Sunday, December 28, 2014

How solar power and electric cars could make suburban living awesome again

Chris Mooney is at it again.  He's a science popularizer without one of the most important things in science:  A critical mind.  Regurgitating hokum is his thing.  This time he is living in a fantasy world where everyone drives electric cars.  Good luck  with that!  Didn't the Chevy Volt teach anyone anything?

The suburbs have had it rough in the last few years. The 2008-2009 economic collapse led to waves of foreclosures in suburbia, as home prices plummeted. More recently, census data suggest that Americans are actually shifting back closer to city centers, often giving up on the dream of a big home in suburbs (much less the far-flung "exurbs").

It doesn't help that suburbia has long been the poster child for unsustainable living. You have to drive farther to work, so you use a lot of gas. Meanwhile, while having a bigger home may be a plus, that home is also costlier to heat and cool. It all adds up -- not just in electricity bills, but in overall greenhouse gas emissions. That's why suburbanites, in general, tend to have bigger carbon footprints than city dwellers.

You can see as much in this amazing map from researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, showing how carbon footprints go up sharply along the east coast as you move away from city centers:

But now, a new National Bureau of Economic Research working paper by Magali A. Delmas and two colleagues from the UCLA Institute of the Environment suggests that recent technologies may help to eradicate this suburban energy use problem. The paper contemplates the possibility that suburbanites -- including politically conservative ones -- may increasingly become "accidental environmentalists," simply because of the growing consumer appeal of two green products that are even greener together: electric vehicles and solar panels.

"There’s kind of hope for the suburbs, basically," says Delmas -- even though suburbia "has always been described as the worst model for footprint per capita, but also the attitude towards the environment."

Here's why that could someday change. Installing solar panels on the roof of your suburban home means that you're generating your own electricity — and paying a lot less (or maybe nothing at all) to a utility company as a result. At the same time, if you are able to someday generate enough energy from solar and that energy is also used to power your electric car, well then you might also be able to knock out your gasoline bill. The car would, in effect, run “on sunshine,” as GreenTechMedia puts it.

A trend of bundling together solar and "EVs," as they're called, is already apparent in California. And if it continues, notes the paper, then the "suburban carbon curve would bend such that the differential in carbon production between city center residents and suburban residents would shrink."

The reason is that, especially as technologies continue to improve, the solar-EV combo may just be too good for suburbanites to pass up — no matter their political ideology. Strikingly, the new paper estimates that for a household that buys an electric vehicle and also owns a solar panel system generating enough power for both the home and the electric car, the monthly cost might be just $89 per month — compared with $255 per month for a household driving a regular car without any solar panels.

This dramatic savings becomes possible to contemplate, notes the study, due to the growing prevalence of $0 down payment options both for installing solar panels, and for buying electric vehicles. Via government subsidies.   Subsidizing everyone might even stretch Uncle Sam -- JR


Polar Ice Caps More Stable Than Predicted, New Observations Show

A global warming expert has said the poles are not melting. In fact, the poles are "much more stable" than climate scientists once predicted and could even be much thicker than previously thought.

For years, scientists have suggested that both poles are melting at an alarming rate because of warming temperatures - dangerously raising the Earth's sea levels while threatening the homes of Arctic and Antarctic animals.

But the uncertainty surrounding climate change and the polar ice caps reached a new level this month when research suggested the ice in the Antarctic is actually growing.

And there could even be evidence to suggest the polar bear population is not under threat.

Ted Maksym, an oceanographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, conducted a study in which he sent an underwater robot into the depths of the Antarctic sea to measure the ice.

His results contradicted previous assumptions made by scientists and showed that the ice is actually much thicker than has been predicted over the last 20 years.

Dr Benny Peiser, from the Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF), said this latest research adds further proof to the unpredictability of the supposed effects of global warming.

He said: "The Antarctic is actually growing and all the evidence in the last few months suggests many assumptions about the poles was wrong.

"Global sea ice is at a record high, another key indicator that something is working in the opposite direction of what was predicted."

He added: "Most people think the poles are melting... they're not. This is a huge inconvenience that reality is now catching up with climate alarmists, who were predicting that the poles would be melting fairly soon."

Separate satellite data released this month showed evidence that at the other end of the globe, the ice in the Arctic sea is also holding up against climate change better than expected.

The data from the European Space Agency CryoSat-2 satellite suggests that Arctic sea ice volumes in the autumn of 2014 were above the average set over the last five years, and sharply up on the lows recorded in 2011 and 2012.

According to this research, Arctic sea ice volumes in October and November this year averaged at 10,200 cubic kilometres.

This figure is only slightly down on the 2013 average of 10,900 cubic kilometres, yet massively up on the 2011 low of 4,275 cubic kilometres and the 6,000 cubic kilometres recorded in 2012.

Dr Peiser, who believes the threat of global warming has been overstated by climate scientists, described this occurrence as "some kind of rebound" adding that no-one knows what will continue to happen to the poles.

He added: "This depends on whether or not we have further warming to come... and this is not certain.  "We do not know what the climate will be in 10, 20 years."

As well as melting ice, scientists have also been concerned about the population of the polar bears is rapidly decreasing.

But a previous report this summer by Dr Susan Crockford, an evolution biologist at the University of Victoria in Canada, suggested that the polars bears are actually a "conservation success story".

She told the GWPF that the current polar bear population is "well above" the official estimate of 20,000 to 25,000, and could be as high as 27,000 to 32,000.

Dr Peiser said: "People said the poles are melting, so therefore the polar bears will become extinct. They are actually doing very well."


Federal regulators say “Bah, Humbug!” to Christmas lights

Christmas lights have become so affordable that even the humblest of homes often are lit like the Star of Bethlehem. Federal bureaucrats are working to end this. They claim it will make us safer, but the facts don’t back them up.

It’s not uncommon to find strings of mini-lights priced at $1 for a hundred lights, sometimes even less. To cure this excessive affordability, the feds are rushing to save Americans from mass holiday displays. They seem to believe we all are like Clark Griswold, the bumbling father figure in National Lampoon’s “Christmas Vacation” (played by Chevy Chase), who nearly electrocutes himself, starts fires, falls off the roof and short-circuits power in his whole neighborhood as he tries to create a home display that would outdo Rockefeller Center.

The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has created an example of regulate first and explain why later. In October they proposed new regulations to outlaw strings of bulbs, lighted lawn figures and similar items that would be declared as hazardous. The red tape deals with certifying wire sizes, fuses, and tensile strength of all “seasonal decorative lighting products.”

This includes Christmas tree lights, lighted wreaths, menorahs, outdoor strands, lawn figures of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, or Santa or Rudolph or Frosty the Snowman. Yes, Kwanzaa, too. CPSC is an equal opportunity Scrooge. The agency estimates that their proposed regulations will impact 100 million items per year with a market value of $500 million.

Of course, those items already are covered by safety regulations and also by industry standards and oversight. CPSC admits that 3.6-million unsafe lights were recalled under existing safeguards in place since 1974.

So what is CPSC’s justification for adding red tape to the red, green, blue, yellow, white and other colored displays? They report 250 deaths from fires or electrocutions by Christmas lights. That’s not 250 deaths per year; it’s 250 deaths since 1980. They had to add together 33 years of statistics to misportray danger.

That averages seven deaths per year in our country of about 320 million people. The worst single year, CPSC reports, had 13 deaths. But most (80 percent) of those deaths were back in the 1980s and 1990s. Since then, deaths have declined annually. In 2013, there was one single death attributed to fire or shock from Christmas lights. One. That also was the average from 2008 through 2013: One death per year. That compares with an average of 13 per year from 1980 through 1993. The number has been declining ever since, without needing burdensome new federal regulations.

CPSC attributes the decline to improved industry standards, as issued through Underwriters Laboratory, and to more fire-resistant home-building techniques.

CPSC is testing the bounds of the often-heard claim that “If it saves only one life, it’s worth it.” Do they believe that regulating 100 million holiday items, adding to their $500 million cost, will save one life per year? Or is the true problem not defective products but defective human behavior? No regulation can counteract stupidity; we all do dumb things at times. But fortunately, Clark Griswolds are rare.

Promoting common-sense in using lights and extension cords is a better approach than more regulations, but that would be counter to the Big Brother,  control-everything, build-the-bureaucracy tendencies of federal agencies. Indeed, CPSC publishes safety guides not only for Christmas lights but also for all other household use of electricity. An abundance of safety guides are available from numerous organizations.

CPSC would never admit it, but we’re free to speculate on the true motive: That this is part of the Obama administration’s effort to reduce our use of electricity, lest global warming set the Earth on fire.

Holiday lights are major users of electricity.

CPSC’s comment period closes on Dec. 30th and its proposed regulations could become effective a month later. So enjoy everybody’s Christmas lights this holiday season, while you can.


Gasoline Brings Families Together This Holiday Season

The holiday season is one of the most traveled times of the year in the United States, and this year, “more Americans will join with friends and family to celebrate the holidays and ring in the New Year than ever before” states Marshall L. Doney of the American Automobile Association (AAA).

These happy reunions are made possible by vehicles that quickly, safety and inexpensively transport us across vast distances undeterred by inclement weather; vehicles powered by abundant and low-cost petroleum products such as jet fuel, diesel-distillate, and gasoline.

Some highlights from AAA’s 2014/2015 Year-End Travel Forecast:

Holiday travel is expected to total 98.6 million, an increase of four percent from the 94.8 million who traveled last year.
Travel volume for the year-end holidays will reach the highest peak recorded by AAA (since 2001).
Nearly 91 percent of all travelers (89.5 million) will celebrate the holidays with a road trip, an increase of 4.2 percent from 2013.
Air travel is forecast to grow one percent from 2013, with 5.7 million travelers taking to the skies.
Contrary to the claims of environmentalists that petroleum is an obsolete fuel that can and should be replaced by “green” energy, the fact that millions of Americans choose to fuel their vehicles with fossil fuels in order to visit loved ones suggests otherwise.

As we enter the holiday and make the choice to use petroleum to increase our happiness, let’s make an additional choice to honestly acknowledge and celebrate the fuel and the industry that makes this possible.


Still no global warming in Europe

Meteorologists Warn Of Blizzard Conditions, 30°C Temperature Plunge

So far it’s been a very mild winter across Central Europe. Just days ago, with temperatures in the double-digit Celsius range, meteorologists and media wrote off the possibility of a white Christmas. Gradually all the snow being a “thing of the past” talk was starting up.

Wrong again. So unpredictable can chaotic systems like weather and climate be.  Now Central Europeans are being told to brace for blizzard conditions, forecast to arrive this weekend. here reports that on Europe’s 2nd Christmas Day (December 26) snow will spread from the Alps and across southern Germany, and make its way through the east with temperatures dropping into the minus zones. By Saturday night readings will drop to as low as -6°C and snow will spread over the northwestern flatlands to the North Sea coast.

30°C temperature drop writes that significant snowfall is expected for Saturday with a thick blanket over many regions. “Winter will be setting an exclamation mark!” warns of blowing and “massive drifting snow” and of chaotic traffic conditions.

Temperatures will plummet to as low as -11°C, thanks to a low positioned over Italy pumping cold air from the East. By Tuesday, according to, readings will fall to as low as -18°C in East Germany, some 30°C below values measured just days ago.

In Fulda the temperature may drop to as low as -20°C on New Year’s Eve.

How long will the cold linger? Forecasts are showing it to persist into early January. This year the North Atlantic has been especially tempestuous and forecasts have been difficult to pinpoint more than 3 days out.

Long-range forecasts by the NCEP have been pointing to normal winter conditions for the January to March period. But judging by what Central Europe has seen so far, everything from spring-like to Arctic conditions are likely this winter. Once again, the North Atlantic dominates Europe’s weather.



Three current articles below

A Christmas malediction to the wind industry

The wind industry is finding it harder than ever to put its case – principally because – apart from fleecing power consumers – it doesn’t have one.

In its effort to keep the Large-Scale Renewable Energy Target (LRET) alive and the massive wind industry subsidies flowing unchecked, the Clean Energy Council (CEC) has been pumping out a dozen press releases a day, which have become so shrill, incoherent and internally inconsistent as to be nothing short of ridiculous.

2GB’s Alan Jones has been solidly belting the wind industry since the National Rally in June 2103 – reaching around 2 million Australian voters every week-day through 77 stations around the Country.

Plenty of mainstream journos have picked up on the debacle that is Australian energy policy today: joining the growing National and International backlash against the greatest economic and environmental fraud ever committed.

2014 has been a turning point in the battle to bring the great wind power fraud to a screaming halt.

European governments have run-out of patience with the eternal promises that the wind industry will grow-up soon, and no longer need a massive pile of taxpayer/power consumer subsidies. The tap has been turned off in Spain, the Brits are putting a lid on the subsidies for new projects and the Germans have chopped “welfare-for-wind” by 25% – all in the name of trying to cut spiralling power costs and keep their struggling economies afloat.

The wind industry’s subsidy fuelled mission to cover every last corner of Australia in giant fans is in melt down.

There are a handful still being speared into a couple of spots around the Country (Bald Hills and Cape Bridgewater in Victoria; Boco Rock, NSW), but the hucksters and frauds that are seeking to pocket $50 billion in REC Tax/Subsidies at power consumers’ expense are watching their plans for fans crumble before their beady, greedy little eyes.

Power retailers haven’t signed any power purchase agreements (PPAs) with wind power outfits for over 2 years – without which wind power outfits will never get the finance to plant another turbine: FULL STOP.

STT hears from insiders that – whatever happens to the LRET during the life of this Federal government – retailers are not going to enter PPAs; the banks are not going to lend for any new projects; and the banks that have lent, are all looking to call in their loans as and when the terms of their current lending facilities expire (the bulk of them expire in 2015/2016).

After which, wind power outfits will need to refinance on terms reflecting the very real RISK that the LRET will either be scaled back, scrapped, or inevitably collapse, at some point in the near future – as the completely unsustainable economic debacle that it is. That means either substantially higher rates or no-finance at all.

This will hopefully be the last Christmas celebrated by our favourite whipping boys at the near-bankrupt wind power outfit Infigen (aka Babcock and Brown): its losses continue to pile up, it’s bleeding cash, its share price is rocketing South and its mountain of debt is fast-becoming insurmountable. In a strange way, we’ll be sorry to see them go. But – rest assured – we’ll be amongst the first to let you know when they do.


Millions wiped out in "clean" energy failure

ONE of Australia’s highest profile clean energy companies has been placed in liquidation, wiping out at least $10 million in public grants and tax breaks and exposing its intellectual property to an offshore raid.

Wave energy developer Ocean­linx went into liquidation last week after a marine accident off the South Australian coast in March torpedoed plans for a wave energy generator designed to power 1000 houses.

The cost to investors after the demise of the clean ­energy company could be much more than $80 million.

Company chairman Tibor Vertes yesterday slammed liquidator Deloitte Australia, accusing it of failing to properly assess his bid to keep the Oceanlinx name afloat by protecting the intellectual property underpinning it.

Mr Vertes will take action in the Federal Court next month to pursue Deloitte and others in an attempt to protect intellectual property, but he believes a rival bid values that intellectual property at vastly less, and expects that the technology will be lost to Australia.

“It’s money out of the country,’’ Mr Vertes said . “It’s finished, it’s over.’’

Oceanlinx had built several prototypes of wave energy units, including three off the NSW coast and had planned to expand to substantially bigger markets in the US, Europe and Asia. At its peak, the firm had been listed by the UN as one of the top 10 clean-energy stocks in the world.

The latest reinforced concrete prototype weighed about 3000 tonnes and was designed to sit on the sea floor, transferring the electricity via cable to the electricity grid.

The company went pear-shaped when plans for a groundbreaking generator failed after it sank off South Australia while being transported.

Mr Vertes has accused the then administrators of failing to maximise the chances of Oceanlinx remaining alive, claiming that too little time had been granted to enable his interests to bid successfully for the remnants of Oceanlinx.

The preferred bidder is a company known as Wave Energy ­Renewable.

Mr Vertes’s lawyers argue that officials should ensure all bids are properly considered. Deloitte did not respond yesterday.

Earlier this month, however, lawyer Dominic Calabria defended the handling of the administration. “Our clients ... have advertised the sale of the assets of the company, fielded countless expressions of interest and conducted negotiations with a number of parties over an extended period of time,’’ Mr Calabria wrote.


South Australia: Payments slashed for solar homes that feed electricity into grid

THE once-generous payments householders received for their solar power will be scaled back to a 5.3c per kilowatt hour from the start of next year.  This equates to a return of about $540 per year from a 6kW system which is large enough to power most homes.

But if you installed the same sized system before October 2011 you would potentially be pulling in $4836 per year.  Those payments will continue until June 30, 2028.

The retailer feed-in tariff, which must be paid by your energy provider, was set at 7.6c/kWh last year but fell to 6c once the carbon price was removed.

The Essential Services Commission of South Australia has further reduced it to 5.3c/kWh because it “reflects the forecast wholesale market value of photovoltaic (solar) electricity in the coming year’’.

“The proposed value is lower than the 2014 retailer feed-in tariff of 6.0 cents/kWh, due to the lower forecast wholesale market price of electricity,’’ ESCOSA says.

Individual energy retailers can elect to pay householders more for their power.

The original 44c/kWh feed-in tariff was taken up by more than 100,000 householders before it was closed by the Government in September 2011, and reduced to 16c/kWh. Householders who receive these payments are also eligible for the 5.3c payment which is paid by energy retailers.

Those who signed up before the cut-off receive the higher tariff until the scheme expires in 2028, costing an estimated $1.425 billion — an amount recovered through fees charged to all electricity customers.

The initially generous scheme was designed to foster the growth of the solar industry.

Solar panel prices have plummeted since then, with larger systems much more affordable now.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  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 or here


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