Friday, August 11, 2017

What does Richard Muller think of the US withdrawing from the Paris Agreement?

Muller is an unusual character.  He was initially a critic of global warming and set up his own climate record to check whether there had in fact been any warming over the last century or so.  He found that there had been both some long term warming and some long term CO2 rise and concluded that that was enough for him to endorse the anthropogenic global warming theory. As he says below: "That is a scientific judgement that I will stand behind"

It is also an illogical judgment.  There are plenty of instances of correlations that do not indicate causation.  It is in fact a first principle of statistics that correlation is not causation.

 Furthermore the observed correlation is not as it should be if the theory were correct.  Theoretically, the effect of added CO2 in the atmosphere should be instant.  It allegedly works by bouncing electromagnetic radiation around and electromagnetic radiation moves at the speed of light.  But there has been no instant effect.  There have been long periods (e.g. 1945 to 1975, referred to by some as "the long hiatus") when the temperature did not rise at all, even though CO2 rose markedly over that period.

So there is only a broad long-term sense in which you can say that both CO2 and temperature rose. And that rough similarity is a long way away from what the theory demands.

So it is clearly to keep his peace with the orthodoxy that he has gone over to the dark side.  He seems to be a good and kindly man so he probably just did not have the stomach for a fight.  You can't blame him for wanting a quiet life.

Anyway, there is still a bit of the skeptic in him, as you will read below

When Trump announced our withdrawal from the Paris Accords, I felt that he had done the right thing.

Global warming is real, about 1.5 C in the last 250 years, and it is caused by human emission of greenhouse gases. That is a scientific judgement that I will stand behind, based on my own work and on that of my colleagues in the non-profit

But the Paris accords did almost nothing to stop the increase. Alas, most of that increase will come from China, India, and the developing world, not from the US or Western Europe. To be effective, anything we rich nations do must set an example that the developing world can follow. That means it must not be expensive; if it isn’t profitable, it isn’t sustainable.

There are three things we need to do to slow and stop global warming:

More extensive energy conservation.

Encourage nuclear power. (For the last decade we are effectively telling the world that nuclear power is unsafe and has no reasonable way to dispose of waste.)

Shale gas as an alternative to coal. A gas plant emits ½ to ⅓ the CO2 of coal.

Everything else is just frosting. We tend to do fashionable things without caring if it makes sense for the developing world. For example, electric cars, if used in China, would increase their CO2 pollution (since 70% of their electricity derives from coal). And they can’t afford lithium ion autos; the $7500 subsidy for electric cars is for show only; it does not address global warming.

The problem with the Paris treaty is that it was a political show with no teeth. Countries set their own limits; there is no outside verification. The developing world was enthusiastic in large part because the US had pledged to put $3 billion dollars per year in the sustainable development fund. (China had already indicated that it wanted some of this money to build coal power plants. Their argument was that with the funds they would build more efficient coal plants than they would otherwise build.)

My fundamental argument against the Paris treaty is that it gave the illusion of progress, and such an illusion can be detrimental to real progress. Others say it was a small step in the right direction, but it was generally not portrayed that way. And the step was (in my opinion) exceedingly small, too small.

The US needs to have truly workable programs to help the developing world take advantage of concepts in energy efficiency, and to make progress on shale gas and nuclear. On shale gas, at least we are setting a good example, but we need to help China develop its own resources (which are greater than those in the US). We need to set the right example in nuclear by showing that we consider it to be a clean and safe technology. Among other things, we need to make it possible to license 4th generation nuclear plants in the US; they cannot be currently licensed! And we need to make it known to the outside world that disposal of nuclear waste is not a challenge, but is a solved problem.


The Return of the Bees: How The Free Market is The Greatest Force for Conservation

The declining bee population—the phenomenon that threw the Left into a panic less than a decade ago—has largely corrected itself through the free market.

Beginning in 2006, beekeepers reported significant declines in their honeybee hives over winter—a situation called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). When news spread of honeybees abandoning their hives, the media and liberal outfits quickly took advantage of the liberal fear and pity. Time called it a “bee-pocalypse” and ran a cover story in 2013 entitled “A World Without Bees.” Quartz called it “beemageddon,” while The Washington Post lamented “the uncertain future of honey.”

The doomsday alarmists were not limited to the United States. CRC reported in its September 2015 edition of Green Watch how a concerted effort on the part of European, activist journalists led to popular support for a ban on neonicotinoids which outlawed the three most widely-used pesticides. This resulted in massive crop diseases and billions of dollars lost to farmers in the European Union, with the real possibility of a decline in food production. Critics of the EU law pointed to western Canada and Australia where wide use of neonicotinoids have not led to a drop in the bee population.

The New York Times notes that roughly a third of worldwide agricultural production does depend on pollinators, but, only about six percent relies entirely on it. Humans’ primary staples do not require honeybee pollination. So, even if honeybees were to go extinct, it would be more like putting humans on a snack diet instead of starving them. Some staples such as tomatoes and beans self-fertilize, while many crops like wheat, corn, rye, nuts, and corn rely on wind for pollination. The foodstuffs that rely most heavily on pollinators can aptly be considered luxury foods, or items one might pick up at the supermarket for snack time later: raspberries, cashews, cranberries, apples, almonds and mangoes. But, even if honeybee extinction were plausible, those luxury foods would not disappear because honeybees are not the only pollinators in the wild.

Furthermore, the European Academies Science Advisory Council points out that there is a significant difference between a decline in hives and a decline in bees. The decline in hives is a result of a decline in beekeepers who leave the profession for socioeconomic reasons, not because of massive bee deaths.

In fact, when one looks at the statistics, it turns out the honeybee population has steadily risen since the initial reported decline in 2006. According to USDA statistics, the number of honey-producing colonies has remained stable for about two decades. From 2008–2015, the bee population rose nearly 13 percent after the initial CCD findings.

The reason for this uptick in honeybees is that they are an essential element to agriculture. When beekeepers release them by the thousands, they significantly increase farmers’ crop production, and, without them, farmers would have to rely on birds, butterflies, wind, and other natural elements to pollinate their crops. Farmers therefore, have a vested interest in preserving the bee population just as they have in preserving effective pesticides. Therefore, farmers do not need government coercion to avoid pesticides that would kill off honeybees—it’s already in their interest to protect them.

The demand for honeybees translates into a lucrative and conservationist business model for both farmers and beekeepers as the monetary exchange goes both ways. If the beekeeper can turn a profit through the honey his bees produce, he pays the farmer. In other instances, such as apple orchards that do not produce much honey, the beekeeper charges the farmer for his bees’ pollination services.

The ethic of economic self-interest spurs both farmers and beekeepers to replenish the bee population and keep pollination and honey levels at market demand. The hype over honeybee extinction may have sold media subscriptions and certainly created wealth and fame for many people. But, in the end, these type of doomsday scares cause more harm than good. They draw resources away from preserving pollinators such as bumblebees that really are in decline, and they produce dangerous legislation that wastes taxpayers’ dollars and often hurts vital portions of the economy as the EU ban on neonicotinoids proved.


The Scottish wind-power racket

Imagine a sausage factory – the luckiest, most profitable sausage factory in the world. Its machines crank out their sausages, and lorries carry them to supermarkets. So far, so normal.

But this particular factory makes as many sausages as the management and staff choose. If they feel like taking the day off, the lorries and shelves stay empty. If they want to go a bit wild, they sometimes make so many sausages that there aren’t enough lorries to take them away. Or they carry on cranking out sausages even if the shelves are already full.

And here’s the really amazing thing: even when the lorries can’t cope or there is no demand for sausages, the factory gets paid. Indeed, they get paid more for not sending the sausages to the shops than for sending them. This is such great business that the factory is actually building an extension, so it can threaten to make even more unwanted sausages.

Does all that sound completely mad? Of course it does. But it’s what happens in the British electricity industry – where the blackmailing, money-printing sausage factory is a wind farm in Scotland.

There are currently about 750 wind farms north of the border, with roughly 3,000 wind turbines. Their total generating capacity amounts to 5,700 MW. The actual amount produced varies according to the weather. But at its maximum, that wind capacity is more than the 5.5 GW peak demand on the Scottish grid.

What this means, of course, is that the output from Scottish wind turbines is often more than the Scottish system can absorb. That requires the surplus energy to be exported to England and Wales. But that isn’t as easy as it sounds.

The wind farms are distributed across Scotland, sometimes in very remote regions, so there is a real problem in getting their energy down to the English border – let alone getting it across. For some years now, Scotland’s total export capacity has been only 3.5 GW, well under the peak output of the wind farm fleet.

So, reinforcements and new links are being introduced. These range from the hugely controversial, and to many environmentally unacceptable, £820 million Beauly-Denny upgrade, to the massive Western Link, a subsea connector from Hunterston to Deeside that is set to come online this year at a cost of more than £1 billion – and will entail a standing charge on energy bills across Britain of about £100 million a year for 35 years.

Yet in spite of the cost, these upgrades cannot completely address the problem: there is still more wind power in Scotland than can be reasonably and affordably absorbed into the system, or exported to its neighbours, partly because the wind fleet keeps growing.

Why has so much been built? Partly, it is because of income-support subsidies. This top-up of nearly 100 per cent over the wholesale price – funded, of course, from consumer bills – makes wind farms very attractive, at least until they wear out (by which time developers hope to have sold them on to naive pension funds and investment trusts).

There is also the political situation. In England and Wales, onshore wind is effectively dead, due primarily to the strong local resistance the turbines tend to attract, to which government eventually responded.

In Scotland, the story is different. The country is intensely urbanised, with most voters located in the cities. Rural objectors were simply too few in number to have much influence, no matter how strong their environmental or economic arguments.

Subsidies to onshore wind in the UK now cost a little under £600 million a year, with Scottish wind taking about half, yet the Scottish government continues to ignore the protests and consent to new wind farms as if they cost almost nothing at all.

Which as far as Holyrood is concerned, is in fact true. Part of the attraction for Scottish politicians is that the subsidies that pay for Scottish wind farms come from consumers all over Great Britain. Scottish consumption is about 10 per cent of the British total – so when the Scottish government grants planning permission to the wind industry, it is simply writing a cheque drawn overwhelmingly on English and Welsh accounts. Taxation without representation, in fact.

But a careless government and a lucrative subsidy system doesn’t explain the full flourishing of Scotland’s wind industry. Bizarre as it may seem, the fact that the Scottish grid cannot physically absorb all this wind power is also an attraction – because subsidised wind farms can actually earn more per unit generated when that unit is thrown away than when it is sold to consumers. In other words, they really do get paid more for not making sausages than they do when selling normally.

The explanation is simple. A wind farm receives roughly half of its income from the wholesale price and half from subsidy, the infamous Renewables Obligation Certificate (ROC). When the grid is either at or close to capacity, National Grid stops the wind farm from generating, in order to prevent damage to the overhead wires and, at worst, a major system disruption.

When this happens, the wind farm will keep its wholesale income – which is fair enough, since it was contracted in to the system. But it loses its ROCs, because those are only issued for electricity actually sold to consumers.

What happens then, however, is that the wind farm will ask for compensation for the lost ROCs.  The euphemism for “being paid for not producing sausages” is “constraint payment”. And often – and this is the crucial point – they will ask for more compensation than they are losing in income.

When one of us, John Constable, first exposed this problem back in 2011, the average compensation being paid was nearly four times the lost income. One wind farm, Crystal Rig, was asking for (and receiving) £991/MWh in compensation when it was losing about £50/MWh.

Naming and shaming worked, and prices fell. But they are still well above the income lost, with onshore wind farms regularly asking for between £60 and £90/MWh in compensation when they are only losing about £45/MWh.

The result is that wind farms in Scotland have a higher average income per unit of power generated, because local demand is low and the grid system is hopelessly congested – leaving National Grid no option but to buy them off at any price.

For National Grid, this is just a pass-through cost, so they don’t care much about it – they simply increase the amount they’re charging consumers. But for consumers, it’s a truly terrible deal. Since 2010, we’ve paid £328m to wind farms not to generate – mostly to onshore Scottish wind farms, though England’s offshore farms have also started to get into the act. Last year, the total was £82m. This year, it’s already reached £50m.

The result is that there is a perverse incentive to locate wind farms in Scotland, even though they aren’t welcome and the grid can’t take their output. In fact, some wind farms that are already being “constrained off” on a regular basis are considering major extensions to their capacity.

Take Fallago Rig in the Borders. This 48-turbine wind farm, with a capacity of 144 MW, was built in the teeth of fierce local resistance in 2013. Since then, it has received £21,713,858 in payments to stop generating, at an average price of £82/MWh – roughly double the lost income. That lost generation, about 264,954 MWh, is equivalent to 16 per cent of its output during that period.

In spite of this, its owners EdF, the economic wizards behind Hinkley Point C, are proposing to add a further 12 turbines, each over 126.5m in height. Is this about saving the planet? Or because the farm’s owners know they are on to a very good thing and are determined to make out like bandits?

Yet remarkably, this isn’t the end of the counter-economic insanity. When a Scottish wind farm is stopped from generating because of a bottleneck in the system, it throws the whole British market out of balance: supply no longer matches demand. A generator that was contracted-in to the market has been told to stop. That means that the market on the other side of the bottleneck is now short. National Grid, which is responsible for fixing these problems, has to buy last-minute supplies to make up for it. And that is very expensive indeed.

It’s quite difficult to determine which payments to these emergency generators – who are said to be “constrained on” to the system – are caused by Scotland’s capacity and export problems, and which by power station failures or errors in demand forecasts (among other factors). But either way, it’s big money.

And in a supreme irony, it is more than likely that the same large companies getting constraint payments on one side of the bottleneck (because the Scottish grid can’t cope) also get paid to start up their gas turbines in England to make up for the shortfall. Laugh? It’s enough to make a grown bill-payer cry.

The remedies are obvious. First, existing wind farms should not be allowed to demand compensation in excess of income lost. Second, we should carefully weigh up the costs and benefits of building new grid and reinforcing existing lines. It may well be much cheaper to shut wind farms down and compensate their owners, at the correct rate of course, rather than build another subsea interconnector on the east coast – or reinforce the landlines over the border to the main centres of load.

Third, and most importantly, the Government in Westminster should put its foot down, in the interests of us all, and stop Holyrood consenting new wind farms and extensions in Scotland. Or at least ensure that if MSPs want to play fast and loose with consumer bills, those should be Scottish bills. That might focus minds.


Horror! EPA head casts doubt on ‘supposed’ threat from climate change

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt on Wednesday cast doubt on the idea that climate change poses a threat to the United States.

Pruitt told conservative North Dakota talk radio host Scott Hennen on WHO-AM that that’s one of the reasons why he is organizing a “red team/blue team” exercise to try to challenge what the EPA chief called “so-called settled science” on climate change.

“We’ve talked about, Scott, having a red team/blue team exercise, where we bring red team scientists in, blue team in, ask the question: What do we know, what don’t we know about this issue,” Pruitt said on the show, where he appeared with North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R).

“The American people deserve an honest, open, transparent discussion about this supposed threat to this country. And we need to advance that,” he continued. “Hopefully, sometime this fall, we’ll be able to actually get that going.”

A draft federal report publicized Monday detailed numerous effects of climate change that the United States and the world are currently experiencing, like higher temperatures and strong precipitation events.

It linked the changing climate directly to greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity.

Pruitt, however, is skeptical of the scientific consensus that human activity is far and away the primary cause of climate change.

The EPA chief believes that the climate is changing and humans have some part in that, but maintains that scientists do not know how much that contributes to climate change.

Pruitt said Wednesday that the Clean Air Act cannot be used to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

“The Clean Air Act was set up to address regional and local air pollutants,” he said on the radio program. “Congress has not spoken on this issue at all.”

The Supreme Court ruled in the 2007 case Massachusetts v. EPA that greenhouse gases are air pollutants under the Clean Air Act, and can be regulated if the EPA determines that the gases harm human health or the environment. The EPA made such a determination in 2009.


No wind or solar powered aluminium smelter anywhere in the world? Could be a message in that

Matt Howell, the CEO of Tomago Aluminium Smelter, told a few home truths on ABC radio Monday. To paraphrase in my own words:

1. Aluminium Smelters gobble electrons for breakfast. His smelter uses 10% of  the entire electricity supply of the most populous state in Australia (NSW).

2. If power goes out without warning for more than three hours, the smelter pot lines freeze, permanently. The company goes to the wall.

3. The largest battery in the world would keep their smelter going for all of 8 minutes. There is a good reason there are no solar or wind powered aluminium smelters anywhere in the world.

4. The government can ‘t let the market solve anything whilst it is simultaneously destroying the free market by propping up the market failures at the same time.

5. Electricity pricing has suddenly got very ugly. Their electricity bill may now be subject to price spikes where it could cost them $4 million just to keep one pot line running during that spike. It is as if suddenly gas stations only sold $400 per Litre petrol. (Which would be $1800/per gallon).  What he doesn’t say, but which logically follows from that, is that heavy industry in most of Australia can no longer get reliable electricity at an affordable price, even with forward contracts. Cry, scream, run with your factory.

6. In Australia, if we achieve “zero coal” we will also achieve “zero heavy manufacturing”.

7. If we want heavy industry, we need a HELE Coal plant. There are hundreds being built around the world, and we are selling our coal to them. How crazy are we?

Howell makes some great points. It’s good to see an ABC presenter willing to let the evil capitalists speak. Well done Matt Wordsworth. I found something worth listening to on the ABC this year.




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


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Richard Muller was never a skeptic.

See Nigel Calder's take here.

Another expose here.