Friday, October 09, 2020

Reducing air pollution levels by 20 per cent could put children a month ahead in their learning every year, study finds

Same old, same old. Children in polluted areas do worse on tests. But who live in polluted areas? The poor. And we know that they do badly on tests. What we are seeing is a poverty effect

There is no end of these studies and if they do not forget to control for income, the effects are vanishingly small.

The fact is that humans cope well with fine pollution. They just cough it up and spit it out

Researchers believe inhaling microscopic particles MAY affect children’s brains

Cutting air pollution outside schools could boost children’s memories, putting them the equivalent of a month ahead in school, experts SUGGEST.

A reduction of a fifth in nitrogen dioxide pollution, produced by traffic fumes and industry among other sources, could improve schoolchildren’s memory by 6.1 per cent, according to researchers at the University of Manchester.

Experts suspect that inhaling microscopic particles of pollution may affect the development of children’s brains.

Researchers did not actually test British schoolchildren’s memories or achievement in school.

But previous Spanish research has shown children at schools in highly polluted areas, similar to those in the UK, see slower than normal memory improvements over time.

A 20 per cent reduction in pollution could help children’s memories improve up to four weeks faster in a year, based on the Spanish evidence.

The findings will raise concerns about further risks to children from dirty air beyond asthma and respiratory problems.

However some doubt remains on whether pollution really can affect memory, as previous studies have not always found a link.

But Professor Martie van Tongeren, an environmental health expert at the University of Manchester, who led the research, said: ‘Pollution of indoor and outdoor air affects the health of our children.

‘In addition, the available evidence indicates that it affects their cognitive development, which may affect educational attainment.

‘Policies should be set out by ministers to tackle this urgent challenge, immediately.’

Last month new analysis, commissioned by Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, found more than a quarter of British schools, nurseries and colleges are in areas with ‘dangerously high’ levels of pollution particles called PM2.5, which can trigger asthma attacks in children.

To see how pollution might affect children’s thinking skills, researchers referred to two recent Spanish studies.

These looked at nitrogen dioxide levels in school grounds, and PM2.5 levels inside school, as well as pupils’ memory tests.

Children were shown a series of images, such as numbers, colours or words, and asked to remember one they had seen previously – up to three images ago.

In polluted areas, children were slower and less accurate on average, and this allowed researchers to work out how pollution in British schools could affect pupils.

They could also see the rate at which children’s memories improved over a year, and calculate how many weeks of additional improvement a cut in pollution might provide.

Halving nitrogen dioxide levels in schools could give children the equivalent of up to seven weeks of extra learning in a year, the scientists suggest.

An air purifier in a classroom was found to reduce pollution by 30 per cent in a Manchester primary school.

The research was carried out to mark Clean Air Day, and commissioned by its coordinators, the charity Global Action Plan and the Philips Foundation.

Global Action Plan is calling for Government action to reduce pollution at schools and provides advice through its Clean Air for Schools Framework on measures such as improved ventilation and traffic-free streets (SUBS – pls keep).

Responding to the findings, Jonathan Grigg, professor of paediatric respiratory and environmental medicine at Queen Mary University of London, said: ‘There is emerging evidence that air pollution has effects on the developing brain and this type of modelling, based on a peer-reviewed study, helps to showing the benefits of reducing air pollution.

‘Reducing children’s exposure will have many other positive outcomes, including less cases of asthma and better lung growth.’


Wind and Solar Developers Want To Force You To Pay Their Transmission Costs

Wind and solar energy are closer to going away entirely than they are to being the future of energy. Here in the Midwest, hundreds of wind and solar installations, representing thousands of megawatts (MW) of installed capacity, have been cancelled because their developers didn’t want to foot the bill for the transmission upgrades that would be necessary to bring these projects online.

According to an article in Midwest Energy News, which is run by Fresh Energy, wind and solar projects are not financially viable unless the costs for transmission upgrades are saddled on to customers like you.

“In all, 245 clean energy projects that had reached advanced stages of development were withdrawn between January 2016 and July 2020, the study found. While there are various reasons a project may be withdrawn, experts and developers say that especially in the western region of [the Midcontinent Independent Systems Operator] MISO, congestion and related grid upgrade costs are the main factors.

EDP Renewables recently withdrew a planned 100-megawatt wind farm in southwestern Minnesota from MISO’s queue for interconnection to the grid, because MISO said it would have to pay $80 million for grid upgrades. The company, which was in the midst of negotiating a power purchase agreement with a telecommunications company, had estimated the work would cost about $10 million and has since called the project off, said director of government affairs Vanessa Tutos.

It’s one of several that have faced a similar fate.

“What we’ve seen in the data and reports from developers is that the number of projects dropping out as a result of high network upgrade charges has significantly increased over time,” said John Moore, director of NRDC’s Sustainable FERC Project. “The network is reaching its limit.”

These are massive costs for transmission upgrades. According to the Energy Information Administration, it costs about $1.3 million dollars per MW to install wind turbines. This means a 100 MW facility would cost about $130 million. The additional transmission costs of $80 million are about 60 percent of the cost of building the wind turbines in the first place. Rather than realizing that wind and solar are not financially viable, renewable developers simply want to make you pay for the transmission expenses, instead of them.

“Power generators typically pay for the interconnection lines needed to get their power to the grid, and EDP regulatory and market affairs director David Mindham said there are few concerns about this arrangement. But as the long-distance, high-voltage interstate power lines are too congested to serve new projects, developers are required to pay for upgrades on these lines if they want to build.

The developers and clean energy advocates say that as these upgrades benefit many parties across multiple states, the needs and costs should instead be predicted farther in advance by MISO and passed on to a wider range of stakeholders, including ratepayers. MISO declined to comment for this story.

“Generators absorb those costs up front,” which is not feasible in many cases, Mindham said. “We need a better cost-sharing mechanism between generators and other beneficiaries of the system.”

What benefits are the developers referring to, exactly? Minnesota’s experiment with wind and solar has been an abject disaster. Minnesotans have spent more than $15 billion on wind turbines, solar panels, and transmission lines, and electricity prices have increased nearly 30 percent faster than the national average since 2005 as a result, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Now, wind and solar developers want Minnesota families to pay even more to build transmission for energy sources that don’t work when the weather doesn’t cooperate. The article continues:

“The current process ignores the reality of the way the grid is heading — it used to be that you’d build your generating facility close to load, but renewable resources need to be sited where the resource is best … and often in far-flung locations, the transmission system is not robust,” said Nicole Luckey, vice president of regulatory affairs for Invenergy. “Customers are seeing the benefits but they’re not funding those upgrade costs.”

Invenergy Senior Vice President Kris Zadlo noted that there were 27 projects submitted into MISO’s February 2017 west interconnection cluster representing 3,421 megawatts. MISO studies initially showed the need for about $3.4 billion in transmission upgrades for those projects, coming out to about $1 million per megawatt to interconnect. “To put this value in context, you are almost paying as much to interconnect as you are to build a renewable resource,” Zadlo said, and all but two of the projects were ultimately canceled.”

“There’s a breakpoint where bearing those costs makes the renewable project unprofitable and you just have to drop out of the queue,” Zadlo said.”

Renewable advocates need the public to believe that wind and solar are still the future of energy. If the public doesn’t believe this, the bottom falls out of their pitch to help themselves to more of your money. However, these same advocates are ignoring the reality that the grid cannot head toward higher levels of renewables without sacrificing reliability and affordability, as we have seen rolling blackouts in California.

The problem is that it becomes exponentially more difficult to incorporate more wind and solar on the electric grid over time, not less difficult, according to MISO. This is why the Star Tribune’s editorial “It’s Minnesota’s time to move ahead with clean energy,” was so pitfiully uninformed. The easy and affordable part of adding wind turbines and solar panels to the electric grid is over. It’s sharply uphill from here.

If your product requires federal tax subsidies, mandates, and other people to pay for your transmission expenses, it isn’t a viable product. This is especially true if your wind turbines can’t operate if it gets too cold in Minnesota, and “paying people to clean [snow] off panels is simply too expensive.”

Rather than squandering billions of dollars on wind turbines that only last 20 years, solar panels that last for 25, and transmission infrastructure to the middle of nowhere, those who claim climate change will be the death of humanity should be pounding on the table to legalize new nuclear power plants in Minnesota, and to change the Next Generation Energy Act to allow large hydroelectric generators to be classified as “renewable.”

Their focus on unreliable, expensive, and short-lived wind and solar projects suggest they don’t care very much about the environment.


Republican senators Push to Eliminate Wind Tax Credit

Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), John Hoeven (R-ND), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) along with Representative Kenny Marchant (R-TX) today introduced legislation to completely phase out the federal production tax credit (PTC) for renewables. The bill specifies that any new projects would need to begin construction by the end of this year in order to qualify for the credit, as is the case under current law. This affirms that the extension for 2020 is the last extension the credit will receive.

“This production tax credit was established years ago to help the fledgling renewable energy industry. Now, when you drive through my state and many others with countless wind turbines, you can see that the wind industry is no longer a start-up, new energy source,” said Lankford. “The wind industry is thriving and does not need federal taxpayers’ money to thrive. Even though Congress concluded four years ago that the wind tax credit served its purpose and should be phased out by the end of 2019, the PTC was instead unexpectedly extended for the twelfth time at the end of last year. With $26 trillion in national debt and ever-present deficit spending issues, we must return to the spirit of the 2015 agreement and allow this market-distorting credit to expire for new projects at the end of this year. I am grateful to work with Senators Cramer, Hoeven, and Capito and Representative Marchant to ensure we get this resolved.”

“The wind production tax credit is fundamentally unfair and has long outlived its expiration date,” said Cramer. “Our bill helps level the energy market by forcing this disruptive tax credit to finally expire.”

“We reached a bipartisan consensus to phase out the wind PTC in 2015, recognizing that the technology has reached commercial-viability,” said Hoeven. “This legislation ends the extension. We need to ensure that we have a level playing field, helping maintain a more diverse energy mix and better ensuring homes and businesses have power when needed most.”

“When the renewable energy production tax credit was implemented, it was intended by its authors to be a temporary support for a generation technology that was then too expensive to compete. Since then, we have seen renewables take ever greater market share, particularly wind energy production, and yet the tax incentive remains in effect. This creates an unfair advantage against other energy sources, such as power plants fueled with West Virginia coal and natural gas. This legislation would ensure that the wind PTC would not be extended past 2020, leveling the playing field within our electric markets. We should not be wasting more taxpayer dollars on a credit that completed its goal years ago,” said Capito.

“When the production tax credit was created in 1992, it served as a temporary boost for energy innovation,” said Marchant. “Almost thirty years later, it now acts as a taxpayer-funded handout to the multibillion-dollar wind industry. They regularly produce more energy than the market demands and there is no reason for the tax code to subsidize them while they rake in their profits. That is why I am proud to introduce this legislation that will end the PTC and save taxpayers billions of dollars over the coming decade.”

“For far too long, the electricity marketplace has been distorted by regulatory overreach and massive subsidies that are driving up the cost of electricity and reducing grid reliability,” said Rich Nolan, President and CEO of the National Mining Association (NMA). “Nascent technologies that originally needed support to achieve maturity can now stand on their own, and no longer need taxpayer support—especially at a time when taxpayers can least afford it. This legislation acknowledges the realities of today’s energy market and the need for balance, to ensure that the reliable, affordable baseload power Americans need to keep the lights on is not wiped off the grid by market-manipulation.”

The bill allows any project that previously qualified, or will qualify before the end of this year, to receive the value and duration of the tax credit that was in place at the time the project qualified. The bill would ultimately completely remove the PTC from the tax code once projects qualifying in 2020 finish receiving what is promised to them under current law to guard against future extensions of the credit and to provide certainty around when PTC-related tax expenditures will disappear. Lankford introduced similar legislation as a standalone bill in October 2015 and has offered the provision as an amendment to other previous legislation.

The PTC was established nearly three decades ago as part of the Energy Policy Act of 1992 and since its adoption, wind power has grown tremendously into a self-sustainable, multibillion dollar industry. Wind generation has grown more than 3,000 percent, and capacity has spiked from 1,500 million megawatts in 1992 to over 110,000 megawatts currently. Meanwhile, the cost to taxpayers for the PTC for all qualified renewables has increased from $5.7 billion over the first five years of the credit to $19.5 billion over the 2019-2023 period.

Roughly 35 percent of Oklahoma’s entire electricity generation comes from wind energy. Wind power is an economically sustainable industry, and 37 states, including Oklahoma, have production incentives in place through either renewable portfolio standards or renewable portfolio goals. Ultimately, the federal PTC is a redundancy that subsidizes policies that states are already pursuing through local resources and utility markets. The PTC also creates distortions in electricity markets. Wind producers’ negative bids are subsidy-driven and distort the market by sending incorrect price signals, which can harm the long-term reliability and cost effective operation of the utility.


NC: Gov. Cooper’s “Clean Energy Plan,” Raising Prices and Polluting More?

Governor Cooper’s “Clean Energy Plan” seeks to install more renewable energy including solar power in North Carolina. NC already has more installed solar energy than any other state except California. NC has more than double the solar power of 45 other states. NC’s solar plants operate at only 21% of their stated capacity, however, which is below the nation’s average. Are other states crazy, or are we? It turns out we are.

Solar plants generate power only when the sun is shining, and only when the sun is shining directly overhead do they generate a significant amount of electricity. Here are some actual electricity generating curves for a solar facility:

When not generating electricity, some other electricity generator must step in to fill the gap. Due to an unusual interpretation of federal law in NC, almost all of the power solar plants generate must be purchased by the utility company for delivery to the customers. This means that the dispatchable plants that step in to fill the gaps must idle when solar plants are generating electricity. This causes those plants to operate inefficiently, and means that customers are actually paying for twice the generating capacity during those periods.

The grid must also accommodate large fluctuations in electricity generation. When the sun shines, solar plants throughout the area send electricity across the grid for distribution to our homes. When clouds pass over, or at about 3:00 when that power evaporates, a number of large gas combustion turbines and coal plants must quickly ramp up to fill the gap. These large fluctuations strain the grid. As more and more solar plants are being installed, NC electricity customers will be made to pay billions of dollars to upgrade our grid to maintain its reliability.

Nuclear plants could fit into our current grid seamlessly. But even without including grid modifications, solar power is more expensive than even new nuclear power.

Solar power requires the use of fossil fuels. Solar requires fossil fuel–fired combustion turbines and coal plants to provide 79% of the load. It turns out that when fossil fuel backup generators operate in this fluctuating mode, their efficiencies drop, necessitating more fuel. So in terms of reducing greenhouse gases (GHG), the overall benefit of solar and wind is diminished. It also increases non-GHG pollution. To the extent manmade GHGs are impacting global warming, then, solar power cannot compete with nuclear power.

Enter the Battery Unicorn

While the Cooper plan does not compare intermittent sources plus their backup generators with nuclear plants, the plan discusses using battery storage as a way that could potentially extend solar power’s capacity and reduce the need to provide backup. The idea would be to store excess solar or wind energy when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing for release to the grid when sun and wind are absent. For this scheme to work, of course, a very large amount of batteries would need to be installed.

How large? The plan does not consider this obvious question, for obvious reasons. Other researchers have. It turns out that such a deployment of batteries would be absurd for the following reasons:

Monetary cost. Sufficient batteries would be extremely expensive, costing over $2.5 trillion to cover just the storage of 80% of the country’s needs,. That same $2.5 trillion could buy over 350 nuclear plants delivering 83% of the country’s electricity needs.

Environmental costs. Mining the raw materials needed would devastate the earth’s ecosystem and natural habitat. Producing wind and solar power requires 10 times the raw material in tons needed per megawatt for nuclear power and 100 times that required for natural gas generation. Both of the latter, of course, are dispatchable power sources. It also requires destroying natural habitat as well. Solar requires 75 times more land than nuclear to produce the same amount of power, while wind requires 360 times more land.

Explosive and corrosive. Battery safety is a work in progress. Lithium ion batteries can explode under various conditions. When they do burn, they emit significant quantities of hydrofluoric acid. George Crabtree, director of Argonne National Laboratory’s Joint Center for Energy Storage Research working on Lithium batteries, has stated that “no one’s been able to figure [the fire hazard] out.”

Abysmal working conditions and child labor. The mining for the exotic materials is notorious for abysmal working conditions in developing countries. Amnesty International has lamented that the need for cobalt for battery manufacturing is resulting in children being forced to spend long hours underground every day without basic protective equipment, carrying heavy loads for one or two dollars a day.

Neither solar nor wind energy will ever deliver the needed energy for our country without the significant use of fossil fuel as backup. Battery storage is not the answer for extended storage of large amounts of electricity. If Gov. Cooper is serious about cleaning up our energy sector, he needs to push for more nuclear plants and stop wasting billions of dollars on expensive, dirty, and ecologically harmful alternatives.



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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