Mark Cochrane on the Washington State drought

21 07 2015

Glenda and I visited the state of Washington in the NW of the US way back in 1979.  It was lush and green, much like Tasmania. Peppered with lakes and snow topped mountains, it was one of the highlights of our trip.  Now read what Mark has to report following his camping holiday there just recently….

Just checking in to say that I haven’t disappeared completely. I finally bugged out on a vacation worthy of the name for the first time in 5 years and dragged my family all over the Pacific Northwest. Kudos to T2H for such excellent reporting on the plethora of news about the drought all throughout western North America. Not to mention cooking up a mean burger!

Having just driven over 10,000 km throughout the region I can attest to the extensive drought and the impacts of the all but absent snow pack from the last year. The heat wave we went through was like nothing I had previous seen in the area. From 40.5 degrees in Missoula, MT to 39 in Yakima, WA, 39+ in the Columbia River Gorge and 41 in central Oregon. Everything was crispy and primed to burn. The only upside of the heat was the lack of any wind to drive a fire. Over on the Olympic peninsula I was shocked to see all of the brown grass everywhere. Something I never saw when I lived out there. I was out to the National Park (temperate rain forest) but didn’t see the recently discovered fire that is working through those ancient forests. Lakes were low everywhere and many rivers were down. I was shocked to see that the sturgeon are now dying around the Bonneville dam and upriver as we visited it and were impressed with  the fish management that they are doing.

Eastern Washington was dry but one thing that was clear is that no one is lacking for irrigation water yet. Driving across the state looks like one long fountain every day. Up on Mount Rainier I can anecdotaly say that the birds seem thirsty. They were big on robbing grapes from us and couldn’t care less about chips and such from our picnic! The Nisqually river was pathetically low for this time of year which is more a function of the lack of snow than the melting glacier. Clear blue skies in Seattle and all along the Washington and Oregon coast was appreciated but damned odd. My family now thinks that is normal but I assured them it is not.

One highlight of our trip was facilitated by Adam [from Peak Prosperity] who put us in contact with Paul and Elizabeth of Singing Frogs Farm so that we could visit them in person. If anyone hasn’t already listened to their podcast I highly recommend it (link). Everything I saw there with my own eyes bears witness to what they speak about. Add me to the list of people who hope that they will be asked to return and cover other aspects of their remarkable operation in detail. Water management being one obvious key aspect of interest. We speak about many disturbing and downright depressing topics on this thread and the PP site so it is much appreciated to have something so positive and inspiring to discuss. It is a much better model for farming.

By way of contrast we also drove across the Central Valley with its amazing array of agriculture and serious water stress issues. There was plenty of irrigation and little sign of anyone lacking water but there were no end of placards and billboards expressing the gravity of the issues for the economy and jobs. I was amazed to see new orchards of almonds still being planted at this point though since my impression was that more were being plowed under. One very scary part of the experience for me was driving through miles and miles of endless crops and never once having a single insect hit my windshield. An endless buffet but it is still an insect desert. They’ve killed everything which makes you wonder just how much pesticide is being used. Also, if bugs can’t even eat the stuff, should we?

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What it would take for the US to run on 100% renewable energy

11 06 2015

The internet never ceases to amaze me as a source of hopium.  This article on vox, Here’s what it would take for the US to run on 100% renewable energy, manages to knock the wind out of the techno-utopian belief that we could run Business as Usual with renewables, even though it totally misses the most important point about why it can’t be done…....

It sets the scene with:

It is technically and economically feasible to run the US economy entirely on renewable energy, and to do so by 2050. That is the conclusion of a new study in the journal Energy & Environmental Science, authored by Stanford scholar Mark Z. Jacobson and nine colleagues.

Jacobson is well-known for his ambitious and controversial work on renewable energy. In 2001 he published, with Mark A. Delucchi, a two-part paper (one, two) on “providing all global energy with wind, water, and solar power.” In 2013 he published a feasibility study on moving New York state entirely to renewables, and in 2014 he created a road map for California to do the same.

This road map looks like this:

jacobson-us-renewables-2015At least, this road map shows a decline in total energy use over the period to 2050, which is fine, we absolutely have to reduce energy consumption.  Except of course I think we need to do this by at least 90%, but who’s splitting hairs…?

The author, , then goes on to explain what is required to do this:

The core of the plan is to electrify everything, including sectors that currently run partially or entirely on liquid fossil fuels. That means shifting transportation, heating/cooling, and industry to run on electric power.

Electrifying everything produces an enormous drop in projected demand, since the energy-to-work conversion of electric motors is much more efficient than combustion motors, which lose a ton of energy to heat. So the amount of energy necessary to meet projected demand drops by a third just from the conversion. With some additional, relatively modest efficiency measures, total demand relative to BAU drops 39.3 percent. That’s a much lower target for WWS to meet.

Fine……. so far.

So how could the economy be electrified on this ambitious timeline? Brace yourself:

Heating, drying, and cooking in the residential and commercial sectors: by 2020, all new devices and machines are powered by electricity. …

Large-scale waterborne freight transport: by 2020–2025, all new ships are electrified and/or use electrolytic hydrogen, all new port operations are electrified, and port retro- electrification is well underway. …

Rail and bus transport: by 2025, all new trains and buses are electrified. …

Off-road transport, small-scale marine: by 2025 to 2030, all new production is electrified. …

Heavy-duty truck transport: by 2025 to 2030, all new vehicles are electrified or use electrolytic hydrogen. …

Light-duty on-road transport: by 2025–2030, all new vehicles are electrified. …

Short-haul aircraft: by 2035, all new small, short-range planes are battery- or electrolytic-hydrogen powered. …

Long-haul aircraft: by 2040, all remaining new aircraft are electrolytic cryogenic hydrogen … with electricity power for idling, taxiing, and internal power….

Electrolytic cryogenic hydrogen?  My eyes glazed over here……….

Here’s what the paper says:

Power plants: by 2020, no more construction of new coal, nuclear, natural gas, or biomass fired power plants; all new power plants built are WWS.

2020 is just FIVE YEARS away………  but who’s counting?

…to meet most energy demand with wind and solar, you have to radically overbuild electrical generation capacity. To wit: the authors estimate that total US energy demand in 2050 will average 2.6 terawatts. To produce that much energy, they propose building power plants with a total of 6.5 TW of capacity. By way of comparison, the US currently has about 1.2 TW of installed electric generation capacity, so this plan would involve expanding generation capacity fivefold in 35 years.

Here’s what that would require:

… 328,000 new onshore 5 MW wind turbines (providing 30.9% of U.S. energy for all purposes), 156,200 off-shore 5 MW wind turbines (19.1%), 46,480 50 MW new utility-scale solar-PV power plants (30.7%), 2,273 100 MW utility-scale CSP power plants (7.3%), 75.2 million 5 kW residential rooftop PV systems (3.98%), 2.75 million 100 kW commercial/government rooftop systems (3.2%), 208 100 MW geothermal plants (1.23%), 36,050 0.75 MW wave devices (0.37%), 8,800 1 MW tidal turbines (0.14%), and 3 new hydroelectric power plants (all in Alaska).

That will meet average demand. Then you need 1,364 additional new CSP plants and 9,380 50 MW solar-thermal collection systems (“for heat storage in soil”) “to produce peaking power, to account for additional loads due to losses in and out of storage, and to ensure reliability of the grid.”

Is that realistic? asks Roberts……

Uh, no says Roberts….. No it isn’t. The authors inadvertently give away the game:

We do not believe a technical or economic barrier exists to ramping up production of WWS technologies, as history suggests that rapid ramp-ups of production can occur given strong enough political will. For example during World War II, aircraft production increased from nearly zero to 330,000 over five years.

The phrase “given strong enough political will” is open-ended enough to allow virtually anything through. But what would create this political will, equal to what gripped the US in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack? The authors don’t say much about it, other than a hopeful note at the end that their quantification of the benefits of such a transition “should reduce social and political barriers to implementing the roadmaps.”

But here’s the key thing for me.  exactly how would the US build an increasing quantity of renewables, growing year after year, while reducing fossil fuel use, year after year, at the same time..?  And we all know how much fossil energy it takes to build all those wind turbines…..

Something major would have to be abandoned.  Like maybe the US military?  After all, once the Arabs’ oil is no longer needed, it won’t need ‘defending’!  Dream on.  This is no Pearl Harbor.  This is civilisational change…..  and the only other time we’ve had change on this scale was when…..  fossil fuels were discovered and exploited!  I’m definitely not holding my breath, but you already knew this.





The 100% renewables fantasy

6 10 2014

I’ve hardly written anything in weeks, and today, I’m rattling off new posts like a machine gun…..  It’s what happens when I discover new information for DTM followers to digest!  What you are about to see just had to be shared….

The disconnect between reality and fantasy is very visible when it comes to the 100% renewable energy cult.  But today I have found some graphics to share that explain the folly of such a notion.  let’s start with this one (hat tip to Erial A Secas from FaceBook):

offshorewind

When I take a look at that…….  all I see are greenhouse emissions!  I haven’t done the maths, and I suggest no one else has either, but I’m prepared to bet it would take the burning of every last drop of affordable fossil energy left, to build all this stuff.  Let us never forget that everything that was built during the 20th Century was done so one brick at a time, as and when it was needed, using growing sources of ever cheaper oil coal and gas.  Compare that to today…..  when we have to replace EVERYTHING, every coal and gas fired power station, every nuke (they’re all reaching their use by date), every petrol/gasoline station, with decreasing amounts of fossil fuels that are getting dearer and dearer to extract (even if the current commodity prices are dropping like stones in a pond), at a time when we should end fossil energy use altogether, NOW, to avert climate catastrophe…..

WHAT are they thinking……….??  Obviously they are not thinking.

I loved the comment Susan Krumdieck posted on FB regarding this nonsense….:

Too bad Ed Hillary isn’t still alive. We could ask him what it takes to get to the top of a really high mountain –

1) being positive, or

2) being prepared, determined, realistic and strong? If the general public, and especially those who even care about the issues, can be convinced that everything has to be positive, then we are susceptible to DISTRACTION by all manner of things including spin stories about happy nonsense. There is a lot of hard work to do, and distraction is not helping. Yet – the cult of positivity is growing in popularity, particularly among youth who are actually the catalyst for change when society is heading in the wrong direction. Pied Piper.

One of the very best charts I’ve ever spotted to illustrate the embodied energy of stuff needed to keep complex civilisation going looks like this:

This really puts paid to the irrational thinking that we will simply switch to that white man’s magic called Renewable Energy.  There’s nothing renewable about it at all.  It is simply an extension of the fossil fuel industry, which may (or may not) keep ‘civilisation running a little longer….  but that’s all.  Because repairing, maintaining and replacing all this stuff post Peak Everything will be simply impossible….

How do we do this without huge amounts of fossil energy?  Or going into even more debt – as if we could stand the level of indebtedness currently weighing the world’s economies down?

I really fear that this stupid drive to run Business as usual only with renewables will destroy our capacity to make the very same things for localised and low level consumption to keep people alive during the power down era that will inevitably start soon.  Building all those large projects will kill us all in my opinion, if only because of the unnecessary Carbon emissions that will ensue.  We need to take a very deep breath on this one, before it’s too late….

nacelleshippedwindhelicopter

 

 

 

 

 

 

windfirewindmountain

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a video on glass manufacturing. Huge equipment, lots of heat. Glass is a wonderful invention. Glass for solar energy collecting devices is called low iron glass. When you look at the edge of a sheet of glass most has a greenish colour. This is caused by the iron content. Solar glass is low iron because more energy can penetrate the glass. This means that there is probably very little recycled glass used, they need the raw materials from the start.





El Niño is coming…..

29 04 2014

An update on what may become an eventful and very warm year from Mark Cochrane…. not to mention another severe drought in Australia……

Slow slosh of warm water across Pacific hints El Niño is brewing

The El Niño / La Niña climate pattern that alternately warms and cools the eastern tropical Pacific is the 800-pound gorilla of Earth’s climate system. On a global scale, no other single phenomenon has a greater influence on whether a year will be warmer, cooler, wetter, or drier than average. Naturally, then, the ears of seasonal forecasters and natural resource managers around the world perked up back in early March when NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center issued an “El Niño Watch.”

The “watch” means that oceanic and atmospheric conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean are favourable for the development of El Niño within the next six months. These maps reveal one of the most significant of those favourable signs: a deep pool of warm water sliding eastward along the equator since late January.

In the seesaw patterns between La Niña and El Niño what happens is that along the equator, during a La Niña, winds blow from east to west and pile up a lot of water over in Indonesia. This pulls colder deeper water up in the East Pacific and this exposed cold water acts to cool the atmosphere. In the mean time, the pile of water around Indonesia keeps getting heated and sinking, building up a large deep pool of very warm water. Eventually, if the winds slacken, a Kelvin wave begins in which a large slug of warm deep water starts sliding to the east before rising to break the surface initiating El Niño, when the extensive warm water at the surface acts to heat the atmosphere. Such a Kelvin wave was initiated back in January with the downwelling of warm water that has since been slowly working its way east.

This was the situation as of February 19. The large anomalously warm slug of water was moving east at depth and had passed the International Dateline.

This is the more current situation as of April 18th. The water has risen and pushed out the previously anomalously cold water in the eastern Pacific.

El Niños are like economic recessions in that it takes several months/quarters of warm conditions before it can officially be determined to be an El Niño. Therefore, NOAA still calls for ENSO-neutral conditions through the spring, but with a greater than 50% chance of El Niño by summer and the risks increase further through the autumn. It is clear that an El Niño is developing, the main questions now are how strong will it be and how long will it last?

The short answer is nobody really knows yet, however, we do know that the heat content in March of the red blob of water (above) that is initiating things was the greatest of any yet measured. Records go back to 1979. So, there is potential for this to rival the 97-98 El Niño (which deniers use as cherry picked data to ‘prove’ there has been no warming since’) but this is far from certain. Conditions may yet arise that blunt the effect of this El Niño but, regardless, weather patterns are likely to change in the coming months.