11 January 2011

Joe Romm Finally Gets His Math Right

It has taken two years, but Joe Romm finally appreciates the true mathematical scale of the energy technology challenge implied by a goal of stabilizing carbon dioxide concentrations at a low level.

Joe writes that we need to achieve 12-14 "wedges" of carbon-free energy.  What does a "wedge" imply to Joe?
. . . to do this [one wedge] by 2050 would require adding globally, an average of 17 [nuclear] plants each year, while building an average of 9 plants a year to replace those that will be retired, for a total of one nuclear plant every two weeks for four decades — plus 10 Yucca Mountains to store the waste.
If one wedge implies a need for 26 nuclear plants per year, then 14 wedges implies 26 * 14 = 364 plants per year, or the equivalent effort of one nuclear power plant per day from now until 2050.  Obviously, assumptions mean that it could be a little more or a little less.  And the use of nuclear plants here is simply to illustrate the scale of the challenge, not to propose or suggest that this is even remotely possible or desirable.

Joe's conclusion is just about the exact same conclusion that you'll find on p. 116 of The Climate Fix.  Nice work Joe!

Daniel said...

These build-out numbers for new nuclear plants seems to follow closely with those proffered at www.21stcenturysciencetech.com in "How to Build 6,000 nuclear plants by 2050" by James Muckerheide. Look for it, and other thought- provoking articles, in the left-hand "Go Nuclear" tab.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-1-Daniel

Thanks, it was also a number put forward by Ken Caldeira and colleagues in 2003 ...

Harrywr2 said...

Joe was blathering on about doing 1/2 a wedge worth of nuclear.

The current build rate for nuclear is already 1/2 a wedge. The shovel went in the ground on a new nuclear plant every 4 weeks in 2010. One every 6.5 weeks in China.

Given the number of announced nuclear power plants and the fact that the moratorium on Uranium exports to India has been lifted that build rate could easily double to one plant every 14 days by 2015.

Tamara said...

Not sure you can count any number of Yucca mountains as part of a wedge, since the actual repository doesn't exist and likely never will.
Kind of like counting 13 Starship Enterprises as part of a wedge.

Harrywr2 said...

Tamara said... 4
"Not sure you can count any number of Yucca mountains as part of a wedge"

With once thru recycling we have enough nuclear waste to run our existing reactors for 30 years.

The high level waste from recycling needs to sit in a cooling pond for 30 years before being considered for burial.

So if we decide we are going to recycle nuclear fuel(Jimmy Carter decided we wouldn't), we won't need Yucca Mountain until 2040 at the earliest.

.

Joe said...

Roger:

Thank you so much for finally conceding I'm right!

Weird framing, though. I originally wrote this post nearly 3 years ago, at which time you vociferously disputed it. Glad you've finally come around. Memories are so short on the internet....

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-6-Joe

Thanks for dropping by ... once you redefined the Socolow/Pacala "wedge" to be 1.77 times a Socolow/Pacala wedge, you indeed got back on the right track:

http://climateprogress.org/2008/04/23/is-450-ppm-politically-possible-part-25-the-fuzzy-math-of-the-stabilization-wedges/

That revision on your part was in response to my critique:

So in The Climate Fix I say 25 or more wedges and you say 14, now that we understand that we are using different "wedge" units, it is clear that we agree.

See? Interaction can bear fruit ;-)

Of course, you might want to revisit our 2008 Nature paper that sent you into a tizzy -- it uses the same math ;-)

Joe said...

Nice revisionism.

I didn't redefine the wedge. I explained to you (and others) something you didn't know about the wedges -- they were 1.77 larger than you (and most everyone else) thought.

As anyone who reads that post can tell, I was explaining why you were wrong. Why would you post the link and claim "That revision on your part was in response to my critique" when anyone can see that isn't true?

I'm using the Socolow/Pacala wedges as they orginally defined them in Science. You are not.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-8-Joe

Again, we agree -- you indeed define "wedges" 1.77 times larger than "most everyone else." Fine, you can have your Romm-Wedge -- it is not worth arguing about.

Let's focus on where we agree, and that is that stabilization of CO2 concentrations at low levels implies the equivalent of a nuclear power plant of carbon-free energy per day for the next 40 years.

If you'd like to engage in an exchange on the substance of what this challenge implies, I am happy to do so .. but if not, I am glad that we agree 100% on the scale of the challenge.

Joe said...

Since this is an epic moment -- you are conceding I'm right -- let's just get my quote right.

I'm not defining 'wedges' 1.777 times larger than "most everyone else."

I'm explaining that wedges always were 1.777 times larger than "most everyone else THOUGHT" (including you).

Now it's time for you to concede that R&D alone can't possible deliver on the massive scale in the timeframe needed to achieve the stabiliation at around 450 ppm CO2 that we both agree on.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-10-Joe

While you are free to define a "wedge" however you like, you are not free to assign to me views that I do not hold.

I am happy to concede that "R&D alone" cannot result in low stabilization goals (in the same way I will will concede to you that the earth is flat, ManU is thus far undefeated this season and 2+2 = 4).

In fact, if you actually read what I have written, you'd already know that (according to Brad DeLong you review books without reading them, tsk tsk).

So let me extend an offer -- I will send you a free copy of The Climate Fix. In return you will agree to read it and write up a review which I will post here on my blog, unedited. Be a critical as you like, but don't make things up.

Until you do so, you then agree to stop mischaracterizing my views simply because you do not know what they are.

If these terms are unfair, then just explain. Deal?