Saturday, November 19, 2016

President Trump and the Future of American Oil

Much to the delight of millions, and the utter dismay of millions more, Donald J. Trump is the President-elect President of the United States.  The likely implications for many areas of the country's economy require much exploration. 

As my two regular readers have noted, Sowell's Law Blog has favorite themes, including Global Warming (it is a non-issue), Nuclear Power (they are all uneconomic and unsafe), Energy Supplies (renewables are growing fast), Fresh Water (too much in many places, not enough in others), Legal Issues (science, technology, First Amendment, engineering, energy, and many others).  There are others, of course.   President Trump already has announced policies that will impact many of these. 

This article discusses one of the important areas of a Trump presidency: the use of a huge oil discovery in West Texas, the Wolfcamp shale oil, and domestic and foreign policy.  

(A big note up front:  Wolfcamp oil was discovered decades ago.  The technology for economically extracting the oil is fairly recent, with precision directional drilling (PDD) and hydraulic fracturing.   In fact, in 2013 an excellent article appeared in Oil and Gas Journal.  This means that President Obama must have known of the huge oil reserves at Wolfcamp, and did nothing with that information.) see link to OGJ article "Wolfcamp shale graduates to 'world class' play"

The oil in Wolfcamp is estimated at 20 billion to 50 billion barrels.   USGS announced last week that 20 billion barrels of oil exist in the "new" Wolfcamp reservoir.  

President-elect President Trump has stated that he will have more drilling and production of domestic oil, part of his plan to make the US energy-independent.   He also requires Mexico to stop illegal immigration and for Mexico to build a border wall on its northern border.   The Wolfcamp oil has a role in each of these.  

The US imports less oil now than in years past, with approximately 8 million BPD at present compared to 11 million BPD in 2005.  (US EIA weekly petroleum status report).   Total crude runs to refineries today is approximately double that, at 16.1 million BPD.   However, the recent imports from Middle Eastern countries were approximately 2 million BPD.   Mexico provides approximately 0.6 million BPD.  

It would not be difficult to stop imports from the Middle East, and produce that oil from Wolfcamp.  That would require 2 million BPD of Wolfcamp production above and beyond its present production.   The Wolfcamp oil would flow for more than 50 years at that rate.   However, stopping imports from Middle East region would have a significant impact on the world energy market.  The first result would be a large drop in crude oil price.   Oil producing nations would be most unhappy, if not furious.  Russia would be one of the furious ones.   However, oil importing nations would be very happy, if not ecstatic.  Those countries would include Japan, South Korea, China, India, Italy, France, and (soon) UK.  

As to Mexico, it would not be difficult to stop imports of Mexican oil (600,000 BPD as above) and use Wolfcamp oil instead.   The impact on Mexico's economy would be severe, potentially resulting in economic collapse and chaos.   President Trump could very easily require Mexico to build a wall in exchange for continued oil imports.  

The implications are numerous for having a huge oil reserve that the US could easily exploit.  Furthermore, the Wolfcamp oil is not the only such oil field in the US.  

These are very interesting times in which we live.   Very interesting. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California

copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Sun's Impact on Clouds via Cosmic Rays

NASA has an interesting article on, see link, which is copied and shown below.   

Key statement:  "Our latest measurements show that cosmic rays are intensifying, with an increase of more than 12% since 2015.  Why are cosmic rays intensifying? The main reason is the sun. Solar storm clouds such as coronal mass ejections (CMEs) sweep aside cosmic rays when they pass by Earth. During Solar Maximum, CMEs are abundant and cosmic rays are held at bay. Now, however, the solar cycle is swinging toward Solar Minimum, allowing cosmic rays to return."

"Cosmic Rays in the Atmosphere

: Sept. 29 2016 // Next Flight: Oct. 1, 2016
Sept. 20, 2016: Readers, thank you for your patience while we continue to develop this new section of We've been working to streamline our data reduction, allowing us to post results from balloon flights much more rapidly, and we have developed a new data product, shown here:
This plot displays radiation measurements not only in the stratosphere, but also at aviation altitudes. Dose rates are expressed as multiples of sea level. For instance, we see that boarding a plane that flies at 25,000 feet exposes passengers to dose rates ~10x higher than sea level. At 40,000 feet, the multiplier is closer to 50x. These measurements are made by our usual cosmic ray payload as it passes through aviation altitudes en route to the stratosphere over California.

What is this all about? Approximately once a week, and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus fly space weather balloons to the stratosphere over California. These balloons are equipped with radiation sensors that detect cosmic rays, a surprisingly "down to Earth" form of space weather. Cosmic rays can seed cloudstrigger lightning, and penetrate commercial airplanes. Furthermore, there are studies ( #1#2#3#4) linking cosmic rays with cardiac arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death in the general population. Our latest measurements show that cosmic rays are intensifying, with an increase of more than 12% since 2015:

Why are cosmic rays intensifying? The main reason is the sun. Solar storm clouds such as coronal mass ejections (CMEs) sweep aside cosmic rays when they pass by Earth. During Solar Maximum, CMEs are abundant and cosmic rays are held at bay. Now, however, the solar cycle is swinging toward Solar Minimum, allowing cosmic rays to return. (bold added) Another reason could be the weakening of Earth's magnetic field, which helps protect us from deep-space radiation.

The radiation sensors onboard our helium balloons detect X-rays and gamma-rays in the energy range 10 keV to 20 MeV. These energies span the range of medical X-ray machines and airport security scanners.

The data points in the graph above correspond to the peak of the Reneger-Pfotzer maximum, which lies about 67,000 feet above central California. When cosmic rays crash into Earth's atmosphere, they produce a spray of secondary particles that is most intense at the entrance to the stratosphere. Physicists Eric Reneger and Georg Pfotzer discovered the maximum using balloons in the 1930s and it is what we are measuring today."

Sowell comments:

The mainstream climate community, especially the IPCC, claims that man-made carbon dioxide (CO2) is responsible for the average climate warming over the past 100 years.  Especially, they make that claim for the last 25 years of the 20th century, from 1975 to 2000.  Since 2000, however, the warming has stopped, a feature that is known as "The Pause."    What is known now, from experiments in the CERN cloud chamber, is that cosmic rays do in fact cause clouds to form, and the sun's magnetic field weakens as the sunspot numbers decrease.  

Given the much weaker sunspot cycle presently, cycle 24, it is no surprise then that the Earth is cooling as more cosmic rays strike the atmosphere and produce more clouds.   It does not take much more cloud cover to change the precarious balance between slight warming and cooling.  

The data from above shows a 12 percent radiation increase in only 18 months.  

This is one to watch. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved.

Nuclear Plants Unreliable In A Hurricane - St. Lucie Shut Down

Subtitle:  St. Lucie Nuclear Plant Unreliable in a Hurricane

The recent flap in Australia that saw the state of South Australia suffer a grid blackout due to high winds prompted a storm of controversy over whether or not wind power, a renewable energy source, was to blame.   Of course, many of the anti-renewable crowd advocated for more nuclear power plants, saying they are reliable where wind power is not.    The irony is that here, half a world away in Florida, hurricane Matthew forced the St. Lucie nuclear power plant to shut down.   The story was given as: 

"St. Lucie Power Plant shut down because of Hurricane Matthew" --  see link to story 10/7/2016. 

From the article: "Federal rules require nuclear plants to be shut down at least one hour before hurricane winds hit the site, spokesman Peter Robbins said. FPL closed the Hutchinson Island plant at 11:15 a.m. and will reopen it after the category 4 storm is over. Its reopening might be delayed if access roads are blocked because rules require an evacuation route for a power plant to remain open, he said."   (note: FPL is Florida Power and Light; the St. Lucie nuclear plant is located on Hutchinson Island just south of Vero Beach, Florida)

For background, Hurricane Matthew was a category 4 that traveled northward as it remained offshore but brushed the entire eastern seaboard of Florida from October 5 through October 8, 2016.  Hurricane winds are sustained wind of 75 miles per hour or greater.   Wind speeds reported by the National Weather Service at Vero Beach, just 10 miles north of the St. Lucie nuclear plant, showed maximum sustained winds of 49 miles per hour at 3:53 a.m. on October 7, 2016.  Winds gradually increased to that point, then decreased steadily after.  Wind gusts were higher, as expected, with the highest at 74 miles per hour. 

It is also noteworthy that Florida reported more than 1 million customers lost power due to hurricane Matthew's winds.   Those were most likely the low-voltage lines, and not the high-voltage backbone of the grid.   This is crucial because an offline nuclear power plant consumes a great deal of electricity to run cooling systems and other critical systems to prevent a meltdown.   St. Lucie also has, by law, backup generation capability to supply power for a few hours when the grid cannot.  

The controversy over wind power continues.    It is clear, though, that nuclear power plants are not quite as reliable as the nuclear cheerleaders claim.    In this case, no one could know if Hurricane Matthew would veer westward and bring 74-mph and greater winds across St. Lucie nuclear plant.   As it turned out, no hurricane winds hit the nuclear plant.   Still, shutting it down as a precaution was the correct thing to do.   Nuclear plants pose a sufficient danger that it is much better to shut one down in a calm and orderly manner than to have a crash shutdown in the midst of a hurricane.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Renewable Energy Saves California from Grid Blackouts

Subtitle: Record-Setting Solar Power Reduces Natural Gas Demand

The peak summer heat is now ended in Southern California, indeed, a winter storm warning was issued for the central Sierra Nevada mountains.  One short and fairly mild heat wave occurred last weekend, with temperatures measured at Los Angeles (USC Campus)  reaching 104 degrees F for one day.  (see adjacent Figure 1).   The orange oval shows the period in which heat waves typically occur, this year only twice did temperatures break 100 degrees F.   The major conclusion is that zero blackouts occurred, because renewable power from solar PV, solar thermal, and wind turbines produced electricity at rates up to 10,000 MW throughout the summer. 

Figure 1  -  2016 year-to-date temperatures
at Los Angeles, California
As is well-known, officials have concern that grid instabilities or blackouts would occur this summer during heat waves, because the natural gas storage supply is much reduced due to the Aliso Canyon storage facility being out of operation.  

However, solar power and wind power need no natural gas, and provided power routinely through the summer.   Solar PV actually broke records for power production.    

The California grid has many efficient, combined-cycle gas turbine power plants with quick response capability to adjust their output when solar or wind output changes suddenly.    The state also imports some power from adjacent states, notably nuclear power from Arizona, hydroelectric from Nevada (Hoover Dam), and both wind and hydroelectric from Washington.    It is notable that long-distance transmission lines are required to ship the power into California.  It is also noteworthy that the adjacent states have surplus power to sell to California and do so profitably. 

Now that Fall and Winter are here or looming, the gas shortage continues due to Aliso Canyon's problems.   However, wind power increases in those seasons, which offsets the declining solar power production.    Next year will have even more solar power production as California installs even more PV power plants.   The state's renewable energy plan requires approximately 3,000 MW of renewables installed each year.  Almost all of that will be solar PV, since wind locations are essentially built out, and solar thermal has much worse economics. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California

copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Improved Solar Cell with Doubled Efficiency

It seems the breakthroughs just keep coming on the energy front, with this week's announcement "Columbia Chemists Find Key to Manufacturing More Efficient Solar Cells".  Columbia Professor of Chemistry Xiaoyang Zhu and his team developed a solar cell using Hybrid Organic Inorganic Perovskites (HOIPs). Their results were reported in the prestigious journal Science.  see link

The HOIP cell has 22 percent efficiency, but scientists see much higher possibilities with this material.  Efficiencies in the mid-40 percent range are expected. 

The material also has a lower cost of production compared to silicon wafers. 

This, too, is one to watch. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

CO2 Capture That Produces Electricity

Cornell Researchers Develop Process for CO2 Capture That Produces Electricity

Paper:  “The O2-assisted Al/CO2 electrochemical cell: A system for CO2 capture/conversion and electric power generation”, published in Science Advances.  Science Advances  20 Jul 2016: Vol. 2, no. 7, e1600968,  DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1600968  
see link to the paper. 

Cornell University Prof. Lynden Archer, chemical and biomolecular engineering, the James A. Friend Family Distinguished Professor of Engineering, and Wajdi Al Sadat, graduate student, have created a cell which can use carbon dioxide and aluminum to produce electricity via electrochemical reactions.

The warmist-alarmists continue to claim that carbon dioxide capture and removal from the atmosphere is vital to preventing runaway global warming and a host of civilization-ending catastrophes.  They conveniently ignore the facts of zero warming occurring in the past 18 years, even with their manipulated temperature measurements.  

But, enterprising engineers work on processes to capture carbon dioxide, CO2.  Some processes require energy input to create the chemical reactants, such as sodium hydroxide that is used in the Skyonic company's patented SkyMine process.   This development by Archer and Al Sadat actually produces electricity while capturing CO2.  

The paper's abstract:


Economical and efficient carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration technologies are a requirement for successful implementation of global action plans to reduce carbon emissions and to mitigate climate change. These technologies are also essential for longer-term use of fossil fuels while reducing the associated carbon footprint. We demonstrate an O2-assisted Al/CO2 electrochemical cell as a new approach to sequester CO2 emissions and, at the same time, to generate substantial amounts of electrical energy. We report on the fundamental principles that guide operations of these cells using multiple intrusive electrochemical and physical analytical methods, including chronopotentiometry, cyclic voltammetry, direct analysis in real-time mass spectrometry, energy-dispersive x-ray spectroscopy, x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, and coupled thermogravimetric analysis–Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. On this basis, we demonstrate that an electrochemical cell that uses metallic aluminum as anode and a carbon dioxide/oxygen gas mixture as the active material in the cathode provides a path toward electrochemical generation of a valuable (C2) species and electrical energy. Specifically, we show that the cell first reduces O2 at the cathode to form superoxide intermediates. Chemical reaction of the superoxide with CO2 sequesters the CO2 in the form of aluminum oxalate, Al2(C2O4)3, as the dominant product. On the basis of an analysis of the overall CO2 footprint, which considers emissions associated with the production of the aluminum anode and the CO2 captured/abated by the Al/CO2-O2 electrochemical cell, we conclude that the proposed process offers an important strategy for net reduction of CO2 emissions."

This is one to watch. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California

copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Hinkley Point C Nuclear Plant Approved - For Now

UK has given approval to build the controversial, and very costly, twin-reactor nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point C in the southwest of England. 

The plant is reported to cost $24 billion US, which will quickly escalate to more than $32 billion.  That brings the cost per kW to $10,000, and this in an era with very low interest rates for financing costs, and very low inflation for escalation. 

Proponents are claiming the plant will last for 60 years, but there is reason to doubt it will ever run at all.  The thick steel in the reactor heads has questionable toughness and may not be approved by regulators. 

 Stay tuned, sports fans.  The fiasco at Hinkley Point C is just beginning.   This blog will chronicle the sad, sorry saga.    Those will include, without doubt, cost over-runs, delays in construction, squabbling between designer, owner, builder, and regulators. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California

copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Driessen on Renewable Energy as Racism

Subtitle:  No Racism In Renewable Wind and Solar Power

Every week or so, I receive another article from Paul Driessen, Senior Policy Analyst for CFACT (Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow), and this week’s article has so many things wrong I take keyboard under fingers to respond.   Driessen exhorts recipients in his prelude to each article to post his article, quote from it, and forward it. 

This week’s article concludes, falsely, that renewable energy policies and increased renewable energy use are racist because they have, or will have, serious negative economic impacts on black people, who Driessen describes as poor people.   His statements are in quoted italics below, my responses in normal font. 

"Few if any developing nations will reduce their oil, natural gas or coal use anytime soon. That would be economic and political suicide."

This statement is about the Paris Agreement on climate change (see link), under which various nations strive to reduce their man-made carbon dioxide emissions to (they say) reduce global warming.    

What Driessen fails to grasp is that energy production and use world-wide is already undergoing a massive and permanent structural change.   This has precedent.   As but one example, oil use for power generation dropped dramatically in the late 1970s and 1980s after the oil price shocks and the Arab oil embargo.   Oil-burning power plants were replaced in many countries by nuclear power plants.  The US, Japan, France, and many other countries built nuclear and shut down the oil-fired plants.  

Developing nations, the subject of Driessen's article, almost always have severe limits on capital, the money needed for infrastructure and for on-going expenses.  Some of those on-going expenses include fuel for transportation, such as gasoline for cars and diesel for trucks, but also fuel for power generating plants.   With limited funds, it is crucial that developing nations obtain the best results for the money they do have.   That means smaller, more efficient cars.  It also means building the most cost-effective power plants.  

Driessen then says, 

"Meanwhile, the United States is shutting down its coal-fueled units. Under Obama’s treaty, the USA will be required to go even further, slashing its carbon dioxide emissions by 28% below 2005 levels by 2025. That will unleash energy, economic and environmental impacts far beyond what the Administration’s endless, baseless climate decrees are already imposing."

In this statement, it is false to call the Paris Agreement a treaty.  It is not, under US law.  A treaty must be ratified by the US Senate.   The Paris Agreement is a non-binding agreement among nations to try to do various things.   

It is true that the US is shutting down coal-fired power plants, however, the shutdowns are occurring because US pollution laws are finally imposed on such plants.   For decades, many coal-burning power plants in the US were exempted from air pollution regulations under the Clean Air Act.  No more.  Now, they must comply or shut down.   The plant owners are choosing to shut down.  (see link and this link to articles on SLB)

The power grids remain stable as coal-fired plants are closed, primarily because natural gas-fired plants are being built.  However, wind power and solar power are also being built in record numbers in the US.   These developments have important ramifications for developing nations.    

Burning natural gas for power produces far less carbon dioxide that does burning coal, for the same amount of electricity produced.  The ratio is approximately 2-to-1.  Having wind power and solar power in production, as their respective natural energy sources blow or shine, further reduces carbon dioxide emissions.  

The simple and orderly change-over from coal burning to natural gas with renewables will easily reduce carbon dioxide emissions by much more than 28 percent that Driessen mentions.   

The important point, though, is that electric power prices will not increase, indeed, they remain stable or decrease as coal-burning plants are closed. 

"Wind turbines, photovoltaic solar arrays and their interminable transmission lines already blanket millions of acres of farmland and wildlife habitats. They kill millions of birds and bats (but are exempt from endangered species laws), to provide expensive, subsidized, unreliable electricity. Expanding wind, solar and biofuel programs to reach the 28% CO2 reduction target would increase these impacts exponentially."

Here, Driessen shows his bias against wind power and solar PV plants.   This is the common cry of the anti-renewable crowd, the death of birds.  The fact is that many more millions of birds are killed each year by artificial structures than do wind turbines.  Solar PV plants do not kill any birds nor bats, to the best of my knowledge and research.   Yet, anti-renewable advocates refuse to admit what US Fish and Game experts report: renewable power plants have had zero impact on species populations.  

Driessen also seems unhappy over power transmission lines being added as renewable power plants are built.  One has to be happy that his mind-set did not prevail back when electricity was being expanded across the country, many decades ago.  

He then rants about expensive, subsidized, unreliable electricity.    Perhaps Driessen would like to point out any electricity rates that are outrageously priced in Iowa, Kansas, Texas, or even California that can be attributed to wind power or solar power.   The answer is, he cannot because there are no high prices due to renewables.    What is indisputable is that solar power and wind power allow utilities to run more efficient power plants, not the horribly expensive peaker power plants with simple cycle gas turbines.  

As to subsidized electricity from wind and solar, this is no different from almost every form of power generation in the US.  Subsidies, and in some cases almost full subsidies, exist for nuclear, coal, hydroelectric, and geothermal power production.   One must wonder why Driessen does not object to subsidies for those forms of power generation. 

The last claim is that electricity is unreliable when it is from renewable sources.   Again, Driessen cannot point to any grid in the US that has reliability issues due to wind power or solar power.   They simply do not exist.  Grid operators are well-aware of the wind conditions and sunshine conditions, and operate load-following power plants quite effectively to compensate for any changes in wind and sunshine. 

"This racism is the sneaky, subtle, green variety: of government policies that inflict their worst impacts on the poorest among us, huge numbers of them minorities."  

Here, Driessen equates renewable energy production and the policies that encourage it to racism.   That is despicable, playing the race card.  There are plenty of issues in which race is a valid issue, but this is not one of them.   For one thing, where utility prices are increased, and where any poor people are impacted, government in the US has subsidy programs for the poor, based on demonstrated need.   

For another, when coal runs out, as it certainly will at present consumption rates within 20 years in the US, there must be power plants installed and running to keep the lights on.  The alternative, to blindly keep burning coal until one day there is no more and the power grids fail, is simply not tenable.  There won't be just poor people impacted, everyone will be impacted.  

"In the Real World, soaring energy prices mean poor families cannot afford adequate heating and air conditioning, cannot save or afford proper nutrition, and must rely on schools, hospitals and businesses whose energy costs are also climbing – bringing higher prices, reduced services and lost jobs."

Here, Driessen finally gets something right, but it is not renewable energy that should be the target of his ire.   That same sentence, almost verbatim, is what I wrote about nuclear power plants, if they become a major supplier of world electricity.  see link to my article "Preposterous Power Pricing if Nuclear Power Proponents Prevail"

Renewable power from wind, and from solar, have negligible impacts on electricity prices in the US, even at penetrations of 30 percent as shown in Iowa.   The impacts on prices will be even smaller in the very near future, as low-cost grid-scale storage batteries are installed to allow utilities to stop running those horribly expensive simple-cycle peaker power plants mentioned just above. 


I agree with Driessen on one thing, and that is there is zero global warming due to carbon dioxide and no reason to curb fuel consumption to stop global warming.  That is a false issue.   

The real issue, though, is running out of coal world-wide in a couple of decades in the US, and within 50 years worldwide.  Coal provides 40 to 50 percent of all electric power worldwide, and that must be replaced long before the coal runs out.  Nuclear cannot do the job, and there is not enough hydroelectric power nor geothermal resources to replace coal.  The only viable option is natural gas with wind power and solar power where the wind and sunshine resources are sufficient.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California

copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

US Accelerates Offshore Wind Power Development

Subtitle:  Government accelerates offshore wind development in United States.
Offshore wind power is a very much-needed energy source. It is Clean, renewable, affordable, reliable, and domestic. It Meets all four legal critieria for grid-electricity: safe, reliable, affordable, clean enough to meet all environmental regulations.
“Today at the Wind Technology Testing Center in Boston, Massachusetts, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz was joined by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Deputy Assistant to President Obama for Energy and Climate Change Dan Utech to announce a new strategic plan to accelerate the development of offshore wind energy in the United States. The National Offshore Wind Strategy: Facilitating the Development of the Offshore Wind Industry in the United States provides a snapshot of the current state of the industry, refinements in resource assessment and cost reduction trajectories, and a roadmap for how the agencies can support the industry’s future growth and success. Four technical reports that helped to inform the National Offshore Wind Strategy were also released today, one of which provides a detailed assessment of the resource potential for offshore wind off U.S. coasts and is featured on the EERE blog.”
Link to the National Offshore Wind Strategy report is at this link.
Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Nuclear Radiation Illness in Japan after Fukushima Dai-Ichi Meltdowns

Subtitle:  Are Children Cancer-Free With Nuclear Plants Shut Down?

A couple of years ago, June 2014, I wrote article 19 of the Truth About Nuclear Power series, titled "Nuclear Radiation Injures People and Other Living Things."  see link.   One of the references in article 19 is the study on cancer incidence in the population surrounding
California's Rancho Seco nuclear power plant that was shut down in June of 1989.  The rate of cancers dropped significantly in the years following the plant's shutdown.   see link to Mangano and Sherman study: 

Biomedicine International, 2013, 4: 12-25, "Long-term Local Cancer Reductions Following Nuclear Plant Shutdown," authors Joseph J. Mangano, Janette D. Sherman, Radiation and Public Health Project, New York, NY, USA

It is time that similar studies be conducted near reactors that have been shut down, not only in the US but in other countries.  Japan, for example, has multiple reactors not operating for more than 5 years after the Fukushima Dai-Ichi meltdowns in March, 2011.    Germany shut down 8 reactors after the Japanese disaster. 

It is time to see what the modern data shows us, whether the people of Sacramento, California are alone in enjoying better health and fewer cancer diagnoses, or millions of people around the world are also enjoying better lives.    Sufficient time has passed, the data is there if we but find it, analyze it, and report it.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

California Worst Drought Ever - Myth or Fact

Subtitle: Current Drought is Short and Not Severe Compared to Past

Update 9/5/2016:  Added the NOAA precipitation chart showing droughts. -- end update

One of the cornerstones of the present mantra in California government circles is that man-made global warming has created the current drought conditions.   In fact, language in some California laws and bills that may become law include such statements.  An example is given below.

The following quote is from a bill in the California legislature, SB 1161, from Section 2 paragraph 10.  The bill has the following over-the-top title, "California Climate Science Truth and Accountability Act of 2016."  (this is nothing, really, as California about a decade ago passed a real whopper, the "California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.")

"(10) Climate change has been tied by scientists to the severity and intensity of the historically unprecedented and costly drought that California has been experiencing since 2011 that has resulted in communities running out of water, agricultural water cutbacks, and unprecedented groundwater use that has caused subsidence and a loss of storage capacity in the state’s critical aquifers."   (emphasis added)

It is unclear if the Legislature, in this case the California Senate, knows what they are talking about in terms of climate change, man-made global warming, and drought.   For example, the underlined section above mentions three things:

1  historically unprecedented drought
2  costly drought
3  that has existed since 2011. 

These claims are examined against the evidence, below. 

Figure 1, source:  USGS 
The link for Figure 1 is available here.   Figure 1 has a red bar added to indicate the runoff for water year 2016, still in progress until September 30, 2016.    

Point 1 - Historically Unprecedented Drought

It is a trick of statistics to use a running average (the gold line in Figure 1) that drops near the end as this does in 2014-2015.  As can be seen in the 1977 year, and also in 1923, the running average climbs back up when subsequent years are included.   

Another point that is evident from Figure 1 is that the drought from 1917 through 1933 was much longer in duration and much more severe than that of the past 4 years. 

Also, the eight years from 1986 through 1994 had only 2 years with more than 5 inches of runoff, compared to the current drought of 4 years. 

Figure 2 - California Precipitation 1919 - 1998, source NOAA
Also, from Figure 2 above, multi-year droughts are shown in red ovals for the 1930s, late 1940s, and late 1980s.  Another important point from NOAA's data is the long-term trend of precipitation is quite positive, at +5.6 inches per century over the period shown. 

I show this with the deliberate purpose of copying what climate scientists do when they want to deceive the public.  The data in Figure 2 starts in a drought and ends in a wet period, which forces the linear trend to be positive.   If one uses the entire record from 1890 to 2016, a slight negative trend is obtained.  

Thus, it can be seen that the first point is false, this drought since 2011 is certainly not an historically unprecedented drought.  In fact, this drought may already be over. 

Point 2 - Costly Drought

This current short-term and not very severe drought is costly only because the California population has grown over the years, and more importantly, the state water managers and policy makers have failed to provide adequate water storage.  This is much like a family of four, Mom and Dad plus two small children, sitting down at the table to eat a roast chicken.  There is plenty to go around.  But, when friends and neighbors are also seated around the table, one roast chicken is simply not enough.   I wrote on this earlier on SLB, the Us Four and No More article  see link.   The evidence is quite clear that California long-term goals are to limit population growth, and have population decline.  Limiting water availability is a sure way to accomplish that.

Meanwhile, there are substantial costs to those that run out of water and must pay dearly for imported water, sometimes by truck. 

Point 3 - Drought Has Existed Since 2011

As above, Figure 1 shows the current drought is minor and short compared to earlier droughts.  

Man-made Climate Change As Cause of Drought

The evidence is quite clear that any increase in CO2 in the atmosphere from man's consumption of fossil fuels could not have had any impact on the severe drought in the 1920s.   It is false to claim that today's minor drought is due to man-made CO2.

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved. 

Aliso Canyon and Duck Curve Demand in SoCal

Subtitle:  California is very fortunate with a mild Summer thus far

An interesting article from 29 August, 2016 in the Ventura (CA) Star newspaper, on the issue of natural gas shortage and its impact on electricity production in California.  SLB has had several articles on this, links here.  

The journalist, Tom Elias, takes the position that the entire threat of blackouts was false, and states it was "a lie" and "a bunch of hooey."

The Star article is "Blackout threats exposed as power stays on"  see link 

Mr. Elias is wrong.  

I left a short comment on his article, shown below:

"Daily consumption of natural gas is not the proper metric. Peak demand for fuel to gas-fired power plants occurs on an hourly, and sometimes shorter basis. 

The important concern is the ability to rapidly ramp up the natural gas-fired plants in the late afternoon, typically between 5 and 7 pm. 

A case on point is from Saturday, September 3, 2016 when CAISO reports the total production, excluding wind and solar, increased almost 3,300 MW in the one-hour period 18:00 to 19:00 hours (6 to 7 pm).   [Update 5 Sept 2016:  yesterday, 4 Sept 2016, the duck curve ramping rate reached 3,700 MW in the same 6 to 7 pm hour.  graphics shown below. -- end update]

For those who want to understand more on this issue, search for "duck curve" and CAISO. Plenty has been written."   -- end of Sowell comment 

A bit more discussion is probably in order. 

There are at least two ways that a shortage of natural gas can occur in the region: sustained high demand for electricity such as in a heat wave that lasts for days, and a rapid increase in demand such as occurs daily when solar power production declines in the late afternoon. 

A combination of late afternoon, imported power curtailed for any reason, hydroelectric power not available (perhaps due to the ongoing drought), a high pressure system stalls over the state causing wind to decline or even stop, or an unplanned outage of high-efficiency combined-cycle gas turbine plants, will cause the hourly natural gas demand to surge. 

Thus far, September 4 of 2016, the state has had very good fortune in all those categories just mentioned.   No severe and prolonged heat waves happened.   We have a bit of water in the lakes so some hydropower is available.  

Nearby is a chart from CAISO, with my additions to illustrate the point. The green line, known as the "duck's belly and neck" is the total load less wind and solar power.  The portion circled in red shows the greatest change in that load, over a one-hour period.  To my knowledge, that 3.3 GW increase in one hour on 3 Sept 2016 is the highest to date on the CAISO grid.  

The rate of change in the late afternoon, or ramping rate, is one of the chief concerns of planners and state agencies.   As more and more solar power is added to the grid, that ramping rate will also increase.  

And for the nuclear cheerleaders, I note here that adding nuclear power to the grid will not alleviate this problem.  

So, Mr. Elias is wrong.  We do need natural gas storage, if not from Aliso Canyon then from other sources.  We have been very fortunate thus far in California.   The weather has been unusually cool and mild so far this summer.  However, September is the month that usually has the highest temperatures and we can expect at least one prolonged heat wave. 

Update 5 Sept 2016:  more recent duck curve ramping rates.   Sunday, 4 Sept 2016 shows 3,700 MW ramping rate from 18:00 to 19:00 hours.  See areas outlined in red below. -- end update

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell - all rights reserved 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

US Nuclear Reactors Shutdown - Years Operating Lifetime

This post is a simple table of the US nuclear reactors that have been shut down thus far, sorted by the number of years operated, from shortest life to longest.   Updated, added a graph showing age at retirement. - 8/7/2017

There is a mistaken belief, and many false statements by nuclear cheerleaders that nuclear reactors last for 60 years.  The fact is that very, very few make it to their design life of 40 years.   Data is from US NRC website. 

     Reactor Name      State      Years    Operated
1 Three Mile Island 2 PA                       0.93
2 Pathfinder SD                       1.19
3 Shoreham NY                       2.99
4 Saxton PA                       5.00
5 GE Valecitos CA                       6.27
6 Fermi 1 MI                       6.32
7 Peach Bottom 1 PA                       7.76
8 Indian Point-1 NY                     12.12
9 N.S. Savannah VA                     12.47
10 Fort St. Vrain CO                     12.71
11 Humboldt Bay 3 CA                     13.21
12 Rancho Seco 1 CA                     14.65
13 Trojan OR                     16.88
14 Dresden 1 IL                     18.49
15 La Crosse WI                     19.01
16 Zion 2 IL                     24.02
17 Zion 1 IL                     24.68
18 Maine Yankee ME                     24.73
19 San Onofre 1 CA                     25.38
20 Millstone 1 CT                     27.59
21 Yankee-Rowe MA                     27.77
22 San Onofre 2 CA                     29.00
23 Haddam Neck CT                     29.33
24 San Onofre 3 CA                     30.00
25 Big Rock Point MI                     34.72

   26      Fort Calhoun                     NE                  43.17

   27       Crystal River 3                   FL                   32.5

   28       Vermont Yankee                  VT                  42.1

Figure 1.   US Reactors Shown by Age at Retirement
1 is Three Mile Island 2  - source: Data from NRC  - graph by R. Sowell
omits Savannah, a ship

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2016-2017 by Roger Sowell - all rights reserved