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Earth Power The Almighty Buck Hardware Politics

Americans Happy To Pay More For Clean Energy, But Only a Little More 325

Posted by samzenpus
from the worth-the-money dept.
Fluffeh writes "A recent study of over 1,000 folks for a paper published in Nature Climate Change has found that the average U.S. citizen is inclined to pay a premium to ensure that by 2035, 80% of U.S. power comes from clean energy. At random, respondents received one of three "technological treatments" or definitions of clean energy that included renewable energy sources alone, renewable sources plus natural gas, and renewable sources plus nuclear power. Delving into the socioeconomics, researchers found that Republicans, Independents, and respondents with no party allegiance were less likely by 25, 13 and 25 percentage points respectively to support a NCES than respondents that identified themselves as Democrats."
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Americans Happy To Pay More For Clean Energy, But Only a Little More

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  • by Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @08:10AM (#40026485)

    Often absent from these discussions, and before the usual flamewars start, are solar power satellites [startramfans.com], such as the ones JAXA [nature.com] is developing. This technology, while it may seem a bit blue sky at the moment is coming very much economically within our grasp over the next decade. All of the energy we need is flying right at us free of charge from the biggest nuclear reactor in the solar system, we just need to take advantage of it.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 17, 2012 @08:15AM (#40026517)

      There is a reason they're absent: the numbers don't work.

      http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2012/03/space-based-solar-power/ [ucsd.edu]

      People are skeptical about paying more for power precisely because of boondoggles like that. How are we to know if the money is going to scientifically sound solutions or to someone's infeasible pet project, or worse, to their brother in law.

      • While its possible that er, Tom Murphy knows more than JAXA and their household name industy associates who are willing to put tens of billions of dollars into SPSs, I doubt it. Fact is, JAXA has gone on record as saying that launch costs need to be one hundredth of their current amount for it to be competitive. That is quite doable. Read the links!

        • by jkflying (2190798)

          You mean this one:
          http://slashdot.org/~T+Murphy [slashdot.org]

        • While its possible that er, Tom Murphy knows more than JAXA and their household name industy associates who are willing to put tens of billions of dollars into SPSs, I doubt it.

          Instead of playing a game of "who do I believe", why don't you use your own head and figure it out for yourself? Figuring out the relative cost and benefits of space solar energy is elementary.

          Furthermore, apart from the horrible cost/benefit tradeoffs for space solar, and the military risks, your web site points out yet another pro

          • Instead of playing a game of "who do I believe", why don't you use your own head and figure it out for yourself? Figuring out the relative cost and benefits of space solar energy is elementary.

            If you read the linked discussion there is quite a bit of figuring out already done.

          • by PhilHibbs (4537)

            Instead of playing a game of "who do I believe", why don't you use your own head and figure it out for yourself? Figuring out the relative cost and benefits of space solar energy is elementary.

            Yeah, it's not exactly rocket science. Wait...

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        What I always find hilarious about these blog posts is how they assume that somehow their few hours with a pen, paper and Google has somehow uncovered a huge flaw in a plan that academics have been putting decades of research into.

        No offence but if JAXA thinks it will work then I'll probably take their opinion as the most reliable.

        Oh, and the blog only considers space based PV, but solar thermal has huge potential too.

    • by kannibal_klown (531544) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @08:23AM (#40026583)

      Nice Try Cobra Commander... I saw that episode back when I was a kid. You just want a number of WMDs up there to use as weapons against GI Joe.

    • Or, we can invest in technology that already exists and that is already proven before trying to leapfrog two levels of technology. Solar on Earth would work in the US if we'd have technocrats instead of politicians running the country

    • Solar power satellites are obviously a bad idea: they may increase efficiency by a factor of up to maybe 2-4, but at a cost that is orders of magnitude higher. You're better off just covering more area on the ground.

      And power satellites have serious security implications, allowing large amounts of power being focused anywhere in the world. In fact, the idea of space-based solar power is so obviously bad from an economic point of view that I suspect it really is just an attempt to get weapons into orbit.

      • The only expensive thing about them, in fact the only thing stopping them from being feasible, is launch costs. And happily we have an answer to that one.

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      Or you could put those panels on the ground instead of space getting the same energy for a fraction of the costs.

      • Something ridiculous like 90-95% of the cost is just launching the stuff up there, which at $10,000 a kilo for 1500-1900 tons per GW, well of course that won't work. What I'm talking about is using new technological advances which reduce the cost to 0.004 of their previous amount to make it work, and it will work.

  • by T Murphy (1054674) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @08:18AM (#40026539) Journal
    NCES = national clean energy standard. Not that you'd want to clarify that in the summary or anything.
    • by OzPeter (195038)

      NCES = national clean energy standard. Not that you'd want to clarify that in the summary or anything.

      Editors? You must be new around here!

  • Who cares (Score:3, Informative)

    by GeneralTurgidson (2464452) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @08:18AM (#40026545)
    People started using less energy to go green, my power company jacked up rates. My power company invested in a wind farm and jacked up my rates. Power companies are always looking for a reason to raise rates, and many people don't have the ability to install solar panels.
    • by bws111 (1216812)

      If you reduce power consumption, the only thing that does is lower the cost of fuel (maybe). None of the rest of the costs of generating and delivering power (wires, substations, transformers, maintenance, employees, etc) change just because you are using a little less power. If you are being billed based on consumption then of course the rates will go up as consumption goes down, because the actual costs have not changed that much. This is not that hard to figure out.

    • Re:Who cares (Score:4, Informative)

      by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday May 17, 2012 @12:15PM (#40028947) Homepage Journal

      Have a look at these two photos:

      Springfield, Il in 1930 [illinoistimes.com]
      Springfield, Il today [google.com]

      Personally, I like my air clean.

  • You could also say: Americans willing to donate money to the poor, but only a little bit of money.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 17, 2012 @09:21AM (#40027015)

      Except if you are a democrat (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/21/opinion/21kristof.html)...

      Liberals are only generous with other peoples' money...

      • Statistics on charitable donation are pretty interesting, but that article doesn't provide a very good overview. In particular, religious donations are quite large in the United States, and I think a considerably different sort of thing than charitable donations (in many cases, imo, religious donations are closer to political contributions, intended to advance one's viewpoint). Republicans do donate considerably more to churches (especially Mormons, who are overwhelmingly Republican and often still tithe a full 10% of their income), so certainly Republicans donate more to charity, if you count organizations like the LDS church as charities.

        • by localman57 (1340533) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @09:39AM (#40027181)
          The interesting question to me about this is always how much of a Church's revenue flows back out as social works. If a church uses the money to build a more beautiful sactuary, or a recreation center that primarily benefits the members, then it's not much more charitable than paying a monthly fee to Bally's or a country club. If the money, however, is sent back out into the (or another) community, primarily to benefit non-members, then you're talking about charity. Personally, I feel that churches tend to be over-rated as charities. We give way less than 10% to our church, but more than 10% in total contributions to charity. I see a lot of charities that put my money to better use than our church committee can.
          • by IICV (652597)

            The interesting question to me about this is always how much of a Church's revenue flows back out as social works. If a church uses the money to build a more beautiful sactuary, or a recreation center that primarily benefits the members, then it's not much more charitable than paying a monthly fee to Bally's or a country club. If the money, however, is sent back out into the (or another) community, primarily to benefit non-members, then you're talking about charity.

            Everything the churches do has strings att

          • by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday May 17, 2012 @11:52AM (#40028617) Homepage Journal

            The interesting question to me about this is always how much of a Church's revenue flows back out as social works.

            It depends on the church. My church gives almost all of the tithes to the poor. Pat Robertson's, otoh, probably gives very little if any; those $4000 suits and $500 ties he wears and $70,000 cars he drives cuts into the kitty.

            Personally, I feel that churches tend to be over-rated as charities.

            Some are, some aren't.

            I see a lot of charities that put my money to better use than our church committee can.

            Maybe you should find a different church?

        • by geoffrobinson (109879) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @10:33AM (#40027689) Homepage

          Look up the book "Who Really Cares?"

          Conservatives are more generous than liberals in all sorts of categories. Donating time to charities to donating blood.

          The cause seems to be that when you think it is the government's responsibility to help people, you are less willing to help people. Personally, I think focusing on the government being the main source of help turns people into greedy narcissists only concerned about how much they are getting. You don't have to worry about helping others because it isn't your responsibility.

  • by gtvr (1702650) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @08:20AM (#40026565)
    I mean, once you've built the gathering mechanism, isn't the point of renewable that you're not paying for the fuel?
    • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @08:27AM (#40026609)
      Higher capital costs, and the equipment isn't entirely maintainance-free. Photovoltaics only have a thirty-year designed lifetime, wind turbines need monitoring and occasional repair. Renewables are generally cheaper to run, as there are no fuel costs, but not enough to offset the much higher capital costs. Remember, if renewables were cheap, we wouldn't be using coal anyway.
      • by h4rr4r (612664) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @09:03AM (#40026847)

        Photovoltaics have a 30 year 75-80% of new power production lifetime. They last a lot longer than that if you are ok with only getting 50% of rated power.

        We use coal for lots of reasons, on of them is that it is artificially cheap since they don't have to pay for waste disposal like everyone else. Nuclear would also be super cheap if you let them dump their waste straight into the air.

        • What you're talking about is basically the business plan used all across China. Lots of small (~30MW) coal plants close to urban areas to minimize transmission costs, with no scrubbers. And the jets that fly in to Beijing in the afternoon often have to land on instruments due to the smog.

          Next time someone tells you we don't need the EPA, have them google Beijing Smog or Wuhan Smog on google images.
    • by Bongo (13261)

      Like an oil rig on top of government owned land or sea? Anyway, it may be something about energy density.

    • Not necessarily, it means that the fuel replenishes itself. that doesn't mean you don't have costs associated with that fuel.

      say i discover an algae that i can use to create electricity...that algae may need fertilizer, or need to be harvested in some way to produce that electricity. all that costs money.

    • Of course the energy company doesn't pay for the fuel either way. Mother nature makes fossil fuel as well as solar or wind, and they're all taken without payment. As a consumer of energy you're paying for the infrastructure, wages and dividends of investors.

      But you're right, in the long run renewables should be cheaper.

      But there is massive upfront capital costs. Of course there were massive up front capital costs for conventional power too. But they evolved over a couple of centuries. Renewables need to rep

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      once you've built the gathering mechanism

      There's the catch, getting any reasonable amount of power out of a renewable source requires a tremendous invest.

    • by hipp5 (1635263) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @10:55AM (#40027897)
      As far as I know, it IS economic when compared to newly-built coal. The problem is that we have a bunch of 40 year old coal plants that have paid their capital costs off, so the power coming from them is currently quite cheap. Of course, these plants won't last forever, and we're going to have this whole wave of needing new plants at some point, which will be very expensive. Fuel will also get more expensive in the future. So while renewables might be slightly more expensive than the antique power we get now, that's not going to be the case for long. The problem is, short-sighted people only see the $0.02/kWh price increase on their bill now and scream bloody murder without understanding that the $0.02/kWh increase now is insulating them from a (pulling this number out of my ass) $0.10/kWh increase a few years from now.
  • The price of "going green" can't exceed the perceived benefit. I didn't start buying to new CFL light bulbs until the price dropped significantly. Slowly but surely, I'm replacing most of the bulbs in my house. I can't do all of them though, because they don't fit in all of our fixtures, which is the next thing they need to work on.
    • CFL's are horrible. when i flip the light switch on i want light now, not next week. it takes so long for them to warm up and provide useful light. if someone has a solution to this please let me know! if there are better CFL's than this then i haven't found them.

      seeing as how it is starting to get more difficult to buy incandescents i have started trying out LED's. they are a LOT more expensive per bulb, but supposedly have a long life, and most importantly when i turn on the light switch they give me

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Buy good ones. Look for known brands and don't just get the cheapest one on the shelf.

        LEDs will always be faster to be on, but we are talking about milliseconds here.

        • Seeing that i am willing to buy LEDs should show i am not just buying the cheapest bulbs on the shelf. The CFLs still suck, what name brands should i be looking for? CFL's are even more atrocious in cold weather, such as in my garage in the winter.

          I am not against fluorescent lighting, i had the big tubes in a few places for many years, and they worked fine, and last forever.

          There are for other reasons i am beginning to prefer LEDs. For one they don't have mercury in them, which makes them a bit greener

          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            The mercury in CFLs is so little I just don't worry about it. I am not planning on eating them, and I still eat Tuna and other large fish.

            LEDs are always going to beat CFLs the only question is how much. I would suggest you look into the higher end phillips CFLs if you want quality ones.

            DO NOT THROW AWAY CFLs! Take them to your local hardware store, home depot, lowes etc, they will accept them for recycling. They also sell these bulbs so pretty easy to take the dead one back when you buy a replacement. I wo

          • by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday May 17, 2012 @02:26PM (#40031003) Homepage Journal

            I've been using CFLs fof fiteen years, and the newer ones light up quickly. But even fifteen years ago, it was no more than two seconds, maybe five in sub-zero f weather.

            I swear, you kids are even more impatient than we were when we were young and impatient. I can see the next generation: "This computer is too slow, it took three seconds to boot and a full five minutes to figure pi to a million decimal places! I don't have all damned year!

      • Pardon me while I get off your lawn.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost_of_electricity_by_source [wikipedia.org]

    Here in UK, our DoE-equivalent have computed on-shore wind as being close enough to coal - and we're running out of coal, so I'm guessing it will be marginally cheaper in few years.

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @08:47AM (#40026715) Homepage

    I gladly pay MORE for clean energy. I went out and bought and installed solar connected to a grid tie inverter. But in reality I end up paying less because it significantly reduces my electrical bill as it runs the meter backwards during the day. In the middle of the summer with the AC cranking it makes up for 1/2 the electricity I use for the AC. so it will pay it's self back in about 3 more years. after that it's free money.

    unfortunately most of my fellow countrymen are not smart enough to handle their money and do this. I have had friends look at me and not understand the whole payback thing. they get stuck on the "You paid $5000 to put solar on your house and you will pay an electric bill?" They cant understand that monthly bill reduction = money saved.

    Which makes me sad, I though I had smarter friends.

  • by tgd (2822) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @09:06AM (#40026865)

    I choose to pay about 25% more for my electricity to have 100% renewable. The extra $20 a month isn't a big deal to me, and while I'm not a dirty enviro-hippy, I do think its a matter of being responsible. I can afford to pay extra for it, so I do.

    People choosing to do things like that (buy clean electricity, the people who bought the early hybrid cars, people buying the pure electric and extended range electric cars etc) help to fund the growth of the technology where it can become ubiquitous. (Or, as another example, the people who pay $250k for a ride on Virgin Galactic -- its all the same.)

  • by Greyfox (87712) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @09:11AM (#40026903) Homepage Journal
    A few years back I spent some time in Romania. My first impression of the country was "Miami without emissions controls". Everyone smoked in Romania at the time, and outside there was the constant smell of diesel exhaust. By the end of a week there my lungs actually hurt. After that, I appreciate the achievement that someplace like Downtown New York City has made in having breathable air. I wonder if you asked citizens of Beijing if they'd be willing to pay more for energy in exchange for significantly improved air quality, how many of them would say yes.
  • by Sloppy (14984) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @10:04AM (#40027363) Homepage Journal

    I pay extra income tax to send my country's military forces halfway around the world, to provide security for privately-owned oil tankers full of privately-owned oil to pass through the Persian Gulf. I pay extra income tax in order to provide non-humanitarian "foreign aid" to several other governments in the oil-rich area, just to keep them (somewhat) friendly.

    Even if I opt out of using subsidized oil, I don't get to opt out of paying for the subsidy. Why would I pay even more to subsidize Yet Another competing energy source? (Well, ok, let's not get fanatical about that .. I understand that we've all come to an agreement to subsidize coal by allowing the plants that burn it to dump their CO2 into the public atmosphere as an externality (there's the subsidy) instead of making them plant forests to soak it up, but coal isn't really a direct competitor to oil; it's used differently so by subsidizing both, I'm not really paying to back two sides against each other, which would be silly.)

    Can we just get the Central Committee's existing government-planned subsidy payments transferred? Why does the politburo always go with oil and coal in their five year plans? I'd be willing to do a subsidy re-assignment, at least short-term. (Long-term.. well, actually I'm unsure about the wisdom of even having a Central Committee and all this economic planning, but that's another topic.)

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