Thinking beyond pipelines?

There is a nice article by DM at Planet3.0 on the Keystone XL pipeline. I almost didn't bother read it, 'cos I'm a bit bored by all that, but I'm glad I did because he gets it quite right in an illuminating way:

The anti-keystone movement, or more generally the entire anti-tar-sands movement, is trying to reduce our GHG emissions by attacking the supply side of the equation. Essentially the strategy boils down to getting governments and corporations to turn their backs and walk away from huge sums of money...

So what is the alternative?

What if instead fighting a never-ending battle against a specific project (like the Keystone XL pipeline) we could focus on reducing demand for fossil fuels. What if instead of asking governments and corporations to walk away from profits we made it so there simply was no demand (or at least reduced demand) for their products and thus no profits to be made in digging up and selling the bitumen buried under the forest in Northern Alberta....

There are many ways to go about achieving this goal, perhaps the two most obvious being some form carbon pricing (a carbon tax or cap-and-trade) and efficiency regulations.

I'm all in favour of Carbon Taxes as you know, against cap-n-trade, and not keen on efficiency regulations.


In other news: Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/International Climate Science Coalition closed as redirect to Tom Harris, which is moderately funny.

Eli is talking about some bloke called Gallileo (probably a relative of Galileo Galilei) and his troubles with the Church. He misses the point, which is an interesting angle I think you'll find, that the Church at the time was quite receptive to GG's ideas; but GG tried to push them too fast. Vague, possibly not entirely historically accurate summary: the Church was uneasily aware of, say, Copernicus' work (the Church had some of the best astronomers around, and certainly weren't ignorant). They were aware they might have to reassess their geocentrism. What they couldn't do was flip-flop. Because they claim to possess Eternal Truth. So it was OK to have gone from "the Earth is flat / square" (not feeling bound by biblical verses about the four corners of the Earth. "Oh yes, those were just metaphorical you know".) And heliocentrism could have come in too (the few verses that implied geocentrism were weak, and could have been waved away, as they ultimately were). But they couldn't afford to switch to heliocentrism before they were sure of it, because switching back again if wrong would have been intolerable.


* Keystone XL decision will define Barack Obama's legacy on climate change - John Abraham in the Graun.

More like this

This is an endorsement by Climate Hawks Vote, which I support. We’re endorsing climate hawk Shenna Bellows to be the next Senator from Maine because business as usual is no longer good enough in the face of a local and worldwide crisis. Long-time incumbent Susan Collins admits the existence of a…
TL;DR: nothing new to see here. Anyway, I was pushing my favourite theme, How to decarbonize? More free market! and to my absolute astonishment it didn't go down terribly well. A number of questions in the comments were re-hashing stuff from Carbon tax now but no-one ever re-reads old blog posts…
Well, of course, this is trivially true, in the sense that $0 is "up to $1bn" and the report doesn't suggest that it could be more than $1bn. I got this from the Graun which continues to irritate by pointlessly and stupidly failing to link to the original study. I assume they do this because,…
Logging the Onset of The Bottleneck YearsThis weekly posting is brought to you courtesy of H. E. Taylor. Happy reading, I hope you enjoy this week's Global Warming news roundup skip to bottom Another week of Global Warming News Information Overloadis Pattern RecognitionNovember 13, 2011 Chuckles…

William, if I may paraphrase your comments:

The Galileo incident is portrayed as a clash between science and the dogmatism of the church; but that is unfair because, as the church was dogmatic, they could not afford to be seen to flip-flop!

Is that the gist? Because it seems more like a condemnation than a justification to me.

[No. The Church wasn't really particularly dogmatic - or at least, not all of it was. The Church had a powerful position to defend, and wasn't about to let just anyone tell it what the truth was. GG, by contrast, very definitely did want to be the person telling it the truth -W]

By Tom Curtis (not verified) on 16 Feb 2013 #permalink

For Christ's sake Copernicus was a monk. Yes, the Church was aware.

[No, he wasn't a monk. But he was indeed connected with the Church. But a long way from Rome. The Church was not aware of him *because* of his religious connections.

"It was only on 20 October 1497 that Copernicus, by proxy, formally succeeded to the Warmia canonry, which had been granted to him two years earlier. To this, by a document dated 10 January 1503 at Padua, he would add a sinecure at the Collegiate Church of the Holy Cross in Wrocław, Silesia, Bohemia. Despite having received a papal indult on 29 November 1508 to receive further benefices, through his ecclesiastic career Copernicus not only did not acquire further prebends and higher stations (prelacies) at the chapter, but in 1538 he relinquished the Breslau sinecure. It is uncertain whether he was ordained a priest; he may only have taken minor orders, which sufficed for assuming a chapter canonry..." -W]

By Eli Rabett (not verified) on 16 Feb 2013 #permalink

Also chicklet keyboards suck, even the good ones.

By Eli Rabett (not verified) on 16 Feb 2013 #permalink

"What they couldn't do was flip-flop. Because they claim to possess Eternal Truth."

Yeah, That's kind of the point of the whole point to the religion v science story! Individuals being 'quite receptive' but not letting it go 'too far' is besides the point .

William, I quote from the Vatican Observatory, which I presume to not be biased against Catholics or Catholocism:

"The interpretation of the bible was certainly one of the principal contributing factors to the controversy. At the council of Trent, at the height of the protestant reformation just about twenty years before the birth of Galileo, the Catholic Church had solemnly declared that only the church could authentically interpret the bible and that private interpretation was forbidden.

[Yup, happy with that. But you have to understand that was mostly in the context of the Reformation problem, and the authority of priesthood, and stuff. An authority matter. It doesn't deal directly with what exactly you can read from the Bible re astronomy -W]

Now in 1616, just as the controversy about a sun-centered Copernican universe was heating up, the church’s holy office declared that Copernicanism was formally heretical because it contradicted many passages in the bible (e.g. Joshua 10: 11-13, in which the sun stops moving in the sky). Galileo had already written several essays on the interpretation of the bible in which he essentially said that the bible was written to teach us how to go to heaven and not how the heavens ago. In these documents he essentially anticipated by about 400 years what the Catholic Church would teach about the interpretation of the bible, but he did so privately."

[But you've omitted the important bit: "Copernicus’ work itself had been available without controversy for more than sixty years before Galileo first published his telescopic observation" -W]

If the church declared Copernicanism "formally heretical", they were not taking a cautious, wait and see approach as you surmise. Any consideration of possible error needing to be revised later applies equally to declarations against or in favour of the Ptolomaic or the Copernican system. Indeed, placing the requirement that Galileo teach heliocentrism as a hypothesis useful to simplify calculation of planetary positions, but not as truth; while not placing similar restrictions on Ptolomaic astronomers represents a decision that the later is true, while the former is not, The supposition that the church was not dogmatic on this alone out of all issues founders on the historical details.

[The Church didn't much care about the Ptolomaic system. Why should it? That said the Earth stood still, which was what they were comfortable with. What you're missing is why, having been quietly digesting Copernicus' book for 60 years, the Church suddenly declared it heretical -W]

However, even on your own account, the only reason the Church had to involve itself in the affair at all was that its authority was based on its claimed unique position to proclaim dogma. Its authority was not threatened by heliocentrism apart from an implicit claim that that authority extended to all areas of knowledge. Ergo, as you will not concede the facts you adduce show the dogmatism of the church, you contradict yourself.

[ZOMG, I'll disappear in a puff of logic then. In turn, you die on a zebra crossing. Yes, the Church's authority was not threatened by heliocentrism, except insofar as it insisted on geocentrism. But lots of people - most of the populace, most of the ignorant parish priests - believed implicitly in geocentrism. Since they believed it, they believed the Church taught it. But in fact it was never a central doctrine, or of any importance. It could be abandoned at any time - provided the Church could be sure it wouldn't be left looking silly -W]

For what it is worth, a truly non-dogmatic response by the church in 1616 would have been to declare:
1) That, on the authority of Augustine, the Bible's statements that appear to bear on science may be using phenonenal language only, and hence do not teach geocentrism;
2) The church has made no declaration on the topic'
3) Therefore this is a matter to be decided by the evidence of the heavens; and (if they are inclined)
4) That Galileo has not yet proved his hypothesis, but a) the truth or falsehood of his hypothesis was not a mater for the church; and b) it could be left to the astronomers to sort it out.

It was only because of the Churches determination was defending its position as the arbiter of dogma that the conflict arose. It is only because you are ignoring the position it was defending that you can equate that with not being dogmatic.

[I don't think you're reading what I'm writing. The Church was slowly coming to terms with the idea that Science could provide answers it could not, and thus slowly coming to terms with the idea that the bible (and the Church's reading of it) could not be the ultimate authority for everything. But it needed time to think about this. Anyone trying to push it too fast was likely to get into trouble.

There are also a pile of contributing factors; your VO link summarises those well -W]

By Tom Curtis (not verified) on 16 Feb 2013 #permalink

What changed with Galileo was that he insisted that the Copernican system was not merely convenient, but true. The church was quite happy with the Copernican system so long as it was treated as a mere mathematical convenience. Once it was taught as true, the question of whether the Bible or church taught geocentrism or not needed to be addressed. That could have been addressed in a non-dogmatic way, but was instead addressed in a dogmatic way. A further change was the detection of the phases of Venus, the moon's of Jupiter, and the great distance of the stars (in that their diameter did not change under magnification) made acceptance of geocentrism untenable in scientific terms.

[The great distance of the stars is irrelevant to geocentrism. And the lack of stellar parallax was a problem for heliocentrism -W]

Whereas prior to Galileo's observations, a scientist could accept the Church's "compromise" in good faith, after that they could only do so by ignoring physical evidence.

[Again, not really true. The epicycles were already physically implausible in themselves, and impossible in that no consistent set could be found, as I said -W]

As to the church slowly coming to terms with heliocentrism, I guess it did:

"In 1758 the general prohibition against works advocating heliocentrism was removed from the Index of prohibited books, although the specific ban on uncensored versions of the Dialogue and Copernicus's De Revolutionibus remained.[140] All traces of official opposition to heliocentrism by the church disappeared in 1835 when these works were finally dropped from the Index.[141]"


I guess 220 years after the condemnation of heliocentrism, and 280 years after the publication of De Revolutionibus represents slowly coming to terms with an idea. Of course, you may argue that acceptance was slowed by the Galileo controversy,

[Indeed I do. GG had forced the Church (not all by himself, but he was a major player) into rejecting heliocentrism. Having done that, it was very hard for it to change its mind. Essentially it couldn't until a lot else - anyone's belief in the Church having a clue about science - had gone -W]

but the slow acceptance of science by the church is illustrated by its response to Darwinism, which comes to a final acceptance only 137 years after the Origin. But, what do you call so tardy an acceptance of science if not dogmatism? I am sure most AGW deniers will fully accept the theory in fifty years (should they survive), but that would not make their current rejection of science any less dogmatic.

[Well, I would not wish to be dogmatic about the use of the word -W]

By Tom Curtis (not verified) on 16 Feb 2013 #permalink

I kind of feel that Moutal is setting up a false dichotomy in his piece. It isn't an either/or - it should be both. Some people are campaigning against Keystone XL and others are campaigning for reduced energy demand (and there's probably a healthy intersection between the two camps). I'd be surprised if the number of people actively involved in campaigning against Keystone XL was that big but I don't really know. Most importantly, anything that slows the development of the tar sands is good in my book as it gives a little bit more time for others to work on getting e.g. a carbon tax passed.

I'd be interested to know why you're against efficiency regulations. Product standards have done a huge amount to limit the rise in energy demand over the past few decades and are now bringing demand down in developed economies. They should be ratcheted up, pronto.

[See my earlier "dialogues" with Eli. I dislike regulation in general. In the particular case of efficiency standards, they are better imposed by price signals on fuels. See SUVs for example, which arose due to evasion of standards -W]

> who is walking away
All stories are contrived; some are useful

[You've evaded my question.

If you think "those who walk away" is a useful story, and presumably you regard our emission of CO2 as the equivalent sin: then who is walking away from our society? You aren't, I'm not. Neither is anyone else -W]

> Nature
When my eyebrows start crawling toward my hairline, I turn on the advertising. Did that just today and saw a little box to the right side of the main Nature page:
Science jobs from nature jobs
•Manager QA
◦Philip Morris Products S.A.
•R&D Portfolio Manager
◦Nestle Institute of Health Sciences

Glad to know there are science jobs available.

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 16 Feb 2013 #permalink

> turn their backs and walk away
> from huge sums of money…
... externalize the future costs, and $$PROFIT$$ ...

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 16 Feb 2013 #permalink

William, the primary evidence in favour of geocentrism was Brahe's "observation" of the diameter of several higher magnitude stars.

[No its wasn't. The primary evidence was that it was "obvious" and had been obvious forever -W]

The argument goes that because the diameter could be observed, they had to be close enough such that parallax would be observed where the Earth orbiting the Sun. Prior to Galileo's observations, that meant a scientist had to either accept geocentrism, probably in the form of Brahe's hybrid model, or accept heliocentrism along with implausibly large stars. That changed with Galileo's observations. Specifically, his observation that the fixed stars had no diameter, even as magnified by the telescope showed them to be very distant. And given the great distance of the stars, the lack of observed parallax ceases to be a problem for heliocentrism.

[No, that's just ahistorical. The lack of stellar parallax was still an unresolved problem when heliocentrism was adopted. You had to assume that the stars were way way distant - and they had to be what seemed like implausibly distant. Stars appearring to have a size is a good point, and was a problem, but not a killer. Every system had problems, and to accept any of them you had to wave away something -W]

Further, Copernicus system was less accurate than late incarnations of the Ptolomaic system, if more elegant. As such, it was not clear until Kepler that it was to be preferred based on grounds of simplicity alone. The Catholic astronomers who persisted in geocentrism prior to Galileo's observations where not being dogmatic. After those observations, they were. (I guess this means that I should add the publication of "Astronomia Nova" (1609) to Galileo's observations as to what changed to change the situation so that scientific integrity became inconsistent with the (then) Catholic dogmatism.)

[I think you're oversimplifying. It wasn't primarily the Church astronomers persisting in geocentrism - they did that no more than any other set of crusty scientists resisting the latest ideas - it was the "power" part of the heirarchy. You can't understand their viewpoint in terms of science alone - you need to look at the political context, and there is lots of it -W]

By Tom Curtis (not verified) on 17 Feb 2013 #permalink

> who is walking away

There is no "away" literally these days -- it's a moral fable in each of the several different tellings, from different points in history. Ecology, economics, and politics all convince us that nobody can abstain from or get out of this game. But the several authors telling that story -- Dostoyevsky, or James, or LeGuin -- all are pointing out how learning about costs that were hidden can make us think about the benefits we have been taking in a different light and perhaps choose not to take them or to oppose them.

[If we want to internalise our externalities, then a carbon tax is a good idea. Not regulation -W]

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 17 Feb 2013 #permalink

>>See my earlier "dialogues" with Eli. I dislike regulation in general. In the particular case of efficiency standards, they are better imposed by price signals on fuels. See SUVs for example, which arose due to evasion of standards -W]<<

Naturally there will always be attempts to game the system but they can be mitigated through strong legislation. Vehicle CO2 emissions have dropped steadily in Europe since regulations were introduced (voluntary targets fell)

[Aiee, this is just the same argument with Eli all over again. What you've just said is meaningless, unless you can distinguish regulations from the effects of price increases -W]

and in spite of SUVs (which mostly aren't SUVs any more - they're just chunky cars)

[No, its the US that has a problem with dumb regs being evaded by SUVs -W]

Weren't you saying a few weeks back that car purchases are ruled more by the heart than the head?

[Not that I recall. Link? -W]

As a result I would contend that you need both regulations and the price signal. Same goes for appliances where people don't think of the whole life cost and focus more on the up front costs.

But the reason why I think a carbon tax alone won't work appears when you do some rough calculations to get an idea of what impact it would have on prices. Let's take a £50/tCO2 tax. That gives the following levies:

Grid electricity (0.5kgCO2e/kWh) = 2.5p/kWh
Natural gas (0.2kgCO2e/kWh) = 1p/kWh
Petrol (2.3kgCO2e/litre) = 11.5p/litre
Diesel (2.7kgCO2e/litre = 13.5p/litre

Electricity prices were 2.5p lower back in about 2007 and gas prices were 1p lower in 2008 and while there's been an encouraging drop in domestic energy consumption since then it hasn't been that great. I'm not sure whether you think that a carbon tax should replace fuel duties (as far as I can make out Timmy does), but a reduction from current rates of about 60p/litre to 10 to 15p/litre flashes a big red warning light in my mind.

So in my view we should be implementing some sort of carbon tax that maintains prices where they are as well as continuously tightening product standards. The howls of protest from the manufacturers should be largely ignored because they have demonstrated consistently over the decades that they can produce more efficient products at no additional cost to consumers if the reason to do so is there.

[But you need to ask "why are we imposing a carbon tax" (or regulation). If we're doing it to internalise externalities, and £50/tonne does that, and it doesn't cost enough to change people's minds then... that's fine. You seem to have started from the need to change people's mind, without regard to the costs -W]

"GG had forced the Church... into rejecting heliocentrism"

IMO, that was a free choice they made.

"Having done that, it was very hard for it to change its mind"


[See the blog post, the bit starting: "What they couldn’t do was flip-flop. Because..." -W]

"...the Church at the time was quite receptive to GG’s ideas;

I think Toms comment shows that "quite receptive" is inaccurate. Would you use the same words for their acceptance of evolution?

[If you prefer Tom's answers, its probably best to ask him -W]

...but GG tried to push them too fast"

GG was wrong to argue his case? How fast is acceptable? He should have coddled the CC?

[GG was ambitious, academically. He was also very clever, and right about a number of things (though not all) and thought that was enough. He was wrong to think that. "GG was wrong to argue his case?" is a meaningless question, unless you know what sort of "wrong" you mean. Was it expedient, for him, in the immeadiate sense? Clearly not. Was it a gamble, worth risking? Probably not, if looked at in a level-headed way. Was it morally wrong? That depends on your morals -W]

Note: I don't believe this is completely trivial. As a "scientist" I believe he should simply argue the truth, but if GG wanted to be a "science educator", perhaps he pushed them too fast (perhaps not).

"The Church was slowly coming to terms with the idea that Science could provide answers it could not"

I have strong doubts it has reached that point yet.

> distinguish regulations from ... price increases

Sure. Regulations come from thinking ahead. Prices are set by the free market from day to day.

[No. Twice over. First, you've misunderstood what I meant. I meant, you can't give the credit for efficiency increases to regulations, merely because regulations increased over that period. You need to consider the effect of price rises of fuel.

But secondly, you seem to think the markets act only day to day, they don't. They amalgamate a great deal of forward thinking. People make decisions in companies on decadal and longer timescales. Part of what they factor in is government decisions, going forward (which is why, so often, you'll hear companies asking for some clear sense out of government, rather than randomly changing policies). If government says, credibly, that there will be a carbon tax, starting in X years at Y rate and raising to Z after Q years, all that gets factored in to prices -W]

Take the energy transformer efficiency rulemaking, which dragged out over a dozen years, pingponged back and forth by utterly different regulatory thinking from Democratic to Republican and back to Democratic administrations.

It took cooperation between big electric utilities, environmental groups, and state governments -- all together suing the Bush administration -- to get a minimum efficiency standard together.

[That doesn't fit your ref (…). That says:

* 2005: The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005) set standards for low-voltage dry-type transformers
* 2007: the DOE established standard vs. minimum efficiency values for all distribution transformers through 2,500 kVA in its 10 CFR 431 Subpart K.
2009: After the DOE established the minimum efficiency rule in 2007, environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the DOE...

so it looks to me as though the lawsuits occurred *after* the regs, aka "minimum efficiency standard" went in -W]

Why big electric utilities? Transformers put in during the last big wave of electrification decades ago need to be replaced -- for lots of reasons. Lots of them. They'll stay in service for decades, long after the payback time for the added cost of buying the more efficient and longer-lived hardware -- but that hardware accrues its cost up front, and the shareholders of the moment pay that cost.

No utility managers could choose longterm efficiency over lowest-upfront-cost, without regulation. They'd be fired for driving the company stock down by taking on unnecessarily higher upfront cost. The utilities joined together, suing energy regulators to get the standard raised to the higher minimum first proposed rather than the watered-down standard rolled out by the intervening conservative Bush administration's Dep't of Energy.

[I'm reluctant to believe this. Where's your evidence? -W]

That raises the lowest level of efficiency for all other purchasers of similar transformers, for the same market reasons that California's energy efficiency regulations raise the lowest level for other buyers of other products -- when a really big part of the market is regulated, there's so much less profit in producing the cheap crap that manufacturers don't bother, and everyone gets at least the minimum efficient product wherever they buy it.

Or, of course, somebody still builds the cheap crap and fakes the labeling on it and sells it dirt cheap, but that's a problem for another day

Oh, it's not done yet. It's never done.

“A brief time line of transformer laws and standards” for a little history on the topic.

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 17 Feb 2013 #permalink

From my reading of The Crime of Galileo it looks much more complicated since there was a) No really sound reason to accept Galileo's theory -- Aristotelian 'science' had clear problems but the main 'scientic' establishment had a lot invested in it,

for some reason I know forget, the Jesuits who apparently were the main Catholic astronomers, for some political reason, were ordered by their head not to support Galielo and, for some reason the pope took it into his head that Galileo was attacking him personally in the the book, He had been a earlier supporter of Galileo's and for some reason took it into his head that the Simplicio character in the book was supposed to be him.

Add to this either the Crime of Galileo or one of Stillman Drake's books on GG points out that there was at least one tiny little flaw in the theory. Apparently Galileo's theory predicted only one tide a day.

[GG's theory of the tides was, he believed, his killer arguement. Unfortunately it was totally broken. It also completely lacked observational support - he had clearly never actually studied the tides (even in the Med.) -W]

By jrkrideau (not verified) on 17 Feb 2013 #permalink

This was the decision: "Under the federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA), the Department of Energy (DOE) is required to regularly revise and strengthen appliance efficiency standards. Unfortunately, DOE has a long history of foot-dragging in this area, missing deadlines and setting weak standards. California and other states repeatedly have been forced to sue DOE to ensure compliance with EPCA. For example, states successfully challenged DOE's rollback of efficiency standards for air conditioners and heat pumps that took place soon after the Bush Administration took office. Natural Resources Defense Council v. Abraham, 355 F.3d 179 (2d Cir. 2004)."

(no, the utilities are not named parties as filed; I'm recalling a SF Chronicle news story describing their cooperation with the lawsuit, will find the link).…

Here's the current situation; details still being fought out, and no doubt will continue to be.
Note the difference between 'low' and 'high' efficiency is a fraction of a percent, amortized over three or four decades of service life. The big issue seems to be that the core material isn't cheap and while almost anyone can build a transformer out of a hunk of iron and a couple of wire windings in a bucket of oil -- getting the efficiency up takes engineering.…

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 17 Feb 2013 #permalink

and more (there are more links on the source page)

Related Items
U.S. Energy Department Sets New Energy Savings Standards
(Press Release - 10/12/2007)
Transformer Manufacturer Announces Support for Efficiency Standard Boosting Proposal Being Considered by the U.S. Department of Energy
(Press Release - 7/17/2007)
Utilities, Efficiency and Environmental Groups Join to Propose New Efficiency Standard for Electric Transformers
(Press Release - 2/20/2007)
Major Utilities Call on Energy Department to Strengthen Energy-Saving Transformer Standards
(Press Release - 9/26/2006)

[This is getting very complicated. I wanted one, definitive link - not lots of links, none of which are definitive. I'm not going to read them all carefully.

So, the situation as I read it is:

* the govt/EPA/whoever set minimum efficiency standards
* env groups, and some states, didn't like those standards, and sued
* the standards were not overturned; instead, the court told the EPA to keep them under review.

Do you accept that version? Its not the one you originally presented, and your text doesn't really survive that version -W]

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 17 Feb 2013 #permalink

I prob'ly sunk replies into your spamtrap bucket by adding more than one URL.

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 17 Feb 2013 #permalink

Is this notion sound:
Stopping big infrastructure projects before they happen will reduce government/society from feeling it has to subsidize the project to justify it in the future? I think that trying to reduce demand in the future will be harder if there's a big project (resulting from a recent investment) that could be competitive ... in a particular regulatory environment. The project is likely to be subsidized until the low visible price overcomes whatever demand obstacles get promoted.

[Certainly if someone has sunk lots of money in project X, then it becomes worthwhile for them to spend on lobbying for project X's future -W]

It is more complicated than your summary or my summary -- and it's far from over, so there's no single definitive link I can find in my usual five minutes of searching. The

Reaching way back, I was trying to point out that your phrase "govt/EPA/whoever" includes utilities pushing for efficiency standards to be set by regulation -- the 2006 press release is an example from the early days of the complicated dance. is a glance at the current situation.

Point being, these folks see the use of energy efficiency regulation and might have an explanation you'd find credible. I'm not the intermediary to explain it, just pointing out there are strong arguments being made.

[Oh, I see, yes. I agree that link does indeed say that the industry - or at least some of the industry - was asking for regulation. Does that blow my theory that all regulation is bad? Well, no, because I have no such theory. Does it blow my much weaker theory that some / excess regulation is bad? Only if you think that what industry asks for must be good :-) -W]

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 17 Feb 2013 #permalink

I'm sure I agree with you that a proper price on carbon would be best. The US set up seems to allow no way for a single state to put an appropriate price on carbon -- while states can regulate energy efficiency.

And in the details, of course, it turns out only China has the capacity to manufacture the highly efficient transformer core materials in large volume, so there's now great pushback from small US companies that don't want to or can't afford to tool up to build really efficient transformers. That's the "tier 1-2-3-4" stuff, and it appears they're all now aiming for "tier 1" where "tier 0" was the Bush-era regulation.

Slight improvement eventually, if it's not inconvenient, that's our motto.

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 17 Feb 2013 #permalink

Wot done in GG was a Change of Pope.

By David B. Benson (not verified) on 17 Feb 2013 #permalink

Weasel, it is worse than Hank writes, the utilities NEED the regulations mandating higher efficiency because if they go that way without regulatory pressure they will be attacked by stockholding stoats for wasting money.

[If that were so, the stockholders would also be complaining when the companies press for more regulation -W]

By Eli Rabett (not verified) on 18 Feb 2013 #permalink

William, is your opposition to regulation one based purely on ideology?

[I don't think so. What ideology am I supposed to hold? Also, note that my "opposition" is largely theoretical: I'm not exactly campaigning against regulation. I just mention it where appropriate. My "opposition" comes from a general belief that regulatory friction is bad (its a negative even when the overall result is good, sometimes you need to accept some bad), the observations I've made myself (you try running an after school club in the UK and do it without deeply loathing Ofsted and all its deeds), and the way many governmental regs, whilst possibly nominally "well intentioned", aren't good in practice -W]

Sure market forces, invisible hand yadda yadda, will get you there eventually, but with baked in temperature rises and long residence time of CO2 we don't have the luxury of eventually.

Aren't regulations just going to increase the slope, so we slide down to the minimum a little more quickly?

[Price signals on fuel will do just as well, and don't involve a parasitic class -W]

My observation of the car market here in Australia is that Euro diesels have a massive efficiency advantage over Japanese competitors, and I have put this down to the tighter Euro emissions standards. By forcing them to become more efficient they have also given them a competitive advantage, as other manufacturers have only recently realised that fuel efficiency trumps ludicrous power and torque figures.

[You're being too quick to give credit to regulations. You need to consider whether high European fuel taxes also make an impact. You'd also need t consider whether diesels are common in Japan, etc -W]

The vehicles in question would have eventually become as efficient as they are now, but not nearly as soon.

Electric utilities play a game twxt stockholders and the regulatory agencies. Since it is a four player game in the USA, one has to consider the Nash equilibrium, assuming full rationality which rarely obtains as the state and federal regulators are constrained by applicable state and federal laws.

By David B. Benson (not verified) on 18 Feb 2013 #permalink

Having lived in Los Angeles both before and after vehicle emission regulation went into effect, I am pro-regulation. I wonder how one would control something like vehicle emissions solely through market forces? Or is breathable air just not an allowed desired outcome?

[Yes, but you have desperately low fuel prices, so the incentive for efficiency via price signals is very low. I'd agree that reducing, say, particulate emissions through price signals is harder -W]

> if that were so

If it were so, then it'd be easy enough to find, wouldn't it? 18 seconds:

"Under traditional utility regulatory structures significant investments in energy efficiency can create reductions in shareholder value as a result of regulatory lag and lower rates of growth in earnings and earnings per share. Southern Company has been exploring different regulatory structures that may help reduce this impact. Some of the concepts the company has been exploring include decoupling, fixed-variable pricing and selected shareholder incentives plans to reduce the long-term impacts of energy efficiency investments on utility shareholder value....."…

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 19 Feb 2013 #permalink

the "Averch-Johnson Effect."

"... faced with otherwise equivalent alternatives of building a power plant that contributes to profitability or making investments in demand response and energy efficiency that allow for cost-recovery only, a utility would generally prefer to build a power plant...."

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 19 Feb 2013 #permalink

I view Canada's boreal forest as one of those few places that may not be completely destroyed by agriculture due to it's soils, relatively low rainfall and high latitude. It's a quite large, fairly intact ecosystem. It has a better use for man other than being strip mined for tar sands. Before tar sands exploitation became economical, there was a big push in Canada to set aside 50% or more of the forest. This was deal making largely between forestry companies and the government. Now with tar sands, uraninium mining and a much more all for digging stuff up and a new government in charge I don't hear anymore talk of this. Label gasoline's source and let consumers decide.

> I don't think so. What ideology am I supposed to hold?

A small government, regulation bad, markets good sort of ideology. An extreme branch of this is called libertarianism.

> My "opposition" comes from a general belief that regulatory friction is
> bad (its a negative even when the overall result is good, sometimes you
> need to accept some bad), the observations I've made myself (you try
> running an after school club in the UK and do it without deeply loathing
> Ofsted and all its deeds), and the way many governmental regs, whilst
> possibly nominally "well intentioned", aren't good in practice

I have some sympathy for this view - my wife is deeply involved in running parents participation stuff at our kids' school and the regulatory stuff is mind bending.

However, I'm not sure it is all that applicable to regulations like vehicle emissions standards. These are standards tthat are known well in advance, the companies are large and make many many vehicles, so compliance cost per unit is small.

Regulation means all companies must bear the same costs, one company cannot seek to undercut the rest by producing a cheap but inefficient vehicle.

> Price signals on fuel will do just as well, and don't involve a parasitic class

Yes, but they are also a regressive tax unless adequate transfers are part of the package.

> You're being too quick to give credit to regulations. You need to consider
> whether high European fuel taxes also make an impact. You'd also need
> to consider whether diesels are common in Japan, etc

You're correct. I hadn't considered those other points. Even so, they surely must all pay some part?

I'm in Australia. We've got a (temporary) carbon tax. It seems to be working rather well at pushing the wholesale electricity market towards less carbon intensive generation. I'd like to see it continue, but we're due to move to a carbon permit scheme in the near future. I can see it being rorted three ways to sunday.

There are multiple market imperfections to be solved: one is an externality (climate change). Externalities are well-addressed by turning them into internalities, for which a price (carbon tax) is the obvious solution.

Two is consumer behavior that does not line up with societal beliefs: maybe some day I'll try and convince an economist to co-write a paper with me on this, but I think there is evidence that discount rates derived from observing consumer decisions are on the order of 10 to 20 percent or more... the societal discount rate is often estimated as a couple percent or so... therefore, there might be a role for government in efficiency standards due to this discount rate disconnect. (Also in some cases because of landlord-tenant or other similar market imperfections).

And politics can't be ignored: whether the politics of "if you allow Keystone XL, then you create a strong opponent of carbon taxes", the politics of efficiency regs are easier to pass than taxes, etc. etc.

But yes, in an ideal world, the price would be central and the other regs would be targeted at specific inefficiencies not well addressed by prices.

Market imperfections are a feature, not a bug. They present opportunity, not impediment. They can only be effectively and efficiently perfected by genuine market activity. Taxation yields only the illusion of a market solution.

Two factors contribute to the climate externalities imperfection: 1) the difficulty in determining the value of the externalities, or better put, their prevention, and 2) the absence of a mass marketable externalities preventing product. Such a product would also ameliorate the consumer vs societal belief imperfection.

By Paul Kelly (not verified) on 21 Feb 2013 #permalink

> Externalities are well-addressed
> by turning them into internalities

Nobody buys that.

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 21 Feb 2013 #permalink

So set up a Kickstarter to create and sell it:

A mass marketable externalities-preventing product that will ameliorate the consumer vs societal belief imperfection.

Who will buy it? How will you promote it?

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 21 Feb 2013 #permalink

In today's Calgary Herald, an article identified ..... as in the process of putting together an oil-train system to carry 70,000 bopd to New England refineries. It will handle Canadian conventional heavy, oilsands oil and North Dakota Bakken crude, which I didn't realise is quite heavy also. How so the Canadian oilsands oil? Existing pipelines that cross the border. Why Bakken? There isn't enough pipeline to carry the coming Bakken production to the Texas refineries.

Another article talked about the switching of bosses between Imperial Oil (Esso) and ExxonMobil, as if the Imperial boss had been a bad boy. But Imperial is owned 70% by, yup, ExxonMobil! And why had the Imperial boss been naughty? He had overseen huge cost overruns on the Kearl oilsands project, delays on two other oilsands projects, and probably on the expansion of Kearl slated for 2015,

What's the connection? First, the Keystone pipeline is needed for Bakken in North Dakota, not just for Canadian heavy crude. Currently NK Bakken is about 720,000 bopd, with a target of >1,000,000 by 2016, and 1.2 million/day by 2020. If output is constrained already, that is another 300 - 500,000/day of pipeline capacity that needs to b built just to handle good ol' American oil.

Forget Canadian oil! This is the State of North Dakota talking. The WWF, Sierra Club want to shut-down North Dakota production plans. How ya think that is going to go over?

Second, "Canadian" oilsands are not Canadian. When Obama and Stoat etc. say "no" to the oilsands, they are saying that ExxonMobil may not have its oil, may not send it to its own refineries, may not pay American taxes. Forget Canadian companies and Canadian workers and Canadian shareholders. This is an American taxpaying, shareholder owner problem.

Third, as .... notes, plans are afoot to send 70,000 bopd by TRAIN across the northern United States, though town and city alike, to refineries that already exist, there from to ship by tanker refined (or partially refined( product to either Texas or China or Europe. Forget Gateway, sending non-Canadian Canadian oilsands to deep British Columbia ports to China. Without the Keystone, you are going to have trains running on wobbly tracks through the American Heartland.

Nothing is as it seems. The oilsands are not Canadian but American, the financial hardship will be felt by the largest oil company and shareholder base in the world that is not Canadian but American, if Keystone doesn't happen it is not just Canadian-American heavy oil that is stranded and company assets downgraded, but American oil and assets in jeoprady, w

By Doug Proctor (not verified) on 23 Feb 2013 #permalink

The "send" button was pressed by accident: I hate keyboard shortcuts.
... Calgary Herald, Saturday 23 February, 2013. business section, D4: PBF Energy Inc. is the company that is shipping the oil by train.

Calgary Herald, Friday 22 February, 2013, business section C1: ExxonMobil and Imperial Oil presidents switched. Kearl startup 2013, Cold Lake and Nabiye heavy oil projects 2014 and Kearl expansion 2015.

The MSM, WWF, Sierra Club, Hansen and McKibben speak to the American public as if the oilsands is a Canadian problem being exported to the United States. Other than the royalties that the Canadian/Alberta governments want/need, the real impact is going to be on existing American companies, shareholders and offset North Dakota wealth and job development. A further result, because North Dakota WILL NOT be shutdown, is the switch from pipelining perhaps 150,000 bopd (if the PBF solution occurs, others will follow) to sending it by train.

The future is not what we want to get, but what we are forced to accept.

By Doug Proctor (not verified) on 23 Feb 2013 #permalink

"[If that were so, the stockholders would also be complaining when the companies press for more regulation -W]"

Not really, because these are regulated-profit industries. Environmental regulation is just another cost that the utility regulators will allow the companies to pass on to customers. If the companies try to do this without being required to, then the utility regulators say it's the shareholders and not the customers that should pay the price.

"[Yes, but you have desperately low fuel prices, so the incentive for efficiency via price signals is very low.... -W]"

A concession! The Stoat is reasonable.

By Brian Schmidt (not verified) on 25 Feb 2013 #permalink

> desperately low fuel prices

That's "mass marketable externalities-producing technology that will obfuscate the consumer vs societal belief imperfection."

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 25 Feb 2013 #permalink

Apologies for the delay in responding - work got in the way...

[Aiee, this is just the same argument with Eli all over again. What you've just said is meaningless, unless you can distinguish regulations from the effects of price increases -W]

It’s a good point, I don’t have research to hand but will pop back if I find something. From experience working for a while in this area, the manufacturers suggested that they *really* didn’t like the idea of the 130g/km target for 2015 (in fact they were claiming it was more or less impossible to achieve) but they’ve achieved it. I’m sure high fuel prices have focused the minds of new car buyers on the more efficient end of the market, but new car CO2 regulation most definitely focused the minds of manufacturers because they tend to make much lower margins on lower emission vehicles (except the premium low emissions vehicles e.g. the VW Bluemotion range).

[No, its the US that has a problem with dumb regs being evaded by SUVs -W]

Ah gotcha. But that is, as you say, dumb regulations (I wouldn’t be surprised if it was lobbyists’ hands at work there but I don’t know the history of it).

[Not that I recall. Link? -W]

Apologies, must have been someone in the comments.

[But you need to ask "why are we imposing a carbon tax" (or regulation). If we're doing it to internalise externalities, and £50/tonne does that, and it doesn't cost enough to change people's minds then... that's fine. You seem to have started from the need to change people's mind, without regard to the costs -W]

I do think we need to change people’s minds and I don’t see how it’s fine at all!

[Because you're failing to distinguish two very different arguments. Which are:

1. Current CO2 emissions are "unfair" because externalities - future climate change - are not being internalised; people are effectively free-riding on the future. People should pay for what they are using.

2. Climate change is intrinsically bad because god told me so / I personally assert it / my friends all believe it / I personally prefer a world with fewer cars / whatever.

Carbon taxes (and, less efficiently, regulation) can address point 1. They can't address point 2. I don't see you disputing that, so I assume your "I do think we need to change people’s minds" means you intend my (caricatured) point 2.

You can't defend against me pushing you into point 2 by saying "but climate change will be more expensive than expected" - that just changes the price. You can defend by saying "but it will be a complete disaster"; this is effectively the tipping points defence -W]

If we replaced fuel duties with a carbon tax that kept the fuel prices at current level we’d need a carbon price of about £250/tCO2. If that same tax was levied on electricity and gas it would add 12.5p/kWh and 5p/kWh respectively which would obviously be crazy.

[Why? -W]

If we go with a much lower carbon tax that replaces fuel duty and remove new vehicle regulation then we’ll see a substantial increase in vehicle km driven and increasing new car CO2 emissions, both of which are totally incompatible with the Climate Change Act.

So my conclusion is we need both regulations and a carbon tax. One focuses the mind of manufacturers, the other focuses the mind of consumers.

[I disagree; see latest post -W]

> [You can't defend against me pushing you into point 2 by saying "but climate change will be more expensive than expected" - that just changes the price. You can defend by saying "but it will be a complete disaster"; this is effectively the tipping points defence -W]

My point is we need to achieve an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and road transport accounts for 20% of UK GHG emissions. Imposing a £250/t carbon tax that doubled the price of domestic gas and electricity prices would do wonders for residential and commercial energy efficiency but would leave road transport untouched. We'd need a much higher carbon tax again in order to bring road transport emissions down by 80% as well.

[If My point is we need to achieve an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emission then you've missed my point. Who says there is this need? Based on what? -W]

I had in mind the climate change act which specifies the 80% reduction for the UK but I assume there are corresponding global emissions reduction targets for a chance of stabilisation at different temperature increases but I don't know what they are off hand.

Maybe I am missing the point (my understanding of economics is very weak) but I fail to see how a tax that tackles one sector (in my example domestic energy consumption) while leaving another huge sector (transport) untouched would work given that the scientific evidence appears to suggest that large cuts in emissions are required across all sectors.


Thank you for referring me to Kickstarter. It is an excellent example a market imperfection as an opportunity for individual action toward a common good. In fact, Kickstarter is already being used to finance a mass marketable externalities reducing technology endorsed by Dr. Hansen himself.

By Paul Kelly (not verified) on 26 Feb 2013 #permalink

> If we're doing it to internalise externalities,
> and £50/tonne does that

Stop. The cost of climate change? You don't, yet.

> and it doesn't cost enough to change people's minds

Cost has to be known for minds to change?

People aren't buying it.

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 26 Feb 2013 #permalink