Mitch McConnell admits we have to pick between “brownouts” & coal dependency

It’s interesting to see the coal & carbon politicians — and Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell is deeply carbon-centric — admit that we’re past the point of a smooth transition to a non-fossil (non-carbon) energy economy.

In this, McConnell is echoing a point I’ve been making lately, that the only path to effective decarbonation includes some form of temporary energy rationing.

Here’s McConnell, at a recent press conference with Kentucky journalists, as quoted here (emphasis and paragraphing mine):

[Courier-Journal] reporter Dr. Joe Gerth beat me to it and asked [McConnell] if coal actually does make people sick:

Gerth: “You’ve been pretty critical of Sen. Reid for his “coal makes us sick” comment. But isn’t there plenty of evidence that coal-fired emissions cause breathing problems, to black lung disease, that coal does in fact, in some ways, cause people to become ill?”

EPA: Sources of Carbon Emissions

EPA: Sources of Carbon Emissions

McConnell: “We’re burning coal cleaner and cleaner and cleaner. There’s really a war on fossil fuel across the board by these guys. And it’s important to also recognize that 40% of our electricity in America comes from coal-fired generation, 90% in Kentucky. They have no plans to replace it [coal-generated energy].

We’re looking at potential brown outs in the not too distant future if they continue down this path. So we all want a cleaner environment. I think America has made incredible strides toward a cleaner environment in a variety of different ways over the years. But this is an economic disaster for us and a power supply disaster for a lot of the rest of the country.”

On this, I agree with McConnell:

▪ There is a war on fossil fuel (though I would add, and there needs to be).
▪ 40% of our electricity comes from coal (and I would add, way too much).
▪ We’re looking at brownouts (or we stay on carbon until our kids are future hunter-gatherers).
▪ This is an economic disaster … and a power supply disaster … (and a life on the planet disaster).
▪ Which no one is addressing.

That last point is worth noting, since Obama is coming out with his new regulations for coal-fired plants in the very near future. There’s a large amount of speculation about how effective these new rules might be. There’s a nice primer here, though be careful when you read language that appears to give permission to burn carbon, just less of it.

Energy-related CO2 (source: NRDC)

Energy-related CO2 (source: NRDC)

Global warming is rising. Global mean temperature is higher than any time during the Holocene (the “era of civilization” — meaning farms and cities). That means we’re already above “peak Holocene” temperature, with no sign of stopping.

If we don’t stop “now” — move to zero carbon emissions on the fastest schedule we can — the period between 2030 and 2100 will be a chaotic mess. 2030 is 16 years away, or four presidential elections. (A personal prediction — 2016 will be the “Safe Energy for America” election. 2020 will be the “Pretend to Care About Climate” election. 2024 will be “Rich People Get All The Lifeboats” election. By then we’ll have 3°C “in the pipeline” and everyone will know it’s over. After that it’s Last Dance.)

There really is time to change …  and that time is now

As near as I can tell, it’s not over now, but it will be soon. That’s why I hate hearing statements like this (from the primer mentioned above):

Along with other steps the administration has taken, like setting higher fuel standards for cars and trucks, the new regulations could make climate change action one of Obama’s signature achievementssomething historians will cite alongside Obamacare, rescue of the auto industry, and the Recovery Act. As Jonathan Chait has written in New York magazine, “By the normal standards, of progress, Obama has amassed an impressive record so far on climate change.”

Comparing Obama’s record on climate to his health record — his massive give-away of potential under-65 Medicare customers to the profit-driven health industry (in exchange for gifts and favors, like Legacy Library donations and speaking engagements) — that comparison suggests he’ll coddle carbon profits as a trade for minimal real emissions change and little (but not zero) regard for actual outcomes (but with a nice bonus for him of gifts and favors).

For example, Obama’s most recent National Climate Assessment says this about limiting CO2 emissions:

To meet the lower emissions scenario (B1) used in this assessment, global mitigation actions would need to limit global carbon dioxide emissions to a peak of around 44 billion tons per year within the next 25 years and decline thereafter. In 2011, global emissions were around 34 billion tons, and have been rising by about 0.9 billion tons per year for the past decade.

Translation: Current emissions are more 34 billion tons of CO2 per year. If we let the emissions rate peak at 44 billion tons in 25 years instead of 10 … and then decline … we’re good.

Second translation: If we stretch the growth of carbon emissions by 30% over 25 years instead of 30% over ten, we’re good. Everyone alive today can cash out and die happy. David Koch wins, though not at the rate he wants, and Obama gets his library and world-acclaim tour.

My response: If the next cigarette is the last one, you’ll never stop smoking.

There is still time, but this cigarette has to be the last one. We’re very close to tipping points, on sea ice, on plant migrations (hint: the climate migrates faster than plants do), on ocean acidification (think plankton, the prairie grass of the food chain).

You Are Here. Heading north or south? Time to choose is now.

You Are Here. Heading north or south? Time to choose is now.

The good news is that the price in dollars or percent of GDP is likely not high at all. So cost isn’t the issue. It’s where thatprice goes. If it goes to building out a carbon-free energy infrastructure — and all-electric transportation — at Manhattan Project–rates, we’ll have jobs and middle-class wealth enough to keep everyone fed and happy.

The problem isn’t “cost” in dollars, it’s David Koch’s “cost to me” in personal future profit. That’s where the battle is.

I’ll be covering the roll-out of Obama’s new EPA coal rules as it occurs. Stay tuned. In the meantime, remember the “words vs. deeds” rule. Obama v. 2008, was very good with one of them. Obama v. 2009 was very bad with the other.

Just saying.


Twitter: @Gaius_Publius
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Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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  • pvequalkt

    I am disappointed in GP here.
    mitchie mcturtle is admitting nothing here. he is, as noted below, THREATENING us with brownouts.
    And GP, in conceding mcturtle’s false point, falls into the same trap.
    We (as in humanity) are doomed… TRULY… if we accept the premise, as GP does here, that we’re stuck with the status quo… because we accept the corporate postulate that government SHALL PLAY NO ROLE WHATSOEVER in moving us/US off of burning and toward renewables.
    If this were some new wonder weapon to kill BILLIONS of our enemies, we’d throw another Manhattan Project (times 1000) at it and spend whatever it took.
    But this is energy… and we are all inculcated post-hypnotically with the corporate fomented premise that government cannot and should not have any part in converting away from the obscenely profitable extraction and burning industries.
    And why would corporations convert themselves when they are making so goddamn much easy money as they are?
    I mean, they might feign angst about wanting to… but it’s just too ‘spensive.
    And we buy it.

  • Mike F

    I agree with the Fixer: Please don’t do this.

  • Mike F

    I keep thinking about what this Nation would look like if the entire country had followed California’s example in the 70’s.

  • eggroll_jr

    Love the IPCC resilience chart! Simply elegant. Even a Republican could understand it.

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  • pappyvet

    I do not like being threatened by someone who does not want any alternatives in the first place.

  • Silver_Witch

    Agreed – in fact it is what got me started walking to work everyday. I found I enjoyed it so much I didn’t want to give it up. The walk was about 55 minutes each way. Now it is about the same maybe 45, if I hussel my bussel.
    The food think was enlightening…as well as how dependant I was (am) on the internet. However, we did a “camping” thing in the backyard and eat mostly out of cans…even doing a mystery night where I removed the labels and made everyone pick a can!!
    Point is it would not be fun if it was an everyday experience to manage food without a refrig.

  • I did it for a few days in a later blackout in NYC. But it was an eye-opener about how much we depend on electricity for things like food storage. It’s one thing to not have light-bulbs but to have all your food go bad when you’re on a budget, and to not be able to cook or buy anything that needs to be refrigerated is a real eye-opener. I also had to leave 2 hours early so I could walk to work since there were no subways at the time and there weren’t nearly enough buses to make up the difference.

  • I was talking about energy. Sorry for the confusion.

  • MyrddinWilt

    It is really hard for any source to compete with wind. The capital costs are high but they are high for coal as well (and astronomic for nuclear). Once the windmill is installed it consumes nothing. The only cost is maintenance. Windmills do require maintenance but they require much less than a power plant operating at temperatures high enough to melt metals.

    Faced with this type of competition, the Koch bros are of course buying politicians to pass laws the make it harder to situate and operate wind power. They just spent a fortune trying to uproot a single windmill on the cape.

  • newbroom

    Tankless water heaters, led technology, reduced consumption due to a conscious effort by everyone. We can all reduce the amounts of carbon based energy we use. I can’t understand why we don’t have more personal electrical generating exercise machines. Put it to use making juice.

  • The_Fixer

    Well, the AM system is not only used just for broadcast radio. AM (Amplitude Modulation) and its variants (such as Single Sideband and Audio-Frequency Shift Keying for data) are used on shortwave bands by airlines, the military, the Maritime services, radio amateurs and shortwave broadcasters. Under the right conditions, these interfering signals can actually propagate and increase the ambient noise level, interfering with very weak signals.

    Consider an area in a less than well-developed country that is struck by a natural disaster that renders the power generation system inoperative. The first line of communication is often an Amateur Radio Operator (a Ham operator, yes they still exist). Often, he or she will be utilizing emergency power, which will not provide a strong signal for very long, if at all. The person on the other end, the receiving operator, often has to fight various kinds of natural and man-made interference to hear that weak signal, and relay information to various relief agencies.

    Before anyone says “oh, but the Internet does that”, let me counter with this: While the Internet has proven to be robust, you need an access point to get on it. If the local access point has been destroyed by that natural disaster, all of the robustness of the Internet will, in the end, not be worth a tinker’s damn.

    CFLs are part of the problem. The proliferation of computers in households also increases the ambient electrical noise level. They’re everywhere – thermostats, microwave ovens, modern Internet-capable appliances, televisions, stereos… you name it.

    But CFL’s create a special problem, because the noise is wide-band and changes on a whim. Which makes it difficult for modern signal-enhancing equipment to remove it.

    As comforting as it is to know that some fool will have to listen to Rush Limbaugh and his like-minded Legion of Doomsters through a veil of interference, there most definitely is a down-side.

  • The_Fixer

    I don’t know if I’d do that unless the gas going to the pilot light jet was shut off, for obvious reasons.

    Your kitchen exploding when you turn on the light switch is one nasty surprise that no one needs.

  • The_Fixer

    Yes, they do. A very large number of them also sport, in addition to the Calvin-pissing-on something-or-other “window treatments”, bumper stickers deriding Obama and declaring their undying affection for the Second Amendment.

    It’s the most wonderful redneckian display on wheels.

  • 4th Turning

    Now, floods that used to happen once a century seem to be going offmore often than mattress sales, and like those sales, everything in the flood plain must go! But Farnsworth House isn’t just some double-wide you can move to higher ground. Moving the house would destroy it just as surely as leaving it would, so the good folks at the National Trust for Historic Preservation are considering putting the house on a ginormous hydraulic lift so when the rains come, the house can rise above the waters like a Baba Yaga’s hut on technological chicken legs.

  • 4th Turning

    Thanks for this reality check. Same deal here. Wives do seem to be driving
    those ridiculous mini-suvs. Couples apparently live to work to keep up vehicle
    payments. Same crowd buys the biggest riding lawnmowers which probably
    put out more dirty co2 than both vehicles together.
    But all is going to be okay as I don’t let the water run while brushing my teeth!

  • 4th Turning

    the first lady has ventured onto even trickier terrain: battling domestic political pushback as her nutrition agenda hits stiff congressional headwinds.
    Leading the charge for peeling back the regulations is the School Nutrition Association, a powerful trade group representing 55,000 school nutrition workers and companies that supply school food.
    The group has aggressively lobbied lawmakers for more flexibility on the rules using the appropriations process to both get waivers for schools and to try to amend the next round of regulations, which would increase whole-grain requirements and sharply limit junk food sold in cafeterias.

    Read more:

  • 4th Turning

    Surely thou jests? Vermont maybe…Oklahoma only one of how many tea party
    states on the cutting edge of climate change denial.

    ‘The state at the heart of Tornado Alley has no building code requiring that schools include shelters, and no statewide means of paying for them.’

  • Silver_Witch

    Agreed….my husband was telling me back in the 70’s in Europe he had to pay his landlady for hot water…she would put some wood on a boiler thingie and he could fill up the tub. And they have those small – insta-heat type things now…which of course we could totally switch too.

  • Silver_Witch

    Yes totally just like that. I lived in DC after the Hurricane that took out electricity in the city….guess who got their electricity back 3 or 4 days before us living in NE and SE, the wealthy neighbors. We had no electricity for 6 days…in the heat – no refrig. It was tough…doable really – and a bit like living on the frontier.

  • genderman

    Why? Because the natural gas lobby isn’t paying McConnell as much money as the Koch Brothers?

  • emjayay

    Only AM interference, where Rush Limbaugh is.

  • emjayay

    Back in the 70’s we all ran out and bought water heater insulating blankets. But they are way better insulated now, and they usually only last ten or fifteen years, so most of them out there are pretty efficient. And most hot water pipes aren’t insulated, heaters have pilot lights (still?) etc. In 2005 my landlord had to buy a new gas stove for my apartment. He bought the cheapest one he could find, which had pilot lights, which I’m sure are not allowed in California. Pilot lights use something like 10% of the natural gas in the US, although almost all gas stoves have electronic ignition now. Except some of them. Cheapskates or profit making companies will do anything to save money, which is one reason why freedom-robbing Socialist regulations are necessary.

  • emjayay

    Then they vote for Scott Walker.

  • emjayay

    When Florida and New Orleans are entirely underwater people might start giving up the denial. Not all of the though.

  • emjayay

    In the UK (don’t know about Europe) you pay a road tax for your car based on carbon emissions per mile. Just another way Socialism infringes on people’s individual God given rights.

  • emjayay

    That headline is terrible. McConnell isn’t admitting to anything. He’s threatening people with it, based on a bunch of lies. And by the way Mitch, if coal is being burnt cleaner now, why exactly is that? Oh that’s right THE EPA. And cleaner is still horribly dirty, and still produces more carbon than natural gas. Or you know, wind and solar and hydro.

  • emjayay

    I have ’em all over the place. Sometimes they crap out in a year or two, sometimes last as long as they are supposed to. Anyway they cost around a dollar now. And I ALWAYS get “warm white” and the spectrum to my certified not color blind eyes looks just fine.

  • Mark_in_MN

    I know. And then there are the shopping malls lit up like, well, shopping malls with no need for it at all (especially after closing).

  • Joey__Blow

    geez! houses lit up like shopping malls… why anyone needs floodlights on all the time is beyond me.

    I liike to sit on my deck in the dark and look at the stars .. kinda washed out now because of unnecessary lighting.

  • I agree.

  • Joey__Blow

    I have given up almost all hope that meaningful action will be taken to even reduce the rate of increase of CO2 emissions. I don’t think any reduciton will happen in the next 20 years. We are headed for a crueler world and our children and their children will feel the pain.
    as a first step we need to stop mining coal.. and start switching all coal plants to natural gas. but before that we need to fix methane releases during the drilling and production process. that saves everyone money. Stop coal mining and exports. retrain or just retire the miners.
    Then we need a carbon tax. one that makes a difference and increases every year. we can rebate most of it by using it to retire the Social Security Trust fund bonds that will start coming due. and then exempt the first 20K of wages and fund it with the carbon tax. anything left can be used for R&D or, if too large, create a large EITC.
    Then we need to accept that we cannot and will not extract all the oil and gas that is on the balance sheet of the oil companies. They are valued at trillions of dollars based on assets. That has to change. maybe they get tax write offs to offset the loss. but their value needs to be cut in half.
    Then we need thin film solar, GMO biotech algae and bacteria to poop ethanol and raw hydrocarbons. NO more corn or sugar beet ethanol. We need to reduce fossil fuel based fertilizers. We need a new look at nukes. Fail-safe baby nukes that can’t sustain a reaction .. or something.. use the cooling water to grow algae.
    I have a place in the hills that will still be ok in the new world.. but living in NYC is going to be hot and nasty.

  • I found the best selection and best prices at Ikea. And yeah, I’m replacing everything with LEDs.

  • The_Fixer

    I have had mixed results with modern CFL bulbs. They have gotten better in some cases, but I still see some that are cheezy crap that don’t last long. I have an older CFL that has lasted for nearly 20 years, still going strong. Like a lot of technology, it was overbuilt when first introduced. Later on, they figured out how to make them just cheap enough to make them work for a while.

    Yeah, I would rather have one than a comparable standard incandescent simply because they use a lot less in the way of power. In spite of their variable quality, they do last longer than the crappy incandescents that I was buying. But I really think that LEDs are becoming a much better way to light one’s house.

  • Mark_in_MN

    I’m not sure it really is that simple. Minnesota passed a law in 2007 (the Next Generation Energy Act) that included provisions to reduce the use of fossil fuels by 15% of 2005 levels by 2015, 30% by 2025, and 80% by 2050. Part of doing that was a plan to not allow utilities to buy electricity generated by burning coal unless emissions were offset. North Dakota, several power companies, and others filed a suit in federal court. In April, Judge Susan Richard Nelson struck down key provisions as violating the interstate commerce clause.

  • The_Fixer

    Around here (Wisconsin), it seems that any schlub with enough money buys a huge pickup truck whether it is truly needed or not.

    It’s amazing how many have never seen so much as a load of dirt. They’re clean and well-chromed. Same for the SUVs. They are every bit a penile extension as the expensive sports car is to the guy with a mid-life crisis.

    Aside from the waste of resources in building and operating one, there’s a safety issue. I drive a smaller, older car that sits low to the ground. I have to drive like these people are out to kill me. That’s because if one of them hits me, it could very well wind up with me being dead.

    I wonder if there shouldn’t be a big, wallet-hurting tax on these damn things. They use more resources, cause more road wear, and pose a safety problem. These yahoos need to get out of their vanity toys.

  • And require that new homes be built to energy-saving standards, including lots of insulation, good windows, energy efficient lighting and appliances, and even (gasp!) solar electric and/or water heating built in.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Carter began the attacks on the standard of living of workers using a new strategy – deregulation.

    Orlando Sentinel 05 25 1986 “The Jan. 1, 1984, breakup of the giant Bell System shrunk what had been the world’s largest telephone monopoly to one-third its previous size. AT&T was sent spinning into a world of non-union competitors and cheap imports…. Bearing the brunt of that cost-cutting has been the CWA, which represents 155,000 AT&T workers. Since 1983, the company has reduced its non-management work force by 42,000 through
    layoffs, attrition and early retirement.”

    Railway Age (a management magazine) “By stripping away needless and costly regulation in favor of marketplace forces wherever possible, this act will help assure a strong and healthy future for our nation’s railroads and the men and women who work for them…” Jimmy Carter, on signing the Staggers Act

    Mac Fleming, President, Brotherhood Of Maintenance Of Way Employees “The railroads used the Staggers Act to massively cut jobs throughout the industry, shamelessly shedding thousands upon thousands of miles of track, creating short lines that were thinly disguised creations of the big roads at that time.

    The same thing happened to Teamster drivers and to unions in air passenger service.

    Liberals since Carters time have been among the worst enemies or working people and unions because they can get away with more. Liberals gave us NAFTA and other FTA and soon TPP. They signed and voted the deregulation bills of 1999 and 2000 and have done nothing serious about unemployment.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Austerity is a punishment imposed on workers by the rich and the politicans who service them.

  • Carter was vilified for talking about this stuff in 1978. If we’d listened and worked on this problem from then to now we’d be in a FAR better position today.

  • Back in (sorry I can’t forget what year it was…1999?) NYC decided to cut off Washington Heights and Inwood so they could continue to power midtown and Wall Street. No one up there “matters” anyway so they went without power (for about a week during a horrible heat wave). So you mean decisions like that?

  • Or we could all find ways to use less electricity.

  • Elijah Shalis

    All we need to do is to pass state laws requiring electric companies to go green. Really it isn’t that hard.

  • Indigo

    I wish.

  • Indigo

    Pricing is certainly one way to ration any kind of product. I have the impression that today’s pricing is largely a matter of incorporating externalities, as you call them, into the base price. Shifting those external prices to another budget line would probably help ease the availability of staples while passing costs on to the very affluent but the very affluent are also well positioned to sabotage such efforts at fair pricing. At the other end of that spectrum, the economic pirates that currently occupy our business structure would ration air, if they could find a way to do it, and charge us mightily for the privilege of breathing. We are emphatically not living in “the best of all possible worlds.”

  • Or heck, there are many families with more than one vehicle. We live on a small farm now. We do need a small farm truck.

    But we don’t have to buy a huge one or one with a over-sized engine, and most of all, we don’t need to drive that truck to the supermarket. The Prius does just fine for that.

  • It is our government but also individuals that need to act. Since 1975, I’ve never had a car that got less than 30mpg (highway). It was a deliberate choice. I understand that some need big trucks for large properties, work, etc, but MOST DO NOT.

  • GaiusPublius

    Thanks for the clarification, and I think we’re in agreement. There’s a big state-by-state differential in how fast the no-carbon conversion can happen locally. CA is in much better shape than others.


  • “. . . can only operate reliably in an upright position. . .”

    Not at all true. I have several that are upside-down and they have worked well. Early CFL’s sucked. But they improved them each year.

  • What you are suggesting would be contrary to the reforms that have been 100% consistent in their outcomes: Austerity measures. And yes they have failed 100% of the time they’ve been implemented to solve the problem of employment.

  • The_Fixer

    CFLs were a stop-gap measure at best. They create a lot of radio interference, can only operate reliably in an upright position, have a built-in inefficiency (the step-up power supply required to fire the lamp), and there are disposal problems with the mercury.

    LED lights are a much better option, and the cost will come down due to economy of scale. I think we’re beginning to see that now.

  • Mark_in_MN

    There are so many places we can, and must, find ways to use less energy, or produce energy with less impact upon our world. The question now is how bad will will allow our impact on the world to become.

    My particular concerns in my comment were that, in this one smallish but significant piece of the energy usage pie, we concentrate on only one small part of lighting (how energy efficient it is) while largely ignoring the question of how much artificial lighting we use in the first place; and that we often ignore the many other side effects that our over use of artificial light creates beyond the issues of energy consumption, production, and associated atmospheric, water, and land polutants.

  • GP, just in case, my ‘bullshit’ remark was directed to McConnell, not you.

    Also see below that California’s energy which is coal-based is 7.5% of the total. Almost 60% comes from natural gas and renewables. And these statistics do not include the latest figures from two solar facilities that recently opened, one being the largest in the world.

    And it isn’t just power generation. We’ve been pretty strict about Energy Star (lower energy use) compliant products. Everything is rated and discounts are often available for choosing a green product. Even with cars – hybrids and electric vehicles are often permitted to drive in car-pool lanes even if there is only one occupant.

    In 2012, Apple decided that they were no longer going to comply with green standards (EPEAT). They were scolded that the University of California and other state schools would no longer purchase Apple products because of this. The city of San Francisco froze all pending purchases of Apple products. Apple acquiesced, which is amazing, considering how much political and economic power Apple has.

    We may not do everything right here in California but somethings we do really well, and this is one of them. Now if we can convince our governor that fracking is bad…

  • newbroom

    Water heaters. Air conditioners, and sure…lights…I’m amazed that we don’t use more efficient water heating systems. It all pales in significance when you consider that even though we’re now seeing extreme weather that can be attributed to Global Warming, we can’t stop this from getting worse. It’s going to get worse. Now, it’s about mental health and how much worse?

  • Mark_in_MN

    It is pathetic. McConnell is an obstructionist in the extreme. He’s one of the chief architects of the “party of no,” the party that insists we can’t afford anything (except wars). They have precisely tried to define politics, and for that matter our country, along the lines of what we can’t do, and it seems like we can’t do anything.

    And, yes, I think your analysis is correct, McConnell applies a false choice rhetoric here. In part, so that it reinforces that idea that we can’t really do anything, which, of course, happens to coincide with desires of some of the particular interests that usually pull his strings.

  • newbroom

    It’s about time Michelle brought this story to all of us. Maybe she can influence her hubby to do the right thing.

  • McConnell is engaging in false choice rhetoric, as well as the ‘fallacy of the perfect solution,’ and we should dispute the very premise.

    The dilemma is not “burn coal” or “suffer brownouts.” That is overly simplistic and denies the reality of alternative choices, including:

    – Reduce the amount of energy we need, use, and waste.
    – Pursue alternative green and renewable energy sources on a massive scale

    We can break this fossil fuel addiction, but it requires wanting to do so. And look, let’s say we can’t realistically go to “zero carbon” in 10 years — I’m not saying that’s impossible, but let’s presume it. That does not mean we should eschew solutions where our use of carbon is cut in half or to a quarter in that timeframe, with zero-carbon being on the horizon. As it stands now, all we’re getting is excuses as to why we shouldn’t even bother to try.

    I mean, geez, it’s like as a culture we’re saying we can’t ever stop drinking because the DTs will be unpleasant. This is America now? A country defined not by what it can do, but by what it can’t (or more accurately, “won’t”)? How pathetic.

  • GaiusPublius

    Thanks, Gary. It’s a function of the rate at which you de-carbonize. If your goal is “carbon-free in 10 years”, you’ll have to do some rationing. If your goal is “hold emissions 30% above current levels by 2040” you can do that at any rate you want and not trouble people much.

    The problem is — how much more carbon in the air is too much? If current levels are already too much, you’d better be looking at those faster rates.

    I’ll be dealing with that — the notion and the number behind our so-called “carbon budget” — in the next couple of posts. Thanks for the comment.


  • Mike F

    Try some at 2700K to 3000K. They put out a much mellower light, and the daylight seems to be the best of that “color”.

  • Bill_Perdue

    The main thing we should do is push for a Manhattan style multi-trillion dollar effort to green the economy, agriculture, energy production and especially transportation.

    The FED gave trillions to the banksters, surely they can just have another QE and print a few dozen trillion dollars to cover the costs. It’s as easy as pie. “The Fed’s $16 Trillion Bailouts Under-Reported – The audit of the Fed’s emergency lending programs was scarcely reported by mainstream media – albeit the results are undoubtedly newsworthy. It is the first audit of the Fed in United States history since its beginnings in 1913. The findings verify that over $16 trillion was allocated to corporations and banks internationally, purportedly for “financial assistance” during and after the 2008 fiscal crisis. …

    That kind of Manhattan project effort would have the added benefit of ending unemployment, something neither Democrats or Republicans seem interested in doing and rebuild the trade union movement and restoring the high wages and benefits that insured relative prosperity from 1947 to 1976, and in the process correcting 30 years of attacks on working people by every regime since Carters.

    And of course, it might just save some lives down the road when the heat becomes unbearable, when the seas rise and when desertification begins to make large parts of the planet uninhabitable.

  • I just replaced a CFL that I bought in 2002. It had a wonderful light, not at all blue or pink.

    Still, I’m looking forward to purchasing LEDs.

  • Bullshit. California’s per capita electricity use has not increased since 1970, and our per capita electricity consumption is the lowest in the nation. Kentucky’s is almost 4 times of what each of us uses in California. Why? Because we work at being green.

    The idea that we need brownouts is ridiculous.

  • Silver_Witch

    The problem with your argument Gaius is that the rationing will only apply to the poor and the middle-class. The wealthy will “buy” their energy at any cost and the government will not stop corporations that need the energy to keep the “job creators” going.
    Sadly the only answer is to let mankind become extint and the planet to return to statis.

  • Monophylos Fortikos

    I know, and I’m glad, because CFL lamps are just awful. They burn out much more quickly than advertised and they produce a unnatural spectrum that the eye is I think very much aware of (most of the energy’s chucked out in the 365 nm mercury emission line). LED lamps are far from perfect but at least they produce something a bit more like a genuine continuous spectrum. Still way too expensive, though.

  • Mark_in_MN

    But, when I last looked at the offerings at my local home improvement store a free months ago, their spectrum is still pretty awful, in my opinion.

  • emjayay

    Which should be reflected in the prices as usual, right? Coffee and chocolate are exactly the kinds of things where supply and demand changes result in price changes in a pretty much classical way. Of course, global warming because of less forests or pollution caused by tractors or pesticides etc. isn’t included in the cost, like I was addressing above about externalities.

  • Mark_in_MN

    Among other things we can and should do, is cut down on the amount of lighting we use. According to the Department of Energy, about 13% of home electrical use is for lighting (topped only by cooling and “other”), and around 21% of commercial usage. But we typically over illuminate our whole environment. Switching out to more energy efficient light bulbs isn’t the only thing we can do. Turning off unneeded lights is part of it, but I’d suggest that the bigger factor, and perhaps the hardest one, is to realize that we can make do with less light in our homes and, especially, businesses and outdoor spaces (parking lots, streets, “security” lights, designed building illumination, etc.) It’s not good for us biologically. It’s not good for our world’s ecologically (even apart from the effects of energy production). It’s usually not good for us aesthetically. It doesn’t really make us safer.

  • emjayay

    Now there are LED’s which are twice as efficient as the CFL’s. They didn’t exist before, and the technology is just shaking out now.

  • Gindy51
  • emjayay

    Most of this can be taken care of by the market. Of course that would take more information (like having different electricity rates by amount and time of day, and the information displayed conveniently to the consumer) and putting the real long term big picture costs of externalities onto the cost of production, instead of letting the cost of externalities to be dumped on the commons (everyone).

  • Monophylos Fortikos

    To be fair, the day when compact fluorescent lights finally join the laserdisc and the hybrid electric vehicle in the dustbin of inadequate technological dead ends is going to be a glorious day.

  • emjayay

    I’m guessing that a large proportion of coal generated electricity in McConnell’s state is used to power air conditioning of barely or not at all insulated houses and trailers, and another big chunk for incandescent lighting, and more for running refrigerators that are half as efficient as new ones. (I know, Obama’s EPA is tightening appliance standards.)

    Just a guess again, but it seems to me that much more aggressive addressing of these conservation issues by the government since many people are too poor or too short sighted or uncaring or whatever to do anything about it themselves would help a lot. I know, socialism.

    I actually saw a news crawl on the Fox News building in Manhattan in December that said something like “Stock up on good light bulbs now before the EPA allows only dim flickering ugly CFLs starting in January.”

    Even in my area, NYC, just one example – my typical small Brooklyn apartment building:

    Built in 1930, no insulation added since then, some single pane windows. A steam heating system that is one size fits all and heats all day even if an apartment is unoccupied. You could run around turning off all the radiators before going to work, but besides the impracticality of that when you come home it might be two hours before the heat happens to come on, and it will of course only be enough to maintain an already heated space, not start from 50 degrees. It could be changed to a zoned system with programmable or smart thermostats, but that’s never going to happen, or single pane windows replaced until they fall out, or any insulation ever be put in the walls or Tyvec on the outside. No tree in front to shade in the afternoon. Oh, and toilets from 1960.

  • Indigo

    Mythic affluence is over; we can face the facts or not, but affluence is over. Rationing limited electrical energy (brownouts) can work. It’s practiced in some Asian countries and in parts of Latin America without seriously inconveniencing anyone other than self-identified VIPs who need constant social maintenance. We should be rationing now, not just electricity but also gasoline, heating fuel, water and indeed, some staples such as sugar and coffee and possibly chocolate.

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