Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Where are the tree huggers? Why are we doing nothing to help our forests?
Even though healthy forests are a CO2 sponge, Greenies never mention them. Clearly they are not concerned about trees at all. All they care about is how best to f**k up other people's lives
For years, politicians have waged war on coal, stifled oil and gas production, and advocated carbon taxes and other extreme measures to reduce carbon dioxide, while ignoring one of the most important things they could do to help.
It reminds me of my own lifelong battle with weight and the associated health issues. I get so frustrated that I sometimes swear I would do anything – anything! – to lose weight. Well, anything except eat less and exercise. But anything else.
That same kind of hypocrisy surrounds rants about our carbon dioxide emissions. Even people who are “deeply concerned” about dangerous manmade climate change drive cars, heat their homes, and sometimes even turn on lights. They embrace modern living standards, while also embracing faddish environmental claims and policies that contribute mightily to problems they insist disturb them greatly.
A popular bumper sticker screams, “TREES ARE THE ANSWER.” Yet when it comes to managing our national forests, many of those same advocates look away, while millions of acres of once healthy trees die, fall down, rot or burn up.
It’s ironic, because those forests provide the world’s greatest resource for cleaning carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere; because the rotting and fires themselves emit greenhouse gases; and because atmospheric carbon dioxide makes all plants grow faster and better and with improved tolerance to drought.
As Colorado State Forester Mike Lester testified recently before a state legislative committee, “When so many trees die and large wildfires follow, our forests quickly turn from a carbon sink into a carbon source.” Trees absorb carbon dioxide as people absorb oxygen, and that balance is critical to sustaining life, as we all learned in grade school.
Yet instead of doing everything in our power to make sure we have abundant thriving forests of healthy trees, we allow them to die and burn and thus belch millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the air.
Lester’s excellent testimony accompanied the release of the Colorado State Forest Service’s annual Report on the Health of Colorado Forests. This year’s assessment is the worst ever, and hardly anybody noticed. There was no outcry from global warming alarmists around the world, as there should have been. In fact, their silence on this issue is deafening. And it’s not just Colorado. It’s every state, and beyond.
The more concerned people are about climate change, the more they should be interested in active management to restore forest health. Yet many of the groups pushing urgent climate policies are the same groups that continue to fight logging, tree thinning and other management necessary for healthy forests. The result is more of the same disasters we have seen unfolding for over 20 years: dead and dying forests, catastrophic wildfires, habitat devastation, loss of human property and lives, and destruction of wildlife.
The new forest health report shows that over the last seven years, the number of dead standing trees in Colorado forests increased almost 30 percent, to an estimated 834 million dead trees. There are billions across the other Rocky Mountain States.
The report makes clear that this continuing trend of tree mortality can lead to large, intense wildfires that totally incinerate and obliterate forests, soils and wildlife. In fact, it is only a matter of time before this happens, if the U.S. Forest Service does not act.
Ironically, the most productive forest health restoration projects in Colorado have been partnerships of the State Forester with water providers like Denver Water, Northern Water Conservancy District and Colorado Springs Utilities. That’s because 80 percent of Colorado’s population depends on water that comes from the national forests.
However, the U.S. Forest Service, which owns almost all of the forestland in the State, continues to work with its hands tied behind its back, its timber programs woefully underfunded and vast sums syphoned off every year for fire suppression. Fire control ought to be funded separately, so that active management of healthy forests is not the perpetually lowest priority.
The Forest Service spends a fortune on planning, writing reports, and defending itself against environmental lawsuits, leaving few funds for what it is really supposed to be doing.
What a golden opportunity for the new Congress and Trump Administration. Reversing this demoralizing trend would restore forests, protect and increase wildlife, bring back thousands of forest products jobs, revitalize rural economies, and do more to reduce carbon dioxide than any previous policy.
The previous Administration created the Office of Sustainability and Climate Change, and Regional Climate Change Hubs, maintained a Climate Change Adaptation Library, mapped drought frequency and intensity, and created massive reports blaming humans for climate change. One study was a vulnerability assessment for the Southwest and California, titled “Southwest Regional Climate Hub and Climate Subsidiary Hub Assessment of Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies.”
All this activity is impressive, and scientific study will always play a role. But none of it actually affects climate change. Growing healthy trees would. Can we get back to that?
Or like me and my weight problem, are we willing to do anything to address climate change and improve our forests and wildlife habitats, except the one thing that might help the most?
The War on Affordable Electricity
Safe, reliable, and affordable power is a crucial partof a strong and growing economy. The dependability and general affordability of electricity here in U.S. is a significant component of our historically robust economy. But recently, a vocal and active few here in New Mexico are part of a coordinated, nationwide effort to severely restrict our ability produce economical and reliable power.
Earlier this summer, the state of California’s GDP passed that of France to become the sixth largest in the world. Just for comparison, the country just ahead of California is the United Kingdom, where last year’s GDP totaled about $2.85 trillion according to the International Monetary Fund.
Due to its sheer size, California is the battleground for most public policy debates, and the current debate on energy is no exception. Both here and in California, environmentalists have made it their mission to increase the use of renewable sources (solar and wind) while shutting down our most affordable, reliable, and carbon-free source of electricity: nuclear power. California policymakers’ anti-nuclear stance is partially blamed for the use of fossil fuels to increase from 47 percent of in-state electric generation in 2011 to 61 percent in 2013.
Since renewables constantly fluctuate due to changes in weather and we expect electricity to be available 24/7, some source of power must fill that gap in generation. Currently, the only sources of electricity capable of covering that gap are fast-ramping natural gas plants. A new study of over 26 separate countries spanning over two decades reports that “all other things equal, a 1% percent increase in the share of fast reacting fossil technologies is associated with a 0.88% percent increase in renewable generation capacity in the long term”. In other words, gas plants can be seen as “an enabling factor” which allow for the integration of additional renewable sources of power. There is no economical method to store power on an industrial scale, so you cannot add renewable energy sources without a corresponding increase in gas generation to make up the difference and balance the grid.
California policymakers’ anti-nuclear stance is partially blamed for the use of fossil fuels to increase from 47 percent of in-state electric generation in 2011 to 61 percent in 2013.
In New Mexico, the Public Regulation Commission regulates all public utilities including PNM, which provides electricity to most of the state (full disclosure: I am currently employed by PNM as a wholesale power marketer). In August 2015, PNM filed a rate case with the PRC, requesting an increase in rates to help offset some of the costs associated with the environmental gains agreed to last fall (including cutting carbon emissions in half). In its latest recommendation, the case hearing examiner issued a recommendation for a rate increase of $41.3 million, roughly one third of the $123.5 million PNM had asked for in its original request.
As part of her recommendation, the hearing examiner did not allow for any cost recovery for the purchase of a percentage of the generating capacity of Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station. Make no mistake about it: this decision was due in large part to an effective PR campaign waged by local and out-of-state environmentalists demonizing nuclear energy. Unfortunately, they do not see the contradiction in advocating for cheap and carbon-free energy while simultaneously demanding PNM get rid of “expensive, toxic nuclear power”.
In the end, the real tragedy is that if the environmentalists had their way, the cost of electricity would substantially increase, and those hurt the most would be those very same people they claim to advocate for: the poor, the elderly, and others on a fixed income. I urge the PRC commissioners to do the right thing for the people of New Mexico by allowing PNM to recover all or a majority of the costs associated with Palo Verde, the most safe, reliable, and cost-effective power source in PNM’s generating fleet.
Are investigations by the ‘Green 20’ an effort to intimidate scientific dissenters?
By Lamar Smith
Transparency for thee, but not for me—that seems to be the motto of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. Last year they led a group of their colleagues—dubbed the “Green 20”—in a sweeping initiative to target dissenting views on climate change. Exxon Mobil, for instance, was asked to turn over decades of documents.
The Green 20 investigations have been criticized as blatantly political. Last year a federal judge overseeing Ms. Healey’s suit against Exxon expressed concern that she may be conducting it in “bad faith.”
For nearly a year, the congressional committee I lead has been trying to understand the effects of these investigations on scientific research. Unfortunately, the attorneys general have obstructed our inquiry at every turn. Last July, after two months of unanswered requests for information, the committee issued subpoenas to Mr. Schneiderman and Ms. Healey.
The subpoenas asked for communications between Green 20 offices and environmental activists. This would show the level of coordination in this campaign to harass and silence scientists who challenge prevailing climate-change orthodoxies. The attorneys general have refused to comply, hiding behind vague excuses.
The committee has not sought information about the investigations of Exxon. Instead, our interest is in discovering how this attempt at intimidation affects federally funded scientific research. Then we may consider changing the law to allow this research to continue.
The hypocrisy of the attorneys general here is evident—though perhaps understandable. Mr. Schneiderman has accepted nearly $300,000 in campaign donations from environmentalist donors, including members of the Soros family. He has also used the investigation as a way to curry favor with anti-Exxon billionaire Tom Steyer for a potential gubernatorial run, according to the New York Post.
Perhaps Mr. Schneiderman is afraid of what the House committee might confirm in the course of its investigation. Is he using his public office to advance the priorities of interest groups that support his personal political ambitions?
The American people deserve to know how Mr. Schneiderman’s and Ms. Healey’s actions affect the nation’s scientific community. By refusing to comply with congressional subpoenas, they have shown they have something to hide.
To borrow their premise, this obstruction is a coverup—and they must be held accountable for their hypocrisy. On Feb. 16, the House committee reissued the subpoenas, as is customary at the beginning of a new Congress. Although the attorneys general have not yet made any effort to cooperate, I remain hopeful that they will act in accordance with their public statements about transparency and accountability and will comply with the committee’s investigation.
Japan, India and China still turning to more coal throughout the 2020s which means more CO2 and air pollution
Coal is undergoing a renaissance in emerging and developed countries in Asia, buoyed by technical breakthroughs and looming questions about squaring development with energy security. Japan, India and China will try to blunt the air pollution effects from the use of coal which cause millions of premature deaths in India and China and tens of thousands in Japan. However the "low emissions" coal technology is still 30% worse than natural gas for CO2 emissions even though "low emissions" is improved over several decades old coal plants.
BTW- the economic and technological forces in the USA are causing an increase in natural gas power generation in the USA. Any political rhetoric or shutting down of the EPA may slow the decline of the US coal industry but coal power in the US will still decline. US coal mines will then ship more coal to Asia. For the full year of 2016 in the USA, coal made up 30.4% of total US power generation, which is the lowest annual total since EIA records started for the calculation in 1950. For comparison, coal made up 33.2% of US generation in 2015 and 49% of US generation in 2006. Gas plants produced 33.9% of US power in 2016, which was the highest total yet for the fuel, after contributing 32.7% of US power generation in 2015 and 20.1% in 2006.
US electricity generation was 4300 TWh in 2016. This is 40% less than China 5920TWh. India is at about 1400 TWh and Japan at 1000 TWh.
For Japan, coal has emerged as the best alternative to replacing its 54 nuclear reactors, which are deeply unpopular with the population and seen as symbols of devastation after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster six years ago. Mindful of the public mood, the government of Shinzo Abe has completely given up on the country’s dream of nuclear self-sufficiency, and pulled the plug in December on the $8.5 billion experimental reactor project at Monju. On February 1, the government pledged to decommission all reactors and replace them with 45 new coal-fired power plants equipped with the latest clean coal technology.
Japan is turning to coal power due to attempts to transition the country away from nuclear power. Officials promised to replace nuclear power with wind or solar, but this caused the price of electricity to rise by 20 percent. Japan’s government currently aims to restart at least 32 of the 54 reactors it shut down following the Fukushima disaster, and wants nuclear power to account for 20 percent of the nation’s total electricity generated by 2030.
Japan will use high energy, low emissions (HELE) technology that use high-quality black coal.
Japan plans to build ultra-super-critical plants in the 650 MW range. 45 new coal-fired power-generation units with total capacity of as much as 20,884 MW, would come online in the next decade or so. Japan had a total 90 coal-fired units at the end of March 2015, with total capacity of 40,695 MW. Coal power already made up 31 percent of Japan’s energy mix in 2015 but under the current plan, the fossil fuel will become the country’s primary power source by 2019.
Japan is the largest overseas market for Australian coal producers, taking more than a third of all exports.
In the wake of the Tsunami which caused the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011, Japan started importing more liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Australia. The move to more coal fired power was because coal was cheaper than LNG, and the energy security was priority for the government.
India’s current energy plan calls for reducing India’s carbon emissions by replacing aging thermal power plants with energy-efficient “supercritical” ones that will (much like their Japanese counterparts) maximize the energy produced from coal burned, while also curtailing CO2 emissions. This supercritical technology has already had tangible effects on the nation’s plan to cut pollution levels as the 51 units currently installed have saved 6 million tons of CO2 — the equivalent of taking 1,267,000 cars off the road for one year. A few Indian companies and entrepreneurs have been even more ambitious, pioneering local carbon-capture solutions that could keep even more emissions out of the air.
India needs to grow power but is has paused in building new coal plants because of a massively inefficient economic and planning system.
India has power plants with capacity to generate 300 GW. These are operating at 64% capacity because of inability of state distribution utilities to purchase electricity and sluggish economic growth. About a tenth of the total capacity is stranded due to lack of power purchase agreements while another 50 GW is under various stages of construction.
One third of the Indian population has no power.
If India grows at 7 to 9% GDP each year then they will need 3.5-5% more energy each year. If solar power can scale 10 to 30 times beyond what we see today and at costs of about half what we see today then maybe India will not build so much coal power to meet their development needs. If it comes to choice between development or using coal, clearly India will choose to use coal.
China recently announced the cancellation of over 100 coal plant projects. However, China still added 48GW of coal power plants in 2016 and will likely add a total of 150GW by 2020.
The cancellations were partially due to concerns about air pollution, but also mainly about China's planners finally admitting that they would not be able to increase GDP growth to justify the new coal power.
China's annual construction level is higher than Japan's 15 year energy plan. China used just short of 6000 TWh of power in 2016. China had 5920 TWh of power generation in 2016.
Australia: Closure of big brown-coal generator raises threats of East coast blackouts and manufacturers moving overseas
The head of the Food and Grocery Council says manufacturers will quit Australia if affordable, reliable energy cannot be guaranteed, as concern grows about the cost of power and the stability of the electricity grid with Victoria's Hazelwood power station due to close in a fortnight.
The ageing brown-coal-fired generator in the Latrobe Valley will begin the staged shutdown of its eight units from March 27. The final boiler will go cool on April 2.
With it will go 22 per cent of Victoria's power supply and just over 5 per cent of the energy on a grid that runs from Port Douglas in far north Queensland to Port Lincoln on South Australia's Eyre Peninsula.
The wholesale price of power spiked across the National Electricity Market in November on news that Hazelwood would shut.
Retail prices will follow the rise.
Food and Grocery Council chair Terry O'Brien said his industry had been caught in a pincer movement, unable to pass on power price hikes because of discounting by the two major supermarkets chains.
As many local manufacturers were arms of international companies, pressure was mounting for some to quit the country.
"The decision to stay or go gets more and more marginal as the days go on," Mr O'Brien said. "And there's not a heck of a lot of sentiment in these internationally managed companies. They go where it makes sense. And if it's not going to make sense here, they leave."
The closure of Hazelwood raises an even larger threat: blackouts. "To stop production through a lack of energy is just a disaster," Mr O'Brien said.
The threat of east coast blackouts is now real because of the disorganised disconnection of coal-fired generation without any new investment in base-load power.
Hazelwood will be the ninth power plant to close in five years, removing a combined 5,400 megawatt of generation from the grid. The Australian Energy Market Operator is now predicting electricity reserve shortfalls in Victoria and South Australia from December.
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Posted by JR at 1:30 AM