Friday, May 25, 2007


Britain's foreign minister on Tuesday said she expected no discussion of numerical targets for greenhouse gas emissions at a meeting of the leaders of the Group of Eight wealthy nations in Germany next month. British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett was asked by reporters in Tokyo whether she was concerned about a possible gap in climate change policy between the European Union and Japan, ahead of the summit at Heiligendamm in Germany.

"I don't think anyone envisages the idea that there should be some discussion about setting numerical targets at Heiligendamm," she said after a meeting with her counterpart, Foreign Minister Taro Aso. "There has been a misunderstanding of the nature of the discussions that we expect," Beckett said. "What we are both anxious to see is discussions about whether there should be a further international framework and what might be an effective framework," she said, referring to hopes that a new agreement will take the place of the Kyoto protocol, which expires in 2012.

Japan is finalising a proposal for a new global framework to cut greenhouse gas emissions from 2013, and plans to unveil it later this week, Kyodo news agency said on Monday, quoting government officials. But the United States, which did not ratify the Kyoto agreement, has been pushing for a strongly worded statement on climate change to be deleted from a final communique for the June 6-6 summit.



Email from Michael Martin-Smith []

Just a few words in support of Gary Alexander, the recovering Apocaholic; I recently watched a documentary on the mediaeval Black Death plague which is "credited" with having wiped out 25% or more of the population of Eurasia in less than 5 years. In some regions of Europe the toll was even greater, with losses of over 50 %, in a matter of months. I have always been impressed ,since my schooldays, with how little mention this awful event merits in most school history books- and yet it was by far the nearest to "Armageddon" our species has reached in all of recorded history.The reason for this is, I believe, both astonishing and heartening. For, despite all the anguish and horror the Black Death must have caused, both to people en masse and as individuals, we find within barely a generation , "normal service resumed", in the larger perspective, both for good and ill - and even major social and scientific advances, over the ensuing century or two in many respects. I suspect that, on close examination, the Black Death, horrible though it was, could probably have been a midwife to the modern world... The evidence is that whoever or whatever does give us "Armageddon" is going to have their work cut out!

Email from Tim Ball []

Great article in this time of environmental hysteria. My comment is there have been hundreds of doomsayers but not one has been right. The proof is if one was right we wouldn't be here today.


Some excerpts below from a very comprehensive article highlighting the gross ignorance behind this proposal

My apologies for the length of this article, but this has turned into something of a horror story. Only a short while ago, I thought that the power factor issue was most important, then that a vast number of enclosed light fittings (probably hundreds of millions worldwide) cannot be used with CFLs was critical. Now, it turns out that dimmers are a far bigger issue that first imagined. What happens in houses where dimmers are fitted? These must be removed completely, not simply set to maximum and left there. Who's going to pay to have millions of dimmers worldwide removed by electricians? You, the homeowner - that's who.

Power factor is still very important ... while you only pay for the actual energy used (as shown on the packaging), power companies have to provide the full voltage and current (also shown on many packages and/or other literature). The relatively poor power factor increases distribution losses and therefore the cost of getting electricity to your house.

Now, we also have the European Union (EU) singing the same silly song. It was recently announced that the 490 million citizens of the 27 member states will be expected to switch to energy-efficient bulbs after a summit of EU leaders yesterday told the European Commission to "rapidly submit proposals" to that effect. I wonder just how much research was done before this piece of lunacy was announced? None, perhaps?

Nothing in this article is conjecture or CFL bashing (I like CFLs, and use them wherever possible in my home and workshop), merely simple facts that a great many people have overlooked. The reasons are described below (yes, it's mostly technical), and for those who want to know more about power factor, the use of CFLs in existing luminaires, or any of the other factors involved, please read on .....

The current cry to ban the humble incandescent lamp (also known as GS - general service) may not seem like such a bad idea at first glance, but there are a number of issues that have not been addressed (or even thought about, based on what has been heard so far). Incandescent lamps are inefficient, typically over 95% of all energy consumed is converted into heat - not light. By comparison, the CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) has a dramatically higher efficiency, although it falls well short of a full sized (18W or 36W) standard fluorescent tube.

Many people have tried CFLs in any number of locations, but they are not always liked because of their colour rendition (many colours look wrong under all forms of fluorescent lighting), and because they are considered by many to be rather ugly. These dislikes are not necessarily major issues of course, although there are many users who would disagree.

Lighting is actually a very complex topic, and although it seems pretty simple on the surface, there are many factors to consider that proposed legislation will utterly fail to address. Just look at the European RoHS (restriction of hazardous substances) legislation as an example of how wrong things can get when governments become involved in things they don't understand.

This article is not intended to be a complete and final discussion - because lighting is so complex, I am bound to miss things, and I can only rely on the information I can get my hands on. There is undoubtedly a great deal that I won't find. Hopefully though, this article may get a few people thinking of the long term implications of the proposed ban (which is almost completely meaningless in real terms).

As a side issue, although I have (mostly) used the term "efficiency" in this article, this is actually relatively meaningless for lights. The correct term is luminous efficacy, usually expressed in lumens / Watt. While not strictly accurate, comparing the relative efficiency of different light sources does make it easier to comprehend - few people outside of the lighting industry will really have a proper grasp of the concept of luminous efficacy, so I have elected to keep the term "efficiency" in the interests of making the article as easy to understand as possible.

Many people would have seen the story circulating the Net about a woman in Maine (US) who broke a CFL in her daughter's bedroom, and was quoted $2,000 to clean up the mercury. This is what happens when bureaucrats become involved in things they don't understand (like lighting for example). This story is scare-mongering at its lowest. While I have no doubt that the figure is correct, it would be plain stupid to involve bureaucrats in something as trivial as a broken CFL.

Yes, mercury is a potent neurotoxin, but metallic mercury is relatively safe. The real danger comes from the vapour and various salts and compounds (as may easily be created in landfill for example) ... not from 5mg of mercury buried in the carpet. Having said that, I'm not sure I'd be happy letting a small child play on the floor where any fluorescent lamp had been broken. Kids have enough things to cause them damage or injury without adding tiny glass shards and mercury to all the other concerns.

Perhaps governments and CFL manufacturers could provide the necessary cleanup procedures that should be undertaken to ensure that the area is reasonably safe after "contamination". At present, you will find a great many conflicting opinions as how best to clean up after a breakage, but almost no usable information about the possible risk from the mercury itself. For myself, I'd probably not be at all concerned, but my kids are grown up and have their own homes. With small children around, I'd want to know with reasonable certainty that a recommended cleanup process would make the area safe enough for them to play on.....

If the powers that be (wherever in the world they are) are serious, then the obvious answer to working out if there are any genuinely worthwhile benefits to a ban on incandescent lamps is fairly simple. Conduct a trial. Select a small town, and choose 50% of randomly selected dwellings to continue the way they are already, and get the other 50% to use CFLs exclusively. No modifications to light fittings, no changes to anything other than the type of lamps used.

With careful monitoring of both sets for lamp failures, total energy usage (electricity, gas, heating oil, etc.) and overall satisfaction or otherwise, a realistic set of statistics can then be developed to show exactly what the outcome of a wholesale ban would achieve. This is real science, using a controlled test environment to gather information that can be expected to be reasonably representative of the benefits to the area tested and anywhere else that has similar climate. Data may be extrapolated to determine a realistic potential outcome for other localities.

While businesses may be included, many (if not most) will be found to be using conventional tube fluorescent lamps, because of the necessity for good lighting in most areas of business (cinemas, nightclubs and many restaurants being notable exceptions).

Such a trial needs to be run for 1 year, and at the end, people will have real data from real homes in a realistic environment. This is a far cry from the situation at present, where we have a few zealots sprouting figures that either make no sense, are often obviously false, or are simply the same as the (often wrong) figures sprouted by other zealots. I'm getting rather fed up with some of the claims, as they seem to be based entirely on fantasy. One I saw claimed that "Changing one incandescent lamp for a CFL will save 9 pounds in one year, or 100 pounds over the life of the lamp." (or along those lines - I can't find the quote this time around). Based on those figures, the lamp has to last for over 11 years - a fairly unlikely scenario. In common with many such claims, the lamp power wasn't mentioned, what it replaced wasn't mentioned, and no supporting data was mentioned either. In other words, the figures claimed have no substance at all - pure horse-feathers.

One thing I have seen in countless forum sites, blogs and other areas is especially disconcerting. Some people seem to have a completely black and white approach to many things. So much so that Hempel's Paradox (look it up - it's worth it) is applied in full ... i.e. All ravens are black, therefore anything that is not black is not a raven. There are people who have used their own version of this 'logic' with the CFL debate ...

"I have used CFLs in sealed luminaires without failure, (Ravens are black)
therefore all CFLs can be used in all sealed luminaires without failure" (therefore anything not black is not a raven).

What this denies is that anyone's claim or experience that differs from that of the writer is even a possibility. It is instantly wrong, because it doesn't match the (very limited) experience of the person making the claim. Bear in mind that anyone who uses this line of argument has involved no research, no scientific principles, and no experimental data other than the claim itself. Some people using such an approach can be shown that their logic is flawed, but others will never be convinced. Ravens are indeed (usually) black, but non-black ravens probably do exist (but no, I don't actually recall seeing one

Incandescent Lamp Characteristics

Benefits ...

Low purchase price
Simple, low technology manufacturing (minimal energy usage to manufacture)
Excellent power factor (unity)
Easily dimmed with simple and cheap TRIAC dimmers
Pleasant, "human friendly" colour rendition (and colour temperature)
Colour Rendering Index (CRI) of close to 100 (100 is optimal) [6]
No hazardous materials used in manufacture
Can be used at any temperature, freezers and ovens are no problem (~-18øC and ~250øC respectively)
Relatively modest initial (inrush) current when switched on (~10 to 20 times running current)
Recycling (although it would be nice) is not really needed because of small amount of materials used
No electro-magnetic interference problems

Deficiencies ...

Low efficiency, far more heat than light (typically less than 5% efficient)
Relatively short life (typically 500-2,000 hours)
High running cost for a given light output

In may be premature to write off the poor old incandescent lamp anyway. General Electric (GE) is apparently developing an incandescent lamp that matches the efficiency of typical CFLs [4], and no doubt others will follow before too much longer. One site I looked at claimed that it takes about 1kWh to manufacture an incandescent lamp. No further details were given.

The Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL) also seems simple from the outside - you can't see what's inside, but there is quite a bit of technology involved. The tube itself contains around 5mg of mercury, mercury vapour (mercury is an extremely potent neurotoxin ), and various phosphors that emit visible light when stimulated by the intense ultraviolet radiation emitted by a mercury arc discharge. There is still some conjecture regarding the toxicity of the phosphors, with various claims and counter-claims. It is generally better to err on the side of caution with any chemical compound, so a designated recycling program is essential before the mandatory use of CFLs becomes a reality. Such a program should be in place now to deal with standard fluorescent lamps, as these also contain the phosphors and the mercury. In Europe, the WEEE Directive (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) has already addressed the issue of recycling, but it has not been mentioned so far for Australia. Interestingly, some CFL manufacturers have even stated that the expected boom in CFL sales will create problems with the mercury (it's true - look it up).

Proponents of the anti-incandescent lamp stance will point out that the reduction in energy usage by using CFLs will prevent far more mercury entering the atmosphere than will be liberated by the (inappropriate) disposal of defunct CFLs. While this may be true at present, there are serious moves afoot to reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired power stations [2], so the point may be lost to scientific advances before too long. Consider too that mercury from power stations is distributed, not concentrated in landfill.

The CFL is not as efficient as a standard full-size fluorescent lamp, but still manages to achieve quite respectable performance. An efficiency of around 6-10% seems to be indicated, but there are so many factors that influence the apparent efficiency that direct comparisons are difficult.

The technology used in modern CFLs is quite astonishing for a throw-away product. The incoming mains is rectified to obtain DC, and there is some degree of ripple reduction by a filter capacitor. A switchmode inverter is then used to obtain the necessary voltage to strike the arc within the tube, and additional circuitry is included to limit the current to the nominal value needed to produce the required power. All of this must fit into the base of the lamp itself. Dedicated lamp housings are becoming available so that only the tube itself needs to be replaced (at present they seem aimed primarily at commercial applications).

The disadvantage of all this is that the power factor is far worse than an incandescent lamp. You don't pay for the extra current drawn, but the power utility must still provide cabling, transformers and generating plants that can handle the total load current, regardless of the power factor. There is still a significant saving, but this could easily be eroded because of two significant failings of CFL technology as it exists at present.

Readily available CFLs cannot be dimmed effectively with a normal wall-plate dimmer, so must run at full power at all times (some provide a low power setting by switching off and back on quickly). Incandescent lamps are often dimmed to very low power levels for extended periods (while watching TV for example), so their power usage will be perhaps 20% of the rated power, in some cases even less.

CFLs will fail prematurely if switched on and off many times a day. Many people already know this, so may be tempted to leave lights on that would otherwise be switched off, so a household might have 4 or 5 CFLs running for hours at a time, where they may have had only 1 or 2 incandescent lamps switched on (and possibly on dimmers, thus reducing power significantly).

Another area where CFLs cannot be used is at very low or very high temperatures. Most will not start at all at temperatures below -20øC, and a lot will refuse to start (or will have very low light output) at even higher temperatures. Because of the electronics in the base of the lamp, temperatures above around 50øC will shorten their working life considerably. Electronics components have highly accelerated failure rates as temperature goes up from the standard 25øC 'reference' ambient.

Note that premature failure (* above) is very difficult to judge unless the switching is logged. Some makers quote switching cycle data, most don't. Some newer models of CFL use active inrush current limiting, so will not stress switching systems when CFLs are used in large numbers (from the same switch). A standard CFL has the potential for an inrush current of up to around 4 to 5A, since it is limited only by the equivalent series resistance (and to a lesser extent the capacitance) of the filter capacitor, along with any series resistance. Series resistance will usually be kept to a minimum, as it contributes nothing more than heat (and reduces overall efficiency).

A very common question in forum sites is along the lines of "My light fitting says that the maximum lamp power is 60W. Can I use a 20W CFL that has the same light output as a 100W lamp?"

The standard answer given in Q&A sites is an unqualified "yes", however there is one major factor that must be considered but rarely gets a mention. Some CFL packaging states that the lamps must not be used in fully enclosed light fittings, but in reality, no CFL is suitable. The reason is temperature. Because of the electronic circuitry, all CFLs can only be used where they have reasonable ventilation to prevent overheating. Excess heat doesn't bother an incandescent lamp, and temperatures well in excess of 100øC won't cause them any problems at all. Remember that the filament is already operating at around over 2,000øC, so a bit more won't hurt (although wiring insulation and even the lamp socket itself will be damaged eventually). Some sealed light fittings use high temperature wire internally, because they get too hot inside for ordinary PVC insulation - which will fail quite quickly at elevated temperatures.

Because of the electronic circuitry, the maximum ambient temperature for a CFL should remain as low as practicable, with most manufacturers warranting their products to a maximum of 50øC. This has forced a complete re-design for recessed downlights [7], and many other light fittings are completely unsuitable. If the heat from the tube and the electronics cannot escape, the temperature will potentially rise to well over 50øC, and the lamp's life and light output will be badly affected.

There are far too many factors that need to be considered to even try to answer the question here, but as a guide, if the light fitting is completely sealed (or recessed into the ceiling with no way for hot air to escape) then the answer is no. Not simply "no" to the question, but no to the use of any CFL in a completely sealed (or even just poorly ventilated) light fitting.

Many of the sites that offer advice have zero technical expertise, and a lot seem to assume that CFLs emit almost no heat at all. Anyone who has used one knows that this most certainly is not the case.


Save energy, buy a Hummer

People who subscribe to catastrophic global-warming scenarios sometimes buy hybrid vehicles to do their part in saving the planet. As for me, I'd be more likely to buy a Hummer if I thought man-made global warming was a real problem. The reason is simple. Though hybrids have much higher fuel efficiency, their overall energy cost exceeds that of SUVs, including the Hummer. The overall energy cost of the Honda Accord hybrid, for example, is $3.29/mile; for the Hummer H3 it's $1.949/mile.

This interesting statistic comes from CNW Marketing Research Inc., which spent two years collecting data on how much energy it takes to plan, build, use, and dispose of specific vehicle makes and models. CNW's figures on energy use are impressively inclusive. They factor in such details as the distance auto-plant employees drive to work, electricity usage at car dealerships, and literally hundreds of other variables.

The 479-page study is free and well worth digging into. Readers will find, for example, that the fuel a car burns over its lifetime isn't the largest portion of its energy use, just the most visible. Also interesting is that energy consumed during manufacturing makes up only a small part of the total energy cost/mile.

And it's easy to get tripped up calculating energy use. Toyota, for example, says it reduced by 30% the energy it consumes to build vehicles in Japan. But CNW says Toyota's claims ignore the energy demands of its suppliers building full-module components. In some cases, the energy requirements of these suppliers actually exceed those of Toyota had the automaker kept the work in-house.

It also becomes clear why hybrids don't score well on lifetime energy use. The first generation of hybrids is likely to be scrapped earlier than comparable ordinary vehicles, simply because first-generation technology rapidly loses maintenance support. Repairs quickly become a losing proposition.

Hybrid components are also more expensive to make and recycle. H2 Hummers, for instance, have about $800 worth of medium-weight steel, which takes about $200 worth of energy to produce. The steel is easily recycled. The infrastructure to do so has been in place for decades. But the Prius has lightweight steel and steel composites that cost about $585 and take roughly $230 worth of energy to produce. Disposal of this metal is more energy intensive than that in the Hummer though there is less of it.

The complexity of hybrids and their relatively low volumes also works against them when repairing accident damage. A Prius, for example, needs nearly three times more time and twice as many parts costing nearly nine times more than a comparable small car in an identical accident. Complexity also takes a toll during design and development. The energy to design and develop a Prius runs $29,000/vehicle. For a Corolla, it's just $2,600.

All in all, the report points the way for those who truly want to minimize planet-wide energy use. The clear choice is a used original VW Beetle. Its overall energy cost is a mere $0.05/mile.


Hidden costs of corn-based ethanol

Policymakers and legislators often fail to consider the law of unintended consequences. The latest example is their attempt to reduce the United States' dependence on imported oil by shifting a big share of the nation's largest crop -- corn -- to the production of ethanol for fueling automobiles. Good goal, bad policy. In fact, ethanol will do little to reduce the large percentage of our fuel that is imported (more than 60 percent), and the ethanol policy will have ripple effects on other markets.

Corn farmers and ethanol refiners are ecstatic about the ethanol boom and are enjoying the windfall of artificially enhanced demand. But it will be an expensive and dangerous experiment for the rest of us. On Capitol Hill, the Senate is debating legislation that would further expand corn ethanol production. A 2005 law already mandates production of 7.5 billion gallons by 2012, about 5 percent of the projected gasoline use at that time. These biofuel goals are propped up by a generous federal subsidy of 51 cents a gallon for blending ethanol into gasoline and a tariff of 54 cents a gallon on most imported ethanol to help keep out cheap imports from Brazil.

President Bush has set a target of replacing 15 percent of domestic gasoline use with biofuels (ethanol and biodiesel) during the next 10 years, which would require almost a fivefold increase in mandatory biofuel use, to about 35 billion gallons. With current technology, almost all of this biofuel would have to come from corn because there is no feasible alternative. However, achieving the 15 percent goal would require the entire current US corn crop, which represents a whopping 40 percent of the world's corn supply.

This would do more than create mere market distortions; the irresistible pressure to divert corn from food to fuel would create unprecedented turmoil. Thus, it is no surprise that the price of corn has doubled in the past year -- from $2 to $4 a bushel. We are already seeing upward pressure on food prices as the demand for ethanol boosts the demand for corn. Until the recent ethanol boom, more than 60 percent of the annual US corn harvest was fed domestically to cattle, hogs, and chickens or used in food or beverages. Thousands of food items contain corn or corn byproducts.

In Mexico, where corn is a staple food, the price of tortillas has skyrocketed because US corn has been diverted to ethanol production. Any sort of shock to corn yields, such as drought, unseasonably hot weather, pests, or disease could send food prices into the stratosphere. Such concerns are more than theoretical. In 1970, an outbreak of a fungus destroyed 15 percent of the US corn crop.

Politicians like to say that ethanol is environmentally friendly, but these claims must be put into perspective. Although corn is a renewable resource, it has a far lower yield relative to the energy used to produce it than either biodiesel or ethanol from other plants. Moreover, ethanol yields about 30 percent less energy per gallon than gasoline, so mileage drops off significantly. Finally, adding ethanol raises the price of blended fuel because it is more expensive to transport and handle.

Lower-cost biomass ethanol -- for example, from rice straw (a byproduct of harvesting rice) or switch grass -- would make far more economic sense, but large volumes of ethanol from biomass will not be commercially viable for many years. (And production will be delayed by government policies that subsidize corn-based ethanol.)

American legislators and policy-makers seem oblivious to the scientific and economic realities of ethanol production. Brazil and other major sugar cane-producing nations enjoy significant advantages over the US in producing ethanol, including ample agricultural land, warm climates amenable to vast plantations, and on-site distilleries that can process cane immediately after harvest.

Thus, in the absence of cost-effective, domestically available sources for producing ethanol, rather than using corn, it would make far more sense to import ethanol from Brazil and other countries [such as good old reliable Australia] that can produce it efficiently. American politicians may be thrilled with the prospect of corn-derived ethanol, but if they don't adopt policies based on science and sound economics, consumers around the world may suffer.



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is generally to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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