Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sophisticated attempt to MEASURE the influence of CO2 finds it to be negligible

Tiny warming of residual anthropogenic CO2

Fran├žois Gervais

The residual fraction of anthropogenic CO2 emissions which has not been captured by carbon sinks and remains in the atmosphere, is estimated by two independent experimental methods which support each other: the 13C/12C ratio and the temperature-independent fraction of d(CO2)/dt on a yearly scale after subtraction of annual fluctuations the amplitude ratio of which reaches a factor as large as 7. The anthropogenic fraction is then used to evaluate the additional warming by analysis of its spectral contribution to the outgoing long-wavelength radiation (OLR) measured by infrared spectrometers embarked in satellites looking down. The anthropogenic CO2 additional warming extrapolated in 2100 is found lower than 0.1°C in the absence of feedbacks. The global temperature data are fitted with an oscillation of period 60 years added to a linear contribution. The data which support the 60-year cycle are summarized, in particular sea surface temperatures and sea level rise measured either by tide gauge or by satellite altimetry. The tiny anthropogenic warming appears consistent with the absence of any detectable change of slope of the 130-year-long linear contribution to the temperature data before and after the onset of large CO2 emissions.

International Journal of Modern Physics B, Volume 28, Issue 13, 20 May 2014.

Prince Charles has drunk the Kool Aid

Prince Charles has called for an end to capitalism as we know it in order to save the planet from global warming.

In a speech to business leaders in London, the Prince said that a “fundamental transformation of global capitalism” was necessary in order to halt “dangerously accelerating climate change” that would “bring us to our own destruction”.

He called for companies to focus on “approaches that achieve lasting and meaningful returns” by protecting the environment, improving their employment practices and helping the vulnerable to develop a new "inclusive capitalism".

The Prince was taking part in his first major UK public engagement since sparking a diplomatic row last week by likening the behaviour of Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, to Adolf Hitler.

In a politically-charged speech at the Inclusive Capitalism conference, the Prince said: “I remember when the Iron Curtain came down there was a certain amount of shouting about the triumph of capitalism over communism. Being somewhat contrary, I didn't think it was quite as simple as that. I felt that unless the business world considered the social, community and environmental dimensions, we might end up coming full circle.”

The Prince, who has long been outspoken about the need to tackle climate change, said the world now stood at “a pivotal moment in history” ahead of major UN summit in Paris next year on reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.

“Over the next eighteen months, and bearing in mind the urgency of the situation confronting us, the world faces what is probably the last effective window of opportunity to vacate the insidious lure of the ‘last chance saloon’ in order to agree an ambitious, equitable and far-sighted multilateral settlement in the context of the post-2015 sustainable development goals and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change,” he said.

“Either we continue along the path we seem collectively determined to follow, apparently at the mercy of those who so vociferously and aggressively deny that our current operating model has any effect upon dangerously accelerating climate change - which I fear will bring us to our own destruction - or we can choose to act now before it is finally too late, using all of the power and influence that each of you can bring to bear to create an inclusive, sustainable and resilient society,” he said.

The Prince was addressing an audience of 200 business leaders including Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, and chief executives of multinational companies such as UBS, GlaxoSmithKline and Unilever.

He called on businesses to focus on the long-term and make “an authentic moral commitment to acting as true custodians of the Earth and architects of the well-being of current and future generations”.

“It is only by adopting a broader sense of value that our finances will be sustained and we can find new sources of profit,” he said.

His comments appear to align with those of Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, who has called for “responsible capitalism”.

The Prince suggested that companies must do more to put “young people properly at the heart of companies' employment practices and planning strategies, in order to tackle more effectively the world's growing youth unemployment crisis”.

Businesses must also “account properly for carbon dioxide emissions, the use of water and fertiliser, the pollution we produce and the biodiversity we lose”, he said.

The Prince said that businesses would be unpopular with their peers in the short term for going green but would reap “immense” rewards in the long term.


45 senators, including vulnerable Dems, are asking the EPA to delay incoming emissions regulations

It’s only a small matter of time until the Obama administration finally, rapturously releases what its hopes will be the crown jewel of its rise-of-the-oceans-slowing climate-change agenda: Regulations capping the emissions from existing power plants, a.k.a., stamping out coal plants across the country. This set of regs is going to be even more complicated and controversial than the regulations for only new power plants the administration released last year, and as the AP obliquely explains, we’re likely to start seeing those “necessarily skyrocketing” energy prices Obama once mentioned pretty quickly here:

    "Electricity prices are probably on their way up across much of the U.S. as coal-fired plants, the dominant source of cheap power, shut down in response to environmental regulations and economic forces.

    New and tighter pollution rules and tough competition from cleaner sources such as natural gas, wind and solar will lead to the closings of dozens of coal-burning plants across 20 states over the next three years. And many of those that stay open will need expensive retrofits.

    Because of these and other factors, the Energy Department predicts retail power prices will rise 4 percent on average this year, the biggest increase since 2008. By 2020, prices are expected to climb an additional 13 percent, a forecast that does not include the costs of coming environmental rules.

    The Obama administration, state governments and industry are struggling to balance this push for a cleaner environment with the need to keep the grid reliable and prevent prices from rocketing too much higher."

“Tough competition” from wind and solar? …That’s cute. Our egregiously subsidized wind and solar industries account for about 4 percent of our electricity generation and are terribly unreliable (just ask Germany, which has lately had to bring more coal plants online to make up for their faulty renewables), while coal still provides around 40 percent of our electricity and is the most reliable mass source we have. Natural gas is great with its cleaner-burning emissions, coming in with the really stiff competition at around 30 percent, but it has some infrastructural issues that are currently keeping it at second place in terms of reliability.

Make no mistake — the Obama administration swooping in with major regs that deeply affect 40 percent of our electricity generation is going to take its economic toll, and 45 senators  — Democrats and Republicans included — would like the Obama administration to step back for a second a perhaps more deeply consider that toll. Via The Hill:

    "Forty-five senators are pressing the Environmental Protection Agency to delay new rules on limiting carbon emissions from power plants. …

    The senators are pressuring the EPA to set a 120-day comment period rather than the standard 60-day comment period. That would double the normal allotted for industry, consumers, businesses, and states to give their two cents on the rule.

    Fifteen Democrats signed the letter, including the four seen as most vulnerable in the midterm elections: Sens. Mary Landrieu (La.), Mark Warner (Va), Mark Pryor (Ark.) and Mark Begich (Alaska). …

    “Affordable, reliable, and redundant sources of electricity are essential to the economic well-being of our states and the quality of life of our constituents,” the letter to EPA chief Gina McCarthy said.

    “While we all agree that clean air is vitally important, EPA has an obligation to understand the impacts that regulations have on all segments of society,” it said."


Greenie versus Greenie

Just what effect seismic testing will have along the Jersey Shore is in question, but it seems that almost everyone except the Obama Administration is opposed to taking a chance on any negative consequences resulting from it during a study that hardly appears to be of high priority.

Both recreational and commercial fishing representatives joined environmentalists at a Point Pleasant Beach rally Friday morning in an effort to postpone the Rutgers University project approved by the Obama Administration as a climate change study designed to access deep sea sediments. It's set to begin off the coast on June 3, and will utilize high energy seismic blasting that could disturb fish and marine mammal populations.

There probably wouldn't be so much opposition if the seismic blasting were to be conducted in mid-winter, but running the program during the prime inshore period of fish abundance doesn't seem to make any sense at all.

The Recreational Fishing Alliance notes that only President Obama and his Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, can postpone this study -- and they've been deaf to the bipartisan requests to do so. Gov. Chris Christie and his Department of Environmental Protection have been requesting a postponement along with many members of the N.J. Congressional delegation. A petition is being circulated by Clean Ocean Action, but it will take individual communications from voters to pressure President Obama into avoiding any negative consequences to the Shore and its economy during the prime season.


Why the Best Path to a Low-Carbon Future is Not Wind or Solar Power

As the science on climate change and its impacts on the global economy become clearer and more urgent, governments are increasingly looking for ways to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The largest source of these emissions comes from the combustion of fossil fuels—including coal, oil and natural gas—to produce electricity, an effort that in 2012 made up about 40 percent of emissions globally and 32 percent in the United States. More and more, countries are seeking to lower emissions in the electricity sector by turning to low and no-carbon generation options. However, until now, there has been little thorough, empirical analysis of which of these technologies is most efficient, and which provides the best “bang for our buck” as we seek to reduce emissions.

My new Brookings working paper breaks down the comprehensive costs and benefits of five common low-carbon electricity technologies: wind, solar, hydroelectric, nuclear, and gas combined cycle (an advanced, highly energy efficient type of natural gas plant). Using data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the paper asks the question, “Which of the five low-carbon alternatives is most cost-effective in lowering emissions?” The results are highly policy-relevant, and offer enlightening answers to a number of questions that can help governments aiming for a low-carbon future.

1. What’s it going to cost me?

This is an important question because energy costs are private and owed by everyday consumers, whereas the benefits of reducing carbon use are shared as a global public good. So, what would it cost you and I to move toward a world where we generate electricity through mostly low-carbon technologies? How would the cost per megawatt hour (MWH) and kilowatt hour (KWH) change?

One of the best scenarios for our proposed low-carbon alternatives would be for each of them to replace the use of coal-fired plants when electricity demand is moderate, which is most of the time, and gas simple cycle plants during shorter periods of peak energy use.

The table above compares the cost per kilowatt-hour (KWH) of each of the five low-carbon technologies compared to the cost per KWH of the high-carbon technologies that it replaces. All of the low carbon technologies save on energy costs compared to coal and simple cycle gas plants: wind, solar and hydro because the energy from wind, sun and water is free; nuclear because uranium is cheaper than coal or gas per unit of energy; and gas combined cycle because it is much more energy efficient than coal or gas simple cycle. Four of the five low-carbon technologies, excluding gas combined cycle, have a much higher net capacity cost—that is, the cost of building and maintaining the low-carbon power plants—because all four are much more costly to build and maintain than a new coal or gas simple cycle plant. A gas combined cycle plant saves on capacity costs mainly because it costs about two-thirds less to build than a coal-fired plant.

Adding up the net energy cost and the net capacity cost of the five low-carbon alternatives, far and away the most expensive is solar. It costs almost 19 cents more per KWH than power from the coal or gas plants that it displaces. Wind power is the second most expensive. It costs nearly 6 cents more per KWH. Gas combined cycle is the least expensive. It does not cost more than the cost of power from the coal or less efficient gas plants that it displaces. Indeed, it costs about 3 cents less per KWH.

To place these additional costs in context, the average cost of electricity to U.S. consumers in 2012 was 9.84 cents per KWH, including the cost of transmission and distribution of electricity. This means a new wind plant could at least cost 50 percent more per KWH to produce electricity, and a new solar plant at least 200 percent more per KWH, than using coal and gas technologies.

2. Are the additional costs of wind and solar justified by the benefits of reduced carbon dioxide emissions?

The additional costs of wind and solar could be worthwhile, provided that the value of the emissions they avoid is great enough. However, as the following table shows, if we value the reduced emissions at $50 per ton of carbon dioxide, the benefits of wind and solar, net of their costs, is less than the other three low-carbon alternatives.

The emission benefits of four of the five low-carbon alternatives per KWH are roughly the same, about five cents per KWH. The benefits of wind and solar, minus their additional costs, are negative. The net benefits of the other three alternatives are positive and substantially higher. Gas combined cycle ranks number one in terms of net benefits while hydro and nuclear rank two and three.

A carbon dioxide price of $50 per metric ton places quite a high value on reducing carbon dioxide emissions. For example, the price for carbon dioxide emissions in the European Trading System reached a high of about 30 euros in 2006 and was trading around 5 euros at the end of 2013. Recent prices in trading systems in California have been around $12 and in several eastern U.S. states around $2 per ton.
3. Why are the costs per KWH of wind and solar so much higher, and the benefits not much different, than the other three low-carbon alternatives?

Costs are much higher for three reasons. First, the cost per MW of capacity to build a wind or solar plant is quite high (and much greater than that of a gas-fired plant). The cost per MW of solar capacity is especially high. Reductions in the cost of solar-voltaic panels have reduced the cost of building a solar plant by 22 percent between 2010 and 2012, but further reductions are likely to have a lesser effect because the cost of solar panels is only a fraction of the total cost of a utility-scale solar plant.

Second, a wind or solar plant operates at full capacity only a fraction of the time, when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining. For example, a typical solar plant in the United States operates at only about 15 percent of full capacity and a wind plant only about 25 percent of full capacity, while a coal plant can operate 90 percent of full capacity on a year-round basis. Thus it takes six solar plants and almost four wind plants to produce the same amount of electricity as a single coal-fired plant.

Third, the output of wind and solar plants is highly variable—year by year, month by month, day by day and hour by hour—compared to a coal-fired plant, which can operate at full capacity about 90 percent of the time. Thus more than six solar plants and four wind plants are required to produce the same output with the same degree of reliability as a coal-fired plant of the same capacity. In the paper we estimate that at least 7.3 solar plants and 4.3 wind plants are required to produce the same amount of power with the same reliability as a coal-fired plant.

By way of contrast, a new low-carbon gas combined cycle or nuclear plant can operate also at 90 percent of full capacity and can replace a coal-fired plant on a one-to-one basis. A hydro plant with storage can operate at 100 percent capacity during peak periods and more than 40 percent during non-peak periods. In dollar terms, it takes a $29 million investment in solar capacity, and $10 million in wind capacity, to produce the same amount of electricity with the same reliability as a $1 million investment in gas combined cycle capacity.

The benefits of reduced emissions from wind and solar are limited because they operate at peak capacity only a fraction of the time. A nuclear or gas combined cycle plant avoids far more emissions per MW of capacity than wind or solar because it can operate at 90 percent of full capacity. Limited benefits and higher costs make wind and solar socially less valuable than nuclear, hydro, and combined cycle gas.

4. How can we be sure that a new low-carbon plant will replace a high-carbon coal plant rather than some other low-carbon plant?

We cannot be sure. If electricity producers do not have to pay a price for the carbon dioxide they emit, the likelihood is great than a new low-carbon plant will replace an existing, low-carbon gas combined cycle plant. The cost of running an existing coal plant is typically much less than running an existing combined cycle plant and the combined cycle plant will be shut down before the coal plant. The reduction in emissions will be far less than if the coal plant is shut down because a coal plant emits about three times as much carbon dioxide as a gas combined cycle plant.

However, if electricity producers have to pay a high enough price for the carbon dioxide they emit, then a coal plant will be shut down before a gas combined cycle plant. The price of carbon dioxide emissions required to tip the balance between shutting down coal and shutting down gas depends on the price of gas relative to that of coal. It also depends on whether we are talking about the short-term choice of running an existing gas plant rather than an existing coal plant or the longer term choice of investing in a new combined cycle gas plant rather than a new coal plant.

In the United States, where the price of natural gas is low compared to most other countries, the price for CO2 emissions had to be about $5 or more in 2013 in order to tip the short-term balance in favor of shutting down coal. At current U.S. gas prices, investment in new gas combined cycle is more profitable than an investment in a coal plant even without any price penalty attached to CO2 emissions.

In Europe, where the price of natural gas is much higher than in the United States, a CO2 emission price of $65 to $85 per metric ton is required to tip the short-term balance in favor of shutting down coal, far higher than the current price of CO2 emissions in the European Trading System. However, the price of CO2 emissions need only be about $12 to $22 per metric ton to tip the longer-term balance in favor of investing in a new gas combined cycle plant rather than a new coal plant.

5. What does this paper have for policymakers interested in reducing carbon dioxide emissions at a reasonable cost?

First, renewable incentives that are biased in favor of wind and solar and biased against large-scale hydro, nuclear and gas combined cycle are a very expensive and inefficient way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Second, renewable incentives in the absence of a suitably high carbon dioxide price are even less effective, because without a carbon price renewable energy will replace low-carbon gas plants rather than high-carbon coal plants.

Third, renewable incentives should be based not on output of renewable energy but on the reduction in CO2 emissions by renewable energy. They are not the same thing.

Fourth, a carbon price is far more effective in reducing carbon emissions precisely because it is not biased toward any one technology but rewards any technology that reduces emissions at a reasonable cost.

Fifth, the benefits of a natural gas combined cycle plant are not dependent on the natural gas fracking revolution in the United States. Combined cycle plants are highly beneficial even in Europe, where natural gas prices are higher and fracking more limited. The problem in Europe is that the price of CO2 emissions in the European Trading System is far too low to encourage production of electricity by gas rather than coal.

Sixth, even though the electricity sector accounts for only 40 percent of worldwide carbon emissions, cleaner electricity can reduce CO2 emissions in other sectors, for example by reducing the carbon footprint of electric vehicles and home heating.

Finally, the electricity sector offers one of the simplest and most cost effective ways of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Simply replacing all high-carbon U.S. coal plants with any of the five low-carbon alternatives can reduce U.S. CO2 emissions in the electricity sector by 50 to 70 percent. The potential reductions in other countries, such as China where coal is more important, are even greater.


Why Renewables Haven't Destroyed the Grid - Yet!

By Davis Swan

Most supporters of renewable energy development are probably pretty comfortable with the way things are going.  Wind and Solar generation has been increasing both in "nameplate capacity" and in actual production of electricity.  There have not been any significant grid failures that can be blamed on renewables.  Apart from a consolidation within the solar cell manufacturing sector there have not been any notable bankruptcies within the electricity generating sector.  All visible signs are positive for a continued expansion of renewable resources.

When I talk to groups about renewable energy I start off with a Youtube video which demonstrates testing the compression strength of a concrete block. For 2 minutes and 40 seconds this is the most boring video you could imagine. The block shows absolutely no sign of stress. At 2:41 the concrete block fails and is utterly destroyed.  As far as I am concerned we are at about 2 minutes and 30 seconds with respect to the electrical grid.

In order to understand what I believe to be the serious risks facing the electrical generation and distribution system it is necessary to review the structure of the system as it was before renewables began to be developed in a significant way. The chart below shows hypothetical load profiles for a peak demand day during the spring/fall, winter and summer as well as a line that represents the overall generating capacity in the system.

It can be observed that the system demand/load varies considerably throughout the day and throughout the year. It is also clear that there is a great deal of excess supply available for most hours on most days. In fact, only on the highest peak demand days of the entire year will the demand come close to the supply. That is by design as every well-managed electrical generation system in the world requires a reserve margin of 8-15% above peak demand.

This reserve is meant to provide resiliency for the grid to accommodate scheduled maintenance shut-downs at major facilities such as nuclear plants, natural gas-fired and coal-fired plants as well as unscheduled outages due to storms or switching problems or other operational issues.

(Note: I appreciate that many people will raise objections to the demand curves presented in that their local situation might be very different.  That is one of the challenges facing every Independent System/grid Operator.  Local demand curves can be all over the map due to the mix of commercial, residential, and industrial users.  My point is not that these particular curves are the most typical in all locations.  The point is that demand varies significantly over the course of the day and through different seasons.)

So before we began to develop renewable energy there was plenty of generation capacity within the system.  In fact, many generation facilities were not running at anything close to capacity most of the time.

Because of a public policy decision to reduce the burning of hydro-carbons (and the associated production of CO2 emissions) wind and solar generation sources have been subsidized through a variety of financial instruments including capital grants, tax credits, and feed-in-tariffs.  Renewables have also been given preferential access to the grid in most jurisdictions.

These measures have achieved the stated policy goal.  Wind and solar now make up a significant percentage of generation capacity in a number of jurisdictions and at times provide a large percentage of electrical production.

For example, Germany has developed over 30 GW of solar power and over 30 GW of Wind.  On a blustery spring day in Germany renewables can meet up to 40% of the total electrical demand for a few hours at mid-day.  There are regular announcements of "new records" for both solar and wind generation.  A similar situation exists in Texas with regards to wind and in parts of Hawaii with regards to solar.

Remembering that there was already a surplus of generation capacity in the system before the development of renewables it is obvious that when renewables hit their generation peaks most traditional thermal generation plants are unable to sell electricity.  That would not be a problem if the construction of these plants had not been financed based upon assumptions regarding how often they would be used and what wholesale electricity prices would be.  In fact, the economics of running these plants has deteriorated to the point where many utilities, especially in Europe, are on a "credit watch".

The rational response of companies trying to sell electricity into a market that has a great over-supply would be to decommission some of the oldest and most polluting plants to bring supply and demand into a better balance.  But there is a problem.  Renewable resources cannot be relied upon, particularly at peak demand times.

In this situation demand rose throughout the week as a strong high pressure system spread across the state bringing with it colder temperatures while at the same time shorter days required more lighting.  One of the more troublesome realities of meteorology is that large, stable high pressure systems are often responsible for peak electrical demand in both winter and summer because they are associated with clear skies and temperature extremes.  These systems are also commonly characterized by very low winds across a wide area.

As a result while demand continued to climb wind energy faded away to almost nothing.  At this point most of the thermal generation assets available within Texas had to come on-line in order to meet demand.

So it is impossible to decommission even the oldest and least efficient thermal generation plants in the system regardless of how many wind farms have been built and solar panels deployed.  German utility E.on came face-to-face with that reality in the spring of 2013 when they were instructed by the local grid operator to keep an old plant operational even though it would rarely be needed.

But a new day is dawning in the U.S. and it could be a darn cold (or hot) one.

The EPA announced regulations in December 2011 that will require coal-fired thermal generation plants to clean up or shut down.  The reality is that for many of these plants it will not be feasible to clean them up.  In fact, in some cases the EPA will not even allow them to be updated with modern pollution controls.  As a result more than 40 GW of firm generation capacity will be decommissioned over the next several years.

Plans to replace this loss are in some cases vague and have been changing often.  Increased conservation and better utilization of existing plants are frequently included in Integrated Resource Plans.  In other cases greater reliance upon renewables is explicitly identified.  These are not really replacements for firm capacity.

A number of new Natural Gas fired plants are also under construction.  While current low gas prices make this an attractive option the threat of future significant price hikes as well as the EPA's stated goal to regulate CO2 emissions are worrisome and are impacting the ability to secure financing of these plants in some cases.

As more and more coal-fired plants are retired it is likely that total system firm generation capacity will drop resulting in smaller reserves.  This, in turn, will make the system more susceptible to storms or other unplanned outages.

The degree to which grid security is compromised will vary from region to region depending upon the penetration of renewables, number of coal-fired plant retirements and the health of the local economy which has a major impact on electricity demand.  Based upon those factors I believe Texas and the Mid-west are the areas most at risk.

It may be that the reduction in coal-fired generation will do nothing more than cull excess capacity out of the system with no negative impacts.  But groups such as the Institution of Engineering and Technology in the UK have issued warnings about the progressive stress on a system that has taken decades to evolve and is now faced with unprecedented challenges.

Like the concrete block in the Youtube video the system is not displaying any outward signs of weakness.  The question is this - will the North American electricity system encounter its own version of second 2:41?



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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