Elsewhere

It isn’t going to be governments making pledges in Paris which change the future anyway, is it? It is going to be technological advance and the associated actions of the aggregated 7 billion of us which will. And one lesson to take from that great economic experiment we call the 20th century is that markets and incentives work rather better at determining what does happen than the promises, pledges and predictions of governments when trying to manage an economy. Or even reality.

As Bjorn Lomborg said near two decades ago – and boy doesn’t he still get stick for having been right – in a world where solar power drops in cost by 20% per annum and is still doing so what a politician promises to do to the rest of us is really very small beer indeed.

17 thoughts on “Elsewhere”

  1. Of course the government pledges will change the future. They will do so by causing lots of OUR money to be wasted and hence, the benefits flowing from individual choices will be prevented.

  2. In a world where solar power drops out 18 hours a day, it will never be anything but supplemental.

    As full power generation facilities are still required regardless of how much solar power is generated, solar power is superfluous, not supplemental.

  3. No what EU politicians do in response is very big beer: 111% tariffs on Chinese solar panels, making them so expensive national gummints have to offer feed in tariff a and tax breaks to get them to work.

  4. @Gamecock, November 4, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    As full power generation facilities are still required regardless of how much solar power is generated, solar power is superfluous, not supplemental.

    +1

    Sums up wind & solar briefly, accurately & perfectly

    .
    OT
    ‘Helpless snowflakes’: Anne Widdecombe leads backlash against Westminster sex scandal

    The politician-turned-commentator decried that “women are being so wimpish these days, wallowing in self-pity, expecting the men always to protect them.”

  5. The moment they work out how to make solar work 24hrs a day with constant output and minimal land use, it will be effective.

  6. “In a world where solar power drops out 18 hours a day, it will never be anything but supplemental.”

    You can smooth out the diurnal problem with time.

    Use photosynthesis to continuously create layers of vast quantities of bio-matter. Bury, and wait millions of years. Harvest the altered bio-matter where you find it, and release the energy as needed.

    Solar is brilliant.

  7. Common enough argument. The price decline has been near exactly the same as the rise in volume – according to a common argument. That would mean solar has almost exactly linear economies of scale. Which is in itself an assertion which casts a lot of doubt upon the idea. Quite apart from anything else, technological advance just doesn’t work that way.

    And I do rather know why the technology has changed – at least in part. That crash in the price of silicon for example.

    My own reading of it is rather that the time was right for this technology. As with the motor car in 1900 to 1920, someone was going to do what Henry Ford did, just all the supporting and necessary techs were in place. As with the light bulb in 1860-1890. Not a watertight argument I’ll agree but one I think has a great deal of truth to it all the same.

  8. Solar –outside of hot zones–is useless piddle power Tim. And another of your weak spots.

    If solar paid us cash to use it –it might be a boon . Otherwise it is just another lousy eco-freak (ie–CM) sideshow to divert resources away from sensible usage.

    That the likes of SJW would advocate such nonsense is one thing. But Tim should have more sense.

  9. “My own reading of it is rather that the time was right for this technology.”

    Government is pushing it. Period.

  10. @ Mr Ecks
    Solar power – used properly (for instance in conjunction with nuclear base load or to power air conditioning) – has a lot going for it. I do not for an instant suggest that it can be the sole source of energy supply but it can be a major part of future energy.

  11. It needs about 1/7000 (0.014%) of the Earth’s surface to collect the energy we currently use. For comparison about 11% of the Earth’s surface is under cultivation. So from a pure physics perspective, it’s not a significant problem. Even if you allow an order of magnitude for unavoidable inefficiencies, it’s still 100 times easier than agriculture, which is a problem we’ve already solved.

    Everything else is just a matter of technology. (If you genetically engineered a plant that photosynthesised at solar panel efficiencies, and then transported the fuel produced along organic pipes to collection points, for example, it would cost virtually nothing to install and maintain. Plant a seed, and watch it self-repair.)

    It’s reasonable enough to suppose that it could be our major/only source of energy one day – perhaps in a century or two. Lomborg, as I recall, extrapolated the price of solar to fall to parity around 2050, and said that we ought to wait until it did and then convert at that time. The problem was trying to convert too early, before the technology is ready. Nuclear would still be easier in the meantime.

    However, what Lomborg really got into trouble for was trying to solve the climate change problem, instead of the real aim of the campaign which is to overthrow capitalism and redistribute global wealth and technology. They only like solar and wind because they obviously don’t work, which means they can still argue that we’re not doing enough and therefore need to abandon democracy and institute an eco-dictatorship. “Government in the future will be based upon . . . a supreme office of the biosphere. The office will comprise specially trained philosopher/ecologists. These guardians will either rule themselves or advise an authoritarian government of policies based on their ecological training and philosophical sensitivities. These guardians will be specially trained for the task.” If an energy proposal actually stands a chance of working, they don’t like it.

    Some people might deduce from that that they’re not serious about the planetary emergency, and stop trying to find ways to align it with free market approaches. There’s no point. They’re not interested. We’re not interested. Everyone knows they’re lying. Politically, it’s dead anyway (and has been since Byrd-Hagel killed it). The corpse just hasn’t stopped moving yet.

  12. @Tim Worstall, November 5, 2017 at 8:04 am

    Agree. New tech be it Cars, TVs, VCRs or Computers tend to fall in price on a steepish downward curve before leveling off when mature. Linear decline is abnormal and suggests outside interference in the market.

  13. “I do not for an instant suggest that it can be the sole source of energy supply but it can be a major part of future energy.”

    Only if government compels it. It’s stupid.

  14. @ Gamecock
    It is *not* stupid – solar PV has been economic for off-grid electricity for years and solar water-heating is economic even in England., You need something else to heat houses on winter nights but it makes sense to use solar PV to run air-conditioning for instance.

  15. @ Gamecock
    Why?
    Trying to use solar as baseload at night-time is stupid – using solar PV in Philippine villages miles away from the nearest grid connection *without government funding* was sensible a dozen years ago. Using solar to reduce the height of demand peaks on hot days makes sense.
    What *was* stupid was the massive subsidy from the poorest consumers to wealthy householders who installed solar PV panels on their roofs. what was even stupider was the German Greens demanding – and Merkel agreeing – the closure of German nuclear plants and their replacvement with plants burning lignite (“brown coal”). But using solar when and where it makes sense is *not* stupid.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *