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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Nogically Reasong

Mark created a new word in a comment on this post:
I find the arguments of Krugman particularly nogical more often than not.

"Nogic" was my word verification. I was desperate to use it in a sentence. ;)
It was instantly accepted by the commenters. It is a word best defined as "the antithesis of logic".

I offer to the alter of Nogicology some of the comments on Bjorn Lomberg's Slate article arguing that green energy won't create net jobs until and unless it becomes cheaper than alternatives. One would think that would obvious, and if not, one would think that the experiments so far with over-investment in "green" energy had demonstrative power.

However, some of the commenters on the article seem shocked and puzzled. Enjoy their baffled attempts at explaining why the article must be wrong. My favorite:
But my quibble with this article was that it claimed that green energy would raise energy prices. Energy prices are still subject to supply and demand. Whether you build a nuclear plant or a wind turbine, you've increased the supply of energy (by different amounts of course). Really there are two questions: 1) how much is demand for energy expected to rise? 2) How much energy do we expect green to produce in that time? If green can produce more than that added demand, price goes down. If demand grows faster than green, price goes up.
The concept of cost of production was unfortunately omitted from this individual's economic textbook.

Nogic thinking is a beautiful thing.

There are a few commenters on the Lomborg article that have some good points, but they mostly work out to claiming that "when" the cost of solar photovoltaics is cut in half, they'll be competitive with coal-fired grid power.

And then there's the public relations guy from the American Wind Energy Association, who says:

"Wind is now signing long-term contracts in the U.S. as low as 5-6 cents a kilowatt hour, and under 4 cents in the plains states. That makes it cost-competitive with new natural gas, cheaper than new coal, and much cheaper than new nuclear."

This is so misleading as to be a lie. That $0.05 price includes large subsidies in the form of loan guarantees and flat-out government grants. And the projects that I know of aren't actually meeting those prices, because MTBF and wind-related availability aren't meeting projections. In addition, that's the price at point of generation--it doesn't include the new grid infrastructure required to actually get the power to customers.

I'm very enthusiastic about the future of "alternative" energy, but not the current PV and wind technologies. All it takes is a few regulatory changes, and new nuke plants would put all the existing wind and solar capacity out of business.
Neil - I think that sort of green power is a religious creed for some and a money-making scheme for others. It's kind of the energy equivalent of the Bakkers and their adoring fans. What's not to like? You've got good works, lots of joyous singing, the assurance of salvation and wind mills to substitute for the AC in the doghouse. It's paradise at the AGW Club.

I am very disappointed that you didn't comment on the spelling in the title. The word is a combination of Reasoning and Song, pronounced Re-Song, in which some devotees simply sing back the notes they do not understand while believing they're brilliant.

Of course you're right about those figures. When I first encountered them I burst out laughing, and I had been in a grim mood.

But from experience, I know that you can tell a ReaSonger those facts, and give them links to grants, etc, and still they will not change their ideas.

It's nogics, pal.

As you imply, we are wasting the money on stuff that's never going to work now, and in doing so, we will lose the opportunity to really do it later.

I got to my position on wind after a long process of stubbornly researching it because I wanted to do it myself, so I'm not feeling intelligent either. Still, in the process of trying to make a case to get GA to change its laws, I dug up enough facts to eventually show myself why GA didn't have that BS in the first place.

Very amusing!

"I am very disappointed that you didn't comment on the spelling in the title. The word is a combination of Reasoning and Song, pronounced Re-Song, in which some devotees simply sing back the notes they do not understand while believing they're brilliant."

For what it is worth, I noticed it but I'm really into musical tributes. So on that note...

Have no fear, your reasong is here!

Nogistics (Musical Tribute)

Yes, that's right. A bonus word! :)
The Nogical Song was the first choice of course.

What could I have done though? Change logical to nogical and call it done?
"green power is a religious creed for some and a money-making scheme for others"

Pretty much sums up the current high tech trends around green power which is various government subsidy programs expressed as tax deduction, loans, grants for research and start ups. It also has appeal for various business start ups looking for venture capital and IPO ops. As you suggest little of this activity has much to do with saving energy rather more about money making.
WSJ: When did you see Silicon Valley begin to recover from the recession, and how far along has it come?

Mr. McNealy: It's not a terribly job-filled recovery. Productivity gains continue to push the need to hire out. A lot of the jobs today are around two areas: government-sponsored green initiatives and the social-networking space.

I'm skeptical that the green jobs are [going to drive the recovery]. So far, the track record's been terrible. That's going to be a challenge for the people here who stuck their neck out to go green.

Then there's social networking, which is a pretty interesting phenomenon. There's a lot of energy there, but that's not a terribly labor-intensive kind of activity. I don't think social networking is the jobs driver.

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Excellent word, nogic. This post reminds me of a brilliant green energy initiative that a homeless guy once expounded to me as we rode the bus together. He proposed that we take all the pennies out of circulation and make them into copper wire. The wire would then be used to bring free electricity to every home in America. Free to the recipients, at any rate, since (and this is the truly amazing part) it would be paid for by the pennies.

This man's nogic was utterly transformative, and well ahead of his time, since this incident happened some 20 years ago. Paul Krugman should take note.
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