Ep. 4 Krugman Hearts Solar and Wind, Attacks Fossil Fuels

10 October 2015     |     Tom Woods     |     30


This week, Krugman says only GOP intransigence, and devotion to Big Energy, can account for conservative hostility to renewable energy. Wind and solar power aren’t for hippies anymore, he says; they’re growing by leaps and bounds and becoming more and more plausible as substantial energy sources for the United States.

We disagree, and we’ve got the numbers on our side.

Krugman Column

Enemies of the Sun” (Oct. 5, 2015)

Related Krugman Item

More on Jon Gruber

Contra Columns

Will Renewables Become Cost-Competitive Anytime Soon?
Levelized Cost of New Electricity Generating Technologies
Negative Prices and the High Price of Windpower,” by Lisa Linowes
Statistics on the various energy sources

Graph: The Explosion in Growth in Solar and Wind Energy

(Yes, that’s sarcasm.)

Paul Krugman’s House

Count all the solar panels!


Related Episode, Tom Woods Show

Ep. 156 Against the Catastrophists (Robert Bryce)

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  • Keith Vertrees

    I want an ‘Enemies of the Sun’ t-shirt:
    1. Graphic done in the style of the ContraKrugman home page
    2. Vampire Tom and Vampire Bob are fleeing Van Helsing Krugman as sunrise breaks the horizon behind them
    3. QR code on the back points to this show notes page.

    • AnarchistMetalhead .

      how much is it worth to you?

      • Keith Vertrees

        Hmmm. Well, I was hoping Tom & Bob would recognize a potential revenue stream and run with the idea.
        For example, they could pick one episode per quarter to T-shirtize. I’d pay $25 a pop.

  • Enema Of The State

    He does not need solar panels. It is a well known fact that his estate is powered by a tremendous wind bag.

    • JohnnyHomeless

      That’s funny… I thought it was a lot of hot air that keeps the place warm… sort of like thermal energy! I do know his crap provides a lot of fuel for endless debates… but it’s not renewable, fortunately!

  • Philip

    From the title “Enemies of the sun”, one might think the column would be a version of the candle maker’s petition.

  • Jim Kluttz

    It seems to me that the most important issue with solar and wind is the unpredictability of power production. The imbalance between power produced and used by a home with roof-top solar is severe. Utilities must be forced to take excess power from the home and then provide power to the home as needed during darkness or on cloudy days, etc.. In other words, utilities must be forced to act as power storage devices for the home. Local batteries are expensive and are impractical for long term off-grid use.

    My understanding of the German experience is that electricity distributors are forced to take solar power if it is available and use power from other sources later. This leaves base load plants (fossil fueled and nuclear) to run their power out on the ground since they run at a constant output. Last I heard power producers there were in financial stress as a result.

    I have a graph of solar power production vs usage from my own roof-top system. The whole idea is crazy until there are economical energy storage methods available. My system is good for me and bad for the utility. And oh by the way, various subsidies paid for about one-half of the installation cost of my roof-top system.

    In conclusion, it doesn’t really matter what the cost of solar electricity generation is, the load management problem won’t go away for sometime if ever.

    • Bob_Robert

      The fantasy is power stations in orbit where the sun always shines.

      What they won’t tell me is how to get that electric power from space to the ground.

      • Michael Nolan

        Anyone who played SimCity 2000 knows what to do, and what will happen next 😉

      • Luke Perkins

        There are a variety of options for orbit to surface energy transmission, including lasers. Back in the 80s lasers were about 80% efficient across 1 mile, but our lasers are far superior today and might be able to penetrate the atmosphere in some locations with enough efficiency to be effective.

        Obviously, this is not economical, but it is possible 😉

        Also, if we built a bunch of solar collectors and lasers, think of the weapon potential =D

        The other astrological power option which could prove interesting some day is induction off the magnetic field. Basically build a space elevator that drops a metal rod into the electromagnetic field. All that one needs is a light and strong material to tether to the ground.

        Of course, I wonder what would happen if we started sapping power from the magnetic field…

        And you thought global warming was bad =P

        • Bob_Robert

          So built it. Let’s get on with it.

          • JohnnyHomeless

            We’re waiting on a government subsidy first…

    • http://www.reddit.com/r/DotA2/ Fresh Babe

      Alex Epstein talks a lot about that, how unpredictable wind and solar power are and how Germany is expanding their coal power plants due to them shutting down the nuclear plants but still needing a reliable source of energy.

  • Bob_Robert

    Bureaucrats just HATE IT when you bring their personal lives into the discussion. Posting a photo of Krugman’s house is fantastic, and it’s going to piss him off _Royally_.

    Bravo! Bravo!

  • Michael Nolan

    I tried starting a wind + solar company years back, and ran into a few ‘inconvenient truths’ :

    1) Solar panels for home use are a roofing job, not an energy job. Roof solar will never make sense outside of isolated cases (mainly using panels *as* the roof, *when* you build the house, and *only* in states with very expensive electricity and a lot of sun).

    2) Once you take maintenance into account, wind is very expensive. Twice as much as solar. Do the cradle-to-grave analysis.

    3) The regulatory standards for favored programs tend to be super-lax. I remember my alma mater priding itself on powering its lawn mowers with a certain company’s biodiesel. I got to tour their “plant,” which had several hundred pounds of glycerol sitting in kiddie pools outside the building, and the methanol waste stream emptied right into the parking lot. This is more common with renewable energy companies than you would like to think; why are regulators selectively looking away from renewables companies?

    4) In grad school I worked with a lot of corn-based renewables people. The irony is, the journal Nature published a study on “safe operating limits” for various sources of pollution, it turns out that the nitrogen cycle (corn is fertilized with ammonia, which is mostly running off into the river) is an order of magnitude worse than AGW. So we’re fighting a fire by dropping napalm on it. Also, since 40% of corn goes to ethanol, what if we freed up 40% of the farmland spent on corn?

    Now personally I still like solar a lot and would like to live off-grid, etc., but I wouldn’t back taking money from the public so that it ends up (like it usually does) in companies like Solyndra. Subsidies are irresponsible; use your own money if you want to back renewables.

  • libertynoman

    I’m surprised Bob & Tom did not address the possibility that, through the title of his article, Prof. Krugman was warning Christians that they had to be for the state sponsoring of renewable energy lest they be deemed “Enemies of the Son”.

    Tom & Bob both have not shied away from mentioning their Christian beliefs in the past. I’m surprised they didn’t comment on the possibility that Krugman could have used this title to infer that they are both bad Christians.

    Did you just not want to go there Bob &Tom? That’s understandable. But, amongst adults, couldn’t that have been a fun thing to address?

  • Commentizer

    There is a way to point out the implausibility of solar energy, which I wish would catch on. It lays out the situation in a way that uninformed people could understand right away:

    “How many square meters of solar panels would you need to run a single air conditioner in August in the U.S., and how much would it cost to install the solar panels?”

    Dealing in averages (average sized air conditioner, average cloud cover, average installation costs, etc.), there has to be a straightforward quantitative answer.

    Then, we can look at the current electricity cost to run the same air conditioner for one month.

    • Budthestud

      I just looked at my window unit and it uses 517 Watts which means I use about 12.5 KWH per day if I run it all day. At $0.06 per KWH from the electric company means it costs me about $0.75 a day.

      Let’s just assume that I get on average 12.5 hours of good sunlight a day (although this varies wildly by area) so I will need 1000 Watts worth of solar panels. On Amazon they are selling for about $1.50 per Watt so I will spend $1500 to buy the solar panels. I like nice round numbers so let’s just assume I do the installation myself and only have to buy the converter, some car batteries, and some misc materials amounting to $500. Given all these assumptions it will cost me about $2000 total.

      So $2000 up front for solar vs $0.75 a day for regular electric. I would have to run my window ac unit for just over 7 straight years to pay for itself. I could think of a lot better uses for that $2000.

      • JohnnyHomeless

        You forgot to mention how much in square meters of ground you are using up for those panels, or how much in roof space you will need. Plus, you forgot to mention the maintenance costs needed over those 7 years. And where in God’s green earth do you expect to get 12.5 hours of good sunlight a day, except in the southwest desert, which even has their own issues with rainstorms and snow in the winter. You don’t have to answer these questions… just pointing out the obvious. But thanks for trying…

  • Erik L

    Excellent episode! Keep it up.

  • maninthewilderness

    And, since it’s not yet on the show notes page, here’s the link to the Handy-Dandy Carbon Tax Calculator that Bob mentioned 29 minutes into the show.


  • https://www.facebook.com/david.rogers.hunt David_Rogers_Hunt

    Since the subject of Global Climate Change came up I have to mention these articles, Greenpeace Founder: Let’s Celebrate CO2 http://www.breitbart.com/london/2015/10/15/greenpeace-founder-lets-celebrate-co2/ and an interview with Doctor Patrick Moore with Stefan Molyneux https://youtu.be/pbgcyW-MqtY

    In the first article, Greenpeace founder, Dr. Patrick Moore, addresses the Global Warming Policy Foundation in London, telling them why he left the environmentalist group and became skeptical of man-made global warming. Basically, he states that due to well understood natural processes, the natural environment has been removing CO2 at such a rate that soon plant life would be catastrophically effected,… except for the CO2 that mankind’s actions are releasing. He goes on to suggest that humanity is part of Gaia’s means to self regulate the earth’s natural environment. Apparently, Doctor Patrick Moore is also not loath to throw a few bombs of his own!

  • http://www.radicalrc.com/blog Dave Thacker

    Solar and wind provide superior and renewable enforcement opportunities. It’s about establishing control and it’s potential to convince the weak to cede their Liberty. Solar and wind are the part of the man made global warming stupid sucker hoax that “sounds” positive. And typically, like Gore and the entire ruling class. What’s good for the rest of us isn’t worth a glance for themselves. It’s solar and wind as a vehicle for the expansion of force and coercion that is bad. The technology geek in me has always been interested. However, there are no grounds here to use force on others to act on or pay for my or others interests.

  • hyraxx

    In defense of renewables, Oil will run out. It is not a matter of if but when. We as a people are too stupid to figure this out. We are going to burn all the oil. Our cars will stop dead in the streets. We will have no idea what to do. We need government to steer us in the right direction.

  • GaryRodda

    Thorium liquid salt reactors, let’s start a Manhattan style project, and supply ourselves with clean, safe, reliable nuclear power.

  • Matt Engineer

    This podcast really disappointed me. I was excited to find a voice counter to the only ones I had heard in the media. I was even more excited when it sounded like they would cite their sources and prove all of their claims. In the first episode I listened to, they combat the idea that Wind can be a useful power source by claiming it uses too much land. To replace all of the coal power generation in this country they claim it would take an area the size of Italy and that wind produces 1 watt per square meter. Sounds like a great point. Being the intelligent listener I am I choose to fact check that point. Both studies I find, however, completely blow up that claim. At worst, Wind produces 4 watts/square meter, 4 times more energy dense and on average, is more like 150 watts per square meter. Very disappointing Contra Krugman, when your whole shtick is supposed to be fact checking and bringing the truth to the masses.



    Or better Yet, don’t use my sources, search yourself:


    Just please do not blindly believe these gentlemen any more
    than Krappy Krugman

    Also, Italy has an area of about 300 billion square meters. At any given minute there is about 65 billion watts of electricity produced by coal. Even if you do assume the erroneous 1w/m^2 try to account for the lack of wind at all hours of the day and double or quadruple the area required you’re still falling fall short of “Italy”.

  • Matthew Sercely

    So, my father pointed out that krugman was talking about the increase of energy in “advanced countries”, and the counter argument from Bob and Tom is about American energy . Anyone have a good European energy growth fact?