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Climate Change

Climate Change  

  1. 1. Climate Change

    • Is human caused.
      Is human caused.
    • Is not human caused; part of the earth's normal climate cycles.
      Is human caused.
    • Is not occurring.
      Is human caused.
    • The Jury is still out (your undecided?)
      Is human caused.
    • Is a left wing conspiracy?
      Is human caused.
    • All science is a left wing conspiracy?
      Is human caused.


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valuman

Could it work today without the tax credits? Not in very many places. Are you getting something in return for the tax credits? You bet. A bunch of stuff.

I think the real issue is what does your neighbor get for subsidizing your solar panels?  You know the guy who can't affor to spend 50K to get off the grid.

If the answer is to look at your ugly panels, I would buy a sling shot.

A couple of questions here. Can you tell me exactly how you subsidize your neighbors solar panels in PA? Do you know how that might be different from other states?

And for the general discussion; How exactly are you personally subsidizing solar in your state? Do you know?

Why might the electric utilities support solar installations in some areas, but not in others?

How might you benefit if you are living in a state where there are additional solar incentives beyond the federal tax credit?

Why would the federal government want to provide a tax credit to help people afford to go solar?

Added one more question: Have state incentive programs been increasing or decreasing the amount of benefits available to those wanting to add solar to their homes or businesses?

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Flush

Isn't that the whole problem though, that people look at so many very complicated issues as strictly a formula of short-term dollars and cents, without looking at any of the other costs associated with those decisions?  

.

I don't know if it's the whole problem or not, it certainly can be a problem.

I do like to deal with the facts and data as much as possible. I'm fine with comparing the short terms costs AS WELL AS the other long term benefits/downsides. What I can't stand are misleading or false claims, often made on both sides of this issue.

A claim was made the fossil fuels never pay for them selves. My point was more often than not fossil fuels ARE the cheapest solution from strickly a financial standpoint.

I agree that in many case it makes a whole lot of sense to invest in other technologies even if if it's not the cheapest thing to do right now.

BTW, I worked for a long time as an engineer in the alternative energy field. Altnerative and renewable energy sources do have a lot of benefits, but lying about their finanical costs does not help their cause, at least not in my opinion.

Additionally there are some apples to oranges comparisons going on here. Currently most of our "energy" comes from domestic sources. Transportation is the primary requirement for our oil (foreign) needs (Transportation is less than half of our total energy needs). The development of wind and solar,or other alternative electrical generation source, will do very very little to reduce our foreign oil needs. If we switched ALL of our grid to solar and wind tomorrow, we would still need to buy virtually all of the oil we are currently buying.

Ironicly as things like solar and wind increase electricity costs, that actually discourages conversion to electric vehicles/transportation, which is one of the only ways to wean ourselves off oil.

My point is that while there is a "clean" argument to be made for wind and solar, there really isn't a foreign/domestic argument to be made for them at this time. In the short term the only real argument to be made for reducing foreign energy needs is more domestic gas/oil production along with further development of electrical vehicles to get them to the point of being viable replacements for gas/oil powered vehicles.

  -Flush

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valuman
Since you worked as an engineer in the field, maybe you can tell me how electricity is generated and delivered during peak demand scenarios, Flush.

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Flush
Valuman something tells that is not a serious question that you don't already know the answer to. If there is something I stated you think is in error, point it out as IMO the answer to your question does not change anything I have said. Like I said there are benefits to solar and wind and others, and I never said zero oil was used to generate electricity.

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bosco mctavitch

A couple points>

First, someone asked about the cost of converting their sequoia to a subaru.  I am not suggesting you make that choice, I am merely suggesting that WHEN IT IS TIME TO TRADE INTO A NEW VEHICLE perhaps there should be other elements of the "cost" of whatever you drive that could be taken into account.  I'm aware that currently there is very little if any incentive to do that, that's the problem I'm trying to point out.

Flush, I hear you that fossil fuels are the cheapest solution from strictly a financial standpoint--that much is obvious.  My question though is what are you including in the cost of that energy?  Are you including the cost we all currently pay in the form of taxes to clean up or keep clean the air and water that is affected by burning that fuel?  Are you including the extra cost that's in our health insurance premiums due to problems caused by air pollution from burning those fuels?  if we're talking about petroleum to power transportation, agriculture and heating, then are you including the cost we all pay in taxes to maintain a foreign policy and military that is at least significantly (and rightly so at the moment) focused on shepherding an oil industry that is too big to fail?  

I am well aware that the "green" fuels also have associated costs, I just have never seen anyone try to make a real comparison that is apples to apples when comparing the cost of various fuels that might be an option for any given need, since many of these costs are baked in already and are not directly tied to the fossil fuel, yet they often seem to be brought up as obstacles when discussing "green" sources.  Fossil fuels may very well be cheaper...but I'd like to see the math with ALL of the associated factors included, I'm not at all convinced it would be cheaper if we did that.  

Regarding domestic vs foreign, etc., the conversation was initially about climate change.  There are elements of environment, health, security, etc that are affected by both domestic and foreign energy sources of all types.  We may have to separate them to hash out the pluses and minuses of each source, but it makes little sense to talk about one without the other in the context of this conversation since they all contribute significantly to our overall energy usage.

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Brad Eden

Aaahhhh, went 13 pages before it got into a personal pissing match. Pretty good, but too bad.

Not you Bosco, thats before your post.

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Flush

Bosco,

 Your questions are completely valid and they are at the core at what makes this issue so complex. Obviously what portion of our health care or military costs can be directly attributed to the use of fossil fuels is hugely spectulative and very few are going to agree on exactly what that portion really is. A huge number of variables not to mention what amount of fossil fuel pollution would still exist in the US from other countries even in the U.S. went to zero fossil fuels.

Another complication is that those other costs are not neccessarily inherint to the technology. In other words It's only by current political choices do we incure those costs. One could argue (and some do) rather than tacking on the costs of clean-up to fossil fuels, we reduce/eliminate much of these clean-up costs, same goes for the military. You may take our current levels of military and cleanliness as contraints to fossil fuels, but plenty of others do not.

As for the foreign vs. domestic issue, you are right that in the context of global warming oil plays a big role. However what happens all too often is that all "alternative" sources get lumped together and polarized, same as all fossil fuels.

If you are asking me to fund solar or wind in the name of global warming, you don't get to use major reduction in foreign dependency (and it's associated costs) as an argument. If you want to use the associated costs of foreign oil dependency, which is a very legitiment concern, you have to compare it with something that applies like the cost of increased fuel economy standards or electrical vehicle development. The subsidizing of electrical vehicle development vs solar development both potentialy effect global warming but they are completely different technologies and deserve to stand, or fall, on their own merits.

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bosco mctavitch
Yup, that's exactly what I'm getting at. The only quibble I really have is that the climate change debate and the dependence on foreign energy debate and the debate about other environmental issues around fossil fuel based energy seem to me that they should be combined...they are disparate issues that to a significant degree could share many of the same solutions.  I only point this out since others asked why they should help to pay for green energy development, and I think most people will find some good reasons within one of those frameworks.  I see them as separate issues as you have pointed out, but I think any of them are valid arguments for doing many of the same things.

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Flush

Bosco, First I will say I think this a good civil discussion and I appreciate your perspective.

I will give two reasons why I don't really agree with the lumping all "green" technologies together concept.

1) It can hurt you as much as help you. Solyndra is a good example. Opponents of all things green can and will quickly point to Solyndra as why the "green" movement is a waste of money. Solyndra is not indicative of all solar, and solar has it's own strengths and weaknesses relative to other "green" technologies. Like I said before I think each technology should stand on it's own merits.

2) There is a general polarization of lot of folks in our country today. Somehow certain technologies have been deemed "green" and embraced by a large segment of society and disdained by another. It's vice versa with "dirty" fuels. If your primary concern is for a cleaner environment there are actually a lot of really good arguments to be made for cleaning up coal. A very small percentage change in the improvement in coal would have the same overall climate change effect as an extremely significant increase in wind or solar. Coal is obviously not ideal as it's not renewable, but that doesn't mean there aren't a whole lot of "green" benefits from investing in cleaner coal. I know for a fact there are lot of people who want to have NOTHING to do with investments in improving coal, not based on facts, but based on general a polarization of coal being a "dirty fossil fuel". The same exact issue applies in the other direction.

What is "green" is a matter of opinion, not a classification of a technology.

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valuman

Brad, my apologies if you perceived my post as personal, it was not meant to be that at all. I am asking questions in lieu of making statements simply because I don't want to do anything to escalate this discussion beyond the civility (with an exception or two) with which it is being conducted thus far.

I'm also hoping to make the point that some of the folks who are fond of railing against incentives for solar energy may not really understand what drives those subsidies and what the true returns from them are.

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bosco mctavitch

Typing on my phone so pleAse

Forgive my incomPlete articulation.

Flush, I still think that isn't quite what I'm saying. My point was not that we should lump all "green" energy sources together, it was that there are several issues we have with energy--the cleanliness of both burning and "harvesting" the energy source, the long-term viability of it, the political and economic ripple-effect it has on us all, etc. my point was only that one likely solution to all of these issues intersects around renewable energy sources, so when people ask why they should help to pay for these renewable sources even if they seem a bit more expensive, I think any and all of those issues can be cited as reasons, as they are appropriate to the specific issue being discussed.  As you have Pointed out not every issue will apply equally to every energy source, yet I think there are multiple issues that do apply to any of the energy sources.

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valuman

Okay, I'll put this out there. Depending upon where you live and how much sun you get, solar electricity can cost less per kilowatt hour than what you pay to your electric utility, in many cases, with no money up front.

Are the incentives needed to make the numbers work? It depends on where you live and how much you pay for electricity. A lot of people in the northeast are paying over $ .20/kwh. Some people in California, where many utilities have a tiered rate structure, are paying as much as $ .40/kwh at the top tier.

Does anyone remember the brown outs they had there some years ago? What caused those was not primarily a shortage of generation, it was a shortage of delivery capacity during peak demand scenarios. When does peak demand occur? On hot, sunny days, when pool pumps, air conditioning and refrigeration units are all running hard to keep up.

Relatively small photovoltaic (solar electric) installations happen to be producing a lot of power during these times and because they are located throughout the power grid they are an effective tool in reducing the load on the grid. It's what the industry calls distributed generation and it is one of the ways that solar installations benefit everyone on the grid.

What do I mean by that? The grid is not capable of delivering electricity beyond its designed capacity and because as a whole our society is using more and more electricity, during a peak demand time the grid just can't handle it. You can only get so much power through the grid, just like you can only get so much water through your plumbing system. The options available to the utilities are to a) increase the capacity of the grid, or b) add generation capacity out in the grid to reduce the draw on it.

Next questions. What are the costs to upgrade the capacity of the grid and who will pay for that? How long before the grid  is over loaded where you live? Which is a better option, building more and more power lines, or installing distributed generation capacity?

I could go on, but I don't want to lose any audience that might still be tuned in here.

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Kansas Big Dog
Since you worked as an engineer in the field, maybe you can tell me how electricity is generated and delivered during peak demand scenarios, Flush.

Hi Tim, I thought I might chime in as I have experience in the electric industry.

At the privately held electric Co. I worked for, we were a summer peaking electric utility with our peaking units were combined cycle gas fired turbines.

Some of the publicly held (coops and munis), they received cheap hydro power from Federal dams during the summer peak.

Each year we took readings during the peak demand periods to shift load from under utilized assets to areas that were close to peak.

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Kansas Big Dog
What do I mean by that? The grid is not capable of delivering electricity beyond its designed capacity and because as a whole our society is using more and more electricity, during a peak demand time the grid just can't handle it. You can only get so much power through the grid, just like you can only get so much water through your plumbing system. The options available to the utilities are to a) increase the capacity of the grid, or b) add generation capacity out in the grid to reduce the draw on it.

Next questions. What are the costs to upgrade the capacity of the grid and who will pay for that? How long before the grid  is over loaded where you live? Which is a better option, building more and more power lines, or installing distributed generation capacity?

I could go on, but I don't want to lose any audience that might still be tuned in here.

One thing to keep in mind is that increases in demand for electric power are planned for decades ahead as that is how long it takes to build a power plant or transmission line.  The increased capacity that was estimated back in the early 2000's never really materialized because of the serious economic down turn and many utilities actually have to much capacity.

But, I do agree that installing distributed generation capacity is a good new concept.

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valuman

Thanks for chiming in, Mike. Some utilities have been better at predicting and staying ahead of the curve for increasing delivery capacity, than have others. The ones who haven't seem to be more common in areas that have experienced rapid population and building growth, such as California, Arizona and some areas in the east.

It's also not uncommon for a utility to install their own distributed generation units in a highly stressed portion of their grid and these are generally either gas or oil fired units that can be started up remotely when demand requires it. My point is not so much about how they are fired as what the costs to install, maintain and operate them are. I know of one planned installation of an oil fired turbine unit that had $1 mm budgeted and that was just to get in in place.

With customer owned solar electric systems, the installation cost to the utility is virtually nothing since the only money they're putting there is through the incentive programs. They also have no operation or maintenance costs for these systems yet still receive the benefit of the electricity produced as far as the reduced demand and reduced load on their distribution lines, thus it costs them much less in the big picture.

Obviously all of the costs to the utility are ultimately borne by the rate payers.

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