The Real Climate War

We have a lot of fun here rooting around in the blogosphere. We set up scenarios where the scientists and activists are fighting the other scientists and the skeptics. Politicians, funding, NGOs and the mass media are all presumed to play a part in a struggle that, for some, pits the past against the future and for others pits free markets against a pitiless and planned economy.

It’s all bunk, of course. But it lets either side write a caption for images like this:

Dinosaurs_vs_ Cowboys_by_Justin_Thompson

 

There is a titanic struggle for the future going on, of course–you just knew there had to be, right?

But it doesn’t involve any of the actors named above, at least not more than peripherally.

We are all in the middle of a fierce corporate fight between The Ghost of Energy Past and The Ghost of Energy Yet To Come.

This isn’t Hansen and Mann versus Lindzen and McIntyre. This is GE, Siemens and Vestas against Exxon, Chevron and Duke.

Starting after the Second World War, corporate interests have been lobbying legislators and paying distinguished people to promote their version of the future of energy. But it wasn’t the Koch Brothers or Patrick Michaels–it was Westinghouse and Dr. Edward Teller, going around laying the footwork for the growth of nuclear power. It was they who first brought the idea of global warming into the conversation, starting with Margaret Thatcher and her bright young acolyte now known as The Viscount Monckton.

We all know how the fossil fuel industry responded. And while we moan over the pennies both sides give to advocacy groups like The Heartland Institute or the Sierra Club, most of the money was spent on lobbying legislators and structuring legislation and tax codes.

All the stuff we are fighting about is just the foam at the top of the wave.

We can characterize this war in any way we like–old versus new, green versus brown, dirty versus clean. But in reality it’s just one group of corporations fighting another group over control of an industry–primary energy–that the world spent over $5 trillion on two years ago and is growing by 3% a year.

Neither side is clean–both are willing to do whatever it takes to win. But neither side can be blamed–both feel that their solution is vastly superior and better for their country and their countries’ economies. None of these people think they are villains.

What they are, are confident actors used to being on the world stage and influencing the world itself. From General Electric, started by Thomas Edison and partially financed by J.P. Morgan and the Vanderbilts to Standard Oil, the trust that was busted but made John D. Rockefeller the richest man in the world, this is a battle of titans playing for the world as stakes.

And we’ve got a ringside seat.

26 responses to “The Real Climate War

  1. Let me make a prediction: Cheap energy wins. Period.

  2. Tom Scharf nailed it.

    There used to be only three viable business strategies. You could compete on cost, quality or make a product that no one else could. Now there is another strategy, use the power of government to force people to buy a product they don’t want.

    All the howling about “new energy” is nothing more than employing politics to force uneconomical solutions.

    Don’t get me wrong, I burn incense on the altar of Aynn Rand, I just think it is silly to push immature solutions. And yes, of course Chevron and Exxon oppose the new energy – because they fear it is they who will have to be roped into paying the subsidies.

    • Your being short sited if you think exxon/shell/chevron will not buy into “alternative” energy the moment it becomes competitive. They do not care how they make money they are businesses the entire point of existing is to deliver stock holder value. All of the major players make acquisitions and sales of divisions multiple times a year and they will diversify the energy the supply as soon as it makes sense to. Right now it is to much of a risk as the potential does exist for us to cool or stay the same temperature for 20 years and if that happens subsidy will go away and you are stuck with a money pit of an investment. These companies did not become the majors by making foolish choices.

      They do not fight progress they fight being forced to take greater risk with questionable ROR and NPV values. We currently drill Oil wells with greater then 130% ROR why would we invest in Windmills with a Negative ROR with out massive subsidy? When you start seeing the majors buy up small players in the market and turn them into divisions of the company then the product is verging on viable.

      Let me put it this way my company opened its own sand mine to supply its own sand for frac jobs and bought a rail company to distribute sand and transport oil to market. We go where the money is it would be silly to fight something that is profitable and easy to move into the market.

      • Well, of course Chevron and Exxon will buy into anything that makes them money. No argument there. But it is also perfectly logical from them to both politically oppose and invest in energy schemes.

        It works like this, government heaps subsidies on wind, so Chevron and Exxon jump on the wind gravy train to – gasp – make money. BP has already done this in a big way. At the same time, they politic against funding scheme for wind because they know that ultimately it is they who will be tapped to pay for the subsidies.

        Companies do this all the time, it is called hedging one’s bet.

  3. Dot.earth examines another “analysis” of how simple it would be to run New York state off of renewable energy by 2030. All you have to do is retrofit (or knock down and rebuild) every building in the state and bring online 3 windmills and 886 solar arrays per day, every day, for 17 years starting two and a half months ago. Just in New York. I don’t see the contingency plan for cloudy windless days in Revkin’s writeup.
    Meanwhile, the UK tried to go down this path, doubled everyone’s power bill, gets nada from its wind farms and is facing the very real threat of blackouts if they turn off the coal and gas plants. That will help their economy.
    Anyone who thinks Exxon is the only thing preventing Cuomo and Bloomberg from implementing this paper’s strategy is delusional. Exxon loves papers like these. Implement this strategy and you’ll put off the switch away from fossil fuels for decades.

    • Hiya Jeff

      On the other hand, if we wait 49 years and do it all in the 50th, it will work well and be cheap as chips. Or so my calculator says–and I believe that to before or less the case.

      Sent from my iPhone

      • Who’s asking to wait 49 years? I’m asking for a strategy that makes sense.
        Here’s a little more math- the NY strategy calls for 12,770 offshore 5-MW windmills. Maryland is celebrating the imminent signing of a plan to subsidize a 200 MW offshore wind farm to the tune of $1.7 billion over 20 years. http://greenbelt.patch.com/articles/offshore-wind-passes-in-senate-gov-omalleys-signature-next-60eedada
        If Maryland is in the ballpark of what the subsidy needs to be, then the equivalent for NY would be $542.7 billion- roughly $27,732 per man, woman and child in New York. (12,770 5-MW windmills is 63,850 MW, $1.7 billion is the subsidy for 200MW, so divide 63,850 by 200 and multiply by $1.7 billion)
        This is just for the offshore wind portion of the plan. Even at 20 years, that’s $100 per month, per person in NY for 20 years. And that’s just the subsidy- it doesn’t include the higher cost or even touch the subsidy necessary for the 5,500,000 rooftop solar installations the strategy calls for.
        If NY were serious about global warming, how many MW of nuclear power could you build for $542.7 billion and how much cheaper and more reliable would the resulting energy be?

      • Tom, Climategate 3 seems to be underway!

        http://tomnelson.blogspot.com/2013/03/mr-foia-speaks-time-to-tie-up-loose.html

        Are you and Mosher going to get busy? ha ha, this may be a much bigger project than you want….

  4. This is GE, Siemens and Vestas against Exxon, Chevron and Duke.

    Let me review.

    Brother in Law #1 has built coal,oil,gas and solar thermal power plants. He doesn’t give a crap what he builds and neither does his clients. It’s all ‘cost/benefit’.

    Exxon and Chevron sell transportation fuel.

    Duke sells electricity and doesn’t care how it’s made. Wind and Solar Insolation in the US Southeast aren’t particularly attractive.

    Florida isn’t the ‘sunshine state’…New Mexico and Southern California get more sunshine and hurricane force winds and wind turbines aren’t pals.

    Sorry…the ‘climate war’ is between people who want to fix ‘climate change’ at ‘any cost’ and people who believe a rational ‘cost benefit’ analysis should be applied.

    It’s a classic ‘perfection is the enemy of the good’ struggle. With the perfectionists doing what they always do…defining ‘good enough’ as ‘catastrophically bad’.

    • Duke sells electricity and doesn’t care how it’s made. Wind and Solar Insolation in the US Southeast aren’t particularly attractive.

      Solar’s not so bad in the southeast. It’s comparable to Spain or southern Italy (which are drier, but further North). But, yeah, the southeast is clearly not as favorable for solar as the southwest (same latitude, less clouds).

      http://oynot.com.p12.hostingprod.com/solar-insolation-map.html

      Sorry…the ‘climate war’ is between people who want to fix ‘climate change’ at ‘any cost’ and people who believe a rational ‘cost benefit’ analysis should be applied.

      Not really true. Most of the “alarmists” that I know prefer a rational cost-benefit analysis, and they do actually like small government and free markets. But – this cost-benefit analysis needs to include all the costs of an energy source, not just the ones that can’t be unloaded onto the commons. (And this applies to solar/wind, too! Of course they also have external costs).

      Students of economics know that externalities can be quite significant, and that if a business can unload part of its cost on the commons (e.g., pollution), that the business can operate artificially cheaply. This has the ability to incentivize behaviors that are.. non-optimal.. for society as a whole.

      Similar claims were made 40 years ago about the Clean Air and Water acts, that one side was all anti-capitalist greenies, and the other was corporate fatcats. This happened because it’s fun to polarize the argument, and it makes you feel more secure in your views, compared to the uncertainty you might feel when looking at the problem calmly and rationally.

      And yet.. after the laws were passed, and the polarization died down, most people now actually support the EPA’s basic pollution regulations.
      The real polarization was overstated: in truth, most people wanted a rational cost-benefit analysis, but they were told that the other side was biased and extreme. It seems to me that we could have made progress a lot quicker if we just stuck to examining the facts, instead of focusing on the players.

  5. Tom, I volunteer to help in anyway with CG3.0 sorting/review.

  6. Tom, you just passed 30,000 hits. Maybe it’s time to do a survey/poll to find out who’s reading this. I think that you should ask enough so that you can do a crosstabs as to what a readers other political views are versus their views on climate and energy. Maybe you should ask for readers to propose questions.

    • How did I get to 30,000 hits so quickly? What am I doing wrong–umm, right?

      • My guesstimate is that the regular commenters here represent less than 5% of your readership. It would be interesting to find out who the 95% are.

  7. More like less than 1%–there are only a dozen or so of you that actually comment on a regular basis. Well, 13 if you count snerkersnerk🙂

    • I am not sure how hits are counted but there are days that I run through my list of most visited 20 times or more…..So I could easily be 1000 hits by myself. Unless its counting IP’s ?

  8. Delicious. If the subject is fracking for gas and the facts, obviously, aren’t on the side of the left, then obviously we shouldn’t let science decide the issue:
    http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2013/03/12/fracking_bans_let_politics_not_science_decide.html
    My favorite quote from the column:

    “The “let science decide” framing transmogrifies a clash of worldviews into a proxy war about facts.”

    My, my, whose been saying that about climate for 20 years?

  9. I can’t wait to see what the MSM comes up with after pulling continuous all nighters parsing through the new Climate Gate e-mails. It’s a big race to see who can uncover the most damaging info first. They are going to be all over this like white on rice.

    Oh, wait….

    Well at least Mann will lose a few nights of sleep.

    I’m not expecting much, but I think the phrase “but this doesn’t refute the basic tenets of climate science in any way…” is buffered up and ready to go by all the usual suspects.

    • I’m not expecting much, but I think the phrase “but this doesn’t refute the basic tenets of climate science in any way…” is buffered up and ready to go by all the usual suspects.

      Well, given the last fiasco, I can’t blame them. So many things in the original Climategate emails were taken out of context – like “hide the decline”, which was just shorthand for a technique that they’d used and published in the literature about a dozen times before that, and the basis of which was well-discussed in the literature.

      Dang those sneaky scientists.. always telling us about their “tricks” when they publish their work. The most obvious place to look for their methods is the last place anyone would ever think. Truly, they’re strategical geniuses.

  10. “it was Westinghouse and Dr. Edward Teller, going around laying the footwork for the growth of nuclear power. It was they who first brought the idea of global warming into the conversation, starting with Margaret Thatcher and her bright young acolyte now known as The Viscount Monckton.”
    You said some controversial things in this blog and no one seemed to notice. Can’t be said enough.

    • I dunno. There seems to be a lot said on this blog and 3000 quads that should be of interest to people I know are visiting the site. Why do they refuse to talk about it? Not just here–anywhere.

  11. This post is totally wrong.
    The battle is not between two groups of corporations.
    The battle is between actual energy produced, and pipe dreams that don’t work and can’t supply our energy needs.
    The batlle is between energy and ideology – i.e. “energy solutions” that don’t work, but are pushed by ideology and subsidies.
    The batlle is between corporations (in general) that supply what people need, and want, and buy, and government that forces people to pay for things that they don’t want, and that don’t work.
    The battle is between engineering and fantasy.

    • Thanks for getting the attention back here and away from the Connolly nonsense.
      Which subsidies and fantasies are we talking about?
      I will agree that megaturbines and ethanol are fantasies and don’t deserve anymore taxpayer money.
      Solar, both PV’s and solar stirling are realistic and I wish that the latter would have gotten a little more help.
      Now how about the most subsidized technology in the history of humanity, nuclear? I guess if enough people believe in something it will become real, like the Velveteen Rabbit.

  12. Tom, I’m going to try and drag the conversation back here and back to your original article. The reason I don’t buy the battle between different industries is like the reason I never bought into the “fossil fuels funding skepticism” argument.
    Except for a few of the smaller coal producers, the energy companies are well diversified. Oil is linked with gas. And I wish someone would notice how intertwined the nuclear and industrial wind industries are.

  13. “Solar, both PV’s and solar stirling are realistic and I wish that the latter would have gotten a little more help.”

    Solar could be useful, depends on price.
    Why “more help”? What is useful is produced and sold because it is useful. It needs no help. What is useless needs “help” (i.e. subsidies and mandates).

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