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Posts Tagged ‘fossil-fuels’

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

Green Energy Is Not a Frivolous “Add on”

Mon ,03/04/2017

Article Photo
Dr. Pirotte’s clinic with solar panels

This is a reprint of a letter to the Wichita Eagle from Dr. Patrick Pirotte, which explains why renewable energy is important for our future.

Dr. Patrick Pirotte, O.D., is a board certified Fellow in the College of Optometrists in Vision Development and treats children with vision and learning-related vision problems. He lectures nationwide on the diagnosis and treatment of vision problems in children and on the impact of vision problems on learning and classroom performance. He is a member of the Citizens Climate Lobby and is an advocate for their carbon fee and dividend system to ensure a healthy future for our children.

The letter below is reprinted with his permission:

“I read with interest recent statements by Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., about renewable energy in Kansas (Oct. 1 Eagle). To imply that the only thing that green energy is doing in Kansas or elsewhere is a frivolous “add on” is incorrect.

Currently installed wind and solar are eliminating hundreds of millions of tons of carbon dioxide while providing reliable energy at competitive prices. The idea that fossil fuel plants must be constantly kept running to back up intermittent sources such as solar or wind is not true.

When President Obama’s Clean Power Plan is allowed to go into effect, there will be a dramatic reduction in respiratory and cardiovascular diseases nationally and internationally. Proponents of burning fossil fuels should recognize these benefits and champion clean energy, saving lives and lowering health care costs.

Furthermore, the price of fossil fuels is not the just cost of fossil fuels, but also the external costs to the environment and people’s health. Because of that, there is a constant error in the way carbon pricing is discussed.

Senator Moran and his colleagues should consider a practical and well-studied proposal to charge a fee on carbon and give a dividend to each household, protecting those who would be harmed by the increased cost of their energy beyond their ability to pay. It is not a tax. Most importantly, it uses the market to send price signals to consumers to move their purchases away from fossil fuels, which will reduce climate change harm from burning them.”

PAT PIROTTE, WICHITA

 

Note: Dr. Pirotte is not only an advocate for renewable energy, but serves as an example of what can be done. He has installed 40 kW of solar panels on his 9000 square foot clinic as pictured above . They have a battery storage system and supply 90% of the energy needed to run the clinic. It is connected by a net metering system to the grid and on sunny days, particularly if the clinic is closed, his installation sends a considerable amount of electricity back onto the grid. He estimates the solar panels save him $6200 per year on his electricity costs and have a payback time of 14 years at current rates. His clinic serves as an example of how businesses can save money and energy by installing solar panels.

(C) 2017 J.C. Moore

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

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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