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Unforced variations: Jan 2011

Filed under: — group @ 6 January 2011

After perusing the comments and suggestions made last week, we are going to try a new approach to dealing with comment thread disruptions. We are going to try and ensure that there is always an open thread for off-topic questions and discussions. They will be called (as this one) “Unforced Variation: [current month]” and we will try and move all off-topic comments on other threads to these threads. So if your comment seems to disappear from one thread, look for it here.

Additionally, we will institute a thread for all the troll-like comments to be called “The Bore Hole” (apologies to any actual borehole specialists) that won’t allow discussion, but will serve to show how silly and repetitive some of the nonsense that we have been moderating out is. (Note that truly offensive posts will still get deleted). If you think you’ve ended up there by mistake, please let us know.

With no further ado, please talk about anything climate science related you like.

370 Responses to “Unforced variations: Jan 2011”

  1. 351

    SM @ 350:

    That’s a gross misrepresentation of what happened and the solutions that were required to solve the problem.

    Production was idled for no reason other than to create an artificial shortage so that power had to be purchased on the spot market at grossly inflated prices. Transmission capacity was reserved for no reason other than to artificially create “constraint” so that power had to be purchased in other ways at grossly inflated prices.

    Electricity cannot be stored from one instance to the next. That means that no matter how much people conserve, there is always going to be a way to rig the system. Cut consumption by 5%? Okay, we’ll take a 500MW plant off line for “maintenance”, create an artificial shortage anyway, then sell back that 500MW of production at 10 to 100 times higher prices on the spot market. Cut consumption by another 5%? We’ve got other plants that need “maintenance” …

  2. 352
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Brian Taylor@349,

    The real cause of the collaps was not the smart guys, but rather the dumb guys trying to misapply the products the smart guys developed for entirely other purposes. The lesson is that if you are using a model to estimate risk, it had damn well better be calibrated with REPRESENTATIVE data. It is a bad idea to estimate risk for 30 year-fix-ed ra-te mort-g-ages with 20% down and good credit and apply it to Liar’s lo-ans with no money down, and no credit check.

  3. 353

    Ray @ 352:

    The real cause was people who were able to sell the risk to someone else and lie about the risk at the same time. People in positions of trust (for various values of “trust”) flat out lied. That so few of those people seem destined for jail tells me that we’ll get a repeat in the future.

    And while this is “Unforced Variations”, the applicability of that to Climate Change is that people who are lying about what’s going on — and who know better — are highly unlikely to suffer the consequences.

  4. 354
    Rod B says:

    You guys simply ignore (deny??) California State’s culpability in their own power problem. For one, their effective limiting in-state production required massive imports (which they can’t regulate — all they can do is not let the power companies pass on their high costs to the consumer) which put a sign on their back that said ‘come screw me!’ Their living in la-la land made them easy picking for the bad guys.

  5. 355
    Rod B says:

    FurryCatHerder, I share your ire, but the middle man did not lie in those transactions. The bank or whatever that made the lo_an did nothing that violated the requirements set by Fannie Mae et al. (They explicitly approved those low-doc, AKA “liar’s”, mort_gaged lo_ans.) The problem at the higher end came with the packaging and collateralizing mort_gages and partial mort_gages: they didn’t lie about what was in them — they didn’t know what was in them. So all those “smart” guys bought and sold and insured and made derivatives for stuff that, after a few rounds, they had no clue what they were worth. Abetted by them being rated AAA right up to the end.

  6. 356
    One Anonymous Bloke says:

    Rod B. 355 completely misses the point. He says “they didn’t lie about what was in them — they didn’t know what was in them”, whereas the point is that when you’re in a position of trust, you make goddamn sure you know what’s in them or you say “I don’t know”.

    Rod, seriously, if you told me your house was on fire I’d check with your neighbour.

  7. 357
    jyyh says:

    Where the denialists’ books on climate issues should be classified? Sociology, Psychology, Economy, Fiction, WWII History or Politics? You may not vote on this since I’m not opening a vote here. Suggestions of alternative energetic mitigating actions on this issue are heard but ignored.

  8. 358
    Hank Roberts says:

    Got cites?
    Opinions, everybody’s got. Reliable sources, you can find, if they exist.
    Remember, that’s not just stating an opinion then doing ‘reverse research’ to find someone else on the Internet who said it too.

    Happy new month ….

  9. 359
    Ray Ladbury says:

    jyyh, I would propose that the great resources of the oil companies be put to work to make the denialist works available for free in malls all over the world–printed on 4-inch squares and wrapped around cardboard tubes. In this manner, whatever winds up on the paper will be an improvement.

  10. 360
    Ray Ladbury says:

    OAB, Better listen to Rod. He majored in revisionist history! There’s plenty of blame to go around. I merely took issue with blaming the crisis on particle physicists. Moreover, the instruments developed by the bulging foreheads were all developed for a specific purpose–and it was not so the financial giants could over leverage their assets. Their main sin was not developing trigger locks to keep them out of the hands of infants.

  11. 361
    Hunt Janin says:

    I’ve now reached the point in writing my introductory survey on sea level rise that I’d like to explain to general reader what, if anything, the Americans are actually DOING now to deal with sea level rise.

    My own guess is that the answer is: “precious little, except talk about it and, in a few cases, point with alarm.” But I may well be wrong. If I am, please let me know off-list at

  12. 362
    ghost says:

    RE: Cyclone Yasi, a few weeks ago when the Queensland flooding was beginning, a denier or three jumped to assure that rainfall of that sort ‘had happened before in the area.’ Well, that wasn’t yet the end of the weather season there, and the pain continues. I wonder when memory exhausts to the point that it no longer is possible to say “It’s no big deal, it’s happened before; it can’t be climate change. Nothing to see here. Move along.” I hope for the best for the Queenslanders, as it doesn’t look good from afar. Maybe it’s a reminder to North Americans that it isn’t winter everywhere in the world, though.

  13. 363
    Septic Matthew says:

    351, furryCatHerder: Cut consumption by 5%? Okay, we’ll take a 500MW plant off line for “maintenance”, create an artificial shortage anyway, then sell back that 500MW of production at 10 to 100 times higher prices on the spot market. Cut consumption by another 5%? We’ve got other plants that need “maintenance” …

    You appear not to be familiar with the actual numbers. An actual reduction in peak demand of 3% followed the announcement by the California Public Utility Commission that it would permit the retailers (PG&E, SOCAL Edison, SDG&E) to raise their rates. That ended the crisis. The reduction was mostly a 20% reduction in peak air conditioning, which constituted about 15% of peak demand.

    A stupid provision in the California law required the utilities to buy in the spot market. That law was another mechanism by which the California electricity crisis was self-inflicted. The Davis administration assumed emergency powers to deal with the crisis, and bought long-term contracts; unfortunately they hired a bunch of electricity traders from private industry who bought long-term contracts at very high prices, and then sold the electricity to the utilities at low prices. That alone obliterated the budget surplus that Davis had received from Wilson.

    The other main factor that helped to end the crisis was the expedited completion of two large gas-fired plants, the first large-scale electricity generation constructed in California during a period of about 30 years during which the population doubled.

    Nobody increased the charge for electricity by a factor of 100. The largest price included prepayment of an EPA fine; the fine was in fact never levied (prepayment was a legal requirement), and the prepayment was returned to the utility that had paid it.

  14. 364
    meteor says:

    Gavin and/or Mike

    Do you know this reconstruction of temperature during the last 1000y :

    which shows that the medieval period in Switzerland is about 1°C warmer than our recent period and what is your opinion about it.

    It seems that the skeptics are very interested by this new.

  15. 365
    David B. Benson says:

    jyyh @357 — The thing to do is to convince the Library of Congress to assign a non-science LC designator to septical books. I suggest

  16. 366
    Rod B says:

    Shouldn’t septical books go in R – Medicine?

    Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

  17. 367
    Hunt Janin says:

    Is there any easy way I can can find on the net (preferably in one fell swoop) all the names and email addresses of the state agencies in shoreside US states that deal with environmental issues, e.g., sea level rise?

  18. 368
    Hank Roberts says:

    SM, please cite your claims; there’s ample history behind the California/Enron situation — posting cherrypicked claims without citing sources makes it harder for others to see the context.

    It’s hard to lean, spin, and pick cherries, all at once, but it’s doable.
    Citing sources avoids the problems with that.

    Or, if you’re just copying uncited claims you find elsewhere — where?

  19. 369
    Septic Matthew says:

    There’s this one:

    By keeping the consumer price of electricity artificially low, the California government discouraged citizens from practicing conservation. In February 2001, California governor Gray Davis stated, “Believe me, if I wanted to raise rates I could have solved this problem in 20 minutes.”[15]

    Enron eventually went bankrupt, and signed a US$1.52 billion settlement with a group of California agencies and private utilities on July 16, 2005

    The article does not say so, as far as I can tell, but the figure of 5% of total overcharges refunded was from newspaper accounts at the time. That figure of $1.52B from Enron was a small fraction of the money that CA lost.

    According to the article, rolling blackouts were called when the electricity supply surplus fell below 3%. As I wrote, there was always a surplus, just not a surplus required by the CAISO. After little expansion of the power supply, CA licensed 14,365MW of new production in response to the crisis; it does not say clearly whether the two powerplants that were licensed in response to deregulation a few year earlier, but came on line under Davis, are included. As I wrote, the 3,000 MW of roof-mounted solar generating capacity, had it been in place at the time, would have prevented the crisis; that was close to 6% of peak demand on CAISO before the rate increase.

    During the crisis my electricity usage never rose about about 50% of the baseline (approximate median) for my region. I was seriously out of step with my CA neighbors in my opinions of their profligacy, and I wrote the LA Times criticisms of their whining self-pity. As I wrote above, Californians eventually solved the problem by adopting solutions that they might have adopted a year earlier.

    The electricity wholesalers, including the cities of Sacramento and Los Angeles, gamed the system. But the reduction in peak electricity demand that was caused by the rate increase approved by CPUC amounted to about 3%, over one month, and restored the margin that was required by CAISO. I knew people who reduced their electricity bill from $300/month to $200/month, but only after the rate increases went into effect. Why people, such as my neighbors whom I like, waste that much money on A/C is a mystery to me.

    If you reread all I wrote, you’ll note that I did not deny that the wholesalers gamed the system. What I wrote was that California set itself up for the problem, and then solved the problem on its own. Most lawsuits brought against the wholesalers were decided in favor of the wholesalers.

    Oddly enough, the state-funded electricity consumer conservation program expired during the crisis due to lack of interest in energy conservation evinced by Californians. It was surprising to me, at first, to see restaurants and other places that had not replaced their gluttonous incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents, but since that time most that I have been to have done so.

  20. 370
    Hank Roberts says:

    Reposting an old favorite:

    ” … we didn’t change the Earth’s weather, but its climate. There’d be no point in trying to explain the difference to you, I guess. They stepped up the CO2 content of the atmosphere, producing an increased blanketing effect. At first the equatorial regions were uncomfortably hot as a result; but when the thing stabilized again a lot of the polar caps had melted, and a lot of formerly desert land in the torrid zones, which had been canalized for the purpose, had flooded in consequence. The net result was an increased evaporation surface and, through a lot of steps a little too technical for the present discussion, a shallower temperature drop toward the poles….”

    Hal Clement, “Cold Front”
    First published in _Astounding_ July 1946
    “Cold Front” reprinted in Vol. 2, ISBN 1-886788-07-8