Chipping away at the baseload myth

One of the most persistent myths about clean energy is that clean energy does not supply a reliable source of electricity. That myth usually includes ideas such as we need coal, or nuclear, to provide baseload.

Check out this analysis from Forbes:

Experts: Reducing Carbon Emissions And Increasing Grid Reliability Are Doable

With the Clean Power Plan out for comment, a lot utilities are scurrying to figure out their game plan — or just how they would work with their state utility regulators to reduce their carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030, from a 2005 baseline. The general feeling is that the goal is doable but it may take a little more time.

Understandably, the utilities and the state regulators want to find better and cheaper ways of doing business. Their level of enthusiasm, though, differs based on which part of the country they live and which fuels they burn to make electricity. The Northeast and California are leading the charge, having created free market exchanges to buy and sell credits to reduce carbon levels — mechanisms that each say is helping to broaden their generation mixes and to boost their economies.

Detroit-Chicago High Speed Rail

Nice to see some movement on advanced, 21st (really, 20th) century public transportation. From Detroit Free Press:

A completed high-speed rail corridor between Chicago and Detroit could boost round-trip passenger train service between the two cities from the current three daily trips to 10 by 2035 at speeds of 110 m.p.h., according to preliminary planning on the project.

The higher speeds would also cut the 5 hour, 38 minute trip by almost two hours, and reduce 20 minutes from the leg that continues from Detroit to Pontiac, which would see an extra four daily round-trips from the current three.

John Coleman, Founder of The Weather Channel On Fox News

… to play the victim. Interestingly, Fox News doesn’t exactly give him a pass at first. Then they threw him an Al Gore softball on Arctic Ice. Watch:

Media Matters for America has a great writeup on this. It is all about false balance. Fox is great at that.

Coleman’s experience in weather forecasting does not make him an expert in climate science — there is an immense difference between a scientist and a weather forecaster. … Disregarding the fact that Coleman never received a formal education in meteorology — his degree was in journalism — his experience predicting the weather does not make him a credible source to debunk the vast majority of scientific literature on climate change.

Coleman also claimed that “9,000 Ph.D.’s and 31 [thousand] scientists” agree with his position on climate change, referring to the widely discredited Oregon Petition Project. Its signatories are mostly engineers with master’s degrees, and it once included the names of fictitious characters and a member of the Spice Girls.

Coleman is not a climate scientist. Neither is Al Gore, actually. But one of them is seriously concerned about climate change and does listen to what climate scientists day. Guess which one.

How to get women. To vote for you. If you are a politician.

Joireman with students in his lab at WSU. (Photos by Rebecca Phillips, WSU)

Joireman with students in his lab at WSU. (Photos by Rebecca Phillips, WSU)

There are a lot of possible answers to that question, but whatever set of answers you like, you have to account for change. Certain social justice or reproductive rights issues are less important now than they they have been in the past, not because the issues are less important, but because they are more settled. A new change you have to account for now, for a certain voting bloc of women, is Climate Change. Science 2.0 has a summary of a recent study — Don’t Believe In Global Warming? Women Won’t Vote For You — suggesting that for some, climate change has become a woman’s issue.

The study is by Jeff Joireman and Richie Liu is “Future-oriented women will pay to Reduce Global Warming: Mediation via political orientation, Environmental Values, and Belief in Global Warming.” and here is the abstract:

The present work addresses calls to clarify the role of gender in climate change mitigation and adaptation by testing a theoretical model linking gender and concern with future and immediate consequences to mitigation actions through political orientation, environmental values, and belief in global warming (gender x time orientation ? liberal political orientation ? environmental values ? belief in global warming ? willingness to pay to reduce global warming). Drawing on a sample of 299 U.S. residents, structural equation modeling and bootstrapped indirect effects testing revealed support for the model. Interaction analyses further revealed that women scored higher than men on model variables among respondents who routinely consider the future consequences of their actions, but the gender difference was reversed among those low in concern with future consequences (on liberal political orientation and willingness to pay to reduce global warming). Practical and theoretical implications are considered.

The study has a press release by Rebecca Phillips:

Politicians who discredit global warming risk losing a big chunk of the female vote….women who consider the long-term consequences of their actions are more likely to adopt a liberal political orientation and take consumer and political steps to reduce global warming.

Jeff Joireman, associate professor of marketing at Washington State University, demonstrated that “future-oriented” women are the voting bloc most strongly motivated to invest money, time and taxes toward reducing global warming.

Joireman said belief in global warming is positively linked to outdoor temperatures, so in light of recent record-breaking heat, people – especially future-oriented women – may have climate change on their minds during next week’s midterm elections.

September was the hottest on record in 135 years, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projects 2014 will likely break the record for hottest year.

This year’s political contests are also heated, with environmental ads surging to record levels. More than 125,000 political spots cite energy, climate change and the environment – more than all other issues except health care and jobs – according to an analysis by Kantar Media/CMAG.

Motivating the wider populace to engage and take action on global warming, however, is an ongoing challenge, said Joireman.
“Decisions that affect global warming pose a dilemma between what is good for individuals in the ‘here and now’ versus what is good for society and the environment ‘in the distant future,’” he said.
“Unfortunately, it can take several decades for the lay public and lawmakers to realize there is a problem that needs fixing,” he said. “This is clearly the case with global warming, as the consequences of our current lifestyle are not likely to be fully realized for another 25 to 50 years.”

…Joireman investigated how the time element contributes to people’s willingness to address climate change.

For the study, he focused on the personality trait called “consideration of future consequences.”

Those who score high on the trait scale tend to be very worried about the future impacts of their actions, while those with lower scores are more concerned with immediate consequences.

… his team polled 299 U.S. residents, with an age range of 18-75. Forty-eight percent of the respondents were female and 80 percent were Caucasian.

Women scored higher than men on liberal political orientation, environmental values, belief in global warming and willingness to pay to reduce global warming when their concern with future consequences was high.

But it wasn’t a simple gender difference. Women scored lower than men on liberal political orientation and willingness to pay when their concern with future consequences was low.

Joireman said a specific chain of influences makes future-oriented women more likely to take action. First, they are more politically liberal.

Liberals are more likely to value the environment, which makes them more likely to believe in global warming, he said. All together, these effects lead to a willingness to pay more in goods, services and extra taxes to help mitigate climate change.

“Future-oriented women, for example, might be more willing to pay higher prices for fuel-efficient cars, alternative forms of transportation and energy-efficient appliances. They might also eat less meat – all to help lower greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

The question for environmental advocates now, said Joireman, is to “figure out how to motivate all people to engage in behaviors that reduce global warming. To be effective, we will likely need to tailor persuasive messages to appeal to the consequences people value.
“If people are not worried about future consequences, we have to try to appeal to their more immediate concerns,” he said, “like encouraging them to buy a fuel-efficient vehicle so they can instantly start saving money on gas.”

Rate of mass shootings has tripled in three years

The frequency with which shooting events in the US occurs has gone way up in the last few years, according to recent research. Amy Cohen, Deborah Azarael and Mathew Miller have an article at Mother Jones reviewing the research: Rate of Mass Shootings Has Tripled Since 2011, Harvard Research Shows…And: Why claims in the media that mass shootings aren’t increasing are wrong.

I find the graphic they used a bit odd:

shootingsSince2011-mfms11 (1)

The overall form of the graph shows a decrease over time. But it really shows an increase. You just have to know how to read it. The Y axis is the number of days since the last shooting, which as we can see is very high for several shootings before about 2011, but very low after. But, once you do understand the graph it makes the point very clearly. Notice that there are several time periods prior to 2011 which also have low numbers (meaning more shooting events) but those periods are never very long. There seems to be a dramatic and sustained increase in rate of shootings.

The authors explain it this way:

As the chart above shows, a public mass shooting occurred on average every 172 days since 1982. The orange reference line depicts this average; data points below the orange line indicate shorter intervals between incidents, i.e., mass shootings occurring at a faster pace. Since September 6, 2011, there have been 14 public mass shootings at an average interval of less than 172 days. A run of nine points or more below the orange average line is considered a statistical signal that the underlying process has changed. …The standard interpretation of this chart would be that mass shootings, as of September 2011, are now part of a new, accelerated, process.

Kansas Governor’s Race and Clean Energy

Climate change and clean energy seem to be playing a role in the Kansas Governor’s race. Ari Phillips at ThinkProgress has a post on the race. The issue is preservation vs. abrogation of the Kansas Renewable Portfolio Standard, a state law that requires a certain amount of Kansas energy to be “renewable.” The Koch’s have spent considerable effort and money to have the law repealed. Democratic candidate Paul Davis says he will veto any effort to repeal the law. Brownback formerly supported the law but his support apparently has shifted under the Pressure that Refreshes (Koch).

Davis said the RPS repeal is being championed by a very narrow group of far right special interests with heavy investments in the oil industry. He said this is despite the fact that the policy remains incredibly popular among everyday Kansans and public and private sector leaders who understand the importance of diversifying the state’s energy portfolio. In fact, Kansas’ RPS — which requires investor-owned utilities to get 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020 — is almost entirely fulfilled several years ahead of schedule.

“Frankly, the RPS has become controversial because those who want to repeal the RPS have poured millions into Sam Brownback’s re-election campaign, which has caused him to suddenly change his position,” said Davis.

Phillips points out an interesting irony. Kansas, the state, is named after a Native American tribe whose name translates roughly as “People of the Wind.” And, we all know about the famous Tornadoes in Kansas that are capable of whisking a young girls and their dogs to far away lands!

See Phillips post for a lot more information on the popular and business based support of the renewable energy law that the GOP is now being paid to get rid of.

Checking Real Clear Politics, the race is at present close, following a period of wild swings in polling results:


Since an earlier attempt to repeal the law failed, the Koch’s have pulled support away from the GOP incumbent. This pattern has apparently played out at the level of state legislative elections as well.

So, we have a business-friendly and popular law, equivocal support or lack thereof by the GOP incumbent, a Democrat who supports the pro-clean energy law running against the incumbent, and a tight election. It may be the case that if Paul Davis wins, it will be an election where Climate Change and Clean Energy mattered.

Interesting Epigenetics Discussion

At Science League of America, Stephanie Keep’s blog, “A Wrinkle In (Change Over) Time, Part 1:

…there has recently been a bit of a wrinkle in this core tenet of evolution. It used to be that you could say with confidence that changes brought about by environmental influences over the course of an individual’s lifetime (loss of limb, build-up of muscle mass) are not heritable. But more and more examples of just that—of environmentally affected traits being passed from parent to offspring—have been recently reported in the scientific literature. Earlier this year, for example, Scientific American ran a piece by biologist Michael Skinner that described the phenomena he has studied since 2005. He recounts how mice exposed to a toxin produce male offspring with low sperm count and underdeveloped sex organs. No problem so far, the offspring were developing within the mother’s body and therefore also exposed. But Skinner’s team noted a disproportionate occurrence of these traits in the next two generations. There was no trace of the toxin in…

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 7.54.00 PM

Interesting post, and interesting, lively discussion.

Marked is History

In the middle of an important project with a deadline. Using BBEdit to write, Marked to check the markdown code.

Suddenly, Marked stops working. In a kinda scary way. Lots of spinning rainbow wheels of death stuff.

Marked recently came up with a new version and they want $9.99 for the upgrade, which provides nothing new for me. So, no.

Why did Marked break? I don’t know. I checked out a few free alternatives then I realized/discovered that BBEdit has the same exact ability built in and it has been there all the time!!!!!1

Appcleaner, meet Marked.

WordPress 4.0

Just installed WordPress 4.0.  I’ve never had a WordPress installation or upgrade on this blog go well. This one went fine, no apparent difficulties.  I just pressed the update button and it updated.  I’d been putting it off because my prior experiences had been so bad.

I’m not sure it is working as advertised.  The annoying web editing scrolling fiasco that is WordPress or any browser based editor is still the way it always has been despite the video WordPress shows me when it upgrades saying otherwise. So, I’m not sure what to do about that. But, it did not break, so that’s good.

Here’s the video on WordPress 4.0:


Ingredients of the all natural banana

I have mixed feelings about this. It could be a snobby chemist being all “without chemicals life itself would be impossible” and at the same time disrespecting the general public’s desire to have labels on the crap they sell us in stores, or it could be an honest and fun attempt to actually point out the chemicals in a banana (and other fruit). The guy’s site is generally pretty good though, lots of resources for teachers. Just gotta keep an eye on those chemists. If you know what I mean.

(I know, the pineapple is depicted, not the banana. Just go see the site you’ll understand.)

A glornififoov asks about planetary extinction.

“It’s called the Mars Rule.”


“Yes, Mars. After the planet. Earthlings. Earth is a planet orbiting Sol A2234-332N. Dead planet now but that is where Earthlings are from. Mars is next to Earth.”

“A moon?”

“No, a planet, next orbit over. Can’t remember if it is closer or farther from its Sol. Anyway, doesn’t matter. Earthlings visited Mars and after about 20 years of poking around discovered that full blown life had evolved there and gone extinct. Aeons earlier.”

“So the Mars Rule is planetary extinction? It thought that was called the Koch Effect.”

“Ha. Funny you should say that, because Koch Syndrome, not ‘effect,’ you had that wrong. Koch syndrome was also named by Earthlings. And it is related.”

“Ah, right, I remember that now. Koch Effect.”

“Right. But the Mars Rule is different. Mars is smaller than Earth. According to the Mars Rule the total time frame from the origin of a planet to the appearance of life to the eventual extinction of life and the destruction of a life supporting planetary surface is faster on small planets than on large planets.”

“Really? Didn’t Sydour 7 snuff out before Skydour 9, and it’s bigger?”

“Right, it did. But this a rule, not a law. Lots of exceptions. But it tends to work all else being equal, which as you know, is not all the time.”

“Let me think. Smaller planet cools first, then has smaller surface area, so chemical evolution is faster.”

“A little, but only a little. It’s more the biochemical evolution. Right about the cooling, though. Turns out, most lifestarts kill each other off. It’s counterintuitive. More lifestarts — more primordial puddles if you will — you would think that would hasten the development of life, but most of the time some of the life forms ruin the biochemistry for the others, and eventually themselves.”

“Ah, right, but if there is only one primordial puddle, it gets to cycle from lifestart to extinction fast.”

“Yes, within a few klakons, a tiny fraction of the total lifespan of a planet, on a small planet like Mars.”

“Right, then the experiment starts again right away, less residual biochemical suppression.”

“Yes, that’s the start of the cycle, why a small planet — all else being equal of course — will go from no life to life, and go through the first few typical stages…”

“I remember! Colonial forms, multicellular, specialized, motile, informational, predator-prey, behavioral web, quasi-intelligent, Koch Effect.”

“Mostly right. You’re pretty smart for an Eetweeb. Informational comes after predator-prey…”

“Ah, right, mixed that up…”

And the small size only speeds up the start of the process. The middle part goes fast on any size planet once multicellular happens. Depends on extinction events.”

“Right, extinction events, that would slow it down…”

“OK, may be not so smart for an Eetweeb. Extinction events speed it up once there’s multicellular, as long as their magnitude is below the cube root of planetary mass rule. But that’s getting into esoteric details.”

“I guess that makes sense.”

“Yes. Yes it does. But then the last part of the cycle runs faster simply because the planet is smaller. Quasi intelligence builds technology webs sooner on smaller planets, and when the Koch Effect swings into play, smaller plants are simply more vulnerable. Less water, less atmosphere, less buffering.”

“Cool. I always wanted to study Solsystemology, but I didn’t have the math skills.”

“Tectonics, too Larger planets have long lived tectonic moving system. That slows down the process.”

“How does that work?”

“Another time, next time we get together for a blopwut. I’ve got to go now. Time for my exnorphilation.”

“OK, professor, thanks for your time. See you in class tomorrow.”

“Sure thing. Stop by for office hours whenever you want. Nobody ever does, always a refreshing change to whatchawhacha with a glornififoov.”