J.C. Moore Online
Current events from a science perspective.

Westar Energy’s Rate Request: A Study in Short-Term Thinking

     Posted on Sun ,23/08/2015 by J.C. Moore

Many of America’s power companies have put their profits before the health of our citizens and the 6coalprotection of the environment. The American Lung Association estimates that the EPA’s proposed guidelines for particulates could prevent 38,000 heart attacks and premature deaths, 1.5 million cases of acute bronchitis and aggravated asthma, and 2.7 million days of missed work or school.  Yet, there are many coal burning power plants in the US which operate without scrubbers to remove particulates, because coal is cheap and  scrubbers are expensive.

Scientists have known since 1980 that our increasing CO2 levels were endangering our environment. All the world’s major scientific organizations are now saying that we must take immediate action to avoid environmental disasters.   There is really no effective way to remove carbon emissions from fossil fuel   plants, yet our power companies have fought a shift to renewable energy. Many power companies are now being required  to install costly upgrades to their coal-fired  plants, and  are trying to recoup the cost of their short-term thinking by raising their customer’s rates. Westar energy is a good example, and it is likely  that your electric company may  soon follow suit.

Westar Energy has requested a rate increase by $152 million a year, about 8% over its current rates. Most of the increase will go to upgrade its Wolf Creek nuclear plant, to install scrubbers at some of its coal-fired power plants, and to remove mercury from its La Cynge coal-fired power plant. Westar’s proposed rate design would shift more of its costs  from businesses to residential customers and increase the basic charge for residential service by $3 a month each year for the next five years. That means the cost to just keep the power on would increase from the current $12 a month to $27 a month. Customers who want to install their own solar or wind power would be required to pay a $50 customer charge or pay for power at the peak rate, effectively killing private investments in solar energy. Westar’s customers are understandably unhappy about this.

CEO pay and profits : As a Westar stockholder, I felt bad about the recent rate hearing in Wichita. Speaker after speaker, including several ministers and AARP representatives, testified about how the proposed increase in rates would affect the poor and elderly. The timing of the rate increase seems inappropriate. Morningstar moneyreported that last year the company’s top five executives received 23.5% in salary increases. Westar’s CEO now receives $3 million in compensation, more than 30 times that of our governor. A large portion of the compensation is in stock, which tends to encourage short-term decisions to increase stock value.

Many people also testified that the proposed rate structure would discourage private investments in energy efficiency, energy conservation, and solar panels. A poll by Magellan found that 76% of Westar’s customers oppose the tariff on solar panels, agreeing that Westar’s position was based on increasing its profit. Westar is also requesting a 10% return on investments which seems high for a company which has just invested several million dollars in executive raises.

A misleading process: Although Westar says it is committed to renewable energy and reduced carbon emissions,  their proposal would have just the opposite effect. There are number of red flags for investors evident in the rate proposal and in Westar’s actions over the last several years.  Many investors are now looking for long-term investments in environmentally and socially responsible companies. Westar may no longer fall into that category.  AARP ran a full-page ad in the local newspaper protesting the rate increase.  About 73% of Westar stock is held by  institutional investors and many of those are retirement funds.  If some of those retirement funds  decide to divest of  Westar’s stock,  the effect will certainly not be what the  CEO intended.

There was also concern about the integrity of the process, which was unnecessarily secretive and sometimes misleading. A local newspaper article pointed out that, ”Westar’s public notice fails to detail changes in billing, solar rates”.   And, the CEO’s letter to stockholders claimed that outside agitators were responsible for opposition to the solar fee – which was not what the Magellan study found.  His idea that solar customers were “free riders”  who didn’t  pay their fair share came from an ALEC meeting in Chicago.  Chicago?  It was propaganda created by power companies  worried about solar cutting into their market share.  His letter claimed that solar customers  who hooked to the  grid using net metering agreements were being subsidized by other ratepayers, though research has found just the opposite.  I would expect such a well-paid CEO to know about the research.

Solar Research: Studies in Vermont, New York, California, Texas, and Nevada concluded that net metering provided a net positive benefit for utility companies and their customers. A 2015 study done in Missouri is even more relevant to Kansas. A cost-benefit study of net metering in Missouri arrived at the same conclusion as the other studies, “ Net metering provides a net benefit. “ Missouri has 6000 net metering customers while Westar now has approximately 300. It is unlikely that a study done in Kansas would come up with a different result,  but the Westar executives claim differently.

Why should customers who cut their energy use in half by installing solar panels be charged an extra fee, while those who cut their use in half by installing extra insulation be considered differently? Westar claims they should be, but that seems unreasonable. Net metering customers are charged a fee to set up the system and for a safety inspection, but otherwise net energy metering customers should be treated just as any other customer when they use electricity and be reimbursed as any other supplier when they supply excess power. Charging solar customers an extra fee may actually cause an increase in electric rates.

Gaming the system: My son, who worked for a gas company, observed that in gas company rate cases they always asked for about twice what they wanted and settled for half of that.  Other than the money to have Wolf Creek comply with federal regulations, much of the other requests are unjustified. Residential customers are already paying a customer fee, an electricity fee, a fuel charge, a distribution fee, an environmental fee, an energy efficiency charge, and even Westar’s property taxes. Last June, our bill was $24.95 for electricity, but our total bill came out to be $53.27 after all those things were added in. The $12 customer charge is already greater than most other companies charge and Westar’s rates are second highest in our region. Westar has implied that residential customers are not paying their fair share of the cost. However, residential customers use about a third of the energy, but it seems they are being asked to pick up much more than a third of the cost of upgrades and pollution controls.

Westar owes a better accounting of the money it collects. There have been over 20 rate cases in the last six years. Too much time and resources have been devoted to rate cases designed to increase the company’s profits. The executive compensation seems excessive and much of it is in stock, which means a rise in profits will greatly benefit the executives. That tends to lead to short-term thinking, which is evident in this rate proposal. It does not take into account the increasing future regulations of carbon emissions and the need to reduce dependence on coal-fired power plants.

Settlement?  Just before the rate case was to go to the  Kansas Corporation Commission,  Westar cut  its rate request  in half. My  son said, ” See there”.   Westar also asked to postpone its request for a tariff  on solar panels to a later hearing.   Westar is now proposing a reduction in the subscription fee for wind energy customers, building its own solar plant, and selling solar power to customers. That is a big improvement, but Westar is  still relying too heavily on its coal-fired power plants. Three of its smaller plants have no scrubbers and they should be phased out as soon as possible.  Earlier,  $600 million was budgeted for upgrading the LaCynge plant.  I’m not sure how much of that has already been spent , but pouring more money into it to remove mercury may be a bad investment. It is expensive to remove mercury, but it is impossible to remove carbon emissions.

The Supreme Court, in Massachusetts v. EPA, ordered the EPA to make a determination as to whether carbon dioxide is a pollutant. The EPA found, based on the best scientific evidence, that CO2 is an endangerment to public health and has moved forward with regulations to reduce the carbon emissions from power plants. There will be future environmental regulations which will be costly to the coal plants. Why waste million of dollars in emission control equipment and spend millions importing coal from Wyoming when we could be transitioning to Kansas-based renewable energy?

The future: The Kansas Corporation Commission should approve upgrading the Wolf Creek plant, but carefully consider the amount of money requested. Moving forward with plans to provide customers with wind and solar energy subscriptions is in the right direction and should be encouraged. Other than that, there are better options for Kansas. The Kansas Corporation Commission should send the rest of Westar’s plan back to the drawing board.

(C)   2015 – J.C. Moore


The Citizens’ Climate Lobby: A Better Way to Reduce Carbon Emissions

     Posted on Fri ,21/08/2015 by J.C. Moore

The article “Obama orders steeper cuts from power 6coalplants” described how the EPA’s proposed limits on carbon pollution could cost $8.4 billion annually by 2030. The Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) has a better way, a Carbon Fee and Dividend,  which would produce  deeper cuts in pollution in a shorter time.  CCL’s proposal would place a fee on carbon at the source, and market forces would then encourage reduced emissions, energy conservation and investments in renewable energy.  The carbon fee is not a tax and it would not raise taxes. The money collected would be distributed equally to every household as a monthly energy dividend.

CCL’s legislative proposal would set an initial fee on carbon at $15 per ton of CO2 or CO2 equivalent emissions.  The fee would increase by $10 each year until the CO2 emissions were reduced to 10% of the 1990 US levels. To protect American businesses and agriculture, adjustments at the  borders would be made on exports and imports by the US State Department to ensure fairness. The carbon fees would be collected by the US Treasury Department and rebated 100% to American households, with each adult receiving a dividend and each child one half dividend up to a limit of two children per household.

A similar Fee and Dividend policy is successfully working in Canadian British Columbia. In 2008, BC enacted a revenue neutral carbon tax which set an initial rate of $10 per metric ton of CO2 equivalent emissions, increasing by $5 per year until it reached $30, which it did in 2012. The revenue went straight back to taxpayers as tax reductions with a tax credit paid to low income households of $115.50 for each parent and $34.50 per child annually. The tax raised the price of gasoline by about $0.25 per gallon and the price of coal by about $60 per ton. Though there were winners and losers under the BC plan,  it’s GDP grew in relation to the rest of Canada’s.


British Columbia gets most of its electricity from hydroelectric power, so it is difficult to estimate the effect it had on the price of electricity. There are now no coal-fired plants in British Columbia and the consumption of fuel there is now 19% below that of the rest of Canada.

In the US, all the money collected from the carbon fee would be distributed to US households as a dividend – which would effectively stimulate the economy. President Bush’s Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 provided a $600 rebate to each household. A 2012 study by Christian Broda found the increase in disposable income was an effective stimulus to the economy. President Bush’s stimulus, however, was only for one year and the money came from taxes. CCL’s proposal does not come from taxes, and a $30 per metric ton fee on CO2 is estimated to provide about $876 annually per person in the US. Though the price of gasoline and fossil fuel generated electricity will certainly go up, it will be offset by the dividend. People who reduce their energy consumption, or choose lower cost renewables, will be able to  increase their disposable income by saving more of their dividend.

The CCL Fee and Dividend proposal has a wide range of supporters such as notable climate scientists James Hansen, Katharine Hayhoe, and Daniel Kammit.  It has the support of both conservative and liberal economists such as Gary Becker, Gregory Mankiw, Art Laffer, Nicholas Stern, and Shi-Ling Hsu. CCL’s advisory board is bipartisan as it includes George Shultz, former Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan, conservative former US Representative Bob Inglis (R-SC), and RESULTS founder Sam Daley-Harris, who is an advocate for solutions to poverty.

A study by Regional Economic Models Inc. found CCL’s proposed carbon fee and dividend would achieve better pollution reduction than regulations while adding 2.8 million jobs to the economy over 20 years. Ccl

What could be a better way to reduce carbon emissions?


(c) 2015  J.C.Moore                   

Credit: Darrel Hart, Wichita CCL leader, who helped greatly withthe editing.  


Just Raise Taxes

     Posted on Sat ,18/07/2015 by J.C. Moore

As the chart below shows, cutting taxes does not necessarily lead to greater economic growth, but it certainly means a large increase in our national debt. The high tax rates and increasing national debt under the Eisenhower administration were mostly to pay off our war debts and rebuild Europe, yet there was also growth in GDPand and jobs. Reagan dramatically cut taxes, and experienced a lower growth in GDP, more jobs, but also a large increase in peacetime national debt.

Article PhotoTax Rates and Economic Indicators


If you wonder why a country as rich as ours is going broke, it may be because of Arthur Laffer‘s economics, Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge, and ALEC.   We should not let men we did not elect or some secretive organization that represents special interest groups determine our tax policy. If you will remember, under Eisenhower, the top tax rate was 90% and we used the money to take care of our soldiers, send them to college, rebuild the countries devastated by war, and build the interstate highway system that fueled economic development for the next several decades. Now we have cut the top tax rate, the corporate tax rate, the capital gains tax, and were now working on cutting the inheritance tax, while we are also cutting the safety nets and help for the poor because we cannot pay for them. We are better country than that.

Norquist claims 235 US Representatives and 41 US Senators have signed his Pledge. In doing so, they have clearly given up their responsibility as our elected representatives.   Those in the US Legislature who have signed the pledge are listed here. You may wish to check see who from your state has signed the pledge and contact them. Since Norquist claims that signing the pledge is binding into perpetuity, I would suggest that we make sure none of those who signed his pledge are re-elected.


Thermodynamics Says There Is No “Hiatus “in Global Warming

     Posted on Tue ,14/07/2015 by J.C. Moore

During the 2008 Presidential Election,  John McCain proposed a pragmatic national energy policy based upon good stewardship, good science, and reasonableness. George Will attacked his proposal, claiming that “global temperatures have not risen in a decade”. He claimed the hottest year on record was 1998 and no year since has been hotter. His argument was simple, easily understood, and very wrong. While 1998 was an unusually hot year, NASA’s data shows that 2005 was warmer.

  • George Will’s claim resonated with those who wish to deny that the Earth is warming, so they extended the statement to “the Earth hasn’t warmed in 12 years”, 15 years, and finally 17 years – so far. Apparently truthfulness is not a criteria, as 2005, 2010, 2014, were warmer than 1998. Now they claim the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has confirmed their deception. That’s not right, either.
  • The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report  concluded that the global surface temperature “has shown a much smaller increasing linear trend over the past 15 years [1998-2012] than over the past 30 to 60 years.” The apparent slowdown was termed a “hiatus” and cheered by the Skeptics, although a “smaller increasing linear trend” is not a hiatus. The apparent slowdown intrigued the climate scientists, who immediately set about trying to discover where the energy went.
  • Scientist knew the energy had to go somewhere  because of the First Law of Thermodynamics, which says that energy is conserved. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was  still rising and, because of the greenhouse effect, the Earth was still absorbing more energy that it emitted. According to the conservation of energy, that extra energy has to go somewhere in the environment, and whether it warms the air, the land,  the oceans, melts ice, or evaporates water – the Earth was storing the energy somewhere. Claiming that “global warming has paused”, is badly misleading as the amount of energy in the Earth’s systems was still increasing. To claim a pause is to claim that the Law of Conservation of Energy is invalid. And, that is an extraordinary claim, requiring extraordinary proof. No Skeptic was up to that task.
  • What followed was a flurry of research by climate scientists,  trying to figure out where the energy had gone. It turned out that it really hadn’t gone  anywhere, because the missing heat has been there all along. It was an artifact from how the ocean temperatures were measured.
  • According to a recent NBC news report,”Global warming has not stopped or even slowed in the past 18 years, according to a new federal study that rebuts doubters who’ve claimed that that heating trends have paused. Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration readjusted thousands of weather data points to account for different measuring techniques through the decades.”
  • Tom Karl, director of the National Centers for Environmental Information,  is the lead author of the  study published in the journal Science. He explained the discrepancy came from a change in how ocean temperatures were measured. “Global ocean temperatures are estimated both by thousands of commercial ships, which record the temperature of the water entering their engines and by thousands of buoys. The buoys tend to get cooler temperature readings than the ships, likely because ships’ engines warm the water. Meanwhile, in recent years, buoys have become increasingly common.”  The result, Karl says, is that the oceans did not appearing to be warming as much because more buoys are now being used instead of ships. So Karl’s team adjusted the buoy data to make them line up with the ship data. The corrected data,  in the graph below, shows that since 1998, the rate of warming is about the same as it has been since 1950: about two-tenths of a degree Fahrenheit per decade.



The Skeptics, of course, were not happy that the missing heat had been discovered and their ” hiatus” was exposed as a myth. So, they have now gone back to their familiar theme, that “scientists adjust the data to get what they want.” Saying that is certainly easier than disproving The First Law of Thermodynamics.

(C) 2015 – J.C. Moore

PowerPoint Presentation: The Science of Climate Change

     Posted on Tue ,14/07/2015 by J.C. Moore
This was taken from Apollo 11 as the Earth rose over the disc of the Moon.

This was taken from Apollo 11 as the Earth rose over the disc of the Moon.




2015x-(3) The-Science-of-Climate-Change with notes

Please click on the link above. You will need a PowerPoint program to view the slides – or you may  download a free viewer here. The slides will display as set in your viewer. Explanations of the slides are in the notes section.

The Psychology of Internet Trolls

     Posted on Sun ,05/04/2015 by J.C. Moore

If you have a website, or post comments on blog sites or newspaper articles, you have likely run into trol0trollls. Trolls are the bane of the Internet as their main goals  are to shut down reasonable discussions or spread misinformation. Free from editors or peer review trolls can, and do, distort information for ideological reasons or because they are paid. Then, there are trolls who do it just for fun.

Paid trolls are often called “sock puppets” as their message is controlled by those who create them.  Paid trolls are often given a target site, a set of talking points, and a program which allows them to set up a number of fake identities for additional sock puppets, to make it appear that many support their arguments . Sock puppets do not follow the rules of debate and are often uncivil, using personal attacks in an attempt to shut down reasonable discussion. Research shows that sock puppets, and even unpaid trolls, often enjoy what they do because of negative personality characteristics.

Trolls: personality study correlated the activities enjoyed by Internet users with personality traits. The study  explored whether Internet trolls’ behavior fell into the Dark Tetrad: Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive others), narcissism (egotism and self-obsession), psychopathy (the lack of remorse and empathy), and sadism (pleasure in the suffering of others). The chart below shows the results.


It shows that the Dark Tetrad traits were positively correlated with self-reported enjoyment of trolling. Of the traits, the researchers  found sadism stands out among trolls.  The internet has given sadistic trolls, those who think that hurting people is exciting, a broader and more anonymous outlet to express their behavior. We have certainly all run across these trolls on climate change articles.

Trolling works: Popular Science shut down its comment section because of trolls,  citing a research report which showed that even a fractious minority wields enough power to skew a reader’s perception of a story. The results of the study by Dominique Brossard and coauthor Dietram A. Scheufele was summarized by the authors in a New York Times article:

Uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant’s interpretation of the news story itself.  Those exposed to rude comments, however, ended up with a much more polarized understanding of the risks connected with a technology.  Simply including an ad hominem attack in a reader comment was enough to make study participants think the downside of the reported technology was greater than they’d previously thought.

George Monbiot who covers environmental issues at the Guardian, wrote in Reclaim the Cyber-Commons, of the need to restore civility to internet discussions of climate change. In it he said:

“… two patterns jump out at me. The first is that discussions of issues in which there’s little money at stake tend to be a lot more civilised than debates about issues where companies stand to lose or gain billions: such as climate change, public health and corporate tax avoidance. These are often characterised by amazing levels of abuse and disruption.

The second pattern is the strong association between this tactic and a certain set of views: pro-corporate, anti-tax, anti-regulation. Both traditional conservatives and traditional progressives tend be more willing to discuss an issue than these right-wing libertarians, many of whom seek instead to shut down debate.”

His comments explain a lot about the motivation behind sock puppets and ideological trolls.

Trolling and Denialism: Trolls often use the same tactics as those who deny scientific evidence.  A study by McKee and Diethelm titled,  Denialism: what is it and how should scientists respond?,  describe the five tactics used by deniers (and trolls) as a means to identify them.  Their five tactics were summarized very nicely on Rachel’s Blog  which,  with a  few changes, are:

1. Identifying conspiracies. In climate science denial, people have argued that scientists are doctoring the temperature records to make it look like warming is happening when it is not. This idea must be incredibly hard to justify to oneself as it is ridiculous to think that thousands of scientists from lots of different countries could be in on some conspiracy theory which will not benefit them in any way and which all of us want to be wrong.

2. Using fake experts. This technique was employed by the tobacco industry which had a strategy of employing scientists whose views were at odds with the consensus in the field. The same tactic can be seen in climate change. From the McKee article: “In 1998, the American Petroleum Institute developed a Global Climate Science Communications Plan, involving the recruitment of ‘scientists who share the industry’s views of climate science [who can] help convince journalists, politicians and the public that the risk of global warming is too uncertain to justify controls on greenhouse gases’.”

3. Highlighting outliers. This happens in climate change when contrarians make a big deal out of research that claims figures for climate sensitivity lying outside the IPCC range. They are highlighting a few research papers that are outliers while ignoring the majority of evidence.

4. Placing impossible expectations on research. The repeated phrase that the “models failed to predict the pause” fits with this. No-one can predict the future exactly. Scientists do not work with ouija boards.  Climate models – just like all models of physical systems – contain uncertainty and it is unreasonable to expect them not to. But although the model projections do a remarkably accurate job of making future projections of climate, contrarians still place unreasonable expectations on what they can do.

5. Using misrepresentation and logical fallacies.  Logical fallacies include the use of red herrings, deliberate attempts to change the argument, and straw men, where the opposing argument is misrepresented to make it easier to refute. Other fallacies used by denialists are false analogy and the excluded middle fallacy (either climate change causes a wide range of severe weather events or causes none at all, so doubt about an association with one event, such as a hurricane, is regarded as sufficient to reject an association with any weather event).

To respond these tactics, the authors suggest it is important to recognize denialism when confronted with it. The normal civil response to an opposing argument is to engage it, in the expectations that the truth will emerge through a process of debate. However, this requires that both parties have a willingness to  follows certain rules such as looking at the evidence as a whole, rejecting deliberate distortions, and acceptance principles of logic. They say, a ” meaningful discourse is impossible when one party rejects the rules. Yet it would be wrong to prevent the denialists having a voice. Instead, it is necessary to shift the debate from the subject under consideration, to instead exposing to public scrutiny the tactics trolls employ and identifying them publicly for what they are.” However, that may not work with trolls of the dark tetrad.

Dealing with Trolls: Exposure would probably work with paid trolls, as those controlling them do not wish to be exposed. Those who troll for the fun of upsetting people would likely enjoy the diversion off topic, deny being a troll, and heap abuse on anyone who even suggested their motives were not pure. A good strategy is to just ignore trolls. If one wants to confront the lies and distortions, it is more effective to write a separate article refuting their premises.  Running up a large number of  comments on a troll’s article is simply “feeding the troll”, giving them more opportunities to respond and enriching paid trolls. Clicking on trolls’ links only runs up the hit count of denier sites, making them appear more important than they are and possibly adding to their advertising value.

In most  cases, ensuring civility is up to the blog moderators. Blog sites can discourage trolling with good policies and strong moderation. Comments from those who attack others or claim obvious lies as fact should not get posted.  Repeat offenders should be banned or blacklisted. The trolls may claim violations of freedom of speech or censorship. If they do, invite them to resubmit their posts with valid references, in a civil manner, and without  personal attacks.  They will likely disappear. Don’t we wish?

(c) 2015  J.C. Moore



The Nuclear Treaty with Iran: Please Write Your Legislators

     Posted on Fri ,03/04/2015 by J.C. Moore


The framework for nuclear deal with Iran has now been approved with the details to be worked out later.

       In Our Hands

In Our Hands

Eventually the Senate will be called upon to ratify the final treaty, and it is important that we begin building support for the treaty in Congress. A war between Iran and Israel would destabilize the Middle East further and lead to unthinkable war and terrorism. Please write your Senator, and also your Representative as well,  to ask for their support. Below is a letter that I sent to my Legislators, which you may use for ideas. I am sure there will be several petitions circulating about this, but sometimes a personal letter carries more weight.


The US had many Iranian students and friends back in the 60s and 70s who thought America was great. When the Revolution started, many of them returned home to protect their families. Iran has been under the control of extremists for over 30 years and the moderates have just recently been able to elect a president who wishes to improve relationships with United States and remove the sanctions on their country. If we think we have trouble in the Middle East now, imagine how it would be if a war started between Israel and Iran, and the radicals seize power again.

While the negotiated agreement may not be all we would wish, we should give it a chance. Under the framework, Iran would give up two-thirds of its centrifuges used to enrich uranium and would reduce its stockpile of low-enriched uranium from 10,000 kilograms to 300 kilograms. These two things alone would diminish Tehran’s ability to produce a nuclear weapon. Its nuclear apparatus would be smaller, and under these guidelines, Iran’s pathway to nuclear weapons, while certainly not impossible, would be much more difficult.

Iran would convert its underground nuclear reactor, which could produce weapons grade plutonium, to one which could not and would be used primarily for research purposes. The agreement contains inspection and verification to see that Iran complies fully.

Please support the agreement. It is not just a treaty with United States, but with six other countries and the European Union. Our failure to approve it would cause trouble with our allies, who are anxious to put an end to this crisis, and could lead to a devastating war in the Middle East.

Your Constitutional Right to Vote

     Posted on Mon ,23/03/2015 by J.C. Moore

This is a guest post by Barbara Moore.

Hearing that voting was not a Constitutional right and that it is not mentioned in the United States Constitution made me feel kind of disillusioned. Wait a minute, as a woman I am well aware of the hard won right for women to vote. I know this is protected in the 19th Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The 19th Amendment plainly states, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged…” The RIGHT of citizens of the United States to vote should be clear enough as it is used here – for even those who say that the right to vote is not in the Constitution. But, if that is not enough, the right to voteis also mentioned four other times in the Constitution. As well as the 19th, it is mentioned in the 15th, 24th and 26th Amendments to the Constitution. Each time it plainly states the right of citizens of the Unites States to vote….

I do not think any other right is mentioned five times in the Constitution as is the case with the right to vote. It should be clear Vote that the Constitution of the United States plainly states that is a right of citizens of the United States and makes clear that it is also a protected right which, “shall not be abridged or denied.”

Unfortunately,the need for the four special Amendments has been due to the injustice of political manipulation. Perhaps, sadly, even with these protections of the right to vote, we have not seen the end of political attempts at the manipulation of citizens’ right to vote.

Here is a link to a very good article by Garrett Epps who teaches Constitutional Law.

(C) 2015  Barbara Moore

Help Keep Electric Rates Low – No Extra Fees On Solar Energy

     Posted on Thu ,19/03/2015 by J.C. Moore

Article Photo

Many states are now seeing laws being introduced like Oklahoma SB 1456 , dubbed the Sun Tax. It is not a tax, but allows power companies to assess an extra fee on distributed generation (DG) customers who install renewable energy systems and hook to the power grid for backup. The end result will be higher electric rates as they reduce competition from renewable energy. Here is why.

ALEC: At the 2013 American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) meeting in Chicago, the Energy Committee, dominated by power and fossil fuel companies, decided one of  ALEC’s goals should be to discourage the spread of renewable energy. Their plan to do so was by weakening renewable portfolio standards (RPS), by claiming that renewable energy systems would make electric rates go up, and by promoting the idea that net energy metering (NEM) customers who install their own solar panels and use the grid for backup were “free riders” who did not pay their fair share of infrastructure costs. Legislation has since been introduced in a number of states intended to increase fees on NEM customers and to reduce the state’s RPS requirements.

SB 1456: Oklahoma passed SB 1456 the next year, which allows power companies to assess an extra fee on distributed generation (DG) customers who install renewable energy systems and hook to the power grid for backup. The law was designed to discourage the investment in renewable energy by private individuals, but it may have unintended consequences for the power companies pushing the fees. Under the law, both PSO and OG &E have filed a request with the Corporation Commission to assess additional fees on DG customers. Public hearings on the law will be held in Oklahoma City on March 31 at 1:30 on the third floor of the Corporation Commission Building. Studies (see below) have shown, when all things are considered, that DG customers provide a net benefit for all other customers. It is in the public’s best interest to request that not only should the fees be denied but, to be fair, the power companies should be required to compensate NEM customers for the extra power they produce.

Fairness: The rationale for SB 1456 was fairness, so the decision should be fair to NEM customers as well. First, NEM customers should be charged as any other customer for the electricity they use. DG  customers who use the grid for backup are required to have a net energy metering (NEM) contract with their power company which requires they pay for the installation and inspection of safety equipment. They also pay a customer fee which goes toward fixed costs and infrastructure, and they are currently not reimbursed for any extra power they produce, essentially providing free energy for the other customers, and they help to conserve energy. AEP/PSO’s states one of its mission is to “help customers use less energy and spend less for it”. Is it fair, then, that customers who cut their energy use in half by installing extra insulation are appreciated while those who cut their energy use in half by installing solar energy are charged an extra fee?

Second, NEM customers should be compensated fairly for the excess energy they provide. Research shows that states which encourage NEM customers have found they provide a small positive benefit both to other customers and to the power grid.  Why, then, should they be charged an extra fee?

Research: Studies have found that states which encourage net energy metering (NEM) experience a net benefit to all electric customers. A study by Crossborder Energy in 2014 found NEM allows utilities to avoid costs of generation and fuel, maintenance and upgrade of transmission and distribution infrastructure, transmission losses (which account to 7% of losses), capacity purchases, and compliance with renewable energy standards. The study concluded,” The cost which utilities avoid when they accept NEM power exported to their grid shows that NEM does not produce a cost to nonparticipating ratepayers; instead it creates a small net benefit on average across the residential markets.” While it does cause power companies to have to adjust their loads accordingly, NEM reduces peak loads, transmission losses, and the need for new power plants.  In California, the study found NEM “delivers more than $92 million in annual benefits to non-solar customers”.

Another important study was performed at the request of the Vermont Legislature who specifically charged the Vermont Department of Public Service with determining if there is a cross-subsidization with net metering and other retail customers. They were also asked to examine any benefits or cost of NEM customers to the distribution and transmission system.  The report found the specific ratepayer benefits, the statewide, and societal benefits of NEM as: “Avoided energy costs, including costs of line losses, capacity costs, and avoided internalized greenhouse gas emission costs; avoided regional transmission costs; avoided in-state transmission and distribution costs; solar’s coincidence with times of peak demand; and the additional benefit of the economic multiplier associated with the local investment and jobs created from the local manufacturing and installation of net metering systems. The report concludes, “ Even considering subsidies, solar net metering is a net-positive for the state of Vermont.”

These studies show that NEM customers provide a net benefit to ratepayers in states which encourage investments in solar and wind generation by private individuals. To be fair, NEM customers should be charged for the energy they use just as any other customer and they should be compensated for the extra energy they produce just as any other energy provider.

Unintended Consequences: Though SB 1456 was intended to discourage private investment in renewable energy, it may not turn out that way. Upon signing the bill, Gov. Mary Fallin attached a letter requiring “the Corporation commission to conduct a transparent evaluation of distributed generation consistent with the Oklahoma First Energy Plan. It also said, ” This evaluation mandates inclusion of all stakeholders including representatives of the solar distributed wind energy industries and utilities.” and “A proper and required examination of these other rate reforms will ensure an appropriate implementation of the Oklahoma first energy plan while protecting future distributed generation customers.”

The Oklahoma First Energy Policy encourages development of wind and solar energy, but it relies heavily on the increasing development of our natural gas resources. However, fracking and the associated disposal wells may be related to the increased incidences of earthquakes in Oklahoma.  If a definite link is established between fracking activities and earthquakes, it might greatly curtail Oklahoma’s production of natural gas. Oklahoma is now in the process of replacing some of its coal-fired power plants with natural gas plants. It would be prudent for Oklahoma to encourage the development of renewable energy systems. Recently, OG&E asked to increase its customer charges by $1.1 billion for federal environmental compliance and to replace an aging natural gas plant. Encouraging distributed generation customers to install extra capacity would not only help with the environmental compliance, but could eventually reduce the need to replace aging plants. Requiring that DG investors be compensated fairly for excess energy they provide would encourage them to install excess capacity to meet future demands.

A Model: Some electric co-ops , such as Oklahoma’s Indian Electric Cooperative, recognize the value of net energy metering. IEC allows net metering customers to accumulate credit for excess power and pays them at the end of the year for any excess credit at the wholesale rate, essentially treating them as any other power provider. If the Oklahoma Corporation Commission would adopt a similar model and require that NEM customers be compensated for the excess power they produce, it would greatly encourage private investments in renewable energy installations.

(C) 2015  J.C. Moore

The 2014 Environmental Hall of Fame/Shame Winners

     Posted on Fri ,06/03/2015 by J.C. Moore
The picture at the right was taken from the Apollo spacecraft as the Earth rose above the horizon of the moon. It Moonreminds us of how beautiful the Earth is, how small and finite it is in the universe, and how important it is that we protect it. This contest was designed to identify those who work to protect the Earth and those who would damage it through their actions. The 2014 Environmental Hall of Fame/Shame contest was carried out on four websites and the votes were combined to determine those who have most affected the environment.

The 2014 Environmental Hall of Fame Winners:

1. Pope Francis (55%) – for his Protect Creation efforts. He is preparing a comprehensive Vatican teachings on climate change, which will urge 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide to take action. He  also plans to convene a summit of the world’s main religions in hopes of bolstering next year’s crucial U.N. climate meeting in Paris. Hoped for Reward: A strong agreement from the climate conference.

2.  John Holdren (18%) –  a lauded theoretical physicist who is President Obama’s science adviser. He has been a strong influence on the Administration’s science policy and has been quite effective in shutting down Congressmen who deny the human influence on climate.  Prize : Election defeats  for all Congressmen who exclaim, “I’m not a scientist, but…” .

3. Boyen Slat ( 15%) – a 19 year old Dutch student/ inventor and founder and CEO of The OCEANCLEANUP . He developed a method for removing much of the 30 million tons of plastic entering the oceans annually, convincing 70 scientist to help, producing a 530 page feasibility study, and raising over 2 million dollars to start the project. Prize : A high price for recyclable plastic.

4.  Physicist John Cook ( 12%) for creating the Skeptical Science site in 2007 which conveniently catalogues all paid denier memes/propaganda and the scientific responses to them. He has posted a large number of articles and videos explaining the facts of climate science.  Prize: Ownership of WWUT, the major denier site.

The 2014 Environmental Hall of Shame Winners:

1.  Freedom Industries and its ex-CEO  Gary Southern (43%) – for contaminating the drinking water for 300,000 West Virginians. They have been charged with multiple violation of the Clean Water Act related to polluting West Virginia’s Elk River, including a massive chemical spill this past January that saw 10,000 gallons of a coal-cleaning chemical called crude MCHM dumped into the river. Award: A prison cell with drinking water from the Elk River.

2. Senator James Inhofe (31%) who claims “climate change is the biggest hoax in history”. He has compared the United States Environmental Protection Agency to a Gestapo bureaucracy, EPA Administrator Carol Browner to Tokyo Rose, and now he’s chairman of the Senate Science Committee. Award:  A path for the KXL pipeline through his backyard.

3. Tony Abbot (19%) – Australian Prime Minister who led the repeal of the carbon tax, even though Australia is one of the world’s largest polluters per capita and is facing serious changes to climate and weather systems as a result of global warming. The Guardian described it as “an act of gross moral negligence to the future prosperity of this country and future generations.”  Award: A million lumps of coal for next Christmas, delivered to his front yard.

4. Dr. Richard S. Lindzen (7%)  – Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute who  described the recent U.S. Senate climate vote as a bizarre and ludicrous “attempt to hijack science for political purposes”. The Cato Institute is a part of the Climate Change Denial Machine, and the “focus his work is on the interaction between climate science and policymakers”. Once a fine scientist, denial for political purposes is now Dr. Lindzen’s job and he knows enough to sound impressive as he disputes accepted science. Prize: A trophy engraved “Outstanding Climate Science Hypocrite Award”.

It is important that we keep in mind those who have the greatest impact, for good or ill, on the environment. I wish to thank those who provided the nominations, the prize suggestions, the insightful and humorous comments, and the votes to determine the winners. As this year goes by, please take note of those you wish to nominate for the 2015 awards.

(c) 2015  – J.C. Moore