Why US Coal Production Collapsed to Lowest Level since 1981

What’s next for “king coal” and bankrupt coal miners?

It was called “king coal” because it ruled! Coal-fired power plants were the cheapest way to generate electricity, based on capital costs and operating costs. And the US has plenty of coal. In the 1980s, over 55% of electricity generation was coal-fired. By 2000, it was down to 50%. Now it’s down to just over 30%, in second place, for the first time ever, behind natural gas.

In the first quarter of 2016, according to the US Energy Information Administration, coal production plunged 17% from the prior quarter, the largest quarterly drop since Q4 1984. At 173 million short tons (MMst), production was down 42% from its peak in Q3 2008. It was the lowest quarterly production since Q2 1981 when a strike crippled coal mines. But this time, there was no strike.

The EIA blamed the weather.

“Above-normal temperatures during the winter” lowered electricity demand for heating purposes. Coal stockpiles at power plants ballooned, with big consequences. The EIA:

Throughout the fourth quarter of 2015, electric power plants received more coal than they consumed, leading to a net increase of 34 MMst in coal stockpiles, the highest fourth-quarter net increase on record.

High coal inventories encouraged electric power plants to consume coal from their stockpiles in the beginning of 2016, resulting in lower new coal orders.

Decreases in coal purchases have reduced overall coal rail traffic because most producers ship coal by rail. Based on data from the American Association of Railroads, coal carloads in the first three months of 2016 were about 20% lower than in the final three months of 2015.

The chart by the EIA shows that coal production in Q1 2016 was lower than even in the 1970s and early 1980s except for the two events in Q3 1978 and Q2 1981:


Why is this happening to coal?

Over 90% of the coal produced in the US is used for electricity generation. But electricity generation by utilities (excluding rooftop solar, etc.) has largely been flat for years. That’s problem number one.

At the same time, technical innovation changed the dynamics of natural gas power generation, and this is structural.

Fracking for natural gas created a “glut” in the US, starting in 2009. The price collapsed to ludicrously low levels, finally sending a number of specialized natural gas drillers into or near bankruptcy in 2015 and 2016. Coal, which competes directly with natural gas, got hit too.

And the Combined-Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) arrived in the 1990s. The gas turbine operates like a jet engine but drives a generator instead of fan blades. The hot exhaust gases then generate high-pressure steam to drive a steam turbine connected to another generator. Thermal efficiencies of these sets reach 62% and beyond. Coal-fired power plants only use steam turbines, and thermal efficiencies average 33% globally.

Over the years, that combo — a highly efficient power generator and a ludicrously low price of natural gas — has changed the dynamics of the US power generation sector.

And a third technological development has started to muck up the coal market: the growth in renewables, particularly wind and solar, has been eating into coal’s market share.

Stricter environmental regulations, on top of these structural changes, render old inefficient coal power plants a losing proposition. Hence, record coal-fired generating capacity is being retired – the oldest, least efficient plants first. Those power plants aren’t coming back. Even when the price of natural gas jumps, power generators won’t be able to play the same game to the extent they used to: switching from gas to coal and back, in order to push the price of the other down.

So coal exports will solve that demand problem?

Lackadaisical economic growth, if any, in Europe, China, Japan, and elsewhere, plus a concerted effort in China to harness cleaner sources of energy, have repressed coal prices internationally. And coal exporters are facing another nightmare: a global market that is oversupplied with liquefied natural gas (LNG) whose price, as a consequence, has also collapsed.

Hence coal exports have crashed 32% in March from a year earlier. And according to the EIA, it might not get better anytime soon, for additional reasons:

Lower mining costs, cheaper transportation costs, and favorable exchange rates are expected to continue to provide an advantage to mines in other major coal-exporting countries compared with U.S. producers.

The EIA forecasts exports of US coal to fall 10% in 2016 and 12% in 2017, after having already plunged 23% last year. If that scenario plays out, coal exports would collapse by 40% over the three-year period.

Despite what many folks would like to believe, coal won’t disappear as a fuel in the US. But for a significant rebound in coal production and consumption to happen, the price of natural gas would have to skyrocket from its ludicrously low levels.

That is likely to happen after enough natural gas drillers got pushed over the edge or so close to the edge that they can no longer ramp up production on a moment’s notice; they won’t have the people, the money, and the rigs. They’ll be spending a long time persuading heavily bruised lenders that this time it’s different. But even then, so much coal fired generation has been retired that the old way of switching to coal and re-destroying the price of natural gas might no longer work.

There are always winners and losers. Read…  What Dun & Bradstreet just Said about Business in America’s Relentlessly Tough Economy

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  138 comments for “Why US Coal Production Collapsed to Lowest Level since 1981

  1. Another factor in lower coal exports are Leftist environmental groups are playing an outsized role in trying to prevent US producers from exporting their coal. That’s like smashing a person’s head into a concrete curb even after breaking his legs.j

    • MC says:

      The problem goes far deeper than a bunch of crazed “tree huggers”.
      The largest market for coal, both thermal and metallurgic, is Asia, with China, Japan, India and South Korea being the four largest consumers in that order.
      Both China and India have meaningful coal reserves but, due to a variety of reasons, they need to import very large quantities of coal from abroad.

      If one looks at the largest coal exporters (again: combined thermal and metallurgical), the three largest by a fair margin are in decreasing order of importance Australia, Indonesia and Russia. All three countries are conveniently located to supply the all-important Asian market. Intriguingly enough, while both Russian and Australian coal exports closely trail China’s and India’s boom since 2000, Indonesia’s exploded in 2005 and skyrocketed in 2009, when China’s economy first went into high gear and then into a veritable frenzy.

      Worth noting is below these three mega-exporters are four others huge ones.
      China was a large net coal exporter (chiefly to South Korea and Japan) until 2003, when its exports dropped off a cliff due to internal demand absorbing the whole production and more, not to mention mines starting decreasing in output.
      And here’s a bit of a shocker: until 2008 the US were the world’s fourth coal exporter. In 2009 exports fell off a cliff and are getting worse by the month. All the tree huggers’ fault?
      Not exactly.
      The sharp drop in US production after 2008 was wholly compensated by that originating from two countries: Colombia and South Africa.

      Now: I am not an expert in US environmental legislation, but that sharp drop US coal exports had after 2008 tells me something happened that year. And both Colombian and South African producers immediately rose to the challenge.

      • Jackie says:

        I just got back from a 2 day trip exploring the coal producing areas in ND. Very impressive. I sensed that people were worried about the future of coal but no one talked about it. Our country is pulling us apart to extreme ends. It is getting confusing.

  2. Michael Gorback says:

    I have to thank Wolf for opening my eyes to this process long ago, enabling me to unload my coal stocks before it all went to hell.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Thanks for remembering that I’ve been writing about the coal problems since 2012…. I caught a lot of heat back then from people who thought that coal miners would come out on top.

  3. John Doyle says:

    I wish our politicians here in Oz would read this news. The Great Barrier Reef is in dire straights and the Federal government is green lighting a giant mine for Adani right alongside. So apart from warming oceans and agricultural run off we have the future prospect of many more ships plying the waterways through the reef.
    Except I see it not happening. I cannot see a new mine as anything other than a future stranded asset, except all the dredging etc that precedes the actual mine will continue to wreak havoc.

  4. OutLookingIn says:

    Not only thermal coal taking a big hit.

    With the current global glut of steel coming out of China, as can be seen with the recent US tariff against Chinese dumping of cheap steel and their very large steel inventory stockpile, metallurgic coal used in coke for steel manufacture, has had the bottom fall out.

    This is a long term problem as stockpiles of coal have become almost unmanageable in scope. It will take years, possibly a decade or longer to work through this high inventory. The economic ripple effect not only downstream, but upstream also, is reverberating through the global system.

  5. nicko says:

    Fantastic news. Why invest in 19th century tech when you can invest in 21st century renewable energy? Renewable energy technologies are increasing efficiency year on year, combining with new building standards and materials to produce a cleaner environment for everyone. Coal can’t die fast enough.

    • Thomas Malthus says:

      You sound like a troll for a solar company.

      Since you work for the industry perhaps you can explain what happens to the power supply when the sun is not shining?

      Should we just expect to go without power when the sun goes down?

      Fill me in on how it would work.

      • d says:

        Fill me in on how it would work.


      • Wolf Richter says:

        You sound like someone who dedicated his life to opposing renewable energy. Good luck with that.

      • rex says:

        You are not aware of a device known as a storage battery? Recent developments in this field have been absolutely astounding.

        • Thomas Malthus says:

          Really – can you point them out — I don’t see any significant advances.

          You must be reading more spin from Tesla – a company that would not exist without massive government subsidies.

          In fact I had an engineer drop by to quote me on a solar system last year and he said ‘the longest you will get out of the batteries is 12 year – but expect less than 10 before you need to replace them’

          Of course this is irrelevant – what is needed is a battery to store the solar energy produced from solar farms.

          Imagine how expensive that would be!!!

          And then of course what would you do with all those tonnes of toxic waste dumps otherwise known as batteries when they won’t hold a charge?

        • d says:

          “I don’t see any significant advances.”

          Off course you dont.

          You dont want to.

    • Thomas Malthus says:

      Oh and BTW – you refer to solar as clean energy.

      Does that mean solar panels grow on trees?

      Because it is my understanding that China produces them using huge amounts of lignite coal — that is the cheap dirty stuff that causes the smog you see in photos coming out of China.

      That’s partly why China can produce solar panels so cheaply!

      Now imagine how much coal we would need to burn to smelt the metals and power the factories if we were to produce 91 million+ panels every year for 50 years!!!

      Replacement of oil by alternative sources

      While oil has many other important uses (lubrication, plastics, roadways, roofing) this section considers only its use as an energy source.

      The CMO is a powerful means of understanding the difficulty of replacing oil energy by other sources. SRI International chemist Ripudaman Malhotra, working with Crane and colleague Ed Kinderman, used it to describe the looming energy crisis in sobering terms.[13]

      Malhotra illustrates the problem of producing one CMO energy that we currently derive from oil each year from five different alternative sources. Installing capacity to produce 1 CMO per year requires long and significant development.

      Allowing fifty years to develop the requisite capacity, 1 CMO of energy per year could be produced by any one of these developments:

      4 Three Gorges Dams,[14] developed each year for 50 years, or
      52 nuclear power plants,[15] developed each year for 50 years, or
      104 coal-fired power plants,[16] developed each year for 50 years, or
      32,850 wind turbines,[17][18] developed each year for 50 years, or

      91,250,000 rooftop solar photovoltaic panels[19] developed each year for 50 years


      • Tim says:

        This was a big problem, the energy inputs to make solar cells were larger than the lifetime energy output from the cells. What it is now, I don’t know, but I suspect it hasn’t changed much.

        Wind power is different.

    • marty says:

      If one adds in all the costs, solar panels take more energy to make than they produce in their life. I’ve read that current tech is about 15% efficient, which sounds low, but many chemical reactions aren’t that much more efficient. That might be as good as it gets.

      The people who think that solar/wind are the future are NOT taking into account 1. the environmental impact of mining the materials for the equipment, or 2. the BATTERIES–dirty and environmentally harmful–that are necessary to store electricity, or 3. that the power grid was constructed for centralized power generation with predictable supply, and would take multi-billions to change.

      Solar is a scam. It’s great for remote areas, but it will not economically replace the current tech. It’s the equivalent of trying to turn a turbine with raindrops–that is, sunlight is not a concentrated enough source of energy. Wind has similar problems. You can’t change physics.

      I don’t hear any boo hooing about all the birds that solar and wind kill every year, even though the human-hating greenies would love for all the hydropower plants to be dismantled to save some “endangered” fish or other. What’s up with that????

      • Thomas Malthus says:

        I understand that the amount of excess energy generated by a solar panel is at best 0.02% i.e. you put 1 unit of energy into making a panel you get 1.02 units out.

        With oil the ratio was around 1:100… now it is closer to 1:10.

        With solar you might as well just burn the coal directly and generate electricity from that. Why bother with a panel when you get almost no nett energy from the device?

        It makes ZERO sense.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          You need to get current numbers.

        • Petunia says:

          I’m old enough to remember buildings in New York City heated with coal. I actually lived in one. People may prefer solar because it is a passive energy source, regardless of the cost. All other considerations put aside, coal is a very labor intensive energy source for the average user. You can install solar panels and forget about them until they break. Coal energy needs to be actively managed.

        • Bryce Nelson says:

          To Thomas and Marty:

          I would not be fighting the solar trend. It is getting more efficient every year. Efficiency won’t stop at 15%, just like computers didn’t stop getting faster for the last 50 years. There are scientists around the world making solar more viable everywhere with each passing day. Plus it is much better for the planet. What’s not to love about solar?

          I will compare the cost of solar vs. coal anytime as long as we include the health and environmental consequences of coal. For an added kicker we could also add the cost of carbon to the air. And no I am not a liberal or conservative, I try to deal with reality (facts) and not let politics get in the way. It makes 100% since. It is clean and renewable energy.

          I for one don’t want to have to see our fellow man, our children, and grandchild living in a much hotter climate along with breathing in toxic pollution. It is embarrassing and a travesty especially when we have the resources today to transition to renewables by 2040 if we put our focus on it. I would love for us to be alive in 2100 to explain this decision to people.

          With your line of thinking we would still be stuck in the stone age. The article below is from 2013. It is now 2016 and solar has increased its efficiency even more. Yay science!



        • stormcrow says:

          Are the current manufacturing and production efficiencies an order of several magnitudes better?

          Are solar panels in the vicinity of 1:10 these days?

      • d says:

        “If one adds in all the costs, solar panels take more energy to make than they produce in their life”

        This used to be true, it no longer is.

        You forgot to hit on underwater tidal turbines which can be VERY big and VERY efficient, the tides moves 20 hours a day Something you good buddy Thomas the oil shill also conveniently forgets.

    • EVENT HORIZON says:

      An ECONOMIST article, a few years back, had the honesty to admit, that, if England went fully to WIND POWER, they would have to blanket the entire nation with wind-mills. It is way to inefficient.

      Let us all stop the games, the PC, the tree hugging, the fear. The best solution is Nuclear and we might as well throw all our research and tech into building the most safe and efficient nuclear plants.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        To see how much nuclear power really costs (capital expenditures to build the plant, funding costs, operating costs, and then the costs of getting rid of it at the end of its life), check out the San Onofre nuke in California, where rate payers (not the company’s stockholders and creditors) will now pay many billions of dollars to decommission the thing, after the plant absorbed all manner of government subsidies over its decades of existence. And to figure out the true cost of nuclear, check out Fukushima.

        And here are some facts, from the IEA:

        In 2015, generation from all renewables reached at 549,527 GWh, or 13.4 % of total U.S. power generation.

        “Utility-scale” non-hydro renewable (wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal) provided 7.3% of total US power generation, up from nearly nothing 15 years ago. This does not include rooftop solar and other homeowner-type installations.

        Conventional hydro power provided 6.1%.

        So Combined, these renewable sources provide 13.4% of the total.

        Nuclear provided 19.5% of the total.

        Ignore renewables at your own risk.

        • stormcrow says:

          The expenses of nukes are largely due to expensive and obsolete legacy technologies, a serious lack of research, funding and an intractable regulation and documentation requirements.

          One must also take into consideration the global consequences of burning FF’s for baseline and shortfall generation, and heavy FF usage for manufacturing these intermittent renewables.

          Though, I’m not advocating nukes, or denouncing renewables, but at least let’s try to be honest when discussing them.

        • Marty says:

          Oh, come on Wolf. Are you trying to imply that the increase in “renewables” is because of market forces? The US has been subsidizing the baloney wind/solar to get to this point, and watching the corrupt cronies in the solar industry go bankrupt, I might add. That’s called a CLUE. At the same time, they have been trying to shut down hydro. What’s wrong with this picture?

          And what do you say about the reports coming from Germany about the instability of the power grid due to the growing % of electricity generation from wind?

          We are not and can’t ignore renewables. They are shoving them down our throats. It’s part of the ongoing war to destroy the middle class.

      • Thomas Malthus says:

        Nuclear is like solar and wind – without MASSIVE government subsidies – it would not exist.

        Too expensive to stand on its own

        • night-train says:

          The oil and gas industry is heavily subsidized by the tax payers too. Rather have my tax dollars go to the energy sources of the future.

        • stormcrow says:

          Yes, thanks to expensive and obsolete technology. Overburdened with regulation and documentation.
          It is truly soon to be an extinct dinosaur of gargantuan proportions, left behind as evolution marched on towards smaller and nimbler.

          But who knows perhaps one day will we see the nuclear dinosaurs soar once again, just as the birds of today are doing – as the descendants of dinosaurs.

      • David Calder says:

        On breezy days Scotland and Denmark are now 100% wind power fueled. Germany leads us all with a combination of wind and solar. Underwater turbines, which should be up and running from Maine to NC, are nowhere to be found because we have a Govt. owned by fossil fuel corporations but these units are running in parts of Europe. As a fuel, the tides are free as is the sun as is the wind.. Any nation that can wean itself off fossil fuels will be more competitive than those still buying oil, gas, coal, or nuclear..

        • Thomas Malthus says:

          As I have posted – the price Germany and Denmark are paying for this huge mistake is electricity costs that are twice that of many other OECD countries including the US

          Germany industry is up in arms threatening to move.

          In Denmark the government just announced they are halting all new wind farm construction.

          Alternative energy has been a disaster — because when the wind doesnt blow and the sun doesnt shine — you need to continue to operate the legacy systems to produce electricity

          So you double your costs.

          Whomever made these decisions exhibits epic stupidity — surely they should have know that they would need to keep the old systems running??????

          Mind-blowing stupidity

        • Wolf Richter says:

          I think you got the deal in Germany mostly wrong: what’s REALLY expensive is its shutdown of nuclear! But that’s always expensive, everywhere.

        • Tom says:

          Folks, I live in Germany and I have some insight into the way our energy supply system works. And it is as Thomas Malthus says, but even worse:
          (1) by law, renewables can sell their product to the market (German electricity exchange) with priority over all other sources.
          (2) by law renewables receive a fixed price per kWh, the difference between market price and fixed price is paid for by the customers (me)
          (3) there are no limits to the amount of renewable capacity
          The consequences are these:
          (a) we run two systems, indeed: the renewables and the legacy system, because there is no storage capacity to buffer unsteady supply by renewables.
          (b) as the renewables depress market price, modern high efficient plants with high capital costs are pusht out of the market, i.e. there are brand new gas power plants mothballed.
          (c) instead, we run the old plants burning low quality coal (Braunkohle) at ever lower efficiency, as they cannot run at a constant pace.
          Economically, this is a desaster. The major energy companies are a shadow of their former self, many local (muncipally owned) power companies are in trouble, because they invested in new high-efficiency gas plants which cannot compete any more, and the customers pay some 20 Billion Euro per year to the owners of the renewables.
          Ecologically, the whole exercise is worthless. Since the start of this “Energiewende” in the early 2000s, German CO2 output did not change significantly, i.e. some 200 Billion Euro have achieved exactly nothing. Even worth, the long-term up-trend in energy efficiency, e.g., measured as CO2 output per unit of energy consumed, started to flatten at this time.
          All in all, an economic and ecological tragedy.

        • stormcrow says:

          Luckily for Germans, they are indeed an efficient manufacturing and engineering powerhouse, despite all hardships expensive energy can inflict on their export dependent economy.

          Even during the worst hours of Allied WW2 bombardment, Albert Speer managed to direct and control the manufacturing to not only sustain the output but also to increase it as the war efforts demanded it. Eventually without access to cheap FF’s the lunacy of the Reich was ground to a halt.

          Though, using Germany and Scandinavia as a poster child for the tractability of wind and solar power is a bit overly simplistic.

  6. Nicko says:

    Considering the large wind-farms under construction are all located offshore, it’s no wonder you don’t see them.

    As for solar, over 20,000MW is going online over the next two years; the revolution is here.

    • Thomas Malthus says:

      I guess you will just conveniently ignore the fact that the more solar that is added to the grid the more expensive electricity prices become…

      Because the sun does not shine at night — so we need to operate two totally separate generation facilities:

      – one in the day that works when the sun is shining

      – another one (powered by fossil fuels or nuclear) that works on days without sunshine and in the evenings and overnight.

      Get ready for some HUGE electricity bills going forward!

      Get ready to be unemployed as industries flee places that are adopting this extremely silly idea.

      It is already happening in Germany http://www.wsj.com/articles/germanys-expensive-gamble-on-renewable-energy-1409106602

      • NY Geezer says:

        Thomas Mathus,

        If you wish to make a credible case against renewable energy you need to cite news reports from 2016 not old stories from 2014. You appear to be irrationally biased against the renewable energy revolution.

        However, for those with an open mind I cite the following article on Germany’s overwhelming success in renewable energy use.
        See, http://qz.com/680661/germany-had-so-much-renewable-energy-on-sunday-that-it-had-to-pay-people-to-use-electricity/

        “On Sunday, May 8, (2016) Germany hit a new high in renewable energy generation. Thanks to a sunny and windy day, at one point around 1pm the country’s solar, wind, hydro and biomass plants were supplying about 55 GW of the 63 GW being consumed, or 87%.

        Power prices actually went negative for several hours, meaning commercial customers were being paid to consume electricity.”

        • The cost of electricity in Germany due to the over reliance on renewable energy has been covered here. Germany ranks as having the most costliest electricity of any European country. And the poor feel it and hundreds of thousands have had their power cut due to unpaid bills. Also, companies are moving their production to other countries with lower power costs.


          In the USA, without government tax subsidies, we would not see the huge number of wind turbines, nor the huge number of installed solar panels. It is a MYTH that they are competitive with fossil fuel based power. Without the subsidies no one would be using them to the extent we use them today.

        • d says:

          “In the USA, without government tax subsidies, we would not see the huge number of wind turbines, nor the huge number of installed solar panels. It is a MYTH that they are competitive with fossil fuel based power. Without the subsidies no one would be using them to the extent we use them today.”

          So you are going to keep on using something, that poisons you, the environment, and destroys the environment for your grandchildren, because its cheaper.

          Thats the mentality that lead to Chemically poisoned water in Hinckley. And a new generation of Lead Contaminated Children, in Flint. I cant not believe that in the 21St century American city’s still have, and use, lead water supply pipes.

          You, and many other Oil luddites, are simply, beyond help.

    • Marty says:

      Sorry Nicko, but you are mistaken. There is a large wind farm in CA near tehachapi that has been NOT producing wind for years. I’ve been throughout the midwest on multiple trips and have driven by many a wind farm with props not moving. I’m not talking about anything off shore that’s not built yet. Wind and solar are a psyop.

      • Thomas Malthus says:

        Marty – you are dead on the money.

        Even the stupidest person can figure out that oil will run out…

        THE DECLINE OF THE WORLD’S MAJOR OIL FIELDS: Aging giant fields produce more than half of global oil supply and are already declining as group, Cobb writes. Research suggests that their annual production decline rates are likely to accelerate.


        When the sheeple get a whiff of a story like that — they get nervous…. they worry about their kids’ futures… their grand kids….

        How to keep the sheeple from having anxiety attacks?

        How to calm them?

        Simple — feed them some Xanax in the form of nice story. Throw some subsidies at the solar industry … throw a pile of money at Tesla http://davidstockmanscontracorner.com/tesla-bonfire-of-the-money-printers-vanities/

        In the bigger scheme of things this is nothing — but it keeps the sheeple happy.

        Look at all the comments on this forum — they are LOVIN it! Solar power yeah! We will transition to that as the oil stops.

        Does the MSM ever tell you what I am telling you? Do they include in their fairy tales the slight problem of how solar does not produce electricity at night — which means we still MUST keep the legacy systems in place?

        Do they tell you that countries that have gone whole hog with the solar gig have astronomical electricity costs?

        Of course NOT!

        Solar is the saviour … Solar Jesus will save the day when the oil stops.

        But it won’t.

        In the meantime – it calms the sheeple.

        Shhhh…. don’t tell anyone!

  7. Agnes says:

    I believe Diesel can run on coal oil(not that I like the smell, but walking at 30 degrees below zero Fahrenheit is miserable). My Uncle said petroleum ought to be saved for plastics. I would hate to live without Tupperware/Rubbermaid, plastic bags, plastic drink bottles, saran wrap, and Ziplocs

  8. Thomas Malthus says:

    Further on this.

    When I moved to New Zealand I moved remote – although there is still a grid connection.

    I checked into powering a small 3 bedroom house with solar. Cost NZD45,000 (USD30k+)

    And I am in the sunniest part of the country.

    Of course you cannot run a clothes drier — you really have to watch your consumption.

    The NZ government does NOT subsidize solar. You want it — you pay for it.

    I run the entire house (including the drier) on about NZD200 per month with grid power.

    If I were to finance an off the grid set up at 45k …. do the numbers….. I would NEVER get it done for $200 per month.

    OH and BTW – the guy who was trying to sell me the system told me ‘do not believe the BS about 20 year battery life – the most I have seen these things last is 15 — but generally never longer than 10’

    This is an engineer who has been installing solar for 25 years+

    So you dump the toxic waste into the pit and spend tens of thousands of dollars more in a decade – or less

    Solar would NOT exist without government subsidies.

    They are a joke. An expensive mistake for anyone who has bought into the hype – including Germany

    • d says:

      “Solar would NOT exist without government subsidies.”


      Every moored boat in the developed world has a solar panel on it.

      Cellphone towers in some areas and country’s, are Solar powered.

      Monitoring of Agricultural and forestry has improved greatly due to Solar power to off grid location’s.

      You live in our country, yet deny the benefits solar has brought it.

      Best you go back to Luddite land whence you and your ideas came from.

      Why would you need to use a clothes dryer in NZ? They are a convince item, for lazy and disorganized people.

      • EVENT HORIZON says:


        Running a “cell phone tower”, or a boat GPS, or little monitoring devices requires very little voltage.

        You can nNOT run a real house, with real people, running 2 or 3 TV’s, ovens, heating, washer, dryer and this doesn’t even include the vacumn cleaners, hair dryer (YOU tell my teenager daughter to stop with the hair and YOU tell my teenager son to turn off the Fender).

        • Thomas Malthus says:

          Actually you could — if you had a few acres of land and hundreds of thousands of dollars to fill it with panels and batteries…

          The solar system would cost you more than an average house if you wanted to run as if you were on the grid…

          Anyone ready to switch over to an off grid system????

          Solar is a JOKE.

        • David Calder says:

          My neighbor in Edmunds WA has 55 panels on his roof and powers his entire home with solar and he powers his Tesla car with the electricity from his panels.. His excess goes back to the grid (he’s not off grid) He doesn’t have a battery backup but is looking at these new setups from Musk which will store enough for cloudy days and is checking out some of the newer wind turbines. His life style hasn’t changed a bit. He has kids and they do whatever their friends do as far as gadgets and toys go.

        • d says:

          “You can nNOT run a real house, with real people, running 2 or 3 TV’s, ovens, heating, washer, dryer and this doesn’t even include the vacumn cleaners, hair dryer (YOU tell my teenager daughter to stop with the hair and YOU tell my teenager son to turn off the Fender).”

          You call that a real house.

          I call that a residence of Environmental Criminals.

          You lifestyle is not compatible with reality or tenable.

          Your lifestyle is the Issue.

          Not the Renewable Energy Industry.

          As A Parent, you are a Failure.

          You have not Taught your offspring to live in an Energy efficient manner, you have simply perpetuated and grown the Untenable excessive energy consumption problem, of America, in particular.

          Like many others, the root of your problem, can be found easily, the next time you look in a mirror.

        • Thomas Malthus says:

          I have a small house – 3 bedrooms -1200sf.

          USD30,000 to run it off grid. No government subsidies.

          Work out the cost of capital on that — then compare that to the $200 I pay for grid power.

          Then factor in the batteries need to go into the dump within 10 years and another 15k or so needs to be spent.

          Only an idiot would install a system like this if he had to actually pay for it.

          Of course if your neighbours are going to chip in then heh — why not!

        • d says:

          “I have a small house – 3 bedrooms -1200sf.

          USD30,000 to run it off grid. No government subsidies.

          Work out the cost of capital on that — then compare that to the $200 I pay for grid power.”

          USD30,000 to run it off grid. = app 40 K NZ $, somebody is ripping you off.

          @ $ 200 Per month, you are wasting energy, lots of it.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          You didn’t specify what time period that $200 covers. So here’s my take for both options:

          If you pay $200 a year for grid power, so less than $16.67 a month, why even bother trying to find out? All these things are subject to the laws of economies of scale.

          If you pay $200 a month, so $2,400 a year, and you invest $30,000 to be off the grid and save $2,400 a year, that’s a payback of 12.5 years. If the system lasts longer than that and doesn’t cost you in maintenance and repairs, you start making money after 12.5 years. So not a great investment, but there are worse investments.

          But “off the grid” is not a good solution for most people anyway, unless you live in a remote area. Renewables work best when used on the grid, either utility-scale plants or household or commercial installations with net-metering. No batteries required.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      The oil industry and nuclear power industry are among the largest recipients of direct and indirect government subsidies.

      When I was in NZ (1996), I noticed that many houses had a solar water heaters (thermal) on their roof. That’s renewable energy. But have they fallen out of favor since?

      • d says:

        No buddy more and more of them going up.

        Going completely off grid raises Battery/Storage Issues, Unless you have a Water Wheel/Turbine of some kind.

        Running freezers, fridges, rechargeable batteries, computers Etc, and hot water on solar is common, even in Central urban environments now. Auto on security lights on houses and pathway lights in gardens all solar.

        As are windmills as soon as you get on the urban fringe.

        The emergency telephones (In areas we never even had them) on the Highways are all solar now, LED school crossing signs Etc all solar, Speed warning signs on corners on roads in the middle of nowhere (Again in areas we never even had them) LED flashing at night and Mobile phone towers.

        Thomas is antiSolar/Renewables New technology and simply not in touch with the facts.

        Rural usage of solar to monitor, Equipment, Livestock, water levels Etc is huge and growing. GPS Position monitoring of Boats, equipment, with hidden cameras containing memory date and time cards, that call your mobile if something is moved, or interfered with, all solar powered.

        As you are aware solar panel now produce more energy that it takes to make them. So the total old solar energy debt is going down (Slowly). Whereas the Environmental Damage Debt of Oil and Coal is still rising.

        We dont burn wood to run steam engines at the mill any more.

        Soon we will wonder why it took so long to move beyond Coal and Oil.

        The big Renewable still under development is actually Tidal Race Turbines.

        And the combination of Gas/Solar power plants, with desalination plants. Steam from salt water, produces drinkable water. and Capturing that same steam in a different way to recover HYDROGEN, a clean transportable fuel.

        Big Oil and Big Coal have had the energy supply system locked up for over a hundred years, this is being changed Against their wishes, they dont care about the environment only their profits. The whole Energy Supply Chain, is still radically skewed in their favor.

        Many of the future Tarrif’s and Taxes will be Pollution/Environmental damage based.

        Oil and Coal are hugely indirectly subsidized, as they dont pay for the environmental damage they do ever-time they extract, and ever-time the product is used. Put a Tariff on those products to cover that and suddenly Renewable’s become much much cheaper.

        Einstein tells us, repeating the same act, and expecting a different result, is insanity.

        What is using something, you know irreparably damages the environment for your grand children, and damages your health, because it is cheaper than a renewable, that will do the same job?

        Apart from criminal ??????? (Something).

        • Coaster Noster says:

          Einstein never said that. That was a phrase created by a hard drugs rehab center in Los Angeles in the 1980s. People tack on “Einstein” to increase the gravitas of their thinking.


        • d says:

          “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
          Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/a/albert_einstein.html

          Is what he said.

          What I wrote is a variation of it.

          It is probably used in Rehab’s which proves my basic point

        • stormcrow says:

          “Put a Tariff on those products to cover that and suddenly Renewable’s become much much cheaper.”

          Uhm, no, since solar panels are manufactured in China using coal fired power plants. Thus, tariffs on FF’s equals tariffs on solar panels.

          It is way too convenient praising the merits of solar panels and “renewable energy” while at the same time ignoring the pollution they cause elsewhere as they are being manufactured.

          Also what is the EROEI and total net entropy of manufacturing and operating a solar panel and wind turbine? Is it as lousy as I suspect it is?

        • d says:

          The fossil fuels to make solar panels argument is long dead.

          China has solar array the contribute to the grid and makes solar panel from energy on the grid.

          china and india will never tariff their dirty energy its how they destroy our industries with unfair dirty energy competition.

          china is not the only solar panel maker.

          “Also what is the EROEI and total net entropy of manufacturing and operating a solar panel and wind turbine? Is it as lousy as I suspect it is?”

          not any more.

          They are becoming more efficient as more go on stream.

          The argument that a solar-panel or windmill consumes more energy to manufacture that it will ever produce is also now dead.

        • Thomas Malthus says:

          These are the most recent stats I can find – up to 2014:


          You will want to focus on the green line – that is the portion of alternative energy stripping out hydro – it looks to be less than 1% — I need a magnifying glass to confirm that …


          Sorry to say but your solar panels are manufactured using coal — lignite coal — because it is cheap — and of course we all want our panels to be as cheap as possible.

        • d says:

          If I buy panel for myself or client’s I buy European panels the have better quality control and are higher nett return.

          Cheap chinese Solar panels are like cheap chinese Tires.

          Poor performance and poor lifespan.

          With, Tires, Solar panels and Batteries (You dont see to understand batteries Must be recyced) You defiantly might only get what you pay for.

          European Panels are made on multi source supply grid power so. Your False lignite Argument, is another of your Luddite fail’s.

        • Thomas Malthus says:

          Hmmm…. do you have an iphone?

          Pretty high tech … pretty reliable …

          Guess where it was made? Hint: not in Europe….

          China Surpasses Japan as Asia’s Top High-Tech Exporter, ADB Says

          China has brought to an end Japan’s dominance of Asia’s high-technology exports, according to the Asian Development Bank.

          China’s share of Asia’s exports of high-tech goods such as medical instruments, and aircraft and telecommunications equipment rose to 43.7 percent in 2014 from 9.4 percent in 2000, the ADB said. Japan’s share slid to 7.7 percent last year from 25.5 percent in 2000. Southeast Asian nations including Malaysia and Philippines also lost market share.



          Now if I were looking for high tech mass production gear at a reasonable price (I.e. solar panels) … would I look to Europe?


          Wine, olive oil? Yes of course!

        • d says:

          You are very good at knocking green energy you doint know much about it.

          The best panels are still “made” outside china, not from Chinese components, assembled in Europe or the US, like Harley Davidson became.

          The advances in panels, are made outside china, then copied in china.

          You also seem to buy, only on price.

          This is not smart.


          Why would I want an i phone.

          I dont need a public status symbol.

          They wont be made in china, nor will any other apple product for export from china, for much longer. Not sure if it will all move to the pro plant in Texas, or some will go back to California.

          Some might have to go to india to enable the Apple stores to open there. But agauin that manufacture wont be for export.

          Apple is going home to have its robot factory’s, Secure, under its US thumb.

        • Thomas Malthus says:

          Yes of course – and Donald Trump is going to make America great again :)

          Wolf — do you mind disclosing if you have any long positions in the alternative energy space?

          I am wondering about your motivation for posting this story along with the deluge of what I can only imagine are trolls paid to promote alternative energy.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Look Thomas, the article was about coal and gas, for crying out loud.

          You went totally off the rail. Your diatribes against renewables (including the many that I blocked because you were hogging the comment section with them) need to be posted on your personal blog, not on this site, and not under an article about coal and gas.

          I’ve gotten emails from would-be commenters who wanted to comment on the coal-and-gas topic but were discouraged by your diatribes. You were trolling my site with these diatribes about an unrelated topic, and you were driving commenters off.

          Personally, I’m not a huge fan of alternative energy but I support it, and I support the efforts to drive the technologies forward. Some are going to work, others won’t. That’s how it always is.

          There is no cheap or perfectly clean source of energy. Energy is ALWAYS associated with compromises. Some are worse than others. But we want to plug in our iPhones and fill up our cars, so we have to make compromises. If you can’t see that, you’re living in the dark.

          I certainly don’t have a short or long position on alternative energy in any shape or form.

          But I do believe that a mix of energy sources is essential. I do believe that clean air, water, and land are essential. And I do believe that conservation and energy efficiency should be the number one priorities. So here you have it, my personal opinion.

          You’re fighting windmills (check out “Don Quixote,” a novel by Miguel de Cervantes to find out how that worked out.

          Renewables are an ever larger part of the energy mix, and I think that’s great. Will they replace oil and natural gas? Probably not in my lifetime. But they’re already taking market share from them. So good luck fighting your windmills. But don’t do it in my living room.

        • d says:

          “But I do believe that a mix of energy sources is essential. I do believe that clean air, water, and land are essential. And I do believe that conservation and energy efficiency should be the number one priorities. So here you have it, my personal opinion.”

          Having convinced you

          ALL we have to do, is get India and the rest of the planet to think like that.

          “Shes a hard road getting man to do what s wright”

          Variation on a Crump https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barry_Crump

        • brian says:

          d you are off with the fairies lets start with ocean link wave generators installed at different locations in Australia with copious govt “taxpayer money” not 1 megawatt ever produced and the rusting hulks still pollute the waters they are in. Lets talk about the methane generator on a nsw tip site only ever burnt a very small amount of methane no usable electricity produced cost rate payers millions and 3 years later was on the tip itself. Tesla cars need a 53 amp 240 volt charger at your home most elec providers wont accept this power outlet to be able to fully charge in 10 hours this will give you a 270 m range that equates to $3.36 per hour of electricity to get about 27 miles nearly any new car could achieve these figures, tesla power wall battery solution by now you must come to terms that a power wall will probably never be able to charge the tesla as it can only through put about 6 amps so you would need nine at $3500 each plus $100000 for car a Toyota corolla looking good

        • d says:

          ” d you are off with the fairies lets start with ocean link wave generators installed at different locations in Australia with copious govt “taxpayer money” not 1 megawatt ever produced and the rusting hulks still pollute the waters they are in. Lets talk about the methane generator on a nsw tip site only ever burnt a very small amount of methane no usable electricity produced cost rate payers millions and 3 years later was on the tip itself. ”

          What became of the cinderblock steam generator that was tried, that interested me.

          Great Australians.

          THEY TRIED.

          Wave generators are not the way.

          Tidal flow generators are being tried In England among other places. They should be Viable.


          You want to beat up on Telsa, go Ahead.

          I still think the Answer is hydrogen

          So does Honda.

        • Thomas Malthus says:

          Hydrogen ….

          I have a better idea:

          We manufacture a very long flexible pipe — and we fly it into space and blast it like a harpoon into the centre of the sun.

          We then suck the intense heat of the sun back to earth and use it to create infinite amounts of electricity.

          This is a far more viable idea than hydrogen — we know for a fact the sun can provide enormous amounts of free energy — we just need to get it to earth in a more concentrated form.

          What are we waiting for?

        • d says:

          {“We manufacture a very long flexible pipe — and we fly it into space and blast it like a harpoon into the centre of the sun.”

          Why would a silly person do that. (Sounds like a very European idea you should go back to Europe and take it with you. Draggi and co would like it to stimulate the Dying EU Economy).

          When you can collect it with a solar panel.

        • Thomas Malthus says:

          Hmmm… which is more silly — hydrogen … or my pipe to the sun?

          I am thinking hydrogen — because as we all know — the sun actually contains enormous amounts of free energy — that is fact — all we need to do is work out how to tap it in a more concentrated form.

          Might I propose that the hundreds of billions of dollars that we continue to waste on the failed idea referred to as solar panels — be immediately scrapped…

          And all funds go towards the Sun Pipe project.

          What we need to do next is get the same PR firms who fed us lies about solar, wind and shale — to focus on the Sun Pipe Project

          We need to get the masses behind this and that will only happen if the MSM gets behind this ….

          If you think about it – it really is an easy sell — we are humans — we can do anything – surely we can harpoon the sun with a heavy gauge cable.


        • d says:

          So you are saying Honda, GM, BMW, Mercedes.

          Who all have working Hydrogen powered cars, Some in the retail market, even in America. With a growing hydrogen fuel network, Even in America. First Station in California Opened by Arnie (which was a while Ago) Are all wasting their time.

          That the Japanes who have hydrogen fuel cells, in residential applications, all over teh country. Are wasting their time.

          Time for you to go BACK where you came from, you Nasty waste of time. Luddite Troll.

        • Thomas Malthus says:

          Many companies are working to develop technologies that might efficiently exploit the potential of hydrogen energy for use in motor vehicles.

          As of November 2013 there are demonstration fleets of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles undergoing field testing including the Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell, Honda FCX Clarity, Hyundai ix35 FCEV and Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-Cell.[5]

          The drawbacks of hydrogen use are high carbon emissions intensity when produced from natural gas, capital cost burden, low energy content per unit volume, low performance of fuel cell vehicles compared with gasoline vehicles, production and compression of hydrogen, and the large investment in infrastructure that would be required to fuel vehicles

          Critics claim the time frame for overcoming the technical and economic challenges to implementing wide-scale use of hydrogen cars is likely to last for at least several decades, and hydrogen vehicles may never become broadly available.[72][106]

          They claim that the focus on the use of the hydrogen car is a dangerous detour from more readily available solutions to reducing the use of fossil fuels in vehicles.[107]

          In May 2008, Wired News reported that “experts say it will be 40 years or more before hydrogen has any meaningful impact on gasoline consumption or global warming, and we can’t afford to wait that long. In the meantime, fuel cells are diverting resources from more immediate solutions.”[108]

          According to former U.S. Department of Energy official Joseph Romm, “A hydrogen car is one of the least efficient, most expensive ways to reduce greenhouse gases.”

          Asked when hydrogen cars will be broadly available, Romm replied: “Not in our lifetime, and very possibly never.”[109] The Los Angeles Times wrote, in February 2009, “Hydrogen fuel-cell technology won’t work in cars. … Any way you look at it, hydrogen is a lousy way to move cars.”[110]

          The Economist magazine, in September 2008, quoted Robert Zubrin, the author of Energy Victory, as saying: “Hydrogen is ‘just about the worst possible vehicle fuel'”

          The Washington Post asked in November 2009, “But why would you want to store energy in the form of hydrogen and then use that hydrogen to produce electricity for a motor, when electrical energy is already waiting to be sucked out of sockets all over America and stored in auto batteries”?

          “Hydrogen: It’s the fuel of the future — and it always will be.” That’s the longstanding joke about hydrogen fuel cell cars, and it’s probably the best way to sum up the story.

          What are you going to bring up next – thorium? The same joke applies to that ‘it’s the fuel of the future – and it always will be’

          How about you wake me up when there is something created that economically replaces oil.

          Until then the Sun Pipe is as viable as any of this.

          OH -and in case you have not noticed -we need something now — because when we are scraping the bottom of old oil wells — and productions costs are over $100…

          And the economy is on the verge of total collapse because we are out of cheap to produce oil …..

          We really need the alternative now —- not in 2 years – not in 20 years – not in 50 years…

          It needs to happen right now

        • d says:

          “The drawbacks of hydrogen use are high carbon emissions intensity when produced from natural gas,”

          Thats why you dont produce it from Natural gas.

          “We really need the alternative now —- not in 2 years – not in 20 years – not in 50 years…

          It needs to happen right now”

          Yes we dont have the alternative now.

          As the Luddite’s wouldn’t put in any money for Research, when the combined “Global warming and Gross pollution related to excessive Fossil Fuel usage ” problem’s, were first raised in the late 1950’s.

          Look at the huge fight needed, just to remove LEAD from Petrol. As the Luddite’s didnt like the cost increases related to it.

          You are a Luddite naysayer, and a big part of the problem.

          Hugely subsidized Fossil Fuels are only cheap, to, fossilized, Luddite thinkers.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          d, I support Thomas in this (he is kidding about harpooning the sun, of course). But hydrogen is a terrible gas. It has the lowest energy density of any fuel. It needs to be compressed enormously to get some kinds of energy density out of it (10,000 psi, or 700 bars?). Hydrogen atoms are so small that tanks and fuel lines require special materials and fittings that must also be able to withstand the pressure.

          H is very common (water, ammonia, fossil fuels, etc.), but it doesn’t occur by itself, and breaking H away from other atoms is very energy intensive.

          I worked with fuel cells in 2000. Back then, hydrogen was one of the biggest challenges. And it remains a big challenge. The Space Shuttle’s electrical system was powered by United Tech fuels cells. They ran on pure hydrogen and pure oxygen. But they had those on board. And costs didn’t matter. Automakers have to deal with the costs of producing, compressing, and containing hydrogen.

          Someday the technology might advance enough to where it is commercially viable. I rode on a UTC fuel-cell powered prototype bus in 2000. It worked great, even back then. It’s just a matter of figuring out how to get the costs down.

          Hopefully, someday they’ll get there.

        • d says:

          Hopefully yes. However if we just brush it under the carpet, laugh at it. And scream NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN, like a luddite, anytime somebody mention’s it. It we be a very long time before we ever do.

          The Extraction of it is a pain, however once the Pollution from the extraction process is emitted hydrogen becomes a “Pollution free” fuel. Its big upside everybody Ignores. (1)

          Used steam from Dual gas turbine Power-stations Contains Hydrogen, and it is partially freed at that point. Also the steam is clean.

          To make it viable you would want to extract the hydrogen with Solar energy.


          Possibility’s of combined energy sources and production.


          Think of all that polluted water all about the place, that could be cleaned in this process. Polluted water is not cleaned via evaporation, as there is no Justification for the effort. Yet.

          More upsides, than just pure profit, must be looked at. Humans have a lot of overdue housekeeping on this planet.

        • Thomas Malthus says:

          The thing is….

          How long do you flay a horse before you realize it is futile…

          Do you flay him until he collapses on the floor of the stall?

          Do you continue to beat him until he is shredded?

          Or do you realize at some point it is not going to get him to giddyup …. and you go get yourself a new horse….

          Humans seem to have this belief that we can do anything given enough time — focus — motivation – and money.

          Might I suggest that this is simply not true — there are an infinite list of things we cannot do.

          For instance — we cannot turn lead into gold. We have had thousands of years — and massive motivation — yet nobody has been able to do this.

          We cannot grow a banana tree in snow.

          We cannot live forever.

          The list is truly infinite…

          Could it be that replacing fossil fuels is just one of those things on the list to infinity that is unfortunately impossible?

          Might I suggest that the same people who are telling you the economy is recovering (to keep your spirits up) are also aware that there is no possible way to replace oil …..

          So just as they feed you lies about the economy …. they also feed you lies about renewable energy…. for exactly the same purpose…

          To keep your spirits up.

          Think about it — solar and wind are a disaster — they can never replace oil no matter what — I won’t trot out the German story again because we know how that has ended…

          Yet the high priests insist on telling us the future is green – and it is fast approaching….

          That is clearly an epic lie.

          I ask you again — do you not suspect you are being played? Just like you are being played on the economic narrative?

          Do you think that the high priests would ever tell you what I have told you — that we are between a rock and hard place with oil prices? Too high growth stops – too low and production of oil stops.

          Of course they will not. And for bloody good reason.

          Can you imagine if the FT ran a massive front page story:

          Peak Oil is Here — But There is Plenty of Oil Left – But it Costs to Much to Find, Extract and Refine.

          yadda yadda yadda…. civilization must have cheap oil — the cheap stuff is well past peak — we are scrounging for the dregs now…. which means high production costs…

          The masses would connect the dots on that … and there would be despair and panic…. (it would be a great time to be long the maker of Xanax

          Better to feed them stories of sugar plums and solar panels….

          I might add that I completely agree with that — most people could not handle the truth — people want happy endings.

          This is not a fishbowl in Bangkok…. there won’t be a happy ending.

        • d says:

          “Could it be that replacing fossil fuels is just one of those things on the list to infinity that is unfortunately impossible?”

          If it is, kiss Global Society as we know it, goodby, as it is a finite resource.

          There is an answer it will be “Magically found” by theOil companies, when they have no further Fossil Fuel, profit option’s. Bank on it.

          “Might I suggest that the same people who are telling you the economy is recovering (to keep your spirits up) are also aware that there is no possible way to replace oil …..”

          I am a currency, commodity, and index, trader who makes money at it.

          Nobody can convince me this dog of an economy is going anywhere, but sideways, or further down, until the GLOBAL NPL issue is resolved. By other than some Socialist debt jubilee. Which would actually make the problem worse, as zombie companies, and bad debtors, would be rewarded, at the expense of what should be the Natural survivors. Making the problem worse for the future.

          Japan has been stagnate since 1991/2 as it refused, and still refuses to deal with its NPL’S through bankruptcy’s, or forced restructuring

          100 dollar oil is unnecessary and has contributed hugely to the Global NPL issue.

          As you not in touch with reality, best you go back top Luddite land. Whence you came.

        • Thomas Malthus says:

          “100 dollar oil is unnecessary and has contributed hugely to the Global NPL issue”

          THE END OF CHEAP OIL : Feb 14, 1998 |By Colin J. Campbell and Jean H. Laherrre http://dieoff.org/page140.htm (originally appeared in the Scientific American)

          The marginal cost of the 50 largest oil and gas producers globally increased to US$92/bbl in 2011, an increase of 11% y-o-y and in-line with historical average CAGR growth. http://ftalphaville.ft.com/2012/05/02/983171/marginal-oil-production-costs-are-heading-towards-100barrel/

          OIL PRODUCERS NEED $100+ OIL
          Steven Kopits from Douglas-Westwood said the productivity of new capital spending has fallen by a factor of five since 2000. “The vast majority of public oil and gas companies require oil prices of over $100 to achieve positive free cash flow under current capex and dividend programmes. Nearly half of the industry needs more than $120,” he said http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/oilandgas/11024845/Oil-and-gas-company-debt-soars-to-danger-levels-to-cover-shortfall-in-cash.html

          We DO need 100+ oil — if we want to have an oil industry.

          Of course the MSM mostly buries this and tells us that break even is less then $50 for most producers…

          But again — do you believe the MSM? They also tell you that we are in recovery mode — that solar panels will save us — that unemployment is full…..

          Break even once the wells are drilling and all you have to worry about is the electricity to the well head and maintenance are no doubt under $50.

          BUT that is like saying the cost to produce an iphone is $50 (parts and labour)

          That $51 is a profitable sale price for Apple.

          Of course that is not true — the factory needs to be built — R&D needs to be factored in – patent royalties – debt servicing — distribution – marketing – reinvestment in new technology – taxes – dividends … on and on we go

          It is the same thing with oil – particularly with state oil companies who run their countries on the profits…. have you not seen that Saudi Arabia – which has some of the lowest well head costs needs over $100?

          The industry collapses if oil stays where it is — they are losing billions every quarter — they are slashing capex — they are doing anything to try to ride this out…

          But ultimately they NEED 100+ oil.

          But 100+ oil destroys growth.

          These are the facts — you will not find this on the front page of bloomberg — you need to dig for this sort of stuff….

          Fortunately I have done all the heavy lifting for you …. I have served it up on a platter.

          Do you want to sample my caviar and champagne — or will you continue to dine on the dogfood pate and stale crackers that the MSM is shoveling onto your paper plate – washed down with warm kool-aid?

        • d says:

          You are an oil shill troll you are part of the problem.



          Are the people you are shilling for and some of what they get up to.

          100 # oil was based on the HYPED iranian fear factor which was used to hype the price to an extortionist level.

          It almost broke the global economy.

          Arab and muslim nations dont need 100 $ oil to produce it, their problem is they did National their budgeting on 100 $ extortionist oil price’s.

          You are promoting high oil prices and huge oil company profits for you own reasons not becaus ethats what is neede to mwke the stuff economical to produce.

          100$ oil also makes all green Energy’s Cost competitive. Especially if they are given the same direct and indirect subsidy’s as oil. Which they never have been.

          A 2000% pollution tariff on oil would be a good idea. Tarrif to be used to repair oil pollution damage and subsidize gren energy. onl;y fair oil helped deatroy the planet.

          100 $ oil + 2000 % tariff should help to clean it up.

          You are part of the global dirty energy problem. And you always will be.

          Dont like French Champagne, or Caviar, or the plastic people who consume it, simply to demonstrate their financial ability to do so. You probably fit in with them, very well.

        • Thomas Malthus says:

          I suppose if you believe that then for you it is true.

          But for me it’s not true – because I am not imagining or dreaming — I have facts to back up my position.

          Come quickly — look what we have here…. this is what is called a fact!

          “The break-even oil price for the Saudi’s last year was $106 a barrel, compared to $69 a barrel in 2010, according to the IMF.”


          Have you ever come across the axiom ‘you can ignore reality but you cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality’

          I think it was Ayn Rand – the old bat got a few things right.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Friends, it’s time to let it go. Agree to disagree. And go do something fun.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Friends, it’s time to let it go. Agree to disagree. And go do something fun.

        • d says:


          A spamming Luddite oil shill shouldn’t be allowed to have the last word.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Really, d, let it go. Both of you have better things to do.

        • Thomas Malthus says:

          Hopefully some day is very soon.

          If we look at the current technologies — we really have nothing that could be referred to as particularly promising…

          They are all moon shots — that do not seem to be progressing despite enormous investments.

          In this superb book http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13372977-private-empire Steve Coll dedicates a chapter about how Lee Raymond before he was CEO was put in charge of a division tasked with pursuing renewable energy.

          It was apparently not window dressing (like BP’s beyond petroleum BS) rather they invested tens of millions of 1970’s dollars into this initiative.

          Remember – this was when US production of oil had peaked — and there were queues at petrol stations….

          Also — if Exxon could discover the grail of renewables the rewards would be massive

          So let’s assume they were serious.

          I don’t recall the specific conclusions but they were ominous… something to the effect that it was impossible to replace oil….

          Keep in mind a huge chunk of oil we produced is not used for fuel — it is used in manufacturing of just about everything…


          So again — it is difficult to dispute their conclusions.

          Fast forward and where are we in the struggle to get off of oil — we are still chasing the same technology that we were chasing in at the time of the Exxon report…. primarily solar….

          And we are nowhere near making it work…. the types of batteries in use then are still in use today….

          And batteries are of course just one of the many apparently insurmountable problems with solar.

          To put it mildly — I am not optimistic …. I am 100% solar panels and windmills are not the answer and never will be….

          Which leaves us in a vacuum of ideas…. we’ve put all the eggs into those two baskets….

          Other than my mad Sun Pipe suggestion there’s not a whole lot out there….

          Perhaps fossil fuels are to the world what south american gold was to the Spanish…. a massive, one-off gift….

        • d says:

          “To put it mildly — I am not optimistic …. I am 100% solar panels and windmills are not the answer and never will be….”

          There is confirmation of your problem.

          You are not even willing to concede, that in the future they could be part of the Answer.

          The Answer, it appears, is many sources, in combination, not simply 1 or 2, as in the past.

          The Luddites refused to Start in the 50’s.

          The oil companies backed away, as it all got too hard and they could keep on making huge subsidized profits selling oil in the “short term maximum profit Maximum easy life now” mantra that infected America as the boomers started too take control.

          Those Early boomers have run the planet and the Western Economy into the ground, too feed their Maximum easy life now mantra.

          Combined with the modern Fossil Fuel’s Luddites, they have made a huge mess.

        • Thomas Malthus says:

          Hmmm… Luddite … that is a first!

          Considering I own and manage a 17 year old dotcom with operations across Asia….

          Feel free to continue since you are on a roll :)

        • Wolf Richter says:

          I figured you’d be a little stumped by that word. I’ve been called Luddite too — because I don’t want my electronic devices to spy on me. So I think, unbeknownst to me, the definition of “Luddite” has changed.

        • d says:

          “So I think, unbeknownst to me, the definition of “Luddite” has changed.”


          Luddite is not the correct term in context for your/that issue, as a device should not Monitor/Spy on its Owner. Then dispense the information elsewhere without the owners consent.

          A growing issue with the Internet of thing’s.

          Inherently both of us have issues with these Stasist type behaviors, as the roots are in Heinrich’s and Joseph’s very unpleasant entity’s.

          Malthus is a Luddite, as his mind is closed even to the possibility, his position could be incorrect. And that the new technology’s could be the, or part of the, Answer

        • Thomas Malthus says:

          Seriously – my mind is closed to technology?

          And here I was thinking I was a visionary ….

          I’ve proposed a Sun Pipe… I need hundreds of billions of taxpayer grants to make that a reality so I am not currently pursuing the project…. I need to speak to Elon Musk first as he is the expert on how to get people to pay the shot so that he can provide 100k cars for half price (or less?) to rich people….

          I also have an active breeding programme — sheep with solar panels — if you have any old male panels please do donate them. This is high tech meets biotech — cutting edge stuff. And I am a Luddite?

          The thing is…

          I am more than happy to embrace technology —- I do have a cell phone (it’s a MS windows phone because why pay $800 bucks when a $200 buck phone does the same things…) — I have a pretty high tech car that is connected to the internet — it also has a heads up display like a fighter aircraft….

          But what I do not support is technology that does not work particularly after decades of investment

          For instance I would not by a smart watch — it makes no sense to have a watch that requires a phone paired with it at the same time — why not just use the phone? Actually unless the watch could beam me up when I am cornered by aliens intent on eating my liver…. I don’t see myself buying a smart watch ever…. perhaps if I were the size of an ant the watch might make sense? The screen would seem huge!

          And as believe I have mentioned I am not a fan of solar rigs… how much cash has the world invested in this idea? And still we are subsidizing this gear massively — it is debatable if a single panel has ever produced more energy than when into making it…. and we’ve been on this for decades…

          Hey if solar panels made sense (and cents) I would be all over this — I would put a wig on a panel and some lipstick and take her to the dance and twirl her around and show her off to all my mates…. it would be true love….

          But isn’t this sort of the same as investing in a steam engine that produces no steam —- and continuing to invest in the same concept for 50 years — and still no steam…

          Would you consider me a Luddite if I smashed that failed invention with an axe and screamed ‘stop wasting my money on this — I work hard for it — and this is clearly going nowhere — time to move on!!!’

        • d says:

          you are not a visonary.

          Your a parasitic Luddite, that only takes that which works, and refuses to pay into what might.

          Or even admit that in each experiment, or trial, something is learned.

          If you dont try you can not succeed.

          You advocate stop trying have a great party, at teh future generations expense, and die when finite fossil fuels run out, or the planet is destroyed by the use of fossil fuels before they run out which is a serious probability, you also refuse to admit.

          A great Narcissistic Baby Boomer attitude You have.

          Solar arrays are profitable and energy positive in china, as when they are built there, is no huge profit margin demanded by 10 middlemen milking them. Central planning does Occasionally have advantages..

        • Thomas Malthus says:

          Let’s start with a quote: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results

          China… hmmm…. one big heaping pile of insolvency … and I don’t say that lightly because I do business there…

          Let’s check in on solar in China:

          Top solar panel maker goes bankrupt

          A 24-Minute, $19 Billion Wipeout Threatens a Chinese Company’s Solar Dream http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-05-20/hanergy-solar-revolution-dims-as-stock-falls-to-earth

          I’ve been to China quite a few times…. I don’t think they have sunshine 24 hours a day …. in fact I am 99% certain they have dark sometimes….

          Just like Germany ….

          Which would mean that they have the same problems as Germany when trying to produce electricity from solar panels…

          The tiny little problem of having two build and operate two systems — one for the day time — and one for the night time…

          Difficult to run the operation profitably when you have to do that.

          So you see – even if the panels cost a buck a piece without the middle man — you still need that coal fired plant belching in the background….

          The more conversions you make to solar the more money you lose! Either that or the higher your electricity rates go and that drives factories to Cambodia and Vietnam :)

          Go China Go!!! Build More Solar. Dig Your Own Grave! (that’s what they are changing in Vietnam)

          It’s kinda like my wife sometimes like one hand bag in the day – and a totally different one at night … not sure why she doesn’t just use the one all the time…

          Or let’s say I wanted a Porsche — a red one for the day — and a Black one for night…. twice the price to go the same number of km…

        • Thomas Malthus says:

          I understand that Sarah Palin has redefined that term…

        • Thomas Malthus says:

          brian — i have to admit – when i read some of the responses here i have to agree with you …

          Some people are just living in fairyland…

          If not that I think they are just pretending to be obtuse to take the piss…

          Or sadly — they really are extremely obtuse….

      • Yoshua says:

        Germany is ending the subsides to wind power producers. The wind turbine producers are now going out of business since they can’t find investors for new projects.

        The “renewables” has turned out to produce a net energy loss in Germany. For every unit of energy they put in they receive 0.85 in return.

        I really wish that wind and solar could be the solution, but so far they seem to be a dead end.

        • Kraut says:

          Absolute bullshit! This guy is just making things up.

        • Ricardo says:

          For every unit of energy they put in they receive 0.85 in return.

          Sounds just like negative interest rates.

        • Yoshua says:


          You are right, I mixed up solar and wind.

          “A new study by Ferroni and Hopkirk estimates the ERoEI of temperate latitude solar photovoltaic (PV) systems to be 0.83. If correct, that means more energy is used to make the PV panels than will ever be recovered from them during their 25 year lifetime. A PV panel will produce more CO2 than if coal were simply used directly to make electricity. Worse than that, all the CO2 from PV production is in the atmosphere today, while burning coal to make electricity, the emissions would be spread over the 25 year period. The image shows the true green credentials of solar PV where industrial wastelands have been created in China so that Europeans can make believe they are reducing CO2 emissions.”

        • d says:

          “A new study by Ferroni and Hopkirk estimates the ERoEI of temperate latitude solar photovoltaic (PV) systems to be 0.83. If correct, that means more energy is used to make the PV panels than will ever be recovered from them during their 25 year lifetime”

          That information is out of date.

        • Yoshua says:


          Do have a link to a newer study ?

        • d says:

          Wolf does.

          He will tell you the same Solar panels now return more than it takes to make them.

          This is only recent, and only the high tech ones, more made in Europe than china. Especially when combined with MPPT controllers.

      • PleaseStop says:

        Slight misrepresentation about NZ.

        You use the term ‘many’ quite casually to create the impression that solar water heating might be common. To be sure it is not and never has been. there was a slight uptick while it was government subsidised but please don’t get the impression that it is in any way substantial.

        Slightly illogical argument about subsidies.

        You seem to responding to the claim that solar is uneconomic by arguing that oil is uneconomic too. That is not an effective argument.

        A is B
        C is also B
        Therefore A is not B

        Can you see the flaw?

        • Wolf Richter says:

          I’m not arguing that oil and solar are both uneconomic. Far from it. They’re not even the same kind of fuel (oil for transportation, chemicals; solar for electricity production). I said that the oil industry and nuclear industry also get big direct and direct subsidies. I said that because some commenters resented that renewables were getting subsidies. Well, they’re all getting subsidies – that’s what I said.

        • d says:

          ” I said that the oil industry and nuclear industry also get big direct and direct subsidies. I said that because some commenters resented that renewables were getting subsidies. Well, they’re all getting subsidies – that’s what I said.”

          Oil coal and uranium based nuclear are as you say all getting subsidized directly and indirectly, some of the hugely.

          One of the fact’s anti renewable’s proponents miss, is that Oil, COAL and Nuclear dont want to share the HUGE indirect subsidy pie with renewable’s.

          Uranium based nuclear, outside Japan is a huge Taxpayer rippoff. Electricity is a byproduct of weapons production.

          Yet Nuclear plants were touted by their Builders as “Clean Cheap energy”.

          Energy from Nuclear has never been sold at its true TCBuilding, TCProduction, TCOwnership TCDecomissiong combined.

          That number makes solar, look very cheap per KWH in a true comparison.

  9. Ptb says:

    Is production flat because demand us Also flat?

  10. Daledog2 says:

    Back to Hydrogen, I believe the most efficient way to produce hydrogen is to distill it from natural gas, as soon as that happens, that will drive the price up of nat gas.

  11. WX Wall says:

    What about all those premature deaths due to pollution? Are those accounted for in the cost of coal? According to this study

    There were >350,000 premature deaths in China from coal pollution in 1 year. Tell me that those health costs, plus the lifetime loss of earnings from dying prematurely, were paid out by the coal companies, and then you can whine to me about tax credits that every politically connected industry gets.

    PS. Did you know there’s still a Federal Black Lung Program? Must be another subsidy by leftist tree huggers for all those solar workers dying from sunlight exposure.

    • TheBloomIsOffTheRose says:

      WXWall, you pinpoint the vast but neglected health and environmental costs both of coal mining and coal combustion. In 2009, Physicians for Social Responsibility published an in-depth report. Excerpts follow:

      Coal mining leads U.S. industries in fatal injuries and is associated with chronic health problems among miners.

      In addition to the miners themselves, communities near coal mines may be adversely affected by mining operations due to the effects of blasting, washing, leakage from “slurry ponds,” the collapse of abandoned mines, damage done to streams and waterways, and the dispersal of dust from coal trucks during transportation.

      Slurry injected underground can release arsenic, barium, lead and manganese into nearby wells, contaminating local drinking water supplies. The storage of post-combustion wastes from coal plants also threatens human health. There are 584 coal ash dump sites in the U.S, and toxic residues have migrated into water supplies at dozens of sites. While every stage of the coal life cycle impacts human health, the combustion phase exacts the greatest toll.

      Coal combustion releases mercury, particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and dozens of other substances known to be hazardous to human health. This report looks at the cumulative harm inflicted by those pollutants on three major body organ systems: the respiratory system, the cardiovascular system, and the nervous system. The report also considers coal’s contribution to global warming, and the health implications of global warming.

      Viewed in this way, the totality of coal’s impact on health becomes clear. Coal pollutants affect all major body organ systems and contribute to four of the five leading causes of mortality in the U.S.: heart disease, cancer, stroke, and chronic lower respiratory diseases.

      Respiratory Effects: Air pollutants produced by coal combustion act on the respiratory system, contributing to serious health effects including asthma, lung disease and lung cancer, and adversely affect normal lung development in children.

      Cardiovascular Effects: Pollutants produced by coal combustion lead to cardiovascular disease, such as arterial occlusion (artery blockages, leading to heart attacks) and infarct formation (tissue death due to oxygen deprivation, leading to permanent heart damage), as well as cardiac arrhythmias and congestive heart failure. Exposure to chronic air pollution over many years increases cardiovascular mortality.

      Nervous System Effects: Studies show a correlation between coal-related air pollutants and stroke. Coal pollutants also act on the nervous system to cause loss of intellectual capacity, primarily through mercury. Researchers estimate that between 317,000 and 631,000 children are born in the U.S. each year with blood mercury levels high enough to reduce IQ scores and cause lifelong loss of intelligence.

      Global Warming: Even people who do not develop illnesses from coal pollutants will find their health and wellbeing impacted due to coal’s contribution to global warming. The discharge of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere associated with burning coal is a major contributor to global warming and its adverse effects on health and wellbeing worldwide, such as heat stroke, malaria, declining food production, scarce water supplies, social conflict and starvation.


      • stormcrow says:

        “Coal combustion releases mercury, particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and dozens of other substances known to be hazardous to human health.”

        Indeed it does.

        But no worries; let ’em Chink’s suck in those mercury vapors, ’cause we are producing oh so green solar panels to charge our chic Teslas.

        “Renewable” energy, what a bunch of baloney.

  12. pre says:

    Would you pay $15,000 cash for a 5 Kwh solar system to save $800 per year in charges for electricity? That is my situation right now.

    I am considering such a purchase for my house in Vermont. The system will produce 8,000 KwH of electricity per year in cloudy and overcast VT. We consume 5,000 Kwh/yr. There is no pay back or credit from the power company for surplus production. The credit I would get is 16 cents per KwH.

    The system will have to be removed or replaced after 15 to 20 years – that is its useful life.

    The biggest problem is remediation. There is no place to dump the spent panels. I know a person who has 40 spent panels stack up in a heap in the woods – he can not get rid of them.

    In CA, is there a government agency that will send a truck to your house to take the spent panels off of your hands. There is no such service in VT. The panels are a liability, which must be addressed at the time of purchase.

    From a standpoint of economics, the numbers do not make sense. No one is going to pay out $15,000 today to recover, on a best case scenario, $16,000 over 20 years.

    • d says:

      Untill the price of electricity rises or there is no electricity supply.

      If you are paying to have it installed you are in a loosing game from day 1. As most US installers charge way to much. And put way to large a Margin on all the components.

    • John k says:

      Vermont is not the best place for solar.

  13. Mary says:

    Recently I’ve been reading that paid trolls are employed to flood the internet with attacks on anyone who dares criticize big industries, certain governments and so on. When I see five posts by one commenter attacking a single article about fossil fuels, makes me wonder…..

    • Petunia says:

      Yes there are many paid trolls on the internet, mostly supporting liberal causes. These people are all about control and intimidation, so put up, don’t shut up.

      • Coaster Noster says:

        “..mostly supporting liberal causes.”
        Not 49%? Not 29%? But “mostly”….
        Here’s a good quote from Karl Popper:
        “True ignorance is not the absence of knowledge, but the refusal to acquire it.”
        Peabody Energy (coal) is paying a former Obama mentor, Lawrence Tribe, $485,000 to fight the latest Clean Power Plan. If I was CEO and earning $4million a year, I’d certainly pay 25% of my salary to keep getting it for another two-three years!

        • Petunia says:

          The source is myself. I read many liberal blogs and often give them the opposition view which brings all the trolls out in droves. The attacks are often person, and like yours, require official sources for my point of view. I like people to have choices, even bad choices, liberals like control and no opposition. The liberal sites are where they like censorship and have zero tolerance for opposition views. This is in spite of the fact that they tout themselves as the only tolerant people in the world. One of their favorite insults is calling the opposition stupid. Everybody that doesn’t agree with them qualifies. Your insults only point to your lack of sophistication when you can’t defend your position otherwise.

          I would be happy to debate any issue with you. Pointing to corruption in a market is a weak argument because the readers of this blog are already too aware of it.

        • Ptb says:

          The liberal agenda does seem to lean towards the concept of ‘better living through more control’.
          Seductive reasoning. The government is involved in so many aspects of everyone’s life that it’s difficult to ascertain whether the intervention is really negative or positive. But there’s no mistaking that the involvement is constantly growing and the control seems to be coming along with it.

          When someone won’t rationally discuss all aspects of an issue, they’re rather dogmatic and lose credibility , IMO

      • TheBloomIsOffTheRose says:

        In my considered opinion, there are many more paid internet trolls supporting the far right or libertarian agenda than a progressive agenda.

        The far right can be counted upon to accuse liberals/progressives of their own subterfuge. If liberals/progressives were as devious, and if also absent their considerable naivete, they might actually get true liberals/progressives nominated and elected to public office and make some inroads into the terrible inequities besetting and upending our society and our country..

    • EVENT HORIZON says:

      I wish this was true. I’m for hire!!! Anybody want to pay me for the nonsense I freely write?

      I could get paid for this? Wow. So, if I sarcastically trash one group, due to my writing talents, I can get paid? Really?

      Tell me more. I’ve got no dignity. Pro coal. Fine. Anti coal? Let’s talk. Pro oil? OK with me since I drive a gas guzzling Avalanche anyway? Electric cars? If you buy me the latest TESLA in dark blue, then you have bought my soul.

  14. Petunia says:

    This is an interesting conversation on coal and renewables.

    I find it extremely interesting that people who enthusiastically invest in gold, a metal of limited utility, completely disregard coal. If you are investing as a hedge for the end times, coal makes more sense. You can actually make things from steel that may come in handy when the SHTF.

    Also, not everybody who is interested in getting off the grid cares about the cost. The option should be available and lawful for anyone who wants it, its their money.

    • nick kelly says:

      A blast furnace requiring many inputs ( oxygen blown into melt) electricity, and a rolling mill to convert the steel into usable product, will be available at the end times?
      Coal lying in an open deposit ( where it all began) different story.

      I think people underestimate the amount of technology and division of labor a mid- 1800’s lifestyle required. Or even earlier because the steam engine and train existed then.
      Before the Industrial Revolution ( which is really about harnessing steam) most farmers relied on other trades- blacksmith etc. Glass windows in North America were imported from Europe and were very expensive.
      The cooper, or barrel maker was a major guy. Very difficult even for a carpenter. The preponderance of the name Cooper today means you didn’t take this guy lightly.

      Trivia: Henry Ford was proud of his private hydro generation and used it to heat his house. But the year he died the Rouge River froze and he died in a cold bedroom.

  15. Ptb says:

    Solar makes sense when you’ve got no access to the grid and really need or want electricity. As in long distance boating or deep boonies camping. Even then, generators are often a more economic solution.

    • d says:

      Generators in that situation are a PAIN, unless the boat is very large. Also you have to carry them around ,they are heavy, and need lots of Heavy fuel to go with them.

      They are also, noisy and smelly.

      Having lots of vented copper in them, they also corrode very quickly, unless they are sealed, in which case they will over heat and fail unless only used for short period’s of time.

      A small sealed portable one is useful as an emergency backup.

      A long distance Boat should be able to function, without a fueled generator.

      A long distance powered boat, has generating capacity with its engines and is a different situation again.

  16. Julian the Apostate says:

    I hate it that the personal insults fly back and forth because someone has a different view of the problem rather than approaching it from a rational standpoint. I learn a lot of current thinking on the evolution of many subjects here. I don’t think think the trolls are disruptive here because of what we are discussing but are attacking us for our use of logic. Due to the way our brains are wired we can be short-circuited easily into fight or flight response. It sneaks in when we least expect it and then it’s too late; the adrenaline rush has to wear off first. I believe the trolls count on this to start a furball. Being aware of the existence of this stratagem is half the battle. Don’t feed the trolls.?

    • Tim says:

      Yes, this is kind of sign of the times, or maybe it’s a feature? Some people can have a civil, courteous discussion to air issues, while others have a snarly pit bull kind of approach. ‘Discretion is the better part of valor.’

      Wolf has a real high class act, and so thanks to Wolf and all the great commenters that support Wolf’s efforts.

      • Captain KurtZ says:

        Yes thanks Wolf for all of your well informed articles.

        Years ago, I was trying to get a job with a large public electric utility here in the Northwest. So I signed up for a committee to study future investments. We looked at all sources, from nuclear to wind and even geothermal ( a nasty soup of….) and figured in some fifty plus factors to come up with a satisfactory ROI. Our report also came up with a real good sense of the EROI of all the projects too.

        By far, the best investment in our findings was roof-top solar panels, the old-school fixed ones that last fifty years.

        Three biggest expenses that we found surprising that NOBODY talks (hint Mr. Malthus) about because we looked at it from a utilities POV is-

        1) line loss
        2) maintenance
        3) theft events

        Line loss is figured per mile, and in a Western State, with hundreds of miles of cable, some older and fraying and underinsulated, some places, it was much as 20% loss over the entire delivery system.

        Called into question any distantly sited generation plant… more on that.

        Maintenance is a huge expense for any local or distantly sited power source. If it moves, it needs to maintained ( and we didn’t figure in all the costs of disposal/retirement for nuclear, which figures to be in the TRILLIONS, and nuclear was STILL the worst long term investment )

        That goes for wind power too. We were not hot on wind. Now we see replacement costs for each stand now being more than a million dollars….

        Fixed PV solar needs very little if no maintenance….

        The third cost was becoming a BIG threat to the grid and utilities in particular. Theft events. Basically copper theft. We were having four to six events a year that would knock us down, and force expensive rerouting.

        Somebody would back up their pick-up truck up and pull down the transmission wire and strip out the copper. ( I can hear the chorus, ‘but copper prices have collapsed and nobody would steal’….. Ha!)

        With the turn of the 21st Century, it was also apparent that with human development happening almost everywhere in the West now, there are no more places to put these big generators or dams anyways.

        Come to think of it, our report was particularly damming to the whole concept of an integrated electrical grid. ( we actually have two – one for us, the other for those special Texans ) With the cost and vulnerability of the system, it probably needs reconceiving.

        That’s where rooftop power generation came into play.

        Twice as much solar energy falls on our castles each day to power all of our energy needs. We DO nothing to catch it.

        The Germans and the Norwegians saw the same numbers and made their investments in rooftop solar, both PV and thermal.

        After our six month stretch, the woman who commissioned the report retired later that year.

        They never released the final report.

        Last time I searched the files, I could find nothing of our work or our committee.

        They disappeared it.

        • EVENT HORIZON says:

          Those that steal copper need a buyer. Buyers are scrap dealers, junk yards, and recycle plants.

          Let the buyers know that IF they ever get caught, they get the death penalty and their business is taken, shut down, or sold and their family gets NOTHING.

          Theft of copper will end if we take it serious. As long as they can get away with it, like they do in Florida, it will continue. Shoot or Hang the thieves, or buyers, and it will end. As long as we have a pathetic legal system that does not kill the criminals, it will continue.

          You only have to use the Death Penalty once.

        • David Calder says:

          I live just outside Seattle so I can tell you the copper thieves have not quit the business of stealing just because prices are down. Really clever ones aren’t backing up their pickups but using lightweight plastic 55 gallon drums with the backs cut so they can work in broad daylight and none’s the wiser until all the stoplights go blank.

    • PleaseStop says:

      Beware claims of ‘rationality’ and ‘logic’.

      They usually indicate ‘assumed ideological superiority’ and ‘motivated reasoning’ in the people that claim them as their own in opposition to the ‘dishonest/disruptive/disturbed or whatever ‘dis word’ is the label of the day.

    • d says:

      “Thorium fuel Cycle”

      Maybe would, be nice if the US got off its tail and got on with it.

      It took the US 18 months to build the world’s first nuclear weapon, after the English told them what top do.

      The US can resolve Thorium, it simply need’s some HARD motivation.

  17. nick kelly says:

    We should distinguish between photo-voltaic solar which makes electricity and passive or other solar that just heats. The latter is cheap.
    You notice it every time you get into a car and it’s warm even though the car hasn’t been running. For the same reason it can get hot.
    Even such a simple thing as windows on the side of the sun’s exposure can make a difference.
    Of course the sun doesn’t always shine but a surprising amount of heat will come through medium overcast. Also around where I live, it’s the clear days that are cold.

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