Friday, December 28, 2012

Climate Change Misinformer Of The Year: Al Gore

Chief promoter of the global warming scare, Al Gore  has been called "the Matt Drudge of climate scarers" the "king of the believers" and "a central cell of the climate-scare machine," and he revels in these descriptions.

Although he has no scientific expertise, he is adamant that manmade global warming is an urgent problem based on "settled  science."

Gore gained prominence in politics for his time in the Senate and his Presidential bid and  notoriously called climate change "the greatest threat ever to face the American people"

Gore has profited hugely from his advocacy.

The above is just a slight reworking of a hit piece on Marc Morano put up by Media Mutters.

Wind power by the numbers

We are constantly being told that wind is now a large-scale producer of electrical power, with much talk in the green press about the thousands of homes it is often said to light and heat. Well, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing and such praise for wind turbines demonstrates that precise point.

Let me explain: The power that a wind turbine might produce under ideal circumstances is known as “nameplate capacity”, and to understand that, let’s consider a notional wind farm with, say, 150 towers, each topped by 2.5MW generator. That would give us a theoretical total output of 375MW.

Seldom mentioned is the fact that wind generators produce, on average, barely 30% of that nameplate total. This much lower number is referred to as the “capacity factor” (CF). The difference between nameplate and capacity is due to the fact that, as you may have noticed, wind is variable and does not always blow at the required speed to keep the blades turning, the turbine spinning and all those homes supplied with electricity. With no wind, the blades fall still; similarly, when the wind is too strong, they “feather” and also stop rotating. Let us now look at some actual figures, which will demonstrate just how little electrical power wind plants make available for actual consumption. For reasons of simplicity and access I will use Wikipedia as a reference for total wind power plants in the U.S.

This link quotes the total installed nameplate capacity for all wind power in the US as 51,630MW, which may seem a very impressive number. Compare that with a large nuclear plant (or coal-fired power station, for that matter), where a typical nameplate capacity is 2000MW. Wind turbines come in many sizes, with the current generation of individual units typically capable of 2.5MW to 3MW, substantially larger than earlier models. I will use an average generator size of 2MW, and with that overall nameplate capacity of 51,360MW we get a ballpark figure of 26,000 wind towers. In fact, since earlier generators were smaller, the actual number of US wind towers is more than 40,000 as shown at this link.

So, because this comparison is with nuclear plants, let’s then look for a total nameplate capacity, and for this I will use the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) site and the chart, provided at this link, detailing the nameplate capacity for all electrical power generation in the U.S. This reveals total nameplate capacity for nuclear power in the US is 106,731 MW. What we also see is that wind is listed as having almost half the nameplate capacity of nuclear. (51,630 MW). So wind is large contributor, right?

Not so fast! While you are inspecting that same chart, look at the total listed for Overall Nameplate Capacity (ONC), which is stated as 1,138,638 MW. From this we can work out the percentages of the total nameplate capacity for both wind and nuclear.Wind comes in at 4.53% of the total and nuclear represents 9.37% of ONC. Again, those figures make it look like wind power is making major inroads into total U.S. power generation.

And, once again, a little knowledge deceives. Remember, this is nameplate capacity, not the real-world power being generated for consumption -- the power actually delivered to the grid. However, we do have accurate data for that, drawn from the EIA’s huge database, and as of December, 2012, the available information was only three months old.

Let us now compare the actual power delivered for consumption from both wind and nuclear.

This is the link for the page that shows the overall data and at that page I will point you to the figures for nuclear, and also the total overall power figure. This is the link for the page that shows the data for renewable power, and at that page we find the figures for wind power.

At that first page look at the figures for the actual total generation (power delivered to the grid) from nuclear plants (scroll to the bottom of the chart and they are the figures along the line headed Rolling 12 Months Ending in September). The nuclear figures are the sixth from the left, shown as 783,940 GWH (GigaWattHours), each GWH being the equivalent of 1000 MWH.

Look next at the far right and you’ll see the total power delivered to grids for consumption from every power source in the U.S. That figure is 4,051,044 GWH.

Now, from those figures, we can work out the percentage of actual power  delivered by nuclear, and it comes to 19.35%. Compare that with the percentage mentioned earlier for nameplate capacity, which was 9.37%, and the discrepancy demands an explanation. After all, how could nuclear be supplying more than twice the power of its listed theoretical maximum?

The answer isn’t too hard to nut out: Nuclear’s actual contribution is so much higher because other, less consistently productive sources – like wind, for example -- fall short. According to the EIA’s numbers, nuclear plants are producing reliable power almost 90% of the time, pretty much the only interruptions coming when they are offline for fuelling and maintenance.

See how using the nameplate capacity figure is misleading, vastly understating the actual level of power generated by nuclear? Use that smaller nameplate figure and it gives the impression that nuclear is not much of a contributor, when the fact of the matter is that it is the third-largest electrical power delivery source in the U.S. after coal- and gas-fired generation.

Now, do the same exercise for wind. At that second link, you will see the rolling, 12-month figure for wind is 135,506 GWH. After comparing that to the total power delivered, the percentage for wind comes in at only 3.34%, vs. the nameplate total of 4.53%.

What is interesting here is to compare both overall nameplate figures with power-delivered figures: nuclear delivers almost six times the power while being only twice the size in terms of nameplate capacity.

I mentioned earlier the variability of wind power, and cite again the capacity factor (CF). Wind’s CF, going on this data, is currently running at almost 30%. (29.9%)  Over 12 months, and bearing in mind the total number of wind generators, that means a rule-of-thumb average per unit of just seven and a quarter productive hours per day.

And it gets worse – or just plain silly, depending on your capacity to be amused by human folly. Because of that inherent variability, wind power cannot be counted on to be available when needed, so conventional generating plants cannot be turned off if blackouts are to be avoided. What green advocates never seem capable of remembering is that conventional power plants are not wall switches; rather, they take hours to power up and power down. To be ready to make up for wind’s variability, they must be kept operating pretty much all the time.

Bottom line: wind plants provide power that isn’t needed and can never replace traditional methods of generation. As to the power they do provide, 40,000 turbines equal just nine nuclear plants.

Wind-power advocates may be inclined to accuse me of writing this in order to besmirch their favourite technology. They would be mistaken. I have no need to make wind generation look bad. It does that all by itself


Up to 70,000 British jobs 'are at risk from Brussels climate change law'

Up to 70,000 British jobs are at risk as a direct result of European carbon reduction targets, according to a report.

The policies have pushed up the cost of energy, threatening the vital mineral industries which deal in materials such as  cement, chemicals, glass, ceramics and steel, the study claims.

It says the aluminium industry has been ‘virtually eradicated’ after closures in Anglesey and Northumberland, and blames policies which penalise ‘energy-intensive’ industries for emitting too much carbon dioxide.

As a result, firms in such industries, which employ 70,000 people, could be driven abroad where there are less stringent targets, costing jobs on our shores with no overall environmental benefits.

The study by think-tank Civitas claims the only way to save the £400billion-a-year industry is to scrap plans to fine firms which produce too much carbon dioxide.

Ministers should exempt such companies from the climate change levy – a tax on industries which do not use renewable energy – to the maximum extent permitted under EU directives.

And it says the Coalition should abandon its ‘unachievable’ target of generating  20 per cent of electricity by renewable methods by 2020 – the most far-reaching target in the EU.

The report said that EU legislation adds ‘considerable costs’ to energy prices, while the UK’s environmental strategy raises energy prices to high levels, even in comparison with the rest of the continent.

Unlike other countries with ambitious carbon reduction targets, Britain does not currently legislate to protect key industries.

Study author Kaveh Pourvand said: ‘Germany is careful to protect its energy-efficient industries with significant concessions on energy costs, estimated to be  nine billion euros in 2011.’

The report advocates scrapping the ‘carbon price floor’, the amount companies will have to pay per ton of carbon dioxide they emit, which is intended to come into force in April.

The author points out that the EU-wide policy means that the continent is allowed to emit a certain amount of CO2 each year.

But the ‘obvious flaw’ is that if Britain reduces its amount of CO2, other countries will be allowed to produce more, meaning British industry is unfairly shackled.

It concludes: ‘Following David Cameron’s pledge to lead the “greenest” government ever, the Coalition has stuck firmly to the implementation and continuance of the 2008 Climate Change Act, committing the UK to a unilateral cut in carbon emissions of 80 per cent by 2050 compared with 1990 levels.

‘For British manufacturing to revive, the Government should abandon its expensive climate change policies.’


Environmental Protection Lessons from Ronald Reagan 

‘Trust but Verify’

Cass R. Sunstein is a professor at the Harvard Law School and a former administrator of the Obama White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. His op-ed in the NY Times (Nov 11, 2012) tells us that a cost-benefit analysis convinced President Reagan of the value of the 1987 Montreal Protocol (to control substances that deplete the stratospheric ozone layer).

Sunstein then admonishes Republican lawmakers to apply Reagan’s lesson to global warming and CO2.  But he seems to have forgotten his own published paper “Of Montreal and Kyoto: A Tale of two Protocols” (Harvard Environmental Law Rev 2007) in which he quite clearly explained why Kyoto does not work, one reason being that costs are huge and benefits small. But even Sunstein’s historical account is challenged in a guest post by Reiner Grundmann, a professor of Science & Technology Studies at the University of Nottingham.

According to Sunstein, Reagan evidently trusted and accepted the numbers he was given by his economic advisors. But he certainly didn’t verify them. Had he done so he might not have been as quick in his support as Sunstein suggests. The moral of the story: Cost-benefit analysis is fine, but the numbers must be supported by sound science. Note that chief US negotiator Richard Benedick recounts (with obvious pride) in his book Ozone Diplomacy, that the Montreal Protocol was negotiated without the benefit of any support from science.

The Antarctic Ozone Hole

In reality, the drive for Montreal was propelled by panic generated by lurid newspaper accounts of possible health consequences from the Antarctic Ozone Hole (AOH), which was discovered in 1985. Having personally devised the satellite instrument that tracked the AOH, I remember well the scary accounts of blind sheep in Patagonia—with suggestions that people living in the southern hemisphere would be similarly affected.

It is ironic that the AOH was never predicted but discovered by serendipitous observations. The original mechanism for ozone destruction discussed by the late Sherwood Rowland and Mario Molina applied only to the upper stratosphere, where there is very little ozone—and is therefore of little practical significance. A more complicated mechanism apparently operates in the lower stratosphere where most of the ozone is concentrated; it was worked out only after the AOH discovery. It still involves chlorine as the agent for ozone destruction, but it also requires the presence of particulates in the stratosphere.

It is worth noting that at the time of the Montreal Protocol, published evidence did not indicate a detectable human contribution to stratospheric chlorine. It had been known that long-lived CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons, with a lifetime of a century or so) could reach the stratosphere. After all, there was an observed increase in fluorine, but there was no corresponding increase in chlorine. If there had been an important contribution from anthropogenic CFCs, one should have seen a gradual increase in the concentration of stratospheric chlorine. But that was only established some years after Montreal when NASA scientist Curtis Rinsland repeated some of the crucial measurements and found a quite different result. Up until then, it had seemed that natural sources would swamp any chlorine contributed from CFCs. In fact, the expert opinion of Professor Rowland was that the (natural) contribution to stratospheric chlorine could be ignored—that from ocean salt spray would be less than 1 part per 10,000—a claim nearly impossible to verify.

So President Reagan missed the chance to verify the benefits numbers he got from his economic team. He should have noticed, however, that despite the measured increase in CFCs there was no corresponding increase in solar ultraviolet radiation at the earth’s surface - as a consequence of possible ozone depletion. (Solar UV-B is the presumed agent that causes skin cancer.)

Fast forward to the Bush (41) administration: Premature reports of an incipient Arctic ozone hole (the notorious “Hole over Kennebunkport” that never existed) threw George Bush into a panic and caused him to advance the US phase-out date of CFCs by five years—at great expense. On the other hand, China will be the last country required to phase out CFCs—by 2016.  Meanwhile, the rest of the world has switched to HFCs; they won’t deplete ozone, but they are global-warming gases which will face controls in the near future.

Skin Cancer Facts

Another fast forward—to the Clinton administration: One of the hot issues then was the possible ban on Methyl Bromide (MeBr), an extremely important agricultural chemical, used as a fumigant to preserve stored grain from all sorts of spoilage and pests. It became a ’cause celebre’ for environmental zealots who wanted to ban every possible agent that might destroy stratospheric ozone. Yet MeBr is very different from CFCs. Most of it originates from natural sources rather than from manufacture. Its atmospheric lifetime is only a few months rather than a century or so; it really is doubtful if it lasts long enough to reach the stratosphere. In any case, there was no measurement showing a stratospheric increase in bromine compounds. So again, no scientific evidence of a human contribution—and no effort to verify.

A key factor in phasing out MeBr was testimony by EPA assistant administrator Mary Nichols. (Yes, this is the same Mary Nichols who now heads the powerful California Air Resources Board). She told a hearing chaired by Congressman John Doolittle (R-CA) that the benefits of phasing out MeBr would be 32 trillion dollars—an incredible sum of money in the 1990s when even a billion dollars was real money.

Now it turns out that she got those numbers from a trusted (activist) economist in the Clinton White House, but of course she didn’t verify. If she had, she would have found that the serious form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma, seems to be caused mainly by solar UV-A radiation, rather than UV-B. (All this was established in experiments by Richard Setlow at Brookhaven National Lab; in fact, recent research indicates that melanoma may develop without any solar radiation.) And since UV-A is not absorbed by ozone at all, efforts to protect the ozone layer would not protect against melanoma.

Prof. Sunstein tries to extrapolate the lesson from Montreal (as he sees it) to the Kyoto Protocol and to global warming. I agree with him that cost-benefit analysis is a wonderful tool, but it has to be verified by proper science. When we do that, we will find that all of the current efforts to eliminate the greenhouse-gas carbon dioxide are pointless, extremely expensive—and counterproductive.


The Obama Green Energy Scam You May Have Missed

Have you seen the latest development in President Obama's waste-ridden, clean energy program that's now under federal investigation at the U.S. Treasury Department?

Three of the country's biggest residential solar panel installers -- SolarCity, SunRun and Sungevity -- have been subpoenaed by Treasury's Office of Inspector General for their financial records to determine if they had inflated the market value of their costs when they applied for federal reimbursement.

The firms have reportedly received more than $500 million in federal grants and tax credits. Officials in two of them, Solar-City and SunRun, have been among some of Obama's most generous campaign donors.

The money these companies tapped into flowed from a $13 billion investment fund in Treasury that came from the president's economic stimulus program which has poured huge sums of money into clean energy programs across the country.

Obama has sunk billions of tax dollars into a scandal-ridden swamp of other energy deals that were crafted and promoted by administration business cronies who also were among his biggest fundraisers.

After an exhaustive analysis of thousands of memos, company records and internal e-mails about Obama's green-technology spending program, the Washington Post concluded that it was "infused with politics" at every level of the decision-making process. Political considerations dominated the White House's deal-making and all too often overruled warnings that billions of tax dollars would be lost on shaky energy projects that should never have been approved.

Take, for example, Sanjay Wagle, a venture capitalist and one of Obama's fundraisers in 2008. He left his firm in California to work in Obama's Energy Department on a $40 billion spending program to stimulate the economy by investing in clean technology companies.

It's questionable just how much "stimulus" much of this money provided to the economy when unemployment is still close to 8 percent, and a number of these firms went bankrupt and eventually laid off thousands of workers.

Nevertheless, over the next three years the Energy Department officials Wagle was advising plowed $2.4 billion into clean energy corporations that Wagle's former company, Vantage Point Venture Partners, had invested in.

"Overall, the Post found that $3.9 billion in federal grants and financing flowed to 21 companies backed by firms with connections to five Obama administration staffers and advisers," the newspaper reported at the time.

Those insider connections helped grease the wheels for dubious clean energy investments that went belly up, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill on loans guaranteed by the government.

One of them was a $535 million loan to the now-bankrupt solar panel firm Solyndra that Obama promoted against the better judgement of top budget and contract officials who warned the White House against the deal.

What has come to light so far as part of a congressional investigation is the administration's willful order to approve a bad loan, despite dire warnings from a number of federal officials that the California-based Solyndra was in deep financial trouble.

A steady stream of government e-mails released by a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee tell a sordid tale of a company Obama turned into an energy showcase for his $40 billion loan program -- until Solyndra declared bankruptcy in August, putting 1,100 employes out of work.

One of the people promoting Solyndra's $535 million million loan, which will be paid off by federal taxpayers, was Steven J. Spinner, a senior Energy Department adviser, an Obama campaign fundraiser, and a Silicon Valley investor given the job of guiding the administration's clean technology investments.

He was not only one of Solyndra's insider defenders, his wife worked for the California law firm that represented the solar panel company and helped it file for the federal government loan her husband was promoting, according to the Post investigation.

While growing internal concerns were being raised about Solyndra's shaky finances as early as the summer of 2009, Spinner e-mailed a top aide to then-Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel that Solyndra was a financially solvent company that fully deserved the administration's support. "I haven't heard anything negative on my side," he assured Emanuel's aide in an e-mail about the warnings.

As the loan deal stalled over internal criticism of the firm's looming insolvency, Spinner grew more impatient. "How [expletive] hard is this?' he wrote to a career Energy staffer on Aug. 28, 2009 about its delayed clearance by an Office of Management and Budget official. "What is he waiting for?"

But complaints from Office of Management and Budget and Treasury officials about Solyndra's finances, as well as its favorable loan terms, still persisted.

"In an administration that said it would curtail lobbyists' influence, the documents show ardent lobbying by political appointees inside the agencies and significant White House access given to venture capitalists with a major stake in the $40 billion stimulus investment program for clean energy," the Post reported.

The demise of Solyndra and the loss of 1100 jobs was one of the administration's many investment failures.

Others have included Ener 1 that was awarded a $118 million "stimulus" deal from Obama, only to go bankrupt on Jan. 26, 2011; the North Las Vegas-based solar power firm Amonix that laid off 700 workers and shut down in May after receiving $6 million in federal tax credits and a $15.6 million federal grant; and Abound Solar that reaped a $400 million federal loan guarantee to build photovoltaic panel factories before halting production and laying off 180 employes in February and has since declared bankruptcy.

Although Obama declared that the energy grants and loans were all "based solely on their merits," Hoover Institution scholar Peter Schweizer reported in his book, "Throw Them All Out," that 71 percent went to "individuals who were [fundraising] bundlers, members of Obama's National Finance Committee, or large donors to the Democratic Party."


Obama’s wind-production tax-credit swindle

Serves big business, hurts the environment

Regarding the federal deficit, President Obama famously said, “I will not support any plan that puts all the burden for closing our deficit on ordinary Americans [and yet does not ask] the biggest corporations to pay their fair share.” Now, however, Mr. Obama vigorously supports at least one policy that violates that pledge: the federal production tax credit (PTC) for wind energy.

Conceived in 1992 as a means to spur the construction of wind-energy facilities that could compete with monopoly-owned conventional fossil-fuel power plants, this hefty tax credit mostly has benefited the same monopoly: conventional nuclear and fossil-fuel-fired electricity producers.

With wind plants totaling 9,289 megawatts of capacity, Florida-based NextEra Energy/FPL (aka Florida Power & Light) is the largest recipient of this tax credit. Of course, NextEra is only the largest, not the only, corporate beneficiary of taxpayer largesse. Nonetheless, the largesse it receives is huge.

Primarily because of the PTC’s generous tax benefit, BusinessWeek reports, from 2005 to 2009 “FPL has paid just $88 million in taxes on earnings of nearly $7 billion.” That gave FPL a tax rate of merely 1.25 percent over that period. Most corporations average a 30 percent tax rate. At that rate, FPL’s tax obligation would have been more than $2 billion.

This $2 billion tax avoidance is a result of the company’s “taking advantage of incentives to develop renewable resources.”

One might argue that these lavish tax credits are warranted, as they supposedly level the playing field between startup producers of “clean” wind energy and established “dirty” conventional energy producers. Yet NextEra/FPL is the eighth-largest power producer in the United States, with the bulk of its generation coming from fossil or nuclear sources.

The company owns the largest fossil plant in the United States, the recently completed West County Energy Center’s combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plant, located on a 220-acre site in the environmentally sensitive Everglades.

Curiously, the price tag for this facility is also $2 billion, nearly equal to the value of NextEra/FPL’s combined tax credits from 2005 to 2009.

NextEra/FPL boasts that its huge number of PTC-driven wind-generation plants have “allowed FPL to avoid building 13 medium-sized power plants since 1980.” Ignoring the fact that intermittent wind turbines never can replace steady, reliable fossil plants, it appears that FPL more honestly could have stated the impact of the PTC thus: The wind-energy production tax credit funded the construction of America’s largest fossil-fuel generation plant, located in the heart of the environmentally sensitive Florida Everglades.

NextEra’s huge wind-turbine fleet seems impressive. When adjusted for wind’s on-again, off-again nature, however, the United States’ largest fleet of wind turbines will have an average capacity of perhaps 2,700 megawatts (ranging from zero to 9,000 megawatts hourly and daily) yet will cost $18 billion.

Had this $18 billion instead constructed eight gas turbine plants like NextEra/FPL’s new one in the Everglades, the company would have nearly 30,000 megawatts of dependable capacity versus wind’s paltry and unreliable 2,700 megawatts. Moreover, gas turbines, unlike wind turbines, actually could replace dozens of coal plants while reducing carbon-dioxide emissions by half.

This, too, is a return wind generation can never match because it forces “backup” fossil-fuel plants to ramp up and down constantly as wind speeds rise and fall, causing inefficiencies, high fuel use and high carbon-dioxide emissions.

What of the president’s pledge? While being committed to both “stopping the ocean’s rise” by controlling carbon dioxide and asking the “biggest corporations to pay their fair share,” he has let the PTC fail him on both counts.

Not only has the PTC helped a Fortune 200 company evade its “fair share” of corporate income tax, Mr. Obama has unwittingly let his beloved production tax credit fund the construction of the largest fossil-fuel gas-fired turbine plant in the United States a mere 1,000 feet from the Everglades’ Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge.

If Mr. Obama is serious about protecting the environment and making the “biggest corporations” pay their fair share, he should oppose any extension of the PTC.




Preserving the graphics:  Graphics hotlinked to this site sometimes have only a short life and if I host graphics with blogspot, the graphics sometimes get shrunk down to illegibility.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here and here


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