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  1. HAHA
    Well this video will be of interest as well:

    [Response: Indeed. I love it that it is ‘news’ when a journalist actually asks someone to back up their claims with evidence, for instance…. – gavin]

    Comment by harvey — 21 Nov 2010 @ 6:17 PM

  2. To be fair, this does somewhat perpetuate that whole somewhat-silly CO2-as-toxic meme. I’ve always been somewhat leery of framing GHGs as pollution, since it tends to engender misconceptions among the general public.

    Comment by Zeke Hausfather — 21 Nov 2010 @ 8:17 PM

  3. 2010/11/15: uComics: (cartoon – Toles) In the middle

    hat tip to MT for the button to get

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 21 Nov 2010 @ 9:20 PM

  4. CO2 is toxic. A little alcohol – good times – too much alcohol – vomiting. Surely if we all understand alcohol, we can understand that a little CO2 = good and a lot = bad.

    Comment by Actually Thoughtful — 21 Nov 2010 @ 9:45 PM

  5. Actually Thoughtful,

    CO2 is indeed toxic in large concentrations. However, unless you are in a closed space when CO2 is being emitted, anthropogenic CO2 emissions have little to do with toxicity.

    Comment by Zeke Hausfather — 21 Nov 2010 @ 11:14 PM

  6. All animal anesthetics guaranteed real:, I’m afraid:…/DirectionsforCO2EuthanasiaofRodents081409. doc –

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 21 Nov 2010 @ 11:42 PM

  7. This is supposed to be funny? Surely we should all be trying to encourage rational discussion, not demonising our opponents. This can play both ways.

    Comment by Annabelle — 21 Nov 2010 @ 11:55 PM

  8. Consider ocean acidification and tell me that CO2 is not pollution ;-) To me, this is a much clearer case than asphixiation of rats (or any other animals). With an increase in atmospheric CO2 that isn’t even approaching problematic for respiration of most land animals, you’re looking at a mass extinction of marine species. No matter how much some folks hate the idea, anthropogenic CO2 is, in any meaningful sense of the word, pollution.

    Comment by Chris — 22 Nov 2010 @ 12:07 AM

  9. CO2 is kind of like ozone in that way too. Small doses of O3 are bothersome. Heavy doses, toxic to humans and plants. In the troposphere it is harmful, up in the stratosphere it is helpful. And O3 is a byproduct of combustion.

    Amateur scientist at WitsEnd – Gail has a nice collection of links on ozone and her blog hosts personal collection of photos and tales of plant destruction from ozone.

    Atmospheric chemistry is fascinating and complicated.

    Comment by Richard Pauli — 22 Nov 2010 @ 1:00 AM

  10. Re 2 Zeke Hausfather – that’s understandable, but ‘heat pollution’, ‘sound(noise?) pollution’, and ‘light pollution’ are all real things (that I would imagine some people have heard of); perhaps pollution could be generally defined as anthropogenic fluxes of anything in sufficient amounts to significantly perturb the ecosystem or act as a negative externality to human affairs – although that might be too wide a net (? certain pundits pollute the airwaves with misinformation – debatable if that is covered in the definition just suggested), but certainly anthropogentic C emissions have become an important pollutant.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 22 Nov 2010 @ 1:00 AM

  11. Zeke, if people can’t grasp CO2 toxicity, what hope do they have with complicated subjects such as climate?

    Comment by Didactylos — 22 Nov 2010 @ 2:07 AM

  12. I have a simple definition of pollution
    If it causes direct harm
    builds up in the environment
    It’s Pollution

    Comment by duncan cairncross — 22 Nov 2010 @ 2:27 AM

  13. Annabelle: “opponents”? “rational”?

    I would contend that anyone capable of actual science doesn’t count as an opponent, and most of those political pundits who do fall in the opponent category really aren’t rational.

    Comment by Didactylos — 22 Nov 2010 @ 2:49 AM

  14. Zeke Hausfather:
    “I’ve always been somewhat leery of framing GHGs as pollution”

    You need to look up the word pollution in a dictionary.

    Pollution doesn’t mean something is toxic.
    Which is why light pollution won’t kill you, but it will stop you seeing the stars.

    Comment by The Ville — 22 Nov 2010 @ 3:34 AM

  15. Chris says, “To me, this is a much clearer case than asphixiation of rats…”


    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 22 Nov 2010 @ 5:16 AM

  16. Very true, and so also funny. The gentle “I’m sorry we said” getting torn asunder stirs a debate about the toxicity of CO2. Meanwhile the NY Times reports the China has gone from coal exporter to coal importer ( I am out of answers. Somehow we have to get past the debate of whether AGW is real and anything that gives credibility to the denailists hurts us. Zeke H is correct. Breathing an atmostphere of 500 ppm CO2 won’t poison you, and calling it “toxic” instead of focusing on its REAL harm (AGW and ocean acidification) just leaves an opening for attack.

    Comment by Mark — 22 Nov 2010 @ 5:23 AM

  17. The Ville #14 – you need to read the whole sentence of Zeke’s, not stop at the comma.

    \I’ve always been somewhat leery of framing GHGs as pollution, since it tends to engender misconceptions among the general public.\

    Mark #16 – I think China went to being a net importer in 2008. Asia and Africa coal use doubled from 2000 to 2008, and I’ve lost track of the rise since then and projected. It’s their cheapest source of energy – what do you recommend they do, and why? (A more important question imho than the USA emissions path).

    Comment by Hot Rod — 22 Nov 2010 @ 6:46 AM

  18. Annabelle 7,

    It’s a “laugh or you’re gonna cry” sort of thing.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 22 Nov 2010 @ 6:51 AM

  19. Best Tom Toles climate cartoon – on “adaptation” through technology

    Comment by Roger Albin — 22 Nov 2010 @ 8:03 AM

  20. I like it but I don’t think this belongs on RealClimate.

    Comment by Ken Fabos — 22 Nov 2010 @ 9:23 AM

  21. A few disconnected points

    1. China has been importing metallurgical coal for some time from Australia (used for refining ores)

    2. Zeke might use the old chemists saw, it’s the dose that makes the poison

    3. The comic is a better way of putting Eli’s take on Climategate, thatthat the primary legacy will be to drive home the lesson to scientists that they cannot sit out the attacks on Mann, Santer, Jones and others because the denial lobby will come for them soon enough. The lesson that still has to be learned is that someone who attacks you in the Wall Street Journal is not your friend at AGU.

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 22 Nov 2010 @ 10:00 AM

  22. Surely we should all be trying to encourage rational discussion, not demonizing our opponents

    Can you give me some pointers on how to have a rational discussion with angry tea partiers, science denialists and young Earth creationist? Thanks in advance.

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 22 Nov 2010 @ 10:17 AM

  23. One difficulty with partisan news is the crackpot factor, certainly. Another is in what they don’t say and don’t cover. Compare mentions of significant words or phrases in a google search. E.g., “Copenhagen” in the last year: 22,700 294

    “arctic” 24,400 235

    What’s not being said is just as damaging as what’s being said, or perhaps more so, as it’s more insidious.

    Comment by Steve Runge — 22 Nov 2010 @ 10:27 AM

  24. We are all straying well beyond “topic”, but I’m assuming this is an open thread of sorts.

    I certainly agree that you could easily define CO2 as pollution. My point was not that it -cannot- be classified as pollution, rather that framing it as pollution in the context of public education risks creating a misconception that its the toxicity rather than secondary effects of CO2 (and other GHGs) that is significant for humans (as a commenter pointed out, in the case of ocean acidification a discussion of CO2 toxicity is a bit more appropriate, though it is in the somewhat-different form of carbonic acid at that point).

    Comment by Zeke Hausfather — 22 Nov 2010 @ 10:30 AM

  25. I second Zeke’s reservation.

    Some comments don’t adress his point (that the example is poorly chosen from a PR/effective communication perspective) but rather try to belittle him as not understanding something that I’m sure he does. That’s not helpful, and it’s exactly the style of overly defensive commenting that we have to move away from.

    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 22 Nov 2010 @ 10:36 AM

  26. It might be noted that were one denialist argument true, then CO-2 would in fact be toxic to humans at the surface. Namely, the argument has been made that CO_2 can’t cause global warming because it is heavier than air and hence concentrated near the surface. In fact, CO_2 is well mixed in the atmosphere within a relatively short time. But there have been occasions in Africa where CO_2 emitted from a lake did produce ground level concentrations sufficient to kill people. The fact that this doesn’t happen routinely indicates that emitted CO_2 in the atmosphere is well mixed.

    Comment by Leonard Evens — 22 Nov 2010 @ 10:52 AM

  27. I’d like some pointers too please, on how to critique mitigation policy responses such as the EU cap/trade, the German solar f-i-ts, the UK Climate Change Act, the US ethanol blend – in fact every policy response I’ve ever seen really – as wholly ineffective in having any material impact on the global CO2 ppm concentrations upward trend, while being very costly, and hence worthy of abandonment.

    How should I do that without being caricatured like the fire-breathing merchant in the cartoon above, as a denier, flat-earther, white middle-class middle-aged, dismisser, obstructionist, creationist?


    Comment by Hot Rod — 22 Nov 2010 @ 11:19 AM

  28. ‘Retromingent’
    Thank you for that!

    Hank, spot on.

    Generally, too much CO2 is a bad thing. I enjoy fussing over terminology as much as the next guy, but really there’s arguing the finer points and then there’s just knee-jerking because something doesn’t jibe with your unexamined, stock response to things. As my old, exasperated calculus teacher used to exhort some of the more feint hearted students, “Push it through!” (i.e., make the effort and force your brain to think it out, you G.D. lazy bastards.)

    Comment by Radge Havers — 22 Nov 2010 @ 11:35 AM

  29. Oh, geeze. CO2 is like everything else. Too much can be good or bad, and too little can be bad or good, and somewhere in between things may change one or more times in either or both directions.

    Inhale anhydrous lime or tie your to a large rock and throw it in a pond. Death at both extremes, but in the middle, good old H2O is great stuff.

    This “CO2 is a pollutant / poison / toxin / bad thing” is one of the reasons people don’t take climate science seriously. TOO MUCH is a bad thing, and the message needs to be “TOO MUCH is a pollutant / poison / toxin / bad thing”, not just the unqualified statements that all too often get made.

    And to be clear, there is already TOO MUCH.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 22 Nov 2010 @ 11:36 AM

  30. Hot Rod@27, How about proposing alternative mitigation schemes that are demonstrably effective and consistent with your values? There has been near absolute silence from the political right on this front. Start by acknowledging the problem exists. Learn about the problem sufficiently to propose intelligent strategies.

    If you want to influence the solution, be part of the solution.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 22 Nov 2010 @ 12:07 PM

  31. CO2 is a pollutant?

    Well, sure, it can be.

    Nitrogen, too, and it’s normally 80% or so of the atmosphere.


    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 22 Nov 2010 @ 12:19 PM

  32. Ray Ladbury – ‘How about proposing alternative mitigation schemes that are demonstrably effective’.

    I’ve not found any that are, regardless of values, that’s my problem. I thought I’d first look at all the plans that have been proposed, like the ones I mentioned above, since they were likely to be the best, and most likely to be capable of implementation. But I couldn’t see how they made any difference to any IPCC projections, the effects were tiny.

    There’s no real need to ‘acknowledge’ anything – it’s like an exam question, ‘how would you set about stabilising CO2 at X (choose your number) given a set BAU scenario that has it going much higher than that’.

    I didn’t want to debate the policies themselves, just how to be free to discuss and debate the (im)plausibility of those we have been offered without being called names.

    You mention the political right – it’s the automatic politicisation of the policy discussion that I am talking about; I find it attracts damaging labels like the ones I listed. It shouldn’t.

    Comment by Hot Rod — 22 Nov 2010 @ 12:45 PM

  33. Patrick 027, and (mostly…) others, the problem IMO is that when criminal or civil wrongs are involved, and in fact when science is involved, things need to have precise definitions. Common popular understanding and definition of stuff is generally not helpful in legal or scientific circles. Though it can be expedient to dumb down precise legal and scientific meanings for those that wish to apply well-defined bad stuff to other stuff they want to taint and demonize. “Pollution,” “addiction,” “radiation,” and others are current classic examples.

    From some comments here, thunderstorms are pollution. Now this might be acceptable for a general broad commoner expression of dislike, but it is of no help in scientific and legal circles, for instance.

    Comment by Rod B — 22 Nov 2010 @ 1:26 PM

  34. In my #82 of the previous ‘One Year Later’ post I noted, “From this post and comments, it would appear that nobody noticed the election results of Nov 2.”

    I guess this cartoon is the reaction.

    Science was doing ok until it started activating moronic zealotry.

    This moronic zealotry led to the absurdity that CO2 is toxic. Lumber is also toxic, if a truck load of it runs over you.

    And of course there can be slight ocean acidification but further moronic zealotry has translated into Secy. Lubchenko showing Congress that ascetic acid in vinegar can dissolve chalk. And more moderately, use of the terminology, “ocean acidification”, is using a scientific technical truth in a way that tries to misguide the vast herd of gullible folks that we are.

    As I say, it did not work, and I suspect it had something to do with enabling the huge setback of Nov. 2.

    We also hear the moronic pointing to every viscisitude of weather as evidence of global warming. And this repeatedly backfires. Even if it is true in part.

    And also trying to explain the problem, our Furry Friend #29 here says, ” This “CO2 is a pollutant / poison / toxin / bad thing” is one of the reasons people don’t take climate science seriously.”

    But as the cartoon says, “clearly this needs attention”.

    Now along comes Hot Rod #27, “- – – in fact every policy response I’ve ever seen really – as wholly ineffective in having any material impact on the global CO2 ppm concentrations upward trend, while being very costly, and hence worthy of abandonment.

    So what would be worthy of pursuing and even possible in the present political climate? I thought you would never ask!

    For those who are averse to repetition, I would add that the following might well benefit from new kinds of trees such as might be possible with genetic modification. I am looking to enlist Craig Ventner in this after seeing his work on 60 Minutes last night. He also know how to think big.

    So try reading this again in light of the cartoon above:

    The game winning answer to global warming is to create standing forests, where every ton of newly existing forest mass, on a sustaining basis, compensates by CO2 capture for the burning of a ton of coal, approximately. Key to this solution is distribution of water in North America on a continental basis.

    I have been dismayed by promotion of electric vehicles with implicit increased use of electricity and the associated increase in CO2. Viable, large scale solutions to this problem have been absent. But I have been shocked by the planning put forward by the US EPA ** regarding ‘carbon’ capture and sequestration (CCS), where the capture cost burden per ton of coal used would be up to $180-$320. This would be for capture of CO2 only, with additional costs for transportation and pumping it into caverns being not addressed, but acknowledged as additional expense.

    Thus motivated, I looked for a better solution, and found that China seems to have taken the lead over our environmentalists in this very practical matter. A year ago, in a speech about how China was planning to react to the global warming problem, President Hu spoke of “forest carbon”. ***
    It is not a big step to think that this kind of solution would be possible in North America, Brazil perhaps, and other places yet to be identified. It is a big step to think big about water distribution that would be needed to accomplish CCS on the needed scale, but in North America this is within reach, with the action of wise government assumed. Of course there would be a need for due diligence in protecting Northern ecosystems, as well as due deference to rights of others. The goal of CO2 mitigation is not just our concern, so there would seem to be motivation for Canada to lend their essential support to such a project.

    Every ton of forest mass, that exists on a sustaining basis, sequesters CO2 sufficiently to compensate for the burning of a ton of coal, approximately. As it grows, it captures that CO2 from the atmosphere. Mature forests must be maintained and harvested wisely, and new forests must continue to grow.

    Using minimally productive land in selected regions, a fifty year project should be possible, where fifty years of coal fired power plant operation would be supported. In this time we would need to solve the problems of nuclear waste, so that there could be an eventual transition to that form of energy. During this fifty years, we would also need to work toward minimizing the amount of energy needed for our vehicles.

    This forest project, along with ancillary agricultural development, would be quickly self supporting. We know about the agricultural results from the latest California Aquaduct project implemented in 1963 through the California Central Valley. The forest part would be something new.

    The immediate benefit of such a project would be high quantity job creation, but up front investment in the permanent forest infrastructure would be repaid over the long term of highly productive operation. A large cadre of trained workers for forest management, a large expansion of agricultural operations, and a long term flow of export products would lift us from our current employment debacle.

    We see this as a public project that should appeal to all political strains, since it would create a backbone infrastructure that would set the stage for use of energy to continue functioning of our developed world without damage to the global environment.

    Implementing such a concept would require much detail in its actual design, but feasibility in general is not in question. This would be a massive federal project that must be handled by government, both in regard to international water negotiations and financial arrangements.

    Is there a political force that can handle such a project?

    ** The announced plan by the EPA is to require ‘best available technology’ and the recent report by them (Sept 2010) said ‘carbon’ capture would cost up to $95 per ton of CO2. Working this out in terms of the burden on the use of a ton of coal shows that the burden for use of a ton of Powder River Basin coal (half the element carbon by weight) will be about $180 per ton of that coal, and higher carbon coal would incur proportionately higher burden, up to around $320 per ton.
    *** President Hu said, “— we will energetically increase forest carbon — we will endeavor to increase forest coverage by 40 million hectares and forest stock volume by 1.3 billion cubic meters by 2020 from 2005 levels.” ( This was reported by Joe Romm at his ‘climateprogress’ web site. See – )

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 22 Nov 2010 @ 1:42 PM

  35. Hot Rod, It has been–if you don’t want to politicize the discussion, shall we say, those who favor strong government–who have proposed most of the solutions for dealing with CO2, while the small government types have been in denial of the problem. It is no good to decry politicization of an issue when political apointees and representatives have already launched witchhunts against the scientific community.

    Acknowledging that there is a threat is actually quite important, as it discredits those advocating inaction. We can then talk about what actions are appropriate.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 22 Nov 2010 @ 1:44 PM

  36. An understanding of the nature of CO2 should be quite obvious. An animal body takes in food, extracts useful nutrients and eliminates what is not metabolized as poop. Part of metabolism is the use of oxygen. An animal breathes in air and uses the oxygen as part of its metabolism. Another waste product of metabolism is CO2. The body oxidizes carbon in the blood and eliminates it with every exhaling breath. CO2 is a waste product. Plants love it. They couldn’t exist without it.

    Anthropogenic CO2 is quite poisonous even in low concentrations. Trapped in a mine, miners will perish from CO2 poisoning long before enough oxygen to breath has been exhausted. A plastic sack closed over one’s head can demonstrate how quickly this can happen.

    Volcanic CO2 from Lake Nyos, in Cameroon and other places has been clearly reported to poison animals and people to death in their sleep as it wafted out across the land in open air.

    CO2 is a powerful gas. Even in low concentrations it can be poisonous to animals. At incredibly low concentrations it acts as a greenhouse gas, trapping heat in the atmosphere. Ridiculing these effects simply means one is uninformed at the most basic levels of understanding of the natural world.

    Comment by Tim Jones — 22 Nov 2010 @ 2:03 PM

  37. Dear Hot Rod,
    Don’t mind the trolls who call you names because they’re politically bigoted.
    If you want to be taken seriously, I think your best best (unless you happen to have a lot of money to spend on PR) is to be serious. Like, you know, show your numbers. Instead of simply asserting that such and such policy isn’t having a significant effect, you could state your estimate of effect you figure it’s having and how you arrived at that estimate. Then there could possibly maybe be some productive discussion. RC isn’t the place for it of course but you could post a link to some place where you want to have it. I for one don’t care about your political background as long as it doesn’t manifest in some kind of irrationality.
    We have an alternative mitigation scheme by the way. It’s called Fee & Dividend:

    Comment by Anonymous Coward — 22 Nov 2010 @ 2:15 PM

  38. hot rod,

    – Be upfront and honest about the reasons for your objections.

    – Don’t challenge the science as a proxy for really challenging the policies.

    – Suggest alternatives that are more effective (even if they don’t meet all your criteria of desirability)

    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 22 Nov 2010 @ 2:36 PM

  39. 37 anonanon

    Now I understand why you are so intransigent about a solution that could keep our supply of energy and our industrial system clicking along sort of.

    Fee and Dividend kicks heck out of power producers, and the ‘dividend’ is used to alleviate the cost burden to the poor that the fee would obviously cause. It will work to reduce production of electricity from the lower cost fuels. Sounds good? Sure. But the enterprising part of our economy also gets heck kicked out of it. And there is no dividend going there.

    I read somewhere that climate scientists have a Luddite agenda. This kind of thing is appropriately called that. (According to Wikipedia, perish the thought, the Luddites tried to stop the industrial revolution by breaking the mechanized weaving machines being introduced.)

    Climate scientists should take care to not let such thinking rub off on them. But since climate scientists are needed in working out real solutions, that taking care should not block such activities. However, they need to check whatever lingering Ludditisms they carry, at the door. Otherwise the next election will be an even worse trouncing.

    Was it you that wanted everyone to live on potatoes from their backyard?

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 22 Nov 2010 @ 2:47 PM

  40. As in illustration of the lack of seriousness invovled in not showing your numbers, Jim Bullis posts his super-forest on every other RC thread but has so far not shown that its “feasibility in general is not in question”. When he posted some numbers, they were more than an order of magnitude off as compared to all the published research in forest productivity linked in the thread (as well as all I could Google).
    Forests are potentially a good mitigation wedge (good enough that it would be criminally negligent not to pursue it IMHO) but they can not replace emission reductions. Current emissions are so high that the numbers simply don’t work with current tree species and forestry practices (as far as I know).
    Forests are also a liability in that they are vulnerable to climate change and can release their carbon by fire or decomposition. Strategically, relying mainly on standing forests when we face potentially catastrophic climate change would be outrageously reckless.

    Comment by Anonymous Coward — 22 Nov 2010 @ 2:49 PM

  41. 40 anonanon

    Neither of us has been able to find relevant published research on forest productivity. Nobody talks about standing forests. Everybody wants to harvest wood early. I insist on minimal harvesting and only late in forest life.

    It is your assertion that my productivity estimates are off by an order of magnitude, and it is my assertion that there is uncertainty in my estimates. By the way, I did not count root structure mass, which could more than double the estimate I provided. But 40 tons per ha, per year, is a challenge to be sure. Curiously, those best equipped to work on this are hiding behind their existing trees and throwing rocks at the idea of new forests.

    And the ultimate sacrosanct territory is water, and the defenders of the status quo there are entirely forgetting of their concern about global warming when the idea of redistributing water is broached.

    But in the past, one of the favorite ways to tar the new forest idea has been to accuse it of requiring geo-engineering of trees. Genetically engineered trees may well bring us the kind of trees that would thrive in areas not already forested. I would prefer to find the right tree from the existing species, but maybe Craig Ventner could bring us fast growing, useful wood producers, like a variation on the Lebanon Cedars. Will that get the tree people out?

    The relevant question on this page is which has the better chance of winning in Congress: Superforesters or Luddites?

    (Go read at Wikipedia what happened to the Luddites.)

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 22 Nov 2010 @ 3:17 PM

  42. What CO2 toxic? A couple of years ago on UK television, chef Jamie Oliver presented a demonstration of unwanted male chicks of mass-market egg-laying hens being gassed with CO2, gasping for breath and passing out, while an industry representative explained that CO2 was “non-toxic”, and so, we were supposed to understand, it was suitable for the purpose.

    Comment by Jim Roland — 22 Nov 2010 @ 3:19 PM

  43. How very “Climate science from climate scientists”.

    Comment by curious george — 22 Nov 2010 @ 3:45 PM

  44. 40 anonanon

    Did you forget that I have other bizarre ways of reducing emissions? (I call them plans.)

    Yes, new forests will not do everything. They would just be a rational way to keep the US economy going as transitions in other areas were implemented.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 22 Nov 2010 @ 4:04 PM

  45. Jim Bullis wrote: “I read somewhere that climate scientists have a Luddite agenda. This kind of thing is appropriately called that.”

    On the contrary, the “Luddites” are those who seek to delay and obstruct the transition to a 21st century energy economy based on harvesting an endless supply of abundant, ubiquitous wind, solar, geothermal and hydro energy, in order to perpetuate a 19th century energy economy based on mining and burning a limited supply of toxic fossil fuels.

    Which, as I understand it, is in fact the purpose of the geoengineering scheme that you write about on every comment thread on this site.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 22 Nov 2010 @ 4:09 PM

  46. Jim Bullis,
    The charge of Luddism is unwarranted. There are countries which have productive capital-intensive economies and relatively low per capita emissions. Bringing emissions down to zero is another matter entierly and may not be feasible but we’re only talking about deep cuts (we will rely on the oceans and vegetation to absorb a substantial amount of carbon from the atmpsphere).
    Deep cuts make emissions offsetting more feasible by the way since they substatially lower the amount of carbon which needs to be sequestered.

    Fee & Dividend gives businesses a dividend if they do not consume much fossil fuels and do not cater mostly to the well-off. The dividend takes the form of an increase in the disposable income of their customers and lower real labor costs. There is no direct dividend because businesses are only useful to the extent that they provide affordable products people want to buy. Businesses which lose customers may die. That’s how our economy works and Fee & Dividend would not interfere with that.
    Small business owners would get a check which may allow them to make it if their business becomes less profitable by the way.

    But that’s way off-topic. Let’s have this discussion elsewhere (if you want to have a discussion).

    Comment by Anonymous Coward — 22 Nov 2010 @ 4:09 PM

  47. 34 :

    “moronic zealotry has translated into Secy. Lubchenko showing Congress that ascetic acid in vinegar can dissolve chalk. ”

    Ascetic acid may add a kick to Ways and Means committee discussions of fiscal austerity, but for instant testimony, nothing beats moronic anhydride– Just add water and enter the results without objection.

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 22 Nov 2010 @ 4:33 PM

  48. JB 34: I have been dismayed by promotion of electric vehicles with implicit increased use of electricity and the associated increase in CO2.

    BPL: So let’s ban any new coal plants and get electricity from other sources.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 22 Nov 2010 @ 4:49 PM

  49. JB 39: Fee and Dividend kicks heck out of power producers, and the ‘dividend’ is used to alleviate the cost burden to the poor that the fee would obviously cause. It will work to reduce production of electricity from the lower cost fuels. Sounds good? Sure. But the enterprising part of our economy also gets heck kicked out of it.

    BPL: Hello? If coal gets more expensive, solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, tidal, wave, and advanced nuclear get comparatively more attractive. People have incentive to develop that.

    The fossil fuel and utility industries are hardly exemplars of cutting-edge research and innovation. Innovation is what they’re trying their damnedest to sabotage.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 22 Nov 2010 @ 4:52 PM

  50. Comment by Chris on 22 November 2010 @ 12:07 AM:

    “Consider ocean acidification and tell me that CO2 is not pollution”

    This is absolute nonsense!

    The ocean can never become acidic (i.e., pH H2CO3

    Carbonic acid reacts with solid CaCO3 and MgCO3 to form bicarbonate salts:

    H2CO3+ CaCO3 —–> Ca2(HCO3)

    H2CO3+ MgCO3 —–> Mg2(HCO3)

    A freshly-prepared solution of NaHCO3 has pH of 8.3 at 20 deg C.

    I have seen articles on some blogs that show pH mesurements of sea water to +/- 0.001 units. This is nuts. It is difficukt to measure pH to +/- 0.01 units with good accuracy in the lab where there is constant temperature and pressure.

    The large and prevelant deposits of limestone indicates the earth’s atmosphere once had large amounts of CO2.

    Comment by Harold Pierce Jr — 22 Nov 2010 @ 4:56 PM

  51. 45 Secular Animist

    You make a fair point. And I am accordingly stating that any new technology that scales to make a reasonable impact on the problem is fine. Maybe it will take some of the pressure off my (so to speak) forest project.

    But now let’s talk about how things are in the present day industrial system. Coal defines the price of electricity in both USA and China to name a couple places. Anything that can beat this price will be used. But it is the planning price for any business thinking about how to operate in the future, which is the key to a functional economy. And coal sets the cost of energy for now and the far distant future. Reliable alternatives do not exist at a scale that makes them even a factor in planning.

    I argue that it is unwise to break this system until something better is in place. I only look to the new forest concept to carry over until new stuff is in reach.

    By the way, the water part of the project is potentially key to the algae projects that would create fuel, not that this would sequester CO2, but it could function as a CO2 give and take system. I have yet to determine if this can happen on the needed scale, though genetically engineered algae seems quite powerful.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 22 Nov 2010 @ 5:22 PM

  52. 49 BPL

    While, as you say, ‘people have incentive to develop that -‘, when the lights go out, computers go black, and the jobs are gone, they will be too busy trying to grow parsnips in their back yards to get any development projects going.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 22 Nov 2010 @ 5:30 PM

  53. The large and prevelant deposits of limestone indicates the earth’s atmosphere once had large amounts of CO2.
    Comment by Harold Pierce Jr

    And where were you at the time? Not dining on fresh seafood certainly.

    Comment by flxible — 22 Nov 2010 @ 5:33 PM

  54. 46 Anonanon,

    What might those capital intensive economies with low emissions be?

    A few countries like Norway with enormous hydro? Sure.

    France of course has opted for nuclear in a big way. There seem to be some differences of opinion about how they handle waste, but if that is worked out, fine.

    In the USA, I think it would be easier to get Western states to host standing forests than Yucca Mountains.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 22 Nov 2010 @ 5:36 PM

  55. 50 Harold Pierce,

    Folks here play games with words, and distinguish between ‘becoming acidic’ which of course the ocean will not, and ‘becoming more acidic’ which only means a shift in the direction of acid, and ‘acidification’ which also only means a shift.

    Thus, it is the practice to trick the gullible into thinking their eyes will be blinded if they go in the ocean. Or that schools will not have chalk to write on blackboards because the ocean will eat it all up. (Yah, I know, this dates me.)

    I have been puzzled about why calcite shelled creatures which would grow more rapidly in warm water will not also capture and sequester CO2. You perhaps, can explain this?

    [Response: It’s the other way around, production of calcite drives the outgassing of CO2 (look up ‘carbonate pump’). – gavin]

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 22 Nov 2010 @ 5:47 PM

  56. Jim Bullis wrote: “Coal defines the price of electricity in both USA and China to name a couple places. Anything that can beat this price will be used.”

    Coal “defines the price of electricity” only because the price of coal does not reflect its full cost, which is “externalized” (i.e. foisted off on the public). Hence the need for a mechanism such as a carbon tax or cap-and-trade to internalize the full costs of burning coal into its price.

    Jim Bullis wrote: “Reliable alternatives do not exist at a scale that makes them even a factor in planning.”

    According to WorldWatch Institute, for the last two years in a row, “in both the United States and Europe, more renewable power capacity was added than conventional power capacity (coal, gas, nuclear). Renewables accounted for 60 percent of newly installed power capacity in Europe in 2009, and nearly 20 percent of annual power production … Wind power additions reached a record high of 38 GW … Solar PV additions reached a record high of 7 GW …”

    Meanwhile the USA has approved construction of multiple utility-scale concentrating solar thermal power plants on public lands, including what will be the world’s largest such power plant to date, and including plants with thermal storage that will provide 24×7 baseload power. Major offshore wind energy projects have also been approved. Google announced a huge investment in a project to build an offshore power transmission grid specifically to accommodate the expected rapid growth of offshore wind in the mid-Atlantic region.

    Meanwhile utilities are indeed planning for the smart-grid upgrades needed to accommodate an expected dramatic increase in small-to-large-scale, distributed, intermittent renewable energy sources, grid storage, increased use of electric vehicles, etc. and are working with major technology corporations like Intel and GE to implement the necessary technology.

    The fact is that contrary to your assertion, reliable alternatives DO exist, they are already being scaled up rapidly, and they can be scaled up even more rapidly given the policies to do so.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 22 Nov 2010 @ 6:15 PM

  57. 55 Thanks gavin,

    However, the production of calcite, whatever it does, also ends with calcite which is substantially composed of CO2 and it is a hard stuff that lies around a long time. So we have to conclude that not all the CO2 is outgassed.

    True, if you soak calcite in ascetic acid it might dissolve and release the CO2. And I can understand that we should head things off before carbonic acid gets strong enough to do this. (Hence the woods, funny cars, bizarre cogeneration, trucks etc.- – big stuff.)

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 22 Nov 2010 @ 6:37 PM

  58. 56 Secular Animist

    You point out reasonable possibilities, but as I weigh them and have weighed them I conclude differently about the potential.

    One thing though, the things said and the things really done that amount to anything, often differ.

    And with all due respect for Google, the last thing to impress me is what Google does in the field of energy. They have enough money to turn the moon into green cheese, so when they make a “huge investment”, it does not count for much. Under any calculation, their plug-in Prius project accomplished little, and under mine it accomplished much less than a little. These are people who have great mastery of information and marketing, but are TinkerBells when it comes to energy.

    Ask Google the physics test question: How much heat energy in kWhrs does it take to make a kWhr of electricity?

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 22 Nov 2010 @ 6:50 PM

  59. Harold Pierce Jr – how strange that seawater when CO2 rich air is bubbled through it exhibits a reduction in pH! An experiment I’ve seen done.
    I’m not a chemist so perhaps others could check but I understand this reaction occurs

    CO2 + H2O to H2CO3 to H(+) + HCO3(-) to 2H+ + CO3(2-)

    which results in Carbonate ions and lowered pH but another more common reaction also occurs

    CO2 + H2O + CO3(2-) to 2HCO3
    which does not change pH but consumes carbonate ions. Net result, less carbonate ions and lower pH.

    Comment by Ken Fabos — 22 Nov 2010 @ 7:27 PM

  60. 55 Jim Bullis wrote:

    Folks here play games with words, and distinguish between ‘becoming acidic’ which of course the ocean will not, and ‘becoming more acidic’ which only means a shift in the direction of acid, and ‘acidification’ which also only means a shift.

    Thus, it is the practice to trick the gullible into thinking their eyes will be blinded if they go in the ocean. Or that schools will not have chalk to write on blackboards because the ocean will eat it all up. (Yah, I know, this dates me.)

    Jim, it’s just the way the language is. “Becoming acidic” and “becoming more acidic” have different meanings. The first ties a change in pH to an absolute value, whereas the second simply describes the direction of change. It’s the same as saying it “got cold” and it “got colder”. These phrases have different meanings. To communicate the same information in another way requires complicating the language, e.g., saying it “got less warm” instead of it “got colder”—both are correct, but only one is sensible. I used to live in NC and might well have said that it “got colder” in the winter when the highs were only in the 50’s F. However, that’s a lot warmer than 20’s F that my family got in MI, but both are colder than the 80’s F I’m getting in Hawaii. Was I tricking the gullible when I said that it had gotten colder in NC? Did people think that, because I said it got colder, they would freeze solid if they went outside? Of course not.

    There is nothing wrong with the phrase, and only nuts would think those things. Likewise, ocean acidification is a good and correct description of the process, the ocean *is* becoming more acidic, and, of the hundreds of people I’ve personally talked to about it (I’m a Ph.D. candidate, and study OA effects), no one has ever had the misconception that because of ocean acidification “their eyes will be blinded if they go in the ocean.”

    I have been puzzled about why calcite shelled creatures which would grow more rapidly in warm water will not also capture and sequester CO2. You perhaps, can explain this?

    First, why do you think calcitic organisms would grow more rapidly in warmer water (or aragonitic ones either, for that matter)? Growth rates for any organism depend on many factors, and temperature is certainly an important one for most marine organisms. Organisms that are below their thermal optima in nature will likely respond positively to some warming, while those are at or above their thermal optima will respond negatively. Many tropical and polar species (especially Antarctic species) are close to their upper thermal limits, so even a little bit of warming is usually harmful for them. Temperate species are generally a little more flexible in this regard. This is only considering temperature though, and a lot more is changing in the ocean that just temperature (carbonate chemistry, primary production, stratification, nutrient availability, species composition, food quality/characteristics, etc.). To reiterate though, there’s no reason to think that calcifying organisms in general will grow faster in a warmer ocean, and in fact, corals and other reef organisms which are major sources of carbonate production tend to grow much more slowly in water only a bit warmer than normal.

    Second, carbonate mineral precipitation doesn’t capture CO2, it releases it (as mentioned). The precipitation of carbonate minerals removes inorganic carbon from solution, but also reduces the alkalinity by two equivalents. This shifts the overall DIC speciation toward CO2, thereby increasing the CO2 concentration in the water, and ultimately in the atmosphere. Carbonate mineral precipitation in the ocean does not reduce atmospheric CO2, it increases it. The process that removes atmospheric CO2 is chemical weathering, principally of silicate minerals, wherein CO2 (as carbonic acid) reacts to dissolve the minerals, releasing HCO3-, and cations (Ca++, Mg++, K+, etc.). These eventually make their way into the ocean and precipitate as carbonate minerals, with the process of precipitation sequestering only half to the amount of C that was removed by the chemical weathering.

    Increased rates of calcification in the ocean will increase atmospheric CO2 (though the effect isn’t large on short timescales) while increased rates of chemical weathering reduce atmospheric CO2. Adding CO2 to the environment reduce carbonate mineral accumulation rates in the ocean (and by a lot with a big slug of CO2) but increase chemical weather rates. Unfortunately, chemical weathering is just really darn slow.


    Comment by Chris — 22 Nov 2010 @ 7:47 PM

  61. Jim, please, get a blog, or use the one you have; putting everything in every active topic at RC like this makes you look like you’re disorganized.

    Have you read this?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 22 Nov 2010 @ 7:57 PM

  62. I have a theory for global warming that I think has been missed.

    The Thermodynamic Theory of Political Promotion

    We all know that the balloons full of hot air rise and the same is true of politicians. The more hot air they have the more successful they become. Once the hot air runs out, they begin a long, and hopefully gentle, slide back down before they finally they get their head out of the clouds and can feel solid ground beneath their feet.

    While they are up in the clouds, floating in the realm of the recently irrelevant, their grasp on reality lessens until they are free to speak without any reference to what members of the public would think of as ‘real life’. This realm is known as the crapposphere and it only has a limited capacity to absorb new politicians, ejecting the less active ones to maintain equilibrium. It has been shown that up in the crapposphere there is a clear negative correlation between amount of hot air released and practicality of ideas suggested.

    One of the more worrying aspects of this theory is that the increasing release of hot air by politicians in the last 10 years may be contributing significantly to global warming. Some brave politicians have suggested that such releases of hot air into the crapposphere are counterproductive, citing recent studies that suggest that despite its small size, the impact of the crapposphere on the climate is extremely significant, but these people have been shot down very quickly. If you want to remain a politician you should probably ignore this issue and hope that it will go away; you may even want to spout some ill-informed hot air yourself to ensure that your place in parliament is not endangered.

    Comment by George Fripley — 22 Nov 2010 @ 8:05 PM

  63. Re Jim Bullis 51,57,58

    Further to Secular Animist’s point,

    Jim Bullis: Anything that can beat this price will be used. But it is the planning price for any business thinking about how to operate in the future, which is the key to a functional economy. And coal sets the cost of energy for now and the far distant future.

    Apparently it is not where the growth is now in at least parts of the world; how long until it is not growing anywhere, and then shrinking…

    I argue that it is unwise to break this system until something better is in place. I only look to the new forest concept to carry over until new stuff is in reach.

    But isn’t it unwisw to break the system by changing non-forest into forest until something better is in place? And what sets the price on land use? When will it become more profitable to grow these forests to sequester C than it is to do something else with the land and water?

    (price signals not only encourage consumer choices among alternatives, they encourage investor choices as well, including R&D and D and D)


    I think others have pointed out before that the ocean need not turn acidic to result in decreased formation of solid CaCO3 or increased disolution of that, though it won’t appear as dramatic in small-scale lab tests I suppose.

    inorganic C exists in the ocean as HCO3- , CO3– and CaCO3(s) (does it also exist as CO2(aq) and H2CO3(aq)? Well it should at least exist as the later, but I’m not sure about the significance). Adding or removing one form, other conditions kept constant, drive reactions that add or remove other forms to counteract the change to some extent.

    CO2(aq) + CO3–(aq) + water = 2HCO3-

    Ca++ + CO3– = CaCO3

    Ultimately what allows sustained removal of C from the atmosphere, land surface, and ocean (tending to, in the very long term, balance geologic emission, except for the organic geologic emission and sequestration)is the Ca++ (and Mg, etc…. depending on conditions) supply from silicate rocks; supplying CaCO3(s) to the ocean in dissolved form allows greater storage of CO2 in the ocean for the same total atmosphere+ocean inorganic C and removing it will likewise tend to transfer CO2 from the ocean to the atmosphere, although CO2 can be trapped beneath the upper ocean out of equilibrium with the atmosphere until mixing or upwelling to the surface; supplying CO2 (such as by oxidation of sinking biomass) to water with a longer waiting period or increasing the supply can thus, without changes in circulation and climate, store more CO2 at depth without needing to dissolve CaCO3 (although it could result in dissolving more CaCO3 from the sea floor, which would reduce how much CO2 is released to the air upon surfacing). I think ions which don’t form solid carbonate minerals at current conditions (maybe K+, Mg?++, etc.) can still affect the pH and thus affect chemical equilibria…

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 22 Nov 2010 @ 8:12 PM

  64. I wish the aesthetes at Miastrada would lay off the ascetic acid long enough to look up ‘calcite compensation point’.

    Those who obsess about the differential toxicity of carbonic acid anhydride, AKA CO2, should note that above ~50% it’s lethal to inhale even with the addition of more oxygen than air contains.

    That my Republican brethren at Cato style the stuff “The Gas of Life”, while EPA habitues grow intoxicated at the thought of regulating even PPM amounts suggests inhaling even think tank concentrations may induce polemica praecox.

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 22 Nov 2010 @ 8:12 PM

  65. Comment by Hank Roberts — 22 Nov 2010 @ 8:33 PM

  66. 60 Chris,

    Thanks for taking the trouble to provide information.

    I see that you agree that as calcite shelled organisms form, the process of CO2 capture is happening. It is the rate of growth that is the issue, or the rate of deterioration.

    I also understand the sensitivity of particular types of organisms, particularly coral to a particular temperature. So as the right temperature for coral moves northerly, we might get additional coral growth in more northerly areas. And of course, coral can come and go for all kinds of reasons.

    I know from experience that barnacles, and maybe clams tend to grow much faster in warmer waters. However, I am not inclined to rely on this since the coastal waters where this happens are not all that large. But this does seem like a CO2 capture mechanism.

    The remaining question if whether the existing coral growth rate is a significant factor in CO2 capture and if it is slowed by lowered alkalinity of the ocean, will that matter very much. What do you think?

    We all can agree that coral has great value in its own right.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 22 Nov 2010 @ 8:36 PM

  67. As described in the cartoon, rather boring facts were met with emotionally rich battle cries and trash talk. The increased speed of the media has amplified our tribal instincts. The media is now consumed with tribal grooming, the only questions answered are “who is on my side” and “who is on my territory”.

    News has moved from a mosaic of different views, to a more authoritative narrative approach. When one tunes into Fox, they’re not seeing a kaleidoscope of our country, but a narrowly scoped long format story with narrative tropes in full flex. In fact, it isn’t news, but succession of story tellers and orators. The mere format alone, implies fabrication and creativity…the most dangerous kind of information to inject into a democracy. Fox news, in effect, handcuffs the individual from ever making the right decision.

    Comment by matt — 22 Nov 2010 @ 8:36 PM

  68. 63 Patrick 027

    You put things very well, but we would have to look more closely to know if the use of coal is increasing or decreasing.

    In spite of wishfull thinking to the contrary, China is rapidly expanding its base of coal fired power plants. In our country, the expansion has slowed significantly, but I think it is more about the state of the economy than the more economic choice for providing power.

    The renewables promoters sieze on every word from China about how they are engaging in development of renewables, but this pales in comparison to their coal based power system development. I think we may be misled by the fact that China is happy to build renewable stuff to sell to us.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 22 Nov 2010 @ 8:45 PM

  69. 64 Russel Seitz,

    Is there anything wrong with the well stated information from Chris #60?

    I hope I did not get in the way of anything more important.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 22 Nov 2010 @ 8:48 PM

  70. Harold Pierce Jr. wrote: “ “Consider ocean acidification and tell me that CO2 is not pollution” This is absolute nonsense!

    The ocean can never become acidic (i.e., pH H2CO3
    Carbonic acid reacts with solid CaCO3 and MgCO3 to form bicarbonate salts:
    H2CO3+ CaCO3 —–> Ca2(HCO3)
    H2CO3+ MgCO3 —–> Mg2(HCO3)”

    Harold, no one said that the ocean was going to “become acidic” precisely because it won’t. In fact, I can’t count the number of times I’ve explicitly pointed out myself, and heard others point out, that the ocean will never become “acidic”, e.g., pH < 7 while explaining what ocean acidification means. Ocean acidification is the process of adding an acid (carbonic acid, in this case) to the ocean, resulting in reduced pH. “Acidification” refers to the process, not the endpoint.

    Yes, carbonic acid reacts with and dissolves carbonate minerals (and silaceous minerals, and lots of other minerals), but what’s your point? I certainly hope you’re not suggesting that the extra CO2 will simply react with minerals in the ocean and be buffered on short timescales. If that were true then atmospheric CO2 would be a fixed value—it would be impossible for it to ever change significantly. Considering the range in atmospheric CO2 over Earth’s history, it should be clear how glaringly wrong this idea is ;-)

    “A freshly-prepared solution of NaHCO3 has pH of 8.3 at 20 deg C.”

    …so??? I’m not sure why you mention this, because it’s completely irrelevant. And even so, the chemistry is not quite that simple—the resultant pH depends on the amount of NaHCO3 you dissolve in the solution (and hence on the alkalinity, DIC, and ionic strength, and would depend on species specific ion-pairing in sea water).

    “I have seen articles on some blogs that show pH mesurements of sea water to +/- 0.001 units. This is nuts. It is difficukt to measure pH to +/- 0.01 units with good accuracy in the lab where there is constant temperature and pressure.”

    With run-of-the-mill equipment and techniques it’s not possible to measure pH to within an accuracy of better than +/-0.01, or to within a precision of better than +/-0.005. However, those of us doing serious oceanographic work can do much better than that. With good equipment and protocols you can easily get an accuracy and precision of at least +/-0.005 (I can get that easily using spectrophotometric methods with m-cresol purple), and real chemical oceanography labs can reliably get accuracies and precisions better than +/-0.0004.

    There are much better (and standard) methods available for oceanographic work than you seem to be aware of.

    “The large and prevelant deposits of limestone indicates the earth’s atmosphere once had large amounts of CO2.”

    Yes, and that atmospheric CO2 reacted with silaceous minerals, providing HCO3-, Ca++, Mg++, etc. to the ocean. All of the Ca++ and Mg++ ultimately precipitate out, but only a portion of the CO2 consumed by weathering gets sequestered that way. The rest of the CO2 gets sequestered as organic material…some of which we are digging up and very rapidly injecting into the atmosphere and ocean.


    Comment by Chris — 22 Nov 2010 @ 8:59 PM

  71. 61 Hank Roberts, Dast I respond?

    Regarding you link to Johnbaez — wordpress:

    They enumerate four points and go on about a few other things;

    (1) make cars that go 60 mpg instead of 30: Prius did a great job and has had a terrible time getting started, but now their 50 mpg looks not good enough. I agreed and set out to do better, so worked out a way to get 120 mpg and still give people speed, safety, and comfort. Then I ran into the fake claims for electric vehicles which completely destroyed any chance of getting people to adapt to a real new kind of car.

    In fact, I first was attracted to hoping to find physicists who would help clear up the MPGE fakery that made electric cars look 2 to 3 times better than they are. None popped out. I remain boxed in by our own EPA, DOE, Argonne, and on and on; these folks all (in effect) swearing that a kWhr of electricity can be made from a kWhr of heat. Even the UK DOE adheres to this practice.

    (2) Make people drive 5000 miles a year instead of 10,000. This is urban planning garbage, and the basic numbers are wrong to begin with.

    (3) Efficient building that use 25% less energy are ok for new construction, but existing buildings are way to expensive to modify to accomplish anything like this.

    (4) Increasing efficiency of coal plants to 60% is nonsense; 44% maybe, but beyond that NOx goes out of control.

    They go on to talk about fission which is obviously the holy grail, CCS which is utter nonsense due to cost, and coal to gas which would waste the real potential of gas for reducing CO2.

    To use gas in central power plants is unconscionable, since such large amounts of heat are thrown away in this system. Natural gas should be reserved for cogeneration, where far more is gained. Something so simple as converting heat using appliances to natural gas from electricity is not cogeneration, but it would be a big step ahead. This would skip the heat loss of electric power generation, and would displace coal in favor of natural gas as well.

    And guess what? They think there is some progress to be made in forests and agriculture. I try to make this into something of significance.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 22 Nov 2010 @ 9:20 PM

  72. Thanks to our hosts for providing this forum.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 22 Nov 2010 @ 9:24 PM

  73. 64 Russel Seitz,

    Is there anything wrong with the well stated information from Chris #60?

    I hope I did not get in the way of anything more important.”

    Too bad the posting delay got in the way

    I can only second Roberts’s suggestion

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 22 Nov 2010 @ 9:38 PM

  74. 73 Seitz, also Roberts,

    And thus we demonstrate how difficult it is for science to stay relevant.

    The cheering section would seem to prefer to exclude discussions relating to understanding and applications.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 22 Nov 2010 @ 10:42 PM

  75. 61 Hank said Jim get a blog.


    Comment by John E. Pearson — 22 Nov 2010 @ 10:44 PM

  76. Re Chris – The rest of the CO2 gets sequestered as organic material…some of which we are digging up and very rapidly injecting into the atmosphere and ocean.

    I think the ratio has typically (for much of Earth’s history) been ~ 20 % of geological sequestration of C being organic, though there have been some significant deviations, particularly around the times of Paleoproterozoic and Neoproterozoic Snow(slush?)balls.

    (see beginning of p.11 here
    “How Earth’s atmosphere evolved to an oxic state: A status report”
    David C. Catling, Mark W. Claire )

    PS another point that I think could be added is that a lot of limestone could eventually form over time with only modest amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere at any one time (not to contradict that there have been times with much higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations)

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 23 Nov 2010 @ 12:58 AM

  77. Jim Bullis has found yet another topic that he doesn’t know much about, but would rather like to try?

    I can’t complain that much, since I would characterise my own knowledge as “broad” rather than “deep”. But it’s important to know where your knowledge is shallow, and do a little research before spouting off.

    For example, Jim seems unaware of combined cycle power plants.

    Then he starts claiming that significant energy efficiency changes can’t be made to existing buildings. Somehow he has managed to miss all the many studies that show insulating existing buildings is not just a good idea, but absolutely the most cost effective way of reducing emissions.

    Is there anything that Jim isn’t a completely wrong instant expert about?

    I have to agree with Hank and John. It doesn’t cost anything to get your own blog, and you can post as little or often as you like.

    Comment by Didactylos — 23 Nov 2010 @ 1:24 AM

  78. Re Jim Bullis – another point, I think made before, is that people who understand thermodynamics and energy efficiency conversions very well can still have reasons to support the electrification of much or most transportation.

    1. It is an opportunity to replace a large amount of petroleum usage (and maybe some natural gas), the most expensive (and for many countries, a security risk and trade headache) of the fossil fuels, with renewable electricity sources. Of course coal can outcompete economically without a sufficient emissions tax or other policy, but the opportunity exists. And of course much of the clean energy may not be available precisely when the transportation is being charged up, but there is some flexibility in charge times, and if you throw more clean energy into the mix to replace petroleum, you’ve got a more affordable route to reducing emissions in total, which is really the point; farthermore, flexibility in hydroelectric power output and some other power plants and energy usage, and trasmission across distances over which wind and sun vary, and the correlation (not perfect, but there) between solar power availability and diurnal energy consumption and also, outside of winter/cold/dark, some seasonal match up (air conditioning, also the time when nuclear power may be reduced in the future if not now and fossil fuel plant efficiencies are smaller), and some compensation among different sources (in some places, wind tends to peak when solar goes dark), reduce the need for storage; storage won’t be necessary until such renewable sources reach some level of market penetration, so there is some time for storage technology to catch up.

    Also, electric cars can have much lower maintenance costs. I don’t know how that applies for PHEVs – will the maintence costs be lower by reducing the usage of the engine?

    The idea of using car engines for cogeneration is not bad; it is already that way in winter outside of lower latitudes, I assume (so maybe electric cars will have their greatest equilibrium market penetration in the tropics). It just seems easier to me to convert buildings’ furnaces to cogeneration, so the heat storage is not a problem (or are cars going to be running while in the garage… okay, you can redesign the garage, but you get my point? Which setup will require greater maintenance costs? Which is easier to adapt to? …)

    PS many low temperature heating needs, many of which peak in the winter and night, could be met with passive solar and solar water heating, relatively simple technology; thus solar as a whole could be more efficient in winter than summer. Also, hybrid solar panels (PV+water heating) can increase PV efficiency and make more use of the same area).

    (Getting a bit OT from this topic, but many moderate temperature industrial heating needs can be met by parabolic trough concentrators.)

    Having a significant (PH)EV market gives us options – it’s a strategic location. It’s not the same as insisting all other ideas be shut out (maybe some people would shut out other ideas, but a person can be enthusiastic about one future scenario without being antagonistic to alternatives).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 23 Nov 2010 @ 1:31 AM

  79. … oh, and while thermodynamics is involved in limiting fuel power plant efficiencies to ~ 30 – 40 %, that is conditional – the need to control NOx emissions, for example, that I think you mentioned. The purely thermodynamic limit is much higher (as I’m sure you know, but it deserves mentioning). How much NOx could be avoided by burning coal in a high O2 mixture, and how much energy would have to be expended to get that O2 concentration (there’s a thermodynamic limit for that too but I don’t what it is). Recently I read of a lithium carbonate based cell that can use electricity to produce C or CO from CO2 (I think you’ll find it mentioned somewhere in November entries at ClimateProgress); I wonder if that can be run in reverse (so sequestration plants could also serve as storage)? Coal can be converted to CO and H2, right? If both can be used in fuel cells, or if the CO can be converted to C …

    A person who supports (PH)EVs can also be the same person who understands that natural gas (which can come from renewable sources, with possible emissions or lack-thereof upstream (biofuel devoted to the purpose using energy and land vs ‘cogenerated’ biofuel vs use of CH4 already being produced and wasted (landfills, etc.) better than electricity for low temperature heating (though solar preheating should generally be used too, depending a bit on location).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 23 Nov 2010 @ 1:43 AM

  80. Hank (65),


    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 23 Nov 2010 @ 3:34 AM

  81. J Bullis @ 66 And of course, coral can come and go for all kinds of reasons.

    Yes, like ocean acidification and warming oceans. Corals disappeared for millions of years after the end Ordivician, Permian and end Triassic extinction events. The current rate of acidification is happening so fast, it is unprecedented in the geologic record.

    Here’s some indication of where corals might be heading:

    “Many reefs are dead or dying across the Indian Ocean and into the Coral Triangle following a bleaching event that extends from the Seychelles in the west to Sulawesi and the Philippines in the east and include reefs in Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and many sites in western and eastern Indonesia.

    It is certainly the worst coral die-off we have seen since 1998. It may prove to be the worst such event known to science,” says Dr Andrew Baird of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook Universities. “So far around 80 percent of Acropora colonies and 50 per cent of colonies from other species have died since the outbreak began in May this year.”

    “Scientists studying Caribbean reefs say that 2010 may be the worst year ever for coral death there. Abnormally warm water since June appears to have dealt a blow to shallow and deep-sea corals that is likely to top the devastation of 2005, when 80% of corals were bleached and as many as 40% died in areas on the eastern side of the Caribbean.”

    Comment by Dappledwater — 23 Nov 2010 @ 4:53 AM

  82. HP 50: The large and prevelant deposits of limestone indicates the earth’s atmosphere once had large amounts of CO2.

    BPL: “Prevalent.” And yes, the Earth’s atmosphere did used to have large amounts of CO2 in it. And if you stepped out of your time machine into that kind of atmosphere, you’d be dead a few minutes later.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 23 Nov 2010 @ 5:36 AM

  83. JB: Coal defines the price of electricity in both USA and China to name a couple places. Anything that can beat this price will be used.

    BPL: Which is why, if we RAISE that price with a carbon tax, it will be EASIER for other sources to beat that price. Incentive! You seem to think incentives can’t change how the economy works. Trust me, they can.

    JB: While, as you say, ‘people have incentive to develop that -’, when the lights go out, computers go black, and the jobs are gone, they will be too busy trying to grow parsnips in their back yards to get any development projects going.

    BPL: So they’ll be able to use the EXISTING technologies of wind, solar, hydro, biomass, and geothermal, won’t they?

    That “freeze in the dark jobless” rhetoric is industry propaganda, always has been, always will be. Coal is not something we need forever. It’s not even something we need. I for one want it phased out as soon as possible.

    And it’s only “cheap” if you don’t factor in the environmental damage. Google “externality.”

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 23 Nov 2010 @ 5:43 AM

  84. JB 54: What might those capital intensive economies with low emissions be?

    BPL: Denmark: 20% of its electricity from wind, aiming for 50% by 2020. Portugal: 45% of its electricity from wind and other renewables. Indonesia: 18% from geothermal. Germany: solar power coming on line so fast they’re afraid it will disrupt the grid when, in a few years, it’s producing enough power to feed the entire German economy.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 23 Nov 2010 @ 5:45 AM

  85. Ray Ladbury #35

    It’s interesting that your comment (and don’t take this the wrong way) politicises the discussion of mitigation policy by commenting on which side has been doing the proposing. Again, that’s my point – if I then comment critically on those proposals I am made out to be not from ‘that side’ so I must be from the ‘other side’, which is the ‘same side’ that contains the deniers and creationists and those who have ‘launched witchhunts against the scientific community’ (your words), so I must be one of those too.

    ‘Acknowledging that there is a threat is actually quite important, as it discredits those advocating inaction’ – I think very counter-productive to a policy discussion. I can discuss the question ‘How would we stabilise at X ppm’ without needing to discuss the NEED to do so. The question stands on its own, like an exam question. You shouldn’t need to swear allegiance to the scale of the threat in order to discuss mitigation policy.

    If I take the view that all mitigation policies so far proposed (EU cap/trade, UK Climate Act, the same list) will have minimal effect on concentrations, am I advocating inaction, and therefore worthy of being discredited? Hmmmm. It’s kinda back to front, that. Surely one would want to discuss the policies, and you might want to persuade me that they would have an effect? But you put the discussion off-limits if there is any risk it could give any comfort to inaction, regardless of the consequences, costs, and benefits of action?

    I know an adviser to European governments on energy policy and emissions. They say to him ‘We want to achieve this.’ He says to them ‘If that’s where you want to get to you can go this way or that way, over this or that timescale, at this or that cost, with these or those side-effects’. He doesn’t comment on the likely effect of each policy on sea levels in Bangladesh, and probably doesn’t even have a view.

    Comment by Hot Rod — 23 Nov 2010 @ 7:42 AM

  86. Bart #38

    Thanks for comments, the first one is certainly valid. (Be upfront and honest about the reasons for your objections.) I don’t do (try not to do) the second (Don’t challenge the science as a proxy for really challenging the policies.).

    The third – “Suggest alternatives that are more effective (even if they don’t meet all your criteria of desirability).”

    As per my answer earlier to Ray Ladbury, who made the same suggestion, I haven’t found any policies that are effective – I take your point re MY desirability, but I do need a policy to be at least maybe capable of implementation. It seems self-evident to me that China and India will consume more energy, like it or not, so the question is ‘how can that be provided while stabilising CO2 concentrations’. So I move away from desirability towards plausibility, less value-overload.

    If you want to choose another set of plausible givens, please do, I don’t find it makes much difference to the CO2 math! ‘Plausible’ is better than ‘desirable’ I think.

    Comment by Hot Rod — 23 Nov 2010 @ 7:43 AM

  87. Jim Bullis @ 71:

    How’s that new-fangled car of yours coming along? Built any prototypes that run under their own power and prove the feasibility of your concept?

    Didn’t think so.

    In contrast, the renewable energy industry is out here busily building and installing more power than I can shake a stick at. People I used to be able to talk to about business are busy running around like headless chickens.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 23 Nov 2010 @ 7:57 AM

  88. about low-emission countries:
    In Europe, several countries have lower emissions than all the countries mentionned so far. A good example is Sweden which is a wealthy country with very high life expectancy. Unlike France and Portugal, Germany and Denmark have high emissions, something which solar generation will not change.
    In Asia, many countries have lower emissions than Indonesia. The Phillipines for instance has a higher HDI and life expectancy while having very low emissions. It also has much lower emissions per unit of GDP (a poor metric, I know), lower than Germany even.
    Brazil has per capita emissions similar to Indonesia’s and the standard of living is a good bit higher there. Cuba has a particularly high life expectancy in comparison to its per capita emissions. A number of Latin American countries also beat Germany by the GDP per emissions metric.
    You are both excessively focused on your pet technologies. The countries which have the lowest emissions are not relying mostly on renewables, nuclear or hydro for electricity generation. They use a combination of technologies. And electricity generation is not the main cause of emissions in any case.

    Comment by Anonymous Coward — 23 Nov 2010 @ 8:20 AM

  89. BPL #84:

    Europe in 2009, electricity consumption.

    Hydro 11.6%, wind 4.2%, biomass 3.5% and solar 0.4%. (source

    Hydro is long-standing, so is biomass (risen by 1.8GW in last 5 years). Wind and solar are together 4.6%.

    Solar has had a bumper installation year in 2010 (the grabbing of reducing German Fits) but isn’t a needle-mover.

    Which leaves wind to move the needle going forward.

    The evidence at the moment suggests that unless there is another big subsidy injection, probably in Fit form, it’s going to be very difficult to meet the EU 2020 renewable targets. As the link above states: ‘Continued growth of the renewables sector will require some issues – including access to the grid and public subsidies – to be resolved across the region.’

    Anonymous Coward #88:

    Sweden is heavily hydro and nuclear, and so is one of the two most significantly decarbonised countries in Europe, the other being France (nuclear). The Nordics operate an electricity pool, so looking at them together would be a better picture.

    In Europe at least it is absolutely the case that the countries with the lowest emissions rely on hydro and nuclear, as with similar economies and GDP and a single tax-free market the main variable is electricity generation.

    Comment by Hot Rod — 23 Nov 2010 @ 9:11 AM

  90. I dont know where the ‘tax-free’ in my last sentence came from – mistake.

    Comment by Hot Rod — 23 Nov 2010 @ 9:19 AM

  91. hot rod,

    I find it usually helpful to distinghuish the question of desirability and plausibility/realism. They *are* different questions, and the latter could serve as bears on the road obscuring the view.

    Dutch speakers may know of “Loesje”. Her granddad once said to her: “if people say ‘impossible’, they usually mean: ‘I don’t want it’.”

    Of course, there’s a bit of naievity there, but also a bit of truth.

    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 23 Nov 2010 @ 10:15 AM

  92. Hot Rod says, ” I can discuss the question ‘How would we stabilise at X ppm’ without needing to discuss the NEED to do so. The question stands on its own, like an exam question.”

    Actually, you cannot–not and have the discussion conform to any accepted methodology for risk mitigation/reduction.
    Step 1: Identify the threat. It is the reason d’etre of all that follows. Why stabilize carbon emissions if they pose no threat? If the threat were only ocean acidification, then the potential mitigations would likely differ at some level from those required to avoid dangerous warming (e.g. you certainly would not be talking about injecting H2SO4 into the stratosphere).

    Step 2: Analyze the threat. This is where we must bound the risks (probability x consequences) posed by the threat. After all, it makes no sense to spend more in mitigation than the amount at risk. It is coincidentally where we run into trouble with climate change. The consequences cannot be bounded at present in any meaningful and convincing way. This leaves us to work on the probability side–we have to work to avoid the threat being realized.

    Step 3: Mitigate the threat. You want to jump all the way to step three, and it is not possible to make sense of step 3 without the previous steps.

    I suspect your argument is along the lines of “Oh well, there’s nothing we can do about it,” so continue with BAU until civilization and human population collapse. In other words, “Party on, dudes, and devil take the hindmost.” If so you have already failed on your exam question.

    Doing nothing in the face of what is probably the greatest threat facing the continued viability of human civilization is not acceptable. And if allying myself with those who propose to take action makes me political, so be it. Politics, after all, is the art of the possible.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 23 Nov 2010 @ 10:36 AM

  93. Hot Rod,
    You’re “absolutely” wrong. Here are some facts: Norway has 65% more emissions per capita than Sweden despite being essentially 100% hydro-powered.
    Similarly, Belgium’s emissions are much higher than France (the ratio is similar) but you can’t explain this with nuclear since Belgium gets over half its electricity from nuclear.

    Many European countries (especially Switzerland, Sweden and France) could achieve large emission reductions simply by increasing the fuel efficiency of their vhecile fleet. France produces cheap fuel-efficient cars for instance but there are a lot of heavier and inefficient vheicles on the road.
    It would not be terribly hard to significantly diminish the amount of vheicle-miles driven either considering the existing infrastructure.

    Since this is off-topic, could you take the matter somewhere else? If not, please do some research before posting. Basic factual corrections are a waste of everyone’s time.

    Comment by Anonymous Coward — 23 Nov 2010 @ 10:38 AM

  94. Meanwhile, behind the scenes:

    “The report points to three attempts to “undermine” climate and clean energy policies:
    • California’s low-carbon fuel standard, which encourages cleaner fuels and discourages burning dirty fuels.
    • A U.S. federal clean-fuels policy known as Section 526, which stops departments from buying the dirtiest kinds of fuels.
    • The European Union’s Fuel Quality Directive, an effort to move toward cleaner-burning fuels.”
    Feds, Alberta fight foreign climate laws: report

    More nihilism.

    Comment by Radge Havers — 23 Nov 2010 @ 10:47 AM

  95. Yes, there’s some truth, fair enough.

    But there are some objective standards of plausibility, however imperfect.

    We can see from peoples’ actions what they consider important and desirable. So it would be implausible to think that China might agree to 1% gdp growth instead of its usual 8%, given that we can see how hard they work to keep the growth rate up, even though that would be an effective mitigation policy. We have also read what their leaders have said on the tradeoff between CO2 and GDP.

    And so on – not perfect, but some assessment of plausibility among reasonable folk should be possible.

    My raising of the subject was to ask how to avoid criticisms of mitigation policy (as ineffective) turning into abuse as being a denier or inactivist on some imagined political or self-interested grounds.

    You have suggested that my inability to suggest mitigation policies that are effective might derive from my finding them undesirable, which is surely going down the same route of suggesting that it is my values that are hindering me, and closing my eyes to a suite of effective policies that are right in front of me if only I would look. It is precisely that reaction that I find unhelpful! Is that fair, or am I paranoid?

    I will look at any policy suggested, subject to a plausibility threshold.

    Comment by Hot Rod — 23 Nov 2010 @ 10:54 AM

  96. Ray # 92.

    Ray, let’s say I ask you what level you would like to stabilise at, and let’s say you said 350ppm, but I’ll take 450ppm for the time being, but we’ll need 350ppm after 20xx. Just as an exercise.

    I don’t ask for your reasoning, I just say, ok, let’s look at that, 450ppm, how would we do that, and what might it cost. Or 350ppm. Whatever.

    That enables a policy conversation to take place without agreement on the prior steps.

    Comment by Hot Rod — 23 Nov 2010 @ 11:02 AM

  97. 77 Didactylos said: “I have to agree with Hank and John. ”

    I’m thinking about trying to sweet-talk my wife (a Perl wizard) into writing a filter for me. With a text-based browser like Lynx I think even I could do it although I’d use python rather than perl. The difficulty is that I don’t want to have to use a special browser to read RC. I really hate “blog science.”

    Comment by John E. Pearson — 23 Nov 2010 @ 11:05 AM

  98. Anonymous Coward – there’s a GDP mix from country to country that varies – oil and gas in the case you mention of Sweden/Norway – hence per pop emissions of course vary.

    Comment by Hot Rod — 23 Nov 2010 @ 11:11 AM

  99. John Pearson,
    Look into Greasemonkey.

    Comment by Anonymous Coward — 23 Nov 2010 @ 11:18 AM

  100. John, perhaps your Perl wizard could offer to arrange for Killfile here?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 23 Nov 2010 @ 11:35 AM

  101. ps, with Firefox 4 betas, Greasemonkey and Killfile nightly builds work fine.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 23 Nov 2010 @ 12:23 PM

  102. Here’s a more balanced mashup of Jen Sorensen’s cartoon, restoring the politico vs. politico of the original:

    Comment by Vinny Burgoo — 23 Nov 2010 @ 2:47 PM

  103. Re my 79: natural gas [or other fuels in general] (which can come from renewable sources [I guess that’s technically not ‘natural gas’ (?) although in some cases it’s natural and also a gas’] … [is] better than electricity for low temperature heating (though solar preheating should generally be used too, depending a bit on location).

    Actually for any heating, except where economics dictate otherwise and/or where heat pumps may be used; heat pumps can make electricity from fuel more efficient than direct use of same fuel for some low temperature heating applications, depending on the COP. Of course you can use the fuel directly for heat+electricity (via combustion + mechanical conversion or TPV or thermoelectric device …, or via fuel cell). Solar PV ‘cogeneration’ has a temperature constraint, the best temperature depending on the economics of heat vs electricity needs; higher temperatures would typically reduce the PV efficiency, though it would tend to be more efficient than a non-hybrid system. But really what is best depends on economics – what if (with all externalities properly accounted) solar PV advances to become (including competition for roof and land space) so cheap that it just doesn’t make sense to ever use fuel even for high temperature purposes? Or what if the economics of storage and transport/transmission and are such that fuel makes sense in some places and times and electricity at other places and times for the same application? It’s quite possible (well, not the solar PV … so cheap … never use fuel, but the more general concept).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 23 Nov 2010 @ 10:42 PM


    Comment by Hank Roberts — 24 Nov 2010 @ 8:08 PM

  105. …, also , there may be a comfort and familiarity issue for gas vs electric stove top ranges. Energy and economics aside, I personally prefer electric. But that type of issue doesn’t come up so much when it comes to HVAC and water heating, because you’re not interacting with the flames so directly during normal operation.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 24 Nov 2010 @ 10:17 PM

  106. Hot Rod – Suggest you read the Stern Review, if you haven’t done so already.

    and IPCC AR4 WG3 Summary for Policymakers.

    /Obviously/ there is no single mitigation policy in no single country (or region) that can significantly reduce global emissions. However

    – There are many cost-effective, global mitigation options that can significantly reduce emissions. A lot of these are in buildings but more efficient cars (which are available) are also a good option

    – Efforts in the US, EU & Japan /across all sectors/ to reduce emissions will have an impact on global emissions, because these countries combined emit a lot

    – If you want China to take you seriously, then the US (in particular) better do something about climate. that’s political reality

    – Finally, and most importantly, there are available energy technologies that could significantly decarbonise global electricity. Concentrated solar is extremely promising, and will (experts say) be as cheap as coal in a decade. CCS is challenging, but at least technically possible. Onshore wind (the US has rather large wind resource) is cheap. Expanding the market for these technologies will reduce costs and, ultimately, these technologies will not need state support

    Clearly, we have the technological solutions to significantly reduce emissions (whether we can reach 450ppm is another question, but probably, just about). People who say “It’s not economic” seem a bit odd to me, as the best economics say it’s cheaper to mitigate than adapt, and the economy is a tool to improve the lives of humans.

    Comment by Silk — 25 Nov 2010 @ 3:40 AM

  107. 100 Hank said: perhaps your perl wizard could do something with killfile .

    Hank: Thanks for the info. I’m betting she’s not gonna be jumping up and down to take on any new projects now that she’s 8 months pregnant. (Jumping up and down has gotten pretty difficult for her.) I’m going to fiddle around some on my own with greasemonkey.

    Comment by John E. Pearson — 25 Nov 2010 @ 5:37 AM

  108. John #107,

    Good call — wizards are subtle and quick to anger, particularly when eight months pregnant.


    Got a poster you can’t stand? Feel like spewing fire every time the troll posts another worthless rant? Your Christmas spirit wearing thin? There is a remedy.

    The following killfile bookmarklet should work in Firefox. Greasemonkey users can probably adapt it, so they don’t have to click a bookmark every time they reload.

    javascript:l=document.getElementsByClassName(‘comment’);for(i=0;i<l.length;i++){void(n=l[i].getElementsByTagName('cite')[0].textContent);if(n.match(/A. Troll/)){void(l[i].textContent="(ignored)");}};

    Installation: You may be able to drag <a href="javascript:l=document.getElementsByClassName('comment');for(i=0;ithis link to your bookmarks folder. If that doesn’t work, make a new bookmark with the above as the location, changing any curly quotes back to straight quotes.

    Usage: Replace \A. Troll\ with the name of any poster you can’t stand. Multiple names must be separated by a pipe \|\. \Jim B\ will match both \Jim Bullis\ and \Jim Bouldin\ — be careful. Periods (\.\) must be backslash-escaped (\.\) as in the example.

    Peace on Earth, and good will to men…

    Comment by CM — 25 Nov 2010 @ 4:47 PM

  109. Oops, that came out really wrong, but the code is nearly usable. Again, change three sets of curly quotes to straight quotes, and if you have a period in the poster name (“A. Troll”), use a backslash before the period (WordPress ate it).

    Comment by CM — 25 Nov 2010 @ 4:58 PM

  110. 105 Patrick 027

    An important disagreement I have with you concerns your incorrect sense of how electric power sources are selected to feed into the grid. Only when there is reserve capacity of sources cheaper than coal will these be the sources that respond to new loads.. (Of course government can over-rule sound economic decisions by power planners.) Until then, the fact that coal will be the actual basis of marginal response changes some of your generalizations about what is the cheaper among heat generating systems.

    I think we also see economic factors differently.

    For a person who is demonstrably competent in energy conversion physics, what do you think about public policy that repeals the Second Law of Thermodynamics and defiles the First, that being the EPA insistence that one kilowatt of heat makes one kilowatt of electricity at the input plug of an electric car? Not only is this offensive to science, it seriously misguides public policy in practical ways.

    And Furry Herder, you help me explain the harm of the EPA chicanery, and also make a valid challenge to me about getting my car ideas going. There is reduced incentive for trying to sell vehicles that are actually efficient when public perception is distorted by such a rating system. Who needs an efficient car when you get 99 mpg out of a Nissan Leaf, which is nothing at all about energy efficiency? This Leaf would get around 33 mpg if it carried its own gasoline engine and operated as a well designed hybrid like the Prius. The industrial system does not function to encourage improvement of products if the market system is distorted by false information. Getting the public to change their attitude toward cars is difficult under any circumstances.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 25 Nov 2010 @ 11:43 PM

  111. 63 Patrick 027

    Where you say, “When will it become more profitable to grow these forests to sequester C than it is to do something else with the land and water?’, you make an important point for discussion.

    I argue, with more conviction than most here would seem to agree with, that our energy based industrial system, economy, and all that goes with it in our developed world can not afford to put a large penalty on the use of coal. That makes the forest option the more atrractive way to use land and water, and it would be a way for us all to provide the infrastructure needed for our present way of life.

    I do not defend for a minute a number of bad choices in the way we have wasted resources, spent money, and such, but I do see a present danger in the state of our economy. As it stands, here today, there is a need for a rational course of action. Setting things up for people to do productive work is the highest need we have right now.

    By the way, as our Furry friend reminds me, there would be nothing better for my car project than to have very high priced energy as a fundamental part of our economy. But getting a car project going through a depression situation is not worth it.

    Thanks for picking up on these issues.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 26 Nov 2010 @ 12:06 AM

  112. 108 CM

    And good will to you as well, sir.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 26 Nov 2010 @ 12:12 AM

  113. Let’s test the validity of one of my most basic points.

    Good ladies and gentlemen, please answer the following question:

    How much heat energy does it take to produce one kilowatt-hour of electric energy at the input plug of an electric vehicle?

    If you support the EPA and answer “one”, kindly get your own blog and cease being in the cheering section here.

    I will explain why you are disqualified to comment here in a later comment.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 26 Nov 2010 @ 12:38 AM


    “”Post-Partisan Power” — How a Limited and Direct Approach to Energy Innovation Can Deliver Clean Cheap Energy, Economic Productivity, and National Prosperity October 13, 2010 at 4:59 AM”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 26 Nov 2010 @ 11:32 AM


    “The first thing to say about the climate negotiations – meeting soon in sunny Mexico – is that they’re teetering at the edge of what, back in the day, we used to call a “legitimation crisis.” ….

    Which, actually, is an odd turn of events…. midway through the cycle of negotiations (Copenhagen 2009, Cancun 2010, South Africa 2011) that will determine the shape and direction of the post-Kyoto climate regime. What happens now matters, particularly because, all else being equal, the eventual end of the economic crisis will be accompanied by another rapid rise in global emissions. …

    … There are extenuating circumstances in today’s America, where the “tea party” – a corporate-funded creature of self-satisfied, self-destructive, flat-earth libertarianism – has emerged to oppose even climate science, let alone international solidarity. It’s an heartily unwelcome development, and it almost makes a good excuse. Moreover, there’s plenty of competition for the role of the world’s leading climate spoiler. …

    Issues abound, and it’s hard to know who to forgive for what….”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 26 Nov 2010 @ 12:36 PM

  116. Jim #113, where does the EPA say that? You’ve probably told us before, but I’ve avoided earlier “car wars” on this site, so I missed it. (I’ll probably sit this one out too — but I’m still curious about your source.)

    Comment by CM — 26 Nov 2010 @ 12:40 PM

  117. Re : Post Partisan Power.

    Quoting the ‘Breakthrough Institute :

    “Our goal is to accelerate the transition to a world where all 6.5 to 9 billion of us can enjoy secure, free, prosperous, and fulfilling lives on an ecologically vibrant planet.”

    Sure, Uh-huh. Good luck with that. All of the evidence I am looking at indicates quite the contrary to me. But that’s just my ‘opinion’.

    Quoting Michael Shellenberger :

    “The Death of Environmentalism: Global Warming Politics in a Post-Environmental World.”[1] The essay argues that environmentalism is conceptually and institutionally incapable of dealing with climate change and should “die” so that a new politics can be born.”

    Sure. Uh-huh. Politics can save us. From a ‘consultant’ and ‘self publicists’ no less.

    Sorry, Hank, it’s new age drivel. We need hard technological solutions, in my humble opinion. These guys are totally status quo,

    [edit – please stop with the sniping]

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 26 Nov 2010 @ 1:56 PM

  118. 114 Hank Roberts

    Your link is informative. They say all the right things about objectives, education and innovation.

    Their objective to develop economic solutions is recognition of the current political reality.

    Their interest in education is laudable, but it appears that things are not in a good way in the world of energy science, as I demonstrated in my #113. Education is not likely to be productive of innovative thinking where government laws over-rule physics.

    The general call for innovation based on misconceptions about how innovation happens is not inspiring. This is a long subject, but in the end, innovation is achieved by people thinking differently than those devoted to the status quo. And this different thinking is only useful if it is based on penetrating insight into the problem at hand, which requires a process of critical questioning. We have discovered here in realclimate discussions how the people who ‘are the box’ react to thinking ‘outside the box’.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 26 Nov 2010 @ 2:02 PM

  119. 116 CM

    Sorry you would sit this out since it directly relates to how global warming will progress.

    The new sticker can be seen at:

    For quick reference, a gallon of gasoline puts out 33.7 kWhr of heat. In this example it takes 34 kWhrs of electrical energy to push the car 100 miles and the EPA declares this to be equivalent to 99 MPG. This demonstrates that the EPA formula is based on a pretension that this work can be done by heat that can be produced from a gallon of gasoline.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 26 Nov 2010 @ 4:40 PM

  120. 110, 113 (Jim),

    Please supply a source, to provide both detail and context, for your statement that:

    … the EPA insistence that one kilowatt of heat makes one kilowatt of electricity at the input plug of an electric car…

    Comment by Bob (Sphaerica) — 26 Nov 2010 @ 4:43 PM

  121. Re Jim Bullis – assuming your numbers are correct, then I agree, the EPA rating is stupid.

    (gasoline density = 0.71 to 0.77 kg/L,
    35 MJ/L ~= 132 MJ/gal (US) ~= 36.6 kWh/gal (US) (higher heating values)
    implies 45.5 to 49.3 MJ/kg, setting aside sig figs and the possible energy per unit volume variations)

    from picture of actual EPA rating sticker:
    99 mpg equivalent (106 city, 92 hwy)
    100 mi/ 34 kWhe ~= 3 mi/kWhe
    99 mpg / (36.6 kWh/gal gasoline) ~= 3 mi/kWh gasoline

    I concur with your analysis here.

    I don’t think it undermines the potential for electric vehicles to be helpful; it requires working on the energy source problem at the same time (we agree there, I think).

    But how should an equivalent rating be done?

    The efficiency of the power supply – power output is one part, then there’s the CO2 emissions of the power supply, then there’s the work done per passenger/cargo * mile…

    Where the sticker indicates emissions, there should not be a single mark, there should be several (coal, gas, nuclear, hydro, wind, solar (CSP, PV, ?), geothermal, US average power supply, US average power supply at night, US average power supply during day, projected US average power supply with climate policy, without climate policy) …

    Because there are some components associated with gasoline-powered vehicles that are not found in purely EV and vice versa (with PHEV and HEV being …), it’s not enough to just compare the engine efficiency with the power plant efficiency (with adjustment for different emissions per unit fuel energy); the efficiency of the battery and motor to wheel vs the transmission etc.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 26 Nov 2010 @ 7:32 PM

    Electric motors convert 75% of the chemical energy from the batteries to power the wheels—internal combustion engines (ICEs) only convert 20% of the energy stored in gasoline.

    and also

    EVs emit no tailpipe pollutants, although the power plant producing the electricity may emit them. Electricity from nuclear-, hydro-, solar-, or wind-powered plants causes no air pollutants.
    (not quantified and placed on sticker as one may like, but they’re not exactly saying power plants don’t exist)

    Back to the first point – 20 % efficiency for ICE car – I assume this is a more efficient engine with additional losses in the (car’s) transmission. Assuming perfect plug to battery efficiency, the 75 % battery to wheel efficiency multiplied by 30 % power plant and (grid) transmission (can be lower or higher) gives a fuel conversion efficiency of 22.5 %, so the EV could beat the ICE car, but not by a huge margin (using 35 % plant+grid efficiency gives ~= 26.3 %). So if the power plant is, on average, coal, then that wouldn’t be an improvement.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 26 Nov 2010 @ 7:33 PM

  123. But

    What if the power plant is not coal-powered? And you say it will be coal, but that’s not necessarily true; it depends on the policies we have (and hydroelectric and nuclear are baseload, too; wind can be available at night, … other stuff about electric transmission and storage and flexible charge times).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 26 Nov 2010 @ 7:38 PM

  124. Meanwhile, what if the ICE is not running on gasoline? The choice is not limited to gasoline vs electricity (if it were then it will have to be electricity in the end, and at least you have the possibility

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 26 Nov 2010 @ 7:39 PM

  125. of relatively clean electricity that is not much more expensive); it may turn into biofuel, and those have some problems,

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 26 Nov 2010 @ 7:39 PM

  126. too (would compete with your sequestering forests, among other things)

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 26 Nov 2010 @ 7:40 PM

  127. – except, of course, we can’t in fairness

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 26 Nov 2010 @ 7:41 PM

  128. assume biofuels will continue to be as they are now if we are not assuming the same of electricity (cellusose

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 26 Nov 2010 @ 7:41 PM

  129. (cellulose crop residues, manure, landfills, sewage (there’s paper in there, too!),

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 26 Nov 2010 @ 7:47 PM

  130. algae, spoiled food and food scr-aps – residential (coffee grounds, banana peels, and the napkins and liners we leave crumbs on)

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 26 Nov 2010 @ 7:49 PM

  131. and upstream (olive pits, peanut shells, etc.), so let’s keep the engine around awhile – not necessarily in all cars, but in some fraction of them, to maintain strategic technodiversity.

    Of course it may turn out that most of the biofuel ends up devoted to winter heating needs (low latitude people could sell their biofuel to the extratropics), due to the seasonal distribution of solar power (and it may be easier to take renewable CH4 and put it into the existing natural gas distribution system rather than to make it into fuel for transportation – again, it’s not all about the thermodynamics of a few things) – But what if the ICE or (P)HEV car is a cogeneration plant? Well, maybe it will be to some extent just by using the car in winter in middle-to-high latitudes, although the car’s own greenhouse effect plus body heat of passengers reduces that need somewhat.

    But more on that point: what is the advantage of continuing to depend on ICE’s (or depend more on ICE’s in PHEVs and less on the P part) for the sake of cogeneration of heat? Is the heat produced while the car is in use to be stored and transfered to the building later, or is it only that heat produced by the car while parked that is used by a building? If it is the later, this could be accomplished just by making the building’s furnace/fuel cell cogeneration, or having cogeneration fuel power plants upstream. I realize of course that you might save money and resources by reducing the number of engines involved and trying to get the most out of one of them, but I’m not sure you can depend on having a car around to heat a building – yes, you can store heat energy – I would think more easily in a building than in a car (both good and bad for your concept) – but I suspect you’ll generally want buildings to have their own complete HVAC and water-heating systems anyway (which can generally have solar preheating at least, and maybe geothermal storage in addition to the building’s own thermal mass); meanwhile, if the engine is running so much more, will it need more maintanence? How much maintanence cost can be saved using the P of a PHEV more than the H (as in ICE)? I also realize that there is a turnover rate of cars that makes it is some ways more convenient to change the car than to change buildings and power plants and set up new steam/hot water distribution systems – but if you are going to start transfering heat from cars to buildings, you’ll have to change the buildings anyway.

    One way to address these issues is to put a price on emissions and then just let whatever happens happen. Of course, markets are not always so ideal and we may want some additional public policies and funding (R&D, and D and D, targeted incentives, buidling codes and other mandates, reworking the structure of utilities and the grid to take advantage of opportunities).

    Remember that a tax on emissions is not just a drain of money and resources, it is also a revenue source. Assuming a convex PPC (not necessarily true) and efficient market (a useful approximation at least in some ways but obviously not a precise description (ever bought a house with a tulip?)), there must be some overall economic cost to such action, not including gains by reducing negative externalities (which would be realized more in the future), but I don’t think it would have to be as big as the tax itself (I think ClimateProgress had a post on that issue). Farthermore, stating that we can’t do this because we won’t do this or because it will cost too much – well, will we plant those forests, will we buy your cars? Will we ever do anything?

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 26 Nov 2010 @ 7:50 PM


    Comment by Patrick 027 — 26 Nov 2010 @ 9:46 PM

  133. 122 Patrick 027

    The link and quote from .gov is a further insult to physics, as well as a deliberate attempt to mislead to promote electric vehicles:
    “Electric motors convert 75% of the chemical energy from the batteries to power the wheels—internal combustion engines (ICEs) only convert 20% of the energy stored in gasoline.”

    There is no validity to such a comparison. The efficiency of an electric motor is the energy conversion after conversion that was done to get heat into electrical energy to charge the battery.

    Then we get the fake statement using the incompleteness of ‘internal combustion engines’ designation. Yes, there are sloppy internal combustion engine, many in fact, that get 20% efficiency in converting heat to mechanical energy. But there are also ‘internal combustion engines’ that do far better, in fact, common diesels have long done 35% and Toyota Prius gasoline engines have been measured (by Argonne) to convert at 36% to 38% efficiency.

    And your analysis is generally correct, but you incorrectly assume that the 20% efficient automobile represents a reasonable standard. The Toyota Prius is far better, and so is the Ford Fusion Hybrid. If you are comparing electric vehicles to the sloppy 20% old type cars with the electric vehicles, electric vehicles win, but not by a factor of three like the EPA sticker would have us believe.

    Here is where some further caution is needed. Hybrid vehicles, if well designed, can make a big improvement in both CO2 emissions and in the amount of oil used. Making the same hybrid into a plug-in will cause the CO2 impact to worsen, some. But it will do much to reduce dependence on oil; but it will do this by shifting to coal.

    The oft quoted NRDC-EPRI study by Mark Duval et al. was dedicated to making the case for plug-ins, but their Fig. 5-1 shows the misleading half truth on which the .gov statement you quoted is based. (I am not at a computer where I can get this easily.)

    It is a further argument that I make that the electric vehicles will be useful in shifting from oil to coal, but they will at best be of mixed benefit when it comes to CO2 emissions. However, because of the EPA misguidance, we will likely find that the ease of making a car look good in MPG by electrification will take away incentive to improve vehicle efficiency in more fundamental ways.

    This rating system is likely going to be the cause of opportunity lost.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 26 Nov 2010 @ 10:00 PM

  134. 122 Patrick 027

    If one worked out an equivalent based on the heat input to the heat engine making the conversion from heat to mechanical energy, whether it be the heat engine at the central power plant or the heat engine carried in the automobile, a reasonable result would be possible. Since we are looking for overall heat input, it would be fair to include compensation for delivery and processing of fuel, but this does not change much. Roughly though, the heat input for electric cars would be triple that of the EPA assumed electric power heat equivalent.

    If government interceded and made coal prohibitively expensive, then it could be said that natural gas would be a fuel of choice, and in that case a different equivalent would be valid. Roughly, it would be double that assumed by the EPA. For this case, CO2 would be somewhat reduced over the hybrid, though to varying degrees depending on the type of heat engine used. (See Fig. 5-1 of that NRDC-EPRI study by Duval)

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 26 Nov 2010 @ 10:14 PM

  135. 122 Patrick 027

    Here is the link to the Duval study:

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 26 Nov 2010 @ 10:22 PM

  136. 120 Bob

    Link you requested is at my #119

    Hope this is useful. Also, please see discussion by Patrick 027 and myself that follows.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 26 Nov 2010 @ 10:27 PM

  137. JimBullis – If you insist on including the heat energy loss cost of electricity generation in the figures for battery powered vehicles, then why don’t you also include the cost/fuel use in supplying the gasoline for the ICE vehicle? What’s the efficiency of digging the oil sands, turning it into barrel petro, transporting it to a refinery near you and then delivering the gasoline to your fueling station?

    Comment by flxible — 26 Nov 2010 @ 11:09 PM

  138. 136 (Jim),

    For quick reference, a gallon of gasoline puts out 33.7 kWhr of heat. In this example it takes 34 kWhrs of electrical energy to push the car 100 miles and the EPA declares this to be equivalent to 99 MPG. This demonstrates that the EPA formula is based on a pretension that this work can be done by heat that can be produced from a gallon of gasoline.

    I utterly fail to see how you arrive at this conclusion, or why you would think that heat has anything to do with the EPA’s logic. Quite honestly, it looks like you simply made it up.

    Can you provide something other than your own personal inference? A link to an explanation (by the EPA) where the EPA says they followed your presumed heat-does-the-work logic to arrive at their mileage equivalence?

    With that said, as to your point, my query, and the rest of the discussion… it’s way, way OT.

    But as far as electric vehicles go, it’s very simple. The only choices are gas, fuel cell and electric. Gas means CO2, and is limited to a single, dwindling fuel source (well, okay, you might work synthetics and biofuels in there, but I doubt that will ever work for the entire planet). Fuel cells are not yet viable.

    So all that is left is electric. If the vehicles are electric, then the actual source of the power is more flexible, and can change over time, and control of emissions is localized. Electric vehicles offer options, gasoline exacerbates AGW, wand fuel cell basically means wait, do nothing, and risk the technology never becoming viable.

    Comment by Bob (Sphaerica) — 27 Nov 2010 @ 12:19 AM

  139. Re 137 flxible – to be fair, not all petroleum is currently derived that way; the petroleum supply is one of the single biggest consumers in the U.S. today, but if the EROEI is something like 10/1 (? does this include refining?), you can still reasonably approximate 1 MJ sold fuel ~= 1 MJ petroleum from ground (in the same way that the synoptic-scale extratropical wind above the boundary layer is generally approximately geostrophic) (though worth pointing out that renewable sources like PV and wind can beat that, when they’ve been criticized for being far less). But a valid concern at least going forward. On that note, the EROEI of some (not all) biofuel makes it more of an energy conversion technology.

    Re Jim Bullis (again)

    Re Jim Bullis – are the 35 % (diesel) and 36 – 39 % (HEV) efficiencies specifically for the ICE? If so then they can’t be so easily directly compared to the fuel to wheel efficiency. How much of HEV efficiency is directly dependent on the EV part – aside from regenerative breaking, which (I would think) shouldn’t affect mpg hwy so much? Or could simply updating ICE technology bring the entire fleet’s fuel consumption significantly down? I’ve heard that a potential advantage of EV’s would be the opportunity to have a seperate electric motor for each wheel, which would improve efficiency – could that be incorporated into a HEV and would that make any significant difference?

    Once upon a time, I recall reading or hearing that at 55 mph, a car’s power usage was equally divided between working against rolling resistance (proportional to speed) and working against air resistance (proportional to speed squared). So if got the drag area of a car and the mpg we could figure out just what the efficiency is, though changes in design probably alter the speed at which the two power sinks are equal.

    PS a point about government policy – given the fuel economics of pure ICE’s vs non-P HEV’s verses PHEVs, it might be that without any government intervention, PHEV’s will eventually dominate and they will be powered mainly through the P and not the H. So to avoid the calamity you are warning about, you may want to support a tax on CO2eq or some other way to increase the price of coal power, if not to get PHEVs powered by the sun and wind etc, at least to prevent them being powered by coal.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 27 Nov 2010 @ 12:33 AM

  140. … of course, even given 10:(1+refining transport etc.?) EROEI for gasoline, this is assuming the rest of the petroleum continues to find other purposes, so that the whole of each barrel is used. But I wouldn’t expect that to be a big problem. It used to be that gasoline (or its precursor?) was a waste product of the petroleum industry.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 27 Nov 2010 @ 12:36 AM

  141. … oh, but the rolling resistance would include losses between ICE and wheel, wouldn’t it? Or is it only the viscosity of the tires that equaled air resistance at 55 mph? I really don’t know. Any good websites to explain this?

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 27 Nov 2010 @ 12:39 AM

    – appears to show a non-HEV car with an ICE near 18.2 + 2.2 + 17.2 = 37.6 % efficiency. Reminds me: HEV’s would reduce idling losses as well as breaking losses. Is this diagram for city driving? (I’d guess it must be, for that much idling) (accesories should be a smaller fraction at higher speeds, as they tend to be proportional to the time people are in the car, right?). This car has only a bit over 12.6 % of the gasoline’s energy going to the wheels. Eliminating idling and assuming proportions stay the same, this should be a bit less than doubled, bringing it near 20 %.

    It seems like, aside from idling and regenerative breaking, there isn’t much overall difference among pure ICE cars, HEVs, and PHEV’s in the overall fuel to movement conversion efficiency, then (except for the range in power plant efficiencies). Maybe some advantage to be gained from changing or eliminating the drivetrain? (PHEV with 1 motor per wheel?).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 27 Nov 2010 @ 1:00 AM

  143. … I wonder what the politics of climate change will be like in x0,000 (or xx0,000) years when the next ice age comes – will CO2eq earn a credit instead? Or will we let nature take it’s course (great opportunity for science, documentary film makers and photographers/artists tired of the same-old Holocene and Anthropocene subject matters (caution – you can’t go home again – sort of)? Also, with CO2 being long-lived (in so far as atmospheric perterbation ppm goes), would CH4 emissions be encouraged after a supervolcanic eruption?

    Or sooner, when the Sahara gets wet again (maybe not this time around the Precession cycle due to small eccentricity ?, but eventually)…

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 27 Nov 2010 @ 1:11 AM

  144. Just encouraging you guys to keep on keepin on! Your work is vital, the planet desperately needs you!

    Comment by Steve — 27 Nov 2010 @ 8:38 AM

  145. Jim (#199),

    thanks for the source. I think I’d agree that the sticker is potentially misleading. However, the 34 kWh = 1 gallon comparison is obviously meant to compare the efficiency of the respective engines in making use of the power supplied at the plug or pump, in units consumers will be familiar with (mpg). And that’s fine by itself, it’s just not meaningful as a guide to CO2 savings.

    I think it’s worse that the right-hand side of the sticker declares CO2 emissions to be zero. The small writing makes it clear that this refers to tailpipe emissions only, but how many people will understand what that means? And“tailpipe emissions” have nothing to do with the actual carbon footprint of an EV; since CO2 is not a local pollutant, it’s a meaningless measure, I think.

    But the mpg comparison makes it easy to do some back-of-envelope calculations of the CO2 savings from moving to electric vehicles, without having to get into all the details you and Patrick are discussing.

    If gasoline gives 19.4 pounds = 8.8 kg CO2 per gallon (EPA), then an average U.S. passenger car (22.6 mpg) or a new vehicle (32.6 mpg) (BTS, *) emits 390 g or 270 g CO2 per mile, respectively. If U.S. power generation gives 1.341 pounds = 0.608 kg CO2/kWh (national average output rate, including fossil and non-fossil sources, EIA, 1999 figures); then an electric car that goes 99 miles on 34 kWh emits ~ 210 g CO2 per mile on a U.S. average. The effect of switching to this electric car, then, is a 46% reduction in CO2 emissions per mile traveled, if you’re giving up your average American car, or a 22% reduction relative to the fuel-efficient new car you might have bought.

    This accords well with the Wikipedia statement that “With the current U.S. energy mix, using an electric car would result in a 30% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.”

    Comment by CM — 27 Nov 2010 @ 10:19 AM

  146. In #133 Jim misleads us again….

    The link and quote from .gov is a further insult to physics, as well as a deliberate attempt to mislead to promote electric vehicles:

    I think you’re projecting there Jim…. You don’t like what they say and so ascribe ill intentions and motive where none are really necessary.
    “Electric motors convert 75% of the chemical energy from the batteries to power the wheels—internal combustion engines (ICEs) only convert 20% of the energy stored in gasoline.”

    There is no validity to such a comparison. The efficiency of an electric motor is the energy conversion after conversion that was done to get heat into electrical energy to charge the battery.

    Yes, exactly.

    Then we get the fake statement using the incompleteness of ‘internal combustion engines’ designation. Yes, there are sloppy internal combustion engine, many in fact, that get 20% efficiency in converting heat to mechanical energy. But there are also ‘internal combustion engines’ that do far better, in fact, common diesels have long done 35% and Toyota Prius gasoline engines have been measured (by Argonne) to convert at 36% to 38% efficiency.

    You’re bending the numbers again Jim. You complain about the EPA comparing apples and oranges, then you go ahead and do the same thing.

    Comparing the peak engine efficiency in any engine to the typical output in a real world auto is not a fair comparison.

    If you’ve looked into efficiency at all, Jim, you must know that all engines have a peak efficiency point. ICE’s will be most efficient around the peak of their torque band and 80% power. When one accounts for typical power requirements, accessory drag, and adds the power train in one necessarily gets a much lower number than 35-40%.

    And your analysis is generally correct, but you incorrectly assume that the 20% efficient automobile represents a reasonable standard. The Toyota Prius is far better, and so is the Ford Fusion Hybrid. If you are comparing electric vehicles to the sloppy 20% old type cars with the electric vehicles, electric vehicles win, but not by a factor of three like the EPA sticker would have us believe.

    But you’re complaining about the EPA taking one extreme for comparison while you insist on taking the opposite extreme. IF – and only if – the extreme you insist upon (that coal or the like is the source used to charge the battery), you’re right in your analysis.

    There are, however, many other sources of electricity. If the batteries for the (PH)EV are charged with power from wind, hydro, solar, or nuclear then essentially no CO2 is released for that energy. If one of the first three is used then essentially no heat is wasted, heat you insist on including in the comparison. If the electricity is produced with a co-generation system where the waste heat is used then the original heat source is essentially converted into electricity at more than 90% efficiency. If natural gas is the original source, up to 60% of the original energy can wind up in the batteries.

    So the real answer, Jim, is “it depends”. It’s not a simple black and white issue like you try to paint it.

    There are two other factors worth noting.

    First, I think our ability to generate more electricity with which to power our transportation greatly exceeds our ability to create more liquid fuels. The CO2 impact of new electrical generation should be much less than that of developing alternative liquid fuels. Wind and solar are coming on strong; oil has probably peaked and alternative liquids (tar sands, GTL, CTL, biofuels) are expensive and dirty. These are things worth considering: will there be affordable liquid fuels for any vehicle at the end of a 20 year life? Will there be affordable electricity in 20 years with which to charge your (PH)EV ? I know which I’d be more likely to bet on.

    Second, if your WonderCar really reduces energy requirements, there’s no reason it couldn’t use electric power. IE, if you can drop the energy requirements by 80% it would be easier than ever to power electrically. Then you could get 1000 mpg the way the EPA measure it:)

    Comment by David Miller — 27 Nov 2010 @ 11:02 AM

  147. 145 (CM),

    The effect of switching to this electric car, then, is a 46% reduction in CO2 emissions per mile traveled…

    … as long as energy production maintains that 210g CO2 per mile average. But as energy production shifts to cleaner sources, that number has the potential to improve further, where there is no such possibility (outside of improved gas mileage) for the internal combustion engine. So the use of just some renewables (and nuclear) combined with electric cars could cut easily alter this savings by a factor of two or more. Beyond this, I would have to believe that carbon capture technology would be easier and more efficient at a coal or gas turbine electric plant than individually on millions of vehicles.

    I’ll say it again… electric vehicles open a host of options which simply are not available to an internal combustion fleet of vehicles.

    I’d also argue that the 32.6 mpg figure for current cars is high. Far too many vehicles are driven primarily in congested traffic with a lot of idling, inefficient speeds, and frequent stops and starts. Actual fuel efficiency is never as good as those numbers state.

    Comment by Bob (Sphaerica) — 27 Nov 2010 @ 11:26 AM

  148. > and frequent stops and starts.
    Regenerative braking makes city driving more rather than less efficient for electric vehicles.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 27 Nov 2010 @ 11:50 AM

  149. 137 flxible

    I did, I do, and it counts. The losses you mention are what I categorized as corrections to be applied after the far larger effects of heat engine losses are accounted for.

    Generally, the heat lost in these up front activities simply adds to the heat input. Thus, for a reference where the gallon of gasoline would have 33.7 kWhr of heat, and for 33% efficiency, this would put out 11.2 kWhr of mechanical energy, the efficiency would be (11.2 / ( 33.7 + 6.8 ))%. Thus, it would be appropriate to rate the heat engine at 25% efficiency. Note especially though that the heat thrown away is 22 kWhr and the up front heat loss correction is 6.8 kWhr, so the importancr of the heat thrown away by the heat engine is significantly more. And it makes no sense to rate vehicles without including it.

    Electricity produced from coal probably follows this fairly well, since coal transportation has to be similarly accounted for. However, the efficiency of the electric distribution and motor knocks it down some more. Both kinds of car require mechanical linkages that lose a modest amount, but they balance out roughly.

    The EPRI NRDC reference (link is in my #135 above) takes this into account though they do not provide details of their methodology. The motivation was so strongly in favor of the plug-in that we can assume that they did not cheat against the plug-in side of things.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 27 Nov 2010 @ 12:20 PM

  150. #145 CM

    You say, “I think it’s worse that the right-hand side of the sticker declares CO2 emissions to be zero.”

    And I completely agree with you. I just had not gotten to that yet.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 27 Nov 2010 @ 12:23 PM

  151. 145 CM

    But you also say, “However, the 34 kWh = 1 gallon comparison is obviously meant to compare the efficiency of the respective engines in making use of the power supplied at the plug or pump, in units consumers will be familiar with (mpg). And that’s fine by itself, it’s just not meaningful as a guide to CO2 savings.”

    Nope, it is not fine because it erroneously does what it pretends to do. Not counting the engine in the electric case makes the electric car look three times better than it should. Hence, without hardly trying, the Nissan Leaf is proudly advertised as getting 99 MPG, when an honest comparison would rate it at 33 MPG. And 33 MPG is about what it merits.

    Not only will it get its energy from coal, it will get a lot of it! If you have to get your energy from coal, you should be pushed hard to use very little of it. The EPA is thus shooting itself in the foot, and climate concerned folks should get a grip on this as a seriously damaging trend. Economy concerned folks should also take note, since this is setting up a sequence of events that can only come to a bad end.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 27 Nov 2010 @ 12:33 PM

  152. 138 Bob Sphaerica

    No reference is required beyond the evidence presented, and the hard mathematical logic of my explanation.

    Please read it carefully, and I think you will see the same inescapable conclusion that I draw.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 27 Nov 2010 @ 12:38 PM

  153. @Everyone who is talking about electric cars …

    It’s impossible, even with fossil fuels, to nail down “efficiency”, especially with all the “Smart Grid” work going on to make cars play nice with the grid.

    The reason is that getting cars into the “off-peak” time period will improve overall grid efficiency by allowing more “bulk” power to be produced and less “peak” power to be required. Some of the “demand regulation” work that’s going on will make the grid still more efficient — with fossil fuels — and if the “supply regulation” concept I worked on while at IBM goes anywhere, the electric car could help replace the “peak power plant”, even with high amounts of renewable and intermittent capacity.

    And for what it’s worth, the electric car is just about the only load with the potential to make the grid cleaner and more productive — as well as more tolerant of intermittent loads.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 27 Nov 2010 @ 12:42 PM

  154. #146 David Miller,

    I had not opened the subject of ill intentions. I simply concentrated on the profound dumbfoolery of the EPA method of rating cars. And of course, I might have alluded to the profound implications to the climate from such dumbfoolery.

    There is more to say about all this.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 27 Nov 2010 @ 12:47 PM

  155. Bob,

    Yes, as energy production shifts, EVs could become (even) cleaner. I should have specified at #145 that I was only looking at the present U.S. power generation mix. (And also, that the CO2 savings for an actual consumer will depend on the energy mix going into his local grid rather than the national average I used.)

    On the other hand, though, I don’t know how energy production will respond to the jump in demand if Americans begin on a large scale to feed their car habit from a plug rather than a pump. I fear it would give fossil-fuel power generation a longer lease.

    As for the 32.6 mpg figure — I think it’s high too, compared with the figures given in But in summary, I think EVs come out looking surprisingly good even when one stacks the cards against them a bit by comparing last millennium’s electric power mix with the gasoline-driven car of tomorrow.

    Comment by CM — 27 Nov 2010 @ 12:50 PM

  156. Jim,

    I’m thinking in terms of CO2 emissions. So let’s make the comparison “mpc” (miles per kg CO2) instead of mpg. Using the same rough numbers as in my #145, that would be about 4.8 mpc for the electric car on the sticker, 3.7 mpc for the fabulously energy-efficient new ICE car of the BTS table, and 2.6 mpc for the average American car from the same table. This is, again, assuming the actual carbon emissions per kWh of U.S. national power production mix in 1999, rather than some all-coal or all-windmill scenario.

    To my way of thinking, the “99 mpg” electric car is not three times less bad than a 33 mpg economic ICE car, because it does not go three times further with the same CO2 emission (as the sticker might cause one to think), and especially not with no CO2 emission at all (as the sticker might also cause impressionable consumers to think). But it does go some 1.3 times further per CO2 emitted than a 33 mpg ICE car, so neither is it equally bad, as you claim it is. And that’s before taking into account the valid points Bob raised.

    Comment by CM — 27 Nov 2010 @ 3:00 PM

  157. As always, goes way off-topic via the usual suspect6s who don’t seem to be able to find a suitable alternate blog. TheOilDrum, perhaps?

    Comment by David B. Benson — 27 Nov 2010 @ 6:05 PM

  158. 146 David Miller

    I complained that the EPA sticker was flawed and seriously misleading.

    I responded to the question how could it be better done.

    You concluded that the correct answer is ‘it depends’ and this is the only correct answer in physics.

    Thus, we agree that where the EPA says, ’99 MPGequivalent’, this is not correct. But is not correct, not in a random way that would relate to the it depends answer, but it is over the top exageration in a deliberate direction.

    And it is openly apparent that while this is not exactly a lie, it is gibberish and it serves to promote the advantages of electric cars in a false way. Call it what you like.

    The statement about CO2 is also not a lie, but restricting the ‘zero emissions’ to the tailpipe only and not adding a further quantification of the power plant effect seems to me to be deliberately misleading. And the effect of the electric vehicle is falsely portrayed as a result.

    As to CO2, I wonder that nobody seems to have looked at the NRDC-EPRI study where-in Fig. 5-1 fully and completely, and approximately correctly addresses the complete well to wheels CO2 for the various power generating possibilities, so the ‘it depends’ can be up to the reader.

    As for the usual OT complaint that inevitably comes up as things get near an important point, one might look at the article and wonder what the thread should be. I say it is about the politically biased news scene, as epitomized by the Faux folks, whatever they call themselves. Yes, the cartoon focuses on climate controversy, but this is inherently very political, and a mishandling of climate related topics like this by the very regulatory authorities that purport to be acting to limit CO2 only serves to damage the general cause.

    I further argue that the effect of the EPA sticker will be to lull the public into a false sense of complacency.

    Coming to any kind of common agreement about how a MPGe number can be determined is not possible without some common understanding of power generation processes. However, it seems easy to rule out the more ideal sources that are, and always will be, fully used so the idea that these will be part of the mix that responds to new loads is unreasonable. Not even government decrees can provide reserve capacity from nuclear, hydro,wind, or solar sources.

    Reasonable people can disagree whether the choice between natural gas and coal will always go to coal. In California, by banning coal, it would seem otherwise. So on this basis there is a validity to an ‘it depends’ between these two options. I have concluded that it will prove to be economically and politically untenable to continue to ban coal, or even favor natural gas to any serious extent. I even contend that to use natural gas for electrical power generation is unconscionable for climate reasons, not because it would not have an immediate benefit, but because there are higher uses for this very desirable fuel. But all this is a bigger discussion.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 27 Nov 2010 @ 11:49 PM

  159. CM @ 156:

    The upside for the electric car is “Zero CO2 emitted, period”, while for the ICE that’s impossible.

    And that’s the difference that’s being glossed over by focusing on present technologies and making naked assertions about the future.

    As for “the grid”, “the grid” will be Just Fine(tm). The swing between peak and trough in any given day is great enough that EVs won’t be a problem. The good news is that the more the “trough” is filled in, and the “peak” flattened out, the less CO2 per KWh gets emitted.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 28 Nov 2010 @ 1:27 AM

  160. 159 Furry C Herder

    Yes indeed, Zero CO2, but not quite ‘period’. You omit the timeline governing such an accomplishment. And it is necessary that there be reserve capacity from solar, wind, hydro, etc.

    The IEA says it won’t happen for a long time. But if and when it does, we can agree, the EV will emit nothing, for the most part. When the last coal plant is scrapped, it will be time to start working on EVs of the sort that Nissan is pushing.

    But the EPA sticker says the Nissan Leaf will emit zero!!! in big print, and qualifies it in very small print. And it is now!! for sale on the show room floor. By the time the zero emission situation comes to pass, the permanent magnets in the motors will have weakened to a fraction of their needed effectiveness.

    The best use of solar outputs would be to put it on the grid to reduce the need for fossil fuel consumption, and where it makes true economic sense, that is a good idea. When you plug-in an inefficient electric car like the Leaf, that power will be pulled away from other uses, and the coal fired electric generators will have to be cranked up a bit.

    But thanks for demonstrating the very thing I assert will happen as a result of this sticker.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 28 Nov 2010 @ 9:55 AM

  161. It is a shame that you have such a “comic” on your site. I thought you were a scientist and had some valid information. Makes you appear to be just another biased bigot ranting, standing behind his degrees.

    Comment by disappointed scientist — 28 Nov 2010 @ 10:53 AM

  162. “It is a shame […]”

    Ah, the fine art of the concern troll. Nice try.

    Comment by Didactylos — 28 Nov 2010 @ 11:58 AM

  163. David #157, I took the comic as an invitation to an open thread.

    Furry #159,
    EVs will have zero CO2 emissions when electric power generation does. But

    Jim #160,
    it does not at all follow that there’s no place for EVs in the interim. If ~30% less CO2 per mile traveled is achievable today, that seems pretty compelling.

    a shift to EVs would increase overall electricity demand. If they’re charged off-peak, filling in the troughs, I can follow the logic that prices per kWh might fall despite increased demand, as cheap baseload plants supply a larger share of the total. How would it reduce CO2 per kWh? If you don’t feel like drawing me a map, I’d appreciate pointers to relevant reading.

    Comment by CM — 28 Nov 2010 @ 2:40 PM

  164. 163 CM

    If 30% reduction in CO2 per mile traveled were the present case for the EV, that would be worth something. Only trouble is, that is not the correct number for reduction.

    Perhaps you are making the comparison with conventional cars? Then I can see where you get the 30% number.

    But if you are comparing with a hybrid, you do not get a 30% reduction, when coal is the fuel for responding to marginal load increases, there is an increase in CO2, and if the cars are carelessly designed, there could be a big increase.

    If we take the case of the plug-in hybrid, the basic machinery of the hybrid has to be installed and then extra batteries added at significant cost. This is particularly bad, and there is no argument since the comparison between the basic hybrid and the plug-in hybrid would be an obvious way to think.

    For the all electric, the cost of the even larger battery would need to be weighed against the cost of the engine. I contend that the reference should still be the hybrid and not the conventional car running entirely on gasoline without hybrid capability. And we end with an increase in CO2 again.

    Are you looking at Fig. 5-1 of the EPRI-NRDC Duval study?

    But at least we agree tha that ‘zero CO2’ is nonsense; and perhaps we agree that our EPA should do better.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 28 Nov 2010 @ 5:24 PM

  165. 163 CM

    I overstated. There is still a place for EVs as a way of reducing use of oil. That is a real motivation, and for some, that is the over-riding motivation.

    We have not exactly come to agreement that coal will be the basis of response, but when we get there, we should be able to accept that the shift will be from oil to coal.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 28 Nov 2010 @ 5:27 PM

  166. Re Jim Bullis

    took the numbers from:

    the engine is 37.6 % efficient

    some fraction of engine output goes to the driveline (100 % if no idling/standby and we neglect accessories)

    the driveline efficiency is 69.2 %

    the fraction of driveline output (at wheel) not lost to braking is 54.0 % Assuming regenerative braking efficiency is the same as the driveline efficiency * motor/generator efficiency (I’ll just assume 95 % here, I’m not really sure), and multiplying by motor efficiency to get the saved energy that displaces engine energy supply to the driveline, and dividing by engine efficiency, we get the fuel saved; subtracting from the fuel input (100 %) and taking the recip-rocal to fuel input and dividing by 100 %, we get a factor by which the efficiency from fuel to wheel has increased.

    No idling/standby and no accessories:
    no regenerative braking:
    fuel to wheel efficiency is .376*.692*.540 = 14.0 %
    with regenerative braking:
    14.0 % / (1-.376*.692*(1-.540)*.692*.95^2/.376)
    = 14.0 % / (1-(.692*.95)^2*(1-.540))
    = 14.0 % / 0.801
    = 17.5 %
    but multiply by 0.8 for gasoline EROEI of 5:1 (is that correct?), we’re back at 14.0 %
    For highway driving, assuming no braking:
    .376*.692*.8 = 20.8 %

    With an electric car we are told the battery to wheel efficiency is 0.75. Assuming power plant and transmission and EROEI of electricity efficiency is 30 % (?), and that braking uses the same fraction of energy supplied to the wheel,
    No idling/standby and no accessories:
    no regenerative braking:
    fuel to wheel non-braking efficiency is 0.3 * 0.75. * .540 = 12.1 %
    with regenerative braking (noting the .75 must include the motor efficiency:
    12.1 % / (1-.75*(1-.540)*.75*/.75)
    = 12.1 % / (1-.75*(1-.540))
    = 12.1 % / 0.655 = 18.5 %
    for hwy driving, 0.3 * 0.75 = 22.5 %

    But that’s not a fair comparison, because this EV must have a more efficient drivetrain than the ICE car. Guessing it’s 0.75/0.95 ~= 0.789 and substituting for 0.692,
    HEV no regenerative braking, including EROEI: 12.2 %
    with regenerative braking: 16.4 %
    hwy: 22.6 %

    Not much difference. Of course this probably misses some details and perhaps misunderstands how the HEV is set up. With either HEV or PHEV or EV, some portion of the drivetrain might be skipped by having a motor for each wheel; this in principle could be done without the P.

    Of course, if the power plants are made more efficient or have CCS or are cogeneration (or building furnaces are cogeneration or cars’ engines are cogeneration), or if fuel cells make it big (but they could be used at fixed locations and possibly as cogeneration, and the fuel processing necessary to turn gas,coal,oil into has to be taken into account, although if H could be seperated from C while leaving C in solid form, then… (but I think some fuel cells can use CO, and there’s a Li2CO3 battery that can convert electrical energy as C, though I’m unclear on whether it is reversable), then that also changes things.

    And this doesn’t take into account the energy use in buidling and maintaining the power plant, the car, the ICE, the battery, the motor, etc.

    Back to an earlier point made somewhat by me and also other(s): the question is whether biofuels EROEI and economics and emissions, social impacts, etc, can compete with fuel equivalents of solar, wind, nuclear, etc, and/or coal and or coal with CCS and/or sequestration… and how much can be supplied to cars as opposed to winter heating and power needs to backup solar, etc., or whether fuel cells can be developed (which would change the whole fuel-electricity part)… Etc. (PS as you say, natural gas is better for heating or at least cogeneration. Well, convert furnaces to cogeneration (maybe with TPV) and you’ve got your electricity for your PHEV.)

    And (here back to politics of climate change) it looks like you might want to support a price on emissions or some other climate policy to prevent transportation becoming more dependent on coal.

    It’s economics. We could potentially save more money by switching a portion of the fleet from pure ICE to ICE-HEVs but even more to PHEVs and sometimes EVs. Will that money get used to build up clean energy infrastructure, in a deal that reduces emissions and eases the way to eventually shrink coal usage, or will it be used otherwise with greater reliance on coal? Of course you can increase efficiency and prolong oil (and reduce price by reducing demand), but that would help with EVs too.

    And we’ve been over this before, but: It doesn’t matter if the power specifically used to charge the battery is coming from a particular set of power plants; what matters is if the total system becomes more clean, and PHEVs could be a part of that. _______________________________

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 28 Nov 2010 @ 5:56 PM

  167. 166 Patrick 027

    That reference to must have been put together by the same folks that put out the EPA rule on MPG.

    Demonstrate this for yourself by also clicking on the ‘electric’ tab and see that they believe an electric motor efficiency can be meaningfully compared to an internal combustion engine efficiency. This serves as total disqualification on the subject.

    Their analysis is hopelessly confusing. And you misread the driveline efficiency number to further confuse matters.

    And on top of it all, there is a lot of confusion even among the more credible folks involved in engine issues.

    I am traveling and not in a place to effectively sort this out. And rather than further confuse the issue, for now, I will just rely on the results of Figure 5-1 of the NRDC-EPRI study.

    Grams CO2 relate proportionally to kWhr, or BTU, of heat. So if we believe the CO2 per mile from the NRDC-EPRI study, we should get a reasonable statement of total heat as well, since that study is comprehensive from well to wheels, at least it is so stated. Relating this to heat in a gallon of gasoline would be a reasonable way to proceed, and the input to the engine would then be as if it required something more than the initial gallon of gasoline. This should satisfy those who want to count upstream energy loss, and so they should.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 29 Nov 2010 @ 1:03 AM

  168. CM and Patrick 027 and others interested

    To further realize how things have deteriorated in order to promote electric cars look at:

    where this particular page shows that even the head of the UK DOE and Climate Control, David MacKay, is willing to distort physics even though he shows he knows better.

    Here is an exerpt from that page 27 of his book:


    In this book, however, I will usually use a one-to-one conversion rate when comparing different forms of energy. It is not the case that 2.5 kWh of oil is inescapably equivalent to 1 kWh of electricity; that just happens to be the perceived exchange rate in a world-view where oil is used to make electricity. Yes, conversion of chemicalenergy to electrical energy is done with this particular inefficient exchangerate. But electrical energy can also be converted to chemical energy. In an alternative world (perhaps not far-off) with relatively plentiful electricity and little oil, we might use electricity to make liquid fuels; in that world we would surely not use the same exchange rate – each kWh of gasoline would then cost us something like 3 kWh of electricity! I think the timelessand scientific way to summarize and compare energies is to hold 1 kWh of chemical energy equivalent to 1 kWh of electricity.


    There is a lot of good work in this book that is otherwise spoiled by this deliberate distortion, yes, equal to the EPA in violating Laws of Physics.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 29 Nov 2010 @ 1:29 AM

  169. Patrick 027

    Think of the grid as a bucket with lots of tubes running out the bottom. The job of the power planner is to keep the bucket full, at least to the level of the highest tube.

    There are a number of filler tubes, each with a faucet controlling it. Many of the faucets are all the way on, no matter what happens. Some faucets are part way on. There is a mix of filling faucets.

    Now a new tube is installed in the bottom of the bucket and more water runs out into that tube, so something has to be done to increase water coming in at the top.

    The faucets that are allready full on can not be turned on further.

    Now look to the faucets that are part way on. But there is a meter on these, so there is a cost associated with which of these faucet is turned on more. The sensible economic decision is obviously to choose the lower cost faucet. But the response to the newly added bottom tube is which faucet is turned up. That is the marginal response.

    Coal is the fuel feeding the system that is chosen for the marginal response when an EV is plugged in.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 29 Nov 2010 @ 1:43 AM

  170. Jim Bullis: you seem to be struggling to create an analogy for base load and peaking power. You are struggling a lot – the analogy you provide is really rather muddy and not helpful.

    If my interpretation is correct (unlikely, because it doesn’t make much sense) then you claim that plugging in an EV will require a response from a peaking power plant, because the baseload powerplants are turned on full. And then you claim coal is the power in question. But that’s wrong, because coal provides baseload power. Gas is the typical source of peaking power.

    Your whole argument is a non-starter anyway, because fighting climate change requires replacing coal and natural gas and gasoline with renewables.

    And you really didn’t understand what David MacKay said, did you? That’s not a question. You didn’t understand. Try reading it again, leaving your preconceptions at the door.

    Comment by Didactylos — 29 Nov 2010 @ 9:13 AM

  171. Jim #164,

    Yes, my comparison was with conventional gas-driven cars. I hadn’t got to hybrids yet… But for starters, I could apply the same simple calculation and data used at #145 and #156 to the Prius, which is now rated at 50 MPG combined (FEG 2011). As a non-plugin, it gets all its energy from gasoline, so that’s 8.8 kg CO2 on a 50-mile journey, or ~ 180 g CO2/mile.

    That’s better than I get for the higher-rated Leaf (210 g/mile on the present U.S. power mix). But for EVs vs HEVs vs PHEVs, the margins are small enough that the outcome may be decided by all the terms I lazily left out when comparing EVs with hopeless old conventional cars, including emissions from the refining and distribution of gasoline. In the Duval study you mentioned, well-to-tank emissions seem to account for a steady 21-22% of the total emissions from gasoline. Factor that in, and the Prius gets ~ 230 g CO2/mile, which is worse than the Leaf.

    But wait – what about transmission losses… and the emissions from getting the coal to the power plant…? I think you can scratch my calculations.

    Which brings me to whether the EPA could have done better, as you say. Maybe they could, but remember, they’re not stupid – they’ll have considered the advantages and drawbacks of different approaches. How would you do it? Remember, the label should convey as useful information as possible, as intuitively as possible, in as few figures, explanations and caveats as possible, and they’re only going to make one label for one car model regardless of where it’s bought.

    We may not like their MPG-equivalent for EVs. But if the EV label reported miles per kWh, it would be a far smaller number than the MPG, so psychologically it might make conventional cars seem more economic. So perhaps we need some kind of MPGe after all. I’d innovatively suggest a carbon mileage, an MPGe based on miles traveled with the same CO2 emissions as from one gallon of gasoline. But then, should the full well-to-wheels emissions be included, for both gasoline and electricity? Calculated how? Moreover, the emissions from electric power production would not be the same for all consumers. One could use the national average, but noone’s got their garage plugged into a national average grid. We already have“city” and“highway” mileages in small print beside the combined mileage; should the label also indicate coal-state and nuke-state mileages?

    In short, I’m beginning to understand why the EPA label focuses on quantities that can be measured solely by testing the actual vehicle the sticker is glued to, and that will be the same for all vehicles no matter what utility they draw their power from: namely, how well they make use of the energy they draw from the pump or the plug; and what comes out of the tailpipe.

    But I continue to think it’s not a good guide to the carbon footprint of EVs, and you may be right that they exaggerate the advantage of plug-ins over hybrids. Since the EPA is eager to gather public input on labeling, it would be nice to come up with a better idea.

    But I’ve got deadlines looming…

    Comment by CM — 29 Nov 2010 @ 3:07 PM

  172. As his OT comments have come to outnumber his readers , Mr. Bullis ought to take his soapbox elsewhere

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 29 Nov 2010 @ 4:39 PM

  173. 171 CM

    Thanks for the alert that the comment period is not over. I was under the impression that the rule was final.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 29 Nov 2010 @ 5:47 PM

  174. 170 didac

    Steady loads are met by a in a variety of ways, but all that is required for coal scheduling is a reasonable capability to anticipate loads.

    Somebody told you that coal supplies ‘base loads’ which it does, but coal is fairly flexible and can respond to daily scheduling. ‘Base load’ is a not very useful term. Load is variable, and there is a level of load that usually is less than the daily minimums.

    MacKay writes a clear and absolute sentence, “I think the timeless and scientific way to summarize and compare energies is to hold 1 kWh of chemical energy equivalent to 1 kWh of electricity.” What is there in these words that is unclear? Do you understand that it is absolutely a violation of the Laws of Thermodynamics?

    172 Russel Seitz,

    I gather you have no concern about government that repeals the Laws of Physics.

    I hope there are a few more readers than commenters, but this is a hope, not a law.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 29 Nov 2010 @ 6:05 PM

  175. Re Jim Bullis – I realize you have the opinion that the graphic at has the wrong numbers. But I didn’t misread anything; I divided the number at the driveline output by the number at the driveline input and got the driveline efficiency; what did I miss? Of course, if you think I used the wrong approach or numbers to guesstimate regenerative braking, then go ahead and tell me what I should have done. But I tried to make comparisons on an equal footing – and what I came up with (noting the last calculation with the ‘implied’ driveline efficiency of an (P)EV substituted into a non-P HEV) is that the fuel (including EROEI) to wheel efficiency may be about the same (why should that be surprising?), with the ICE-HEV car being possibly slightly better on the hwy and the P-EV doing better in city driving if both have regenerative braking.

    The point that the electricity-fuel conversion could change is a good point – if all primary energy were electric and certain applications were served best with fuel, then the conversion would be quite different. I’m not saying that is the future but it’s an approximation of one scenario.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 29 Nov 2010 @ 6:06 PM

  176. Dream on, Mister Bullis . Your 40 odd posts may far outnumber your interlocutors, but anyone who writes the better part of 27,000 words off topic is unlikely to be deterred by a fleeing audience .

    Let me express their thanks for not persuing them

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 29 Nov 2010 @ 6:57 PM

  177. 175 Patrick 027

    I jumped to the arrow going downward labeled
    ‘driveline loss’ and overwrite of 5.6% to mean driveline efficiency of 94.6%.

    Engine efficiency is certainly confusing.

    We have learned from Toyota how to produce a very efficient, relatively speaking, automobile that runs directly on gasoline. I use this as a reference since that is an option in actual production, not just idle blather.

    Argonne National Laboratory shows engine efficiency for the Prius, variously, from 35% to 38%. Since this comes from dynamometer tests, I make the slightly tenuous assumption that this is heat input energy divided by output mechanical energy via the engine crankshaft. This goes into a transmission which is now fairly efficient, as opposed to the old fluid transmissions. In modern systems, the mechanical connection to the wheels is around 90% efficient. This is the reason that Toyota uses a ‘synergy drive’ arrangement, so that for much driving, much energy is coupled to the wheels without going through the battery and the electric motor.

    As you mention, regenerative braking is of great importance. However, there are big differences in the way this is implemented, where a really good system is complicated and expensive, and some incidental use of this basic energy saving arrangement is cheap and simple. There is no guarantee that an electric vehicle uses regenerative braking at all.

    Back to the EPA explanation, their attempt to generalize about all kinds of driving makes it nearly impossible to follow their displayed chart. But their idea of electric motor efficiency is so far off as far as real engineering goes that it seems unlikely we will get much more out of this chart.

    I often point out, there is a reason that a heat engine is called an engine and an electric motor is called a motor. The electric motor changes form of energy without doing the heavy lifting of converting from heat to mechanical energy.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 29 Nov 2010 @ 8:51 PM

  178. 175 Patrick 027

    When the all electric primary power scenario comes to pass, I will cheerfully melt down every ICE I can find.

    Until then, the best we can hope for is to use the least amount of electricity possible. The fake MPGe system encourages sloppy use of electricity. This is in the same league as making oil extra cheap through tax deals like the ‘oil depletion allowance’, whereby the motivation to make vehicles use less energy was squashed and the motivation to make engines any better than what we now think of as normal was also squashed.

    Historically, 100 years ago, there was a significant group of companies attempting to develop ‘cycle cars’ which could have led to much reduced use of oil, compared to the cars that we came to know and love instead.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 29 Nov 2010 @ 9:09 PM

  179. 170 Didacto

    I bet you got confused by MacKay’s way of talking about ‘chemical’ energy as both the heat that comes from burning fuel as a ‘chemical’ reaction, and the ‘chemical energy’ stored in a battery. Getting energy from burning fuel requires a heat engine. Getting energy out of a battery requires only ionic action that does not involve the heavy lifting that can only be done in a heat engine.

    MacKay himself was not at all confused.

    That is confusing even for those who want to understand stuff.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 29 Nov 2010 @ 9:16 PM

  180. I’m afraid to ask…. so, Jim Bullis: instead of treating all energy as equal, and setting conversion efficiency aside to be treated separately – what conversion factors would you propose?

    Do you see the problem yet? The conversion factor is not a constant. Pretending it is can cause vast confusion. As it seems to have done with you.

    Now, if you have a limited problem, then it might be sensible to build in your conversion factor. But in a general discussion of energy, where you don’t particularly want to be concerned with where it came from or where it is going – a joule is a joule.

    That’s for high-level discussion. If you look at the detail, you will find that the electricity supply route has lots of losses, just as with gasoline. The difference is that electricity is lost in dribs and drabs all the way down the line, while gasoline is, as you keep harping on about, subject to the inefficiencies of the internal combustion engine. I have noticed, Jim, that you have a tendency to apply factors such as this one-sidedly. You need to assess both energy sources in the same way. You can’t just make one exception for one fuel. Even in your trivial example above, you managed to ignore the battery charging efficiency (let alone everything else).

    I don’t think David MacKay is absolutely right about everything. But his reasoning skills and communication skills should be something to aspire to, Jim.

    Comment by Didactylos — 30 Nov 2010 @ 12:13 AM

  181. Re ‘OT’ – Well, I was starting to think this was a semi-open thread as someone else had, and/or the car discussion was related via politics of regulating emissions (distinct but connected to climate science); but the original poster just said this car discussion was OT, so I guess that’s that – well, except for very brief responses to other comments (as long as allowed) – on that note:

    Re Jim Bullis – summarizing my points:

    PHEV vs non-P HEV raw fuel source to wheel efficiency may be roughly the same;

    I agree the 99 mpg rating given to the Leaf was ill-thought-out, in a word, wrong, though I can understand CM’s point – if I may paraphrase an implied aspect of it – that they want to communicate to the public in units/phrases they are familiar with (mpge is good; maybe just place 1 mpge ~= 2.5 or 3 mpg(fuel) on the sticker).

    Thermodynamics/conversion efficiencies and emissions of a mere subset of the whole system are not the only things that decisions are based on; economics, though dependent on those, depends on other things (and so on for social/environmental matters). 1a. Fuel can be more easily stored than electricity; until room-temperature superconductors (And maybe not even then), electricity must be converted to some other form to be stored and conversion to fuel generally involves a loss. 1b. You want to avoid converting energy (and transporting/transmitting it) back-and-forth needlessly and use energy in a less processed (and more local) form if possible; and economics reflects that. But it must also be noted that 2. some applications (in different places in different conditions) are better served by energy in different forms; some are more flexible than others. 3. And also, the economical availability of different forms of energy (at different places, at different times of year) is not necessarily what we would most want, so 2+3 sometimes we will want to convert one form to another, sometimes more than once. Also 4. Various processes can be linked by byproducts/coproducts and overlaping sets of inputs (cooperation (PS if we reduce our gasoline usage and nothing else changes, gasoline prices would have a relative decrease but some other petroleum products could tend to increase in price), competition) And 4. the ways in which energy is obtained from nature can and will evolve as technology changes, society changes, economies evolve (including: some resources are depleted, others have evolving competing demands) and public policies change, and so while a dominant energy conversion now is primary fuel to electricity at ~ 30 to 40 % efficiency, often without cogeneration; it could be (depending on the amount of biofuel that can be produced at some efficiency and lifecycle emissions and some amount of land/water/etc.) reversed at some time in the future; and to avoid unnecessary conversions, some processes which can be adapted to use electricity would be (some might be now if not for habit – depending on COP and cost of heap pumps, for example). The efficiencies of conversions, though ultimately limited by physics, could change depending on technology (and economics thereof). Developing a range of technologies early on can better enable taking advantage of opportunities and reducing costs later.

    In other words, economics (and long-term public policy and strategy) is important.

    If you don’t want an emissions tax (or some roughly equivalent policy), or simply don’t believe one will occur, or believe that coal will continue to be the first power plant fuel of choice – because of economics (obviously not because of emissions, and not directly because of thermodynamics, but indirectly via economics), then you must also realize that PHEVs could (depending on non-fuel/electricity costs) become a greater share of the market, with some petroleum usage replaced with electricity, because of the economics (prices won’t shift to stop this until the market share reaches some equilibrium – except for bubbles, of course; greater car efficiency could bring the usage of either form of energy down, this would shift the equilibrium market share (for given total market) as the supply curves have different slopes). This is without faulty EPA stickers. With 1 galon of gasoline ~ 36.6 kWh ~ 12 or 14 kWe at maybe $3 (likely to rise without (or up to a point, even with) changes in efficiency, driving, style, market share and size), thus ~ 25 or 21 cents/kWhe (compare to solar, which is likely to fall), verses ~ 10 cents/kWhe for electricity, even factoring in that based on fuel not including EROEI, the non-P HEV may be a little more efficient, it isn’t THAT much more efficient; so what would you choose?

    So why advocate against using the P in PHEV if you aren’t going to advocate against burning the C in coal, or have I misunderstood?

    (Okay, that was way longer than I thought it would be, but I think that’s all I have to say without becoming too redundant.)

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 30 Nov 2010 @ 12:31 AM

  182. … the gasoline kWhe is used without conversion from ‘kWhm’ (mechanical) because they are similar enough in this context.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 30 Nov 2010 @ 12:34 AM

  183. Re 177 Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company says:

    I jumped to the arrow going downward labeled
    ‘driveline loss’ and overwrite of 5.6% to mean driveline efficiency of 94.6%.

    Would you agree that my interpretation of the graphic makes more sense?

    Good to know that driveline efficiency can be so improved upon.

    What do you think/know the efficiency of motor/generator in an ((P)H)EV is?

    (kept it short that time!)

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 30 Nov 2010 @ 12:43 AM

  184. Patrick 027 and CM, I think your comments are well done, but in just a small but significant part it sounds like your excusing the EPA for making stuff up so long as their heart is in the right place.

    Comment by Rod B — 30 Nov 2010 @ 10:12 AM

  185. #184 “making stuff up…”
    Not solely Rod B.’s province…

    Comment by Walter Pearce — 30 Nov 2010 @ 11:33 AM

  186. > sounds like your excusing the EPA for making stuff up
    Rod B, relying on Jim Bullis for the assumption EPA is making stuff up.

    Clue: approximation, explained as an approximation, is not a lie.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Nov 2010 @ 12:05 PM

  187. CM @ 163:

    The difference between “base load” and “peak”, ignoring block generation that can ramp up fast enough to have “base” efficiency, is made up by peaking plants. Those plants are less efficient and more polluting. So, by “filling in the troughs” both the cost / KWh and the CO2 emissions / KWh decrease. Still have more production, and still have more CO2 emissions, but the “cost” and “CO2” numbers improve.

    The other advantage is that cars are being designed to be charged in a “smart” manner. When demand is higher than production, line frequency drops. There are appliances which can detect this and respond. The reverse happens when demand is lower than production, etc. There is a lot of work going on in this area — it’s usually lumped under “Smart Grid”, though some of the ideas are rather dumb and others could cause the grid to actually collapse. I especially like the poorly conceived “Smart Grid” ideas that can result in total grid failure.

    The problem with the “No! Don’t Do It!” people, like Bullis, is that we have to start doing “it” so that in 2, 5, 10, 20 years, we’re actually “done”, not waiting around. But also, we need to be building and buying electric vehicles because the average life expectancy of a car is much longer than the time its going to take to transition. Or at least, to be able to transition.

    If you buy a gasoline powered car =today=, you’ve just made a financial commitment to burn gasoline for about 15 years. One outcome of the Car Quality Wars is that cars last a LOT longer. My Pontiac is 9. My son’s Infiniti is 11. Neither car is ready for the scrap heap, and the cars rolling off the assembly line today have even better quality.


    The question becomes this — how many years from now do you expect an electric car to be a viable alternative. Consider the explosive growth in wind and solar, rising costs of gasoline, environmental costs and put “my next car will last more than 10 years” on top of that. The only rational answer I can see is that anyone purchasing a new “commuter car” should be buying a ZEV or a PHEV and possibly “self-fueling” with residential wind or solar. A straight-up ICE makes no sense. Big family mobile or truck or long-distance driver? Sure, go with something that can run on liquid fuels. But if the range is workable in a ZEV or PHEV, go that route.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 30 Nov 2010 @ 12:38 PM

  188. 186 Hank Roberts

    An ‘approximation’ that is not at all an approximation, but pretends to be, is deliberate deception.

    The problem is all about whether or not the heat engine, used to make the conversion from heat energy to electric energy, is included in the calculation for all forms of propulsion apparatus.

    By simply accepting a kWhr of electricity as a measure that is closely related in some way to heat is cheating, not by just an approximation, but by a factor of three. In the example at hand, the Nissan Leaf was rated at 99 MPGe when it should be 33 MPGe. That is not an approximation!!!!!! Even under government imposition of a ban on coal, the error would be more than a factor of two, so in this case the Nissan Leaf would get, maybe a rating of 66 MPGe.

    What we see here in this discussion is that the basic problem of the heat loss in heat engines is not something that many otherwise well informed people are aware of.

    By the way, it is not a new problem: Edison and Westinghouse substantially disagreed on this, but because efficiency was not very important in the day of very cheap fuel, the world went to the AC system of Westinghouse, which enabled the system of central power plants that we have today. And these generally throw away two thirds of the input energy.

    The EPA is a government agency that relies on outside experts, and it appears that the ‘expert’ job has been siezed by unqualified folks, who have various motivations and questionable expertise in some combination.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 30 Nov 2010 @ 1:19 PM

  189. 180 Didacto

    In physics, there is no meaning to equivalence between heat and electric forms of energy, unless the process is specifies. This is the reason for the ‘it depends’ answer, so when one is trying to set a standard, it is necessary to come to some agreement on the underlying process. But it is especially hard to reach such an agreement when some folks evade, whether by ignorance or a deliberate intent, to evade the idea of marginal response.

    The idea of marginal response to new loads is not something I made up. It is a common way of evaluating incremental changes in processes. In systems of taxation it is familiar to many, where the last dollar earned is taxed at a different rate from the overall tax rate. In general, marginal response is a required concept for any analysis involving non-linear processes.

    In electric power, one has a ‘mix’ of sources, but as loading goes from zero to high levels, sources are brought on line as load increases. The ideal source options are obviously going to be used wherever possible, thus, something like hydro will be first on line if at all possible. But once the cheap and clean supplies are exhausted, the more expensive and troublesome sources are brought into play.

    I contend that it is rational to proceed based on the conclusion that coal will be the basis of marginal response when electric vehicles are plugged in, so coal fired systems are specific processes and these can be specified on a meaningful EPA label, instead of just saying ‘it depends’. And in this situation, an MPGe result can be provided.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 30 Nov 2010 @ 1:51 PM

  190. Rod B #184 (apologies to everybody else for repeating myself)

    Quite the opposite. I was excusing the EPA for trying too hard to be objective, reporting only the measurable properties of the actual vehicle that bears the sticker, without making assumptions about the energy chain behind it.

    Not for “making stuff up”. They don’t.

    The EV sticker we’ve been discussing gives the correct tailpipe CO2 emissions (zero), and the mileage per charge, which has no doubt been painstakingly measured. The kWh-gallons conversion, which prompted Jim Bullis’s rhetorical hyperbole about repealing laws of physics, actually gives a correct picture of how efficient the EV is at making use of the energy supplied to it, relative to other cars; and it does so in terms meaningful to the average consumer.

    Unfortunately, because they exclude power generation, neither figure represents the actual carbon footprint of an EV. I don’t know how many consumers actually risk being misled by this: Those who are likely to consider an EV versus a hybrid these days are probably often motivated and well-informed enough to fill in the gaps for themselves.

    I do however worry that this kind of rating could lead to complacency that EVs will solve the climate challenge to the transport sector, when a real solution would also involve driving far fewer miles in far fewer cars than we do at present. The perfect zero-emissions vehicle remains the bicycle.

    Comment by CM — 30 Nov 2010 @ 2:06 PM

  191. Furry #187,
    Thanks for the explanation. But I thought baseload power was typically delivered by coal (and nukes), peak power by gas turbines (and hydro, and with opportunities for solar). If I had to take a wild guess without looking up the numbers (as I haven’t yet), I’d think the immediate effect of shifting more power use to baseload would be more CO2 per kWh, not less.

    Comment by CM — 30 Nov 2010 @ 2:26 PM

  192. 187 Furry Friend

    Yes, it all depends on our different perceptions about how things will unfold.

    I have looked at the ‘explosive growth in renewables’ and have concluded it is a glass, not half full, but with barely noticeable dampness on the bottom and seem see the glass to be near to overflowing.

    Please let me know when there is reserve capacity, yes, I mean ‘at the ready’ in renewable sources. If you don’t tell me, I will just watch to see when all the coal fired power plants are scrapped.

    There is no substitute for a powerful visual experience. Drive up to Kansas City and then take US169 North past the old airport. Look to the right and see giant coal cars filling parallel rail lines, and maybe a complete train of 120 cars coming in, pulled by 6 BNSF locomotives.

    Then check the annual reports of BNSF and UP, the two by far largest western railroads, and note that 22% of the revenue of both (2007) was from hauling coal. Then look at NRG Corp annual report for 2008 and note that they have about half their fossil fuel capacity in coal and half in natural gas, but they state that in 2008 that 91% of the electricity they produced was from the coal equipment. They also noted how immensely profitable it was selling power from natural gas, where the customers had no other choice.

    As long as the coal trains are rolling, if we care a whit about global warming, we had better try to make that system work. (Catch the Forest plan of comments past.)

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 30 Nov 2010 @ 2:31 PM

  193. Russel Seitz,

    I had missed that you made the cartoon post, but now I have noted that you have strong opinions, headed by the title, “What’s Wrong with Science and the Media?”

    The core of much of science is physics. And you find that a discussion about a violation of the Laws of Physics by the EPA is OT? Please note that the media widely reports the rulings by the EPA.

    Do you really think we will get on track to carry out effective solutions to global warming when we base our actions on fake physics?

    And there is no separating energy policy from global warming.

    But I do thank you for letting free speech prevail.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 30 Nov 2010 @ 2:49 PM

  194. 186 Hank Roberts

    Are you characterizing what I say about the EPA as an assumption?

    Did you check the EPA sticker? The violation of physics is absolutely determined by that sticker, no assumptions needed.

    The relationship between heat in gasoline is absolutely related to kWhr of electricity by hard mathematical logic on the very face of that sticker.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 30 Nov 2010 @ 2:56 PM

  195. 186 Hank Roberts

    I will pay you 33 cents for every dollar you would like to exchange. (Second Law analogy) Apparently you would find that to be a reasonable approximation.

    I will even pay postage. (First Law analogy.)

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 30 Nov 2010 @ 3:00 PM

  196. CM,
    “a real solution would also involve driving far fewer miles in far fewer cars than we do at present.”
    I’m not saying it would be a bad thing but whatever happened to simply driving smaller, lighter, less powerful cars?
    All this stuff about converting the car fleet to hybrids or even electric cars reminds me of a certain hydrogen-powered Hummer. There are so many SUVs on the road and that’s your priority? Hybrid and electric designs have a place but the vast majority of cars in the world are cheap cars. Efficient ICE cars are so much cheaper than a Prius and can end up causing less emissions (depending on how much time they spend stuck in traffic jams).

    Comment by Anonymous Coward — 30 Nov 2010 @ 3:29 PM

  197. Jim Bullism, see CM’s post above, 30 November 2010 at 2:06 PM
    The people you think you’re fighting with are not here.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Nov 2010 @ 3:31 PM

  198. 192, Jim Bullis: There is no substitute for a powerful visual experience. Drive up to Kansas City and then take US169 North past the old airport. Look to the right and see giant coal cars filling parallel rail lines, and maybe a complete train of 120 cars coming in, pulled by 6 BNSF locomotives.

    True, but it is probably more informative to read a lot of statistics. Renewables now contribute to generating more than 4% of American total electricity, and with exponential growth that will be a much larger percentage reasonably soon, perhaps 40% in 10 years. If the current rate of R&D in wind and solar are maintained, those coal trains will be half as long before you know it (so to speak), or else heading west toward a boat to China.

    The cartoon is dreadful: good for making the in-group feel even more smug while offending the undecideds. In my opinion, anyway.

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 30 Nov 2010 @ 3:38 PM

  199. 171 CM

    When you say, ‘you may be right that they exaggerate the advantage of plug-ins over hybrids’ you are misrepresenting what I say.

    First, we address the issue of energy efficiency:

    The EPA sticker as proposed and published and used for advertising overstates the MPGe for electric vehicles by a factor of three.

    In some restrictive situations where natural gas fired, peaking generators, provide the marginal response to new loads, the overstatement could be by a’only’ a factor of two. Where government actually bans coal, and this does not get compensated for by other users of coal, there might be an argument that the exageration is only by a factor of two.

    The ‘mix’ has little relationship to the fuel used for marginal response.

    Then we address the issue of CO2:

    The EPA qualifies emissions to be from the tailpipe, thus contriving to make it appear valid to call the electric vehicle a ‘zero’ emission vehicle.

    We have gone on to discuss the CO2 emissions in a more reasonable way, and agree that the electric vehicle would result in reduction of CO2 compared to standard cars of the past. However, the electric vehicle will result in greater CO2 than if the comparison was with existing, mass production, hybrid technology. The exception to this last is if the marginal response to new plug-in loads is from something other than coal fired systems, and in this case, and in only this case, is there any advantage to the electric vehicle, and it is not much. It is so much ‘not much’ that the cost and inconvenience of electric operation, all things considered, seems a very foolish expense. In general, it would be much wiser to buy a good hybrid and skip the EV foolishness.

    Proponents of nuclear have not weighed in, and that could actually change things. I prefer measures that would make coal work until renewables or really viable nuclear come to pass.

    Forests could take up some of the slack, but we also need vehicles that greatly reduce energy in general. We could even go for all electric plug-in vehicles if the efficiency of the vehicle was greatly improved.

    But the EPA sticker in question removes all motivation for real efficiency.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 30 Nov 2010 @ 4:04 PM

  200. 198 SMathew

    Does the 4% of present electric energy supply come from hydro?

    There are some opportunities for expanding that, but it is certainly not an explosive expansion situation.

    The percentage increase in wind and solar is a very different thing compared with the growth actually needed to displace coal as the basis of response to new loads.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 30 Nov 2010 @ 4:12 PM

  201. 200, Jim Bullis: The percentage increase in wind and solar is a very different thing compared with the growth actually needed to displace coal as the basis of response to new loads.

    Only if you mean displace coal completely real soon. The real questions are How much? and How soon?

    I am not sure how much of the 4% is hydro. I think that 4% is non-hydro renewable. However, with exponential growth (as it looks like we have had in recent years and will continue to have), the base only affects the projection by a few years.

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 30 Nov 2010 @ 9:08 PM

  202. 190 CM

    It is ‘making stuff up’ when the EPA redefines the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and to call it rhetorical hyperbole to object to this means that we have a real problem with education in physics.

    And it is not just an academic nicety to insist on this being done right. There are serious economic implications of this effort to mislead, which I think it really is.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 30 Nov 2010 @ 9:42 PM

  203. IIRC, Jim, the percentage of hydro was already higher than that–6%, I think?

    So, no, the 4% would have to be renewables other than hydro–if my memory here is correct.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 30 Nov 2010 @ 9:51 PM

  204. Jim, read up on the current active work being done to revise the old label.

    You might contribute your suggestions to one of the focus groups.

    This would be a more productive use of your time than complaining about the old one, since the new ones are being worked on.

    Remember, you’ll have to boil the physics down to few enough words to fit readably in a 4×5\ space, and half the people read below 7th grade.

    Long detailed texts won’t fit on the label.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Nov 2010 @ 10:30 PM

  205. Re
    FurryCatHerder, CM, (and Jim) –

    I had some concern about PHEV’s being plugged in at night evening out the diurnal load, as this takes away some of solar’s advantage (although not wind’s); however, weekdays the 9-5 crowd can plug in during the day at work (Re Jim: which would tend to involve peaking plants, potentially solar)

    On the information for the Leaf (if I recall correctly), it takes a long time to fully charge, but apparently a shorter time for almost fully charging – did I get this wrong? Will this interfere with flexible charging times?

    What is the line frequency that appliances (and maybe cars someday) can respond to (PS I’d imagine this would work quite well for heating/cooling as it takes time for the temperature of a building to drift toward discomfort and problems)? Is is the deviations from a sinusoidal waveform?
    I had imagined that some portion of the load might, via weather observations, visible satellite imagery, respond proactively to upcoming changes in solar power…

    (where could I read about smart grid stuff – the actually smart and the dumb?)

    RE Jim – there are two distinct ways of bringing power on line to changes in load:

    1. bringing reserve capacity in (can included energy storage plants with stored solar, wind energy; of course hydro)
    2. long term response – building more capacity. This needn’t be plants with reserve capacity; this can be wind and solar power plants, etc.

    Building more solar power plant capacity doesn’t itself make sense in response to increases in load at night, but does for increases in load during the day (esp. in spring/summer) particularly since there is already a greater demand at that time (diurnal, also seasonal – except for the the winter peak)). Solar power can displace other peaking plants, those with reserve capacity that can be brought on line as needed – now what should those plants do? Maybe they can peak at other times, or add some baseload (if a plant can run, it can run, right?)

    Who really cares that solar and wind (raw form, not storage plants, which can be in the peaking/reserve capacity category) can not just be brought on-line as needed and respond to loads, in so far as to whether or not solar and wind plants should be built in response to greater load + eventual decreasing fossil fuel consumption (okay, it matters to the economics and necessary storage and/or transmission and/or presense of flexible loads and other power plants, but not in such a black/white way)? Build the plants, they’ll supply energy; other plants can be brought on line, turned up and down as needed.

    As to 1. momentary changes in load – that happens anyway. If 20 years from now a PHEV is plugged in, it isn’t the last load added – somebody may decide to turn on the microwave after that! So who’s to say that baseload isn’t charging eh PHEV and a peaking plant isn’t powering the microwave? But that doesn’t make sense, neither does the opposite. What matters is becoming less dependant on finite nonrenewable resources, reducing (net) emissions (there’s room for sequestration, but …**), and getting it done economically.

    ** – Why support forests, etc, without a tax on CO2eq, which is what in principle ought to pay for it.
    ** – again, why go against PHEV’s and still allow coal untaxed; you could go against coal and then the PHEV issue would be partly resolved.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 1 Dec 2010 @ 12:41 AM

  206. Building more solar power plant capacity doesn’t itself make sense in response to increases in load at night,
    (taken in isolation from other plants, storage, transmission, flexible loads, emissions, etc.)

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 1 Dec 2010 @ 12:44 AM

  207. “On the information for the Leaf, it takes a long time to fully charge, but apparently a shorter time for almost fully charging – did I get this wrong?”

    It’s hard on the battery, though, so it’s not something you want to do frequently.

    Solar and wind need to have some sort of storage if they are going to take over from coal and gas. Nothing really looks good except for large amounts of hydroelectric power.

    Comment by NoPreview NoName — 1 Dec 2010 @ 2:51 AM

  208. I83 Bullis:
    ” I do thank you for letting free speech prevail.”

    Free speech has nothing to do with it- I am not disposed to waste time trying to edit bloggerel of such a low order.

    Now kindly go away

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 1 Dec 2010 @ 4:26 AM

  209. Anonymous #196,
    My point was that EVs and hybrids are not the solution, they’re only part of the solution, which I think calls for (a) radically cleaner cars, (b) a modal shift from cars and trucks to bikes, trams, trains, boats; and (c) reducing the overall transport volume; all at the same time. Smaller, lighter conventional cars help limit the growth in emissions from growing traffic, but not to make the deep cuts we need, at this point, to avoid 4°C warming over this century.

    Jim #199,
    I did misrepresent your position on the relative merits of EVs and hybrids. Sorry. Didn’t mean to. And as to #202, I realize that you actually mean what you say about the EPA conversion violating the second law of thermodynamics. This is not the case in the narrow reference frame adopted by the EPA, but Didactylos, Patrick and I have been over this several times already. By adopting this narrow frame, though, the EPA sticker methodology makes EVs look less carbon-intensive and more economic with primary energy than they are, and thus distorts the comparison with hybrids. But I don’t suspect any “effort to mislead”.

    I leave the discussion with the impression that hybrid and EV CO2 emissions are not that far apart under current average U.S. circumstances(*), so rankings between them may be sensitive to different reasonable methodological choices. I do however see EVs as advantageous in the medium term, given the fast development of renewable energy, and for strategic reasons pointed out by Bob and others, so I think there’s a strong case for investing in them.

    (**) Countries with e.g. France’s nukes or Norway’s hydro will differ.

    Comment by CM — 1 Dec 2010 @ 5:34 AM

  210. JB 192: As long as the coal trains are rolling, if we care a whit about global warming, we had better try to make that system work

    BPL: As long as the coal trains are rolling, if we care a whit about global warming, we had better try to replace that system entirely.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 1 Dec 2010 @ 7:04 AM

  211. CM,
    Increasing the efficiency of the ICE fleet is currently the cheapest and easiest way to reduce emissions from cars.
    Reducing the transport volume is generally more applicable to trucks than cars as measures to significantly reduce vehicle-miles driven over a few years would have to be fairly coercitive.
    People who prioritize other changes seem to be more interested in promoting their pet technologies or social agendas than in reducing emissions.

    France and Norway aren’t unique. It would be better if countries which use little to no fossil fuels for generation would export electricity to countries who use baseload fossil fuel plants instead of encouraging their residents to use electric cars.
    There’s a limit to how far electricity can be economically transmitted so in some cases (such as Iceland), I agree electrical vheicles make sense.

    Comment by Anonymous Coward — 1 Dec 2010 @ 10:55 AM

  212. 209 BPL

    Our main point of disagreement is how soon it would be possible to do this without doing unreasonable harm to the economy. However, I also maintain that the issue is CO2, and any arrangement that puts that under control should be welcome. So while coal is an obvious big part of the problem, using coal itself would be ok if it was accompanied by solutions that compensated for the CO2.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 1 Dec 2010 @ 12:25 PM

  213. 204 Hank Roberts

    The EPA sticker in question is the new one, which has been put out for comment, and immediately jumped on by marketeers to promote the Nissan Leaf. They made it sound like it was final. You alerted me to the fact that it was still being discussed.

    I have to say though, that the ‘comment’ period is not all that meaningful, and of the 50,000 comments usually received on such things, there is not much seriousness in evaluating individual comments.

    I am not complaining; I call it campaigning, since only if a lot of people get interested in getting this right, will it get fixed.

    And we are not there yet, even in this discussion, even though progress has been made.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 1 Dec 2010 @ 1:29 PM

  214. 210 Anon

    Absolutely right on this one.

    I am all for electric cars in settings where they make sense.

    I just want the evaluation done correctly. Then it is up to us to fit products into the system that meet the needs of people. And it is sometimes necessary to change things and then convince people to accept the change. That is not easy.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 1 Dec 2010 @ 2:39 PM

  215. 208 CM, Didac, Patrick, Furry, Anon and others

    Thanks for sticking with this and helping work it through. I think we mostly settled the EPA sticker, though I am not sure that the concept of marginal response has stuck just yet.

    I think those that wake up ten years from now will find that renewables have not expanded as we are no led to expect, but reasonable people can differ on this.

    Maybe some other time we can talk about changing vehicle aerodynamics.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 1 Dec 2010 @ 2:54 PM

  216. Patrick 027 —

    The frequency change is noticeable enough that I can watch generators come and go from my bedroom.

    If you lived in Texas, you could too. But only because I live in Texas ;)

    The short answer is that not only is Jim completely wrong, but he’s not even close enough to “right” that “completely wrong” describes his belief set.

    Case in point — negative costs for energy. We already have them in ERCOT, and if I lived someplace where I could take advantage of it, I’d be at it right now. The future is here. Today. Not next week, or next month. The growth in renewables is high enough that I can’t even call some of the people I used to be able to chew the fat with. They’re too busy installing power systems that are bigger than anything they’ve installed in prior years.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 1 Dec 2010 @ 3:34 PM

  217. Jim @ 214:

    I’d be willing to discuss changing vehicle aerodynamics if you’d actually built one of your cars and gotten it on the road, working, full-scale, etc.

    As for the built-out in renewables, the growth rate has had legs for years now. At something around $4.50 / watt installed (no rebates), not installing solar becomes a bad financial decision. I talked to people a few weeks ago in New Orleans who are now quoting bids at $5.50 / watt installed. At the start of the year the price was around $6.00 / watt for AC-only and $7.00 / watt with batteries.

    I spoke with the company that I’m going to transfer my internet hosting to ( and told the owner that for a $15 / month surcharge, his clients can pay to build-out solar with a 7 year payback. The solar power systems I recommended have about a 25 year guarantee, but only because no one knows how many more years they’ll last — many of the parts have MTBF’s measured in decades and panels from the 70’s are still putting out 70 to 80 percent of nameplate.

    It isn’t — seriously — that you’re overly pessimistic, it’s that if technology repeats itself with renewable energy, you’ll be the guy who insists on using an abacus while others had switched to slide rules, then calculators, then PC’s. A lot of the problems that existed four or five years ago have been solved. And in some cases, the new problems that were created by those solutions have been solved, and so on.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 1 Dec 2010 @ 3:44 PM

  218. … I forgot in my last two comments that some forms of solar power – such as CSP – have storage included. That storage can vary, so it can be a peaking plant with reserve capacity available and/or baseload, depending. Also, fuels can be burned to compensate for greater than some level of cloudiness and at night/winter to run the same heat-electrical conversion device, so it can ‘stand-alone’ to some extent on the grid, no need for compensating power plants.

    (CSP could also just supply heat, completely or from cogeneration, as for industrial processes).

    I also recently read of an idea that wind power could directly be converted to CAES storage (mechanical energy – pump air), so that electricity needn’t be produced, then consumed, then produced again, but produced just once from the stored energy. (CAES can also be used to store PV energy – in that case the multiple conversions are necessary).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 1 Dec 2010 @ 11:04 PM

  219. Misunderstanding and misinformation from both sides. Carbon dioxide should NOT be described loosely as “toxic”, or “pollution”. Yes, it is physiologically harmful and even fatal to many organisms at high concentration, but that really has nothing to do with greenhouse gas-driven global warming. And “pollution” should be used more restrictively in reference to novel materials introduced into the environment by humans, or where levels are elevated orders of magnitude above what is considered natural. The increases of atmospheric concentration will not asphyxiate us, so just ditch that argument. The warming, on the other hand, is potentially very dangerous from geophysical, ecological and socio-economic standpoints. There is simply no denying that! Harold Pierce, no scientist has claimed that the ocean is becoming an acid, but it is indeed becoming more acidic. The latter term simply refers to a decline of pH, not to an actual pH value. And yes, we can measure pH that accurately. As for the comment regarding limestone, another but of nonsense. Those limestone deposits were accumulated over millenia, at least. Yes, they do usually represent an Earth that was warmer, with higher atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, but that’s irrelevant to our argument. I assure you, you would not wish to have lived in those climates, and our current human civilization is ill-equipped to adapt to those conditions on a timescale of a few centuries.

    Comment by Peter Roopnarine — 2 Dec 2010 @ 12:49 PM

  220. 214, Jim Bullis: I think those that wake up ten years from now will find that renewables have not expanded as we are no led to expect, but reasonable people can differ on this.

    Would you like to share with us your quantitative assessment? I predicted 5 doublings each of US solar, wind, and biofuels in the next 5 – 10 years. This is a simple rough extrapolation of recent and not-so-recent quantitative trends.

    Multiple technologies are being deployed. One net yet mentioned here, I think, is to attach a concentrated solar thermal device to an existing coal-fired plant. It provides for an immediate reduction in daytime coal consumption without the necessity of building a new storage mechanism for night-time. As more natural gas lines are built, the coal-burner is later replaced by a gas burner, for another net reduction in CO2/megawatt-hour.

    This isn’t hypothetical, it’s being done now.

    Comment by ScepticMatthew — 2 Dec 2010 @ 1:23 PM

  221. 217 Patrick 027

    Compressed air storage is limited by the fact that the process has to be adiabatic or much of the energy is dissipated as heat.

    Cogeneration needs to be done where the heat can be used. This gets tough for solar in the desert. Industrial processea are not generally going on there and residential users of heat are, of course, not handy.

    Residential CSP, meaning just solar, once widespread in my neighborhood, has all but disappeared.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 2 Dec 2010 @ 1:25 PM

  222. Peter Roopnarine wrote: “And ‘pollution’ should be used more restrictively in reference to novel materials introduced into the environment by humans, or where levels are elevated orders of magnitude above what is considered natural.”

    When I first began learning about “pollution” in high school, back around the time of the first Earth Day (having previously only known of it via Tom Lehrer’s 1965 song), it was defined to include both “novel materials introduced into the environment by humans” (e.g. DDT or plutonium), as well as the emission of naturally-occurring materials in quantities that exceeded the capacity of natural systems to deal with them, which would certainly include such things as nitrogen pollution from agricultural runoff, and carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels.

    I think it is entirely appropriate, reasonable and correct to speak of “carbon pollution”.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 2 Dec 2010 @ 1:51 PM

  223. > naturally-occurring materials in quantities that exceeded the
    > capacity of natural systems to deal with them

    Yep. It doesn’t need to be “orders of magnitude” — all you need is a slight excess above what the natural system can handle– including situations where when that degrades the ability of the natural system starting a worse trend.

    Beware definitions that let polluters off the hook.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 2 Dec 2010 @ 2:26 PM

  224. Residential CSP, meaning just solar, once widespread in my neighborhood, has all but disappeared.

    Widespread in your neighborhood?? Concentrated Solar Power?? Complete with concentrating mirrors/lenses and steam generators?? Or are you thinking of CPV, Concentrated PhotoVoltaics, equally unlikey to be “widespread” in any residential area? Or does your qualification “meaning just solar” actually indicate simple flat panel PV systems? Are you really just hoping to promote continued dependence on coal plants by denigrating technologies you don’t understand to further justify BAU and your reforestation plan?

    Comment by flxible — 2 Dec 2010 @ 2:28 PM

  225. > CSP
    That’s with mirrors.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 2 Dec 2010 @ 2:52 PM

  226. ScepticMatthew (220), if my math is correct you’re asserting non-hydro renewables will provide more that ALL of the projected electricity demand in the US, even out 10 years. Sounds excessive…

    Comment by Rod B — 2 Dec 2010 @ 10:29 PM

  227. Much as it pains me to agree with Russell Seitz (a little facetious, but too tempting as he recently said that about me; he is both better informed and intriguingly acid), I think “now please go away” about sums it up. I come here to try to understand a lot of material that is over my head, and when someone refuses to either assimilate careful explanations or move on it takes up the time of a lot of people who have better things to do. While a number of patient kind people have tried to provide some real information, it doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere, so it seems time to move on.

    Thanks for the info on filters. An abacus level solution is just to scroll past, but with repeat offenders at this level it’s not enough.

    “continue sweater” seems apt: Madame Defarge? Raveled sleave of care?

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 3 Dec 2010 @ 1:45 AM

  228. 226, Rod B.: ScepticMatthew (220), if my math is correct you’re asserting non-hydro renewables will provide more that ALL of the projected electricity demand in the US, even out 10 years. Sounds excessive…

    It might be.

    I have not read an account of resource constraints up to a factor of 30+ increase, but the US would have to re-open its rare earth and precious metal mines (that’s another process that is underway.) The biofuels would replace some of the petroleum-based fuel used in transportation, not fuel that is used to power electricity generation (for the most part; some biofuels are now used in electricity generation.) Biofuels are also starting (really, really small scale so far) to replace petroleum as feedstock for plastics. So wind and solar might realistically be in excess of 50% of total, since total electricity demand will also rise.

    I am sceptical of my own prediction, but I have found no absolute fault with it so far: it’s a simple extrapolation of trends since the first GWBush energy bill, and of the fact hectored at us by true believers that the US does in fact have a lot of unharvested insolation and wind.

    A historical analogy, admittedly smaller scale. Do a thought experiment and imagine yourself back in the US in the late 1930s, right when Douglas introduced the DC-3 and Lockheed introduced the Super G Constellation. Without subsidies (e.g. NACA) and military contracts the airline industry couldn’t grow. A tiny fraction of mail and passengers go by plane: trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific by travel is almost 100% by ship. It took a few decades for aircraft to dominate ground transportation, but wind and solar have been under development for decades already. I do not know in what year 4% of trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific travelers went by plane, but it was not long after that until the fraction exceeded 75%.

    My forecast is for 5 doublings within each class of energy generation in 5 – 10 years. That will be an astonishing change if it occurs. Does anybody have a better forecast? It would be nice to make side-by-side forecasts and see which actually has been more accurate from 2010-2020.

    Comment by ScepticMatthew — 3 Dec 2010 @ 11:24 AM

  229. Re 221 Jim Bullis

    Compressed air storage has to be adiabatic or much of the energy is dissipated as heat.

    Yes, pumped hydro (or in some small cases, flywheels, or perhaps lifting a big weight up and down from a floating platform over an oceanic trench) might be better (which can simply be, up to a point, no additional facilties but just using hydro when solar+wind+etc. can’t meet demand) (PS Niagara Falls might simply be allowed to flow at full power in the summer daytime at some point in the future, which might (?) help cut some of the buildup of debris under the falls (which started to build up when the Falls’ power was reduced to supply energy, as I understand it; of course, in the long run the Falls will continue to move upstream until it reaches lake Erie (and then what?), although it may become a series of rapids at some point(?); Also, to avoid too much fiddling around with the Falls itself, I wonder about maybe a series of canals and pumping stations going from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario which would pump water uphill in summer daytime and produce power in winter evenings/nights/mornings; the thing about pumped hydro between reservoirs is that you have to work within the ecologically/economically/socially acceptable limits of water level variation (large areas help there), though in some cases that may be a larger range than others (I think I’ve heard of underground pumped hydro – old mines? (safe?) Not sure…) . But you have to consider economics; as the energy supply (and usage) evolves, the gain in value of one form of energy at one time and place may justify the costs and energy losses of storage/transmission/conversion to bring it to that time and place in that form. PS I think people are working on adiabatic CAES.

    Cogeneration needs to be done where the heat can be used. This gets tough for solar in the desert. Industrial processea are not generally going on there and residential users of heat are, of course, not handy.

    Yes, but see above paragraph. Cogeneration would be used where it makes sense; while solar power, taken in isolation of some factors, makes the most sense in the desert (and without isolation (of transmission costs, etc.), can still make good sense), there is still a good solar resource over much of the rest of the U.S. and other non-desert regions, and CSP-type power (as distinct from CPV) can easily incorporate fuel combustion for back-up power. (Also, I would expect that runoff from solar power plants could boost agricultural value of neighboring land in semiarid regions.)

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 3 Dec 2010 @ 2:42 PM

  230. This is something I have always wondered about. In the Dakotas and Montana there is ample wind and sun and hydro. On the Missouri River there are 9 dams in the three states. Right now in all three states there are wind turbine farms popping up like weeds. if there is large-scale solar, I have not seen it.

    Apparently there are times when the wind turbines have no market for their power, so would there be an advantage to using that spare electricity to pump water back to the other side of the dams? If so, why not just harness the wind to pump water back up the system on a continuous basis with wind pumps? Sort of like how ranchers used to fill their stock tanks – as long as the wind blew, water entered the tanks. Solar could also be used.

    Comment by JCH — 3 Dec 2010 @ 4:54 PM

  231. JCH,
    Yes, pumped hydro makes a whole lot of sense. It’s currently the most-used method to store electricity so far as I know but it’s usually done with electricity from nukes.
    Perhaps pumped hydro isn’t used because natgas is online often enough that it makes sense to deploy wind simply to use less natgas. If wind was only built because of subsidies, it might not be used efficiently (burning tax-free coal is cheap once the plants are built so why bother?). Or maybe no one wants to invest in suitable transmission lines from the wind to the hydro sites because of the way the system is regulated or something.

    Extrapolating growth rates yields all sorts of nonsense. Doubling renewables from 1% is easier than doubling them from 10%. Doubling 1% does not require closing non-renewable plants ahead of schedule for instance. Electricity generation choices are largely determined by public policies anyway so all reasonable predictions will be wrong (including this one).

    Comment by Anonymous Coward — 3 Dec 2010 @ 7:15 PM

  232. ScepticMatthew (228), well, I agree it could be an interesting exercise. But as a pragmatic reality, it still seems hyperbolic. Even if the production arrived in 5-10 years you’d still have an intractable “smart” grid deficiency and a horrendous storage on a massive scale problem.

    Comment by Rod B — 3 Dec 2010 @ 9:06 PM

  233. Anonymous Coward (231), a nit correction: pumped hydro does not store electricity; it uses excess electricity to create a store of mechanical potential energy.

    Comment by Rod B — 3 Dec 2010 @ 9:12 PM

  234. “I think it is entirely appropriate, reasonable and correct to speak of “carbon pollution”.”

    Yes. Nitrogen and phosphorus (when implicated in the pollution of waterways) are excellent examples of natural and largely benign substances gone awry–and regulated accordingly.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 3 Dec 2010 @ 11:05 PM

  235. 232, Rod B.: Even if the production arrived in 5-10 years you’d still have an intractable “smart” grid deficiency and a horrendous storage on a massive scale problem.

    As far as I can tell, that isn’t an insurmountable impediment. In CA, IA, and TX they are expanding the grids to carry the power from wind and solar farms (though there are delays, as with the Sunrise Power Link in San Diego County), and similarly in the other great plains states and NY. Where renewables supplant or enhance coal-fired plants, or where trees substitute for coal (at least one of these I read about in MI and one in NY), the existing grid suffices.

    I think that the words “intractable” and “horrendous” are misleading, if not positively false. The grid solution requires about the same amount of work as 10 years on the interstate highway system, and the storage components can be made by a nation that makes millions of new cars per year, and built the Western States and TVA dam systems, and built 100+ nuclear power plants in about 20 years.

    As I said to Jim Bullis, Would you like to make a quantitative forecast for the next 5-10 years to contrast with mine?

    Comment by ScepticMatthew — 4 Dec 2010 @ 2:27 AM

  236. The fact that the carbonate/bicarbonate equilibrium buffers acidity does *not* mean that the pH value does not change at all i.e. the ocean does not become more acidic… it, of course, becomes.

    the reaction equations You sketch are exactly those that do the damage when acting on the coral reef material, or lowering the chemical potential for the deposition of solid lime for various organisms

    Comment by Marcus — 4 Dec 2010 @ 5:14 AM

  237. ScepticMatthew (235): But we already knew HOW to build millions of new cars per year, the Western States and TVA dam systems, and nuclear power plants. We have little more than a clue how to even build electric storage facilities for more than a one-off localized purpose.

    The technology to route traffic is much more complex and complicated with electric grids than it is with highways — though we probably have a little more know-how than for storage systems. Even with that our handling of peak roadway traffic is far less than hunky-dory. Though this is less of a problem as people are far more wont to put up with traffic delays than electricity delays. Secondly, the first connections to the first (localized) wind farms are PV arrays are infinitely easier than the connections required nationwide when very little (???) non-renewable energy sources are available. The first ones don’t take a whole lot more than ‘running a wire to the nearest pole.’

    Comment by Rod B — 4 Dec 2010 @ 1:23 PM

  238. 237, Rod B.,

    We certainly know where we disagree.

    Since I live near the originally proposed route for the Sunrise Power Link, I think that the biggest obstacles to solving the problems that you have mentioned are the local environmentalists, but even they are not absolute obstacles (nor do I think that they are always wrong), and the Sunrise Power Link is being built, more expensively than originally proposed. The Mojave Desert power plants were stalled in court actions for a while, and they are now progressing.

    Comment by ScepticMatthew — 4 Dec 2010 @ 7:42 PM

  239. ScepticMatthew (238), that’s a problem only for the construction. While I don’t mean to minimize that, theoretically we know one way to fix it: pass a federal law that abrogates the Endangered Species Act and a myriad of other environmental controls and bans individual reluctance for any environmental or cosmetic reasons in so far as they would apply to renewable generation and transmission. Beyond that there are heavy difficulties and unknowns regarding communication, measurement, and control of a nation-wide fully interconnected grid — though people are working on it.

    Comment by Rod B — 5 Dec 2010 @ 12:32 AM

  240. Must see:

    Human-Made Climate Change: A Moral, Political, and Legal Issue | Video Lectures

    Comment by Ibrahim — 5 Dec 2010 @ 4:40 AM

  241. 239, Rod B. On the whole, that’s a more upbeat comment than most of the others, or at least it seems so to me.

    ScepticMatthew (238), that’s a problem only for the construction.

    And to date, the effects have been to delay projects and make them more expensive, not to kill them outright. Study, works and court actions have cumulative effects, so future projects should not be delayed as much. Or so I expect. Once the first Mojave Desert project received its final approval, final approval of the others followed in short order.

    Comment by ScepticMatthew — 5 Dec 2010 @ 11:43 AM

  242. ScepticMatthew (241), but wait until they want to install a tower in the habitat of a golden-cheeked warbler! ;-)

    Comment by Rod B — 5 Dec 2010 @ 3:17 PM

  243. Mr. Bullis’s rumination on underground compressed gas storage might improve were he to study the problem of compressive stress in materials as brittle as silicates. If he positions himself next to an empty champagne bottle a quarter-full of alka-seltzer tablets, dashes in a cup of water, and quickly wires down the cork, he shpuld gain a more realistic perspective after only a minute or two of close observation.

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 9 Dec 2010 @ 9:41 AM

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