Saturday, February 27, 2016

Norway Buys Wind Turbines from Vestas total 1 GW

Subtitle: Wind Business Is Booming In Norway

"23 February 2016, Vestas has received a firm and unconditional order for 278 wind turbines totaling 1001 MW, from Fosen Vind DA in Norway. The 1 GW order . . .  includes 248 units of Vestas’ V117-3.45 MW and 30 units V112-3.45 MW turbines, all with power optimised mode to 3.6 MW. . . .  The contract includes supply, installation and commissioning of the wind turbines as well as a two-year customised, full-scope service agreement, followed by a 20-year service and support agreement. Delivery of the first turbines is planned to take place in second quarter of 2018, with commissioning of the last wind power plant expected in fourth quarter of 2020."  -- see link to Vestas announcement

These wind turbines are the HAWT, horizontal axis wind turbines with three blades each.  The blades' swept diameter is 117 meters for the V117 and is 112 meters for the V112 units (383 feet and 367 feet).

Transaction price is not stated, but is likely $1 to $1.5 billion.  

Norway's annual average wind turbine capacity factor is reported as approximately 31 percent, therefore these turbines can be expected to produce 310 MW, combined, on average.  

It remains to be seen how much time will pass before Norway installs load-following sub-sea energy storage systems such as those proposed by MIT.  Total output is reduced by approximately 20 percent, but power is produced when it is needed.  

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

Copyright © 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved

Sunday, February 21, 2016

False Ideas from Non-Engineers

Subtitle:  For National Engineers Week - Some Whoppers

Many, many false or wrong statements are made on so many internet sites that it is impossible to keep track.  And not only on the internet, but in journals, magazines, books, radio broadcasts, TV, the list is endless.   This article is a place where I list and briefly discuss some of the whoppers I have encountered.  These are in no particular order.  

There seems to be a serious lack of scientific understanding (valid science, not BS or Bad Science), engineering fundamentals, economic realities, and undesirable consequences in those who write such things.   

It does not seem to matter what the topic is, climate change, nuclear power, fresh water, renewable energy, city congestion, environmental regulations, there seem to be so-called experts that are completely wrong.   This is a serious problem when elected officials and appointed agency heads are called upon to make decisions, sometimes important policy decisions, based on the presentations and testimony that is completely wrong. 

Part of the problem is that many organizations and individuals have agendas and will pick only the facts, or portions of the truth that support their agenda.  In other cases, the wrong statements are the result of not knowing any better.   In other cases, the wrong statements are advanced even though the speaker has been advised that he or she is wrong, but the truth requires the speaker to admit she or he is wrong and that is too much for the speaker to bear.  
  1. HSR is good (High Speed Rail)
  2. Elevated highways are a good way to ease congestion
  3. Vacuum tube HSR is good
  4. Mars colony is good
  5. Man is overheating Earth by fossil fuel use
  6. Nuclear power is cheap
  7. Running out of oil
  8. Fracking is bad
  9. Fracking is new
  10. CO2 settles to bottom of atmosphere
  11. Can only obtain correct slope of sinusoidal shape by connecting peaks or valleys
  12. Grid power is cheapest --  nope, cogeneration
  13. Wind power makes zero contribution to a grid 
  14. Wind and solar power increases CO2 emissions
  15. Australia SA can install profitable nuclear plants
  16. Too few oil refineries exist, must build more
  17. Fuel cell cars are economic
  18. H2 to fuel cell cars is cheap, more efficient than gasoline
  19. Electric trucks are economic
  20. Steel won't melt (Hollywood star)
  21. World is running out of fresh water
  22. All-nuclear grid will have cheapest power
  23. Nuclear plants cost only $4000 per kW to build
  24. H2 from nuclear power plants using 2 cents per kWh
  25. Electric airplanes are the future of air transportation
  26. Wind turbines in US yield 15 percent return on investment
  27. The world is running out of copper (or any other mineral one cares to name)
  28. Plutonium 238 is an ideal energy source for Africa (WUWT article Feb 2016)
  29. Los Angeles River as a river-walk, like San Antonio in Texas. 
  30. Electric cars cost $325 per kWh to recharge their batteries (3-7-2016)  (no, that's not a typo.   The writer actually published that, as if it is a fact)
  31. Nuclear plants run at 100 percent capacity factor (oh sheesh, what a lie...)
HSR is good (High Speed Rail)  --  Recognizing that HSR aready exists in some countries, EU, Japan, China, and a debate continues over HSR in the US.  California has approved HSR but is mired in financing and legal troubles.   The reality in California is that time is valuable and HSR simply takes too long to make the trip from Los Angeles in the south to the Bay Area in the north.   The cost to build is too high, the revenue from too few riders will be too low, and the system will be just another sinkhole for public money.    One of the idiotic decisions for California's HSR is the multiple stops in the Los Angeles area, and more stops in the Bay Area.  

Elevated highways are a good way to ease congestion --  this one came from a conversation with another attorney, with an electrical background.  He should have known better.  The idea he supported is double-decker highways in all locations, to provide more lanes for traffic and secondarily to preserve the adjacent land.   The fact is that elevated highways are extremely expensive and are used only in very limited circumstances.   Congestion in traffic systems can be reduced in several ways, including but not limited to carpool lanes, contra-flow lanes, staggered business hours, prohibitions on large trucks during peak commuting times, control of vehicles entering a freeway, light rail passenger transport, among others.  

Vacuum tube HSR is good --  this one was recently proposed by Elon Musk, billionaire businessman, although it has been tossed around for many decades.  The idea is to build a long airtight tube, install train rails inside the tube, evacuate the air from inside the tube, insert a train, and run the train at high speeds.  The absence of air eliminates friction or drag (the technical term) so the train uses less energy for a given speed, or can go much faster for a given energy consumption.   One supposes that proponents of VHSR (vacuum high speed rail) have solutions to the very serious and numerous problems.  First, the cost to build, operate, and maintain.  Second, the consequences of train wrecks at very high speeds, then more dire consequences of train wrecks that cause the air inside the passenger car to escape explosively into the vacuum in the tube.  Picture quick but agonizing death from lack of air.    In some designs the tube is elevated above the ground, in others the tube is placed underground.   Both designs have very high costs and maintenance issues.  

Mars colony is good --  this one has its own article on SLB, citing NASA, MIT, and other information.  see link.  Overwhelming technical problems, other than breathable air and drinkable water, include the native soil is likely poisonous to plant life; radiation at the surface is deadly, plus the radiation penetrates as much as 3 feet into the surface; the atmosphere is too thin to effectively burn up meteors, the long journey from Earth to Mars requires prospective colonists to endure strong, inter-planetary radiation that also can and likely will destroy any plant seeds, tremendous dust clouds that obscure the sun for weeks or months on end, and the abrasive effect of dust storms on solar photo-voltaic systems, the adverse impact on mechanical systems and especially their lubricants from fine dust found on Mars, the lack of spare parts, and a small colony has a small gene pool therefore children will quickly become inbred.   

Man is overheating Earth by fossil fuel use --  this one has numerous articles on SLB already.  The most effective evidence for no man-made warming is the data from NOAA's US Climate Reference Network (USCRN) that is located only in pristine areas across the US.  see link  to "US In A Cooling Trend - Winters Much Colder."  This USCRN data is uncontaminated by urban heat islands and other artificial influences that corrupt the longer-lived databases on which the false-alarmism is based.  In a period during which false-alarmists insist the Earth is overheating, the past decade, the USCRN data shows a pronounced cooling trend.  In addition, satellite and atmospheric balloon data shows no alarming trend upward, indeed, there is barely any upward trend at all.   Also see link to "Warmists are Wrong; Cooling is Coming," my well-received speech from April 2012 on the false-alarmism of man-made global warming.  (Note, this article Warmists are Wrong... is the most-read article on all of SLB at this time)  also see link  and see link  to other highly-viewed articles on SLB on the same subject. 

Nuclear power is cheap  --  this one has been refuted numerous times on SLB, as part of the 30-article series Truth About Nuclear Power.  see link and see link for just two of the many articles:  "Preposterous Power Pricing if Nuclear Proponents Prevail"  and "Nuclear Power Plants Cost Far Too Much to Construct"  With operating and maintenance costs of 3 or 4 cents per kWh, and capital asset payments another 25 cents per kWh due to the high costs of construction, inflation on construction materials and labor, plus interest on construction loans that accumulates for a decade or more.  Several authoritative sources conclude that nuclear power plants must charge 25 to 35 cents per kWh to justify building the plant: California Energy Commission, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and C. Severance.    In fact, even older, paid-for nuclear plants are closing because they just cannot sell power profitably in the US, see e.g. link to "Nuclear Power Plants Cannot Compete"  The situation is so bad that local legislative bodies whine about loss of jobs and cry for new legislation for yet more subsidies to keep the doomed reactors running.   The state of Illinois is but one of those, see link above to "Nuclear Power Plants Cannot Compete."

Running out of oil -- this one was very common a few years ago, but recently has dropped off in frequency as the national and world news is replete with stories of falling oil prices due to a production glut.  So-called experts are trotted out and give their opinions on what will happen next.  Oil scarcity was the subject of a speech I made in 2012 (see link to "Peak Oil and US Energy Policy") as one of three panelists at Tulane Law School in New Orleans.  I was the only panelist to take the position that there is plenty of oil.  The other two speakers apparently had not seen the data that I presented.   So, how could the best experts conclude that the world is running out of oil back in the 1970s, yet be so very wrong that today there is a huge surplus of oil?   The answer lies in part of what I refer to on SLB and my speeches as The Grand Game, the various forces and parties that provide energy to the world.  Oil, coal, hydropower, natural gas, renewable energy such as wind or solar, even nuclear energy in its various forms are subjects of Grand Game articles.   For oil, the Peak Oil proponents missed the very important fact that petroleum engineering is not a static field, but has major advancements routinely.  Oil deposits lie not only onshore but also offshore, some in shallow water and some in very deep water.   Also, oil exists in various forms of rock.  Recent advancements in precision directional drilling (PDD) allow much more oil to flow from known oil fields.   Also, PDD allows oil to be produced economically from shale formations.   As an aside, PDD also was crucial in stopping a gas leak in Los Angeles in early 2016. see link.   The crucial point for not running out of oil is that many oil deposits exist at various locations and depths, so that even if one oil field is depleted, there are a vast number more to drill.   Pessimists insist that eventually the world will run out of new fields in which to drill, even using PDD.   If that were to happen, some centuries in the future, advances in chemistry and engineering will very likely allow algae-to-oil or waste-to-oil to economically provide any oil required. 

More updates to the list of false ideas will be added as time permits. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. 
Marina del Rey, California
Copyright © 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Wind Energy Economics - Truth v Fiction

Subtitle:  Buffett is No Idiot - Wind Requires Tax Credits

Some may recall that SLB has articles from time to time on wind energy, and a work-in-progress is a series  titled Truth About Wind Power. (see link)  I recently came across yet another article on wind economics, this one attacking the wind industry on several fronts.   I am constantly amazed, and dismayed, at the level of bad data, bad analysis, improper
 manipulations, and simply wrong conclusions stated in those articles.   This particular article (not singling this one out, as there are literally dozens of similar articles published in various places) appeared about a year ago (May, 2015) on Dr. Judith Curry's blog ClimateEtc  (CE).  see link to CE article.  

The CE authors had quite a number of wrong statements, but this article addresses only the effect of wind subsidy on the investment decision to build wind turbines.  The CE authors attack Warren Buffett, the well-known billionaire investor and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Corporation (NYSE: BRK.A, and BRK.B).  Buffett said, 

 "I will do anything that is basically covered by the law to reduce Berkshire's tax rate," Buffet told an audience in Omaha, Nebraska recently. "For example, on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That's the only reason to build them. They don't make sense without the tax credit." -- US News and World Report, 5/12/2014, "Big Wind's Bogus Subsidies"  

CE authors then state, see quote:

"Buffet gets a total PTC (production tax credit) of $31.5/MWh from both federal and Iowa taxpayers. YE2014, BH’s MidAmerican Energy, had 2953 MW of Iowa wind capacity. Warren Buffet wind farms  are receiving $253 million of annual tax credit from Iowa wind generation on an investment of $5.6 billion (2953 MW * 0.31CF * 8766 hr/year *$31.5/MWh). BH’s effective tax rate last year was 31%. Those wind credits are equivalent to earning (253/0.31) $816 million on his $5.6 billion wind investment—a 15% return before any operating profit from selling electricity. That is a good deal for the Nebraska billionaire, but not for the rest of us."  -- (Note, BH is Berkshire Hathaway; MidAmerican Energy is the electric utility owned by BH; CF is wind capacity factor, annualized output as percent of nameplate capacity) 

Where CE authors are very, very wrong is the last bit: "Those wind credits are equivalent to earning (253/0.31) $816 million on his $5.6 billion wind investment—a 15% return before any operating profit from selling electricity."  

I won't quibble about the installed MW capacity (2953 MW) nor the $5.6 billion investment (it's probably a lot more, being built over many years when sizes were smaller and unit costs were higher.)   The point is made without using more accurate figures.  

Also, I won't quibble about the wrong value CE authors used for the PTC, at $31.5 / MWh combined federal and state. (it is actually $33, with 23 from federal and 10 from state).   Again, it makes zero difference in how wrong they are about the return on investment, and how wind energy makes "15 percent return."

Also, I won't point out that CE authors apply the $10 / MWh for Iowa state tax credit against the entire 2953 MW of installed capacity, when the state clearly limits the credit to:  "For wind energy facilities, the maximum total eligibility is 363 MW." -- (Iowa Utilities Board)

Again, the CE authors get almost nothing right.  Next, they cannot compute economics correctly, either. 

CE authors take the (wrong value) of $253 million per year of tax credits, then divide this by 0.31 effective corporate tax rate to obtain a fictional "earnings" number of $816 million per year.   At no time does the wind energy asset bring in $816 million from tax credits.   What actually happens is the wind assets bring in revenue from a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), plus tax credits for eligible amounts.   But, continuing along the fictional return on investment calculation put forth by the CE authors:

Investment is $5,600 million. 
Revenue/year is $253 million.   
The simple table below shows the year of operation, the investment in year "0" and subsequent annual revenue streams, in $millions.    Note that only 10 years of revenues is allowed, as the PTC is only valid for 10 years.   

Yr    $ amount
--    ------------
0    (5600)
1      253
2      253
3      253
4      253
5      253
6      253
7      253 
8      253 
9      253
10    253

A cursory examination shows that the revenues do not sum to the investment, achieving something barely more than one-half the investment after 10 years ($2,530 vs $5,600).   Under financial and accounting practices, such an investment has a negative return ( the DCF ROI or IRR is negative 12 percent, not at all the plus 15 percent as claimed).

However, the investment actually has revenue from a PPA (as stated earlier) plus any tax credits.   Recent data shows PPAs are approximately 3.0 cents per kWh ($30 per MWh) in the Great Plains where Iowa sits, although a few years ago PPAs were double that.   The simple table below shows the first ten years for a combined PPA of $30 and PTC of $24, then years 11-20 for PPA of $30 only.   Note, the $24 PTC is derived from $23 at full 2953 MW plus $10 for the limit of 363 MW per Iowa law. 

Yr    $ amount
--    ------------
0    (5600)
1        434
2        434
3        434
4        434
5        434
6        434
7        434
8        434
9        434
10      434
11      241
12      241
13      241
14      241
15      241
16      241
17      241 
18      241 
19      241
20      241

Under financial and accounting practices, the wind investment has a slightly positive return ( the DCF ROI or IRR is positive 2.1 percent).  Note, however, that these annual revenues are actually sales $, and must be reduced by the amount of operating expenses such as labor, maintenance, parts, property taxes, insurance, and other costs. ( UPDATE: 2/27/2016 - recent operating and maintenance costs are approximately $10 per MWh, per US DOE "2014 Wind Technologies Market Report," Figure 43. -- end update)

It is clear, then, why Buffett says the wind farms make zero sense without the tax credits.  The investment barely breaks even when tax credits are applied.   Without the tax credits, the ROI above is slightly negative at minus 3.3 percent.  

How, then, does a savvy investor like Buffett make money in wind farms?  The answer lies in the full financial analysis that involves fast depreciation of the investment, plus using debt financing for a portion of the investment.  

It is also clear that the CE authors are very much biased against wind energy systems, as they completely missed the mark in the return on investment.  

(Note: for those who doubt these numbers, simply copy and paste the data tables above into a spreadsheet that calculates IRR, such as Excel (TM).  )  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. 
Marina del Rey, California
Copyright © 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved

Saturday, February 13, 2016

China to Start High-Temperature Gas Nuclear Reactor

Subtitle: Another Demonstration of Nuclear Futility

It seems the nuclear fiddling and diddling will never end.  China this time, although many others also are in the nuclear power experimental business.   From the article (see link below), one might conclude that this reactor technology is the greatest thing that has ever happened in the entire history of inventions.   Curiously, though, that only the Chinese have been able to do this, and nobody else in all of recorded history.   The reality is quite different.   The MIT writer appears to have listed only the glowing positives about the new nuclear plant, and completely ignored all the negative aspects.  Or, perhaps he simply does not know of the negatives, or perhaps no one mentioned them.   

see link to MIT's article "China Could Have a Melt-down Proof Nuclear Reactor Next Year"

My previous articles on SLB address the so-called advantages and the insurmountable problems of this pebble-bed gas-turbine nuclear reactor.  see link to Truth About Nuclear Power - Part 29, "High Temperature Gas Reactor Still A Dream."    Disadvantages, with one exception not at all presented in the MIT article above, include many serious technical challenges that must be overcome.   One of the greatest problems is not unique to nuclear gas-drive reactors, it has plagued every industry in which it occurs: how to achieve a lock-hopper to inject discrete objects into a high-pressure chamber.  In the case of the pebble-and-gas nuclear reactor, one must also have a second lock hopper to remove the spent pebbles.   The MIT cheerleader article merely mentions the high cost of the fuel and reactor components as drawbacks.  Then, the article goes on to say that these are minor problems that will disappear with experience and mass production.   SLB has much to say on that topic, as nuclear plants do not exhibit mass production economies of scale.  see link to TANP article that discusses nuclear plants and various aspects of economy of scale. 

From TANP - Part 29 on the pebble-bed-gas-reactors, there are six major drawbacks to the technology: "Given the dismal experience in other industries with similar reactors operating at high pressure that attempt to inject a solid into the reactor, it is not surprising that the HTGR (high-temperature gas reactors) also fail.   It is true that low-pressure systems can be made to work, but the high-pressure ball injection and removal systems are problematic.    The high cost of every component is also a factor.  The inherently small electrical output will forever keep the plants from enjoying economy of scale – at least until another advance is made in the gas-turbine and compressor technology.   

The large size of the heat exchangers adds to the cost, primarily due to the low heat transfer coefficient of the helium gas.  This is an immutable characteristic of gas heat exchange, and has been known for many decades.   The dismal experience of researchers in several countries over several decades does not bode well for the future of HTGR.    The most important issues, though, are the production of explosive graphite dust, and production of lethal radionuclides in the reactor that are transported into the helium circulation loop that includes the heat exchangers, turbine, and compressors." 

A note about China and its nuclear power program: China faces serious obstacles in developing sufficient electrical power supplies to achieve a modernized society.  As stated in many references, China has very little coal remaining, and the coal is inconveniently located far from the consumers.  China also has very little natural gas.  There is a small amount of hydroelectric energy, some already developed and some yet to be achieved.  China has, then, few options.  It can import coal, import LNG, or build nuclear plants.  Building wind and solar, with appropriate storage, is also an option.  I suspect that, given the huge population, China will soon begin recycling human waste into synthetic natural gas, SNG.   In the meantime, it is apparent that building nuclear power plants is high on the agenda.  

One hopes, for the safety and health of the world population, that appropriate design standards are used, good construction practices are employed, and operations are conducted safely.   It will be quite interesting to observe the on-line factor for this reactor, if the Chinese publish such operating data.   

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. 

Marina del Rey, California
Copyright © 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved

Off-Shore Wind Turbines Mimic Palm Trees

Subtitle: Sandia Lab Designs Very Large Turbine Blades 

A most interesting development was announced this week, for very large wind turbines for offshore application, where the turbine blades flex and fold under high wind speeds to prevent damage.  

Flexible Blades in Normal Operation,
Wind from the Left  (credit: Sandia)
The blades will allow wind turbines to produce 50 MW each, a far greater amount than the 8 MW that is achievable today (to the best of my knowledge).   With wind turbines, economy of scale applies (unlike in nuclear technology), so that bigger and bigger turbines have lower and lower unit-costs and power production costs.   

see link  to "Enormous Blades for Offshore Energy," by Sandia National Laboratory. 

The photo at right shows the blades in the normal operating condition, fully extended and notable for the wind coming from the left, or the nacelle direction.  The blades flex as required in the wind, and move away from the support tower.   

The large blades capture more energy from the wind, but must be supported on taller towers.  However, the wind is faster and more stable at higher elevations, both excellent things in the wind-turbine business. 

Flexible Blades in High-Wind Condition,
Wind from the Left  (credit: Sandia)
When the wind exceeds a certain threshold, the turbine blades begin to flex.  The flexing decreases the apparent diameter of the blades, and decreases the power output.  However, at very high speeds, the blades collapse as shown in the next photo.  The collapsed position prevents damage to the blades and generating machinery.  

From the Sandia article:

"The segmented rotor's load alignment is inspired by the way palm trees move in storms. The lightweight, segmented trunk approximates a series of cylindrical shells that bend in the wind while retaining segment stiffness. This alignment radically reduces the mass required for blade stiffening by reducing the forces on the blades using the palm-tree-inspired load-alignment approach.

Segmented turbine blades have a significant advantage in parts of the world at risk for severe storms such as hurricanes, where offshore turbines must withstand tremendous wind speeds of more than 200 mph. The blades align themselves to reduce cantilever forces through a trunnion hinge near the hub that responds to changes in wind speed.

“At dangerous wind speeds, the blades are stowed and aligned with the wind direction, reducing the risk of damage. At lower wind speeds, the blades spread out more to maximize energy production,”"

Advances in tower technology are also being made, to reduce costs and achieve longer life in the offshore environment.  

For background, the US offshore locations have tremendous wind energy that is untapped, and has been untapped for millenia.  Per the U.S. Department of Interior, Mineral Mining Service, MMS, in their January 2009 "Draft Proposed Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program 2010 – 2015," there is plenty of power in the wind offshore.   

 The MMS stated:
“The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that more than 900,000 megawatts (900 GW), close to the total current installed U.S. electrical capacity, of potential wind energy exists off the coasts of the United States, often near major population centers, where energy costs are high and land-based wind development opportunities are limited. Slightly more than half of the country’s identified offshore wind potential is located off the New England and Mid-Atlantic Coasts, where water depths generally deepen gradually with distance from the shore. Development of offshore wind energy technologies has the potential to provide up to 70,000 MW of domestic generating capacity to the nation’s electric grid by 2025."

Furthermore, as stated many times on SLB, the variable output of wind turbines is no longer an issue, with the underwater storage and on-demand production of electricity as proposed by MIT.   In short, there is absolutely zero need to consider dangerous, costly, and deadly nuclear power.   The entirely renewable, clean, and inexhaustible wind has more than enough energy to supply the future needs.   As Dylan once sang, "The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind."   


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

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

Clean Power Plan Stayed - Supreme Court

Subtitle: EPA Displeases Supreme Court With End Runs

This week had an extraordinary event from the US Supreme Court that has enormous implications.  The event: the Court ordered the US EPA's regulation on Clean Power Plan to be stayed until disposition of pending litigation at the federal appellate level, including the US Supreme Court.   

This Order has great implications on several levels: 
1) the Order is a split decision along idealogical lines, 5-4 with the liberal justices dissenting;
2) the Order signals that the Supreme Court is mightily displeased with the Executive and Legislative branches - and most specifically the US EPA - in conducting end-runs around the Judicial branch; 
3) the Order signals the US EPA (and by extension, other agencies with intimidation power) that compliance by threat, where the threat is based on unsettled law, perhaps un-Constitutional law, cannot be allowed; and others.   

In short, this Order, and the litigation behind it, is one of the most significant decisions of modern times.   Each of the 3 implications above is discussed in more detail below. 

The actual language of the Order:

"The application for a stay submitted to The Chief Justice
and by him referred to the Court is granted. The Environmental
Protection Agency’s "Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for
Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units,"
80 Fed. Reg. 64,662 (October 23, 2015), is stayed pending
disposition of the applicants’ petitions for review in the United
States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and
disposition of the applicants’ petition for a writ of certiorari,

if such writ is sought."  

For background, President Obama has long sought a bill from Congress that he could sign into law to reduce so-called greenhouse gas emissions from US industry, especially the carbon dioxide emissions from coal-powered electrical generating plants.  Congress, not being total fools, declined.   Enough members of Congress recognize the shenanigans and faulty data, the faulty procedures, and other forms of bad science behind the false-alarmists claims of imminent doom from man-made global warming.   Obama, in response (and some would say retaliation) ordered the US EPA to write rules to accomplish his goal, which rules are as shown above, "Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines..."  

The carbon emission rules come on top of the MATS regulations that have already begun to close coal-fired power plants.  The MATS (Mercury And Toxic Standards rule) was a crucial element in the Supreme Court's displeasure.  MATS requires coal-fired power plants to reduce various emissions or shut down to avoid tremendous penalties.  Lawsuits challenging the legality of MATS were filed, but the deadlines for power plant compliance arrived before the litigation was finished, "disposition" in Supreme Court parlance.   Rather stupidly, the EPA crowed publicly and in writing that the legal cases had no bearing, because the EPA regulations had already forced the coal-fired power plants into submission.   This, then, is an example of an end-run mentioned in point 2 above, and part of the threat mentioned in point 3 above. 

Point 1: Supreme Court Divide Along Political Lines

The Order was decided 5-4, with the four Conservative Justices and the one Moderate Justice in the majority, and the four Liberal Justices in the minority.   Such a split of opinion is all-too-common at the Supreme Court.  It is also an important reminder that the election of a President is much more important that some realize, because the appointment of a Justice can result in such split decisions for decades.   For example, if, and God forbid, our Moderate Justice Kennedy was unable to continue serving, and Obama successfully appointed a Liberal to replace him on the Court, this and all other such 5-4 decisions would turn out the other way.   On such small things turns the future of our country.   Justice Kennedy is in fine health and I wish him long life, health, and more Conservative voting.  

The appellate court for the DC Circuit is known for liberal judges and decisions.  It is quite likely that the appellants will lose in the DC Circuit, and appeal to the Supreme Court.  

Point 2: Supreme Court Displeased With End Runs

This is a big issue.   One displeases the Supreme Court at great peril.   It goes to the very foundations of our country, that no one branch of the government would have free rein to act, but would have checks and balances by the other two branches.   In addition, this EPA action invokes the famous Supreme Court case of Marbury vs Madison.   EPA administrators, and even Presidents, should shudder at the very mention of that case.   The Marbury case was the one in which the Supreme Court stood up and bellowed forth that THEY decide what the law says, and no one else.    If one wants to lose a legal argument, simply put forth an argument - or in this case, conduct proceedings - that causes the Supreme Court to invoke Marbury v Madison.   It is true that the Order in this instance makes no mention of Marbury.   No mention is necessary, especially for attorneys who follow these matters.   The Marbury case is lurking in the background, silent but all-powerful, in the language the Court did use: ". . . stayed pending disposition of the applicants’ petitions for review . . .and disposition of the applicants’ petition for a writ of certiorari, if such writ is sought."   Translation: this regulation is not to be implemented until the US appellate courts, including this Supreme Court via writ of certiorari, has had the full opportunity to hear, and dispose of the appellants' arguments.   In short, we are no longer tolerating the implementation of regulations that, after being litigated, are not legal.  

To do otherwise is to allow the EPA, and by extension, other agencies of the Federal Government, to write any rules they choose, legal or not.  

As a recent article in the Wall Street Journal stated, "The  (Obama) White House has been right about the success of its damn-the-law strategy—so far. Last year in Michigan v. EPA the (Supreme) Court voided a 2012 rule on mercury emissions (MATS). The chief EPA air administrator then gloated on the EPA website that the ruling didn’t matter because “the majority of power plants are already in compliance or well on their way to compliance” and “we are still on track.”"  see link

This is the sort of thing that should invoke the ire of the Supreme Court.   

Point 3:  Supreme Court Displeased with Compliance by Threat of Illegal Regulations

This one is almost mind-boggling that we have arrived at this point.  For decades, the EPA has had an enforcement ability, and has a long list of enforcement actions.  This is acceptable, for those regulations that have been adjudicated and found to meet all legal standards.  There needs to be, in a fair and orderly society, a means to punish those who break the laws, subject to the Constitutional limits on such punishment and the procedures under which the convictions are had.  Part of the punishment is the ripple effect, or deterrence, where those who are merely contemplating breaking the law, or in this case, violating environmental regulations, are given reason to pause and re-think their prospective actions.   

However, the EPA has, on occasion, used the threat of enforcement power to accomplish compliance.  This use of threats is not limited to the EPA, as some state agencies also do this.   In the MATS case above, Michigan v EPA, the coal-fired power plants had already begun their compliance, or achieved it, even though parts of the regulation were struck down.   Other agencies will make an example out of the first few offenders that are caught, knowing that the offenders may have limited means to litigate.  


The grand machinery behind vital regulations that impact all in the society must function properly.  It is wrong for the EPA to write what turn out to be illegal regulations, and force compliance with those illegal regulations simply by imposing a fast-track compliance schedule that occurs before litigation can be completed.   That is not the American way; that smacks of something else, something darker, perhaps totalitarian.    Perhaps, and I hope this is the case, the Supreme Court Justices are aware of the total fiasco that false-alarmism climate science has been shown to be.   Although, it would appear that four of the nine agree completely with the false-alarmists. 

 see link to "US In A Cooling Trend - Winters Much Colder" where unbiased data from pristine locations is used, and see link to "Consensus Does Not Make Wrong Science Right"  where a dozen points are given that refute the claims of 97 percent of scientists agree with man-made global warming. 

Note, however, that US coal-fired power plants have a short life expectancy based on coal reserves.  The US has less than 20 years of coal remaining, at present consumption rates.  see link to "Energy Supply In Post-Coal America"

Supreme Court Order:

(ORDER LIST: 577 U.S.)


15A787                      CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, ET AL. V. EPA, ET AL. 

The application for a stay submitted to The Chief Justice and by him referred to the Court is granted. The Environmental Protection Agency’s "Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units," 80 Fed. Reg. 64,662 (October 23, 2015), is stayed pending disposition of the applicants’ petitions for review in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and disposition of the applicants’ petition for a writ of certiorari, if such writ is sought. If a writ of certiorari is sought and the Court denies the petition, this order shall terminate automatically. If the Court grants the petition for a writ of certiorari, this order shall terminate when the Court enters its judgment. 

Justice Ginsburg, Justice Breyer, Justice Sotomayor, and Justice Kagan would deny the application. 

---  end Order

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

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

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Why Claim of 97 Percent Scientists is Wrong

Subtitle:  Consensus Does Not Make Wrong Science Right

The claim is often made, and by a great many people who don't know any better, that the science is settled because there is a 97 percent consensus among the scientists.   The "science" at issue here is global warming due to increasing amounts of man-made carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.    The point appears to be that scientists looked into the global warming problem, carefully measured the available records, and published their findings over many years; those findings show (they say) that man's activities are definitely warming the globe's climate.  Finally, the climate scientists sounded the alarm, saying drastic measures must be taken right away to avert an impending catastrophe of melting polar ice caps and glaciers, rising seas, inundated shorelines, millions of displaced people, and a host of other calamities.   

Then, along came a group of skeptics who claimed that the science is not settled, there are serious problems with the way the scientists obtained the data, altered the data, falsified or made up data, analyzed the data, and wrote down conclusions that ignore contrary data.   

A poll was then taken, "how many of you scientists believe that global warming is happening?"  and supposedly 97 percent of the respondents agreed that it is.  

Those who believe the 97 percent number often draw the analogy to a sick person who sees a doctor.  If 97 percent of all the doctors tell you that you have an illness and need their treatment to be cured, would you believe them?   Would you take the chance that the other 3 percent are right, and go on your merry way? 

This article addresses the 97 percent of the doctors argument.   Disclosure:  I am fully aware that the climate science has serious flaws, with data included in the databases that should never have been included, with data that has been adjusted over and over and over yet again, with contrary data that shows no warming occurring is ignored, and many other problems as described below.  As a chemical engineer with 40 years (and counting) of world-wide experience both in operating companies and as a consultant, I have a great deal of knowledge and experience in data acquisition and analysis.  Chemical engineers do not have the luxury of using bad data, of falsifying data, of selecting only the data that proves our agenda.  We design, build, and operate the toxic, hazardous, flammable and explosive chemical plants and refineries.  If we use bad data, people die.  It is that simple.  

Here then, are some points against believing the 97 percent.

1.  The 97 percent publish in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.   Peer review, alone, does not guarantee scientific accuracy.  The sheer number of scientific findings that are wrong, are retracted, are shown to be false by subsequent studies shows that peer review and publication is no guarantee.   Indeed, there are hundreds upon hundreds of published, peer-reviewed articles that refute the claim of man-made global warming.  

2.   If the 97 percent of doctors kept revising their diagnosis every time you make a visit, would you feel confident in their conclusions?  The false-alarmists of climate science do exactly that, every few years re-adjust their findings and pronounce them as reliable, certain, and believable.  Then change it all again a few years later.  

3.  If you learned that the 97 percent of doctors will lose their jobs, lose their incomes if they don't diagnose you with the illness, would you feel confident?  That is precisely the situation with false-alarmist scientists, with great pressure to publish only the results that agree with the doctrine. 

4.  If you learned that the international governing medical association that is assigned to study the illness is biased toward one, and only one cause, would you feel confident?  That is also exactly what the false-alarmist scientists have, the IPCC that is assigned to study man-made global warming.  Not if there is any warming (or cooling), not what might possibly be causing climate change, but only the man-made aspect of warming.   

5.  If you learned that it is impossible to conduct more studies, instead the 97 percent doctors accept the corrupted data from the past, would you feel confident?  That is exactly the situation, with temperature data from the past (it's impossible to go back and measure it again).  Much of the past data is biased, impacted by buildings and parking lots, and is clearly wrong.  But, the scientists adjust it to what they want it to be and use it anyway. 

6.   If you learned that the 97 percent doctors realized the past data is corrupted, then started a new research program with modern instruments to accurately collect data on the illness, would you feel confident?  Especially if you learned that the new experiments will not yield valid results for approximately 100 years?  That is precisely where climate science is today, with the establishment 10 years ago (more or less) of the US Climate Reference Network, USCRN, where temperatures are taken in hundreds of pristine locations across the US.   see link to "US In A Cooling Trend - Winters Much Colder"   and see link to USCRN Overview

7.  If you learned that the 97 percent doctors rely on truly awful data, with missing data simply made up, with known false data used to adjust good data so that it is virtually all bad data, would you feel confident? 

8.   If you learned that the 97 percent doctors have a predictive tool, and they predict future illness in their patients; but none of the patients show any symptoms, would you feel confident?   That is exactly where false-alarmist scientists are, having a multitude of predictive models that do not agree at all with actual measured temperatures.   see link to Dr. John Christy's testimony of 2 February, 2016, before Congress, Figure 1. . 

9.  If you learned the 97 percent number is false, that it is more like 2 percent, would you feel confident?  

10.  If you learned that the cure recommended by the 97 percent doctors will bankrupt you and all your descendants, would you feel confident?  

11.  Especially when you learn that the proposed cure will do absolutely nothing to treat or cure your symptoms, even if they eventually do manifest?

12.  And finally, if you learned that the illness the 97 percent doctors diagnosed cannot possibly be true because it violates fundamental laws of science and engineering, would you feel confident?  see link to "Chemical Engineer Takes On Global Warming"

Given all the above, twelve issues in all, how confident would a patient be in accepting the diagnosis from those 97 percent doctors?  Instead, would you as the patient be headed to report medical malpractice?

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

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

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Implications of Closing Aliso Canyon Gas Storage in California

Subtitle:  Gas Storage Critical to Averting Electricity Shortages

A few days ago (Feb 1st), three California regulatory agencies sent a joint letter to Governor Brown, stating their concern over electricity availability in Southern California this summer, and for continued natural gas supplies for the remainder of the winter.   This concern is certainly valid if the gas injections, storage, and withdrawals at Aliso Canyon are not allowed to resume.   The letter is shown below in its entirety.  The three agencies are California Energy Commission, California Public Utilities Commission, and California Independent System Operator, CEC, CPUC, and CAISO, respectively.  CAISO operates the major electricity grid in California.  

For context, there are calls from many sides to shut down the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility because one well is leaking gas into the air.  The gas leak stinks, to put it bluntly, because the gas is already odorized with the sulfur compound that smells like rotten eggs.  Thousands of local residents have been temporarily relocated at gas company expense to escape the stink and related health issues.   There are public meetings of various types to discuss the many aspects of the leak, when it will stop, and what different parties can or should do.  see link to an earlier SLB article on the gas leak. 

From the big picture perspective, California uses natural gas for a substantial part of its basic energy needs.  Gas is used for power generation and for home and commercial space heating.  Having a generally mild climate with some hot summer weather, the demand for gas peaks in the summer, not winter.   The local gas production, plus gas imported via pipelines are not sufficient to meet the peak demand.   Therefore, quantities of natural gas are stored during slack demand, and withdrawn from storage in peak demand.  This is a common practice across the US.   One of the favored storage means is abandoned oil or gas wells.  Aliso Canyon has the abandoned oil wells as the storage means.

The three agencies are responsible for ensuring that California has safe, reliable, and cost-effective utilities - both natural gas and electricity.  An unplanned shortage sometimes occurs, as is mentioned in their letter regarding the sudden shut down of the nuclear power plant in 2012 that is located at San Onofre, and known as SONGS for San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.   Today, the issue is natural gas and the electricity that gas produces.  

A few years ago, an artificial shortage of natural gas was created in the El Paso Natural Gas Company fiasco, and California experienced electrical shortages, rolling blackouts, and outrageously high electricity prices.   Part of that fiasco was due to the untimely shutdown of a natural gas pipeline that brings natural gas to California from Texas. ( see link to a copy of the settlement agreement between El Paso Corp and various parties.  This describes some, but not all, of the activities that created the electricity shortage.)

In short, a looming electricity shortage in California is a big issue.  There is always suspicion that someone is manipulating the market to obtain windfall profits.   The El Paso case from above alleged the gas pipeline was shut down, or partially shut down so that gas shipments did not occur.  Ostensibly, the shut down was for needed repairs.  The FERC, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission got involved, and sternly questioned the timing of the repairs.  

The analogous situation today might be, and I emphasize this is only a possibility, that a gas shortage occurs, electrical power shortages result in the summer, and the suspicious parties bring lawsuits.  For one thing, a lawsuit can bring facts to light via discovery.  

However, if the three state agencies CEC, CPUC, and CAISO can resolve the issue before any critical shortages occur, there would be no need for the kind of litigation that the El Paso fiasco created.  

The electricity demand in California has not increased as the climate change alarmists warned, with ever-increasing hot summers due to man-made global warming.   Indeed, the peak demand for electricity (see table below) has been remarkably constant between 45,000 MW and 47,000 MW for the past 8 years.  The claim of "hottest year ever" must be the result of other places getting warmer; California certainly is not.  These peak demands are flat, even though the population is growing as always (25 percent over the past 8 years).  

YR    MW     Date   Time
2008 46,897 June 20 16:21
2009 46,042 September 3 16:17
2010 47,350 August 25 16:20
2011 45,545 September 7 16:30
2012 46,846 August 13 15:53
2013 45,097 June 28 16:54
2014 45,089 September 15 16:53
2015 46,519 September 10 15:38

UPDATE 1:  The options the agencies may be considering include the following, and possibly others: 
1) repair and restore Aliso Canyon storage facility
2) increase storage capacity at other locations
3) import more natural gas when needed
4) produce more natural gas within state as needed
5) reduce the demand for natural gas during peak periods, i.e. summer hot days
6) find a replacement or substitute for natural gas
7) reduce the demand for electricity during peak periods

Each of the above options has ramifications.  
1) Repair and restoration of the Aliso Canyon storage facility is viable only if the leaking well is not a common occurrence.  However, if the oil formation underground has deteriorated, and other wells are likely to also leak, then repairs may be futile.  

2) Increasing the storage capacity at other locations may be possible given enough time, but must be studied carefully.  At least one other storage location is not far away at Playa del Rey near Santa Monica.  

3) Import more natural gas when needed may not be possible within the time available, that is, the hot summer when demand peaks in August and September.   Importing natural gas requires gas pipelines from other states, or an LNG import terminal.  Both are expensive, time-consuming, and have long environmental evaluations.  

4) Produce more natural gas within state as needed also requires more time.  It may be possible to obtain emergency drilling permits and drill now to bring in wells in the next few months.   Much is needed to accomplish this, including cleaning the raw natural gas to remove impurities.  

5) Reducing the demand for natural gas during peak periods, i.e. summer hot days, where the primary focus is gas-fired power plants.  There are not many ways to accomplish this, as the hydroelectric capability is low due to an extended drought, and solar power plants with adequate storage are not yet built in great number.   Wind energy without adequate storage is not sufficiently reliable. 

6) Finding  a replacement or substitute for natural gas has potential, but not in the short time-frame required.  Producing renewable forms of methane also is not a large-volume activity, such as methane from farm waste, and landfills.  One long-term solution is the conversion of human waste to synthetic methane, the patented process of Dr. Chan Park of University of California at Riverside.  Dr. Park's process produces pipeline-quality methane from the sludge from waste treatment plants, but it is not yet in commercial production.  see link to SLB coverage of this fascinating chemical engineering research. 

7) Reducing the demand for electricity during peak periods is last on the list, and will likely be the decision if all of the above fail.   California already has a program in place to encourage consumers to reduce electrical load (Flex Alerts), and gives financial incentives to many consumers to shut off their power during high-demand periods.   Demand can also be reduced via rolling blackouts, if needed.  

--end update 1. --- 

--- (Agencies joint letter to Governor Brown) ------

February 1, 2016

The Honorable Edmund G. Brown Jr.
State Capitol Building, 1st Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Governor Brown:

Shaping a Renewed Future

The California Energy Commission, California Public Utilities Commission, and the California Independent System Operator are writing regarding the Emergency Proclamation you issued on January 6,2016, relating to the gas leak from the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility. The Proclamation called on us to work together and "take all actions necessary to ensure the continued reliability of natural gas and electric supplies during the moratorium on gas injections into Aliso Canyon."

The immediate issue has been gas system reliability for core customers, which we are working to ensure reliable gas for the rest of winter given the field's current 15 billion cubic feet of working gas. Our shared concern is electric system reliability for this summer, and both gas and electric system reliability for next winter and beyond in the event injections cannot resume.

The nexus between the gas and power systems in the Los Angeles Basin is a complex
problem to assess given the constraints on gas deliveries, rapid changes in electricity demand that occur every day, and electric transmission constraints that limit electricity imports into the area. We have created a team to perform the studies that includes our experts and those of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and SoCalGas Company. There is good reason to be concerned that reliability of supply may be critical for electric generators in the LA Basin, especially those serving LADWP. We expect to complete the work related to summer 2016 by April when we will hold a public, joint agency workshop in Los Angeles to describe the reliability risks and present a reliability action plan for mitigating them. Of course, we will take action immediately as effective mitigation is identified. We look forward to working with the City of Los Angeles, South Coast Air Quality Management District, and other public agencies affected by this issue. 

The Honorable Edmund G. Brown Jr.
February 1, 2018
Page 2 of 3

This matter is critical to public health and safety, and has our full attention. We are bringing
the same urgency and attention to this as we did when faced with the unexpected closure of
the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Our organizations worked together effectively
then, and we will again.

Thank you for entrusting us with this responsibility.

Sincerely yours,

Chair                                                            President
California Energy Commission                    California Public Utilities Commission 

President and Chief Executive Officer
California Independent System Operator 

cc: Transmitted via email
Senator Pro Tempore, Kevin de Leon, 24th Senate District
Speaker of the Assembly, Toni G. Atkins, 78th Assembly District
Speaker-Elect of the Assembly, Anthony Rendon, 83rd Assembly District
Senator Fran Pavley, 27th Senate District
Assembly Member Wilk, 38th Assembly District
Senator Ben Hueso, Chair of Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee, 40th
Senate District
Mike Gatto, Assemblymember and Chair of Utilities and Commerce Committee, 43rd
Assembly District
Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles Mayor
Hilda L. Solis, First District Los Angeles Board of Supervisors
Mark Ridley-Thomas, Second District Los Angeles Board of Supervisors
Sheila Kuehl, Third District Los Angeles Board of Supervisors
Don Knabe, Fourth District Los Angeles Board of Supervisors
Michael D. Antonovich, Fifth District Los Angeles Board of Supervisors
Gilbert Cedillo, District 1 of Los Angeles City Council
Paul Krekorian, District 2 of Los Angeles City Council
Bob Blumenfield, District 3 of Los Angeles City Council 

The Honorable Edmund G. Brown Jr.
February 1,2016
Page 3 of 3

David E. Ryu, District 4 of Los Angeles City Council
Paul Koretz, District 5 of Los Angeles City Council
Nury Martinez, District 6 of Los Angeles City Council
Felipe Fuentes, District 7 of Los Angeles City Council
Marqueece Harris-Dawson, District 8 of Los Angeles City Council
Curren D. Price, Jr., District 9 of Los Angeles City Council
Herb J. Wesson, Jr., District 10 of Los Angeles City Council
Mike Bonin, District 11 of Los Angeles City Council
Mitchel Englander, District 12 of Los Angeles City Council
Mitch O'Farrell, District 13 of Los Angeles City Council
Jose Huizar, District 14 of Los Angeles City Council
Joe Buscaino, District 15 of Los Angeles City Council
Mary Nichols, Chairman, California Air Resources Board
Marcie L. Edwards, General Manager of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
Dennis Arreola, Chief Executive Officer, Southern California Gas Company
Pedro Pizzaro, President, Southern California Edison
Barry Wallerstein, Ph.D, Executive Officer, South Coast Air Quality Management District 

----(end letter ) ----

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

copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell - all rights reserved