Sunday, March 29, 2009

Cogeneration Increases Again

Some of my correspondents bitterly cling to the idea that nuclear-generated power is cheaper by far than any other form of generation.  They cannot believe, nor understand, that cogeneration is vastly superior.   Below is an excerpt from a March 23, 2009, news release showing that cogeneration continues as an economically viable and superior technology.  

"ANTWERP, Belgium--ExxonMobil today inaugurated its newest high efficiency cogeneration plant at its Antwerp refinery in Belgium. Cogeneration is the simultaneous production of electricity and useful heat or steam used for industrial processes. In addition to generating 125 megawatts, the new plant will reduce Belgium's carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 200,000 tonnes per year, the equivalent of removing about 90,000 cars from Europe’s roads.

"Energy efficiency is one of the most effective tools available for reducing greenhouse gas emissions," said Sherman Glass, president of ExxonMobil Refining & Supply. "Since 2004, ExxonMobil has invested in over 1,500 megawatts of cogeneration capacity in five countries."

With the inauguration of the Antwerp facility, ExxonMobil now has interests in about 4,600 megawatts of cogeneration capacity in about 100 individual installations at more than 30 sites around the world. This is enough capacity to supply the needs of more than 5 million homes in Europe.

"This new cogeneration plant allows for the efficient generation of electricity to run pumps, compressors and other equipment in our facilities, while at the same time, producing additional steam that is needed in processes that transform crude oil into refined products," said Gilbert Asselman, manager of the Antwerp refinery.

"With the latest technology, cogeneration is significantly more efficient than traditional methods of producing steam and power separately. This results in lower operating costs and significantly less greenhouse gas emissions."

Additional new facilities under construction in Singapore and China will increase ExxonMobil's cogeneration capacity to more than 5,000 megawatts in the next three years."

In fact, as more unsubsidized nuclear power plants are built, grid power prices go up and up.  The incentives for industry to  install cogeneration also increases.   As not many recognize, the steam from a cogeneration plant need not be used for heating or reboiling or stripping uses, although those are the most common.  When the grid power prices are sufficiently high, steam is used to drive turbines, rather than electric power to energize a motor.   This is commonly found in complex chemical plants and refineries, where a pump driven by a motor has a spare pump driven by a turbine.  The operator can easily switch between the two, depending on whether electric power or steam is more financially attractive.  

Further, the smaller-scale devices that are suitable for hotels, apartment houses, commercial buildings, and even individual homes become much more attractive as the costs of grid power increase.  

ExxonMobil just built a cogeneration plant in Antwerp, Belgium.   Europe is famous for having much of its power generated by nuclear plants, yet apparently the power is not so cheap that cogeneration is uneconomic.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. 

Contact Mr. Sowell at his legal website.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Intro Environmental Science versus Reality

This is the first posting of what will likely be a long effort, my deconstruction and refuting the numerous illogical, skewed, and biased arguments found in a college textbook on Environmental Science.  This particular one is Third Edition, by M. L. McKinney and R. M. Schoch.  

I read through this book, and answered a few questions that were asked to me by a student taking the class who had to use this book.  The student knows I am a chemical engineer and environmental attorney, and wanted clarification on several subjects.  I was happy to answer his questions.  The questions made me curious, and I read the book with growing dismay at the level of distortion and blatant agenda of the authors.  Each of the major points, and quite a few minor points, I will give in these blogs, with my response based on facts.  The students who take these classes are bright, and are eager to understand and learn, but it is giving them an unfair and biased view of the world to let them see only one side of the issues.   Most students will not learn about the other side or sides, for one reason, they do not have the curiosity, for another, they trust college professors to teach them the truth, and for another, even if they are skeptical and have the curiosity, they do not have the time.   I hope this series of blogs is helpful in those respects. 

I will start at the beginning, on page 5, where it is asserted "many environmentalists consider human population growth, or, more precisely, the impact of humans on the environment, to be the single most important issue that the world currently faces."   The authors then have a diagram, showing interactions of humans with the environment (lithosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere).  They further state that "raw elements of the natural environment pass through human society to produce the global environment in which we currently live.  For all practical purposes, there is no pristine wilderness remaining anywhere on Earth."  

This is very misleading, if not outright absurd.  Is it true that many environmentalists consider the impact of humans on the environment to be the single most important issue the world currently faces?  No doubt, there are many in that camp who would agree.  But that leaves off the more important questions, doesn't it?  Questions like attacks from terrorist groups, threats from new diseases, threats from impacts of asteroids, threats from major solar eruptions, threats from super volcano eruptions, and the cataclysmic threat from the sudden breaking away of a portion of the Hawaiian island that will result in a titanic tsunami of more than 1000 feet height.   The relative impacts of each of the threats listed above would show that impact on the environment is not nearly as important as the others.  

As to no pristine wilderness existing anywhere on Earth, that is far from the truth.  I have had the good fortune in my life to travel to many places on the Earth, and seen firsthand many of its areas.  Northern Canada is very pristine.  So is much of Alaska.  The Grand Canyon has a few trails, but the vast majority is pristine.  The jungles and subtropical areas of Brazil are virtually untouched.  The fact is that most humans live within a few miles of a coast.  The interior of most continents are sparsely settled.  North America, particularly the U.S.A. is well-developed, but vast areas of Australia, China, Russia, and South America are essentially pristine.  

Next, the authors assert that man's depletion of environmental resources is one of the two types of environmental disturbance.  The other type is discharging waste into the environment.  Further, the authors state that environmentally friendly ways to address these problems are explored, meaning ways to utilize resources productively without pollution and environmental damage.    I will come back to this as a recurring theme, to provide balance to the discussion. 

The authors then mention a very bleak post-industrial age that will occur unless man lessens its detrimental impact on the environment.  This shows a level of hopelessness and disregard for man's abilities that I will attempt to put right. 

Next comes an assertion without foundation or facts to back it up:  that cleanup of waste and pollution are the most expensive way to solve environmental problems.  Next they assert that a holistic approach is needed that will be much better and less expensive.  Again, no factual backup is provided.  

The real complaint that environmentalists have is stated next, those being 1) human population is too high, and 2) resource consumption, or material goods is too high.   This is the recurring theme throughout the book, that if only we could remove some or most of those horrible humans, the rest of us would be so much better off!  And secondly, even after removing most of those horrible humans, we must reduce the consumption by those remaining humans.  Are these authors advocating eugenics, to kill off undesirable people?  If so, by what yardstick are humans to be measured for the decision on remaining alive, or being killed?  And, what material goods are to be allowed, and who decides, and who enforces this?   

The authors go on to assert the Big Three of the environmentalists' mantra: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.   By Reduce, they mean that the amount of natural resources must be reduced, that is, the flow of resources used by mankind.  By Reuse, they mean using something more than once rather than throwing it away.  And by Recycle, they mean convert a used item into a new item, rather than placing the used item in a landfill then mining more natural resources to produce another similar item.   Each of these Big Three are fundamentally flawed, and I will discuss this. 

Reduce.   One example given in the book is that logs are cut in sawmills, which is wasteful because sawdust cannot be used as lumber.  This is very misleading, because few wood products today are made from solid wood.  Only very few, and very expensive items are solid wood.  Most are wood veneers, a thin layer of wood that is peeled from a log using a specialized wood peeling machine.  The veneer is attached to a backing made of plywood.  The plywood is made from wood chips and an adhesive.   Where saws do cut wood, the sawdust is collected and pressed into shapes such as a fire-log for fireplaces.   The inconsistency is apparent, as environmentalists want to ban wood-burning fireplaces due to the smoke and CO2 emissions, yet if left in the forest, the trees will die and decompose into CO2.  

Reuse.  An example of reuse is to use metal eating utensils rather than plastic ones.  The idea is that metal knife, spoon, and fork can be washed and reused, but plastic ones will be thrown away after one use.    Another is to substitute worn-out tee-shirts for paper towels.  Rather than buy paper towels, one is to use an old tee-shirt that can be washed with other clothes.   The absurdity soon appears, as the same people advocate not washing clothes until a full load accumulates.  Otherwise, the thinking goes, one is wasting water and energy while washing a partial load.  Therefore, one should wipe up a kitchen spill with the old tee-shirt, and toss it into the laundry basket for a few days until wash day arrives.  This is highly unsanitary and would lead to health issues, not to mention smelly odors.   It is far better to buy and use a paper towel, and throw it away to maintain proper health and hygiene. 

Recycle.  This is the well-known means of discarding waste goods into separate containers that can be collected and taken to recycle centers.  In many areas, recycling containers are provided by the city or town for paper, glass, plastic, and metal.  Some go so far as to have containers dedicated only to aluminum cans such as soft drinks.    What many people do not realize is that recycling has little impact on raw material usage.  With paper, for example, there is a glut or overabundance of used paper that cannot be recycled.  The reason is that many paper products will not function properly if too much recycled paper fiber is added.  Another is glass.  Recycled glass cannot be used for many purposes because of purity issues.  Plastic also cannot be recycled into the same products, but sometimes can be made into other products.   Finally, metals are not all the same and separating them can be very costly.  

Next, the authors gloss over one of the most discredited positions of environmentalism:  the exponential growth rate.  They even mention two of the books that were gross exaggerations, and predicted outcomes that never came to pass and likely never will.  The Population Bomb by Ehrlich, and Limits to Growth by the Club of Rome.  According to the Population Bomb, the world was to reach its limit of humanity by some years ago, which clearly did not happen.  The Club of Rome book, Limits to Growth, was equally wrong in all its predictions.  It predicted exponential growth in several key areas, all leading to the destruction of mankind.  One was population, another energy use, another raw material use, another water use, another was financial capital, and finally the growing mountain of pollution or waste.  Not a one of these came to pass.  

The facts are quite different.  Food never ran out, as was predicted, instead we pay farmers to not grow food to prevent price collapses.  Water has never run out and never will, as it is cleaned up in the oceans and recycled naturally by the heat of the sun and falls as rain or snow.   Resources not only have not disappeared, they have actually grown less expensive over time, indicating an abundance rather than a shortage.  Population is not growing exponentially, in fact, many countries are shrinking in population.  Japan recently issued a request for its citizens to go make babies.   A wonderful book on the population growth topic is America Alone.  

Thus ends the first installment.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. 

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Late Winter Storms

California, where I live and work, is getting hammered again today by a winter storm.  This is a big one, as the adjacent map shows.  The storm extends from Washington State south through Southern California, and east into Arkansas, up to Michigan.   This is roughly two thirds of the U.S. 

In California, this storm is bringing rain to the lowlands, plus snow to the Sierras, which will melt later and become very welcome fresh water in a time of drought.   But it is also bringing cold temperatures, resulting in my running the furnace in my humble abode.   

How things have changed since I first moved to Southern California 23 years ago.  My interview day was around February 1, 1986.  It rained that day.  My future colleagues assured me, almost apologetically, that this was very unusual and there would be no more rain for the next 9 months.  Being from Dallas, and before that Houston, this was out of my range of experience.  It rains frequently in those two Texas cities.   Yet my colleagues' words were prophetic, and it indeed did not rain again until November.  

Now we have rain plus snow on the 22nd day of March.    The high temperature for today in Los Angeles is expected to be 59 F.  The normal for today is 70 F.  

A word to all the global warming alarmists, and the climate change proponents, especially those who fervently believe that man's activities are the cause, or culprit.   Many of us, like me, are paying very close attention, collecting and archiving data.   I am highly skeptical of man's part, if any, in the slow warming and cooling of the earth's atmosphere.   Part of my skepticism arises due to wholesale adjustments to measured temperatures from the past, by those particularly at NASA under James Hansen.  It is telling that the adjustments were broadly downward for data before about 1965, then broadly upward since.   The impact is to increase the upward slope of the time-vs-temperature curve.  Hmmm...this is a slap in the face to all the good people who took the time to carefully look at a thermometer, then write down their reading and report it to others.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. 

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Waste of Taxpayer Dollars on Solar

In Southern California, where I live and work, the government agency in charge of the air quality is the South Coast Air Quality Management District.  We just call it the AQMD.   They regulate all sorts of things, such as refineries, dry cleaners, cement plants, basically anything that creates air emissions and does not have wheels.  Even then, the wheeled emitters can fall under their jurisdiction if the wheels do not roll for more than 12 months.  This includes things like portable (wheeled) generators, even portable concrete batch plants.  

AQMD tries to lead by example at times, by employing green technologies at their headquarters, for example, and using compressed natural gas (CNG) for its fleet of business vehicles.  They have lots of cars for their inspectors to drive around, inspecting things. 

From their website, they are installing still more solar panels on the roof of their very large headquarters building in Diamond Bar, just east of Los Angeles.   Their website crows about their saving $24,000 per year in not purchasing electric power, as the solar photo-voltaic (PV) system will generate power for them. 

What they are spending is $780,000, and what they are getting is 80 kilo-watts of generation.  These are special, new PV systems, that will generate power even in less-than-full sunshine.  Even at 8 hours per day, 365 days per year, and an avoided power cost of $0.10 per kwh, the system will barely reduce the electric bill by $24,000 per year.  At that rate, it will require 33 years to break even on the investment.  

But, AQMD claims that the system will break even in 15 years.  This is due to state rebate money paid to them, and likely due to higher power price instead of the $0.10 I used above.   At peak times of the day, their power price could be $0.20 per kwh, thus giving a 15 year break even time.   They also state that the time to break even could be much shorter, if power prices increase.   Well, here's the deal.  The power company only charges the very high rates during the summer season, not all year.  That is because cooler weather does not force the power company to run the high-cost peaker power plants, essentially just a gas turbine with a generator spinning on one end.  Those only are fired up on the hottest days of summer, when the air temperature soars to 90 F or more.  

Ah well.  It is money that has at least SOME return on investment. It could be spent in worse ways, I suppose.   But, if a business had to choose this investment, or putting the money in the Standard and Poor's 500 Index fund, they would do far better with the index fund.  It pays around 10 percent per year, over the long term.   The PV project pays 2.9 percent, even with the 15 year payout.   To achieve the same return as the stock market, the power price for power avoided by the PV project must be $0.35 per kwh.   And that is for the full 8 hours, every day, 365 days per year. 

Even in California, where the state mandated that 33 percent of all power sold by 2020 must be from renewables, that will take some doing.   For some perspective, the present cost of electric power for a residence is $0.11 per kwh, unless one consumes more than the allotted amount.  Then, the power price can reach $0.20 or even $0.30 per kwh, but only for the amount over the allotted.   For a commercial facility such as the AQMD headquarters, the power price is just over half what a homeowner pays. 

And to be fair, AQMD may have little choice in the matter.  The state of California has mandated that all government facilities spend tax money to cut their utility bills.  So, these sorts of 30-year payout projects are sprouting all over public buildings in California.   Mind you, these expenditures are in addition to all the other social services that are funded.  Meanwhile, the state budget deficit grows and grows.  It was $42 billion up until a few weeks ago, when it was miraculously reduced to zero by a combination of tax-increases, service cuts, and massive borrowing.  However, just this week the deficit reappeared in the amount of $8 billion.   Is there any connection between the massive spending on solar panels, and the huge deficits?  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. 
Contact Mr. Sowell at his legal website

Sunday, March 15, 2009

California MayDay MayDay MayDay

Again from, a commenter using the handle Squidly responded to a statement I made earlier.   So I responded thusly:  [my additional comments are in brackets]

@ Squidly (22:50:50) :

“Roger, do you really believe that California’s economy could pick up by then? I sure hope it can and does, but I don’t share your optimism. I think California’s economy is basically toast for a very long time. But, on the other hand, if it does, I am sure you are correct that the AGW crowd will attempt to either take credit for it, or use the improvement to minimalize the impact of their “green” policies. I really feel for Californian’s right now. I believe they are in for a very rough road ahead.”

I do not believe California’s economy will pick up any time soon. Our eternal state budget woes just keep increasing. Yet, many residents seem to have confidence, witness real estate buyers who continue to pay $600,000 for an average, 3-bedroom 2 bath home with 1700 square feet. Without an ocean view.  [a good friend has a home in Thousand Oaks, a small bedroom community of 100,000 residents where the big employer is Amgen.  The prices I gave are from zillow, and in an average neighborhood there.]

A few make it big in the movies, and that road to destruction (boulevard of broken dreams) lures people here by the thousands. [although California no longer has a monopoly on movie-making; animated films and CGA (computer generated art), plus state tax incentives for movie producers to film elsewhere make the balmy California weather less of a factor. Still, the wanna-be's keep showing up, taking jobs as waiters and waitresses, going to the "right" clubs and the "right" parties, hoping to be given a part in a movie.  Like Las Vegas, where a jackpot occurs every few minutes to remind the slot-players that it IS possible, and could happen to them next, Hollywood keeps anointing a very few each year.]

The things I watch are the unemployment numbers (most important), and budget deficit (second most important), then the status of California’s bonds. As long as California can sell bonds to mortgage the future, the state has little incentive to cut spending. If and when the state defaults on its bonds, the place will collapse overnight. [the bond rating agencies have recently cut California's bonds to the lowest rating of all 50 states, including perennial cellar-dweller Louisiana.   Ronald Reagan would be so proud (NOT) ]

It is said that what starts in California soon infects the rest of the country; well, I hope the rest of the U.S.A. has enough sense not to follow the “tax and spend and borrow the rest” attitude that has placed California in this predicament.  [although judging from the federal lunacy of print-and-spend, calling it various things like Bail-Out, Stimulus, with justifications like "XYZ is just too big to be allowed to fail" it appears California is just riding the current fiscal trend.]

Several negatives are about to happen one after another. When Obama’s EPA allows California’s exemption for automobile tail-pipe CO2 emissions, we will not have very many new cars to buy. So the auto dealerships will go broke, and the auto repair shops will boom. The EPA is expected to grant the exemption in early April or May. [cars today cannot be repaired at an affordable price, as they were designed to fall apart after 4 to 5 years operation.  The average consumer is then faced with a horrible choice:  buy a new car or newer used car with very high payments, or repair the current car knowing that it will just keep breaking down.  Further, car makers do not have many cars that meet the strict new California standards.   This is an interesting situation:  what will the State of California do, when the law says new cars must meet XYZ standards, but the car makers do not make such cars?]

The state tax increases on sales, and gasoline, and personal income, will decrease per-capita personal spending. Many more companies will fail, close their doors, and put people out of work.

The state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, LCFS, part of the AB 32 lunacy, will increase gasoline and diesel prices.

The RPS (Renewable Portfolio Standard), which requires 20 percent of all electric power sales in California be from renewable sources by 12/31/2010, will also increase power costs to everyone. The amount is uncertain, but will likely be around 10 to 20 percent. [the price increase could be much more in hot weather, when the wind does not blow and there is not much solar generation installed]

The state minimum wage keeps increasing, it is $8 per hour now, yet major cities have an even higher “living wage” requirement. This is great in the short term for the minimum wage-earner, but it keeps many people unemployed.

Finally, if the special election in May succeeds in changing the state’s rules for passing a budget, California is done. Currently, a budget requires 2/3 vote to pass the legislature. The new rule would require a simple majority vote.

Then it will be tax and spend, baby. No drill, baby, drill. Just tax, baby, tax, and spend, baby, spend. The California “experiment in socialism” should end with a bang. But, the curious thing is that tax-and-spend voters far outnumber the others. And the media spin-machine convinces the tax-and-spend voters that other people, the rich people, will pay the taxes, not them.

There is a gubernatorial election in 2010, and our Governator Scharzennegger is already a lame duck in many respects. The only viable candidates are far more to the tax-and-spend side than he is/was.

This is not going to be pretty.

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. 

Contact Mr. Sowell at his legal website

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Global Cooling: Hurricanes Getting Weaker

One of the primary dire predictions of the AGW crowd (anthropogenic global warming, now known as Climate Change) is that hurricanes and tropical cyclones will grow in number and especially in intensity as the man-made CO2 increases in the atmosphere.  The increased CO2 is supposed to reflect or re-radiate thermal energy onto the earth's surface, and warm the oceans.  

Warm ocean water tends to increase formation of hurricanes and tropical cyclones.  So, what does the measured data show?  The AGW warmists claim that the globe's temperature has increased dramatically since 1975, along with CO2 in the atmosphere.  They claim the increased CO2 is primarily due to man's consumption of fossil fuels such as oil, coal, and natural gas.  

As the graph above shows, average hurricane and tropical cyclone energy did increase from 1974 to about 1992, but has been declining ever since.  By March of 2009, the most recent point on the graph, the metric is lower than at any time since 1974.  

How can this be, when CO2 has been constantly rising over the period?  The data for CO2 in the atmosphere, measured at Hawaii's Mauna Loa observatory, shows continued increase in CO2. 

Once again, the underpinnings of the global warming alarmists are shown to be false.  

Every legislator, whether in California, other states, or at the federal level, should take this into consideration.  The claims of Al Gore, James Hansen, and the other AGW alarmists are just not true. 

A responsible legislator would immediately draft legislation to repeal any global warming laws already on the books, such as AB 32 in California.  For global warming laws in the works, a responsible legislator would vote NO, and argue persuasively for his/her colleagues to do the same.  

We need responsible laws based on demonstrable science, not economy-wrecking laws based on unsupportable supposition.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. 
Contact Mr. Sowell at this site.

California Budget Crisis -- Again

The news from Sacramento, California, yesterday stated the state is facing an $8 billion shortfall.  This follows the marathon budget-fix conducted only three weeks ago, in which taxes were"temporarily" increased $12.5 billion, state services decreased $15 billion, and federal stimulus plus borrowing bridged the gap remaining for a total of $42 billion.   That $42 billion is by far the greatest state budget deficit in the nation.  
At this rate, $8 billion per month, California will be in the hole by $100 billion one year from now.  (ok, it will only be $96, but I rounded up). 

So, what can we expect from the Sacramento lawmakers this time?  Will it be more tax increases?  Probably.  Will it be more services reductions?  Not likely.  Will it be more borrowing to bridge the gap, and to be repaid sometime in the future with tax revenues collected at that time?  Well, maybe, if anyone steps forward to purchase the debt -- that is, lend California their money.  

The economy is grinding along, with the sand in the gears making louder and louder shrieks.  Unemployment increases weekly.  Traffic declines as the formerly employed stay at home, watching the tv and cruising the internet.   My daily commute gets better and better.  Same distance, less time required.  Better gas mileage, too, since there is less stop-and-go.   Hey, maybe there is a silver lining here?  

The lines at the grocery store where I shop for sustenance are growing longer and longer, while the restaurants' parking lots have fewer and fewer cars. 

Schoolteachers in California yesterday received 'preliminary pink slips' to notify approximately 29,000 teachers that they will need to seek other employment, and soon.  

What was it we heard in the 60's on the pop radio stations?  

And the hits just keep on coming.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Men of The West

What follows is from, a blog for climate change discussions in which those who believe man's activities are cooking the planet are taken to task by those of us who know better.  

An anonymous commenter, using the handle 'thefordprefect' regularly chimes in to needle the skeptics, spewing forth such stuff as 'skeptics never produce any evidence to show that AGW is false.'   This is generally met with the statement, and rightfully so, that it is the AGWers' burden to prove, not ours to disprove. 

My response:


Re “The problem with you skeptics is you value your current lifestyle (= wealth) over the needs of the planet.”

Hmmm…. sir, your ignorance is showing. You are way out of line.

I am a skeptic, as I have written before on WUWT, and I emphatically deny that which is demonstrably false in the AGW mantra. I do value my lifestyle, yet that is consistent with achieving the greatest good for the greatest number on the planet.

So, let me just state how my colleagues in various engineering fields, and I to a small extent, have made the globe a safer, healthier, less polluted place, extended life expectancies, and that sort of thing. First, I worked as a chemical engineer in the petroleum and petrochemical industry for 25 years. I am an attorney now, but that is another story.

During those 25 years, I worked first in the chlorine and caustic industry, manufacturing chlorine and sodium hydroxide and hydrogen from salt, water, and electricity. Chlorine is one of modern man’s most important manufactures, valued for its use as a bleach, a cleansing agent, a disinfectant for water, and it greatly improves health all around the world where it is used.

Chlorine is also a major ingredient in plastic, especially PVC and other types of plastic pipe. Such pipe has made plumbing cost-effective in much of the world, greatly improving health. A high-grade of PVC plastic is used extensively in medicine, as an example, to hold a fluid that is fed into a patient’s veins (the IV bag), and the plastic tubing itself. The other major component of plastic comes from petrochemical plants, usually ethylene or propylene.

I cannot even begin to describe the innumerable medicines, drugs, and pharmaceuticals that are made from the petrochemicals we create in the big refineries and petrochemical plants. None of those would be possible if not for the ingenuity of chemists, chemical engineers, and a host of other highly educated and trained professionals.

The overall clean air of this planet is entirely due to petroleum and natural gas. Without them, the population would have choked to death or wheezed in coughing agony during a very short life-span.

Prior to oil use and natural gas, energy was provided by burning coal, and from animal power such as horses, mules, and oxen. The coal smoke and soot, and huge piles of poop left by those animals was a very great problem in cities, and made obsolete by gasoline, diesel, and electric motors. The poop dried, attracted flies, and created toxic dust particles when the wind blew. People inhaled that toxic, polluted air with every breath. But no more, thanks to oil and natural gas.

I could go on and on, describing the very low cost of almost all goods and services due to the extremely cheap energy provided by oil men, the refineries, and power plants. Transportation costs dropped dramatically across the board as trains grew faster, longer, and used less fuel per ton-mile. The same is true for large trucks, and ships.

I could also mention the low cost of food, whether grain or beef, pork, chicken, lamb, or the myriad of fruits and vegetables, all of which are very low-cost as a result of chemistry and chemical plants that produce fertilizers and herbicides. Engineers also design, build, and operate the efficient food processing plants that place low-cost groceries in the stores.

So, I invite you to do some reading, do some research, and find out the facts about what wealth does to improve the plight of the common man. Find out which countries in the world have a long waiting list before being allowed to enter to work or live or become a citizen. Find out which countries have good medical care, have sanitary water and dispose of waste in a sanitary manner, have sufficient food to eat that does not make the population sicken and die, and sufficient affordable energy to heat and cool their homes to a comfortable level.

I should know. As a chemical engineer, I traveled and worked in more than a dozen countries, from first-world (USA, Europe, Canada, Japan) to third-world (China, East Germany, Poland (pre-demise of Soviet Union), Brazil, Indonesia). I have seen it all, and did my part to improve much of it, along with my colleagues. I have suffered many bouts of intestinal illness in third-world locales.

After you improve your education, then come back and tell me I value my current lifestyle, wealth, over the needs of the planet. As Dr. Thomas Sowell (no relation) of Stanford University’s Hoover Institution has written, increasing prosperity is the only sure and lasting solution to poverty.


More to be added, if and when other responses occur.  This should be good! 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.

Legal website is here

Oil, Refineries, and Cars

There were more developments in the oil, refining, and transportation sectors this week.  

First, ExxonMobil today (March 13) announced the discovery of a huge oil field off the coast of Brazil.  The recoverable barrels of oil is estimated at 8 billion.   The day of Peak Oil is moving further out, as it always has.  

Meanwhile, back in the U.S., Marathon announced the extension or delay of their refinery expansion project in Detroit, Michigan.  The decline in gasoline demand has quite a lot to do with that, I suspect.   Project completion is now scheduled for mid-2012, an 18 month delay. 

And in transportation, Honda announced their Insight Hybrid LX will cost around $20,000, much less than Toyota's Prius.  The Insight will achieve around 43 mpg.   The annual savings with gasoline at $2 per gallon will not be great, but I suspect few buyers believe that gasoline will stay that cheap for long. 

Also, BYD, the car maker from China, will begin selling its plug-in hybrid soon.  Warren Buffett plans to have one on display at Berkshire Hathaway's annual meeting.  Buffett purchased 10 percent of BYD in 2008.    The BYD is advertised as driving 150 miles on one charge of the battery, before the gasoline engine kicks in.   If it only gets 100 miles per charge, that is still a huge improvement over US offerings.  

On the renewable energy front, in which California aims to have 20 percent of all electric power sales be from renewable energy by 12/31/2010, there currently are approximately 4,500 MW of solar thermal power plants announced or under review by the California Energy Commission.  There is an additional 800 MW of photovoltaic solar power to be built. 

All of this is just beating around the bush.  What I really want to write about is what was said at a meeting I attended earlier this week.  I was astonished at what I heard.  Perhaps my two regular readers are so jaded that this will not raise your eyebrows, but it certainly did mine! 

A spokesperson for a never-to-be-named company told a group of us that her company cut its carbon footprint by 45 percent in the late 1990's after 20-plus years of operating a fabric finishing plant as part of their manufacturing operation.   This was announced to the group as a worthwhile thing to do, as it saved the company more than $50 million per year in operating costs.   The reduced carbon footprint is now being touted as a leading attention-grabber, and the sales are increased dramatically by tipping the undecided buyers to their products because they are so green.  Not that all their products are a shade of green, just that their carbon footprint is lower so they can be called green.  Green can be red, or blue, or any other color that guys never know that to call it, somewhere between peach and apricot is where I throw in the towel.  

What immediately came to my mind, as the spokesperson spoke, was how much money did it cost the company to achieve that 45 percent carbon emission reduction?  Assuming around a $50 million per year savings, did they invest $150 million, for a 3-year payout?   So, I asked the lady the question.   She seemed quite upset with the question, and did not answer it.  She did say that part of it cost them nothing at all!  

That then led me to my followup statement, directed at the others in the meeting.  I said, if a company has an investment opportunity that will save them energy with a short payout, or can be done with no investment, it shows a level of neglect to not have identified this and acted much earlier.   What I did not say was, somebody was asleep at the wheel for a long time.   Perhaps this is what comes when management cuts the payroll and fires the technical staff.  Or cuts expenses by not hiring an energy analyst.  

From my refinery engineering days, we would have identified such an opportunity in the early 1980's just after the Iranian oil crisis and OPEC shortage with increased prices.  

So, maybe my pessimism about AB 32 and the energy savings that will make all this worthwhile is not aligned with reality.  Can California really have that many asleep-at-the-wheel business owners, who have a gold-mine sitting on their premises and just do not know it?   Could be.  Stranger things have happened in this state, as my two regular readers will know. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. 
Legal website is here

Monday, March 9, 2009

200 MPG Carburetors

This is a subject I have been long interested in, and have done a fair amount of research into.  I was trying to determine if such a super-carburetor could exist, or did exist, and if it did, why is it not in widespread use in cars today?

What I found is the following:  

1)  Some cars are claimed to have run with a super-carburetor, even large V-8 engines, some claim 100 miles per gallon (mpg), some claim up to 200 mpg.  There were eyewitnesses to some demonstrations, and technical experts who examined the cars carefully for hidden fuel tanks.  None were found.  

2) At least one of the super-carburetors used a form of thermal catalytic cracking, aka TCC, at least that is the term reported. 

3)  The super-carburetors declined in performance over time, and eventually gas mileage reverted back to the normal level. 

4) Inventors and advocates accused the oil companies of placing an additive in gasoline that would deactivate the TCC super-carburetor.  This was viewed as a malicious effort to discredit the inventors.  

I have some specialized knowledge when it comes to gasoline, oil cracking processes both thermal and catalytic, and how oil companies make gasoline.  I write this to shed some light on why the TCC carburetors do not work, and how oil companies did nothing nefarious or malicious to cause a super-carburetor to fail. 

First, a little background on gasoline.  Gasoline is made up of many petroleum compounds, ranging from iso-butane through carbon chains with 11 or 12 carbons.  The average length of a carbon chain in gasoline is around 8 to 9.   Gasoline is added to an engine along with air, on the piston down-stroke.  The air/gasoline mixture is compressed on the piston up-stroke, and ignited by a spark plug firing just before the piston reaches the top of its stroke.  The gasoline reacts chemically with the oxygen in the air, burns, and produces heat which increases the pressure above the piston.  The increased pressure pushes the piston back down on the power stroke.    Not all of the gasoline is burned, however, and that is where the super-carburetor enters the picture. 

In theory, if more oxygen is added, and the gasoline molecules were not 8 to 10 carbon chains long, there would be more chemical reaction in the combustion chamber.  That would release more heat, and less gasoline would be required.  

Now, to digress a bit and discuss cracking of oil.  A thermal cracker is a process unit in a refinery that receives a heavy oil, much heavier than gasoline, normally known as gas oil.  Whereas gasoline has 8 to 9 carbons in each molecule, gas oil would have on the order of 30 t0 40 carbons per molecule. Gas oil in a clear jar is visually much like lubricating oil that service stations pour into the engine's crankcase.  

The thermal cracker heats the gas oil to a high temperature, perhaps 900 to 950 degrees F, and then allows the very hot oil to flow into a separator vessel.  The hot oil literally cracks apart, so that the long carbon chains break into smaller chains.    The smaller chains are not all the same, but some have 2 carbons, others 3, 4, and so on up to about 20.   Each breaking point in the chains also results in a chemical double-bond, also known as an olefin in chemistry.  One of the by-products of the cracking process is very high-carbon number chains that resemble asphalt or coal.  These compounds, and they are key to understanding why super-carburetors do not work for long, are called petroleum coke.  

A catalytic cracker is somewhat similar to the thermal cracker, except that a very fine catalyst that resembles fine sand is used.  The catalyst is heated to around 1100 degrees F, then mixed with the gas oil in a fluidized reactor.  Steam is injected upward to provide the fluidizing.  The gas oil cracks, but the catalyst affects the cracking so that more molecules form in the gasoline range of 8 to 9 carbons compared to thermal cracking.   Also, petroleum coke forms and coats the catalyst particles until they are dark gray, or black.   In the catalytic cracker, the spent catalyst, which contains the coke coating, is processed in a regenerator vessel where the coke is burned off by injecting hot air.  This heats the catalyst also, and the regenerated catalyst without very much coke is recirculated back to the feed section to react with more gas oil. 

From what I have read about the TCC super-carburetors, they used a heated tube filled with a special sand to crack the gasoline into smaller carbon chains.  The smaller chains would have carbon numbers ranging from 2 to about 5, and would have many olefins.   The flow out of the TCC tube would also be very hot.  The hot, olefinic, short-carbon-number material was then mixed with air and directed into the engine.  

I could not determine how the super-carburetor TCC reactor tube was heated, but it may have been heated with hot exhaust plus an electric heater that used power from the alternator or generator.    The very hot fuel/air mixture would burn even hotter in the engine, thus providing more power.  Less fuel would be required, also.   I suspect that achieving 200 miles per gallon would be quite difficult in a big V-8 engine, as that would represent a 10-fold improvement over 20 miles per gallon.  Still, it might have happened. 

But what slowly decreased the TCC super-carburetor performance was the petroleum coke, the black residue that would coat the particles of sand in the TCC tube.  Once the coke residue coated the sand, the cracking would cease and no benefit would be seen. 

Some are probably asking why don't the oil companies just crack the gasoline for us, and sell it that way?  There are a couple of reasons.  First, olefinic hydrocarbons with 3, 4, and 5 carbons in the chain will not remain liquid in hot weather.  Most of the liquid would evaporate, and a vapor cannot be pumped by the fuel pump.  This causes vapor lock, and the car will quit running.  Second, olefinic hydrocarbons do not remain in that form over long periods of time.  Instead, the olefins tend to combine with each other and form a gummy substance.  This gummy substance plugs up fuel lines, fuel filters, fuel tanks, and carburetor surfaces.  

Another question is why don't car companies install that fuel heater, and use electric power from the alternator to vaporize and heat the gasoline before it enters the carburetor, or the fuel injection nozzle on modern cars?   The most obvious answer is safety.  A fuel heater would leak eventually, and hot gasoline would or could explode in the engine compartment.  

A final comment, as one source I read stated the super-carburetors worked even better on rainy days, when running the car in the rain.   What likely happened there is that the air intake would draw in a few fine drops of rain with the air, mix this with the hot cracked gasoline components, and that would enter the engine.  After combustion in the engine, the small water droplets would vaporize and expand as water vapor, adding somewhat to the pressure in the cylinder.    

This only works for a short time, as the water droplets tends to plug up the air filter where trapped dirt particles turn to mud.  

I hope this helps to explain super-carburetors.  

My knowledge of refining processes, and gasoline, and engines, comes from my engineering days in refineries, and having a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.  

Contact Mr. Sowell at his legal website

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Nuclear Power Plants Again

[This from an entry on Anthony Watts', on March 8.  I respond initially to one hareynolds, who declaims at length about the glories of the oil industry, then closes with this gem:   ]

". . . Every single petroleum engineer I have met in the last 30 years favors nuclear power. Every single one. Period."

[We must not know the same petroleum engineers, so, I respond to hareynolds thusly:   ]

I was with you all the way up until the last, where nuclear power was endorsed. Sorry, that power source is too expensive, and creates a lasting legacy of toxics.

See This Link and  [to my earlier posts on nuclear power plant costs]

See This Link 

Any U.S. utility that builds a new nuclear power plant will undergo the death spiral in power rates: Build a nuke, increase the power rates, customers go off-line by building cogen, PUC allows another rate hike to increase revenue to utility, more customers go off-line as their cogen projects become attractive. The ones hurt the most in the nuclear death spiral are the poor, and elderly on fixed incomes who cannot afford to install their own cogen power.

The oil and gas industry is partly to blame for their bad reputation by not doing more to educate and counter the mass media’s reports.

The people may learn, someday, when the lights go out and it gets cold. Or, when the lights go out and the A/C does not work.


[Next, tallbloke steps in with this comment:  ]


Roger Sowell (16:11:12)

The people may learn, someday, when the lights go out and it gets cold. Or, when the lights go out and the A/C does not work.

How did the Inuit manage during the little ice age, or didn’t they notice it?
I take it that ‘cogen’ means installing alternative means which backfeed onto the grid. I firmly believe that local generation is efficient until it’s transmitted over long distances. Reliability is the issue. Efficiently combusting local waste with minimal emissions is the answer to part of the equation.


[My response to tallbloke, thusly:   ]

Cogen has several meanings, but as I am using it, this means generating power and heat for one’s own use. There are several designs on the market, one is a natural-gas powered piston engine that turns a generator, then the exhaust is used to produce hot water for domestic use. Other designs burn natural gas in micro-turbines for power generation, and recover heat from the exhaust.

Industrial-strength versions also produce steam. There is also a tri-gen technology that produces power, hot water, and chilled water.

Some cogen systems will generate excess power that is sold back to the utility. A side benefit is no new power transmission lines are required because the power is used either on-site, or returned via existing power lines.

I got into a debate over this with a dis-believer on another site last year, and posted this (see below) to my blog. The presenter referred to, Mr. Tommy John, has some rather serious credentials, and was an invited speaker to an engineering society to which I belong.

See: This Link

Re the Inuit, I am told that until about 100 years ago they used no external energy such as gas, oil, or electricity. I suspect they adapted and coped quite well during the Little Ice Age, but that is not my area. There may be some native Alaskans on WUWT that may know.


[And Mike Bryant steps in:  ]

Mike Bryant 

Hard to believe that the French are smarter than we are…


[My two regular readers will know that I could not let that hanging curve ball pass, so I take a swing thusly:   ]

I had to research this a few months ago, and found that 1) French nuclear reactors are owned by the government, and their true costs are never revealed. 2) They are heavily subsidized by the government, 3) Their nuclear reactors generate far more power than is required at night, so they export power to neighboring countries. Nukes apparently have a very poor turn-down ability, and cannot easily follow the load, 4) spent nuclear fuel is stored on-site in pools just like in the U.S.

So, if the U.S. were to build enough nukes to provide 80 percent of our power demand, it would require heavy federal subsidies to maintain customer prices at 10 to 12 cents per kwh (subsidize 20 to 30 cents), plus we would then export power to neighboring countries each night, uh…that would be Mexico, and Canada. Not sure they want our power on those conditions.

The first new plant with the French design (Areva), called a Mod III, is under construction in Finland, and it has serious cost over-runs and 3 years of construction delay.

What this effectively means is, that even if the U.S. government bans all lawsuits against nuclear power plants, and gives carte-blanche to utilities to build all they want, we will never have more than about 30 percent of our power supplied by nukes. We currently obtain about 20 percent via nuclear. Those who say we must shut down coal-fired plants and replace them with nuclear, know not of what they speak, because that would require 70 percent generation by nuclear.


[Next, hareynolds steps in again, and apparently does not know my background, nor has he read the above comment about France having to export a lot of powr at night, this gets pretty funny:   ]

Roger, didn’t say nuclear was as easy as say NATURAL GAS, in the near term, but that PETROLEUM ENGINEERS (the folks who actually make-up Evil Big Oil; anybody actually met one??? I have. Oops, I guess I ARE one) favor a nuclear solution. Not necessarily the CURRENT nuclear solution (whatever that is, we haven’t started one in 30 years, so I’m not quite sure). For sake of argument, say an updated version of a French lightwater reactor (Westinghouse design, do I remember that correctly?)

The thinking, from an engineering perspective, is that (a) biofuels won’t work as they are predicated on a preexisting CHEAP fossil fuel transpotation system and coal-fired electricity. (b) Wind won’t work without MASSIVE subsidies, and then only 30% of the time, AND NOT even that if we get a little icy. (c) Solar, like wind, isn’t nearly dense enough. All the “alternatives” are cute, and I like the diversification and the possibility of offshoot technology, but they are small scale solutions only.

For an elementary discussion of the thermo of power systems (really “power density”) see Design News middle of last year.

(Anybody notice now the LEFT, once proponents of massive economies of scale (Aswan High Dam, Three Gorges, TVA, Bonneville Authority, ALL USSR heavy industry) has now reverted to Tiny Scale (ala Mao Tse Tung's Great Leao Forward and the Backyard smelters; always wanted one of those). It's as if we have gotten scared of large things we can't understand; rather than work harder on the understanding part, we seem to throw the baby out with the bathwater)

Simply from an ENGINEERING PERSPECTIVE, nuclear is the very best option across the board.

Frankly, it’s also the safest (another thing that nobody wants to hear, and the government doesn’t broadcast), even long term. Coal and oil and gas extraction are much safer now, but ONE mine or rig disaster has a way of killing more folks than ALL the nuclear accidents in the west (excluding the USSR) for the last 50 years.
Of course, irrational fears of bicoastal types are worth more politically than the lives of coal miners from West Virginia and oilfield workers from Louisiana.

(N.B. IF AGW were indeed real, the one and only logical source of power would indeed be Nuclear. Some greens actually are espousing that course, now, too, although for the wrong reasons to my way of thinking) 

And of course, Mike is correct that the French have had NO major accidents and produce a high percentage of their electricity (what 80%??) from nukes. HOWEVER, they have the great advantage that they had NO CHOICE (”A death sentence is a wonderous way to focus a man’s attention” -S. Johnson, by Boswell) so they replicated, over and over, a standard proven design, and they pay attention to what they’re doing. It CAN be done. It’s just that we’re, well, to borrow from Atty. Gen’l (”say what, brother?”) Holder, we’re just cowards.


[And, my response to hareynolds on the nuclear issue: ]

You might want to click on my name, then read my bio; and see if I have ever met a petroleum engineer.

From what you wrote above, you have parts of it right.

We can discuss this nuclear issue at length on my blog -

Or, if it is ok with Anthony and the moderators, we can kick this around here. I will be linking often to my blog. Either way is fine with me!


[Now, hareynolds again, responding to yet another commenter re CNG and windpower:   ]

I respect T. Boone for stuff he did in the early days (Mesa Petroleum was a North Sea pioneer with their Beatrice platform, named after T. Boone’s wife; gutsy move naming a grotty old oil platform after your wife) but lately everybody here understands that T.Boone is just trying to suck a little harder on the Public Teat than everybody else. Considering the competition, that;s saying something.

Unfortunately, the public persona of the oil business lies somewhere between JR Ewing (and NO, Dallas is NOT larger than Houston) and T.Boone. It’s no wonder we’re dissed.

This country ought to know and revere guys like Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon. While GM and GE and AIG and every d-darned bank in the country were self-immolating, Exxon has been slowly, steadily improving every year. I think they are the best company in the world (return on capital employed 34%), but everybody else (none of whom have never set foot on a drilling rig, let alone actually SEEN crude oil) seems to think they are criminals.

AS for CNG, you are right that it isn’t the perfect fuel, as it’s bulky and low-”octane” and early tanks had a habit of coming apart (read: kaboom)if you spilled battery acid on them (but who doesn’t?). But it is a GREAT urban fuel and CLEAN CLEAN; heck, forklifts run on LP gas INSIDE.

T. Boone IS right about the Nat Gas part of his plan (of course, he’s had the same plan for 30 years, but never before had the “energy crisis” as an interview enabler. Ooops, where did I put that darned energy crisis?? It was here somewhere, I sware. )

The windpower part is pure pork (esp the “please pay for transmission lines to my windmills”), but in Texas we wouldn’t respect him if he wasn’t AUDACIOUSLY trying to stuff public money into his trousers by the fistful. c.f. Mssrs Brown and Root. All the better to mock and pillory. Even if he fails this time, we know he’ll be back, heck he’s only like 75, isn’t he?


[Next, hareynolds responds to my nuclear entry above:   ]

Good post. All absolutely true AFAIK.
I whole heartedly agree that nukes are complicated, expensive, dangerous if mismanaged, etc. etc.

I think it’s especially telling that the new gen French reactor in Finland is horribly over budget, but I see that as evidence of the decline of French engineering (Peugeot much?) in the last 40 years, and especially abandonment of the guiding principles that made their program work in the first place.

Like the Brazilian oil business, the early French program concentrated on simple robust design, and repetitive builds to speed-up the learning curve.
They’ve thrown that away and are believing their own press about how smart they are.

I agree that 80% nukes is too high for a country with the opportunity for a rich mix of alternatives hooked to the grid(s). But if we don’t start building NOW (assuming say min 8 years start to finish) nuke’s share of US power will get down to about 5% before it starts to recover.

Actually that sounds like I want the government to BUILD nukes I just want a level playing field for ALL electrical generation methods so the market can assess the risks without having to weigh wacky sovereign risks (like pulling the plug on Shoreham and South Texas withut reason) and give us the most efficient power possible/


[And finally, my response re Rex Tillerson, CNG and windmills:  ]

So true about Rex Tillerson. I had a few classes with him many years ago in undergrad. It is no surprise to me, nor anyone else who knows him, that he rose to the highest position in the biggest oil company in the world.

But about the wind-power and CNG, aka the Pickens Plan, it works quite well here in California. It will not work as well elsewhere, no doubt, especially where the wind turbines are subject to icing over. Icing over is not a problem in California, at least thus far! But the fact is, in California we have thousands of CNG powered vehicles, from cars to buses, and thousands of windmills generating power every day. This has existed for many years.

T. Boone sells the natural gas and compressor stations out here, and made a fortune.


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

AB 32 and Sea Level Rise

[This is taken verbatim from my comment on Anthony Watts' blog,, on March 8, 2009, What WILL They Think of Next.  I waxed a bit lyrical on this one.  This is in response to a commenter jrshipley, an avowed AGW proponent, and fairly snide and nasty writer.  The moderators on WUWT find it necessary to {snip} quite regularly on his writings.  This indicates bad language, or insults to the person, usually. -- Roger]


Me, at 10:05:59:   Label me a skeptic, then, and a serious denier where the IPCC and other so-called “scientists” have blatantly lied, distorted, manipulated, and/or hidden their data and methods from scrutiny.

I do wish Dr. Richard Feynman were still alive, just to hear what he would say about the IPCC and all the “science” surrounding it.

Many of us, even those having no PhD after our names, are quite capable through education and experience of reading and understanding what is served up. Our good and trusty servants physics, math, thermodynamics, chemistry, and statistics do not let us down. I also rely heavily on economics. I wish more people would.

A good skeptic, in my opinion, listens to the “science” but verifies with his/her own eyes. As President Reagan said in a different context, Trust but Verify.

So, we are told the debate is over, the science is settled. Is that a skeptic, or denier issue? Well, if the science is settled, why did NASA send a (failed) satellite up to measure CO2? There are many, many, other such examples of knowing that the science is not “settled.”

Or, another good one, does settled science have multiple models, none of which agree with the other? The GCMs are manifold. Are there truly as many models, with different results, for predicting the speed of a falling object acted upon solely by gravity? When the GCM’s can agree, and get their predictions as accurate as a gravity equation, THEN will I agree that the science is settled.

Ya’ll have a ways to go.

If the IPCC (the “scientists”) are correct, why have so few of their gloom-and-doom predictions come to pass? Is that a skeptic or denier issue? (refer to predicting velocity of a falling object acted upon by gravity, above) Smokey regularly posts links to IPCC global temperature predictions, yet none of the (at least three!) measurements of global temperature match the IPCC.

The “scientists” tell us the seas are rising. Not off of California, they are not. The government’s own satellite data shows this. Further, why is the sea level data not on the public website after December 31, 2008? The trend was downward; could it be that the trend is continuing downward, and that is just too embarrassing for the AGW crowd?

Hurricanes are supposed to be growing greater and more frequent, per the “scientists.” They are not. Should a thinking person accept that as a skeptic, or a denier?

The ice at the poles is predicted to melt away and cause great rises in sea level, islands inundated, and huge population relocations. From above, we know the seas are not rising, so the ice is not melting. Which islands are underwater, and how many million people are dislocated?

Oceans are cooler, not hotter. Air temperatures in Europe, and North America are colder, and snows are greater.

All of these things exist even while CO2 is increasing in the atmosphere. But, no major volcano erupted recently to cool things down.

Just how many lies, and flat-out wrong predictions, are we supposed to accept from the “scientists,” before a rational person says this is a bunch of crap?

We have our own eyes, and our own ears, and with the internet, we can find stories such as the party ship and the icebreaker (!) caught, stuck, in ice in the St. Lawrence — weeks before the ice usually closes in. Sure, that is an anecdotal piece of evidence, but it has photos, and eye-witness accounts, and official statements. As an attorney, I can assure you that is very strong evidence.

This is not a game anymore. This is deadly serious business. California, where I live and work, has already passed strong legislation to adversely impact all aspects of our once-great economy; this is known as AB 32. I predict it will be known in history as the Bill that Killed California.

President Obama, with a complicit Congress and Senate, has promised to sign into law a similar bill in 2009. Watch for the Dow Jones index to take another swan dive when that one becomes law. Dow 2000, anyone?

The social and political consequences of millions of retirees with zero funds on which to live, because Global Warming legislation cratered the economy, are things the politicians should be contemplating.

So, I deny what is obviously and demonstrably false. And, because of the falsehoods and obvious manipulations that we have seen repeatedly thus far, I am highly skeptical of anything else spouting forth from the so-called “scientists,” especially the IPCC.

Long rant, ya’ll. I’ll go have my soothing herbal tea now, and contemplate the snow storm in the Seattle area.


In March.


[Mike Bryant wrote next, a very nice compliment]:

Mike Bryant 

Wow, Roger, I enjoyed the detailed and passionate response. It sounds like a summation for the jury, devastating. I’m voting guilty.


[I answered Mike back, thusly:   ]

Mike Bryant (11:30:45) :

“Wow, Roger, I enjoyed the detailed and passionate response. It sounds like a summation for the jury, devastating. I’m voting guilty.


Thank you, sir. You may take your seat in the jury box. [grin]


[jrshipley responded with a nasty-gram, complete with {snip}, thusly:   ]


Roger, you say that sea levels are not rising off of California. The IPCC report I referenced makes clear that there are regional differences in changing sea levels and thoroughly discusses the physical basis for these differences. Even the post on this very blog that I referenced made clear that sea levels are in fact rising, but you deny [snip] this?

Finally, thank you for indicating who the real fearmongers are in this debate, namely people such as yourself who claim that we cannot stop changing the climate and also rebuild our economy after the Bush collapse. So pessimistic. I believe that America is up to these challenges, if only we can overcome the natering (sic) nabobs of negativity and get to work.


[I decline to engage in the name-calling, "fearmonger,"  "natering (sic) nabobs of negativity."  I prefer to let facts and logic do the heavy lifting.  After all, I firmly believe that he who resorts to name-calling concedes the debate.  He has run completely out of ammunition in the form of facts and logic.   So, I responded thusly:       ]


Yes, I say the sea levels are not rising. For evidence, have a look at the U. Colorado site’s “wizard,” and gaze at all the blue/purple area on their world map. Then, click the cursor in the blue next to San Francisco, and observe the little graph that shows up. My graph of their data shows 5 mm decrease since 1993. If the seas are rising at what is it they say? 3 mm or 4 mm per year? Then over 15 years that graph should trend UP by 45 to 60 mm (that’s about 2 inches).

Over the past 5 years, 2004-2008, the decreasing trend is much more pronounced, at 50 mm in 5 years. This is clear and convincing evidence that IPCC has something very, very, wrong in their sea level claims.

For anyone who wants to verify or duplicate these results, this is from latitude 38 North, Longitude 236 in their nomenclature. Don’t believe me, go run these numbers for yourself.

Then, compare the small amount of red area on the map, with all the blue and purple. After that, please tell me again that the global sea level is rising.

I do not have to make claims that the economy is in a shambles, and the Global Warming (AB 32-style) laws will make it worse. Just watch the economic indicators, they speak far louder than I ever could or will.

Start with unemployment figures. Then the stock market indices around the world, not just the Dow Jones. Tokyo, Hong Kong, and London are also down. Then look at the consumption of basic energy, in particular oil and natural gas. Note that OPEC has cut production in attempts to prop up the price of oil above $40 per barrel.

Examine the leading economic indicators. Note that the financial markets are in chaos, still, after having billions upon billions pumped into them. Note how many banks failed in the trailing 12 to 18 months.

Then, tell me again how the measures to save-the-world-from-frying-and-drowning are going to put people to work, and kick the economy in the gas. Tell me how higher electricity prices are going to boost the economy. Tell me how higher gasoline and diesel prices, due to bio-fuels, are going to boost the economy. Tell me how it will only cost the consumer $300 more per car to purchase a new car that achieves 49 miles per gallon, as California’s Air Resources Board stated in the AB 32 regulations.

[Parenthetical note:  bio-fuels are mandated in California to comprise 10 percent of gasoline and diesel, as for example ethanol or soy oil for diesel.  The cost of gasoline and diesel increase with these as additives.]

Then, make a convincing argument that the millions upon millions of people who cannot afford new cars, but must buy a used car, will have more money in THEIR pockets from buying more expensive gasoline for 5 years or so, before they have the chance to buy one of those 49-mpg used cars.

Before the AGW proponents shut down every coal-fired power plant in the U.S. and Europe (Poland will NOT be happy about that), please give us all a good plan for replacing that power. You might want to read what I wrote earlier on another WUWT thread about what happens when nuclear power provides more than about 30 percent of the total power in a national grid. [in hindsight, it was on this same thread, a few hours earlier.  I will put that one on energyguy's musings, also.  It is a classic.]

As you seem likely never to be dissuaded from your AGW views, how about you just keep watch, as I will, for the ice to melt, and the beaches to disappear. We have lots of beaches in California, and you can bet there will be plenty of news coverage when they go under.

I will give you one to watch near Los Angeles, California. In Playa del Rey, for example, just south of the breakwater at Marina del Rey, there are dozens of expensive homes right on the beach, approximately 300 feet from the water. At high tide, the homes are only about a foot or so above sea level. Large waves at high tide sometimes swirl the water to within 100 feet of the homes. Keep an eye on those. (For those interested, from Google Maps the latitude/longitude is 33.956105;-118.449526)  [this beach is one where I sometimes go to jog, or sail by when we take out the boat.  The beach patrol constructs a sand dune each winter in front of the homes in question, as that is when the winter storms bring the big waves that would otherwise send water into the homes.  The sand dune is usually down by March.   But, we do have the occasional big waves at high tide at other seasons of the year, so that is when the water swirls to within a few feet of the front doors.]  

I look forward to your, or any other AGW proponent’s, responses on these issues.


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

Saturday, March 7, 2009

California Dreaming -- AB 32 and Southern Cal

On Friday, March 6, I attended an all-day seminar at UCLA (U. California at Los Angeles) at which the AGW (anthropogenic global warming) faithful gathered, repeated their many mantras, and applauded themselves long and loud. In fairness, there were a couple of voices of reason among the many panelists. But the AGW faithful heard from Mary Nichols, Chair of the Air Resources Board, and Senator Fran Pavley, (California state senator, co-author of AB 32), who both repeated the seas are rising, the globe is warming, and we are just SO happy that our AB 32 is now in place so we will save the world.

No kidding.

About the seas rising, Ms. Nichols stated that the seas COULD rise 8 inches in the next 40 years, and that would be devastating to the half-million people living near the Sacramento River delta and its inadequate levees. No mention of a range of possibilities or likelihood, confidence intervals, or basis for that claim of 8 inches in 40 years. No mention that the satellite data shows the sea level is falling offshore San Francisco. The 8 inch rise was just thrown out there, for the faithful to accept. And they did.

Ms. Nichols flatly stated that hurricanes are growing more violent and more frequent. No one challenged her on that, even though hurricanes are not more frequent nor violent.

Ms. Nichols also stated that the summer heat waves are growing more intense, and wildfires are getting out of hand. One person (maybe he reads WUWT!) did ask her if that was not related to planned burns by federal forest officials? Ms. Nichols spoke in circles and did not answer on that one.  I suppose Ms. Nichols has not been informed that wildfires are a regular, normal, natural part of a forest eco-system.  One can have a look at weathered bluffs along rivers and creeks, and see bands of charcoal buried in the layers of dirt.  These bands of charcoal are the remains of ancient forest fires.   Isn't it odd that the evidence of ancient wildfires is right there, yet today when a wildfire occurs it must be due to man's reckless emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere?  I knew those indigenous peoples were holding out on us, and were driving around in Hummers and SUVs for millenia before the Europeans arrived in North America.  I wonder where those ancient gas-guzzlers were buried?

We also heard that the people must be “kept in their neighborhoods” and given disincentives to drive anywhere, as that will cut down CO2. (that was from the urban planner).  The command and control mentality was quite evident on that one.   Has anybody ever been to such a planned community?  And seen the prices charged in those shops?  Can someone please explain to me how ordinary people, or poor people, or elderly on fixed incomes, are supposed to live there and purchase the goods and services?  Or, are the planners talking about making such communities only for the wealthy?

We then heard from the water guy, who told us that we must install a separate water distribution system to reduce the pumping energy required for potable water. I am still trying to untangle that one. Apparently (according to him, anyway) 19 percent of all California energy (I think he meant electric power) is expended on producing, purifying, pumping, and distributing fresh water. So, if we install a second parallel system, we don’t have to pump the water? I don’t get that one.

The Power guy from Los Angeles DWP (Dept of Water and Power) assured us that DWP will cease importing power from the nasty coal-fired plants in Utah, from which DWP imports about 48 percent of its power. This would occur by 2019 and 2027, just as soon as the existing power purchase contracts expire. By then, the utility will produce power from the oh-so-green geothermal sources at the Salton Sea, build the long transmission lines, and power will still flow to Los Angeles. I tried to get my question asked, but the microphone-dispensing-people did not make it over to me. (these plants may emit sulfur (H2S), briny wastewater, metal salts, and mercury, depending on the geologic formation).

We were also told that the Obama AB 32 copy-cat plan for the U.S. is coming along just fine, and we should see a federal law by late this year. Meanwhile, California’s death-stab at the car companies is coming along nicely, as the U.S. EPA held hearings yesterday to decide when (not if, mind you) California will be granted its more strict tail-pipe emission standards for CO2 on all new-cars sold in-state. Just what the highly-profitable car companies need, a third emissions standard. (One is for Europe, one is for the U.S. without California’s strict standard, and the third is the Pavley standards for California).  

[for those reading this in the future, this is sarcasm.  The car companies in March, 2009, are in dire fiscal straits, facing bankruptcy and losing vast billions of dollars quarterly because so few people are buying their products.  There is a bit of a credit crisis occurring as well, also an economic slump, unemployment rising rapidly, and a new President (Obama) who just printed more than a trillion U.S. dollars to give away in a massive "stimulus" plan.  The stock market has tanked from 14,000 to 6,600 on the good news. -- Roger]

DWP had a few moments of comedy, too. We were told that each household in their utility district can drop by the department and pick up two compact fluorescent light bulbs for free. (Well, I thought that was funny…as if that will make any difference!) This next bit was not funny, but serious: low-income Californians can request a new refrigerator from DWP, and they will bring over a new, energy-efficient refrigerator, install it, and take away the old one. No charge. Then more comedy: we can also expect to have free neighborhood make-over parties, during which homes will be weatherized to plug the drafty spots, shade-trees will be planted, and rooftops painted white. This was met by great applause. I can just picture the conversation at the front porch in certain neighborhoods: Hi, we’re from DWP and we are here to weatherize your house, can we come in? Uh, hold on, we were not expecting you, we need to clean up the place first. Ok, we can wait! Furious activity to put away the drugs and the paraphernalia and the guns and ammo. (This is Los Angeles, remember?)

We were also told that California is having a water shortage, a drought actually, now in its third year. Then, completely disregarding the drought line from just a few minutes earlier, we were told that bio-fuels require an awful lot of water to grow and manufacture. Bio-fuels are mandated under AB 32. My question (again, unasked) was, hey fellas! Remember that drought discussion? From where can we obtain all that water for growing and processing bio-fuels?

No one stood to say the seas are not rising, at least off the coast of San Francisco, and not for the past few years.

No one stood to ask about the recent cold snaps, and snowfall.

No one stood to ask about the near-normal arctic ice extent, and the increased Antarctic ice.

No one stood to ask about the cooling oceans.

No one stood to ask about the cooling atmosphere since 2002.

No one stood to state there is zero relation between CO2 and climate warming.

California is Dreaming, all right.    I just wonder how bad the economy must be, before the AB 32 nonsense is postponed or repealed forever.   How much unemployment?  How expensive for bio-fuel blended gasoline and diesel?  How expensive for electricity?  How unreliable the utility systems due to over-reliance on solar and wind?  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Wind and Utilities - How Much is Good?

An item caught my eye the other day while reading Warren Buffett's 2008 annual letter to shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway, his multi-billion dollar corporation where he is Chairman.  Buffett wrote that wind-generated power makes up 20 percent of the power generation in Iowa.   Berkshire Hathaway (BRK) owns a major utility in Iowa, MidAmerican Energy Holdings.  

Buffett wrote: "MidAmerican has maintained this extraordinary price stability while making Iowa number one among all states in the percentage of its generation capacity that comes from wind. Since our purchase, MidAmerican’s wind-based facilities have grown from zero to almost 20% of total capacity."

This is interesting because many people write that wind-power cannot provide more than about 20 percent of a utility's power due to the instability it creates on the grid.  For comparison, California has about 2 to 3 percent of its electric power provided by wind.  It appears there may be significance in word choices here, as Buffett wrote "total capacity," and the total wind-generated kwh is probably one-fourth of that, or roughly 5 percent of total power generated.  

California's goal is to have 33 percent of all electric power sold in 2020 to be from renewable sources of all forms:  wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, small hydroelectric, and wave.  Thus far, geothermal, small hydro, and biomas are predominant, with wind at 2.3 percent and solar at 0.3 percent (2007 figures).  

Way to go, Iowa!  This is especially interesting, since the State of California considers itself a leader in so many things, and proudly boasts of its landmark AB 32 as showing the rest of the world how to conserve energy, go green, stimulate the economy, and create green jobs.   Words to that effect are written into the AB 32 statute.  

And Iowa is leading in the wind-generated power category, as a percent of total capacity.   Meanwhile, Texas is leading all states in total installed wind capacity.  

Warren Buffett is no dummy.  His investment in wind-power in Iowa indicates strongly that wind is a good investment.   Again, way to go, Iowa!   Show California how it is done.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.  Legal website is here