My favorite futurist tells me how to beat Putin, solve climate change, and build the future
great interview, he explains things really well, I have read some articles about natural gas/Russia but they didn't cover it as clearly and simply as he did.
There is something misleading or wrong with the 3rd set of charts. It’s showing no change in Russian gas imports from 2022 to 2030, about 155 and 150 bcm per year, respectively. The chart on the right has its y-axis range about double of the chart on the left, so visually it looks like gas imports are cut in half, but if you look at the numbers, Russian gas imports barely change. This is either misleading or an error.
Excellent thoughts, Mez. I am hoping plastic will prove to be resalvagable for road and building materials. And possibly fuel. We gotta get rid of all this garbage we humans make.
I don't think it will ever be possible to live perfectly symbiotic with other life, as we humans rely on sacrifice of life to live. However, we gotta strive to live with conscience and consequence! :)
Not sure you're correct on "most things (aside from climate change) have been getting better since the 70s" - would you be able to elaborate which things? Deforestation, biodiversity loss, plastics pollution all been getting worse.
What do you both (Ramez and Noah) think about a carbon price vs a clean energy standard? I work with a citizen organization that promotes a carbon price, more particularly a carbon fee and dividend program, as a a way to make a clean energy economy happen. It is thought to be acceptable to both the political right and the left but I am losing confidence about it being attractive to conservatives.
What a great interview.
"Energy storage, especially long-duration energy storage. Natural gas is useful in a wind and solar dominated grid because it’s flexible. It can ramp up and down quickly, unlike coal, and economically, unlike nuclear. To do with less natural gas, Europe is going to have to deploy a lot more energy storage, to handle those times when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. Including more super-long-duration storage, that can store multiple days of energy, for the long periods in winter when you don’t have sun and you may have a wind lull for days at a time. Those technologies are nascent. Scaling them is going to have a massive impact on driving down their cost, with global ripple effects."
Do you have an energy storage technology in mind? The EU produces 7.7 TWH of electricity per day. So one day's storage requires a lot of batteries. The Tesla Gigafactory produces 35 GWH of batteries per year so they will take over 200 years to produce the EU "one day" storage. And they don’t last forever.
Each time I read someone invoking "cost effective storage" or hand waving "we need more storage" without any kind of plan, I wonder if they’re serious?
Please can you outline your plan.
Fascinating interview! One other thing that people can do that Ramez didn't mention at the end of the interview: invest in clean energy companies. It makes you money and pushes the technology forward simultaneously--win, win!
Would be interesting to get Ramez and Vaclav Smil into the same room to reconcile their viewpoints.
I will predict that the predictions regarding energy is as wrong as the predictions on longevity were. It will go a lot slower and energy storage is a tough one and a show stopper to some not trivial extend.
With all this talk about the amount of warming do any of these experts know what temperature the planet should be and where is it derived from?
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"I argued that the most effective climate policy of all time was Germany’s early subsidies of solar power, when that was a tiny, ludicrously expensive industry, because that scaling of industry made solar cheaper for everyone on the planet."
I love to see the love for the subsidies in Germany's EEG law, and the scaling up of renewables the law created was an incredible gift to the world. But something I wonder about Europe's current energy crisis is how much the funding mechanism Germany used for EEG back in the early 2010s has led to a current lack of political will for faster decarbonization now. My understanding is that by the time Germany reformed its clean energy laws back in 2014, a utility death spiral had already started to occur and many industrial energy users had already gone off-grid with their own investments in rooftop solar and gas generators. It would make sense if behind closed doors, when meeting with ministers in the Bundestag, Germany's utility CEOs are now very skittish about risking the death spiral experience again.
Germany's "Easter package" of energy reforms appears, at least to me, designed to assuage the concerns of utilities afraid of another death spiral and industrial users who don't want their gas investments to be a waste. I'm basing that on the observation that:
(1) the proposal eliminated the EEG fee that was largely responsible for the 2010s death spiral,
(2) it said essentially nothing serious about energy efficiency, and
(3) Germany's politicians publicly insist that embargoing Russian natural gas would be catastrophic when that doesn't seem to be a consensus among German economists.
"Can we make heating a building with clean electricity, including the installation and retrofit, as cheap as it is to burn natural gas."
I think we probably already have, if the full value of the investment to the energy grid is accurately measured and the planning horizon for the investment is long enough. It's worth remembering that an energy efficiency upgrade could cost $0 and a landlord still won't do it if the space in their building is rented out through net leases. So a tax credit to knock 30% off of the cost of an improvement probably isn't going to do much if we don't also have a plan for how to convince the landlord to pay the other 70% themselves. This is why, though I like Build Back Better's tax credits for clean electricity generation and storage, and I like the tax credits and DOE grants to help homeowners with energy efficiency, I worry that the tax credits geared toward landlords and commercial buildings are a waste of time and political capital. Those tax credits seem like a "solution" to a different problem than the two main problems that actually exist in the commercial real estate space: the "split incentive" problem created by net leases, and the fact that even in commercial buildings with gross leases, the building is often too highly leveraged for a bank to be willing to lend more money to the building owner to fund a deep energy retrofit.
Let’s just Do It!
Last question and answers are golden. Can we?!
What an interesting interview with someone who has walked the talk. My only objection is the minimal discussion of multiple signs of ecosytemic collapses in the biosphere, most attributable to human activity over the past half century.