Saturday, May 26, 2018

Science - Technology Updates

Anyone remember the movie, "The Day After Tomorrow?” Did the lurid, eco collapse scenario seem unlikely?  Think again. "Research hints at tipping point in the Atlantic’s currents… Lots of fresh water from melting ice could radically alter the Atlantic’s currents."

Scientific American makes it explicit: “The Arctic Is Breaking Climate Records, Altering Weather Worldwide.”  Shake your mad cousins awake. No one is asking them to start adoring campus lefty flakes. But their country and civilization and planet and posterity need them to stop giving loyalty to lunatics. And that means turning… off… Fox. Or at least getting multiple sources, instead of staring at hypnosis.

== Recent tech advances ==

New efficient and inexpensive technologies could allow extraction of rare earth elements REE, critical components of many electronics and green products, from waste coal ash. This innovation could enable the U.S. to enter into the $4 billion rare earth element production market while recycling coal ash in an environmentally friendly way. This breakthrough could be critical; China, which controls over 90 percent of the supply, with wide implications on the U.S. economy and national security. For example, "after China reduced export quotas in 2010, the cost of rare earth magnets for one wind turbine increased from $80,000 to $500,000," reports Purdue News

 Current separation technologies produce large amounts of chemical waste. One of the 10 most polluted sites in the world is a manmade lake in China, where the waste effluents from REE extractions are stored. Coal ash is rich in rare earth elements, as rich as some of the best ore deposits. So this new method could have huge implications.

Updates to the Periodic Table: University of Minnesota researchers have discovered a fourth element that is magnetic at room temperatures: Ruthenium (Ru). The others: iron, nickel and cobalt.  Could have importance to computing and high tech industries.

Interesting times:  By herding rubidium atoms into specific arrangements, physicists have been able to create agglomerations that are - in effect -- weird macro particles. A few years ago, one of these pseudo-entities showed many of the outward traits of a magnetic monopole...

... and more recently, the rubidium atom array took on the behaviors seen in "ball lightning." (Note that Liu Cixin's next book is about... and has the title... Ball Lightning. It's... speculative.)

Graphene-4 based hair dye might be stable, non-toxic and electrically conducting, allowing the kind of waving photo-tendrils worn by Tor Povlov in Existence.  

== Was "Earth" a crystal ball? ==

Speak to your computer by subvocalizing....“The AlterEgo system consists of a wearable device with electrodes that pick up otherwise undetectable neuromuscular subvocalizations — saying words “in your head” in natural language.” Why does everyone else get prediction cred?  I prominently discussed "subvocal" interfaces in Earth, back in 1989. Sigh alas.

Another for the prediction registry? Found embedded within a South African diamond — the high-pressure perovskite-structured polymorph of calcium silicate (CaSiO3). This mineral should sound a bit familiar.  High-pressure perovskite- a structured polymorph of calcium silicate (CaSiO3) - is expected to be the fourth most abundant in the Earth—but this high pressure form has not previously been found in nature. Till now.

Cool news in its own right. But in my novel Earth (1989) referred to it making up large portions of our planetary interior. Why did I make a deal about it, long ago? Because of a funky coincidence — that perovskites also happen to be among the mineral forms that make among the best high temperature superconductors! Of course, I make good use of this coincidence in the plot. ;-)

Researchers are developing a machine that could, like a seasoned beekeeper, listen to the buzz of bees to help determine their health.  Sure, I’ll help test it out…

In a fluidized bed, loosely-bound grains can be separated by upward air flow, to behave just like a liquid. Long used to produce even combustion in coal plants, the FB concept also featured in my doctoral dissertation “Three Models of Dust Layers inCometary Nuclei.”  Now, typically, some of us have found a way to turn the whole thing into … fun. A craze for “sand floating” or even sand swimming has begun!

== Bio Tech and beyond... staring with braaaaaains ==

Fascinating. We’ve long known that there are differences in mental process between the human left and right hemispheres, that go beyond their responsibility for opposite sides of the body. The simplistic notion has long been that the left hemisphere handles language, logic, reasoning and the right far more of the subjective, comparative and non-discursive.

Dr. Michael Miller has been working on direct, targeted neural stimulation with electric currents. What seems to come forth is that the Left Hemisphere has a duty to reduce uncertainty, eliminating competing models of reality, either via evidence or else impulsive decision making.

Using tDCS transcranial Direct Current Stimulation on the left prefrontal cortex, researchers can crank things up, making a subject more certain in beliefs. And yes, the implications are creepy. Kind of like the amplified “focus” that Vernor Vinge portrayed in A DEEPNESS IN THE SKY.

The right hemisphere, by contrast, appears to be about reducing conflict.

At the same conference we heard Dr Megan Palmer - of Stanford…bio-security, leader in iGEM … equiv of FIRST Robotics for contests in genetic engineering.

A knotted variation of the DNA double helix has been discovered in living cells, causing perplexity over what it’s for.  

==... and... ==

Carnegie Mellon and Disney Research have teamed up to turn your walls into a touchscreen and gesture interface. Using a water-based nickel conductive paint, the team created a lattice pattern underneath a regular latex paint. Connected to a sensor board and a laptop for visualization, the system recognizes changes in capacitance (touch) and in electromagnetic (EM) waves to pick up presence, gestures and motion.

Mixed signals? Apparently, an Amazon Echo's Alexa recorded a private conversation - and sent the audio files to a user's contact. The likely cause: "inadvertent vocal cues."

“In Isaac Asimov’s 1941 short story “Nightfall,” a journalist in the distant future on a far away imaginary planet named Lagash strikingly resembles the cynical columnists on the planet Earth. Asimov’s story deals with climate denialists, too. In it, a Lagash scientist lashes out at a newspaper editor who could someone like Marc Morano or Anthony Watts of today: “You have led a vast newspaper campaign against the efforts of myself and my colleagues to organize the world against the menace which it is now too late to avert.” That quote from a 1941 sci fi story offers a chilling forecast of a modern journalism that gives equal time to climate change deniers. Scary.”  -- Dan Bloom, “coiner of Cli-Fi."

Just the Facts, Ma'am: a cogent defense of the importance of facts and science is posted by Jack Nilles, one of the officers of the AirlinePilots Association, the union that has helped keep our skies so reliably safe for so long.

Elon keeps getting dissed in the wannabe press Here’s a reaction by someone who gets itMeanwhile, Musk's response is a media company to rate the credibility of journalists - a site that would be called "Pravda" - the Russian word for "truth."

Cosmologist and author of Losing the Nobel Prize: A Story of Cosmology, Ambition and the Perils of Science's Highest Honor, Brian Keating tells the inside story of BICEP2’s  mesmerizing discovery and the scientific drama that ensued. In his new book: Losing the Nobel Prize, Keating describes a rollercoaster journey of revelation and discovery, bringing to life the highly competitive, take-no-prisoners, publish-or-perish world of modern science. Along the way, he provocatively argues that the Nobel Prize, instead of advancing scientific progress, may actually hamper it, encouraging speed and greed while punishing collaboration and bold innovation. In a thoughtful reappraisal of the wishes of Alfred Nobel, Keating offers practical solutions for reforming the prize, providing a vision of a scientific future in which cosmologists may, finally, be able to see all the way back to the very beginning.

Watch this recent video from UCTV, where I interview Keating: "Losing the Nobel Prize with Brian Keating."


DP said...

OK, let's crunch some numbers for global warming and climate change, and the only realistic solution.

Amount of CO2 sent into the atmosphere by human activities
= 32,000,000,000 tons per year
Fraction retained in the atmosphere (not absorbed by existing carbon sinks)
= 43%
Annual accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere
= 13,760,000,000 tons / year

Life cycle CO2 emissions from coal power plants
= 820 g of CO2 / kWh
Life cycle CO2 emissions from nuclear power plants
= 12 g of CO2 / kWh
Life cycle CO2 reduction using nuclear power plants
= 808 g of CO2 / kWh
= 1.75 lbs of CO2 / kWh

Amount of energy to be replaced and eliminate CO2 accumulation
= 15,725,714,285,714 kWh per year
= 15,725,714,286 MWh per year
Power output of large nuclear power plant (Palo Verde, 4 each 1 MW reactors))
= 4,000 MW
= 35,040,000 MWh per year

Number of large nuclear plants required to replace coal plants emitting excess CO2
= 449 each
= 1,796 1 MW reactors

Capital cost of nuclear power plant (Palo Verde, 4 each 1 MW reactors)
= $5,900,000,000
Total Capital Costs
= $2,647,879,973,907

About $2.5 Trillion, double to $5 trillion in today's dollars

World GDP (2016)
= $75.4 trillion

Summary: There are currently 467 operational nuclear power plants world wide. We can eliminate all excess CO2 by adding another 450 plants, or about 1,800 1 MW reactors. The cost would be about 6.67% of world GDP. Annual percent of world GDP spent on the military is about 2%.

So we solve global warming by doubling the number of nuclear plants world wide. We simply cannot prevent global warming without lots of nukes. Safe, clean nukes

Other efforts (solar and wind, afforestation, carbon capture, fertilizing the oceans with irons sulfate, etc. ) can help but they are not nearly as cost effective as expanding nuclear energy.

Nukes can also use off-peak KWh to electrolysize water to create enough hydrogen (without fossil fuel reformatting) to create a hydrogen fuel cell economy that avoids the chief problem with batteries as energy storage. Even the best rechargeable battery wears out over time and will no longer take a charge. Disposing of these batteries will be a major toxic waste disposal problem. So will the disposal of PVCs, which also wear out (current warranties for solar roof top arrays are 10 to 20 years).

Russell Osterlund said...

For a more critical view of "Losing the Nobel Prize", you may wish to check-out Ethan Siegel's blog:

Dr. Siegel posts almost daily on astronomy, cosmology, and some political viewpoints that this cosmology nut always find interesting. He has also published a book, "Beyond the Galaxy", a valuable source I wish I had while taking various MOOC's.

Russell Osterlund said...

Sorry. The Amazon link directs one to the Chinese version of Siegel's book. (I own an English version - :-)) Try this instead:

DP said...

As a follow up, watch this TED talk on nuclear power "Why I changed my mind about nuclear power", Michael Shellenberger:

There are romantic nitwit treehuggers who think living like a medieval peasant will solve our problems. Then there are the Ecomodernists like myself

who know that better technology, higher density of activity and population freeing up more land for habitat, and a segregation of human activity from nature are the best ways to save the planet.

Want to save the planet? Reduce our footprint. Take a good close look at the land use map in section I.6 of this report:

It is a surprising look at how we actually use the planet. For example: the amount of area used to graze and feed livestock is equal to the entire Western Hemisphere (27% of the world's landmass). The amount used for farming is about the size of China and East Asia (7%). Cities are only 1%. A total human impacted land area of 35% of the world's land area.

Remaining habitat includes glaciers (10%), barren lands and deserts (19%), forests (26%), freshwater (1%), shrub (8%), a total of 65%.

Neither grazing nor farming is "natural". A farm is no more natural than a skyscraper. Replace them with meat grown in bioreactor vats from stem cells, enclosed vertical farms

and high intensity greenhouse farming like the Dutch have developed:

and most of this area (over a third of the planet's land mass) can be returned to natural habitat. And it is farming that is doing the most ecological damage today (deforestation of the Amazon, fertilizer laden run-off, aquifer depletion, oceanic dead zones, etc.). Using American agricultural techniques (and assuming equally good soil) each person requires one acre of farmland to provide enough food .


DP said...


At 640 acres per square mile, 7 billion people would require almost 11 million square miles of farmland to provide an American diet. That is an area bigger than Alaska and Canada combined. But suppose we transitioned to vertical farming and lab grown (cruelty free) meat? Develop vat grown beef and chicken (with steaks, hamburgers and nuggets made by 3d printers), and Humanity's impact on Planet earth is reduced to a fraction of its current load.

Vertical farming (growing our food in the heart of our expanded mega cities) that utilizes dwarf versions of certain crops (e.g. dwarf wheat developed by NASA, which is smaller in size but richer in nutrients), year-round crops, and "stacker" plant holders, a 30-story building with a base of a building block (5 acres) would yield a yearly crop analogous to that of 2,400 acres of traditional farming. Develop advanced GMO crops (which even Bill Nye the Science Guy says is safe) to further increase yields.

And that's a good thing.

The worst thing you could do is embrace the idiotic romanticism of organic farming which require 1.5x to 3x the amount of land area to grow the same amount of crops. That's a lot of destroyed habitat.

You want to really save the world? Cram every human into cities. Fortunately urbanization is a major demographic trend. For the first time inhuman history, more people live in urban areas than rural areas. Hopefully this trend will continue.

If everyone lived in an urban area with the same population density of Manhattan, Macau or Hong Kong (almost 70,000 people per square mile), all 7 billion of us could live in a single mega-city the size of Colorado. Or the equivalent area taken up by multiple high population density cities. As a bonus, families in urban areas have fewer kids, further reducing population pressure on resources.

An ideal future world would be self contained mega-cities existing like islands in an ocean of surrounding natural habitat, wit h humanity living a life of material prosperity while most of its activities and physical footprint are divorced from nature.

Best of both worlds.

Treebeard said...

For maximum efficiency and minimum environmental footprint, we could put everyone in little pods and hook them up to virtual reality simulators and feeding tubes. Or we could euthanize people when the reach the age of, say, 30, then use their biomass as food. Or we could build a network of armed robots controlled by a superintelligent Global Artificially Intelligent Authority (G.A.I.A.) to maintain population and ecological order. Or we could wire everyone together directly via neural interface in a Biocomputational Organism for Repairing the Globe (B.O.R.G.) so no one can even think anti-social thoughts. There are so many possibilities when you read a lot of science fiction, stop treehugging and divorce yourself from nature, wouldn't you say?

Anonymous said...

So now there is a danger that terrorist groups will place transcranial stimulation caps on their followers to eliminate all shadow of doubt in them, turning them into ruthless assassins.
I suppose it is also possible that, in the next elections in the United States, Republicans may hide transcranial stimulation devices powered by solar energy in red caps; with the excuse that the small visible circuit only serves to sequentially turn on LED lights on the edge of the cap.
(Donald Evil is certainly capable of that)


David Brin said...

Winter7 thanks for satirically offering paranoid drooling jibber to
counter Treebeard's screech aimed at nothing but the silly-sillyperson he sees in a mirror.

As for promoting safe nuclear power vs global warming, well, Stewart Brand was touting ecomodernism ten years ago. Obama shelled out some cash. Less than he should have, though new designs are starting to come off the drawing boards.

We thought there might be a siolver lining to Trump - he'd push this faster. But the coal/oil barons vetoed it and funding is going DOWN.

Anonymous said...

You're welcome. That comes out very natural to me; Well in my case it is very healthy to be paranoid. (I live in Mexico Brin, ¡in Mexico!¡Haaaaaa!, ¡I could live in Mordor and I would not notice the difference!) Being under the effect of diarrhea facilitates even more the art of paranoia.
Never eat food in restaurants in Mexico. that is worse than death.
Regarding the use of nuclear energy to counteract global warming; It is not easy for me to forget that all major nuclear accidents have occurred in a relatively short period of time. I remember the videos of old women taking care of anencephalic children and, above all, because this latest research confirms what I already knew:

But if they perfect a foolproof nuclear reactor; I support the idea. (I could even handle the reactor myself)


donzelion said...

"But their country and civilization and planet and posterity need them to stop giving loyalty to lunatics."

Hmmm...they'll give loyalty to those who SEEM loyal to them. The trick is planting seeds: who really profits from climate change? It's certainly not gonna be retirees living on a fixed income, who will face higher heating, cooling, flood insurance, water, and other costs.

In that discussion, everyone's eyes focus on petro businesses, but that's a tiny fraction of the players counting on climate change to make themselves rich. Think more of housing developers specializing in building the sort of homes that will be inundated (after being sold), then buying it up and doing it again (in some locations). Think more of the financiers - a far vaster group, with little hooks in darn near everything...

Your crazy uncle won't be impressed by claims like 'climate change' - but like every other conservative, he will hate it if he detects someone pulling a scam that will hurt other people he actually does care about.

Anonymous said...

I've pondered a couple of Treebeard's ideas; and I have come to the conclusion that it is not right to create Human-Animal hybrids. (Rabbit girls, sluts girls, bear men, shark men) Because we would be responsible for creating beings that would be more aware of the pain of living under the control of humanity, (And since humanity is almost totally dominated by the feudal ...) After all, certainly, the pleasures of life are only a trap of life to perpetuate itself. (After life drops a bucket of cold water on top of the deluded ones)
Hum. Was that idea depressing? I am sorry. It is perhaps due to diarrhea (known as Moctezuma's revenge). But you must admit that there is something of that. And returning to the theme of Treebeard, but in a positive way. I really think it would be an improvement if all humans evolve sooner or later, to a cyborg condition, almost immortal, but with individuality, without being part of a unit. (That scares me)
When I saw the end of the Animé "Evangelion" in which all humanity merged into a single monstrous being, that disgusted me almost as much as the announcements of politicians on my country's television. In "Evangelion" in the end only a girl and a boy, remain as the re-initiators of humanity.
Ciborg Si ... Borg; No. (now that if it were available seven out of nine ...)
Do the pleasures of life justify the cost of humanity's suffering? I feel that if we could evolve to a more cyborg way of life, humanity would be on the right path ... Huaww. That gives me ideas ... Ho ho... ¡Sanitary! ¡Sanitary! ¡Baño! ¡Baño!


duncan cairncross said...

Hi Daniel
That is about $1500/watt

Three years ago as an individual I could buy solar panels at $0.44/watt - OK only a 20% load factor
But that still makes it $2.2/watt - and that is without the benefits of scale

Wind power - especially offshore wind power is a lot cheaper - even when allowing for the load factor it's only about $1 a watt

Solar and wind also use less space - or more accurately you can multiuse - panels on roofs - agriculture around wind turbines
Need less maintenance no fuelling and no cooling towers/water

I like nuclear power - overall it has been very safe - but its simply far to expensive now that Solar and Wind are so cheap

If you have to add "Storage" to the equation then Solar Wind and Storage together become a bit more expensive - but STILL a factor of a hundred cheaper than nuclear

DP said...

Duncan, I have no problem with solar or wind, they are great auxiliary power sources. Currently they provide less than 1.5% of the world's power. I could love to see renewable quadruple...

... to 5% of the world's energy.

Am I anti-solar?

Heck no!

I'm just anti-panacea, especially panaceas that don't take into account hard engineering numbers.

No doubt solar has hit a tipping point and is paused for take off. The reasons for this are threefold: over production of PVC arrays by Chinese factories that flooded the world market, simpler and cheaper installation techniques, and creative financing that allows Joe Homeowner to see positive return from his solar rooftop investment from day one:

For now solar accounts for less than 1% of America's energy supply. All renewables provide 13 percent of the domestically produced electricity in 2015, and 11 percent of total energy generation, with the bulk of that provided by traditional hydro electic dams and burnign biomass. I would love to double solar capacity to 2%, 4% 8% 16% ormore of our energy supply and that will happen one day.

We are also on the cusp of being able to make carbon neutral liquid fuels as cheaply as we brew beer: hydrothermal liquefaction of algea grown in brakish water or even sewage, extracing oil for the lipids in raw sewage,converting lignocellulosic biomass into fuel feedstock, using aerobic bacteria such as TU-103 to produce biobutanol as a direct relacement for gasoline (being aerobic really simplifies production and reduces costs), etc.:

I love solar.

I also believe that it has to pass muster in the free market, otherwise we are wasting our money on feel-good white elephants.

And I don't want to sacrifice habitat to solar arrays and wind farms

DP said...

Sorry folks, solar and renewable won't cut it - and don't get me started on bio-fuels like our current ethanol boondoggle. And if we tried to replace fossil fuels with 100% solar and wind, we'd be destroying huge areas of habitat to construct wind farms and solar arrays. Compared with a coal burning plant whose physical footprint (including the employee parking lot) is only a few dozen acres, a solar/wind facility producing the same amount of energy would require hundreds of square miles.

And those PVC panels installed on your roof? Well they don't last forever. Current warranties run 10 to 15 years after which they have to be replaced. Modern, efficient PVCs are chock full of iridium, selenium, arsenide and lots of other nasty toxic metals and chemicals. Going full PVC will present us with a huge toxic waste disposal problem. As will EV car batteries. Even the best rechargeable battery wears out over time, and a worn out battery is a lump of toxic waste. Given the number of cars we throw away this year, try to imagine the toxic waste headache created by battery cars.

DP said...

All that matters in saving the planet is restoring and preserving habitat. That is the whole basis of Ecomodernism. Romantic notions like organic farming and 100% renewables have one thing in common.

They destroy a lot of habitat.

Let's crunch some hard numbers for solar using the Neuhardengberg solar plant outside of Berlin; 145 MW nominal capacity 245 hectares (0.95 square miles) as an example.

First the nominal power sited of 145 mW is the "watt-peak", which is energy production under ideal conditions.

From Wikipedia: "The maximum power measured is the nominal power of the module in "Wp". The nominal power divided by the light power that falls on the module (area x 1000 W/m2) is the efficiency. Watts peak is a convenient measure because it enables one to compare one module with another and track industry capacities and shipments. Equivalent measures can be used for wind electricity generators, though obviously the specification of ideal conditions is different."

The facility in question is a PV facility generating DC. Homes and appliances have to be run on AC. This necessitates running the DC through a converter.

Converters transform AC into DC and vice versa. There are two types of converters—rectifiers and inverters. Rectifiers use diodes in various configurations to perform the conversion. The more complicated inverters rely on microprocessor circuits and transistors.

DC is converted to AC by means of an inverter. The output waveform (voltage over time) varies with the quality and cost of the inverter from rectangular (poorest quality and least cost) or trapezoidal (better quality and more cost) to a true sine wave identical to that directly produced by an AC generator (best quality and most expensive). Inverters can be connected either in parallel for higher power or in series for higher voltage. The operating power of an inverter varies with voltage; typically a 100-W inverter will operate at 12–48 V.(

Which then brings to the issue of operational efficiency. An inverter's efficiency may vary from something just over 50% when a trickle of power is being used, to something over 90% when the output is approaching the inverters rated output. An inverter will use some power from your batteries even when you are not drawing any AC power from it. This results in the low efficiencies at low power levels.

Typical inverter efficiency will be around 60% on most days, and each day will see variable DC output due to variable sunshine (more on that below). So that 145 nominal mW becomes an average, typical DC to AC inverted power production of 87 mW.


DP said...


Even on bright sunny days, the average solar power gain is considerably less than the peak used to determine nominal power in watts-peak (due to movement of the sun, latitude, season, etc.). For example, from David MacKay's analysis in "Sustainable Energy without all the Hot Air":

"The power of raw sunshine at midday on a cloudless day is 1000 W per square metre. That’s 1000 W per m2 of area oriented towards the sun, not per m2 of land area. To get the power per m2 of land area in Britain, we must make several corrections. We need to compensate for the tilt between the sun and the land, which reduces the intensity of midday sun to about 60% of its value at the equator (figure 6.1). We also lose out because it is not midday all the time. On a cloud-free day in March or September, the ratio of the average intensity to the midday intensity is about 32%. Finally, we lose power because of cloud cover. In a typical UK location the sun shines during just 34% of daylight hours. The combined effect of these three factors and the additional complication of the wobble of the seasons is that the average raw power of sunshine per square metre of south-facing roof in Britain is roughly 110 W/m2 and the average raw power of sunshine per square metre of flat ground is roughly 100 W/m2.” (see:

So let’s take the 87 mW of inverted AC production and reduce it to 32% to account for average solar intensity. This reduces actual output to 28 mW. Then again reduce this amount to 32% to account for cloudy days (England having roughly similar climate and latitude as northern Germany). Nearby Berlin has an average of 1625 hours of sunshine annually (see With annual daylight of 365 x 12 = 4,380 hours, this is equivalent to 37%. This is roughly equal to that of England with 34%. This gives us an amount of 9.5 mW.

So after accounting for reductions for DC to AC conversion, latitude and climate, the facility’s actual POWER production is only 6.5% of its rated nominal power in Watts-peak under ideal conditions. If this facility’s average AC output was to be equal to it nominal 145 Mw it would need a land area almost 16 times greater than 0.95 square miles, an area equal to almost 15 square miles.

Note that daylight hours only account for half of a 24 hour day on average, resulting in a further 50% reduction in ENERGY production as measured in kW-hours. So increase the area required by a factor of 2 to 30 square miles.


DP said...

But since energy created by the PV system will still be needed at night (indeed its heaviest demand load will be at night for heating and illumination) it will need to produce enough energy to store for later use at night. With a typical charger efficiency and battery efficiency of 80% and 70%, the overall energy storage efficiency comes to 56% under ideal conditions. To account for energy storage inefficiency the required land area has to double again to 60 square miles – about 38,400 acres.

Now a typical natural gas power plant produces 10s to 100s of mW, 24 hours a day, irrespective of climate or location, and without the need to store power. For example, the proposed Apex Matagorda Energy Center natural gas power plant will have a capacity of 317 mW and a 22 acre footprint (see That’s twice the capacity of the German PV facility, or half the equivalent area per power output of only 11 acres.

To produce the same amount of energy as an equivalent natural gas power plant, a PV solar array would require a footprint 3,000 to 4,000 times greater in extent.

The destroyed habitat alone makes PV a bad environmental choice. The PV cells themselves are doped with toxic materials. Until recently, PV meant flat-panel cells and modules. While this allows for some saving in production costs due to inexpensive roll-to-roll fabrication, the material costs are much higher, since almost the entire cell needs to be lined with doped silicon. The doping often involves the introduction of relatively expensive materials, such as gallium arsenide or indium selenide. (see my article at:

PC cells do not last for ever. current warranties run for about 10 to 20 years of operation, after which they have to be disposed of and replaced. A complete conversion to PV energy spources would present us with a serious toxic waste disposal problem.

No matter how you look at it, habitat destroying footprint, toxic pollutants, need for additional infrastructure, etc. - methane is better for the environment than PV. Solar energy is a pipe dream. We simply cannot run a modern industrial civilization on renewables.

The numbers just don’t add up.


DP said...


To summarize, in order to effectively produce power equivalent to the nominal 145 kW, the area devoted to collectors has to be increased to compensate for losses incurred by:

a. conversion from DC to AC (60%)

b. latitude (32%)

c. cloud cover (34%)

d. only operating during daylight (50%)

e. battery storage (56%)

This is a total reduction of about 98%, necessitating a 55x increase in collector surface area to produce power equiavlent to its nominal rating. In this case about 55 to 60 square miles instead of the actual 0.95 square miles.

Furthermore, the average European uses 0.688 kW of energy (Americans use 1.363). So the 145 kW facility covering 55 to 60 square miles provides enough electricty for 210 Europeans (approximately 50 households). Germany has a population density of 609 people per square mile.

So tell me why this makes any kind of sense, either environmentally or economically.

As for the less then benign environmental effects of utility scale solar, see this summary of the adverse ecological impacts of Germany's renewable energy program from Der Spiegel:

It was in this way that, in 2009, Germany's largest solar park to date arose right in the middle of the Lieberoser Heide, a bird sanctuary about a 100 kilometers (62 miles) southeast of Berlin. Since German reunification in 1990, more than 200 endangered species have settled in the former military training grounds. But that didn't seem to matter. In spite of all the protests by environmentalists, huge areas of ancient pine trees were clear cut in order to make room for solar collectors bigger than soccer fields.

A similar thing happened in Baden-Württemberg, even though the southwestern state has been led for almost two years by Winfried Kretschmann, the first state governor in Germany belonging to the Green Party. In 2012, it was the Greens there who passed a wind-energy decree that aims to boost the number of wind turbines in the state from 400 to roughly 2,500 by 2020. And in the party's reckoning, nature is standing in the way.

DP said...

Dr. Brin, Stewart Brand is just one Ecomodernist. What really sold me on the idea was reading "Energy and Civilization - A History" by Vaclav Smil (if anyone deserves the title of :Slayer of Bullshit" it is Dr. Smil.

First you have to know what you are up against. The thing to remember is how cheap and useful fossil fuels are. Highly concentrated and easily transportable, they basically created modern civilization (see Dr. Smil). In the Welsh coal mines and the oil fields of Pennsylvania we discovered a basically free cornucopia of energy. A gallon of gasoline contains about 12.3 kilowatt hours of power, which is equivalent to about 4 weeks of human muscle power. So why pull a plow behind a mule when a combine with an internal combustion engine can do it far more productively and cheaply?

Only an idiot would not prefer fossil fuels. Fossil fuels saved us from having to live the nasty, brutish and short lives of medieval peasants. Without fossil fuels life would suck badly. Don't believe me? Try actually living without them for a while. Try doing the back breaking labor required to return to nature.

It ain't no renaissance festival.

And believe it or not, fossil fuels had very positive environmental effects. The adoption of coal to power early industrial factories, steam engine and locomotives saved the forests of the United States from extinction. Until then we used massive amounts of wood from felled trees to fire those boilers.

The adoption of oil saved the whales from extinction in the 19th century. Until then, our only source of liquid fuel for illumination was whale oil.

The automobile made cities healthy and livable. The one thing you never see in a TV show or movie set in a 19th century city are the massive pile of horse shit that were literally everywhere. Unsanitary and unhealthy conditions were the norm in industrial urban areas. The most severe problem was that caused by horses defecating and urinating in the streets. The normal city horse produced between fifteen and thirty-five pounds of manure a day. In 1866, the Citizen’s Association Report on the Sanitary Condition of the City observed that, “The stench arising from these accumulations of filth is intolerable”. The Times, of London, predicted, in 1894, that if their present manure creation trends continued, every street in London would be buried in 9 feet of manure by 1950. Fortunately the automobile - one of the great advanced in environment and human health, saved our cities.

So there is no conspiracy by the oil companies to keep us hooked on oil (though the coal companies were largely behind the anti-nuke campaign). It's a conspiracy of physics, with cost savings and profits basically serving as symbolic representations of energy flows. To discover oil is to get rich. Period.

Until the recent price drops in solar and wind, we really did have a Hobson's choice between global warming and poverty. Fossil fuel companies are in denial about global warming, which is very real and getting worse. But those in favor of renewable energy were also in denial about the economic effects of going 100% to solar, wind and wave. In real terms, renewable energy was more expensive than fossil fuels. Which means its complete adoption would leave everyone (not just oil oligarchs) poorer, even poverty stricken. And nobody was going to choose poverty today even if disaster sometime in the future is a near certainty.

Thankfully, the recent fall in solar and wind prices now allow us to have our cake and eat it too.

duncan cairncross said...

All of that is worse case
BUT even if it was not - Solar and storage would still be somewhere between a factor of 10 and 100 cheaper than Nuclear at your $1500/watt

Let's start area required - here at 45 degrees I get an average of 4.5 hour x Panel peak power per day - in other words 18% - my panels are cheap and cheerful 20% panels so I get an average of 0.0375 kW/m2 - so a 1 square Km plant would give an average of 37.5 Mega watts and a 1 Giga Watt plant would cover 27 square Km -
I know that is a little larger than most Nuclear plants but not by that much! - every nuclear power plant I know of covers at least 4 square km

Wind power takes up very little area and 90% of that can be and is still used

So probably LESS area used than for a Nuclear plant - especially when you include the area of the mining for fuel

My panels are WARRANTIED! for 30 years - I expect them still to be producing about 60% of full power after a century

Put the panels on the roofs - it's wasted space

Inverers - if the inverter I built for my car was only 90% efficient it would melt when I gave it the "gas"
90% is more like the bottom end - not the top end!

EV batteries are wonderfully re-usable - NOBODY is throwing them away
As long as they are still working a battery pack is worth a couple of thousand to people like me
When they are knackered they are still worth $200 for the metals - they will NOT be thrown away - lap top batteries - yes a couple of dollars - they will get tipped
But EV batteries will be kept for the copper - as well as the lithium

The old lead acids had 70% and 80% charge/discharge efficiencies - Lithium is in the 90's

Your conversion calculation
a. conversion from DC to AC (60%) - Nope 90+%

b. latitude (32%) - already included in my calculation

c. cloud cover (34%) - already included in my calculation

d. only operating during daylight (50%) - already included in my calculation

e. battery storage (56%) - Nope more like 90%

This is a total reduction of about 98%, necessitating a 55x increase in collector surface area to produce power equivalent to its nominal rating. In this case about 55 to 60 square miles instead of the actual 0.95 square miles

If I add your two additional steps I get my 1 Gw power plant requiring 33 square Km
And that is for a ONE GIGA WATT Average power output

Your idea of a 145 Kw plant - 1/7000th the output requiring FIVE times the are of a 1Gw plant is just.... - are you sure you are not using moonshine?

If those are the numbers that you are using then Nuclear does look viable

But the actual numbers are about 30,000 times better

The current limit is on how fast these are being produced and installed
Rather than wasting all that money on Nuclear just spend 1/10,000th of it on incentives for solar

backfire_effect said...

Do we really have that much hope for a 'Fact Act'? Look what happens when the claim 'republicans controlled congress for 2 of the last 23 years' is challenged.

donzelion said...

backfire_effect: "Do we really have that much hope for a 'Fact Act'? Look what happens when the claim 'republicans controlled congress for 2 of the last 23 years' is challenged."

First, think you misstated there (it's "for all BUT 2 of the last 23 years", not for "ONLY 2 of the last 23 years"). I conceded with a shrug and qualifier - yes, Dems had majorities in the House and/or Senate, insufficient to pass legislation on their own (except for a brief window that actually lasted about 4 months). Our host's view is that Republicans are motivated primarily by blocking meaningful legislation, rather than actively altering the system - so 'control' in his view means 'a blocking effect.' That is not the only definition of control, or even necessarily the primary definition most people employ.

I do think that I evaluated what effect I would expect a FACT Act to actually have - Locum did as well, but primarily from a vantage of dismissing it as a Nazi plot, without actually thinking about it. I do not think many other participants here evaluated likely actual effects though (Alfred did). Stand by my assessment too: we'll be unlikely to have any net gain, and should anticipate Liberty University's & other 'creation scientist' ranks to expand immensely and nationally - and we should anticipate that Christians will shrug off the claims of being laughed at for their silliness (and more likely, use that to build their control even further, just as they laughed at those who laughed at them for decades, riding that to majorities for most of the last 24 years).

donzelion said...

Daniel Duffy: "So there is no conspiracy by the oil companies to keep us hooked on oil (though the coal companies were largely behind the anti-nuke campaign). It's a conspiracy of physics..."

That is the view I've generally supported: a transition to solar will not be cheap. And even with California's new mandatory 'solar on all new housing' rules, most of the proponents indicate it may add $8k - $12k costs, while saving $50-100/mo in heating/cooling bills. The best research I've seen suggests no more than a 3-6% reduction in carbon foot print (equivalent to removing about 100k petrol-cars from the roads). Worth it? Let's see.

The best case I can make for solar, however, involves labor and job creation. Worth it? Perhaps. Far better than hiring people to dig and fill in holes (Keynes joke taken far too literally by far too many). Or paying people to move money back and forth, with certain pockets accumulating more of it without producing anything.

It is worth our time to focus on petrol production, discovery, transmission, refining, etc. and respect the efficiency inherent in this tool - rather than shrug it aside and simply evangelize for something 'better' - because half the problem in the discussion amounts to evangelism one way or the other that omits facts. It's also worth it because the energy sector is NOT an enemy to dread: they actually produce something, and as with all other producers, are driven by interests of production efficiency that must respond to facts and reality.

The better 'enemy' isn't the production side, but the financial side. And that's where your claim about 'discovering oil = wealth' is problematic: most of the time, that's not exactly accurate, and the inaccuracy matters a great deal. Cui bono? And how? That 'how' is the whole difference between an industry being rewarded for efficiency, and an industry being rewarded for it's ability to manipulate and control.

backfire_effect said...

sorry for the typo, your correction is correct.

yes, you and @LarryHart realized the statement was factually incorrect. but our host argued it didn't matter since it was true in spirit. so we should take him 'seriously', but not 'literally'? in addition there was accusations of 'sealioning', and some shouting about 'why won't they use a real name!'

DP said...

Duncan, it sound like you have a winner in you solar panels. A rooftop installation such as yours does not destroy large areas of habitat. Nor does is require additional cost for land acquisition or rental.

Larger, utility or commercial scale arrays would require both additional land and habitat. Calculate the number of acres required to generate 1 kW from a solar array and then factor in the cost of local land. Even marginal land will be costly on a per kW basis (an acre of desert land in Nevada, for example, goes for about $200).

An while PVC warranties and operational lifetimes continue to improve, they do wear out eventually. And unless you sell your excess daytime electricity back to the grid, you will need some means of storing the solar energy for later use. Which brings us back to batteries which will also wear out. And yes, they can be recycled, but it is a lot cheaper just to dump them. The cost of recycling will be added to their total cost.

We haven't even begun to think about managing these new waste streams.

donzelion said...

backfire_effect: "in addition there was accusations of 'sealioning'"
Oh, at some point I'll get into an argument with our host about the Middle East (which I know firsthand, at least as well as any intelligence report he's subscribed to), and get accused as well. Our host is an equal opportunity contrarian and wants to make sure Locum & the End don't feel unfairly targeted. We all get it from time to time. Again, the metaphor of a bar is appropriate: assume no matter how irate anyone gets, it's the kind of rage one expresses over a beer.

"some shouting about 'why won't they use a real name!'"
Oh, that's more 'chiding' than 'shouting.' You make a good point, and it gets hard to say "Anonymous 1" made a much better one than "Anonymous 2."

I CAN'T use my real name here, for professional and other reasons. It's not hard to figure out who I am, but so long as I'm using a non-real name, nobody will ever be able to accuse me of soliciting for work, or otherwise violating any rules of my field.

donzelion said...

Daniel Duffy: Duncan's setup may be uncommonly well done; my expectation though for the California solar panel experiment follows a more conservative set of baselines and expectations for a massive, statewide deployment. I understand that it costs less long-term if roofs are set up and designed to accommodate solar from the beginning, rather than needing to be refitted.

"Even marginal land will be costly on a per kW basis (an acre of desert land in Nevada, for example, goes for about $200)."
There are a lot of ways though to get that land used. Taxing land that some owners have held long-term for potential developments that never panned out is a great mechanism to goad investments.

"An while PVC warranties and operational lifetimes continue to improve, they do wear out eventually."
The engineering reports I saw in the Middle East (where some investments in solar were among the most cutting edge in the world - but large-scale deployments tended to use more tried'n'true tools) suggested this would be a massive labor pool creation task (over there, the key problem tends to be finding lots of management jobs for Arab nationals to oversee foreign labor pools).

"Which brings us back to batteries which will also wear out."
Most of the time, the major power plants over there were linked with water plants as well (since desal is the largest use of energy, followed by household cooling). Establishing realistic metrics over there was one of the key purposes of the deployment; far less concern about global warming than about figuring out how much energy would be required for domestic consumption in 10/20/40 year horizons.

"We haven't even begun to think about managing these new waste streams."
I suspect the primary thought process has been, "Let China bear the cost of the waste (at least for producing panels, which can be pretty nasty by itself as I understand it)."

locumranch said...

Back in the 1970s, various environmental 'experts' warned of acid rain, ozone depletion & 'global cooling' and pushed (quite successfully) for regulations banning the industrial emission of sulfur, fluorohydrocarbons & particulates -- which have all since been proven to ameliorate global warming -- much in the same way that 'new' ozone hole formation has (since) been proven to correspond most closely with polar temperature rather than FHCs.

Those very same expects then started screaming about AGW by the end of the 1990s and, when subsequent data could not support either rising sea levels or their warming projections over the next few decades, AGW was repackaged as Climate Change (after Hurricane Katrina) in order to predict increased severe weather frequency even though (15 years later) we are now at a 10 year low for both frequency & severity of storms, hurricanes and tornadoes.

At present, pretty much everything is said to 'prove' climate change -- including mild winters mediated by AGW, 'The Day After Tomorrow' increased cooling, less arctic ice & more antarctic ice, more severe & less severe weather, more & less frequent weather -- proving only that current climate change theory is "non-falsifiable" (and therefore 'false') according to Popperian argument.

Denier that I am, I therefore challenge any & all of you to list at least 3 criteria (3 data points, climatological or otherwise) that -- if met -- will DISPROVE the climate change hypothesis that you hold so dear as that's all it will take to make a climate change believer out of me.

Name those 3 data points that can put your holy climate change theory to test.

Put up or shut up.


Anonymous said...

donzelion quoted:
"We haven't even begun to think about managing these new waste streams."

And yet, they want to double nuclear power use. Because we are doing such a good job managing that waste stream. It's been growing for almost 60 years, and our strategy is "Put it in a barrel and think about it later".

One day it's going kill a lot of us.



Over thousands of years.

locumranch said...

Like 'The Brotherhood' in Orwell's '1984', Climate Change is an evil bogeyman responsible for everything bad. Too much or not enough rain? Too much cold or warmth? Drought? Storms? Food shortage? Warfare? Poor economy? Misogyny? Climate Change did it if it's 'bad'.

Is climate change real?

"That, Winston, you will never know. If we choose to set you free when we have finished with you, and if you live to be ninety years old, still you will never learn whether the answer to that question is Yes or No. As long as you live it will be an unsolved riddle in your mind."


David Brin said...

"Back in the 1970s, various environmental 'experts' warned of acid rain, ozone depletion & 'global cooling'"

Re the cooling myth. You lie. You out and out lie. You directly and diametrically to fact lie. You despicably and deliberately and knowingly lie.

See SOYLENT GREEN, which reflected the 70s consensus. Liar.

Put up or shutup?

Step up and offer a real ID and a trustworthy escrow to accept your $1000 stake in a wager. Otherwise, why should we trust a slippery denialist who forever both lies and moves the goal posts?

David Brin said...

See the very same sickness described in this appraisal of the Russian versions of The Turner Diaries:

LarryHart said...


...and some shouting about 'why won't they use a real name!


Oh, that's more 'chiding' than 'shouting.' You make a good point, and it gets hard to say "Anonymous 1" made a much better one than "Anonymous 2."

I think donzelion was making the point, but to be clear: I was the one who kept telling "Anonymous" to use a name, and the point wasn't to dismiss the arguments behind a pseudonym*, but specifically to call himself something other than "Anonymous". It helps to know that this post was written by the same pseudonym as this other post, but a different pseudonym from that one.

* In fact, I was agreeing with him, although also trying to explain what Dr Brin might have meant.

LarryHart said...


Climate Change is an evil bogeyman responsible for everything bad. Too much or not enough rain? Too much cold or warmth? Drought? Storms? Food shortage? Warfare? Poor economy?

"Dad, those all come from the same animal."

"That's right, Lisa. A wonderful, magical animal."


Nice try, but I don't think that accusation has been made. Neither has climate change been blamed for gun violence. That's a different problem you probably also deny is real.

Is climate change real?

"That, Winston, you will never know. If we choose to set you free when we have finished with you, and if you live to be ninety years old, still you will never learn whether the answer to that question is Yes or No. As long as you live it will be an unsolved riddle in your mind."

In what alternate universe are tree-hugging, spotted-owl-loving liberals in charge of everything such that they control the past let alone the present? I'd like the coordinates so I can move there.

Anonymous said...

Then all I have to do is freeze and place myself in the correct orbit on the edge of the black hole, and I will be eternal :


Anonymous said...

Daniel Duffy:

If you use fossil fuels, you accelerate global warming. Do not use them
If you do not like solar panels, then use the powerful solar ovens with Stirling engines:

If the batteries do not like to store energy ... How about the use of air pressure?
I understand that the Italians are making great strides in the engines powered by pressurized air. Or how about using energy flyers in orbit activated by solar boilers. The absence of gravity would allow to create generators- energy flyer. On one axis, a giant flywheel rotating clockwise, the next, in the opposite direction, and so on.
The system converts the voltage into microwaves that are sent to a large rectenna in the terrestrial surface, which transforms the microwaves into clean electrical energy.


duncan cairncross said...

$200/acre when you need 33 square Km for a 1GW plant
That is 8000 acres or $1.6 million

If the plant is $1/watt - that means that the land part is 0.16% of the cost

The secret as always is to use the land twice - you get shelter and power over car parks, buildings, and as Dr Brin suggested canals

It's always about the cost!

And that is why batteries will be recycled - $200 worth of materials is worth reclaiming
How much copper is landfilled?
Not much and almost none that is in big lumps

I don't think that my system is very special - the house was designed with the intention of fitting the panels

I do have a problem with 90% of mainstream media - when they talk about "Cost" of things that I have just priced or even bought
Solar panels and EV batteries - the mainstream media appear to be at least seven years out of date

Donzelions comment about the financial side is appropriate
If you want each individual generator to operate as a profit center and maximise his/her profit then you can't go 100% renewables

BUT if you operate a complete system with Wind, Solar, Hydro and battery storage then the system as a whole can make money

Expanding on that
There are two sorts of storage - short term and seasonal - batteries are ideal for short term - hydro is great at seasonal

Worldwide Hydro is 24% of the worlds electricity supply - that is probably enough to provide the seasonal storage needed IF IF IF it is used as such

duncan cairncross said...

On the subject of seasonal loads

Solar works the wrong way - less power in winter - but if it's cheap then you simply have more panels
This does lead to a surplus of power in the summer - which could bugger up the financials BUT only if you let it!

Jerry Emanuelson said...

I've mentioned two or three times before on this forum about the NOAA proposal for continental high-voltage DC power grids that would enable the use of solar and wind energy without the necessity for energy storage on the main power grid. (Of course, residential and other local renewable systems would still require batteries.)

The NOAA proposal would alleviate multiple worldwide dangers with one project. George Washington University hosted a brief seminar on the proposal last November. All 4 of the seminar talks on YouTube total about an hour. If you only watch one, watch the first one by Dr. Alexander MacDonald, the former director of the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory, and leader of the team that spent six years developing the project. It was originally published in Nature Climate Change in January of 2016. Dr. MacDonald's talk is an 18-minute introduction to the concept.

North American Supergrid (1)

North American Supergrid (2)

North American Supergrid (3)

North American Supergrid (4)

People keep talking about energy storage in the AC bulk power grid as they rush headlong into the past.

AC is appropriate for local electric distribution systems. AC was also appropriate for long distance electric transmission at the beginning of the 20th century because the technology for HVDC did not exist then. It does now, and AC is no longer appropriate, and is no longer safe, for long-distance transmission.

The world's large-scale electric grids are currently only temporary infrastructures, although our lives depend upon them. As soon as the next geomagnetic storm as large (or larger) than those of 1859 and 1921 occurs, the large AC transmission systems will collapse for months or years. There is evidence that solar storms in the past have reached 20 times larger than the 1859 event. Even larger geomagnetic storms appear to be possible.

The NOAA proposal includes some natural gas electric generation. Nuclear plants could also be included, and would be made dramatically safer if they were operating into an HVDC grid (with its greatly reduced probability of a sudden near-total nation-wide dropping of the load).

Jerry Emanuelson said...

I should mention also that true long-distance power transmission using AC is not possible now, and it never was possible. After a few hundred miles, AC power is lost due to inductive and capacitive losses.

AC has enabled transmission between nearby cities and to rural areas. You can also get to some nearby states with AC, but that's about as far as you can go. National AC power grids are just large-scale relay systems.

DP said...

Duncan, if you use the land twice to minimize costs you aren't creating large scale solar arrays at the utility scale. It limits you to residential and at best small scale commercial applications. That path will not take you to 100% energy from renewables. Which is just as well because such an attempt will devastate huge areas of wilderness and previous habitat.

DP said...

Duncan, a note on inverted efficiency.

As a rule of thumb, inverter efficiency increases with power output. At low current inverter efficiency can fall below 50% but exceed 90% at high power yields. So at peak wind speed or a noon sunshine, you can see high efficiencies for DC to AC conversion. For the rest of the day, efficiency can drop considerably.

As you may suspect, California Energy Commission (CEC) has established the standards for inverter efficiency measurement based on a method developed at Sandia Labs. And this method takes into account the variability of renewable power supplies. Under this protocol inverter efficiency is measured at six levels relative to the inverter's rated AC power output (10%, 20%, 30%, 50%, 75% and 100%). Each is then assigned a weighting factor (0.04, 0.05, 0.12, 0.21, 0.53, and 0.5, respectively). This is repeated for three DC power levels. Multiplying each power level by its weighted factor, and then adding up the results for each of the six power levels gives the inverter's weighted average efficiency. This value is used for planning and designing of renewable DC to grid AC power systems.

yana said...

Duncan Cairncross said...

"if you operate a complete system with Wind, Solar, Hydro and battery storage"

Thank you, Duncan. It's the integration that solves a wide range of vexings. Each power source has its problems, but combining them can be a triple win, and let us save the oil for making plastics. Once the oil's gone we're really going to miss cheap plastic.

Even energy storage does not have to depend on exotic and nasty toxins. Plants learned how to store energy billions of years ago.

"All you have to do is fill 'big, dumb tanks with cheap chemicals.'"

Lots of electrolytes work, the kick is that these kinds of batteries don't "wear out" because they're simple chem reactions, reversible with no moving parts. Err, guess there's fluid dynamics and Brownian motion in there, but no consumable substrates.

Got a 30 mega-watt power plant? With the rhubarb battery, you need 12,000 cubic meters of electrolyte to store the energy. Sure, if one were stupid enough to make that battery 1 meter deep, that's 12 square kilometers, a big ouchy for habitat loss. Another thing plants and animals have been doing for billions of years: dig a hole.

There's another one with vanadium (non toxic) which uses a 30% solution of H2-S-O4, = 70% water, so don't drink it, but if it spills, it's not a Fukushima. More efficient, so we might be talking about a hole 1/10 of a square kilometer and 50 feet deep. And since we're not dumb animals, we slap solar panels on top of it and sprout wind turbines between the panels.

Most buildings over 50 feet tall have an elevator shaft. Can you see a new building with a parallel electrolyte shaft? Even if a future genius invents a better electrolyte, all you have to do is swap out the liquids, most of the hardware converts seamlessly in the upgrade. Even the simple rhubarb battery, 50 feet tall with a 6 sq-m cross section, stores 250 kW, and for 20 apartments that's a week of redundant power should the fit hit the shan in the grid someday, and it only adds $60,000 to construction cost.

If you're building a 5-story erection with 22 units, $60k is a fairly small variance, easily recouped from rents via the selling-point of immunity to small and medium-duration blackouts. And the residents don't need to buy surge-suppressing power strips, easing landfill toxin concerns. You do know that power strips should be replaced periodically, right?

For an extravagant American home using 1.5 kWh, about $6,000 to store a day's electricity with chemistry. That's today, when there is zero economy of scale in this field. $6K outlay and eats up some floor space, but there's no ongoing cost. Future advances and wider adoption should quarter that cost. But...

The real key of chemical energy storage, is national security. Integrated with onsite solar and wind, many places will only need a trickle from the grid. The grid is based on a centralized distribution model, which inherently has vulnerability at the central spots. Electric companies have lately been doing the smart thing, procuring major grid components to store away just-in-case, the kinds of equipment which take 18 months from contract to delivery.

But if most houses and buildings are generating (and storing) their own electricity, then the broader system is impervious to the kind of attack simulated in the US Northeast in 2003. Solar's best when it's clear, wind works well when it's stormy. Together, and with cheap storage, electrons can flow well enough to keep the economy going even if some group of jackasses blows up a number of grid nexuses.

yana said...

Jerry Emanuelson:

"As soon as the next geomagnetic storm as large (or larger) than those of 1859 and 1921 occurs, the large AC transmission systems will collapse for months or years."

Yeah, there's that too. The stories from 1859 are hilarious, only with the comfort of hindsight. An event which cast the aurora borealis south to Hawaii today, it'd set us back to the 1970's. Seems even more crucial to move towards a more distributed model of power generation.

Most single-family homes have the roof and lawn space to make all the electrons they need. None of this adds to habitat loss, even enhances "natural" processes if a formerly manicured patch of lawn is no longer used for recreation or beautification. 5-story buildings can't generate all their own electrons, so that's where the intrusively large wind and solar farms feared by Daniel Duffy come in.

Mr. Duffy uses worst-case numbers at every turn, which can only amplify each other to a horrifying conclusion, oddly steered to a hysteria for nuclear power.

The lost value in his calculations is the progress we've made, and the acceleration of such. Many eco-friendly folks gnash and decry the increasing capacity of sciences to alter the "natural" world, but Mr. Duffy's answer seems knee-jerk, to resort to the current most efficient energy source, nuclear. The waste problem and the disaster problem, these are not rounding errors, they're risk assessments involving real human beings.

I love nuclear power. It lets us save oil for making plastics. On the other hand, it makes oil cheaper so we burn more of that in small engines. But anyone talking about a $6 trillion investment should consider where current research is going. A breeder reactor with spherical pellets is a great advance, but the pace of research into wind, solar and electrochem storage is blistering over the last 20 years. And it's starting to really pay off.

Let's not build any more nuke plants for a while, and transition the remaining coal plants to LNG (Sierra Club lawyers are steadily doing this for you). A better stopgap than new nuclear, since we'll only need a few decades to distribute power generation and storage widely. Better protects ourselves as a sovereign nation, and feels good doing the real "natural" thing: sucking electrons right out of the sky and storing them in vats of juice, just like our friends the plants.

We Are Groot!

duncan cairncross said...

You don't need huge areas

You need 33 square Km for a 1GW average
The USA uses about 400 GW

That would be about 13,000 square Km - or about 0.13% of the US's 9.8 million square Km

Or another way to look at it about 1/7th of the concrete and buildings already there

That would be replacing all of your current power generation which would be silly - you have Hydro and Wind is often cheaper than Solar - but If you did it would be doable with zero additional land use

If you did that with Nuclear you would only need about 1/4 of the area BUT BUT BUT that would all have to come out of your wilderness - so you lose about 3,000 square km of additional land

Jerry is dead right - using a high voltage DC supergrid would make the whole thing a lot easier

LarryHart said...

Leonard Pitts tells us what we already know:

We’re going to try something different today. Rather than pontificate yet again upon the motives of Donald Trump’s supporters, I'll let a few of them explain themselves in their own words.

Here, then, is “Robert” with a comparative analysis of the 44th and 45th presidents:

“President Trump has accomplished more positive things for this nation in less than two years than the last three have accomplished in twenty plus years. After the past eight years of a Muslim Marxist in the White House this nation could not survive another demwit in the White House. ... Could you please list one thing the demwit party has done for the black people in America other than hand out government freeies for their continued votes?”

And here’s “Gary’s” take on demographic change:

“(America) has a constitution which guarantees equal rights for all and yet people like you hungar for change that puts people like me in the back of the bus. You seem egar to know what it would be like to be in the driver’s seat. You need look no further than Zimbabwe and South Africa. When people like you started driving the bus, the wheels came off. That’s what terrifies people like me.”

This column is presented as a service for those progressive readers who are struggling with something I said in a previous column. Namely, that I see no point in trying to reason with Trump voters. I first wrote that over a month ago, and I am still hearing how “disappointed” they are at my refusal to reach out. So I thought it might be valuable to hear from the people I’ve failed to reach out to.

I'm sure some of you think those emails were cherry-picked to highlight the intolerance of Trump voters. They weren’t. They are, in fact, a representative sampling from a single day in May, culled by my assistant, Judi.
Look, I get it. That’s a hard pill for those progressives who have kin or friends among Trump supporters. We love whom we love, even when they — or we — are small, unkind or disappointing. That’s what family is about. We love whom we love, and let no one make you feel compelled to apologize for that.

But at the same time, let us be clear-eyed and tough-minded in assessing what’s happened to our country — and why. How else can we salvage it from the likes of “A Trumper” who says Trump was needed to “get things back in order” after the “terrible job” done by President Obama?

He wrote: “We’re sick of paying welfare to so many of your brothers who don’t know what work and integrity mean. I hope you keep writing these articles and reminding my White Christian brothers that we did the right thing and we need to re elect Trump.”

I have two words for those progressives who think it’s possible to “reason” with that:

You first.

locumranch said...

Demonstrating the memory of a squirrel, David dismisses the 1970s Global Cooling Scare as a LIE, even thought this global cooling theory is well documented & indisputable, detailed here on Wikipedia:

Until 1979, 'Global Cooling' was the Scientific Consensus. The National Science Board's Patterns and Perspectives in Environmental Science reports (1972 & 1974) documented almost 30 years of GLOBAL COOLING. This was confirmed by the 1975 National Academy of Sciences report entitled "Understanding Climate Change: A Program for Action" which stated that "The average surface air temperature in the northern hemisphere increased from the 1880's until about 1940 and has been decreasing thereafter."

In 1974, Time magazine reported '"Another Ice Age?". In 1975, Newsweek Magazine announced "The Cooling World".

Amazingly, the world did not end in an New Ice Age as predicted in the 1970s, and the 35 year Global Cooling trend (1940 to 1975) appeared to reverse itself by 1980, giving rise to the Global Warming Scare which has since been superseded by our current & non-falsifiable Climate Change Hysteria.

Of course, we now believe that increased atmospheric CO2 levels are the driving force behind Anthropogenic Climate Change, based on ice core data that suggests a pre-industrial CO2 level maximum of about 300 ppm, yet that assumption -- that ice core CO2 data correlates with actual historic atmospheric CO2 levels -- remains just that, an ASSUMPTION that has yet to be scientifically corroborated.


David Brin said...

LarryHart I understand those who declare that Trump voters are inaccessible to evidence or reason… and I call bull.

1. Peel off just the 5 million residually or potentially sane US conservatives (ROPSUSCs) from 50 million confederates doesn’t sound like much. But it ensures an absolute collapse of political power, across the nation.

2. Those ROPSUSCs are the ones with some neurons and skills. Peeling them off makes it more blatant that FoxLand is Idiocracy.

3. Even the Mad Uncles of the Fox-Zombie confederacy can be dealt with at some level. First, they admit facts matter in wagers. I cannot believe the stupidity of demwit democrats not refining exact wording/tones for such challenges. Especially since the Mad Uncle’s wife is listening.

David Brin said...

“Until 1979, 'Global Cooling' was the Scientific Consensus”

You stunning drivel-spewing utter liar. Look at this guy! He knows absolutely that this was an anecdotal exception, used by foxite ravers to “prove” something that an anecdotal exception cannot prove.

You’d try that… here??? Come on, find a trusted escrow and put your money down. Coward! We don’t need your ID, just a trusted escrow stakes-holder who will avow that he has your wager and will adjudicate whether there were more 70s and 80s scientists talking warming than cooling.

Hey, let’s ask Tim Wolter/Tacitus to name a decent, honest lawyer.

You are sure enough to yowl and sabotage your nation. Then surely you want my money. Prove your “case” and take it!

donzelion said...

Locum: "David dismisses the 1970s Global Cooling Scare as a LIE"

Noted; and possibly overstating - it looks to me like a few scientists believed 'cooling' may be underway, for a brief time, before the theory was challenged and defeated by better evidence and modeling. I do not know why Dr. Brin thinks Time and Newsweek were 'lying' - seems more likely they gleamed onto one theory, even as scientists shifted to one with better evidence. That said,

"Until 1979, 'Global Cooling' was the Scientific Consensus."
Re-read the wiki link you posted to Locum - in its current form, it notes - "Concern peaked in the early 1970s, though "the possibility of anthropogenic warming dominated the peer-reviewed literature even then." That implies a drastic separation between the scientists on the one hand and the pop media on the other.

That said, the scientists mostly focused on the lack of clarity - more systemic data collections, systems analysis, and the like were needed: trends weren't so clear. Once the data and chemical analyses improved, the results were dramatically conclusive; scholars/scientists stopped even bothering with 'global cooling' well before the end of the '70s.

I find Schneider's about-face particularly telling: he identifies his methods and why he thought cooling might happen, acknowledges the errors in his methodology, and ultimately concludes in the opposite direction. That sounds a bit like science to me.

Locum sees: "The National Science Board's Patterns and Perspectives in Environmental Science reports (1972 & 1974) documented almost 30 years of GLOBAL COOLING."
The report (as the wiki notes) claims: "Before such questions as these can be resolved, major advances must be made in understanding the chemistry and physics of the atmosphere and oceans, and in measuring and tracing particulates through the system."

Major advances WERE MADE: the results eliminated one theory, and all further questions involved 'how much warming' and 'what is the mix of causes?" The call for a new "National Climatic Research Program" appears to have been premised on this need.

donzelion said...

Daniel Duffy, Duncan, and all others interested in dramatic solar projects:

Why have so few have evaluated the California 'energy project,' esp. its newest angle, the 'solar mandate' for all new housing? California leads America in solar, deriving 15% or so total power production from solar. It's not like Californians are slow to adopt new technology...

Yet so far, the critics dominate the 'google-sphere.' Cost overruns, lower results than anticipated, pilot projects found viable only after supportive legislation protects them, near brownouts, the need to send excess capacity further East (at some cost)...evangelists making claims that are quite problematic, even as the critics (who are quite well-compensated) slowly take over the 'google-sphere' of punditry.

The newest piece in the puzzle, a solar mandate on all new homes, promises to possibly reduce at much as 1% at a cost of $9bn or so (defenders claim it will raise mortgages by $30/mo - while saving as much as $50/mo in energy costs...maybe...depending on a vast number of assumptions...) Is that worth it? Legislators say yes. Critics say no. Environmentalist pundits change the subject, leaving the field to the critics.

In 2016, I noted a similar divergence: pollster pundits estimating a 75% probability of a Clinton win ignored the broad dominance of the 'pro-Trump' critiques dominating my google-sphere. I found that odd at the time, shrugged it aside as an aberration (odd that Bernie Bros didn't know or care that Clinton and Bernie had 95% identical policies...odd that pro-Clinton camp didn't even know what policies she advocated, they just hated Trump...)...oddities that I no longer shrug aside.

David Brin said...

Newsweek and Time weren't lying. They were using lurid headlines to sell magazines. Try watching SOYLENT GREEN to see what most people were already realizing, back then.

Hey Tim! Do you have a sage and honest and relatively apolitical Wisconsin lawyer who'd be willing to hold wager stakes?

duncan cairncross said...

Hi donzelion

The California Mandate

If left to their own (market) ideas people do NOT do the sensible thing - look at light bulbs and home insulation
They see the initial cost and not the medium to long term savings

Way back in the 70's the UK introduced radical changes to required insulation - 20 years later it was the norm (and it was HUGELY better) AND it was cheap as chips - double glazing was the same price that single glazing used to be

Making everybody fit solar PV should do the same - drive the prices right down and drive down the cost of power

Jerry Emanuelson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jerry Emanuelson said...

I don't understand why more people who are now in their 60s and 70s don't remember the Bell Science Series program The Unchained Goddess, which was shown on CBS television on February 12, 1958. It discussed human-caused global warming, and was also made available on 16 mm. film to schools. I remember watching it on television, and I also remember it being shown in my "red state" rural school several times when I was a young child.

At that time, Bell Science Series shows were a very big deal to any kid interested in science.

I guess many others do remember it, too. The price of the DVD, which could be purchased for about ten dollars a few years ago, has gone up to 100 dollars today.

The most relevant two minutes of the program is on YouTube at:

john fremont said...

Also in the 1970's Steven Spielberg directed a short movie predicated on global warming and air pollution, Los Angeles 2017. It was an episode of the the TV show Name of the Game.

Marshall Boice said...

Good memory Jerry! I'm not that old by a decade or two but those old science shows were still in play when I was was in elementary school. Loved those old shows!

Unknown said...

Thanks for the link Jerry!
I love that it's produced by Frank Capra. :)

dera said...

Walatra Sehat Mata Softgel

Lloyd Flack said...

Locum, you are suggesting that ice core carbon dioxide might not correlate with atmospheric carbon dioxide. Why would it not? Yes there might be a bias but what and why? The onus of proof is on you because you are implicitly claiming that an unknown physical mechanism exists at that explains no facts that can be explained in its absence but which fits in with your ideology. So, evidence for your assertions please.

DP said...

I also remember a TV show from the late 60s early 70s which (like Orson Welles "War of the World " radio broadcast) was framed as a real news report. It had scenes of society collapsing, the president in a "secure location" people dropping on the streets from air pollution, etc. and it abruptly ended with the signal going out.

Anyone else remember this?

yana said...

Daniel Duffy:

"remember a TV show from the late 60s early 70s which was framed as a real news report. It had scenes of society collapsing, the president in a "secure location" people dropping on the streets from air pollution"

Not as obscure as you think, recall an online discussion about it around 2006, can't remember the title, but we all recalled it fondly. Inspired a nuke-war sequel, early 1980's made-for-TV movie, also with harried newscasters. I love that stuff, people have been eating it up since the publication of the Apocalypse of St. John.

Lloyd, don't listen to static. Ice cores do confirm a correlation between C-O2 and temperature, and just about every bit of paleontology lines up right behind that theory. On the other hand, there's a convincing pattern of warming just before ice ages. We don't know the mechanism behind it, or if it even is a causal relationship, or if it was, might it be a thing of the past, now broken by anthropogenic gas replacement?

The point is that both locumranch and the preponderance of others here can be right at the same time. Locumranch's idea is that since the climate fluctuates sans human activity, thus human activity doesn't matter. The majority here seem to believe that there is still time to reverse the effects of our atmospheric gas replacement program. If both sides can both be so wrong, why can't they both be right?

Interglacial pleasant periods lasted from 8,000 to 18,000 years, in the past. Average duration about 12,000 years. We're right at twelve now. Fears of 'global cooling' are just as valid as warming. So locumranch is correct that there's always a scientist sounding an alarm about something. His or her mistake is assuming since there is always an alarm, then they are all false alarms.

The world is warming up lately. Now and then meteorologists talk about a new "record" temp for a date. Statistically, we should see 50-50, new record lows and record highs in equal measure. We do not see that, and lately it's not even close, like 60-40. Recently, record temps at a date/place are running closer to 90 highs for 10 new lows.

Is it all due to our species running an inadvertent gas replacement program? Obviously no, but we're sure not passive witnesses. I don't know what % of warming is due to the regular fluctuation, and which % is from replacing O2 with C-O2. Anyone today, who says they know those %'s is trying to jerk you off, either for money or academic fame, or maybe they're dumb. Someday, someone will figure it out, but only after we have more experience with other planets.

What we do know, however, is that "runaway greenhouse" has not happened on this planet since life arose. We also know that "runaway glaciation" has indeed happened here, after life.

Damned glad that people are getting up in arms about global warming, because there will come a day when all the technology we invent to combat this, will be neatly reversible to adapt to survival in the next Ice Age.

Not worried about the future at all. Adaptability is our ace, and hardship brings us together.

locumranch said...

Actually, Lloyd_F, no. It is not my job to prove or disprove that ice core carbon dioxide might not correlate with atmospheric carbon dioxide. The onus of proof rests upon those who insist that such a correlation exists in the absence of scientific confirmation.

Note also how David now confirms that "Newsweek and Time weren't lying" about the now entirely discredited Global Cooling CONSENSUS from the 1970s, but now insists that "They were using lurid headlines to sell magazines". Why would he try to deny history and LIE about something as petty as this?

He lied because homology, the implication being that (1) one consensus is just like any other consensus (mostly because a consensus is an unscientific process that proves nothing other than consensus) and (2) current AGW & climate change projections are also "lurid headlines (designed) to sell magazines".

We all remember short stories, novels. films & dreams which were oddly prophetic -- like 'Soylent Green -- much in the same way that we tend to forget those dreams, short stories, novels & films with patently absurd plots:

The technical term for this is type of logical error is Survivorship Bias.


yana said...

Just after the 1970's, National Lampoon published a parody of a Sunday newspaper. All hilarious, but one of the best jokes was a 'news' story about "Scientists Fear Global Cooling!" just adjacent to a story headlined "Scientists Warn Of Global Warming!" Locumranch isn't talking out of his or her ass. It was a real debate back then.

There's an error when one uses a Bias to predict the future based on ancient contradictions, and yet another error when one has a Bias about the future from reading current trends. Both of you, claws in girls.

We know the planet's warming now, we know there's going to be another Ice Age soon, how could it possibly matter if this is the final warm-up or the 2nd-last warm-up? One of these warm-ups will be the one which triggers the plunge.

A study just released last week found that it took far longer than we thought, for the skies to clear after that T-65m year asteroid kicked up a haze. Suggests that atmospheric changes are pretty difficult to create, thus doubly tough to remediate.

There might well be a cool-down before another warm-up, leaving locumranch tickled pink. But we know the eventual future, and it's really cold. If people can be motivated to develop defense against global warming, then its veracity doesn't matter. The same skills are just what we'll need to survive in an Ice Age.

LarryHart said...


Locumranch isn't talking out of his or her ass.


Jon S. said...

Yana, there was not a "real debate" back then. What there was, was a single preliminary study, taken out of context and blown completely out of proportion by reporters who thought their degrees in journalism left them just as qualified to analyze the data as some stuffy scientist's degree in climatology. I'm old enough to remember this stuff.

And "average time between events" does not mean "happens on a timetable". I've been having this discussion with my roommate; he's read somewhere that Mt. Rainier erupts on average once every 5000 years, and it's been almost 10,000 since its last major eruption, so it's "overdue". I keep telling him that's why vulcanologists are monitoring the steam vents, because we're not in trouble until they stop venting (just as happened with Mt. St. Helens to the south), but he's still on about "overdue". Same thing applies to ice ages; an average time between suggests that some periods between are longer than others. And of course anthropogenic climate change, which has been going on since the Industrial Age kicked into high gear in the 1800s, has pretty well messed up any pretty patterns planetary climate might have formed before.

donzelion said...

Locum: "We all remember short stories, novels. films & dreams which were oddly prophetic -- like 'Soylent Green -- much in the same way that we tend to forget those dreams, short stories, novels & films with patently absurd plots: The technical term for this is type of logical error is Survivorship Bias.

That's not exactly Survivorship Bias, which is merely a specialized form of 'selection bias.' Memory itself is more complex; we tend to attach memories to emotional states, injecting certain details that combine with observations and other recollections. To the extent we 'remember' prophecies, it's more likely that our emotional state of discovering with surprise 'I was right!' or 'So-and-so was right!' has a jarring, confirming sensation.

That emotional sensation, writ large, accounts for the abiding fascination of astrology (and why soothsayers competed for so long with scientists). It works on broad historical stretches, and also for micro-level experiences: you completely misread your own source that you believed to support a 'global cooling consensus' but which in fact says exactly the opposite (and then presents data points - and how and why they were debunked) - yet you discard the unhelpful findings, and focus instead on the alternative theories. Your memory grips hold of the portions that 'confirm' a belief, discarding the rest that opposes that belief (and does so fairly conclusively).

Perhaps our host's accusation that you're a liar reflects his prejudice that you are intelligent, and thus, if you misrepresent your own evidence, it must be a deliberate deception. For myself, I assume we all err from time to time, misunderstand and fixate upon a few points, while rejecting other items that do not fit our beliefs. I see your claim as a simple 'comprehension error' - unless you have other data that also show a 'cooling consensus' - in which case, you haven't presented that data, and only shown data that rejects your belief (explicitly).

As for the Newsweek piece, note the author's own volte-face. Why cling to a claim that the claimants themselves rejected? What makes a poorly researched claim in 1975 more trustworthy - or more reflective of 'consensus' than an observation 30 years later in which the methodology underlying that initial claim is disclosed?

yana said...



And with talk about pitches, someone might think someone's mind is in the gutter. Look, there's plenty of truth to go around. Locumranch isn't faulty for seeing cracks in truths, merely for refusing new mortar that the whole of science is patching in every day.

There's another deep hand turning knobs in all of this, a theory about why Ice Ages happen at all. As the theory goes, breaking an Ice Age happens one of two ways:

1. Ice pressing down on landmasses brings the crust closer to magma, increasing volcanoes.

2. Glaciers bulldozing forests favors C-O2 over O2, keeping more heat in.

It's true that we do see more vulcanism at the beginning of ice ages, but also at the end of them too. The possibility does exist, that we have inadvertently ruptured the Ice Age cycle by burning so much stuff and cutting down so many trees. I know it's eco-heresy, but what if the Industrial Age is the best thing that's ever happened to the Earth?

Point is, we just don't know enough, and i think that's locumranch's main gist. I think we'll need better experience by setting up shop on other planets and studying them hard, before we can halfway understand the Earth.

Where locumranch and i diverge, is that i think we should halt our atmospheric gas replacement program as soon as we can, until we know what the fch we're doing.

LarryHart said...


To the extent we 'remember' prophecies, it's more likely that our emotional state of discovering with surprise 'I was right!' or 'So-and-so was right!' has a jarring, confirming sensation.

That's why I was willing to believe anything matthew predicted after the 2016 election results were in. While I had expected Hillary to cruise to victory with over 400 electoral votes, he had consistently predicted a Trump win. I felt like, "He must always be right!"

It was a bit comforting that his later prediction that Trump would be impeached in 100 days fell flat. At least reality isn't doomed to follow whatever he predicts through some invisible hand. But I have to forcibly remember that second part, whereas the first was a visceral reaction.

LarryHart said...


You're new here. There's a history with that particular guy which goes beyond the specific issue of climate change. I don't need to purposely bias your perceptions any more than that, so I'll leave it there.

donzelion said...

As for some other interesting observations - here's one in Peter Gwynne's story I really would like to see explored in more detail.

"Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent by fossil fuel interests seeking to muddy the waters." [said Michael Mann, a climatologist at Pennsylvania State University]

Scientists compete for grants, and are quite familiar with available pools of financing to conduct their research. But they are not forensic accountants, nor are they particularly skilled at piercing lines of funding to identify trends. That's a skillset requiring an entirely different sort of research, like that which resulted in this nugget:

"A joint investigation by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism’s Energy and Environmental Reporting Project and the Los Angeles Times earlier detailed how one company, Exxon, made a strategic decision in the late 1980s to publicly emphasize doubt and uncertainty regarding climate change science even as its internal research embraced the growing scientific consensus.

An examination of oil industry records and interviews with current and former executives shows that Exxon’s two-pronged strategy was widespread within the industry during the 1990s and early 2000s.
[Source: LA Times]

In the late 2000s (and the last 10 years in particular), the role shifted: derivatives/insurance - and the absence of policy - makes it exceptionally lucrative to continue 'denialist' stories for public consumption as a ploy to prevent policymakers from interfering - not because petrol needs that sort of protection to be profitable, but because many other sorts of investments can effectively (and cheaply) shift the cost of any risk back onto the public so long as nobody pays attention. When people see a 'Miami housing development for senior citizens' as a predatory scheme to expose the most vulnerable to likely flooding - they may act to block the scheme and reverse the gains before they've been harvested. So to with thousands of other similar investments...

yana said...

Jon S.:

"And "average time between events" does not mean "happens on a timetable" ... an average time between suggests that some periods between are longer than others."

Yup, that's what average means. Average length of an interglacial is about 12,000 years, though some were as short as 8,000 or as long as 18,000 years. We are at twelve now. And the Ice Ages ranged much more widely in duration, the variance being too great for even me to gauge an "average".

You seem somewhat angry about it, but don't know why, it's just a natural process. Look at it from locumranch's point of view, an innuendo surrounds the word 'pretty' here:

"pretty well messed up any pretty patterns planetary climate might have formed"

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and an Ice Age doesn't seem so pastoral. My point is that we might have done good, without even knowing it. We should stop burning things for energy now, not because it's a total sin, but simply because we don't know enough yet. Later, after close studies of Venus and Mars and exoplanets, we might learn that a certain rate of C-O2 injection breaks this planet's cycle of vicious Ice Ages.

Stop, wait, learn.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: I am remembering a brief exchange in 2016, where after Brexit, I saw warnings that I dismissed, accepting instead what seemed strong evidence of a Clinton win. I may have even posted about a nightmare I had with a Trump win. Yet I discounted that: my instinct suggested a connection, but I lacked any mechanism to show what it might be, how it might work, or how it could override what appeared a strong popular dismissal of Trump.

My response now is quite different: I must act myself, whether I believe the trends favor or oppose me.

In the 49th district, there's a good chance Applegate will break through - but he might not, and the choice will devolve between a Republican moderate colonel and a Republican extremist. In the 39th district, there's a good chance Cisneros will break through - but he might not, and the same choice will manifest. There could be a blue wave in 2018 - or not. And even if there is a blue wave, a Democratic majority may do as little as a Republican - or more - if I act in keeping with my principles, it may slightly nudge a few to do more that I wish they would do.

The best science tells me that climate change is real, that anthropogenic causes underlie it - and thus, I must act as best I can - not simply relying on others, except to the extent I can encourage others to act as well where they can. If California's plan will cost $9bn and possibly avert as much as 100k cars worth of pollution, I must evaluate whether the costs are adequate, and try to do my best to make sure that the expected parties pay the expected costs, and reap the benefits - rather than interlocutors usurping benefits or shifting costs to others.

Anonymous said...

“Demonstrating the memory of a squirrel, dismisses the 1970s Global Cooling Scare as a LIE, even thought this global cooling theory is well documented & indisputable, detailed here on Wikipedia”
You can trust my Locumranch. I do not lie. Global warming is real.
However, there is a way to make the nightmare of an icy planet come true. And you Republicans and some Democratic politicians without vision are to blame.
Global warming has already started the domino effect. And a couple of days ago, I received another email from a company, which refused to support my plan to stop global warming. The excuse: If we support you, we will have to give equal treatment to all others who seek financing in their projects. ¿¿¿¿¿? It's the stupidest answer I've received from an executive of a powerful company.
Anyway ... Given that the Republican magnates have decided to continue with the crazy burning of fossil fuels, it is clear that perhaps my plan will not be able to make a difference very soon, because the planet will be rolling faster and faster towards hell.
Then, when the cities are crowded with climate refugees and their cities have become Mexicanized, then they will try the most obvious and quick (but costly) solution: A solar shield. Block sunlight with massive amounts of sulfur dioxide in the upper atmosphere. But that is risky. If the amount of sulfur dioxide is exceeded, the temperatures could fall a lot, causing a fierce winter, from which perhaps the earth could take years to come out. Or maybe not. It is not known. We have never injected massively sulfur dioxide in the upper atmosphere. It could work.
Of course, perhaps FOX perhaps predicted the sad end: Mr. Burns blocking the sun with a huge shield. (Which, in practice, would actually be in space) And that has even more potential to create a catastrophic winter. (If they do not include systems to regulate the passage of light in an efficient way) (But as I said before, likewise, a solar shield could work to lower the temperature of the planet.) If nothing goes wrong, but that could be the only way in which the nightmare of Locumranch became reality: If humanity is forced to take extreme emergency measures, hurried and pushed by the despair of a hellish world lovingly cultivated by the feudal lords.
Everything, the fault of the feudal billionaires. As usual. (It seems to be an infallible rule, because it's true)

yana said...


"You're new here."

Heh, yet am oddly ancient. Some quarters know my work with spamtrolls. If you're new to the method, watch the broader arc.

donzelion said...

Duncan: "If left to their own (market) ideas people do NOT do the sensible thing - look at light bulbs and home insulation...They see the initial cost and not the medium to long term savings"

Doesn't the 'sensible' thing reflect experiences, which renders 'sensible' quite different to one person than to another? You can install your own solar: train yourself in the electrics, set up a system to your own specification. Most of us can't, and would need to hire someone like you, or spend some time acquiring the skills (it's hard enough for me to keep up with my own field...oh wait, need to go do that in another half hour...).

A person who believes they'll be in a home for 3-5 years, rather than 15-20 years, would evaluate investments differently, and believe the risks are distinct. People are 'sensible' within their perspective.

The trick with building codes has been to impose 'sensibility' and discipline into the group most responsive to expertise (builders are significantly better at evaluating the costs of an installation than home owners).

Yet it's interesting - the California evaluations for the new building codes I've seen focus on a 3 year time horizon. Economies of scale (esp. new developments like Yana's - or Harvard's - 'rhubarb battery') could drive down the cost of power, but most likely, that would occur over a longer time span.

"Making everybody fit solar PV should do the same - drive the prices right down and drive down the cost of power"
Maybe...yet I wonder. Roofs like my own '60s era home were not designed to accommodate PV, and the last firms I spoke with recommended against trying unless we first reinforce the roofing (making the cost of the install dramatically higher than any realistic benefit - from a pure cost/benefit standpoint). My own analysis suggests that I'd make a bigger impact trading in my 40-mpg 'reasonably fuel efficient vehicle' for an electric car, at a lower cost than refitting the roof and installing PV (and even that would be an expense that for the time being, I'm unlikely to bear).

yana said...


"firms I spoke with recommended against trying unless we first reinforce the roofing"

Yikes, if your roof's that weak, what're you going to do when the first snows of the next Ice Age come? Snow weighs more than PV panels. Better shore that up, no matter if you go solar or not.

Anonymous said...


"Making everybody fit solar PV should do the same - drive the prices right down and drive down the cost of power"
Maybe...yet I wonder. Roofs like my own '60s era home were not designed to accommodate PV, and the last firms I spoke with recommended against trying unless we first reinforce the roofing (making the cost of the install dramatically higher than any realistic benefit - from a pure cost/benefit standpoint). My own analysis suggests that I'd make a bigger impact trading in my 40-mpg 'reasonably fuel efficient vehicle' for an electric car, at a lower cost than refitting the roof and installing PV (and even that would be an expense that for the time being, I'm unlikely to bear)”

¿Why do not you put the weight of the solar panels on a structure resting on the edge of the roof? The outer walls can with the load that the center of the roof can not load. You could even lighten, using a bamboo-base structure, covered with waterproofing and then, already dry, with two coats of white enamel paint. (must be white) On this bamboo structure fixed long planks on which the legs of the solar panels can be supported. That's cheaper and you can prepare it yourself, which is a double saving. Make sure to protect the bamboo well, or it will rot with moisture in the rainy season. From time to time, check the structure and put white waterproofing over the cracks in the paint.
You can even combine. That is, using a single beam that rests from one side of the roof to the other, will prevent the bamboo from twisting downwards due to the weight of the panels. And on that beam you can put the ends of the bamboo strips.
Of course, there are many details: use PVC pipes to hold and seal the ends of the Bamboo strips; use extensions to level the structure; create flat bases with holes for the screws of the dowels; make sure that there are spaces through which a person can pass to dust the panels, etc.


Anonymous said...


Ho, forget it: On all supports on the edge of the roof you can weld the supporting steel beams for the bamboo. the central beam that goes from end to end, can be steel, with large triangles welded on top, to prevent it from being bent by the weight; like the triangles in the structures of the old train bridges)


Anonymous said...

And this is just the beginning:


donzelion said...

Winter7: "Why do not you put the weight of the solar panels on a structure resting on the edge of the roof?"

I spoke with two firms who know the houses in this region, and have a sense what can be done (and also, a preference to do a certain type of job and no others, for their own business reasons). I know enough to be reasonably confident that my amateurish hacking away at this sort of work will create risks that I am not well-positioned to avert. In some cases, I prefer to rely on the expertise of others, rather than try to render myself an expert.

Yana: "Yikes, if your roof's that weak, what're you going to do when the first snows of the next Ice Age come?"

LOL, are you practicing troll management techniques on me? I had thought I'd avoided being a spamtroll by reading and thinking, but...well... ;-)

Alfred Differ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alfred Differ said...

@yana | I get the connection you are making between climate uncertainties. I think your point may be lost on locumranch and other’s here might be trying to help you out a bit.

For background, Locumranch is definitely male and he appears to have a medical background. I tend to take his medical opinions and comments with some seriousness. He’s also been recently stripped down (probably in Family Court) and feeling the pain guys feel when they realize they aren’t in charge of much of anything and nowhere near as powerful as they thought. I haven’t been there, but I’ve seen it often enough to want to avoid this fate… so I’m sympathetic.

Unfortunately, he likes to argue and believes his obvious intelligence is enough to be qualified in areas outside his expertise. That’s not really a problem as a lot of us do that. There is also the not-so-small issue that some credentialed experts are demonstrable stuff-shirts. The problem is that he wanders into subject areas where the experts aren’t so puffed-up. Climate change is just one of them. He BELIEVES he is qualified to point out issues, but the Dunning-Kruger effect is on fully display when he does. The issues fall into two broad categories, though.

1. His outsider perspective shows we are suffering from a blindness that renders us mere equals with those who hold opposing views
2. Some of us are guilty of direct fraud and knowingly abusing the blind for the purposes of exercising power.

By all means, employ your troll management techniques. You won’t be the only one doing it. Just be aware that some of the regulars are exhausted with/by him. Even our host occasionally withdraws his willingness to interact with him and he’s often the most generous of us with his time.

The real issue with Locumranch as I see it is that he IS intelligent, but can’t see his own blindness. In his pain, he also can’t seem to comprehend that people here are often honest in their desire to help him see it and get past that Dunning-Kruger block. He’s capable of complex thought, but not prepared to accept that some who post here might NOT be stuffed shirts or blind or frauds. It’s as if he has to believe he KNOWS a truth we don’t. It’s as if he has to believe we are NOT his peers.

Alfred Differ said...

Lots of older California homes would require 'special attention' to be fitted for PV's.

Lots of California home owners would require 'special attention' to risk having their homes be fitted with PV's too. 8)

This is one of those subject areas where I think our State might be pushing forward at a pace slightly faster than our educations will handle. It is going to be important for communities to step up with resources and talent to help even if that means neighborhood co-ops. Some of us have a hard enough time figuring out the consequences of health insurance choices we make every year. The calculations around investing in the value of our homes can be quite a challenge.

I saw a pitch once a few years ago where a PV installer became a wholesale generator by leasing rooftops from businesses and aggregating the power. The leases offered price reductions for power to the businesses, but in the style of futures contracts. If the regular market price actually fell lower, the businesses could wind up paying more over the long haul, thus they had to think carefully about their predictions for the local price of moving electrons. Once a deal was signed, the installer had rights of access to their roof and an obligation to maintain their equipment. It was a complex relationship that done right left some electricity to sell into the wholesale market if the weather was good. If the weather was lousy, the business was still connected to the grid and the installer/generator suffered the impact.

What intrigued me about the installer/generator’s pitch is THEY assessed the rooftops and buildings to decide if it made sense for THEM to enter into the complex relationship. Retrofits were included as upfront costs and upfront capital costs money down through the years. That meant the local businesses didn’t need much talent regarding how electricity markets work. They simply needed to make some predictions for how their local utility provider would work. Much simpler in exchange for a complex relationship with the ‘in-sourced’ generator partner.

As a home-owner, THAT is the kind of relationship I would consider, but my rooftop isn’t likely to be big enough to justify the costs they suffer establishing the deal. For that to work, it would probably require my entire neighborhood buying in. That means this is probably a relationship with something the size of a HOA or a large builder or something like that.

occam's comic said...

Dangerous climate change is unavoidable.
There is already enough greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to take us to 2 degrees C increase.
The last time the earth had ~400PPM OF CO2 the ocean level was about 20 meters higher.
The arctic is already in a positive feedback loop that will end with the artic oceans ice free.

Our civilization is not doing even 1/10th of what is needed to transition to a non fossil fuel powered society.

Fossil fuels provide nearly 90% of the energy we use.

And if that is not enough, remember even most wealthy liberal people who say climate change is a massive problem still seem unwilling to make personal changes in their lives that would actually reduce their carbon footprint.

I wish we would have been able to avoid dangerous climate change, but we will not.

We need to plan on adapting to the change.

Alfred Differ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alfred Differ said...

@Occam's comic | Dangerous climate change is unavoidable.

No. I strongly disagree.

You are making an economic projection rather than a science projection.
Economics isn't even close to being a science, so I doubt your crystal ball.

Economically speaking, we REALLY don't know where we are going to be 50 years from now. What we can reasonably say is where we WON'T be. Anyone who says otherwise doesn't get the nature of economics.

The fear you express is reasonable enough, but the way you cast it as being possible to predict feeds a very legit gripe the deniers have though seldom express.

Anonymous said...

The government of Sweden is issuing a manual for civilians to prepare for war. Listen to rumors that other European countries took similar measures.
They give information about shelters, accumulation of supplies and what types of bombing sirens will be used.
Also, they call for the creation of resistance groups if Sweden is defeated and invaded.
What the hell knows the government of Sweden? Is the crisis so serious with the Russians? If the NATO intelligence services know something, they should say it openly.

Here is the link to get that manual:


donzelion said...

Alfred: "Once a deal was signed, the installer had rights of access to their roof and an obligation to maintain their equipment."

Now there is a set of contracts I'd be curious to take a look at. The standard municipal right of way is crucial to keeping costs down for utilities over the long-term; they're valuable property interests in their own right, and when they conflict with other rights of way, unexpected outcomes are normal (e.g., Los Angeles municipal public transport gets beaten by water and power district authorities at the borders of LA, at least with fixed lines).

What I hear you describe as a 'right of access' strikes me as a license for access, rather than a right. Much different, much less stable, and over long term, more expensive to manage for a "utility," esp. in older urban areas. My expectation would be that a structure like that, in 10-15 years, would be taken over by municipalities and regulated like utilities, esp. after a handful of businesses wound up bearing some set of costs imposed by other businesses (a fairly common story in the 'free market').

Anonymous said...

Alfred Differ:

I have the feeling that the elaboration of a plan to facilitate the implementation of photovoltaic panels throughout the country depends more on the firm commitment of politicians and not much on the actions of individuals. (Unless such individuals exert direct pressure on their political representatives through mass visits to key politicians, who could change the situation with the use of state funds and with the implementation of laws that allow common citizens to enter the business of the photovoltaic energy.


LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

@Occam's comic | Dangerous climate change is unavoidable.

No. I strongly disagree.

Maybe, but occam's closing statement has merit:

We need to plan on adapting to the change.

LarryHart said...


The government of Sweden is issuing a manual for civilians to prepare for war. Listen to rumors that other European countries took similar measures.
They give information about shelters, accumulation of supplies and what types of bombing sirens will be used.
Also, they call for the creation of resistance groups if Sweden is defeated and invaded.

Sweden? They weren't even defeated or invaded during WWII. Who would start something now?

David Brin said...

John Fremont, I remember Name of the Game. Can you provide links to that Spielberg episode?

Thanks Jerry, I will cite that film clip!

Locumranch, I am through talking to you, till you accept wagers.

You declared that the scientific consensus in 1979 was cooling. I dare you to accept making an escrowed deposit with a trusted attorney. I propose $1,000. I could have done this and should have, for years, in order to demonstrate what howling liar-cowards you confederates are.

Anonymous said...

Russia. Larry Who else? Well now they managed to tie the hands of the NATO leaders. And the rope that the Russians used is called агент Donald Trump. ¿What better time?


Cari D Burstein said...

Larry Hart:
Maybe Sweden watched the Norwegian series Occupied and started getting nervous. That show was unnerving.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | Regarding his last statement about needing to plan for adaptation, I'll agree with one important issue. It's hard to plan for something when one doesn't know quite what shape it might take or when it will arrive. I like TWODA plans a lot, but I'm cautious of plans that look too much like a Maginot Line. Adaptation that leads to a form that can adapt further is what humans do when we do our best, so I'll be very supportive of that approach.

@winter7 | depends more on the firm commitment of politicians and not much on the actions of individuals.

Not here in the US. We are far more potent than our governments are. We are also a lot more incoherent, but that can be useful when people don't really know what to do about a future danger they can only sketch. Our governments wield a lot of money, but we wield far more.

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion | I used to work at CAISO and got to hear things. They actually took the time to train IT guys like me to understand something of the business we were in relative to the wholesale electricity market and other market participants. It was a job I enjoyed. I wish they had continued to need my skills. 8)

That one pitch had to do with how some of the other regional markets functioned. The PJM folks were a little different and a tad more inclined to expose retail customers to wholesale price changes. We were in the final stages of big changes to market rules, so everyone was thinking big. The big deal that I recall about the pitch is that it did NOT involve municipal powers or local PUC's. They were always crafted as deals between one non-utility and the land owner. They always looked like long-term leases with some lasting decades. The land owners were generally free to contract with anyone for power with the assumption that the provider could actually serve them in that market.

I got the impression that the two involved in the contract would almost be a partnership when it came to how they dealt with others and rights of way. The land owner brought the rooftop and location stability (think about large supermarkets, commercial real estate, and the like) while the installer brought what was necessary to participate in the market. Between them, the business got a possible cut in power prices or at least long term predictability while remaining on the grid while the installer got access to the land with a motivated partner when it came time to deal with local authorities AND a long term buyer. Just like any other utility then, it was about whether the likely revenue would cover the debts setting it all up.

No doubt I'm getting the legal terms all wrong and you would have understood their pitch in ways I didn't. The take away for me was that there was innovation happening in that space. Utilities seem like they are slow to think and slow to adapt, but that isn't the case across the whole country. A lot depends on where you are and how much everyone is forced into relationships with local monopolies. For example, while I was at CAISO, we grumbled most about city owned participants. They were the stodgiest of all the players and thought they could drag out rule changes for decades. They DID do a number on the project we were wrapping up turning it from big to a difficult $200M mess. The privately owned utilities brought their own problems to the market, but they were usually more inclined to see the writing on the wall.

All this stuff is complicated, but I did manage to learn that anyone who offers up a seemingly simple fix likely doesn't understand the market. That lesson was easy to hammer home. They taught us about the different 'types' of electricity sold wholesale. When the tsunami hit Japan a few years ago snuffing out their 'black start' power they needed to keep cooling tanks cool, I actually understood what that meant and how weird it was that someone actually needed that type. I don't think it has ever been used in the US.

LarryHart said...


Russia. Larry Who else? Well now they managed to tie the hands of the NATO leaders.

But Sweden isn't in NATO. They're notoriously neutral, as they were during WWII.

donzelion said...

Alfred: "All this stuff is complicated, but I did manage to learn that anyone who offers up a seemingly simple fix likely doesn't understand the market."

That tends to be my starting point in analysis, albeit, this is a context with which I am not deeply acquainted. But I have heard a story, and am curious if you'd generally concur...

My understanding is that the original private utilities initially set up, much like railroads, tended to merged through trusts at the end of the 19th century, trying to replicate models previously adopted in transcontinental rail, steel, banking, and other sectors. Trust gamesmanship in the power sector was problematic though - even if an operator wanted to engage in the same price gouging typical of railroads, they had complex technical problems to solve as a result of the 'merger-driven growth' - problems solved by a host of engineers who were needed to link various pieces of infrastructure together. Whenever they tried closed-door processes, people immediately complained (and fires tended to break out or other nasty outcomes) - the public utilities commission gradually pried open the business practices (even of the 'private' giants).

My understanding is that the interests of Huntington's power company (SoCal Edison) & the Red Car it was initially supposed to supply (but later turned into the bigger cash cow) diverged - the profits from the utilities became subsidies to the Red Car to keep it going after it ceased being profitable, until ultimately, they dumped it. But the structure of the energy grid as it developed - like all the other network-centric structures - was inherently resistant to the land development gambits of other would-be feudal barons: they tried, but simply couldn't make as much money setting up large estates as they could breaking them apart into housing projects.

In essence, the power industry in California (esp. as it increasingly was pried open to public scrutiny) - and the capitalism underpinning it - together with technical know-how that made it hard to keep secrets - checked feudal interests here.

I do not know that this is a true story; it was a professor's theory, and one I've not encountered elsewhere.

Tony Fisk said...

Alfred raises an interesting point about PV on CA rooftops which I hadn't considered. I assunme a major building concern is earthquake damage, so house roofs there are designed to be fairly flimsy. Putting banks of standard PV cells there would cause issues. (By comparison, Aus roofs are corrugated iron, or terracotta tiling)

Luckily, PV technology is advancing in bounds. CSIRO has recently demonstrated printable PVs on paper-thin sheets. I'm sure a laminated version could be made to work.

locumranch said...

An intriguing offer, this wager on the presence or absence of a "scientific consensus", one that would require a priori agreement about the exact definitional nature of the term 'consensus':

How many scientists, numerically speaking, would have agree on any particular topic to qualify as a legitimate consensus?

By what criteria is their "general agreement" to be measured and quantified?

And, how does one propose to define the term 'scientist'?

These are non-trivial questions as illustrated by the following example:

Isaac Asimov endorsed the idea of Global Cooling in 1974, stating that "The very thing that makes it possible for us to use more and more energy is our industrial technologized world. And another thing that our industry produces is dust. And the air is dustier now than its ever been before in human history. Except perhaps very temporarily after a large volcanic eruption. This means that the Earth's albedo, the percentage of light from the sun that it reflects back into space before it hits the ground, has been going up slightly because dusty air reflects more light than clear air does. And...well, not very much more, but enough. It has been making the temperature of the Earth drop since 1940", yet this statement has since been dismissed as the mistake of a non-expert (but well read) non-scientist.

It's the 'No True Scotsman' fallacy all over again, except in this case it's the 'No True Scientist' fallacy, arguing that anyone who endorses an opinion outside of the current climate consensus is 'No True Scientist', including Asimov.


duncan cairncross said...

On the power company and the distortions caused by bad political decisions

Here (NZ) we have a small population - mountains and water
So back in the 60's most of our power was coming from Hydro - paid for by the taxpayer

That was a long time ago and the capital cost should have all been amortised long long ago

BUT the government split the power and line companies up and let competition rule
As a result we have more Fossil fuelled power plants and very expensive electricity

We have the stupidity of Hydro power plants using the water to produce electricity even when the Wind and solar are going just to make extra money as opposed to holding the water until we need the power

A market can work - but if you set the wrong rules you will get poor outcomes

Anonymous said...


“But Sweden isn't in NATO. They're notoriously neutral, as they were during WWII”

¿Really? Greater reason for the Swiss feel intimidated by the Russians. (They already devoured a third of Ukraine) and NATO did not complain.
The Russians always bring something into their hands. (Even, they never go to the bathroom without having a plan in advance)


Anonymous said...


Soot is has a greenhouse effect. It captures the heat instead of reflecting it.
It would be easier if you trust me. You know I would not cheat on you. I can not help telling the truth. It is pathological. Maybe a trauma from childhood, I do not know.
So I'll tell you the truth: Global warming is real. (the bogeyman's no) (I found out when I was a kid) (you just have to check the closet and under the bed) (There is not the bogeyman's)


Alfred Differ said...

@winter7 | Ukraine is not defensible by NATO forces. Look at the terrain and who close the US Navy can get and you might see the problem. The Black Sea is NOT one we can dominate without Turkey's acceptance. The terrain is essentially flat meaning there are few defensible borders between any point in Ukraine and Moscow. Any fool who goes in their with force simply HAS to be a neighbor to have a chance. Ukraine's neighbors are better known for fighting there instead of in their own homelands, so there is an historical problem in this.

Ukraine translates roughly as 'borderland'.
Historically, it has rarely been an independent country.
Usually, it is where empires show up to fight each other.
I don't think it would be wise for the US to take a turn at that.

What DOES make cold, calculated sense is to let the Russian try to pacify the region. They won't be able this time, I suspect, because they'll run out of money trying. They can't defend it all that well either and there is the added bonus that the people they would be suppressing are pretty feisty.

Alfred Differ said...

@Tony Fisk | Most of the houses I see going up aren't flimsy. It's the older places built with the assumption we wouldn't be putting stone on the roof that are the issue. Modern places tend to have higher spaces under the roof, much more insulation, and trusses that fall off as one piece rather than splinter if they cover the house interior. Garage roof trusses are a different matter.

I looked into fitting my roof about 10 years ago and decided not to mess with the Spanish tile I had on the roof. I preferred the 50 year expected lifespan of my roof to shaving electricity costs. The new composites they use instead wouldn't have been so delicate, so I figured I would wait for the next house I owned.

Along the way, though, I ran the numbers. No matter what my roof was like, the investment didn't make sense. Yes. I could save money on electricity. I could make a whole lot more with other investments, though. The only way the money made sense is if I did it to farm the subsidies offered. Resale values in my neighborhood generally improved with PV arrays, but not by enough to make it an attractive investment alone. Money could be made, but I had better options so opportunity costs applied.

The situation is different today. Prices have changed on PV's and the related equipment. Still. I'd rather buy into an aggregator so they maintain everything. I have the technical skill, but I'm nearing 60 and have no desire to be up on the roof fussing with things.

David Brin said...

John Fremont, I remember Name of the Game. Can you provide links to that Spielberg episode?

David Brin said...

Coward! Scurrying around squawking: "wait! I have another anecdote!" Dig it, fellah. You are raving that a majority of scientists in the 70s were declaring a coming ice age. You... said./.. that... with sneers that it is a core reason to distrust all scientists.

It is a lie, and you know it. You know it in what there is a of a soul and yet you spew it anyway. In order to harm your nation and world and civilization.

Go ahead and tabulate your anecdotes. I will counter with TWICE as many, only they will be peer reviewed studies from that era.

No, make it FOUR times. Then include by that factor in anything from news articles to popular culture, like Soylent Green.

Make it SIX! If I fail to counter you in each category with SIX times as many sage studies, articles and flicks and novels, you win the bet and take my money. You squealing coward-liar.

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion | There is a really good chance you know the history FAR better than I do. I'm a military brat who came to California for grad school and never left. I stayed in Northern California until 2009, but was never all that interesting in state history let alone local politics. I've become more so as I've grayed, but I'm mostly interested in where we are going and not so much in where we came from. I KNOW one needs an understanding of the past to work out how to get to a good future, but that's what friends are for. 8)

There is one thing about California markets that I think is important to keep in mind. Excess capital is often invested locally no matter where one looks. The richest Venetian traders invested where they could reach and control, namely the Po and along the coasts where they traded. Chinese traders did similar things leading to the coastal provinces being far richer than the interior. Distant investment is a relatively new behavior and it requires interesting market capabilities. California was no different before or after it joined the US. For most of our history as a state, though, the US was 'over there' and California was 'over here.' Excess capital from the midwest could go pretty much anywhere along the Mississippi and it's tributaries. California's options were much more limited. There is that big bay up north and an interior river system feeding into it, but the summer's are damn near unlivable and those rivers frequently flooded. What a pain. 8)

Your professor might have an interesting angle on CA's electricity market and history, but if it doesn't take into account the fact that there really wasn't all that much money here until after WWII, I'd argue it is a partial theory. The manufacturing heyday of the US occurred while the US was 'over there'. Increasingly it is now 'here too', but that's because we got serious about trading with the one place on Earth that has had civilization for millennia and where but for a fluke of history, the vast majority of rich trading has always occurred. The place to be was within range of the archipelago along the eastern side of Asia. Crossroad regions prosper and we are THE crossroad between 'over there' and 'way over there'.

I treat California as two different entities with a division at WWII. Lots of people know about the first group of 49'ers, but our current power derives from the second batch of 49'ers and their children. In our later history, population growth was simply too large for land to contribute much to income if all one could get from it was rent.

Utilities are essentially renters of credit, so they can't be the big money makers. Sell bond, build infrastructure, charge for usage, pay back bond,... repeat. That's the nutshell version I was taught and that model can't compete unless the product sold is consumed in huge quantities by industry. Everyone needs electricity, but not the way industry needed oil, iron, coke, and capital. Maybe today, but industry isn't 'over there' anymore. It is 'way over there' and won't be back until it is automated.

[rambling too much now. time to sleep. g'night.] . 8)

Tony Fisk said...

Huh! Maybe that pesky water allotrope from the "Naked Now" isn't so far fetched?

gregory byshenk said...

A note about the "manual for civilians to prepare for war" in Sweden. I don't have any citations, but an acquaintance from Sweden reported that this 'manual' is something that had previously been printed in every edition of the telephone directory, and the fact that there is a 'new manual' comes about only because they aren't printing telephone directories any longer.

occam's comic said...

Alfred Differ said...
@Occam's comic | Dangerous climate change is unavoidable.

No. I strongly disagree.

You can disagree all you want but it will not change a thing.
350ppm of CO2 was the safe level.
We have blown past that (now at ~410ppm)and there is no sign of it even slowing down.

The fact that you think we have 50 more years to solve the problem is part of the problem. Time was the scarcest resource we had and we have wasted too much of it. Climate change has moved from a problem we could have avoided to a predicament that we will have to deal with.

Jon S. said...

@Yana -

"You seem somewhat angry about it..."

Annoyed, more like. Said roommate also likes listening to some strange talk radio, and gets a lot of "information" from YouTube, so he talks about how nothing we do to the climate matters anyway because Yellowstone is "overdue" for an eruption that will destroy civilization, and maybe global warming is good because we're "overdue" for that ice age... There's only so many times you can present the contradictory data before you start wanting to throw things every time someone discusses a natural phenomenon as "overdue", as if reality consults a timetable.

And I can't look at things from Loco's point of view - since my spinal discs started degenerating, I can't get my head far enough up my ass. There's a good reason why I stopped even reading his drivel a few years ago; like President Donnie, he engages in a Directed Denial of Service attack against facts.

locumranch said...

David accuses me of "raving that a majority of scientists in the 70s were declaring a coming ice age".

This accusation is a LIE most deliberate because I have never claimed "a MAJORITY of scientists in the 70s were declaring a coming ice age", my exact words (as actually quoted by David previously) being “Until 1979, 'Global Cooling' was the Scientific Consensus”.

The precise term for this fallacious line of argument is Argumentum Ad Populum (Latin for "argument to the people") wherein David concludes that a proposition like climate change theory must be true because many, most or a MAJORITY of climate scientists currently believe it.

That is to say that David engages in Argumentum Ad Populum (by insisting that a MAJORITY of scientists believe as he does) while falsely dismissing the rhetorical opposition for engaging in the same fallacious line of argument.

And, pray tell, how does one become a Climate Scientist in this day & age?

One obtains the Climate Scientist credential by practicing rote memorisation, parroting the official academic party line & prostrating oneself before other established climate scientists until one has been confirmed into this exclusive meteorological order like the Priests of Old.

Current 'Climate Change Theory has more in common with CATECHISM than science.


Anonymous said...

Alfred Differ:

“Ukraine is not defensible by NATO forces. Look at the terrain and who close the US Navy can get and you might see the problem. The Black Sea is NOT one we can dominate without Turkey's acceptance. The terrain is essentially flat meaning there are few defensible borders between any point in Ukraine and Moscow. Any fool who goes in their with force simply HAS to be a neighbor to have a chance. Ukraine's neighbors are better known for fighting there instead of in their own homelands, so there is an historical problem in this.”

All right. Everything is a matter of strategy. It is not necessary to fight with the Russians in Ukraine. Give me command of NATO and in five months the NATO officers will be in charge of all the facilities of the KGB and the Russian army. One more year and the Russians would have their first real elections.
Yes. I think I can do that. If I have command of NATO. Maybe General Patton was right. They must have attacked the Russians immediately. The thousands of American soldiers killed in Vietnam and in many other conflicts would have been saved. The Russians have several weak points that it is possible to use. Who knows. We could even use Donald Trump in the operation "Winter on Fire" (without asking permission).
There is a possibility that some places are very radioactive. But, well,¡We can not make breakfast without breaking some eggs!

¡Alba gu bràth! ¡Alba gu bràth!.


donzelion said...

Alfred: "There is a really good chance you know the history FAR better than I do."
Unlikely; this was a guest lecture in property law class (or organized by the school), one I may be misremembering, and only an introductory segment in a presentation more focused on the 2001 power crisis in California. But that said, my point was about the role of capitalism in breaking neo-feudalism, and the place of energy in that story (sorry if that's my recurring fixation)

"I treat California as two different entities with a division at WWII."
I see the evolution as linked to transportation/shipping, and prefer setting the periods as follows:
(1) Domestic transport (1869 - 1914, the period from the transcontinental railroad to the Panama Canal) - a period of railroad barons and land barons during which a few well-placed oligarchs - Getty, Hearst, Huntington, Stanford, and a few others - attained wealth as impressive as anything back east, but with a tiny middle class
(2) 1914 - 1941 - the era in which electricity + developers started breaking the baronies (3) WWII - 1970s - the era of mass industry in CA - with a massively growing middle class
(4) 1970s - current - the era of trans-Pacific trading in CA

"Excess capital is often invested locally no matter where one looks."
Equity yes; debt capital, not so much. One piece of the value of equity is the control, and control is most valuable when leveraged to influence relations with local authorities (e.g., one doesn't even need to bribe a city council member if one owns the factory that employs a good chunk of voters). For debt, all you need is a good risk/profit ratio - that could be realized anywhere.

During Phase 1, California went with a typical 'baronial' development model - a handful of oligarchs obtained a slight but meaningful geographic advantage somewhere, then leveraged it into a massive fortune through trust-monopoly tricks. During Phase 2, electricity ruptured one part of the 'real estate' gambit in most trusts (acquire a critical but overlooked plot, then use it to squeeze off the rival factory, reducing its profits to the point where you can acquire it at a fraction of its actual value). Once electricity came on stream (and every investor knew it would only grow further), the efforts had to favor enhancing the factory itself, rather than squeezing rivals. During Phase 3, with mass electricity on stream, industrialization flowered in CA - and a mass middle class grew along with it. Utilities morphed from 'secretive, opaque' kingmakers modeled on railroads of the 19th century into mass credit aggregators. A historical novelty.

"Utilities are essentially renters of credit, so they can't be the big money makers."
My understanding is that the initial effort to use utilities the same way railroads had been used initially failed: those who tried to play a territorial game got beaten by those who focused on efficiency. Utilities BECAME renters of credit, perhaps in spite of the owners' original intent.

donzelion said...

locum: re-read your own wikipedia entry. Your words “Until 1979, 'Global Cooling' was the Scientific Consensus” - are rebutted by its text, as I quoted earlier: the consensus favored 'global warming' even in the early 1970s, and 'cooling' was raised as a possibility based on a set of estimates about aerosols which were reevaluated by the proponents themselves, and rejected in the face of better data and methodologies.

"One obtains the Climate Scientist credential by practicing rote memorisation,"
Now that strikes me as unfair: one no more becomes a scientist by rote memorization than one becomes a doctor by rote memorization of anatomical parts and a few Latin phrases. Your own reluctance to look at the methodologies that lead the early proponents of 'cooling theory' to reject it and embrace a 'warming theory' illustrates the problem: they used methodologies, they refined them, they advised on a project of collecting better data, that project was launched - all of which is precisely how its supposed to be done.

"Current 'Climate Change Theory has more in common with CATECHISM than science."
Were this claim accurate, then Exxon-Mobil et. al. would repudiate the catechism in their internal projects - rather than relying on it to build projects at significantly greater cost than was necessary. Instead, the 'internal use' of the science (to ensure profitable petrol projects) and the 'external' debunking of the science (to avert policies that threatened profits) is a consistent marker.

But that was the '80s-'00s era, when petrol was the only player that could benefit from a public rejection/private acceptance. Today, many folks have figured out a large group of investments that require privately anticipating climate change while publicly debunking it (esp. through insurance gambits in connection with construction). Look to Louisiana: the upstate factories knew how to protect themselves from floods - and also knew that if lower properties flooded, while theirs did not, numerous means of enriching themselves and securing their profits would follow in one form or another.

LarryHart said...


Current 'Climate Change Theory has more in common with CATECHISM than science.

The difference being that climate change (aka global warming) is demonstrably real. It's not a question of which authority figure asserts which thing. "It's actually happening, Reg!"

For years, climate-deniers—a faction that the GOP has an even greater monopoly on than gun zealots—have insisted that there is no warming. That fiction is getting harder to maintain; just this month the planet had its 400th consecutive month of warmer-than-average temperatures. That's a staggering 33 straight years; the odds of that happening by random chance are 3.87259 X 10E121. To put that large a number in some sort of context, 2E64 grains of rice would be enough to bury New York City to a depth of 20 feet, and 10E121 is considerably more than 100,000,000,000,000,000,000 times larger than 2E64. To put it another way, there's no way that 400 straight months could possibly be random chance.

Anyhow, now that global warming is all-but-undeniable, Republican partisans have moved on to excusing the phenomenon's effects as beyond the control of man. Sunspot activity is one popular explanation, another is "Earth's natural cycles." Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) proposed an interesting one this week: That ocean levels are rising because of all the rocks falling into them, particularly from the Cliffs of Dover. The Cliffs are 15 km and the coastline of the UK alone is 12,429 km, so that math doesn't quite add up. Of course, Brooks also insisted this week that the size of the Antarctic ice shelf is currently growing. That is 100% correct, if by "growing" you mean "shrinking." Clearly, facts are not Brooks' strong suit. And not only is he a duly-elected member of Congress, he's Vice-Chair of the Committee on Space, Science, and Technology.

David Brin said...

"my exact words (as actually quoted by David previously) being “Until 1979, 'Global Cooling' was the Scientific Consensus”.


That's the wager then, you sniveling git. Writhing to evade accountability, you finally stated an explicit. Let's pick a neutral stakes holder. We've settled on the bet. Now it will take months to corner you into accepting rules. Oh, how I want your money. But remember how certain YOU are! You should be salivating over getting mine.

Treebeard said...

No worries Occam, every problem created by shiny new technologies can be solved by even shinier, newer technologies. We are mighty beings, remember? Regular gods in the making. Nature bends to our wills, because we have the sorcery called Science and the god called Progress. If we fail to solve a problem, it can only mean that some traitorous heretics sabotaged us or our faith in Progress was insufficiently strong. Don't tell me you have joined with the heretics now?

Alfred Differ said...

@occam's comic | The fact that you think we have 50 more years to solve the problem is part of the problem.

If that were true they way you describe it, I'd agree that it is a problem. My belief is we are in the midst of solving it right now, that it will take some time to do it, that many ideas will have to be tried in parallel with many of them failing, and I suspect sunspot cycle 25 is going to be rather mild which will buy us a little time.

Climate change has moved from a problem we could have avoided to a predicament that we will have to deal with.

Yes. I completely agree with this. Add on that 'dealing with it' will be very expensive and I'd nod my head again. I used to rail against fools who thought they weren't going to incur any costs for being wrong because they didn't BELIEVE they were wrong. I stopped a few years ago and turned my attention to 'dealing with it.'

350ppm of CO2 was the safe level

I'm not so sure about this. What 'safe' is depends on what we are capable of doing and how rich we are collectively. Obviously the higher the CO2 level is, the more expensive remediation is going to be. Just how expensive, though, requires an economic projection which we suck at. We CAN say that relative to current wealth, the costs we will incur in future generations will be staggeringly large. Relative to their wealth, though, I just don't know. My closet full of clothes used to require a nobleman's income to purchase and maintain while the other things I own were simply out of their reach. Not so anymore.

I'm not quibbling about he danger we face. It's very real. I'm arguing that we should not claim to be able to make predictions we simply can't make. With economics, the predictions we CAN make are mostly about what will NOT happen. For example, if an oil producing nation decided to do the good thing and stop providing oil, we can safely predict the oil markets will make up for that at some point. The supply would not simply vanish unless demand did. Even then the supply might not vanish. Prices might change instead.

What we've done to the CO2 levels is mostly a late 20th century problem. The world changed a great deal from 1800 to 1850 to 1900 to ... etc. It will continue to change in radical ways. When I was born, we were on the brink of global scale starvation. Now we have over 2x more of us and many suffer from obesity. Predicting POSSIBLE dangers is well worth the effort, but claiming they are unavoidable is a failure to learn from our history. Working to prevent POSSIBLE dangers gets my full-throated support.

Marshall Boice said...

There! You see Occam! Treebeards defeatist snark will save us all ' know...stuff...

donzelion said...

Occam: "Climate change has moved from a problem we could have avoided to a predicament that we will have to deal with."

When wasn't climate a predicament we have to deal with?

That's not to suggest we do nothing - again, California is taking a lead in America, and demonstrating that it's possible to grow jobs and an economy while also embracing proactive policies to head off long term problems. Let Trump protect coal owner cronies (he's already abandoned the workers, but there's so few left they'll zealously defend what employers they can still find) - while they play their games, a middle class MAY build a better future (of course, tariffs on China may raise the cost of that future...).

We can stop practices that kill the ozone layer; we can stop practices that clearcut forests. We can mitigate carbon dioxide emissions. The means used to achieve one set of goals may not suffice for a new goal - yet we can devise new means. The question is less 'how bad will it get' than it is 'how to make things a little better?' (and who pays to do so).

If the Ent sees my view as sorcery/alchemy, I'd counter by saying the difference between alchemy and chemistry is all in the method: science is not sorcery, and disdains 'progress' in favor of 'truth' through a disciplined, competitive process (which, occasionally may result in new profits as well, and livelihoods for many). We've never 'bent nature to our will' - rather, we harnessed nature through newer, more ingenious means. We will do the same with our climate. Hopefully when we do, we'll do so in a manner that continues to enrich most of us, rather than a small few.

occam's comic said...

I'm not quibbling about he danger we face. It's very real. I'm arguing that we should not claim to be able to make predictions we simply can't make."

At what point do you admit do you admit that climate change is dangerous?
Many people of Houston and Puerto Rico are already there.

Yes I am kind of a heretic, I do not believe that some new shiny techno gizmo will save us. Without deep changes to the economic system, political system, the pattern of our daily lives, our culture and our spiritual outlook we are headed for lots of trouble.

donzelion said...

Occam: "Without deep changes to the economic system, political system, the pattern of our daily lives, our culture and our spiritual outlook we are headed for lots of trouble."

I do not think you and Alfred are so far apart, Occam - except perhaps he assumes that deep changes will occur with a fairly high probability, and you're more skeptical.

For assumption is that economic incentives matter, politics matter, and the two help drive technology, culture, and spirituality. I assume trouble ahead, and assume responding to it will demand a price: my fear is that unless we see what is being done and permit the experiments to take hold, they will be aborted before they even bear fruit, as they have been many times before. A winnable battle is underway - one in which victory does not require awaiting the emergence of some charismatic messiah, some technological magic - but only holding fast to principles, defending them, including the principle that no one should profit from making a mess that others will have to clean up.

Alfred Differ said...

@occam's comic | I already admit that climate change is dangerous. I'm not ready to admit that some of the dangers we've seen recently are caused by climate change. They might be, but to say so would imply some credibility to the causal mechanism that I don't believe is there.

You are arguing the danger is unavoidable. You are possibly correct in your conclusion, but can't have a functioning crystal ball.

You are arguing we aren't doing even 1/10 of what has to be done. I don't believe you can know such a thing without a similar crystal ball. The first one has to look into the future. This one has to look sideways at all of what is being done and THEN look into the future to see if it is enough. This is where I object because you are making an economic projection, can't possibly have enough facts on which to make it in a sound manner, and in doing this you make yourself and your position look crazy.

The position is NOT crazy. We could be in big danger and we should do something about it. Don't give our opponents the ammunition they use to shoot at us. We already have a list of possible future scenarios that range from very unpleasant to catastrophic collapse of civilization. That range is enough to justify TWODA plans at a minimum even without an ability to make sound economic projections. We don’t have to convince everyone for TWODA to work. We don’t have to convince all that many for innovations to occur that change prices that move behaviors.

The economic ‘system’ you think needs deep changes is already capable of changing itself. Prices provide compressed information about all the factors involved in production and services and… well… everything we buy and sell. Prices WILL move as climate impacts arrive. If you want to go past TWODA, consider what can be done to influences prices and USE the system instead of fighting it. If you fight, you won’t win. If you use it, we might.

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion | I had a whole page response worked up with bits and pieces of CA history, economic theory, and personal preferences. Upon review, though, I’m pretty sure Dunning-Kruger applies to me in a potentially embarrassing way, so I’ve tossed it all in the trash. It would be fun to go a few rounds as I might learn something, but right now I’ll limit my claim (and try to defeat a Dunning-Kruger flaw) to knowing a little bit of the wholesale electricity market from the perspective of an IT guy that was trained by a motivated employer. It is fun to learn, but I’ll bow to your view and consider adopting your calendar phases as a replacement for mine. 8)

I’ll also accept your view about utilities failing in the initial model being beaten by people focused on efficiency. My understanding of utilities as renters of credit comes from a bit of investment history post WWI. Utilities that provided the infrastructure for the immigrant waves arriving had customers and very rich men simply weren’t rich enough to do what history shows was done.

What I will say is I pay less attention to the actions of rich guys and more to the actions of smaller rich guys and families. Cities are generally born from towns which are born from local needs usually related to trade and the associated infrastructure. The roads, ports, warehouses, homes, commercial buildings, water supply, sewage, and countless other bits and pieces cost hideously large sums of money if one adds them up. They start small for towns at crossroads, but get incrementally pushed if there is excess capital in the region and a need for infrastructure. Take a blank map of the US and draw in where the cities are with populations over 1 million and you’ll see where the excess capital WAS by looking into the fields around them. If you can’t see the shape of the Greater Mississippi River basin on the map, start to include cities with populations over 100K. These places were not built by a few very rich men. They were built by many, many smaller rich men and not until those men and their families arrived.

This ties back closely to my views on immigration. When population expands, the economy does too simply because they bring economic activity with them. Piketty rightly pointed out that a high population growth rate makes old money far less effective at controlling the majority of income from economic growth. Rents can’t keep up with what people can make serving all the new people. If those people are ALSO innovators, growth per capita occurs and then the lid really comes off the pot. California is perfectly situated. We are a crossroad. We have more people than a lot of nations do. We have a significant amount of human capital here and the infrastructure for growing that. And… we are pretty damn rich. We are better off being what we really are and it seems likely the world will be too.

sociotard said...

Regarding Elon Musk:

Is this an area where you would be willing to make a wager?

Because the question isn't "Is Elon Musk tackling important problems", but rather, is he going to win. In particular, can Elon Musk overcome challenges in production and cost reduction to actually sell his electric cars for the same price as a Ford Taurus? Can he do so before his investors decide he can't, pull funding, and his research funding desiccates completely?

Alfred Differ said...

Why would he try to sell at the same price as a Taurus?

sociotard said...

I suspect because that is a middle class car, not a rich person car, and right now all the Teslas are really for rich people.

I wasn't the one who came up with the Taurus target. Musk did.

Okay, he was trying to say sell it so it would be comparable to a Taurus, amortized with fuel costs over 7 years. Fine. The point stands that he wants to make a middle-class affordable car, and he just isn't there. He's also missed most of his target dates.

Alfred Differ said...

Okay. That makes sense now. I admit I don't watch what Tesla does all that much except to be amused at the people who can't decide if it is a car company or a software company. Investors are split on that.

He may fail some day and fall like other giants, but I know too many people who would enjoy seeing it to believe them much when they make predictions.

As for wagers, I think the stock market already provides a way to do it. If you think he will succeed/fall, buy calls/puts. Get your timing right, though. Personally, I don't have a good feel for the odds, so I don't play with those options.

David Brin said...

okay guys. fun is fun.

But onward


duncan cairncross said...

Hi sociotard

Re-Musk - He has done it! - his Type 3 at $35,000 is equivalent to a Taurus + 7 years fuel AND he will be making better margin than Ford ever did

Once the volumes get up there EV's are going to be cheaper to make than IC cars - and that is before you talk about the reduced cost of ownership

Musk's targets are aspirational - they will never be met but they drive excellent performance

I believe that he has actually achieved his goal - EV's are now seen as inevitable - Tesla has done it's "world saving" (or at least contributing to world saving) and now can develop into a high end high profit company with the Chinese and Indians making the bottom end vehicles

It is going to take 10 years to get the production volumes up but inside of five years an EV will be "obvious" choice for anybody wanting a new car

donzelion said...

Alfred: "but I’ll bow to your view and consider adopting your calendar phases as a replacement for mine."
I'm mostly theorizing, not advancing a coherent view just yet.

"What I will say is I pay less attention to the actions of rich guys and more to the actions of smaller rich guys and families."
I find the interactions fascinating: rich guys tend to deal with 'smaller rich guys' more often than with the 'other big fish,' sometimes predation, more often, mutually beneficial trade.

"California is perfectly situated. We are a crossroad."
Concur, but what that means depends on when we look: California of the transcontinental railroad was very different from the post-Panama Canal era, and different in turn from the trans-Pacific era.

"Rents can’t keep up with what people can make serving all the new people."
That really depends on the relative value of undeveloped land, transit systems, and work structures. NYC was as much a city of immigrants as CA in each of the eras we're discussing (even the post WW2 era, though to a much lesser extent). Rents (including stores) remained the principal means of amassing wealth for most of the 'small rich' (and many of the 'large rich') in each era; not quite so much in CA.