Unforced Variations: June 2013

June’s open thread…

389 comments on this post.
  1. Russell:

    Meanwhile back in Beijing , Fred Singer & Co. are still denying the Heartland Institute has a problem with the Chinese Academy of Science.

  2. Patrick 027:

    Didn’t think we were supposed to be discussing it here anymore, but …

    Re Edward Greisch, Martin Vermeer, et al., http://www.nrel.gov/analysis/re_futures/
    (be sure to look at the visualizations on the right side of the page)
    (I would have bumped up the CSP and PV contributions a bit, but anyway, it gives a sense of how it would work out (includes taking advantage of flexibility of hydroelectric output)
    (Now take the excess/stranded PV+wind component and turn it into fuel onsite (site some of the power plants where transmission lines cross natural gas lines?) – as has been suggested ~ 1 year ago(?). Use Li2CO3 fuel cells/batteries to make C for industry; use some biomass for C too (energy, chemical feedstock). Don’t forget to have transmission lines into Mexico, Canada, etc. HVDC is ‘undergroundable’ (though at the highest voltages? not sure), and why not put those under AC (already acquired right-of-way (HVDC cables coaxial, shouldn’t be interference? Also better for Carrington events?) Efficiency decreases for longer transmission and chemical storage, but only some fraction of the energy goes through those pathways…

    EIA has info on natural gas and petroleum/petroleum product stocks for US; consider storage potential.

    Overbuild capacity, use excess for CO2 sequestration, etc.

    May provide some links if I get back to it…

  3. Killian:

    Fred Magyar — 16 Jun 2013 @ 7:48 AM

    Fred, I’m sad. I’ve been saying what we need to do for years now. Why go to another source?


    E.g.: http://aperfectstormcometh.blogspot.com/2008/03/build-out-grid-vs-household-towards.html


  4. Hank Roberts:

    Also facts.
    “… er capita ecological footprint (EF), or ecological footprint analysis (EFA), is a means of comparing consumption and lifestyles, and checking this against nature’s ability to provide for this consumption. The tool can inform policy by examining to what extent a nation uses more (or less) than is available within its territory,”

  5. Edward Greisch:

    191 Kevin McKinney: I’m laughing at Portland, Oregon, not at you. People in Portland, Oregon seem to be serious, but their leaders all resigned. Then the organization decided to do something else.
    192 Kevin McKinney: A superconducting grid covering the whole globe is the idea. The sun is sure to be shining somewhere. The goal for an electric utility is 99.998% up time, leaving no more than 10.5 minutes per year without power.

    If any of you think 99.9% of the time is reliable enough, please go ahead and try it out in your home town. You will be on the next train out of town, with tar and feathers. There are 8772.48 hours in a year. 99.9% up time leaves 8.77 hours of down time. Check “Estimated Value of Service Reliability for Electric Utility Customers in the United States” at http://certs.lbl.gov/pdf/lbnl-2132e.pdf to get the cost.

    194 Martin Vermeer: So you are suggesting that we use methane as our battery? OK if we can make methane out of the CO2 in the air. No fair using coal as your carbon source. We want zero CO2 production, remember?

    195 Fred Magyar: I expect a human population crash. “Ecological Footprints and Bio-Capacity: Essential Elements in Sustainability Assessment”  by William E. Rees, PhD, says we are 2 billion over the planet’s permanent carrying capacity without GW. But renewables still don’t work. It isn’t a strawman. Renewables are too intermittent. Period. Until you can store enough energy or invent a room temperature superconductor.

    198 Thomas Lee Elifritz: We already know that there is plenty of energy in sunshine. That is not the problem. How do we put sunshine in a bottle?

  6. Dave123:

    @Steve 193

    My doctoral work is in catalysis, and I’ve been seeing carbonic anhydrase catalysts for decades. It’s a common problem that some news article gets written by a reporter who doesn’t have background knowledge of an area hypes a new discovery that is simply one of long string.

    But the heart of this matter are the economics of getting your hands on the calcium needed to make carbonate and precipitate that out of water. Calcium is indeed the 5th most common element on the earth’s surface….but it’s in a form where it’s largely useful for neutralizing CO2…

    Calcium Chloride (used for de-icing) is a by product of making chlorine… and when used as a de-icer ultimately ends up as calcium carbonate.

    But if you wanted to get calcium chloride by first intent, you’d find the cost prohibitive.

    The other huge source of Calcium, which accounts for its abundance is limestone- but that’s calcium carbonate already. No points here for doing anything about CO2…this stuff has already done that.

    If you want Calcium oxide- well that doesn’t work either- because you make it by calcining limestone- and that puts CO2 right back into the atmosphere.

    In otherwords, the problem here isn’t the rate at which we can hydrolyze CO2 into carbonic acid- the problem is where do we find calcium that isn’t already tied up as carbonate in the first place.

    strange capcha: skyvclan the

  7. Dave123:

    hank- @two posts.
    The stuff you see in your kettle when its boiled dry is already calcium carbonate. It’s useless for soaking up more CO2.

    If we had mountains of calcium sitting around then the reaction

    Ca + CO2 –> calcium carbonate would be a wonder way to soak up excess CO2. But unfortunately the Ca available on the surface of the planet is already in the plus 2 oxidation state, and is thus tied with some other counter ions. It takes energy (and thus the production of CO2) to put Ca in a form where it’s useful to neuturalize CO2.

    We harp on the earth’s energy balance all the time- same skill set for understanding why having yet another new carbonic anhydrase catalyst is the least of the problems.

  8. SecularAnimist:

    Edward Greisch wrote: “A superconducting grid covering the whole globe is the idea.”

    Yes, it’s a completely unnecessary and pointless idea, but one that you keep harping on for reasons that I cannot comprehend.

    Edward Greisch wrote: “We already know that there is plenty of energy in sunshine. That is not the problem. How do we put sunshine in a bottle?”

    We have an abundance of technologies, already in use and rapidly improving, for storing the energy from sunlight in chemical, thermal or kinetic form.

  9. SecularAnimist:

    Hank Roberts wrote about ecological footprint analysis: “The tool can inform policy by examining to what extent a nation uses more (or less) than is available within its territory.”

    The Institute For Local Self-Reliance looked at a part of this question, regarding energy resources in the USA, and found:

    “How self-sufficient in energy generation could states be if they relied only on their own renewable resources? … The data in this report suggest that every state could generate a significant percentage of its electricity with homegrown renewable energy. At least three-fifths of the fifty states could meet all their internal electricity needs from renewable energy generated inside their borders. Every state with a renewable energy mandate can meet it with in-state renewable fuels. And, as the report discusses, even these estimates may be conservative.”

  10. Kevin McKinney:

    #205–Thanks for expanding, Ed. I’ll only say that you seem to have a very ‘binary’ view–power is either ‘up’ or ‘down’. That doesn’t match very well what I understand to be the case, nor what one would expect from the nature of renewables.

    See, for example, the GE report for ERCOT that I linked above in the thread. You’ll find that they characterize renewable variability as being similar to supply-side variations–IIRC, the term used was ‘ramping events.’ Large ‘point-source’ plants are another story.

    Of course, I’m not saying that blackouts can’t happen–they happened before renewables and they will happen again in the future–though perhaps less so, rather than more so, if we1 are smart.
    1–“We” meaning “power engineers, planners, administrators, and politicians,” primarily.

  11. Hank Roberts:

    > calcium
    Dave123, yes, you’re describing one part of the way we’ve overloaded natural biogeochemical cycling.

    We’ve been dumping so much CO2 so rapidly into the atmosphere — the rate of change problem.

    Finding calcium for limestone and magnesium for dolomite — available to react with that CO2 — is another rate of change issue.

    Nature’s answer in the past has been — more extreme weather, faster erosion, exposing more rock, more sediment flux, ocean pH change, change in ocean microbes, and sedimentation to make those sedimentary rocks. Eventually.

    We’re pushing CO2 increase at a rate maybe 100x faster than nature ever did.

    My bet is that the blue-green algae will take the opportunities we are providing for their return as dominant species on the planet. My other bet is they won’t show much gratitude.

    Basically we need to push the -other- parts of the biogeochemical cycle up to match the rate of fossil fuel burning for a while, or substitute for those, or live with however nature handles the mismatch.

    Calcium is available where it’s biologically available — another sunshine-limited process. Who knew?

  12. Steve Fish:

    Re- Comment by Dave123 — 17 Jun 2013 @ 2:50 AM

    My interest in the nickel nanoparticle story was regarding the fact that many interesting discoveries in science are the result of integration of two areas, such as marine biologists studying sea urchins providing an idea to chemical engineers. It is helpful to have an expert, such as yourself, to correct some of my confusions.

    You have said, several times, that carbonic anhydrases are, essentially, old hat, but it is my understanding that anhydrases are cellular biological enzymes (e.g. proteins), whereas elemental nickel is acting as an inorganic catalyst. I thought that there was a very big difference. Also, isn’t a new catalyst that is 1000 times less expensive, pH insensitive and easily recoverable from a reaction vessel a remarkable advance in this area of research? Please correct my misperceptions.

    I am aware that a lot of calcium is bound in carbonates, but this is why I mentioned silicate rock (90% of the crust) of which granite, for example, releases calcium ions from weathering without releasing CO2. These ions are a part of the calcium cycle for scavenging CO2 that would naturally bring down atmospheric concentrations in the future. Perhaps someone will find an economical process for developing calcium and I eagerly await any further developments in this research story.


  13. Martin Vermeer:

    Edward Greisch #205:

    OK if we can make methane out of the CO2 in the air.

    Quite. Perhaps you should have read the article behind that link ;-)

  14. Hank Roberts:

    ps, that Royal Society link is to a decades-old article as a start; follow forward from there to some of the current work. Note particularly mention of biofilm research, which is booming — fascinating stuff with many applications.

  15. prokaryotes:

    Imho – The ocean circulation connects with the south and northern hemisphere. Today’s warming and related melting increases fresh water influx at the north pole and – possibly creating a DO event on steroids. A situation will arise when the THC possibly directs less warm water to the north and iceberg breakup will cool parts of the northern hemisphere. After this “brief” cooling phase the warming then will proceed, possibly triggering more feedbacks ( think hydrates ).

    Quote from Dansgaard Oeschger Wiki: D-O cold events, and their associated influx of meltwater, reduce the strength of the North Atlantic Deep Water current (NADW), weakening the northern hemisphere circulation and therefore resulting in an increased transfer of heat polewards in the southern hemisphere. This warmer water results in melting of Antarctic ice, thereby reducing density stratification and the strength of the Antarctic Bottom Water current (AABW). This allows the NADW to return to its previous strength, driving northern hemisphere melting – and another D-O cold event. This theory may also explain Heinrich events’ apparent connection to the D-O cycle; when the accumulation of meltwater in the oceans reaches a threshold, it may have raised sea level enough to undercut the Laurentide ice sheet – causing a Heinrich event and resetting the cycle. http://climatestate.com/magazine/2013/06/sea-ice-switches-and-abrupt-climate-change/

  16. prokaryotes:

    “We’re pushing CO2 increase at a rate maybe 100x faster than nature ever did.”

    There is a natural rate and an extreme “event” rate. The natural “volcano” rate is 10.000 times slower than today’s human emissions release. And on top of this many novel greenhouse gases in the mix – different carbon sinks, different ocean state and with our ozone state who is still in trouble (see Arctic ozone hole in recent years).

  17. Hank Roberts:


  18. Edward Greisch:

    208 SecularAnimist: 1. We all have batteries. That isn’t the question. See:

    “A Nation-Sized Battery”

    For the US alone, “This battery would demand 5 trillion kg (5 billion tons) of lead.”

    “A USGS report from 2011 reports 80 million tons (Mt) of lead in known reserves worldwide, with 7 Mt in the U.S. A note in the report indicates that the recent demonstration of lead associated with zinc, silver, and copper deposits places the estimated (undiscovered) lead resources of the world at 1.5 billion tons. That’s still not enough to build the battery for the U.S. alone.”

    So we could build a lead acid battery that would cover from 1.6% of the US from known sources up to possibly 30% of the US if we prospect for lead everywhere on Earth. Civilization doesn’t stop at the US border. You have to make batteries for the whole planet. YOU CAN’T DO IT. THERE ISN’T ENOUGH LEAD. Same for any other kind of battery. Same for any combination of battery types.

    2. A superconducting grid covering the whole globe is required to give you 99.998% up time for your electricity supply. 99.998% up time is the standard. Think like the electric utilities. We have to make a reliable electricity supply. 21st century civilization can’t run on intermittent electricity. Why you cannot comprehend this, I don’t know.


    Be sure to read the linked papers.





  19. Thomas Lee Elifirtz:

    We already know that there is plenty of energy in sunshine. That is not the problem. How do we put sunshine in a bottle?

    I think it’s called enthalpy of formation. There are numerous other ways to deal with the conversion problem however, the best way is to avoid it all together by finding suitable cogeneration pathways. When all else fails, sell it to the grid. These are very simple engineering problems.

  20. Phil Scadden:

    Edward – why on earth would you build your nation-sized battery from lead? The obvious conventional battery would be whatever you are powering your electric cars with. Less conventional would things like pumped hydro and subsurface pressured gas systems. Lots of other ideas around for large stored energy systems.

  21. Hank Roberts:

    speaking of biofilms:
    Life in the ‘Plastisphere’: Microbial communities on plastic marine debris

    “… Some Plastisphere members may be opportunistic pathogens such as specific members of the genus Vibrio that dominated one of our plastic samples (the authors, unpublished data). Plastisphere communities are distinct from surrounding surface water, implying that plastic serves as a novel ecological habitat in the open ocean. Plastic has a longer half-life than most natural floating marine substrates, and a hydrophobic surface that promotes microbial colonization and biofilm formation, differing from autochthonous substrates in the upper layers of the ocean.”

  22. Kevin McKinney:

    #218–Some reactions: 1) the “Response to Lang” paper argues that in fact you *can* do 100% renewables;
    2) the ‘lead battery for the US’ link clarifies Edward’s ‘you need energy for a week’ idea–but also brings to my mind the old joke about the spherical cow in a vacuum. It’s also worth remembering that the rule of thumb which was the starting point for the whole exercise is for *remote installations*–not large geographical regions!

    Nevertheless, the conclusion is worth quoting:

    “This post does not proclaim that there is no way to build adequate storage to accommodate a fully-renewable energy infrastructure. A distributed grid helps, and an armada of gas-fired peak-load plants would offset the need for full storage. Storage can be augmented by pumped hydro, compressed air, flywheels, other battery technologies, etc.

    Rather, the lesson is that we must work within serious constraints to meet future demands. We can’t just scale up the current go-to solution for renewable energy storage—we are yet again fresh out of silver bullet solutions. More generally, large scale energy storage is not a solved problem. We should be careful not to trivialize the problem, which tends to reduce the imperative to work like mad on establishing adequate capabilities in time (requires decades of fore-thought and planning).”

    – See more at: http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/08/nation-sized-battery/#sthash.ki7xq3nK.dpuf

    But wasn’t that what some of us were saying, more or less?

  23. Dave123:


    Not trying to be picky, but simply and hands down there’s nothing special about hydrolyzing CO2. It’s just some reporter not knowing the history. Also don’t be confused by my use of carbonic anhydrase. Because of the biological circumstances it’s simply common practice to call a catalyst for hydrating CO2 a carbonic anhydrase.

    Off the top of my head, the reaction of carbonic acid with a calcium silicate to produce silicon dioxide and calcium carbonate will be the rate determining step anyhow even if the reaction is strongly exothermic, simply because of the solid liquid interface. There’s also the likelyhood of a calcium carbonate layer forming on top of the silicate, further inhibiting the reaction

  24. Hank Roberts:

    Last comment at physics.ucsd.edu thread includes:

    > Thus, with a little work, our current infrastructure can crank out
    > a “national NaS battery” in about 5 years. (144 megatons sodium needed
    > / 33 million megatons produced per year). There are economic issues to
    > consider, but from a physics perspective, this is doable!
    > The comparable figure for lead batteries is 1300 years.

    As noted there, we don’t need one single solution. We need a lot.

  25. prokaryotes:

    Secrets of Abrupt Climate Shifts revisited http://climatestate.com/magazine/2013/06/secrets-of-abrupt-climate-shifts-revisited/

  26. Michael Sweet:

    Edward Greisch,

    I lived on wind and solar (mostly solar, wind did not work for me) for 10 years. Even on cloudy days we generated 50-75% of what we got on average days. Sunny days were a bonus. With renewables you would not have times of no power supply like with coal and nuclear. You would have less power. Brownouts can be managed by having some users volunteer (for a price) to get less power. Why would you design a battery backup for coal and nuclear to use with a renewable generating system? Can you provide a citation for a week when there was no wind over the entire USA? What week had the least wind ever measured? The sun comes up on cloudy days and everyone knows it is never cloudy over the entire USA.

    I recently read an article about the cost of backing up a nuclear plant that shut down because of a small fire. Current grids must be able to back up several megawatts of power with no notice or the grid collapses. A renewable grid is not subject to such large instantaneous fluctuations. It may be cheaper to backup renewables since they have smaller fluxes. Your claims of lead acid battery backup required are nonsensical. No-one suggests such a system except you. Think before you post more here. You damage your cause with constant FUD.

  27. Kevin McKinney:

    #226–Michael, the link made more sense; the physicist who wrote the piece intended the ‘national lead battery’ as a kind of demo for the size of the problem. But it is very much the “spherical cow in a vacuum;” not much relation to practical realities. I don’t know if Ed took it a tad too seriously, or just didn’t make clear to us the nature of the proposal.

    The ‘week-long reserve’ came from a rule of thumb for remote installations. But they are stand-alone point source systems; as the physicist said in his conclusion, “A distributed grid helps.” Though it seems he underestimated the degree to which that is true. Your experience echoes those of other users whose stories I have read–writer and biologist Amy Seidl, for one:


    But she does ardently wish for more storage; she bemoans the fact that on sunny June days the (mostly solar) Vermont system is fully charged by 10 AM–and still more that it is backed up by a gas generator which does see a few day’s service, generally during the winter. And that, too, sounds consonant with the experience of the unnamed physicist, who begins the article with a brief description of his own home’s solar-PV system.

    In general, I think that is a fair picture of where renewables are today: there are problems and challenges, and we do need to face them squarely–just as we need to face the need for carbon mitigation–but they are not insoluble, unmanageable nor prohibitive.

  28. Kevin McKinney:

    #224–“As noted there, we don’t need one single solution. We need a lot.”

    Amen, Hank. That’s why I wish nuclear advocates and renewables advocates would train less fire on each other (both here and elsewhere); it just sets the table for the ‘fosso-philes.’

  29. SecularAnimist:

    Edward Greisch, with all due respect, these notions about building a “nation-sized” lead-acid battery, and a “superconducting grid covering the whole globe” are just nonsense.

    Perhaps they are somebody’s idea of entertaining science fiction, but they have absolutely NOTHING to do with the reality of today’s powerful, mature, and rapidly improving solar, wind, energy storage, and distributed smart-grid technologies, which are already being deployed at all scales all over the world.

    If you want to learn about the reality of today’s renewable energy (and storage) industries, I again recommend CleanTechnica.com as a good place to start. For example, they have a page where they have gathered together links to a variety of studies examining paths to achieving an electric grid powered by 70-100 percent renewable energy within a couple of decades:


    On the other hand, if you prefer to avoid educating yourself about the realities of renewable energy while continuing to spin science fiction yarns, that’s your choice.

  30. Hank Roberts:

    > train less fire on each other (both here and elsewhere)

    The crap merchants fund both “sides” (the farthest-apart groups) to delay policy changes. It’s a long practiced tactic. People are suckers for it.

    Tribune watchdog: Playing with fire — Chicago Tribune
    “With cigarettes starting deadly fires, tobacco companies created a new scapegoat — the furniture going up in flames — and invested in a national group of fire officials …”

    Decades of deaths and wide production of hormone mimics — the price of delay. But for the industries that used the tactic, decades of profit.

    The lawyers and PR companies that do this are “just doing their job” — there’s no conscience operating.

    When your heartfelt cause gets funded by an unidentified donor, it’s hard to consider the possibility you’re being used as a puppet in the delay game.


    When you see the wackos on all sides and nobody in the middle of the policy questions, polarization and no progress — ask who’s profiting.

  31. prokaryotes:

    Since you all post about energy…

    Secretary Moniz said yesterday that the Energy Department would “aggressively” pursue solar energy because the potential is “underestimated” and competitive in many areas. http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wire/e2-wire/305919-energy-secretary-pledges-to-keep-momentum-behind-solar-power/

  32. Patrick 027:

    re 216 prokaryotes – actually, I think it’s more like ~ 10 Gt C/yr / ~ 0.2 Gt C/yr = 50 times (give or take, and give if including other GHGs as CO2eq). That 0.2 Gt/yr geologic emission tends to be balanced by silicate weathering -> net carbonate formation + organic C sequestration (PS some geologic emission is from organic C) (with the inorganic sink generally tending to balance via negative chemical weathering feedback; organic sink is not so nicely behaved), so maybe it’s the typical order of magnitude of the imbalance that is ~ 0.001 Gt/yr (??)

  33. Killian:

    209 Every state with a renewable energy mandate can meet it with in-state renewable fuels.

    This is self-evident with even a cursory understanding of energy, natural building, simplification…

    What freaks me out is that nowhere in any of the posts is the idea of *just using a lot less* ever even considered.

    Gotta laugh…

    People are crazy.

  34. prokaryotes:

    Patrick, if you start watching this lecture by James Hansen, 6 minutes in he explains how the natural rate is 10.000 times faster then today’s emission rate. At minute 6:51 the slide outlines this

    Natural Rate ~100ppm/My (0,0001 ppm/year)
    Human made Rate today ~2ppm year

    The 8 Minute Epoch 65 million Years with James Hansen

    But that figure is for the equilibrium scenario when India collided with Asia, and weathering of rocks occurred when the Himalaya grow and ending of the Deccan traps around 60 and 68 My – until to around 55 My (PETM). Though we have to tweak this natural rate to a past event or deglaciation rate in order to judge the severity of our exponential curve of todays emissions scenario. For instance the buildup phase of PETM

    Remarkably, however, even the lower estimates for the carbon release during the onset of the PETM (1 Pg C y1 ) and over the past 50 years from anthropogenic sources seem to be of a similar order of magnitude (see the Methods section). The PETM may therefore serve as a case study for the consequences of the carbon dioxide released at present by human activities.

    The PETM carbon release rate was estimated using our initial carbon input of 3,000 Pg C and an input timescale of the order of 5,000 years (ref. 29), giving a rate of 0:6 Pg C y1 . The average carbon release rate from fossil-fuel burning and cement manufacturing from 1954-2004 is 5 Pg C y1 http://indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/files/Carbon%20dioxide%20forcing%20alone%20insufficient%20to%20explain.pdf

    But the pre PETM phase lasted 3-5k years. And carbon sinks and the biosphere had time to react in a rather timely manner, meaning it was in a better shape. Today we have a unprecedented fast buildup rate, which creates an overload of emissions on the natural systems. And because we are already deep into the buildup phase we need to use the buildup rate comparison. Which is probably in the realm of what you wrote, Patrick. Instead of 3-5k we have 50-100 years.

  35. Edward Greisch:

    “Examining the feasibility of converting New York State’s all-purpose energy infrastructure to one using wind, water, and sunlight”

    They say they are going to store energy as hydrogen.

    “Comments on Jacobson et al.’s proposal for a wind, water, and solar energy future for New York State”

    Hydrogen is a “leaky” gas because, with the electron removed, the hydrogen atom is just a proton.

  36. Hank Roberts:

    Killian, use the quoted string in a search. The blog software doesn’t render quoted strings correctly so it’s not a clickable link; copy and paste this into your browser search box.

    site:realclimate.org “energy conservation”

    Same with any other quotable string you want to find at the site.

    site:realclimate.org “use less”

    The fact that you don’t find it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

    Distinguish posts by the Contributors from those by us kibitzers, too.
    Makes a difference who wrote something; search is just the first step.

    Search is your friend.

  37. patrick:

    @ 218 (& 224) I really like that post by Tom Murphy you’ve linked, “A Nation-Sized Battery,” from his “Do the Math” blog (2011). I think it exemplifies the kind of thinking and calculations that need to be done. A fitting hobby for a guy whose day job is shooting a laser at the moon.

    Here’s the complete course.

    It’s a talk by Murphy titled, Growth Has an Expiration Date:


    I might call it: “We’re Not Even Taking Care of Our Gerbil Yet,” which is a direct quote–well, almost.

    Murphy’s blog takes an astrophysicist’s-eye view of issues relating to energy production, climate change, and economic growth:


    The current post is on the difference between entropy and disorder.

  38. Hank Roberts:

    Thanks Patrick — the Murphy talk is very good.

    If only the economists would listen (sigh).

  39. Hank Roberts:

    “efficiency is a hat with only one or two bunnies left in it …. don’t think we should anticipate more than a factor of two improvement …” — Murphy talk

  40. prokaryotes:

    Vast methane ‘plumes’ seen in Arctic ocean as sea ice retreats

  41. Hank Roberts:

    “population … is a hockey stick in a logarithmic plot, which is super scary”
    ” … the population boom is just a fossil fuel boom ….. we’re at a very special moment in the history of humanity …. treating the last 200 year history as normal and extrapolating ruthlessly from that is a very perilous game. …. a return to more primitive ways is a distinct possibility ….”

    [if we could even sustain today’s energy use for the current world population … we’d have to live at 20 percent of current US energy use]

    “sustainable … we have no clear idea what it means or what level we can expect to operate sustainably. The fossil fuel joyride ….” [has clouded our minds]

    “If we want to build a new energy technology … that requires an up-front energy investment … what we’re running short on ….”

    — Murphy talk

  42. Kevin McKinney:

    #235–Thanks for those links, Ed.

    “They say they are going to store energy as hydrogen.”

    And thermal storage and battery storage and distributed EV-battery storage and a laundry list of other stuff. (I’m sure you know that part, Ed, and just didn’t mention it, but casual readers here may think you meant that exclusively.)

    “Hydrogen is a “leaky” gas because, with the electron removed, the hydrogen atom is just a proton.”

    Yes, this is well-known–and has been the crux of much research. Google “hydrogen storage technologies” and limit results to the last year to get some good info on the state of the art. Currently, the most buzz seems to be around the Aussie firm Hydrexia, which is trying to commercialize a solid-state storage technology, and has drawn investment from both the Australian government and from a private (I think) French company. I don’t have much of a take on it one way or the other myself, but it’s an ‘ongoing development.’

    In related news, Japan is apparently rolling out a limited deployment of hydrogen fuel cell cars and fueling stations. Still pretty pricey technology, though–““Prices of below ¥10 million have now come into sight,” a Toyota official said.” That’s roughly $100K USD–and that’s for “lower cost” vehicles. The fueling stations are half a million USD and up.


    Of course, Martin just posted information on Germany’s developing use of methane synthesis to store renewably-generated energy; there’s also an article about similar use of hydrogen there. Striking was the idea of using natural gas as a hydrogen storage medium.


    Another striking bit was this:

    “Germany, which has led the world in installing solar capacity, isn’t just concerned about climate change. Its leaders think that in the long term, renewable energy will be cheaper than fossil fuels, so it could give the country an economic advantage, says Miranda Schreurs, director of the Environmental Policy Research Center at the Freie Universität Berlin. Germany will serve as a test case to show whether industrialized countries can compete while relying on renewables.”

    The times continue to be ‘interesting.’

  43. prokaryotes:

    Apparently my post from above about methane plumes is back from 2011.

  44. Thomas Lee Elifritz:

    Mr. Greisch, the document you have regurgitated talks about ‘feasibility’. This is not the issue at all, this is a requirement. You have no choice.

    You can either do this, or your nation or nation state fails. It’s an either or situation. Epic fail on your part. You are dramatically and completely misunderstanding and underestimating the magnitude of the problems of fossil fuel extraction, distribution and combustion. Once power is produced, the distribution of it is now a trivial engineering exercise, and one that can for the most part be completely avoided by in situ production and use. But even then, the grid can still get it where it needs to be, as a value added. So my suggestion to you is that when you are digging yourself a huge hole, quit digging. Just a suggestion. FYI.

  45. Hank Roberts:

    > vast methane plumes
    Yep, it says right at the top of the article that the blog is reposting the much-reposted Guardian story from several years ago. Semiletov’s promised scientific journal article may be this one, which mentions “intense gas torches” —

    Mechanisms responsible for degradation of submarine permafrost on the eastern arctic shelf of Russia
    Lobkovskii, L. I.; Nikiforov, S. L.; Shakhova, N. E.; Semiletov, I. P.; Libina, N. V.; Anan’ev, R. A.; Dmitrevskii, N. N.
    Doklady Earth Sciences, Volume 449, Issue 1, pp.280-283
    Abstract not Available

    DOI: 10.1134/S1028334X13030124
    Purchase on Springer.com $39.95
    Teaser image of first page at

    Those reblogging the old story should note if and they’ve found something published beyond these much-repeated press releases.

    There’s probably going to be a pony there somewhere eventually — if the rate of change now is different enough from the paleo warming episodes to blow off the cover on the material that survived the past several warming episodes. It’s a big if, because the rate of change in the sediment temperatures is rather slower than that of the atmosphere.

    The question is — are there photographs and measurements published anywhere documenting the features so compellingly described in the language of the press releases and reblogged over and over and over again for years.

  46. Mal Adapted:

    Deniers in Congress are unrelenting: US lawmakers seek deep cuts to NASA climate research

    A bill floated by leaders of the House Science Committee seeks to restore “proper balance to NASA’s science portfolio” by slashing roughly US$500 million from the agency’s Earth science division, which received $1.785 billion this year.

    Gotta love that balance.

  47. prokaryotes:

    NASA Finds ‘Amazing’ Levels Of Arctic Methane And CO2, Asks ‘Is a Sleeping Climate Giant Stirring in the Arctic?’ http://climatestate.com/magazine/2013/06/nasa-finds-amazing-levels-of-arctic-methane-and-co2-asks-is-a-sleeping-climate-giant-stirring-in-the-arctic/

  48. Russell:

    What’s amazing abour 650 extra PPB of CH4 with Heartland Institute flacks waxing nostalgic for the good old days of 3,500 PPM CO2 ?

  49. David B. Benson:

    Mars Had Oxygen-Rich Atmosphere 4,000 Million Years Ago
    Amazing, if correct.

    Are we all descendents of Martians, then?

  50. Hank Roberts:

    prokaryotes, do you think there’s a way to get “Climate State The Research Magazine” to begin citing sources for their stories?

    Items are reblogged, often from Joe Romm, sometimes others, but without cites to the source in the research journal being, apparently, quoted.

    For example the thing reblogged from the Guardian has an illustration, not cited to anything, that appears only on the home page but not on the article page, showing a profile view of the seabed and ocean with indications of methane plumes: http://climatestate.com/magazine/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Plumes-example-c2-305×175.jpg

    Now that’s really interesting — but whose image is it?
    Is it from some published research as it appears to be?
    It’s OK to copy stuff within “fair use” guidelines, but it’d be most helpful if whoever runs Climate State The Research Magazine would cite original sources.

    As Gavin has mentioned, the best way is to give the DOI number — that’s really the only reliable longterm way later readers can find the science.

    Just for those of us who like that kind of thing. I know it gets tedious.