A Free-Market Energy Blog

James Hansen: Still More Good Energy Realism (just ignore his climate alarmism, world fee-and-dividend fix)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- March 18, 2014

“Hansen has distain for all-hat, no-cattle renewables, was the subject of two recent MasterResource posts: Is the Environmental Movement Net CO2 Positive? (James Hansen wants to know) and Energy Realism Amid Climate Alarmism: James Hansen Rides Again. It is nuclear or bust, if it is not already bust, according to Hansen’s energy math.” – Robert Bradley, “Game, Set, Match Fossil Fuels? James Hansen Sleepless in Ningbo,” March 13, 2014.

James Hansen continues to speak energy truth to Environmental Power about the primary of fossil fuels; the need for affordable, plentiful, reliable energy;  and the dead-end, the distraction, of renewable-energy forcing and mandated energy conservation. Here are some contributions to the energy reality debate from his March 13th testimony at the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing, Keystone XL and the National Interest Determination:

“I am sorry that we scientists have not done an adequate job of communicating energy facts.” (p.3)

“Non-hydro renewables provide only a tiny fraction of global energy and do not appear capable of satisfying the large energy requirements of developing nations such as China and India.” (p. 6)

China’s Turn to Develop

“Fossil fuels are the dominant energy source globally because they are, or appear to be, the cheapest energy.” (p. 3) “It is inappropriate and an insult to go to China and tell them to work harder on renewables and energy efficiency.” (p. 5) “We also should not expect China to use renewable energy for base-load electricity.” (p. 5) ”[Developing countries] have the right to develop, to aspire to a better life. Thomas Jefferson posited ‘pursuit of happiness’, after life and liberty, as one of the most fundamental human rights, the human rights that Americans decided to fight for. That specific right implies a right to develop. Development requires energy.” (p. 3) “Developing countries need energy to lift their people out of poverty, just as developed countries did. Affordable energy is important as a matter of justice, but also to bring global population under control. As countries develop and poverty declines, so do birth rates, which is important so that we leave room on the planet for all the other species whose eco-services we depend upon.” (p. 3)

Ivanpah Solar Farm vs. Westinghouse Nuclear

“We also should not expect China to use renewable energy for base-load electricity. We just completed a solar power plant, Ivanpah, near the Nevada-California border on public land provided free. Ivanpah cost $2.2B and it covers five square miles (about 13 square kilometers). With a generous estimate of 0.25 for the plant’s capacity factor (the ratio of average power to peak power when the sun is highest and the sky is clear), Ivanpah will generate 0.82 TWhours of electricity per year. The power is intermittent because Ivanpah does not have energy storage, which would make the plant far more expensive.” (p. 5) “In contrast, Westinghouse is nearing completion of two AP-1000 nuclear plants in China. These nuclear facilities each require about 0.5 square miles (about 1.3 square kilometers). With a capacity factor of 0.9, typical of nuclear power plants, the output of each plant will be 8.8 TWhours per year. It would require more than 10 Ivanpahs to yield as much electricity and an area of more than 50 square miles (128 square kilometers), area that China does not have to spare. The AP-1000 cost in China is about $3.5B per plant.” (p. 5)

Nuclear Obstructionism

“The heavily lawyer-laden permitting process results in paper-work requirements and delays that stretch into years and billions of dollars of cost growth. Nuclear power proponents make a strong case that this situation is in part a consequence of pressure from anti-nuke ‘greens’ who aim to delay nuclear construction and make nuclear power so expensive that it will fade away. Whatever the balance of causes, this problem needs to be fixed or the U.S. will suffer serious economic disadvantages and decline in comparison to rising economic powers such as China.” (p. 5)

China Emissions

“China’s fossil fuel emissions today far exceed those by the United States, and China’s emissions are continuing to increase rapidly, mostly from coal burning.” (p. 3) “The United States is, by far, the nation most responsible for excess CO2 in the air today, a conclusion that is all the more true on a per capita basis.” (p. 3) “The United States burned not only its share of the global carbon budget, but a large part of the budget belonging to China, India and other countries.” (p. 3)

Carbon Tax: The Naive

“The policy that is needed is a gradually increasing across-the-board carbon fee collected on oil, gas and coal at the first domestic sale, at the domestic mine or port of entry. It is very simple to collect from a small number of sources. 100% of the funds should be distributed to the public, equal amounts to all legal residents, electronically to their bank account or debit card….  Not one dime to the government.” (pp. 3–4) “This [carbon fee-and-dividend] fee is progressive. Sixty percent of the people, especially low income people who do not travel around the world a lot, will receive more in the dividend than they pay in increased prices. But to stay on the positive side of the balance sheet, they must pay attention to what they buy.” (p. 4)

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