When Solar Becomes Cheaper Than Fossil Fuels

Solar power has been getting cheaper and cheaper:

20130110_stc001

Current estimates suggest that solar might be as cheap as coal by the end of the decade, and half the cost of coal by the end of the next decade:

If the trend continues for another 8-10 years, which seems increasingly likely, solar will be as cheap as coal with the added benefit of zero carbon emissions. If the cost continues to fall over the next 20 years, solar costs will be half that of coal. These predictions may in fact be too conservative given that First Solar have reported internal production costs of 75 cents (46 pence) per watt with an expectation of 50 cents (31 pence) per watt by 2016.

When applied to electricity prices this predicts that solar generated electricity in the US will descend to a level of 12 cents (7 pence) per kilowatt hour by 2020, possibly even 2015 for the sunniest parts of America.

What does that mean? Cheap, decentralised, plentiful, sustainable energy production. This would be a massive relief to global markets that have been squeezed in recent years by the rising cost of oil extraction, which has been passed onto consumers. Falling energy prices — all else being equal — mean more disposable income to save and invest, or to spend.

Some will say that solar is inherently unviable due to the difficulty of storing energy. But huge advances have been made on that front in recent years, and improvements continue.

This — if it comes to pass — would be a basis for a period of strong growth. Independence from foreign oil. Independence from falling EROEI yields on conventional energy. A robust decentralised grid. A new sustainable energy supercycle — and new growth in other industries that benefit from falling energy costs. This has the potential to reverse so many of the negative trends we have seen emerge in recent years, and prove wrong the Malthusians who claim that humanity has over-extended itself and that the era of growth is over.

In the long term, this makes me pretty bullish. But unfortunately this is all still years away. Maybe five, maybe ten, maybe twenty years. We’re not out of the woods yet. Not for a long time.

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139 thoughts on “When Solar Becomes Cheaper Than Fossil Fuels

  1. We have one of those silicon plants here in Oregon that produces the panel for collecting sun energy. The problem is the manufacturing process consumes more electricity from the grid than what each and every panel will generate in their lifetime. Silicon requires a great deal of energy to head and melt the silica so that it can be formed.

    • Solar panels do not take more energy to produce than they generate:

      This myth was probably perpetuated by studying solar panels created for NASA. If you need something extremely efficient for use in outer-space, yes, then it doesn’t matter how much energy you use to create the panel. But for use hear on Earth, it’s ridiculous for anyone to say that solar panels consume more energy than they produce.

      Of course, doing anything in this world takes energy. Whether it’s building power lines or shipping oil from Saudi Arabia, it takes energy to make energy usable. In fact, there’s a nifty number that puts all of this into perspective. It’s called the energy balance and it is, in short, the amount of energy you get out divided by the energy you put in.

      So, for corn ethanol, for example, we get 1.3 units of energy for every 1 unit we put in, so its energy balance is 1.3. Whereas for Brazilian sugar cane ethanol, we get 8 units of energy for every one we put in. As for gasoline, its energy balance is about 5.

      So what does this have to do with solar? It is a bit incorrect to apply energy balance to solar panels, because they don’t actually contain the energy, so it’s not something that I’ve ever actually seen done. But I think it makes sense to fudge it a bit in light of your question.

      Data from a study from Energy Environment and Economics Inc. showed that the average solar panel gets five times more energy out than was originally put in. Roughly the same energy balance as gasoline.

    • I really don’t understand your logic for wanting to “privatise” E1. The issue is that a Palestinian state in the West Bank — which is the “solution” which both sides publicly continue to pay lip service to — becomes nonviable if Israel settles E1. Neither side is interested in creating a libertarian free market system in the Holy Land. Both sides are quite statist. The reality is that Israel will take E1, which is just another step forward to the inevitable reality of Palestinians in the West Bank accepting Israeli rule as a matter-of-fact and using Gandhian tactics in a campaign for Knesset votes, which would hopefully conclude with either with a two-state solution, or with an egalitarian one-state solution that gives everyone equal rights and responsibilities before the law, which is probably the most libertarian outcome possible.

  2. When I say privatise I mean Obama Netanyahu, Peres and 2 or 3 Arabs should together open up a joint-stock company to buy the E1 land with. Then, said leaders can sit around a table together and allow whoever they in particular want to allow into the E1 area, and any individuals damaging property or persons in said area could be help to account personally.

    I think a libertarian free market system in the Holy Land is more likely/possible than a “egalitarian one-state solution” because that would just ratchet up the violence between the various groups – something which stands to do a disservice to each of the “2 groups” in the long run – violence produces poverty, after all.

    GoGreenSolar.com Provides Bitcoin Access to Solar Energy

    http://www.virtual-strategy.com/2013/01/23/gogreensolarcom-provides-bitcoin-access-solar-energy

    • By “egalitarian one-state solution” I mean a libertarian free market system — everyone has same rights and responsibilities before the law, freedom of movement, freedom to do business with whoever they want. Any system where people are not equal before the law is not libertarian as far as I am concerned.

      • “Any system where people are not equal before the law is not libertarian as far as I am concerned”

        Does this include a system where economic barriers create a de facto legal inequality before the law? Because in that case most of laissez faire libertarianism would not be libertarian under your definition. Now if you mean mere prima facie legal equality then I suppose Rothbard’s fantasy world would count. But I tend to look at the actual physical reality as the end result rather than what the law says it wants to do.

        On another note, I am incredibly interested in solar technology, right now I work for a firm that services the energy industry and I have been keenly aware of the future of solar and the vast amounts of money that can be made if one is to capture an economy of scale early in the game. For now it’s a waiting game, once more efficient solar cells and energy storage techniques are developed it will vastly grow. It appears that the majority of solar energy in the United States is centered around domestic uses to help households save on energy costs right now. However, once it becomes developed enough that a small panel or wind farm can create enough energy to export and sell on the market, you could see a solar boom arise in the manner of the land booms associated with the oil and gas industry. If landowners could see cold hard cash instead of cheap energy I predict that leases will skyrocket. And as someone with acute knowledge of how energy leasing works, I like to think that I can take advantage of it if I jump in at the right time. The fracking industry could(or one could say will) potentially leave thousands of acres of unusable land across the US that could be a windfall for renewables if it is exploited. And since solar is one of those things that both the government and the public seem to support, there would be very little obstacles that could get in the way. Needless to say I am keeping an eye on solar and wind, watching production numbers and waiting for the right signal to arise.

        • This reference to using “fracking industry” wasteland for renewable sites, like the pretentense that solar conversion efficiency is the only economic criterion, is an example of wishful and/or political pseudo-economics.

  3. But there is not one law. I have a type of law I prefer: ground in private property, equality before the law and separation between Church and State and Economy and State, but some others might disagree with these ideas and I personally don’t think anybody should be allowed to force “my ideas” onto other people, so I imagine legal jurisdictions vis a vis particular areas just floating on an exchange which people can buy into and out of as they please. Of course, I expect “my type” of preferred legal system to be the most valued on Earth but, quite obviously, I am biased!

    • Right, I agree with you, but if we are going to have something like a libertarian free market solution in Israel/Palestine we have to have at the very least basic equality before the law, freedom of movement, and a free market in property, i.e. anyone can buy any property they like anywhere if they have the money and the seller is willing to sell.

      Beyond that, I don’t see any problem with Jewish/Muslim localities having freedom to implement their own legal framework so long as they are not contradicting the idea of basic legal equality, freedom of movement, freedom of association, etc (just as I support states’ rights in the USA so long as they don’t take away citizens’ liberties).

      That is my vision, but I don’t think we are very near to it. Both sides are becoming increasingly authoritarian and opposed to the other side. This issue could probably be solved tomorrow if Israel clearly lineated a border, built a fence and departed the West Bank and let the Palestinians self-rule there. But the settlement movement is driving the two countries into one. A one-state situation is not just becoming inevitable, it already exists.

      • Right, but to begin with this would evolve from a top down process – like the body rots from the top down, so too does it improve by way of leadership demonstrating exemplary character traits for others to also aspire towards in their own, very unique ways, I would argue. Nevertheless, if Obama Netanyahu, Peres and 2 or 3 Arabs (one of who could PERHAPS be that King of Jordan – I stress my ignorance: I don’t study this topic) drafted up a joint-stock company to buy E1 it would be a fairly elite affair: these guys are not going to choose whoever to permit into this special zone. They would choose their friends, perhaps, or at least trusted confidants. But, presumably, amongst that group within this E1 zone there would be as you say:

        “at the very least basic equality before the law, freedom of movement, and a free market in property, i.e. anyone can buy any property they like anywhere if they have the money and the seller is willing to sell” … After all, how could you create a miniature Liechtenstein for an elite group of international Statesmen to dampen down global instability & inspire better global governance if said individuals couldn’t access the rights you so properly draw attention to.

        • Of those figures you named, Netanyahu at least would never dream of sharing what he sees as fundamentally Jewish land with anyone but Jews. His current coalition is sure to include Naftali Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi party who believe that Israel has a biblical right to the entirety of the West Bank. Netanyahu’s other prospective coalition partner Yair Lapid believes the Arabs “don’t want peace” and proposes “building a very high wall” as a solution.

  4. Hoppe explains this way, way more better than I can, towards the end of this lecture, he goes into how to mediate between the potential for various schools of law, some of which may (much to my own distaste) be ground in or at least related to religiosity of one type or another. It’s quite sophisticated.

  5. What does the ME need for sustainable Peace? Toleration! And the Rule of Law produces, or at the very least, is arguably the best means to incentivise to sustaining or even the creation of toleration that couldn’t have otherwise been reasonably expected. Why, because as the English mathematician Alfred North Whitehead once observed:

    “Now the intercourse between individuals and between social groups takes one of two forms, force or persuasion. Commerce is the great example of intercourse by way of persuasion. War, slavery, and governmental compulsion exemplify the reign of force”

      • Actually, for some applications, solar energy is the best solution economically right now. The changeover is not going to happen all at once, but in different places at different times. It may not be perceptible much at first because as soon as solar energy comes on line and increases energy supplies, oil and gas prices will fall slightly and increased consumption will be provoked. However, right now, in a mid-Atlantic American city — not the sunny desert — you can install a system in a house or apartment building that will capture solar energy for heat and hot water and pay for itself in 5-10 years. The advantages will only increase as time goes on. Solar electricity will follow.

        • My remote weekender cabin is 100% off the grid. 12 volt led lights, 12 volt TV, DVD, Radio, and an inverter which powers AC appliances (Inverters are not efficient but useful for high load situations (Microwave, toaster etc)

          Gas Cooking and Refrigeration from Propane Gas, which also powers a 5000 watt generator that is used for Air Conditioning (or other high damand A/C loads) when very very hot (Cabin is insulated well)

          Black garden hose heats hot water and in winter the log fire heats copper tubing.

          This project cost me $2500 for 4 metre x 4 metre, so only $156 Square metre (recycled materials)

          It is possible to live cheaply when you are not bound by city regulations. The land cost me $1000 per acre.

          If you do not want to live in the suffocating city life can be cheap.

        • Buddy Jan 25 @ 10:00: Impressive — you practice decentralization/free market while the rest of us theorize! And you capture the non-economic rewards — non suffocation and joy of creating.

          Nearby house (in remote suburb of Houston) just sold for >$180/sq. ft. vs. your appx. $15.

      • Yes, John — don’t back off from your reservations about the holy grail of quick and easy cheap energy. I can remember when fission was going to make electric power so cheap that it would not pay to meter it! The same false hopes were revived for fusion.

  6. Well, you sound far more familiar with the personal dynamics of the individuals I mentioned than myself. I’m only trying to persuade people that it is the idea of “public property” (often dressed up as “government”) which – from an intellectual or planning or organising point of view – produces so much chaos because…the idea of public property can frequently create a social dynamic in which…nobody knows who owns what…and if someone does declare themselves owner, in a democracy, then this is at best only temporary and depends on the (fairly arbitrary) will of some mob.

  7. Maybe to start with only MODERATE Jewish Arabs can be let in? I DONT KNOW. But at least if you BEGIN a process of RATIONALISATION you can say to your relevant constituencies – look, this is not optimal but it is setting up a medium-long term framework for a gradual resolution to this (now decades old) crisis…

  8. In any case, I obviously would have no say in who’s allowed into E1, please accept my apologies I shall stop defacing your comments board now :) But when World Peace is at stake, I feel rightly or wrongly that you may permit me this little liberty ;)

    • Being one of the few people writing on the internet who is mixed Jewish-Arab, it is one of the issues I have really, really studied.

      The best thing to do on Israel/Palestine is to tell the Palestinians to go study Gandhi and recognise that violence will not get them anything. Once the Palestinians reject Hamas and violence, compromise is inevitable because Palestinians have demographics on their side.

      • Again, the USA should offer Palestinians a Green Card in exchange for land, then tax Israel for the use of the sovereign right. If I was Palestinian I would migrate.

        People migrated from their homes to live a new life in the USA. Why not now?

        If Israel really pulled the strings in Washington this would have happened years ago.

  9. The energy situation is a great example of what happens when the entire global economy comes out of balance. Perhaps the best reason to avoid unsound money, mal-investment, and the rest of the shenanigans that has defined the past 50-100 years, is that systems within systems become tremendously stressed.

    In other words, if you just decide to start printing money and creating unlimited amounts of credit, other systems will now need that much more support [resources/energy], then would be the case if real capital were to be invested out of real savings. For example, now everybody has a 2400sf house instead of a 1500sf house, two refrigerators instead of one, bigger automobiles, so on and so forth down the line, all which leads to much higher energy use.

    So, although the availability and cost of energy used to be an important factor in the planning of everything that might consume such, who gives a shit when you can simply print money out of thin air and then loan it out to anybody with a heartbeat?

    I would therefore contend that this entire energy problem is simply additional fallout created by our friends in the banking community, who have fucked-up every damn thing.

    It’s all about balance, lose it, and you up the creek.

    • Chicken or egg? Was it human desire to live excessively that led to the banks lending excessively, or was it the banks lending excessively that led to human excess?

      I don’t know, but it doesn’t really matter if we have a massive expansion of cheap energy.

      • I blame the Advertising Gurus. They said to the banks I bet we can increase demand, and they did!

        Debt used to be shameful. Now I see young ditsy girls bragging about maxing out their plastic.

      • It’s not a matter of chicken or the egg, instead it’s matter of adults acting responsibly.

        Everybody knows what happens when any-thing comes out of balance, but unfortunately, the rewards for ripping people off became so enormous, and the fact that human desires are unlimited, makes for a particularly ugly result.

        No matter the hideousness of social reality in this regard, people will continue to rationalize the system, even here, where people apparently have no problem with other people working in their stead, so they can lounge around and support the efforts to have their money work for themselves, i.e., exploit cheap third world labor.

    • I agree. My car is 20 years old, bought new, still works well. Why borrow and replace with a new one? Cheap Credit/Money printing equals resource consumption (Energy drain)

      • My car is 17 and the same deal. Should last another 10 years, at least.

        Solar will make sense when solar makes sense. I built an earth-sheltered passive solar house in the early eighties in Colorado. Some time around 2245, it should reach its break-even point.

  10. I am going to setup a big competition in Victoria Australia with 1 million dollar prize for free(er) energy inventions ala Rupert Sheldrake style

  11. Where will the money come from? There are about 3 million households in Victoria. Say there’s 10 hangers per household. Thats 30 million hangers. Say you get 5cents for each hanger, once you transport them all to a spot that can then reshape them into some more aggregate, sellable form, that’s still 6 hundred thousand dollars. So say there’s 20 hangers per household. Or go Australia-wide.

    We are going to call it:

    Recycle Your Wardrobe Week
    ecohang.com.au

    Maybe the prize money will be 5 million. Who knows.

  12. No doubt the technology will improve and prices will come down. With fracking and other competing energy technologies surfacing, I am not as confident solar will get cheaper as soon as we think.

    • Well the prices are already rapidly falling, and new technologies are continually being rolled out, so although there is a long way to go before we hit parity with coal and oil, things look optimistic in the long run.

  13. Those estimates look off. I suspect the drop to half of coal occurs sooner. Consider the 2010 estimate of $1 cost in 2013 and now the 2013 estimate is $.74. Instead of applying Moore’s Law I’d look at Kurzweil’s example of the speed to map the human genome. With distributed nearly free power and distributed low cost home manufacture through 3D printing and distributed nearly free education through the Internet the paradigm shift coming to the world could be extreme and likely very disruptive.

    • I think you could be right about the timeframe, but we’d still be 3-4 years minimum from parity with coal.

      About the paradigm shift, you’re absolutely right. Everything is going decentralised — decentralised information, decentralised manufacturing, decentralised energy. I am mostly bullish about this (for reasons explained in the post) but there is always some destruction in creative destruction.

      • John, you say everything is going decentralized, but what what do Obama, Putin, Merkel, Chinese regime, et al say and do? OUGHTs vs. ISs — individual people OUGHT to have the RIGHT to optimize everything, but government is the POWER making a lot of choices.

  14. Went to a Museum yesterday: http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/ Saw some Neo-Impressionists: http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/radiance#.UQIiJY6Cg20 Particularly liked Paul Signac http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Signac and Henri-Edmond Cross http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henri-Edmond_Cross and Camille Pissarro http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camille_Pissarro On the side was some exhibition for Chinese art, with a national timeline running through the numerous periods when China fractured into various mini-States.

    China’s never been so populated in all of human history, I might add.

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  16. Why would you want to shut down tax havens? They should be opened up for the masses. Instead of trying to launch an ‘anti-tax haven campaign’, people should simply lobby for lower costs of entry – into tax havens!

  17. A 12 Volt battery solar system with nat gas cooking heating and refrigeration is the most efficient. I know from experience.

    The big problem is the roads are made/sealed with bitumen. When the oil runs out, we may have nat gas to power our cars, but roads will be VERY BAD.

    Go Long Bitumen. The rich will demand sealed private toll roads.

  18. GDP -0.3%, debt and deficit rise. Does austerity work during depressions yet?

    How does a rising deficit of debt produce austerity? If from tomorrow onwards nobody in the UK paid any tax that would be “austerity”, with the obvious, added benefit of everyone now having more money to their name per week.

  19. And by defecit of debt, I mean to say, FALSE debt, debt that is fraud, ie applied onto people through government without their personal consent in order to keep the binge going for politicians

  20. “This is luxury for the masses”, says a financial analyst in Liechtenstein while talking about jewellery. Why limit this luxury to jewellery, however? Why must it be that only the very richest people on the planet Earth get to avoid tax? Why can’t everybody avoid tax? If services are so desperately needed people can voluntarily pay for them. There is no excuse! Taxation is theft. Against the law. The grain of the Universe.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-01-25/new-billionaire-swarovski-surfaces-with-crystal-fortune.html

  21. It’s becoming clear if you watch this interview that amongst those concerned the (false?) choice vis a vis Peace for the MidEast is between “Nationalists” and “Islamists” – but what about a 3rd route? Based on private property, the rule of law, non-aggression and respect amongst elites despite mutual disagreement? That, I say, is the route of privatising E1!

    http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/12748

  22. The key to moving forward with the Doha Development Round – ie., deleting national tariffs to better grease global trade as a means for buffering against the forces of global economic depression – is the privatisation of E1. That would unleash the relevant global governance in the form of sensible round-table talks to start lifting these massive restrictions off the shoulders of people.

  23. I have no comment on the middle east. It is a mess and only getting worse.

    Back to solar energy. I found this article. While it was written by Media Matters which is a media watchdog group that says it is “dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media”, it does contain very good information.

    http://mediamatters.org/research/2013/01/24/myths-and-facts-about-solar-energy/192364

    Some of the points are pie in the sky stuff like it is unlikely to require significant need for electricity storage but there are some very good points like solar costs, US solar production, solar installations, etc.

  24. Professor Fischer has taught the current Fed & ECB bosses as well as Paul Krugman, while he’s also worked for the IMF and World Bank and helped to co-author 2 very popular marcoeconomic textbooks – if his predictions about the global economy prove to be false, then it may well be case the the various models the above mentioned rely upon turn out to be unworkable.

  25. “you had to inject liquidity to stop this collapse; this is the Bernanke lesson on you can’t let the credit mechanism joining savers and borrowers, you can’t let that collapse”

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  27. People need to stop worrying about energy. Use less. Buy less. Drive less. Be reasonable. Otherwise, you will have problems with not only energy, but everything else too!

    All matter is energy and therefore we will not be running out of it any time soon.

  28. Good subject for discussion, John. If I may add (not dispute, save one — CO2 fraud) a few thoughts:

    As you point out, energy supply and demand, of which electric power is a big part, play a major and complex role in advancing the human condition. You allude to sunshine non-uniformity (night, geography and weather) and electric energy storage (batteries) as challenges to solar generation for both grid and decentralized applications and for electric vehicles. Besides minor amounts of hydro, wind and geothermal, solar’s competition is fossil fuels, with natural gas gaining against coal and oil. For at least a few years gas will grow cheaper in most markets. Carbon pollution is a fraud, but sulfur compounds from burning coal and gasoline exhaust remain serious pollutants; poor countries, incl. China and India, are gaining automobile traffic and must continue to burn a lot of coal.

    Solar technology, markets, and capacity must be viewed as two separate worlds: grid and decentralized. Supply and cost of fossil fuels are unpredictable, especially natural gas which requires expensive LNG plants and ships and whose deposits on most continents are largely unexplored. The new “Malthusian” threat — a huge growth in population eating more meat which requires growing MUCH more grain — requires more energy as well as fertilizer.

    As you say, we’re not even close to being out of the expensive energy woods yet. One thing is certain — Obama’s profligate “crony capitalism” and anti-fossil, anti-free-market ideology are obstacles. Only decentralized ingenuity and free markets will gert the job done!

    • DG, you speak as if the purpose of the Universe is cheap energy for being humans on planet Earth.

      If our species continues to live outside the bounds of nature [out of balance], then She will take maters into Her own hands and impose balance upon us. In other words, if TPTB figure it’s a dandy idea to pull income and resources forward [through the creation of massive debt and outright counterfeiting], then we suffer the consequences, economic and social.

      The primary lesson of history [be it for individuals or societies] has ALWAYS been the same, ACHIEVE BALANCE. If not then you will perish.

      For individuals, eat well, exercise, and get your head together the best you can.

      For societies, good f****** luck…you’re on your own!! :)

        • DG, things have always been the same. Human nature never changes. That’s why I always say that people need to see things as they truly are instead of believing all of the fairy tales spun by every group under the sun.

          Until individuals realize that groups are NOT their friends, they will continued to get duped.

          TPTB are simply the leaders of the criminal syndicate, defined by their commitment to doing whatever needs to be done [in stealing from the sheeple]. The professional class, [heads securely lodged in there collective anal canals] serve as their lackeys.

  29. Making a silicon-based solar panel isn’t particularly ‘green’ as of now, afaik. But I think there might be a bright future for the small-scale solar power; nature itself is pretty effective in using it in the biological processes.

    But right now the best and ‘greenest’ energy source are 4th generation fission powerplants. There are designs that could run on the dirt-cheap Th, as well.

    • Yes — so long as proper safety measures are followed, and plants are not built in natural disaster prone areas, and there is a lot more scientific work done on treating the spent fuel rods, then I am all for fission.

  30. Eventually, some form of alternative energy will take over fossil fuels. That’s the greatest part of capitalism. As resources get scarcer and the same products are being used more, the prices go up–which eventually has to create a shift in behavior. The incentives for developing those resources start rising and eventually, the costs of producing that form of energy will end up falling. The best way to get off fossil fuels is to tax carbon emissions; either as a direct tax or as a cap-and-trade system. I would prefer a cap-and-trade system so that you could create a market where these carbon credits could be bought and sold. My suggestion would be for a country like the US to immediately eliminate the payroll tax and replace it with a cap-and-trade system.

    • So you would give Washington the power to decide how fuels would be priced, perhaps not per fraudulent CO2 emissions, but in order to make renewables (or perhaps cold houses and horse-drawn buggies) competitive? Golly, I was a bureaucrat too early — I could be an energy magnate!

    • See Australia’s introduction of a Carbon tax, Google it.

      As I am very frugal, and self sufficient, I do not concern myself with energy bills. As I said above my older car is so cheap to run (Propane Gas) and is over 20 years old, I am not concerned. It is when everybody wants a new car, home, clothes, iThingy every year, then we have a problem.

  31. Seems to me that if if you have to start burning everything in the environment to obtain more energy, perhaps you don’t need more energy, but instead, less stuff/activities that require[s] additional energy.

    The sun already provides us with every damn thing we have, light, heat, food, etc., that is, life itself. If people lived within the confines of nature, this would not be a problem.

    When you have enough, more is not so very useful.

  32. Joseph Schumpeter must have been not only smart but a very fascinating individual to count as a friend…or just to know…I have reading written by him, really, but still think he was probably a man ahead of his time in many ways

  33. in his Reason interview on ZH Taleb said:

    “I don’t believe in beliefs…I take a stance against knowledge…knowledge isn’t what runs society…knowledge is the logic and narrative the comes after we do facts”

    It reminds me of

    “The author is only the first reader, nothing more” – Maurice Blanchot

  34. “A frequently committed howler is to confuse the mathematical expectation of utility with the utility of the mathematical expectation. (The coincidence of the two would permit the statement that the marginal utility of income was constant). A related howler is to double-count the utility function and the attitude to risk, as in ‘he does not maximise utility because he has an aversion to risk, as if risk-aversion were not just a more colloquial term for characterizing the form of his utility function” ~ Anthony de Jasay

  35. Again, these kinds of problems only arise in groups. Individuals either figure it out or perish, the way nature intended.

    Look at what goes on in this world and all the group leaders who tell us all the absurd reasons why their method of stealing from everybody is oke-do-ke, despite that fact that [fill in the blank] is completely screwed-up.

    Hopefully, if nothing else, what people will take-away from this financial crisis is that you do not trust anybody in a group. All groups should be seen for what they are, roving, depraved gangs of thugs [disguised as respectable human beings].

  36. Hopefully, if nothing else, what people will take-away from this financial crisis is that we do not have answers for everything, nor will anybody or group ever be able to answer all imaginable questions.

  37. Can I sign you onto some debt without your consent, Aziz?
    No, of course not – that would be anarchy!

    http://economics.org.au/2011/08/government-is-in-a-state-of-anarchy/

    The global banking system is, therefore, ‘decoupling’ from the State, slowly but surely, like the Church once did. At least in the West. This is positive news for Peace & Commerce.

    Disconnect bondholders and bankers from government?

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-01-25/why-the-founding-fathers-loved-the-national-debt.html

    You mean to say, disinter-mediate finance to consumers from government? That would be like combining Kickstarter with Bitcoin, no?

    One can perhaps wonder, if Google were to just float the idea of toying with Bitcoin, would exactly would ensue? Chaos? I doubt that very much, of course, but also have no real idea, except to say that I don’t think such a thing would cause anybody a great deal of harm.

    Combined with an Internet that is 100x quicker? Surely, then, such a thing could maybe even yield a positive result, for both the rich and the poor.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/google-fiber-provides-faster-internet-and-cities-hope-business-growth/2013/01/25/08b466fc-6028-11e2-b05a-605528f6b712_story.html?hpid=z2

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  39. John, in talking about the rapid decrease in solar costs, you wrote:
    “What does that mean? Cheap, decentralised, plentiful, sustainable energy production. This would be a massive relief to global markets that have been squeezed in recent years by the rising cost of oil extraction, which has been passed onto consumers.”

    and then:
    “This — if it comes to pass — would be a basis for a period of strong growth. Independence from foreign oil. ”

    Please understand that until we develop the infrastructure for electric vehicle charging and better electric automobiles, the decrease in the cost of creating solar electricity will do very little to change the cost of oil extraction or free anyone from any dependence on foreign oil.

    Electricity and transportation fuels are not generally substitutable. Very, very little crude oil is used to generate electricity. It is mostly used for transportation (because of its energy density per volume and weight) and for the refining byproducts.

    Electricity is generated from coal, natural gas, nuclear, hydro and increasingly solar, wind and other biomass. To the extent lower solar prices crowd anything out, it will be one of those.

  40. @Alister/VerizonUltima/Cupod

    Man, you need to get your own blog and stop hijacking others!

    How do i know it is you, VerizonUltima/Cupod/Alister? Total 87 comments of which 36 belong to you! Almost half. Surely, it must be you…

  41. I agree, but we all need to realize that adding Solar on their property is an asset which could improve the longer term worth of their property if / when they come to a decision to sell. With the environment the way it is going we are unable to disregard any product that presents totally free energy at no cost to both the customer and more significantly the earth!

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  54. Rereading nearly a year’s worth of discussion here and on related blogs, two conclusions seem appropriate.

    Aziz has scrupulously conceded that big percentage increases in solar’s small share of total energy will be minor overall; that storage cost-reduction lags; that there is considerable mis-matching of solar (and other renewables) supply and consumption. Still he and others are prone to over-optimistic projections.

    While Aziz, along with most unvested and unbrainwashed commentators, disavows carbon-fraud, he is willing to list the admittedly indeterminate and certainly tiny anthropogenic CO2 contribution to greenhouse gasses as a factor in energy competitiveness. All of us have failed to point out the impossibility of quantifying the relative effect of one causative factor among a very large number of unquantifiable factors.

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