Thursday, May 23, 2019

Costly wind power menaces man and nature

The true costs of wind energy are too often (deliberately?) ignored or underestimated

Dr. Jay Lehr and Tom Harris

Wind energy can never replace fossil fuels, despite claims of environmentalists and advocates of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal (GND). It’s not environment-friendly either. Indeed, wind power is hampered by many limitations, including:

* its intermittent and inefficient nature

* insufficient sites with adequate, reliable wind

* acreage required to erect turbines and harness wind

* excessive expenses, many of them rarely mentioned

* dangers to bird and bat populations

* dangers to human health from light flicker and low frequency throbbing noise (infrasound).

* costs, limitations, and health and environmental impacts of batteries and other back-up systems

Wind turbines are highly inefficient. Large industrial wind turbines (IWT) typically produce about 2.5 megawatts of power when wind speed is between about 8 and 25 miles per hour. However, most of the time it’s not, even at the best locations.

Today’s wind farms have a 30–40% average “capacity factor.” That means their average annual output is only 30–40% of “nameplate” capacity, or what they would produce if the wind were blowing 8–25 mph 24/7/365. As we erect more turbines, they must be placed in less optimal locations, and capacity numbers will drop, perhaps dramatically. And no one can predict when they will generate electricity.

When the wind isn’t blowing, the electricity grid cannot provide the energy we need to operate and maintain our standard of living. Today fossil fuels stand ready to step in when wind speeds decline. But under the GND, virtually all fossil fuels would be eliminated, making it impossible to keep the lights on without a major increase in nuclear power, which environmental activists hate even more than fossil fuels.

To generate significant wind energy, facilities must be located where there is steady wind most of the time. Such areas exist along the West Coast of the United States and a strip of the Midwest from the Dakotas to Texas. But 75% of the conterminous 48 states have only half the wind of these locations. Offshore areas have higher wind potential but are be at least three times more expensive to develop.

Perhaps the biggest drawback to relying on wind power is the immense amount of land required. IWTs must be placed far apart so they don’t interfere with each turbine’s “wind capture area.”

In his keynote address at the 2018 America First Energy Conference , Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry explained that generating enough electricity to power just the Houston metropolitan area would require almost 900 square miles of wind turbines. This is six-times more land than an equivalent solar farm of photovoltaic cells, assuming they operate at full efficiency 24/7/365; dozens of times the land required for an equivalent nuclear power plant; and 16 times the size of Washington, DC.

Wind is also much more expensive than existing conventional energy sources. The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) claims that wind power can generate electricity for 8¢ per kilowatt-hour (kWh). However, this is based on poor assumptions and glossing over important realities.

It assumes average wind turbine lifetime is 30 years, the same as a conventional fossil fuel power plant. In reality, most turbines last only 15 years, and less offshore. It ignores the cost of backup power. It includes no cost for transmission lines from wind farms to distant cities. Most significantly, it omits subsidies.

A 2016 Utah State University study shows the following extra costs omitted or miscalculated by the EIA for wind power: 15-years not 30-year life expectancies (US 7¢ per kWh), backup power (at least 2.3¢ cents if the back-up is natural gas), transmission costs (2.7¢), government subsidies (23¢). All that means the real cost of wind power is a staggering 43¢ per kilowatt hour! That’s seven times the cost of natural gas-generated electricity! What family, factory, hospital, office, church or school can afford this?

GND promoters would like wind farms everywhere, but even the most supposedly environmentally friendly communities often do not want wind turbines in their own neighborhoods: they spoil the landscape and cause serious environmental impacts, such as killing many birds and bats each year.

In 2013, Loss, Will and Marra estimated that 140,000 to 328,000 birds are killed each year in the contiguous United States by wind turbines. The Audubon Society says that makes wind “the most threatening form of green energy.” Other sources say the death tolls are far higher.

Bat deaths are even worse and potentially more threatening to human health and welfare. Spain’s Save the Eagles International says industrial wind turbines “kill millions of bats & birds, worsening an environmental and epidemiological crisis.” The 2016 study “Multiple mortality events in bats: A global review” reports that since 2000 industrial wind turbines have overtaken all other causes of mass mortality for bats in North America and Europe.

A conservative estimate of bat mortality in the USA is that at least 4 million bats have been killed by wind turbines since 2012. Bats are our primary natural defense in keeping mosquito and crop-damaging insect populations in check. One bat can eat between 500 and 1,000 mosquitoes and other insects in just one hour, or about 6,000 per night.

Fish and wildlife specialists were stunned at the number of dead bats they found at industrial wind turbines in the eastern US. About half were due to barotrauma: a bat only has to come close to a spinning blade, and the pressure change bursts the blood vessels in its lungs.

Save the Eagles explains that killing millions of bats results in billions of extra mosquitoes. It is no coincidence that mosquito populations have increased up to tenfold over the last 50 years, according to long-term mosquito monitoring programs, which also note that increased urbanization and reduced use of insecticides were the main drivers of this change.

Finally, noise generated by wind turbines is akin to that of a helicopter, affecting quality of life and causing serious health problems for people living within a quarter-mile of a turbine. A 2013 Canadian paper reported, “People who live or work in close proximity to IWTs have experienced symptoms that include decreased quality of life, annoyance, stress, sleep disturbance, headache, anxiety, depression and cognitive dysfunction.” Other studies report the same problems.

A woman who was forced out of her Ontario, Canada home said “the problem is not just cyclical audible noise keeping people awake, but also low frequency infrasound, which can travel many kilometres.” The former operator of the Wind Victims Ontario website added, “Infrasound goes right through walls. It pummels your body.” Sherri Lange, CEO of North American Platform Against Wind, says she has “personally received hundreds of phone calls from distressed people who need to vacate their homes.”

Across the world, governments have received tens of thousands of complaints. They rarely even try to address the problems raised. “It is my experience from talking to doctors, researchers and other high-level professionals, that governments seem to be [under the influence of] the industry,” Lange says.

Less frequent but more serious are 192 deaths over the past decade, primarily from massive failures of turbine blades. The deaths have prompted Finland, Bavaria and Scotland to propose legislation that no wind farm be allowed within 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) of any housing.

Many Americans think wind energy is cheap, eco-friendly and wonderful. But that’s because few are ever exposed to the real human, animal, scenic and environmental costs. Green New Deal supporters are counting on people to remain in the dark about these serious problems, to turn their plans into law.

We all need to do more to get the truth out, and confront activists, legislators, regulators and journalists with tough questions and hard realities.

Via email

This Vet Imprisoned for Digging Ponds on His Land Died. Now His Widow Continues the Fight

The name of a Navy veteran may be cleared after he was convicted, fined, and imprisoned for digging ponds in a wooded area near his Montana home, to supply water in case of fire.

The Supreme Court has vacated a lower court ruling against Joe Robertson, who was sent to federal prison and ordered to pay $130,000 in restitution through deductions from his Social Security checks.

Any definitive legal victory for Robertson would be posthumous, since he died March 18 at age 80.

But his lawyers describe the Supreme Court’s action as a “big win” for Robertson’s widow, Carrie, who plans to carry on the fight.

President Barack Obama’s Justice Department had prosecuted Robertson for digging in “navigable waters” without a permit, in violation of the Clean Water Act.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling against Robertson in November 2017 and denied him a rehearing in July 2018.

The Navy veteran’s initial trial at the district court level resulted in a hung jury and a mistrial. He then was convicted after a second district court trial.

Robertson was 78 when he was sentenced in 2016; he completed his 18 months behind bars in late 2017. At the time of his death, he was supposed to be on parole for another 20 months.

In November, he had petitioned the Supreme Court to review his case.

Prior to his conviction, Robertson operated a business that supplied water trucks to Montana firefighters. Because he himself resided in a “fire-prone landscape,” he was concerned for his safety and that of his property, according to his petition to the Supreme Court.

In 2013 and 2014, Robertson had dug a series of ponds close to an unnamed channel near his home, to store water in case of fire. The foot-wide, foot-deep channel carried the equivalent of two to three garden hoses of water flow, his petition explains. 

Robertson argued that he didn’t violate the Clean Water Act because digging the ponds did not discharge any soil into “navigable waters,” since the water flow in the channel didn’t amount to that. The ponds are more than 40 miles away from “the nearest actual navigable water body,” the Jefferson River, the petition says.

On April 15, the Supreme Court vacated the 9th Circuit ruling in response to Robertson’s petition and said his widow, Carrie, could pursue his case and represent his estate. The high court also ordered the 9th Circuit to determine whether the estate may continue to contest the $130,000 in restitution.

Pacific Legal Foundation, a nonprofit, public interest law firm specializing in property rights, represented Robertson in his legal dispute with federal officials.

Tony Francois, a senior attorney with the firm, told The Daily Signal in an email that if the 9th Circuit decides to leave the fine against Robertson’s estate in place in one form or another, the Supreme Court possibly could review long-standing concerns over how the government applies the Clean Water Act.

Robertson’s petition makes the point that some Supreme Court justices have expressed concern over the “vagueness” attached to the term “navigable waters,” and that the dispute over the veteran’s ponds in Montana “offers an ideal vehicle” to resolve uncertainty over the definition of navigable waters. The petition also suggests that the court could void the term.

“The Supreme Court vacated the 9th Circuit’s decision in Joe’s case because of his death,” Francois told The Daily Signal. “It is the usual practice when a criminal defendant dies before his appeal is final for the federal courts to vacate the conviction and dismiss the indictment, regardless of the merits. There is some disagreement among the lower courts how this applies to restitution orders, including amounts paid prior to death.”

Francois added:

Because of Joe’s death, the Supreme Court ordered the 9th Circuit to consider whether the case is moot. We think this means that the court of appeals will have to consider whether all of his restitution obligation should be abated.

If they decide that to be the case, including return of the amount he paid before he died, then that would likely fully resolve the case and it would likely be moot. Joe’s estate would have no further obligations and would get back what he has paid to date.

If the 9th Circuit decides that any of the restitution remains due, including allowing the government to keep the amount he already paid, then we would likely return to the Supreme Court to ask for a substantive review of his convictions. It seems likely that only in that case would the Supreme Court address the Clean Water Act issues.

Congress initially passed the Clean Water Act in 1948, but lawmakers greatly altered and expanded it into the current form with amendments in 1972.

The law “establishes the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States and regulating quality standards for surface waters,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website.

Under the 1972 amendments, it is illegal to discharge any pollutant from a point source into navigable waters without a permit from the EPA. The Army Corps of Engineers oversees the permitting process and shares enforcement authority with the EPA.

In 2015, the Obama administration implemented its Clean Water Rule, widely known as the Waters of the United States rule or WOTUS rule, which expanded the ability of the EPA and the Corps to regulate bodies of water throughout the country.

The Trump administration has taken steps to withdraw the Obama administration’s rule and replace it with a new one that limits the regulatory reach of federal agencies.

The Daily Signal sought comment for this report from both the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers. Neither agency had responded as of publication time.

Daren Bakst, senior research fellow for agriculture policy at The Heritage Foundation, submitted comments last month to the EPA and the Corps expressing concern that “vague and subjective definitions” attached to the Clean Water Act affect how those agencies enforce the law.

Those imprecise definitions also create great uncertainty for average citizens who must comply with regulations, Bakst said.

Addressing the Trump administration’s proposed rule revising the definition of  “waters of the United States,” Bakst wrote:

In 2004, the General Accounting Office (GAO) highlighted the Corps’ inconsistent enforcement across districts and even asserted that definitions were intentionally left vague. If experts within the agencies are unable to agree if a water is a ‘waters of the United States,’ it is unreasonable to think that a lay person will be able to know that a water is a jurisdictional water.

In fact, if definitions are extremely vague and subjective, and enforcement is inconsistent, there is no way for anyone to know whether some waters are jurisdictional because the answers to those questions depend on the subjective whim of whatever government officials have decided to answer the questions …

Bakst told The Daily Signal in an email that the Robertson case “is a clear and horrifying example of how the vagueness problem with the definition of ‘waters of the United States’ is a major problem.”

“This vagueness problem is just one of the many reasons why the EPA and Corps need to develop a new definition of ‘waters of the United States,’” the Heritage research fellow said. “The definition should be clear and objective, and not allow the agencies to make subjective, after-the-fact determinations as to whether a specific water is regulated.”

Although the Robertson case is far from finished, the Pacific Legal Foundation in a blog describes the Supreme Court’s order moving the case back to the 9th Circuit as a “big win” for the veteran’s widow, Carrie.

“The high court’s decision came via summary disposition, which means it did not issue a written opinion,” the blog says. “But clearly the justices felt the 9th Circuit’s decision was erroneous, or they wouldn’t have granted Joe’s petition, or vacated the 9th Circuit’s decision, after his untimely death.”


The Idea That There Are Only 100 Harvests Left Is Just A Fantasy

WHEN it comes to science reporting, there are some headlines that are so frequently repeated, so intuitively plausible, so closely aligned to our cultural beliefs, that they can seem like incontrovertible truths.

The general public, and indeed many scientists, may fervently believe that these claims reflect the overwhelming scientific consensus. However, sometimes when you dig a little beyond the surface, the evidence underpinning even the most ubiquitous headlines can seem surprisingly shaky.

Perhaps the best example of such an assertion is that of an impending agricultural Armageddon, caused by decades of irresponsible farming practices that have degraded soils across the planet (or so the press narrative goes).

A quick scan of the headlines reveals that despite the confidence with which these forecasts are proclaimed, the actual timescale to D-Day varies rather widely from story to story. While some report that we have 100 years until the end of our soil’s ability to support farming, citing a University of Sheffield study, others claim that this is a mere 60 years away, referencing a speech at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

Recently, the UK government’s environment secretary even stated that the UK is as little as 30 years away from an “eradication of soil fertility” because we “drench it in chemicals”. If this is indeed a likely end-game scenario, we should probably determine which of these estimates is most plausible as a matter of urgency: 30, 60 or 100 years. So let’s take a closer look at this claim.

Despite dozens of headlines quoting these predictions, surprisingly only one peer-reviewed paper from a scientific journal is ever cited as evidence to back them up. This 2014 study from the University of Sheffield compared the soil quality of a range of sites in the English city, including agricultural, garden and allotment soils.

Now, before we question whether the results of this single, small study can be extrapolated to represent all of England, let alone the whole UK or even the whole world, let us take a look at their findings: basically, some urban soils in Sheffield are higher in carbon and nitrogen than some nearby agricultural ones. OK, but where is the 100-year statistic? It turns out that nowhere in the study was there any calculation, prediction or even passing reference to the claim. None whatsoever. Perhaps not so much shaky evidence to support this assertion as much as non-existent.

“I asked leading soil scientists if they had ever come across such a prediction in published research. Not a single one had”

Maybe this is the result of a typo and the work is in another research paper? After an 8-hour trawl through the academic journals failed to pull up a single study that even attempted to make this calculation, I contacted six leading soil scientists across the world to ask if they had ever come across such a prediction in either the published literature or their work. Not a single one had.

In fact, the words they used to describe this claim were “bold”, “too Malthusian”, “hardly useful”, “almost insulting” and “I have used this in my soil science lectures to show the students to be wary of headlines!”. Ouch.

Does that mean there aren’t real threats to some agricultural soils around the world? Absolutely not. Indeed, all the scientists I spoke to went to great lengths to point these out, where they exist.

However, they also highlighted how incredibly complex the calculations needed to make such predictions would be, based on myriad factors, only some of which can be predicted with any reliability, with generalisations almost impossible. The boring reality is that while soils in some parts of the world might be in decline, others are not.

Furthermore, while agriculture may be one of the factors driving erosion and nutrient depletion, many modern farming practices such as no-till and synthetic fertiliser applications may actually be helping alleviate (rather than drive) this. In fact, according to many objective measures, modern, evidence-based farming techniques are more sustainable than those of an idealised past. Quite a different picture to that painted by the headlines.

Despite the thirst for simple truths in a complicated world, the researchers I contacted agreed that setting such a figure for an agricultural “end-point” would be nigh on impossible, which may explain why no published studies appear to have been able to do so. But this hasn’t stopped the newspapers. Welcome to 2019!


Back To The Medieval Green World

Greens dream of a zero-emissions world without coal, oil, and natural gas.  They need to think about what they wish for.

First, there would be no mass production of steel without coke from coking coal to remove oxygen from iron ore.

People could cut trees in forests for charcoal to produce pig iron and crude steels, but forests would soon be exhausted.  Coal saved the forests from this fate.

We could produce gold and silver without using mineral hydro-carbons, and with ingenuity, we could probably produce unrefined copper, lead, and tin and alloys like brass and bronze.  But making large quantities of nuclear fuels, cement, aluminum, refined metals, plastics, petro-chemicals, and poly pipes would be impossible.

Making wind turbines and solar panels would also be impossible without fossil fuels.  A wind turbine needs lots of steel plus concrete, carbon fiber, and glass polymers as well as many other refined metals — copper, aluminum, rare earths, zinc, and molybdenum.  Solar panels and batteries need high-purity ingredients — silicon, lead, lithium, nickel, cadmium, zinc, silver, manganese, and graphite, all hard to make in backyard charcoal-fired furnaces.  Transporting, erecting, and maintaining wind and solar farms plus their roads and transmission lines need many pieces of diesel-powered machinery.

Every machine on Earth needs hydro-carbons for engine oil, gear oil, transmission oil, brake fluid, hydraulic oil, and grease.  We could of course use oils from seals, beeswax, and whales for lubrication.  The discovery of petroleum saved the whales from this fate.

Roads would be a challenge without oil-based bitumen.  The Romans made pretty good roads out of cobblestones (this would ease unemployment).  But hard labor would not sit well with aging Baby-Boomers or electronic-era Millennials.

Cars, motor launches, airplanes, iPhones, and CAT scans would be out.  Horses, oxen, sulkies, wooden rowing boats, sailing ships, herbal medicine, and semaphore would have a huge revival.  Some wood-burning steam tractors may still work and wood-gas generators may replace gasoline in some old cars.

This is the return to the “zero-emissions” world that Green extremists have planned for us.

But modern life cannot be supported by a pre-coal and pre-oil economy.  Without reliable electricity and diesel-powered farm machinery and transport trucks, cities are unsustainable.  In Green-topia, 90% of us people will need to go.


Climate change: Cuttlefish of the Left extend tentacles on climate ‘truth’

Comment from Australia

Fortunately for all of us, the climate isn’t changing as rapidly as the politics and language around it. What started out as global warming was redefined by proponents as climate change, enabling them to pivot from having to explain record cold snaps to including them in the catch-all of change.

Now the political barometer is generating more language shifts. The alarmists, apparently, haven’t seen enough children crying at climate change protests so they want to up the ante. Left-wing newspaper The Guardian (along with The Guardian Australia online) is leading the crusade with a new dictate to staff — they should refer to the climate issue as an emergency, crisis or breakdown.

The paper’s official style guide has been amended saying the phrase “climate change is no longer considered to accurately reflect the seriousness of the ­situation”.

Wow. That is change you can almost believe in.

Up bobbed the phrase immediately in today’s Australian coverage. The Guardian Australia’s political editor Katharine Murphy covered the election fallout in full compliance. “This was an election in large part about the climate emergency, and the field evidence shows Australia in 2019 is deeply divided about the road ahead,” she wrote.

The Guardian is changing language in a brazen attempt to change politics. Later in the story, Murphy went on: “In his concession, Shorten noted that the ­divisions on the climate crisis were etched into Saturday night’s result.”

But a quick check of the transcript reveals a bit of an accuracy issue. Shorten never referred to a climate crisis. He spoke of “climate change” and “climate action” — guess he hadn’t got the memo.

It hardly needs saying this is the epitome of Orwellian. As ­George Orwell wrote in Politics and the Eng­lish Language: “If thought corrupts language then language can also corrupt thought.”

The Guardian doesn’t like the way you are thinking so it is adopting more emotive language to frighten you into its camp.

As Orwell wrote in his seminal essay: “The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns, as it were instinctively, to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.”

And, just like that, you’ll now hear more words such as emergency, crisis and breakdown. Expect ABC reporters to broadcast them, too.

“The Guardian has updated its style guide to introduce terms that more accurately describe the environmental crises facing the world,” the paper said in a statement. “Instead of ‘climate change’, the preferred terms are ‘climate emergency, crisis or breakdown’ and ‘global heating’ is favoured over ‘global warming’, although the original terms are not banned. We want to ensure that we are being scientifically precise while also communicating clearly with readers on this very important issue. The phrase ‘climate change’, for example, sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity.”

Oh, The Guardian is also sceptical about the word sceptic. Apparently it’s not alarmist enough, either. The thought police have dictated that sceptics are now referred to as “climate science deniers” or “climate deniers” — terms that shamelessly echo the disgrace of Holocaust denial.

Even when they don’t have newsprint editions, the green Left is dealing in ink; like spurting cuttlefish, they want to muddy the waters and won’t be denied.



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: