Wednesday, March 13, 2019

With Ethanol And Biomass No Longer Viewed As ‘Green,’ Will Other Renewables Soon Follow?

Over the last 10 years, the cost of solar panels and wind turbines declined so significantly, and were scaled-up so quickly, that many people came to believe that a transition to renewables, as proposed by advocates of a Green New Deal, was all but inevitable.

We already have all the technologies we need to transition to 100% renewables, leading scientists and scholars told The New Yorker’s John Cassidy. “The only reason not to do it is political inertia and the influence of the existing fossil-fuel industry,” one said.

And yet grassroots opposition to solar and wind farms is growing and has nothing to do with fossil fuel interests, climate skepticism, or bureaucratic inertia. Indeed, most of it is motivated by concerns over the impact of renewables on the natural environment and quality-of-life.

The largest county in California, San Bernardino, last week banned the building of any larger solar and wind farms over the opposition of renewable energy lobbyists and labor unions. They did so on behalf of conservationists and locals seeking to protect fragile desert ecosystems.

In January, policymakers in Spotsylvania, Virginia voted to block the building of a solar farm, which would be the largest in America east of the Rocky Mountains, after local residents organized themselves in opposition out of concern over the impact on the environment, property values, and electricity prices.

And in the midwest, it is birders and conservationists, not climate skeptics and fossil fuel interests, who are organizing to block a massive new wind farm proposed for Lake Erie, a biodiversity hotspot for migratory birds and bats.

It’s not the first time scientists and conservationists have opposed renewables. Over the last decade, both groups have turned against two of the largest sources of renewable energies: biofuels, including corn ethanol, and biomass. Both had been long touted, like solar and wind, as climate solutions.

It all raises the question: with biofuels and biomass no longer accepted as “green,” is it only a matter of time before environmentalists similarly reject other forms of renewable energy, including solar and wind?

Solar and wind advocates say their technologies are fundamentally different from burning plant matter. To some extent they are correct. The best-available science today shows that solar farms produce one-tenth the carbon emissions as biomass power plants.

And where biomass and biofuels are farmed, solar panels and wind turbines are manufactured in factories. Where biomass and biofuels produce heat that powers engines and turns turbines, solar panels convert sunlight into electrons, and the wind turns blades whose spinning generates electricity.

But these arguments are suspiciously similar to the ones made for decades by advocates of ethanol and biomass. They claimed their technologies were good for the environment because the emissions they produced when combusted would be reabsorbed by the vast plantations of corn, palm, and forest products.

And biomass and biofuel makers have long claimed their products are high tech, requiring processing in factories to turn wood into pellets and distill corn into ethanol.

Part of the problem is that turning grasslands and forests into farms releases huge amounts of carbon held in the plant matter and soil. And since the amount of land for agriculture is finite, the expansion of biofuels and biomass meant converting more of the Earth for farming

The same is often true for building solar and wind farms. The building of that massive solar farm in Virginia required clear-cutting a working tree farm. The role those trees played in sequestering carbon dioxide would be lost with the building of the solar farm.

Solar and wind advocates correctly note that the carbon emissions avoided by using electricity from solar and wind farms rather than from coal or natural gas is greater than the loss of carbon sequestered by the soil, trees, and other woody biomass.

But the problem conservationists had with ethanol and biomass was never simply about carbon emissions or air pollution.

Indeed, the scientific paper revealing just how terrible biofuels are for the environment was made by a conservation attorney worried about the impact of biofuels expansion on fragile ecosystems.

For as much as people hate “Big Oil,” it turns out that petroleum is incredibly land-efficient.

Even much-hyped biofuels like sugarcane require six times more land to produce the same amount of energy as petroleum. The least efficient biofuel, made from soybeans, requires 20 times more land as petroleum.

Much more HERE

Bloomie hates coal

Mayor Michael Bloomberg won’t be running for president in 2020, but the billionaire media mogul has vowed to continue trying to eradicate the coal industry. He’s also promised to target oil and gas.

Left-wing Think Progress called that admission the “bombshell the media missed.” ABC, CBS, and NBC barely noticed it.

In the midst of Bloomberg’s announcement not to run for the highest office, he promised a “new, even more ambitious phase” of his anti-coal campaign.

Think Progress was right about it not getting much media notice. Evening News and World News Tonight said nothing about those anti-fossil fuel goals in their coverage of Bloomberg’s decision on March 5.

The following morning, NBC’s Today only vaguely acknowledged Bloomberg would work to combat climate change and to defeat President Donald Trump.

CBS This Morning on March 6 breezed through its admission the billionaire would work to “retire all coal-fired power plants” in the next 11 years.

Bloomberg already spent more than $100 million over a decade boosting the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign to close all U.S. coal plants.

Now, he intends to finish that industry off and expand his efforts to oppose oil and gas too by “doubling down on the work that I am already leading and funding.” His net worth is around $55 billion, according to Forbes.

On March 5, Bloomberg wrote, “Now I will take the next big steps. First, I will expand my support for the Beyond Coal campaign so that we can retire every single coal-fired power plant over the next 11 years.”

“That’s not a pipe dream. We can do it. And second, I will launch a new, even more ambitious phase of the campaign — Beyond Carbon: a grassroots effort to begin moving America as quickly as possible away from oil and gas and toward a 100 percent clean energy economy,” Bloomberg wrote.

He also said he would continue funding gun control efforts.

Think Progress, a blog from the Soros-funded liberal Center for American Progress, affirmed Bloomberg’s commitment by agreeing with the businessman’s claim that “the science has made clear” immediate action is necessary.


Democrat dissent

Some Democrats in Congress are alarmed at the leftward lurch their party is taking, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said Sunday, commenting in particular on the “Green New Deal” and what he called the “Chicken Little, sky-is-falling approach of the socialist Democrats like [Alexandria] Ocasio-Cortez and the presidential candidates on the Democrats’ side of the aisle.”

Barrasso, who chairs the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said the GND proposals are prohibitively expensive, will hit Americans’ bank accounts and cost jobs – and “will not work.”

Appearing on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures,” Barrasso was asked by host Maria Bartiromo about the perception that the Democratic Party seems to be being led by Ocasio-Cortez and the freshman New Yorker’s ideas, and about how his Democratic colleagues viewed that.

“Some are very concerned with the position that the party has taken and the presidential candidates have taken,” he replied.

“I think [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi is unnerved by this new group of Democrats in the House who are trying to take the entire party, and are succeeding in taking the entire party on this sharp left hand turn that’s going to – as the New York Times today said, careening off a [liberal] cliff, that’s where they’re heading.”

Barrasso, who chairs the Senate Republican Conference, challenged the cost, consequences, and effectiveness of the GND proposals.

“The cost is staggering, astronomical, $93 trillion,” he said. “That would empty everyone’s bank account in America – from Warren Buffett all the way on down. SO the country cannot afford it.”

Among the consequences, Barrasso said the plan would cost families $65,000 per year, with higher energy and heating costs.

It would also hit jobs, including in the airline industry, he argued, referring to GND proponents’ views on air travel.

(A GND “frequently asked questions” document from Ocasio-Cortez’ office called for a total “overhaul” of transportation including the building of “high-speed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary.” The GND resolution which she and Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) introduced last month calls for investment in “high-speed rail” as part of that envisaged transportation overhaul, but does not refer to air travel.)

And on the question of whether the proposals will work, Barrasso disputed that they would.

He noted that the U.S. is responsible for just 13 percent of global emissions of the “greenhouse gases” blamed for climate change, compared to 33 percent from China and India.

“You can’t power the country on wind turbines and solar panels alone, that’s only eight percent of our energy,” he said. “We just cannot allow ourselves to follow this Chicken Little, sky-is-falling approach of the socialist Democrats like Ocasio-Cortez and the presidential candidates on the Democrats’ side of the aisle.”

“We cannot follow them over the cliff. It is going to hurt jobs, hurt peoples’ ability to pay their mortgage, hurt our economy, hurt our nation in terms of national security.”


Climate derangement in Britain and elsewhere

Claptrap in the Huff Post arose from a paper written by a number of marine biologists that appeared in Nature Climate Change. The paper attempts to suggest that marine heat waves (mhw) are increasing in frequency.

But the authors are forced to admit that mhw are caused by a range of processes ‘from localized air-sea heat flux to large scale climate drivers such as the El Nino Southern Oscillation’.

In other words, natural atmospheric conditions cause localized increases and decreases in temperature in the ocean. I think we already knew that.

Add currents, gravitational and orbital effects and ground-sea heat flux from the thousands of underwater volcanoes, many unmapped, and we have many natural reasons why a wide variety of temperatures are found across the world’s oceans.

But the modern craze is to note every small change in the weather and the environment and to paint a picture of Armageddon.

The paper is careful not to say mhw are directly caused by man-made climate change – there is no evidence for this theory – but it does note that discrete and prolonged warming events occur in the ocean as well as the atmosphere.

It is claimed that the 21st century has already experienced record-shattering atmospheric heatwaves with ‘devastating consequences for human health, economics, and the environment’.

The scientists have to be a little careful what they write – it can safely be left to the Guardian to frighten the impressionable with the laughable suggestion that scientists have revealed heatwaves are sweeping the oceans ‘like wildfire’.

Global warming, or climate change, detached itself from scientific reality some time ago. Genuine scientific research that is considered off-message is ignored and discouraged while obvious green propaganda is used to promote a political agenda dominated by collectivist thought and population control.

Nowadays Caroline Lucas MP declares a ‘climate emergency’ after the recent short spell of balmy Spring weather and her views are considered worth publishing.

Without a doubt, reality left the stage in the recent case of two emotional women who declared a ‘birth strike’ because the planet was being devastated by climate change.

Melanie Phillips noted that this action was perhaps the most literal demonstration of the revolution consuming its own – all for a climate theory ‘without foundation’.

A less charitable Darwinian view than that offered by the sage of our time is the human gene pool has been done a favor by the self-denying gesture.

One must hope that the resolve of the strikers remains resolute once the TV cameras have departed and the virtue points banked.

Science certainly left the building when the Left-wing Institute for Public Policy Research recently published a report that claimed global floods had risen 15 times since 2005, while wildfire had increased sevenfold.

Extreme weather events, marking their new status in the pantheon of climate alarm, rose a whopping 20 times. Maybe in the recent past journalist alarm bells would have sounded.

Left-wing activists making wildly improbable claims in a report where the only previous experience of one of the three authors was working as a research volunteer for two Edinburgh ‘equality’ charities. Er, hello.

The alarm bells failed to ring at the BBC and Roger Harrabin used the report to tap into the vast reservoir of rent-a-quote geography professors.

Simon Lewis from UCL said the IPPR was right to say that environmental change is happening ever faster and threatens to destabilize society, while Harriett Bulkeley from Durham thought it was a ‘good interpretation of the current evidence’.

The BBC eventually changed its coverage after Paul Homewood pressed a formal complaint.


Another Greenie shriek about Australia's Great Barrier Reef

This piece of research must have been frustrating to its authors.  They found that the presumed evil -- farm runoff -- actually HELPED the barrier reef.  So they had to do a lot of scratching to turn that around.

The big drama about the reef is that it undergoes periodic bleaching  --  when the coral expels its symbiotic algae.  Nobody likes the look of that but the corals mostly recover after a while.  So that is what all good men and true rally to prevent.  STOP the bleaching!  And now we have found something that prevents it to a degree:  Farm runoff!  How big a disappointment can you get? Farm runoff was supposed to KILL the reef!

But by scratching around in their data, the authors found something to warm their pessimistic hearts.  They found that once the coral had been harmed by some "disturbance", farm runoff hindered recovery to some degree.  But if coral amid farm runoff is less damaged in the first place, does that not make the recovery rate of less concern?

Not so fast!  The authors say.  You have got to balance one effect against another to get an overall conclusion and we have got this nifty little model that will do just that!  So we run the model and we find that that a "6–17% improvement in water quality will be necessary to bring recovery rates in line with projected increases in coral bleaching".

So there's the African-American in the woodpile!  It is all based on a "projection", or in layman's terms, a guess. And the projection is heroic.  They ASSUME that global warming will steadily increase and they ASSUME that warming is the main cause of coral bleaching.  There are large scientific arguments against both those assumptions so if we take them away what is left?  Two people can play the projection game so I project that farm runoff is on balance neither helpful nor harmful so that Nothing needs to be done. Nothing!  Horrors!

My comments so far spring just from a reading of the abstract.  I shudder to think what I would find if I studied the whole article.  I taught applied statistics at a major Australian university for a number of years so I know the tricks researchers get up to if their results don't suit them.  There were so many collaborators on this article that something HAD to come out of it.  Re-running their model with more cautious assumptions would be a ball of fun.

I follow the press release below with the journal abstract

Scientific research published today on the impacts of poor water quality on some Great Barrier Reef corals shows why it’s vital the Queensland Government passes new rules on farm pollution, the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) says.

The study, published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, found corals in the central and southern sections of the reef would need improvements in water quality of between six and 17 per cent to keep their recovery rates in line with projected increases in coral bleaching.

Corals exposed to poor water quality were also more susceptible to disease and outbreaks of Crown of Thorns starfish, the study found.

Proposed Queensland government laws would phase out harmful farming practices that cause pollution and sediment to run into rivers and out into the reef.

Dr Lissa Schindler, AMCS Great Barrier Reef campaign manager, said: “We need to give the Great Barrier Reef the clean water it needs to recover, and this study shows that clearly. The Queensland Government’s proposals to cut farm pollution need to be passed.”

“What this study also says is that these levels of cuts to farm pollution won’t be enough to save corals on outer reefs from the impacts of rising ocean temperatures caused by global warming.

“We have to make sure we are giving the reef the cleanest water we can, while at the same time stopping the digging up and burning of fossil fuels that drive the warming in the reef’s waters.”

Schindler said while the study found that corals in areas with poor water quality were more resistant to coral bleaching, due to the low level of light penetrating the turbid water, these corals had slower recovery rates and were more susceptible to disease and Crown of thorns starfish outbreaks.

The study, acknowledged that any marginal bleaching protection corals might get from poor water quality “are probably overwhelmed by the most extreme warming conditions” already seen during 2016 and 2017.

Schindler said it was also important to note the study did not consider any impacts of coral bleaching in the vast and once pristine northern sections of the reef that were hit hardest by extreme ocean temperatures in 2016 and 2017.

Media release. AMCS communications manager Ingrid Neilson 0421 972 731

Water quality mediates resilience on the Great Barrier Reef

M. Aaron MacNeil et al.


Threats from climate change and other human pressures have led to widespread concern for the future of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (GBR). Resilience of GBR reefs will be determined by their ability to resist disturbances and to recover from coral loss, generating intense interest in management actions that can moderate these processes. Here we quantify the effect of environmental and human drivers on the resilience of southern and central GBR reefs over the past two decades. Using a composite water quality index, we find that while reefs exposed to poor water quality are more resistant to coral bleaching, they recover from disturbance more slowly and are more susceptible to outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish and coral disease—with a net negative impact on recovery and long-term hard coral cover. Given these conditions, we find that 6–17% improvement in water quality will be necessary to bring recovery rates in line with projected increases in coral bleaching among contemporary inshore and mid-shelf reefs. However, such reductions are unlikely to buffer projected bleaching effects among outer-shelf GBR reefs dominated by fast-growing, thermally sensitive corals, demonstrating practical limits to local management of the GBR against the effects of global warming.

Nature Ecology & Evolution (2019)


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


No comments: