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Wired Magazine’s Incoherent Truths

Filed under: — raypierre @ 15 June 2008

Many of our tech-savvy friends — the kind of folks who nurse along the beowulf clusters our climate models run on — are scratching their heads over some cheeky shrieking that recently appeared in a WIRED magazine article on Rethinking What it Means to be Green . Crank up the A/C! Kill the Spotted Owl! Keep the SUV! What’s all that supposed to be about?

Let’s take air conditioning for starters. Basically WIRED took a look at the carbon footprint of New England heating vs. Arizona cooling and jumped to the conclusion that air conditioning was intrinsically more efficient than heating. To see where they were led astray let’s consider a house sitting where you need to cool it by 20 degrees to be comfortable. The heat leaks into the house at a rate that is approximately proportional to this temperature difference, and the heat leaking in needs to be removed. Now, in order to move that heat from inside to outside, energy has to be expended. Given a fixed electric power usage (in watts), a better air conditioner can remove more heat per day than a worse one, but every air conditioner needs to expend some energy to move the heat. That’s just thermodynamics.

Efficiency of air conditioners is measured by a SEER rating, which is the ratio of heat moved to the outside (in BTU/hr) to the electric power consumption (in Watts). A typical modern air conditioner has a SEER rating of 10, We can convert this into nicer units by converting BTU/hr into Watts, which means dividing the SEER rating by 3.413, which then gives us a Coefficient of Performance, in units of Watts of heat moved per Watt of electricity used. For the aforementioned efficiency, we move heat at a rate of 2.92 Watts if we expend 1 Watt of electric energy. An air conditioner is just a heat engine run in reverse: instead of making use of a temperature differential to use heat flow from hot to cold to do work, we expend mechanical work in order to move heat from a colder place to a hotter place. Thus, an efficient heat engine is an inefficient air conditioner. That’s basically why the Coefficient of Performance gets smaller when the temperature difference between indoors and outdoors is greater — with bigger temperature difference heat engine cycles tend to get more efficient, which means that air conditioner cycles tend to get less efficient. That’s also where the “S” in SEER comes from. It stands for “Seasonal,” and reflects the fact that efficiency must be averaged over the range of actual temperature differentials experienced in a “typical” climate. Your mileage may vary.

This situation can be contrasted with heating. If that same house were in an environment that were too cold instead of too warm, so that it had to be kept 20 degrees warmer than the environment, then the amount of heat leaking out of the house each day would be about the same as the amount leaking into the house in the previous case. That heat loss needs to be replaced by burning fuel. Now, generating heat is the only thing that can be done with 100% efficiency. Old furnaces lose a lot of heat up the chimney, but modern sealed-combustion burners– the kind that can use PVC pipes instead of a chimney — lose virtually nothing. With a heat exchanger between the air intake and the exhaust, they could closely approach the ideal. But still, in this case we are generating heat rather than just moving it, so it takes 1 watt of heat power from fuel burning to make up 1 watt of heat loss. That would seem to make heating a factor of 2.92 less efficient than air conditioning.

But wait, the story doesn’t stop there. First, there’s the fact that air conditioning almost invariably runs off of electricity, and the increased electricity demand is a big source of the pressure to build more coal-fired power plants. A house can be heated by burning natural gas, and right there air conditioning becomes 1.8 times worse than heating, because natural gas emits only 55% of the carbon of coal, per unit of heat energy produced. And it gets even worse: Coal fired power plants are only 30% efficient at converting heat into electricity, on average, so there you get another factor of 3.3 in carbon emissions per unit of energy transferred between the house and its environment. Finally, figure in a typical electric line transmission loss of 7% and you get another factor 1.075. Put it all together with the energy efficiency of the air conditioner itself and air conditioning comes in at a whopping 2.19 times less efficient than heating. for a given amount of temperature difference between house and environment. That means that so far as carbon emissions go, heating a house to 70 degrees when the outside temperature is 40 degrees is like cooling the same house to 70 degrees when the outside temperature is 83.7 degrees.

And that’s still not the end of the story. A house in need of air conditioning has other heat inputs besides the heat leaking in from outside, and all that extra heat needs to be gotten rid of as well. For example, heat is a waste-product of all energy use going on in the house. Four people produce 400W that needs to be gotten rid of, and then there’s the heat from hot water, lighting, the TV, cooking and what have you — all the energy usage within the house, plus 100W of biological heat per person needs to be gotten rid of. On top of that, you’ve got direct radiative heating from the sun, both from the sunllight getting through windows and solar heating of the exterior surfaces of the house, some of which will leak in through the insulation. Energy must be expended to remove all this heat. In contrast, in the heating season waste heat is subtracted from the energy needed for home heating.

So, WIRED got the story egregiously wrong, and not just because they did the arithmetic wrong. In their rush to be cute, they didn’t even make a half-baked attempt to do the arithmetic. But what if they had been right and air conditioning really were intrinsically more efficient than heating. Would that justify their conclusion that you can just "crank up the A/C?" without worry? No, of course not, because cranking up the A/C would still use additional energy and still lead to the emission of additional carbon. For the conclusion to be justified, it wouldn’t be enough for A/C to be more efficient than heating; it would have to be so much more efficient that the incremental energy usage from cranking it up were trivial. WIRED didn’t even try to make that case. If they had, they might have spotted their errors.

Is there any real conclusion that could have been drawn from more clear thinking about the heating vs. air conditioning issues danced around in the article? Yes, in fact. The conclusion is that it makes a lot of sense to build houses in places where the environment requires neither much heating nor much cooling. This is in fact why Los Angeles scores pretty well in carbon footprint per capita, despite all the driving (as noted recently in The Economist.). Another conclusion to be drawn from the carbon footprint of New England heating is that there are probably a lot of leaky homes up there heated by inefficient oil-fired furnaces. Fixing that situation represents a huge untapped virtual energy source.

What’s more, for a magazine that purports to be written by and for tech geeks, WIRED missed the biggest and most interesting part of the story: the same intrinsic efficiences of heat pumps can be run in reverse to give you the same economies for home heating as you get for air conditioning. To do this effectively, you’d have to run the heat pump off of natural gas rather than electricity (or perhaps run it off of locally generated solar power or wind). You’d also have to deal with the fact that heat pumps become less efficient when working across large temperature gradients, but that’s where geothermal heat storage systems come in, making use of the fact that the deep subsurface temperature remains near a nice 55F all year around. Now that would have been a nice story for a tech magazine to cover. And by the way, the decrease in efficiency of heat pumps as the temperature differential increases has another implication that WIRED missed: not only does global warming increase the basic demand for air conditioning, with all the attendant pressures on electricity demand, but it exacerbates the situation by decreasing the efficiency of the entire installed base of air conditioners.

Now about that spotted owl. This refers to a claim that industrial tree plantations take up carbon faster than old growth forests; Since spotted owls require the large trees found only in old-growth, the supposed implication is that if we want to soak up carbon we ought to damn the spotted owl and cut down all the old growth. WIRED really committed serial stupidities on this one. First of all, the article they cited in support of their claim was about carbon emissions from Canada’s managed forests, not from old growth. Now, it’s true that a rapidly growing young tree takes carbon out of the atmosphere more rapidly than a mature forest which more slowly transfers carbon to long term storage in soil. However, to figure out how much net carbon sequestration you get out of that young tree once it’s chopped down, you need to figure what happens to it. Lots of trees wind up in paper, carboard boxes, shipping palettes and other things that rapidly sit around decomposing or get burned off (or worse, turn into methane in landfills). Even the part that turns into houses has a relatively short residence time before being oxidized. Anybody who has maintained an old Victorian house knows about the constant battle against rot, and the amount of wood that needs to be replaced even if (knock wood) the thing doesn’t burn down or turn into a tear-down. So, WIRED is totally off the mark there, unless, to use the colorful language of my colleague Dave Archer, they can get trees to "drop diamonds instead of leaves."

Worse, they ignore the abundant literature indicating that old growth forests can be a net sink of carbon even in equilibrium, whereas the soil disturbance of clear cutting and industrial forestry can lead to large soil carbon releases. A classic article in the genre is "Effects on carbon storage of conversion of old-growth forests to young forests" (Harmon et al. Science 1990) . They state "Simulations of carbon storage suggest that conversion of old-growth forests to young fast-growing forests will not decrease atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) in general, as has been suggested recently.". For more recent work, take a look at what Leighty et al. (ECOSYSTEMS Volume: 9 Issue: 7 Pages: 1051-1065. 2006 ) have to say about the Tongass:.

  • "The Tongass National Forest (Tongass) is the largest national forest and largest area of old-growth forest in the United States. Spatial geographic information system data for the Tongass were combined with forest inventory data to estimate and map total carbon stock in the Tongass; the result was 2.8 +/- 0.5 Pg C, or 8% of the total carbon in the forests of the conterminous USA and 0.25% of the carbon in global forest vegetation and soils. Cumulative net carbon loss from the Tongass due to management of the forest for the period 1900-95 was estimated at 6.4-17.2 Tg C. Using our spatially explicit data for carbon stock and net flux, we modeled the potential effect of five management regimes on future net carbon flux. Estimates of net carbon flux were sensitive to projections of the rate of carbon accumulation in second-growth forests and to the amount of carbon left in standing biomass after harvest. Projections of net carbon flux in the Tongass range from 0.33 Tg C annual sequestration to 2.3 Tg C annual emission for the period 1995-2095. For the period 1995-2195, net flux estimates range from 0.19 Tg C annual sequestration to 1.6 Tg C annual emission. If all timber harvesting in the Tongass were halted from 1995 to 2095, the economic value of the net carbon sequestered during the 100-year hiatus, assuming $20/Mg C, would be $4 to $7 million/y (1995 US dollars). If a prohibition on logging were extended to 2195, the annual economic value of the carbon sequestered would be largely unaffected ($3 to $6 million/y). The potential annual economic value of carbon sequestration with management maximizing carbon storage in the Tongass is comparable to revenue from annual timber sales historically authorized for the forest."

So, it looks like that old Spotted Owl and its kindred old-growth denizens are in fact sitting not just on a nest, but on a treasure trove of carbon credits worth potentially more than the timber harvest.

And should you keep that SUV? This blurb in fact contains some useful advice, buried amidst some fuzzy reasoning and published over a witless tag line stating that "pound for pound" a Prius takes more energy to manufacture than a Hummer. The apparent implication of that tag line is rebutted in the article itself, but why give the reader that as a 32-point type take-home point when the WIRED editors don’t even themselves believe it’s an important statistic? This factoid refers to the energy used in the nickel component of Prius batteries, but it’s irrelevant because "pound for pound" doesn’t count if your point is moving 4 people from point A to point B. What transport value do you get from transporting four people plus the weight of the Hummer? Now, the rest of the fuzziness in the logic is a bit more subtle. The author notes quite rightly that there is a very significant carbon emission from manufacturing a car, which is indeed more for a Prius (at least for the moment) than it is for comparable sized non-hybrids.. Thus, if you are faced with ditching your existing car (whatever it may be) and buying a Prius, you need to consider how much you drive per year and see how long it takes to "pay back" the carbon emission from manufacturing the Prius. So far so good. But this is more a statement about the transition to more efficient cars, and how to deal with mistakes of the past, rather than a statement about what is intrinsically desirable in the fleet. As far as carbon emissions go, we’d still be better off if everybody who needed a car were in a Prius, except maybe for people who drive very little per year — who should then be into shared hybrids via iGO or ZipCars, Maybe if you drive very little and live out in a rural area where there are not going to be any shared cars, getting a compact non-Hybrid might make sense. There must be at least a dozen or two people out there in that category, I guess.

The rest of the advice WIRED gives makes even less sense. They say that if you want to be green, you ought to buy a used Civic or something like that, not a Prius. That’s because the used car already has the manufacturing carbon emissions "written down" (or, I guess at least the carbon guilt accrues to the original owner, not that the atmospheric radiative forcing is going to care much about that). However, this advice, sensible-sounding though it is — ignores the fact that to make that used car available to you, the original owner almost certainly had to buy something else, and probably that was a new car, or at least a newer one. So, for the scheme to work, you’d have to buy your used Civic from somebody who was giving up driving altogether. I no longer own a car myself, but I’m sorry I wasn’t able to participate in a scheme like this; by the time I gave up our remaining car ten years ago, it was suitable only for the crusher, and in fact had to be towed there.

The real implication is that manufacturing costs count, so most people should buy a small, efficient hybrid and keep it until it runs into the ground. The implication is also that durability of cars counts for nearly as much as gas mileage, since an efficient car that needs to be replaced every five years isn’t really all that efficient.

Along with all the nonsense is a certain amount of true (if by now commonplace) advice. Among this is the basic truth that urban living is inherently green, and if more people lived in cities (and if more cities were kept livable so people would want to move there). then per capita carbon emissions would go down. Even there, the Economist managed to be both more informative and more iconoclastic with its surprising analysis of the pattern of urbanism in Los Angeles. The other truism in WIRED is that nuclear power deserves a second look, and probably has an important role to play in a decarbonized energy future. Still, if you compare the cost of making all those chilly New England homes efficient with the total true cost of building more nuclear plants, well, let’s just say I’m buying stock in argon-filled low-e window manufacturers rather than Areva, much as I like their track record on nuclear electricity.

367 Responses to “Wired Magazine’s Incoherent Truths”

  1. 201
    Mark says:

    “# Ike Solem Says:
    19 June 2008 at 12:18 AM

    The problem with the Prius approach can be summed up with a little arithmetic. If you get 60 mpg, and you replaced a 20 mpg vehicle, and your mileage remained unchanged, what reduction in fossil fuel use would you achieve? 10 gallons gets you 600 miles, while it used to take 30 gallons with your old vehicle. That’s a 66% reduction in fuel use – sounds pretty good.”

    However, we aren’t producing any more fossil fuels. So you get to drive your car three times longer before it all runs out.

    Sounding better?

  2. 202
    l david cooke says:

    RE: 199

    Hey Dan,

    Thanks yet again, I had jumped down to the BWR statement “The remaining 35 operable reactors in the United States are BWRs.” in the next paragraph of the earlier link and missed this one “Of the 104 fully licensed reactors in the United States, 69 are PWRs.”


  3. 203
    David B. Benson says:

    Ray Ladbury (172) — The yellowish color suggests increased aerosols from the Puget Sound area, including jet exhaust, or more likely, an unwanted Asian import. It is certainly not a halo, but rather the whole sky, for many degrees out from the sun, glows. The glow is more yellowish in towards the sun and whiter towards the periphery. This umbra is not completely symmetric, especially when it is shining through a blown-out jet vapor trail, as it did last night.

    I checked this morning, and the effect also occured then, although not so large nor as yellowish. I presume that is because the sun was closer to be directly overhead.

  4. 204
    Jim Eager says:

    Re Ike @178: “The basic fact is that solutions which don’t have as their goal the almost complete elimination of global fossil fuel combustion are really nothing more than a game of musical chairs on the Titanic.”

    Not quite that useless, Ike. Partial solutions can buy us time to put those ‘elimination’ solutions in place. Last year, when we bought a gas-electric hybrid, there was no comparable all-electric automobile that we could buy at any price, and there still isn’t today. And even if there was, unless that vehicle’s batteries could be charged with 100% renewable produced electricity it still wouldn’t meet your criteria. In the mean time, that here and now 66% reduction will buy us time. The question is, will me make use of it?

  5. 205

    In comment 156 ‘SecularAnimist’ includes, with reference to my comment 153,

    Your first link is to a story about one worker being killed and another injured when a wind turbine tower collapsed. The second points to a list of articles about carbon monoxide poisonings, including the use of carbon monoxide to euthanize animals at a shelter and several articles about the apparently deliberate carbon monoxide poisoning of some children by their father.

    Are you seriously suggesting that these “risks” are comparable to the risks of catastrophic nuclear power plant accidents, or terrorist attacks on nuclear plants?

    Not exactly.

    The chance that sabotage or malfunction at Teller-approved nuclear power plants will harm us can properly be compared to the chance that sabotage or malfunction of hydrocarbon burners or wind turbines will harm us.

    But if, for the latter devices, we assess this risk from undisputed events of the recent past, it would be wrong to compare it to nuclear risks whose existence is a matter of belief.

    Rather, the worst nuclear mishaps that, no less recently than the alternative-to-nuclear ones, actually happened, are the ones that can fairly be compared. No matter how minor these mishaps were, no matter how far short they fell of being fatal or even injurious, this is the fair comparison.

    By speaking of “catastrophic nuclear power plant accidents” and sabotages, emphasis mine, ‘SecularAnimist’ seems to be hoping to shepherd us into accepting a comparison that would be hard-headedly empirical with regard to alternative-to-nuclear hazards, faith-based with regard to nuclear ones — and asking if I was promoting such a comparison. Tricky.

    Not exactly.

    Nuclear-generated motor fuel for the CO-intolerant

  6. 206

    Re 178:

    (And no, PV panels don’t need pumped cooling systems, as anyone could have told you – although the notion of mixed solar water heating / solar photovoltaic system is intriguing, since most natural gas consumption outside of industry is used for heating)

    I was working on a patent filing in this area — combined heating and power generation — and there were a lot of problems with low-tech cooling solutions. The real benefits come from higher tech, but the higher the tech, the greater the power requirements for implementation. The conclusion was that this is a dead-end area. High-tech pumped cooling systems are a very fertile area right now, but the low-tech stuff seems to be impractical.

    Where there might be benefit is pre-heating of SOME water, but with comparable solar thermal collectors being so small, and having such a high ratio between inlet and outlet temps, I’m not convinced there is any benefit of doing a photovoltaic / solar thermal combination cycle.

  7. 207
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Outside the box, You are ignoring the cost of production, transport, disposal, etc. True, not all recycling makes sense, but to view everything in terms of carbon sequestration is extremely myopic.

  8. 208
    Lawrence Brown says:

    Re: Raypierre’s comment on my comment #174
    “The arithmetic leading to 2.19 was just a way of showing that looking at the SEER rating (which WIRED probably had in mind, but didn’t actually bother to explain) is misleading. You have to think about everything that happens along the way to delivering the electricity to your air conditioner, and all those numbers matter.”

    I think I’m starting to see the light. One can’t make a blanket statement that cooling is intrinsically more efficient than heating or vice versa. It varys with the numbers, including average seasonal temperature differentials, the amount or lack of insulation, older vs newer appliances as well as SEERs.

  9. 209

    Response in 174:

    [Response: The arithmetic leading to 2.19 was just a way of showing that looking at the SEER rating (which WIRED probably had in mind, but didn’t actually bother to explain) is misleading. You have to think about everything that happens along the way to delivering the electricity to your air conditioner, and all those numbers matter. Showing the arithmetic for one set of numbers was a way of focusing discussion on what the real issues are, and from the subsequent discussion here I’m very happy with the way that exercise turned out. If you ask just about anybody what the biggest issue in CO2 emissions is, they’ll tell you it’s coal, and it’s equally clear that increase in electricity demand — driven in part by air conditioning — provides the main impetus to build more coal-fired power plants. –raypierre]

    I think you’re doing a good job of demonstrating what I mean by forcing certain things to have “inside the box” solutions.

    As long as you tie “increased power consumption due to increase A/C usage” to “increased coal power plant building” you engage in this kind of intellectual dishonesty that is endemic in the entire environmentalist movement.

    It doesn’t follow that changes in social policy, vis a vis, increased A/C usage, REQUIRES that the power for that increased A/C usage come from carbon-based sources. There’s no reason that changes in social policies can’t be such that people live closer to where sources of power are produced, and with the more abundant and more consistent solar power in the south, it’s conceivable that we’d see increased A/C usage AND increased renewable energy.

    [Response: You are being quite unjust. I don’t see how you could possibly read that conclusion into what I wrote. I gave an approximation to the picture of how things are, and made no statement that this is inevitable. The take-home message should be that if we are going to have increased air conditioner usage (caused by more people living in hot places, for example) it is especially important to think about where that electricity is going to come from and how it is going to be gotten without burning a lot of coal plants. It is in fact precisely a call to think outside the box — and that applies to home heating as well. You are reading this article through the blinders of your own prejudices about what you call “the environmental movement.” –raypierre]

  10. 210

    Re #205 G.R.L Cowan, you objected to my scheme for storage of gravitational potential energy inside silos by citing a controlled release of dam water that ended in tragedy (#41.) I found your disregard for the likelihood of designing mechanical safety features to be so nonsensical as to suppose that you couldn’t have meant that, that you must have meant something else.

    Now you indicate that the same sort of empirical-to-faithbased risk comparisons are to be disallowed. Please decide: Which is it to be? Shall I still accept your faith with regard to the risks of gravitational silos, surely purely a matter of your own belief, since none exist?

  11. 211

    Figen Mekik writes:

    Just because Americans are rich (”produce so much”), this does not give them the right to overuse earth’s natural resources

    Overuse in what way?

  12. 212

    Secular posts:

    consuming 25 percent of the world’s resources in the process

    Which resources? Where are they getting those resources from? How are they getting them?

  13. 213
    Figen Mekik says:

    Overuse in the way that that they are taking more than what the 5% of the population needs and faster than Earth’s natural processes can replace them. Basically 20 Chinese children have the same amount of resources available to them that only one American child uses growing up. That’s the most basic definition of poverty in one place and overuse in another.

  14. 214
    Chris says:

    Re #169 David Benson

    David, could this be related to the atmospheric brown clouds that Ramanathan at Scripps has written quite a lot about recently? They’re atmospheric aerosol clouds with a mix of black carbon and sulphurous acids and so on, and apparently have a yellowish-brownish appearance. They’re particularly prominent in Asia and over parts of the Pacific, so maybe they’re not really expected to be drifting in your direction…..

    Ramanathan and Carmichael have just published a nice and readable review of this subject in Nature Geoscience (I think it is freely accesible to download):

    V. Ramanathan & G. Carmichael (2008) Global and regional climate changes due to black carbon; Nature Geoscience 1, 221-227.

  15. 215
    Keith says:

    Anne #187

    Perhaps I should have been more clear in my comment. What they found was that there were no increased signs of mutations compared to a number of background sites remote from the reactor site. Normally you’d expect to see an big increase in mutations for a whole host of genes when exposed to high level radation. Not all of these mutations are fatal and in fact biology is very very good at seeing those mistakes and fixing them. It generally takes quite a while before you get that single or mutliple mutations that leads to early death or deformity or genetic defects in offspring (it’s a permutations argument really). But, whatever, you should still see a whole host of genes mutating. They simply didn’t see that. Mutations rates were the same as wild type. And they went away and tagged a whole host of mammals, did the marker work and then compared it to when they were recaputed many months later. No significant change. So. No mutant rabbits. And that was something of a surprise. Hope this helps

  16. 216
    Nick Gotts says:

    #186 [BPL] “That’s true in the zero-sum-game worldview of Marxists like Nick Gott, but not true in the real world.”

    Barton Paul Levenson, you manage to get my name and my political philosophy wrong in a single sentence. I suppose it has been taking all your concentration to continue ignoring the point made by several commentators including me – that the USA is responsible for far more than its per capita share of GHGs.

  17. 217
    Chuck Booth says:

    An interesting article from the latest issue of Science:

    Science 20 June 2008:
    Vol. 320. no. 5883, pp. 1593 – 1594
    DOI: 10.1126/science.1154983

    ECONOMICS: The MPG Illusion
    Richard P. Larrick and Jack B. Soll

    Many people consider fuel efficiency when purchasing a car, hoping to reduce gas consumption and carbon emissions. However, an accurate understanding of fuel efficiency is critical to making an informed decision. We will show that there is a systematic misperception in judging fuel efficiency when it is expressed as miles per gallon (MPG), which is the measure used in the U.S.A. People falsely believe that the amount of gas consumed by an automobile decreases as a linear function of a car’s MPG. The actual relationship is curvilinear. Consequently, people underestimate the value of removing the most fuel-inefficient vehicles. We argue that removing the most inefficient vehicles is where policy and popular opinion should be focused and that representing fuel efficiency in terms of amount of gas consumed for a given distance–which is the common representation outside of the United States (e.g., liters per 100 kilometers)–would make the benefits of greater fuel efficiency more transparent (1-3).

    To illustrate these issues, consider the criticism that has been directed at adding hybrid engines to sport utility vehicles (SUVs)… (subscription required to access the article)

  18. 218
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Re: the question of whether the US overconsumes. As I sit here in the Manhattan Beach, CA surrounded by huge houses on postage-stamp lots, SUVs, more aisle space devoted to wine than groceries and other signs of abundance, America’s overconsumption is glaringly obvious. Yet, I could hop on the Green Line and in 20 minutes I’d be in the third world (and yes, I have lived in the third world). America is not a monolith. The only thing John Edwards got wrong in his “Two Americas” is that he stopped counting too soon.
    It is beyond doubt that America needs to consume less–be it for reasons of health, the environment, the economy, politics or our spiritual health. America also needs to start consuming differently. However, the way to get Americans to realize that is not by bashing America, but rather by educating them to their true interests. People act in concert with their perceived interests. So change perceptions. Even here in Southern CA, hybrids are starting to replace SUVs. Highways are less crowded, and people are even hopping on that Green line (or Red or Blue). America should lead, not lag when it comes to finding solutions to climate change, but the way to get it to do so is not with the whip, but by getting Americans to notice the carrot.
    Winston Churchill once said, “America can always be counted upon to do the right thing…after it has exhausted all other options.” Hopefully, we will soon realize we are out of other options.

  19. 219
    David B. Benson says:

    Chris (214) — I think so. A big forest fire would have a similar effect, but I have found no reports of such upwind of eastern Washington state. The effect was considerably diminished yesterday evening and seems to be a bit less today.

    So it might be a mass of Asian air made its way here. There are a few other possible causes, but two days ago I felt a bit as if I was downwind of Mordor.

  20. 220
    David B. Benson says:

    Well, maybe the yellow-brown haze in eastern Washington state is due to a wildfire. In British Columbia we have

    G90088 Moody Creek Jun 2, 2008 Modified Response 5,300.00 58° 35.000 127° 07.000

    which is about 15,143 acres and “Modified Response” means, at least, that it is not out.

  21. 221

    Re 218:

    It is beyond doubt that America needs to consume less–be it for reasons of health, the environment, the economy, politics or our spiritual health. America also needs to start consuming differently. However, the way to get Americans to realize that is not by bashing America, but rather by educating them to their true interests. People act in concert with their perceived interests. So change perceptions. Even here in Southern CA, hybrids are starting to replace SUVs. Highways are less crowded, and people are even hopping on that Green line (or Red or Blue). America should lead, not lag when it comes to finding solutions to climate change, but the way to get it to do so is not with the whip, but by getting Americans to notice the carrot.

    One of the surest ways to insure that the 3rd world part of America, as well as the 3rd world part of the 3rd world, stays “The 3rd World” is the sort of decline in economic activity that you advocate here.

    There is no technical or scientific reason anyone has to consume less in order to drive carbon emissions lower. Someone needs to be spending the money to drive the innovations needed to produce the technology to solve the problems we face. The wealthy have the money, might as well let them spend it on whatever goods and services are available that will fund those innovations.

  22. 222

    Figen Mekik posts:

    Overuse in the way that that they are taking more than what the 5% of the population needs and faster than Earth’s natural processes can replace them.

    So if anyone uses more than the mean, they are overusing? And presumably those using less than the mean are underusing?

  23. 223

    Nick Gotts — I apologize for spelling your name wrong. Sorry if I got the politics wrong as well. I assumed that someone who favored nationalizing industries, denigrated free market economics, and held Lenin’s views of international trade would almost certainly be a Marxist. I’m aware that there are exceptions. As a Syndicalist myself for many years (CSP), I know that we considered ourselves non-Marxist, though the equally Syndicalist SLP was proud to claim the Marxist label and the IWW (still around, for those who didn’t know) certainly studies Marx. I’m not up on the latest terms and groups.

  24. 224
    pete best says:

    Re #128 anbd #130 regarding the Prius. Thanks for the info guys, its appreciated. Hybridisation of petrol cars it making a significant contribution to increasing fuel efficiency. I wonder if a hybrid diesel would be a even more efficient car?

    I had no idea that the electric engine was used on long haul trips and neither do many journalists it would seem. I did read an article that suggests that if you stick your footdown though the Prius really does consume fuel far more than BMW efficient dynamics would so th world of the constant 50 to 60 MPG driver is good for Prius drivers.

  25. 225
    Henning says:

    Diesel and hybrid doesn’t make much sense, theoretically. The whole point of a diesel is the way it ignites fuel – basically by injecting fuel into the cylinder where the compressed air is so hot, that the fuel ignites all by itself, whereas petrol engines have to ignite by external means like sparkplugs. That requires a certain mix of air and petrol and making that mixture thinner (using less fuel or more air) is practically impossible because it would no longer ignite or burn “cold”. To overcome that limitation, modern petrol engines use direct injection to form a nicely defined, dense cloud of petrol around the sparkplug (the Prius doesn’t, by the way). That way, they can use less fuel which means they can use more air. Using more air leads to wider opening of the throttle which means the engine no longer has to breathe through a straw and wastes less energy sucking air – especially when combined with compressors and/or turbocharging. In a hybrid, none of this matters much, because theoretically the ICE can run on full throttle all the time and simply feed the energy you don’t need for driving into the generator charging the batteries. This is where it all falls down if you’re driving on the interstate or (much worse) on the autobahn. Charging the battery from the engine alone rather than recuperating while breaking or rolling down a hill, is wastefull and limited by the battery capacity, so the relatively small ICE has to run the car directly most of the time, working in a rather unefficient, half- to almost full-throttle mode. Its no surprise, that Toyota changes to a bigger and halfway up-to-date ICE with the next model – but the basic problem will remain. On the other hand, the all electric car may be closer to mass production than most of us dared to believe. Dieter Zetsche (Daimler’s CEO) announced yesterday, that the all-electric Smart will hit the market in 2010, together with one Mercedes model (he didn’t say which one). If all goes well, we’ll be very close behind.

  26. 226
    Nick Gotts says:

    #222 [Barton paul Levenson] “So if anyone uses more than the mean, they are overusing? And presumably those using less than the mean are underusing?”

    No, overuse, in the sense of use of nonrenewable or slowly renewable resources that is not sustainable past the short-term, would probably go well below the mean.

  27. 227
    Nick Gotts says:

    FurryCatherder@221. I see – so the more we can persuade the rich to fly, drive, buy power-hungry gadgets, stuff themselves with meat, etc. – the quicker we’ll solve the problem of AGW?

  28. 228
    dhogaza says:

    Diesel and hybrid doesn’t make much sense, theoretically

    So what’s your explanation for VW’s upcoming TDI diesel hybrid Golf? They’re putting out a car that doesn’t make sense? They don’t know what they’re doing?

  29. 229
    dhogaza says:

    This is interesting, too …

    Dr. Johannes-Joerg Rueger, vice president of engineering for diesel systems for Robert Bosch LLC, a leading manufacturer of diesel vehicle technologies, said, “From a cost perspective, that’s definitely a nightmare. The diesel engine itself is more expensive than a gasoline engine. And a hybrid device on top, definitely that’s the most expensive combination you can have.”

    So, according to one expert – and I’ve heard of Bosch, they seem to know what they’re doing – the major problem is cost, Nothing about “not making sense theoretically”.

  30. 230
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Furrycatherder says: “There is no technical or scientific reason anyone has to consume less in order to drive carbon emissions lower. Someone needs to be spending the money to drive the innovations needed to produce the technology to solve the problems we face. The wealthy have the money, might as well let them spend it on whatever goods and services are available that will fund those innovations.”

    Actually, there is plenty of reason to try to decrease consumption as much as possible. First, production as it is currently done is wasteful and ghg intensive. Every unit of energy not used actually saves 3 units of energy. Since economies do not turn on a dime and replace inefficient, polluting equipment with green, efficient equipment, the less we consume now, the more time we buy to come up with solutions. Second, rather than consumption we should now be emphasizing investment–in new technologies, in clean development, etc. That will create as many jobs (albeit, probably for a more educated workforce, so investment is needed there, too) as a consumer society.
    I am hoping that as people become more educated, moral suasion will be sufficient to engender such attitudes. I will know we are there when the kid who shows up on campus in a sports car can’t get laid, while the geek with the latest green technology is surrounded by admiring members of the opposite (or the same, depending on preference) sex.

  31. 231
    Lawrence Brown says:

    We’re not going to spend our way out of our energy problems, especially by using more energy. The good news is that we don’t have to. We in the U.S. use about 10KW per person and our per capita GDP is lower than some other industrialized nations, such as Japan, which uses about 5KW per capita. These nations are using energy more efficiently.

    In other words our standard of living,as measured by GDP, hasn’t been improved by the use of more and more energy past a certain point. That point appears to be about half or even less of our current per capita use.

  32. 232
    l david cooke says:

    RE: 231

    Hey Lawrence,

    I suspect that your point would be valid if ground transportation were not included. In general, the US has a greater distance to travel to deliver goods to market or distance to travel in relation between home and work. (Keeping in mind that a major driver of Urban Sprawl has more to do with economics, cheaper to drive then pay 4 times the amount for equivalent housing.) There are certain minimums or non-variable costs that are related to Margin decisions that are not factored into the GDP….

    As to waste, well I do not know that it is waste as much as the perceived imbalance of wealth. There is likely some very good justification for many of what many would term as wasteful use of resources. If you are not living in their shoes it is likely difficult to understand.

    This does not mean that all of their fossil fuel usage is right, only that it appears we have yet to understand or discuss the reasons for expenditures that you or I might see as decadent. My take is that as a portion of the budget, energy in the US has not invaded the economics of survival, so far for most families it is only a matter of convenience…

    The main point is to look at the specific tie between the expenditure on fossil fuels and the application of those expenditures. It is far to ease to sit out side of the barrel and take pot shots….

    Dave Cooke

  33. 233
    Henning says:

    @dhogaza #229
    No, that is exactly what he is saying. If hybrid technology could boost diesel fuel economy by anything close to what it can do for petrol engines, we’d already have diesel hybrids despite the additional cost. But due to the factors I outlined above, this isn’t the case. Diesels benefit less from hybrid technology because one of the major areas where hybrid helps, simply doesn’t apply to diesel. With trucks, this is different for a whole bunch of reasons – but we’re talking about cars.

    Regarding the “upcoming” diesel hybrid Golf
    Since betting has become fashionable around here, I’m prepared to bet that we won’t see a diesel hybrid Golf in production unless oil hits 300$/b within the next two years. I won’t rule out diesel hybrids in general – if only to get on the hype bandwaggon and score a top spot on the list of the rich pseudo-environmentalist’s must-have gadgets, but not a Golf – no matter on how many car-shows they flash the prototype. (And yes, you can count on VW knowing what they’re doing – most of the time, at least ;) )

  34. 234
    dhogaza says:

    Diesel and hybrid doesn’t make much sense, theoretically.

    Nothing about price points here … just an absolute statement. The problem is just the opposite – it makes sense theoretically (since we must lower CO2 emissions), but not economically. Fuel has to be priced at a higher level for the savings in fuel consumption to outweigh the extra cost of the car, compared to a gasoline hybrid.

    VW has pulled their diesel hybrid Golf, as of late April, apparently. They mention the cost, nothing else.

    I never claimed the gain in mileage will be as great in a diesel hybrid as it is with a gas hybrid, I think we all know modern diesels are inherently more efficient than gasoline ICEs. However, in a warming world, even a small improvement in efficiency lowers CO2 emissions.

    I really find many of your statements downright misleading …

    To overcome that limitation, modern petrol engines use direct injection to form a nicely defined, dense cloud of petrol around the sparkplug (the Prius doesn’t, by the way).

    Followed by other statements indicating Prius’s ICE is a dog (“switched to a halfway up-to-date ICE in the Prius II).

    You fail to mention that the Prius’s ICE uses “the more efficient Atkinson cycle instead of the more common Otto cycle”. Hmmm inherently more efficient, but at the cost of power.

    Why the skewing?

    As far as highway driving goes, as I’m sure you know ICEs are most efficient within a narrow band of RPMs. The combination of the CV transmission and the electric motor allows the power management system to keep the Prius’s engine running within an efficient range more often while zipping along uphill and downhill.

    As far as the prius being less efficient on the autobahn vs. US freeways, if Germans cared as much about CO2 emissions as they claim to, they’d stop driving so damned fast in the first place.

    It’s no secret that hybrids gain most in urban driving. It’s also true that even here in the vast American West, much less densely populated than western Europe, most people’s driving is mostly done in cities. It’s even more true in Europe.

  35. 235
    dhogaza says:

    I won’t rule out diesel hybrids in general – if only to get on the hype bandwaggon and score a top spot on the list of the rich pseudo-environmentalist’s must-have gadgets

    And on this score, you’re just being an ass. Hybrids save fuel consumption. How much is up for argument, but there’s nothing “pseudo-environmentalist” about cutting fuel consumption and emissions.

    And your precious TDI diesel doesn’t meet US emissions standards (and is less efficient) running on our high-sulfur diesel fuel, as I pointed out many posts ago. As an expert in the industry I’d expect you to know this, along with the fact that the market for modern diesel cars is expected to expand once we’ve made the switch to lower sulfur diesel, a switch that’s already been mandated.

    This whole discussion is silly. My next car will probably be a TDI diesel, as I’m a telecommuter in my day job (therefore have no commute), often walk or bike or take the bus to the store, coffee shop, pub, etc. I drive relatively infrequently in the city. On the other hand, I derive a small portion of my income from nature photography and some years have spent as much as three months doing biology field work in remote locations, so I find myself on the road to destinations 1000-1500 miles away about once a year on average. So for my driving pattern, a TDI diesel makes sense.

    On the other hand, I have a friend who has about a 15 mile daily commute, 2/3 on surface streets with traffic lights, and it’s impractical to use public transportation, even in public transport-friendly Portland, Oregon. She rarely leaves the city other on short trips. Her Prius has dropped her fuel consumption significantly. No amount of labeling Prius owners as being “pseudo-environmentalists” will change that fact.

  36. 236
    Lawrence Brown says:

    Re:Comment 132:
    “I suspect that your point would be valid if ground transportation were not included. In general, the US has a greater distance to travel to deliver goods to market or distance to travel in relation between home and work……”

    Your point is well taken,Dave. This is surely part of the reason why a bigger part of our energy use(and Canada’s for that matter) goes to transportation than say a smaller European country. All the more reason for Congress to increase our CAFE standards. Individuals can cut their gas costs in half by driving a car that has double the mileage of their current car.

    By the way, none of the currently available renewables sources,other than biofuels, can be used for transportation.Wind and solar are not yet practical for this. Hydrogen powered vehicles are too far in the future to help with AGW and cars run entirely on electricity aren’t popular because of limitations in distance between charges and power limitations.

  37. 237
    Henning says:

    I think you miss the point entirely, dhogaza. If reducing emissions would be the only factor relevant to whether or not a product “makes sense”, you’d have an argument. We could build the 250mpg car today – in fact we have done so. Its a two-seater diesel that reaches 70mph and does more than 250 miles to the US-gallon. Did we bring it to market? No, we didn’t. We didn’t because the economical bottom line is always what will decide in the end whether a product makes sense or not – for the consumer and, through that, for us. I assumed that was common knowledge – more or less the whole world of economy works like that, whether you like it or not. You may take some comfort from the fact, that breakeven is a moving target and the higher fuel prices get, the more expensive technology to reduce consumption will hit the market – simply because it “makes sense” then but doesn’t do so with lower fuel prices. So yes, a diesel hybrid would consume slightly less fuel and no, it wouldn’t make any sense today.
    And a Prius for a 15 mile commute in Oregon is in deed what I call pseudo-environmentalist. How many years will she have to commute to break-even with a cheaper car even if it had a slightly lower mileage and how many years to break-even in terms of CO2 additionally used during the production and transportation of the Prius to Oregon?

  38. 238
    CobblyWorlds says:

    Poll: most Britons doubt cause of climate change.
    Observer MORI Poll of UK opinion on climate change:

    …6/10 agreed that ‘many scientific experts still question if humans are contributing to climate change’…

  39. 239
    SecularAnimist says:

    Henning wrote: “If hybrid technology could boost diesel fuel economy by anything close to what it can do for petrol engines, we’d already have diesel hybrids despite the additional cost.”

    In fact we already have thousands of diesel hybrid buses on the road in cities all over the USA, where they have been used for over ten years:

    More cities get on board with hybrid buses
    By Jordan Schrader

    Mass-transit systems across the USA are accelerating orders for diesel-electric hybrid buses, despite an extra cost of more than $100,000 per bus.

    Four U.S. cities recently ordered more than 1,700 hybrid buses, General Motors, one of two major manufacturers of hybrid bus systems, plans to announce today. The orders include 950 for Washington, D.C., 480 for Philadelphia and 300 for Minneapolis and St. Paul.

    Last month, New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority — which began experimenting with the buses in 1998 — ordered 850 with systems from GM competitor BAE Systems, MTA spokesman Charles Seaton said.

    Hybrids are becoming the buses of choice for public transit systems trying to improve efficiency and reduce environmental damage, despite the fact that better fuel mileage won’t necessarily recoup the extra costs, according to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

    GM hybrid systems are in nearly 1,000 buses in more than 70 communities, company spokesman Brian Corbett said. The buses are manufactured by several companies, including New Flyer of Winnipeg.

    BAE’s systems are inside more than 1,100 Daimler buses in six U.S. and Canadian locales, said Bryan Allen of Daimler Buses North America.

    Smaller cities also are trying hybrids. Asheville, N.C., approved buying five buses in November. Hybrids also are being tested in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Evansville, Ind.

    While hybrids accounted for just 2%-3% of buses in APTA’s 2007 survey of its mostly North American members, about 22% of buses on order at that point were hybrids.

    Diesel-electric hybrid buses add electric batteries to an engine, which cuts down on the pollutants emitted from tailpipes. Daimler says its buses produce about 90% less soot. Most hybrid systems work with diesel, but some work with gasoline or other fuels.

    Hybrids in two cities studied by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory got better fuel economy than diesel buses — 3.19 miles per gallon, or 34% more, in New York, and 3.17 miles per gallon, or 27% more, in Seattle.

    While better mileage saves money over the 12 years that a bus is intended to last, it doesn’t make up the cost of buying the more-expensive hybrids, said Patrick Scully, Daimler Buses chief commercial officer.

    Chapel Hill, N.C., spent $530,000 for each of three hybrids last year, $190,000 more per bus than diesel buses.

    “I don’t know if you can say we’re going to recoup the 200 grand in terms of dollars and cents,” said Steve Spade, Chapel Hill Transit director. “But at some level, that doesn’t really matter — or at least it’s not as important — because of what you’re contributing to the community.”

    And these buses offer significant improvements in fuel efficiency and emissions reductions:

    Metro To Receive 50 General Motors Hybrid Powered New Flyer Buses
    Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Press Release
    September 22, 2005

    “The General Motors hybrid diesel electric drive system for buses uses the most efficient parallel hybrid architecture available in the world today,” said Tom Stephens, Group Vice President, for General Motors. “If the U.S. had only 1,000 GM hybrid powered buses operating in major cities, the cumulative savings would be more than 1.5 million gallons of fuel annually.”

    General Motors says the clean hybrid technology found in these buses produce 60 percent fewer oxides of nitrogen emissions and 90 percent fewer particulate, hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions. Other benefits of the buses include reduced maintenance costs resulting from extended brake, engine oil and transmission oil life; superior torque, giving 50 percent faster acceleration than conventional diesel buses and operational sound levels approaching that of passenger cars.

    Hybrid diesel buses are a readily available and effective technology for expanding public transit, especially in areas which have suitable roads but where it would be difficult or prohibitively expensive to build rail systems. They can help to reduce oil consumption and its associated toxic pollution and GHG emissions, both by improving on the performance of conventional diesel buses and by encouraging more people to use public transit instead of driving their own cars.

  40. 240
    dhogaza says:

    So yes, a diesel hybrid would consume slightly less fuel and no, it wouldn’t make any sense today.

    That, of course, is

    1. Very different than your first statement that I objected to, in which you stated that theoretically it would NEVER make much sense.

    2. ignores issues beyond the customer’s pocketbook, i.e. the fact that CO2 emissions cause warming.

    No, we didn’t. We didn’t because the economical bottom line is always what will decide in the end whether a product makes sense or not

    Or government regulation. Go, California! Who first got rid of lead in gasoline, which led to the adaption of catylitic converters by industry, something which would’ve never happened if the world were strictly governed by your beloved market-only principles.

    You may take some comfort from the fact, that breakeven is a moving target and the higher fuel prices get, the more expensive technology to reduce consumption will hit the market – simply because it “makes sense” then but doesn’t do so with lower fuel prices.

    You may take comfort in knowing that this is blindingly obvious and is why your absolute initial statement that diesel hybrids “theoretically make little sense” was, to be blunt, stupid.

    And a Prius for a 15 mile commute in Oregon is in deed what I call pseudo-environmentalist. How many years will she have to commute to break-even with a cheaper car…

    This is why your an ass to describe such people as being “pseudo-environmentalist”. She (and many others like her) MIGHT NOT break even. She (and many others like her) are willing to take that chance in order to reduce their CO2 emissions and therefore due their part to help combat global warming.

    and how many years to break-even in terms of CO2 additionally used during the production and transportation of the Prius to Oregon?

    It takes no more CO2 to transport a Prius from Japan to Oregon than it does to transport any other Japanese car, less than to transport a TDI diesel from Germany here, and quite probably less than to transport a car from Detroit. Because the car comes here from Japan by ship (cargo ships are, pound-for-pound, quite efficient), the west coast import facility for Toyota is here in Portland, less than 25 miles from any of the Toyota dealers in the city.

    And the supposed extra CO2 used in the production is mostly the fantasy of a bunch of CO2-denialist anti-environmental twits.

  41. 241
    dhogaza says:

    How many years will she have to commute to break-even with a cheaper car even if it had a slightly lower mileage

    And “slightly” is an underestimate …

    Oh, yes, she could get one of those TDI diesels you love which, as of yet, don’t meet US emissions standards so, wait, oops, she can’t.

    And I’ll stand by an earlier statement I made: if germans were as serious about CO2 reductions if they pretend to be, they’d quit driving so fast on the autobahn – impose speed limits, reasonable ones, as the rest of Europe does (typically 120 km/hr in Spain, for instance), rather than bitch that hybrids don’t help a lot when driven at environmentally stupid speeds.

  42. 242
    Henning says:

    Once you calmed down, maybe you should read this thread again and try to get a grip on where you are actually arguing about what I said and where you’re just shouting against stuff you interpreted into my words or dreamed up all by yourself.

  43. 243
    Nick Gotts says:

    #238 [CobblyWorlds] Depressing – but in contrast to some other polls I’ve seen. As usual, I’d guess a lot depends on what you ask: they asked whether people agreed with the lie you quote – which is an excellent way of planting the suggestion that it’s a reasonable belief. Perhaps even more depressing was the Grauniad asking Lomborg for his views, as if he were some sort of respectable thinker.

  44. 244
    Arch Stanton says:

    > “wait, oops, she can’t”

    Maybe she can’t now, but VW will (once again) offer the TDI in the US this fall.

    (I do agree with your point however).

  45. 245
    L.D.Cooke says:

    RE: 236

    Hey Lawrence,

    I concur with your observations in regards to
    non-combustion renewable sources. Though I can think
    of possibly one exception. As to practical renewable
    resources in the biofuel field I believe too much
    concentration is being placed on food stock sources.
    The issue is to locate cellulose based resources not
    reliant on patentable enzymes, there are two
    significant alternatives that are not necessarily

    The choices only contain 1/2 the BTU/equivalent gal
    (ambient) of petrol or gasoline. This would suggest
    for the same energy output the displacement of an Otto
    cycle engine would have to be twice that of current
    technology. However, the fuel also has 25% greater
    octane allowing for greater compression and the
    possibility of greater energy content capture.

    Though both techniques would require additional energy
    input. It may be possible to re-use exhaust heat to
    achieve the necessary additional input requirement,
    though it is likely this will require a dual fuel

    Bio-gas works great as a methane source in the light
    of a lack of a current deep ocean methane hydrate
    recovery system. In addition, the use of
    non-food/feed stock cellulose pellets could be reduced
    in an oxygen-less environment (gasification) with the
    residue combustible resins and methanol combined with
    a portion of the Bio-gas reserves providing the source
    heat for a portable fluidized bed fire box to drive
    the gasification process in a transportation power
    system. The combination of the cellulose gasification
    and Bio-gas could form the primary combustion gases.

    The most interesting solution I have seen to date as a
    transportation energy alternative has been the idea of
    using a methane hydrate fired fuel cell. The methane
    can be broken down by a catalyst to release the
    hydrogen and oxygen with the released water acting
    either as a coolant or to drive a Stirling cycle
    adjunct engine.

    However, devising a method to harvest the renewable
    (cycle time in 100’s rather then 1,000,000’s of
    years), ocean bottom methane hydrate without
    precipitating a catastrophic release remains a major
    technical challenge. The interesting part of this
    alternative is that it allows for a fairly dense
    storage medium of hydrogen while reducing the tendency
    of leakage, high pressure requirements, and metal

    I believe of all the proposals I have seen to date the
    DOE/Sandia Lab experiments with Algae for carbon
    sequestration and bio-diesel fuel sources seem to make
    the most sense. The issue is the transportation
    necessary to go from the optimum growing sites to the
    consumable site. Though with the thought of
    converting Desert areas and long tubes of ethylene
    plastic to house the algae as it grows and then the
    required press to remove the vegetable oil seems like
    a idea squasher.

    The good thing is the cellulose left over could be
    reduced by gasification to derive additional energy
    similar to the above… Though these techniques are
    not combustion free they at least stop the requirement
    for the introduction of fossilized carbon not in the
    current Epoch…

    Dave Cooke

  46. 246
    pete best says:

    Re #238, the Media is king to the general public. Channel 4’s TGGWS obviosuly made its mark to the uninitiated and many other people inlcuding late night radio and more mainstrean radio stations also do not help the cause here in the UK. The BBC is particular always try to air both sides of an argument even when the two people talking are not equally qualified to do so. One discussion on BBC Radio 5 live one morning pitched Piers Corbyn against a solar physicist who was attempting to tell us that the Sun is not the cause of recent climate change but Corbyn and the Radio presenter attempted to ruin it.

    Its all down to the argument and the way it is framed these days rather than the actual content of science.

  47. 247
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Hansen goes for the jugular:

    Put oil firm chiefs on trial, says leading climate change scientist
    Ed Pilkington in New York
    The Guardian, Monday June 23, 2008

    James Hansen, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, will today call for the chief executives of large fossil fuel companies to be put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature, accusing them of actively spreading doubt about global warming in the same way that tobacco companies blurred the links between smoking and cancer.

    Hansen will use the symbolically charged 20th anniversary of his groundbreaking speech (pdf) to the US Congress – in which he was among the first to sound the alarm over the reality of global warming – to argue that radical steps need to be taken immediately if the “perfect storm” of irreversible climate change is not to become inevitable.

    Speaking before Congress again, he will accuse the chief executive officers of companies such as ExxonMobil and Peabody Energy of being fully aware of the disinformation about climate change they are spreading.

    In an interview with the Guardian he said: “When you are in that kind of position, as the CEO of one the primary players who have been putting out misinformation even via organisations that affect what gets into school textbooks, then I think that’s a crime.”

  48. 248
    aaron says:

    Gavin, perhaps this post will make clearer the impact that high gas prices are having both on consumption and on people:

    We’re not using less fuel, we are getting less done with the fuel we are using.

    We are currently enduring a natural experiment on the effects of higher gas prices. While it has spurred movement toward more efficient technology, it has brought about some severe consequences that will need to be dealt with.

    Last month it was reported that driving in the US was down 4.3% in March compared to last year. What everyone missed was that gasoline consumption wasn’t. It was down less than 2%.

    For the year, gasoline consumption is down little more than 1/2%.

    We aren’t using less fuel, we’re getting less done with the fuel we are using.

    If the most efficient driving was being eliminated, it still couldn’t explain the large difference in fuel efficiency. The driving being cut would need to be several times more efficient than normal. This is not plausible.

    Among the reasons: Less efficient fuel mixtures may be being used; People are acting on bad advice. We’ve known for awhile now that accelerating faster is more fuel efficient (this is even before considering the beneficial effects on traffic), yet people believe the opposite; People may be driving more at high traffic times to generate needed income and be too tired and poor to drive at other times; And, during the economic slow down, communities may be neglecting good traffic management (e.g. not timing traffic lights properly).

    We also need to consider whether higher prices will strengthen the movement toward more efficient technology or have little additional effect (i.e. Has the move has already happened and will further price pressure be of no value?).

    Additionally, we need to realize that in the mid-term, our current vehicle fleet and the infrastruture to produce more aren’t suddenly going to disappear. New tech won’t wash out these adverse effects.

    [The gasoline consumption data can be found here:

    It’s in excel format. See U.S. Weekly Finished Motor Gasoline Product Supplied (Thousand Barrels per Day).

    The Energy Information Administration defines Production Supplied as their calculation of consumption:

    Products Supplied Approximately represents consumption of petroleum products because it measures the disappearance of these products from primary sources, i.e., refineries, natural gas processing plants, blending plants, pipelines, and bulk terminals. In general, product supplied of each product in any given period is computed as follows: field production, plus refinery production, plus imports, plus unaccounted for crude oil, (plus net receipts when calculated on a PAD District basis), minus stock change, minus crude oil losses, minus refinery inputs, minus exports.

    More petrol data can be found here:

  49. 249
    Evil says:

    Great deconstruction of Wired’s absurd “article.” Did anyone mention the 2 page advertising spread from Shell about liquefied natural gas? Gee, I wonder if there is a connection between that Wired article and the advertising.

    I just subscribed to Wired, so I am pretty ticked off that they initiated me with such a homage to stupidity in the attempt to be “cute” as you call it. Unfortunately, a stack of morons from here to Kalamazoo will be citing this Wired article on talk radio.

  50. 250
    Rick Brown says:

    #2 Brian W.: The Forest Service has “just started a new climate change PR campaign which states that the best thing for the agency to do is to log and replant since new young trees will sequester more carbon.”

    Can you point me toward more information about this PR campaign? Thanks.