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Blackouts, firestorms, and energy use

Blackouts, firestorms, and energy use

Preface. Blackouts are more and more likely in the future from fires, hurricanes, natural gas shortages and more. Below is an account from a friend who had to evacuate due to a wildfire.

Blackouts in the news:

2021. Texas Was Seconds Away From Going Dark for Months.

***

This is a letter from someone I know about his experiences when PG&E cut his power off (and 2.5 million others).

Last Saturday around 2 pm we received notice that our area was under an evacuation warning owing to the huge Kincade fire that erupted on Wednesday evening (which we watched in terror and awe from our front porch). At 6:30 pm the order became mandatory. In the end, nearly 200,000 people, or about a third of the population of Sonoma County, were evacuated.

This was our first experience having to plan and prepare to leave on a moment’s notice. We found refuge with a friend in San Francisco, where we stayed until the order was downgraded to a warning on the following Tuesday. The experience highlighted a number of lessons for us.

First and foremost, do not ever evacuate without taking your dog’s favorite toy with you. This oversight necessitated a trip to a pet store to find the item in question. Having a dog certainly helped us keep focused and calmer, although I know she sensed that we were quite out of sorts for days.

Second, we discovered that fuel disappears quickly. We went out 15 minutes after the initial warning was issued, and the closest gasoline station already had 7 of 8 pumps taped closed. The second station had fuel, but long lines coming in from each direction. Of course, once the power went off, there was no fuel to be had at all.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Climate Change dominates news coverage at expense of other equally important existential issues

Climate Change dominates news coverage at expense of other equally important existential issues

Preface. I’ve noticed that in the half dozen science magazines and several newspapers I get practically the only environmental stories are about climate change. Yet there are 8 other ecological boundaries (Rockström 2009) we must not cross (shown in bold with an asterisk below) and dozens of other existential threats as well.

Global peak oil production may have already happened in October of 2018 (Will covid-19 delay peak oil? Table 1). It is likely the decline rate will be 6%, increasing exponentially by +0.015% a year (see post “Giant oil field decline rates and peak oil”). So, after 16 years remaining oil production will be just 10% of what it was at the peak.

If peak oil happened in 2018, then CO2 ppm levels may be under 400 by 2100 as existing and much lower emissions of CO2 are absorbed by oceans and land. The IPCC never even modeled peak oil in their dozens of scenarios because they assumed we’d be exponentially increasing our use of fossils until 2400. They never asked geologists what the oil, coal, and natural gas reserves were, assumed we’d use methane hydrates, and many other wrong assumptions.

Meanwhile, all the ignored ecological disasters will become far more obvious. They’re papered over with fossils today. Out of fresh water? Just drill another 1,000 feet down. Eutrophied water? Build a $500 million dollar water treatment plant. Fisheries collapsed? Go to the ends of the earth to capture the remaining schools of fish.

The real threat is declining fossil production, yet climate change gets nearly all the coverage. And I’ve left out quite a few other threats, such as “nuclear war” with 17,900 results since 2016 in scholar.google.com.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Climate change impacts on transportation 2008 U.S. Senate hearing

Climate change impacts on transportation 2008 U.S. Senate hearing

Excerpts from this 135 page document follow.

DANIEL K. INOUYE, U.S. SENATOR FROM HAWAII

The transportation sector is a major indicator of the overall economic health of our Nation. Given that fact, it is important to recognize that climate affects the design, construction, safety and operations, and maintenance of transportation infrastructure and systems. For example, as we will hear today, predicted increases in precipitation and frequency of storms will impact our transportation systems; recent flooding in the Midwest resulted in submerged highways and railroad bridges, and significant diversion of freight traffic. In addition, severe storms have caused major airport delays around the country. While there is a need for the transportation sector to adapt to the environmental changes brought on by global climate change, it is also widely recognized that the transportation sector has contributed to the causes of climate change. (1) Transportation sources account for approximately one-third of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Dr Thomas C. Peterson, Climate Services Division, National Climatic Data Center, National Environmental Satellite, Data & Information Service, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce

I am an author of a National Research Council (NRC) commissioned paper released this past March on Climate Variability and Change with Implications for Transportation, along with other colleagues from NOAA and the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. My testimony will draw from the NRC paper as well as from 3 other timely reports of which I am an author of the report on climate extremes: The Potential Impacts of Climate Change on U.S. Transportation by the NRC Transportation Research Board (TRB) which was released March 11, 2008.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

An energy miracle? But we already have it!

An energy miracle? But we already have it!

Silicon is a material with properties close to the optimal for a solar cell. It is also one of the most abundant elements in the earth’s crust, and, finally, we know how to use it to manufacture cells with efficiency close to the theoretical maximum. Isn’t it a miracle?

EnergySkeptic” recently commented on an article appeared in “Nature” in 2014 on the possibility of cheap photovoltaic cells entering the market of solar energy. The post is short enough that I can reproduce it in full, below. It is interesting because it shows the problems with the idea of the “miracle breakthrough” in energy that Bill Gates advocates.

Here, the discussion is on perovskite solar cells; a technology that promises to be cheaper than that based on silicon. Perovskites are a large class of materials; those being studied as solar cell materials have several advantages, including the fact that they can be manufactured in the form of thin films, don’t need to be so extremely pure as silicon, have a band gap close to the theoretical optimum.

That, however, doesn’t necessarily make perovskites a “breakthrough” in the field. Even assuming that perovskite cells could reach an efficiency high enough to be marketable, the problem is that, at present, the cost of the cells is only about 30% of the total cost of a solar plant. Even if perovskite cells were to cost half as much in comparison to silicon ones, that would be no improvement unless their efficiency were to match or exceed that of silicon. Otherwise, the whole plant would probably cost more because it would have to occupy more space.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Achieving U.S. energy independence with our “neighbors” oil

Achieving U.S. energy independence with our “neighbors” oil

Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation, 2015, Springer]

House 114–12. February 3, 2015. The strategic importance of the western hemisphere defining U.S. interests in the region. 114thcongress House of Representatives. 81 pages 

Jeff Duncan, South Carolina 

Venezuela’s unstable situation, deteriorating economic conditions with major shortages and inflation at over 60 percent, declining oil production and human rights abuses also require sustained U.S. attention.

Energy opportunities abound in the region today. I am excited about the potential for U.S. energy exports from our neighbors in the hemisphere.  I believe we can do so much more on the energy front. The Western Hemisphere is home to nearly a third of the world’s oil and the region has nearly 337 billion barrels of estimated recovery in oil, and 20 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves.

The abundance of U.S. reserves in oil and natural gas and shale gas resources, the capability to export, liquefy and compress natural gas and the administration’s recent announcement of offshore drilling in the Atlantic, the U.S. has many reasons to partner with like-minded countries who seek to spur economic growth, achieve energy security, and reduce energy cost.

In the 113th Congress, I authored legislation to implement the Outer Continental Shelf Trans Boundary Hydrocarbon Agreement between Mexico and the United States.

Venezuela’s dire situation, resulting impact on its Petrocaribe program, has caused 18 Central American and Caribbean nations that receive its oil on preferential terms to look elsewhere for energy security. The U.S. is a natural partner for these policies.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Unpave low traffic roads to save energy and money

Unpave low traffic roads to save energy and money

Many of these roads should have never been paved to begin with, but the costs of construction, asphalt, and energy were so cheap it was done anyway.  Now many rural roads are past their design life and rapidly deteriorating.  It is both difficult and expensive to maintain them, and dangerous to let these roads fall apart and degrade into gravel on their own.

Examples of road safety effects caused by failing asphalt roads. The failures force traffic to travel outside of the lane and disrupt traffic movement.

Examples of road safety effects caused by failing asphalt roads. The failures force traffic to travel outside of the lane and disrupt traffic movement.

Unpaving low-volume roads saves energy and money. According to Karim Ahmed Abdel-Warith at Purdue University, preserving low-volume roads costs several hundred million dollars a year, more than half of the annual investment in roads.

Unpaving would also slow vehicle speeds down, further increasing miles per gallon from less aerodynamic drag.

Since roads harm biodiversity, getting rid of a road entirely should be done when possible.

The NRC paper I’ve taken excerpts from below requested feedback from the 27 states that have already depaved roads. This report provides many helpful guidance documents on depaving roads for communities interested in pursuing this.

NOTE: I’ve also added notes from another document below: The Promise of Rural Roads. Review of the Role of Low-Volume Roads in Rural Connectivity, Poverty Reduction, Crisis Management, and Livability

NRC. 2015. Converting paved roads to unpaved roads. National Research Council, National Academies Press. 97 pages

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Why did the environmental movement drop the issue of overpopulation?

Why did the environmental movement drop the issue of overpopulation?

[This is most of the 27 page report. Beck and Kolankiewicz have written this excellent paper explaining why the environmental movement abandoned the goal of keeping population within the carrying capacity of U.S. resources. Systems ecologists such as Paul Erlich, David Pimentel and others estimate the U.S. can support about 100 million people without fossil fuels. That was the population during the Great Depression, when 1 in 4 Americans were farmers, yet still many people were hungry (hence “The Grapes of Wrath”. Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com ]

The years surrounding 1970 marked the coming of age of the modern environmental movement. As that movement enters its fourth decade, perhaps the most striking change is the virtual abandonment by national environmental groups of U.S. population stabilization as an actively pursued goal.

Population Issues and the 1970-Era Environmental Movement

How did the American environmental movement change so radically?

Around 1970, U.S. population and environmental issues were widely and publicly linked. In environmental “teach-ins” across America, college students of the time heard repetitious proclamations on the necessity of stopping U.S. population growth in order to reach environmental goals; and the most public of reasons for engaging population issues was to save the environment. The nation’s best-known population group, Zero Population Growth (ZPG)-founded by biologists concerned about the catastrophic impacts of ever more human beings on the biosphere-was outspokenly also an environmental group. And many of the nation’s largest environmental groups had or were considering “population control” as major planks of their environmental prescriptions for America.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Who Killed the Electric Car?

Who Killed the Electric Car?

The battery did it.  Batteries are far too expensive for the average consumer, $600-1700 per kwh (Service). And they aren’t likely to get better any time soon.

“The big advances in battery technology happen rarely. It’s been more than 200 years and we have maybe 5 different successful rechargeable batteries,” said George Blomgren, a former senior technology researcher at Eveready (Borenstein).

And yet hope springs eternal. A better battery is always just around the corner:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Phosphate: All hopes rest on Morocco Walan et al., 2014

Phosphate: All hopes rest on Morocco Walan et al., 2014

[ My summary of paper: If you look around for what share Morocco has of phosphate reserves, you’ll see figures of 75 to 85% that will last 300-400 years.  But it’s not a done deal as Walan et al point out.

Phosphate is absolutely essential for high agricultural production, one of the “big 3” nutrients that boosts maximum crop growth (along with nitrogen and potassium). This paper points out that just like oil, it is the flow rate – how much is actually produced per year — that matters, not how much phosphate exists.

Phosphate can be “local”. For example, China and the U.S. use most of their phosphate domestically.

Morocco is the largest exporter and also has the largest deposits. So no worries?  Hopefully not, but there are factors such as below which could lower Moroccan exports:

  • War
  • Phosphate mining is very water intensive and Morroco has little, and are mining groundwater at an unsustainable rate
  • Phosphate mining is energy intense, oil shortages would disrupt production
  • Moroccan phosphate has a cadmium, which is very toxic to plants

Inevitably, the combination of rising cost will force phosphate production to peak and then decline, even in Morocco (Bardi 2009).

Extracts from this 26 page paper are below, not in order. There’s great material on the history, location, quality, and other aspects of phosphate as well.  Alice Friedemann, www.energyskeptic.com

Table 1. Main features of previous studies on phosphate rock depletion and production. * Most countries’ reserves will be depleted in less than 100 years. ** Reserve base is included in the highest reserve estimations

Table 1. Main features of previous studies on phosphate rock depletion and production.
* Most countries’ reserves will be depleted in less than 100 years.
** Reserve base is included in the highest reserve estimations

 

 

 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Why we need a diverse electricity generation portfolio: House hearing 2013

Why we need a diverse electricity generation portfolio: House hearing 2013

  • June 5, 2015. Proposed Clean Power Plan would accelerate renewable additions and coal plant retirements. U.S. Energy Information Administration
  • Even without the Clean Power Plan rule (CPP), 40 GW of coal capacity is expected to retire by 2040. If the CPP is passed, between 90 to 101 GW of coal plants may retire (EIA June 5 2015).
  • The EIA expects 46 to 62 GW of natural gas plant retirements replaced by 166 GW.
  • Coal plant retirement 40.1 GW by 2025 EIA DOE 2015 Annual energy outlook with projections to 2040.

Even in the absence of the proposed Clean Power Plan rule, 40 GW of existing coal-fired capacity and 46 GW of existing natural gas/oil-fired capacity are expected to retire through 2040 in the Reference case. Cases that implement the proposed Clean Power Plan rule accelerate and amplify these retirements, especially for coal. In the Base Policy case, 90 GW of coal-fired capacity and 62 GW of natural gas/oil-fired capacity retire by 2040. In the Policy Extension case, as emission rates continue declining after 2030, 101 GW of coal-fired generating capacity and 74 GW of natural gas/oil-fired generating capacity retire by 2040. The timing of the coal retirements is heavily influenced by implementation of environmental rules that may require power plant operators to either incur costs to retrofit power plants or receive less revenue because of lower levels of operation. As a result, coal retirements occur during the implementation of the Mercury and Air Toxics rule (in both the Reference case and Base Policy case), and in the initial year of the Clean Policy Plan implementation.

If EPA’s clean power plan and mercury and air toxis standards passes, then 60 GW of coal plants may retire early. EIA. March 20, 2014 Planned coal-fired power plant retirements continue to increase

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Why the Grid is getting less reliable. House Hearing 2013.

Why the Grid is getting less reliable. House Hearing 2013.

Mr. Jonathan A. Lesser, President Continental Economics, Inc.

[This is a really good introduction to how the grid works and the problems caused by intermittent wind (and solar)]

I appreciate the invitation from the Committee to testify today regarding the costs and the reliability implications of integrating “intermittent generating resources. By way of background, I began my professional career almost 30 years ago, as a load forecaster for Idaho Power. In my work for government, industry, and as a consultant, I have been involved with, and researched, many facets of the electric industry, as well as corresponding policy issues, at both the national and individual state levels. These issues have covered: (1) the “nuts and bolts” issues involved in regulating and designing electric rates; (2) electric industry restructuring, and the introduction of wholesale and retail competition; (3) environmental regulations affecting energy resource development and use; (4) the costs and benefits of renewable generation; (5) the economic impacts of electric competition; and (6) the economic consequences of energy subsidies. I have testified numerous times before state regulatory commissions, before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, before legislative committees in many other states, and before international energy regulators. I have co-authored three textbooks, including Environmental Economics and Policy, Fundamentals of Energy Regulation (for which my co-author and I are now preparing a second edition), and Principles of Utility Corporate Finance. My testimony this morning focuses on “intermittent” generating resources – primarily wind and solar photovoltaics (PV)– their impact on electric system reliability, and the costs that must be borne to “integrate such resources onto the power grid.

On July 6, 2012, when the demand for electricity in northern Illinois and Chicago hit a record of over 22,000 megawatts, the average amount of wind generation that day was a virtually non-existent 4 megawatts.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Understanding peak oil theory, 2007 U.S. House hearing

Understanding peak oil theory, 2007 U.S. House hearing

[What follows are excerpts from the 95 page transcript of this hearing, the only one about peak oil and the possibility that peak production may happen soon. And also the only hearing where most of the speakers explaining peak oil, including Representative Roscoe Bartlett, were scientists. From now on think-tank experts and CEO’s of large companies, not scientists, promise peak oil production is decades away and that the U.S. has 100 years of energy independence. Has Congress only invited bureaucrats rather than scientists and engineers since 2005 so that after the next energy crisis they can say they knew nothing? Though of course they know we’re in deep trouble — see the March 7, 2006 “Energy Independence” Senate hearing.  Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com ]

RALPH M. HALL, TEXAS. We are having this hearing today to learn more about peak oil theory, to hear different opinions, and to learn what we can do about it, if anything. While some theorists believe that we have reached our peak, the point at which the rate of world oil production cannot increase at any time, there are others that tell us that we are not going to peak any time soon, and others who still believe oil is continuously being created and will therefore never peak. We have not been ignoring a possible peak in oil production and this energy bill that was signed into law in August had provisions that address oil usage by promoting conservation and conventional and unconventional production. Whether or not we are reaching our peak, it seems responsible to continue in the vain we are going in by continuing to work on ways to conserve energy while increasing our domestic supply of oil and using research to develop substitutes for conventional oil.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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