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By Robert Rapier on Sep 12, 2011 with 74 responses

BOMBSHELL: Solar and Wind Power Would Speed Up, Not Reduce, Global Warming

Study: Coal-Fired Power Plants Emit Pollutants That Keep the Earth Cool

(Note: I am amazed that I have to put such a disclaimer in here, but a note for the comprehension-impaired: This is not an article calling for more coal-fired power plants. It is an examination into how the media reported on a recent energy story).

I had a tough time picking a good hyperbolic title for this one, because I had my choice of so many good ones. Last week a new study reported that replacing coal with natural gas might actually worsen climate change in the short term. The study was done by Tom Wigley, who is a senior research associate at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The title of the study is Coal to gas: The influence of methane leakage and will be published in next month’s Climatic Change Letters.

What the study projects is that the amount of methane leaking from gas wells will influence the future temperature rise from climate change: The higher the methane leakage, the higher the future temperature. This is shown by the following graph from the report:

Temperature Increase as a Function of Methane Leakage

Since there is always some methane leakage, and because methane is a very strong greenhouse gas, it was widely reported that the predicted poor showing of natural gas in the short term was due to the gas leakage. More importantly, the widely-reported message relayed by the media is that this study shows that natural gas can’t do much to mitigate climate change.

Ah, but there is a catch that hasn’t gotten much attention (and has been in some cases purposely suppressed).

Notice that the projected temperature increases in every case — even when there is no methane leakage. That indicates that something else is going on here, which is explained in the following story (which is where I got my headline):

Natural Gas Would Speed Up, Not Reduce, Global Warming: Study

Advocates for natural gas drilling have trumpeted its environmental benefits as an alternative to the coal that produces most of America’s electricity, noting that natural gas emits about half the amount of carbon dioxide when burned as coal does.

But a new study sheds doubt on that claim, finding that a shift from coal to natural gas would in fact accelerate the planet’s rising temperatures before slightly reducing them. Tom Wigley of the National Center on Atmospheric Research found that swapping the two fuels would increase global temperatures over the next four decades by about a tenth of a degree.

Wigley’s study does not dispute the fact that natural gas produces far less carbon dioxide, a key culprit in pushing temperatures steadily upwards. But coal also gives off sulfates and other particles that dissipate more quickly than coal fumes and effectively reflect sunlight away from the earth, cooling rather than warming. Those particles do increase air pollution and the likelihood of acid rain, but from a global warming perspective they are a source of relief.

Did you follow that? Coal has higher particulate emissions that increase air pollution, but they help reflect the sun away from the earth. Thus, cities like Linfen, China, pictured below, are sitting in the catbird seat as far as global warming goes. As you can see, no global warming concerns for them as the particulate emissions are quite effectively preventing sunlight from reaching the surface:


Pollution from Coal Emissions in Linfen, China. (Photo Source).

So as Linfen, China switches to natural gas (which they have in fact been doing), it will simply speed up global warming. Now I suspect you are beginning to see that this story may be more complex than the refutation of natural gas that the media headlines have indicated.

Since the graphic shows that even zero leakage of methane caused the projected temperature to rise, I was curious as to just how much of the effect was due to the emissions of the coal plants themselves. So I contacted Tom Wigley, the author of the paper, and posed the following question: “Is it true per your models that if we switched from coal to a zero emissions source of electricity that the short-term climate change impact would also be negative due to the loss of the cooling effect from coal’s particulate emissions?”

He replied to my e-mail fairly quickly: “Yes. This “problem” was first pointed out by me in 1991. I’ll attach this paper, plus the coal-to-gas paper. In 1991 I did not consider carbonaceous aerosols. The issue of balancing the disbenefit of less aerosols implies warming vs the benefit of less SO2 emissions implies pollution benefits is a tricky one.” (The 1991 paper he referred to was “Could Reducing Fossil-Fuel Emissions Cause Global Warming?” — published in Nature).

So there you have it. Per this study, shutting down all coal-fired power plants and not even replacing them would cause the temperature to increase in the short term because of the loss of sunlight-reflecting pollutants. Thus, the real story here is about the secondary effect of coal-fired power plants and not about any deficiencies of natural gas.

Media Distorts the Facts by Playing With Headlines

But how did the media report on the story?

From the Washington Post: Study: Replacing coal with natural gas would do little for climate change
From the L.A. Times: Clean natural gas? Not so fast, study says
From Time: Natural Gas Can Save the Climate? Not Exactly
From USA Today: Study: Climate change little affected by shift from coal to natural gas
From the Charleston Gazette: More questions about climate benefits of gas switch
From the International Business Times: Natural Gas cannot Solve Earth’s Climate Woes: Study‎
From Mother Jones: Natural Gas: Not That Great After All
From Joe Romm at Climate Progress: Natural Gas Bombshell: Switching From Coal to Gas Increases Warming for Decades, Has Minimal Benefit Even in 2100

What is the takeaway message from all of these headlines? Clearly it is that the benefits of natural gas are overrated. But the media broadly got this one wrong by pointing fingers at natural gas instead of noting the peculiarity of the temperature increase even with zero methane leakage. Had they done that, they would have realized that the short term impact here is from closing down the coal plants and not due to what replaces them.

In fact, they could replace “natural gas” with “solar power” or “wind power” in every one of those headlines above because the short term impact is a temperature rise in each case. Thus, those headlines could have read:

Study: Replacing coal with solar power would do little for climate change
More questions about climate benefits of wind power switch
Solar Power: Not That Great After All

Or they could have just as easily gone with:

The Solution to Global Warming is More Coal-Fired Power Plants
Linfen, China Leads Fight Against Global Warming

And while those are consistent with the paper being reported upon, they convey an entirely different message than the one the media did convey. The media gets an “F” on reporting this story in the way that they did.

Note: Incidentally, I attempted to point this out on some of the sites pushing this story as a refutation of natural gas as a bridge fuel (including some of the stories that I linked to above). Many of those stories were running with the theme “See, we have to go straight to solar or wind power.” Some of those sites chose not to publish my comments, even though mine were quite civil — and they freely published comments that agreed with their story. So it is clear that some of them have an agenda, and that they aren’t going to let facts get in the way of that agenda. When they resort to censorship to push a false narrative, they have lost all integrity in my eyes. They are not only lemmings, they are dishonest lemmings.

  1. By Manu Sharma on September 12, 2011 at 6:12 am

    Robert — while your fundamental premise has merit, this is a rather sensationalist headline. For longer explanation see my response here.

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  2. By Gordon Comfort on September 12, 2011 at 7:13 am

    My, my. Farrmers around here are already adding sulfur to their ag applications because of insufficient supply in the soil.

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  3. By DJL on September 12, 2011 at 8:06 am

    Manu: you are missing the point of why the article was titled this way…

    Excellent insight and good analytical eye. Unfortunately, the majority of press has one agenda or another and no one is analyzing the energy crisis from an unbiased, critical perspective. Those of us who are scientists that can’t get published because our papers tell the truth and do not fuel someone’s agenda understand your comments of the media… The journals are getting just as bad.

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  4. By Jillian on September 12, 2011 at 8:14 am

    Climate change is a complex issue that needs to be studied from all sides…sides that have no interest in profit or power. There is so much to consider. Would a slight, short-term increase in temperature be offset by mitigating the loss of plant-life through acid rain? And what about the habitats destroyed by fracking and coal mining…what effect does all this have on carbon emissions? One thing is certain, a lot more of us will perish before we get to the answer.

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  5. By Marlowe Johnson on September 12, 2011 at 9:53 am

    good post Robert. This reminds me why if I’m pressed to choose a slogan for my business card it would read “It’s complicated”. When I explain this particular issue to colleagues and friends, I’ll remind them that more often than not there are multiple drivers/considerations that need to be taken into account when thinking about what a ‘sustainable’ energy policy would look like. So, while it’s true that in the short term, the radiative forcing impact from coal-fired electricity is mitigated by the simultaneous release of aerosols, it is also true that these aerosols have very serious impacts on local air quality (health) and the surrounding environment (i.e. acid rain). Oh and let’s not forget mecury emissions while we’re at it…

    In short, there are still very valid reasons for switching from coal to other generating technologies.

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  6. By rufus on September 12, 2011 at 10:06 am

    The main reason being that it is a finite substance, and should probably be used as sparingly as possible.

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  7. By akellen on September 12, 2011 at 11:19 am

    Robert – Your point is well taken, but is it really true that replacing coal with an emission-free electricity source would also have an adverse short-term climate impact? Even with zero gas leakage, gas-fired power generation will still produce greenhouse gas emissions associated with the combustion of natural gas. Reducing GHG emissions by 50 or 60% by switching from coal to gas may not provide enough of a beneficial climate impact to offset the adverse impact of eliminating the coal-fired aerosol emissions, but reducing GHG emissions by 100% by going to wind or solar may be sufficient to offset this impact.

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  8. By Nina on September 12, 2011 at 11:33 am

    It is called Global Dimming.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/tvradi…..mary.shtml

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  9. By Steven Bell on September 12, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    Brilliant analysis and the graphic of the polluted city was a vivid depiction of the complexity of the issue. It also reminds me that before global warming, the environmental movement was a lot more diverse in it’s analyses and objectives. Global warming became a rallying point because most of the changes required are assumed to also fix other problems like pollution and resource consumption, but articles like this as well as the rush to expand nuclear fission should remind everyone that the situation is more complicated and a lot of costs and benefits have to be weighed.

    As for the agenda itself, I think the reasoning would be that perhaps the added emission reductions from Wind and Solar are assumed to be a better offset for the lost cooling effect than natural gas. It’s agreed though that the headlines were oversimplified and misleading.

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  10. By Paul Hager on September 12, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    The same sort of thinking could be used with the oil sands. The industry is basically cleaning up the environment because of oil seepage into the Athabasca river. For thousands of years this environment has been poisoned by the seepage from the oil sands- along comes the giant oil firms and they come in and start cleaning up the sand and extracting the oil.
    This may not be the story the media is promulgating, but it is part of the story. We think of “oil is bad, environment is good,” until we see the global environment do things that are not expected or we see results that are outside our worldview. This thinking does not permeate the media, but it is happening on a grand scale. When the media starts to think from a systems perspective, then you start to get stories that are less sensational but more balanced in their reporting. If we can get reasoned thinking, instead of biased stories, then we might see more stories about the realities of these issues. Solar and wind are not a panacea for our energy needs because we know there are long term effects we haven’t even thought about. Every one wants a quick fix and getting a quick return on investment. The nouveau rich are those that get governments to pony up the cash to invest in these new technologies. If we can get the thinking of the general public, media and governments, up a few notches, we might be able to have a reasoned debate about the efficacy of each technology without the attendant hyperbole.

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  11. By rrapier on September 12, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    akellen said:

    Robert – Your point is well taken, but is it really true that replacing coal with an emission-free electricity source would also have an adverse short-term climate impact?


     

    Yes. I specifically asked the author that question. He said that even if you took all coal plants out of service and didn’t replace them at all, loss of the particulate effect is going to see the temperature rise for the next 30 years according to his models.

    There are other points that can be taken from the study; one is that no credible study puts leakage at the upper end of what he considered. So the upper line on his graph is based on garbage data and is therefore totally misleading. As you can see, all of the others have an impact, although if you look at the scale to the left you can see that the temperature change isn’t much — and that’s the same even if you had solar and wind instead of coal.

    RR

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  12. By Marlowe Johnson on September 12, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    Robert you might find Drew Shindell’s work on this topic to be of interest: http://www.atmos-chem-phys-dis…..-2009.html.

     

    The net climate impact of coal-fired power plant emissions

    D. T. Shindell and G. Faluvegi
    NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University, 2880 Broadway, New York, NY 10025, USA

    Abstract. Coal-fired power plants influence climate via both the emissions of long-lived carbon dioxide (CO2) and short-lived ozone and aerosol precursors. For steadily increasing emissions without substantial pollution controls, we find that the net global mean climate forcing ranges from near zero to a substantial negative value, depending on the magnitude of aerosol indirect effects, due to aerosol masking of the effects of CO2. Imposition of pollution controls on sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides leads to a rapid realization of the full positive forcing from CO2, however. The long-term forcing from stable (constant) emissions is positive regardless of pollution controls, with larger values in the case of pollutant controls. The results imply that historical emissions from coal-fired power plants until ~1970, including roughly 1/3 of total anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions, likely contributed little net global mean climate forcing during that period. Those emissions likely led to weak cooling at Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes and warming in the Southern Hemisphere, however. Subsequent imposition of pollution controls and the switch to low-sulfur coal in some areas kept global SO2 emissions roughly level from 1970 to 2000. Hence during that period, RF due to emissions during those decades and CO2 emitted previously was strongly positive and likely contributed to rapid global and regional warming. Most recently, construction of coal-fired power plants in China and India has been increasing rapidly with minimal application of pollution controls. Continuation of high-growth rates for another 30 years would lead to near zero to negative global mean climate forcing in the absence of expanded pollution controls, but severely degraded air quality. However, following the Western pattern of high coal usage followed by imposition of pollution controls could lead to accelerated global warming in the future.

     

     

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  13. By Wendell Mercantile on September 12, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    We think of “oil is bad, environment is good,” until we see the global environment do things that are not expected or we see results that are outside our worldview.

    Paul,

    What many forget — particularly the media and politicians — is that coal and oil are part of the environment. Both are organic material and were made from bio-mass feedstock.

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  14. By Eric de Haan on September 12, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    BOMBSHELL: Solar and Wind Power Would Speed Up, Not Reduce, Global Warming.

    But a new study sheds doubt on that claim, finding that a shift from coal to natural gas would in fact accelerate the planet’s rising temperatures before slightly reducing them. Tom Wigley of the National Center on Atmospheric Research found that swapping the two fuels would increase global temperatures over the next four decades by about a tenth of a degree.

    If you make a distinction between conventional gas winning and Haliburtons Fracking method, You will see the last is releasing a higher portion of Methane.

    So, one clould conclude that not the use of gas but the use of the fracking method is causing said acceleration.

    But coal also gives off sulfates and other particles that dissipate more quickly than coal fumes and effectively reflect sunlight away from the earth, cooling rather than warming.”

    Modern coal power plants (CPP) clear their emissions, thereby reducing the complications you speak of.

    As you can see, no global warming concerns for them as the particulate emissions are quite effectively preventing sunlight from reaching the surface:”

    Daytime: photons reach the atmosphere and the city, therefore energy is released anyway.
    Nighttime: IR radiation from earth crust to space is reduced by smog and clouds.

    This leads me to conclude that your reasoning is flawed.

    I don’t want to go into the rest of the article. Misleading headlines, flaw after flaw.

    Article goes > waste bucket

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  15. By takchess on September 12, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    How about this headline.

    Let bring back Smog and Acid Rain!

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  16. By rrapier on September 12, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Eric de Haan said:

    So, one clould conclude that not the use of gas but the use of the fracking method is causing said acceleration.


     

    Only if one had an utter lack of comprehension. That isn’t what the study itself said. So one can’t conclude that given that the study showed a temperature rise with zero leaks.

    This leads me to conclude that your reasoning is flawed.

    It isn’t my reasoning. It is based on a study from the National Center for Atmospheric Research that said exactly that: Particulate emissions from coal-fired power plants are helping to keep the temperature down. Thus your speculations about how many photons reach the city or how much IR is retained is totally irrelevant.

    I don’t want to go into the rest of the article. Misleading headlines, flaw after flaw.

    Yes, why bother? You have missed point after point in what you did read.

    Article goes > waste bucket

    Well, reading comprehension isn’t a strong point for everyone.

    RR

     

     

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  17. By rrapier on September 12, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    Manu Sharma said:

    Robert — while your fundamental premise has merit, this is a rather sensationalist headline. For longer explanation see my response here.


     

    Hi Manu,

    I just read your linked response. When you write:

    While the premise of his post is correct — replacing coal will reduce beneficial effect of aerosols caused by coal power plants which actually help reduce global warming to some extent* — but to go on and say that…

    “one could replace “natural gas” with “solar power” or “wind power” in every one of those
     

    headlines above and it would still be consistent with the paper.”

    …is a rather large leap of thought. It’s completely incorrect.

    That itself is incorrect. I posed that question to Dr. Wigley and he confirmed it. So it isn’t my leap of thought.

    Dr. Wigley’s study did not cover Solar or Wind which are essentially zero emission sources of generation compared with Natural Gas. What effect would such a scenario have cannot be said with certainty without carrying out climate modelling.

    As you can see in the short term, the leakage level didn’t impact the temperature rise. That’s why I posed the question “If you had a zero emission replacement, does the temperature still rise in the short term?” The answer was yes.
    RR

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  18. By Optimist on September 12, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    It is called Global Dimming.

    Now everything makes sense, including Washing DC, which has to be the world leader in dimming…

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  19. By Jason on September 12, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    When I saw that headline I immediately thought of this…
    http://www.theonion.com/video/…..w-e,20876/

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  20. By Marlowe Johnson on September 12, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Robert,

    It’s not as cut and dry as you think. Whether or not renewables like solar are better than uncontrolled coal plants depends very much on what forcing value you assign to aerosols (particularly indirect aerosol effects). The uncertainty bands are on aerosol effects are significant enough at the moment that it’s conceivable that renewables win out (i.e. if IAE is small). See figure 1 in the paper I linked to for an illustration…

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  21. By rrapier on September 12, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    Marlowe Johnson said:

    Robert,

    It’s not as cut and dry as you think. Whether or not renewables like solar are better than uncontrolled coal plants depends very much on what forcing value you assign to aerosols (particularly indirect aerosol effects). The uncertainty bands are on aerosol effects are significant enough at the moment that it’s conceivable that renewables win out (i.e. if IAE is small). See figure 1 in the paper I linked to for an illustration…


     

    To be clear, I am not advocating coal over solar. Rather I am pointing out that while the media spun this as an anti-natural gas story, the very same logic applies if we are comparing solar to coal rather than natural gas to coal: The short term predicted temperature change is still higher. The author confirmed this for me. But clearly I don’t think we should adopt the Linfen, China model.

    This story is more a commentary on the media’s energy reporting than it is on climate change.

    RR

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  22. By russ-finley on September 13, 2011 at 12:47 am

    Thanks for the link to the Onion, Jason. Wind power is indeed frightening.

    Robert, go rent the movie “Idiocracy” and weep. The movie itself is idiotic, yet, disturbing.

    Spent yesterday at an electric vehicle show trying to explain to people why an electric car can’t run on the electricity it generates …listened to one guy tell me about his friend who generates 40% of his electricity with a perpetual motion machine and on and on.

    The censoring of comment fields is getting more and more common. I’ve recently  had a few civil comments removed from different sites simply because the author didn’t want to hear a dissenting opinion.

    The lay press, well, what can I say that I haven’t said many times.

    Great article, by the way.

     

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  23. By Wendell Mercantile on September 13, 2011 at 9:39 am

    …listened to one guy tell me about his friend who generates 40% of his electricity with a perpetual motion machine and on and on.

    Russ~

    Did you pull out your checkbook and invest in his idea? :-)

    That reminds me: In the early days of the US Patent Office (USPO) they were inundated with patent applications for perpetual motion machines.

    In order to bring some sanity to all the proposals they were getting, they came up with a simple test. Before they would accept a perpetual motion patent application, the inventor had to present a working model and connect the machine’s output to the input. If the machine kept running instead of grinding to a stop, the USPO would further review the patent proposal. So far the USPO has issued no patents for a perpetual motion machine.

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  24. By Walt on September 13, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    Robert Rapier said:

    Note: Incidentally, I attempted to point this out on some of the sites pushing this story as a refutation of natural gas as a bridge fuel (including some of the stories that I linked to above). Many of those stories were running with the theme “See, we have to go straight to solar or wind power.” Some of those sites chose not to publish my comments, even though mine were quite civil — and they freely published comments that agreed with their story. So it is clear that some of them have an agenda, and that they aren’t going to let facts get in the way of that agenda. When they resort to censorship to push a false narrative, they have lost all integrity in my eyes. They are not only lemmings, they are dishonest lemmings.


     

    Interesting.  I’ve faced this for years trying to post on certain articles to offer a pro-methanol view over the ethanol lobby negative comments.  I’ve nearly always had my comments either removed or not even posted.  It is frustrating when over the years you clearly see how bloggers and other media sources limit their comment sections to only those in favor of the story…or only slightly challenging the author.  I am sad to see your comments censored, but I’ve faced it for years on pro-methanol positions and so we can see “that they aren’t going to let facts get in the way of that agenda.”  Agreed.

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  25. By rrapier on September 13, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    I received a note from the author of the study who told me he thought this blog essay was good. He also attached a note which accompanied the study but has received zero attention. I will highlight this in an essay next week, but it shows just how badly the media lost the plot when they sensationalized the story as they did. As he says in the note below, he is not arguing against natural gas — just as this essay wasn’t arguing against wind or solar power:

     

    Supplementary notes on the “Coal to Gas” paper

     

    This paper is concerned solely with the climate and CO2 concentration aspects of a

    switch from coal to gas. The point here is that these two issues have been

    touted as reasons in favor of using gas a bridge technology towards an eventual

    phase out of fossil fuels as an energy source. The papers shows that the

    effects on both global-mean temperature and CO2 concentration are small — in

    fact, for a number of decades, the temperature effect is in the opposite direction

    to what is commonly perceived. The paper also shows that these effects are very

    small. Given this, I argue that climate and CO2 should not be important as

    issues to consider in making the choice to replace coal by gas. Indeed, in many

    cases there are much more important factors to consider. This is what the final

    paragraph of the paper says.

     

    What my work implies means is that other issues should be considered first.

    Here are two examples that might favor a switch from coal to gas. The first is

    the SO2 effect. It is true that the switch would reduce SO2 emissions, leading

    to fewer aerosols, less aerosol cooling, and hence a small warming. This is a

    dis-benefit. But one must weigh this against the benefit of less SO2-related

    pollution. The dis-benefit is global in scale, but actually quite small in

    terms of its global-mean temperature effect – as the paper shows. The benefits

    of reduced SO2 emissions, which the paper does not consider, are local to

    regional and might be appreciable in some cases. This is something that has to

    be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

     

    The second item is the use of gas as a backup technology for wind and solar as

    renewables. Without cheap and effective energy storage (and the only one on the

    table now is pumped hydro, with limited applicability), as wind and solar are

    implemented more and more, there will be increasing need for back up power. Gas

    is much better than coal for this. Gas power plants can easily be ramped up and

    down rapidly and so can much better complement intermittent wind and solar.

    Coal plants cannot because of damage to equipment from rapid heating and

    cooling. A typical cycle time for coal is 24 hours, far too long to effectively

    “fill the gap” in wind and solar.

     

    There are other factors that also need to be considered.

     

    Tom

    Wigley, 8 Sept. 2011.

     

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  26. By russ-finley on September 13, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    Wendell said:

     

    Did you pull out your checkbook and invest in his idea [perpetual motion machine] ? :-)

     

    Ah, didn’t have my checkbook with me.

     

    I was surprised to see Joe Romm’s blog in the list. I suppose I shouldn’t have. In the comments he told someone that the problem with nuclear is cost, cost, and cost but as always refuses to acknowledge that this is the same problem a continental renewable super grid has when compared to fossil fuels. If cost kills nuclear it also prevents renewables from scaling anywhere near 30% of total energy …says I to the nearest fence post.

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  27. By rrapier on September 14, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    Russ Finley said:

    I was surprised to see Joe Romm’s blog in the list. I suppose I shouldn’t have.


     

    Joe is also one of the ones who refused to publish it when I pointed out that the same short term temperature rise is also predicted if solar power replaced coal power. Did not fit his narrative, I suppose, so best just to silence me instead of address the comment.

    RR

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  28. By Steve Funk on September 15, 2011 at 11:42 am

    I’m not a climate wonk but I thought the IPCC had done a pretty thorough comparison of the relative forcing from CO2 and aerosols, and concluded that the CO2 impacts from coal were much more significant than the SO2 and other aeriosols.

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  29. By rrapier on September 15, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    Steve Funk said:

    I’m not a climate wonk but I thought the IPCC had done a pretty thorough comparison of the relative forcing from CO2 and aerosols, and concluded that the CO2 impacts from coal were much more significant than the SO2 and other aeriosols.


     

    Steve, I think that’s true in the long-term. But in the short-term — say the next few decades — it is dominated by the aerosols. This natural gas thing was all about the short term. The only way natural gas looked bad in the long term was to assume extraordinarly high leakage rates.

    RR

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  30. By Kit P on September 16, 2011 at 12:12 am

    “Did you follow that? ”

     

    Sure but in the US, coal fired power plants are being equipped with particulate and sulfur. There are also effective programs to reduce methane emissions in both the coal and NG industry. Processing animal manure through anaerobic digesters is another example of methane reduction.

     

    The point is that there is a systematic method of reducing the environmental impact of producing energy.

     

    “They are not only lemmings, they are dishonest lemmings. ”

     

    Not that I disagree but it should be pointed out the number of times that RR has followed right along when it fits his agenda.

     

    “Oh and let’s not forget mecury emissions while we’re at it… ”

     

    Actually Marlow you can forget mercury. Two reasons, first new technology allows mercury to removed from coal power plants. Second the sources of environmental mercury that caused problems was not from coal-based power. Those sources have been regulated.

     

    “Brilliant analysis and the graphic of the polluted city was a vivid depiction of the complexity of the issue. ”

     

    Tell me Steven Bell do you think that you can find such ‘vivid depiction’ in the US in the last 20 years. It is not complex, just follow the good practices for producing electricity in the US.

     

    “as well as the rush to expand nuclear fission ”

     

    What rush? It is a case of what comes first, the chicken or the egg. When a utility decides it needs a new power plant, it starts a public relation campaign to counter all the public relation campaign of why it should not build it.

     

    Some nuke plants are being built where the cost of transporting coal and NG make nukes an economical choice.

     

    “Gas is much better than coal for this. Gas power plants can easily be ramped up and down rapidly and so can much better complement intermittent wind and solar. Coal plants cannot because of damage to equipment from rapid heating and cooling. A typical cycle time for coal is 24 hours, far too long to effectively “fill the gap” in wind and solar. ”

     

    This show that Tom does not know very much about making electricity. Coal, nuclear, and CCGT all can load follow. This is done by adjusting steam flow. This may result in a thermal cycle but not ‘rapid heating and cooling’ SSGT are used for backup and extreme hot and cold days since they are not efficient they produce more ghg than coal and very expensive to operate. Since SSGT do not run very many hours a year it is not an issue.

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  31. By Steve Funk on September 16, 2011 at 2:35 am

    “But in the short-term — say the next few decades — it is dominated by the aerosols.”

    http://www.geo.mtu.edu/~raman/…..luthJG.pdf
    This study indicates that the lifetime for sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere is six to twelve months, at least for volcanic emissions. It’s hard to visualize decades of impact. I wonder how current the paper Wigley cited is. 20 years is a long time ago in climate research.

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  32. By rrapier on September 16, 2011 at 3:06 am

    Steve Funk said:

    “But in the short-term — say the next few decades — it is dominated by the aerosols.”

    http://www.geo.mtu.edu/~raman/…..luthJG.pdf

    This study indicates that the lifetime for sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere is six to twelve months, at least for volcanic emissions. It’s hard to visualize decades of impact. I wonder how current the paper Wigley cited is. 20 years is a long time ago in climate research.


     

    That graphic is from his new report. This is a brand new simulation. As you can see, in all cases the projected temperature continues to rise until roughly 2040, and that is the case even with zero emission replacements.

    I think there was more to it than just sulfur dioxide.

    I have asked Tom if he has the case simulated of zero emissions so we can compare that for the long range trend, and he said he will try to get that to me when he gets back home.

    RR

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  33. By rrapier on September 16, 2011 at 3:13 am

    Kit P said:

    “They are not only lemmings, they are dishonest lemmings. ”

     

    Not that I disagree but it should be pointed out the number of times that RR has followed right along when it fits his agenda.

     


     

    I think you have a serious mental problem. So, you can’t even help but throw out gratuitous insults even when you agree? I know how much you love to throw mud and hope something sticks, but unless you have an example, take those childish antics elsewhere.

    RR

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  34. By biocrude on September 16, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    Kit P, I thought you would LOVE this article.  

     

    Russ and Co, along the same lines as the Onion link, you’ve all got to see this Clean Coal Commercial.  

     

    Kit, back to you and a bit off topic, but have you been keeping your eye on the Japan nuclear situation?  Check out this article from Aug 2011 from the Japan Times.  I’m not an expert enough to figure out if this accurate, but I have no reason to not think that a completely crippled nuclear plant is not leaking radioactive material into the environment…

    “The amount of radioactive cesium ejected by the Fukushima reactor meltdowns is about 168 times higher than that emitted in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, the government’s nuclear watchdog said Friday.”

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  35. By Kit P on September 16, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    “Kit P, I thought you would LOVE this article.”

     

    No, I am not in favor of burning coal like we did 50 years ago in the US. I used to be anti-coal but current regulations greatly reduce the impact of making electricity with coal. Nor would I think that putting a coal plant in southern California be a good idea because the air quality is not good to start with.

     

    “Kit, back to you and a bit off topic, but have you been keeping your eye on the Japan nuclear situation? ”

     

    Yes!

     

    “I’m not an expert enough to figure out if this accurate, ”

     

    Yes, the article is accurate, did you read it Biocrude? Bombs are designed to kill people by releasing large amounts of energy very quickly. Nuclear weapons are very effective because uncontrolled fission and fusion (hydrogen bombs) release large amounts of energy for a given mass compared to chemical weapons.

     

    However, the decay of radioactive elements release a small amount of energy slowly.

     

    “but I have no reason to not think that a completely crippled nuclear plant is not leaking radioactive material into the environment… ”

     

    Yes, large amounts of fission products were released. That is why people living around the plant were evacuated and workers at the plant wear protective clothing and limit the time they are in higher radiation areas. Following these simple precautions no one was hurt.

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  36. By armchair261 on September 17, 2011 at 1:33 am

    This one for RR:

    Did the study cite the sources and causes of the methane leakage? I’m wondering to what extent these “leaks” can be mitigated, and whether the methane can be attributed to a relatively smalll number of possibly preventable emission events (e.g. venting) averaged into a large number of wells. Or do all wells emit small but, in aggregate, significant levels of methane in the drilling and completion process? What about transmission, and where in the transmission path? If fairly simple and affordable procedures can be implemented, perhaps we can reduce natural gas well methane emmissions by enough to make a significant difference in terms of climate impact.

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  37. By Kit P on September 17, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    “I’m wondering to what extent these “leaks” can be mitigated, ”

     

    While I suspect armchair’s question is rhetorical, the EPA has many websites discussing methane mitigation. However, the problem is likes of Russia and China. Anyone think they are at all serious about protecting the environment?

     

    When I check place like California, Spain and Germany who say they are going reduce ghg emissions with renewable energy, all I see is increased consumption of NG. Russia thanks you.

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  38. By rrapier on September 17, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    armchair261 said:

    This one for RR:

    Did the study cite the sources and causes of the methane leakage?


     

    One of the sources was thorougly debunked study that made a serious error on how methane leaks were calculated. One of the biggest errors he made was that when he calculated methane leakage, some of the methane he presumed was leaking was actually being used in the process. Here is a blog that covers some of the issues: http://blogs.cfr.org/levi/2011…..gas-paper/

    RR

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  39. By Kit P on September 18, 2011 at 10:34 am

    “One of the sources was thorougly debunked study ”

     

    Let see how easy it would be to debunk RR source. I know from the get go it will not be hard since RR has no problem finding the pro-natural gas anti-nuke sources.

     

    “First, the data for leakage from well completions and pipelines, which is where he’s finding most of his methane leaks, is really bad. ”

     

    Really bad? Of course Michael Levi has no credentials to determine bad from good. The Council for Foreign Relations is not an environment science group and Michael Levi is not an environment scientist.

     

    “and numbers for pipeline leakage from long-distance pipelines in Russia ”

     

    Hmmm! Just the numbers I would use if I was looking at the ramifications of closing down Germany’s nukes and replacing it with Russian NG. For the record, evaluating the LCA of ghg is one of my areas of expertise.

     

    “There is simply no way to know (without access to much more data) if the numbers he uses are at all representative of reality. ”

     

    Really! We do know that that Russia record on environmental issues is awful.

     

    “Here’s the thing: modern gas power generation technology is a lot more efficient than modern coal generation ”

     

    Pure BS! Yes, an modern CCGT is more efficient than a 50 year old coal plant but a modern coal plant is more efficient than a 50 year old SSGT. Some gas fired power plants in Russia have a thermal efficiency of 10%. If you have lots of NG wasting it and letting it leak into the environment is cheaper meeting western standards.

    Looking at RR link, it really does not provide any data, it just says the other guy is ‘bad’. I did look at other articles by and Michael Levi is a master of using lots of words to say anything useful. He does spout the NG party line that NG is really, really cheap and nuke plants are awful expensive to build.

     

    What a BS artist. No debunking in the debunking link.

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  40. By Straight Record on September 18, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    “One of the sources was thorougly debunked study”

    Actually, Wigley quotes that “thoroughly debunked” study and uses it in his own analysis.

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  41. By rrapier on September 18, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    Kit P said:

    Really bad? Of course Michael Levi has no credentials to determine bad from good. The Council for Foreign Relations is not an environment science group and Michael Levi is not an environment scientist.

     


     

    He does have BS and MS degrees in Physics. As we know, you only have a degree in BS.

    What a BS artist. No debunking in the debunking link.

    It isn’t my fault that you don’t know how to read. I linked to the article to show some of the issues that have been raised. I didn’t say “Here is where it has been debunked.” The errors he made about methane leakage have already been pointed out to him, and he has already retracted the initial conclusion. (See here, for example, or here for several links to debunkings). But the damage has been done. All of those folks that ran with the sensational headlines aren’t going to go back and retract.

    RR

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  42. By rrapier on September 18, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    Straight Record said:

    “One of the sources was thorougly debunked study”

    Actually, Wigley quotes that “thoroughly debunked” study and uses it in his own analysis.


     

    From the paper: “The zero to 10.0% leakage rate range considered here spans these estimates — although we note that the high estimates of Howarth et al. have been criticized.” So he is throwing out the caveat that it may not be credible.

    RR

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  43. By armchair261 on September 18, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    Kit,

    Whether you, RR, or I think the paper has been debunked or not is really not the issue. The issue, I believe, is that the premise of the paper is at least debatable within the scientific community, and should not be presented in the media as a fact. Unfortunately, the press isn’t interested in the technical debate. Editors want the soundbite that aligns best with their ideology and will attract more readers.

    So, “gas is worse than coal” is now permanently etched into the minds of industry critics, even if it turns out to be the wrong conclusion and in the long run more harmful to the environment. I get the sense that some editors are more interested in poking the oil & gas industry in the eye with a sharp stick than in doing the homework necessary to learn what would really be best for the environment.

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  44. By Kit P on September 18, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    “the homework necessary to learn what would really be best for the environment. ”

     

    Best? Interesting choice of words armchair. It kind of shows the arrogance of humans and an ignorance of the environment.

     

    This comes under the category of perfect is the enemy of good. In the US, the environmental impact of producing electricity is insignificant. Volcanoes, tornadoes, and hurricanes are not insignificant Instead of best, what is better and what is good enough.

     

    Let me remind you that AGW is just a theory. So I have to ask armchair, best how?

     

    “”gas is worse than coal” ”

     

    So if your criteria is AGW both are much worse than nuclear. If your criteria is resource depletion, both are much worse than nuclear.

     

    “debatable within the scientific community ”

     

    Now that we have cleaned up the water and the air, I suppose we can debate what we can not measure. That is how much warmer it will get before glaciers will cover Canada again. Oh yes, the same scientific community that can only offer theories about this.

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  45. By armchair261 on September 18, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    Kit P said:

    Best? Interesting choice of words armchair. It kind of shows the arrogance of humans and an ignorance of the environment.

    “Best” in terms of consensus within the political and especially scientific communities (as opposed to the media and populist approaches). Of course we can never really expect to be absolutely certain, considering the complexity of the problem, uncertainties in the models, sensitivities and relevance of numerous variables, and scarcity of good input data. But if no “best” path is chosen, if humans are NOT arrogant and can make no decisions, then the alternative would be that nothing will be done. That could turn out to be a good thing…. or it could turn out to be a disaster. 

    So if your criteria is AGW both are much worse than nuclear. If your criteria is resource depletion, both are much worse than nuclear.

    Perhaps true, but if your criteria is worst case environmental impact, then maybe fossil fuels are better. This appears to be the decision the Germans have made, while the French seem to agree with you. So who decides what criteria we should use? I think the point is, it shouldn’t be the media, but they do this almost de facto when they publish articles like the above as fact, or when fail to seriously consider nuclear as a viable alternaitve and instead lead us all to believe that a some solar panels and wind farms will soon save the day. 

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  46. By Kit P on September 18, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    “terms of consensus ”

     

    I find the term ‘consensus’ rather chilling in for scientific debate. Furthermore, people who study the climate are not experts on other aspects of protecting the environment or producing energy.

     

    “then the alternative would be that nothing will be done ”

     

    But a lot has been done in the last 40 years since the passage of the CAA and CWA. The arrogance is thinking we can control all aspects of the natural world by maintaining things constant. The only constant is in nature is change.

     

    “Perhaps true, but if your criteria is worst case environmental impact, then maybe fossil fuels are better.”

     

    You are aware armchair that waste from nuclear is stored in dry casks while everything is released to the environment from fossil. What was recently demonstrated in Japan is that nuclear better on the worse day than everyday around a coal plant in China. The environment was not damaged in either Japan or Chernobyl.

     

    “decision the Germans have made ”

     

    This is one of my pet peeves. If I am doing to make electricity for you then the the risks I take should not be based on your irrational fears. If you work at a nuke plant you do not have to worry about breathing coal dust.

     

    “So who decides what criteria we should use? I think the point is, it shouldn’t be the media, …”

     

    In the US, these public policy decisions are generally made by state PUC. For large projects, an EIS is required per NEPA. When considering ‘alternatives’, nuclear is not considered in California because the public policy decision has been made to require renewable energy and exclude nukes. In Virginia, the EIS for a new nuke did consider renewable energy but rules it out because the impact of 1200 MWe would be too large.

     

    I can tell you the influence the NYT and LAT have for building a coal plant in West Virginia or a nuke in Georgia. Zip, zero, nada! So there are still plenty of places where there is still common sense.

     

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  47. By armchair261 on September 18, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    Kit P said:

    I find the term ‘consensus’ rather chilling in for scientific debate.

    Nevertheless, in extremely complex fields, certainty may not be an option. Do you want to wait for 100% proof on everything before taking any action?

    But a lot has been done in the last 40 years since the passage of the CAA and CWA. The arrogance is thinking we can control all aspects of the natural world by maintaining things constant. The only constant is in nature is change.

    I wasn’t talking about “control.” Maybe someone else was? 

    What was recently demonstrated in Japan is that nuclear better on the worse day than everyday around a coal plant in China. The environment was not damaged in either Japan or Chernobyl.

    We can agree to disagree on this one. And I’m not trying to argue against nuclear or for fossil fuels. I think both have a place. I have no particular problem with nuclear power.

    This is one of my pet peeves. If I am doing to make electricity for you then the the risks I take should not be based on your irrational fears. If you work at a nuke plant you do not have to worry about breathing coal dust.

    If these fears may are irrational, it may be partly because the media is taking a lead role in the energy debate. 

    In the US, these public policy decisions are generally made by…..

    But don’t you think these decisions are at least partially influenced by popular, as opposed to scientific, opinion? Witness the recent frenzies on offshore drilling and fracturing. If a public dreams about solar and wind, they’ll be receptive to a candidate who talks this story. That candidate will be receptive to legislation that favors these things (not that such legislation is a bad thing) in order to maintain his fan base. He’ll also have a tendency to vilify the fossil fuel industry, as it’s politically correct to do so, and about 60% of Americans believe in oil company conspiracies. How did all these preceptions originate? 

    I can tell you the influence the NYT and LAT have for building a coal plant in West Virginia or a nuke in Georgia. Zip, zero, nada! So there are still plenty of places where there is still common sense.

    Yes you’re right, I’m not claiming that energy policy is entirely dictated by populism, but I am saying that the influence is there and that the popular media promotes this. Consider the case of exploration drilling in the Santa Barbara Channel. 

     


     

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  48. By Eric de Haan on September 19, 2011 at 1:14 am

    RR,
    Re: Graph and 30 year delay in response.

    I assume that the delay is of demographic nature.
    World population is still growing steadily.
    Tom Wigley used the MiniCAM Reference scenario.
    In that scenario, population rises till 2065 and reduces slightly after that.
    The Merge scenario does not have that reduction.
    Therefore I expect that the graphs made with Merge show less decline after 2065.

    As I am not a climate scientist, I advice you to discuss this with Tom Wigley!

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  49. By Kit P on September 19, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    “Do you want to wait for 100% proof on everything before taking any action?”

     

    No, what action do you want to take? Destroy the US economy while China doubles and triples coal burning? I am a big advocate of methane capture programs. Cost effect and does more good than harm.

     

    Proof of what? There is strong evidence that AGW is so small that is only a tiny fraction of natural variation we have observed since 20k years before now. Catastrophic AGW is not supported by science. It is just a media frenzy and if the pendulum swings the other way it can not go too far and be wrong.

     

    “it may be partly because the media is taking a lead role in the energy debate. ”

     

    Armchair have you ever bother to attend a public meeting and share your views? Part of the EIS process is public meeting to receive input. Siting of power plants is a state and local issue. Safety of nuclear power plants is a national issue regulated by the US NRC but all power plants are regulated to the same basic standard. It has to be done safely and with insignificant environmental impact.

     

    “But don’t you think these decisions are at least partially influenced by popular, as opposed to scientific, opinion? ”

     

    The public wants reliable and affordable electricity and they want no lines at the gas station. Gray Davis was recalled because he failed to do his job.

     

    “If a public dreams about solar and wind, ”

     

    So give the public what it wants! So far wind turbines and solar are just shiny things that distracts the public. Just try to put the same amount of solar and wind in the same a 1000 MWe coal or nuke plant.

     

    Between gigs in the nuclear industry, I developed renewable energy projects. One of things I learned is that there was always a group of critics against every thing. It something you have to deal with. I also learned that when people like Bill Clinton talk about AGW and renewable energy, it is just talk.

     

    “How did all these preceptions originate? ”

     

    Armchair you have answered your own question.

     

    “Consider the case of exploration drilling in the Santa Barbara Channel.”

     

    The perception of companies not doing a good job protecting the environment of safety came from failing to protect the environment or safety of workers. In other words, often the media correctly reported the problem.

     

    The problem for good companies is changing the perception. Part of good management is communicating to the public. At my first commercial nuke, every time there was a negative story management brought the media in to correct the record. The local media got educated.

     

    The nuke plant that I worked at in California had a very good public relations department. When something went wrong, they would ask engineers like me to explain it too them. The perception that nuke plant was poorly managed was based the reality that nuke plant was poorly managed. The public utility board of directors tried to micro manage. With two weeks of starting work, the board of directors wanted to know my name. I determined that the material condition of my system was so bad that I declared the system INOPERABLE (capitalized for technical reasons) and we entered an USUAL EVENT status. Sound the sirens, man the emergency response center, and tell the world. So how can the PR explain that an engineer things pipes on a safety system might fall off and no one will disagree?

     

    What was the board of directors worried about? Their image!

     

    For those concerned about nuclear safety, the plant was shut down and on the NRC watch list.

     

    So I understand why many in California has a poor perception of nuclear. Is that perception fair today? It takes a long of years of outstanding performance to change perception.

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  50. By armchair261 on September 19, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    Kit,

    No, what action do you want to take?

    If you read through my posts, you’ll see I ahven’t advocated anything. I’ve really just commented on the media’s role in the energy debate, acknowledging that the science is being glossed over or even omitted where it suits the editors. I make no claims at all on AGW (I have no real expertise in the field), but you might note how the media has treated the issue, and I think that treatment fits in with my comments.

    Armchair have you ever bother to attend a public meeting and share your views?

    Have you ever applied for a drilling permit in Calfiornia? I have been on the receiving end of permitting processes that are heavily influenced by the biased political (as opposed to scientific) views of the administrator. These views have no scientific basis, but they are starting to cause real problems.

    Again, my comment on political influence is not a blanket statement applicable to the US in all cases. Don’t interpret it that way.

    The public wants reliable and affordable electricity and they want no lines at the gas station.

    They also want cheap gas, and, peppered with articles on price gouging, demand punishment of the oil industry. They want no lines, but then read sensationalist articles on fracking, and see Gasland, and demand that it stop. Without any scientific basis.

    Just try to put the same amount of solar and wind in the same a 1000 MWe coal or nuke plant.

    You and I know this, but the for the most part the public doesn’t. Who do you think politicians and the media will cater to? That coal or nuke plant may eventually get built as reality rears its ugly head, but not without wasteful overheads and diversions.

    Armchair you have answered your own question.

    Yes. It was rhetorical. :-)

    The perception of companies not doing a good job protecting the environment of safety came from failing to protect the environment or safety of workers. In other words, often the media correctly reported the problem.

    Correctly reported the problem, but incorrectly reported the risks and the industries stance. When an Air Alaska jet crashed near Point Mugu several years ago, the Santa Barbara papers didn’t call for shutting down air travel in California, and didn’t charge that all airlines were negligent, and didn’t charge that air travel was fundamentally unsafe. All of these charges were levelled against offshore drilling.

    The problem for good companies is changing the perception. Part of good management is communicating to the public.

    True, I think the energy industry in general has done a bad job of this. I think they need to take a more aggressive stance now. But I also think that the level of distrust between the public and any fossil fuel company is now so high that any concentrated PR strategy is really pointless.

    At my first commercial nuke, every time there was a negative story management brought the media in to correct the record. The local media got educated.

    Suppose the API called a meeting with the media and read off statistics on the historical spill incidence rate in the Gulf of Mexico (tiny), or on the reasons for oil and gas price volatility. You wouldn’t find a very receptive audience I don’t think.

    The nuke plant that I worked at in California had a very good public relations department.

    I don’t think the nuclear industry is viewed nearly as negatively by the public and politicians as the oil industry. Q&A might be seriously considered in your case. In the case of oil, Q&A is probably viewed by the media as merely a propaganda ploy, and not to be trusted.

    It takes a long of years of outstanding performance to change perception.

    Agreed. I think this is the only way that will ultimately work. But unfortunately a lot of years of good performance can be completely undone by one serious incident. I see a handful of errata printed every day in the LA Times, but one human error in a generation is too much for some critics. I suppose though with the stakes as high as they are in the energy industry, that’s the way it has to be.

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  51. By Kit P on September 19, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    “Have you ever applied for a drilling permit in Calfiornia?”

     

    Armchair thanks for reminding me why I am glad not to work in California. After Rancho Seco closed I took some environmental courses at US Davis. The environmental editor from the Sacramento paper gave a lecture about dealing with the media followed by Q&A. While I thought I had a beef, I was not from the only industry that they had been bashed. The editor told a funny story. He was directed to write a story on the 10 worse polluters in Sacramento county. He sent the story up to management. The paper did a story on the 5 worse polluters being that the paper was number 6.

     

    The good news is that the internet provides an alternative to depending on journalists to be well informed.

     

    “You wouldn’t find a very receptive audience I don’t think. ”

     

    Well duh! Sorry to tell you this but the oil industry failed to learn the lesson of the nuclear industry after TMI. Armchair did you read DEEPWATER, the report on the gulf disaster? One of the comments was that INPO was created after TMI because the nuclear industry learned that excellence in performance by all is required for the industry to survive. The nuke industry has a disadvantage in that coal and NG can produce all the electricity we need.

     

    I agree that the oil industry has a good record but a few arrogant jerks think that oil is there to make them rich without regard for the safety of employees or protecting the environment. It would appear that the oil industry has failed to police itself.

     

    So get over the bad press and figure out how to do a better job.

     

    “I suppose though with the stakes as high as they are in the energy industry, that’s the way it has to be. ”

     

    Yes, we could get killed.

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  52. By armchair261 on September 20, 2011 at 12:41 am

    Kit P said:

     

    I agree that the oil industry has a good record but a few arrogant jerks think that oil is there to make them rich without regard for the safety of employees or protecting the environment. It would appear that the oil industry has failed to police itself.

     

    The US oil industry has had a TMI equivalent about once per generation. Santa Barbara Channel, Exxon Valdez, now Macondo. Just about every operator is aware of the spectacular upside costs of failure. That’s a pretty strong built in policing mechanism in itself, not that government regs aren’t needed. There are a few rogues out there for sure, as there will be in any business, but in general I haven’t seen any data that says the oil industry is any sloppier, or more mistake prone, or less attentive to the environment than other large chemical, mineral, or metal bashing industries. It’s a dirty business, extracting high temperature, high pressure toxic materials from a mile or two below the surface. When the inevitable human error does occur, it’s plastered on the paper. So John Doe thinks, they don’t care! What a bunch of incompetents! But name for me a newsaper editor who can quote the number of wells drilled safely offshore, or the number of barrels spilled per barrel produced. You’d think this would be pretty relevant, but I’ve never seen it in print. I have seen such statistics for the airline industry.

    But you’re right, nothing makes a better example than a good track record. 

     

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  53. By Kit P on September 20, 2011 at 10:14 am

    ”TMI equivalent about once per generation. ”

     

    Killing people and causing an environment disaster is equivalent of damaging the core where no one is hurt and there was no significant release to the environment? The methodology of protecting people and the environment when things go terrible wrong has been around since the 60s.

     

    Tell me armchair when did the oil industry adopt ‘process safety’ rules. Last time I listed all the event in the oil industry since TMI, RR banned me for a week so I will tone it down. There is a difference between operational excellence, sloppiness, and gross negligence.

     

    “There are a few rogues out there for sure, as there will be in any business, ”

     

    Not in the US nuclear industry. The NRC is 4000 strong, get sloppy and the NRC will not let you run the plant for a few years.

     

    “but in general I haven’t seen any data that says the oil industry is any sloppier, or more mistake prone, or less attentive to the environment than other large chemical, mineral, or metal bashing industries. ”

     

    Sounds like an excuse for not being excellent armchair.

     

    “When the inevitable human error does occur ”

     

    I asked before, did you read the report on the blow out in the gulf? It was not just a human error. Human errors are to be expected frequently. They should not get people killed. Why would we discuss Piper Alpha in an meeting about improving nuclear safety? Because we did not have anything really scary to discuss. This year we have events in Japan. It does not matter if human error of a natural disaster, we have a responsibility to protect human life.

     

    “but I’ve never seen it in print. ”

     

    Life is not fair. I have not seen in print anything about how many were killed at refineries or what the release was from events in Japan. Is the the US oil industry reconsidering such natural disasters like the nuke industry?

     

    My point is that we will not learn much from journalists about how to a better job. When someone asks what about whatever because they read it in the NYT, be ready to show that that concern has been addressed. That all you can do.

     

    Generally, armchair I find what you write very informative. I also understand the constant misinformation that happens in California. Try to tune it out and not complain because it sounds like you are making excuses.

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  54. By rrapier on September 20, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    Kit P said:

    Tell me armchair when did the oil industry adopt ‘process safety’ rules. Last time I listed all the event in the oil industry since TMI, RR banned me for a week so I will tone it down. There is a difference between operational excellence, sloppiness, and gross negligence.

     


     

    You were banned for lying about me, not for listing safety incidents. Let’s be very clear on that.

    RR

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  55. By rrapier on September 20, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    Kit P said:

    Tell me armchair when did the oil industry adopt ‘process safety’ rules. 


     

    Funny that you were chastising Perry on his logic when you turn around and put your stunningly illogical mind on full display. I grow tired of your stupidity, especially when this has all been explained to you before. Really this is more of you simply acting like a jackass, but once more for the record:

    The oil industry is far larger and far more complex than the nuclear power industry. In fact, add in all uranium mining activities (and the associated safety incidents) and you still don’t come close to the size and inherent risks associated with drilling for high pressure oil and natural gas deep underground (and often under the ocean), transporting that all over the world, refining it, and then distributing those products. The nuclear industry would be like one small part of one of the least risky parts of that supply chain.

    The oil industry does have an extensive safety culture, some operators more so than others. Your holier-than-thou citing of the nuclear industry’s record as an indication that they have a superior safety culture would be like me citing the incident rate among bankers and attributing that to their superior safety culture — when in fact it is indicative of the inherent risks associated with their jobs.

    RR

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  56. By Kit P on September 21, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    “The oil industry is far larger and far more complex than the nuclear power industry. ”

     

    This is one of those subject that RR will have to disagree on. Not only that, I strongly disagree in the and throw in my best navy profanity. A safety couture is not measured by how big or complex the task but by sending your employees home at night in the same condition that they came too work.

     

    Statistically I know that most of the oil industry has a good safety culture. However, after reading the reports about some of the more recent events, it is clear that there is a complete lack of a safety culture at some companies and the result was killing many workers.

     

    I am not suggesting that maintaining a good safety culture is easy. It is a daily battle to keep it from slipping away.

     

    I know the coal industry has a good safety culture based on statistics. However, miners died in the Big Branch Mine because they let 100 years of good safety practices slip away.

     

    I know the nuke industry has a good safety culture based on statistics. However, this is where I disagree with RR on size and complexity. There was no safety culture at Chernobyl. There was no concrete reinforced containment building in case something went wrong. There was no emergency plan in case something went wrong. Reactor build roofs were not made out of fire proof material as required by their codes (what could burn?). There was no culture that allowed engineers to question why a testing should be done (engineers at other plants has refused to to the test).

     

    In fact, workers were ordered at gun point to receive a lethal dose of radiation and children were allowed to breath smoke from a burning core on the school playground just a few miles away.

     

    What did they learn from TMI in the USSR? Americans were stupid and it can not happen here.

     

    What does RR learn?

     

    “I grow tired of your stupidity ”

     

    A terrible natural disaster happened in Japan. Thousands dies when thought they were safe, Three reactors were damaged and the containment was vented. However, no one was hurt by radiation because an emergency plan was effectively implemented.

     

    So the nuclear industry is aggressively implementing the lessons learned. I would be less stupid and more logical if I was informed about what the oil and gas industry is doing with lessons learned. I would really like to see oil drilling of the coast of Virginia because I thing it would be good for the economy of the state.

     

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  57. By rrapier on September 21, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    Kit P said:

    “The oil industry is far larger and far more complex than the nuclear power industry. ”

     

    This is one of those subject that RR will have to disagree on. Not only that, I strongly disagree in the and throw in my best navy profanity.


     

    And yet you in no way address my contention. You disagree about size and complexity, and the ramble on and on about safety culture — which is a different matter. If it wasn’t, then again we should agree that the banking industry has a far superior safety culture because fewer bankers are hurt on the job.

    A safety couture is not measured by how big or complex the task but by sending your employees home at night in the same condition that they came too work.

    Therefore, you should invite bankers in to show you how to implement your safety culture, since the inherent risks are apparently not a factor.

    Statistically I know that most of the oil industry has a good safety culture. However, after reading the reports about some of the more recent events, it is clear that there is a complete lack of a safety culture at some companies and the result was killing many workers.

    Statistically, you should also be aware that in a global industry of this size and scope — dealing with hot, flammable fluids under pressure and moving those around — some accidents are inevitable because equipment fails and people make mistakes. Your industry deals with a relatively small amount of nuclear material — not billions and billions of gallons of flammable material being moved around the world. 

    I know the nuke industry has a good safety culture based on statistics. However, this is where I disagree with RR on size and complexity.

    Yet you don’t address size or complexity. If you want to disagree, try to justify your comments with something relevant. You simply go on to show that the nuclear industry can screw things up badly if they get it wrong. I agree, and they have the potential to spoil a larger land area in a shorter amount of time. But there is far less complexity in that system, and thus your safety reviews have far fewer points of failure than the global petroleum industry. There is simply no contest, and it isn’t because of your superior safety culture.

    What did they learn from TMI in the USSR? Americans were stupid and it can not happen here.

     

    What does RR learn?

     

    “I grow tired of your stupidity ”

    Someday, perhaps someone will learn to translate your comments into something that makes sense. Because what you just wrote makes no sense at all.

    So the nuclear industry is aggressively implementing the lessons learned. I would be less stupid and more logical if I was informed about what the oil and gas industry is doing with lessons learned.

    If you get your lessons learned from the mainstream media — and where else would you get them? — then this is understandable. If you are reading industry reports or journals, it isn’t.

    That’s my allotment of time wasted on you today.

    RR

     

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  58. By armchair261 on September 21, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    Kit P said:

    Tell me armchair when did the oil industry adopt ‘process safety’ rules.

    I’m guessing you’ve never written a well plan, and you’ve never been on an actively drilling rig (particularly offshore). Correct? 

    “but in general I haven’t seen any data that says the oil industry is any sloppier, or more mistake prone, or less attentive to the environment than other large chemical, mineral, or metal bashing industries. ”

    Sounds like an excuse for not being excellent armchair.

    Absolutely not. You’ve missed the point. Which is that the oil industry is composed of humans, like all other industries. You fail to appreciate the cost of failure in an industry as capital intensive as oil. No sane operator would prefer an excuse over safety.

    Human errors are to be expected frequently. They should not get people killed.

    But they do. People die in air crashes, chemical factory explosions, ferry collisions, and even nuclear accidents. 

    we have a responsibility to protect human life.

    Of course. Who would argue against that?  

    Is the the US oil industry reconsidering such natural disasters like the nuke industry?

    Care to make a small side wager? I’ll bet they are.

    Try to tune it out and not complain because it sounds like you are making excuses.

    Not excuses, just complaints (and enough already!). The political attitudes of California officials have no impact on how safely our company operates its wells, because a disaster will cost the same no matter what political party is in office. A disaster of even a tiny percentage the size of Macondo would wipe us out in a day, not to mention risk the lives of a significant percentage of the employees of our little company, whom we all know on a first name basis. We were well aware of this before Macondo, and have always treated safety as the highest priority in drilling operations. We would never look for an excuse to cut corners if we thought there was any increased risk of failure of any significance at all. I expect just about all operators would agree with this. 


     

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  59. By Kit P on September 21, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    “Correct? ”

     

    That is correct armchair. Now that I have answered your question which seems to designed to avoid the issue please answer mine. They are not trick questions or designed to trap you. A suspect you are avoiding them because the answer will not reflect well on your industry. You have been around a long time.

     

    When did you first start using process safety methodology and was it because is was forced on the industry because of regulations or was it adopted because it was an example of best practices in the industry. Have you been trained on industry events to prevent latent errors from causing a disaster or are you hoping that clueless regulators will catch them in your application?

     

    “But they do. People die in air crashes, chemical factory explosions, ferry collisions, and even nuclear accidents.”

     

    Nobody has died in a nuclear accident at a commercial reactor following the practices of the US industry. Kind of the point I was making about Chernobyl. The cost of doing it safely is actually lower. Good safety practices go hand in hand with good management practices that increase productivity. The present nuclear industry has few precursor events with a 90% capacity than the industry did at 60%.

     

    Armchair I am betting you would miffed to find yourself on an airplane where the pilots used the wrong units to calculate the fuel load, the mechanic failed to put the o-ring in all three engines, birds get sucked up into engines on take off, or a technician leaves switch for controlling oxygen in test. Except for the latter case where all died, you would have an interesting story to tell. The reason no one died in the first three cases is the skill of the pilots flying a brick dead stick. Pilots with glider training did much better on the simulator.

     

    One of the lesson learned from TMI is plant specific simulators which I have trained on. One of the lesson learned from the ferry collision is how to communicate to the captain rather than assume the captain sees the ferry. Trained! One of the lessons learned from the fire in the Enterprise in the 60s was training everyone to use emergency breathing apparatus. Trained! In the 70s when I was a young sailor.

     

    The point armchair is we have gotten very good at not only not killing people but not hurting people. Furthermore armchair I do not think you have a clue what I am talking about. When I read event reports from the oil industry, ‘the accident happens and people die’ belief is the sign you do not have a safety culture.

     

    When people die in industry it is either a sting of incredible events, or a sting of callous disregard of safety. Have not seen any of the former but read a lot of the latter. If anyone thinks I am wrong you should be able to provide lots of examples.

     

    “we all know on a first name basis ”

     

    Of course that is the point. Now think about how you would do things differently if your daughter worked there?

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  60. By armchair261 on September 21, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    Kit P said:

    When did you first start using process safety methodology and was it because is was forced on the industry because of regulations or was it adopted because it was an example of best practices in the industry. Have you been trained on industry events to prevent latent errors from causing a disaster or are you hoping that clueless regulators will catch them in your application?

    My particular background is such that I am not involved in operations which require safety expertise. I’m a geologist, and I always defer to operations people on safety. Most safety procedures I believe were adopted as best practices, because as I have said several times, the cost of failure is too high. Do you buy bald tires for your son’s car to save money? Or because some government agency requires you to? You really don’t seem to understand this point. You should, as the cost of a nuclear disaster is also very high. You don’t wait around for regulators if you know a procedure that will reduce your risk of faiure. As you should know, safety is good business when the cost of failure is prohibitively high.

    Nobody has died in a nuclear accident at a commercial reactor following the practices of the US industry.

    Are you guaranteeing here that it will never happen? 

    One of the lessons learned from the fire in the Enterprise in the 60s was training everyone to use emergency breathing apparatus. Trained! 

    Are you suggesting here that no one who is on a drilling rig has never gone through safety training? Are you suggesting that, for example, after a death due to hydrogen sulfide, it never occurred to anyone in the oil industry to improve their H2S strategy? I don’t really know where you get the idea that an accident like Macondo means no one has ever thought of training or taking precautionary measures. You imagine that no one in the industry learns from mistakes only because you don’t know the industry. 

    Furthermore armchair I do not think you have a clue what I am talking about. When I read event reports from the oil industry, ‘the accident happens and people die’ belief is the sign you do not have a safety culture.

    I don’t have any nuclear industry experience. But then again, because of that, I don’t hop on public forums and accuse you or the nuclear industry of negligence. You have no such reservations. You, similarly, don’t have a clue about oil industry operations. You base your hunches on articles appearing in the media. When you read about a serious incident, you make the leap of faith that the industry must be negligent, or at best lazy, because you disregard or aren’t aware of the millions of barrels that are safely produced every day all over the world that don’t make the news for years on end.

    Your claim that the oil industry, full stop, all tens of thousands of companies worldwide, has no safety culture is absurd and doesn’t warrant a response. Sounds just like a cub reporter. 

    When people die in industry it is either a sting of incredible events, or a sting of callous disregard of safety. Have not seen any of the former but read a lot of the latter. If anyone thinks I am wrong you should be able to provide lots of examples.

    I’m sure there are lots of examples of both. I don’t want to do all the necessary research either way, just to try and sway a prejudiced mind. It’s not worth my time. But to imply that the oil industry has a callous disregard of safety is really ridiculous. It’s the kind of comment only made by people who don’t know the industry. And again, I’m not talking about altruism here, I’m talking good business sense. If you’re an oil company and you want to go out of business in a hurry, callous disregard for safety is a great way to go.

    Now think about how you would do things differently if your daughter worked there?

    No differently.


     

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  61. By Kit P on September 22, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    “I’m a geologist,”

    Fair enough, I like geologists. We in the nuclear industry depend on geologist to safely design nuke plants. You are away that that 24,000 died in Japan because geologists failed to predict the magnitude of the earthquake and resulting tsunami. As a geologist pointed out to me once, they can only predict on what they know from the past but can not rule out a worse event only say how it is very unlikely.

    “As you should know, safety is good business when the cost of failure is prohibitively high.”

    I agree armchair, do not tell me, tell your industry! Apparently you have never bothered to learn about what is going on because ‘I am not involved in operations which require safety expertise’.

    Here is the problem armchair. The number of regulators for the drilling industry has not keep up with the amount of drilling. Government is doing a better job of collecting royalties than enforcing safe work practices. For deepwater drilling, who is responsible for oversight is not well defined. The pressure on workers to bring a well in is tremendous.

    “I don’t really know where you get the idea that an accident like Macondo means no one has ever thought of training or taking precautionary measures.”

    I get it from readying reports by your industry on your industry. Clearly many in the industry can get the job done safely but when failure is catastrophic, failure is not acceptable.

    “Are you guaranteeing here that it will never happen?”

    Yes, there will not be a nuclear accident at a commercial US nuke plant that will kill anyone with radiation. A nuclear accident may damage the core and be expensive to clean up.

    “You have no such reservations. You, similarly, don’t have a clue about oil industry operations. You base your hunches on articles appearing in the media.”

    Wait a second armchair, you are the one who is basing your opinions on reading the media. I an the one who has bother to read the reports but it because operational safety is my thing. Before you ‘hop’ all over the media for being biased you better check your own bias.

    “Your claim that the oil industry, full stop, all tens of thousands of companies worldwide, has no safety culture is absurd and doesn’t warrant a response.”

    Of course armchair I did not say that. I am saying that the reports I have read when the industry kills a bunch of people it is because the safety culture went to hell.

    Put up or shut up armchair. If I am wrong armchair it only takes one report to convince. Show me the report where the accident could not have been anticipated and could not have been prevented. Stop buy and talk to your operational safety guys, they will set you straight.

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  62. By rrapier on September 22, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    Kit P said:

    Wait a second armchair, you are the one who is basing your opinions on reading the media. I an the one who has bother to read the reports but it because operational safety is my thing. Before you ‘hop’ all over the media for being biased you better check your own bias.


     

    It is surreal to read this. When I worked for ConocoPhillips, it was Safety, Safety, Safety all the time. When I was in management there, I preached safety all the time. We led off every meeting with safety items. Gave people rewards for reporting safety issues. I was involved in numerous safety studies and incident investigations. People still died though. One died because a gasoline pump sprang a leak and ignited, burning him up. Equipment fails. In hindsight, you can say that all accidents are preventable. But they do happen, even in the electrical generating industry. In fact, in 2010 your industry killed 24 people. The analog to your industry, oil refining, killed 10. Source. So clearly you don’t have a good safety culture, and perhaps should invite oil refining personnel in to teach you how to do it right. (We can also compare fatalities in oil and gas extraction to the coal mining industry that feeds your industry, but you don’t want to look at that one either — 12 versus 43).

    So the conclusion is that you have no clue as to what you are talking about. You understand very little about what a safety culture actually is. You could have the best safety culture in the world in an oil refinery and the worst one in a bank, and the fatality rate is still going to be higher in the refinery — because the underlying inherent risks are a factor (despite your apparent ignorance of this). You are just a blowhard trying to give an impression that you know what you are talking about. To people who have been deeply involved in safety issues, it is clear that your understanding is very superficial.

    RR

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  63. By Kit P on September 22, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    “I was involved in numerous safety
    studies and incident investigations. ”

    So RR can provide information that says the deaths were not a result of a poor safety culture? Stare with these:

     

     

    “A liquefied petroleum gas explosion killed 575 and wounded 623 (some sources claim that up to 645 were killed and more than 700 wounded), making it the most deadly railway accident in Soviet history, as two trains passing each other threw sparks near a leaky pipeline.”

     

    or

    The 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion:

     

    “As of September 29, 2010, the death toll was eight people.”

     

    or

     

    Piper Alpha

     

    “An explosion and resulting fire destroyed it on July 6, 1988, killing 167 men, with only 59 survivors. The death toll includes 2 crewmen of a rescue vessel.”

     

    or Deepwater Horizon

     

    “On 20 April 2010, while drilling at the Macondo Prospect, an explosion on the rig caused by a blowout killed 11 crewmen and ignited a fireball visible from 35 miles (56 km) away. The resulting fire could not be extinguished and, on 22 April 2010, Deepwater Horizon sank, leaving the well gushing at the sea floor and causing the largest offshore oil spill in United States history.”

     

    or

     

    The Phillips Disaster

     

    “The initial blast registered 3.5 on the Richter Scale, and the conflagration took 10 hours to bring under control. Some 23 employees were killed and 314 were injured.”

     

    or

     

    “BP Refinery, Isomerization Unit Explosion (killed 15 injured 180), Texas City, Texas USA March 23, 2005…

     

    or San Juanico Disaster (1984)

     

    “The explosions destroyed the facility and devastated the local town of San Juan Ixhuatepec, with 500–600 people killed, and 5000–7000 others suffering severe burns.”

     

    Then there was the Bhopal disaster (1984)

     

    “The official immediate death toll was 2,259 and the government of Madhya Pradesh has confirmed a total of 3,787 deaths related to the gas release.”

     

    Here is one place to start for reports that are not media bashing,

     

    The Gulf Oil Disaster and the Future of Offshore Drilling

     

    http://www.oilspillcommission……_FINAL.pdf

     

    Here is another report”

     

    Technical Lessons Learned from the Fukushima-Daichii Accident and Possible

    Corrective Actions for the Nuclear Industry: An Initial Evaluation

    http://mitnse.files.wordpress……5_rev1.pdf

     

    “health risks for them and the general population are expected to be negligible (see Appendix

    A). In fact, no loss of life has occurred or is expected as a result of the accident.”

     

    No one hurt, no one killed but what about US plants”

     

    “TVA stated that the plants already have explosion-resistant pipes to vent hydrogen from the containment, firehoses pre-placed to fill spent fuel pools in case of loss of cooling, and hardened diesel rooms, including 7-day supply of fuel, behind water-tight doors. The diesel switchgear is located within the reactor building, and thus is protected from flooding.”

     

    If there was a poster child for a poor safety culture in was TVA in the 70s but now they are ready for the expected.

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  64. By kronecker2002 on September 22, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    The title of this article is at least as mis-leading as all the other titles that are poked fun in the article itself. Solar and wind power have nothing to do with the article itself, which is about coal v. natural gas.

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  65. By rrapier on September 22, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    Kit P said:

    “I was involved in numerous safety

    studies and incident investigations. ”

    So RR can provide information that says the deaths were not a result of a poor safety culture? Stare with these:

     


     

    Bhopal? Really? I know you like to stretch the field as wide as you possibly can when you can’t support your point, but that’s ridiculous. You don’t even know what industry you are talking about. Bhopal has as much relevance to this conversation as me throwing the deaths of Chinese coal miners or Hiroshima in your face. You are truly a moron. I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

    When looking at your own industry, you only want to look at the tiny slice that is nuclear power generation. You don’t want to look upstream, and you don’t want to look downstream at transmission. You consider those entirely different business lines. But for oil and gas, you throw in everything but the kitchen sink and hope to overwhelm with numbers. You want to count production statistics for oil and gas, but not for uranium mining. You want to count accidents with end users for oil and gas, but God forbid someone mention deaths among power line workers or users at home. Your logic is so ridiculously biased that it is hard to believe you aren’t simply trolling for attention. You like to hurl invective at a journalist who would write about the coal industry, but that doesn’t stop you from pontificating about the oil industry.

    As nuclear proponents tell us all the time, producing nuclear power isn’t that inherently dangerous. So I would expect you to have a low fatality rate. That isn’t exactly rocket science compared to the conditions of some oil and gas operations. You are willfully blind to that, and presume you are safer not because your processes are inherently safer, but because of your superior safety culture.

    But let’s put you on the spot. If someone is killed or injured in a nuclear facility, can we safely conclude that the safety culture was inadequate? And is the fatality rate among bankers indicative of their safety culture? Yes or no will suffice, and of course I know you won’t answer because a truthful answer makes you look like a hypocrite.

    RR

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  66. By rrapier on September 22, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    kronecker2002 said:

    The title of this article is at least as mis-leading as all the other titles that are poked fun in the article itself.


     

    Yeah, that’s sort of the point.

    Solar and wind power have nothing to do with the article itself, which is about coal v. natural gas.

    Here you are wrong. The issue in question is caused by coal. The article looked at what happens if coal is replaced by natural gas, but as I showed in my communication with the author, the same short term warming is predicted if coal is replaced by wind or solar power. That is the whole point. The article wasn’t the indictment of natural gas that some agenda-driven types claimed.

    RR

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  67. By rrapier on September 22, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    Kit P said:

    “I was involved in numerous safety

    studies and incident investigations. ”

    So RR can provide information that says the deaths were not a result of a poor safety culture? Stare with these:

     


     

    I am still bewildered at the point you were trying to make. Perhaps in the future, you should start off with “Here’s my point.” Let’s review the possibilities.

    1. Some accidents are an example of a poor safety culture.

    2. The fact that accidents have occurred in the global supply chain for oil and natural gas proves that the oil industry has a poor safety culture.

    Those are the only two options I can imagine. On the first, that’s so obvious it would be stupid to try to prove that point. It never needed proving. There will always be accidents due to poor safety culture in certain companies when you are talking about thousands of companies with millions of employees moving hot, flammable liquids around the world. There is no analogy for this in the nuclear industry. You don’t have hundreds of thousands of people handling your nuclear material, it isn’t being transported to consumers, and it isn’t being done by thousands of companies. Conclusion: Foolish point if this is your point.

    On the second, this is about as relevant as me pointing to Chernobyl as proof that the nuclear industry isn’t safe. Or simply using statistics for coal miners in China since you for some reason think Bhopal is a relevant example to the oil industry. Conclusion: Just as foolish as the first point.

    I think what you are really trying to do — and it is quite dishonest — is to examine the other guy using very wide parameters, but then looking at your own industry with very narrow parameters. This has you concluding that Bhopal, or a pipeline explosion is an indictment of the oil industry, while denying that Chernobyl or fatalities among line workers is an indictment of yours.

    But please — if you do decide to carry on this ridiculous conversation that is exposing your lack of objectivity to everyone — start off with “Here’s my point” so there is no confusion.

    RR

     

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  68. By Kit P on September 23, 2011 at 8:40 am

    “Bhopal? Really? ”

     

    Yes, a watershed event hat lead to process safety regulations in the US.

     

    “As nuclear proponents tell us all the time, producing nuclear power isn’t that inherently dangerous. ”

     

    Of course I did not say that. They demonstrated all the time in the USSR that nuclear is inherently dangerous. We have 50 years of proving we can do it safely in the US.

     

    “But let’s put you on the spot. If someone is killed or injured in a nuclear facility, can we safely conclude that the safety culture was inadequate? ”

     

    That is correct. I have not read reports on all fatalities but everyone one I read indicates that the safety culture lapsed. In the ’90s there was a criticality accident and a fuel manufacturing plant in Japan that killed two workers. There were nine root causes. That means that any of nine barriers would have prevented the deaths. Yes, the safety culture totally collapsed in that case.

     

    “And is the fatality rate among bankers indicative of their safety culture? ”

     

    Judging from OSHA for industrial safety rates, you are safer worked at a power plant than in a bank.

     

    “Some accidents are an example of a poor safety culture. ”

     

    That correct!

     

    “There will always be accidents due to poor safety culture .. ”

     

    This is where I disagree. The good performance of the many shows that you do not have to accept such a premise.

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  69. By rrapier on September 23, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    Kit P said:

    “As nuclear proponents tell us all the time, producing nuclear power isn’t that inherently dangerous. ”

     

    Of course I did not say that. They demonstrated all the time in the USSR that nuclear is inherently dangerous. We have 50 years of proving we can do it safely in the US.

     


     

    The process itself is quite simple relative to oil and gas production and refining — for many reasons I have explained. You have far fewer failure points, far less material you are handling, and far fewer people dealing with the supply chain.

    “But let’s put you on the spot. If someone is killed or injured in a nuclear facility, can we safely conclude that the safety culture was inadequate? ”

    That is correct. I have not read reports on all fatalities but everyone one I read indicates that the safety culture lapsed.

    That is incorrect. Someone can die falling down the stairs in a nuclear plant. That in itself says nothing about the safety culture. This is where your simplistic views on safety are exposed. In fact, people do die in nuclear plants for accidents other than being exposed to radiation. I would not view that as indicative of a lax safety culture unless there was a consistent, preventable pattern in specific companies. (We do have examples like that in the oil industry, but that is indicative of lax safety cultures in specific companies).

    “And is the fatality rate among bankers indicative of their safety culture? ”

    Judging from OSHA for industrial safety rates, you are safer worked at a power plant than in a bank.

    I don’t believe that. Your source please.

    “There will always be accidents due to poor safety culture .. ”

    This is where I disagree. The good performance of the many shows that you do not have to accept such a premise.

    And this is where your point isn’t the same as mine. I am saying that there will be accidents. You are saying that there don’t have to be. I am sure that’s correct, but it doesn’t change the fact that there will be. If you have ever sat through a safety study of a chemical or refinery process, you know that there are numerous failure points with very low odds of failure, but that sometimes do fail. You can’t safeguard against everything. The example I always use is that it would be pretty hard to prevent a meteor from striking a huge gasoline storage tank. That’s an example people can understand. But there are lots of low probability events like that that can’t easily be mitigated against. They can’t realistically build containment domes around all of their 5 million gallon storage tanks.

    RR

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  70. By rrapier on September 23, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    One other thing I would mention on the Wigley study is that I told him it would be interesting to compare a true zero emission replacement on the graph to the natural gas that is shown on the graph. That way, we know how much potential actually exists. He agreed and said he would take a look at it. But in any case, it will show an initial rise over the next couple of decades before the temperature again starts to fall.

    RR

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  71. By Eric de Haan on September 23, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    Solar and wind power have nothing to do with the article itself, which is about coal v. natural gas.

    Here you are wrong. The issue in question is caused by coal. The article looked at what happens if coal is replaced by natural gas, but as I showed in my communication with the author, the same short term warming is predicted if coal is replaced by wind or solar power. That is the whole point. The article wasn’t the indictment of natural gas that some agenda-driven types claimed.

    RR

    You are unwilling to consider that your conclusions might be wrong.

    I have told you that the reason might be the rise and decline of global population population as depicted in the Minicam reference scenario.

    I have asked you to take this very issue to Dr. Tom Wigley. Because we are not climate experts. He is. furthermore he can and is experienced enough to fiddle with these scenarios and and correctly interpretate the results.

    Apparently you don’t want to bring this to Wigley because it might invalidate your conclusions.

    The issue should be “How do we abate Climate change and Acid rain” and not “Is the writer right or wrong”. That said If you draw the wrong conclusions it will certainly affect the outcome.
    EdH

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  72. By rrapier on September 23, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    Eric de Haan said:

    You are unwilling to consider that your conclusions might be wrong.


     

    Eric, I already said — and I explained in the article — that I did take this issue to Dr. Wigley. He told me that my conclusion was correct. I confirmed that before I ever wrote the article. (Of course you did admit that you didn’t read the entire article; I think there is a lesson there for you).

    The impact comes from the loss of particulates. Over time, the reduction in CO2 overcomes that, except in a situation where you assume extremely high methane leakage. But the short-term warming happens in all cases, even if you just shut down the coal plants and didn’t replace them. That was never an assumption on my part; it was confirmed by Dr. Wigley.

    RR

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  73. By Kit P on September 23, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    “That is incorrect. Someone can die falling down the stairs in a nuclear plant. That in itself says nothing about the safety culture. This is where your simplistic views on safety are exposed.”

    A good safety culture does not stop at the stairwell or the parking lot.

    “If you have ever sat through a safety study of a chemical or refinery process, you know that there are numerous failure points with very low odds of failure, but that sometimes do fail. You can’t safeguard against everything.”

    Why not? I have lead integrated safety analysis teams. Integrated in that the chemical hazards are considered with criticality. I put a picture on the wall destroyed building for a similar chemical process. Dead is dead! One of my pet peeves in the past has been concern with radiation has over shadowed other hazards.

    We do not have to safeguard against meteors because of the odds of the event happening. Steam piping failing is an infrequent event. Early in terms of life of a nuke plant we had some employees killed who were ironically inspecting for piping integrity. The company shut down all the nukes plants and inspected the piping. Piping was not expected hot anymore, the frequency of inspections increased, and other changes were made. No more failed steam lines killing workers at US nuke plants.

    Unfortunately, workers were killed doing the same thing at a nuke plant in Japan about 10 years later. The utility got in trouble for not doing inspections on time, so they sent workers while the plant was running. Two indicators of a poor safety culture is not doing inspections and needlessly putting workers in harms way. The third is that the workers went on into the plant without saying that is how workers got killed in the US. Lesson leaned LTA.

    “They can’t realistically build containment domes around all of their 5 million gallon storage tanks.”

    Why not? Now RR is demonstrating the disregard for life found in communist USSR. You can realistically put some distance between the tanks and the people in the community. While it is no longer acceptable to expose people to pollution routinely, low levels of risk from PAH or radiation because of some frequency event like the 1000 year tsunami.

    Am important part of a safety culture is having a plan to mitigate the unexpected. Before 9/11 nuke plants considered a smoke filled control room but not a massive fire from a burning airliner or whatever the crazies might think up next. . Whey not park some of the emergency equipment for fight wild fires closer to the nuke plant?

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  74. By rrapier on September 23, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    Kit P said:

    “That is incorrect. Someone can die falling down the stairs in a nuclear plant. That in itself says nothing about the safety culture. This is where your simplistic views on safety are exposed.”

    A good safety culture does not stop at the stairwell or the parking lot.


     

    Platitudes and safety slogans don’t get around my point. People die even where there is a good safety culture. Pretty amazing that you will not acknowledge that, instead preferring to respond with a safety slogan.

    “If you have ever sat through a safety study of a chemical or refinery process, you know that there are numerous failure points with very low odds of failure, but that sometimes do fail. You can’t safeguard against everything.”

    Why not?

    You have answered your own question, as I show below. You don’t safeguard against everything — even in a nuke plant — because you make choices based on estimated probabilities of the event/impact versus cost of mitigation. Only an extremely ignorant or exceptionally arrogant person would claim that they have safeguarded against everything. You can’t know if you have safeguarded against everything. In fact, some safety standards were changed in the U.S. in light of the incident in Japan. How could that be, if you already thought of everything? You are like a person who says “I have never been struck by lightning, therefore it is impossible to be struck by lightning.” Tunnel vision based on a very limited view of the big picture.

    We do not have to safeguard against meteors because of the odds of the event happening.

    That’s half correct. We don’t do it because 1). It has low odds; 2). It has high cost relative to the odds. There are numerous examples that fall into this category. Despite your apparent ignorance, the nuclear industry makes these sorts of decisions as well. But that doesn’t mean the risk is zero. You have simply fooled yourself into thinking that because an event is low probability, it will never happen.

    “They can’t realistically build containment domes around all of their 5 million gallon storage tanks.”

    Why not? Now RR is demonstrating the disregard for life found in communist USSR.

    No, you are simply once more slipping into ignorant platitudes. Not building a containment dome around a huge storage tank isn’t because anyone has a disregard for human life. It is back to the cost/benefit question. Nobody said there is no containment; of course there is containment in case of a rupture. Of course tanks are spread out to minimize the chance of a fire spreading from one to another. But what we can’t realistically do is protect the tank from things falling from the sky unless people are prepared to pay $20 a gallon for fuel.

    Your understanding of safety is really superficial. Because of this, you contradict yourself at every turn and then are forced into saying really stupid things like “disregard for human life.” You babble on and on, and I am sure you think there is a point in there somewhere. But the more you write, the more you expose your tenuous grasp on this entire topic.

    I say this without a doubt based on your comments here — you have no involvement developing safety policies at your plant (other than the input any other operator makes). Ask yourself how I can be so certain of that. You demonstrate time and time again that you don’t have a good enough grasp of the subject, beyond simple story-telling and slogans.

    RR

    P.S. Still awaiting your source that it is safer to work in a power plant than in a bank.

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