Science is supposed to be unbiased, seeking to understand the workings of nature untainted by the personal beliefs or prejudices of its practitioners. Nature alone is the arbiter of truth—when science and nature disagree it is science that is wrong. But science is practiced by human beings, who cannot keep their beliefs, whether engendered by religious, philosophical, or political leanings, from skewing any result that is equivocal or highly complex. Presented here are two examples taken from the pages of Nature, perhaps the world's primer scientific journal. One is a rehash of temperature history in northern latitudes with a new statistical twist, the other a report on a study regarding fracking. One shows how what scientists leave out of their studies may be more important than what they put in. The other shows how a headline can spin the results of a report even when its authors are carefully neutral in their conclusions.
The number of earthquakes in the U.S. has risen dramatically since the advent of widespread hydraulic fracturing for the recovery of oil and natural gas. In both North America and Europe, concern that such activity could cause damaging earthquakes is rising and the debate shows signs of becoming another unscientific brouhaha fueled by ignorance and fear. It has been known for many years that fracking can cause seismic activity, as can damming rivers, mining minerals and pumping oil from underground. Is fracking being subjected to unfair criticism? Several new reports and a multi-national study, just published in the journal Science, attempt to take an objective, scientific view of the problem.
This must be the season to bash electric automobiles. Even the staid IEEE Spectrum featured an article questioning the ecological soundness of electric vehicles on its cover. But aren't electrics and hybrids supposed to be the way to a green future? Think again. Environmentalists' love affair with electric vehicles (EVs) seems to be over. “If you are thinking of buying an electric car for the sake of the environment, you may want to think longer.,” says Bill Sweet of IEEE's EnergyWise. “You’re not doing the planet as much of a favor as you might think.” Does this make all those Prius drivers officially posers? Or were they all just duped by a passing green fad, which, like all green fads, was based on faulty reasoning and the triumph of emotion over reality?
Everyone has heard the pitch for solar energy, install solar cells on your roof and get free electricity from the Sun. Sure they cost a lot up front, but they will last 25-30 years—which just happens to be about the payback time given current electricity rates from coal, nuclear and natural gas. So when solar panels start failing in two or three years the economics of solar power collapses like a house of cards. That is exactly what is happening around the world. Cheap Chinese solar panels have flooded the market and are now starting to fail at an alarming rate. Solar panels covering a warehouse roof in Los Angeles were only two years into their expected 25-year life span when they began to fail. Worldwide, solar power adopters are reporting similar problems and say the $77 billion solar industry is facing a quality crisis. Bright sunlight is illuminating the scam that is solar power just as industry boosters claim solar is on the verge of widespread adoption.
Gas prices, oil sands, fracking and the Canadian pipeline have all thrust energy back into the headlines. Politicians posture, eco-alarmists protest and those global warming fanatics continue to predict the end of the world as we know it. If you are tired of the hype and disinformation, if you really want to understand energy—where it comes from, how it works and how much of it the world has—then you need a copy of The Energy Gap. In this follow-on to The Resilient Earth, Hoffman and Simmons address the world's energy questions with the same wit and erudition displayed in their previous work. Even better, in honor of April 15th, tax day in the US, you can now download a copy of The Energy Gap for free from Amazon.
Writing in a paper to appear in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, NASA scientist and noted climate alarmist James Hansen has come down on the side of nuclear power. He and coauthor Pushker A. Kharecha claim that getting power from nuclear energy actually saves lives. “Global nuclear power has prevented about 1.84 million air pollution-related deaths,” they report. Of course it also prevented 64 gigatonnes (Gt) CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, when compared to the burning of fossil fuels, perhaps explaining why Hansen has suddenly become a nuclear power booster. With global warming on hiatus for the past decade and a half, the climate change cabal may be growing desperate for allies and have turned to that most unloved of energy sources—nuclear. Is this a sign that warmists and tree-huggers have a developing schism over nuclear power?
For decades the US government has funded research into “clean coal” technology. Billions of dollars have been spent with the only visible result being employment for a small army of government coal researchers and academics. Now scientists at Ohio State University have announced that, after 15 years of effort, they have produced a breakthrough—a new technology capable of turning coal green and carbon dioxide emission free. This was widely reported in the news media and passed practically without critical comment. Is it true? Is coal no longer the dirty, devil spawned fuel of evil industrialists everywhere?
There's been plenty of talk about potentially radical US foreign policy changes as a result of the shale boom. While one shouldn't expect any dramatic US foreign policy move away from the Middle East, factors are influencing a greater focus on Asia. Only one thing is certain in this transforming world: The shale boom is real and the implications are many and difficult to predict. The Resilient Earth is pleased to bring you the following interview with energy security expert Michael Levi.
The Resilient Earth Press is happy to bring you an interesting interview with the well known economist Ed Dolan. Courtesy of Oilprice.com, Dolan gives his perspective on oil prices, the prospects for cheap energy, Russia's growing uncertainty and how the natural gas boom is hindering renewable energy efforts. We think you will find a number of thought provoking statements and ideas to ponder in the views expressed in the interview, which appears in its entirety below.
Even though the Wind Production Tax Credit (PTC) may be extended when Congress reconvenes in a post-election, lame duck session, American wind turbine manufacturers are laying off workers right and left. Estimates from the Institute for Energy Research (IER) indicate approximately 3,000 jobs have already been cut or designated to be cut soon. That number is almost 30% of the 11,000 direct manufacturing jobs in the industry. At the same time, the European Union (EU) has launched an investigation of Chinese photovoltaics exporters. Similar charges in the US led to the imposition of preliminary anti-subsidy tariffs on China in March and preliminary anti-dumping tariffs in May. Instead of bringing promised prosperity to developed nations, the green energy industry is collapsing or fleeing to the developing world.
Nowadays the energy picture is confusing at best as the more information we are shown the more blurred our vision seems to become. Mixed messages, poor reporting and a media hungry to sensationalize anything it thinks can grab a headline have led to many wondering what the true energy situation is. We hear numerous reports on how the shale revolution will transform the energy sector, why alternatives are just around the corner, why advances in oilfield extraction techniques and new finds will help to lower oil prices. Yet no sooner have we read these rosy reports than we are bombarded with negative news on the Middle East, on why alternatives will never compete, on peak oil and declining oil production.
Most Americans have noticed that the price of gasoline at the pump has started to rise again. Gasoline prices have surged 30 cents since mid-July and now average $3.70 a gallon, higher than year-ago levels in 39 states. While some sources have blamed the recent refinery fire in California and others a rise in crude oil prices there is one hidden source of increasing fuel costs few are willing to mention—ethanol. Mandated by Congress to make up 10% of automotive gasoline, ethanol made from corn accounts for a quarter of recent fuel price increases while at the same time contributing to rising food costs and shortages world wide. Not satisfied with this astounding government largess, an unnatural alliance of eco-activists and big agribusiness is lobbying to raise the mandate to 15%. It is time for this blatant government kickback to end.
A study commissioned by the California legislature has just reported that, in order to achieve the state's aggressive greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions by 2050, the golden state will need to more than triple the percentage of electrical power it gets from nuclear energy. In the January 6, 2012, issue of the journal Science a paper outlining the report's findings was published and they may be a bit unsettling for deep green Californian ecologists. It finds that technically feasible levels of energy efficiency and decarbonizing the state's energy supply alone are not good enough. The answer? Here is a hint—electric vehicles powered by expanded nuclear energy.
The ineffective and mostly ignored Kyoto agreement is due to expire in 2012. Climate change activists around the world are girding their loins in preparation for the battle over Kyoto 2, the follow on treaty. Their goal? New regulations for black carbon, methane and driving anthropogenic CO2 emissions to zero. Leaving no bad idea unused, there is talk of implementing a global cap & trade system where developed nations that are able to reduce emissions beyond their Kyoto targets can sell excess reduction credit to other developed nations through the Emissions Trading mechanism. Beyond that, rather than negotiating CO2 emission reduction targets on a nation-by-nation basis—as in the current Kyoto framework—a future level of maximum allowable global temperature increase can be chosen. It is clear that the warmists have made the transition from irrational to delusional.
According to a new report from the American Physical Society, Direct Air Capture (DAC) of CO2 using chemicals is not a viable solution for removing greenhouse gases from Earth's atmosphere. DAC involves a system in which ambient air flows over a chemical sorbent that selectively removes the CO2. It is one of a small number of strategies that advocates say could allow the reduction of atmospheric CO2. Prepared for the APS Panel on Public Affairs (POPA), a collection of scientific experts, the report claims to be a technology assessment containing no policy or funding recommendations. Unfortunately for its advocates, the APS report finds the approach untenable for technical reasons.