How hard is it to limit airline carbon emissions?

As a result, many environmentalists are dismissive of biofuels as a long-term solution, particularly because a growing world population will need more food. To limit global warming to a 1.5C increase in temperature would require so much biofuel that it would take up to 7m square kilometres of arable land — roughly the size of Australia — to produce that much feedstock, according to a recent report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“If you were to replace all today’s aviation fuel with biofuel, with first-generation biofuel, it would be at the expense of 2,100 calories per person per day for everyone on the planet,” says Prof Berners-Lee. “It would take almost all of humankind’s calorific requirements . . . So that is absolutely not a solution.”

That is from Janina Conboye and Leslie Hook at the FT.


It's all a crap, there is no evidence, zilch, nothing of human influence of any consequence to cause 'global warming'. Just another scare indulged in by those who though intelligent appear to have no critical faculties whatsoever. Please one of you clever bastards please show me the most compelling evidence you have of human induced warming, not the homogenised temperature records but raw unadjusted data.Go ahead show me.

Hi SFW, If you need evidence of AGW, have a look at some of the glacier photos taken 50 years apart in the Alps, Himalayas etc. Also, you need to learn proper grammar !

Most glaciers have been receding since about 1800, due to natural global warming. Find a map of glacier Bay in Alaska. There was a major retreat between 1795 and 1883, with continued retreat since. No linkage to human CO2 emissions.

Yeh I had a beer, sorry for the grammar. Anyway glaciers have been retreating since the mid 1800's. Aside from you nobody has pointed me to evidence, maybe there isn't any.

I know!! Let's put a tax on air travel. That should fix it right? Sarcasm.

The AGW scam is all about money and power. It may well be the greatest scam in history. It does us ONE good service though; it identifies people too stupid to ever be in power.

hmm, sounds like about when the Industrial Revolution took off...

Steampunk is the culprit!

7 June 2019: National Park Service Removing Signs On Glaciers Reading, "Gone By 2020" Because They Are Not Going Away.

In the past million years there have been four glaciations with four long period of warming. About a million years ago, the first glaciation was the Gunz/Nebraskan. About 700,000 years ago the second glaciation was the Mindel/Kansan. About 300,000 years ago was the Riss/Illinoisan. About 100,000 years ago was the Wurm/Wisconsin glaciation. Both the climate and the face of the Earth greatly changed during the four advances and retreats of immense glaciers. We are living in an interglacial period, with comparatively little change in the past 10,000 years.

Anthropomorphic Climate Change is a hoax.

Anthropogenic Global Warming
Funny, I made the same mistake talking to someone on Sunday. It's hauntinh me about what the person I was talking to thinks.

The Progressives needed a crisis to terrorize the serfs and to add to the push to seize control over the cattles' lives.

AGW and climate change are hoaxes.

25 Aug 2019: "Something To Hide? Ordered to pay defendant Dr. Ball's legal expenses. Michael Mann refused to provide info, lost lawsuit. Dr. Tim Ball wrote that climate scientist Michael Mann 'belongs in the state pen, not Penn State.' He was sued by Mann. Dr. Ball asserted a truth defense. He argued that the hockey stick was a deliberate fraud, something that could be proved if one had access to the data and calculations, in particular the R2 regression analysis, underlying it. Mann refused to produce these documents. He was ordered to produce them by the court and given a deadline. He still refused to produce them, so the court dismissed his case against Dr. Ball."

Humans don't cause earthquakes or hurricanes. So should we also not try to mitigate damage from those?

Personally, I think we should institute a global hurricane or earthquake tax, and funnel the proceeds to a select number of politically connected corporations to clean up the damage.

Or, we could just require that all businesses become hurricane and earthquake neutral by 2020.

You might be right... but let’s make this plain.

Greenhouse gases are atmospheric insulators. Human beings are pumping shit tons of insulators into the atmosphere (without paying for it). Seems quite reasonable to presume, more insulators would increase surface temperatures, much like closing my car windows in the sunlight.

Doesn’t it seem like the burden of proof lie on the free riders?

I'd presume adding CO2 into the atmosphere will increase the temperature. 'How much' is important though. We have no idea if it's 10% or 90%. Likely number is under 50. It just means that we'll only mitigate half of what we think we are, and will still need to deal with the consequences. Maybe the reduction, though 2x as costly, is still worth it. Maybe not. It's good to have the right numbers though.

Agree with this.

I would say that the burden is on those who claim that these (insulators?) are increasing surface temperature. It's simple show the raw unadjusted data (excluding UHI affected stations) and then we can see what if any warming is occurring. Then we can discuss what proportion of that warming (if any) is human caused.

So it’s a coincidence all the record global temps are all clustered in the recent decades then... after all the insulators are being pumped into the atmosphere (without a pricing mechanism to moderate them to boot). K.

Record temps? Where? If you look at the records the 1930' were as hot if not hotter, Australian records from the 1900's were hotter, if you use the raw data not 'adjusted' data sets. If anything the current temps should be revised downward due to UHI. I ask again can you direct me to the evidence that convinces you,not bland statements of highest temps. Evidence! is that too hard or am I to believe your word alone?

Relying on the raw data isn’t an intelligent thing to do though. You need to use harmonized data. Statistics 101 man.

What you are doing is like comparing home runs over time without adjusting for changes hit the distance to the fence and whatnot.

Consider that a single weather station will likely see many changes over the decades that it is in use. Few stations remain in exactly the same place over very long periods, with most stations experiencing at least one move to a new location. Most stations have also changed the way they measure temperatures, transitioning from liquid-in-glass thermometers to electronic instruments. Stations have often changed the time of day they measure temperatures, and growing cities and urban areas can introduce artificial warming in some stations. Very local factors, such as trees growing over stations or poor station siting, can also cause problems.

To correct for differences in a temperature record caused by these changes, you should use statistical homogenization techniques and then compare the adjusted data.

It’s kind of dumb to consider the raw data. Now you might argue people are cheating and adjusting the data deceptively... but that’s not what you are arguing. Your position just isn’t a strong one. You are being a bone head about this.

So sfw, if we give you the mean increase in the earth's temperature over the past century you won't believe the earth is getting warming, but if we give you raw temperature data then you'll do what? Work out the mean yourself and then believe it?

I'm a little bit skeptical about that.

Poor Crikey, can;t see that all I'm asking for is evidence that hasn't been massaged through homogenisation or other adjustments. I guess you prefer your science to be declared from on high and not look at the evidence.

In order for there not to have been overall warming in Australia the Australian Bureau of Meteorology would have to have been faking temperature records for a long time. Maybe around a century or so. After going through all that effort you wouldn't think they would leave the correct readings online. You'd think they'd be smarter than that. Anyway, here's Australia temperature data readings. Enjoy:

Come to a conclusion yet, sfw? (I'll understand if it takes a little time.)

Not to mention that biofuel cultivation contributes to soil impoverishment and erosion.

Why use food crops for the biofuel source? Most of the proposals for aviation biofuel would use inedible sources of organic material to produce the biofuel.

Honestly, though, you don't need to replace all of the aviation fuel with biofuels. If you can just keep aviation emissions to about 2% of global emissions (what they are now), then that's a pretty big success. Efficiency gains and maybe hydrogen-fuel-cell and electric planes can further reduce that down the road.

Correction: Apparently it's about 5% of emissions when you factor everything in.

That's still pretty tiny, and I think air travel mostly just needs to slow down the growth in emissions.

It can't slow that growth, unless the plan is to keep air travel expensive enough that no new passengers from developing countries are added. As for fuel efficiency per passenger-mile, most of the low hanging fruit has already been picked.

Yeah, this is exactly about making air travel expensive enough that the hoi polloi can't use it. If this fails, watch for a licensing scheme to be proposed.

After my last return flight from Europe, I’m on board with keeping the riff raff from flying. So, where do I sign onto this petition?

For the most part we should just ignore aviation emissions. Concentrating on the low hanging fruit will yield bigger gains and the 2-5% for aviation won't matter in the long run.

Producing cheap renewable power with energy storage will be more than enough to reduce any resultant global warming to a mundane level. Trying for Zero emissions is a fools errand.

Also, we need to consider the requirement for a Federal regulation ordering US butchers to label packages of chicken/turkey legs "front legs" or "back legs."


It's almost as if the advocates are not really concerned with the problem of global warming... No, that's crazy talk. I'll stop thinking things like that.

+1 yes and removal of co2 from the air via enhanced weathering, biochar etc. Or more direct cooling:
There are many ways to try and climate engineer the planet, but many of them are so far-fetched that scientists aren't sure if they would even be physically possible, let alone physically successful. Sea-salt climate engineering (SSCE) might be the most low-tech, and plausible, possibility.
In such a situation, specially designed unmanned boats would plow the seas, spraying salt water into the air. The water would evaporate and leave behind sea-salt particles, which may be lifted into the clouds, increasing their albedo, or reflecting power.

The issue isn't using food for biofuels, but rather using LAND for biofuels. There's a finite amount of arable land on Earth, and we have to choose whether to use it to grow food or fuel.

Left out of this discussion is the fact that we currently produce significantly more food than our planet's population demands. Hunger is a distribution problem, not a production problem.

To be fair to the psycho leftoid climate cultists, there are much more egregiously wasteful uses of arable land; think about how much is taken up by housing, transportation, industrial uses, etc. Or for that matter, how much is taken up by forests or wetlands.

Of course, that also depends on your definition of arable land, assuming it is just not all the land on the planet. The Inca grew crops on the sides of the Andes, not really what comes to mind when I think of farmland. The Allies grew victory gardens in all sorts of unusual spaces during World War II. And look what some people can do with a small backyard or even a balcony.

So it seems at least feasible, if not practical, to grow large amounts of fuel. (If you have a wood-burning stove or fireplace you are already doing this for your home at least.) It also means that the distribution problem for hunger could be reframed as a security problem; that is, do people have access to their own land for growing food? Of course we know the leftist solution to this problem, which is to import all seven billion humans on Earth into the West, or failing that to just give a dollar a day to Feed the Children. But it seems we could get much more mileage out of basically making subsistence farming cool again.

>To be fair to the psycho leftoid climate cultists, there are much more egregiously wasteful uses of arable land; think about how much is taken up...forests or wetlands.

Yikes. To me, the big argument against biofuels is they'll destroy (i.e., compete for land with) forests/wetlands.

Agreed, to an extent. Diversifying food production and food types would go a long way towards improving our food supply, in many ways. Trouble is, most Environmentalist solutions are one-size-fits-all, top-down type solutions. What works for someone who works 9 to 5 at a job 3 miles from home doesn't necessarily work for someone who works 70 hours a week 150 miles from home and who's only home on the weekends.

"But it seems we could get much more mileage out of basically making subsistence farming cool again."

No. DEFINITELY not. Subsistence farming is a horrific lifestyle. Remember, people ran from subsistence farms to factories where people would routinely lose limbs. Subsistence farming is the wrong way to frame this. That said, there are efforts to make growing one's own food popular. Chickens of all things have seen a resurgence. I know a number of people who do gardens big enough to provide vegetables for their family year-round. That sort of thing.

> Subsistence farming is a horrific lifestyle.

Worse, it's horrible for the environment. Borlaug was right; high intensity farming is the way to go, environmentally speaking.

If you're one of the starving African kids they show on TV commercials then I think you'd prefer subsistence farming to the status quo. No, it's not exactly a life of comfort but it is the default standard of living for 99.9% of humans throughout history and it beats fighting off warlords for the next WFP food pallet, or by extension depending on regular food shipments from the Midwest. Plus you can really stick it in Jared Diamond's eye.

Who cares about land? The oceans are huge, easily 30 australias. And people always forget how powerful algae are.

It's hard to get from "algae" to "food".

If you're talking iron fertilization, you must answer why THIS time large-scale human intervention into an ecosystem will work, when literally every other time we've tried to improve an ecosystem it's ended horribly. You need to explain how you're going to avoid large-scale anoxia (not a theory, it's happening already in some parts of the world), how this will affect fisheries, etc. It's a dangerous idea, and I have never seen adequate consideration given to the full range of known consequences.

Yes, those pesky side effects or unintended consequences. They are a b*tch!

Aviation fuel is the opposite of low hanging fruit. It would be far more efficient to build a fleet of Thorium Molten Salt Reactors so that no electricity comes from burning things and not worry about aviation fuel.

If the choice was between airlines and food, I choose food.

You get the worst of both worlds; Airline Food.

Wow! It's a good thing this is a false dilemma fallacy, then.

We can always start by implementing some common sense measures such as 1> banning all private planes for celebrities and government officials and 2> replacing all "climate change" conferences and summits with teleconferencing.

No FT subscription so I can't read the whole article, but this raises immediate red flags:

"If you were to replace all today’s aviation fuel [...] with first-generation biofuel..."

Basically saying: if you were to do something extremely stupid that no one favours, then the results would be poor.

Not shocking, not news, and not even particularly interesting.

These kinds of calculations are useful to point out the impracticality of scaling a practice. It's the sentiment I want to express every time I see a biodiesel-converted Volvo running on old fryer oil.

On the one hand, I get your point, but on the other hand, I'm very much willing to drastically increase my intake of fried food in order to save the environment one Volvo at a time.

Don't some of the bigger SUVs have a deep fryer between the front seats?

One wonders how often that oil would be changed. Perhaps with the engine oil?

All I know is, I can get a lot more corn dogs fried if I'm using synthetic.

Can't access the article. Does anyone have a breakdown of the maths / assumptions behind this? Is quite a striking claim.

Same as cars: 1) more fuel efficient airplanes , 2) reduce the time period the engines are on but the plane is not flying.

More fuel efficient airplanes do exist, but not at air carriers can/want to afford them. Perhaps there should be an incentive to minimize the number of flying clunkers.

Up to 27% of the daily fuel consumption of an A-320 is burning fuel on the ground while taxiing or queuing for take-off/landing. This is a major problem on short flights (<1.5 hours)

A company says electric taxiing will be on service on the first plane on 2022

So, economists can think about how to incentivize the decommissioning of older planes and acquisition of more fuel efficient ones while engineers figure out the electric taxiing issue.

Interesting about queuing . The same thing applies to shipping:

If any business or enterprise makes a service user queue, then it is at the customer's expense. If there was some way to turn this around, then organisations would become motivated to reduce the enormous inefficiency of queues.

There is an enormous shortage of police in various legislatures, you the court process is incredibly contemptuous of witnesses' time, particularly police. I have heard that a policeman can stand around doing nothing for days or even week waiting to be called or re-called.

Wow. Thanks for the link.

No one has all the information today and even if all the information is available to actors, it is not ensured they will cooperate. On top of that, centuries of history where the captain is the one who is really an amazing problem. By amazing I mean incredibly complex and difficult to solve.

This was the most fascinating quote from the article:

"Airline passenger growth shows signs of weakening in countries where flygskam is catching on. There was a 3 per cent fall last year in the number of passengers for domestic flights going through 10 of Sweden’s state-owned airports, compared with the year before."

What if student's demonstrations and instagram posts do have an impact?

The careful phrasing of that datum suggests, though, that there was no overall decline in Swedish air travel.

Bingo. If there had been a drop in flights they would have said so. Instead the wording of that statement is pretty obviously cherry picking the data.

The Swedavia 2018 report ( says

"For the first time ever, more than 42 million passengers flew to or from Swedavia's airports in a single year. That figure reflects a marginal volume increase compared to 2017, driven by an increase in international traffic and some 40 new routes. However, the strong traffic growth seen in previous years has slowed, and domestic travel was down overall for the year. During the fourth quarter, total passenger volume fell compared to the same period in 2017. "

Domestic air travel in Sweden indeed fell. Vacation or or business travel?

I advocate that we abandon air travel and re-embrace ocean liners and sea-travel.

Sailboats -- wasn't that Greta Thunberg's inspiring message?

I have both sailboats and horses on my estate.

I do it for the children.

It takes about half or a third as much land to supply us with solar. Then you have the storage problem. Solar conversion of co2 is inefficient, at least a third the efficiency of solar.

But, it is amazing that there is a finite 'lung' size. It settles a natural issue, how would the earth correct itself if human life was not the issue. Easy, appropriate the proper space for lungs. For nature, using Australia for lungs is just fine, it uses the Brazilian rain forest for same.

Efficiency is low because we have to despin two electrons in CO2 conversion, that is what gets stable liquid fuels.

I wrote the other day in a piece about a bit of a feud between American Airlines and United over this, the CEO of American calling out United's biofuel efforts as being largely meaningless compared to American's investment of newer, more modern and fuel efficient aircraft.

I reviewed a recording of comments by American's CEO to employees on the subject of what they're doing to be more environmentally conscious,

"I get annoyed by things like you read from United saying they’re the most environmentally conscious. They’re not. They’re flying around average airplanes that are 15 years old. We’re flying around an average fleet that’s 9 years old.

We’re much more environmentally friendly than United Airlines right now because we’ve invested in more fuel efficient aircraft.. They say that about some effort they’re doing with biofuels, so again good for them, not saying they shouldn’t do that. But having one airplane flying around with some biofuel testing as opposed to having a fleet of 1500 airplanes, 500 new airplanes while they’re flying 500 old airplanes around. We’re doing much better things for the environment than they are."

They both lead shitty airlines that fuck customers over in the worst possible way, so that they can agree on.

Starving the third world in order to make marginal improvements in the environmental costs of air travel is such a natural climate-fetishist solution that I'm surprised Greta Thunberg hasn't already set a course for Australia and changed the plane tickets for her crew.

I think I have a solution, though, just hear me out: what if we just took all the food that the fat people were going to eat instead?

You're missing the next step to appease Mother Gaia...what if we just....rendered down the fat people?

If that pleases the Old Gods, why not?

I would personally like to see the fatties battle the vegans to see who becomes jet fuel.

It's an interesting matchup, the fatties are not quick and probably get winded easily, but the vegans are lethargic due to their lack of essential vitamins and minerals, and are also likely to waste time at the start talking about their lifestyle to no one in particular.

In any case we could start a booking service to bet on the results and use the proceeds to build more nuke plants.

I used to do sword fighting against a fat guy. He was pretty outstanding. He was quicker than you'd expect when it comes to upper-body movements, and the power he could generate was unreal. He pointed out that at his weight, he's basically doing heavy lifting every time he stands up, so his leg muscles (where the power for sword fighting comes from) are VERY strong. He also could fight--I saw this with my own eyes--for eight hours, with only minimal breaks to get water and a bite of food.

There's also a guy who weighed about the same, and had a nasty habit of hitting people so hard that they went airborn.

Don't under-estimate the fatties. They've got lower body strength, they've got reserves to keep them going long after us beanpoles are starving, and they've got mass so you can't knock 'em down!

Lol! You're currently the funniest poster on MR.


I'm not sure that "shaming" is the best description of the posts above.

Indeed, that sells it short. Anti-fat fascism? Or dare I say: fatscism?

I'm in my local chapter of Antifat because my life is endangered by toxic fatness. I'm tired of living in a fat-centric society. Even our president is a fat apologist; have you ever heard him denounce fatness? I mean he says it but it's just a dog whistle. Plus, look at him.

It's time we put an end to fat supremacy, fat nationalism, and fat separatism... by any means necessary.

'have you ever heard him denounce fatness'

Well, sure - 'President Trump fat-shamed a man attending his rally in New Hampshire, thinking he was a protester ... “That guy’s got a serious weight problem. Go home! Start exercising! Get him out of here, please!” yelled Trump, whose last physical showed he had put on the pounds.

“Got a bigger problem than I do!” he added. “Got a bigger problem than all of us. Now he goes home and his mom says, ‘What the hell have you just done?'”

And it was only a dog whistle because our president would never fat shame a supporter, right? Or was it a dog whistle because our president would only fat shame an opponent? Must be confusing to keep track of what our president means, assuming you find it anything but entertaining buffoonery.

Were you as triggered as I was by that incident? Horrifying! I didn't eat for almost four hours when I heard about that.

Now, you had some very fat people in that group, but you had people that were very fine people on both sides. And I'm not talking about the fat people, because they should be condemned totally, but there were a lot of thin people in that group.

Trump identifies as a fat person, so he has fat-joke-telling immunity.

Two points that I think are fair:

1) When conservatives are fast off the blocks to criticize a little girl, the "endemic misogyny" charge starts to look a little less ridiculous.

2) While Greta tried to do the right thing, it is probably also true in parallel that the international yachting community uses rather a lot of air miles.

I suppose someone could write an app to try to pair up sailors with sailboats so that everyone gets to sail and no one has to fly .. but perhaps you would even admit that that is rather much to place on Greta's young shoulders.

When the left is using child soldiers it's hard to complain about people taking shots at them. Same thing goes for Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, etc. and their clown-nose-on, clown-nose-off routine.

What you really want is to get these guys to advance your agenda without resistance. They're free to say/do whatever and if anyone pushes back you fall back on "she's just a little girl!" or "he's just a late-night TV comedian!" and so on. That works with the "principled conservatives" who are trying to stay on the Beltway cocktail party circuit but it doesn't work with the rest of us.

The notion also that Thunberg is running the show is a bit ridiculous. It's not her shoulders, it's those of the people who are promoting and financing her crusade. She's just a figurehead, or a pawn if you want to be less charitable.

Still, as I said in another comment thread, I don't begrudge her the trip, it would be a fun experience for anyone and at least she is taking one less flight than the rest of the climate hypocrites. As far as joke fodder goes though it is low-hanging fruit and I'm nothing if not lazy.

Boy is that a loser's argument.

We can't engage fairly with little girls, that's too hard.

I like how I pointed out to you exactly what you are doing and your chosen response is to just carry on like you didn't hear it.

Tell you what, why don't you go take a look at how the same people who insist that Greta Thunberg is beyond reproach treated kids like, I don't know, Nick Sandmann, then you get back to me.

San Francisco (aka Ban Francisco) will ban airplanes soon then people will sail to the Bay Area just like young Greta Thunberg did, it took her just 15 days from UK to New York on a very modern and sustainable vessel...

If only there were a reliable power source in near limitless quantities which was also among the most land efficient known to man. If only it were the safest option and emitted minimal CO2. Maybe we could even hope that we could use hydrogen fuel cells and run the whole shebang with no noxious waste.

Oh well, I guess we will have to continue closing nuclear plants and opening new coal ones instead of actually conserving our land and resources.

Tsk. No more engineering and cost reality please, Mr Sure, it will upset the snowflakes!

'and cost reality '

'As ‘Le Monde’ note, construction began at Flamanville in 2007, and was expected to commence operation in 2012, costing 3.5 billion euros. It now may not open until early 2020 or even 2021 – i.e. eight or nine years later than planned, for a bill of nearly 11 billion – 7.5 billion euros over budget'

'The construction of Olkiluoto-3, a 1,600-MW EPR unit, began in August 2005 and is about nine years behind schedule. In March 2018 TVO signed an agreement with Areva-Siemens over costs and losses caused by delays to the project. The settlement included compensation of €450m, to be paid in two instalments, part of a project with a cost overrun of around 6 billion euros'

'Let’s remember, Hinkley Point C is likely to come in as the most expensive new nuclear reactor in history – and one of the most expensive developments of any kind ever built – at least £18 billion and possibly much more.

EDF has brought in Chinese financial support to assist it in delivering the immense costs for this project, but it still must be of concern whether it can fund the project should it get the type of cost overruns being seen to its EPR’s in France and Finland.'

How could anyone except snowflakes object to such cost realities? Well, maybe tax and rate payers, but we all know how they don't matter compared to a glorious future with electricity to cheap to meter beckoning. Nice that to find such prominent examples in one easily linked to article - with links to the sources, too.

I'm talking the REAL costs....not the costs once the crazy regulatory greenie state is done pumping up the overheads and demanding you prove that no nasty atoms will ever hurt anyone, ever.

It is unreal that the cost of nuclear power should increase in real terms over decades. Costs for power generation should NOT rise when technology improves and demand falls....

Hydrogen cells are fuel storage, not source. One still needs solar plant fired H2 producers.

I know, I would suggest running them off nuclear reactors. But them I am silly and think it would behoove us to do stuff like have high efficiency plants operating for their entire lifecycle.

I don't think the economics favor new nuclear power plants. Granted, closing nuclear power plants early is phenomenally stupid from a CO2 perspective.

Ten years ago, I was pro-nuclear (well I still am) but the dramatic drop in the costs of renewables since then has undermined the economic case for nuclear. At this point LA is looking at solar with 6 hours of storage for under $0.04 per kwh. Assuming the use of Natural gas to fill in the gap at roughly the same costs, then Nuclear can't compete with numbers that low.

Finding the actual cost for renewables is about as easy as finding the actual cost per flight for a NASA spacecraft. Is that exclusive of incentives (which won't last)? Does it include the disposal and teardown costs that nuclear has to include?

"Finding the actual cost for renewables is about as easy as finding the actual cost per flight for a NASA spacecraft. "

The Department of Energy provides just such numbers:

Table 1b page 8

The third column from the Right gives the unsubsidized costs.

Wind $55.9 per MWh = $0.0559 per kWh
Solar $60.0 per MWh = $0.0600 per kWh
Nuclear $77.5 per MWh = $0.0775 per kWh
NatGas $41.2 per MWh = $0.0412 per KWh

Nuclear is just too expensive, and the disposal and teardown costs on wind & solar power are trivial. It's likely in the case of wind that the scrap value of the metal would entirely cover the costs of disposal, assuming that a newer turbine couldn't be used on the existing tower. Frankly, I don't know what the disposal numbers for solar are, but it's not going to be anywhere near the costs of dealing with radioactive material.

It's important to note, that when a wind turbine reaches the end of it's life expectancy it can be pulled down and rebuilt for far cheaper than a new turbine can be built. The costs of Wind power will decline as the installation base goes up.

Solar doesn't benefit from this to the same degree because solar cells and invertors are a huge chunk of the costs and can't be "rebuilt".

"Frankly, I don't know what the disposal numbers for solar are, but it's not going to be anywhere near the costs of dealing with radioactive material."

That is not at all clear.

Not to hand wave the argument away, but how high do you think disposal cost could be for solar? I don't see a reasonable analysis that doesn't favor solar disposal over nuclear disposal.

This is complicated because it isn't obvious that leaving spent fuel at the site is expensive, nor is burying it necessarily very expensive. And current costs will be inflated due to over regulation. I'd like to see a comparison between the two in France.

At least for now, disposing solar will require millions of panels being taken down over time. Do you have a link to something that compares the two?

You also have to consider the cost of production, including the cost of remediation. Solar panels are not clean to produce--the process involves various heavy metals, which makes the production sites (often third-world areas with no environmental regulations or protection for the workers) highly toxic sites. We're not talking "If you ingest 50,000 tons you may have a chance of getting cancer", we're talking "If you live to see 40 you're very, very lucky". Disposal will have similar concerns, particularly as you need to keep the stuff from leaching over time.

There's also maintenance. Solar power is popular in deserts, but panels reduce in efficiency when they're dusty. So they use water to clean them. Guess what deserts don't have a lot of....

the process involves various heavy metals, which makes the production sites (often third-world areas with no environmental regulations or protection for the workers) highly toxic sites. We're not talking "If you ingest 50,000 tons you may have a chance of getting cancer", we're talking "If you live to see 40 you're very, very lucky".

This is a huge exaggeration of a recognized problem and standards have been getting much better in China and Malaysia. I was going to add that disposing solar panels isn't trivial because of chemicals but not sure how expensive that is to deal with.

It may be getting better, but after working on solar power projects for several years and in the environmental remediation business for 11, I got the impression that that's mostly because getting worse wasn't an option.

Even if the problem is 1/10th as bad as I presented it, those are still costs that need to be addressed in the production of these materials, and I have serious doubts as to whether those numbers presented include them.

I've been involved in the construction of solar, wind, natural gas, and nuclear power plants. Frankly, I have very little good to say about solar or wind after those experiences, as far as energy production goes.

Well for a start, solar simply has massively more material, somewhere around an order of magnitude mere raw mass goes into solar energy per kWh. Secondly, nuclear waste is toxic for a finite amount of time, most all of it can be either used in other reactors or decays in a couple hundred years. Solar fabrication utilizes stable, toxic elements that last for basically the rest of Earth's lifetime.

Long story, short when it comes to high level waste (e.g. the stuff that needs deep injection disposal), solar generates about 300 times as much waste burden as nuclear.

The other big thing is that solar (at scale) is placing industrial hardware into an unprotected environment. This means you either just ignore the cleanup costs and let things like Cadmium leach out with weathering … or you pay to prevent things like hurricanes from trashing your installations. Nuclear, in contrast, keeps all of its toxic crap under containment vessels that can withstand direct plane strikes.

Finally there is just the simple fact that solar still isn't all that cost competitive. For the standard rogue's gallery reasons; there is a reason that Germany's newest coal plant was opened in 2019. Feeding even one German coal plant with their open mining is going to release more radioactive waste than the entire German nuclear fleet. But its okay, the Thorium will just go up the flu and out in the environment. Radiation is not actually that deadly, particularly when it is easily containable (such that the number of major releases can be counted on one hand) and the masses involved are tiny; solar's toxics are just more deadly (though hidden away upstream in the silicon processing), vastly more massive, and are vastly more difficult to separate out into separate waste streams.

Solar is getting there, wind is getting there. But our problems are here today. Forget about global warming, forget about national security. Just look at air pollution. Coal is noxious and kills massive numbers of people (but its okay, they are mostly children, the elderly and smokers); we could avert massive amounts of medical bills, preserve life, and generally improve everything else we care about by building nuclear today. No need to wait for storage technology. No need to continue dumping toxic chemicals into the Chinese back country. We could do massive amounts of good today and leave an engineering problem at worst.

Instead we are treated to the lunacy of allegedly green countries expediting closure of nuclear plants, increasing coal consumption, and major capital expenditures in new coal capacity.

You are killing it in this thread. Thanks.

Is that average or marginal cost for nuclear?

Levelized cost, so basically national average total costs with the result used to compute the effective cost of electricity from the source.

Marginal costs would be entirely different. Obviously the marginal costs for continuing operation on an existing nuclear plant could be quite low.

So the implication is that it only pertains to new nuclear plants, which we haven't built in any quantity since 1979.

The relevant economics are therefore those of existing nuclear plants.


Good numbers; we having similar published by UK Dept of Environment.

One caveat: these levelised costs flatter non-despatchables like wind and solar and hydro; they don't pay the system costs for coal and nuclear and gas and (stored) hydro picking up the slack on bad days.

There's some motion, I think, to weighting such levelised costs by demand distributions. This means that the mismatches between relative renewable production and demand are properly penalised in cost terms.

Alternatively, you can work out how much storage you need to smooth out the peaks and troughs of the intermittent renewables at an acceptable level of risk. This number is small but grows rapidly as renewables breach 30% of all generation.

I don't know about the US, but for the UK to get through a typical year without interruption it would require something like 3 weeks of storage (20,000 TWh!!!) for a fully renewable grid with a capacity of 200% of average demand.

Typo: 20,000 GWh. Still huge.

+1, I agree with everything you wrote.

I'm by no means a died in the wool advocate for either side. I just think that starting in the last 5-10 years the economic numbers for renewables became favorable and the continued decline in costs have enhanced that edge.

"I don't know about the US, but for the UK to get through a typical year without interruption it would require something like 3 weeks of storage"

As I said above, trying for Zero emissions is a fools errand. The rational solution will involve a fairly large natural gas & oil component.

That only tells us how expensive things are under the current regulatory regime, not how expensive the baseline power sources are.

This also is taking into account the costs of nuclear disposal (for which nuclear energy has been taxed since 1982) while leaving the disposal costs for solar out of the question (current practice is to ship most of the bulk waste to third world countries where they just burn the stuff to recover scrap). Comparable disposal costs for solar (given current estimates for solar lifecycles) may rise as high as $1/kWh (I personally doubt this figure, but I the only better figures I can find are recycling costs for small scale endeavors).

Nuclear could easily be cheaper (e.g. their steam turbines are significantly more expensive than steam turbines for other plants even though both operate off nothing more than heated, non-radioactive water), but that requires anyone being willing to risk public ire and even the odd dozen dead people in an accident. But when you look at the morbidity and mortality for nuclear we are spending princely fortunes to avert small numbers. Saving money on nuclear by lowering safety tolerances to the point where we double the morbidity and mortality while precluding the building of one new coal plant is a fantastic tradeoff.

The day I believe solar is actually "cheaper" than nuclear is some day after we stop building new coal plants.

A few big nuke plants are needed to augment solar and wind on the cloudy windless days, because power storage is still a joke.

Small nuke plants are perfect for cargo ships. But instead of researching them we've blown the money pursuing fusion.

I actually expect that the long term is either going to be something completely different (e.g. fusion or some new geothermal option) or people will eventually wise up and develop Wind, Nuclear, and Hydro as the mainstays of the world. Solar may surprise me, but I need a decade to see if they can make the economics of dead panels not be a giant externality.

Yes, primary biofuels suck. At the end of the day you're limited by the C3/C4 fixing power of photosynthesis. This is a terrible low yield in terms of W per ha. You end up eating nearly all the arable land mass on the planet to get civilisation level amounts of power.

The obvious solution is to synthesise the fuel from CO2 and Hydrogen feedstock, using renewable electricity from wind turbines or whatever. They at least yield a decent W per ha, though it's still really expensive compared to just using oil.

That's if you believe all this AGW crap and think the economics justifies the crazy expenditures anyway.

Ah, you mean an approach like this?

Nanotube filters is part of it, yes. As they become easier to use these filters are incorporated everywhere we do energy conversion, very useful. The next goal is to make these filters active, participate in the reduction process.

From your link:

If commercialized, such membranes could benefit biofuel companies that make ethanol from corn, McGinnis and others say. Fermentation leaves a solution of 10% ethanol in water. Today, ethanol producers use heat and 6-meter-tall distillation columns to boil off the ethanol, an energy-intensive process that costs about a third as much as the alcohol itself. McGinnis says his membranes could cut the distillation cost by 90% in an ethanol market worth $50 billion per year in the United States.
One of the holy grails of nanotube filters. I eliminates the energy intensive process and also allows a great variety of fermentation materials.

Something like that.

It's still an inefficient way to make liquid fuels compared to....drilling.... but nearly anything is better than taking a 1% energy conversion rate on sunlight into plant carbs.

Put a reasonable price on carbon and where it is easy to cut emissions they will be eliminated or greatly reduced. If there is an area such as flight where it is difficult to reduce emissions then the carbon price will encourage efficiency.

Note it is more efficient to use oil to produce jet fuel and then use agriculture to capture and sequester emissions than to produce biofuel. But neither approach is necessary. If we want to we can power planes using hydrogen produced using clean electricity.

Note hydrogen powered flight is just one option but it is useful as a worse case option. To produce enough hydrogen to fly a person from New York to Paris and back each year would require the energy produced by around 7 solar panels.

+1 re pricing carbon as an externality. And, rebate the tax to citizens or use it to cover the deficit. Part of the problem is that if you do it, and other countries do not, you place your industries at a disadvantage so you might need to tax imports of products from countries which do not tax carbon.

Pricing carbon has the problem that we can't actually agree on a price. Anyone who buys it is not pricing the actual cost, but intangibles like being "carbon-neutral".

Apparently there's a market in the EU, but the current price is about $8/ton, which is not really enough to change any behavior at all.

If the price covers the cost of carbon offsets then why does it matter how much extra the intangibles are or whether people change their behavior?

M, Cap and trade lets the market set the price. You don't have to agree on the price.

So could a carbon tax; adjust until you get the desired output.

The maximum cap on a carbon price is the cost of removing CO2 from the atmosphere and sequestering it long term. A very rough estimate of this is $50 a tonne.

Since airplanes get significantly better passenger miles/gallon than cars, all of this argument about the problem of airplane emissions is really just an argument that people should travel less.

I can't drive to Australia. Or Europe. The issue is whether you fly to the south of France for your holiday or drive to a nearby National park.

Pretty poor argument if you argue that ONE THING--biofuels--will be the ONLY THING you would use to reduce emissions to bring about a 1.5 degree change, and that ONE THING would take up x amount of arable land.

Who says we will only do ONE THING?

You do many things, all at once, and you weigh the cost/benefit of the THINGS you are doing together, and examine biofuels in that mix.

I don't know about the mix, but don't be fooled by saying ONE THING and then positing the size of arable land if you do that ONE THING.

The assumption is that mass starvation and decrease in population as a result is a bad thing. That is exactly the mechanism behind these propositions. Having airports smell like french fries is just a bonus.

Wet milling of corn produces ethanol in addition to a variety of other products (corn syrup, gluten meal, etc.) just like a barrel of crude oil is the feedstock for gasoline, jet fuel, heating oil, and a variety of chemicals. A food v. fuel trade off is too simplistic.

That's good to know, we can keep flying as long as we switch over to a corn syrup and gluten meal based diet. I'm afraid to ask what we're supposed to do with the cobs.

I hear routes and flights being cut as we speak, though the announcements are yet forthcoming.

Aircraft manufacturing declines to follow. Commercial passenger airlines decrease in number as ticket prices soar.

Retroactive taxation on accumulated airmiles?

Autogyros, anyone?

Arguably, "natural limits" to human global population will begin asserting themselves over the coming century: watch instead for global population decline as species habitats are compromised enough to begin triggering food chain collapses ("undetected" at first, then "unreported" as they are belatedly discovered). E. g.--at least two species of penguin have already sustained marked habitat loss resulting in large population declines.

This again is a misreading of Malthusianism.

Malthusianism states that the population will decline if the resources are unavailable to support it. This implies only deaths over births, which can be achieved by not only a greater number of deaths (ie, starvation), but by a reduced number of births (low fertility rates). It is this latter mechanism which is or will be driving population declines in all of the advanced countries, as well as China.

We are already living in a Malthusian world.

Better to remove co2 from the air and keep using fossil fuels for air travel.

Some numbers:

About 40% of US corn production goes into making ethanol. Ethanol is about about 4% of US petroleum liquids consumption, about 3% by energy content.

Biofuels other than ethanol (that is, primarily biodiesel) comprise 0.8% of total US oil consumption representing approximately 170,000 bpd on total US consumption recently running north of 22 million bpd.

Kerosene -- that is primarily aviation jet fuel (a very small bit is aviation gasoline) -- represents about 8% of US oil consumption.

This is a very small amount, and why someone would feel need to make bio jet fuel is beyond me. You can more easily make biodiesel which can be used in less demanding applications, eg, home heating oil.

All these numbers are readily available on tab 4a of the STEO, the related spreadsheet of which can be found here:

Good point. With less BTU per gallon of fuel, you'd have airplanes burning fuel to carry around MORE fuel to get to the same destination. Make ships and trains use biofuel first, if that's the way to go.

Biodiesel is essentially indistinguishable from regular diesel if properly prepared. It's a fungible product, not something new.

Yes, but trains and ships haul their fuel around much more cheaply. Airplanes, not so much. Adding 1/3 more to haul costs more for a plane than an airplane.

Won't make any difference. If it's going to be bio jet fuel, it will be exactly the same as today's jet fuel. The method of manufacture may be different, but the product will be exactly the same.

Got ya. I thought the biofuel had less btu density like ethanol.

Ethanol is less dense than gasoline. That's true, and ethanol is not gasoline.

However, biodiesel is in fact diesel. No difference, to to best of my knowledge.

As for aircraft fuel, that's going to have a high spec with low tolerance for variation. You're pushing this stuff through jet engines at 600 mph with range set assuming it's jet fuel, not some hybrid mixture. No one's going to start mixing in old cooking oil from McDonalds. So this whole bio jet fuel thing is really a canard.

A clarification: Biodiesel is typically cooking oil. Functionally, it's the same as diesel. To wit:

"Biodiesel manufactured from various oils will comprise different quantities and kinds of fatty acid chains. This is the reason why biodiesel manufactured from canola oil will not have the alike chemical properties of biodiesel created from soybean oil. For example, palm oil has a melting point of -10C while soybean oil melts at -16C. Palm oil which has 45% C16 palmitic acid will melt at 35C.

Biodiesel undergoes the trasesterification. This process is conducted during batch processes. If the vegetable oil is used, it has to be filtered then heated to eliminate water substances. Bumping occurs during this process. Then, a strong base (typically sodium hydroxide) is then combined with alcohol substances (either methanol or ethanol) are added to the oil. The reaction of Catalyst (NaOH) with Methanol will result to CH3OH + NaOH ¨ CH3O-Na + H2O where CH3O-Na exists as the anion CH3O- and the cation Na+. The alcohol will be a nucleophile and is deprotinated. It will bout the ester groups in the glycerides, then transporting the, to form esters and glycerol."

Generally, the engines using biodiesel don't care that much, so it can be used in equivalent fashion.

They care in cold weather. biodiesels generally don't flow well in freezing temperatures.

And you're right, biodiesel on average has 93% of the energy of diesel. Mea culpa.

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