Hits the nail on the head.
Nothing more to add. You said it all.
On the mark and on target, sir.
For the NO groups, we could put this in the epitaph, or when they all scramble to the microphones to try to explain their positions.
"Reap what you sow, for your own ignorance and arrogance planted the seeds of punishment for strangers."
Only one problem with this post: it's wrong.
The black out was caused primarily by degraded transmission and distribution, not by a lack of generation. There is no shortage of generating capacity, be it coal, nuclear, or hydro-based. Rather, as a side-effect of deregulation, there is a lack of interest in reinvesting in the linkages between these systems. This is basically a tragedy of the commons problem, and will require some type of regulatory fix to properly align the incentives. Bureaucracy may be impeding the transition, but not environmentalists.
Your argument that tranmission shortages are driven by opposition to "weird new cancers" is also misguided. For the most part, fixing transmission bottlenecks does not mean more and bigger lines in new areas, but a long-term and sustained reinvestment to upgrade the transmission capacity, access, and management through existing rights of way.
The points made by environmentalists -- that efficiency should be given more emphasis over blind construction of new generating capacity -- is also well grounded in economics. In many, many, cases, improving the efficiency of energy use costs far less than generating ever increasing amounts of the stuff. Surely the new America you are part of wouldn't be supporting the construction of massive, unneeded new nuclear plants that are heavily subsidized by taxpayers, would you?
One final point: many of the suggestions you make for "solving" the problem of "self-inflicted terrorism" actually drive terror risks up, not down. Remember that generating capacity based on coal, and especially nuclear, tend to be very large plants supplying equally large numbers of people. These are attractive targets, and often difficult to defend. Another strategy promoted by those greens you blindly ridicule is increased reliance on smaller scale decentralized power sources. Aside from likely driving up the share of renewable energy in the mix (which does not have to be imported from the Persian Gulf) decentralized energy is a safer bet in a world of increased terror concerns.
dc...No. You're wrong. The article points out something which should be clear by the failure of the electricity system today and in the past: lack of freedom is causing this easily avoidable mess. Never in an unregulated industry does an indispensible product or process suffer from a "lack of interest" of investors. I've had enough of your regulatory fixes. It should be clear that the government has failed to "align interests" here. And the only thing that could really "align interests" is the political system which is blamed for the problem: capitalism. Under capitalism, the "No-men" could write to the newspapers, discuss and profess anything they want. But they would not be able to inject their agenda by force into the production of electricity. Energy producers could seek the highest profit possible, but one thing would be sure, energy would be abundant and mass-produced. By the way, you should stop using the term "deregulated". Rewriting regulations and partially privatizing selected parts of industries seems like "reregulation" to me. I would think of "deregulated" as an absence of regulations. Kind of like "denazify" did not mean "create a government of reorganized Nazis under a new name". It meant, "no Nazis". Courts and torts, yes. No regulations.
Guess again DC.
"One final point: many of the suggestions you make for "solving" the problem of "self-inflicted terrorism" actually drive terror risks up, not down. Remember that generating capacity based on coal, and especially nuclear, tend to be very large plants supplying equally large numbers of people. These are attractive targets, and often difficult to defend. Another strategy promoted by those greens you blindly ridicule is increased reliance on smaller scale decentralized power sources. Aside from likely driving up the share of renewable energy in the mix (which does not have to be imported from the Persian Gulf) decentralized energy is a safer bet in a world of increased terror concerns."
First it's an ancient military maxim that "He who defends everywhere defends nowhere". From the Military POV it's MUCH simpler to defend a dozen targets the 20,000. Even you should see the logic there. Second, it doesn't make any difference how amny sources you have, UNLESS THERE IS A SOURCE FOR EVER DEMAND. That means in America you need a power source in every house. "A Honda Generator in every basement" Might just be the political slogan of the day. They cose more then chickens, however. Mean while, it does the green movement no good to go 'luddite'. It will destroy your base among soccer moms and the Oh so coddeled left. It would be a shame if the grren movement died from self-inflected wounds, but that looks like what will happen. There is a need for good, sound environmental policies. Unfortunatly , the chicken little crowd has taken over the green movement. They will run off more voters then they attract.
T.( The Human race dominates this planet because of global warming. As the globe gets warmer, more humans will prosper. If you see that as a bad thing you are sick).
Z and Ivan raise some interesting points, but not ones that run counter to my original post. Ivan argues that if you have too many sites to defend, you can't defend it. This is true, but it ignores two important aspects. First, if there is decentralized power in addition to large scale centralized power, the systems become more resilient and redundant. This helps protect them from disturbances. Second, the implications of strikes to small generation sources have much smaller national impacts than those to large, centralized power. From a national security perspective, therefore, you don't need to defend everything in order to protect and retain vital societal services. Ivan also forgets that even with centralized power, you have the delivery system, which ends up going to every house. Thus, any argument he applies to the "generator in every basement" (of course this would not be the chosen technology) would also apply to that loop of wire to every rooftop without which no electricity reaches its end users.
Z argues that the solution to electricity problems must come through capitalism. I would agree. But every market operates within parameters set by political bodies; electricity is no different. Deregulation of generation did encourage the construction of lots of new capacity that was smaller and more flexible than the albatross nuclear plants of the 1970s. However, property rights have not been well delineated in the transmission and distribution area, and, as Z notes, underinvestment has resulted. Private investment is never able to sort out these problems until the property rights issues have been resolved; this is what must be done now.
See the attached link for a useful overview of market structure issues associated with the power failure. Please note that the person quoted spent many years with one of the big private sector energy consulting firms, doing work for the very utilities Z holds out hope for as solving the crisis.
I thought I had the problem with distribution of power covered with
"NO: you may not build more electric lines and substations. We are afraid of weird cancers."
Sorry if that was unclear.
dc provides a link to what he (she?) claims is "a useful overview of market structure issues associated with the power failure." The link is to a Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Institute -- cofounder, Amory Lovins. Lovins and RMI have been one of the major impediments to energy access in this country for the last 20 or 30 years. They are exactly the kind of NO-MEN of which the original post speaks. Their supposed solutions to the problem do not provide cost effective and efficient solutions to America's energy problems -- the are only proposed in order to fool scientifically illiterate legislators into thinking that large generating plants are both inefficient and not needed.
Recommendations such as, "Energy sources such as fuel cells, combined heat and power, solar panels and micro-turbines can provide power at lower cost and greater reliability than the centralized power grid," simply are not supported by sound science.
On the issue of terrorism dc says "Remember that generating capacity based on coal, and especially nuclear, tend to be very large plants supplying equally large numbers of people. These are attractive targets, and often difficult to defend." The number of people needed to run a nuclear power plant is actually very small; and current construction practices of nuclear plants make them very easy to defend against terrorist attacks. I could only hope that terrorists, both green and islamic, would target nuclear plants rather than passenger jets and high rises. But, methinks the terrorists (the islamic ones anyway) are smarter than dc. They know that crashing an airliner into a reactor building with 5 feet of reinforced concrete that's been specifically designed to withstand such impacts would only kill those on board. Radioactive fallout from such incidents would be minimal. No, the islamic terrorists like to see high body counts. They'll leave destruction of power plants to their allies -- the greens.
A few other points to be noted:
dc's opening argument is that the degradation of the power system is the result of a "commons problem." To be specific this is precisely the problem created by regulation; the problem that no one is allowed to own our electricty outright. If you can't own it, you can't sell it. If you can't sell it, why would you invest in it? Socialism fails again.
Further, environmentalists may claim to encourage efficiency but this, too, has not happened thanks to the hinderences set against the market. Remember: If property rights were respected, then generating electricity would be profitable and efficiency would be rewarded by bigger margins. But they're not and so it isn't.
And finally, the military argument is just lame. Suddenly we're supposed to plan our civilian lives around what's strategic from a military perspective? Don't we have a military so that we wouldn't have to do that?
It is particularly un-American to suggest that we run our lives (even when it comes to life essentials like electricity) by the permission of the state. And the same should be said for the suggestion that we should cower before scowling punks and mewling hippies.
Here are a few other points that need to be added to the discussion.
1. Large plants are more efficient at generating electricity, regardless of how you measure it: generating cost, total power output, net power output, infrastructure, or infringement of the rights of others. The concept is called "economy of scale". That simply shows, through research, that it's more cost effective to build a 2GW power station than to build 100 20MW power stations.
2. The electric grid isn't like a stream, where all you have to do is add water to increase the flow. Power has to be balanced, and has to be phased into the system. This process is called "Phase Matching" and is one reason why the entire grid couldn't be just "turned back on". Just as an out-of-phase cylinder in an automobile severely restricts power output, an out-of-phase generator can cause all sorts of problems within the grid. Again, too, it's easy to match phase with a few large generators than it is with a hundred or more smaller ones.
3. "Alternate energy" sources just don't produce enough power, or don't produce it at the right times, or cost considerably more to build and maintain than a state-of-the-art coal, petroleum, natural gas, or nuclear power plant. There's also the problem of phase alignment as mentioned above.
The entire North American grid is a misnomer. It's not one grid, it's a hundred or more grids, each with different requirements, different customers, and different problems to overcome. It would be nice to wave a magic wand over the entire fiasco and "make it better". Unfortunately the ONLY solution is to face up the fact there IS a problem, to study the depth, scope, and urgency of various facets of the problem, and start working on solving those facets, thus solving the overall problem. There are far too many people unwilling to cooperate, to work together for the common good, who would leave their partisan bickering in the closet at home. The intransigence of these people to those with the responsibility to solve the problem compounds an already difficult situation.
Granting for a moment her questionable contention that 'there's enough generating capacity' (all the power Luddites say that), "dc" also dodges the incentives needed to upgrade that distribution grid. The generation facilities were privatized, the grids were not. It seems agreed that it's the grid that suffers the 'tragedy of the commons', in that it's the over-regulated part of the system. Sell it to someone and let them charge what's necessary to capitalize its improvement. Oh, you may need to tar and feather a few thousand demagogues while they quack for low electricity prices at someone else's expense (as Gray Davis did), but the rights of way exist already. Easier to install additional or improved conductors in them than get a bazillion new 'neighborhood' or 'community' generation stations through the permitting process, beset by Luddites crying NIMBY.
"NO: you may not charge what it is worth. We are afraid of big monopoly business."
The existing price controls on power in the West appear to be functional and fair. http://mresearch.com has more on this. Most of the "unregulated" power exchanges suffer primarily from rules sets created by and for the sellers of power. Since one of the primary rules established by these organizations is secret terms of sales, the sellers have no incentive to charge what it is worth, only what they can get while protected by secrecy. Trades made under the veil of secrecy are not nearly as likely to serve the public interest as those subject to public review.
DC: There are some valuable gains to be made by technological increases in efficiencies. There are no valuable gains to be made by regulatory requirements of efficiencies. The barriers to understanding imposed by political positioning prevent either legislators or bureaucrats from developing regulations capable of rewarding efficiencies.
This is funny. The lights go off, and power "experts" come out of the woodwork, explaining about grids, linkages, overloads, coal plants vs nuclear ones, more plants vs better distribution, etc. The problem wasn't electrical, but political. Vanderleun's point was to emphasize how so many people who have nothing to do with power generation, have veto power over the industry. Many experts knew and warned about the possibility of an event like this, as news reports show. Report after report was made about the inadequacy of energy supply infrastructure. The experts knew, but their voices were drowned out because government policy involves a lot of people who are irrelevent to the process and only slow things down. Total deregulation should be implemented, where the only party to decide what to build would be the producers of electricity, free to pursue the most profitable types of electricity. The outsiders would be free to cite facts and figures, communicate, write, whatever. But they would not have regulatory oversight which they would use to block certain projects and advocate wasteful ones in the name of the "common good". Look, the consequences of failure, to a company under capitalism, is bankruptcy. When the government runs things, there are no alternatives for consumers, so you have to accept the apologies of whomever caused the problem and settle for their "regulatory fixes" which fix the problem until the next blackout.
So, if I'm getting this right:
We should be dependent on oil, we should not have wild rivers or clean air, we need more radioactivity and cancer, and business should be allowed to become a monopoly.
Props to Eric for his concise and thorough distillation of the gist of the argument.
You can if you want, Eric, but you'd benefit your fellow citizens more by inventing some new technology that transmits more electricity in response to the rising demand. Repugnant as it may seem, the market would reward you - but you could donate the proceeds to a new foundation promoting negative population growth.
"The link is to a Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Institute -- cofounder, Amory Lovins. Lovins and RMI have been one of the major impediments to energy access in this country for the last 20 or 30 years. They are exactly the kind of NO-MEN of which the original post speaks."
Then why have they been instrumental in helping industries lower their energy costs for the last 30 years? Profit-making companies wouldn't hire them unless they could produce results. Actually, RMI has always sought market solutions for environmental problems, early on distanced themselves from extremist environmentalists, and their science is sound. This is an ad hominem attack.
"DC: There are some valuable gains to be made by technological increases in efficiencies. There are no valuable gains to be made by regulatory requirements of efficiencies. The barriers to understanding imposed by political positioning prevent either legislators or bureaucrats from developing regulations capable of rewarding efficiencies."
You obviously didn't read his post, since he was recommending market solutions such as clearly defining property rights.
ah, the 3-phase power grid
it was abhorred by tesla, the only human to ever understand electricty
Grambo...I'm not following your point about Tesla and the power grid. Tesla was a proponent of AC, which made the grid possible, and I believe also the inventor of the 3-phase induction motor, Why do you say he aborred the 3-phase grid?