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By Robert Rapier on Mar 18, 2010 with 101 responses

My Position Statement on a Variety of Energy Issues

Welcome to the new R-Squared! Our goals here are to provide a place to engage in respectful and thoughtful debate about the very important issue of energy.

I thought it might be a good idea to summarize my positions on a wide variety of energy issues. Here I will attempt to briefly cover my views on oil, coal, ethanol (cellulosic, corn, and sugarcane), renewable diesel (green and biodiesel), nuclear power, solar power, wind power, and then climate change. I don’t intend to cover a lot of ground explaining my positions in detail; I will save that for future essays.

The most important thing to note is that I try to let the data determine my position. But that also means that as new data come in, my position may shift. Therefore, my positions shouldn’t be viewed as being etched in stone.

I try to take a scientific approach in which data have to constantly be sifted through, categorized according to level of credibility, and incorporated into the position as appropriate. Of course the categorization step is important, because there are studies that are funded by interest groups that I put into a vastly different category than independent, peer-reviewed research.

To put my positions into perspective, let me explain how I see the world. First, I view energy as one of the most critical underpinnings of our society. Without energy, modern society falls apart. Thus, I think energy policy is a critically important – and very underrated – issue.

I believe renewable energy is critical to our future. Development of renewable energy is what I do for a living. But I am also an advocate of responsible use of taxpayer money. But what I see a lot of in the world today is taxpayer money flowing to companies that are just out hyping their technologies. I don’t want to see energy policy influenced by gross exaggerations, and yet that is the situation I see today. That is what motivates me to write.

Here is a rundown, with the briefest of explanations, on where I see the world of energy today. I will break this up in transportation fuels, electricity, and then a word on climate change. This list is by no means comprehensive, but I have tried to include the major contenders/pretenders.

Transportation Fuels

Corn ethanol – My position on corn ethanol is often distorted by supporters of U.S. ethanol policy. I am not against corn ethanol. What I am against are some of the policies that we have put in place, such as subsidies on top of mandates. The benefits of corn ethanol are typically exaggerated by various interest groups, and what I try to do is sift the real from the hype to understand what corn ethanol is actually delivering for the taxpayer investments we are making. That usually runs afoul of the hype, and thus I am painted as anti-ethanol. What I would like to see corn ethanol do is get the fossil fuels out of their operations.

Sugarcane ethanol – Has some distinct advantages over corn ethanol. Two of the key challenges for producing ethanol are logistics of getting low-energy-density biomass in, and the energy required to convert to ethanol and purify. These issues aren’t much of a factor for sugarcane ethanol, because clean waste biomass is already at the plant as a result of the sugarcane processing. So they essentially have free boiler fuel, which minimizes the fossil fuel inputs into the process. That enables ethanol production that is relatively cheap, and that is largely decoupled from the impact of volatile fossil fuel prices.

Cellulosic ethanol – More hype than substance. This was the topic of my graduate school research in the early 90′s, and even then there was a very long history. In fact, cellulosic ethanol has been commercialized multiple times around the world, beginning in 1898 in Germany. The U.S. built two plants during World War I and shut them both down after the war due to poor economics. Another was built in the U.S. during WWII in Oregon, never produced ethanol during the war, and was closed down after the war. During the past decade there has been a race to reinvent the wheel and become the “first” to commercialize cellulosic ethanol. Worse, groups doing gasification to mixed alcohols started calling their product cellulosic ethanol. But there are very fundamental differences.

Renewable diesels – There are two major types, biodiesel and green diesel. There are two different ways to make green diesel; gasification and subsequent Fischer-Tropsch or hydrocracking vegetable oils or animal fats. Biodiesel relies heavily on methanol, almost exclusively fossil-fuel derived, and will never in my opinion be viable without subsidies. The green diesels are expensive to produce, but have more long-term promise in being able to make a real contribution to the energy mix.

Algal fuel – A subset of renewable diesel. As with cellulosic ethanol, more hype than substance here. There are a couple of possible routes that could work, but right now algal fuel is a very long ways from the market. Beware of those who promise $2 or $3 fuel from algae.

Petroleum – While I have a background in the oil industry, I don’t wish to see the world continue to rely on petroleum. There are many reasons that I will detail in a future post, but I think we have built a society that is far too dependent on oil. The consequences of oil shortages in a petroleum-dependent world are severe, and that is a risk that I don’t believe we can afford in the long run. On the other hand, I recognize the reality that the world has long run on cheap petroleum, and we will need petroleum for many years to come. Thus, I don’t favor punitive legislation that causes artificial shortages while demand is still high.

Natural gas – Much cleaner than coal for the production of electricity, and the U.S. is in a pretty good position with respect to supply. Can be used to produce electricity, heat homes, or even fuel cars. A key question for me in the corn ethanol debate is whether it makes more sense to directly fuel cars with natural gas instead of converting the natural gas into fertilizer for the corn and then steam for the distillation of the ethanol.

Electricity

Wind power – Cost effective in some locations, but hindered by the intermittent nature of the source. Some issues with bird kills and noise, but my overall impression of wind has always been favorable.

Solar power – I love the idea of solar power, but costs and intermittency are a problem at present for solar PV. Solar thermal may be a more cost-effective option, and it also has the advantage of being able to produce power after the sun sets (up until the temperature of the thermal mass gets too low).

Geothermal – One of my favorite clean electricity technologies. In the right location, geothermal can be a very cost effective and clean producer of electricity. Deep geothermal is another matter, as it has been linked to triggering earthquakes.

Hydropower – Same class as geothermal for me. While there are some issues, this is the case with all energy sources, and hydropower’s issues are mild compared to some other energy sources. Comparatively, hydropower ranks very high on my list.

Coal – Very similar situation to oil. We have created a society that is very dependent on coal, and there are numerous environmental issues associated with coal. On the other hand, it is easy to see why we are so coal-dependent: It is very cheap relative to other fuel sources, and it provides reliable power. In the minds of consumers, cheap and reliable has historically won out over environmental concerns.

Nuclear – If you look at the projections for the growth of electricity demand – combined with the desires of many to see coal plants phased out – there is no other option than nuclear that can deliver the desired amounts of electricity. So I think we are going to need to expand nuclear power in the years ahead.

Climate Change

This is really too complex to summarize briefly, and in doing so I am afraid my position may be misunderstood. Whether you accept the idea that man is contributing to climate change, I don’t believe it is a good idea to conduct such a grand experiment on the atmosphere because the ultimate consequences can’t be predicted. However, I can’t see any trajectory that will result in a global decline in CO2 emissions. Despite all of the best efforts (e.g., Kyoto Protocol), global CO2 concentrations continue to increase. As China and India continue to industrialize and improve their standards of living, they will demand cheap power. Any way I look at it, global CO2 concentrations will continue to head up until we start to run short of fossil fuels.

None of that is to imply that I don’t think it is very serious issue. My position has long been that I am not an expert in the field, and so I defer to the experts. The consensus has always seemed to me that atmospheric scientists believe that the activities of mankind are contributing to climate change.

On the other hand, I also believe that the issue should continue to be debated. There is far too much rancor over climate change, with each side hurling accusations and insults. Let the debate take place in a respectful manner, and let’s not try to shout down the other side, or suppress information. But at the end of the day, it just seems to me that our efforts to stop rising carbon emissions are futile.

I have certainly left out a lot, and major details are missing. Most of the energy options I mentioned above will be expounded upon in future essays. Or, if you don’t want to wait, feel free to start that conversation yourself.

  1. By rrapier on March 18, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    This is just a test post to make sure the forum is working as designed.

     

    RR

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  2. By rrapier on March 18, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    The first post was in the forum; this one is directly after the essay to see that the interaction is working as planned.

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  3. By Kinuachdrach on March 18, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    That’s a pretty fair summary, RR. One exception — “climate change”. Remember, not one reputable scientist has ever advanced a hypotesized mechanism for “climate change” — only for Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming. The distinction is important, since it immedidately points out the unscientific fallacy of claiming that unusually cold winters are caused by Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming.

    [INTERESTING! --- Have just found out that the Return key does not work to start a new paragraph. This could make posts rather confusing]

    Of course humans are having an effect on the planet. We don’t need to hypothesize untenable mechanisms to argue for that.

    The aspect that you did not address, RR, was scale. We know that we humans use an unimaginable amount of power now, and that must increase if we are to bring every human being up to a decent standard of living. One of the key tests to apply to all the post-fossil power sources is – Can they scale up?

    When we apply that test, it becomes very obvious that we really need to get after nuclear power, and soon.

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  4. By Kinuachdrach on March 18, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    Even more interesting —
    Return does not start a new paragraph in the Comment box, as one types, but does put a new line in the post itself. It would help those of us who are incompetent typists if the new line was shown in the Comment box too.

    Also, the comment is not appended to the end of the thread, as in Blogger, but shows up in some inscrutable position. Teething troubles!

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  5. By Kinuachdrach on March 18, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    Then what shows up is something saying “Your comment is awaiting moderation”.

    Unless Consumer Energy Reports are planning to provide 24/7 moderation, this is going to be a real impediment to something like RR’s blog that attracts contributors from Europe to Japan, going either direction.

    Maybe it would be better to continue with RR’s policy of self-moderation — post everything immediately, and then a moderator can expunge the occasional inappropriate posts and (in the limit) exclude repeat offenders.

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  6. By savro on March 18, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    @Kinuachdrach

    We want most of the regulars to sign up for the forums where they can open their own discussion topics and comment without any moderation.

    Comments made here in the blog will get cross-posted to the forums, so you won’t be missing out on anything if you carry on the discussion there.

    We are still leaving open the option to comment on the blog posts themselves, however, first timers will need to have one post approved before they can comment on the blog without being moderated. Perhaps that will be changed in the future, we’ll keep tabs on how that goes.

    It’s probably going to take a little time before we have all the issues ironed out, but it helps us immensely when the viewers tell us about any problems or suggestions they have.

    There’s a special section of the forum devoted to user suggestions. We want people to tell us whatever they feel will make the forum a better place for them so that necessary changes and upgrades can be made.

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  7. By Benny BND Cole on March 19, 2010 at 12:09 am

    Excellent wrap-up of energy issues and perspectives by RR. I look forward to reading more of his blogs in this new format.

    I look forward to the insights and friendly debates with RR and other posters.

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  8. By Petes on March 19, 2010 at 12:31 am

    Haven’t looked at the forums yet. Will try at least one comment in the Comments first. C&P’ing from TextPad to try to avoid K’s CR problems.

    Nice round-up RR … a useful one to point back to in future when you’re accused of all sorts of extreme positions.

    Kinu — regarding “not one reputable scientist has ever advanced a hypotesized mechanism for “climate change”” … that’s become your rather handy standard refutation of AGW-caused climate change. But it holds no more water than saying “not one reputable scientist has ever hypothesised the mechanism which will cause tomorrow’s weather” … but there will not only be weather tomorrow, but we can predict it by modelling which is, of course, how they predict climate change too. If you’re hoping for/demanding differential equations you will be disappointed.

    Finally, the commment moderation problem can clearly be ameliorated by banning all the Europeans :-)

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  9. By Petes on March 19, 2010 at 12:31 am

    Oh, and, delighted to see that the Comments cookie-ises your name and e-mail. Having IE report security warnings and making you retype all the metanonsense every time on the Blogger comments page was torture!

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  10. By petes on March 19, 2010 at 12:43 am

    Logged in as forum user .. .checking that comments don’t await moderation now.

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  11. By petes on March 19, 2010 at 12:43 am

    Neato!

     

    UPDATE: Can edit posts now too (using a pretty ok WYSIWYG HTML-editor widget), so I can use this as a sandbox!

     

    Is there a way to delete my comments also (since I’m being a bit experimentally spammy here)?

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  12. By Petes on March 19, 2010 at 12:50 am

    RR – did you get your link to the forums wrong at the end of the post. I get a “Nothing found” page. And are you trying to fix it as we speak, ‘cos I have two copies of the page open with different URLs, both apparently wrong.
    1) http://www.consumerenergyrepor…..18/boards/
    2) http://www.consumerenergyrepor…..es/boards/
    … and the actual URL which I thinkk works (from following the forum links “manually” … http://www.consumerenergyrepor…..gy-issues/

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  13. By rrapier on March 19, 2010 at 12:54 am

    Thanks Pete. Should be fixed now. The “Awaiting Moderation” should only happen the first time. It is just there to slow the spambots down. But once you are recognized as a real person, your comments should post instantly.

    Cheers, and thanks for joining us here.

    RR

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  14. By petes on March 19, 2010 at 12:57 am

     

    Petes said:


     

    UPDATE: Can edit posts now too…


     
    Is it true I can only edit my own comment while it is the last one posted. Seems once there is a new comment after it I can no longer edit.
     

    (Yep, can seemingly update this one after posting it … but previous ones don’t give me the option to edit. I guess it makes sense to save me from my own premature hits on the “Save” button, while not allowing me to change “recorded history”).

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  15. By Matthew Wright on March 19, 2010 at 1:48 am


    Solar thermal may be a more cost-effective option, and it also has the advantage of being able to produce power after the sun sets (up until the temperature of the thermal mass gets too low).

    Actually it’s not that it gets too low, In two tank molten salt binary systems (direct and indirect) the heated up 400,565 or 650 molten salt is pumped from the hot tank to the cold tank and the heat is taken out dropping it back to around 285C (It freezes in a binary salt of potassium nitrate 40% and Sodium nitrate 60% at 220C. So it’s not that the temperature of the thermal mass gets too low, it is that the heat is extracted from the complete mass of salt, this is very orderly.

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  16. By klr on March 19, 2010 at 1:59 am

    Hi Robert, forum seems to work so far.  That includes the return key.  Knock on wood.  It’s a welcome change – forums have certain advantages over blogs; they’re more back-of-the-napkin perhaps.  Definitely easier to maintain a discussion on. 

     

    Some features that could stand improvement:  the box where you enter a post has no visible walls, it’s somewhat disconcerting, like posting on the internet in heaven.   You have to type about a mile to get to the right margin, would be nice to tighten that up a bit. 

     

    I attempted to set my timezone, it says timezone of server “unknown.”  When you click on the “Learn about timezones” button it takes you to the wiki article…yes, I know about timezones, including how they’re a plot by socialists to make red blooded Americans tired and confused.

     

    OK, test post of image to go along with that absurd statement:

     

    Seems to work.

     

    Someone I’d like Robert’s opinion of:  Craig Venter.  Leanan had a story about him today on TOD:  New man-made species could solve energy problems › Environment Blog (ABC Environment).  Always curious about his oil pooping bacteria, and whether this would overcome many of the hurdles associated with the usual algal production approaches.  

     

    Right off the bat I think we should have a dedicated AGW thread, and never clutter up other threads with these arguments. 

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  17. By Kinuachdrach on March 19, 2010 at 8:46 am

    PeteS – regarding “not one reputable scientist has ever advanced a hypotesized mechanism for “climate change””

    Well, Pete – that happens to be true. There is something very unseemly (in a scientific sense) in taking a postulated mechanism which causes “Warming” and nothing but “Warming”, and then claiming it applies to “Change”, which includes cooling and warming.
    One of the reasons that the climate crowd have lost credibility is that they have failed to police their own. When we see real climate scientists criticizing the Gores & Manns & Joneses for their excesses, the rest of us may take their discipline more seriously.

    there will not only be weather tomorrow, but we can predict it by modelling Glad to hear that weather forecasting is so reliable in Ireland! Well, if the forecast is rain today, rain tomorrow, and rain for the rest of the month, maybe the high accuracy is understandable! :)

    Sam — it would be really nice to get that carriage return issue sorted out. Pretty please!

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  18. By Ivo on March 19, 2010 at 10:12 am

    Robert,

    I have enjoyed reading your blog for a number of years. Now, in its transitioning phase, and considering the kind of expansion in coverage that you have in mind, I would like to suggest current energy usage efficiency improvements as one of the major new topics, if you don’t mind. New and clean energy sources are all very nice, of course, but increases in the efficiencies of current practices can sometimes produce remarkable return on investment while leaving more resources for future usage.

    Better insulation of the US housing stock, for example, could be performed by low-skilled laborers (and currently there is plenty of that available) while providing instantly better results in energy usage for a much lower investment than trying to make algal diesel work or building nuclear plants. Also, reliable mass transit in the US which would require less single-passenger cars on the roads. Another one – intelligent logistics models that would significantly decrease the need for wasteful local transportation like driving your car to the Post Office to pick up a letter from PO box.

    I think such issues need much more coverage than they currently receive which may be because of current business setup would feel threatened. But then again, “rebellious” thinking has always been a part of your blog anyway. ;) All the best,

    Ivo

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  19. By takchess on March 19, 2010 at 10:50 am

    Hi there,

    Nice to see your new digs. Jim

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  20. By Rufus on March 19, 2010 at 10:50 am

    Hello, is this thing on?

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  21. By Paul on March 19, 2010 at 10:52 am

    Good summary RR – I wonder If we’d ever get such a concise statement from Stephen Chu?

    Saw an article in yesterday’s paper about Gaz Metro, the nat. gas retailer for Quebec and Vermont, looking to do a serious expansion into fueling CNG trucks running between Quebec and Ontario. Far easier said than done, especially getting truck conversions done. BUt NG has just been found in Quebec and clearly the company is looking for ways to sell more within its existing territory. With gas prices at such a discount to oil, I would not be surprised to see more things like this from other NG utilities.

    I think there is a bit of a loophole for them here, as utility gas rates are often government regulated, but selling gas as vehicle fuel is not, so there is the potential for quite a price premium here.

    tinyurl.com/yc66rpu

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  22. By Kit P on March 19, 2010 at 11:21 am

    This is a test. Since I am going to explain the underlying problem with RR’s logic. The first step is to see if he will let me post.

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  23. By Kit P on March 19, 2010 at 11:37 am

    “The most important thing to note is that I try to let the data determine my position.”

    No the most important thing is to have an objective criteria. Then you need an systematic method of evaluating the data that ensures the quality of the data supports the conclusions.

    The primary criteria for producing energy is to provide it when and where your customer needs it.

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  24. By Kit P on March 19, 2010 at 11:45 am

    There are some rules for producing energy in western countries. You can not kill people.

    You must protect the environment to objective criteria that is provided in regulations.

    Beliefs and concerns are not objective criteria.

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  25. By rrapier on March 19, 2010 at 11:48 am

    “No the most important thing is to have an objective criteria.”

    That is what you do when you let the data determine your position.

    “The primary criteria for producing energy is to provide it when and where your customer needs it.”

    No, it isn’t. Otherwise, we could have all the algal fuel and cellulosic ethanol you could ever want, at a price nobody could afford. Your criteria are meaningless without a price factor. If you don’t consider that factor, then it will be no wonder why we see the word so differently.

    RR

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  26. By Rufus on March 19, 2010 at 11:51 am

    But, Kit, some of them people really needs killin. :)

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  27. By Optimist on March 19, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    Nice job, RR! Pretty well reasoned.
    And, no, Kit, it is NOT a great idea to let ideology drive your evaluations. In your case “objective criteria” seems to mean anything out of the midwest (e.g. corn ethanol and ‘get er done’ rednecks) is good, anything out of the coastal areas is bad. Which happens to be inconsistent with the last sentence of your post.
    But then again, you are the Champion of Inconsistency.

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  28. By klr on March 19, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    Paul – they are talking about LNG, not CNG.  <a href=”http://ca.news.finance.yahoo.com/s/17032010/2/biz-finance-quebec-s-gaz-metro-looks-transport-trucks-run.html”>Quebec’s Gaz Metro looks to getting transport trucks to run on natural gas – Yahoo! Canada Finance</a>  A raft of news stories in the last few months were throwing around a price for truck conversion to NGV of $75-85k USD; I discovered that this likely may have sprung from a blog entry that misquoted this study.  That says $15k, the blog entry (at masterresource, which is a sort of free market/cornucopian jamboree) mistakenly said $75k.  Passenger vehicle conversions seem to be about $6-6.5k. 

     

    Another forum question – what’s a “Feedkey”?

     

    Can’t upload an avatar, not on Firefox anyway. 

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  29. By savro on March 19, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    Petes said: 

    Is it true I can only edit my own comment while it is the last one posted. Seems once there is a new comment after it I can no longer edit.


     

    Yes, Petes. Forum members have the ability to edit their comments as long as no other comment was posted after that on the same topic thread. It’s best that way IMO. But if the consensus of the members is such that they’d like to edit their comments forever, we’ll definitely look at modifying it. For now it’ll be left as is.

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  30. By Kit P on March 19, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    Now for specifics. All electricity produced in the US is done safely with insignificant environmental impact.

    Look at the list of non-objective complaints RR has against coal:

    We have created a society that is very dependent on coal
    numerous environmental issues associated with coal
    Natural gas – Much cleaner than coal for the production of electricity
    has historically won out over environmental concerns

    So what does the data show about coal. The industry has made changes to overcome the environmental problems just as the natural gas industry has.

    The difference being that RR is knowledgeable of NG but gets his information (data) about coal from journalists.

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  31. By savro on March 19, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    KLR said:

    Another forum question – what’s a “Feedkey”?

     

    Can’t upload an avatar, not on Firefox anyway. 


     

    The feedkey is supposedly a unique identifier for private RSS feeds. I’m not 100% sure how it works myself, but I’ll let you know on the Support Forum as soon as I do.

    I’m going to open a new topic about avatar uploads in the tech support forum to discuss any issues with that there.

    In the future, for the benefit of the flow of discussion on energy issues, please make your support and troubleshooting posts in the Support Forum. I understand that during the “teething” process a lot of the help questions will be interspersed within the energy discussion topics, but if possible try to keep things separate.

    Thanks, Sam

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  32. By Kit P on March 19, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

    So when you get down to producing energy for customers at a specif location, the climate at that location and the fuel available at that location.

    It seems obvious why NG is used in Texas and California while West Virgina uses coal to make electricity. However, there is limitations to fossil fuels. The transportation of fossil fuels to make electricity requires large amounts of infrastructure which drives up the production cost.

    This is where nukes come in since transportation of fuel is not important.

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  33. By savro on March 19, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    @Kinuachdrach

    Thank you for notifying us about the line skipping problem when using IE. It’s fixed now.

    As an aside, may ask why you’re using the worst browser available? ;)

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  34. By Kit P on March 19, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    Then there is costs.

    RR is one of those folks who pays large sums for energy he does not need. His favorite choice is jet fuel.

    I think the energy industry does a very good job of providing energy where and when people need it at an affordable cost. RR uses a ridiculous example of algei and cellulosic ethanol which are still in the R&D phase.

    The idea that the lowest cost is an important criteria is just about as silly as RR concept of dirtier. It is a circular argument.

    Energy is affordable and it is produced cleanly.

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  35. By rrapier on March 19, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    The difference being that RR is knowledgeable of NG but gets his information (data) about coal from journalists.

    Kit, one thing you are not going to do here is continue to make disparaging remarks about other posters. If you have a point to make, then make it. This pattern of you arguing as you do above – not addressing specific points but instead making sweeping, general proclamations which are simply your opinions – has to stop. Argue the data. Bring up a point, and tell me where I am wrong.

    RR is one of those folks who pays large sums for energy he does not need.

    Again, Kit, this may not be the forum for you, because this is not how we will conduct business here. I know you have a long track record of this sort of behavior, but if you are going to do that here you will simply drag the level of discussion down to your level. We aren’t going to have that.

    RR uses a ridiculous example of algei and cellulosic ethanol which are still in the R&D phase.

    Not if you listen to various proponents who are trolling for government money. Besides that, you did not give cost as a criteria. It is a very important criteria. Your argument is circular, in that you say the important criteria are energy “producing energy is to provide it when and where your customer needs it.” I point out cost, and you say “Energy is affordable and it is produced cleanly.” That’s a meaningless, blanket statement. I can point to many sources that do not fit that bill, and yet some of them are being crammed down our throats. Further, I did not say “lowest cost” was the criteria. So do not put words in my mouth. I have consistently said that cost is an important factor. “Lowest cost” is your straw man.

    I am prepping to leave for New Zealand today, so I don’t have for an extended back and forth with you. Others can deal with you for now. But when time allows, we can certainly get into the data on natural gas versus coal. The emissions for coal are much greater, the environmental impact is much greater, and the industry is inherently more dangerous. If you want to debate that data, then we shall. If you want to debate straw men like “The industry has made changes to overcome the environmental problems…” then you are wasting your time. I have personally pointed out several times that the coal industry has come a long way, so it becomes tiresome to have my own points fed back to me and then framed as if it is a rebuttal.

    But “has made changes” is again a meaningless statement unless you characterize where the industry is after those changes. We are going to be about data here, so show up with some. That coal ash spill in Tennessee (only one of many examples I can cite) is not ancient history. People are still dealing with the fallout from that.

    RR

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  36. By Benny BND Cole on March 19, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    I have a complaint.
    The typeface of comments appears to be grey and not black.
    Some of us older foggies need dark and large type, at least darker and larger than this…………..

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  37. By webmaster on March 19, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    Benny,

    We’re working on fixing the comments so it’s more ‘fogey-friendly.’

    Join the forums and comment there, it’s much better suited for the ‘old fogies.’ All comments made here on the blog will also be displayed in the forums, so you won’t be missing out on anything.

    In the future, we plan on limiting the comments here on the blog, perhaps to a certain number, and requiring the continuation of the discussion to take place in the forums. The upgraded commenting format, plus the added abilities for members to start their own topic threads, post images etc. should make it well worth for you, and everybody, to register for the forums.

    Some of the regulars have already registered, we hope that everyone will follow suit.

    Let us know if you have any other issues or suggestions.

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  38. By webmaster on March 19, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    Benny,

    How do the blog comments look now? Too dark, perhaps?

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  39. By Kit P on March 19, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    “Not if you listen to various proponents who are trolling for government money.”

    I do not listen those proponents. You presented these sources as examples not me.

    “I can point to many sources that do not fit that bill, and yet some of them are being crammed down our throats.”

    Then it should be easy to actually name them. Nothing is being crammed down my throat. It is like RR and I live in a different county.

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  40. By rrapier on March 19, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    Then it should be easy to actually name them. Nothing is being crammed down my throat. It is like RR and I live in a different county.

    It is. I can make a very long list. But to give an obvious example, Range Fuels has been crammed down my throat. I have been forced, as a taxpayer, to fund their overhyped technology, which they have presented as a low cost, renewable option.

    RR

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  41. By Kit P on March 19, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    “and the industry is inherently more dangerous”

    I will add this to the list if generalities anti-s use. Making electricity is inherently dangerous. The US industry has a very good record but if there is any question that it is dangerous look at the events in china and Russia.

    The TVA coal ash spill and the 5 workers killed recently at a gas fire power plant in Connecticut are examples of rare accidents not business as normal.

    Please go ahead and tell me my air quality is not good RR.

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  42. By Kit P on March 19, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    “Range Fuels has been crammed down my throat”

    Range Fuels is not making my electricity or transportation fuel more expensive. If may be a poor government R&D investment but that is all.

    This is another thing anti- do. They sight a failure without considering the root cause or overall failure rate. I dare say that no sources of energy is failure free.

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  43. By Kinuachdrach on March 19, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    “As an aside, may ask why you’re using the worst browser available? ;)

    Oh, I’m just trying to support Bill Gates. He is so green, you know! And the price of being green seems to be a willingness to put up with over-priced under-performance.

    Seriously, thanks for the tip. I will look at other browsers. And thanks for fixing the carriage return issue in Big Bill’s Mean Green Machine.

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  44. By rrapier on March 19, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    Range Fuels is not making my electricity or transportation fuel more expensive. If may be a poor government R&D investment but that is all.

    No, it is not all. There is a pattern here of wasted taxpayer dollars on numerous Range Fuels.

    This is another thing anti- do. They sight a failure without considering the root cause or overall failure rate.

    Half the time, I don’t even think you know what you are arguing about. You asked for an example, and I gave you one. We aren’t talking about root cause analysis. We can do that, but it is a red herring in the current discussion.

    The TVA coal ash spill and the 5 workers killed recently at a gas fire power plant in Connecticut are examples of rare accidents not business as normal.

    Actually, I am thinking more about fatality rates in the coal mining industry versus the natural gas industry. We can discuss numbers if you like, given that you seem to be arguing that the externalities of coal and natural gas are similar.

    Please go ahead and tell me my air quality is not good RR.

    I don’t know whether your air quality is good or not. But if you have a coal-burning power plant nearby, I can tell you that there are environmental implications way beyond your air quality.

    This is distracting me from packing, so I am going to let everyone else deal with you. I actually can’t even understand the points you are trying to make. As I cited earlier, sometimes you are even citing my own points back to me. So maybe you could just spell out the thrust of your argument. “Coal isn’t so bad” seems to be the thrust, and you are implying that it compares favorably to natural gas. Does that about sum it up?

    RR

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  45. By Benny BND Cole on March 19, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    The old fogey is happy. although when I am typing my own comments, I still get small, and grey type. But now I can read other people’s comments nicely. Thanks!

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  46. By Kinuachdrach on March 19, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    “Better insulation of the US housing stock … reliable mass transit … intelligent logistics models ..”

    All good things, Ivo. But they all are trade-offs of higher capital costs today versus lower future operating cost.

    Think of the energy required to build mass transit throughout the US, putting frequent trains or buses within a short walking distance of everybody’s doors. How many years does it take to recover the capital costs of retro-fitted insulation? How long does it take an (unsubsidized) hybrid to pay off its higher construction costs?

    In a world of finite resources, it is entirely rational to minimize the investment of capital & energy today, at the cost of accepting higher operating costs/energy demand in the future. It is called economic efficiency. You probably do it yourself, Ivo.

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  47. By rohar1 on March 19, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    |   <- look at my post!

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  48. By Kit P on March 19, 2010 at 7:20 pm

     

    “I actually can’t even understand
    the points you are trying to make. As I cited earlier, sometimes you
    are even citing my own points back to me. So maybe you could just
    spell out the thrust of your argument. “Coal isn’t so bad”
    seems to be the thrust, and you are implying that it compares
    favorably to natural gas. Does that about sum it up?”

     

    Repetition is the key to learning RR.
    Electricity is provided to Americans safely with insignificant
    environmental at an affordable cost.

     

    This is a straight forward statements
    of fact.

     

    It is easily refutable if it is not
    true. I have made it before. I and very proud of the public service
    that the industry provides to Americans. For example, RR wrote

     

    “But if you have a coal-burning power
    plant nearby, I can tell you that there are environmental
    implications way beyond your air quality.”

     

    We I have lived within a mile of a
    large coal plant. We have lived within 25 miles of other coal
    plants. Also we have lived near gas fired and nuke plants. The only
    negative ‘implication’ that I have detected is exposure to an
    ignorant journalists who live hundreds of miles away and pander to
    their readers.

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  49. By paul-n on March 19, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    KInu/Ivo, I would agree here with the concept of economic efficiency, and it does seem to apply to most things except ethanol. But when discussing “energy”, I think we should always draw a distinction between “transport energy”, which is mainly oil, and “non-transport energy”, which is mainly anything but oil.

    Insulating houses better may produce a good return for the homeowner, but does nothing to reduce oil import dependence, and subsidising someone to buy a Prius, or to produce ethanol, does reduce oil usage but is not necessarily a good investment.

    We can even characterise the way people, companies and governments make their decsions based on economic efficiency, which is also called “utility”, i.e. the actual productive value returned for the resources (typically measured by money) invested. Put siimply, people and companies typically make investments that they expect to give a positive return, over a reasonable time period, and the faster the return, the better. Governments, however, are know for making economic decisions based on reasons other than economics. Their version of a utility is normally that they expect to get a positive return of popularity/votes for the resources invested, which may or may not mean that there is a net economic benefit. This especially true when the benefit is localised and the cost distributed (taxes) which is almost always the case.

    That said, there is probably a good payback on house improvements, as the work is done locally, mostly with domestically produced materials. But how many lower income homeowners can afford to upgrade insulation when they can’t afford health care/are underwater on their mortgage/paying to put their kids in college/etc? The returns may be good, but they have no capital to spend.
    For companies right now, they are having trouble getting loans for anything, so they have limited capital too. This, theoretically is a great time for a hotel to do major energy/water efficiency renovations. Occupancy is down, so they can close a part at a time, labour and materials are cheaper than a few years ago, sounds perfect? But they have reduced cash flow, no capital, and no bank is willing to lend to a hotel when they see the whole industry reeling – so they can’t get capital either. Same for a school/hospital/shopping mall owner etc etc.

    Of course, they could get money from somewhere to do these things, but at an interest rate so high that the projects are uneconomic, so end result is that nothing much gets implemented.

    And as for transport, well, that really requires some city re-design, and what city/state /federal politician is willing to stake their career on that? Although, Detroit IS redisinging itself fairly quickly, it will be interesting to see the shape (and size) of the phoenix that emerges from the literal ashes…

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  50. By petes on March 19, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    Kinu said:

    “There is something very unseemly (in a scientific sense) in taking a postulated mechanism which causes “Warming” and nothing but “Warming”, and then claiming it applies to “Change”, which includes cooling and warming.”

    I would have said that was utterly uncontroversial. All thermodynamic processes involve the transfer of heat, and the climate  system is just another heat engine. Energy drives change — it’s why the coldest place in the world is at the tropopause above the equator.

    “When we see real climate scientists criticizing the Gores & Manns & Joneses for their excesses, the rest of us may take their discipline more seriously.”

    Surely that’s about as unscientific as you can get — a kind of “appeal to lack of authority”.

    “Glad to hear that weather forecasting is so reliable in Ireland! Well, if the forecast is rain today, rain tomorrow, and rain for the rest of the month, maybe the high accuracy is understandable!”

    Tsk tsk. It’s much more complicated than that. I think the code goes something like:

    if (isWeekend || isHoliday) {
      isRaining = true;
    } else if (Math.rand() < 0.95) {
      isRaining = true;
    }
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  51. By rrapier on March 19, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    I just logged out and checked, and indeed I can’t see Bob R’s post, or Kit’s latest one. I don’t see that I have the option to approve them, or I would. Bob, I think after this, yours will all show up immediately. In case you missed it, it is just a one-time thing to slow down the spambots. Kit, yours may be ongoing unless you register. Not sure exactly how it is set up.

     

    RR

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  52. By rrapier on March 19, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    Hi all,

     

    Glad to see the discussion continuing over here. I really thought we needed a board in which a wide variety of energy discussions take place. The Oil Drum has always served that purpose for me, but it is more focused on Peak Oil, and has always attracted a lot of people who are primarily interested in Peak Oil. While we will discuss that, it won’t be a primary focus.

     

    Bob R, Paul – glad to see that you signed up. Right now, your posts show “Post Awaiting Approval by Forum Administrator” Don’t know if you can see your own posts or not, but you should only get that message the first time. I see that Kit’s says the same; not sure why. Maybe because you are posting as a Guest, it is set up to be approved each time? I am not sure; we will work out all the kinks pretty quickly.

     

    Off to the airport now, no time to response to your post, Kit. But do some research on mercury and fish, and tell me coal has nothing to do with it.

     

    RR

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  53. By petes on March 19, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    RR – from what I saw, all Guest posts require moderation, while only the first post as a Registered User does.

    Users can see their own posts awaiting moderation, but others can’t.

    While I’m at it … the WYSIWYG HTML editor is more like WYSINWYG. The eventual formatting when you post is not very like the editor version. I presume it’s down to CSS styling … is it possible to make them a better approximation of each other? 


    Test: Courier Blah Blah Blah

    Test: Garamond blah, Times blah

    And finally, the current styling truncates the toolbar at the top of each post in IE7.

     

     

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  54. By Matt Nelson on March 19, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    RR – Just found your site and will have to bookmark it. Regarding Climate Change, I was talking with the President of ASHRAE the other day and he was saying that China is now over taking the US in the Coal-fired emissions category. The US wants to hold them to a hirer emissions standards but the fact is that their demand is driven by US consumption and US companies off-shoring the manufacture of components, so we only have our selves to blame for their rapid growth of pollution.

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  55. By takchess on March 20, 2010 at 6:33 am

    I created a post in the forum wanting to hear thoughts as to whether a recent anouncement is a significant breakthrough.

    http://www.consumerenergyrepor…..ticle/#p70

    Thoughts?

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  56. By rohar1 on March 20, 2010 at 9:22 am

    I still don’t have anything to say, just trying a second post.

     

    post

     

    <– Much nicer than my first post.

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  57. By Kit P on March 20, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    “China is now over taking the US in
    the Coal-fired emissions category”

     

    That happened about 5 years ago Matt.
    Comments I make about coal are limited to the US. Conditions in
    China are horrendous.

     

    AGW is a global issue. The low hanging
    fruit of reducing ghg emissions is not shutting down efficient US
    plants but cleaning up coal plants in China.

     

    “But do some research on mercury and
    fish, and tell me coal has nothing to do with it.”

     

    Done lots of research on the topic.
    First there is not a problem. Second it is a mute point. Advances
    in pollution control technologies and new regulations are further
    reducing mercury emissions from coal.

     

    If you check closely places that have
    fish with elevated levels of mercury, the sources is know (smelting
    and gold mining) and not coal.

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  58. By russ on March 20, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    China wants to blame the buyers of their exports for the CO2?

    Something seems to smell like week old fish with that logic! They are really being cute on the point but İ suppose they have a large spin department to try and think of the best way to put out such things.

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  59. By RBM on March 20, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    First post to hurdle moderation.

    The new digs seem to be an improvement at first glance. Thanks for the hard work.

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  60. By Kinuachdrach on March 20, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    “China wants to blame the buyers of their exports for the CO2?”

    For pollution, actually. CO2 is not pollution. Atmospheric CO2 is plant food, an essential component of the Carbon Cycle which sustains all life on Planet Earth. In the days before Political Correctness replaced science, children used to learn that in high school.

    But back to paying for cleaning up pollution. Who should be responsible, if not the person who buys the product?

    The Politically Correct crowd in the West have had great success over the last few decades in de-industrializing their own societies, through excessive regulation and punitive taxation. But the PC crowd still want all the products of an industrial society — the cars, TVs, computers, phones, etc. So the PC crowd in effect exported industry to the East. And now that same PC crowd want to complain about pollution in the Eastern countries which are manufacturing the material goods they desire? There is logic in the Chinese position.

    But all of this is fundamentallly irrelevant. The unintended consequence of the PC crowd exporting industry to the East is that they destroyed their own tax base in the process. That is a major part of the reason governments from Greece to Ireland to California are approaching bankruptcy, with huge obligations they will never be able to pay.

    Because of the stupidity of the Political Class in de-industrializing, the West is rapidly approaching “Peak Government” — when governments will no longer be able to pay their bills. Peak Government will be upon us long before Peak Oil or Peak Water or Peak Anything Else.

    Peak Government is not going to the end of life; human beings are resilient, and the tough will survive. But Peak Government is going to change things so drastically that predictions about what lies on the other side are almost meaningless. Except for one nearly certain prediction — there will be very little time for Political Correctness after Peak Government.

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  61. By rrapier on March 20, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    Kit, Bob R, I am not sure why your posts are still pending approval. In the Dashboard, they don’t show that they are awaiting approval, so have a sent a note on it.

    RR

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  62. By savro on March 20, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    The moderation issue should be taken care of now. We apologize for the hiccups during the “teething” process.

    [link]      
  63. By rrapier on March 20, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    Kit P said:

    “But do some research on mercury and

    fish, and tell me coal has nothing to do with it.”

     

    Done lots of research on the topic.

    First there is not a problem. Second it is a mute point. Advances

    in pollution control technologies and new regulations are further

    reducing mercury emissions from coal.

     

    If you check closely places that have

    fish with elevated levels of mercury, the sources is know (smelting

    and gold mining) and not coal.


    Kit, you said a few days ago that it was like we live on two different planets. I would say that is the case. First, you started off voicing your disagreement with my post, saying you were going to show what was wrong with my logic. But the truth of the matter is that it looks like you agree with the majority of my post, and are just hung up on the coal issue. But your position there seems to be that since the coal industry has improved, that there isn’t a problem. Or if can’t observe something directly impacting you, there isn’t a problem. Or even that there is not a problem with mercury in the fish. I don’t know what to tell you, but TVA says this:

     

    http://www.tva.gov/environment…..c_emis.htm

     

    “Based on current preliminary data from the U.S. Environmental Protection
    Agency (EPA), the principal human-caused sources of mercury emissions
    in the United States are coal-fired power plants (33 percent of the total
    emitted), municipal waste incinerators (19 percent), and medical waste
    incinerators (10 percent).”

     

    I can tell you that we don’t get that from natural gas fired power plants.

     

    Ultimately, you have said you disagree with my logic, but you haven’t supported your position with anything except assertions. So my original point stands, and your disagreement is merely personal. Go back, look at your original post, and try to tell me that you have supported your assertion that you would show what was wrong with my logic.

     

    RR

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  64. By Kinuachdrach on March 21, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Interesting — 64 posts shown on the Forum site, and only 49 on the blog. But it looks like only the last 2 posts have been posted on the Forum site and not on the blog.

    I understand that you are trying to drive traffic to the forum site. At first glance, it looks like traffic has declined substantially at RR’s blog with the move to CER — and we can’t blame all of that on Rufus taking a well-deserved rest!

    Maybe the concept of parallel blog & forum is not working out so well. Perhaps it will be necessary to choose one or the other?

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  65. By Rufus on March 21, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    The Host is moving into new digs. Thought it would be nice to let him get “settled in” before I started “breaking windows.” :)

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  66. By savro on March 21, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    @Kinu

    I agree with you that parallel discussions won’t work. We’re trying to come up with the best recipe to get the regulars to carry on the discussion in the forums rather than in the blog comments, but at the same time doing so without completely shutting down the option for passers-by and new visitors to dip their foot into the discussion by first commenting on the blog.

    We may just need to shut down the blog comments altogether, but we’ll only do that as a last resort.

    I’d appreciate to hear any suggestions or concerns you may have.

    [link]      
  67. By rufus on March 21, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Testing, 1 2 3

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  68. By Kinuachdrach on March 21, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    Back on topic, for a moment. The UK Royal Academy of Engineering has put out a report which covers the same ground as RR’s post, from a UK perspective. The RAE report is unfortunately soaked in Political Correctness. But whether the objective is to cut carbon emissions or to replace finite fossil fuels, the required actions may be rather similar.

    Generating The Future

    The RAE Report concludes on replacing fossil fuels: “it will require nothing short of the biggest peacetime programme of change ever seen in the UK.”

    The UK currently has about 206 GigaWatt average power demand. In Table 3, they imagine a devastated environment with thousands of wind turbines, millions of solar panels, wave machines blocking the coast from London to Aberdeen, the Severn estuary dammed for tidal power, and a thousand Scottish streams dammed for hydropower. All of that (& more) would generate only 33 GW average power — covering only 16% of current demand.

    Biomass might add another 45 GW (22% of current demand), but then the Brits would need to import food (using sailing ships?). Seems rather self-defeating.

    The enormous scale of human power requirements is the prinicipal challenge. And the RAE emphasizes that we need to use technologies which exist today, because implementing them on a sufficiently large scale will take decades.

    Nothing against any of the environmentally-degrading “renewable” alternatives — it is just that they are niche fuels, with limited expansion capacity.

    The only technology we have today that can replace fossils is nuclear fission. Let’s stop wasting the irreplaceable resource of time, and get on with it.

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  69. By rrapier on March 21, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    Interesting — 64 posts shown on the Forum site, and only 49 on the blog. But it looks like only the last 2 posts have been posted on the Forum site and not on the blog.

    Kin, that’s because we stopped cross-posting the forum comments to the blog. Ultimately, we want to drive traffic to the forum and get people comfortable with starting up their own topics. I agree that it can get confusing quickly if we are carrying on the same conversation in two different places.

    Cheers, RR

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  70. By Kit P on March 21, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    “Electricity is provided to Americans
    safely with insignificant environmental at an affordable cost.”

     

    I think this is more than an
    ‘assertion’, I think it is a fact RR. It is required by regulations.

     

    If you think it is an assertion RR, you
    have to have to provide some evidence of a significant environmental
    impact.

     

    First lets agree on what is
    insignificant.

     

    A risk of 0.000001 is insignificant.

     

    What than means is that the risk is so
    small that it can not be detected above the ‘noise’ of all the other
    daily risks.

     

    First there are many risks both natural
    and human caused. There is no way to avoid risk. Using electricity
    to refrigerate food reduces the risk of food borne pathogens.
    Society compares the large reduction of risk from using electricity
    to the very small risk of environmental hazards.

     

    In the context of the world we live in
    ‘human-caused sources of mercury emissions’ are small compared to
    natural sources. Funny how the EPA neglects to mention that on their
    web site.

     

    To reduce the risk of exposure to an
    insignificant level from human activities, standards are established
    by the CAA, CWA, RCRA, CERCLA, ect. I have a text book that tells me
    how to do it:

     

    HAZARDOUS WASTE MANAGEMENT – LaGrega

    http://www.amazon.com/Hazardou…..dogpile-20

     

    As a result of all these regulations,
    the good news is that environmental mercury is not a problems in the
    US. The CDC monitors hair and blood samples of many for
    environmental pollutants. For mercury all are below the the
    threshold of harm.

     

    “Recent and comprehensive research
    undertaken by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),
    which measured mercury in the blood of women and children, indicates
    that people in the United States are not being exposed to levels of
    mercury considered to be harmful to fetuses, children, or adults.”

     

    http://www.mercuryanswers.org/health.htm

     

    So why is RR ‘concerned’ about mercury?
    How about radiation from nuke plants, is he concerned about that
    too?

     

    It is an example of a circular
    argument. People are concerned about mercury, radiation, E-M fields
    from power lines and cell phones. Therefore various websites address
    those concerns. RR links those web sites as a justification to be
    concerned.

     

    I do not know if RR has ever worked
    anyplace with a EH&S program or if has been involved with
    monitoring program. While the unmitigated hazards are scary, the
    actual results are reassuring.

     

     

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  71. By webmaster on March 21, 2010 at 11:37 pm

    Members and visitors: Please read this forum post “Restructuring Method of Commenting“. We want to make sure that this planned restructure is agreeable to the community and are looking forward to your input.

    [link]      
  72. By russ on March 22, 2010 at 7:00 am

    ‘Nothing against any of the environmentally-degrading “renewable” alternatives — it is just that they are niche fuels, with limited expansion capacity.’

    Niche to a certain extent – but environmentally degrading? Limited expansion capacity – how?

    Come on and use your own head to think with. İ read comments like ‘bird whackers’ which is totally a bunch of garbage with Alta Pass being one possible exception. İf one is worried about birds then kill cats! There is more disinformation floating around on the net than good information it seems.

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  73. By Kit P on March 22, 2010 at 8:00 am

    Russ you are funny. The birds on
    Altamount Pass eat cats and other small animals. Have you not heard
    of a Kitty Hawk?

     

    Certainly there is nothing
    environmentally enhancing about wind and solar. On the other hand,
    modern wind turbines with slower blade speed also meet the criteria
    for safety and having insignificant environmental impact.

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  74. By Kinuachdrach on March 22, 2010 at 9:47 am

    “we are looking into having the forum comments take over the blog comments entirely, so that all commenting will be powered by the forums.”

     

    RR’s blog was marked by an active discussion, involving “regulars” and occasional commenters.  That discussion does not seem to have carried over to the new format — despite the broad provocative post RR chose for his first blog here.  As Administrator, presumably you have insights into whether the issue is fewer people visiting the blog, or fewer choosing to post comments.

     

    Personal view — the forum structure is a bridge too far.  I visit RR’s blog primarily because of RR’s posts, then dally to chat.  The reputation that RR has built up through his work is what brings me back.  I’m not that interested in a forum where any old Tom, Dick or Harry (even a nuisance like me) can stick up a new topic.

     

    It might be best to build up a good set of linked bloggers (sort of like Pajamas Media).  And leave the forum concept for later development.

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  75. By savro on March 22, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    Personal view — the forum structure is a bridge too far.  I visit
    RR’s blog primarily because of RR’s posts, then dally to chat.  The
    reputation that RR has built up through his work is what brings me
    back.

    Nothing is changing as far as Robert’s blog is concerned other than the method of commenting on his essays. The reason why the comments have slowed is because of the parralel discussions. It’s difficult (even for myself) for people to comment when they see dual discussions on the same post and aren’t sure where to post their comment.

    Cleaning this up, and running all the comments through the forum, while at the same time allowing users to comment to the forum from the blog itself, should fix this issue IMO.

     

    I’m not that interested in a forum where any old Tom, Dick or
    Harry (even a nuisance like me) can stick up a new topic.

    How self-deprecating of you… Surprised

    The point of creating the ability to start new topics is in order to keep the flow of discussion when the comments on the essay deviates from its original topic. Instead of someone posting a link to some new solar technology in between comments on ethanol subsidies, they can start a new topic where the community can pitch if they’re interested.

    The forum also allows for uploading and hotlinking images, so that graphs pertaining to the discussions can be posted.

    The forum pagination is also much more pleasant than blog commenting, which once it stretches past 30-40 comments is a pain to scroll down the page, is more difficult to sift out the comments to reply to and is generally an ugly format.

     

    It might be best to build up a good set of linked bloggers (sort of like
    Pajamas Media).  And leave the forum concept for later development.

    I don’t think the forum has to wait for that, although we are indeed bringing on more bloggers in the near future.

     

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  76. By Anonymous One on March 22, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    Test

    Looks like having a “Restructuring Method of Commenting” topic hasn’t stopped people from disrupting the flow of discussion by talking about things like Restructuring Method of Commenting in a Position Statement forum instead of in the Restructuring Method of Commenting topic. Can’t stop it.

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  77. By Woodman on March 22, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    RR, liked your old blog and the move is great, this site fits in well to your moderate and well reasoned discussions. Personally, I have looked at the atmospheric data and belive that climate change is much more dire than you seem to, but I can understand and respect your opinions. I also like to see how you are attacking renewables from a supply-side angle, which if we are ever to return the planet, or at least atmosphere, near to a net 0 heat/energy system is has to be rational to the suppliers. CO2 tax and renewable subsidies can start the ball rolling, but ultimately the system has to sustain itself, and the planet. That’s it and thanks for the blog.

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  78. By Milan on March 22, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    The policy solution for avoiding catastrophic climate change is pretty simple: we must leave most remaining coal and unconventional oil and gas underground:

    http://burycoal.com/blog/why-bury-coal/

    Carbon pricing is one way to encourage that, but ultimately our success or failure in curbing the cumulative emissions that cause climate change will depend on what proportion of these fuels we burn.

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  79. By rrapier on March 23, 2010 at 3:40 am

    Kinuachdrach said:

    Personal view — the forum structure is a bridge too far.  I visit RR’s blog primarily because of RR’s posts, then dally to chat.  The reputation that RR has built up through his work is what brings me back.  I’m not that interested in a forum where any old Tom, Dick or Harry (even a nuisance like me) can stick up a new topic.

     

    It might be best to build up a good set of linked bloggers (sort of like Pajamas Media).  And leave the forum concept for later development.


     

    But Kin, that was already happening. People would frequently post links in the comments following various blogs. Now they can headline them themselves. And nobody is obligated to read or respond to them, but when I am off traveling like this any number of discussions can carry on (especially if there are some very interesting energy stories in the news).

     

    RR

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  80. By rrapier on March 23, 2010 at 3:37 am

    Kit P said:

    “Recent and comprehensive research

    undertaken by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),

    which measured mercury in the blood of women and children, indicates

    that people in the United States are not being exposed to levels of

    mercury considered to be harmful to fetuses, children, or adults.”

     

    http://www.mercuryanswers.org/health.htm

     

    So why is RR ‘concerned’ about mercury?

    How about radiation from nuke plants, is he concerned about that

    too?

     

     

     


    Kit, you are a piece of work. I link to an EPA site talking about mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. In response, Kit links to a site sponsored by coal-fired power plants saying mercury isn’t a problem. I have a hard time taking you seriously.

     

    Regarding risk, if the risk is low to me, but high to the people closer to the plant or the coal operations, is that OK? Because the risk is probably very low to me. I am far away from any coal-burning power plants. I guess I really shouldn’t worry about it, because since I can’t see it there surely isn’t a problem.

     

    RR

     

    [link]      
  81. By Kit P on March 23, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    “Kit, you are a piece of work.”

     

    I suppose this is RR idea of being
    civil.

     

    RR said mercury is released from Coal
    fired power plants but failed to document any problem from those
    releases.

     

    This is why I do not take RR seriously.
    He does not understand the fundamentals. It is the dose that makes
    the poison.

     

    According to the CDC, which is part of
    the federal government and not a coal company, says the risk of mercury is
    zero because no one is above the threshold of harm.

     

    The risk to everyone in the US is
    insignificant from all sources of emissions from any coal plant in
    the US.

     

    “I guess I really shouldn’t worry
    about it, because since I can’t see it there surely isn’t a problem.”

     

    I worry about problems I can measure.
    I worry about problems in my backyard. We as a nation monitor for
    problems.

     

    So RR thinks I am a ‘piece of work’
    because I follow a systematic approaches like ISO 14000.

     

    [link]      
  82. By rrapier on March 24, 2010 at 5:39 am

    I worry about problems I can measure.

     

    You can’t measure what you aren’t interested in measuring.

     

    So RR thinks I am a ‘piece of work’

    because I follow a systematic approaches like ISO 14000.

     

    No,

    you are a piece of work for chiding people for their sources, and then

    turning around and using the coal lobby as your source that mercury

    isn’t a problem. I guess you don’t believe smoking is harmful either.

    After all the cigarette lobby has put out studies to that effect.

     

    According to the CDC, which is part of

    the federal government and not a coal company, says the risk of mercury is

    zero because no one is above the threshold of harm.

     

    Please document your claim. In fact, you can go to the CDC website and see

    that they have written reports dealing with specific cases of mercury

    exposure. In fact, their statements directly contradict your statement

    above.

     

    Further:

     

    http://www.usgs.gov/themes/fac…..et/146-00/

     

    “People are exposed to methylmercury almost entirely by eating

    contaminated fish and wildlife that are at the top of aquatic

    foodchains. The National Research Council, in its 2000 report on the

    toxicological effects of methylmercury, pointed out that the population

    at highest risk is the offspring of women who consume large amounts of

    fish and seafood. The report went on to estimate that more than 60,000

    children are born each year at risk for adverse neurodevelopmental

    effects due to in utero exposure to methylmercury. In its 1997 Mercury

    Study Report to Congress, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

    concluded that mercury also may pose a risk to some adults and wildlife

    populations that consume large amounts of fish that is contaminated by

    mercury.

     

    Alkali and metal processing, incineration of coal, and medical and

    other waste, and mining of gold and mercury contribute greatly to

    mercury concentrations in some areas, but atmospheric deposition is the

    dominant source of mercury over most of the landscape. Once in the

    atmosphere, mercury is widely disseminated and can circulate for years,

    accounting for its wide-spread distribution.”


    This is why I do not take RR seriously.

    He does not understand the fundamentals. It is the dose that makes

    the poison.

     

    I am quite happy to let readers decide which one of us is credible and which isn’t.

     

    RR

     

     

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  83. By Kit P on March 24, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    “I am quite happy to let readers
    decide which one of us is credible and which isn’t.”

     

    RR is interested in winning a
    popularity contest while remaining ignorant.

     

    Once again talks about risk without
    quantifying it. Is the risk significant?

     

    This link might help you RR.

     

    http://www.cdc.gov/exposurereport/

     

    Yes it was linked by ‘using the coal
    lobby as your source’.

     

    I suspect RR did not bother to read my
    links and keep an open mind.

     

    The reason RR comes to the wrong
    conclusion is that he does not use standard methodology which is not
    taught at blogging school.

     

    In the this case the method is Source,
    Pathway, and Receptor (SPR) analysis.

     

    “Please document your claim. In fact,
    you can go to the CDC website”

     

    Been there many times RR, it is in fact
    RR is not documenting his claims.

     

    Some me the children above the
    threshold of harm, show me the source of mercury is coal fired power
    plants.

     

    RR tactics are typical of anti-s. He
    makes outrageous claims and demands others prove a negative. If
    there is a significant problems, finding a smoking gun should be
    easy.

     

    RR can find an infinite number of web
    sites that does document his concerns. He can not find people with
    toxic levels of mercury from coal. Because these people do not exist
    in the US.

     

    [link]      
  84. By Anonymous 2 on March 25, 2010 at 10:36 am

    Robert,

    Can you clarify one part of your position on RFS mandates and VEETEC blender’s credits. There is no penalty associated with blenders not blending to the RFS mandate is there? And if there is not, isn’t an additional incentive needed to make this happen?

    [link]      
  85. By rrapier on March 25, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    “There is no penalty associated with blenders not blending to the RFS mandate is there?”

    There absolutely are penalties associated with not meeting the RFS. The RFS falls under the Clean Air Act, and as such refiner’s are bound to meet their mandates or suffer EPA penalties. Think about it. If there were enforcement mechanism in place, then the RFS would just be a friendly suggestion, no different at all from just having the subsidies in place. But if you note when the RFS became law, ethanol blending really took off at that point.

    RR

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  86. By rrapier on March 25, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    Kit writes: “I suspect RR did not bother to read my
    links and keep an open mind. ”

    Where Kit and I differ: I actually linked to a source at the USGS and quoted the portions that support my argument. Kit completely ignores that, insists that I am not supporting my argument, and links to an 18 meg file and suggests the report supports his point. Meanwhile, the very CDC that Kit says supports him has very direct statements in contradiction of Kit’s claimed support. So perhaps Kit would be better served by pulling out and quoting the supporting statements instead of expecting me to read an 18 meg report for signs that support his argument.

    “R can find an infinite number of web
    sites that does document his concerns. He can not find people with
    toxic levels of mercury from coal. Because these people do not exist
    in the US.”

    That’s priceless, Kit. Mercury has been shown to be building up in the food chain. Mercury emissions from coal are implicated in this build-up. The toxic effect of mercury is well-known, as people have been poisoned by mercury. Kit wants people to start falling over dead before mercury emissions are acknowledged as a problem.

    Kit, there are some things you don’t seem to understand. One is around risk assessment. If you have a known risk factor that is increasing, the standard isn’t “Yeah, but people aren’t dying yet.”

    One very unusual thing about traveling around New Zealand is that there is often zero airport security. I mean zip; no ID, no metal detector. Why? Because there have been no terror attacks on planes from New Zealand. I remember when that was true in the U.S., and we used Kit’s standard on our risk assessments there of waiting for a tragedy before acting proactively…

    RR

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  87. By rrapier on March 25, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    “RR tactics are typical of anti-s. He makes outrageous claims and demands others prove a negative. If there is a significant problems, finding a smoking gun should be easy.”

     

    Ah, I meant to comment on this as well. This is another of your inconsistencies. When it suits you, you are the most negative person on the board. I don’t just mean negative, but negative and mean-spirited. Then when you are taking the pro-position, you call others the very name that embodies your own arguments. It is typical of the hypocritical nature of how you argue. Further, I would once again point out that the standard “If there is a significant problems, finding a smoking gun should be easy” is exactly the sort of standard that has led to problems again and again.

     

    In my world, I don’t wait for disaster before acting. I realize that is the way it is in a lot of places, and apparently in your world – but I can recognize many dangers prior to them becoming disasters and then realizing “Maybe we should do something about that before it happens again.” Apply your standard to the dangers of cigarette smoking. The anti’s threw up smokescreens for years as more and more people died. Eventually, it became obvious to all, but the Kit P’s of the world delayed action by standing around saying “Show me with 100% certainty that it was cigarettes that killed this man.” Or, “Show me with 100% certainty that this huge pile of coal ash poses a danger…”

     

    RR

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  88. By Kit P on March 25, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    “and then turning around and using
    the coal lobby as your source that mercury isn’t a problem. I guess
    you don’t believe smoking is harmful either. After all the cigarette
    lobby has put out studies to that effect.”

     

    RR brings up the cigarette lobby again
    so I will address it. For those who are not aware, the electric
    utilities are regulated public service entities with the
    responsibility of providing electricity and protecting the
    environment.

     

    It is typical liberal clap trap to
    equate marketing a consumer product with beneficial public service.
    Neither my wife or I smoke, our children have ground up in smoke free
    homes. Our parents and grandparents were almost all chain smokers.

     

    The primary reason that I do not smoke
    is that I could never see any benefit in it. I am sure Rufus will
    agree that 40 years ago being a non-smoker in the military was rare
    and cigarettes were subsidize. Aside from our children, I have not
    encouraged anyone not to smoke. It is just none of my business.

     

    Two years running, I represented my
    school in the regional science fair. The year that Kennedy was
    assassinated my project was on the hazards of smoking. The next year
    I built an x-ray machine with tubes our of an old radio. I was a
    teenage TV repairman before RR grew up to be part of the jet setting
    throw it away society.

     

    RR is just basically wrong about
    mercury.

     

    “Mercury has been shown to be
    building up in the food chain.”

     

    No, levels of mercury is declining in
    the food chain. This is supported by every study I have read
    including links that RR provided. This is a result of successful
    regulations that have eliminated the largest sources of mercury. Now
    coal which was a relatively small source (per power plant) is now the
    largest source by industry but making electricity is very large
    industry.

     

    “emissions from coal are implicated
    in this build-up”

     

    Try legacy gold mining, smelting, and
    making paper for the original build up which is not decreasing.

     

    “people have been poisoned by
    mercury”

     

    Yes, a really long time ago before it
    was regulated.

     

    “contradiction of Kit’s”

     

    Please cite page # of the CDC report.
    If RR is a smart as he claims, he will be able to use the table of
    contents to find the section on mercury.

     

    RR you brought up mercury and made the
    claim, support it.

     

    “Kit wants people to start falling
    over dead before mercury emissions are acknowledged as a problem.”

     

    I just want RR to stop making stupid
    statements about the industry I work in.

     

    One of the interesting things about
    mercury and the law of unintended consequences, is that tighter homes
    can create a mercury inhalation hazard if mercury is spilled in the
    home. The most recent case of mercury poisoning was two teenager
    siblings who showed up in the emergency room with nerve damage so
    severe they had trouble walking.

     

    Turn out the cause was RR favorite
    fossil fuel, natural gas. Those evil gas company workers (really
    just not properly trained technician) managed to contaminate 9,000
    homes replacing 100,000 gas meters.

     

    Very interesting case study of the cost
    of preventing a spill compared to calling the hazmat team to clean up
    a mess.

     

    Unlike RR my career has been dedicated
    to being knowledge about how to protect the public, workers, and the
    environment.

    [link]      
  89. By rrapier on March 26, 2010 at 12:17 am

    “If RR is a smart as he claims, he will be able to use the table of
    contents to find the section on mercury. ”

    Kit’s way of not supporting his argument. He wants me to do the work of looking up the support for his argument. Nice try, bub, but you have to do your own work. I cited my source. You, on the other hand, have not. I asked you to document your claim and so far all we have is “The support is in that report. Go look it up.”

    “Unlike RR my career has been dedicated to being knowledge about how to protect the public, workers, and the environment.”

    Undoubtedly you believe this very strongly, because you have to constantly remind us that you consider yourself an expert. But you are really just some anonymous guy making claims on the Internet. From where I stand, you look like someone who had a couple of engineering classes in junior college, fancies himself an engineer but is really a technician, and directs his jealousy at real engineers who achieved the distinction that he wishes others would bestow upon him. But then again, I am no psychologist. Just a real engineer, with a real graduate degree in my field.

    RR

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  90. By Kit P on March 27, 2010 at 8:06 am

    “I cited my source.”

     

    No, you have still not provided a
    source for anyone being harmed. You do not have to be an environment
    engineer to know there is a difference ‘could’ be harmed and ‘is’
    being harmed.

     

    Environment engineers like me use
    numbers to quantify risk.

     

    The risk of being harmed by the ugliest
    oldest US coal plant is from all sources of emission is:

     

    0.000001

     

    RR brought up smoking. The risk of
    being harmed by directly inhaling tobacco smoke on a regular basis
    is:

     

    0.999995

     

    What these numbers mean in practical
    terms it is very difficult to find anyone harmed by coal because they
    do not exists.

     

    On the other hand, finding someone who
    has been harmed by smoking is very easy.

     

    [link]      
  91. By rrapier on March 28, 2010 at 4:45 am

    Environment engineers like me use

    numbers to quantify risk.

     

    The risk of being harmed by the ugliest

    oldest US coal plant is from all sources of emission is:

     

    0.000001

     

    If you were really an environmental engineer, you would know not to use numbers out of context. If I have a coal plant in my backyard, then I have different risks than if one is thousands of miles away. If I average the risk across the entire population to come up with a small number, that doesn’t actually tell me whether a significant number of people are at risk. If 100 people are at a high level of risk and 100,000 are at no risk, the risk may come up as perfectly acceptable when averaged across the population. But that’s not how risks are assessed in the real world. We consider those 100 people and mitigate; we don’t say there isn’t a problem since the average risk to the rest of the population is low.

    RR

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  92. By Kit P on March 28, 2010 at 11:21 am

    The risk of being harmed by the ugliest oldest US coal plant in any US ‘backyard’ is from all sources of emission is:

    0.000001

     

    My numbers are not out context RR.

     

    What that means is no one is harmed.

     

    “But that’s not how risks are
    assessed in the real world. We consider those 100 people and
    mitigate”

     

    That right RR and that is why the risk
    of from producing electricity is insignificant.

     

    Here is what RR does not understand.
    The ugliest oldest US coal plant in the US is not the same ugliest
    oldest US coal plant that was running downtown when I was a kid or
    are currently running in China. Currently ugliest oldest US coal
    plant in the US is a well maintained clean source of electricity.

    [link]      
  93. By rrapier on March 28, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    Here is another example of what I am talking about with you using numbers out of context. The average risk that a coal ash deluge will arrive in your town is very low. It may be on the order of 0.000001. But the average risk that a coal ash deluge will arrive in specific towns is much higher, so we mitigate the risk for those towns, not the average.

     

    And no, despite major clean-ups in recent years – something I have mentioned numerous times – there are still specific risks associated with living near certain coal-fired power plants or living/working around coal mines.

    [link]      
  94. By Kit P on March 28, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    “Here is another example of what I am
    talking about with you using numbers out of context.”

     

    Here is another example of what anti-s
    do. The change the subject and then accuse people of being out of
    contest. What about this , what about that; on and on they go never
    documenting actual examples.

     

    While I was very specific about health
    risk from emissions, RR is now tell me I am wrong about “The
    average risk that a coal ash deluge will arrive in your town”.

     

    Okay RR, you have changed the subject;
    how about some data on the risk of ‘coal ash deluge’.

     

    While the standards are the same for
    public risk, we are now talking about the risk of an accident and not
    routine. Has a ‘coal ash deluge’ harmed someone like the numerous
    natural gas line pipeline that explosions that killed people because
    the pipelines were poorly maintained. When drilling for natural gas,
    are there impoundments that hold nasties for treatment and release?
    Do drilling platforms blowup (because of a poor safety culture) and
    helicopters crash?

     

    Natural gas lobbies spend lots of time
    pointing at coal but I think they should spend more time focused on
    protecting the public and workers.

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  95. By Ruth Baker on April 3, 2010 at 2:17 am

    Guys after watching and hearing this discussion about climate change and global warming we are missing the fact that some day for sure oil reserves are going to be exhausted. So what we are going to do then? Wind energy definitely can’t replace the fossil fuels. Nuclear power is too dangerous and can fall into wrong hands.I feel that solar energy if fully tapped can be used. Moreover a lot of job opportunities can be created as well. Yesterday I did a little bit of research about the solar power potential on FreeCleanSolar.com and found out very nice info. I am fully convinced that solar is the future. Any comments??

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  96. By russ on July 2, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Kit – get out of the Jack Daniels bottle a bit – no mercury from coal? No problems from ash dumps? Ash dumps are not toxic? You are delusional.

    Ruth Baker – Free Clean Solar – lots of simplistic BS but not any fact that I could find – this is something I do have a bit of an idea about.

    The day the government stops borrowing money from the Chinese to give away for solar/wind installations the market dies a quick and painful death. It is beyond stupid to borrow money to give away for something that will not be competetive for years to come.

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  97. By Kit P on July 5, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    “no mercury from coal? ”

     

    Do not think I ever said that. The CDC has not found any children or pregnant women with with mercury in their environmental monitoring program.

     

    “Ash dumps are not toxic? ”

     

    I am worried about you Russ. Have you been sneaking over the dump and eating the wastes. You should be sampled for mercury. You are exhibiting signs mercury poisoning.

     

    I did drive through the neighbors who were closets to the Kingston coal plant this spring. What a beautiful place. The cleanup is done but it cost the TVA rate payers a huge amount.

     

    TVA is moving towards closing old coal plants and finishing the nukes they started many years ago.

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  98. By Wendell Mercantile on July 5, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    Can some who is knowledgeable explain how mercury gets into coal?  Coal starts as organic matter — mostly leaves, giant ferns, moss, etc. that builds up in deep layers over the years, is eventually buried, and then is compressed and transformed into coal by millions of years of heat and pressure. How does the mercury get in it?

    I don’t doubt that it is there, I just don’t understand the mechanism.

     

    [link]      
  99. By paul-n on July 6, 2011 at 4:20 am

    Wendell, the mercury gets in via groundwater movement through the coal.  Mercury, arsenic and sulphur – the most well know coal contaminants -can leach out of surrounding rocks and are absorbed by the coal.  There are other things into there too – potassium, sodium, calcium etc – but these are not contaminants.  Some other things may be leached out of the coal too, all depends on the conditions – hot, acidic, oxidising will dissolve lots, and cold, basic and reducing will deposit lots.  Exactly what gets dissolved and deposited/adsorbed will vary with the surrounding rocks/sediments, and possibly the organic material from which the coal was formed.

     

    I’m sure some people have done lots of work on this, but I can’t find any hard references via google

    [link]      
  100. By Kit P on July 6, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Wendell you are aware that coal does not have a lot of mercury in it. Furthermore, there are instances where burning coal has caused a problem so that environmental mercury has resulted in a high level of mercury in humans. It is just so much fear mongering.

    Furthermore, Wendell there is no cases in the US where environmental mercury is a problem. Again just more fear mongering.

    There was a time when the use of concentrated mercury was a significant industrial health issue and mercury was even put in quake medicines. There are legacy issues with smelting, paper making, incinerating waste with mercury in it.

    All the really large (except from nature itself) sources of environmental mercury have been regulated so that now coal is the largest source.

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  101. By Optimist on July 6, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    The day the government stops borrowing money from the Chinese to give away for solar/wind installations the market dies a quick and painful death. It is beyond stupid to borrow money to give away for something that will not be competetive for years to come.

    Ouch! It’s true, though. And a model Uncle Sam likes to repeat: see ethanol, corn; ethanol, cellulosic; biodiesel; etc. And then there is California with its zero emissions regulations of the late 90s.

    Some problems are too big for government to solve – if only the prostitutians would accept that. Government should limit itself to encouraging behaviour that can objectively be shown to be helpful. Without favoritism. Pretty much the opposite of what DOE does now.

    [link]      
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