Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Discouraging Trendlines of US Energy Sources

Here is the percentage of U.S. energy derived from non-fossil fuels (nonFF), renewables, and nuclear power, for the last 4 decades. The trend looks somewhat encouraging:

But if you include fossil fuels, it looks much less encouraging -- in fact, I would call it positively discouraging:

What we need is to basically to switch the positions of the red and black curves. I could project them out and see where they cross, etc., but why bother -- it's clear that whatever we've been doing won't get us there for a couple of centuries.


charlesH said...

Do you like the trend in "green" Germany better?

"After the tsunami destroyed the Fukushima plants, Germany moved quickly to shut eight nuclear power plants, and made plans do away completely with their nuclear capability. Despite the best safety record of any industry in the country, and the critical role nuclear plays in fueling German industry, Germany’s past experience with large tsunamis was just too horrific to ignore. And Germany’s strong economy and commitment to protect the environment were small prices to pay for Chancellor Merkel to shore up her weak coalition with the Free Democrats. Maybe she can ask Greece for help later.

But don’t worry. Germany is building about 25 clean coal-fired power plants to offset the loss of nuclear and address Germany’s admittedly “unaffordably expensive and unreliable” renewable portfolio (Der Spiegel). The German Green Party can now celebrate the opening of a 2,200 MW coal-fired power plant near Cologne. It started spewing out its annual, relatively clean, 13 million tons of CO2, and other nasties, so much lower than those older dirtycoal plants that would have put out 15 million tons of CO2 for the same power output."

David Appell said...

More than a fifth of the electricity produced in Germany already comes from renewable sources, and their plans are to increase that to 35% by 2020 and phase out all nuclear plants.

charlesH said...

Yo, they are phasing out nuclear with coal to try and offset the high cost of the renewables.

"address Germany’s admittedly “unaffordably expensive and unreliable” renewable portfolio (Der Spiegel)."

You don't see any irony there?

David Appell said...

The irony of what -- the difficulty of solving a huge, wicked problem?

At least they aren't denying the problem and are trying.

charlesH said...

So even if it makes things worse its ok if you are trying or your intentions are good.


David Appell said...

Perhaps by your simplistic way of thinking, yeah.

Germany is trying to solve two problems at once: climate change, and nuclear risk. How would you do that?

charlesH said...

"Germany is trying to solve two problems at once: climate change, and nuclear risk. How would you do that?"


If that were true they would only do renewable regardless of the cost.

Faced with choices of low cost, low co2 risk, and low nuclear risk they chose low cost and low nuclear risk.

What is your damage/benefit ratio for coal vs nuclear? Did Germany make the right choice?

David Appell said...

Germany's per capita carbon emissions are about half that of the US's (9.3 t CO2/yr to US's 17.7 t CO2/yr, 2009). Perhaps you ought to pay attention to your own country's sins before you cast blame on the Germans, even if they build some new coal plants.

German is only choosing low cost up to a point -- the average household in Germany currently pays €144 ($181) a year for green power subsidies, and that figure is expected to increase to more than €200 in 2013 [Der Spiegel, 8/29/12]. Everyone wants to minimize costs.

I notice you didn't offer a solution.

charlesH said...

"I notice you didn't offer a solution."

Faced with choices of low cost, low co2 risk, and low nuclear risk the "greens" cannot get all three. One has to pick 2/3 if you are Germany.

Here in the US/China/India where the co2 and nuclear risk is perceived as low we have more choices.

David Appell said...

It is not clear Germany can't get all three. Their goal is 35% renewables by 2020, while removing their nuclear risk. That puts anything the US plans to do (which is nothing; in fact, we're planning to do worse than nothing by extracting and using fossil fuels) to shame, and our carbon footprint is twice theirs, per capita.

35% renewables by 2020 is a laudable goal, even if it's delivered late. Then they can decide how to progress further.

charlesH said...


You 20% now and 35% future for German renewables .... is that actual production of electricity or nameplate capacity?

What was the renewable % in 2011? Nameplate and actual?