Non Zero Sum

It’ll take a minute to get to the climate part of this post–hope you can be patient.

In the US, Republicans spent 8 years opposing almost everything Barack Obama attempted. On some signature issues they failed–witness ObamaCare as an example.

Now that the shoe is on the other foot, should Democrats adopt the same course of action? I would argue no. I lost respect for Republicans when they put party ahead of the best outcomes for the country. And I’ve lost enough respect for my party to hope they don’t do the same.

On the other side of the coin, should President Trump try to reconcile with the other side of the fence? We Democrats certainly treated him badly during the campaign, and Trump is famous for holding a grudge–or to be more charitable, he has a long memory when it comes to those who have offended him. His predecessor did try and reach out to Republicans at the beginning of his term, but those efforts… faltered.

We move into 2017 with many Democrats and most members of the climate consensus really, really worried that the progress they (well, we… I am a Democrat and as a Lukewarmer agree with a narrow version of the climate consensus) made in preparing for and fighting against climate change will be tossed overboard the minute Trump is sworn in.

There’s a lot that I will be comfortable saying good-bye to. The Obama administration was guilty of over-reach, and signing the Paris Accords without consulting the Senate was not even smart, let alone proper.

One way of calming both sides would be to offer a win-win scenario. I shall do so here.

The Green coalition (some crazy, many less so) has a lot invested in the success of renewable energy. They perhaps rightly fear that the incoming administration will drop it or reduce support for it. I think they worry overmuch–the new Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry has presided over the conversion of Texas into the largest wind-producing state in the union. He is, by all accounts,  pragmatic and willing to adopt innovation.

The Trump team, on the other hand, needs to honor some of the promises they have made on the campaign trail–one of which was to invest in infrastructure. And while in American minds that calls forth images of road and bridge building (and repairing–Lord knows we need a lot of it), in fact building renewables out is not only good infrastructure, it is largely ‘shovel ready,’ in that most projects can move forward as soon as they’re funded. Most would not require massive federal funding–just continuation of existing subsidies, which (despite protests from Republicans and climate skeptics) are relatively modest as a percentage of either government spending or GDP, however you want to calculate it. It would be an inexpensive win for Trump, an olive branch to the opposition and a signal that he recognizes some of the good reasons for moving forward on some fronts in the century-long climate struggle we face.

It will also allow him additional political latitude to free up exploitation of America’s considerable fossil fuel resources, to undo some of what Obama did regarding bans on vast areas for exploring and extracting them and burnish his image as a responsible politician willing to be pragmatic.

Who loses in such a scenario? Besides those who want to paint Trump as a mindless buffoon, nobody.

I’m sure we’ll see criticism of renewables below in the comments. I’m well aware of skeptic arguments against renewables, so keep them to a minimum. What I want to see is discussion of the politics, the optics and most of all the consequences of treating issues as if they were a non-zero sum game. Not every issue has to have a winner and a loser. Sometimes it can benefit all sides.

44 thoughts on “Non Zero Sum

  1. It’s a little hard to be rational after that last election. I am less a Trump supporter than I am against Hillary Clinton and I’m not even American, but I had America in laws relatives cut off all contact, and I got called a member of the KKK, a racist, sexist, homophobic, antiSemitic (and I am a Jew), and hate filled so many times that these days I hear ‘Democrat’ and I have to take deep breath and fight the urge to start hitting back in self defence. I would like to say we should tear down anything and everything Democratic because they obviously suffer from some kind of severe mental illness that results in them projecting every horrible thing about themselves back onto us who are not. However you are right about one thing. It is time to stop the war and start cooperating. As for renewables, I am all for them, but only after the free pass the windmills have been getting on killing birds, bats and butterflies is dealt with.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Renewables do have a limit, because they are intermittent. Texas handles wind quite well because it has a large amount of back up natural gas turbines.

    My concern with solar is the subsidy given to very small scale rooftop installations. It’s evident a larger scale plant is a more cost effective approach. However, the subsidies given to solar in Texas seem to be encouraging lots of home installations. And this tells me they are probably excessive.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. So you agree with Richard that CliScep is not about SCIENCEbut rather only your brand of politicians!
    Richard Drake says: 31 Dec 16 at 12:16 pm
    “criticism of renewables Just to make sure your prophecy doesn’t fail Tom. Very useful addition to the Cliscep canon on Trump, thanks”.

    Everyone point your arrows at Climate Scepticism!

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  4. Get over it Will.

    tumbleweedstumbling: that is moving as well as honest and instructive. The nastiness of the polarisation during the primaries and election proper was a deep concern, at least to me. “It is time to stop the war and start cooperating.” Too right.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Just a question: Am I allowed to comment here, or will my comments be snipped here too?

    [That depends on Tom Fuller. Assume yes unless he says otherwise.]

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  6. The notion of non-zero sum games (von Neuman and Morganstern) depends on how one defines the sum and the game. Trump is not a politican or an ideologue; he is a pragmatic businessman whose sum is the bottom line and whose game is the art of the deal. He will likely strive pragmatically to create national wealth. ‘Make America Great Again’. That means eliminating the crippling CPP, eliminating renewable subsidies (which by definition destroy wealth), acting on tax reform (Ryan Blueprint), acting on true health care reform (Price blueprint), reducing government waste (new AF1 tweet was a shot across that bow to Boeing), and draining the swamp.
    In the Washington swamp the sum is political points scored, and the game is based on political ideology. Which makes the swamp by definition a zero sum game. IF Shumer can be pragmatic, and IF the 6 Dem senators up for re-election in states that went for Trump (like West Virginia’s Mnuchin), and IF rigidly ideological swamp critters like Ted Cruz can be ‘drained’ (I suspect his loss in the primary to Trump was ‘draining’), then there is reason to be cautiously optimistic about things like fillibuster/cloture in the Senate. Pelosi is an old swamp critter but that does not matter so much in the House, at least for the next two years.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. (“Everyone point your arrows at Climate Scepticism!”)

    “Richard Drake says: 31 Dec 16 at 4:04 pm Get over it Will”
    Release!.

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  8. This smacks of one of my Dad’s favourite phrases ‘let’s co-operate and do it my way.’ To counter it, the best opening gambit was ‘no’. Trump has too much to do to co-operate with Democrats in any way other than by accident.

    If Trump does nothing more, he should set proper systems in place to estimate the science and the solutions. If he wants to help industry and reduce CO2 he should build nuclear power stations and make all the CO2 phobes pay for it. If they don’t want to pay then CO2 is clearly not that much of a problem.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. One thing that will continue to happen under Trump is the boom in natural gas production. Prices are very low right now and the trend to substitute natural gas for coal, diesel, and gasoline seems to me certain to continue. That is a win for climate activists (even though they may not realize it) and for the American economy.

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  10. dpy6629, you gave in too easily. You should let them bargain you down to letting natural gas substitute coal and oil.

    Trump is starting out as a Democrat nightmare and then will let them bargain him back to what he wanted in the first place. If he’s smart enough.

    Liked by 4 people

  11. On the other side of the coin, should President Trump try to reconcile with the other side of the fence? We Democrats certainly treated him badly during the campaign, and Trump is famous for holding a grudge–or to be more charitable, he has a long memory when it comes to those who have offended him.

    It was interesting to read Steve McIntyre suggest that Trump’s public persona has been influenced by his need to win, settle or (perhaps most crucially) deter litigation. If people think he’s that vindictive, it helps. I wasn’t entirely convinced – but maybe Steve knows things about the sincerity of the President-elect’s efforts in the climate mitigation (and faux climate mitigation) area that make him inclined to take a positive view.

    I can’t help feel that this public persona poisoned the hearts of a number of his followers. The desire for revenge is never far from the breast of even the best of us. Encouraging and even glorifying it on such a massive scale – that’s not so helpful. But hope springs eternal. From somewhere or other. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  12. Here’s a more hopeful analysis of a possible compromise between the evangelical right and liberal left. Sorry, no mention of climate.

    Mr. Trump has gone further than any previous Republican presidential nominee in a generation in insisting that the religious right should enact its agenda at the state, rather than federal, level. Although this was the policy position of many Republicans during the 1970s (including President Gerald Ford), religious right activists persuaded the G.O.P. in the early 1980s to abandon its states-rights approach to abortion and other social issues, and promise national legislation to implement the religious right’s agenda. Mr. Trump is leading the party back to its more traditional stance.

    While many liberals will find this outcome unsatisfactory — since it offers them no opportunity to secure national protection for individual rights that they consider inalienable — it may be the only compromise solution that can give both conservatives and liberals the freedom to pursue their own agenda at the local level without fear of a national backlash.

    If a socially libertarian New Yorker can deliver this compromise to the conservative white rural evangelical voters who put him in office, both conservatives and liberals should see that for what it is: a landmark opportunity to move beyond the culture wars.

    Hard to evaluate the likelihood function at this distance but that was Daniel K. Williams in the New York Times right after Trump’s victory. (For what it’s worth I think the Christian right took a drastically wrong turn in the 80s and would welcome this kind of partial retreat.)

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I think it is a distinct possibility that, if renewables are allowed to expand whilst some of the restrictions placed by Obama and his administration on the fossil fuel industry are rolled back, the US may well enter a non zero sum game on energy – with the net losses of all participants exceeding the net gains.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Jaime, it has ever been thus with new buildouts–more companies lose than win and the net sector profitability is frequently below zero for extended periods. Ask any airline…

    As long as consumers benefit, we should remain relatively unfazed by net losses. They’ll get it back in the end… or not…

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  15. One factor often overlooked in explaining Clinton’s defeat is the hard left turn she and her enablers took over the last 4 years. Just as Obama was rejected in the midterm election of 2010 and ever since tried to govern by executive decree, he became more and more outside mainstream American opinion on issues like Israel and Islamic terrorism and angered many voters by his arrogance. Clinton used to take a more nuanced position on a host of issues, from cultural issues such as gay marriage and abortion, to economic issues like immigration and jobs. The American electorate was just fed up I think and wanted change so badly they voted Trump, despite his plain weaknesses. In fact, Trump has pleased most conservatives and nationalists with his cabinet picks and has proven wrong all the elitist Never Trump intellectuals, may of whom will never admit they were wrong. That’s how elitism works. Never say you are sorry and that you were wrong, just keep your credentials on the cocktail party circuit strong.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. Thomas, Renewables are like condoms. They are a politically correct but largely ineffective “fix” for behavioral issues that people have no stomach to really fix. Energy consumption appeals to deep human desires. Renewables were set to become a good idea economically before fracking. That advance has delayed their viability.

    I actually like you am somewhat optimistic about Trump. He will follow his instincts and what he knows how to do and that is make deals. On many issues, that will mean drawing in some Democrats to support compromises. It will be interesting to see this unfold.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Apart from a few noisy people, neither political side had any remit to touch action on climate. It just wasn’t an issue during the election. Trump could just ignore it.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. It seems obvious that the Dems should cooperate on issues where they agree or where they can prevent damage. But the GOP followed a path of complete opposition and far from being punished for it, they gained. So maybe the obvious isn’t so clearcut. With luck Trump will be impeached for conflicts of interest or some stupidity before he can do too much damage, but luck seems in short supply.

    Is there any evidence that Trump is interested in science or climate? He’s made various ignorant statements on AGW (chinese hoax, etc) but they surely mean nothing. My guess is he knows and cares nothing about it so any change will be down to his deputies. But that is not comforting and I expect we’ll see disruptions in data gathering and satellite programs, restrictions on freedom of academic speech, distruction of data and more. Only if Trump thinks it is rubbing off badly on him will he stop it.

    That is a miserable note on which to wish everyone, even Richard Drake, a good 2017.

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  19. Len Martinez says: 01 Jan 17 at 3:10 pm

    “Is there any evidence that Trump is interested in science or climate? He’s made various ignorant statements on AGW (chinese hoax, etc) but they surely mean nothing. My guess is he knows and cares nothing about it so any change will be down to his deputies.”

    There is no evidence that the Donald is overly interested in science or climate! He hires ‘can do’ folk to do, rather than academics that can only teach! 2017 may become the start of the end of GRAND CO2 CAGW HOAX!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Rather than continuing life-support for renewables, I think I would rather see the coal industry in the US being liberated to have a fair go in the market place for power generation. Modern coal-fired power stations are pretty impressive, and still could have a lot to contribute while research continues into renewables and nuclear. Plus there might be a lively global market for expertise in designing and building such stations. President Obama’s ‘war’ on coal was not a good thing to do. At best, it was premature.

    Liked by 5 people

  21. John Shade says: 01 Jan 17 at 5:37 pm

    “Rather than continuing life-support for renewables, I think I would rather see the coal industry in the US being liberated to have a fair go in the market place for power generation. Modern coal-fired power stations are pretty impressive, and still could have a lot to contribute while research continues into renewables and nuclear.”

    So called renew-ables and current nuclear are not sustainable; nor is the Sun! God given coal is but “trees and ferns that have not caught fire yet!” Are you shivering currently?
    All the best! -will-

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  22. John, modern coal stations may be ‘impressive’ in that they can, at a price, be built to be relatively efficient and to scrub lots of toxic emissions. But Trump’s people and maybe sceptics here regard environmental protection as expensive and expendable and want to abolish the EPA or at least many of its regulations. Given that, why would new coal be built to be ‘impressive’ and expensive instead of just the same as old cheap and dirty coal? Where’s the incentive?

    As for further research into renewables, solar has dropped in price hugely to reach fossil parity in suitable places as a result of widespread installation. What do you think stopping installing solar in favour of ‘research’ will do?

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  23. Len Martinez says: 01 Jan 17 at 11:24 pm

    “John, modern coal stations may be ‘impressive’ in that they can, at a price, be built to be relatively efficient and to scrub lots of toxic emissions. ”

    Len,
    Why can you not understand that ‘electricity’ is sold as ‘power on demand’ and charged as energy delivered’; are you that ignorant? That ‘Power on demand’ is what makes all of modern society exist’
    With out that ‘power on demand’ we are all back to hiding behind bushes, looking out, and eating berries!
    All the best! -will-

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  24. LEN MARTINEZ

    “..why would new coal be built to be ‘impressive’ and expensive instead of just the same as old cheap and dirty coal? Where’s the incentive?”

    The incentive is the same as the one that makes Trump build hotels that don’t fall down on his clients.

    I’m beginning to understand that Trump’s greatest advantage is the fact that, though the left has long espoused the principles of capitalism, hardly anyone on the left understands how it works. Lefties seem to believe that causing earthquakes is what fracking is about, that Monsanto is out to impoverish its clients, etc. Marx knew better, but that was 160 years ago, coincidentally when the global temperature record “began”…

    “What do you think stopping installing solar in favour of ‘research’ will do?”

    Solar is “cheap” when you can install it on land that is worth nothing, with guaranteed subsidised connection to the grid and fossil fuel backup at night. Stopping installing solar will halt the destruction of the countryside for a start. Where are the greenies when we need them?

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  25. Geoff Chambers says: 02 Jan 17 at 12:14 am

    “solar is “cheap” when you can install it on land that is worth nothing, with guaranteed subsidised connection to the grid and fossil fuel backup at night. Stopping installing solar will halt the destruction of the countryside for a start. Where are the greenies when we need them?

    Never ever!! Grasses and conifers easily store 28% of isolation power as chemical energy to be later oxidized as ‘warmth’ for those shivering! Neither Wind farms nor PV arrays can come close to that sort of efficiency!

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  26. https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2017/01/02/south-africas-new-coal-power-station-great-for-the-country/

    ‘Economist Professor Bonke Dumisa, a former Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive, said the province and country was in for a 2017 “boom”.

    “SA economic fundamentals are sound and have always been sound. We are going to have a good year for sure,” Dumisa said.

    He said the introduction of the first unit of Kusile, Eskom’s new power station, which was connected to the national grid for the first time on Monday, meant that South Africans would be smiling without having to worry about load shedding in the year ahead.

    The greenfields, coal-fired power plant under construction near the Kendal Power Station in Mpumalanga, will comprise six units, each rated at an 800MW capacity when finished.

    “This also means that businesses can plan ahead and meet their productivity goals, which is great for us as a country,” said Dumisa.’

    Affordable, reliable power supplies – smiles all round!

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  27. Geoff, modern ‘impressive’ coal power stations are expensive to build. That means the electricity they produce is expensive. When the EPA and its regulations are no longer there why not build the cheap and dirty variety that produce cheap electricity. Do you think all those Chinese coal stations that make Beijing’s air toxic are John’s impressive ones or the cheap and dirty kind? Adopt Chinese style regulations as Trump’s team seems to want and that is what you will get.

    In the right places, solar is just cheap, Geoff. Get over it.

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  28. Coal is cheap, plentiful, and very energy dense. Modern coal fired power stations are relatively cheap to build and nowhere near as ‘dirty’ as greenies like to make out. The ONLY reason for keeping coal ‘in the ground’ is that the fuel has been demonised as a high carbon ‘polluter’, the burning of which seriously endangers the stability of the global climate. So they’re scrapping old coal-fired power stations and not building any new ones, and they’re replacing them with . . . . . giant woodburners, windmills and solar panels. Insane/suicidal spring to mind.

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  29. “As for further research into renewables, solar has dropped in price hugely to reach fossil parity in suitable places as a result of widespread installation.”

    As every last milliwatt of solar power has to be matched by an equivalent milliwatt of hot spinning backup from a thermal plant, it doesn’t matter how cheap it is, as it is entirely surplus to requirements.

    Further, one reason for its decreasing price is due to the utter lack of environmental concerns by the Chinese plants that manufacture the panels. Curious how lie most/all your ilk you get all excited over the highly unlikely possibility that US plants might build dirty coal plants, but you don’t give a damn about that.

    http://www.worldwatch.org/node/5650

    Then there is the widespread use of SF6 in the panel industry.

    Analysis Shows Solar Modules Cause More Greenhouse Gas Emissions Than Modern Coal Power Plants!

    http://notrickszone.com/2014/03/25/analysis-shows-solar-modules-cause-more-greenhouse-gas-emissions-than-modern-coal-power-plants/#sthash.eTClGTHW.dpuf

    But hey, who cares so long as you can boast about how you’re concerned about “SAVING THE WORLD™”, right?

    Liked by 1 person

  30. catweazle666 says: 03 Jan 17 at 7:43 pm

    (“As for further research into renewables, solar has dropped in price hugely to reach fossil parity in suitable places as a result of widespread installation.”)

    catguy,
    The use of SF6 can do no more to change Earth’s temperature than atmospheric CO2, or CH4!!
    This Earth’s atmosphere refuses to cooperate with the Accademics Perhaps Acccademics! Academic Climate Clown Captive activists, dressed in ‘demics’, Whatever that may be; (torn jeans perhaps)?

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  31. “As every last milliwatt of solar power has to be matched by an equivalent milliwatt of hot spinning backup from a thermal plant, it doesn’t matter how cheap it is, as it is entirely surplus to requirements.”

    That is just idiotic. Your comments rank alongside those of Will Janoschka as being not worth reading.

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  32. “The use of SF6 can do no more to change Earth’s temperature than atmospheric CO2, or CH4!!”

    Will, I know that, and you know that.

    But the ignorant buffoon Martinez appears not to know that, as he doesn’t appreciate that ALL intermittent generation requires to be backed up watt-for-watt by some form of dispatchable generation, which 99% of the time means thermal plant of one form or another, hence rendering solar and wins nothing but a totally worthless “investment” that will disappear the moment it is not paid for by ripping off the users and taxpayers to subsidise it.

    Unfortunately the incalculable environmental damage that the wind and solar ‘unreliables’ leave behind will be with us for a long, long time.

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  33. TinyCO2, how do you get that from my comment? Or do you share the idiotic notion that “every last milliwatt of solar power has to be matched by an equivalent milliwatt of hot spinning backup from a thermal plant”? That would be like thinking that because you live in a dreary northern clime where the sun shows itself for just minutes at a time, then the whole world is the same. Maybe you do.

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  34. Now, class… class… (Old Cheech and Chong reference). Solar does need extensive back-up for the moment. It does not require 100% back-up.

    Try and think of it as ‘patchable’ energy, not ‘dispatchable.’ It can make a contribution. That contribution requires some assistance from other sources. We should aim for 30% renewables with our current infrastructure (according to the NREL). With reasonable expectations and a willingness to adapt current systems, solar can help.

    It cannot replace what we have. It can augment it.

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  35. ” That would be like thinking that because you live in a dreary northern clime where the sun shows itself for just minutes at a time”

    Or perhaps I live on some planet where it is dark on average 50% of the time – and even during the 50% of the time when it isn’t, for a significant percentage of the time the Sun is too low in the sky to produce any useful output from solar panels. On that planet, no matter how you slice it, if you require either base load or dispatchable electrical energy 24/7/365, you are going to need thermal plant capable of supplying 100% of the load, rendering the solar panels surplus to requirements, and all the wishful thinking in the World isn’t going to change that.

    Perhaps in a very limited number of locations such as dry desert where a significant quantity of electricity is used for air conditioning during the hours of daylight when the Sun is high and temperatures drop fast when it sets solar panels are capable of making a contribution, but such locations constitute a very small proportion of the Earth’s surface.

    Um…you don’t happen to live in Spain do you, Len? I understand that Spanish solar panels have been claimed to produce electricity in the dark, perhaps that’s what you’re thinking of?

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