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Book Review: Big Coal

Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America's Energy Future by Jeff Goodell

One of the triumphs of modern life is our ability to distance ourselves from the simple facts of our own existence. – Jeff Goodell

Big Coal by Jeff Goodell is a book I have had on my reading list for a long time, but I only got around to reading it during my recent trip to Europe. It has taken me a very long time to finish this review for a number of reasons, but one is that I had a hard time deciding what to write. Normally, when I read a book I will dog-ear the pages that I want to revisit either because 1). There was something significant that I did not know; or 2). I want to reference a particular point in the book review. By the time I finished reading this book, I probably had 50 pages dog-eared.

My introduction to Jeff Goodell came a couple of years ago when he was writing an article for Rolling Stone about ethanol. He contacted me and we talked a few times, I got to know him a bit, and he published a pretty scathing article during the early days of the ethanol euphoria. For more on that episode, see Rolling Stone Article, Jeff Goodell Debates the Rolling Stone Article on CNBC, or Bob Dinneen Responds to Rolling Stone.

I wish I could write like Goodell. I really enjoy his writing style. I sometimes disagree with particular points, but in Big Coal he makes a very compelling argument that we don’t come close to paying the societal costs of coal usage when we pay our electric bill.

Even though we don’t often see it, coal is a part of daily life for most of us. It produces a great deal of our electricity. But we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the implications. As Goodell notes on the first page, “We love our hamburgers, but we’ve never seen the inside of a slaughterhouse.” Isn’t that the truth? I have always imagined the number of people who would become vegetarians if they ever saw the inner workings of a slaughterhouse.

When we fuel up our cars, we don’t think (much) about the ramifications of our oil dependence. When we flip a light switch, we do not associate that with the coal-driven mountaintop removals in West Virginia. In this book, Goodell thrusts those associations right in your face.

The book is divided into three parts: Extraction, conversion to power, and the resulting emissions. He covers the history of the industry, tells the stories of the people in and around the business, and while most of the book is based on U.S.-happenings, he does spend a chapter on China.

I would imagine the coal industry was none too pleased with Big Coal, because it paints a really ugly picture of the industry.  Goodell contrasts the coal industry with the individuals whose lives have been negatively impacted by coal in one way or another. He details corruption and politics that allowed the industry to delay implementation of pollution control equipment. And on a big picture level, he argues that continued usage of coal poses a serious threat to the earth’s climate.

This book will leave you shaking your head, wondering why we use coal at all if the overall picture is as troublesome as Goodell suggests. I found myself wondering as well, which was actually what led to my post on the cost of various energy sources. There at the top of the list for the cheapest source of energy was Powder River Basin coal, which is why we continue to heavily use coal despite the issues Goodell spells out.

We humans aren’t very good at willingly making sacrifices today in order to potentially improve the situation a few years down the line. We want instant gratification and coal fits the bill. (I would argue this is also why the U.S. is so deeply in debt and our personal savings rate is so low.)

I noted in my book review of Crude World that Peter Maass didn’t present a balanced picture of the oil industry; it was all bad. His book was intended to highlight the negative aspect of our oil dependency. Big Coal is the same in that respect. It is hard to argue that coal hasn’t improved the lives of a great many people around the world, and I know a number of people who would argue that these improvements outweigh the negatives. Further, it is fair to say that the coal industry has come a long way in cleaning up their emission profile over the past few decades.

But it is clear which side of that argument Goodell would come down on. To be honest, I come down on that side as well. I would like to see us limit our coal consumption and boost electricity generation from other resources. I know a great number of people who feel this way, but coal is like oil in that replacing it will likely entail economic sacrifices that individuals don’t like to make. Coal produces half of the electricity in the U.S., and I would have a hard time arguing that anything – outside of nuclear power – can scale up and take on the role that coal currently plays.

The realist in me thinks that we will eventually use up all of our coal, as will China, Australia, India, and all of the other major coal producers. This is primarily why I sit out the debates on climate change; I can’t realistically envision anything that will get the world to collectively NOT burn up all the coal. In an energy-constrained future, prices will rise and people who feel morally opposed to coal will suddenly find their moral fiber weakening as high energy prices bite into their budgets.

I don’t discount that renewable energy can eventually make a bigger impact (I hope so, because that’s what I am doing for a living), but it is starting from a very small basis compared to electricity generated from coal. While coal produces about half of the electricity in the U.S., renewables other than hydropower account for only about 3.5% (per the EIA).

So I think Big Coal will continue to be a very big part of our lives for many years to come – although with a strong political commitment the nuclear option could put a dent in our coal dependence.

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March 9, 2010 - Posted by | book review, coal, Jeff Goodell, nuclear energy

142 Comments

  1. Unfortunately, I do not see nuclear really ramping up until the lights begin to flicker. Hopefully it won't be too late. I agree with the sentiment that we will burn through it all. OD

    Comment by Anonymous | March 9, 2010

  2. There at the top of the list for the cheapest source of energy was Powder River Basin coalWhat is the cost of nuclear power plant fuel per Million BTU or per MWh of electricity generated?

    Comment by Anonymous | March 9, 2010

  3. How could I take him seriously when everything he wrote about ethanol was completely wrong?We have serious problems coming down the pike, and we need serious people with serious solutions. This guy doesn't qualify.He's just in it to make Sensational statements, and sell books – at least as far as I can see.

    Comment by rufus | March 9, 2010

  4. Currently renewable sources of electricity work fine as long as governments are willing to spend lots of other peoples money subsidizing them.They are very good at getting taxpayer money into special interest pockets. They mostly fail at generating electricity in an economic manner.Solar Industry Learns Lessons in Spanish SunBut as low-quality, poorly designed solar plants sprang up on Spain’s plateaus, Spanish officials came to realize that they would have to subsidize many of them indefinitely, and that the industry they had created might never produce efficient green energy on its own.Duracomm

    Comment by Anonymous | March 9, 2010

  5. Mountain top removal mining is another example of the unintended consequence of well meaning regulation.Prior to the 1977 clean air act revisions power plants met the emissions standards using low sulfur coal from the western US. Use of western coal = no mountain top removal mining in the east.The 1977 clean air act mandated the use of scrubbers, no matter how clean the exhaust stream was without scrubbers. This new regulation made eastern coal and mountain top mining economically viable. Time and time again environmental regulations are captured by rent seeking interests. The resulting regulations often end up causing far more harm than doing nothing would have. Environmental regulations need to set an emissions standard at the exhaust stream but leave the techniques used to meet the standard up to the operators. Rent SeekingBehind the Green CurtainBy using western coal, utilities and other coal-burning facilities complied with the federal standard without installing costly scrubbers. Scrubbers were so expensive that many midwestern firms found that it was cheaper to haul low-sulfur coal from the West than to use closer, “dirtier” deposits.When the Clean Air Act was revised in 1977, eastern coal producers got even. As Bruce Ackerman and William Hassler note in Clean Coal, Dirty Air, eastern producers of high-sulfur coal elected “to abandon their campaign to weaken pollution standards and take up the cudgels for the costliest possible clean-air solution-universal scrubbing.”In other words, no matter how clean the coal was, any new facility would still be required to install scrubbers. This destroyed low sulfur coal’s comparative advantage. Since all new facilities had to invest in scrubbers, there was no longer a need to transport low-sulfur coal from the West to meet the S02 emission standard– the cheaper, high-sulfur coal from the East would suffice.Duracomm

    Comment by Anonymous | March 9, 2010

  6. Any realistic comparison of life for ordinary people before the use of coal began in the Industrial Revolution and now has to draw the obvious conclusion — the use of coal has on balance improved life immeasurably.People forget — if they ever knew — that before the Industrial Revolution, many women died in childbirth. Just getting hot water to ensure basic cleanliness was an incredible challenge. People like the Mongols pre-Industrialization did not even give babies names until their first birthday — so many died in infancy. That was life before coal.It is easy for elitists and diletants to list the downsides of coal. Their snears are meaningless without a full accounting of the benefits too.You are right, RR, about the greatly expanded future role of nuclear fission. If an anti-coal activist is not a raging nuclear enthusiast, then he is a hypocrite.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | March 9, 2010

  7. People forget — if they ever knew — that before the Industrial Revolution, many women died in childbirth. Just getting hot water to ensure basic cleanliness was an incredible challenge.Kindu~They also forget that before the Industrial Revolution, England had almost denuded their entire country of trees as people cut them down to heat their homes, cook, and to make charcoal for blacksmiths and the early iron and glass works.That experiment with bio-fuels didn't go so well.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | March 9, 2010

  8. RR wrote: "This is primarily why I sit out the debates on climate change;"No need to sit it out anymore, RR. Pachuri at the UN's IPCC has been exposed as a fraud, pocketing money from fossil fuels (see GloriOil) while presiding over incompetence & shoddy work on global climate. Prof. Jones has admitted that there has been no warming in the last decade — and that warming in the 1990s was similar to that in the 1870s when human impacts were tiny compared to today.The chimera of Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming has been dispelled — and remember, the partisans never even proposed a scientific mechanism for "Climate Change", only for Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming.We don't have to worry about human production of CO2. But we do have to worry about the finite nature of fossil fuels.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | March 9, 2010

  9. It's the finite nature of fossil fuels that is the most worrying (at least to me.) It has all become so politicized that I, personally, don't trust ANYONE'S accounting.

    Comment by rufus | March 9, 2010

  10. “mountaintop removals”But it is okay to excavate for a foundation for a hospital or a wind farm? Mountaintop removal is an example of an emotional criteria that is rather silly when you look at in context of every large city being ringed with interstate beltways.While I used to anti-coal, I think the industry has done a great job of reducing environmental impact of coal to an insignificant level in the context of modern living. Sure the world is not like it was when Daniel Boone first blazed a trail but when was the last small pox epidemic? My most recent electric bill has a $20.94 surcharge for Environmental Recovery (new pollution controls). Rate payers pay the cost.“Unfortunately, I do not see nuclear really ramping up until the lights begin to flicker.”Then look around, 30+ new nukes are in planning. By 2012, 4 will be in full construction in the US if the NRC issues permits. A nuke started many years ago is again under construction and should come on line in 2013. Improvements at existing plants have resulted in the the equivalent of 26 new nukes.One way to pay for new nukes is construction work in progress (CWIP). If you already enjoy cheap electricity from a nuke, pay for a new nuke with a surcharge so that your rates will stay low when the old plant is retired. I would rather pay a new nuke surcharge than put scrubbers on a old coal plant. I should disclose that my current project at work is new nukes.

    Comment by Kit P | March 9, 2010

  11. I would rather pay a new nuke surcharge than put scrubbers on a old coal plant.100% correct!

    Comment by russ | March 9, 2010

  12. I would rather pay a new nuke surcharge than put scrubbers on a old coal plant.Same here. Perhaps something like the Modular Nuclear Reactors Babcock & Wilcox is developing. Fairly small, modular, most of the assembly done in a central plant and the reactor unit shipped to a prepared site for installation. That would drastically reduce the current huge cost of designing every reactor piecemeal for a specific site. Once we can start churning something like this off a production line in numbers, economies of scale should cause a dramatic drop in the cost of nuclear power plants.Modular Nuclear ReactorsA Preassembled Nuclear Reactor ~ A new modular design could make building nuclear reactors faster and cheaper

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | March 9, 2010

  13. Sounds like we have a (rare) consensus here that coal, while it may have some environmental impacts, has, and is, delivering a very high standard of living, which no one is prepared to give up (and the developing world wants).The fact that there is some much coal for the taking, and you can, if you want, convert it to gas or liquids, suggests that coal, one way or another, will be used for quite some time yet. It will almost certainly still be there once oil has run out, and if we still need liquid fuel, we'll start to use it.One thing I suspect the book doesn't highlight is that all production, and almost all consumption, on this continent at least, is under controlled, and regulated, conditions. And these regulations can be, and are regularly tightened/updated. Any new coal mine or power plant is built under fairly strict rules, just like any modern car. As the old plants get retired over the next decade, the remaining/new ones will be cleaner and more efficient, just like our vehicle fleet.To replace the entire coal (electricity) industry, with, say wind turbines, will require far more land area, than all the coal mines and powerplants combined, in addition to thousands of miles of transmission lines, access roads etc. They may not have removed the mountain top at Altamont Pass, but is has been rendered just as unuseable for anything else.And, we still need coal for steel making and the like, something which the naysayers tend to forget.This is not to say that things can't be improved further, and they can. But if the coal industry can meet the requirements that society sets, it has earned its right to exist.

    Comment by Paul | March 9, 2010

  14. Mountaintop removal is an example of an emotional criteria that is rather silly when you look at in context of every large city being ringed with interstate beltways.Not really. What has happened is that watersheds have been destroyed and flooding has taken place where none took place before. Lots of people have been flooded out of their homes. That has nothing to do with emotional criteria of no longer having a mountain top to gaze upon. There have been real consequences that impacted real people. Goodell tells some of the stories and interviews some of the people in the book.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | March 9, 2010

  15. The policy solution for avoiding catastrophic climate change is pretty simple: we must leave most remaining coal and unconventional oil and gas underground:http://burycoal.com/blog/why-bury-coal/Carbon pricing is one way to encourage that, but ultimately our success or failure in curbing the cumulative emissions that cause climate change will depend on what proportion of these fuels we burn.

    Comment by Milan | March 9, 2010

  16. Why bury coal?

    Comment by Milan | March 9, 2010

  17. It will almost certainly still be there once oil has run out, and if we still need liquid fuel, we'll start to use it.Paul,You're right. Our huge resource of coal is our emergency, back-up reserve. Always sitting there, waiting to be tapped into when we need it.When the day comes when we have to make a choice between using liquid fuels from coal to preserve the mobility we love so much; or to preserve our environment and lose that mobility, there is no doubt in my mind which way our society will decide: Mobility will win out.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | March 9, 2010

  18. …when you look at in context of every large city being ringed with interstate beltways.Kit P.You do make a good point about the city-ringing Interstate hihways. There is a group in Michigan marshaling support to stop an offshore wind farm in Lake Michigan. They say its "visual pollution" would have an adverse effect on their lifestyle and property values.Yet you could never take away the Interstate highways that allow them to get from Detroit and Chicago to their lake shore homes — Interstate highways that arguably have much greater adverse effect than a wind farm would ever have.Those people are thinking emotionally rather than analytically.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | March 9, 2010

  19. Milan posted: Because of climate change, coal is no longer a source of energy that can be acceptable for humanity. Its continued use is incompatible with the stable climate upon which human prosperity and civilization depends.Milan,The earth's climate has never been stable. In fact, there is good reason to believe we are still warming after the end of the most recent Holocene Ice Age.It has been both warmer and colder in the past than it is now. In the future it will be both warmer and colder than it is now.I'm certainly no fan of dumping pollution into the atmosphere, but the earth's climate is dynamic and operates in long cycles we do not even understand.The earth's climate will go its own way, no matter what we do. Do you really think that what we do now will affect how the earth's climate will be in 50,000 years? 500,000 years? 1,000,000 years? or 500,000,000 years?

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | March 9, 2010

  20. We are sure of one thing: The more CO2 we put in the atmosphere the Better the Crops.

    Comment by rufus | March 9, 2010

  21. Here's another one of those University/State/Experience Private Company partnerships.Univ of Fla Breaks Ground on Ethanol Plant. Uses E Coli

    Comment by rufus | March 9, 2010

  22. We are sure of one thing: The more CO2 we put in the atmosphere the Better the Crops.Rufus~And there must have been an awful lot of CO2 in the atmosphere in the past to grow all those plants and algae that turned into the massive amount of coal and oil we been relying on for the last couple of centuries.It's good for us that no one succeeded in stabilizing the climate 300 million years ago.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | March 9, 2010

  23. To KinuachdrachBecause there's fraud and incompetence at the U.N. global warming doesn't exist?Global warming is based on two facts that have been recognized for over one hundred years.1. CO2 and CH4 concentrations have been rising since the start of the industrial revolution.2. At the temperature that the Earth emits radiation, CO2 and methane absorb some of that spectrum.The question is what if anything does this mean.

    Comment by Anonymous | March 9, 2010

  24. What has happened is that watersheds have been destroyed and flooding has taken place where none took place before. Lots of people have been flooded out of their homes. That has nothing to do with emotional criteria of no longer having a mountain top to gaze upon.Oh, the mountains and their tops are still there, just in denuded form. This is a mere qualitative difference, like lethal injection being more clean than blowing the executed's head off. What were some of the real eye openers in the book, Robert?Whether CTL will be a Hail Mary for liquid fuels transport is something I'm still wondering about. Rand study mentions other studies suggesting we could have 3 mb/d by 2020 if we, what, click our heels together three times? The sluggish pace at which CTL expands to date makes me think it will only moderate the downslope of peak oil a bit, like so many other expensive techs. Some, like Jim Hansen, seem to conclude that peak oil will just be a blip on our way to the various IPCC scenarios.

    Comment by KLR | March 9, 2010

  25. Anonymous wrote: "Global warming is based on two facts that have been recognized for over one hundred years."Anonymous — did you read what you wrote before you pressed "Publish"?Global warming is based on — umm — Planet Earth warming up!You mention a couple of physical processes to which no-one takes much exception. But you assume those processes are the only ones that are active. You make that assumption without proof. Are there other physical processes which also come into effect (such as clouds)? Of course! So what is the net effect?The only test is to measure the temperature of the planet and see (a) if it has been warming, and (b) if that warming correlates to your assumed physical mechanisms.The data show that the temperature of the planet has fluctuated continuously, and that those fluctuations do not correlate to CO2 — not recently, not historically, not over geological time.Case closed.Now worry about finite fossil fuels. And worry about unsustainable government borrowing, and unsustainable government Ponzi schemes like Social Security. There are lots of real problems which are much more urgent than the Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming scam.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | March 9, 2010

  26. RR wrote: "Lots of people have been flooded out of their homes."Come on, RR. Apply your well-proven skills of common sense analysis. In a country littered with liberal lawyers itching for a chance to get into Big Coal's deep pockets, is it really likely that "lots" of people have been flooded out of their homes by Big Coal removing mountain tops? Check around with your neighbors in Hawaii. Anyone in West Virginia who genuinely was harmed by coal companies ought to be wealthy enough by now to have a summer home on the beach near you.And if the author wants to use sob stories as the basis for conclusions, shouldn't the book also include just a few of the many real stories about men, women, & children whose lives have been saved by modern medical technology, powered & made possible by coal?

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | March 9, 2010

  27. Soc Sec has $4 Trillion in Gov Bonds sitting in the lockbox.It's just now starting to pay out a little more than it takes in. If it runs a $100 Billion/yr deficit it would take forty years to be at breakeven.To make it solvent into eternity only takes a 2% increase in the Soc Sec tax, or indexing to cost of living instead of wages, or a combination of these, and several other fixes.I would hardly call that a "Ponzi" scheme.

    Comment by rufus | March 9, 2010

  28. There's something intensely disturbing about these anti-global warming arguments, e.g.:"The IPCC had _____ problems, therefore global warming is not real!""Phil Jones admitted ______, so the hoax is over!"Neither argument is particularly related to the bulk of research that has been done on climate change:–The IPCC publishes thousands of pages in each report; you're complaining about one sentence.–You're setting up a straw man with Phil Jones; he wasn't admitting to some kind of hoax.Any climate scientists in the room? (Answer: Doubtful.) Then why the categorical denials of the possibility of climate change?Is it because global warming is all just a hoax cooked up by the Socialist Illuminati to enact a single world government, steal from the poor, etc?That last argument is what I'm seeing lately from people determined to deny climate change. It's rather ironic, after the recent attacks on the pro-climate change crowd for allegedly believing in it as a "religion". Is plain ol' superstition somehow better?The anti-intellectualism is nearly choking, folks. The first step to regaining a functioning brain is realizing when you're arguing from politics, not science.

    Comment by Chris M | March 9, 2010

  29. Mountaintop Removal by definition removes mountaintops and fills valleys.

    Comment by Anonymous | March 9, 2010

  30. Since I get to view the Blue Ridge (famous for the Blue Ridge Parkway) everyday, I was just wondering when you last visited coal country RR? I do know that you have been to DC recently, how does that cesspool compare. I was wondering which watersheds have been destroyed? I was wondering where 'Lots of people have been flooded out of their homes'? I was wondering where some 'no longer having a mountain top to gaze upon'? RR you are presenting an emotional argument. He is the fallacy of your logic. Those people are emotional about the impact of society are themselves members of society. They heat their houses and drive cars. They eat food and demand medical care. So what does this area have in abundance. Mountain tops, trees, clean air, and clean water. We are short on interstates, international air port, and large cities.

    Comment by Kit P | March 9, 2010

  31. Why is a warming planet so bad? I honestly do not understand the scare tactics going on. Yes there may be droughts in some places, but others would flourish. If I'm to believe my good ol' encyclopedia circa 1978, the earth was once a much warmer place and supported just as much, if not more, plants an animals. The forecasts for my state, under a global warming scenario, extend the growing season here. Hardly doom, if you ask me. Now bring up talk about another ice age and I am chilled to the bone, no pun intended 🙂

    Comment by Anonymous | March 10, 2010

  32. Well, That's a heck of a number. Global Fossil Fuel Subsidies could Top $500 Billion/Yr

    Comment by rufus | March 10, 2010

  33. I am impressed with the clean earth-friendly geothermal technology and results-tapping into the earths natural resources while saving 30-70 % on your energy bill makes sense to me.

    Comment by francis | March 10, 2010

  34. Theory can't trump Data; and the Data from Rural Stations (those not affected by UHI) says that the U.S. hasn't warmed in the last 120 years.

    Comment by rufus | March 10, 2010

  35. Rufus, Did you read the line in your $500bn subsidy article, where a spokesman for Growth Fuels said "By increasing the production of domestic, renewable ethanol, we will not only enhance U.S. national security and green our environment but dramatically reduce the transfer of wealth that occurs today"He was talking about money going overseas, but I would say their own $4bn a year subsidy represents a pretty dramatic transfer of wealth too.He went on to say that developing nations "should use US agricultural innovations" to improve their food security. If they follow the US model, they will simply end up with subsidised farmers, some of whom are still being paid not to grow stuff – what developing country needs that?

    Comment by Paul | March 10, 2010

  36. Le'ssee, $4B/$500B = 0.008 or .8 of one percent. Wow!All Countries subsidize their farmers to some extent, Paul. It has to do with the nature of the business. Weather, and such.The difference is, our farmers produce the highest yields in the world. Which leads to the lowest cost food in the world.

    Comment by rufus | March 10, 2010

  37. Which leads to the fattest people in the world.

    Comment by Anonymous | March 10, 2010

  38. Rufus, it's the principle – a party receiving generous subsidies is calling for an end to another party's subsidies?And why is the food so cheap? well, see the above sentence regarding subsidies. American farmers may produce high yields, for corn, but in most other areas they are less efficient than other countries. That is why they constantly complain about/try to stop agricultural imports of grain, beef, vegetables, cheese, wine, softwood lumber etc etc. Lets get rid of the subsidies/tariffs/import restrictions, all of them, and go from there. It was the best thing the Aust/NZ farm sectors ever did.

    Comment by Paul | March 10, 2010

  39. Wendell, just saw this from Reuters, "Sasol may abandon its planned 80,000 barrel-a-day South African coal-to-liquid Mafutha plant if the government does not help finance it," Now, this may be just some gamesmanship, and I suspect it is. But the problem has been, and remains, that oil from coal is even more expensive than oil from oilsands. This is a $7bn (US) plant, so that is about $90k per barrel/day of capacity, not including the coal mine itself. An oilsands plant runs about $50k/bpd, including the "mine" (steam assisted gravity drainage).So even if you are getting your feedstock for free, you have a massive capital cost to pay off. Much as I'm sure the coal companies would love to sell to a CTL plant, and claim "home made" oil, but you can see why no US oil company wants to invest in such a plant. Now, in China and India, it's a different story. Both countries have partnered with Sasol to build CTL plants. They can probably build cheaper too, as they have far less requirements for things like environmental performance, safety,etc. If oil does run that short, the Canadian oil sands will be a better bet, and it's much easier for the US to invade Canada than anywhere else – though they failed the last time they tried that 🙂

    Comment by Paul | March 10, 2010

  40. “but in most other areas they are less efficient than other countries”Please define what you mean by efficient Paul. Maybe you can find a place that produces more milk per cow than Washington State but if you can it is because they have adopted similar practices while ignoring regulations that American farmers must follow.Does China produce cheaper apples than Washington State farmers because they or more efficient or is it that slave labor thing again? Paul I do not know about everything on your list Paul but I suspect neither do you.I do know about the environmental regulation for making electricity in the US. Doing business in the US requires protecting the public, employees, and the environment. At least one Canadian company, TransAlta is an equal. The US, EU, Canada, Japan, and S. Korea are among places with high standards. Now let us look at the 10 most populous country in the world. The US and Japan have high standards for producing energy. How would we rate China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, and Russia? The point here is that there are a billion or so without clean drinking water and electricity.

    Comment by Kit P | March 10, 2010

  41. But the problem has been, and remains, that oil from coal is even more expensive than oil from oilsands.Paul,I take your point. I didn't say it would be inexpensive, but if it's ever a choice of losing our mobility because of no liquid fuel, or CTL, we'd go CTL in a massive way, and we could do it in a hurry with the right leadership (and enough desperation).From only 1942 to 1945 — starting from a standing start — we built massive infrastructure at Hanford, Oak Ridge, Los Alamos and several other places that led to the A-bomb explosion at Trinity.Pretty funny what you said about invading Canada and what happened the last time. Although I don't think we would have to invade them to be allowed to use oil from their tar sands — just be willing to pay for it. Afterall, they have to sell it to someone, and we are a pretty big market less than a meter away.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | March 10, 2010

  42. "The difference is, our farmers produce the highest yields in the world."…with the help of a lot of fertilizer synthesized rom natural gas. If not for Haber-Bosch, our farmers would be barely self-sufficient.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | March 10, 2010

  43. I was just wondering when you last visited coal country RR?Kit P,Allow me to answer for Robert. He used to live in Montana. I suspect there is more coal in Montana than West Virginia and Pennsylvania combined.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | March 10, 2010

  44. Rufus wrote, hopefully: "Soc Sec has $4 Trillion in Gov Bonds sitting in the lockbox."Discussion of the US Government's desperate financial situation may seem off-topic on RR's energy blog — but there is a connection. Start with the government's Ponzi schemes. Here's what the Social Security Trustees reported to Congress and the public in 2009: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/TRSUM/"The financial condition of the Social Security and Medicare programs remains challenging. Projected long run program costs are not sustainable under current program parameters. … cash flow deficits beginning in 2016 … reserves are exhausted in 2037 … Medicare's financial status is much worse. … Growing annual deficits are projected to exhaust HI reserves in 2017… mounting pressure on the Federal budget."The problem is that Social Security was set up as a classic Ponzi scheme — a pyramid program that relies on an ever-increasing number of new marks to pay off the earlier ones. Yes, there was a happy time when Social Security taxes exceeded outgoings — and the politicians spent the money. That "lockbox" exists only in Al Gore's mind. It is just an accounting entry. There are no assets in the "lockbox", only an IOU that future marks (aka taxpayers) will be called on to make good. But those taxpayers won't be able to afford it (the Administration is already spending $3 for ever $2 it takes in), and the US government (like so many others) is running out of the ability to borrow money.In a sense, it is a pity that Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming is an unscientific scam. If it had been real, it might have saved some of us from freezing to death when the Social Security Ponzi scheme finally falls over.The tie to energy policy is this: the only positive way out of the mess that over-spending politicians have created is major economic expansion to generate signficant new tax revenues. Re-industrializing the US will create many much-needed jobs, but it will also require substantial additional energy supplies — reliable 24/7 unsubsidized energy supplies. We have to do this in a world where fossil fuels are finite. And we have to do it soon.The choice is "nuclear or bust".

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | March 10, 2010

  45. This says $16 billion for Mafutha: Business Report – Company News – Exxaro wants piece of Mafutha project Sasol CEO says <$10 billion. OK. WSJ says 90 kb/d. Lots of guestimation going on here.80 kb/d is about what Norway's YOY declines have averaged over the last decade.

    Comment by KLR | March 10, 2010

  46. Kit, by efficient, I mean cost efficient. You can produce the most milk per cow, or apples/acre, but that is not the only measure of efficiency. High yields are no good if it is unprofitable. Australian outback beef ranchers produce far less beef/acre than US feedlots, but they do it cheaper still, with almost no external inputs – who is more efficient?As someone who grew up on a farm in Australia, and has lived variously in New Zealand, Britain, and Canada (and has spent a fair bit of time in western US), I have first or second hand experience with the US restricting all those things on that list, from those countries.Agreed 100% about stuff from China, India, etc that do not have nearly the standards that the US has. But I can assure you that standards in Aust/NZ/Canada are not much different and sometimes higher. So Canada can produce lumber far more cost efficiently than US, simply because it has far more forest. Yet US lumber companies ask for, and get import restrictions because they claim Cdn lumber is "too cheap". But US forest produce more board feet/acre/yr than Canadian, but Candians don't have to do anything other than go an cut it, so who is more efficient? I would say, the ultimate measure, is cost efficiency, whether it is beef, 2×4's, or electricity. I am yet to see the US try to restrict electricity imports from BC, even though with huge dams and lots of rainfall, it is very efficient, and much cheaper, than coal. The US is willing to buy any and all cheap energy that Canada will sell. I like the energy business as it is about as "free" a market as you can get. Everyone here (Can/US) has to meet pretty much the same rules, and if you can do it better/cheaper then you will do well. If agriculture and other cross border trade was structured the same way I think both countries would be better off.But agriculture is different, the (US) government seems happy to restrict imports, mainly for political reasons, thus keeping domestic consumer prices higher, not lower. If it were not for import taxes on Cdn lumber, building a house in US would be cheaper than it is today, so who is this helping? I shouldn't just point the finger at US here, France/Europe are even worse but I care not for them.The other countries on your list of ten most populous do indeed have low or no standards. India exports rice while millions of its own people starve. African countries are selling their most productive farmland to China. I do not compare the US (or Aust/NZ/Can) to them, for there is no comparison.

    Comment by Paul | March 10, 2010

  47. Soc Sec has $4 Trillion in Gov Bonds sitting in the lockbox.Rufus~To follow up to Kinu's excellent post, there is no lockbox*. In 2010 — for the first time ever — Social Security will be negative. Our politicians have never been able to keep their hands off that money.If you think there are any funds sitting in a lock box just waiting for you, you have really drunk the Kool-Aid._________* If there is a lockbox, the politicians long ago picked the lock and it now holds nothing but a big IOU note in the name of a country that is more than $12,000,000,000,000 in debt.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | March 10, 2010

  48. Wendell, agreed that if the US really wanted to, CTL could, and would, get done in a Manhattan project/Alaska Highway style. Personally, I think something like that, if it ended off-continent oil imports, would probably be worth doing today.Oil sands operators would love to see it too.yep, no need to invade, if we can't sell it, it just sits there, worthless. Interestingly, there was a Canadian TV miniseries a few years ago that was about water, and ended with US invading Canada to secure access to fresh water. After all, you can always buy oil on the world markets (for a price), but there is only one place where US can get large quantities of fresh water. Canada is happy sell oil (a non-renewable resource) to US, but, paradoxically, not water, which is a renewable resource. These Canucks are hysterical about not selling their water south, although I think it would be a great move, for both countries. Water is probably now the limiting factor for increasing US biofuel (or food) production, and, to use an over used cliche, Canada is the "Saudi Arabia" of fresh water.

    Comment by Paul | March 10, 2010

  49. Chris M wrote: "Then why the categorical denials of the possibility of climate change?"Chris, you are not listening. The only people 'denying' climate change are the UN's IPCC and their supporters. It was the IPCC team who came up with the now-discredited 'hockey stick' which denied the historically-documented existence of the Medieval Warm Period — warmer than today, without the benefit of any SUVs.The climate of Planet Earth has been changing for as far back in time as we can peer. That's true climate change.Remember, the IPCC crowd have never even proposed a scientific mechanism for 'climate change' — only for Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming, caused by human CO2 emissions. Scientifically, it is increasingly difficult to support that hypothesis. The data simply doesn't show the alleged cause-and-effect. It's time to stop denying the data, and time to start practising good science.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | March 10, 2010

  50. @ Chris M – This is not the right place for rational thoughts or talk about climate change. 90% of the minds here are so closed on that topic that science has no meaning to them.Kind of like going to a tea party meeting and talking about the same subject.

    Comment by russ | March 10, 2010

  51. Kinuachdrach, are you one of the deceivers, or one of the deceived?  You wrote:"Prof. Jones has admitted that there has been no warming in the last decade"That is emphatically FALSE.  Jones has stated that the warming of the last decade does not pass the test of a 95% confidence interval.  That is NOT the same as no warming, it means that random variation has at least a 5% chance of accounting for it."In a country littered with liberal lawyers itching for a chance to get into Big Coal's deep pockets, is it really likely that "lots" of people have been flooded out of their homes by Big Coal removing mountain tops?"How about the people flooded out of their homes by avalanches of coal-ash slurry?  They're obviously just the most news-worthy (floods of water are "dog bites man"; only the locals read about the people flooded out in Cedar Rapids two years later) and the tip of a very large iceberg.You're also assuming that the "liberal lawyers" will be able to get enough damages to make it worth suing.  When someone's entire property is worth under $10,000, can anyone afford to sue even if they are guaranteed to win?  Since you're arguing the positive, you prove it.

    Comment by Engineer-Poet | March 10, 2010

  52. Paul, 96% of our corn ethanol is produced with non-irrigated corn. The cellulosic crops, of course, will not be irrigated.A Cellulosic ethanol plant will probably cost about $30,000.00 per bbl/day capacity, and will be powered by its own waste lignin (and, will operate off of local Renewable feedstocks, and sell to local consumers.)CTL doesn't have a chance.

    Comment by rufus | March 10, 2010

  53. Glycos Bio Technology nears Commercialization"The rhythm is quickening," a friend of mine said.

    Comment by rufus | March 10, 2010

  54. Rufus, I agree CTL is the last resort, but i wouldn't write it off CTL completely. Even though it is probably cheaper to do ethanol, as evidenced by the construction of ethanol plants in preference to CTL, if the price of oil is high enough, CTL can be profitable too, so the coal and oil companies may go for it. It is also the more practical alternative for diesel and jet fuel, so in a crunch, the military may order it.Even though much of the farmland is not irrigated,you can often double yields, especially of trees, by irrigation. If we are betting the nations fuel supply on 100's of millions of acres into biofuel production, I would expect some producers to be looking to irrigate at least some of it – I would.Still, if oil gets over $100/barrel, and stays there, CNG becomes a better alternative than CTL. I presume that is why China is starting on CTL, as they have neither enough productive farmland or natural gas, but lots of coal.

    Comment by Paul | March 10, 2010

  55. I think China's just kind of "casting around," like us. They do have a lot of coal (but, they still import coal, right?) and, perhaps, as, or more, important, their labor is really cheap.China, like All Commie/Socialist countries have a lousy Agricultural sector. It's just part of the system, no getting around it. Their livestock producers won't use the low-grade DDGS from their ethanol plants. They're buying ours, instead.They harvest most all of their corn by hand. I think the Chinese are going to have problems getting their biofuel industry going. Don't get me wrong; they're probably the world's third largest producer of ethanol, now, but I have my doubts about their ability to transition over to cellulosic sources.We'll see.

    Comment by rufus | March 10, 2010

  56. Interestingly, there was a Canadian TV miniseries a few years ago that was about water, and ended with US invading Canada to secure access to fresh water.That would be interesting, but also nonsensical*. We share one of the greatest sources of fresh water in the world — the Great Lakes. And either of us can tap that resource. (The provinces and states around the Great Lakes have even agreed on a Great Lakes Water Compact.)Of greater concern is the people in the American West who want to build a pipeline in order to ship Great Lakes water to Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, etc. when the Ogallala Aquifer runs dry. Draining the Great Lakes would affect both countries.Water (or lack of it) it is one of the great looming crises of the American West and Southwest._____________* I guess you need something other than hockey for those long cold nights in January, eh?

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | March 10, 2010

  57. Engineer-Poet wrote, re Prof. Jones admission there has been no statistically significant global warming in the last decade:"That is emphatically FALSE."Well, instead of referencing a hate site, let's go back to what the good Professor actually said in his interview with the sympathetic BBC.news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8511670.stm"BBC – Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warmingProf. Jones – Yes"As all engineers know, statistical analysis is a highly arcane science. Those who probe into tests of statistical significance know there are major philosophical issues buried in there. But we all here can understand simple English. The professor said what he said – no matter how distressing that may be to those who put belief ahead of science.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | March 10, 2010

  58. They harvest most all of their corn by hand.Rufus~I guess in a country of 1.3 billion people that sort of makes sense. China's esteemed leaders want to keep everyone busy (idle hands are the devil's tools, you know) and they may as well get some use from the resource which they have the most of.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | March 10, 2010

  59. First "Bullish" EIA Report in a while. We're still continuing to ramp up our gasoline use. The last few reports have gone frome 8.6 million barrels of gasoline supplied/day (up from about 8.4 mbpd a couple of months, ago,) to 8.7mbpd, 8.8 mbpd, to last weeks 8.9 million bpd.Looks like unleaded wholesale will got to $2.30, today which translates out to about $3.00 gal at the pump (if it holds for a couple of weeks.)

    Comment by rufus | March 10, 2010

  60. Meanwhile, you can still buy a gallon of unsubsidized ethanol at the CBOT for $1.60.

    Comment by rufus | March 10, 2010

  61. Meanwhile, you can still buy a gallon of unsubsidized ethanol at the CBOTExactly how do you reckon it's "unsubsidized?"* Don't corn farmers get subsidies?* Don't farmers get subsidies in the form of tax breaks on the diesel fuel they burn?

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | March 10, 2010

  62. Change to "barely subsidized" ethanol. :)As opposed to "Massively" Subsidized Oil.

    Comment by rufus | March 10, 2010

  63. As opposed to "Massively" Subsidized Oil.We have been over this a million times, and it just isn't true. The relative subsidies that ethanol gets are far greater than those oil gets:http://zfacts.com/p/63.htmlThere are also all kinds of subsidies that we never discuss, such as various state subsidies, loan guarantees, etc. Then there are of course the mandates. So you are getting a bit carried away here with your projections of costs for cellulosic ethanol (your costs might be in the ballpark if you were expanding a corn ethanol plant with all of the infrastructure in place), and now with the more outrageous claims about unsubsidized ethanol.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | March 10, 2010

  64. Wendell, after the Olympic hockey, the NHL is now irrelevant! Hard to describe just how crazy these Canucks are about it, but when someone says watching Canada win that gold medal game was the "best moment of their life", you get the idea…Problem with draining the great lakes, is people in the lakeside States wouldn't wear it. More politically acceptable (from US point of view) to take water from the northern flowing rivers. My line of work is actually doing water conservation projects, so I live this stuff and yes, the midwest will eventually face the same problems California does now, though they are putting off the hard decisions.How do you divide limited, and shrinking, water resources between agriculture, industry, and people (cities and towns), without getting voted out of office or lynched? One certain thing – everyone will blame the gov, even though the gov is not the water user.Despite what Rufus thinks, if there is a shortage of water now, there will be a greater one with increased production of biofuels. to quote Jeff Rubin, "peak oil" may quickly lead to "peak water"

    Comment by Paul | March 10, 2010

  65. That $500 Billion didn't even include $200 Billion/Yr for our troops, and Ships in the Middle East, and the 4,000 Dead American Servicemen and women.I will readily admit that cellulosic will only be, at best, a close to break-even proposition with $3.00 gasoline. And, if gasoline never goes over $3.25 – $3.50 gallon it would be a "Jump ball."However, what if the price of gasoline is $4.00 in 2012? Now, how we lookin?

    Comment by rufus | March 10, 2010

  66. I will readily admit that cellulosic will only be, at best, a close to break-even proposition with $3.00 gasoline.I'm referring, here, to Without the Blender's Credit, of course.

    Comment by rufus | March 10, 2010

  67. I drove the Blue Ridge Parkway and Shenandoah National Park last year. The ridges were certainly pretty and blue. I read that that's from coal pollution.

    Comment by PeteS | March 10, 2010

  68. Pete, the Blue Ridge Mountains have been called that for at least 3 hundred years, I guess. It's probably not coal production.

    Comment by rufus | March 10, 2010

  69. Paul wrote, re water supplies: "the midwest will eventually face the same problems California does now"And many other areas too. In London, the drinking water is already "recycled", if you catch my drift.Thanks to the Conservation of Mass, there will never be a planetary water shortage. But there are already shortages of potable water & irrigation water.This too is really an energy issue. With enough energy input, we can desalinate ocean water, pump it where it is needed, and even recharge depleted aquifers. All we need is lots & lots of really cheap energy, and the political will to use the technology at our disposal.Coastal nuclear power plants to desalinate water & pump it inland would be one solution. Interestingly, desalination/pumping schemes might be uniquely suited for alternate power sources like wind & solar, because they could be designed not to require 24/7 power. However, it seems that solar/wind enthusiasts would rather spend their time pretending that their ballet dancer is an NFL linebacker, instead of looking for a place that needs a ballet dancer.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | March 10, 2010

  70. “but, they still import coal, right?”Rufus, China used to be a major exporter of slave labor coal and has very dirty inefficient coal plants. In the US we loose less than 50 miners a year while China was killing 5000 to produce the same amount coal. This ended about 2005. China just can not mine and move enough coal to support growing demand for electricity. This is why China is building new nukes in the southeast of China far from the coal fields.This is why the US is building new nukes in the southeast too. US coal is now more valuable on the world market, so nukes are now competitive with coal.

    Comment by Kit P | March 11, 2010

  71. “I mean cost efficient”Paul I would suggest that economic and efficient are two different things. Generally, an energy efficient coal plant is an economic coal plant because making electric is energy intensive. American coal miners are very productive so they are an example of efficient use of labor which is also economical. So Paul, if you check closely and live in BC your electricity is coming from American coal. Canadians are very good at making electricity for California when California needs it. When the sun does not shine and the water freezes, who do you call?

    Comment by Kit P | March 11, 2010

  72. Rufus said: "Pete, the Blue Ridge Mountains have been called that for at least 3 hundred years, I guess. It's probably not coal production."Guess again.

    Comment by PeteS | March 11, 2010

  73. KIt, I would suggest that something that is economical is likely efficient, but the revers is not always true. World record for solar power is 30% thermal to electric efficiency (parabolic dish and Stirling engine). This not much less efficient than coal plants, but is absolutely uneconomic, as is all solar power. Ultimately, cost efficiency is what counts, resource/energy efficiency is necessary, but not sufficient.We both know that the sun makes no difference to hydropower, and neither do those large reservoirs freeze. But, yes BC is actually a net importer of electricity (about 15% of total). And when we need more, we call TransAlta. Most of the off peak power comes from their coal plants in central Alberta, though we also get a fair amount from Wash. state, probably the coal plant they own there.Hardest thing about selling to California is getting them to actually pay for what they buy, but that's a whole different story.

    Comment by Paul | March 11, 2010

  74. Guess again, PeteS. From Pete's link: "In fact the Blue Ridge Mountain’s name originated because of the bluish haze caused by hydrocarbons released by trees into the atmosphere."

    Comment by Anonymous | March 11, 2010

  75. Kinu said "With enough energy input, we can desalinate ocean water, pump it where it is needed, and even recharge depleted aquifers."While this is true, it is really only economical for drinking water. It takes 4kWh to get one cubic metre (270 gal) of water by ocean desal. For an acre of corn, that needs 2 ac.ft of water (752,000gal) you are looking at 11,000kWh, plus the energy to get the water there. NOw, if you are starving and have unlimited electricity, I guess you coud do this. What you would not want to do is let Rufus turn it into ethanol, where the 150bu yield would produce 400gal of ethanol, with an energy content of 9700 kWh, and that's not including what it took to distill it.The city of Perth, Western Australia built a large desal plant, and a wind farm to power it. Like any industrial process you like to keep it constant, but they can be designed to "load follow". Solar actually has a double use here, as you can heat the water, which then requires less energy to desal. Same applies to using cooling water from a power plant.There is lots that can be done before resorting to large scale desal – it is the water equivalent of resorting to solar electricity – it only makes economic sense when there is no other option.

    Comment by Paul | March 11, 2010

  76. From Wikipedia:Trees put the "blue" in Blue Ridge, from the isoprene released into the atmosphere,[2] thereby contributing to the characteristic haze on the mountains and their distinctive color.

    Comment by rufus | March 11, 2010

  77. Paul wrote, re water desalination: "While this is true, it is really only economical for drinking water. It takes 4kWh to get one cubic metre (270 gal) of water by ocean desal."Using your figures and a wholesale electric price of $0.05/kWh, that puts the cost of desalinated water at less than one tenth of a cent per gallon. Doesn't sound too frightening.But I agree with your basic point – desalination requires lots & lots of very cheap power.One of the reasons I am not hopeful about wind-solar-tides-geothermal-ocean temperature inversion-biofuels as large-scale replacements for fossils is that very cost issue. Those sources may be suitable in niche applications where local factors make costs unusually low or where cost is not an issue. But the human race is going to need very large scale, very cheap power sources to replace fossils.With today's technology, that is nuclear fission.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | March 11, 2010

  78. The Biodynamics unit eliminates the evaporation step and reduces dryer loads. Only 2.1 gallons of water and .05 million Btu of energy are needed to create 2.8 gallons of ethanol, according to the company. The unit will create 13.5 pounds of distillers grains per bushel of corn and 3.5 pounds of the SCP coming from the thin stillage treatment. The SCP is used as a meat substitute, replacing chicken for human consumption, but will be used as animal feed by Biodynamics. The process would also extract corn oil through a decanting process. Commonly used for industrial waste water treatment, the organism is easy to harvest and clean enough to be sent back into the slurry tank, according to Trevor Cassel, project director for Biodynamics. “The hard part is getting the organism to do what you want. That is what our process does,” Cassel said. Initially tested at a Beijing laboratory, the process will reduce a plant’s water usage by 75 percent, according to Cassel, because of the organism’s ability for acceptable re-use.Protein Technology cuts Water Use 75%

    Comment by rufus | March 11, 2010

  79. Rufus~According the CRC Handbook, isoprene is a flammable, CLEAR, COLORLESS liquid hydrocarbon, and also known to cause cancer in rats.There may be isoprene suspended in the air above the Blue Ridge, and if there is someone should be bottling it and selling if for fuel*. But it's not likely isoprene is the reason for the bluish-color. (And by the way, someone had better warn those people living in the Blue Ridge they have a carcinogen suspended above their heads. Perhaps the National Park Service will have to put the Blue Ridge Parkway off-limits next autumn during color season.)_____________* No doubt there's some Virginia politician who'd be interested in passing a subsidy to do that.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | March 11, 2010

  80. I read, somewhere, that it takes 30 years for a "Plant" to become "Smart." Didean invests in energy efficiency

    Comment by rufus | March 11, 2010

  81. KInu, a tenth of cent per gal doesn't sound frightening, until you try to get people to pay for it. You cost does not include the substantial capital to build the desal plants ($10/gal/day), and the non electricity operation and maintenance.So I would double your cost, to two tenths of cent/gal, and go from there. The common unit of measure for water utilities is 100cubic feet (called a CCF, =748USgal), so it will cost $15/unit for the water. Most water utilities charge in the order of $1-2$ per CCF, though some are higher. Some places also charge a metered rate for sewer, and the combined cost varies from $3 to $10/CCF.On your desal rate, you would be looking at a combined cost of $20/CCF. Now, I have worked with some water utilities that charge almost this much, and not surprisingly, their customers are VERY water efficient. If they had been that efficient in the first place, the desal plant would not have been needed.But go to any city and try to tell people their water rates will double/treble and see what happens. I have done it and it took some time to get the tar and feathers off.But, ultimately, you have to drink something and people will pay it, and use as little as possible. But you can see how it is absolutely uneconomic for agriculture (other than high value indoor operations like grow-ops). Also, people will have to get used to not having large green lawns and golf courses, but that is no great loss either.Water is one thing where it (generally) is possible to live within the supply, if you are prepared to accept some minor changes to lifestyle. Believe it or not, Vegas is one of the most water efficient cities in the country, if they can do it, anyone can.

    Comment by Paul | March 11, 2010

  82. Speaking of water: Poet will lower its water use by 22% (down to 2.0 – 2.5 gal/gal of ethanol over the next 5 years. They have already installed the system in 3 of their plants.Water Use

    Comment by rufus | March 11, 2010

  83. Wendell,Just because Isoprene is clear and colourless, does not mean it can't cause a blue haze – fine oil droplets as aerosol scatter light differently, as does water vapour. Any car engine that is burning oil (worn rings, etc) will blow blue smoke, but the oil is not blue. Put a drop of gasoline on water, and you will see the full spectrum of the rainbow,but look at it from a low angle and you will see more blue – that is what is happening with oil mist droplets.In Australia, the Blue Mountains to the west of Sydney were so named by early explorers because of the blue haze above them on a hot day. It is all the Eucalyptus oil and terpenes (clear and colourless) being given off by the Eucalyptus trees.Eucalyptus oil, of course, does get bottled, and has been used for fuel – though it is very expensive to do this. It can be blended with both diesel and gasoline, and, interestingly, it makes an excellent co-solvent for ethanol and gasolineIf you have ever seen a eucalyptus forest fire up close (I have, and it is very "exciting", but I would not choose to do so again), you sometimes get to see "fireballs" erupt out of nowhere, which is where there are high enough amounts of eucalyptus oil in the air to burn on their own.Now, Virginia is not as hot as Sydney, and the trees aren't eucalypts (which is too bad, as they are great trees), but, as the Mythbusters would say, the concept is plausible.

    Comment by Paul | March 11, 2010

  84. Rufus, that's good for Poet, but it is literally a drop out of the bucket. To grow an acre of corn needs two acre-feet of water (three for a bumper crop), for 150 bushel yield, which is 375 gal ethanol. But it used 752,000 gal of water to grow it, roughly 2000 gallons of water for one gallon of ethanol.So using just 2 gal to distill it is great, but that is 0.1% of the total water use. If any corn growers (or soy biodiesel) are using Ogallala aquifer water, and some of them are, then the resulting ethanol is just as much a fossil fuel as oil – that aquifer cannot replenish itself in less than geological time.

    Comment by Paul | March 11, 2010

  85. Wendell, air is also a mixture of colourless gases, yet it will make distant mountains appear blue, and indeed is the reason the sky is blue, through Rayleigh scattering. Rufus is right that isoprene could be involved. He also, characteristically, chose to ignore the bit in the link about why the blue ridges are getting bluer. There's some kind of eraser in Rufus's brain that deletes anything that doesn't fit his world view.

    Comment by PeteS | March 11, 2010

  86. Aha. Paul got there first. Snap.

    Comment by PeteS | March 11, 2010

  87. Just because Isoprene is clear and colourless, does not mean it can't cause a blue haze…Paul,Good point. Water is certainly a colorless liquid, but in my city visibility right now is only about 500 meters because of a dense fog. That colorless liquid has produced a very opaque, white fog. :-)I've seen the error of my ways and now concede that isoprene could plausibly create a blue haze.I have been to the Blue Mountains in Oz, and seen eucalyptus up-close, although not a eucalyptus forest fire.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | March 11, 2010

  88. Paul, as I stated earlier, only about 4% of ethanol is made with "Irrigated" Water. Most all of that is in Nebraska, and only part of that comes out of the Ogallala. BTW, areas of the Ogallala Are seeing a rise in water table. The fact is the States above the Aquifer are doing a pretty good job of managing it.As for yields. The average corn yield this year was 165 bu/acre (a new record – despite a horrible growing year – thank you Mr. Monsanto,) and it it's run through a Poet plant (and some others) it gets 3.0 gal/bu. This is 165 X 3 = 495 gal/acre.However, you have only used the starch. All of the proteins, vitamins, etc are still there in the DDGS. A pound of DDGS will yield about 1.3 the feed energy as a pound of corn, Plus a considerable amount of Soy Meal. A very Conservative calculation would be to divide the 495 by 0.6 to come up with the gallons of ethanol per acre. Even ethanol critics have admitted to a higher number than that, I believe. If we did that we would come out to about 495/.6 = 819 gal/acre. (I hope that's right, I did it in my head.

    Comment by rufus | March 11, 2010

  89. Pete, This is from your link:In fact the Blue Ridge Mountain’s name originated because of the bluish haze caused by hydrocarbons released by trees into the atmosphere. However, over the last 50 years the visibility in the Southern Appalachians has decreased 40% in the winter and 80% in the summer because of man-made pollutants.The "haze" is caused by isopropene released by the Trees.Manmade pollution has "Decreased Visibility;" but, nowhere in your link does it say it's made the haze "Bluer."The "eraser" in my mind can't "erase" what's not there.

    Comment by rufus | March 11, 2010

  90. BTW, have you guys ever looked into how much water is required to produce shale oil, or do one of your CTL projects? Or, Oil Sands?

    Comment by rufus | March 11, 2010

  91. And, what kind of shape the water's in when it's over?

    Comment by rufus | March 11, 2010

  92. Paul wrote, re dsealination: "So I would double your cost, to two tenths of cent/gal, and go from there."I am not disagreeing with you, Paul, that the cheapest form of desalination is natural evaporation/rainfall. It is a pity that Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming is an unscientific scam. If it were really happening, higher temperatures over the 2/3 of the planet covered by water would increase evaporation and result in more free potable water from rain. :)But that aside, I am simply trying to compensate for Benny Cole's decision to stop commenting here by pointing out that there are solutions to problems. Yes, the availability of potable water is going to become an increasing issue for the human race. But as long as we have access to very large scale cheap power, we will be able to struggle through. No need for doomerism yet.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | March 11, 2010

  93. The fact is the States above the Aquifer are doing a pretty good job of managing it.Rufus~What!? Where did you get that one? They are doing a terrible job of managing the Ogallala. They are drawing water faster than it can recharge and the current rate of use is unsustainable.More and more farmers in the seven states that use Ogallala water are going to have to transition to dry land farming. There are going to be big changes in the way of life above the Ogallala.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | March 11, 2010

  94. You're making my point, Wendell. If some of those farmers are forced to transition to dry land farming (before the aquifer runs dry, of course,) that would be called "Managing."

    Comment by rufus | March 11, 2010

  95. Kinu, agreed 100% that there are solutions to these problems (or, as Wal mart calls them, "opportunities").With water, the first, best and cheapest one is to use it efficiently. Why I rail against desal is that it usually ends up where other people are subsidising this expensive water so the users can continue to waste, as they are not forced to pay the real costs. The city of Brisbane, Australia managed to get its water use down to 37gal/person/day last summer, and without real inconvenience to the people or business. If LA did that, it would achieve 'water independence" from the Colorado river, and would certainly have no need to consider expensive desal plants, or bringing in Mexican seawater to the Salton Sea, which unfortunately is what they are looking at.The best solution is not always the most high tech one

    Comment by Paul | March 11, 2010

  96. Rufus, surface mining of oil sands uses 3 to 4 units of water per unit oil produced. In situ (steam assisted gravity drainage) uses 0.2 units per unit product.The total was extracted is less than 2% of the Athabasca River's total flow. It's amusing that some Cailfornia environmental groups point their finger at this water extraction, while their state drains the Colorado river to a mere trickle, leaving less than 2% IN the river.For the oil sands, the annual amount of water used is less than the annual precipitation on the oil sands area, so, they are (net) self sufficient.CTL processes use about the same as oilsands, if you include the coal mining itself.For your ethanol calcs, giving appropriate credit for the byproducts, I would allocate 0.6 of the water used (752,000gal) to the 495gal of ethanol, for 911 gallons water per gallon ethanol.Still two orders of magnitude greater than fossil fuels, As for Poet, I will only allow someone to call their plant 'cellulosic" when it can make ethanol from wood, without gasification.

    Comment by Paul | March 11, 2010

  97. If some of those farmers are forced to transition to dry land farming…Letting things run their course until being forced to do something else is hardly good "managing."The abuse, draw down, and overpumping of the Ogallala is a classic case of the Tragedy of the Commons.Everyone wants to make sure they get theirs while there's still some to be got. That's not managing.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | March 11, 2010

  98. CTL processes use about the same as oilsands, if you include the coal mining itself.Sorry for being daft, but the same amount of water as the in situ process or surface mining? That's a huge difference. OD

    Comment by Anonymous | March 11, 2010

  99. Rufus, Kinu: The medieval warming period argument, for one, is probably bogus.That was a regional warming trend. Just a step up from walking outside your house and deciding that the planet is cooling or heating up because it's hot / cold that day.Arguing against the temperature monitoring stations is a little better, but still falls short. The number of stations that *could* be compromised has been overstated, for starters (go figure). And a lot of effort goes into normalizing the data as a whole.There are a number of arguments against the data / science. I have yet to see one, though, that doesn't distort the available facts.What becomes clear in very short order is that people who are dead-set on denying climate change (as opposed to somewhat skeptical) are, as I said, politically motivated.The climate, unfortunately, is not simply an extension of the Democratic party or the liberal mindset. There is no part of the physical world that particularly cares about partisanship, or about your assumptions on what is and is not possible.I guess what surprises me is that here, where there's certainly a high relative proportion of engineers and scientists, there's also such willingness to slander the efforts of an entire field of highly trained, highly motivated scientists — who surely know more than any of the skeptical commenters here.But I've had my misconceptions on that front corrected.

    Comment by Chris M | March 11, 2010

  100. OD – Should have specified, similar to surface mining. Takes 1.5 tons of water to gasify a ton of coal, plus post processing etc etc.Still much better energy returned on water used than ethanol.Oddly, the worst energy to water ration is hydro electricity, but, of course the water is not "consumed".

    Comment by Paul | March 11, 2010

  101. What becomes clear in very short order is that people who are dead-set on denying climate change (as opposed to somewhat skeptical) are, as I said, politically motivated.Chris,Climate change is irrefutable. The climate of the earth is dynamic, and always will be — at least until our Sun becomes a red giant and expands out to the orbit of Jupiter.The question is whether humans can control the long cycles of natural changes in our climate. Personally, I doubt it. (Where I live was covered by 5,000 ft of ice only 12,000 years ago. That ice melted with no help from humans. In fact, we may still be warming as a natural bounce from that Holocene Ice Age.)Greenhouse gases do trap energy in the atmosphere and cause warming. But I worry more about the onslaught of the next Ice Age than I do the atmosphere getting warmer. All a warmer atmosphere can do is slow the next Ice Age, it can't stop it. My guess is that the fine people of Canada, Siberia, and the Nordic countries, might appreciate the next Ice Age being delayed a few hundred years.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | March 11, 2010

  102. Chris M shouted "J'accuse": "people who are dead-set on denying climate change (as opposed to somewhat skeptical) are, as I said, politically motivated."Chris (sigh), you are still not listening! The only people who are "denying climate change" are the politicized group who insist on mis-calling Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming as 'climate change'.Wendell said it much more eloquently than I ever could. All I would add is a request you remember that science is never 'settled' and that scientists are always skeptical. And it might help mutual understanding if people would stop falsely accusing others of "denying climate change".

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | March 11, 2010

  103. Paul wroe: "Why I rail against desal is that it usually ends up where other people are subsidising this expensive water …"Paul — sounds like your problem is with subsidies, not with desalination per se.I agree wholeheartedly!There is a case for government "supporting" research. But doing it in a way that subsidizes the cost to the end-user is self-defeating. See solar, wind, ethanol.We have got to stop alternate energy's self-destructive addiction to subsidies.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | March 11, 2010

  104. I have to admit, I don't get these arguments.Wendell says: Greenhouse gases may cause warming but an ice age is more worrying.There are no signs of an ice age. How is something that may be happening now, less worrying than something that is likely to happen in hundreds or thousands of years?Also, Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming, as Kinu puts it, would presumably take place over an incredibly short period of time, relatively speaking. It's true that natural warming and cooling cycles also happen quickly on rare occasions. But when they do, all hell breaks loose. Why would you want to ignore that possibility?Kinu says: The science is never "settled"; scientists are always skeptical, etc etc.Kinu, you've been hanging out on too make conservative talking point blogs; that thought is not original. For the record, it's also the rallying cry of the anti-evolutionists, who would prefer the .000001% chance that a guy with a flowing beard created life a few thousands of years ago.It's the point of view, in short, that non-scientists love to use to argue against science. But science does argue for probabilities, and you'll notice that when scientists gamble, they try to do it with the odds.For what it's worth, I'm with Wendell; I'm not certain that AGW is real. But I find the widespread desire to hand-wave the issue away appalling. If it's all a misunderstanding, then fine; if not, we've got a serious problem.So my question to you is: Why the flippancy?

    Comment by Chris M | March 11, 2010

  105. There are no signs of an ice age. How is something that may be happening now, less worrying than something that is likely to happen in hundreds or thousands of years?Chris,There are no signs of an Ice Age now because we are still recovering from the last (Holocene) one. (It always gets warmer following an Ice Age, as my Grand Pappy used to say.) But if you look at geological history you will see that cyclical ice ages follow a fairly regular pattern. Sawtooth cycles from Broecker and van DonkDo you want to bet against the next Ice Age just because we don't now see an ice shield moving south across Canada?And when that next ice shield starts advancing south (as they do cyclically), do you think any actions we can take will be able to stop it?

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | March 11, 2010

  106. Periodic ice ages are a good reason to keep researching the climate, not to mention geoengineering. Still, it's not exactly a "your and my lifetime" problem.

    Comment by Chris M | March 11, 2010

  107. The Blue Ridge Parkway was not visible today. Checking AIRNOW for Roanoke (the closest monitoring station to where I live); the air quality was 'GOOD'. Gosh, I wonder why I could not see the mountaintop? Was that clouds?The NPS is engaging in an emotional argument. Humidity is the primary factor in visibility. I will run the numbers for you. It is a case of risk benefit. The benefit of a reliable supply of electricity or a warm house is a given but is the risk acceptable? #1 – 0.000001#2 – 0.00001#3 – 0.0001#4 – 0.00000001#5 – 1.0#6 – 0.25#7 – 0.66#8 – 0.999999999The manufacturer of a natural gas furnace must show that the risk of killing a family that buys their product and properly maintains it less than #1. Companies must show the risk of killing a worker is less than #2. Companies must show the risk of damaging the environment (major oil spill) is less than #3. The risk of dying of all causes is #5. The risk from the worst coal plant is #1 and the risk from a nuke is #4. Assuming you could find safer source of energy, let subtract the risk from coal and nukes.1.0 –0.000001 –00000001 =0.9999998Now lets talk about the risk of haze. The risk of not seeing snow capped mountains 100 miles away from in the semi-arid west is #6 but the risk of not seeing 20 miles from Seattle is #7. It is called clouds. For the record, #8 is the risk of very high humidity around Roanoke but still the area has long been considered a retreat: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poplar_Forest#Jefferson.27s_.22Poplar_Forest.22 I am not going to tell my wife to save money on electricity because of insignificant risk of haze. That could result in an emotional argument.

    Comment by Kit P | March 12, 2010

  108. The evidence for both the little ice age, and the midieval warm period in the Southern Hemisphere is overwhelming. Here are some studies from Chile.And, why do you claim ALL the Scientists are on your side, Chris? That's silly.

    Comment by rufus | March 12, 2010

  109. Chris, the "research" on the CAGW side, so far, has been extremely shoddy. Briffa? Mann? The Destruction, and Corruption of Data. Jones? Hansen?Your side is asking the world to make multi-Trillion Dollar decisions on the basis of Corruption of Data, and Extraordinary Claims.Extraordinary Claims require Extraordinary Proof. So far, that "Proof" has not been forth-coming.

    Comment by rufus | March 12, 2010

  110. Here is some work on the Logarithmic effect of CO2 that makes it look extremely unlikely that the pitiful amount of CO2 we put into the atmosphere could have anything to do with "Catastrophic" Global Warming.Remember, CO2 is 0.000390 of the atmosphere.

    Comment by rufus | March 12, 2010

  111. Here is some very good work by Spencer on The Effect of Population GROWTH on UHI,and here is a very good study of population growth in Fort Collins compared to Boulder, and it possible Effect on Increasing Temps.

    Comment by rufus | March 12, 2010

  112. Chris M — I take global warming pretty seriously. I believe that the basic fact of increased greenhouse gases trapping longwave radiation leading to higher equilibrium temperatures is indisputable. BUT … I have two main misgivings. 1) beyond the basic science, predictions of what will happen in the future are based on global circulation models. Could it be that these are very naive? To take the example of another body in the solar system, we know that the sun produces energy at its core at a very constant rate (being based pretty much only on solar mass), and we know how it transports energy by radiative diffusion, but we know a lot less about how energy is transported in its outer convective layers, and we see significant variations in solar output at the surface. How do we know there aren't complex mechanisms on earth too that alter its energy balance in ways we don't yet understand?2) GCMs produce a range of outcomes, which are averaged with varying degrees of confidence. Given the cost now of trying to avoid future harm, why not spend those resources on mitigation in future when we have a better idea what we are dealing with.

    Comment by PeteS | March 12, 2010

  113. Rufus — Yikes. Data attack.Re: little Ice Age, do those studies prove a broader global change in temperature?Regarding temperature stations, we need more attention to the physical locations. And to the filters. Globally, most of the data still agrees.You've got a couple points, but calling all AGW research shoddy — really? Do you really believe that all the work done by several hundred scientists has been junk? I think we all have a tendency to throw mud by naming prominent figures that got things wrong. Shall I point out Fred Singer and his ilk to prove that all skeptics are full of brown stuff?And no, I don't have all the scientists on my side. I'd take this opportunity to point out again, by the way, that you seem determined to make it a partisan issue; it's not. But while we're on the subject, yes, almost all of the scientists are on my side, that being the "worried" side. Especially the ones that actually study the climate, as opposed to stray petroleum geologists and meteorologists with more opinions than sense.The consensus among actual climatologists has been shown to approach 100 percent by some studies, and it's almost never below 80 percent. That's a hell of a consensus, by scientific standards. Getting outside that field … most physicists think that AGW is real; many geologists don't. Oddly, the further you get away from the groups that directly study the climate or similar systems, the higher the proportion of people that don't think it's a real effect. The most typical responses to this fact seem to be that climatologists are either all idiots or all corrupt, neither of which I particularly buy.About CO2's logarithmic effect — yeah! You have a point. Now what about methane and the other GHGs? What about black carbon, jet contrails, and all the other crap we leave around the environment? IMO there is far, far too much time spent ogling CO2 at the expense of some obvious, and more easily corrected (potential) problems. So we may be in agreement there.I don't advocate any trillion-dollar fixes at the moment. I think too much, too fast, would blow up the economy. But I also think there's a hell of a lot of foot-dragging that goes on, and a lot of over-estimations about cost. Look at companies that actually address emissions; so far, the majority of them have found a way to save money doing it.And we need to re-develop energy resources that aren't fossil-based. Nothing wrong with putting money there, even if AGW is indeed a myth.

    Comment by Chris M | March 12, 2010

  114. PeteS: The models deserve some skepticism… provided it's genuine, and not inspired by, say, Fox News.But I'm in turn skeptical of the idea that we can just plan on spending money in the future if AGW turns out to be a real problem. Aside from China, our governments don't seem to be particularly good at saving money, or even doing good basic research — witness the disemboweling Reagan gave to the USA's energy programs. I think of it every time he's mentioned in glowing terms. Good president, but major screwup. And the guy almost certainly knew about AGW theory, even back then. Knew about fossil fuel supply problems, too.

    Comment by Chris M | March 12, 2010

  115. DATA Rules, Chris.And, btw, the data from the rural stations in Ms says there has bee NO warming in the 20th Century.I don't know what Briffa tortured that ONE LOAN bristlecone pine in Siberia to say, but the thermometers in rural Ms are very explicit.So, I understand are the ones (Rural) in Illinois, Alabama, and every other state where they have gone back and gotten the RAW Data.

    Comment by rufus | March 12, 2010

  116. Re: little Ice Age, do those studies prove a broader global change in temperature?Yes, Chris, there are over 700 studies, worldwide (a couple hundred in the S. Hemisphere) that testify to the Global nature of the Midieval Warm Period, and the little ice age.

    Comment by rufus | March 12, 2010

  117. OK. That one was an honest question on my part. Never claimed to be an expert on ice ages. Thanks.

    Comment by Chris M | March 12, 2010

  118. Chris M — our governments aren't much good at agreeing on climate change mitigation policies either. To a certain extent it's all a moot point. We're just not going to do it, unless it makes sense for other reasons such as cost or more direct health effects of air pollution … which oftentimes it does. If you agree that trillion dollar fixes are not warranted then lets start with those fixes where are actually cost beneficial, such as conservation.

    Comment by PeteS | March 12, 2010

  119. Rufus — the urban stations are corrected against rural stations in the same area.If that's not good enough for you, it's not like the measurements stop with the land stations. Temperature satellites corroborate the warming.And, anecdotally, so does everything else in the world, from the sea ice to the pine beetles.Yeah, temp measurement has its flaws. But it's ironic that there's an effort to present climatologists as conspirators, when there's a such a concerted effort by skeptics to deny temp measurements based on SOME of the data.

    Comment by Chris M | March 12, 2010

  120. Our new friend Chis M asserted: "The consensus among actual climatologists has been shown to approach 100 percent by some studies, and it's almost never below 80 percent."Chris — here's a real world observation: when people start to make appeals to authority (as you are doing here), it is almost always a dead give-away that they don't understand the science.Do you understand how you come across, Chris? Bad-mouthing President Reagan, throwing out catty comments about Fox News — you sound just like a bog-standard left-wing sophomore mouthing platitudes, with brain totally dis-engaged. If that's what you want to do — fine. But you are not going to convince many people who want to see data & hear reasonable arguments.It would probably be a good idea to head on back over to The Oil Drum. You will be in compatible company there, and won't have to think too much. You might even get someone there to address the question of whether Peak Oil trumps Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | March 12, 2010

  121. Chris, you're way out of your league, here. Basically, what GHCN, and GISS did was lower the past temperatures of rural stations in order to show a warming trend.They call it "homogenization." Every one else calls it absurd.

    Comment by rufus | March 12, 2010

  122. Kinu — I criticized Reagan's decision to cut energy funding; can you point me to where I bad mouthed him? And do you agree that the programs should have been cut?Fox News is designed for, and caters to, idiots. There's sophomoric for you.An appeal to authority is not actually fallacious, if the authority exists and is reliable. In this case, it beats arguing over points like whether temperature station data is accurate. There have been dozens of studies on the accuracy since the 90s. They've found that the urban stations don't have a large effect; they've found that rural stations reflect a warming trend even with urban stations removed. They've found a hell of a lot, but there are always nits to pick, no?But I think I may have struck a nerve, since you've turned straight to character attacks. Hey, guess what: I'd count myself Republican, if I could stomach being particularly close to either party. You're off base.I've lurked on this blog for a few years; I'm not much of a commenter, and I suppose my only motivation for getting into it here is that I'm genuinely worried that there *may* be a problem, and I'm absolutely convinced that it won't hurt anyone to try doing something about it (see above for what).What do I get in response? Ad hominem attacks based on perceived political leanings. Kinu, you're asking if my brain is disengaged. I'm asking you the same thing.

    Comment by Chris M | March 12, 2010

  123. Still, it's not exactly a "your and my lifetime" problem.Chris~And that's the problem — the people most concerned with taking some kind of immediate political action to stop "global warming" only think short term. If they had the inclination to think in terms of geological and astronomical time, they would realize that the effect humans have — and our probable time on earth — is like that of a gnat sitting on an elephant's rear end.The truth is that the climate is always changing. It has been warmer and colder in the past than it is now. And it will be warmer and colder in the future than it is now — regardless of what humans do.It is hubris in the extreme to think humans can do anymore than have some fringe effect on whatever direction the earth's climate happens to be headed naturally.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | March 12, 2010

  124. Chris, I watch Fox News all the time. Are you saying I'm an Idiot?Have you really studied that logarithmic chart of CO2?Have you really asked yourself why we didn't reach a "tipping point" in AD 1250? Or during the "Roman Optimum" which was even warmer, or the "Holocene Optimum" ( 6,000 yrs ago) which was warmer still?BTW, when Menne took AW's incomplete data prior to publication, and compared rural to total he used "Homogenized" temps.

    Comment by rufus | March 12, 2010

  125. Self-professed Republican Chris M wrote: "my only motivation for getting into it here is that I'm genuinely worried that there *may* be a problem"Well, Chris, why worry about whether there *may* be a problem about Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming when there are very real problems thundering down the tracks towards you?Fossil fuels are finite, yet they provide about 90% of the power that supports modern life. Natural potable water supplies are finite, yet life cannot exist without water. Your government has run up debts it can never pay, and set up Ponzi entitlement schemes that will inevitably collapse.Those are real problems. Urgent problems. Problems that will end life as you know it today, within your lifetime, unless something is done about them.Resources are limited — not just fossil fuels & water & capital. There is only a limited amount of funding for research, and a limited amount of intellectual capacity & creativity. If we choose to waste those scarce resources on silly allegations that *may* be a problem, we will run short of resources to deal with the very real problems that lie in the not-to-distant future.Your genuine concern is laudable, Chris. Now focus that concern on something that matters.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | March 12, 2010

  126. “consensus”If you tell the same lie often enough does that make it true? Many times in the past the “consensus” has been flat wrong when the science was better understood. Now that we understand the theory gravity much better, the notion of a flat earth sounds silly.A young nuke engineer fresh from getting his masters degree was surprised to find out that I was a AGW skeptic. He promptly sent me 30 or so links to news stories. I called him and asked him what he saw in my book shelf. Science and engineering text books. I asked him if he referenced USA Today in his thesis.The only crisis I see is a crisis of exaggeration by people like Chris who have not learned to be skeptical. The environmental impact of making electricity with coal is insignificant. The risk is a very small number compared to the benefit. The “consensus” lairs never tell you the numbers and confidence interval of numbers. Without numbers put in context, it is just an emotional argument.

    Comment by Kit P | March 12, 2010

  127. "I called him and asked him what he saw in my book shelf. Science and engineering text books."How many were on climate science? Name five.

    Comment by PeteS | March 12, 2010

  128. And since we're insisting on real science, Rufus posted a link to a graph by Willis Eschenbach, who as far as I can figure out is a construction manager. He's also accused of his own sloppiness and/or fraud with respect to homogenisation of temperature records.So let's try applying the same standards to all "evidence".

    Comment by PeteS | March 12, 2010

  129. This is off-topic on a thread on coal — but it is some of the best news I have seen in a while. Looks like the eastern US may have some of the richest uranium deposits known to man. When the world starts to get cold & hungry, this may save many lives.www.tnr.com/article/world/nuclear-standoff?page=0,0

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | March 12, 2010

  130. The point here PeteS, is I do not get my information on science from journalists. RR did a book report on coal written by a journalist. He did not report on the qualifications of the author or compare the information to objective criteria for environmental protection. Most of my text books come from an time when Henny Penny was worried about the coming ice age and that we were not going to have anymore children because of weapons testing. My more recent environmental studies also predate AGW. AGW is a very complex theory. For those who want to tell me that we have reached “consensus” in such a short time, I would suggest that you do not understand the scientific process. Most my environmental text book are on much more mundane environmental issue. AGW fear mongers act as if AGW is an important problems.Providing clean drinking water and electricity to every person on the planet is a very significant challenge. So PeteS, if you have lots of books on climate science on your desk; you are studying the wrong thing.

    Comment by Kit P | March 12, 2010

  131. PeteS wrote: "Willis Eschenbach, who as far as I can figure out is a construction manager"Come on, Pete, you are so much better than this. If we wanted to play the credentials game, we would note that the UN's point man on the now-discredited IPCC is Rajendra Kumar Pachauri — a railway engineer.Credentialism sucks. Data rules.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | March 12, 2010

  132. Many times in the past the “consensus” has been flat wrong when the science was better understood.Consensus can often be wrong — even terribly wrong. Prior to the Civil War, the consensus in parts of the U.S. was that slavery was acceptable.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | March 12, 2010

  133. Pittsylvania County is the next county south of from where I live and the correct description of the uranium is huge. Like West Virginia, Virginia has lots of coal mining so naturally mining uranium is banned.However, the commercial and navy nuclear industry is big in Virginia so that is changing. Modern uranium mining methods are a lot more environmental friendly than in the past and tine compared to coal.

    Comment by Kit P | March 12, 2010

  134. And, that is why I don't believe the CAGW crowd. Pete attacked Eschenbach's "Possible" lack of credentials, but Did Not comment on his "Science."

    Comment by rufus | March 12, 2010

  135. “the consensus in parts of the U.S. was that slavery was acceptable.”Wendell you are confusing science with political science. Furthermore, your facts are wrong. I think you would be hard pressed to find consensus anywhere, anytime, on any political issue especially slavery. History is written by the victorious and consensus is just a term to cut off debate.

    Comment by Kit P | March 12, 2010

  136. I think you would be hard pressed to find consensus anywhere, anytime, on any political issue especially slavery.There was apparently enough consensus that in 1787 our Founding Fathers decided to put in the Constitution that slaves counted as 3/5s of a person for enumeration reasons.There was also enough consensus that they kept women from voting until 1920 when the 19th Amendment was ratified.But you're right, that's social science and we are straying off-track.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | March 12, 2010

  137. If "data rules" then the daily weather bulletin should be a simple dump of collected pressures, temperatures, humidity levels, wind speeds etc. Even connecting the dots to show isobars would be illegitimate (let alone drawing synoptic weather maps), since that would be attaching significance to some model of the atmosphere which is not itself data. Instead we'd say "woweee, the pressure values are all lining up in an intriguing circular pattern today — I wonder what it'll be like tomorrow… maybe a triangle".In practice, we're more interested in what's going to happen next. That needs a model, which is what climate scientists produce. That's what makes them scientists and not keypunch operators. Data without a bit of added natural philosophy is nothing. The statement that "CO2 is 0.000390 of the atmosphere" is data. The characterisation of this value as "pitiful" is not even data (and it certainly ain't science).So we're as interested in models as in data, albeit that the right model with the wrong data will not get us very far. Unfortunately even the controversy about this homogenised temperature data requires us to accept or reject yet more models. In the face of such intricacies most (honest) laypeople (including those well-qualified in other fields) will be forced to admit they don't understand all of it. That leaves us in the less-than-ideal situation of relying on credentials… but then the sufficiently humble among us will acknowledge that that's the norm in most walks of life.Suppose we discovered that our blog host's entire qualification consisted of 25 years as the janitor in an Esso filling station? (… with all due apologies, RR). Would we be poopah-ing "credentialism" or would be we at least checking that his pronouncements accorded with those who were suitably credentialled.Ok. So, now … tell me about Eschenbach again.:-)

    Comment by PeteS | March 12, 2010

  138. Kinu – couldn't get your uranium link to work. Is this the article?

    Comment by PeteS | March 12, 2010

  139. PeteS — yes, that's the article in the New Republic on Virginia's uranium deposits.Sorry, it wasn't really a link. I was in a hurry, so just posted the URL.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | March 13, 2010

  140. PeteS asked: "Would we be poopah-ing "credentialism"Imagine, Pete, you find yourself a stranger in a strange land, wandering the streets, hungry — unable even to read the words on the shopfronts, written in a script you cannot understand. And then you turn a corner and there, suddenly, are the familiar Golden Arches of McDonalds, although you still can't read the name. You might decide to satisfy your hunger there. At least you know that the meal will fall within certain parameters.That's credentialism. A Big Mac in unfamiliar territory. Once you know your way around, you will likely go elsewhere for your sustenance.The problem with "climatologists" is they had the equivalent of a typhoid outbreak at a hamburger joint — and no-one is going back! Mann et al clearly did not have the statistical knowledge to understand how badly they were screwing up with the "hockey stick". Jones et al abused the data. They all swept their contaminated problems under the rug.In a word, the "credentialed" climatologists sacrificed their credibility. Not only the ones who did wrong, but all the other ones who did not speak up and enforce good science on their erring peers.Climatologists have become the Typhoid Marys of the scientific world. They are the last people we want to listen to. They have a long hard road ahead of them to convert their badge of shame back into a meaningful credential.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | March 13, 2010

  141. "credentialism"At least PeteS is consistent in his logic and debating techniques. One group of people who are not considered science based doubt a theory that has been around a long time. However, science based skeptics of AGW are lumped together by PeteS who is not science based. So PeteS what science text books do you keep handy for reference? All my environmental science text book were purchased between 93-98. Environmental Geology – Lundgren This text has no mention of AGW. Ecology: A Bridge Between Science and Society – Eugene Odum This text has devotes less than one page to AGW and mentions at the same time we are due for another period of glaciation. Chemistry for Environmental Engineering – Sawyer I could go on but my point is that AGW is a recent and insignificant environmental issue. In the context of mining and burning coal it is clear why the industry in highly regulated to protect the environment.I don not want to go back 50 years to a time when people heated homes with coal, power plants were located downtown, dirty, and inefficient.

    Comment by Kit P | March 13, 2010

  142. Hubbert of “Peak Oil” fame in his famous paper advocated nuclear power as a long term replacement for oil and coal. In fact, the actual title of the paper is “Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels“. In this paper he predicted exponential growth in nuclear power production. In fact, his 1956 paper is as much an advocacy for nuclear power as it is an analysis of oil production projections.

    This begs the question “If Hubbert was a prophet of doom regarding oil; why not a prophet of energy salvation regarding nuclear power?”

    Put another way, Hubbert is lionized for a prediction that turned out to be correct so far regarding oil; while his prediction that was wrong concerning nuclear power is conveniently ignored.

    Comment by Scott | October 10, 2010


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