Thursday, August 01, 2019

Another U.S. Temperature Record Gets Broken—For Cold

The state of Minnesota this morning just shattered another temperature record.

Like so many locations this year in the United States and Europe, temperature records are being “broken,” at least as far as the last century-plus when such records began to be cataloged.

The difference this week: Minnesota had the coldest recorded temperature in International Falls, on the border with Canada, coming in at 37 degrees Fahrenheit on the morning of Tuesday, July 30, 2019.

That breaks by one degree the coldest temperature on this day, at 38 degrees, last felt in 1898, even after the “Little Ice Age” had ended earlier in the 19th century.

In other words, just when “global warming” took hold in the mid-19th century, Minnesota confounded the trend and set a cold record by century’s end.

Now, 121 years later, when most of the news media, Hollywood actors, and left-of-center politicians are certain the planet faces an “existential threat” from “climate change” (aka, global warming), Minnesota – the Gopher State and land of 10,000 lakes – has to spoil the narrative again!

Certainly, much of Europe and the United States has undergone a heatwave, with triple-digit, record-breaking temperatures this month.

But, some perspective is in order; for starters – it’s July. It’s summertime. July is the hottest month of the year in the northern hemisphere.

The vicissitudes of weather always make for interesting conversation, at the office water cooler or at the start of a big meeting to, pardon the expression, “break the ice.”

And, while July’s heatwaves make the news, this calendar year many places in the United States and Europe also established record cold temperatures and snowfall.

In northern Europe, for example, the month of July has brought record cold, according to the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

In Germany, several locations experienced the coldest July temperatures in decades, with Rotenburg, in Lower Saxony, setting a record for the all-time coldest July temperature of 37 degrees, breaking the mark set in 1946.

Last May, numerous locales in the state of California experienced record, or near record lows in temperature. In El Cajon, outside of San Diego, it was 48 degrees on May 28th, record cold for that day.

Only two days in May did the temperature in Los Angeles reach 75 degrees or higher. Since 1878, only six times did the city of angels have fewer such days for that month.

Then there is the state of Illinois, in March, which experienced record cold temperatures in several locations, according to the National Weather Service.

On March 4th it was 12 degrees in Chicago, which shattered the previous record by five degrees way back in 1890 when it hit 17 (again, after the Little Ice Age ended).

That same day in Rockford it was 10 degrees, which broke the previous record of 14 in 2002 (following supposed “global warming” of the 1990s).

I could go on, but you get the point. This is not about making the case for global cooling just because many locales shattered cold records for a given day, any more than others should spout evidence of global warming for record heat.

The point of this is that “unseasonably” hot or cold weather is newsworthy at the moment, but is otherwise evidence of nothing on a trend basis, including evidence man-made global warming.

The late geologist Bob Carter, a long-time professor at James Cook University in Australia, said it well:

“The fact that the temperature was warmer at the end of the 20th century than it was in the preceding hundred years, is such a piece of kindergarten science. It’s true, and it is completely meaningless in telling you anything about climate change.”

That doesn’t prevent actors (who act for a living), news people (who pretend for a living), and politicians (who lie for a living), from dramatizing the moment to further their self-importance and their climate change narrative.

Democratic candidates running for president, for example, are tripping over each other to ring up estimates for their version of a Green New Deal to “address” climate change.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York just released a $10 trillion plan, which surpassed Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s $9 trillion plan.

I guess that makes Gillibrand even “greener”? (Aside: if you’ve never heard of either presidential candidate, you’re not alone; both are basically at zero in the polls.)

The reality is that unusual weather makes for momentarily interesting conversation. It does not make for any pattern, or “evidence” of a decades-long climate trend by 2030, 2040, or eight decades into the future, which is commonly claimed by so many that comprise the climate change cottage industry.

Indeed, the climate has always changed and it always will. So, relax. You can enjoy the summers in Europe, Minnesota, and most everywhere else in the northern half of the globe. Just don’t pack your coats away in the attic.


Trump and Newsom Think Alike on Deadly Wildfires
On June 12 the Trump administration proposed easing environmental regulations for forest-thinning on federal land to speed up wildfire prevention. Before accusing President Trump of clearcutting California, it’s important to note that Gov. Gavin Newsom is quietly taking similar actions, an admission that environmental mandates are fueling catastrophic wildfires.

Cal Fire has begun work on 35 fast-tracked community projects across California to eliminate excess fuels through thinning, prescribed burns, and creation of fire breaks. But these projects have proceeded only because the governor issued an “emergency proclamation” granting special waivers of state environmental regulations, such as the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which requires impact reviews.

That an executive proclamation was required to allow these community projects to proceed is an indictment of California’s environmental interest groups and the red tape their favorite regulations have created. The projects are a drop in the bucket, however, compared to the thousands that still need completing across the state.

A century of tightening government control over wildland management has resulted in a tedious, bureaucratic, top-down system captured by “nature first” zealots. As a result, the U.S. Forest Service, Cal Fire, and other government agencies impose regulatory roadblocks to sensible fire-prevention activities in order to “preserve forestland in its natural state.”

Stanford University economist Terry Anderson notes that scientific forest management is “continuously thwarted by environmental activists who want to let nature take her course.” A 2015 study by the University of Montana found that in recent years activist appeals and litigation have encumbered 40 to 50 percent of the planned timber harvests and treatment acres in a region hit hard by wildfires.

Activists favor a reactive posture—fire suppression—rather than a proactive stance—fire prevention and active management. This has created a California tinder box with record fuel loads.

In the 1800s, California forests averaged less than 50 trees per acre; today the average is upwards of 500 trees per acre. This extreme density weakens all trees in the forests as they compete for sunlight and water, making them more susceptible to drought and disease, and producing more flammable dead and dying trees. California has nearly 150 million dead trees.

John Laird, former secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency, has recommended that 500,000 acres of forest each year be thinned of undergrowth, small trees, and dead trees; yet in 2017 the state treated only 250,000 acres. Thinning public and private land has been held back by regulations, especially by CEQA.

Prescribed burns have also been held back by government authorities who refuse to issue burn permits or by local air-quality management districts that suspend permits, even though prescribed burns produce far fewer emissions than wildfires. In contrast, Georgia regulators aim to issue private landowners burn permits within five minutes of their phone calls.

The rising toll of horrific megafires and Newsom’s admission point to urgently needed changes. First, state and federal governments should abolish regulations that prevent healthy land management and imperil the lives of Californians.

Second, expanding private stewardship over land would properly align incentives with fire prevention. Realistically, no landowner wants their asset or investment to go up in flames. About 60 percent of California’s 33 million acres of forestland, however, is “owned” by the federal and state governments, which have proven to be poor stewards.

Third, private landowners and local communities should be allowed to make independent decisions about land management and take immediate action. Before the government takeover, private parties owned the land, maintained access roads in forests, and quickly removed overgrowth at their own expense. Today communities wait for government officials to muster the political will, votes, funds, and regulatory rollbacks to tackle the problem. These delays allow life-threatening fuels to build.

California needs permanent decentralization and independent action. Without it, excess fuels will spark new megafires that destroy more homes and kill more Californians. Much of this destruction will have been preventable.


What's the Deal With the Green New Deal?

There's been a lot of talk about The Green New Deal. Beyond the headlines, what is it really?

We face an existential threat. Life as we know it is on the line. We have 12 short years to change everything or it’s game over.

This is the terrifying scenario that’s used by many leading politicians to justify a “Green New Deal”: an unprecedented increase in government power focused on the energy industry.

The core idea of a Green New Deal is that government should rapidly prohibit the use of fossil fuel energy and impose “100% renewable energy,” mostly solar and wind.

This may sound appealing, but consider what it would entail.

Today, 80% of the energy Americans use to heat their homes, farm their land, run their factories, and drive their cars comes from fossil fuels: coal, oil, and natural gas. Only 3.4% comes from solar and wind—despite decades of government subsidies and mandates to encourage their use.

The reason we don’t use much sunlight and wind as energy is that they are unreliable fuels that only work when the sun shines and the wind blows. That’s why no town, city, or country has ever come close to 100%—or even 50%—solar and wind.

And yet, Green New Deal proponents say they can do the impossible—if only we give the government control of the energy industry and control of major users of energy, such as the transportation industry, manufacturing, and agriculture.

All of this is justified by the need to “do something” about the “existential threat” of rising CO2 levels. We’re told on a daily basis that prestigious organizations like the United Nations have predicted mass destruction and death if we don’t get off fossil fuels. What we’re not told is that such predictions have a decades-long track record of getting it wrong—and by wrong, I mean completely-missing-the-dart-board wrong.

For example, in 1989, the Associated Press reported a United Nations prediction that “entire nations could be wiped off the face of the earth by rising sea levels if the global warming trend is not reversed by the year 2000.” We’re now two decades past 2000, we’re not missing any nations, and human beings are living longer, healthier, and wealthier lives than ever before.

But aren’t things bound to get worse? Haven’t scientists established that CO2 is a greenhouse gas with a warming influence on the planet? Yes—but that’s only a small part of the big picture.

Although CO2 causes some warming, it’s much less significant than we’ve been told. Since we started using significant amounts of fossil fuels in the middle of the 19th century, we’ve increased the percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere from .03% to .04%, which correlates with an average temperature increase of about 2 degrees Fahrenheit. It also correlates with significant global greening—because CO2 is plant food.

All of this is far from unprecedented territory for our planet, which has existed with at least 10 times today’s CO2 levels and a 25-degree warmer average temperature.

What is truly unprecedented, though, is how safe we are from climate. The International Disaster Database, a nonpartisan organization that tracks deaths from climate-related causes—such as extreme heat, floods, storms, and drought—shows that such deaths have been plummeting as CO2 emissions have been rising.

How is this possible? Because of the fossil fuel energy that emitted the CO2, which has empowered us to climate-proof our environment with heating, air-conditioning, sturdy buildings, mass irrigation, and weather warning systems.

Fossil fuel energy has not taken a naturally safe climate and made it unnaturally dangerous; it’s taken our naturally dangerous climate and made it unnaturally safe. Fossil fuels are not an existential threat. They are an existential resource because they increase something much more important than the level of CO2 in the atmosphere: the level of human empowerment. Increased life expectancy, income, health, leisure time, and education are all tightly linked to increased access to fossil fuels.

Does this mean that we shouldn’t look for lower carbon energy alternatives? Of course not. But the alternatives should lead us toward more abundant, more reliable power, not less.

The most promising form of alternative energy is not unreliable solar and wind, but reliable, carbon-free nuclear energy. Sweden gets 40% of its electricity from nuclear. France, over 70%. While nuclear energy is smeared as unsafe, it has actually been demonstrated by study after study to be the safest form of energy ever created.

And yet, Green New Deal proponents, who say that we have 12 years to save the planet from rising CO2 levels, vigorously oppose nuclear—in addition to all fossil—fuel use.

By opposing every affordable, abundant, reliable form of energy, the Green New Deal won’t protect us from an existential threat; it is an existential threat.


In Iowa, Democrats Do The Ethanol Tango, Ignore Green New Deal Pledge

There is no greater champion of the corn-based ethanol industry on the campaign trail than Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

Unless she happens to be in Washington, D.C., where she supports a “Green New Deal” that would outlaw all fuel-driven cars in 10 years.

Nothing illustrates the delicate political dance that most Democratic presidential hopefuls must perform when their radical political agenda comes smack up against midwestern common sense and political realities.

Subsidies for ethanol and other biofuels may be wasteful and expensive for the American consumer, but no presidential candidate has ever been successful when threatening to end them.

This is a battle between the activist base of the Democratic Party who don’t care much about rural America and ordinary voters who look at many climate change proposals with a skeptical eye.


“There’s a disconnect between where we have seen leading Democratic contenders be in terms of support their corn ethanol and soy biodiesel and what we believe is the right thing to do for climate policy,” said Rose Garr, a campaign director at Mighty Earth, an environmental group headed by former Democratic California congressman Henry Waxman.

The group has been running an aggressive field campaign in Iowa. Activists are confronting candidates in front of video cameras, trying to convince them to abandon support for ethanol — a longtime litmus test for winning the battleground state of Iowa, which holds the first presidential nominating contest.

You can be sure those confrontations are mighty uncomfortable for the likes of Warren and Sanders, who is another aggressive campaigner for climate change.

But there are also candidates who have resorted to shameless pandering to farmers and the biofuels industry — at least in Iowa.

The president’s trade war with China eliminated a key buyer of U.S. ethanol, and the administration has handed oil refineries a record number of exemptions to the nation’s biofuel laws.

This could provide an opening for Democrats. Senators Sanders and Kirsten Gillibrand, once foes of the biofuel mandate, have converted to ethanol boosters as they campaign in a field of more than 20 candidates for the 2020 nomination.

Like fellow senators Warren, Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar, who all have publicly supported ethanol, they also are sponsors of the Green New Deal. Former Vice President Joe Biden has supported ethanol but also has an environmental plan that calls for phasing out of fuel-powered cars.

Donald Trump took the very popular, unapologetic position of fully supporting ethanol mandates, which helped him immensely in the Midwest.

But those Democratic candidates who voice support for biofuels are being watched closely by the greenies:

But Scott Farber, a vice president at the Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based research and advocacy organization, said Democratic candidates cannot simultaneously support the Green New Deal and the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard, the 2005 federal law that requires ethanol and other biofuels to be blended the nation’s fuel pool.

Ethanol is largely produced from corn. Environmental activists say it is not as clean a fuel as they once thought because blending it with gasoline continues U.S. reliance on fossil fuels and burning it still produces carbon dioxide.

“We can no longer afford to be burning fossil fuels or corn ethanol when there are far more environmentally transformational alternatives that address the climate crisis,” Farber said.

I can’t wait for wind turbines sitting atop teeny, tiny cars to appear on the nation’s highways. That would be “transformational” indeed.

Iowans are used to this song and dance from politicians. Republicans who fought the federal mandates in Congress suddenly converted to ethanol boosters after they announced for president in 2016.

But for Democrats in 2020, they need the environmental vote as much as they need the rural, white, working-class vote. That’s why they will soft-pedal support for ethanol — except when they’re crisscrossing Iowa.


Australia: Wind and solar turn up pressure on electricity supply in South Australia and Queensland

A complicated balancing act from coal and gas is needed to keep the lights on

Daily price ramp on Australia’s wholesale electricity markets is quite strong in most states right now,  and particularly in South Australia and Queensland. The evening peak price ramp is about $100/MWh difference between low and high price, but the duration of low and high price is short.

Despite exports to NSW, coal in Qld is ramping up and down about 1000 MW twice a day. However, it’s the gas-driven QLD early evening peak that really moves prices. In South Australia in July, there were mostly exports even in the early evening peak. Those exports to Victoria required more high price marginal gas to enter the system.

Even in winter the aggregate influence of  rooftop and utility solar is very noticeable and a vast transformation from a few years ago. In South Australia at the moment wind and solar are well over 50% of generation driving prices on average below Victoria.

Victoria’s average price for July is about $11/MWh higher than either South Australia or NSW and $20 MWh above Qld,  basically because its midday price in July was around $70 MWh, compared to say $40 MWh in the solar richer States.

The five year total average in the NEM in front of the meter is around 193 TWh as measured by metered demand using NEM Review as a source. Although it looks like 2019 is soft in Autumn and Winter, due to the hot start to the year , the 2019 year to date average is right in line with the five year number.

The annualized level of the last 30 days is around 193 TWh which is in line with the full year average.  So when we look at what’s happening to price we are in effect seeing price at the average level of demand. Following so far?

Solar output is depressed in Winter  (it’s about 5% of total demand including behind the meter now, versus a peak  in the March quarter of over 8%).

Despite all that we are seeing some strong price ramps up and down in the daily average numbers. Two interesting cases are solar-strong Qld and wind-strong South Australia.

It seems self evident the spike in QLD when the Sun goes down and demand goes up and also the depressed price at lunch time. Looking at the supply and demand side what we see is that when the solar comes into action QLD exports and turns down its gas and coal. In the evening peak this is reversed although on average there are still some exports.

What’s most interesting to me is that even in Winter we are seeing coal ramping up and down 1000 MW pretty much twice  a day in QLD.  Coal has always had to be flexible because demand is itself volatile, but the ramping is already becoming stronger.

I don’t know how efficient it is to have the coal generators doing that morning ramp for just 2-3 hours but clearly they can still outcompete gas in that time frame.

I expect, based on the new Mt Emerald wind farm, that as the Coopers Creek wind farm gets into action it may start to eat into that morning peak. Note demand includes behind the meter and solar is combined utility and behind the meter.

Also it’s interesting to look at the daily average wind pattern in Qld from Mt Emerald. Unlike the other charts this is a 9 month average and there may well be seasonal factors I haven’t looked at. Assuming its representative of Qld in total though its quite encouraging.

The wind output drops off in the middle of the day and picks up again when the Sun goes down. Wind won’t quite pick up the early Qld peak but it will assist with the latter part. Again we look for more data over time and more wind farms to see if these early results can be replicated.

Enthusiasts might recall that one of the several far sighted principles underlying  the German Energiewende that kicked off the whole globabl energy transformation was that wind and solar were complementary to each other.

This is also supportive of the hybrid wind and solar farm pioneered by Windlab for Qld and now proposed by for instance by Goldwind at the Clarke Creek wind and solar farm and shortlisted by Cleanco in the recent tender for 400MW.

South Australia

In wind heavy South Australia price is softest early in the morning and the solar induced middle of the day reaction is less, probably because  thermal  supply in Victoria is constrained.

As with Queensland, South Australia is exporting most of the time right now. In this case though its exporting wind to Victoria, just not enough to reduce Victorian prices down to the level of other States.

Wind is 50% of supply in July 2019. On average wind has a remarkably steady hourly output in South Australia during the seasonally windy July. Most of the gas ramp is driven by solar.

It looks like peak prices in the South Australian evening would be lower except for the export opportunity.  The extra 250 MW of gas in the evening peak over the the morning peak requires a higher price but mostly wouldn’t be needed save for exports.

Both QLD and South Australia exhibit about $100 MWh afternoon ramp move  low to high but the duration of the low price and the high price is small suggesting it wouldn’t take much to arbitrage out both the low and the high.



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.  

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