Two More Environmental Threats Facing Virginia

The Old Dominion is facing two new environmental threats. Battle lines are being drawn regarding a proposed coal-fired electricity plant in Surry County. And pharma giant Merck wants permission to dump several times the levels of allowable pollutants into the Shenandoah River.

The new issues come just after Dominion Power has begun contruction of a highly-controversial $1.8 billion, 585-megawatt coal-fired plant in St. Paul in Wise County. The project was supported by Gov. Tim Kaine although his own Commission on Global Change has set a goal of reducing greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, by 80 percent by 2050. Kaine has never squared that contradiction.

Now, an entirely new project is being proposed By Old Dominion Electric Cooperative, a $6 billion coal-fired plant capable of producing up to 1,500 megawatts of electricity. The project would be located in Surry County in the town of Dendron about 40 miles west of Norfolk.

If it proceeds, a plant up to triple the size of Dominion’s Wise County operation would be built close to tributaries of the James River and Chesapeake Bay and their sensitive crab and oyster spanning grounds. Its air pollution would be a matter of a few miles from Colonial Williamsburg and near one of the state’s most densely populated areas in Greater Tidewater. It would be close to Dominion’s two nuclear reactors at Surry.

According to The Virginian-Pilot, the plant has drawn pledges of “all out war” from environmental groups including the Sierra Club, the Southern Envionrmental Law Center and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

Since it is located not far from Norfolk Southern’s railroad mainline from the Appalachian coalfields to loading docks at Lambert’s Point in Norfolk, the plant, called the Cypress Creek Power Station, would have no trouble finding coal supplies. About three percent of its fuel would come from biomass.

Yet details of the plant are few. It does not appear that it would involve any advanced, clean-coal technologies designed to trap carbon dioxide and keep more nitrogen, phosphorous and sulfur pollution out of the air. Dominion’s Wise County plant does not offer advanced “clean coal” technology, either.

Meanwhile, Merck, a $24 billion pharmaceutical maker based in New Jersey, wants to be allowed to emit twice the amount of phosphorous and three times as much nitrogen as allowed by the Department of Environmental Quality at a plant in Elkton near the Shenandoah River. (Click here for details.) Those pollutants will flow into the Potomac River and eventually the Chesapeake Bay.

The takeaway: Virginia prides itself on being “business friendly,” with its anti-labor, anti-environmentalist stances. Yet, the Surry coal plant could be three times the size of the hotly-contested Wise County plant and it is much closer to large, populated areas, not to mention sensitive marine life. It amazes that the plant has gotten little attention outside ot The VirginianPilot and especially not in the Richmond area where Old Dominion Electric is based.

Even Tim Kaine talks out of both sides of his mouth when it comes to global warming. But how much longer is Big Business going to be allowed to have its way with the state’s air and water?

Peter Galuszka

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79 responses to “Two More Environmental Threats Facing Virginia”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    ” how much longer is Big Business going to be allowed to have its way with the state’s air and water? “

    Unsupported proerty rights claim.

    Big Business is part of the state too. Don’t they have the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else?

    Peter, how much of what you burned last year have you cleaned up after?


  2. Anonymous Avatar

    I don’t see things as you do. First, we have a right to clean air and water — at least my view.
    Big Biz does not have a “right” to pollute.
    Plus, when you give them that right,they disenfranchise other businesses — notably the watermen and seafood industries. Here we are trying to regrow oysters in the Bay and someone wants to put a mammoth waste-producer nearby.
    There are other ways to use renewable energy — an old saw that is true. But you are talking about a huge, huge plant near populated areas and next to sensitive environmental ones.
    As for putting it back on what I personally did to clean my mess. Well, I try to recycle and I got expensive digital controls for HVAC in my house and they actually save me money.

    Good enough for you, RH?

    Peter Galuszka

  3. Here’s one way to do it.

    Everyone gets a standard allocation that is as cheap or cheaper than it is now – that is the amount of energy than a LEED home would use.

    Any electricity above the LEED standard gets charged at progressively higher rates – much like you’d see for water/sewer usage.

    Each home would get a smart meter so the owner could pinpoint where to target their attempts at conservation.

    I was just over at the Dominion Blog the other day and they were talking about how the same size large-screen TVs had wildly different consumption characteristics – for the same screen size….

    It’s this kind of thing that we often do not pay much attention to for two reasons.

    1. – first, we don’t think there will be much of a electricity cost penalty …

    2. – we’re generally clueless unless we have some reason to want to know.

    I’ll leave it up to Peter to further convince Ray that no property owner has an inherent right to pollute in the first place.

    Otherwise, you’d not have to get a permit.

    Ray is a harder case on this than EMR is with the auto..


    The Incredible Shrinking Man: How Pollution is Destroying Your Genitals

  5. I’ve been around on this with Larry.

    If you figure big biz has no right to pollute, then they have no rights to the air and you have them all. You are claiming a superior property right to the air, which arguably belongs to all of us, including big business.

    But you and I pollute, too. Maybe even at a proportional rate that is much higher than big business.

    And big business is, after all, us, or at least the shareholders and employees of us.

    So, I don’t see that the claim “they” have no right to pollute is supportable, because “they” from someone’s point of view is you and I, and we cannot live without polluting. The claim that “they” have no right to pollute is tantamont to suicide, taken literally.

    So, some pollution must be allowed. We issue permits for that, but the whole charade is a hoax, because we have no option but to issue the permits. Eventually, then, it comes down to a question of how much, which is where the discussion should have started – not with “none, no rights whatsoever”.

    If you don’t believe it, look at the EU. Their cap and trade system is barely underway and already there are a)protests over job losses, and b) special, cheaper permits for the vulnerable high energy industries like aluminum, glass, electriciety, etc.

    So, I’m a shareholder in big bus and I own a share of the air as wellas you do. I’m willing to let big bus use some of my air (not ALL of it of course) so that they can make my stock more valuable.

    But you claim I can’t do that because I’m polluting “your” air. How do you know it is yours? Where is the boundary line? In doing so,you are making a claim against the value of my stock shares. We know whee the boundary for those is, and to that, you have no right.

    Suppose we both have cattle on the open range, and they are branded. Are you going to tell me I can’t put growth hormones in my cattle, because they are mixed with yours? the problem is that air is fungible, and it isn’t even branded like cattle. But that doesn’t mean we cannot determine ownership. You have simply assumed that ownership is by “The State”.

    As far as I’m concerned big business is polluting their air. They have a right to do that, and no more, same as you and me. We have no right to tell them what to do with their air, any more than we have aright to tell them where to drive their car, or thier cattle on the open range.

    The problem isn’t what they are doing with their air. The problem, as demonstrated in your statement about the “State’s Air” is that we have not properly settled the ownership problem.

    If we do that, then you can join Sierra Club, and Sierra Club can become the Teamsters of air. They can buy up rights from their members or take donations for which the members would get tax breaks (same as conservation easements).

    If Big Bus is using more than their share, they would have to buy it on the market, up until the price makes no sense.

    Otherwise, government is going to set the price, jsut as is happening in EU. If you make aluminum, this is your lucky day, but if you bake muffins, you are going to pay through the nose.

    You think it is OK for the watermen and seafood industries (who rely on cheap electricity for refrigeration) to disenfranchise the power companies, but not the other way around.

    What I’m saying is that if air has become that rare a commodity, then you should declare and distribute onwership, and then let the market take over. The way you take care of rare items is to make sure someone owns them, and make sure their rights to ownership are protected.

    Without ownership protection, there are a few things in the Smithsonian I would like to claim as mine, after all, I have as much right to them as you do.

    Maybe I am more willing to sell some of my air than you are, and we both affect the market. By extension we both affect the price of electricity – and of oysters.

    But your property rights end at your property line, so you don’t have the right to tell me what to do with my property. It is just that with air, the boundary lines are a little difficult. Likewise, i have no right to damage your property, and I’m not: it is just that we cannot speifically identify the property in question.

    You could try to claim that you don’t own molecules of oxygen, but you own a percentage of the mix. If I pollute the mix then I’m damaging your property. Again, you would be claiming a superior property right: your share of th emix is more valuable and more important than my share. I In fact, I would STILL have the same rights to the mix as you, and so would big bus.

    You are the one that claimed the state owns the air. I don’t see that the state does own it. If the state does, then I must have some intrinsic rights in it, or I can’t live, without permission. Or else, since you and I and big bus are all part of the state, we all have the right to lobby for our share.

    If the state is smart, they would just have an auction, like FCC does. Then we could all agree on who owns the air.


  6. “How Pollution is Destroying Your Genitals”

    EMR said we need fewer people consuming less stuff.

    What better way than this? Pollution is self regulating.


  7. “I’ll leave it up to Peter to further convince Ray that no property owner has an inherent right to pollute in the first place.”

    Not going to happen. NOTHING can occur without some polution. If you posit there is no right to pollute then you must posit there is no right to live.

    It is a fundamental problem with conservationists. Their ideals or presumptions inevitably lead to force reduction – for the common good of course.

    Until we recognize and then come to grips with the ethical issues associated with rampant conservation (or rampant anything else), we are bound to be fighting a battle that someone is going to lose.

    Peter and a lot of other people seem to think that someone should be big business. If they are right, they will put a lot of people out of work. Suddenly, Peter’s position will be a lot less popular.

    See what is happening in the E. U., right now.

    I think you need a better marketing plan than one that says I have rights and you don’t. I think you cannot have a marketing plan that violates the laws of physics. Violaitng the laws of physics in the name of sustainability is like fighting for peace or screwing for virginity.


  8. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    Well this new plant is going to cost Tidewater a bunch of money. Guess that’s why the local news is keeping this a secret. This area has been very close to non-attainment the past few years. This plant’s exhaust will easily put us over the top. Then we can all look forward to the neat little Fed and State regs that will be imposed on our lives. Let’s start with car congestion taxes, and mandatory emissions inspections. Then we can go on down the line to restrictions on A/C and electric uses, and so on. Dom Power gets their profit, we get a smoke stack pumping into an inversion zone that is centered on the HRBT. Oh and someone will have to take the fly ash. We have a golf course full already, waiting on Superfund status. Once word of this plant and its impact on Tidewater gets around down here, STF by.

  9. Steven Chu has been appointed to the chair the Department of Energy. I’ll wager he won’t propose any policy that violates the laws of physics.

    Darrell is right. This power plant is going to be a huge problem for tidewater.

    Now, let’s hear the alternatives.

    First, go outside and trip the cutoff between your house and the grid. Then try to log on and complain.


  10. Re:

    Poisoning thy neighbors property.

    A Maryland state representative is complaining bitterly that DC bars willbe open long hours for the inauguration, claiming it will lead to drunk driving accidents in MD.

    Anybody want to take odds that DC will reconsider?


  11. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    PG: Thanks for the info.

    On the coal plant, I’d suggest that the Commonwealth should enforce the standards as they are. Engage in a dialog with the Dom Power to see about clean coal technologies and how much more pollution that will be. Consider the options for energy and the cause and effect for pollution.

    The extra nitrogen and phosphates in the water – since they are tagged as the cause and effect of killing the bay – just say NO. Find a different way to deal with the pollution.

  12. I had asked EMR in a previous post about the sustainability of NURs with respect to electricity – which is vital to any NUR.

    What I asked is – should each NUR be directly responsible for producing it’s own electricity – in other words – the power would be generated within the NUR boundaries…

    .. or do we generate electricity outside of the NUR – far enough away so that the pollution from it does not affect the non-attainment standards?

    My point here is this…

    We’ll never get truly serious about pollution and about how we generate and use electricity until we have to deal directly with the pollution from it.

    There is no such thing as clean coal.

    there is no such thing as sequestration of pollution air emissions.

    Here is what IS true.

    The folks in HR/TW – just like the folks in the rest of Virginia use twice as much electricity per capita as the folks in California, New York and most of Europe.

    Rather than the US being a leader in conservation and the reduction of pollution – we “solve” this problem like HR/TW and NoVa “solve” it which basically means move the power generation far enough away so that the folks that actually use the electricity – don’t have to breathe the pollution generated from it.

    The most interesting thing about this to me is that we are not talking about something that is impossible when we talk about using less electricity.

    It’s been done right now by millions of people – while millions of other people are not doing it.

    In NoVa and HR/TW – the concern is not how much electricity we use – no – it’s where they are going to put the new plant and the additional power lines.

    Does anyone else see the irony is this?

    The question that folks in HR/TW (and NoVa and Fredericksburg) should be asking is – how can we NOT have to build a new plant and not pollute more.

    so a good start – is to have a goal of LEED consumption.

    Every new house should be required to be LEED-certified and every existing house should be provided with incentives for upgrading it to LEED standards.

    Where will the money come from?

    It will come from charging all of us more for whatever we use in excess of per-capita LEED use by decoupling the electricity rates – as California and New York has.

  13. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry’s info on relative electricity use is misleading. You nneed to compare per capita electricity usage and standard of living.

    California uses less electricity because their rates are very high and they import much of their power. Partly as a result California GDP is growing much slower than qany of its neighbors.

    Even if you postpone building another plant, all you have doneis postpone the same old controversy. That controversy would be much less with the correct property rights and property protections in place.



  14. E M Risse Avatar

    Larry Gross said:

    “I had asked EMR in a previous post about the sustainability of NURs with respect to electricity – which is vital to any NUR.”

    EMRs job is not to answer questions, especially ones that can be answered by a careful reading of past material.

    How so ever, the question goes to the heart of “the shaping of the future.”

    Right now USRs do supply NURs with energy, especially coal, electricity, etc.

    We have said before, many times that electricity must be generated near the point of use due to transmission loss.

    That does not mean putting a polluting plant next to the Clear Edge. It means no generating plant should pollute. That means electricy is more expensive and thus there is incentive to conserve.

    The true meaning of conservation and of being “a conservative” not a “consumptionist.”

    What is now clear in the face of growing economic pain it that USRs must become mini NURs.

    We will deal with this in a Postscript to a Chapter called Learning from DelMarVa.

    “What I asked is – should each NUR be directly responsible for producing it’s own electricity – in other words – the power would be generated within the NUR boundaries…”

    How many times do I need to anser this?

    “.. or do we generate electricity outside of the NUR – far enough away so that the pollution from it does not affect the non-attainment standards?”

    See above.


  15. Well EMR – thank you.

    re: California GDP.

    FYI – Ray:

    “The economy of California is a dominant force in the economy of the United States, with California paying more to the federal system than it receives in direct monetary benefits.”

    “California is responsible for 13% of the United States’ gross domestic product (GDP). The state’s GDP is at about $1.7 trillion (as of 2006).
    The GDP increased at an annual rate of 3.1% in the first quarter of 2005″

    Now the point of posting this is not to argue about the numbers but to show clearly that California has not been economically damaged by higher electric rates and conservation.

    Ray seems to think that consumption is the only way to grow GDP and that is simply not true.

    Conservation is another form of productivity – to do more with less resources.

    This is what LEED is all about.

    To still have a fully electric house that does all the things that other non-LEED homes do – with less electricity consumption.

    It is also the goal of any industry or manufacturing concern – to produce more with less resources by using innovation and more efficient processes that require less resources INCLUDING electricity.

    We have some clear choices in Virginia with regard to electricity consumption.

    We can build more coal plants, have more pollution, have more arguments about power lines or we can do what California has done – and still have a potent GDP.

    sometimes a few facts can be nasty things when they get in the way of dogmatic thinking..

  16. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    Actually very few here in TW even know there is going to be a plant. What’s more, while we do know what Dominion Power is, we have never heard of this co-op whatever. Chances are real good that the power this thing generates won’t even be used in TW. That’s the back ground.

    As far as all the business about reducing electric use so pollution goes down, well I only have one thing to say about that.

    I still don’t have solar panels on my roof. I might if I lived in NC. I’m sure you know the reason. As long as there’s a monopoly on power generation, it’s utter mindless to continue this debate.

  17. Anonymous Avatar

    The Caifornia economy is huge. I did not say it wasn’t. What I said was that it has been growing at a fraction of the rate of its nearest neighbors.

    Many economists attribute much of this to high energy costs and restrictive environmental rules.

    You can choose to accept that or not. California has had high foreclosure rates because people and businesses are fleeing the state in droves. That, and the fact that restrictive building policies artificially inflated the costs above intrinsic value.


  18. “Ray is a harder case on this than EMR is with the auto..”

    It isn’t my argument. Go talk to a few nobel scientists.

    Or else, present me with a counterargument that does not start with a pre-emptive and unfounded claim of property rights, violate the laws of physics, and depend on circular logic.

    It isn’t that I’m hard over, it is that you have not made your case.


  19. “We have said before, many times that electricity must be generated near the point of use due to transmission loss.”

    So, that means you have to transport the fuel to the point of generation, and then you must transport the waste away. In the case of wind and solar, that may not be practical or even possible.

    Electrons don’t weigh very much so you can transport them cheaply, even if you lose a lot on the way.

    Electricity must be generated and distributed the most efficient way, considering the costs of generation, transmission, the costs associated with pollution, and the costs associated with cleaning up or preventing pollution.

    That down’t necessarily equate to geerating electicity close to its point of use, just to prevent transmisison loss. EMR can say it as many times as he likes, but it won’t make it correct, and any conclusions based on this premise are also suspect.


  20. “It means no generating plant should pollute. “

    Can’t be done. It is a violation of every known physical law. If you start with that as a premise, you are guaranteed to fail.

    Wind, solar and water energy may be renewable, they may have very little pollution as a result of operations, but even they will cause SOME pollution. And they will have enormous embedded energy costs.

    The ONLY thing you can do is balnce the costs in order to minimze the TOTAL cost where Total Cost = capital cost + cost of production + cost of transmission, plus cost of pollution + cost of pollution mitigation.

    Period. There simply is no other answer, and postulating a non-polluting activity is like postulating a perpetual energy machine. It is a pure and utter fantasy, and no good can come of any thinking that starts this way.


  21. Based on BEA data through 2007 the trend line for California GDP from 1998 to 2007 exhibits a negative slope.

    The GDP trend line for Oregon, Washington, and New Mexico each exhibit positive slope.

    Given a choice, where woul you elect to locate your business? Someplace where the market is large but shrinking or someplace small but growing?


  22. “Conservation is another form of productivity – to do more with less resources.”

    This is a fallacy. And a misrepresentation.

    If you find yourself in a position where hou can do more with less resorces, you will do still more and use more resources as a result, not less. Airplaines are more efficient today and they use more fuel, not less.

    If you don’t think using MORE fuel is sustainable, then this isn’t the way to go. You have to ACTUALLY use less fuel, and that means flying less seats (than now, even if it is still more than before), which is going to affect the economy and the price of fuel. Price of fuel will go down, and someone else will then use it, for some other activity.

    The only way out of this is to slap a big tax on all fuel and force people to use less EVEN IF THEY USE IT MORE EFFICIENTLY.

    This is going to affect the economy – badly. EMR is right when he says we need fewer people using less stuff, but there is no way I can see that this won’t affect the economy.


    The misrepresentation part of it comes from using California as an example. They are not doing the same with less – they are sweating on hot days and freezing on cold ones – and paying more for the privilege.


  23. When you build enough LEED houses you will eventually need more electricity and more power plants.

    Because we refuse to focus on the root cause problems we will be right back here in ten or fifteen years arguing about where to put the power lines and power plants and where to put the pollution, and pollution prevention byproducts.

    We won’t have solved anything with LEED, and the problems we must sove will be much more expensive and much more divisive.

    There is nothing WRONG with LEED. It is a good idea. Anyone who thinks the additional persoanl investment is worthwhile is free to make it. Darrell still doesn’t have his solar panels, and he is proabably smart not to.

    But LEED has next to NOTHING to do withour power plant and power line problems. It is a total red herring.


  24. Darrel is right. It is going to cost Tidewater a bunch of money.

    The power or some fungible replacement of it will get shipped to New England, where they have effectively banned power plants (with a movement rooted in violence and civil disobedience).

    Anyone who wants to complain about pollution can do so, but if it is the states air, the statemakes the rules, and they may well listen to Dominion, more than me.

    If it is my air, then I can move to affect the market and the price, but I bear the risk and the cost.

    Anyone who thinks they can help prevent pollution can unplug from the grid. Whatever system they build for themselves will have its own costs and its own pollution – mostly unregulated, because as an individual you do still have the right to pollute.


  25. to back up your claim – please post a table showing the per capita use of electricity in one column and the GDP on the State – in Rank order.

    thank you.

    Otherwise.. I’m calling yet another blather alert.

  26. re: planes and fuel and efficiency

    if you want to compare apples to apples –

    you’d compare the existing fleet of planes and efficiency

    or the future fleet of planes – and efficiency

    the same way we measure, for instance, – “same stores sales” so that we do not factor in growth,

    Growth does not reduce efficiency nor productivity.

    you need to understand the difference between consumption and productivity.

  27. I now have solar panels on my house roof. Before that, I had a solar panel on my shed for powering that structure. The kung fu lesson: walk before you run, but every journey begins with one step.

    I will also note that Dominion Power’s ‘Enron-style trading floor’ on the Richmond riverfront was originally designed for solar panels, but Dominion balked. Less than a mile away is a century old school building that is perfect for solar also. Hopefully the kids are’t all poisoned by lead and mercury from coal and cars.

    Speaking of cars, now that this auto-bailout foolishness has stalled, can we retool for solar/wind turbine and solar manufacturing?

    Let me know when you guys finish arguing and start acting.

  28. Anonymous Avatar

    “First, we have a right to clean air and water — at least my view.

    Big Biz does not have a “right” to pollute.”

    Yes, you have a riht to clean air, but it does not follow that big business has no right to pollute. That is the same as saying they have no right to be in business, since one cannot happen without the other.


  29. Anonymous Avatar


    Tell us more about your system. Did yu use an installation company, or engineer this yurself? What do you power with it, do you sell back to the power company.

    What about tax credits? What do you figure your payback will be?

    I’m more of a fan of solar thermal which I may do next year.

    I beleive youare paying for power and for pollution reduction with your system. To the extent that pollution damage is prevented others should contribute to your cost, since pollution damage affects everyone.


  30. Anonymous Avatar

    “to back up your claim – please post a table showing the per capita use of electricity in one column and the GDP on the State – in Rank order.”

    Go to the site and you can get GDP by year for each state. Past them into an excell sheet and chart the data with trend lines. Californis’a goes down, and the others go up.

    I accept your claim that California uses less power. I don;t accept yur claim they are getting the same for less.

    Incidently, youando the same thing with nations and see that power consumption and GDP are related.

    Take it or leave it, I’m not doing your homework.


    Re airplanes: The fact remains that we are consuming MORE fuel. That’s consumption. This is a commonly observed paradox of conservation and efficiency, called Jevon’s paradox.

    Argue with him, I think he is a nobel prize winner.

    At some point you reach maximum efficiency: you can’t get more watts out than you put in. If you are anywhere close to that, then reducing consumption will reduce output and damage the economy.

    With less economy you have less free money to spend on the environment. Look at Haiti or Rwanda.


  31. Interesting article and commentary.

    “What I asked is – should each NUR be directly responsible for producing it’s own electricity – in other words – the power would be generated within the NUR boundaries…”.

    I know there is a wealth of material available regarding NURs, etc. However, I can’t recall any mention of taxes. Larry thinks its only fair that NURs produce their own electricity. I wonder if he thinks it’s fair that NURs spend all of their state tax receipts within their NUR. Not just transportation – all tax receipts. If people outside the NUR can’t afford to provide their children a decent education then they should move inside the NUR. Right Larry? Given that NURs shouldn’t “export” pollution, commuting, transportation costs, etc. one can only assume they shouldn’t export their money either.

    I question the assertion that transportation of electricity generates economically significant losses. Now, I don’t know the details. Which is why I say “I question”. How much is really lost?

    Darrell’s point about the futility of trying to get economic benefit in a monopoly environment is right on. The Commonwealth of Virginia should either take over the generation of power or establish a competitive environment for the sale of power. This “half pregnant” philosophy doesn’t seem to stand a chance of working.

    Somewhere between Ray’s idea of a “right to pollute” and EMR’s “no pollution” is the proper answer. Ray is right in noting that California is in a world of economic pain. Not a good situation out West. And extremely expensive electricity is part of the problem. Just part. Virginia should undertake a plan to raise the cost of electricity slowly. It should never get to California levels but it must increase in price while new nuclear plants and alternative energy sources are developed. This can occur through increased regulation of pollution from coal fired plants or a direct tax. But the only way to systematically lower consumption is to raise the price.

    Larry’s point about people getting their data from the smart meters is dead on. Here’s a way to do it – the electricity companies give the data to Google. Google, in return, creates a personal energy portal and puts advertisements on the site. Advertisers pay Google who gives some of the money back to the utility that collected the data. Any customer of the power company can see their own data as well as view averages for their area and houses of similar size. Since only people interested in energy consumption will go to the site the advertising space is quite valuable. Appliance companies, for example, would pay dearly to put ads for their new, energy efficient washers and dryers on the site. The key point is that the data regarding electricity consumption should be owned by the end customer – not the power generator.

  32. Anonymous Avatar

    How much is really lost?

    Close to 30%, but it is still cheaper than hauling the fuel and waste.


  33. Anonymous Avatar

    Well, there are two issues here.

    You can raise the price of electricity just to reduce consumption. Presumably you would do this through taxes and lower other taxes to compensate. Your taxes are the same, but youpay more for electricity, so if you want to pay less taxes you buy less electricity. This means there is less electric tax to reduce your other taxes.

    Meanwhile you are cold and dark, after taking into account whatever efficiencies you can get.

    What is the point of lowering electric sonsumption? Presumably it is to lower emissiions. But it will also damage the economy, and you will get lwss of almost everything at higher cost.

    Or, you can demand that power companies lower emissions, and they will add the cost of that to the price. You get no tax relief.

    Either way, there is no point in lowering the emissions if the cost of doing so is higher than the cost of the damage from the emissions. That is where the middle ground between no pollution and no electricity lies.

    Before we go raising the price, we should get a good handle on the damage we are trying to prevent. We are all going to use that handle to help carry the load.


  34. Anonymous Avatar

    I like the google idea.

    Seems to make more sense than another gizmo I have to go read – and pay for.


  35. Anonymous Avatar

    I’m not saying you have a right to pollute. I do say that you do not have the right to claim someone else has no right to pollute.

    That is an impossible situation, and we can’t claim the right to infinitely clean air.

    All I’m saying is that the liability for pollution cannot exceed the actual damages. Claimed and unproven damages don’t count, but I’m willing to accept statistical daages with a reasonable martin for error.

    If you make a claim against someone that exceeds your damages, you re making an unfounded claim against their property. The cleaner we get the air, themore it costs, and the less the damages we can claim. At some point it makes no sense. We need to know where that point is, and agree on it before we start confiscating each other’s property.

    If you heat your home with oil, your oil burner has no pollution controls, but if you heat your home with an electric heat pump, you will pay substantial amounts for air pollution control. Where is the proper balance? If we price electricity out of sight, we willget a lot more oil burners, coal stoves, etc.

    In the end, it isn’t pollution from big business, it is pollution from us. Blaming them and taxing them is a shibboleth, like blaming developers for housing.

    Even if you live in a cave and heat only with a renewable open wood fire you will have to make a trade off between freezing in the dark and having clean air.

    At least in that situation the case is clear: it is your cave, your wood, and your air. With a central power plant in the mountains somewhere, we lose sight of who owns what, but the problem is the same: how much do you want to pay in production, comfort, and safety from electricity for the production, comfort and safety of clean air?

    The only way we are going to decide, is to put a price on those things. Which is the central point of Grovetons Google suggestion.


  36. re: “Larry thinks its only fair that NURs produce their own electricity.”

    Not true. Never was. Never will be.

    What I ask is for people to explain things they advocate that seem contradictory.

    What I asked is a more clear definition of the sustainability of NURs – especially with regard to electricity.

    What Groveton seems to be advocating is that as long as a NUR is contributing taxes outside of it’s region – that, it is a fair trade with respect to pollution.

    In other words – everyone benefits when NURs create pollution and it’s a “fair trade” no matter how much the pollution verses taxes contributed.

    so blasting off the mountaintops in West Virginia and polluting virtually all of the waterways in Va with mercury is a “fair trade” for NoVa’s increasing electricity usage – no matter how much.

    What I am asking – is:

    1. – is this true? Is ANY amount of pollution – a “fair trade”?

    2. – is it sustainable?

    Can we continue to build more and more coal-powered plants to feed the needs of NURs?

    3. – What role does conservation and efficiency play in the electricity “needs” of any NUR, of any person?

    If one believes like Ray that there is no such thing as efficiency in electricity usage – then the states that use les electricity per capita or economically damaged by the higher price of electricity.

    Using Grovton’s philosophy – there will never be a need to reduce pollution – because as long as NoVa “contributes” taxes, the pollution is justified.

    What we are doing is basically saying that conservation and efficiency are most costly than polluting with coal?

    AND that it is SUSTAINABLE.

    Or, let’s turn this around and let me ask – what IS sustainable if you don’t agree with my statement above.

    But more than that – something very simple – for Ray –

    When you go buy an appliance – like an air conditioner or even a heat pump – what does the EER mean?

    here’s a start:

    “When referring to the efficiency of an appliance or energy system, we are actually talking about how much energy that system must use to perform a certain amount of work. The higher its energy consumption per unit of output, the less efficient the system is. “

  37. The way I see it, we are talking about two distinctly different issues and we keep mixing and matching them which, in EMR’s words is core confusing.

    FIRST – the CONCEPT of a NUR, Balanced communities, etc based on the premise of location-based costs – and if nothing else the implied thought that NURs that don’t pay their own location-variable costs – are not sustainable.

    I’m sure EMR will correct me if I got the statement wrong.

    But much discussion centers on the automobile and “excessive” use for personal mobility and in the process – the creation of dysfunctional settlement patterns.

    Which I agree with.

    But then we draw a circle around the NUR (I presume in part to denote the limits of which private autos would still be within their location variable costs.

    That’s fine, but then I feel we are using a double standard for location variable costs when we finger the private auto as one of the problems with dysfunctional settlement patterns and not electricity – which results in more power plants, more pollution, and more power lines – all of these, in my view, direct externalities of NURs, In other words – big time location variable cost issues.

    EMR has acknowledged this.

    A SEPARATE ISSUE – is efficiency, productivity, and pollution – no matter WHERE you live – is your house and your per capita usage of electricity – the same or different from other industrialized nations, states and societies?

    This is not about sitting in a cold dark house (whether it be dysfunctional or not) but whether or not YOUR 72 degree home uses twice as much electricity at someone else’s 72 degree home ( on a per square foot energy use basis).

    In other words – is the concept of a LEED home using top-rated EER appliances – a valid concept for conservation and less energy usage and pollution generated?

    This is really quite a dumb question in terms of most governments and institutions – they do buy the premise – big time.

    That’s why when you shop for a fridge – it’s got a yellow label on it and shows the energy usage for that fridge and then shows how it compares with other fridges.

    For each fridge, there is a LEED standard – which says that on a per-cubic-foot cooling basis – there are fridges that use much less energy than other fridges.

    Ditto with many other if not most other appliances.

    If you make LEED the standard for new homes and incentivize LEED for existing homes – then will doing so lead to less electricity demand in the longer run? Will the implementation of LEED help us reduce our per-capita use of electricity – no matter whether we live in a NUR or not – (a separate issue altogether in my mind)?

    So .. what EMR appears to be saying is that no matter whether your home is LEED or not, if it is not located in a balanced-community/NUR, or it is outside the clear edge and not performing a valid USR role – then it is dysfunctional..

    What Ray appears to be saying is that LEED and a LEED approach to conserving electricity is a bogus concept no matter whether you live inside or outside the clear edge.

    and what Groveton.. appeared to be saying is that it’s “ok” to pollute outside the clear edge as long as the NUR is providing net tax benefits to the nation/state that the NUR resides within.

    so.. looks to me like 3 very different concepts…

    how can a settlement pattern be functional if the lifeblood of that settlement pattern – energy is an location-variable externality?

    Groveton thinks it is fine apparently as long as the NUR contributes net taxes to external jurisdictions.

    In other words… we pollute your settlement pattern with a power plant for us but then we pay to educate your kids and build your roads – so it is “okay” that we do this.

    AND .. we can do more and more of it ..,if our energy needs go up .,..because as long as we continue to pay to educate your kids.., it’s still a fair deal.

    what say youse guys?

    what about electricity location variable costs?

    what about energy conservation and efficiency?

    and what about equity with regard to pollution externalities?

  38. Larry:

    I am just trying to force some perspective into this (somewhat wierd) argument. You love to talk about location variable costs but never talk about location variable tax revenue. It seems like we should be discussing both. Certainly, the General Assembly has the perorgative to use tax money disproportionately generated in Northern Virginia to recover mountaintops in SW Virginia. The GA can also demand that new coal plants use scrubbers to make them (somewhat) less polluting. As I suggested, the GA could also tax electricity to dampen demand.

    But the GA can't make new nuclear plants spring spontaneously from the ground. Nor can they insist that biomass and other alternative fuels instantly become economically efficient. Finally, they cannot move the veins of coal that are under the ground in some parts of the state to other parts of the state in order to satisfy your sense of fairness.

    What should the GA do to decrease pollution? They should raise the taxes on the consumption of all forms of energy. Including electricity, gasoline and diesel (whether for farm use or not), natural gas and any other sources of energy other than solar and biomass. The taxes should be raised for everybody in all locations. Other taxes should be decreased (but not by the full amount). I'd suggest the sales tax as the best target for reduction. The difference (increase) in taxes from the energy tax hike – sales tax reduction should be use one-half to address the deficit and one-half to fund R&D for alternate energy. And this R&D funding should be performed wherever the best talent to address the matter exists. It should not be spent in a half witted and feeble attempt at regional economic development.

    All the government has to do is raise the cost of energy. From there, the energy consumers and the free market will provide solutions to the changed economics. You have noted LEED certified appliances. That is one free market alternative already in existance. There will be more.

  39. Anonymous Avatar

    “Is ANY amount of pollution – a “fair trade”?”

    Pollution has a cost. If we try to understand, we can learn what that cost is. Any amounts traded either above or below that cost is not fair trade.

    When youstart of the search for what constitutes a fair trade with a atatement like “polluting virtually all of the waterways in Va with mercury” you expose your bias agaisnt fair trade. Such a statement falls in your usual basket of phrases that boild down to setting an infinite price for your preferred side of the trade.


  40. Anonymous Avatar

    “is it sustainable?”

    Sustainable for how long at what price?

    It isn’t sustainable to poison the earth ina mad quest for overconsumption.

    It also isn’t sustainable for everyone to continuously get by with incrementally less forever.


  41. Anonymous Avatar

    “What Ray appears to be saying is that LEED and a LEED approach to conserving electricity is a bogus concept “

    Each LEED house saves electricity compared to a non LEED house.

    More LEED houses need more elctricity, not less.

    Two different concepts.


    “If one believes like Ray that there is no such thing as efficiency in electricity usage “

    I never said there is no such thing as efficiency. I just recognize there is a difference between efficiency and doing without. Realisitically, there arelimits to what we can do with efficiency, so it isn’t a panacea.

    If we gain 5% in efficiency, that is huge, but we eat that up every couple of years in population. Net, net, you either need more power, or you get by with less.

    It’s possible to grow the GDP and still have decreasing personal wealth, but you would not want to be a politician in that environment.


  42. Anonymous Avatar

    “NURs that don’t pay their own location-variable costs – are not sustainable.”

    Why do you assume they have to pay their own location variable costs soley to thmeselves?

    Why can’t they pay to support additional locations outside their boundaries, and get their sustainability that way?


  43. Anonymous Avatar

    “is your house and your per capita usage of electricity – the same or different from other industrialized nations, states and societies?”

    It is different.

    Different in efficiency, different in functionality, different in liveability, different in cost, and different in pollution created.

    Homes in other countries may use less electricity because they are more efficient and better insulated, and also because they are smaller.

    One is more effcient, one is doing with less.


  44. Anonymous Avatar

    “This is not about sitting in a cold dark house (whether it be dysfunctional or not) but whether or not YOUR 72 degree home uses twice as much electricity at someone else’s 72 degree home ( on a per square foot energy use basis).”

    Actually, it is about sitting in a cold dark house, which is what you don’t seem to get. If it costs me twice as much as the next guy, I can’t afford it, and I turn down the heat.

    It is all very well and good to say that I should upgrade my home, or move to a smaller one, but if I can’t afford the electric bill I can’t afford a big capital hit either.

    Conservation has to make economic sense, or else it is a waste.


  45. Anonymous Avatar

    ” They should raise the taxes on the consumption of all forms of energy. “

    Groveton is correct, if the goal is to reduce the eternalities of energy use.

    Just don’t expect this to help the GDP or create abunch of new jobs. it is going to hurt, and hurt a lot.


  46. Anonymous Avatar

    “The basic economic analysis of a (green) subsidy in the context of 5 million green jobs”

    With graphs and explanations.

    Bottom line, raise taxes on energy.


  47. re: “You love to talk about location variable costs but never talk about location variable tax revenue. It seems like we should be discussing both.”

    To be clear – the NUR idea is not mine and the NUR idea talking about sustainability and the path to sustainability – everyone paying their own location variable costs.

    I am a clear skeptic of this – not an advocate. Got it?

    I see a huge double standard between mobility location variable costs and electricity location variable costs.

    With regard to taxes and revenues – it’s a different concept entirely – as currently implemented because unless you can provide more comprehensive and compelling information – the major transfer of revenues is with respect to schools which from a basic concept point of view IMHO, is as valid a function for a State as just about anything else.

    In other words, it is IMHO, a legitimate state function to attempt to provide an equivalent educational opportunity to every child regardless of where they live.

    And we need to recognize that implementation of it – such that in some people’s minds, the poorer counties are getting more than they should – is a procedural issue – that does not invalidate the basic concept of equity for kids.

    In other words, would you have us do away with the basic concept itself and not view providing equivalent education opportunity – as a legitimate function of the state.

    Don’t you think that the above discussion is separate from the concept of NURs and how NURs function with regard to location variable costs and sustainability?

  48. re: “Californis’a goes down, and the others go up.”

    since you will not post your reference… I’ll post some that clearly refute your claims:

    and DO NOTICE that California has held the number one location for a long time, year and year, in this chart since 2004.

    and in this chart from 1997 to 2007 – California’s Gross Domestic Product has GROWN and REMAINED number 1.

    Ray – the proof is in front of you. Why continue to claim that higher electricity prices in California has “hurt” their economy when the data shows otherwise?

  49. re: “But it will also damage the economy”

    If that is true then why has California’s economy remained number one for a decade and continues to grow?

    California has much high electricity prices and continues to be the number one state in productivity – gross state product.


    where is your data that shows otherwise…

    not some handwaving at vague data on some website.

    post the actual data right here that proves your point.

    ..or go fish and stop making an unsupported claim…

  50. re: Green Jobs

    Tell me what the difference is between the Government paying companies and employees to build Humvees or Solar Panels?

    It’s the same thing no matter whether you call those jobs “Green” jobs or “Military” jobs.

    The government pays people to make “stuff” that it wants.

    If it wants humvees, they pay folks to build humvees.

    If the government wants explosive scanners, metal detectors and 3 ton flower pots they pay for folks to make that stuff.

    If the government decides that they’ll build a few less humvees and use that same money to pay people to build solar panels – what is the difference?

  51. re: “It is all very well and good to say that I should upgrade my home, or move to a smaller one, but if I can’t afford the electric bill I can’t afford a big capital hit either.”

    so how does this work in California and New York and other states that have decoupled electricity rates?

    Many of your analogies tend to be black or white.. on or off..

    You do not get the state where you cannot “afford” .. ANY electricity.

    You get to the point where you can only afford a certain amount and if it goes up in price then you try to take the steps to get it back to the amount that you can afford.

    You don’t sit in a cold dark house…

    you sit in a house when only the rooms you actually occupy are kept warm and lighted – like most of the industrialized nations do.

    When you burn electricity to heat and light unoccupied rooms, you are wasting electricity and polluting more than you might.

    And the reason you can do that is because you are not being charged enough for electricity to encourage you to conserve it and not waste it.

    and Groveton’s idea that is a NUR contributes revenues to the State for reallocation for equitable education opportunities that it is then entitled to any level of pollution for electricity consumed needs some “work”.

    How about this Groveton.

    The NUR is entitled to ONLY the amount of externally produced electricity and pollution that is equivalent to their contributions for education?

    Would that not be equitable?

    In other words, the more you pollute the more you and the more money you owe the state.


  52. Anonymous Avatar

    Instead of using Wikipedia data onlyt to 2005 I used government data to 2007.

    Over the last five years The trend for Californis GDP is down and down 3% just last year, even though it is still huge.

    The other states I mentioned are all up, over the last five years. I’m not doing your homework for you. You need to llok at facts, not just what you would like to see.

    I’m just saying that there are different ways of looking at things, not all of which are rosy. If there is some truth in what I say, then it should be considered, not dismissed just because it is inconvenient to your way of thinking.

    I admit California GDP is huge. So what? How has it changed over the years they have become the nations leader in green initiatives?


  53. Anonymous Avatar

    “California has held the number one location for a long time, year and year, in this chart since 2004.”

    So what? California is huge. No wonder it is number one. It canbe huge and stillbe shrinking. And 3% shinkage on a huge GDP is a huge amount of shrinkage.


  54. Anonymous Avatar

    This is in the I told you so category.

    Groveton has suggested we need higher fuels taxes.

    In todays Post there are four articles germain to ideas I have been pushing.

    1) On the op-ed page “Why Energy Independence” makes the argument that energy independence is really just protectionism that makes about as much sense as banana independence – a point I have made previously. According to the article the only thing that makes any difference to the global market is if we consume less oil. However the article also makes the point that oil is fungible, if we buy les from our enemies we buy more from someplace else. By the same token, if we consume less, we lower the price and someone else consumes more.

    2) The editorial “Climate Change Lessons” outlines the problems with Cap and trade, and concludes that what is really needed is higher fuel taxes: same conclusion Groveton and many environmental economists make.

    Higher prices will change behavior and reduce usage.

    The editorial says “To reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lessen dependence on fossile fuels there must be a price on carbon”. I suggest that is only half the mission. If we are going to charge for burning carbon, then we should pay for reducing CO2. It is a matter of paying your full locational costs.

    3) “A greener Version of Washington” starts of with the sentence ” Mom was right whenshe told us to turnoff the lights and lower the thermostat.”

    Contrary to what Larry thinks it IS about sitting in the dark and cold. It is called changeing behavior and reducing usage.

    We added leaves to the old farm table for Thanksgiving dinner. One evening on the way to the kitchen I smacked in to the corner of it because it extended closer to the door thannormal, and I had not turned the lights on.

    It IS about sitting in the dark and cold, and it is about safety, too. Efficiency and doing without are not the same thing.

    4) Finally in the Metro section “A City Looks To Its Moral Compass in Lean Times” The City of Alexandria has hired an ethicist to assist in making hard decisions that will affect peoples very lives.

    Incrementally having everyone do with less is no more sustainable than gross overconsumption.

    I’ve been making the point that environmetalists are going to have to come to grips withthe ethical meaning of the demands we make. The fact that the government uses statistial value of human life to make financial decisions is evidence that we are already doing so.

    The rest of us. the political greens that make demands on our politicians, those of us who are not involved inthe actual technical and economic decisions, we need to better understand what is going on and what our demands boil down to.

    We have to stop buryng our hed inthe sands and thinking we will work our wayout fo thi with green jobs and magic technology.

    We can do a lot, but it will take time, cost money and be very difficult. For people without money, it is going to hurt – a lot.

    Finally, a green environment needs a good economy. A number of green and solar initiatives have had the plug pulled already, because of lower fuel costs and lack of financing. Overproducing green energy with government subsidies has a negative benefit to begin with, and it lowers the price for the competition. It is good for the people that want to consume only green power, but it raises the costs for everyone else.

    I’m not even saying this is bad, only that we should recognize it and know the magnitude of what we are doing before we shoot ourselves in the foot.


  55. Anonymous Avatar

    “If the government decides that they’ll build a few less humvees and use that same money to pay people to build solar panels – what is the difference?”

    There in’t any difference. That’s the point. So you cannot count them as new reen jobs. They are replacements, not new.

    And, there ae people involved, the guy losing his job building hummers probably isn’t the same guy who is going to be constructin overland power lines to delver the new green energy – that he can’t afford to buy.

    The difference is that we have less Hummers and more green energy. Period. That probably isn’t a bad thing, but if we go crazy in the process, it could turn out to be just as big a waste.


  56. re: “Instead of using Wikipedia data onlyt to 2005 I used government data to 2007.”

    Here’s the data from the BEA:
    1997 – 1,019,150 1,085,884
    2007 – 1,812,968

    It started out number 1. It’s numbers have gone UP – EVERY YEAR – and it is STILL number one.

    What Wiki shows that you do not is that the RANK of the first 8 states has not changed except for one position since 2004.

    1,812,968 2007 1,727,355 2006 1,616,351 2005 1,515,453 2004

    Only when you get to the ninth ranked state do you see that North Carolina has gone from 11th to 9th and it’s GSP is 1/4 of California.

    Clearly your claim that higher electricity rates has harmed more than the other states is bogus.

    Fess up Rap.. you got caught claiming something that was not true then tried to claim the data you provided proved it – and it was the opposite.

    Your own data shows that your claim is false.

    Here’s the Truth:

    California uses almost 1/2 of the per capita electricity of other states and it has remained number one is GSP for a decade ….

    this totally blows out of the water your claims that higher electricity rates reduces productivity if the state that uses less electricity continues to outperform other states which have cheaper electricity.

  57. “That’s the point. So you cannot count them as new reen jobs. They are replacements, not new.”

    Ray.. if you build MORE humvees, are they not NEW jobs?

    If you decide to build the same number of humvees and ADD additional jobs to build solar panels – are these not NEW JOBS?

  58. re: sitting in cold, dark houses

    so how is it that Californians used 1/2 the electricity and they don’t sit in cold, dark houses?

    or .., New York City or any of the other states that have decoupled electric rates and the rates are higher than other states?

    It’s not about sitting in a whole house that is dark and cold.

    It’s about sitting in rooms that are lighted and warm while the rooms that are not occupied are less warm and dark.

    Using your logic Ray.. you should leave your car running all the time so that it is warm when you need to use it.,

    It’s a dumb concept Ray. Admit it.

    Anyone CAN SAVE 1/2 their use of electricity if they do the same thing that others who save this much electricity also do – which is (among other things) do not heat/cool/or light portions of the house that are not occupied.

    In commercial applications, Ray, it’s called zoned heating and cooling…

    Computers shut down the energy use when the building is not occupied and they fire it up and bring it up to desired temps in time for the arriving workforce.

    As opposed to keeping that building heated/cooled 24/7.

  59. Anonymous Avatar

    “The NUR is entitled to ONLY the amount of externally produced electricity and pollution that is equivalent to their contributions for education?”

    Gee, Larry, why is it you have such a hard time looking at the TOTAL SYSTEM?

    You keep piking out littel parts that don’t match up, and think that amounts to a major inequity. You ignore transaction costs, common courtesy, customer loyalty, and all the other grease that makes things work without exact accounting.

    Here is my way of looking at a NUR. Take all the used and embedded energy that everyone in the NUR uses, during operation or amortized over time in construction. Do the same for everyone they do business with, and everyone THEY do business with.

    Now you have the NUR to three degrees fo fredom. That pretty much defines what it takes to run the NUR. Some of that is paid for in the usual economy, and some of it is not, but if there is nergy involved, we can make pretty good estimates of what it costs.

    Now, go out and do the same thing for everyone in the third degree of freedom. Thse people are going to wind up paying for some of the “free inputs” to the NUR. And they will have payments form other places as well.

    But if their inputs to the NUR are higher than what they are getting aid for (or vice versa), then NEITHER the NUR or the third level support region is sustainable.

    The result is that farms get cut up into development. Since we already know that is happening, we can make a pretty good guess as to what the energy balance is, and therefore the cost balance: it is the NURS that are not paying their full locational costs. It is why you keep moaning about what commuters do to the odsts of locals.

    You may think this is a stretch, but we knew, or could predict, that gravity bends light a long time before we could prove it.


  60. Anonymous Avatar

    Ray.. if you build MORE humvees, are they not NEW jobs?

    That isn’t what you said: you said build green stuff instead of hummvees.


  61. Anonymous Avatar

    Rank makes no difference. I guess I have to re-do the homework and show you once and for all. Your analysis is faulty.


  62. Anonymous Avatar

    “so how is it that Californians used 1/2 the electricity and they don’t sit in cold, dark houses?”

    They live in California, not Minnesota. They sit in hot stuffy houses instead, in Southern CA, and cold dark houses inthe north. They live in smaller houses.


  63. Anonymous Avatar

    We can save some enery doing allthe things you say.

    After that, we will still need more, and we will still be having the same arguments over where to put the power lines and power plants because we still refuce to see the property rights implications correctly.

    We will have reduced the increase in energy needed, and solved none of the problems.


  64. Anonymous Avatar

    “Using your logic Ray.. you should leave your car running all the time so that it is warm when you need to use it.,”

    Don’t tell me what I think when you cannot translate it correctly.

    It does not make sense to leave the car running all the time, and it does not make sense to shut it off every time either. The hybird actually has a special heat retaining insulation system so that it does make sense to shut it off for short periods.

    But, to let the engine cool down and immediately restart it, as in a short stop at the store is energetically dumb. That’s why you see big trucks idling: it takes a lot longer to get them warm again and it wastes fuel doing so – more than idling them for a certain amount of time.

    The reason we shut the car down to run into the drycleaners is economic, not energetic: we don’t want the car stolen.

    What I advocate is doing whht make sense, not doing waht doesn;t make sense, and looking carefully for the difference, whether it fits our philosophical desires or not. And that doesn’t include making false arguments with anyone you don’t agree with.


  65. re: NUR “equity”

    otherwise known as the NUR gets to dictate the terms of the trade pollution for money to educate your kids – bargain…


    What would give NOVA the right to dictate the terms and not the folks who would be receiving the pollution?

    If the receiving localities demanded that pollution be minimized to the point where their kids will not get asthma and their rivers won’t have mercury in them and their mountaintops will not be blasted..

    if those would be the terms, then the NUR would have to pay much more for the electricity – much more than just paying for their schools..


  66. re: makes no sense to leave your car running…

    just as it makes no sense to heat/cool empty rooms that are not being used… just so.. those rooms can be “kept running” so that they are ready to use.

    That’s the common sense part Ray.

    You don’t need to sit down and analyze this… energy used to heat/cool rooms that are not occupied is no different than keeping your car running so that it’s already warm or cool when you need it.

    This also is a clear example of where consumption is a waste and not an increase in productivity.

    There is no increase in productivity at all from heating and cooling empty rooms.

  67. Anonymous Avatar

    “There is no increase in productivity at all from heating and cooling empty rooms.”

    Can’t sell that one to me. I used to do my homework wearing mittens. No loss of productivity there, of course.

    No, there is no use in heating an unused room, except to keep the plants warm. Even I use space heaters and a programmable thermostat, but the thermostat comes on before I get up.

    Turning off a warm engine is different. My message is that different tasks have different missions, and one size fits all conservation is often a waste, because people don’t think, or don’t know the facts.

    Sometimes they are unkown, unkowable, or not worth worrying about.

    If the city has no right to pollute the countryside then equally the countryside has no right to claim damages greater than exist. since some pollution is inevitable, best we learn to trade costs and benefits fairly.


  68. my basic premise is opposite from yours though.

    I think that conservation means that you can have more efficiency, less waste without a loss of productivity.

    You don’t need higher levels of consumption for higher levels of productivity if you are using more efficient processes and identifying things that waste energy.

    and that explains how a place like California (or New York)or Europe can cut their energy use and still maintain and even increase their productivity.

    When you identify and cut waste – you actually INCREASE productivity.

    That is what LEED buildings are all about.

  69. Anonymous Avatar

    You are missing the point entirely. You can get only so much efficiency. dump trucks pick up their unneeded wheels when they are not loaded, for efficiency.

    But they cannot pick up all the wheels. F still equals MA.

    You can increase productivity somewhoat with more efficiency, but there is a limit. Just as with the airlines. The closer you get to the limit, the more each increment of efficiency costs.

    In the end, More LEED homes will need more power, and we will be right back where we are now.

    Conservation and efficiency are important, but they will not solve our root problems.

    You can have your basic premise, and dream on.


  70. Anonymous Avatar

    “do not heat/cool/or light portions of the house that are not occupied.”

    If they ar not occupied, get some drywall and close them off, and be done with it.

    We can always do with less, right?


  71. re: “You can get only so much efficiency.”

    It’s not true.

    You’re thinking way too small.

    It’s true in the strict context of a specific item of work – perhaps but in the wider spectrum fundamental changes to how a process is done – does happen.

    take a delivery truck…with multiple stops…

    the route is set up by looking at a map… without regard to the “shortest” time distance rather than the “shortest distance physically”… and not tuned to real-time traffic-conditions.

    You’d say that there are not more efficiencies possible.

    I’d invent a GPS unit that automatically calculates the correct delivery route (ordered the most efficiently) and done with respect to current traffic (which are constantly changing) conditions – including left turns.

    My point here is that all businesses – this is what they do – they constantly pursue efficiencies – because if they don’t their competitors will – and ultimately the companies that don’t have the pursuit of efficiencies as part of their DNA – those companies go away.

    and the approach is not to look at one single action in a process – a single action that might be one of thousands – to conclude that that single action can be done any more efficiently – but to ask – “why are we doing this action this way in the context of the larger process first place?

    The inherent nature of business is competition and efficiency.

  72. “re: “You can get only so much efficiency.”

    It’s not true.”

    So, you are telling me I can get something for nothing: dump trucks can pick up all their wheels, for efficiency.

    Believe it or not, efficiency for any process has a limit, and each increment of efficiency costs more then the last.

    Computer chips appear to be the exception to the rule, but even there we run into physical realities.

    I didn’t say there are not more efficiencies possible, or that it is not important to go after them – when they make sense. I do say that there are “efficiencies” that don’t make sense. They are efficient only if you draw the boundaries of the problem too small, which is something you like to do.

    What this does is artificially create “externalities” which means shifting costs for your efficiencies to someone else. It means that you are ignoring someone’s ownership of their wallet.

    What I’m saying is that no amount of efficiency chasing will solve our root problems with energy, conservation, or land use or transportation.

    When you build enough LEED houses you will need to power them. You will need to make choices. Nukes? what will you do with the waste for 60,000 years? Coal? Even more nuclear waste, plus mercury, sulfur, flyash and CO2. Renewables? What will you use for backup? Natural gas? Coal, Nukes? Where will you put this stuff? how about new transmission lines.

    Any choice is going to have costs that affects people’s property and wallets. We can’t possibly make the best choice until we recognize what those costs are, and that means we have to recognize what is property and what isn’t.

    Without that, we will be right back where we are now, arguing the same old crap we have been arguing for the last 40 years, and no closer to the answers.

    Why? Because we cannot agree on what the costs are and who will bear the costs.

    What we are talking about, in other words is ownership, and that means property rights.


    “I’d invent a GPS unit that automatically calculates the correct delivery route (ordered the most efficiently) and done with respect to current traffic (which are constantly changing) conditions – including left turns.”

    That is almost exactly a description of what FAA is trying to do with the NEXTGEN air traffic control system. They have been working on it for decades, and they will be working for decades more.

    They only have a few thousand aircraft to deal with, and they are all cooperating with each other. It’s hard to say that about drivers.

    But, conceptually the idea is sound. Even so, the FAA knows theyare still going to need more runways. No matter what efficiency they get in the air, they still need places to put planes on the ground. And no one wants to touch that political or financial problem. It is a political problem because it is going to affect people’s property, and we don;t have a way to balance the costs fairly.

    (Incidentally, the best chained delivery route problem you describe is called the salesman’s Problem. Last I knew it had never been solved analytically, but only empirically, using massive computing power. It is a hard mathematical problem with only 30 destinations and one salesman. In a city of 800,000 drivers each making independent decisions, and each decision consatantly updated by GPS…… sounds like a classic negative feedback loop to me.)

    Can we improve traffic flow at street level? Yes, but we already know it works best at 35 MPH and three car lengths apart. We already know what the max throughput is for dense downtown grid systems. We get a little more efficiency, and then we are right back wherewe are now: too much activity in too littel space. Excess friction and loss.

    Waste in pursuit of efficiency.

    When I go sailing, I know that THEORETICALLY the shortest distance straight upwind is an ifinite number of infinitely short tacks. Unfortunately, the cost of that in labor and lost motion is also infinitely high, so I have to learn to work withthe limitations at hand.


  73. Anonymous Avatar

    Here is what Adam Smith had to say about your GPS idea.


    “He seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board. He does not consider that the pieces upon the chess-board have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them; but that, in the great chess-board of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might chuse to impress upon it. If those two principles coincide and act in the same direction, the game of human society will go on easily and harmoniously, and is very likely to be happy and successful. If they are opposite or different, the game will go on miserably, and the society must be at all times in the highest degree of disorder.”

  74. I think you way, way underestimate the POTENTIAL that yet remains for efficiency…

    and as I said before.

    you tend to look at stuff as if it is frozen in place and unchangeable…

    and that’s not the way the world works

    when you’ve reached the end of possible efficiencies for an action – that action might be entirely replaced by a much wider revolutionary change…caused by thinking out of the box…

    this is often how major technology advances occur..

    It’s not at all “rearranging” things…

    it is fundamental change – such as going from incandescent lighting (not matter how efficient you might be made to be) to an entirely different way of lighting – LED – that starts out more expensive and then as advances are made – it becomes even cheaper than the incandescents.

    A bolt on a car is done by human.. then by robot.. and then they figure out how to not need that bolt at all…

    it’s this last part that you have a rather large blind spot on…at times – IMHO.

    you continue to think in terms of things that cannot change… because you cannot envision anything beyond whatever optimal efficiencies are possible with the current approaches…

    Your Prius is an excellent example.

    At some point. a breakthrough in battery technology makes cars powered that way – not only able to go further on a charge – but the engine itself becomes primarily electric with a smaller and smaller gasoline back-up engine.

    10 years from now, the cars that get 100 miles to a charge will make the Prius the model T of electrics.

    and in the meantime, that battery technology change – revolutionizes all manner of things that were based on the traditional internal combustion engine…

    In ten 10 years, you won’t have a hard drive.. it will become the modern-day 8-track.. as storage will be done on solid-state flash drives……

    and on and on it goes.

    the fallacy is thinking that we’ve reached the end of what can change…

    when you think that way.. you’ve become a Luddite.

    i.e. we have no choice but to pollute ourselves with coal…

    when one tiny little change in solar technology could change everything.. and render coal as outmoded as whale oil….

    and will…. guaranteed…

    the only thing not certain is when…

  75. Anonymous Avatar

    “I think you way, way underestimate the POTENTIAL that yet remains for efficiency…”

    and I think you way overestimate it, – and you think it is free.

    I think F=MA and lighter materials are more expensive to engineer, manufacture, and maintain, and they are frequently energy intensive to begin with, and not recyclable.

    I’ve replaced all the CFL bulbs I can. It is probably cheaper and more energy efficient to tear my house down and buy a new one than to retrofit the one I have – but ti doesn;t make the slightest difference. I haven’t got the capital for either one.

    Even if the efficiency potential is huge, it isn’t unlimited, and theplanet is. And, I don’t count doing without as efficiency. it is only efficiency when you actuall get less for more – and then Jevon’s paradox kicks in.

    I agree with the most basic part of your argument, but it is insufficient, and it misses the big picture.

    If you just solve the ownership problems I have been talking about, then people can readily see where their savings lie, and they can be assured that THEY will benefit when THEY make the invetment.

    THEN you will see efficiency.


  76. Anonymous Avatar

    “but the engine itself becomes primarily electric with a smaller and smaller gasoline back-up engine.”

    No tit doesn;t. The energy has to come from somewhere. It might be a giant coal engine in W. VA backing up thousands of cars, but more cars means more engine, not less. Batteries do not make energy.


  77. Anonymous Avatar

    I don;t think we have reached the end of change. Each move gets us halfway to the wall, and each more costs more than the last. Higher prices, more profit, and a good economy make the next move possible.

    Cutting consumption, making people poor, and doing with less, doesn’t.


  78. Anonymous Avatar

    “when one tiny little change in solar technology could change everything.. and render coal as outmoded as whale oil….”

    You are dreaming.

    We know what the solar flux is, and what energy is available. 100% conversion efficiency is not possible,and if it was it would probably destroy the cell. Then we still need all that other stuff, plus backup coal to make it work.

    It took two hunded guys two years to build a clipper ship, owut of renewable wood. Then it took 50 guys two years to go pick up a load of tea. The ships lasted only 12 years. For THEM it was renewable, recyclable and very profitable.

    You and I would starve to death trying to do it today. Energy usage and the economy are inextricably linked.

    And yet wind shps may make a comeback, with new more efficient technology.

    They will have limitations too.


  79. Anonymous Avatar

    “i.e. we have no choice but to pollute ourselves with coal…”

    We have choices other than polluting ourselves with coal. Polluting ourselves with coal might be the best, and cheapest option. The other options might actually cost more lives in the end.

    To you, that is heresy.

    To me it is a question of fact that needs investigation.

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