Friday, February 15, 2013

An unreferenced plunge into fantasy

Greg Laden writes below for Daily Kos.  Not a place for balanced discussion, of course.  But the story he tells below is just fantasy.  He does not mention for instance that the Arrhenius theories were regarded as disproven by the scientific "consensus" for most of the 20th century.  And the last sentence I reproduce below flies stright into the face of the latest HadCRUT global temperature statistics.  And HadCRUT is a Warmist product!  We are in fact not experiencing ANY warming, let alone warmer years than predicted.  There was some warming towards the end of C20 but none in the present century (which is why lots of Warmist charts end in the year 2000!)

It's no wonder that he gives no source, reference or link for  his assertions below.  He cannot.  It's just Goebbels-style propaganda.  More on the frantic Mr Laden here and here.  Laden is certainly inventive.

As we wrestle with hard science and hard policy and the interaction between the two, the real problem we face are made much harder to solve because of the seemingly incessant drumbeat of science denialism.

Climate change is real and is mainly caused by humans, but climate change science denialism is an industry, a cottage industry, or a hobby for many. Big oil pays for the production of anti climate science rhetoric and activism. Anti climate science activists exhibit bizarre non-scientific behavior that goes beyond denying anthropogenic climate change. It may be hard to tell if the denialist activism in this important area of science and policy is something people are driven to do by vocation, or if they make a living at it.

Climate Change is Real and Caused by humans

The idea that greenhouse gasses determine the temperature of the atmosphere…or more accurately, the atmosphere’s heat-holding capacity…is old, as is the idea that burning fossil fuels can release additional gasses, augmenting what is already in the atmosphere, to cause further warming. Svante Arrhenius, a Swedish scientist, suggested this in 1896. He measured the greenhouse effect of natural CO2 in the atmosphere, called it the “greenhouse effect” and with Thomas Chamberlin, attempted to estimate the amount of global warming that would occur with a doubling of CO2 from burning fossil fuel.

Numerous other scientists throughout the first two thirds of the 20th century verified and expanded on this knowledge. During the last third of the 20th century and through to the present, there have been significant improvements in the data required to measure Earth’s climatic changes and the relationship between greenhouse gases and global temperature. On one hand, more measuring stations and satellites intensified sampling for recent decades. On the other hand, the assembly of the older records from numerous weather stations around the world and the use of “proxyindicators” of ancient temperature were developed. It is now possible to reconstruct temperatures and precipitation patterns for many regions of the world, and globally, for hundreds of thousands of years of time with accuracy approaching that which would be achieved by sending hundreds of meteorologists equipped with instruments back in time, without the use of time machines. Which is good, because time machines have not yet been invented (nor, apparently, were they invented in the future!).

Serious scientists have not questioned the basic greenhouse model in decades, but rather, have worked to refine it, and to understand the relationship between natural effects, human effects, and the climate. A couple of decades ago, it was probably true that one could consider the possibility that some natural and human effects would increase warming while at the same time, others would decrease it. For instance, one might have thought that releasing CO2 from fossil sources into the atmosphere would increase plant growth. The increase in plant growth would, in turn, cause extra atmospheric CO2 to be captured by plant tissue, thus providing a negative feedback loop, bringing temperatures at least some measure back to normal. However, it turns out that there is a limit to how much this effect happens, and it is negligible.

At the same time, positive feedback loops have been considered. For example, if warming melts snow and ice, there may be less reflection of the sun’s energy back into space, causing a warmer atmosphere or ocean, enhancing warming and melting more snow and ice.

It turns out that the sum of negative feedbacks, reducing warming, and positive feedbacks, enhancing warming, do not balance out; positive feedbacks are numerous and often alarmingly potent while negative feedbacks are rare and weak. Burning a whole lot of fossil fuel makes the atmosphere and the seas warmer, and this, in turn, causes additional warming through numerous positive feedbacks. The only really strong factor causing cooling seems to be the occasional massive volcanic eruption which temporarily cools the atmosphere when upper level dust blocks sunlight or keeps some of the sun’s energy at high altitude where it returns more directly to space. The absolute amount of energy we get from the sun and its interaction with a dynamic atmosphere and magnetosphere also affects global temperature, but only a little.

In short, we’ve known about greenhouse effects, and the role of human activities that release additional greenhouse gas, for over 100 years, our understanding has become amazingly refined both in terms of data and modeling, and the greenhouse problem has typically been revealed to be worse, not better, than expected as the research progresses.

”Alarmists” should be more alarmed

Indeed, we may be seeing an important period of adjustment of climate models today. For various reasons, climate scientists have been conservative in their estimates of the severity of greenhouse warming. Many models of change provided multiple possible future trajectories and upper and lower likely limits. In reality, as models produced several years ago have been tested against measured reality, that reality has been at or above the predicted upper limits of change for many measures. We are experiencing warmer years than previously predicted.


Global warming scientists cooling it on CO2

Libertarian News Examiner has long argued against human-caused climate disruption nee climate change nee global warming on the basis that the science has been corrupted through politicization.

It just seems too coincidental that the "solution" to global warming is to tax 99 percent of Earth's population back into the Stone Age so the Master Class can act as everyone's environmental Savior.

"Coincidental" because it so perfectly mirrors the overall ideology of the coercive statist-welfarist-collectivist left.

But now Denver Libertarian Examiner Jeffrey Phelps shows through a chain of interlinking articles how the science has been corrupted by ... science.

For decades we've been told by UN climate scientists that the human-caused unsustainable rise in global C02 is creating a greenhouse effect that, unchecked by our Saviors, will melt the ice caps, drown coastal cities, kill polar bears and destroy our world as we know it.

But very quietly, says Phelps, environmental scientists are admitting that "recent figures suggest that climate sensitivity is drastically less than the IPCC's old estimate" based on "a substantiated group of corroborating studies."

This is not a "single-study syndrome" situation, we're told, in which one random warming denier or climate change skeptic publishes contrarian data.

What we have is "an accumulating body of reviewed, published research shaving away the high end of the range of possible warming estimates [4.5°C] from doubled carbon dioxide levels" leading to "best estimates of climate sensitivity are now merging into a commonly understood figure that is even lower than 2°C … A vast reduction from alarmist's original estimates."

Yet, notes Phelps, no one in the liberal media – that is to say, the media – has been reporting this story, "other than the original journalist in a major mainstream news publication and a blog or two."

That major mainstream news publication is "a respected NYT earth-science blog," Phelps writes, which "came forward admitting the once over-hyped threat of CO2, as it relates to alleged global warming, may no longer be as much of a problem as previously advertised."

Another is Matt Ridley whose WSJ article suggests, "Evidence points to a further rise of just 1°C by 2100. The net effect on the planet may actually be beneficial."

Phelps finally quotes a publication that "ends by acknowledging 'libertarians' as having been right all along."



Algae, evolution, and the future of biofuels

The fiscal cliff deal that greeted New Year's Day included language qualifying algal biofuels for the $1.01 per gallon blending tax credit available already to cellulosic and advanced biofuels. Once again, rather than letting market-based evolution work out how to replace fossil fuels, the government has decided it can pick the winner.

This of course has reignited both sides of a long-running debate, either touting algae as fuel sources of the future, or dismissing them as so much "pond scum." I have made a career of biologically derived liquid transport fuels (LTFs) and would like to offer some clarifying information.

Algae are amazing creatures. They or something like them created the petroleum deposits on earth from which we derive our LTFs, working their magic over many millennia. The potential energy yield from an acre of land, if this process could be run at 100 percent efficiency, is truly impressive, so scientists have been tinkering with algae growth and genetics.

Getting There

Here are the numbers: Of the sun's energy that makes it to Earth, only about 17 percent reaches the surface, translating annually into 7,000 mega joules of light energy on a square meter of “standard” earth surface area. Only 53 percent of sunlight is photosynthetically active; about 70 percent of this actually makes contact and is absorbed by chlorophyll. Algae are able to convert 32 percent of chlorophyll-bound energy into fat. If everything worked perfectly, algae could produce approximately 15,000 to 20,000 gallons of liquid fuel per acre per year.

The science is well understood. In a nutshell, algae convert sunlight into molecules by reversing our digestive process. We eat sugars, extract energy, and expel "end-metabolites" of CO2 and water. Algae and other photosynthetic organisms take these metabolic dead ends and turn them back into the stuff of life: DNA, protein, and fat. They absorb sunlight with the enzyme chlorophyll, using the energy to bond CO2 with water, and store excess energy as fat. Some obese strains of algae generate 25 percent and sometimes even 50 percent of their body mass as fat.

It takes more processing to convert this fat into useful LTFs. Fat from algae can be extracted from the non-fat using methods similar to those for extracting soybean and canola oil—with a chemical solvent and/or with mechanical "breaking" of the cells. Both processes take a considerable amount of energy, but do produce a net output of fatty oils. Extracted oils can then be converted into the biological equivalent of diesel. Biodiesel, such as Willie Nelson's BioWille, is only the most prominent example. UOP and Neste Oil, among others, have competing technologies for converting oils into "green diesel," with a near-identical chemical fingerprint to diesel.

Just Engineering

But here's where, as a biochemical engineer, I must recommend caution. There’s an industry adage that goes, “Once you solve the science, everything else is just engineering.” But that “just engineering” is another way of saying that it usually doesn't work perfectly. If you don't want just a teaspoonful but rather 60 billion gallons of bio-equivalent diesel, it's not as simple as building more and bigger test tubes. There are certain to be issues and limits associated with scaling up.

Take just one example: Two of the ingredients, CO2 and water, are simple to combine; they make soda water. But scaling that up to account for all of the CO2 produced by U.S. diesel combustion—more than 440 million metric tons annually—presents a host of problems. For one thing, actually converting that much CO2 to soda would fill Lake Tahoe. Then you have to source the CO2. The air contains plenty, but has to be concentrated to be of any practical use. Industrial and utility combustion off-gases are rich in CO2, but are also dirty and not necessarily located where the sun shines brightly enough. Then we have to bring the water, CO2, algae, and sunlight together in some processing machinery. Will we use open ponds or enclosed plastic or glass bioreactors? Open ponds raise environmental contamination issues. Enclosed reactors would require a lot of plastic and glass that reflect light. In all cases, pumping water and mixing CO2 are energy intensive.

And the Winner Is…

What's my point?  That each scale-up issue and parasitic energy load reduces the actual gallons per acre per year to well below the number of theoretical gallons. So the land area equivalent needed to replace diesel with algae may be Connecticut, or it may be Alaska. Algae may not even work out as an engineering solution to LTF production. We simply don't know yet, and we won't until the market is allowed to allocate capital to the thousands of engineering R&D projects that need to be completed before a practical biofuels industry is in place.

ExxonMobil invested heavily in photosynthetic algae technology. You probably saw their commercials. Joule Unlimited, a biotech startup company, manipulates the genetics of blue-green algae (which is actually a photosynthetic bacteria) to directly produce diesel analogues that transfer across the cell membrane and alleviate the need for physical extraction. Dynamic Energy is a joint venture between Tyson Foods and Syntroleum for converting animal fats and inedible greases into green diesel. Chevron and an international lumber company, Weyerhaeuser, also have a joint venture between them, Catchlight Energy, with a "longer term focus on direct conversion of biomass to hydrocarbons." Royal Dutch Shell and BP Biofuels—the business unit of BP where I worked as principal engineer—have both invested in Brazilian sugarcane ethanol. Both have also invested in biotech companies with cellulosic ethanol and advanced biofuel technologies. And I was part of a technology collaboration between BP and Royal DSM, looking into non-photosynthetic organisms as an alternative to algae-derived diesel.

Who's right? I don't know. What I do know is that no one in the government knows, either. I do know that biofuels are worth investigating as a potentially cost-effective means of producing a substantial supply of LTFs for the world. Mother Nature uses an evolutionary process that involves testing and rejecting millions of systems over billions of years before winners emerge. We don’t need that much time, but we do need the patience to let market-based economic evolution take place. Let's give the market-based evolutionary process an opportunity to work its magic.


Shale oil 'to boost world economy by up to $2.7tn'

Shale oil production could boost the world economy by up to $2.7tn (£1.7tn) by 2035, according to a report.

The extra supply could reach up to 12% of global oil production, or 14 million barrels a day, and push global oil prices down by up to 40%, PricewaterhouseCoopers said.

Shale oil and gas have emerged as a viable way to boost energy supplies.

However, there are concerns over the process by which the gas is extracted, known as fracking.

In fracking, a mixture of water, sand and some chemicals is pumped into a well under high pressure to force the gas from the rock. It has been linked to minor earthquakes, and there are concerns about its impact on the environment.

In its report, PwC said that the level of global growth could increase by around as much as 3.7% by the extra supply of shale oil, which is the equivalent of adding an economy roughly the size of the UK to the total world economy by 2035.

But the benefits of oil price reductions due to shale oil will vary significantly by country.

Current major oil exporters, such as Russia and the Middle East, could be "significant net losers in the long term unless they can develop their own shale oil resources on a large scale", it said.

Last month, China stepped up its efforts to explore shale gas reserves by awarding exploration rights on 19 shale gas areas to 16 firms.

Demand for energy in China has surged in recent years as its economy has expanded. The country is now the world's biggest energy consumer.

In December, the UK government gave the go-ahead for a firm to resume fracking to exploit gas in Lancashire, which was stopped after two tremors near Blackpool.


Why Greenies should love shale:  Shale gas finds could kill Nuclear

But there's no such thing as a happy Greenie, of course

Nuclear power stations in Canada and the United States are closing because they cannot compete with cheap power being produced from shale gas.

This revolution in the way North America produces its electricity is sending shock waves through the nuclear industry in Europe too. New nuclear build will be spectacularly uneconomic if a fracking industry is successful in the United Kingdom.

Gas prices would tumble as they have across the Atlantic. Even the existing nuclear stations in France, Belgium and the UK would find themselves struggling to compete, especially if they need investment to achieve modern safety standards.

A report, expected to be published shortly by the UK Government, shows that the country may have massive gas reserves that can be released by fracking.

It is a controversial technology because of environmental concerns about water contamination and earthquakes, but it promises cheap power, far cheaper than even the most optimistic new nuclear station operator could offer.

If the leaked reports that the British Geological Survey has dramatically increased its estimate of the amount of gas available in the UK are correct, then reserves are 200 times greater than originally thought. This is enough for more than a century of British needs and will cut gas prices across Europe.

This kind of bonanza in the US has made gas generation cheaper than coal, resulting in a reduction in coal-fired generation there and a fall in coal prices internationally. The switch to gas has led to a temporary drop in US greenhouse gas emissions from the power industry, because gas is a cleaner fuel than coal.

In the long run, however, a large supply of cheap gas undercutting both renewables and nuclear will be a serious threat to international attempts to tackle climate change.

Nuclear power, supported by the UK Government chiefly as a low carbon technology that is important to the energy mix, would be priced out of the market.

An example of what may happen in Europe if fracking gets under way is the decision on the Gentilly-2 reactor in Quebec. The low price of generation from gas obtained by fracking – four to five cents a kilowatt hour – puts the nuclear power plant at a competitive disadvantage. Its current production price is nine cents and it needs a $4.3 million refurbishment.

This makes it uneconomic to update. According to the Montreal Gazette Thierry Vandal, president of Hydro-Quebec which owns the reactor, told a national assembly committee hearing that “shale gas killed Quebec’s only nuclear reactor.”

The financial analysts Bloomberg say six nuclear stations are at risk of “early retirement” in the US for the same reason. Duke Energy has decided to close the Crystal River Unit 3 plant in Florida rather than repair it, and Dominion Resources Inc’s Kewaunee reactor in Wisconsin is closing. The future of four other reactors is being reviewed.

In the UK the programme to build at least eight new reactors has hit trouble because a series of potential backers has pulled out – the latest of them Centrica, the largest electricity supplier in the country.

It had a 20% stake in plans by EDF, the French nuclear giant, to build four new reactors in England. With costs escalating and delays, the company wrote off the £200 million it had already spent on the project and said that instead it was to concentrate on gas generation and renewables (see our report of 5 February).


EDF is looking for new partners and is in talks with the UK Government to try to get a minimum price for electricity from the new stations. This is to be a guarantee for investors so that they will get their money back.

The trouble is that the European Union bans subsidies, so the Government will have trouble avoiding legal action if it props up nuclear power. The nuclear industry is reported to need a price of £100 a megawatt hour for 30 years for its electricity to get a reasonable return on its investment, while the current price is around £60.

If EDF built four reactors that would cost householders and businesses about £1 billion a year in higher bills, a decision not likely to be popular.

The nuclear industry’s current plans are to build four of the European Pressurised Reactors at two sites in England. The two under construction in Finland and France are years late and billions over budget. There was another blow this week (Monday 11 February) when the the Finnish plant, the prototype, was delayed again, until 2016.

It was started in 2005 and was supposed to be connected to the grid first in 2009, then in 2012. The start date was then put back in 2012 to “beyond 2014”, and the cost rose from 3 bn euros to more than 6 bn.



Three current articles below

Burn-off policy outrage in Tasmania

Greenie opposition to precautionary burnoffs designed to prevent forest fires is hard to understand except by reference to their misanthropy

A GROUP of Tasmanian farmers say their livelihoods are being threatened by bureaucratic red tape stopping them from burning off on their land and putting their properties at risk of further catastrophic fires.

Lobby group leader and owner of Redbanks at Nugent, Sorell councillor Lindsay White, was due to take part in a teleconference last night with the NSW Volunteer Firefighters Association to give advice based on the issues facing Tasmanian farmers after the Lake Repulse, Forcett and Molesworth fires.

"Our group believes that farmers' property rights have been eroded over the past 30 years to appease the wishes of government departments," Mr White said.

"Farmers are unable to effectively manage their own properties because of the quagmire of red and green tape," he said.

The group has now met with Emergency Management Minister David O'Byrne and Tasmania Fire Service chief Mike Brown to voice their concerns and demand change.

A Facebook page has also been set up called "It's Our Land Too" calling for supporters, and Mr White wants to hear from other landowners struggling to deal with bureaucratic red tape.

The group says the Forcett fire would not have exploded into such a catastrophic event if Parks and Wildlife adhered to their reserves management plans and the Tasmania Fire Service "heeded the advice of local fire chiefs and farmers".

The TFS says it will work with farmers to address their concerns.

But Mr Brown said it was important to note that while the Forcett fire burned with the same ferocity of the deadly 1967 bushfires, there was no loss of life and far less property damage.

Carlton River farmer Leigh Arnold lost a shearing shed, wool shed and house in the Forcett blaze and says it was the final straw after hundreds of acres he planned to subdivide on his property were locked up after being deemed "potential foraging ground" for the swift parrot.


An extreme contrast between electric cars and V8s

Governments are pissing into the wind with their "green" car initiatives.  Virtually nobody wants them.  

Holden has revealed the V8 muscle car that will take on the American car industry at its own game.

The SS Commodore will form the basis of a $200 million export program that will see the car sold as a Chevrolet alongside the iconic Camaro and Corvette muscle cars.

The car will also take to America's oval race tracks, becoming Chevrolet's entrant in the Nascar series, which ranks second only to the NFL in television ratings.

Holden moved forward the unveiling of the new Commodore because the export version will be shown to the American public for the first time tomorrow, as part of the lead up to the legendary Daytona 500.

The car will have one of the most powerful V8s ever fitted to a locally-produced car and Holden will only sell the most powerful – and, likely, thirstiest – version.

The move flies in the face of the Federal Government's controversial Green Car Innovation Fund, which has pumped money into the local car industry to make it more environmentally friendly.

In an era of downsizing and more fuel efficient vehicles – Holden has invested tens of millions of dollars into the new Commodore to reduce weight and improve fuel economy by about 10 per cent - the country's newest export is also its thirstiest.

The export car will look almost identical to the recently-revealed VF Commodore SS-V, albeit with Chevrolet badges and – possibly – bonnet scoops to give it a more aggressive look.

However it's expected to get a 6.2-litre V8, which will outgun the Holden version that makes do with a 6.0-litre V8.

Holden has said it is looking to sell between 3000 and 5000 to Chevrolet in the US, where it will be sold as the brand's flagship performance sedan, the SS.

It will likely sit between the locally-designed Camaro two-door and the Corvette flagship as a four-door performance hero in the Chevrolet range.

However Holden insiders have suggested those sales estimates are “very conservative” and that executives on both sides of the Pacific hope to achieve higher numbers, reinforcing the demand for V8 sedans.

Even the Corvette – a purebred sports car – sells in far higher numbers; it has regularly accounted for more than 30,000 in annual sales and even since the global financial crisis has accounted for more than 10,000 sales annually.

In Australia sales of V8s are strong, too, with about one-third of all Commodores sold fitted with a V8.

The figures show that despite a global push towards fuel efficiency, Australians are reluctant to sacrifice power for fuel economy and environmental concerns.

Despite significant media coverage and new arrivals last year, fewer than 200 all-electric cars were sold in 2012, whereas more than 25,000 V8-powered cars were sold in Australia.


Conservative leader backs plans to build more dams

A horror moment for the Green/Left.  Dams are their bete noir

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says Australians need to get over their "dam phobia", amid reports the Coalition is considering a multi-billion dollar plan to build up to 100 dams across the country.

Mr Abbott says there have been too few dams built in recent years, and it is time to throw off the "green extremism" that has prevented new projects going ahead.

"What we want to avoid is the dam phobia which has afflicted our country for at least a generation," he told reporters this morning.

"We currently use about 6 per cent of our available water resources. Nine per cent is the international average.

"If we could lift our utilisation to the international average, our agricultural productivity would be massively increased."

The idea, contained in a draft discussion paper, has the enthusiastic support of the Nationals, but there are differing interpretations within the Coalition of what status the plan for more dams has.

The Coalition's environment spokesman Greg Hunt this morning said no decision had been made on any particular dam proposal, suggesting some may not be viable.

"We have no proposal for 100 dams as such," Mr Hunt told ABC NewsRadio.

"Those are initiatives which other people have suggested to us and we've simply chronicled the submissions."

But Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce has rejected suggestions the draft discussion paper was just a pre-election thought bubble.

"This has been worked on for nearly two years, travelling the countryside, examining sites over the past couple of years," Senator Joyce told reporters in Canberra.

"This is certainly not a thought bubble. This is a key policy.

"It goes to show the Australian people that whilst we have been in Opposition we can be diligently doing our homework and preparing ourselves for that opportunity if it comes, the honour of government."

The Coalition's plan for more dams was initially leaked to News Limited newspapers, prompting ridicule from Labor.

"This is a story about water, dams and leaks," Labor frontbencher Craig Emerson told reporters in Canberra this morning.

"Mr Abbott has had three leaks in three weeks. This is a strange way to release policy."

Dr Emerson says the Coalition now needs to explain how it is going to pay for the mutli-billion dams plan.

"The Australian people expect the release of fully costed policies, so that they know about the policies of both parties, and... where the money is coming from."

Mr Abbott says new dams would only be built after a thorough cost-benefit analysis, but argues many projects would not need government funding.

"The proponents would fund them because the spin-offs - in terms of agricultural development, in terms of hydro electric power, in terms of flood mitigation - are just really too good to ignore," he told Macquarie Radio.




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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