Morning Ed: The Planet {2017.07.24.M}

It’s actually kind of weird how much stuff like this bothers me, compared to more pertinent environmental concerns.

India has a less-than-ideal solution to its air quality problem.

Geothermal energy in New York! Has anybody found an environmental problem with that geothermal yet?

The oil companies have been turning towards gas, but maybe that’s a mistake?

Michael Rubin talks nuclear.

The House voted to prevent another Keystone Pipeline blockage by stripping the president the ability to stop a pipeline, among other changes.

Remember that if you oppose fracking, you stand with Putin! (Same could be said for opposing the Paris Accord, of course.)

Wow, global warming really does look like it’s going to be badass.

Explosions in Siberia, lost permafrost in Alaska, and sinking islands in North Carolina, attributed to climate change.

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Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

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37 thoughts on “Morning Ed: The Planet {2017.07.24.M}

  1. Has anybody found an environmental problem with that geothermal yet?

    Environmentalists only oppose energy sources that are used.

    The House voted to prevent another Keystone Pipeline blockage by stripping the president the ability to stop a pipeline, among other changes.

    Rolling back the imperial Presidency seems like a good idea. Every economic improvement probably can be opposed on grounds of “global warming”.


  2. India: Um, where’s the solution? And finally, an air quality list pittsburgh isn’t on!

    Geothermal: warming aquifers changes the fish population.
    (Of course, this is what happens when you’re not using a closed loop).


  3. Actually you can get a lot of the benefits of geothermal by putting in swimming pool sized tanks heat pumps and the like. for example for winter use you can put in a solar water heater and then use the energy in the water to drive the heat pump. For summer in the north put in a set of radiators to cool the pool at night, and run the heat pump in AC mode. ( Or cool the pool with the heat pump from 11 pm to 8 am when electric use is lowest).
    Anyway it would be interesting to see over a year long basis where the net effect on the ground water temp is negative and where it is positive. I suspect that in Upstate NY it is negative as more heating is needed than cooling.


    • Heat pumps, whether air, water or ground source, still have all of the electrical pumps and fans that a standard AC unit requires. The big difference is the reversing valve in the middle of the system that allows the unit itself to change the direction of heat transfer. Indeed, you still need some form of de-icing for the coil, without which you will have an inoperable system. There is no energy in the water unless you are talking about tidal action? The plus of this type of system is the ability of using the pump as an efficiency multiplier, where a gas heating system only works on a one-to-one ratio.


        • Well, all energy is molecular movement, which is heat in some form. Whether you can do anything with it remains to be seen. The heat in a pool isn’t enough to power the compressor needed in an AC unit.


          • Yes, but if the ‘movement’ is largely limited to the molecular level, we call it heat. It doesn’t become kinetic until you have movement at the macro level.

            As for ‘s comment, whether or not the heat from the water running through the solar panels can do any work depends on what kind of work being done (he isn’t terribly clear on that). If you are trying to spin a turbine, solar panels won’t be very useful. However, if you are trying to improve the heat content of the geothermal reservoir by running that water through solar panels, and thus improving the overall system efficiency of the heat pump, it’s not a bad idea, since even in the winter the sun can add quite a bit of heat to your tank.

            Provided you have a lot of sun in the winter. Where I live, it would be a waste of time in the winter, we just don’t get enough sun. But that’s OK, because it doesn’t get cold enough to really kill the efficiency of an air exchange pump, except for a couple of days a year (my gas furnace only kicks on a handful of times during the winter, and usually only for a few hours in the very early morning).


      • The trick with a heat pump is to have a minimal temperature difference between the source of the heat and the place where the heat is delivered (or the reverse in cooling mode). For example air source heat pumps work well to about 30 F air temp and the heat gain begins to fall off below there. Since in the continental us we are talking about ground water temps above 40 almost everywhere (except in high mountains), you get a good energy multiplier using ground water to provide the heat in a heat pump. (likewise in cooling mode, the ground water means you are almost moving the heat to a cooler sink than its source so it is very efficient).
        Note that ground source heat pumps don’t need to defrost unless the ground water is very cold, just keep the water moving moving thru the heat exchanger and it wont freeze.


        • That is all very true, but my point was that there are quite a few electro-mechanical components to the heat pump, non of which can be powered by heat in the water. As you point out the water in a water-source pump works well as the exchange medium, due to not freezing nor generally heating past a certain point. Similar effect with ground sourced heat pumps. And again, the mechano-elec. part of the system still needs power brought to it.

          Heat pumps are neat and I always liked working on them, but the do present several additional aspects that have to be dealt with specifically (reversing valve, defrost mode.)


          • But if you want heating efficiency you can’t beat the heat pumps. For example with a water table temp of 50 F you will get around 3-4 x (depending on the unit) the heat that you put in as electricity. so they beat any furnace and if you factor in losses at the power plant still produce more heat than the energy input. Actually I have seen Canadian documents pushing newer model air sourced heat pumps in the Yukon.,It appears that it is possible to get them to work to near 0 F at least. Even with regular model heat pumps I am surprised there is not a push to put them in further north as units to heat during fall and spring (when the outside air is above freezing).


  4. I appreciate the level headed analysis and commentary about nuclear power from Rubin, but I am convinced that until people understand how radiation works (& doesn’t work), all the level headedness in the world will be useless in the face of the demon, fear.


    • National electricity statistics are largely a waste of time, since the three nearly-isolated parts of the power grid have such different numbers. Western Interconnect power generation by type for sources producing more than 1% of the total for the first four months of 2017 (percentage shown in parentheses): conventional hydro (31.5); coal (22.0); natural gas (21.4); nuclear (8.5); wind (7.8); solar (4.3); geothermal (2.5). For the Texas Interconnect: natural gas (40.9); coal (28.6); wind (19.3); nuclear (9.3). For the Eastern Interconnect: coal (32.7); natural gas (28.0); nuclear (26.1); wind (5.6); conventional hydro (4.3); wood and wood-derived fuels (1.3).

      Adding the renewable sources up, we get Western 46.1%, Texas 19.3%, and Eastern 11.2%. The renewable shares will decline as the year goes along — spring is a good time for hydro and wind. Just to pull the numbers out in one place for nuclear we have Western 8.5%, Texas 9.3%, and Eastern 26.1%. For full-year 2016, the nuclear percentages were quite close to those numbers. For reactor count by interconnect, the Western will be down to four in a few years, Texas has four, and the Eastern has ~90.

      The argument put forward in the short piece — that nuclear is responsible for a 20% of the power output, and two-thirds of the low-carbon output — is an average that applies to none of the actual three grids. Using the first four months figure, the Eastern Interconnect numbers are 25% and three-quarters. In the Texas, 9% and one-third. In the Western, 8.5% and less than one-sixth.

      Three grids, three distinct situations, three different solutions needed.


        • And should. Tectonically stable, no tsunamis or other major natural events, tons of fresh cool water and not a solar or wind powerhouse, IL seems a great place to put a plant for base load power.


          • Which are reasons why Illinois has 11 reactors, more than the Texas and Western Interconnects combined. Some of the reactors in Illinois are load-following, and used to throttle back at night. Much of the northern part of the state is now part of the PJM regional transmission organization in order to sell the excess nighttime power from those reactors into the lucrative Mid-Atlantic markets.


          • Actually given the relatively low temp of nuclear plants, and the resultant loss of efficiency, why not move them to Hudson Bay where the water is much cooler and thereby increase the efficiency. Use HVDC to move the energy south. (HVDC has much lower losses smaller footprint etc)

            Further you can build them as Candu reactors not the US based model but the Canadian one.


      • Obviously this is evidence of my own naivete, but if you had had me guess which of the three grids used the most and least nuclear, I’d have had the West for most and the East for least. Go figure.


        • Serious question, I’m curious why you would think that. I’m familiar with the timing of various things that made it unlikely the West would end up as heavily invested in nuclear, but wonder what the perceptions of an East Coaster are.


          • A few things (not likely correct in any way but my perception):
            – Nuclear feels newer than things like gas and coal and the West Coast feels “newer”
            – All that space would seem to make nuclear appealing because you could more easily put it far away from population centers
            – Culturally, my sense is that East Coasters would be more likely to get their panties in a bunch about nuclear tech whereas I interpret folks out west (more so “Big Sky Country” than “Pacific Coasters”) as a little more reasonable about such matters

            Of course, I would have said hydro was like, 2% so what do I know? Is that like the Hoover Dam making hay?


  5. So there seems to be some confusion on the “geothermal energy” link. This isn’t about generating electricity. Such a thing exists: pump water deep underground where the rocks are really hot and it comes back up as steam under pressure to drive a turbine. Very environmentally friendly and a nice base load generator, but it’s only practical in certain areas that are geologically suitable. In the US that’s along the west coast where all those pretty volcanoes stand.

    What this article is talking about is really old, established tech that makes ac/heat pumps more efficient. If there’s a breakthrough here it might be in making the installation more cost-effective since that’s been the real barrier to more widespread adoption.


  6. The Scientific American article on the sinking Atlantic coastline is amusing.

    The science panel report concluded that tides could rise by 6 to 11 inches over 30 years in northern parts of the state if greenhouse gas pollution rates continue, or an inch less than that if they’re substantially reined in.

    The fix is far smaller than the error bars of the estimates, with 5 to 10 inches versus 6 to 11 inches. The overlap means we could keep pumping out CO2 and get only 6 inches of sea level rise, or slash CO2 and end up with 10 inches of rise. Place your bets.

    They keep calling it a crisis when it’s virtually impossible for humans to work slowly enough to just stay ahead of the problem. Once potential solution is to put road and levy crews into cryosleep and only wake them up for one or two weeks per decade. Or they could hire some dyke jumpers and windmill winders from Holland, much of which is far below sea level.

    Interestingly, the astronomers have a paradox because their incredibly accurate measurements of the Earth’s rotational velocity, and thus its angular momentum, don’t show any abnormal sea level rise, and their methods are accurate enough to see land subsidence and polar vortex winds. So the good news is that if the sea level is rising at a faster rate, the extra water is completely massless.


    • George,
      NIST says that the world is slowing down. That’s quantifiable (thank einstein).
      And yes, it does show that man has been making water rise from where it used to live.

      You REALLY don’t know jack damn about anything, it would appear.

      And, I mean, that’s not a problem. But you’re a knowitall who doesn’t know anything, and that makes every single damn thing you say completely discredited.


      • Just to be clear, the world is slowing down (it’s rotational velocity is, anyway) because of the moon. The Earth has tidally locked the moon, and the moon is slowly returning the favor. Granted by the time this happens, the human race will either be extinct or fully invested across the stars.

        Still, any additional slowing would have to be noticeable on top of what the moon is doing.


      • Of course the Earth’s spin is slowing. It’s almost always slowing because of tidal forces. It’s also slowing a slight bit because the sea level has been increasing since the end of the last ice age. What the data doesn’t show is any acceleration in the slowing due to an acceleration in sea level rise.


          • Your link confirms what I’ve been saying.

            From your link we have this data:
            The Three Gorges Dam will top out at 574 ft above sea level, and contains 39.3 cu km of water. This will slow the Earth by 0.06 microseconds per day.

            Now, the amounts the sea level change people are looking for is vastly larger. Antarctica has an average height of 8,200 feet and Greenland’s average height is 8,400 feet, both 14 times larger than the height of the dam, and both located near the poles, where the loss of mass would slow the Earth far more than a change in a temperate location (cosine of latitude stuff).

            The volume of the Three Gorges Dam is only enough to change sea level by 0.109 mm, and it can only do it once.

            The alarmists claim that the sea level rise is accelerating by 1 to 2 extra mm per year due to mass loss in Antarctica and Greenland. If the astronomers can see the Three Gorges Dam change the Earth’s spin, then the missing change from increased sea level rise over the past twenty years is very prominently missing because it should be many thousands of times larger than the change from the dam.

            And yet they can’t find it. All they find is the normal old rise. Hence Munk’s Enigma.


      • Munk’s Enigma, a paper on the mystery of why the Earth’s spin isn’t showing the increases in sea level the alarmists are screaming about.


        This paper does little toward solving the problems of the historical rise in sea level. In looking for causes, I have applied what Edward Bullard (31) has called the “Sherlock Holmes procedure” of eliminating one suspect after another. The procedure has left us without any good suspect (it is a matter of attribution, not of error bars), but I am reluctant to accept large error bars as definitive evidence for dismissing the traditional estimates of 1.5–2 mm/y for the 20th century sea level rise.

        Thermal expansion was the candidate of choice at the time of the first IPCC review. This choice has been almost foreclosed as a major factor by the recent compilations of Levitus and by recent model calculations that account for the incremental ocean heat storage as a consequence of greenhouse warming. The computed steric rise is too little, too late, and too linear.

        The rotational evidence, although convoluted, appears to rule out a large eustatic contribution from melting on Antarctica and Greenland, assuming that the measured J?2 is representative of the 20th century. However, an enhanced contribution from glacial melting and other midlatitude sources is NOT ruled out by the rotational evidence.

        Cabanes et al. (16) have demonstrated that the historical estimates of ?? (here taken at 18 cm/cy) are severely biased by a concentration of tide stations in areas of recent warming, and that global estimates have to be radically revised downward. It remains to be demonstrated whether this bias extends to the traditional estimates for the rise in sea level on a century time scale.

        Among the many possibilities for resolving the enigma, we suggest the following:

        Traditional estimates of the combined (steric plus eustatic) sea level rise (in the range 1.5–2 mm/y) are much too high [the Cabanes et al. (16) view];

        Levitus estimates of ocean heat storage and the associated steric rise are much too low;

        rotational bounds on the eustatic rise are not valid (see text);

        generous error bars in all these estimates mask the enigma (IPCC);

        all of the above;

        none of the above.

        Sea level is important as a metric for climate change as well as in its own right. We are in the uncomfortable position of extrapolating into the next century without understanding the last.

        Most likely: Bug eyed alarmists who desperately need to find alarming increases in sea level have been making it up, consciously and unconsciously. But conservation of angular momentum is not easily fooled.


        • I can’t figure out what that means.

          But anyway, a more recent paper explained Munk’s Enigma with a new model of the inner core rotation, so now the 20th century sea level rise is okay with the laws of physics.

          However, that paper, published in 2015, only looked at Munk’s original span that went to 1990. That’s because if they included later data the paper probably wouldn’t have been published, because the change in day length after 1990 dropped back closer to zero, meaning the sea level rise decelerated instead of accelerated, contrary to the “consensus”.

          I got banned by ArsTechnica for pointing this out. I had questioned dogma, and questioning dogma isn’t allowed.

          delta day length graph

          Angular momentum says the sea level consensus is quite wrong.


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