By important, I mean people who have their hands on the levers of power, more or less, in areas that affect energy policy.
I don’t really care if Uncle Bob doesn’t accept climate change. Uncle Bob votes for right wing yahoos anyway, that wasn’t going to change. Why should it matter what Uncle Bob thinks?
Unless Uncle Bob is a top policy actor involve din climate and energy issues at the federal level or in Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, or Ohio. Right?
The Climate Constituencies Project looked at these folks (Uncle Bob’s colleagues as described) to see where they stand on climate change.
… there is an overwhelming level of consensus around the science of climate change among policy actors at the Federal level and in these four swing states. In fact, even with all of this talk of climate denial, opinions have gotten even stronger and the numbers have gone up since summer 2010 when we conducted a previous round of this research. Across the four swing states and the federal level, there are no statistically significant differences in opinions on these questions.
It turns out there is real debate in the area of climate change and energy, but it is about what to do, not that something needs to be done.
When asked about potential policy instruments to address climate change and energy options, however, there was much less agreement. Opinions around a potential cap-and-trade bill were statistically significantly different across the swing states and the federal levels, with policy actors in Florida and at the federal level having much lower opinions than the other states.
A lot of higher education institutions are old, and back in the day, things were different. Not only were most schools simultaneously on top of and on the bottom of great snow covered hills, but they were often surrounded by nearly medieval settlement, or at least, pre-industrial ones, that lacked things like central heat, electricity, and so on, even after these things became common and normal.
I remember the legacy of this reality at my Alma Mater, a small university in Cambridge, Mass. Most of the campus had its own heating system, which was built at a time when centrally distributed electricity and such were certainly in place but just as certainly not universal. There, a power plant, which I am going to guess formerly burned coal but later natural gas and oil, made electricity for the general grid, but in so doing also produced steam. The steam was then shipped (mostly) across the river and quite a ways down the road to the campus, where it was distributed to many buildings to provide heat. At several points were grates that gave access to the steam heating system, creating open air warmer micro environment, on which homeless folks would sleep. It was a big deal when the University administration decided to put spiky metal barriers over the vents to keep the homeless people from having a chance to survive a cold winter. There was an outcry. The vents were uncovered in a matter of days.
But I digress.
Today’s news, which comes to us from the Department of Energy, is that educational institutions are using way less coal than they used to. And that makes sense only in the context of the above described sort of thing; educational institutions, as large and demanding places where people both lived in work, with many buildings and a lot of contiguous spaces, were among those places that historically developed their own electricity generation systems, as well as heating systems. Some of those electricity generating systems also fed out to the local grid, so the odd situation developed where among a region’s power plants would be one or more owned and operated by a university or college, or an agent thereof. And, a certain number of these burned coal.
Coal consumption by educational institutions such as colleges and universities in the United States fell from 2 million short tons in 2008 to 700,000 short tons in 2015. Consumption declined in each of the 57 institutions that used coal in 2008, with 20 of these institutions no longer using coal at all. Many of these institutions participate in the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, a program aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Coal consumption has decreased as institutions switch from coal to natural gas or other fuels.
This coal consumption is less than a tenth of one percent of the total US coal consumption, so this may be little more than symbolic to some. But it isn’t. This is fossil fuel not being burned, and it means a lot.
The graph at the top of the post shows the trend.
This is not all good news. It is nice to reduce coal use, but a lot, most, of this coal has been replace with natural gas. However, in some cases, geothermal was used, and some renewable sources of energy have been deployed.
Barack Obama, Justin Trudeau and Enrique Peña Nieto, have made a joint announcement. As reported by NPR:
President Obama and his counterparts from Canada and Mexico are preparing to unveil an ambitious new goal for generating carbon-free power when they meet this week in Ottawa.
The three leaders are expected to set a target for North America to get 50 percent of its electricity from nonpolluting sources by 2025. That’s up from about 37 percent last year.
Aides acknowledge that’s a “stretch goal,” requiring commitments over and above what the three countries agreed to as part of the Paris climate agreement.
The news reports and press information about this event note that the US currently produces about a third of its energy from non fossil fuel sources. Mexico produces less than 20% of its power this way, and Canada is at about 81%. A big part of this shift will involve shutting down coal plants and expanding wind and solar. However, this mix, as well as the proposed 50% of “clean energy,” may include biofuels, which are very limited in their effectiveness in combating climate change, Nuclear, which is diminishing in its importance, and possibly “carbon capture” which is not an energy source and not likely to have much impact because it essentially doesn’t work at any meaningful scale because of physics.
So, we will need to see some clarification in this area.
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!
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.
There is a new technology that can convert both solar and wind energy into electricity in such a way that it is suitable for use on urban rooftops.
Here’s the abstract from the paper describing this work:
To realize the sustainable energy supply in a smart city, it is essential to maximize energy scavenging from the city environments for achieving the self-powered functions of some intelligent devices and sensors. Although the solar energy can be well harvested by using existing technologies, the large amounts of wasted wind energy in the city cannot be effectively utilized since conventional wind turbine generators can only be installed in remote areas due to their large volumes and safety issues. Here, we rationally design a hybridized nanogenerator, including a solar cell (SC) and a triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG), that can individually/simultaneously scavenge solar and wind energies, which can be extensively installed on the roofs of the city buildings. Under the same device area of about 120 mm × 22 mm, the SC can deliver a largest output power of about 8 mW, while the output power of the TENG can be up to 26 mW. Impedance matching between the SC and TENG has been achieved by using a transformer to decrease the impedance of the TENG. The hybridized nanogenerator has a larger output current and a better charging performance than that of the individual SC or TENG. This research presents a feasible approach to maximize solar and wind energies scavenging from the city environments with the aim to realize some self-powered functions in smart city.
We often hope, even assume, that technology will fix our problems. We also know that sometimes technology creates a problem. In this case, technology can help us fix the problem of needing to keep the fossil carbon in the ground by making use of the sun, but created the problem of vaporizing birds with intensely focused solar energy. But then, the engineers applied adjustment to the technology to save the birds!
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.
Here is the abstract and the statement of significance from the paper:
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?
Hillary Clinton just came out with her climate change plan. Here it is.
Hillary Clinton’s Vision for Modernizing North American Energy Infrastructure
Flipping a light switch, adjusting the thermostat, or turning a car key in the ignition brings predictable results—the light goes on, the temperature changes, the car starts. But where the energy for those everyday tasks comes from has changed dramatically in recent years, due to massive gains in renewable energy and a boom in domestic oil and gas production. And the amount of energy required to perform those tasks has fallen thanks to historic advances in efficiency.
Our policies and infrastructure have not kept pace with recent changes to the American energy system. American communities have endured toxic pipeline spills and deadly rail explosions as the amount of oil produced and transported across the country has expanded. Our existing natural gas distribution network is increasingly antiquated and in need of repair, while new networks must be built to serve parts of the country still dependent on more polluting propane and fuel oil for heating and cooking.
Our electrical grid needs upgrading to harness new technology that reduces energy costs and increases consumer choice, and to address the growing threat of cyberattack. And we must invest in the new infrastructure that will make the transition to a clean energy economy possible, keep energy affordable and reliable, meet both base load and peak demand, protect the health of our families and our climate, and drive job creation and innovation.
This work starts at home, but we can’t do it alone. The United States is part of a deeply integrated North American energy market, with interconnected pipeline and electricity systems and a shared market for vehicles and clean energy technologies. We trade as much energy with Canada and Mexico each year as with the rest of the world combined. As we invest in modernizing the United States’ energy infrastructure, we need to do so as part of a continent-wide strategy that ensures safe, reliable and affordable energy delivery, unlocks economic opportunity for American businesses and workers, and accelerates the transition to a clean energy economy across the North American continent.
Hillary Clinton’s North American energy infrastructure plan will do this in several key ways.
MAKE EXISTING ENERGY INFRASTRUCTURE SAFER AND CLEANER
The United States has more than two million miles of oil and gas pipelines, many of which are outdated and in need of repair or replacement. This increases the risk of oil spills, methane leaks that help drive climate change, and dangerous explosions. A 20-fold increase in the amount of oil shipped by rail over the past five years has led to devastating accidents. Our electric grid too often fails during extreme weather events – and is increasingly vulnerable to cyberattack. These challenges extend beyond our borders to Canada and Mexico, and will be most effectively tackled if all three countries work together.
To address these issues Hillary Clinton will:
Modernize our Pipeline System
Repair or replace thousands of miles of outdated pipelines to improve safety and reduce methane leaks by the end of her first term in office.
Improve pipeline regulations, including instituting automatic or remote-controlled shut-off valves and leak detection standards that have been recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board.
Work to close the loophole that allows companies to ship oil sands crude without paying into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.
Increase Rail Safety
Accelerate the phase-out of outdated tank cars that create the greatest safety risk and make information on companies’ progress available to the general public. Ensure rail regulations are strengthened and enforced within the United States and across the U.S.-Canada border.
Instruct the Department of Transportation to guarantee that first responders and the public have better information on oil and hazardous materials passing through their communities.
Partner with rail companies in aggressively repairing track defects that cause derailments and evaluate whether shale oil presents unique explosion risks.
Enhance Grid Security
Create a Presidential Threat Assessment and Response Team to improve coordination across federal agencies and strengthen collaboration with state and local officials and the electric power industry in assessing and addressing cybersecurity threats.
Implement a cybersecurity strategy that integrates and protects the expanded use of distributed energy resources and other cutting-edge clean energy technologies.
Provide new tools and resources to states, cities and rural communities to make the investments necessary to improve grid resilience to both cyber-attack and extreme weather events.
UNLOCK NEW INVESTMENT RESOURCES
From the Tennessee Valley Authority to the Hoover Dam to the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System, when the United States invests in building, upgrading, and improving our national infrastructure, we create good jobs and careers, boost economic competitiveness, and give rise to entirely new industries. Clinton will galvanize the investment needed to help cities, states, and rural communities upgrade and repair existing energy infrastructure and build the new infrastructure we will need for a clean energy future through:
A National Infrastructure Bank: Establish a National Infrastructure Bank to leverage public and private capital to invest in critically important infrastructure projects, including energy infrastructure projects.
Challenge Grants: Award competitive grants through Clinton’s Clean Energy Challenge to states, cities and rural communities that take the lead in reducing carbon pollution by investing in renewable energy, nuclear power and carbon capture and sequestration, and reducing energy costs by investing in efficiency in both new and existing buildings.
Accelerating Investment: Ensure the federal government is a partner in getting clean and affordable energy to market by making the infrastructure review and permitting process more efficient and effective.
Expanding Consumer Choice: Offer financing tools for grid investments that support the integration of distributed energy resources and for gas pipeline investments that enable households and businesses to switch away from heating oil and other petroleum products.
A New “Pipeline Partnership”: Help cities, states, and rural communities repair and replace thousands of miles of pipelines by leveraging big data, predictive analytics and innovative testing procedures to more quickly and effectively find and fix pipeline leaks through a public-private partnership between federal regulators, pipeline companies, local utility commissions and leading technology providers and research institutions.
Transportation Funding: Work with Congress to close corporate tax loopholes and increase investment in transportation solutions that expand transit access and reduce commute times, oil consumption, and pollution.
Innovation: Increase public investment in clean energy R&D, including in storage technology, designed materials, advanced nuclear, and carbon capture and sequestration. Expand successful innovation initiatives, like ARPA-e, and cut those that fail to deliver results.
FORGE A NORTH AMERICAN CLIMATE COMPACT
The United States isn’t in this alone. The entire North American continent must accelerate the clean energy transition and develop more comprehensive approaches to cutting carbon pollution. As President, Clinton will immediately launch negotiations with the leaders of Canada and Mexico to secure a North American Climate Compact that includes ambitious national targets, coordinated policy approaches, and strong accountability measures to catalyze clean energy deployment, reduce energy costs, cut greenhouse gas emissions, guide infrastructure investment, and make our integrated energy and vehicle markets cleaner and more efficient. This will include:
Ambitious Targets: Drive greater ambition in the global fight against climate change through coordinated targets for clean energy and cutting carbon pollution, internationally recognized reporting mechanisms, and a binding review process.
Clean Power Markets: Build on the momentum created by the Clean Power Plan, which sets the first national limits on carbon pollution from the energy sector, and regional emissions trading schemes in Canada, Mexico, and the United States to drive low carbon power generation across the continent, modernize our interconnected electrical grid, and ensure that national carbon policies take advantage of integrated markets.
Clean Transportation: Work to harmonize vehicle efficiency, emissions and fuel standards, strategies for electric vehicle deployment, clean freight and logistics, and other low-carbon transportation solutions.
Methane Management: Establish continent-wide methane emissions reduction targets and coordinated strategies for reducing leaks from both new and existing sources.
Infrastructure Standards: Develop common, world-class standards for North American infrastructure that create good jobs and careers, support prevailing wage and project labor agreements, and ensure energy transportation across the continent is clean, safe, reliable and affordable.
Clinton’s vision for modernizing North American energy infrastructure is one pillar of her comprehensive energy and climate agenda, which includes major initiatives in the following areas:
Clean Energy Challenge: Develop, defend and implement smart federal energy and climate standards. Provide states, cities and rural communities ready to lead on clean energy and exceed these standards with the flexibility, tools and resources they need to succeed.
Energy and Climate Security: Reduce the amount of oil consumed in the United States and around the world, guard against energy supply disruptions, and make our communities, our infrastructure, and our financial markets more resilient to risks posed by climate change.
Safe and Responsible Production: Ensure that fossil fuel production taking place today is safe and responsible, that taxpayers get a fair deal for development on public lands, and that areas that are too sensitive for energy production are taken off the table.
Revitalizing Coal Communities: Protect the health and retirement security of coalfield workers and their families and provide economic opportunities for those that kept the lights on and factories running for more than a century.
Collaborative Stewardship: Renew our shared commitment to the conservation of our disappearing lands, waters, and wildlife, to the preservation of our history and culture, and to expanding access to the outdoors for all Americans.
Men and women are different, on average, in a number of ways. It all probably starts with who has the physiology to have babies and who doesn’t, and the differences spread out from there, affecting both the body and the mind. Decades of research show us that many of the body differences (but not all) are determined by developmental processes while many of the mind differences (but maybe not all) are determined by culture, but culture still has men and women as being different, so those differences tend to be persistent and predictable, on average.
One of the differences which seems to meld body and mind, in the West anyway, is the tendency for women to be cold while men are comfortable across a certain range of temperature. It turns out that many decades ago a study was done that developed standards for installing and running air conditioning systems that, typically, set ambient in-room temperature levels to accommodate men. Damn the patriarchy, one more time. Since men are more comfortable on average at lower temperatures, this means a) air conditioners are set relatively low (which means high, in terms of energy use) and, b0 on average, women are doomed to wear sweaters or carry around blanket like objects while at work, at movies, at the mall, or anywhere where sexist air conditioning is operating.
This is important not only for comfort of half the population, but also for climate change. A large amount (about 30%) of the CO2 emmissions in the West are the result of energy use in the buildings we live and work in, and a good part of that is heating and cooling. A new study, just out in Nature Climate Change, addresses this issue. The study is by Boris Kingma and Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt, and is called “Energy consumption in buildings and female thermal demand.” The authors point out that not only is a large amount of our energy used to heat and cool buildings, but that about 80% of the variation in that energy use is account for by variation in the behavior of the humans that live and work in those buildings.
The standard for setting ambient building temperatures is set by ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers).
ASHRAE founded in 1894, is a global society advancing human well-being through sustainable technology for the built environment. The Society and its members focus on building systems, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, refrigeration and sustainability within the industry. Through research, standards writing, publishing and continuing education, ASHRAE shapes tomorrow’s built environment today. ASHRAE was formed as the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers by the merger in 1959 of American Society of Heating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHAE) founded in 1894 and The American Society of Refrigerating Engineers (ASRE) founded in 1904.
ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 55 (Thermal Environmental Conditions for Human Occupancy) is a standard that provides minimum requirements for acceptable thermal indoor environments. It establishes the ranges of indoor environmental conditions that are acceptable to achieve thermal comfort for occupants. It was first published in 1966, and since 2004 has been updated periodically by an ASHRAE technical committee composed of industry experts. The most recent version of the standard was published in 2013.
According to the new study, the standard overestimates the “female metabolic rate by up to 35%” which “may cause buildings to be intrinsically non-energy-efficient in providing comfort to females.” The study suggests using actual metabolic rates to set the standard, and provides information on how to approach this. “Ultimately, an accurate representation of thermal demand of all occupants leads to actual energy consumption predictions and real energy savings of buildings that are designed and operated by the buildings service community.”
So, let’s turn the air conditioners up. Meaning down. Depending on what you mean when you say that.
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.
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.
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…
…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…
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.
As an anthropologist, I find the interface between technology and the larger culture in which it is embedded fascinating. You all know the old story of the family cook who habitually cuts the ends off the roast before slipping it in the oven. One day her child, hoping some day to be the family cook, asks why this is done. It turns out that nobody can remember, and the matter is dropped. But the question comes up again, at a later family dinner, this one attended by great grandma, who was the family cook a generation ago, and of course, she knows the answer.
“Back in the day,” she says, “It was the depression. We weren’t able to just go to the store and buy whatever we wanted, like people these days.”
Grandma always managed to work in a mention of how poor they were back in the depression. But this time it was relevant. “We had only one roasting pan,” she continued. “It was only 14 inches long and the roast was always a few inches longer. So I’d cut the ends off.”
And of course, ever since then, subsequent generations had learned to cut off the ends of the roast because that is how grandma did it, and there must have been some reason, though nobody knew what it was. And now, the roast, be-ended, sits small in the large stainless steel double handed Williams Sonoma roasting pan.
I think that is how some people load their dishwashers. Back in the day, dishwashers weren’t very good at washing dishes. They were really status symbols that did little more than rinse off the dishes that you’d already scraped and run under the faucet. You put dishes in the dishwasher that already looked pretty clean. The role of the dishwasher was to remove the few remaining cooties (or dog saliva for some households) and, if you kept up the supply of anti-spotting juice, to make sure that the glassware was shiny-clean.
Dishwashers have changed. A reasonably good dishwasher, not even the most expensive or fancy, does a much better job at washing dishes. Even cheap ones, probably. The difference in price between dishwashers is mostly a matter of bells and whistles and whether or not it has a stainless steel front, that sort of thing. Inside, the engineering of how to spray water on dishes from various angles for a very long period of time has been worked out. These days, you only need to remove the large parts, the parts that remain because people these days, unlike back in the depression when there was not enough food, have forgotten that they should finish the food on their plate. Even the chicken bones. Back in the depression, people ate the chicken bones.
When you wash dishes in the sink, you use water and energy. The energy is to heat the water, but also, the water itself requires energy to process and pump. When you wash dishes in the dishwasher, you use energy. Again, heating and getting water are factors, but also, the dishwasher has a pump and may have a water heating element, and of course, a drying element. More on the drying element later.
If you did a complete hand washing job on your dishes, then ran your dishes on a full cycle in the dishwasher, you would be using way more energy and water than required to actually get the dishes clean. But if you only hand wash the dishes a little — scrape the plates than run them under the water — maybe you are using less energy and water. But the fact remains, if you just scraped the dishes minimally and the put them in the dishwasher straight away, with absolutely no rinsing, you will use a minimal amount of energy.
Some people claim that they do hand washing so efficiently that they are using less energy than a dishwasher would ever use. Such folk eschew the dishwashing machine entirely. However, dishwasher experts claim that this is only rarely the case. The dishwasher uses a small percentage of the water and energy you use in hand washing.
Chis Mooney has written up the current research on dishwashing efficiency. His Washington Post article cites research from the EPA, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. The bottom line: Don’t pre-rinse the dishes. Just put the damn dishes in the dishwasher. Oh, and you think your hand washing is efficient, do consider the possibility that you don’t really know that. You just think that because you want to. It is almost certainly the case that you can’t really prove that and it is likely (but not impossible) that it simply isn’t true. From Moony’s Washington Post article:
… dishwashers just keep needing less and less water (and energy) because of improving appliance standards, even as they get better and better at using it.
“While it may be possible to use less water/energy by washing dishes by hand, it is extremely unlikely,” Jonah Schein, technical coordinator for homes and buildings in the EPA’s WaterSense program, said…
“In order to wash the same amount of dishes that can fit in a single load of a full size dishwasher and use less water, you would need to be able to wash eight full place settings and still limit the total amount of time that the faucet was running to less than two minutes,” he said.
“…modern dishwashers can outperform all but the most frugal hand washers,” adds the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
This applies to modern Energy-Star rated dishwashers. Which, if your dishwasher is reasonably new, is probably your dishwasher. And by new, we mean up to several years old because this has been true for a long time. Moony’s story has further details on exactly what makes dishwashers more efficient.
So, this is like cutting the ends off the roast. In the old days, you needed to wash your dishes before you washed your dishes. Now, you can just wash your dishes. But do you? Or are you still cutting the ends off the roast?
(It is unfortunate for the dogs that they lose in both cases.)
Moony also talks about the drying element in dishwashers, and I have a word or two to say about that as well.
Consider the term “dishwasher safe.” In my household, everything is “dishwasher safe.” This is because I put everything in the dishwasher. If something is not dishwasher safe, it gets weeded out. Most things that are not dishwasher safe are subject to heat damage when the drying element comes on. I installed our present dishwasher about five years ago. The heating element has yet to come on. Well, it did by accident once and boy, did that smell bad. (If you don’t use the heating element, it tends to accumulate a layer of stuff that smells bad once you do turn it on). This is not to say that the only unsafe thing in a dishwasher, if you are a plate or a bowl or something, is the heating element. The water in a dishwasher is hot, and the chemicals are caustic. We have a number of coffee mugs that no longer say what they formerly said because the cheap printing process used to make them did not stand up to the slings and arrows of outrageous technology. Those coffee mugs that change on the outside when you put hot coffee in them? That works because of a layer of cheap plastic on the outside of the cup. My Doctor Who mug (where the Tardis disappears and reappears) lasted one day. I still have it but it is a simple black mug with no evidence that the Doctor ever existed. And, when I pop in “clean recyclables” like a peanut butter jar made of plastic, that stuff comes out distorted and half melted, but not really melted and it isn’t a problem; It was on the way to the recycling bin anyway.
If you never turn on your heating element you will use a lot less electricity and many non-dishwasher safe items survive the dishwasher. I’m not making any promises, I’m just telling you what I do. Don’t worry, the dishes get dry. Modern dishwashers run some air through after the washing is finished on a full cycle, and if you open the door, physics, in the form of evaporation, will work very well.
The Star Tribune (can’t give you the link because they have anti-link mojo) reports that Xcel Energy mismanaged an upgrade to the nuke plant in Monticello (this is one of two plants in the state) that cost 402 extra million dollars for an upgrade. This was part of the “life extention” upgrade approved a few years ago to allow the aging plant to continue operation beyond the originally planned number of years. The plant has had an impressive safety record; last time I checked it was actually number one in the country, having only one death (not nuclear related) and a couple of valve failures with moderate or no release of radioactive substance.
The project with the cost overrun increased power output by over 10%, in theory, though that actual output has not happened yet.
The state has investigated the overruns, the investigation overseen bvy a judge, who concluded that Xcel “mishandled the project from the beginning, failing to recognize the complexity of the upgrade and the resulting higher costs.”
It is expected that rate payers will foot the bill, or some of it, but this is yet to be decided.
A bunch of biological activity happens, organism reproduce, grow, die. Some of this biomass turns into oil, natural gas, or coal. I’ve left out few details.
During certain periods in the Earth’s history, this happened at a much larger scale that usual, and in certain geographic and geological settings, leading to the eventual formation of huge underground oil reserves, coal fields, gas reservoirs, or bitumen deposits. By the way, some of these 10 million year or so long moments in geological history were probably regional extinction events.
That is how we get fossil Carbon based fuels, for the most part (again, I oversimplify).
An alternative, it seems, is to intervene early in the process. Take the organisms out of the system early, when they have just grown, and turn them into biofuels. Trees or other material can be burned, plant tissues can be converted to liquid fuel or gas, etc. This method is inherently limited compared to using fossil fuels because the fossil fuels were generated over tens or hundreds of millions of years, while this form of biofuel is being generated real time. In order to continue to use energy at the rate we currently use it, with all the energy coming from biofuels, we’d have to be scraping a huge percentage of the output of photosynthesis every day.
To put this in perspective, consider that the total amount of energy that natural systems using photosynthesis on the Earth produce is about six times of what we humans use in energy, from fossil fuels, nuclear, hydro, and various clean energy sources. In other words, if we used only biofuels for our energy, we would have to use one sixth of the energy the entire natural world currently produces, assuming efficiency matched to what nature does. It is likely that some of that use would enhance natural production, or could be used harvested more efficiently, but the differences can’t be large. Maybe we’d only need a seventh, instead of a sixth, of the Earth’s natural photosynthesized production. Or, maybe we would be using it less efficiently and thus need more.
Having said that, there is a certain amount of potential biofuel that goes from some use or another into the trash (or sewer effluence). When we capture that energy, we might be reducing a carbon sink, but we are at the same time using a non-fossil Carbon based fuel source. This includes using discarded cooking oil, or burning sawdust or trash in waste to energy plants.
Western governments have made a wrong turn in energy policy by supporting the large-scale conversion of plants into fuel and should reconsider that strategy, according to a new report from a prominent environmental think tank.
Turning plant matter into liquid fuel or electricity is so inefficient that the approach is unlikely ever to supply a substantial fraction of global energy demand, the report found. It added that continuing to pursue this strategy — which has already led to billions of dollars of investment — is likely to use up vast tracts of fertile land that could be devoted to helping feed the world’s growing population….
The report follows several years of rising concern among scientists about biofuel policies in the United States and Europe, and is the strongest call yet by the World Resources Institute, known for nonpartisan analysis of environmental issues, to urge governments to reconsider those policies.