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By Russ Finley on May 3, 2015 with 38 responses

The Corrections to Joe Romm’s Corrections–Part I

Climate Hawk

In his article, The Corrections: Jonathan Franzen’s Deeply Irresponsible Climate Change Article, Joe Romm, climate hawk, uses the nonsensical graphic shown below borrowed from U.S.News & World Report (also used here) in an attempt to stifle criticism of renewable energy.

USNewsBarChart2

Screenshot from Climate Progress

One could predict that Franzen’s blasphemous epiphany in the New Yorker that we are not going to stop climate change by blighting “…every landscape with biofuel agriculture, solar farms, and wind turbines” would light Romm’s hair on fire. However, it was Franzen’s suggestion that conservation organizations like the Audubon society should be doubling down on what they do best, preservation of what remains, instead of diverting resources to climate change issues which they can’t do anything about, that got the Audubon society’s feathers in a bunch.

  1. Franzen is probably right about it being too late to stop climate change, although there is always hope.
  2. Because conservation groups tend to take their cues from the most vociferous climate hawks, who are also anti-nuclear energy, they are under the false impression that renewable energy can save the day.

One of Romm’s fans said the following in a tweet found on the Audubon website:

dumbtweet

Not so much …Romm’s corrections are in need of some correcting. Below are two bar charts that are the same as the one Romm provided above except I divided the bird counts by units of energy produced by each source. I had to break them into separate charts because the scale difference was so large.

MyBarChart6

Annual Bird Deaths per GWh (see Footnotes 1 and 11)

MyBarChart5

Annual Bird Deaths per GWh (see Footnotes 1 and 11)

You might guess that if there were, say, only two wind turbines on the planet that they would kill fewer birds than any other power source, because, well, there are just two of them, which is all Romm’s borrowed graphic tells us. Imagine comparing the efficiency of cars with a bar chart showing how much gas the cars used in a year without any mention of how many miles each car drove. To make any sense at all, that bar chart would show miles driven by each car divided by gallons of gasoline used by each car, i.e., the chart presented by Romm to his readers is nonsensical and misleading.

The solar estimate in the chart presented by Romm does not represent the sum of all solar power in the United States as one would expect. It comes from a single solar thermal power plant, Ivanpah. From the source:

 If this rate persisted yearlong, then Ivanpah might be killing 28,380 birds, which would be 3.6 times greater than the fatality rate I predicted.

Click here to watch a video of a bird being “smoked” at Ivanpah. See Footnote 7 for energy produced.

An unexpected result from my efforts suggests that any attempt to provide the entire energy needs of the United States with a source having bird mortalities “per unit energy” similar to Ivanpah would kill up to 29.11/9.36 = 3 times more birds annually (see Footnote 1) than the  ”very crude approximation” of 24 million birds killed by climate change annually by U.S. coal, oil, and gas, electricity generation cited by the Vermont Law School study. This is an example of why we have to think critically about our choice of energy sources.

From Romm:

And yes, Franzen brings up the hoary complaint about wind turbines killing birds. What about the vastly larger number of birds that are killed by fossil fuels?

Using a study suggesting that cats may kill upwards of 3.7 billion birds per year in the United States, the “cats kill more birds than wind” argument says that global warming has 154 times less annual impact (3.7 E+9 / 2.4E+7 = 154) on birds than cats do.

Part of the effectiveness of the “cats kill more” argument is that everyone assumes cats are not a big deal. But, as it turns out, our pet and feral domestic cats are one of the most environmentally destructive forces (of many thousands) we have unleashed on the planet. They have been implicated in the extinction of roughly 33 animal species around the world. Just today I received a solicitation from the Audubon Society that said “nearly a quarter of the United States bird species are slipping toward extinction.”

Fortunately, nobody thought to use the “cats kill more birds than DDT” argument against regulations controlling the use of DDT to stop the bald eagle’s slide toward extinction. Because raptors are at the top of the food chain pyramid DDT concentrates in their tissues. Another impact of being at the top of the food chain pyramid is that raptors will be far fewer in number than songbirds. The death of a single raptor will have an impact on their total population that may be an order of magnitude larger than a death of a single bird at the bottom of the pyramid.

You can see that this DDT analogy is a dead ringer for wind farms. Cats don’t kill large birds like eagles or great horned owls, quite the opposite. Killing an eagle instead of a house sparrow is like killing a lion instead of a house mouse.

Maybe the “cats kill more” argument has had its day in the sun.

We can record power output, tortoise, bird, and salmon deaths, but we can’t calculate the climate change impact to the ecosystem caused by one low carbon power plant. The only thing we can say with certainty is that any single power plant will make no measurable difference with respect to climate change. Ergo, environmentalists should continue to resist the building and operation of the most environmentally egregious energy projects, renewable or not. It will never be possible to calculate the number of salmon killed, if any, by climate change as a result of eliminating the low carbon energy from the Elwa river dam. We will one day be able to count the number saved by the dam’s elimination.

The problem arises when climate hawks defend renewable energy projects regardless of immediate environmental impact because they see climate change as more important than immediate local ecosystem degradation. But I just demonstrated that if we power the world with Ivanpahs there would be few birds left to save from climate change. Of course, we aren’t going  to power the world with a single renewable source, but you get the picture.

It’s quite disingenuous to claim that the elimination or prevention of a single particularly egregious project like, say, the Altamont wind farm, or Ivanpah, or the Elwa river hydro electric dam, or a new palm plantation in virgin forest, or mega-dam in a biodiverse part of the tropics can be blamed for the deaths of tens of millions of birds, desert tortoises, salmon, orangutans, or thousands of unique species, respectively because of climate change. Individually, each project will have no measurable impact on climate change. If collectively, there are enough bad apple renewable energy projects to matter, then collectively, they would be doing as much or more damage to ecosystems than they might be preventing thanks to their low carbon emissions.

Romm’s mirror image and arch enemy (his intensely partisan political pundit counterpart on the right) may distort these findings, using them to claim that all solar energy, or possibly all renewable energy, is worse than fossil fuel. But that’s what happens when a problem degenerates into a political battle rather than an engineering study. The truth becomes largely irrelevant.  The “end justifies the means” is all fine and good but the road to hell has become a parking lot.

Not all wind and solar projects are created equal of course. The goal is to minimize the number of bad apples in the barrel, separate the wheat from the chaff and all that, which is easier said than done because, believe it or not, like all for-profit corporations, those that build wind and solar farms are also far less interested in ecology than profitability.

Back in 2005 biofuels were seen as the answer to oil. George Monbiot was the first to suggest that they may be worse than fossil fuels, many followed. You will be hard pressed to find even a climate hawk defending corn ethanol or palm oil biodiesel anymore. Cellulosic ethanol never happened.

Plans to displace coal by burning wood and bales of switchgrass are likely another case of the cure being worse than the disease. Read Dirtier than Coal, a joint effort by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Friends of the Earth, and Greenpeace. See chart below.

FOEChart2

Destroying what remains of the planet’s river ecosystems with dams, particularly in the biodiverse tropics have great potential to make things worse, especially if droughts, like those seen in Brazil and California, caused by changing rainfall patterns nullify the use of those dams to make electricity.

After reading what I just wrote above, you might be wondering if we really have the low carbon energy technology to pull this off, especially considering that climate hawks like Romm are anti-nuclear energy.

You would not be the first to wonder that.

A team of Google engineers assembled to find a way to displace fossil fuels with renewable energy (the RE<C “renewables cheaper than coal” project), concluded that the combination of today’s low carbon energy sources, renewables and nuclear, can’t prevent climate change. We need better technology and lots of it.

Read Google Engineers Conclude that Renewable Energy Will Not Result in Significant Emissions Reductions. They didn’t conclude that we’re doomed. They concluded that we need better weapons ..or we are doomed.

A study commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund titled Low-Carbon Re-Industrialization concluded that unless humanity immediately ramped up to its historically demonstrated maximum world war level of industrial output to replace fossil fuels, we will never get there. That study was done over five years ago. See chart below from that study:

WWFMissedTarget

Graphic from WWF Study

From the Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook 2015: “The total renewable share of all electricity generation increases from 13% in 2013 to 18% in 2040 in the Reference case.”

It’s only a prediction but keep in mind,  70% of our renewable energy used for electricity consists of hydro and biomass and that electricity generation only accounts for about 40% of our energy, so we are talking about renewables going from about 5.2 percent of total energy to about 7.2 percent, of which only a few percent will represent wind and solar.

If climate change unfolds as predicted by climate researchers …game over. However, as my version of Romm’s bar chart demonstrates, by picking the wrong energy sources it is entirely possible to accelerate ecosystem degradation above and beyond what we might expect from climate change, or more likely simply fall far short of slowing climate change while destroying more of nature trying.  We could very well make things worse through the accelerated degradation of local ecosystems. Climate hawks are obsessed with wind and solar. They rarely mention the other half of the climate change problem, which is the need to extract and store CO2 in carbon sinks other than the ocean.

 Footnote 1)

Footnote1A

Footnote 2) Intervenor Center for Biological Diversity Exhibit 3128

Footnote 3) Estimates of bird collision mortality at wind facilities in the contiguous United States

Footnote 4) BrightSource solar plant sets birds on fire as they fly overhead

Footnote 5) Fluid Minerals Operations – Reducing Preventable Causes of Direct Wildlife Mortality

Footnote 6) Conversion factors

Footnote 7) Ivanpah Solar Plant Picking Up Steam

 Footnote 8):

EnergyFlows

Energy Flows

   Footnote 9):

DomesticOilProduction

Oil Sources

Footnote 10) Nuclear Kills More Birds than Wind?

Footnote 11):

Wind

 I’ve seen the study for the wind estimate before and it appears pretty rigorous to me. Understand that the main concern with wind isn’t just the total number of birds killed, but the kinds of birds killed. Common songbirds or introduced pests like starlings are not the problem. As I stated before, killing an eagle instead of a house wren is like killing a lion instead of a house mouse. See Footnote 8 for energy produced.

 Nuclear

 Although the chart Romm uses shows that nuclear has one of the lowest bird kill ratios, I left it off my charts because the study the ratio came from didn’t pass peer review.

 Oil and Gas

 The source for the oil and gas bird kill estimates can be found here and estimates deaths from extraction in the field. See Footnotes 8 and 9 for sources used to calculate resulting energy services.

 Coal (and gas)

 The source for this came from a study that estimated birds killed by a combination of coal mining and by the coal and gas power plants themselves, which often have tall smokestacks that can be hazards at night to migrating birds etc.This is the same study dismantled by a peer review that calculated nuclear kills almost 2.5 times more birds per unit energy than wind.

The updated 2012 version of the 2009 source U.S. News linked to (found at NUKEFREE.ORG) estimated that coal and gas together, used for electricity production killed about 512,000 birds annually. That number leaps 50 times to 24 million birds annually if you accept the author’s assumption that the portion of global warming caused by U.S. coal and gas for electricity is killing 24 million birds annually. How did he come up with that number? He found a study that estimated total avian deaths over the next 38 or so years as a result of climate change, adjusted it for the U.S. contribution of emissions, and then divided by 38 years, as if bird deaths would be a linear function rather than exponential (page 275). There isn’t the slightest evidence that 24 million birds are being killed from the U.S. contribution to climate change annually. The author described this estimate as a “very crude approximation.” In any case, I left his calculation in the bar chart to show how it compares to an Ivanpah powered country.

Photo at top of article adapted from a Raymond Shobe photo via Flickr Creative Commons

  1. By renewableguy on May 3, 2015 at 11:02 pm

    http://climatecrocks.com/2013/05/20/why-coal-and-nuclear-plants-kill-far-more-birds-than-wind-power/
    Bird kill is extremely high in other areas besides wind. Cats are probably some of the biggest killers of birds.

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    • By Russ Finley on May 4, 2015 at 12:35 am

      I realize that you just cobbled a comment together to get readers to follow your link (spamming), but your comment is also a good example of why humanity is not likely to make any headway against climate change. It’s also obvious that you didn’t read my article. From my article:

      Using a study suggesting that cats may kill upwards of 3.7 billion birds per year in the United States, the “cats kill more birds than wind” argument says that global warming has 154 times less annual impact (3.7 E+9 / 2.4E+7 = 154) on birds than cats do.

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      • By renewableguy on May 4, 2015 at 9:23 am

        Cars kill birds in the millions. Cats, buildings, windows, etc. If we are going to have an energy system that doesn’t pollute, we just may well accept the bird kill of wind generators.

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        • By Robert Rapier on May 4, 2015 at 11:01 am

          Or work to fix it. I once had an idea to put some sort of high frequency device on them that would keep birds and bats away. But what I found is that after a while they get used to it and ignore it.

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          • By Russ Finley on May 4, 2015 at 12:07 pm

            …like putting a fake owl on your house to scare off pigeons. Before long, they’re roosting on its head.

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        • By Russ Finley on May 4, 2015 at 1:31 pm

          Cars kill birds in the millions. Cats, buildings, windows, etc.

          Exactly my point. Improperly sited wind farms pour gas on the sixth extinction event fire (death by a thousand cuts). Properly sited ones do not. If we don’t do wind and solar right (fighting against those who want to put them in places that do significant ecological damage), we will end up with a cure that’s worse than the disease (renewable energy nightmare) as is the case with the burning of trees to make electricity. Read American Companies Are Shipping Millions Of Trees To Europe, And It’s A Renewable Energy Nightmare from Romm’s Climate Progress blog.

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          • By renewableguy on May 6, 2015 at 7:19 am

            I’m not advocating the killing of birds. But I have watched birds hit out large windows on our addition to our house to fall to the ground dead. I’m not against proper siting either. But what I am saying, is the bird kill is actually small so far. My friends have a small wind generator on their farm and have no bird or bat kill. We watch the bats fly out of their barn at night of which they have plenty. But we will have bird loss just the same in whatever direction we take.

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            • By Russ Finley on May 7, 2015 at 12:37 am

              I’m not advocating the killing of birds.

              You’re advocating the killing of birds to have wind power. Not a big deal if by “birds” you mean common songbirds.

              But I have watched birds hit out large windows on our addition to our house to fall to the ground dead.

              Nothing worse than having a eagle smack into your new window. Or were you talking about common songbirds? If I said that I don’t advocate the killing of mammals, would you know I was talking about invasive Norwegian wharf rats or nearly extinct rhinos? We are not talking about song birds. Song birds are not the
              problem. Wind farms do relatively minor harm to song bird populations. It’s more complicated than that and I’m not advocating that there should not be wind farms. I’m advocating for proper placement of them.

              But what I am saying, is the bird kill is actually small so far.

              If you had read my article you would have found this statement:

              Another impact of being at the top of the food chain pyramid is that
              raptors will be far fewer in number than songbirds. The death of a
              single raptor will have an impact on their total population that may be
              an order of magnitude larger than a death of a single bird at the bottom
              of the pyramid.

              It’s complicated.

              My friends have a small wind generator on their farm and have no bird or
              bat kill. We watch the bats fly out of their barn at night of which
              they have plenty.

              Anecdotes make poor substitutes for research. Ten 1.5 MW turbines on his farm would kill about 50 bats a year. A few years later no bats would be coming out of his barn.

              https://www.wind-watch.org/faq-output.php
              http://www.researchgate.net/profile/R_Brigham/publication/227415277_Bats_are_not_birds_and_other_problems_with_Sovacool%27s_%282009%29_analysis_of_animal_fatalities_due_to_electricity_generation/links/02bfe50dca8dea5c22000000.pdf

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            • By renewableguy on May 9, 2015 at 10:25 am

              I am involved in the renewable energy field as a supporter and an educator. We will build out an electrical system based on about 60% wind. My point is that birds die in the hundreds of millions based on studies from cars and buildings now. We need energy for a higher quality of life. There will be an acceptable amount of bird kill because there already is. I found a robbin with a string around its foot hanging from our new tree dead. The string had wrapped around the branch and it couldn’t get away. Even our trash kills birds. Humans are hard on life on earth.
              I just came back from Iowa at the climate reality training session. Wild life on earth has decreased by 1/2 in the last 40 years. We are literally crowding life off the earth. There is a lot more to this than just birds. Everything we do as a positive consequence for our own lives has a negative consequence somewhere else. Including the issue you are so passionate about in birds.
              Being the self centered humans that we are, we can only hope to change momentum of destructiveness. But as humans we will also take what we need and then go for more. Its a tough balance that goes to far to the acquisition of wealth and material things.

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            • By Russ Finley on May 9, 2015 at 6:12 pm

              I am involved in the renewable energy field as a supporter and an educator.

              So am I.

              We will build out an electrical system based on about 60% wind.

              It would enhance your credibility to provide a source for statements like that so readers can assess your source. I don’t know who “we” is but I do know that we can’t predict the future. The three year old four-volume NREL study suggests at best about 40% wind for electricity which translates to about 16% of our total energy. The EIA 2015 energy outlook predicts wind will only comprise about 6% of all electricity generation in 2040 in the Reference case. So, what will it be, 60 or 6 percent?

              My point is that birds die in the hundreds of millions based on studies from cars and buildings now … I found a robbin with a string around its foot hanging from our new tree dead. The string had wrapped around the branch and it couldn’t get away. Even our trash kills birds …Wild life on earth has decreased by 1/2 in the last 40 years. We are literally crowding life off the earth. … Humans are hard on life on earth. Everything we do as a positive consequence for our own lives has a negative consequence somewhere else. Being the self centered humans that we are, we can only hope to change momentum of destructiveness. But as humans we will also take what we need and then go for more. Its a tough balance that goes to far to the acquisition of wealth and material things.

              Exactly my point. Improperly sited wind farms pour gas on the sixth extinction event fire (death by a thousand cuts). Properly sited ones do not. If we don’t do wind and solar right (fighting against those who want to put them in places that do significant ecological damage), we will end up with a cure that’s worse than the disease (renewable energy nightmare) as is the case with the burning of trees to make electricity. Read “American Companies Are Shipping Millions Of Trees To Europe, And It’s A Renewable Energy Nightmare” from Romm’s Climate Progress blog.

              There will be an acceptable amount of bird kill because there already is.

              ??

              Including the issue you are so passionate about in birds.

              Birds are not my passion. I’m not a birder if that is the stereotype you have in your head.

              We need energy for a higher quality of life.

              I agree with that statement but some energy sources are much more ecologically destructive than others.

              I just came back from Iowa at the climate reality training session.

              …aka renewable energy indoctrination camp? ; )

              There is a lot more to this than just birds.

              For sure, salmon runs destroyed by dams, orangutan habitat lost to palm plantations, forests destroyed to displace coal, expansion of agriculture via ethanol mandates, bats, desert tortoises, and on and on.

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            • By renewableguy on May 10, 2015 at 1:22 am

              aka renewable energy indoctrination camp? ; )

              So you seem really geared up to fight here, but I’m not against what you are talking about. We should build our system smartly. Also, if you are going to persuade, I think a different approach might work better on your part. Convince people to move into protecting nature as a good thing, while making our energy system work. Convince me in that it is what I really want. Digging heels in is not persuasive, but counter productive. Below is a solution already thought out by a serious study. It doesn’t mean we will do that in 50 years, the numbers could and will be different. Wind in the Midwest will be a big factor where I live in going renewable.

              http://thesolutionsproject.org/#tsp-section-map

              I don’t think of burning wood as a solution. I’m thinking mostly of electrical generation. Once electric cars become more predominant in society, a lot of pieces come together for storage (electric car batteries), smart grid (power control of grid), tesla home and industrial batteries (solar power). Most energy or as much as possible will be electrical. I have been a founding member of the Illinois Renewable Energy Fair. Sustainable lifestyle is really the bigger picture we are seeking.

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            • By Forrest on May 10, 2015 at 6:05 am

              Environmentalist are very girded up for a fight. The solutions they envision are pressed hard per politics. To much pushing and not enough sensitivity to economy, tax load, investment cost, or other solutions to the perceived problem. The green leadership to full of propaganda for my tastes. They are dangerous and suggest troubling control and power of which never ends well. But this blog and comments a good thing to mix thoughts. Yes, the energy market was put on the path of easiest, quickest, path to make money. The open market did crush competition oftentimes with government blessing per crony capitalism. But don’t forget the cronies are both the influential (rich, popular, businessmen) and powerful politicians (government). I think were in a stage of reinvention of energy sector. That powerful players are aligning up for a fight and flummox voter intelligence if their was any to start with. Petrol wants to be the only player upon fuel market, same with wind and solar per tax payer money and favorable regulations. Depending on personal biases they each have plenty of talking points to share. Utilities are pushing hard to maintain their monopoly and control of vertical market eliminating all competition. They desire the good old days of informing consumers of price hikes. They hate the modern invention of efficient micro grids, consumer CHP, and roof top solar. These public utilities no different than any other group of employed working that push per behest their self interests. This includes government and schools. Politicians that are put on the hot seat to enact change are often times looking for easy solutions to their politics. They want powerful players to convince public as to make their decisions easy. They fear to lead and offend the powerful and lose them as advocate. So, they want talking points as well and lack enough strength to go alone. Public is easy swayed and bamboozled. Just by tweaking the verbiage often times will do the trick. So, how to manage change? Let the market do the intelligent decision making. Central control is the worst decision making device. If public wants clean energy put forth rules of the market and incentives to sway more energy to this path, but they must be general incentives and not ones that empower a particular player for the most part. Have easy and accurate benchmarks to evaluate progress, chart out long term goals/benchmarks, evaluate progress and tweak, strengthen the competitive market with such devices like the RFS. Note the RFS applies to all renewable fuels, but may be to restrictive. For example a better alternative for renewable fuel production would have been to stand up against petrol and allow the leader, ethanol, to take over midgrade and premium fuel stations per fuel character and not force E10. It will always be good to maximize competition and players upon the field of ideas. Let the natural market place gradually migrate to superior solutions. Guard corruption of influence and monopolistic wealth. Try to stabilize investment risk for new competition, without awarding unmerited wealth. Confirm with public no one can determine future. Wind for some states like Texas and Iowa should play a big part. Some parts of Michigan are excellent, most not. Off shore, maybe some day.
              For the most part the country is doing just this. The increasing risk is the hyperbole of powerful players that want to meet the needs of public demanding change. For example Michigan utilities will invest in green energy, but we have to allow them the good old non compete market. Petrol wants to disband alternative energy per their recent production. I will agree with you upon the domestic generation of power. The ability of local power generation is very attractive requiring no grid. Solar, CHP, biomass, mircogrid, natural gas, energy parks, and power storage are low political influence solutions that power players will try to persuade politicians to stand clear. They should be maximized and empowered as a powerful competitor to meet societal needs.

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            • By Forrest on May 17, 2015 at 8:22 am

              You have a very negative view of society. I find that many environmentalist share your viewpoint of hopeless human greed vs nature. This viewpoint is indoctrinated per our public ed, at least per my experience. I have noticed graduates come out of such institutions angry and or depressed. It was the same per my college years. The huge majority of professors attempting to indoctrinate. I remember one such prof in a Man and Environment class. All the students took the mandatory class all bright eyed and bushy tailed to solve environmental problems. This guy wouldn’t have any of it. He always dragged the class back to hopelessness of evil humanity and overpopulation. We needed the clinics to lower the excess population. We didn’t needn’t marriage nor single partner marriages. Religion was just an invented crux to make man superior. He was an energy man, a disciple claiming mankind would implode without fossil fuel which was to run out within 20 years. Every rock overturned upon the planet to discover fossil fuels. Funny, that 20 years come and went. So did the next 20. We have more fossil fuel current day than anytime in history. Current day the environmentalist are even more negative, but now the man made CO2 is going to destroy the planet.

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            • By renewableguy on May 18, 2015 at 7:30 pm

              The planet will go on without us just fine. Life on earth will have a really tough time with the rapid temperature increase in the climate. All because of manmade co2. Extinctions in the past happened on less than we are doing now.

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            • By Forrest on May 20, 2015 at 8:47 am

              But, within the grand scale of things, 6% non-nature CO2 vs vegetation and land or 4% non-nature emission as compared to natures carbon cycle. Our country is spending a bloody fortune and applying draconian statism controls to achieve minuscule results. What would be a better path. Utilize economic market to attract better solutions. A soft approach with superior results. Utilize regulation threat as the motivation and low regulation and increase freedom if acting responsible. Increase citizen information from competing sources and avoid the cheap and dangerous ploy of indoctrination. Maximize competition, apply incentive or offset costs of competing solutions, don’t prejudge, but keep momentum flowing to maximize invention. Invent methods, investments, and purchase decision making that empower private citizens and intelligence of mass market. New ideas should suffer minimal regulation.

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            • By Forrest on May 20, 2015 at 9:13 am

              Now, you will reply that nature recycles it’s CO2. True, and does so within a scale dwarfing anything man could invent. So, biology does a good job and quite cheap process. Same with the solar powered hydrological cycle and thermal air currents powering turbine power not the least the creation power of nuclear and gravity. These are all good and natural sources of power offering very low CO2 emissions as opposed to fossil carbon. But at what cost vs benefit? Let the mass market decide. It’s more intelligent than elites full of government/political power or maniacal activist attempting to control them.

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            • By Forrest on May 20, 2015 at 9:54 am

              Working within the realm of natures carbon cycle a very powerful playing field. Biomass interrupts the normal GHG emissions of rotting vegetative matter to produce energy. The practice will improve forest management to maximize value and increase acreage. Same with with farm value and capability to maximize growth potential of crops. The planet on whole suffers from lack of these two. Vast land mass wasted upon poor conservation and lack of investment. Biomass could be a prime mover to improve economics of poor countries and in the process improve GHG emissions and wildlife. This is the low hanging fruit that activist dislike per the loss of political power to control the whole of society.
              I was reading Red Rock biofuel already have a contract to sell jet fuel to Midwest airline at $3 something a gallon. This is their first production plant. Their fuel has achieved certification, straight form the process plant with no distillery equipment required. It takes 22 pounds of wood for one gallon of fuel. One dry cord of wood about 180 gallons of fuel. Wow, $600 for a cord of wood. Cellulosic ethanol not that far behind either. Algae is very efficient CO2 conversion plant. Think of the ocean acreage available to farm floating masses of this plant that feeds both aquatic life and increase our food supply. Since Redwood and Douglas fir a valuable timber tree and highly prized for environment, it would indeed be interesting to cohabitant the tree within our cities. These tree could be managed per normal forestry woodland and provide a good revenue source. Household waste water would need go no farther than local tree root zone with the result of sterling tree health and growth. The trees grow so tall and mature trees only populate one or two to acre, it may have little problem with high density housing and roadways. Limb growth a hundred feet from ground level.

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            • By Forrest on May 21, 2015 at 8:08 am

              Recent biological study confirmed trees have a typical biological age in which they succumb to fire, wind, disease, pests, drought, etc., but if conditions and health permit the tree can grow for much longer lifespan. Their genetics limit height but still maintain cellulose production per building girth. The tree increases board feet of lumber value and increases in value per board feet. Big trees command top dollar. A family friend has doctorate within the study of tree health and growth. Water is the primary driver. So, if municipalities took their forest production serious a big avenue of wealth sitting within the limits. With steady steam of grey water drip irrigation trees achieve 4-6x growth rates. Include the pure and sterile urine waste, more growth. Proper pruning, tree placement, and irrigation the tree growth would be startling. My guess these trees would beat most natural forest giant class. It would be interesting if one could pipe up a over canopy sprinkler to giant redwood to maintain growth to limits of 300-400 ft.

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      • By Forrest on May 4, 2015 at 12:44 pm

        I haven’t read the post yet, but hopefully you posted to concerns of endangered bird life. Dam construction permits denied because of endangered species; wind turbines siting upon nesting and migration paths should be a big no no. Hawaiian and other tropical zones, gulf areas, windy bluffs, should be studied closely. My guess the predator birds would be attracted to the high perch and nesting sight of the tower. Big mistake that they will were never learn from. Cats usually kill common bird feeder back yard birds. No barn owls, osprey, Sand Crane types. Wood land birds probably safe. The soaring birds of prey most vulnerable and not good that so many endangered, can you image knocking off a bushel basket of California Condors. It’s easy to tally fish life within dam site. Impossible to access exact bird or bat path kill. Wonder if any experiments on high frequency flashing strobe or LED light attached to blade?

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    • By TimS on May 6, 2015 at 8:37 am
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      • By Russ Finley on May 6, 2015 at 3:14 pm

        Isn’t that an unfair comparison–a single accident against an operational energy system? A better comparison would be the annual Gulf of Mexico dead zone the size of Rhode Island exacerbated by expansion of corn crops for ethanol.

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        • By Forrest on May 7, 2015 at 7:28 am

          That is unfair comparison as well and would lead one to believe ethanol is exacerbating the plankton bloom. First the bloom has steady decreased since ’02 (while ethanol use increased). Concerns of municipal storm water run off with parking lot oil and lawn fertilizer have increased as problem. Modern farm practices per computer optimized placement of nitrogen fertilizer application has dramatically decrease use and runoff of fertilizer. Same with improvements within land management, flood control, wetland increase, manure control, timing of fertilizer use. This problem like most pollution problems can be mitigated with intelligent use and biological control. We first need to discover and understand the problem before improvements can be made. Also, plankton growth is basically to much of a good thing. It’s not poison. The food supply increase can’t be consumed by food web and wasted. It settles to bottom and decomposes with bacteria and microbes. The latter process consumes more oxygen and could lead to death of aquatic life than can’t migrate. If you could harvest the over supply or attract plankton eating whales, the problem gone. One could utilize the dried harvest of plankton to feed the Gulf aquatic life over larger surface and longer period of time to turbo charge sea food harvest. The invention of modern farming practices of algae growth for biofuel is fomenting powerful waste water treatment solutions that look to such problems as an economic fuel. Fungi inoculation upon fertilized or organic waste is proving to be a powerful tool to convert waste water to near RO water standards and in the process generate very healthy animal feed. I

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  2. By Forrest on May 5, 2015 at 6:58 am

    The 95.1 Quad graphic very helpful to put U.S. energy use in perspective. Consider solar not worth discussion as it’s a novelty energy source. Biomass and natural gas hold most valuable energy source positions per versatility, but push biomass up one peg per the renewable and environmental benefit. Electricity no better than petroleum for energy in/out. That is troubling as petroleum does all the heavy lifting per our transportation needs that is typically lower efficient mobile work. Also, doubly troubling as electricity utilizes wind and hydro that should propel efficiency. Doesn’t this graph indicate electricity should be the last energy source utilized for transportation? That the unique character of electricity should be utilized only upon those low hp demands that are unique to the energy source i.e. control, computers, lights, low hp motors that run intermittently. Coal, nuclear, wind, and hydro should be primary energy for electricity as that’s all these energy sources are good for. Natural gas and biomass just waste their versatility attempting to compete with these better suited energy sources. Commercial, residential, and industrial do a wonderful job in utilizing energy sources. Natural gas and biomass best utilized in this zone. Double this for biomass per renewable and environment concerns, even within the lower efficiency transportation sector. When one considers the growing use of Industry utilizing CHP technology, one can easily see this sector is better suited to the task of power generation than the stand alone power generation sector. This could as well be the case for residential and commercial as well.

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    • By Forrest on May 6, 2015 at 12:22 pm

      Correction, “Electricity no better than petroleum for energy in/out.” is not true. Electric power generation per the graphic is 34% more efficient than transportation and contains less fossil fuel. However, efficiency loss from power generator to wheel would lower electricity efficiency for transportation use maybe 10-15%.

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  3. By Forrest on May 5, 2015 at 7:44 am

    Google Engineer graphic. I don’t buy the damage assessment portrayed by Environmental GW zealots. The science of damage is grossly inaccurate and all but a WAG. They have their hands full in attempting accuracy of global temperature trends and hooking that to man made global warming influence let alone accurate damage assessments 100 years out upon the weak science. For example just rudimentary observation of climate zones one can determine the more tropic zones have higher ability for year round plant and algae growth. Algae as I understand is the prime mover of CO2 conversion and this member of the plant kingdom loves warmer temperatures. The plant also very good food source and developing fuel source. More heat equates to more water evaporation and more active hydrological cycle. This has pluses and minuses, but not all bad. New efficient RO processes expected to greatly reduce cost of processing sea water, even for irrigation use. This development alone could maximize plant world to achieve disease free growth. Tree growth can obtain multiples if hydrated to full extent. Wind power harvesting should temper damaging winds energy. Volcano eruption alone can decrease global temperatures by up to two degrees for a couple years. So a high influence and totally unpredictable. The garbage in number crunching upon NASA computers just another accurate calculation to obtain inaccurate guesses. Just about every day science discovers a unknown or false assumption that lead to humbling effect.

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    • By Forrest on May 7, 2015 at 8:01 am

      Were often told trees the solution to GW, but consider northern U.S. hardwood forest rated at 2% growth per year vs southern pine 8-20%. Trees in cold climates grow slow. High altitude tree line limit for tree growth is not a factor of sunshine, but of cold. So, tree growth should greatly increase within GW influence. This makes sense when one looks to the tropic zone of high vegetation growth.
      The more trees grow the better they are within the job of converting CO2. We should rate this process by tonnage growth per acre. Then we realize the sequoia not that impressive. Given a 50 cm tree 103 kg/yr CO2 and a sequoia up to 600 kg/yr looks impressive until one realizes the giant tree typically grows three to an acre. The per acre conversion typical of every day forest. You say the tree grows for a thousand years and locks away carbon. O.k., but eventually if left alone the giant tree stand will stall out and offer no CO2 benefit per the rotting dead tree decomposition. So, CO2 is more about intelligent harvesting of plant matter before it gets a chance to decompose and maximizing tree growth per modern forestry practices. Forestry practices also minimize insect and fire damage as well. Since the carbon cycle of normal biological cycle would dwarf that of puny human influence one can understand the intelligence of working within this zone to fight GW. In general interrupt the decomposition of rotting matter. Your compost pile the problem not the sanitary landfill. BTW, miscanthus GMO are within the 25 ton per acre yield. How does that compare to 4-5 ton per acre for forest growth? Oh, if you want to lock up the carbon per GW concerns a better solution to utilize Cool Planet gasification process for biofuel and utilize the biochar to lock up carbon for thousands of years and in the process improve soil.

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  4. By TimS on May 5, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    An upsetting truth is that renewables have been causing more fatalities in wildlife than nuclear per gigawatt generated, even taking into account Chernobyl and Fukushima.

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    • By Russ Finley on May 5, 2015 at 10:17 pm

      We shouldn’t paint all forms of renewable energy with the same brush. Certainly, rooftop solar is about as environmentally benign as you get. We just need to do it right–stringent siting of renewables to minimize environmental impact, improved nuclear designs.

      Fukushima and Chernobyl have both had a net positive impact on wildlife. Read: Radio Active Wolves!

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      • By Forrest on May 6, 2015 at 7:08 am

        Dido for hydro. 2014 DOE hyro report very promising outlook, 80 Gw in production (7% of countries power supply) with 77 Gw untapped. The power source has a 100 yr track record and rated the most cost effective reliable energy source among the renewablesand is complementary to the rest. Current, salmon problem aside, the siting of future dams per DOE software should minimize such environmental problems. Meanwhile, placing generation equipment on existing dams the low hanging fruit harvest. Turbine designs and efficiency much improved for lower pressure and flows or just replacing older less efficient turbines. This power supply if handled properly a win win for economy and environment.

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      • By Forrest on May 6, 2015 at 7:19 am

        Roof top solar should be an ideal siting for solar power, but have noticed around here not that popular. The roof requires snow removal at times and the panels need routine cleaning maintenance best handled at ground level. Also, insurance companies are not keen on attachments nor troubling roof intrusions per leak rates. The panels can be a high wind zone hazard if not anchored low and attached to firm foundation. Aesthetic a big problem per zoning or curb appeal and ensuing resale concerns as the discovery the property taxes remove any benefit of lower cost power.

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        • By Russ Finley on May 7, 2015 at 12:47 am

          …pretty much. I still love the concept of solar and if I lived somewhere like Tucson, I’d have it on my roof. The pacific NW is not the best place for solar.

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  5. By James on May 6, 2015 at 9:20 am

    Thanks for the interesting analysis. Why did you choose Ivanpah to represent solar when CSP power tower projects represent at most 1% of solar capacity worldwide? I would imagine utility-scale PV obliterates all power-generating competition when it comes to lowest bird mortality.

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    • By Russ Finley on May 6, 2015 at 2:53 pm

      Why did you choose Ivanpah to represent solar?

      I didn’t. Romm’s choice of bar chart chose to use Ivanpah to represent solar, which inadvertently provided a good example of why we have to be choosy about our renewable energy choices.

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  6. By Forrest on May 8, 2015 at 6:56 am

    While the UK report “Dirtier than Coal” is very misleading, the tree solution is attractive for environment. Realize one acre of mature trees absorbs CO2 of 26,000 miles car travel and if positioned close to home one tree has proven to reduce A.C. requirements 58%. Also, 10,000 acre of shade trees is as effective as a particulate electrostatic percipitator, but accomplishes the feat in open air efficiency. Non the least the plant is the lowest cost means of cleaning air emissions. Note modern forestry practices promote tree growth per economics that maximise CO2 concerns. Timber ownership has a higher ROI as compared to stock market. We would be better served to purchase and maintain a 100 acre woodlot for retirement needs as compared to the federal social security solution fraught with economic problems and politics. Consider the hype of tobacco smoke health concerns and that the public has little knowledge of petrol diesel and jet engine particulate emissions rated group 1 carcinogen or the deadliest form of air pollution. The micro sized particles penetrate deep into lungs and enter blood stream. Permanent DNA mutations, increased heart attack, premature aging and no safe level. Were just discovering the auto immune response to these particles and the brain inflammation. Non of it is good. A European study had for every 10ug/m3 in the PM10 category cancer rose 22%. PM2.5 particle size rose 36%. The soot carries carcinogens such as benzopyrenes. Those living close to highways experience high plaque, hardening of the arteries, 7.4% higher heart attacks.

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    • By Forrest on May 8, 2015 at 7:15 am

      Trees, also, clean up nitrous oxide pollution. A very strong GHG, smog, and acid rain chemical as well as the micro particles so dangerous to health. So, why does the U.S. invest so much per costly regulation solutions that appear to increase cost to consumers and increase cost and bureaucracy of government when easy, cheap, reliable, and unregulated solutions sit idle? It’s just economics. Government agencies act in their own self interests. It’s a mistake to place unrepresentative administrative law entitlement within their hands. Consider civilization has deforested 8 billion acres or 56% of the planets trees, so this is the real problem of GW concerns. We should invest and position international community to coordinate reforestation where possible. Also, utilize biomass farming where possible as well as this solution even more powerful than forest plantings. We should be utilizing green diesel fuel, ethanol, and natural gas for high torque demands of trans portion needs and suffer little health harm per the transition away from die-sel fuel.

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      • By Forrest on May 9, 2015 at 6:22 am

        You may question biomass farming being more powerful as compared to forests. The solar efficiency of corn plant is 1-2% as compared to fast growing pine forests less than 1%. The biogenic VOCs of trees especially the fast growing and pine trees are high emitters. For reference the Blue Ridge mountains were viewed from viewpoint of siting through the isoprene haze emitted from poplar trees. Cities that aren’t careful upon selecting low emitter trees could hurt their ozone and smog pollution concerns. Ten thousand trees equivalent to 12 gallons of gasoline spilled per hour. Bass wood tree appears to be extremely low. Switch grass very low emitter as well. Farming practices are superior to forestland management per the intensive care and harvest. Woodland is hard and expensive to maintain. Threat of loss much higher. The two rarely compete upon land use, contrary to faulty indirect land use factors applied to hurt biofuel carbon rating.
        Ethanol fuel superior character to minimize NOx emissions per the oxygen content and lower burn temps. NOX emissions required to chemically activate VOCs to form ozone and smog. Also, the fuel superior per elimination of most particulates as compared to fossil fuel. Particulates are proving to be an equal to GWG concerns. Often we attribute climate change to GWG, but scientist are discovering the modern pollution of ultra fine particles a big culprit. Scientist know the particulates are increasing. They know wind energy has decreased because of the pollution. Rainfall is heavily influenced per the matter as well, making land mass either drier or wetter than normal. Particles float in clouds increasing quantity of small droplets unable to precipitate rain. The clouds carry more moisture and when conditions permit flush more water.

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        • By Forrest on May 9, 2015 at 7:14 am

          Corn and miscanthus, also, low emitters of VOCs but not as good as switchgrass. Woodlands have a habit of dumping much leaf matter and logging operations leave tops and limbs behind that lower carbon rating. Decomposition of such emit not only CO2, but methane and whole host of chemicals. The Basswood is utilized for metro areas. I find large leafs easier to blow for leaf pickup. Large leaves rated more efficient in removing pollutants as well. Honey bees love the tree and would support honey production within city limits. The fruit of Basswood is attractive to wildlife and can be utilized as chocolate substitute. The wood is light and strong and supplies needs of those wood carvers, craft, and competes with balsa for weight/strength. Fibers are unique and utilized historically for homesteads needs.

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  7. By Forrest on May 13, 2015 at 8:59 am

    Lots of propaganda thrown about in effort to push political, business, and wealth agendas. Even science is but a tool to exploit desires. So, coal is wholesale condemned as a power source and those with agenda will attempt to hurt the industry as much as possible per public attitude. Better option for country would to continue to improve the technology and update the equipment. Best in class power plants have low emissions. Wind turbines have problems as well. Siting, maintenance, bird kill, short service life, lack of dispatchable option, complexity of backup power, cost, aesthetics, noise, remote location, excess material requirement. Hydro is assailed similar to coal. The better option would be to maximize production and minimize environmental harm. No good with wholesale attempt to assassinate the sector. Nuclear often the target of agenda driven crowd that attack alternatives as they have preconceived biases to their ultimate solution. Uranium mining is no different than other mining that can be maligned with environmental problems if not handled properly. If handled properly, fine. Bio fuel attacked as an alternative to “wonderful solutions” unfairly. The most vicious per assumptions that often lead to WAGs lacking credible science and little reality. Refer to bird kill of coal and nuclear. Also, much is not a factor to U.S. operations, but nonetheless utilized to smear the energy choice i.e. poor stripping forest land for fuel and wholesale condemning firewood. Consider the faux science to penalize biofuel per the indirect land change of foreign countries. If concerned of such a development, better just to prohibit imports of bad actors. In this country and most countries good farmland is valuable. To valuable to utilize for bio fuel. Also, poor farmland best utilized for biomass crops a good thing. Remote, hilly, and poor soil land is best used for forest and timber. Production of firewood is amply supplied from waste. Who in their right mind would clear cut 20 yr old conifers for fire wood? Unless it was to forestry concerns and thus be waste wood. That’s more believable and would promote forest health and growth. This would be a very green fire wood fuel source. Also, forest usually offer up their produce per growth rate. This being of maximum benefit to environment and business of forestry.

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