Stop the Presses: Bacon Admits He Was Wrong!

Dominion spokesman Jim Norvelle takes exception to my reading of the State Corporation Commission rulings on coal-fired power plants proposed by Dominion and Apco. (See “SCC Nixes Apco Coal Plant — Is a Post-Coal Energy Era Soon Upon Us?“)

In its recent rejection of an Apco proposal to build a coal-fueled power plant in West Virginia, I suggested, the SCC had looked skeptically upon the application of fluidized bed combustion technology. Noting that only two such facilities existed in the United States, I referred to the technology as “relatively novel.” Arguing that the SCC’s hands had been tied by General Assembly legislation regarding a proposed Dominion plant that also would use the technology, I concluded: “Kinda makes you think that the SCC never would have OK’d the Dominion plant if given a choice, doesn’t it?”

Norvelle responds that the technology is “fully mature, with over 500 operating units worldwide, with some units in service for over 28 years.” I’ll concede the point immediately: The technology is widely used outside the United States. My bad. He also emphasized that the SCC’s problem wasn’t with the technology per se but the application of that technology on the scale that Apco proposed. Quoting the SCC ruling (my italics):

APCo’s proposed IGCC Plant would be the largest of its kind constructed to date. … The record in this case indicates that there is no proven track record for the development and implementation of large-scale IGCC generation plants like the one proposed by APCo.

That’s a fair point. I did not make it sufficiently clear in my post that Dominion’s Wise County facility would be smaller than Apco’s.

Norvelle also noted that Dominion’s cost estimates are much more solid than Apco’s. While Apco had not nailed down a fixed-cost contract for any appreciable part of its proposed West Virginia facility, Dominion has secured fixed-price contracts covering 86 percent of the cost of its proposed Wise County plant.

According to Norvelle, the SCC’s turn-down of the Apco goal-gasification has few implications for Dominion’s project. Dominion is still committed to “clean” coal as a fuel source for electricity. And quoting CEO Tom Farrell, he says: “Coal is by far our most abundant and economic domestic energy source. If we are serious about improving the nation’s energy security, we must maintain its use while protecting the environment at the same time.”

Bacon’s Bottom Line: There are still valid questions regarding the economics of the Dominion project, but I erred in my previous post: There is no basis for extrapolating from the SCC’s Apco ruling that it would have nixed the Dominion project, too, if given a chance.

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  1. Anonymous Avatar

    The sun is our most abundant domestic power source, but it is diffuse.

    Coal is our most abundant pre-concentrated power source.

    A hundred million years ago, all those plants that collected and concentrated the suns energy did a lot of work for us. When we consider the task of collecting and concentrating the suns power, we shouldn’t forget how much work is involved.


  2. Anonymous Avatar

    The apologies owed are minimal.

    The Wise County plant was sited by politics, not economics. Absent the legislative intervention in the marketplace, Dominion would have built the plant within or a whole lot closer to its service territory. There are significant losses of efficiency shipping the final product so far over the grid and adding to congestion along the way. (You are the one saying build plants as close as possible to the users.) There will be a margin increase in the cost of every single KWH that makes its way to the east.

    And of course the economics were also sweetened by the General Assembly, in the form of enhanced return on equity for a plant in that region burning “Virginia coal.” There are lots of ways people get taxed to benefit other people, and that was clearly a tax increase on all Dominion ratepayers to benefit a supposedly “distressed” part of the Commonwealth. Absent that I also doubt that plant would be built in that location.

    But Dominion probably would be planning another cleaner (if not clean) coal plant to deal with increased demand — and it should.

    As to whether the age of coal is over in this country, watch the Air Board on that question. The SCC is hardly anti-coal and I’m sure it pegged its concerns purely on keeping costs reasonable and prudent.

    The public attacks on coal are pretty amazing. I’m sure, Jim, you were as stunned as I was when the Roanoke Times editorial board came out against this plant. That would be like the Times Dispatch attacking tobacco or the Daily Press calling for an end to the shipyard (and actually the Daily Press dumps all over the yard every chance it gets, oddly..) Tim Kaine, Governor of Virginia, is taking an amazing amount of guff for supporting coal — which used to be a shibboleth of Virginia politics. The Eco Freaks are not going to stop until we are breathing pristine air walking to the farmer’s market to buy our daily organic bread on the primary highway that is now an overgrown footpath….

  3. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Anonymous 9:26, Remember the days when there was a powerful coal lobby in Richmond? Guys like Jim McGlothlin, Don Nicewonder and Jim Brown donated tens of thousands of dollars to gubernatorial campaigns back in the early/mid 1980s. For every politician running for statewide office, a early stop in Norton or Grundy was mandatory.

  4. floodguy Avatar

    Jim, sorry I noticed it also. DVP Wise plant is planned with the best technology available today. Its good that he reads your blog but why didn’t he commented on Dominion’s lack of implemented EEC programs? Imagine the PR and education he could give us if Dominion was indeed heading down the correct path? They are blowning an opportunity here I believe.

    RH, future energy options must be non-depletable, environmentally clean, available, in a viable form and low cost.

    The U.S. military sees space-based concentrated solar power (SSP) as an opportunity which to meet these goals.

    Check out this

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    Space based solar concentrated power has the effect of increasing our solar area. All that import used as electricity will be relase as heat. Meanwhile the ability to radiate heat away will stay the same.

    If you think we have a global warming problem now……

    As for low cost, it costs around $3000 a kilogram to launch stuff. How much does a power plant weigh?

    Renewable supplies are non-depleteable as long as we don’t overuse them, but that doesn’t mean they are environmentally clean, or economical.


  6. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Conservation Can Mean Profits for Utilities
    States are changing the rules of the game so that it pays power companies not to expand


    A utility urging customers to use less energy? Seems impossible, since more BTUs and more kilowatts always meant higher profits in the energy business.

    But states are changing the way that utilities get paid—decoupling profits from energy consumption—to promote efficiency and curb the need for new power plants.

    When electric utilities build new power plants, they can add the capital investment to the rates they charge customers.

    But true success in decoupling means that over time the price paid per therm or kilowatt goes up, but customers’ bills go down because they use less.

    Consider California, the state that pioneered decoupling in the 1970s.

    For 30 years, per capita electricity use in the Golden State has stayed essentially flat at about 7,000 kilowatt-hours per year, while U.S. consumption per person climbed 50 percent and now stands at 12,300 kilowatt-hours annually.

    Californians’ electric bills are among the lowest.

    California says it has saved enough energy to supplant the need for 24 large power plants.

    meanwhile in Virginiia…..

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    “States are changing the rules of the game so that it pays power companies not to expand”

    Oh, Goody.

    Who is going to pay them?

    It sounds a lot like we are going to pay them more for them to do less (not expand) while we get less or do without more.


  8. Anonymous Avatar

    “the price paid per therm or kilowatt goes up, but customers’ bills go down because they use less.” (They can’t afford to use more.)

    Just as I thought.


  9. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    your claim has been consistent – that people cannot conserve…

    this proves that they can…

    the folks in California don’t use any more electricity than the folks in Europe – because both of them have to pay more for it.

    So.. folks CAN conserve AND Power companies can still make a profit AND we do not have to build more power plants…

    and as far as I know… folks in California use appliances and air conditioning .. hot water… etc…

    so what’s the problem with conserving and NOT building more coal power plants?

  10. Anonymous Avatar

    If it costs me more and I get get less, that is not conservation, it is deprivation. While a certain amount of deprivation may not hurt me, at some level it will start to hurt someone. The mere fact that a lot of people manage to get by is simply ignoring the facts.

    If I get the same amount of light, with less power,as with the compact fluorescents, then that MIGHT be conservation, depending on how much the light costs and how much electricity cost I save.

    But, if I have to pay more for less, and the power company gets more for giving me less, that isn’t conservation, that is power company charity.

    I have an expensive new energy saving water heater. As far as I can tell, the way it saves energy is by not giving you any hot water. It is a piece of junk. It does not perform as advertised. I may have to remount it in top of the wood stove to get any hot water out of it. When people start feeling that way about the environmental movement, they will fell that things ae not as advertised. We should try to avoid that.

    Money is a pretty good proxy for resources used, so if it costs more, it is a pretty good bet that somewhere down the line there are resources involved. Therefore, while it is a gross simplification, it still holds pretty true that if it costs more, and there isn’t a reasonable payback, then it isn’t environmentally friendly.

    Even if I’m totally wrong and off the chart on this, I submit that for most people, convincing them they should pay more to get less is a hard sell. As environmentalists we should concentrate on a better sales pitch than that.

    As you point out, a lot of people do get by with less. That does not mean they like it. If they don’t like it, then it will come back to haunt us. Remember, one reason people can get by with less, or pay more, is because they DO HAVE A SURPLUS. They have excess “profits” that it does not hurt them too much to dispose of.

    But, somewhere down the food chain there are people (and companies) who have no surplus. For them, this is going to hurt.

    Simply glossing that over by pointing out that people do get by is ignoring a very large problem we will have to solve one day. As I said fixing global warming will be easy by comparison to fixing that one.


  11. Anonymous Avatar

    “New York Times
    April 18, 2008
    Across Globe, Empty Bellies Bring Rising Anger
    PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Hunger bashed in the front gate of Haiti’s presidential palace. Hunger poured onto the streets, burning tires and taking on soldiers and the police. Hunger sent the country’s prime minister packing.

    Haiti’s hunger, that burn in the belly that so many here feel, has become fiercer than ever in recent days as global food prices spiral out of reach, spiking as much as 45 percent since the end of 2006 and turning Haitian staples like beans, corn and rice into closely guarded treasures.

    Saint Louis Meriska’s children ate two spoonfuls of rice apiece as their only meal recently and then went without any food the following day. His eyes downcast, his own stomach empty, the unemployed father said forlornly, “They look at me and say, ‘Papa, I’m hungry,’ and I have to look away. It’s humiliating and it makes you angry.””

    Talk to St. Louis Meriska about getting by with less.

    Then take a look at the environmental conditions in Haiti.


  12. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    RH – you’re binary in your thinking..

    8000 KW instead of 12000KW is NOT starving to death..

    going from 12000 to 8000 does not mean we starve to death in unheated homes without lights…

    that’s the fundamental problem with your view points…

    you view maximum consumption as a God-given right and anything less than that is forced starvation…

    “Pickens Wind Farm to Get Underway

    Texas oil man T. Boone Pickens is commencing action, with plans for his company, Mesa Power, to build, over the next four years, the previously announced $10 billion wind farm, the world’s largest, that will eventually generate 4,000 megawatts of electricity – the equivalent of building two commercial scale nuclear power plants – enough power for about 1 million homes.

    Next month Mesa Power, will begin buying land and ordering the first 500 wind turbines of the 2,700 turbines required for the project, at about $2 million each, to be located across 200,000 acres of the Texan panhandle.

    “Don’t get the idea that I’ve turned green. My business is making money, and I think this is going to make a lot of money.”

    — Pickens in the Guardian

    Pickens grand plan, not to be built by him, for resolving the energy needs of the US. is to build wind farms on a corridor of land running north to south through the middle of the US – along the great plains and to harvest solar energy from a corridor running east to west from Texas to southern California.”

    and I hope you noticed Mr. Boone’s comment:

    “”Don’t get the idea that I’ve turned green. My business is making money, and I think this is going to make a lot of money.”

    Question: What is the difference between Mr. Boone and YOU in your thinking about ENERGY and PROFITS?

  13. Anonymous Avatar

    Go talk to Louis Meriska, and then talk to me about binary.

    Your thinking falls in the same category as Tsar Nicholas and Marie Antoinette: all rosy denial and little imagination.


  14. Anonymous Avatar

    My argument about profits is that Mr. Boone will have had to have mad a lot of them to invest $10 billion in green energy. those investments won;t get made without a good economy to provide the profits. As environmentalists we need to learn to love profits, and not throw a hissy fit everytime someone we don’t like makes some.

    It takes profits to invest in green enterprises. Period.

    I have little doubt that some of the profits used to fund this will have come frome what some of us consider very unsavory enterprises, environmentally speaking.


    The way I see it, if he invests $10 billion today, then four years form now he will have to return $1.8 billion a year to make a 15% return on his investment.

    Wholesale, since he is not in the delivery business. And, he still has to pay back the $10 billion.

    If he makes money on it, fine. I assume that anyoe who wants to buy it will be encouraged to do so, and use as much as they want, or as much as they can afford, whichever comes first.

    And his tax incentives on this thing amount to how much?

    And he’s not storing this power anywhere, so he will need a robust conventional grid to back him up. or hew ill have to build his own generators to back himself up. Then he can offer guaranteed power supply and get a better price. Add the price of that backup supply to his costs, whether he actually owns the backup supply or not.

    But get real here. Let’s not conflate what he is doing (or attempting to do) with simply raising prices and paying power companies off on their investments, basically paying them to not use them in order to get people to use less, and calling THAT conservation.


  15. Anonymous Avatar

    Speaking of paying producers to produce less:

    “EDMONTON —In what is being called an unprecedented move, the federal government will pay Canadian pork producers $50 million to kill off 150,000 of their pigs by the fall as the industry teeters on the brink of economic collapse….Those who qualify for payments must agree to kill off an entire breeding barn of pigs and not to restock the barn for three years.”

    Are they on the brink of collapse because corn prices are so high?


  16. Anonymous Avatar

    So, we don’t like power companies because they keep a lot of excess generating capacity to meet peak load, and the cost of that capacity is billed unfairly.

    But we are going to promote wind power which will need even more backup.

    And we are going to balance this all off with smart meters that charge more at peak times and whenever the wind isn’t blowing in West Texas.

    And even if electricity costs three or four times as much, it’s OK because we will pay for it with all those new green jobs.


  17. floodguy Avatar

    RH, your an interesting guy, but I’m not too worried about the profits nor the added increases in cost associated with renewables.

    And we are a very long ways from anything substantial, maybe the earliest 2020, but more likely by 2025 to 2035? Even if Obama or Al Gore is elected, we are far away off from any major changes here in the mid-Atlantic. If you keep up with the skepticals in the science, they are either going to convincingly disprove Al Gore or agree with him.

    In the meantime, why not see what private enterprise can do all these startups. I think its a pretty cool idea to figure out a synthetic fuel or some magic bullet which will turn off our appetite for oil and coal. The investments aren’t that significant compared to the Iraq war, and in our state the RPS is a voluntary 12%. We shouldn’t also assume coal or oil will be cheaper than other alternative resources like renewables in the future.

    We can do this without having to take the same position as Al Gore.

  18. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “But we are going to promote wind power which will need even more backup.”

    your mind is a terrible thing RH.. hopelessly stuck in binary…

    we’re not talking about REPLACING the GRID with wind/solar but rather looking to the future with respect to what we can do to NOT build additional coal-power plants that we KNOW are problematical both in terms of environmental impacts and cost.

    California has proven that you don’t have to build new plants.

    You don’t have to further damage the environment.

    And you don’t have to increase electricity rates to pay for new power plants.

    If the net result of new coal power plants is to increase the price of electricity anyhow then what is wrong with increasing the price of electricity so that we do not have to build new coal power plants?

    Don’t we save if we take than path also?

    or.. in your “environmentalist” view, more coal power plants are GOOD for the environment rather than less of them?

    I have to say.. out of all the folks I’ve heard from -both pro environment and otherwise, few of them claim that more coal power plants are good for the environment.

    On that issue you stand out.

  19. Anonymous Avatar

    Look, I’m only saying that it is not truly a savings unless it truly outweighs the costs. If it turns out that the true costs are higher, then it is highly likely that the true environmental costs are higher, too.

    I strongly believe that promoting FALSE economy in the name of the environment is wrong and stupid. If it isn’t FALSE economy, then it is fine, no problem, and none claimed in that case.

    But, when people refuce to even consider that it is possible to make mistakes, when they refuse to look for them, then they are far more likely to happen. We do not have an adequate social and political system to consider these things, or any ability at all to consider them dispassionately.

    Even if it is not a case of FALSE economy, the costs may be so high that the benefits are far more expensive than claimed. You could be in positive territory but by a much smaller margin than you think, in which case some other option may have been better. In other words, the environment is worse off than it might have been.

    These ideas seem so obvious to me that they are not worth arguing.


    I’ll readily agree that sometimes you get results that seem crazy. Even to me. A recent study has shown that smokers spend less on lifetime health care. That’s because they die sooner.

    We could save a lot of money on our health care system if we just die sooner. Almost 90% of our lifetime health care costs occur in the last three years.

    So there is a proven fact that has zero political weight.


    As for California, they have shown that you don’t need more power: as long as you are willing to export people and businesses to other states, wholesale.


    I don’t know if more coal plants are good or bad. I never claimed that more coal plants are necessarily good, only that I can concieve of situations where they might be better than the alternative, or necessary to support the alternative. I don’t think there has been a rational discussion on that topic.

    All I know is that solar power has costs, too. We cannot even begin to decide if solar and wind is better or worse than coal until we are able to consider both equally critically. Now tht environmentalists are recognizing some of the problems, the issues are starting to come out.

    Making high purity silicon is one of the most energy intensive processes on the planet. It produces Silicon tetrachhloride which is highy dangerous, and in China, where low cost solar cells come from, it is an environmental problem that needs to be addressed.

    Solar and wind power is intermittent. It will need to be stored, or we will still need those coal plants for backup. keeping all that idle backup is a cost associated with renewable power. It takes a lot of space, which will probably be far from the cities that use the most power, so transmission losses are still an issue.

    Some technologies like solar stirling engines need large contiguous spaces to concentrate the power. Not all of this is going to be distributed.


    “If the net result of new coal power plants is to increase the price of electricity anyhow then what is wrong with increasing the price of electricity so that we do not have to build new coal power plants?”

    For a split second I thought you were beginning to see the light. This is a valid question. The problem is that in one case you get valuable electricity, and in the other cse you don’t.

    You hve to assume that the electricity produced will be purchased, just as T. Boone Pickens does. And you ahve to assume that people won’t buy and use it unless they think the value gained is worth more than the cost.

    I use a dollars worth of electricity to turn a Walnut bowl. It is worth $40. If the price goes up to $2 due to more power plants then I use two dollars worth to turn the bowl. But if the price goes up because it isn’t available, then the Walnut rots in the woods and I get nothing.

    Or, we can build a solar / wind plant, and have to build (or retain and maintain) the coal plant anyway, for backup. Then the electricity costs $4. You have to maintain the solar/wind/wave plant and the coal plant.

    There is a very real and immutable love triangle between the environment, thermodyamics, and costs. I’m not convinced we understand it yet. But I am certain beyond a doubt that we cannot make godd decisions by simply ignoring it, waiving ti away, or looking at one side of the equtions only.

    Theoretically, when I’m out sailing, the shortest and most efficient way to go directly upwind is to take an infinitely high number of infinitely short tacks. But it isn’t practical becaus you would wear yourself and the boat out – instantaneously.

    Even “free” wind power has high costs, and those costs eventually translate into environmental costs. What htose are, we just do not know, yet.


  20. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: the harm to California from high electricity prices and conservation:

    California Virginia
    pop % change 7.6% 8.0%
    Population 33,871,648 7,642,884
    Median value of owner-occupied housing units $211,500 $125,400
    Median household income
    $49,894 $51,103
    Private nonfarm establishments,
    860,866 193,067
    Retail sales
    359,120,365 80,509,062
    Building permits
    160,502 47,704

    I’d say that California does not look particularly worse off by using 1/3 less electricity that Virginia (per capita).

    You keep talking about “theoretical s” and how we don’t know ahead of time what might happen if we conserve…

    here is proof .. about what happens

    tell me again why conservation and not building more coal power plants has had a harmful impact on California as compared to Virginia…

    what say you?

  21. Anonymous Avatar

    California is still growing.

    Now go look at some of the neighboring states. Especially places like Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Albuquerque, and Oregon.

    Oregon and Washington are developing a real backlash against California refugees.

    Of course the Public Policy Institute of California says businesses are not leaving the state.

    Forbes says

    ” San Francisco Bay Area millionaires are taking their gold out of the Golden State.

    “The Bay Area’s wealth boom is producing an explosion of millionaires–in Nevada, Wyoming and perhaps Canada. Wealth managers and other advisers to the well-heeled say “wealth migration”–taking the money and running–is behind a surprising drop in the number of Bay Area millionaires.”

    The net loss of millionaires knocks the extremely rich and fertile Bay Area down near the bottom of a millionaire creation list with laggards such as Detroit, Pittsburgh and Cleveland.”

    The New York Times says

    “A year ago, Melanie Fischer, a lifelong Californian, was not entirely sure where Missouri was. So when her husband proposed that they consider moving there, she raced to locate the state on a map printed on her children’s placemats.

    Today, Mrs. Fischer and her family live in this suburb of Kansas City, in a five-bedroom house nearly twice the size of their former home near San Bernardino, with a huge yard and a lake view from the hot tub on their deck. Still, Mrs. Fischer, 28, and her husband, Nathan, 30, had enough money left after their move to pay off the debt on their two cars and buy a 21-foot motorboat.”

    “A growing number of people are leaving California after a decade of soaring home prices, according to separate data from the Census Bureau, the Internal Revenue Service and the state’s finance department. “

    “The number of people leaving Boston, New York and Washington is also rising, and skyrocketing house prices appear to be a major reason, said Mark Zandi, chief economist at From New York, the net migration to Philadelphia more than doubled between 2001 and 2004, with 11,500 more people leaving New York for Philadelphia last year than vice versa. The number of New Yorkers who have moved to Albany, Charlotte, N.C., and Allentown, Pa., among other places, has also increased sharply.

    But the change seems most pronounced in California,….”

    How many would you like? (full disclosure – some of these are pre housing crunch.)

    California is still growing, but if one family moves out their policies are having some effect.

    I just think we don’t know what it is.



  22. Anonymous Avatar

    Lets consider coal for a minute. we agree it would be better to use less coal. Failing that we agree that it would be better if coal released no mercury, no SO2, and no CO2,and no fly ash.

    In other words, we would like to get the energy out without doing any chemistry. That is impossible, but we can do the best that makes sense. We can maybe capture all that stuff and bury it somewhere, but it will take more energy than we got out of the coal.

    Entropy is funny like that.

    Whats the next best?

    We think that we have to build excess plants to meet peak power needs. That we can save money by not building them and encouraging people to use power off peak.

    No doubt we can save money on the building plants that way, and saving money is equivalent to saving the environment, so we should make that argument and let it go.

    But we don’t. We aregue that the higher prices charged to encourage off peak use will mean people use less. So first we say they will use less, then we say they won;t have to do without, because they can get it off peak. Just like we say people will travel off peak with congestion pricing in place.

    This is a specious argument, because if the use is off peak, we haven’t prevented any environmental damage: we just have it at a different time of day. But we make it anyway, hoping it will actually reduce the use of coal (and auto travel).

    And, peaking plants are mostly natural gas, anyway. A better argument to reduce peak power use is to save money on natural gas, which is used to heat our homes. It is too valuable to make electricity with, but that’s what we are doing to avoid the costs of cleaning coal, and because you can’t get a coal plant built.

    Higher electricity prices encourage people to buy more windows and insulation, etc. All that stuff has to be made with energy, then transported and installed. This is still a net positive, over enough time, but it has to be subtracted from the energy savings from using less coal.

    But now we have intermittent sources of power coming on line. Sources that will need back up power anyway, and not just at peak times. Logically, we should program our smart meters to charge more when the back-up plants are in operation – when the wind doesn’t blow and sun doesn’t shine.

    We probably won’t do that because the backlash would fall against our renewable sources. It’s one thing to charge more on a predictable basis, something else to do it willy nilly.

    But now we are going to have the back up plants anyway, so we lost the only real savings from our first argument: that we can eliminate costs with peak shaving.

    And we are going to have the costs of renewable plants as well. These costs translte to environmental damage in the end, same as the costs for coal plants.

    If we are right, the inconvenience and costs of peak shaving and congestion charging will result in somewhat less usage. And yet we claim this won’t hurt the economy.

    The bottom line is that we are not charging more for electricity. Electricity costs what it costs. We are charging the same for electricity, and adding costs on top of that for environmental protection.

    We would be better off and more honest if we just come out and say so. But instead, we make the specious argument that environmental protection is free. That’s because if we actually charged for it, on the free market, someone would ask how much protection they are buying, and what it is worth.

    We don’t know the answer to that. I want the same things you want, but I’m not willing to make a bunch of circular arguments and lies to get them.


  23. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    geeze .. more hot air than a coal plant smokestack!!!!!

    1. – the California STATS..PROVE that the state is doing just fine despite all the dramatic articles…

    the stats show clearly that they have a strong economy – as strong as Virginia’s…

    and yet.. they use 2/3 of the electricity that Virginians use and they have .. by conservation.. not had to build more coal plants … unlike Virginia..

    all the hot air.. rope-a-dope… verbiage .. does not change those facts…

    California does just fine on 2/3 of the electricity… which means very likely that Virginia would also…
    if we instituted de-coupling and other strategies that California has done.

    there is absolutely nothing at all that is circular in that argument.

    what is it about the facts that confuses you and motivates you do do 180 degree analyzes?

  24. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Here’s a GIFT for you (for the next thread on Transit):

    but remember.. when you talk about how energy inefficient transit is .. you MUST also talk about what the author proposes for road solutions…


  25. Anonymous Avatar

    I agree the state s still growing. Wheterh it is doing just fine will take more analysis than that. The fact that there are multile articles on people leaving suggests there MIGHT be a problem.


  26. Anonymous Avatar

    I never said transit was energy inefficient. Only that it is not as efficient as some claim.

    In fact, as far as energy alone goes, it might be halfway OK.

    But energy is not the only cost involved.


  27. Anonymous Avatar

    Re your gift.

    I got as far as Randall O’ toole and stopped reading. I’m not sure where he is coming from, but I find what he has to say hard to swallow.

    That said, I also find his facts hard to refute.

    Somewhere in there is a grain of truth. It might be a particularly hard and durable grain, in which case an awful lot of widely accepted conventional wisdom will eventually go down the tube.

    I don’t agree with all he has to say, but I think it is worth examining.


  28. Anonymous Avatar

    For example:

    “Encouraging people to purchase more fuel efficient cars. Getting 1 percent of commuters to switch to hybrid-electric cars will cost less
    and do more to save energy than getting 1 percent to switch to public transit.”

    I cannot prove or disprove this statement, and yet I have a gut feeling this is correct. I have simply said that rather than trying to extinguish automobiles, we should capitalize on their good points and try to improve on their bad ones.

    EMR thinks we should pull the plug.


  29. Anonymous Avatar

    “A comparison of the cost of rail transit systems with the benefits provided by those systems found that, “with the single exception of BART in the San Francisco
    Bay area, every U.S. [rail] ransit system actually reduces social welfare.”8″

    Without reading the footnote, I’ll suggest this refers to the Winston and Shirley study I have often quoted here.


  30. Anonymous Avatar

    “Massachusetts and Ohio, for example, rely heavily on fossil fuels for electrical power, so trolley buses in those states emit more greenhouse gases than diesel buses. But Washington and California rely more heavily on hydroelectric power, so trolley
    buses in those states emit less greenhouse gases than diesel buses.”

    Now, thats something I never thought of, but if it is anywhere near correct, then it supports my contentionthat we need to study more carefully before we make broad brush pronouncements about what “works”.


  31. Anonymous Avatar

    “One obvious way to reduce energy consumption and emissions is to increase vehicle occupancies.”

    Tis is EMR’s position, and maybe Larry’s as well.


  32. Anonymous Avatar

    So, OK, its a gift.

    Without going throught the whole thing, i admit some problems with it.

    Where is the hand grenade?


  33. Anonymous Avatar

    “CO2 emissions from motor vehicles can be reduced, however, by using biofuels, which offset the CO2 emissions by obtaining energy
    from plants taking carbon out of the atmosphere.”

    Here I depart. This is nonsense, and thrmodynamically impossible. if hew means it si somewhat less damaing in current terms than fossil fuels, that is different.

    Otherwise, you do not reduce the CO2 emissions by burning something else. It is stoichiometrically impossible.


  34. Anonymous Avatar

    Randall has a bunch of data concernig CO2 emissions of transit.

    They are not very flattering, but I think he is bein generous. Transit as we know it cannot exist without park and ride, etc. Therefore transit should accept SOME responsibility for cos emitted by automobile traffic it attract.


  35. Anonymous Avatar

    “One way to increase passenger loads is to focus bus service in areas where ridership is highest. Such a market orientation is foreign to transit agencies that are politically pressured to provide service to all taxpaying neighborhoods, even if those neighborhoods offer few riders.”


  36. Anonymous Avatar

    “Relieving the congestion by fixing bottlenecks, using congestion tolls, and adding new capacity will do far more to reduce energy than rail transit can. Moreover, new highways largely pay for themselves, especially if tolls are used, while rail transit requires huge subsidies.”

    New highwyas largely pay for themselves? There’s a new one.

    Especially if tolls are used? If they already pay for themselves, then why do we need tolls?

    To pay for transit which is less efficient and costs more?

    Maybe we need to rethink this.


  37. Anonymous Avatar

    “The problem with gas taxes as a
    user fee, however, is that they do not signal users about the costs of the services they are consuming. Building a system that can meet peak-period demand costs more, yet peak period users pay about the same user fee as offpeak

    Bingo again.

    Here is where he dropped the ball.

    “Building a system that can meet peak-period demand”

    Like you often do, he has defined the system too narrowly. In order to consider the system we nee to think of demand as not just those that get on the highway and demand highwy services.

    We need to think of what causes the demand.


    In order to adjust “the system” we need to adjust the job locations.

    There is another problem with this that I can sense but not put my finger on.

    Congested traffic is 20% of all traffic on 10% of the streets 15% of the time. In other words, job related traffic in a handfull of high job density locations.

    Even if he is right about one possible solution (congestion tolls), it might not be the least cost or most equitable solution.


  38. Anonymous Avatar

    “The solution is to charge tolls for new highway capacity, and vary the tolls by the amount of traffic so that new highway lanes never become congested. Existing high- ccupancy vehicle lanes, which often have surplus capacity, can also be converted to high-occupancy
    toll (HOT) lanes, as has been successfully done in Denver.66 Toll revenues will cover the costs of new roads, but higher tolls
    during peak periods will reduce the need for more roads.”

    BS. BS. BS. BS. BS. BS.

    He fell off the turnip wagon.

    The tolls wll NOT be used for ew roads, because as you point out a) they are alreadyin non attainment aeas. and b) the land is already inuse, meaning converting it to roads is prohibitively expensive, even using tolls.

    The tolls will be diverted to transit (or some other use), which he aready esplained will be an envrionmental loss.

    New roads in already congested areas paid for by tolls is not an answer, and neither is more transit.

    What else is left?


  39. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: Where is the hand grenade?

    you fell on it… when you fell in love with the part about transit
    but then hated the part about tolls…


    but to keep this thread – On Track:

    “They don’t realize that that’s where they get their electricity from”

    talk about your location subsidies….

    so.. when we turn on our lights, not only are we putting mercury in our rivers and the Chesapeake Bay but we are turning West Va Rivers into acid baths from the mountaintop mining debris dumped into stream valleys.

    and we have the nerve to talk about how “unfair” it is to charge more for electricity or to conserve it.

    I wonder how we’d all feel, if each had to take our share of the mine tailings and put it on our own property or pay for someone to take it?

    Do you think that would increase the price of electricity?

  40. Anonymous Avatar

    “but then hated the part about tolls…”

    I don’t hate the part about the tolls, just the part about how they will be used for new roads.

    That isn’t going to happen, except as he points out, by co-opting existing lanes, or widening in places where it is still possible.

    Groveton and Leahy are right: this funding stream will be diverted.

    It’s another one of those twisted arguments: congestion tolls will reduce congestion by reducing driving AND they will pay for new raods so we can drive more with less congestion.

    ??? Howzat?


  41. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    well, here’s a study from our friends at the Reason Foundation…. but page 5 is interesting as it shows a comparison table of toll roads, revenues and operating expenditures – both public and private…

    there’s also a good discussion on how to legitimately compare costs and financing…

  42. Anonymous Avatar

    “…charge more for electricity or to conserve it.”

    We are not charging more for electricity. Electricity costs what it costs. What we are doing is adding a charge for environmental cleanup on top of the electricity cost. We should be clear and transparent about what we are paying for environmental services in order that we can determine whther we are getting what we pay for.

    Not wasting electricity, becoming more efficient, and reducing its use are three different things. Let’s not confuse them because they have different costs, and therefore result in varying degrees of environmental protection.

  43. Anonymous Avatar

    Isn’t the real meat of cost comparisons starting on page seven, where they discus risk, discounting and other failures of analysis?


  44. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “Electricity costs what it costs. What we are doing is adding a charge for environmental cleanup on top of the electricity cost.”

    what is “environmental cleanup”?

    Are you saying in effect that the CURRENT way we produce electricity is what it costs and MORE cleanup is environmental?

    but that would be wrong because the current electricity generation already includes substantial cleanup and to do what you are suggesting – we’d have to calculate the “true” cost of electricity to be without ANY environmental cleanup?


    Like many of your suppositions, you rely on the status-quo … like this particular point in time is THE benchmark for determining actual costs and “add on” costs.

    The TRUE cost of electricity IS, IN FACT, the cost to produce it … PLUS the external “costs” also unless you want to believe that air and water pollution and mountaintop removal and acid and mercury are not legitimate externalized costs.

    By NOT conserving, we ARE, in fact, imposing more external costs on others – from the folks in Wva whose rivers are polluted with acid runoff to kids and the elderly in cities whose health is damaged by air pollution to mothers and kids that are affected by mercury. Now we are considering carbon costs.

    What we are doing is, in effect, subsidizing the true cost of electricity by NOT adding these costs to the price.

    If we charged the actual cost for electricity – it would have to include the pollution costs to be comparable against other types of electricity generation.

    In fact, many more are now considering the greenhouse gas costs to be REAL costs that could result in Billions and Billions of dollars of damages as a result.

    It would be as if we could produce electricity by burning lead like used to do in gasoline.

    Using your logic – taking the lead out of gasoline made it more expensive than it should have been….i.e. the cost of gasoline is the cost of refining it.. and nothing more…

    the folks who claim that pollution should not be part of the cost.. invariably will invoke the “it’s not that much” and we cannot have a “pristine” environment – no matter how deadly the impacts might be…

    This is the reason why.. we have kepone, pcbs, mercury and other deadly toxins in our rivers right now – the attitude that .. some manufactured product had an inherent unlimited right to pollute…

    using your logic, every banned substance was wrongly banned…if it was considered an “environmental” add-on.

  45. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “Isn’t the real meat of cost comparisons starting on page seven, where they discus risk, discounting and other failures of analysis?”

    yes.. and what they prove is that DOTs are not equipped to deal with such financial issues… and private companies are… and we have our own example of this in the Pocahontas Parkway AND the HOT lane proposals which excluded VDOT from the lead financial role.

  46. I challenge the assumptions some of you make about solar. For one thing, I am investing in solar for my house. Why? Not because of money issues, though it is nice to lock in the price of my future energy costs more. Because I don’t want to wholly rely on an inadequate, antique grid maintained by Dominion Power, and because I want to make an environmental statement about the feasibility of renewable, distributed energy.

    Beyond that, I would say that this country, and Virginia in particular, is being sold out by a corporate media and governance that has no interest in any sort of progress. The lies that being utilized to do this are becoming more and more opaque. I see editorials that subtly attack Germany for becoming more dependent on Russian natural gas (as opposed to Saudi oil) and quietly celebrate a possible re-awakening of its coal industry (alluding to that as a solution for United States as well) without any mention of the real steps that Germany has taken to become more energy independent (for one thing, its made it mandatory that all new housing have a renewable energy component).

    In Virginia, Kaine has signed all sorts of laws that suggest action on climate change, yet VCU, one of the state’s largest public universities, has built whole new campuses without any green building. In terms of transportation, VDOT seems to be an arena where lobbying groups decide their best interests. And don’t get me started about the SCC, which refers to citizens as mere consumers and disregards their input.

  47. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    By doing your own Solar – you are taking personal responsibility for your needs -as opposed those who prefer to “split the check” on getting power.

    More people would consider Solar if:

    1. – the true cost of producing electricity was charged – to include prevention/mitigation of the environmental impacts such as acid and mercury.

    2. – People had to pay the ACTUAL cost of what it cost to produce power at the time they use it.

    Our current rate structure rewards those that consume and penalizes those that conserve – because the rewards for conserving are minuscule compared to the subsidized costs of consuming.

    As long as we “split the check” – we’ll encourage consumption and penalize conservation.

  48. Anonymous Avatar

    No one is preventing anyone from making that choice, and some people do. But, with the present market conditions the payback is something like 20 years. It could be like my Prius, which people laughed at openly whn I bought it.

    FloodGuy is right: conditions could change that quickly, but they haven’t yet. The right time to act is the right time to act, not too soon, not too late, because EITHER event has bad environmental and social consequences.

    I agree, that more people would consider solar if the net costs of solar plus the environmental costs of solar are less than the net environmental costs of conventional power plus the costs of producing the power.

    But, it is unfari to chare the external environmental costs only agains conventional. Solar power is not free of environmental effects and we should have a level playing field.

    If we had a perfect market. And if we want the least environmentsl damage.

    Otherwise, people are not paying the actual costs of solar, and your argument still applies.

    The real reason the don’t is that the rewards for conserving are minuscule compared to the costs of conserving, not compared to the costs of using something else.

    If we achieve the same environmental costs with conventional fuels as we do wth solar, would you still prefer solar? What if the total costs are 20% lower but the environmental costs are 10% higher?

    I would predict that cannot happen. If the actual total costs costs for solar are higher, then so are the environmental costs.

    But, I’ll say it again. The bottom line of what you suggest isn’t paying more for elsctricity, it is paying the same for electriciy, and an additionla sum for some amount of environmental cleanliness.

    Like you said, it isn’t a choice between pristine and nothing, but like I said, it’s a choice between pristine and something. Now we are haggling over what we get for what we pay, and that boils down to property rights.

    In sunday’s Post there was an article about just this. “Is that green enough for you?

    We can clean up our act, but it will cost us. It isn’t a question of if, its a question of how much.

    Industrialists say 5% of GDP, environmentalists say 0.1% of GDP. EPA says 1% of GDP.

    My guess is 2 to 2.5%.

    What is GDP $9.5 trillion? If it’s 2% then that is $950 per person, to clean up our act, which is just about the entire per capita GDP for China. You are taliking about someones entire life, here, if you believe in acting locally but thinking globally.

    And that is JUST for greenhouse gases. If you think there are ten really dangerous chemicals out there which are all top priorities, with similar costs, then we are looking at $10,000 per person, for cleanup.

    And it doesn’t matter if that person is working at a green job or not, that bill is stil coming out of their paycheck.

    Now, what was it you were saying about what the guy in modest circumstances in Farmville can’t afford? Never mind our starving friend eating mud pies in Haiti, Mr. Meriska.

    We spend that $950 per person, and thats $950 less we have to spend on transit. AND, that $950 dollars assumes we succeed with technology that isn’t invented yet.

    Am I saying we shouldn’t do this, absolutely not. I’m just saying we should consider the costs vs benefits, and consider our priorities carefully.

    For one thing, the U.S per capita CO2 emissions are around 20 tons. The Cap and trade fee in Europe is around $30 per ton. If that’s right, then we ought to be able to do this for $600 worth of cleanup: my estimate is too high and EPA is about right.

    But, like Floodguy said, prices are likely to go up.


  49. Anonymous Avatar

    “Using your logic – taking the lead out of gasoline made it more expensive than it should have been….i.e. the cost of gasoline is the cost of refining it.. and nothing more…”

    Absolutely not true. The true cost of gasoline is the benefit of using it minus the cost of making it. The true cost of pollution prevention is the benefit of cleaner air minus the cost of making cleaner air.

    If you insist on linking them then Cost (or Benefit, which is negative cost) = cost of gasoline + cost of pollution – (Cost of Gasoline + cost of lead removal + cost of pollution remaining) .

    If you can add and subtract you should be able to figure this out.

    You can make gasoline for x dollars and have Q amount of pollution, which causes $a*(Q) damage.

    You can make gasoline for x dollars, spend y amount cleaning it up and have Q-f(y) pollution causing $a*(Q-f(y)) damage.

    If $x +$y +$a*(Q-f(y) is less than $x + $a*(Q), then you have a deal worth considering.

    Provided you don’t have some other priority deal which provides an even greater savings.


  50. Anonymous Avatar

    You argue that people should pay theor own exact cost, when it suits you. Then you turn around and argue that people shouldn’t mind paying more for the general public welfare when it suits you. I don’t see how you can have it both ways.

    I argue that you should pay your own exact costs, unless the transaction costs mean that you would have more public welfare by just splitting the costs.

    Cable and satellite providers “bundle” less popular ethnic, religious, or other special interest channels with popular ones, otherwise they won’t be provided, regardless of their value. I believe some people promote exact cost pricing when the know the result is that channel won;t be provided – and they don’t want it anyway. Rather than say so, they come up with a bogus argument.

    But, you have a choice of whether to buy the bundle or not. In the case of government sponsored bundling, you haveless choice, but you still have some. You can vote, or you can leave, or you can lobby.

    Don’t you just hate those special interests?


  51. Anonymous Avatar

    In the case of pollution control, you want to bundle it with the cost of the other product, because you know you can’t sell it for what it costs otherwise.


  52. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “The true cost of pollution prevention is the benefit of cleaner air minus the cost of making cleaner air.”

    The problem with your approach is that you don’t see the HARM in pollution in terms of dollars.

    You think mercury in the rivers or air pollution is a just a smear on the pristine label and not a real dollar cost.

    Your approach is what has always been done in virtually every case until the dollar harm became so huge that it could no longer be ignored.

    But this still does not keep folks like yourself from treating pollution as if it has no dollar consequences and instead is an “extra cost” item that harms the GDP bottom line.

    It’s a polluter mentality.

    That.. there is an inherent right to pollute until and unless the proof of the harm is so overwhelming that the public demands action.

    This mentality is the reason why the Bay is in trouble. It is the reason why the crabs and oysters are gone.

    We got there exactly as you argue.

    That not polluting is an environmental “extra cost” item that harms us economically…

    and as long as you think that the Bay without crabs and oysters is an acceptable consequence.. you’d be right.

    So the $20 extra per month on the water bill to clean up pollution is an economic “harm” that deprives people from buying better cable TV channels… etc…

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