The Green Energy Economy Reconsidered

By Jerry Taylor and Peter Van Doren, Forbes

“Green” energy such as wind, solar and biomass presently constitute only 3.6% of fuel used to generate electricity in the U.S. But if another “I Have a Dream” speech were given at the base of the Lincoln Memorial, it would undoubtedly urge us on to a promised land where renewable energy completely replaced fossil fuels and nuclear power.

How much will this particular dream cost? Energy expert Vaclav Smil calculates that achieving that goal in a decade–former Vice President Al Gore’s proposal–would incur building costs and write-downs on the order of $4 trillion. Taking a bit more time to reach this promised land would help reduce that price tag a bit, but simply building the requisite generators would cost $2.5 trillion alone.

Let’s assume, however, that we could afford that. Have we ever seen such a “green economy”? Yes we have; in the 13th century.

Renewable energy is quite literally the energy of yesterday. Few seem to realize that we abandoned “green” energy centuries ago for five very good reasons.

First, green energy is diffuse, and it takes a tremendous amount of land and material to harness even a little bit of energy. Jesse Ausubel, director of the Program for the Human Environment and senior research associate at Rockefeller University, calculates, for instance, that the entire state of Connecticut (that is, if Connecticut were as windy as the southeastern Colorado plains) would need to be devoted to wind turbines to power the city of New York.

Second, it is extremely costly. In 2016 President Obama’s own Energy Information Administration estimates that onshore wind (the least expensive of these green energies) will be 80% more expensive than combined cycle, gas-fired electricity. And that doesn’t account for the costs associated with the hundreds of billions of dollars worth of new transmission systems that would be necessary to get wind and solar energy–which is generally produced far from where consumers happen to live–to ratepayers.

“If and when renewable energy makes economic sense, profit-hungry investors will build all that we need for us without government needing to lift a finger.” But, but, but…the Algoreans won’t get

Third, it is unreliable. The wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine when the energy is needed. We account for that today by having a lot of coal and natural gas generation on “standby” to fire-up when renewables can’t produce. Incidentally, the cost of maintaining this backup generation is likewise never fully accounted for in the cost estimates associated with green energy. But in a world where fossil fuels are a thing of the past, we would be forced–like the peasants of the Dark Age–to rely upon the vagaries of the weather.

Fourth, it is scarce. While wind and sunlight are obviously not scarce, the real estate where those energies are reliably continuous and in economic proximity to ratepayers is scarce.

Finally, once the electricity is produced by the sun or wind, it cannot be stored because battery technology is not currently up to the task. Hence, we must immediately “use it or lose it.”

Read more here.

Advertisements

Utopian Policies Boosting Prices For U.S. Energy

By VICTOR DAVIS HANSON
Posted 03/24/2011 05:09 PM ET

Gas is well over $4 a gallon in most places in California — and soaring elsewhere as well. But are such high energy prices good or bad?

That should be a stupid question. Yet it’s not when the Obama administration has stopped new domestic offshore oil exploration in many American waters, curbed oil leases in the West, and keeps oil-rich Alaskan areas exempt from drilling.

Last week, President Obama went to Brazil and declared of that country’s new offshore finds: “With the new oil finds off Brazil, President (Dilma) Rousseff has said that Brazil wants to be a major supplier of new stable sources of energy, and I’ve told her that the U.S. wants to be a major customer, which would be a win-win for both our countries.”

Consider the logic of the president’s Orwellian declaration: The U.S. in the last two years has restricted oil exploration of the sort Brazil is now rushing to embrace.

We have run up more than $4 trillion in consecutive budget deficits during the Obama administration and are near federal insolvency.

Therefore, the U.S. should be happy to borrow more money to purchase the sort of “new stable sources of energy” from Brazil’s offshore wells that we most certainly will not develop off our own coasts.

It seems as if paying lots more for electricity and gas, in European fashion, was originally part of the president’s new green agenda. He helped push cap-and-trade legislation through the House of Representatives in 2009.

Had such Byzantine regulations become law, a recessionary economy would have sunk into depression. Obama appointed the incompetent Van Jones as “green jobs czar” — until Jones’ wild rantings confirmed that he knew nothing about his job description “to advance the administration’s climate and energy initiatives.”

At a time of trillion-dollar deficits, the administration is borrowing billions to promote high-speed rail, and is heavily invested in the federally subsidized $42,000 Government Motors Chevy Volt.

Apparently the common denominator here is a deductive view that high energy prices will force Americans to emulate European centrally planned and state-run transportation.

That conclusion is not wild conspiracy theory, but simply the logical manifestation of many of the Obama administration’s earlier campaign promises.

Secretary of Energy Steven Chu — now responsible for American energy policy — summed up his visions to the Wall Street Journal in 2008: “Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.” I think Chu is finally figuring out the “somehow.”

A year earlier, Chu was more explicit in his general contempt for the sort of fuels that now keep Americans warm and on the road: “Coal is my worst nightmare. … We have lots of fossil fuel. That’s really both good and bad news. We won’t run out of energy but there’s enough carbon in the ground to really cook us.”

In fairness to Chu, he was only amplifying what Obama himself outlined during the 2008 campaign. Today’s soaring energy prices are exactly what candidate Obama once dreamed about: “Under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.”

Obama, like Chu, made that dream even more explicit in the case of coal. “So, if somebody wants to build a coal plant, they can — it’s just that it will bankrupt them, because they are going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”

There are lots of ironies to these “Alice in Wonderland” energy fantasies. As the public become outraged over gas prices, a panicked Obama pivots to brag that we are pumping more oil than ever before — but only for a time, and only because his predecessors approved the type of drilling he has stopped.

The entire climate-change movement, fairly or not, is now in shambles, thanks to serial scandals about faked research, record cold and wet winters in much of Europe and the U.S., and the conflict-of-interest, get-rich schemes of prominent global-warming preachers such as Al Gore.

The administration’s energy visions are forged by academics and government bureaucrats who live mostly in cities with short commutes and have worked largely for public agencies.

These utopians have no idea that without reasonably priced fuel and power, the self-employed farmer cannot produce food. The private plant operator can’t create plastics.

And the trucker cannot bring goods to the consumer — all the basics like lettuce, iPads and Levis that a highly educated, urbanized elite both enjoys and yet has no idea of how a distant someone else made their unbridled consumption possible.

Whose Clean Energy Standards?

By Paul Chesser on 3.24.11 @ 6:07AM

Living in a home with four kids and two dogs, one child’s “clean” can mean “unacceptable” to an adult — think barely visible shower scum or machine-washed plates without phosphates.

And necessary energy levels and types mean different things to different people: A back-to-nature maiden who practices what she preaches needs much less than a multitasker who watches her LCD TV while researching on the Internet and listening to her iPod.

And as we know from years of observation of political discourse, one man’s “standard” is another’s moral abhorrence.

Put them together in a “Clean Energy Standard” (CES) and you ask for real trouble.

But that’s not stopping Sens. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who on Monday — as Chairman and Ranking Republican respectively of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee — issued a “white paper” that solicits comments on what should constitute a CES. You might remember that in his State of the Union address last January 25, President Obama proposed that the federal government impose an 80 percent standard by the year 2035.

In the past Bingaman and others have proposed a national Renewable Electricity Standard, which would have required electric utilities to generate a specific percentage of their power from “alternative” sources such as wind, solar, biomass, or other impractical technologies. So the president wants a mandate that requires four-fifths of utilities’ total electricity production to come from what a future law would define as “clean energy” by 2035.

Thirty states presently have Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS; some call them Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards). Most are fairly specific in their definitions of what qualifies as acceptable in their schemes, but each has its own percentage targets and dates. You can view specific states’ requirements via an interactive map at American Tradition Institute.

But expanding the mandate to a “Clean Energy Standard” worsens an already costly, ineffective policy. ATI and others, in conjunction with the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University in Boston, have analyzed RPS’s in several states and found they universally drive costs for electricity up, because they force utilities to replace efficient power generators like coal with inefficient sources such as wind or solar. For example, ATI’s Colorado study determined that the state’s utility customers would pay $11.8 billion more for electricity between 2011 and 2020 because of the state’s RPS.

Recognizing the unlikelihood of a national cap-and-trade law and Bingaman’s repeated attempts at a national RPS, ATI also commissioned Beacon Hill to do a study on potential national mandates of 15 percent, 20, percent and 30 percent by the year 2021 (Bingaman co-sponsored a bill last year that called for the 15 percent national RPS). Under the ambitious 30 percent scenario — a likely intermediate goal that would be required to attain President Obama’s target — the U.S. economy would take a hit in the trillions of dollars.

The white paper questions that Bingaman and Murkowski ask only complicate matters. Because the president was vague on what a Clean Energy Standard would look like, Congress is left to navigate the rippling waters between what environmentalists and alternative energy rent-seekers want defined as “clean.” Free-marketers need not advise, but I will do so anyway based upon reality, instead of the fantastical answers the Senators are likely to get:

Q. Is the goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, lower electricity costs, spur utilization of particular assets, diversify supply, or some combination thereof?

A. None of the above, because it cannot do any of the above. Instead it will set up uninformed government meddlers as authorities to dole out favors and tax breaks to undeserving technologies that have capable lobbyists as the only thing going for them.

Q. Depending on the goals, is a CES the right policy for the nation at this time?

A. It doesn’t matter what the goal would be. A CES establishes bureaucrats and lawmakers as decision-makers, rather than individuals who can determine the form of electricity that best meets their power and environmental needs. A CES would be an economic disaster (see ATI study mentioned earlier).

Q. Should any states or portions of states be specifically excluded from the new program’s requirements?

A. You mean a Cornhusker Kickback-type exclusion, which undoubtedly some Senator wanting to protect constituents from higher energy costs would seek? No.

Q. Should the definition of “clean energy” account only for the greenhouse gas emissions of electric generation, or should other environmental issues be accounted for (e.g. particulate matter from biomass combustion, spent fuel from nuclear power, or land use changes for solar panels or wind, etc.).

A. I don’t know — ask the environmental experts who can’t even agree on what is clean and green.

Q. Should partial credits be given for certain technologies, like efficient natural gas and clean coal, as the President has proposed?

A. Depends on if you need to buy them off too in order to pass a bill.

Q. Is there a deployment path that will optimize the trade-off between the overall cost of the program and the overall amount of clean energy deployed?

A. If there is, do you think the government is capable of determining that ideal path?

Q. Should there be a banking and/or borrowing system available for credits and, if so, for how long?

A. So you want to bring back cap-and-trade?

Q. How might a CES alter the current dispatch order of existing generation (such as natural gas-fired power plants), which has been driven by minimization of consumer costs, historically?

A. Depends on how much you want to keep spending to subsidize expensive energy losers like wind and solar.

Q. To what extent does a CES contribute to the overall climate change policy of the United States…?

A. Not at all — do you have any proof, or even scientific (I use that term as loosely as climate alarmists do) projections that it does?

I trust that these answers have been helpful, if not for Sens. Bingaman and Murkowski, then for you, faithful readers. May Tea Party principles prevail.

What Really Threatens Our Future?

Editor’s note: This article was co-authored by Willie Soon and Barun Mitra.

Japan is grappling with a triple tragedy: earthquake, tsunami and possible nuclear radiation. This has brought rolling blackouts, as authorities strive to meet electricity demands with reduced supplies and crippled transmission lines.

However, power cuts and inadequate power are routine in developing countries like India. For them, going without electricity for hours or even days is the norm, not the exception.

But now, the UK’s power grid CEO is warning Brits that their days of reliable electricity are numbered. Because of climate change and renewable energy policies, families, schools, offices, shops, hospitals and factories will just have to “get used to” consuming electricity “when it’s available,” not necessarily when they want it or need it.

UN IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri justifies this absurd situation by sermonizing, “Unless we live in harmony with nature, unless we are able to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and adopt renewable energy sources, and until we change our lifestyles, the world will increasingly become unfit for human habitation.”

Thus, people in poor countries who never had access to reliable electricity may be denied it even longer, while people in rich countries could soon face new electricity shortages.

Citizens of the world’s poor and emerging economies: Beware of claims that the greatest threat we face is from manmade climate change. They are wrong. The real threat is from energy starvation policies implemented in the name of preventing climate change.

Everywhere one looks, people are enjoying modern technologies, improving their lives, realizing their dreams. Other people want the same opportunities for themselves and their children – and they should have them. Every citizen of the world should someday enjoy access to similar levels of energy that people in developed countries enjoy today.

The technologies, trade and transportation networks, the legal, property rights, economic and banking systems have all been developed. If countries and communities take advantage of them, a better future will require only one more thing: energy.

Energy is the Master Resource, the key to everything else. Only our Ultimate Resource – our creative intellect – is more important. People who have abundant, reliable, affordable energy – and the freedom to use it – can turn dreams and ideas into reality.

Those who must rely on human and animal muscle, or open fires, remain poor. Certainly, wind turbines and solar panels are far better than primitive energy. They can bless remote villages with electricity. But they are nothing compared to reliable electricity from hydrocarbon, hydroelectric and nuclear power.

However, policies based on false claims that we can control Earth’s climate restrict access to energy and increase its cost. They perpetuate poverty, and prevent people from building better homes, having comfortable lighting and heating, using computers and modern conveniences, preserving food and medicines, and even surviving natural disasters and adapting to climate change.

Using computer models, thousands of scientists say human carbon dioxide emissions are responsible for recent warming. But thousands of other scientists say the sun and other natural forces still control our complex, unpredictable climate.

Earth’s climate has changed repeatedly throughout history. Its temperature rose slightly during the last century, as our planet recovered from the Little Ice Age, but not in a straight line. It went up 1900-1940, then cooled until 1975, warmed again until 1995, and has been steady since then – all while global CO2 levels were rising. Flood, drought, hurricane and other weather patterns also change periodically.

Earth’s climate is influenced by far more factors: solar, planetary, atmospheric, oceanic and terrestrial. Climate models are useless, even harmful, for setting energy policy.

But even if carbon dioxide does affect climate, China, India and Brazil are building power plants and automobiles at a record pace. Their people are rapidly climbing out of poverty, using coal, oil, natural gas and hydroelectric power to achieve their dreams.

Leaders of these countries are not going to tell their still-poor people that they cannot enjoy the benefits that plentiful, affordable, dependable energy can provide.

Europe, Canada, Australia and the United States became modern economic powerhouses by using fossil fuels. They gave people wondrous technologies, improved their health and living standards, and doubled their life expectancies – using hydroelectric and hydrocarbon power.

Some people in rich countries talk about ending their fossil fuel use. But they have not done so – and cannot afford to. They talk about switching to wind and solar power. But they can no longer afford massive renewable energy subsidies that destroy two jobs in other sectors of their economy for every “green” job they create.

People in rich countries will not give up their modern living standards, electricity, automobiles, airplanes, hospitals, factories and food. Mr. Pachauri certainly will not. Why, should people in poor countries give up their dreams?

During the Cancun climate summit, rich nations said they would give poor countries $100-billion annually in “climate change reparation and adaptation” money. But these are empty promises, made by nations that can no longer afford such unsustainable spending.

Poor countries that expect this money will end up fighting over table scraps – and whatever funds do flow will end up in the overseas bank accounts of ruling elites. The poor will see little or none of it.

For awhile longer, rich countries will continue supporting global warming research and conferences. Researchers, bureaucrats and politicians will continue issuing dire warnings of imminent catastrophes, while they enjoy the benefits of modern energy, traveling on airplanes, attending talk fests at fancy hotels in exotic locations – all powered by coal and petroleum.

They may continue telling the world’s poor how important and admirable it is that we keep living traditional, sustainable, environment-friendly lifestyles; getting by on small amounts of intermittent, unreliable, expensive electricity from wind turbines and solar panels; and giving up our dreams of a better, healthier, more prosperous life.

Ultimately, the climate change debate is really over just two things.

Whether we, the world’s poor, must give up our hopes and dreams. And whether we will determine our own futures – or the decisions will be made for us, by politicians who use climate change to justify restricting our access to reliable, affordable energy.

Which should we fear most? Climate change that some say might happen 50 or 100 years from now? Or an energy-deprived life of continued poverty, misery, disease, and forgotten hopes and dreams?

Our future is in our hands.

Why a “Revenue Neutral” Energy Tax Isn’t

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach, Watts Up With That

Over at her excellent blog, Judith Curry is hosting a discussion that in part is about “revenue-neutral” carbon (in reality energy) taxes. This is another example of where being a generalist is an advantage. I’ve started and run businesses, so I know why revenue neutral isn’t neutral at all when it comes to an energy tax.

Figure 1. The money doesn’t always end up where you think it will go.

The reason that energy taxes are not revenue neutral is that although the government does indeed return the taxes to the consumers, there is a hidden effect working under the radar that most folks don’t think about.

A businessman prices any product based on how much money he has in it. A typical rule of thumb for manufactured products, for example, is that your product should sell for around twice what you have directly invested in producing it.

So a typical product cost analysis might look something like this:

Widget Production Cost = $10 materials + $10 labor + $10 energy = $30 total cost per widget

Widget Sales Price ≈ 2 * Widget Production Cost ≈ $60 per widget

The businessman has to do that, he or she has to get a percentage return on the money that they have tied up in the product. So I go in and buy a widget, I pay $60, and go home happy.

Now, remember that the deal with a “revenue-neutral tax” is that the consumer is supposed to get the money back from the government. According to the pundits, this means that a revenue-neutral tax won’t slow down the economy, since the taxes aren’t removed from circulation, instead they’re returned right back to the consumers. We’ll ignore the details on how that is supposed to happen in a fair and equitable manner, although that’s another interesting can of worms. For our present purposes, we’ll leave that worm tin hermetically sealed and just assume that the US Government in its brilliant wisdom has decided to impose a $10 tax on the energy that’s used to make widgets. To balance that out and make it all revenue neutral, they’ll give you that money back as a crisp new $10 bill when you buy a widget. Perfectly revenue neutral. What’s not to like?

Here’s the difficulty. Let’s run the new widget costing numbers including the tax.

Widget Production Cost = $10 materials + $10 labor + $20 energy = $40 total cost

Widget Sales Price = 2 * Widget Production Cost = $80 per widget

So I go in to buy another widget, I give the widget man $80, and the Government gives me $10 and says everything is for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds. It’s all balanced since the tax was $10 and I got the $10 back, so the Government and I are exactly even, shake hands and part revenue-neutral friends …

Except for the part where I’m short ten bucks, and the widget maker has made ten dollars extra for the same widget. The revenue is neutral, but despite that, in the case of energy taxes the net effect is to slow down the economy.

Why will the economy slow? If we have the same amount of goods at higher prices, demand will fall and the economy will slow. It’s basic economics.

And that’s why a “revenue-neutral” energy tax isn’t neutral at all … and more to the point, it’s one reason why taxing energy in any form is a really dumb idea. Even when it’s revenue-neutral it slows the economic cycle, and when it’s not revenue-neutral, it slows it even more.

w.

PS – In addition, an energy tax is a very regressive tax. An extra $10 energy tax for the energy used to commute to work means little to the CEO, but may break the bank of the janitor. Taxing energy is a bad plan for a host of reasons.

Wind Energy Has Killed More Americans Than Nuclear

By Lachlan Markay

There has been quite a bit of hysteria among some major media outlets in the past few days regarding the potential dangers of nuclear power. Some have even suggested that the benefits of nuclear energy do not outweigh its potential dangers to human life.

The dangers of nuclear power, while serious, need to be put in perspective. To that end, here’s an interesting fact you won’t be hearing from the mainstream press: wind energy has killed more Americans than nuclear energy.

You read that right. According to the Caithness Windfarm Information Forum, there were 35 fatalities associated with wind turbines in the United States from 1970 through 2010. Nuclear energy, by contrast, did not kill a single American in that time.

The meltdown at Three Mile Island in 1979 did not kill or injure anyone, since the power plant’s cement containment apparatus did its job – the safety measures put in place were effective. Apparently the safety measures associated with wind energy are not adequate to prevent loss of life.

Nuclear accounts for about nine percent of America’s energy, according to the Energy Information Administration, and has yet to cause a single fatality here. Wind, on the other hand, provides the United States with only 0.7 percent of its energy, and has been responsible for 35 deaths in the United States alone. So if we’re trying to weigh the costs and benefits of each, it seems wind fares far worse than nuclear. Yet no one seems to be discussing plans to halt production of all new wind farms until Americans’ safety can be guaranteed.

Of course there are potential dangers to nuclear energy that the nation, thankfully, has not had to endure. But when assessing the dangers of a given technology, it usually helps to look at what has actually happened, not what could maybe, possibly, conceivably happen in the event of a Biblical-scale disaster.

Unfortunately, doomsday scenarios tend to get far more media play than level-headed analysis.

Coal Foes Claim Victory Over Export Terminal

By JOEL MILLMAN

Environmental groups claimed a victory Tuesday when a unit of Australia-based Ambre Energy Ltd announced it withdrew its permit application for a proposed export terminal to ship coal mined in Montana and Wyoming to Asia via the Columbia River port of Longview, Washington.

Millennium Bulk Terminals LLC’s withdrawal follows months of protests by citizens opposed to construction of the terminal, which was permitted by Cowlitz County officials in November. Millennium Bulk Terminals said it would reapply for a permit to export from the Columbia River port after conducting a new environmental impact study. The project’s budget was about $100 million, the company said, and was one of several coal-exporting terminals coal producers are seeking to develop on North America’s Pacific coast to meet booming demand for U.S. coal in China.

Opponents of the Longview coal terminal include The Sierra Club, Earthjustice and the Washington Environmental Council.

“This idea of turning Washington into a way station for coal — which will pollute our atmosphere with tons of carbon dioxide and toxics — is a losing idea for our health and our economy,” said Ross Macfarlane, Senior Advisor for Climate Solutions, another group opposing the terminal. See post in the WSJ.

Risk-Free Energy: Surely, You Must Be Joking

By Alex B. Berezow, Editor of Real Clear Science

It was only a matter of time before environmentalists would point toward Japan, say, “We told you so,” and then declare a moral victory for anti-nuclear activism. Merely for the sake of argument, let’s pretend they are right.

Eliminating nuclear power might be a nice experiment. But there is one big problem: Environmentalists are trying to eliminate all the other alternatives, as well.

They oppose oil because drilling poses a risk to the environment. That is primarily why the United States is not tapping its own natural resources, such as in ANWR. Also, the U.S. has to rely on foreign powers– often dictators– to satisfy our “oil addiction.” This threatens our national security and is ethically questionable. So, scratch oil off the list.

Coal is no good, either. The reason is because it is environmentally hazardous to extract, in addition to being dangerous to miners. Besides, burning it produces too much carbon dioxide and contributes to global warming. “Clean coal” is a fiction, according to environmentalists, so it is not worth researching.

Natural gas? Nope. Although it is much cleaner than coal, it is not carbon neutral. Thus, natural gas should be avoided, too.

Hydroelectric power used to enjoy broad support, but that appears to no longer be the case. Some now express concern because the process of constructing the plant itself (such as creating a reservoir) releases greenhouse gases. Environmentalists in Ohio blocked the construction of a hydroelectric plant because it would endanger plants and inconvenience fish.

It is fashionable today to support wind energy, unless you live near Nantucket Sound, where it is socially acceptable to oppose the Cape Wind project on aesthetic grounds. Others oppose wind turbines because they occasionally kill a few birds. (like a few hundred thousands).

Ideally, the world would run entirely on solar power. It is both clean and safe, and the sun provides the planet with enough energy in a single hour to power the world for an entire year. And the best thing is it’s completely renewable. (Well, that is, until the sun burns out.)

This is as close to a magical solution as is currently possible. However, solar cell efficiency (converting sunlight to electricity) remains an enormous technological obstacle. Currently, solar power only provides about 1% of our national energy, and it is unlikely to greatly increase anytime soon. But even if we could increase the efficiency of solar power, evidence indicates that environmentalists would oppose that, too. In California, the construction of a solar power plant has been held up due to concerns raised over the welfare of a lizard.

By now, the following fact should be quite obvious: All sources of energy pose some sort of risk or cost. Risk-free, cost-free energy is a complete myth and simply does not, and will not, exist.

Groups that never propose realistic solutions are simply not worth taking seriously. Unfortunately, this characterizes the arguments put forth by some environmentalists. They should not be given a seat at the adults’ table until they demonstrate an ability to propose a serious solution to the most serious of problems.

Alex B. Berezow is the editor of RealClearScience. He holds a Ph.D. in microbiology. H/T GPWF

Earthquakes and Climate Change

Roger Pielke Jr, University of Colorado did a recent plot of earthquakes frequency by strength.


Click on image to enlarge.

There has been no apparent trend.

Note in this piece on Watts Up with That, Anthony Watts and Steve Goddard show that although an increase over the last century of ‘reported earthquakes’ have occurred, it may be the result of more seismologists and equipment and that major devastating earthquakes in Japan, on the Pacific Ring of Fire are not new.

Really? You had to ask this question?
By Anthony Watts


I’m always amazed at the lack of historical perspective some people have related to natural disasters. It’s doubly amazing when reporters who work in newspapers, who have huge archive resources at their disposal, don’t even bother to look. Here’s some excerpts from the story:

“There is certainly some literature that talks about the increased occurrence of volcanic eruptions and the removing of load from the crust by deglaciation,” said Martin Sharp, a glaciologist at the University of Alberta. “It changes the stress load in the crust and maybe it opens up routes for lava to come to the surface.
….
“It is conceivable that there would be some increase in earthquake activity during periods of rapid changes on the Earth’s crust.”

Other scientists, however, believe that tectonic movements similar to the one that caused the Japanese quake are too deep in the Earth to be affected by the pressure releases caused by glacier melt.

Some experts claim that jump can be explained by the increased number of seismograph stations — more than 8,000 now, up from 350 in 1931 — allowing scientists to pinpoint earthquakes that would otherwise have been missed.

But this does not explain the recent increase in major earthquakes, which are defined as above 6 on the Richter magnitude scale. Japan’s earthquake was a 9.

Scientists have been tracking these powerful quakes for well over a century and it’s unlikely that they have missed any during at least the last 60 years.

According to data from the U.S. Geological Survey there were 1,085 major earthquakes in the 1980s. This increased in the 1990s by about 50 per cent to 1,492 and to 1,611 from 2000 to 2009. Last year, and up to and including the Japanese quake, there were 247 major earthquakes.

There has been also a noticeable increase in the sort of extreme quakes that hit Japan. In the 1980s, there were four mega-quakes, six in the 1990s and 13 in the last decade. So far this decade we have had two. This increase, however, could be temporary.

Read more.

A couple of faults in the argument, from the NYT, 1896:


and also….1928


Where was “global warming” then?

h/t to Steve Goddard, who has been doing a lot of historical research here.

IPCC and Conflicts of Interest

By Roger Pielke Jr.

Last year the InterAcademy Council recommended that

The IPCC should develop and adopt a rigorous conflict of interest policy that applies to all individuals directly involved in the preparation of IPCC reports

The IPCC has thumbed its nose at the IAC and ignored this recommendation. Now we get treated to sights like the following:

. . . Steve Sawyer, who contributed a chapter to an upcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on managing climate disasters, which will be published in May. . .

According to Sawyer, the forthcoming IPCC report will reveal that carbon emissions from nuclear power facilities clock up between 100 and 200 grams of carbon emissions per kilowatt hour (kWh). ‘Clean’ gas emits around 350 grams of carbon per kilowatt hour.

But wind turbines emit no carbon when producing electricity.

One life-cycle assessment of the Vestas V90-3.0MW onshore turbine – which includes the manufacture of components – found that even here, only 4.64 grams of CO2 per kWh were created.

“Nuclear power is generally the most expensive, complicated and dangerous means ever devised by human beings to boil water,” Sawyer said, summing up the anti-nuclear argument.

“Why anyone would want to use it to generate electricity is beyond me, unless they were interested – as most European states were in the early days of nuclear history – in what comes out the other end, which is fissionable material for nuclear weapons,” he added.

Who is this IPCC author Steve Sawyer you might wonder? He is the Secretary General of the Global Wind Energy Council, an advocacy group for wind energy with a strong anti-nuclear stance, as Sawyer’s comments indicate. He also spent 30 years as a top official for Greenpeace.

Now, Mr. Sawyer may very well be a great guy and a world expert on climate and extreme events (bio here in PDF). However, the spectacle of an IPCC author with a clear conflict of interest writing part of the report and then using that same report in his political advocacy just does not look good. If the IPCC were recommending drug safety standards and an author happened to be a top official at a company benefitting from the recommendations, the issues here would be obvious and unacceptable. The IPCC however plays by different rules. Post.