Natural Resources

Coal Will Still Be King

But can capturing and storing it make it climate friendly?

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"Coal plants are factories of death," declared NASA climate modeler James Hansen in a letter to President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. Last year, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), now chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, introduced the "Moratorium on Uncontrolled Power Plants Act of 2008." That bill would have placed a moratorium on issuing permits for new coal-fired power plants that don't have the ability to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions. Since that technology is still being tested, it means that no new coal-fired power plants would have been permitted. In early 2008, Obama told the editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle, "If somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It's just that it will bankrupt them because they're going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that's being emitted."

Why the opposition to coal? After all, the U.S. is energy independent with respect to this resource, with 275 billion tons in proven reserves, which is more than enough to meet our energy needs for hundreds of years. The chief problem is that burning coal produces carbon dioxide emissions which are warming the planet. Burning coal emits 10 percent more carbon dioxide than oil and 60 percent more than natural gas.

Currently, coal-fired plants produce just under 50 percent of America's electricity. Renewables, other than hydroelectric, produce 3.4 percent of our electric power. So are coal's days numbered? Not at all. The Energy Information Administration's 2009 Annual Energy Outlook report projects that the U.S. will build an additional 46 gigawatts of coal-fired electricity generation capacity (about 75 new plants) by 2030. This projection is highly variable since it is down 100 plants from the EIA's 2008 projection. The U.S. currently has around 1500 coal-fired electric generation plants. Putting this relatively slow increase in the number of coal-fired plants into perspective, the EIA forecasts that coal's generation share will drop from 49 percent to 47 percent between 2007 and 2030. In other words, the U.S. will be using coal to produce electricity for a long time to come.

Some environmental activists are reconciled to this fact. In 2007 congressional testimony, Eileen Claussen, head of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change noted, "Coal is cheap and plentiful, and the United States is going to use it for the foreseeable future." Last year at a conference in China, fierce climate change activist John Holdren, who is slated to become President Obama's new science advisor, also favored "us[ing] the world's abundant coal resources," noting that that has to be done "without intolerable impacts on regional air quality, acid rain, and global climate." Even Obama, in a speech at the Detroit Economic Club in 2007, declared, "We'll also need to find a way to use coal—America's most abundant fossil fuel—without adding harmful greenhouse gases to the environment."

So how can power producers burn coal without emitting greenhouse gases? Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is supposed to be the answer. With CCS the idea is that carbon dioxide is kept out of the atmosphere by capturing it and then injecting it underground. However, CCS is still a speculative technology. Can carbon dioxide be captured? Can it be injected underground safely? And how much would CCS boost the price of electricity to consumers?

The good news is that researchers have developed a number of promising technologies for capturing carbon dioxide before it is emitted from power plants. However, CCS is not yet commercially deployed. The Norwegian oil company Statoil injects about 1 million tons of carbon dioxide annually into sediments under the North Sea. The European energy company Vattenfall has just built a test facility to pump carbon dioxide from a power plant outside Berlin into a saline aquifer 2,600 feet below the earth's surface. In the U.S., the Bush administration nixed the Department of Energy's FutureGen CCS project last year after its costs soared from $1 billion to $1.8 billion. There are rumors that the Obama administration will shortly revive FutureGen.

Coal is cheap, but CCS is not. Currently, Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) estimates suggest that the cost of electricity from new coal plants designed for CCS will be 40-80 percent higher than from conventional coal-fired electric power plants. It's not just the extra capital costs, but also the additional 30 percent of energy it takes to capture, compress, and transport the carbon dioxide emissions. EPRI analysts believe that it might be possible to cut the energy penalty from 30 percent to 15 percent eventually.

Assuming that CCS turns out to work, it will take decades to deploy in new coal-fired plants and to retrofit old generation facilities. In addition, moving carbon dioxide around from power plants to locations where it can be stored geologically will require constructing a pipeline infrastructure that rivals the hundreds of thousands of miles of gas and oil pipelines. While there might be a moratorium on new coal-fired plants in the U.S., the rest of the world will not be joining it. The International Energy Agency's World Energy Outlook 2008 projects that fossil fuels will still account for 80 percent of the world's primary energy production in 2030. Nearly 90 percent of the increase in world electricity demand will be driven by the economic growth of developing countries, especially that of China and India. In other words, coal will still be fueling civilization for the next couple of generations.

Ronald Bailey is Reason magazine's science correspondent. His book Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution is now available from Prometheus Books.

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  1. I have a cunning plan.

  2. Now if they could just learn to dig it up without destroying the landscape…

  3. Or killing miners, for that matter.

  4. Warty

    Well open cur mining is safer for the miners but underground mining creates less surface damage.

    Of course each is suited to its own type of deposits so that tradeoff isn’t likely.

  5. that is so fucked, ccs, is stupid, i, like, commas, so much. the coal plants, they smell bad, but far, away from people places. my nose is bleeding.

  6. Popular Science just had an article about Air Force plans to derive half of their aviation fuel from converted coal. Basically the same problem: abundant domestic supplies, but more pollution than oil, and the cleaner technologies are still an estimated decade away.

  7. So what about all the radioactivity they release?

    Coal sucks for many reasons, and CO2 output is just one of them.

  8. Here’s my plan: We build a space elevator that doubles as a giant smokestack into space.

  9. Why is it always the people who assert that solar, wind, geothermal and other alternative energy sources are pipe dreams who tell me that emissions-free coal burning is right around the corner?

  10. what strikes me is kind of the opposite – how can we expect to solve the relatively intractable thermodynamic problems of green energy, when the simpler chemistry issues of scrubbing coal emissions are decades away.

  11. I say just keep on buring the dirty coal.

    The solution to dealing with the eco-socialist wackos who don’t like their power being generated by coal is simple: just cut all of them off of the power grid.

    More juice for all the rest of us.

  12. Why is it always the people who assert that solar, wind, geothermal and other alternative energy sources are pipe dreams who tell me that emissions-free coal burning is right around the corner?

    I won’t. I think they’re all pipe dreams. How about we make a deal and not spend money on any of them?

  13. With the Space Pipe, we can also escort offending materials into orbit, to be further redirected towards the sun for disposal. Nuclear waste problem? Not anymore–shoot it out the Space Pipe!

  14. the simpler chemistry issues of scrubbing coal

    Lol, I’m going to run that one past my wife. (She got her PE in Chem E last month, and works on air pollution modeling).

    Quoth the lovely Mrs. joe: “Chemical engineers love clean coal. Do you have any idea how many chemical reactions it takes to make coal clean?”

  15. Lay some Space Pipe on your wife, dude, that’ll make her see everything clearly.

  16. Lay some Space Pipe on your wife, dude

    Is that what the kids are calling it now?

  17. Actually, I think that was a rude reference back when I was in college in the 80s, minus the “space.”

  18. both tough problems – I’ll admit. I did say simpler – not simple. You cant decrease Entropy though, no matter how much dough you throw at it. In any case, I tend to discount CO2 as a pollutant – so I’m sure cleaning coal to my specifications would be vastly cheaper than Mrs. Joe’s requirements.

  19. You cant decrease Entropy though, no matter how much dough you throw at it

    You can, you just have to throw it somewhere else.

  20. the dough, or the entropy? doing plenty of the former… And yes, I know – closed system etc…

  21. I like going the nuclear path better. I haven’t paid too close attention to Ron’s columns, but I don’t recall him mentioning Hyperion:

    Small enough to be transported on a ship, truck or train, Hyperion power modules are about the size of a “hot tub” – approximately 1.5 meters wide. Out of sight and safe from nefarious threats, Hyperion power modules are buried far underground and guarded by a security detail. Like a power battery, Hyperion modules have no moving parts to wear down, and are delivered factory sealed. They are never opened on site. Even if one were compromised, the material inside would not be appropriate for proliferation purposes. Further, due to the unique, yet proven science upon which this new technology is based, it is impossible for the module to go supercritical, “melt down” or create any type of emergency situation. If opened, the very small amount of fuel that is enclosed would immediately cool. The waste produced after five years of operation is approximately the size of a softball and is a good candidate for fuel recycling

    And it takes centralized distribution out of the equation as well.

  22. You cant decrease Entropy though, no matter how much dough you throw at it.

    Anything is possible! Yes we can!

  23. good discussion – I too am a big fan of nookular energy. Should stave off the entropy problem for at least 100 years by which time we’ll have fusion (maybe barely.) Proliferation concerns are generally overblown. Reprocessing is cheap, and pretty easy. A comprehensive fuel cycle that leaves zero long term stroage of waste is achievable in less time than with alternative “green” energies – and far less impactful on the environment. The Canadians even have reactors than can burn regular U (albeit using deuterium as a moderator).

  24. Further, due to the unique, yet proven science upon which this new technology is based, it is impossible for the module to go supercritical, “melt down” or create any type of emergency situation.

    In the history of engineering, the bolded words have never been correct.

  25. Especially when referring to a potential disaster… Especially then…

  26. Nuclear has its problems too…

    http://www.rmi.org/sitepages/pid504.php

  27. “Hyperion power modules are about the size of a “hot tub” – approximately 1.5 meters wide”

    Cool – with a little practice, they can shrink that down further and put it into an electric car for me.

    Just don’t expect me to pay any more for it than a Ford Taurus costs.

  28. Hadn’t seen the hyperion.

    NM kicking ass on energy technology ideas, as usual.

    I wonder how that will change Lovins’ analysis.

  29. Nuclear has its problems, but I don’t see any other option for getting off of carbon energy in the timeframe necessary to avoid disaster from global warming.

    It would great if we could do it all with wind and solar and whatnot, but we can’t wait fifty years for the needle to start going down.

    Oh, wait, I forgot: a net leveling off of global temperatures over a ten year period, following a record high proves that there isn’t any global warming, because temperatures records are always smooth.

  30. Cool – with a little practice, they can shrink that down further and put it into an electric car for me.

    Keep going – why not power tools, vacuum cleaners, etc.?

    I was going to by stock in the company but they are running on VC right now.

  31. Neu Mejican,

    You’re smart: is it possible to have hydrogen tankers, like they have CNG tankers?

    No Hindenberg jokes!

  32. “Keep going – why not power tools, vacuum cleaners, etc.?”

    Yeah – and a neat hand-held high powered death ray laser pistol no bigger than a .45 auto.

    Good thing we all have that right to keep and bear arms.

  33. Lol, I’m going to run that one past my wife. (She got her PE in Chem E last month, and works on air pollution modeling).

    That’s pretty cool. When I was a kid I used to build model cars and rockets.

  34. joe,

    Not really my area, but hydrogen is tougher to transport than your average gas.

    The main problem with hydrogen is that it is not really an energy source, it is a more like a battery. As I understand it, the only way that it because an important contributor is if you find a clean way to generate the electricity you need to get the hydrogen.

    For that reason, for vehicles, the solution would be to have your “Hyperion” say, on site at a hydrogen fuel-cell refueling station.

    Other more engineering oriented folks can correct me on my gross errors here.

    A quickee:

    How do you transport hydrogen?

    A 40 ton truck can deliver 26 tons of gasoline to a conventional gasoline filling station. One daily delivery is sufficient for busy station. A 40 ton truck carrying compressed hydrogen can deliver only 400 kilograms. That is because of the weight of the tank capable of holding 200 atmospheres of pressure. An empty truck will weigh almost as much as a full one. The compressed hydrogen tank must be robust. The energy used to compress the hydrogen to 200 atmospheres would be released instantly if a tank ruptured. The fireball would cover a football field. Hydrogen is more energy dense than gasoline (by weight) and hydrogen powered transportation is more energy efficient. Yet the hydrogen filling station will require 15 deliveries every day, everything else being equal. The energy cost of truck transport becomes unacceptable unless the source of hydrogen is very close to the point of use. A cryogenic truck could carry more hydrogen but recall that the energy cost to liquefy hydrogen makes this infeasible in most cases.

    Hydrogen can be transported by pipeline. According to B&E, it take about 4 times more energy to move hydrogen through a pipeline compared to natural gas.

    http://www.planetforlife.com/h2/h2swiss.html

  35. If we would stop harassing the nuclear industry with frivolous lawsuits, it would be far less expensive.

    There’s nothing wrong with nuclear except for the fact that the regulatory environment is unpredictable. Any time someone proposes a new plant they are threatened with endless permitting delays due to lawsuits and civil disobedience from environmental protestors. Nobody wants to deal with the zealots chaining themselves to bulldozers and such.

  36. Fusion, damn it all, fusion! Why can’t we make it friggin’ work? Honestly, can you imagine if some physicists actually solved the problem and made fusion a viable energy production source? The mind boggles at the potential of such a breakthrough. The implications go waaaay beyond solving our energy needs, of course. F.U. Middle East would only be the beginning.

  37. Why can’t they use whatever power source they use in Star Wars? Those guys never seem to have energy problems.

    Humanity should really think about moving to a double star system. Double the available solar energy like *snaps* that!

  38. “Star Wars”? The motion design is breathtaking.

  39. Fusion. Why can’t we have it? What’s wrong about us that we’re not solving this problem and charging the rest of the world a zillion dollars for access to the Fusionator? Why, why, why? [Stomps foot and runs to his room]. . .[Peeks out] Why?

  40. The main problem with hydrogen is that it is not really an energy source, it is a more like a battery. As I understand it, the only way that it because an important contributor is if you find a clean way to generate the electricity you need to get the hydrogen.

    Yeah, that’s why I asked about tankers. Big tankers filling up with Icelandic hydrogen made from geothermal energy, and off-loading in the US.

    It’s a nice thought.

  41. Whoops, joke name.

  42. The robot from Lost in Space has died. Truly a bad day for libertarians.

    Or not. Was he a freedom-loving robot?

  43. Ooh boy! I can’t wait for the next fly ash disaster!

    Yay for expensive government-subsidized and regulated coal! It may bankrupt us, but we’ll be all domestic and clean and techy and shit.

  44. Pro Libertate:

    Never trust a Droid with your Freedom. Or have we forgotten the lesson of the Clone Wars? Aside from not trusting clones and George Lucas.

  45. But he warned us of the danger of growing government power all the way back in the 60s. Well, not “us” so much as those of us named, “Will Robinson.”

    RIP, Robot, by the way. Hated the show, but loved you. You were great in Forbidden Planet, too (just kidding–same robot, for the most part, different actors).

  46. Or have we forgotten the lesson of the Clone Wars?

    That lesson being that Clone Wars was a shitty movie?

  47. RIP, Robot, by the way. Hated the show, but loved you. You were great in Forbidden Planet, too (just kidding–same robot, for the most part, different actors).

    Racist: all robots look the same to me.

  48. Pro Lib

    Relax, it’s only about 30 years away.

    (heh)

  49. NM,

    That, or there’s only one robot.

  50. Sheesh, it’s not just about pollution. We know coal has problems, we know nuclear has problems, we know oil has problems.

    It’s about capacity. We’re stuck with a mix of these problems until solar/wind/alternative forms of energy can realistically pick up the capacity that the old-fashioned, high density sources produce.

    Efficiency in technology will help, but remember, there’s still the rest of the world to think about.

  51. That lesson being that Clone Wars was a shitty movie?

    But not a bad series for kids on Cartoon Network. I think that was the problem… they overshot.

  52. Racist: all robots look the same to me.

    You robots always say that.

  53. I submit that the only solution to the “energy problem” is a high density solution. Hydrogen gas transport is a real problem. Electrical transport is far more likely. Line losses are brutal, but with cheap and plentiful juice… Hydrogen is more enrgy dense by weight than petrol, but less dense by volume. Even when liquid (cryo). Cryo transport is a huge pain in the ass. We could always convert hydrogen into some longer chain hydrocarbon fuel for motor vehicle use. I personally think this is the ultimate transportation solution.

    Fusion is a loong way off. There a very real, and very substantial fundamental barriers in my understanding. Tokamaks are terrible, but marginally better than most other approaches. my prediction is it will end up being much longer than people expect. I think 100 years at best.

  54. Spot the difference…

    Both have the same designer, however.

    http://www.hightechscience.org/Robot_Pic_10e.gif

  55. *sigh*

    Neu, you were supposed to say “What do you mean ‘you robots’?”

    I gotta work on my delivery.

  56. Hydrogen is more enrgy dense by weight than petrol, but less dense by volume.

    And not to mention lossy when producing it. You just dig oil out of the ground.

  57. Paul,

    What’dya mean “I was supposed to say?”

  58. One hopes Chu will prevail upon Holdren to l look into the variability of coal’s hydrogen content before he pulls the plug.

  59. Why is it assumed we’d transport Hydrogen in a truck?

    Don’t most gases run through pipelines? Is this viable in hydrogen’s case?

  60. Taktix,

    It’s 4x as expensive as natural gas according to tfa.

  61. Matthew,

    4x eh? I suppose this cost is due to hydrogen’s inflammability.

    I guess we’ll just have to hope for those self-refilling oil deposits that Alex Jones is always talking about…

  62. the problem of hydrogen transport is not just trucks to stations – every car that runs on H is itself a transport – so it affects the viability even at that level.

  63. If you are serious about global warming being a problem, then nuclear power is the ONLY answer. Solar, wind & hydro can’t possibly meet the capacity we need now, let alone 50 years from now, and if global warming is half the crisis Al Gore says it is, we need to act now.

    If the other problems of nuclear are insurmountable to you, then I put it to you that you must not think global warming is all that much of a crisis.

  64. “That lesson being that Clone Wars was a shitty movie?”

    We caught George Lucas and Steven Spielberg in the act of raping a stormtrooper.

  65. I can’t believe we would forget about the most obvious energy source: John Galt’s PMSK atmospheric static electricity converter.

    Or the other guy’s process for producing oil from oil shale.

  66. We caught George Lucas and Steven Spielberg in the act of raping a stormtrooper.

    Was is set to a cheesy musical number with lots of digitally-added, slapsticky aliens in the background?

  67. if global warming is half the crisis Al Gore says it is, we need to act now.

    Correction, it’s too late.

  68. “Climate friendly?” What does coal have to do with climate? Surely by now Mr. Bailey must understand that the AGW hype has been proven to be without any scientific support and that we have a situation in which cooling presents a much bigger danger to our economies, our quality of life and our standard of living than global warming. Hansen and company may have support from the Obama administration but I doubt that voters will be willing to pay the price for something that will not be of noticeable benefit to them or their families.

  69. Perhaps someone can explain why the world was stable at 2000ppm CO2 when our ancestors were scampering around Jurassic parks and about 3 degrees C warmer than now, but 385ppm is now dangerously unstable with positive feedback CO2 warming just around the corner?

    Temps in 2000 were about where they were 8000 years ago, and the sun’s magnetic activity was also about the same.

    The highest CO2 levels in history were right around the Permian-Triassic event extinction. Some say that was CO2 feedback warming, but it also coincides with an historic low galactic cosmic ray flux. It was hot because there were fewer clouds, and more CO2 because warm water can’t hold as much gas in solution.

    It’s the sun. Anthropogenic Global Warming is the biggest scientific groupthink screwup since the aether.

  70. I’m staying mum on the AGW debate for 10 years, so as not to end up looking like an ass.

  71. “if global warming is half the crisis Al Gore says it is, we need to act now.”
    Things YOU can do to Stop Global Warming!
    1. Take cold showers
    2. Scrap your car (and never buy a new one)
    3. Smash your furnace (and air conditioning)
    4. Stop exhaling.

  72. “Oh, wait, I forgot: a net leveling off of global temperatures over a ten year period, following a record high proves that there isn’t any global warming, because temperatures records are always smooth.”

    1. It’s record high for the century, not for all of natural (or recorded) history.

    2. The net leveling off suggests it might not be the runaway environmental disaster that will submerge all costlines, turn all other land into desert, and cause cancer that Al Gore has been telling us it will be if we do not submit to the Kyoto Protocol.

  73. The last two posts might seem to contradict the preceding, but if you noticed, I never actually said whether I thought AGW was a real threat or not.

  74. Staying mum on the AGW debate is irresponsible. It’s the Emperor’s New Clothes revisited.

    Climate science is too important to be left to those whose professional life depends upon bowing to the status quo so as to not rock the boat.

    If it isn’t CO2 there won’t be big bucks being poured into climate science by politicians looking for excuses to take over yet another segment of the world’s economy.

  75. Anthropogenic Global Warming is the biggest scientific groupthink screwup since the aether.

    Whether or not AGW is valid, this is a fantastic quote.

  76. Back in the 19th century there was what we would call a “peak coal crisis” these days; they were going to run out and modern civilization was doomed. Predictions that oil would fill any gap were laughed out from many quarters.

    In light of these past events, I suspect that whatever future main energy source comes to pass will be something that most people know nothing about and it certainly will be nothing the government knows anything about.

  77. I prefer p-B11 fusion. Google Energy Matter Conversion Corporation…

  78. You Libtards are so predictable – “teh CO2’s are warming the planet” “argh” lets ask the market for a solution – only the market for carbon can save us. Donate now!

  79. wayne,

    A probable pipe dream. I asked a good friend who happens to be a 200lb fusion brain about the subject, and he spouted off a half dozen reasons why that device was a probable dead end – though he wants it to be funded. Something about thermalised electrons, and poor containment characteristics. TallDave is a smart guy on the subject – he posts here sometimes, and also on the open source development board for the device. I do too, but I know much less about fusion…

  80. Ron, you are far too nice to coal. It is not just the CO2. Coal contains all sorts of toxic heavy metals. When you burn the coal, no matter what, all these metals have to go out one waste stream or another. Even if you “scrub” 90%, 10% get released into the atmosphere, and along with the particulates and ash, kill TENS OF THOUSANDS OF AMERICANS every year, and sickening hundreds of thousands. And what do you do with the 90% you do catch? Bury it? Keep it in ponds (ask the TVA how well that works)? Turn it into concrete filler and hope no one asks questions? And how about the mines? What unsafe, filthy, destructive messes they are.

    Coal may have a name-plate cost of 2-3 cents per kwh, but its real cost is easily in excess of 20 cents per kwh. That’s more expensive than solar is now, and solar’s price is going to fall substantially this year, at least 20%, due to major new supply hitting the market combined with the economic downturn.

    Anyone who supports coal supports subsidies for murder and should be ashamed. Each new coal plant means ten dead people every year for the next fifty years. Anyone who suggests building one should be arrested in advance.

  81. ten dead people every year? is that a typo? if not, I guess I’m ok with that… I bet more people than that will die from installing windfarms…

  82. not to mix threads, but on the importance of IP rights as actual property rights – I’d bet we could get a couple billion in fusion research money if the government passed a law granting a 75 year exclusive patent to the first firm to achieve viable commercial fusion power. 20 years ain’t enough to drive that kind of investment – so instead we are stuck with shitty government investment – ostensibly because the private sector is too “shortsighted” or “profit focused.”

  83. Vangel | January 20, 2009, 7:59pm | #

    “Climate friendly?” What does coal have to do with climate? Surely by now Mr. Bailey must understand that the AGW hype has been proven to be without any scientific support and that we have a situation in which cooling presents a much bigger danger to our economies, our quality of life and our standard of living than global warming. benefit to them or their families.

    Peer-reviewed citation please. Such a revelation should have been on the cover of either Science or Nature. How did I miss it?

  84. CCS will not work and be economical. Some tests of geological sequestration, the results of which I am privy to, but cannot specify, have shown that in some important areas, the uptake rate of CO2 by the appropriate geological formations is too low to allow for capture of even a small percentage of the CO2 produced in combustion.

    Not also that CO2 doesn’t come simply from combustion but is a side reaction of SO2 scrubbing (when using limestone. When using lime, the CO2 release happens at the lime kiln).

    Anyway, the net result is to push fossil fuel plant capital costs up close to those required to build nuclear plants.

    We are legislatively painting ourselves into a corner, and we will pay dearly for it, in real economic terms, when we find that there is no viable source of energy that doesn’t break the law.

  85. db,

    We are legislatively painting ourselves into a corner, and we will pay dearly for it, in real economic terms, when we find that there is no viable source of energy that doesn’t break the law.

    If the real world pressure becomes significant enough those laws will be modified.

  86. the simpler chemistry issues of scrubbing coal

    Lol, I’m going to run that one past my wife. (She got her PE in Chem E last month, and works on air pollution modeling).

    Quoth the lovely Mrs. joe: “Chemical engineers love clean coal. Do you have any idea how many chemical reactions it takes to make coal clean?”

    joe,

    I am also a chemical engineer, and I work directly in flue gas desulfurization. The many chemical processes used in sulfur dioxide scrubbing are well known and proven over time. They certainly qualify as “simpler” than CO2 removal, in terms of energy usage, complexity of reaction pathways, and process equipment required. Perhaps you’re simply a victim of a misunderstanding of terms…normally, in the power industry:

    “scrubbing” = removal of SO2 and/or particulate matter

    It generally does not include removal of other pollutants, such as NOx, CO2, etc.

    More precisely, SO2 removal happens in a gas-liquid gas absorber, generally (there are some dry processes used mainly at smaller facilities). NOx removal usually takes place in a catalytic or non-catalytic reaction with ammonia. Particulate removal is done with electrostatic precipitators, baghouses, or venturi scrubbers.

    Always remember that mass is neither created nor destroyed in chemical reactions, and for every pound of air pollution removed, you generally have to deal with more than a pound’s worth of solid or liquid waste. There is no way to eliminate chemical pollutants entirely…only to change their forms to make them readily disposable. That still means dumping them somewhere.

  87. Chad the fucking scientist again.

    “Even if you “scrub” 90%, 10% get released into the atmosphere, and along with the particulates and ash, kill TENS OF THOUSANDS OF AMERICANS every year, and sickening hundreds of thousands.”

    Hey, why don’t you show me some fucking peer revied citation. (telling me the main website URL of a journal does not count as consensus)

    “Coal may have a name-plate cost of 2-3 cents per kwh, but its real cost is easily in excess of 20 cents per kwh.”

    How do you get that figure? If you are including some intangible “mother earth” bullshit, please kindly go fuck yourself right about now.

  88. NM,

    I am positing that Robot is the Platonic Form of Roboticness.

  89. I truly understand the difference between climate and weather but the fact that we have seen no warming since 1998 and cooling since 2001 should tell everyone that maybe the models warming models are wrong.

    If that is the case and CO2 is not bad and actually might be good if we all agree that a warmer envirnonment is better than a colder one.

  90. Well, coal power plants are one of the cleaner source. When we take CO2 out of the equation (because either you believe or you don’t, like with Obama) and compare what it is left, than coal power plants are far better than f.e. conventional sources like nuclear power.

    They are cleaner and you can add a lot of filters (for NOx and other gases) to clean up for emissions. And, unlike nuclear power, you have no long time dangerous left-over that you have to store, safely, for a long long time.

    The problem is that in the basic load out of our society’s energy demand, there are only two types of power plants: nuclear power and coal. And there is (except of fusion power) no substitution in sight.

  91. The net leveling off suggests it might not be the runaway environmental disaster that will submerge all costlines, turn all other land into desert, and cause cancer that Al Gore has been telling us it will be if we do not submit to the Kyoto Protocol.

    What bothers me is that it takes the threat of global apocalypse to even make people consider MAYBE using nuclear power.

    In reality, there’s no frigging rational reason to be so afraid of it in the first place. Radiation isn’t nearly as dangerous as the general public has been led to believe. Even if nuclear waste did get out, all that would happen would be a marginal increase in lifetime cancer rates.

    But, for some reason, people seem to think that any escape of radiation will wipe out all life on earth, or something. Hence the inability to decide between the presumed (but totally ficticious) radioactive holocaust and the (vastly more plausible) climatological one.

  92. “With 275 billion tons in reserve, the U.S. has more than enough coal to meet its energy needs.”

    Yeah, that’s what the blonde chick in all those “America’s Energy Future” commercials said.

    The problem with all those “power so-and-so many houses and cars for so-and-so many years” arguments is that they ignore the EROEI factor and the maximum possible *rate* of extraction.

  93. I have another predictions… anther one.. but one of my own. it is ingenious.. here it is: nuclear energy and natural gas will also not disappear over night. bang. I predict decades… 2-3 at least.. but generations as Ronald implies? i certainly hope not. If something new makes more sense – then Americans and the world will switch without hesitation. Right now a mobile phone has the size of a shoe box and costs an average US annual salary to be installed in a car. Just like the first PC etc. But I have a dream and it works out like this:

    Wireless and Landline Phones
    January 15, 2007

    Statistics on telephone subscribership in the U.S.

    8.4 percent of U.S. households (more than 24 million Americans) have deserted their landline telephone service and now rely exclusively on wireless service, a seven-fold increase since 2001. (Source: CTIA – The Wireless Association, Wireless Fact Sheet, September 2006.)

    Wireless-only households now account for 69 percent of all households with no landline phone. (Source: Mediamark Research Inc., “The Survey of the American Consumer,” 2004.)

    The wireless-only trend is especially prevalent among single-person households. Nearly 17 percent of single-person households with a wireless phone have no landline. (Source: Mediamark Research Inc., “The Survey of the American Consumer,” 2004.)

    Specifically among wireless subscribers, the percentage who have deserted landline service is 10 percent. (Source: Associated Press, “Cutting the cord: Using your cell phone as your only phone,” Oct. 19, 2004.)

    The wireless penetration rate nationwide is 72 percent. There are currently 219 million U.S. wireless subscribers. (Source: CTIA – The Wireless Association, Wireless Fact Sheet, September 2006.)

    Wireless phone usage will continue to increase at the expense of traditional landline service. In 2006, wireless subscriptions increased 13 percent, or 25 million subscribers. This equates to over 68,000 new wireless phone users every day. (Source: CTIA-the Wireless Association, Semi-Annual Wireless Industry Survey, June 2006.)

    There are more wireless phones than landlines in the United States today. As of December 2004, U.S. landlines totaled 178 million, and landline growth has been negative since 2001. (Sources: Federal Communications Commission, FCC Releases Statistics on Communications Common Carriers, Nov. 7, 2005; RCR Wireless News, Feb. 7, 2005.)

    Google CEO Eric Schmidt reckons that we will have cleaner and cheaper than coal tech within a few years based on the developments of the last few years alone.

  94. Hey, why don’t you show me some fucking peer revied citation. (telling me the main website URL of a journal does not count as consensus)

    The data comes from the EPA. I’m too lazy to dig up the original source, but here is a news report.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5174391/

    It takes, oh, five seconds of googling to find that numerous such studies exist for the US, other countries, and world-wide. What do you say to the 2000+ Americans who have the honor of dying of coal-induced lung cancer every year? That’s one for every plant.

    The 20 cents figure is easy to calculate. Just start adding up the cost of the lives at the $10,000,000 figure typically used (you know, ten million times twenty thousand is a BIG NUMBER), figure that its fair to double it for all the people who are sickened but don’t die, and then tack on a few tens of dollars per ton of emissions for environmental concerns, and you find yourself soaring past twenty cents.

    CCS will not work and be economical. Some tests of geological sequestration, the results of which I am privy to, but cannot specify, have shown that in some important areas, the uptake rate of CO2 by the appropriate geological formations is too low to allow for capture of even a small percentage of the CO2 produced in combustion

    The funny thing is, anyone with half a brain knows CCS won’t be economical. Thermodynamically, you have to use at least a quarter of the energy you produce in order to compress the CO2 for storage. Even if the whole system was handed to you on a platter for free, that implies a cost increase of over a third, making coal more expensive than nuclear or coal. And of course, the system isn’t going to be free. CCS will be at least twice as expensive including capital costs, making it uncompetitative from the get go – which of course is why no one is putting serious money into it.

  95. hay chad – all those s at the end of your post left me hanging

  96. grumble. [CR]s.

    grumbles. ambles off.

  97. The only issues I have here are 1) Co2 is not polution and 2) Global warming is a myth. Check the data, do the research.

    The rest of the world continues to move forward while America falls further behind. BTW nuclear power is THE answer to all the problems with energy and we killed that off years ago, same kind flat earth mind set.

  98. The Amish are building cool to the touch miracle heaters that look like fireplaces, and they roll around on wheels.

    I know who will solve our energy crisis.

  99. “Why can’t they use whatever power source they use in Star Wars? Those guys never seem to have energy problems.”

    No the future technology you should be thinking of is Dilithium Crystals.One little crystal powered a whole starship. Yes it was always getting cracked and they were always out of them but as long as you have an engineer handy you can do wonders. You do have to wonder if there are any pollution issues mining for dilithium crystals but that’s a tradeoff we could worry about later.

  100. in the meantime, subsidized Snuggies for all!

  101. Why won’t anyone answer Chad’s 9:38 request for a peer-reviewed article demonstrataing that global warming isn’t happening?

  102. How about nice, clean, safe nuclear power? Especially inherently safe thorium cycle reactors?

  103. “Coal plants are factories of death,” declared NASA climate modeler James Hansen in a letter to President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

    Heh. Well, he certainly sounds like an objective, dispassionate scientist.

  104. Hank,

    No kdding. Plus, we have as much as 100,000 years worth of fuel for them.

  105. There are some very large problems with the idea that we need to spend trillions to curtail manmade CO2 emissions that are driving climate toward a runaway greenhouse effect that will have significant economic sequences 50-100 years from now.

    The evidence that CO2 is driving climate is pretty weak. Not only do rises in CO2 trail changes in temperature historically, making cause-effect claims dubious, the Earth has gone into ice ages when CO2 levels were an order of magnitude higher.

    In the 1970s, Hansen was telling us we needed to cut air pollution because it was causing global cooling. Now he says it’s causing global warming. This is not science or even coherent politics, it’s an unthinking environmental crusade against modern industry in search of a justification.

    The most likely primary driver of the small recent warming is the Pacific Decadal Oscillation in combination with an unusually active solar cycle, with those factors combining to peak in the El Nino year 1998.

    The many, many problems with the GISS data have been well-documented, and historical reconstructions of temperature are conflicting enough that one could find a warming or cooling trend depending on the data used. We only have 30 years of reliable temperature data, from satellites. They show a very small warming trend.

    http://www.drroyspencer.com/latest-global-temperatures/

    The most likely global warming scenario is 1-2 degree increase in temperature over the next 100 years, with little to no impact on our lives.

    All in all, though, if we’re going to do something spending a bit on carbon sequestration is probably the least of evils. Nothing short of nuclear war will cause China, India, or Africa to reduce emissions, and the countries that did agree to do so (those that signed Kyoto) have actually done worse than the U.S. at reducing emissions. These hugely expensive schemes do very little to reduce overall emissions.

  106. “…burning coal produces carbon dioxide emissions which are warming the planet…”

    I quit reading at this point because I don’t waste time on arguments with false premises.

    There is no evidence that CO2 is warming anything and there is no evidence that warming is bad. You idiots have fallen for witch doctors. What is it with humanity, we are suckers.

  107. TallDave wrote:

    “‘Coal plants are factories of death,’ declared NASA climate modeler James Hansen in a letter to President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.’

    Heh. Well, he certainly sounds like an objective, dispassionate scientist.”

    Suppose he had written something like: “pathogens in polluted drinking water cause a holocaust”? Would that lack objectivity? Would it be unscientific? Polluted water kills thousands children every day, millions every year. Two thirds of the people in the world lack basic sanitation. A person is not unscientific when he describes this as a “holocaust.” How else would you describe millions of people being killed by a man-made problem that could be easily be remedied (mainly by digging latrines).

    By the same token, if Hansen is correct and coal plants are causing serious global warming, then obviously they are “factories of death” just as surely as the crematoria in the concentration camps were. The killing is not intentional. Neither are the mass-deaths caused by sewage. But dead is dead.

  108. Jed,

    Your question brings up a good point – why the hell are we so worried about a few thousand coal plant related deaths, when there are thousands/day that could be saved by digging latrines? Who is valueing their lives at USD 10,000,000 per? Much can be done to improve the human condition, and relatively cheaply. The real tragedy is how the debate over global warming – right or wrong – has displaced efforts to relieve the much more serious problems and issues that plague our species. No one who cares about preserving human life should care a whit about CO2, global warming, or even coal dust or heavy metals, until we tackle clean drinking water, adequate sanitation, and a myriad of easily treated infectious diseases and parasites.

  109. “pathogens in polluted drinking water cause a holocaust”?

    Pathogens actually kill people.

    By the same token, if Hansen is correct and coal plants are causing serious global warming, then obviously they are “factories of death” just as surely as the crematoria in the concentration camps were.

    Uh, no. At worst global warming will cause people on shorelines to have to relocate inland. Any deaths would be very indirect.

    By that reasoning, you might say “Buying bananas at the grocery is like gassing people at Auschwitz!” because people die harvesting bananas every year. It might even be true, but it’s clearly hyperbolic, as is Hansen’s rant.

  110. joe, consider my response above the most relevant answer to chads request for peer reviewed research skeptical of AGW. But just for giggles, here’s a complilation that a brief google search turned up. I don’t know this guy, and haven’t read all the articles – but its clear that your unstated implication that the is simply nothing is patently false.

  111. Pumping the coal emissions into a verticle farm with vats of algae works well. The algae converts the carbon dioxide into biofuel.

    Check out this project in El Paso.

  112. domo,

    Chad asked, and I repeated, a very specific question: where are the peer-reviewed studies which back up the assertion the AGW hype has been proven to be without any scientific support and that we have a situation in which cooling presents a much bigger danger to our economies, our quality of life and our standard of living than global warming.

    A listing of individual reports about climate cycles can be counted as evidence against the consensus position of the world’s climate scientists, but an assertion was made that the thesis has been proven false. There is, as we all know, a much larger body of work in support of that thesis.

  113. I believe the original assertion which started this was Vangel’s. For my part, I will say it’s clearly untrue that there is peer reviewed research “proving AGW is hype.” Of course that’s not the type of conclusion that peer reviewed article generally reach, so that shouldn’t come as much of a shock to anyone – except Vangle, perhaps.

    In any case, I don’t think my points are tarnished much by the fact that Vangle’s claim vastly overreached any possible evidence. The debate among reasonable people ought to continue.

  114. I have a plan as cunning as a fox what used to be Professor of Cunning at Oxford University, but has moved on and is now working for the UN as High Commissioner of International Cunning Planning.

    * Enact a fast-trackable, safe, modern, modular nuclear power generator design standard (TRIGA or PBMR)
    * Commission enough of them up front, so America can rebuild its industrial capacity to make them in a timely, efficent and safe manner (instead of having to wait on Japan Steel for containment vessels etc).
    * Mandate nuclear waste reprocessing, like the French
    * Pack the jackbooted thugs into the black helicopters, fly them out to Nevada, and open the fucking Yucca Mountain repository already. Nevada’s just gonna have to take one in the shorts, they need to lie back and think of America.
    * When the thugs return from Nevada, send them out to crack hippie skulls, as that’s what they should be doing anyway.
    * Continue funding the longshot fusion schemes, at least with breadcrumbs from tokamak research budgets.

  115. joe, to advance the point, I think it’s fair to say that the balance of research out there is favorable towards AGW as a theory. So now we have a body of work: a large portion in support of AGW, and a small portion skeptical. The consensus among policy makers seems to be “majority rule” – we stack up the volumes, count the PhD’s, do some sort of popularity poll to determine which scientists hold the most “credibility” among their peers, and just go with that. It seems reasonable on the face of it, but I submit that this is unwise.

    The incentives of scientists themselves must be taken into account. The “market” for scientific evidence has been tampered with by government grants and left leaning educational institutions. There is no value in “proving AGW is bunk” whereas “argueing it is true” could yield a nice fellowship and acclaim. Anti AGW scientists – and there are plenty – face ridicule, have a difficult time accessing research money – it’s almost remarkable that there are any at all.

  116. TallDave wrote:

    “‘By the same token, if Hansen is correct and coal plants are causing serious global warming, then obviously they are ‘factories of death’ just as surely as the crematoria in the concentration camps were.

    Uh, no. At worst global warming will cause people on shorelines to have to relocate inland. Any deaths would be very indirect.

    By that reasoning, you might say “Buying bananas at the grocery is like gassing people at Auschwitz!” because people die harvesting bananas every year. It might even be true, but it’s clearly hyperbolic, as is Hansen’s rant.”

    You are missing the point. You have to assume for the sake of argument that Hansen is right — or at least that he believes himself to be right. If, as he says, global warming in the future kill millions of people, then yes, coal burning plants are factories of death. In that case his claim is not hyperbole.

    You are saying that his claim is wrong, and that millions will NOT die. That is another matter. That is not the same as hyperbole, subjectivity or “ranting.”

    In other words, you are confused about the nature of your own critique. You should not accuse him of hyperbole. You should only say — as you did! — that he is wrong and global warming will not hurt many people.

    I think you are incorrect, and that global warming may kill millions. But that is beyond the scope of the discussion. It is too technical to discuss here.

  117. TallDave | January 21, 2009, 10:15am | #

    The evidence that CO2 is driving climate is pretty weak. Not only do rises in CO2 trail changes in temperature historically, making cause-effect claims dubious, the Earth has gone into ice ages when CO2 levels were an order of magnitude higher.

    Talldave, you are a pretty bright guy. I am sure you understand the concept of a feedback loop: A causes B, which causes A, which causes B, and so forth.

    Well, why then do you not understand that “B causes A, which causes B, which causes A, and so forth” is the exact same thing? In a feedback loop, it doesn’t matter which happens first. Even “C causes A, which causes B, which causes A, and so forth” is the exact same loop. The triggering event can be a wide variety of things.

    Of course, in the deep past, a bunch of CO2 and other greenhouse gases didn’t spontaneously jump out of the ground, triggering the feedback loop. Sometimes, astronomical events triggered heating, which then released stored greenhouse gases. Sometimes, major biological shifts occured, changing the atmospheric composition and thereby the net heating effect. But in the modern case, it is human induced greenhouse gas emissions that is the trigger.

    Why do you think that pointing out that in the past things happened in the opposite order has any bearing on the validity of a feedback loop? They obviously work either way.

  118. Dr. Kenneth Noisewater suggests:

    “Continue funding the longshot fusion schemes, at least with breadcrumbs from tokamak research budgets.”

    Cold fusion (the Fleischmann Pons effect) is far more promising that tokamak plasma fusion. By the mid-1990s, some experiments produced hundreds of times more energy than any tokamak test (albeit less power), in fully ignited, self sustaining reactions.

    It is also several orders of magnitude cheaper. A credible cold fusion experiment costs anywhere from $100,000 to $20 million (the latter for the Mitsubishi or Toyota style experiments).

    Cold fusion was replicated in well over 200 world-class labs, and these replications were reported in hundreds of papers in mainstream, peer-reviewed journals.

    Senior researchers at National Laboratories, the U. S. Navy and other government laboratories have done outstanding cold fusion research in the past, and they would like to do more, but they have not been adequately funded. They and I have called upon the new administration to fund this research properly. See:

    http://lenr-canr.org/News.htm

  119. Chad, I’m glad you brought up the claim of a negative feedback loop. It’s central to the AGW projections that end in catastrophe. The thing is that unending negative feedback loops are vanishingly rare in nature. Very strong evidence of this is your very existence which is fragile in the extreme. Yet our species has been supported over millenia – and life generally over aeons despite much higher CO2 levels than we currently have.

    In my view, it’s all well and good to come up with a negetive feedback loop hypothesis, but to rely on it requires that you prove a negative hypothesis: there are no processes which can occur that will break said feedback loop. Absent this, the feedback loop is mechanism – simply a part of the story, not the whole novel.

  120. Dunno bout Cold Fusion, but I was thinking more along the lines of Polywell, or “Steampunk”:

    http://powerandcontrol.blogspot.com/2008/12/steampunk-fusion.html

    Talk about an atom smasher!

    Either way, these approaches could probably be adequately proven or disproven with a few hundred mil, otherwise known as “crumbs from the tokamak feast”.. Frankly, if we’re going to be paying for welfare, I’d rather it be welfare for either the brave (military) or smart (SCIENCE!).

  121. In the 1970s, Hansen was telling us we needed to cut air pollution because it was causing global cooling. Now he says it’s causing global warming. This is not science or even coherent politics, it’s an unthinking environmental crusade against modern industry in search of a justification.

    Hansen actually makes sense here, prior to the 1970s, most fuel burning dumped particulate matter (soot) into the atmosphere, having a generally cooling effect. The data is not conclusive on how much overall effect this has on global temperatures.

    “…burning coal produces carbon dioxide emissions which are warming the planet…”

    I quit reading at this point because I don’t waste time on arguments with false premises.

    This is not a false premise. There is no question that, all other things being equal, adding CO2 to the atmosphere will cause warming. But, all other things are not equal, and the data is not conclusive on the overall drivers in global temperatures.

    At this point in time, the data does suggest that soot cooled the atmosphere somewhat until the late 70s, and CO2 heated the the atmosphere until a few years ago, but the science has a long way to go.

    Speaking of science that has a long way to go, Jed, I have a bridge I would like to sell you.

  122. Feedback loops. Great stuff. I’ve degrees in Physics and Engineering.

    Tell me why the earth was stable at an average 2000ppm when our scampering forebears were eating dino eggs for breakfast, but going higher than 385ppm is death for us all when we keep our egg producing dinos in cages?

    The only good candidate for a CO2 warming positive feedback event in the fossil record was the Permian-Triassic extinction event, but since that’s also the galactic cosmic ray flux minimum for the entire 550 million year Phanerozoic, it’s not clean evidence for this mythical feedback mechanism.

  123. It would take 200,000 wind generators to replace the power generated by today’s coal plants.
    How’d you like to have to look at those on every ridgeline?

  124. “The problem is that in the basic load out of our society’s energy demand, there are only two types of power plants: nuclear power and coal. And there is (except of fusion power) no substitution in sight.”

    Well, actually natural gas is another one, about equal to nuclear. Roughly 50% coal, 20% nat.gas., 20% nuclear.

    Actually I think the premise of this article is rather indefensible. A prediction made about the state of energy generation 20 years from today cannot possibly take into account any disruptive technologies that would revolutionize the industry.

    Would someone in 1989 have made the prediction that most music by 2010 would be listened to in digital form?

    Obviously it’s easy to go “not gonna happen, not gonna happen, not gonna happen” to every possible innovation. But history shows otherwise.

    What if something like EESTOR pans out, and storage is no longer an issue? That opens things up for solar and wind, and residential generation.

    I guess I simply don’t buy that we’re stuck with coal at same levels for 20 years.

  125. Chav:

    “The data comes from the EPA. I’m too lazy to dig up the original source, but here is a news report.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5174391/

    So your argument is a study that uses some clearly questionable data from a clearly agenda driven group. Sounds just like the extremely inflated statistics of deaths caused by tobacco smoking. It is pretty impossible to determine that a power plant is the one and only specific thing that caused someone to get lung cancer and die. You can get lung cancer just because it is in your DNA, with absolutely no outside factors involved. Just about every disease or illness has a genetic factor that determines how your body will react.

    “The 20 cents figure is easy to calculate. Just start adding up the cost of the lives at the $10,000,000 figure typically used (you know, ten million times twenty thousand is a BIG NUMBER), figure that its fair to double it for all the people who are sickened but don’t die, and then tack on a few tens of dollars per ton of emissions for environmental concerns, and you find yourself soaring past twenty cents.”

    So just as I predicted, your figure is based on some broad assumptions and hyperbole.

    “It takes, oh, five seconds of googling to find that numerous such studies exist for the US, other countries, and world-wide.”

    So you bitch me out because you don’t post a link to what the fuck you’re talking about, yet you demand others to, apparently because you are lazy. Check the link posted by domoarrigoto. There is plenty of peer reviewed research that show evidence against the theory of anthropogenic global warming right inside your precious journals nature and science. Tool.
    Jed Rothwell:

    You have to assume for the sake of argument that Hansen is right — or at least that he believes himself to be right. If, as he says, global warming in the future kill millions of people, then yes, coal burning plants are factories of death. In that case his claim is not hyperbole.

    Maybe Hansen should phrase his arguments in a more professional manner, instead of using some cute English degree or ABC news rhetoric, to at least try and make it sound like he isn’t such a fucking rent seeker. Might give him a little more credibility too, besides the fact that he is right because he has some lettrzz after his name.

  126. There is no value in “proving AGW is bunk” whereas “argueing it is true” could yield a nice fellowship and acclaim. Anti AGW scientists – and there are plenty – face ridicule, have a difficult time accessing research money – it’s almost remarkable that there are any at all.

    In science, there are many, many incentives to be the guy that proves everyone else wrong. Both monetary and prestige-based. WTF makes you think otherwise?

  127. The thing is that unending negative feedback loops are vanishingly rare in nature.

    True. What does this have to do with AGW. The claim is not that the loop will never end, as far as I know, only that we may start one with important consequences for our way of life.

    A side note. One of the elements in the hypothetical feed-back loop is that we are intentionally dumping co2 into the atmosphere at higher rates than have occurred in nature. If that kicks off a feedback loop, and we continue to dump the co2, then we can sustain the process in the face of changes that might have ended a feedback loop in nature.

  128. That reminds me, I wanted to specifically challenge this:

    “Just start adding up the cost of the lives at the $10,000,000 figure typically used”

    why is this typical? where does it come from? I am very curious. On one hand it seems like a lot of money – I don’t know anyone who has a $10mm life insurance policy. On the other hand, should my industry be able to kill someone just because it’s worth more than $10mm? Putting a $ figure on a human life is futile and ghoulish.

  129. domo,

    For my part, I will say it’s clearly untrue that there is peer reviewed research “proving AGW is hype.”

    Ah, but iz it fresh? Fly? Da bomb? 😉

  130. NM,

    The feedback loop arguement, as I’ve heard it, doesn’t depend on continued forcing by man made emissions. The catastrophe models depend on manmade emission touching off a feedback loop that is then sustained ad-infinitum. If you don’t assume that, you can just say “in 100 years when we run out of oil/coal etc and use fusion, temps will go back to normal – big whoop”

    The alarmist arguement depends on us being on an irreversable cusp RIGHTNOWASWESPEAK!!!

  131. and life generally over aeons despite much higher CO2 levels than we currently have.

    I am sure you realize that it is not about the absolute levels. The issue is how the rapid change in c02 levels we are creating will impact the climate, and how those climate changes will impact our standard of living.

    The worst-case scenarios include global mass-extinctions, of course, but those won’t happen for centuries even at the current rate of increase, iirc, even if we trigger a feedback loop that ramps up the warming.

  132. stuartl wrote:

    Speaking of science that has a long way to go, Jed, I have a bridge I would like to sell you.”

    I presume you refer to cold fusion. I recommend you read the peer-reviewed literature on that subject before commenting on it, or judging it. You will find hundreds of papers at LENR-CANR.org, and a list of 3,000 other papers, from labs such as Los Alamos, China Lake, BARC and Mitsubishi. The researchers at these places probably know more about this subject than you do.

  133. The catastrophe models depend on manmade emission touching off a feedback loop that is then sustained ad-infinitum.

    I have never heard the argument couched in those terms.

    If you don’t assume that, you can just say “in 100 years when we run out of oil/coal etc and use fusion, temps will go back to normal – big whoop”

    The catastrophe argument would say, after we run out of fuel, or kill off 98% of life on Earth, the Earth will eventually move into another phase and life will endure, perhaps without us.

    That’s as far as I have heard, or can imagine, anyone take it.

  134. I guess, perhaps, you might have someone claim that we would trigger conditions like those on Venus…but I haven’t seen a serious version of this claim.

  135. A serious discussion of feedback loops in relation to AGW. (see the comments)

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=133

  136. NM, I was responding to chads posts – he seems pretty squarely in this camp. Al Gore seems to be as well. I don’t know if any serious science supports this conclusion couched in those terms – but that doesn’t stop people from reading articles, and more often – fanciful derivative works that draw all sorts of unwarrented conclusions.

  137. NM, thanks for the link. Reading though it, they get into a lot of different definitions, “amplifiers” etc. It seems that the people who are defending the AGW warming/feedback side focus exclusively on the mechanism by which a small change can become a larger one. My point, and the point that some make on that board, is that such a discussion is incomplete without also including the mechanisms which serve to limit these feedback loops/amplifications. They exist. My understanding is that the models that predict disaster – like those cited in Al Gore’s movie – generally ignore them. In terms of processes that constrain feedback, you are right to ask “when? will we face mass extinction first?” But it seems like the science isn’t asking that question, it’s argueing over how big the inevitable blowup will be.

  138. Jed,

    True, I am not up to date. I lost interest when it came out that Fleischmann & Pons were 2 chemists in over their heads dealing with physics. Even more importantly, their results could not be duplicated.

    It does look like there has been a resurgence, in the 2004 DOE review, 1 of 18 scientists thought the evidence was good.

  139. domoarrigato

    NM, I was responding to chads posts – he seems pretty squarely in this camp. Al Gore seems to be as well.

    I did see that in any of his posts here.
    Just saying.

    As for Al Gore, he certainly uses hyperbole, but, AFAIK, he has never claimed that run-away global warming resulting from AGW would lead to a Venus-Earth.

    He seems to focus his statements about outcomes on sea-level and impacts on our current world culture.

    But, I don’t pay much attention to him, so maybe you are correct.

  140. didn’t see re: chad

  141. NM, I don’t think many people claim a venus earth – they only need to go as far as the point where everyone is dead to rouse up the hysteria. who cares after that point. I wonder what the truth is – does the cycle correct after we are dead, or 1 degree or so from here. makes a big difference to the economy and human development.

    oh – stuartl said:

    “Hansen actually makes sense here, prior to the 1970s, most fuel burning dumped particulate matter (soot) into the atmosphere, having a generally cooling effect. The data is not conclusive on how much overall effect this has on global temperatures.”

    Does that mean we could solve the AGW problem by emitting the right mix of soot and CO2? Seems practical as a solution…

  142. domoarrigato

    See the Nova episode “Dimming the Sun”

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sun/

  143. stuartl wrote:

    “I lost interest when it came out that Fleischmann & Pons were 2 chemists in over their heads dealing with physics. Even more importantly, their results could not be duplicated.”

    That is incorrect. Their results have been replicated thousands of times in hundreds of labs, and these replications have been published in major peer-reviewed journals, as I said. I suggest you review some of the papers. You can find them at any university library or the Los Alamos library (which is where my copies came from) or you can read some of them on line, as I said.

    You might argue that these replications are all in error, but it is a matter of fact that they were published. Please do not argue that 1,200 papers on file at Georgia Tech and Los Alamos do not exist.

    “It does look like there has been a resurgence, in the 2004 DOE review, 1 of 18 scientists thought the evidence was good.”

    Five reviewers recommended funding: #4, 8, 10, 11 and 13. #3 and 16 were undecided. That isn’t bad for a panel of which looked at some results for one day. You can read the panelists own comments here:

    http://lenr-canr.org/Collections/DoeReview.htm

    I recommend you read the original sources because the Scientific American’s views are somewhat biased. Their editor told me that he has never read any papers on cold fusion because reading papers is “not his job.” His assertions about the subject are factually wrong:

    http://lenr-canr.org/News.htm#SciAmSlam

  144. Sweet! now all we need is some more of those good soot particulates!!! I watched the preview – and in it the guy even used the phrase “the point of no return” in the context that it could happen within 10 years. That implies exactly the unstoppable feedback loop theology I am referring to. It also shows he looks at the venus/earth scenario as being possible or likely. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be “no return,” right? I mean, I’m arguing there is a return – he doesn’t think so. He sees the world figuratively spinning off it’s axis, and has made a decent living looking all serious and foreboding about it.

  145. Does that mean we could solve the AGW problem by emitting the right mix of soot and CO2? Seems practical as a solution…

    I’ve recommended this before as an AGW solution: use a GPS and turn off the second stage of catylitic converters in cars when they are far enough from cities, move coal fired plants away from congested areas, etc, but apparently there are both esthetic and practical reasons why this is difficult.

  146. The other choice is to trigger volcanoes. Mt St Helens cooled the earth for about 18 months. And once we hit positive feedback loops of runaway warming, we can always go for nuclear winter.

  147. Jed, I’m rooting for you to be right. But I’m not holding my breath either. Since you seem to be into the research, how many of the 5 were physicists?

    *catalytic*

  148. A probable pipe dream. I asked a good friend who happens to be a 200lb fusion brain about the subject, and he spouted off a half dozen reasons why that device was a probable dead end – though he wants it to be funded. Something about thermalised electrons, and poor containment characteristics. TallDave is a smart guy on the subject – he posts here sometimes, and also on the open source development board for the device. I do too, but I know much less about fusion…

    Domo, actually the latest results were reviewed by a distinguished panel of scientists in July, 2008. The panel could find no show-stopping issues with EMCC’s approach to electron containment, ion injection, or fusion rate. Their recommendation was to fund two more years of research at a funding rate of $5M/year.

  149. Domo,

    “the point of no return”

    I suspect that means the point at which we can’t stop the feedback loop from starting…not that the loop once started will not have a natural course.

    But that’s just the way I interpreted it.

  150. “Why can’t they use whatever power source they use in Star Wars? Those guys never seem to have energy problems.”

    For the answer, see the second Ewoks side movie. …unless you value your soul.

    Anyway.

    Responding to the main article. IMO, NEW Coal plants should be required to Either CCS completely Or buy Certifiied CO2 Offsets for what they can’t; with existing Coal Plants buying increasing amounts of Certified CO2 Offsets over the next twenty years. A bit different from the proposed bill.

    Even without such a bill, the Coal Industry will face increased competition for water. Demand increases, and climate change will drive the price of fresh water up. This also is true for any steam based power generation scheme. CCS will make the water demand for coal based power greater than that for conventional nuclear power. Even ignoring CO2 emissions costs, and the fly-ash waste storage, and mountain removal costs, Coal will get expensive.

    Meanwhile renewable energies are getting cheaper each year…even the ones which require water.

    I continue to recommend the halting of subsidies for fossil fuels.

    INTERMISSION

    Regarding why in very ancient times CO2 levels can be very high whilst also having Ice Ball Earths.

    The distribution of land masses on the Earth has a strong influence on climatic systems. Any amount of land masses at the poles will result in periods of ice ages. A Super Continent at either pole will result in Ice Ball Earths, even if there is enough CO2 in the air to kill a cow brought to slaughter. A global condition of no land masses at the poles will always be a big warm period even if CO2 levels are low and continents are dispersed. A complicated distribution of land masses will have relatively contextual climatic response to forcings, including CO2 levels, as the continents affect air and sea currents which move heat around. Right now we have both some land masses at the poles and a wide distribution of land mass; this is VERY sensitive various forcings, including but not limited to CO2 levels.

    Hope that helps.

  151. domoarrigato | January 21, 2009, 12:23pm | #

    Chad, I’m glad you brought up the claim of a negative feedback loop. It’s central to the AGW projections that end in catastrophe. The thing is that unending negative feedback loops are vanishingly rare in nature. Very strong evidence of this is your very existence which is fragile in the extreme. Yet our species has been supported over millenia – and life generally over aeons despite much higher CO2 levels than we currently have.

    When did I claim that the feedback loop was unending? It isn’t. But it doesn’t need to be in order for global warming to be a serious problem. Even if it isn’t unending, the feedback can still amplify a small change many-fold before petering out. For example, if I give you a dollar, and you give me 99 cents in return, and I give you 98 cents, etc…how much money changes hands? Well, about fifty bucks…and fifty times the original perturbation. For the same reason, a modest change in a greenhouse gas can set off a series of events which greatly amplify its effects, without turning the planet into a frozen rock or broiling furnace.

  152. Colonel_Angus | January 21, 2009, 1:42pm

    o your argument is a study that uses some clearly questionable data from a clearly agenda driven group.

    Ahh, so now the government is an “agenda driven group”. You don’t even know enough to know that the EPA bases its studies on peer-reviewed work, do you?

    Yes, we should all get our theories from crackpot sites on the web. THAT’S the ticket!

  153. stuartl wrote:

    “Since you seem to be into the research, how many of the 5 [panel members who supported a program] were physicists?”

    Interesting question. Officially, the panel was anonymous. Unofficially, I know who most of the members were but I have forgotten who said what! Some of them identify their area of expertise:

    4?, 8?, 10 electrochemist, 11 material science, 13 particle physicist.

    I said that #3 is undecided but he or she is supportive, saying:

    “Have the authors provided convincing evidence that the Pd/D system is worthy of continued investigation? The answer is clearly yes. Have the authors provided evidence that LENR [cold fusion] exists? Maybe! Should DOE establish a sizeable program to investigate LENR? No. Should DOE consider
    individual applications for financial assistance for research on the Pd/D system? Yes. Such applications
    should be considered on their merit.”

    Most of the people opposed to the research are physicists, especially plasma physicists, and this is obvious from their comments. They do not believe in cold fusion because it does not produce neutrons in the same ratio to the heat as plasma fusion does. It produces helium in the same ratio, but not neutrons. I think that recent research in “lukewarm” fusion (halfway between hot and cold) indicate that plasma fusion neutron rates are not as fixed as these people think.

    Cold fusion sometimes produces tritium, occasionally at levels a million times background. But again, the ratio to heat is not what plasma fusion theory predicts, so the plasma fusion scientists reject the findings out of hand. The chemists at BARC, Amoco and elsewhere who detected high levels of tritium are certain of their results, and certain that this proves cold fusion is a nuclear effect.

    Most opponents are high energy physicists. Supporters are usually chemists, electrochemists and material scientists. Most of the world’s top electrochemists believe that cold fusion is real because most of them have replicated it themselves.

  154. The Creamy Baileys No-Bell Peace Prize for Science celebrates outstanding advances in making everybody listen to the time you were watching the ST:TNG box set and pulling hits off the gravity bong and you figured out how Tantric quantum mechanics proves global warming is fake and fuck Al Gore. The winner is Gregg Easterbrook, for reasons I don’t even want to fucking talk about anymore, and who also wins the Matt Millen Award for Theoretical Footballistics.

  155. “Ahh, so now the government is an “agenda driven group”. You don’t even know enough to know that the EPA bases its studies on peer-reviewed work, do you?”

    Chav, the study in your link was not an EPA study. Here it is again, the link that you provided: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5174391
    Note carefully this part, “The EPA said the report “doesn’t look at the whole picture”.

    Fuckwad.

  156. Jed,

    The lack of physicist support for nuclear reactions is a real problem. Just like chemists, they like their equations to balance.

    Anyway, I stand corrected, it looks like there is some real work being done in the field. Nothing seems very conclusive, and at some point it is time to give up, but we can always hope.

  157. stuartl wrote:

    “The lack of physicist support for nuclear reactions is a real problem.”

    Mainly the high energy & plasma fusion scientists. I suspect this may be a pocketbook issue for some them. Some physicists in other fields support or conduct the research. To give credit where it is due, years ago some big guns in plasma fusion were involved, such as the head of Japan’s main plasma fusion lab, and the editors of the two leading plasma fusion journals. Alas, they are all retired.

    “Just like chemists, they like their equations to balance.”

    Ah, but as I said, it turns out that their own experiments do not balance right. The neutrons go missing in “lukewarm” fusion experiments too, as I said. Previously, no one thought to look in the fusion domains now being investigated in Germany and Japan.

    “Anyway, I stand corrected, it looks like there is some real work being done in the field. Nothing seems very conclusive . . .”

    With all due respect, I doubt that you have read the literature enough to make that determination. Most of the researchers, funding agencies and peer-reviewers who have examined the work carefully say that it is conclusive. And believe me, before EPRI, DARPA or the ENEA gives you another million dollars, they check very carefully! Anyway, here is what some experts have written:

    “. . . there is now undoubtedly overwhelming indications that nuclear processes take place in the metal alloys.”

    Heinz Gerischer, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Physical Chemistry in Berlin

    “The calorimetry conclusively shows excess energy was produced within the electrolytic cell over the period of the experiment. This amount, 50 kilojoules, is such that any chemical reaction would have had to been in near molar amounts to have produced the energy. Chemical analysis shows clearly that no such chemical reactions occurred. The tritium results show that some form of nuclear reactions occurred during the experiment. . . .”

    – Lautzenhiser and Phelps, Amoco Production Company

    The tone is unequivocal. When senior scientists say things like that, it is equivalent to shouting “Eureka!” off the rooftop. You may not think it is conclusive, but these people think it is.

    “. . . and at some point it is time to give up, but we can always hope.”

    Cold fusion is real beyond any doubt, as Gerischer said. Thousands of experimental runs in hundreds of labs proved that by 1992. You can trust that the experimental method works. Peer-review and replications work. The researchers will never give up, but most of them have retired or died, and others were fired or reassigned to menial jobs as punishment for publishing positive results. (Academic politics is brutal because the stakes are so small, as Prof. Woodrow Wilson put it.) The researchers will not give up, but they probably will be forgotten, and the research will end in a few years when the last of them dies.

  158. FactCheck.org now has analysis of the CleanCoal? debate.
    http://www.factcheck.org/politics/clean_coal_confrontation.html
    “Summary
    On the campaign trail, President Obama embraced the coal industry’s vision of “clean coal” technology. But even before he took office, a coalition of environmental groups (including Al Gore’s) launched ads ridiculing the idea as a myth: “In reality, there’s no such thing as clean coal.”

    We’re sure to hear more of this debate in coming months. Burning coal creates large quantities of carbon dioxide, the most prevalent of the “greenhouse gases” that scientists say is heating up the planet and Obama has said he wants to reduce.

    Is “clean coal” possible? Our answer: Probably, though it would come with a big price tag.

    In our Analysis section, we try to shed a little light on the subject.”

    CleanCoal or CheapCoal. Pick one.


  159. Is “clean coal” possible? Our answer: Probably, though it would come with a big price tag.

    Exactly. Clean coal, even if we can do it, and even if the CO2 stays stored, will never be cheap. It will require enormous capital costs AND significantly reduce the power output of the plant, because so much of the power will be used to isoloate, compress and sequester the CO2.

    Even ignoring the capital costs, the efficiency losses alone push hypothetical “clean coal” costs above that of wind. Therefore, it is uneconomic from the start, so why even try?

  160. Alternative Energies are also Destructive and Evil — How can Alternative Energies be good when they require materials that originated from places that all environmentalists say are “evil and destructive”? Alternative Energies require “bad” materials for assembly, such as ceramics, carbons, and metals from Mines, and sometimes plastics and other carbon-based materials, which originate from Oil Wells and Coal mines that environmental groups say are all “evil and destructive”. Even “natural” plant fiber materials require machinery and processing and transportation, which also require metals, ceramics, and carbon.

    From where do we get the source materials for wind mills, fuel cells, hydrogen and other alternative energies? Most solar electric panels require ceramics and special elements, such as gallium, arsenic, germanium, etc., that came from mines and smelters. Windmills require metals (originally from mines and smelters). Passive and active solar ventilation and tubing for houses usually require metals and sometimes ceramics, which came from mines and smelters.

    Environmental groups say that ALL Mining and Oil / Gas Wells are “bad” and “evil”, even with full-scale reclamations and restorations. So how can we go to Alternative Energies when these requires materials that are not accepted by the Environmentalists?

    Even fuel cells require materials originally from mines and smelters. Fuel cells have to have metals and / or ceramics for the containment, tubing, chemical reactions, etc. The cells, containments and associated materials use materials from mines and oil wells. Think about the engineered things used to even make hydrogen fuel get started for producing energy.

    Look at the Periodic Table of all the elements of the earth. Hydrogen (H2) is a usually a gas. When hydrogen is used in a chemical bonding or mixture, it is usually released as a single free ion (H- or H+). Sometimes getters are used to store and transport hydrogen.

    It is the cells and containments and associated materials that use materials from mines and oil wells. Go and look at the engineered things used to even make hydrogen get started!

    To make Hydrogen “burn” and gain energy from it, there must be the chambers, vessels, tubing, connections and fittings. A characteristic of Hydrogen is that is can embrittle materials over time, especially certain types of metals and steels. Normally stainless steels or other specialty metals are used for most Hydrogen activities. These steels and steels are composed of iron and sometimes chromium and / or nickel to control any corrosion from Hydrogen and also prevent embrittlement as much as possible. The materials for steels ALL come from mines and smelters.

    But how is hydrogen (H2 and the H ions) produced from water or other source materials? Either in the reaction apparatus and chambers of the cars or else in processing plants, both of which use metals and ceramics and plastics. If we get H2 from the air, we get it from gas separators which are composed of metals and other “bad” materials.

    Environmentalist point to bicycles as environmentally-friendly transportation. To make bicycles, manufacturers must get materials that originated from mining operations (iron, molybdenum, aluminum, ceramics, etc.), oil wells and coal mines for Carbon and plastic materials, and sometime timber for wood. These materials are then processed in plants that also use products from mining and oil wells, and use electricity. How can this be “good” by any environmentalist’s definitions?

    Look at how many existing Wilderness Areas have abandoned oil / gas wells and also mining sites within their boundaries. Why is that permissible? How is it that reclamations of well drilling sites are either ignored or denied by the environmental groups now? There have been many private groups in the Pacific Northwest (like my grade school in the 1960’s) that went out and planted trees, grass, and shrubs in the forests. We even saw some of the lumber companies replanting trees and shrubs. But apparently, none of those good efforts count in the mind of the environmental groups, as seen in recent publications and notifications.

    Take a deeper look at what really is going on. Natural resources are needed for everything in our lives, even medical items and alternative energies. But when our natural resources are being closed up and as reclamations are either ignored or badmouthed, we are loosing the materials needed for our daily lives, even for the “nice” Alternative Energies. As a final note, my 1990 car gets the same gas mileage GPM as a modern hybrid car. Go figure.

    In a publication from early 1992, the Sierra Club in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA, openly announced that oil / gas well drillers were still using lead-based (Pb) lubricants. Never mind that the EPA banned their use several years before in the mid-1980s and that the drilling industry had already switched to biodegradable lubricants even before that. Never mind that law enforcement and the EPA later on checked for compliance in the industry. Also, there is new drilling technology, called Coiled Tubing, that allows certain types of well drilling operations from the back of a pickup, thus less impacts than the vehicles you drive. Why don’t we don’t hear that from the Environmentalists.

    Are you familiar with the wilderness near Ruidoso, NM, USA? The wilderness boundaries “captured” some gold and silver / lead mines. The government threatened to sue the mine and claim owners with EPA Superfund status if they did not surrender the land for wilderness designation. Now how is it that places that are supposedly EPA Superfund sites can now be “wilderness” and untouched areas? The 1964 Wilderness Act specified that undeveloped, untouched, and natural areas were to be part of the wilderness areas.

    retired University of California technical staff member
    Los Alamos, NM, USA

  161. Catheine,
    “Environmental groups say that ALL Mining and Oil / Gas Wells are “bad” and “evil”, even with full-scale reclamations and restorations. So how can we go to Alternative Energies when these requires materials that are not accepted by the Environmentalists?”

    Try not to paint with so broad a brush ‘kay.

    What’s done is done; what can be reused, recycled and rethought, should be. Also, contrary to certain broad brushes, most environmentally minded persons do not want people to be destitute for the sake of the environment, and are thus willing to put up with a responsible raw minerals industry. Most people are not one-cause roosters.

    Re: hydrogen fuel cells.

    Overrated.

    Re: Bicycles.

    Wooden Bicycles are being devised these days. And besides, 10-20 pounds of metals and consequent processing to fetch groceries a few blocks away, are far preferable to 2 tons of the same for the same task.

    Re all that other stuff.

    The enviros these days realize that The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good. The Bettah is more realizable than the Best.

    Your best option is to stop uselessly painting them with a broad brush, and help them become more Libertarian in their efforts.

  162. actully to answer chads 9:38 question global warming is happening and it has happened before it happens about every 300 million years or so by the research I have done the polar ice caps melt and refrezze all the time and it is just because that the earth rotates closer to the sun then it rotates away from the sun and i guess we are lucky that global warming is happening in our life time

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