October 18, 2009

Getting it Badly Wrong on Climate Change

Levitt and Dubner @ Superfreakonomics are abit taken aback at the reaction they've gotten with their new book. However, statements like this show that they certainly have no clue about the science or economics of energy.

p. 187: Claim that "coal is so cheap that trying to generate electricity without it would be economic suicide" needs much, much more backing-up: I can't see how it could possibly be true.

Anyone who understands the economics of getting off fossil fuels knows that it is much cheaper to save the energy than it is to build new coal plants. As Amory Lovins recently said:

Can we now imagine getting off the coal that makes half our nation's electricity? Certainly."

  • "If America used electricity only as efficiently as the top ten states averaged four years ago, five-eighths of U.S. coal-fired electricity would become unnecessary.
  • "Using electricity fully cost-effectively would save even more, displacing all coal power and more.
  • "Windpower in available windy sites can displace all U.S. coal power at least four times over (or all Chinese electricity at least twice over); just the windpower stuck today in the interconnection queue could save half of U.S. coal power.
  • "We could save two-fifths of the coal power by properly exploiting industrial co-generation, plus a lot more in buildings.
  • "A third of coal power could be replaced immediately by running already-built but partly-idle combined-cycle gas plants more and coal plants less (at an extra cost many-fold less than displacing coal with new nuclear plants)."

"Getting off coal requires nowhere near all these steps, let alone the many other attractive options." Lovins said. "We just need to apply part of what we know."

Even the Chinese see that it is cheaper to use energy efficiently rather than build coal plants. So why are Levitt and Dubner so wrong?

Posted by Mary at October 18, 2009 11:17 PM | Energy | Technorati links |

Lets see, we have 1400 coal fired power plants, to replace their capacity it would take 250 nuclear plants and that's just in America.

TO meet Kyoto, the world would need 4 million wind turbines just to make the 5% ratio. We'd have to open a nuclear plant every month up to 2050 to make the 10% nuclear ratio. This is just a fantasy gone amok. There's obviously no attachment with reality.

Posted by: peter at October 19, 2009 08:34 PM

And you would have to build wind turbines every few hundred metres from the Canadian to the Mexican Border 3.5 times and destroy hundreds of square miles of the country.

Same for solar. Fun with numbers

Posted by: Wayne Delbeke at October 19, 2009 09:00 PM

Burning coal, oil and natural gas releases carbon dioxide gas into the atmosphere. On average, this may warm the earth and change the climate in other ways. For example, it might change the severity and duration of storms or droughts.

Posted by: Jon Conner at November 3, 2009 07:43 AM