American Elephants


We Don’t Have To Observe Any Supreme Court Ruling! by The Elephant's Child

The White House said today that the Supreme Court’s decision today on the EPA overreach claiming that the costs of their regulation don’t matter — wouldn’t impact the huge pending EPA rule imposing regulations of existing power plants. I assume this is Josh Earnest posing as “the White House.” Odd.

“Obviously, we’re disappointed with the outcome,” he said. “I will say, based on what we have read so far, there is no reason that this court ruling should have an impact on the ability of the administration to develop and implement the clean power plant [ruling].”

If the administration is prepared to ignore the Supreme Court ruling, then I assume the rest of us are free to ignore the other decisions that we aren’t that convinced were rightly decided.



The Supreme Court Calls a Halt to the EPA’s Overreach by The Elephant's Child
June 29, 2015, 8:30 pm
Filed under: Domestic Policy, Energy, Law, Regulation | Tags: , ,

In the case of Michigan v. EPA, the Supreme Court addressed a matter that is genuinely outside of voter’s control, the way-too-rapid expansion of the regulatory state. The problems all began with the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. The problem seemed simple to Congress. We want clean air and clean water, and that’s what the EPA should be doing.

But the EPA is an agency filled with environmental activists and zealots, fully in line with Obama’s unwarranted belief in a dangerous global warming, and sure that the correct answer is to get rid of fossil fuels,  carbon dioxide as a pollutant, and carbon in general.  The answer is to force Americans to want to rely clean energy sources like solar and wind, with no understanding that solar and wind do not produce enough energy to be a significant source of power.

The EPA wants to force all coal-fired power plants to either shut down or do a lot or retrograding to eliminate any emissions from that nasty fossil fuel.  Around 40 percent of our electricity is supplied by coal-fired power plants. The EPA’s new regulations would cost $9.6 billion annually, but the EPA claimed that it was appropriate to consider only public health risks. Well, nobody seems to know if there actually are any public health risks. They always put asthma at the top of their list of future childhood death, but the medical profession does not currently know what causes asthma, so that is a complete canard. By some estimates the cost of electricity would go up by as much as $1,200 per year for every American household.

The majority opinion, authored by Justice Antonin Scalia, found that the EPA “unreasonably” interpreted the Clean Air Act to constitute a vehicle by which the environmental regulatory agency could institute new guidelines that were all but overtly aimed at shuttering “dirty” power plants. “EPA strayed well beyond the bounds of reasonable interpretation in concluding that cost is not a factor relevant to the appropriateness of regulating power plants,” the opinion read. That’s significant; contrary to the wealth of shallow emotionality that suffices for modern political commentary, profits matter. Individual livelihoods and the economic health of the nation are still protected by the Constitution, and they should not be subordinated to environmental sustainability in the zero-sum game that has become America’s regulatory culture.



It Sounded Like a Big Deal, But It is Only a Teeny One. by The Elephant's Child
June 24, 2015, 4:59 pm
Filed under: Economy, Energy, United Kingdom | Tags: , ,

In Britain, Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has announced that large swathes of the British countryside are to be spared the blight of windfarms as taxpayer subsidies are ended. She said that about 2,500 proposed turbines in 250 projects are now “unlikely to be built.” Pay attention to that word “proposed.” They are not tearing down existing windfarms, at least not yet.

The owners of some windfarms have been paid more than £3 million each to shut down their turbines when the National Grid is overloaded. Most windfarms are in Scotland, and “bottlenecks” of energy can build during high winds. Offshore windfarms are not affected as yet. This is unrelated to the ending of subsidies for future farms.

Origin Energy wants to cut down a corner of Barnsdale Forest to make way for two 400ft wind turbines which would tower over the remaining trees. The forest, which was featured in Russell Crowe’s 2010 movie ‘Robin Hood,’ is established as the haunt of the Merry Men in folklore, but local historians are researching Tudor history to determine if there is truth to the story — to prevent the turbines from being built.The locals are set against the windfarm.

Ms Rudd, who has also announced plans to give local communities the final say over windfarms, said: “We are reaching the limits of what is affordable, and what the public is prepared to accept.”

But critics said taxpayers still face a soaring bill for subsidies to costly offshore windfarms .

Without taxpayer subsidies, windfarms get scrapped. They are not a successful business proposition. Britain got all excited about moving to “renewable” energy, but as they blight the landscape and nearby people suffer from the noise, and their taxes go up, enthusiasm wanes. When you get around to shutting them down, be sure to add taking them down and disposing of the dead turbines part of the deal.

I did see ‘Robin Hood’ and cherish the memory. Russell Crowe was Russell Crowe, the story improbable, but it was the ending that was wonderful. It was the Norman Invasion, 1066, and according to Hollywood, the Normans invaded England with Medieval Higgins boats apparently mostly made of driftwood. They were rowed up to the British beach and the front ramp fell, but all were defeated by the Merry Men and the Battle of Hastings never took place? Or perhaps the beach landings were the Battle of Hastings. It was hilarious!



More Regulation From the EPA That Accomplishes 0.0026 Degrees of Warming, if It Doesn’t Continue Cooling by The Elephant's Child
June 21, 2015, 10:36 pm
Filed under: Global Warming, Energy, Junk Science, Regulation | Tags: , , ,

TrucksParked

The EPA is rolling out new emissions regulations  for big rig trucks to help the United States to meet its goal of reducing CO² to fight global warming. The EPA, with its usual hubris, claims limiting carbon dioxide emissions from heavy trucks will reduce CO² by more than one billion metric tons by 2050. Reducing carbon will create up to $34 billion in “climate benefits” along with up to $40 billion from reducing traditional pollutants. Regulating heavy trucks is part of Obama’s goal of reducing CO² emissions by 80 percent.  (Typical EPA — what are “climate benefits?” And the $34 billion is probably made up. At least she left out the Asthma excuse)

Another case of overblown claims and bad math. The EPA’s own analysis found that by 2100 “the global mean temperature is projected to be reduced by approximately 0.0026° to 0.0065°. Unfortunately, we have found that projecting what the weather will be by next weekend is only occasionally correct, and projecting it out 85 years is pure fantasy. Prognosticators have tried to project our knowledge about climate, the stock market, inflation, housing costs, and the state of the world into the future, but that is territory for charlatans and carnival brokers. We simply don’t know what tomorrow will bring, and the world is full of surprises.

“We’re delivering big time on President Obama’s call to cut carbon pollution,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “With emission reductions weighing in at 1 billion tons, this proposal will save consumers, businesses and truck owners money; and at the same time spur technology innovation and job-growth, while protecting Americans’ health and our environment over the long haul.”

The rule is coupled with increased fuel economy standards from the Transportation Department which are expected to save vehicle owners $170 billion, along billions more in savings for  families and businesses from cheaper transportation in the coming decades.

The Obama administration’s plan calls for an 80 percent reduction in CO² output by 2100. Would an 80 percent reduction have a big impact? Well. no, not much. The EPA’s own analysis found that by 2100 “the global mean temperature is projected to be reduced by approximately 0.0026º C. If the climate keeps cooling, all bets are off.

(I had duplicated the same paragraph here— brain freeze, now fixed)



What Kills the Most Birds? Oil Spills or Green Ideology? by The Elephant's Child
June 19, 2015, 6:28 am
Filed under: Energy, Environment, Global Warming | Tags: , , ,

oil-soaked

Whenever there is an oil spill on the water, American media are filled with photos and videos of oil soaked birds. The coverage prompts the self-appointed environmental defenders of wildlife to erupt in righteous fury, wringing their hands and blaming the greedy oil companies and blaming careless people of the West for demanding more and more energy so they can fuel their enormous RVs and yachts in crimes against nature.

Fossil fuels are evil, and the alternative is “clean” renewable energy sources like wind and solar energy. Wind and solar energy are natural and sustainable. And solar energy produces less than 1% of our electricity needs, requires 24 hour 7days a week backup from a conventional power plant. If the subsidies vanished, so would solar energy. But the birds, those beautiful birds, dying from filthy fossil fuels!

In the most recent U.S. oil spill off the coast of California, 161 birds died, as of the latest count. Truly sad.

Estimates for bird deaths by wind turbine run from 100,000 a year (The National Research Council), to 300,000 (American Bird Conservancy). Bloomberg News put the toll at 573,000 birds in 2012. That’s for wind turbines. The estimate for  birds roasted by the Ivanpah solar-thermal plant in the Mojave Desert are — one every two minutes — or roughly 28,000 birds killed in a year. Ivanpah focuses the heat from 170,000 mirrors on three 450-foot tall towers generating heat up to 800°. The songbird numbers are hard to estimate for they simply go up in a puff of smoke. The government chooses to look the other way, and ignore laws about raptor deaths because global warming. They gave their lives in a noble cause — renewable energy.

To be fair, the 2010 BP oil spill did substantial damage to wildlife in the region. The Fish and Wildlife Service reported 2,202 “visibly oiled” dead birds were collected within the Deepwater Horizon/ BP incident impact area. Big oil spills, however, are fairly rare, and birds chopped by turbines or roasted by solar mirrors are continuous.

The article in Investors claimed the biggest cause of bird deaths was cats. They said “one study claims that cats are responsible for killing about 2.4 billion birds a year.” I’m suspicious of that statistic. I’ve always had cats (and dogs, bunnies and horses) and I can’t remember but one time I found a bird carcase around the house. One cat was death on garden snakes, and had a bad habit of bringing them into the house and turning them loose. She loosed one on the stairs and I nearly broke a leg when I almost stepped on it.



Whoops! $2.2 billion high-tech solar project delivers only 40% of expected electricity by The Elephant's Child

https://americanelephant.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/xivanpah-plant-575x383-pagespeed-ic-p4ozkp2she.jpg?w=420

Environmentalists have long been sure that if we could just eliminate things that are not “natural” from our lives, live in harmony with nature, then the world would be a better place. Relying on the Sun and the Wind were right at the top of the list.  We should eliminate chemicals from our diet, stop cutting down trees, save endangered species but stop putting animals in cages, and just quit eating meat. The very word “natural” moved right to the top of the advertising buzz-word list.

So it is no surprise that in the panic about Global Warming, which was the next big thing after we stopped panicking about a new ice age in the 1970s, and the threat of a nuclear winter receded, we turned to trying to harness the power of the sun. Sensible people pointed out that the power of the sun was very diffuse, the sun had the habit of sinking below the horizon at night, and there was the problem of cloudy days and clouds on even nice days. But this is America, and the Twenty-First Century, as we are so frequently reminded, and we have technology!

The 2.2 billion Ivanpah solar project in California’s Mojave Desert is definitely high-tech. Those tiny white rectangles in the picture above are more than 170,000 mirrors, each about the size of a garage door, that rotate to follow the path of the sun across the sky. Solar-thermal technology was meant to supersede old-fashioned solar panel farms. The mirrors would reflect the sunlight to the huge “power towers,” enormous pillars to create steam which would generate electricity.

The facility was built by Bright Source Energy Inc, and operated by NRG Energy Inc. NRG owns the facility along with Bright Source, Google and other investors. Last time I wrote about Ivanpah in November, they were trying to get a federal grant to pay off their $1.6 billion federal loan.

The $2.2 billion project is supposed to be generating more than a million megawatt hours of electricity, but 15 months after starting up, the plant is producing just 40% of that, according to the U.S. Energy Department. Why, with new technology, there is a lot more that can go wrong. There’s a lot more on-the-job-learning. The power plant needs a lot more steam to run smoothly and efficiently. They thought they could ramp up the plant before sunrise with fossil fuels to get it humming, but it needs four times as much fossil fuel help to get going.

And despite being in one of the hottest places in the U.S. — not enough sun. Weather predictions underestimated the amount of cloud cover. Then there were millions in cost overruns because of wildlife protections for the ‘endangered’ Desert Tortoise. The birds are not so lucky. Government biologists estimate that  3,500 birds died at Ivanpah in the course of a year. The songbirds go up in a puff of smoke as they chase the bugs that are drawn to the bright light. Raptors chase the songbirds, and die instantly. I wonder if the big corpses break the mirrors when they fall?

New solar farms generate electricity at about 5 cents a kilowatt-hour. Ivanpah is running between 12 and 25 cents a kilowatt-hour. Plans for solar-thermal plants elsewhere are being canceled. American Solar farms generate nearly 16 million megawatt-hours of electricity each year. That amounts to less than 1% of U.S. electricity demand. Utilities are likely to opt for cheaper solar farms that use panels. The Sierra Club continues its disgraceful “War on Coal.” And the EPA continues its efforts to shut down America’s coal-fired power plants that produce nearly 40 percent of America’s electricity, under the illusion that removing whatever carbon dioxide they produce will have a measurable effect on climate change. It won’t. And we will pay a high price for that loss of energy.



A Graphene Heating System Would Dramatically Reduce Home Energy Costs. by The Elephant's Child
June 7, 2015, 7:03 am
Filed under: Energy, Science/Technology | Tags: , ,

A couple of years ago, in August of 2013, I wrote about the new wonder material, graphene, a more glamorous cousin of ordinary pencil lead, and the rush to file patents for potential uses. As of May that year, there had been more than 9,000 patents filed.

Dr. Geim wanted thin graphite to study its electrical properties. A doctoral student suggested using cellophane tape.”They used the tape to peel off layers of graphite until they got to a layer so thin it was transparent. Not only did it not fall apart, it was strong, flexible and possessed astonishing electrical properties.”

A startup called Xefro in the United Kingdom is working in the unheralded area of energy savings, where nanomaterials are making the biggest inroads. A graphene heating system could dramatically reduce home energy costs. This is the first time graphene has been used as a heating element. Depending on the kind of heating system currently used in a home, the company estimates that their graphene-based heating system could reduce energy costs by anywhere from 25 to 75 percent.

Xefro uses graphene-based ink that can be printed on a variety of materials and into just about any configuration. The system takes advantage of graphene’s minimal thermal mass so the heat can be turned on and off quickly, and leverages graphene’s large surface area so that energy isn’t wasted in heating up the heater itself.

Traditional heating systems are very inefficient in that they require heat to be transferred to multiple materials: for example, heating up water to heat up a radiator which heats up air and then finally heats up objects in a room, according to Harper.

The full article is here. I should have paid a lot more attention in physics!




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