Sunday, September 20, 2015

Massachusetts: Pilgrim nuclear plant says it may shut down

Another step towards shutting down America's electricity supply. Massachusetts has just lost its coal plants.  What's left?  Not much. They will be importing more and more power from Canada and elsewhere -- which will force already high electricity bills even higher.  But it's only the "little people" of Taxachusetts  that will suffer.  And what Leftist really cares about them? The grandees of Beacon Hill who cut down the coal plants can easily afford higher electricity bills.  Their  heating in winter and airconditioning in summer  will be unaffected -- JR

Officials at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station are considering whether they can afford the multimillion-dollar safety improvements and other reforms required by federal officials. If not, they say, they might close the plant.

After the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission downgraded the plant’s safety rating this month, Pilgrim joined two reactors in Arkansas as the least safe in the country. Expensive repairs are needed to raise the safety rating of the 43-year-old plant, run by Entergy Corp. since 1999.

“If the corporation finds that the cost of making the improvements of the plant exceed the value of the plant, the corporation may decide to shut the plant down,” said David Noyes, the plant’s director of regulatory and performance improvement.

He added: “No business decision has been made about Pilgrim. We’re looking at specific conditions, and analyzing weaknesses associated with the plant. As of right now, we don’t know the costs.”

The plant could also be shut down by the regulatory commission. A succession of unplanned shutdowns of its reactor in recent years, and inspections that revealed significant safety problems, resulted in the plant being moved to the next-to-lowest performance category two weeks ago.

None of the nation’s 99 reactors are in the lowest category, but if Pilgrim fails to comply with federal requirements, the commission will move it there. Such action would require the plant to close, at least temporarily.

The commission said the plant’s level of risk is “low to moderate.” Entergy officials said the odds of an event occurring that would damage its reactor core, before they made recent repairs, was one in every 142,857 years.

Pilgrim, which provides an average of about 12.5 percent of the state’s electricity, is located in Plymouth, 35 miles from Boston. About 5 million people live and work within a 50-mile radius of the plant.

In a recent letter to Entergy officials, Governor Charlie Baker urged Entergy to “make certain that the plant meets the highest safety standards.”

“We cannot risk the well-being of the residents of the Commonwealth,” Baker wrote.

Baker added that he was troubled that Entergy “has failed to take appropriate corrective actions to address the causes of several unplanned shutdowns dating back to 2013.”

Baker has said he sees Pilgrim as part of a “balanced approach” to the state’s energy needs, while other state lawmakers have long called for the plant to be closed.

Entergy was awarded a 20-year operating license in 2012 to continue operating Pilgrim, but opponents are hoping to use the downgrade to pressure the company to shutter the plant now. On Wednesday, state Senator Dan Wolf, a Harwich Democrat, met with advocates from the Sierra Club, the Environmental League of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, and others.

They discussed how to advance bills in the Legislature that require the company to pay fees to store its spent nuclear fuels at Pilgrim, and that would force Entergy to show that it has enough money to cover the costs of securing its spent fuel after the plant closes.

“These bills will get across to Entergy that they need to bake these costs into running the plant and think of its financial viability,” Wolf said. “They’re going to have to make financial decisions.”

Entergy officials declined to provide information about the plant’s operating costs or revenue. Although the company’s stock price has plummeted by nearly 30 percent this year, nuclear regulatory officials have maintained that Entergy is solvent.

In a letter sent this summer to an environmental group in New York, William Dean, director of the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, wrote that Entergy’s “current financial qualifications are adequate to continue safe operation at Pilgrim.”

In response to questions from the Globe about the company’s finances, Lauren Burm, an Entergy spokeswoman, wrote: “Entergy does not disclose in our investor relations or Securities and Exchange Commission filings, individual plant profit, or operating cost information. It is considered proprietary business information.”

Entergy officials have six months to present the NRC with a detailed improvement plan. Commission officials will then send teams of inspectors to the plant to review the causes of the unplanned shutdowns over the past three years and to determine whether equipment needs to be replaced and whether the plant’s management needs to improve safety.

The commission bills Entergy for the inspections, which federal officials estimate will cost nearly $2 million. Entergy officials said they have already spent about $70 million to provide safety and security upgrades to the plant since the 2011 radiation leak at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear station, which has the same basic design as Pilgrim.

“We have a number of actions already ongoing to address performance gaps identified,” Noyes said. “We have existing action plans and we plan to execute those.”

State energy officials declined interview requests about how Massachusetts would make up for the lost power if Pilgrim closes.

If a closure were to happen soon, it would come as the state has made drastic cuts to its reliance on coal. Last year, the Mt. Tom power plant in Holyoke became the last of the state’s three coal plants to schedule a permanent shutdown. The Salem Harbor Power Station closed last year, while Brayton Point in Somerset is scheduled to stop operating in 2017.

The state now gets about 58 percent of its energy from natural gas, while oil supplies about 9 percent, coal about 3 percent, and renewable energy about 2 percent. The rest comes from hydroelectric power and other sources. The state would probably have to import more natural gas, which would have an impact on its carbon emissions. Nuclear power doesn’t emit carbon.

“The administration continues to engage with the Legislature on Massachusetts’ energy needs and is committed to addressing the impact of power plant retirements on energy markets,” Katie Gronendyke, a spokeswoman for the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, said in a statement.


Rubio Joins Ernst To Stop EPA'S Water Overreach ...

Today, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined lead sponsor U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) and 45 senators to introduce a joint resolution disapproving the rule submitted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) that expands the scope of federal authority over land and waterways in the U.S. under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, commonly known as Waters of the United States “WOTUS” rule.

The resolution would nullify this ill-conceived rule, sending a message to the EPA and USACE that they failed to address the concerns raised by farmers, ranchers, manufacturers and small businesses across the country.

“Hardworking Americans have had enough of Washington bureaucrats telling them how to use their land,” said Rubio. “The EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are irresponsible to go forward with this job-killing rule despite the serious concerns raised by farmers, ranchers, manufacturers and small business owners across the country.

“I’m proud to join Senator Ernst and my Senate colleagues in preventing this harmful overreach and expansion of government jurisdiction from taking place,” Rubio added.


Even Good Climate News Flipped to Alarmism

Veterans of the climate policy debate have known for years that no matter what, those worried about emissions can take any new information to conclude: “Things are worse than we thought! We need our preferred policies more than ever!” A Working Paper from earlier this year shows just how far this trend can be pushed, whereby elite researchers took the U.N.’s reduction in the bottom range of man’s likely influence on global temperatures to argue for increased worry about the future.

“When Is Good News Bad?”

To show that I am not attacking a straw man, let me quote liberally from the Abstract of the paper, “Climate Uncertainty: When Is Good News Bad?” published early this year by Freeman, Wagner, and Zeckhauser (two of whom are at Harvard):

"Climate change is real and dangerous. Exactly how bad it will get, however, is uncertain. Uncertainty is particularly relevant for estimates of one of the key parameters: equilibrium climate sensitivity—how eventual temperatures will react as atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations double. Despite significant advances in climate science…the “likely” range has been 1.5-4.5°C for over three decades. In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) narrowed it to 2-4.5°C, only to reverse its decision in 2013, reinstating the prior range. In addition, the 2013 IPCC report removed prior mention of 3°C as the “best estimate.”

…Intuitively, it might seem that a lower bottom would be good news. Here we ask: When might apparently good news about climate sensitivity in fact be bad news? The lowered bottom value also implies higher uncertainty about the temperature increase, a definite bad. Under reasonable assumptions, both the lowering of the lower bound and the removal of the “best estimate” may well be bad news."

To paraphrase, the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), which came out in 2013, lowered the “likely” range of global warming as the result of a doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Specifically, in the Fourth Assessment Report (issued in 2007), the IPCC had put the bottom end of the range at 2 degrees Celsius, but by the AR5 six years later, it was forced to lower the range by half a degree Celsius in light of the mounting evidence that temperatures were not responding as much to CO2 emissions as the computer models had projected.

At the time of the AR5’s release, many of the moderate (sometimes known as “lukewarmer”) analysts announced the good news—see for example climate scientist Judith Curry’s summary. Yet as the block quotation above illustrates, Freeman, Wagner, and Zeckhauser study various conditions in which the latest IPCC report would be bad news, meaning we should be more worried about human-caused climate change.

Turn That Smile Upside Down

To be clear, I want to explicitly confirm that there is nothing demonstrably incorrect in the analysis from Freeman et al. Although their arguments will probably only appear comprehensible to professional economists, the underlying logic of their case is straightforward enough: People are “risk averse,” meaning they care not just about the mean of an uncertain distribution but also about its variance.

For example, imagine Lottery A has a 50% chance of paying $900 and a 50% chance of paying $1,100, whereas Lottery B has a 50/50 chance of paying $300 and $1,700, respectively. Both lotteries have the same expected payoff—namely, $1,000—but Lottery B has a wider variance. It is riskier. Most people would probably choose Lottery A versus B, because it is closer to a “sure thing” of $1,000. Indeed, many people are so risk averse that they would take a guaranteed $900 (say) rather than play Lottery B, even though Lottery B’s expected payoff (of $1,000, remember) is higher than $900.

In this context, Freeman et al. develop a model of social preferences over climate outcomes in an environment of uncertainty. They document conditions under which even ostensibly “good news” that results in a reduction in the lower bound of predicted temperature increase nonetheless constitutes an inferior “lottery,” compared to a prior “lottery” in which we had a smaller variance but with the same (or even higher) mean prediction of temperature change.

This is the technique by which Freeman et al. take the IPCC’s good news and make it bad. The reduction in the lower bound on the range of climate sensitivity—from 2°C down to 1.5°C—other things equal is obviously a good thing, from the perspective of avoiding future climate change damage.
However, Freeman et al. point out that other things aren’t equal. The change in the range could mean that humans now assign a higher variance to future temperatures. Coupled with risk aversion, this could imply that we are worse off than we thought as of the Fourth Assessment Report, and that citizens should be more willing to have their governments engage in costly mitigation policies to halt carbon dioxide emissions.

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Model

To repeat, there is no demonstrable mistake in the analysis of Freeman et al. However, we should still interpret their paper with a large degree of caution.

In the first place, they most definitively do not show that the latest IPCC report actually is cause for increased alarm. Rather, they merely show that it might be. For example, on pages 5-9 of the paper they come up with specific numerical examples consistent with the broad IPCC statements, which—when plugged into their formal model—yield the answer of “bad news.” Yet to repeat, the IPCC’s statements themselves do not directly yield this answer, because they are not specific enough.

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More generally, however, we have to recognize that academic economists are very clever people and can come up with models to prove just about anything. (You think I’m bluffing?) Ask yourself this: Suppose the AR5 had instead raised the lower bound from 2°C to 2.5°C. Would Ivy League economists have produced a paper showing that this actually reduced the need for a carbon tax?

Of course, we can’t know for sure what would have happened in that alternate universe, but I am pretty sure that if the latest IPCC report had raised the bottom end of its projections, then the overwhelming interpretation would have been: “Human activities more damaging than we originally thought! The ‘social cost of carbon’ estimate has been increased by such-and-such percent. It’s more urgent than ever to impose a carbon tax and other restrictions.”


As I have pointed out repeatedly here at IER, the economic case for aggressive government policies to restrict carbon dioxide emissions is dubious at best. Indeed, we can use the IPCC’s own AR5 report to make a convincing argument that the economic costs of a 2°C cap would outweigh the benefits (in terms of avoided climate change damage).

As such, the argument from the leading economists on this issue is not one of “settled science” regarding a “clear and present danger” that is already upon us. Instead, the hot topics—epitomized in the work of Martin Weitzman, for example—involve uncertainty about the future. The claim is not that aggressive government restrictions will pay for themselves, but rather that they might be a good idea. Since we can’t prove that a climate catastrophe won’t occur, we can come up with formal economic models in which aggressive policies are justified.

To repeat, these researchers at Harvard and other elite institutions are very smart, and they haven’t made a mathematical mistake in their models. But the public should pause and ask if these sophisticated maneuvers match the more populist rhetoric they’ve heard on the issue. When even good news—in the form of a lowered estimate on the likely range of human influence on the climate—is construed as cause for worry, don’t people start to get suspicious that this is not a neutral scientific debate?


Debate no more! Jailed for scientific dissent?! Twenty climate scientists, including Top UN scientist, call for RICO investigation of climate skeptics in letter to Obama

Warmist scientists including UN IPCC Lead Author Kevin Trenberth to Obama:

'We appreciate that you are making aggressive and imaginative use of the limited tools available to you in the face of a recalcitrant Congress. One additional tool – recently proposed by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse – is a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) investigation of corporations and other organizations that have knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change, as a means to forestall America’s response to climate change. We strongly endorse Senator Whitehouse’s call for a RICO investigation.'

Via Politico: 'Twenty climate scientists called for RICO investigation in a letter to Obama and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch. The scientists argue that the systemic efforts to prevent the public from understanding climate change resembles the investigation undertaken against tobacco. They draw inspiration from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse who said on the Senate floor that there might be a similar conspiracy here, and a civil trial could provide the tools of discovery needed to find out.'

Top UN scientist Dr. Kevin Trenberth and 19 other scientists have become so tired of debating global warming that they are now apparently seeking to jail those who disagree with them.


Scientific ‘Consensus’ Can’t Agree On The Existence Of The Global Warming Hiatus

A rift is growing in the so-called consensus on global warming that’s as wide as the Atlantic Ocean. Scientists just can’t seem to agree on whether or not the 15-year hiatus in warming actually exists or not.

A recent study by Stanford University scientists reinforces the claim made by federal government researchers earlier this year that the hiatus in global warming was essentially a fluke in the surface temperature data and never actually existed.

The Stanford study comes just months after scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) made adjustments to surface temperature data that eliminated the 15-year hiatus in global warming. The data adjustments were highly controversial among climate scientists, but now Stanford researchers have put forward new data they say confirm there was no hiatus in warming.

“Our results clearly show that, in terms of the statistics of the long-term global temperature data, there never was a hiatus, a pause or a slowdown in global warming,” Stanford climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh said in a statement following the study’s release.

But scientists across the Atlantic aren’t buying American scientists’ claims the hiatus in warming never happened. Just a couple days before the release of the Stanford study, the UK’s Met Office — the premier climate research unit in the country — released findings that the hiatus in warming could last a few more years because of natural cooling cycles over the Atlantic Ocean.

“Observational and model estimates further suggest [Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation] shifts have an effect on global mean near-surface temperatures of about 0.1˚C,” the Met Office wrote in its September climate outlook. “A rapid AMO decline could therefore maintain the current slowdown in global warming longer than would otherwise be the case.”

Though the Met Office did say this year’s El Nino is likely to make 2015 as warm or warmer than 2014 — which was declared the warmest year on record by government meteorologists. Met Office scientists also cautioned that “there are signs in the observations and near term climate predictions that are consistent with a resumption of warming.”

But even if warming resumes this next year, which is made more likely by El Nino, the Met Office still acknowledges there is in fact a slowdown or hiatus in global warming. The Met Office says “the rate of warming has slowed over the most recent 15 years or so.” This stands in stark contrast to Stanford and NOAA scientists that say the hiatus in warming never even existed.

The hiatus or pause in warming has been heavily researched in the past few years, and scientists have put forward dozens of explanations to why warming has dramatically slowed. The temperature record showed a lack of warming from the late 1990s the early 2010s, which meant that most climate models were over-predicting how much warming would be caused by man-made carbon dioxide emissions.

Now, more and more scientists are saying the pause was just an aberration in the data. NOAA scientists eliminated the hiatus from the temperature record by adjusting temperatures taken by ocean buoys upwards to match those taken from ships. The Stanford study analyzed old temperature data sets along with newly corrected records to bolster its findings that there was no pause in warming.

“By using both datasets, nobody can claim that we made up a new statistical technique in order to get a certain result,” Bala Rajaratnam, a Stanford statistician and scientist, said in a statement.

“We saw that there was a debate in the scientific community about the global warming hiatus, and we realized that the assumptions of the classical statistical tools being used were not appropriate and thus could not give reliable answers,” said Rajaratnam.


New Australian Prime Minister not going Green

How many compromises was Turnbull prepared to make to get the keys to The Lodge?  Plenty, as it turns out.

The first compromise, and perhaps the most surprising, was on climate policy. Turnbull has long been a vocal critic of Tony Abbott and Greg Hunt’s risible Direct Action policy. Yet no sooner had he taken the reins of national government than he was complementing Greg Hunt on the policy and vowing to keep it.

In Question Time yesterday, Turnbull went out of his way to praise Direct Action.

“We are talking about a very specific policy that was carefully put together by the Minister for the Environment, that was carefully considered by the Government, and it is working,” he told the House of Representatives.

Greg Hunt confirmed that Direct Action would stay, telling reporters that “the emissions reduction fund has been a spectacular success. So the policy is continuing.”

Endorsing Direct Action is a massive backflip for Turnbull.

Way back in 2010, Turnbull was savagely critical of Direct Action as a wasteful public subsidy for big polluters. “I've always believed the Liberals reject the idea that governments know best,” he said in a well-publicised speech in Parliament. “Doling out billions of taxpayers' money is neither economically efficient, nor will it be environmentally effective.”

Keeping Direct Action appears to be the first big compromise Turnbull was prepared to make, no doubt to win over some of the hardline climate denialists on the Liberal back bench. Let’s remember that Turnbull was rolled as Liberal leader in 2009 on precisely this issue, after he negotiated with Kevin Rudd and the Labor government to introduce a bipartisan emissions trading scheme.

It’s difficult to believe Turnbull really thinks Direct Action is a good policy. There is not a single independent expert in the land that thinks Direct Action can actually meet the Coalition’s 28 per cent emissions reduction target by 2025. The simple math tells us it will fail: the most recent Direct Action auction of emissions reduction bids bought around 15 per cent of the emissions reductions the government needs, but spent a quarter of the Direct Action budget.



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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