Home Economics Letters to the editor | Edition May 6, 2023

Letters to the editor | Edition May 6, 2023

 Letters to the editor |  Edition May 6, 2023

Letters are welcome via email to [email protected]

Powering green energy

I enjoyed your Technology Quarterly on the challenge of greening power grids (April 8). I would like to highlight the merits of direct drive wind turbine technology. The advantage of direct-drive or full-power conversion is that the output can be artificially adjusted to what the power grid needs. Providing support services is simple, cheap and mostly software generated, meaning it can be customised. In fact, wind turbines have been providing reactive power injection (for voltage regulation), inertial emulation (for frequency stability) and various other ancillary services for 20 years.

Unfortunately, most grid operators, a rather conservative bunch, do not use wind turbines to their full potential and have no market mechanisms to reimburse ancillary services. ERCOT in Texas is one of the few exceptions. The toolbox exists, but will remain underused until addressed.

Nicolas Bourbonniere

The optimism surrounding the potential for “power-to-gas” ignores the significant energy efficiency losses of the chemical and thermodynamic process involved. The return efficiency of switching from electricity to hydrogen and back again is somewhere between 18-46%. We may yet conclude that this is the path we want to take to address the renewables disruption, but these fundamental inefficiencies will seriously test the business cases of renewable asset developers and hydrogen producers.

The belief that it is best to produce hydrogen exclusively on the grid is inconsistent with the current regulatory landscape or the assumptions required to rely on extensive grid infrastructure. The EU and Britain have proposed regulations that would ban or severely restrict the use of grid power to make hydrogen. Instead, a new layer of hydrogen infrastructure is provided, complementary to but not embedded in the current electricity grid. Pipelines will transport hydrogen from where it can be produced most cheaply (near renewable sources) to where it is needed (industrial centers).

Lily Bailey

Your leader collected qualitative bricks without the quantitative mortar to choose what is worth building (“Hug pylons, not trees,” April 8). How much electricity the world will need in the coming decades is certainly threefold uncertain. We need more to electrify transport and industrial heat. But we need less if we use electricity, materials, products, mobility and other services much more productively.

Three-quarters of US electricity could be saved by efficiency techniques available a decade ago, at one-tenth the cost of buying average retail electricity. Global electricity could likely be used five times more efficiently by 2060, profitably, at a pace within the International Energy Agency’s forecast.

Whether we need more or less electricity than we do now, and how much, depends on whether efficient and timely use of electricity is competitive or compared to more supply and supply. If so, net additions can be much less and smaller. And the slow and risky approval procedures for new power lines can often be avoided by re-laying existing lines with new wires that can carry three to four times more power on the same pylons and quickly pay for their costs through reduced power losses.

Amory Lovins
Adjunct Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Stanford University
Stanford, California

The cost of upgrading the world’s power grids is estimated to be $30 trillion through 2050. You contrast this with a more decentralized power grid where rooftop solar and battery storage at the edges of the grid provide power, but suppose the economic arguments for this are not yet known. made. The market is moving in that direction. Sekisui Heim is a major Japanese home builder that sells the majority of its homes with 75% energy stock. In combination with the charging of electric vehicles, this ensures that the majority of consumption is low-carbon. The market and consumers could catch up with the grid upgrade in the blind spot.

Felix Miller
Kobe, Japan

We must spread the love and embrace both trees and pylons. I know The Economist wants to nurture both. I read between the lines of your report, from the celebrated Amazonian trees that exude life-giving moisture, to the biomass that made your correspondent and Drax’s turbine hall hum and throb with such obvious pleasure. However, the 50 shades of gray and 12.1 million tons of carbon dioxide emitted from Drax’s smokestacks in 2022 came from pellets derived from 12.9 million tons of freshly felled, water-inflating, carbon-storing trees that protect wildlife. That is almost equal to more than Britain’s total annual timber production. By repurposing old coal-fired power stations to burn forests, we are ruining our future.

Lucie Wuthrich
Biofuel watch
Bern, Switzerland

English exceptionalism

Bagehot’s column on a lack of English national identity (April 22) used surveys in which people indicate whether they are English or British. The sense of “Englishness” goes deeper than such labeling. Bagehot pointed to George Orwell’s “England your England” to support his point. Written in 1941 during the Blitz, the essay argues that England could never be a fascist state. It also paints a picture, which is still valid, of an English exceptionalism that is an inverted version of American exceptionalism. This is a proud, idiosyncratic, self-deprecating, collective view of being English, which incorporates, among other things, the idea that “foreign” begins on the other side of the English Channel. It may help explain why being in the EU was like an organ transplant that couldn’t quite handle it.

So English nationalism, while perhaps not quite the right term, is alive and well and deep in the English psyche without having to worry too much about labels or about St. George’s Day or any of the other official markers of Englishness. to celebrate.

Alan Phillips
Mosman, Australia

Oh, the awful English. The terrible and terrible English. Yes, the English really are the worst of the worst. Just ask an Oxbridge academic or student, or a card reader from the Guardian, or anyone from Ireland, Scotland or Wales. They will tell you that the English should be ashamed of themselves and their history, intertwined with the current suffering of all who are not English. They will say that English patriotism (and only English patriotism) is problematic. Is any other nationality as criticized and despised as the English? Is it possible to hear any clear, unequivocal praise for the English without the slightest reservation?

I don’t celebrate St George’s Day, I don’t encourage the England football team or even feel particularly proud to be English, but I criticize those who do, and I don’t criticize other nationalities for being proud of their own. Why should I apologize for a long gone past that had absolutely nothing to do with me?

Stephen Badham
Portsmouth, Hampshire

If modern geography was the only criterion for identifying historical characters, as Bagehot did by saying that “St George was Turkish”, then it follows that Diocletian was a Croat and Mustafa Kemal, aka Ataturk, was a Greek. There was not a single Turk in Cappadocia in the 3rd century when George of Lydda was born, and there would not be any in Asia Minor until around the 11th century.

Avedis Hadjian

Narrow banking

Regulators and central banks, as you rightly pointed out, have tried to dissuade the banking system from moving toward narrow banking, where “deposits are fully backed by only the safest assets” (Free exchange, April 15). However, today’s brokers provide a back door to narrow banking. Savvy savers can purchase short-term U.S. Treasury money market funds that carry no credit risk. These funds offer higher interest rates and tax benefits over a typical bank deposit. Brokers offer banking conveniences through their mobile apps and untaxed, free access to such funds. Making depositors aware of these services would be an important step towards narrow banking.

Dinkar Jain
Anderson Management School
University of California Los Angeles

George Pennacchi
Professor of Finance
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Banana drama

I’m bananas to your banana index (graphic detail, April 15). We see that beef, even with its nutritional value, is still climate-unfriendly compared to a banana. On a protein basis, chicken is less polluting than bananas and so on. People hate complexity: the index makes it easier for us to shop wisely.

Jacob Troyer
Billing, Montana

Your new banana index is crazy. Almonds are rated as good for the climate, but in reality it takes three liters of water to grow one nut.

Percy Grainger
Theberton, Suffolk

From Wisconsin, where fresh water is plentiful, I like to call my sister in Southern California, where water rationing is common, with the following message: Stock up on deodorant because you won’t be able to shower for a week; I eat 25 California almonds with my granola.

Kyle McCoy
Middleton, Wisconsin

The jerk hierarchy

There is a practical problem in implementing a no-jerks policy at work (Bartleby, April 1). Jerkery is usually invisible to the bosses of the jerks, the very people who have the power to take them down. Assholes don’t usually act like assholes around management, on the contrary. Assholes make life miserable for those below them in the corporate hierarchy, rather than those above.

Fergus McKay
New York

You get hair on your chest

I grew up in the west of England drinking strong scrumpy cider (“Two-fisted tasted,” April 1). When made at home, it is fermented bone dry, turning all the sugar into alcohol, resulting in a bitter but beautiful drink. It has a high alcohol content. I remember making it once with an old fellow from Gloucestershire. Taking a long gulp, he said, shuddering, “Hell’s bells, that’s two-man cider. You would need one on each arm holding me to get a pint in me.

Matt Ford

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