When the Lights Go Out

Electricity is something we all take forgranted — until we don’t have it. Then our society breaks down.

That’s why we ought to pay attention to a recent study, “Lights Out in 2009,” published by the NextGen Energy Council. That organization is supported by the electric utility industry, the coal industry and other players with a vested interest in growing the electric industry, so we need to take its conclusions with a grain of salt. However, if NextGen is even close to being right, the U.S. faces massive disruptions within the next few years that will make the today’s concerns about the impact of Global Warming in 2010 seem absurdly remote.

Here’s the argument in a nutshell: Since the early 1990s, baseload generation reserve margins have declined precipitously from 30-40 percent to 17 percent in 2007. Compounding the problem, a disparity between growth in electric demand and capacity could shrink those margins by another 10 percent by 2016. Margins of 12-15 percent are deemed the minimum required to safeguard against brownouts and blackouts.

According to NextGen, the shortage of generating capacity will be compounded by insufficient transmission capacity — the ability to get electricity to where it’s needed. Some areas are likely to be hit sooner and harder than others. California and the Rocky Mountain states are in deep doodoo, and the northeast urban corridor, including Washington, D.C., are in mid-waist doodoo.

Nationally, NextGen estimates that the U.S. will need to install $250 billion of new generating capacity and $80 billion of new transmission capacity by 2016 to avoid power disruptions costing the economy a guesstimated $80 billion a year. That capacity is not being built, the organization contends, because (a) virtually every project is blocked or delayed by lawsuits, and (b) state regulatory agencies are imposing Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), which would make electric supplies dependent upon variable wind- and solar-powered generating capacity and aggravating the challenge of getting electricity where you need it when you need it.

A hallmark of the Kaine administration has been its attention to the impact of Global Warming upon Virginia’s economy and ecosystems. That’s a worthy study. We need to think long term, and we need to adopt a holistic framework for approaching public policy that gives proper weight to the environment. However, while attention of our policy makers is fixated on the end of the century, we are paying scant attention to problems of far greater magnitude that could be only three or four years away.

Here’s a prediction: If brownouts and blackouts start devastating Virginia’s economy, people will be a whole lot more focused on that problem — by a factor of 100 — than hypothetical concerns of what might happen if temperatures and sea levels rise nine decades from now. Global Warming alarmists and environmentalists generally will be discredited. The public will demand immediate solutions, even if those solutions are expensive, short-sighted and environmentally destructive. The public will throw money at Big Grid remedies that provide a quick fix, even if they perpetuate the energy status quo instead of creating the distributed grid we need for a sustainable future.

Virginia’s public policy makers, including its environmental leaders, need to get out front of these problems now — not when the blackouts hit.
(Image cutline: April 2008 protest in Pakistan prompted by persistent blackouts.)

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80 responses to “When the Lights Go Out”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    To Tim Kaine’s credit, I believe that he has supported both the Wise County power plant and the construction of a large, interstate, power transmission line. Those seem to be positive steps, as is his general push for energy conservation.

    Perhaps, with his close ties to the preident-elect, Kaine also knows that electricity demand will fall in Virginia as the new administration cuts defense and national security contracting!

    TMT

  2. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    When the lights go out. That’s fitting, but it doesn’t have anything to do with electricity.

    Forbes had a recent article about the top ten cities cruzin for a bruzin when it comes to the housing crisis. At the top of 163 MSAs was good ole Hampton Roads.

    What’s that you say? What about Cali and Vegas? Well friends, they are well along in their drop off a cliff, while no one here in Tidewater is really giving it a care.

    You see, we have all this defense spending to protect us, or so the song goes. But when you look at Zillow’s real estate reports, it’s easy to visualize the coming reality.

    http://www.zillow.com/reports/RealEstateMarketReports.htm

    On the left side of the page is a list of cities. Click on the graph symbols. Compare the first graph in Vegas to the one for Virginia Beach. That will give you an idea of how far prices must fall to reach a long term appreciation level of 5 percent, and by extending out the two lines, it will give you the time frame before prices are considered normal. While you are at it look at DC and Richmond.

    Now common sense should tell you that the graph doesn’t have to stop at 5 percent. In many of the rust belt cities, their value never exceeded that figure. But because their local economies dumped, the housing prices dropped off the bottom of the chart.

    But let’s look at what the future holds for our Virginia samples. Add in up to 25 percent cuts in defense spending. Richmond is in good shape, but the other two are living in La La land. And to think someone once told me Virginia could never join the Rust Belt.

  3. E M Risse Avatar

    Jim Bacon:

    A grain of salt is a good idea.

    What is the timeframe of the consumtion data?

    Recessions / Depressions drive down energy price (e.g. oil) and energy consumption.

    What Kaine, et. al. need to do is to take advantage of the lull in demand to achive a sustainable trajectory for consumption.

    As you know for past discussion the grid capacity problem is only a problem if one assumes continued unsustaianable generation / consumption patterns.

    EMR

  4. “…the grid capacity problem is only a problem if one assumes continued unsustaianable generation / consumption patterns.”

    In other words, not having enough capacity to prevent blackouts isn’t a problem if you just do without.

    Brilliant.

    RH

  5. Stock Tip: Home backup generating units and a company called Hyperion Power Generation.

    I predict that the most popular backup units will run off of natural gas or propane directly off the underground pipe or with 330 gallon tanks.

    it won’t take but several fried electronic devices to send people scurrying for “reliable” alternatives.

    longer term:

    http://www.hyperionpowergeneration.com/

    Clean – Safe – Affordable – Reliable (there’s that word again).

    at last – we arrive at the point where we pay for our location specific costs for electricity.

    Then of course, companies like Dominion might actually treat all of those individual backup power units – as a giant network of “dispatch” (on demand) power …

    What role “conservation” will play in all of this – seeing how we typically use about twice as much as most other developed countries… may well depend on rate increases.

    California and New York ( and Europe) have proven that if electricity gets more expensive that conservation “happens”.

    But I do suspect that the industry mouthpiece and Dominion would really prefer to build more coal plants and sell more electricity… so this latest Salvo comes with some suspicious timing; their industry-friendly administration is gone…

    and … the EPA just ruled (after they were ordered by the courts) that coal plants must consider carbon dioxide as a pollutant…

    Maybe we are about to find out if “Clean Coal” is real or an oxymoron….

    you know the old adage – “change brings opportunities”

    and apparently the country just voted for change….so there you go..

  6. …”..Fort Belvoir is expected to undergo more than $4 billion worth of construction that will create more office space than exists at the Pentagon.”

    Now here’s a headline that you will not see:

    ” DOD calls off Belvoir expansion – not enough electricity “

  7. “Stock Tip: Home backup generating units and a company called Hyperion Power Generation.”

    Yep, home cogeneration units could make vastly expensive and complicated or complex mass generation uneconomic.

    —————————

    “California and New York ( and Europe) have proven that if electricity gets more expensive that conservation “happens”.”

    Yeah right. Now look at their economies. Californians are fleeing in droves, whichis one reason they have among the highest forclosure rates.

    ————————

    “the EPA just ruled (after they were ordered by the courts) that coal plants must consider carbon dioxide as a pollutant…”

    Where do you suppose that leads? Those home generation units will also be polluters, next you need an air pollution permit to install one.

    Or breathe, for that matter.

    So here we have a situation where burning carbon to produce CO2 is considered pollution. But you have to burn BOTH Carbon and Oxygen to do this. But, you have to BUY carbon from the people that produce it.

    You don’t have to BUY oxygen from the people who produce it. In fact, we pretty much enslave people so that the have to give it to us for free.

    So what we have is a situation where people who think they have absolute claim to the oxygen are complaining because some “other people” (power companies, in particular, at this time) are using it to create something we don’t want: CO2.

    Which they sell to all of us who “own” the “environment” in the form of clean, non-polluting electricity. We claim the power compaies are causing an externality, menwhile, we also claim ownership of the oxygen, yet we pay nothing like what it costs to re-create that oxygen from CO2. And we don’t see the market failure externality in that.

    Who knows, maybe we will get some change after all.

    RH

  8. re: California’s economy

    FYI – (so now you know the truth)

    “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.

    According to The World Factbook published by the CIA, if California were an independent state, it would have had the tenth largest economy in the world in 2007.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_California

    re: home backup power

    RH – they’d use natural gas or propane – you know the fuel they use for lower polluting vehicles and indoor fork-lifts.

    re… “..Which they sell to all of us who “own” the “environment” in the form of clean, non-polluting electricity. “

    gee RH.. if electricity produced by burning coal was “clean and non-polluting” then why all the complaining about oxygen and pollution restrictions?

    I’m still amazed about the logic that essentially – people’s right to clean air is subordinate to other people’s “right” to pollute clean air.

    I think what we might be able to agree on (perhaps) is that we agree – as a society – with an elected government – to allow certain levels of pollution but with the proviso that what is allowed is not static and unchangeable.

    That.. essentially, the Government represents ALL citizens in this regard and they balance the two?

  9. Anonymous Avatar

    Jim,
    Nearly 30 years ago, back in 1979, I was a reporter on The Virginian-Pilot covering Vepco, now Dominion. At that time, Vepco’s North Anna and Surry nuclear plants were having serious problems and Vepco was being accused of mismanaging their operation.
    The nukes’ reliability got so bad that Vepco’s service area was marked by the Department of Energy as one in the country likely to have brownwouts.
    So, t’ain’t new, just that Vepco is pushing the idea today — they hated it 30 years ago.

    Peter Galuszka

  10. Anonymous Avatar

    “The economy of California is a dominant force in the economy of the United States, …”

    Yes it is. It is also shrinking faster than any of its neighbors in the Northwest and West.

    RH

  11. Anonymous Avatar

    “RH – they’d use natural gas or propane – you know the fuel they use for lower polluting vehicles and indoor fork-lifts.”

    Yes, I know all about that. But home generators are so much less efficient than industrial ones that they will use much more fuel – even if it is (somewhat) less polluting. The real gain comes from capturing that waste heat and using it for heating water and space, and even using it for cooling, in some applications.

    You fire up a normal home generator for a week and it will burn fuel equal to your electric bill for a month.

    RH

  12. Anonymous Avatar

    “…if electricity produced by burning coal was “clean and non-polluting” then why all the complaining about oxygen and pollution restrictions?”

    All I’m saying is that we are making an assymetrical argument. We want to charge people who burn carbon, but we don’t want to pay people who reverse the process. We just force them to do it for us, through land use restrictions, which we openly admit are there to protect our “qality of life”.

    RH

  13. Anonymous Avatar

    “I’m still amazed about the logic that essentially – people’s right to clean air is subordinate to other people’s “right” to pollute clean air.”

    That is not my argument, and you know it. My argument is that the right is exactly equal. Everyone gets the same amount of air to use. whether they breate it or burn it is chemically the same. If they (power companies) want to pollute more than their share, then they need to buy more from someone.

    Then, the market will determine what people think their “rights”, meaning property rights to air, are worth. No one will be able to claim that theirs is subordinate to someone elses, becuase they can claim whater price they think it is worth. But, they can;t complain if someone else sell for less.

    They wiol still have the right to claim a superior price (more valuable rights) to THEIR share of the air, but they won’t have the right to claim superior rights for EVERYONE, whether they agree or not.

    Now, the people who will be ABLE to sell oxygen rights (without wich carbon rights are worthless) will be the ones who produce more than they use. Probably, those will not be people who live in an urban apartment.

    RH

  14. I think part of your logic problems stem from the idea that a person’s “share” of oxygen – they are free to do with it as they please.

    And that’s simply not true.

    Your “use” is contingent on you not degrading it – without permit – without permission from those who would be impacted by your “use” (degradation) of the air.

    This goes right back to your idea that we have an inherent right to pollute – and we clearly do not.

    Your “right” to “use” air (and water) is restricted and how much you are allowed to degrade it is not your decision but the decision of government – who is representing others who need air and water.

    You don’t have any more rights to air and water for ANY purpose … any more or less than others do.

    There are not two classes of property owners – one that needs air for breathing and another that needs it to discard pollutants into it.

    What we are entitled to – is air that is not polluted or.. is polluted only to the point that people agree is acceptable.

    It’s never the determination of the person who “thinks” he has a certain “right” to pollute.

    According to you – a next door neighbor would have a “right” to pollute the air and his neighbors would have no choice but to breath that pollution or.. essentially pay him blackmail to not pollute.

    In that kind of environment – any/all people of nefarious character would simply threaten to pollute unless people would pay them not to.

    In fact it has a name – Greenmail.

  15. Anonymous Avatar

    “I think part of your logic problems …”

    It isn’t my logic. This is conventional wisdom distilled from the fields of systems engineering and environmental and engineering economics.

    Most of it is published as official policy of the U.S. government, althought the policy is often observed as much in the breach as in the practice.

    RH

  16. Anonymous Avatar

    “idea that a person’s “share” of oxygen – they are free to do with it as they please.

    And that’s simply not true.”

    You are claiming a superior property right: the right to control someone elses property as well as yours.

    Anyway, what possible way is ther to use oxygen without degrading it? What you are asking for is simply impossible. You may not agree with how someone elseuses their oxygen. You may think it is worth more clean than they do. And you are free to create a green cartel and buy up as much of it as you wish.

    But now YOU have to bear the risk and expense of promoting YOUR vision of what clean air should be, instead of simply making an unsubstantiated superior claim.

    RH

  17. Anonymous Avatar

    “idea that a person’s “share” of oxygen – they are free to do with it as they please.

    And that’s simply not true.”

    You are claiming a superior property right: the right to control someone elses property as well as yours.

    Anyway, what possible way is ther to use oxygen without degrading it? What you are asking for is simply impossible. You may not agree with how someone elseuses their oxygen. You may think it is worth more clean than they do. And you are free to create a green cartel and buy up as much of it as you wish.

    But now YOU have to bear the risk and expense of promoting YOUR vision of what clean air should be, instead of simply making an unsubstantiated superior claim.

    RH

  18. Anonymous Avatar

    or.. is polluted only to the point that people agree is acceptable.the way you agree on what is acceptable is have a free market and trade acceptability in dollars.

    Otherwise, anyone is free to make a claim on what they think is acceptable agianst what is in fact someone elses’s property, a situation you claim no one has a right to.

    RH

  19. Anonymous Avatar

    or.. essentially pay him blackmail to not pollute.

    No, they are paying the market price for air. It has nothing to do with blackmail. In fact, they are free to raise the price by withholding what they have to offer.

    But the real point is that charging people to polllute is only have the problem: in order to be fair, equitable, and sustainable, that plan means you should also be willing to PAY those people who provide the facilities to reverse the process.

    The envronment is not free, and it is not owned or provided for in equal shares. It has to be owned and paid for by people, in order to guarantee that it is well taken care of. The greens just want to socialize it, which will pretty much guarantee a tragedy of the commons.

    RH

  20. Anonymous Avatar

    “all people of nefarious character would simply threaten to pollute unless people would pay them not to.”

    Such a threat would be meaningless. Threats are not pollution. In order to pollute, they would have to buy air rights – from someone, at some price.

    Two things would happen: As the air got dirtier people would be less inclined to sell their rights, and the price would go up. That money could be used to pay more people to plant crops to reverse the process.

    The other thing would be that some people claim a high value, even an infinite one for air rights, saying there is “no right” to pollute. They would have to confront the fact that not everyone shares their “values”. They could raise money and spend it on “education” (advertising about the value of air, they can riase the price by withholding their share (and probably watch the price of their electricity skyrocket as air gets cleaner and cleaner).

    But in the end, the market would decide what the best mix of prices, goods, services, and air quality should be. and that price would be very near the net social optimum.

    RH

  21. Anonymous Avatar

    I think the question here is whether there is a network based system of small generation capacity that can be both more efficient than huge central systems, and more reliable and cheaper, environmental cleanliness considered.

    My suggestion is – maybe. Big generator sets have a huge efficiency advantage, but they waste virtually all the remaining heat.

    Local cogeneration does not burn as efficiently, so it polllutes more on a generation basis, but it may also replace other fuels used for heating, as a byproduct.

    Then you have a much more complicated network to manage.

    It could work, but it won’t be easy or cheap. It will take careful analysis, and a long time to implement.

    By which time we could have blackouts. If that happens, the power companies and the greenies will get the blame. It will take the greenies a long time to recover their credibility.

    RH

  22. “You are claiming a superior property right: the right to control someone elses property as well as yours.

    Anyway, what possible way is ther to use oxygen without degrading it? “

    the stuff that comes out of a smokestack is not oxygen and no one – has a “superior” right with regard to sending stuff up a smokestack than can be harmful to others.

    Otherwise – if it was not harmful … why build a smokestack?

    You’re equating oxygen and the use of it to emissions of harmful substances from land you own onto land that you do not own.

    and you’re claiming that the person who owns the land that your pollution ends up on – has no “right” to not accept it.

    My Boy. You are reading too many blogs …”under the influence”… I know not what exactly .. but clearly under the influence.

  23. re: “No, they are paying the market price for air.”

    only if you are daft enough to think that “air” includes stuff like mercury and other nasty toxins…

  24. re: “..In order to pollute, they would have to buy air rights – from someone, at some price.”

    On what planet Ray?

    In order to pollute – you must get a permit and the entity that grants you the permit decides what you can (and cannot) pollute and in what quantities – all of which is tied to the threat it poses to others.

  25. Anonymous Avatar

    The stuff that comes out of a smokestack requires both carbon and oxygen to happen. If you burn natural gas you get less CO2 per BTU and more H20, but water vapor is a greenhouse gas, too.

    By taxing or otherwise penalizing CO2 and other pollution we are only addressing half of the problem. You MUST burn oxygen to get CO2. You must Buy the carbon, and you must buy the pollution permit, but you get the oxygen for free.

    Why is that?

    RH

  26. Anonymous Avatar

    One reason you build a smokestack is to increase the draft which provides superior combustion. Another reason is toprovide dilution, which IS one solution to pollution.

    RH

  27. Anonymous Avatar

    “you’re claiming that the person who owns the land that your pollution ends up on – has no “right” to not accept it.”

    He has no right to set the price of pollution for everyone. He has no right to demand that the price of pollution be set artificially high.

    He has the right to refuse the use of his quantum of air, but not that of everyone else. He has the right to form a cartel to raise the price, if he can get enough members. Likewise, he has the right to go buy up all the coal stocks and prevent pollution that way.

    He will have the same problems as any other cartel that demands unreasonable prices. Eventually some members defect.

    What he doesn’t have is the right (or even the remotest possibility) to get all of what he wants for free. He WILL pay a price, whether he recognizes it or not. My plan makes the price transparent, and freely negotiated.

    RH

  28. Anonymous Avatar

    “only if you are daft enough to think that “air” includes stuff like mercury and other nasty toxins…”

    You are deliberately misreading me. I said air when it was obvious from previous comments that what I meant was oxygen. My farm produces hundreds of tons of oxygen every year. More even than my other farm products. It is reverse converted from CO2 inthe air.

    If we are going to charge people who produce CO2 then why not pay those that reduce it?

  29. “On what planet Ray?

    In order to pollute – you must get a permit and the entity that grants you the permit decides what you can (and cannot) pollute and in what quantities – all of which is tied to the threat it poses to others.”

    How about on our planet?

    The government decides how much pollution is allowabale and the government collects money for the permits and money for violation of them. That is our money, and presumably we get paid in the form of lower taxes on something else, equal to what the government collects for the pollution we endure.

    The government also auctions off debt, and they set the amount “needed”. If you don’t think the government should borrow, you don;t have to participate in the auction, andthis raises the price the government must pay. But you still don’t get your wishes (no borrowing / pollution) for free, because the higher cost of borrowing affects the cost services you get from the government / polluter.

    We can auction off pollution rights the same way we do debt, withthe government setting the amount needed, but us setting the price.

    In order to pollute you need carbon, which you can buy on the market,and oxygen which belongs to all of us. In order to pollute the polluter would have to find someone willing to sell their oxygen. Some people manufacture oxygen throught he plants on their land, and they would have more oxyen rights to sell. (By your reckoning they would suffer the most damage from the pollution falling on their land, so this is fair.)

    They would recverse auction their rights, and the polluters would buy them up from the lowet price to the highest, until their permit limit is met, or until it is not economic.

    Exact same way it happens with government debt.

    We are already selling and getting the benefit from pollution and carbon taxes. But that is only half the equation. To make it fair we should pay those that reverse the process, and the action is one way to do it.

    We are already getting paid (indiectly) for the pollution we endure (from some sites).

    All I’m suggeting is that we follow this practice to its logical conclusion. Make it more open, more transparent, and more fair.

    The government would have a website where they advertise the costs of pollution and the allowable amounts and locations, allong with the going rate for oxygen credits.

    Just like they do with debt.

    If you choose not to sell your credits, it will raise the price, and also the price you pay for electricity, etc.

    It is all open and transparent and freely traded, and then there can be no argument about what pollution, pollution damge, or pollution prevention, is “worth”.

    RH

  30. re: ” .He has no right to set the price of pollution for everyone. He has no right to demand that the price of pollution be set artificially high. “

    does he have the right to say he does not want it – at any price?

  31. re: “He has the right to refuse the use of his quantum of air, but not that of everyone else.”

    how do you measure what “his quantum” of air is?

  32. re: “If we are going to charge people who produce CO2 then why not pay those that reduce it?”

    you’re confusing two entirely separate things.

    The first is pollution and whether or not someone has a right to pollute.

    The second is if someone is producing – on purpose – something that is considered beneficial.

    Owning vacant land and claiming that the trees on it “create” oxygen is little different than claiming that because a river runs through your property that you are “providing” clean water to the people downstream.

  33. re: “The government decides how much pollution is allowabale and the government collects money for the permits and money for violation of them. That is our money, and presumably we get paid in the form of lower taxes on something else, equal to what the government collects for the pollution we endure.”

    The “government” guy.. is other “property owners” … keep that in mind…

    And no… when you get a permit you do not “pay” for pollution.

    If you stay within your permit no money, no financial transaction is involved.

    Bring fines into it – which are penalties and sanctions for violating the permit – to imply that such fines are “paying to pollute” is either intellectually confusing or dishonest.

    The bottom line is that we do not “pay to pollute”.

    There is no cost schedule for various kinds of pollution.

    There is no Chinese menu where someone can say ” I can pollute this much for this amount of money”.

  34. re: “In order to pollute the polluter would have to find someone willing to sell their oxygen.”

    so… 1/2 the people downstream from a smokestack “sell” their oxygen but the other 1/2 do not and yet their “share” of the oxygen now is polluted.

    How does that work?

  35. this is truly bizarre

    “…Just like they do with debt.”

    Ray..debt is specific to an individual or entity…

    it is “contained”…

    the people around a debtor do not suffer from his debts…

    your “idea” about people selling their “share” of oxygen is laughable.

    How do you measure who owns what?

    How do you contain pollution so that it only pollutes the air of the folks who got paid in exchange for letting it be polluted?

    What happens when the polluted air leaves their property and blows onto the next property and the owners did not sell their “share” and don’t want it – at any price?

    All of this Ray goes back to one fundamental fact.

    And that is – you are not entitled to generate pollution on your property that will then end up on other people’s property who do not want it.

    When you are talking about polluting air and water – there is no way to “negotiate” with all of those who are impacted much less gain 100% concurrence to agree to sell “their share”.

    You think an electric company can buy up credits to pollute but who are they buying them from and are ALL of the affected folks agreeing to the transaction – quid-pro-quo, willing buyer?

    If not – then what you are proposing is to FORCE people who do not want the pollution to accept it – and to accept it at a price that someone else sets.

    How would you justify taking away other property owners “rights” in this way?

    Isn’t that what you are essentially proposing?

    You.. the property rights guy .. are advocating taking away property rights from folks who do not want to sell them.

    Right?

  36. “And that is – you are not entitled to generate pollution on your property that will then end up on other people’s property who do not want it.”

    In other words, any one person who owns property could theoretically demand an utterly pristine environment and be entitled to shut down every source of pollution anywhere.

    That’s pretty realistic.

    And of course it won’t affect anyone else’s property beyond their boundaries, which they have no right to do.

    Your premise is at once false, impossible, and self conflicting. No one is entitled to demand compensation greater than the damage sustained, except in rare cases of trebel damages, explicitly mandated n advance. By extension no one is entitled to demand mitigation that costs more than it is worth.

    That much is even written into the environmental law, whether you choose to beleive it or not. “No person or group should bear undue costs of the introduction, application, enforcement or lack of enforcement of environmental regulations.”

    That is waht the law says, and your premis is contrary.

    RH

  37. “then what you are proposing is to FORCE people who do not want the pollution to accept it – and to accept it at a price that someone else sets.”

    What it does is forces them to recognize that THEY or any one person, don’t get to set the price. THEY are not allowed to claim superior property rights, or infinite costs to mitigate minimal damages.

    The market sets the price. The government still sets the maximum allotment. This is exactly what is hapening in the cap and trade market for CO2, but that model is incomplete. It logically needs to apply to BOTH the use of carbon AND the use of oxygen.

    By your argument, such people are now being unfairly subsidized, and there is no reason not to remove such a subsidy. They have no right to complain AND my plan will invariably lead to a higher net social value.

    RH

  38. “there is no way to “negotiate” with all of those who are impacted much less gain 100% concurrence to agree to sell “their share”.”

    Of cousre there is. They don;t have to agree to sell their share, but they also don;t get to control anyone else’s share. If they refuse to sell, then they have done all they can do to raise the price. Or they can go buy a bunch of land and plant it, and refuse to sell their new increased oxygen rights, therby raising the price some more.

    Those activities, if widespread, will have the effect of raising the cost of (their own and everyone elses) electricity.

    Presumably to the point that clean renewables make sense. But the difference is that now, under this plan, those that support renewables will have to pay the price, while those that don’t contnue to sell their shares at the market rate.

    What this does is provide a level playing field where only those actions that make economic AND environmental sense are rewarded.

    You are still stuck in the pardigm where some have superior property rights to others, and more environmental action always makes sense.

    Neither of these is the case in fact or even possibility.

    RH

  39. “There is no cost schedule for various kinds of pollution.”

    You are dead wrong on this. There absolutely is. Always.

    You would have to have SOME basis for imposing a pollution control, some harm has to happen, or you wouldn’t control the pollution: you wouldn’t even call it pollution.

    So based on some presumptive harm, you impose a pollution control cost. And now the price of the harm or the polllution is equal to the amount the harm is reduced divided by the cost of reduction. It goes right back to the total cost equation.

    We might not know what the cost is, but whose fault is that? My position is that we need to work harder to find out, instead of making very expensive assumptions that amount to an assault on someone else’s property.

    Keep it up, you are winning my argument for me.

    RH

  40. “so… 1/2 the people downstream from a smokestack “sell” their oxygen but the other 1/2 do not and yet their “share” of the oxygen now is polluted.”

    Nope. Their share of oxygen is still unused and still pure oxygen oxygen.

    It might be kind of hard to find and label it, like we do with real estate, but don’t confuse fungibility with ownership. You own stock, if a bunch of other sell their stock, your price goes down, too, but as long as you don’t sell, it is still your stock.

    Same idea here. And, if enough people buy and hold, they can drive the price back up. But now they have to pay the price of “holding”. If you are right about who wants what, then you don’t need to worry.

    It IS a fair deal, even though you refuse to see it.

    RH

  41. “debt is specific to an individual or entity…

    it is “contained”…”

    No it isn’t. It is bought ans sold on the open market. And I’m talking about T-bill auctions which is public debt we ALL own, whether we participate in the AUCTIONS or not.

    How is that contained in any way?

    RH

  42. re: “In other words, any one person who owns property could theoretically demand an utterly pristine environment and be entitled to shut down every source of pollution anywhere.”

    If it is their property right – are they not entitled to that right no matter what their reason?

    Are or you saying that they can be forced to sell even if they don’t want to?

  43. re: “And of course it won’t affect anyone else’s property beyond their boundaries, which they have no right to do.”

    so you are admitting that there is no practical way to divide up the “shares”?

  44. re: “no one is entitled to demand compensation greater than the damage sustained, “

    are they not entitled to refuse to sell and therefore reject the compensation offer?

    If they have the property right, isn’t it up to them to decide what the damage is worth to them?

  45. re: “That much is even written into the environmental law, whether you choose to beleive it or not. “No person or group should bear undue costs of the introduction, application, enforcement or lack of enforcement of environmental regulations.”

    That is waht the law says, and your premis is contrary.”

    can you cite the law that says this?

  46. re: “THEY are not allowed to claim superior property rights, or infinite costs to mitigate minimal damages.”

    they’re not allowed to assert the property rights that they do have to not have to accept damage that they do not want on THEIR property?

    What part of your property rights philosophy allows you to decide what “superior” property right are or are not for other property owners?

  47. re: “Of cousre there is. They don;t have to agree to sell their share, but they also don;t get to control anyone else’s share. If they refuse to sell, then they have done all they can do to raise the price. “

    so.. if they don’t sell ..then they still will have their property polluted?

    On what basis would you be allowed to do this?

    I thought the property owner always had the right to not sell unless he got the price he wanted…

  48. re: “The market sets the price. “

    the market sets the VALUE.

    You don’t have to sell if you don’t think the deal is good for you.

  49. re: "There is no cost schedule for various kinds of pollution."

    You are dead wrong on this. There absolutely is. Always.

    You would have to have SOME basis for imposing a pollution control, some harm has to happen, or you wouldn't control the pollution: you wouldn't even call it pollution.

    So based on some presumptive harm, you impose a pollution control cost. And now the price of the harm or the polllution is equal to the amount the harm is reduced divided by the cost of reduction. It goes right back to the total cost equation.

    We might not know what the cost is, but whose fault is that? My position is that we need to work harder to find out, instead of making very expensive assumptions that amount to an assault on someone else's property."

    Tell me again ..what the going price is for someone to pollute kepone … or any other substance….

    where is that schedule of costs?

    who pays the money and who do they pay it to?

    Are you saying that if I refuse to sell my property – that it is harming you and that I have no choice but to sell my property because you have decided what it is worth and that's what I'm going to get whether I want to sell or not?

    Give me an example of someone who was forced to accept payment for pollution of their property BEFORE it was polluted.

    Tell me who gets the cash payments from a cap & trade system.

    do the folks around the power plant get cash payments for the additional pollution?

  50. re: ” ….Presumably to the point that clean renewables make sense. But the difference is that now, under this plan, those that support renewables will have to pay the price, while those that don’t contnue to sell their shares at the market rate.”

    huh?

    say that again. Who is getting cash for the pollution and who is not?

    I don’t recall getting a check in the mail for my share…

  51. We all own the environment. We all own an equal share of oxygen to use as we please. If you wish to pollute you must buy both carbon AND oxygen, but you cannot ppollute more than the government allows (based on capacity, potential for irreversibel damage, health issues, or whatever.)

    If you want to hve cleaner air, you can withhold your share of oxygen from the market. This will raise the price of pollutin and caus there to be less of it.

    But YOU have to bear the (opportunity) cost of not selling your share of oxygen. Now you DO have full rights to expres your opinion and control your property rights.

    But you only have rights to your property and they end where your property ends.

    I believe that is YOUR argument.

    RH

  52. You will get a check in the mail for your share, when you sell your oxygen to a polluter. Someone else my offer their share at a lower price, in which case you are out of luck, just as I am with my hay.

    RH

  53. “Tell me again ..what the going price is for someone to pollute kepone … or any other substance….

    where is that schedule of costs?

    who pays the money and who do they pay it to?”

    Kepone is verboten, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a cost.

    EPA figures a statistical human life at $5.5 million. If you propose a pollution abatement plan that you can show will statistically save 1000 lives, then EPA will approve it if the plan costs less than $55 million a year.

    If you plan costs $65 million and saves 1000 lives then you are claiming the lives you save are worth $6.5 million. You are claiming superior property rights for them (whoever they are) at the expense of someone who might have been saved for less.

    That settles the problem of net social benefit. EPA figures pollution abatement is worth $5.5 million perlife saved.

    But now you need to deal with Kaldor hicks efficiency, meaning the winner have to pay off the losers, before a net socila benefit becomes net socially efficient – and fair.

    To use your congestion pricing argument, those whose lives are saved ought to bear the cost of this new regulation imposed on others for their benefit.

    RH

  54. re: “We all own an equal share of oxygen to use as we please.”

    No we don’t

    Show me where it says this.

    This is absolutely nothing in a Government permit that says anything at all about “shares”.

    You’re as bad as this guy Paulson.. flying by the seat of his pants.. making things up as he goes along…

    re: ” EPA figures a statistical human life at $5.5 million. If you propose a pollution abatement plan that you can show will statistically save 1000 lives, then EPA will approve it if the plan costs less than $55 million a year.”

    bullfeathers.

    none of this is involved in any permit that I’ve seen…

    where do you get this stuff from?

    don’t tell me.. that Environmental Economics ROT…

    re: ” But YOU have to bear the (opportunity) cost of not selling your share of oxygen.”

    BLATHER ALERT!

    where in the permitting process does it mention the “opportunity cost” that those affected by the pollution will suffer?

    re: ” ..the winner have to pay off the losers, before a net socila benefit becomes net socially efficient – and fair.”

    yes.. I read about this in the paper all the time….. NOT!

    where do you get this stuff?

    From now on.. you only get ONE glass of wine before you BLOG.

    re: ” ..Kepone is verboten, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a cost.”

    okay.. pick another.. how about mercury…

    where is the cost schedule for mercury?

    I know now why you farm.

    BS.

    yup.. you’re thoroughly schooled in it.. all kinds.. shapes.. textures…

    Here’s what I like to see.

    An EMR settlement pattern with RH pollution and economic rules..

    We’d call it the Alice in Wonderland Effect.

    ๐Ÿ˜‰

  55. Cromagnum Avatar

    On the electrical question

    There are several issues that the article fails to address

    1) Peak demand for electricity is during the day in the summer. The AC needs it. Capacity in those 3-4 months is the limited supply factor

    2) Peak demand can be offset through energy storage, alternative home based production, and conservation measures like sealing/insulating ducts and using radiant barriers to reduce the thermal load on the house.

    3) The latent need for consumers to make thier own electricty. Yeah that cuts the umbilical cord to the big electric company and all.

  56. the most obvious thing that could be done for peak power for AC would be to have the ability to automatically cut back on power for stuff not needed at peak or ..and/or to defer it to outside of peak hour.

    Water Heaters are a good place to start.

    Better.. IMHO.. would be to give each user the ability to decide what they want to cut back on – and to give them a discount if they cut back during peak hour.

    another win-win would be for the utility to be able to access a home backup-system to essentially use them as a network of “peaker” plants and to again..give the owner a discount on their rates during the time that the utility turns their backup unit on to supplement the grid.

    then .. I predict.. someone is going to start looking into home “hybrid” systems where solar is the base power and the backup unit provides additional when needed OR takes it off the grid if it is available.

    This is part and parcel to what is being referred to as “Smart Grid” technology… because it allows monitoring and control of devices that consumer and provide power – when the need requires it.

    I don’t think folks should be forced to accept it but I do think it should be approved to be offered.. and with it..incentives.. to switch especially at the point ..where rate increases for new plants are involved.

    Give folks the option of higher rates for new plants.. or a smart grid and ways to do common-sense conservation.

  57. Fred Costello Avatar
    Fred Costello

    There is an excellent article on the energy crisis at: http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=8481
    Don’t be fooled by “catholic” in the address. Nothing in the article is about religion. The site manager just thought the article was good. As an energy consultant, I agree.

  58. “re: “We all own an equal share of oxygen to use as we please.”

    No we don’t “

    You are right, of course.

    All of my comments were prefaced on my understanding of what is increasingly becoming a common mode of thought, as in “We need to protect our environment and our natural capital.”

    Well, if it is ours, then we must own it, and share that ownership it somehow. Otherwise, without that premise thee is no need to protect “our” enviornment, since it isn’t ours.

    I recognize that actual ownership is not now the case, but we can think of many things that were historically not owned but became owned when they were valuable enough.

    Like Western grazing lands, privatized through the result of the range wars.

    WE already tax carbon usage, or have markets in trading permits for carbon use.

    You can’t use carbon without using oxygen, so oxygen is just as important as carbon. We already have web sites and organizations that allow you to voluntarily “buy back” you r carbon footprint by paying for green infrastructure to reverse the process.

    Yeah, my projections are alice in wonderland right now, but they are also a logical projection of where I think current trends and beliefs have to lead us, if we are not to become the moral equivalent of environmental pirates.

    Surely if we are going to charge people for making CO2 then we should be willing to pay those that destroy it. Anything else is hypocrisy.

    RH

  59. “bullfeathers.

    none of this is involved in any permit that I’ve seen…

    where do you get this stuff from?”

    Actually it comes from EPA websites, NOAA Websites, and GAO Websites. It is actual government policy, we just don’t always do it well.

    This is real stuff, and if you don’t think it is actually used in setting regulations and permits, then you need to look closer.

    Why do you suppose that environmental groups SUED EPA when the SVL was recently lowered?

    Because they knew that it would loosen their grip on other peoples pocketbooks: they coudn’t justify invading other peoples property rights to promote their agenda under this new policy for justifying expenditures.

    They didn’t care what is best and most equal: they wanted to promote their agenda at any cost. Naturally, this includes environmental costs, so their actions in suing are the height of environmental hypocrisy performed in the name of the public good.

    There are plenty of studies out there. If they want to fund one and throw it in the mix, submit it as comment, or whatever, that is there right. If they truly feel aggrieved, it is also their right to sue.

    Based on the evidence, I think they are wrong. I think suing over this makes them look bad, so don’t bother coming to me asking for donations or support.

    Expect the value to go back up, under the new administration. Then what you have is a political football, masquerading as sensible policy.

    RH

  60. “another win-win would be for the utility to be able to access a home backup-system to essentially use them as a network of “peaker” plants and to again”

    We do not know if that would be a win win. those home plants may b so inefficient compared to the major plants that we would be crazy to do it, even if we had the technology.

    My generator only runs for a few hours. Who is going to come (onto my property in the middle of the night), to put fuel in it? who is going to pay me for providing the generator, the maintenance, and the fuel?

    YIKES I hade simple minded “answers”.

    don;t you suppose those enginees build those huge plants for a reason? If a distributed network could make them more money they wouldn’t have thought of it?

    RH

  61. “It is well to remember that a shortage of energy is a minor inconvenience to us, but for people in poorer countries it is a matter of life and death. “

    Thank you for the cite, Fred.

    This is PRECISELY the point I have been trying to make to Larry. All this blue sky stuff really does boil down to life and death for SOMEONE, SOMEWERE.

    RH

  62. “…it is better to have approximate numbers rather than no numbers at all. It is important to distinguish between precise measurements, reasonable estimates, guesses, commercial or political propaganda, and speculations. The speculations can be plausible and in accord with known scientific laws, or in contradiction to such laws. “

    EXCELLENT!

    Economics obey the laws of physics. We need better and more transparent accounting.

    RH

  63. re: “http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=8481”

    a good job.. I don’t agree with some of it..but I did not see any conclusions or recommendations… did I miss them?

    also.. I would expect a slightly different take on this issue from a religious perspective.. agree?

  64. re: “All of my comments were prefaced on my understanding of what is increasingly becoming a common mode of thought, as in “We need to protect our environment and our natural capital.””

    no.. you are proposing a different way of doing things that has so many fatal flaws and impractical methods as to be not realistic at all…

    you’re essentially saying the same thing that EMR is saying…that there needs to be a centralized “decider”… who makes the calls that you think should be made.. instead of the way they are currently done.

    Agree?

  65. re: “Actually it comes from EPA websites, NOAA Websites, and GAO Websites. It is actual government policy, we just don’t always do it well.

    This is real stuff, and if you don’t think it is actually”

    Ray… my friend.. you have taken a bunch of stuff.. out of context.. and weaved it into something out of whole cloth…to fit your worldview of how you would do things if you were KING.

    It’s NOT real stuff in terms of how we actually do policy right now.. and it probably never will be.

    What you refuse to accept is the fundamental premise behind virtually ALL of the policies is that as an individual.. you do not…have the inherent right to pollute….

    from that point on..EVERYTHING is a permit.. and we have a well-defined process for permits and none of what you are saying has anything at all to do with the way permits is done…

    that’s why I say BULLFEATHERs.

  66. re: “My generator only runs for a few hours. Who is going to come (onto my property in the middle of the night), to put fuel in it? who is going to pay me for providing the generator, the maintenance, and the fuel?”

    If you are using gasoline or diesel then yes.. and Ray..if you are.. they are heavy polluters to boot..

    but if you are using natural gas or propane… natural gas is continuous.. and propane.. can be used from 300 gallon tanks (I have one)… and they’ll last 24/7 for several days…

  67. re: “don;t you suppose those enginees build those huge plants for a reason? If a distributed network could make them more money they wouldn’t have thought of it?”

    because those plants and the current grid were done before the advent of computer and software technology…

    and the problem has always been and continues to be.. how do we migrate to the newer technologies when we have such a large existing investment in the older ones.

    It’s simply cheaper and easier to build what you’ve always built… “cheaper” being a term that has issues…

  68. re: “This is PRECISELY the point I have been trying to make to Larry. All this blue sky stuff really does boil down to life and death for SOMEONE, SOMEWERE.”

    except you’re totally wrong RH.

    The point of the article was that if we CONTINUE to do what we are doing now.. and more and more of the world does what we are currently doing..without changes…that we are headed for disaster.

    We absolutely must find ways to accomplish what we now accomplish by using less energy.

    And we DO KNOW that we CAN do this as we already have made significant reductions just by building more energy efficient machines…

    It is actual vital that we move forward on finding ways that we..and the rest of the world can generate “enough” energy without destroying civilization.

  69. re:"Economics obey the laws of physics. We need better and more transparent accounting."

    why? so we can change and let everyone have the right to pollute?

    You can have all the transparent accounting in the world… but you can't change the fact that kepone in a river is unacceptable no matter how tiny the "shares" are.

    You need to accept the reason why Kepone is not allowed ..as well as why other substances are also outlawed …or restricted.. or can be.. in the future…

    you want transparency & accountability?

    Start Here – the "system" is not static.

    The "system" is not as well understood as it will be ..and as more information is gathered .. we may have to make more changes…

    and that includes.. things like deciding that we cannot do what we've always done and assumed it was okay.. – like pretending prescription drugs in sewage is not a problem…

    once we know it IS a problem.. we may have to make more changes…

    and we will…

    that's the reality…

  70. Geez, will you two get a motel room already? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Ray, I hear and understand your issue with letting the federal gov’t run a cap and trade system. However, I do not believe the problem of pollution can be solved by the free market.

    Clean air is not an issue of property rights; clean air is a human right. How will that basic human right be guaranteed when those who do not own property are unrepresented? Can you see any parallels between the “free market” for clean air and the “free market” for mortgage securities? How many jackasses do you think would sell their “clean air” to polluters at a lower cost, or figure out a way to steal “clean air” from others to sell? Securitization does not solve any problem without creating three more in its place. It’s a shell game that is too often manipulated by a few strong players.

    As far as a distributed energy production system… I’ve ranted that rant before. You can only speculate about the efficiency because it has never been tried on a large scale. You are looking at overall cost of production, but ignoring benefits like stability and competition between smaller nodes on a distributed grid. I believe it would work, but neither one of us has any examples to point to… I reckon I will just go out and build one so you have something else to criticize in your spare time, haha.

  71. “clean air is a human right.”

    Exactly. Air is property. Therefore clean air is a human property right, and we all own it.

    But we only own our share. Just as our land rights end at the property line, our air rights end when we have used our share. Big polluters would therefore have to buy air in order to continue polluitng.

    However, just like coal, some people also own more or less the means of production.

    People who live in apartments would have to buy air from those inthe countryside who presently pay substantial sums to produce this, and get little in return.

    To charge people for creating CO2 and not pay people for eliminating CO2 is inconsistent. It is attacking half of the problem.

    Now, the processes I am proposing are not new, they are already in place (but inconsistently). I’m merely pointing out what the logical nexus of current policies and beliefs (including the belief that air is a human right) is likely to become.

    Europe has a cap and trade. We already have programs to “buy down” our carbon footprint. All I’m suggesting is to expect more of the same.

    —————————-

    “How many jackasses do you think would sell their “clean air” to polluters at a lower cost, …”

    You assume they are jackasses.

    Lower cost than what? The price Larry would sell his for? He seems to think the value is infinite, but he would have to use some of his credits to heat his own house, wouldn’t he? Pretty soon he would have to come to terms with what is a reasonable value.

    And so would everyone else, including some starving jackass in Darfur. His value proposition might mbe a lot different, but his human rights to his air, and to do with it as he pleases is the same as Larry’s.

    So, if some polluter sends an agent to Darfur to buy air, Larry is not going to have much say in the going price (which may be negotiated in flour).

    On the other hand, polluters will have a cap, based on carrying capacity and other environmental damage. They won’t need to buy more air credits than their carbon permits allow them to use.

    They will want to do that at the lowest price. Right now they do that by moving their plants outside the U.S. But, if the caps are set for sustainability, you won’t need all the air credits. There will be a supply and demand. Users will buy the lowest price credits first. If enough people like Larry hold their credits off the market, then CO2 producers will have to pay a higher price. And as that price goes up, some people (with a lower theshold for the pain of opportunity cost than Larry) will sell.

    Eventually, we will establish a “going price” for air property rights.

    Besides, if you want your electricity at the lowest price, you will want some jackass selling air credits at the lowest price. I don’t imagine that you search for the highest price at the pump.

    ————————

    What happens when someone uses up or sells all his air credits, and can’t afford any more?

    That is the fundamental question thaat those who think we need to “use less” will have to address.

    What happens when you use up all your health care credits, and can’t afford any more?

    ———————————–

    “Securitization does not solve any problem without creating three more in its place. It’s a shell game that is too often manipulated by a few strong players.”

    OK, so the meek are not going to inherit the earth, unless they organize in such a way they can steal it from the strong.

    The question is the same. If you beleive we are on an unsustainable path, how do you pick the winners and the losers – the survivors and the diers.

    Go check out the African Savannah – that’s a natural system too. Wioth its own economy, based fundamentally on thermodynamics.

    —————————–

    “You can only speculate about the efficiency because it has never been tried on a large scale. “

    I know what the efficiency of my home enerator is, and it sucks, compared to what I can buy power for.

    It would be a lot better if I captured the waste heat, which neither most big power companies, nor most home generators do.

    You still have to invent and build a smart grid to manae it, and, proerty rights raises its ugly head. If the power company has a smart grid that can power up my generator, how do I get paid? If they screw up and shut down my greenhouse for too long, how do I get paid?

    I believe a distrtibuted grid can work. I beleive we can get to a point where we use truly substantial amounts of renewable energy.

    But it is going to be very expensive. We are fooling ourseves by paintng the kind of rosy picture Larry prefers. A clean environment is a luxury for the rich and powerful.

    I haven’t been able to rationalize how you get rich and powerful by making do with less.

    RH

  72. “you are proposing a different way of doing things that has so many fatal flaws and impractical methods as to be not realistic at all…”

    I’m suggesting a logical extension of the way we are already doing things, and according to your vision of what constitutes proerty rights: they end where your proerty ends.

    I just think we need to do a much, much, better job. So much better that it may appear unrealistic.

    I don’t think it is. I think that the thermodynamic underpinnings of the economy leave us no choice, particularly if you believe that what we are doing now is unsustainable.

    However, there is a trade off between infinitely dividing property rights and transaction costs. If you move too far towards socialism, then total costs gos up, and if you move to infinitely subdivided capitalism, then costs go up.

    It is essentially the same total cosst equation I have provided before. If we ever figure out how to unbalnce that equation, then we can have perpetual motion.

    RH

  73. “because those plants and the current grid were done before the advent of computer and software technology…”

    Computer software and technology do not make a thousand 1KW generators as efficient as a single 1MW generator.

    And then of course there are the NIMBY’s. You get a lot more of them with more generators.

    RH

  74. “why? so we can change and let everyone have the right to pollute?”

    Everyone DOES pollute. Get used to it. Rights or no rights.

    The laws of economics are fundamentally connected to the laws of thermodynamics. We cannot change those laws, they are outside our legal system.

    The laws of thermodynamics say that you cannot get something for nothing. We need better accounting to make sure we are not propagating a charade that says you can.

    RH

  75. well.. I’m taking a break from all of this for a few days of paddling… on my “share” of a river…

  76. Good. Make a contibution to all those that car for it for you.

    RH

  77. “We absolutely must find ways to accomplish what we now accomplish by using less energy.”

    If we find ways to accoplish what we do now, but with less energy, we will wind up using MORE energy because what we are doing now will be more profitable.

    In order for you rprediction to come true, we must use less energy and pay more for it. In which casw we will make less profit and everyone will be worse off.

    That’s a hard sell, when your entering argument is whatever is for the public good.

    RH

  78. Anonymous Avatar

    I have been away for a while and have missed the lg rh debates.

    So, while Larry is off paddling, here is an observation followed by a question. I live in an 1860 house which needs work (lots of lead paint), including the chimneys. The place used to have 3 flues, now just 2. So I use a kerosene stove as it is somewhat more affordable than the pirates of co op electric who never come on to my property to read the meter but just estimate my electric bill. Over the hill I have a 500 kv power line which, if I chose to,I could invest in technology to pick up the subsidiary electricity. It’s an environmental factor of power lines.

    Questions for Ray:

    Is the electricity that dissipates off the line free for the taking, or is it owned by the power powers?

    And does the fact that electromagnetic radiation crosses the property line, off the eminent domain, mean that the power company is trespassing?

    Yes, I am having a bit of fun. But if air is property, then electromagnetic radiation must be too.

    And like Ray, I am NOT fond of power lines crossing my property.

    My third question is why don’t I get free electricity for life given the nuisance factor of living next to a power line? I think that might make the eminent domain issue a bit more interesting.

    Back to the original topic: do we really need more power or do we as citizens need to be forced (ie deprived of power) to find alternatives? capitalism and all that. I suspect the latter is correct.

  79. Anonymous Avatar

    “Is the electricity that dissipates off the line free for the taking, or is it owned by the power powers?”

    Actually, I believe there is a law against that. There is no free lunch and if you managed to pull power off the EMF, that would in turn increas the load on the power line, just as if you tapped in. So in this case EMF is property, and the property rights have been defined.

    Sorry about that, anyway, it isn’t very practical.

    With air, not so much. We consider that protecting the flood plains is a public issue, but we compensate the owners of floodplains sporadically for the protection (they provided or we took, depending on your point of view).

    Lets be clear about this, I don;thave a problem with power lines or highwyas crossing my land. In fact, given the rules around here, that may be the only way I ever get anything out of the land. Where I have a problem is them running a power line and not paying anywhere near enough, considering what it is worth. At the right price, I take the money and walk away indifferent. The mere fact that there is so much opposition shows that the price is not right.

    Your comment about free electricity for life is one approach. I’d prefer a small toll per kilowatt.

    I’m in the same boat with my houes, lead paint, old chimneys, asbestos insulation. By now, I’ve pretty much stripped the entire house to bare wood, vaccuuming as I go. You never get rid of it all, just do the best you can.

    If your chimneys are lage enough, they can be re-lined. Otherwise, inspect them and don’t burn your fires long or hot, except enough to control the creosote.

    ————————-

    Do we need more power? We use power to avoid work. We invent more ways to use power every day, and more ways to use it more efficiently. Imagine a computer today made with mechanical switches like the original Eniac.

    And yet, we use more power. Airplanes get more efficient, and yet we use more jet fuel than ever. We will continue to use more power, more efficiently, as long as we continue to get richer.

    When we use less power,as some advocate, we will live less well. We will be digging ditches instead of driving backhoes.

    RH

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