The Low Carbon Kid Strikes Out!

And to think that this bloke used to actually write a good chunk of the government\’s drivel on the subject.

These are, please note, consecutive sentences from his blog post. I have not just collected the worst parts:

The paper uses scientific analysis to calculate the world’s total subsidies to oil, coal and gas companies at between $400 and $500 billion per year.

That\’s about £45 for each man woman and child on the planet.

This hardly seems possible, but this is a peer-reviewed paper.

1) The paper does not use scientific analysis to calculate this. It quotes the well known finding of the International Energy Authority that a certain group of nations (Iran, Russia, Saudi etc) subsidise the consumption of fossil fuels.

2) A subsidy to consumers is not a subsidy to producers.

3) This is not a peer reviewed paper \”Hansen et al. 2012, submitted\”…they are waiting for the results of the peer review.

That\’s three strikes and, yes, David Thorpe, you are out!

20 thoughts on “The Low Carbon Kid Strikes Out!”

  1. If emission reductions began this year the required rate of decline is 6% to restore the energy balance of the Earth and stabilise the climate by the end of the century.

    If reductions are delayed until 2020 the required level of reduction is 15% per year.

    If we had begun in 2005 it would have been just 3% per year.

    WTF is “the energy balance of the earth”?

    If his figures are correct, we were, in 2005 at somewhere between 285% (linear) or 18 times (progressive) of the desired output level. But taking his 2012 figures we are at 528% to 231 times. And in 2020, 12 to 440,000 times.

    I have doubts that we have doubled in CO2 output since 2005 and will more than double between now and 2020. Never mind actually taking his figures on a mathematical rather than simple basis (i.e. the opposite of compound interest.)

  2. I posted on his blog “Those of us who recognise that burning the odd trillion tons of coal must have warmed the planet can be embarassed by junk like this. Variations in solar radiation are the dominant cause for secular temperature variations and we can do zilch about them – hence the FALL in global temperatures in the last few years. There is NO subsidy for fossil-fuel companies, just consumer fuel-price subsidies in a few energy-exporting countries, which are far exceeded by taxes on fuel in energy-importing countries.
    It has obviously escaped Mr Hanson’s notice that ALL fossil fuels have been created by carbon sequestration so burning them would be carbon-neutral and restore the earth’s atmosphere to the status quo ante. Hence all his arguments about the natural state are nonsense.
    I want to reduce energy waste (so, as far as possible I use my feet or public transport) as this is the only factor about “Global Warming”v that we can control but I also care about the truth. PLEASE can we have some honest guys to promote the case against burning more fossil fuel than necessary.”
    I do not expect it will appear

  3. Erm. Subsidies that are nominally targeted to consumers and those that are nominally targeted at consumers are the sane thing.

    Hell, this is a point Tim makes all the time re tax; the same rules apply here. A subsidy on retail prices may benefit consumers, producers, or some combination of the two, depending on everyone’s elasticities.

    The one thing we can say for sure is that it will increase production, which is the article’s point.

  4. John77: imagine if I build a vast dam on a major inland river, leave it to fill for 30 years, and then empty it in five minutes. While it would be approximately true to say I was returning the situation to the status quo ante, this wouldn’t prevent everyone downstream from being drowned. The timescales for carbon are comparable.

  5. If you have to subsidise something then forty-five quid a year each for what it is that’s being subsidised smells like amazing value compared to, well, just about every other fucking subsidy I can think if.

  6. James,

    Context? It doesn’t appear in the original article, to which there are currently no comments, Tim’s post or any of the comments here or even on a recent post on JohnB’s blog.

    Normally, in MBAspeak, it is all of the organisations/services/sectors involved in the production of a particular product or service (eg ‘the finance vertical’) as opposed to the horizontals which tend to be enablers – eg IT or transport.

  7. Surrepririous Evil,

    I think the reduction figures should be per decade not per year. A suggestion that we need 15 per cent a year or even only 6 is ludicrous. Unless this is based on contraction and convergence where the developed west commits economic suicide and developing nations continue to develop.

    Still waiting for the climate refugees. The UN were expecting 50million by now.

  8. Gareth,

    I suppose that, given suitable evidence, I would be happy that the human contribution to excess CO2 was 3 times sustainable levels. Just about. And there is no suitable evidence.

    The rest is just clearly bollocks. And, frankly, whether you consider reasonable measures of technological progress – agricultural production, Moore’s law, etc, you get exponential rather than linear advances. Therefore you have to treat his estimates at my high end, not my low end.

    And that’s without us getting one of the Tokomaks to work …

    BTW – bet Hansen’s paper passes peer review despite being transparent political nonsense. Go on. A couple of pints of beer? Any volunteers?

  9. @ john b
    “While it would be approximately true to say I was returning the situation to the status quo ante.” No it wouldn’t because status quo ante didn’t include a drought during periods of low but non-zero rainfall nor a flood. Orange is not approximately indigo.
    Incidentally, in case you hadn’t noticed, I am not supporting Exxon or wanting an increases in CO2 emissions, just asking for honesty from the AGW lobbyists. If they keep telling easily refutable lies, people will suspect they have no honest arguments and that is is ALL a scam.

  10. So Much For Subtlety

    John b – “imagine if I build a vast dam on a major inland river, leave it to fill for 30 years, and then empty it in five minutes. While it would be approximately true to say I was returning the situation to the status quo ante, this wouldn’t prevent everyone downstream from being drowned. The timescales for carbon are comparable.”

    Imagine that something like 2,500 gigatonnes of carbon was locked up in some form of deposit. And then it was all released in an afternoon. Would everyone die? Perhaps. But would a run away Greenhouse event take place? It seems not.

    Natural is an interesting word. The Earth has been hit several times by meteors large enough to be suspected of killing most of the life on the planet. Which presumably vaporised the entire biomass of the planet and probably burned some of the rocks too. Releasing more CO2 that we can easily think about. Perfectly natural.

    What we are doing is not unprecedented.

  11. The one thing we can say for sure is that it will increase production, which is the article’s point.

    I don’t think it does. If domestic producers have to sell at an artificially low rate – which is what happens in Russia with gas – then they have little incentive to increase production.

  12. @Surreptitious Evil, I asked what “Energy Balance” meant.

    David Thorpe has left a new comment on the post “Everyone on the planet helps subsidise fossil fuel…”:

    SadButMadLad: The energy balance of the Earth is the balance between the solar energy entering the Earth’s atmosphere and the heat that is permitted to leave it by the greenhouse gas layer around the atmosphere. The fact that in recent history up to now the amount coming in has been more or less the same as the amount going out has stabilised the Earth’s temperature and has permitted life to exist as we know it on the planet. By adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere less of this heat is permitted to leave and therefore the average global temperature is rising at a much faster rate than at any time in the Earth’s history (as determined from fossil and other records etc.). This is dangerous as ecosystems cannot adapt fast enough. This is what we mean by climate change.

  13. I think I know where I have gone wrong – I was considering annual human emissions not the overall level of CO2.

    I note the immediate appeal to authority in Thorpe’s reply to John77 .

  14. SBML,

    He’s talking out of his arse then. The energy balance remains. What may be changing is how that reflects in temperature, particularly lower down in the atmosphere. If we simplify to black body radiators, energy emission rises higher than linearly with surface temperature.

    Venus is “energy balanced” just at much higher temperatures than we would find convenient. Similarly Mars, but at lower.

  15. John77: for nearly all of human history, there was much less CO2 in circulation in the atmosphere than there would have been absent several hundred million years of sequestration. Since 1900, which is five minutes in geological terms, we’ve put a lot of it back. That’s why the dam comparison is relevant.

    Tim N: Yes, price controls can lead to reduced supply. However, they aren’t subsidies. Subsidies would involve using tax revenue to make it *profitable* for producers to sell at a low rate by giving them extra cash, at which point they would certainly do so.

  16. @ john b
    “for nearly all of human history, there was much less CO2 in circulation in the atmosphere than there would have been absent several hundred million years of sequestration.” Yes, if Hansen and Low Carbon Kid had been prepared to do the work of discussing that point, I should have been happier
    “Since 1900, which is five minutes in geological terms, we’ve put a lot of it back.” Proportionately a *little*
    No the dam analogy just doesn’t work for so many reasons that I can’t list all of them – the only dam that is at all comparable is Dinorwic where water is pumped up during periods of low electricity demand and it surges down during peak demand (such as advert breaks in TV soaps).

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