OPEC is no longer an Apex Predator

59 minutes ago, BenFranklin'sSpectacles said:

If I understand correctly, you're arguing that the falling cost of solar panels and wind turbines guarantees they'll dominate the electrical grid.  I would argue that generation mix is determined by total system cost, and total system cost increases dramatically beyond some small % of renewables in your system.  In more detail: 

The cost of solar panels and wind turbines will continue to fall for some time, eventually reaching some lower limit.  That much is undeniable.  I don't think that's a relevant question though.  Total system cost also includes:
1)  Transmission lines
2)  Energy storage
3)  Equipment to handle rapidly varying production
4)  Backup generation
5)  Outages

Hydro is a relatively steady source of energy (barring drought), but its potential has mostly been tapped.  It will not increase substantially. 

Wind is intermittent.  We can incorporate a certain amount into the grid w/o increasing other costs, but we're fast approaching the limit.  Nations that have incorporated high percentages of wind power have seen electricity prices increase dramatically.  E.g. Germany.  Those nations also rely on importing base load generation from their neighbors, so on top of costs spiraling out of control, they haven't accomplished what they've claimed to accomplish. 

Solar is interesting in that, in hot, sunny regions, it generates power when that power is needed for cooling loads.  There are limits to this though.  CA is already suffering from the "duck curve".  I could explain the consequences of that in more detail, but the important point is that solar becomes significantly more expensive beyond some small fraction of total generation. 

Like solar, storage can lower costs in certain niche applications.  E.g. incorporating storage into substations can reduce peak loads on transmission lines, reducing the cost of transmission infrastructure.  Also like solar, this only applies to a small fraction of cases.  If we want to run most of a grid off renewables, significant storage becomes necessary.  At that point, it doesn't matter if renewables are free; the storage alone would cost more than the current price of electricity. 

It's been argued that these costs will fall forever, but they won't.  The lower limit is the cost of mining, processing, transporting, and installing necessary equipment.  Since renewables require something like 10X the weight of material as other power sources (not including fuel), these costs are substantial.  It's also been argued that a global grid could stabilize production, but again, that would be prohibitively expensive.  On top of building the global grid, you must build 2-5X as many turbines/panels to ensure some of them are always operating. 

Basically, any renewable system we've envisioned runs into a brick wall of high costs.  It's theoretically possible that renewables could win in the end, but I haven't seen a viable path to that outcome. 

If you have enough electric vehicles plugged in they can act as storage devices to buffer demand.  When everyone gets home from work they plug in their car and instead of it charging right away it actually dumps power into the grid for the high demand hours around dinnertime. Likewise if you plug in at work it can charge during peak solar hours.

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14 hours ago, D Coyne said:

Jan,

What price for your gasoline will be needed to make the operation profitable?

Unknown at this point, of course, but I speculate it will come in at about $1.10 or$1.15 a US gallon.

That would be for 100 octane. You could also sell it as a substitute for 100LL aircraft gasoline, which typically is selling at around six bucks a gallon at the airfield pump. 

Edited by Jan van Eck

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10 hours ago, Enthalpic said:

If you have enough electric vehicles plugged in they can act as storage devices to buffer demand.  When everyone gets home from work they plug in their car and instead of it charging right away it actually dumps power into the grid for the high demand hours around dinnertime. Likewise if you plug in at work it can charge during peak solar hours.

Except, of course, when it snows, and all you Canadians are busy turning on your full-length embedded driveway melters so you don't actually have to go out and shovel the stuff.  That will seriously drain the grid, so then when you get up out of bed in the morning. all your car batteries will be flattened.  Oh, well. We tried. 

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17 hours ago, Enthalpic said:

If you have enough electric vehicles plugged in they can act as storage devices to buffer demand.  When everyone gets home from work they plug in their car and instead of it charging right away it actually dumps power into the grid for the high demand hours around dinnertime. Likewise if you plug in at work it can charge during peak solar hours. 

And how much will the wear & tear on millions of car batteries cost?  How much to upgrade vehicles, install chargers, and create the network to manage all this?  Your solution still involves massive R&D followed by massive capital expenditure.  You also haven't solved:
1)  The need to install 2-5X as many renewable generators to account for the ones that aren't producing.
2)  The need for backup generation to handle long periods of no wind/sun.  E.g. when it snows, rains, etc.

Your system might work in some hot/dry climates, but it will still be more expensive than natural gas, coal, and nuclear. 

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23 hours ago, BenFranklin'sSpectacles said:

If I understand correctly, you're arguing that the falling cost of solar panels and wind turbines guarantees they'll dominate the electrical grid.  I would argue that generation mix is determined by total system cost, and total system cost increases dramatically beyond some small % of renewables in your system.  In more detail: 

The cost of solar panels and wind turbines will continue to fall for some time, eventually reaching some lower limit.  That much is undeniable.  I don't think that's a relevant question though.  Total system cost also includes:
1)  Transmission lines
2)  Energy storage
3)  Equipment to handle rapidly varying production
4)  Backup generation
5)  Outages

Hydro is a relatively steady source of energy (barring drought), but its potential has mostly been tapped.  It will not increase substantially. 

Wind is intermittent.  We can incorporate a certain amount into the grid w/o increasing other costs, but we're fast approaching the limit.  Nations that have incorporated high percentages of wind power have seen electricity prices increase dramatically.  E.g. Germany.  Those nations also rely on importing base load generation from their neighbors, so on top of costs spiraling out of control, they haven't accomplished what they've claimed to accomplish. 

Solar is interesting in that, in hot, sunny regions, it generates power when that power is needed for cooling loads.  There are limits to this though.  CA is already suffering from the "duck curve".  I could explain the consequences of that in more detail, but the important point is that solar becomes significantly more expensive beyond some small fraction of total generation. 

Like solar, storage can lower costs in certain niche applications.  E.g. incorporating storage into substations can reduce peak loads on transmission lines, reducing the cost of transmission infrastructure.  Also like solar, this only applies to a small fraction of cases.  If we want to run most of a grid off renewables, significant storage becomes necessary.  At that point, it doesn't matter if renewables are free; the storage alone would cost more than the current price of electricity. 

It's been argued that these costs will fall forever, but they won't.  The lower limit is the cost of mining, processing, transporting, and installing necessary equipment.  Since renewables require something like 10X the weight of material as other power sources (not including fuel), these costs are substantial.  It's also been argued that a global grid could stabilize production, but again, that would be prohibitively expensive.  On top of building the global grid, you must build 2-5X as many turbines/panels to ensure some of them are always operating. 

Basically, any renewable system we've envisioned runs into a brick wall of high costs.  It's theoretically possible that renewables could win in the end, but I haven't seen a viable path to that outcome. 

Hi Ben,

 

Can fossil fuel power plants generate electricity without fuel?  If not then the cost and weight of the fuel should not be ignored.

A highly interconnected system of wind and solar power requires very little backup or storage,  the system is overbuilt to about 2 to 3 times average load and about 90 to 99% of load hours can be covered by wind and solar at low cost.

See for example

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378775312014759

We model many combinations of renewable electricity sources (inland wind, offshore wind, and photovoltaics) with electrochemical storage (batteries and fuel cells), incorporated into a large grid system (72 GW). The purpose is twofold: 1) although a single renewable generator at one site produces intermittent power, we seek combinations of diverse renewables at diverse sites, with storage, that are not intermittent and satisfy need a given fraction of hours. And 2) we seek minimal cost, calculating true cost of electricity without subsidies and with inclusion of external costs. Our model evaluated over 28 billion combinations of renewables and storage, each tested over 35,040 h (four years) of load and weather data. We find that the least cost solutions yield seemingly-excessive generation capacity—at times, almost three times the electricity needed to meet electrical load. This is because diverse renewable generation and the excess capacity together meet electric load with less storage, lowering total system cost. At 2030 technology costs and with excess electricity displacing natural gas, we find that the electric system can be powered 90%–99.9% of hours entirely on renewable electricity, at costs comparable to today's—but only if we optimize the mix of generation and storage technologies.

Another paper on renewable energy

http://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/Others/BeckerEnergy14.pdf

 

Edited by D Coyne

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On 5/11/2019 at 1:01 AM, Jan van Eck said:

Except, of course, when it snows, and all you Canadians are busy turning on your full-length embedded driveway melters so you don't actually have to go out and shovel the stuff.  That will seriously drain the grid, so then when you get up out of bed in the morning. all your car batteries will be flattened.  Oh, well. We tried. 

That runs off natural gas. :)

Edited by Enthalpic

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16 hours ago, BenFranklin'sSpectacles said:

And how much will the wear & tear on millions of car batteries cost?  How much to upgrade vehicles, install chargers, and create the network to manage all this?  Your solution still involves massive R&D followed by massive capital expenditure.  You also haven't solved:
1)  The need to install 2-5X as many renewable generators to account for the ones that aren't producing.
2)  The need for backup generation to handle long periods of no wind/sun.  E.g. when it snows, rains, etc.

Your system might work in some hot/dry climates, but it will still be more expensive than natural gas, coal, and nuclear. 

Tesla is pretty far along on that front, but yes, there would need to be some advancement - like the utilities need a way of broadcasting its instructions based on production and demand.  People could opt in or out but they could likely save a bunch of money on their power bill if they cooperated and the utilities were fair.

I'm sure you know that large electricity users' electricity rates are based on their peak demand at any given time and is applied to the entire billing cycle; this gives large consumers a great incentive to have a least a little bit of on-site storage. ***

Likewise very large consumers have deals with the utilities to help buffer demand (aka. quickly shut down to prevent a brownout or quickly load up to prevent overproduction).  Electrolysis could run like crazy during peak sun/wind hours.

The "Internet of things" like wifi connected AC units, ovens, etc could also help a lot by not using electricity simultaneously whenever possible during high demand.

*** A disgruntled employee at large oil-sand facility recently turned on 4 very large fans at the same (instead of the instructed-one-at-a-time) and it reportedly cost them an enormous amount of money.  He was promptly fired as they knew it was no accident.

Edited by Enthalpic

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Looks like OAPEC (Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries) may replace OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) as APEX due to OPEC's Iran and Venezuela being under U.S. sanctions.  It also plays out that the major OAPEC and also OPEC producer Saudi Arabia still benefits one way or the other.   

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23 hours ago, D Coyne said:

Hi Ben,

 

Can fossil fuel power plants generate electricity without fuel?  If not then the cost and weight of the fuel should not be ignored.

A highly interconnected system of wind and solar power requires very little backup or storage,  the system is overbuilt to about 2 to 3 times average load and about 90 to 99% of load hours can be covered by wind and solar at low cost.

See for example 

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378775312014759

We model many combinations of renewable electricity sources (inland wind, offshore wind, and photovoltaics) with electrochemical storage (batteries and fuel cells), incorporated into a large grid system (72 GW). The purpose is twofold: 1) although a single renewable generator at one site produces intermittent power, we seek combinations of diverse renewables at diverse sites, with storage, that are not intermittent and satisfy need a given fraction of hours. And 2) we seek minimal cost, calculating true cost of electricity without subsidies and with inclusion of external costs. Our model evaluated over 28 billion combinations of renewables and storage, each tested over 35,040 h (four years) of load and weather data. We find that the least cost solutions yield seemingly-excessive generation capacity—at times, almost three times the electricity needed to meet electrical load. This is because diverse renewable generation and the excess capacity together meet electric load with less storage, lowering total system cost. At 2030 technology costs and with excess electricity displacing natural gas, we find that the electric system can be powered 90%–99.9% of hours entirely on renewable electricity, at costs comparable to today's—but only if we optimize the mix of generation and storage technologies.

Another paper on renewable energy

http://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/Others/BeckerEnergy14.pdf

Fossil fuels - coal in particular - have already proven they're a low-cost source of energy.  I'm not concerned about the cost of fuel because it's a known quantity.  The cost of commodities like concrete, steel, and aluminum have also been well established.  My point in mentioning the materials involved in renewables is to illustrate that their cost will hit a floor - just like every other well-developed technology.  We can't count on perpetual decreases. 

The question is, "Where will that floor occur?"  Building renewables out to 2-3X average load + transmission lines + grid upgrades + storage + backup generation is going to be expensive.  Attempts thus far have failed to deliver on their low-cost promises.  With that track record of failure, I'll need to see success before I believe it. 

As for your linked articles, those are wonderful exercises in mental gymnastics.  I've seen enough of academia's work to not believe a thing they say.  What do the professional engineers say?  What do the people in the field say?  What is actually being implemented?  Specifically, we need to talk to the people who:
1)  Design these systems for a living
2)  Stake their careers on being correct in the real world - not just on paper

If you can present an argument based on real systems, I'll take this seriously.  Otherwise, I'm not interested.  I don't have time for academia's corrupt, wishful thinking. 

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18 hours ago, Enthalpic said:

Tesla is pretty far along on that front, but yes, there would need to be some advancement - like the utilities need a way of broadcasting its instructions based on production and demand.  People could opt in or out but they could likely save a bunch of money on their power bill if they cooperated and the utilities were fair. 

I'm sure you know that large electricity users' electricity rates are based on their peak demand at any given time and is applied to the entire billing cycle; this gives large consumers a great incentive to have a least a little bit of on-site storage. ***

Likewise very large consumers have deals with the utilities to help buffer demand (aka. quickly shut down to prevent a brownout or quickly load up to prevent overproduction).  Electrolysis could run like crazy during peak sun/wind hours.

The "Internet of things" like wifi connected AC units, ovens, etc could also help a lot by not using electricity simultaneously whenever possible during high demand.

*** A disgruntled employee at large oil-sand facility recently turned on 4 very large fans at the same (instead of the instructed-one-at-a-time) and it reportedly cost them an enormous amount of money.  He was promptly fired as they knew it was no accident.

Yes, these are all things that can be done.  They're also things that cost.  Some cost money; others cost time and convenience.  Your proposals, in order:
1)  Fluctuating electricity rates from renewables increases the need for on-site peaking plants and storage.  This doesn't reduce total system costs; it merely hides costs by transferring them to customers.  It probably increases costs: the wholesale price of electricity will not decrease, but businesses will be forced to make capital expenditures.  That's not an improvement. 
2)  Electrolysis and other chemical processes are most economical when run at a high capacity factor.  If your electrolysis equipment is sitting idle half the time, the hydrogen it produces costs more.  That doesn't lower total system cost; it merely hides the cost. 
3)  Turning off devices during high demand doesn't maintain low costs for the same service.  It merely forces customers to accept a lower-quality service.  I don't want my oven to shut off while I'm making dinner; I need that to be ready on schedule.  I don't want my AC to turn off when it gets hot outside; that lowers my quality of life.  I don't want my washing machine to suddenly stop mid-load; I need the laundry to be done on time so I can go to bed on time.  No, I'm not going to leave my clothes in the wash overnight.  That's how you get mold & mildew.  Turning off devices doesn't lower costs.  It merely hides costs by forcing customers to spend time, attention, and money solving intermittency problems. 

Now that I think about it, every proposal for wide-scale renewables has been a scheme to force Someone Else to foot the bill.  The ideas promoting renewables are simplistic and self-serving.  Coming from allegedly intelligent, credentialed people, that seems disingenuous.  Or maybe they're not as intelligent as they think.  Either way, it's getting irritating.  It might be time to lump renewables advocates in with used car salesmen, politicians, and other dishonest groups. 

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4 hours ago, BenFranklin'sSpectacles said:

 

"businesses will be forced to make capital expenditures.  That's not an improvement."

"If your electrolysis equipment is sitting idle half the time, the hydrogen it produces costs more." 

3)  Turning off devices during high demand doesn't maintain low costs for the same service.  It merely forces customers to accept a lower-quality service.  I don't want my oven to shut off while I'm making dinner; I need that to be ready on schedule.  I don't want my AC to turn off when it gets hot outside; that lowers my quality of life.  I don't want my washing machine to suddenly stop mid-load; I need the laundry to be done on time so I can go to bed on time.  No, I'm not going to leave my clothes in the wash overnight.  That's how you get mold & mildew.  Turning off devices doesn't lower costs.  It merely hides costs by forcing customers to spend time, attention, and money solving intermittency problems. 

 

 

Costs are always transferred to consumers, but some of my proposals should actually save the consumer money if the utilities were fair and/or regulated. Capital expenditures should be offset by operational savings. 

Nobody in their right mind makes hydrogen by electrolysis unless it is a byproduct; partial oxidation of natural gas is far more profitable if you want H. I was talking about metal refining and/or coating.

The way you put it makes it sound horrible but that is just poor implementation.  Things can be done that are essentially blind to the consumer.  Ever notice that when your oven is "on" it actually flickers on and off the heating element?  My air conditioner and fridge also flicker on and off their compressors.  If all of the appliances could "talk" they could minimize the amount of time that they are simultaneously in a high draw state.  What if the AC unit "overcooled" your place just a bit right before you arrived home (when all that damn extra solar power is available) so that it could take a short break while you warm up your supper?

Even my old school dishwasher has a delay setting so it turns on in the middle of the night (for noise purposes... but whatever).

Many electric devices have huge "startup loads" and then run fairly efficiently; for example an inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer draws almost 50 Amp while lighting the plasma but then less than 15A during operation. A 5s delay between two high-load startup devices wouldn't be noticeable to the consumer.

Ideally we would have unlimited energy at all times - that will never be a reality. 

Edited by Enthalpic

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1 hour ago, BenFranklin'sSpectacles said:

 

Now that I think about it, every proposal for wide-scale renewables has been a scheme to force Someone Else to foot the bill. 

Fossil fuels are based around the idea of someone else footing the bill. 

Air pollution (PM 2.5) levels are directly correlated with emergency room visits for respiratory problems. 

Numerous oil based chemicals are carcinogenic.

Bankrupt oil companies dump all their problems on tax payers for cleanup... or in the case of large spills you get people volunteering to wash oiled birds out of compassion.

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2 hours ago, BenFranklin'sSpectacles said:

If you can present an argument based on real systems, I'll take this seriously.  Otherwise, I'm not interested.  I don't have time for academia's corrupt, wishful thinking. 

You know that engineers are academia right? Like they have their own faculty at most universities.

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19 hours ago, Enthalpic said:

You know that engineers are academia right? Like they have their own faculty at most universities. 

I studied engineering and worked in industry as an engineer.  Academia is a dumping ground for the incompetent.  Most of the papers they produce are garbage; I certainly wouldn't trust them to design anything. 

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19 hours ago, Enthalpic said:

Fossil fuels are based around the idea of someone else footing the bill. 

Air pollution (PM 2.5) levels are directly correlated with emergency room visits for respiratory problems. 

Numerous oil based chemicals are carcinogenic.

Bankrupt oil companies dump all their problems on tax payers for cleanup... or in the case of large spills you get people volunteering to wash oiled birds out of compassion. 

Correlation is not causation - a fact academia regularly forgets. 

Many things are carcinogenic.  The key is to handle chemicals properly - something the vast majority of workers I've encountered fail to do.  I've no sympathy for people who belligerently refuse to follow instructions. 

The government writes environmental regulations, and industry follows them.  If bankrupt companies are abandoning pollution, that's not a failure of industry; it's a failure of government.  Where's your blame for the regulators? 

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On 5/12/2019 at 2:43 PM, Enthalpic said:

 

Costs are always transferred to consumers, but some of my proposals should actually save the consumer money if the utilities were fair and/or regulated. Capital expenditures should be offset by operational savings. 

Nobody in their right mind makes hydrogen by electrolysis unless it is a byproduct; partial oxidation of natural gas is far more profitable if you want H. I was talking about metal refining and/or coating.

The way you put it makes it sound horrible but that is just poor implementation.  Things can be done that are essentially blind to the consumer.  Ever notice that when your oven is "on" it actually flickers on and off the heating element?  My air conditioner and fridge also flicker on and off their compressors.  If all of the appliances could "talk" they could minimize the amount of time that they are simultaneously in a high draw state.  What if the AC unit "overcooled" your place just a bit right before you arrived home (when all that damn extra solar power is available) so that it could take a short break while you warm up your supper?

Even my old school dishwasher has a delay setting so it turns on in the middle of the night (for noise purposes... but whatever). 

Many electric devices have huge "startup loads" and then run fairly efficiently; for example an inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer draws almost 50 Amp while lighting the plasma but then less than 15A during operation. A 5s delay between two high-load startup devices wouldn't be noticeable to the consumer.

 Ideally we would have unlimited energy at all times - that will never be a reality.  

The operant word here is "should".  That's notably distinct from "will".

Electricity markets consist of millions of devices connected to the same grid.  Peak demand does not occur because a handful of devices coincide for a few seconds; it occurs because the average consumption of millions of devices is high for several hours.  The only way to manage that demand is to shut off large numbers of devices simultaneously and keep them off for extended periods.  Shifting the startup of a motor by 5 seconds won't work.  Your proposal certainly won't help when entire wind/solar farms go offline for hours/days at a time.  Likewise, the fridge isn't going to stay cool for 1-2 hours.  It needs to run on a regular schedule to keep foods at their proper temperatures.  You're also ignoring the cost, complexity, and risk of shackling these loads to the internet.  Your proposal is both expensive and of dubious value. 

I suspect your next argument will be that we can redesign these devices to work with such a system.  We could.  Or we could redesign them to be more efficient, which would actually save money without the cost, complexity, cybersecurity risks, and privacy issues. 

The renewable advocate's mantra is "It can be done!"  Perhaps - but why bother when there's so much low-hanging fruit?  Instead of cramming unproven technology down people's throats, let's let the markets operate.  Private corporations will develop promising technologies, and utilities will implement them.  Over time, we'll see renewables, storage, and demand management implemented where they make sense.  When a true external cost is identified (E.g. mercury emissions from coal plants), regulation can tell private industry to fix it, letting the market work out exactly how to accomplish that. 

The markets work; let's just let them happen. 

Edited by BenFranklin'sSpectacles
Phrasing.
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On 5/12/2019 at 8:11 PM, BenFranklin'sSpectacles said:

Now that I think about it, every proposal for wide-scale renewables has been a scheme to force Someone Else to foot the bill.  The ideas promoting renewables are simplistic and self-serving.  Coming from allegedly intelligent, credentialed people, that seems disingenuous.  Or maybe they're not as intelligent as they think.  Either way, it's getting irritating.  It might be time to lump renewables advocates in with used car salesmen, politicians, and other dishonest groups. 

I have read most of your posts with interest and atleast partly agreed. However, above is simply in-correct. A favourite topic on this forum is how much money the US has spent keeping relative peace in the ME to secure access to cheap oil. If that is not a subsidy I do not know what is... Imagine where renewables would be if oil was USD 200 / bbl

Edited by Rasmus Jorgensen

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42 minutes ago, Rasmus Jorgensen said:

I have read most of your posts with interest and atleast partly agreed. However, above is simply in-correct. A favourite topic on this forum is how much money the US has spent keeping relative peace in the ME to secure access to cheap oil. If that is not a subsidy I do not know what is... Imagine where renewables would be if oil was USD 200 / bbl

America got into this devil's bargain during the Nixon administration when the massive dislocation caused by Nixon dumping the gold standard was having repercussions around the world. Kissinger figured out the next most valuable thing besides gold was oil. He cut a deal with the sheiks guaranteeing their survival in exchange for them guaranteeing to monetize all their oil transactions denominated in US dollars. This means that even if Germany is buying oil from UAE, they have to purchase dollars first. The value of the petrodollars to the US economy cannot be overstated. It has unilaterally established the dollar as the world Reserve currency and funded our many excesses for decades. Well worth the paltry sum we spend on defense and (in politicians' eyes) the blood of our youth. 

If the price in dollars for oil gets too high, I'm confident our politicians will come up with some harebrained scheme to make things worse.   ;)

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2 minutes ago, Rasmus Jorgensen said:

I have read most of your posts with interest and atleast partly agreed. However, above is simply in-correct. A favourite topic on this forum is how much money the US has spent keeping relative peace in the ME to secure access to cheap oil. If that is not a subsidy I do not know what is... Imagine where renewables would be if oil was USD 200 / bbl

If oil shot to $200/bbl, electricity prices - and the renewables that depend on those prices - would decline.  It sounds counter intuitive, but that's how economies of scale work in electricity markets. 

First, we need to talk about the oil subsidies you mentioned, which are emotionally compelling and irrelevant.  Here's why:  the significant links between oil prices and electricity prices have been severed: 
1)  Electricity generation from oil was replaced by coal, nuclear, and natural gas after the first oil crisis.  Oil-fired generation is now irrelevant.  Why did this happen?  Because coal, nuclear, and natural gas are cheap & plentiful. 
2)  Natural gas prices recently decoupled from oil prices.
This implies that oil subsidies have little/nothing to do with electricity.  I.e. oil subsidies are not germane to this conversation. 

The remaining question is, "What effect - if any - would rising oil prices have on electricity prices?"  The only link is transportation, which would electrify faster.  Of note: that's not an immediate price spike like we see in oil; it's a minor effect that plays out over decades.  To answer our question in more detail, we must know something about electricity markets.  Coal, nuclear, and natural gas benefit from economies of scale.  I.e. using more of them substantially decreases their cost:
1)  R&D, overhead, etc are spread over larger fleets of assets
2)  Existing assets achieve higher average capacity factors
3)  Utilities construct larger, more advanced (read: cheaper) plants
4)  Greater potential profits drive innovation
5)  Larger fleets and interconnected grids decrease the relative cost of reserve generation
6)  Etc.

You get the picture.  We have decades/centuries of natural gas reserves, centuries of coal reserves, and millenia of nuclear reserves.  Thus, unlike oil, electricity has no foreseeable supply crunch to spike prices.  When electrical base-load increases, economies of scale dominate.  Base-load costs will decline. 

Nuclear would be the greatest benefactor of high oil prices.  The existing nuclear fleet is a gaggle of primitive, expensive, relatively dangerous, one-of-a-kind plants.  Construction of nuclear halted before anything approximating standardization, economies of scale, or advanced technology could be implemented.  In a world with rising electricity demand, unprecedentedly large markets, smooth demand curves, and cheap storage, nuclear would hit its stride. 

To illustrate that point: where there's sufficient base-load, you can run 4-8 identical 1400+ MW reactors at a single site.  These reactors can burn advanced fuel that goes 2-5 years between refuelings, enabling 95+% capacity factors.  In that scenario, the current $0.02/kWh might drop to $0.01-$0.015/kWh - remarkably close to the maligned "too cheap to meter" prediction.  Throw in advanced reactor designs, and it gets even cheaper.  That's reliable, base-load generation without the inconvenience, additional grid investment, backup generation, and land that renewables require.  The bottom line: where there's sufficient base-load, renewables can't compete.  Without government intervention in both the nuclear and renewable markets, renewables would remain a niche application. 

Will we see the requisite 24/7 base-load?  Yes.  The combination of cheap storage, electrified transportation, a world that never sleeps, and advancing technology will level the demand curve.  There are three major categories of load fluctuation; all three will be affected: 
1)  Seasonal.  E.g. the US Midwest uses electric air conditioners in the summer, but nat gas/propane heating in the Winter.  This causes a Summer spike.  The spread of heat pumps,efficient buildings, etc will dampen the seasonal demand curve. 
2)  Weekly.  A culture that rested on Sunday used less electricity on Sunday.  We now live in a world of automated factories running 24/7, cities that never sleep, non-standard work schedules, and improving efficiency.  Weekend demand will rise to match weekday demand. 
3)  Daily.  Afternoon cooling loads, evening cooking, morning showers, businesses turning the lights on, etc.  The lowest demand always occurs at night, with various fluctuations throughout the day.  With the aforementioned changes, daily fluctuations will be dampened. 

Now let's add grid storage, which is being specified to handle 1-4 hour peaks.  This is enough to affect daily peaks.  Natural gas peaking plants merely shave peaks.  Storage shaves peaks and shifts that demand to the trough.  I.e. storage raises the floor, creating more opportunity for base-load generation.  That benefits coal, nuclear, and natural gas far more than it benefits renewables. 

Now let's add electrified transportation, which has two components:
1)  Commercial vehicles, which might run 24/7.  Some commercial vehicle schedules could be optimized to charge during demand troughs throughout the day.  E.g. autonomous taxis.  Others could plug into a depot at night, filling the nightly trough.  There's no need to build expensive, risky infrastructure to coordinate charging.  You simply schedule follow a schedule.  That gives businesses the predictability their operations demand. 
2)  Consumer vehicles.  These will fill whatever nightly trough remains. 

When you add all of this up, you get a remarkably smooth demand curve - and that without the expense, privacy invasion, and risk of networked devices.  The smoothing demand curve favors coal and nuclear.  I'll be surprised if renewables make headway beyond the most favorable niches. 

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1 hour ago, Ward Smith said:

America got into this devil's bargain during the Nixon administration when the massive dislocation caused by Nixon dumping the gold standard was having repercussions around the world. Kissinger figured out the next most valuable thing besides gold was oil. He cut a deal with the sheiks guaranteeing their survival in exchange for them guaranteeing to monetize all their oil transactions denominated in US dollars. This means that even if Germany is buying oil from UAE, they have to purchase dollars first. The value of the petrodollars to the US economy cannot be overstated. It has unilaterally established the dollar as the world Reserve currency and funded our many excesses for decades. Well worth the paltry sum we spend on defense and (in politicians' eyes) the blood of our youth. 

If the price in dollars for oil gets too high, I'm confident our politicians will come up with some harebrained scheme to make things worse.   ;)

Point taken, but I'd like to clarify one point: the petrodollar is good for the American elites, who find deficit spending profitable.  It has not been good for the workers and producers who have seen the value of their products and wages decrease.  I'd argue America would have been better off in a less-secure strategic position.  When the elites face existential risk, they tend to take better care of those who sustain their economy and fight their wars. 

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(edited)

7 hours ago, BenFranklin'sSpectacles said:

Correlation is not causation - a fact academia regularly forgets. 

Many things are carcinogenic.  The key is to handle chemicals properly - something the vast majority of workers I've encountered fail to do.  I've no sympathy for people who belligerently refuse to follow instructions. 

The government writes environmental regulations, and industry follows them.  If bankrupt companies are abandoning pollution, that's not a failure of industry; it's a failure of government.  Where's your blame for the regulators? 

Yes I'm well aware; but in this case the PM 2.5 goes up and then the ER visits increase - there is evidence of causality.  It is so well known that the health risk is included in weather reports.  https://weather.gc.ca/airquality/pages/abaq-001_e.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=PM+2.5+lung

Dumping them into the air is "handling properly" according to some.  In some cases that may be true if very far from houses etc.

The regulators are improving but we are still cleaning up stuff from the time where we mistakenly trusted the industry promises. Don't worry I never run out of blame. :)

 

Edited by Enthalpic

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(edited)

6 hours ago, BenFranklin'sSpectacles said:

 

The renewable advocate's mantra is "It can be done!"  Perhaps - but why bother when there's so much low-hanging fruit?

The markets work; let's just let them happen. 

 

The markets work to maximize profits for the rich, not necessarily saving the world or benefiting mankind.

"Why bother?" because what we are doing is screwing everything up!  Even if you don't believe in anthropogenic climate change you should at least accept that burning stuff causes pollution. If not, please operate a charcoal hibachi indoors.

 

Edited by Enthalpic

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6 hours ago, BenFranklin'sSpectacles said:

I suspect your next argument will be that we can redesign these devices to work with such a system.  We could.  Or we could redesign them to be more efficient, which would actually save money without the cost, complexity, cybersecurity risks, and privacy issues

 

Privacy is long gone.  Everyone has a internet connected computer in their pocket. The "internet of things" is already happening... your appliances can already talk to save energy.

https://www.lg.com/us/support/connect-your-wifi-appliances-with-lg-smart-thinq

 

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Flow batteries are easy to scale up and can buffer demand. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanadium_redox_battery

" The main advantages of the vanadium redox battery are that it can offer almost unlimited energy capacity simply by using larger electrolyte storage tanks ...

Other useful properties of vanadium flow batteries are their very fast response to changing loads and their extremely large overload capacities. Studies by the University of New South Wales have shown that they can achieve a response time of under half a millisecond for a 100% load change, and allowed overloads of as much as 400% for 10 seconds. "

 

Edited by Enthalpic
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