The Alpha Ventus Wind Park is the first of its kind: a deep water wind farm in the stormy North Sea. It is composed of 12 turbines that together will generate 60MW of electrical power. When fully operational, the farm will be able to power 50,000 households. But barely two months after the ceremony opening Germany’s first deep water wind farm, six of the newly installed wind turbines were idle. This was not due to a lack of wind but because of gearbox damage: two turbines had to be replaced entirely, the other four repaired on site. Problems with Alpha Ventus highlight a series of poor decisions—a precipitous move to shut down working nuclear plants, rampant installation of solar cells, and a headlong rush into offshore wind generation among them—that could well have Germany facing blackouts in the not too distant future.
As you may know, the parasitic bureaucrats and scheming NGO representatives that comprise the dying but still twitching climate change cabal are holding a fun filled, two week blow out in Cancun, Mexico. They have gathered to preach the gospel of global warming and attack those who would thwart their plans for remaking the world according to their own slanted social views. They are keeping a low profile, after the disastrous meeting they had in Copenhagen this past December. For many, the Cancun meeting is basically a time for AGW true believers to lick their wounds and lounge about in the sun with like minded fanatics. For others it is yet another roll of the dice, a gamble that something meaningful will come from the conference. Here are some of the highlights from the bungle on the beach.
If advocates for green, renewable energy are to be believed, wind farms do not threaten endangered bird species like eagles, hawks and owls. A recent article in Science implies that problems at the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (APWRA) in California have been reduced by spacing turbines farther apart and removing turbines from problematic sites. But on-site scientific studies have revealed that the kill rate for all birds, and for birds of prey in particular, have not been reduced and may have even increased. It seems that some eco-activists are so committed to expanding wind power as a way to fight global warming that they are turning a blind eye to the slaughter in the skies. How can these duplicitous greens be trusted if they are willing to drive endangered species to extinction in the name of reduced CO2 emissions?
World wide emission of CO2 from fossil fuel burning decreased by 1.3% in 2009 owing to the global financial and economic crisis says a report in Nature Geoscience. Estimated CO2 emissions from deforestation and other land-use changes (LUCs) have also declined compared with the 1990s. The decrease in greenhouse gas emissions was blamed on the contraction of GDP owing to the global financial crisis that began in 2008. Not so fast, say warmist scientists. They claim that CO2 will rise by 4.8% in 2010, proving that what should be treated as good news is not welcome in climate change circles.
With the Cap & Trade bill dead in Congress, the EPA continues to promote new regulations to control carbon emissions. The left is claiming the moral high ground and the right a new popular mandate, with environmental and energy policy a part of the new political battleground. While House Republicans take aim at federal bureaucrats a number of states, led by California, the left-coast champion of all things green and illogical, are creating their own version of Cap & Trade. Citizens beware, eco-activists are working at the state level to implement cap & trade through the backdoor.
With the American mid-term elections finally over, the deafening din of political propaganda and news punditry has dropped to a dull roar. Having admitted that there were no “shovel ready” jobs in the offing, and that taking a “shellacking” is no fun, Barack Obama has nonetheless continued to talk up the idea of “green jobs.” This flies in the face of both reason and experience. To date, green job creation has been a resounding failure. American intellectuals and left leaning politicians have pointed out that Europe is a decade ahead of the US in embracing the new green economy. Since this White House seems infatuated with all things European, here is a lesson they can borrow from the old continent: creating artificial green jobs is bad for a nation's economy.
After all the fanfare a few months back, when US President Obama announced government loan guaranties for a new nuclear power plant in Georgia, the truth is emerging—Obama is quietly letting the nuclear Renaissance die from neglect and broken promises. Trying to distract green critics and the public with its approval of plans to build the world's biggest solar-thermal power plant in the Southern California, the administration ignored the faltering plans to expand an existing power plant on the Chesapeake Bay. Constellation Energy sent a letter to the US DOE stating that the terms offered by the government to guaranty financing for expanding the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant were “unworkable” and that the project could not go forward. Despite paying lip service to reviving nuclear power by providing government backed loans, the extreme greens in the Obama administration are trying to kill the nuclear power industry.
While governments invest heavily in wind power something has been happening to the surface winds of the Northern Hemisphere—the winds have been slowing down. While the cause of this “stilling” remain uncertain, surface winds have declined in China, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, the United States and Australia over the past few decades. A new study, published online at Nature Geoscience, analyzes the extent and potential cause of changes in northern surface wind speeds over the past 30 years. In it, researchers have found that surface wind speeds have declined by 5–15% over almost all continental areas in the northern mid-latitudes, and that strong winds have slowed faster than weak winds. They also note that the observed decline of surface wind in many regions of the world is a potential concern for wind power electricity production.
One of the arguments used by critics of nuclear power is that there is not enough uranium to power a nuclear world for an extended time. The energy hungry world would just be trading looming oil shortages for uranium shortages, they claim. As with most anti-nuclear scare-mongering these charges are totally bogus. MIT has just released a major report on the nuclear fuel cycle that finds uranium supplies will not limit the expansion of nuclear power in the US or around the world for the foreseeable future. It suggests that nuclear power, even using today’s reactor technology with the wasteful once-through fuel cycle, can play a significant part in satisfying the world's future energy needs.
It is accepted that volcanic eruptions can have a major impact on short term climate. A new study in Nature Geoscience uses instrument records, proxy data and climate modeling to show that multidecadal variability is a dominant feature of North Atlantic sea-surface temperature (SST), which, in turn, impacts regional climate. It turns out that the timing of multidecadal SST fluctuations in the North Atlantic over the past 600 years has, to a large degree, been governed by changes in external solar and volcanic forcings. Solar influence is not surprising but the fact that volcanoes cause climate change lasting decades has some significant implications for those trying to model climate over the next century.
In an example of what Presidential Science Advisor John Holdren would label “global climate disruption,” a 2009 report claimed that warming surface water in the Pacific Ocean was having an impact on the frequency of tropical storms. Moreover, landfalls along the Gulf of Mexico coast and Central America were supposedly increased. Now a new study appearing in Geophysical Research Letters has found these claims to be untrue. It seems that there is little correlation between the Atlantic hurricane activity and Pacific Ocean warming. In fact, the increased tropical storm frequency in 1969 and 2004 can be readily explained by increased warmth in the Atlantic where the storms form. Once again, those looking for a smoking gun in the form of human caused climate change are forced to look elsewhere.
Evidently 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity, a year long celebration of Earth's glorious variety of species and ecosystems. Unfortunately, the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has failed to meet its ambitious goal: a significant slowdown in biodiversity loss by 2010. The AAAS journal Science has acknowledged this celebration with special News Focus section and a Review article. “After failing to meet its major conservation goal, the Convention on Biological Diversity is setting new targets for stemming the loss of species,” its lead article states. But the news is not all bad. In some countries, conservation efforts have helped species recover and reportedly large-scale deforestation in the Amazon has declined by 47.5% over the past 12 months. With eco-alarmists shifting their panicked attention from climate change to biodiversity, it is time to look at the facts.
With all of the hype over CO2 emissions, one fact that is not usually addressed is where all the CO2 is supposed to come from. Most assume that, in order to avoid the ravages of global warming, we need to shut down all our fossil fuel electric plants, park our cars and take to planting trees 24x7. But the assumptions used in the IPCC scenarios are seldom examined in detail. In reality they are based on projected changes in population, economic growth, energy demand, and the estimated carbon intensity of energy over time. A new study in the journal Science calculated cumulative future emissions based on existing infrastructure and found a surprising result. The investigators concluded that sources of the most threatening emissions have yet to be built. In other words, they made the whole thing up—the IPCC's models are making predictions based on a future that will never happen.
In Europe and North America, the development of nuclear power effectively halted after the March 1979 accident in Pennsylvania at Three Mile Island. Until recently the building of additional nuclear reactors in most developed nations was unlikely. Meanwhile, the greatest hope of the alternative energy industry has been wind power, but people around the world are starting to question the safety and effectiveness of large wind farms. As the public's infatuation with “green” energy has faded, the resurgent nuclear power industry has been quietly ramping up its efforts to provide the energy the world will need in the future. Even ecological activists have come to realize that nuclear is the only viable option to fossil fuels. As a result, a nuclear surge is underway, with 52 new reactors under construction around the world and more in the planning stages. This about face in energy policy amounts to nothing less than a nuclear renaissance.
Through generous subsidies from the US government, secured by corn-belt politicians, 25% of America's corn (maize) crop is turned into ethanol for use in automobiles. Ignoring the negative impact this has on food production, agricultural runoff and land use, there is new talk of raising government mandated fuel mixture proportions to use even more ethanol. At the same time, the idea of turning farm and forest wastes into "cellulosic" ethanol, a biofuel to power cars and trucks continues to languish. Because of the ongoing economic slump, a plentiful supply of ethanol made from corn, and uncertainty among policymakers, companies have delayed plans to build commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plants, some canceling them altogether. Evidently, even the hundreds of millions of dollars on offer from the Department of Energy (DOE) are not enough to lure investors to participate in this latest biofuel boondoggle. Industry understands what biofuel advocates do not—biofuels make no sense in terms of energy policy: neither environmentally nor economically. Instead of propping up wasteful and nonviable biofuel schemes, Congress should stop all biofuel subsidies and kill all ongoing ethanol projects.