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Posts Tagged ‘fossil-fuels’

Fossil Fuel Subsidies: The True Cost of Energy

Tue ,03/05/2016

The Wichita Eagle recently published an interesting  letter from Darrel Hart, president of the Wichita chapter the Citizens Climate Lobby. He pointed out that the House energy and water development bill , as it stands, provides subsidies of $95 million for wind, $632 million for fossil fuel and $1 billion for nuclear.

The letter goes on, “Clearly when it comes to winning subsidies, wind falls short. Legislators favoring carbon-based fuel spin the idea that if wind were economical, it could compete without government help. Well, what does that say about fossil fuel? It has been receiving billions in subsidies for decades.

Lopsided subsidies and favored treatment reveal the intent to pick winners and losers. A better solution is carbon fee and dividend legislation that cuts greenhouse gas emissions and corrects the artificially low price of fossil fuel created by tax dollars rigging the system against clean energy. Let markets reveal the true price of energy, and it will be the consumer who chooses the winner.”

Mr. Hart certainly has a good point, as carbon fuels are not paying their true cost.  windmill4Besides the $632 million subsidies to fossil fuels, we are also providing an even greater subsidy by allowing them to release their waste products into the air without paying the external costs, i.e., the costs indirectly borne by society.

The external costs for fossil fuels include health and environmental damage from particulates, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, chromium, mercury, arsenic, and carbon emissions. An EU funded research study, Externalities of Energys ,  found that including external costs would increase the cost of producing electricity from fossil fuels by 30% for natural gas to 90% for coal, if costs to the environment and to human health were included.

The carbon fee and dividend system Mr. Hart is recommending would put a fee on carbon at the source, which would require the fossil fuels to include their external costs.This would allow renewable energy sources to compete with fossil fuels on an even basis, and would greatly favor a switch to renewable energy.

(c) 2016 J.C. Moore

Climate Change: Science and Solutions

Thu ,21/04/2016

This presentation was given at the Great Plains Conference on Animals and the Environment at Fort Hays State University for Earth Day 2016.  The first part of the program presents the evidenceccl1 for climate change and explains the urgency for taking action. The second part of the presentation explains the Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s  proposal to reduce our carbon emissions below 1990 levels by 2035.  The plan, with broad bipartisan support, would place a fee on carbon at the source and allow market forces to encourage reduced emissions, energy conservation and investments in renewable energy.

Science and Solutions 

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. The slides were meant to be somewhat self-explanatory, but if you have questions you may email the author or post your questions in the comment section. The slides were  prepared by Darrel Hart, Mark Shobe, and J.C. Moore.

Carbon Fee and Dividend: How Much Fuel Makes a Ton of Carbon Dioxide?

Mon ,11/01/2016

In Paris, 196 countries agreed to develop plans to reduce their carbon emissions in such a way as to keep global warming below 1.5°C.  Although each country will develop its own plan,  the best plan for the US, and many other countries, would be a carbon fee and dividend system such as that developed by the  Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), which has broad bipartisan support.  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 fee collected is not a tax as it would be distributed equally to every household as a monthly energy dividend.

CO2 equivalent emissions: CCL’s legislative proposal would set an initial fee on carbon at $15 per ton of CO2 emission or CO2 equivalent emissions with the fee increasing by $10 each year until the US emissions drop to 1990 levels. The main contributors to CO2 are combustion of coal, natural gas, and gasoline, with minor equivalent emissions coming from other industrial chemicals.  A little chemistry allows us to calculate the tons of CO2 that a ton of each fuel produces.

Coal: It is hard to calculate coal’s contribution exactly as it has from 65% to 95% carbon and the rest is impurities. Those include mercury, cadmium, lead, manganese, selenium, sulfur, nitrogen, and some radioactive elements. Much of the environmental damage and many cases of lung disease can be traced to the impurities and to the mining of coal. For calculation purposes we will assume that coal is all carbon as graphite, but keep in mind that each source of coal is different.

The chemically equation for the reaction of carbon with oxygen is:

co22

 

 

 

 

Carbon       +     Oxygen    =>        Carbon Dioxide

The mass of each atom or molecule in atomic mass units (MU) is written on the atom. The equation says that 12 mass units of carbon react with 32 mass units of oxygen to produce 44 mass units of carbon dioxide. The equation is like a recipe and once you establish the basic relationship, it can be scaled up to tons quite easily, i.e. :

C            +          O2               =>                 CO2

12 MU Carbon + 32 MU Oxygen  =>   44 MU Carbon Dioxide    – or –

12 Tons Carbon + 32 Tons Oxygen    =>  44 Tons Carbon Dioxide

Thus, each ton of carbon produces 3.6 tons of carbon dioxide.

Natural gas: Natural gas is composed mostly of methane, CH4 , with small impurities of other hydrocarbon gases. Following the method above:

Rx

 

 

 

 

 

CH4            +         2O2                =>                 CO2                  +          2H2O

16 MU Methane + 64 MU Oxygen   =>  44 MU Carbon Dioxide  +36 MU of Water

16 Tons Methane + 64 Tons Oxygen    =>   44 tons Carbon Dioxide  +36 tons of Water

Each ton of methane produces 2.8 tons of carbon dioxide.

Gasoline: Gasoline is composed of many volatile liquid compounds, but it can best be represented as octane, which has eight carbon atoms and 18 hydrogen atoms, C8H18. (The model for Octane is large so here we will just work from the equation. )

C8H18     +         25/2 O2   =>        8CO2        +         9 H2O

114 AMU  Octane +   Oxygen  =>  352 AMU  Carbon Dioxide  +   Water

114 Tons Octane +   Oxygen  =>  44 tons Carbon Dioxide  +  Water

Each ton of octane produces 3.1 tons of carbon dioxide.

Note: This means that the initial carbon fee on fossil fuels would be around $40-$50 per ton of fuel. This would pay part of the external costs of using the fuel as well as encourage conservation and a shift to renewable energy. One gallon of gasoline is about 7 pounds and it produces about 21 pounds of CO2. That means that 95 gallons of gasoline will produce 1 ton of carbon dioxide. The $15 per ton carbon fee would increase the cost of 95 gallons of gas from about $200 to about $215, or about 7%.

Heat of Combustion: Each fuel releases a different amount of energy when burned, measured in kilojoules  of energy per  mole of fuel burned. Those are listed below along with another important quantity, the amount of heat released per mole of carbon dioxide released.

Fuel

 

 

 

 

Note that Methane releases more than twice as much energy as coal for each mole of carbon dioxide produced. This was the impetus to convert coal-fired power plants to natural gas-fired plants. That would help in the short term as natural gas has fewer impurities and produces more energy per mole of CO2 released.  However, there is another factor to be considered which is the Global Warming Potential of each greenhouse gas.

Global Warming Potential (GWP):   The amount that each greenhouse gas contributes to global warming depends upon its concentration in the atmosphere, it’s effectiveness at trapping heat, and its lifetime in the atmosphere. The focus is on carbon dioxide as it is the greenhouse gas whose concentration has increased the most by burning fossil fuels. Methane is very efficient at trapping heat and has a GWP 28 times that of CO2. Though methane’s concentration is low, it has more than doubled since pre-industrial times. There are other greenhouse gases which are more effective at trapping heat and have longer lifetimes, such as N2O, but their contributions are small because they have such low concentrations. Below is a table comparing those. Source.

co2 table

 

 

 

 

Although converting coal-fired power plants to natural gas might be advantageous in the short term, we should be concerned about methane’s volatile prices, the link between fracking and earthquakes, and its GWP. Large amounts of methane are lost from fracking operations, leaking gas wells, and pipeline leaks.  If even 4% of the methane produced is lost to leaks, then any advantage of converting to methane will be lost.  The EPA has taken steps to reduce methane loss to the air, but is a very difficult thing to measure. One study found that infrastructure leaks in the Boston area accounted for about 2.6% of the methane transmitted. And methane, when burned, still ends up as CO2 in the atmosphere. You can see from the table that the amount of methane in the air is growing, and rather than count on it for the future, we should focus on converting to renewable energy sources as quickly as possible.

(C) 2016  –  J.C. Moore

Note: Here is a model of octane for the curious:

octane

 

Paris Climate Conference: Pope Francis and CEOs Urge Action

Fri ,23/10/2015

On his world tour, Pope Francis called on world leaders to address climate change in November at the Paris Climate Conference. eiffelIt is not just religious leaders and climate scientist who are concerned, but business leaders who are aware that climate change will hurt the world’s economy. A recent study, published in the journal Nature, found that temperature change due to unmitigated global warming will leave global GDP per capita 23% lower in 2100 than it would be without any warming.

Joining the call for action on climate change are companies such as Nike, Walmart, Goldman Sachs, Johnson & Johnson, Proctor & Gamble, Salesforce, Starbucks, Steelcase, and Voya Financial, all who have adopted a goal of 100 %  renewable energy.  Food Companies are concerned that climate change is threatening our food supply. CEOs of Kellogg’s, Mars, Dannon, Ben & Jerry’s, Stonyfield Farms, and Nestlé have signed a letter urging US and global leaders to “meaningfully address the reality of climate change.”

By this week, 81 big-name corporations representing 9 million employees and $5 trillion in market capitalization have signed on to the President’s “Act on Climate” pledge.

 

THE AMERICAN BUSINESS “ACT ON CLIMATE PLEDGE”

 “We applaud the growing number of countries that have already set ambitious targets for climate action. In this context, we support the conclusion of a climate change agreement in Paris that takes a strong step forward toward a low-carbon, sustainable future.

We recognize that delaying action on climate change will be costly in economic and human terms, while accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy will produce multiple benefits with regard to sustainable economic growth, public health, resilience to natural disasters, and the health of the global environment.”

 

The list of the corporations taking the pledge and a summary of their pledges are listed in this White House fact sheet. Their pledges set ambitious, company-specific goals such as:

Reducing emissions by as much as 50 percent,

Reducing water usage by as much as 80 percent,

Achieving zero waste-to-landfill,

Purchasing 100 percent renewable energy, and

Pursuing zero net deforestation in supply chains.

Most importantly, these companies set an example to their peers who will be asked to sign onto the pledge before the Paris Conference.

The plan to reduce emissions with broad bipartisan support in the US is the carbon fee and dividend as proposed by the Citizens’ ccl1Climate Lobby. Their proposal would place a fee on carbon at the source and allow market forces to encourage reduced emissions, energy conservation, and investments in renewable energy. The carbon fee is not a tax as proceeds would be distributed equally to every household as a monthly energy dividend. It would effectively stimulate the economy and add an estimated 2.8 million jobs over the next 20 years. What could be a better plan?

 

(c) 2015 J.C. Moore

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

Fri ,21/08/2015

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.

bc

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.  

 

PowerPoint Presentation: The Science of Climate Change

Tue ,14/07/2015
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

Sun ,05/04/2015

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.

sadism

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

 

 

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

Thu ,19/03/2015

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 Cornwall Alliance: Dominionism vs. Science and Religion

Tue ,06/01/2015

The Cornwall Alliance has been transformed into a propaganda machine to cast doubt on climate science and to urge Christian churches to “Resist the Green Dragon” of environmental stewardship.

 

According to the Cornwall Alliance, the Christian environmental movement is a Green Dragon swallowing up our churches, saying “Both professing Protestants and o gdRoman Catholics bear a burden of guilt for the current political mess we are in with the global warming and other hysterias.” Further, NASA is complicit , ”The environmental lobby and your government [NASA] want to indoctrinate your children into envirospies watching your every move and harassing you until you change your behavior.” Such is the messages of the Cornwall Alliance under the leadership of Dr. E Calvin Beisner.

Why the attack on NASA? NASA‘s research has shown that the rising burden of carbon dioxide caused by burning fossil fuels is causing the Earth to warm and for our weather to be more severe. Dr. Beisner is upset that NASA put together a children’s website to help children understand using energy wisely to reduce climate change. Dr. James Hansen, former head of the NASA’s Institute for Space Studies is one of the most respected climatologists in the world. His most famous quotes is, “If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, CO2 will need to be reduced from the current levels of 400 ppm to at most 350 ppm.” That can only be done if we greatly curtail our use of fossil fuels, which of course would hurt the profits of the fossil fuel industry. Attacking science. scientists, and Christian stewardship on behalf of the fossil fuel industry is what Dr. Beisner does best, and the Cornwall Alliance is his vehicle for doing so.

The Cornwall Alliance: The Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, in 2000, developed the Cornwall Doctrine. Its main goal was to address the challenges faced by the very poor because of climate change. The doctrine was based on Genesis 1:28 which says, ” Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”  Generally, those who argue for Christian stewardship think that dominion means “benevolent rule”. Dr. E. Calvin Beisner, a Dominionist, apparently interprets the scripture to mean “subdue and exploit”.  It is likely that not everyone who signed the Cornwall Doctrine would agree, but Dr. Beisner  promotes his views as that of the Cornwall Alliance. The Cornwall Doctrine was viewed as guiding principles until about 2007 when Dr. Beisner formed an alliance with the Heartland Institute.

The Heartland Institute: It became apparent in the early 1980’s that carbon dioxide released by burning fossil fuels was causing changes in the environment that would impact mankind, particularly those in poor and indigenous societies who do not have the resources to adjust to the changing climate. Many churches have adopted statements encouraging environmentalism based upon good stewardship, some specifically mentioning the threat of greenhouse gases. The  Heartland Institute was identified by Riley Dunlap and Aaron McCright as a part of the Climate Change Denial Machine  which receives “dark money” from fossil fuel companies and funnel it to front groups that create propaganda casting doubt on climate science.  Dr. Beisner makes a special point that dominion is not domination; however, the men who wish to dominate and exploit the environment for profit certainly find his arguments useful. They found in him a way to counter the Christian Stewardship movement, and the Cornwall Alliance, under Dr. Beisner’s leadership, became part of the sounding board for the climate change denial machine.

The Green Dragon: In 2010, the Cornwall Alliance chose the “Green Dragon” to symbolize its campaign against the growth of the environmental stewardship movement in Christian churches. The campaign was based upon the book “Resisting the Green Dragon”, by James Wanliss.  A review of the book shows that though Dr. Wanliss is a physicist, the book was not soundly based upon physics, but upon Martin Durkin’s movie, The Great Global Warming Swindle, though the movie is based upon bad science and fraud. Mr. Durkin misrepresents his credentials, presents fabricated data, and distorts the work of scientists he quotes.  The Cornwall Alliance has produced a series of videos based upon Resisting the Green Dragon, assailing its hold on the churches. There is little truth and much propaganda in the videos. They seem designed more to protect the profits of the fossil fuel companies than to protect the Earth, or the people who depend on the Earth for survival.  Though the book and the videos try to make a case that Christian churches should abandon environmental stewardship, they are apparently having little impact.

Science: Dr. Beisner doesn’t understand science, despite claiming to be an authority on energy and environmental issues. When God created the Heavens and the Earth, he also created the laws of physics which governs them. While Dr. Beisner may interpret the scriptures to suit his purposes, the Earth will follow the laws of physics no matter what he claims. Dr. Beisner’s degree is in Scottish history, which in no way qualifies him to make judgments about climate science, nor does it give him the expertise to decide whether the science Skeptics he quotes are legitimate. Every major science organization in the world has adopted statements similar to that of the American Chemical Society which says,” the Earth’s  climate system is changing rapidly in response to growing atmospheric burdens of greenhouse gases and absorbing  aerosol particles. There is very little room for doubt that observed climate trends are due to human activities. The threats are serious and action is urgently needed to mitigate the risks of climate change.” Dr. Beisner’s pronouncements are in conflict with the theories of climate science, the empirical evidence, and the opinions of the 97% of the scientists who are active in research.

Military: If Dr. Beisner will not listen to our scientists, then perhaps he should listen to our military leaders , ” Drastic weather, rising seas and changing storm patterns could become “threat multipliers” for the United States, vastly complicating security challenges faced by American forces.” Many low lying islands, and even some of our military bases, are threatened by rising sea levels and increased tidal surges. The accelerating rate of climate change poses a severe risk to national security and acts as a catalyst for global political conflict. It concluded that climate change-induced drought in the Middle East and Africa is leading to conflicts over food and water and escalating longstanding regional and ethnic tensions into violent clashes. The rising sea levels are putting people and food supplies in vulnerable coastal regions like eastern India, Bangladesh and the Mekong Delta in Vietnam at risk and could lead to a new wave of refugees.

Religions:  Despite Dr. Beisner’s insistence that environmentalism is a Green Dragon, eating the heart of the church and leading it into sin, the leaders of our churches differ .  At its 2014 meeting in Geneva, the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches , which represent some 590 million people in 150 countries, endorsed fossil fuel divestment, agreeing to phase out its own holdings and encourage its members to do the same.  Serene Jones, the President of Union Theological Seminary in the US, which recently committed to divest its entire $108.4 million endowment from fossil fuels says, “Scripture tells us that all of the world is God’s precious creation, and our place within it is to care for and respect the health of the whole. As a seminary dedicated to social justice, we have a critical call to live out our values in the world. Climate change poses a catastrophic threat, and as stewards of God’s creation we simply must act.”

The Catholic Church, who centuries ago made peace with science, is following suit. Pope Francis will release in March a comprehensive Vatican teachings on climate change, which will urge 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide to take action. “The document will take a position in favor of the scientific consensus that climate change is real … and link the deforestation and destruction of the natural environment to the particular economic model of which Pope Francis has been a critic.” The pope also plans to address the United Nations General Assembly and convene a summit of the world’s main religions in hopes of bolstering next year’s crucial U.N. climate meeting in Paris.

Representing the most conservative of Christians, the Evangelical Environmental Alliance  take great issue with Dr. Beisner’s claim that they are worshiping a false God. They assert: “ Pollution hurts the poor the most, and Christians are called to care for the poor and the less powerful (Mt. 25:37-40). Thus, caring for all of creation provides a Christian with the deepest sense of joy and contentment since it is part of loving God.” And, recently, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ (UNCC) adopted a strong resolution on climate change that calls upon church members to “make shareholder engagement on climate change an immediate, top priority for the next five years”, to “demand action from legislators and advocate for the creation and enforcement of carbon-reducing laws.” , to “make lifestyle changes to reduce the use of fossil fuels in our lives, our homes, our businesses and our churches”, and to “to reduce the use of fossil fuels, our carbon footprint, and our complicity with the fossil fuel industry.”

Funding: Dr. Beisner is vague about the funding sources for the Cornwall Alliance. Much of its funding is given through 501©(3) organizations that do not have to reveal the amount or the donors. Though it is difficult to trace the funds, many of the paths lead from the foundations aligned with the fossil fuel industry. When Leo Hickman, in a Guardian interview, asked Dr. Beisner directly about funding, he neatly evaded the question by replying  “ Here in the US, for a variety of different reasons, you can make a donation to one charitable foundation via another foundation and the receiving foundation does not know who you are. Sometimes it’s just as simple as, ‘Hey, Jesus, said don’t let the left hand know what the right it doing.” When he was asked in an interview with Bill Moyers about his role as a  resident scholar at the Acton Institute, he acted unaware that the Acton Institute for years has received steady support from Exxon-Mobil. Anyone who thinks that Dr. Beisner is not disingenuous in what he says, should read that interview. Think Progress traced the funding for the Cornwall Alliance back to what they call the “oily operators”,  showing that Dr. Beisner is likely hiding his main funding sources. Certainly, men who wish to dominate and exploit the environment for profit, and misguided  politicians, will find the Cornwall Alliance’s arguments useful, and be willing to pay for the propaganda.

 The Indigenous and poor: Though the Cornwall Alliance receives donations from individuals and corporations, there is no evidence that any of the money actually goes to help the poor. It’s main contribution seems to be a claim that environmentalism will keep them from having cheap energy from fossil fuels to develop into industrialized nations. Dr. Beisner should realize that civilization existed for thousands of years without fossil fuels and, though fossil fuels have been a great benefit to man, abusing their use is creating conditions on the Earth that threatens poor countries and indigenous people. If they are to develop energy sources, it would likely be from sustainable sources as they do not have the wealth or the infrastructure to support a fossil fuel system. He ignores the social justice element. The countries and the people feeling the greatest effects of climate change are those with the least infrastructure and economic capacity to deal with those impacts. And they’ve also contributed the least to the problem because they’re often small economically and small in terms of their carbon footprint. So as global leaders in countries that enjoy a very high standard of living, isn’t its partly our responsibility to do something that doesn’t wreck the climate for everybody else?

Though Dr. Beisner asserts that efforts to reduce climate change will hurt the poor and indigenous people, just the opposite is true.  The poor do not have the resources to adapt to climate change or to recover from climate disasters. In many cases, climate change is threatening the way of life that has sustained them for centuries. Last year’s drought on the Horn of Africa led to widespread famine and many deaths among the poor. The people of Kashmir are concerned that the glaciers that feed their streams in the summer are receding – making less water available. The Sherpa of Tibet worry that their villages may be flooded by lakes that now form each summer from melting glaciers, held back by unstable ice dams. The Inuit in Greenland cannot use their traditional hunting grounds at the ice is too thin for their dog sleds to traverse. Those in the Arctic are having to move their coastal villages to keep them from being eroded away by wave action of open seas, which used to be ice year-round. Their inland villages are threatened because the permafrost upon which they are built now becomes a quagmire in the summer. They are being forced to change a way of life that sustained them for centuries. While some may adapt, their way of life and culture will be destroyed, and many will likely end up among the poor and unemployed. As reported in The Guardian, thousands of indigenous people from the Andes, the Amazon, and neighboring South American countries invaded the Peruvian capital during the Climate Conference. They marched outside demanding a solution to climate change, and a solution to the corporate invasions of their traditional lands.

Bill McKibben is the founder of 350.org, dedicated to reducing the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere to a safe 350 ppm. In his acceptance speech for the Right Livelihood Award, akin to a Nobel Prize for humanitarian work, he expressed it eloquently, “We stand in solidarity with Andean activists losing the glaciers that supply their drinking water, and with Bangladeshi activists watching the seas rise in the Bay of Bengal. We learn from African leaders like Desmond Tutu, who recently called climate change the greatest human rights challenge of our time, and from Sámi leaders from the top of the world, who are watching berserk winter weather wreck time-honored ways of life. We struggle alongside residents of Delhi and Beijing and the other smog-choked metropolises of our planet… We look with great inspiration to the countries like Germany that are demonstrating daily that it is entirely possible to turn to renewable energy for the power that we need on this planet.”

Conclusion: Dr. Beisner’s opinions are not only in conflict with climate scientists, our military leaders, and mainstream Christian churches, but with his own Presbyterian Church. The Presbyterian Church stated in 1989 and reaffirmed in 2008, its “serious concern that the global atmospheric warming trend (the greenhouse effect) represents one of the most serious global environmental challenges to the health, security, and stability of human life and natural ecosystems.” While Dr. Beisner may believe what he wishes, he should not bear witness to ideas which are so much in conflict with those of his own faith and with the majority of scientists, nor should he encourage others to do so. Clearly, the conspiracies theories he spins and promotes in his newsletter have little evidence to support them.

Even the book, “Resisting the Green Dragon”, upon which his attacks upon stewardship are based, was published by WND Publishing which is well known for publishing conspiracies. It seems wrong for the Cornwall Alliance to use the power and respect that people have for ministers and Scripture to criticize the Christians who believe in good stewardship. The Cornwall Alliance does just that, as resisting the Green Dragon aligns more with profit motives than Christianity. There are millions of Christians around the world who consider the Cornwall Alliance’s views, as presented by Dr. Beisner, as a misinterpretation of the Scriptures and a failure to reflect what Jesus actually taught. The only time Jesus showed anger in the Bible was when he drove the money changers from the Temple. How might Jesus feel about the Cornwall Alliance bringing corporate interests into places of worship? Perhaps Dr. Beisner should rethink whether he really wishes to do that.

(C) 2015 J.C. Moore

Bits and Pieces: Two Misguided Attacks on Wind Turbines and Electric Cars

Sun ,25/05/2014

There were two op-ed pieces in the May 25, 2014 Tulsa World which were misguided attacks on renewable energy and electric cars.

The first was titled “The Killing Fields”, with the subheading “Perverse federal energy incentive is a threat to birds, bats.” The article was written by Dr. George Fenwick who is the president of the American Bird Conservancy. The article was illustrated by an Associated Press photo which shows cattle standing in front of a windfarm in a drought prone area of Texas. It well illustrated flaws in Dr. Fenwick’s reasoning, he is more concerned about the wind turbines than about a much greater threat to bird populations.

While Dr. Fenwick had some good points in the article about the value of birds and our need to conserve them, the sensationalized article missed the greatest threat to birds. He complained about the federal production tax credit which encourages the development of wind energy, about allowing exception to the Endangered Species Act, and about siting of wind farms in sensitive areas. Wind developers are already avoiding sensitive areas and they have changed the design of wind turbines so they would be less of a threat to birds. He should have been more concerned about the bigger threats to bird populations, which are severe weather and the destruction of habitat, both made worse by global warming. Delaying the construction of wind turbines will certainly lead to more carbon emissions, making global warming more of a problem

Research shows that wind turbines are not among the top 10 human causes of bird mortality – and windfarms are likely saving HPIM2053amany more birds than they are killing. A comprehensive study of bird mortality in Canada found most human-related bird deaths (about 99%) are caused by feral and domestic cats, collisions with buildings and vehicles, and electricity transmission and distribution lines.  A related peer reviewed Canadian study of bird mortality found that less than 0.2% of the population of any bird species is currently affected by mortality or displacement by wind turbine development. They concluded that even though the number of windmills are projected to grow ten times over the next two decades, “population level impacts on bird populations are unlikely, provided that highly sensitive or rare habitats, as well as concentration areas for species at risk, are avoided.”

The fifth IPCC report says that the most important thing we can do to mitigate global warming is to switch to renewable energy as quickly as possible. If Dr. Fenwick’s sensationalized articles about “The Killing Fields” keeps us from developing renewable energy as quickly as possible, then he is working against the birds, and his own, best interest.

The second article, “Driving greener cars won’t save the Earth” by Megan McArdle essentially says efforts are futile to reduce our carbon emissions. She belittles her friend for buying an electric car and goes on that Americans are likely to do nothing significant to reduce our carbon emissions. She well documents all the ways that we waste energy and claims we are unlikely to change. She also points out that getting other countries, particularly China, to to reduce their carbon emissions is also futile. She concluded that if we want to get serious about reducing our carbon emissions then we need to find cheap renewable resources to replace our energy needs, to find a way to take greenhouse gases out of the air, or to keep the planet from warming because of those gasses that we have already put their .

Her last two suggestions show she does not have a good grasp of the scientific issues, but she is certainly right that we need cheap renewable resources. We have already found those in wind and solar, but they are not yet cheaper than fossil fuels because fossil fuels do not pay their external costs. The external costs for fossil fuels do not include health and environmental damage from particulates, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, chromium, mercury, arsenic, and carbon emissions. An EU funded research study, Externalities of Energys ,  found that including externalities would increase the cost of producing electricity from fossil fuels by a factor of 30% for natural gas to about 90% for coal –  if costs to the environment and to human health were included. If we include those  costs, then sustainable energy sources have a big cost advantage. If we wish to be serious, then we need to remove subsidies to fossil fuels, require fossil fuels to pay their external costs, and to  subsidize renewable energy sources at the same level for several decades.

This falls into a long list of defeatist articles, such as that by Robert Bryce, which says that we are not going to be able to do anything about global warming, so why try. Yes, driving greener cars alone won’t save the Earth, but conserving energy, developing renewable energy sources, changing the energy sources we subsidize, and having fossil fuels pay their external costs, will certainly help more than writing articles discouraging us from trying.

  (c) 2014  J.C. Moore