Report: U.S. Market Sees 50% Annual Growth
The hodgepodge of federal and state policies are favoring the growth of large-scale solar farms, which will help propel the U.S. closer to the No. 1 spot, says GTM Research.
The report above claims that the US photovoltaic market is rapidly advancing and we soon would surpass Germany in PV installations.
I am all for effective renewable energies, but PV, the way we pay for it, and the way the industry and media report on it is highly misleading, so I wrote my assessment of this report below and commented on it on the original site and others:
The total long article on photovoltaic above did not mention even once, unless I missed it, the energy generated by photovoltaic systems or the price per kWh. Why, because very little energy is generated by PV and the total price to our society is very high. Tax rebates are not free! We all pay for it. But what are we geting for our payments?
Why are energy production and cost are importantt? Because the reality is that we are in the middle of a dangerous global warming , and we must reduce our GHG. Also, the purpose of green energy should be dedicated to replacing as much fossil-generated electricity as possible with GHG-free electrical energy. And this is not happening now with PV on any meaningful scale.
We want to replace Germany's prominent position with PV? What a futility. Germany spent some 70 billion dollars over more than a decade and is now getting a miniscule one third of one percent (1/3 %) of its electricity from PV. In the mean time they are not reducing their dependence on coal power plants. Oppositely, tens of coal power plants are now in the pipeline to go on line in the coming few years. Some new ones are already on line.
So, what did the Germans achieve, more GHG from coal and the erroneous satisfaction that they are going green.
And the USA is falling into the same ignorance and waste as Germany. First we do not have billions to waste on future dreams. We do not have the time to play with GHG. Put the money into wind energy which in many cases can compete now with fossil electricity. We will general several times the electricity per dollar that PV can. Put money into R&D for new technologies including solar. Put money into central tower solar that is so much more economical and generate more green energy that way too. But do not claim that we are going green when what we are doing is giving huge profit to solar companies.
Dr. Steven Chu is not so sold on current solar PV. He said that the price has to drop by ten to one to be useful on a mass scale. And that is what we need- mass replacement of coal generated electricity by conservation, efficiency and green technologies. A utility manager told me recently that despite the drop in solar panels, the price of the PV systems remained the same to the users. The profit, however to the solar company increased. We did not get more electricity per dollar at all.
The many jobs that are generated by subsidies for solar should be given to many more workers performing energy conservation. Most of our existing housing stock is poorly insulated and waste considerable amount of energy. But conservation is not "sexy" and very little is done in this area. Why, there is no national Conservation organization that pushes our legislators, both at the local level in California, and the national level in Congress. So every one "knows" that conservation is important but we do very little conservation.
Do put money into PV but never talk, never mention how much energy is actually generated by PV and how much reduction is occurring in our GHG emission.
Sadly we are so blind to reality, it is amazing how much energy and money we waste on technologies that satisfy our emotions but not reducing our GHG.
Dr. Matania Ginosar
Environmental Scientist & Electrical Engineer
Prev. Mgr. Solar Office, California Energy commission.
A major split between developing countries has emerged at the UN climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark.
From: Developing countries split on CO2 by Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website, Copenhagen
Small island states and poor African nations vulnerable to climate impacts laid out demands for a legally-binding deal tougher than the Kyoto Protocol.
This was opposed by richer developing states such as China, which fear tougher action would curb their growth.
Tuvalu demanded - and got - a suspension of negotiations until the issue could be resolved.
The split within the developing country bloc is highly unusual, as it tends to speak with a united voice.
" Our future rests on the outcome of this meeting "
Ian Fry, Tuvalu delegate
After talks resumed in the afternoon, the Tuvalu delegation walked out when it appeared that the issue might be sidelined.
Private discussions will now continue behind the scenes among a small group of concerned countries.
Tuvalu's negotiator Ian Fry made clear that his country could accept nothing less than full discussion of its proposal for a new legal protocol, which was submitted to the UN climate convention six months ago.
"My prime minister and many other heads of state have the clear intention of coming to Copenhagen to sign on to a legally binding deal," Mr Fry said.
"Tuvalu is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change, and our future rests on the outcome of this meeting."
The call was backed by other members of the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS), including the Cook Islands, Barbados and Fiji, and by some poor African countries including Sierra Leone, Senegal and Cape Verde.
Several re-iterated the demand of small island developing states that the rise in the global average temperature be limited to 1.5C, and greenhouse gas concentrations stabilised at 350 parts per million (ppm) rather than the 450ppm favoured by developed countries and some major developing nations.......
My reflections on the above:
Marvelous! I am so glad the split is now in the open.
These small nations are not afraid to tell us the reality of GW. Their survival is in real danger.
The problem is our own future is in danger but we can not yet see it. "It will happen to them, not us" we think.
If we do not fight GW with all means we have our children would not be able to have a reasonable life. The unrealistic goal of 450 ppm would cause immense damage to the global climate in addition to possssibly triggering one of several catastrophic events we would not be able to control.
We may not be able to go back in the foreseeable future to 350 ppm but setting a fictitious goal of 450 ppm that presumably will let us live safely with the rapidly deteriorating natural world is misleading us to complacency.
We have a serious failure of the imagination, as the 9/11 Committee told us. It is very hard to comprehend the future under GW. It is beyond human experience. We want to believe it would not be serious and we could control it.
It is time to open our eyes and minds to the facts we already see and to the pending dangers ahead.
We are continuing to wish for "controlled" and "limited" temperature increase. We are playing with fire and this fire is the future of a sustainable climate.
We must do all that is possible to reduce GW. We have no other option that would not cause immense human suffering on a scale we can not imagine yet.
This was written by By Benjamin Dovečar on 03/12/2009 15:58. We must grasp it to make the needed changes in our global conduct, and most of all, in the USA, the country with the biggest waste culture.
"We live on one and the only planet but we are divided into two worlds that couldn't be more different. The first one is real, biological, the one we cannot survive without because it created us. The second one is artificial, the one we made, the one where we feel safe because we can change and adapt it all we want so that it fits our needs. This is an aggressive, technological world that is now, at the turn of the century, entering a phase that is damaging for each one of us. It is urgent that we change this overly productive and excessively consumerist world and adapt it to the capacity that this planet can still tolerate. The biological world is necessary and cannot ever be replaced. That is why it is urgent that we adapt. We need to do everything that is in our power to get rid of pretentiousness and arrogance and establish a lasting responsibility towards the two worlds. Only if these two worlds -- the biological and the technological -- unite and work together in balance, we will survive and prosper. "
The Associated Press wrote today an article showing the opposition of the fossil fuel industry, the power industry, National Association of Manufacturers, the Edison Electric Institutive, and the notorious US Chamber of Commerce to the President's decision to let the EPA work to reduce our immense emission of greenhouse gases.
Of course these groups would not want the now science-guided EPA to curtail the vast US GHG emissions. These groups are the main, and by far, the greatest emitters of GHG in the US. Any movement toward lower GHG and green energy would reduce their empire, their profits, their control over the US economy and over our Congress!
The Sacramento Bee, a main newspaper of Northern California, selected to print this misguided article in its business section and titled it:: EPA view gets chilly reaction, in very big letters.
I wrote the following letter to the editor of the Bee. I would have used much stronger terms and a longer discussion, but I was bound by the rules for letters to the editor. I would not be surprised if it would not be printed since it critic the Bee, and my past experience is that they do not like it too much.
"I wonder who selected and titled the main article on EPA in your Business section. How can a tile like that and the article be printed especially when all nations are struggling now in Copenhagen to find a common path to save our world from drastic increase in global temperature and the damages from it?
The Bee is supposed to be managed by sensible people who understand global warming. While we are fighting for humanity survival this title represents the misguided views of the coal, oil, gas and power industries that consider profit the crucial ingredient in life and certainly do not care much about civilization's survival.
These profit oriented groups are the ones who lobbied so aggressively against any meaningful energy/environment laws in Congress. They succeeded to make GW laws in Congress so ineffective for so long. And both the House Bill that narrowly passed and the Senate bill that did not yet pass suffer from inadequate regulations.
For the editors to go along with it shows a very narrow understanding how stories and titles of this nature impact public perception of this serious issue.
The Bee editors should have shown the importance, the wise move and the support that the scientific community and environmental movement give to this EPA action and the reduction in global warming it may be able to achieve."
Dr. matania Ginosar
Environmental Scientist & Electrical Engineer
Prev. Mgr. of the Solar Office CA Energy Commission
In the first part I described some critical issues that have powerful influence of fighting GW, concluding that the effort is of immense magnitude and will require trillions. Both governments and the private sector must work together to achive it. We must push them to do so.
Part II. To achive reduction in GHG citizens must participate - politically.
Some of the key steps needed:
A - Reduce energy demand by mandatory conservation and efficiency laws,
B - Reduce GHG by reducing the emissions a from coal power plants,
C - Increase the cost of fossil fuels,
D - Increase the cost of electricity,
C - Put on line as many (near) cost-effective "green" technologies as possible.
D - Invest in R & D of new technologies
2. First we must substantially increase the cost of fossil fuels as soon as possible by taxing them at the source, or point of entry. The current approach of Cap & Trade system is highly complex, inefficient, and prone to abuse. Also the public does not trust it and does not trust the people who support it, from Congress to big business, especially the main beneficiaries, the coal industry that received free credits to allow them to operate now in a business-as-usual mode; as if we have spare time to combat GHG.
3. To start significant reduction in the emission of GHG in the US we will need national mandatory laws that dictate first of all large, nation-wide, reduction in our energy consumption. Significant conservation laws and increased efficiency standards are required as the first step in any effort to reduce GHG globally. And especially in the US since we are almost the highest per capita (average per person) emitters of GHG. And we already contributed the most GHG to the accumulated total of GHG in the atmosphere. For example: India is one of the lowest per capita emitters, (about one twentieth, 5%, of ours) and we want them to reduce their total GHG emissions significantly? They can't.
I wrote the above to give you a feeling of how big is the problem and how complex it is. It is almost beyond our grasp. Piecemeal changes would not make any difference!
You may say: you are telling me it is so huge, it is so complex that average citizen can not impact the problem in any meaningful way. So, what this has to do with me and what can I do about it?.
A very good question. So, what are our options as citizens?
The normal approach by good people who care about GW is to cut our own consumption of energy and material. Good steps. Every TV we buy produce GHG in China, using the dirtiest power source, coal power plants. So, we should cut your consumption. There are many suggestions from most environmental organizations what we can do. My wife and I have done it in our home for decades. Our electricity consumption is one third of most of our neighbors, according to our utility. But these steps are not enough by a long stretch.
It feels good, we know we did your part.
But is this the issue? Can I and any one else make a difference by our individual energy reduction? As sad as it is and as frustrated we may be, our individual energy reduction is insignificant in reality. We think that millions in the US are doing what we are doing, cutting their energy use, and the cumulative effect eventually will mater. The number of people purposely reducing their energy consumption in a significant amount is very low. It does not show in any national energy statistics. We are continuously increasing the per-capita-the average per person-use of energy.
You see, may be our friends are reducing their consumption, and we hear so much about it we get the impression that it is wide spread. It is not- data shows that most of the population are not doing it and will not do it unless forced to do so. The huge purchases of large screen TV's despite the bad economy should open our eyes to the basic American desire for MORE and More.
Most people do not change their self-centered behavior unless forced to. And only national mandatory conservation laws will make significant conservation and efficiency reduction a reality.
We can not go along the old high-consumption path and reduce our GHG emissions. It is just not possible. Green energy would not be able to do it either.
How do we get national, mandatory conservation, by pressuring Congress to do so. And each of us can only pressure our own three Congressional delegates: our two Senators and one House member. This is where we could make the needed impact.
I am well aware that we do not trust Congress. We all know the negative influence of lobbyists, and the money often associated with them, on Congressional votes. We know the corruption of some members of Congress, but that should not stop us because that is the only way open to us individually to actually impact global warming.
Experience demonstrated that a relatively small number of people can create significant counterbalance to the powerful influence of contact and money on member of Congress. Most of us do not do any effort to pressure our Congressional delegation.
How do I know this, I have organized pressure on Congress for a decade on another liberal issue. I directed a citizen lobbying effort is several states concurrently as head of a national organization and it was successful when we did it with dedication and eagerness. People can influence some of their Congresspersons. Not all Congresspersons by any means, but those who are on the margin, those that are not yet sure how to respond to GW.
This is a separate subject that I will detail in the next part.
The key is to be open is the reality that concentrating on individual energy reduction is a nice thing to do and also satisfying, but it is insignificant and would not help us at all to reduce global warming on the mass scale that it must be done.
End of part 2.
Part 3 soon.
I plan to show here that the most important action we, as individuals, can take fighting GW is to pressure our three representatives in Congress. I will do that in two parts. The first one is an overview of the complexity and magnitude of the task the US faces in changing our reliance on cheap fossil fuels. It would not discuss alternative technologies but the approaches open to us. I want to leave you with the deep impression that this is an awesome task and we have to be realistic and focused in order to change our life-long energy-wasteful culture we have grown to depend on in the USA.
In the second part I plan to show: A. What the US must do and B. Why our individual pressure on Congress is so critical and the most effective way for each of us to help reduce the blotted US energy consumption and our huge Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions.
Change our attitude- open our eyes: In order to make a significant impact we must look at reality with clear eyes and do our best to face facts we do not want to see or to accept. Opening our eyes clearly is a powerful challenge to all of us since that is not the way we usually look at the world now. We continuously mislead ourselves, and many of our leaders mislead themselves and us too. Our world is inundated by misleading political and economic announcements that make it very difficult for us to distinguish between realities and make- belief. Very few experts dare to expose us to the full reality of GW because they fear they would be labeled "extremists" even by fellow scientists who are aware of the gravity of GW.
Let's focus our attention on what we need to accomplish - on our real target- massive and rapid reduction in GHG, and from that derive the practical path we need to take to reduce the intensity of GW. And I am not talking here about the technical elements or which alternative energy we should embrace. I am talking about how each of us can maximize her/his impact to improve the situation in the USA. As individuals we have no power to impact the rest of the world. But by our impact on our own government we would also impact the rest of the world.
Let's recap the essential issues to help us grasp the magnitude of the effort:
1. Humanity never faced any thing of this magnitude and severity before. Our climate is changing rapidly and we have to adapt to these changes and minimize the likelihood of more severe changes.
We do not have previous experience to rely on. It will shake our foundation and requires new approaches we never tried.
2. Fighting GW is larger than any previous human endeavor, much larger than WWII. It will demand efforts and sacrifices of a similar caliber to the size of the problem.
3. The assumption that we will not be individually impacted and we can live with ever increasing standard of living is unrealistic. We will have to make sacrifices in the U.S. to reduce the intensity of GW.
4. GW is an international problem, all nations are emitting greenhouse gases to a lesser or larger degree. Therefore, global cooperation is a must. Some nations will have to give more than others.
5. The current largest emitters are China, USA, the burning forests in Borneo and Brazil, Europe. India is fast emerging, and all other countries contribute too. Even burning of wood in poor Africa is a significant GW problem.
6. The global population of 6.7 billion is projected to increase to 9.5 billion by 2050, in just 40 years. This rapid population growth is a major contributor to GW
7. Global population continues to demand a higher standard of living that is not sustainable because of the increase demand for martial, for energy, and the associated increased in GHG emissions.
8. Over 200 million poor, rural Chinese that now consume little energy will be moving into the middle class in the next ten to fifteen years. Some 200 million Indians are expected to move to higher consumption too. This increase consumption by 400 million and additional people around the globe, will significantly increase the demand for material goods and for energy accelerating GW. Before the mid century this shift could be increase demand for material and energy of a similar magnitude to the EU and the USA combined.
9. The majority of stories about the coming negative impacts of GW mainly point to the poor nations in Africa and Asia. But this is misleading us to believe that somehow the US will be spared from any significant impacts.
Yes, we think, we may have some rising sea levels and it will impact some one else in Florida and the flat Golf Coast. Yes, the draughts in the Southwest will expand but we will find a solution. Don't worry. The dramatic changes in rain patterns, or more severe floods here, less water there, are not worrisome to us. Our leaders will find a practical solution and our taxes will not increase. And so many more nonsense of this form. However, several extensive studies show that this is not true. We will be impacted, each one of us and our families in the US.
10. We talk as if technology will save us by some magic. New technologies are not a magical solution since few practical options are available. We use so much energy and consume so much fossil fuel that most people, even professionals, are unable to fully grasp the magnitudes involved. Some professionals project so many options of green energies without grasping the immense amount of capital, the immense amount of material, the large amount of manufacturing capabilities needed, the long time required to build the vast infrastructures involved. They do not grasp the delays in our political systems, the need for approvals, for environmental impact studies, the imperfection of our political system, the opposition for changes from normal citizens, and the corruption in our everyday political structure. They forget the twisting of facts by our political and economic systems, to name just a few of the real hindrances to changing our energy structure. Not in my back yard is a real problem.
It took a century to develop and create our vast electrical system. It took a century to build the complex infrastructure, refineries, pipelines, distribution centers, gas stations, to supply 200 million cars in the US. It took a century to build the vast distribution system for natural gas to reach much of the housing and industry in the country. And the combined capital is in the trillions of dollars. Yes, thousands of billions.
I will leave with this question: Do you believe that our individual reduction in energy consumption, as useful and satisfying it is to us, can make even a minor dent in this global picture?
WHAT SHOULD BE DONE BY GOVERNMENT AND THE PRIVATE SECTOR:
GREENVILLE, South Carolina (Reuters) - The United States is falling behind in the race for clean, renewable energy and risks losing its prominence in high-tech manufacturing, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said on Monday.
"America has the opportunity to lead the world in a new industrial revolution," Chu told business leaders, political leaders and engineers at a Clemson University symposium.
But, he said, "The world is passing us by. We are falling behind in the clean energy race. ... China is spending $9 billion a month on clean energy ... China has now passed the United States and Europe in high-tech manufacturing. There is no reason the United States should cede high-tech manufacturing to anyone."
Dr. Chu concerns about the lack of drive of American industry to develop alternative energies are well founded. American industry is almost always interested in making fast profit above all else. We lost the electronic industry to Japan decades ago when the US electronic industry decided to seek only business that provided at least 15% profit. The Japanese accepted just 8% profit and took over the field.
To invest in the future of the country and in our economy we need to change how corporate management is rewarded. Most U.S. corporate management is rewarded according to the performance of its stock. And because our stock market emphasis is on short term profits most large US businesses care only about maximizing short term profits. This was evident in the mushrooming growth of the financial sector and its subsequent collapse.
The needs of the nation and willingness to take long term risks are not in the interest of most US business managers. Many "U.S." corporations are basically international in scope and in their interest. They see profit as their main responsibility. They will invest where they can gain the maximum rewards with the minimum amount of risk.
In addition, the lack of effective US laws that tax fossil fuels either directly or via effective Cap and Trade hinders American investment in green technologies. Senator Boxer too modest energy and enevironment bill is now blocked in Congress by Senate Rebublicans and "moderate" Democrats.
The developed countries, such as the EU and the USA, with other large GHG emitters, should cut their GHG emissions by 30% to reduce the likelihood of catastrophic events associated by increased global temperatures.
The views below by the well known and respected Lord Stern expresses my own views about the time criticality of cutting GHG.
The main stumbling block for a global agreement of this magnitude is the US. Senator Boxer effort to pass an environmental and energy bill is facing determined opposition by Republicans and "moderate" Democrats senators who are more interested in staying in power than reducing the dangers of global warming. They are unable to grasp the severity of the issue.
The most effective way for us as individuals to fight global warming is by pressuring our own three members of Congress. Write a short, simple personal letter to your two senators and one House member to tell them your own views and also call their DC office to increase the pressure. Ask friends and relatives to do the same.
Europe should impose a unilateral cut in greenhouse gas emissions of 30% by 2020, according to climate economist Sir Nicholas Stern.
Under the EU's agreement about how to divide up the cuts that would spell a UK reduction of 42% by 2020, compared to 1990 levels.
Lord Stern described this as "challenging but possible".
He said it would put the UK at the forefront of a low-carbon "industrial revolution".
The EU has promised to increase its proposed 20% cut to 30% if there is a strong agreement at next week's climate conference in Copenhagen - described by Lord Stern as the most important international gathering since World War II.
" If we fail to act strongly, we risk changing the climate and physical geography of the world in ways that would be irreversible "
He said that China and the US had already made concrete offers for the meeting, so the EU should increase the pressure with an ambitious target.
He said that would mean investing between 1% and 2% of national wealth into creating a low-carbon economy, and suggested that the UK government should put extra taxes on high-emitting sectors like aviation and shipping to raise more cash to fund the low-carbon revolution.
But the latest analysis from his team suggests that even the strongest agreement likely at Copenhagen would give the world only a "50-50 chance" of avoiding a level of emissions that the majority of scientists believe could cause catastrophic and irreversible effects.
Lord Stern, chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, explained that to avoid emissions levels associated with a 2C rise, greenhouse gases needed to drop from 47 billion tonnes in 2010 to about 44 billion tonnes in 2020.
They would then need to plunge to much less than 20 billion tonnes in 2050. He said pledges from nations so far fell short of the 2020 target by about two billion tonnes.
From: EU 'should cut emissions by 30%'
By Roger Harrabin
Environment analyst, BBC News
Full article at:
You may be interested in a note I just sent to a friend who think GW is not real.
I read the article you wrote rejecting the validity of Global Warming. As much as we do not like it and as much as you think you know about this issue, your views on global warming are erroneous. Lack of governmental action is due to our national political paralysis, due to our "self-interest above all" prevailing in our political system. There are many good, sensible elected officials, but there are more who we should not trust.
I first studied about GW fifty years ago at a University of Washington course on natural resources. We knew then the reality of GW. Our professor told us then that the US would not do anything about it since our political system is unable to deal with long term issues, since most Congresspersons are interested in the next election and this is not on their radar screen. He was right.
We have learned considerably more in the last few decades about the global climate and GW. Global warming is real and progressing. It is already impacting negatively on our California climate, on the US climate, and on the global climate. I would not discuss details; there are a number of detailed reports issued by groups of qualified scientists about GW. Unless you believe they are all unqualified and express their views just to scare us, it is hard to ignore them.
It is very hard to accept the reality of GW, humanity never faced a powerful issue of this severity, and most people would reject it. It is natural to reject GW.
I will ask you one thing, if a doctor told you have cancer and show you the test results you would not argue with him since he/she has the training, experience, and tests to arrive at this conclusion. Yes, there is a very small likelihood that he is mistaken. But will you take the change and ignore it?
I doubt it.
I am sure you know a lot about cars. This is your field of expertise. I would not argue with you on that despite being years ago a garage mechanic myself, repairing/rebuilding engines of motorcycles, cars and tractors too. How many years did you spend learning about the complexity, interaction, fragility of nature, the interaction of ocean and global temperature? About the acidity of the ocean and the food supply? I received my Doctor of Environmental Science and Engineering from UCLA twenty five years ago and I know only a small part of the complexity of nature, but I have deep respect to those who devoted their life to understand this issue.
Many people think they grasp the global warming issue because they can see the sun, smell the flowers, see the clouds, sense temperature changes, therefore they believe they are expert on global climate.
Many scientists spent decades studying these issues, testing and modeling the potential impact over time. With all due respect, you are not qualified to comments scientifically except to express your feelings, not knowledge.
Many scientists like to project what would be the best way to replace our current fossil-based energy sources with green energy. See for example the November issue of Scientific American: Plan for A Sustainable Future. MIT also has projections and so have other institutions. These projections are interesting but I wonder how influential are they?
No matter how good these proposals may be the reality is that the market place, investors, will decide what technology to invest in and how fast it would be available. Their selection, obviously, will be based on potential profits to the investors. Capital investment gravitates actively to the areas with the maximum potential for sustainable profit, return on investment. Energy related laws passed by Congress, and local laws, will influence the potential economic benefits to the investors, and could make or break the potential for large penetration of specific technologies.
It does not matter if we like this reality of the market place or not, since only private investors can raise the immense capital required for this global-wide effort. In addition, government subsidies can distort the market and in the end could even destroy it too, at least for a period, as it did to solar water heating in California in the 1980's.
The eagerness of government to support one green technology over another is not useful on the long term since legislators are neither economists nor scientists. In addition, they do not make laws to benefit the majority of the society, but often to satisfy the strongest advocates and those with more influence. The Cash for Clunkers program was a clear example of governmental waste. The $3 billion had insignificant impact on the American auto industry and inconsequential impact on GHG emission. If invested in attic insulation it could have reduced noticeably energy use in 4 million homes for decades to come, provides many local jobs, and the total money would have remained in the US.
Also note that the market can not function effectively, and could even be paralyzed for a time if there is too much legal uncertainty, that is, if the related laws are not established. The market rather lives with imperfect laws than no laws, or waits for a more desirable set of laws. The free market can not function well with legal uncertainties.
In the US Congressional laws will make significant impact on the selection of technologies by private investors since it will impact the profitability of the investments. But in China, the largest emitter of GHG, the central government, not hindered by need to satisfy the public perception or give political favors, has the ability to push through laws and regulations much faster than we can. This ability to act rapidly, and presumably more scientifically correct, is a very significant, and important difference that could impact the global effort to curtail GW. But we do not know how the Chinese government will use it and we do not know how much the semi independent local leadership will support it. We in the US are unable to respond fast enough and proper enough to this new and not well grasped issue.
If we were sensible, logical people, and not constrained by the need for Congressional favors we would increase markedly (in steps) the cost of fossil fuels and thus make it more attractive to replace them. Many in power believe that Cap &Trade will do that. The Congressional need to attract marginal legislatures, and giving favors for raising money for the next election, dictates Cap & Trade. However, the public does not trust it since it is distorted with so many favors to special interests that it is too complex to grasp, and thus difficult to trust. It reduces further the low trust the public has for Congress.
Economists generally support Cap &Trade since they may understand its complexity, but not the public. However, the public does not have any voice in this political game. As I said, special interest groups that can raise money for the next election carry a major influence on elected officials. I do not believe most in Congress grasps the seriousness and the time-criticality of global warming, and thus continue to use old methods that worked for them in the past. Those methods worked somewhat for less critical issues, the outcomes were not endangering the future of the country. They were not on the scale of GW!
The only other issue on a similar scale was WWII.
We are still using old methods- congressional extreme self interest -which led us partially to our current global warming problem, (remember Congressman Dingle's ability to stop raising the fuel millage standard for many years) to solve this grave new problem. I am greatly concerned that it would not work in time.
Dr. Steven Chu, among other scientists, did not believe in Cap & Trade and recommended fossil fuel tax before he was selected to join the administration. Now he reluctantly, I noticed, has to go along with this politically dictated direction. Most scientists are probably against Cap & Trade too since it is so convoluted, it is hard to know what long term impacts it could induce, and how fast it could reduce GHG emissions.
And time is not on our side on GW.
Friends asked me recently how to reduce their energy bills. Here are a few basic ideas.
As I write this I wonder how effective it is to know what to do vs. actually doing it. Too often I know what I should do, but for some reason, laziness, ego, or desire for immediate comfort, I don't do the things I know I should do. So, here is the information, it is up to you to overcome your own barriers and act. By the way, when I was the manager of the Solar Office at the California Energy Commission my staff suspected that I was not keen enough on solar energy. Why? Because too often when they tried to sell me a solar project I showed them that users can save five to ten time the potential energy from solar by simple conservation methods that were already available. Don't let the glamour of technology mislead you. Simple solutions are usually more cost-effective and more reliable.
You have to balance these suggestions with the amount of money you want to spent and the level of comfort you wish, but remember, THE MORE ENERGY YOU USE THE MORE YOU POLLUTE OUR LITTLE PLANET. The greenhouse effect is real and it is already impacting our globe. It is not a joke! The US is uniquely bad among advanced countries about admitting and doing anything nationally to reduce the greenhouse effects. Please do your part. Yes, to conserve you will have to reduce your accustomed level of "comfort." Take a few small steps at a time, but do them.
I. Natural gas for heating:
The cost of natural gas to consumers in California increased from 25 cents per therm (100,000 BTU) some 20 years ago to over $1.00 recently, a larger fluctuation than other energy source. Price varies often, low in summer, but conservation always worthwhile. it reduces cost and you feel more comfortable at home. Emotionally too.
0. Add attic insulation if at all possible, at least to R-30 value in non-mountain areas. This is the most cost-effective investment you can make here. Use blown-in, fire-resistant, cellular material in most cases. You could do it yourself, if you are the type, it is quiet easy, but needs two people for some 3 hours typically. Or get several estimates from utility-approved vendors. Always study the requirements/details, even if you are not a technology minded person. If you can not understand the explanation and process, go to another vendor. It may be desirable, in colder climates in California, to add under-floor insulation too (R-13 minimum). Increasing R-value (insulation level) increases the cost only marginally.
1. Reduce the temperature in the house in winter. The higher the temperature the faster it leaks to the outdoor. Dress heavier to compensate for it with long johns, sweaters, etc. Reducing temperature by two degrees equals about 5% saving. Cut temp. at night to 60 degrees max Use automatic thermostat, with seven days programming.
Space heating is the largest energy user, cooking is not significant, water heating is moderate, just cut shower time moderately. Reduce water heater setting to the lowest temperature you wish your water to be. (Dishwashers need 140 degrees for sterilization). Hot water pipes should be insulated when possible. Insulation is low cost, labor needed if difficult access.
2. Shut curtains at night, but better during the day too; use CFL, compact fluorescence lights, it is more economical. Full curtains are effective insulators. They can make noticeable differences in comfort and energy waste. Narrow, multi-sections curtains are useless as insulators.
3. Keep all heat outlets in areas you do not use almost close. Shut the doors of these areas too. They could be your buffer zones. For example, adjust the outlets to reduce heat to bedrooms. You use them basically at night, under good blankets. We use light blankets when we read in our family room since we stay in the same spot for long times.
4. Check all windows for leaks, add strip foam insulation (typically 1/4 inch wide and 3/8 thick, one side is backed by light glue, so they are self-gluing, and easy to remove or redo) where needed.
5. We recently installed plastic-frames dual glazed windows, mostly to reduce noise. They are not economically justified, in mild climates, but they do provide more insulation and more stable room temperatures. The cost, after 4 estimates, was $4,000 for 6 windows and one patio door (higher now). Good quality, but not the highest possible energy saving since the increase in cost was way beyond the small increase in performance. No need for triple gazed windows in central CA.
6. Replace old gas furnaces if you use a lot of gas and your unit is older than 20 years, or start to have trouble. Older units are in the order of 50% efficient, new ones can have up to 95% efficiency! (80% units, 2 stage units are more cost-effective). Note that the air duct system is likely to leak with time. Utilities often provide nearly full rebates ($75) for checking the leaks, and list of approved shops. Do not use duct tape to seal ducts. Use special tapes for this purpose.
7. Wood stoves may provide cheaper heat, but they do pollute the environment significantly, even good units. Don't use.
8. Ventilate the steam out of your shower and bath into the house, it will overcome the air dryness and heat the air. Leave the warm water of a bath in place until cooled, then drain. A lot of heat in bath water which can warm the vicinity.
1. The obvious things are: shut unneeded lights, and any other appliance, especially TV, bring lights down closer to the place you need them, illumination is reduced significantly with distance. You can reduce the lamp wattage by bringing the lights closer to its use.
2. Replace standard lights with compact florescent lamps in areas you leave lights longer, kitchen, garage, outdoors, and hallways.
3. Shut off computers if not used for over an hour, or put on standby.
4. Do not use "torch lights" they are dangerous and waste a lot of electricity. Get used to dimmer environment rather then bright reflective (ceiling) lights. Direct lighting is much more cost-effective.
5. When buying electrical appliances look for the highest efficiency units. Check, but often they will pay back their higher costs with energy savings during their lifetimes, but not always! (Estimate, using ten years as life expectancy.)
6. Do not buy solar systems to heat your water or home! Prices, even with rebates, are way over priced. Your actual energy use is not significant if you use low water shower heads and do not waste hot water. It takes 50 years to payback.
7. Do not buy photovoltaic systems to generate electricity. They are extremely inefficient and not cost effective. Even with many rebates they are a waste. Better spent your money to cut your energy use then encourage ineffective, high technology wasteful solutions. The hype around them is unjustified. Put your money into conservation/weatherization.
Note: Hire a reputable, recommended, energy conservation/weatherization expert if you are serious about saving energy and are willing to spend significant money for it. Good ones will save you much more money then their consultation costs. Read utility's literature and other books on energy efficiency for your home. Financial support typically available.
III. Your car:
We all know that:
1. Buying more energy efficient cars with high reliability, such as some Honda or Toyota models, will cut gas use and reduce pollution significantly. Honda is especially advanced in reducing pollution, and having high reliability. The low-energy hybrid cars by Honda and Toyota are excellent for normal driving; very small cars are less comfortable for long distances. There is a premium price of some $4,000 to 5,000 comparable to similar-size standard gasoline engines. Also, use regular gasoline, most cars do not need higher-octane and it does not improve mileage or protect your engine.
2. Don't idle a cold engine; they get warmer faster by driving for 2 to 4 minutes at moderate speed. Idling takes much longer to heat the engine since there is little energy expanded by an idle engine.
3. Change oil at intervals, and other maintenance, specified by the carmaker, NOT THE DEALER! Typically 7500 miles, or every six months. Even if you do not use the car the oil still deteriorates. It is a small cost to change oil. Note! Dealers usually recommend much unneeded maintenance that the manufacturer never asked for. Use the regular maintenance schedule, not the "special-operating conditions". It is rarely needed. Keep records. Do not neglect longer-term maintenance required, they can be critical. such as transmission oil change and timing belts change, typically every 90,000 miles. Often for a acceptable increase in cost (less than $100) during timing belt change you can also change the water pump.
4. Keep tire pressure at 32 for most uses, measured cold after less than one mile of driving. Otherwise, fill to 35 and re-measure in the morning. Fill spare tire as needed at every six month. Keep three flares, readily accessible, and tire replacement tools. Have a set of battery-start cables: 12 feet, heavy gage, not larger than number 6 wires. (No. 4 is superior).
5. Take driving refresher course every 5 years. You will be surprised how much you forgot.
In the last 20 years car paints are covered by a layer of protective clear plastic (since paints are now soft due to pollution requirements). Without this layer the paint deteriorates fast. Repair your clear plastic scratches, or your paint will deteriorate fast and the plastic layer breaks further.
WELL MAINTAINED CARS CAN LAST OVER 200,000 MILES.
Replace car if heavy gas user. Pollute the air, sends our money to our opponents, and increase global warming.
Matania Ginosar, Dr. of Environmental Science & Electrical Engineer.
Emphasis: cost-effective alternative energies.
original March, 2001. Updated 11/09
Below is what the president of Russia said a few days ago about the gravity of global warming: climate change posed a "catastrophic" threat. He is right.
Why is our own President so quiet about the gravity of Global Warming? Why his key global warming and energy advisers, Dr. Chu and Dr. Holdren, among others, have not been heard from lately saying anything of significance to wake up our sleeping population?
Before President Obama selected his key energy team, such as Dr. Steven Chu and Dr. Holdren, they talked openly about the time-criticality of global warming. They talked openly about the need for direct taxes on fossil fuels, they talked about the urgency of fighting global warming, GW. But no longer. Now they are not allowed to say anything that might interfere with the other issues before the American people and Congress.
This approach is extremely counterproductive. We are surprised that the public's concerned about global warming is dropping, but one of the key causes for this drop is the quiet emanating from the Administration's key and trusted people, scientists we were delighted to know would be part of the new administration. With no words from these key people - we get lower public interest in GW and less support for the energy and Environment bills in Congress.
We are missing the boat. As critical as the health bill is in Congress, if we do not pass it right now, most people will survive. Yes, there will be increased in suffering and deaths. But it is nothing in comparison to the damage and deaths that are around the corner from global warming.
Global warming is progressing rapidly every day and we CAN NOT ERASE THE 70 MILLION TONS OF GREENHOUSE GASES EMITTED DAILY INTO THE ATMOSPHERE. It will stay there for hundreds of years severely aggravating the already serious damage to our climate.
We should concentrate NOW on global warming. The president should put his full weight behind this issue. It is worth risking his second term to accomplish what is needed now. We can not go back and say, opps, we made a mistake.
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned on Monday that climate change posed a "catastrophic" threat in some of the sharpest comments yet on a subject the Kremlin has often seemed reluctant to confront.
Although the United States said that the consensus amongst the 19 leaders at the weekend Asia Pacific summit in Singapore was that a climate change deal this December was unlikely, Medvedev made clear he felt it was a top priority.
"If we don't take joint action, the consequences for the planet may be very distressing to the point that the Arctic and Antarctic ice can melt and change ocean levels," he said shortly before leaving Singapore.
"All of this will have catastrophic consequences."
I was sitting in the Governor's reception area a few years back, waiting to meet his energy adviser to discuss the Gov. photovoltaic initiative. I saw a stream of people going into a large conference room. Some were homemakers, young students, ministers, and businesspersons. It was quite a sight, they marched in with dynamism and hope. I asked the governor's receptionist what these people were doing. and she told me with a big smile, they were going to discuss the Hydrogen Highway.
Did you hear about the Hydrogen Highway lately? No. Because the Gov.'s proposal was based on wishful thinking and lack of basic understanding of science and technology.
I am glad that finally someone woke up to the facts and dare to tell it to the larger-than-life Governor.
Hydrogen in useful in some special, but not wide, applications. Hydrogen is not a readily available fuel. You have to produce it from other fuels, most practically from natural gas. The conversion process wastes a lot of energy too. So, why not use the readily available, easily useable natural gas?
The Governor did not consult the experienced people he should have and even if his staff knew about this folly, they might not dare tell him.
This was one of the first of the governor's energy blunders. Gov. Schwarzenegger is a charismatic man, I like him, he is full of energy and desire to improve the state and the world, but his imagination is not coupled sometimes to reality, in the energy area for sure. And the problem is multiplied by limited advice from his staff. I don't know if they do not dare to tell, or are unaware of the mistakes he is making. Or maybe politics is above reason.
The second Gov.'s. folly is his Solar on One Million Roofs. SB1 of 2005, (California Solar Initiative)
It sounds so dramatic, so appealing but it is devoid of usefulness to the state. I wish it was practical technology and approaching economic use, but it is not. Dr. Steven Chu, our Secretary of Energy, said that photovoltaic, PV, needs to drop to one tenth current prices to be used on a large scale. I agree. I have studied it in great depth, from the energy required to move the electrons inside the solar panels to the production and the motivation of the solar industry in California, the US and the global market. I have communicated often and in depth with the Japanese scientist assigned to analyze the success of the vast Japanese photovoltaic program.
The people who pushed it the hardest, and loudest are those who would profit the most from the transfer of money to their pockets, the solar industry. Most environmental supporters have their hearts in the right place, and without them society would have been blind to the importance of environmental issues, but they often lack technical-economic experience and have little knowledge of the complex issues involved. Some environmental organizations that should know better do not want to oppose their member's sentimental appeal of PV.
The total cost to the people of California, in added taxes, increase in electricity rates, government subsidies, Federal funds, including the hidden costs to the unsuspecting PV owners, would be over fifty billion, and the amount of electricity produced might be up to one percent of California total. At this rate we will break the banks before we can make any useful contribution to greenhouse gas reduction in California or the nation.
More details are available on my website: ginosaronglobalwarming.org.
I discussed the issue in great depth with one of the two California Senators sponsoring the SB1 bill in 2005, and he dropped his sponsorship. I tried to discuss it with the second sponsor but he and his adviser did not agree to meet with me. I have discussed it also with the Governor's energy adviser, just after I witnessed the mass meeting on the Hydrogen Highway I have mentioned earlier:
I presented the material I developed to the Gov. energy adviser, a knowledgeable and smart fellow. I showed him printouts of relevant research and he was upset because I answered with detailed information, and charts and figures every one of his many reservations, objections, and questions. He did not know what to do and in his frustration left the room suddenly. After he returned I understood his dilemma. How could he tell the Governor that his "Great Idea" is not based on facts and might be counterproductive to the state. I bet he did not tell the governor.
Many Assembly members opposed the bill but the Gov. pushed it through by the aggressive effort of Assemblyman Levin. I was privileged to some of the inner workings of the committee dealing with this issue by working closely with many advisers to the Assembly members at the time. But that is another story.
The latest Governor's folly is the High Speed Train from San Diego to San Francisco. What a lovely dream, what a waste of money!
Trains are efficient mass transportation, they can be fast and economical, significantly better than airplanes, trucks or cars -when they can be used on a mass scale. They are very useful on the very busy East Coast corridor and between San Diego and Los Angeles, and Sacramento region to the Bay area. But they should be used were they are practical and economical. And more than all, where they can actually make a significant difference in reducing global warming in a noticeable way. People in the California government told me that their analysis did not show sufficient riders between the Bay area and Los Angeles. It is a dream project that should remain a dream. Put our money first where the largest number of people could benefit. We do not have the tens of billions it would cost to built it when we can not pay for basic education and medical care for the underprivileged.
What we need to do is reduce greenhouse gas emissions as fast as possible. This is the essential task we are now facing to reduce the severe damage to the global climate that is already impacting the state, and will be more pronounced in the coming years. California government already acknowledged global warming as serious and need mitigations to reduce its impact on the state. Any delay put humanity deeper into a damaging scenario we are not able to grasp yet. Large number of reliable scientists demonstrated GW by real evidence we can see- at the north pole, in the majority of the world glaciers, and more, that we are on a bad trajectory.
I will not discuss here the scientific evidence, just tell you that we do not have time to play with appealing projects that do not contribute to the urgent effort to reduce the already present global warming.
So now, the Governor wants to attract federal funds, so he cut the ability of local governments to advance improvements in local mass transportation. Instead, the Gov. focuses on a dramatic project that any review will show is based on faulty assumptions. The dream is that somehow millions of Californians will leave their cars in parking lots and take a high speed train to a far destination, rent a car there and proceed to their final destination. There will not be any local mass transit to take them to their final destination since the Governor does not allow them to seek even modest funding to help improve the most practical aspects of their expansions. Most important, there are not so many people who would take this train. You would not be able to divert most of the air traffic and freeway traffic between these destinations to the train.
We need to stop being fascinated by massive dreams and concentrate on projects that are highly likely to make a read difference on GW and help the people too.
The Governor is an appealing man, his dreams are big. He succeeded to rise to a high position with his dreams, but his energy dreams are not practical and should not be allowed to divert us from our focus: cutting greenhouse gases at the maximum rate, and as soon as possible.
There are several suggested plans to reduce energy consumption of our U.S. housing stock. All these weatherization plans are appealing and useful, but ineffective when we want to slow down global warming. They are too small in number to make any impact. We do not have decades to play with these ideas and wait for impact.
To make impact by conservation, efficiency, weatherization, any of these plans must be on a mass scale all across the country and most important- MANDATORY.
We will be employing a lot of construction workers and low skill workers too. Very rapid way of building up the economy and helping the millions of unemployed.
There are some 105 million residential units in the US, from private homes to mobile homes. Most are built with minimal insulation and consume a lot of needless heating and cooling power.
It is time to do the following:
1. Make a national law that all new construction must satisfy standards tailored to specific climatic regions. See California building standards example. Good but not stringent enough for the nation under GW situation.
2. All housing units at sale or modification must be undated for some conservation standards, depending on locations.
3. Dictating Conservation/weatherization of all existing housing stock when practical and satisfy some techno-economic conditions.
All owners partially compensated, i.e. getting government grants of some percentage between 25% to 50%/ get low interest, or no interest loans, spread the cost over the life of the building.
All of these ideas are open to discussion and finalization as more details are available. However, the final plans must be mandatory, not optional.
In 1978 Paul Maycock, the manager of the photovoltaic (PV) program at the U.S. Department of Energy during the president Carter pro-green administration, funded an evaluation of economic and technical aspects of PV by the Aerospace corporation. That report erroneously claimed that PV prices will go down rapidly with time like computer chips.
As manager of the Solar office at the California Energy commission I knew that that prediction was wrong since we did two careful and independent evaluations that arrived at the opposite conclusion. The first evaluation was done by experienced electrical engineer at CEC, the writer. However, CEC management that did not have relevant technical experience could not shake their belief that PV is a highly promising green technology. After all, NASA was using it successfully for space applications for years, they told me. NASA had no price limitation; the situation was not in the same ballpark. Also, "everybody" was saying PV is the promising green technology.
CEC management, therefore, funded another, fully independent study to verify the conclusions by an outside evaluator, a professor of Electrical Engineering at CSU - Sacramento. Both studies had identical conclusions that distributed PV (small roof systems for example) made of silicon panels, the main PV technology used for the last forty years, and today, would continue to be exceedingly expensive and would not be able to supply much electricity to the grid. In remote locations without connection to the grid, and requiring very small amount of electricity PV could be very useful.
When I read the Aerospace study I flew to Los Angeles, met with the two authors to discuss their report. It was disappointing to see how little they understood the technology and economics of PV or that type of technology, and how little effort they put into understanding the issues. As a long-term, experienced electrical engineer who worked intimately with integrated circuits (silicon chips) I lectured and wrote a corporation manual to encourage their use. I become adviser to several corporations on the potential use of integrated circuits. I knew the chip technology well and consulted to several corporations about their expanded use. Among the many companies I advised were the two inventors of this technology: Texas Instruments and Fairchild. I also had an hour discussion with Dr. Robert Noyce, one of the founders of Intel later on future trends.
My detailed discussion with the Aerospace staff indicated that they knew very little about the silicon chip technology, not even the basics. They had a price/time curve for PV showing just one valid point at the top-left-- then current price of PV. The rest had no reference points. They explained to me it is "just similar to price drop that computer chips had" -.
I believe it was a serious mistake not to use a peer review before releasing this report
Here is the basic fallacy re price comparison of PV and computer chips:
Contrary to the permanent statement that computer chips went down rapidly in price with larger quantity, actually computer chips did not go down in price once out of R&D and into large production. In facts chip prices went usually up! The chips became bigger and more complex with more computing capabilities. What went down is the price- per - computing - function. That is, the number of miniscule transistors they could put on a chip increased dramatically with time.
Each transistor was smaller, and used considerably less energy to function. This miniaturization allowed to increase the number of transistors within a single chip to achieve a higher performance with similar chip size.
This continuous transistor miniaturization and the mandatory energy reduction per function of computer chips have absolutely no relationship to PV POWER operation. PV is a power instrument. It is rated in kilowatts (a thousand watt), while computer chips are miniature devices that must consume very little electricity, in the order of fifty watts, to be useable.
The basic, crucial mistake most people make here is that since they are unaware of the technology, not of computer chips or PV, they jump to conclusions that have nothing to do with the facts. Even most so called "scientists" have no idea what they are talking about if they see similarity between the two. One- for computers, the aim is to make transistors as small as you can- the other, PV: make it as large as you can to capture more sun energy.
In a typical silicon PV system only 18% of sun energy is available to the PV silicon surface. Then just 40% of that 18% is possible to convert to electricity because of the energy distribution of the sun spectrum. The end result is that only about 10% of the sun radiation near the surface of the earth is converted to electricity. That is, for each one kW / sq. m sun input, we can get about 100 watt average output per square meter of silicon PV.
R&D must continue and sponsored by both government and private sector. Increasing silicon PV efficiency is very useful but may be limited, since it also dictates increasing the purity and therefore price.
In addition only 40% of the cost of a finished roof PV system is for PV panels; the rest is labor, other materials, insurance, and profit.
The same mistake of comparing silicon chips with PV was made two weeks ago by V. P. Al Gore on Charlie Rose. They were discussing the new Al Gore book on green technologies. When asked about PV high prices V.P. Gore said that like computer chips the price of PV will fall down in production. Now thirty years later this mistake is still propagated up to the advisers of the good man himself - Gore and spread on public TV.
By the way, the PV industry is not inclined to be truthful. In a major White paper a few years back made for the California Legislature, and pushing the CA Governor's Solar on a Million Roofs initiative, the paper claimed 50 years life for a PV system, double what even the industry claim. Using this false claim they "cut" the electricity cost by one half. A patently, and intentionally, a false claim.
No wonder Germany spent $73B on a mirage and claim they are leaders in PV. We want to be like them- blind to reality. No one ask what Germany achieved - just a third of a percent of their electricity.
At this rate replacing their 50% coal-produced electricity by PV, for example, would cost many Trillions of dollars. An unrealistic, impossibly high cost. Several times larger than Germany total GDP.
Most proposed cuts of Greenhouse Gases, GHG, proposed in Congress and internationally, are based on Intergovernmetal Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, AR4. However, we can not rely on the AR4 to set limits to GHG emissions since it was very constrained politically, ignored potential catastrophic events - tipping points- and some of its negative predictions were already exceeded. We already have more relevant data and more insight.
A. The starting point for most regulatory activities against global warming are based on the 2007, IPCC-AR4 findings and recommendations. We owe thanks to IPCC and especially the many excellent scientists that worked with great dedication to discover the data and develop this information for the IPCC to analyze. (The IPCC did not develop original climate information, but evaluated data developed by others.) Both the original scientists and the scientists at IPCC did a good job alerting us to the danger of GW. Just reading carefully the details of AR4-SPM - should wake us up to realize the severity of coming impacts of GW. However, now the situation seems even graver than depicted in AR4.
During 2009, some three years after the cutoff date of inputs, we need to rethink our reliance on AR4 because the recommendations were:
Soften down severely by politics,
Did not include some relevant data,
Disagreed by scientists inside IPCC,
Ignored potential catastrophic events,
Some climatic projections have been already exceeded.
And most important - we have more information and insight now.
Some of the limitations of AR4:
1. The latest data for AR4 was 2006, some much earlier.
2. China data was before 2001, before the latest explosion of growth and its vast energy use.
3. AR4 modeling did not include some known negative climatic events. For example: "Note: CO2 emissions in most models do not include emissions from decay of above ground biomass that remains after logging and deforestation, and from peat fires and drained peat soils." AR4 SMP p21
Above decays can be significant contributors to GHG. Deforestation emits 20% of GHG and is right behind the emissions of China and US.
4. AR4 did not cover potential catastrophic climatic events of mass release of stored GHG. They should not be ignored.
5. AR4 was a politically controlled document and was soften by several governments, including the previous US administration, China and Saudia. Several IPCC scientists fought hard against the constrained climatic predictions. Compromises forced.
6. Some of the AR4 negative predictions have already been greatly exceeded*. That means that in a very brief time it is already obvious that AR4 underestimated some noticeable negative impacts of GHG. And if these short term predictions are already in error so quickly, some longer term impacts may be underestimated even more severely. Longer term predictions, by their nature, have wider range of possibilities.
7. AR4 used scientific information that was well researched, peer reviewed and dismissed unproven, although logical issues such as catastrophic events.
The IPCC was: "too little, and too late."
It is the nature of scientists to seek verifiable data, scrutinize it to understand, seek independent confirmation, and submit to peer review. This is admirable but not possible and even dangerous when dealing with GW. We do not have the ability or the time to experiment. We can not draw on previous experience.
Science failed humanity intolerably regarding global warming.
The desire for peer respect, and sometimes fear of being considered "An Advocate" slowed down considerably alerting decision makers to the magnitude and urgency of GW. This is continuing even now. Also, no scientist wants to be considered "an alarmist" either. So most save themselves from embaresssment rather than alert us to the danger.
B. Note item 6 above. Here is a clear example of AR4 mistaken prediction: Rapid contraction of North Pole (NP) ice. The NP minimal ice coverage shrunk from 3.01 Million square miles in 1980, to 1.81 M sq. miles, in 2008, a 42% drop, decades ahead of AR4 projection.
To visualize the significance of this let's look at the dimensions involved: The minimal ice coverage of the NP in 1980 was 3.01 million square miles, nearly identical to the area of the contiguous US - 3.1 million square miles. The minimal NP ice coverage shrunk to 1.81 million square miles by 2008. Picture it, the ice coverage that disappeared is almost half the size of theUnited States!
That means that during some of the summer, a reflective surface almost half the size of the US is now blue sea that absorbs sunlight, while reviously it reflected most sunlight energy back into space.
This ice-free zone is now in a natural positive feedback mode, self-amplifying the ice shrinkage. More sun energy absorption by the blue ocean increases the region's temperatures and melts more ice, and the melting continues even without any increase in GHG.
Please pay attention to the date: January 2009. Our National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists (NOAA) wrote this report during President Bush administration. This is significant since you may assume that some political pressure was put on them to tone it down. However, as you read it you are likely to see clarity and openness, rather than political constrains. If anything, it is a conservative assessment. Therefore, even skeptics should be willing, I hope, to open their eyes to the gravity of the situation.
This report states in simple language the reality of global warming impact on the U.S. However, it is similar to the coming impacts on the rest of the world. Without understanding what in this report your understanding of the essential elements of global warming could be superficial.
This is 5 pages Executive Summary. I urge you to study it since it says what we normally do not accept and mostly unable to respond to intellectually and especially emotionally. It is too difficult to acknowledge that our current environment would change so much in such a short time.
NOAA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
The U.S. Climate Change Science Program
The lead US agency on Global Warming.
Draft final Report. January 2009
Observations show that warming of the climate system is now unequivocal. The global warming observed over the past 50 years is due primarily to human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases. These emissions come primarily from the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas), with additional major contributions from the clearing of forests and agricultural activities.
Warming over this century is projected to be considerably greater than over the last century. The global average temperature since 1900 has risen by about 1.5°F. By 2100, it is projected to rise another 2 to 10°F. Temperatures in the United States have risen by a comparable amount and are very likely to rise more than the global average over this century. Several factors will determine future temperature increases. Increases at the lower end of this range are more likely if global heat-trapping gas emissions are cut substantially, and at the upper end if emissions continue to rise at or near current rates. Other important factors that affect the range are related to the strength of the response of the climate system to human influences. Reducing emissions of carbon dioxide would reduce warming over this century and beyond. Reducing emissions of some shorter-lived greenhouse gases, such as methane, and some types of particles, such as soot, would begin to reduce warming within decades. Volcanic eruptions or other natural variations could temporarily mask human-induced warming, but these effects would be short-lived.
Climate-related changes already have been observed globally and in the United States. These include increases in air and water temperatures, reduced frost days, increased frequency and intensity of heavy downpours, a rise in sea level, and reduced snow cover, glaciers, and sea ice. A longer ice-free period on lakes and rivers, lengthening of the growing season, and increased water vapor in the atmosphere has also been observed. These changes are expected to increase and will impact human health, water supply, agriculture, coastal areas, and many other aspects of society and the natural environment. Some changes are likely for the United States and surrounding coastal waters including more intense hurricanes and related increases in wind, rain, and storm surges (but not necessarily an increase in the number of storms that make landfall), as well as drier conditions in the Southwest and Caribbean.
This Report synthesizes information from a wide variety of scientific assessments (see page 7) and recently published research to summarize what is known about the observed and projected consequences of climate change on the United States. It combines analysis of impacts on various sectors such as energy, water, and transportation at the national level with an assessment of key impacts on specific regions of the United States. For example, sea-level rise will increase risks of erosion and flooding for coastal communities, especially in the Southeast and parts of Alaska. Reduced snowpack will alter the timing and amount of water supplies, exacerbating water shortages in the West.
Society and ecosystems today are generally adapted to recent climate. For this reason, the projected rapid rate and large amount of climate change over this century will challenge the ability of society and natural systems to adjust. For example, it is difficult and expensive to alter or replace long-lived infrastructure, such as bridges, roads, airports, reservoirs, and ports, in response to continuous and/ or abrupt climate change. Impacts are expected to become increasingly severe for more people and places as the amount of warming increases. And some of the impacts of climate change will be irreversible, such as species extinctions and coastal land lost to rising seas.
Unanticipated impacts of climate change have already occurred and more are likely in the future. These future impacts might stem from unforeseen changes in the climate system, such as major alterations in oceans, ice, or storms; and unpredicted consequences of ecological changes, such as massive dislocations of species or pest outbreaks. Unexpected social or economic changes, including major shifts in wealth, technology, or societal priorities would affect our ability to respond to climate change. Both anticipated and unanticipated impacts become more likely with increased warming. Projections of future climate change come from careful analyses of outputs from global climate models run on the world's most advanced computers.
The model simulations analyzed in this Report used plausible scenarios of human activity that lead generally to further increases in heat-trapping emissions. None of the scenarios used in this Report assume any policies explicitly designed to address climate change. However, the level of emissions varies from one scenario to the next because of differences in population, economic activity, and energy technologies. Scenarios cover a range of emissions of heat-trapping gases, illustrating that lower emissions result in less climate change and thus reduced impacts over this century.
Under all scenarios considered in this Report, however, relatively large and sustained changes in many aspects of climate are projected by the middle of this century, with even larger changes by the end of this century under higher emission scenarios. In projecting future conditions, there is always some level of uncertainty. For example, there is a high degree of confidence in projections of future temperature increases that are greatest nearer the poles and in the middle of continents. For precipitation, there is high confidence in continued increases in the Arctic and sub-Arctic (including Alaska) and decreases in the tropical regions, but the precise location of the transition zone between these is less certain. On smaller time and space scales, natural climate variations can be relatively large and can temporarily mask the progressive nature of global climate change. However, the science of making skillful projections at smaller scales has progressed considerably, allowing useful information to be drawn from regional climate studies such as those highlighted in this Report.
This Report focuses on observed and projected climate change and its impacts on the United States. However, a discussion of these issues would be incomplete without mentioning some of the actions society can take to respond to the climate challenge. The first major category of action is "mitigation," or options for reducing heat-trapping emissions such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and halocarbons. With respect to carbon dioxide, mitigation options include improving energy efficiency, using energy sources that don't produce carbon dioxide or produce less of it, capturing and storing carbon dioxide from fossil fuel use, and so on. While mitigation is not directly addressed in this Report, it is a critical component of a comprehensive strategy to address climate change. Mitigation options have been the subject of previous assessments and are being actively considered in current research (see page 8).
The second category is "adaptation," which refers to changes made to better respond to present or future climate and other environmental conditions. Mitigation and adaptation are both essential parts of a climate change response strategy. Effective mitigation measures reduce the need for adaptation. No matter how aggressively heat-trapping emissions are reduced, the world will still experience some continued climate change and resulting impacts. This is true for several reasons. First, because some of these gases are long-lived, they lead to elevated levels of atmospheric heat-trapping gases for hundreds of years. Second, Earth's vast oceans have absorbed much of the heat added to the climate system due to the increase in heat-trapping gases, and they will retain the heat and sustain global warming for many decades, even after human-induced emissions are substantially reduced. And third, the factors that determine emissions, such as energy-supply systems, cannot be changed overnight. Consequently, there also is a need for adaptation.
Adaptation involves deliberately adjusting to observed or anticipated changes to avoid or reduce detrimental impacts or to take advantage of beneficial ones. For example, a farmer might switch to growing a different crop variety better suited to warmer or drier conditions. A company might relocate key business centers away from coastal areas vulnerable to sea-level rise and hurricanes. A community might alter its zoning and building codes to place fewer structures in harm's way and make buildings less vulnerable to damage from floods, fires, and other extreme events. Some adaptation options that are currently being pursued in various regions and sectors are identified in this Report. However, it is clear that there are limits to how much adaptation can achieve.
Humans have adapted to changing conditions in the past. What will make adaptations particularly challenging in the future is that society won't be adapting to a new steady state but rather to a moving target. Climate will be continually changing, moving outside the range to which society is adapted, at a relatively rapid rate; the precise amounts and timing of these changes will not be known with certainty.
In an increasingly interdependent world, U.S. vulnerability to climate change is linked to the fates of other nations. For example, conflicts or mass migrations of people resulting from resource limits, health, or environmental stresses in other parts of the world could threaten national security. It is thus difficult to fully evaluate the impacts of climate change on the United States without considering the consequences of climate change elsewhere. However, such analysis is beyond the scope of this Report.
Finally, this Assessment identifies a number of areas in which inadequate information or understanding hampers our ability to estimate likely future climate change and its impacts. For example, our knowledge of changes in tornadoes, hail, and ice storms is quite limited, making it difficult to know if and how such events have changed as climate has warmed, and how they might change in the future. Research on ecological responses to climate change also is limited, as is our understanding of social responses. The section Recommendations for Future Work at the end of this Report identifies some of the most important gaps in knowledge and offers some thoughts on how to address those gaps. Results from such efforts would inform future assessments that continue building our understanding of humanity's impacts on climate, and climate's impacts on us.
1. Global warming is unequivocal and primarily human-induced. There is no question that global temperature has increased over the past 50 years. This observed increase is due primarily to human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases.
2. Climate changes are underway in the United States and are projected to grow. Climate-related changes are already observed in the United States and its coastal waters. These include increases in temperature, sea level, and heavy downpours, rapidly retreating glaciers, thawing permafrost, lengthening growing seasons, lengthening ice-free seasons in the ocean and on lakes and rivers, earlier snowmelt, and alterations in river flows. These changes are projected to grow larger.
3. Widespread climate-related impacts are occurring now and are expected to increase. Climate changes are already affecting water, energy, transportation, agriculture, ecosystems, and health. These impacts are different from region to region and will grow under projected climate change.
4. Climate change will stress water resources. Water is an issue in every region, but the nature of the potential impacts varies. Drought, related to reduced precipitation and increases in evapotranspiration, is an important issue in many regions, especially in the West. Floods and water quality problems are likely to be amplified by climate change in most regions. Declines in mountain snowpack are important in the Northwest, Southwest, and Alaska where snowpack provides vital natural water storage.
5. Crop and livestock production will be increasingly challenged. Agriculture is considered one of the sectors most able to adapt to climate change. However, increased heat, pests, diseases, and weather extremes will pose adaptation challenges for crop and livestock production.
6. Coastal areas are at increasing risk from sea-level rise and storm surge. Sea-level rise and storm surge place many U.S. coastal regions at increasing risk of erosion and flooding, especially along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, Pacific Islands, and parts of Alaska. Energy and transportation infrastructure in coastal cities is very likely to be adversely affected.
7. Threats to human health will increase. Health impacts of climate change are related to heat stress, water-borne diseases, reduced air quality, extreme weather events, and diseases transmitted by insects and rodents. Robust public health infrastructure can reduce the potential for negative impacts.
8. Climate change will interact with many social and environmental stresses. Climate change will combine with pollution, population growth, overuse of resources, urbanization, and other social, economic, and environmental stresses to create larger impacts than any one of these alone.
9. Rapid, irreversible, and unanticipated changes are likely as a result of crossing key thresholds. Some aspects of climate change and its impacts are likely to be unanticipated as complex systems respond to ongoing changes in unforeseen ways. Such changes have already been observed. Some changes in climate and associated ecological responses are likely to be rapid and irreversible as tipping points are reached.
10. Future climate change and its impacts depend on choices made today. The amount and rate of future climate change depends primarily on current and future human-caused emissions of heat-trapping gases and airborne particles. Responses involve reducing emissions to limit future warming, and adapting to the changes that are unavoidable. Adaptation examples include water conservation and modified landuse planning in areas with high flood and fire risks.
The total draft report is at:
California is noted for its lower electricity consumption because it has a leveled per capita use of electricity while in the rest of the US the per capita electricity demand increased significantly over the last three decades.
The common belief is that the CA energy standards developed by the California Energy Commission more than three decades ago is the primary reason for the low electricity use. The CA conservation and efficiency standards are very useful and should be an example to the rest of the nation, however, they seem not the main reason for the low electricity consumption. Their impacts are also limited since they apply mostly to new construction. The vast stock of older buildings is not impacted by these important standards.
It seems that the low electricity use is also due to other unique conditions in California and that the building standards, as important as they are, should be tightened significantly.
Below is a letter on this subject I sent recently to an influential senator in the California Senate:
It is likely that California reputation as leader in electricity conservation is not so well deserved and there is a way to improve that at least in one area - building conservation.
According to a 2008 study by two Stanford professors* only 23% of the leveled per capita use of electricity in CA is due to our conservation and efficiency regulations. The rest is due to a large population of immigrants that live at a very low standard of living and at higher density. Some is due to the mild weather in most population centers. The sparsely populated cold and very hot regions of the state, lack of heavy industry, and the lower average size of residential units.
My interest in conservation in housing was intensified when I was the Manager of the Solar Office at the California Energy Commission when we determined that over 80% of the benefits of solar were due to the building insulation.
I continue to advocate conservation since each kWh reduced saves 3 kWh of input energy to the electrical generation system.
Some 6 years ago Larry Carr, a SMUD director (Sacramento Municipal Utility District), invited me to speak to the board about conservation vs. PV. I was instrumental then in reducing SMUD's main emphasis on solar photovoltaic. They were the biggest advocates and users of PV in the US then.
Earlier this year a key staff at the U.S. Senate told me that many Senators were skeptical that we could reduce the global and US energy consumption by 80% by 2050 while global population increase coupled by demand for higher standard of living would dictate considerably higher energy demand. He asked me to help him convinced some Senators that it is possible to cut our immense energy consumption.
I met with CEC (CA. Energy Comm.) commissioner Dr. Art Rosenfeld, known for his high dedication and contributions to energy conservation, to learn from his and CEC vast experience in this area. He gave me his PowerPoint presentation and papers he wrote and presented to leaders in India and China and I sent them to that U.S. Senate staff to help him answer the questions in the Senate.
These exchanges increased my interest in CA energy standards and I did a small investigation to see how it is performing by inspecting three houses under construction (in Sacramento and in the mountain regions) and talked to several builders. The results were disappointing. The builders, as expected, have been concentrating on barely meeting the insulation standards at the minimum possible effort.
I recently calculated the option of a small change in the wall construction that could notably increase building conservation. This is a well known construction option that works effectively with negligible increase in construction cost
I discussed the building standard and the suggested improvement with a seasoned building specialist and he agreed that it would be useful to incorporate in the standard. However, it could be difficult to incorporate it in the CA standard because, he believes, that the requirement is that the payback period for conservation improvements must be a short 5 years. This might have been a way decades ago to allow the State to push trough its standard against the resistance of the building industry. However, if true, it does not satisfy current State needs and global warming concerns.
A typical house in CA lasts more than 50 years and the standard should reflect that reality. Not only that, the improvement I suggested and other improvements we can possibly introduce, should not increase the cost much, if at all. The resistance by builders is probably due more to sticking with known construction and not willing to try even a small, well accepted, improvement.
In addition as global warming advance our temperatures are likely to be more extreme in the summer, requiring more air-conditioning. Therefore, our building conservation should reflect now the temperatures expected during the life of the buildings.
May I suggest that your office investigate if CEC standards are actually constrained by the 5 years payback rule and if so to propose a bill that would open it to a much longer period.
Please note that existing housing stock built before the state energy regulation is vast and waste a lot of energy. It is a subject that deserves considerable higher attention by the government.
* June 2008 Study by:
Department of Management Science and Engineering, Stanford University
Director, Precourt Institute for Energy Efficiency, Stanford University
Too often when we try to solve serious problems we express our opinions, we do not discuss the issues.
I often observed "discussion" between educated, intelligent, professionals that in reality were just opinion sharing.
When we are working as a team to solve a problem seldom are questions asked of the underling reasons or facts for the opinions expressed. There is no interchange of ideas, just expression of opinions. Almost every one try to show how smart he is or how much he/she knows.
These opinions are not been challenged by a back and forth discussion, nor by questions of sources, validity, or any thing else that may separate valid facts from just beliefs or personal opinions. I am more aware of this American habit since I was university trained to find and counteract this habit and also spent a number of very rewarding years countering narrow business thinking of this nature.
This American habit of not challenging opinions leads us astray much of the time. In the past when we were extremely wealthy country, with no serious national debt, and no critical issues were threatening us, waste and mistakes were not too critical as now. However, in the case of global warming we can't afford to base our actions on opinions. Not only that, too often these erroneous opinions are very popular and we follow them blindly.
Just look at the following popular illusions: Wind turbines kill lots of birds (half a billion birds are killed by buildings and cars annually in the US); "clean coal" (the dirtiest fuel and CCS is a future promise); solar energy is inexpensive (very expensive - but others pay for it, so it is not my problem); put wind turbines on top of buildings (blades fall on people);corn-ethanol is green (it has a larger CO2 footprint than gasoline).
[Read elsewhere on this web answers to the above misconceptions].
Why do we behave in this mistaken way? Because we consider it impolite to question the opinion of others.
"You don't trust me?" "You think I am not smart enough to distinguish between facts or fictions?" "I would not question you, so do not question me."
These are just some of the unexpressed thoughts and feelings guiding the so-called "discussion" in most cases.
This is especially noticeable if there is a chain of command such as in a business or a government agency. You would not dare question the rationale, the reasons people above you expresses. The US military is a good example: follow your orders and do no ask questions. In the battlefield most of the time you must follow orders, but in the planning stages and in non-combat situation you need to think before you act. Only recently the US military started to develop counter-thinking groups of officers that are not only allowed to challenge the conventional wisdom but their duty is to seek loopholes, mistakes, errors and find better ways of developing solutions to a specific military situation.
In my decades in business, government and even voluntary organizations I rarely observed, or heard any one else observe, a willingness to question direction from above, or challenge popular opinions.
Our inability to open ourselves to new ways of thinking, our fear of being exposed as not as smart or as capable as we think we should be, deteriorate our national ability and organizational ability to solve many of our problems, from poverty to military strategy to better building construction.
Most of the time we are more concerned about how we are perceived than how to improve the operation we are hired to do.
We educate our youngsters not for independent thinking, not for courage and not for determination, but to be fearful of ridicule. Just look at a university setting. Rarely will a student ask questions, challenge the views of others. Privately they will tell you, I do you want the professor to think that I cannot understand him. I do not want other students to think that I am dumb.
Knowledge, reality, are not important. Face-saving is.
Our worry how people perceive us is our Achilles heal.
We must reduce our need for face-saving, concerned for our image. We must challenge ourselves to face reality. We should challenge our elected officials to face the reality of global warming. We must question the conventional wisdom that if it is green energy it is good. No. Some of the "green" paths offered to us are not good for the country. Do learn, analyze, question, find facts, and act on this new knowledge.
We would not progress much as a nation, we would not be able to fight global warming effectively if we continue to be more concerned about our individual image instead of the result of our effort against global warming.
President Obama has done very little, in my opinion, to move Congress on GW because his key POLITICAL advisers do not yet grasp the gravity of the situation. He is not willing to risk his popularity on an issue he may not fully grasp. And if you understand it only intellectually, you have not grasped it.
Obama political advisers are very bright and believe they are smarter than the "alarming" scientists and a delay on GW is an acceptable risk. His own reelection and the election of members of Congress are important, and they determine the political strategy that keeps the president essentially mute on GW. It is clear that the economy has to be stabilized first; without a solid economy we can not invest in the tools needed to fight GW effectively. And that will take a lot of money. It would not be the price of a postage stamp and it will cause suffering for the people whose income depends on fossil fuels. That is a given, change of this immense nature will cause winners and losers. However, we can not continue on the old pathway. We do not have an alternative to starting a tremendous global change
I do believe that Secretary Chu and Dr. Holdren are not allowed to say what they do what to do, scream about the urgency. Just look at their faces during interviews and read the small amount they are allowed to write.
The GW problem is even more serious than normally described even in most predictions. according to most scientific articles I have read. We have almost no time left to slow down the accelerating deterioration of our climate. I just heard the head of the IPCC Dr. Pachuri commenting on the dire situation in his country, India, with the rapid melting of the Himalayas glaciers supplying water to hundreds of millions of people in India. What will happen to them? They will be facing death. You can not relocate so many people. And the same thirst is facing China.
Almost all other advanced countries are willing to participate in the fight against GW, their leaders grasp it. We in the US have the mentality of: "me first the rest of the world second". Do not expect a change of heart among us. We are inherently very selfish. We have caused, our economic system have caused a global economic misery that created a $2.7 Trillions in markdowns of global assents that caused the economic collapse. More than a million Americans participated willingly in this game. Wall Street used illegal and semi illegal means to increase its profit. It is nor just a few managers on the top. It is wide spread. And Wall Street is expected to give $20 billions in bonuses this year its employees!
How can you expect to change the Business As Usual attitude of many in the nation and especially in Congress? Their reelection is the key to their lives. I have talked to some of them, and they were the good ones.
To make an real impact we must pressure our Congress members. All the talks, all these discussions on the media and the web are insignificant if they do not move people to pressure Congress. We make not like them, we may not trust them, but Congresspersons make the laws we must live under. And we need new laws to curb GW. Congress is the only tool we have and we rarely use it. I have spent nine full years directing staff in several states on both coasts organizing liberal people to pressure Congress. I talked with over a thousand selected liberal people personally. We had the best tools and met them personally in small groups. Their desire to move was flowing like molasses since most liberals just like to feel good by having the "correct attitude" about an issue. For them it is enough "action." They are not motivated by anger, like the Right - so they do not act. They do not trust Congresspersons, so they do not move to write a letter or make a phone call. "Why bother" is their motto.
Information does not lead to action, especially with the mild manners, good people that liberals usually are.
WE WHO WRITE, WE WHO UNDERSTAND AND CARE, MUST MOTIVATE THEM TO PRESSURE CONGRESS AGAIN AND AGAIN. OTHERWISE ALL OUR WORDS ARE FOR NAUGHT. IT IS OUR RESPONSIBILITY.
A few months ago my wife and I were camping on the shores of a lovely lake in the Sierras Mountains.
It was just two hours drive from home. We fell in love with it last year when we, reluctantly, decided not to drive long distance to see one of my sons and his family in Idaho and later camp in our favorite place in Teton National Park. It was difficult to say goodbye to the visits to the family and Teton but we emitted so much CO2 on our way that we had to do it, at least for now.
It is so hard to grasp the essence of global warming. It is natural to reject the idea that our beautiful world is changing rapidly and for the worse. The very thought that the stable climate that gives us brisk mornings, beautiful sunsets, green, majestic trees, stable weather and food, is leaving us high and dry, is unacceptable. Even people, who agree that the globe is warming, and that it is human driven, do not fully, internalize this danger. It is simply too much for us. We can not accept it; we are just human after all.
Continuation from yesterday:
Example 4: STATE GOVERNMENT - SATISFY THE BOSS, not state needs
As part of my UCLA doctorate requirement, I developed on my own time a master plan for developing commercial wind energy in California. This was the first comprehensive wind energy plan anywhere and most wind energy developments in the world are following essentially this plan. There is nothing magical about it, it is simply a logical, professional plan similar to the many plans I have developed in the considerably more complex electronic field. When I was a manager of the Wind Energy Program for the California Energy Commission (CEC) I directed our entire budget to accomplish the crucial first phase of this plan -to ascertain that wind power can be economically viable. Many people, even the US Energy Dept, wanted wind energy, but no one tried to measure its viability on a large scale before. When we finally proved over a number of years of field measurements in several locations across the state that wind energy could be a highly successful commercial power, I proposed that the electrical utilities in California would develop commercial wind farms. However, most of the staff and management disliked the utilities, and instead pushed the Legislature to give substantial financial incentives to any private company entering the field. No capabilities, minimal restraints were imposed to get such a large state support. Most of the operators were not technically qualified and the corporations they formed were organized to milk the maximum amount of profit with minimal government oversight. This resulted in large waste of state money and many failed companies. The owners made a lot of money but infrequently produced sufficient electricity to justify state support.
The result was that after the state incentives expired, wind energy nearly died in California, and a quarter century later it is still essentially insignificant, while globally, and especially in Western Europe, wind has become a significant, professionally run, clean energy supply.
If the financial support had been given to the utilities instead, which have been supervised tightly by the Public Utility Commission, the utilities could have developed efficient large wind systems. It would be economically beneficial to the utilities to generate low cost electricity and they had the capabilities to develop and run them professionally.
Many of the staff who pushed to provide this financial incentive to private companies left CEC and started their own wind energy companies. How many of them pushed for private ownership to benefit themselves I can not say, but conflict of interest can be suspected.
Conclusion: Narrow, emotional views combined with self interest essentially destroyed the potentially large amount of wind energy California could have enjoyed for many years.
Example 5. SOCIAL ACTIVISM - FULL OF SELF INTEREST
This was a great disappointed to me since I assumed that most people leading social activism would be dedicated to the causes beyond self gratification, but it was not the case:
During the nuclear weapon escalation period of the 80's, I directed Target Congress, a nine year national grassroots lobbying effort to pressure swing (potential converts) congresspersons in several states to vote against nuclear weapons. Our Board included Dr. Benjamin Spock, Rear Admiral Eugene Carroll, several leaders of Physicians for Social Responsibility, actor Mike Farrell, the Mayor of Sacramento and more.
We were working full time with minimal income, coordinating our effort with national peace organizations, doing our work in the background and giving them added membership and fame. I personally talked with thousands of people while organizing active branches in New Jersey, California, Pennsylvania, Iowa, and supporting effort in other states. We worked with the leadership of Common Cause, SANE, the Freeze, and several more national organizations and I met with most national leaders of the nuclear disarmament movement, and several Congresspersons and their staff.
Across the spectrum, our exposure to the nuclear disarmament movement left a bad taste in my mouth. The individual egos, and desire for power of many leaders of that movement were very negative issues for most organizations. The smaller the individual power, the better the leaders performed. The most dedicated people were those at the bottom who did it for religious reasons or deep social belief.
I must emphasize that the problem of self interest is more pronounced at higher levels. At many organizations most people at lower levels were eager to follow sensible directions and often would go beyond the call of duty to contribute to our national wellbeing. But poor leaders frequently fail them
A friend of mine, reviewing this paper, suggested that I also discuss the fallacy of "clean coal".
He said: "I think you should add one more story: the blatant disregard for the truth by the coal industry, proclaiming that there is such a thing as clean coal. This proclamation has been supported by members of Congress because it may create or save jobs in their districts. It just isn't true:...there is no such thing as clean coal."
I agree, it will take at least a decade to find out about the possible viability of CCS , carbon capture and storage. But I will comment about it elsewhere.
In all organizations I have worked, in most projects I participated in, the ego of many participants minimized significantly the ability to solve problems, and to achieve the desired goals.
This national self-interest sickness, as I call it, is damaging the nation and causing untold suffering since immense resources are wasted needlessly. And we do not have spare funds, our national debt is immense.
In the past this excessive self interest might not have caused as much suffering as now because the amount and magnitude of our problems have increased much faster than the opportunities and resources to solve them.
We should not tolerate this national problem but it requires a change of culture. How do you do that?
As a minimum we need to be well aware of this reality and not ignore it.
This paper was long enough, took a lot of my time, and it is beyond the scope to suggest alternatives.
We are facing serious national and global problems on scales we never experienced. We don't know what to do and what we try to do often falls apart a short time later. Currently we are facing so many problems, it is difficult to count them: here are some of them:
Housing market collapse, financial markets instability, low dollar value, lost economic power, oil problems, erroneous energy solutions, failing infrastructure, domestic auto industry collapse, inadequate health coverage, Swine Flu, ineffective antibiotics, massive illegal immigration, global warming, Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Iran's nuclear weapons, inadequate education system, lower real wages, poverty, and more.
How can the most powerful and richest nation on earth be unable to solve almost any of its serious problems? Why did they arise in the first place?
There are many reasons for it, some are beyond our control, such as the growth of India and China and their demand for seats at the economic and political tables, or the unification of Europe, but many, I believe, are due to our national sickness of ignoring reality, and thinking almost only about ourselves.
"National sickness" is a strong phrase, but I believe it is justified because this national weakness is ingrained deeply in our culture, it is widespread, and prevails even in face of national crises. This deficiency in our culture causes our great nation, guided by an excellent Constitution, endowed by so many natural and human resources, and populated by mostly earnestly good people, to fail in so many of our important efforts. These failures cause a lot of needless pain and suffering to a very number of people, and can reduce our ability to remain a great nation. It also reduces our ability to contribute to urgent global improvements.
This weakness is not caused by lack of skill, or ability. The sickness is our highly ingrained unwillingness to look at reality, accept it, and develop realistic solutions to it. Instead, we think how the situation can benefit us, even if it causes unjust suffering to many other.
This self interest is natural. We are born with it, and as babies and children we need it for our survival. However, my wife, a social worker, emphasized that to counter this essential self interest in the early stages in our lives, we are born into a family to teach us how to balance our self interest with the needs of those around us, and later, with the need of society. Too many families do not provide this essential guidance.
We, as individuals and as a nation are not maturing much beyond the stages of this early self interest.
Some may say that this self interest is a viable and useful asset and benefit the country. I strongly disagree. Some self interest is understandable even desirable, but my experience over many years and in several varied professions proved to me that our inability to see reality and deal with it stems from our excessive self interest.
Of course every person sees reality according to his/her own background and wishes, but when professionals are given responsibility to solve problems they should be able to rise above their narrow self-interest and accomplish the tasks given to them. Professionals, after all, are trained to separate reality from fiction in their own fields. However, in my many long and varied assignments to oversee professionals I have watched carefully and was disappointed. And so was top management. I witness too many professionals, from politicians to engineers, teachers to financiers, are rarely able to focus on the problem and solve it effectively.
In short, we in the US often live in a dream world and believe that our self centered approach to life can be sustained indefinitely without real cost to all of us.
Take just one current example: any one with common sense and basic understanding of finance knows that if you sell millions of homes, with no money down, to people with very limited incomes, many of them will be unable to pay their loans with a slight change in the economy. This will force the mortgage industry, loan speculators (many Edge Funds) and companies associated with it, to fail. Why the big surprise now?
Listen how they call these risky loans: "subprime mortgage loans." Subprime? We lie openly to ourselves!
Here is a typically example I have often witness how professionals are unable to focus together on a problem and solve it:
In a meeting of engineers (or any profession) developing a technical direction for a project, each of the participants recommends a direction that on the surface seems to offers a practical solution. But when you evaluate the discussion without a personal bias you can see that they are not trying to solve the problem, but to elevate their ego or improve their own position in the company. In short, each one attempts to advance his own cause and not concentrate on the solution.
It is difficult to recognize the above personal bias since the discussion seems quite rational and factual, but the facts are selected to support the speaker's point of view, and also are not the most relevant facts.
A company can not be successful for long if that is typical behavior. It may benefit the individual for awhile but not the company.
What is even more serious, often the person involved can not grasp his own bias if faced by it!
The same situation exists on our national level: Our 2007 federal budget is approaching three Trillion dollars; that is ten thousand dollar per every person in the US. (It does include Social Security and the various medical benefit programs however). We can accomplish tremendous amount of good with this huge resource, but our government and both branches of Congress propose solutions and create laws that too often do not benefit the nation. They frequently do not even benefit the citizens that live in his/her district. They mostly benefit the Congressperson's reelection. The day after a congress person is elected, he/she is preparing for the next election. I had long personal discussions with a number of Congresspersons and found that their main motivator is the quest for power. (Of course, many are outstanding legislators.) It is not surprising that the public rates Congress extremely low.
I have worked for many years in a wide variety of fields: electronics, environment, private industry, military industrial complex, national grassroots lobbying, state government and studied in several excellent universities. The underlying behavior was often similar: private interests were paramount, not the task at hand, or the interest of the institution.
EXAMPLES: I would like to illustrate this issue by a few concrete examples from various fields that I was a major player in, and therefore deeply aware of the details and outcomes. Admittedly, I am talking about my own activities, but I like to give concrete examples, rather than theory.
Example 1. SUPERFICIAL INVESTIGATION LEEDS TO MISTAKE.
When I was a manager of digital circuit design at Litton Industry (then a significant company in the military-industrial field) five senior people in engineering, including me, were asked to evaluate the key development project of the company. We listened to several presentations by the project manager and his key staff, and four of us approved the project. I, however, continued my investigation by digging much deeper into the facts:
I discussed privately with each key staff and in great details the key steps in the project. I asked detailed questions such as: what were their goals, how far they had came, what were the major difficulties, could they solve them, how long would it take, and more. In private they were reasonably open, and because I understood technology well they knew they could not distort facts because I would know it. I could then see the total project in its true details.
I presented my findings to top management and recommended to stop the project. Management agreed.
Why did the other well experienced senior staff come to opposite conclusion? Probably because they looked at the surface, listen to self-serving presentations, and did not want to cause trouble.
Example 2: ENGINEERS BLIND TO COMPANY NEEDS.
As head of Research and Development I proposed that we design a specialized computer that would be produced by highly automated equipment. Two years later, during initial design by the Engineering department, I realized that the system would be too costly, and not competitive. I asked for a review of the project and listened carefully to each of the five technical managers, and noticed that each proposed a design, in his own area, that was fascinating to him personally, but had nothing to do with our company needs. I suggested they change direction and drop the high cost automated approach because we would produce only a few systems, but I could not convince them. Their typical answer was: but this was your own proposal. I answered that two years earlier it seemed a cost-effective approach, but not in our current situation.
During a review meeting I presented my objections and all key staff, including the VP in charge disagreed with my conclusions. The president, however, listen carefully, however, stopped the project, and told them to redirect it to answer all of my reservations. He was interested in company profits, they were more interested in satisfying their desires.
But that was still not enough to wake the professionals up. To redirect their effort I asked the VP of Marketing to present the company marketing plan. It was fascinating, even after the presentation they still were back to their old approach, ignoring everything they had just heard! And these were highly educated and experienced engineers!
Only after I was quite forceful, demanding a change, was I able to refocus their direction to satisfy the needs of company and customer and not their personal goals.
Mind you, I did not have authority over these managers, all I had, was the power of logic and facts.
Example 3: PRIVATE INDUSTRY FALSIFYING INFORMATION
During my environmental studies at UCLA I specialized for a period in SO2 (sulfur dioxide) pollution and studied in depth over 50 of the most relevant research reports in this area. A friend at the ARB (California Air Resources Board) gave me a "request for comments" issued by the ARB about setting a new SO2 standard and asked me to respond to it. The ARB received only two insignificant replies from one thousand requests it sent to air pollution specialists across the nation. My friend also gave me an advanced copy of a report by a private company requesting to significantly increase the permissible SO2 standard in California. He was concerned that because the owners of the company were previously high level, respected managers at the EPA (national Environmental Protection Agency) it was possible that their request would be accepted by ARB.
I studied their proposal to increase SO2 limits, and I became outraged at their high level of deception. On the surface their report seemed rational because it was backed up by a large number of references, almost all of which I was very familiar with. The deception was that almost in all cases the use of the reference was false - there was no relationship between the point they were making and the reference! The references did not support their claim- period. They completely misrepresented the facts.
I wrote a detailed scientific report why the tight standard of SO2 should remain, send it to the ARB and discussed this in a meeting with some of my professors. They had difficulty accepting that those known individuals would use such a deception. UCLA gave me a budget to fly to meet with these individuals and discussed my concerns with them.
I flew first to the ARB meeting in Sacramento and listened to the private company making its SO2 case. I did not want to confront them in public and embarrass them, instead, during the intermission I met with each of the three ARB Commissioners present and told them my own findings. Two agreed that the standard should not be relaxed. I discussed it with the third commissioner at some length and eventually he changed his mind and also agreed to retain the lower limit of SO2. ( I did not mention the misinformation of the company - it was not necessary).
I then met in another city at the office of the company whose misleading report I studied and presented my reservations about their misuse of research papers.
It took several hours of detailed discussion until the manager I talked with said that if it was up to him he would agree with me on these points, but "it was not possible." He did not elaborate why it was not possible, but, after careful observation of their operation and meager facilities it was clear to me that the company was doing poorly economically and had to "sell" itself to the coal industry that paid for their effort.
It was a sad to observe that even highly regarded professionals will falsify information if their economic benefits were involved.
To be continued.
Investor owns corporations have the responsibility to maximize profit. The same goes for investor-owned electrical utilities. But the need of the nation and the world can be in direct conflict with this established profit goal, especially when dealing with the time-urgent global warming problem.
Power companies operate their plants to maximize profits, not to reduce emission of GHG even when it is very easy to do at minimal increase in cost. Utilities with coal plants may also have natural gas plants that emit considerably lower CO2 than their coal plants. Also, each coal plant has different level of air pollution and CO2 emission. But utilities operate the least fuel cost plants first, usually dirty coal plants. Natural gas fuel cost marginally more, 3c per kWh, than coal generated electricity. In addition, coal plants with higher air pollutions (older plants) may have higher electrical efficiency (more profit) since they do not use as much energy to operate their air filtering equipment. Any ways you look at it the legitimate motive of higher profit could easily conflict with society's need to reduce air pollution and lower CO2 emission.
Note that natural gas is already more readily available, at lower cost, and expected to be more so in the future with increase conservation and new gas sources.
Because of the urgency of GW I suggest that the EPA, US Environmental Protection Agency, should make a quick administrative rule to direct all power utilities, including Municipal utilities to prioritize their electricity generation according to the lowest polluters first, and higher polluters last.
I do hope, however, that this potential ruling is already in the pipeline at EPA and will be in effect soon.
The increase cost should pass to the customers, and may be even be compensated for by the federal government.
This federal support would be considerably more beneficial to the nation and the world in reducing CO2 than supporting marginal alternative energy programs.
For example, ball park estimate only:
As I mentioned, using existing natural gas plants can reduce CO2 by at least a half compare to coal at a cost of 3c a kWh. In comparison, the total cost of electricity generated by photovoltaic, solar, system is in the range of 75c per kWh, without rebates. Therefore, we, as a society, can reduce twenty five times the amount of CO2 by switching to natural gas plants than using PV roof solar.
CCS, carbon capture and storage, is estimated to cost a minimum of an ADDITIONAL 5c per kWh, and possibly about 10c per kWh.
Some may say: use all possible technologies, cost is not important, but this is a dream. Cost is an important consideration since we do not have the financial resources we need to fight global warming effectively and reduce GW unavoidable impacts.
Photovoltaic, or Solar, has a lots of appeal. Free electricity from the sun, no moving parts, and it is not too expensive. So many rebates from so many sources: state, federal, local, no wonder many people want them. But does it make sense for the nation? Is it good for the US to spend the limited money we have to encourage solar use?
Evidance and unbiased analysis indicate the opposit. Let's look at some facts remebering that our first priority is to cut as much greenhouse gases as fast as we can since global warming is advancing much faster than scientist expected. Time is of the essense!
The federal government is increasing the subsidies for solar photovoltaic by a large amount. What a waste of our meager resources. Who is happy, the over powerful solar companies which increased its profit enormously with little benefits to our country.
More federal support for PV is against our national self interest. We do not have money to waste in our fight against global warming. Some in the federal government still does not grasp that global warming is a very serious threat to our survival and sink money into wasteful avenues instead of reducing our energy demand by conservation.. Every kWh we cut reduce our energy input and its associated GHG by three kWh since two third of the energy is wasted in the process of creating electricity!
Our first priority is to cut our energy use. Germany put some $70 billons into their much acclaimed PV program with the hope that their PV will cut electricity use. It was only a dream. After more than 12 years of concentrated effort it gets just a third of a percent from solar most of the rest from coal. And some 20 more coal plants are being constructed now.
If people do not understand the advantage of conservation over solar and are oversold by solar marketing, I can understand. But the Federal government supposed to have professionals who should know better and maximize the benefit to the country. It does not seem so.
Federal subsidies should go to attic insulation and weatherization of much larger number of people in low income areas across the nation. We will cut 30 times more GHG pollution by conservation, per each dollar and give employment to a considerably larger number of low to medium income, less trained people. These people needs the money more urgently and will also use it and increase our economy faster. All the money remains in the country and the insulation material is 85% recycle newspaper.
In good locations solar produces only 1300 kWh per year per kW installed. This is a very small amount of electricity. And with time the output goes down by lack of maintenance and aging of panels- according to the manufacturers themselves.
Just note how uneconomical solar truly is: "Arkansas installer Bob Moore said his customers would pay $35,000 for the system that costs $2,625 in New Jersey. At annual savings of $492.47, it would take more than 71 years for the system to pay off."
We should use our money in the most cost-effective way to reduce the maximum amount of GHG as soon as possible TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE. The manufacturing of solar systems creates a large amount of GHG. The first five year of the solar output just goes to produce the energy it took to make and install the system. This is not a game with business as usual. It is our most serious fight for saving the global environment.
FACTS AND THOUGHTS ABOUT U.S. ELECTRICITY GENERATION
I. Electricity generation consumes 40% of US input energy,
II. 2/3 of this input energy is wasted!
Numbers are rounded up for clarity. All units are metric.
I. Total US PRIMARY energy consumption 100 Quads per year (in 2004), (equivalent to 30 trillion kWh/yr.)
Total PRIMARY energy input to electricity sector is 40 Q (12 trillion kWh)
Total electricity production is 4 trillion kWh/y = 4 x 10^12 kWh/yr [10^12]
Efficiency of total electrical system is low: 4/12 about 30%, almost 70% is wasted
II. We need to capture much of this waste. Not more than half of it is possible to capture
Not only that, central, thermal plants use huge amount of water to cool the steam for the next cycle. Most Solar Thermal plants have the same vast water needs and are now starting to compete in arid areas for scarce water supplies. (See below.)
II. Global Warming Gases - CO2 equiv. emission:
Total US GreenHouse Gases, GHG, emission: 7 Billion tonnes/yr
(1 B T is absorbed in US by nature, mostly by being captured by photosynthesis and stored in the net growth of US forests, for a net of 6B T , but that is a side issue)
Total electricity generation emit 2.4 B Tonnes GHG , 34% of all US GHG
Half US electricity is from coal, emitting 1.9 B T of GHG, 27% of all US total GHG;
1. The first step in the process of reducing GHG emission from electricity generation is reducing electrical consumption. This should be mandatory-not voluntary- voluntary has, at best, very minor penetration that takes decades to make any impact. Examples of successful mandatory measures exist: California's electric appliance efficiency standards, and new building permit standards for residential and commercial structures.
A. High conservation levels of all new construction
B. Increasing appliance efficiency.
C. The best timely approach is using nationally the well- seasoned California Title 24 conservation and the appliance efficiency plans which proven their effectiveness for over two decades.
D. Conservation of existing structures. Most electricity is used in existing poorly insulated homes and businesses. Conservation should be mandatory at sales and upgrades. Voluntary programs are appealing, but insignificant compare to the need.
2. The search for CCS (carbon capture and storage), is a must since so much of global electricity comes from coal. And we will have to depend on coal for at least twenty years. The problem is that :
a. No CCS experience, no plant of the needed characteristics exists,
Therefore, WE DO NOT KNOW IF IT WILL WORK RELIABLY over time
b. The danger of major CO2 leak could be serious.
c. The cost estimates for production scale CCS are high, in the range of $50-$100 per ton of CO2. At $100/ton CO2 would add 10 cents/kWh to the cost of electricity from coal, an increase of 100% to 200% from current costs of generating from a coal-fired power plant.
The cost paid by a residential customer is usually two to three times the cost of generation, because transmission, distribution, connection and administrative costs add to about twice the costs of generation in cents/kWh.
Because coal is an extremely polluting source and so much is dependent on CCS unproven technology, we must do all we can to reduce our dependence on coal. First we should prevent construction of any new coal power plants that do not capture and store most of their CO2 emissions, and as a minimum retire aging, low efficiency plants ASAP, and replace those we can by natural gas combined cycle (NGCC). NGCC can cut GHG emission to 40% of coal.
III. Some governmental impediments to increase electricity generation efficiency:
Most electrical production is controlled by local utilities which are mostly profit oriented, and regulated by each state's form of public service commission (PUC or PSC or other).
"Munis" (municipal utilities) are not so controlled but should be. Their local interests should be secondary to national needs.
Most PUCs require large, centralized electrical generation, far away from population centers, partially for safety and partially to reduce local pollution. This reduce the potential for CHP (combined heat and power), which uses the wasted heat of the power plants. CHP is also called "cogeneration". Europe has considerably higher percentage of CHP than in the US.
We need a national law setting increasing percentage requirements for CHP, and appropriate compensation when applicable. This, together with conservation and efficiency measures at the points of electricity use, will be one of the lowest cost ways to reduce CO2.
CHP could reduce electricity generation costs.
Germany generates 50% of its electricity from coal, and is increasing it rapidly; 23 % nuclear
China generates 80% of its electricity from coal, increasing it rapidly
France generates 80% of its electricity from nuclear power
I thank Dr. Evan Hughes for his review and comments on some of the content here. However, the views and opinions expressed, and the responsibility for the facts given, are mine alone.
The short video below by PM Brown of the UK is worth seeing and grasping. We have little time for action to reduce the more serious impacts of GW. Up to now we have been talking a lot, but no real cutting of GHG has been done. So many promisses, so little actions.
Once the damage from unchecked emissions growth is done, no retrospective global agreement, in some future period, can undo that choice
Gordon Brown, P.M., UK
from the BBC:
Toyota announced recently that it will come up with plug-in electric cars that will have short mileage, just 10 miles per electric charge. Other car makers are talking about up to 40 miles per charge. Let's look at some of the issues involve and also ask some questions about the appeal of electric cars.
The key problem with plug-ins is their batteries must have huge energy capacity. Batteries do not have high energy density per unit weight, and will have to be very large and heavy to supply the energy needed for longer trips. Also, batteries can be discharged to just one third to one half of their capacity to have a reasonable life. That is, if you discharge the battery too deeply, the life of the battery deteriorates rapidly and this huge investment must be replaced frequently at very high cost.
You simply can not afford it. And this is the reason why Toyota was against self modification of their Prius to plug-in. Toyota can not afford to replace the batteries under this condition. It will cut their 100,000 miles life expectancy, and warranty, by probably three to one, depending on use profile.
There is something more important than the mileage issue here: what is the energy life cycle cost of these cars? Why are we attempting to replace gasoline driven cars by electricity driven cars? We assume that the electric cars will cause considerably less greenhouse gases that the oil driven cars. Hopefully that is the case, but we are not looking at the total picture.
We must be focused because we do not have time to spare. Because of the time-criticality of global warming we need to focus on the best techniques to reduce the maximum amount of greenhouse gases at the fastest rate. Nationally I would concentrate on efforts to replace the largest number of gas guzzlers by low gas consuming cars at the shortest time possible. Most of the public would not buy plug-ins for many years, until they have improved by a significant amount and proven themselves.
We need, however, to tax GHG- producing fossil fuels soon to change the buying habits of the public. We should increase the price of gasoline to levels approaching Europe, and start with a minimum of five dollar a gallon. In conjunction with this we need to compensate low income people along the way to reduce their economic pain during this necessary transition to low fossil fuels use.
We should continue to develop electric cars, but don't look at it more than an R&D effort for years to come. Battery technology is the limiting factor because, it is hard to replace gasoline since it contains considerable amount of energy in a very small volume. We need to cut our driving and not expect that by the magic of electricity we could continue our wasteful way of life, in my opinion. Please note that half of US electricity would continued to come from coal power plants, and PV solar panels can contribute just a miniscule amount of energy to the total national use. PV is window dressing and is not likely to generate much electricity until its price drops to one tenth of present level, according to Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu.
A word on the very important aspect of public transportation. This is an essential part of the reduction of our national dependence on private cars and all the negatives associated with it. I will only say here that we must enhance public transportation in a cost-effective way that benefits the largest number of potential riders. The desire for light rails and high speed trains is misdirected in many cases. Less dramatic and less "exciting" solutions, such as city busses, are often more useful to the community.
And what is the energy life cycle cost of these cars? It may be high. I attempted to find out but could not since Toyota refused to provide this information even under court orders to do so in both the U.K. and New Zeeland, according to what seems reliable internet information. Toyota agreed to reduce their green claims rather than answer the courts.
The batteries are high energy users, they are very costly since they use rare materials, (disposal problems?), are very complex to make, and it is also hard to achieve high safety levels with these complex batteries.
In summary, to find the real story we need to dig below the superficial level we normally approach most problems in the US.
Global warming is a complex issue with many elements in it. We often have a quick impression about many aspects of it, but some of these impressions are likely to be erroneous becaues they are based on minimal information. This is a realtively long article but in order to grap the true essence of GW we need to invest time studying it. And this is a good one to study.
By reading this summary you are more likly to understand how global warming has already been impacting our globe and what additional impacts we can expect unless we do all we can to cut greenhouse gases that are intensifying the warming of the climate.
Impacts of Climate Change Coming Faster and Sooner: New Science Report Underlines Urgency for Governments to Seal the Deal in Copenhagen http://www.unep.org/Documents.Multilingual/Default.asp?DocumentID=596&ArticleID=6326&l=en&t=long
Washington/Nairobi, 24 September 2009 -The pace and scale of climate change may now be outstripping even the most sobering predictions of the last report of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC).
An analysis of the very latest, peer-reviewed science indicates that many predictions at the upper end of the IPCC's forecasts are becoming ever more likely.
Meanwhile, the newly emerging science points to some events thought likely to occur in longer-term time horizons, as already happening or set to happen far sooner than had previously been thought.
Researchers have become increasingly concerned about ocean acidification linked with the absorption of carbon dioxide in seawater and the impact on shellfish and coral reefs.
Water that can corrode a shell-making substance called aragonite is already welling up along the California coast decades earlier than existing models predict.
Losses from glaciers, ice-sheets and the Polar Regions appear to be happening faster than anticipated, with the Greenland ice sheet, for example, recently seeing melting some 60 percent higher than the previous record of 1998.
Some scientists are now warning that sea levels could rise by up to two meters by 2100 and five to ten times that over following centuries.
There is also growing concern among some scientists that thresholds or tipping points may now be reached in a matter of years or a few decades including dramatic changes to the Indian sub-continent's monsoon, the Sahara and West Africa monsoons, and climate systems affecting a critical ecosystem like the Amazon rainforest.
The report also underlines concern by scientists that the planet is now committed to some damaging and irreversible impacts as a result of the greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere.
Losses of tropical and temperate mountain glaciers affecting perhaps 20 percent to 25 percent of the human population in terms of drinking water, irrigation and hydro-power.
Shifts in the hydrological cycle resulting in the disappearance of regional climates with related losses of ecosystems, species and the spread of drylands northwards and southwards away from the equator.
Recent science suggests that it may still be possible to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. However, this will only happen if there is immediate, cohesive and decisive action to both cut emissions and assist vulnerable countries adapt.
These are among the findings of a report released today by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) entitled Climate Change Science Compendium 2009.
The report, compiled in association with scientists around the world, comes with less than 80 days to go to the crucial UN climate convention meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark.
In a foreword to the document, the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, who this week hosted heads of state in New York, writes, "This Climate Change Science Compendium is a wake-up call. The time for hesitation is over".
"We need the world to realize, once and for all, that the time to act is now and we must work together to address this monumental challenge. This is the moral challenge of our generation."
The Compendium reviews some 400 major scientific contributions to our understanding of Earth Systems and climate change that have been released through peer-reviewed literature, or from research institutions, over the last three years.
Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said, "The Compendium can never replace the painstaking rigour of an IPCC process a shining example of how the United Nations can provide a path to consensus among the sometimes differing views of more than 190 nations".
"However, scientific knowledge on climate change and forecasting of the likely impacts has been advancing rapidly since the landmark 2007 IPCC report," he added.
"Many governments have asked to be kept abreast of the latest findings. I am sure that this report fulfils that request and will inform ministers' decisions when they meet in the Danish capital in only a few weeks time," said Mr. Steiner.
The research findings and observations in the Compendium are divided into five categories: Earth Systems, Ice, Oceans, Ecosystems and Management. Key developments documented since the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report include:
A new climate modeling system, forecasting average temperatures over a decade by combining natural variation with the impacts of human-induced climate change, projects that at least half of the 10 years following 2009 will exceed the warmest year currently on record. This is despite the fact that natural variation will partially offset the warming "signal" from greenhouse gas emissions.
The growth in carbon dioxide emissions from energy and industry has exceeded even the most fossil-fuel intensive scenario developed by the IPCC at the end of the 1990s. Global emissions were growing by 1.1 percent each year from 1990-1999 and this accelerated to 3.5 percent per year from 2000-2007.
The developing and least-developed economies, 80 percent of the world's population, accounted for 73 percent of the global growth of emissions in 2004. However, they contributed only 41 percent of total emissions, and just 23 percent of cumulative emissions since 1750.
Growth of the global economy in the early 2000s and an increase in its carbon intensity (emissions per unit of growth), combined with a decrease in the capacity of ecosystems on land and the oceans to act as carbon "sinks", have led to a rapid increase in the concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This has contributed to sooner-than-expected impacts including faster sea-level rise, ocean acidification, melting Arctic sea ice, warming of polar land masses, freshening of ocean currents and shifts in the circulation patterns of the oceans and atmosphere.
The observed increase in greenhouse gas concentrations are raising concern among some scientists that warming of between 1.4 and 4.3 degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial surface temperatures could occur. This exceeds the range of between 1 and 3 degrees perceived as the threshold for many "tipping points", including the end of summer Arctic sea ice, and the eventual melting of Himalayan glaciers and the Greenland ice sheet.
The melting of mountain glaciers appears to be accelerating, threatening the livelihoods of one fifth or more of the population who depend on glacier ice and seasonal snow for their water supply. For 30 reference glaciers in nine mountain ranges tracked by the World Glacier Monitoring Service, the mean rate of loss since 2000 has roughly doubled since the rate during the previous two decades. Current trends suggest that most glaciers will disappear from the Pyrenees by 2050 and from the mountains of tropical Africa by 2030.
In 2007, summer sea ice in the Arctic Ocean shrank to its smallest extent ever, 24 percent less than the previous record in 2005, and 34 percent less than the average minimum extent in the period 1970-2000. In 2008, the minimum ice extent was 9 percent greater than in 2007, but still the second lowest on record.
Until the summer of 2007, most models projected an ice-free September for the Arctic Ocean towards the end of the current century. Reconsideration based on current trends has led to speculation that this could occur as soon as 2030.
Melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet surface also seems to be accelerating. In the summer of 2007, the rate of melting was some 60 percent higher than the previous record in 1998.
The loss of ice from West Antarctica is estimated to have increased by 60 per cent in the decade to 2006, and by 140 percent from the Antarctic Peninsula in the same period.
Recent findings show that warming extends well to the south of the Antarctic Peninsula, to cover most of West Antarctica, an area of warming much larger than previously reported.
The hole in the ozone layer has had a cooling effect on Antarctica, and is partly responsible for masking expected warming on the continent. Recovery of stratospheric ozone, thanks to the phasing out of ozone-depleting substances, is projected to increase Antarctic temperatures in coming decades.
Recent estimates of the combined impact of melting land-ice and thermal expansion of the oceans suggest a plausible average sea level rise of between 0.8 and 2.0 metres above the 1990 level by 2100. This compares with a projected rise of between 18 and 59 centimetres in the last IPCC report, which did not include an estimate of large-scale changes in ice-melt rates, due to lack of consensus.
Oceans are becoming more acidic more quickly than expected, jeopardizing the ability of shellfish and corals to form their external skeletons. Water that can corrode a shell-making carbonate substance called aragonite is already welling up during the summer along the California coast, decades earlier than models predict.
Since the 2007 IPCC report, wide-ranging surveys have shown changes to the seasonal behaviour and distribution of all well-studied marine, freshwater and terrestrial groups of plants and animals. Polar and mountaintop species have seen severe contractions of their ranges.
A recent study projecting the impacts of climate change on the pattern of marine biodiversity suggests dramatic changes to come. Ecosystems in sub-polar waters, the tropics and semi-enclosed seas are predicted to suffer numerous extinctions by 2050, while the Arctic and Southern Oceans will experience severe species invasions. Marine ecosystems as a whole may see a species turnover of up to 60 percent.
Under the IPCC scenario that most closely matches current trends i.e. with the highest projected emissions between 12 and 39 percent of the Earth's land surface could experience previously unknown climate conditions by 2100. A similar proportion, between 10 and 48 percent, will see existing climates disappear. Many of these "disappearing climates" coincide with biodiversity hotspots, and with the added problem of fragmented habitats and physical obstructions to migration, it is feared many species will struggle to adapt to the new conditions.
Perennial drought conditions have already been observed in South-eastern Australia and South-western North America. Projections suggest that persistent water scarcity will increase in a number of regions in coming years, including southern and northern Africa, the Mediterranean, much of the Middle East, a broad band in Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent.
The reality of a rapidly-changing climate may make conventional approaches to conservation and restoration of habitats ineffective. Drastic measures such as large-scale translocation or assisted colonization of species may need to be considered.
Eco-agriculture, in which landscapes are managed to sustain a range of ecosystem services, including food production, may need to replace the current segregation of land use between conservation and production. This could help create resilient agricultural ecosystems better able to adapt to the changing climate conditions.
Experts increasingly agree that active protection of tropical forests is a cost-effective means of cutting global emissions. An international mechanism of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) is likely to emerge as a central component of a new agreement in Copenhagen. However, many issues need to be resolved, such as how to verify the reductions and ensuring fair treatment of local and indigenous forest communities.
A number of innovative approaches are emerging to keep carbon out of the atmosphere, including the use of "biochar", biologically-derived charcoal. It is mixed in soils, increasing fertility and potentially locking up carbon for centuries. This is a 21st century application of a technology known as Terra Preta, or Black Earth, used by Amazon peoples before the arrival of Europeans in South America.
Matania Ginosar is an Environmental Scientist & Electrical Engineer. His experience and education have been result-oriented, practical, and hands-on, creating effective solutions to complex problems. His experience covers a wide range of fields: advanced electronic design, R&D, manufacturing, teaching, air pollution, organized political pressure on Congress, and developing alternative energies. He did advanced electronic developments for the military, and was consultant to corporations. His main concentration in the last 7 years is on the impact of Climatic Change.
• D. Env - Doctor of Environmental Science and Engineering, UCLA.
• M.S. Engineering (Management). Engineering Executive Program, UCLA.
• Teaching Assistant, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
• M.S. Electronic Engineering - University of Washington .
• B.S. Electrical Engineering - University of Washington .
Some of his Experience:
• Developed and directed the pioneering Wind Energy program of the California Energy Commission that led to the first commercial wind energy farms in the world.
• Directed the Solar Energy Office, California Energy Commission, concentrated on high-impact cost-effectiveness solutions.
• Manager R&D electronic systems.
• Manufacturing Manager, Seismic equipment for oil exploration.
• Manager of Techno-Economic operation of a large company.
Some of his achievements:
• His analysis and discussion convinced California Air Resources Board to tighten air pollution standard.
• Wrote & lobbied CA Legislature for a bill for mass use of wind energy, first in the world, it was enacted.
• Constructed electrical system for a small community
• Designed underwater communication system
• Directed Wind Energy Resource Development in CA
• Lectured extensively on wind energy, including overseas IEEE conference, and at the Haifa Technion
• Advised CA Legislature on several Alternative - Energy bills.
• Developed Economic Analysis of Large Scale Wind Systems in CA.
• Evaluated potential Environmental Impacts on land by Spent Oil- Shale.
• Developed Methodology for Setting Primary Ambient Air Quality Standards for Sulfur Pollutants.
• Exposed political bias & controversy over CA Outer Continental Shelf Oil
• Developed statistical digital circuit design, cut costs by 80%.
• Pioneered advanced digital communication for military, resulting in large contracts.
• Wrote extensively about Middle East security developments.
• Advised several corporate managements on the developing digital age.
• Lectured widely on advanced electronics.
• Analyzed Family Planning in China, and population trends in the Middle East
• Directed, pro bono, 9 yrs, the development of grassroots pressure on Congress in several states to reduce nuclear weapons.
• A long term student of effective human interactions, motivation, harmony
• Analyzed Climate Change at: www.ginosaronglobalwarming.org
Praise for Dr. Ginosar
".. Matania is extremely broad technically and utilizes his wide range of experience...to solve difficult problems having complex interrelationship of a multitude of parameters and factors...As a result of his ability to forecast trends, his thorough coverage of the problems and potential solutions and his ability to sell his ideas, the majority of his recommendations were accepted by top management and implemented." – J.Harding, V.P. Engineering, Litton Data Systems Division.
"Without your technical assistance, it would have been impossible to develop ...an effective state wind energy program." – California Assemblyman H.J. Mello
"You have designed one of the neatest, closely honed, and most useful packages for organizing a political action network I have ever seen..in my 30 years of wide range of political activities.. I have seen political actions kit materials before. None that I have seen, however, can touch a candle to yours. The simplicity, clarity, readily adaptable utility, and a host of other truly subtle design features, in my estimation, bring your material up to the level of an art form." – Arthur J. Hessburg, Consultant to Peace organizations & Senior VP, General Counsel, Century Life of America
The rapid advance of Global Warming and emitting 70 million tons of CO2 daily dictate that we should proceed immediately to cut CO2 as rapidly as possible. By using simple conservation we can more rapidly than any other approach cut down CO2 at the fastest possible rate with the least cost. No training, no material or skill shortages. Conservation can be as much as 30 times cheaper than photovoltaic, much faster to achieve, retains all the money in the US, and can employ locally the largest number of people.
This is for illustration only, all numbers are ballpark.
1. Replace 5% of US electricity from coal by PV cost: $ 923 Billion
2. Reducing same CO2 emissions by attic insulation cost: $ 29 B
CONSERVATION can be 30 times more COST EFFECTIVE than PV
Thus we can cut CO2 emissions 30 times more per dollar
1. Federal tax rebate for PV at 30% rate could cost: $ 277 B
Therefore: Sensible Federal approach to reduce CO2 could:
A. Achieve the same CO2 reduction with just 3% of the cost by Conservation
B. Using just the 30% federal tax rebate directly we can achieve TEN TIMES the CO2 reduction as federal support for PV.
To maximize results cost should be an important consideration since we never will have sufficient funds to do all the things we need to do to reduce global warming. The US can not afford the luxury of using high cost, appealing approach when reliable, proven, boring approach can reduce CO2 by 32 times less expensive means.
Dr. Matania Ginosar
Environmental Scientist & Electrical Engineer
Mailed Feb 09
Calculations and Background:
Federal support alone for PV could cost $277 billion
A. INITIAL CAPITAL ONLY: PV has many additional costs that are not calculated here such as maintenance and repair, which are not required with conservation. Conservation quality declines very little with time, PV output decays faster with life.
Life cycle cost has demonstrated even more benefits for Conservation.
US electric consumption 4 billion MWH/yr
Replace 5% of US electricity from coal by PV, half on private home roofs, half commercial. All PV units here are 1 kW.
1. PV Roof installations assume $7000/kW average
PV price has not declined as assumed: In 2005 cost of roof-installed kW was $8,000; today it is about $9500. Now with substantial increase in subsidies and increased demand, system price is likely to go up, not down.
Assume half of PV installations on roofs, and despite that price is not dropping in last 4 years but going up, assume price will drop to an average of $7000/kW over the next few years.
2. Commercial at $5000/kW average (currently $7,000)
PV Output per KW US average,
Roof PV 1200 KWh/yr = 1.2 MWH/yr
Commercial, not in cloudy areas: 1.4 MWh/yr
Combine average output per kW: 1.3 MWh/yr
Cost average: $6000/ kW
5% of US 4 billions MWH/yr = 200 million MWh/yr needed from PV
Divide by PV average output of 1.3 MWh/yr = 154 million PV kW units installed
Total PV cost: 154 M units times average cost of $ 6000 per kW = $ 923 Billion Federal support for PV at 30% = $277 billion.
Conservation could achieves same CO2 reduction: $ 29 B
Potential Global warming impacts of mass PV installations:
Producing, installing 154 Million PV units generates 300 million tons of CO2
To curtail GW our immediate national goal should be to cut the maximum amount of Global Warming gases above all! And to do it as fast as possible.
Note also that crystalline silicon PV takes some 6 years for energy payback; the highest of any alternative energy, this will increase GHG rapidly during PV installation. Previous detailed studies by supporters of PV show energy payback in the range of 8 to 11 years. Here we use just 5 years for energy payback. As long as we use current crystalline silicon technology, it is very difficult to reduce energy payback. Making highly refined silicon wafers that can have high efficiency and reasonable life expectancy requires considerable amount of electricity. In addition manufacturing and installations of additional system parts consume a lot of fossil energy. Note also that for next ten years 50% of US electricity will continue to come from coal, and 20% from natural gas thus electricity production will continue to emit high amounts of CO2.
Reducing the PV energy payback period will have little impact on these cost calculations.
Building insulation, attics and walls, could use just shredded newspaper (which often is buried because market price for recycling is too low, or is shipped to China) coated with fire preventions. It is blown by a very simple machine into the attic; it takes less than one hour per attic. It uses moderate and low skilled local labor.
Cost should be an important consideration since we never will have sufficient funds to do all the things we need to do to reduce global warming. The US can not afford the luxury of using high cost, appealing approach when reliable, proven, boring approach can reduce CO2 by possibly 30 times less expensive means.
Most of the federal financial resources for CO2 reduction should be directed instead, to support and pay for massive conservation and efficiency across the USA.
Federal support for R&D for advanced solar and other technologies that can reduce CO2 at reasonable costs should be substantially increased.
Estimates of Conservation - Attic Insulation example.
In most cases the best alternatives energy systems are energy efficiency, and conservation.
Every kWh saved is one less kWh needed to be produced, controlled and transmitted. Also, utilities need less capacity with conservation since insulated houses would not ever required extra energy. Houses with PV do require additional utility energy at night, when systems fail or weather dictates.
Attic insulation could be 32 times more cost effective than solar - silicon PV.
Other conservation measures may be more expensive.
Conservation cost remains in US:
Total attic insulation costs, labor and material, remain in US. And ¾ of cost is for local, low skill labor, which is abundant in the US. It is effective all the time 24/7
PV capital flows partially overseas:
Silicon panels, 45% of PV systems cost, are often manufactured abroad, thus exporting US capital overseas adding to our national balance of payment problem.
More people employed per dollar investment by conservation - reducing unemployment
Insulation can be used effectively across all areas of the country, independent of sun availability.
Case study: Typical 1970's home in Sacramento with the then-typical limited attic insulation of R13 or less. Calculations of an actual Sacramento home, with technical support from two independent utility personnel, SMUD, and PG&E IN 2002, prices updated to 2008.
Cost per attic insulation upgrade from R13 to R38, $1,500 total cost for 1750 sqft home. Just $600 if done by owner, as the author did.
Insulation useful life = life of house, over 50 years
Conservation direct Energy Savings:
1. Heating season- 120 days; natural gas: 3 Therm /day, yearly saving, = 360 Therm/yr saved
2. during cooling season - 120 days, average use (per PG&E) is 1000 kWh /mo, savings can be half of that: 500 KWh/m x 4 month; verified for a typical area in SMUD Sacramento too.
Energy saved a year: 360 Therm gas plus 2,000 kWh
For life of home: electricity: 50yr X 2,000 kWh =100,000 kWh = 95 tons of CO2
Gas: 360 Therm x 50 year = 18,000 Therm, x 12 pound/T = 108 tons of CO2
Total reduction: 203 tons CO2
(With mass contracts this cost could be noticeably reduced.)
PV energy production 25 years life less five years energy payback, net 20 years times 1.3 MWh/ yr
26,000 kWh x 0.95 KG/ kWh = 25 tons of CO2 for system life
All electrical comparison for CO2 from Coal power plants.
CO2 reduction by attic insulation 203 tons, 8 to 1 better for conservation
Cost PV: $6,000/ kW; Conservation: $1500, 4 to 1 better for conservation
Therefore, attic insulation could be 32 times more cost effective than PV in reducing GHG.
Another way of saying it:
Attic insulation can reduce 32 times more CO2 than PV per dollar.
For many years solar advocates project with "great certainty" that the price of silicon photovoltaic systems will drop substantially as popular demand increase. This is contrary to actual market experience and contrary to basic economics. They use two main arguments for the "coming price drop" which is always just around the corner. One is comparison PV with computer chip price drop; another one is price drop with quantity.
1. Computers are the opposite of PV. Almost all PV systems are made from highly refined silicon slices mounted in large panels. Computers also use similar silicon slices but in the opposite way- make them very very small. Again, the only thing computers and PV system share is that both are made from highly refined silicon slices. All other key factors are opposite. Computer manufacturing concentrate diligently on putting a larger and larger number of transistors, the basic computer element, per silicon area. Their goal is to minimize the unit size thus uses less and less costly silicon per computing function. They do not reduce the price of the refined silicon, they put more capability in each silicon chip.
It is the opposite with PV. PV systems needs very large amount of silicon to be exposed to the sun to capture sufficient amount of energy. A PV roof system is typically 7 meter square per kW, 50,000 times the typical size of a computer chip. Therefore, there is no relationship between price drop per computer function and hoped for price drop of silicon PV.
2. PV price will NOT drop by increase demand and manufacturing. Producing "free" electricity from the sun is a very appealing proposition. Therefore PV systems has appeal beyond their energy production. PV price projection thus can more correctly be compared to the price of the popular Toyota Prius hybrid car. A three kW PV roof system cost about $5,000 more than a full feature Toyota Prius, $25,000. Prius buyers are willing to pay substantial premium in order to reduce their CO2 footprint. A commendable decision. However, this premium price did not drop despite substantial increase in Prius production in the last few years. High demand allows Toyota to retain its high prices.
Similarly, PV command higher prices that do not show any decline. When we add to the emotional attraction of PV the considerable rebates by local and Federal governments, the price of the PV is more likely to rise than to drop. Buyers look ONLY at their own out-of-pocket costs. Seller's emphasis buyer's net price all along the sale cycle.
Demand will be kept up by rebates and PV system price will increase due to the rebates.
The likelihood of substantial price reduction is extremely unlikely. It contradicts evidence, it contradicts basic market experience. The industry is mature, with savy advertisement, and generates billions in yearly profit.
The US can not afford to waste nearly a $ Trillion on old, inefficient PV technology.
..."Severin Bornstein, director of the University of California Energy Institute, said there is no guarantee that cost (of PV) will decline- and that prices could actually increase as demand for silicon goes up.
Borenstein said the money would be better directed towards solar technology and improving the amount of energy generated per panel rather than paying for expensive materials being manufactured today. He also suggested that energy efficiency improvements and wind power would be cheaper.
"This plan is very inefficient way to push forward an industry," Borenstein said. "It's like building a bigger freeway with the hope that somebody will build better cars. We should be subsidizing research and development."
He suggested that solar power is "an intuitive appealing notion" that does not make economic sense.
(Sacramento Bee Dec 18, 05 p A4 Solar: Critics says money better spent on more research)
Global Warming is unlike any other issue because we have
no previous human experience of this magnitude and it is
natural to minimize its significance.
To paraphrase Neil Bohr, if Global Warming has not shaken you up yet, you probably haven't understood it.
We must turn upside down our approach to fighting Global Warming because time is of the essence:
Instead of regulating Greenhouse Gases to a level that may have no negative economic impact, we must reduce GHG to the maximum that could be technically and economically implementable.
Some Key Points
1. Most scientific reports tells us that the current impacts of global temperature rise are worse than estimated earlier, that we are not sure how fast the temperature will rise, and do not know what is the maximum level of GHG nature can tolerate before a catastrophic tipping point could start. Therefore, we must set the tightest limits on global and national GHG levels that we are able to.
2. Early cuts of GHG have considerably more critical impacts than later reductions.
3. Most proposed cuts in GHG are based on the UN-IPCC, AR4 report. However, we can not rely on it to set limits to GHG emissions since it was politically constrained, ignored potential catastrophic events, and some of its negative predictions have already been exceeded. We now have more relevant data and more insight.
4. GHG level is already too high thus increasing global temperatures and damaging global Climate. We are not sure at what level we must stabilize GHG to prevent even more severe harm to the world population because the complexity of global climate is beyond our actual knowledge. Modeling is approximation. If we err, we must err on the safe side.
5. The natural self interest of most people distorts their ability to cooperate and follow the need of the larger society. Therefore, there is considerable uncertainty how the laws enacted will effect the actual GHG emissions in the US. And we are one the most law-abiding nations.
6. The self interest of nations and desire for power of the influentials could severely distort the compliance with global GHG regulations. Think of the oil exporting nations, as a minimum.
7. Tipping points: There is some low, but not insignificant, probability that increased levels of GHG could trigger catastrophic, massive, uncontrolled releases of GHG that could cause significant increase in global temperatures. That possible temperature increase, beyond 10 C or even 20 C degrees, could cause severe, unmitigated damage to the global climate that could render our Earth essentially uninhabitable.
8. Regarding the risk of Tipping Points - the catastrophic release of stored GHG. Because this is the only home humanity has, we can not take the RISK of destroying our climate. RISK is the probability times the magnitude of the event. Even with low probability, the enormous magnitude of the potential damage to our globe by catastrophic release of GHG makes the risk massive and unacceptable. Therefore, we must dedicate a high percentage of our global resources to reduce GHG as fast as possible and the largest reduction possible.
9. Humanity has never encountered a danger to its existence of this level before. We can not truly grasp the seriousness of GW. Even with all the high levels of scientific and technical powers we have, we are unprepared. We do not know what we do not know or understand.
10. We still operate by "we vs. them" laws. This simply can not work. We are all in the same boat. National and Global cooperation beyond any previous level is mandatory. We depend on one another, especially the US and China.
11. We, the US, will have to "give" more than other nations. We took the "most" to date. US is 4.5% of global population, occupying 1.9% of Earth surfaces, and emitted to date 30% of all GHG.
12. We have to be more honest and forward in our international dealing re. GW or we will not get the crucial cooperation required. We would not be able to cover up superficial regulations and minimal actions by public relation bluff, so common in our culture and in Congress. Foreign governments are not likely to buy into that kind of thinking that much of our own public does.
13. The complexity of global climate, the significant gaps in our knowledge, the uncertainty of GHG laws, their compliance, their possible impacts, global cooperation required, and potential high risk to our survival, put us in a dangerous territory. We do not know what the results of all GHG curtailment laws and effort would achieve. Therefore, we can not use the usual American approach: "don't worry, everything will turn up right in the end." We must aim towards minimizing global human suffering and maximizing the chance for human survival.
14. The initial GHG reductions that we should take now must be decisive, based on proven technologies and real knowledge, not experimental or unproven; that may or may not work, such as Carbon Capture and Storage. We can not take the risks of unproven technologies since the C02 that we did not cut will remain in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. After we accomplish significant GHG reductions, then we can bring proven new approaches on line too.
15. "We will pay for this one way or another. We will pay to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today, and we'll have to take an economic hit of some kind. Or we will pay the price later in military terms. And that will involve human lives." GEN. ANTHONY ZINNI, former head Central Command.
16. To paraphrase Jean Monnet: Global Warming can not be reduced without efforts that are proportionate to the danger which GW threatens humanity.
WE MUST CURTAIL GHG TO THE MAXIMUM LEVEL WE CAN POSSIBLY MANAGE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
Dr. of Environmental Science, M.S. Electrical Engineering.
Misinformation- The San Francisco Moscone Conference Center example
There is considerable misleading information, and partial information in the PV field. This is one of the main reasons why supporters believe that PV could be cost-effective and practical in the near future. I selected the following case to illustrate how even a specialist in the PV field can be unaware of the true facts and communicate them widely, but wrongly, to both the professional community and via them to the public.
I communicated by email with a University of California professor, head of a renewable energy department, about the cost of PV systems. Since his articles on PV are numerous, I asked him why the prices he cites in an article he wrote are so much lower than those the CA PUC discussed in some length in their multiyear study (Ref. 1). He responded "We read different papers," and pointed me to the Moscone Center in San Francisco as an example of the low cost of PV systems at $4.5/w.
He was misinformed, the PV system there costs 50% higher: $6.72/w (Ref. 2). But this is the less important part of the mistakes and misinformation involved.
After some investigation and despite their reluctance to give me the relevant information, the PV system installers, Powerlight Corporation, referred me to their website (Ref. 3). Since it did not include much about the PV productivity I asked several times, and they finally emailed me: "The PV output is 675 kW or 826,00 kWh generated per year."
Their website states the following (Ref. 3):
"The project is performing well. PV generation and the energy efficiency upgrades are guaranteed to save 4,915,374 kWh/year. Data from the first year of operation, between April 2004 and March 2005, indicate that the Moscone Project is delivering energy savings above guaranteed levels.
Guaranteed PV Production + EE Savings 4,915,374 kWh
Measured PV Production + EE Savings 5,023,811 kWh
NET REDUCTION OF UTILITY ELECTRICITY 5,023,811 kWh
ANNUAL UTILITY BILL SAVINGS $753,571"
Simple calculations show that the PV is a major loss item, the conservation a major gain. But by adding the two they cover up the loss on the PV system. Also, the actual savings is only 22% of the amount they claimed.
1. The PV output is just 16% of the total: 826,000 kWh/yr, at 15c/kWh (their numbers) equals to $123,900 electricity production.
Full cost of PV system: $4.5 million. Assuming a 30 yr loan (to equal their estimated PV system life) at a very low rate of only 6%/yr (SMUD charges 7.5% for its PV loans) the yearly loan payment would be $326,920/yr.
This PV part creates a net loss of $203,020/year.
2. Conservation measures, or energy efficiency upgrades, taken at the Moscone Center are very simple and limited, consisting of lighting changes and added electronic controls for the A/C and heating (according to them). The amount saved by the conservation measures alone equals 84% of total energy reduction: 4,197,811 kWh, at 15c equals $630,000.
Conservation cost: $3.6 M total, same loan conditions as above equals: $262,000/yr.
The conservation has a net gain of $368,000/yr.
Therefore, net true saving for both parts: PV, a loss of $203,000/yr + conservation, a gain of $368,000/yr is actually $165,000/yr., ONLY 22% OF THE $753,571 CLAIMED BY POWERLIGHT.
In addition, all the saving was by conservation, and reduced by the loss on PV.
TWO THINGS ARE IMPORTANT TO GRASP HERE:
A. By combining the figures of the two parts Powerlight misleads observers to believe that PV is a significant contributor to the energy savings, which is not.
If conservation was used alone the net savings would be $368,000/yr, more than double the current saving., And the $4.5 million PV capital costs could have been used for other effective conservation measures elsewhere and save considerably more energy and the cut greenhouse gases generated by it.
B. IGNORING CAPITAL COSTS.
This is the standard approach by PV sellers and advocates of showing only the energy savings, without including the capital costs of PV systems, which wipes out the savings several times over. Buyers and the public are unaware of this fact.
1. CPUC Self-Generation Incentive Program Fourth-Year Impact Report, Final Report, April 15, 2005 (California Public Utility Commission)
3. www.votesolar.org, click on Moscone.
Written 2006- valid now
My brief free-style selective notes of Dr. Holdren presentation from the Web video of the MIT Energy conference 4/13/09, (All dimensions are metric)
Present, Congressman Ed Markey, Chair of House select Comm. On Energy Independence and Global Warming.
Dr. Holdren comments:
All negative impacts of GW are rising at or above the rates predicted by IPCC
Tipping points could occur rather sooner than later
Increase rise in desertification, more intense fires and timber loss
Increase ocean temperature
Business as usual: 2degrees C rise by 2050 and 3 C degrees by 2100
Arctic ice disappears faster than expected.
One to 2 meter rise in sea level in a century
Permafrost degradation increasing
More acidification of the oceans
GHG 515 ppm by 2065
We have three avenues:
1. Mitigation, reduce GHG,
3. Suffering, when the two above fail
There is no possible way that we can mitigate GW. We have to adapt, GW is here, now.
Adaptation becomes more difficult and costly with time
If we stabilize GHG at 500 ppm there is a 50% chance that we may stay below 3 degrees rise, and unlikely to avoid unknown critical events
At 450 ppm, we have a 50% chance of staying below 2 C degrees. A much more prudent approach but not guaranteed.
We need for US and other industrial countries to level off GHG by 2015 and reduce to 80% BELOW 2000 levels by 2050
To be below 450 ppm CO2 equivalent the world need to reduce its release by some 7 to 9 billion tonnes below current levels. It is a reduction of 20-25 % of current emission level.
Examples how to reduce one billion tonnes:
1. Two Billion cars fleet at 60 mpg
2. CCS on 800 One GW size coal power plants
3. 700 new wind farms with one million, 1 MW wind machines each
4. 2000 one MW photovoltaic stations
5. Deforestation cut by one half
If By 2030 we will be still in business as usual mode, all the more economical approaches to reduce GHG will be gone.
First - Improve efficiency- the fruits on the ground, After that cost rise. All other avenues are more costly to do.
1. First remove barriers to conservation
2. Incentives to overcome resistance
Cap & Trade
3. Supporting R&D by $150 billions over 10 years for energy and environment
Q & A of Dr. Holdren:
Congressman Markey Q to Holdren:
We should do it similar to President Kennedy and The Moon mission.
In 1961 I was a freshmen at MIT and remember the period.
This is a more difficult effort, more than Apollo, more than Manhattan project. More complex and vast technology.
From 1970 to 2005 we cut our energy use per GDP by half
Must have CCS - many think it is sure to work - we must have low leak rate and capacity for immense amount of CO2.
We need cheaper PV cells, cheap as paint.
Nuclear energy should be used.
Fusion is always 40 years away.
The Los Angeles Times wrote today that 92% of the public support solar.
Of course solar energy is popular, it is magically appealing, but should we run our national policy by popularity of an unaware public, or by science and economic realities? The federal deficit is about one and a half Trillions now. Global warming is a serious threat to our climate and we need to reduce it fast in practical ways. We do not have all the money we need to reduce global warming on a mass scale. Photovoltaic is a luxury we can not afford! The public is duped to think if we just pour billions into PV we could reduce the eventual cost to make it economical. I wish it was the case. It is not.
Most people love solar because they only see panels on the roof that supply "free" electricity- and know nothing about the complexity and high cost involved. Photovoltaic- generated electricity is very costly, close to one dollar a kWh. But various local, state and federal subsidies cut the cost TO THE OWNER by possibly one half, still a heafty 50 cent a kWh. The buyer does not know the cost, the information he/she gets is so convoluted that few can decifer them.
As a country, since we pay the subsidies from our taxes, we need to consider the total cost to society and what else we can do with this amount of money to reduce GW. Attic insulation can cut 30 times as much global warming gases as PV dollar. Conservation can provide many more local jobs than PV, and unlike most PV, the total cost remains in the US.
Wind is not so popular since there is nothing magical about it. It is a simple but effective technology, and cost-effective today.
There are laws of physics that govern our reality and we should understand them: To grasp the reality you need understand the details.
The reasons why current technology silicon solar photovoltaic is expensive and unlikely to be much lower in cost are: 1. Sun has low energy density, 2. only fraction of it can be used, 3. PV system must cover large areas, and 4. PV requires high technology material to generate electricity.
1. Sun energy is weak: The sun peak energy (in good areas) is just one kW per square meter, but the average 24 hrs output is just a quarter of that.
2. Just a fraction of the sun energy can generate electricity in silicon panels.
A simple explanation of the physics: Only a fraction of the sun energy spectrum can generate electricity because when the energy is below the require threshold it is unable to elevate the electron to the next level to create electrical current. If the wave length is above the correct portion of the spectrum, the energy is wasted as heat reducing the efficiency of the silicon panel.
3. You must have full coverage of a large area to generate sufficient amount of energy.
4. Must use high technology material- silicon panels to cover this large area, a costly investment. These Silicon panels are made from highly refined silicon that requires a considerable amount of electricity to make. Electricity prices would not go down with time, but would increase.
5. PV has the longest by far energy pay back period.
Compare this with the simplicity and effectiveness of wind energy:
1. We install wind systems were nature already concentrated the wind to have high energy per unit area.
2. Only a very small amount of material needed. The blade of the wind turbine sweeps a very large area but it is only 3% of the area swept. The total material needed, including tower and machinery, is small.
3. The material and technology are very simple and well known: blade, gearbox, generator and control.
4. Wind energy has the smallest energy payback period.
Wind energy is already supplying the largest amount of electrical energy of all alternatives and is expanding in the fastest rate globally. Experienced people are less sentimental than the public. They want to make long term profit. Society benefit by reduced GHG.
No government support should be given to any of these technologies. They are mature technologies that generate billions in profits annually. Judicious R&D support to develop new cost-effective ways to generate electricity from the sun, however, are desirable, I believe.
Many different technologies and approaches should be used to reduce global warming. Here I am talking almost exclusively on nuclear power. (For opposing views see at end)
We have to plan our electrical power needs realistically and devoid of emotionalism. We oppose nuclear power stations mostly because of our misplaced fear. Public misperception is the biggest hindrance to generating electricity by nuclear power, and misunderstanding impacts also many energy professionals. Environmental groups contribute to the problem.
I have been on both sides of this issue for decades. As an electrical engineer for 20 years I supported nuclear power. But I started to oppose it during my doctoral studies of Environmental Science at UCLA. Afterwards, when I was the manager of the Solar and Wind Energy programs at the California Energy Commission I continued to oppose nuclear power and worked very hard to advanced alternative energies. I continued to oppose nuclear power until the last few years because of all the concerns surrounding it. I was mistaken; I did not see the total story.
It took me a long struggle to realize that I was mistaken to oppose nuclear power. I saw only its potential negatives, I did not study the full global energy picture. I was also overoptimistic about the speed of adoption of energy efficiency and alternative energies. And most important, I mistakenly believed that Global Warming was a future event that would not impact global climate for several generations. Like many environmentalists I thought we had time to do things according to our dreams without pain: develop alternative energies, incorporate conservation and energy efficiency, take time to minimize our fossil fuels use, eliminate nuclear power. I also did not anticipate the explosion of energy demand in the developing world. I, like many, read about these problems but did not want to accept the full global reality.
GW is the overwhelming primary issue of our time, and it is time critical. It is now very clear that GW is already here, is causing unstable weather globally with much damage, and will increase its ravage of many areas of our globe. The final report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was quite specific about the coming increased damage to our global climate and the pending severe impacts on most nations, including the US. But that IPCC report was subdued to satisfy political demand of several large emitting countries. In the last two years after the IPCC report evidence is abound that the most extreme predictions of their report were already exceeded. We have a very limited time frame to make very drastic reductions in the emissions of the total GHG. We must look at the global energy picture to grasp the increased need for nuclear power, despite its limitations.
The most significant advantage of nuclear power is the potential to reduce carbon emissions: "A threefold expansion of [global] nuclear power could contribute significantly to staving off climate change by avoiding one billion to two billion tons of carbon emissions annually" (MIT panel). Twenty percent of the US electricity is produced by nuclear power. The accumulated saving of global warming gases over the last quarter century by this nuclear power is 20 billions tons!
No other technology that is viable currently has the potential to reduce GW gases so significantly in the same time frame. We do not have the time to wait in order to avoid some of the most damaging aspects of advancing GW!
The most serious limitation to nuclear power expansion is negative public perception. The public fear of nuclear power is misplaced. Safety record of the 104 nuclear power stations in the US is very high. In addition, improved design of nuclear power stations and strict government supervision can reduce markedly all limitations:
The main limitations and mitigations are listed below:
1. Danger of nuclear radiation from plant accident:
The only significant nuclear accidents have been the Three Miles Island in the US, which did not emit any nuclear material, and the Chernobyl in the previous USSR. The damage from Chernobyl was on a large scale, it was due mainly to lack of a containment building above the nuclear plant which is mandatory on all nuclear power stations in the West.
New fail-safe system to power down runaway reactor is superior to existing safety measures and does not require external machinery.
Also control technology has advanced markedly in the last thirty years with the advance in electronics, and will increase the safety margin of new plants. We can easily have redundancy of necessary controls which were not practical in the past. In addition new nuclear plants can be placed far from population centers and use high voltage DC lines to transfer the power with low losses.
2. Concerns about inadequate nuclear waste disposal:
Although we still do not have a final solution to nuclear waste storage, all the commercial nuclear waste is stored safely at each nuclear station site. It occupies extremely small space and operated safely for the last fifty years. In addition, a new technology has been proposed that extract many times the energy from the nuclear material thus reducing the quantity of waste by a major factor.
3. Fear of nuclear weapon proliferation:
Nuclear weapon proliferation is not effected by increased use of nuclear power in the US. Three quarter of the nuclear plants are operating outside of the US. Other nations have been developing nuclear power for many years, if we want it or not. If we work with them on global safety rules we will reduce the total danger more than if we stay on the side.
4. Impact of terrorism:
New underground design reduces the potential for terrorist attack on nuclear installation. Heavier steel reinforced concrete over all critical plant equipment will increase safety. Private security companies are inadequate, or worse. We should use National Guard to protect our national energy centers to decrease national vulnerability.
There are 440 nuclear power stations globally, 104 in the US. Nuclear power now supplies 16% of global electric energy thus reducing markedly CO2 emissions. Global nuclear power continues to expand, a fact beyond U.S. control; eighteen of the 27 nuclear power plants now under construction are in Asia. The US can not dictate how much nuclear power will spread around the world, but if we cooperate with global nuclear power development, and help create global safety standards, we will increase the global safety and most importantly, help reduce GW progress.
Here are some additional realities to consider:
1. Steady - human controlled base power is mandatory. It should be over 50% of the power mix, and is currently supplied by coal, natural gas, nuclear and large hydro. We must drastically reduce GW gases from fossil fuels by nuclear power and other avenues. Our hydro power is in danger; GW is expected to increase weather extremities, therefore reduce the availability of our hydro power in some locations, may be increasing it some other places. We do not know, but we do know it will change with time as GW intensifies. We should concentrate first on reducing our energy demands. In addition alternative energies should be incorporated into the power mix according to their effectiveness and ability to reduce GW. They are inherently limited by nature, for example: sun is only at daytime, wind is not steady. Alternative energies can not provide reliable base power. Corn Ethanol is not environmentally desirable. It will take time to develop and install practical technology for mass use of biomass.
2. R&D on CCS, Carbon Capture and Storage, especially from coal should accelerate but it may take decades to prove and incorporate. Also this technology may be unreliable, and take immense storage space. It will also be hard to control its leakage because the storage would be widely distributed in uncontrolled underground spaces of various natures. If some CO2 later escape it can kills immediately a large number of people and if the escapes are large, could also cause critical acceleration of GW.
3. China is adding one to two Gigawatts size coal plants a week. We can not influence them to reduce their immense CO2 emission, now higher than the U.S., when we in the US are pushing rapid approval of coal power plants to bypass impending limitation on CO2 emissions and carbon tax.
4. The American public will continue to demand more electricity and would conserve only in face of extreme events or if it was dictated by strict conservation laws. Our population continues to increase too.
5. Nuclear power generates by far the least GW gases of all alternative energies except wind energy.
6. Large scale electrical power can not be supplied reliably and economically from small distributed sources, such as the "Solar photoelectric on every roof." fantasy of the California Governor and Legislature. Buyers of these small systems are amateurs and as such subjected to price manipulation and unprofessional installation and repairs. These systems produce very little electricity at the highest cost of all alternatives, and as much as thirty to one costlier than attic insulation, for example. Central solar-thermal plants show considerably more promise for daytime solar power. Centralized power sources are bought, installed and operated by professionals that have both financial and technical acumen and therefore can generate the most cost effective, reliable energy.
Note: Both the German public and government support solar photovoltaic systems and spent over a decade and $60 billon to spread it across the land. Despite this intense and long effort by the summer of 2009 just 0.3% of the country electricity came from this technology, less than a third of a percent. If it was spread across more sunny places in the US it might have produced around 0.5% (half a percent). At the same time some 50 new coal power plants were being added to the rest o the coal plants in Germany.
Germany have very little nuclear power, historically it is in love with its vast coal resources, just like the US.
7. Capital Cost of nuclear power is very high. Price is estimated be around $10,000 per installed kW with essentially current technology. Improved, next generation design may be different, we just don't know yet. Nuclear would be one of the technologies used to reduce GHG and the market place will have its say on this technology. However, government legal support and streamlining of the approval process should be available - but not any reduction of vigilance of the quality, safety and security considerations. The nuclear manufacturing industry, not power companies, has very dismal past with these issues and should be carefully monitored.
My Conclusion: Global warming is a significant and time-critical danger to humanity. Therefore
nuclear power should be available to replace many coal power plants (and retiring nuclear plants) in the coming years because it could reduce significantly generation of GW gases. We need any practical tool available!
I recommend substantial government support of nuclear R&D but no financial support beyond that.
Written originally November 27, 2007,
Updated, October 2009
To read opposing views: 2008 world nuclear industry status report: Global nuclear power, presented by the respected Bulleting of the Atomic Scientists click: http://www.thebulletin.org/node/4364
There is a very strong desire to "convert" deniers of global warming to supporters. Many believe that our political problems is that not enough people are against GW. I do not beleive so.
I firmly beleive that it is a waste of time and energy to attempt to influece deniers to become supporters, and that besides giving momentary personal satisfaction by this effort, it chieves nothing.
Scientific studies shows that people basically remain in their own comfort zones and do not change. In the case of GW it is quite understandable that many people ignore the accumulated scientific facts since the danger to our globe is high and it is easier to deny this very harsh reality. Most are not “bad” people, they are either fearful or unable to grasp the danger.
Even if they respond positively to your “education,” most drift back to their past position.
This was also proven in extensive field work on liberal issues. I spent nine years developing national grassroots pressure on Congress to reduce nuclear weapons. My staff and I spent thousands of hours talking to all kind of people. Only people who already were liberals and leaning in our direction, listened.
They listened but did not act, since most of the time knowledge does not lead to action.
The essential problem we are facing nationally is that despite the fact that millions of liberal people, including true blue environmentalists, are grasping that GW is dangerous to the global climate, they are doing nothing effective to impact the situation. They may feel good by reducing their energy use, they may talk/read a lot about the subject, they may be even active members of liberal/environmental organizations, but that has an insignificant impact on GW!
These good people do not create any noticeable pressure on their members of Congress, or support them when needed, and only Congress can make a national difference. Everything else is self-pleasing window dressing. The occasional preformatted emails some send are useless too.
So, I suggest that the time we spent should be directed to move people already with us to create pressure on their three Congress members.
To do it effectively is not simple, nor easy, but without effective grassroots pressure what Congress does on GW will be marginal at best.
As a test of the my new blog I would like to call your attention to a letter I just sent.
Chairman, California Energy Commission
1516 Ninth Street
Sacramento, CA. 95814-5512
October, 5, 2009
Dear Chairman Douglas,
As an environmental scientist I am for using alternative energies where they are practical and safe. I would like to bring to your attention a possible danger for the public in San Francisco from an undesirable approach to alternative energy.
I read that Mayor Newsom of San Francisco wants to install small wind generators on top of buildings across this lovely city. This is a very dangerous approach. CEC should look into it and alert other state agencies to investigate this situation.
When I led the pioneering Wind Energy program of the California Energy Commission, when we broke the barrier to commercializing wind energy, we carefully analyzed all options. It was very clear that wind turbines should be used in large wind farms away from population to be cost-effective and safe too.
Wind turbines should not be placed near population both for safety and practicality. First, wind strength is unpredictable, and can gusts to very high levels sometimes breaking blades. Think about the people of San Francisco on the streets below. In addition, so much more green energy can be “obtained” by conservation that cost maybe one tenth as much. That means we can do ten times as much for each available dollar.
Again, I am all for alternative energies. It is critical to reduce greenhouse gases as fast as possible, and conservation is the fastest way possible while providing many local jobs for the multitudes of unemployed. But we should not endanger the public in this process to the extent that this program may.
Dr. Matania Ginosar
Environmental Scientist and Electrical Engineer