A Climate Realist’s (not so) short Answers to Hard Questions About Climate Change. Question 14 (of 16) How does agriculture affect climate change?

NOV. 28, 2015 gave his answers to 16 questions in the N.Y. Times regarding Climate Change. This Climate realist added his answer.

 Answers to Question 1: How much is the planet heating up?

Answers to Question 2. How much trouble are we in?

Answers to Question 3. Is there anything I can do?

Answers to Question 4. What’s the optimistic scenario?

Answers to Question 5. Will reducing meat in my diet help the climate?

Answers to Question 6. What’s the worst-case scenario?

Answers to Question 7. Will a tech breakthrough help us?

Answers to Question 8. How much will the seas rise?

Answers to Question 9. Are the predictions reliable?

Answers to Question 10. Why do people question climate change?

Answers to Question 11. Is crazy weather tied to climate change?

Answers to Question 12. Will anyone benefit from global warming?

Answers to Question 13. Is there any reason for hope?

 

Justin Gillis answer to Question 14. How does agriculture affect climate change?

It’s a big contributor, but there are signs of progress.

The environmental pressures from global agriculture are indeed enormous.

The demand for food is rising, in large part because of population growth and rising incomes that give millions of once-low income people the means to eat richer diets. Global demand for beef and for animal feed, for instance, has led farmers to cut down huge chunks of the Amazon rain forest.

Efforts are being made to tackle the problems. The biggest success has arguably been in Brazil, which adopted tough oversight and managed to cut deforestation in the Amazon by 80 percent in a decade. But the gains there are fragile, and severe problems continue in other parts of the world, such as aggressive forest clearing in Indonesia.

Scores of companies and organizations, including major manufacturers of consumer products, signed a declaration in New York in 2014 pledging to cut deforestation in half by 2020, and to cut it out completely by 2030. The companies that signed the pact are now struggling to figure out how to deliver on that promise.

Many forest experts at the Paris climate talks in late 2015 considered the pledge as ambitious, but possible. And they said it was crucial that consumers keep up the pressure on companies from whom they buy products, from soap to ice cream.

My answer to Question 14. How does agriculture affect climate change?

Whenever a forest is cut down and the earth gets tilled the local microclimate changes, and not for the better. The earth warms about 0.8 degrees C, the evapotranspiration is drastically reduced, the ground dries up having lost its protective shade. That is why it is an insane idea to cut down the rainforests of Borneo to produce biofuel.

Thanks to increasing CO2 levels agriculture is in much better shape than before.

CO2, the life-giving gas, not “Carbon Pollution”. A Limerick – and explanation.

What then is this “Carbon Pollution”?

A sinister, evil collusion?

CO2, it is clean,

Makes for growth, makes it green,

A transfer of wealth, a solution.

CO2 concentration has increased from about 280 ppm in pre-industrial times to 405 ppm today, and is increasing at a rate of 2 ppm per year. We are way past the point of no return, 350 ppm which would lead to a temperature catastrophe. (1) But instead, something rather interesting is occurring. The earth is getting greener! (2) This 40 % increase in CO2 the last 250 years has led to a more than 30 % increase in agricultural production all by itself without adding fertilizer or using higher yielding seeds. (3) Thanks to this we can now feed an additional two billion people on earth without starvation. The news are so good, that the per capita food production is increasing, even as the population is increasing. (4)

Look at it this way. The value of basic agricultural products is more than 1.5 trillion dollars worldwide. 30% of that is due to increased CO2. That means that the CO2 emitted is worth 450 billion dollars, spread out over all farmers and ranchers worldwide. This wealth transfer is occurring right now, and knows no national boundary. It is a gift from the developed countries to the rest of the world. Who could be against that?

It turns out that this wealth transfer occurs without global governance. The leaders of the world will not have their say in who gets the wealth transfer, the U.N. bureaucrats will not get their cut, and politicians cannot get a campaign issue since it  occurs without their involvement.

So to recapture the initiative they renamed this life-giving gas “Carbon pollution” and managed somehow to get the Supreme Court to agree with the notion that CO2 is a pollutant.

How can that be? They argued that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, which is true. It is second only to water vapor. It is responsible for about 9 degree Celsius rise in global temperature, and if CO2 increases, so does the greenhouse effect and the temperature increases. This in turn leads to more water vapor in the air, and water vapor is the strongest greenhouse gas, so there is a risk of reaching a “tipping point” when we could experience a thermal runaway of the planet. All of this is true, so U.N. and many governments around the world have sponsored studies to model  climate change, over a hundred models have been constructed, and they all come up with rather gloomy forecasts. The research is so intense that over 3 billion dollars of government monies are spent yearly on climate change research.

All models show a similar pattern, a fairly steep and more or less linear rise in temperature as CO2 increases. There is only one major thing wrong with them. They do not agree with what is happening to the global temperature. We have now had 224 months (Sep 2015) without any global warming, in fact, the trend is down. (5)

What is wrong with the models? They all assume a passive earth, where there is no negative feedback to the changing environment. It turns out, the earth has a “governor”, and it can be expressed in one word, albedo, which means “whiteness” or how much of the incoming sunlight that gets reflected back into space.

The major albedo changers are the amount of ice around the poles and clouds, but even land use changes such as forests cut down and replaced by agriculture and urbanization.

When there is snow or ice on the ground, more sunlight gets reflected and it gets colder still. Urban heat islands are warmer than the surroundings, airports are warmer than its surroundings. Interestingly, that is where we are placing our new weather stations. (This is great for pilots that have to evaluate take-off and landing conditions, but is less than ideal for climate research. But then again, climate research has moved from the realm of physical science to political science, where different rules do apply.)

The most important albedo changers of the earth are clouds. Without them no land based life would be possible since clouds serve both as rainmakers and temperature stabilizers. If there were no clouds the equilibrium temperature at the equator would be around 140 degrees F.

Over the oceans, in the so called “doldrums” where there are no trade winds, the mornings start with a warm-up, and when the conditions are right a shower or thunderstorm occurs. The ambient temperature is usually between 84 and 88 degrees when this happens. As CO2 concentrations increase thunderstorms occur a few minutes earlier and last a little bit longer, but they are no more severe and as a result the average temperature stays the same. (5)

In desert areas of the world this temperature regulator doesn’t work well, so deserts will receive the full force of temperature increase which is 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit per doubling of CO2 levels.

In the temperate region the temperature increase will be somewhere in between. Dry days will be warmer, cloudy and rainy days will have the same temperature as before, since the regulator starts to function.

The polar region is a special case. None of the models have done a good job at modeling the clouds at the poles, especially the South Pole. (6) They will warm up more than 2 degrees F, how much is a question. In the South average temperatures will rise from – 70 degrees F in the interior all the way to maybe – 63 degrees F, and come closer to freezing in the summer at the northern edges. There may be added snowfall that will expand the ice sheet. The Antarctic ice sheet has set new records since record keeping began, and is at the moment bottoming out at 30% more ice than the 30 year average. (7)

The North Pole region is even more complicated since it is partially land, partially ocean. The oceanic ice cap has been shrinking  at a fairly constant rate the last 30 years, but last year it broke the trend and grew back to break the trend line. The winter snow cap has remained at about the same level year to year with a slightly positive trend line, this year being no exception.  So, why is the snow cover growing slightly, but ice cover shrinking? The common explanation has been global warming, but the ice cover kept shrinking even as the temperature increase leveled off. There are two possible explanations: Warming oceans and changes in pollution. The North Atlantic Oscillation has been mostly positive (warmer) since 1970 and has only recently turned negative, so that is certainly part of the cause of the shrinking of the icecap, but another candidate is even more likely: Carbon Pollution. With that I do not mean CO2, but good old soot, spewing out from the smokestacks of  power plants in China. 45% of all coal burned is burned in China, often low grade lignite with no scrubbers. The air in Beijing is toxic to humans more days than not. Some of that soot finds its way to the arctic and settles on the ice, changing its albedo, and the sun has a chance to melt the ice more efficiently. This occurs mostly in the months of August and September when the Sun is at a low angle anyway, so the changing of the albedo has very little effect on temperature. The net result of all this is that the temperature in the North Pole region will rise about 3 degrees Fahrenheit for a doubling of the CO2. This will have a very minor effect on the Greenland ice cap since they are nearly always way below freezing anyway (-28 degree C average). The largest effect will happen in August and September in the years when all new snow has melted and the soot from years past is exposed. This happened two years ago with a sudden drop in albedo for the Greenland ice. It will also lead to an increase in the precipitation in the form of snow, so the net result is the glaciers may start growing again if the amount of soot can be reduced.

The conclusion is: The temperature regulator of the earth is working quite well, and the increase in temperature at the poles is welcome as it lessens the temperature gradient between the tropics and the polar regions, which in turn reduces the severity of storms, since they are mostly generated by temperature differences and the different density of warm, humid and dry, cold air. (8) The Polar Bears will do quite well, their numbers have more than doubled in the last 50 years.

(1). This is a message from 1010global.org. Their aim was to reduce carbon emissions by 10% in 2010.

https://lenbilen.com/2014/02/22/a-religious-message-from-1010global-org-and-a-limerick/

(2). The earth is getting greener!  https://lenbilen.com/2013/03/19/co2-the-solution-to-climate-change/

(3).

greenearthhigh_resolution1

(4).

chart11-2

(5). Reality versus climate models.CMIP5-73-models-vs-obs-20N-20S-MT-5-yr-means1(6) Projected cloud cover for various climate models versus reality.Cloudmodels

(7)

seaice.recent.antarctic46

(8).

uah-lower-troposphere-temperature

Thabout_face_bookere is a new book out:

About Face! Why the World Needs More Carbon Dioxide is easy reading from two scientists and an economist. About Face! is the product of two scientists and an economist. The scientists are Madhav Khandekar in Canada and Cliff Ollier in Australia, plus economist Arthur Middleton Hughes in the USA.

It will change your understanding of climate science and explain how we can save millions of lives and billions of dollars per year.

Available on Amazon here

A Climate Realist’s (not so) short Answers to Hard Questions About Climate Change. Question 13 (of 16) Is there any reason for hope?

NOV. 28, 2015 gave his answers to 16 questions in the N.Y. Times regarding Climate Change. This Climate realist added his answer.

 Answers to Question 1: How much is the planet heating up?

Answers to Question 2. How much trouble are we in?

Answers to Question 3. Is there anything I can do?

Answers to Question 4. What’s the optimistic scenario?

Answers to Question 5. Will reducing meat in my diet help the climate?

Answers to Question 6. What’s the worst-case scenario?

Answers to Question 7. Will a tech breakthrough help us?

Answers to Question 8. How much will the seas rise?

Answers to Question 9. Are the predictions reliable?

Answers to Question 10. Why do people question climate change?

Answers to Question 11. Is crazy weather tied to climate change?

Answers to Question 12. Will anyone benefit from global warming?

Justin Gillis answers to Question 13. Is there any reason for hope?

If you share this with 50 friends, maybe

Scientists have been warning since the 1980s that strong policies were needed to limit emissions. Those warnings were ignored, and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have since built up to potentially dangerous levels. So the hour is late.

But after 20 years of largely fruitless diplomacy, the governments of the world are finally starting to take the problem seriously. A deal reached in Paris in December commits nearly every country to some kind of action.

Religious leaders like Pope Francis are speaking out. Low-emission technologies, such as electric cars, are improving. Leading corporations are making bold promises to switch to renewable power and stop forest destruction. Around the world, many states and cities are pledging to go far beyond the goals set by their national governments.

What is still largely missing in all this are the voices of ordinary citizens.

Because politicians have a hard time thinking beyond the next election, they tend to tackle hard problems only when the public rises up and demands it.

My answer to Question 13. Is there any reason for hope?

Yes there is. Thanks to the last election the Paris agreement will not be enforced. It is a horrible agreement anyhow, reducing our CO2 emissions immediately and allowing China to keep increasing until 2030, by which time their emissions will be six times as big as ours. Already China is burning 47% of the coal burned in the world, and poor countries still need to get electrified. India is also exempt, and their needs are even bigger than China’s. With the Paris agreement the poorest countries would still use dried cow dung as cooking fuel.

We now have a great opportunity to turn from going after CO2 and address real pollution and environmental degradation. We have immense environmental problems. The water in the American South-West is spoken for, the prairie aquifers are being depleted, water and soil pollution lurks everywhere. We are over-fertilizing our lawns and agricultural fields, not managing wildfires properly, adding red tape to red tape. All environmental action should be regional, such as the Chesapeake Bay Watershed program. Thanks to persuading even the Amish to use proper fertilizing methods, such as not putting out manure just before a thunderstorm, put up manure barriers next to streams and so on, Chesapeake Bay might yet be saved.

It makes no sense to make electric cars as long as the bulk of electricity comes from fossil fuels. Fossil fuels should be reserved for airplane transportation since they have no good alternative.

We need to have a crash program in Thorium based nuclear electricity production, and when enough production capacity is established, then is the time to produce electrical cars.

We need to leave this world a cleaner and better place than when we entered it, and the best way to have a chance to leave more production resources for our grand-children is to switch most of our electricity production to Thorium as a feedstock. There is a million years supply of Thorium in the world, all other material are more limited. Wind and solar will not do it, it takes more power than that to solve our needs.

Answers to Question 14. How does agriculture affect climate change?

Answers to Question 15. Will the seas rise evenly across the planet?

Answers to Question 16. Is it really all about carbon?

A Climate Realist’s (not so) short Answers to Hard Questions About Climate Change. Question 7 (of 16) Will a tech breakthrough help us?

NOV. 28, 2015 gave his answers to 16 questions in the N.Y. Times regarding Climate Change. This Climate realist added his answer.

 Answers to Question 1: How much is the planet heating up?

Answers to Question 2. How much trouble are we in?

Answers to Question 3. Is there anything I can do?

Answers to Question 4. What’s the optimistic scenario?

Answers to Question 5. Will reducing meat in my diet help the climate?

Answers to Question 6. What’s the worst-case scenario?

Justin Gillis answer to Question7. Will a tech breakthrough help us?

Even Bill Gates says don’t count on it, unless we commit the cash.

As more companies, governments and researchers devote themselves to the problem, the chances of big technological advances are improving. But even many experts who are optimistic about technological solutions warn that current efforts are not enough. For instance, spending on basic energy research is only a quarter to a third of the level that several in-depth reports have recommended. And public spending on agricultural research has stagnated even though climate change poses growing risks to the food supply. People like Bill Gates have argued that crossing our fingers and hoping for technological miracles is not a strategy — we have to spend the money that would make these things more likely to happen.

My answer to Question7. Will a tech breakthrough help us?

The CO2 increase is already showing its benefits by increasing harvests, forest growth and especially greening grasslands by more than 11%. The greening of the earth is real. See fig:In addition plants use less water to perform photosynthesis as CO2 levels increase.

But we need technological breakthrough to clean up our environment and  provide enough water for a thirsty planet, especially in the 10/40 window. Nearly all large cities in that area suffer a shortage of water. In Teheran the water table is sinking by 6 feet a year, and in Mexico City things ate just as bad. Southern California and Las Vegas depend to a large extent on water from Lake Mead, and unless checked Lake Mead is being drained at an alarming rate, (this winter being an exception).

Making clean water and cleaning up the environment takes a lot of energy, so it would be good to check from where the world gets its energy.

More than three quarter of all energy comes from fossil fuel, less than 0.1% comes from solar panels. To tenfold solar panels will not help much, hydropower is limited, ethanol competes with the food supply, only drastic action will change the situation. May I suggest to switch all electricity production now generated by coal and oil to nuclear power, but not any nuclear power, switch to Thorium based nuclear power generation. Until that is done it makes no sense to use electric automobiles and trucks except in special circumstances. There is a million year supply of Thorium, and Thorium based nuclear energy has only 0.01% of the long term nuclear waste of Uranium based nuclear energy.

Don’t believe me? Check out https://lenbilen.com/2012/02/15/eleven-reasons-to-switch-to-thorium-based-nuclear-power-generation/  and https://lenbilen.com/2012/02/15/eleven-more-reasons-to-switch-to-thorium-as-nuclear-fuel/

Then we can tackle the real problems, such as real (not “carbon”) pollution, water, energy distribution, electrification of the developing world, all worthwhile endeavors.

Answers to Question 8. How much will the seas rise?

Answers to Question 9. Are the predictions reliable?

Answers to Question 10. Why do people question climate change?

Answers to Question 11. Is crazy weather tied to climate change?

Answers to Question 12. Will anyone benefit from global warming?

Answers to Question 13. Is there any reason for hope?

Answers to Question 14. How does agriculture affect climate change?

Answers to Question 15. Will the seas rise evenly across the planet?

Answers to Question 16. Is it really all about carbon?

 

The DOE refuses to answer questions from the incoming Trump administration, a Limerick.

Department of Energy fights,

scared Perry will turn out the lights.

For it will not admit

what it does, and won’t quit.

Its chutzpah is reaching new heights.

The incoming Trump administration sent out a rather lengthy questionnaire, in short asking what each employee has been doing.

The Department of Energy refused to answer, citing Academic Freedom.

Excerpts from the letter: (Thanks, Willis Eschenbach for the list and comments!)

Questions for DOE

This memo, as you might expect, is replete with acronyms. “DOE” is the Department of Energy. Here are the memo questions and my comments.

1. Can you provide a list of all boards, councils, commissions, working groups, and FACAs [Federal Advisory Committees] currently active at the Department? For each, can you please provide members, meeting schedules, and authority (statutory or otherwise) under which they were created? 

If I were at DOE, this first question would indeed set MY hair on fire. The easiest way to get rid of something is to show that it was not properly established … boom, it’s gone. As a businessman myself, this question shows me that the incoming people know their business, and that the first order of business is to jettison the useless lumber.

2. Can you provide a complete list of ARPA-E’s projects?

Critical information for an incoming team.

3 Can you provide a list of the Loan Program Office’s outstanding loans, including the parties responsible for paying the loan back, term of the loan, and objective of the loan?

4 Can you provide a list of applications for loans the LPO has received and the status of those applications?

5 Can you provide a full accounting of DOE liabilities associated with any loan or loan guarantee programs?

6 The Department recently announced the issuance of $4.5 billion in loan guarantees for electric vehicles (and perhaps associated infrastructure). Can you provide a status on this effort?

Oh, man, they are going for the jugular. Loan Program Office? If there is any place that the flies would gather, it’s around the honey … it’s good to see that they are looking at loan guarantees for electric vehicles, a $4.5 billion dollar boondoggle that the government should NOT be in. I call that program the “Elon Musk Retirement Fund”.

Folks, for $4.5 billion dollars, we could provide clean water to almost half a million villages around the world … or we could put it into Elon Musk’s bank account or the account of some other electric vehicle manufacturer. I know which one I’d vote for … and I am equally sure which one the poor of the world would prefer.

7 What is the goal of the grid modernization effort? Is there some terminal point to this effort? Is its genesis statutory or something else?

Asking the right questions about vague programs …

8 Who “owns” the Mission Innovation and Clean Energy Ministerial efforts within the Department?

I love this question. Orphan departments are legendary in big bureaucracies … nobody owns them and they can do what they want. I don’t predict a long future for this Mission Impossible—Clean Energy effort..

9 What is the Department’s role with respect to the development of offshore wind?

Given that offshore wind is far and away the MOST EXPENSIVE of all the renewable options, the answer should be “None”.

10 Is there an assessment of the funds it would take to replace aging infrastructure in the complex? Is there a priority list of which facilities to be decommissioned?

Another critical question, about the state of their own facilities.

11 Which Assistant Secretary positions are rooted in statute and which exist at the discretion and delegation of the Secretary?

Like I said … these guys know how to do what they plan to do, which is to change the direction of the agency. All discretionary Assistant Secretaries must be sweating …

12 What is the statutory charge to the Department with respect to efficiency standards? Which products are subject to statutory requirements and which are discretionary to the Department?

Same thing. They want to find out what they can just cut, where the low-hanging fruit might be. I suspect this is about Obama’s ludicrous CAFE standards mandating a 50+ mile-per-gallon average for all car manufacturers.

13 Can you provide a list of all Department of Energy employees or contractors who have attended any Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Carbon meetings? Can you provide a list of when those meetings were and any materials distributed at those meetings, emails associated with those meetings, or materials created by Department employees or contractors in anticipation of or as a result of those meetings?

Now, this is the one that has the “scientists” involved most concerned. Me, I think they damn well should be concerned because what they have been doing all this time is HALF OF A COST/BENEFIT ANALYSIS!!

This is a pet peeve of mine. You can’t just talk of costs in a vacuum. To do that without considering the accompanying benefits is scientific malfeasance. To do it as a policy matter is nothing less than deliberately lying to the public. As a result, I hope that everyone engaged in this anti-scientific effort gets identified and if they cannot be fired for malfeasance then put them to work sweeping the floors. Talk about “fake news”, the so-called “social cost of carbon” is as fake as they come.

14 Did DOE or any of its contractors run the integrated assessment models (lAMs)? Did they pick the discount rates to be used with the lAMs? What was DOE’s opinion on the proper discount rates used with the lAMs? What was DOE’s opinion on the proper equilibrium climate sensitivity?

Cuts to the core, and lets the people know that vague handwaving is not going to suffice. These folks want actual answers to the hard questions, and they’ve definitely identified the critical points about the models.

15 What is the Department’s role with respect to JCPOA? Which office has the lead for the NNSA?

The JCPOA is usually a “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action”. In this case, however, it refers to the Iran nuclear deal, and is an  interesting question. The NNSA is the National Nuclear Security Adminstration.

16 What statutory authority has been given to the Department with respect to cybersecurity?

Critical in these times.

17 Can you provide a list of all Schedule C appointees, all non-career SES employees, and all Presidential appointees requiring Senate confirmation? Can you include their current position and how long they have served at the Department?

Here’s the deal. It’s basically impossible to fire a government worker unless they held up a bank and were caught in the act, and even then you’d have to have full-color video to make it stick. Public employee unions are among the world’s stupidest and most destructive idea … the government unions use their plentiful funds to affect the election of the people who set their pay scale. Yeah, that should go well …

BUT … if you can get rid of their position, then you’re not firing them, you just don’t have further work for them. They are trying to figure out who they can cut. Hair is catching fire on all sides with this one.

18 Can you offer more information about the EV Everywhere Grand Challenge?

Never heard of it, but then I never heard of a lot of things in this memo … which just shows that the memo makers did their homework. Turns out that the EV Everywhere Grand Challenge is another clumsy attempt to get Electric Vehicles Everywhere regardless of the fact that the public mostly doesn’t want Electric Vehicles Anywhere.

19 Can you provide a list of Department employees or contractors who attended any of the Conference of the Parties (under the UNFCCC) in the last five years?

An IPCC Conference of Parties is much more party than conference—it’s basically an excuse to party in some lovely location (think Bali, Cancun, …), with the party occasionally interrupted by the pesky conference. It is a meaningless exercise which ends up with an all-night session that finishes by announcing that everyone has signed on to the latest non-binding fantasy about how to end the use of fossil fuels, drive up energy prices, and screw the poor. And yes, if I were appointed to run the DOE, I would definitely want to know who has gone on these useless junkets.

Now, I know that people are going to complain about “scientific freedom” regarding the memo asking who worked on what … but if you don’t want to tell the incoming team what you’ve worked on … why not? Are you ashamed of what you’ve done? Look, every job I’ve had, if a new boss came in, they wanted to know what I had worked on in the past, and I simply answered them honestly. Scientists are no different.

Finally, government scientists presumably work on what their agency directs them to work on … so the issue of “scientific freedom” is way overblown in this context where they are NOT free to work on projects of their own choice.

20 Can you provide a list of reports to Congress or other external parties that are due in 2017? 

Again, a critical question when you take over an organization—what deliverables is it contracted to produce? Like I said, these folks know what they are doing.

21 Can you provide a copy of any Participation Agreement under Section 1221 of EP Act signed by the Department?

We’re way down in the weeds now. This section of the EP Act allows three or more contiguous states to establish a regional transmission siting agency. Not sure why they’ve asked this, but it does add to their knowledge of the projected vague transmission grid actions, which appears like it could be a big money drain.

22 What mechanisms exist to help the national laboratories commercialize their scientific and technological prowess?

A forgotten task at the DOE, I’m sure.

23 How many fusion programs, both public and private, are currently being funded worldwide?

Huh … looking for duplication of activities.

24 Which activities does the Department describe as commercialization programs or programs with the specific purpose of developing a technology for market deployment?

Incoming administrations, if they’re smart, look for low hanging fruit. In this case if there are commercial programs near completion, they can be fast-tracked to provide evidence that the new administration is on the job.

25 Does or can the Department delineate research activities as either basic or applied research?

This is a critical distinction, and one that they possibly have never made.

26 Can you provide a list of all permitting authorities (and their authorizing statutes) currently held by DOE and their authorizing statutes?

Again, the local denizens will not like this a bit, more hair will spontaneously ignite. In part any bureaucracy prides itself on its power to stop people from doing things … in other words, they demand a permit for an action and then they can refuse to issue it. This asks not just for the permitting authorities, but once again for their authorizing statutes. Again, the easiest way to get rid of something is to show it was built without authorization …

27 Is there a readily available list of any technologies or products that have emerged from  programs or the labs that are currently offered in the market without any subsidy?

Quite possibly not, but if so it would be an interesting list.

28 Are there statutory restrictions related to reinvigorating the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management?

29 Are there any statutory restrictions to restarting the Yucca Mountain project?

These two questions show us that they plan to restart Yucca Mountain, the shuttered nuclear waste repository.

30 Which programs within DOE are essential to meeting the goals of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan?

Because you can kiss them goodbye along with the CAP …

31 If DOE’s topline budget in accounts other than the 050 account were required to be reduced 10% over the next four fiscal years (from the FY17 request and starting in FY18), does the Department have any recommendations as to where those reductions should be made?

This is brilliant. It’s like my gorgeous ex-fiancee regarding colors. She asks me what color I like so she can cross it off the list of possibilities … and rightly so given my color sense. This strikes me as the same deal. The new Administration asks where the current denizens would cut ten percent … then when they are told it, they know they might want to cut somewhere else … useful info either way.

32 Does the Department have any thoughts on how to reduce the bureaucratic burden for exporting U.S. energy technology, including but not limited to commercial nuclear technology?

Likely not … but worth asking …

33 Is the number of Assistant Secretaries set by statute? Does the statute establish the number as a minimum or a maximum, or is it silent on the question?

Assistant Secretaries are now on DEFCON 1, or DEFCON 0.5, their hair is totally engulfed in flames …

34 Can you provide a list of all current open job postings and the status of those positions?

35 Can you provide a list of outstanding M&O contracts yet to be awarded for all DOE facilities and their current status?

36 Can you provide a list of non-M&O procurements/awards that are currently pending and their status?

Open jobs, outstanding Maintenance and Operation contracts, non-M&O procurements, they want to find out just exactly what is the current state of play. It will also allow the incoming folks to see what last-minute hires they’ve tried to jam through before the changeover.

37 Does DOE have a plan to resume the Yucca Mountain license proceedings?

They may have shelved or previous plans, good to know if so.

38 What secretarial determinations/records of decisions are pending?

Have they made decisions that are not written down? If so, what? Man, these people are thorough, I wouldn’t have thought to ask that one.

39 What should the incoming Administration do to balance risk, performance and ultimately completion in contracting?

40 What should this Administration do differently to make sure there are the right incentives to attract qualified contractors?

An interesting pair of questions.

41 What is the plan for funding cleanup of Portsmouth and Paducah when the current uranium inventory designated for barter in exchange for cleanup services, is no longer available (excluding reinstating the UED&D fee on commercial nuclear industry or utilizing the USEC fund)?

Back into the weeds, proving that these folks have done their homework. Right now, those shuttered nuclear plants are trading uranium, a valuable resource, for cleanup … what happens when the uranium runs out? Who is on the hook for the costs?

42 What is the right funding level for EM to make meaningful progress across the complex and meet milestone and regulatory requirements?

According to the Energy.gov glossary, “EM” is environmental management. I’m not sure what the DOE is required to do in this, and that’s what they are asking.

43 What is the greatest opportunity for reduction in life cycle cost/return on investment? 

44 Describe your alternatives to the ever increasing WTP cost and schedule, whether technical or programmatic?

45 With respect to EM, what program milestones will be reached in each of the next four years?

47 How can the DOE support existing reactors to continue operating as part of the nation’s infrastructure?

48 What can DOE do to help prevent premature closure of plants? 

49 How do you recommend continuing to supporting the licensing of Small Modular Reactors? 

50 How best can DOE optimize its Advanced Reactor R&D activities to maximize their value proposition and work with investors to development and commercialize advanced reactors?

All of these questions are concerned with the regulation and waste disposal of nuclear plants, suggesting strongly that the new administration is interested in keeping existing plants open and licensing new plants.

Questions for EIA

EIA is the Energy Information Agency charged with collecting and maintaining energy-related data.

51 EIA is an independent agency in DOE. How has EIA ensured its independence in your data and analysis over the past 8 years? In what instances do you think EIA’ s independence was most challenged?

Now this is a fascinating two-part question, especially the second part. Basically they are asking, can we trust the EIA, and what pressures is it subject to?

52 Part of EIA’s charter is to do analyses based on Congressional and Departmental requests. Has EIA denied or not responded to any of these requests over the last ten years?

53 EIA customarily has or had set dates for completions of studies and reports. In general, have those dates been adhered to?

54 In the Annual Energy Outlook 2016, EIA assumed that the Clean Power Plan should be in the reference case despite the fact that the reference case is based on existing laws and regulations. Why did EIA make that assumption, which seems to be atypical of past forecasts?

Uh-oh … caught messing with the books …

55 EIA’s assessments of levelized costs for renewable technologies do not contain back-up costs for the fossil fuel technologies that are brought on-line to replace the generation when those technologies are down. Is this is a correct representation of the true levelized costs?

Since this is an issue I’ve raised publicly in my posts on levelized costs, I’m overjoyed to see them ask it.

56 Has EIA done analysis that shows that additional back-up generation is not needed? How does EIA’s analysis compare with other analyses on this issue?

This seems like they’re talking about some EIA analysis that says that such generation isn’t needed, and asking them to justify it. If not, they are simply forcing them to admit that yes, backup is needed, and no, they haven’t been including those costs … good on them.

57 Renewable and solar technologies are expected to need additional transmission costs above what fossil technologies need. How has EIA represented this in the AEO forecasts? What is the magnitude of those transmission costs?

Again, excellent questions that the EIA has not been posing, much less answering.

58 There are studies that show that your high resource and technology case for oil and gas represents the shale gas and oil renaissance far better than your reference case. Why has EIA not put those assumptions in your reference case?

Yes, they definitely should put those in … but then from all appearances they hate fracking with a passion …

59 Can you describe the number of personnel hired into management positions at EIA from outside EIA and compare it to the number of personnel hired into management positions at EIA who were currently serving at EIA?

Hiring outside vs promoting inside … interesting question.

60 How does EIA ensure quality in its data and analyses?

61 Where does EIA think most improvement is needed in its data and analyses?

I’d love to see the answer to this one.

62 We note that EIA added distributed solar estimations to your electricity data reports. Those numbers are not part of your supply/demand balance on a Btu basis. Why has that not been updated accordingly?

Uh-oh again … someone finally asking the hard questions.

63 How many vacancies does EIA have in management and staff positions? What plans, if any, does EIA have to fill those positions before January 20?

64 Is the EIA budget sufficient to ensure quality in data and analyses? If not, where does it fall short?

More questions to clarify the fiscal landscape.

65 Does EIA have cost comparisons of sources of electricity generation at the national level?

Not that I know of … but then they may have them and have not released them. We’ll see.

Questions on labs

DOE labs are separate from the DOE itself … I knew the DOE had labs but I had no idea they had seventeen of them, viz:

National Energy Technology Laboratory at Albany, Oregon (2005)

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at Berkeley, California (1931)

Los Alamos National Laboratory at Los Alamos, New Mexico (1943)

Oak Ridge National Laboratory at Oak Ridge, Tennessee (1943)

Argonne National Laboratory at DuPage County, Illinois (1946)

Ames Laboratory at Ames, Iowa (1947)

Brookhaven National Laboratory at Upton, New York (1947)

Sandia National Laboratories at Albuquerque, New Mexico and Livermore, California (1948)

Idaho National Laboratory between Arco and Idaho Falls, Idaho (1949)

Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory at Princeton, New Jersey (1951)

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory at Livermore, California (1952)

Savannah River National Laboratory at Aiken, South Carolina (1952)

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Menlo Park, California (1962)

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory at Richland, Washington (1965)

Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory at Batavia, Illinois (1967)

National Renewable Energy Laboratory at Golden, Colorado (1977)

Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility at Newport News, Virginia (1984)

Let me say that as a businessman looking at that list, it screams “Duplication Of Effort” at about 180 decibels. Hence the following questions:

66 What independent evaluation panels does the lab have to assess the scientific value of its work? Who sits on these panels? How often do they hold sessions? Do they publish reports?

67 Can you provide a list of cooperative research and development grants (CRADAs) for the past five years? Please provide funding amounts, sources, and outcomes?

68 Can you provide a list of licensing agreements and royalty proceeds for the last five years?

69 Can you provide a list of the top twenty salaried employees of the lab, with total remuneration and the portion funded by DOE?

70 Can you provide a list of all peer-reviewed publications by lab staff for the past three years?

71 Can you provide a list of current professional society memberships of lab staff?

72 Can you provide a list of publications by lab staff for the past three years?

73 Can you provide a list of all websites maintained by or contributed to by laboratory staff during work hours for the past three years?

74 Can you provide a list of all other positions currently held by lab staff, paid and unpaid, including faculties, boards, and consultancies?

The answer:

Energy Department spokesman Eben Burnham-Snyder said Tuesday the Energy Department will not comply.

“Our career workforce, including our contractors and employees at our labs, comprise the backbone of (the Energy Department) and the important work our department does to benefit the American people,” Burnham-Snyder said.

“We are going to respect the professional and scientific integrity and independence of our employees at our labs and across our department,” he added. “We will be forthcoming with all publicly available information with the transition team. We will not be providing any individual names to the transition team.”

He added that the request “left many in our workforce unsettled.”

A Coking Coal Limerick.

cooking-coalFrom Financial Times: The ability of policymakers in Beijing to roil global commodity markets has led to quite a rally in a key steel making ingredient that has caught consumers cold, but promises a profit windfall for the struggling mining industry.

The price of premium hard coking coal has more than doubled in the past six weeks to more than $200 a ton  as supplies have dwindled and buyers have scrambled to find cargoes in the spot market.

China is on the march:

The price of the cooking coal spikes.

Is China the cause of the hikes?

They’re preparing for war;

WW III at the door.

The change that Obama wrought. Yikes!

Brexit, secession fever in Britain. A Limerick.

Secession is brewing in Britain

from EU they’ll vote to be quittin’

More than half to secede,

a reliable read.

No wall, yet the handwriting written.

The headlines go from bad to worse for the UK and EU establishment as yet another new poll this weekend, by Opini20160612_eu1um, shows “Brexit” leading by a remarkable 19 points (52% chose to leave the EU against 33% choosing to keep the status quo). This result comes after 2 polls Friday night showing a 10-point lead for “leave” which sparked anxiety across markets. This surge in “leave” probability comes despite an additional 1.5 million voters having registered this week (which many expected to increase “remain” support). Further anger towards EU was exposed when former cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith warned that seven new prisons will need to be built in the UK by 2030 to cope with the rising number of migrant criminals (presumedly due to ‘staying’ in the EU). With market anxiety rising, as One River’s CIO notes, if Brexit happens, gold will soar.

All major parties are campaigning for Britain to stay in the EU. Here is the Green Party reason: Caroline Lucas has  called on Green voters to back remaining in the EU on June 23rd, declaring the imminent vote a “climate referendum”.

Lucas, who is a board member of Britain Stronger in Europe and Another Europe is Possible, as well as the Green Party’s only MP, warned a vote for Brexit would undermine efforts to tackle climate change and build a greener economy.

“June 23rd is a climate referendum,” she said. “Leaving the EU could wreck our chances of playing a part in the fight against this existential threat – and hand the country to people who don’t even believe climate change is happening. But by staying as a member of the EU we can build on the progress already made in Paris earlier this year and continue making strides towards a fossil-free future.”

She reiterated her view the EU is in need of sweeping reform, but insisted it remained the “best hope we have when it comes to tackling climate change and protecting our environment”.

President Obama visited Britain recently and advocated strongly for Britain to stay in the EU, warning that if they left they would be at “the back of the queue” for a U.S. trade deal. According to polls taken just before and just after Obama’s visit, that recommendation alone lead to a 3 to 5 point uptick in favor of Brexit.

 

The fiscal status of all fifty states and Puerto Rico according to party rule.

The Mercatus Center of George Mason University has come out with a study of which states are most fiscally solvent as of fiscal year 2014. These are their rankings of all 50 states and Puerto Rico. The best fiscal status in 2014 is enjoyed by states ruled by a Republican governor, Republican legislature. There are 25 of these with an average score of 0.89

1. Alaska                            9.56

2. Nebraska                      2.65

3. Wyoming                      2.60

4. North Dakota              2.60

5. South Dakota               2.18

6. Florida                           1.94

7. Utah                                1.19

8. Oklahoma                     1.19

9. Tennessee                     0.88

11. Ohio                             0.56

12. Idaho                           0.44

13. Nevada                       0.41

15. Alabama                     0.28

16. Texas                            0.20

17. Indiana                        0.17

18. South Carolina          – 0.04

21. North Carolina          – 0.17

23. Georgia                       – 0.30

27. Kansas                        – 0.44

28. Arkansas                     – 0.50

29. Wisconsin                   – 0.51

31. Arizona                        – 0.60

32. Mississippi                  – 0.65

33. Louisiana                    – 0.73

35. Michigan                      – 0.78

Slightly negative for fiscal responsibility is to have a Democrat Governor, Republican Legislature. There are 6 of these with an average score of – 0.16

10. Montana                         0.69

14. Missouri                          0.34

19. Virginia                          – 0.04

20. New Hampshire          – 0.05

39. Pennsylvania               – 0.97

40. West Virginia                – 0.99

Now we are getting into real negative territory for fiscal solvency. We start with a Republican Governor, Split Legislature. There are four of those with an average score of  – 0.91

25. Iowa                              – 0.37

34. New Mexico                – 0.75

42.  Maine                           – 1.15

46. Kentucky                     – 1.36

Not quite as bad bad is to have a Democrat Governor, split Legislature. There are four of them with an average 0f  – 0.51

22. Colorado                      – 0.27

24. Washington                – 0.31

28. Minnesota                   – 0.44

42. New York                     – 1.03

Much worse is to have a Democrat Governor, Democrat Legislature. The seven of them have an average score of – 1.00

30. Oregon                        – 0.58

36. Vermont                       – 0.79

37. Rhode Island               – 0.90

38. Delaware                     – 0.92

44. California                      – 1.07

45. Hawaii                           – 1.07

50. Connecticut                 – 1.68

Worst of all is to have a Republican Governor, Democrat Legislature. There are four of those with an average of – 1.36.

41. Maryland                      – 1.02

47. Illinois                           – 1.42

48. New Jersey                   – 1.45

49. Massachusetts           – 1.55

And then there is Puerto Rico in a  ‘class’ by itself.

51. Puerto Rico                  – 3.15

This helps to explain why Democrats want the Federal Government to handle everything for them since their states are hopelessly irresponsible with their states affairs, while Republicans as a rule tend to want to have every state handle their own affairs as they see best fit.

One further startling observation is that New Jersey under Governor Chris Christie came in second from last. This helps to explain the reluctance of the more conservative (or fiscally responsible states) to endorse him for President.

On the other hand, Alaska came in first, not in small part due to the heroic efforts of Sarah Palin during her 31.7 month reign as Governor, where she managed to get the Credit Rating for her state to go from AA to AA+ and then raised again to AAA shortly after her resignation. She accomplished more in this short time than most governors do in two terms.

This also helps in part to explain the irrational hatred for Sarah Palin. She did clean up the graft and corruption in Alaska, and they are afraid she would do the same on a national level should she be selected for Vice President.