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Archive for the ‘Energy and the Environment’ Category

The Mythical Magic Hydrogen Economy

Tue ,02/03/2021

There’s a little bit of truth to every myth, and the hydrogen economy is no different. Hydrogen fuel cells would be wonderful for the environment. They combine hydrogen with oxygen from the atmosphere to produce electricity, and they emit pure water. The hydrogen can be made by electrolysis of water, and the energy for the electrolysis can be provided by renewable energy such as solar and wind. Though hydrogen must be stored at high pressures or low temperatures, it can be transported and used to replace fossil fuels in most of their applications. Then why are the fossil fuel companies so eager to transition to a hydrogen economy? They now are applying for grants from stimulus money for research on hydrogen power. There must be more to the story and that is where magic comes in.

It would take a tremendous amount of magic to make hydrogen a viable source of energy within 30 years. Currently, 95% of commercial hydrogen is made from fossil fuels, primarily methane. Producing hydrogen from methane is energy intensive. It requires that methane be reacted with steam-heated to about 1100°C. That reaction produces hydrogen and carbon monoxide – which is then treated with additional steam at 380°C to convert the carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide. Not only is carbon dioxide produced as a byproduct, but it takes a tremendous amount of fossil fuel to heat the steam hot enough to carry out the reaction. Hydrogen produced in this way is called Brown hydrogen, because of all the fossil fuels used. You’re probably beginning to see why fossil fuel companies are so eager to transition to a hydrogen economy.

But wait. All we would need to do is capture the carbon dioxide produced in making Brown hydrogen and store it underground. Hydrogen could then be produced without adding more CO2 to the atmosphere, so it is called Blue hydrogen. Fossil fuel companies are now pursuing grants and subsidies to develop Carbon Capture and Storage Systems (CSS) to do just that. But there are a few problems. Fossil fuel companies knew as far back as 1979 (see memo below) that adding more CO2 to the atmosphere would cause global warming and damage the environment. A CSS system requires little new technology, so why did they not develop CSS then – and global warming would never have become a problem. Fossil fuel companies did not do it because it would have made their products more expensive, and demand would have gone down. And they are even less serious about developing CSS systems now. With prices dropping on renewable technologies and energy storage systems, CSS would make carbon or hydrogen fuels so expensive that it would accelerate the transmission to renewable energy and battery storage.

Though there are currently large supplies of methane available from fracking operations, using fracked methane to produce hydrogen just isn’t a good idea. The main problems associated with fracking are methane leaks and earthquakes (caused by the disposal of fracking fluids). It has been estimated that about 20% of the methane produced at the wellhead is lost through transmission losses and leaks. Because so much methane is lost during production, France has recently prohibited American fracked methane from being sold there. Though the amount of methane in the atmosphere is small, methane is 72 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. As the graph below shows, the methane concentration in the atmosphere has grown exponentially – and it now accounts for about 1/4 as much global warming as carbon dioxide.

That brings us to hydrogen produced by electrolysis, called Green hydrogen. To create the infrastructure to produce enough Green hydrogen to transition to a hydrogen economy would take more than 30 years. To get there, we would have to start now. That would require Black and Brown hydrogen to be used while we develop a CSS system, and then Blue hydrogen could be used until we have a fully operational Green hydrogen infrastructure. We would be dependent on fossil fuels for at least 30 more years, and the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would certainly go up. The best carbon capture systems are trees, oceans, and soils (through regenerative agriculture). Currently, those systems have not been able to keep up. Deforestation, commercial farming, and the acidification of the oceans are exhausting those systems’ abilities to capture CO2. The environment of the Earth cannot absorb much more carbon dioxide, and we certainly can’t wait 30 years on the chance that a commercial scale CSS system will be developed.

Hydrogen is very useful for things such as welding, food processing, ammonia production, and rocket fuel – but it will never be useful to power our economy. That is because a hydrogen economy would be terribly energy inefficient. If you were to use electricity from wind to produce hydrogen, transport the hydrogen to where it is needed, and use hydrogen fuel cells to power your car, about two-thirds of the energy would be lost in the process. The electrical energy that would take you 300 miles in a battery-powered car, would only take you 100 miles in a hydrogen-powered car. There is also no infrastructure in place to conveniently transport large volumes of hydrogen. Natural gas pipelines could not be used, as hydrogen reacts with metals and makes them brittle. I contrast, transmission lines for electricity are already in place and, if upgraded to handle the larger load, they could deliver power directly to your home and your car – and do it three times more efficiently.

Finally, hydrogen is explosive. If you have ever seen a hydrogen filled balloon exploded, you are probably aware of the tremendous power of a hydrogen explosion. Hydrogen explosions are rare, but are bound to happen if hydrogen were in wide use. A hydrogen explosion occurred in an AT&T Uninterruptible Power Source battery room in 2020. The explosion blew a 400 square foot hole in the roof and collapsed walls and ceilings throughout a large portion of the 50,000 square foot building. Fortunately, the computer/data center was vacant at the time and there were no injuries.

All things considered, unless you own a fossil fuel company or believe in magic, trying to convert to a hydrogen economy is a really bad idea. 

© 2021 – J. C. Moore. All rights reserved.

Thermodynamics: A Tour through the Three Laws

Thu ,18/02/2021

I’m not sure how they got to be laws, but they do appear inviolable in most instances.

The First Law: “Energy is conserved, i.e., it can be neither created nor destroyed.”

However, it may change from one form to another, such as heat to work. This law allows you to trace energy as it changes from one form to another and to identify all the places it ends up in the environment.

 It was a little embarrassing when atomic physicist discovered you could convert mass to energy. Before that, there was also a Law of Conservation of Mass. However, the amount of energy produced is given by Einstein’s Law: E = mC2. So mass is now considered to be another form of energy and energy is considered to be another form of mass. It is difficult to convert energy to mass, but then, again, there is the Creation Story.

The Second Law: “It is impossible to convert heat completely into work.” …Lord Kelvin

There are many different statements of the second law, all supposedly equivalent, although it may take several pages of equations to show it. The second law of thermodynamics was originally an empirical observation about the workings of heat engines. It was later realized that it was a fundamental law of nature, and it was most useful as it introduced the concept of entropy (S).

“In an isolated system, a process can occur only if it increases the total entropy of the system.” … Rudolph Clausius

One very useful derivation based on the second law is that for an engine converting heat to work, the :

 Maximum Efficiency = ( Th – Tc ) / Th

Here, Th is the higher operating temperature of the engine and Tc is the colder temperature of the exhaust. Using this we can show that the maximum efficiency of a coal-fired power plant is about 35%, while an extension of the formula shows the maximum efficiency of an internal combustion engine is about 15%. This, for instance, means that an electric car reduces carbon emissions by about half – even if charged from a coal-fired power plant.

Chemists have found entropy very useful as it can be used predict whether a chemical reaction will be spontaneous and how much product will be produced when equilibrium is reached, as:

”The entropy of an isolated system which is not in equilibrium will tend to increase over time, approaching a maximum value at equilibrium.”

With the advent of quantum mechanics, a better understanding came of how entropy relates to individual particles. Particles tend to arrange themselves in their energy levels in such a way as to reach a minimum in energy and a maximum probability. Which arrangement of particles below is more probable?

                              A                                                                         B

Clearly, B is more probable as there are more ways to arrange the particles in the energy levels. The relationship between entropy and energy is made clear in this model. To move from arrangement A to arrangement B will require energy to move the particles up in the energy levels. The entropy of each arrangement can be calculated by:

                                  S = kln(W)

where k is Boltzmann’s constant and W is the number of ways the set of particles may be arranged in the energy levels. Arrangement A is very interesting as there is only one way, and S= kln (1) = 0. That would be the arrangement at 0° Kelvin, and that leads us to the Third Law.

The Third Law:  “As the temperature of a system approaches absolute zero, all processes cease and the entropy of the system approaches a minimum value.”

In other words, at 0° Kelvin ( –273 oC), all particles are in their lowest energy states.  At that temperature, all motion ceases, except for the vibration of molecules and the motion of electrons, and those energies are in their lowest possible states. Attempts to achieve 0° K have been unsuccessful, as cooling an object requires extracting energy from it and depositing it somewhere cooler. And, there is nowhere cooler. The lowest temperature achieved has been a little less than 1 billionth of a degree Kelvin, which is cold enough for most purposes.

 It is convenient to have an absolute scale with which to measure thermodynamic properties, as absolutes are otherwise hard to find. I once witnessed an argument between a colleague, called barracuda Beth by students, and a humanities professor about whether there were absolutes. My colleague won the argument by claiming that the atomic weight of oxygen-16 was absolutely 16 amu, and humanities professor had no come back. Unfortunately, she picked the wrong absolute. The next year, the standard for measuring mass was changed to carbon-12, and oxygen became 15.995 amu. Wisely, I did not mention that to my colleague, and that also explains the first sentence in this article.

Note: I have somewhat simplified the laws of thermodynamics and have avoided mathematical equations as much as possible. The goal was to give you a feeling for the laws and to entertain you. I hope you find it interesting.

© 2021 – J. C. Moore  All rights reserved.

Global Warming: The Rise of Methane

Mon ,15/02/2021

New

Greenhouse gases play a huge role in keeping the surface of the Earth warm. Without the greenhouse effect, the temperature of the Earth would average about -18°C, and all the water on the Earth’s surface would be ice. The average temperature of the Earth’s surface is now about 15°C and rising. The graph below shows the concentration of the main greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere, and how they have changed in the last two millennia. 

Inarguably, an increase in the greenhouse gas concentrations will warm the Earth – and we are seeing that happen. The average temperature of the Earth is now 1.2°F warmer than it was in 1850. The temperature of the Earth was fairly constant over the thousand years before the industrial age, and people, plants, animals, and our agricultural practices have adapted to that temperature. What will happen as the Earth’s temperature rises? We are finding out, and the effects are alarming.

Of the greenhouse gases, water accounts for about 70% of the greenhouse effect, carbon dioxide about 20%, methane 4%, nitrous oxide 1%, and the other greenhouse gases together about 5%. Our efforts to reduce global warming have focused mostly on carbon dioxide, as its concentration has increased over 40% from our use of fossil fuels. It will take time to phase out fossil fuels and transition to the use of renewable energy. The concentration of methane has grown appreciably in the last century, from about 800 parts per billion (ppb) to over 1900 ppb and it is rising rapidly. Methane has about an eight year half-life in the atmosphere before it is converted to carbon dioxide by natural process. The methane in the atmosphere would decrease quickly if we stopped putting it there. That is important, as methane has about 72 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

The main cause of the rise in methane is commercial leaks, oil production, and fracking operations. In commercial sales, it is sometimes less expensive to ignore small leaks than to fix them. But many small leaks add up and it has been estimated that about 10% of natural gas put into pipelines is lost before it reaches the end user. Some of those problems could be fixed. Methane is also produced as a byproduct of oil production. If the amount of gas is too small to be sold commercially, it is often flared, i.e., lit like a torch. That converts it into carbon dioxide, which is less damaging to the environment. 

Fracking operations now produce a tremendous amount of natural gas for commercial use, and considerable amounts of methane escape into the atmosphere from the drilling operations and pipeline leaks. It requires effort and resources to contain the methane at the wellhead and to fix storage and transmission leaks. The EPA requires that leaks be self-reported, but often they were just ignored. Just recently, it has become possible to detect methane from GHGSat satellites. Below is a map that shows eight leaks in a 25 mi.² area in Turkmenistan, as they were seen by satellite. Estimates were that those leaks accounted for about 10,000 kg of methane a day. The methane was from fracking operations, pipeline leaks, and unlit flares.

Before satellites, most methane emissions were discovered by infrared cameras. Using them, it was found that the methane emissions from the Permian basin in Texas and New Mexico were much greater than those reported. Much of that came from unlit flares, which could easily be corrected. One accident at a gas well in Ohio is now thought to be the largest methane leak ever in the United States. Three different oil and gas facilities in Algeria were found to be leaking methane amounts equivalent to the carbon dioxide produced by a medium-size coal-fired power plant. The detection of leaks has been spotty and regulation of leaks has been difficult in the past. There is considerable economic incentive for gas companies to reduce methane emissions from leaks. However, it is expensive to send out crews to detect and repair smaller leaks, and many companies have just let them go.

The EPA expects the oil and gas industry to self-report and to repair leaks, but many companies just don’t. There are plans to deploy seven more GHGSat satellites to monitor greenhouse gas emissions. With them, it will be possible to detect and enforce the regulation of many methane leaks. It has been estimated that cutting methane emissions by 40% would have the same effect as taking 60% of the world’s coal-fired power plants off-line. And, we could easily cut methane emissions by 40% within the next decade.

(C) 2021 J.C. Moore All rights reserved.

The Registration Fee Increase on Electric Vehicles

Mon ,27/05/2019

Though this is written from a Kansas perspective, it may be similar to an attempt by other states to impose additional fees and taxes on hybrid and electric vehicles (EVs). Traditionally, state roads have been funded by a tax on fuel.  Some state lawmakers are concerned that hybrid and electric vehicles are not paying their share of the cost of road construction. To be proactive, which is a novelty, they wish to add an additional fee onto electric vehicles to make sure they pay their fair share the cost of roads. It seems reasonable, but it is not.

Owners of hybrids and EVs help reduce health and the environmental costs and pay more in other taxes and than owners of the standard internal combustion models. Hybrid vehicles get about the same mileage as fuel-efficient gasoline cars, and an additional fee is not added on to those. How fair is that?

Electric vehicles contribute to people’s health and the environment. EVs reduce air pollution and the costs associated with lung and heart diseases which are made worse by particulates, sulfur and nitrogen oxides, and ozone. Though air pollution is more of a problem in the cities, those in rural areas are still affected by extreme weather and by the increased medical and insurance costs associated with air pollution. EVs reduce carbon emissions and thereby reduce the associated risk of extreme weather caused by global warming. Conventional electric power plants are about twice as efficient at converting fuel to energy as internal combustion engines. That means electric vehicles reduce emissions by about half, even if charged from a conventional coal fired power plant.

At one time the federal government recognized the value of electric vehicles by providing a $7500 rebate to encourage their purchase. Likewise, many states give tax rebates on the purchase of electric vehicles. California gives rebates of up to $2500 for purchase of an EV, Colorado has a $5000 rebate, and 10 other states give similar rebates. Those tax incentives are now being phased out, as there are forces at work to discourage electric vehicles.

Last session, Kansas passed HB 2214 which raised the registration fee on hybrid vehicles to $50 dollars and those on electric vehicles to $100. That amount probably will not discourage anyone from buying an EV or a hybrid, but putting a tax on EVs is a move in the wrong direction. Those who buy EVs pay a premium for those vehicles because they are concerned about air pollution and the environment. It does not seem right that they are rewarded with an increased registration fee, especially when they already pay more in purchase price and property tax to upgrade to an environmentally friendly vehicle.

For examples, Ford’s basic gasoline auto is the Focus which has an MSRP of $18,000 with a property tax of $294. The buyer of a CMAX, a hybrid Focus ($25,000), pays $412 in property tax and of Ford’s Energi plug-in hybrid($28,000) pays $490 in property tax. The gas powered Nissan Sentra ($21,000) pays $342 in property tax while the comparable Nissan Leaf EV ($31,000) pays $503. The property tax decreases each year but the differential remains so that over the life of the vehicle, the buyer of a hybrid or EV pays, not only more for the car but considerably more in property taxes than the buyer of a comparable gasoline vehicle. Besides the additional property tax, EV owners also pay taxes on the electricity used to charge their car. Westar customers, for instance, pay a 6.15% sales tax on electricity as well as a property tax surcharge of $0.001209 per kilowatt hour. It is no wonder owners of hybrids and EVs feel they have are taxed enough already.

In 2010, the Kansas Legislature enacted a 10 year highway/transportation program to ensure job growth, economic development, safety and overall prosperity for our state. The $8 billion,10 year KDOT program was funded through a variety of sources, including dedicating four– tenths of a cent in state sales tax to the highway fund and bonds. However, to shore up the state’s general fund, previous legislatures transferred $2.3 billion from KDOT to plug budget holes. The extra registration fee put on EVS is expected to raise about $600,000 annually, which would require 40 years to pay back KDOT if the purchase of additional EVS was discouraged.

The most reasonable way to fund our roads into the future is to restore the 0.4 cent diverted from KDOT and to add an additional 0.4 cent, which would come partly from the additional taxes paid by electric vehicle owners. As the number of electric vehicles grows, so would the highway funds.

Bipartisan carbon fee and dividend would brighten future for generations

Mon ,23/04/2018

This is an Op Ed article for Earth Day published in the Wichita Eagle. April 19, 2018 04:03 AM

Bipartisan carbon fee and dividend would brighten future for generations

BY DARREL HART AND AND JC MOORE

 

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, we have enjoyed the benefits of fossil fuels. Today, we understand that there are health, environmental, and economic costs associated with fossil fuel use.

The growing burden of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2), is changing our climate and increasing the risk of catastrophic climate events. We want our children and grandchildren to have clean air, safe drinking water, and a healthy environment as we did. To do that, we need to cut our fossil fuel use and shift to renewable energy sources in a way that does not damage our economy.

Wanting to help make this a reality, a group of Wichita citizens formed a chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. We are a bi-partisan, non-profit organization working to build relationships with members of Congress. We work to build the political will for Congress to pass legislation to reduce carbon emissions and create job opportunities in renewable energy.

CCL supports the carbon fee and dividend proposal as co-authored by Secretary George Shultz, Republican statesman and secretary of State, Labor, and Treasury. The proposal would collect a fee on carbon at the point it enters the economy, initially at $15 per ton of CO2.

 

A border adjustment protects American workers, businesses and agriculture. The carbon fee is not a tax as it would be rebated 100 percent to American households.

The fee will initially increase the price of gasoline about 9 cents per gallon in the first year and about 6 cents each succeeding year. Other fuels will see a similar price increase. Rising energy costs will be offset by the carbon dividend which, for a family of four, will be about $30 per month the first year and grow to over $200 per month after 10 years.

People who reduce their fossil fuel use, or choose renewable energy, will be able to increase their disposable income by saving more of their dividend. The monthly dividend check will also remind every family that they have a stake in reducing carbon emissions.

To see the effect of the carbon fee and dividend on the economy, CCL commissioned a research study by the nonpartisan Regional Economic Models. The study found that the carbon fee and dividend approach would reduce the carbon emissions to 50 percent of the 1990 levels in just 20 years. During that time, it would add 2.1 million jobs to the American economy, increase the gross domestic product by $75 billion, and save 220,000 lives by reducing lung and heart diseases.

We have confidence in our work because we see progress. Seventy-two members of Congress (36 Republicans and 36 Democrats) now sit on the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus we promote. This caucus explores policy options that address the challenges of our changing climate.

There you have it. CCL’s carbon fee and dividend proposal will allow us to avoid the cost and risks of climate change. It provides the certainty needed for long-range planning and lets consumers and markets determine winners and losers, not regulators. It sends a market signal to entrepreneurs that there is profit in adopting energy-saving technologies and offering innovative energy-saving or low carbon products. And it assures our children and grandchildren will have clean air, pure water, and a healthy environment.

Darrel Hart and JC Moore are with the Wichita chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

Local Action on Sustainability Needed: Bring SOAR to Your Community

Mon ,05/02/2018

A group of citizens in Wichita, Kansas formed the Society of Alternative Resources (SOAR) as a way to improve the sustainability of their city. The purpose of SOAR is to advise and assist local government, businesses, and residents on Alternative Resources, Sustainability, and Renewable Energy issues. Its long-term goal is to ensure that our children and grandchildren have clean air, pure water, and a livable Earth.

SOAR decided to use the STAR communities rating system to interact with the local government. Below is the matrix which STAR uses to evaluate a community’s sustainability. It also acts as a guideline for ways to improve the community and evaluate it’s progress.
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Each item in the matrix has further explanation in the STAR-V2 guidelines.
Many cities invest millions to attract businesses and make their city more competitive in job creation,  entrepreneurship, workforce development, and capital investment. They also need to invest in their communities’ Sustainability.  The things that attract and keep the millennial’s, the talent, and the young entrepreneurs to a city fall under Sustainability.
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Below are two letters from the local Wichita Eagle newspaper designed to promote SOAR and its goals.
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 How to Improve the Qualify of Life in Wichita  11/10/2017

“Local Sustainability Issues” was the topic of the October Luzzati Lecture Series at WSU. Zach Baumer, Climate Program Manager of the Office of Sustainability in Austin, talked about the city’s effort to “green” its environment. Sustainable practices and a healthy environment are important issues for businesses, young professionals, and entrepreneurs when they consider locating in a city.

STAR ratings give an overall picture of the quality of life in a city and the desirability of living there. The STAR system considers a city’s progress in nine categories: Built Environment, Climate and Energy, Economy and Jobs, Education, Arts and Community, Equity and Empowerment, Health and Safety, Natural Systems, and Innovation and Processes. Austin rates as a four-star community with 476 points of a possible 720. Wichita has a three-star rating with 231 points.

Clearly, we have room to improve our community’s sustainable practices and our STAR rating. It will take effort and resources, but our businesses, city leadership, Chamber of Commerce, and our citizens should support improvements in the Wichita community. After all, we all have to live here.

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Time for a Charge  01/19/2018

It is imperative that Wichita improve its air quality. We were lucky that last summer was mild, but in hot summers there have been many days where Wichita exceeded the federal standard for ozone. That puts people’s health at risk and, as the Wichita Eagle has reported, failure to meet air quality standards could lead to fines up to $10 million a year. One way to improve Wichita ’s air quality would be to use more electric vehicles in the city.

When it comes to electric vehicles, Wichita has a chicken or the egg problem. People do not buy electric vehicles because there are few places to charge them, and there is no need for more charging stations as there are few electric vehicles. Kansas City has over 1000 charging stations while Wichita has seven. The Society for Alternate Resources (SOAR) is trying to improve that by taking the initiative to see that 200 charging stations are installed in Wichita.

SOAR plans to do that by partnering with Westar energy, the city, and local businesses to receive matching grants from the VW settlement. VW was caught falsifying its emission records and, as part of the settlement, Kansas will receive $15 million to reduce emissions, with $2.25 million set aside to install EV charging stations. Please support SOAR’s efforts.

 

Isn’t it time to form a similar organization in your community?

 

(c) 2018  – J.C. Moore

Climate Change: Science and Solutions

Sun ,13/08/2017

This is an update of an earlier PowerPoint presentation which reviews the scientific evidence for climate change and recommends a carbon fee and dividend system to address global warming. It was presented to the Oasis Fellowship in Wichita, Kansas. Though you may miss some things without the verbal presentation, the slides are mostly self-explanatory. You will need a PowerPoint program to view the slides –  you may  download a free viewer here. The slides will display as set in your viewer. Please click on the link below to start the program.

Oasis

 

(c) This program is not copyrighted. Please use or share it freely.

Needed: Local Advocacy and Action on Climate Change

Sat ,08/07/2017

There were three great letters in the Wichita Eagle recently. The first describes how renewable energy is growing and may soon meet much of our energy needs; the second describes the advantage of using a Carbon Fee and Dividend system to reduce pollution; and the third describes how cities may use electric vehicles in their transit system to cut air pollution.  The letters are printed below with the authors’ permission.

Green energy (Wichita Eagle, June 28, 2017)

I read with interest the column by Ed Cross about energy and the need for American energy independence. I’m afraid I need some help defining his  “extreme environmental activist.” Is it a person who favors any type of energy besides fossil fuels? Is it a person who wishes to return the United States to using coal entirely to produce our electric power?

I would guess that Cross did not enjoy the latest statistics from the alternative energy sector: In the first three months of 2017 the entire United States derived 10 percent of its electric power from solar and wind energy.

If you look at the mathematical curve describing the growth of solar and wind power in the past 10 years, it is exponential. Naysayers regarding green energy have said for years it is a mere Boy Scout experiment, it will never produce significant power.

The power that was produced last year by green energy sources in the United States exceeds the total electric power consumed by the entire nation in the year 1950. The United States at that time was a highly developed industrial nation that was producing vast quantities of steel, and other high-value, energy-intensive products.

There is no question that if we stay on course with where we have begun, green energy sources will clearly surpass fossil fuels for every purpose within the next few years.

If Cross is so interested in American energy independence I am puzzled as to how he can be opposed to American green energy. By definition green energy must be produced here in our country and nowhere else.

PATRICK J PIROTTE, WICHITA

 

Coming together on an energy policy (Wichita Eagle, June 30, 2017)

The op-ed (June 25) by Edward Cross calls for energy policy discussions without the divisiveness of the past. I agree.

As a volunteer with non-partisan Citizens’ Climate Lobby, we bring Republicans and Democrats together to talk about energy and climate solutions. We have identified a market-based solution called Carbon Fee and Dividend that grows the economy, levels the field for foreign trade, and puts more money in the pockets of consumers. Four of the six largest oil companies signaled their support for this type of plan just last week.

I appreciated Mr. Cross reporting an improvement we can take comfort in, that from 2005 to 2016, 60 percent of carbon reductions in electric power production were due to fuel switching from coal to natural gas. Kansas wind helped reduce CO2 as well. Switching from coal to gas cuts emissions about 50 percent, but wind or solar cuts it to zero.

Americans want a common-sense energy policy like Carbon Fee and Dividend that sparks innovation that appeals to liberals and conservatives. No yelling needed, just respectful discussions.

DARREL HART, WICHITA

 

City’s emissions ( Wichita Eagle, July 2, 2017)

It is hard to believe that Wichita has a smog problem, but it does. Wichita’s Department of Public Works should be commended for its work in reducing ozone emissions, but more needs done.

Wichita could further reduce emissions by buying electric vehicles when its buses and vans need replacing. Park City, Utah, replaced its diesel buses and found that, though they cost more to purchase, they saved money over time. They reported an equivalent 21 mpg compared with 4 mpg for a standard diesel bus.

Large power plants produce about twice as much work for a given amount of fuel as an internal combustion engine. That means that using electric vehicles cuts fuel use and emissions by about 50 percent. By using electric vehicles, Wichita could save money on fuel and maintenance, cut ozone emissions within the city, and reduce carbon emissions overall by about 75 percent. That sounds like a good investment.

J.C. MOORE, KECHI

Note : This letter was shortened for printing so a bit more explanation is needed. Because of the efficiencies involved, using electrical vehicles cuts the emissions by about 50%, even if charged from a coal-fired power plant. Since Wichita uses Westar Energy which gets 51% of its electricity from non carbon sources, the emissions are cut in half again, giving an overall reduction of 75%.  And, the emissions are at the power plant rather than within Wichita.

The authors are members of the Citizens’ Climate Education and the  Citizens’ Climate Lobby  groups in Wichita. They are both strong advocates for a carbon fee and dividend system to ensure clean air, pure water, and a healthy future for our children.

Environmental Security and Renewable Energy

Thu ,18/05/2017

Below are two letters published in the Wichita Eagle recently. They remind us that there are many reasons for taking action on climate change. They are reprinted  with the authors’ permissions.

 

Grow economy with wind energy

 As a 30-year-old living in the middle of Wichita, I am constantly thinking about job growth and how to keep my friends from moving away to states with job opportunities more in line with their needs. I am in love with this state because of its natural beauty – prairie grasses, limestone and sunsets that I can enjoy nearly every day.
The more I learn about renewable energy, the more excited I become for what it could do for our state. At a legislative roundtable in 2013 discussing the benefits of Kansas wind energy, they said that more than 13,000 jobs could be created from construction and operation of wind turbines. The American Wind Energy Association reports as of late 2016 that Kansas has 4.4 gigawatts of wind capacity.
What if we utilized our energy capabilities right here instead of purchasing coal from other states? Let’s grow our economy and start thinking of alternatives that would withstand our extreme realities of droughts and floods, employ citizens, and allow Kansas to become more energy independent.
Alisha Gridley, Wichita

Environmental security matters

Let’s talk about security – the state of being absent of danger or fear. The types of security are many: home, health, food, financial, cyber, national, etc.What may not come so readily to mind is environmental security — which is to live in an environment that provides clean air and water and a predictable and livable climate.
Inaction on climate change poses a threat to our environmental security. Climate scientists are convinced, based upon a vast body of evidence, that human-caused climate change is happening. Unabated, climate change will result in an increase of extreme weather-related disasters and coastal flooding that will consume an escalating percentage of our gross domestic product, putting our economic and national security at risk.
The U.S. House’s Bipartisan Climate Caucus recognizes this risk. This group, split evenly with Democrats and Republicans, promotes legislation that would collect a fee on fossil fuel production and distribute all the collections equally among the American citizenry as a dividend. This offers a market-based approach to deal with climate change and achieve environmental security.
RICHARD COWLISHAW, WINFIELD
 
Note: Both authors are members of the Citizens’ Climate Education and the  Citizens’ Climate Lobby  groups in Wichita. They are both strong advocates for a carbon fee and dividend system to ensure clean air, pure water, and a healthy future for our children.

Westar Energy’s Proposal to Increase Rates on Solar Customers

Tue ,16/05/2017

Westar Energy is proposing a rate increase for customers who install solar panels or other distributive energy sources. Those Net Energy Metering (NEM) customers would have to choose between an additional $50 a month energy charge, or a $15 fixed fee plus a per-kilowatt rate demand charge based on the previous month’s maximum usage. If approved, Westar’s rate proposal will increase the payback time for installing solar panels from 12 years to more than 20 years, greatly discouraging solar installations.

As a Westar stockholder, I am opposed to additional fees or higher charges on Net Energy Metering customers. The NEM customers should be seen as a resource rather than a liability and should be encouraged. They should be treated just as any other customer when they draw energy from the grid, and just as any other supplier for the net energy they produce. Does it really matter if Westar buys energy from NEM customers or from the Southwest power pool?

Westar’s website  says it will “support public policies and initiatives to accelerate the development and use of environmentally beneficial and cost effective strategies for energy efficiency programs for both customers and Westar’s own operations, zero – or low – emissions generation technologies, and renewable energy resources.”  That is a good policy, but this proposal is inconsistent with it.

One of the biggest future costs to Westar would be to build additional power plants, so Westar encourages energy conservation.  If I cut my electricity usage by 50% by installing more insulation and storm windows, I am applauded for following Westar’s conservation guidelines. If I cut my electricity usage by 50% by installing solar panels, I would be charged a higher electric rate. That is irrational, as NEM customers would help reduce the need for new power plants just as energy conservation does.

Westar should not be concerned about losing revenue from solar customers. Residential customers pay 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 the fees were added. NEM customers will pay less for energy charges, but will still pay the other fees. If Westar makes it too expensive, then potential NEM customers may install extra battery  capacity such as a Powerwall, and withdraw from the grid entirely.

Distributive generation should be seen as a resource. Westar has been proactive in developing wind and solar energy and now gets 51% of its energy from noncarbon sources. In the future, Westar will need to replace some of its coal power plants and may need to reduce its use of natural gas to cut its greenhouse gas emissions. Distributed generation would help replace the energy they produce without requiring capital investment from Westar.

NEM customers will help reduce pollution and environmental degradation. Westar has three coal-fired power plants which operate without scrubbers. Those plants should be phased out immediately and Westar should begin phasing out its other coal-fired power plants to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Though natural gas is cheap now, that may not be true in the future. There is a link between fracking and earthquakes, and fracking activities are being curtailed. This will lead to higher gas prices. Though natural gas produces 2 ½ times as much energy per mole of carbon dioxide produced, it has a global warming potential 82 times that of carbon dioxide. If even 4% of the natural gas used for energy is leaked during production and transportation, then any advantage of using it for fuel will be lost

Coal-fired power plants release mercury, chromium, lead, cadmium, arsenic, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide,  particulates, and radioactive isotopes. Burning  coal releases millions of tons of pollutants into the air and leaves several hundred million tons behind in the coal ash. Some pollutants stay in the air and others eventually find their way into the water, the food chain, and into us. The heavy metals are carcinogenic and accumulate in tissue. Even exposure below the allowed levels increases the chance of cancer over time. The sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, and carbon dioxide released by coal combustion harm plants, produce acid rain, and increase the greenhouse gas concentrations. Switching to renewable energy would greatly reduce these pollutants and help preserve the environment for future generations.

Encouraging NEM will benefit Westar and its 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 for 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”.

Similar research studies in Vermont, New York, California, Texas, and Nevada also concluded that net metering provided a net positive benefit for utility companies and their customers. A 2015 study done in Missouri is 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. Westar certainly should encourage more.

This proposal to impose a fee or higher rates on NEM customers is the result of short-term thinking. It will harm Westar and its stakeholders in the long run. Investing in clean energy protects the environment, reduces deaths and disease from air pollution, and creates good, local jobs. Westar  must develop policies to encourage the development of renewable energy investments and energy conservation. Our energy needs will best be served by a mixture of traditional and alternate energy sources, but we must be proactive in developing our renewable energy resources as quickly as possible.

 

(c) 2017 – J.C Moore