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  1. “A number of presenters and audience members seemed to agree that the recent U.S. economic and energy consumption statistics prove that we have permanently decoupled prosperity from energy consumption.”

    Is this really true? Given how much we import, haven’t we shifted energy use overseas and disguised it in the goods we import? Our new energy source is the Federal Reserve.

    1. True statement. Manufacturing jobs and the associated Industrial load have been offshored. The steel mill towns in Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are ghost towns compared to the 1960s. Similarly, we export cotton to Asia and buy clothes, two trips across the ocean being cheaper than manufacturing here.

      While on the subject of industrial offshoring and job loss, the Environmental Protection Agency and the myriad of other regulators played no small part in that phenomenon. Given enough regulation (even nuclear), the process can become so expensive that it is profitably exported to a less regulated region.

      For a fact our country prints the money it cannot raise by taxation, and the Federal Reserve facilitates that function by funding deficits. Nearly $20 Trillion – with the end nowhere in sight. Incredible.

  2. I noted that too, FermiAged. Also that the author — perhaps intentionally — neglected to quantify just how large “a number” actually is. In an earlier thread you remarked upon those who seemingly favor energy poverty and restricted transportation as key elements of a national energy policy.

    Perhaps this is the sort of thing of which Rod is skeptical. It may be a matter of definition. We already have a national energy policy. However our energy markets operate, they do so by our choice. That is our policy. Production Tax Credits, Renewable Energy Standards, arbitrarily restricted definitions of “renewable”, Net Metering, Grid Priorities, cheap fracked gas, prohibitions against local communities’ regulation of drilling practices or locations — these are all corner cobble stones of our National Energy Policy.

    As it exists today. Some of us would like the lot replaced with a National Carbon Fee and Dividend. That too would be a National Energy Policy.

    Left unmentioned was the number who do not agree our economic prosperity has become permanently decoupled from energy consumption. For example, there is a team at DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley and Pacific Northwest National Laboratories who, in their 2014 Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States 2050 Report, suggest an energy profile containing a healthy 43% drop in personal energy consumption over 35 years. With a projected 36% population growth, this results in a net 20% decrease in overall US energy consumption.

    Does that decouple prosperity from energy consumption? Again a matter of definition. Total energy consumption does drop with increased efficiency. But much of the remaining energy is of an exceedingly high-quality variety: over those 35 years U.S. electricity generation is expected to double.

    1. @Ed Leaver

      …suggest an energy profile containing a healthy 43% drop in personal energy consumption over 35 years. With a projected 36% population growth, this results in a net 20% decrease in overall US energy consumption.

      Does that decouple prosperity from energy consumption? Again a matter of definition. Total energy consumption does drop with increased efficiency.

      I don’t see anything “healthy” about a 43% drop in personal energy consumption over a 35 year period. I also don’t agree that overall energy consumption falls with increased energy efficiency; normally increased efficiency lowers energy costs enough to allow the customers to add additional energy consuming activities to their lifestyle.

      1. During this period, wages have stagnated and it has become necessary to redefine unemployment to make the numbers look better.

      2. @Rod Adams

        Pfffffffft! A mere quibble. As Jevons pointed out, increased efficiency needn’t result in increased consumption if accompanied by rising price.

        What drives the efficiency? What drives adoption of CHP, heat pumps, and electric and/or hydrogen transport? A residential heat pump can keep your house just as cool on 1/3 the electric energy, or just as warm on a third the btu’s. Those are expensive btu’s, but when I lived in Austin 15 years back, they had become quite popular for new construction. Likewise today electric cars drive the same distance as an ICE on 1/3 or 1/4 the energy. But it’s high-quality energy, and if it comes from coal one’s emissions profile, while improved, is not improved to quite the degree one might like.

        The 43% personal energy reduction was chosen by the DOE dudes as a maximum they thought Americans might tolerate without overly crimping our style.

        They also didn’t consider more than 40% penetration of nuclear power into our electricity grid: perhaps management didn’t like the direction the cost projections were trending. But that 40% represents a quadrupling of current capacity, or maybe 300 new GW LWRs if we can hold on to our old ones. An average of 10 completions each year from 2020 on out. Is higher penetration reasonable within that time period? A rhetorical question. But what policies can drive it?

    2. The problem with the idea that energy efficiency ‘decouples’ energy and prosperity is that,

      A) you still need a lot of energy – just maybe a bit less than before;

      B) while it’s great that I can run a light bulb with less energy than I used to, or my computer, or heat my home (because of better insulation) with less energy, there are a lot of people living in energy poverty (generally, people living in financial poverty, and food poverty too) currently that we need to raise up out of that energy poverty – so even as I may need less energy, we should, as a society, be trying to increase the use of energy of those in poverty, and

      C) Society, in order to increase or continue prosperity, may need to use more energy in other ways – for example, desalinating water; recycling municipal trash streams, pulling CO2 and Nitrogen out of the air to create carbon neutral plastics, polymers, fertilizers, etc; as well as doing a lot of large scale infrastructure construction – it’s well known that the US need to make trillions of dollars of investment into infrastructure construction in the coming decades – and that’s not even including new infrastructure that will almost surely be needed to combat ocean rise and other effects of global warming.

  3. It occurs to me that the best thing that could happen to natural gas AND nuclear, is for a bunch of export terminals to come online. Nat Gas companies could open up markets in Europe, Japan, and elsewhere which would make their product much more valuable. . . and natural gas would become expensive enough domestically that it would create a good market for nuclear power to come back.

  4. Re: Jeff S
    March 21, 2016 at 5:30 PM

    That’s one bright concept, but while all this is playing out till nuclear’s economic advantage what’s happening to Co2 levels in the atmosphere? (is there an irreversible climate change “tipping point”?)

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

  5. This morning on a major feature on CBS Morning News, the reporter Jenkin Duncan was having a cow about how the Brussels attacks will effect “the protection and progress” of all nuclear plants — of course complete with irrelevant footage of Fukushima (just can’t get enough of masked bunny-suited workers!) and how “EASY” is to hack into plant computers and stealing radio materials and that the nuclear terrorist peril can only be reduced by abolishing such plants like nearby Germany (big sigh of relief for German’s foresight!!) I’m just waiting on any certified pro nuclear advocate orgs to knock on CBS’s door for a little correction if not equal time! Greenpeace sure isn’t!

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

  6. Re: Nuclear plant security.

    Yes, correct me if I’m naive, but if some of the biggest rural banks can confidently hold tens of millions of dollars only a few yards away from their customers during the day and feel just as secure their contents will still be there regardless a mass assault of wannebe break-ins overnight, why do you need a virtual (high PR fright factor) army to secure the contents of a nuclear plant? It harkens to what Goldfinger said about Fort Knox; yes, it holds far more and is more secure than most facilities but nevertheless it’s still a bank (nothing ultra unique). Maybe nuclear plant builders first should ask bank builders how to secure a location with the least manpower and concrete and acreage. I especially worry when NEI and ANS chronically don’t point out that there are far less secure chemical plants around where a few pounds of C-4 the right place could asphyxiate the population of a small city. Anyone ever seen the stuff piled around Elizabeth NJ, right up close to NYC??

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

  7. On the same theme, I saw a recent International Energy Agency (not International Atomic Energy Agency, to be clear, which is a different thing) forecast which involved a large drop in global energy demand attributed to the “transition from a manufacturing to a service economy”. Given that this so-called transition has been achieved in the formerly industrialized countries by importing goods from overseas, just where do they expect the goods to come from if the whole world goes that route?
    It’s the worst kind of bad reasoning.

    1. @publius
      On the same theme, I saw a collection of 2011 studies from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, University of Maryland, and PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency that predicted just the opposite, namely a four-fold increase in global electricity generation by the end of the century. See Allison Thomson et al. RCP4.5: a pathway for stabilization of radiative forcing by 2100. Climatic Change (2011) 109:77–94 DOI 10.1007/s10584-011-0151-4, and references therein. Some of their figures are posted here, but read the original article for fullest effect.

      1. That certainly seems more reasonable than the contents of “World Energy Outlook 2014” as reported here. Also I note nobody has really begun to integrate the lessons of the recent work on methane leakage, which seems to turn the whole “green gas” argument on its head, at least so far as climate questions are concerned.

        1. Not surprisingly, the methane problem is subject to differing interpretations: see Ted Nordhaus Misleading New Chemistry: Separating Fact from Fiction in the Fracking Debate. On the other hand, as part of her Vision for Modernizing North American Energy Infrastructure Hilary Clinton wants to

          * Repair or replace thousands of miles of outdated pipelines to improve safety and reduce methane leaks…

          * Improve pipeline regulations, including instituting automatic or remote-controlled shut-off valves and leak detection standards that have been recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board.

          * Work to close the loophole that allows companies to ship oil sands crude without paying into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

          * Increase public investment in clean energy R&D, including in storage technology, designed materials, advanced nuclear, and carbon capture and sequestration. Expand successful innovation initiatives, like ARPA-e, and cut those that fail to deliver results…

          … such as carbon capture and sequestration?

          [/snark]. The coal generation problem is huge and CCS would certainly be welcome were it to ever work on the required scale. Some — I won’t name names — might even suggest the coal problem is large enough that China’s HTR approach bears some scrutiny as well. The U.S. Deep Decarbonization Pathways 2050 report linked in my first comment above recommends Power-to-Gas as the most cost-effective energy storage in this country due to our existing gas infrastructure. Secretary Clinton’s infrastructure plans might keep that possibility in mind. Senator Sanders might also find it attractive.

          1. The way I see it, CCS has several issues:

            – It’s really expenssive;
            – It’s unlikely that storage will ever be sufficient for the amounts of CO2 continuously being produced;
            – In the case of underground storage (ex. old mines), there’s the risk of fracture due to erosion/earthquakes which would cause waves of CO2 to wash over the land (see Lake Nyos for potential immediate consequences), eventually ending back in the atmosphere;
            – It doesn’t solve the particulate/heavy metal pollution aspect of coal’s dirtiness.