60 Minutes - Dirty Clean Tech segment still eats at me.

60 Minutes - Dirty Clean Tech segment still eats at me.

During the 60 minutes segment on "Clean Tech", Tesla looked like a shining star. Most of rest of the segment looked dirty and ugly.

I cannot believe that they are grinding up perfectly good trees to make fuel. What the hockey sticks were they thinking?

Trees are a slow growing essential biomass. More tree farms makes for fewer forests, ecosystems and habitats. We can't live without them. The Easter Islanders can vouch for that.

Trees must be utilized in a very prudent and sparing manner. Grinding them up for biodiesel pilot projects is absolutely unacceptable. How does one bring a stop to this foolish and disturbing act?

Here is the segment:

nwdiver93 | January 20, 2014

I refuse to even click on it since I don't want them to get the ad credit. It's a classic libertarian hit job. The primary goal of DOE money isn't to create jobs it's to encourage solar and EVs to allow economies of scale to make them more affordable. Hard to argue that it didn't achieve that goal since I just bought ~30kW of solar for ~$34k. 5 years ago that would have easily cost ~$120k.

Frank.B.Smith | January 20, 2014

You probably will not like what the Motley Fool site has to say.

Dramsey | January 20, 2014

Don't get too worked up (yet). The forested area of the country has remained relatively stable for the last century or so. Indeed, the United States is the fourth most-forested country in the world (behind the Russian Federation, Brazil, and Canada).

The above statements are the result of minutes of serious Google searching. That said, I'd doubt anybody's going to be cutting down old-growth timber for tree farms. Then again, if biodiesel really takes off, who knows?

Haeze | January 21, 2014

Please don't confuse the term "libertarian" with "liberal". The two are very, very different.

Liberal ideals are the ones pushing money to so-called clean-energy initiatives, welfare programs, and healthcare corporations that are only in it for the free government money.

Libertarians are the people who want government to stay out of picking winners and losers in industry, and let the mass market decide who to give their money to. Companies like the solar panel maker who focuses on actually making a positive impact, instead of the biofuel producer who deforests South America to make a buck... or the Electric car manufacturer who wants to revolutionize the auto industry, rather than the ancient industry of auto manufacturers that haven't seriously innovated in 30 years.

grega | January 21, 2014

@Frank, I'm looking for the actual EPA study quoted by the fool. Any idea where that is?

Captain_Zap | January 21, 2014


That is a bit hard to believe. There is increased flooding due to heavy harvesting. Trees hold a lot of water. Flying over the Pacific Northwest is shocking when you look out the window compared to just a decade or two ago.

The visible changes here are shocking, to say the least just in my lifetime. Even greater changes in the lifetime of my parents, grandparent and great-grandparents. I would see log trucks go down the road every few minutes. Sometimes they could fit only one log on the truck because they were so enormous. Now it looks like loads of twigs if you see any trucks at all.

They are going farther and deeper to log all the time. It is truly sad. Tree poaching is becoming common.

Some varieties of trees are nearing extinction.

ian | January 21, 2014

@grega - This one?

The article's author chimed in with links in the comments. Yes, I read them all yesterday.

Dramsey | January 21, 2014


"Forest area has been relatively stable since 1907."

nwdiver93 | January 21, 2014

Nope... I used the terms correctly. The solar industry NEEDED a jump start to get to the economies of scale necessary to make it affordable just like Tesla NEEDED ~$500M to produce the model S on a reasonable time table. The definition of "liberal" is basically "Not being limited to or by established views"... un-limted enough to realize that while the Free Market is a powerful force it's not a magic bullet and can't solve all our problems.

Libertarians who think we should just sit back and watch the Free Market solve all our problems have the intellectual sophistication of a 5-year old.

Dramsey | January 22, 2014

@nwdiver93: How much of a jump start do you think the (PV) solar industry needs? It's been subsidized for decades and is still not affordable without subsidies.

The free market is not the perfect solution for every problem; neither is endless government support.

nwdiver93 | January 22, 2014


Funny you should ask... WHERE'RE HERE. Solar is NOW affordable (actually has been for ~2 years). IMO it no longer needs ANY subsidies. The cost to produce power from solar is now <$0.05/kWh in most areas. Public support for Solar WORKED!!! Now the government needs to ensure the Free Market and NOT the local utility determine how fast solar expands on residential roof-tops. The cost of PV has fallen ~75% since Obama took office. I'm actually expecting a shipment today for the 30kW mentioned above. 4 years ago I paid $1.70/w for B grade panels. I just paid $0.77/w for A grade panels.

"The free market is not the perfect solution for every problem; neither is endless government support."

Yep, just like with most things it's a balance.

Brian H | January 22, 2014

TM stated the $500M was for MX and battery research acceleration. It was not used or needed for the MS. The 6-mo. repayment strongly validates this claim.

Timo | January 22, 2014

@nwdiver93 The cost to produce power from solar is now <$0.05/kWh in most areas.

...where the solar in general is useful.

I hate large solar power plants, they are stupid, but widely distributed small solar in rooftops etc. is smart. It does pretty much always shine somewhere which balances the grid nicely.

I have similar opinion to wind too. Very large wind turbines are ugly ruining landscape and noisy making are in question uninhabitable in several hundred meter radius (over kilometer depending of the size of the wind farm), where smaller wind turbines are practically unnoticeable.

I wish Focus Fusion realizes soon. Then these old "green" systems can be forgotten.

nwdiver93 | January 22, 2014

I'm not a huge fan of solar/wind farms either but I think that they are the lesser evil as compared to our pathetic addiction to fossil fuels. Residential solar is the way to go. Fusion would be awesome but technologically we're so far away and our current need is so immediate it's not even close to being viable. An analogy I like is to being stranded on an island, you have everything you need to build a raft and sail away but some members of the group insist on building a helicopter. Fusion would be better but we have everything we need to get our power from the sun now... that should be our focus. Even in the worst places like Seattle solar is still ~$0.10/kWh and the cost is expected to fall another ~50% by 2020. Even if there is a fusion breakthrough it's very unlikely it will be cost competitive with our current source of fusion... the sun.

Timo | January 22, 2014

Fusion would be awesome but technologically we're so far away and our current need is so immediate it's not even close to being viable

I'm not sure about that. Sure those government-funded huge tokamak-reactors are ready somewhere around when Sun turns to red giant, but there are other techs that are much smaller, less expensive and way closer to breakthrough. LPP experiment is one of those.

If successful it will be cheaper than any other energy generation by about factor of two. Small, clean, no waste, no neutron radiation, no bad consequences whatsoever.

nwdiver93 | January 22, 2014

LPP uses Boron as fuel... not exactly an abundant element. A 1GW plant would consume ~3kg/day. Consider this... it costs ~$0.02/kWh for power transmission. In 10 years the cost of solar PV will be <$0.02/kWh. So a power plant giving away electricity would still cost more that Residential Solar due to Transmission costs. The future is PV and V2G EVs.

Timo | January 23, 2014

Why transmit and why go for 1GW plant? That thing fits in basement of an apartment. It's small and not vulnerable to weather changes or night/day/season cycles.

I think your calc is also wrong, 5MW plant uses about 5lbs of fuel / year. That's roughly 1.2 kg / day for 1GW.

I also don't believe cost of solar goes that low, unless you go to big power plants; Sun radiation is weak, so you need a lot of area to get energy, and there are limits how cheap things can get in small scale.

Brian H | January 23, 2014

Sort of a virtuous circle, boron is a byproduct of desalination plants, which use lotsa power. :)

nwdiver93 | January 23, 2014

Boron-11 + H-1 => C-12 would yield ~15GWh/kg ; B-11 + H-1 => 3x He-4 would yield ~8GWh/kg assuming a power plant with 40% thermal efficiency. Which is odd, I would have figured the opposite since lower mass elements tend to have less binding energy which is why fusion works...

I'm not sure what your definition of "weak" is but the panels on my 1300 sq ft house produced >17000kWh last year... and that's converting only ~10% of the available energy to electricity. I'm helping a friend install a 10KW system expected to generate ~22000kWh/yr. The total cost is $18k... $12.6k after the 30% FTC. The cost of everything is falling quickly as economies of scale really start to kick in. A 10kW system will very likely cost ~$10k without a FTC in 2020. The longevity of the panels is also under-appreciated. There was a study a few years ago of 26 year-old panels. The average output was 96% the original rating. The vast majority of panels in service today will likely be producing >80% of rated power in 40-60 years. Over 60 years a 10kW system will generate ~1GWh. Even assuming the inverter is replaced every 20 years that's still 1GWh for <$20k or <$0.02/kWh.

The great thing about solar is that small scale is actually more efficient than large scale. The only benefit to solar farms is a slightly lower cost of labour; a Residential PV system is very often just as efficient as a non-tracking solar farm. ALL forms of centralized power generation appear to have a very bleak future.

Timo | January 23, 2014

Solar is not useful everywhere. Sun raises at Utsjoki at February.

Also Sun radiation is weak, especially for city dwellers. Might work better for largish non-shadowed individual houses closer to equator.

nwdiver93 | January 23, 2014

"Solar is not useful everywhere. Sun raises at Utsjoki at February."

That's what the power grid is for. But I suppose that for the EXTREME rural polar reaches of the planet... <0.0001% of the population where there are no transmission lines solar won't work...

"Also Sun radiation is weak, especially for city dwellers. Might work better for largish non-shadowed individual houses closer to equator."

By what definition is 1300 sq ft "largish"? The average american home is 2100 sq ft.

We get enough energy from the sun in 1 hour to power EVERYTHING for 1 year.

nwdiver93 | January 23, 2014

I own a house in Bremerton, Wa... no where near the equator AND very cloudy that produces 20% more energy annually than it needs... and it's 100% electric i.e. no gas heat.

Brian H | January 23, 2014

There's one further step to the fusion sequence, C12 → 3He4, as the C12 is hyper-energized, and unstable. It is sometimes called a fusion/fission reaction for that reason.

nwdiver93 | January 23, 2014

Hmmm.... that wold yield ~50% less energy since 3 He4 atoms have MORE mass than C12.

Timo | January 23, 2014

nw; less than 5% of world population is US. Don't base your averages to US.

Take a globe and check, most of the Europe and nearly entire Russia falls in same latitude area as Canada. China is at same area as US. Entire Scandinavia is at Alaska level.

Then there are tropical areas with in theory lots of Sun, but they have monsoons with rainfall that blocks the Sun for many weeks at the time. And so on.

This same phenomenon repeats in very large area in the world. Solar just doesn't work everywhere. Not even when in theory you could get enough Sun, weather patterns prevents it from working. For that reason it doesn't work in all areas of US either.

Utsjoki is not "extreme polar region" BTW, it can get up to +30C at summer there (and Sun doesn't set at all). OTOH it can get over -30C at winter. But you are correct that there are not that much people there.

"Power grid" in your comment would mean reaching very far to other countries if we would be using only solar. Preferably past Mediterranean sea into somewhere in Sahara. I could only imagine transfer costs for that.

nwdiver93 | January 24, 2014

"Preferably past Mediterranean sea into somewhere in Sahara. I could only imagine transfer costs for that."

See... that's the frustrating level of ignorance that's going to hold us back. Spain, Greece and Italy alone get more than enough sun to power ALL of Europe. We don't need to run power lines into remote desert regions. Anyone within ~60 degrees of the equator gets more than enough solar insolation. That's >97% of the worlds population. Obviously storage is going to be key but solar has a lot of room to expand before that's an issue.

In 10 years demand response will enable us to get ~20% of our power from solar. In 20 years V2G will enable us to get ~50% of our power from solar and in 30-40 years H2 fuel cells will enable us to get ~100% of our power from solar. We have the WAY... now we need the WILL.

What exactly is your point? That solar isn't worth the effort? That solar can never make up a significant portion of our energy needs? Reality begs to differ.

Timo | January 24, 2014

Who's going to pay for transfer from country to country? This isn't US, you know. EU is coalition of countries, not states. It costs money to get electricity imported (completely possible, but adds complexity to system). Politics are in a way.

Also "enough insolation" is averaging. We all get same insolation / year including polar regions. It's just that polar regions you get it only half of the year. Problem with solar is that you don't get Sun always, and we do need electricity always, which means you need backup systems. If you have (cheap) backup system that can serve whole area, then point of having solar goes away.

Also your point of "Anyone within ~60 degrees of the equator gets more than enough solar insolation." is wrong. That's simply not true.

nwdiver93 | January 24, 2014

Solar PV in Oslo.... 60.1N

Europe already shares power...

People who say it can't be done should get out of the way of those who are doing it :)

Timo | January 24, 2014

Saying "anybody" is wrong. Like I said it might work for some, but not for everyone.

For that "Solar PV in Oslo" check these:

Doesn't look good for solar. It's near-useless for about half a year.

Yes, countries in Europe shares power, it just costs money. I would rather not trust our power to couple of not-so-stable (economically) southern countries in Europe.

nwdiver93 | January 24, 2014

"Doesn't look good for solar. It's near-useless for about half a year."

Yep... you obviously missed my earlier post

In 10 years demand response will enable us to get ~20% of our power from solar. In 20 years V2G will enable us to get ~50% of our power from solar and in 30-40 years H2 fuel cell storage will enable us to get ~100% of our power from solar.

My point is that with sufficient storage and present transmission infrastructure line Solar provide ~100% of our energy needs... what exactly is yours?

Brian H | January 25, 2014

You seem unable to comprehend the inherent costliness of diffuse and intermittent power sources. The entire history of energy enhancement has been in the opposite direction: concentrated and continuous.

Timo | January 25, 2014

nw; You need very large solar power plants for that to work. I don't like those, there are way better ways to create electricity that take less space. For example a coal power plant ;-)

Solar doesn't work for cities (too little surface area), over 50% of world population live in cities, it doesn't work shadowed areas, or areas where weather prevents it from working properly.

It's a thing for individual houses in sunny regions, not a global solution.

For your earlier post, I just plain disagreed with its estimations. It's like saying that we have eliminated world hunger in 40 years. Yeah, right. Can happen is different to will happen.

Newampster | January 25, 2014

@Captain Zap

Relax on "killing trees". I owned a 400 acre tree farm in VT for over 20 years. We calculated growth at just over 2%. With sustainable forestry techniques, it was very difficult to harvest at that level. Take a look at most forests. You will see lots of small trees. Good technique requires removal of "culls", to favor better trees. An acre of land puts on the same amount of new growth regardless of the number of trees on it. That means better trees grow bigger, faster. Biomass plants are an excellent way to turn trash trees and branches into Model S fuel.

nwdiver93 | January 25, 2014

I understand the cost of solar very well as I own three system in WA, NM and TX. I also understand the cost of storing electricity since I own a Tesla. We DO NOT need farms... parking lots and rooftops offer more than adequate space so you're not using any space that isn't already in use. A coal plant may not use a lot of space but this does...

Fortunately the more people that actually buy a PV system the more your ignorance falls on deaf ears... very few people that add PV to their home regret that decision because IT WORKS! Cities will be dependent on energy collected in surrounding areas... but my home produces ~75% MORE than I need even with a Model S so the suburbs can easily power the city.

Anywhere in the world between ~35N and ~35S Solar PV is now the cheapest way to produce electricity. Cost is expected to decline another ~50% in the next 10 years. There are virtually no resource bottlenecks since Silicon and Aluminum are the 2nd and 3rd most abundant elements on Earth. By 2030 Solar PV will likely be the most cost effective way to generate power almost everywhere.

I expect biomass to be with us for a while since it's a convenient and sustainable way to store energy but the density is actually low compared to PV. The most effective biomass we know of is algae. There's a plant in NM that hopes to produce ~20000 gallons of fuel or ~660MWh/acre/yr. That same acre would generate >1000MWh of electricity/yr if covered in PV. Then there's those pesky laws of thermodynamics... 660MWh of liquid fuel can never become more than ~400MWh of usable energy.

Timo | January 26, 2014

nw; parking lots and rooftops offer more than adequate space

Simply not true. Not in grand scale.

@Newampster, problem with tree farms is not that there are no trees, it is the problem that it is "maintained" which reduces biodiversity of the forest.

Covering forested area with PV instead would be disaster to the remaining biodiversity, so that's way worse.

[disclaimer], I'm not against solar, it's great where it works, I'm just pointing out that it isn't solution to everywhere and everyone. In here is would simply suck. If I would put large solar in my parents house I would get maybe 50% more than I need in summer when no-one needs much electricity, and 0% at winter when the need is greatest. My friend would not get much even at summer (trees shadow the house).

Dramsey | January 26, 2014

@nwdiver93: "The cost of PV has fallen ~75% since Obama took office. I'm actually expecting a shipment today for the 30kW mentioned above. 4 years ago I paid $1.70/w for B grade panels. I just paid $0.77/w for A grade panels."

Which is great if you're the kind that installs their own system. The cost of an installed residential PV system doesn't seem to have come down much if any. I don't know why this might be.

A decade ago two friends of mine (separate houses) installed PV systems. IIRC they were both in the $35-$40K range. The estimate I got for a 4KW system here in Reno from Solar City about two years ago was...$32K. (I may have that figure wrong; Solar City steadfastly refused to provide a written quote that I could keep. I know it was over $30K, though. The salesman, aware of how the price looked, created a little worksheet showing offsetting factors: an anticipated rise in the cost of local grid power, increased resale value of the house, etc. He also refused to leave a copy of the spreadsheet. Frankly he came off as a snake-oil salesman. Which is why I have a low opinion of Solar City.)

I don't know how a 4K system compared with what my friends have (maybe theirs are tiny). But at least in my area, as of a couple of years ago, installing a PV system sized to meet my needs cost enough to put the break-even point right at 25 years down the road.

Captain_Zap | January 28, 2014

Timo +1000

@Newampster -

I have a "tree farm" too but I'm letting it go back to forest but we are giving it a head start. We planted more diverse native trees in the proper situations in the 1980's and do very selective cutting to get it rolling without disrupting the understory as much as possible. I plan putting into conservation when I am gone. One of the problems is people coming in to steal the cedar and the big leaf maple. We have a beaver epidemic too. They are especially fond of girdling the Western Red Cedar. One grove that we preserved had a few trees over 6 feet across at the trunk and several others in the 2 to 4 foot range.

Alder grows like a weed and has far more limited lifespan. We are mostly in Douglas fir and Western Hemlock on a good part of the land. We have cottonwood, cascara and all sorts of other native species.

There is a rare variety of bird that comes in once a year to eat berries from shrubs that only grow around one variety of tree grove. It is kind of cool to see them come in again after a long absence. The area used to be full of them.

We are have an elk herd now. They were unseen for a generation. Cougar, bobcat, fox and other animals are back in the area. I just wish that they would get to work on those beavers. We had an overabundance of coyote but I think that is starting to balance out. They were becoming a nuisance.

We were having 100 year floods every couple years. Now we are having 1000 year floods that devastate enormous areas. We used to be able to handle that kind of precipitation easily, but now there are bald mountains that are eroding and they have no trees to take up the water.

I lost about 30 acres of timber in 5 years to floods. We lost only about 10 acres in the previous 20 years. It ended up downstream and wiped out miles and miles of valley. It looked like a sight from when Mt. St. Helens blew. This year will be different though. One of the driest winters on record and no snowpack.

Here is some pics of the floods a while ago. This wasn't even the big one! This is in one of our Supercharger towns, BTW. That is some of our timber somewhere in those photos. The damage downstream of this location was far more extensive. This was just the more populated areas that got more coverage by the news since it involved I-5 and two towns. The farm I am talking about is about 5 miles upstream.

I am concerned about deforestation in other parts of the world too. South America and Asia is scary.

Still, there is something so absurd about grinding up perfectly good wood to make biofuels when you could use a different biomass. The wood could be used for a much higher purpose.

Brian H | January 28, 2014

Has anyone tried "spiking" the Red Cedar to discourage the beavers?
In that flood, upstream looks like a better place to be than downstream!

milddp | February 13, 2014

I think that it is time for Thorium reactors to be re-visited. Consider that any material stored in the Earth contains a more concentrated energy, built-up through millions of years of geologic or solar energy. Solar is the last line of energy; it must be collected as it occurs, and is therefore only has a 1 to 1 concentration.
Solar, however, can be made far more efficient with nanotechnology. Professor Chin of Princeton is studying (since 2008) adding a nano-mesh on top of photo-voltaic cells which acts as an energy “trap”. Also embedding carbon nano-tubes in the amalgam layers acts as tiny wires and increases the electron pathways. A designed, shaped layout of carbon nanoshapes should do even more than a random embedment.
Thorium reactor design can probably be greatly improved. Origin designs create steam that drives a turbine. Why not use the heat to power Stirling engines, which convert the heat directly to piston/rotary movement? There is also some other more direct conversions from heat to electricity. There are heat pumps that use silicon wafers that convert heat to electricity. There is also the chemical conversion that Dr. Bloom has created in his “Bloom Boxes” that directly converts to electric. I think that if a photo voltaic cell can convert the sun’s heat/energy directly to electricity, that a similar system can be designed using nuclear heat and radiation.

Timo | February 13, 2014

I think that if a photo voltaic cell can convert the sun’s heat/energy directly to electricity, that a similar system can be designed using nuclear heat and radiation.

Check Focus Fusion:

That's exactly what it does. No hassle with turbines, water etc.

Brian H | February 14, 2014


Not exactly. It harvests a) charged He4+ ion flow, and b) soft X-ray photoelectrics. No heat or (nuclear particle) radiation required -- those are just low-grade waste in the design.

Mike T | February 14, 2014

Very interesting tech here:

Timo | February 15, 2014

That's one version of focus fusion. Not stupid tokamak.

Brian H | February 15, 2014

Still a neutronic steam engine, much cruder IMO.

hot lead passes through a heat exchanger that creates steam, half of which will be used to re-power the pistons and the other half to generate electricity.

jkn | February 25, 2014


Wind turbine mass increases with scale^3, power only with scale^2. So small seems to be better. Unfortunately wind is much stronger high above ground than lower level. Because of this small wind turbine might not generate energy used to build it during its life time. So small wind turbines are useful only for decorative purposes.

Small and large wind turbine need equal maintenance. Maintenance costs/kWh for small ones is too high. So small one is not properly maintained and will break before producing energy used to build it.

To replace one very large (1600 MW) nuclear reactor 5000 MW wind power is needed. Storage for that 3400 MW part is also needed to support times without wind or too much wind.

Wind turbines cannot be installed too close to each other (efficiency drops). If wind turbines for 5000 MW are put in one line, it will be about 1000 km long.

Solar cell on roofs is a good idea, in areas with sunshine around year. I hope that certain factory in Fremont will have a new roof soon. Large solar power plants in hot areas would be very good. Large scale reduces costs/kWh. For example robots could be used to clean panels. In large scale some efficient energy storage systems become possible. Perhaps best is:
"The team estimates the technology could yield storage costs of around six cents per kilowatt-hour"
(I know, concrete manufacturing releases lot of CO2. At least those spheres would last very long time.)

How much is needed, roughly: In midday Sahara 1 kW/m² ->
100 W/m² electricity ->
average for 24 h = 20 W/m² = 20 MW/km² ->
For a square 1000 km by 1000 km 20 000 000 MW = 20 000 GW = 20 000 nuclear reactors = enough to supercharge 200 000 000 MS simultaneously. Such square drawn over map of Sahara does not look very large. I'm not saying we should put all solar cells in one square. Shadow provided by solar arrays would reduce evaporation, so in dry area there might be more vegetation than elsewhere.

We might get economical fusion some day. But it is not certain. Even tokomak might be successful. If somebody invents superconductor which can give 10 * stronger magnetic field than current ones. Pressure in tokomak would be 10 * higher(?). Energy production 10 * higher(?). Problems solved.


60 degrees of the equator does not get enough solar during winter, not even enough to warm my face. Arctic circle is at 66.5622 degrees. So Sun at 60 N midwinter midday is 6.5622 degrees above horizon. Summer is different though. I agree solar power is good solution between ~35N and ~35S.

Brian H | February 25, 2014

Each sphere would use a Hoover Dam's worth of concrete per windfarm. Snowballs in Hades come to mind.

jkn | March 2, 2014

Yes, similar amount of concrete and electricity.

Lot of balls, I agree. But those are at sea bottom, rather deep. No shortage of that. There is shortage of places for Hoover dams.

Why Hades? Hades reminds me of lot of fires and extreme greenhouse effect:) Snowballs would melt quickly. I don't see what could break concrete balls at sea bottom even in thousands of years. Unless dissolved CO2 makes seas so acidic that concrete dissolves. Then coral reefs would also dissolve.