Should energy policy be linked to climate change?


There is nothing against emission reductions for other reasons than climate change (and there are many good reasons).

That said, I think it would not be wise to entire decouple energy policy from climate policy and climate science. The issue of climate change has more urgency to it than many of the other reasons for decarbonization (though I don’t know the ins and outs of all these issues of course). Besides, it strikes me as odd and counterproductive to leave aside a very important reason for doing something. There are more and more voices that claim that it would actually be productive to do so, but I remain unconvinced. The endless argument about whether climate change is serious enough to warrant energy policies would indeed stop, but at the cost of lowering the incentive for such policies.

The risk of doing something for the ‘wrong’ reasons is that the ‘real’ reason will not be sufficiently addressed. E.g. other solutions may be found for the ‘other’ problem and then the problem that really needs addressing, but that was strategically left out of the reasoning, is left unchecked. It carries the risk that not enough is done, or not fast enough, or that it will be stopped if other solutions are found for the ‘other’ problems (e.g. new fossil reserves; better filters for pollution; improvement of the geopolitical situation, etc).

Which issues are more urgent is a valid question of course. About the fossil reserves (and the associated ‘peak oil’), it’s worth noting that the conventional supplies of oil will likely still last for, what is it, 50 years or so. There’s still plenty of coal (which could technically be transformed into a liquid, alleviating the problems of ‘peak oil’, though it would be environmentally and climatologically disastrous). Then there are unconventional fossil fuels, including oil. I don’t see how the fossil reserves could carry the same sense of urgency that I think climate change has. Socio-economic impacts of peak oil, maybe, I don’t really know. Declining fossil fuel reserves are a very important motivation for technological innovation, but not so much for starting seriously with emissions reductions by deploying existing technology.

The ‘no-regret’ options for dealing with climate change are a good start (which have been postponed for long enough already), but not enough to get us on a climatologically safe trajectory. Climate change is too important of a reason to be left out of the energy policy debate.

[Update: Picture added (again) as it seems to fit the topic of this post just too well.]

95 Responses to “Should energy policy be linked to climate change?”

  1. Tom Fuller Says:

    Hi Bart.

    Might get more done if you decoupled it from the hullabaloo about CO2…

    Look at the U.S. Our fuel use is down and so is our CO2–and despite what some say, only one third of that is because of the recession. And we did that pretty much without signing treaties or trading permits, etc.

  2. manuelg Says:

    TF said:
    “Look at the U.S. Our fuel use is down…”

    {abuse} It is called a recession, idiot. Do some paid research on it, and try not to walk into any open manholes on the way to the library. {/abuse}

    Now writing for those who can differentiate recessions from sound environmental policy…

    An unstable climate that makes the current scale of agriculture and transport impossible, leading to something like the decline of the Roman Empire over the technologically/socially advanced world, seems to be politically impossible to avoid. Much like the Roman decline would have been politically impossible to avoid 150 years before the collapse. How can we tell India and China to forgo their dreams of a standard of living like today’s US. We have no moral or military leverage to compel them.

    There are failure modes of humans as political and rational actors that makes sacrifice for future generations unlikely to the point of being impossible. Maybe it wasn’t always so, and maybe the problem at the most acute is limited to the west, but it most certainly is a hard fact now. And the speed of social change is literally glacial.

    That such a store of energy, easily converted to work, was collected and stored underground for millions of years, exists, and human nature exists, was enough to guarantee the release of carbon without due care to consequence. I can’t imagine my delight, if I am wrong, because I am the father to a daughter.

  3. Tom Fuller Says:

    Manuel G, thanks for the kind comments. I do get paid for this research. As it happens, I got that directly from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Agency. You might want to check before casually stepping into your own set of manuelholes.

  4. Eli Rabett Says:

    There was a slowdown in CO2 growth in the early 1990s when the FSU collapsed along with the rest of the Warsaw Pact countries. Same thing is happening now.

  5. Tom Fuller Says:

    No, Mr. Rabett, here in the U.S. one-third of it came from conversion of coal power plants to natural gas, one-third from bringing online other renewable sources and one-third from economic distress. According to the DOE.

  6. Tom Fuller Says:

    You would think this would be cause for celebration:

    What happened to carbon dioxide emissions from energy use in 2009?

    In 2009, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in the United States saw their largest absolute and percentage decline (405 million metric tons or 7.0 percent) since the start of EIA’s comprehensive record of annual energy data that begins in 1949, more than 60 years ago. While emissions have declined in three out of the last four years, 2009 was exceptional. As discussed below, emissions developments in 2009 reflect a combination of factors, including some particular to the economic downturn, other special circumstances during the year, and other factors that may reflect persistent trends in our economy and our energy use.

    What caused the drop in the carbon intensity of energy supply in 2009?

    Across all sectors of the economy, decreasing consumption of carbon-emitting fossil fuels resulted in both a lower carbon intensity and lower absolute emissions. Emissions from coal dropped 12.0 percent, petroleum emissions were down 5.3 percent and natural gas emissions were down 1.6 percent. Non-fossil fuel consumption, on the other hand increased about 2 percent.

    The fuel mix and associated carbon intensity of most sectors have tended to be very stable over time. However, in 2009, the carbon intensity of the electric power sector decreased by nearly 4.3 percent, primarily due to fuel switching as the price of coal rose 6.8 percent from 2008 to 2009 while the comparable price of natural gas fell 48 percent on a per Btu basis. The carbon content of natural gas is about 45 percent lower than the carbon content of coal and modern natural gas generation plants that can compete to supply base load electricity often use significantly less energy input to produce a kilowatt-hour of electricity than a typical coal-fired generation plant. For both of these reasons, increased use of natural gas in place of coal caused the sector’s carbon intensity to decrease. The industrial sector, also a large coal consumer, showed a similar decline in carbon intensity in 2009 – over 3 percent – due to lower coal and petroleum consumption.

    How did the change in fuel supply mix in the electric power sector impact the carbon intensity of energy supply in 2009?

    The 4-percent drop in the carbon intensity of the electric power sector, the largest in recent times, reflects a large increase in the use of lower-carbon natural gas because of an almost 50-percent decline in its price. This reduced coal’s share of overall generation. Renewable generation also increased.* Nuclear generation, although down slightly, increased its share of the total. The drop in carbon intensity of the supply combined with lower demand from the economy resulted in carbon dioxide emissions from the electric power sector dropping by 205 million metric tons.

    What role have efficiency improvements in natural gas generation played in lower carbon intensity of electric power generation since 2000?

    As indicated in the graph below, new and efficient natural gas generators that have come online in recent years have played a large role in lowering the carbon intensity of the electric power sector. From 2000 to 2008, about 120 gigawatts of natural gas combined cycle generation capacity were added.

    In 2000, electric power sector generation from natural gas was 518 billion kWh, leading to emissions of 281 million metric tons carbon dioxide. By 2009, generation had risen to 841 billion kWh and emissions were 374 million metric tons. Therefore the emissions intensity fell from 0.542 to 0.445 metric tons per thousand kWh, or by 18 percent. If the emissions intensity had not changed and emissions had risen at the same rate as generation, they would have reached 456 million metric tons in 2009. Therefore, the increased efficiency of new generation capacity resulted in avoided emissions of 82 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.

  7. Tom Fuller Says:

    Mr. G? Mr. Rabett?

  8. Tom Fuller Says:

    Sad thing is they’ll run off and say the same thing on some other blog…

  9. dhogaza Says:

    Sad thing is they’ll run off and say the same thing on some other blog…

    It’s amazing how often Fuller looks in the mirror and doesn’t see his own image …

  10. dhogaza Says:

    If the emissions intensity had not changed and emissions had risen at the same rate as generation, they would have reached 456 million metric tons in 2009. Therefore, the increased efficiency of new generation capacity resulted in avoided emissions of 82 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.

    Tom, as usual, is being dishonest.

    This does not say that emissions dropped due to a lessening of emissions intensity.

    It says that emission of CO2 only increased 374 million metric tons rather than 456 million metric tons due to this factor.

    It’s good, but it doesn’t explain why total CO2 emissions *dropped*, rather than just show a diminished rate of increase.

    In typical own-goal fashion, Tom does include the quote that substantiates what Eli Rabbett said:

    Across all sectors of the economy, decreasing consumption of carbon-emitting fossil fuels resulted in both a lower carbon intensity and lower absolute emissions. Emissions from coal dropped 12.0 percent, petroleum emissions were down 5.3 percent and natural gas emissions were down 1.6 percent. Non-fossil fuel consumption, on the other hand increased about 2 percent.

    Reading fully, it’s clear that the drop is mostly due to the recession, but the drop is greater due to increases in efficiency and to some degree increased use of natural gas rather than coal (which I can’t imagine anyone here opposes).

    Tom claims that fully one third of the drop in emissions is due to the switch to natural gas, quoting authoritatively a source that says:

    The fuel mix and associated carbon intensity of most sectors have tended to be very stable over time. However, in 2009, the carbon intensity of the electric power sector decreased by nearly 4.3 percent, primarily due to fuel switching as the price of coal rose 6.8 percent from 2008 to 2009 while the comparable price of natural gas fell 48 percent on a per Btu basis.

    It’s only responsible for 4.3 percent.

    You really get paid for lying, Tom? I seriously doubt it.

  11. Tom Fuller Says:

    Come back when you’re numerate.

    What factors caused the large drop in 2009 emissions?

    Changes in carbon dioxide emissions can be decomposed into changes in four major contributing factors: population, per capita GDP, energy intensity of the economy, and carbon intensity of the energy supply*. All of these fell in 2009 except for population. Population grew 0.9 percent.** The downturn of the economy caused per capita GDP to fall (3.3 percent) resulting in a total GDP decline of 2.4 percent. Energy intensity and the carbon intensity of the energy supply also both fell more than 2 percent. These three factors (GDP, energy intensity, and carbon intensity) combined in roughly equal proportions to cause emissions to fall by 7.0 percent.

  12. Bart Says:


    I don’t see how we would get more done (on emission reductions) if it (the policies to do so) were decoupled from climate change (“the hullabaloo about CO2…” huh?! That doesn’t sound like lukewarmer’s language).

    You could claim (as you do) that some reductions take place for other reasons regardless of climate change considerations. Yes indeed. But that’s a far stretch from claiming that decoupling it would mean that more action would ensue.

    On the global CO2 emissions of the past year, see eg RP Jr’s post and the underlying Dutch PBL report.

  13. Eli Rabett Says:

    To come back to the original question of should energy policy be linked to climate change? It’s not??

    As to TF’s opinion (aka nonsense)

    “Carbon Dioxide Emissions
    The collapse of the Soviet Union and Russia’s ensuing economic contraction led to a dramatic decrease in Russian carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the early- and mid-1990s. The severe decline of industrial production in the country, highlighted by the closure of hundreds of factories, resulted in a huge drop in CO2 emissions. In 1992, the first full year after the demise of the USSR, Russian carbon dioxide emissions stood at 573.5 million metric tons, but by 1997, the country’s emissions had fallen to 394.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide – a 31% decline in just five years’ time. ”

    Please Tom, we try to avoid calling you a cheap shill, but you keep disappointing us. If Judith Curry really wanted an honest discussion she would start by pointing out that your incessant omissions, distortions and Gish galloping makes it impossible to have a discussion. Really, in a bar you would be on the floor in 1.5 ns. Grow up

  14. Tom Fuller Says:

    Mr. Rabett, I don’t know where I have distorted anything. Please advise. You can say the DOE is wrong if you like, although that opens a real can of worms. But I am quoting them fully and in context.

    I think distortion comes from name calling, innumeracy and malice. Feel free to point out where I distorted anything here.

    Bart, at least in the U.S., climate change has now become such a partisan issue that (as in this comment thread) political positions effectively hamper any progress on solutions that all know are desireable.

    Note the modus operandi. I come here and try and respond to you in hopes of having a discussion. ManuelG calls me an idiot, dhogaza calls me a liar, and Eli Rabett calls me a cheap shill and says my opinion is nonsense.

    They are wrong on the facts. The DOE does attribute one-third of our fall in emissions to economic hardship, but two thirds to fuel substitution, efficiency innovations and renewables. It’s right there and I liked to it.

    Their response is a hard-wired political blindness to reality. Bart, you’ve always been fairly reasonable. Take a look at how the discussion gets distorted.

    It would be easier to talk energy policy without dealing with religion.

  15. Hans Says:

    Climate change has always been a fake excuse to change our energy-policy.
    Margaret Thatcher supported (initiated) the formation of the IPCC to get rid of coal and the power of the coalminers and unions.
    Thatcher wanted to replace coal with nuclear-energy.

    The Inconvenient Truth of Al Gore was inspired on America’s dependance on imported oil. The Inconvenient Truth helped to get the US biofuel-program accepted.
    Without biofuels, oilprice would explode to unaffordable levels.

    Climate change may have dramatic consequences after 2050.
    The rising costs of our addiction to cheap fossil fuel will destroy our way of life in the coming decade.
    The crash of 2008 is at least partly caused by the high oilprice (energy-price) of 2008.

  16. Tom Fuller Says:

    Mr. Rabett,

    If you want to meet me in a bar and ‘see who’s on the floor in 1.5ns,’ name the time and place.

    If you want to compare Russia’s catastrophic collapse with a recession in the U.S., well, you suffer from the same innumeracy as dhogaza.

    As for a Gish Gallup, I believe I haven’t changed the subject at all.

  17. Tom Fuller Says:

    Bart, I fail to understand why I have a comment in moderation. Could you please advise? Thanks.

  18. Bart Says:


    Just saw the comment now and manually approved it. Sometimes happens, and I’m not at my computer 24-7 (especially on a sunny sunday afternoon).

    I’m talking about not leaving climate change and the science of climate change out of the picture of energy policy, and then you bring up religion.I understand that you feel provoked by some people here, but how calling climate science a religion would put the discussion at a higher level is beyond me.

    There are a lot of reasons of why the climate debate amongst the public is in such a gridlock, but I think the fact that many people don’t accept the science because they don’t like the perceived policy implications is an important (though of course not the only) factor. It then logically follows that leaving climate change out of the picture is not going to change their mind suddenly to not minding the (perceived) policy implications of the problem-not-to-be-named-anymore.

  19. Rocco Says:

    If the claim that Fuller is trying to make is that US can decrease its CO2 emissions without carbon pricing, then that claim is contradicted by EIA forecast:

    “Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Emissions Continue to Grow, Assuming No New Policies: CO2 emissions from energy grow at 0.3 percent per year, assuming no new policies to reduce energy-related CO2 emissions. Total energy-related CO2 emissions grow from 5,814 million metric tons in 2008 to 6,320 million metric tons in 2035, although per capita emissions fall by 0.6 percent per year. Most of the CO2 growth in the AEO2010 reference case is accounted for by the electric power and transportation sectors.”

    See here and here.

  20. Tom Fuller Says:

    Hi Bart,

    It’s the 4th of July here, and I’m heading out to enjoy some sun myself.

    Maybe being insulted by three successive commenters here influenced my phrasing, but I actually do think that some of the people do treat this in a more religious than scientific fashion.

    Look at how poorly these three commenters dealt with facts in the real world. They may not trust me as a source, but the facts are really out there in plain sight–and I even provided a link. There’s a word for that, and it isn’t science.

  21. Tom Fuller Says:

    Rocco, I make no claims. I merely note what has happened in two years without the same level of treaty commitments and trading structures.

  22. Rocco Says:

    Tom Fuller: That reminds me of how a few months ago some people “noted” the “recovery” of Arctic ice…

    The debate on this thread also brings me back to this post by Bart.

  23. Tom Fuller Says:

    Rocco, I really didn’t mean anything sinister by it. The U.S. has reduced CO2 without being party to treaties or adopting Cap and Trade. Spain reduced them even more while being a party to both treaty and ETS.

    Which is the better solution? I don’t think we have enough data. I guess you’d probably object to my suggesting that there might be more than one right answer, though.

  24. Rocco Says:

    Tom-who-makes-no-claims: have you checked the links I provided? Under business as usual US is not expected to reduce its emissions in the coming decades.
    So far, you have only “noted” that the US emissions do not increase constantly every year. This is hardly news.

  25. Tom Fuller Says:

    10% in two years is too much to characterize as ‘not increasing every year.’

  26. Bill Stoltzfus Says:

    At least in the US, one thing we could do is to eliminate our dependence on foreign oil, and do it specifically through initiatives in renewables, efficiency, and just reducing consumption. As a national project, like the moon landing program in the 60’s. Thomas Friedman originally suggested this not too long after 9/11, and I think Bush wasted a major grass roots possibility there. (Friedman actually went further than this and suggested that the program restructure the entire energy sector, but politically it may not be possible to do that much now.)

    And during that time the science would keep coming in, and hopefully reduce the number of people that still have their doubts about linking climate science to energy. Anyway, having made those changes and spent that time, it would be politically easier to continue those advances and initiatives on into the future.

    I think if it is made clear that we are going to change the fundamental energy structures of the US, that the big energy companies will be heavily investing in new technologies. If they don’t want to be shut out of profits in the future, they will make sure to get in as soon as possible.

  27. Paul Kelly Says:

    Decoupling climate does not at all diminish the urgency of climate. It redefines the goal, but does not change the goal. It suggests, perhaps, different action plans and tools.

    Unmentioned is the rationale of economic survival. Even granting the greater urgency of climate, I believe actions based on economic survival have at least as good or better chance of success in energy transformation by making maximum use of markets.

    The number one impediment for a market solution is the high relative cost of alternatives. A market solution must necessarily focus on cost reduction. However, there’s a big problem because, unlike in most every other market, consumers are unable to effect the market through small individual actions. In addition, a market solution requires a good deal of individual responsibility.

  28. Rattus Norvegicus Says:


    From perusing the DOE link you provided there seem to have been two rather large factors which you seem to ignore. The first is the huge change in the relative price of natural gas vs. coal, with the price of natural gas declining 48% while coal increased 6.8%. In my opinion, this may be a temporary realignment of the energy marketplace because of the increase in the supply of natural gas due to new sources made available by the greenlighting of fracking operations made possible by the energy act of 2005. This switch has it’s own environmental problems which are much more immediately visible than climate change, but are nonetheless quite serious, especially for those affected. After all, if you can light your tapwater on fire, it is bound to draw attention.

    The other factor you seem to be ignoring is that the increase in the price of gasoline and diesel in 2008 seems to have led to an increase in the US fleet fuel economy of about 5%. This is not counted as part of the change due to the recession, but it is certainly related to economic conditions, specifically the sharp increase in the cost of petroleum based fuels. Hmm, sort of makes me think that if we properly priced the externalities associated with these fuels we might be on to something…

  29. Tom Fuller Says:

    Rattus Norvegicus, nothwithstanding your kind remarks about me in the past, I agree with much of what you say. But prices are always going to vary. The decline in demand is not going to force them up, and this respite may allow time for E10 to become E15. But hybrids will do more in this regard. The size of the US fleet is dropping overall, and a greater percentage is composed of hybrids. This will put downward pressure on prices.

    I do hope fracking gets checked out ASAP and stopped if appropriate. My gut feeling is that it will get slowed and pushed out beyond range of aquifers serving metropolitan areas and become an ongoing environmental battle in its own right.

    As I have been advocating a price on carbon for years, I hope you don’t expect me to disagree now. I would prefer a simple carbon tax starting at a low level ($12/ton) and reviewed every 10 years. I could live with a much simpler cap and trade that started with a much higher percentage of permits at auction.

    The problem is that it’s very clear that the consensus team does not want to talk about our victory here because they fear it will take pressure off of politicians regarding a price on carbon. I argue that it’s irrelevant. If the votes are there, they are there now. If not, not. Reinvigorating a fight against climate change involves the same ‘Yes We Can’ politics that gives people hope. Yes we can, because yes we did.

    You do want people on your side, right?

  30. Shub Niggurath Says:

    Hans, the high oil prices in 2008 have very clear reasons, which are totally ‘man-made’. Please see July 2009, Rolling Stone.

  31. Joe Earth Says:

    Decoupling energy policy from climate change would mean that people who are skeptical about the amount that humans are contributing to climate change could still be convinced to support changes to energy policy for othe reasons, such as to decrease dependence on foreign oil-producing nations.

  32. Marlowe Johnson Says:

    “And we did that pretty much without signing treaties or trading permits, etc.”


    Ever heard of RGGI? Renewable portfolio standards? Vehicle/appliance/building efficiency standards? Or do you have something else in mind with “etc.”.

    A few things to keep in mind. First, just because not much is happening at the federal level wrt C&T, doesn’t mean that OTHER important bits aren’t moving forward (e.g. new CAFE standards). Similarly, most of the action at the moment is happening at the sub-national level (e.g. WCI, WGA, RGGI. Third, as already noted, the spread between nat gas and coal is part of the story, but the larger issue moving forward is the financial liability risks that arise from the POSSIBILITY of carbon pricing associated with coal-fired plants. Put another way, the mere threat of regulation is producing an effect, but without that threat things would be much worse moving forward.

    Coming back to the original topic, energy policy in the U.S. can very easily be decoupled from climate change and framed strictly in terms of energy security. But there are trade-offs and potentially counterproductive strategies that can arise as a result. The easiest example of course is coal to liquids (think Stasol in South Africa).

  33. Tom Fuller Says:

    Marlowe, all your points are valid, IMO. I am definitely not saying that the U.S. has discovered a silver bullet that we can ride to emissions-free glory. We’ve had a couple of good years, and we should look at what went right so we can replicate and extend. We should also thank those that worked very hard at making this happen.

  34. Rocco Says:

    Rattus Norvegicus: Fuller’s 1/3 claim is wrong. EIA doesn’t say that 1/3 of the emission drop comes from the recession, it says that 1/3 of the drop is because of decreasing GDP. But the recession also impacted the other factors (e.g. they say that part of the energy intensity drop comes from the disproportionate effect the recession had on energy intensive industry)

    But this is not important. The important thing is what effect will this have on the long-term trend. Now, since Fuller denies making claims about that, I’m not really sure what we are talking about here.

  35. Geckko Says:

    Interesting cartoon.

    Can you point out where proposed mitigation policies are going to do any of those things?

  36. Hans Says:

    @Shub Niggurath: Rolling Stone is the kind of source the IPCC would cite.
    Please check serious sources about oilproduction and consumption.

    The oilprice is still around $75 per barrel, which is a lot higher than we were used to between 1995 and 2004.
    Even Obama recognises the end of cheap oil.

    Why would oilcompanies start extracting oil from tarsands which is very expensive ?
    Why would oil companies start risky and expensive drilling in deepwater ?

  37. sod Says:

    funny one, Tom Fuller in complete contradiction to Roger Pielke jr:

    Look at the U.S. Our fuel use is down and so is our CO2–and despite what some say, only one third of that is because of the recession. And we did that pretty much without signing treaties or trading permits, etc.


    The fact that emissions did not increase from 2008 to 2009 is not good news, nor is it a reflection of the positive effects of climate policies. The one-year stabilization occurred because of the dismal state of the economy in North America and Europe, a condition that policy makers are quickly trying to remedy. When economic growth resumes, so too will growth in emissions in these regions. Meanwhile, the world as a whole took a step backwards in terms of decarbonizing the global economy.

    they are both wrong, of course, but still funny…

  38. Shub Niggurath Says:

    Hans, I was appealing to your sense of curiosity here, not offering you oil price figures. I am pointing out the ‘reason’ why oil prices peaked in 2008, the way they did. Google Matt Taibbi if you will

    Rolling Stone Magazine is a serious journalism magazine. The IPCC could cite it. ;)

  39. Rattus Norvegicus Says:

    OMG Shub, I agree with you. At least as far as Rolling Stone is concerned!

    I’ve been reading it off and on since the early 70’s and consider it an excellent example of what long form investigative journalism can do. I was unable to find the story you referenced online though. A link would be appreciated. My understanding though is that the run up was mainly due to speculators. and if Taibbi wrote the article, I’m sure he found a way to blame it on Goldman Sachs (“a vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity”). Perhaps I should look at my back issues piled up around the house and find it again.

  40. Hans Says:

    @Shub: Matt Taibbi has no background in economics, the oil-industry or geology. His is best known for his satirical journalism.
    If you share his view on the fossil fuel crisis, you can also start reading Hans Christian Andersen’s work.

  41. Bart Says:

    For those who read Dutch, Paul Luttikhuis has a nice commentary on the issue of global emissions, based on the recent PBL report (in English) that I cited before.


    I don’t see where RP Jr is wrong in that citation, or in that post of his you refer to. Could you elaborate?

  42. Shub Niggurath Says:

    Hans: Your criticism of Taibbi is not entirely valid. You do not need a ‘background’ in the oil industry to offer a criticism of financial practices undertaken by investment bankers in the oil industry – which is what he did.

    What we can take from the Taibbi article is, an insight into how Goldman Sachs fueled actions blind to their consequences. You may not place much value in his satire, but does he provide that insight? Yes he does.

    Secondly, there were spefic safeguards against commodities securitization which were violated with Goldman Sachs and oil. I got that information from Taibbi – he is good for that.

    You could ask the skeptics in Australia about Goldman Sachs – they should have nice things to say. :)

    Rolling Stone has been periodically very influential in American politics. The latest is the McChrystal thing (tough to say who played who but).

    Rattus: It is in the July 2009 issue. It is available online here (April).

    The same type of thing happens in the climate change business as well. This is a interesting story (still developing as we speak):

  43. Hypnos Says:

    I have a suggestion for a way to persuade the American public to sign on to a plan of radical fossil fuel consumption reduction:


    Outright, bold-faced, gut wrenching lies.

    70% of the American public happily supported a $ 1 trillion expense straight out of their tax paying pockets on the basis of complete, utter fabrications.

    I am talking about the Iraq War, obviously.

    So get togheter a few million dollars and buy some Karl Rove or other spin doctor. Make it sound like we need to invest $ 1 trillion in an Energy plan or the terrorists win. Say Saudi Arabia is planning to cut off supplies to the US or something, I don’t know, I’m not the Lie Expert here, I am sure they will be able to come up with something.

    And that’s it. Because let’s face it – reality has no place whatsoever in the contemporary political discourse. None. Borrow the winning tactics of the opposition and just boldly lie, contradict and cheat your way through.

    The only thing that matters is how good the lie sounds.

    Yes, reality will eventually catch up with your bullshit. But by then the $ 1 trillion will have been spent. Facts on the ground will have been created. And there will be no going back.

    Spoken only half in jest.

    The other half is disillusionment.

  44. sod Says:


    I don’t see where RP Jr is wrong in that citation, or in that post of his you refer to. Could you elaborate?

    yes. he is trying to use a metric, that has two problems. he says:

    The variable that matters most for efforts to achieve targets for the stabilization of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per unit of economic activity.

    this is simply not true, while CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is growing at a high rate. additional economic activity will cause additional CO2.not as much as it did before, but still more.

    and as a reader pointed out in a comment:

    If we build a windfarm for x dollars, it is more expensive than a coal plant that produces the same energy. We are emitting less carbon but spending more money in the process. Does this not show up badly in our decarbonisation process? As we are likely to spend about $162 billion this year on renewables–mostly wind and solar, mostly more expensive than the energy sources they replace, will that not make this statistic less reliable?

    using The Pielke metric, a fast transition to alternative energy sources will look like a bad move.

  45. Tom Fuller Says:

    That reader was me.

    I don’t think Roger read the EIA report on CO2. If he did, then we disagree on its meaning. Wouldn’t be the first time.

  46. Rattus Norvegicus Says:

    Shub, OK I read that one when it came out. Good article, nothing like a little muckraking.

  47. sod Says:

    That reader was me.

    i had wondered enough, to check the reader profile. so the two of you keep pointing out each others errors? but don t fix them? typical “sceptics”!

    Fuller and Pielke are both climate inactivists. they mostly only pretend to take positions supporting action on climate change. i think they expect that this gives the additional credibility. it shouldn t.

    the climate action supported by Pielke and Fuller typically is either too little to matter, or unrealistic. both love to propose things, that their own allies would fight to the death. (carbon tax)

    most of us know people in their private lives, who constantly propose a path different to the one, that everybody else agreed on (cap and trade). at a certain point, it becomes obvious that they don t want to go anywhere.

  48. sod Says:

    another side note: another false story had to be taken down by The telegraph.

    the story was based on Richard North again, who also is a typical source for Fuller. North doesn t understand, why the second paper apologises for a story based on his research.

    Fuller had predicted that Pachauri would step down before 30th of June.

  49. Bart Says:

    Hey, that’s pretty ironic, sod, that you favorably quoted a comment by Tom! Guess you couldn’t get yourself to say “Well, for once we agree on something!”

    Now a very naive economics question: Under what conditions does investing in renewables increase or decrease GDP?

  50. Shub Niggurath Says:

    North is a typical source for Fuller?

  51. Tom Fuller Says:

    Bart, it would increase GDP, but that’s not really going to get you the answer you want regarding decarbonisation. It’s the substitution for less expensive fossil fuels that make the calculations look worse. So the planet gets healthier, but our view of decarbonisation looks more pessimistic.

    But we’re talking really small quantities at this point, so it shouldn’t change anybody’s POV on the issue. It won’t be until renewables generate something on the scale of a terawatt that we’ll need to really revisit the numbers.

    But investment in economic activity increases GDP, no question about it. And renewables are certainly an economic activity.

  52. Tom Fuller Says:

    Shub, no. I read North on occasion and have read the book he cowrote with Booker. But he is not a regular source of mine. I have a lot of respect for what he’s trying to do. To be still standing after being the target of so much criticism is pretty good.

    Climate change is only the latest craze North has gone after, and he has enemies everywhere. He has attacked the vaccine demonology, Satanic child abuse, BSE, etc., etc.

    For him (not so much for me, although I understand why he feels this way), climate change falls very much into a pattern of behaviour by serious actors that have produced a variety of other scares. He makes the case in his book–whether you believe it or not is up to the reader.

    As I only see Sod when he’s criticising me, I cannot judge the quality of his comments on other subjects. However, Sod is uniformly in error, to put it politely, when he writes about what I say, do, think or desire from this debate.

  53. Tom Fuller Says:

    And Bart, speaking of double standards and all, is it really your blog policy that it’s okay for people to call me an idiot, a liar, a cheap shill and a climate inactivist, but that you should criticise me for using the word hullabaloo or saying that some people treat climate science as a religion?

  54. Bart Says:

    Thanks Tom, that’s what I thought as well (investing in renewables increased GDP).

    I’ll try to be more vigilant in removing namecalling, but in the heat of the fight the namecalling did seem to come from both sides. In any case, I’m less interested in acting as a police officer, and more so in keeping a decent signal to noise ratio.

    In addition, I’m allergic to signs of deep contempt for science and scientists (which to me is the bigger issue), so I draw a sharp line there.

  55. Eli Rabett Says:

    The true irony of Pachauri is that his appointment was pushed by the Bushies to get rid of Bob Watson. Watch out for what you ask for.

  56. Eli Rabett Says:

    Oh yes, in case you didn’t notice, Tom is working the ref.

  57. Tom Fuller Says:

    At least I don’t go retroactively removing comments from my weblog. And if asking for consistency is working the ref, then the question becomes about the ref. Do you really want to go there? I do not.

  58. Bart Says:


    Not sure if your latest comment was directed at me, but I don’t know what “working the ref” means.

    About deleting comments: It’s choice between having all comments have to go through moderation before they appear, something that so far I’m trying to prevent since it slows down and somewhat hampers the discussion. Then if some comments are not acceptable to my (necessarily subjective) standards, I’d have to delete them retroactively.

  59. Tom Fuller Says:

    Bart, I’m not complaining about your moderation policy at all. I’ve been called worse names and I don’t see any reason your commenters should not criticise me as they see fit.

    My question is about your comment. Why would you think ‘hullabaloo’ or ‘religious’ is worth noting, but idiot, shill, etc. is not?

  60. Tom Fuller Says:

    Oh–working the ref means a player continuously complaining about a referee’s decisions in hopes of wearing the referee down and eventually making decisions in favour of the player.

  61. Bart Says:


    I just thought calling the CO2 business “hullabaloo” was not very lukewarmer-like, that’s all. I didn’t take offense to that term, but was merely surprised to hear it coming from you.

    My antipathy on the religious front was directed specifically at Frank Davis’ comment at the citizen scientists thread where he compared scientists with religious priests and went on a whole spiel regarding the catholic church and all that.

  62. dhogaza Says:

    I just thought calling the CO2 business “hullabaloo” was not very lukewarmer-like, that’s all. I didn’t take offense to that term, but was merely surprised to hear it coming from you.

    Bart … in all seriousness … at times Tom slips up and let’s us see the real man behind the curtain.

    You should not have been surprised by this, and really, you’d do people a service by letting the comment through.

  63. Eli Rabett Says:

    Working the ref = diving.

    Tom should take a look at the bottom of JEB Something is up with blogger.

  64. Bart Says:


    Tom’s “hullabaloo” comment is the first one on this thread; it was never deleted.

  65. Tom Fuller Says:

    Well, as an old wordsmith all I can say is hullabaloo rhymed with CO2 and that’s why I chose the word.

  66. luminous beauty Says:

    A note concerning TF and numeracy. A drop of -2.4% in GDP (fiscal year 2009) has to be taken in context of historical GDP growth, which has been +2.7%/year since 1973 to +3.3%/year since 1990 and before the recession. A net loss of GDP of roughly -5.1% to -5.7%.

    Trend normalization is not Tom’s friend.

  67. Tom Fuller Says:

    It certainly is when I actually do it. Which I neither needed nor wanted for the point I was trying to make.

  68. Jeff Id Says:

    “There is nothing against emission reductions for other reasons than climate change (and there are many good reasons).”

    You sure?

  69. Bart Says:

    I am. Are you?

  70. jeff id Says:

    Well emissions reductions automatically imply added cost to industry, so I would say yes I am sure. That would be something against emissions reductions for any reason and factually makes your first sentence in this post untrue – there is something always against emissions reduction.

    This situation would at the very least imply a need for an appropriate balance but in my opinion, most solutions for the betterment of humanity require the best functioning industry, so it had better be something pretty special to require the search for “a balance”.

  71. Bart Says:


    A substantial amount of emissions could be reduced with no added costs; actually, they’d incur a benefit. Check e.g. fig ES1 in this IEA document. I guess you could call them “no regret option”. They exist. I don’t think they go far enough in preventing dangerous climate change, and that’s where our opinions will start to differ I gather, but up to that point, I don’t see why you would oppose those no regret measures?

    Add to that that at some point the energy infrastructure needs restructuring anyway, because of those “other” reasons (easy to reach fossils are finite, and other reasons). Making a head start 9with some start-up costs) could be a smart move, even regardless of climate considerations.

  72. jeff id Says:

    Your link claims that after massive regulation we will achieve savings which pay back the huge investment – on some things.

    I love documents like this, can you list one item which will pay back its cost in 3 years which isn’t already being sold? — no.

    Can you list any technology which will achieve the rosy goals of this link without massive cost? —- no

    Do you care what happens to the poorest in the world when we implement these massive costs outlined in this document?

    There is no such thing as a no regret option. If you can list a few of these specific no-regret technologies (other than nuclear), I would be interested.

    I’m an engineer Bart, I don’t see any technologies which achieve anything useful toward your goal. I only see – have less. Tell me where I’m wrong so I can understand. Regular readers of mine know that I will admit error.

    Finally, all of your cost adders will only delay the development and implementation of the ‘green’ technologies you so badly want, and I know you environmental types often forget that politicians don’t have the same goals as you. You might want to watch out for that before asking for more regulation.

  73. Bart Says:


    Do you care what happens to the poorest of the world when climate change is left unmitigated and unfolds approximately as expected?

    Energy saving is probably the archetypical no-regret measure. McKinsey has a graph similar to the one I pointed you too with much more detail of where the different options fall on that curve. No time to look up the ref now, sorry (the final will resume in a few minutes…)

  74. Jeff Id Says:


    As I said, I’m an engineer. Machines and power usage are my world. I’ve seen fridges, engines, turbines, welders, robotics, vision systems, fridges, washers, lights,cars (hybrid and solar)and a hundred other things and I am lost as to where the no regret machine exists. In all the products I’ve designed, energy waste was never an option. I wonder just which machine, process, concept pays for an increase in base cost over 3 years by saving energy? — that isn’t already being sold!

    My official opinion is that it flatly doesn’t exist.

    If it does, than I have $$ to throw into a decent company developing the program tomorrow.

  75. Eli Rabett Says:

    There are endless efficiencies to be found in industrial processes and consumer products. In the usual case one has to consider the up front costs and balance it against the payback time.

    On the industrial side there are associated investment costs to change the processes which are paid back in savings, often in a very short time. Here is another example from a petrochemical plant where the substantial savings were so high that the payback took less than two months.

    Some places have efficiency calculators on line to help. As a matter of fact, motor replacement is one of the simplest and most effective ways of saving energy, which Jeff should know if he works with motors.

    The same sort of calculation goes for consumer goods. At some point, due to the price of repairs and energy, replacing any appliance or vehicle makes sense because the gains from increased efficiency quickly account cover the cost.

    Jeff is an engineer and he is here to help us.

  76. Hasenpfeffer for Bart « the Air Vent Says:

    […] by Jeff Id on July 12, 2010 So I’ve been battling a bit with Bart Verheggen. I realize that it’s not that uncommon of  a situation around here, Eli Rabbet  showed up to […]

  77. steven Mosher Says:


    “There are endless efficiencies to be found in industrial processes and consumer products. In the usual case one has to consider the up front costs and balance it against the payback time.”

    Seriously, ‘endless?’ have you seriously ever tuned a manufacturing process or consumer product for cost efficiences? I have. I can assure you that they are not endless. By the time most consumer products I ever shipped got to market the cost was scrubbed down to the dime and then the penny. a million units a month times a penny a piece is a nice piece of change.

    Would it surprise you, that a large number of industries already have programs to achieve continuous improvements in reducing all forms of cost in a product. That we actually calculate payback periods and actually are motivated ( in the forms of a bonus or even a TAKE of the savings) to find these savings?

    I suspect “industry” is pretty much a mystery to you. But surprise us. You’re an industrial process expert, publish any products recently? I’m checking through the list of guys I know who build consumer products, hmm I’m not seeing your name or barts name? where exactly have you built products? I’d like to learn some of the ways you found endless efficiences? Bart you too, chime in.

    There are not endless efficiencies to be found. Stop with the platitudes.For any given SUCCESSFUL business the low hanging fruit ( those improvements with the best payback) have already been taken. You either reap that fruit or go out of business. If you’re running a successful business and have any inefficiecies over 1% you had best be working on them. If not there a whole host of 6 sigma experts who can gladly help to get that last percent optimized, for piece of the action of course.


    “At some point, due to the price of repairs and energy, replacing any appliance or vehicle makes sense because the gains from increased efficiency quickly account cover the cost”

    Do you know WHY parts to repair a device cost so much? Think now.

  78. Paul Kelly Says:

    Not sure what the argument is here. Of course, businesses should – and many already do – maximize their energy efficiency. It is important to note that they do it for the economic reason of reducing costs, not to reduce emissions. They would do it even if climate was not a concern at all.

  79. steven Mosher Says:

    Motor replacement?

    Not so sure what your point was about replacement versus repair

    PM is always high on the list

    For a variety of improvements and payback periods…

    You’ll note some things about payback periods and adoption rates.

    Paul Kelly,

    I think the point JeffId was making is this. Industry is already motivated to implement the kinds of efficiencies that Bart and Eli appeared to recommend.
    In fact if you look at the database ( kindly linked to over at Airvent) you’ll see that if the payback period is much greater than say 2 years that the adoption rate goes to single digit. That’s my experience, a payback beyond two years is hard to justify. return on capital and all that. The only recommendations
    with periods greater than 2 years are alternative energy

    here is what Solar looked like.. in the field rather than the chemistry class.

    and one funny example with a 967 year payback

    So the improvements are not endless as Eli thinks. they are numbered.

  80. Jeff Id Says:


    The point is that the businesses of substantial size already perform these activities. My own small company has nothing I can think of to achieve any worthwhile savings. In industry, if energy is a factor, and it often is, companies work pretty hard to save it.

    So Bart needs to identify one easy target, just one that industry has missed for his point to be correct.

    My contention is that there really isn’t one. There really aren’t any energy solutions to the problem posed other than nuclear. And nuclear is just an improvement. But for some reason climate scientists don’t like nuclear. I love it personally, and wish the greens would allow us to replace the old POS reactors that surround my house – in a twenty mile radius.

    I’m very positive about the future for home energy with solar, when the storage tech is developed. I’m very positive about the future of fission reactors, when we’re allowed to make them. I’m also very positive about the future of fusion although that will likely be a reality after I’m long gone.

    My hope is that non-engineers can realize that the solutions they demand don’t exist outside of these. Once that realization strikes home, the best path becomes clear.

  81. Jeff Id Says:

    Paul, I just followed your site link and laughed to real tears. Hahahaha. For some reason it really caught me.

    good stuff.

  82. Eli Rabett Says:

    If businesses of substantial size already have scrubbed out every penny of cost savings why are they continually finding more? Why do energy audit programs save money by spotting simple things

    But then again Steve is a journalist and Jeff is an engineer and they are here to help you

  83. Jeff Id Says:

    Sorry to audit your link Eli.

  84. Paul Kelly Says:


    This post shows you may at least consider the possibility that energy policy might be linked to something other than climate. I think this post is a cry for help because you recognize that the desired climate based policies have little chance of being implemented; and, that after all these years, despite the irrefutable science, belief in the urgency of AGW has peaked. There’s more than one way to skin a cat.

  85. Bart Says:

    Jeff, Steve,

    There still are a lot of cost effective energy efficiencies to be implemented. McKinsey:

    This anthology of articles looks at the energy-efficiency opportunity and how to capture it in nations and companies over the next few years. The opportunity to lower energy costs substantially is compelling. The United States, for instance, could realize more than a trillion dollars annually in energy savings if comprehensive efforts are put in place to overcome barriers and improve energy efficiency across the economy.

    Especially in the built environment energy efficiency is a biggie.

    Here‘s the McKinsey cost curve I mentioned earlier.

  86. willard Says:

    > [B]usinesses should – and many already do – maximize their energy efficiency.

    I’m not sure about the “should”, the “do”, nor about the “maximize” and the “efficiency”.

    The efficiency and the maximization are not synonyms. Being efficient does not entail one finds the optimal solution, it simply means one finds a very good one by the most simple means. If a gain is not worth the effort or the risk to implement change, no business will implement it. In other words, most business could be thought as satisficing machines, not energy optimizing machines.

    The “should” and the “do” are not the same either. The “should” can be taken in at least two ways. It could mean “that’s their essence”, say like a scientific law. It could mean “that’s what they ought to do”, like an ethical imperative. Even if one considers that it’s not impossible to derive ought from is, one has to distinguish the two types of propositions.

    That market pressure constrain businesses to optimize themselves is a metaphysical proposition that has no real impact outside economical manifestos. We should prefer to talk about a minimal sense of “do”. That businesses satisfice their needs to satisfy their shareholders, in a principled kind of way, we could agree. Minimally, most companies minimize obvious energy losses, say. Everyone can agree on that.

    But when both sides leave metaphysics and take real examples, we leave the domain of proof. And as soon as we consider particular, creative solutions, it’s tough to decide that this obvious way can never be optimized. We can mock solutions and calculate how they’re risibly unefficient, but that just proves that finding optimal solutions is never that obvious.

    Instead of taking model companies, I wonder why nobody mentions BP, the belle of the year. It’s a big company. As a company, it should optimize their energy efficiency. Maybe we could go as far as explaining how their dealing with this fiasco was the most satisficing way. Maybe we could also try to explain away their lacks because it has ties with a socialist government ;-) Who knows?

  87. Jeff Id Says:


    My point again is that there aren’t significant reasonable abatement opportunities which aren’t already being pursued. You can only do so much with a gas engine, you can only do so much with a coal plant. There just aren’t these imagined ‘endless’ opportunities on the market.

    I love how he throws out two -trillion dollars. I wish people would learn to recognize propaganda when they read it.

    What is it that makes people think capitalists like to waste energy? They hate any waste of money and hunt it with a passion. Farmers don’t waste fuel and fertilizer. Big American cars driving on long straight roads get better mileage than euroboxes on twisty streets.

    The rampant waste claimed in your quote above doesn’t exist. The cost effective things are already being done.

    The rest is imagined happy greenthink.

    My aunt just bought an energy star GE clothes dryer. We don’t use clotheslines much in the US. Unfortunately the dryer doesn’t like to make much heat so she has to run it twice to get the water out of her clothes. She thought it was only a slightly higher cost so why not do her part.

    How come the energy to evaporate water in a green dryer is the same as the energy to evaporate water in a hot dryer? I thought they solved that problem.

  88. Bart Says:

    Efficiency is constantly being improved in many walks of life. But not always to the same extent. E.g. electricity use per capita remained more or less constant in California for decades, whereas it continued to increase in the rest of the US.

    Your claim that everything that can be done cost effectively has been done already is utter nonsense. Innovation, changing conditions, changing markets, changing prices, changing regulations, changing demand, etc etc. My uncle spent his whole career consulting businesses on how to do what they do in an environmentally more sustainable AND *economically* more efficient way.

  89. Tom Fuller Says:

    Jeff, I don’t know whether I should post this here or on your site–may do both.

    What I think you are neglecting in this is the large number of energy savings projects in commercial and light industrial projects that are deferred due to upfront investments. These involve no new technology and are on somebody’s wish list, but every year at budget time something else seems to be a higher priority.

    I have worked in such environments for more than 30 years, and I know that this happens a lot. It goes from fleet replacement to building maintenance and covers a lot in between.

    These guys aren’t out there hiring six sigma black belts to benchmark best practice. They are harried and hurried small and medium business managers trying to make the pieces of the puzzle fit together. And energy efficiency can always wait ’til next year.

  90. Jeff Id Says:


    That’s my point exactly, people paid your uncle for this service – because they want to save money. Industry already works for these efficiencies. I didn’t claim they don’t exist, I claim that they are already being sought out aggressively and implemented where appropriate.

    You guys that want to do the expensive stuff are the problem in my opinion. We need either nuclear or new tech. Nothing else will get you where you want to be. Pushing biofuel or wind or solar today is a huge huge mistake. Even mandatory replacement of incandescent with fluorescent or LED is often bad for other reasons. Giving money to companies that chuck out perfectly good mercury bulbs for slightly more efficient sodium is a complete waste. But that’s what we get in these ‘efficiency programs’.

    High efficiency appliances that don’t work, cars that are too small and underpowered, can’t build new powerplants. All dangerously bad stuff for the industry that feeds us but us victims have no control because of the extremist warming agenda.

    And the funny thing is, you cannot stop CO2 usage. It will continue no matter what rules get made, because it has to, and all this will have done is suck resources from developing new technology, improving peoples lives and in exchange for our fealty we get another massive very expensive bureaucracy.

  91. Bart Says:


    That makes a lot of sense, and is the same for all kinds of investments: They are rarely considered ‘urgen’, even if they would have a good economic return on investment after a certain while.

  92. Wolfgang Flamme Says:


    re:McKinsey’s abatement cost curve: They had a similar report for germany but – if I remember correctly – the abatement cost curve was rather misleading in that report (might be the case for ‘your’ curve, too).

    I found it to be misleading because after checking the text in detail the displayed curve of measures was a cost integrated curve. So if you’d pick a measure that according to that curve should be around +/-0 in cost it’s only +/-0 after you invest all savings you have left over from implementing all the measures on the left side.
    Actually the costs for implementing this particular measure wouldn’t be cost neutral at all, they’d rather eat up all your profit until then.

  93. Eli Rabett Says:

    Jeff, please, Eli would be quite happy with increased CO2 usage, for example for reforming hydrogen into methane (CO2 + 3H2 –>CH3OH + H2O, its the damn CO2 generation that is the problem. You can use nuclear to generate the H2 as far as Eli is concerned

  94. Bart Says:


    Your post got stuck in the spam filter (perhaps due to the number of links; dunno), just fished it out now.

  95. My little caravan kid’s craft parties Says:

    My little caravan kid’s craft parties

    Should energy policy be linked to climate change? | My view on climate change

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