Tag Archives: Environment

Energy Irony: Trans Canada Wants 15 Billion From Obama

Governments, and the people, should be filing law suits against the energy industry for causing the imminent collapse of civilization as we know it. But instead, the opposite is happening.

From Reuters:

TransCanada formally seeks NAFTA damages in Keystone XL rejection

TransCanada Corp is formally requesting arbitration over U.S. President Barack Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, seeking $15 billion in damages, the company said in legal papers dated Friday.

The Keystone XL was designed to link existing pipeline networks in Canada and the United States to bring crude from Alberta and North Dakota to refineries in Illinois and, eventually, the Gulf of Mexico coast.

Obama rejected the cross-border crude oil pipeline last November, seven years after it was first proposed, saying it would not make a meaningful long-term contribution to the U.S. economy.

TransCanada is suing the United States in federal court in a separate legal action, seeking to reverse the pipeline’s rejection.

About 750,000 homes could be fitted with some really sweet solar arrays for that money. Let’s do that instead!

Diablo Canyon nuclear plant will shut down

This is bad news and good news, but mostly good news. No matter what you think of nuclear energy (and I’m one of those people who give it a stern look and remain suspicious), it does tend to produce electricity with the addition of much less fossil carbon into the atmosphere than, say, burning coal. So, we probably don’t want to see a wholesale reduction in the use of nuclear energy too quickly, and we may even want to see some new plants built.

The Diablo Canyon nuclear plant is the only working nuke plant in California, and it is famously located in an earthquake-rich locality. The plant was upgraded to withstand a 7.5 earthquake, but earthquakes occasionally happen that are stronger than that. There has only been one earthquake of that magnitude in Southern California since good records have been kept, and that was in 1952. But still….

Diablo Canyon is historically important because the whole idea of building a major nuclear plant in an earthquake zone catalyzed the anti-nuclear movement, and that reaction probably helped to avoid further such construction, and helped nudge the plant operators to upgrade the earthquake readiness of this plant from handling a 6.75 magnitude quake to a 7.5 magnitude quake. There have been six quakes in that range of magnitude in the region in the historic record.

A quick word about earthquakes. Really large earthquakes are actually pretty uncommon in Southern California; other areas, such as the Pacific Northwest have very few quakes but when they happen they can be huge, easily enough to Fuki up a plant like Diablo Canyon. See Earthquake Time Bombs by Robert Yeats for more on that. Nonetheless, being built to withstand a 7.5 earthquake doesn’t necessarily mean that a smaller quake won’t cause problems, or weaken structures that are then more vulnerable to subsequent strong quakes.

Anyway, the following is from a press release from Friends of the Earth, describing how the plan is to replace the energy coming from Diablo Canyon with non fossil carbon fuels. And that, of course, is the extra good news.

BERKELEY, CALIF. – An historic agreement has been reached between Pacific Gas and Electric, Friends of the Earth, and other environmental and labor organizations to replace the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactors with greenhouse-gas-free renewable energy, efficiency and energy storage resources. Friends of the Earth says the agreement provides a clear blueprint for fighting climate change by replacing nuclear and fossil fuel energy with safe, clean, cost-competitive renewable energy.

The agreement, announced today in California, says that PG&E will renounce plans to seek renewed operating licenses for Diablo Canyon’s two reactors — the operating licenses for which expire in 2024 and 2025 respectively. In the intervening years, the parties will seek Public Utility Commission approval of the plan which will replace power from the plant with renewable energy, efficiency and energy storage resources. Base load power resources like Diablo Canyon are becoming increasingly burdensome as renewable energy resources ramp up. Flexible generation options and demand-response are the energy systems of the future.

By setting a certain end date for the reactors, the nuclear phase out plan provides for an orderly transition. In the agreement, PG&E commits to renewable energy providing 55 percent of its total retail power sales by 2031, voluntarily exceeding the California standard of 50 percent renewables by 2030.

“This is an historic agreement,” said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth. “It sets a date for the certain end of nuclear power in California and assures replacement with clean, safe, cost-competitive, renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy storage. It lays out an effective roadmap for a nuclear phase-out in the world’s sixth largest economy, while assuring a green energy replacement plan to make California a global leader in fighting climate change.”

A robust technical and economic report commissioned by Friends of the Earth served as a critical underpinning for the negotiations. The report, known as “Plan B,” provided a detailed analysis of how power from the Diablo Canyon reactors could be replaced with renewable, efficiency and energy storage resources which would be both less expensive and greenhouse gas free. With the report in hand, Friends of the Earth’s Damon Moglen and Dave Freeman engaged in discussions with the utility about the phase-out plan for Diablo Canyon. NRDC was quickly invited to join. Subsequently, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245, Coalition of California Utility Employees, Environment California and Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility partnered in reaching the final agreement. The detailed phase out proposal will now go to the California Public Utility Commission for consideration. Friends of the Earth (and other NGO parties to the agreement) reserve the right to continue to monitor Diablo Canyon and, should there be safety concerns, challenge continued operation.

The agreement also contains provisions for the Diablo Canyon workforce and the community of San Luis Obispo. “We are pleased that the parties considered the impact of this agreement on the plant employees and the nearby community,” said Pica. “The agreement provides funding necessary to ease the transition to a clean energy economy.”

Diablo Canyon is the nuclear plant that catalyzed the formation of Friends of the Earth in 1969. When David Brower founded Friends of the Earth the Diablo Canyon was the first issue on the organization’s agenda and Friends of the Earth has been fighting the plant ever since. This agreement is not only a milestone for renewable energy, but for Friends of the Earth as an organization.

This is the greatest idea ever: Water Bar

One of the Great Crises we face in today’s world is the stability and security of the water supply. In America, most people don’t have any problems getting water, to the extent that we tend to waste it, and few people even know where there water comes from. Every now and then there emerges a startling and troubling problem with water. A river catches fire, a plume of visible pollution observable from space spreads across a lake, or an entire city worth of children are poisoned with the contents of the city water supply.

Works Progress Studio has been engaged for a while in a project called the Water Bar, and they intend to ramp this project up in the near future if they get enough help.

The original water bar is “a collaborative public art project … simply, a bar that serves local tap water.” It consists of a pop up bar that can be easily deployed, serving a wide range of local vintages, and staffed with scientists or other experts on the water supply. That project started in 2014, and has served over 30,000 people in four states.

This video gives you a flavor (or, should I say, a flavorless…).

I asked Works Progress Studio co-founder Shanai Matteson how this all started. She told me that it “… started out as an experiment – what would happen if we opened a bar that only served regular tap water, and asked our community of environmental science researchers, educators, and advocates to be bartenders – not pushing a message, but just casually engaging in conversation.”

“The second iteration of the project,” she continued, “was an installation at an art museum in Arkansas. We built a Water Bar in the museum’s cafe area, and I think a lot of people didn’t even realize it was an artist project – which is fine with us! We hired college students with backgrounds in research, natural resource management, landscape architecture, business… They kept the bar open every day for 5 months, and all of them said that they learned valuable engagement skills, including new ways of talking to people about complicated science topics”

Now, Water Bar has a GoFundMe page to help them to set up a permanent taproom in Minneapolis. Partnering with several neighborhood and environmental organizations, research scientists, and artists, the idea is to create the Water Bar & Public Studio in Northeast Minneapolis, which is a thriving, and growing, art-oriented community. The location will be a hub for neighborhood events addressing art and sustainability, educational programs, and so on.

The water will be free.

Donations will fund the “taproom,” a creative community space, and a public art and sustainability incubator.

When I saw the video, my first thought was to avoid doing this in Flint Michigan. I asked Shanai Matteson about that. She told me, “We’ve actually had a bunch of people suggest we SHOULD do this in Flint, or Detroit. We wouldn’t attempt that unless we were invited there by residents, but even considering the implications really makes the disparity between those communities and others, like Minneapolis, so plain.”

Matteson also pointed out one of the main problems with the culture of water use in the US. “Most of the stories about Flint have focused on the problem – what went wrong, who was responsible – as well as the work of researchers, residents, and activists to finally get people to pay attention. Few of the stories I’ve read mention that almost none of us know where our drinking water comes from. We probably wouldn’t know if our water had high levels of lead, and most of us wouldn’t know who to call or what to do if we suspected a problem. One of our goals with the Water Bar project is to start getting people to see and understand their connection to these life-sustaining systems, and to the political systems involved with maintaining them – or in the case of Flint, gross negligence and a desire to see public infrastructure privatized.”

Matteson is looking forward to developing this project further. “Our dream is for a space that is approachable and welcoming, but also presents really urgent and serious content. We want to work with our community of artists and designers to find creative ways to engage people in water and environment issues, and we want to be a learning laboratory for future science and environment leaders — or for current researchers and advocacy orgs to share their work with new audiences.”

You can learn more about the Water Bar project here, and of course, go here to go fund them.

Patriot Panels and Freedom Volts: Don’t Tread On Me!

The Nevada state government has just ruined solar energy in their state. From here,

Although Nevada is one of the sunniest places in the world, there has recently been a dark cloud hovering over the rooftop solar industry in the state. Just before Christmas, Nevada’s public utility commission (PUC) gave the state’s only power company, NV Energy, permission to charge higher rates and fees to solar panel users – a move that immediately shattered the rooftop solar industry’s business model.

In addition to the new monthly fee, … customers … will get less back from the utility for energy their solar panels capture and feed into the main power grid. Whereas previously they received full retail value for their surplus electricity, soon NV Energy will only pay a third of that price for exported electricity.

Now, if you live in one of the sunniest states in the US, it is no longer worth it to put solar panels on your roof.

This is part of a national fight over solar energy. In some states, nefarious forces are working toward making it a bad idea to put solar panels on your home or business. In other states, forces for the good are working to make home or business rooftop solar a good idea.

There is a larger scale political divide in this country, with Republicans, Libertarians, and Tea Partiers (overlapping groups) on one side and Democrats and environmentalists on the other. The former is against shifting to clean energy and addressing global climate disruption. The latter is working towards shifting away from fossil fuels and addressing climate disruption.

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Current and recommended books on climate change.
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But a big part of this makes no sense. Those solar panels you may choose, as in individual or small business owner, to put on your roof constitute your way of utilizing your sun. Yes, that sun that falls on your house is not the property of the government, or big corporations, or politicians bought and paid for by big corporations. That is your sunlight, and THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD NOT INTERFERE WITH YOUR USE OF IT TO POWER YOUR OWN HOME.

Public utilities are there to serve the public, and you are part of the public. Those entities, and the state government agencies that regulate them, should not be conspiring to take away your volts. Your Freedom Volts. They should not be stopping you from installing your solar panels … your Patriot Panels … on your own roof.

So why have the Libertarians and their kin not been fighting this? Why have self described “Patriots” not taken up arms, figuratively one would hope, against the nefarious forces that seek to control YOUR access to your OWN ENERGY?

I suspect that eventually they will. Among those who do put up solar panels there must be some who do so to for their own sensible financial reasons. There must be some people who benefit from rooftop solar who are not Democrats or environmentalists, but rather, sensible Republicans or Libertarians who are in it for the FREEDOM, the financial savings, and also, just because it is cool to make your own energy. Perhaps we will see the KINDLING OF FREEDOM among these self sufficient patriots. Perhaps we will see a demand from the right, not just the left, to LEAVE OUR FREEDOM VOLTS ALONE!

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Incredibly important finding on renewable energy

The big complaint people have about renewable energy, or at least, the big complaint that has some merit, is that renewables, such as wind and solar, are intermittent and to varying degrees, unpredictably intermittent. This makes it hard to match demand for electricity to supply. Some aspects of this argument are overstated. For example, a steady supply (the same potential power all the time, every minute of the day) can be a bug as well as a feature. If every electron of electricity we used came from nuclear power plants, there would be a problem because our demand fluctuates and you can’t vary the output of a nuclear plant. Some of the arguments are inaccurate. For example, it is not true that a nuclear power plant produces the same exact amount of electricity all the time. Nuke plants often reduce production unexpectedly. If there is some sort of problem, they partly shut down. And, of course, the shut down for refueling. So they are not perfect.

The problem if intermittent and less than ideally predictable supply can be addressed a number of ways. One is big huge batteries, which are costly and otherwise problematic. There are various other storage methods using water and air and things that can hold heat or “hold cold.” And so on. Then, of course, there is the grid. If it is sunny one place and cloudy a different place, electricity can be shunted between.

Still, we often see arguments suggesting that these methods of matching supply and demand of electricity are problematic in one way or another.

A new research project, just out in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, addresses these issues and gives great hope to the use of 100% non-nuclear renewables to meet energy demands. The paper is by Mark Jacobson, Mark Delucchi, Mary Cameron, and Bethany Frew, and is titled “Low-cost solution to the grid reliability problem with 100% penetration of intermittent wind, water, and solar for all purposes.”

Here is the abstract and the statement of significance from the paper:

Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 11.58.07 AM

This study addresses the greatest concern facing the large-scale integration of wind, water, and solar (WWS) into a power grid: the high cost of avoiding load loss caused by WWS variability and uncertainty. It uses a new grid integration model and finds low-cost, no-load-loss, nonunique solutions to this problem on electrification of all US energy sectors (electricity, transportation, heating/cooling, and industry) while accounting for wind and solar time series data from a 3D global weather model that simulates extreme events and competition among wind turbines for available kinetic energy. So- lutions are obtained by prioritizing storage for heat (in soil and water); cold (in ice and water); and electricity (in phase-change materials, pumped hydro, hydropower, and hydrogen), and using demand response. No natural gas, biofuels, nuclear power, or sta- tionary batteries are needed. The resulting 2050–2055 US electricity social cost for a full system is much less than for fossil fuels. These results hold for many conditions, suggesting that low-cost, reliable 100% WWS systems should work many places worldwide.

The large-scale conversion to 100% wind, water, and solar (WWS) power for all purposes (electricity, transportation, heating/cooling, and industry) is currently inhibited by a fear of grid instability and high cost due to the variability and un- certainty of wind and solar. This paper couples numerical simu- lation of time- and space-dependent weather with simulation of time-dependent power demand, storage, and demand response to provide low-cost solutions to the grid reliability problem with 100% penetration of WWS across all energy sectors in the con- tinental United States between 2050 and 2055. Solutions are obtained without higher-cost stationary battery storage by pri- oritizing storage of heat in soil and water; cold in water and ice; and electricity in phase-change materials, pumped hydro, hy- dropower, and hydrogen.

I’m still absorbing the paper. I’m informed that the authors of this paper know what they are talking about. People I know in the clean energy biz have been saying for some time that they are pretty sure we can do this, and this study seems to support the idea. Even if this is not perfect, it seems that we can be close to using primarily renewables with some contribution from nuclear, and some adjustments in how we use energy. The key message of this work: It is not hopeless, we can save the world! Will we?

Keystone XL Will Become ExKeystone, ‘ell yeah.

According to sources, like this one, President Obama is about to nix the Keystone XL deal.

One of those “hastily called” press conference is set for just before noon Eastern.

Sorry about your stock values and stuff, TransCanada.

Clean Energy: The State of the States

One of the problems we have in making a quick transition to clean energy in the US is the fact that energy production and distribution is typically regulated by states, and some states are not as smart as other states. Or, if they are smart, they are controlled by political forces intent on maintaining fossil carbon based fuels as our primary energy source, which of course, is a totally bone-headed policy.

When it comes to the transition to clean energy, we can do this the easy way, or we can do this the hard way. The easy way is to encourage the picking of low hanging fruit, such as solar panels on flat spots, at the same time we work towards tackling some of the more expensive projects that require more up front investment but that will eventually pay off. The hard way, of course, is the total collapse of civilization. Most imaginable post apocalyptic worlds don’t use to much fossil fuel!

And, whether the hard way or the easy way is the most likely path at any moment in time is often a matter of what is happening on the state level. Here are a few examples of what is going on right now around the US.

In Maryland, a state commission is calling for the state to pledge slashing greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030. That sounds like a large amount, but it is actually a modest and easily attainable goal. They should probably be going for more.

The goal — which if passed into law would be one of the most ambitious set so far by a state — drew unanimous support of the 26-member panel, which includes lawmakers, environmentalists, representatives of business and labor, and top officials in the Hogan administration.

The recommendation is likely to lead to legislation in the General Assembly, which must decide next year whether to stick with the goal it set in 2009 of reducing climate-warming emissions 25 percent by 2020.

Meanwhile, Texas and California are leading the nation in carbon emissions. The overall pattern of carbon emissions by state (using two year old data because for some reason those who keep track of these things haven’t discovered twitter and spreadsheets) is largely a matter of population size and similar factors.

But while we might expect California to be high on the list, Texas is way way higher, to the point one wonders what they are up to down in the Lone Star State.

Data released this week by the administration shows each state’s energy-related carbon dioxide emissions between 1990 and 2013. Texas doesn’t just top the list, its emissions — 641 million metric tons of carbon dioxide — are almost double those of California, the nation’s second largest carbon emitter, which spewed 353 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

On a per-capita basis, Wyoming leads all the other states in greenhouse gas pollution.

In New Mexico, Santa Fe has an interesting program in mind. There, The Heath Foundation, a private 501c(3) representing the community interests of Jim Heath, has a plan. Here’s part of it:

  • HeathSUN will provide a complete rooftop photovoltaic solar system for homeowners in Santa Fe County at no charge to the customer. HeathSUN owns and maintains each rooftop solar system, and the ancillary metering and control equipment, and there’s no lien on the house.
  • Under HeathSUN’s set-up, customers will continue to have access to electricity from PNM when needed. For solar energy from the rooftop system, the customer pays HeathSUN 80 percent of the going PNM rate, so the solar power’s cost would rise and fall with how much PNM is charging. The customer gets separate bills from HeathSUN and PNM.
  • In a new twist, HeathSUN says there will be no “net metering” in this model, meaning no HeathSUN solar power would flow through a PNM meter, the standard way to provide a seamless household electrical system. When someone turns on an appliance in a HeathSUN house, technology in the home’s own electrical control box decides whether to pull from the rooftop solar system or from PNM…
  • In Hawaii, there is a plan to charge up some big batteries with a big solar array, for use to meet evening/nighttime demands.

    The nation’s leading residential installer is building the project near Lihu’e on Kaua’i’s southeast corner. The project includes a 13 MW photovoltaic solar array, but is unique in that it includes its own solution to the intermittency problem that solar power faces.

    The power generated by the PV cells will be used solely to charge a 13 MW battery array capable of providing 52 MWh to customers of Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC), the island’s sole electricity provider. That means the solar cells will charge the batteries during the height of the day, and the batteries will discharge the stored power to customers during the evening peak between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m.

    “Anyone that’s been out to Kauai will notice that they have a lot of solar on the island and really don’t have any appetite at all for solar at midday,” Rudd said. “If anything, they were already in a bit of a curtailment state during certain days. So, they love solar, they want more because it’s cheaper than what they otherwise would realize, but they don’t need it during the day.”

    New York State is working out the details of how to deploy meters to allow the grid to become smart.

    There is a big waste-to-energy project in the works in Oregon.

    And that is a sampling of the news that came across my desk just today.

    State Of Emergency in California

    Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency for the Santa Barbara oil spill. Phyllis Grifman, associate director of the USC Sea Grant Program, is quoted i a a University of Southern California press release as saying, “Nothing worked – they found out about this because people camping nearby or living nearby smelled it. Nothing happened on the part of the infrastructure that could shut it down early.” The spill, she notes, sits beteween two areas under protection for endangered marine wildlife. Taj Meshkati, also a USC professor (of engineering) asked, “Why did it take the company so long to detect and stop the leak? This points to an important human problem in the safety culture issue.” Raj Rajagopalan of USC’s Marshall School of Business, an expert on supply chain management, notes “This spill will have an impact on the local tourism industry given that the sight of oil on its pristine beaches does not help and also on local fisheries. There will be a spillover effect from the tourism impact on other local business. But I anticipate that the effect on the economy will be short-term (a few weeks) because the spill is not very large and so hopefully it will be contained soon.”

    Governor Jerry Brown is quoted in the BBC as saying he state would “quickly mobilise all available resources. We will do everything necessary to protect California’s coastline.”

    The spill is believed to have put about 21,000 gallons of oil in the ocean.

    Bjorn Lomborg’s WSJ Response to Nixing of Australian Project

    Bjorn Lomborg has written an Op Ed in the Wall Street Journal lamenting the decision of the University of Western Australia (UWA) to nix previously developed plans to accept a $4 million dollar payment from the conservative Australian government, to be matched by university money, to implement a version of Lomborg’s Copenhagen Institute there, to be known as Australia Consensus.

    See: Bjorn Lomborg Is Wrong About Bangladesh And Sea Level Rise

    See: Bjørn Lomborg WSJ Op Ed Is Stunningly Wrong

    See: Are electric cars any good? Lomborg says no, but he’s wrong.

    Lomborg’s scholarship in the area of climate and energy related policy has been repeatedly criticized and often described as far less than adequate. A typical Bjorn Lomborg missive on climate or energy policy seems to include instance after instance of inaccuracies, often taking the form of a statement of fact with a citation, where that fact or assertion is not to be found in the citation. Many regard his policies as “luke warm.” From the highly regarded Sketpical Science web site:

    …examples of Luckwarmers include Matt Ridley, Nic Lewis, and Bjorn Lomborg. The University of Western Australia has been caught up in a major Luckwarmer controversy, having taken federal funds to set up a center from which Lomborg was expected to argue that the government’s money would be better spent on issues other than curbing global warming. In a sign that even Stage 3 climate denial is starting to become untenable, the resulting uproar forced the university to cancel plans for the center.

    The UWA project received a great deal of critisim, and was seen by many as a move by Big Fossil to water down academic and government response to the critical issue of climate change. Graham Readfearn, writing for The Guardian, notes:

    Danish political scientist and climate change contrarian Bjørn Lomborg says the poorest countries in the world need coal and climate change just isn’t as big a problem as some people make out.

    Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott says “coal is good for humanity” and there are more pressing problems in the world than climate change, which he once described as “crap” but now says he accepts.

    So it’s not surprising then that the latter should furnish the former with $4 million of taxpayer funds to start an Australian arm of Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus Centre (CCC) at the University of Western Australia’s business school.

    The Australian project was shut down after severe criticism from the global academic community as well as students and faculty within UWA. Predictably, Lombog had characterized this as an attack on free debate. From the Op Ed, “Opponents of free debate are celebrating. Last week…the University of Western Australia canceled its contract to host a planned research center, Australia Consensus, intended to apply economic cost-benefit analysis to development projects—giving policy makers a tool to ensure their aid budgets are spent wisely.

    While Lomborg blames “activists” for shutting down the center, it is more widely believed that the project was criticized because, based on prior work done by Lomborg, any ensuing “cost-benefit analyses” would be academically weak and policy-irrelevant.

    Central to the difference in overall approach (aside from allegations of poor scholarship) between Lomborg and many others is how poor or developing nations should proceed over coming decades. Lomborg seems to advocate that these nations go through the same economic and technological evolution as developed nations, building an energy infrastructure based mainly on fossil fuels, in order to industrialize and reach the standard of living presumed desired by those who live in those nations. The alternative, of course, is that development in these regions be done with lessons learned from the industrialized and developed world. We don’t ask rural Kenyans to install a wire-based analog phone system before using modern digital cell phone systems. With respect to energy, developing regions should implement clean energy with smart distribution rather than building hulking coal plants and committing for centuries to come to expensive and extensive electric grid systems that are now generally regarded as outdated.

    Lomborg says enough about mitigating climate change effects, and developing green energy technologies, to be able to suggest that he supports these ideas when he is pushed up against the wall, as with the nixing of the Australian project. But his regular statements on specific policy points, frequent and well documented, tell a different story.

    Lomborg claims that much of the policy development of the Copenhagen Institute is not even about climate change. To the extent that this is true, it may be part of the problem. As development occurs, energy is key. With development of energy technologies, climate change is key. Lomborg’s approach that the Copenhagen projects are mostly not about climate change is not an argument that he is doing something right. It is evidence that he is doing something wrong, and at the same time, is apparently unaware of this.

    It is very important to remember, as this conversation unfolds, that the objections to Lomborg’s work, and to spending vast sums of money to support it, are only partly because of differences in approach. These objections also come from two other things. One is a sense that Lomborg is detached from scholarship and good analysis.

    Graham Readfearn has documented academic response to Lomborg’s work. Here is one example:

    Dr Frank Jotzo, director of the Centre for Climate Ecnomics and Policy at the Australian National University, was once invited to write a paper for Lomborg’s centre in 2008, which was sharply critical of how the cost of the impacts of climate change were treated.

    He told me:

    Within the research community, particularly within the economics community, the Bjorn Lomborg enterprise has no academic credibility. It is seen as an outreach activity that is driven by specific set of objectives in terms of bringing particular messages into the public debate and in some cases making relatively extreme positions seem more acceptable in the public debate.

    And, regarding energy policy vis-a-vis the Big Fossil,

    …we had a look at Lomborg’s claims that the world’s poorest were crying out for more fossil fuels which, Lomborg argued, were the only real way they could drag themselves out of poverty…the positions Lomborg takes on these issues are underpinned by a nasty habit of picking the lowest available estimates of the costs of climate change impacts.

    Last year, when Lomborg spoke to a coal company-sponsored event in Brisbane in the shadow of the G20 talks, Lomborg suggested that because the International Energy Agency (IEA) had developed one future scenario that saw growth in the burning of coal in poor countries, in particular in sub-Saharan Africa, that this somehow meant that fossil fuels were just what they needed.

    Yet Lomborg ignored an important rejoinder to that assessment, which had come from the IEA itself, and which I pointed out at the time.

    The IEA said its assessment for Africa was consistent with global warming of between 3C and 6C for the continent by the end of this century.

    Lomborg’s prior written works could be, and actually have been (I am told), used in coursework on analytical approaches to policy as bad, not good, examples. And, although Lomborg often associates himself with Nobel Prize Winners (and rarely fails to note that) he is not known as a high powered, influential scholar in his area. A recent citation analysis of Lomborg’s work backs up that concern:

    …I combed through his Google Scholar entries and dumped all the duplicates, I ignored all the magazine and newspaper articles (e.g., you can’t count opinion editorials in The Wall Street Journal as evidence of an academic track record), I cut out all non-articles (things Lomborg hadn’t actually written), omitted any website diatribes (e.g., blog posts and the like) and calculated his citation profile.

    Based on my analysis, Lomborg’s Google Scholar h-index is 4 for his peer-reviewed articles. If I was being particularly generous and included all of Lomborg’s books, which have by far the most citations, then his h-index climbs to 9. However, none of his books is peer-reviewed, and in the case of his most infamous book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, it has been entirely discredited. As such, any reasonable academic selection committee would omit any metrics based on opinion-based books.

    So, the best-case scenario is that Lomborg’s h-index is no more than 4. Given his appointment to Level D (Associate Professor) at a world-class university, the suggestion that he earned it on academic merit is not only laughable, it’s completely fraudulent. There is no way that his academic credentials had anything to do with the appointment.

    Even a fresh-out-of-the-PhD postdoc with an h-index of only 3 or 4 would have trouble finding a job. As a rule of thumb, the h-index of a Level D appointment should be in the 20–30 range (this would vary among disciplines). Despite this variation, Lomborg’s h-index is so far off the mark that even accounting for uncertainty and difference of opinion, it’s nowhere near a senior academic appointment.

    The other problem people see with Lomborg’s efforts is the sense that the Copenhagen Institute is a bit of a sham, and that Lomborg is not selling informed expertise, but rather, snake oil. From a recent analysis of the status of the Copenhagen Consensus Center:

    Copenhagen Consensus Center is a textbook example of what the IRS calls a “foreign conduit” and it frowns strongly on such things. It may also frown on governance and money flows like this…

    CCCMoney2

    …more than 60% went directly to Lomborg, travel and $853K promotion of his movie. According to Wikipedia it grossed $63K…

    Even in a simple US charity, poor governance and obvious conflicts of interest are troublesome, but the foreign element invokes stringent extra rules. Legitimate US charities can send money to foreign charities, but from personal experience, even clearly reasonable cases like foreign universities require careful handling. It is unclear that Lomborg himself is a legitimate charity anywhere, but most of the money seems under his control. One might also wonder where income taxes are paid.

    CCC seems to break many rules. Foreign citizen Lomborg is simultaneously CCC founder, president, and highest-paid employee. Most people are a little more subtle when trying to create conduits…

    This is apparently the Copenhagen Consensus Center, Copenhagen Consensus Center USA, 262 Middlesex St, Lowell MA .
    This is apparently the Copenhagen Consensus Center, Copenhagen Consensus Center USA, 262 Middlesex St, Lowell MA .
    Both the flow of money and sources matter when thinking about a non profit research or policy institution. From DeSmog Blog:

    A billionaire “vulture capitalist” and major backer of the US Republican Party is a major funder of the think tank of Danish climate science contrarian and fossil fuels advocate Bjørn Lomborg, DeSmogBlog has found.

    New York-based hedge fund manager Paul Singer’s charitable foundation gave $200,000 to Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus Center (CCC) in 2013, latest US tax disclosures reveal.

    That was about a third of the CCC’s donations for the year 2013.

    Lomborg, who claims to not be a climate skeptic, is the author of “The Skeptical Environmentalist” and the book and movie “Cool It

    Did Big Fossil Pressure Scientists To Lay Low on Fracking Earthquakes in Oklahoma?

    It seems that oil executives, possibly in concert with the Oklahoma University administration, may have pressured scientists to downplay the link between fracking and earthquakes, according to EnergyWire. It is a long and complicates story and you should go to the source to learn more. Briefly,

    Oklahoma’s state scientists have suspected for years that oil and gas operations in the state were causing a swarm of earthquakes, but in public they rejected such a connection.

    When the Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS) did cautiously agree with other scientists about such a link, emails obtained by EnergyWire show the state seismologist was called into meetings with his boss, University of Oklahoma President David Boren, and oil executives “concerned” about the acknowledgement.

    One of the oilmen was Continental Resources Chairman Harold Hamm, a leading donor to the university.

    The seismologist, Austin Holland, told a senior U.S. Geological Survey official that as far back as 2010, OGS officials believed an earthquake swarm near Oklahoma City might have been triggered by the “Hunton dewatering,” an oil and gas project east of the city.

    “Since early 2010 we have recognized the potential for the Jones earthquake swarm to be due to the Hunton dewatering,” Holland wrote to USGS science adviser Bill Leith in 2013. “But until we can demonstrate that scientifically or not we were not going to discuss that publicly.”

    Instead, he pointed to changing lake levels.

    And when USGS officials linked a “remarkable” surge in earthquakes in Oklahoma and other states to drilling waste disposal in 2012, OGS criticized their “rush to judgment.”

    Holland told EnergyWire the intense personal interest shown by Boren, Hamm and other leaders hasn’t affected his scientific findings or those of OGS.

    “None of these conversations affect the science that we are working on producing,” Holland told EnergyWire. “We have the academic freedoms necessary for university employees doing research.”

    But Holland and OGS have been the voice of skepticism in the scientific community about connections between oil production activities and the hundreds of earthquakes that have shaken the state.

    _____________

    Graphic from here.

    Is Renewable Energy Threatened by Cheap Oil? No.

    Is cheap oil dooming renewable energy?

    It did in the 1980s, when exports were ramped up, prices went down, and a fledgling clean energy industry took a hit. Were that to happen now it would be disastrous.

    But it isn’t. From International Business Times:

    As oil prices have dropped steadily over the past six months … forecasts for renewables have remained strong. Renewables are still predicted to generate one-third of the nation’s new electricity in the next three years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. It’s a promise that investors still seem wary of as shares for solar and wind have trended down on the perception that falling crude prices will threaten renewables once again, according to a post on Forbes by staff from the Environmental Defense Fund, a New York-based advocacy group.

    A few key developments … have positioned U.S. renewable energy companies to succeed regardless of spikes or drops in the price of oil. These principles should largely hold true not just for the U.S. but also around the world, according to analysts at Bloomberg. “The collapse in world oil prices in the second half of 2014 will have only a moderate impact on the fast-developing low-carbon transition in the world electricity system,” they said in a statement last month.

    One of the reasons for the difference, apparently, is the decoupling of oil and clean energy as sources for electricity. Oil was used for about one sixth of our electricity production in the 1980. Today, fossil Carbon based electricity generation is mainly from coal and natural gas, which have not experienced a drop in prices.

    Read more here.

    New Poll on US Voters Thinking on Energy

    A poll commissioned by the Center for American Progress on US citizen’s thought about energy has been released. The key findings are:

    • Promoting the development of renewable energy sources is a leading item
      on the public’s energy agenda, and five in nine voters want the federal
      government to do more than it currently is to promote sources such as wind
      and solar power.
    • While voters support increased reliance on natural gas in the coming years, by a two-to-one margin they put a higher priority on protecting public lands
      and natural places from overdevelopment than on opportunities for oil and
      natural gas drilling on public lands.
    • Two frames for setting energy policy have strong resonance with the public:
    • A BALANCED energy policy that addresses energy independence while
      better protecting public health, public lands, and clean drinking water;
      and
    • A CLEAN energy policy that promotes innovation and manufacturing
      jobs while spending the transition to cleaner renewable forms of energy.
      Both of these frames have stronger appeal than an “ALL OF THE ABOVE”
      energy frame
  • In addition to renewable energy, large majorities support other progressive policy initiatives, including:
    • Strengthening protections against pollution of drinking water and clean
      air; and
    • Permanently protecting special public lands for future generations.
  • Conversely, majorities strongly oppose key initiatives that the new
    leadership in Congress is expected to push that would weaken protection for drinking water and clean air, sell off some national forests or other public
    lands, and allow drilling on highly valued recreation lands.
  • Americans strongly oppose lifting the restrictions on oil exports, both on an unaided basis and after hearing point-counterpoint arguments on the topic.
  • Focusing on ties to Big Oil and the Congress’s continued support for
    taxpayer subsidies of fossil fuel industries is a compelling frame against an
    anti-environment, fossil fuels agenda in Congress.
  • Voters want the federal government to do more to promote both energy independence and renewable energy (keep in mind that for the most part, renewable energy leads to more independence): Continue reading New Poll on US Voters Thinking on Energy

    An Open Letter to the Industrial Capitalists and Members of the %0.01

    The following is a letter from John Irving, posted originally on his Facebook page and reprinted here as a guest post:

    NOTE: JOHN NOW HAS HIS OWN WEB SITE AND HAS POSTED HIS LETTER THERE. So do note that there are comments, including by John, below, but also go and visit his site!

    John Irving
    John Irving
    Dear Industrial Capitalists and members of the %0.01,

    I feel obliged to inform you that you’ve made a huge strategic blunder and things aren’t probably going to work out very well for you soon.

    You recall that way back in 1965 – 50 years ago this year – President Lyndon B. Johnson was warned about the dangerous impact industrial activity was having on the Earth’s atmosphere. Unfortunately, rather than confronting the challenge you opted to do the complete opposite – you doubled down on fossil fuels.

    Over the intervening years you employed many unethical and subversive tactics to maintain the dirty status quo. This included investing many billions of dollars to obfuscate the problem through the use of propaganda and so-called “think tanks,” covertly influencing government and lobbying politicians, suppressing alternate forms of clean energy technology, poisoning land and sea through toxic extraction techniques and transportation blunders, and shafting taxpayers to the tune of many trillions of dollars through outrageous and unwarranted subsidies.

    As outlandish as all that was you went even further. Decades ago, when the public started to become aware of, and concerned about, widespread environmental damage that threatened your interests, you subverted democracy itself – the greatest invention since probably, well, ever! I could go on and on but co-opting the religious right, fabricating a protest movement (a.k.a. The Tea Party) and a fake cable news network are a few examples that come to mind.

    And who could forget the invasion of Iraq under false pretences that led to hundreds of thousands of casualties and disrupted the lives of millions, the obstruction of every attempt by the global community to limit greenhouse gas emissions, and bringing the most powerful democracy the world has ever known to a grinding legislative halt (if not the brink of financial default).

    Thanks to these underhanded methods of gaming the system for your own narrow interests and greed America now has levels of inequality not seen since 1929. Even worse the planet’s biosphere is now completely out of whack and will be for millennia. Hundreds of millions of people will be displaced and require aid due to sea level rise, extreme weather events, drought, crop failure and more. Countless species will go extinct. To put it bluntly – it’s an absolute mess!

    People are now starting to realize what you have done and they are not very happy about being completely screwed over for decades just so you could have private jets, mansions and plastic surgery. Even some of your traditionally dependable supporters have been abandoning you lately. People are even talking about ditching capitalism itself – some are even talking about outright revolution (I’m not exaggerating!).

    This is just my opinion but I think you might have gone a little bit overboard this time.

    John Irving

    Ottawa
    John is on Twitter at: @ClimateNow
    The original letter is here, where you will find additional comments.

    What can we do about climate change?

    I could rephrase this question. What should we do about climate change. The reason I might rephrase this is because we may not be that sure of what we can do, but we should do something. Or, more accurately, some things. There are a lot of possible things we can do, and we have little time to do them. So, maybe we should do all of them for a while. We could spend years working out what the best three or four things we can do might be, and try to implement them. But there will be political opposition from the right, because the right is inexplicably opposed to any action that smells like environmentalism or something that Al Gore might suggest. There will be powerful and effective opposition by those who happen to own or control the vast fossil Carbon based reserves because they know that whatever it is we do about climate change, it will involve keeping their Carbon in the ground, which will render it nearly valueless. The very process of working out the handful of best solutions will falter because of those opposing action. So instead, maybe we should do a Gish Gallop of climate change action. Just do everything. Every thing. It will be harder to stop.

    That is a pragmatic argument for doing everything, but there is also a more systematic rational argument. When new technologies, or new applications of technologies, emerge they often take an unexpected course. In retrospect, we realize that of a handful of options, the one we picked did not do what we thought it might do. It may have fell short of expectations, or it may have functioned in an unexpected and disruptive (in a good way) matter. Meanwhile, we sometimes see that the technologies we did not develop may have been better choices. In this way, technology and industry evolve. We don’t have time for this slow evolution, so may be we should do everything and later, after some of these solutions have run for a while, weed out those that are not working as well and focus on the newly adapted, evolved solutions.

    Obviously when I say “everything” (or every thing) I don’t really mean every single thing; it is reasonable to pick and choose. But we need to take a much more comprehensive approach than often suggested. In the world of clean energy there are many (increasingly institutionalized) schemes with promotors who actually spend time and energy putting down the alternatives. Pro solar people will tell you bad things about wind, and pro wind people will tell you bad things about solar. Those who wish us to have a totally reformed and rebuilt transportation infrastructure will tell you that electric cars are not the way, even though their reimagined transport system is at best a century in the future, while shifting much of our vehicular fleet to inherently efficient electric cars could be done at at time scale of a few years. So, what I mean is, do every thing that is on the table, deployable, right now. Geothermal heating and cooling in domestic, commercial, and industrial settings. No roof should be without at least some photovoltaic panels. Build more windmills. Paint the roofs white in cities. Develop incentives for people to live closer to work or travel less by working from home. Electrify everything that moves from cars to city and school buses to commuter trains. Tax Carbon, provide tax or other incentives for the purchase of highly efficient appliances. All of it.

    Lawrence Torcello and Michael Mann (philosopher and climate scientist) have an interesting piece at The Conversation integrating climate science, strategies, and philosophy. In part, they say,

    …the warming level already reached will likely displace millions of people worldwide. Entire island cultures may be scattered and their traditional ways of life destroyed. Any resulting refugee crisis will be exacerbated by a greater range of agricultural pests, tropical diseases, increasingly frequent heat waves, wildfires, droughts, and subsequent crop failures. Migrating climate victims will be at risk of further injustice as social and political tensions intensify….

    If we fail to avoid 2°C warming, a possibility we must be ready for, aggressive action taken now will still position the next generation to better build on our efforts—while learning from our mistakes. The difficulty of our situation is no excuse for moral dithering.

    That is certainly a good way to sum up what our plan should be: Aggressive.