1. McKay and Lovins are taking about different things. Let’s call the energy we currently get from fossil fuels “X”. McKay says that to get something close to X, say 0.8X, then this is what we have to do, and goes on to describe what combinations of non-fossil fuel energy sources would be necessary.

    Lovins says the world doesn’t need X or anything close to it. Lovins thinks that the world will be just fine with 0.1X.

    That’s the difference.

    1. Lovins is not only wrong, but his ideas would also leave billions in poverty. Every day the Chinese government lifts people out of misery, while Lovin’s accomplishments will add up to exactly zero.

    2. The people like Lovins, who want to maintain the deception that there is something bad about developing clean, safe, incredibly abundant, and emission free nuclear power need to be challenged.We should share it with as many of the world’s people as possible. If clean, cheap energy is available developing nations can manufacture goods for bettering their standard of living and also their environment. Developing countries gain wealth by selling goods to the rest of the world. The only clean energy source that is abundant and cheap is nuclear fission. It is not a sin to embrace nuclear fission power or to have a growing economy. Let us not lower our energy consumption to join the third world; Let us develop cheap, clean, energy dense nuclear power to share with the third world so that they can become first world. This ls plan for eliminating poverty and it has the potential to overcome the world;s over-population problem without life loss from starvation.

    3. Eric, you really haven’t even looked at the Mackay video have you?

      Mackay in fact talks extensively about energy efficiency and demand reduction. He concludes that to get the kind of demand reduction Lovins is talking about, we can no longer drive cars and such, in stead must walk and use bicycles etc. Mackay is a big proponent of this energy efficiency, and metering and awareness, but his numbers speak volumes. With the more energy efficient options and awareness Mackay is talking about you still get around 20000 kWh/year/capita. Multiply by 7 billion people and you are talking about a future energy efficient world of 140000 billion kWh/year. Lovins has no plan to make this 140000 billion kWh per year that an energy efficient world would use. Lovins cannot even conjure up 1% of that power. Lovins and EL and the likes are pro energy poverty, which is even more dangerous than burning coal.

      Mackay is brilliant because he wants everyone to understand the big picture and make a plan that adds up. He wants people to make informed decisions and understand the scale of the problem we have with numbers. Lovins is not interested in making people understand and further knowledge, his objective is obfuscation and profession of ideology. Lovins uses numbers to obfuscate and to propagandize and popularize. Lovins is interested in shouting and unverfiable jibberish, Mackay explicitly warns against this and only pushes to have a plan that adds up, run the numbers on the big picture and do apples to apples comparisons.

      Mackay is one of those brilliant energy minds of our time. Lovins will be remembered only as a crock by future energy historians.

      1. Cyril, I have watched that McKay video quite a few times. Of course McKay is for efficiency. Who isn’t? Nevertheless, McKay is talking about more or less maintaining a pretty good standard of living with an a reduction in energy use for the first world and increasing energy use for the 3rd world.

        You are right about Lovins – he wants global energy poverty.

  2. David MacKay is a man worthy of respect, for many reasons. One of his greatest traits is his ability to ask for expert advice and then absorb and apply this advice, even if the advice contradict his previously held beliefs and assumptions. This one element of what makes him a great man, in my opinion.


    Amory Lovins would appear to be the opposite of David MacKay.

  3. Read ‘Sustainable Energy …’ when he first put it up on the web, and have recommended it for years. What was largely lacking back then was the economic half of the equation. It was mostly on the technical issues of obtaining energy, comparing different scenarios, etc.

    I was pretty impressed when the UK government gave him a position of some responsibility … they actually picked a person who knows something, instead of someone.

  4. The report from the WMO – there are a few things in it that are worth taking note of and a lot of things i didnt know or expect to be true :

    The atmospheric increase of CO2 from 2012 to 2013 was 2.9 ppm, which is the largest year to year change from 1984 to 2013.

    Recent increases in emissions of CO2 from fossil fuel combustion
    (~2% yr–1 or ~0.2 PgC yr–1 ) cannot explain the interannual
    variability in CO 2 growth rate nor the greater-than-
    average increase in annual means from 2012 to 2013.

    The current rate of ocean acidification appears unprecedented at least
    over the last 300 million years, based on proxy-data from
    paleo archives. Acidification will continue to accelerate at
    least until mid-century, based on projections from Earth
    system models. Acidification rates are slightly affected
    by climate change, but those effects amount to less than
    10% of the changes due to increasing CO2. Yet freshening, for example from enhanced ice melt in the Arctic, can significantly accelerate acidification rates

    Since 2007, atmospheric CH4 has been increasing again;
    its global annual mean increased by 6 ppb from 2012 to
    2013. Studies using GAW CH4 measurements indicate
    that increased CH4 emissions from wetlands in the tropics
    and from anthropogenic sources at mid-latitudes of the
    northern hemisphere are likely causes. As shown in WMO
    Greenhouse Gas Bulletin No. 9, increased emissions from
    the Arctic did not contribute to the continued increase in
    atmospheric CH4 since 2007.

    ( https://www.wmo.int/pages/mediacentre/press_releases/documents/1002_GHG_Bulletin.pdf )

  5. I would like to take one of MacKay’s numbers and compare it to Lovins’ projections for biofuels. From the earlier link, Lovins claims that 23% of future primary energy will come from biofuels. From the BP Statistical Review of World Energy, we find that the total primary energy consumption in the US was 2265.8 million tonnes of oil equivalent (MTOE) in 2013. 23% of that is 521 million TOE. Converting this to BTU gives 2.068E+16 BTU per year.

    MacKay says that biofuels have an energy density of 0.5 watts per square meter. This would be on an average basis, so over the course of a year, biofuels could produce:
    (0.5 W/m2) x (24 h/d) x (365 d/y) = 4380 Wh/m2 per year, or 4.38 kWh/m2-y
    One kWh is the same as 3412 BTU, so the energy density is:
    (4.38 kWh/m2-y) x (3412 BTU/kWh) = 14,945 BTU/m2-y

    Finally, 2.068E16 BTU/y divided by 14,945 BTU/m2-y equals 1.38E12 square meters.
    This is 533,000 square miles.
    My previous back-of-envelope calculation (using the highly controversial simple rule of thumb) was around 1.9 million square miles. From the picture Mackay showed in his TED talk, the biofuel plant was not a tree, but some sort of fast growing plant. I couldn’t really identify it. Something similar to corn, perhaps? Or sugar cane? If the biofuel plant produces 4 times as much energy as woodland in Iowa, then the two methods compare pretty well. As before, I welcome a check on my calculations. The two methods are within an order of magnitude of each other, which I think is pretty good, considering back-of-envelope simplicity.

    In summary, using Mackay’s number of 0.5 watts per square meter for biofuels, we will need enough land equal to the size of Alaska to provide Lovins’ biofuel share. I wouldn’t recommend using Alaska, however, as the climate and geography are not well suited to growing huge areas of energy crops.

    Don’t forget that Lovins also wants large amounts of other types of renewables. These will also require large areas of land, or possibly ocean. From Mackay’s talk, nuclear power is 1000 watts per square meter.

    1. I happen to be familiar with that particular picture you’re talking about (it’s here, right?).  The plant is indeed a grass, Miscanthus giganteus unless I’m badly mistaken.  It’s an Asian hybrid, does not self-seed in temperate-zone conditions, and its stellar yields are of course subject to caveats of adequate water and other nutrients as well as favorable weather.

      1. It looks like the same image of the blonde woman in a blue dress, next to a stand of this grass. Thanks.


        From wikipedia, Miscanthus giganteus is potentially better at supplying ethanol than corn. However, it appears to require the cellulosic ethanol approach, which is somewhat more complicated and more involved than simply distilling moonshine from corn or other grains.

      2. I dont understand how this is even being considered EP. Especially as more food will be needed as population grows.


        Despite its crucial role in providing food, agriculture remains the largest driver of genetic erosion, species loss and conversion of natural habitats. Globally, over 4,000 assessed plant and animal species are threatened by agricultural intensification, and the number is still rising. Over 1,000 (87%) of a total of 1,226 threatened bird species are impacted by agriculture. ( http://www.grida.no/publications/rr/food-crisis/page/3569.aspx )

        So even as is Agriculture is still far WORSE for species loss and loss of natural habitat than climate chage. I dont understand how these people could have ever come to lead the “environmental” movement. Its a sick joke.

        1. Yes, it is a sick joke isn’t it?  But we saw that already when “environmentalists” like Amory Lovins accepted coal as preferable to nuclear.

        2. Remember, the people financing them are not interested in the “environmental” movement.

          The money behind people like Lovins wants energy scarcity and to drive up prices. This will create volatile energy trading markets, which is an entire, new area of commodity trading in which banksters can make new fortunes.

          Of course, ultimately, the money for these fortunes will come from consumers who are paying higher prices for so-called renewable energy. This is exactly the opposite of the effect claimed by people like EL, and when you look at the real world, where unreliables are actually subscribed by utilities, you see that this is (higher prices, price fluctuations, profiteering commodity trading) what is actually happening.

          1. Forgot to mention, until we get these people out of power and out of the decision making seats, no amount of technical prowess on the part of nuclear energy is going to make inroads in the USA’s energy mix.

            The chance to pluck consumers in an area where they’ve mostly have good, effective consumer protection, is not going to be lightly abandoned by the monied interests who are sabotaging our energy system for their profit.

          2. Well I am kinda disgusted with myself now as I have looked at land use but didnt consider this aspect of it.

            You could conceivably have situations in the near term where fossil fuel use, would be environmentally more preferable, with respect to species loss and habitat incursion, than what is becoming the de facto solution being applied.

            That the environmental issues with farming and biofuels is hardly anything new makes me even more irate that people touted and employed as “experts” have not reflected on energy density issues more. I haven’t even looked into water use, water pollution and acidification (soils also) with respect to agriculture either.

      3. Bulky hay crops are expensive to handle. It is tough to get a reasonable return on energy investment. Biofuels are not likely to be cheap enough to be a competitive clean fuel.

        1. We must not forget the implications of low energy density of biofuels (compared to oil/coal) vs. the energy it takes to grow (tilling, seeding, fertilizers, harvesting) / process / dry and TRANSPORT biomass. Energy cost of transportation limits the practical arrangement between cropland and energy conversion infrastructure. If plant too far from field, then net energy gain renders it impractical (and more and more uneconomic with higher costs for liquid transportation fuels). The limitation is significant.

          From here: https://www.extension.org/pages/70339/cost-factors-in-harvesting-and-transporting-woody-biomass#.VBHpOuNdWSo

          Delivery of woody biomass from the harvesting site to a conversion facility, like delivery of more conventional forest products, accounts for a significant portion of the delivered cost. In fact, transportation of wood fiber accounts for about 25 to 50 percent of the total delivered costs and highly depends on fuel prices, haul distance, material moisture content, and vehicle capacity and utilization6. Also, beyond a certain distance, transportation becomes the limiting profitability factor and its costs become directly proportional to haul lengths… One hundred miles is generally considered a maximum haul distance in forest operations”

          Once again, the story of energy + economics + collateral environmental damage is inextricably tied to energy density of the fuels and power-density of the conversion plants. With nuclear winning on both counts by ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE, only a fool or a charlatan can dismiss nuclear as we face an energy hungry world with climate change issues related to carbon pollution.

    2. BTUs? What’s that? I thought we were in 2014 and on the internet, but I seem to have accidentally stumbled into a steam ship from 1825. ; )

      “From Mackay’s talk, nuclear power is 1000 watts per square meter.”

      It is easy to do better than that. The Gravelines nuclear plant in France has a land efficient setup by placing 6 reactors next to each other:


      It generates an average of 4.4 GWe, actual performance. It looks like about a 1 km2 site. So call that about 4000 Watt/m2.

      1. @Cyril R

        Engineers might scoff at the venerable BTU, but that is still a widely used unit in commodity trading markets. It is also a unit that is well understood by those ossified electric utilities and other potential customers that might actually have the financial capacity to build and operate nuclear power plants.

        If you’re interested in expanding nuclear energy, it is worthwhile to be able to converse in ancient units like BTUs as well as in the more “modern” SI units.

        1. Nah. Too confusing to use 2 sets of units. Entire spacecraft have crashed because of that you know.

          To understand energy, you must either be a genius or use metric units. The universe makes no sense with imperial units.

          1. @Cyril

            There are good, commercial reasons for having a wide variety of units — it keeps customers confused and helps them make wasteful, but profitable decisions.

            If you truly want to understand energy policy, you need to learn the language and pierce through the obfuscation. If you want to keep things simple, stick to engineering and avoid business and politics.

          2. Rod, david mackay’s approach is admirable. He uses a single unit, the kwh. Not even a scientific unit, but a single unit nevertheless. This is a real eye opener. Mackay’s book should be compulsory reading for engineers and politicians alike.

            1. @Cyril R

              Science is only a tiny component of energy policy discussions. It’s important to understand it, but deep scientific understanding is not sufficient in this field.

              If you cannot handle unit conversions, how do you keep track of price and capability comparisons between various sources?

          3. I dont know rod. I doesn’t appear that energy density with respect to land use and environmental concerns has been close to wholly considered beyond some very basics. I would consider that part of the “science.”

        2. Our own Energy Information Administration routinely uses both SI and ‘English’ units. For instance, power plant efficiencies are reported as Heat Rates, which is how many BTUs of heat are needed to produce one kilowatt-hour of electricity.

          Sometimes they even mix units in the same measurement. Carbon dioxide emissions factors are reported in kilograms of CO2 per million BTU.

          And how ‘MM’ came to be understood as ‘million’ is a whole other mess to deal with.

          I don’t really have a problem with it. It just takes some getting used to, no matter which system is used. In my own preference, though, I hope the power plant operators keep measuring pressure in psi and flow in gpm.

          1. “Mackay’s book should be compulsory reading for engineers and politicians alike.”

            I agree. But I want to relate an annecdote.

            When I first proposed to colleagues a number of years ago that we should consider and adopt micro-nuclear power technology as part of the portfolio of energy technologies that we offer our clients in the name of sustainable development, the reaction was incredulity. One person told me that I really needed to read MacKay’s book, as it would explain things he apparently believed i did not know already. My response was that I already read the book, and that MacKay was a proponent of nuclear power. He did not believe me. I had to point out the particular passages (in the updated online version of the book), and I showed him the little video of MacKay explaining his positive view on nuclear power. This caused even greater incredulity. More striking even that this is the fact that this same collegue used the exact same argument several years later, and I had to explain again that MacKay is in fact a proponent of nuclear power. Apparently, this information simply could not be absorbed. It apparently caused too much cognitive dissonance.

            This occasion taught me another lesson. Anti-nuclearism is so ingrained that intelligent people specialised in energy technology consultancy(!) quite simply assume that any popular and respected book about energy must obviously be anti-nuclear even if it clearly is not. It’s funny how psychology and group-think work, and the power of indoctrination and brainwashing is tremendous.

    3. Looking at this without an agenda, land mass to supply energy fodder becomes more reasonably considered. Your calculations bring to mind a huge tract of land, rather than tracts scattered globally, in areas that are suitable for bioenergy production. For instance, the plant near Wasco Ca. Is situated in the midst of an extremely productive agricultural area, rife with citrus, walnut, and orange groves. This land is not “set aside” for the production of biofuels. But its bi-product is in fact great amounts of biofuel.

      So wheres the bitch? What would you have us do with these orchards and groves as they are retired? Burn them in place? Haul them off to landfills? What exactly is your problem with these types of powerplants being utilized in areas where fuel is plentiful and cheap? And if you consider your land mass projections in small plots scattered globally in appropriate areas, adding up to your “Alaska sized” picture, it becomes far less daunting, eh?

      Frankly, I find your argument every bit as agenda driven, and questionable, as Lovin’s are accused of being. And I suggest you drop that ridiculous Iowa firewood thing. Its irrelevant, over-simplistic, and absurd in the context you are trying to apply it.

      1. @poa

        Looking at this with numbers and an agenda created as a result of decades of intensive study — some of which was directed and tested by demanding, qualified and experienced teachers — I have no problem with small generating plants that burn locally available biomass in modern, efficient furnaces. However, many of the places where such plants are a reasonably economic and efficient means of generating useful heat and power are already developed. As is, they produce a few percent of the energy in well-developed countries.

        There are not many places where there are large volumes of useful biomass fuel piling up because no one has bothered to build a plant that can use the material.

        When promoters convince governments to heavily subsidize the technology by persuading them that it is a “carbon neutral” energy source, very inefficient situations are created like the current case where forests in North Carolina are being harvested to create wood pellets that are then shipped across the Atlantic to be burned with coal in huge plants like the Drax facility. You also get situations like the one I experienced in Pinellas County, FL where a 50 MWe waste to energy plant was built, with the sales pitch that it would be fueled by all of the lawn and garden cuttings that get landfilled in a sub-tropical, heavily residential and agricultural county where there is plenty of sun and rain.

        After the facility was built and began operating, it quickly became apparent that even with all of the burnable refuse for the entire county being trucked as much as 40 miles to the plant, there was not enough fuel to keep it operating at anything close to capacity.

  6. In the TED talk, MacKay gives one option for small, high population density countries is to borrow land in larger, less dense countries, and put biomass plantations (as he calls them), or wind farms or solar farms in the larger area countries for the smaller countries to use. Did you know this is already happening to some extent?

    The large Drax coal power station in England is switching over to burn wood chips. Where are the wood chips going to come from? The United States, it turns out. See link below.


    From the link:
    Now, with a bunch of new European wood-burning power plants having come online, Europeans need wood to feed the beast. But most European countries don’t have a lot of available forest left to cut down. So they’re importing our forests, especially from the South.

    Note that I am not blaming David MacKay for these activities. I don’t know if he had any involvement in the developments, or even what he thinks about them. However, the fact remains; Europe is going to be burning more and more American wood in the future for power. I can only assume that the US owners of these forests are going to manage them in a sustainable way. It also brings into question the ability of decarbonizing our own energy supply system, if we are sending our forests to Europe to help them decarbonize.

    Another article from the BBC:

    Of course, my preference is to follow the French model and start building nuclear plants fast enough so we can shut down most, if not all, of our coal-fired power plants. France’s carbon intensity per kilowatthour should be emulated. Instead, we seem to be trending closer to the German model.

    1. ‘Note that I am not blaming David MacKay for these activities. I don’t know if he had any involvement in the developments, or even what he thinks about them.’
      Professor Mackay was actually appointed by the UK government as Chief Science Adviser to the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Under his watch, the DECC took a court case against Drax power station claiming some of the renewables subsidies it had been looking for to fund the conversion of one of its units to North American wood. DECC won the case, and Drax will not appeal, and I think is not proceeding with the conversion; however I understand they still get other subsidies for the first biomass conversion. Mackay is leaving the post soon; we might get an insider’s view of things afterwards.

  7. Like agriculture, the use of biomass in energy has its long term environmental consequences. It is not sustainable because it withdraws ne3utrients from the soil. The trees from old orchards are noot waste. If allowed to rot, they will trturn fertility to the soil. With out that fertility, the soil must be fertilized by artificial means, and the EROEI will slip into the negative. The advocates of the use of biomass, are enemies of the environment, who do not offer sustainable energy, in exchange for the energy they take from the soil.

    1. “The trees from old orchards are not waste. If allowed to rot, they will turn fertility to the soil”

      And you leave the land fallow for the years it takes for the natural decay to occur? That is every bit as absurd an argument as comparing an Iowan’s firewood needs with the needs of a bioenergy facility. The global community needs food, as well as energy. Advocating for retired groves and orchards to be left to decay naturally exposes a remarkable detachment from reality on the part of such an advocate. If the commentors here wish to be considered credible, they might be well advised to keep Iowan woodcutters and huge tracts of fallow farmland out of the narrative.

      1. @poa – Here is the response I just gave to Charles on the Atomic Insights Facebook page:

        Charles – I suspect that letting old wood rot in the fields would lower productivity for several years compared to clearing the field, cultivating the soil, planting new trees and caring for those new trees.

        It might be good on a long term basis, but most farmers cannot afford to let productive land lay fallow for such a long period of time.

        Biomass is not necessarily a bad power source; it simply has limited prospects for sustainable growth. It is okay to burn certain fuels of opportunity rather than just let them feed the bugs.

        1. How about processes like mulching the old trees and spreading them around the new trees. It takes a bit of energy, but it allows the immediate reuse of the land, and returns the nutrients to the soil.

          1. Modern farming is a science, not meant to be second guessed by armchair gardeners. If mulching retired orchards was a constructive, cost efficient, or feasable option, agricultural corporations would be doing so. What I see happening to old retired orchards is the following….Large machinery is brought in to uproot the trees, and the arr then bulldozed into large piles. I assume that this is done at the expense of the power company reclaiming the fuel resource. At this point, huge mulching machines are brought in, that swallow the tree whole. Roots, leaves, etc are all dumped in these gargantuan machines, that spit the product out as chips. The fuel is then trucked to the powerplant. I have no idea if it is fed into the furnaces as loose chips, or compacted into a denser slower burning fuel, which seems to me to be the more logical assumption.

            One needs to envision the immensity of some of these orchards, with tightly packed mature trees covering thousands of acres. One also must marvel at the speed by which modern farmers can turn a recently cleared orchard field into a productive orchard or crop. The re-introduction of nutrients to the soil is a science as well, tailored to fufill the nutritional needs of whatever crop or tree species is being planted. Trust me, modern farmers aren’t straw sucking hicks pushing a team of mules hooked up to a plow. The customers of mine that are successful farmers are to a man college educated, quite wealthy, and very science oriented in the way they manage their land holdings. To be competitive, they have to be.

      2. POA, we are talking about methods of restoring the fertility, through the return of minerals and organic materials to the soil. The low energy method requires things that were grown to the soil, be returned by natural processes to the soil. It requires, that agricultural land be kept fallow for some time, but only requires limited energy input.

        The second method does not require the return of the extracted minerals and organic materials, and the soil may, after sever crop cycles, become so infertile, that no further useful vegitasion can be grown on it. Fertility can only be restored through the use of chemicals. This is the condition of most agricultural soil in the United States. This process requires high energy input. There are good reasons why the high energy rout might be chosen in some instances, but good reasons why it might not be chosen in other. A high energy input rout to producing biomass for energy, might not produce enough energy gain to make it worth while.

        1. “POA, we are talking about methods of restoring the fertility, through the return of minerals and organic materials to the soil”

          Why are “we” talking about it? Surely you must realize that the corporate agricultural sector would laugh you out of the boardroom were you to suggest leaving huge tracts of farmland fallow, for years, so that nutrients could be restored naturally. In a utopian setting, butterflies and monorails, and one millionth the population our planet must now support, your plan for soil regeneration has merit. But reality isn’t compatible with your love beads, pony tail, and tie-dyed toga. Trust me, this old hippie pines for a more “natural” environmental reality as much as you do. But we are waaaaaay past that point.

          1. I thought I made this comment but don’t see it. Farmers have been using crop rotation to maintain soil fertility for many generations. With adequate moisture, crops do not have to lie fallow, crop rotation can be used. See link.


            Compared to using fertilizer, I’d be laughed out of the boardroom too.

      3. I think the energy density thing and the amount of energy needed/produced comes up again here. We are not really taking about orchards and dead wood.

        1. There are other factors too. Like I mentioned. Fertilizers and runoff, soil acidification.

          Im technically in the tree business but if I never had this place cut again it would be too soon. Im not saying people are bad for doing it, you got to pay the bills, but clear cutting turns the forest into the moon. I dont want to think about what happens to the turtles, deer, birds – turkeys, and everything else. Its terrible, a different scale but as bad or worse than a oil spill id imagine. Nearly the whole SE US is production forest too.

          There are also other biofuels in use:

          nearly 80 mammal species are found in Malaysia’s primary forests. In contrast, disturbed forests have just over 30 mammal species, while oil palm plantations have only 11 or 12. Similar species reductions occur for insects, birds, reptiles and soil microorganisms. ( http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/footprint/agriculture/palm_oil/environmental_impacts/biodversity_loss/ )

          Im not sure but if it came down to biofules or tar sands – with respect to biodiversity and rapid extinctions – It might be more environmentally sound to go with tar sands. ( around 50 million gallons a day (?)Athabasca oil sands fields I believe ) Especially because of the energy density thing and the land required. ( 400 to 700 gallons per acre per year for palm oil ). I have no idea.

          1. John….

            Can you cite any instance, anywhere, of naturally forested land being clear cut to provide fodder for a bioenergy facility?

          2. We talked about this before. Like rod says the biofuel stuff is out there all over the place. Ill try and find some more recent high value criticism on the bio mass stuff tonight. Already though I can see critical articles are not coming up like they did a year or so back, meaning probably extensive PR work is being done behind the scenes, as pages of sales links and glowing testimonials are not a natural state of order for searched information.

          3. Another problem with the unbiased info you do find is a lot of it is dated and we are talking only a few years to become so. What was theory as opposed to what is practice is particularity difficult to decipher for me. In addition paper demand has dropped significantly in recent years. Lumber exports have risen.

            European wood pellet consumption grew from 4.606 million metric tons in 2006, to 14.3 million metric tons in 2012. Over 17 million metric tons is expected to be consumed this year (2014). ( http://biomassmagazine.com/articles/9367/annual-eu-report-projects-increased-pellet-biogas-consumption )

            In 2012, U.S. wood pellets exports to the EU rose with 70 percent to nearly 1.8 MMT

            With respect to biofules production in the EU :

            Feedstock for the anticipated biofuels production in 2013 is estimated at about 10.6 MMT of cereals, about 9.5 MMT of sugar beets, and about 9.3 MMT of vegetable oils and animal fats. ( http://gain.fas.usda.gov/Recent%20GAIN%20Publications/Biofuels%20Annual_The%20Hague_EU-27_8-13-2013.pdf )

            And here is what food prices have done ( http://www.globalsherpa.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/FAO-food-price-index-1990-to-2011.jpg )

          4. on Climate Progress – Largest City In Vermont Now Gets All Its Power From Wind, Water And Biomass ( http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/09/15/3567307/vermont-renewable-power/ )

            My response in case it isn’t posted:

            How many acres are flooded for this 50 percent average capacity factor hydroelectirc resource? (dams and reservoirs are the leading case of aquatic extinctions) How many more acres are in agricultural/timber production. (agriculture is still the largest driver of extinctions and habitat loss). Vermont Yankee generates 620 megawatts at around 90% CF on much less than 150 acres. Clean energy for 30 years. Winooski One is a 7.4 Mw hydroelectric generating station. At full capacity the biomass plant generates 50 megawatts (Mm).

            Do the math.

          5. It turns out Rod did a article on this plant in 2008 :

            25% of the fuel is waste material from other local sawmill operations that would otherwise be sent to a landfill, and 5% is urban non treated wood waste normally dropped off at the plant by local residents. The total wood fuel consumption is about 180,000 tons per year, enough to supply about 2400 full power hours (plant capacity factor of 27%). ( https://atomicinsights.com/renewable-energy-model-burlington-vermonts-joseph-c-mcneil-generating-station/ )

            But in another report in 2000 it seems the plant was already operating outside those parameters :

            Traditionally, BED has operated McNeil Station at approximately 35% capacity; however, due to increased power demands and improved position in the energy market, BED has increased McNeil Station’s output to 70-80%.
            4 As a result of this increase, McNeil Station is in danger of violating its annual
            limit for nitrous oxide (NOx) from wood combustion.
            ( http://www.greenfieldbiomass.info/uploads/Vermont_Law_McNeil_Station_Report_pdf.pdf )

            So now I am really intrigued.

          6. Sorry about this Rod but a few more posts (feel free to combine, edit, delete)I think you will find it interesting too :

            In 1989, the ability to burn natural gas was added to McNeil Station.Summer pricing for Canadian gas was at one time more attractive than wood prices. Having an additional fuel somewhat simplified the fuel procurement/consumption variations. Six fossil fuel burners
            were installed allowing full load capability on gas and 15 MW capability on No. 2 oil. When gas burners were first installed the state NO x emission limits could not be met. A flue gas recirculation system was added which reduced the NO x emissions from 0.32 lb/MBtu to 0.1 lb/MBtu, well below the standard of 0.13 lb/MBtu.The annual wood consumption has varied from a maximum of 460,000 t in 1985 to a minimum of 125,000 t in 1986. After full load capability on natural gas became possible in 1990, about two-thirds of the fuel requirements were met by wood and one-third by gas until gas prices rose during the mid-1990s. During 1997 and 1998, the McNeil Station burned almost no natural gas, and burned
            about 260,000 t/yr of wood
            ( http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy00osti/26946.pdf )

            Just a quick blub on nitrous Oxide :

            In 2012, nitrous oxide (N2O) accounted for about 6% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. Nitrous oxide is naturally present in the atmosphere as part of the Earth’s nitrogen cycle, and has a variety of natural sources. However, human activities such as agriculture, fossil fuel combustion, wastewater management, and industrial processes are increasing the amount of N2O in the atmosphere. Nitrous oxide molecules stay in the atmosphere for an average of 120 years before being removed by a sink or destroyed through chemical reactions.
            The impact of 1 pound of N2O on warming the atmosphere is
            over 300 times that of 1 pound of carbon dioxide.

            ( http://epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases/n2o.html )

            – So obviously there are other issues here as well.

  8. I love David’s Book, Sustainable Energy – Without the hot air, available for free at withouthotair.com

    It’s a tad dated, but it breaks things down into a strictly numbers approach, and in my opinion, should be required reading for discussing sustainable energy options.

  9. I’m having trouble folllowing so many minute details.

    Nevertheless, it would help if all tape measures sold in US hardware stores were to show centimeters as well as inches. I am a recent recipient of a useless inch-only tape measure intended for simple lumber measurements for a house remodeling.. that I would like to throw in a cooking fire….because the inches system is useless in Latin America…Not helpful at all…..

    1. With carpentry tape measures, it is useful to have the same scale on both sides of the tape for convenience’s sake. The trick is getting the correct scale on the tape in the first place.

    2. So donate your tape measure to a Habitat for Humanity Re-Store. You might be able to find an inexpensive one there with a metric scale.

      I’ve worked at Habitat sites for 5 years, and I’ve never had anyone call out a measurement in metric units. Even the Canadian on the crew seemed to prefer inches.

      1. Depends on what I’m working on, particularly in respect to what hardware I’m using, as to whether or not I use metric measurements. The better european cabinet and furniture hardware is close tolerance, and utilizes the metric system in describing bore sizes, thicknesses, tolerances, etc. Its just much simpler to use metric rather than hassle doing the conversions.

        However…. when building the actual cabinet or furniture piece, I always prefer inches, except in regards to fitting hardware. But even that is becoming a hassle, because most plywoods are now in mertric thicknesses, rather than 3/4″, 1/2″…etc..

    3. I’m suprised that a hardware store in latin america would have the bulk of its tape measure inventory with standard SAE calibrations. I gotta believe you probably just grabbed an SAE tape by mistake, reaching for the wrong display.

      If I recall, wasn’t there a big deal made out of this in the late sixties, early seventies??? The narrative being that “we” were going to switch over to the metric system by such and such a year?

      Seems the American auto industry had a fairly schizophrenic response to such a goal, because anyone that has wrenched on a late model American auto realizes the frustration of having to have both metric and SAE tools handy depending on what component he/she is working on. Sometimes even a single component, such as a starter, will even have a mixed bag. Frankly, its a pain in the……

  10. My tape measure has both imches and millimetres on one side, and nothing on the other side.

    I have several plastic rulers which are the same.

  11. The power rationing and power outages in southern CA is being blamed in the heat wave. However I think that is a big lie. There would have been plenty of power even during the heat wave if San Onofre was still operating.

    1. Not to mention, wholesale electricity prices are high in Southern California lately.
      Southern California: $67.30 per MWh
      Northern California: $57.40 per MWh


      So. Cal. wholesale power prices are the highest in the nation today. At least until this winter, when Vermont Yankee shuts down and the temperatures drop in New England.

    2. “. There would have been plenty of power even during the heat wave if San Onofre was still operating.”

      Wrong…..S. Cal experienced outages due to the heat far far before SONGS was retired. Making assumptions based on bias, rather than on data, is the kind of thing you folks detest about those such as Lovins. Better you don’t mimic his tactics.

      1. Would it be biased to suggest that the high energy costs on both coasts will be a boon to the Midwest and the South? Why bake your beans in Boston when you can bake them somewhere else for less and ship them in.

      2. @poa

        It is important to be specific and use numbers. It MAY be true that there would have been enough power for a particular heat wave and not enough for a different weather system at a different time with a different mix of available resources.

        What cannot be denied is that all else being equal, a grid with a 2200 MWe operable nuclear generating station has more capacity than one without that plant.

        1. Coupla different things……

          First, there is an article in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times concerning the outages. Seems they are generating enough electricity to fulfill needs. The problem is not one of generation, but instead, of transmission infrastructure. The heat is frying transformers and circuit breakers. An operative SONGS would not alleviate the problem.



          What is wrong with small wind farms supplying the energy for specific infrastructural needs?

          1. Oh come on, EP.

            Thats true of anything. Can you specifically criticize this project, and, if not, at least admit there are practical wind farm projects that do make sense?

          2. I’ll criticize specifics if I get any that are worth criticizing.  So far, all I’ve learned is that the original wind farm had a bunch of Jacobs wind turbines (almost certainly the 1980’s models, not the original 1920’s-40’s editions), went bust like several others, and the new effort is using all-new hardware.

            No price.

            No details of who’s paying, if there are government (taxpayer) grants involved, etc.

            If it pays back for whoever’s footing the bill, great.  So far the record is not good.

          3. From the link….

            “The Lalamilo Wind Co. was awarded the $13 million project by the Department of Water Supply. The benefit to the department is that it will cut the power bill for the wells in half over the next 20 years”.

            Perhaps it won’t pan out that way, who knows. However, it seems the municipal power agency is footing the bill.

            Seems to me this is a damned good idea. Energy storage takes a back burner to water storage. In peak periods of wind tanks can be filled. And if these peak wind periods are able to supply the amount of of water needed for the times energy production is not as robust, wheres the hitch? Certainly the 13 mil price tag is much lower that what a small reactor would cost, and undoubtedly far fewer regulatory hoops must be jumped through. Gotta imagine insurance costs for both construction and operation would be far less than that of a nuclear plant, and the projected forty year life span I imagine, (?), is close to equal that of a reactor.

            Whats the problem, if it goes off as planned?

          4. poa, the folks here are skeptical because we’ve all seen story after story about promising-seeming wind or solar installations and in every single case, without exception, when you finally get all the facts, it turns out to have been a bad idea.

            So you can hardly blame people for withholding praise, even if they do not immediately see anything to criticize.

            If you do not understand the above, then I suggest you reread the story about “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” again. The boy is every promoter of wind and solar we’ve ever seen. We’re the town’s folk. The only difference is, it’s not a wolf, which will eventually show up in real life. The boy is crying manticore over and over again, and that mythical creature is never going to show up and eat all the sheep.

            However, on the face of it, using wind for a purpose which is very time-tolerant such as filling large reservoirs would seem to make some sense. After all, many of our ancestors used simple wind driven water pumps to fill cattle troughs.

            And while the above paragraph would seem to give promise to this wind application, with its simple analogy I’m reminded of another platitude. Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler. It’s entirely possible that hte analogy in the previous paragraph is too simple to describe the nuances of what’s being done in the example you’ve given.

            We’ve learned to be suspicious of overly simple explanations as well. See above about that lying boy.

          5. Here’s more info on the Hawaii wind project…….


            Seems to me, unfortunately, that some here actually want projects like this to fail. That pretty much negates the claims of altruism and environmental concern that many here espouse. I have no doubt that some here are motivated altruistically, but others just seem far too “our way or the highway” to be trusted. Fanaticism breeds deceit and insincerity, no matter the base issue.

            Energy projects that can enjoy success while lessening our fossil fuel dependence deserve support and recognition. This should include the utilization of any form of energy production, be it nuclear, solar, wind, or others. Instead, it seems as though the so called renewables are treated as the enemy by the pro-nuclear crowd, and nuclear is treated as the enemy by the pro-renewable crowd.

            One would hope that energy projects such as above could be afforded a bit of hopeful support, bolstered by a true concern for the environment and our energy future. I see no such sentiment here, and, really, thats a shame. Hostility begets hostility, and thats a poor environment for progress.

          6. POA, the figures you quote don’t give any dollar amount of savings.  How much is invested to achieve what annual savings?  What’s the expected cost of O&M?  If it’s a good deal, the numbers WOULD be there.  They’re not.

          7. “POA, the figures you quote don’t give any dollar amount of savings”

            I posted, yesterday, a reply with a link, but it hasn’t made it past the automated comment nazi. But really, those answers are easily found with a short internet search.

            Sometimes it seems some here are afraid of any answers that may deviate from the “wind won’t work” script. In many ways, some of you guys ape the strategies and tactics of the anti-nukes. I’m not sure you even realize it.

          8. I’m not afraid of anything.  There’s a difference between fear and the deep cynicism born of decades of hype, broken promises and outright fraudulent claims.

            Not even Denmark has been able to de-carbonize using wind.  Just a minute ago, energinet was reporting 190 gCO2/kWh despite the wind apparently being favorable.  Steve Aplin’s blog widget reports less than 30 gCO2/kWh for Ontario.

            Nuclear obviously works.  Why are YOU afraid of it?

          9. “Nuclear obviously works.  Why are YOU afraid of it?”

            Because of the conflicting narratives in regards to safety. Two opposing arguments, offered by special interests, in the pursuit of profits, is hardly the breeding ground for truth. Add politics to the mix, and you usually end up with a corral full of horseshit. I suspect the actual reality resides someplace in the middle. I’m here to listen to your side of the argument, with as open a mind as my distrust of huge money entities and ventures will allow. I’m more trusting of the nuclear community than I was when I first arrived here. But an advocate ?? No. I am still cynical, more so than I am about the so called renewables. In no small part, this is due to the animosity I detect in many of the comments here.

            1. @poa

              I think if you pay close attention, you will find more more animosity towards nuclear energy among renewable energy promoters than you will animosity towards renewables among nuclear energy promoters.

              Where there is animosity, it might come from those who have either lost good jobs or from those who know people that have lost good jobs as a result of over-promising on the part of renewables salesmen. While wind and solar can reduce fossil fuel consumption, they cannot replace fossil fuel generating capacity because there is a significant probability that they will not function when power is needed. In Texas, the entity responsible for maintaining reliable electricity supply will give large wind farms credit for just 8% of their nameplate capacity in “capacity auctions.”

              What unreliable power sources can do is make the grid less stable and improve the value of responsive, high fuel cost, power generators. They strongly support natural gas and distillate fuel sales because those are the fuels that power generators that can afford to ramp up and down to overcome the natural ups and downs of the wind and sun.

              I hope that you, as a guy who distrusts big money, big media, and financially interested politicians, can see why so many hydrocarbon suppliers prominently promote wind and solar energy as the destination of their “bridge” technology.

          10. “One would hope that energy projects such as above could be afforded a bit of hopeful support, bolstered by a true concern for the environment and our energy future. I see no such sentiment here, and, really, thats a shame. Hostility begets hostility, and thats a poor environment for progress.”

            I gave your comment a lot of thought, as on the face of it, it seems very sensible.

            And you know what? I do hope it fails. I hope it fails for a very good reason.

            The vast majority of wind and solar projects are failures. Wind and solar do not reduce CO2 emissions on a reliable electrical grid. But all of the public attention for solving CO2 emissions is on wind and solar. Yet, wind and solar cannot work.

            Oh, they might work for a small specialized project such as your example. But in the big picture, they cannot make even a tiny dent in fossil fuel burning for grid electricity. This has been proven time and again.

            As long as people continue to believe the sweet, sweet lie that wind and solar can supply our energy needs, WE WILL NOT SOLVE CO2 EMISSIONS. The public must be relieved of this beautiful delusion before we can solve this problem.

            However, even small successes, in specialized cases, which have no wider application, lend credence to the lies about wind and solar being realistic solutions.

            So, yes, I want everything associated with wind and solar to be great monstrous public failures. I want the failure to be obvious to all but the completely delusional.

            I want to hasten the day when we get serious about reducing CO2 emissions without destroying our civilization, and that means forget these near-useless wind and solar installations and start building nuclear with a will.

            The Kyoto accord was signed in 1997 and clearly demonstrated that the signatories were not the least bit serious about actually reducing CO2 emissions. Reductions in CO2 emissions from building nuclear electricity generators were specifically excluded from methods that qualified for emissions credits. In other words, build nuclear until your CO2 emissions are zero, and according to Kyoto, you had not reduced your emissions at all.

            If the world had been realistic in 1997 and we had set out to build nuclear reactors, which history, France, South Carolina, and Ontario have proven reduces CO2 emissions, we could have reduced our CO2 emissions from electricity generation by 75% by now. It only took France 16 years to go from less than 5% nuclear electricity to 80% nuclear electricity.

            So, yeah, I want wind and solar to fail, so that people will get over their delusion and start working on a solution that will actually solve the problem.

          11. See this posting for yet another reason to diss wind and solar.

            Nuclear’s CO2 emissions per energy generated is much lower even than wind and solar. See Cyril R’s excellent analysis in several other nearby postings before quoting some fraudulent Lenzen or Storm and Smith at us.

          12. poa, do you accept the facts and evidence that wind and solar have been an abject failure at reducing CO2 in Germany?

          13. A very good dose of realism (of the David MacKay sort) can be found in a lecture by Robert Bryce in Australia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crefcQpwA5w .

            One could take issue with his outspoken attitude towards wind power (it’s a scam) compared to his attitude to solar (it’s great!). But no way can one dispute the numeric thrust of his overall argument, that plentiful energy is the only thing that has been shown to lift people out of poverty, and in a world in which actual coal generation is increasing more in a month (or was it a week?) than actual solar generation is in a year, you absolutely need heavy lifters like nuclear if you are at all serious about CO2.

          14. The link I referenced above is meant to lead directly to the posting by Edward Greisch — look at the footer of each message for the author. If you hover the mouse over the “posted ago…” it will show the comment number. It was comment #301222.

            For some reason, the link just dumps one at the bottom of all comments, instead of taking one to the specific comment, even though the comment number is referenced in the link.

          15. “poa, do you accept the facts and evidence that wind and solar have been an abject failure at reducing CO2 in Germany?”

            Don’t know enough about it to form an opinion, and see no reason not to take your word for it.

            My specific argument was in favor of small wind facilities supplying the energy needs for certain infrastructural systems, such as the project cited. You’ll be hard pressed to convince me that; although such wind facilities are feasible, and can work, their failures are desirable in order to bolster the nuclear energy PR efforts. Sorry, but such an argument is just too sleazy for me to buy into.

  12. Perhaps my statement was overly broad with regard to outages. However I don’ t remember businesses closing early to save energy or feeling so uncomfortably warm when their in operation. I also don’t remember seeing “flex alert” commerical at virtually every station break. Flex alerts are a euphuism for rationsing. Southern California Edison was just granted an 8% rate hike which is weigh above the CPI.

  13. My posts tend to be short mostly because of a motor handicap. I am aware that transmission bottlenecks are a bigger problem than generation capacity. Resistive transmission losses are a function of the current squared. However for long distance ac transmission has a significant amount of capacitance and other factors involved.
    Tesla was able to deal with the complexity of ac because he was a math genius.

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