You think it's a dumb slogan, but only because it is.
Im hoping that with the cost curve of renewables and batteries, we get to a point fairly soon when market forces do the electrification prioritization for us. I think electrification of the home and transportation will be a superior, and cheaper, product than what we currently use. Of course, fairly soon could be too late.
AOTA is often the other (action vs. restraint) side of the coin of “We shouldn’t pick winners.” But that one is intellectually bankrupt for the same reasons. We spend good and scarce tax money on government programs and employees, including elected ones, so they will pick winners, distinguish and differentiate among alternatives, and guide toward the common good. It matters. Thanks, David, for a great start on the new effort!
David, your argument is important and absolutely right. That's why you need to address not only the criteria for choice that you mention but also, importantly, the economic element—climate opportunity cost—described at https://www.forbes.com/sites/amorylovins/2019/11/18/does-nuclear-power-slow-or-speed-climate-change/. —Amory Lovins
One thing I've always wondered about is rhetoric that lumps together CCS and direct-air capture like they are in the same basket. While CCS is more economic now (even if it doesn't really make sense), shouldn't direct air capture be pursued with more funding as a decades-out player? Is there any reason to believe direct air capture technology would be owned by legacy fossil fuel groups and have negative social impacts? Genuinely looking for insight on this as I am just beginning to read more about CCS and DAC. It seems to me we should take more care to differentiate CCS and DAC.
But does "all of the above" mean the same thing as "the options are fungible"?
I think "options are fungible" implies that we can either focus on CCS and forget about renewables, or else focus on renewables and forget about CCS, and that it doesn't really matter which. If we need to do both then this is wrong and the options aren't fungible... but "we need to do both" is how I've always understood "all of the above".
I agree with a good deal of what is said here, but I would also say you need to do more homework on Ernie Moniz if you're going to trash him. He's nobody's fool in any manner of speaking. His only real failing in the realm you're discussing here, perhaps, is not that he drank koolaid but was forced to absorb a heavy and viscous dose of political realism during his time in Washington. This kind of realism is fundamentally short-term in its outlook, as it focuses on so many existing stakeholders and interests. I've been there myself, and it's neither pretty or fun (unless you're a hopeless wonk, of course).
He saw first hand, because it happened while he was in D.C., that the fracking revolution completely overturned the short- and mid-term geopolitics of global energy. It freed the US from its most long-standing national security worry, "foreign oil," such that, by 2018, American companies were crude exporters, competing with OPEC. This put a lot of stars in a great many half-closed eyes--eyes that were persuaded to look away from the climate implications. There's a good deal more to say about this, but life is short.
Moniz, whom I've never met, was the man who brought the Iran Nuclear Deal to fruition from the U.S. side (the head negotiator on the Iranian side was an old MIT schoolmate of his). This was a massive achievement by any stretching of an existing imagination. It may not seem to be relevant here, but it very much is. Hard ground, desert pavement political realism leads not to cynicism exactly but to a decay and even polluting of one's ability to gain a larger perspective. It is a kind of realism that brings distinct and disabling limits.
In his quieter moments, I suspect Mr. Ernie agrees that CCS has to be a dead-end and that fossil fuels of all kinds must be reduced and reduced much more, whereas DAC in some form he would probably say is likely not a dead end, since we need such emergency technologies to full deal with the climate threat long-term.
If you haven't yet, you might check out the Energy Futures Initiative that Moniz is part of (https://energyfuturesinitiative.org/). While this will still earn some of your sarcasm, I imagine, it will also clarify that he is more interested in future non-carbon technologies, not least GEN III+ and IV nuclear but also others.
I don't say any of this as a "fan" of Moniz. But his stance has evolved in some ways and it also needs to be understood in context of his time in the "other Washington" (I live in Seattle too, and teach at the UW). He and his immediate predecessor, Steve Chu were the first scientists that were ever given the position as head of DOE. This is pretty fucking ridiculous, even if you don't think about it. In the end, realism has its limits. To defeat the climate monster we need hopes and ambition too.
I need to say this and this is as good a time and place to try as any.
Stipulating that fossil fuel companies have behaved execrably in the public discourse on climate, they remain major stakeholders in the issue and primary resources in the solution. I'm not one for punishing corporations; they are profit-making machines more than anything. If they are motivated to lie and cheat they will. They were and they did.
If machines misbehave they are ill-designed, but not something to be angry at. If a bad driver kills (your dog, you are very justified in being angry at them and acting on your anger but kicking the car is silly.
Our job is to design the system such that lying in public doesn't improve the fortunes of the corporations, and to punish, legally or socially, the individuals who did the lying. But the people who imagine that the corporations are the enemy and that destroying them is the solution are making a terrible and terribly consequential category error.
I hear "all of the above" and immediately think: https://drawdown.org/solutions/table-of-solutions we should be talking more about education and food waste and refrigeration even if we care primarily about energy!
But, as a statement of policy intent, it completely fails to clarify which values and priorities will be supported by the collective initiative. Which one do we do first? Which one must succeed else rendering the rest moot? Policy fails if it doesn't make it clear what it aims to accomplish, how it will evaluate those objectives, and when success or failure will be evaluated. Today, we are still celebrating greenwashing and 'recognition of the problem' in the discourse... the existence of the February 1981 National Geographic special report on Energy suggests if we don't try something different this time we should only expect change after exhausting every other possible option.
Despite this, I am hopeful. Real money is starting to flow into green-tech startups and consequences are showing up on supermajor quarterly earning reports. I don't think we've been so close to a tipping point, in my lifetime, where we can expect non-linear and irreversible progress. But knowing the values and tradeoffs absolutely matters. When birds and tortoises under the blade or mirror become the cost of preserving us all we are living the trolley problem (and possibly ignoring that we've been living it all along via fossil fuels and the choices built into our systems today).
These well thought out comments alone are worth the price of admission. So glad I joined. I’m learning from everyone of y’all.
It's hard for me to understand why we even talk about CCS in the same conversation as our "energy mix." I know it's a kinda sexy idea, but it's just not relevant to decarbonizing right now.
Well put! Feels like NPC's "dual challenge" framing is along the same lines. I adore the man's bob cut, but recall it somewhat masked a "completely masculine" line in the DOE 2015 Quadrennial Technology Review (Moniz's "blueprint" for all-of-the-above; see Chapters 4, page133):
"RDD&D opportunities in wellbore integrity, subsurface stress and induced seismicity, permeability manipulation, and new subsurface signals could lead to a future of real-time control or “mastery” of the subsurface."
I always interpreted Moniz's "All of the Above" as meaning reserving a place in our energy generation for natural gas, the so-called "bridge fuel". He was fine with solar and wind, but whatever they couldn't generate at any particular instant of time would be made up for with nat gas. This necessarily would mean that you would have to build, worst case, as much nat gas capacity as it took to run the grid alone, minus the nuclear portion, and absent any large electricity imports, coordinated by an overall grid national grid controlling/management entity.
The problem with that is that given the lightning fast development of grid battery storage, the other end of the bridge is now in sight. The idea of putting renewably generated electricity directly on the grid is going to be replaced by putting it into a big on-site battery that then puts electricity onto the grid. This would let you store your solar and wind electricity for the times when, as is repeated ad nauseum in the media, "the sun doesn't shine and the wind doesn't blow".
The result would be the beginnings of what the grid will eventually run on in a hundred years: sustainable baseload power. Thus the nat gas portion of All the Above will be superfluous. Let's just hope the Moniz's 20 years from now won't be desperately clinging to hydrogen from steam-reformed methane, since that also has a significant carbon footprint.
They are welcome to CCS on whatever planet that exists, Narnia, Mordor. I'd like to defeat carbon on earth first... Apologies to Ahmer Rahman.
How about, “Some of everything, and how much of each thing will be determined by the economics”? CCS will be used where there is no less expensive alternative—probably limited to a handful of energy-intensive industries. Of course, the Republicans don’t want to leave it up to the economics, they want to protect incumbent industries.
"For the next two years, Republicans will have control of the Senate." - probably, sure. But I think we still have a shot. 5%? 25%? Voting in the time of Trump and COVID is very unpredictable.
I vividly remember in summer 2008 when high gas prices freaked everyone out, leading to “Drill Baby Drill” on the right, and eventually leading a campaigning Obama to moderate his position on offshore drilling. At the time, it sure felt like we weren’t able to punch back effectively on “all of the above” because 1) Obama as the new standard-bearer had taken the wind out of the sails of what had been a pretty strong Democratic Congressional leadership and environmental community consensus; and 2) the counter to “all of the above” was “some or the above,” which isn’t great. Back then, conventional political wisdom (and possibly truth) was that any economic hit on a climate solution was rhetorically existential. It’s possible that’s still the case, but time and tide have led to the costs of inaction being harder to ignore.