Friday, November 10, 2017

NASA satellite spots cause of unprecedented spike in atmospheric CO2

Nice try but no cigar.  El Nino just shifts rainfall around. Warmer oceans would in fact have increased it overall.  Yet the article below seems to posit an overall increase in drought.

And in 2017, well after El Nino, CO2 levels have never been higher.  So blaming higher CO2 levels on El Nino just will not fly.  They are independent phenomena.

But it's nice to see NASA blaming ANYTHING on El Nino. They mostly try to ignore it -- as with the 2015 temperature spike.  At least they now admit that it happened

Since the Industrial Revolution in the early 1800s, atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations have been steadily increasing, but 2015 and 2016 saw an unprecedented spike. A NASA study has now analyzed data gathered by the atmosphere-monitoring satellite, the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2), over more than two years and pinpointed the cause: the El Nino weather effect caused certain tropical regions to release far more CO2 than they normally would.

Although there's been some huge efforts to reduce the amount of CO2 produced through human activity, the amount of the gas pumped into the atmosphere has still increased by an average of 2 parts per million (about 4 gigatons of carbon) annually, in recent years. But 2015 and 2016 broke the trend with the largest spikes on record: up to 3 parts per million, amounting to 6.3 gigatons of carbon. Emissions from human activity stayed roughly the same in those years, so where was it all coming from?

The climate cycle El Nino was a prime suspect, but it wasn't clear exactly how. This phenomenon occurs over the Pacific Ocean every few years, when warmer water from near the Phillipines and Indonesia drifts east towards South America, and the effects can be strong enough to alter weather across the entire planet. Warmer waters at the surface of the ocean drag the rains with it, lowering precipitation and causing droughts in areas like Australia, India, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, northeastern South America, while increasing rainfall in places like Peru, Chile and Ecuador.

The El Nino event in 2015 was one of the strongest since the 1950s, so it's no coincidence that 2016 was the hottest year ever recorded. To study what effects the event may have had on atmospheric CO2 concentrations, NASA researchers analyzed 28 months of data gathered by the OCO-2 satellite, which can take thousands of readings of carbon dioxide levels per day in a given area, as well as measure how well vegetation is processing the gas via photosynthesis.

The team compared that data to 2011 as a reference year, when weather and carbon cycle processes were normal. Their conclusion? The increase was due to warmer-than-average temperatures and drought in tropical parts of South America, Africa and Indonesia, which in turn were caused by El Nino.

The effects of the 2015 El Nino event in different tropical regions, which in turn caused...

"These three tropical regions released 2.5 gigatons more carbon into the atmosphere than they did in 2011," says Junjie Liu, lead author of the study. "Our analysis shows this extra carbon dioxide explains the difference in atmospheric carbon dioxide growth rates between 2011 and the peak years of 2015-16. OCO-2 data allowed us to quantify how the net exchange of carbon between land and atmosphere in individual regions is affected during El Nino years."

The researchers combined the OCO-2 data with that gathered by other satellites, to figure out the specific processes in each of those regions that were contributing to the extreme increase in CO2. Drought ravaged eastern and southeastern tropical areas of South America, bringing about the driest year in the last three decades. Coupled with higher than average temperatures, vegetation in these regions were stressed and as such, photosynthesis slowed, meaning the plants plucked less carbon from the atmosphere.

Meanwhile, tropical Asia suffered through its second-driest year in 30 years, which increased the severity of forest fires that in turn pumped more carbon into the air. During the same time, tropical Africa endured hotter temperatures but no drought, which sped up the rate of decomposition of dead trees and plants, resulting in more CO2 emissions.

"We knew El Ninos were one factor in these variations, but until now we didn't understand, at the scale of these regions, what the most important processes were," says Annemarie Eldering, Deputy Project Scientist on the OCO-2 mission. "Understanding how the carbon cycle in these regions responded to El Nino will enable scientists to improve carbon cycle models, which should lead to improved predictions of how our planet may respond to similar conditions in the future. The team's findings imply that if future climate brings more or longer droughts, as the last El Nino did, more carbon dioxide may remain in the atmosphere, leading to a tendency to further warm Earth."


The impact of wind turbines on suicide

“Exploiting over 800 utility-scale wind turbine installation events in the United States from 2001-2013, I show robust evidence that wind farms lead to significant increases in suicide.” -- Eric Zou


Current technology uses wind turbines’ blade aerodynamics to convert wind energy to electricity. This process generates significant low-frequency noise that reportedly results in residents’ sleep disruptions, among other annoyance symptoms. However, the existence and the importance of wind farms’ health effects on a population scale remain unknown. Exploiting over 800 utility-scale wind turbine installation events in the United States from 2001-2013, I show robust evidence that wind farms lead to significant increases in suicide. I explore three indirect tests of the role of low-frequency noise exposure. First, the suicide effect concentrates among individuals who are vulnerable to noise-induced illnesses, such as the elderly. Second, the suicide effect is driven by days when wind blows in directions that would raise residents’ exposure to low-frequency noise radiation. Third, data from a large-scale health survey suggest increased sleep insufficiency as new turbines began operating. These findings point to the value of noise abatement in future wind technology innovations.


Get the EPA out of the way of American exporters

When Americans think of exporting goods, they rarely, if ever, think of ethanol. But America has a growing ethanol export industry being constrained by the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA). A few minor changes to rules within the EPA can create a substantial increase in ethanol exports, which means more work for everyone in the value chain for ethanol from the farmer to tanker. Creating more demand for your product makes economic sense.

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is a federal program that requires transportation fuel to contain a minimum amount of renewable fuels. The program originated in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, H.R. 6. The RFS was later amended with the passage of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, H.R.6. The statute required the U.S. to use four billion gallons of renewable fuel starting in 2006 reaching thirty-six billion gallons in 2022.

In the current system, Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) are generated for each denatured gallon of ethanol produced in the U.S. When the biofuel is exported the RINs are retired, satisfying the Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO). It is important to remember, the RINs themselves have value, and are traded like commodities.

Blending ethanol domestically results in RIN value that encourages increased ethanol production and use. The majority of export gallons are never assigned a RIN. The export gallons that are assigned RINs also receive a matching RVO, thus creating a disincentive for exporting ethanol relative to domestic blending of both US-produced ethanol and imported ethanol.

The President and the EPA can make two minor changes to EPA rules to increase the amount of ethanol exported, thereby increasing overall U.S. exports.

Revise “ethanol” within the definition of “Renewable Fuel” to include both denatured and undenatured gallons of ethanol intended for fuel use.

Remove the export RVO on all gallons of exported ethanol intended for fuel use.  This change would also include accompanying changes to compliance and recordkeeping provisions for exports.
Ethanol can be denatured or undenatured for fuel use. If ethanol is denatured, it has been altered with additives to make it bad tasting, foul smelling or nauseating. Undenatured ethanol has none of the additives. For ethanol to qualify in the RFS, it must be denatured, under current EPA regulations. Because of the rule, only denatured ethanol get RINs. This presents a problem for many ethanol exporters.

Many markets outside the United States, such as Brazil and India, specifically require ethanol to be undenatured. In 2016 the U.S. exported 1.05 billion gallons of ethanol to more than 50 countries, with more than fifty percent of exports going to Canada and Brazil.

Because markets move quickly, and governments move slowly, it is in everyone’s best interest if the EPA definition of ethanol included both denatured and undenatured. Updating this would align the definition of ethanol with the present day global market realities, which demand both undenatured and denatured ethanol for fuel use. It would also allow refiners and exporters to rapidly adapt to unfolding events such as natural disasters or political instability.

Removing the RVO on exported volumes would remove a self-imposed non-tariff barrier to trade in ethanol and enhance U.S. energy security by enabling a U.S.-produced energy source to meet global demands. Ethanol would join liquid natural gas and crude oil as part of a new era in U.S. energy dominance.

As ethanol exports rise, U.S. ethanol producers can increase production despite challenges in the domestic market. Increased production means more shifts for plant workers, more farm equipment purchased, and more loads for truck drivers. All high paying jobs that expand the tax base.

Ethanol producers would also benefit from holding separated RINs from ethanol exports that they can sell to obligated parties for compliance. This change would also benefit obligated parties by increasing liquidity and ameliorating the potential for RINs price spikes that threaten domestic refining.

President Trump has made narrowing the trade deficit a mission of his administration. These two small rule changes could significantly increase U.S. exports while creating jobs. The rule changes would give U.S. exporters the chance to compete on the international stage. The EPA needs to make the rule changes and get out of the way of American ethanol exporters.


GOP tax bill ends electric vehicle tax credit, overhauls other energy taxes

A massive GOP tax-reform bill would end a $7,500 credit for the purchase of electric vehicles and overhaul other energy-related provisions within the tax code.

The 429-page bill would repeal the electric vehicle tax credit, which supporters have credited with reducing the price of emission-free cars for consumers and helping the burgeoning American electric vehicle industry grow.

Advocates have ramped up lobbying efforts to save the credit, which has benefited electric vehicle manufactures like Tesla. The credit is limited at the first 200,000 electric vehicles sold by each manufacturer, but no one has yet hit that cap.

“Electrification for vehicles is extremely important for the future of the auto industry, particularly given the fact that as we move towards autonomous, self-driving vehicles, those vehicles will be powered by electric,” said Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), who represents America's automobile manufacturing hub, on Wednesday.

“That tax credit is really important for moving this technology forward.”

The electric vehicle credit is one of several tax breaks Republicans would end as a way to help pay for their bill, which aims to reduce individual brackets and cut rates for businesses.

The legislation also reforms several energy-related tax credits.

It would repeal an inflation increase for renewable energy production tax credits, a move that would increase taxes for power sources like wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, hydropower and others. That provision would raise $12.3 billion in new revenue over ten years.

The bill also aligns the expiration date for investment tax credits affecting the renewables industry and extends a tax credit for residential energy efficiency programs. The two proposals would cost the government a combined $2.3 billion over a decade.

Republicans also seek to end two small tax credits for the oil industry, reducing government revenue slightly, and extend a nuclear industry production tax credit to newly built power plants beginning in 2021.


'Completely perverse' wind energy subsidies aren't reducing emissions

We all see the hundreds of wind power turbines which dot the beautiful landscape of our region. We're told, by the supporters of these wind farms, that they're a boon to our society. That they're reducing greenhouse gas emissions by providing cheap, reliable energy.

Except, this week I spoke with a man from the University of California, Berkeley who says that's a lot of bunk.

Steven Hayward, a Senior Resident Scholar at Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies, has produced a report for Minnesota's Center of the American Experiment which finds that power sources like wind and solar aren't really accomplishing what their supporters say they are.

This despite what Hayward described on my radio show as "completely perverse" subsidies so massive they sometimes allow renewable energy companies to pay utilities to take their energy and still turn a profit.

Pause for a moment to consider that fact. The taxpayers dole out so much money to the wind power industry, their subsidies are so gigantic, that it's sometimes profitable for them to literally pay utilities to take their product.

Imagine the taxpayers giving Coca-Cola money so they can, in turn, pay restaurants to sell their drinks.

Hayward told me that the wind energy companies get a tax credit in the amount of $2,3 per kilowatt hour of energy they produce. That's roughly double what the average energy customer in our region pays for their power.

That's not just a colossal abuse of taxpayer dollars, but it poses a real threat to the reliability of power grids.

Consider the position baseload power operators like coal and nuclear plants find themselves in. They must compete with massively subsidized renewable energy companies who, again, can sometimes pay utilities to take their power. But because wind and solar power are only intermittent sources of power, the baseload operators must still maintain the capacity to provide all the electricity the grid needs in case the wind isn't blowing or the sun isn't shining.

Anyone else seeing a problem?

The fiscal realities of our energy marketplace, distorted as it is by the aforementioned subsidies, is causing coal and nuclear plants to close down. But that, in turn, is making us more dependent on intermittent wind and solar power which may not always be there when we need it.

Wind, specifically, produces the least energy "in the summer months when energy demand is higher," Hayward told me.

At least renewables are driving down emissions though, right?

Well, not really. Hayward told me that Minnesota, which has had a renewable energy mandate for years, has seen emissions reductions that amount to "half as much as the rest of the nation."

In fact, Hayward says the "largest share [of emissions reductions] has come not from renewable energy but from natural gas."

Ironically, what's unlocked vast new reserves of natural gas is hydraulic fracturing, that bête noire of the increasingly radicalized environmental movement.

Hayward said that if we want to reduce emissions even more we should "deemphasize wind."

Maybe we could start by halting those subsidies.




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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