Saturday, February 28, 2009

Wind, Water, Farms and Power Generation

Earlier, I wrote on a plan to divert a portion of the Missouri River, pump it uphill and 800 miles into the tributaries of the Colorado River to supply water and power to California.

My proposed National Excess Water Transport Aqueduct Project (NEWTAP) will go a long way to solving a couple of problems. First, and obviously, is the chronic water shortage in California and other western states, and flooding along the Missouri. Second, what to do with wind power in the Plains when the power demand is in the big cities (the lack of transmission lines problem).

As I wrote earlier: “One possibility on the national level is a water transfer system from the Missouri River at Kansas City, that runs approximately 800 miles southwest to the continental divide in New Mexico, just south of Interstate 40. From there the water would flow into tributaries of the Colorado River. The hydroelectric plants are already in place on Hoover Dam and Glen Canyon Dam. Therefore, some of the power required to pump the water uphill and 800 miles would be recovered. The elevation change is on the order of 6,000 feet.

The water route will be through the U.S.’ great wind corridor, so it is conceivable to use windmills to provide energy to the pumps.

A further improvement on this plan is to also divert a portion of the upper Mississippi River west and into the National Water Transport Project. One possibility is a 150-mile canal due west along US route 36 from Hannibal to St. Joseph. This would allow a water flow of approximately 2,000 cubic feet per second, or more.

The water transfer to the Colorado River would eliminate the need for power transmission lines, because power would be generated at Glen Canyon Dam and Hoover Dam, then sent to Southern California or elsewhere through existing transmission lines. Thus, there would be some savings by not having to build power transmission lines to connect the wind-generators to cities.

A useful means of storing excess wind-generated power is to pump water uphill for later use in hydroelectric plants when the power is needed. This trans-continental, uphill waterway would do exactly that, storing the water in Lake Powell and Lake Mead.

I see no technical reasons why this would not work. Crossing existing creeks, rivers, highways, railroads, and hills, can all be done. However, on the legal and environmental side, there are more difficulties. There is a water-rights legal issue of transferring water from one water basin into another. This plan would transfer water from the Missouri water basin across a couple of other basins and into the Colorado water basin. Then there are the eminent domain issues to acquire the right-of-way. This is not a problem, if the governments decree the project is in the public interest. In practice, though, such decrees at times generate public hostility. Finally, the environmental issues are rather large. One can envision the EIR (Environmental Impact Report) for an 800-mile canal crossing several states!

Still, such a project would be of ultimate good. The money spent would provide employment for thousands, and for many years. The energy generated by the windmills would be recovered (at least in part), which is in line with the “Generate Green” movement. That is far better than building a few nuclear power plants. And the water would go to good use, irrigating farms to feed the U.S. and the world.

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. Legal website is here.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Westward Ho: A Water Transfer System

It is becoming more and more apparent that the U.S. must transfer some of the excess water that floods the Mid-Western states to the dry Western states. My colleagues and I have been researching this for several years, and have some ideas. We conclude that it is in the national interest to do, and should be a no-brainer.  

Ancient civilizations realized the critical need for water, and did what it took to move the water to where it was needed. The Romans of course built their famous aqueducts, and the ancient Chinese routed water also. Many others did, too.  

While the current Presidential administration is passing out money as if it grew on Sequoia trees, this is a project that should be on the list. 

California has an extensive history with water projects, with routing water from the Sacramento River south to Los Angeles, from the Owens Lake area to Los Angeles, and more recently the Colorado River to Los Angeles and San Diego. However, none of these is adequate given the growing California population, droughts, and decreased snow in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  

An amazing fact is that water pumps consume approximately 10 percent of all the power sold in California. Some of that is recovered as hydroelectric power.  The recovery of power from water factors in this.

One possibility on the national level is a water transfer system from the Missouri River at Kansas City, that runs approximately 800 miles southwest to the continental divide in New Mexico, just south of Interstate 40. From there the water would flow into tributaries of the Colorado River. The hydroelectric plants are already in place on Hoover Dam and Glen Canyon Dam. Therefore, some of the power expended to pump the water uphill and 800 miles would be recovered. The elevation change is on the order of 6,000 feet.  

The water route will be through the U.S.' great wind corridor, so it is conceivable to use windmills to provide energy to the pumps. How the water is transferred is of course an engineering problem, one solution is to use a buried pipeline, or build a series of open canals with a slight downward slope to the southwest, and install water lift (pumping) stations at regular intervals. Something of the same magnitude was done by the construction of the Erie Canal in New York, which runs approximately 365 miles, and 600 feet uphill. It took 8 years to build and was finished in 1825.  

This is the type of project that has enormous benefits for almost all Americans, and would certainly be less expensive than building and operating desalination plants using reverse osmosis. The existing lakes Mead and Powell could store the water as necessary. One benefit is an assured supply of agricultural products from the fertile but arid California farmlands and dairies. California supplies a large part of the nation's foods, when there is adequate water.

An advantage of the buried pipeline alternative is no water loss due to evaporation, but a disadvantage is higher initial cost, and higher pumping costs due to friction as the water flows through the pipe.

An advantage of the open canal design is lower pumping cost, but a disadvantage is slight water losses due to evaporation.

The amount of power required to pump the water is tremendous, at roughly 800,000 HP for a flow of 1,000 cubic feet per second.

Given a simple design of 800 miles broken up into 10 mile sections of canal, with a pump at each section, would require 80 pumping stations at 10,000 HP each. The 10,000 HP is roughly 7.5 MW of energy. Of course, an actual design would follow the contour of the land and have pumps sized appropriately for each section. Even if all 80 pumping stations are built, the amount of power required is approximately 600 MW.

The Missouri River flow varies of course, but is somewhat regulated by a series of flood-control dams upstream. The USGS shows the typical flow is about 4,000 to 5,000 cubic feet per second. Therefore, diverting 1,000 cubic feet per second would not likely be a problem. Diverting twice that amount, or three times that amount, could conceivably cause problems.

This would be a job for the Army Corps of Engineers, and is a worthy challenge to their expertise.

Addendum: I added a second piece to this at Wind, Water, Farms and Power Generation.

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. Legal website is here.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Computers, AI, and Fortran

Now here is a rather interesting exchange of views from WUWT on Feb 19 and 20 of 2009, on computers and what they can and cannot do.  My added comments are [in brackets.]

[The basic post is about Global Climate Models, aka General Circulation Models, and just how poorly they are written, validated, and that their resulting predictions are very bad when compared to reality]

David Halliday wrote:

“Computers can’t do anything humans can’t do. Computers can’t think. Computers can’t create. What computers can do is some of what humans can do only faster.”

[My response:] In my experience, computers can do many things humans cannot do. As just one example, when I studied artificial intelligence theory, algorithms, and systems, it was eye-opening to discover that a properly programmed computer can do “things” that humans just cannot do. There appears to be a limit to the amount of information a human (even great humans) can assimilate, process, and keep account of. Computers can do this far better. There are also documented examples of, for example, neural network algorithms that *learn* from mistakes, from partial successes, and deduce rules or answers that have eluded even the most experienced and smartest humans.

There are also relationship-discovery algorithms, aka data mining, that explore vast reams of data and reveal insights that humans have never before discovered.

In the field of computerized advanced process control, well, let’s just say that many of us are very glad humans are not at the controls, but instead let the computers do the work. Fly-by-wire is just one example of this, wherein advanced aircraft fly in or near the unstable regime, a regime where human responses and anticipation just cannot adequately respond.

John Galt – re is Fortran still in use? [This in response to John Galt, a programmer with some experience, who evidently doubts Fortran is in use due to its creaky age and inadequacies.  True, it is not too good at writing code for internet applications.  But for engineering applications, it has few if any peers.  IMHO.]

Absolutely. Operating companies have millions of lines of code written in Fortran, that works and works quite well every day. No one in the private sector has the time or budget to rewrite perfectly good code just to bring it up to some newly-written standard. Those new standards change every few years, and rewriting would be a complete waste of effort. There may be some limited instances where this is done, but it must have a justifiable positive influence on the financial bottom line. 

[This is based on my experience and knowledge of oil and chemical companies, and the process models and process control software that we wrote in the 60's 70's and 80's.  It was Fortran 72 and Fortran 77 for most of my time writing this code.  Some of it was later used as black-box subroutines called by other languages, such as GUIs (graphical user interfaces) for simulators and training software.]


[David Halliday responds:]

David Holliday 

[Quoting my earlier comment] “In my experience, computers can do many things humans cannot do. As just one example, when I studied artificial intelligence theory, algorithms, and systems, it was eye-opening to discover that a properly programmed computer can do “things” that humans just cannot do.”

My original statement is correct. There is nothing a computer can do that a human can’t do. The computer can just do it faster.

Computers are machines. Programs are instructions to the machine to do things. Humans design the programs. Humans write the programs. Humans test the programs. And humans run the programs. Therefore, humans can do the same thing the programs do but just slower.

Computers aren’t creative. They have no independence of thought. They don’t think at all. They have not independence of action. They have no cognitive understanding. They simply execute the programs. One of the biggest misnomers in Computer Science is Artificial Intelligence. There is no intelligence in a computer. And we’ve never been able to put it in there.

I first studied Artificial Intelligence in the early 80’s. Neural nets, which are often purported to be advanced, self-learning computers, are fundamentally self-weighting algorithms that can varying their behaviour based on feedback mechanisms. Expert systems are simply rule-based approaches to decision systems. Humans build the neural nets and humans write the rules. There is nothing about how these programs work that we don’t understand. The HAL 9000 of 2001: A Space Odyssey doesn’t exist today or maybe ever.  

[Now, David Halliday may not realize just what I referred to earlier about neural networks solving problems that the best and brightest human minds had spent countless hours on with no results:  A complex chemical plant just could not make product that met specifications.  The stuff it did make had to be sold at a deep discount as bad quality.  The plant had several processing steps (not uncommon) and many independent variables in each step.  The chemists and engineers did all they could from theory and experience, but to no avail.  The neural net guys were trotted in, built their NN, and fed data from each failed trial into the NN.  They fed in all the variables and settings for each failed test, with the resulting yield and quality of product.  Then, they ran it in Predict mode, with the goal being highest yield of on-spec product.  The NN churned away and produced a new combination of independent variables for each of the several process steps.  After the chemists and engineers reviewed these settings for safety and reasonableness (e.g. can this pump generate that much flow?  Can that heater produce a stream at that temperature?) they agreed to give it a go.  And it worked.   The question is, could humans have eventually found that precise combination of variables?  Maybe.  But then, they had been trying for a long time to do just that, with no success.]

As someone who has worked in computers for over 26 years from programmer to Chief Technology Officer, I can tell you with a high-degree of confidence I understand how computers work and what they can do. They don’t do anything we don’t tell them to do. And since everything they do is something we tell them to do we can do it.

Don’t confuse that computers can do things much faster than humans with what humans can do. The point is they are just doing what we program them to do. Of course they do it orders and orders of magnitude faster than we can. Hence, the old joke, “To err is human, but to really [mess] up takes a computer.”  [This is a family-friendly blog...editorial license is hereby granted to me by me to clean up offending language -- Roger; our version of that last line was "to really foul things up requires a computer."]


[Next, Richard M chimes in with:]

Richard M 

I agree with almost everything David Holliday (20:02:43) : said. Computers do not have any intelligence and a superfast human could do everything a computer could do. However, there are no superfast humans, so in reality computers can do many things us poor slow humans could never do or would even attempt to do.


[As I am taking shots from all points of the compass here, I finally had some slack time to respond thusly:]

Roger Sowell 

David Halliday [wrote]

“One of the biggest misnomers in Computer Science is Artificial Intelligence. There is no intelligence in a computer. And we’ve never been able to put it in there.

[My response is:} We must have taken different classes in AI, then. Mine was from UCLA where the instructor wrote the AI for NASA’s Mars rovers. AI definitely exists, and I stand completely by my earlier assertions.

But I will not get further into a Did so! Did Not! contest, as it is fruitless and a waste of Anthony’s and moderators’ time.


[Next, Squidly jumps in with a response to my longer earlier comment:]

I would agree that there are “some” things that computers can do that humans cannot. Computational speed is perhaps one, but that is just about where it ends. I have studied AI for quite some time and it was my primary collegiate focus, and I too play with neural networks from time to time just for fun. But the human brain by contrast, can perform many things that computers presently cannot do and some things that they may never do. One very humanly simple thing that computers are extremely poor at is pattern recognition. Humans process patterns with astounding accuracy and at an astounding rate. As a very simple example of this, I was recently sent an email from a colleage, the special thing about it was that the letters were all jumbled up. All words were written with the proper beginning and ending letters, had the proper number of characters and the correct characters as a whole, but, all inner letters were out of order. The interesting part of this is that you can read it almost as easily as you read anything else. As long as the words contain the correct letters, length and beginning and ending letters, it doesn’t matter. Your brain automatically compensates on the fly through pattern recognition. Its an interesting experiment and one that you can easily try for yourself. Now, one would say “so, a computer can do that”, yes, but through iteration and rearranging, not through first take pattern recognition, and certainly not with the efficiency of the human brain. And as for “fly-by-wire”, your brain handles more fly-by-wire than our entire fleet of Stealth bombers combined, every moment of your life, monitoring thoughts, temperature, body functions, heartbeats, internal clock, circulation systems, neural systems, and on and on, all in real-time. That’s pretty tough to beat. We may get close someday in the future, but for now, not even close.

As a tiny example, that goes to this and the model topic, have you seen and heard, even a short film that was completely computer generated, that you could not discern from reality? And that is the simple stuff.

Unfortunately, we still have actors (politician interchangeable)…


[And again, we hear from Squidly:]


David Holliday (20:02:43) :

My original statement is correct. There is nothing a computer can do that a human can’t do. The computer can just do it faster.

By in large I agree with you. There seems to be a popular misconception that I think has been largely fueled by Hollywood. Computers cannot do the things you see on the big screen. Unfortunately, even my father suffers from this misconception, and he is a retired engineer from MIT! And the worst part is that he is eating up AGW like there is no tomorrow. I fight with him on the AGW subject daily.

BTW, to all, yes, AGW is most certainly a religion. I have seen this transformation in my father, and it is rather disturbing. I would never have guessed that I would be seeing this behavior from my father, but he’s clearly had too much kool-aid. I’ve always viewed him as perhaps the most rational and objective person I have known, but wow, not when it comes to AGW. It is some scary stuff!


[Next, we hear from Alan the Brit, also agreeing with Halliday:]

Alan the Brit 

David Holliday:-)

That is just about bang on. I am so delighted to see so many mature heads making the point, GIGO. There will always be a human being at the end of it somewhere. Assume & presume nothing, ever!

As an engineer, & I know I have said this before, computers are little more than powerful calculators & number crunchers, sure they can churn out the numerical answers by the nanosecond where we mere fleshy lumps take minutes to do the same thing. However, the wee, wee, wee, wee, tiny flaw in the whole thing, is that if you get the design philosophy wrong, no amount of number crunching will lead you to the right solution, but only to many ways in which you prove you got it wrong! This point I would like to direct to Roger Sowell, yes computers are wonderful things, but they are after all just a tool to do a job;-) I spend many hours recommending to graduate engineers they sit down with a pad & a pencil & sketch things out by hand before they ever get near a computer programme. As a 51 yo luddite I mistrust computers, & with the current political administration losing personal data left, right, & centre I feel vindicated.


[And again, this time from John Galt:]

John Galt 

John Galt – re is Fortran still in use?

[Quoting me from above] Absolutely. Operating companies have millions of lines of code written in Fortran, that works and works quite well every day. No one in the private sector has the time or budget to rewrite perfectly good code just to bring it up to some newly-written standard. Those new standards change every few years, and rewriting would be a complete waste of effort. There may be some limited instances where this is done, but it must have a justifiable positive influence on the financial bottom line.

[Now John Galt's reply] I work as a software engineer/consultant and I’m well aware of the problems of maintaining and updating code.

Remember the Y2k crisis? That came about because old code was never updated. Nobody knew if programs that had been in operation for decades would work and in many cases, nobody could dig through the layers of patches, bandaids, paperclips and hacks to decipher the internals of the programs, either.

I should not be surprised by the reported size of the Fortran code base, but I am. This language isn’t part of the Computer Science curriculum in any universities in this part of the USA. Is it still taught in the Engineering schools?


[And now me, with a reply to John Galt re Fortran in engineering schools: ]

Roger Sowell 

John Galt: re Fortran still taught in engineering schools?

Yup. The University of Texas at Austin, for one. UT is a decent institute of higher education (and my undergrad alma mater). (not to be confused with University of Tennessee, another UT)


Click here for fortran class

Also, the other UT (Tennessee) teaches fortran . From this site: “For example, we’ve made changes in the NE [nuclear engineering] Fundamentals course in response to alumni feedback, bringing the Fortran computer language back to the curriculum in order to prepare graduates for the field.”

The Y2K fortran bugs were not that hard to fix. Refineries, chemical plants, power plants, etc. with fortran made it through midnight 12/31/1999 into 2000 just fine.

Just another scare-mongering non-event.


[And John Galt, a gracious fellow, responds:]

Thanks for the update regarding Fortran in engineering schools.

pre-Y2K was a great time to be in software consulting. This business never made so much money. If you had asked me about the seriousness of the threat, I would have repeated the industry line about it being the gravest danger you could imagine.


[And finally I respond to Alan the Brit, but by now I am uncomfortable really getting into this on Anthony's blog, as it uses up his space and occupies his time to moderate (or his other moderators'); so I offer to take this over here.  But, probably none of the other participants know about this blog.  Anthony has requested on an earlier thread that we stay on topic. We shall see if anyone finds this.]

Roger Sowell 

Alan the Brit,

“This point I would like to direct to Roger Sowell, yes computers are wonderful things, but they are after all just a tool to do a job;-) I spend many hours recommending to graduate engineers they sit down with a pad & a pencil & sketch things out by hand before they ever get near a computer programme. As a 51 yo luddite I mistrust computers, & with the current political administration losing personal data left, right, & centre I feel vindicated.

I also am/was an engineer, dating from the slide rule days. I completely agree that it is usually best to think it through first with a pad and pencil, perhaps even research a bit to see what others have published. There are, no doubt, many thousands of good software routines in regular use that are just doing what humans can do, only faster and error-free. I have written and implemented my share of those.

I think this all comes down to semantics, just what is "artificial intelligence." To me, if a human cannot do it (whatever “it” is), but the computer can, that is a form of AI. The examples I gave earlier are on point.

We as humans give a label to people with great memories, or abilities to solve problems that no one else can. That label is usually “intelligent.” There are even standardized tests (albeit controversial) that purport to give a score that measures IQ. As an attorney, I had to take quite a few rather difficult tests to prove a certain level of ability before I was awarded my license to practice law. [Note, none of those tests involved IQ, at least not directly]  Other professions do too, and I have no intention to place attorneys in a spotlight. Professional engineers, PhDs, MDs, CPAs, CFAs, the list is long. I have a lot of respect for others without fancy degrees, too, especially my auto mechanic. Even he uses a computerized diagnostic tester from time to time; I think it has a rules-based expert system in it.

Hence, when a computer can solve a problem no human could or ever will, is it also “intelligent?”

Anthony, if this is too far off-topic, I can take this over to my energyguy’s musings blog so as not to waste your time. — Roger


Roger E. Sowell, Esq.   legal website is here.

aka energyguy on

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mortgage Mess

My two regular readers will note that this is a bit off-topic in that it discusses financial matters rather than energy matters; but it is related in a tangential manner.  The energy industries require financing, whether the technology is solar, wind, wave, geothermal, solid waste conversion, natural gas, coal, nuclear, or whatever.  If the credit markets are non-functional, then every such project is in jeopardy. 

Years ago, a bank or other lending institution held the loans it made until maturity. The bank made money by a small upfront fee, and by the interest collected over the life of the loan. More recently, banks would sell the loan to obtain cash in hand in order to make more loans at a faster pace than simply waiting for the monthly payments with interest to come in.

The lenders made money by charging points and other fees on each transaction. The more loans that were made in a given month, the more money the bank made from those points and fees.

Where things began to unravel was derivatives. A mortgage loan, or more accurately, a package of mortgage loans, was sliced up into tranches, each paying a different interest rate, from high to low. Investors could then buy the tranche that suited their appetite for risk/return. The low-risk tranche may have paid as little as 5 percent on a loan that was made at 8 percent interest rate. The highest risk tranche may have paid 12 percent interest. But, if the property values declined, the highest risk tranche would be worthless, as it was the last in line to be paid if the properties were foreclosed. It did not require much of a decline in the real estate values for the highest risk tranches to be worth zero. And that is one of the primary causes of the present crisis.

One may have read about worthless securities, yet it is obvious that real estate prices did not decrease to zero. In many areas, real estate prices declined only 30 percent or so.

Former President Clinton was quoted recently as admitting he should have regulated the tranches and associated transactions more carefully during his 8 year presidency.

Until this problem is addressed, the financial markets will not regain stability, or investor confidence. Having a significant portion of a bank’s assets (or other institutions that purchase the mortgage-backed securities) with the potential to be worthless after a small decrease in real estate prices is a relatively new phenomenon and must be addressed. I try to follow this in my spare time, but have not read anything on the Obama administration's changes to this aspect of finance.

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.  legal website is here

aka energyguy on

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Cold Winter in U.K.

Note:  originally posted as a comment on on 2/18/2009.  Additional comments are in [brackets].

[The discussion was on the rather cold winter thus far in the U.K. (England, Scotland, Wales, and part of Ireland as I understand the current situation).  Part of the comments were about how does one know if this winter is colder than previous ones?]

I follow the heating-degree days for the U.S., primarily because it is readily available and posted weekly from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

From those data, thus far the winter 08-09 has been 4.6 percent colder than last year, and 1.9 percent warmer than the long-term normal, which is 1971-2000 I believe.  [I built a spreadsheet to analyze the data and reach these results]

But the cold / warm is not evenly distributed, as the southwest states are warmer (California is about 10 percent warmer than normal), and the midwest states are colder. Even Alaska is colder than normal by 3.6 percent, and 9.8 percent colder than last winter.

Regarding windmills:  [others on the WUWT thread had commented that the windmills in U.K. did not generate much power this winter, as the air was cold and very still, not windy.  Some lamented it was a waste of money to even build them, because they provide no power and thus no heat when needed in the cold.]

U.K. has a relatively small land mass, and has the inherent problem with windmills - a large area is needed so that the wind is blowing somewhere all the time. Wave power systems do work, as can be found from the eere website. They are still expensive, though. It might be better in the U.K. to investigate power from ocean currents; these are slow but very powerful. Ocean currents appear to have very little care about air temperature or wind speeds.  [from my cursory look at ocean currents around the world, it appears the Gulf Stream splits right about England, with one branch flowing northeast past Ireland, and the other branch southward along France.  There could be massive energy produced from such a current.]

California windmills do indeed generate power, on average about 5 to 6 hours per day. Data is available from the California Energy Commission website.

[Some had advocated for more nuclear power plants in the U.K, presumably to provide reliable power when the sun does not shine and the wind does not blow, or when the natural gas supply is cut off.]  For those who advocate nuclear power, one might first want to consider the price per kwh for such power. Recent cost studies and published cost estimates show construction costs of $7 to $8 billion U.S. per 1,000 MW. Plus, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission yesterday announced that it has increased the design strength required for new nuclear plants, such that the plant can withstand an impact from a large commercial aircraft. And not just the containment dome, but also the reactor cooling system, and the spent fuel storage area. This change likely will increase construction costs by 10 to 20 percent, perhaps much more if the cooling tower is required to withstand such an impact. The required price for nuclear-generated power from a new plant is now approximately $0.28 to $0.35 per kwh. That level of price can be absorbed over a large population if nuclear power is a small fraction of the total power. It gets expensive in a hurry over small populations and large fractions of the total power.

Finally, I attended our monthly meeting of chemical engineers last night, and the subject of global warming came up. No surprise! To a man, and there were roughly 20 there, every one declared the AGW due to CO2 and the other Kyoto Protocol gases to be a complete fabrication. These are not idiots, but highly educated and intelligent men with decades of experience. The level of data acquisition, manipulation, modeling, conclusions drawn, and other such maneuvering in the AGW world are well-known to them and are dismissed as rubbish. They used rather more colorful language.

As Dr. Pierre Latour showed in his recent letters to Hydrocarbon Processing, there is no way CO2 can be the cause of either warming or cooling. None. These are the men who design, run, and operate the refineries and chemical plants that make modern life possible. If there were betting odds on the IPCC or the chemical engineers being right, my money would be on the chemical engineers.

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.  legal website is here.

aka energyguy on

California Energy Efficiency

Much has been made by California consultants recently about the efficiency at which Californians use electric power in comparison to the rest of the U.S.  California uses roughly 60 percent as much per capita as the entire U.S.  This comes up as part of the justification for AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, the aim of which is to reduce CO2 and other so-called greenhouse gases.  The idea is that if CO2 is reduced, then the global warming will not happen.  

This reminds me of an old story of a man sitting on a sidewalk in a small country town in Kansas, when a city feller walked by.  The sitting man was rubbing his thumb against his first two fingers on the same hand, over and over and over.   The man walking by stopped and asked, why are you doing that?  The sitting man replied, It keeps the tigers away.  The other man replied, Don't you know that the nearest tigers are in the zoo, a hundred miles away?  The sitting man grinned and said, Works pretty good, don't it! 

Back to California, the story is that California's energy use kept pace with the entire U.S. until the 1960s when it began diverging.  The reasons given for this improved efficiency are the state regulations that required high-efficiency appliances and heating/cooling systems.  

I offer a different reason.  The 1960s is when air conditioners began to be economic and therefore very popular throughout the hot areas of the U.S.  Some of those areas are not only hot, but very humid.  I should know, having grown up in the very hot and humid South.   Air conditioners must work much harder, be sized larger, and consume more energy to remove the humidity from the air as well as cool the air down.  In some applications, the air is chilled much below the building temperature to remove sufficient moisture, then is warmed back up to a comfortable point before being blown into the building.  Such is not the case in most of California, where the air is very dry.  Also, most of the population is concentrated in three large cities right on the coast:  San Francisco and surrounding towns, Los Angeles, and San Diego.  The cold ocean keeps the cities fairly cool.  The combination of dry air and cool temperatures greatly reduced the load on air conditioners, compared to cities in the South, for example Atlanta, Miami, New Orleans, Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio.  

California's growth in coastal cities is very small these days, with population growth now happening in the inland areas where it is still dry, but very much hotter.  The air conditioning load is much greater in these expanding cities, compared to the three large coastal cities. 

All this has bearing on the state's expectations that energy consumption per capita can be further reduced via AB 32; some reports are claiming 30 to 50 percent.  

I would not count on it.   It is not that the rest of the U.S. is wasteful in energy, but that California enjoys a unique climate of dry air, and cool temperatures due to the cold Pacific ocean waters, and the majority of the population living in three major cities on or very near the ocean. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.  aka the energyguy on

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Nukes Must Withstand Aircraft Crash

The cost of building a nuke just went up again, at least in the U.S. This just in from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC): new designs must be able to withstand the impact from a large commercial aircraft. These aspects of a nuclear plant requiring upgrading are listed in the NRC news release: "core cooling capability, containment integrity, spent fuel cooling capability, and spent fuel pool integrity following an aircraft impact."

To explain this just a bit, nuclear power plants have roughly three sections: the reactor containment building (the dome), the turbine/generator building, and the steam condensers with cooling tower. Some steam condensers do not have a cooling tower, such as the Perry Plant on the Lake Erie south shore. That plant used lake water from Lake Erie instead of a cooling tower. I was privileged years ago to tour the Perry Nuclear Power Plant when construction was nearly complete but before the nuclear fuel was brought on-site. Now, though, it has a cooling tower judging from google maps photos of the site. The enviros must have not liked the idea of warm water flowing into the lake.

Nuclear plants also have an area in which spent fuel rods are stored, sometimes this is a pool of water, sometimes a dry storage room. Constructing the building above the condensers, and the cooling tower, and the spent fuel storage area so that they can withstand a direct impact from a large commercial aircraft indicates very thick walls, probably of steel-reinforced concrete, thus adding substantially to the cost of construction.

It would appear from the above that capital costs to comply will add several percent to the already exorbitant costs of a nuclear power plant, perhaps 10 to 20 percent more.

Core cooling capability may include the iconic cooling tower. If those are indeed included, the cost just went way up. Those are typically not very strong; certainly they are strong enough to withstand high winds, but not an impact from a fully loaded 747 or 777, or even an Airbus 380.

So, ratepayers in nuclear-based states bent on building more nukes can now expect to pay another 3 to 6 cents per kwh, on top of the 25 to 30 cents they would have paid before today's ruling.

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. Legal website is here.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Florida's Nuclear Nuts

This is getting too good to be true.  As my two regular readers will recall, I have at times mused that new nuclear plants are just too expensive, setting aside for the moment their toxic legacy for future generations to deal with.  

Now Progress Energy has upset their ratepayers.  As the St. Petersburg Times reports today, ratepayers were slapped with a 24 percent increase in their rates in January, about half of which was to pay in advance for the construction costs of a nuclear power plant.  The plant is not due online until 2017, and is to cost $17 billion.  The increased rates are to collect $5 billion in advance of construction, thereby reducing the amount of borrowing for construction.  

One can only wonder what the utility will do with the money it collects, put it in a shoe-box?  Perhaps invest in a CD yielding 1 percent interest?  Spend it on executive perks?   Buy stocks that could become worthless?  

Note to the 3.1 million Florida residents in the Progress Energy service area:  Home Solar Panels.  You are in Florida, where the sun shines!   Generate your own power, and sell some back to the utility.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. aka energyguy on

California Renewable Energy

California utilities have an interesting problem: how to comply with the state law (SB 107 of 2006) requiring 20 percent of electrical sales by 2010 to come from renewable sources.    Further, the Governor's Executive Order in 2008 requires 33 percent renewables by 2020.  

Thus far, the state is behind the curve, so to speak.   For 2007 data, renewables comprised 11.8 percent of total power sales.  That indicates that another 9.2 percent must be generated in only 3 years.   The 2007 number was 35,500 Giga-Watt-hours for renewables generation.   Rounding things off, it appears that another 33,000 GWH must be generated in 3 years, or roughly 11,000 GWH per year added.  The issue is to determine how much MW of capacity to install in order to achieve the 11,000 GWH per year.  That is not an easy problem to solve, because hours spent generating depends on the technology employed.  For example, geothermal and biomass plants can run very close to 100 percent, but wind and solar run along 24 to 30 percent of rated capacity.    

With the current mix of renewable technologies, the capacity factor is roughly 67 percent, meaning that, on average, renewable power plants generate roughly 16 hours per day, every day.   However, the big plants that have been approved for construction are, for the most part, solar and wind plants.  As stated above, their capacity factors are around 25 percent, roughly 6 hours per day.  Solar can run a bit longer with energy storage systems, some reports indicate 12 to 15 hours per day.  The capital cost required to store heat and generate after sundown is much higher, though.  

So, just using all solar and wind technologies, and 25 percent capacity factor, the MW of new installed capacity can be found that produces 11,000 GWH of power in one year.  The result is a bit more than 5,000 MW installed each year.   For three years of 2008, 2009, and 2010, that is three times greater, or 15,000 MW total to be installed. 

From the California Energy Commission website of approved and pending plant permits, we see that only 2,670 MW are approved for installation in 2009 and 2010, which is to generate 9,150 GWH power.   In 2008, 1,190 MW were installed, which generated 6,500 GWH. 

With 15,000 MW required, and roughly 3,800 of that installed or under construction with a likelihood of starting up before December 2010, the state is only short by 11,200 MW.  

One thing is certain:  the 20 percent goal by 2010 is not going to happen.    

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. 

Friday, February 13, 2009

More Nuclear Nuttiness and Nuclear Death Spiral

Not only Georgia, but now South Carolina is going nuts over nuclear.   Georgia's senate approved the bill to charge ratepayers for plants under construction.  South Carolina has done the same.   Ratepayers will be paying higher power bills to help finance the construction costs. 

Austin, Texas, however, has some sanity left and is not joining in the expensive expansion of the South Texas Nuclear Plant, in which they still own approximately 16 percent.  Austin was one of the owners that was burned badly when that plant cost more than 5 times the original budgeted amount, and was years behind schedule.  

What is disturbing is the quality of the consultants hired by Austin:  one apparently concluded that nuclear power is justified at 8 cents per kwh.  He has apparently not looked at the Severance cost analysis, that concludes new nuclear plants must charge 25 to 30 cents per kwh to justify their long construction times and very high construction costs.   I have carefully checked Severance's numbers and assumptions, and he is a bit low, if anything.  

If any of these proposed nuclear plants do get built and begin operation, watch for the nuclear death spiral to begin again, as it did years ago in Louisiana.  The death spiral occurs when power prices are increased so much that it becomes attractive for power customers to invest in their own generation plants, such as cogeneration.  The customers with cogenerated power are removed from the utility's rate base, so the public utility commission approves yet another rate increase.  The new rate increase is required to ensure the utility receives the annual revenue to maintain their return on capital invested.  But, the higher rates also makes it more attractive for another group of customers to go off the grid in favor of self-generation.   And the cycle continues.    Build-a-nuke, customers build cogen, raise the rates, more cogen, raise rates again. 

Ultimately, the ones paying the highest price for power are the poor, and those on fixed incomes.  This is wrong, no matter how one looks at it.    This is a form of social discrimination. 

Louisiana's industries did this in the 1980's, leaving the average small business and residential customers holding the bag, paying very high power prices.  The same thing will happen again, only this time, there are far more alternatives for self-generation.   In contrast to the 1980's, customers can now choose between solar panels, wind-generators, and gas-fired distributed generation plants.  

Utility planners, you build a nuke at your peril.  There are none so blind as those who will not see.  

If anyone is reading this, and can see where Severance is wrong, or where I am wrong on the true costs of nuclear power at 25 to 30 cents per kwh, I invite you to please leave a comment and show me. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.  aka energyguy

Mr. Sowell's legal website may be found here

California Solar Projects

Another solar power project was announced recently, this one to eventually produce up to 1300 MW of power for Southern California, in seven separate plants.  This will help toward the 33 percent renewables required for California under AB 32.   The technology for this one is a power tower, with mirrors that track the sun focusing the sun's rays on an elevated receiver where water is converted to steam.  The steam spins a turbine, turbine turns a generator, then exhaust steam is condensed against the desert air.  

And Sempra Generation is in the thin-film solar game, with a Nevada-based system and more planned for the desert southwest.  The plant in Nevada is rated at 10 MW, small but apparently a proof-of-concept system.   The solar modules are manufactured by First Solar Inc. of Tempe, Arizona. 

It appears that the 33 percent requirement should mean California must have approximately 16 to 20,000 MW of renewable power by 2020.  We have a long way to go. 


I did some checking on the 33 percent RPS (Renewable Portfolio Standard), and the AB 32 Scoping Plan shows that this is to remove 21.3 million Tonnes CO2 per year from the skies over California.  Presumably, these renewable energy power plants alleviate the need to build and run natural gas-fired combined cycle cogeneration plants.  On that basis, the quantity of renewable energy produced must be on the order of 40,000 MW, operating at roughly 6 hours each and every day at the rated capacity.  This is the same as a 24 percent capacity factor.   We have a REALLY long way to go.   

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.  aka energyguy on

Roger Sowell's website may be found here.  

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Georgia Nuclear Power Plant

Why should the energyguy be concerned with the goings-on in Georgia, as it relates to a nuclear power plant?  Energyguy lives and works in California, an entire continent removed from Georgia.   Because a nuke is a nuke is a nuke.  Nukes are too expensive, too cumbersome, and too toxic. 

Georgia's power company wants permission from the state regulatory commission, PSC, to charge ratepayers now for capital funds to be used later to build a $14 billion twin-reactor nuclear plant.  The PSC apparently is balking, so Georgia Power is trying to get the legislature to pass a bill that will allow this.  The idea is that if the money is in the bank when construction starts, there will be no need for an expensive construction loan, and the ultimate cost of the plant will be less.  With a less-expensive plant, the ratepayers will not have to pay as much for the electricity. 

What they are not telling you is that the more money a utility spends for a power plant, the higher their profit because they are allowed a fixed return on the investment.  Which would any of us rather have, a 6 percent return on a bank balance of $100,000, or on a balance of $1 million?  Not too hard to figure that one out.   So, of course a public utility like Georgia Power wants to build the most expensive form of electricity they can, for which they would charge the ratepayers between $0.25 and $0.30 per kwh.  

This is a bad idea for Georgia citizens because there appears to be no guarantee that Georgia Power will actually build the nuclear plant.    We can only hope that the PSC says no, and so does the Georgia legislature.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. 

Monday, February 9, 2009

Water Rationing Warning in Los Angeles

Well, not exactly rationing, but pay-for-use measures were proposed today by the Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.  Watering lawns also is proposed to be restricted to 2 days each week, Mondays and Thursdays.  The pay-for-use would set consumption tiers, with the lowest tier priced low, next usage tier a bit more, then any water above the highest tier charged a higher rate.  

As I see them, the problems are these:  first, how will the tiers be set?  Will these be based on past years' consumption, so each metered user must cut 10 percent below that average to maintain no additional price?  This is not a fair solution, as some users have done nothing to conserve, while others have already done all they can to conserve.  In California, we have low-flow toilets, low-flow shower heads, water-smart clothes washers that weigh the clothes load then add water accordingly, motion-activated flush mechanisms on toilets and urinals, and the same on lavatory faucets, and lawn sprinklers on timers.  Those are just the engineered solutions. 

Then, we have the actions of residents.  Among these are turning off water while brushing teeth or shaving, only running the dishwasher when full, washing full loads of laundry, assuming one does not yet have a smart washer, washing the bed linens once per week, sweeping the driveway and sidewalk instead of hosing them down, not washing the car as often, and installing native landscape rather than lush green grass and shrubs.  

One can see the inequities already.  Where a conscientious citizen has done all he can do by purchasing the low-usage items, taking short showers, turning off the bathroom tap while brushing teeth and shaving, and replacing the grass lawn with rocks and native landscape, will he be unfairly punished with an across-the-board 10 percent reduction requirement?  Why will this citizen not be rewarded for past water savings, instead?  

Compare him to the profligate water user, one with a pool that has a slow leak, who waters his grass lawn each day even though the water runs off into the street, who has older toilets, or if he has modern toilets, flushes them twice each time just in case, washes dishes each night even with only a few dishes, takes a long shower twice each day with a standard flow shower head, and washes clothes and linens every day with only a few items in the wash.    Also, this profligate runs the kitchen faucet steadily while preparing meals, such as washing the veggies and fruits with gallons of water.   He may also have small children, who flush the toilet just to watch the water run, over and over and over.   

Similar conservation measures were implemented recently in the San Francisco Bay area, and residents came out in force to raise these and other issues before the local authorities.  

Allocating water is not an easy issue, for example, it might be wise to allocate a given amount of water per month for each person living in a residence, be it house or apartment or condo or townhome.   But then, privacy issues arise.  Does one really want the city water department knowing how many people live in your home?   And what do you do if you have a party?  Or your inlaws move in for a week?  Or your college age children return just for the summer?  Or you have a baby, or twins, and your washing needs go way up?

Compared to previous years, California is in a different position in this water crisis.  The population is much higher, and the internet is a factor where it was not in any earlier drought.   One can only speculate what would happen if internet-savvy citizens take a lesson from the Facebook flash dance crowd that overwhelmed a tube station in London very recently.  Apparently, one Facebook user sent a message to his friends, and they sent it to theirs, and so on, and many thousands of people showed up at the appointed time and place to sing, play music, and dance, thereby virtually shutting down the entrance/exit to the underground station.

The water crisis is here, and the politicians are beginning their moves.  As always, California will be fun to watch as this plays out. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.   

Saturday, February 7, 2009

California Water Shortage - Drought in the South

President Obama's Energy Secretary, Dr. Stephen Chu, stated this week that global warming is causing California's drought, and that California agriculture will disappear.  He further stated he does not see how California cities will survive, either.  

This was posted on, and I added a couple of comments.  The interchange with other commenters is instructive, and at times, a lot of fun.  Those guys/gals are smart, and witty.  

My comments, and a few others, are shown below, with additional commentary [in italics] from me.  

Sowell at (23:44:57): "Ya gotta hand it to California governmental bodies. Knowing for years that the lakes are dry or drying up, knowing that the Sierra snowpack is less than normal, knowing that the Colorado River flow is much less than years past, knowing that Lake Mead and Lake Powell are way below the full mark, these governments block construction of desalination plants at every turn.

One (count em, ONE) has been approved recently (late in 2008), in Carlsbad near San Diego. It will not produce fresh water until 2011, per the company’s website.

Another one sits idle, mothballed, in Santa Barbara.

A few more are in various stages of environmental review.

People get cranky when they get thirsty. There is a reason wars were fought over water in the Wild West.

Meanwhile, farms are not planting this year. No water, so why bother?

California’s state water page may be found here.

There is a spiffy section on Climate Change, and another on Drought.

Roger E. Sowell
Marina del Rey, California (where it is indeed raining tonight)" The raining tonight comment is a dig at the weather forecasters in UK, who infamously cannot get the weather forecast correct across the pond.  Our local weather guys did a pretty good job of predicting the current rain system.

This response came from Lee Kington, "Since it was mentioned…. I follow the data for Lake Powell and check it on a regular basis.

The also have a searchable data base.

Last year the lakes gained quite a bit…. then the decision was made to do a massive discharge (both Powell and Mead). It seems some fish downstream wanted to wash their teeth real well or something."

Then this from E.M.Smith 

"THE problem in California is that we build as many houses as we can within the available water supply in the best, wettest, years then wonder why there is a water ’shortage’ due to ‘drought’ the other 80%+ of the time…

Oh Well…

BTW, the comment about Cities just shows he can’t do math. About 5% of all the water in California goes to cities. The rest goes to farms, washing trout teeth, whatever. You can run the cities at full water in the worst drought around and not notice it. Similarly, we can stop all water use in every city, send everyone to New Orleans, and it would not make any difference worth mention to the farmers of the state.

The whole “don’t flush for #1″ et. al. is just ginned up for political reasons. For ’sharing’ and ‘creating awareness’…

Of course, the thing that really frosts my shorts is the point made earlier. We could have all the water anyone could ever need at about the present rate for city water, technically… if only you could get a desalinization plant completed… Plenty planned and some started. Then the protests, red tape, et. al. begin…

Protests? Who would protest? Well, stop the water and you stop the housing, industry, people, etc… It is not accidental that water and oil are under attack.

(Shades of Dr. Strangelove! They are attacking our Precious Fluids!)"

Next, Smokey makes a very good point that the population increased while water supplies did notSmokey 

"It should also be kept in mind that since the last California drought in the 1980’s, the state’s population has grown ~50%. That means 50% more people competing for a relatively static and unpredictable water supply. Unfortunately, Cali’s state government seems more concerned with outlawing plastic shopping bags than planning for the future.

But do not be alarmed, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has formulated a plan, which he explains in detail here: click"

Next, Rigel expresses his distaste for California: Rigel 

"I view California in a very poor light. They spend there citizens money on vast, pointless and wasteful ways. Yet on things that matter, they block private enterprise and seem to expect to be subsidized by other states - examples oil, water, electricity - basic things. California is socialist and anti-capitalist.

I hate to seem harsh, but frankly, I would not shed too many tears if California dried up and blew away, or fell into the sea or simply left the United States. California does significantly more harm to the US than the benefits it provides.

California and it’s citizens are completely expendable to the health and well being of the United States, in fact, it would be desirable for it to go away."

This is worth some commentary from the energyguy. California does, IMHO, seem elitist and hypocritical regarding Environmental Justice issues when the state imports electric power produced by coal-fired plants, and by nuclear power plants, while banning the same plants in the state.  I also view some aspects of California in a poor light, such as failure to invest in infrastructure, chronic and out-of-control state budget deficits, along with many local deficits, poor education in the public schools, and many others.  My prediction for California is of demise, as the state refuses to cut governemnt expenditures but raises taxes instead.  This is a sure recipe for failure. 

Now, Rigel has not done a proper study on California's cost/benefit to the U.S., because that would show that the water, power, and oil that California consumes contribues mightily to the nation's grocery shelves, to purchasing automobiles, and we are doing it with roughly 60 percent of the electric power (on a per-capita basis) relative to the entire U.S.  I also suspect that California contributes in a large way to the national treasury, but likely receives at least some of that back.  On balance, I believe California is a net contributor to the IRS. 

Next, sonicfrog states that he and I chewed this over a few days ago, and gives a link: sonicfrog 

"Both Roger Sewell [sic, should be Sowell] and I independently tackled the California water situation a few days ago.

My main point - we don’t have to wait for fifty or a hundred years for the water crisis…it’s already here!. In a nut shell, the state has not expanded its water infrastructure or storage capabilities since the 1950’s, due in part to resistance from the very powerful environmental lobby. We have overexerted our use of natural aquifers and, here in the San Joaquin Valley, an area roughly the size of Tennessee, the wells tapping into them are drying up. Because conservation has been the catch all / be all solution to every problem in the state, we have not built new dams or other water storage facilities to meet the demands of a population that has increased five fold since the fifties. Anyway, Here is the blog post I wrote.

PS. Google “flex alert” and learn it well. For some reason, other states admire what California gas [sic, likely meant has] done with its energy policy, which mirrors their water policy. Conserve to the point of near starvation during high demand. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for conservation, but that can only get you so far." 

Skipping over a few posts, this one from Mike S drew a response from me: Mike S 

"In response to the first comment post on this topic from Roger Sowell.
Your statement: “…knowing that the Colorado River flow is much less than years past, knowing that Lake Mead and Lake Powell are way below the full mark…”

This is sort of misleading. Overpopulation and over-use is why some of the lakes like Mead are only about 50% of full pool. And people forget, we live in a desert (I’ll spell that again: d e s e r t ) …which would otherwise not be so populated if it wasn’t for modern air conditioning and irrigation systems.

When I first moved to Southern California, I read a whitepaper from an expert who presented it to a city council contemplating what to do about the rapid growth in the San Diego area. The paper said we were just coming out of “a prolonged 30 year drought in Southern California”. That was 1986. We have had quite a few very wet years and very dry years since then. One of the lakes by my house that was half empty for about 5 years was suddenly filled up again two years ago because of excess rainfall. Again, this is a desert, and some of the farmers were shameful, when for years, they flooded their fields with un-metered (yes un-metered !) water for crops they had no business growing in this climate here in California.

But I would like you to visit and see that this year, the inflows have been running more than 70% above normal for Lake Mead and this has been consistent for more than 100 days…and last year wasn’t bad either. The problem is that the population siphons out way too much and wastes too much.

Oh, and last year, we were still snow skiing until it was almost summer… not sure where they take the snow measurements, but we had snow for skiing much later and longer than usual."

And, my first response to all these posts (I had been away a while)

"Below is a link to a California Supreme Court decision that discusses water rights. The case is National Audubon Society v Los Angeles Dept of Water and Power, (33 Cal.3d 419 (1983)).

Click Here

Mike S. wrote:

“This is sort of misleading. Overpopulation and over-use is why some of the lakes like Mead are only about 50% of full pool.”

Apologies if I mislead anyone. The point is that population grew (and is growing!) and water resources actually fell — the Colorado River flow trend is negative per the USGS.

See this reference, and scroll down to Figure 3.

The shrinking flow in the Colorado, plus water re-allocation among the river pact states, leaves California more dependent on snowpack, which is rather unreliable. Alternatives that Governator Schwarzennegger proposed for building more dams to store more rainwater were shot down by the legislature (motivated by environmentalists) and at the ballot box.

Then a Federal judge ruled that perfectly good Sacramento river water must be diverted to the ocean rather than sent south to parched Southern California, in order to protect the delta smelt (a small fish that apparently is endangered, or about to be.)

So here we are. Inadequate Colorado river flow, diverted Sacramento river flow, unreliable snowpack, too few dams to catch the rainwater, and environmentalists blocking desalination plants.

Now the entire nation will pay the price, as California farms do not produce what they ordinarily would. Meat prices will likely rise, too, as cattle also require water to drink.

As I wrote before on WUWT, it would be great to see a massive federal project to build a water pipeline across America, from the Mississippi to the Colorado river. Now, that is one stimulus package project I could support. Anybody want to guess if that project is included?

Roger E. Sowell
Marina del Rey, California"

And this from me:  

"The Audubon case I gave above is fairly long and full of legal jargon especially at the top.

The part dealing with the history of water is found if one scrolls down to “1. Background and history of the Mono Lake litigation.”

E.M. Smith, absolutely correct about limiting growth by blocking expansion of water (and other necessary services). When some environmentalists are off the record, that is one subject I have overheard them talk about.

Roger E. Sowell"

And this from me, bringing up the water recycling plan in California (yuck, and double-yuck!):

"Another argument for desalination plants instead of what is currently practiced here in Southern California: waste water recycling.

This is not likely to increase real estate prices in Southern California, but….our water powers-that-be are now recycling treated water from the poop-processing-plants (P3). The treated P3 effluent water is allowed to percolate through the soil until it replenishes aquifers, then is drawn out again via wells into the potable water system. The idea is to conserve water by re-use.

The problem is that P3s do not remove some rather serious chemicals and biologically active compounds, some of which are endocrine disruptors. We are talking about synthetic female hormones here, among other baddies. And they are in the public drinking water. The amounts increase year by year as the water is recycled from well to household, unused medicines are flushed down the toilet, processed in the P3, then percolates back into the aquifer.

Perhaps this explains some rather odd behavior by many Californians?

Btw…the Los Angeles Dept of Water and Power drinks bottled water at their meetings…they were horrified when someone (a reporter!) asked why are they not drinking tap water?

At times, So Cal can be rather amusing….I drink and cook with ONLY bottled water.

Roger E. Sowell
Marina del Rey, California"

And this from me, responding to some earlier comments:

"Re: wave power:

Currently, and for the next week offshore California, waves are forecast at 14-21 feet (average of highest 1/3 of all waves), with individual waves at twice the average. Of course, we are having a significant weather system, too, with gale-force winds. (source: NWS)

There is an awful lot of potential energy in them thar waves…now, getting permission from the various state agencies…oh, never mind… [this agreeing with an earlier comment that wave power could run the entire state]

E.M.Smith, at least NorCal gets to drink fairly pure water from Hetch Hetchy…while we are forced to drink recycled sewage P3 effluent…can we allege discrimination over this? (I know, I know…I’m a lawyer…I should know this one…)

Tom in Florida, re Tampa’s desalination troubles: the same outfit is building the one in Carlsbad. We are hoping they learned some lessons from the Tampa site. I don’t think our ocean water in Carlsbad is warm enough to support grass, but there will likely be other stuff/critters to deal with.

Frank Perdicaro: poorly managed, indeed. Your idea has some merit, except that a 1976 law absolutely prohibits new nuclear power plants anywhere in California. Note the hypocrisy: California has no problem importing vast amounts of power from a triple-header nuke in Arizona, Palo Verde.

In any event, nuclear power has become prohibitively expensive, at $0.25 to $0.30 per kwh, as I noted in my blog.

Roger E. Sowell"

Next, from E.M.Smith 

" "Roger Sowell (15:47:09) : at least NorCal gets to drink fairly pure water from Hetch Hetchy…while we are forced to drink recycled sewage P3 effluent…can we allege discrimination over this? (I know, I know…I’m a lawyer…I should know this one…)"

Um, only SF, and a few cities that they let have some, gets Hetch Hetchy water. Folks from places they don’t like, get to drink pond scumbay delta water or, as you pointed out, ‘ground recharge’ …

We have ground recharge where I live. I don’t think it has p3 in it, only surface run off… you know, oil, mercury, asbestos, lead, viruses, toxic sprays, … We have a domestic drinking water filter and I’m adding a whole house system with reverse osmosis. Can we be included in your SF suit? ;-)

(Sidebar: the mineral from which asbestos comes is common in the hills around here. I’ve sat on a big chunk of the stuff. We also have cinnabar that seasons a local river with mercury (fishing prohibited), that runs into the bay, that people fish in,…)"

Next, we hear from Retired Engineer thusly: Retired Engineer 

"In Colorado, the only thing we like about southern California is that it is down stream. (when we flush) I still remember the Left coast suing us over water from the Colorado River. (so they could flush)

I have trouble sympathizing with a state that waters the medians of it’s freeways. If God wants our medians green, He makes it rain.

We do have our own nutcases. High plains desert and Blue grass do not mix. My neighbor spills more water down the storm drain whenever he waters his lawn than I use in a month. His yard looks better. My bank account looks better. See comment about green medians above.

Xeriscape. Green. Conservation. As in conserving small pieces of green paper with pictures of dead presidents and statesmen.

Too simple a concept for most politicians."  [I responded to the watering freeways crack below]

My response to E.M. Smith and Retired Engineer:  

"E.M. Smith, re

(Sidebar: the mineral from which asbestos comes is common in the hills around here. I’ve sat on a big chunk of the stuff. We also have cinnabar that seasons a local river with mercury (fishing prohibited), that runs into the bay, that people fish in,…”

Yup, that asbestos is wicked stuff…I have some dealings with that as an attorney…mostly construction-related. Contractor goes excavating in dirt then hits some of that and people nearby sue just in case they breathed a little bit.

We also have people down here who fish in creeks where signs are posted saying do not fish-water is not clean; and people swim in lagoons near Malibu where the green scum is also brown…

Retired Engineer

I also wondered about why California wastes water on the freeway medians and sides when I first moved out here. Then found that it is part of that P3 recycling plan: the water is from a poop-processing-plant effluent. Also, it is used to water golf courses, and by law all dust-control watering during construction must use recycled water, if available. No kidding, folks. That P3 recycle is everywhere.

We had a construction job where the union workers threatened to walk off because they discovered that the dust-control water was P3 effluent. The owner caved and used potable water. The P3 effluent water is unmetered and free, but the owner had to pay for the potable water. The workers were concerned that they would get very ill from the water spray entering their eyes and lungs, and into shallow cuts that most construction guys have on their hands.

And all that median-watering helps to consume CO2 from our ever-warming atmosphere. In fact, the man-planted greenery in So Cal should make every warmist happy…we are doing our part to counter the deforestation in other parts of the globe. We have a town called Woodland Hills, with lots of trees. I met a lady whose dad developed Woodland Hills, and planted the thousand and thousands of trees where there was nothing before.

I wonder if we will see any increase at Mauna Loa’sCO2 measurements later this summer, as California grows zero crops due to insufficient water, and the CO2 remains in the sky. ;-)

Can we sue the State Water Department for failure to provide water, thus contributing to global warming? ;-)"

In short, a fascinating series of exchanges...and I did not include the other threads on Australian drought/heat wave, AGW vs Denier's burden of proof for their respective positions, white roofs or black on buildings, and others.  Truly, an absorbing blog.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.