May 18, 2011

We Don't Need No Stinking Giant Fans

Posted by Kate at May 18, 2011 9:39 AM

This graph tells it all. Thanks Kate. Too bad all Canadians will not see this.

Posted by: Ken (Kulak) at May 18, 2011 10:02 AM

Ken, even the ones who do will use it to support their arguuement about global warming/climate change.

Posted by: Ted H at May 18, 2011 10:25 AM

To me it's even more striking if one compares Granny Smiths to Granny Smiths, ie compare electricity generation methods seperately. And then add a practicality factor, and then consider that the CO2 cost assumption of $50 is arbitrary.

Posted by: glasnost at May 18, 2011 10:26 AM

It's a useful graph, aside from the insanity of including a CO2 "cost".

Posted by: Waterhouse at May 18, 2011 10:30 AM

Off topic Kate, but I seem to get a "decrypting certificate id error message" when I tried to make a donation this morning.

Posted by: Ken (Kulak) at May 18, 2011 10:40 AM

I doubt the CO2 cost for solar is accurate. It takes 20 - 30 years for a solar panel to generate the power that was required to make the semi conductor silicon material used in the manufacture of the solar panel. And since the material is all made in China with new coal plants being started every month....

Posted by: Greg at May 18, 2011 10:45 AM

It's useful as far as it goes, but there are some variable costs that can greatly affect some of the numbers. Geography and transportation infrastructure costs are the principal variables. Coal in particular is affected by this. Coal is indeed the lowest cost form of electric generation in Alberta and Saskatchewan, for example. But this does not necessarily hold true for places like Ontario where much of the coal must be moved long distances, particularly by rail. In the case of Ontario, rail transport costs alone can nearly double the fuel cost.

So, this chart may be true for Alberta, given that it was done by Altacorp, but it does not hold true everywhere.

As a consequence, the comparative economics of electricity are entirely situational. Costs for electricity in British Columbia, for example, are not and never will be the same as for those in Alberta.

A second key consideration is variability over time. Once a nuclear power plant is built its electricity costs are fixed over time, as fuel is only about 5% of its total cost. For coal, fuel costs are about 50% of its total lifetime operating cost, while for gas it's about 85-90%. The variability of fossil fuel costs can differ greatly from region to region. Again this is less of a problem for those areas which have fossil fuels and much more so for those which have none.

Finally, I don't believe for a second the cost indicated for ethanol. This one has a very large opportunity cost in lost food production (creating total higher food prices) and land consumption, none of which have been factored into this estimate.

Posted by: cgh at May 18, 2011 10:49 AM

Greg, since the life expectancy of a solar panel is less than 20 years, with sharp declines in production after the first year or so, that means it's not even a net energy producer. Not one single study of solar, that I know of, takes environmental degradation of the panels into account.

Posted by: cgh at May 18, 2011 10:52 AM

All energy is not created equally, because it depends on what you are tryIng to power. To compare the price of gasoline to electricity is just stupid. most of our transportation is powered by oil derivitives and will be for the forseeable future. Solar elecricity is useful if I want to turn on my lights on a bright sunny day in july, but not so much if its dark out and the panels are covered with snow.

In my house, I have three different energy bills, electricity, natural gas, and gasoline and what I use each for are not interchangable.

Posted by: minuteman at May 18, 2011 11:17 AM

The world needs more! carbon dioxide, not less.
If CO2 was to be included in the bar graph it should have shown up as a benefit.

- the worlds plants(food producers) are CO2 starved as it is.

- CO2 is a minor GH gas (even if the GH effect is a problem, which it is not!)

- even if CO2 did contribute to a warmer world, history has shown warmer is better (medieval warm period vs little ice age)

Posted by: ron in kelowna ∴ at May 18, 2011 11:21 AM

Carbon cost is meaningless.

From this chart it seems to me that oil production is almost perfect and as far as big power plant operations go, either go high tech and build nukes or just throw up the big old coal plants.

I prefer coal plants because the Co2 levels are higher.

Posted by: Jeff at May 18, 2011 11:28 AM

In addition to cgh's comment about situational costs coal plants are often designed to allow additional units to be built. Since all of the support infrastructure is present the capital costs are substantially lower.

I support nuclear but I fear it will be difficult to ever overcome the fear factor.

NG seems to be an obvious choice for additional power - cheap to build, public acceptance, abundant supply, reliability. The biggest concern will be price volatility as demand grows. You'd think that enviros would cheer a move to NG because of its lower GHGs. Apparently, they have changed their minds:

"Given its greenhouse gas benefits, environmental activists initially welcomed shale gas. For example, in August 2009 prominent liberals Timothy Wirth and John Podesta, writing on behalf of the Energy Future Coalition, hailed shale gas as “a bridge fuel to a 21st-century energy economy that relies on efficiency, renewable sources, and low-carbon fossil fuels such as natural gas.” The same year, environmentalist Robert Kennedy, Jr., head of the Waterkeeper Alliance, declared in the Financial Times, “In the short term, natural gas is an obvious bridge fuel to the ‘new’ energy economy.”

That was then, but this is now. Practically en masse, the herd of independent minds that constitutes the environmentalist community has now collectively decided that natural gas is a “bridge to nowhere.” Why? In his excellent overview, The Shale Gas Shock [download], published last week by the London-based Global Warming Policy Foundation, journalist Matt Ridley explains: “As it became apparent that shale gas was a competitive threat to renewable energy as well as to coal, the green movement has turned against shale.”

Posted by: LC Bennett at May 18, 2011 11:30 AM

The tree huggers and the MSM do not accept mathematics as being legitimate. They ignore facts and studies and rather use emotions and fear to sell their brand of crap.

We have new projects such as clean coal and carbon sequestration that are major steps forward that leverage off of the resources that are plentiful in the country. Many of the green technologies rely on expensive rare earth metals that come from China. The extraction of these materials are very complicated and create hazardous by products.

Posted by: Dennis K. at May 18, 2011 12:51 PM

Where would hydro electric be on this chart?

Posted by: stowaway at May 18, 2011 1:04 PM

But why the carbon sequestration part? The world needs more CO2.

Posted by: ron in kelowna ∴ at May 18, 2011 1:20 PM

Is the National Post not considered MSM anymore?

Ron in Kelowna,
What's your source on your "world needs more carbon dioxide" statement? I've read plenty about whether or not the increased levels of Carbon Dioxide in the environment are harmful or not, but I've never heard anyone argue that we should produce more.

Probably the best option is to have a diverse spread of different energy sources.

Posted by: Amos at May 18, 2011 1:29 PM

[No one can deny the truth. Plants live on CO2. They are made of carbohydrates (carbon, hydrogen, oxygen). They get their carbon from the CO2 in the atmosphere. It is a fact that the best food crop yields occur when plants are grown in atmospheres that are triple or quadruple current CO2 levels. That proves current CO2 levels are way below most of the period of plant life evolution and adaptation on Earth.]

CO2 insignificant GH gas

Posted by: ron in kelowna ∴ at May 18, 2011 2:20 PM

Ethanol: C2H5OH. Hydrocarbon plus an hydroxyl. Just throwing that out there.

Posted by: Another Calgary Marc at May 18, 2011 2:27 PM

For AltaCorp Capital Inc.’s John Mawdsley to include CO2 as a 'cost' is ridiculous.

Our atmosphere is presently at 390 ppm. Climate alarmists think this is too high.

@ 2000 ppm ferns and dinosaurs thrived for millions of years with no tipping point whatsoever

@ 1000 ppm (artificially raised level) greenhouse operators grow our healthy food products.

@ 390 ppm today - notice any problems out of the ordinary?

@ 290 ppm a hundred years ago, food crops did not grow as well.

@ 200 ppm and under plants(your food) stop growing.

What's your choice?

Posted by: ron in kelowna ∴ at May 18, 2011 2:28 PM

All you need to know about corn ethanol - it takes more fossil fuel energy to produce ethanol than is returned when you burn the ethanol. Not to mention you are burning food.

Posted by: ron in kelowna ∴ at May 18, 2011 2:34 PM

Here's the latest info from Tom Adams on the Samsung wind and solar deal. There may not be a contract after all and it may be bigger than the Liberals have let on:

"Assuming capacity factors of 30% and 17% for wind and solar power respectively, if all the Samsung megawatts were installed today, consumers would be forking over about $1.11 billion per year to Samsung. Of this amount, approximately $75 million is for “economic development” incentive payments. If fully implemented today, the Samsung deal would jack up your rates by approximately 7%"

Posted by: Lynne at May 18, 2011 2:42 PM

Interesting that power generated from hydro isn't in the table. That's a huge source in BC and Quebec in particular.

Posted by: Don at May 18, 2011 2:54 PM

Stowaway, hydraulic is all over the map. It's costs are entirely situational for the site, the amount of head, and the volume of water. The cheapest hydraulic energy in the continent is Sir Adam Beck in Niagara Falls, which now that it's fully amortized is much less than 1 cent/kWh.

However, all hydraulic is not equal. Some sites such as say Renison in Ontario would produce power at about 12 cents. This is because there is so little water relative to the cost of the dam. Which is precisely why OPG never built this particular dam.

For much of the western provinces, hydraulic is quite expensive because of highly seasonal water flows and little head (the amount of water drop from penstock to turbine.)

Lynne, Tom Adams even at these numbers is being rather optimistic about both of them. The actual average performance capacity of wind fleets around the world is 20%, not 30%. In the case of solar, it would have generated near zero in the past three months in Ontario, given how little sunshine there has been. What Tom is really saying is that even at the impossibly best case the renewables are losers.

Amos, there are a number of studies out there suggesting that the world's biosphere, plants specifically, are suffering from CO2 deprivation. First, the amount of vegetation is less than what it was several million years ago, attributable in part to the loss of CO2 during the Ice Ages. Second, anyone building a greenhouse uses an atmosphere of much higher CO2 concentration to encourage plant growth.

Posted by: cgh at May 18, 2011 3:28 PM

I wonder how much of the capital cost for nuclear includes the decades to get a permit, including all the environmental impact studies, lawsuits, etc required?

Posted by: heresolong at May 18, 2011 6:20 PM

heresolong, it's not included for any of them. All electric generation projects except renewables usually require review under CEAA. The last 20 years of experience in Quebec shows that even hydraulic reviews last at least a decade. Ontario has had little success in siting peak load gas plants over the past six years.

Posted by: cgh at May 18, 2011 9:11 PM

Paul Erhlick (author of "The Population Bomb", "Peak Oil") besides predicting mass famine in the 1990's and exhausting petroleum in the 80's.....famously declared "The worst possible outcome would be the discovery of a cheap, abundant, clean, source of would be like giving a loaded machine gun to an idiot child."

This is the mentality of the Greens....they seek to exterminate most of the human race by whatever means is available. They regard humans as an infestation...except of course for them and theirs...

Posted by: sadquatch at May 18, 2011 9:28 PM

I question the validity of the information used to produce the graph.

Currently, a barrel of bunker C oil costs approximately $88. This barrel of oil is the feedstock for "conventional oil" energy production.

The graph is scaled using energy equivalents of a barrel of oil (BOE).

Producing the equivalent energy of a burning barrel of oil will take at least _a full barrel of oil_!

The graph shows a net operating cost of approximately $20 (including fuel and feedstock) per barrel of oil equivalent energy. This cost is, at a minimum, the cost of the barrel of oil, $88.

Posted by: Geeno at May 19, 2011 11:39 PM