|The Week That Was
December 7, 2002
1. A CANADIAN VOICE OF REASON URGES SOME DELIBERATION TO PERMIT THE
SCIENCE TO BE EXPLORED. BUT THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT SEEMS SET TO RATIFY
2. OPEN LETTER TO CANADA'S PRIME MINISTER FROM CANADIAN SCIENTISTS: DELAY KYOTO
3. NUCLEAR POWER SHOWS MIXED PROSPECTS IN EUROPE, depending on the political orientation of governments rather than on their desire to reduce CO2 emissions.
4. DANISH WINDPOWER DEPENDS ON SUSIDIES
5. STEAM APPEARS TO BE RUNNING OUT OF GRANDIOSE GLOBAL ECO-SUMMITS. And even some environmentalists can be heard to sigh, "Good riddance."
6. BIG INDUSTRY GRANTS TO STANFORD FOR TECHNOLOGICAL GREENHOUSE SOLUTIONS
7. VIRTUAL CLIMATE ALERT BY GREENING EARTH SOCIETY SPOOFS THE BOSTON HERALD AND LOS ANGELES TIMES
8. HEALTH SCARES EXPOSED
9. AN APPEAL FOR FINANCIAL SUPPORT OF SEPP
2. Climate Specialists, Canadians, urge Government to Delay Kyoto Pending Comprehensive Science Consultations
Dear Mr. Chrétien,
Many climate science experts from Canada and around the world, while still strongly supporting environmental protection, equally strongly disagree with the scientific rationale for the Kyoto Accord. Nevertheless, the Government of Canada has yet to conduct comprehensive consultations with climate scientists in order to properly consider the range of informed opinion pertaining to the science of Kyoto. Consequently, the views of the many thousands of dissenting scientists have not been properly heard or considered by the government.
Consequently, we, the undersigned climate scientists, call on the Government of Canada to delay a decision on the ratification of the Kyoto Accord until after a thorough and comprehensive consultation is conducted with non-governmental climate specialists.
According to an Environics Research Group national poll released on November 14, 2002, 74% of Canadians support further consultation with non-governmental climate scientists before Kyoto is ratified. Less than 20% of the public believe that the science upon which Kyoto rests has been settled. Canadians clearly want an informed science debate before any decision on ratification is taken - we welcome that debate.
If the climate models are correct, the effects of implementing Kyoto will be so small as to be undetectable even a century from now. Delaying ratification for a short period so as to allow proper science consultations to take place will do absolutely no damage to Canada or the environment and is clearly the prudent and responsible course of action at this time. Therefore, we implore the Government to proceed with comprehensive science consultations as soon as possible.
3. A report on Nuclear Power in Europe
July's European Union statement on Energy and Sustainable Development said that the EU would give technical assistance on safety to developing countries such as China and India, which have nuclear power. This is despite the fact that the EU Energy Initiative for assisting developing countries excludes nuclear.
In France, the June election saw a clear end to five years of Green Party influence on national nuclear energy policy, and the centre-right won more than two thirds of the seats in parliament. The new Environment Minister made it clear that nuclear energy "pollutes the least of electricity options." The Green Party won only three seats and the former Environment Minister lost hers. There is expected to be much greater clarity of purpose in relation to high-level waste disposal, reprocessing and use of mixed oxide (MOX) fuel, and there is optimism that a lead unit of the new, advanced European Pressurised Water Reactor (EPR) may be ordered before long. The first step, however, will be a national debate on energy and the role of nuclear power, culminating in a parliamentary decision on energy policy.
In Germany, the September elections narrowly returned the "red-green" coalition to power for four years, so their nuclear phase-out policy will continue, with any significant closures many years away. The conservative parties hoping to form a new government are well-known as being strongly pro-nuclear on energy security grounds, though on the whole this did not feature in the campaign.
Germany, with half of Europe's installed wind capacity (9000 MWe)-- due to generous subsidies and tariff arrangements -- is already encountering major problems in utilizing the output in its grid system. When the wind blows, other generating capacity, including some base-load coal plant, must be shut down but held on standby for when it ceases to blow. Peaking capacity can fill in some of the slack during calm periods, but the wind capacity is now reaching the level (about 8% of total) so that base-load plant is affected and some is running at less than half its potential, which raises costs significantly. Consumers and taxpayers thus need to pay the inflated costs for highly subsidized wind generation as well as higher costs for traditional sources due to inefficiencies caused by that intermittent wind availability. Base-load power sells for about EUR 2cents/kWh, while utilities are forced to buy all wind power produced for 8.6c/kWh whenever it happens to be available.
In the Netherlands, the three-party coalition has confirmed that the country's sole nuclear plant should remain operating for its full 40-year design life (to 2013), rather than close prematurely in 2004 as proposed by the previous government. One of the new coalition partners is canvassing the possibility of building a new reactor in Groningen. Also, the new government is considering allowing large-scale gas production from under a large nature reserve, the Wadden Sea, albeit with access from outside it. A significant proportion of the EU's gas reserves are involved.
In Belgium, the government has an anti-nuclear policy and pending laws with phase-out due to begin in 2013. However, there is considerable ambivalence due to the clear conflict with climate change goals, and in any case there is an escape clause regarding security of supply. No legislative action is expected until after the 2003 elections.
In Sweden, the September elections returned the existing coalition so that the government is likely to proceed with a nuclear phase-out law modeled on Germany's, but putting any action in that regard so far into the future that ten of its operating reactors will complete their economic lives. The eleventh, Barseback-2 , is still under threat of early closure if the government works out how to replace its output from non-carbon sources. Meanwhile, the main effect of closure of Barseback-1 at the end of 1999 is that an extra 4 million tonnes of CO2 is emitted annually from next-door Denmark. Very generous compensation paid to its owners ensures that it does not reopen.
Finland is preparing to build its fifth nuclear reactor, as previously reported, following a clear parliamentary decision.
In summary, nuclear energy continues to supply a third of Europe's electricity and it remains the only substantial means of coming anywhere near the Kyoto targets, though increased wind generation is welcomed and helps. Continuation of ambivalence or hostility to nuclear power in several countries will have serious implications in the medium to long-term, but not immediately. Meanwhile a lead is being given by France and Finland.
Sources: Foratom Bulletin May/June 2002, Nucleonics Week 18/7, 1/8, 5 & 12/9/02, ESAA Electricity Supply Sept 2002, New Scientist 7/9/02
4. Green power producers see red over price cuts
Danish renewable power industries reacted angrily this week to government steps to liberalize the energy market. The moves affect premiums paid for electricity generated by wind and by biogas from agricultural and industrial waste.
The latest step in the liberalization process was taken on Wednesday. Economic affairs minister Bendt Bendtsen submitted a legislative proposal to cut maximum producer payments for new wind turbines from DKr0.60 (€0.08) per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity to DKr0.38 from the New Year. The wind industry fears that investment will dry up if the bill becomes law.
Mr. Bendtsen has also signaled that the DKr300m biogas industry may be next. "Biogas is a rather expensive form of energy," he told Jyllands-Posten newspaper this week, adding that the current price for biogas electricity of DKr0.60 per kWh, 50% over the base price, "does not hang together in my view".
Major players are threatening to leave the country if the government does "pull the plug" on price supports. According to Torben Bonde of biogas firm GreenFarmEnergy, "if the price is cut, we shall simply be forced to move to Germany, where biogas electricity comes in at DKr0.74 per kWh".
Follow-up: Economic affairs ministry, tel: +45 33 92 33 50; the energy liberalization policy and draft law; Jyllands-Posten, tel: +45 87 38 39 70, and articles on wind power and biogas: GreenFarmEnergy, tel: +45 70 25 27 55.
Comments from Britain: THE EFFECTS ON NON-RELIABLE ENERGY SOURCES (WIND AND WAVEPOWER)
In the business climate described above, no one in their right mind will invest in new, cleaner power stations. And therefore we can look at what might happen as investment is made in wind power.
Self-sufficient wind power?
The idea has been raised that the unpredictability of wind power could be overcome by a storage technology. It seems very irresponsible to invest hopes, jobs and cash into an industry for which the technology is not available. Let's look at the economics involved.
1 AC power cannot be stored directly. It could be converted to DC and stored chemically, by electrolysis of water to produce hydrogen and then converted back to electricity by burning the hydrogen. Or electrically in "superbatteries" and re-converted to AC by inverters. But just think of the magnitudes involved. It is quite usual in Britain to experience 3 consecutive weeks of windless weather and not unknown for longer periods. For the storage system to be effective in guaranteeing power, a period of 6 weeks should be covered. And of course no conversion system is 100% efficient. Perhaps 30% may be a realistic figure giving an effective capacity requirement of 18 weeks worth of storage! The capital and running costs would just not stack up except of course by the enormous increase in electricity prices.
2 Water could be used (pumped storage). But apart from the quantities involved, this suffers, like (1) in that when power could be sold, it has to be used to provide storage for itself! With an operational time of say 40%, wind farms would need to have an extra, un-saleable capacity of a further 60%. On the wind farm operation and construction alone, costs would increase by 250%. In addition there are the costs (operation and construction) of the pumped storage system.
Of course, these facilities could be provided from capacity from "conventional" stations to disguise the costs, but there would be no doubt where the true financial disaster originated. And of course, no one is investing in the "conventional" power that would be needed anyway.
3 Reliance on "conventional" power generation to support wind power: In the long run (or perhaps not so long from the above) the support given by thermal stations to maintain the supplies from unpredictable sources, cannot continue without Government intervention (and they say that they believe in a free market). At some point the closure of thermal stations in parallel with that capacity being replaced wind farms will result in a crossover where there will not be sufficient "spinning reserve". Then there will be blackouts as denied by the Scottish Executive but experienced in California. There, as following to Britain now, power companies were only interested in investing in subsidized, profitable wind farms. And perhaps then we will be joined by public opinion swinging very much against wind farms.
5. UN Climate Conference a flop
By Duane D. Freese
Last month in New Delhi at the eighth United Nations climate conference,
developing countries stood against the European Union's notion of climate
control, essentially saying they prefer to put their economic development
6. Stanford Seeks Greenhouse Solutions
ExxonMobil is giving $100m to Stanford University in California, to find technical solutions to global warming.
Substantial contributions from General Electric ($50m) and Schlumberger, a global technology services company ($25m), and other European sponsors will lift the total funding to $250m over 10 years.
The money will pay for what the university is calling its Global Climate and Energy Project (G-Cep). It will be led by Dr Lynn Orr, who is the dean of Stanford's School of Earth Sciences.
In a statement, the institution said G-Cep would "engage in research to develop technologies that foster the development of a global energy system where greenhouse emissions are much lower than today".
The sponsorship deal is said to be one of the biggest of its type ever agreed for a university anywhere in the world.
The project promises to develop alternative power technologies, including wind and solar, and to examine ways of reducing the greenhouse gas emissions from existing power generation plants.
Any patents that might result from the research would be held by the university and not by its sponsors, a spokeswoman told BBC News Online.
Dr Orr added: "Supplying energy to a growing world population is a critical challenge for this century, and doing so with low greenhouse emissions will be an even greater challenge.
"The Global Climate and Energy Project is a long-term commitment to build and carry out a research portfolio that ultimately will stimulate the development of needed energy technologies of the future."
Stanford has developed strong links with ExxonMobil in recent years. Two university individuals, Henry McKinnel, chairman of the Advisory Council at Stanford's graduate school of business, and Michael Boskin, an economics professor at Stanford, sit on the oil company's board.
Environmentalists dismissed ExxonMobil's commitment to the project as a public relations gimmick.
"It looks like an extremely cheap attempt by ExxonMobil to buy a shield from criticism," said Peter Altman, national coordinator of Campaign ExxonMobil, a US shareholder group trying to influence the company's positions on the environment.
At a recent industry conference, ExxonMobil said total spending on oil and gas exploration and other projects would be roughly $100bn over the next decade.
But William O'Keefe, president of the George C Marshall Institute, a think-tank that has been highly critical of the stance taken on global warming by some green lobbyists, welcomed the project.
"For too long, the debate over appropriate responses to climate change risk has been monopolised by advocates of actions that have little basis in science or economic reality," he said.
"This project moves beyond politicisation and political expediency by focusing on research that will explore the frontiers of energy technology."
7. VIRTUAL CLIMATE ALERT
November 22, 2002 Vol. 3, No. 34
On November 18, 2002 the Los Angeles Times published another installment in its irregular series called "Vanishing Ice." This time Usha Lee McFarling breathlessly reports about the melting of glaciers in Glacier National Park. Her article is part of a body of work that claims to be "investigating the effect of global climate change on the Arctic and high mountain regions, fringes of the Earth that have experienced the most dramatic warming in recent decades."
Reading her more than 2400 words could bring tears to the eyes of even the most unsentimental of curmudgeons. What we read here concerns the disappearance of nature's beauty, glaciers forever gone, experiences our grandchildren never can have, and lost memories of our own sweet youth - all because of humanity's pernicious industrial activity.
On and one the litany extends: melting glaciers, changing patterns of stream flow, heightened danger of wildfire, and altered landscapes which threaten native animal populations. Grizzly bears will be forced to browse for huckleberries in different locations. If the reproductive cycles of damsel and caddis flies change, so will the feeding behavior of trout and, thus, the angling techniques of those who fish for them. On and on until about word 1850, when something interesting emerges from the bathos.
It is revealed that a detailed analysis of the temperature history at the nearby town of Kalispell, Montana indicates local temperatures around Glacier National Park have not significantly changed during the last century. But hold on, Usha Lee, isn't that the time when the glaciers' retreat has been greatest?
This bit of confusion reportedly led U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) researchers to examine the region's precipitation history for clues as to why the glaciers are shrinking. They found that naturally occurring multidecadal patterns in the sea-surface temperature of the northern Pacific Ocean could be related to the amount of precipitation that falls over the Park. For the past twenty-five years or so, the sea-surface pattern has been one that is conducive to less precipitation - read that to be less snow. Less snow spells smaller glaciers, even when temperatures don't change. While the researchers admittedly are convinced that this precipitation trend explains some of the glacier loss, it doesn't explain all of it. So what could be responsible for a trend that can't be entirely explained by naturally occurring precipitation patterns and the absence of a trend in local temperature? "Warmer global temperatures are likely to play a role in the loss of ice as well," the article states (emphasis added).
When it becomes difficult to explain how temperatures that are other than local temperatures might be responsible for melting local ice, then it must be global temperatures that are the culprit! We're sorry, but that's like suggesting global warming someday will melt the ice in the freezer compartment of your refrigerator. Or as it's explained so much more learnedly in the article, "That sloppiness is to be expected in a complex system like our planet."
Fortunately for readers of the Times, climate science doesn't intrude on the article's emotional trajectory until something like eighty percent of the story unfolds. But when it does emerge, it results in a whimpering downturn in the drama quotient and a relatively lame coda. The USGS science team's lead researcher is quoted as saying, "I'm an ecologist who knows climate change is neither good nor bad but I'm also a person who likes glaciers the way they are." Didn't Billy Joel write a song along those lines?
VIRTUAL CLIMATE ALERT
November 22, 2002 Vol. 3, No. 33
Here's how the November 15, 2002 edition of the Boston Herald leads its story concerning the preliminary results of a $900,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-commissioned study examining the effects of climate change around the Boston area. "If global warming continues, the number of Hub elders who die from the heat will double." Apparently "Hub" is Herald shorthand for "Hub of the Universe." People sufficiently pretentious to use such an appellation are not keen on references to their fair city as "Beantown." Whatever. A recent peer-reviewed scientific journal article illustrates how the EPA's assertion and its embrace by the Herald is full of the tasty, baked legumes for which Boston long has been famous.
The recipe for the Herald's mischaracterization of reality is detailed at http://www.co2andclimate.org/Articles/2002/vca33.htm. You'll find the scientific antidote there, too - for free.
The EPA hirelings arrived at their result as reported by the Herald using the same methodology that for years has been at the root of every climate-mortality study; that is, they collect all available mortality data for Boston. Generally the data begins about 1970 and is plotted against a measure of summer discomfort such as daily high temperature. What the researchers tend to find is that once the temperature exceeds an arbitrary "threshold temperature," daily mortality numbers begin to increase. This is used as an indicator of how people are sensitive to high temperatures and that as temperatures rise, increasing numbers of people die as a result.
The researchers then extrapolate a global warming-induced future temperature increase that inexorably leads to a dramatic increase in the rate of mortality. Their finding, in turn, results in a headline like that on Franci Richardson's story, "Study: Global warming will increase Hub heat deaths." This technique long has been a favorite of climate change doom-and-gloomers, people like those who prepared the U.S. National Assessment of Climate Change (see World Climate Report, Vol. 8, No. 6, for more information about future mortality projections in the National Assessment).
The problem for the researchers is: their methodology has a huge flaw - it assumes people do not, cannot, or will not adapt in order to mitigate dangerous situations. But people do adapt. They have done so in the past and presumably are capable of doing so into the future. Improved medical technology, quality community awareness programs, and better access to air-conditioning (or some combination of all three) have resulted in people growing less susceptible to extremely high temperature. This is convincingly demonstrated by research that has been widely presented in scientific meetings and conferences, as well as in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. Using information gleaned from such publicly available sources, we'll explain the way things really work in Boston. We invite the EPA or their hirelings (or the folks who prepare the National Assessment) to use these results - for free.
8. Report Suggests No Organochlorine-Cancer Link:
A recent study published in Environmental Health Perspectives suggests
that organochlorines do not contribute to an increased risk of non-Hodgkin's
lymphoma (NHL). Researchers found no consistent differences in serum levels
of several organochlorine compounds among NHL patients and matched controls
in a population setting. The results provide some evidence against a consistent
association between NHL and serum levels of the compounds typically found
in the general population. Compounds analyzed included b-hexachlorocyclohexane,
transnonachlor, heptachlor, heptachlor epoxide, oxychlordane, hexachlorohexane,
dieldrin, or summed chlordane-related compounds (transnonachlor, heptachlor,
heptachlor epoxide, and oxychlordane). The findings pose a contrast to
earlier findings of an association of NHL risk with total serum PCBs.
Coca Cola scare is not real
by --Dr Aaron Oakley
In June 1999, a health scare relating to the consumption of Coca Cola
Read all about it at Bizarre Science:
9. AN APPEAL FOR FINANCIAL SUPPORT OF SEPP
If you have enjoyed reading our TWTW during the past year, please consider sending a check to support our project:
The Science & Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)
Highlights of 2002:
During 2002, SEPP concentrated its efforts on the issue of global warming. We demonstrated the lack of any scientific basis for mandatory restrictions on emissions of carbon dioxide (and energy use), as would be required by the Kyoto treaty that was actively promoted by the past administration. President Bush has labeled Kyoto as "fatally flawed" and the U.S. has refused to support it.
In addition to some two dozen-seminar lectures at universities and scientific conferences during 2002, SEPP also organized a scientific briefing on global warming at the Capitol in Washington, DC and at the University of Munich. The briefing team included SEPP president Fred Singer and several European climate scientists. We also participated in a briefing to Canadian media in Ottawa.
SEPP was founded in 1992 by atmospheric physicist S.Fred Singer, professor emeritus of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia, former director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service and former chief scientist of the Department of Transportation. SEPP chairman is Dr. Frederick Seitz, president emeritus of Rockefeller University and former president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. The board includes distinguished scientists from many countries.
All our scientists, officers and board members work on a pro-bono basis and do not receive salaries or fees.
SEPP does not solicit support from either government or industry but relies on private donations and occasional foundation grants.
SEPP is a 501-c-3-educational/research organization, incorporated in
Virginia. All contributions are tax-deductible to the full extent of the
law. Documentation will be provided for donations of $250 and higher,
or upon request.