Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Hydrovolts Turbine - III

Thanks to the assistance of Professor Bruce Adee and his students at the University of Washington, we had some fun testing of the Hydrovolts turbine in their flume. The video shows testing of a 5-blade design in a 0.5 m/s current:

Having a really low cut-in speed is another advantage of the patent-pending cross-axis design.

Other posts on the Hydrovolts Flipwing Turbine:
The Hydrovolts Turbine
The Hydrovolts Turbine - II

Senator Inhofe: Oil and Gas Don't Pollute

How did this man become a US Senator?

Says James Inhofe, the Senate's biggest climate change denier (via):
People complain that we are buying — importing from the Middle East — oil and gas. And then they find out that we have it all right here. We don’t have to do that. If their argument there is “Well, we don’t want to use oil and gas because we think it pollutes” — which it doesn’t — but if that’s their argument, then why are we willing to import it from Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East?
Oil and gas aren't polluting!? Is there something else in the water in Oklahoma that causes this kind of insanity? How can anyone take this man seriously? Of course, only in Oklahoma did every single county vote for John McCain over Barack Obama, so re-electing Inhofe twice may seem, well, OK.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Math is Math

El Nino 2009Looks like this will be an El Nino year, perhaps a strong one, which pleases some for the schadenfreude it provides:
1998 was the hottest year on record because of an extraordinarily powerful el Nino that heated up the entire planet dramatically. But because it was so hot, climate disruption deniers have been using it as the starting point from which they claim, wrongly, that “the global temperature has been cooling for a decade now.” This false claim was strengthened by the lucky coincidence that 2008 turned out to be a la Nina year, when the global temperature dropped significantly. Climate disruption deniers then took advantage of an unfortunate fact of least-squares linear trend estimates - they’re VERY sensitive to endpoint variation, especially in short, noisy datasets. And not only is global temperature noisy on a monthly and yearly basis, but ten years is a woefully short amount of data. And don’t even get me started on Joe D’Aleo’s, Lord Monckton’s, and Ross McKitrick’s 5-year “trend” from 2003 to 2008 which, conveniently enough, has another el Nino to la Nina transition.

So now, with a new el Nino heating up the summer and autumn global temperatures by some as-yet-unknown amount, climate disruption scientists and activists have their own convenient endpoints to the data. 1999 was a la Nina year, after all, and 2009 is an el Nino year, so any trend calculated from 1999 to 2009 will be huge, given that global temperatures for July through December are significantly warmer on average than January through June. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that 2009 could be warm enough to turn the supposed “cooling trend” into a “warming trend” all by itself. And that’s the first reason I’m happy about a new el Nino.

Of course, we’re talking weather here, not climate, and the exact same statistical tools that I and others use to debunk the bogus cooling trends touted by deniers could be used against any climate scientist who touts a hot 2009. But that brings me to the second reason I’m happy about el Nino - I’m actually looking forward to climate disruption deniers screaming “a hot year in 2009 is only weather, the cooling trend since 1998 is a real trend!” Because in return, I get to call the denier a hypocrite.

Math is math, after all. If the data statistics says that there’s too much noise in the data to extract a meaningful trend from 1998 to 2008, the the same will almost certainly be true from 1999 to 2009. And as a result, any denier who looks at the 99-09 trend and says “that’s just weather, not climate” or “the trend has endpoint problems that make it inaccurate” or even “you cherry-picked your endpoints” will immediately be revealed as a liar and a hypocrite.
Yes, it will be amusing to see the responses from those who confuse weather and climate, have been shouting about supposed global cooling, how Al Gore got it wrong, how cold spring has been this year, blah blah. No, I won't link to them, but they're easy to find if you search on something like "global cooling trend".

Monday, July 13, 2009

Shale Game - II

Everyone's confident...Oil shale development continues to wait:

The Obama administration has been granted a third extension of a deadline for responding to lawsuits that challenged the Bush administration’s oil shale decisions. The government says it needs the input of people nominated but not yet confirmed for top offices overseeing public lands.

U.S. District Court Judge John Kane on Friday agreed to postpone the deadline until Aug. 31.

The environmental groups' lawsuits challenge the Bush administration's oil shale decision on environmental grounds as well as for failing to set royalty rates high enough to provide the legally required fair return for the use of public resources.

Interestingly, both the environmental groups and the industry groups (Shell and the API) agree on the postponement, albeit for different reasons. For the enviros, delay forestalls the rapacious development. Forestall long enough and it might never happen. Industry doesn't mind the wait because the cost of development is not feasible currently, and won't be until the price of oil (or its future prospect) rises above $80 or so per barrel and stays there. Unless the global economy turns around that could be a long wait.

The government has said it needs time for the new administration to determine the appropriate course of action.
The government's motion specifically begs time for the confirmations of Bob Abbey as director of the Bureau of Land Management and Wilma Lewis as assistant secretary for land and minerals management in the Interior Department.

Both had a hearing in front of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last Thursday. John McCain (R-AZ) announced the next day that he would oppose the confirmation of both until the Obama administration takes a position on a land swap enabling a copper mine in his state. McCain spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan said that McCain intends to place holds on both nominees if and when they come before the full Senate for a final vote. He seems ready to allow the nominations to proceed if he gets his way on the copper mine bill [pdf], but the Obama administration has stated that they need more time to study that too.

I'd like to think that the Obama administration wants to carefully assess oil shale development as I wrote last November. And perhaps they will. For now the Obama administration is likely stalling for time, taking advantage of the willingness of both parties to delay. The reason they present to the court, wanting to have their key staff in place, is reasonable, and the court agreed to the extension. But how long will having staff in place take? Will these public servants have anything like the time they need for a detailed review and the filing of legal briefs between their (eventual) confirmation and August 31? Even without the threat of a hold, the confirmations could take a while; Republicans haven't exactly expedited the process for Obama's nominees in general, and these seemed destined for special treatment.

Delay satisfies a political purpose as well. Obama has a lot of moving parts in his legislative agenda, and a large, visible and critical piece is climate change legislation--the Waxman-Markey bill, HR 2454. Oil shale is one of a few current issues that pit environmentalists against the legacy energy industry (others include offshore oil and gas drilling, so-called clean coal, and nuclear power.) While Waxman-Markey is still on tenterhooks it is expedient to defer decisions on these other matters as much as possible, keeping some powder dry for the later fight, and forcing the opposing sides to largely hold their fire. All parties have more at stake right now than just a decision on oil shale.

Unless oil prices rise dramatically, rekindling imminent development interest by Shell, the oil shale lawsuit will be repeatedly delayed because no one benefits by moving it forward in the near term. By not taking sides (yet) the Obama administration prevents needlessly aggravating either camp while it attempts the tortuous guiding of Waxman-Markey into law. McCain, in pursuit of his tactical parochial interest may actually be helping Obama's strategic objective. Environmentalists, while suspicious of Obama's commitment to the environment prevent for now the development of oil shale by delay. Developers expect delay to increase their bargaining power, as they expect energy costs to increase and pressure for domestic fossil fuel development to grow.

In some respects, all of this maneuvering will in time prove a sideshow; any apolitical decision on oil shale development will necessarily be one based on a resource more critical and more threatened than energy supplies or political capital--water.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Worth at Least a Thousand Words

Graph funIf you like graphical presentations of data you need to take a look at Gapminder. Some beautiful and fascinating interactive graphs. Spend some time with the visual display; there are a lot of controls allowing customizable views, speed, ability to highlight particular countries/regions, etc. Find the small arrows on each axis and the bubble size legend to select any 3 sets of data to correlate over time. Change axes between linear/logarithmic to better separate the data points.

Here's an interesting chart correlating total CO2 emissions, emissions per person and total population by country. Notice how little the change in emissions is from increases per person rather than population growth. Also, check out the paths of China and India. Here's with the data correlated to total energy consumption instead of population. Watch China's acceleration of the past few years. Great stuff.

UPDATE:  To get an idea of some of the things this tool can do, check out this presentation:
You've never seen data presented like this. With the drama and urgency of a sportscaster, statistics guru Hans Rosling debunks myths about the so-called "developing world."

Monday, July 6, 2009

Environmental Crime Doesn't Actually Pay

Maldives trash islandThe bogus canard that protecting the environment entails damaging the economy lives on.

It's not true, of course, as I've argued before. Now David Roberts has compiled an interesting list that makes the same point more broadly by refuting the negative proposition: according to several separate studies, screwing up the environment costs more than taking care of it.

One thing they all have in common: an environment-degrading practice often defended as necessary to economic health is revealed, upon closer inspection, to be uneconomic. I wonder how many other allegedly economic environment-degrading practices would also be revealed uneconomic if examined with a fresh eye?

It’s almost like the economy is embedded in an environment, and degrading the latter ultimately degrades the former.

Not almost: the environment is the framework that allows an economic system to exist. Damage to the environment leads inescapably to damage to the economy.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Climate Change Game

9 1/2 minutes long, but quite worthwhile: