Solar Impulse: Poster Child for the Impracticality of Solar Power

July 26th, 2016 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

Solar energy has some legitimate uses in isolated cases, such as providing electricity where there is no other source available, and when you need it so badly you are willing to pay a premium, say, for use on your sailboat.

But the inherent physics limitation to solar energy is that it is so diffuse (so little solar energy falls on each square meter of ground), the efficiency of conversion to electricity is so low (typically 15% or so), and it is so expensive to convert it to electricity with photovoltaic cells (the manufacture of which is expensive and environmentally damaging), that it might never supply more than a small fraction of global energy needs.

Maybe in a few hundred years fossil fuels will become so scarce and expensive to extract that things will change — assuming no forms of nuclear power are ever embraced again. But for now, solar energy can only be kept alive through forcing the public to pay a large premium for it (subsidies). (Those who claim Big Oil is also subsidized need to look into the numbers…government taxes on petroleum far exceed oil company profits and subsidies, while solar powered electricity costs society about 30 times more than gas-fired electricity).

So, what could better illustrate the huge cost and inefficiency of solar energy than to pay a small army of people to build and fly a single-person solar-powered glider around the world in only 16 months?

Now that Solar Impulse has accomplished that $177 million task, renewable energy advocates are rejoicing. But even the people behind the project aren’t saying that we will ever have solar-powered air transport systems.

According to project initiator and Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard, who also piloted Solar Impulse for the final leg of the flight,

“Solar Impulse was not built to carry passengers, but to carry messages. We want to demonstrate the importance of the pioneering spirit, to encourage people to question what they’ve always taken for granted. The world needs to find new ways of improving the quality of human life. Clean technologies and renewable forms of energy are part of the solution.”

Now, I’m not against people who have a lot extra money spending it on such adventurous projects. What bothers me is the large number of people who believe it somehow validates a goal of solar-powered transportation systems. I’d wager that much less money (and fossil-fueled support) went into the recent completion of a round-the-world balloon flight in only 11 days…not 16 months.

pig-flyingUntil someone repeals the laws of physics, solar energy will remain a minor player in meeting global energy demand.

While the Solar Impulse project is a remarkable achivement in human ingenuity, it has little more practical significance than building a flight system that will finally achieve the goal of making pigs fly.

257 Responses to “Solar Impulse: Poster Child for the Impracticality of Solar Power”

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  1. Francisco Fernandez says:

    Amazing!! It is truly a feat of engineering…. well, you can do what it did quite a bit faster in a hot air balloon, a zeppelin and maybe even a glider.

    But mind not! Better to waste money!!

    I will not insult your intellect posting links to the feats of hot air and zeppelins. Any search engine will give those to you.

    • JDAM says:

      The aircraft maybe impractical, but the Lithium Sulfur (Li-S) batteries they are using are far superior to the Lithuim Ion Batteries (LiB) Musk is producing in his Gigafactory.
      Double the energy density.
      Cost half as much.
      Electrolyte is nonflammable and nontoxic.
      100% depth of charge vs 60% – 80%.
      Sulfur replaces the cobalt nickel cathode,sulfur is a byproduct of petroleum refining.
      Cost ½ as much to manufacture.

  2. jimc says:

    Excellent observations. The only one with a practical solar energy system is Mother Nature. Its called plant life and it takes up a lot of acreage.

    • Francisco Fernandez says:

      If you think of it, solar is supportable. Coal is solar, oil is solar… it just took a couple millennia to harvest the energy, that’s all.

  3. Turbulent Eddie says:

    I had similar thoughts – better have good bathrooms on the solar air line to make it through two months.

  4. geran says:

    Great points, Dr. Roy!

  5. jimc says:

    Someone else coming to see things from Docs point of view?

  6. Michael van der Riet says:

    Thanks for making the distinction between this remarkable achievement, and the propaganda it is intended to convey. The schoolboy in me would have longed to take part in the voyage.

  7. mpainter says:

    Around The World In 80 Days. Ah,.. I mean, ah..480 Days.

  8. Alberto Zaragoza Comendador says:

    A related insanity is the obsession with putting panels everywhere. On your roof, on your car, ‘integrated’ into walls…

    The more you learn about solar the more you realize these contraptions don’t make sense. If solar ever gets off the ground it will mostly be through utility-scale farms in the desert where cleaning is easy as you don’t need to climb anywhere, the panels can rotate to follow the sun, there are economies of scale, etc. Panels on roofs = subsidized feel-goodness, for the most part.

    • Maurice H Rich says:

      I live in Qld, Australia where power pricing is among the most expensive in the world. In fact all of the states & territories of Australia share that dubious honour. When power is that expensive, Solar has a huge impact upon reducing your power bill, as it has done for me. From $750-835 per quarter down to $45-$55 per month ($135-$165 per quarter).

      • Maurice, I’ve read that electricity prices in Australia have tripled in the last 6 years. How can the addition of solar, which is inherently much more expensive that coal or natgas, REDUCE prices…unless the market has somehow been distorted through government interference?

        • crakar24 says:

          Hi Roy,

          In South Australia we get 26 cents a kW on what we put back into the grid (we pay 36 or so cents a kW for what we draw from the grid). So not quite parity.

          South Australia is a basket case, we have many symbols of stupidity atop a concrete plinth and have recently shut down our only coal fired power station on that day we ran out of power so had yo hit the phones to buy some from interstate, the price went from 13 cents to 14 dollars a kW.

          Industry here is on its knees due to economic recession so high power prices are the death knell.

          Roxby downs monthly bill went from about 100k to 2.5 million.

          What used to be a taboo subject (agw) is now being openly debated as our third world power supply hits home so some good has come from this.



          • mpainter says:

            The S. Aus. government has wrecked the economy of state. This is a harbinger of what’s to come. The greens will be presented with the bill when it’s all been sorted out.

          • Aaron S says:

            What is even more strange about Australia is the huge Natural Gas reserves that exist. Energy should be cheap and rather than exporting raw materials manufacture there.

      • SMS says:

        It’s been a few years since I was introduced to the solar subsidies mandated in South Australia, but they were atrocious. Anyone buying a solar system could expect a +/- $.45/kw-hr buy back for power fed back into the grid. This buy back expense was passed onto the customers of the power company, it was not paid by the government. Those affected most adversely were the poor. The rich could afford to buy solar systems to supplement their power requirements, the poor could not. The increases in power costs were unfairly passed onto those who could least afford it in a very disproportionate manner.

        • Ross says:

          Sorry. Solar Panels are NOT expensive. Also I have a 4.6 K/Watt system here in QLD – Australia. It generates a surplus to grid. I grant the distortion as I get 50 cent per KWh that gets to grid as feed in tariff rebate. I have not paid an electricity bill for some 4 years now. This means the high tariff causes a bonus of some $300 per QTR. Sometimes as high as $400 depending on sunshine levels that cause the surplus in feed back tariff. My home is 2.5 degrees off North facing – Southern hemisphere – Directly South is your best option in the US.

          Aside – I shifted to LED technology on all lights and there has been a further reduction of $50 on my electricity bill per QTR. Before that I was using energy efficient CFL technology which also has improved a lot

          Electricity in Australia is expensive [for the record] due to an over investment in OLD and aging infrastructure technologies. Poles and wires.

          I disagree- solar panel are 1/3 price I paid for mine – $9,600. As for the so called poor – that is relative to where one puts their priorities. That is a lame commentary as it is like saying the poor cannot afford petrol for their cars. It is an insult without foundation.

          I disagree with Spencer – he is no friend of renewable energy or any target. Yes just continue to burn it for the “poor sake”. Cornwall’s Alliances echo chamber and absolute fundamentalist justification for continual climate change denial and a stand off from renewable energy as being too green and expensive – utter rot.

          I do not have anytime for his statistical prowess, maths or his climate commentaries as they are mostly all contrarian statements loaded with miscalculation gaming the science. Climate Change is a continual early shift in warming meteorological patterns over the annual 4 Seasons that are statistically evident over a decade.

          Grab any chart of Spencer’s and draw a line through his minimal temps instead of eye balling his maximum temps in that rarefied air lacking oxygen. Those computer models of the upper atmosphere over the last 20 years. It is systemically evil to call this a “policy” precursor for sustainability. What happens when those minimums on the charts finally catch up to the highs.

          Hello to all you Aussie Climate Change deniers, found here roosting on your perch, crowing and joining the choir – singing the same song. Burn it baby – burn [for the poor of course] Cheers

          • mpainter says:

            Ross, you seem proud of the way you get the poor and oppressed to subsidize your electricity.

          • donb says:

            Ross does not see the full picture, nor that he is “gaming” the existing system.
            Most likely he draws on fossil fuel power when the Sun is not out, and pays less for it than he sells solar power to the grid. What if everyone did that? There would be overabundant power on sunny afternoons and none at night. So until he has a way to store that extra power he produces, he is totally reliant on fossil fuel power.
            Further, the argument (sometimes given) that if everyone would convert to solar, then Ross could draw solar from some distant place where the Sun is shinning. In that case the distant source would have to be large enough to supply its own needs AND Ross’s area needs as well. And Ross’s area solar capacity would have to be large enough to supply his need AND that distance place as well. And hope that the Sun is always shinning in one of those places. Thus, a much, much greater potential solar power capacity would have to exist for ALL solar power than would be required for fossil fuel.

          • mpainter says:

            And there would have to be back-up for the system, approaching 100% of electricity needs of the entire country. And Ross seems oblivious to the fact that his solar subsidy depends on conventional power generation.

            But, to say that Ross does not see the whole picture is to mis-state the problem. In fact, Ross doesn’t want to see the whole picture. He finds contentment in his renewable fairytale.

          • SMS says:

            I haven’t seen any current pricing for producing energy by different sources, but the last quoted bare price ( no taxes, no subsidies) to produce each was 1 cent per kw-h for coal, 15 cents per kw-h for wind and 20 cents per kw-h for solar. The only way current renewables can compete with coal and gas is by taxing the crap out of fossil fuels and taking that tax and subsidizing solar and wind. This isn’t brain surgery; if the cost of one is greater than the other, it’s more expensive to produce. Duh!!

            Ross, the decision you made may have been right for you but it is based on false economics. Good for you and bad for the poor who end up subsidizing your power needs. If you want a level playing field, ask that your buy back energy be taxed similar to the power company and that you get paid at the same 1 cent per kw-h as coal. Re-do your calculations and tell me solar is economic.

            Imagine it another way; lets say everyone in Australia has solar and can feed back power into the grid at the quoted price of 50 cents per kw-h. How messed up would that be.

          • mpainter says:

            SMS, in his post Roy puts a link to a WUWT post that makes this comparison. It shows that solar electricity costs about thirty times that generated by natural gas. See link above.

          • SMS says:

            Ross, I’ve installed a few LED bulbs, but only where the lights are on for an extended period each day. It pisses me off that I can no longer buy the old tech “cheap” bulbs for use in areas where the bulbs almost never come on. In places where the economics tell me that I cannot afford to install LED and should be installing my old edison light bulb instead. Do you feel good installing LED in your spare bedroom wardrobe knowing (with a few exceptions) it will never be turned on? But the progressives think they know better. And progressives have made it impossible for me to make the economic choices that make sense for me.

          • John Spencer says:

            But people in the UK don’t get as much sun as those in Australia.

    • Ross says:

      “Solar panel prices have dropped 80 per cent in five years” Canberra Times Australia 30th July 2016

      Re LED Lights Edison Bulbs from China for $1 each freight free. USA buy direct from China. In US you use Edison. These also come in 12 volt down lights, substitute halogen strips at wattage that make CFLs look like energy soaks. Example LED 7 watt = 20 Watt in CFL which equal around 80 watts in incandescent in brightness.

      And what about the FOUR Hour BATTERY backup that now exist in smart LED bulbs RIGHT now! And they “talk” to your home automation as well.

      The poor are OPPRESSED by Coal and Oil scaring governments & economies of the world to stay true to their addiction to coal & oil as TAX revenue and implied “cheap” source.

      I will phase in the new technology of in controlling every wattage drain on light bulbs in the home via automation coupled “smart bulb LED’s to battery backup once they drop in price – thereby burying the BS that solar are only as good a sun shining.

      I have dropped substantially my power usage and my dependence on grid support is getting to point where battery or storage can take over. QLD Beautiful one day and perfect the next.

      We live in exciting times that even the implied poor are not disenfranchised from.

      • Lewis says:


        The poor in the US are hardly oppressed. They have most of the same things others have. Living quarters, tv, refrigerators, food, clothing, internet, cell phones, transportation and medical care. Why call them oppressed.

        You, it seems, are much richer, being able to afford an investment in solar technology, which is subsidized by transfer payments from others. Do you operate without need for the grid? If so, then why not shut the connection off? answer – Because you want the money that is transferred from others to you and/or you need the supply of electricity produced by others.

        This is typical of the rationalizations of solar nerds – you pretend, to yourself and friends, that your actions benefit others, but in reality it only benefits you at the expense of others. But in the meantime you can crow about how wonderful you are.

        Answer this: how were the solar panels and LED lights manufactured? What was the energy source of the process? How were the raw materials mined, refined, formed, brought together, and shipped?

        No, you sir, are still dependent upon hydrocarbons and will be the rest of your life.

        Which brings us back to your poor. They are doing so well, as well as the rich of 200 years ago, because of hydrocarbons and nuclear power, NOT because of solar energy.

        • Ross says:

          Lewis, The Oil & Gas Commentary CREATE this idea of poor being oppressed by renewable. I agree with you about the poor. Lewis I cannot go off the grid at the moment as battery and offline storage has not settled down on price and it is in the baby stage of implementation.

          I await further developments so I go finally go off the grid. when that that happens all the surplus will go into battery storage and grid will only be their in severe restrictive times of sunlight. But do I expect on my present usage and calculation that I will be 90% LESS dependent on grid supply.

          I did built a home at modest size and price designed to commanding North aspect with face to North. It is also an energy efficient home and it adds only modest cost to construction.

          The high Solar rebate from the State government enables me to progressively embrace smart ideas and energy efficiency and linear steps of inefficiencies. I find the technology enlightening and exhilarating. It is VERY CHEAP and easy to implement. My carbon footprint by methods applied teaches me to live a quality life and in no way it sends me to the “stone” age of living. My carbon footprint is now 50% less as fresh energy usage moving forward.

          Imagine if all the population did this – 25 million by simple changing of living habits. 50% LESS energy from coal CONSUMED by a the consumers of a NATION. There are of course energy intensive industrial industries and NO-ONE is suggesting these shut down to conserve energy.

          We are all faced with consumer choices daily and what we can do for our planet at a choice level. These are not silly things. There is however a rebellious spirit in the heart of man to wastage and greed. If you have a conservative demeanor (this is US only surprisingly) you will be anti-green and anti-conservationist.

          Lewis you have conveyed the EXACT FEAR mongering and EXCUSE – “Which brings us back to your poor. They are doing so well, as well as the rich of 200 years ago, because of hydrocarbons and nuclear power, NOT because of solar energy”

          I paraphrase the above so you get it. The Christian Cornwell Alliance with input from Spencer goes down this stupid idea as well of the above. (I can debate this anytime at any place and in town hall as well).

          The peasant and farming populations of the earth in the 1800s gave way to the INDUSTRIAL revolution of the 20th century. That is why mankind is doing so well, as well as the rich of 200 years ago. Hydrocarbon based energy drove the world’s economy back then. As our population increases to 7 billion – we are going have to more efficient with our energy use and create new sources of power generation and conservation of the PRESENT energy to ensure the lifestyle and wealth of our countries continue. THIS SI NOT sustainable like the start of the industrial revolution where the population of world was not 1 billion!

          1750 AD 629 961
          1800 AD 813 1,125
          1850 AD 1,128 1,402

          Solar energy and wind power should not be attacked but embraced as the mix of 21st century energy for the future.

          Burning coal, oil and nuclear as solutions is NOT enough and if we do nothing – our world will be plunged into more war, darkness and population collapse.

          I predict global genocide of 2 billion people if carbon dioxide rise consistently in our atmosphere to greater then 700 ppm. Global shortages of simply water will cause it.

          See the latest findings caused by coal burning and climate change on the greatest reserves of water in the world feeding over 3 billion:


  9. Walter Dnes says:

    By the way, the “fossil-fuel-free” flight was no such thing. See In addition to a staff of 60 at mission control in Monaco, they had a Russian Ilyushin IL-76 strategic airlifter, a four-engine jet originally designed to carry machinery and military supplies into remote parts of the USSR. Let’s just say that it burns quite a bit of fuel shadowing the Solar Impulse for 40,000 km. Why do they need the Ilyushin airlifter, you ask…

    1) a ground crew is necessary for landing, and has to be flown to landing areas ahead of the Solar Impulse. The ground crew has to grab ahold of the wings *BY HAND* as the Solar Impulse lands, so that its wings don’t scrape the ground. That ground crew has to be specially trained, and waiting as the Solar Impulse lands.

    2) the wingspan is so huge that it won’t fit in a standard hangar. The Ilyushin carries around a portable inflatable hangar. The Solar Impulse is too fragile to be left outside for weeks on end.

    Given that it lands so slowly that a running human can keep up with it, the airport it lands at has to be shut down for 20 minutes. Part of the shutdown is to allow turbulence from large jets landing to dissapate. Ask a Cessna pilot sometime about how much “fun” it is landing at the same airstrip that a 747 landed on a couple of minutes earlier.

  10. Kurt in Switzerland says:



    Dana Nuccitelli *(of Guardian 97% fame) had enough of a fit to post his “debunking” of your recent article, which I found rather level-headed. I suggested that he should at least extend you the courtesy of a rebuttal.

    His response read something like [Roy lost in the peer-reviewed literature, so Dana didn’t need to stoop so low as to pretend that a debate with any ‘contrarian’ would advance science].

    Perhaps you’d like to offer a brief comment on his site, nevertheless.

    The discourse on both sides is increasingly tribal. Gone is any semblance of rational, cordial exchange.

    • Gary Ashe says:

      Just left my calling card there aswell Kurt….I know he is a bloke…….a rancid human being.

      Lets see now, in tenure Dr, 23 valid points, and this ”classy” chic Dana refutes them with 23 links to a cartoonist activists web site, you couldnt make this nonsense up, unless you are a skeptical science chic, with zero meteorological qualifications doing a guest-spot scribble for the Guardian..

      Way to go Dana hunny.

    • Gary Ashe says:

      And another one, just cant help myself when i am having fun.

      Loved the post from the phantom Nobel Laureate Mr Mann, whudda thought it that such an honest open guy a bastion of climate change integrity could of lied so badly about himself in his 2 court cases, still its only 2 or 3 million in legal costs lost so far, his sponsors can afford that.

    • Gordon Robertson says:

      @Kurt in Switzerland…”Dana Nuccitelli *(of Guardian 97% fame) …”

      The Guardian has become the National Enquirer of climate science. For you in Europe not familiar with the Enquirer, it specializes in outright lies, much like the UK tabloids.

      Reading Nuticelli’s words at the link reminds me of the worst of pseudo-science. The guy quotes Gavin Schmidt, a mathematician and climate modeler.

      Schmidt was taken to task by an engineer, Jeffrey Glassman, because he gave an equation for positive feedback in one of his realclimate rants that could not produce positive feedback. It makes me wonder how climate models work when one of the best known modelers cannot write an equation for positive feedback, which is one of the x-factors in models.

      Then Nuticelli goes on to quote skepticalscience, an outfit that has indulged in seriously questionable practices. He is still raving about the 97% propaganda long after SS was proved wrong.

  11. David says:

    Innovation takes time and investment

    Orville and Wilbur Wright make first powered, sustained, and controlled flight in a heavier-than-air flying machine.
    Alberto Santos-Dumont makes first successful powered flight in Europe.

    Louis Bleriot, French aviator, makes first airplane crossing of English Channel.

    Image: see caption below
    [Charles Lindbergh, full-length portrait, standing, facing front, beside the
    Spirit of St. Louis], 1927.

    Image: see caption below
    [Amelia Earhart, seated in airplane,
    checking equipment], 1937.

    Robert H. Goddard makes first free flight of a liquid-fueled rocket.

    Charles A. Lindbergh completes first solo, nonstop trans-Atlantic flight.

    Frank Whittle, British inventor, invents the jet engine.

    Amelia Earhart is the first woman to fly a solo non-stop trans-Atlantic flight.

    A modern airliner, Boeing 247, flies for the first time.

    Germany’s Heinkel 178 is the first fully jet-propelled aircraft to fly.
    Charles E. Yeager pilots Bell X-1–the first aircraft to exceed the speed of sound in level flight.

    • and all of those advances were based upon a goal which was physically possible. You cannot get more energy out of an energy source than is available. For each successful engineering advance that propels humanity forward, there are thousands which fail.

      • David says:

        “For each successful engineering advance that propels humanity forward, there are thousands which fail”

        Indeed but solar technology has come a long way from its invention in 1953.
        And solar panel efficiency has improved since 1953 60 years ago. Solar efficiency records are actually set pretty much every month.

        To dismiss a technology that is in its relative infancy is not very fair to that technology. And is very much akin to the people who claimed the heavier than than air flight was impossible and not worth the effort.

        But from thous first steps we can now put men on the moon

        You seem to be saying its a waste of time (correct me if i am mistaken)

        • Lewis says:

          Perhaps one should say solar has its place, but the ability to supply large scale electric power would be better with nuclear power plants.

          Certainly solar works – there are farms all over North Carolina – just as any industrial plant, they take a lot of space and maintenance. They also need storage facilities. My estimate is that North Carolina would need to put 500,000 acres of solar panels up to get rid of coal etc. I think there are some 26,000,000 acres of land in NC so that is doable. The problem is it will all be arable land. In the meantime it still requires subsidies to survive.

          The long list of aeronautical achievements listed earlier were along the lines of the solar airplane – technological feats. Private industry used those to create the flying machines we have today. Not so the solar industry.

          In essence, it is only another example of the religious left using government to support their religion while denying the religious right the same opportunity.

          • RAH says:

            IMO the most important and practical “place” for solar is when you are in a remote location and need a limited amount of electric power or heat when there is no better source. Back in the 60’s we were using solar panels to recharge our NiCad military Radio batteries. One heck of a lot easier than using the manual charger which we would have to do anyway to get a full charge. But given time and sun the solar panels saved a whole lot of work and were excellent when maintaining noise discipline was necessary.

        • If you read the post, you would note I said it was a great human achievement….if someone has lots of money to waste. Do the math: You can improve PV efficiency by a factor of 3, and solar will still be 10x more expensive than natgas generated electricity. You seem to be ignoring the fact that there are very few Watts of energy to be collected from sunlight….as I said, it’s a physics limitation which cannot be overcome. Comparing progress in solar energy generation to the invention of airplanes suggests you don’t understand the basics.

          • RAH says:

            As a practical matter this circumnavigation by solar powered airplane has no more practical value than a circumnavigation by a balloon or an ultrahigh altitude free fall. Does it show the way of the future for manned flight? I think not, though possibly it does for certain highly specialized drones.

        • mpainter says:

          David, you first say that solar technology is 60 years old. Then you say that it is in its “relative infancy”.
          Roy Spencer is right. Compared to power generation through natural gas or other conventional fuels, solar generation will always be exceedingly expensive. The practical application of solar cells will always be limited because of its source. A pox on government subsidies of solar power. That is a proven waste, another green myth taken root.

        • crakar24 says:


          The next advancement in your well constructed list should/will be “man flies commercial jet at mach 4 due to advancements in scram jet technology”.

          What you are talking about is regression not progression and therein lies the problem.

        • Ayla says:

          David, please tell us when we should expect that efficiency to come around, you know, so we can avoid wasting money on what you yourself consider inefficient today. Thanks!

        • Gordon Robertson says:

          @David…”To dismiss a technology that is in its relative infancy is not very fair to that technology”.

          David…I have worked in the electrical, electronics, and computer fields for decades and I regarded solar powered flight as a gimmick the first time I read about this round the world flight.

          One horsepower is equivalent to 746 watts of electrical power. A 1 HP motor requires 16 amps at 115 volts. Most motors you see running in homes at 120 volts are fractional HP motors (under 1 HP).

          A typical solar panel puts out 12 volts only. To turn over a gas powered engine in a car at 12 volts requires around 500 amps. Can you imagine the current in an electrical motor that would be required to replace a jet engine with 50,000 HP?

          Don’t even think about it. Solar panels will never replace fossil fuel driven aircraft engines. They cannot deliver that kind of power.

          In fact, if solar power becomes the standard in cities, all homes will have to be rewired to 12 volts. That means 12 volt refrigerators and so on.

          • coturnix says:

            >>In fact, if solar power becomes the standard in cities, all homes will have to be rewired to 12 volts<<

            Apparently you never followed how amazing semiconductor power electronics has become over the years. Converting those 12V to 120 or even 720 is no brainer. The expense of producing the silicon is (in my opinion)

    • Curious George says:

      One more innovation to add:

      The Gossamer Albatross, a human-powered aircraft built by American aeronautical engineer Dr. Paul B. MacCready’s company AeroVironment, completed a successful crossing of the English Channel.

      Where can I buy a flying bike?

    • Paul Aubrin says:

      Early aircraft started to fly when it became possible to build motors with a high energy density.

      This energy density is not achievable with solar panels.

      The Wright brothers could fly thanks to Gustav Whitehead’s light, high energy density, steam engines.

  12. Curious George says:

    Solar versus wind. Wind clearly wins. Sailships could navigate around the world much faster.

    The real message of the Solar Impulse is: Don’t fly. Sail.

  13. David Appell says:

    Roy, is this post written as part of the $190,000, or for free?

    • mpainter says:

      Do you see any future in solar powered flight? Your thoughts, please and thank you.

    • jimc says:


      A way to blame others for your own negative thoughts by repressing them and then attributing them to someone else.

      — the urban dictionary

    • For free, as usual. And I have no idea where you get “$190,000” from…have you been reading leftist blogs again? As I’ve said, even after all CEOs of fossil fuel companies say that renewables are the way to go, I will still be singing the praises of oil and coal and natural gas…till something better comes along.

    • geran says:

      Davie, just so folks will not think you are a fraud, please post your tax returns for the last five years. Make sure all your sources of income are clearly identified. Also, make sure the CPA firm is clearly identified that prepared, or validates, your returns.

      That way, no one will think you are a jealous, bitter, sanctimonious, rabid hypocrite.

      You wouldn’t want folks to think something like that….

      • The U.S. willingly spends about $5 Trillion each year on fossil fueled energy. Big Oil doesn’t need to pay people to sing the praises of inexpensive energy. Environmental interests have received far more $$ from Big Oil than have a few skeptics. We’re not needed….we aren’t propping up some unreliable, inefficient, and overly-expensive energy industry…like solar and wind.

    • Eric H says:

      David Appell,

      You have zero class. Perhaps you would be a much happier and nicer person if you actually ventured outside, took an aerobics class, shaved, got a job…Looking at your website, blogging doesn’t seem to be a successful venture for you. On this post I am comment #44. Your latest post generated exactly 1 comment, which is a good day for you isn’t it David? But here you are again insulting a published and awarded scientist that has done nothing more wrong then having a different, very qualified opinion of climate change and the politics that are the true agenda of your ilk.

    • appell'sajerk says:

      Didn’t yer mama teach you no manners?

  14. Norman says:

    Wind was brought up. It might have a higher energy density than solar (a few megawatts per machine) but it still has a major problem. It is unpredictable and unreliable, this will never change.

    Here is a link to MISO which is an energy distribution company. It covers most the central part of the US.

    This link allows one to go to real-time data. Opening up this one can see real time wind generation, total demand and and LMP map which has a clickable resources in the upper right to show how much different energy sources make up the total amount.

    In the spring wind will blow a lot with peak production in MISO up to 12,000 megawatts of power (now it is around 2000). In the spring the total demand may peak at 80,000 megawatts so wind can provide a significant chunk of power at this time. But even in the spring it is highly sporadic. Coal fired plants go on and off regularly during the spring (which is hard on these plants, not designed for it). You might have 12,000 megawatts of available wind power one day and the next you have 1000. 11,000 megawatts is equivalent of 11 large power producing facilities. It is a lot of energy to cycle to provide customers with continuous electrical energy for daily use.

    There is not available means of storage, at this time or even into the foreseeable future, for 80,000 to 120,000 megawatts (summer demand on hot days). I calculated out battery storage and just one days worth (when wind is not blowing) would cost around $1 trillion and take millions of batteries.

    I think the future is in some means of fusion energy not wind.

    • mpainter says:

      Norman, good comment on wind power and how it creates problems in the grid. The real problem is that wind power is unreliable. And exceedingly expensive.
      For cheap, reliable and practical power, conventional power generation is the answer. Wind turbines should be shut down.

  15. Espen says:

    I’m just waiting for the first ultra runner to beat that (minus crossing the Atlantic ocean and the Bering strait). The participants of the 2009 Trans Europe Foot Race ran 4485 kilometers in 61 days, that’s a little slower, but not much 🙂

  16. dave says:

    Meanwhile, in the real world, there is a mighty battle going on in Downing Street, London between the cat in No. 10 (Larry, Mouser to the Prime Minister) and the cat in No. 11 (Palmerston, Mouser to the Foreign Secretary). Palmerston does not believe in CAGW, and gave Larry’s paw a twist to try and wake him up. They are both rescued street cats, and know how to punch.

    Neither the Prime Minister nor the Foreign Secretary has the foggiest notions of Science, and they have left it up to the felines to decide policy. The future of the carbon trading plan is the first matter said to depend on the outcome.

  17. Aaron S says:

    The other economic and environmental reality of solar is that there are diminishing returns as you scale up usage for the REE in solar panels. Soon we will be reminded what the “R” (rare) stands for as demand exceeds supply. I know, I know in theory technology advancements will fix this, but there are equal diminishing returns there with efficiency.

  18. JohnD says:

    I remember when pointless engineering projects focused on human powered air travel. e.g. gossamer albatross.

  19. ossqss says:

    I was curious about the full recharge time for the batteries, but can’t seem to find anything on that part. They don’t plug it into the electrical grid while in the hanger do they? 😉

  20. Gary Ashe says:

    It always pays to check the polar opposite of what climate change shamans decree as proof.

  21. Simon says:

    Is solar powered flight limited…. probably although it’s rather simplistic and short sighted to offer a blanket “no”
    Is there value in the technology included in this machine in other applications …. yes.

  22. MikeN says:

    Wait, the actual flight took 16 months?

    I think an enterprising person could do it faster walking and with a solar powered sailboat.

    • RAH says:

      At midnight I will depart for a 313 mi trip to Port Huron, MI. Should take me 4 hours and 45 minutes to get there from Anderson, IN (about 30 mi north if Indy). Then at 05:45 I will be picking up parts in Port Huron, MI to deliver to the Toyota Logistics Center in Hebron, KY. I should make the 336 mi trip to Hebron (near Florence by the airport)in 5 1/2 hours or less. That will be lightning fast compared to that solar powered aircrafts average speed. The balance of the load will be sail boat fuel. The 53′ dry van trailers I pull are never empty. They always contain a certain amount of sail boat fuel.

      • mpainter says:

        There is a lively trade in that species of fuel in the bird chopping industry. Cause, you see, when the wind dies, you can’t chop any more birds. So they have to truck fuel in to crank up the choppers. But don’t fret, the gummint pays for it.

      • Aaron S says:

        I was raised in Muncie.

  23. Stevek says:

    In Austrailia do manfacturing companies have to pay the jacked up energy cost ? Ontario , Canada too ?

    If so I foresee more jobs going to cheaper energy countries.

    • Aaron S says:

      For me, part of the UN driver for industrialized countires to convert to the “green dream” is to transition wealth away to developing countries. The US for example has cheap energy that , along with our history of innovation, has provided the opportunity for high labor cost to be off set by the cheap energy. This explains our middle class. If energy cost goes up in the US then the jobs go away in a global economy.. and we are crazy to think all the CO2 production will not equilibrate as developing countrues consume energy during the shift. It is global socialism marketed as science by IPCC and UN.

      • Stevek says:

        It is certainly possible that jacked up energy cost will cause MORE co2.

        As transfer of wealth occurs the people on country will use new found wealth to buy cars, heat homes, buy air conditioners. These countries mainly use coal.

        These policies are not based on logic or environment. They are based on emotion and people feeling good about themselves.

        • Aaron S says:

          Yea i agree. Nothing exemplifoes this more than Germany. Cut nuclear, build solar wind and coal. Clean energy and solar and wind growth without nuclear are mutually exclusive ideals

  24. barry says:

    Solar power is supplementary energy. It’s getting cheaper and more efficient. The flight was symbolic. That’s ok.

    • mpainter says:

      It was symbolic, alright. How many people in the photo? How many tons of aviation fuel to ferry that crowd around?
      Symbolic, yup.

    • barry says:

      “The aim of the Solar Impulse adventure was not to develop solar-powered planes for widespread use, but to show the capabilities of renewable energy.”

      Yup, symbolic, as intended.

      • Vincent says:

        Exactly! Flying with solar power at this stage of development is just a stunt to capture the public’s imagination. Using this specific, currently impractical example of the use of solar power, in order to make a general case against the potential usefulness of continuing research and development into solar power, smacks of ludditism. (I never realized you are a luddite, Roy) (wink).

        In particular, the following quote from Roy’s article seems plain wrong to me. “Until someone repeals the laws of physics, solar energy will remain a minor player in meeting global energy demand.”

        It’s not the laws of Physics that need repealing but our imagination. The amount of unused deserts and areas of semi-arid land are sufficient to provide many times the current world-wide usage of energy. The Sahara desert alone, if covered with solar panels, could generate over 20 times the current world-wide usage of all forms of energy converted to kWh.

        Continuing research into the practical application of Physics, and nanotechnology in particular, should result in mankind having access to ‘effectively’ unlimited supplies of energy from the sun, if we use our imagination.

        An good precedent would be the digital camera, which is basically a solar-powered device in the sense that the camera’s sensor converts light into electricity. The first digital camera was created in 1975 by an engineer at Eastman Kodak named Steve Sasson. The camera weighed 8 pounds and was able to record 0.01 megapixels, in black and white only, to a cassette tape.

        40 years later, my Nokia Lumia 1020 smart phone weighs less than half a pound and is able to record 41 megapixels in color. That’s progress for you, and the laws of physics were not broken.

        The same could apply to solar power for all other uses, if we apply our imagination. The average house has sufficient unused areas, such as roof and walls, to supply more than sufficient energy for the needs of a large family. There is a misconception that solar energy relies upon the sun actually shining (through the clouds). This is not so. The digital camera is an example of the capacity of a sensor to create electricity even in dull light. The efficiency is reduced, which means the exposure has to be increased, and the same applies to solar panels (or solar paints) on house walls or roofs. The area covered with solar panels has to be increased to gain the same amount of electricity.

        There’s a lot of continuing research into battery storage because this is a part of the key to a successful paradigm shift from fossil fuels to solar energy. Current lithium batteries are expensive, take a significant period to recharge, and have rather limited life-span. Fortunately, there are some promising alternatives under investigation.

        The graphene car battery is just one example, which appears to offer an electric car a driving range of 500 miles with a single charge, can be recharged in just a few minutes, and can be discharged 33 times faster than lithium ion, offering quicker acceleration than the current lithium ion battery.

        When this battery is perfected, and when it’s able to be manufactured at a good price, then ‘goodbye’ gasoline automobile.

        • Gordon Robertson says:

          @Vincent…”Flying with solar power at this stage of development is just a stunt to capture the publics imagination”.

          More a stunt to prey on their ignorance.

          “An good precedent would be the digital camera, which is basically a solar-powered device in the sense that the cameras sensor converts light into electricity”.

          So is the human eye. Human vision is solar powered, converting EM into both colour and electrical signals. There is no colour in EM.

          I was thinking about digital cameras the other day and how they convert the electromagnetic energy from the Sun to colour. The eye does it with the rods and cones with the cones in the retina converting EM frequencies to colour.

          In the older colour film it was done using chemicals in the film sensitive to different EM frequencies. Apparently digital cameras work similar to the old TV displays where three dots, red, green, and blue, are formed in triads of light sensitive phosphors. Three electron beams generated at the back of the display are focused electromagnetically on one of the dots in the triad and the intensity of the beam determines the colour saturation. The hue is derived from the degree of saturation in each colour dot.

          In a digital camera, filters are used over certain receptors to allow only certain EM frequencies through. If adjacent receptors capture red, green and blue EM frequency equivalents, any colour can be generated by combining red, green and blue in specific quantities.

          Amazing stuff.

          • I’m going to have to disagree on eyes and cameras being solar powered. They DETECT light, measure it, display it…but they are not solar-powered.

          • Gordon Robertson says:

            @Roy…”Im going to have to disagree on eyes and cameras being solar powered. They DETECT light, measure it, display itbut they are not solar-powered”.

            Roy…what happens when the sun goes down and there’s no moon? The eyes don’t work very well if at all. The rods in the retina will pick small amounts of light but if none is available we go blind.

            I agree that digital cameras are not solar powered and require external power. The lens is driven by an electric motor and amplifiers are required to amplify signals from the sensors and to process them.

            Eyes on the other hand require no external power. The minute EM strikes them they turn on. The processing of the signal once the retinal image has been converted to electrical signals is another matter.

            Discounting starlight, light processed by the eye comes from the sun directly reflecting off objects or the Moon. Starlight can be considered solar. Stellar??

            The curious thing is that we can close our eyes and see images of various intensity and colour. Biologist, Rupert Sheldrake, claimed that once light from an object enters the lens and forms an image on the retina, it is converted to electrical signals and processed in the brain. The formed image in the brain is then projected back out so the image is seen at it’s actual location.

            There’s nothing in the eye itself that allows us to see an external image at it’s actual position. How that’s done is amazing.

            I think the human eye and sight is one of the best examples that evolution is nonsense.

          • Lewis says:


            You may want to rethink your statement of eyes having no external power source. If you really believe that, I suggest you go back to middle school biology and start over.

        • Lewis says:

          As solar cells evolve and become more efficient and cheaper to produce, they will become integral in new housing and retrofitted to old. The problem will always be storage, but storage is evolving too. Wind is a help but is too inconsistent in most areas of the country to be useful and in the areas it is available – mountaintops and coasts in the east, their is much gnashing of teeth in opposition to their siting – due to optical pollution – so to speak.

          Hopefully, in the long run, centralized power production for industrial applications will be the only thing required of power companies while residential will be more and more decentralized.

          In the meantime, the religious left continues the scare tactics. The end game is control of your life. Just think, if Crooked Hillary is elected, no more cheap gas due to fracking. And it only gets better from there.

          • Aaron S says:

            Why would solar become cheaper to produce? They currently have very low income workers in mega factories and environmental regulations are inevitable in China. Plus, they are a tiny market, and if it grows the materials will get much more expensive to meet the demand. I see them at near rock bottom prices now.

    • mpainter says:

      Symbolizing the futility of renewable energy. But also symbolizing the the dementia of those who embrace green ideals.

  25. crakar24 says:


    Can you lot talk in the present please, the only way you can justify this stupid waste of time is by claiming some time in the future on a date yet to be determined sources of power like solar/wind/chicken shit will be good enough to replace current base load. Maybe it will but until then don’t shove this rubbish down our throats come to south Australia and see the results so you don’t screw your own country/state

  26. barry says:

    “the futility of renewable energy”

    Futile? It’s already a part of energy production world wide. It’s been applied to private dwelling for decades, and is becoming more ubiquitous on public amenities (solar panels are atop parking meters all over my city). It’s part of the energy mix, whether hydro, solar, wind, geothermal. Renewables aren’t a primary energy source, but it’s not ‘futile.’

    • mpainter says:

      How many people in the photo? I count 48. Read the sign:


      Typical renewable hype. Complete with lie. Lap it up, barry. But keep it away from me.
      Again, how many tons of aviation fuel for the swill in your soup plate?

      • mpainter says:

        Correction, 40,000 km, not 48,000.
        Without fuel. Bait for the gullible. Without which there would be no movement. Well, some of the suckers are wiseing up, like in Oz. See this:

        crakar24 says:
        July 27, 2016 at 6:27 PM
        Hi Roy,

        In South Australia we get 26 cents a kW on what we put back into the grid (we pay 36 or so cents a kW for what we draw from the grid). So not quite parity.

        South Australia is a basket case, we have many symbols of stupidity atop a concrete plinth and have recently shut down our only coal fired power station on that day we ran out of power so had yo hit the phones to buy some from interstate, the price went from 13 cents to 14 dollars a kW.

        Industry here is on its knees due to economic recession so high power prices are the death knell.

        Roxby downs monthly bill went from about 100k to 2.5 million.

        What used to be a taboo subject (agw) is now being openly debated as our third world power supply hits home so some good has come from this.



        How many tons of fuel to hype the sucker bait?

        • crakar24 says:

          Painter I never wised up as that would infer I believed this crap at some point lol, but yes many people are wising up I suspect they thought all along its was crap but are only concerned now because it effects them.

          In fact its so bad here people ate openly discussing thorium and uranium of which we sit on top of massive reserves this talk in Australia is very significant


          • mpainter says:

            crakar24, thanks for your response, and no, I did not mean to imply that you had been one of the duped.

    • barry says:

      *sigh* Why you have to make straw man arguments I don’t know. You’ve got a bee in your bonnet about the general topic and you tend to talk past me. You complain about what other people say in response to what I say. Go argue with them.

      Renewables are supplementary energy sources at present. Solar will not be a primary source for a long time if ever. Renewables in general may one day become the primary source of energy (such may be necessary when f/fs run out). This is my view.

      “WE FLEW 48,000 KM WITHOUT FUEL.

      The plane flew on solar power alone. That’s not a lie. Yes, the support team was carbon intensive. Both things are true. The nit-picking doesn’t impact the symbolism – because it doesn’t address it. The nit-picking ignores the symbolism.

      • mpainter says:

        I am a scientist and that means nitpicking. You don’t like nitpicking? Tsk, Tsk.

      • mpainter says:

        Barry, you say “You complain about what other people say in response to what I say. Go argue with them.”

        No, Barry, you have made that up. Bad habit of yours, making things up like that.

        “The plane flew on solar power alone. Thats not a lie.”

        The sign does not say that. The sign tells a lie. I objected to the lie, you call it “nitpicking” and then you invent another sign to prove me wrong. Bad habits, barry. Thank you, keep it up, please.

      • barry says:

        You’re applying physical science to social science. The event was symbolic. You can’t argue with that so you bean-count, missing the point. You want to make the story about deception and delusion, and that’s why you (and Dr Spencer) paint a picture of hordes of eco-freaks believing the solar-powered transport generation is nigh. That’s your straw man. What mythical ‘others’ believe. It’s the cheap lead-in common to news anchors. “Some say…”

        The flight was a milestone. The longest leg was over a hundred hours. That’s 4 days and nights non-stop flying.

        1 passenger/pilot, a large support team who traveled by conventional planes, a message that explicitly said it was not done to promote solar powered flight as a commercial option.

        Yup, it was symbolic. That was the point, no matter how much people pretend differently.

        • mpainter says:

          If it was a milestone, why did they have to lie and super-hype the event?

          Answer: because without the hype, it is comedy. Well, I have news for you Barry. Now it is super-hyped comedy.

        • mpainter says:

          And Barry, thanks for the additional inventions in your comment. I mean where you attribute to me and Dr. Spencer thoughts and intentions that you, yourself have invented.
          You just can’t help yourself, can you?

          • barry says:

            where you attribute to me and Dr. Spencer thoughts…

            Not invented.

            I said: “…paint a picture of hordes of eco-freaks believing the solar-powered transport generation is nigh.”

            Dr Spencer said: “What bothers me is the large number of people who believe it somehow validates a goal of solar-powered transportation systems.”

            You said: “Bait for the gullible. Without which there would be no movement.”

            You both are pitching that there are hordes of people who believe something more than the intent of the symbolic flight.

            Nor did I imagine that you point at what these imaginary others believe (“Some say”) in reply to me.

            “If it was a milestone, why did they have to lie and super-hype the event?”

            It’s a transparent tactic. Invent a mind-set or statement, attribute it to unnamed persons and use that as your punch-bag rather than address the view of the person you’re actually talking to (ie, me).

            They didn’t lie. They said it was symbolic. They said they were not promoting the idea of commercial flight powered purely by solar. They haven’t said any of the things you imply they are saying. You’re vague about who. You’re vague about what. How about a direct quote from the organisers/pilot, for example?

            No, you invent stuff to wrangle with. “Take it further” was the one thing you quoted. Symbolic language, a slogan on a sign – but you think it means what exactly? You probably don’t know.

          • mpainter says:

            Barry proves my claim that he makes up his attributions. He quotes Roy Spencer correctly and then juxtaposed his invented attribution. What to do with someone so dense as Barry?

            If the “solar powered” aircraft that went “40,000 km without fuel” poster were presented in conjunction with a public offering, the SEC would refer it to the DOJ for criminal fraud indictment. If it were in conjunction with a private offering, state criminal fraud statutes would come into force.

            But try explaining that to barry.

          • barry says:

            It was explained in my first comment – symbolism.

            Landing people on the moon was a largely symbolic act. Costed a bunch, brought little immediate ROI benefits, but the space race has in the long-term brought us many new technologies or accelerated development of existing technologies with countless financial returns – eg, satellite communications and computational miniaturization (computers and mobile phones). These are only the ‘tangible’ benefits. Intangibles like our sense of self and place in the universe are harder to calculate, but also part of the mix. Symbolism is a fundamental part of what it is to be human, and part of human communities. In the case of the space race, projection of national power and identity was a key driver.

            Bean-counters do not understand symbolism. If bean-counters had their way we would never have gone to the moon.

            (Cue the bean-counting on Apollo 11)

          • mpainter says:

            “But just try explaining that to barry”.


          • barry says:

            You have to invent scenarios to allow you to base your harrumphing on something, as in…

            If the solar powered aircraft that went 40,000 km without fuel poster were presented…

            But that’s not how it was presented. Your fake scenario supports a fake take-down.

            But try explaining that to mpainter…

          • barry says:

            Barry: You complain about what other people say in response to what I say. Go argue with them.

            mpainter: “No, Barry, you have made that up. Bad habit of yours, making things up like that.”

            Not made up. A clear example at this link and your following comment.


            My comment was about my view on renewable energy. In reply you cited words on a banner and ignored everything I had said.

            Pretty clear example, huh?

          • mpainter says:

            People who come to this blog are not as easily duped as you, barry.

        • crakar24 says:

          Symbolic of what Barry? What does this flight symbolise?



          • barry says:

            Hi crakar.

            For me it symbolizes the potential of renewable energy, particularly solar – that the technology is improving and can be further improved. It also symbolizes commitment and ingenuity. I think that was the intention.

            It symbolizes no more than that. The slogan on the banner “Take it further” is not some shaded argument for building commercial planes powered purely by solar. And the organizers specifically said that was not the purpose.

            Here’s a direct quote from the pilot.

            “Our goal is to create a revolution in the minds of people…to promote solar energies not necessarily a revolution in aviation.”

            Promoting solar energy. Nothing wrong with that.

          • mpainter says:

            Another direct quote:
            “We flew 40,000 km without fuel”

            So, barry, what to ignore as b.s. and what to believe? There is no help for someone who wants to be duped.

          • barry says:

            Obviously they are referring to the solar powered plane, which did just as advertised.

            You really mean to imply they are telling us that the 50 or so people in the photograph were onboard? Or do you mean to imply that they are trying to trick people into believing so? Or that there are people out there who believe that this happened?

            It’s not clear. Because your harrumphing is vague on such details. Silly nit-picking based on a straw man, based on a slogan on a banner. And you think I’m deluded/

            You don’t understand symbolism.

          • mpainter says:

            Assuredly I do understand the symbolism. And the irony too. That part seems to have passed over you.

          • barry says:

            I missed the all over costs of the project? Nope. Eg,

            “1 passenger/pilot, a large support team who traveled by conventional planes…”

            “Yes, the support team was carbon intensive”

            And the team themselves have outlined the financial cost of the project.

            But you have to ignore what I’ve written and invent a point of view I don’t have to prosecute your argument.

            That’s the whole basis of your argument – that people are ‘duped’ or ‘gullible’. I haven’t been. I see the symbolism for what was intended and am aware of the costs. I’ve quoted (so has Spencer) the organisers explaining the purpose and limits of the symbolism. Now you have to point to imaginary people and the views you pin to them to keep going.

          • mpainter says:

            Sixteen months.

  27. mpainter says:

    Superb artwork on the flying pig. Study the detail. Note the details on the goggles, the reflection of the pig’s leg on the polish of cowling, other details.

    That’s one happy pig. Needs to be in the photo as the team mascot, smiling with the others.

  28. David Appell says:

    Roy wrote:”
    (Those who claim Big Oil is also subsidized need to look into the numbersgovernment taxes on petroleum far exceed oil company profits and subsidies”

    False, Roy.

    The subsidies for fossil fuels largely show up in health care bills.

    These fuels spew pollutants that the companies do not pay for. Nor do the consumers.

    The companies keep the profits, while socializing the costs. It’s corporate socialism.

    Generating power with coal (and oil) creates more damage than value-added, according to a 2011 study that included noted Yale economist William Nordhaus:

    “Environmental Accounting for Pollution in the United States Economy,” Nicholas Z. Muller, Robert Mendelsohn, and William Nordhaus, American Economic Review, 101(5): 164975 (2011).

    Summarizing that paper’s findings: for every $1 in value that comes from coal-generated electricity, it creates $2.20 in damages.

    Total damages: $70 billion per year (in 2012 dollars).

    Coal power actually send the economy backwards.

    Petroleum-generated electricity is even worse: $5.13 in damages for $1 in value.

    The National Academy of Sciences estimated that fossil fuel use causes damages of at least $120 B/yr to health and the environment:

    Hidden Costs of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use
    National Research Council, 2010

    (Dollar figure for 2005, in 2007 dollars.)

    Of course, no one on forums like this wants to mention external costs, because including them makes it clear that we are all subsidizing fossil fuels by a huge amount through worse health and higher medical costs.

    • crakar24 says:

      The local council near me wanted to buy 100% renewable energy something to do with foot prints who can understand the minds of mad men.

      Anyway when they do this the bill will rise by 60k, it will rise because the renewable energy industry is subsidised also as both forms of energy arrive on the same wire who knows if it is renewable ot not which was a concern of theirs

      My advice was to run a separate cable with only green energy on it this way they can keep track of the blackouts and only pay in pro rata eg 30% of the time in the dark then only pay 70% of the bill.

      Of course this is impractical you pay extra for 100% green power but you will never get so why do they want to do this? For the dame reason some numpty flew a solar plane…..symbolism.

      When your pet cause relies on fantasy you cant actually accomplish nor demonstrate anything all you have left is symbolism

      • David Appell says:

        So you like heavily subsidizing fossil fuel companies, do you?

        I buy 100% green offsets from my power company. Over the last 12 months this has cost me an extra….. $1.74/month, or 5.1%.

        • mpainter says:

          Prove it.

          • Lewis says:

            David wants us to believe that health issues are the hidden cost of coal and oil writing: ” The subsidies for fossil fuels largely show up in health care bills.

            These fuels spew pollutants that the companies do not pay for. Nor do the consumers.

            The companies keep the profits, while socializing the costs. Its corporate socialism.”

            If David will pay attention he will notice that the advent of coal and oil power generation coincided with a large increase in longevity. David, please rationalize that.

            I would suggest better food, housing, heating, cooling, water supply and health care – all growing from the energy available in coal and oil.

      • crakar24 says:

        Therefore David you can bang on all you like with distorted statisics to keep your great green dream alive but everyone else lives in the teal world and here is a real world example.

        In the third world shit hole I live in we shut down our 550 mega watt coal fired power station, now 550mw is a considerable chunk of power and along with it all those subsidise you crap on about leaving our wind farms unchallenged as our primary source of power.

        If you are correct then our power bills should have reduced….yes but no the sky rocketed the day we shut the thing down why is that David?

        But….but…..but…coal is bad wind is good squeals David…..symbolism David does not accomplish anything in the real world

        • crakar24 says:

          100% green….how would you know, where does the power come from. A bit of logic here David……if you pay extra for your green energy then logic dictates its is more expensive than coal why is it more expensive David?

          • crakar24 says:

            Final attempt to make you understand… power bill this quarter will be around 1000 dollars au that’s with a 3 kW solar system on the roof and access to wind power only (100% renewable power). We do have a mothballed low power gas plant which is currently running flat out.

            This means we are forced to buy power from interstate, however due to people who share your vision other states don’t have the power to sell us.

            They don’t have the power because we have not built a power station in over 30 years. We have been too consumed with out co2 obsession to build one.

            It comes down to supply and demand David this is where symbolism and reality part ways.

          • David Appell says:

            crakar24 says:
            “…my power bill this quarter will be around 1000 dollars….”

            Mine has averaged $36/month in the last 12 months.

          • barry says:

            my power bill this quarter will be around 1000 dollars

            That’s higher than even the top of the range for domestic energy in Adelaide (where I was born and lived for 20 years).


            Is your bill for something other than domestic power supply or are you growing hydro?

          • crakar24 says:

            Barry last year my power bill for the winter quarter was over 600 dollars which was low compared to most if I factored in the 300 for a ton of wood it would be closer to 1k when the price per kwh jumps from a few cents to 14 dollars a kwh ots not hard to see how your bill will rise significantly.

            The carbon tax removal dropped my bill by about 10%, disconnection rates are at all time highs


          • barry says:

            You’re lucky. The CT repeal barely affected my bill (NSW), which was higher 2 years later. Turned out the CT was a smaller impact than other costs to energy providers – that they passed on to me.

            I was ok with the carbon tax from a financial pint of view because of the tax cuts that offset the difference. Made sense at the time – passing the carbon tax received from emitters to consumers as an offset to higher bills. The change to my net budget was insignificant.

        • David Appell says:

          “If you are correct then our power bills should have reduced….”

          No, you have completely misunderstood.

          These subsidies to fossil fuel companies DO NOT appear in your power bill.

          You pay for them in other ways, mostly through higher health insurance premiums and higher government taxes.

          For example, the US government pay for about 1/2 of all national health care costs. So for the damage from fossil fuels, this is at least 1/2 of $120 B/yr. (And translating that NAS study into today’s economy and today’s dollars puts the cost at about $200 B/yr in current dollars.)

          So taxpayers are now paying an extra $100 B/yr to cover this in Medicare and Medicaid. That’s about $300 per person per year — that you pay but that doesn’t appear in your power bill.

          • barry says:

            “These subsidies to fossil fuel companies DO NOT appear in your power bill.”

            Nor does the subsidy of renewables. Both are found in government expenditure/rebate documents. The things taxes pay for.

          • David Appell says:

            barry says:
            These subsidies to fossil fuel companies DO NOT appear in your power bill.

            “Nor does the subsidy of renewables.”

            Since generating power with coal creates more damage than value, many subsidies for renewable energy are always cheaper.

          • barry says:

            I understand your point, but it’s hard to calculate, so I kept my point simple. Externalities should be (and usually are) factored, but how to do that is a more complicated issue.

        • barry says:

          crakar, by how much did your bills go down after the carbon tax was repealed?

    • Aaron S says:


      Can you explain the ~70 billion a year that your paper cites as damages from CO2? I struggle to see that.

      Also, when the economists calculate this monetary cost of HC and the biggest amount is from mortality rates, can you explain exactly how you calculate the cost of someone’s life? Is an American worth more than a Chinese life and are we assuming all people contribute equally to the US GDP- basically that is how I understand the authors method, but I’m not an economist.

      Seems a bit unrealistic and perhaps biased- but I need to understand more before deciding what I think


      Environmental Accounting for Pollution in the United States Economy, Nicholas Z. Muller, Robert Mendelsohn, and William Nordhaus, American Economic Review, 101(5): 164975 (2011).

      • Lewis says:

        How to value a life? Interesting question to which I refer you to Wolf Larsen of Jack London’s “The Sea Wolf”.

        Do you know the only value life has is what life puts upon itself? And it is of course over-estimated since it is of necessity prejudiced in its own favour. Take that man I had aloft. He held on as if he were a precious thing, a treasure beyond diamonds or rubies. To you? No. To me? Not at all. To himself? Yes. But I do not accept his estimate. He sadly overrates himself. There is plenty more life demanding to be born. Had he fallen and dripped his brains upon the deck like honey from the comb, there would have been no loss to the world. He was worth nothing to the world. The supply is too large. To himself only was he of value, and to show how fictitious even this value was, being dead he is unconscious that he has lost himself. He alone rated himself beyond diamonds and rubies. Diamonds and rubies are gone, spread out on the deck to be washed away by a bucket of sea- water, and he does not even know that the diamonds and rubies are gone. He does not lose anything, for with the loss of himself he loses the knowledge of loss. Don’t you see? And what have you to say?
        ― Jack London, The Sea Wolf

        So, how to value a life: What amount of insurance have you bought?

  29. Vincent says:

    There’s a lot of nitpicking on this site. It would be better if people were to address the real issues. There’s absolutely no doubt that the use of fossil fuels comes with an additional external cost in terms of health consequences from air pollution, and environmental degradation resulting from the mining of such fossil fuels.

    However, such external costs are impossible to calculate accurately because of the multitude of influences that affect people’s health, including poor diet and a lack of exercise for example.

    During the transition from fossil fuel consumption to cleaner renewables, the renewable devices, such as solar panels, will often be contaminated with the externalities associated with fossil fuels, because energy from fossil fuels might have been used in the manufacturing process and the installation of the renewable devices.

    Surely everyone understands that such a major change in the paradigm will take place gradually, over many decades. The question that should be asked is whether or not such a change will eventually be of benefit to the whole of mankind.

    I can understand myself how such a transition will be of benefit, even though I can also appreciate that the net effect of CO2 emissions alone might result in no significant harm, and might even be of some benefit in respect of increased plant growth.

    • David Appell says:

      “However, such external costs are impossible to calculate accurately because of the multitude of influences that affect peoples health, including poor diet and a lack of exercise for example.”

      The science of epidemiology was created for just this reason.

      What methodological problems do you find in the studies I cited above?

      “Environmental Accounting for Pollution in the United States Economy,” Nicholas Z. Muller, Robert Mendelsohn, and William Nordhaus, American Economic Review, 101(5): 164975 (2011).

      Hidden Costs of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use
      National Research Council, 2010

      • Vincent says:

        David Appell says:
        July 28, 2016 at 7:22 PM

        “What methodological problems do you find in the studies I cited above?”
        A similar problem to the problem of assessing the effects of rising CO2 levels on climate. The complexity of the issue, together with the long time scales involved, reduce certainty.

        However, the time-scales involved in human health are significantly less, and we can be certain that inhaling particulate carbon and the various noxious pollutants from fossil fuels, negatively affect our health, as do so many other aspects of our modern lifestyle.

        However, I imagine it is very difficult to separate all the negative influences on our health and precisely quantify the magnitude of one specific effect, such as air pollution.

        The study to which you linked also attempted to assess the future cost of damage resulting from environmental changes due to rising CO2 levels. That obviously cannot be precise, otherwise there wouldn’t exist the continuing uncertainty about the true effect of CO2 levels on climate.

        Also, if one is to attempt to assess the external costs of rising CO2 levels, one should take into consideration the known benefits of rising CO2 levels, which are increased crop production possibly worth billions of dollars per year world-wide, compared with a level of CO2 that existed prior to the industrial revolution.

        Of course, gradually reducing our CO2 emissions as we switch to renewables, will not have any dramatic effect on crop production. The current level of CO2 in the atmosphere is here to stay, for quite a while, so our crop production is safe. (wink)

        • mpainter says:

          Europe is in the process of abandoning renewables. There is a scramble to jettison COP21, wind turbines, solar, etc. AGW RIP.

    • Aaron S says:

      Vincent, there is doubt. Here is why- much of the developing world still generates heat and cooks with wood and dung. These produce most of the pollution people read about. Transitioning to a modern coal plant is a big step int the right direction for pollution there.

      US is a special case bc we import solar without the pollution it causes and dont count the birds bats and bugs with wind or the landscape pollution. Nat gas and nuclear are clearly the way to go to reduce pollution. But lets be honest here, humanity lives longer now and there are way more people bc fossil fuels. So evaluating mortality of an inflated Earth’s carrying capacity bc of cheap energy for the downside of that energy has some really bad logic involved.

  30. barry says:

    Bean-counters would have prevented humankind from landing on the moon.

  31. Smoking Frog says:

    A failure to make someone pay for some social costs of his activity is not a “subsidy.”

    • David Appell says:

      I think it *IS* a subsidy.

      It’s an ethical question — why should everyone pay for the damage costs without the producer paying for any of it?

      • Lewis says:

        Actually they do pay for it, just not in a manner which suits you.

        What you want is to increase direct costs, which would include another layer of bureaucrats, producing nothing while living off the efforts of others, in order to allocate the costs you are concerned with. Direct costs would soar, making people choose to use less, to no great benefit. Why? Because the costs you imply are imaginary. The social benefits of HC have far outweighed the costs you imply.

  32. mpainter says:

    From Roy’s post:

    “So, what could better illustrate the huge cost and inefficiency of solar energy than to pay a small army of people to build and fly a single-person solar-powered glider around the world in only 16 months?”

    At a cost of $177 millions. Symbolic, alright.

    • David Appell says:

      Privately funded.

      • Lewis says:

        So, you would, perhaps, prefer that it have been funded by taxes – you know – money taken by force. The end result is the same. The money spent could have been spent on something of benefit to others – like housing or medical care or energy sources for those cooking over dung (when they can get it) but no, the private money went to pay numerous people good wages to produce a symbol. How much more religious can you get?

    • barry says:

      “Symbolic all right”

      Yes. That’s all it is. And a pretty powerful symbol, too. Flying a powered plane for 4 days and nights without a fossil fuel engine is an impressive technical (and physical) accomplishment

      • mpainter says:

        It flew on batteries. Does the hype make that clear? Nope. Some like to be duped.
        A $177 million plane that flies on batteries. Thanks again, barry. Thanks, David.

        • David Appell says:

          That’s like complaining humans made it to the moon by relying on a computer processor. 🙂

        • barry says:

          Batteries charged by solar power.

          4 night’s continual flying. Of course the plane had batteries.

          It had wings, too.

          You haven’t yet complained that it made the route in hops rather than one single flight.

          • mpainter says:

            A flying re-chargeable battery pack that the greens are trying to hype into another renewable myth. Barry assiduously endeavoring to achieve it here.
            No proof offered that they did not cheat on cloudy days and use a wall plug.

          • barry says:

            Ahahaha. Wall plug. For someone who calls themselves a fact-checker, you rely heavily on imagination.

            But keep going. Let’s imagine the plane was secretly towed by a conventional airplane. Hell, they probably flew a mile, landed, boxed the thing up and shipped it to the next destination, eh?

          • barry says:

            Commercial planes have batteries, too. This is a strange retort of yours. An energy reserve (solar-charged) is required for flying at night. Your comments are becoming more and more unhinged, but it’s fun to watch.

          • mpainter says:

            Wall plugs would be about 10-20 times more efficient, so the jokes on you, chuckle head. See link in Roy’s post above.
            Click on the link, and learn how solar generated electricity is thirty times as costly as conventional means using natural gas. But I warn you, you might stop chuckling.

    • mpainter says:

      Symbolic of the impracticality of solar power, which has only a limited usefulness.

      Sixteen months, $177 million. The hype verges on fraud and only serves to emphasize the comical result. Clowns with slapsticks.

      • mpainter says:

        And batteries. Which can be more efficiently recharged through a wall plug than through a solar cell. That is why it took sixteen months. Rechargeable batteries and solar cells. Another hard fact that the swindlers forgot to tell.

      • mpainter says:

        In other words, a flying battery pack represented as a solar powered aircraft. Rather, misrepresented.

      • mpainter says:

        Symbolic, alright. Symbolic of the AGW clowns.

  33. Vincent says:

    Perhaps the most exciting and promising development of solar power is the organic, photovoltaic paint which can be applied to all sorts of surfaces whether they are flat or not. In Australia, most houses that have solar panels on the roof, utilize just a small portion of the roof for solar panels, probably on average less than one quarter of the roof area. The panels might also be considered an eye-sore by those with an artistic bias.

    Imagine a future in which all building surfaces, including skyscrapers, one’s own home, the garden shed and the outer surface of one’s electric car, can be painted with a relatively cheap, organic, photovoltaic material which continuously produces electricity during daylight hours.

    Imagine a future in which the production of cheap and durable graphene batteries has been mastered, with their benefits of a quick recharge, a large capacity, a quick discharge for maximum power, and the durability to sustain thousands of recharges during the battery’s lifetime.

    Are you claimed scientists on this forum not enthralled by such a prospect? Do you really think that continuing research into such projects is a waste of resources?

    • mpainter says:

      Vincent, science fiction interested me when I was a kid. I’ve grown up.

    • barry says:

      Solar power and space flight was science fiction a hundred years ago. Personal computers was science fiction 50 years ago. Mobile phones were science fiction 30 years ago.

      • mpainter says:

        Fine. Wake me up when the fiction becomes true.

        • mpainter says:

          Your infatuation with solar panels does not sell here. Roy Spencer includes a link in his post above which shows how solar generation of electricity is thirty times as costly as conventional means using natural gas as fuel.

          Go read that link and then come tell us your thoughts.☺

      • mschoo43 says:

        Mobile phones were not science fiction 30 years ago. AT&T initiated commercial earphone service in St. Louis in 1946–70 years ago. 60 years ago all medium-to-large cities in the U.S. had earphone service. My family’s doctor got one in the 1960s to keep in touch with his answering service and patients when he was doing his nightly house-call service, as did a local priest. This was in a 70,000 population ag-town.

        The first handheld mobile phone (“the brick”) was released in 1973.

        Cellphone service was launched in Japan in 1979, and in the U.S. in 1983.

        How would that be “science fiction 30 years ago” (i.e. 1986)? It wouldn’t.

  34. just a thought says:

    That cartoon of the jet powered flying pig reminded me of this equally impractical and almost as amusing device.

  35. Smoking Frog says:

    David Appell – A subsidy is tax revenue paid to someone to encourage some activity of his. The use of fossil fuels may increase health care costs to the government, but this money is not being paid to the fuel businesses, so it’s not a subsidy to them. Calling it a subsidy is just a trick of left-wing propaganda.

    • mpainter says:

      The use of fossil fuels reduces health care costs. In fact, reduces the incidence of health problems, all things considered. Don’t be misled by the rubbish that David Appell posts here.

      • Smoking Frog says:

        mpainter – When I reply to you, my reply does not appear underneath your message. I don’t know what’s wrong. Do you?

      • Smoking Frog says:

        But now my reply did so appear! I can’t win! 🙂

        • Lewis says:

          When you reply, the reply goes to the bottom of the replies in front of yours, those already posted. So, if you’re the first reply, you will be first. If there are 10 others, you will be eleventh.

          Hence my reply to you is directly below yours.

    • barry says:

      Typical f/f subsidies are grants for exploration and for building and maintaining transport (rail).

      Government also subsidises fossil fuel industry with tax breaks and rebates specifically for fossil fuels. The largest tax break in Australia for f/f is a rebate on the cost of fuel for mining, for example, a rebate not enjoyed by other industries.

      (Some people argue that a rebate or tax break is not a subsidy, but in the end it all amounts to what your tax dollars are paying for)

      • mpainter says:

        In the US,crude oil taxes begin at the wellhead with the state severance taxes, usually charged on a per barrel basis, or per 1,000 cubic feet for natural gas. There are other taxes along the way. The final tax is at the pump. Generally, taxes add about 50 to the price of a gallon of gasoline.

        No subsidies for fossil fuels that I know of. The depletion allowance is a tax write off that is granted to all extractive industries, including mineral, aggregates, and forest products. It can’t be called a subsidy by even a stretch. It is viewed by the IRS as a capital depreciation.

        So, the clamor about government subsidies for fossil fuels is only a put-up by the foaming greens.

        But wind power is subsidized. And the flunked solar energy projects are now paid for by the taxpayer. I wish there was some way to shift my share of the burden to the foaming greens.

  36. Smoking Frog says:

    David Appell – Let me add, not only are the health care payments not being made to the fuel businesses, but they would not be paid by those businesses in the ordinary course of events.

    You talk about ethics. I think it’s “unethical” – immoral! – to mislead people with propaganda tricks.

  37. coturnix says:

    I wouldn’t dismiss the solar energy purely on a ‘physics’ grounds, it is not wise. Ok, may be solar energy is low-density, diffuse in “mechanical” sense but not in thermodynamical – it still has the temperature of the sun (6000k) and thus can be theoretically concentrated and converted to work with the efficiencies up to 95% on earth and up to 99.95% under some weird ideal circumstances.

    Sure, no one has up to now invented any economical way to do it with efficiencies more than 15-20% but that’s an *economical* argument, and may be practical to dismiss it, not physical.

    Sure, it may be that it is not possible at all to make a practical way to harness all the power of solar radiation. After all, the life itself gives us some good reasons: over billenia, it evolved all kinds of processes to extract free energy from the environment but there’s only one photosynthesis – and it is incredibly inefficient, and the only thing that saves plants is that building the photosynthesizing apparatus itself doesn’t cost that much. For humans, solar panels have beaten the plants’ efficiency long way but the panels themselves are ridiculously expensive. If making solar panel was as cheap as growing plants, it would’ve already won in economic sense. Oh well…

    But my wishful thinking says that, in principle, mechanical power generation and heat machines will give way to ‘solid-state’ devices… coupled with nuclear fusion. Obviously not in near future… all this current ‘renewable energy’ craze is a pure ideological/political gimmick. this is not reason to just dismiss the whole idea. the evolution of humankind will be towards higher power utilization and higher efficiencies, steam turbines and burning coal simply can’t get us much farther than we already are.

    • mpainter says:

      You cannot separate the economics from the issue. It is the determinative factor. Efficiency depends on economics, purely and simply. The cost per unit power.

    • barry says:

      I would like to see the cost of fossil fuels when all financial subsidies and tax breaks to that industry are factored.

      • mpainter says:

        You have yet to detail your claims in this regard. Such claims are not true for the US. See my comment above.

      • barry says:

        It’s not in doubt. Leaders of the G20 agreed in 2009 to reduce fossil fuel subsidies. Why would governments agree to reduce f/f subsidies if there were none? There are numerous reports from respected institutes like the IMF, US Congressional Budget Office, International Energy Agency, the Joint Committee on Taxation, etc.

        G20 agreement to phase out f/f subsidies:

        List including reports from the institues I mentioned:

        There’s a lot more. I thought everyone knew fossil fuels are subsidised. The people who’ve argue about this with me tend to argue not that the subsidies don’t exist, but that they are a good idea.

        • mpainter says:

          Name one in the US, excepting depletion, which is no subsidy.

        • barry says:

          Congressional Budget Office:

          The federal government supports the production and use
          of fossil fuels, nuclear power, and renewable energy and
          encourages increased energy efficiency through provisions
          of law that reduce the amount of taxes paid by producers
          and consumers of energy from those fuels or technologies.
          Those tax preferences include special deductions,
          special tax rates, tax credits, and grants in lieu of tax
          credits. In 2011, the combined cost of reduced revenues
          and increased outlays from those tax preferences
          amounted to an estimated $20.5 billion. (See Table 1,
          which reports provisions that were estimated to cost at
          least $50 million. Major provisions, costing at least
          $500 million, are listed individually; those costing less
          than $500 million are included in the other category.)
          Energy producers also benefit from general tax preferences
          that are available to all firms, but those provisions
          are not included in the $20.5 billion….

          …tax preferences for fossil fuels continued to
          make up the bulk of all energy-related tax incentives
          through 2007, typically accounting for more than two thirds
          of the total cost

          • SMS says:

            Barry, you don’t seem to understand that if a company is allowed to keep some of the revenue it makes, that is not a subsidy. There is nothing in what you have quoted that suggests oil companies are getting subsidies. Nothing!. The depletion allowance is not a subsidy. It is a way of writing off the loss of a resource. Coal, gold, salt and kitty litter companies are allowed to write off their resources as they are depleted. Similar to when you write off a patent, or write off a processing plant or the rights to your own music using depreciation. I don’t understand your stubbornness in accepting that depletion is not a subsidy.

            The environmentalists needed something to counter the arguments against the massive subsidies given to solar and wind. And they invented “depletion” as a subsidy to convince the low information folks that evil fossil fuel companies get similar subsidies as the renewable industry. The depletion allowance was never referred to as a subsidy until the environmentalists, trapped in a corner, made(up) this argument. Up until the run up in oil prices of the middle 80’s, depletion was an accepted write off. Carter (I think) made the argument that the oil companies were making too much and convinced the legislature to eliminate the depletion allowance. When oil profits dropped, the depletion allowance was reintroduced. It has been with us for a very long time, and only recently referred to as a subsidy by the environmentalists as a gimmick to deflect the argument against the massive subsidies that wind and solar receive.

          • mpainter says:

            So what does it say? Not once is the term “subsidy” or “subsidize” used. Your report is not current, ending with data from 2011.

            “Tax preferences” for energy related businesses, says the report. This is not subsidies. Fossil fuels put at 2.5 billion dollars in 2011 in “tax preferences”,
            For renewables in 2011, over 14 billion dollars in “tax preferences”.

            Come, come, barry, where are the subsidies you gibbered about? Or is it the 2.5 billion in tax preferences that has you so distraught?

            And how much in tax revenues do fossil fuels generate in the US, annually?

            Thanks again.

          • mpainter says:

            My reply directed to barry, above.

          • coturnix says:

            Tax breaks is not subsidies, just as not-beating people up is not charity.

          • barry says:

            The Congressional Budget Office calls targeted tax breaks ‘subsidies’. From the same link.

            Subsidies (such as tax preferences) for favored technologies can accomplish some of the same goals…

            Subsidies, such as tax preferences or direct
            payments, are typically less cost-effective than incorporating
            external costs into energy prices…

            The counter-argument a nit-pick on language, and the argument that a tax-break targeted for a specific industry is not a ‘subsidy’ usually depends on which side of the political divide is complaining. Anti-renewable people will call tax-breaks for renewables a ‘subsidy’. I would agree with them. In the end, it comes down to what our tax dollars subsidise. If a company gets a tax rebate (such as on fuel) that I am not allowed as a private individual, then the tax I pay goes in part to the rebate given to the company. I (we) are subsidising some of their fuel costs. That’s just one example.

            I took care to select a document that outlined tax breaks that were specific to the energy industry – not to other industry. The financial support from government policies listed doesn’t apply to other industry.

            The CBO also lists direct credit funding to energy companies – that’s definitely a subsidy in any language.

            I don’t know what difference it makes that the report was written in 2011. The US has, for the most part, been reducing support for fossil fuel development for a decade or so, but there are still targeted dispensations for that sector (as well as for renewables, which are now more heavily subsidised by the US gov than f/f).

            This is about Federal spending and targeted tax breaks/rebates. There is more at the state level.

            Whether you call it a subsidy, tax preference or whatever, we are talking about government policy that lowers costs for the exploration, production and distribution of energy sources, or lowers the cost for consumers. Fossil fuels (and renewables) receive government assistance specifically targeted to those industries (and lower income consumers).

            Hence, my question: what would the true cost of fossil fuels be if some neo-liberal government repealed any policy that lowered costs for the industry? (I don’t include financing and maintaining power grids, which I see as civil infrastructure.)

          • barry says:

            Lest there be any confusion, the Congressional Budget Office report states:

            Energy producers also benefit from general tax preferences
            that are available to all firms, but those provisions
            are not included in the $20.5 billion.

            The deductions are purely energy-related, not general tax exemptions. ‘Depletion’ is not mentioned in the report.

          • AndyG55 says:

            Lest there is any confusion…

            “”The Congressional Budget Office is a reactionary socialist institution which does not believe in economic growth, does not believe in innovation and does not believe in data that it has not internally generated.”

          • barry says:

            I dont understand your stubbornness in accepting that depletion is not a subsidy.

            That might be because I never claimed it was. Perhaps you are thinking of someone else?

          • AndyG55 says:

            Like nearly EVERY dept that calls itself “non-partisan”, it is rife with far-left public totalitarians.

          • Lewis says:


            Any time a government agent/agency talks about tax revenues they change the words to suit their particular point of view. They a tax cut to them is a loss of revenue to the government, which term they would convert to the term subsidy for the beneficiary.

            Here you get into semantics. So, start at the beginning.
            If a company produces something – they have costs and revenues. Then they have taxes and, perhaps, fees. Some industries have actual subsidies, which means they get a check for doing something. Spend some money on a solar panel, prove it to the government and they send you a check, is a subsidy. Changing a tax rate is not a subsidy EXCEPT in the eyes of the government.

            In the eyes of government all income and money is theirs EXCEPT what they allow you to keep, so all your income is a subsidy from the government.

            Is this what you’re saying? It seems to be.

          • barry says:

            When the International Monetary Fund, International Energy Agency, Congressional Budget Office, US Joint Committee on Taxation and the US Federal Treasury call targeted tax breaks ‘subsidies’, I think I’ll defer to them rather than random bloggers and intertube commenters with an axe to grind.

            Here’s the US Federal Treasury report on fossil fuel subsidies, by the way. Lists numerous targeted tax breaks as part of that mix.


            Progress Report on Fossil Fuel Subsidies

            First sentence:

            There are a number of tax preferences, described below, available in the United States to producers of fossil fuels. The preferences below are all permanent provisions in the tax code.

            I guess the US Federal Treasury must be a “a reactionary socialist institution,” too.

          • barry says:

            No, Lewis, that’s not what I’m saying. When the world’s (and the US’) top financial institutes call targeted tax breaks subsidies, I think the definition of the word is pretty clear.

            It’s not just any taxes – that’s not at all what I’m saying. It’s specifically targeted taxes that lower the costs for a specific sector that can be called subsidies. In fact, that’s pretty much the definition of ‘tax subsidies.’

            A subsidy is a benefit given by the government to groups or individuals usually in the form of a cash payment or tax reduction.

            The subsidy is usually given to remove some type of burden and is often considered to be in the interest of the public.


            Governments have historically made tax concessions specific to f/f industry because supporting f/f generated energy has been seen as being in the interests of the public (and general economy).

          • mpainter says:

            Not under the law, they are not subsidies. The IRS uses the word depletion, and defines it as capital depreciation. All businesses have capital depreciation as a tax write off.
            Depletion is the capital depreciation accorded to industries extracting natural resources, including timber.
            Your insistence on the term “subsidy” is to use a semantical twist to advance the green agenda.
            Thanks again, barry.

          • mpainter says:

            A subsidy is a payment. It is a stretch to call capital depreciation a subsidy. To single out and condemn fossil fuels for enjoying the same tax deductions enjoyed by business in general is persecution, a sort of bigotry.

            It bears repeating, the IRS defines it as depletion, a capital depreciation accorded to all extractive industries.

            Again, the twisting of meaning to advance the green agenda is your purpose, barry.

            The fossil fuels taxes paid in the US amount to about four hundred billion dollars. To call this a subsidy is a perversion.

          • mpainter says:

            A tax preference may be accorded by act of Congress. Your source gives 2.5 billion to fossil fuels, over 14 billion to renewable energy in 2011. Where’s your complaint?

          • barry says:

            The IRS uses the word depletion, and defines it as capital depreciation.

            To repeat, I’m not talking about depreciation or depletion and neither are my sources. Perhaps you should read them.

            A tax preference may be accorded by act of Congress. Your source gives 2.5 billion to fossil fuels, over 14 billion to renewable energy in 2011. Wheres your complaint?

            You’ve forgotten what we are talking about. I’ve made no complaint. (I’ve already pointed out that US gov support for renewables now eclipses that for f/f)

            Your last few have missed the point. Maybe return to the top of the thread and read again.

          • barry says:

            Actually the Treasury Dept records ‘depletion’ as a subsidy, but I don’t, as it has slightly wider usage than the f/f industry (accounts for a 3rd of the subsidies estimated by Tres. Dept.). It’s not the same as depreciation. My source for figures – Congressional Budget Office – doesn’t include depletion, so I guess that “reactionary socialist institution” missed a cue.

          • barry says:

            Just to save time, what’s the move when I cite Republicans calling tax preferences for fossil fuels ‘subsidies’? Will they be pegged as raging socialists, or will there be a new twist to the discourse?

          • mpainter says:

            barry says:
            July 29, 2016 at 5:35 AM
            I would like to see the cost of fossil fuels when all financial subsidies and tax breaks to that industry are factored.


            Using the figure of 2.5 billion dollars in tax preferences accorded the fossil fuels industry in 2011, one can calculate the answer to your question. It works out to less than a penny per gallon of gasoline (at about $2.50/gallon), or per thousand cubic feet of natural gas (selling circa $6-8), or about $.05/ton of coal (priced circa $40/ton).

            There’s your answer, barry. Remember it next time the foaming greens start squawking about fossil fuel subsidies.

            Now, back to the main point: electricity generated by solar means is thirty times the cost of conventional electricity generated by natural gas. Another hard fact that you will no doubt ignore.

          • mpainter says:

            And Barry, the 2.5 billion in tax preferences accorded the fossil fuels industry in 2011 is tax deductions against certain exploration, production and refining expenses. This is simply an adjustment of the tax code. It is a stretch to call it a subsidy.
            Go ahead and do your own calculations. The coal and oil and gas consumption of the US is on the web. Have at and learn, if you are the learning type, that is.

          • barry says:

            Or $20 a year for every tax-paying American.

            $2.5 billion per annum isn’t chicken-feed. I think that that is a marked improvement over the last century. But I wonder why US citizens have to pay one red cent of their tax dollars to a mature industry that is highly profitable and needs no government tax breaks to become financially viable.

            Libertarian conservatives like New Gingrich, Jeb Bush and Ron Paul agree. Those on the right of the right think most targeted tax breaks are subsidies. They are more prone to call them such than lefties.

          • barry says:

            And Barry, the 2.5 billion in tax preferences accorded the fossil fuels industry in 2011 is tax deductions against certain exploration, production and refining expenses. This is simply an adjustment of the tax code. It is a stretch to call it a subsidy.

            It’s what everyone from the IMF to the US Treasury Dept calls it, so I think ignoring what the experts say is a stretch.

            But let’s say that anything listed as a tax can’t be called a subsidy. How much did the average American tax-payer pay to subsidise renewables in 2011?

            I get $17.21 for the year.

            What’s your complaint?

          • mpainter says:

            Solar generated electricity costs thirty times that of conventional electricity generated by natural gas. Wind generated electricity costs about twelve times that of natural gas. Your figure does not reflect the exorbitant costs charged to the consumers for renewable electricity.

            But it’s obvious that none of these facts make any impression on you.

            Your super-hyped flying battery pack is meant to obscure these cold, hard facts. It is nothing more than green propaganda. And that is what it stands for, in my view. Symbolic, alright. Symbolic of how the consumers are screwed by the foaming greens.

          • mpainter says:

            Also, barry, thanks for raising the issue of fossil fuel “subsidies” so that this green propaganda could be examined and publicly exposed and the true costs of wind and solar energy be shown.
            You are that gift that keeps on giving, as now we have shown the bigoted persecution of fossil fuels as orchestrated by the greens.

          • barry says:

            I got $17 per year for the average US tax-payer for renewable subsidies – this explicitly rejects anything to do with tax rebates and credits. So why are you upset?

          • barry says:

            Interested in figuring out the cost of power to Americans I found a handy tool on the net from the US Energy Information Administration.


            Renewables took off from around 2008, so one would expect prices to start skyrocketing about then. But from 2000 to 2008 prices rose at about 3.5% per annum, and after 2008 rose at about 1.3% per annum.

            Much of the lower rate can be attributed to increased use of natural gas, but it seems that the growth of renewable energy has not made an appreciable impact on power bills.

          • mpainter says:

            Barry, do one More calculation: figure the cost of electricity if it were all conventional, no wind and solar. Do this and you will see that it would have fallen in tandem with the falling prices of natural gas and power coal.
            But, as you pointed out, electricity prices have risen these past three years. The consumers are entitled to better than that.
            This is your renewable electricity jacking up the prices.
            And this is what you stand for.

          • barry says:

            The price of energy always rises, along with other goods and services, wages etc. It rose before renewables became a part of US policy, and rose more slowly afterwards. The cost of subsidising renewables, according to what you list as subsidies (non-tax related) is $17 per annum for every tax-paying American.

            Doesn’t seem to have had a big impact on tax-paying Americans.

            Here in Australia the repeal of the carbon tax reduced prices for some, not for others. Energy prices have risen in the few years since the repeal, and now we are paying more than before and during the time of the carbon tax. This is largely due to maintenance of the grid.

            Transisting to renewables is going to add some cost to power bills and the tax payer, but the alarmist stories I’ve read about that have been way overblown. While we had the carbon tax, for example, much of the proceeds from that went from high end emitters to the Australian public in the form of a tax break (since repealed). For most people this meant little net change in their annual finances.

            I looked up the relative costs of various energy types. I could not find anything that corroborated solar costing 30 times more than conventional sources – maybe from 10 years ago?

            The cost of solar has dropped precipitously – much more than any other energy (68% drop since 2010), the next closest in down-pricing being onshore wind (50%).

            It’s still more expensive to generate PV solar than conventional, but if the price continues to drop at the rate it has over the last 5 years, parity would be achieved within a decade. We’ll see.

          • mpainter says:

            In the US, the price of energy has gone down. The price of crude oil has fallen from $120/bbl to $40/bbl. The price of natural gas has halved, almost, and now competes with coal as a boiler fuel. The price of coal has fallen to where it is no longer profitable and Peabody, the largest producer of boiler coal in the US is in bankruptcy. Where are the benefits for the consumers of electricity? This commodity should have fallen commensurately with the price of fuel, but it has not. The consumers are getting screwed by the renewables, which are forced on them by law. We need better than that. We damned sure don’t want to wind up like Australia.

          • barry says:

            You hang every failure in matched price drops (eg, ppb –> fuel at the pump) on renewables. But you have no idea if renewables are some, most, none, or all of the cause.

            I can tell you that in Australia, repealing the carbon tax didn’t suppress the rate of energy prices.

            In the US, the drop in the price of gasoline has not matched the massive drop in ppb, because other factors are at play. Renewables makes virtually no impact on this sector.


            If all you have is a hammer, all you see is nails.

            Grid maintenance drove the recent hikes in Australian power bills – the carbon tax was already gone. The price of gasoline at the pump in the US has dropped far less than the price per barrel of oil because of other reasons than the cost of renewables (see link above).

            US policy on renewables has a negative impact on annual finances for the average American WRT power supply, but the impact is far less than energy ‘alarmists’ like yourself espouse. You exaggerate.

            Still curious about your claim that solar is 30 times more expensive to generate than conventional energy (ie, coal). Do you have a link?

          • mpainter says:

            You make no sense. Fuel prices always fall slower than supply costs. Nothing odd. There is also a huge tax at the gas pump that does not fall, so don’t expect pump price decline to match crude prices. How little you understand. You are a grabbag of ill informed links, you are Barry.

    • gbaikie says:

      “Sure, no one has up to now invented any economical way to do it with efficiencies more than 15-20% but thats an *economical* argument, and may be practical to dismiss it, not physical. ”

      “Do it” is converting sunlight into electrical power- this the 15-20% efficiency.
      With nuclear or coal plant one has around 50% efficiency to convert the generated heat into electrical power. The Heat converted into mechanical energy, which then made into electrical energy.

      If what you want is heated water [to take a shower, or heat a house] the efficiency of using solar energy to heat water is about 60%. Solar energy used to do heat water to a relevantly modest temperature is very simple and thereby cheap.
      Other than PV, solar energy is used heat molten salt or oil- sunlight to make heat, heat used to make mechanical energy, which is then converted into electrical energy.

      So reptile basking in the sunlight to increase it’s body
      temperature has high efficient use of the sunlight [for the purpose of warming it’s body up]. Mammals use internal chemical heat to keep warm- they need more food. Or since mammals are not using “free” direct sunlight they are less
      efficient- in terms of needing more calories of food as compared to reptiles.

  38. Smoking Frog says:

    mpainter – I agree that the use of fossil fuels reduces healthcare costs, but my complaint is with the underlying idea that if anything you do has negative consequences for me, and you don’t compensate me for them, I am subsidizing you. That’s obviously absurd.

  39. Vincent says:

    I can’t understand the confusion here. If any activity or process by an organization or company results in harmful side effects to either specific members of the community or the community at large, and the costs of redressing those harmful effects is not borne by the company, and included in the price of the product they are selling, then “effectively” the company is receiving a subsidy.

    The problem is, as I mentioned to David Appell who raised this issue, it’s impossible to precisely calculate the costs of such harmful effects, and attribute a fair portion of those costs to any specific company, such as a particular coal miner or a coal power station, and bill them accordingly.

    Now, there is an argument to be made that this state of affairs is irrelevant because we all benefit from cheap energy, including hospitals who treat patients suffering from black lung disease, which is sometimes a problem for coal miners, and including medical research centres who use electricity from fossil fuels to carry out their research into the best treatments for health problems due to air pollution from fossil fuels.

    One might argue, if one wants cheap energy, there are other associated costs to bear. There’s no free lunch.

    However, if one is comparing the true, unsubsidised cost of renewable, pollution-free energy, with the true cost of fossil fuels which have harmful side effects which incur additional expenses to rectify, then those additional costs have to be brought into the equation.

    If one takes such costs into consideration, or the externalities, which is a more precise term, then I suspect that the cost of solar energy production is already on a par with conventional fossil fuels, if not lower. As progress in research and development into solar power continues, the cost will be even lower.

    This is the only justification for the development of solar power and other renewables. The prosperity of the whole of mankind is dependent on the true cost of energy. The lower the true cost of energy, the greater the potential for the increased prosperity of everyone.

    • mpainter says:

      CO2 is not pollution. Atmospheric CO2 is entirely beneficial. The confusion in your mind arises from swallowing a trough full of green propaganda.

      • Vincent says:

        Where did I write in my above post that CO2 is a pollutant? Where have I written in any of my posts that CO2 is a pollutant? I know that CO2 by itself is not a pollutant.
        I’ve explained my position before. I’m surprised you haven’t been able to grasp it.

        The mining, transport, processing and burning of fossil fuels not only degrades the environment, making it later unsuitable for agriculture after an open-cut coal mine is exhausted, for example, but also produces actual pollutants, such Sulphur Dioxide, various Nitrogen Oxides, Carbon Monoxide, particulate matter such as soot or fly ash, and traces of lead, mercury, arsenic and other heavy metals.

        These ‘real’ pollutants are harmful to human health. This is no secret and is not in doubt, which is why developed countries have gradually introduced emission controls which reduce much of the harmful emissions but not all of them because that would be too expensive.

        The additional expense of emission controls is more of a concern in less developed countries, of course. Major cities in India and China are current examples where pollution from vehicles and power plants is an obvious, major, and undeniable health problem.

        One could argue that eliminating all the real pollutants by using extreme emission controls on all fossil fuel activities, and rehabilitating all land that has been degraded due to the mining of coal, drilling for oil or fracking, is a more sensible option, and will result in both cheaper and cleaner energy in the long run.

        If that could be proved to be the case, which it can’t of course, I would still be concerned about a future world which had rejected renewables as an economic option, and which became increasingly dependent on supplies of fossil fuels which are obviously a limited resource.

        There might be no concern in the immediate future about scaecity, but in a hundred years’ time, when a person with the prosperity of the current, average American is considered to be poor, and when energy consuption from fossil fuels, world wide, might be 10 times what it currently is, a looming scarcity of fossil fuels could be a major disaster, far greater than any imagined disaster from rising CO2 levels.

        • mpainter says:

          In the US there is none of the ill effects of fossil fuels that you mention. You are alarmist. You make up a bunch alarmist hogwash.

        • barry says:

          “In the US there is none of the ill effects of fossil fuels that you mention.”

          Not according to the Center for Disease Control.

          “Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

          …Coal mine dust and crystalline silica encountered in industries such as mining and construction are known risks…

          Risk of Interstitial Lung Diseases

          Coal mine dust

          As already noted, coal mine dust exposure can cause COPD. However, it is best known for causing coal workers pneumoconiosis (CWP), a type of lung disease affecting the tissues and gas-exchange surface of the lung (interstitial lung disease). CWP usually develops slowly, taking 10 years or more from initial exposure to onset of disease. It causes changes in the chest radiograph and, in more serious cases, can cause shortness of breath, loss of pulmonary function, and even death. In the United States, the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 (42 CFR Part 37) mandated a comprehensive set of measures to prevent CWP. Enactment was followed by a marked reduction in the prevalence of CWP in long-term coal miners. In the period 1970-1974, about 32% of miners with 25 or more years of tenure in coal mining who participated in a national x-ray surveillance program had evidence of CWP. By the period 1995-1999, prevalence in this group had dropped to about 4%. Unfortunately, in the recent period 2005-2006, prevalence increased to 9%. In addition, advanced cases have recently been detected in miners in their 30s and 40s. Especially in view of the increasing use of coal as an energy source and the predicted growth of coal mining, protecting coal miners from respiratory disease continues to be an important and ongoing priority…

          Risk of Malignant Lung Diseases

          …Diesel exhaust is the product of incomplete combustion of diesel fuel and is a complex mixture that contains soot, PAHs, nitro-PAHs, oxides of carbon, sulfur and nitrogen. It is both gaseous and particulate. Many components of diesel exhaust are known to be carcinogenic in laboratory animals. Since 1988, NIOSH has recommended that whole diesel exhaust be regarded as a potential occupational carcinogen and that reductions in workplace exposure would reduce cancer risks…

          Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are formed in the incomplete combustion of vegetable materials and fossil fuels… Activated PAHs form highly reactive carbocations, which bind to biological molecules – like DNA. Covalent binding forms DNA adducts and can cause mutagenic events…”

          • mpainter says:

            Note the date 1969. Really, Barry, I spoke of current conditions, not those of pre-1969. You did not understand that?

            I will agree that diesel exhaust is a hazard. A pox on the regulators who permit such things.

            Polycystic hydrocarbons are controlled in the US. Benzene is a recognized carcinogen. Others, too. Have been for years. So, get updated.

            I stand on my above statement, with the exception of diesel exhaust. Coal combustion at power plants is clean. Natural gas is cleaner. Open pit mining is regulated and requires land reclamation. Repeat, alarmist blather. Solar panels are poisonous, but you love them, don’t you Barry? So don’t come preaching about clean. Solar panels are poisonous.

        • barry says:

          Link to above info.

  40. Dr. Strangelove says:

    Solar Impulse was not built to carry passengers, but to carry messages.” says Piccard

    Hilarious. If he wants to carry messages, just pick up a placard that costs $1 instead of $177,000,000. Isn’t Piccard ashamed that his solar plane took 16 months while back in 1949 a B-50 Superfortress did it in less than 4 days? What is the glaring message here? For as long as there is oil in the ground, the world will never fly solar airplanes! Yeah right they built Solar Impulse to carry messeges

    • Vincent says:

      I definitely think you’ve missed the point here, Dr Strangeglove. It is common for human activities to involve huge sums of money spent for little practical purpose, other than entertainment, curiosity, bravado and general challenges.

      Take the example of ‘Golf’. How many billions of dollars have been spent during the past few decades, world-wide, trying to hit a little white ball into a hole, for no purpose other than entertainment, personal challenge, and/or social communion?

      The same applies to the Olympic Games. I can run faster than you, or I can swim faster than you! So what? Big deal!

      In relation to such activities as golf, the Olympic Games and football, attempting to fly a plane with solar energy seems a more intelligent and productive activity, wouldn’t you agree?

      It might be true that solar powered aircraft will never be as efficient as gasoline-powered aircraft, even after a hundred years of research and development into the future. However, the striving to improve the efficiency of solar power, and the demonstration that even solar flight is possible, is all a part of the gradual change in paradigm from fossil fuels to ‘eventually’ more efficient renewable power for most purposes.

      Our economy relies upon advertising and promoting a ‘desire’ for particular products. If the product is perceived as being ‘cool’, or bestows a certain status on the buyers and makes them feel superior, then the product tends to be successful, like expensive fashionable clothes or fancy motor cars that cost more than a basic model of car that might do the job of transportation more efficiently in terms of fuel consumption.

      Solar power tends to lack the symbolic status of other products such as cars and fashionable clothing. The digital camera is an example of how extraordinarily successful and efficient a hi-tech product can become when it captures the public’s imagination.

      Hope I have clarified your confusion.

  41. Vincent says:

    “mpainter says:
    July 31, 2016 at 11:06 AM
    Note the date 1969. Really, Barry, I spoke of current conditions, not those of pre-1969. You did not understand that?
    I will agree that diesel exhaust is a hazard. A pox on the regulators who permit such things.
    Polycystic hydrocarbons are controlled in the US. Benzene is a recognized carcinogen. Others, too. Have been for years. So, get updated.
    I stand on my above statement, with the exception of diesel exhaust. Coal combustion at power plants is clean. Natural gas is cleaner. Open pit mining is regulated and requires land reclamation. Repeat, alarmist blather. Solar panels are poisonous, but you love them, dont you Barry? So dont come preaching about clean. Solar panels are poisonous.”

    I’m getting a sense of ‘denialism’ in your comments. I can’t find any recent research on the internet, or even Google Scholar, that shows that pollution from the burning of coal is no longer a health problem in the USA.

    The most recent study I’ve come across, dated 2013, (although based upon earlier work in 2005, it seems) estimates that the number of premature deaths due to car and truck exhaust fumes is 53,000 per annum, which I guess you would agree with.

    However, the number of premature deaths attributed to pollution from electricity production is only marginally less at 52,000 per annum.

    Here’s the link:

    And here’s a relevant extract:

    “The greatest number of emissions-related premature deaths came from road transportation, with 53,000 early deaths per year attributed to exhaust from the tailpipes of cars and trucks.

    It was surprising to me just how significant road transportation was, Barrett observes, especially when you imagine [that] coal-fired power stations are burning relatively dirty fuel.

    One explanation may be that vehicles tend to travel in populated areas, increasing large populations pollution exposure, whereas power plants are generally located far from most populations and their emissions are deposited at a higher altitude.

    Pollution from electricity generation still accounted for 52,000 premature deaths annually. The largest impact was seen in the east-central United States and in the Midwest: Eastern power plants tend to use coal with higher sulfur content than Western plants.”

    • mpainter says:

      Vincent, you ass, EPA regulations in force for decades prevent toxic power plant emissions. You are an ignorant ass that comes citing alarmist internet sources and calling me names out of your stupidity.

      • Vincent says:

        Excellent post, Mpainter!

        I’m sure many of us have been rather puzzled why AGW alarmists tend to label skeptics as denialists. Skepticism is surely a healthy and necessary part of all scientific investigation.

        Now we know, thanks to your illustration. Denialists do exist, and some of them are quite rude and crude, too.

  42. Billyjack says:

    The issue of solar power is actually very simple. If one wanted to pull a cart, it is fairly simple to harness a horse and proceed. The 1 horsepower energy can be matched by using fleas instead of a horse. However the cost and complications of creating a harness for trillions of fleas and then getting the fleas trained to all jump at the same time will be problematic and very costly.

    • Vincent says:

      That’s an interesting analogy. Science has always been problematic. That’s what scientists do; solve problems, and the solving of such problems can be very costly.

      The purpose of harnessing trillions of fleas would not be merely to match the 1 horsepower of energy from an actual horse, but to exceed it.

      You are probably aware that small creatures like ants and fleas have tremendous strength in relation to their weight and volume. I imagine if one were able to harness the power of trillions of fleas which had a combined weight of a horse, with just 2% efficiency, one would achieve the 1 horsepower of energy.

      If one were able to harness that power with 40% efficiency, would have 20 horsepower of energy. That’s the concept.

  43. Dr. Mark H. Shapiro says:

    Hmmm. I purchased a 4 kw peak solar energy system a couple of years ago at a cost before any rebates of about $17,500 installed. The system produces an average of about 15 KWh or electricity per day. So over its usable lifetime of at least 30 years it will produce about 164,250 KWh of electricity, so the cost per KWh is 17,500/164,250 = 0.1065 or just under 11 cents per kilowatt-hour.

    This is significantly lower than the Southern California baseline rate of 16 cents per kilowatt-hour, and only about a third of the 29 cents per kilowatt-hour peak rate.

    Now this is before any rebates or tax credits. With the federal tax credit and a vendor rebate, my system ended up costing about $14,500, so my actual cost of producing a kilowatt-hour is closer to 9 cents per kilowatt hour.

    But even at 11 cents per kilowatt hour, I’m producing electric energy at a significantly lower cost than I can buy it from Southern California Edison. It is true that residential electricity rates are higher in California than in some other parts of the country, but recently the average retail cost of electricity here in the U.S. was about 13.8 cents per kilowatt-hour. So I am still generating electric energy at a lower cost than the average U.S. citizen can buy it from his or her local power company.

    • wow! And in only 30 years! And I assume you live in an unusually sunny location. And those deep-cycle batteries last 30 years? How about the PV cell efficiency?

      • Vincent says:

        Long before the 30-year period has expired, there will almost certainly become availble more efficient, more durable and/or cheaper PV panels, as well as cheaper and more efficient battery storage.

        Those who have ageing solar panels that are becoming less efficient and perhaps in need of repair, might decide to replace them with the more advanced PV models, or at least add additional panels to spare roof areas.

        In Australia we have a ‘feed-in tariff’ system for houses that are connected to the grid, so no battery storage is currently required.

        However, it does seem inevitable that battery storage will eventually become affordable and practical for every dwelling, giving every householder connected to the grid the option to become a net exporter of electricity if he wishes.

        • mpainter says:

          We are not in Australia.
          thank GOD

          • Vincent says:

            So you believe in God?? Or was your use of the word merely metaphorical??

            Religion plays a strong role in human affairs. That cannot be denied. It is quite clear that religious fervour also plays a strong role in the ‘climate change’ debate.

            For the record, I have no belief in any God, but I do have a belief in certain systems of behaviour and thought which, if well applied, will lead to the increased benefit of mankind.

            That belief system is based upon rationality, logic, evidence, as well as compassion for others, including compassion for Mpainter.

            Most important is the capacity to step aside from one’s own personal interests in terms of benefits and rewards, and consider the future consequences for humanity as a whole, that might flow from the decisions of governments and societies in the present.

            It’s clear to me that the totality of human prosperity and well-being is based upon two fundamental issues which are (1) the availability of low-cost energy, and (2) the imaginative and compassionate uses in which we apply that energy.

            Those of us with a smattering of intelligence know there are always hidden costs to everything. The pollution resulting from the burning of fossil fuels is largely a hidden cost.

            There might well be hidden pollution that results from the mining of materials that are necessary for the manufacture of solar panels. That should also be taken into consideration.

            I’m all in favour of complete transparency on this issue.

  44. A related insanity is the obsession with putting panels everywhere. On your roof, on your car, integrated into walls

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