Under The Dome

More than 100 million Chinese people watched this video before the censors took it offline.

As someone who lived and worked in China and who has reported on energy subjects for more than ten years, I can say that this video is honest, important and has the potential to change not just China, but all of the developing world.

If you’ve got the time go see it. I’m linking to the version on The Atlantic’s website because it has a good English translation and shows the whole documentary in one go.

Click here.

When Planning Fails

The Philippines consist of 7,107 islands, which of course makes planning difficult. Rapid development makes it more of a challenge. The Philippine economy grew by a robust 6.1% in 2014. Their population has grown by 45% since 1990, to its present level of about 100 million, but 8 million have been added since 2010.

The country is in the midst of an energy crisis, as the growing economy and population have created a demand for energy that outstrips supply. The country is currently experiencing blackouts and rotating brownouts that are causing disruption to people’s lives and the overall economy. The same has happened in many developing countries. The difference with the Philippines is that it has enough wealth to deal with it. But not without controversy.

The Philippines already have the most expensive electricity in Asia and prices are rising–something about supply and demand going on over there. This has led to charges of collusion, if not outright corruption, among and between energy suppliers.

They are now meeting unexpected high demand by the use of diesel generators, highly polluting and highly emissive of greenhouse gases.

So, what are they planning to do about this in the future? The EIA shows current capacity and planned construction for the next two years.

Philippine energy

In 2015 they plan to increase capacity by 1,600 megawatts, or 8%, followed by a further addition of 1,300 MW in 2016, reaching about 21,000 MW at end 2016.

More than half of their new capacity will be powered by coal–what readers here will recognize as what I have labeled the inevitable reaction to supply shortages. Whether coal ends up being better than diesel generators will depend on what type of power plants they build.

But between 2012 and 2013, energy consumption in the Philippines grew by 10%. If growth continues in the same vein, this additional construction will leave them in exactly the same position they are in now.

Although the Philippines have significant geothermal production and are working hard on building up solar power, they import half of their primary fuel supply.

Once again, we see that inadequate forecasting will leave the Philippines still importing expensive fuel, still facing power outages, still burning diesel fuel in generators to provide electricity–and still facing the same furor over prices, investment and the threat to growth that this situation produces.

Congressman Raul Grijalva’s Witch Hunt

Update: I now learn via Judith Curry’s blog that Pielke is not the only scientist being pursued. In addition to Pielke and Curry herself, David Legates, John Christy, Richard Lindzen, Robert Balling, Steven Hayward.

This is scary.
I am a registered Democrat most recently living in Nancy Pelosi’s district in San Francisco. I am more than a Democrat–I am a liberal progressive who supported Barack Obama (and who thinks he has done a very good job as president).

Some years ago I wrote an open letter to Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli regarding his investigation of Michael Mann. I told him it was a witch hunt and that absent prima facie evidence of wrongdoing he had no business going after Mann, who is someone I have criticized for getting on for a decade.

Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva is also a Democrat. Anything else we share is a mystery to me.

Witch Hunt

People get burned in modern times for being witches. McCarthyism is not such a distant memory. Persecuting scientists because you don’t like their science is not that old either–just ask about Lysenkoism, something that happened within living memory.

Grijalva is investigating 7 scientists including Roger Pielke Jr. to ascertain if they are receiving funding from sources Grijalva does not like. This is in the wake of the recent controversy over Willie Soon’s funding.

Apparently Grijalva has a particular dislike of scientists receiving funding from the Koch brothers. I assume physicist Richard Muller of BEST had best get his papers in order.

Pielke has already disclosed his funding to Congress. He receives no funding from fossil fuel interests. Even if he had received such funding, it is clear that he is being harassed because the data he presents to Congress is not welcome politically.

Pielke has researched the effects, incidence and impacts of large scale climate events. He has found consistently that, although he accepts the science of climate change, it is impossible to impute it as a cause for more or stronger weather disasters. And he is correct. Even the IPCC has said that extreme weather events would not start impacting our planet until 2030 in some cases and even later in others.

The fact that the data he presents to Congress is accurate seems not to matter. Pielke has blogged that he intends to drop all research related to climate issues.

Grijalva’s investigation is resulting in a defeat for science. It is a wicked act and a shame, not just for Democrats such as myself but for the country I love.

When Republican Cuccinelli did this I felt a little smug–my party would never stoop so low. Congressman Raul Grijalva is proving me wrong–Democrats can be as stupid, short-sighted and dirty as any other party.

This is a witch hunt. Representative Grijalva, call off your dogs. You make me ashamed of my political party.

Our Global Energy Future

The short version of this post is simple: We are in a bit of trouble.


The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Agency projects that the world will consume 819 quads of energy in 2040.


A ‘quad’ is one quadrillion BTUs. A BTU is the amount of energy required to heat one pint of water by one degree Fahrenheit. It’s about the same amount of energy as in burning a wooden match. One quadrillion of them is about the same amount of energy as in a train full of coal, a very long train. Each car in the train would contain 100 tons of coal. The train would extend 3,789 miles.

The world consumed a projected total 558.7 quads in 2014, according to the EIA. 160 of those quads were fueled by coal. By 2040, again using the EIA estimates, that will grow to 219.5 quads from coal.

That’s a scary figure. Most of that coal will come from China (121.5 quads in 2040), India (22.4) and the U.S. (20.4), a total of 164.3 quads. That’s 75% of 2040 coal consumption from just 3 countries.

EIA Predictions

I have just finished analyzing EIA numbers for the 5 biggest consumers of energy, China, the U.S., Russia, India and Japan. During this analysis I looked at their plans to increase energy production from nuclear, hydropower, wind and solar.

These countries have published plans for future energy infrastructure. Taken at their word, they will build energy plants that are non-emissive (including nuclear). Using heroic assumptions (that everything that is planned will be built, something that has never happened), the 5 top energy consuming countries will get 97.35 quads from non-emissive sources out of a total of 404.8 quads they will be consuming. Which leaves three-quarters of their energy coming from fossil fuels. In the best case scenario, a lot of that will come from natural gas. In the worst case scenario, most of it comes from coal.

Those who are hoping that green energy takes over need to realize that this is what is planned for construction. The only deus ex machina available would be for unplanned (that is, residential) solar rooftops to grow at a very high rate. We know how many nuclear power plants and dams are going to be built. And make no mistake, these plans are ambitious–China’s nuclear power program and hydroelectric construction are making government planners and environmentalists very nervous. India is reacting to their energy issues by trying to make it easier–to dig coal out of Indian ground. It is difficult to imagine the USA finding the political will to increase either nuclear or hydropower construction.

All of the attention and announced new construction will have the effect of maintaining the status quo regarding green energy as a percentage of the total. Sadly, the total will grow rapidly.

The top 5 nations will produce 61% of all human fossil fuel emissions in 2040. The second 5 will only produce 10%. It is only the top 5 who can move the needle on the balance of their energy portfolios to make a difference.

At the present it is explicitly clear that they have no plans to do so.


As it happens, I believe the situation is even worse than I have described it. My calculations show that energy consumption will increase more rapidly than does the EIA. My projections show world energy consumption rising to 965 quads by 2040, as opposed to the EIA figure of 819.

I show my figures here. I hope someone will tell me I missed a decimal point or forgot one important factor. I really do.



America’s Energy Future

The U.S. consumed 95.9 quads of energy in 2013, or at least that’s one of several figures provided by the US Department of Energy’s Energy Information Agency. This particular figure comes from their interactive table browser, which I’ll be using for the rest of this post.

That’s down from America’s recent peak consumption of 101 quads in 2007 and far below the leading energy consumer, China. We’re number two!

The DOE expects the US to reach 107 quads by 2040, again something I consider a serious underestimate. My personal projection has America at 120 quads in 2040. But we’ll play with the DOE numbers here.

Here is the U.S. energy portfolio balance today:


We see that about 17% comes from non-emissive sources (including nuclear), a total of 16 ‘green’ quads (depending on your level of purity required for non-emissive status).

How does that play out going forward to 2040?

The EIA expects American use of coal to rise about 10%, from 20 quads to 22 by 2040.

They also expect nuclear power to rise from about 7.7 quads in 2013 to about 9.2 quads in 2040.

The EIA expects power from hydroelectric and other renewable sources to rise even more, from 7.9 quads to 11.9 quads in 2040. Given the negative press dams get in this era, it is safe to assume the EIA thinks that increase will come from wind and solar–with perhaps a nod to ethanol.

So using the EIA’s numbers, about half of the projected increase by 2040 of 11 additional quads will be supplied by non-emissive energy–6 additional quads from nuclear, hydro and renewables.

But the percentages will barely move from their current levels. Despite a heated political discussion, executive orders to the EPA, a concerted drive to put solar power on millions of rooftops, commercial solar and wind power plants across the country, the U.S. will not be generating a significantly higher percentage of non-emissive energy than it does today. It rises slightly to 20%.

And if you prefer to use my higher totals of energy consumption (which are driven by population growth and increase in GDP), the picture looks worse. The same number of green quads will of course be a smaller percentage.


Japan’s Energy Future

In 2013 Japan consumed 21.4 quads. The EIA estimates that by 2040 their energy consumption will rise slightly, to 22.2 quads. My own projections show their energy consumption actually declining to 19.4 quads.

Although those totals are not very high, one sentence from the EIA’s analysis of Japan’s energy situation explains Japan’s importance quite clearly: “Japan is the world’s largest liquefied natural gas importer, second-largest coal importer, and third-largest net importer of crude oil and oil products.” Japan is almost completely dependent on imported fossil fuels, more so since Fukushima led them to shut down their nuclear power plants.

Japan energy consumption

Like Russia, Japan is undergoing a demographic decline and it’s not clear when that will stop. And, like Russia, Japan’s GDP is pretty much stalled, albeit at a much higher level than Russia.

So the concern for Japan is not about rising energy consumption. It’s a developed country with a stable economy and a declining population. The concern is whether they can transfer to a greener fuel portfolio.

After the Fukushima tragedy, Japan made strong moves in the direction of solar power. Their terrain is not strictly suited for wind–too mountainous, or at least hilly. The average solar insolation is good in Japan, so it is a logical move for them to make. And in fact, in 2013 Japan was the world’s 2nd largest market for solar power in 2013, adding a record 6.9 GW of capacity. 2014 installations are expected to be even larger, potentially up to 11.9 GW.

Sadly, the total of solar installed in Japan was only enough to generate 1.4% of their electricity in 2013.

The EIA expects Japan’s consumption of coal, oil and natural gas to remain about the same as it is now. The extra energy consumption they expect from Japan will be provided by hydroelectric power, rising from 1.7 to 2.3 quads, nuclear (the EIA clearly expects Japan to reactivate their fleet of nuclear power plants), which will add about 0.3 quads, a dramatic rise in the use of solar power, from 6 GW to 27 GW, which will still only produce less than 0.1 quads, with wind and geothermal contributing a fraction.

So although Japan will not be making matters worse in terms of fossil fuel consumption, they will not be doing much if anything to improve conditions. They will still be major consumers of coal, oil and natural gas.


Personal Politics and Climate Change

As recently as 2008, the Republican candidate for President (John McCain) supported Cap and Trade as a policy to ward off the effects of climate change. Newt Gingrich was on board with a host of green measures.


In the UK, all three major parties recently signed an agreement paper recomitting the country to an aggressive program to lower emissions. On the other hand, Australia and Canada have walked away from previous commitments and the upcoming COP in Paris promises to deliver as much as previous COPs–precious little, in other words.

How much does someone’s political beliefs affect their view on climate change? I suspect rather a lot. I think it’s probably because the major sources of information don’t limit themselves to climate change and if you don’t like what California Governor Jerry Brown (or his predecessor Arnold Schwarzenegger) say about economics, poverty and taxes you are not likely to appreciate their views on climate change.

I just wrote sort of a position paper on the companion blog to 3000 Quads, The Lukewarmer’s Way. In it I describe my personal journey to the Lukewarmer status I claim today.

Here I produce a quote from something I wrote on The Air Vent a couple of (wow–it was five years ago!)  years ago to describe my political stance. I do this both to promote what I believe is right and to give readers with firm political views a chance to get a better picture of what I believe. Because I have no doubt that what I believe affects what I write. No claims to omniscient objectivity here.

“Well. I am a progressive liberal because I believe there is a role for government that extends beyond the simple protections of civil liberty and national security. I think that the difference between an association of people who speak the same languages and share some of the same norms and a state is how the state reacts to the needs of its members, by offering support (Welfare! Food Stamps! The GI Bill, Social Security etc.). I believe a progressive liberal state offers more support than a conservative or libertarian state. If I ever printed a t-shirt with a slogan it would be ‘It is because I love my country that I want her to be just.’

I want the state to lead the push for conversion to green technology, not because I think it will be more efficient than the market, but because I don’t believe the market is capable of sending the correct signals about what consumers will want in the future. There is no way of indicating future preferences in this sector. There is no price on carbon. There is no futures market on air quality. Etc., don’t mean to bore.

I most emphatically do not believe that big government will do an efficient, laudable and forward-thinking job of this. They will get so many things wrong that we will all wonder why we let them even start. But it is only government that can get this going.

Because this is a new market (I know, only partially so), there are rents to seek and laws to evade and scams to run, and we will see them all. It is my hope that big government will be able to minimize this and allow the market to come to fruition more efficiently. But even if it doesn’t, it is IMO only a big government that can kickstart this and create a framework for the construction of an energy portfolio that will enable us to transition away from oil and coal within the timeframe that is appropriate.

Anthropogenic global warming may not be the overriding problem we are trying to solve. It may only be the poster child that motivated hordes of well-meaning greenies. OTOH, it may be a serious problem that requires serious attention and commitment of resources. I don’t think we’ll know for about 30 years. But even absent AGW as a primary motivating cause for action, pollution, depletion, energy independence and the pernicious effects of natural resource corruption on governments make it clear to me that having a diversified portfolio of energy resources, a distribution system that makes energy markets more efficient, and a physical plant that does not consume twice as much energy as needed for the tasks required, are eminently worth pursuing and justify asking national governments to assist with.

It’s not as if this is the first time we’ve done this–conversion from wood to coal and from coal to oil offer plenty of case studies in policy success and failure. Maybe it’s just a bit humbling to think we have to dust off books about Rockefeller and the British Navy’s conversion to oil to remember how to get it right.

I would submit that much of what will be remembered of the past century as improvements in the human condition will be the result of progressive liberal initiatives that were bitterly opposed by conservatives arguing much as they are here. What you will tend to remember are things like the U.N. What the rest of the world will remember are things like the Civil Rights Act, Social Security, Medicare, the G.I. Bill and other measures that made a huge difference in the lives of poor Americans. Peter Drucker himself said that the GI Bill was a transformative event in the history of America.

Nobody discussing the failure of communism to spread through the industrial world has failed to note the effect of progressive measures in alleviating misery and providing hope to those who otherwise would have been candidates for support of Marxist theory. And indeed, those places with active communist movements are those without similar measures.

Like the conservative woman in a news clip who declared ‘Keep the government’s hands off my Medicare’ conservatives forget the origins of programs they now value. I’ve never met a conservative who wanted to repeal the GI Bill. All conservative fury about Social Security is about its funding, not its existence.

Progressive liberal policies were one of the best things about the 20th Century. And my personal belief is that a country that will not harness its wealth and energies in support of the poor and disadvantaged amongst its population will never deserve the title ‘great.’

There are many liberal politicians that can and should be criticized. There are liberal policies that are either wrong, misguided or have an improper emphasis. But listen carefully: This country is great–and one of the reasons is the success of progressive liberal policies.”