Cold Cities Less Sustainable Than Warm Cities, Research Suggests

Mar. 26, 2013

Living in colder climates in the US is more energy demanding than living in warmer climates. This is according to Dr Michael Sivak at the University of Michigan, who has published new research today, 28 March, in IOP Publishing’s journal Environmental Research Letters.

Dr Sivak has calculated that climate control in the coldest large metropolitan area in the country — Minneapolis — is about three-and-a-half times more energy demanding than in the warmest large metropolitan area — Miami.

Dr Sivak calculated this difference in energy demand using three parameters: the number of heating or cooling degree days in each area; the efficiencies of heating and cooling appliances; and the efficiencies of power-generating plants.

Not included in the analysis were the energy used to extract fuels from the ground, the losses during energy transmission, and energy costs.

“It has been taken for a fact that living in the warm regions of the US is less sustainable than living in the cold regions, based partly on the perceived energy needs for climate control; however, the present findings suggest a re-examination of the relative sustainability of living in warm versus cold climates.”

Heating degree days (HDDs) and cooling degree days (CDDs) are climatological measures that are designed to reflect the demand for energy needed to heat or cool a building. They are calculated by comparing the mean daily outdoor temperature with 18°C.

A day with a mean temperature of 10°C would have 8 HDDs and no CDDs, as the temperature is 8°C below 18°C. Analogously, a day with a mean temperature of 23°C would have 5 CDDs and no HDDs.

Based on a previous study, Dr Sivak showed that Minneapolis has 4376 heating degree days a year compared to 2423 cooling degree days in Miami.

In the study, Dr Sivak used a single measure for the efficiency of heating and cooling appliances, as most are currently rated using different measures so they cannot be directly

compared. His calculations showed that a typical air conditioner is about four times more energy efficient than a typical furnace.

“In simple terms, it takes less energy to cool a room down by one degree than it does to heat it up by one degree,” said Dr Sivak.

Grouping together climatology, the efficiency of heating and cooling appliances, and the efficiency of power-generating plants, Dr Sivak showed that Minneapolis was substantially more energy demanding than Miami.

“In the US, the energy consumption for air conditioning is of general concern but the required energy to heat is often taken for granted. Focus should also be turned to the opposite end of the scale — living in cold climates such as in Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Rochester, Buffalo and Chicago is more energy demanding, and therefore less sustainable from this point of view, than living in warm climates such as in Miami, Phoenix, Tampa, Orlando and Las Vegas,” Dr Sivak concluded.

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Wall Street Journal’s Crony Capitalist Conference Turns Sour

GlobalWarming.org: http://www.globalwarming.org/2013/03/27/wall-street-journals-crony-capitalist-conference-turns-sour/

Wall Street Journal’s Crony Capitalist Conference Turns Sour

by Myron Ebell on March 27, 2013

Times have changed since the Wall Street Journal held its first “ECO:nomics—Creating Environmental Capital” conference at the super-swanky Bacara Resort in Santa Barbara. I was there in 2008 (but, alas, stayed at the Best Western in downtown Santa Barbara) when several hundred investors and corporate CEOs listened to leading crony capitalists, including Jeff Immelt of GE, James Rogers of Duke Energy, Andrew Liveris of Dow Chemical, and John Doerr of Kleiner, Perkins, Caulfield and Byers (where Al Gore was also a partner), smugly explain how they were going to strike it rich off the backs of consumers and taxpayers with green energy subsidies and mandates, federal loan guarantees, and the higher energy prices that would make renewable energy competitive with coal, oil, and natural gas once cap-and-trade was enacted.

This year’s sixth annual conference, which I didn’t attend, was also held at the Bacara Resort, but the mood was apparently different. Yesterday, the Journal ran a six-page supplement that summarized the conference’s highlights. The lead article by John Bussey was headlined: “Green Investing: So Much Promise, So Little Return: At The Wall Street Journal’s ECO:nomics conference, the talk was about all the innovations taking place in renewable energy—and about all the investors who are losing interest.”

Bussey writes: “Given all the interest in protecting the environment from mankind’s rapid advance, you’d think this might be the best time ever to invest in renewable energy and the Next Big Green Thing. Guess again. Large parts of green-tech investment look like the torched and salted fields left behind by Roman conquerors: barren, lifeless—and bereft of a return on capital. Put another way: In some areas, if you aren’t already investor road kill, you’re likely the hedgehog in the headlights about to join your maker.”

On page two, an article on a talk by John Dears, chief investment officer of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (or Calpers), reveals that their “fund devoted to clean energy and technology which started in 2007 with $460 million has an annualized return of minus 9.7% to date.” Dears is quoted as telling the conference: “We have almost $900 million in investment expressly aimed at clean tech. We’re all familiar with the J-curve in private equity. Well, for Calpers, clean-tech investing has got an L-curve for “lose.” Our experience is that this has been a noble way to lose money.”

Yes, con artists gaming the system to raise energy prices, impoverish consumers, destroy jobs, and fleece taxpayers can still take comfort that theirs is “a noble way to lose money.” May it long remain so. The entire 2013 ECO:nomics program may be found here. Read it and gloat now—it may be the last one.

Another immediately discredited climate study tries to resurrect hockey stick

The mainstream media are reporting in breathless fashion about a new paper claiming current temperatures are their warmest in 4,000 years. Already, however, objective scientists are reporting serious flaws in the paper. The media may wish to paint a picture of runaway global warming, but the science tells a completely different story.

Recently graduated Ph.D. student Shaun Marcott has published a paper claiming he compiled a proxy temperature reconstruction indicating current temperatures are their warmest in at least 4,000 years. Proxy temperature reconstructions require careful scrutiny because the proxies are not direct temperature measurements, but represent other data and factors that may or may not have a close correlation with past temperatures. Some proxies are better than others. Also, an agenda-driven researcher can easily cherry-pick certain anomalous proxies that support a predetermined conclusion while ignoring a much larger set of proxies that tell a different story.

Perhaps the most notorious of agenda-driven proxy reconstructions was published by global warming alarmist Michael Mann. As a young, relatively unknown recent Ph.D. graduate, Mann attained wealth, fame and adulation among global warming alarmists after assembling a proxy temperature reconstruction that he claimed showed global temperatures underwent a steady, roughly 1,000-year decline followed by a sharp rise during the 20th century. The media reported on the Mann hockey stick reconstruction as if it settled the global warming debate, but objective scientists pointed out several crucial flaws that invalidated Mann’s claims. Eventually, Congress commissioned distinguished statistician Edward Wegman to review and report on Mann’s methods and conclusions. After assembling a blue ribbon panel of experts to study Mann’s temperature reconstruction, Wegman reported the criticisms of Mann’s reconstruction were “valid and compelling.”

The Marcott proxy reconstruction shares much in common with the Mann hockey stick. Marcott is a young, recently graduated Ph.D. student whose asserted temperature reconstruction has launched him out of obscurity into media fame. As was the case with Mann’s hockey stick, objective scientists quickly pointed out serious flaws in the Marcott reconstruction. Also similar to the Mann hockey stick, the media is ignoring the devastating critiques of the Marcott reconstruction and misleading the public into believing that we finally have a study showing essentially the same thing that Mann claimed before his hockey stick was discredited.

Although objective scientists have had little time so far to dig into the meat of Marcott’s data, methods and conclusions, their initial observations are devastating. Don Easterbrook, geology professor emeritus at Western Washington University, has published two papers available here and here summarizing and documenting many of the already discovered flaws in Marcott’s reconstruction. Easterbrook reports that at least one more such paper is on the way, as he and other objective scientists find more and more flaws and areas of concern in Marcott’s reconstruction as they continue to analyze it.

Easterbrook points out that 80 percent of the data used by Marcott reflect oceanic data, not atmospheric temperatures. “Thus, they may reflect temperature changes from ocean upwelling, changes in ocean currents, or any one of a number of ocean variations not related to atmospheric climates,” Easterbrook writes. Given the opportunities for cherry-picking anomalous data to support a predetermined conclusion (such as objective scientists found regarding the Mann hockey stick), Marcott’s heavy dependence on oceanic rather than atmospheric proxies “in itself means that the Marcott et al. temperatures are not a reliable measure of changing atmospheric climate,” Easterbrook reports.

Easterbrook also notes that Marcott recycled Mann’s proxies to help compile the small portion of Marcott’s land-based proxies. Discredited proxies by any other name are still discredited proxies. Perhaps most damaging, Easterbrook observes that many other published studies and data, including analysis of extremely reliable Greenland ice core data, completely contradict Marcott’s asserted proxy data.

When many temperature studies, including studies presented by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, indicate current global temperatures are cooler than the vast majority of the past 4,000 years, and then an outlier study with quickly identified serious flaws claims exactly the opposite, one would think the media would make note of the discrepancies. Unfortunately, the media has demonstrated little interest in doing so. There are several reasons for this.

First, the news media is prone to overhype the news events of the day. Hype sells newspapers and attracts viewers. This is the case for all news topics and certainly applies to global warming.

Second, fear captivates people. This is one of the reasons why television and print news contains so much bad news and so little good news. A single breathless report of impending global warming doom is going to rope in more viewers and readers than a whole collection of reports explaining that current temperatures are actually quite cool in historical perspective.

Third, it is no secret that the media drifts left on many issues, and drifts left on environmental issues in particular.

Combine these three factors and you have a textbook recipe for yellow journalism; a perfect storm representing all the reasons why people no longer trust the mainstReam media to be fair, balanced and accurate.

The scientific record shows quite clearly that current temperatures are significantly cooler than the 4,000-year average, yet the media uses a seriously flawed study to claim the opposite. Global warming alarmists put their trust in the media, while global warming realists put their trust in the science.

Hiding the slaughter

Big Wind hides evidence of turbine bird kills – and gets rewarded. Here’s how they do it.

Jim Wiegand

In 1984 the California Energy Commission said “many institutional, engineering, environmental and economic issues must be resolved before the industry is secure and its growth can be assured.” Though it was not clearly stated, the primary environmental issue alluded to was the extreme hazard that wind turbines posed to raptors.

Since the early 1980s, the industry has known there is no way its propeller-style turbines could ever be safe for raptors. With exposed blade tips spinning in open space at speeds up to 200 mph, it was impossible. Wind developers also knew they would have a public relations nightmare if people ever learned how many eagles are actually being cut in half – or left with a smashed wing, to stumble around for days before dying.

To hide this awful truth, strict wind farm operating guidelines were established – including high security, gag orders in leases and other agreements, and the prevention of accurate, meaningful mortality studies.

For the industry this business plan has succeeded quite well in keeping a lid on the mortality problem. While the public has some understanding that birds are killed by wind turbines, it doesn’t have a clue about the real mortality numbers. And the industry gets rewarded with subsidies, and immunity from endangered species and other wildlife laws.

Early studies identified the extent of the problem

To fully grasp the wind turbine mortality problem, one needs to examine the 2004 report from the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (APWRA). The study lasted five years (1998-2003), and researchers did not have full access to all the Altamont turbines.

This careful, honest effort analyzed turbine characteristics in relation to mortality and estimated mortality from body counts compiled in careful searches. Researchers then adjusted mortality numbers by examining statistical data based on searcher efficiency and other factors, such as carcass removal by predators and scavengers. The report even suggested that the mortality estimates probably erred on the low side, due to missed carcasses and other human errors.

This study stands in marked contrast to studies being conducted today, especially the Wildlife Reporting Response System that is currently the only analysis happening or permitted at most wind farms. The WRRS is the power companies’ own fatality reporting system, and allows paid personnel to collect and count carcasses. It explains why mortality numbers are always on the low side and why many high-profile species are disappearing near turbine installations.

Incredibly, the APWRA report actually admitted: “We found one raptor carcass buried under rocks and another stuffed in a ground squirrel burrow. One operator neglected to inform us when a golden eagle was removed as part of the WRRS. Based on these experiences, it is possible that we missed other carcasses that were removed.” (Chap. 3, pg. 52) It’s easy to see how human “errors” keep bird mortality low.

The APWRA study also documented that raptor food sources, turbine sizes and turbine placement all directly affect raptor mortality. It was thus able to identify many of the most dangerous turbines or groups of turbines – those with a history of killing golden eagles, kestrels, burrowing owls and red-tailed hawks.

Studies worsen as turbines proliferate and increase in size

The study also discussed how higher raptor mortality occurred when smaller towers were “upgraded” with larger turbines and proportionally longer blades. These wind turbines offered what raptors perceived as intermediate to very big windows of opportunity to fly through what looked like open spaces between towers, but were actually within the space occupied by much longer, rapidly moving rotor blades.

The result was significantly more fatalities of golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, American kestrels, burrowing owls, mallards, horned larks and western meadowlarks. Turbines with slower rotations per minute actually made it appear that there was more space and “greater windows of time.” This fooled birds, by giving them the illusion that they had open flight space between the rotating blades.

In fact, the illusion fools people, too. The newest turbines move their blades at 10-20 rotations per minute, which appears to be slow – but for their blade tips this translates into 100-200 mph!

Wind_Turbine_raptor_mortality_distances-1
All this was very important, because the industry was moving away from smaller turbines and installing much larger turbines, with much longer blades. However, the industry not only ignored the APWRA findings and rapidly installed thousands of these much larger turbines across America, despite their far greater dangers for birds and raptors. It also kept the APWRA out of the public’s awareness, and focused attention on new study results that reflected far less accurate (and honest) searches and surveys.

How the wind industry hides raptor mortality

The APWRA report also looked at the placement of carcasses in relation to turbine types. It documented that the distances carcasses were found from turbine towers increased significantly as turbine megawatt ratings and blade lengths increased. Based on sample of about 800 carcasses, the report revealed that birds were found an average of 94 feet (28.5) meters from 100Kw turbines on towers 81 feet (24.6 meters) high.

Obviously, taller turbines with longer blades and faster blade tip speeds will catapult stricken birds much further. Figure 1 shows how a turbine 2.5 times larger will result in an average carcass distance of 372 feet (113.5 meters) from the tower. The wind industry is acutely aware of this.

That is why it has restricted search areas to 165 feet (50 meters) around its bigger turbines. This ensures that far fewer bodies will be found – and turbine operators will not need to explain away as many carcasses.

Recent mortality studies like those conducted at the Wolfe Island wind project (2.3 MW turbines) and Criterion project in Maryland (2.5 MW turbines) should have used searches 655 feet (200 meters) from turbines, just to find the bulk (75-85%) of the fatalities. Of course, they did not do so. Instead, they restricted their searches to 165 feet – ensuring that they missed most raptor carcasses, and could issue statements claiming that their turbines were having minimal or “acceptable” effects on bird populations.

Other methods and biased formulas allow the industry to exclude or explain away carcasses. The latest Altamont Pass studies found far more bird carcasses, but Altamont operators still claim mortality declines by using new adjustment formulas and other exclusionary factors. (Figure 2) For example, industry analysts:

· Exclude certain carcasses. The 2005-2010 WRRS data show that 347 carcasses (primarily raptors) – plus 21 golden eagle carcasses – were excluded from mortality estimates, because industry personnel claimed they were found outside standard search procedures, said the “cause of death was unknown” (even when the birds’ heads had been sliced off), or removed carcasses ahead of a scheduled search.

· Exclude mortally wounded or crippled birds found during searches, even if they display turbine-related injuries. Even though many birds hit by turbine blades die within days, if they are still breathing when found, they are considered mobile – and thus not fatalities.

· Simply avoid searching near some of the most dangerous and lethal turbines. The industry justifies this exclusion by claiming that “the number of turbines monitored was reduced and spatially balanced for a randomized rolling panel design.” That this “reduction and balancing” excluded the most deadly portion of the Altamont facility was presented as coincidental or part of a proper scientific methodology.

The cold reality is that honest, scientific, accurate mortality studies in the Altamont Pass area would result in death tolls that would shock Americans. They would also raise serious questions about wind turbines throughout the United States, especially in major bird habitats like Oregon’s Shepherds Flat wind facility and the whooping cranes’ migratory corridor from Alberta, Canada to Texas.

The techniques discussed here help ensure that “monitoring” studies match the facility operators’ desired conclusions, and mortality figures are kept at “acceptable” levels.

The bird mortality disaster must no longer be hidden

Not only has the wind industry never solved its environmental problem. It has been hiding at least 90% of this slaughter for decades. In fact, the universal problem of hiding bird (and bat) mortality goes from bad to intolerable beyond the Altamont Pass boundaries, because studies in other areas across North America are far less rigorous, or even nonexistent, and many new turbines are sited in prime bird and bat habitats.

The real death toll, as reported by Paul Driessen and others, is thousands of raptors a year – and up to 39 million birds and bats of all species annually in the United States alone, year after year! This is intolerable, and unsustainable. It is leading to the inevitable extinction of many species, at least in many habitats, and perhaps in the entire Lower 48 States.

Meanwhile, assorted “experts” continue to insist that the greatest threats to golden eagles are other factors like hikers getting too close to their nests, even when most abandoned nests in Southern California are nowhere near any hiking trails and wind turbines continue to slaughter eagles.

It is essential that people realize that no energy source comes anywhere close to killing as many raptors as wind energy does. No other energy companies are allowed to pick up bodies of rare and protected species from around their production sites on a day-to-day basis, year-in and year-out. No other energy producer has a several thousand mile mortality foot print (the highly endangered whooping cranes’ migratory corridor), like what wind energy has.

Once people understand all of this, they will rightfully demand that the wind industry obey the same environmental rules that all other industries must follow. This will require that wind turbines be sited only where the risk of bird deaths is minimal to zero; that turbines be replaced with new designs that birds recognize as obstacles and thus avoid; that fines be levied for every bird death, as is done with other industries; and that industrial wind facilities not be permitted where these requirements cannot be met.

America’s wildlife, and proper application of our environmental laws, require nothing less.

___________

Jim Wiegand is an independent wildlife expert with decades of field observations and analytical work. He is vice president of the US region of Save the Eagles International, an organization devoted to researching, protecting and preserving avian species threatened by human encroachment and development.

Bjorn Lomborg: Green Cars Have a Dirty Little Secret

Producing and charging electric cars means heavy carbon-dioxide emissions.
By Bjorn Lomborg

Electric cars are promoted as the chic harbinger of an environmentally benign future. Ads assure us of “zero emissions,” and President Obama has promised a million on the road by 2015. With sales for 2012 coming in at about 50,000, that million-car figure is a pipe dream. Consumers remain wary of the cars’ limited range, higher price and the logistics of battery-charging. But for those who do own an electric car, at least there is the consolation that it’s truly green, right? Not really.

For proponents such as the actor and activist Leonardo DiCaprio, the main argument is that their electric cars—whether it’s a $100,000 Fisker Karma (Mr. DiCaprio’s ride) or a $28,000 Nissan Leaf—don’t contribute to global warming. And, sure, electric cars don’t emit carbon-dioxide on the road. But the energy used for their manufacture and continual battery charges certainly does—far more than most people realize.

A 2012 comprehensive life-cycle analysis in Journal of Industrial Ecology shows that almost half the lifetime carbon-dioxide emissions from an electric car come from the energy used to produce the car, especially the battery. The mining of lithium, for instance, is a less than green activity. By contrast, the manufacture of a gas-powered car accounts for 17% of its lifetime carbon-dioxide emissions. When an electric car rolls off the production line, it has already been responsible for 30,000 pounds of carbon-dioxide emission. The amount for making a conventional car: 14,000 pounds.
image

While electric-car owners may cruise around feeling virtuous, they still recharge using electricity overwhelmingly produced with fossil fuels. Thus, the life-cycle analysis shows that for every mile driven, the average electric car indirectly emits about six ounces of carbon-dioxide. This is still a lot better than a similar-size conventional car, which emits about 12 ounces per mile. But remember, the production of the electric car has already resulted in sizeable emissions—the equivalent of 80,000 miles of travel in the vehicle.

So unless the electric car is driven a lot, it will never get ahead environmentally. And that turns out to be a challenge. Consider the Nissan Leaf. It has only a 73-mile range per charge. Drivers attempting long road trips, as in one BBC test drive, have reported that recharging takes so long that the average speed is close to six miles per hour—a bit faster than your average jogger.

Charlie Drevna, president of the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, on how Washington’s fuel standards are increasing the price of cars and gas.

To make matters worse, the batteries in electric cars fade with time, just as they do in a cellphone. Nissan estimates that after five years, the less effective batteries in a typical Leaf bring the range down to 55 miles. As the MIT Technology Review cautioned last year: “Don’t Drive Your Nissan Leaf Too Much.”

If a typical electric car is driven 50,000 miles over its lifetime, the huge initial emissions from its manufacture means the car will actually have put more carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere than a similar-size gasoline-powered car driven the same number of miles. Similarly, if the energy used to recharge the electric car comes mostly from coal-fired power plants, it will be responsible for the emission of almost 15 ounces of carbon-dioxide for every one of the 50,000 miles it is driven—three ounces more than a similar gas-powered car.

Even if the electric car is driven for 90,000 miles and the owner stays away from coal-powered electricity, the car will cause just 24% less carbon-dioxide emission than its gas-powered cousin. This is a far cry from “zero emissions.” Over its entire lifetime, the electric car will be responsible for 8.7 tons of carbon dioxide less than the average conventional car.

Those 8.7 tons may sound like a considerable amount, but it’s not. The current best estimate of the global warming damage of an extra ton of carbon-dioxide is about $5. This means an optimistic assessment of the avoided carbon-dioxide associated with an electric car will allow the owner to spare the world about $44 in climate damage. On the European emissions market, credit for 8.7 tons of carbon-dioxide costs $48.

Yet the U.S. federal government essentially subsidizes electric-car buyers with up to $7,500. In addition, more than $5.5 billion in federal grants and loans go directly to battery and electric-car manufacturers like California-based Fisker Automotive and Tesla Motors TSLA +1.61% . This is a very poor deal for taxpayers.

The electric car might be great in a couple of decades but as a way to tackle global warming now it does virtually nothing. The real challenge is to get green energy that is cheaper than fossil fuels. That requires heavy investment in green research and development. Spending instead on subsidizing electric cars is putting the cart before the horse, and an inconvenient and expensive cart at that.

Mr. Lomborg, director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center in Washington, D.C., is the author of “The Skeptical Environmentalist” (Cambridge Press, 2001) and “Cool It” (Knopf, 2007).

A version of this article appeared March 11, 2013, on page A15 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Green Cars Have a Dirty Little Secret.