Is anyone more incoherent than Vinod Khosla?*

*not counting Lindsey Graham or Sarah Palin

Another day, another dreadful opinion piece in the Washington Post. The print headline easily takes first prize for the most incoherent headline I’ve ever seen on a climate op-ed: “Carbon pricing won’t achieve emissions goals.”

Seriously. That’s the headline, though presumably it came from the incoherent editors of the WashPost, and not the author, the self-identified “founder of the venture capital firm Khosla Ventures, which has interests in several aspects of clean technology, including solar, wind, batteries, carbon sequestration, nuclear, geothermal and biofuels, as well as in energy-efficiency technologies such as engines, electric motors, lighting, air conditioning and the smart grid.”

Khosla is one of those people, like Graham and Palin, who simply says whatever stuff pops into his head at the moment, no matter how illogical or self-contradictory it is.

In November he said, “I would venture that the cleanest power will not be solar, it will be coal.” As Casey Stengel said, you can look it up. In December 2007, Khosla said, “Forget plug-ins. They are nice toys. But they will not be material to climate change.

Now he says in his WP piece — titled online “A simpler path to cutting carbon emissions”:

Consider: Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) has proposed requiring electricity providers to use a minimum percentage of energy from renewable sources. If this standard were modified to allow low-carbon electricity from any source, not just renewable, with carbon emissions that are 80 percent lower than coal, it could get support from nuclear, natural gas and even coal advocates….

The United States could aim to get 20 to 25 percent of our electricity from sources that use 80 percent less carbon than benchmark coal by 2020, which would meet or exceed the standard set by the House bill passed last June….

Importantly, a low-carbon electricity standard would be superior to a utilities cap. A cap can easily be met in the next 10 years by incremental adjustments to existing assets (such as repowering coal power plants with natural gas and shutting the most inefficient plants). In contrast, a low-carbon electricity standard can be met only by the rapid development of radically low-carbon technology; these technologies can then be exported to India and China, which deploy much of the coal-fired electricity….

I guess this is more straight bullshit than incoherence.

First, there is zero chance of substantial commercial deployment of coal with carbon capture and storage technology that cuts emissions 80% by 2020 — see Is coal with CCS a core climate solution? and Harvard stunner: “Realistic” first-generation CCS costs a whopping $150 per ton of CO2 “” 20 cents per kWh!

So there is zero chance that coal advocates would support his standard.

Second, yes, along with efficiency and renewables, the 2020 cap target would partially be met by a switch to natural gas — (see Game changer part 2: Unconventional gas makes the 2020 Waxman-Markey target so damn easy and cheap to meet). So tell me, why would natural gas advocates rather support an 80% reduction standard in 2020 — which could only be met with combined cycle gas turbine plants that also capture more than half of the CO2, a technology that is hardly being pursued for near-term commercialization.


And so the only difference between the 2020 low carbon standard and the 2020 renewable standard is nuclear power. That is what Khosla would seem to be pushing here, intentionally or not, disingenuously or not. Who knows why? (see An introduction to nuclear power and Nuclear Bombshell: $26 Billion cost “” $10,800 per kilowatt! “” killed Ontario nuclear bid)

By the way, I’m certainly not opposed to achieving carbon goals through regulatory standards, rather than carbon pricing. But it is ironic that such an approach would be considered more efficient or simpler.

Khosla pushes a lot of straw men:

Cherry-picking reductions of 5 to 10 percent through low-hanging efficiency upgrades could distract from developing technologies that reduce emissions 80 percent. By focusing instead on the large wedges that account for 75 percent of carbon emissions — electricity and transportation — we could achieve the lion’s share of our goals with a small fraction of the complexity.

Who even knows what that means?

The climate bill that passed the House didn’t cherry pick small efficiency gains — it used a massive amount of funding and very strong standards to promote aggressive efficiency gains. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) calculates for the savings from W-M’s efficiency provisions “” 5 quads saved in 2020 and 12.3 quads in 2030 (see “The triumph of energy efficiency: Waxman-Markey could save $3,900 per household and create 650,000 jobs by 2030”).

His transportation discussion is also BS:

Meanwhile, regulating cars in technology-neutral effective grams of carbon emitted per mile, instead of miles per gallon, would allow more efficient engines to compete with electric cars.

Huh? The mpg standard has been a boon to advances in efficient engines, since making your car much more efficient is obviously the easiest way to meet an mpg standard.

Focus on electric cars and hybrids has already decreased investor interest in more-efficient engines.

Actually, there is a tremendous investor interest in more efficient engines. The biggest investment is right where you would expect it — in the car companies. And that is because the White advanced major fuel economy, emissions standard “” The biggest step the U.S. government has ever taken to cut CO2.

There is a lot more incoherent BS in the piece, but TGIF.

Vinod Khosla – A simpler path to cutting carbon emissionsIf our goal is carbon reduction, a cap-and-trade or carbon-pricing bill, with its likely compromises, would be worse…