Open Thread 22

More open thread.


  1. #1 bi -- IJI
    February 21, 2009

    The climate inactivist Heartland Institute has put up a tentative schedule for its upcoming ‘conference’.

  2. #2 bob
    February 21, 2009

    Why isn’t the media reporting these conferences?

  3. #3 Hank Roberts
    February 21, 2009

    Associated Press 2009-02-14 06:56 AM

    “A fight between creationists over a magazine must be settled out of court, a federal appeals court has ruled.
    The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday ordered Australian-based Creation Ministries International into arbitration with Answers in Genesis, the founder of a popular Kentucky museum dedicated to creationism, over copyrights and control of affiliates in other countries….”

  4. #4 bob
    February 21, 2009

    The similarities to the AGW skeptics is glaring. Here is a page introducing the speakers of a creationist conference from 2007:

    -Non relevant qualifications. Check.
    -Previously accepted theory before looking at the scientific evidence. Check.
    -Has a crock of bull to sell you. Check.

    Also this blog post on the psychology of evolution skeptics at these conferences is quite revealing in how similar it is to manmade global warming skeptics:

    “Sadly, while I have generally been impressed with the personality and temperament of many of the people I have met at these conferecnes, the fact remains that they are hopelessly ignorant of science. This ignorance is exacerbated by the annoying fact that so many of them fancy themselves highly knowledgeable indeed. It didn’t take long for my interlocutor to whip out the standard talking points. He sagely informed me that the second law of thermodynamics contradicted evolution, that there were no transitional forms in the fossil record, and that geneticists could not explain the growth of genetic information over time.”

  5. #5 Former Skeptic
    February 21, 2009

    I would love to listen to this gem from the Discount Monckton – the closing speaker in the denier’s conference:

    Christopher Monckton – Magna est veritas, et praevalet (Great Is Truth, and Mighty Above All Things)

  6. #6 Chris O'Neill
    February 21, 2009


    Why isn’t the media reporting these conferences?

    That is such a hard question bob. I think I’m going to sweat on it all day.

    BTW, thanks for the opportunity for irony practice.

  7. #7 Nick
    February 21, 2009

    RE#1: Thanks for the schedule, Frank. We’ll be able to use the programme from the last “conference” then !

  8. #8 Hank Roberts
    February 21, 2009

    Who’s this Monckton-Magna fellow?

  9. #9 Charles
    February 22, 2009

    What I found amusing is this announcement from the website:

    “SPECIAL OFFER for signers of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine’s Global Warming Petition! If you have signed the Global Warming Petition, you qualify for a 20 percent discount off the registration fees described below. To apply, call Events Manager Nikki Comerford at 312/377-4000. Please note we will confirm with OISM that you have legitimately signed the petition, and we reserve the right to reject discounted registrations from persons who have not signed.”

    I also note:

    “Elected officials: Free admission and travel and hotel scholarships are available to elected officials.”

    “Travel and hotel scholarships.” Has a nice academic ring to it, dontcha think?

    Gee, I wonder if the AAAS and AGU do this at their conferences.

  10. #10 Paul
    February 22, 2009

    Christopher Booker sounds desperate:

    What fascinates me is the way these people mainly attack other media people and organisations as if it were important.

    >”This scientific howler provoked much amusement and derision on expert US blogs, such as Anthony Watts’s Watts Up With That – since “negative feedback” would lower temperatures rather than raise them. The BBC soon pulled its video. ”

    I’m sure male pride is a part of it. Negative feedback can result in a lot of things in engineering terms (and i guess the macho engineering folk like to play a game of one-upmanship), one outcome of ‘negative feedback’ can be wild instability.

    But i’m guessing the BBC reporter was trying to point out the results would be negative as a result of feedback. Sometimes one can detect a level of pedantic autism in the way these issues are discussed.

    The howler that the BBC created was purely one of language.

    The rest of the article just continues the political diatribe.

  11. #11 bob
    February 22, 2009

    Christopher Monckton – 01000111 01110010 01100101 01100001 01110100 00100000 01001001 01110011 00100000 01010100
    01110010 01110101 01110100 01101000 00101100 00100000 01100001 01101110 01100100 00100000
    01001101 01101001 01100111 01101000 01110100 01111001 00100000 01000001 01100010 01101111
    01110110 01100101 00100000 01000001 01101100 01101100 00100000 01010100 01101000 01101001
    01101110 01100111 01110011 (Great Is Truth, and Mighty Above All Things)

    I converted it into binary to make him sound even More Important and Knowledgable.

  12. #12 Global Warming Is A Scam
    February 22, 2009

    So, all you Warmistas out there, here are some questions.

    (1) How do you explain the Medieval warming period?

    (2) How do you explain the recent warming on Mars?

    (3) Why should we automatically believe the conclusions of those whose livelihood is entirely dependent upon exactly which conclusions they reach?

    (4) What is the optimal temperature of the planet?

    (5) How do you know with absolute certainty that the negative effects of “global warming”, if it is even occurring, will outweigh the positives?

    (6) How does giving over 1400 media interviews constitute
    “being muzzled”?

  13. #13 dhogaza
    February 22, 2009

    Oh, my god, a genuine science illiterate, cut-and-paste troll.

    With his own web site!

    Singlehandedly overturning the work of thousands of commie pinko hippy climate scientists!

  14. #14 Global Warming Is A Scam
    February 22, 2009

    Oh, my god, a genuine science illiterate, cut-and-paste troll.

    D-Hog’s definition of “troll”:

    Anyone who does not march in lock-step with the drumbeat of my far-left warmista agenda

  15. #15 James Haughton
    February 22, 2009

    Interesting stuff from Malcolm Turnbull – are we about to see a race develop for who can cut carbon emissions more rather than less?

    and GWIAS:
    1) Since no-one was taking measurements during the MWP, conclusions have to be tentative; we don’t even know if it was a worldwide warming or a regional warming. Ruddiman (Plows, Plagues, Petroleum) makes a good argument that massive deforestation in this period may have raised CO2 levels. In any case the majority of evidence, tentative though it may be, points to it now being hotter than it was during the MWP.
    2) Planets have orbital eccentricities known as milankovitch cycles that carry them nearer to or further from the sun. Mars has moved closer to the sun.
    3) You’re right – we should ignore everything the Heartland Institute says.
    4) Life on earth will adapt to any temperature, in the long term. Its ability to do so without mass extinctions, famines, huge loss of biodiversity and other Malthusian mechanisms as the driver depends upon the rate of change. The rate of change of the temperature now is much faster than anything earth has dealt with before, with the possible exception of a sudden onset ice age, meteor strike, or similar.
    5) We don’t have or need absolute certainty about anything in life. The strong balance of probabilities is enough.
    6) If someone is threatened for exercising freedom of speech, then they run a risk by speaking that they didn’t before. This is generally called muzzling or attempted muzzling. Perhaps you could ask Anna Politkovskaya to explain how this works. She did lots of interviews. By your argument, therefore, she wasn’t muzzled.


  16. #16 z
    February 22, 2009

    “So, all you Warmistas out there, here are some questions.”

    Stock questions deserve stock answers, so:

    Q1: A17
    Q2: A4
    Q3: A64
    Q4: A8
    Q5: A16
    Q6: A32

  17. #17 Gaz
    February 22, 2009

    James H: “Interesting stuff from Malcolm Turnbull..”

    Yes, faster reduction in emissions with a less complex scheme.

    I can’t wait to see the details.

  18. #18 David Irving (no relation)
    February 22, 2009

    James @ 15 and Gaz @ 17, unfortunately Turnbull is just playing politics. Even though it’s possible he’d like to see significant emission reductions, most of the coalition and all their supporters in the coal industry wouldn’t stand for it.

  19. #19 behemoth
    February 23, 2009

    #re 12

    The answers to most of your questions are available in numerous places. Eg:

    3) can be used to write off any science. Don’t like evolution? Just claim biologists depend on it for their livelihood. Don’t like vacinations? Just claim doctors depend on it for their livelihood. As such it’s a useless argument. You might as well say “why should we believe science?” as that’s really what the argument boils down to.

    4) AGW is not about an “optimal” anything. It’s about the effects of a change in climate, it doesn’t matter where you start from or where you end, it’s the change that brings the risk. For example sea level will rise when it warms, it doesn’t matter where you start from.

    #5 We don’t have to know with “absolute certainty”

    #6 If the attempted muzzling failed

  20. #20 Barton Paul Levenson
    February 23, 2009

    Scam posts:

    (1) How do you explain the Medieval warming period?

    Not sure of the specific circumstances that caused that particular variation. Could have been albedo or atmospheric changes. I wasn’t there.

    (2) How do you explain the recent warming on Mars?

    Albedo changes. Mars has global dust storms, and depending on where the dust settles, it can be brighter or darker afterwards.

    It isn’t caused by the sun, because while Mars, Triton and Pluto are warming, Uranus and possible Venus are cooling, and most planets and satellites are unchanged. The sun brightening can’t do that. In any case, we’ve been measuring the output of solar energy from satellites for the past several decades, and it’s not significantly up or down.

    (3) Why should we automatically believe the conclusions of those whose livelihood is entirely dependent upon exactly which conclusions they reach?

    It isn’t, so the question makes no sense.

    (4) What is the optimal temperature of the planet?

    Anywhere habitable, i.e., between 273 and 303 K. But the optimal temperature for our civilization is the one our economy and agriculture have evolved in for the past 10,000 years — between 287 and 288 K.

    (5) How do you know with absolute certainty that the negative effects of “global warming”, if it is even occurring, will outweigh the positives?

    A. A billion people in Asia depend on glacier melt for their fresh water; those glaciers are receding fast.

    B. Global warming will mean more drought in continental interiors (ask the Australians). In the 1960s, 20% of agricultural areas were in drought at any given time. Now it’s more like 30%.

    C. Sea-level rise is poised to destroy trillions of dollars worth of infrastructure and create hundreds of millions of climate refugees. If things go badly enough, in a century or so, half of Florida and all of Bangladesh will be under water.

    (6) How does giving over 1400 media interviews constitute “being muzzled”?

    If you’re talking about Jim Hansen, the being muzzled refers to attempts by the White House to alter or suppress his scientific papers on global warming.

  21. #21 Paul
    February 23, 2009

    Global Warming Is A Scam said:

    > How do you explain the recent warming on Mars?

    Actually how do you explain warming on Mars??

    How many temperature monitoring stations are there on Mars?
    Given that Skeptics claim there are not enough on earth, or they are faulty or some other excuse. How do you know Mars is warming???

    How many instruments are monitoring the atmosphere on Mars?

    The list is endless. You can not seriously use Mars as some sort of reference point for a discussion and at the same time pour scorn on earth born science. All you are doing is firing blindly at anything that moves hoping you will hit something.
    That is called politics, not science.

  22. #22 Paul
    February 23, 2009

    >Oh, my god, a genuine science illiterate, cut-and-paste troll.
    With his own web site!

    I think the eagle gives a big clue!
    No science on that site.

  23. #23 bi -- IJI
    February 23, 2009

    > Why isn’t the media reporting these conferences?

    Because any news outlet that reports them is by definition not part of The Media?.

    It’s like asking, “Why’s my wardrobe full of my clothes?”

  24. #24 Paul
    February 23, 2009

    From Global Warming Is A Scam site:

    >…We aren’t even going to tell you that ‘climate change’ is some vast left wing conspiracy, though we will point out the self-interests of many who preach it…

    I think a lack of innovative thinking on the part of deniers/skeptics is the main problem. Even climate change acceptors would like to invest money wherever they like and to buy whatever car they like. But they realise that editing is required because the science points to it.

    >…Mostly climate change. It should be obvious to anyone that objectively looks at the data that our planet’s climate changes. It changes often, it changes dramatically, and it often changes very quickly…

    Yes it is obvious to scientists as well. These words just reflect what is commonly known and preys on the ‘known’ that everyone feels happy with. It isn’t science.

    >We are going to show you climate change from a historical perspective, a common sense perspective, and above all the perspective of dissenting scientists that dare to research natural causes of climate change.

    Common Sense perspective??
    So i guess we have to reject science that doesn’t meet that criteria?
    Quantum physics, Relativity etc.
    That means no computers etc.

    Again this appeals to the majority of people that wouldn’t want to be bothered to understand these things. Politics, not science.

    >We may even point out from time to time the benefits of a warmer planet (yes, there are many).

    Benefits to whom?
    A few selfish people that are wealthy enough to move or do something to secure their lives?

  25. #25 bigcitylib
    February 23, 2009

    I am assuming the fellow (Ashby) launching the Climate Sceptic Party is a fringe nutter, but I know very little about Austrlian politics.

  26. #26 eddie
    February 23, 2009

    Everytime I visit sciblogs for the first time in a day, or in a firefox session, I get a popup from Is this approved by sciblogs of is it malware?

  27. #27 John Mashey
    February 23, 2009

    To calibrate GWIS (John Herron), recall that his site has long been a big supporter of ponderthemaunder’s Kristen Byrnes, hence seems to believe that a 15-year-old student who would not normally have yet taken physics or statistics managed to disprove AGW…

  28. #28 bi -- IJI
    February 23, 2009


    > Everytime I visit sciblogs for the first time in a day, or in a firefox session, I get a popup from Is this approved by sciblogs of is it malware?

    I get it too. What’s going on?

  29. #29 Hank Roberts
    February 24, 2009

    > safecount

    Dunno, I don’t see it using Firefox (OSX, with AdAware, NoScript, and various other crap-defeating tools). Either it’s hiding effectively or being blocked automagically.

    This may be a clue to why you’re seeing it:
    Safecount (“We” or “Us”) is a leading online technology company that enables advertisers, researchers and media companies to understand the effectiveness of …

  30. #30 ScaredAmoeba
    February 24, 2009

    Whenever I read the bile and venom from people like ‘Global Warming Is A Scam’, I feel like I need a shower, even when I’ve just had one!

  31. #31 P. Lewis
    February 24, 2009

    The Orbiting Carbon Observatory did not achieve a successful orbit (third-stage separation failure). Looks like it’s going to be a dead duck :-(

  32. #32 bi -- IJI
    February 24, 2009

    More hilarity from Heartland:

    Calls Mount For Obama To Fire NASA Climate Chief.

    The ‘mounting’ calls turn out to come from the usual noise-meisters: Dan Miller, Roy Spencer, Hans Labohm, Chris Horner, Terry Dunleavy, Tim Ball, and of course Anthony “not political activism!” Watts.

  33. #33 El Cid
    February 24, 2009

    Today’s New York Timesheadline story for the Science section by John Tierney is built around Roger Pielke, Jr’s doubts about the objectivity and honest brokerage of Obama’s science personnel.

    To borrow a term from Roger Pielke Jr.: Can these scientists be honest brokers?

    Dr. Pielke, a professor in the environmental studies program at the University of Colorado, is the author of “The Honest Broker,” a book arguing that most scientists are fundamentally mistaken about their role in political debates. As a result, he says, they’re jeopardizing their credibility while impeding solutions to problems like global warming…

    …“Some scientists want to influence policy in a certain direction and still be able to claim to be above politics,” Dr. Pielke says. “So they engage in what I call ‘stealth issue advocacy’ by smuggling political arguments into putative scientific ones.”…

    What would honest brokers tell the president about global warming? Dr. Pielke, who calls himself an Obamite, says he’s concerned that the presidents’ advisers seem uniformly focused on cutting carbon emissions through a domestic cap-and-trade law and a new international treaty.

    It’s fine to try that strategy, he says, but there are too many technological, economic and political uncertainties to count on it making a significant global difference. If people around the world can’t be cajoled — or frightened by apocalyptic scenarios — into cutting carbon emissions, then politicians need backup strategies.

    One possibility, Dr. Pielke says, would be to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in the future. He calculates that it could cost about the same, in the long run, as making drastic cuts in emissions today, and could be cheaper if the technology improves. It could also be a lot easier sell to the public.

    So, there you have it. These politically non-objective scientists are uselessly scaring the public, so our best plan to deal with CO2 related global warming is to let it be repaired by future technology. This has the benefit of being ‘a lot easier sell’ than doing anything now.

  34. #34 dko
    February 24, 2009

    I am guessing that the next orbiting carbon observatory will be called the CO2?

  35. #35 John Mashey
    February 24, 2009

    I have thought for some time that thinktanks were getting more of their money from certain family foundations than from ExxonMobil. Why? because none of the EM numbers I saw seemed big enough.

    DeSMogBlog has a nice analysis of the 198x-2006 funding they could find behind the sponsors for the upcoming Heartland conference.

    Of the $47M they identified:

    $37M came from various Scaife foundations,

    $4M from Koch foundations,

    $6M from EM.

    Scaife foundations = Mellon fortune, run by Richard Mellon Scaife, i.e., including Gulf Oil.

    When I was working summers at US Bureau of Mines in Pittsburgh, PA, I used to take card decks over to the computer in *Scaife* Hall at Carnegie *Mellon* University, positive contributions.

  36. #36 Paul
    February 25, 2009

    Shouldn’t the Heartland Institute be nicknamed the ‘Fatherland Institute’ ?

  37. #37 P. Lewis
    February 25, 2009

    Or maybe the ‘Fatherless Institute’?

  38. #38 bi -- IJI
    February 25, 2009

    > Or maybe the ‘Fatherless Institute’?

    I’ll go for “Heartland Destitute”.

    Shameless plug: Nominations for the Heartland conference’s take-home message are now open.

  39. #39 Paul
    February 25, 2009

    Well i chose the ‘Fatherland Institute’ because ‘Heartland’ i assume was chosen as it sounded ‘nice’ and had warm American ‘feelings’ about it. eg. it is ‘nationalistic’. Like ‘Homeland security’.

    One wonders what goes through the minds of the people that dreams up these names.

    What i do find hilarious in a sad sort of way is the (new?) animation on the Heartland (security) page header, with a number of famous Americans popping up and then right in there amongst them is Joseph Bast.
    It always amazes me how self indulgent some of these people are, like this person:

    There’s more:

    He likes himself a lot more than Darwinism:

  40. #40 luminous beauty
    February 25, 2009

    Heartless Prostitute™ has an eponymous ring to it, don’t you think?

  41. #41 pough
    February 25, 2009

    The Register is doing its usual [Awesome Science Reporting](, pointing out that “Japanese scientists have made a dramatic break with the UN and Western-backed hypothesis of climate change in a new report from its Energy Commission.”

    The report by Japan Society of Energy and Resources (JSER) is astonishing rebuke to international pressure, and a vote of confidence in Japan’s native marine and astronomical research. Publicly-funded science in the West uniformly backs the hypothesis that industrial influence is primarily responsible for climate change, although fissures have appeared recently. Only one of the five top Japanese scientists commissioned here concurs with the man-made global warming hypothesis.

    I like how they drop the indefinite article in the first sentence. It ends up reading like a mistake in the Japanese translation, even though it’s not in the translated part.

  42. #42 Paul
    February 25, 2009


    >The Register is doing its usual Awesome Science Reporting, pointing out that “Japanese scientists have made a dramatic break with the UN and Western-backed hypothesis of climate change in a new report from its Energy Commission.”

    I was reading through to the second page of the Register article thinking the whole thing would be about the Japanese report and on the second page the ‘journalist’ author starts writing about his own ‘research’ and theory!

  43. #43 Paul
    February 25, 2009

    Oops no, the second page is the start of the report. I didn’t read the top of the page

  44. #44 Gar Lipow
    February 25, 2009

    A comment on the economic consensus on the cost of fighting global warming: bottom line, that cost is overestimated because most economic estimates are based on studies that don’t fully account for positive externalities other than mitigating the climate crisis.

    Umm – I hope this is considered a fair use of the open thread. The consensus thread is a bit old with that last comment being from a few days ago.

  45. #45 Sortition
    February 25, 2009

    Gar Lipow,

    I’d like to ask you the question I posed in the “economists’ consensus” thread:

    After the great, cheap emissions reduction policy is implemented, will US residents still be driving over 14,000 vehicle-km per year per person? If so, how will the emissions be eliminated? If not, how will the reduction in vehicle-km be achieved without major changes in the life of the average American?

    I’ll add:

    If major changes in life are going to be necessary, shouldn’t that be an important part of the story? Instead of talking about GDP, we should be talking about how post-reduction life will look like.

    BTW, I am not a regular reader of yours, so if discussing post-reduction life is something you do on your blog, I withdraw my objection, and I am interested in links. I know that on Deltoid, the “low GDP cost” claim is being discussed occasionally, but the wider implications of emissions reduction on the life of the average person are not discussed.

  46. #46 bi -- IJI
    February 25, 2009

    pough, Paul:

    Wow. They left out all the rebuttals by Emori. They didn’t even bother to mention his name! This is what I call quote-mining supreme.

    The report’s been discussed here before, anyway…

  47. #47 Gaz
    February 25, 2009

    Hi Sortition (@45),

    The questions you pose are interesting.

    I’m sure I’m not the only one who doesn’t have answers and is waiting (confidently) for the market to provide them.

    Can I ask you why you’re so focused on the vehicle-driving US residents? Do you think their resistance to change might hamper global efforts to reduce GHG emissions?

    Anyway, I’m sure the marketing industry can find a way of making Joe Average feel like a man when he’s driving his battery powered mini-SUV. Or whatever.

    Gar Lipow,

    Yes, economists are aware of the difficulty of measuring the benefits of mitigation.

    The Garnaut Review report Chapter 1 identifies 4 benefits: 1) currently measurable market impacts, 2) market impacts not readily measurable, 3) insurance value against high damages and 4) non-market impacts (eg nice environment).

    In Chapter 11 it’s explained that only types 1 and 2 are included in the modelling. (Does anyone else think this sounds a bit like Dick Cheney’s known unknowns and unknown unknowns?)

    So it would seem that even if the rest of the modelling is spot-on, some of the good bits are left out.

    Note the implicaton of this is that the some of the costs of not mitigating are also not amenable to economic modelling.

  48. #48 Sortition
    February 25, 2009

    > Can I ask you why you’re so focused on the vehicle-driving US residents? Do you think their resistance to change might hamper global efforts to reduce GHG emissions?

    I could ask similar questions about other forms of energy consumption, but driving is both one of the biggest sinks of energy (about 2 KW/person) and one of the hardest to eliminate. Any public policy to reduce emissions would need to tackle this hard problem.

  49. #49 Gar Lipow
    February 26, 2009

    Sortition. I do discuss this quite a bit, but I don’t mind answering briefly: In the long term more density and electric trains, in the medium term electric cars – possibly with more car sharing to make up for higher costs if battery costs don’t come down. But the evidence is that high battery costs are largely a matter of lack of mass production.

    Gaz: yes external benefits (other than actual climate mitigation) are difficult to measure. But there are some that have been extensively studied and ought to be included. One thing things you wil find in my post are links to studies of productivity increases when you green buildings. In developed countries a great deal of economic activity takes place inside buildings that are climate controlled. Office buildings, a high percent of retail. (Obviously a lot of retail acitvity takes place either outdoors or in circumstances that can’t really be climate conditioned.) Even a minority of manufacturing facilities can probably provide green comfort for workers, though I think a majority of manufacturing has functional requirements that make this difficult. Still I’d bet that at least half or more of economic activity in rich nations takes place in circumstances where energy savings can be combined with better ventilation, more comfortable lighting, and better temperature control which leads to huge productivity increases. In the post linked, I cite source for the productivity increases. In previous posts I’ve linked to the same information, and also to census information showing that in the U.S. half or more of all economic activity takes place in buildings that could receive Green upgrades.

    Another benefit that can be measured is improvement in air quality. There are problems with measuring and valuing that, but the solution to that is to choose measures you are confident are undercounts: after all putting too low a value on this is still more accurate than valuing it at zero.

    Actually it is unfair to expect you to dig through Grist to find my technical data. So here is a link to the post which in turn links to the Spreadsheet where I gather together technical means we have now.

    And here is a link to the actual Excel Spreadsheet which list technologies and costs and test various scenarios for technical improvements.

    The URL of my user link includes a free downloadable book in case the spreadsheet is not detailed enough.

    While Grist is a fairly prestigious on-line magazine, I’d really like to find a way to submit this stuff somewhere for peer review.

  50. #50 Gaz
    February 26, 2009

    Thanks Gar.

    By the way, did you know Gar Lipow was an anagram of “polar wig”? I’m sure this must have some significance.


    Re: “Any public policy to reduce emissions would need to tackle this hard problem.”

    You mean, for example, provision of public transport infrastucture if market forces can’t generate adequate non-carbon private transport?

    What I’m getting at is that there’s a tendency of people to feel like they have to guess what will emerge from the changed price signals from whatever scheme is used. I’m not sure that’s necessary.

    My inclination is just to sit back and watch the show. I find it’s much more relaxing. It seems reasonble to suppose that any specific vision of future technology, say 40 years hence, is likely to be wrong.

    I’m looking forward to seeing how industry responds to the challenge. (Except those boneheads who think lobbying politicians will make global warming go away.)

  51. #51 bi -- IJI
    February 26, 2009

    James Annan is looking at the Japanese report.

  52. #52 Barton Paul Levenson
    February 26, 2009

    bi posts:

    James Annan is looking at the Japanese report.

    As I just posted on Realclimate about that “report:” Sumimasen ga, kore-tachi wa bakayaro des’.

  53. #53 Gar Lipow
    February 26, 2009

    The reasons I don’t just want to relax and wait for market to generate tech:

    1) We don’t have time. Paradigm shifts typically take 30-50 years, and that does not include replacement of existing infrastructure. We don’t want to wait that long.

    2) In general this kind of infrastructure shift historically has to be driven by public policy, and not just price shifts, even if those price shifts are one type of public policy. Efficiency standards (as flexible as possible but based on things emissions per square foot, or emissions per kWh or emissions per passenger mile or emissions per ton-mile) is one form of public policy that is important. Another is public investment for stuff like rail lines and grid. Also low own-price demand elasticity means that things like insulation in buildings respond sluggishly to price signals, which is another reason for regulations and subsidies for this kind of thing.

    That does not mean that we don’t need price signals. We need to do everything. But we can’t rely on price signals, and we can’t wait for techical breakthroughs. We need to start deploying the technology we have now. We can start deploying the inevitable improvements when they occur.

  54. #54 Gar Lipow
    February 26, 2009

    Use preview, Gar you idiot.

    >but we can’t rely on price signals,

    should of course have been

    >but we can’t rely on price signals alone,

  55. #55 Sortition
    February 26, 2009


    > In the long term more density and electric trains, in the medium term electric cars – possibly with more car sharing to make up for higher costs if battery costs don’t come down. But the evidence is that high battery costs are largely a matter of lack of mass production.

    What are the reductions that you expect using those solutions and at what time frame?


    > […] price signals […] sit back and watch the show. I find it’s much more relaxing.

    Nothing except for dogma suggests that there is a reason to be relaxed. Those price signals may come in the form of a very heavy burden on the average household, and/or they may not come at all before the Earth is 3C degrees warmer.

  56. #56 Gar Lipow
    February 26, 2009

    >What are the reductions that you expect using those solutions and at what time frame?

    Well if you follow the links, you will find that I propose a 95%+ reduction (not per capita, absolute) over the course of 20 years. It does not involve just those technologies, and it does not rely on the market to get us there. (To make the kind of changes we need as fast as we need, a price signal is needed, but as a supplement to really stringent regulation, and really large scale public investment. Public investment and regulations are the only possible main drivers for really fast reductions. Price signals are still needed to mop up: to reduce emissions in areas that really are not amenable to regulation or public investment, and plug leaks.)

    In terms of specifics, obviously another part of the puzzle is to generate electricity by ultra-low carbon means. (Wind and Concentrating Solar thermal with thermal storage, along with long distance transmission and a few hours of electrical storage to even out variability, shaped by hydro, geothermal, and about 2% natural gas is my choice as lowest cost way to provide a reliable low carbon grid. But I’m open to arguments that nuclear would be cheaper, though so far that looks to me like the high cost option. )

    If you want more detail follow the links to the spreadsheet or book.

    Post that describes and links to spreadsheet

    Book is my user links

  57. #57 Sortition
    February 26, 2009


    For simplicity, let’s focus on personal transportation. What is the schedule for car electrification? what would be the vehicle-mileage per capita? what is the energy spent per vehicle-mile? what is the schedule for phasing out the hypothetical electric cars in favor of trains?

  58. #58 Gaz
    February 26, 2009

    Sort: “Nothing except for dogma suggests that there is a reason to be relaxed.”

    Of course you are right.

    Those in public policy areas should be striving for the low-carbon options wherever possible.

    And both you and Gar are right in that price signals alone will not be enough – government sponsorship of the science, R&D and long-term investment in infrastructure will be necessary. (That’s actually one of the arguments that not all of the tax or permits revenue should be returned as cash to households but that’s another matter.)

    What I was getting at was that I think technology will respond fairly quickly but that the solutions that crop up will be impossible for us to anticpate from our vantage point in 2009.

    We just have to work with what we’ve got and accept that what we’ve got by 2019 or 2039 will be a lot different from what we’ve got now in 2009.

  59. #59 Gar Lipow
    February 26, 2009

    Key point is that we decarbonize grid and electrify transport.

    The grid can be decarbonized over ten to twenty years (the speed depending on to what extent we would rather concentrate on efficiency before putting too much into renewables).

    We are going to be car dependedent in in the U.S. for a long time. But about a quarter of the population lives in areas that really are transit read, and another quarter in areas that could be infilled to make them transit ready. However even in those areas, transit reduces use of cars but does not eliminate it.

    Electrification of cars. The lifespan of a U.S. car is about 20 years, but most of the miles are put on in the first six and most of the rest in within the first ten to twelve. So:

    Six years to build up an electric car industry, with extensive goverment backing. These may be full electric, or strong hybrids that can travel the first 60 miles on electric only. That ensures that 95% or better of miles on these cars will be electrically driven.

    They should user hypercar technology to assure that they consume no more than .2 kWh per mile. (Even the Chevy Volt does that.) And they should get at least 50 mpg is gasoline driven mode. Prototypes have been demostrated for all this stuff. High end commerical models have been built. So with regulation and public investment it is not unreasonable to expect to have factories turning out reaonably price (under $30,000) cars that can meet these requirements within six years.

    So: Within 12 years majority of miles driven in these cars. Within 18 years overwhelming majority driven in these cars. Worst of remaining non-electrics can be eliminated through a buyback over the remaining two years.

    Metered electric plugs for electric cars are available on residential streets and workplaces. Apartments and condos that provide parking for residents are required to provide plugs. People who own their own home with assigned parking are resposible for providing their own.
    So at end of 20 years:

    1) Enough fully gasoline driven cars remain to produce about 2% of current emissions compared to today’s gasoline driven cars.

    2) 95% or better of the miles on the electric cars are driven by electricity that is itself 98% carbon free. The remaining 5% of miles are still at least double (and maybe triple) the efficiency of today’s autos.

    3) Public transit and carbon pricing at minimum keeps non-electric miles from growing. A lot people actually prefer transit when available, so perhaps miles driven actually shrinks. Public transit includes not only mass transit, but bikes paths, walking paths and better internet. All new development has to be both transit friendly (designed so that people can take advantage of transit) and accompanied by actual transit to take advantage of. Now that is slightly less than a 95% reduction, ~93%, but there are areas other than transport can reduce emissions by more than 95% so this is consistent with an overall 95% reduction. (And if the mass transit portion is successful enough, then this does become a 95% reduction.) Transport as whole is the area most resistant to reductions, but we still can do better than 90% overall there. But in the buildings sector our emissions reduction can be close 100%. (Efficiency, solar energy, and ultra-low carbon electricity – the only emissions coming from the residual emissions in the electricity, and from cleaning and maintenance.)

  60. #60 Gar Lipow
    February 26, 2009

    To anticipate objections:
    1) This is an awfully detailed plan in terms of constraining the future, yet not at all detailed in implementation.
    An) To really plan something like this would require the resources of a government. And we are past the point where we can wait for the market to solve it – even given the addition of price signals. If we had put in place a carbon tax back in Clinton’s first term, like Gore wanted to do, maybe there would have been time for market solutions. But now? We have to do too much too fast to leave stuff to the market. So we really do have to make a plan. In the U.S. , I’m pretty sure that electric cars are in fact the only thing we can do fast enough.
    2) Batteries: too toxic, reserves of rare metals.
    An)Short answer: recycling. We need to fully recycle rare metals in batteries. If we are creating an electric car industry mostly from scratch there is no reason we can’t do this from the beginning. That keeps demand for rare metals low enough to match reserves, and if the recycling is done properly recovers all the toxics as well. (There are some likely breakthroughs that will involve much smaller amounts of both rare metals and toxics, but I’m not counting on that, and even then they should be recycled.)

  61. #61 Sortition
    February 27, 2009


    There are, of course, many questions of feasibility about your plan of electrification of cars, but I think the most unlikely part is the possibility of enhancing the capacity of renewable electricity sources to meet demand not only for current needs, but for transportation as well. 10,000 vehicle-miles per person per year at 0.2 KWh per mile is 2,000 KWh per person per year. That alone is almost 6 times as much as the entire per capita supply of electricity from renewable sources.

  62. #62 z
    February 27, 2009

    (dull story oft repeated by boring old fart):

    a couple of decades back a representative of the local electric utility spoke at our alumni meeting, re the future of plug-in Electic Cars, inevitable. He was doing fine until somebody inquired re how could they be recharged during hot summer afternoons when the grid was already incapable of coping with the air conditioning load? The answer was, of course, well you wouldn’t do that. You would have to recharge overnight. And driving on vacation, when you reached the limits of your charge; you would obviously then hole up in a motel and again, recharge overnight; repeat until you reach your destination. Needless to say, interest in this plan waned from that point.

    So, the point: electrical utilities are interested in plug-in electrics because they can leverage their existing capacity, which is partially idle for the majority of time because it has to be scaled to the peak utilization; they can’t afford to beef up the grid, even to meet actual current peak demand. This makes any increases in generation capacity irrelevant. However, consumers aren’t going to accept vehicles with this limitation, thus it will be some sort of hybrids until much larger range is available from electricity storage technology.

    That said, I think it’s obviously inevitable that the vehicles of the future will be powered off the grid; and this will, in turn, simplify the process of getting off the fossil carbon habit.

  63. #63 z
    February 27, 2009

    by “powered off the grid”, I mean of course “powered by the grid”

  64. #64 Gar Lipow
    February 27, 2009

    >That alone is almost 6 times as much as the entire per capita supply of electricity from renewable sources.

    Yeah, because we are going to be able to solve the climate crisis without replacing most fossil fuel electricity generate with low-carbon sources. Not. We have not begun to tap renewable potential. In the U.S. the Great Plains alone could supply many times current electricity demand; and there is plenty of other wind potential in other areas as well. A tiny percent of our deserts have even greater potential from Concentrating solar thermal. So yes if we switched to electric cars, we would need more generating capacity. But unless you think hydrogen is going to get feasible in the near future, or our ecosystems can really support the biomass to drive transport,electrificaiton of ground transport is the only available task. And the up side of electric cars is they can actually stabilize the grid. Cars are only used an hour or two out of 24. If they become the dominant form of transport, at least a percent of drivers will be willing to allow charging to be delayed to manage variable generation.

  65. #65 Gar Lipow
    February 27, 2009


    Again, we are going to have replace most of our existing grid anyway. Al Gore suggest we can replace all of the fossil fuel portion in ten years. I’d settle for replacing 98% of fossil fuel use in 20 years, and letting
    a few percent of kWh be supplied by natural gas,rather than building hugely expensive multi-day storage and hugely expensive renewable overcapacity to get through rare outages.

    That said, I agree with you that Plugin Hybrid Electric Vehicles are the wsy to go. Make a car with 60 mile to 100 electric ranges, and a gas tank for journeys beyond that, and many people will go weeks or months without ever using the gas tank. And if you want to go on vacation, or just make a two hundred mile day trip, well that is what the gas tank is for. You stop at a gas station, wince a bit at the price and make your long trip. As battery technology improves, we will probably get to the point where your PHEV can go two hundred miles on battery; at that point a lot of people will choose a pure electric option, and just rent a car for trips longer than 200 miles. Even with a 60 or 100 mile range, their is probably a significant portion of the population who would choose pure electric. Basically if you can three months or longer without exceeding your pure electric range, it probably pays to buy a pure electric car, and rent for longer trips. Even today, the ~$26,000 2 passenger Triac (pre-order only) has a one hundred mile range with a 80 mph top speed limit. I’ll bet there are commuters for whom that cost pencils out, and who could combine that with a few-times-per year rental, and combine cost savings with convenience. Not most people,but I’ll bet 5 percent or more of the U.S. population. A five passenger car with that same range and a gas tank for backup would serve the needs of a lot larger portion of the U.S.

  66. #66 Sortition
    February 28, 2009

    > But unless you think hydrogen is going to get feasible in the near future, or our ecosystems can really support the biomass to drive transport,electrificaiton of ground transport is the only available task.

    I am more in the “reduce consumption” camp, but what do I know, maybe solar and/or wind are feasible.

  67. #68 Barton Paul Levenson
    February 28, 2009

    Sortition writes:

    the most unlikely part is the possibility of enhancing the capacity of renewable electricity sources to meet demand not only for current needs, but for transportation as well. 10,000 vehicle-miles per person per year at 0.2 KWh per mile is 2,000 KWh per person per year. That alone is almost 6 times as much as the entire per capita supply of electricity from renewable sources.

    The plan involves increasing the amount of electricity generated from renewable sources. Duh.

  68. #69 Gar Lipow
    March 1, 2009

    >am more in the “reduce consumption” camp, but what do I know, maybe solar and/or wind are feasible.

    How much do you want to reduce consumption?

    Take the U.S. as a handy example, because we use around 100 quads annually (or close enough for purposes of discussion). So a percentage reduction and a quad reduction can be treated as the same thing. Say, for the sake of discourse, we reduce per capita consumption of fossil fuels 80% via a combination of frugality, efficiency, and low temperature solar. With projected population growth, that would be an absolute reduction of about 60%. That translates to 40 quads remaining. Let’s say we can get 7 quads from biomass sustainably, and we think we can afford the emissions from anther 3 quads of fossil fuel. So that gives 10 quads of hydrocarbons. That leaves about 30 quads that have to provided from some other source, even after efficiency, frugality, biomass, and low temp solar. And everything that is left is essentially electricity. Current U.S. electrical generation, if measured in BTU instead of kWh is around 18 quads (very approximately as it varies from year to year). So even with an 80% reduction in per capita consumption, we will still need to almost double electrical production, while reducing emissions from that generation by 95% in absolute terms. Less than 5% of U.S. electricity is provided by combined hydro and geothermal. And there are a lot of reasons to think the Hydro is going to go down not up. (A nasty side effect of climate disruption.) That really leaves increased solar, wind or nuclear as the only choices if you want to reduce emissions. (Other possibilities require assuming technical breakthroughs, whereas wind, solar and nuclear are all things we know how to do now. IMO a combined solar/wind grids, even with transmission, storage and natural gas backup will be less expensive than nuclear, but I’m open to counterargument. I’m very skeptical of any arguments that we can do without large amounts of very low carbon electricity.)

    And note even that nearly doubling electrical happens only we reduce consumption 80% per capita. If you think an 80% per capita reduction unrealistic then you need even more low-carbon electricity. In the other direction, even if we achieved a 90% per capital reduction in U.S. energy use, we would still need to keep electrical generation at about the current levels, but decarbonized.

    In short, I think the need for decarbonizing the electrical grid is a robust feature of any emissions reduction scenario that is not pure fantasy. Reducing consumption alone is not enough. And once you admit that, then you don’t have to start pushing reduced GDP scenarios. You can look a a combination of improved efficiency and low emissions energy sources, low emissions manufacturing (including cement and f5 gases), net negative agriculture and forestry, and greatly reduced emissions from waste and mining.

  69. #70 Gaz
    March 1, 2009

    Warning – I speak from a standpoint of total ignorance on this point, so forgive my question if it’s completely silly.

    When the battery on my cordless drill runs low I just swap if for one that’s fully charged. Can you do that with cars? Or are the batteries too clunky?

    I can’t believe that, given a supply of electricity rfrom renewable sources, there can’t be some mechanism for a swap’n’go battery system. Even if they were really big, surely it wouldn’t be impossible to devise an automated system for swapping them over given standard dimensions and connectors?

    Let’s imagine we had already cars operating on batteries and it turned out that this was causing an environmental calamity. The only solution is liquid hydrocarbon fuel. Imagine the conversations… “What, you mean you’d have to stop every few hundred km and pour 60 litres of highly combustible liquid fuel into your car? Are you kidding? You’d need a huge network of petrol stations with huge tanks of this stuff.. it’s completely unfeasible”

    BTW Gar – I appreciate your thoughtful and well-informed posts here.

  70. #71 Eli Rabett
    March 1, 2009

    Gaz that is everyone’s dream, but the energy density of batteries is much too low. Since batteries are electrochemical, it probably never will be the case, which is why fuel cells, fed by hydrogen or some hydrocarbon, would be best.

  71. #72 Gar Lipow
    March 1, 2009

    Gaz, I don’t think battery swapping is a good idea. And Joe Romm, who is a leading expert on Plug In Hybrid Electric Vehicles agrees. But, before I explain, let me warn you that this is a minority position. A lot of people think battery swapping is the way to go, and in fact an Israeli company is betting on swapping as a business model. Here are the objections to it.

    1) One of the big costs of running an electric car is the battery. A battery swapping system by definition at least doubles the number of batteries per car, maybe more. That cost does not disappear because it is shared. Remember the whole point of this is to have more batteries available than will fit in your car. So that is higher capital recovery for just the batteries in your car.

    2) Chicken/egg problem with stations. Gas station real estate is valuable. You need stations before you can sell cars with battery swapping capability. (Changing batteries in existing electric cars is a multi-hour process.) And you need electric cars before you can take up valuable space in gas stations for battery swapping equipment.

    3)Hoists and stuff you would need is pricey – Quite doaable, in fact demonstrated, but more capital. And it costs more to build a car with swappable batteries than a typical electric or PHEV car where changing batteries is a multi-hour job.

    OK, the Israeli company knows all this. So what is their plan to make this profitable? Well, they intend to lease the cars. So they will open the stations and the dealerships offering long term leases on the cars at the same time. (I don’t know whether it would be mainly a long lease, or whether they are doing car sharing and rentals as well.) They intend to amortize the costs of battery swapping over a lot of cars.

    What about battery costs? Well, I gather they are taking a huge gamble on two things: large scale purchasing bringing costs down, and technology breakthroughs (of which their are a lot in queue) bringing costs down.

    I don’t think they have the capital to buy on a scale that will significantly influence battery prices. And I think betting on when (as opposed to whether) a technology breakthrough will occur is a huge gamble. So my guess is that they will fail. But I will be very happy if they prove me wrong.

    Bottom line: electric cars trade off capital for operating costs. Even without battery swapping they are more capital intensive than gasoline powered engines. Adding swapping increases their capital intensity both in terms of additional batteries and additional charging infrastructure. And if batteries become less expensive, better to build the batteries into the car. It is the old 80/20 rule. If you can drive most of the miles by electricity, better to save capital costs by powering occasional trips representing 5% (or if battery cost drop 1% or 1/10th of a percent) by gasoline or biofuels.

    If batteries do come down enough there is path that would let you have an all electric system with the convenience of gasoline. But this would require some major cost improvement.

    There are advances electric vehicle quality batteries now that can be charged in 15 minutes or less. But they are very expensive, and need major cost breakthrough. Their are charging stations which charge gradually, and store electricity in their own batteries for discharge into quick charging cars. Bring the cost of these down enough and you can charge your electric car full on a 15 minute stop, half charge in around 7 minutes. Note that storage capability in your charging station is an absolute necessity no matter how cheap batteries get. You don’t want the capital costs of an electric grid that could handle brief beaks of hundred times base, so even if your car charges fast, the charging station had better charge itself gradually. I’m sure this will be done eventually. I would not bet on any particular time scale.

    Your point about how absurd liquid fuels would seem if we had an all electric system is a good one. But there is path dependence here, and I think that for the next two decades we probably will continue to have to let liquid fuels handle the last 1% to 5% of passenger automobile miles traveled.

  72. #73 Gar Lipow
    March 1, 2009

    Eli Rabett

    Gaz that is everyone’s dream, but the energy density of batteries is much too low. Since batteries are electrochemical, it probably never will be the case, which is why fuel cells, fed by hydrogen or some hydrocarbon, would be best.

    The problem with hydrogen fuel cells is two-fold. Right now their capital cost is a lot more than batteries. Christina Archer describer her recent ride in a million dollar car. Hydrocarbon fuel cells are a lot cheaper but then are not reducing emissions enough, nor gaining enough efficiency to be make biofuels for automobiles become feasible.

    Also, unless renewable electricity becomes cheaper, the round-trip efficiency of hydrogen powered fuel cells is a lot lower than batteries. A kWh of wind energy will carry your car further if it charges a battery than if it is used to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen, and the hydrogen is then used to run a fuel cell to power the car.

    And the energy density of batteries if fine for a 50 to 200 mile range. (The Tesla has a 200 mile range, at of course a 110,000 cost of which 20,000 or so is battery pack cost. Batteries have to get cheaper before long ranges are feasible. But it it is not energy density but battery cost that is the bottleneck for tha.)

    Right now a 50 mile all electric range, with a gasoline powered charger to charge the battery as you travel for longer ranges is the price/performance sweet spot. Even a small drop in battery cost would extend that sweet spot to 100 miles. Making that charger a hydrocarbon based fuel cell might be feasible in the near term. A number of manufacturers have claimed they could provide 50% efficient hydrocarbon based fuel cells for $300 per kw given large enough orders. Such claims sometimes turn out to be puffery when the offer is actually made. A car that runs at .2 kWh per mile could probably get 85 miles to gallon charged by a 50% efficient gasoline powered fuel cell.

  73. #74 Gaz
    March 2, 2009

    Gar: “A battery swapping system by definition at least doubles the number of batteries per car, maybe more.”

    I’m not sure if it’s a “by definition” thing. Wouldn’t it depend on a number of things, like what proportion of cars would do short distances and never need a battery swap, just an overnight recharge, what proportion would need several swaps a day, how long a battery is out of action while being recharged, what reserve of batteries a battery station would need in case of surges in demand, etc?

    Simple case – if you could recharge a battery in 5 seconds, a battery station would only need one, right? Charge it up, give it to the next guy, charge his old battery, and so on. If it takes 15 minutes, then you’d only need as many as you could swap into cars in 15 minutes. I mean, its not like we need one petrol pump for every automobile out there.

    It’s an interesting logistical problem.

    I guess I’m encouraged by what you, Gar, and Eli are saying, essentially that electric cars are expensive and inconvenient but not impossible. I can think of lots of stuff that used to be like that.

  74. #75 Sortition
    March 2, 2009

    > So even with an 80% reduction in per capita consumption, we will still need to almost double electrical production, while reducing emissions from that generation by 95% in absolute terms.

    Whatever is required after 80% reduction would be a fifth of what would be required without the reduction. Sure, “green” infrastructure would be needed in any case, but taking the option of changing life habits off the table makes the chance of achieving sustainability much less likely.

    By the way, the fact that Europe has about 50% lower per capita energy consumption than the US indicates that 80% reduction is not an unreasonable goal.

  75. #76 Gar Lipow
    March 2, 2009

    Sortition: I agree that an 80% per capita reduction of U.S. consumption is not implausible. In fact, I chose that number because it is a goal I outline in my various postings on what is physically possible. My point though is that even with that 80% per capita reduction, you are still left with a gap that needs to filled by carbon free electricity. Remember what we need is a sufficient per capita reduction in emissions to provide an 80% to 95% ABSOLUTE reduction in emissions. This is not an argument against increasing efficiency, or even being more frugal in lifesyles. It is an arugment that is not enough. AFter we do maximum emissions reduction we are still going to need a lot renewable electricity. Even really large reduction leave a sizeable gap between supply and demand. And there are only three technologies mature enough today to fill that gap. Solar, wind and possibly nuclear. (The latter depending on uranium supplies and the possiblity of certain kinds or procesing.) Note that this only applies to technologies that are shovel ready to day. Both on the renewable and the nuclear side there are a whole bunch of near term stuff in the queue. For example, the geothermal industry think it can find ways to access deeper dry hot rocks, that we can’t touch today using technology borrowed from the oil drilling industry. If that works, geothermal might change from a marginal player with potential to provide a half percent or so of world supply to being able to provide 100% diapsatchable power, suitable for baseload, load following and peaking with potential of many times current world energy consumption. Of course the last demonstration plant attempting this ended up being shut down due to earthquakes. The Geothermal industry said this was a coincidence, that their activity had nothing to do with the earthquakes, I certanly hope they are right.

  76. #77 Gar Lipow
    March 2, 2009

    >guess I’m encouraged by what you, Gar, and Eli are saying, essentially that electric cars are expensive and inconvenient but not impossible.

    Yeah, that is right. And not really that expensive or that inconvenient. The problem though is that all these things require infrastructure. Though putting a price on carbon can help, we really need stuff an emissions price won’t provide. Right now as niche players electric cars don’t put any strain on the grid. But if they start being used on large scale then we will need not only more renewables supplies, but better transmission, and better grid management. Used right electric cars actually help stabilize rather than destabilize the grid. But that requires both that the grid have two way communication capability, and that the cars have a port compatible with whatever protocol the grid adapts. Classic public goods: the smart grid itself is a classic case for public investment; smart grid compatibility in electric cars is a classic case for regulation. So we the technical obstacles are somewhere between non-existent and minor. But the political obstacles to actually doing what we need are formidable.