy, Rod. You have a long personal history in energy issues … debating these issues in private with colleagues, and in public via social media (and your own blog). Is it really hard for you to believe that other people have a similar interest too, and find these issues just as interesting and engaging as yourself?

            As one more point of reference for those people who are curious about your background, I have not yet been able to find any published work in your claimed field in the past 5 years. The best I can find is a reference to you as a contributor on a 2008 document.

            If you don’t want me contributing to the site, all you have to do is ask! There’s no need to do counterintelligence on me (or promulgate information that is incorrect when you haven’t bothered to ask). I’ve always been available at a personal level to any questions you may have about my interests and background (the nature of my contributions on your site), and from time to time we’ve held extensive offline discussions (moreso in the past than today). But I am very clear I wish to remain anonymous on your site, and this isn’t going to change. So far as I am aware, this is an option to anyone contributing to your site (and not just certain and few individuals). It appears my contributions on EROEI are well founded (and I’ve responded to the questions you and others have raised in both threads). If there is anything else relevant to this debate and the substantive issues, you haven’t yet raised it (best I can tell).

            1. @EL

              I think you misunderstand my dedication to discussing energy issues. It is not because I simply find them an interesting and engaging way to pass the time. It is because I want to help people understand the truth about nuclear energy that I have discovered through direct and extensive personal education, experience, and responsibility. Many of the contributors to this site have even more experience than I have and provide welcome additions to the effort to more clearly communicate the actual risks versus the actual benefits of nuclear energy. We are not here to be debated, though we happily answer questions from those with less knowledge, less experience, and admirable curiosity and willingness to learn.

              Like you, I can also read English quite well, but I recognize the difference between “book learning” and real life. I also recognize that you can find written material to support almost any position. Debate as practiced in academia is not terribly useful in the real world.

              In the world of electrons, wires, rotating machinery, transistors, and heat exchangers (to name just a few of the physical components involved) there are statements of fact that are true and work and statements that are easily proven to be false opinions. You don’t need a peer reviewer to watch the voltage and current fluctuations that result from changes in wind velocity or to see that the power electronics that work to correct those fluctuations have limitations.

              You don’t need an accountant who insists that the lights used in the insurance office should be counted as an input to finding out how your power output compares to the inputs required when you know how little effort is involved in the actual process of extracting, processing, fabricating, transporting and using uranium compared to using oil, natural gas or coal.

              I have put a tremendous amount of time and energy into sharing what I know and building a valuable, responsive information resource. That effort has been, in part, my thank you note to the American taxpayers who funded my education, provided my experience, paid my reasonable salary, and provided me with a fixed pension that enables me the freedom to pursue this activity. I have an ingrained and reinforced sense of responsibility for both thanking those who paid the bills and trying to make the world a better place for future generations.

              However, I am not altruistic. I have tried to make is abundantly clear that I have a financial interest in a growing and vibrant nuclear power industry. I have a portfolio of selected stocks in publicly traded companies that will benefit as nuclear captures market share from hydrocarbons. In addition, I retain ownership of whatever intellectual property remains from my two decades worth of work on Adams Engines and hope that someday the regulations will enable real innovation without paying hundreds of millions in tribute to the government in order to obtain permission to start building.

              I have no idea how you are able to invest the time that you do on your lengthy comments or what motivates you to continue doing so. You put a lot of work into your comments. If you read 1/3 of the articles to which you link, you also do an incredible amount of reading on a topic that is not related to your professional line of work. If you do that just because it is an “interesting and engaging” topic, I think you need to “get a life.”

          4. The quote below just gets me. (A warning that this post is quite long. So Rod I apologize but on Labor Day weekend the comment below wound me up.)

            To leave it out of a meta review of the literature would be incomplete and academically very bizarre.

            I am not an academic. I did not earn my mechanical engineering degree to become an academic. I earned my mechanical engineering degree because I wanted to work in a field where things were designed and produced that then provided value to those who bought said products. However my professors did not teach me contract law. They were very knowledgeable in their respective fields and therefore demanding in their classroom expectations but contract law was not a major topic of discussion with them since they were academics teaching engineering subject material.

            It wasn’t until my first job that I started learning the nexus of engineering and contract law. Not a deficiency in my education. In all fairness I had an ethics class as well as a design class where outside people came to discuss the design and legal hurdles they faced. However contract law is something design engineers and those who assist design engineers must deal with in their day to day work.

            The other major legal arena my professors never fully taught me was the regulatory environment that design engineers must work within. Now this again is not a deficiency of my education or a deficiency of my alma mater. Their goal was to teach the basics of mechanical engineering, not how to function within a governmental regulatory environment. That is why workshops on regulatory issues are provided by the various professional societies such as ASME, IEEE, ASCE etc.

            The other avenue for many of us design engineers use to learn about legalities and engineering ethics is if an engineer decides – or needs – to become a licensed engineer. Ethics is part of the charter of becoming a registered engineer since there are usually large assets and the welfare of the general public on the line when an engineer stamps a design package with his or her PE stamp.

            So with that initial discussion as a backdrop, there is something so infuriating about the comment above that starts off this response.

            In contract law there are terms such as mistake, honest mistake, willful mistake, mere negligence, and willful negligence to name a few terms that are thrown around when a design engineer uses a set of assumptions that are later to be found out to be incorrect or wrong. If a design engineer uses assumptions, references or codes that were an incorrect application AND there is a loss of property, assets or personal injury or death occurs then said engineers can be held liable.

            Case in point, the latest GM issue of the ignition switch where the legal world GM engineers work within is the only protection keeping them from facing individual lawsuits. The ignition switch will become an engineering case study for discussion in engineering design and ethics classes for years to come as has the Challenger shuttle disaster, the Hyatt Regency walkway collapse and numerous other cases.

            At the point in time the part, component, subsystem or system fails, it is not an issue of proving innocence. It only becomes an issue of proving willful negligence or honest mistake.

            See in my world if a set of assumptions or references are known to be incorrect or wrong or not sufficiently robust for the situation it is not an academic issue. It is an issue of contract law with lawyers on both sides trying to debate their point. So my debating skills, such as they are, are more honed to legal issues not a pristine academic world of social science. In fact my current employer offers legal workshops to provide information to assist us design engineers and PM’s from getting in legal trouble.

            In my world any design that is based on suspect references or assumptions MUST be corrected. It isn’t an option, ethically or legally. Once the lawyers are involved where designs are proven to be faulty, claims of hundreds of thousands to hundreds of millions of dollars are determined.

            In my world, if a design was based on a faulty set of assumptions or references and the deficiency is discovered at a later date within the timeframe of a legally binding contract, then the only discussion that takes place is about who will pay to fix the design. There is no academic or theoretical discussion about IF the design is still OK because the weaknesses of the initial assumptions were originally noted in the design package. If fact by using a known faulty set of data – even if fully documented – the opposing legal team will have a cakewalk case with the only hard part being that of determining the final settlement.

            A crane lift in Wisconsin in 1999 resulted in several deaths because An investigation revealed that although the effects of side winds on the crane itself had been calculated, it had not been considered for the load the crane was lifting. .

            Three individuals died on that job and their families had to bury what was left of them after the crane slammed into their suspended platform. A $57 million dollar claim was paid out to their families because of the use of incorrect assumptions. I have no personal experience with this accident but I assume that that amount of money will not make up for the loss of the family members they lost that day.

            My current firm has an entire safety department that monitors items like the OSHA website linked below. 42 people died in industrial accidents just during the week that ended July 26th. Some of those people died due to the use of faulty assumptions and data.


            Strom and Smith’s analysis has proven to have many holes in it. It is not sufficiently robust to handle the real world application of power plant finance, design, installation and commissioning. I am not trying to indicate their faulty analysis will lead to people dying due to industrial accidents. What I am trying to point out is that the use of faulty assumptions, data or references is not allowed, ethically, morally or legally in the professional engineering world that I operate within. Therefore in my viewpoint, any study or report that uses their findings, even in some weird meta review is automatically suspect itself. In my world, the Lenzen report would have never seen the light of day. The lead engineer, PM and the customer would have rejected Lenzen’s report since it uses suspect assumptions.

            That is the difference between you, EL and myself. I work in a world where numerous contract and regulatory legalities are enforced. I work in a world where your academic meta-studies would be dissected, analyzed and back checked by an adversarial legal team looking to earn their stripes in order to become a partner at their legal firm. I work in a world where the professional insurance policy my firm has to cover professional engineers such as myself might cover potential losses provided it was proven I was not negligent in my use of assumptions or references. At worst, I and my professional engineering counterparts could lose our jobs, at worst we could end up in jail due to using suspect assumptions or references if it is proven I knew said assumptions and references were suspect when I used them.

            Charles Hall states that he came up with the EROEI idea for his PhD in fish migration and then people attempt to translate his research to power generation technology. I and my counterparts were discussing the ideas of EROEI decades ago in our energy economics classes. Ferdinand E Banks has been discussing the issues surrounding the concept of EROEI for decades. So these discussions that get into the minutia of academia regarding how we generate and use energy are becoming contemptible in my viewpoint. Especially if an academic’s excuse for using faulty data is some meaningless discussion about meta-studies.

            And on that note I hope everyone has a good Labor Day weekend.

            1. @Bill Rogers

              Thank you for making our Labor Day weekend better informed about the work, legal and ethical responsibilities of professional engineers (both licensed and not yet licensed) that many people — including EL — take for granted or completely fail to understand.

          5. “Which raises the obvious question: why are you apparently so eager to dismiss quality peer reviewed studies (limited in number as they are) for more highly speculative studies (drawing on source material that can’t be easily reviewed, and may not even exist). ”

            Well, for example, the Lenzen study you like so much uses the Storm and Smith numbers which have not only been shown to be wrong, but are probably outright fraudulent and should result in a case of dismissal for academic dishonesty.

            Yet, Lenzen’s work is “peer reviewed” and widely circulated academically.

            Check out the comments section of the mentioned article at Brave New Climate, where a few simple, real world calculations clearly demonstrate that Lenzen is either a liar or incompetent.

          6. Like you, I can also read English quite well, but I recognize the difference between “book learning” and real life.

            @Rod Adams

            You seem to be suggesting reading Weissbach paper (on EROEI), and other relevant work that informs this issue (which is the topic of discussion in these comments) is time consuming and difficult? I don’t think it is, especially for someone who is claiming to know something about these reports (and attempting to provide a “valuable, responsive information resource” on the topic on your blog). If this is your goal here, I am having a hard time seeing it (since you’re spending little of your time talking about these papers, and more of your time on various distractions, unrelated issues, and attacking other members).

            We’re not talking about power system design and operation, and “voltage and current fluctuations that result from changes in wind velocity” (and how to compensate for this at low and high levels of integration). The topic under discussion IS an academic paper, and the different claims on energy payback made within it. If I am referencing scientific discussions in the peer reviewed literature on this topic, this shouldn’t be a mystery to you (it’s actually the topic we are discussing).

            Given the task isn’t burdensome (and it’s relevant to your goal of informing others), I’m curious why you are are spending so much time in avoidance, and violating your own counsel (of cherry picking results that are available, simply because they are they ones you have found and wish to cite, and have incomplete and inconsistent assumptions behind them). There are plenty of problems with the Vattenfall result. Nobody can force you to respond to them, but that doesn’t mean that others can’t highlight what these are (and where available research makes reference to them). So far as I know, power control technologies don’t produce EROEI analyses (people do). And so we’re stuck looking at what people have documented about these concerns, where they have documented this issue, and how they have made, or failed to make, their case.

            You put a lot of work into your comments.

            I appreciate that you say this. It’s strange to me that you see this as a deficit of some sort (rather than an asset to your site and something that raises the quality of discussion, resource availability, and information content)? Could it be that you desire only pro-nuclear arguments to be made effectively on the site, and that flawed (poorly sourced, biased, incomplete, or out of date) statements on renewables, EROEI, health physics, and other topics remain unchallenged and undeveloped? You can certainly take this approach, I have no doubt, but I’m not sure it would be the best way to meet your clearly stated goals of a “valuable, responsive information resource” (with only one side of the argument represented, and any other alternative excluded or demeaned).

            I have a portfolio of selected stocks in publicly traded companies that will benefit as nuclear captures market share from hydrocarbons.

            This conversation is going nowhere quickly, Rod. I guess you are saying you are not an “altruist” and you are not objective. Ok, thanks for that. I also hold shares in diversified energy and technology companies, some with a stake in nuclear. I don’t see where this is relevant to the discussion. I typically take investment positions that are based on long term economic growth prospects (consistent with my investment horizon). If the US economy does well, I do well. When well regulated, there is immense power to leverage a great deal of change through the market (and I have seen a fair bit of it in my life). I don’t think a top down, command and control, and high public debt financing of environmental risks, externalities, and energy investment is sustainable (over the long term), wise, or desirable. And I don’t advocate for one.

            I think you need to “get a life.”

            I’ve devoted much of my life to social justice issues (working in small and low income communities for a better life, local control, government accountability, and advancing community and economic development opportunities). My last peer reviewed paper was in 2011 (written with my colleagues), and based on two and a half years of work at the local level on community engagement strategies and climate mitigation (linking policy goals to community action, and helping implement city wide policy on energy efficiency, renewables, affordable housing, waste reduction, transportation, and environmental adaptation). If you have insights about EROEI (and the paper we are discussing), I would like to hear what you have to say. Making things up about your opponent (and changing the topic of discussion) isn’t making a strong impression.

            1. @EL

              My point about my investments and interests was to make it clear that Atomic Insights and the effort I put into it has a distinct purpose. It is my property and I expect that it will someday provide a return on my investment.

              What motivates you to give so much of your time to this blog?

              I have no intention of spending any time deconstructing any papers that are based on the completely discredited Storm-Smith work.

              The most important EROEI metric is this – can you power a wind or solar manufacturing facility with exclusively wind and/or solar energy?

          7. The quote below just gets me … wound me up … there is something so infuriating about the comment above that starts off this response.

            @Bill Rogers

            It shouldn’t. There is nothing misleading or unusual about it. Do you know what a meta review is? It is a bibliographic review and summary of all available research on a topic. Since most of the subsequent research on EROEI builds on and critiques Storm and Smith, it would be highly unusual not to include a reference to it (and a descriptions of its shortfalls) in a literature review.

            So my debating skills, such as they are, are more honed to legal issues not a pristine academic world of social science.

            Yes, I also work in a highly contentious policy environment (legal rights of tribes) were lawyers are involved (and the courts are one step away from adjudicating disputes on an highly adversarial basis). To be completely honest with you, I would be delighted to have someone attempting to build a case around Storm and Smith. This would provide an excellent opportunity to provide a great deal of subsequent work to the contrary (Lenzen would be very useful here), and we could also include the meta review mentioned above as evidence (which also points to the shortfalls of the study). Science is cumulative and builds on prior understanding. A meta review is only as good as the scope of literature it includes, and it typically concludes with a detailed description of documented uncertainties and remaining work to be developed (an explicit primary aim of such a work and useful guide for future practitioners in the same area).

            What I am trying to point out is that the use of faulty assumptions, data or references is not allowed, ethically, morally or legally in the professional engineering world that I operate within.

            So please apply the same criteria and high standard to the Vattenfall result and it’s many problems (as documented by Weissbach, Lenzen, and others): large share of primary energy input from hydro (EROEI around 100), treatment of enrichment as an output (rather than input), transportation of spent fuel and decommissioned materials to waste repositories as an input (and not energy inputs to operate and build site), very long average plant lifetimes, and excluding many energy inputs from upstream sources and auxiliary services. Please also address shortfalls in Weissbach paper regarding overestimation of buffering requirements (at 10 days storage at full load), and underestimating results for solar PV by 56% (using a regional case as a general example, and ignoring prospects for ongoing improvements, tracking, utility scale deployments, etc.).

            Check out the comments section of the mentioned article at Brave New Climate, where a few simple, real world calculations clearly demonstrate that Lenzen is either a liar or incompetent.

            @Jeff Walther

            He’s neither. And saying his paper rests exclusively on Storm and Smith, and using your own very imperfect assumptions to refute it, is a pretty good indication that someone hasn’t read it. I don’t see any calculations for fuel fabrication, process losses, transportation, energy apportionment (simultaneous mining of other resources and metals) in fuel front end.

            If there are better studies out there … please suggest them (I’d love to have a look).

          8. @EL,

            Yes I do know what a meta-review is.

            What I don’t see in the Lenzen report is a meta-review for the sake of a meta-review. I see a report that is an academic exercise to meet a political goal within Australia that is sprinkled with numerous qualifiers.

            I did like to seeing the following qualifier:

            Energy and greenhouse gas emissions analyses of energy supply systems are not a substitute for, but a supplement to economic, social, and other environmental considerations.

            EROEI is not an economic analysis that is used for making decisions on investments in power plant technology nor should it be. There is too much vagueness in a simple formula for it to be effective as the Lenzen report states in several different ways such as when it discusses static modeling versus dynamic modeling (or in my world of mechanical engineering and thermodynamics – closed versus open systems)

            And no I will not do any comparison of the Storm-Smith and Vattenfall reports. Or any review of the Weisbach report either. I probably could earn a PhD if I so desired from doing that type of analysis. But there would be little to gain by pursuing that effort since since EROEI analysis is not a tool routinely used in the engineering and business world for decision making purposes.

            EROEI is a favored subject of academics since it requires a closed system analysis to even think about publishing something thereby favoring those academics that like closed models (Storm-Smith, et. al). However it is misleading in that EROEI simplifies a very complex subject by forcing open systems to be modeled as closed systems.

            What matters at a decision maker level is the cost of the inputs compared to the price that can be charged for the outputs. This is where EROEI analysis falls apart since it can not adequately compensate for economic analysis which even the Lenzen report discusses.

            One critic of EROEI makes the salient point that a loaf of bread takes more energy inputs to make and distribute it then the energy it provides to the person consuming the bread. Yet we want our bread so we pay the price for the output of bread production, we don’t worry about the fact that the EROEI of bread is significantly less than one (1).

            Another critic of EROEI makes the point that, in theory, if the cost of the energy derived from uranium is significantly less expensive then the energy required to extract tar sands from Canada and turn it into liquid fuels, then uranium will ultimately be used to extract said tar sands since liquid fuels are still preferred for powering our vehicles.

    3. I have to laugh at an anti-nuke accusing someone else of being Malthusian. Surreal.

  2. No, EL, unreliables do not bring any benefits to consumers. Everywhere that utilities have subscribed to unreliables, rates have gone up disproportionately. Rarely will the utilities admit that it is the fashionable unreliables that drove the rate increases, but that’s what’s happening. In Texas we’re now paying close to $.035/KWHr just so that ERCOT can run useless cables to west Texas. And that surcharge is levied on **all** of our electricity. If divided out amongst the amount that is actually wind, it’s a huge cost increase caused by the foolish decision to build wind generators.

    But they’re very nice for the people getting the subsidies and guaranteed government money.

    They’re the first step to energy poverty for us consumers. Just like Germany is now suffering from energy poverty.

    1. Everywhere that utilities have subscribed to unreliables, rates have gone up disproportionately.

      @Jeff Walther

      You’re going to have to do better than anecdote, personal bias, and faulty conjecture. ERCOT has some of the lowest  average wholesale power prices in the country (and lowest price increases).  


      Similarly, Germany has a glut of electricity, not a scarcity (here).  Wholesale prices are lower than France and Switzerland, and power exports are generally more valuable than imports (here).  By contrast, “The French have built a power supply system that produces excess electricity at times of low demand but is expensive at times of high demand” (here).  

      Germany has one of the strongest economies in EU (and world), competitive global companies and manufacturing, and low unemployment. Manufacturing capacity is up for the year, and so are exports (here). Hardly what one describes as energy poor (under normal uses of the term).

      1. @EL

        Please remember not to confuse wholesale, spot market power prices with retail electricity rates paid by people who are not politically isolated from the system costs imposed by unreliables.

      2. None of hte above. Not anecdote, personal bias, nor faulty conjecture. Find me a place where unreliables penetration has not increased consumer electric bills. I don’t want to hear about spot price low points in the wholesale market. Everywhere unreliables have been implemented, consumer prices have gone up. Show me a real life exception to this real world rule.

        Reading the actual numbers off the real utility bill is hardly personal bias. But thank you for telling another of your oh-so-reasonable sounding lies, designed to mislead readers and undermine folks who aren’t on the same ultimate payroll as you.

        And there’s nothing conjectural about it. Consumers have been forced to pay higher prices. Period.

        ERCOT may have some low wholesale prices overall, but the addition of unreliable energy is driving up the price for all of its customers. Also, the wholesale price of the energy is not the only cost. The ERCOT charge on energy bills pays for the ridiculous transmission lines which incredibly expensive wind electricity requires.

        You’re like a car salesman, who claims a car is sooo affordable, but doesn’t mention that the wheels and engine are not included in the price.

        Hardly a meaningful point, to mention that we did have low prices, until we started adding useless wind to the mix. Sure, we’re not paying California rates, yet, but we’re headed there. The current position is not what matters. What matters is the first and second derivatives.

        When folks can’t afford the electricity, or they are paying more for it, that’s scarcity in the only way that matters. It doesn’t matter if there’s ten times as much electricity available (once a year, for moments) if that electricity cost four times as much as it used to.

        Germany’s industries are mostly not forced to pay the increase electricity rates that the consumers suffer from, yet many of them are still ready to leave because failure in grid reliability is becoming a problem. And the ones who don’t have those sweetheart deals are suffering.

        I’m hardly going to trust one of your green rags mouthing an unsupported subjective opinion about French energy. Your ilk have been caught lying repeatedly in ways that clearly violate the laws of physics. Your credibility and your tribe’s credibility is about as near zero as it can get.

      3. @EL – Jeff Walther : About electricity in France, the large share of nuclear means that there’s a large stable amount of electricity, so in time of high demand something else is required, and there can be too much electricity when demand is low.
        But still, power export of France generate a net benefit of about 2 billions euro per years, which covers multiple times the import cost of all the uranium required by nuclear.
        Renewable have exactly the same property as nuclear, sometimes generating too much and sometimes not enough, but with a very big difference, when the pattern is perfectly predictable for nuclear, it’s very hard to guess for sure what will happen with renewable.
        This means that for nuclear, it’s possible to adapt, and plan electric water heating during the night as well as pumped water storage that it’s known for sure will be profitable during the day, but it’s not the case for renewable. You don’t know for sure if *this* *night* there will be enough excess wind to heat your water. And the Swiss that used to make a lot of profit pumping water with nuclear from France now are complaining that the prices drops due to export from Germany make now price not predictable enough to earn any money, the same goes for pumped storage in Germany and Austria : http://www.germanenergyblog.de/?p=13626

        The price pattern that EL reports for Germany is not the result of renewable, but comes from the fact a large majority of electricity is still generated from coal.

        The workhorse of electricity generation in Germany is lignite coal. Germany now has very recent, very efficient, very large (more than 2GW for some), but far away from consumption in some case (a major spot is far north next to the polish border where there’s no economy), which it must be said are able to generate electricity even cheaper than nuclear, they are the only one reliably earning money at the current prices. But also generate a massive amount of polluting waste as well as GHG.
        However it’s still only about 25% of German power, if it was as high as in France, we would a similar price pattern as in France.

        What sets the price in Germany is either gas, from times to times, but mostly imported hard coal. Germany has a massive overcapacity build with regard to what it actually needs. Latest bundesnetzagentur number is that the total capacity is now 192 GW, renewable are *only* 85GW, so conventional is still 107 GW. In winter when there’s most demand, the daily peaks are between 60 and 70GW, record demand barely reaches 80 GW. France does not have as much backup, and occasionally needs to import power at an inflated price during the harshest cold waves. Since all this overcapacity is fossil, and for sure will not be required in summer, also the imported coal(**) is relatively expensive, it’s cheaper for German to seasonally shut down most of it, knowing that if there’s a temporary peak of demand, cheap electricity will always be available elsewhere in Europe.
        This massive fossil overcapacity is what explain that Germany is an exporter in winter, and importer in summer. Nothing to see with renewable, and not a desirable model when your purpose is to shut down fossil definitively to emit less GHG (as well as reduce atmospheric pollution).

        (**) Germany is still a hard coal producer, but it’s annual demand is seven time the production. And the local coal is hard to extract, and expensive (it’s actually costlier than import, so subsidized to preserve the local jobs).

        1. Maybe I should have used quotes around “only”, and not stars, that was the intent actually. When your demand basically never reaches 85GW having 85GW of renewable power is a really huge number.
          But the amount of fossil power is still even higher.

    2. Jeff, the crazy thing in Germany is that German households consistently poll ‘cost of living’ as the gravest concern they have.


      Whoever would have thought that such a cost-conscious population would dive headfirst into an energy policy that is absolutely certain to significantly increase their cost of living indefinitely?

      Perhaps an historical, discredited German political figure was right when he claimed that: “The bigger the lie, the more it will be believed”. Perhaps Germans should pick up their history books more? 😉

  3. Speaking of the folks in the panel discussion – What a fascinating melange of elite secular humanists, well oiled and gassed!

    1. I saw nothing in the video that provided any basis for your characterization as “secular humanists.” There is plenty of evidence supporting the ‘elite’ ‘well-oiled and gassed’ descriptions.

    2. Amusing. Off-topic: It’s too egotistical-sounding to say out loud, but in my mind I like to think that I am ‘an elite, secular humanist’. Linus Pauling gave the commencement address at my college (my degree was in Chemistry, so that was quite a kick for me), and a good part of the address regarded his interpretation of secular humanism … I’ve never been more impressed by a speech.

  4. “I saw noting in the video that provided any basis for your characterization as ‘secular humanists.'”

    One person is a Roman Catholic, Another person is an apparent Jew, whether practicing or not is unknown. The third person I could not determine but suspect he is Protestant. I can completely understand how such people are Persona Non Grata here, especially the woman who worked for that “evil” Bush Administration, the source of all the world’s woes (right next to those evil Koch brothers – isn’t there a room or something at the Aspen Institute named after them?).

    You and I buy the oil and gas these people produce. You (NOT I) voted for Barack Hussein Obama who put anti-nuke Jackzo in charge and now anti-nuke MacFarlane to replace him, with two more antis coming up for appointment. Whom does that benefit if NOT big oil, big gas and big coal, your stated enemies? None of the people at that table did that. None of them. So complain all you want about big oil, big gas and big coal, and remember those complaints as you fill your car’s gas tank with the product that they supply,

    That said, I am all for nuclear, and have been all of my life as I worked in commercial nuclear power for three decades longer than just a year or two at a minor NSSS company that went belly up. Being pro-nuclear is why in part I voted for big oil Bush both times (remember his GNEP program?) and voted against Obama both times later on. Oh, there were plenty of other deciding factors, most of which have to do with my Catholic Christian faith (which anti-nuke liberal Democrats Andy Cuomo and RFK Jr. treat with utter contempt in their hypocrisy and apostasy – remember what those Democrats are trying to do against IPEC and how much gas Westchester County will have to buy if they succeed – don’t blame the people at the Aspen Institute). But those reasons are anathema here too just as Meghan O’Sullivan on that round table would be a pariah. Hey, aren’t you liberals supposed to be pro-women? Yeah, we won’t talk about Sarah Palin either – she supported both nuclear and oil, and she is a Pentecostal – imagine that.

    Being pro-nuke doesn’t mean I have to be anti-oil or I have to be a secular humanist, and how can I be anti-oil when I need and buy big oil’s product?

    BTW, here is a list of scientists who were Roman Catholic clerics – no secular humanists were they,


    One example. Remember Father Georges LeMaitre? A Belgium priest who came up with the Big Bang theory that inspired some of Pope Pius XII’s writings (I can provide them in the original Latin for the open-minded liberal, but I doubt any of you understand the language that is mother of so many others). Father LeMaitre’s theory now dominates all of cosmology. No secular humanist was he.

    Secular humanist indeed.

    1. @Paul

      Your comment seems directed in anger at me. All I said in response to the comment by Utahthoriumenergy.org was there was no evidence that the people on the panel were “secular humanists.” In other words, I fully agree that all of them could very well be religious. That was not the subject of the discussion.

      And yes, I do remember GNEP and also remember that it was just one of at least three different program names that simply reshuffled the budget lines with some cards lost with each shuffle. One other name was NP 2010 and I cannot recall the third one off of the top of my head.

      Though I have been buying more than my share of gasoline and diesel fuel for about 38 years, I don’t have to have any love of ‘big’ oil and the big money that markets its products to the exclusion of other products with often superior characteristics. If you listen carefully, you will find out that the Nuclear Renaissance was derailed primarily by cheap natural gas. I don’t buy the notion that the overproduction that resulted in low natural gas prices was purely accidental. It seems pretty obvious to me that driving prices down is a tactic used to preserve market share and restrain competition long enough so that possible competitors quit and leave the market to the incumbents.

      I have already expressed my regret for votes, but democracy, despite all propaganda to the contrary, is not a system in which our only right and responsibility is voting every 2-4 years. It is a daily right and responsibility to participate and comment on the actions of our elected representatives.

        1. @oldnuke

          I don’t think so. The NGNP was certainly started in the Bush era, but I don’t think of it as simply a repackaging of another generalized national laboratory support program like NP2010 and GNEP. You might be right, however.

          1. Oh, Geez … Yes, you were thinking about NGNP, but you don’t know what you’re talking about.

            First of all, NP-2010 had nothing to do with GNEP, and it was not a “laboratory support program.” Its goals were (1) to set up a business case for building new nuclear power plants, (2) to identify plausible sites for new nuclear power plants, and (3) to demonstrate the untested (as of 2002, when the program began) new regulatory process for licensing new nuclear plants and certifying new nuclear reactor designs.

            With four AP-1000’s currently being built in the US and a couple of Early Site Permits approved by the NRC for other locations, the NP-2010 program, while not a huge success, was largely successful.

            The Bush administration consistently pushed the GNEP program after it was first announced in 2006, with fairly stable financial support for the program in the President’s budget for the next few years. Unfortunately, Congress, not the President, has the final say on spending (as anyone who has paid attention in Civics class knows), and the money that was intended for GNEP in the Bush’s budget was transferred to NGNP. (That is, the GNEP budget was lowered and the NGNP budget was increased. Perhaps this is the source of your confusion.) This occurred post-2006 when the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress.

            GNEP grew out of the DOE’s Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative (AFCI) program and was an effort to take this program beyond just a “laboratory support program.” Unfortunately, a successful defunding effort by a Democratically controlled Congress prevented it from going anywhere, just at the time when private industry was beginning to come on board with the idea (I saw it first-hand as someone who works for one of those companies), and the program soon returned to its humble beginnings as the AFCI lab-rat make-work program.

            1. @Brian Mays

              Despite your criticism, thank you for reminding me that the program I was thinking about was AFCI.

              I care about end results, not stated intentions. If you look through the DOE budget history you will find that the support for nuclear energy research was virtually constant during the Bush years despite the announcement of several different new start programs. You might be right about source of the budget adjustments, but all I see as a former budget analyst is a pattern of robbing Peter to pay Paul. I know some of the recipients of the funds, I’m not making up the fact that many kept working on the same stuff under three different program names with a gradual decrease in the purchasing power of the constant top lines.

    2. Unbelievable. Now, Paul rants that somehow religious bigotry runs rampant here in the comment section.

      Once, I found Paul amusing. But now I find him to be the very pimple of bigotry that he seeks to place on the face of any and all that dare question his partisan and narrow minded world view.

  5. “Secular humanism” – why? Drag a baggage laden comparative term from the 18th century into this? We do not use beliefs; religious or even loosely spiritual ones, as a stated basis for public decision making by the principles put forth in our funding documents. I dont know where you want to go with that.

    And when you get down to it, the issue with these people is they are probably using a belief system as opposed to a factual and sound reasoning basis for their energy policy suggestions. So technically they are not even very good representatives of “secular humanists” in that respect.

    Anyway back to the post that made me comment: EL’s bizzaro referencing of the Edison Electric Institute “report”. Were you going for “Genetic fallacy” or “Guilt by association” there? Both of them are incorrect reasoning. Also invoking Malthusian leans me more towards Association and the Ad hominem related plethora of arguments you frequently employ. Does that really work for you. Its not doing much for me.

    There are plenty of direct examples of what Rod is saying. And what are these “ordinary benefits” for energy consumers you are bringing up? Are they cost related? Environmental? Reliability? “Decentralized” whatever ? Do we really need to discus the German example yet again?

  6. @rod
    You’re right there is nothing in the video to indicate that the panelists are “humanists”, secular or otherwise.

    To be more precise they are establishment folks. The discussion was framed within the parameters that they approve of; gas or oil, or oil or gas with some renewables mixed in for greenery.

    I myself love gas and oil. I have cars that burn both. I suppose that I will continue to burn them for a long time to come.

    However, at some point in the not too distant future, I would just like to tap into that $50 quadrillion discovery that Glenn Seaborg talked about when U233 was discovered. (by being an energy consumer – I don’t have any other financial interest in nuclear energy)

    I also know that 2 or 3 billion people on this planet don’t have access to any energy; gas, coal, oil, solar, wind, or hydro. The only way they will ever get access is to drastically lower the cost. I believe that nuclear is that way.

    Thanks for your efforts. I do enjoy your website.

Comments are closed.

Recent Comments from our Readers

  1. Avatar
  2. Avatar
  3. Avatar
  4. Avatar
  5. Avatar

Similar Posts