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By Robert Rapier on May 20, 2014 with 82 responses

Hoping for a Rational Climate Change Discussion

The Best Path Forward on Coal?

This week the Wall Street Journal is running the latest set of answers from their “Experts Panel.” Four questions were posed to the energy panel, and I chose to answer three of them. (The 4th was about solutions to the drought in the Western US — which I don’t feel qualified to answer). The first question I answered was “What’s the best way to move forward on coal?” – and my answer was published yesterday: The Case Against Burning Coal. That was followed up with a podcast “debate” between former Shell President John Hofmeister and myself on coal’s future: Time to Stop Burning Coal? WSJ Experts Debate.

I suppose the topic of climate change will always be polarizing. One side believes that fossil fuel consumption threatens our very existence while the other sees climate change as a huge scam that threatens to destroy economic progress. Of course there are many shades of gray between these extremes, but those with the most extremist views are generally the loudest voices.

Today I hope to engage some of those loud voices with a rational, fact-based discussion.

In a nutshell, my answer to the question (with a illustrative graphic) is that the potential impact on climate from global coal consumption is so great that we have to figure out a way not to burn it. But right away there were comments of the “there is no human-caused climate change” variety — a couple of which I address below.

My Position on Climate Change

My own position is one that I have repeated many times. I am not a climate scientist, but it is clear that the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere is increasing. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, and the mechanism by which it can increase the earth’s temperature is well-understood.

What isn’t as well-understood is the precise temperature impact, because the earth is a very complex system with forcings and feedbacks that aren’t always thoroughly understood. Thus, climate models are created to estimate the impacts of the increases in carbon dioxide concentration. But given that they are models, some will argue that the impact is understated while some will go so far as to argue that there will be no impact at all.

My position is that I hope those on the side of “little impact” are correct, but we need to plan and prepare to the greatest extent possible for the possibility that they are not. One of the things I do professionally is risk assessment and mitigation. In fact, we all do it to some extent. For example, we may believe that the probability that our homes will burn down is low, but the consequences are so severe in the event that it happens that we pay for homeowner’s insurance. So for low risk but high consequence events, we have insurance.

Even if you don’t believe future climate model projections, would you concede that there is a chance you are wrong? Do you think there is a 1 percent chance you are wrong? Do we have planetary insurance in the event you are wrong? If you don’t trust the models, do you accept that more data can help improve the reliability of the models? If you concede that you might be wrong, you might also consider the implications of being wrong.

Is That Your Final Answer?

The first person to respond with an article comment was someone who sought to cast doubt. However, he did so with information that is factually incorrect. After commenting that climate models are useless and counterproductive, he wrote:

Further, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is hundredths of what it once was so the current variation, if we assume that it is being measured accurately, is barely meaningful. Moreover, natural contributions to CO2 levels dramatically outweigh man’s contributions. Further, CO2 is essential to life. And so on.

People who argue that carbon dioxide concentrations have been higher in the past generally won’t mention how long ago that was.

co2Graph11-cropped

This graph is based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct measurements, of atmospheric CO2. (Source: NOAA). Needless to say, there is nothing in human experience for comparison, so we are left to estimate the impact of ever increasing atmospheric CO2 on the present living population of earth. I don’t know about you, but that graphic concerns me a lot — especially because it shows no sign of slowing down.

Regarding his second claim that “natural contributions to CO2 levels dramatically outweigh man’s contributions” — I understand that Rush Limbaugh once made this claim. Let me quote from my book Power Plays on that very topic:

Some arguments against global warming are simply based on misinformation. An example of this is the oft-repeated claim that volcanoes contribute more CO2 to the atmosphere than do humans. This claim is false. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, volcanoes emit approximately 130 million metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year. In contrast, the burning of fossil fuels contributed 33.2 billion metric tons CO2 to the atmosphere in 2010—255 times the estimated level contributed by volcanoes.

Neither of these are credible arguments, and in fact someone suggested to me that several commenters, including this one were probably “highly paid experts trained in disinformation.” In any case, these are the kind of people who are helping to drive the skeptical side. They are at a minimum grossly misinformed, and potentially being paid to promote falsehoods that threaten to minimize the sense that we need to mitigate this risk.

Conclusions

Whether you believe that the climate is changing as a result of the rising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration, I would hope that you would allow for the possibility that at least the trajectory of emissions poses a potential problem. Further, I would hope you would agree that arguments from either side should be factual and unbiased. I concede that there is a good deal of hyperbole when every unusual weather event is blamed on climate change. But look again at the response I addressed above, and know that hyperbole isn’t limited to one side. Skepticism in science is a good thing, but not skepticism driven my misinformation.

Link to Original Article: Hoping for a Rational Climate Change Discussion

You can find Robert Rapier on TwitterLinkedIn, or Facebook.

  1. By f on May 21, 2014 at 7:55 am

    While in general I agree with your point that why take the risk, I do bristle upon the hyperbole of exact science statements. The “flat lander” insults to those who question the complex and inaccurate science of global warming. The cause and damage still within the science sphere of study. Meaning it is not settled science! Environmentalist have a long track record of falsehoods and still get top billing upon media. Also, the country has a long history of Left political concerns whereupon they generate political power. We will be inundated with Left concerns upon media. We lead the world upon fixations of race, poor, illegal immigration, prejudice, minority concerns and the rest just because these groups reside under the umbrella of the Left constituency groups.

    20 May 2014 article-

    While the United Nations and the Obama administration assert that
    climate change is settled science and requires dramatic regulatory
    oversight, 31,072 U.S. scientists have signed the Petition Project,
    saying the issue remains decidedly unsettled.

    “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon
    dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will in the
    foreseeable future cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere
    and disruption of the Earth’s climate,” the petition says.

    “The purpose of the Petition Project is to demonstrate that the claim of
    ‘settled science’ and an overwhelming ‘consensus’ in favor of the
    hypothesis of human-caused global warming and consequent climatological
    damage is wrong,” the petition asserts. “No such consensus or settled
    science exists.”

    Over 9,000 of the petition’s signatories have a Ph.D. in a scientific field….

    BTW, these scientist are volunteers, unpaid, and receive no government stipend to study global warming, hence by definition unbiased.

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    • By Edward Kerr on May 21, 2014 at 8:48 am

      Well, f, looks to me like you’re one of those people who somehow think that the dangers of chemically altering our atmosphere is a left-right issue. Of course, you being a self identified conservative, seek to blame the liberals for seemingly concocting a conspiracy because they are concerned about the environment. For what? So that they can tax you?

      The very fact that you broach your argument on political bent shows me that you are more concerned with being ‘right’ that finding the truth.
      Among climate scientists the debate IS over. Ten million people who have little to no understanding of the relationship between the chemistry of the atmosphere and climate can sign all of the petitions that they like and it won’t change reality.

      “Environmentalists have a long track record of falsehoods” and the vested interests (who do profit from fossil fuels) have never told a lie or tried to manipulate public opinion to their benefit…Give me an effin break.

      I’d give almost anything to be a fly on the wall the day that you have to eat a pie full of crows when you realize that we evil environmentalists (who are also concerned about you) were right to sound the climate alarm.

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      • By Ed_Reid on May 21, 2014 at 4:19 pm

        “Among climate scientists the debate IS over.”

        I believe that John Christy, Roy Spenser, Patrick Michaels, Judith Curry, Willie Soon, Sallie Baliunas, Richard Lindzen and numerous other researchers might argue with that assertion.

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        • By Edward Kerr on May 22, 2014 at 8:57 am

          I’m talking about REAL climate scientists. The list of deniers that you offer haven’t had their boots on the ground for years and are singing a worn out song. If you can’t see that we have entered a state of climate chaos then I can’t help you. Jim Butts claims that we have a stable climate and that is, to be blunt, a crock of you know what. H2O is the only ‘neutral’ feedback as it both traps heat and reflects solar radiation. CO2 is both a leading and lagging indicator of temp working on an annual and long term basis. The biggest short term threat is CH4. There are billions of tons of clathrates that are losing stability as the arctic warms. ( and I can assure physicist Butts and you that they represent a “positive” feedback that will, if a massive release occurs, precipitate a “runaway” GH effect.

          Believe what you like and stay this suicidal course that humanity is on and we’ll all pay the ultimate price.

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          • By Ed_Reid on May 29, 2014 at 9:30 am

            Ah, the wonders of ad hominem.

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            • By Edward Kerr on May 30, 2014 at 10:05 am

              Ah, yes. Have no real argument so scream “ad hominem”…

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            • By Ed_Reid on May 30, 2014 at 2:18 pm

              “I’m talking about REAL climate scientists.”

              At least they have real Phds.

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  2. By Forrest on May 21, 2014 at 8:01 am

    A Rutgers paper reference volcano influence on climate. Estimates of anthropogenic CO2 100x that from volcano release, but sulfate aerosols in atmosphere the primary concern. In general the emissions alter earth’s radiation balance and cloud microphysics. Acid rain a problem for years. Anthropogenic sources have low effect efficiency. Volcanoes have highefficiency of 2.63x .World sulfate aerosols 33% from volcanoes, 40%anthropogenic, and 27% ocean.

    The volcano emission effect is to warm stratosphere. Stratospheric warming due to the presence of the volcanic aerosol in the stratosphere increases the pole-to-equator temperature gradient. This has a dynamical feedback on the tropospheric circulation, leading to abnormally warm winters over the northern hemisphere continents in years following the eruption. The mechanism, including the production of stronger westerly winds in the lower stratosphere and their effect on tropospheric planetary waves.

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  3. By Forrest on May 21, 2014 at 8:23 am

    Global photosynthesis power has recently been reevaluated. Testing with isotopes improve estimates to 25% greater than originally estimated. Carbon conversion of CO2 gas now range 150-175 petagrams per year.

    That 33.2 billion metric tons fossil fuel CO2 pollution just 1/5 the ability of photosynthesis conversion capability. But as we know plant matter will give most of it back per decay and will also present some of the decay gas back as 250x more damaging methane. However, we’re beginning to understand the soil chemistry is of primary value to sequestration ability to hold CO2 carbon. So, it should be common sense to understand why biofuel appears to be of mighty concern and powerful deterrent to global warming. Don’t let plant matter rot….saw it to lumber, use it for firewood, pelletize, and make liquid fuel of it instead. Cellulosic plant stock have incredible ability to produce cellulose at much higher rates than forests. Cellulose annual production is directly proportional to

    CO2 sequestration.

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  4. By Jim Butts on May 21, 2014 at 11:41 am

    But, doubling of CO2 causes a temperature rise of only about 1 deg K or only about 0.3%. Thus a factor of ten increase would increase temperature by only about 3 degrees or about 1% and at current rates of fossil fuel consumption this will take 100s of years.

    Furthermore a small rise in global temperature would probably have more good effects than bad effects. And, increased CO2 in the atmosphere would appear to also be a good thing for the biosphere.

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    • By Ed_Reid on May 21, 2014 at 11:55 am

      Jim,

      I’d suggest that comparisons based on the Centigrade scale would be more meaningful. Also, your calculation assumes that the climate response to increased CO2 is linear, rather than inverse logarithmic.

      The concern regarding CAGW is based on sensitivities and feedbacks, rather than simple CO2 accumulation.

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      • By Jim Butts on May 21, 2014 at 4:15 pm

        Wrong! Absolute temperature is proportional to average energy per molecule, specifically = 3/2 kT where k is Boltzmann’s constant = 1.38E-23 Joules/deg K and T is the absolute temperature in degrees Kelvin. Therefore a precentage increase in absolute temperature is the same as percentage increase in average energy per molecule. Using the centigrade scale is generally misleading in terms of energy content. For example 0 degrees C corresponds to 273 K and 6E-23 Joules kinetic energy per molecule. Any temperature increase from 0 C would be an infinite increase in temperature and obviously totally meaningless in terms of energy but on the kelvin scale it would be a finite percentage and correspond to the same percentage energy increase.

        Wrong! When one variable, T, increases linearly (by 1 deg K or C) when another variable (CO2 density) doubles this is a logarithmic dependance!

        And of course feedbacks are important and they are obviously negative because we have a stable system. Temperature variations (energy variations) in the air have been less than 10% over millions of years. Also, it is pretty clear that CO2 is not driving temperature since it lags temperature by about 800 years. This is easily understood — temp goes up and CO2 outgases from the ocean. The stablizing short term feed back is water vapor outgasing from the ocean resulting in more cloud cover and more reflected sunlight.

        Jim Butts
        PhD Physics

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        • By Ed_Reid on May 21, 2014 at 4:22 pm

          I surrender.

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  5. By Ed_Reid on May 21, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Robert,

    I am not sure that more data would improve the models. I am sure that better data would improve our understanding of what is occurring. The temperature anomalies presented by the three primary analysis and reporting groups are all built from “adjusted” temperatures, rather than from the actual data. The “adjustments” are “required” because the sensors are not appropriately located, installed and/or maintained.

    The US has recently implemented the Climate Reference Network of 100+ new, carefully located, multi-sensor measurement stations. In the process, NCDC developed a Rating Guide for station siting and installation. Independent evaluation of the majority of the surface temperature measuring stations currently used to develop the surface temperature anomalies, using the CRN Rating Guide criteria, determined that only ~7.9% of the surface temperature measuring stations were sited and installed such that they would be subject to measurement errors of less than 1 C (surfacestations.org). Approximately 6.2% of the sites were so poorly located, installed and maintained that they would be expected to be in error by >/= 5 C, or about one third of the temperature they were intended to measure. That is hardly technical excellence.

    I am certain that an improved understanding of climate sensitivities and feedbacks would lead to improvements in the climate models, which currently generate scenarios with a broad range of future outcomes; and, which currently deviate significantly form the “adjusted” anomalies. I also suspect that, in addition to the known unknowns in climate science, there are also a number of unknown unknowns which also influence climate. We cannot afford not to continue learning about climate; and, about how best to adapt to it when it changes.

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    • By Optimist on May 22, 2014 at 2:57 pm

      “…would be expected to be in error by >/= 5 C, or about one third of the temperature they were intended to measure. That is hardly technical excellence.”
      Not as sloppy as your analysis, though. One third? How did you calculate that, Ed? Hint: the absolute temperature scale is in °K, not °C. Since temperatures are generally around 300°K, an error of 5°K is less than 2%. Pretty impressive.

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      • By Ed_Reid on May 22, 2014 at 4:44 pm

        The CRN error estimates are expressed in degrees C. The “adjusted’ anomalies are expressed most commonly in degrees C. On the rare occasions when climate scientists show actual temperature in charts and graphs, the units are usually degrees C. The global average surface temperature is estimated to be approximately 15 C. Of course, you knew all of that.

        The real joke is calculating global anomalies from “adjusted” temperatures and expressing the results to two decimal places when many of the instruments from which the original data were taken are estimated to be in error in the first place to the left of the decimal; or, expressing anomaly trends to three decimal places per decade, or the equivalent of four decimal places per year.

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        • By Optimist on May 22, 2014 at 5:19 pm

          You make a fair point about accuracy of measurements, in terms of concerns about how supposedly devastating a rise of 1 or 2°C can be.

          My point is just that one should not treat an arbitrary zero (0°C) as an absolute zero.

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          • By Ed_Reid on May 22, 2014 at 5:54 pm

            I would suggest that 0 C is not exactly arbitrary. Also, I would hope that absolute zero is outside the temperature range of concern for global diurnal and seasonal temperature variations, no less global average surface temperatures.

            My point was that, if we are concerned about deviations from a global average surface temperature of ~15 C, a measurement error of ~5 C is very large, particularly with regard to a 0.5? C “adjusted” anomaly. Two recent papers have suggested that approaching half of the reported anomalies might exist only in the adjustments, rather than in the underlying data.

            The magnitude of these errors would be troubling enough, were it possible to rerun the “test” after such errors had been detected and corrected. It is far more troubling in a regime in which nothing can be repeated. Once bad data is collected, or data is missing, the opportunity to collect good data for that period in those locations is past.

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  6. By Forrest on May 21, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    The study of earths climate would take to two divisions. The current micro approach per computer modeling of all variables and macro approach per geological time frame. Attempting to understanding Earths history of climate change may be of more importance as it deals with realities. Answer the question of the dramatic changes to climate upon our natural history will make projecting future climate changes more accurate. Understand the earth per geologic CO2 levels leaves much to research. CO2 levels 18x present day, temperature, ice ages, swamp gas, continental drift, volcanoes eruptions, meteor strikes, plant growth, coal formation, and oil formation. The earth has normal (at least not man made) climate shifts. Earth suffered desert like conditions, to ice age, and then to tropical rain forest conditions that appear not to track with CO2 levels. I think were just at the cusp of understanding climate, let alone man’s contribution. A contribution upon earth’s geologic history of which should be classed as puny.

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  7. By Philip Haddad on May 21, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    I hope that everyone who recognizes that burning of fossil fuels emit carbon dioxide will take into account that the main reason for burning them is for their heat release. During the past century the heat emissions have increased tenfold, whereas the CO2 concentration has increased 25%. Whether the increased CO2 has had a significant impact on the amount of solar heat retained is the question. What is being ignored is that all this excess heat from our energy use is being emitted under the same blanket of greenhouse gas. What happens to it? It heats the air, land, and water, and melts glaciers just as solar heat radiation does. Is it a significant amount? In 2008, when energy use was only 16 terawatts, the emissions amounted to 50x10E16 btus a year. This is enough to raise the atmospheric temperature by 0.17*F if that is the only place the heat goes, but the actual rise was only 0.04*F, with the rest of the heat going elsewhere, probably to the oceans. But keep in mind, this is not the only heat being stored. The geothermal heat flow is 44 terawatts and, as the air and water temperatures rise, will continue to build up until the land, and water reach a temperature high enough to maintain the temperature difference necessary to dissipate the 44 TW. If heat is the significant cause of global warming why are we wasting time and money to capture and store CO2, when it requires the removal of one billion tons to lower the concentration by one part per million. And why are we continuing to permit and license more nuclear power plants when nuclear power emits more than twice the total heat as its electrical output? Taxing of CO2 emissions will certainly raise the cost of power, while probably doing little to reduce the actual consumption of fossil fuels. While on this subject, if heat is the main problem, switching to natural gas will provide no advantage over oil or coal, but all of our fossil fuels should be exploited until we are no longer importing any. Then the hydrocarbons can be used to produce chemicals and consumer goods. A U.S. patent 4687570 teaches “Direct use of methane in coal liquefaction”. So let’s continue to produce fossil fuels while escalating the development and installation of renewables, like solar, wind, hydroelectric, etc.

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    • By Forrest on May 22, 2014 at 8:16 am

      Your point of thermal pollution is important and not taken very seriously by environmentalist that avoid solutions that undermine the personal preferences. We could do a lot to mitigate global warming by reflecting more solar heat away from earth. These are low cost and irrefutable solutions.
      The point of nuclear and coal steam turbine thermal pollution is well understood per our Michigan nuclear plants that artificially raise temperature of cold great lakes. It has been a boon to fishing, but as you post thermal pollution. It’s easy for me to spot thermal pollution of congested activities of city. Commuting daily to smaller city one can observe about one full grow zone difference within 14 miles travel. It also begs the question on how the scientist can document normal air temperature. As a gardener, I am familiar with potent factor of miro-clamtes and have much skepticism of ability to calculate historical temps to .1 degree. To that point a life long career GW scientist did claim the satellite imagery of ice melts the basic tool and catapulted GW science reliability. Meaning all the talk of average temperatures accurate to tenth degree should be greatly discounted.

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      • By Philip Haddad on May 22, 2014 at 10:30 am

        Forrest: Thank you for your comments.

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  8. By Forrest on May 22, 2014 at 7:41 am

    The argument that coal resources are huge as compared to other fossil fuel and therefore a huge CO2 threat is weak. Also, the stats on methane hydrate danger is large per huge resource is not indicator of danger to GW. We should be so lucky to have these resources. But, the need of intelligent utilization of these resources is duly noted. Intelligent utilization in the course of human history is probably equally weak argument, but one the U.S. should put it’s resources to work. Meaning forget attempting to convince poor nations to quit burning coal unless we have a less expensive and cheaper fuel source to replace low cost coal. Good luck with that! So, practical and most powerful endeavors to have impact on global warming CO2 would certainly include clean coal. Coal gets a bad rap as fuel source, since we utilize the fuel for inefficient task of power generation. Power generation plants utilizing the steam turbines only thermally efficient in high 30%. Compare that to hot air turbine of advanced combined cycle burning natural gas with 60% efficiency. Also, NG gets a bump as a good fuel per use heating needs. Heating is easy task for fossil fuels and efficiencies run in high 90%.

    How to utilize coal per least environmental impact? My guess would be fluidized bed gasification per typical clean coal advance technology. The pollutants much more reactive and easier to deal with. The process is very clean except for CO2. Recent news of copper catalyst cracking CO2 directly to ethanol very interesting. Same with chemistry of CO for fuels and the process ability to generate hydrogen is attractive.
    We do need to avoid use of direct coal fired steam turbine power plant use, but gasification of coal is very attractive as we can utilize this fuel upon efficient process.

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  9. By Forrest on May 22, 2014 at 9:38 am

    We may have a blind spot per our environmental friendly energy sources. Citizens are apparently ignorant of efficiency of electric. For instance, often times I hear a salesmen or friends claim to be stewards of environment by switching to efficient electric stove, dryer, hot water heater, and desire to purchase a battery car as these devices are 100% efficient and offer no pollution. I guess they are not corrected per notions of fairy tale expectations of the grid to be soon powered by solar and wind. Well, if and when that would ever happen those appliances would be long gone. So, we should implore decision making on the here and now realities to maximize environment benefit. This is not to say building some battery cars is not a good thing, it is, as no one can determine the future accurately.

    Some of this decision making is regional specific as western lands have an abundance of wind and hydro power that is extremely low polluting. But, for most of us utilizing grid power for fuel source is a mistake, a very polluting mistake. Environmentalist should switch stoves, water heaters, clothes dryer, and furnaces to natural gas as that would greatly reduce cost and lower pollution stream. If money isn’t important maybe geothermal heat pumps could compete upon low pollution, but I doubt the analysis per power generation to home use would result in confirming that. Homes located in areas where AC is primary concern, maybe the heat pump water heater is lower polluting? Biomass energy is a big step up in minimizing GW concerns, but does require more work and attendance. It’s usually cheaper than natural gas, though.

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    • By Tom G. on May 22, 2014 at 1:27 pm

      Living in California and Arizona for the last 30 years I have enjoyed my “air source” heat pumps and their COP efficiency of about 3.0. I put in one [1] unit of electrical energy and get three [3] units of either heat or cooling in return. Far superior to even the most efficient natural gas furnace.

      In the summer months [July, Aug. Sept.] my monthly electric bill for my ALL ELECTRIC 1700 ft. sq. Arizona home runs about $200.00 @ $.12/kWh. In the winter months it is $50-60/month. I use an average of about 12,000 kWh per year and pay $105/month on a levelized payment plan for my all electric home.

      The question becomes – can the heat pump industry do better? Of course they can. Heat pumps in the 1980′s were rated at about 8 SEER [seasonal energy efficiency ratio]. In the 1990′s efficiency improved to about 10 SEER. In the 2000′s efficiency improved to 12 SEER. And today the typical residential unit being installed is about 15-16 SEER. For each one[1] point jump in SEER rating you reduce your operating costs by about 6% so basically we have reduced electricity consumption by about 42% since the 1980′s. Not bad but certainly not great either.

      Today you can buy air source heat pumps with efficiencies of up to 23 SEER. It is well within our grasp to again reduce energy consumption by another 40% or so but ONLY if our American manufacturers had some incentive to build such units. As the old saying goes “we have the technology” but we just aren’t mass producing it.

      These new high efficiency heat pumps are called “inverter” units and work well down to about +15 F which would cover most of the homes in the Southern parts of the U.S. They take AC electrical power and Invert it to a different frequency and then Invert it back into AC to run the compressor at varying speeds exactly matched to the heating or cooling needs of a home or business. This of course results in significant improvements in the units efficiencies, improved home comfort levels and reduced operating costs.

      How much extra do they cost? The Inverter printed circuit board probably costs a few dollars to produce. The added electrical components like capacitors, resistors, diodes and integrated circuits cost maybe another $40-$80. The other mechanical changes needed to improve unit efficiencies might cost another $100-$200 so in total; we are looking at a price premium of about $280. Most of the companies that DO manufacturer this units are located in Asia. So many Asian companies have been building unit with this technology for years and inverter units have become competitive with our old “on” and “off” stuff we are still manufacturing in America. Our own homegrown American manufacturers are as usual; late to the game and when they do play, they seem to want to charge 3X more for an equivalent unit.

      So depending on where you live in America an Air Source Heat Pumps can be far superior to any natural gas furnace you can buy and heat pump efficiencies will continue to improve over time.

      Now if you really want to tickle my hot button we can talk about the utter stupidity of residential gas or electric clothes dryers. They sucks 100% of the air they need to dry your clothes right out of your home you just paid to either heat or cool. Just go outside and put your hand in front of that dryer vent. Where do you think all of that how air is coming from? Its coming from inside your home.

      Oh and did I mention the how utterly insane it is to put air ducts insulated to only R-6 in an attic that is can reach 140F on a hot summer day or -10 F in the winter. Not only that, how about the average 25% leakage rate of those air ducts that are carrying your heated or cooled air.

      There is an old saying that goes something like picking the “low hanging fruit” when it comes to improving efficiency and everywhere I look I see lots of places we can start picking. I for one can’t see how we can continue to waste about 66% of every BTU of heat energy we create in our fossil fueled and nuclear power plants. In a typical power plant we input 3000 MWt [megawatts thermal] and in return we get 1000 MWe [megawatts electrical]. And have you pondered what happens to all of this waste heat?

      And people wonder why we don’t have “clean air to breath and water to drink”.

      Sorry for the long posting Forrest.

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      • By Forrest on May 22, 2014 at 4:00 pm

        Good post, you’re in a good zone for heat pump heating. Mild weather is
        perfect for those claimed efficiencies. As you know the efficiencies do
        drop when the delta temperatures increase. I purposely left out heat
        pump and was thinking of expensive geo themal heat pump that once was
        pushed around here. Very expensive solution and complicated for
        reliability concerns. Inverter DC motor control is gaining popularity in all motor applications. Even water well pumps and exhaust fans. You made the point of power generation very
        inefficient as compared to NG home use. Also, the 7-15% line loss
        doesn’t help. Around here it’s all coal or nuclear with steam turbine
        inefficiencies. We have low solar and limited wind. Manufacturing cost
        is not a good measure when comparing added cost to consumer. Often
        manufacturing cost is doubled as general rule, then that cost in general
        is doubled upon retail sales. Small increases in cost will destroy the
        market. Best to build competitive low cost electronics in low labor and
        cost countries. U.S. has a lot of labor relations, law, liabilities,
        entitlements, regulations, tax, and low ability to control head winds.
        We managed to demonize business, profit, and the rest. Our country doesn’t appear to like heavy industry or manufacturing, just to assemble things like cars.

        I was reading
        about Texas grid problems and was amazed at industry comment that more
        homeowners are going off grid and the concern of increased popularity.
        They expect energy storage cost will drop and roof top solar will be
        more cost effective. Electronics are not that expensive. So, a very attractive solution, environmentally, reliability wise, and cost wise. It makes me rethink the wisdom of spending the equivalent to interstate highway system to modernize smart grid. Also, the money costs for safe guarding grid from electric impulse explosion, increase storm damage, and terrorist activity. It would make more sense to utilize NG for fuel and roof top solar for low wattage electric demand and go off grid. The grid is expensive to maintain, not durable, very sensitive to load shifts. Pipelines have natural ability to preform. Also, cogen solutions are attractive and should be very inexpensive as it’s low tech and common hardware. A small single cylinder ICE should be easy to manufacture, right? One such cogen system “Polar” has a combined ICE and heat pump. The system adjusts to extracting max engine heat per heat pump if needed and utilizes a cheaper drive for compressor…natural gas. The equipment runs A.C. needs, electric power, and heating needs. Good for 2-3 homes.

        It appears the fuel cell will play into all of this as well. I did read an engineering article of wisdom of utilizing nuclear for hydrogen production a much better outcome for country.

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        • By Tom G. on May 22, 2014 at 4:16 pm

          Good posting.

          As I have said many times before on various sites I believe there is a role for nuclear to play. It makes a wonderful baseload power source however we need to rethink HOW we do nuclear. It is my hope that our future reactor facilities will sell more than just electricity. These facilities need to add things like desalination, hydrogen production and process heat as secondary sources of income. It is the only way I see nuclear facilities becoming cost competitive.

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    • By T-Wizzle on May 23, 2014 at 12:55 pm

      Your advice to environmentalists to switch to gas is true if they already have access to NG in their homes. Its probably a wash if they have to get those lines installed. It is definitely a wash if considering100k new homes the amount of green house gases that will escape from well to home is considerable.

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      • By Forrest on May 24, 2014 at 7:16 am

        Your post motivated me to read up on CH4 leakage rate. It’s frustrating information. Estimates all over the map. EPA claims their science made a big error. Natural gas industry claims leakage rate under 1%. Europe claims they have just about zero. Other scientist claim 4-5.6%. Some analysis throw in gas flaring into leakage rate. Also, with advent of better and cheaper detectors, the gas industry has recently greatly improved leak rate. Gas lines have a small contribution. One analysis claimed if NG power station would be no better than coal upon 4% leak rate. Also, the claims of CH4 damage to environment ranged from 250 to 10x as compared to CO2. EPA most recent stats had 20x per 100 year interval, but that is a bit bogus as CH4 is greatly reduced after 7 years, but some small percentage does hang on for 100 years. Also, cow flatulence is either the second to top biggest source of methane or hardly a problem. Swamp gas hardly a problem per current EPA analysis, but per our geologic history responsible for huge quantities. Also, the CH4 produced from rotting vegetation, per the global tonnage must be a primary source. EPA claims a minor source….BTW how can they get a reasonable estimate on that? It’s just pure speculation. Most of this accurate global warming computer calculations is hokum. You don’t need high level math to make estimates, nor a super super computer. A simple spreadsheet would work if the data input was accurate. But then we all could see the calculations that way.

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      • By Forrest on May 24, 2014 at 7:33 am

        The biomass cost would vary greatly per region. Wood is very expensive in some regions with only pine or desert land. My wood is free as a large number of wood stove diy owners. We happily clean up storm damage. trim, and remove trees. Around here commercial fire wood is much cheaper than natural gas. The last review of heating fuel, I’ve read had pellet fuel cheaper than NG, also. All homeowners just about will utilize NG for fuel supply if available. Some like me will also utilize biomass. If no NG supply available, almost all will go to propane and a greater percentage will utilize biomass with propane. Not to many in cold north utilize electric heat.
        It is a big advantage to have biomass for emergency use. Nice to have a couple years supply drying out in back yard. Last year per Robert’s article, the NG cost did skyrocket the last few month of winter as inventory gone. Nice to have a plan B. Also, nice to have gas water heater and stove as power lines often fail in harsh weather. We drain hot water out of tank, or use back up power for well pump.

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  10. By Robert Rapier on May 23, 2014 at 1:42 am

    I don’t really ever delete anything unless it’s really over the top, and I didn’t delete anything from you. I do find some in the spam folder at times. Sometimes I don’t know why they got flagged (it’s an algorithm), but every once in a while someone will say that their comment got deleted and I will go in and find it in there.

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  11. By Benjamin Cole on May 23, 2014 at 3:46 am

    Great post. I have no idea on global warming, but like RR, I think maybe it is best to hedge our bets a little.

    I like power sources like nukes that can be run with little environmental harm (yes, Fukushima, but in general). in general, cleaner environments are better anyway, and burning fossil fuels is a dirty business.

    Battery cars offer a way to a better future, and they are getting better all the time. (yes, battery cars ultimately fueled by nukes, solar, wind, geothermal, hydro).

    Side note on the other side of the fence: For the last several hundred thousands of years, the norm has been Ice Ages. We are talking about a slab of ice hundreds of feet thick across North America down to the Mason-Dixon line or something like that. A sensible question is, can we avert the norm? Does CO2, oddly enough, offer that ability to thwart the norm of an Ice Age? If not, and an Ice Age starts settling in, are there methods to heat the planet up?

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  12. By Doughert0 on May 23, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    “What is the best way to move forward on coal?” The easy, obvious answer, build nuclear plants. Besides hydro, nuclear power is the only CO2 free energy source that is safe, reliable, and continuous. As another commenter noted, intermittent renewables (solar and wind) are fairy tale energy sources.

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    • By Tom G. on May 23, 2014 at 4:33 pm

      And don’t forget geothermal which I am quite sure you accidently omitted. it has a lot of untapped potential and is a 24/7 source. Go here to take a quick look at the possible potential.

      http://www.geo-energy.org/potentialUse.aspx

      Nuclear will come when we learn how to build it cost effectively. See my posting below.

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      • By Forrest on May 24, 2014 at 7:47 am

        The U.S. per the Yellowstone area has huge geothermal potential. Problem, as the problem with wind energy…the incredible cost of power lines. I haven’t seen an analysis other than the bottom line expense. For what ever reason the U.S. can’t construct infrastructure. We have way to much historical baggage? The history of rail way corruption, federal contracts are monsters of regulation, union labor is not exactly productive as in past years, materials are zooming in cost, litigation is through the roof as well as environmental regs, laws, lawsuits. Private property rights are big hurtle as well as politics. The XL pipeline case in point as the New Jersey tunnel. I’m beginning to think, if and when the U.S. converts to smart grid and green energy, the consumers will abandon ship and op to go off grid with roof top solar, low wattage electric devices, and natural gas with biofuel.

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        • By Forrest on May 24, 2014 at 7:57 am

          May be the Big Dig Boston tunnel I’m thinking of?

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    • By Forrest on May 24, 2014 at 7:50 am

      Hydro just made the news as a new analysis of western lands with EPA software of intelligently placing dams for wild life and environmental concerns put the most attractive green power source capable of 30% of our power needs. I think the roadblock is the same as geothermal and wind development, power line costs.

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    • By Jonathan Koomey on May 25, 2014 at 11:53 am

      If by “fairy tale” you mean that wind is a power source that can bid into power markets at a full societal cost for new wind plants of less than 6 cents per kWh delivered at the busbar, you are correct. Otherwise, you’re not. http://emp.lbl.gov/sites/all/files/lbnl-6103e.pdf

      PV is behind wind, but dropping more rapidly in cost.

      http://newscenter.lbl.gov/news-releases/2013/08/12/installed-price-of-solar-photovoltaic-systems-in-the-u-s-continues-to-decline-at-a-rapid-pace/

      If the nuclear folks can build plants on time and on budget, then by all means let’s build more. But if they can’t do that, even after all the licensing and design changes we’ve made, then they won’t be able to compete in societies that have functioning power markets. For a comprehensive historical review of nuclear costs in the US, with implications for future competitiveness, see

      Koomey, Jonathan G., and Nathan E. Hultman. 2007. “A reactor-level analysis of busbar costs for U.S. nuclear plants, 1970-2005.” Energy Policy. vol. 35, no. 11. November. pp. 5630-5642. [http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2007.06.005]

      I can send you a copy if you’re interested.

      Also see

      Koomey, Jonathan, and Nathan Hultman. 2009. The Real Risk of Nuclear Power. Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution. December 2. [http://www.brookings.edu/opinions/2009/1202_nuclear_power_hultman.aspx]

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      • By Forrest on May 25, 2014 at 2:15 pm

        It’s is interesting that our country can’t build nuclear power plants, you know per the history of building so many of them before. It’s strange as now we can’t build pipelines either. Whats wrong with those industries?

        Wind energy biggest cost improvement was cheap cost of money. Something the industry had little control of and may not last much longer. Also, if it were not for our clever investment tax credit schemes to attract high rate taxpayers to invest in wind energy write offs, wind energy wouldn’t look as good. It’s a backhanded approach to utilize fed tax revenue. Read the Editor’s column on true cost of wind energy. Also, it not good to sack the utility company (consumers pick up the tab) with constructing expensive high lines for wind energy hookup. I hear many stories of cheap green energy and yet my utility company is warning us the EPA regs will push our electric rates through the roof. What? Were constructing wind turbines, what’s up with that?

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        • By Jonathan Koomey on May 25, 2014 at 11:21 pm

          An important issue for nuclear is related to the type of economies of scale that industry tries to capture (compared to wind, solar, cogeneration, and to a lesser extent gas fired-central station generation). Here’s the key paragraph from our busbar cost article from 2007:

          ” Capital costs can be reduced in many ways. Trancik
          (2006) , for example, demonstrated a theoretical link
          between the unit size of energy technologies and the
          likelihood of achieving desired cost reductions. Larger unit
          size may result in lower construction cost, but it misses the
          opportunities of achieving lower costs associated with
          manufacturing many units of the same type. Nemet (2007)
          has termed these two effects ‘‘economies of unit scale’’ and
          ‘‘economies of manufacturing scale’’, respectively.”

          These learning effects of manufacturing scale turn out to be very powerful, while the economies of unit scale max out at 500 to 1000 MW and a reasonable case can be made that smaller plants would allow for faster learning in the nuclear industry. The biggest problem for nuclear is that the competitors aren’t standing still. For PV panels, the cost per unit has declined 18-20% for every doubling of cumulative experience, and that relationship has held true since the 1960s. Wind generation has seen long-term cost declines because of learning effects, but not at quite the pace of solar. Global wind and solar annual installations have been doubling every 1 to 3 years in the past decade, and there’s no reason why such growth (or even more rapid growth) can’t continue. That means many more doublings of cumulative experience in a relatively short time.

          The cost reductions in wind have little to do with cheap cost of money, and almost everything to do with rapid learning for a mass produced technology. It’s a profitable industry growing 20-30% per year, and it is cost competitive now with new coal plants (without subsidy). If you incorporate a reasonable carbon tax, reasonable externality taxes for non carbon pollution, and/or extend the renewable energy production tax credit (1.8 cents/kWh, last I looked), then its momentum will continue at a rapid pace. Even if you don’t do those things, you will just delay the cost reductions by a few years–the industry will do just fine, although having a smoother transition would be more desirable. The recently passed and upcoming EPA regulations will do some of the job of incorporating external costs, but they won’t do it all. The most comprehensive recent review of externality costs for the US found that oil and coal fired electricity generation delivered negative net value added to the economy. So if you think coal fired electricity is cheap, you are incorrect if you focus on the societal perspective.

          Muller, Nicholas Z., Robert Mendelsohn, and William Nordhaus. 2011. “Environmental Accounting for Pollution in the United States Economy.” American Economic Review vol. 101, no. 5. August. pp. 1649–1675. [https://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/aer.101.5.1649]

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          • By Alex Johnson on May 27, 2014 at 3:26 pm

            Personally I’m also a fan of the more scalable nature of wind and solar. If a person believes they want to control their own power source, they can. Thats not so for nuclear. I think just as much knowledge is gained with the smaller installations, like at a home, as it is at the very big ones. People are realizing that solar can work even in cloudy areas, and that when you put the turbine high enough the wind does blow most of the time. If not, thats what the new smaller nat gas power plants are for. I’m excited to see the ingenuity that will come from a hybridized system versus everyone relying on large centralized power sources.

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            • By Jonathan Koomey on May 27, 2014 at 3:52 pm

              Yes, that advantage is related to economies of manufacturing scale. When technologies come in small chunks, it’s easier and faster to deploy them, so learning happens faster.

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  13. By Jeff Ihnen on May 24, 2014 at 9:58 am

    Great assessment. I am so tired of the name calling, bomb-throwing, crazies. Let’s have a rational discussion. This is a great start…

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    • By Ed_Reid on May 29, 2014 at 9:29 am

      Eliminating the use of the terms “denier”, “anti-science”, “climate zombies”, etc. would be a great start. Open access to data and computer code would be a very helpful next step, eliminating the time and cost of FOIA requests and follow-on lawsuits. The US CRN is a small, but extremely important, step on the way to real data that does not require “adjustment”. Some increased candor regarding the limitations of climate modeling would also help.

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      • By Robert Rapier on May 29, 2014 at 4:29 pm

        “Eliminating the use of the terms “denier”, “anti-science”, “climate zombies”, etc. would be a great start.”

        I have made the same point. I specifically dislike “denier”, and get annoyed when people use it because of its frequent usage in “Holocaust deniers.” That’s a repulsive association.

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        • By Ed_Reid on May 29, 2014 at 4:53 pm

          It was and is intended to be repulsive. The “anti-science” meme is intended to suggest that the “unbelievers” are Luddites. I have never been sure what to make of Joe Romm’s “climate zombies” insult, unless he is suggesting that they just won’t die.

          The “denier” label is tossed around indiscriminately, referring to GW, AGW and CAGW, though the actual percentage of people who are skeptical of GW is miniscule, while the percentage skeptical of AGW is somewhat larger and the percentage skeptical of CAGW is much larger. Conflating GW, AGW and CAGW this way merely adds to the confusion and acrimony.

          I wish we could focus all of this energy on collecting better data and building better models. Instead, we use data that aren’t and models that don’t to argue for solutions that aren’t.

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          • By Jonathan Koomey on May 30, 2014 at 7:59 pm

            I believe the “climate zombies” phrase relates to the fact that these folks keep repeating the same long debunked nonsense over and over again. They don’t seem to care that it’s already been disproved, they just keep saying this stuff. Very frustrating for those who believe in honest discourse.

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  14. By Forrest on May 24, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    The best way forward with coal? First walk to the light and understand the cheap fuel source will be utilized in very harmful fashion unless we can get ahead of the curve with environmental solutions. I do not believe the logic of inspiring other countries to follow our lead when they laugh at our stupidity upon shooting ourselves in the foot. Remember the alarmist that claimed Germany with such genius of irrational wind energy investments will soon lead world economics? Present day they suffer per exploitation of cheap Russian natural gas supply.

    The typical coal fired steam turbine power plant, at best, is operating at the high 30′s percent efficiency to generate power…not a good solution. Here in Michigan we have a good percentage of green power. We purchase chipped wood to fire the old steam boiler turbine. Compare that unwise use of biomass with alternative of firing up a 70% efficient stoves for space heating. This is good as this energy source will offset natural gas consumption that would normally be consumed per the task. N.G. A fuel that can power hot air turbines advanced combined cycle power plants at 60% efficiency. This is a much better application of this valuable fuel. I’m guessing here that coal, like biomass, should be utilized upon most efficient processes as well. Hopefully, the pollution control technology will magnify the benefit of thermal efficiency by minimizing harmful pollutants. That could be old fashioned space heating applications or fluidized bed gasification to hot air turbine power plants. The most desirable energy source to developing countries concern is power generation. So, the gasification of coal to fuel efficient electric generation of power plant operation probably the most attractive. That may be the sweet spot to mitigate global CO2. High efficiency power plants.

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  15. By Jonathan Koomey on May 25, 2014 at 11:44 am

    Robert,
    A nicely balanced discussion. Well done! One quibble: I wouldn’t have given equal weight to the following two points that you cited as diametrically opposed views: “One side believes that fossil fuel consumption threatens our very existence while the other sees climate change as a huge scam that threatens to destroy economic progress.” It’s perfectly sensible to believe that use of fossil fuels on our current path threatens the continued orderly development of human civilization. That’s a reasonable view well grounded in the evidence, although there is a lot of uncertainty in exactly how those developments will play out. The 2nd view is a conspiracy theory that has no basis in reality. There are certainly unreasonable views on both sides, but the way you framed this particular distinction could be misinterpreted as making both views equally credible. They aren’t.

    PS. I have the data on CO2 concentrations going back 800k years, based on the complete ice core record. I can send you those and other related graphs on historical and projected concentrations and temperature in nice graphic form or as excel spreadsheets if you’re interested. Drop me a line and I’ll send them on. You can see some of them in my new white paper for Knovel titled “Climate Change as an Adaptive Challenge”: http://www.koomey.com/post/86220629363

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    • By Forrest on May 25, 2014 at 1:58 pm

      How about one side claiming this is settled science, asking not to question or spend resources to question established theory. Also, to keep spending for research. What? Why bankroll settled science? Also, I don’t remember that in science class, the importance of not challenging or questioning science?

      You act as though scientist can’t be corrupted, especially by those whom spent entire career gaming the federal money and gaining political popularity by similar research. Central Michigan University has just set up a new historical science exhibit on corruptible science. It seems the worlds leading scientist were utilizing their talents to supporting national priorities. Political ones that propelled their career and made for them a good living. Appears scientist can be easily bought off and swept up within new found national interests. It happen before. This is not conspiracy, it’s history.

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      • By Jonathan Koomey on May 25, 2014 at 11:05 pm

        The US National Academy of Sciences (http://nas-sites.org/americasclimatechoices/) says:

        “A strong, credible body of scientific evidence shows that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems….

        Some scientific conclusions or theories have been so thoroughly examined and tested, and supported by so many independent observations and results, that their likelihood of subsequently being found to be wrong is vanishingly small. Such conclusions and theories are then regarded as settled facts. This is the case for the conclusions that the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities.”

        Nobody is asking you not to question the settled science, we’re insisting that you can’t raise already refuted claims again and again insisting they are something new and expect to be taken seriously. Ever single denier talking point has been addressed in the scientific literature. Every single one. You can trace them all at http://www.skepticalscience.com

        And if you come up with new evidence that can be tested and validated that calls into question some aspects of the conclusions of climate science, I’ll be the first to cheer you on. But that’s not often what these folks do, and when a few real scientists once in a while raise legitimate points that are critical of the climate models or measurements, those are addressed and incorporated into the literature.

        It’s fascinating that you think the whole scientific community can be bought off. Scientists are notoriously independent in their thinking, and value truth above all else (that’s what we’re rewarded for throughout our careers). All it would take is one credible high level scientist who knows “the truth” as you see it to blow the whole thing up–that person could then demonstrate errors of logic and analysis in a peer reviewed article, so that everyone would have to acknowledge that “the gig is up”. But that hasn’t happened, and it isn’t because the scientists have been bought off, it’s because there is no conspiracy! In fact, even if it were a conspiracy it wouldn’t be a stable one, because it would fall apart quickly if people were trying to hide the truth.

        For those who think climate scientists are manipulating their research for financial gain, I ask you this: Which do you think is more likely: that thousands of scientists who have devoted their lives to exploring for truth at modest pay (and for single digit billions in research funding worldwide) are engaged in a massive conspiracy to hide the truth from the world, or that the fossil fuel industry is doing its best to protect $5 trillion US in revenues? For most folks, this question practically answers itself.

        For more on the tactics of the fossil fuel industry on climate (and how similar they are to previous issues like smoking, air pollution, and other public health and environmental problems), see Oreskes, Naomi, and Eric M. Conway. 2010. Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Press.

        For my post on Climate Scientists and Money, go to http://www.koomey.com/post/17610406093

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        • By Forrest on May 26, 2014 at 5:22 am

          You earlier post “It’s perfectly sensible to believe that use of fossil fuels on our current path threatens the continued orderly development of human civilization.” That sounds very foreboding. Not sure what it means but it is scary. “Our current path” is vague and one I do not hear often. Meaning not many argue to stay on the current path. Just to take cost effective paths that don’t entail the usual desire of Left to throw economy to fed regulation. The Left has a fascination and desire with such. The comment “although there is a lot of uncertainty in exactly how those developments will play out”. What uncertainty tell me it isn’t so. You do realize the cost to society, freedom, quality of life, and economic disruption costs of solutions proposed by environmentalists are huge and comparable to the problem. You do realize by invoking so much political gamesmanship into the science, the science purity fades. Unscientific minds that are full of talking points, political bombshells, insults, appearing to feed on each other with ever heighten fears. Per my observation the juice of embracing global warming fear mongering is political power and desire of Left to engage heighten use of fed control. Were making celebrities of politicians whom trade in hysteria. The science community should be outraged per stealing credible research for such shallow purposes. Science loses credibility as result. But this is the usual course of environmentalist whom make many claims of ruination. One of these days they may be right? You post the “Republicans are in a position to obstruct” , darn those citizens whom have a voice. They should let the Left run things. It’s just wrong for so many citizens to have a voice upon topics that slow down our wonderful solutions.

          Your reply “A strong, credible body of scientific evidence shows that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems….” Well, that’s tone down a tad. Very broadly defined, but in general terms hard to argue with.

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          • By Forrest on May 26, 2014 at 5:37 am

            The point “this
            is the case for the conclusions that the Earth system is warming and
            that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities.” Well, that is a bit easier to swallow, “warming is very likely due to human activities”. That statement is leaves the door open to questions that need to be researched. So, much of blow back is directed to the hysteria of accurate assessment of civilization calamity proclamations. The truth is we have no accurate assessment, most of it is speculation. If ever environmentalist believed the hype they would run to nuclear power, promote nuclear, support R&D efforts to make the power source safe and cheaper.

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            • By Forrest on May 26, 2014 at 5:58 am

              Your point “Nobody is asking you not to question the settled science, we’re
              insisting that you can’t raise already refuted claims again and again
              insisting they are something new and expect to be taken seriously. Ever
              single denier talking point has been addressed in the scientific
              literature. Every single one.”

              Huh, you promoting harmony to us uneducated by convincing critics using disparaging name calling. That’s a tactic to gin up anger and energize the debate. Tactics utilized by political pundits. Most proponents of GW do claim no one can challenge settled science. Also, both sides of the debate have “talking points” that are valid and not dismissible. Meaning, GW science is soft, inaccurate, and complex. No accurate analysis will ever be calculated other than broad projections. Error rates such as confidence being a tad above normal climatic events.

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            • By Forrest on May 26, 2014 at 6:47 am

              “It’s fascinating that you think the whole scientific community can be bought off.”
              Like I posted, it has happen before within human history.

              Scientist are no different, they have human foibles. NPR have many call in that are enraged per funding corruption of science from, petrol or tobacco, but, lack critical thinking upon Sierra Club. Also, you describe the science community as a
              United Nations wealth of agreeing science. Well, the international community is fraught with corruption. Not a good argument.
              You bring in tobacco companies into conversation for what reason? Appears, either to prove companies are evil per profit motive unlike scientist whom work is untainted per money and whose lifetime career of expertise is of no concern. BTW tobacco companies attempting to defend themselves per onslaught of damaging regulation appears a normal reaction. Many products and habits are highly destructive to good health. Did anyone think smoking was not a health concern before the testimony? Doubt it. This was all about money. Follow the new found wealth of lawyers, states, governments and the political win for those pundits awarding state control a win to keep us safe from savages of corp profit takers. Notice the product is not outlawed. Notice that as smoking habits
              decrease pharmaceutical drug use increase. Also, corporations have learned that they need to pay off politics to insure themselves from new found tactic of politics of which Jesse Jackson invented some years ago. Big tobacco may have suffered little if it had invested likewise.

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            • By Jonathan Koomey on May 26, 2014 at 9:58 am

              The scientific community has peer review and rewards truth above all else. It’s not perfect, but it’s about as good a self-correcting system as exists among fallible humans. As I explained above, a conspiracy like the one you suggest would quickly fall apart, for the reasons I stated.

              I have nothing against the profit motive, and in fact run my own business, so your implication that I’m somehow against business is simply wrong. Please research Bob Inglis and George Shultz and read what they say about this problem. They are on the right track. Those who deny the science are not.

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            • By Jonathan Koomey on May 26, 2014 at 10:02 am

              Concern about climate is informed by analysis based on understanding the physics. The reality is that we’ve understood the basic outlines of this problem since the late 1980s, and while we’ve gotten a lot more sophisticated in our analyses, the key finding (that a doubling of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere will result in an average warming of the earth by 1.5 to 4.5 Celsius degrees) has been about the same for that entire time. We understand the feedbacks more precisely now, but that basic reality is well understood. So we do have an accurate assessment, you just don’t like the implications of that assessment.

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          • By Jonathan Koomey on May 26, 2014 at 9:44 am

            Denying reality because you fear the potential solutions )won’t make it go away. I encourage you to research the excellent work by former Rep. Bob Inglis and George Shultz, both strong and sensible conservatives whom I admire. The key thing is to accept the problem as a real one, then to propose solutions more in line with what you see as conservative values. That’s what Bob and George are doing, and I applaud them (and happen to agree with them in many aspects of the solutions they propose). See also this recent article: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865603909/Who-are-the-alarmists-here-Real-conservatives-value-evidence.html

            Real conservatives evaluate the evidence and take appropriate action. Those of us who support market based solutions (and I’m one of them) know that once the market gets focused on a problem, it gets fixed rapidly.

            But there’s no escaping the fact that only government can fix some parts of this problem, and we shouldn’t shrink from that reality either. Here’s what I wrote in my post “What kind of government do we want?” (http://www.koomey.com/post/73848475928):

            “What we need is an honest discussion about what kind of government we want and what we want it to do for us. Sometimes we’ll want more government, like when we find lead in children’s toys, salmonella in peanut butter, poison in medicines, an unsustainable health care system, or fraudulent assets and a lack of transparency in the financial world. We know from experience that only government can fix those things. Sometimes we’ll want less government, like when old and conflicting regulations get in the way of starting innovative new companies. Only government can fix that too (although the private sector has some lessons to teach on that score). And sometimes we’ll want the same government, just delivered more efficiently (like the state of California has done with the Department of Motor Vehicles in recent years, the good results of which I’ve experienced firsthand).

            When it comes to government, more is not better. Less is not better. Only better is better. And better is what we as a society should strive for.”

            So let’s have a vigorous debate about the best way to solve the problem, but let’s not continue to focus on the science, which is as solid as can be. It’s just physics: You put more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, they trap more heat,and the earth warms. Simple.

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          • By Jonathan Koomey on May 26, 2014 at 10:08 am

            What it means is that if current trends continue (and in the absence of policy changes that internalize the external costs of carbon and other pollutants they surely will) we will push the earth well outside of the comfortable temperature range in which humanity evolved and civilization developed, and to do so in less than a century. I encourage you to read the excellent work by MIT on their “no policy case”, which (as I show in Chapter 2 of my latest book, Cold Cash, Cool Climate) is a reasonable extrapolation of the trends in population, energy use, and emissions rates over the past half century.
            http://globalchange.mit.edu/gamble/more

            My most recent summary of the problem was just published by Knovel, titled “Climate Change as an adaptive challenge”. That white paper contains a series of graphs describing the reasons for concern about climate in a straightforward way. Check it out here: http://www.koomey.com/post/86220629363

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    • By Robert Rapier on May 25, 2014 at 2:30 pm

      “I wouldn’t have given equal weight to the following two points that you cited as diametrically opposed views”

      It’s not giving them equal weight, but I think there is too big a tendency to just dismiss or ignore them. We can’t do that, because they are in a position to obstruct. This seems to be a litmus test for the Republican party at this point, so they need to be engaged if legislation is going to get passed.

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      • By Jonathan Koomey on May 25, 2014 at 10:42 pm

        I agree that they are in a position to obstruct, but at a certain point they have to take responsibility for their unwillingness to accept the evidence that all major scientific bodies in the world now accept. The responsible people in the Republican party need to reign in these folks and call it a day. Then we can get on with solving the problem.

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        • By Robert Rapier on May 26, 2014 at 2:35 pm

          “The responsible people in the Republican party need to reign in these folks and call it a day.”

          That’s what I attempt to do with essays like this. Make it easier for them to reign in those folks by getting them to see that just maybe there is a little bit of a threat there. Maybe if we can move past the bombast, they can see a bit of truth that needs to be taken seriously.

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          • By Edward Kerr on May 30, 2014 at 10:26 am

            Robert,
            I have always looked to you for solid information on “energy” issues. Your knowledge and work qualify you as an expert in that area. However, your reticence to accept that the problem might be more than “a little bit of a threat” is dismaying. After studying how the planetary climate works for several years now I have come to the conclusion that the “threat” is massive and that a coordinated global effort is required to even attempt to mitigate the problem. As I look around at world/US politics I’m not sanguine about the outcome of inaction. Frankly, the time for politeness is past. We are in a fight for our lives so kindly forgive us (climate believers) when we become almost apoplectic when faced with the growing denial that is becoming more shrill daily. If we are wrong, I’ll be the first to apologize but considering the stakes I suggest that the “precautionary” course of action is what’s called for here.

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            • By Robert Rapier on May 30, 2014 at 4:53 pm

              “However, your reticence to accept that the problem might be more than “a little bit of a threat” is dismaying. ”

              You misread me. My views should be clear from the many things I have written. My point is to get the other side to budge and acknowledge there might be something to this. Maybe just a bit of a threat? And if it’s a bit of a threat (from their perspective), shouldn’t we do something?

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            • By Edward Kerr on May 30, 2014 at 7:32 pm

              Agreed Robert. I’m sorry if I misread your position on the threat to life on this marvelous planet. I too would like to see the dissenters (A better word?) realize that action is required and those who are responsible to govern actually do a little governing.

              On a personal note; congratulations on your son’s recent accomplishment. He’s a fine young man and you have every right to be proud. As they say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

              Regards,
              Ed

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  16. By Forrest on May 26, 2014 at 8:12 am

    A lot of this global warming agenda reminds me of the analogy of education problems. The claim of never spending enough on their solutions the reason for failure. They claim education is of a paramount concern for the country, but fail to follow the science other than science that bolsters their solution. It’s been a heated long term debate that centers upon politics and protecting cherished left thinking constituency and abilities to indoctrinate future generations. It has never been about the best value and quality to improve public thinking skills. It’s about cherished institutions and protecting a political advantage at the expense of youth. If you want to contribute to quality of education, you must first agree to the Left solution and definition of the problem. The huge cost to taxpayers is garnished per solutions of the left. They will improve education, their way. Darn those obstructionist Republicans whom do not want to improve education. Stay away and pay your taxes. We will take care of your children. So, be on guard, like wise it may not really be about the climate.

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  17. By ouestlasouris on May 26, 2014 at 9:09 am

    Great article, very articulate and I will be referring to the graph in future. A powerful argument, in my personal and humble opinion, is if we cast aside the global warming and climate change, investing in cleaner, decentralised energy brings enormous benefits such as cleaner air, less pollution so more healthy environments, less pressure on centralised grids, safer power supplies, infrastructure investment which creates new jobs, etc. Those who stand by the huge energy companies are totally lapping up mega corporate codswallop. Investing in cleaner energy and not burning coal is a huge business opportunity for many reasons, particularly on the security front (despite global warming).

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  18. By Tom G. on May 26, 2014 at 10:18 am

    The average American does not understand Global Warming, Climate Change or 400 ppm of CO2 on a mountaintop in Hawaii. In addition, most Americans cannot even identify who our Vice President is when shown his picture or even identify how many sections make up our U.S. Congress. We might be wiser if we think more simplistically by setting goal and objectives that lead us to:

    “Clean air to breath and water to drink”.

    This approach might help the American people have a far better understanding of the consequences of the energy we use and result in more support from Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians. Global Warming and Climate Change are scientific problem statements. They have not lead us to an actionable set of plans in over 10 years and from my perspective its time for a change. What do you think?

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    • By Ed_Reid on May 28, 2014 at 6:59 pm

      Fine, but what does that have to do with climate change and/or CO2?

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      • By Tom G. on May 28, 2014 at 9:26 pm

        Well thank you very much for asking Ed. Lets look at CO2 first.

        For each reduction in CO2 we obtain from either improved efficiency or by conserving something instead of burning it for example, we either reduce air pollution or CO2. For example, as in shutting down a coal plant or improving its fuel burn efficiency. If we shut it down we are no longer mining the coal, transporting it or burning it or creating several waste streams. Lets take automobiles for example. For each improvement in the efficiency we burn less fuel. Less fuel burn, means less air pollution and CO2 and cleaner air. Same with homes and businesses. More efficient furnaces mean less fuel consumption. Better industrial processes reduce both costs and pollution. Really simple and easy to understand without all of the mumbojumbo talk about CO2. Don’t get me wrong – there is a place for scientific study and studies are needed.

        I am not much of a fan of the terms Global Warming or Climate Change mostly because the PEOPLE who need to be taking action to correct it don’t understand it. Oh and furthermore, I have serious doubts about the ability of a trace gas to cause global warming.

        What I believe is far more likely to be causing it are things like increasing population and consumption of manufactured goods. Methane and refrigerant gases like the thousands of tons of R-22 which is a powerful greenhouse gas with a global warming potential that is 1810 times as powerful as carbon dioxide. Or something like R134a which is the current refrigerant in favor which has a global warming rating 1300 times higher than CO2. And of course our old friend natural gas.

        And then we have things like our fossil fueled and nuclear plants which are only about 35% efficient meaning we waste 65% of every BTU of heat energy we create using nuclear fuel or by the burning of something like coal. We already have reports of climate effects from large population centers effecting weather patterns over 1,000 miles from our cities.

        So Ed – Climate Change or Global Warming to me is far more complex than a trace gas like CO2 but I do agree that human activity is affecting our weather patterns. That has already been well documented at least to my satisfaction. So how do we engineers and scientists take something as complex as Climate Change and make it understandable to a general public who can’t even identify who our Vice President is? I am not talking about ANYONE who posts on this site – everyone posting here knows what needs to be done. I am talking about your neighbors and friends. Our farmers, school teachers, kids, plumbers, carpenters and grocery clerks. To me the challenge is how to make Climate Change understandable to the mass of people who need to take action to solve it. To me, we need to help people understand HOW to achieve:

        “Clean air to breath and water to drink”.

        After working in business and industry for 50 years I understand the power of working together as a team. I have both trained people in the process called Team Works and both lead and worked in many teams. The last one I worked in reduced a refueling interval at a nuclear power plant several weeks resulting in about a $1.4 million cost savings. A nuclear power plant back online more quickly results in less CO2; slightly better clean air to breath and improved water quality to drink.

        Anyway if every CEO or CFO asked everyone in their respective companies to begin looking for ways to improve the quality of the air they breath and for ways to reduce waste streams we might get somewhere. Not only would we reduce costs, clean up the air we breath and the water we drink but the corporation would become more healthy in the process and so would we.

        It really isn’t that complex. I have my doubts that CO2 which is a trace gas is causing ALL of our problems. It may be a contributing factor but it certainly isn’t the root cause.

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        • By Ed_Reid on May 29, 2014 at 8:07 am

          Thank you for the very thoughtful response. I spent my career developing and building markets for energy efficient end use equipment. I fully understand the points you make. It would be great if improved efficiency were enough to solve the perceived problem; or, to satisfy the political desires of those raising the concerns about climate change.

          I understand the motivation behind the use of terms such as “carbon pollution” and the effort to identify CO2 as a “pollutant”. I understand the efforts to conflate the air pollution problems in China with CO2 “pollution, rather than with failure to install and operate commercially available emissions control equipment. I even understand the effort to demonize and silence climate change skeptics.

          What I don’t understand is the apparent enthusiasm of some to completely change the energy economy, at enormous cost, on the basis of data that aren’t and models that don’t.

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          • By Tom G. on May 29, 2014 at 11:04 am

            Excellent response Ed. I really liked your statement of “on the basis of data that aren’t and models that don’t.”. Words of wisdom for sure.

            Have a great day.

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  19. By Forrest on May 26, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    It’s hard to fathom the danger of CO2 with such civilization killing capability. As I understand the danger, nature produced up to 300 PPM max or .03% on its own. Modern day with all the fossil fuel combusted to date the atmosphere is wack per the 400 PPM or .04% mix (.01% added) within atmosphere. As I understand we have just about consumed all fossil oil within planet, so oil will not be a problem to GW future. It
    wouldn’t be possible for oil to add another .01% CO2. Also, to our advantage the inefficient coal and wood age long past at least for U.S.. While the rate of consumption of coal and wood fuel was low, back then, they had hundreds of years to accumulate CO2. Also, note poor developing nations present day, with huge populations still employ these energy fuels and devices. Probably, a major CO2 addition. As you know CO2 is inert gas that remains pure and stable. So, we probably have some ice age camp fire CO2 still floating about. It appears coal is so damaging to CO2 accumulation by the fact it’s cheap and plentiful. Coal in general is no more dangerous than other carbon fuels, just that it can be easily combusted in low efficient ways, cheap low tech ways attractive to developing countries with little extra capital. So, coal is damaging to GW CO2 accumulations only because we have poor energy conversion for the fuel. It takes more carbon per work accomplished. This begs the solution to develop cost effective efficient devices to burn coal. This accomplishment may put coal on par with natural gas as most desired fossil fuel. The impact of such an accomplishment would be tremendous for GW concerns. We do not have much influence within the large majority of earth’s population other to invent or provide for them better alternatives to energy needs. Experts claim the rapid accumulations of CO2 upon atmosphere is mostly upon foreign hands. We need to think of their needs. Also, experts such as Robert claim coal will be utilized at higher rates and the prime mover of CO2 additions for future.

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  20. By Forrest on May 27, 2014 at 8:21 am

    As I understand global warming science, minute additions in CO2 concentrations within atmosphere will increase heat trapping upon planet and will make a small increase in global temperatures on average. The small increase of global average temperature will adversely affect civilization, because civilization is extremely susceptible to limitations of energy and changeable climate. Nature is not at risk as the earth has much ancient history of more damaging events then man could possible produce. Most of earth’s climate history 8-15 deg C above present climate. Civilization era climate suffered typical cycles of cooling and heating. Civilization began upon a warming trend of 1-2 deg C above present climate. Nile River was 3x present volume. Roman Empire built during warming trend. Viking exploration during warming trends. Rocky mountain snow line 370 meters above present. Our modern civilization before fossil CO2 influence suffered great floods, droughts, extreme seasonal climate change. So, climate change is the norm upon history and cold climate is the most destructive of the climate changes. Also, methane and oxygen appear to be the most potent of the active climate gases per earth history. Methane very powerful, but CO2 adding to ability of atmosphere to trap heat

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    • By Forrest on May 27, 2014 at 9:59 am

      Notice the shifts in earth’s climate always changeable, never constant, always within flux. The physics and science of climate appear to have natural balances that will pull and push climate to the advantage of life of which global warming gas is an important component. Global warming gas is critical to survival of life as well as CO2. If the earth climate heats up, biological, chemical, and physical forces will eventually deal with it. That’s the lesson to be learned of our earth’s nature. It’s interesting to read up on earth science, for instance, O2 increases have an effect to will put climate into cooling conditions as the gas actively decompose powerful methane global warming gas. Microbes the generator and biggest polluter of methane emissions. Rapid ice melts flowing into ocean will trigger atmospheric cooling per changes in flow patterns. Just about all life on the planet is directly or indirectly sustained by photosynthesis. Most fuel sources for man from photosynthesis per solar energy. Other energy sources include solar as well i.e. wind, wave, hydro, photons, and thermal. All energy sources from solar except for terrestrial creation energy known as nuclear and gravity also of creation.

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  21. By Forrest on May 28, 2014 at 7:26 am

    What to do with coal? In the U.S. we have a 249 year supply at current rate of consumption as coal represents 94% of our known fossil fuel reserves. This would make the fuel a big target for those attempting to wean country off fossil fuel as the fuel is cheap and plentiful.

    The fluidized gasification process is impressive for coal. This is the process Ukraine
    is attempting to quickly install as they are being exploited per Russian empire building aggression per politics of vital natural gas supply. The initial breakdown of coal within a gasification chamber forms CO and H2, a fuel that could power efficient hot air turbines. Emissions cleaned up per scrubber technology. Sulfur and mercury reduced 95%. Also, the process gases of CO, CO2, and H2 can be processed per nickel catalyst to methane (NG pipeline quality). The CO2 gas produced is pure and can be processed to ammonia or methanol. This coal gasification process has decades long history of producing nitrogen fertilizer and hydrogen, valuable commodities for food production and powering fuel cells for transportation and electric power generation needs. By product of process a glass like slag used for roofing and road bed components.

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    • By Forrest on May 28, 2014 at 7:28 am

      The 250 MW Polk Power Station SE of Tampa is one such advance coal gasification system. A coal plant that powers the efficient combined cycle of hot air and steam turbine. This is the same generator utilized for natural gas with high efficiencies of 60%.

      Denmark utilizes coal power steam power plants per the CHP process. This is a low tech approach to greatly decrease the GW damage as the coal fuel efficiency is greatly improved per utilizing the waste heat. Coal is only a high contributor to CO2 accumulations per low efficiency conversion rates and ample supply of the fuel. I would argue having ample supply is a good thing. U.S. should work to place coal plants to CHP capability as well. Change our tax structure, liability laws, and regs to facilitate the process. It would be nice to see high energy use industrial parks constructed around coal gasification power plant. Ethanol distillation is one such process that could consume much low grade waste heat.

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      • By Forrest on May 28, 2014 at 7:50 am

        BTW, lot’s of low grade heat energy consumed within country. We have not utilized waste heat potential at all. I would venture the low tech but creative problem solving approach if allowed by government would be a primary mover to the global warming gas problem. Something all countries would enjoy low cost benefits. Space heating, drying, process needs, hot water, distillation, and similar needs of energy could be accomplished per waste heat.

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  22. By Forrest on May 31, 2014 at 7:26 am

    I would like to know the supporters of urgent and costly change to our energy needs, what their personal energy profile is? As it’s easy to demand others to change, as well as the demands to spend other peoples money but, unless you walk the talk, the credibility suffers. How much energy do you consume per transportation, home, employment, education, and entertainment? For example, the urgency and concern of the problems is fraught with hypocrisy when citizens witness politicians whom spent entire life upon gaining fortunes stirring up partisan ranker preach to use the stupidity of our societal solutions to energy concerns when they themselves are the biggest offender and gain from investments made upon the ranker. That popular support is offensive to credibility of the science and foments partisan divisions. It invites division and results in battle lines. Same with name calling and over jealous claims not supported by the science. These actions do not suggest the impetus of motivation is pure.

    Also, I would like the problem framed per global solutions as the problem is global and mostly of foreign control. We need to solve their problems and quit attempting to regulate every molecule of CO2 upon our shores. Shooting our selves in the foot not a good strategy. It only makes us looks foolish. Other countries are much more practical. They laugh at our hyper concerns empowering politics.

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