Cloudy days for solar thermal

by Drew Thornley
"$2.2 billion California project generates 40% of expected electricity"

This past weekend’s Wall Street Journal has some unsurprising news about solar-thermal technology. Excerpts to follow, but, in short: It’s very expensive to build, it doesn’t deliver nearly the amount of projected power, and it kills birds:

The $2.2 billion Ivanpah solar power project in California’s Mojave Desert is supposed to be generating more than a million megawatt-hours of electricity each year. But 15 months after starting up, the plant is producing just 40% of that, according to data from the U.S. Energy Department.

Built by BrightSource Energy Inc. and operated by NRG Energy Inc., Ivanpah has been advertised as more reliable than a traditional solar panel farm, in part, because it more closely resembles conventional power plants that burn coal or natural gas. NRG co-owns the plant with Google Inc. and other investors.

Turns out, there is a lot more to go wrong with the new technology. Replacing broken equipment and learning better ways to operate the complex assortment of machinery has stalled Ivanpah’s ability to reach full potential, said Randy Hickok, a senior vice president at NRG.

One big miscalculation was that the power plant requires far more steam to run smoothly and efficiently than originally thought, according to a document filed with the California Energy Commission. Instead of ramping up the plant each day before sunrise by burning one hour’s worth of natural gas to generate steam, Ivanpah needs more than four times that much help from fossil fuels to get the plant humming every morning. Another unexpected problem: not enough sun. Weather predictions for the area underestimated the amount of cloud cover that has blanketed Ivanpah since it went into service in 2013.

Ivanpah isn’t the only new solar-thermal project struggling to energize the grid. A large mirror-powered plant built in Arizona almost two years ago by Abengoa SA of Spain has also had its share of hiccups. Designed to deliver a million megawatt hours of power annually, the plant is putting out roughly half that, federal data show.

Solar-thermal developers including Abengoa and BrightSource continue to build new plants in South Africa, Chile and China. But Lucas Davis, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, says it is unlikely more U.S. projects will gain traction as utilities opt for cheaper solar farms that use panels.

“I don’t expect a lot of solar thermal to get built. It’s just too expensive,” he said.

American solar farms generate nearly 16 million megawatt-hours of electricity each year. That satisfies less than 1% of U.S. electricity demand, but six times the amount of power that solar-thermal plants currently produce. And the vast arrays of solar panels that blanket the ground cost roughly half as much to build as new mirror-powered plants, according to the U.S. Energy Department.

Electricity prices from new solar farms average around 5 cents a kilowatt-hour, according to GTM Research, which tracks renewable energy markets. That compares with between 12 and 25 cents a kilowatt-hour for electricity generated by the Ivanpah power plant, state and federal data show.

The Ivanpah plant was delayed several months and had millions of dollars in cost overruns because of wildlife protections for the endangered Desert Tortoise. Once built, U.S. government biologists found the plant’s superheated mirrors were killing birds. In April, biologists working for the state estimated that 3,500 birds died at Ivanpah in the span of a year, many of them burned alive while flying through a part of the solar installment where air temperatures can reach 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Detroit Auto Show: The (Niche) Future of Electrics

by Henry Payne

Detroit –
The Detroit Auto Show showcased more green cars than ever this January, even as American demand for hybrid-electrics shrank to below three percent of market in 2014. Driven by President Obama’s 54.5-by-2025 mpg mandate as well as state mandates (most significantly in California, which requires 15 percent of vehicle sales to be EVs by 2025), automakers continue to produce electric vehicles as a compliance measure — and for positive press.
But as customers remain cold to electrics, the Detroit Show was evidence that the future of EVs – despite Obama’s Utopian dreams — lies in niche markets like performance sports cars and big utility trucks.

To be sure, Tesla CEO Elon Musk is determined to prove that EVs can appeal to a mass market. Like his idol Henry Ford and his Model T, Musk is determined to bring a game-changing, $30,000, 200-mile range electric vehicle to market. Just as millions of Model Ts on the road stimulated oil infrastructure, the $30K EV could similarly jump-start charging-station infrastructure. His promised, 200-mile range Model 3, however, failed to show in Detroit.

Instead, Chevy beat him to the punch with its 200-mile range Chevy Bolt (not to be confused with the poor-selling plugin Volt). Every auto executive I spoke with, however, believes that the 200-mile EV isn’t a game-changer — but another way to earn federal mpg credits.

So what is the future of EVs? Consider the $150,000-plus Acura NSX supercar at the show, which promises 550-horsepower and neck-snapping, sub-3 second 0-60 dashes from its plug-in electric-twin turbo V-6 powertrain. No mention of saving the planet.

Or consider Bob Lutz’s (the founder of the Volt in his GM days) latest venture with VIA Motors: Converted, electric pickup trucks marketed to large company fleets.

Targeting customers like Time Warner Cable (13,000 service trucks) and Verizon (38,000), VIA promises that companies will make up the $50,000-per vehicle conversion costs in gas savings. Plus, utility truck routes are predictable — making it easier to recharge vehicles overnight (as well as use them onsite to recharge equipment).

VIA has already begun converting Chevy Silverados with a goal of selling 3,000 vehicles this year, said VIA President Alan Perriton here.

Still, the business model is built on an uncertain foundation: Gas must be over three dollars per gallon long term; the feds must subsidize each truck purchase with a $7,500 EV credit; and corporations like VIA customer Duke Energy must have “sustainable business goals” like EV set-asides.

Detroit Show: Musk warns of auto-induced warming crisis as city shivers

by Henry Payne

Detroit –
Outside the North American International Auto Show this month, temperatures were a bone-chilling nine degrees when electric vehicle entrepreneur and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk took the stage to declare that human-induced global warming was a threat to mankind.

“I think we’re really going to regret the amount of carbon we’re putting into the atmosphere,” said Musk, chastising the auto industry for its failure to head off environmental armageddon by producing more EVs.

No one in the packed room of journalists pointed out that the entrepreneur was wearing no clothes. No one noted the irony that the earth hasn’t warmed in two decades. Or that the single-digit cold wave had created a genuine crisis for Detroit’s homeless in a city that can’t afford enough shelters.

We’re not doing Tesla “as a way to get rich,” Musk said. Musk wants a carbon tax — he says we’re pumping it into the atmosphere and we’re all paying. “The potential harm to the climate is really much, much greater than it was before” because of fracking, the solar-power investor added.

Many in the auto industry admire Musk, founder of the first credible auto startup in decades — even as they profess confusion over his methods.  But he seems a thoroughly modern businessman in the Obama age. Build a credible product — then use the government to handicap your competitors.

The Emperor Has No Clothes, Detroit edition

by Henry Payne

Detroit –
Hans Christian Anderson, meet Barack Obama. Has there been a better modern staging of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” than the president’s visit to Ford’s Wayne Assembly Plant Wednesday?

Selected to demonstrate the wisdom of Emperor – er, President — Obama’s taxpayer subsidies for building hybrid and fuel-efficient cars, the plant was inconveniently closed for lack of demand. In 2014, SUVs and light trucks have dominated U.S. sales.

But Obama gave his speech in the closed plant anyway, hoping no one noticed. “A century since Henry Ford introduced the moving assembly line, you’re reinventing it — one production line for gas, electric, hybrid, plug-in vehicles,” said Obama before pivoting to more general remarks celebrating his auto bailout of five years ago — a rehash of 2012 campaign speeches.

Pity Ford CEO Mark Fields (how do you turn down a presidential visit?), who had to show off one of the least productive facilities in an otherwise healthy Ford empire. Fields tried to paper over the White House’s awkward choice of plant by importing profitable vehicles from other facilities like the Ford F-150 pickup and Ford Mustang as a backdrop for the president’s remarks. “I wanted to come here to Michigan because this state proves no matter how tough times get, Americans are tougher,” Obama told an audience of 750. “Plus, I wanted to see the new Mustang.”

But the Mustang isn’t built in Wayne. It’s built miles away in Flat Rock, Michigan. And the F-150 is built nearby in Dearborn. Both are profitable. Both are selling like hotcakes. But those plants don’t fit Obama’s green narrative.

The president also caused whiplash by taking credit for America’s carbon energy boom (a development he has scoffed at) and cheering low gas prices (“It’s helping to save drivers about a buck-ten a gallon”) — just two months after applauding higher gas prices abroad to fight global warming.

“When you (want to make gasoline cheaper), those economies are very inefficient in how they use energy, and they generate more pollution,” he told a student audience in Burma.

After his speech at the warming-fighting plant, Obama stepped out into a brutal, 8-degree January day, as Detroit endures another harsh winter. More evidence that reality is not cooperating with his narrative. The emperor must be shivering.

As Gas Prices Drop, Obama Scolds Americans to Buy Fuel Sippers

by Henry Payne

Detroit –
Ever the nanny-in-chief, President Obama is lecturing Americans to ignore low gas prices and buy his preferred small cars.

 “I would strongly advise American consumers to continue to think about how you save money at the pump because it is good for the environment, it’s good for family pocketbooks, and if you go back to old habits and suddenly gas is back at $3.50, you are going to not be real happy,” Obama said in an exclusive telephone interview with the Detroit News’ Dave Shepardson on the eve of his visit to a Detroit auto plant Wednesday.

Obama has been embarrassed by the fact that the plant — one of eleven Ford plants to split $6 billion in federal dollars to build hybrid and fuel efficient cars — has been shut down due to lack of demand.

Yet, rather than accept consumer preference for more SUVs — and help America’s oil and gas industry to produce even more oil to keep prices low — the president has turned scold. Despite the boom in oil fracking that has helped dive prices below $2 a gallon, Obama continues to tilt at his global-warming windmills and fight oil expansion.

Cheap oil would not just benefit consumers but also the Detroit automakers that Obama claims to support. The Big Three make far more money selling Ford F150 trucks and Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs than they do hybrid-electric Ford C-Maxes or electric Fiat 500s.

“We have to be smart about our energy policy,” Obama told the News.

So the White House ideologue will speak at an idled plant Wednesday. An emperor with no clothes insisting that Americans buy its unpopular products. He’s smarter than us, you see.

Obama to Tout Economic Policies . . . at Idle Green-Car Plant

by Henry Payne

Detroit –
On Wednesday, Barack Obama will launch his pre–State of the Union, economic-victory tour at Ford’s Michigan Assembly plant in order to showcase the fuel-efficient, hybrid-electric cars produced there. The Obama administration claims such vehicles are the transportation of the future and Michigan Assembly was one of eleven Ford plants that shared $6 billion in federal retooling funds to make the fuel-sipping (but coal-fired electricity dependent) vehicles.

Trouble is, the factory will be shut down when Obama visits, due to a lack of demand for its green products, the compact Ford Focus and hybrid C-Max.

The White House says Obama’s speech at the plant will highlight “the workers in the resurgent American automotive and manufacturing sector . . . and the decision to save the auto industry and the over one million jobs that went with it.”

But with gas prices below $2 a gallon and demand for SUVs surging, those workers aren’t making Obama-preferred vehicles at Michigan Assembly. Sales for the Focus and C-Max were down 6.4 and 21.6 percent respectively in 2014. “We are seeing buying decisions swaying more toward SUVs,” a Ford spokesperson tells the Detroit News. “Dealers don’t need the (small car) inventory.”

Indeed, workers are laboring around the clock to churn out more of the big trucks despised by Washington greens. Trucks like the F150 pickup at Ford’s nearby Rouge assembly. Or the Jeep Grand Cherokee — the sport ute that saved Chrysler — at Detroit’s Jefferson assembly plant, where workers are on a three-shift 24-hour schedule to meet demand.

President Obama will tout the billions in tax dollars spent on plants like Michigan Assembly to fight global warming. But those tax dollars might be better spent at Detroit area warming shelters — overstuffed with homeless seeking refuge from this week’s bone-chilling, eight-degree Fahrenheit cold snap.

The Phony Automakers-Have-Neglected-Safety Narrative

by Henry Payne

Call 2014 the Year of the Phony Media Narrative. The Increased-Cop-Shootings Narrative (not true according to Bureau of Justice stats). The Increase-in-Campus-Rapes Narrative (debunked, same BOJ). The Planet-in-Crisis Narrative.

Add the Automakers-Have-Neglected-Safety Narrative to the list.

“The G.M. crisis has prompted concern in Washington that carmakers have become lax on safety, combative with regulators and insensitive to consumers,” declared a New York Times Page One story December 30 (“Auto Industry Galvanized After Record Recall Year“), culminating a rash of media stories. True enough, GM’s ignition switch crisis led a record year of over 60 million auto recalls this year.

But how to reconcile that record with the fact that traffic fatalities are at a record low? Just 1.1 fatalities per 100 million vehicles miles traveled in 2013, according to the latest federal stats. That’s a 25 percent drop since 2004 and a 75 percent drop since 1970.

Industry insiders say that the high number of recalls are largely a response to media headlines and government scrutiny, not lax safety procedures. Automakers want to reassure customers. The same pattern followed the highly publicized Ford-Firestone tread separation debacle in 2000. Faced with hysteria among government regulators, tort lawyers, and their Washington media megaphone — call it the Washington-Torts-Media Complex — automaker recalls cover mostly minor, non-safety issues (errant sun visors, for example) in order to stay in front of overzealous government regulators and circling trial lawyers.

Though the GM ignition case rightly drew headlines for its related fatalities, GM CEO Mary Barra repeatedly stated that it was an anomaly. She has a case. Indeed, the vehicle at the center of “Switchgate,” the 2007 Chevy Cobalt, had been recalled twice before. The Chevy Silverado pickup was recalled four times in 2007 alone. So much for a culture of cover-up.

Yet the narrative persists in a Washington hothouse where reporters are constantly fed by money-chasing trial lawyers and their Democratic political puppets. Most of these scandals are baseless — take , for example, the infamous Toyota “instant acceleration” that consumed newscasts in 2010. A subsequent NASA study found the charge of electronic accelerator malfunction baseless. The primary cause? Human error.

Yet, here is the Times in its A1 piece sourcing Sean Kane of Safety Research and Strategies, a trial lawyer-funded “safety advocate” who, in 2010, helped rig a Toyota to accelerate out of control for a sham ABC news report. “The only way we are going to get the recall rates to go up is to force the companies to do more,” Kane tells the Times.

As with the Al Sharpton-led killer-cops narrative, if media outlets did more to expose hucksters, there might be less hysteria — and fewer recalls.

While Homeless in Detroit Freeze, White House Spends on Global Warming

by Henry Payne

Detroit -
Area shelters are bursting at the seams thanks to record-low November temperatures.

Meanwhile, a White House task force is proposing to spend up to $100 billion – not on helping the homeless survive another brutal winter — but on global warming “preparedness and resilience,” including $6 billion for Midwestern states to combat rising temperatures.

This week’s arctic blast sent temperatures in Detroit to lows not seen since 1880, according to the National Weather Service.

“The record low for this date was 11 degrees set in 1880,” said meteorologist Rachel Kulik Tuesday. Normal daily temperatures are between 34 and 48 degrees. The bone-chilling weather followed record-setting cold weather last winter — and 19 years of global cooling.

“We’ve been seeing record numbers,” said Kathy Goodrich, the director of the Macomb Warming Center and Ray of Hope Day Center, of the influx on homeless to her shelters as temps have plummeted. “Last year on our opening night, we had 97 people, and this year, we had 119 people.”

Yet, the Obama administration will divert more taxpayer money to ivory-tower academics to study global-warming mitigation at universities like Michigan State, which recently received a grant from the EPA.

This month President Obama unilaterally declared — with Communist China appropriately enough — that the U.S. would cut emissions a crippling 26 to 28 percent over the next decade, forcing more misery on Midwesterners by shuttering coal plants and hiking electricity rates. During the Great Recession, the U.S. saw carbon emissions decrease by 7 percent with devastating effects on Michigan’s economy.

The Green Church Has Taken the Fun out of Formula One

by Henry Payne

Europe has a history of religious intolerance. Today’s Green Church fits the mold.

In their determination to drain all joy out of life, Green priests have set their sights on Europe-based Formula One racing, the world’s most popular form of motorsport. In a bow to the EU’s anti-carbon doctrine, F1 teams this year were forced to field hybrid-electric racers. Where once F1 defined “screaming speed machine,” they now sound like strangled cats.

“It is important for Formula One to evolve,” said ex-Chief Bureaucrat Max Mosley, godfather of F1’s eco-rules. “The environment is the big challenge of the 21st.”

Actually, F1’s survivability is the big challenge.

The new rules have made the sport less attractive to spectators with attendance down in 2014. Worse, the hybrid engines have accelerated the sport’s affordability crisis where $300 million-a-year budgets were already a concern. At last weekend’s U.S. Grand Prix, two teams pulled out due to high costs — and three more nearly boycotted the event.

Ignore economics and bad things happen. President Obama has put green ideology above people. His job-killing wars on coal and Keystone are contributing factors in the slow U.S. recovery. F1’s surrender to Green zealots is raising concerns up and down the pit lane.

“With race cars, or music, it’s about the sound and the experience of it. If you went to see the Rolling Stones and they came out and said tonight we’re only doing an acoustic set because we’re getting old and don’t want all the noise then the crowd wouldn’t be very happy and rightly so,” says Formula One racing superstar David Coulthard of the negative reaction to Green F1.

Drivers hate it. Teams hate it. Fans hate it. “We cannot afford to ignore our fans,” says Coulthard.

Planet-savior Ford F-150 Debuts (without a Peep about the Planet)

by Henry Payne

San Antonio – President Obama says we have a “moral obligation” to tackle global warming. It’s why the federal government has imposed draconian fuel-efficiency standards that force automakers to build cars that average 54.5 mpg by 2025. It’s why Ford Motor Company has transformed its best-selling Ford F-150 pickup with aluminum body panels — at a cost of billions of dollars — in order to reduce mass and carbon emissions.

Ford unveiled the 2015 Ford F-150 to the media for a first test drive here at the end of September. And not once did the detailed, two-day company presentation mention global warming.

Instead, Ford touted the value of lightweight aluminum in increasing payload capability. It cheered aluminum for its better power-to-weight ratio. For helping reduce fuel costs. For its better handling.

If Ford did sell its truck as a moral virtue, it likely would be laughed out of dealerships by its customers.

“Global warming ranked near the bottom of Americans’ 2014 priorities for President Obama and Congress,” according to a Pew Research poll last month. It ranked well behind terrorism, ISIS, the economy, and so on. And it likely isn’t even on the radar of the demographic — small businessmen, Texans, blue collar workers — who buy and use F-150s.

Global warming is a costly con forced on Americans through the back door of government regulation. Because at the front door, global warming won’t sell.  

Steyer’s anti-carbon crusade bags another win (sort of)

by Henry Payne

Detroit – On the heels of blocking the Keystone Pipeline, billionaire global warming activist Tom Steyer and his green allies celebrated another victory over the oil sands industry this summer when Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) denied Detroit Bulk Storage a permit to store pet coke downriver of Detroit. Pet coke is a carbon-rich, coal-like byproduct from Marathon Oil’s huge Detroit refinery which processes Canadian oil sands. The DEQ’s decision came on the heels of loud protests by greens and Steyer-funded Democratic Senate candidate Gary Peters.

But just as America’s fracking industry has succeeded in the face of an anti-carbon White House, the pet coke industry will not be denied.

Cheap carbon energy is the backbone of industrial nations. Just a few miles south of Bulk Storage’s loading docks, Michigan utility DTE Energy is burning Marathon’s pet coke in its Monroe coal power plant.

Just south of Michigan’s border, Port of Toledo’s Midwest Terminal is exporting Marathon’s pet coke to cement plants and coal utilities around the world.

“We’ve stored pet coke at this site for 12 years,” says Noel Frye who runs Bulk Storage as a family business with his brother, John. “Now Marathon’s pet coke business has gone out of state and to DTE.”

Standard for Democratic Big Government, the politicized pet coke market comes at a high price for the little guy.

Detroit Bulk Storage, with less than a million in annual revenue and a handful of full-time employees, has become a lightning rod for green activists. Besieged by complaints from Peters’ special interest allies, a Michigan DEQ spokesman said the agency had no choice but to take action against Bulk, even as its loading docks are surrounded by huge chemical and steel plants on Zug Island, in one the most heavily industrialized areas of Michigan.

“He’s fighting to stop putting special interests ahead of everyday folks,” boasts a Peters campaign ad. But his War on Carbon proves otherwise.

Though Bulk has stored identical-looking coal and pet coke at its facility without complaint for years, the DEQ determined that pet coke is dustier and therefore required different storage criteria.

The state’s compliance plan required that Bulk Storage erect a building to house the energy-rich substance – a massive expense for small Bulk Storage, not so much for a $10 billion utility.

DTE has met the requirements while laying low about its pet coke use in order to avoid negative media publicity. Democratic allies like The Detroit Free Press, New York Times, and Huffington Post have been a megaphone for the Green Church’s anti-carbon crusade. But with coal under assault from Washington, cheap pet coke helps utilities check energy inflation – a key to Michigan’s maintaining the heavy industry that is its economic base.

Funded by Steyer’s millions, Peters fancies himself an anti-oil sands activist.

Yet the expensive regulations he supports haven’t deterred its use. What he has deterred are small business jobs in a bankrupt city that needs more of them. 

EV Market on IV

by Henry Payne

Detroit – The headlines continue to trumpet the “electric cars of the future,” but the whisper in the auto community today is that the electric car revolution is sooooo 15 minutes ago.

Numbers from auto research firm find that, despite a record number of battery-powered models for sale, the hybrid-electric market is low on charge. Fifteen years after the launch of the iconic Toyota Prius, the electrified market has settled in as a niche occupied by well-to-do greens (helped by “populist” Democrats tax credits of up to $7,500 per purchase) instead of the promised gateway to a post-oil future.

“This was a market that was supposed to grow, relatively rapidly, as people embraced these new technologies and more brands began selling these models,” Edmunds senior analyst Jessica Caldwell told the Los Angeles Times. “That hasn’t happened.”

Indeed, hybrid sales (vehicles powered by battery-assisted gas engines) are declining as trendy greens have simply switched their purchases from hybrids to battery-only electrics. While the EV market gained 22,939 in sales (to 81,097) in August, the hybrid market declined by 23,112 (to 327,418).

As a result, the battery-powered vehicle market as a whole declined to 3.66 percent of cars sold — down from 3.84 a year ago.

Automakers have made huge bets on electrics as the answer to the Obama EPA’s radical (and unilateral) 54.5 mpg auto mandate by 2025. But with EVs on IV, manufacturers like Toyota and GM are reviving the idea of hydrogen vehicles — not because they will sell, but because they will help automakers gain big mpg “credits” against the law.

Toyota, for example, quietly abandoned its joint venture with media-darling Tesla earlier this year to make a battery-powered RAV4 crossover. Instead, Toyota is banking on hydrogen credits and its hybrid lineup to meet its 2025 obligations. Tesla remains the EV hope with its taxpayer-supported Nevada battery gigafactory and the promised 2017, $30k Model E.

Contrary to Democratic rhetoric, in other words, more Washington regs are benefiting the connected rich: Bigger loopholes carved by three-piece suit lobbyists and bigger tax credits for rich consumers and manufacturers.

Revolution? The new auto market sounds like the same old Beltway insider play.

Straight talk on coal

by Drew Thornley

Today’s Wall Street Journal has a little Q&A with Greg Boyce, CEO of Peabody Energy, the nation’s largest (by output) coal company. Here’s a portion of the interview:

WSJ: Can you improve the image of coal?

Mr. Boyce: Explain to everyone how much electricity today depends on coal. I mentioned to folks here in the U.S. that we still get 42% of our electricity on coal. And they say, “Wait a minute. I thought we stopped using coal.”

WSJ: What do you say to people who say coal is dirty?

Mr. Boyce: Since 1970, coal use has increased almost 200%, yet the emissions from coal have been reduced by almost 90%. Technology has reduced what used to be the standard emissions for coal—sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, mercury and particulates—so the next wave of technology is what do we do to try to decarbonize and try to reduce the CO2 from coal.

WSJ: But what if Americans are willing to pay more for clean energy?

Mr. Boyce: We have 115 million U.S. citizens that qualify for some kind of low-income energy assistance. We already have a third of the population that can’t afford their utility bills. If there are people who want to use boutique and high-priced energy and can afford it, that’s great. But many people can’t even afford what we already have.

WSJ: Does the Obama administration really have a “war on coal,” as many in the coal industry allege?

Mr. Boyce: They just don’t like fossil fuels. But there are no replacements for fossil fuels at scale, at affordability. [The Environmental Protection Agency said there was no war on any fossil fuel. "We see coal continuing to be a third of our energy mix after these rules are implemented," a spokeswoman said.]

WSJ: The EPA has proposed rules to curb climate change by drastically cutting power-plant CO2 emissions. How will that affect you?

Mr. Boyce: It’s too early to tell. All I know is just about everybody doesn’t like them.Many states have already passed some kind of resolution or law saying, “Hey these aren’t going to work for us.” About 80% of U.S. businesses are saying this doesn’t make sense. The devastation in terms of electricity rates will not be tolerable.

Remember When Billionaire Tom Steyer Was Going to Affect the 2014 Elections?

by NRO Staff

His plan to spread climate alarmism is going too well. The National Legal and Policy Center reports:

Billionaire enviro-liberal Tom Steyer should thank his earth-healing, universalist, Less-Than-Supreme Being that the planet’s survival isn’t dependent on his business influence or political expenditures, because they have been massive flops.

Take, for example, “Risky Business,” his venture (along with figureheads Henry Paulson and Michael Bloomberg) introduced in late June to pressure businesses, investors and policymakers to account for vast planning costs for impending global warming effects in their financial reports. Initial media coverage of the contrived project made it appear that it would exert major influence in the corporate world. But while the scheme attempted to show intellectual rigor and nonpartisan analysis, Risky Business was easily revealed to be nothing more than another deeply biased construction to drive a political agenda.

A month after its introduction – accompanied by a New York Times op-ed by Paulson and interviews by Steyer and Bloomberg – and Risky Business was already fizzling. Now, two months later, it appears to be evaporating into irrelevance.

Steyer utilizes the staff from his nonprofit Next Generation to keep Risky Business alive and relevant, but the Web site has quickly gone dormant. The project’s blog featured just three posts in the month of July, when you’d think Steyer would want the big bucks he spent to create the report to get the most bang. Worse, the entries were nothing original – just links to op-eds written by Risky Business “risk committee” members Henry Cisneros,Robert Rubin and Donna Shalala.

And the money he promised to raise to help Dems in 2014 is missing in action as well:

So that’s Steyer’s business effort – what about his campaign activism? There also we find weaknesses in influence and credibility. As NLPC mentioned a month ago, he pledged to raise $50 million from other donors to match his own $50 million in contributions to climate-conscious Democrat candidates, via his NextGen Climate Action Committee. Politico reported two weeks ago that only $1.7 million has come in, compared to the $11.6 million Steyer has delivered so far. The feeble response is illustrative more of an egomaniac with significantly more bluster than political muscle, but Steyer had an explanation.

“We have gotten a lot of people who I think would put in money alongside us as opposed to through us,” Steyer said at a conference in Aspen, Colo. “Because I think people like — particularly people when they think they’re spending a lot of money — like to feel as if they have some control over it, and if it’s their effort.”

That’s baloney, as there are PACs all over the place for wealthy liberals to give their money to – and they do. But they’re not giving it to NextGen.

The whole thing here.


Tesla Chooses Nevada for its $5 Billion Battery Plant

Hey, Why Don’t We Just Suck the CO2 Out of the Air and Use It?

by Greg Pollowitz


Global industrialization has poured carbon in the sky, and now we must pay the price: the nasty specter of climate change, with its sinking islands and superstorms. But what if we could bring some of that carbon dioxide back down to earth?

Direct air capture (DAC) is the scooping of carbon from the sky. Unlike traditional carbon capture and storage, DAC doesn’t try to simply capture carbon from chimneys and factory flues; instead it scoops carbon directly from the atmosphere, no intermediate steps necessary. Better yet, the most sophisticated DAC plants don’t even need much electricity to function—they run on excess heat produced by other industrial processes. The temperatures needed to capture a ton of atmospheric carbon dioxide are “less than what is needed to boil your cup of tea,” says Graciela Chichilnisky, founder of direct air capture company Global Thermostat.

The CO2 removed from the air by plants like Chichilnisky’s has a variety of applications: It can be frozen into dry ice, introduced to greenhouses as plant food, used to carbonate beverages and even injected into oil wells in a process known as “enhanced oil recovery.”

“A lot of demand for CO2 is unmet,” says Chichilnisky. “In fact there’s a market for it that exceeds one trillion dollars per year.”

Companies like Chichilnisky’s want to profit from this unmet demand, an aggressive example of doing well while doing good. Global Thermostat’s pilot plant at the Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, California, has been profitable since construction finished, says Chichilnisky: The cost of producing compressed carbon dioxide via direct air capture is “minuscule” compared to compressed CO2’s sale price. Now she wants to build plants elsewhere, using the excess heat from power plants and foundries. “If the technology shows the way to be profitable is by cleaning up the atmosphere then this will be the strongest motivation for the world to attack climate change.”

The rest here.

Climate and Fracking Alarmism Meets Geologic Realism

by Greg Pollowitz

We read a lot about how climate change might hurt Napa’s wine industry and we read a lot about how fracking might cause earthquakes in California, but it looks like businesses in Northern California were not prepared for the certainty of an earthquake caused by the natural process of plate tectonics.

For example, here’s the damage at Bouchaine Vineyards via the Washington Post:

I grew up in California. Every bookcase was secured to a wall and we were never allowed to hang as much as a picture over our beds lest they get disturbed by even a minor earthquake. 

Not all businesses were so unprepared, however. Via the Los Angeles Times:

Duncan of Silver Oak said his main storage room, where hundreds of barrels are kept, was largely unharmed. He was able to salvage three barrels that fell to the ground and leaked.

“We had a fire in 2006, so we rebuilt things to withstand an earthquake,” Duncan said. “It worked very well.”

In the next few weeks, the shock of what happened in Napa will wear off and the enviros will be back in the news pitching their apocalyptic climate scenarios. And as we’ve just seen, California is not fully prepared for the real risks the state faces, and that is truly alarming. 



People Ignore Climate Scientists Because They’re Not Enough Like the Kardashians?

by Greg Pollowitz

Georgia Tech climatologist Judith Curry thinks scientists need to get better at social media to make an impact on what the public thinks about global warming. Via You’ve also talked about the “Kardashian Factor” … Can you expand on this?

Judith Curry: The Kardashian Factor relates to a scientist’s impact in social media. There is a growing disconnect between scientists who impact within the ivory tower, as measured by publications and citations, versus those scientists that are tweeting and blogging. While some of the smartest people on the planet are university professors, most of them simply don’t matter in today’s great debates. The use of the term ‘Kardashian Factor’ is designed to marginalize social media impact as shallow popularity.

Social media is changing the world, and academia hasn’t quite figured out what to do about it. On issues relevant to public debate, social media is rivaling published academic research in its impact. Social media is leveling the playing field and democratizing science. The skills required to be successful in social media include good writing/communication skills and the abilities to synthesize, integrate, and provide context. Those who are most successful at social media also have a sense of humor and can connect to broader cultural issues – they also develop a trustworthy persona. These are non-trivial skills, and they are general traits of people that have impact.

So, why do I do spend a lot of my time engaging with the public via social media? I’m interested in exploring social media as a tool for engaging with the public, group learning, exploring the science-policy interface, and pondering the many dimensions of the wicked climate problem. I would like to contribute to the public debate and support policy deliberations, I would like to educate a broader and larger group of people, and finally I would like to learn from people outside the group of my academic peers (and social media is a great way to network). I am trying to provoke people to think outside the box of their own comfort zone on the complex subject of climate change.

The whole interview here.

The problem is scientists and climate activists are already active on social media. For Neil deGrasse Tyson has over 2 million followers on Twitter; Bill Nye has over 1.6 million. They even took the social-media equivalent of a peer-reviewed paper — a selfie — with the president:

But if Tyson and “The Science Guy” — the Kim and Kourtney of science Twitter accounts – can’t change the debate, Curry and her 2,700 followers on Twitter won’t do much. As for Curry’s claim that she is “engaging with the public via social media,” I don’t see much evidence of it. Here are here recent tweets, none of which show any engagement with her readers. You can love or hate the third Kardashian of science, Richard Dawkins, but you can’t say he doesn’t get into a dialog with followers, i.e., here’s Dawkins going back and forth with many, many people angered by his recent tweets on abortion. But Dawkins didn’t change anybody’s mind even with his high level of engagement.

Yes, social media is important, but it’s important because it’s a medium to deliver to people the content they want to read, not to deliver the content that you want them to read. 



Science: ‘Unexpected’ Link Between the Sun and Cold Temperatures

by Greg Pollowitz

From Watts Up With That:

Lund University have published a reconstruction of solar activity vs snow accumulation in Greenland, which indicates a strong correlation between solar minima and a colder climate.

‘The study shows an unexpected link between solar activity and climate change,’ Dr Muscheler said in a press release.

‘It shows both that changes in solar activity are nothing new and that solar activity influences the climate, especially on a regional level. ‘Understanding these processes helps us to better forecast the climate in certain regions.’

According to the study abstract;

“We find that during the Last Glacial Maximum, solar minima correlate with more negative δ18O values of ice and are accompanied by increased snow accumulation and sea-salt input over central Greenland. We suggest that solar minima could have induced changes in the stratosphere that favour the development of high-pressure blocking systems located to the south of Greenland, as has been found in observations and model simulations for recent climate9, 10. We conclude that the mechanism behind solar forcing of regional climate change may have been similar under both modern and Last Glacial Maximum climate conditions.”

Dr. Muscheler emphasised that he does not believe that the sun is the main factor driving current global warming – but he does believe that climate modellers will have to pay more attention to the influence of the sun on climate change.

However, he warned that the sun was not the only factor in causing climate change.

‘Climate skeptics like to say sun is causing more global warming than we think but I don’t think so.

‘What our paper shows is we need to include all processes – greenhouses, the sun and so on, especially for local climates which is important of course.

The rest here.

Global Warming ‘Alarmists’ Should Embrace the Term

by Greg Pollowitz

They really think this will work. Eric Holthaus of Slate writes:

I’m sick of having to hide it, so here goes: I’m a climate change alarmist.

There, I said it. After years of fighting off Internet trolls and being ridiculed on Fox News for caring about the Earth and its inhabitants enough to make big changes to my life, I’ve had enough. It’s time that we climate change alarmists reclaim this dismissive term and defend ourselves.

Many of us have been lambasted for talking about the fundamental health of the planet. Climate scientist Kerry Emanuel has written “those interested in treating the issue as an objective problem in risk assessment and management are labeled ‘alarmists,’ a particularly infantile smear considering what is at stake.”

Now, I’m also an optimist. I’m convinced that humanity has the ability to tackle the problem and come to international agreement on how to do so in a fair way. It simply must happen. But for something so serious, it seems like there’s a general lack of alarm, a lack of emotion, and—to be blunt—a lack of ambition to act with the scale and urgency the issue requires.

Tragically, there’s a vast mismatch between our actions to date and what’s needed. This isn’t just another big environmental issue. When the ozone hole was discovered decades ago, the world got together and agreed to change the chemical used in making refrigerators cold. In hindsight, that seems incredibly easy compared to this. Climate change cuts to the core of who we are as a civilization and what kind of world we want to create for our kids. Perhaps understandably, that’s meant that a lot of smart people are really pessimistic about our future.

The rest here.