Tuesday, October 17, 2017

House Dems Accuse Pruitt, Trump of Catering to Big Ag on Pesticide

The Greenie war on pesticides continues.  There is no pesticide that Greenies like -- even ones that have been in widespread use for 50 years without obvious health consequences.  There have been studies indicating problems with chlorpyrifos but only at high doses.  It is true of any chemical that the toxicity is in the dose and there has been no demonstration that normal use of chlorpyrifos leads to any harm

A pair of House Democrats on Wednesday accused EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and the Trump administration of catering to big-business agriculture at the cost of human safety by refusing to ban a widely used pesticide known to cause developmental disorders among children.

“The EPA is not supposed to be an agent of big business and industry,” Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) said during a press conference on Capitol Hill. “They are supposed to be an agent of public good, and yet under Scott Pruitt and the Trump administration, they’re doing the bidding of companies and polluters to advance their interests and not the interests of the American people.”

Ellison joined Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.) in introducing the Pesticide Protection Act of 2017 this past July. The legislation, which would cancel the registration of the pesticide in question – chlorpyrifos – has garnered 42 co-sponsors, including one Republican, Rep. Chris Smith (N.J.).

Chlorpyrifos is a pesticide that has been in use since 1965, when the Dow Chemical Co. began selling it. According to the EPA, the pesticide is used for agricultural uses and non-agricultural uses, with the largest market being the corn industry. About 6 million pounds of the pesticide is sprayed on American crops each year, including asparagus, peaches, strawberries, apples, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cranberries and walnuts. The pesticide is also used on golf courses, turf and greenhouses, and as a poison for mosquitoes, roaches and ants, according to the EPA.

Chlorpyrifos has had harmful impacts on children, as well as farm workers. According to the EPA, it can cause nausea, dizziness and confusion, as well as respiratory paralysis and even death in high doses.

The Obama administration in 2015 moved to eliminate use of chlorpyrifos after fielding a petition from the Natural Resources Defense Council and Pesticide Action Network North America. In November 2016, EPA scientists concluded in a risk assessment memo that there is “a breadth of information available on the potential adverse neurodevelopmental effects in infants and children as a result of prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos.” According to an Associated Press report from June, Pruitt met with Dow Chemical leadership in March about 20 days before reversing course on Obama’s 2015 directive.

“Pruitt has ignored his own scientists’ recommendations to withdraw it as an acceptable chemical,” Pesticide Action Network executive director Kristin Schafer said on Wednesday.

According to Schafer, the EPA studied chlorpyrifos’ application in four key states -- Iowa, Minnesota, California and Hawaii – and determined that the pesticide was contaminating water supplies and that it can cause harm even in low-level doses.

“This administration’s agenda is radically anti-environment and willfully ignores science,” Velázquez said.

Ellison said that Pruitt’s refusal to restrict the use of chlorpyrifos and Trump’s repeal of Obama’s Clean Power Plan are just two instances in which the administration has set the country back decades in terms of environmental stewardship. The EPA’s core mission is to protect the environment and American communities, he added.

Dow Chemical Co. recorded about $48 billion in sales in 2016, according to Forbes. The Associated Press report noted that CEO Andrew Liveris’ leads a White House manufacturing working group, and the company pledged $1 million for Trump’s inauguration.

Ellison accused the administration of placing corporate profits ahead of the health and safety of American families, citing examples of the chemical infiltrating Minnesota homes following aerial sprays on nearby farms. He said that the administration has an obligation to determine the health impacts of the chemical, and if they are hazardous the pesticide needs to be controlled.


Misleading Costs for Wind and Solar

Recently the media has reported that wind and solar were competitive with coal and natural gas for generating electricity.

The Wall Street Journal, for example, published an article with a headline, Economic impact of wind farms is changing the political dynamics of renewable energy.

These media reports could lead people to believe that wind and solar were competitive with coal-fired and natural gas power plants, which is not the case. Electricity generated by coal-fired power and natural gas combined cycle power plants remain the lowest cost methods for generating electricity, especially when the unreliability of wind and solar are taken into consideration.

In trying to determine the source of the media claims, two sources became apparent.

Contract purchase agreements

Studies performed by financial firms such as Lazard

In the first instance, the lower contract prices were the result of subsidies. The lower prices did not accurately reflect the true costs for wind and solar: The subsidies resulted in low prices and low LCOEs.

In the second, some assumptions in the studies performed by financial groups  resulted in low LCOEs (Levelized Cost of Energy).

Furthermore, equating LCOEs of wind and solar with those of coal and natural gas power plants is fallacious. Beyond a certain point, it’s impossible to replace coal and natural gas with wind and solar on a one for one basis, interchanging them as though they were LEGO pieces.

A review of the Lazard study established why the study produced very low LCOEs for wind and solar: LCOEs that were atypical of previously determined LCOEs.

Lazard study is for New Construction

It’s important to point out that the LCOEs determined by Lazard were for new power plants, something not mentioned in their report.

Existing coal-fired and natural gas power plants have LCOEs of around three cents per kWh because their construction and financing costs have already been amortized.

It makes no economic sense to deliberately replace existing coal-fired and natural gas power plants with wind and solar units even if the LCOEs of new wind and solar power plants are below six cents per kWh.

Lazard Assumptions

Lazard held financial costs, such as the cost of debt and equity, constant when making calculations for each type of facility.

This was an effort to ensure that calculations between facility types were fair. However, there were at least two instances where this assumption was misleading.

Natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) plants were assumed to have a life of twenty years, which is half the life that should have been used. Financial costs should have been amortized over 40, not 20 years.

The investment cost for a coal-fired power plant was assumed to be $3,000 per KW. This is higher than actual historical costs for supercritical plants and slightly higher than for ultra-supercritical plants. This imposed a financial penalty for coal-fired power plants.

There were two important assumptions in the Lazard study that were either questionable or that slanted conclusions unfairly to the benefit of wind and solar. These are addressed in a and b. A third factor was omitted from the study and is addressed in c.

a) Capacity Factor

Capacity factor (CF) is defined as the amount of electricity produced over a year by an installation, compared with the amount that could theoretically be produced based on the facility’s nameplate rating.

The Lazard study refers to “resource availability”, and it is unclear whether the CFs used in the study are true CFs or ersatz CFs based on some undefined resource availability calculation.

Because this is unclear, both possibilities are addressed for wind.

Alt 1: Traditionally Defined CFs

The capacity factor (CF) for wind used in the Lazard study was significantly higher than experience from existing installations. The study used 55% in one instance and 38% in another.

Actual CFs, as reported by DOE in its 2015 Wind Technology Report, averaged 32.8%, between 2011 and 2015; 31.8% between 2006 and 2010; and 30.3% between 2000 and 2005.

New, taller units with longer blades will probably have higher CFs, but not anywhere near 55%.

Wind installations in high wind areas, such as Montana where CFs could be higher, require long and expensive transmission lines, the costs of which are not included in the Lazard or many other studies.

The use of higher CFs and lower capital costs in the Lazard study, skewed the LCOEs for wind, making them unreasonably low.

Alt 2: Ersatz CFs

The Lazard study may have used a specially designed “capacity factor as a proxy for resource availability”.

Why this would be done is unclear since actual wind resources have been carefully mapped across the United States for heights of 30 meters, 80 meters and 100 meters above ground level.

The best winds for generating electricity are predominantly in the upper plains states such as Montana, and across the front range of the Rocky Mountains.

The regional factors used in the Lazard study do not appear to align with the wind maps available from NREL, though these regional factors were apparently used to represent wind availability across the country.

The Lazard study did not explain how these ersatz capacity factors were determined, so there is no way to determine their appropriateness or accuracy.

For this reason, the LCOEs developed by Lazard using ersatz CFs for wind are suspect, and not comparable to traditionally determined LCOEs.

b) Solar

The Lazard study seems to have used a specially designed “capacity factor as a proxy for resource availability” when determining LCOEs for solar.

Presumably “resource availability” refers, in some manner, to insolation levels.

“Resource availability” was apparently used to establish, what can best be described as ersatz capacity factors for solar installations.

Insolation levels are readily available for all areas of the world, so it begs the question of why Lazard chose to create a “resource availability” factor for solar.

Insolation levels for the Southwestern United States are twice those for the Midwestern United States, yet the LCOEs arrived at for solar by the Lazard study did not reflect these substantial differences.

For this reason, the solar LCOEs developed by Lazard are suspect, and not comparable to traditionally determined LCOEs.

Again, The Lazard study did not explain how these ersatz capacity factors were determined, so there is no way to determine their appropriateness or accuracy.

The report did confirm that rooftop PV solar is uncompetitive. As demonstrated in Nothing to Fear, PV rooftop solar is uneconomic in every state except possibly Hawaii.

c) Reliability

Both wind and solar are intermittent, and in some respects unreliable.

Beyond small amounts, it’s impossible to replace coal and natural gas power plants with wind and solar on a one for one basis. As mentioned earlier, these are not interchangeable LEGO pieces.

For example, wind and solar must also include expensive storage if the evening ramp-up is to be minimized. Coal and natural gas power plants must be retained to provide power at night and for when the sun stops shining or the wind stops blowing.

These limitations become increasingly worse as greater amounts of wind and solar are placed on the grid.

At the very least, LCOEs for wind and solar are misleading because wind and solar require the use of costly storage. More about the CAISO Duck curve is found in Nothing to Fear.


If an undefined “resource availability” is used to calculate LCOEs, the resulting LCOEs can’t be compared with a traditionally derived levelized cost of electricity (LCOE): It’s like comparing cashews with apples.

Pawning these LCOEs off as equivalent to traditionally calculated LCOEs is misleading at best, and at worst, could be considered deceptive.

In addition, wind and solar are unreliable, and LCOEs do not reflect the extra costs associated with having to compensate for their intermittency and unreliability.

The Lazard report and virtually all media articles attempting to compare LCOEs between wind and solar and coal and natural gas are fallacious and meaningless.

Wind and solar cannot replace coal and natural gas on a one for one basis … They are not interchangeable LEGO pieces.

Coal-fired and natural gas combined cycle power plants continue to be the least costly methods for generating electricity, notwithstanding the latest Lazard study.


Don’t Call Climate Skeptics ‘Deniers,’ Call Us ‘Correct’

Lord Monckton comments below on a rather silly article which essentially proclaims that the consensus is always right. It reminds me of a 1930s slogan:  "Mussolini ha sempre ragione" (Mussolini is always right).  I put up a brief comment on it on 5th but Monckton really goes to town on it below

If it’s totalitarian and unresearched, it’s not a consensus.

Arturo Casadevall and Ferric Fang, two academic microbiologists with no special knowledge of climate, recently used their article in the Hill to commit the repellent but now commonplace hate-crime of describing researchers skeptical of the sillier exaggerations of the climate-change establishment as “denialists.”

This disfiguring hate-word, calculated to invite an invidious comparison between climate skeptics and those who say the Nazis did not murder six million Jews, is not fit to be uttered by any serious academic. Here, as always, its misuse by intellectual pygmies indicated more than a little nervousness on the part of the establishment, for the world continues to warm at a rate well below what was originally predicted, and, as it turns out, there is a good explanation for the discrepancy.

The two hate-speakers tediously trundled through the history of challengers to the scientific establishment who were proven right (Hypatia, Giordano Bruno, Galileo, Benjamin Franklin, and John Scopes), but they did so without appreciating that it is we climate skeptics today who are the sciconoclasts, and it is the entrenched and generally totalitarian academic elite with which they pietistically identify themselves that is as wrong today as the mob that is said to have murdered Hypatia for her nonconformist astronomical notions and the cardinals who condemned Bruno to death.

The two microbiologists have missed the point entirely. They talk of “virtually unanimous consensus” that Earth is facing a period of anthropogenic climate change. Yet the largest sample of academic papers on climate ever studied — an impressive 11,944 papers over the 21 years 1991–2011 — showed only 0.3 percent “consensus” explicitly supporting the proposition recent global warming was mostly manmade. The question whether the small warming that is to be expected will prove dangerous was not even asked; the “consensus” on that question is even smaller.

Even if there were a “virtually unanimous consensus,” science is not advanced by consensus but by informed dissent. The instances the microbiologists themselves cite make it quite clear that where there is a “consensus,” it is nearly always wrong, at least at the margins.

Newton’s celestial mechanics was universally regarded as correct for three centuries, but relativity has replaced it — thanks to the work of a skeptical patent clerk from Switzerland.

And what was the response of the scientific “consensus” then? In Germany, 100 scientists wrote a book against Albert Einstein and his “Jewish science.” Where are they now?

The microbiologists indulge in the rebarbative mantra of the hard left to the effect that “the Trump administration has repeatedly belittled the value of scientific expertise and eliminated scientists from panels that advise the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice.”

No, but the Trump administration has eliminated political activists posing as scientists, replacing them with scientists who are willing to put science first and totalitarian politics nowhere.

The microbiologists ignorantly assert “no one is denying … the standard model of particle physics.” Actually, there is a lively debate among speculative cosmogonists as to the origin of the universe and, therefore, as to the emergence and influence of various particles, whose number and properties seem to change with bewildering rapidity as new theories are advanced.

The microbiologists do not seem to appreciate the reason why climate skeptics are skeptical is that, in numerous respects, climate science and mitigation economics are simply wrong. It is now clear to all but an irredentist minority the climate models, in their predictions, have exaggerated the rate of global warming, perhaps by as much as threefold.

And, since the two microbiologists adore “consensus,” there is near-unanimity in the journals of mitigation economics to the effect that it is two to three orders of magnitude costlier to attempt to mitigate largely non-existent global warming than to let it happen and adapt to its consequences.

Without any evidence, the microbiologists indolently assert “the denial of climate science is centered on resistance to economic and lifestyle changes that would bring about major disruption to certain ways of life, as we switch away from carbon-based fuels.”

First, the world is not “switching away” from coal, oil, and gas — very far from it, in fact. Secondly, the academic resistance to the party line on climate is based on a number of downright errors of official climatology.

One example: Only one-third of the global warming predicted by the usual suspects arises directly from greenhouse gases. The remaining two-thirds, they say, comes from consequential amplifications of the direct warming, known as “temperature feedbacks.” Official climatology’s mid-range estimate of the “feedback fraction” — that is, the fraction of the global temperature after the direct warming that is fed back to the input of the global-warming calculation — is 0.65. Yet, given a pre-industrial surface temperature of 287.5 Kelvin, the maximum theoretically possible value of the feedback fraction — obtained by assuming, impossibly, that the entire 32 K natural greenhouse effect is feedback-driven — is 32/287.5, or 0.11. Absurdly, the official best estimate is about six times this absolute maximum.

What that means is that there will not be more than 1.5 K global warming for each doubling of CO2 concentration, not the 3.3 K that is the models’ current mid-range estimate. And 1.5 K of warming, not much more than 2.5 Fahrenheit, is just not enough to worry about.

Tellingly, the two microbiologists do not include even a single scientific quantity in their purely partisan political shriek against those who do not share their drearily dismal, cloyingly totalitarian outlook on science. So little science do the two scientists know that they say, “Science… always considers its knowledge to be provisional.”

A single counter-example will demonstrate the unwisdom of their use of the universal quantifier (not that they would know it if they bumped into it). On a hyperbolic as well as on a Euclidean surface, the square on the hypotenuse of a right triangle is always equal to the sum of the squares on the two catheti. Perhaps they were not paying attention when they were taught this as schoolboys. Some scientific hypotheses, though by no means all, are indeed definitively demonstrable. We have, for instance, definitively demonstrated above, with indefeasible simplicity, that the global warming to be expected in response to doubled CO2 cannot exceed 1.5 K.

To turn the prissy-preachy language of the two microbiologists upon them, it would “behove” totalitarian scientists such as they to consider the maxim of all scientists: “I may be wrong.”

They were wrong to blame the recent hurricanes in the Caribbean on global warming, for the good and sufficient reason that worse and more frequent hurricanes have occurred before — as they would have discovered if they had remembered that scientific opinion is valueless unless it is based on at least a little elementary research.

Don’t call us skeptics “deniers,” call us “correct.” It is official climatology’s party line that is more and more obviously false, as well as self-serving.

Nobody pays me to ask scientific questions where so many others, bullied and hectored by a handful of bossy conformists, fear to tread. I and those like me ask questions because, unlike the faithful who bang their heads on the floor and say “I believe!” when informed of the party line, our approach to the natural world is a holy marriage of the curiosity and awe that are embodied in the two words, followed by a question mark, that are the fons et origo of all true science: “I wonder?”


Energy Policy in Minnesota: The High Cost of Failure


In recent years, the state of Minnesota has pursued a series of increasingly aggressive renewable energy and “clean energy” policies that cost electricity consumers billions of dollars, without achieving its ambitious environmental protection goals.

Minnesota law sets out ambitious state energy policy goals. The primary goal would have the state reduce greenhouse gas emissions 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2015, 30 percent by 2025, and 80 percent by 2050.  State law incorporates a number of additional energy policy goals aimed largely at supporting these greenhouse gas reduction targets. In particular, the state’s renewable energy standard requires utilities to generate a substantial portion (25 to 30 percent) of electricity from renewable sources, mostly wind.

Historically, Minnesota enjoyed the advantage of relatively cheap electricity, with rates typically 18 percent less than the national average. However, since spending an estimated $10 billion on building wind farms and billions more on new and upgraded transmission lines, Minnesota has lost this competitive advantage with little to show for it, except higher electric bills.

As electricity generation from carbon free wind approaches 20 percent of total generation, Minnesota has not experienced any appreciable reduction in greenhouse gas emissions relative to the U.S. average.

This report evaluates Minnesota’s energy policy and reaches five main findings that buttress one conclusion: Minnesota’s aspirational energy policy is a grand exercise in virtue signaling that does little to reduce either conventional pollution or greenhouse gas emissions.

* Minnesota has lost its advantage on electricity pricing.

Between 1990 and 2009, the retail price of electricity in Minnesota was, on average, 18.2 percent lower than the national average. However, in just seven years, this price advantage has completely disappeared. February 2017 marked the first month the average retail price of electricity in Minnesota rose above the U.S. price. (Data are available dating back to 1990.) If in the past seven years Minnesota would have maintained its historic price advantage versus the rest of the country, the state’s consumers would have paid nearly $4.4 billion less than what the actual cost of electricity turned out to be.

* Minnesota’s energy policy primarily promotes wind power.

Minnesota’s energy policy emphasizing renewable energy is mostly an electricity policy, which represents only about 40 percent of the state’s total energy consumption. Because Minnesota’s geography is not suitable for large-scale solar power, it aims, to date, for only modest increases in solar. As such, Minnesota’s energy policy is primarily a wind-energy policy.

* Minnesota’s energy policy is failing on its own terms, as it has not achieved a significant reduction in CO2 emissions.

 While Minnesota was losing its advantage on electricity pricing, it did not see any significant decreases in CO2 emissions. CO2 emissions in Minnesota declined by 6.6 percent from 2005 (the peak year for CO2 emissions in both the U.S. and Minnesota) to 2014 (before starting to rise again).

This decline is one-third less than the decline experienced by the nation as a whole, which saw greenhouse gas emissions drop 9.3 percent during the same time period.

Looking at just emissions from the electric power sector, emissions in Minnesota dropped by slightly more than the U.S. However, since 2009, the state has made little to no progress on emissions even as electricity generation by wind increased by 92 percent.

* To satisfy Minnesota’s renewable energy standard, an estimated $10 billion dollars has been spent on building wind farms and billions more on transmission.

In the past five years, Minnesota utilities have reported using wind power from wind farms totaling 5,000 megawatts of nameplate capacity to meet the requirements of the state’s renewable energy standard.

Based on industry cost estimates for building new generating capacity, ratepayers are committed to covering an estimated $10 billion for constructing these wind farms and billions more for the transmission needed to move this new power to market. On top of these upfront costs, ratepayers are on the hook for ongoing wind energy maintenance costs, property taxes, and replacement power needed when the wind doesn’t blow.


Head of Australia's anti-immigration party says 'Climate change isn't because of humans'

Pauline Hanson has clashed with a Greens senator after rubbishing climate change and claiming everyday Australians can't afford clean energy.

The One Nation leader told South Australian MP Sarah Hanson-Young she was very 'skeptical' about the link between pollution and climate change. 'I'm very skeptical of this (climate change) because the science isn't there, and that's been proven,' Ms Hanson said on Sunrise.

'Climate is changing, but it's not from humans Sarah – get this through your head.'

Ms Hanson-Young hit back in disbelief, accusing Ms Hanson of living in 'La La Land.' 'Thank goodness most Australian's disagree with you. Are you really lining up with the tin-foil hat brigade Pauline?,' she asked.

Interrupting the heated discussion, host David Koch pointed out the government's Chief Scientist Alan Finkel believed in climate change.

But Ms Hanson said everyday Australians were sick of paying enormous power bills, stressing her party would not support the Coalition's proposed clean energy target.

'People can't afford it, it's putting so much pressure on families and businesses,' she said. 'How can a fish and chip shop afford $14,000 a quarter in electricity? How can these pubs in outback Longreach afford $20,000 electricity a quarter? Wake up.

'We can't do it at the moment, I won't see any more people lose their jobs and I won't see any more businesses shut down because of this.'

Taking to social media after the interview, Ms Hanson-Young posted a link to the debate and wrote: 'On Sunrise this morning Pauline Hanson tells me get it through your head Sarah climate change 'isn't because of humans' #OneNationFail.'

Cabinet on Monday is expected to discuss the government's new energy policy, including whether to adopt a version of the clean energy target recommended by Mr Finkel. The coalition party room could examine the proposal on Tuesday.

It follows a new report from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which highlights huge increases in power bills over the past decade. The report says power is putting unacceptable pressure on Australian households and businesses.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims cautioned the clean energy target was designed to cut emissions, but it was hard to say whether it would also bring down prices.

It was important to understand the trade-offs between the various objectives if the nation was to have an effective energy policy.




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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