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Unforced variations: May 2011

Filed under: — group @ 5 May 2011

This month’s open thread.

Seed topics: The genealogy of climate models, how to compare different greenhouse gases, whether a 2 deg C temperature target makes sense (Stoat has already weighed in), or reflections on the Nenana Ice classic (which has just concluded for this year). But you decide.

396 Responses to “Unforced variations: May 2011”

  1. 151
    Ryan says:

    Learn about Global Warming Definition of Global Warming

  2. 152
    Patrick 027 says:


    For a decay to a fraction u of the original value over time tu, the fraction in one unit of t would be

    The exponential decay rate is
    -ln(u)/tu = r,
    so that the fraction f at time t is
    The decay time scale is
    1/r = R.

    The integral of f from time 0 to t is
    teq = r*[1 – exp(-r*t)],
    which is equal to teq, the equivalent time period for which the integral would be the same if r were 0 (if there were no decay).

    The maximum teq that can be achieved is R, when t goes to infinity.

    The time it takes to reach teq is
    t = -ln(1 – r*teq) / r
    The time it takes to reach teq = R*(1-x) is
    t = -ln(x)/r

    For solar modules where the per unit remaining area of module power decays as exp(-A*t), and the remaining area of modules installed (losses from some type of module failure, extreme storms and fires, etc.) decays as exp(-B*t), the total power from a batch/cohort/fleet of modules installed at one time decays as exp(-C*t) where C = A+B.

    The energy over a lifetime of t is then teq = 1/C * [1 – exp(-C*t)].
    The area-time over that period is 1/B * [1 – exp(-B*t)]
    So the average power per unit area, relative to the installed value, is
    B/C * [1 – exp(-C*t)]/[1 – exp(-B*t)]. This is the average power per unit area relative to the installed value of the whole solar PV power supply (of a given type with the same B and C) if installations occur at a rate to maintain constant power, as the system evolves toward an equilibrium state (mix of ages of working modules).

    The limit as t goes to infinity of energy in terms of equivalent years of installed power is 1/C. The limit for area-time is 1/B. Thus the minimum lifetime-averaged power/area, relative to the power/area at the time of installation, is B/C. While one hopes for lower B and C, if B is large enough relative to C, there won’t be much need on the aggregate level to retire still functional modules.

    B/C for the decay rates of still-working modules from the last comment (which correspond to decay times 1/A of 153.8, 184.6, 237.3, and 284.7 years)

    is, with a B of about 0.010050336 (a 1 % annual area loss)

    0.607, 0.650, 0.705, and 0.741, (So the maximum area needed to supply a given amount of power in a steady-state system would be somewhere between about 5/3 and 4/3 of the area that would be required of freshly installed modules.)

    and the maximum achievable lifetime energy in terms of equivalent years at the power when installed (rated power*capacity factor) is 1/C =

    60.4, 64.7, 70.1, and 73.7.

    Of course, the ways in which solar power efficiency is limited (aside from inverters and any storage and transmission, a combination of voltage losses and current losses within the cells and wires) may make the decay not exactly exponential because if the voltage drops below a certain point, severe current losses will occur from the resistances in the cell and wire; on the other hand, current reduction would reduce the voltage losses, at least outside the cell. See also “fill factor”. But I haven’t gone through this mathematically (there’s actually a rather nice description in Wikipedia – I think it’s under something like “Solar Cells”, otherwise try “photovoltaic” or “solar power”) and I’m not sure about the mathematics of the causes of the decay.

    Although, the time period for diffusion is proportional to the square of the distance, right? (That’s what it is for a temperature signal’s propation for heat diffusing through an idealized medium; I’d assume the same mathematical structure applies to mass diffusion, although the situation is not initially atoms at the surface of a medium but atoms in layers of a medium, but one could consider each subset of atoms diffusing from some initial position – another big difference, though, is that their isn’t a source location where the composition is held constant – but that would be analogous to sending a series of temperature signals, with all (provided certain simplifying/idealized conditions) subsequent ones of opposite sign to the first.)

    Well, if it is (I won’t bother with the math right now, as I’ve got my own time constraints), even a thin-film PV layer is, so far as I know, on the order of a micron or more thick. Whish is 40 to 50 times 145 Thomas’s 22 nm. So the time period would be 1600 to 2500 times longer if proportional to the square of distance. If linearly proportion, well, that’s still a big factor. On the other hand, some solar technology uses or could use nanotechnology… Anyway, How hot are the actual semiconductors in a running computer?

    PS other components may tend to fail sooner than the PV material. Solar power systems could then be constructed for easier replacement of those components – for example, maybe bypass diodes (if those tend to burn out?)would simply be screwed into the module and could be replaced like the way fuses were replaced in fuse boxes or batteries are replaced in _____ (oops, you’d have to have some seal around it to keep water out. Well…). No need to go Henry Ford and make the module of sufficiently poor quality that it fails as early as the other parts – unless of course that makes sense (eg such as with a rapidly manufactured very cheap type of PV technology that might exist at some point in the future).

  3. 153
    Patrick 027 says:

    if the voltage drops below a certain point, severe current losses will occur from the resistances in the cell and wire – well, actually, it would be either that or a reduction in the voltage supplied by the whole array (or both, of course). Picture the function exp(-r*t) – x. When exp(-r*t) approaches x, the decay accelerates toward zero relative to strictly exponential decay. It’s stuff somewhat like that which I was thinking of. If such x’s are sufficiently small relative to the initial values, they wouldn’t have much impact on the potential lifetime outputs.

  4. 154
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 148 Thomas – thanks. It also just occured to me that sometimes (well, only once that I know of – Grand Canyon a few years ago) water is released from reservoirs for ecological restoration. Such releases could be done when solar and wind peak above demand.

    I’ve also read that a lot of natural gas pipelines come out of the Southwest, so if solar power could be used to make CH4, that would be nice. (And then maybe that could be converted into electricity in furnaces in buildings with TPV panels. Assuming everybody’s furnace isn’t syncronized, this could be one way to provide winter electricity with solar power in what would be cogeneration plants.)

  5. 155
    FrankD says:

    Further to JiminMpls @144: “Nuclear power is intermittent”.

    In 2009, France temporarily lost one third of installed nuclear capacity, right when they needed it most. Nuclear produces 80% of electricity in France, but 14 of 19 plants draw cooling water from rivers. Environmental restrictions prevent the discharge of overly hot water from the cooling system back into the rivers, and during the heatwave of June-July, a number of plants had to either scale back or shut down, resulting in the loss of 20 GW of capacity from the grid (of 63 GW of installed capacity).

    France, the worlds largest exporter of electricity, normally pipes around 10-15 GW of electricity to its neighbours. During the heatwave, they were drawing 8GW from the UK.

    While nuclear looks relatively more attractive these days that 20-30 years ago, it is like any system, imperfect.

  6. 156
    wili says:

    Interesting plan, but really I think we have to make a rule that all excess and much other energy has to be spent on taking carbon out of the atmosphere. We are deep into over shoot. Even the 350 goal mentioned is really an upper limit, as far as I can see. We should be well below that to reach historic norms and provide a cushion.

  7. 157
    dhogaza says:

    This spring the Pacific Northwest has very high water flows, a lot of wind turbines are being asked to shutdown because there is already an excess of power. That shows that one way that flow based variable power sources will be utilized, i.e. we will overbuild them, so at some times there is no way to utilize the full output.

    It also has the unfortunate side effect of lowering the revenue of those who’ve invested in the wind farms, which will lengthen the amount of time it takes to recoup the investment and turn a profit, thus lowering the incentive to invest in more wind farms.

    Certain cynical types think the BPA might not regret this side effect of increasing their hydro revenue at the cost of wind farm revenue.

    Ideally there’d be the grid capacity to ship the power off to some region that could then decrease coal-generated output …

  8. 158
    Thomas says:

    Pat @151. I don’t think the economics of energy storage via making fuel then burning it will work out. WindFuels is ostensibly economic, because liquid transportation fuel sells at a steep premium to its energy content. As long as natural gas is used as a primary source of energy, its price will be lower than its energy content, so it will be really tough to make its creation pay off. Obviously the cheapest energy storage is going to come from moving demand in time. Stored power will always be more costly than promptly produced/used power, i.e. the cost of storage must be added to the primary cost of the energy. Of course to make methane, you need a source of C, presumably CO2, and I doubt free air capture will fit the billing.

    wili: I only wish. It is of course possible that someday we will do just that. If so I predict the cost of CO2 removal will exceed the economic benefits derived from its emission decades earlier. Other than enhanced weathering (bust up the right sorts of rocks, and let nature make carbonates from the rock plus atmospheric CO2), I don’t see free-air capture as being practical.

  9. 159
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Re Edward Greisch’s skepticism of the evacuation policy: Wait, you’re saying fallout comparable to that around Pripyat/Chernobyl doesn’t warrant evacuation? Was the Soviet Union overracting when it created the Exclusion Zone?

  10. 160
    John Mashey says:

    Every once in a while, it is worth a quick visit to The Borehole, and thank the moderators for saving us from having to wade through such material all the time. Think of this as getting vaccinated by exposure to a controlled dose.

    #336 is amusing. Some never learn.

  11. 161
    Anne van der Bom says:

    Edward Greisch,
    14 May 2011 at 12:16 AM

    This may be an informative page for you. It shows how the Spanish grid operator deals with variable renewable energy. As you can see, most of the variability (renewable sources are not binary, on/off) is compensated with hydro and CCGT. CCGT output can be changed very quickly and without much loss of efficiency. A modern CCGT plant running at 50% load loses about 10% of its efficiency (in relative terms). So at full load it is close to 60% efficiency, at half load 55%.

    Wind and solar are nuisances as far as the electricity generating companies are concerned
    Catalytic converters are a nuisance as far as the car manufacturers are concerned.

    What the electricity generating companies think is irrelevant. They exist to serve their customers and follow the law. If the public demands renewable energy and the government mandates it, they have to comply, not complain.

    Some reading for you. You may be reluctant to read the entire article, but at least scroll down to the references at the bottom. There are some links to research done by grid operators on the effects of wind power on their grids. They do not seem to share your opinion about the lack of effectivity in reducing emissions.

    As for the brave new climate article you linked to, the article contains a lot of strong assertions, but little evidence. It completely ignores biofuels and biogas, which are a vital part of the renewable mix, since they can provide on demand power. Do not trust that site too much. An example of the lies Barry Brook is happily spreading to prove his point is on this page, where he repeats a lie invented here. They say that the 11 MW PS10 solar thermal plant costs $ 500 million, and that Spain is building a second one delivering 20 MW for 1 billion dollars. Anyone who believes that is indeed suffering from ‘cranial depletion’ of some sort. The actual cost of the PS 10 is 35 million euros.

  12. 162
    CM says:

    John #157, re: the Bore Hole,

    I’d actually like to suggest that it be plugged soon. It was a good joke, but it’s gone on for long enough.

    Like re-injected carbon seeping out through an unforeseen fissure, bore-holed posts still pollute the RSS feed (which is sometimes the easiest way to follow RC comments, e.g., on a fiddly hand-held device).

    The stupid already out there is too cheap to meter. No need to keep accumulating it here. One can always boost one’s immune system with a visit to the “Best Science Weblog”.

    Presumably the moderators still have to quietly shovel away the really nasty stuff, anyway.

    Perhaps the Bore Hole has improved perceptions of the moderation policy, but I doubt it. Comments that a casual visitor might find innocuous and reasonable, end up there for contextual reasons (histories of trolling, implicit rebunking of arguments made elsewhere, etc.) that will not be clear to that casual visitor. (Not always to me, either.) Such Bore Hole comments stand derided, but un-refuted, since moderators rarely waste time on inline responses to a comment sent down the hole, and since there’s no way (or incentive!) for others to respond on the same thread. Better that repeat offenders either be summarily deleted (never coming to the attention of Casual Reader in the first place), or allowed through and then soundly thrashed.

  13. 163
    Edward Greisch says:

    156 Jim Galasyn: There are still people living there, in and around Chernobyl. In 25 years, they aren’t dead yet. Reason: If you live in Chernobyl the total radiation dose you get each year is 390 millirem. That’s natural plus residual from the accident and fire.
    In Denver, Colorado, the natural dose is over 1000 millirem/year. Denver gets more than 2.56 times as much radiation as Chernobyl! But Denver has a low cancer rate. And again, read “Power to Save the World; The Truth About Nuclear Energy” by Gwyneth Cravens, 2007 Finally a truthful book about nuclear power. This book is very easy to read and understand. Gwyneth Cravens is a former anti-nuclear activist.

    Page 35: Your golf clubs may contain depleted uranium [DU]. Don’t worry, and don’t confuse DU with spent fuel.
    Page 71: The natural background radiation in northeastern Washington state is 1700 millirem/year.

    The natural background radiation on the Zuni uplift is 500 to 700 millirem/year.

    The natural background radiation in New Mexico is greater than the calculated dose from the Three Mile Island meltdown, if you were next to the reactor.
    Page 74: Smoking a pack and a half of cigarettes a day gives your bronchial airways 1300 millirems/year according to the NCRP OR 8000 millirems/year according to the National Academy of Sciences.

    Page 98: There is a table of millirems per year from the background in a list of inhabited places.
    Chernobyl: 490 millirem/year
    Guarapari, Brazil: 3700 millirem/year
    Tamil Nadu, India: 5300 millirem/year
    Ramsar, Iran: 8900 to 13200 millirem/year
    Zero excess cancer deaths are recorded. All are natural except for Chernobyl.

    Page 197: “If you live within fifty miles of a coal-fired plant, you’re exposed to 0.03 millirem a year. Living near a nuclear plant exposes you to 0.009 millirem a year.” “Those [soft coal burning] plants give off four hundred times more radio nuclides a year than a nuclear plant-one to four millirem.” “In the United States in 1999, coal combustion produced over 1,000 tons of uranium and 2,500 tons of thorium. This is enough fissile material to exceed the amount consumed by all the nuclear power reactors in the country in a year. After World War II, when scientists believed uranium to be rare, they considered extracting it from fly ash.”

    The uranium from coal goes partly up the stack and into the air and mostly into the cinders and ash that is trucked away to be stored on/above ground someplace.

    I gave you lots of web sites that will calculate your dose rate. Do so. Calculate your annual radiation dose:

    The Average American gets 361 millirems/year. Smokers add 280 millirems/year from lead210. Radon accounts for 200 mrem/year. Radon comes from the rocks under your house.

    Although radiation may cause cancers at high doses and high dose rates, currently there are no data to unequivocally establish the occurrence of cancer following exposure to low doses and dose rates — below about 10,000 mrem (100 mSv). Those people living in areas having high levels of background radiation — above 1,000 mrem (10 mSv) per year– such as Denver, Colorado have shown no adverse biological effects.

    If you want to get cancer, the answer to your dreams is, again, BENZENE. BENZENE comes from crude oil and from coal. Oil refineries release huge amounts of BENZENE into the air. If you want to give a guinea pig cancer, just paint it with BENZENE.
    Again: If you have cancer, look for the BENZENE that caused it. Radiation didn’t. Benzene comes from petroleum and from coal. DO NOT BURN SCENTED CANDLES. Scented candles make Benzene when they burn. Benzene is an “aromatic” hydrocarbon, which means Benzene smells good. Benzene causes cancer.

    DO NOT LIVE NEAR OR WORK IN AN OIL REFINERY!!!!! I don’t like even driving past a refinery town. The air is bad there, and I can feel it in my lungs.

  14. 164
    Snapple says:

    The Pontifical Academy has now published the Report on their April 2011 workshop: “Fate of the Mountain Glaciers in the Anthropocene: A Report by the Working Group Commissioned by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.”

    The New York Times has published an informative article titled “Green Smoke Is Sighted as Vatican Releases Glacier Report” (5-6-11) that describes the Pontifical Academy workshop.

    Reporter Lauren Morello interviewed several of the Academicians who participated in the Pontifical Academy workshop, such as V. Ramanathan. Academician Ramanathan’s research on Asia’s brown cloud is described in the A.P. Environmental Science book used by Catholic high school students.

    The NYT (5-6-11) writes:

    “Atmospheric chemist V. Ramanathan of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography — a member of the Pontifical Academy since 2004 — said he hopes the new report will have a lasting impact. His model is the papal academy’s 1981 statement on nuclear war, which condemned the use of nuclear weapons.

    ‘That was communicated to world leaders personally, in some cases by the pope,’ Ramanathan said. ‘Apparently it had a big impact on President Reagan.’

    The scientist, who has spent decades studying climate change, said working under the auspices of the Vatican also offered a fresh perspective.

    ‘I have never participated in any report in 30 years where the word ‘God’ is mentioned,’ Ramanathan said. ‘I think the Vatican brings that moral authority.'”—NYT (5-6-11)

  15. 165
    John Mashey says:

    re: #159
    1) I advocate continuing to raise the S/N ratio in the mainline discussion.

    2) I still advocate improved tools for blogging, as per this, or better, the later suggestions that let one simply assign a code for the reason the post was sent elsewhere.Also, it would be nice if people could post comments over there as well, as long such were distinguished from those sent there.

    3) But the Borehole is a useful experiment from which we learn.

  16. 166
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    Here’s something: “I’m a Climate Scientist” — hard rap on YouTube:

    Extended version (*with swearing*) version)

  17. 167
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    Let me try that again:

    Here’s something: “I’m a Climate Scientist” — hard rap on YouTube:

    Extended version (*with swearing*):

    Clean version:

  18. 168
    GlenFergus says:

    #164 Lynn V.:

    Looks like, for once, the RC team has missed the boat on science communication.

  19. 169
    Deep Climate says:

    It’s been a long time coming, but there has now been an official finding in at least one of the complaints concerning the dubious scholarship of GMU professors Edward Wegman and Yasmin Said. According to Dan Vergano of USA Today, the journal Computational Statistics and Data Analysis (CSDA) has officially confirmed that Said, Wegman et al 2008, a follow up to the infamous Wegman et al report to Congress, will finally be retracted following complaints of plagiarism and inadequate peer review.

    More at:

    USA Today report:

    Latest on Wegman problematic scholarship:

  20. 170
    Edward Greisch says:

    158 Anne van der Bom: As soon as we invent the “room” temperature superconductor, wind and solar will be fine ideas because we will be able to transmit electricity all the way around the planet. Until then, invest YOUR money, not MY money, in wind and solar. Best of luck; you will need it. Your references were not convincing. I did read them.

    I would go for ANY way to stop making CO2 that works well enough to prevent GW from ending civilization and doesn’t itself end civilization. “What the electricity generating companies think is irrelevant. They exist to serve their customers and follow the law.” AND make a profit. Electricity generating companies cannot operate without making money, and their rates are controlled by both bureaucrats and a public that likes cheap electricity. Do you really think they would pass up wind and solar if wind and solar were cheaper ways to make electricity?

    I am not stuck on nuclear. I have no financial or other connection with any part of the electric power industry, except as a customer who pays electric bills. I really don’t care who wins and who looses, but I like low electric bills and clean air and I don’t like GW.

    Anne, here are 2 books for you to read: “Google and the myth of universal knowledge” by Jean-Noel Jeanneney 2007 The original is in French.
    “Web Dragons” by Witten, Gori and Numerico 2007.
    Don’t believe anything you read on the web. Web sites may be sponsored by coal companies or other liars. They may have bribed Google to put their web page first. Search engines are mere machines that have no idea what is true and what is fantasy.

    Anne van der Bom: I strongly recommend that you get a degree in physics or chemistry or nuclear engineering or electrical engineering so that you can find out for yourself. Go work for the electric power industry as an engineer for a while to find out what makes them tick. I’m sure they know more about wind and solar power than you could imagine. Then come back and report to us.

    152 FrankD: Water cooling is not necessary for nuclear power. Air cooling works. Water cooling is cheap, convenient, efficient and easy to design. That doesn’t add up to necessary. There are always tradeoffs in any engineering project. Coal fired power plants need cooling one way or another as well. The cooling may be hidden from you by releasing steam to the air. Then they require fresh water input. Solar and wind may not appear to need cooling but they do. It is just that solar and wind are dispersed rather than concentrated so that the cooling is not noticeable to you.

  21. 171

    #167–“Do you really think they would pass up wind and solar if wind and solar were cheaper ways to make electricity?”

    In the real world, they aren’t passing them up.

  22. 172

    Front page for the actual “Clean Edge” report here:

    Noteworthy: China is now #1 in cumulative installed capacity.

  23. 173
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Edward Greisch: There are still people living there, in and around Chernobyl. In 25 years, they aren’t dead yet.

    So, you’d raise your children in Pripyat?

  24. 174
    flxible says:

    Meanwhile, folks in the Louisiana floodplain are trying to keep their heads above water, folks in Canadas breadbasket are watching their fields turn to lakes during spring planting season, folks in northern Alberta are watching their towns devoured by forest fires, much of BC is under flood watch as historic high winter snows start to melt in a rush a month late . . . but, hey! it’s just weather, and that’s just what happens where they were born and raised

  25. 175
    dhogaza says:

    DeepClimate: Finally! Good work by you and Mashey, and I hope your persistence leads to even better news in future months.

  26. 176

    8 nation Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program: Global sea level rise probably 3 times as fast as IPCC estimated back in 2007: already 0.9 to 1.6 m (3 to 5 feet) by 2100:

  27. 177
    Edward Greisch says:

    170 Jim Galasyn: Would you raise your children in Denver? In Denver, Colorado, the natural background radiation dose is over 1000 millirem/year. Denver gets more than 2.56 times as much radiation as Chernobyl!

    170 Jim Galasyn: You need to read my whole post, not attack on trigger. Ripley’s “Believe It Or Not” is not science. You can dig up a sideshow anywhere. You have no idea what else may be in Pripyat, nor do you have a control or statistics. You did not read my whole post, let alone try to understand what I said. Go back and read.

    Again, I am not working for the nuclear power industry in any way, shape or form. I have no connection with the nuclear power industry other than receiving part of my electric power from the reactor at Cordova, which is a short distance up river from me.

  28. 178
    SecularAnimist says:

    Edward Greisch wrote: “Do you really think they would pass up wind and solar if wind and solar were cheaper ways to make electricity?”

    With all due respect, what are you talking about?

    US wind generation capacity is now over 41,000 megawatts. Wind accounts for 35 percent of all new electrical generation capacity installed in the USA since 2007. The US installed 1,100 MW of new wind power in the first quarter of 2011 and entered the second quarter with 5,600 MW under construction. Globally, over 68 gigawatts of new wind power came online in 2010.

    The US solar market grew 67 percent in 2010, adding 878 MW of new photovoltaic capacity (of which 242 MW was utility installations), and 77 MW of concentrating solar capacity. Total installed PV capacity in the US is over 2 gigawatts. Globally, over 17 gigawatts of new solar electric capacity was installed in 2010.

    So, who is this “they” that is “passing up” wind and solar?

  29. 179
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Edward Greisch: You can dig up a sideshow anywhere. You have no idea what else may be in Pripyat, nor do you have a control or statistics.

    Maybe you’d prefer an eyewitness: “I once spent a few hours at the airport in Minsk, waiting for a flight to Frankfurt with a group of “Chernobyl children” being flown out for treatment. They were quite a sight!”– Dmitry Orlov

    More empirical evidence:

    Bird mutations in the Chernobyl exclusion zone
    Scientists find reduced brain size in Chernobyl birds
    Chernobyl ‘shows insect decline’

    Still, you would raise your children here.

  30. 180
    Edward Greisch says:

    176 Jim Galasyn: Have you ever heard of “Love Canal”? Look it up in wikipedia. Pripyat had other industries and may have been a chemical dump site for all you know. You have done nothing at all to determine the true cause of the problems. Do not automatically jump to the conclusion that nuclear power caused all of the problems you can think of. Actually do the hard work and find out what really did. “[A] few hours at the airport in Minsk” proves nothing except that you wish to play emotional games.

    “It has been calculated that 248 separate chemicals, including 60 kilograms of dioxin, have been unearthed from the canal.”

    Love Canal was a Hooker Chemical Company chemical dump site near Buffalo, N.Y. Houses weren’t supposed to be built there, but houses were built there. The result was “Chernobyl” children.
    Radiation didn’t cause the “Chernobyl” children. The Soviet Union disposed of a lot of chemical waste in ways that they shouldn’t have. There were sideshows long before there were chemical factories or nuclear power plants.

    Would you raise your children in Denver? How about in Love Canal?

    I see that is your web page. The dark print on black is too hard to read.

    175 SecularAnimist: “So, who is this “they” that is “passing up” wind and solar?” The farmers who turned off their wind powered water pumps in the 1930s and 40s because electric pumps did a much better job. The ship operators and navies who traded sailing vessels for steamships. The electric companies thru-out the 20th century who built coal fired power plants to replace wind power. The Rural Electrification Administration that was created to bring the benefits of electricity to the whole USA.

    With all due respect, wind and solar are being built because of political pressure, not because they are profitable without a subsidy.

    The usual disclaimer: I have no financial or other connection with any part of the electric power industry or the nuclear industry, except as a customer who pays electric bills. I really don’t care who wins and who looses, but I like low electric bills and clean air and I don’t like GW. There is a nuclear power plant at Cordova, Illinois, not far up river from me.

    Let’s get back to solving GW.

  31. 181
    dhogaza says:


    Pripyat had other industries and may have been a chemical dump site for all you know. You have done nothing at all to determine the true cause of the problems. Do not automatically jump to the conclusion that nuclear power caused all of the problems you can think of.

    You forgot to mention the sky fairies … maybe they were causing all those problems in Pripyat to give us early warning of the end of the world that’s coming this Saturday.

    Really, this is below you.

  32. 182
    Ron R. says:

    Edward Greisch: You can dig up a sideshow anywhere.

    Your humanity is touching. Really. Brings a tear to the eye.

  33. 183
    Edward Greisch says:

    “Goals to limit human-made warming to 2{\deg}C and CO2 to 450 ppm are not sufficient — they are … for disaster. ” from James E. Hansen, Makiko Sato (NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University Earth Institute)
    This is a better topic. I believe Jim Hansen. I downloaded both of Hansen’s papers from his email that just arrived. We already know what the disasters are: floods [ongoing at present], droughts, famines, and the wars and revolutions caused by the famines.

    My efforts to do something about it: I have printed out the forms I think are required to run for congress. I downloaded the forms from I feel like I am acting blindly on this. If I just fill the forms out as the forms seem to require, is that correct? How many signatures do I need? I think I will ask at my county courthouse. Somehow I should be able to link up with a political party to get help. I tried the Green party, they said no. RC people please run for the US senate.

    178 dhogaza & 179 Ron R: Chemical waste sites should be researched before jumping to conclusions. Have you checked your background radiation? The point is that blaming the nearest anything nuclear for whatever is unscientific. Do you mean I should just ignore people who may be provoking? Yes, that could be what they are doing. OK, the sideshow comment was not good. The point is they didn’t prove anything.

  34. 184
    CM says:

    In other news: Ecologically destructive 1999 storm surge in Canada’s Mackenzie Delta not seen before in 1,000 years.

    Pisaric et al. (2011), Impacts of a recent storm surge on an Arctic delta ecosystem examined in the context of the last millennium, PNAS (doi:10.1073/pnas.1018527108)

    From the conclusions:

    The ecological impacts of the 1999 storm surge were not matched over the past millennium. The profound and persistent impact to the terrestrial and aquatic systems suggests that an ecological threshold may have been crossed. Ecological trajectories may now favor saline-tolerant vegetation communities, which are currently rare in the outer Mackenzie Delta. The changing ecosystem dynamics in the outer Mackenzie Delta represent complex responses to an emerging stressor. As sea levels rise, storm variability increases, and sea ice extent declines during the 21st century, there exists potential for wide-ranging impacts to sensitive coastal environments throughout the circumpolar Arctic. These marine intrusions will also have significant social impacts, as nearly all Arctic indigenous communities are coastal. These communities will need to be prepared as sea ice cover, sea levels, and the frequency and intensity of storms and marine storm surges become more variable in the 21st century.

  35. 185


    The question wasn’t why windmill pumps lost some ground in the 30s and 40s. (I’ll stipulate that they probably did at some point, though I doubt it was during the 30s.) The question is, who is allegedly “passing up” wind and solar now? And it looks like you don’t have an answer, Ed.

    As for the contention that “political pressure” is the sole driving force behind $243 billion of investment in 2010, I find it frankly laughable.

    To the extent that “political pressure” is responsible, though, I’d point out that one man’s “political pressure” may well be another man’s “public accountability.”

  36. 186


    “. . . the end of the world that’s coming this Saturday.”
    Right, forgot about that.

    [OT quip suppression activated.]

    [OTQS breach reported.]

    That’s great, it starts with an earthquake. . . –Michael Stipe.

    REM and ‘certain people’ in agreement–maybe that is some kind of sign–

    [OTQS restored.]

  37. 187
    SecularAnimist says:

    Edward Greisch wrote: “The electric companies thru-out the 20th century who built coal fired power plants to replace wind power.”

    Wow, there’s a whole chapter of US history that I somehow missed — the part where all the electricity-generating wind turbines were torn down and replaced with coal-fired power plants.

  38. 188
    Rod B says:

    Kevin McKinney, the key criteria was unsubsidized pursuit of RE projects. In addition to maybe a liberal definition of investment in RE (about 2/3 of the R&D is for energy smart technologies which has nothing to do with renewables, e.g.), your reference completely avoids the amount of investment that comes from subsidies (including all investment by state owned/operated utilities.) Seems like a misleading estimate of RE investment. However, whatever the true investment numbers are is fairly impressive.

  39. 189
    jyyh says:

    temperatures seem to swing a bit in the north.

  40. 190
    SecularAnimist says:

    Edward Greisch wrote: “With all due respect, wind and solar are being built because of political pressure, not because they are profitable without a subsidy.”

    With all due respect, as with your comment about “toxic waste” from PV manufacturing, I have to stifle a guffaw when I read the above comment from an advocate of building new nuclear power plants.

  41. 191
    Ron R. says:

    Edward Greisch at 1:27 AM The point is they didn’t prove anything.

    This is one of the things I find so abhorrent about the pro-nukees. The consistent, dishonest attempt to trivialize, downplay and lowball the real effects on people and the environment of radiation. It shows an industry that puts its interests above life itself.

    The UN has an ongoing program called the Chernobyl Children’s Project
    This group is a UN NGO.

    They have put out a film on Chernobyl children called Chernobyl Heart.

    A couple more links:

    You like to tell other people to educate themselves. Maybe you should give it a try.

  42. 192
    Ron R. says:

    Meanwhile, as we fight over dirty energy or if clean alternatives can work China is set to dominate the world in green technology.

    You snooze you lose.

  43. 193

    Rod, the last bullet point goes to your concern (I think):

    “The largest investment asset class in 2010 was, as usual, asset finance of utility-scale projects such as wind farms, solar parks and biofuel plants. This rose 19% to $127.8bn last year.”

    Now, there’s no doubt that feed-in tariff schemes influence some of these investors. But for nuclear we have the liability limitations, and for big oil we have very sizable tax credits. Seems a little unfair to pick on renewables exclusively for ‘subsidies.’

    I certainly don’t believe that the nuances of energy policy are adequately expressed as “political pressure has driven investments of nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars.” There’s clearly no shortage of smart people who find renewables to be good business.

    By the way, did you notice the last paragraph? The story says:

    BNEF estimates that investment levels will need to reach $500 billion per year by 2020 in order to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions.

    That’s only twice the 2010 level, and I don’t think I believe it. And of course they don’t say just when ‘stabilization’ would occur under the Bloomberg New Energy Finance analysis referred to, nor what the atmospheric CO2 concentration would be.

    But boy, wouldn’t it be great to think we were really that close?

  44. 194
    Geoff Beacon says:

    Has anyone any credible comments that will soften the blow of the latest papers from Hansen et al. (mentioned above): Paleoclimate Implications for Human-Made Climate Change and Earth’s Energy Imbalance and Implications which are referenced from The Case for Young People and Nature: A Path to a Healthy, Natural, Prosperous Future ?

    These seem to be more even more scary than the other scary climate change stuff I’ve read recently.

    Are there any flaws?
    Are they well judged?

  45. 195
    tamino says:

    I suggest you keep the Bore Hole, and add to it regularly.

    It’s comic relief; clowns can be funny.

  46. 196
    Hank says:

    Is Eric Steig still associated with this website?
    Sorry if this is ‘off-topic’ but I am at a loss to find somewhere else at this blog to ask a general question.


    [Response: Yes. Click on “Contributors” at top]

  47. 197
    Edward Greisch says:

    193 Geoff Beacon: Hansen is not only correct, Aiguo Dai, Batron Paul Levenson, William E. Rees, Brian Fagan and Jared Diamond amplify what Hansen says. Namely, under Business As Usual [BAU]: Agriculture will collapse here in the US and around the world in the first half of the 2050s. With no food, civilization must collapse. When civilization collapses, the population MAXIMUM becomes 1/10,000 of what it was and probably a lot less. We humans could go extinct.

    Rees says that we are already 2 Billion people beyond carrying capacity if the climate remained as was. There MUST be a population crash. You do not want to live through a population crash. The times get really ugly. Cannibalism has been proven in at least 1 case. You don’t have enough ammunition. Etc.

    ANY method of reducing CO2 production is preferable to a population crash. That is what makes objection to nuclear power a joke even if nuclear power were dangerous, which it isn’t when compared to other sources of power. At best, a few Billion people are going to die of starvation sort of all at once. They are not going to die quietly. All of the horsemen of the apocalypse will be fully active. The description of the future is so bad that I don’t want to try to describe it further. Sorry, the blow is not soft. It is unimaginably hard.

    Start by reading “The Long Summer” by Brian Fagan and “Collapse” by Jared Diamond.

  48. 198
    SecularAnimist says:

    Edward Greisch wrote: “ANY method of reducing CO2 production is preferable to a population crash. That is what makes objection to nuclear power a joke even if nuclear power were dangerous, which it isn’t when compared to other sources of power.”

    My objection to expanding nuclear power generation is exactly that it is neither an effective nor a necessary means of reducing CO2 emissions from electricity generation. Other approaches — efficiency first and foremost, along with wind and solar and other renewable energy sources — can do the job faster, better and cheaper. And investing in new nuclear power plants drains resources that would be FAR more effectively invested in efficiency and renewables, and those substantial opportunity costs slow the reduction of CO2 emissions.

    In contrast to your position, serious advocates of expanding nuclear power, like the folks at MIT, recognize that nuclear power has very real, very serious dangers and problems, which present very real obstacles to the expansion of nuclear power that they advocate.

    But since expanding nuclear power is neither effective nor necessary to reduce CO2 emissions, there is no need to deal with the very real dangers and problems of expanding nuclear power generation.

  49. 199
    CM says:

    Tamino, Re: Bore Hole,

    “clowns can be funny” — yeah, but as Mr Greisch so sensitively put it, “You can dig up a sideshow anywhere.” I’ll leave it at that.

  50. 200
    Hank Roberts says:

    > the Borehole

    It’s also the place to look if you’re missing a sock.