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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. 201

    #195, 196–

    . . . which is why we should spend less time sniping at each other and more time trying to end subsidies on FF.

    We’re going to see more renewables, and we’re going to see more nuclear. I just hope we’re going to see enough less GHGs.

  2. 202
    Hank Roberts says:

    http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-05/uoa-gos051711.php

    “Professor Martin Kennedy from the University of Adelaide (School of Earth & Environmental Sciences) and Professor Thomas Wagner from Newcastle University (Civil Engineering and Geosciences) have been studying ‘greenhouse oceans’ – oceans that have been depleted of oxygen and suffered from increases in carbon dioxide and temperature….

    “What’s alarming to us as scientists is that there were only very slight natural changes that resulted in the onset of hypoxia in the deep ocean. This occurred relatively rapidly – in periods of hundreds of years, or possibly even less – not gradually over longer, geological time scales, which suggests that the Earth’s oceans are in a much more delicate balance during greenhouse conditions than originally thought, and may respond in a more abrupt fashion to even subtle changes in temperature and CO2 levels than previously thought.”

    Professor Wagner says the results of their research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), have relevance for our modern world ….”

  3. 203
    Ray Ladbury says:

    I second Tamino’s motion to keep the borehole. It acts as a stupid filter. Might want to clean it out now and again so the stupid doesn’t form a black hole.

  4. 204
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 169 Edward Greisch –

    room temp. superconductors – that would be VERY convenient, but is it necessary? Consider 1000 km 1 MV (is that realistic? – PS I’m using 1 MV as the voltage between the lines, not of each line) HVDC line with Aluminum (2000 km = 2E6 m round trip). Rounding up, resistivity about 3E-8 ohm*m, density about 3 kg/L.

    Per microAmpere,

    a thickness of 5 E-12 m^2 wire would have a volume of 5E-12 * 2E6 m^3 = 1E-5 m^3 = 1E-2 L,
    thus about 3E-2 kg of Al;

    the resistance would be about
    3E-8 omh*m * 2E6 m / 5 E-12 m^2
    = 1.2 E10 ohm,

    so the voltage loss would be 1E-6 A * 1.2 E10 ohm = 1.2E4 V, a 1.2 % loss (per 1000 km).

    1000 km is easily often the difference between cloudy and clear skies (often much less distance would do), between calm and windy conditions. It can also be the difference between cold and hot. It doesn’t penetrate very far from day into night unless you’re near the poles, but energy use is generally larger in the day than in the night – anyway, don’t forget about CSP.

    The power is 1E-6 A * 1E6 V = 1 W. So 3E-2 kg of Al per peak W. (capacity factor 0.2 implies 0.15 kg Al per average W, although the capacity factor of an HVDC line could be higher than the individual power plants connected to it). For 120 peak W per m^2 (efficiency 12 % solar panel), that’s 3.6 kg Al / m^2. A fraction of the mass of typical Si solar module itself. It shouldn’t hurt the EROEI too much. And how long will that Al cables last, and how many times can it be recycled?

    Granted, superconductivity would allow thinner cables and lower voltages, but there’d still have to be a line located somewhere. HVDC lines are ‘undergroundable’ – presumably so would be superconduter lines.

    Re Do you really think they would pass up wind and solar if wind and solar were cheaper ways to make electricity?

    1. Lack of experience with new item (there could also be some misperceptions that get in the way). A break-in time period may be required. Learning new habits.

    2. With the proper CO2eq tax, would they be (more) competitive? (Some political pressures are justified)

    3. New industry – prices can come down with gains in market size and experience; consider the positive effects of government R&D spending (DARPA, internet, etc.).

    4. Why are we passing up on Nuclear? Why are we passing up on air-cooled nuclear (are we – well I know of an example of air-cooled spent fuel, which is good, but where are the air-cooled reactors? Maybe in other countries? You’ll find solar power too.) Why are we passing up on energy efficiency!? It’s not always prices – or is it?

    Re 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.

    Good advice if someone wants to go into that field. But everyone can’t become an expert in everything that’s important. Anyway, do you have experience with wind and solar energy? At some point we need to go to encyclopedias and textbooks and (trustworthy!) news sources.

    Don’t believe anything you read on the web. Web sites may be sponsored by coal companies or other liars.

    Yes, but surely not all pro-renewable sites are sponsored by coal?

    Re 195 –
    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,

    If the perception is that nuclear is a distraction that will delay the advancement of solar and wind et al, than from that perspective, not objecting could be dangerous. Of course that perception could be wrong – is it? Well some of the pro-nuclear people are anti-climate policy, so fo them perhaps it is, but that’s not necessarily anything to do with nuclear power itself. But one point that’s been made is that it takes a long time to get a nuclear power plant up and running, whereas a solar power plant can get going more quickly – how much of that is intrinsic to the technology vs policy and if it’s policy (where I’ve heard of at least one exception where there’s opposition to a solar power plant in a California desert – and regardless of that specific case, certainly there are places where we shouldn’t build power plants – but many where we could), how much of that is justified? (PS if we do both, would nuclear power be buying time for solar and wind development (as it arguably has thus far), or the other way around?)

    Well we could implement a CO2eq tax without needing to agree on nuclear first.

  5. 205
    Edward Greisch says:

    203 Patrick 027: “it takes a long time to get a nuclear power plant up and running,”
    False. See http://www.hyperionpowergeneration.com/
    It would be up and running in a week. NRC process needs to be speeded up. Since they are planning a production run of 4000 and they have 30 competitors, the whole planet can be converted in 5 years. WE MUST GET OFF COAL THAT FAST!!!!!!!!!! We should have been off of coal as of 1970. We are 41 years LATE. GW is already serious. Remember there is a bunch of warming “in the pipe line.” The Earth is not at equilibrium. The CO2 we have already generated will be around for 10,000 years. The oceans and the ice sheets are slowing the warming. We have already had catastrophic floods and droughts and crop failures due to GW. The human population is 2 Billion over carrying capacity even if there were no climate change since 1950. We do not have time to play around with wind and solar.

    “Room” temperature superconductors. “Room” isn’t the right word but the right word gets caught in the spam filter. Remember that the power line has to go all the way around the Earth, 25,000 miles plus North Pole to South Pole several times. Actually the route would follow the continents and safe political areas. It would have to cross the Bearing Straight or the North Atlantic ocean or both. 1.2 %/1000 miles times 30,000 miles = 36% loss. Suppose Australia is powering Argentina via the Bearing Straight.

    But think of it as a switchmode power supply and the line as a capacitor. Set the voltage at 120 volts or some convenient voltage. 1 Million volts is NOT convenient. Any source of electricity could put pulses or long stretches of power into the line. The available electricity would be averaged out [always available] because there would be a great many sources, and some of them would always be in the sunshine or in good wind. With a superconductor, there are no losses. As in a switcher power supply, somebody puts electrons on the line and somebody takes electrons off. With a superconductor, the voltage is the same everywhere on the line. No voltage droop. A simple diode suffices to connect your wind turbine to the line. Line MUST be DC. AC lines longer than 1500 miles radiate power into space.

    “1. Lack of experience with new item” Nonsense. Electric power companies have lots of engineers. They know a lot more about it than you do and they have it figured out to a millionth of a cent. That is why they are not doing it. It doesn’t work for them.

    “where are the air-cooled reactors?” Everywhere you see cooling towers. They have hyperbola shaped sides. All over the world in at least 32 countries.

    201 Hank Roberts: Read “Under a Green Sky” by Peter D.Ward or
    http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=00037A5D-A938-150E-A93883414B7F0000&sc=I100322

    197 Secular Animist: “My objection to expanding nuclear power generation is exactly that it is neither an effective nor a necessary means of reducing CO2 ……..”

    You are wrong. See http://www.hyperionpowergeneration.com/
    Factory built nuclear power would be up and running in a week. NRC process needs to be speeded up. Since Hyperion is planning a production run of 4000 and they have 30 competitors, the whole planet can be converted in 5 years. WE MUST GET OFF COAL THAT FAST!!!!!!!!!! We should have been off of coal as of 1970. We are 41 years LATE.

    By the way, wind and solar have very real and very serious dangers. Nuclear is the SAFEST, bar none, source of electricity. Deaths per terrawatt year [twy] for energy industries, including Chernobyl. terra=mega mega [There are zero sources of energy that cause zero deaths, but not having the electricity causes the far more deaths because not having electricity is a form of poverty.]

    fuel……… ……..fatalities… …..who……… …….deaths per twy
    coal……… ………6400…… ……workers……….. ………342
    natural gas….. ..1200…… …..workers and public… …85
    hydro…….. …….4000….. …….public………… …………883
    nuclear…….. ………31…… ……workers………… ………….8

    Nuclear power is proven to be the safest. Source: “The Revenge of Gaia” by James Lovelock page 102. As you can see, psychological problems are preventing the wider use of nuclear power. Chernobyl is included.

    Wind power hazards:
    http://www.alternet.org/environment/54682/?page=5
    Nina Pierpont, MD, PhD* March 1, 2005
    A nacelle (generator and gearbox) weighing up to 60 tons atop a 265 ft. metal tower, equipped with 135 ft. blades, is a significant hazard to people, livestock, buildings, and traffic within a radius equal to the height of the structure (400 ft) and beyond. In Germany in 2003, in high storm winds, the brakes on a wind turbine failed and the blades spun out of control. A blade struck the tower and the entire nacelle flew off the tower. The blades and other parts landed as far as 1650 ft (0.31 mile) from the base of the tower (Note that all turbines discussed in this article are “upwind,” three-bladed, industrial-sized turbines. “Downwind” turbines have not been built since the 1980’s.) Given the date, this turbine was probably smaller than the ones proposed for current construction, and thus could not throw pieces as far. This distance is nearly identical to calculations of ice throw from turbines with 100 ft blades rotating 20 times per minute (1680 ft)”

    And the above is only the so-called tip of the iceberg. If interested, just google “dangers of wind turbines” – there’s plenty of sites to choose from to learn about the dangers.

    Nuclear power produces LESS CO2 than any other source of electricity. See book: “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.
    Wind turbines produce a total of 58 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour.

    Nuclear power plants produce a total of 30 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour, the lowest.

    Coal plants produce the most, between 966 and 1306 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour.

    Solar power produces between 100 and 280 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour.

    Hydro power produces 240 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour.

    Natural gas produces between 439 and 688 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour.

    Remember the total is the sum of direct emissions from burning fuel and indirect emissions from the life cycle, which means the industrial processes required to build it. Again, nuclear comes in the lowest. Nuclear would produce even less CO2 per kilowatt hour if the safety were lowered to the same level as other sources of electricity. Switching from coal to nuclear is a 97% reduction in electricity’s 40% of our CO2 output.

    200 Kevin McKinney: I agree with you.
    192 Kevin McKinney: The number of dollars invested in wind and solar is irrelevant. The important measure is: How many coal fired power plants were taken off line by solar and wind. The answer is ZERO. For nuclear, the answer is 104 in the USA, about 80% in France, etc. One nuclear power plant takes one coal fired power plant off line every time. What we want to do is take all of the coal fired power plants off line. ASAP, as in Right Now.

    Anne van der Bom and Patrick 027: I strongly recommend that you get a degree in physics or at least take the Engineering and Science Core Curriculum [E&SCC] plus a laboratory course in probability and statistics and a computer science course. Not to go into physics, but because every citizen of a technological civilization needs that level of contact with reality to be a good citizen. Especially humanities majors and even fine arts majors should be required to take the E&SCC. That includes you,. Patrick 027 If you had the required education, you would understand natural background radiation.
    All high school students should be required to take 4 years of physics, 4 years of chemistry, 4 years of biology and 8 years [double classes] of math. Of course high school classes have to be watered down, but I doubt that most people even know what physics is. Yet they vote and their votes determine whether humanity survives or perishes. If the average person understood the GW situation, it would have been fixed long ago.

  6. 206
    Rod B says:

    Kevin, I wasn’t singling out renewables for the subsidy comment. Renewables was just the topic.

    I might guess the $500B “stabilization” number might mean handle all new growth. I wouldn’t have a clue if that dollar estimate is any good, though it does seem a stretch. However US growth is forecasted (EIA) to drop way off over the next decade and maybe renewables can handle it. One catch, though is new electricity production growth is thought to pick up again 2020 to 2035 which would be a much harder row to hoe for renewables. Plus of course this wouldn’t reduce CO2 emissions, just not grow them. And all of this assumes I understand what they are talking about, which is a dubious assumption.

    I’m not as optimistic as you (and nowhere near SecularAnimist ;-) ) but I think the RE growth is impressive.

  7. 207
    Geoff Beacon says:

    Edward Greisch, 196, If we’re talking population and food:

    In Ireland before the famine, potatoes, with some milk and pigs could support a population density approaching 10 people per hectare. (See The use of the potato crop in pre-famine Ireland by P.M. Austin Bourke.)

    The world now has about 0.5 people per hectare.

    So the problem is not food (calories, protein &etc.) per. se.

    It could be the diets of the rich that turn lots of food growing capacity into not much food by the diets we demand.

    We may also be betting to much on “scientific” agriculture. By “scientific” I mean agriculture that attracts research funding. I got caught between advocates of gardening, permaculture, horticulture recently and three “scientific” professors from the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. I characterise the gardeners as “the amateurs” and the professors as “the professionals”. Starting with claims the “gardening can’t feed the world” from one the professors I found none of them knew anything much on the topic.

    Subsequently, I came across a report published by the World Food Programme Malawi, Low Input Food and Nutrition,.
    This contrasts with a recent Foresight Report,
    The Future of Food and Farming: Challenges and choices for global sustainability
    published by the UK Government Office for Science,
    .

    The Foresight Report emphasises the importance of international trade:

    The food system is globalised and interconnected. This has both advantages and disadvantages. For example, economic disruptions in one geographical region can quickly be transmitted to others, but supply shocks in one region can be compensated for by producers elsewhere. A globalised food system also improves the global efficiency of food production by allowing bread-basket regions to export food to less favoured regions.

    World Food Programme Malawi distrusts this influence of such trade. Talking of the use of hybrid crops and fertilisers (Is this the Green Revolution?) they say:

    To get the money for inputs, people sell their crops and animals – the very items that they spent so much time, money and energy to raise! Each year the soil becomes more unhealthy, so each year the farmer tries to buy even more fertilizer and seed.

    They call this a “Cycle of Dependency”.

    I am not saying the professors are useless. There is a place for “long chain carbon feedstock” for our food and other luxuries that the first professor emphasised but I fear that relying on the professionals and that may be why the amateurs are raising their voices.

    When it comes to climate change and especially future droughts (see The Dai After Tomorrow, I’m presently on the side of the amateurs, especially after reading “Low Input Food and Nutrition”, which describes the vulnerability of the internationally traded cash crop approach.

    The difference between an amateur and a professional? The professional has a research budget.

    Who granted them the budget?

  8. 208
    Geoff Beacon says:

    Edward Greisch, 196, Nuclear Power.

    If it’s used it must be safe. I’m worried about climate change causing sea-level rise, bigger storm surges and tsunamis – even in the UK.
    See The cost of energy security

  9. 209
    John E. Pearson says:

    Last night a denialist asked me for an article that discusses the physics of CO2 and why it causes warming. This is a teachable moment. Can anyone point me at a low-level article on why CO2 absorbs infrared etc? I don’t know if he knows what blackbody radiation is or not but I am thinking of something like chapters 3 & 4 from Raypierre’s book but watered down (meaning little to no math). It would be best if it were on-line and free.

  10. 210
    Anne van der Bom says:

    Edward Greisch,

    For a brief period, I was actually willing to write a response to your #169. I have not visited RealClimate for some time, but it seems your manners have taken a nosedive.

    You have descended into mindless copy/pasting of nuclear PR and blurps from book covers and brushing off anyone trying to engage you with a patronizing ‘get a degree in electrical engineering’. It might also be a pathetic attempt to hide your own unfamiliarity with the subject. That is hard for me to judge.

  11. 211
    flxible says:

    John Pearson – Might try here, especially scroll down to the 1st green box.

  12. 212
    adelady says:

    John – this is a pretty lively presentation from Prof Denning.
    http://www.windows2universe.org/earth/climate/greenhouse_gases_scott_denning_movie.html

    He demonstrates molecular vibration in his own style, but I think http://www.windows2universe.org/physical_science/chemistry/molecules_vibrate.html is an illustration one can keep on looking at while thinking the chemistry/ physics through.

    This item, and the comments, at Skeptical Science gets into black body and similar concepts. Its main virtue is that there are plenty of references to suitable further reading. http://www.skepticalscience.com/empirical-evidence-for-co2-enhanced-greenhouse-effect.htm

    Had a look at SOD but the first relevant item I found seemed a bit intimidating for a novice.

  13. 213
    Rick Brown says:

    John E. Pearson @208: How about Raypierre’s Physics Today article?
    http://geosci.uchicago.edu/~rtp1/papers/PhysTodayRT2011.pdf

  14. 214
    SecularAnimist says:

    Edward Greisch wrote: “Factory built nuclear power would be up and running in a week. NRC process needs to be speeded up … Hyperion is planning a production run of 4000 … the whole planet can be converted in 5 years.”

    Please.

    Hyperion hasn’t even submitted its design to the NRC for review, and won’t even have even one actual prototype built for years — let alone a “production run of 4000”. The company has signed a partnership agreement with the US Department of Energy to build a demonstration prototype of its reactor at the Savannah River site in South Carolina, which they “hope” to have built and operational by 2020.

    When you post these claims that a reactor design that the would-be manufacturer won’t even have an operating prototype of for 10 years or more can be “up and running in a week” and “convert the whole planet in five years”, you make it very hard for people to take you seriously.

  15. 215

    I came up with a thought experiment and became uncomfortable with where it lead. I wanted to check some of my conclusions. I’d greatly appreciate the opinions of Ray P., Ray B., Hank, and any others who care to comment.

    Imagine two glass (thermally insulating) spheres, one inside the other.

    Consider our combinations. If we put O2 into both, warm in the center sphere, cool in the outer sphere, the inner sphere will heat the outer sphere through slow emission, which will also cool itself, emitting both outward (out of the system) and inward (into the inner sphere). As such, the outer sphere will not cool as quickly as if the inner sphere had been at the same temperature, but it will always be cooler than the inner sphere.

    If we put CO2 into both, the same thing happens, but it cools more quickly because CO2 has more ways to emit, and those emissions are more likely to occur.

    If we put CO2 in the center sphere, and O2 in the outer sphere, the CO2 in the center sphere will cool fairly quickly, without much affecting the O2 in the outer sphere because they do not absorb/emit in the same frequencies.

    If we put CO2 in the center sphere, and a mix of O2 and a bit of CO2 in the outer sphere, this is somewhat like case of having pure CO2 in both spheres, but with an added complication. While there is not much CO2 in the outer sphere to absorb radiation, it is constantly colliding with the O2 molecules, trading energy, and doing so faster than it normally has a chance to emit radiation. As a result, the inner sphere heats the CO2 in the outer sphere through radiation, and the CO2 in the outer sphere heats the accompanying O2 through collisions (conduction).

    As a result, the outer sphere gains a lot more energy (heat) from the inner sphere than pure O2, even though we haven’t really added much CO2. At the same time, it takes quite a while for that outer sphere to cool, because much of the energy has been passed on to the O2 molecules, which do not emit as quickly as the CO2.

    Of course, the CO2 in the inner sphere is going to continue to emit radiation at a much faster rate, so it is going to actually heat the outer sphere, and at the same time cool more quickly than that outer sphere. With only radiation as a means of getting energy in and out of the two spheres, the point will be reached where the inner sphere has warmed the outer sphere, but has itself cooled below the temperature of the outer sphere.

    In fact, for a while, even though it is slightly cooler than the outer sphere, because it’s rate of emission is higher (because the density/quantity of CO2 molecules is much higher), and because the only place for its energy to escape is into the outer sphere, it is going to in fact continue to warm the outer sphere, even as it cools, despite the fact that it is at a lower temperature than the outer sphere. The outer sphere will radiate some in the right frequency, but because there are so relatively few CO2 molecules, it will absorb energy from the inner sphere at a faster rate than it emits inward and outward.

    The end result is that, surprisingly, temperature flows from a cooler body in the center sphere to a warmer body in the outer sphere, seemingly violating the second law of thermodynamics.

    Of course, over time, both bodies will cool to the same temperature, but for a period in there, the organization of the system appears to break the laws of physics (much as some people claim GHG theory does).

    Is my inference correct? Is there something wrong with this logic?

  16. 216
    Ron R. says:

    Geoff Beacon at 4:26 AM

    Good points. You might find these interesting.

    http://www.euractiv.com/en/cap/eu-farm-chief-gm-food-meets-quality-diversity-criteria-news-504488
    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Monsanto_and_the_Campaign_to_Undermine_Organics
    Main article. Lots of info here.
    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Monsanto

    Anne van der Bom at 9:55 AM

    Yeah. It’s like a broken record. Skip, repeat, skip, repeat, skip, repeat …

  17. 217

    #208–

    John, I don’t know your friend, but if you judge that a ‘development of the science’ approach might work, I cover the early landmark research in a series of six (free) online articles describing the ‘life, work and times’ of six important researchers:

    Joseph Fourier:
    http://hubpages.com/hub/The-Science-Of-Global-Warming-In-The-Age-Of-Napoleon

    Claude Pouillet:
    http://hubpages.com/hub/The-Science-of-Global-Warming-in-the-age-of-Napoleon-III

    John Tyndall:
    http://hubpages.com/hub/Global-Warming-Science-In-The-Age-Of-Queen-Victoria

    Svante Arrhenius:
    http://hubpages.com/hub/Global-Warming-Science-And-The-Dawn-Of-Flight

    Nils Ekholm:
    http://hubpages.com/hub/Global-warming-science-press-and-storms

    Guy Callendar:
    http://hubpages.com/hub/Global-Warming-Science-And-The-Wars

    I’ve been fortunate enough to have some positive notice taken of these pieces; perhaps they may suit your friend.

    There’s also a brief historical overview of the science:

    http://hubpages.com/hub/Global-Warming-Science-A-Thumbnail-History

    Lastly, there’s a piece dealing with water and CO2 as GHGs; it gets a bit into why some molecules aborb/emit IR:

    http://hubpages.com/hub/Water-Is-A-Dancer

  18. 218

    #204–

    Ed, would that it were exactly as you say. I would be very relieved to find out that we could in fact have 800 GW of new generation online in 5 years.

    But nowhere on the Hyperion site you linked to does it say that. What it *does* say is that there is a “goal” to produce 4,000 reactors–and that they have something like 100 letters of intent to purchase. All well and good, but as SA points out, a long, LONG way from your optimistic vision. Perhaps you’ll forgive me if I think it a good thing that we are bringing on renewables quite rapidly.

    As to your assertion that “zero coal” has been displaced by wind, I think you are quite wrong. The case of Ontario, my home province, certainly suggests so:

    http://www.news.ontario.ca/mei/en/2011/04/use-of-coal-power-down-90-per-cent.html

    Note that *all* coal generation will end in 2014–unless they decide to shut down Nanticoke earlier, which seems a possibility.

    The reason they may not go for an earlier shutdown?

    “Given that Ontario’s coal-free generation capacity now exceeds our peak day demand by 28%, under normal conditions, our need for coal-fired electricity is negligible. Nevertheless, according to the Ontario Power Authority, we need to retain some of our coal capacity on standby reserve until December 31, 2014 because the “Pickering nuclear units could reach the end of their operating lives sooner than expected.”

    Ironic, isn’t it?

    The case of Denmark also suggests otherwise. This IEA graph clearly shows the decline of coal capacity since 1992–and the biggest growth segment is renewables.

    http://docs.wind-watch.org/DKELEC.gif

    Now, I wouldn’t claim that either of these sources ‘proves’ that I’m right in thinking that renewables have directly displaced coal. Maybe gas-fired generation is more the direct replacement. But it’s abundantly clear that both jurisdictions are counting on renewables for increases over the next couple of decades.

    Worth reading for a case study (from a jurisdiction that has NOT decreased coal, though it may have decreased the *growth rate* of coal generation):

    http://leadenergy.org/2011/02/the-curious-case-of-the-texas-wind-industry/

    An interesting quote from the story:

    “Texas wind generators, regulators, and grid operators are already challenging some long-held assumptions about wind power. For example, grid operators around the world have expressed concern about the supposed cap of 20% electricity from intermittent sources that can be integrated into existing grid systems. Yet, according to an Austin utility manager, the 20% grid intermittency problem “isn’t nearly as intractable as it looked 10 years ago.””

  19. 219
    JiminMpls says:

    Ed – I know this will come as a shock to you, but the Director of *SALES* at Hyperion and Toshiba press releases in the Chinese government newsletter are not very good sources of reliable, unbiased information on nuclear power.

    It’s absurd to talk about Gen IV plants when no Gen III+ have been completed. ALL of the Gen III+ plants under construction are years late and billions over budget.

    Nuclear power is too expensive to matter and takes too long to deploy. The nuclear industry is fundamentally corrupt and dependent on greater than 100% government subsidies. Every penny wasted on nuclear power is a dollar not invested in realistic solutions: Improved energy efficiency and renewables.

  20. 220
    Edward Greisch says:

    214 Sphaerica (Bob): “it is going to in fact continue to warm the outer sphere, even as it cools, despite the fact that it is at a lower temperature than the outer sphere.”

    violates the first law of thermodynamics. The temperatures become equal, then heat flow stops.

  21. 221
    Septic Matthew says:

    China now faces a hydropower shortage similar to that which initiated California’s energy crisis of 8 years ago:

    http://www.energy-daily.com/reports/China_hit_by_power_crunch_amid_drought_report_999.html

  22. 222
    dhogaza says:

    “Hyperion hasn’t even submitted its design to the NRC for review, and won’t even have even one actual prototype built for years — let alone a “production run of 4000″. ”

    This has been pointed out before … I doubt Ed will pay any more attention than he did in the past.

  23. 223
    Septic Matthew says:

    I don’t mean to suggest that I oppose hydropower, I only mean a reminder that it has its own problems. Like everything else, it is not a panacea. Hydropower outages like this one and the outage that prompted the California energy crisis can be predicted months in advance from the observed lack of rainfall. China, like California before it, seems not to have taken much advantage of those months of warning.

  24. 224

    218,

    But why? I think perhaps that what I didn’t consider at first would be that the rate of collisions in the warmer O2/CO2 sphere would excite the CO2 molecules in that sphere at a rate such that it would balance the emission/absorption from the CO2 sphere, keeping the radiative flow in appropriate thermal balance.

  25. 225
    Edward Greisch says:

    217 Kevin McKinney: See: http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf33.html
    for a list of small reactors, some available now, some not. Sorry I had to rush last night.

    Hyperion happens to have a particularly small reactor, 25 megawatts, that is truck transportable and very quick to install. Yes, Hyperion has a ways to go. But Hyperion’s reactor design is a good example of the idea of factory production. It is also called a “nuclear battery.” At only 1.5 meters wide, it easily fits on a truck.

    You wanted one that is already in production:
    “Russia’s KLT-40S from OKBM Afrikantov is a reactor well proven in icebreakers and now proposed for wider use in desalination and, on barges, for remote area power supply.”

    Another already in production: Check out the canadian CANDU reactors. They are built in Canada and shipped around the world. But a special truck with more than 18 wheels is required.

    Japan and China have High-temperature gas-cooled reactors in operation, but not commercially.

    Thanks for the information on Ontario. Does zero coal also mean zero fossil fuel? Natural gas produces CO2 and leaks methane [CH4], so natural gas is not acceptable. Natural gas causes just as much greenhouse warming as coal. I would not consider gas fired to be coal free. Gas is honorary coal. Ontario has Niagara Falls and I think it has another large hydro source in Ontario’s far north, so Ontario has an advantage over most of us. “Pickering nuclear units” noted.

  26. 226
    SecularAnimist says:

    Edward Greisch wrote: “Hyperion happens to have a particularly small reactor, 25 megawatts, that is truck transportable and very quick to install.”

    As has been repeatedly explained to you, Hyperion “has” no such thing. They have a concept for such a reactor. They have not even submitted the design for that reactor to the NRC. They don’t even “hope” to have the first prototype of that reactor built for at least ten years.

    You assert (and I agree) that it is urgent to replace coal and natural gas fired electricity generation with non-fossil fuel generation as soon as possible.

    So, why do you keep insisting that the solution is an untested nuclear reactor concept that won’t even exist as a prototype for at least ten years?

    And why do you disparage and denigrate today’s mature and powerful wind and solar technologies, which are already adding tens of gigawatts of carbon-free electric generation capacity worldwide every year?

    By the time Hyperion builds its first prototype, wind and solar will have added more electric generation capacity than all the nuclear power plants in the world today.

  27. 227
    dhogaza says:

    “Hyperion happens to have a particularly small reactor, 25 megawatts, that is truck transportable and very quick to install.”

    I love it when my predictions come true …

  28. 228
    Ron R. says:

    SecularAnimist — @ 4:24 PM

    Maybe there is a reason for this innane repetition. I really don’t like to get personal but I took just one of EG’s posts, the one dated 17 May 2011 at 11:38 PM . Within this single post I found rote copy/pastes of three different paragraphs that are repeated across the web. One up to 44 times.

    Again, this is from just one post. Now maybe EG has a terrific memory and can automatically recall the exact wording each time he uses them. OK, nothing wrong there. But at the very least this looks like someone who is not interested in listening. And some would consider this repeated posting as spam. Some might conclude that this is the pattern of a rote poster for industry.

  29. 229
    Rod B says:

    Sphaerica (Bob) (214, 223), I’ll take a stab. I think you’re on the right track in 223. One factor that might be missing is that only a percentage of the inner sphere’s CO2 will be vibrationally excited. This percentage drops as the amb_ient temperature drops. So the number of CO2 molecules in the inner sphere that even have the potential to emit decreases, as does the actual emission in turn.

    A purist sidebar: emission or absorption from vibration does not by itself directly change the temperature, though it effects the temperature change indirectly. A quick example (hopefully without belaboring it): CO2 can excite its vibration by picking up translation energy from itself (ala equipartition) or by colliding with another molecule. It’s that reduction of translation energy that changes the temperature. The maybe almost immediate emission itself does not further change the temperature. It doesn’t hurt much to talk as it does as the effect is nearly the same, though there is some misunderstanding over this.

    I don’t know if this totally answers the question; I’m still thinking. BTW, IMO you framed the question very adroitly. Most of the folks (you’re not included) who try to use the laws of thermodynamics to disclaim GW in its entirety are way more cruder.

  30. 230
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 204 Edward Greisch
    203 Patrick 027: GW is already serious. Remember there is a bunch of warming “in the pipe line.” The Earth is not at equilibrium. The CO2 we have already generated will be around for 10,000 years. The oceans and the ice sheets are slowing the warming. We have already had catastrophic floods and droughts and crop failures due to GW. The human population is 2 Billion over carrying capacity even if there were no climate change since 1950. We do not have time to play around with wind and solar.

    Aside from the last sentence, you’re essentially preaching to the choir (I don’t know what Earth’s carrying capacity for humans in modern civilization (PS meat eaters vs vegetarians vs vegans and points in between; there’s also house size, number of TVs, etc. – many variations allowed within acceptable qualities of life), but I’m at least one of those who realizes there are limits).

    But do we have time not to work with wind and solar – I mean seriously seriously work with them? And I’m not saying don’t do nuclear too – I’m fence sitting on that, I’ll let the engineers and safety/environmental experts and economists work that one out, because I’m not as familiar with nuclear as with solar and wind. What I do believe is that as long as we don’t have a CO2eq tax or equivalent policy, we need to give an extra public boost of some sort to the alternatives, which may include nuclear, but also wind and solar and geothermal, etc.

    “Room” isn’t the right word but the right word gets caught in the spam filter.

    High-temperature superconductor? Or ? (PS this could get into an interesting discussion of what the bigger problem is: cooling requirements or forming the (guessing a ceramic, unless we go a different route at some point) material into a wire. I wouldn’t know, I’m just aware that both are issues to be addressed.) (PS I also know that superconductors can lose supeconductivity when current density is too large. Also (perhaps related?) a current produces a magnetic field, and current within the superconductor (as opposed to an even distribution on the surface of a cylindrical wire) will produce a magnetic field within the superconductor – but a magnetic field in a superconductor can’t change … well that’s not exactly true, but that’s all I can say right now.)

    Remember that the power line has to go all the way around the Earth, 25,000 miles plus North Pole to South Pole several times. Actually the route would follow the continents and safe political areas. It would have to cross the Bearing Straight or the North Atlantic ocean or both. 1.2 %/1000 miles times 30,000 miles = 36% loss. Suppose Australia is powering Argentina via the Bearing Straight.

    This is rediculous. Why the heck would you have a power line from Australia to Argentina that isn’t connected to any power plants (solar PV, wind, but also CSP (can have day-night storage), hydroelectric, geothermal, CAES, and anything else) in the rest of South America, Central America and Mexico, the contiguous U.S., Canada, Alaska, Russia, China, Mongolia, Vietnam, (let’s bypass Burma for the time being), etc.? Over the course of a year, what percentage of the energy on a global grid would actually travel most of the way around that grid?

    But think of it as a switchmode power supply and the line as a capacitor. Set the voltage at 120 volts or some convenient voltage. 1 Million volts is NOT convenient.
    Not as convenient as 120 V, but it’s been done.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_power_transmission
    (under “Losses” in particular – PS the last paragraph about inductance, real power, etc, – that’s an example of stuff I don’t really know – well I know some of it (inductance is like resistance in that it’s a ratio of V to I, but not V and I at the same time (from memory, I think it’s the amplitudes of the V and I cycles) – it involves a phasor diagram or expressions like exp(i*_)). But I do know that this is for AC power, and solar PV and wind, HVDC power can be converted to AC power, so it shouldn’t be a big source of my supposed misunderstanding of the utility of solar and wind power – I don’t see how they would necessarily adversely affect phases (deals with fractions of a second, not minute-to-hourly variations in plant output, right?) to the point of a serious problem, if the grid can handle all the stuff it now handles.

    (By the way, I know how transformers work, at least the essential part: dB/dt causes an electric field, which (unlike that from a charge distribution) can have nonzero curl; the total voltage of a coil increases with number of loops for the same dB/dt * area within the coil; power = voltage * current; a large current through a coil with small number of loops produces the same magnetic field as small current with a large number of loops, etc.)

    wWith a superconductor, the voltage is the same everywhere on the line. No voltage droop. Nice but is it necessary? (are you saying HVDC with regular conductors can’t be done well, because the people who study this seem to think HVDC would work. Couldn’t you adjuste the transformers or some other components to handle variations in a few % of the voltage based on which direction the power is from?).

    Can you convert AC to DC and vice versa using a Josephson junction?

    AC lines longer than 1500 miles radiate power into space I don’t know a lot about antennas (antennae?), but is that because a 1500 mile length approaches the scale of the wavelength of 60 Hz radiation? (3E8 m/s / (60 Hz) = 5E6 m = 5000 km) ?

    “1. Lack of experience with new item” Nonsense. Electric power companies have lots of engineers. They know a lot more about it than you do and they have it figured out to a millionth of a cent. That is why they are not doing it. It doesn’t work for them.

    Well they are doing it, though. And there’s business decisions to make, not just physics. The physics works. Of course they are less willing to do it if they have to pay more to the wind power supplier than to the coal power supplier, etc. But that’s just economics, it doesn’t require detailed technical knowledge of how the grid works, does it? If wind power is available during peak demand and when other power suppliers are charging more or delivering less, the utility will be willing to pay more for wind, and wind can compete more easily. If the utility or wind can find a storage provider at sufficiently low prices, then the wind can increase it’s value to the utility, or the utility can buy wind power and store it for when demand is greater and other suppliers more expensive. If the utility has to charge more in certain places and times because of the supply and load distributions in space and time, consumers can respond to price signals by changing usage patters where practical, and that can help balance supply and load and reduce transmission and storage needs – but of course this is all based on a free market system, and I realize that the utilities may operate differently, and also, many people don’t pay rates based on time of usage (the convenience of constant rate can be considered a service, with costs to the providers (in that there’s a load which won’t adapt to such price signals to reduce costs for the next month or year etc.) so the average rate should be larger relative to those with time-dependent rates).

    Sometimes people get into habits and they just don’t want to learn something new or are afraid to try because it’s a percieved risk. If it is a risk then you have to way it against potential benifits. If the risks and some drawbacks aren’t real than learning and experience will help. Are electrical engineers making all the decisions? No, there’s a role for accountants and investors and … etc.

    Of course, one major hurdle facing wind and solar and your favorite too, is the lack of a sensible climate policy.

    “where are the air-cooled reactors?” Everywhere you see cooling towers. They have hyperbola shaped sides. All over the world in at least 32 countries.

    Oh, okay. I thought there was water in there.

    Anne van der Bom and Patrick 027: I strongly recommend that you get a degree in physics or at least take the Engineering and Science Core Curriculum [E&SCC] plus a laboratory course in probability and statistics and a computer science course. Not to go into physics, but because every citizen of a technological civilization needs that level of contact with reality to be a good citizen. Especially humanities majors and even fine arts majors should be required to take the E&SCC. That includes you,. Patrick 027 If you had the required education, you would understand natural background radiation.

    (this could be taken as a rant but please also consider this as further evidence (that I know stuff))
    Anne had the good sense to ignore this (based on what I’ve skimmed of what follows) but I feel a need to respond. I’ve taken such classes. I understand force, torque, moment, shear, stress, strain, inductor, capacitor, refraction, eutectic, epistasis, se x ual sele ction, kin sele ction, ecological succession, alpha particle, beta particle, gamma ray, orange Fiestaware, that electron velocity is related to the gradient of energy in wave-vector space, Taylor columns (expected to occur in the outer core, where convection converts toroidal into poloidal fields) Rossby waves, inertio-gravity waves, equatorial Kelvin waves, angular momentum, potential density, Kohler curve, terminal velocity, the idea that certain minerals may have been important in the origin of life, the moon formed in the aftermath of an impact from a mars-sized impactor (Thea? Orpheus?), Rodinia, the reason why the phase transformation about 660 km below you will act as an impediment to whole-mantle (as opposed to layered) convection (related to the destruction of silicate tetrahedra in the formation of a perovskite structure), that the Earth’s orbital cycles have evolved over geologic time as the tidal torque on the tidal bulges (not just simple bulges like a prolate spheroid, but including oceanic Kelvin waves) has slowed rotation, reducing the coriolis effect (affects Kelvin waves – tides also affected by continental drift; I’m not sure how important the former effect is but I’ve read that the tidal slowing of the Earth’s rotation may now be, for the given Earth-moon distance, relatively larger than in much of the rest of geologic history because of the present geography), the equatorial bulge, and sending the moon farther out and lengthening the lunar month, that some stars are p-p and others are CNO (their nuclear fuel cycles), hysteresis – in magnets, in snowball earth, as a general concept (no I’m not claiming to be an expert on all of these) … well I could go on, but I’m afraid I’ll get tossed into the borehole. What does computer programming (which I’ve often enjoyed doing when I’ve done it) have to do with this – yes of course computers are involved, but how would lack of that knowledge explain either you’re enthusiam for nuclear and apparent (unless I’ve misunderstood) disdain for solar and wind, or my enthusiam for the later and relative lack-thereof for the former? No, what we would need to learn more about are very specific to nuclear, solar, and wind power – like is bioaccumulation of otherwise dispersed radiation sources a factor in nuclear accidents vs your natural background radiation in most places, the EROEI of solar and wind, the feasability of storage and new transmission lines, and whose account of Chernobyl and other accident’s aftermath is more accurate, and are we including the costs of mining (for glass, Si, steel, Nd, Te (byproduct only, there are no Te mines), Cu, Zn, Ti, Ce, Ni, etc, vs Zr, U, Th, etc, (of course there may be some overlap and for that matter the same mine may produce materials for several types of energy sources – U is after-all a rare earth (rare earth’s aren’t that rare compared to, say, Cu and Zn, but they tend to not get concentrated in ores so much, but there is something called monzanite; I think U, V, and P are sometimes found with each other, or am I remembering wrong). PS Earth’s long-lived radioactive elements (U (235, 238), Th, and an isotope of K) are more lithophile than siderophile (unlike Pt and Au, and Ir, hence the Ir as evidence of impact 65 Ma, but don’t forget the Deccan traps volcanism, whatever role that did or didn’t have), more concentrated in the crust than the mantle, and more so in continental crust – which tends to be less mafic (more felsic), whereas the mantle is u-l-t-r-a-mafic (in general with mixtures, at different temperatures solid and liquid coexist with different compositions – see phase diagrams) – there’s also rocks that have feldspathoids because of lower silica content (felspathoid + silica = feldspar). But of course, this is way O.T

  31. 231
    Edward Greisch says:

    227 Ron R.: I repeat my own writings because the same questions come up again and again. There is no sense in writing something new every time. I repeat because other people repeat.

    As I said many times before: Standard Disclaimer: I do not now and never have received any money or anything else of value from the nuclear power industry except electricity which I pay for. I have never worked for the nuclear power industry or any of its advertisers. I do not own stock in any corporation. I have never owned stock in the nuclear power industry and I don’t even know anybody who does to my knowledge. My sole income is from my federal government retirement.

    My sole motive for commenting here is that GW is dangerous, and I want to help RC.

  32. 232
    Edward Greisch says:

    225 SecularAnimist: Why did you not read the rest of what I said in 224? Yes, I did read your whole post.

    218 JiminMpls: See 224.

  33. 233
    flxible says:

    Patrick – Don’t encourage EG, and don’t accept his advocacy without question – re “air cooling” [scroll down to dry cooling]:
    “Hardly any US generating capacity uses dry cooling, and in the UK it has been ruled out as impractical and unreliable (in hot weather) for new nuclear plants. A 2009 US DOE study says they are three to four times more expensive than a recirculating wet cooling system. All US new plant licence applications have rejected dry cooling as infeasible for the site or unacceptable because of lost electrical generating efficiency and significantly higher capital and operating costs. There are also safety implications relating to removal of decay heat after an emergency shutdown. It is unlikely that large nuclear plants will adopt dry cooling in the foreseeable future.”

    Edward, give it a rest. If you accept that emissions need to be massively reduced rapidly, large or small nukes are very unlikely to be deployed on a timeline that will have any useful effect toward reduction in the near future.

  34. 234
    Edward Greisch says:

    228 Patrick 027: That is too long. I will only answer pieces.

    “High-temperature superconductor” means it works at liquid nitrogen temperature, 77 degrees C above absolute zero. It is high temperature compared to liquid helium temperature, 4 degrees K.

    “Why the heck would you have a power line from Australia to Argentina that isn’t connected to any power plants ”
    It WOULD be connected to power plants in all of those other places. But the idea is that you never know where the wind will be blowing or the sun will be shining. The entire planet has to be connected into one grid because the sun only shines on half of the planet at a time. Somebody in Europe proposed a “High-temperature superconductor” wind power grid covering all of Europe and Asia.

    The problem: Cooling the whole thing with liquid nitrogen all the time and preventing spots from dropping out of superconduction due to: you guessed it. Any spot that reverts to normal conducting explodes because all of the energy gets dumped there. And the expense is enormous, not counting down time due to explosions.

    “buy wind power and store it” That is the hard part, as I have said so many time that I am really tired of saying it.

    “Oh, okay. I thought there was water in there.” There is water/coolant in the tower, but they are not taking cool water from a river, lake or ocean and returning hot water. They are using coolant that circulates around and around as in the radiator of your car. Some of the water may evaporate and get replaced, but the volume is small. The heat gets dumped into the air.

    The long thing involving Anne van der Bom: “No, what we would need to learn more about are very specific to nuclear, solar, and wind power”
    No, what we need to learn are mathematics, statistics and the fact that science is as much a moral as a natural discipline. To repeat myself far more than 40 times: Nature isn’t just the final authority on truth, Nature is the Only authority. There are zero human authorities. Scientists do not vote on what is the truth. There is only one vote and Nature owns it. We find out what Nature’s vote is by doing Scientific [public and replicable] experiments. Scientific [public and replicable] experiments are the only source of truth. [To be public, it has to be visible to other people in the room. What goes on inside one person’s head isn’t public unless it can be seen on an X-ray or with another instrument.]
    Science is a simple faith in Scientific experiments and a simple absolute lack of faith in everything else. This is what you are supposed to learn in science class.

    Reference books:

    “Science and Immortality” by Charles B. Paul, 1980, University of California Press. In this book on the Eloges of the Paris Academy of Sciences (1699-1791) page 99 says: “Science is not so much a natural as a moral philosophy”. [That means drylabbing [fudging data] will get you fired.]
    Page 106 says: “Nature isn’t just the final authority, Nature is the Only authority.”

    “Revolutionary Wealth” by Alvin & Heidi Toffler, 2006 Chapter 19, FILTERING TRUTH, page 123 lists six commonly used filters people use to find the “truth”. They are:
    1. Consensus
    2. Consistency
    3. Authority
    4. Mystical revelation or religion [another name for several forms of mental illness]
    5. Durability
    6. Science
    As the Tofflers say: “Science is different from all the other truth-test criteria. It is the only one that itself depends on rigorous testing.” They go on to say: “In the time of Galileo . . . the most effective method of discovery was itself discovered.” [Namely Science.]

    It isn’t technology that you need to learn. A good laboratory course in probability and statistics turns you into a different person. It is part of a degree in physics, which I have. The point is that you need the training that converts you from a technician into a scientist. You come out a very different person. You see the world differently.

    We have a huge problem with people who have degrees in the humanities or whatever but do not understand science or engineering but are in “leadership” positions. They may be a CEO who orders his engineers to do something crazy or inane, like make a product that is useless. They may be writers who don’t understand what they are talking about, but pull people’s chains and push people’s emotion buttons, leading civilizations to do things like cause more GW. We can’t afford that kind of leadership when we are about to drive over a cliff. That is why I say that the E&SCC + should be mandatory for all.

    209 Anne van der Bom: There is something that was discussed first in RC that you missed that is crucial: Like it or not, we have a date with destiny in the 2050s. The date is in “Preliminary Analysis of a Global Drought Time Series” by Barton Paul Levenson, which is not yet published. We humans will probably be extinct by 2060 because of GW. Agriculture could collapse any time between 2050 and 2055 due to drought. You don’t want to be alive then. That is how hard times will be if we don’t stop GW.

    Standard Disclaimer: I do not now and never have received any money or anything else of value from the nuclear power industry except electricity which I pay for. I have never worked for the nuclear power industry or any of its advertisers. I do not own stock in any corporation. I have never owned stock in the nuclear power industry and I don’t even know anybody who does to my knowledge. My sole income is from my federal government retirement.
    My sole motive for commenting here is that GW is dangerous, and I want to help RC.

    Also again: I have nothing against renewable energy sources except that it is a side issue. We must shut down the coal industry immediately. The Waxman-Markey bill did not pass because some of the “greens” refused to support it after Senator McCain added nuclear power to it. Nuclear power was treated as a poison pill. The Waxman-Markey bill was too weak anyway, but we will never get any bill if nuclear power is considered a poison pill. We will also never get a bill that chooses for the electric companies. Let the electric company engineers do the engineering.

  35. 235
    JiminMpls says:

    222 – Matthew – There was never a power shortage in California. During the entire “power crisis”, they never reached 95% of generating capacity. Supply was manipulated by Enron. This is widely documented.

  36. 236
    Didactylos says:

    SecularAnimist: You keep talking about these options as if they are mutually exclusive. They aren’t.

    Obviously, there is some competition for government subsidies. However, any practical and effective means of reducing carbon will be cost effective, so the only concern is that subsidies for less effective methods don’t change the economic landscape in a way that drains the cost effectiveness of other methods.

    Government’s role in nuclear power should be one of oversight, and they should encourage private development by removing artificial barriers, not by compromising safety or throwing money at the problem.

    Edward Greisch and Ron R: You are both spouting so much misinformation and exaggeration from opposite sides that I honestly don’t think your debate has any reference to reality. Nuclear power isn’t a panacea, nor is it a bogeyman. Reality is, as always, in the gray area between. Your sources aren’t just biased, they are so partisan that no amount of reading between the lines can compensate. In short, it’s fiction from both extremes.

  37. 237
    John E. Pearson says:

    214 about violating the second law.

    Your mistake is in the assumption that the first box will undershoot the second box. Verbal transport arguments are tricky. I usually do the math and then make the verbal argument in accord with the math. If you do that you’ll find that the decay to steady state is monotone.

  38. 238

    #224, Ed–

    Ontario does in fact have considerable hydropower, but the biggest single energy source (you’ll presumably like this) is nuclear–Ontario is (arguably) the ‘home’ of the CANDU reactor family you refer to.

    One pretty official source gives the following breakdown on the supply mix “as of February 20, 2011”:

    Nuclear: 11,446 MW or 33%
    Gas: 9,497 MW or 27%
    Coal: 4,484 MW or 13%
    Hydro: 7,947 MW or 23%
    Wind: 1,235 MW or 3.6%
    Other (woodwaste, biogas, etc): 122 MW or 0.4%

    http://www.ieso.ca/imoweb/media/md_supply.asp

    Certainly, with the coal going away, it would be highly desirable to start restraining the use of gas. At best, it’s ‘less worse.’

    It’s interesting to note that Ontario, whose grid is highly interconnected not only with Quebec and Manitoba, but also with New York, Michigan and Minnesota, has moved increasingly from energy ‘neutrality’ towards being a consistent energy exporter. (Per import/export table on linked page.)

    It’s also interesting to check out the Ontario ‘windtracker,’ the widget for which is likewise available on the linked page.

  39. 239
    John E. Pearson says:

    Rick, Adelady, flxible, and Kevin,

    Thanks for the pointers. I’ll read your stuff Kevin. Haven’t gotten to it yet. I think RayPierre’s article is way too hard for a nonphysicist. Weart’s stuff wasn’t what I had in mind because my interpretation of my friend’s query was that he wanted to know why CO2 absorbs infrared (but as below you’ll see I’m not so sure about this now). Denning’s thing was pretty entertaining and was kind of what I had in mind but there was one aspect of his presentation that I found really jarring which was when he said that adding CO2 to the atmosphere is like adding little lightbulbs. There is no new energy source (which of course Denning knows) but I personally think invoking lightbulbs will cause confusion. Other than that I found his personification of diatomic and triatomic molecules enormously entertaining!

    After thinking about this I realized that my friend probably doesn’t know what he means by saying he wants to understand the physics of how CO2 causes heating because he probably doesn’t understand what it means to understand how the physics of how anything causes anything. In particular I suspect that he doesn’t understand the physics of how wearing a blanket on causes the person beneath the blanket to warm. At least one concern troll I interacted with on here a while back didn’t understand how blankets work.

  40. 240
    SecularAnimist says:

    Didactylos wrote: “You keep talking about these options as if they are mutually exclusive. They aren’t.”

    I am not saying that “these options” — ie. nuclear power on the one hand, and renewables & efficiency on the other — are “mutually exclusive”.

    I am saying that expanding nuclear power is neither a necessary nor a particularly effective means of achieving what we all seem to agree is necessary: rapid reductions in GHG emissions from generating electricity. Indeed, the analyses that I believe to be credible, and for that matter the nuclear power industry’s own vision for a “nuclear renaissance” (as represented by the Nuclear Energy Institute, for example), all indicate that even an aggressive expansion of nuclear power will, at best, keep nuclear power’s share of global electricity generation about where it is today and would contribute only modestly to reducing GHG emissions — with those reductions coming decades from now.

    I am saying that efficiency plus renewables (chiefly wind and solar), on the other hand, CAN achieve that goal — better, faster and cheaper than nuclear power — and in fact, are already doing so.

    I am saying that, therefore, resources invested in expanding nuclear power are being wasted, because they would be far more effectively invested in efficiency improvements and expanding renewable energy generation.

    That’s not to say that nuclear and renewables are “mutually exclusive” (although the rapidly increasing power and rapidly decreasing cost of renewable energy technologies will, I believe, make nuclear power utterly obsolete in the not too distant future).

    It is to say that the task is urgent, and we can ill afford to squander resources on a costly and ineffective and unnecessary expansion of nuclear power, and that doing so will only slow down our progress towards phasing out fossil fueled electricity generation.

    Didactylos wrote: “Government’s role in nuclear power should be one of oversight”

    I agree that we need strong and diligent government oversight of the existing nuclear power industry. We don’t have that now, and there is good reason to be concerned about the safety of the aging US nuclear power fleet, the NRC’s inadequate oversight and too-cozy relationship with the nuclear industry, the increasingly dangerous issue of nuclear waste, etc.

  41. 241
    Walter Pearce says:

    “Government’s role in nuclear power should be one of oversight, and they should encourage private development by removing artificial barriers, not by compromising safety or throwing money at the problem.”

    I agree. Let’s remove the artificial barriers and subsidies for the various alternatives to fossil fuels, while ratcheting up taxes on coal, natural gas and oil. Let the best solutions prevail.

    Natural barriers, such as tort and liability law, should remain unaffected.

    In the unlikely event these policies are adopted, we’ll see a torrent of investment into the best alternatives.

  42. 242
    John E. Pearson says:

    Kevin 216 said about http://hubpages.com/hub/Water-Is-A-Dancer

    Most Excellent! That is pretty much what I had in mind!

  43. 243
    Anna Haynes says:

    Are other people’s comments being flagged as spam?

  44. 244
    CM says:

    Edward Greisch #233:

    > Nature is the Only authority

    And on what authority do you base that claim? — Not on Nature or replicable experiments, but on a quote from book, about 18th-century eulogies to French Academicians, by a professor of those very humanities you so despise.

    Nice irony! Except I can’t seem to find the quote in Paul’s book…? (I did find your “moral philosophy” quote, but I’m afraid your interpretation misses the point, namely, that the man of science is endowed in the éloges with the moral virtues of a Stoic philosopher. Not that “fudging data will get you fired”.)

    Read before you rant, please.

    [and on that note, enough of this stuff–Jim]

  45. 245
    SecularAnimist says:

    Walter Pearce wrote: “… we’ll see a torrent of investment into the best alternatives.”

    We are already seeing a torrent of investment in wind and solar.

  46. 246
    Holly Stick says:

    Geoff Beacon at 206:

    Much of the world is not fit for agriculture. A better concept is Real Population Density, how much arable land per person each country has; http://www.embassymag.ca/dailyupdate/view/real_population_density_04-13-2011

    And food is going to be a problem if more extreme weather causes more crop failures as have happened in Russian, Australia, Canada, and other places recently.

  47. 247
    Didactylos says:

    SecularAnimist: I’m not going to play the crystal ball game, but I think it’s disingenuous to imply that “pure” renewables can achieve economies of scale or more economic designs in a way that nuclear power can’t. There is plenty of potential available. The only difference is the long lead time for nuclear power, which is why delaying or playing NIMBY today is absolutely unconscionable. If the environmental lobby had spoken with one voice, then nuclear power building could easily be 10, 20 years more advanced.

    And you *should* be concerned about the US’s ageing reactors. They need replacing! If all this zeal directed at making it hard to build nuclear reactors ends up causing a serious accident by putting too much pressure on elderly reactors – who will shoulder the blame? Not the activists!

    Finally, efficiency improvements pay for themselves. That’s the whole point.

  48. 248
    Ron R. says:

    Edward Greisch said at 11:49 PM

    I repeat my own writings because the same questions come up again and again. There is no sense in writing something new every time. I repeat because other people repeat.

    Do other people repeat word for word entire paragraphs from posted dozens of times going back several years without letting on that they are?

    Might I suggest then that if you are going to copy & paste from your previous posts that you put the letters (C&P) in front of those sections so that people know that they are talking to your hand?

    Ok, sorry. Not trying to be rude. Continue.

    Didactylos: 8:32 AM

    I don’t speak in fiction.

  49. 249
    Ron R. says:

    In other news, Iranian President accuses the West of deliberately causing drought in Iran.

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/05/19/ahmadinejad-says-west-to-blame-for-drought-in-iran/

  50. 250
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 214 Sphaerica (Bob) – assuming the LTE condition applies, the CO2 can only emit as well as it absorbs, so if the outer sphere emits a small amount via greater transparency, it also only absorbs a small fraction of incident radiation for the same reason. Following photons from emission to absorption, net fluxes are from higher to lower temperature (for LTE) – of course those fluxes from one place to another may traverse intervening material of any temperature. The actual flux through any given area can be a combination of many such net fluxes between many pairs of layers, and it may locally be from lower to higher temperature if enough of the photons are emitted from and/or absorbed in places farther away with different temperatures. Back to the spheres – if it’s a closed isolated system then there must be some enclosure around the outer sphere that reflects photons back; radiation emitted from the inner sphere that is unabsorbed after two passes through the outer sphere will be absorbed in the inner sphere or else pass through that, go into the outer sphere again, etc. (although, actually, given the outher sphere’s larger size, and if the reflecting boundary scatters radiation, some photons emitted from the inner sphere may come back at such an angle that they miss the inner sphere and get at least a third pass through the outer sphere first – maybe more. (Fortunately most of the optical thickness of Earth’s atmosphere is so concentrated near the surface of the Earth that at least for some important purposes you can disregard such consequences of spherical geometry (you may also set aside gravitational lensing and redshift and the index of refraction of the air that is just slightly greater than 1).)