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Archive for the ‘Global’ Category

Here.

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Finland is enacting laws that lead to building some more wind power. Like some professionals in the Finnish wind power association, Suomen tuulivoimayhdistys, have told me, perhaps the most important thing about wind power is that you have to be smart about what and where you build.

The wastelands of dead windmills in the California deserts are a result of subsidizing the building of very immature technology, with little concern for actual electricity production.

Wind power can be useful for energy production and CO2 emissions reduction, but it must be built with operation in mind. Finland and the whole Nordpool market operates with a power generation mix that includes possibilities of reducing CO2 emissions by just injecting wind power to the market when there is wind.

If Finland is serious about deploying large amounts of wind power, offshore is the way. The winter sea ice is a hard problem. Lighthouses have washed away in the fifties because of moving thick sea ice. It is even possible that  wind power in icy sea conditions is simply not profitable in the near term, even with high subsidies. It also might be that because of the very high cost of the foundations per mill, the optimal unit size is far bigger than in warmer waters. This all would require a methodical approach with multi-year testing programs of different foundations and possibly different turbine paradigms. (Sort of how the current wind turbines enjoy the methodical research programs and various large prototypes of the nineties.) So a decade perhaps from start to deployment, at rapid pace, starting immediately.

The other thing, like the major parties have been saying, is nuclear power. In an energy mix, this can push out the fossils out, approaching from the bottom instead of the top like wind power. If current trends continue, there will be a few more nukes soon. If I recall correctly Mauri Pekkarinen, the trade and industry minister from the center party commented how the next nuclear power plants would replace, roughly one each, electricity imports (from Russia), old nukes (that have to be retired in the future decades), and fossil fuel plants. Perhaps that is not entirely correct and gives little possibility for energy conservation or renewables, but I actually view it as a rough and dim picture of a not worst possible future.

So, in summary: be careful about how you encourage and where you build big wind – otherwise it’s just a nuisance – and also, build some nukes (keep the regulatory body in good control of them).

I am a fan of wind power – correctly built wind power. And so are the people at Tuulivoimayhdistys – they are professionals after all. Lawmakers should listen to them very carefully, when deciding what kind of subsidies to make.

I’ve seen some talk how in USA the Democrats that currently hold power are proposing methods of CO2 cuts completely based on renewables. This seems unrealistic to me. Too bad the Republicans, when they were in power, did nothing to make CO2 cuts. Now they can just complain about the methods.

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Uh oh. If Iain is correct, coal burning in the USA is oil burning as well, since the trains run on diesel and the amounts of coal needed per Joule are so vast, that almost half of coal’s cost at the powerplant is actually oil cost. It’s an old post, but I had never come across it.

In Europe it’s a bit different since the trains are electrified (and thus coal powered). Though in Finland, the coal comes from Poland or Germany with a barge. That must be using more energy than the very low rolling resistance of railroads. On the other hand, the Finnish coal plants are in cities, providing not only electricity but heat as well, which makes the total efficiency quite good in some ways.

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This

World Temperatures December 2008

World Temperatures December 2008

leads to this.

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Testing Quickpress (EDIT: it didn’t really work.)
Stuff like this happens when using a common resource not owned by anyone. In this case, fisheries.

Via Michael Tobis. Go read the post.

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FAO published some numbers on fishing today:

Global marine catches have been stagnant for over a decade, hovering at around 85 million tons per year. Meanwhile fisheries productivity — measured in terms of catch per fisher, or per fishing vessel — has declined, even though fishing technology has advanced and fishing effort increased.

Naturally, with a global resource that nobody owns or regulates, everybody is trying to exploit it before others can, leading to its decline and reduced benefit for all. Actually, it’s even worse than a grab free for all – governments subsidize vast overfishing fleets.

This is a game theoretical problem. If people can’t do agreements or there can’t be any agreed regulation, the situation leads, perhaps not to the last fish being caught, but at least to the state of fisheries being kept so low that fishing is very barely profitable.

A local optimum (everybody fishes for themselves as much as they can) is very far from the global optimum (total fish catch is increased and it is easier to fish since there are more fish when everybody limits the amount they fish), but the lack of coordination prevents from reaching the global optimum.

This nicely and sadly illustrates how things like contracts, agreements, treaties or regulations could improve the situation for everyone involved.

Of course from one fisherman’s viewpoint, it’s not his fault that everyone is fishing, and any regulations would only hurt him (in the short term they would).

In the past many such things were not a matter of much attention. Technology was so primitive that one could not overfish the seas. Or in other, smaller places where the limits of exploitation could be reached, nations controlled their resources wholly, meaning they could enforce regulation by themselves. It is mostly in the twentieth century that the effects of human action have been so vast that there have been needs for international regulation.

It would be interesting to hear how a libertarian takes these things into account. In my view “everybody for themselves” is a good strategy for many problems, but too simplistic to be used for everything. We see now where it has lead with global fishing.

Central control has also resulted in vast environmental damages, and hurting people as well. The Aral sea is one example.

Hence one would need some kind of negotiations between all the effecting and effected parties, and science and justness based decision making to manage the global fisheries. It is a very hard problem, not technically (you just fish less, nothing could be easier!), but politically.

At the same time, it is a test for humanity. Can this 6 billion bunch of apes engage in decision making that results in the medium term in positive results for all, even though it can be bad for some persons in the short time (though they can be compensated). On this finite size planet, as our capabilities grow, more and more actions are having longer term effects on the whole system. That means the future of both the actor as well as others.

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