Friday, May 31, 2013

Global warming caused by CFCs, not carbon dioxide, study says

"CFCs conspiring with cosmic rays"!

An interesting article which provides a conspiracy quote, and a graphic

Global warming caused by CFCs, not carbon dioxide, study says | Waterloo News:
image from source article
"Conventional thinking says that the emission of human-made non-CFC gases such as carbon dioxide has mainly contributed to global warming. But we have observed data going back to the Industrial Revolution that convincingly shows that conventional understanding is wrong,” said Qing-Bin Lu, a professor of physics and astronomy, biology and chemistry in Waterloo’s Faculty of Science. “In fact, the data shows that CFCs conspiring with cosmic rays caused both the polar ozone hole and global warming.”
"Most conventional theories expect that global temperatures will continue to increase as CO2 levels continue to rise, as they have done since 1850. What’s striking is that since 2002, global temperatures have actually declined – matching a decline in CFCs in the atmosphere,” Professor Lu said. “My calculations of CFC greenhouse effect show that there was global warming by about 0.6 °C from 1950 to 2002, but the earth has actually cooled  since 2002. The cooling trend is set to continue for the next 50-70 years as the amount of CFCs in the atmosphere continues to decline.”
Read the entire article at Waterloo News:

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Solar Industry Anxious Over Defective Panels

Cause for thought to those thinking about going into the electricity generation business armed only with a power purchase agreement (microFIT in Ontario), and a halo.

LOS ANGELES — The solar panels covering a vast warehouse roof in the sun-soaked Inland Empire region east of Los Angeles were only two years into their expected 25-year life span when they began to fail.
Coatings that protect the panels disintegrated while other defects caused two fires that took the system offline for two years, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenues.
It was not an isolated incident. Worldwide, testing labs, developers, financiers and insurers are reporting similar problems and say the $77 billion solar industry is facing a quality crisis just as solar panels are on the verge of widespread adoption.
No one is sure how pervasive the problem is. There are no industrywide figures about defective solar panels. And when defects are discovered, confidentiality agreements often keep the manufacturer’s identity secret, making accountability in the industry all the more difficult....Mr. Wenham, the Suntech executive, said manufacturers needed to be held accountable and advocated creating testing labs not beholden to the industry that would assess quality.
“We need to start naming names,” he said.
Read the entire article at the New York Times

Renewable Energy Bill in Connecticut latest battleground for rational energy policy

Protectionism, cocooned in isolation by a weak thread of  poorly labelled "environmentalism", continues to resist the intelligent option of cleaner energy supply imported from Quebec

Environmentalists spent the last month lobbying against the bill because they don’t believe large-scale hydropower should be included in the same category as wind and solar power. The amendment passed by the House didn’t make the bill any better.
Rep. Matt Lesser, D-Middletown, called the bill a “rollback” of renewable energy.
“We are the first state to walk back our commitment to renewable energy,” he said.
While there was a lot in the bill for Lesser to like, such as the long-term contracting provisions, he said he couldn’t vote for a bill that rolls back Connecticut’s commitment to renewable energy to 15 percent. Lesser doesn’t count the 5 percent of the goal that could be met by large-scale Canadian hydropower, which he said is already highly-subsidized.
The League of Connecticut Conservation Voters didn’t mince words in a press release about passage of the bill.
“The legislature blew it,” they said. “The state legislature’s vote today to retreat from our state’s clean energy goals practically guarantees that we get locked into large, environmentally damaging HydroQuebec power to flood our energy market and damage the growing industry that creates jobs related to clean, renewable power in Connecticut”
The entire article can be read at CT News Junkie

This is common thinking in many places, with mislabeled environmentalists claiming it is more important to build locally than to acquire cleaner energy affordably.  In many cases this means resisting the argument to build where the resource is strongest (solar or wind).  Excerpts from recent articles show the issue isn't just about the faked concerns about the environmental attributes of hydroelectric power.
Siemens says it would make sense to build solar power plants in sunny countries in Europe rather than in cloudy ones. And wind turbines should be built in windy places.
MIT Technolgy Review | Building Solar in Spain Instead of Germany Could Save Billions 

Spanish CSP leaders, whom gathered this month in Dubai for CSP Today’s MENASOL 2013 conference, were caught unawares when another potential regulatory change hit the news.
This time it was the announcement, made by business daily elEconomista and picked up by a number of press outlets across Spain, that CSP plants could be included in a planned four-year shutdown of power generation. The measure seems aimed at evening out the country’s mismatch between supply and demand.
CSP Today | Spain could allow plants to shut down… but why?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Putting a Collar on Carbon Prices

Severin Borenstein has written a post, at the Energy Institute at Haas' Energy Economics Exchange blog, using the European Union's struggling Emissions Trading System (EU-ETS) to demonstrate the design failures of that scheme, and the implications for better system design.

... the most recent disappointment — the extremely low prices of current permits — while not completely predictable, were a clear risk when the program was launched. Unlike California’s cap and trade program, the EU-ETS has no price floor. As a result, when lower-than-expected emissions occurred – due primarily to the anemic EU economy – the price was likely to crash. With prices now around 3 euros (equivalent to about a 5 cent per gallon tax on gasoline), the EU-ETS is providing very little incentive to take actions that reduce emissions.
But if the emissions targets are being met at that price, what’s the problem? Why is the market being called a failure or irrelevant? Because nearly all observers recognize that it makes no sense to stick to a rigid quantity target for EU greenhouse gas mitigation when the real goal must be long-run development of alternatives to fossil fuels and other GHG emission sources. In particular, alternatives that are economic enough that the developing world might be enticed to adopt them.
The EU reductions alone aren’t going to shift the path of earth’s warming, so pretending there is a fixed target simply ignores the science of climate change. Instead, we should recognize that the market (remember, this is a market-based approach to emissions control) needs some stability in price signals to make investment plans. That’s the role of a price floor.
Read the entire article at the Energy Economics Exchange

Why burn US trees in UK power stations? | Europe's Green-Fuel Search Turns to America's Forests

The BBC and The Wall Street Journal have features on biomass being harvested in the U.S. for consumption in Europe.

BBC News - Renewable energy: Why burn US trees in UK power stations?:
Environmentalists are trying to block the expansion of a transatlantic trade bringing American wood to burn in European power stations.
The trade is driven by EU rules promoting renewable energy to combat climate change.
Many millions of tonnes of wood pellets will soon be shipped annually to help keep the lights on in the UK. Other EU nations may follow.
Critics say subsidising wood burning wastes money, does nothing to tackle climate change in the short term, and is wrecking some of America's finest forests.

Monday, May 27, 2013

EU household electricity bills jump once more

Renewables icons Germany and Denmark have among the highest energy rates in Europe, while their northern neighbours, blessed with hydro reservoirs and connections to Germany and Denmark, are seeing rates drop.

EU household electricity bills jump once more | Business | DW.DE | 27.05.2013:

Households across almost the entire European Union have had to pay more once again for the use of electricity, according to the EU statistics agency. Eurostat says residents in Germany were among those hit hardest.
In the second half of last year, electricity bills in the 27-member European Union rose by another 6.6 percent (including taxes) from the level reached in the same period a year earlier, the statistics agency Eurostat said on Monday.
Gas prices even jumped by 10.3 percent in the final six months of 2012. The average EU household paid 19.7 eurocents per kilowatt hour, while one kWh cost as much as 26.8 eurocents for German consumers.
Germans thus had to foot the third highest electricity bills in the bloc, less only than the Danes and Cypriots.
Heterogeneous picture
By contrast, citizens in northern Europe saw their electricity costs falling over the same period. In Sweden for instance electricity was cheaper by almost 5 percent, while in non-EU nation Norway costs dropped by almost 10 percent.
Read the entire article at DW.DE

Great Lakes region pins economic hopes on water

Great Lakes region pins economic hopes on water - SFGate:
As growing water scarcity casts a shadow over the economic boom in warmer states, many in the long-scorned northlands are hoping they can finally make their abundance of freshwater a magnet for businesses and jobs that are now going elsewhere. The idea is either a perfect nexus of opportunity and timing, or— as some in the Sun Belt believe— just another longshot attempt by a cold and downtrodden region to reverse history.
In the eight Great Lakes states, organizations devoted to the venture are springing up, with headquarters, government grants and binders full of Power Points and five-year plans. Universities are establishing freshwater science and engineering programs. Businesses are developing products such as advanced filtration systems for sale in countries where water isn't just scarce, but also polluted. Milwaukee has taken a pivotal role from its perch beside Lake Michigan, with $83.5 million in public and private money budgeted over the next year to support water-related businesses and research.
"We all recognize that water has become more and more of a precious commodity," said Tom Barrett, mayor of Milwaukee. "We have to do a much better job of promoting it."
Sun Belt leaders, while acknowledging the problem, scoff at the idea of companies choosing the Midwest instead...
"We help businesses grow instead of seeing how much we can squeeze them with taxes."

Read the entire article at the San Francisco Chronicle:

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Why I think we're wasting billions on global warming, by top British climate scientist

"Frankly, I’d rather pay an engineer in Poland to actually dispose of carbon dioxide than some Brussels eco-yuppie to trade it around" .
An interesting article by Oxford Professor Myles Allen champions the rather stagnant process of carbon capture and storage (CCS).
I've found most discussions on reducing emissions ignore the reality that jurisdictions with fossil fuel resources aren't likely to resist exporting them to jurisdictions desirous of growing their wealth through energy use - which does not make CCS feasible, but does make it a desirable technology.

Why I think we're wasting billions on global warming, by top British climate scientist | Mail Online:
It is perfectly possible to burn fossil carbon and not release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere: you have to filter it out of the flue gases, pressurise it, and re-inject, or ‘sequester’, it back underground.
If you’re using fossil carbon to drive a car or fly a plane, you just have to pay someone else to bury CO2 for you.
The only thing that actually matters for climate policy is whether, before we release too much, we get to the point of burying carbon at the same rate that we dig it up.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

EU summit set to turn climate agenda upside down?

A sample of articles on decisions the EU may be taking on changing direction in energy policy, and why ..

EU summit set to turn climate agenda upside down | EurActiv:

Roger Pielke Jr. tweet
Europe’s plan to decarbonise its economy by 2050 could be turned on its head at a summit today (22 May) if EU heads of state and government sign off on measures prioritising industrial competitiveness over climate change in draft conclusions seen by EurActiv.
The draft text says that EU policy must ensure “competitive” energy prices, and declares it “crucial” that Europe diversify its energy supply and develop “indigenous energy resources” – a reference to renewable energies, but also coal, nuclear power and shale gas.
One high-profile German MEP Holger Krahmer (ALDE), hailed the end of “climate hysteria” in a jubilant press statement.
Or maybe not ...

A release from the Eurpean Parliament (referenced at the German Energy blog

 Energy mix: EU needs fixed target for renewables' share by 2030, MEPs say | European Parliament News

Oilsands and airplanes, pots and kettles: are climate agreements a waste of time?

“If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations [by reducing greenhouse gas pollution], I will.” Thus spake the U.S. president on February 12 of this year, in his 2013 state of the union speech. Only 77 days earlier, he had signed a bill protecting U.S. airlines from paying a carbon dioxide (CO2) emission fee for flying in European Union airspace. According to a Pew Center report, U.S. commercial airlines dumped around 150 million metric tons of CO2 into the air in 2005; that amount has been fairly constant since 1990 (see Table 1 on page 5). This is a rather glaring disconnect. The president blocked a climate action measure, and less than three months later told the world he wanted exactly those kinds of measures.
Unfortunately the disconnect went unmentioned in the mainstream press.
This is an important point, especially apropos of the current intense global PR campaign against oil from Canada’s oil sands. Oil sands CO2emissions in 2011 were roughly 62 million metric tons. So we have the U.S. president endlessly delaying, for allegedly environmental reasons, a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry Canadian oilsands crude to refineries in the U.S.. Meanwhile, he blocks an EU proposal that addresses an activity that puts nearly three times as much CO2 into the air.
Continue reading at Canadian Energy Issues

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Mulcair mired in mud: NDP leader needs to flip-flop — again — or risk sinking in oilsands

Wherein the NDP communicates bad policy in pursuit of good soundbites...

Mulcair mired in mud: NDP leader needs to flip-flop — again — or risk sinking in oilsands | Columnists | Opinion | Toronto Sun: Repentigny, Que., on Tuesday, Mulcair flip-flopped.
He is now against the idea of reversing Line 9B between North Westover, Ont., and Montreal, Que. Why? For environmental reasons.
“There is no system of environmental regulation in Canada, with Stephen Harper. So, people have to say ‘no’ to this (pipeline reversal) because you absolutely cannot trust them (the Conservatives) to produce a result that is safe for the environment,” Mulcair said. Partisan Mulcair does not trust Canada’s environmental regulation system anymore since we have a Conservative government. That is the latest excuse used by Mulcair to try to take the NDP out of the muck.
We are not talking about building a new pipeline in this specific case, just reversing the flow. How could it provoke more spills and environmental catastrophes when it goes from west to east than east to west?
The entire opinion article can be read at the Toronto Sun:

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Hugging a Burning Tree

An article by  by Bjørn Lomborg on the Project Syndicate site
I've noted on my original content site that biomass is the 'renewable' that gets included when bragging about the share of total energy produced from renewables, but is excluded when listing renewable technologies.

Hugging a Burning Tree by Bjørn Lomborg - Project Syndicate:
...burning the willow releases 22 tons of CO2. Of course, all of that CO2 was soaked up from the atmosphere the year before; but, had we just left the barley where it was, it, too, would have soaked up quite a bit, lowering the reduction relative to coal to 20 tons. And, in a market system, almost all of the barley production simply moves to a previously unfarmed area. Clearing the existing biomass there emits an extra 16 tons of CO2 per year on average (and this is likely an underestimate).
So, instead of saving 30 tons, we save four tons at most. And this is the best-case scenario. Of the 12 production modes analyzed, two would reduce annual CO2 emissions by only two tons, while the other ten actually increase total emissions – up to 14 tons per year.
At the same time, we are paying a king’s ransom for biomass. Germany alone spends more than $3 billion annually, or $167 per ton of avoided CO2 emissions, which is more than 37 times the cost of carbon reductions in the European Union Emissions Trading System. And the estimate of avoided emissions ignores indirect land-use changes, making the likely real cost at least eight times higher.
Read Bjørn Lomborg's entire article at Project Syndicate:

An ill wind blows for Quebec taxpayers

Some thoughts - from this critic of  industrial wind in Ontario ....
Stop molly-coddling the Americans and fight for your exports to be considered every bit as green as solar, wind, etc.
Quebec should be arguing they have a green power system - reservoirs are spared when it is windy, and utilized when it is not - the American protectionist's claims that hydro projects over 100MW capacity are less 'green' are simply ridiculous.
Increased export contracts for 'green' energy still won't fully pay for these wealth transfer projects, but they aren't really electricity supply projects anyway ... 

Hydro-Québec is swimming in electricity surpluses. Just how big these surpluses are and how long this situation will last is a heated debate. The state-owned utility foresees surpluses until 2020, but some analysts expect they will last until 2027.

Hydro-Québec is already on the hook to buy highly priced electricity that it doesn’t need and selling it at a loss on export markets. The utility pegs the cost of the surpluses at $1.5-billion over the next seven years, an expense that will be passed on to Quebeckers through their electricity bills.

It is for this exact reason that the PQ government cancelled six small dam projects this winter – and that electricity is cheaper than the wind-produced electricity whose cost has fluctuated between 10 and 12.5 cents per kilowatt-hour before hookup costs. Hence the surprise with Ms. Marois’ decision to go ahead with not only 700 MW of wind power, but with an extra 100 MW on top.
The entire article can be read at The Globe and Mail:

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

An international conspiracy against pure research?

Conspiracy theory aside, here are  three similar stories  - from Canada, the U.K., and Australia

The Conservative love affair with targeted research | McLeans | May 8, 2013
Gary Goodyear’s quest for commercialization continues. The minister of state for science and technology joined John McDougall, the president of the National Research Council of Canada, to tell the country that its premier research institution would, from now on, focus on “commercial value”—not basic research. The idea is that Canadian companies could use more help with research and development, and the NRC is best placed to provide that support.
Each time the government announces such a shift, opposition critics and their allies lash out. They argue basic research produces innovation no one ever saw coming. Indeed, The Globe and Mail points to several such inventions produced by NRC researchers: the most accurate and stable atomic clock of its era, built in 1975; a “portable bomb sniffer,” built in the 1980s; and sophisticated computer animation, first developed in the 1960s. Yesterday, Kennedy Stewart took his turn pointing these things out to the government. The NDP’s science and technology critic wondered aloud during Question Period why Conservatives would “turn their back on important research.”
Across the world, Australia's budget confirmed many previously announced cuts to higher education/universities

Universities and students hit hard despite modest new spending | Universities Australia | May 14

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Carbon pricing doesn’t work

Aldyen Donnelly is an economist writing on energy and environmental matters.
In the Financial Post, she offers a challenging read arguing the superiority of regulation to all existing attempts at carbon taxation.

Carbon pricing doesn’t work | FP Comment | Financial Post:
...the Canada 2020 background paper asserts that reducing Canadian greenhouse gas emissions (“GHGs”) and “pricing carbon” through government taxation are one and the same thing. They are not.
Interested and objective researchers can review fairly comprehensive datasets for over 120 developing nation pollution pricing policy precedents going back to 1978. Roughly one-third of these are “cap and trade”-type measures, while the rest are more direct consumption, production tax and/or tariff measures or measures that combine direct taxation and cap and trade.
Not one of the pollution pricing precedents can reasonably be described as effective...

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

News might be bad for completing the entire Keystone XL, and good for TransCanada

Some excerpts from recent articles to indicate why much of the Keystone pipeline might get built regardless of the decisions of a protectionist U.S. government

The U.S. Has Much, Much More Gas and Oil Than We Thought | National Journal
The United States has double the amount of oil and three times the amount of natural gas than previously thought, stored deep under the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana, according to new data the Obama administration released Tuesday.
In announcing the new data in a conference call, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell also said the administration will release within weeks draft rules to regulate hydraulic fracturing, technology that has come under scrutiny for its environmental impact but that is essential to developing all of this energy.
“These world-class formations contain even more energy-resource potential than previously understood, which is important information as we continue to reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign sources of oil,” Jewell said in a statement. 
Prosperous play's new oil estimates could influence pipeline plans | E & E Publishing, LLC
The main section of the new Keystone XL line that TransCanada wants to build would extend from Hardisty, Alberta, to Steele City, Neb. The southernmost portion is under construction now, a line running from oil storage facilities in Cushing, Okla., to Nederland, Texas, with an extension to Houston and its Gulf refineries.