Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #347

The Week That Was: February 9, 2019, Brought to You by www.SEPP.org

By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project

Quote of the Week:On specific energy and climate issues I’m guided by what the data tell me, not by claims made in the scientific literature. This is why you will find me disagreeing with most of the ‘consensus’ views on climate change but not all of them. My main concern for the future of my three grandchildren isn’t climate change, but that the misguided efforts of the people who want to save the world from it will leave them freezing in the dark.” – Roger Andrews, RIP.

Number of the Week: 1.4 million barrels per day (b/d)

Roger Andrews RIP: On his web site, Manhattan Contrarian, Francis Menton has an excellent review of what Roger Andrews contributed to our understanding on how fanciful the plans of going 100% renewable are for electricity alone, not to mention the plans for total energy use. As Andrews discussed on several occasions, California is a good example because the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) provides solid data, and California is driving heavily into solar and wind, both requiring storage. TWTW has presented several discussions of the dreams of California politicians and academics as compared with real-life grid data.

Andrews addressed the storage requirements (battery storage was the flavor of the moment) for backing up increasing renewables as idealized by Prof. Mark Jacobson of Stanford University et al. Andrews demonstrated that Jacobson’s solution addressed about 1% of the problem. As more renewables come on-line, the California duck (which shows the need for rapid “ramp-up” by traditional sources to maintain grid stability) becomes more extreme; resulting in “ramp-up” that existing thermal and hydro balancing cannot handle. Further, fast ramp-ups will stress the heavy turbines in systems more efficient than simple jet engines, resulting in higher maintenance and shorter life-spans for equipment designed to last decades.

As discussed in the February 24, 2018 TWTW, Andrews demonstrated that preparing for storage needed for renewables requires more than examination of daily requirements; it requires examination of seasonal requirements that vastly exceed the daily requirements. The seasonal electricity droughts would be far more devastating for urbanized California than seasonal precipitation droughts. As Andrews stated:

“Now there’s no question that high levels of intermittent renewables generation will require fast-frequency-response capabilities to ensure grid stability during the day, but what is California doing about seasonal storage, which makes up 99% of its total storage problem?


“Absolutely nothing. It has yet to recognize its existence.


“And the same goes for everyone else, including the UK, where proposed revisions to the energy storage market concentrate almost entirely on “fast frequency response” (I remember reading somewhere that according to National Grid any storage exceeding 15 minutes in duration will be superfluous but can’t find the reference).”

As discussed in the Nov 24, 2018, TWTW, Roger Andrews did a rough analysis on how much electricity would cost in California if the state goes 100% wind and solar using battery storage. Andrews calculated the total storage balance needed was 25,000 GWh (25 TWh), mainly from November through February. Andrews estimates that wind and solar electricity storage will cost about $1,000/MWh. (About $1.00/kWh wholesale, vs present-day 12 cents/kWh retail). These rough calculations have assumptions some may challenge.

Based on estimates by others, wind and solar would cost $50/MWh without storage. The current EIA estimate of levelized cost of onshore wind is $48/MWh. (Offshore wind is $125/MWh; Solar PV $59/MWh, Solar thermal is unknown). Compared with onshore wind alone, battery storage increases the cost of the electricity generation by 22-times (22-fold).

Without storage, when wind and solar fail, electricity in California would have to come from elsewhere. Unlike Germany, where wind and solar failures tend to somewhat balance out depending on the season, lessening storage costs; in California wind and solar tend to seasonally fail simultaneously.

These calculations go to the extremely important point that wind and solar promoters and many politicians ignore – the costs of reliable, consistent electricity to the consumer. The cost of wind or solar generation may come down, but the costs of storage are devastating. To shift the grid to wind and solar, major technological break-throughs are needed in storage. Deploying more wind and solar does not benefit the public until the storage issues are solved. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy, http://euanmearns.com/battery-storage-in-perspective-solving-1-of-the-problem/#more-21010, http://euanmearns.com/the-cost-of-wind-solar-power-batteries-included/ and https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/pdf/electricity_generation.pdf


Green New Deal? The latest fad to hit Washington is the Green New Deal. As linked below, there is already considerable criticism. TWTW will highlight a few points that are not broadly discussed.

It appears that the authors of the deal are as oblivious to the problems of electricity storage with solar and wind generation as are the politicians in California. The above discussion by Roger Andrews applies. Simply put, the proponents of the Green New Deal have no concept of the costs of electricity storage and ignore it. The costs of making electricity consistent and reliable are for someone else to pay – to be determined later.

A major element of the Green New Deal is high-speed rail. The founding fathers considered the several states should be a testing ground for which policies work and which do not. California is providing a good testing ground for high-speed rail. The bullet train between San Francisco and Los Angeles is located strictly within the state. Federal authority is not needed although it received over $2.5 billion from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), or stimulus bill.

The first section is being built in largely rural California from Bakersfield to Fresno with no major terrain obstacles at an initial cost estimate of about $6 billion. The costs have increased by about $5 billion and the project has been delayed by 3 years. It is difficult to get reliable numbers on the actual costs. This segment has none of the difficulties of crossing mountains and going into major urban areas such as the Los Angeles basin. The total project costs are now over $77 billion, which may be a major underestimate.

The problems with the train illustrate the lack of financial planning and expertise that green idealists have when they propose new plans. The Green New Deal appears to be an exploded version of the Stimulus Bill, ARRA, passed in February 2009 with an estimated cost of $850 billion. It was claimed this ended the Great Recession in July 2009.

In 2008, the US national debt held by the public was about $5 trillion, by 2014 it exceeded $12 trillion (intergovernmental holdings also grew but by not as much). While the privately held national debt more than doubled in six years, the annual growth rate of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over the period averaged about 2%, which is considered economic stagnation by many economists. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2014 unemployment rate was about 6% and falling at the end of the year. Fiscal stimulus bills dependent on government spending do not work as promoted.

The current GDP increase (2018 Q2 &3) is about 3.8%. The fourth quarter 2018 adjusted U-3 unemployment rate was 3.9 to 3.7%, the lowest levels since 1969. Labor participation rates are increasing, which is a positive economic sign. Many economists consider a U-3 of 4% to be “full employment.” (U-3 is the generally accepted statistic for unemployment rate.) A government spending stimulus is not needed to provide jobs. Even those who lack high school or college diplomas and are on the lower rungs of the economic latter are finding jobs. One of the major justifications given by promoters for a green new deal does not exist.

To summarize, it appears that a Green New Deal is not needed economically, and it will be contrary to some of the benefits of the original new deal. The Federal Power Act of 1935 placed the interstate transmission of electrical power under Federal control and divided responsibilities for power into generation (local or federal); transmission (federal); and distribution (local). The burden of making electrical power reliable, consistent, and affordable falls under transmission and many federal, state, and local politicians are interfering with this important task.

Further, federal projects for rural electrification, including the Tennessee Valley Authority, Hoover Dam, Bonneville Power Authority (along the Columbia River) provided reliable, affordable central power from the grid. Rural electrification eliminated hundreds of localized “micro-grids” that were providing haphazard power to hundreds of thousands of people in rural areas, such as villages, towns, farms, and ranches. It appears that the Green New Deal is designed to do away with one of the benefits of the original New Deal. See links under Questioning Green Elsewhere, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_debt_of_the_United_States#/media/File:US_National_Debt_public_intergovernmental.png, https://countryeconomy.com/gdp/usa?year=2018, and https://unemploymentdata.com/charts/current-unemployment-rate-chart/


Predictions: The global climate models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have not been verified and validated, which requires extensive testing against real world data. The late Vincent Gray convinced the IPCC that it should not use the term predictions for the results of such models because the models have not been verified and validated. The IPCC changed the terminology from predictions to projections.

Critical US organizations should understand the need to test models rigorously. Yet, NASA- Jet Propulsion Laboratory distributed a release citing a study by JPL members claiming predictions from climate models. The lead author stated:

“’Our results quantify and give a more visual meaning to the consequences of the predicted warming of the oceans,’ Aumann said. ‘More storms mean more flooding, more structure damage, more crop damage and so on, unless mitigating measures are implemented.’”

Perhaps the JPL should consider an appropriate disclaimer on publications by its employees. See links under Lowering Standards.


A Squabble? A group of 3400 academics from Belgium issued a manifesto on climate. This was rebutted by a Dutch group called the Dutch Climate Intelligence Foundation. Among the points made are:

· The earth is warming – nothing unusual

· 100% human caused – based on what evidence?

· Extreme weather events – not claimed by the IPCC

· Limiting climate change / (a.k.a) global warming is necessary – no proof of cause or need

Other issues involve the practicality of taking action at this time. The extent to which CO2 is warming the planet is not known – the IPCC ignores the need to understand natural climate change, thus its estimates of the human influence are made with intentional ignorance.

Two other points are important:

· The greatest value of a scientist is his or her independence.

· In Belgium, the climate movement has now also started using children for their ideological cause. What children need to learn is to take a critical look at the facts.

See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.


Grid-Scale Storage: In a publication by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, Jack Ponton addresses the issues of grid-scale storage of wind power and comes to similar conclusions similar to Roger Andrews’s, discussed above. Ponton is Emeritus Professor of Engineering at the University of Edinburgh, a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and of the Institution of Chemical Engineers (of which he is a past vice-president). His main research work was in mathematical modelling of complex engineering phenomena and software development. He has also worked in and with the chemical industry on a range of topics including health and safety issues. A further research interest has been renewable and alternative energy: wave power, biofuels, hydrogen, ocean thermal energy and coal gasification with carbon capture. Until recently he was not interested in wind power. He writes:

“The reason for this is that nearly forty years ago, a colleague and I carried out some simple calculations about the potential for wind power in the UK. We concluded that useful amounts of energy could not be obtained without covering most of the country with wind turbines. At the time we assumed that no-one would consider doing anything quite so foolish.”

The technology is quite mature, so dramatic cost savings in greater production are unlikely. Haapala made similar calculations for Northern Virginia in replacing a then-coal fired-power plant serving the region with wind turbines. (The plant is now oil-fired and is being converted to natural gas.). The calculations demonstrate, all of close-in Northern Virginia (including Fairfax, Arlington, and Alexandria) would have to be covered by wind turbines, with tall buildings and trees removed. The type and cost of back-up were not considered.


Greenhouse Gas Effects in the Atmosphere. TWTW’s discussion of greenhouse gas effects in the atmosphere last week produced interesting comments, including some on Anthony Watts’s web site. Further discussion will be delayed to next week, to include why omission of the primary greenhouse gas, water vapor, distorts calculations of the effects of other greenhouse gases.


Number of the Week: 1.4 million barrels per day (b/d): According to a January Special Report by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) as of May 2018 (the last month for which EIA has data), Venezuela’s crude oil production was 1.4 million barrels per day (b/d). Venezuela’s crude oil production has declined rapidly and has fallen to a 30–year low. Yet, as of January 2018, Venezuela had 302 billion barrels of proved oil reserves, the largest in the world.

In October and November of 2018, North Dakota produced 1.4 million barrels per day (b/d). North Dakota is the second largest producing state; Texas produced 4.8 million (b/d) in November. Government control of the oil fields has not served the people of Venezuela well.



1. A Green New Deal in Profile

Falmouth spent $10 million on wind turbines. Now it’s losing money.

Editorial, WSJ, Feb 4, 2019


The editorial states:

“Democrats are pushing a Green New Deal to end the use of fossil fuels and rely entirely on renewable energy. The Cape Cod town of Falmouth, Mass., offers a cold gust of reality on such ambitions with its experience on a $10 million wind-energy investment.


“In 2009 and 2011, Falmouth broke ground on two wind turbines on 314 acres of city land next to the wastewater-treatment facility and dog pound. It paid for the first turbine with a $5 million, 20-year municipal bond, and it received $5 million in federal stimulus money to build the second. Falmouth planned to sell some of the energy it generated to the electrical grid of utility company Eversource, formerly known as NStar, so the city anticipated the turbines would generate $1 million to $2 million in annual profit.


“Residents quickly grew disillusioned. The turbines rose nearly 400 feet, and light flickered eerily through the blades, which whirled in a circle big enough for a 747. Barry and Diane Funfar, who lived fewer than 1,700 feet away, began suffering from headaches.


“Ms. Funfar struggled to sleep, and her husband’s heart started to pound. ‘The problems were unbelievable,’ Ms. Funfar says. ‘Barry couldn’t live with them. He was bothered every minute [the turbines] were running. I was bothered, too.’


“After further discussion of health issues a real-estate appraiser testifying that homes close to the turbines had lost 20% of their value, the editorial continues:


“‘In 2015 the Massachusetts Appeals Court ordered Falmouth to turn off one of its turbines, ruling that it lacked proper permitting. And in 2017 Barnstable County Judge Cornelius Moriarty ordered both turbines shut down as a public nuisance. ‘We had our home paid for before the turbines, and now we owe more than it’s probably even worth—over $500,000,’ Ms. Funfar says. ‘We wanted to leave it to our kids, but if we died today, our kids couldn’t afford the home.’


“Falmouth is taking a ‘daunting’ financial hit, says town manager Julian Suso. Insurance covered most of Falmouth’s legal fees and nuisance settlements, but the remaining liability is ‘certainly in excess of $100,000,’ he says. On Jan. 15, selectmen voted 4-1 against relocating the turbines within town limits, with one abstention. It will cost between $1 million and $2 million to dismantle and remove them.


“Falmouth will also spend the next 11 years paying off the remaining $3.6 million in bonds it floated to pay for the first turbine. The stimulus grant covered the cost of the second turbine on condition that it operates as an ‘energy efficient project.’ So unless Falmouth can find someone else to take the turbine, get it running, and persuade regulators that this meets its contractual obligations, the town will be on the hook for another $5 million. That’s a lot of wasted money in a town with fewer than 32,000 residents.


“Environmentalists dismiss concerns that wind turbines may cause health problems, even as they peddle unscientific claims that shale drilling poisons water and causes cancer. But there’s no such thing as zero-risk energy and, as Falmouth learned the hard way, not-in-my-backyard sentiments extend from drilling pads to wind farms. This green new deal was a bad deal all around.”


2. ‘Empty Planet’ Review: A Drop in Numbers

Governments stoke fears about overpopulation, but the reality is that fertility rates are falling faster than most experts can readily explain.

By Lyman Stone, WSJ, Feb 6, 2019


SUMMARY: The reviewer writers:

“Is a dangerous population explosion imminent? For decades we’ve been told so by scientific elites, starting with the Club of Rome reports in the 1970s. But in their compelling book ‘Empty Planet: The Shock of Global Population Decline,’ Canadian social scientist Darrell Bricker and journalist John Ibbitson lay out the opposite case: ‘The great defining event of the twenty-first century,’ they say, ‘will occur in three decades, give or take, when the global population starts to decline. Once that decline begins, it will never end.’


“Their book is a vital warning to the world that the risks associated with population have been catastrophically misread: Governments and activists have spent decades fighting the specter of overpopulation, but now face the looming demographic calamity of global population collapse. Fewer people participating in the economy will mean slower economic growth, less entrepreneurship, rising inequality and calamitous government debt.


“Pulling examples from extensive on-the-ground research in settings as disparate as São Paulo favelas, Seoul universities and Nairobi businesses, the authors combine a mastery of social-science research with enough journalistic flair to convince fair-minded readers of a simple fact: Fertility is falling faster than most experts can readily explain, driven by persistent forces. In Brazil and China astonishing numbers of women opt for permanent sterilization well before the end of their fertile years (half of Chinese couples take this route). In South Korea and Japan women delay childbirth until their 30s or forgo it altogether. There even has been an unexpected collapse in fertility among Hispanics in the United States: They, like most of America’s other ethnic groups, now have below-replacement birth rates. The drivers of global fertility decline are here to stay.


“So why exactly is everyone still worried about the opposite problem? The authors pin the blame on faulty assumptions by the population establishment, as represented by the U.N. Population Division. They don’t use the United States as an example, but I will: The U.N.’s most recent population forecasts suggest that the average U.S. total fertility rate from 2015 to 2020 should be 1.9 children per woman. In reality, CDC data shows U.S. fertility has averaged about 1.8 children per woman from 2015 to 2018. In 2019, early indications are that fertility will probably be nearer 1.7 children per woman.


“Never mind their being reliable for long-run forecasts, the U.N. fertility estimates are 5% to 10% off even in the present. As Messrs. Bricker and Ibbitson point out, U.N. forecasts are substantially out-of-step with existing data from many countries, including China, India and Brazil. As a result of these mistakes, the most widely used population benchmarks in the world are probably wrong. The future will have far fewer people than the U.N. suggests; perhaps billions fewer.


“‘Empty Planet’ succeeds as a long-overdue skewering of population-explosion fearmongers. But the book seems more confused about what should be done. The authors, for instance, repeatedly assert that falling fertility is a consequence of women’s empowerment: In virtually every country where gender equality improved in the last 50 years, fertility rates declined correspondingly. Yet at the same time, Messrs. Bricker and Ibbitson seem to argue that greater gender equality will increase fertility. ‘Maybe a third child won’t set back [a woman’s] career,’ they write, ‘because [her partner] throws himself into parenting every bit as much as she does.’


“There are many reasons to work for greater gender equality, but this is not one of them. Surveys of women’s fertility desires show that women in rich countries uniformly have fewer children than they say they desire: If we lived in a society where women had perfect control of their own reproduction, fertility would be higher, not lower. But rich countries are precisely the ones with the most gender equality—so there is no reason to think that gender equality is associated with more women achieving their fertility goals.


“A similar confusion afflicts the authors’ vision for how to fight population decline. The authors (correctly) write that ‘immigrants may soon be hard to come by. Fertility is declining everywhere, even in the poorest countries. And incomes are rising in nations that once were very poor, decreasing the incentive to leave.’ The implication? Migrant-receiving countries will be less able in the future to depend on immigration for population growth.


“Of course, there are plenty of immigrants today to prop up growth, and the authors sensibly suggest the U.S. should adopt a Canadian-style merit-based system—letting in more people, but with selective standards. But then the authors go on to worry that, by giving in to ‘nativist, anti-immigrant sentiments,’ the United States of America ‘will throw away the very tool that has been the secret to its greatness.’”

After briefly discussing immigration policy and fertility rates among immigrants, the reviewer concludes:


“Population decline is a new problem, and not well understood: Western societies have not faced its effects since the bubonic plague. Messrs. Bricker and Ibbitson can perhaps be forgiven, then, for their inconsistency on what to do about low fertility. They have done crucial work to start a conversation. Let’s hope it goes somewhere before it’s too late.”


Mr. Stone is an Adjunct Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a Research Fellow at the Institute for Family Studies.


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