Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Environmental 'time bomb': It will be another CENTURY before we see the true effects of climate change on freshwater supplies, experts warn

The basic assumption behind this article is false.  They assume that global warming will lead to LESS water being available -- when it is basic physics that warmer oceans will evaporate off more and thus lead to MORE rainfall, not less.  Water availabiity would be the LAST thing to worry about in a warming world.  But it's all modelling below so GIGO

Future generations face an 'environmental time bomb' caused by the effects climate change has on freshwater supplies, scientists have warned. It could take more than 100 years for the full impact of changes occurring today to be felt on the world's groundwater reserves, experts say.

Groundwater comes from rainfall that is trapped underground in cracks and small holes in soil, sand and rock, as well as from springs and other natural sources. It also takes longer to respond to climate change than surface water but will diminish with lower levels of rainfall.

This has major implications for the future availability of water for drinking, as well as farming and industry, say researchers.

Experts from the University of Cardiff based their findings on groundwater computer simulations together with hydrological data.

They found that groundwater in wetter, more humid, locations may respond to climate change over a relatively short time scales.

In contrast, regions where water was naturally more scarce had much longer groundwater response times.

The authors point out that groundwater was essential in drier parts of the world where surface water supplies were limited.

Lead scientist Dr Mark Cuthbert, from Cardiff's school of Earth and ocean sciences, said: 'Our research shows that groundwater systems take a lot longer to respond to climate change than surface water, with only half of the world's groundwater flows responding fully within 'human' timescales of 100 years.

'This means that in many parts of the world, changes in groundwater flows due to climate change could have a very long legacy.

'This could be described as an environmental time bomb because any climate change impacts on recharge occurring now, will only fully impact the baseflow to rivers and wetlands a long time later.

'It is essential that the potential for these initially hidden impacts is recognised when developing water management policies, or climate change adaptation strategies for future generations.'


The Antithesis of Green


The energetic chatter of the moment is dominated by talk about the Green New Deal — a collection of proposals that would require running the entire American economy on renewable electricity within a decade or so.

The Green New Deal has been endorsed by scads of liberal politicians including New York governor Andrew Cuomo, former California state senator Kevin de León, media darling and newly sworn-in Democratic representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and anti-hydrocarbon activist Josh Fox. The goals of the Green New Deal are nothing short of radical. As the website for the left-wing think tank Data for Progress explains, the Green New Deal aims to “transform the economy and the environment in ways that achieve sustainability, equity, justice, freedom, and happiness.” Achieving happiness has never been easy. Even harder will be the Green New Deal’s aim of completely eliminating the use of coal, oil, and natural gas by 2050.

How all this happiness and energy legerdemain will be achieved is anyone’s guess. Supporters are particularly vague about how they would find the hundreds of billions — or even trillions — of dollars needed to attempt such a plan. Nevertheless, there is one unassailable fact about the Green New Deal: It is not green. Indeed, the entire notion of an all-renewable-energy system is the antithesis of environmental protection and scenic conservation.

The backers of the Green New Deal — along with their allies at big environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and others that tout all-renewable schemes — refuse to acknowledge the simple truth that deploying renewable energy at the scale required to fuel the U.S. economy would require covering state-sized territories with nothing but wind turbines and solar panels. It would also require stringing tens of thousands of miles of new high-voltage transmission lines.

Promoters of all-renewable schemes inhabit a make-believe world where there’s endless amounts of vacant land — territory that’s just waiting to be covered with energy infrastructure. The truth is exactly the opposite. All across the country, from Vermont to California, local and state politicians are restricting the encroachment of renewable-energy projects, with wind energy and high-voltage transmission lines facing the staunchest opposition.

Before discussing that opposition, let’s look at a study published last year by two researchers from Harvard University that detailed the enormous amounts of land that would be required by an all-renewable scenario. The study, co-authored by Harvard physics professor David Keith and postdoctoral fellow Lee Miller, looked at 2016 energy-production data from 1,150 solar projects and 411 onshore wind projects. Those wind projects had a combined capacity of 43,000 megawatts, or roughly half of all U.S. wind capacity that year.

The key conclusion in Keith and Miller’s paper is this: “Meeting present-day US electricity consumption, for example, would require 12 percent of the continental US land area for wind.” The two researchers didn’t spell out exactly what that means, so let’s do the math. The land area of the continental Unites States is about 2.9 million square miles (or 7.6 million square kilometers). Twelve percent of that would be about 350,000 square miles (or 912,000 square kilometers). Therefore, merely meeting America’s current electricity needs with wind would require an area more than twice the size of California, which covers about 164,000 square miles (424,000 square kilometers).

In other words, just meeting existing electricity demand — and remember, this ignores the vast amounts of natural gas needed by industry and the millions of barrels of oil per day needed to fuel our airplanes, trucks, and cars — would require covering with wind turbines a land area twice the size of Nancy Pelosi’s home state. The idea of setting aside that much land is nonsense on stilts.

The all-renewable dogma of the Green New Deal looks yet more absurd because it is being promoted at the very same time that more and more landowners and politicians in rural areas are fighting against renewable-energy projects. Consider what is happening in Vermont, the home state of Bernie Sanders, the U.S. senator and former presidential candidate. Sanders, along with Ocasio-Cortez, was among the early champions of the Green New Deal. But wind projects in Vermont are facing strong opposition. Last November, both gubernatorial candidates — incumbent Republican Phil Scott and Democratic challenger Christine Hallquist — made it clear that they’re opposed to further wind-energy development in their state. Furthermore, according to data from the American Wind Energy Association, no new wind projects are being developed in Vermont.

Or look at New York, which has a renewable-energy mandate of 50 percent by 2030. But three upstate counties — Erie, Orleans, and Niagara — as well as the towns of Yates and Somerset, are actively fighting a proposed 200-megawatt project called Lighthouse Wind, which aims to put dozens of turbines on the shores of Lake Ontario. The same developer that is pushing Lighthouse Wind, Virginia-based Apex Clean Energy, is also facing fierce resistance on another project in New York that aims to put 109 megawatts of wind capacity on Galloo Island, which sits off the eastern shore of Lake Ontario. In its application to the state for a permit, Apex neglected to report that bald eagles have been nesting on Galloo Island. The company’s permit for that project is now in jeopardy.

Or look at California, which recently enacted a mandate that requires the state to obtain at least 60 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2030. In 2017, California had about 5,600 megawatts of installed wind capacity — that’s about 150 megawatts less than what the state had back in 2013. In 2017, Rob Nikolewski of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that in addition to a ban on wind projects in Los Angeles County, three other counties — San Diego, Solano, and Inyo — had also passed restrictions on wind turbines. Nikolewski then quoted the head of the California Wind Energy Association, who lamented the industry’s inability to site new projects in the state. “We’re facing restrictions like that all around the state. . . . It’s pretty bleak in terms of the potential for new development.”

Land-use battles are also being fought over the high-voltage electricity-transmission lines needed to carry solar- and wind-generated electricity from rural areas to customers in big cities. In 2017, Iowa enacted a law that prohibits the use of eminent domain for high-voltage transmission lines. The move doomed the Rock Island Clean Line, a 500-mile, $2 billion, high-voltage direct-current transmission line that was going to carry wind-generated electricity from Iowa to Illinois. The opposition forced the project’s developer, Houston-based Clean Line Energy Partners, to withdraw its application for the project in Iowa.

In early 2018, Clean Line Energy Partners also announced it was suspending its years-long effort to build a 720-mile, $2.5 billion transmission line across the state of Arkansas. The Plains & Eastern Clean Line aimed to carry wind energy from Oklahoma to customers in the southern and southeastern U.S. But the project faced fierce opposition in Arkansas, where the state’s entire congressional delegation opposed the deal.

In short, renewable-energy projects are facing a growing rural backlash, and that backlash is already limiting the growth of renewable sources and in particular, the growth of wind. The obvious conclusion is that renewable energy alone cannot meet our economy’s enormous energy needs, and no amount of populist spin can change that fact.


The drive to make New York ‘zero carbon’ is insane

New York’s Democratic-run state Legislature might enact one of the most radical ­energy mandates on the planet. The Climate and Community Protection Act would require that greenhouse-gas emissions from all sources be halved by 2030 and reach zero by 2050. Nada. Zero. Zilch.

That would mean retooling the entire state economy, which will be accomplished central-planning-style, with lots of committees and working groups. The climate-justice working group, for example, will be tasked with identifying which New Yorkers receive 40 percent of a carbon-tax bounty that will be hoovered up from residents and businesses.

Other unelected bureaucrats will impose a combination of performance standards — emissions limits that will effectively ban fossil-fuel use — and set those carbon taxes.

The state’s existing Clean Energy Standard calls for reducing emissions by 80 percent by 2050. But the CCPA will require the ­entire economy to be run solely on electricity generated with renewable energy resources, primarily wind and solar power. Transportation, which today accounts for 40 percent of the state’s ­energy consumption, will have to be powered solely by electricity — even the Staten Island Ferry.

Manufacturing — or what’s left of it — will have to be all-electric. Farmers won’t be able to use chemical fertilizers on their lands. The state’s dairy industry will be shuttered, because cows belch tons of methane. How the CCPA envisions those emissions being captured is anyone’s guess. The same holds for methane emitted by landfills.

The few energy-intensive manufacturing industries that remain in the state will have to go. Cement, for example, is manufactured from limestone using a chemical process that releases carbon dioxide. Even the greenest electricity won’t change that basic chemistry.

To justify the accompanying mandates and taxes, the CCPA requires comprehensive cost-benefit analyses. But even if New York’s reductions fell to zero tomorrow, the impact on the world’s climate would be too small to measure. Hence, the CCPA won’t provide New Yorkers any measurable benefits. Yet rest assured that Albany data-torturers will dutifully claim billions in benefits, and New Yorkers will bear billions in new costs.

The numbers provide a reality check. In 2015, the last year for which the state has published data, total emissions were about 217 million metric tons. According to the 2018 BP Statistical Review, between 2007 and 2017, the US steadily reduced its annual carbon emissions, cutting them by 800 million metric tons, around 14 percent.

But over that same period, ­annual emissions from the rest of the world increased by more than four billion metric tons. In other words, while the US has been ­reducing its carbon emissions, the rest of the world’s emissions have been increasing five times as fast, at an average rate of about 400 million tons each year.

Thus, even if New York somehow zeroed out, the net impact would offset only about six month’s worth of the annual increase in global emissions.

The zero goal will require the state to obtain massive quantities of renewable electricity. In 2016, total state energy consumption was about 2,800 trillion BTUs. Of that, less than one-fifth was consumed in the form of electricity. And only about 15 percent of that electricity was generated from wind, solar and biomass facilities.

Meeting the state’s needs using wind alone would require 140,000 turbines — nearly double the total amount of wind ­capacity in the entire US.

Meeting the state’s electricity needs solely with solar, meanwhile, would call for more than 15 times the total amount of solar energy in the entire US. It would also necessitate covering 10 percent of the entire state’s land with solar panels and cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

And because wind and solar power work only when the wind blows or the sun shines, the state will need backup storage. Lots of it. Meeting just one day’s average daily electricity consumption for an emissions-free New York would require installing 1.5 million megawatts of battery storage, equivalent to installing around 160 million Tesla Powerwalls, or about 20 in every single home and apartment in the state.

Even if current battery storage costs fall by 80 percent, that would still require an investment of $750 billion, equivalent to $37,500 for every New Yorker.

If they cared to look, the politicians in Albany could easily see that achieving the CCPA’s impossible goal will cost trillions of dollars, crater the state’s economy and have no effect on climate. Of course, when has reality ever stood in the way of green virtue-signaling and spending taxpayer money?


Trump Signs Another Bipartisan Law to Boost Advanced Nuclear

Democrats and Republicans are at an impasse on the government shutdown. But they agree on federal support for novel reactor technologies.

In the midst of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, a rare instance of bipartisan energy policy success mostly got lost in the noise.

President Donald Trump signed a bill into law Monday aimed at accelerating development of a new generation of advanced nuclear reactors. The Republican administration's efforts to revive the coal industry clash with Democrats’ plans to address climate change and transition to clean energy. So this marks a rare instance of cooperation between the two parties, and the second instance of cooperation on advanced nuclear in the last four months.

The Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act calls on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to make its review process "technology-inclusive" by 2028. The process was designed for the light water reactors that ruled the industry for the last half-century, but new reactors emerging from labs and startups use fundamentally different technologies. The law also calls for more transparency on the costs and timelines of NRC reviews.

“It’s really recognizing that a lot of our policies around nuclear and institutions around nuclear are pretty outdated,” said Jessica Lovering, who researches nuclear technology and policy as director of energy at The Breakthrough Institute, an environmental think tank supportive of nuclear power.

The NRC is not affected by the partial shutdown, which has slowed renewable energy permitting and forced hundreds of thousands of federal workers to work without pay. Its budget is funded through fiscal year 2019, according to law firm Morgan Lewis. But even with the office open, the NRC's review process is slow, which the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act seeks to address.

This follows another nuclear assistance law passed with bipartisan support and signed by Trump in September.

The Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act called for a cost-sharing grant program to help advanced reactors pay for the lengthy licensing process, and construction of a fast neutron source for testing advanced technologies. The U.S. currently lacks such a facility, forcing companies to look overseas to test certain reactor designs.

Big win for advanced reactor advocates

The two laws together knock off several wish-list items for the various stakeholders interested in commercializing advanced reactors.

Old-school light water reactor construction has all but vanished from the U.S., thanks to gargantuan construction costs, long build times and public concerns about the technology. New technologies promise an antidote: They’ll be smaller, safer and easier to install, their advocates say.

Interested parties include more than the old-guard nuclear industry itself.

There’s a cluster of new startups entering the space after decades of technological stagnation. A vocal contingent of climate activists insist that nuclear, as the largest source of zero-carbon electricity, will play a crucial role in decarbonizing electricity (others would rather shut it down and put all their chips on wind and solar).

On the more conservative side, nuclear energy represents a reliable 24/7 power source, just the sort of thing the Trump Department of Energy has argued for as a bulwark against the intermittent fluctuations of wind and solar plants.

It’s also the living legacy of American ingenuity, at risk of being co-opted by Russia or China. And it could create jobs as test sites and production move forward.

Time is money

Only one of the new cohort of nuclear companies, NuScale, has officially begun the NRC review process. Tellingly, that company still uses light water reactors, just scaled down small enough to be produced in a factory; it didn’t have to run the gauntlet with a fundamentally exotic reactor design. NuScale also received a cost-share grant from the DOE worth $217 million to help pay for the review, which will take several more years.

The NRC derives most of its funding from fees paid by applicants, Lovering noted. The longer it takes to review a new and unprecedented design, the more the company has to pay for it.

Rewriting the regulations should avoid some headaches by tailoring questions to the new technology, instead of framing the review around what makes sense for light water reactors. Saving time literally saves money.

“There has been stuff happening inside the NRC, but having legislation that directs them to come up with the rules and put them in place, that’s a big change,” Lovering said. “A lot of advanced reactor companies need this to happen before they can start licensing.”

While the NRC is not affected by the government shutdown, the licensing process will still be long and expensive. To address this, the new legislation calls for “predictable and efficient” licensing, which should at least give companies a better sense of how long they should expect to wait.

The two laws set in motion a number of small efforts that could produce more efficient testing of new technologies. That still doesn’t guarantee advanced nuclear will succeed in the marketplace: As an expensive new electricity source, it will have to break into a market increasingly dominated by cheap renewables. Utilities tend to be risk-averse in adopting new energy technologies, and nuclear comes with more public relations challenges than most.

Future legislation could focus on jump-starting demand, Lovering said. Permitting has to come first, though, and Republicans and Democrats agree on that, if little else in the energy arena.

“It’s this rare thing where both sides can come together and agree we should be making it easier for these...American companies to be developing advanced energy technology,” she said.


Why Trump's EPA Is Right to Reverse the Obama Administration’s Regulatory Power Grab on Mercury Emissions

The Trump EPA is rejecting the flawed reasoning the Obama administration used to broaden its power under the Clean Air Act in favor of the rule of law.

In 2015, the Supreme Court’s Michigan v. EPA decision held that the Obama EPA erred in deciding that regulating mercury emissions as a hazardous air pollutant under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act was “appropriate and necessary.” Now the Trump EPA is proposing to reverse the Obama EPA's decision, and the regulatory authority it handed the agency to impose its costliest regulation ever, triggering sharp media criticisms.

A New York Times article treated it as an attack on the use of benefit-cost analysis and Americans’ health. The Los Angeles Times editorialized that the current proposal was the Trump EPA’s “most harmful step yet,” which “would undermine not only current regulations, but regulatory efforts in the future,” based on “ludicrous” logic and “wonky legalisms.”

Such reactions are highly misleading. They ignore the central issue, which is the “wonky legalism” that the Obama EPA used to bootstrap its mercury ruling into far more power than the Clean Air Act (CAA) gave it over fine particulate emissions. The Trump EPA would reject that in favor of the rule of law.

The EPA’s Mercury Bait and Switch
At the heart of the issue is the difference between the regulation of fine particulate pollution under CAA Sections 108-110 and regulation of toxic emissions, such as mercury, under Section 112.

Under Section 109, the EPA already sets national ambient air quality standards that, “allowing an adequate margin of safety, are required to protect the public health.” But if the EPA has determined that the federal fine particulate standard it set in 2013 is “adequate to protect public health,” that offers them no excuse to further tighten those standards.

Using Section 112 instead of Sections 108-110 would give the EPA almost unlimited command and control over who they could target and how.

Further, under National Ambient Air Quality Standards, the EPA sets standards for fine particulates that states must meet, but the states determine how to meet them, preventing the EPA from singling out coal-fired power plants as “victims,” echoed in President Obama’s assertion that his environmental policies would bankrupt them.

The EPA’s mercury bait and switch created a way for it to overcome both of those CAA limitations. If it could declare mercury a hazardous air pollutant, it could justify tighter mercury regulations. Then they could use those regulations under Section 112 to effectively tighten fine particulate emission restrictions. And using Section 112 instead of Sections 108-110 would also give the EPA almost unlimited command and control over who they could target and how, which Chief Justice Roberts recognized as an “end run” around its statutory limits.

Unfortunately, implementing the mercury gambit under Section 112 required a determination that harm from mercury pollution was great enough that restricting it was “appropriate and necessary,” which proved impossible to do honestly.

The Truth about Mercury Emissions
First, power plants emit only a tiny fraction of the mercury released into America’s air. According to the EPA, annual global mercury emissions were estimated at 7,300 to 8,300 tons, of which only 2,100 tons were anthropogenic in 2005, and of that, US power plants emitted only 53 tons of mercury, which was expected to fall to 29 tons in 2016. Reductions of such a small magnitude (well under 1 percent) in mercury emissions cannot save thousands of lives. In fact, CDC surveys showed blood mercury levels for American women and children to be already below the levels found safe by the EPA, FDA, and WHO, and falling further.

Even with such “creative” assumptions to inflate the damage, the estimated economic gain from reduced exposure to mercury was $6 million or less annually.

To estimate the magnitude of the effects, the EPA could have used a University of Rochester study of the Republic of the Seycheles, whose residents consume types of fish—the primary “carriers” of methylmercury from atmospheric deposition to humans—similar to American diets. But the Center for Science and Public Policy found that the study of high-dose exposure, which followed the same children from six months to nine years of age, found “no observable health effects associated with fish consumption in which methylmercury is present.” So the EPA ignored it.

Instead, the EPA based its criteria on a study of Faroe Islanders. Not only do they eat more fish, their diets include a great deal of pilot whale meat and blubber. That gives them not only far higher doses of mercury but also of PCBs. Further, they ingest little selenium (which limits conversion to methylmercury) or fruits and vegetables. Given that in epidemiology the most basic principle is that “the dose makes the poison,” their circumstances are irrelevant to Americans.

The EPA constructed a model of hypothetical women who “consume extreme quantities (at the 99th percentile) of the most contaminated fish from the most contaminated bodies of water."

As the Center for Science and Public Policy concluded, “The Faroe Islands study should not be the sentinel study upon which assessment of methylmercury intake via should be gauged.”

But on that flimsy basis, the EPA constructed a model of hypothetical women who “consume extreme quantities (at the 99th percentile) of the most contaminated fish from the most contaminated bodies of water,” according to the Cato Institute’s Amicus brief. It added a 50 percent “cooking adjustment factor.” It then estimated “the potential effect of this exposure on their hypothetical children’s neurological development in utero.” That effect was minuscule.

The EPA itself found that only “between 1 and 3 percent of women of childbearing age (the group of most concern) eat sufficient amounts of fish to be at risk from methylmercury exposure,” and the FDA and most states already issue strong advisories for consumers to limit their intake. Even with such “creative” assumptions to inflate the damage, the estimated economic gain from reduced exposure to mercury, which is the sole justification for mercury regulation spelled out under CAA Section 112, was $6 million or less annually.

The EPA Mercury Rule Is Unjustified and Punitive
Because those benefits were dwarfed by up to $9.6 billion in annual costs, the “appropriate and necessary” standard for mercury regulation was laughably unmet. So the EPA simply ignored the costs at that point (which the Supreme Court found could not allow the issue to be seriously addressed), allowing it to deem that the very small and very questionable benefits it “found” justified Section 112 regulation, even though the costs were 1,600 times the benefits relevant under that section.

Newspapers and other supporters of President Obama’s agenda never wanted anyone to notice the egregious overstepping of the EPA’s regulatory powers involved in the mercury case.

Only after that very large finesse of its legal limits, when addressing what regulations could be imposed as a result, the EPA asserted a massive claimed co-benefit of reduced fine particulate emissions to justify it. However, that was strongly at odds with its own determination that such fine particulate regulations were already “adequate to protect public health.” Further, it could not justify onerous Section 112 “remedies” in any event since fine particulates are regulated under different sections that don’t provide such powers.

Newspapers and other supporters of President Obama’s agenda never wanted anyone to notice the egregious overstepping of the EPA’s regulatory powers involved in the mercury case. Now, to preserve what following the law would undo, they are following the same script, including rhetorical red herrings to distract Americans from seeing the real issue.

But the EPA’s mercury machinations were never about protecting Americans’ health. It was a regulatory power grab to sidestep the Clean Air Act’s limits, as its purpose-built “backdoor” reveals. It was to transmute supposed environmental public servants into people Americans would have to serve. Consequently, we should recognize that rather than being “appropriate and necessary,” the EPA mercury rule is both unjustified and punitive.



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