Why did people vote for Trump?

Before the election, it was widely known that Trump was a gangster who bragged about grabbing women’s asses, lied constantly, went bankrupt 4 times, and much more. So how could people have voted for him? To find out I read may books on such as Deer hunting with Jesus”, Hillbilly elegy, Strangers in their own land, and White Trash.
The best explanation I’ve seen can be found in the Psychology Today article below that I’ve shortened and reworded.

Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Derrick Jensen, Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report

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Bobby Azarian Ph.D. Dec 27, 2018. A Complete Psychological Analysis of Trump’s Support.  Science can help us make sense of the president’s political invincibility. Psychology Today.

What is most baffling is Trump’s apparent political invincibility. As he himself said even before he won the presidential election, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” Unfortunately for the American people, this wild-sounding claim appears to be truer than not. It should also motivate us to explore the science underlying such peculiar human behavior, so we can learn from it, and potentially inoculate against it.

We should be asking why his inflammatory rhetoric and numerous scandals haven’t sunk him. We are talking about a man who was caught on tape saying, “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy.” Politically surviving that video is not normal, or anything close to it, and such a revelation would likely have been the end of Barack Obama or George Bush had it surfaced weeks before the election.

While dozens of psychologists have analyzed Trump, to explain the man’s political invincibility, it is more important to understand the minds of his staunch supporters. While various popular articles have illuminated a multitude of reasons for his unwavering support, there appears to be no comprehensive analysis that contains all of them. Since there seems to be a real demand for this information, I have tried to provide that analysis below.

This list will begin with the more benign reasons for Trump’s intransigent support. As the list goes on, the explanations become increasingly worrisome, and toward the end, border on the pathological. The psychological phenomena described below mostly pertain to those supporters who would follow Trump off a cliff. These are the people who will stand by his side no matter what scandals come to light, or what sort of evidence for immoral and illegal behavior surfaces.

1. Practicality Trumps Morality

For some wealthy people, it’s simply a financial matter. Trump offers tax cuts for the rich and wants to do away with government regulation that gets in the way of businessmen making money, even when that regulation exists for the purpose of protecting the environment. Others, like blue-collared workers, like the fact that the president is trying to bring jobs back to America from places like China. Some people who genuinely are not racist (those who are will be discussed later) simply want stronger immigration laws because they know that a country with open borders is not sustainable. These people have put their practical concerns above their moral ones. To them, it does not make a difference if he’s a vagina-grabber, or if his campaign team colluded with Russia to help him defeat his political opponent. It is unknown whether these people are eternally bound to Trump in the way others are, but we may soon find out if the Mueller investigation is allowed to come to completion.

2. The Brain’s Attention System Is More Strongly Engaged by Trump

According to a study that monitored brain activity while participants watched 40 minutes of political ads and debate clips from the presidential candidates, Donald Trump is unique in his ability to keep the brain engaged. While Hillary Clinton could only hold attention for so long, Trump kept both attention and emotional arousal high throughout the viewing session. This pattern of activity was seen even when Trump made remarks that individuals didn’t necessarily agree with. His showmanship and simple language clearly resonate with some at a visceral level.

3. America’s Obsession with Entertainment and Celebrities

Essentially, the loyalty of Trump supporters may in part be explained by America’s addiction to entertainment and reality TV. To some, it doesn’t matter what Trump actually says because he’s so amusing to watch. With the Donald, you are always left wondering what outrageous thing he is going to say or do next. He keeps us on the edge of our seat, and for that reason, some Trump supporters will forgive anything he says. They are happy as long as they are kept entertained.

4. “Some Men Just Want to Watch the World Burn.”

Some people are supporting Trump simply to be rebellious or to introduce chaos into the political system. They may have such distaste for the establishment and democrats like Hillary Clinton that their support for Trump is a symbolic middle finger directed at Washington. These people may have other issues, like an innate desire to troll others or an obsession with schadenfreude.

5. The Fear Factor: Conservatives Are More Sensitive to Threat

Science has  shown that the conservative brain has an exaggerated fear response when faced with stimuli that may be perceived as threatening. A 2008 study in the journal Science found that conservatives have a stronger physiological reaction to startling noises and graphic images compared to liberals. A brain-imaging study published in Current Biology revealed that those who lean right politically tend to have a larger amygdala — a structure that is electrically active during states of fear and anxiety. And a 2014 fMRI study found that it is possible to predict whether someone is a liberal or conservative simply by looking at their brain activity while they view threatening or disgusting images, such as mutilated bodies. Specifically, the brains of self-identified conservatives generated more activity overall in response to the disturbing images.

These brain responses are automatic and not influenced by logic or reason. As long as Trump continues to portray Muslims and Hispanic immigrants as imminent threats, many conservative brains will involuntarily light up like light bulbs being controlled by a switch. Fear keeps his followers energized and focused on safety. And when you think you’ve found your protector, you become less concerned with offensive and divisive remarks.

6. The Power of Mortality Reminders and Perceived Existential Threat

A well-supported theory from social psychology, known as Terror Management Theory, explains why Trump’s fear mongering is doubly effective. The theory is based on the fact that humans have a unique awareness of their own mortality. The inevitably of one’s death creates existential terror and anxiety that is always residing below the surface. In order to manage this terror, humans adopt cultural worldviews — like religions, political ideologies, and national identities — that act as a buffer by instilling life with meaning and value.

Terror Management Theory predicts that when people are reminded of their own mortality, which happens with fear mongering, they will more strongly defend those who share their worldviews and national or ethnic identity, and act out more aggressively towards those who do not. Hundreds of studies have supported this hypothesis, and some have specifically shown that triggering thoughts of death tends to shift people towards the right.

Not only do death reminders increase nationalism, they may influence voting habits in favor of more conservative presidential candidates. And more disturbingly, in a study with American students, scientists found that making mortality salient increased support for extreme military interventions by American forces that could kill thousands of civilians overseas. Interestingly, the effect was present only in conservatives.

By constantly emphasizing existential threat, Trump may be creating a psychological condition that makes the brain respond positively rather than negatively to bigoted statements and divisive rhetoric

7. The Dunning-Kruger Effect: Humans Often Overestimate Their Political Expertise

Some who support Donald Trump are under-informed or misinformed about the issues at hand. When Trump tells them that crime is skyrocketing in the United States, or that the economy is the worst it’s ever been, they simply take his word for it.

The Dunning-Kruger effect explains that the problem isn’t just that they are misinformed; it’s that they are completely unaware that they are misinformed, which creates a double burden.

Studies have shown that people who lack expertise in some area of knowledge often have a cognitive bias that prevents them from realizing that they lack expertise. As psychologist David Dunning puts it in an op-ed for Politico, “The knowledge and intelligence that are required to be good at a task are often the same qualities needed to recognize that one is not good at that task — and if one lacks such knowledge and intelligence, one remains ignorant that one is not good at the task. This includes political judgment.” These people cannot be reached because they mistakenly believe they are the ones who should be reaching others.

8. Relative Deprivation — A Misguided Sense of Entitlement

Relative deprivation refers to the experience of being deprived of something to which one believes they are entitled. It is the discontent felt when one compares their position in life to others who they feel are equal or inferior but have unfairly had more success than them.

Common explanations for Trump’s popularity among non-bigoted voters involve economics. There is no doubt that some Trump supporters are simply angry that American jobs are being lost to Mexico and China, which is certainly understandable, although these loyalists often ignore the fact that some of these careers are actually being lost due to the accelerating pace of automation.

These Trump supporters are experiencing relative deprivation, and are common among the swing states like Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. This kind of deprivation is specifically referred to as “relative,” as opposed to “absolute,” because the feeling is often based on a skewed perception of what one is entitled to.

9. Lack of Exposure to Dissimilar Others

Intergroup contact refers to contact with members of groups that are outside one’s own, which has been experimentally shown to reduce prejudice. As such, it’s important to note that there is growing evidence that Trump’s white supporters have experienced significantly less contact with minorities than other Americans. For example, a 2016 study found that “…the racial and ethnic isolation of Whites at the zip-code level is one of the strongest predictors of Trump support.” This correlation persisted while controlling for dozens of other variables. In agreement with this finding, the same researchers found that support for Trump increased with the voters’ physical distance from the Mexican border. These racial biases might be more implicit than explicit, the latter which is addressed in #14.

10. Trump’s Conspiracy Theories Target the Mentally Vulnerable

While the conspiracy theory crowd — who predominantly support Donald Trump and crackpot allies like Alex Jones and the shadowy QAnon — may appear to just be an odd quirk of modern society, some of them may suffer from psychological illnesses that involve paranoia and delusions, such as schizophrenia, or are at least vulnerable to them, like those with schizotypy personalities.

The link between schizotypy and belief in conspiracy theories is well-established, and a recent study published in the journal Psychiatry Research has demonstrated that it is still very prevalent in the population. The researchers found that those who were more likely to believe in outlandish conspiracy theories, such as the idea that the U.S. government created the AIDS epidemic, consistently scored high on measures of “odd beliefs and magical thinking.” One feature of magical thinking is a tendency to make connections between things that are actually unrelated in reality.

Donald Trump and media allies target these people directly. All one has to do is visit alt-right websites and discussion boards to see the evidence for such manipulation.

11. Trump Taps into the Nation’s Collective Narcissism

Collective narcissism is an unrealistic shared belief in the greatness of one’s national group. It often occurs when a group who believes it represents the ‘true identity’ of a nation — the ‘ingroup,’ in this case White Americans — perceives itself as being disadvantaged compared to outgroups who are getting ahead of them ‘unrightfully.’ This psychological phenomenon is related to relative deprivation (#6).

study published last year in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science found a direct link between national collective narcissism and support for Donald Trump. This correlation was discovered by researchers at the University of Warsaw, who surveyed over 400 Americans with a series of questionnaires about political and social beliefs. Where individual narcissism causes aggressiveness toward other individuals, collective narcissism involves negative attitudes and aggression toward ‘outsider’ groups (outgroups), who are perceived as threats.

Donald Trump exacerbates collective narcissism with his anti-immigrant, anti-elitist, and strongly nationalistic rhetoric. By referring to his supporters, an overwhelmingly white group, as being “true patriots” or “real Americans,” he promotes a brand of populism that is the epitome of “identity politics,” a term that is usually associated with the political left. Left-wing identity politics, as misguided as they may sometimes be, are generally aimed at achieving equality, while the right-wing brand is based on a belief that one nationality or race is superior or entitled to success and wealth for no other reason than identity.

12. The Desire to Want to Dominate Others

Social dominance orientation (SDO) — which is distinct from but related to authoritarian personality (#13) — refers to people who have a preference for the societal hierarchy of groups, specifically with a structure in which the high-status groups have dominance over the low-status ones. Those with SDO are typically dominant, tough-minded, and driven by self-interest.

In Trump’s speeches, he appeals to those with SDO by repeatedly making a clear distinction between groups that have a generally higher status in society (White), and those groups that are typically thought of as belonging to a lower status (immigrants and minorities). A 2016 survey study of 406 American adults published last year in the journal Personality and Individual Differences found that those who scored high on both SDO and authoritarianism were more likely to vote for Trump in the election.

13. Authoritarian Personality 

Authoritarianism refers to the advocacy or enforcement of strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom, and is commonly associated with a lack of concern for the opinions or needs of others. Authoritarian personality is characterized by belief in total and complete obedience to authority. Those with this personality often display aggression toward outgroup members, submissiveness to authority, resistance to new experiences, and a rigid hierarchical view of society. Authoritarianism is often triggered by fear, making it easy for leaders who exaggerate threat or fear monger to gain their allegiance.

Although authoritarian personality is found among liberals, it is more common among the right-wing around the world. President Trump’s speeches, which are laced with absolutist terms like “losers” and “complete disasters,” are naturally appealing to those with such a personality.

While research showed that Republican voters in the U.S. scored higher than Democrats on measures of authoritarianism before Trump emerged on the political scene, a 2016 Politico survey found that high authoritarians greatly favored then-candidate Trump, which led to a correct prediction that he would win the election, despite the polls saying otherwise.

14. Racism and Bigotry

It would be grossly unfair and inaccurate to say that every one of Trump’s supporters have prejudice against ethnic and religious minorities, but it would be equally inaccurate to say that few do. The Republican party, going at least as far back to Richard Nixon’s “southern strategy,” has historically used tactics that appealed to bigotry, such as lacing speeches with “dog whistles” — code words that signaled prejudice toward minorities that were designed to be heard by racists but no one else.

While the dog whistles of the past were subtler, Trump’s signaling is sometimes shockingly direct. There’s no denying that he routinely appeals to racist and bigoted supporters when he calls Muslims “dangerous” and Mexican immigrants “rapists” and “murderers,” often in a blanketed fashion. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a recent study has shown that support for Trump is correlated with a standard scale of modern racism.

Posted in Critical Thinking, Politics | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Climate change risks could cause an American “Fukushima”

Preface. Nuclear power plants need a constant supply of electric power to pump cool water into a reactor’s core.

Ninety percent of them, 54 plants, have at least one flood risk exceeding their design.

If flooding stops the power supply long enough, as happened in Fukushima, the core can overheat, melting through its container, as well as the nearby spent nuclear fuel pools which unlike the core, are in the open air, releasing deadly levels of radiation.

Related post:  A Nuclear spent fuel fire at Peach Bottom in Pennsylvania could force 18 million people to evacuate

Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report

*** Some excerpts from:

Flavelle, C., et al. 2019. U.S. Nuclear Power Plants Weren’t Built for Climate Change. Bloomberg.

The NRC directed the operators of the 60 or so working U.S. nuclear power plants to evaluate their current flood risk, using the latest weather modeling technology and accounting for the effects of climate change. Companies were told to compare those risks with what their plants, many almost 50 years old, were built to withstand, and, where there was a gap, to explain how they would close it.

That process has revealed a lot of gaps. But Gregory Jaczko, former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and others say that the commission’s new leadership, appointed by President Donald Trump, hasn’t done enough to require owners of nuclear power plants to take preventative measures—and that the risks are increasing as climate change worsens.

Ninety percent of plants, 54 of them, have at least one flood risk exceeding their design. Fifty-three weren’t built to withstand their current risk from intense precipitation; 25 didn’t account for current flood projections from streams and rivers; 19 weren’t designed for their expected maximum storm surge; 19 face three or more threats that they weren’t designed to handle.

The industry argues that rather than redesign facilities to address increased flood risk, which Jaczko advocates, it’s enough to focus mainly on storing emergency generators, pumps, and other equipment in on-site concrete bunkers, a system they call Flex, for Flexible Mitigation Capability. Not only did the NRC agree with that view, it ruled on Jan. 24 that nuclear plants wouldn’t have to update that equipment to deal with new, higher levels of expected flooding. It also eliminated a requirement that plants run Flex drills.

The commission’s three members appointed by President Trump wrote that existing regulations were sufficient to protect the country’s nuclear reactors. Jaczko disagrees as do the two Democratic appointees. “The majority of the commission has decided that licensees can ignore these reevaluated hazards,” commissioner Jeff Baran wrote in dissent. His colleague Stephen Burns called the decision “baffling.” Through a spokesman, the Republican appointees declined to comment.

“Nuclear power is weird—it exists to produce electricity, and at the same time it can’t exist without electricity,” says Allison Macfarlane, who chaired the NRC from 2012 through 2014. Plants need constant power to pump cool water into a reactor’s core; if flooding interrupts that power supply for long enough, as happened in Fukushima, the core can overheat, melting through its container and releasing deadly levels of radiation.

The true risk to U.S. nuclear facilities may be even greater than what the documents from the nuclear commission show. The commission allowed nuclear plant operators not only to perform their own estimates of current flood risk but also to decide what assumptions to make—for example, the maximum likely hurricane speed or how much rain would fall in an extreme storm. (The commission reviews that work.) The commission also rejected a recommendation by their own staff that would require nuclear power plants to update their risk assessments periodically to reflect the advancing threat of climate change.

Whatever the likelihood of a Fukushima-style disaster, the aftermath offers a glimpse of the costs of failure. Eight years later, much of the adjacent city of Okuma remains uninhabitable; in 2016 the Japanese government estimated total cleanup and compensation costs would approach $200 billion.

Posted in Climate Change, Nuclear Waste | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

China is deforesting Russia

Preface. Here’s more than half of a New York Times article about China deforesting Russia. Yikes! Peak oil had better come soon before we denude the earth.

Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report

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Myers, S. L. 2019. China’s Voracious Appetite for Timber Stokes Fury in Russia and Beyond. After sharply restricting logging in its own forests, China turned to imports, overwhelming even a country with abundant resources: Russia. New York Times.

From the Altai Mountains to the Pacific Coast, logging is ravaging Russia’s vast forests, leaving behind swathes of scarred earth studded with dying stumps.

The culprit, to many Russians, is clear: China. Chinese demand is also stripping forests elsewhere — from Peru to Papua New Guinea, Mozambique to Myanmar.

Since China began restricting commercial logging in its own natural forests two decades ago, it has increasingly turned to Russia, importing huge amounts of wood in 2017 to satisfy the voracious appetite of its construction companies and furniture manufacturers.

“In Siberia, people understand they need the forests to survive,” said Eugene Simonov, an environmentalist who has studied the impact of commercial logging in Russia’s Far East. “And they know their forests are now being stolen.”

Russia has been a witting collaborator, too, selling Chinese companies logging rights at low cost and, critics say, turning a blind eye to logging beyond what is legally allowed.

In the Solomon Islands, the current pace of logging by Chinese companies could exhaust the country’s once pristine rain forests by 2036, according to Global Witness, an environmental group. In Indonesia, activists warn that illegal logging linked to a company with Chinese partners threatens one of the last strongholds for orangutans on the island of Borneo.

Environmentalists say China has simply shifted the harm of unbridled logging from home to abroad, even as it reaps the economic benefits. Some warn that the scale of logging today could deplete what unspoiled forests remain, contributing to global warming.

At the same time, China is protecting its own woodlands.

Two decades ago, concerns about denuded mountains, polluted rivers and devastating floods along the Yangtze River made worse by damaged watersheds prompted the Communist government to begin restricting commercial logging in the nation’s forests.

The country’s demand for wood did not diminish, however. Nor did the world’s demand for plywood and furniture, the main wood products that China makes and exports.

It is one thing for Chinese demand to overwhelm small, poor nations desperate for cash, but it is another for it to drain the resources of a far larger country, one that regards itself as a superpower and a strategic partner to China.

The trade has instead underscored Russia’s overreliance on natural resources and provoked a popular backlash that strains the otherwise warm relations between the countries’ two leaders, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.

Protests have erupted in many cities. Members in Russia’s upper house of parliament have assailed officials for ignoring the environmental damage in Siberia and the Far East. Residents and environmentalists complain that logging is spoiling Russian watersheds and destroying the habitats of the endangered Siberian tiger and Amur leopard.

China’s stunning economic transformation over the last four decades has driven its demand. It is now the world’s largest importer of wood. The US is second. It is also the largest exporter — turning much of the wood it imports into products headed to Home Depots and Ikeas around the world.

More than 500 companies operate in Russia now, often with Russian partners, according to a report by Vita Spivak, a scholar on China for the Carnegie Moscow Center. Russia once delivered almost no wood to China; it now accounts for more than 20 percent of China’s imports by value.

Russia sells such logging concessions at prices that vary by region and type of wood, but on average, they cost roughly $2 a hectare, or 80 cents an acre, per year, according to Mr. Shmatkov of the World Wildlife Fund. That is far below the cost in other countries.

Government corruption, criminality and the lack of economic development in Siberia and the Far East have made the crisis worse.

Also, in many rural areas of the Russian Far East and Siberia, there are few other ways to make money, or to make a living, than stripping natural resources of the vast surrounding forests. Logging without contracts is also common, while arsonists are suspected of having set fires to forests, because scorched trees can be legally culled and sold.

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Going 100% renewable power means a lot of dirty mining

Preface. Everyone talks about oil spills, but what about the dirty mining that will have a huge polluting footprint on the earth, and potentially destroy the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery among other side-effects? Renewables aren’t cleaner and greener than fossils, and require a hell of a lot of fossils to mine the ore, deliver it to a crusher, blast furnace, and fabrication, all accomplished with fossils.

Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report

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Sadasivam, N. 2019. Report: Going 100% renewable power means a lot of dirty mining. Grist.org

For more than a decade, indigenous communities in Alaska have been fighting to prevent the mining of copper and gold at Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, home to the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery and a crucial source of sustenance. The proposed mine, blocked under the Obama administration but inching forward under the Trump administration, has been billed by proponents as necessary to meet the growing demand for copper, which is used in wind turbines, batteries, and solar panels. Similar stories are playing out in Norway, where the Sámi community is fighting a copper mine, and in Papua New Guinea, where a company has been mining the seabed for gold and copper.

Weighing those trade-offs — between supporting mining in environmentally sensitive areas and sourcing metals needed to power renewables — is likely to become more common if countries continue generating more renewable energy. That’s according to a report out Wednesday from researchers at the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney in Australia. The report, commissioned by the environmental organization Earthworks, finds that demand for metals such as copper, lithium and cobalt would skyrocket if countries around the world try to get their electric grids and transportation systems fully powered by renewable energy by 2050. Consequently, a rush to meet that demand could lead to more mining in countries with lax environmental and safety regulations and weak protections for workers.

The list of metals used in the production of renewable energy is long. It includes the well-known — copper, silver and aluminum — as well as rare earths such as neodymium and dysprosium, used to make magnets for wind turbines. Mining for these metals is currently concentrated in just a handful of countries: Democratic Republic of Congo, China, Chile, and India, among them.

Take cobalt. Each electric vehicle needs between five to ten kilograms of the bluish-white metal for its lithium-ion batteries. The authors consider cobalt a “metal of most concern for supply risks,” because nearly 60 percent of its production takes place in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country with a dismal record of child labor and human rights abuses. Should the world’s transportation and electricity sectors ever switch to running entirely on renewables, demand for the metal would soar to more than four times the amount available in reserves, according to the researchers.

Posted in Important Minerals, Pollution | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Automated vehicles: more driving, energy wasted, & congestion

Preface. There’s no need to actually worry about how automated vehicles will be used and their potential congestion, energy use, and whether there are enough rare earth minerals to make them possible, because they simply can never be fully automated, as explained in this post, with articles from Science, Scientific American, and the New York Times: “Why self-driving cars may not be in your future“.

There are two articles summarized below.

Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report ]

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Taiebat, M., et al. 2019. Forecasting the Impact of Connected and Automated Vehicles on Energy Use: A Microeconomic Study of Induced Travel and Energy Rebound. Applied Energy247: 297

The benefits of self-driving cars will likely induce vehicle owners to drive more, and those extra miles could partially or completely offset the potential energy-saving benefits that automation may provide, according to a new University of Michigan study.

Greater fuel efficiency induces some people to travel extra miles, and those added miles can partially offset fuel savings. It’s a behavioral change known as the rebound effect. In addition, the ability to use in-vehicle time productively in a self-driving car — people can work, sleep, watch a movie, read a book — will likely induce even more travel.

Taken together, those two sources of added mileage could partially or completely offset the energy savings provided by autonomous vehicles. In fact, the added miles could even result in a net increase in energy consumption, a phenomenon known as backfire.

Traditionally, time spent driving has been viewed as a cost to the driver. But the ability to pursue other activities in an autonomous vehicle is expected to lower this “perceived travel time cost” considerably, which will likely spur additional travel.

The U-M researchers estimated that the induced travel resulting from a 38% reduction in perceived travel time cost would completely eliminate the fuel savings associated with self-driving cars.

“Backfire — a net rise in energy consumption — is a distinct possibility.

Mervis, J. December 15, 2017. Not so fast. We can’t even agree on what autonomous, much less how they will affect our lives. Science.

Joan Walker, a transportation engineer at UC Berkeley, designed a clever experiment. Using an automated vehicle (AV) is like having your own chauffeur. So she gave 13 car owners in the San Francisco Bay area the use of a chauffeur-driven car for up to 60 hours over 1 week, and then tracked their travel habits.  There were 4 millennials, 4 families, and 5 retirees.

The driver was free.  The study looked at how they drove their own cars for a week, and how that changed when they had a driver.

They could send the car on ghost trips (errands), such as picking up their children from school, and they didn’t have to worry about driving or parking.

The results suggest that a world with AVs will have more traffic:

  1. the 13 subjects logged 76% more miles
  2. 22% were ghost errand trips
  3. There was a 94% increase in the number of trips over 20 miles and an 80% increase after 6 PM, with retirees increasing the most.
  4. During the chauffeur week, there was no biking, mass transit, or use of ride services like Uber and Lyft.

Three-fourths of the supposedly car-shunning millennials clocked more miles. In contrast to conventional wisdom that older people would be slower to embrace the new technology, Walker says, “The retirees were really excited about AVs. They see their declining mobility and they are like, ‘I want this to be available now.’”

Due to the small sample size she will repeat this experiment on a larger scale next summer.

Posted in Automobiles, Energy Efficiency | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

EV cars only go half as far in freezing weather

Preface.    Below freezing, li-ion batteries don’t perform as well.  Consumer reports found that about half the driving range was lost. 

Perhaps this is why nearly half of PHEV/BEV vehicles are sold in balmy California, while the half of the states with the coldest temperatures – freezing or below, didn’t buy 50% of electric cars as you’d expect, but just 23% of them, and half of that total is from the five states that offer state subsidies.  

It’s possible cold weather will be yet another factor preventing the adoption of electric vehicles in all states.

Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report

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Consumer reports tested cars in cold weather, less than freezing, and found they lose about half their normal driving range.  So cold state EV buyers have to spend more than warmer states for longer ranges or they may be left stranded in a cold snap.   The colder it gets below freezing, the worse the battery performance, and especially pronounced below 0° F.  It’s not just the cold draining the batteries, extra demands are put on them for heating and defoggers. Consumer reports recommends keeping the car in the garage plugged in until you leave (Olsen 2019).

“Batteries are like humans,” says Anna Stefanopoulou, director of the University of Michigan’s Energy Institute. They prefer the same sort of temperature range that people do. Anything below 40 or above 115 degrees Fahrenheit and they’re not going to deliver their peak performance. They like to be around 60 to 80 degrees. As the temperature drops, the electrolyte fluid inside the battery cells becomes more sluggish. “You don’t have as much power when you want to discharge,” says Stefanopoulou. “The situation is even more limited when you want to charge.”

there are workarounds. First, don’t let the battery get too low—make sure you always have a 20 percent charge or so. If you want to power up in subzero temperatures, the car may need that reserve to warm the battery enough to start the process. “Don’t think that being near an outlet to charge will get you out of trouble,” Stefanopoulou says. (Stewart 2019)

When it comes to putting electrons into the battery, freezing weather hurts in two regards. It limits regenerative braking, so the car recoups less power and drivers can’t rely on one-pedal driving. And charging, particularly fast charging, will be limited to protect the battery.

Californians bought 153,442 PHEV or BEV in 2018, nearly half of all electric/hybrids in the country.

But 21 other states bought 11,221 in total, just 3.4%, and the top 9 states bought 73% of them. Half of the states, the 26 with the coldest average winter temperatures of 32 or less, bought just 23% of the cars.  But that total is skewed towards states that offer subsidies, half of these cars were bought in the 5 cold states with them: New York, Colorado, Massachusetts, and Connecticut (EVAdoption 2019, CR 2019, Gorzelany 2018).

References

CR. 2019. Winter temperature averages for every state. Current results
EVAdoption. 2019. EV Market share by state. EVAdoption

Gorzelany, J. 2018. Here’s which states are best for owning an electric car. Forbes.

Olsen, P. 2019. Buying an electric car for a cold climate? Double down on the range. Consumer reports.

Stewart, J. Why electric cars struggle in the cold – and how to help them. Wired.

State 2018 includes hybrids % of EV sales Avg winter temp F Temp rank Rebates
California 153,442 0.47 46.2 8 2500-4500
New York 15,752 0.05 23.3 38 2000
Florida 13,705 0.04 59.4 2
Washington 12,650 0.04 33 21
Texas 11,764 0.04 47.9 4
New Jersey 9,230 0.03 33 21
Massachusetts 8,990 0.03 27.4 34 2500
Illinois 7,357 0.02 28.3 32
Arizona 7,086 0.02 43.6 10
Colorado 7,051 0.02 25.8 35 5000
Virginia 6,375 0.02 36.8 15
Maryland 6,299 0.02 34.7 19
Pennsylvania 6,063 0.02 28.4 31
Georgia 6,004 0.02 47.8 5
0.14
Oregon 5,976 0.02 34 20
North Carolina 4,712 0.01 42.1 11
Ohio 4,456 0.01 29.5 28
Michigan 3,571 0.01 21.7 39
Connecticut 3,415 0.01 28.5 30 3000
Minnesota 2,853 0.01 12.4 48
Oklahoma 2,683 0.01 39 13
Nevada 2,325 0.01 32.2 25
Hawaii 2,296 0.01 67.4 1
Utah 2,295 0.01 28.2 33
Missouri 2,268 0.01 32.3 24
Indiana 2,036 0.01 29.4 29
Tennessee 1,994 0.01 39.1 13
Wisconsin 1,956 0.01 17.2
South Carolina 1,170 0.00 46.1 9
New Hampshire 1,123 0.00 21.1 43
Kansas 943 0.00 31.9 26
Iowa 917 0.00 21.7 39
Alabama 866 0.00 46.5 7
Vermont 824 0.00 19.4 45
Maine 799 0.00 16.8 47
Kentucky 787 0.00 35.9 18
District of Columbia 761 0.00 34.7 19
New Mexico 705 0.00 36.1 16
Nebraska 628 0.00 25.7 36
Delaware 627 0.00 36.1 16 2200
Rhode Island 619 0.00 31.4 27
Louisiana 613 0.00 50.9 3 1500
Idaho 497 0.00 25.4 37
Arkansas 435 0.00 41.5 12
Montana 274 0.00 21.2 41
Mississippi 231 0.00 46.7 6
West Virginia 218 0.00 32.8 23
Alaska 155 0.00 -16.3 50
South Dakota 135 0.00 19.5 44
North Dakota 95 0.00 12.2 49
Wyoming 92 0.00 21.2 41
Total 328,118

Posted in Automobiles, Lithium-ion | Tagged | 5 Comments

So you want to start a vertical farm?

Preface. Vertical farms sound even more impossible than rooftop farms, which at least can use free sunshine. And they use massive amounts of energy to heat, cool, ventilate, light, and so on, not a good direction to go given energy decline beginning in the near future.

Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Derrick Jensen, Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report

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I have a vegetable garden, and after pressing seeds into the soil, with almost no effort I can come back and harvest whatever I planted six weeks later.  All of this bounty came from free soil, free sunshine, and free rain, though we do use drip irrigation half the year.    

Your proposal of a vertical farm is a laudable goal for increasing food security, helping to feed the 3 billion more people expected by 2050, and reducing the energy and emissions caused by the production and transportation of food long distances.

From what I could find in commercial real estate listings, that’ll set you back about $10 million dollars.

Or you can lease space for $22 to $40 per square foot, at $22 to $40,000 a month for 10,000 square feet in New York city, or better yet lease in the Bronx or Queens where prices are lower (Goodman 2019).

New York City has 193,689 acres, but just a few are indoors or in shipping containers.  At best New York could support 1,864 acres of such farms, nearly all of them rooftop (Goodman 2019).  But 162,000 to 232,000 acres required to provide residents the 40,760,000,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables they consume every year. 

So you found a place.  The first thing you’ve got to do is buy lots of lights.  Outdoors, all the leaves of a plant need to be directly illuminated by the sun to activate photosynthesis.  But indoors, even in a glass-walled room, there’s not enough light.  So you’ll need huge amounts of artificial lighting to match what the sun delivers, about 100 times the lighting seen in a typical office building (SA 2019).

And you’ll need a lot of electricity to light all these bulbs. Crops like potatoes or tomatoes need about 1,200 kilowatt hours of electricity for every kilogram (2.2 pounds) of edible fruit produced.  If half of America’s vegetable crops were to be grown in vertical farms, just the lighting alone would require over half of all the electricity generated in the U.S. (Cox 2016).

Mills (2012) used the low estimates of how much Cannabis is grown indoors in the U.S. and deduced this consumes about 1% of U.S. electricity (3% of California’s electricity) at a cost of $6 billion a year.  That’s equal to the energy used by about 2 million homes.  But then they can afford to do so, marijuana commands a price of about $210 to $320 (Statista.com 2018) per ounce whereas fresh vegetables are just pennies per ounce.

You’ll need to pump water up to all the floors.  I can’t say how much energy or what it will cost, but water is heavy.  The state of California uses a tremendous amount of energy to move water around — 19% of California’s electricity, 30% of its natural gas, and 88 billion gallons of diesel fuel every year, and this demand is growing (Klein 2005).   

And that’s just the start, you’ll need haul acres of dirt and fertilizer to every floor, buy shelving to put the plants on, purchase nutrient monitoring systems, machinery to harvest plants, heating and cooling systems, ventilation, shading, dehumidifiers, fans, computers, and vans to truck your produce to markets.

There’s only a limited range of crops that can be grown. It only makes sense to grow leafy greens or herbs since most of the plant can be eaten.  Other crops have too many inedible leaves, stems, and roots.

You’re not exactly going to be feeding the neighborhood either. A cup of butterhead lettuce weights 55 grams (2 ounces) and contains 7.2 calories, so customers will need to eat 280 cups of greens weighing 15,400 grams (34 pounds) to get their daily required 2,000 calories (SelfND 2018).

If you don’t find any of this daunting and go ahead with the project, congratulations, you’ll be the only vertical skyscraper farm in the U.S. and the rest of the world, except for Japan (Takada 2018). It will be interesting to see if Japanese, and a new vertical farm being built in Dubai, enterprises can compete with farms on the ground in cities or near them, and nearby massive greenhouse operations that can use natural sunshine.

References

Cox, S. 2016. Why growing vegetables in high-rises is wrong on so many levels. Alternet.org

Goodman, W., et al.  2019. Will the Urban Agricultural Revolution Be Vertical and Soilless? A Case Study of Controlled Environment Agriculture in New York City. Land Use Policy 82.

Klein, G., et al. 2005. California’s water-energy relationship. California Energy Commission.

Mills, E. 2012. The carbon footprint of indoor Cannabis production. Energy Policy 46: 58-67.

SA. 2019. Growing up: skyscraper farms seen as a way to produce food locally–and cut greenhouse emissions. Scientific American.

SelfND. 2018. Lettuce, butterhead (includes boston and bibb types) raw nutrition facts & calories. Nutritiondata.self.com

Takada, A. 2018. As high-rise farms go global, Japan’s Spread leads the way. Japantimes.

Posted in Agriculture, Agriculture | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Antibiotic Resistance

Source: Antibiotic Resistance project, pewtrusts.org

Preface. Just a few of the many articles in the media on antibiotic resistance, which like climate change, will make matters worse for whoever survives Peak Oil.  And it won’t be just bacterial resistance, fungi are now growing resistant to drugs as well, probably because of excessive use of fungicides in agriculture.

Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Derrick Jensen, Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report

2019-4-6. A Mysterious Infection, Spanning the Globe in a Climate of Secrecy. New York Times.

My summary: Lately there has been an explosion of resistant fungi such as Candida auris, which preys on people with weakened immune systems. It is spreading around the world — to Venezuela, Spain, Britain, India, Pakistan, South Africa and recently New York, New Jersey, and Illinois.

C. auris is tenacious because it is impervious to major anti-fungal medications, making it a new example of one of the world’s most intractable health threats: the rise of drug-resistant infections. C. auris infections are resistant to at least one drug, and 30% are resistant to two or more drugs.  Nearly half of patients who contract C. auris die within 90 days.

In the U.S. 2 million people get resistant infections every year, and 162,000 die from them.

Some scientists cite evidence that heavy use of fungicides on crops is contributing to the surge in drug-resistant fungi infecting humans.

2017-3-3 WHO’S dirty dozen microbes.  Science 355:890

You may never have heard of Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, or the Enterobacteriaceae—but these three killers top a new list, drawn up by the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland, of bacteria for which new drugs are desperately needed. Unveiled today, the list contains 12 bacteria and bacterial families, with the top three making up the category “critical”.

WHO hopes that pharmaceutical companies will give these bugs priority in developing antibiotics, but these drugs are not an attractive investment because they’re only taken a short time and usage restricted. Far more profitable are the drugs for chronic diseases.

Doctors, researchers, and health officials have been sounding the alarm for years about the rise of antibiotic resistance. The list took into account the level of resistance each class of pathogen has already acquired, how deadly it can be, how widespread, and the burden it causes to health systems.

The top three are all gram-negative bacteria that are resistant to multiple drugs. They aren’t widespread yet, but they do cause severe, frequently deadly infections in hospitals, especially in people who are already immune compromised—including transplant recipients, chemotherapy patients, and elderly people.  These bacteria can cause deadly infections if they take up residence in the respiratory system or bloodstream. The most dangerous strains have recently acquired resistance to a class of antibiotics called carbapenems, the only group that still killed them effectively.

Nine more pathogens round out the agency’s dirty dozen: Six are listed as high priority, including drug-resistant strains of Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which causes gonorrhea, and food-borne agents like Salmonella and Campylobacter. Bacteria in this category cause infections that are less deadly than those caused by the three critical-level bugs, but they are much more widespread. Three “medium” priority organisms all are susceptible to some drugs, but are increasingly becoming resistant.

2016-9-30. Antibiotic-resistant bugs in British supermarket chicken reach record levels.

A food poisoning bug found in three-quarters of British supermarket chicken is showing drastically increased resistance to antibiotics, which may mean it will become harder for doctors to treat. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) tested campylobacter bacteria found in poultry. It said resistance to certain antibiotics, including a commonly used drug to treat the bug, ciprofloxacin, had more than doubled in some strains. It also found a big increase in resistance to the antibiotic nalidixic acid, with more than half of two common strains, C.jejuni and C.Coli, found to be resistant to the drug. Both antibiotics are classed as “critically important,” which means a drug is the only option or one of very few alternatives for treating human illnesses. Across the 283 samples tested by the FSA, 5% had developed resistance to multiple drugs. The FSA noted that 900 million chickens are produced in the UK every year, which means millions could be carrying multi-resistant-bacteria.  According to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), campylobacter is responsible for half a million infections, 100 deaths and 80,000 GP consultations every year, costing a total of £900 million (US$1.17 billion).

Melissa Healy. July 2016. A ‘slow catastrophe’ unfolds as the golden age of antibiotics comes to an end. Los Angeles Times.

Important antibiotics for which resistance has developed: Penicillin, The golden age of antibiotics appears to be coming to an end. Now, common ailments are regaining the power to kill.

More than 100 antibiotic compounds have been introduced since penicillin, and many important ones have developed resistance, such as: Tetracycline, Erythromycin, Methicillin, Gentamicin, Vancomycin, Imipenem, ceftazidime, Levofloxacin, Linezolid, Daptomycin, Ceftaroline.

Researchers haven’t identified a new class of antibiotic medication since 1987.

But almost as soon as they were given to patients, scientists began finding evidence that disease-causing bacteria were developing resistance to these new wonder drugs.

Bacteria meet, mate, compete and evolve inside living bodies. When an antibiotic is added to the mix, only the strongest survive. Yet only 30% of Americans believe that antibiotic resistance is a significant problem for public health.

Humans have accelerated this natural process by indiscriminately prescribing antibiotics and by routinely feeding the drugs to livestock, scientists say. Multiply the number of humans and animals taking these drugs, and you multiply the opportunities for antibiotic-resistant strains to emerge.

Each year, more than 2 million people in the U.S. are infected with a bacterium that has become resistant to one or more antibiotic medication designed to kill it, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At least 23,000 people die as a direct result of antibiotic-resistant infections, and many more die from other conditions that were complicated by an antibiotic-resistant infection, the agency says.

The problem goes beyond treating infections. As bacterial resistance grows, Lesho said, “we’re all at risk of losing our access” to medical miracles we’ve come to take for granted: elective surgeries, joint replacements, organ transplants, cancer chemotherapies. These treatments give bacteria an opportunity to hitch a ride on a catheter or an unwashed hand and invade an already vulnerable patient.

May 24, 2014. Four Bacteria of the Apocalypse. NewScientist.

Multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is growing. Existing drugs for TB cure only about half of those treated for MDR-TB. Only one new drug has been introduced in 40 years, despite global efforts.

MRSA – or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus – has been joined by a staph that resists another last-resort drug, vancomycin. Livestock reared using antibiotics can develop MRSA infections. Such strains can spread among humans, as shown by recent human cases in Denmark even though it has banned antibiotic growth-promoters in livestock.

CRE – or carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae – is a group of gut bacteria that resists carbapenems – antibiotics of last resort. One set of CRE genes was first seen in India in 2009 and has since been found around the world. The bacteria can cause urinary tract infections, and the resistant strain is making this widespread ailment untreatable.

Gonorrhoea – a sexual infection also known as “the clap” – is becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics. Untreatable cases have emerged.

Jones, Tamera. 21 July 2014. Sewage treatment contributes to antibiotic resistance

Amos, G. C. A. Amos, et al. May 5, 2014.  Waste water effluent contributes to the dissemination of CTX-M-15 in the natural environment, Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy2014; 69: 1785 – 1791.

Wastewater treatment plants could be unwittingly helping to spread antibiotic resistance, say scientists.  Their research suggests that processing human, farm and industrial waste all together in one place might be making it easier for bacteria to become resistant to a wide range of even the most clinically-effective antibiotics. With so many different types of bacteria coming together in sewage plants we could be giving them a perfect opportunity to swap genes that confer resistance, helping them live. This means antibiotic-resistant bacteria may be evolving much faster than they would in isolation.

The research, published in Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, shows that there are now reservoirs of highly resistant gut bacteria in the environment, threatening human and animal health.

We urgently need to find new ways to process waste more effectively so we don’t inadvertently contribute to the problem of drug-resistant bacteria.

Earlier studies have suggested that farming and waste processing methods contribute to reservoirs of resistant bacteria in the environment. But, until now, very few studies had looked at whether or not wastewater effluent contributes to the problem.

We’re on the brink of Armageddon and this is just contributing to it. Antibiotics could just stop working and we could all be colonized by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.’ Professor Elizabeth Wellington of the University of Warwick.

Mackenzie, D. June 16, 2012. WHO demands action on drug-resistant gonorrhoea. NewScientist.

Gonorrhoea, a sexually transmitted infection also known as “the clap”, is making a comeback – and this time it may be incurable. New strains have emerged that resist the last few antibiotics that still worked against the disease. In a rare public alert last week, the World Health Organization warned that highly resistant cases of gonorrhoea have now been detected in Japan, Europe and Australia. It is calling for a worldwide effort to track the superbug – and to develop new gonorrhoea drugs and vaccines.

That’s a slim hope. Between the limited profits to be made from drugs that cure infections and the previous success of antibiotics against gonorrhoea, there has been little investment in the disease. “There are no new therapeutic drugs in development,” says Manjula Lusti-Narasimhan of the WHO’s Department of Reproductive Health and Research.

Yet epidemiological models show that the current official policies for managing gonorrhoea are virtually guaranteed to lead to a rebound in cases, and to antibiotic resistance.

Neisseria gonorrhoeae, also known as Gonococcus, infect an estimated 106 million people a year worldwide. The infection causes painful urination in men and can be symptomless in women, but left untreated it may cause painful pelvic inflammation and potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy. It can cause blindness in babies, and makes it easier to contract HIV.

N. gonorrhoeae is now resistant to penicillin, and the subsequent families of antibiotics used to treat it.  Now only a couple of third-generation cephalosporin antibiotics are left. But resistance to these has been creeping up, and last year N. gonorrhoeae resistant enough to be dubbed a “superbug” was reported in Japan. Worse, the models show that relying on one drug until resistance builds up, then switching to another – precisely what health agencies have done – causes resistance fastest.

But people who change partners such as sex workers and promiscuous communities of men who have sex with men, are likely to pass on the infection. Targeting such groups for treatment caused gonorrhoea infection rates to drop steeply in industrialized countries since the 1970s – but now they are climbing again.

Posted in Antibiotics | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Germany’s renewable energy program, Energiewende, is a big, expensive failure

After reading this post, or better yet the original 44-page document, you’ll understand why the Green New Deal is a bad idea.  This is a cautionary tale worth paying attention to.

The goal of Energiewende was to make Germany independent of fossil fuels.  But it hasn’t worked out.  The 29,000 wind turbines and 1.6 million PV systems provide only 3.1% of Germany’s energy needs and have cost well over 100 billion Euros so far and likely another 450 billion Euros over the next two decades.  And much more than that when you add in the extra cost of maintaining fossil generation systems to back up the lack of wind and sunshine from seconds to weeks.

Because of their extremely low energy density and need for a great deal of space, forests are being cut down, pits dug, and filled with hundreds of tons of reinforced concrete for wind turbines to stand on, 5 acres per turbine. With the forest no longer protecting the soil, it is now vulnerable to wind and rain erosion.

Because wind and solar farms get a guaranteed price for 20 years, they have no need to innovate, do research, or please customers, who paid them 176 billion euros for electricity with a market value of just 5 billion euros from 2000-2016.  This is money that taxpayers could have used to build bridges, energy efficient buildings, or renovate schools, which would create even more jobs than the wind and solar industry claims so they can tout themselves as good for society, perhaps they aren’t so great when you look at other ways and jobs that could have been created with all the subsidies (Vernunftkraft 2018).

Germany’s electricity rates have skyrocketed to the highest levels in the EU because of the Energiewende debacle.

Other news about Energiewende:

  • Germany’s Federal Audit Office has accused the federal government of having largely failed to manage the transformation of Germany’s energy systems (Energiewende  program), and will miss its targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption and the share of renewable energy in transport.
  • At the same time, policy makers had burdened the nation with enormous costs. The audit further concluded that the program is a monumental bureaucratic nightmare.
  • The build-up of renewables benefited from more than $800 billion in subsidies. 
  • The country has not just been burning coal; it has been burning lignite, one of the dirtiest fuels on the planet. In fact, in 2016, seven of the 10 worst polluting facilities in Europe were German lignite plants.
  • When it’s windy and bright, the grid is so flooded with power that prices in the wholesale market sometimes drop below zero.
  • Transport consumes 30 percent and mining & manufacturing 29% of Germany’s power, but for each, only 4 percent of its energy comes from renewables. Households use 26% of power, but only 13% of it comes from renewables, and Trade, commerce and services 15% but just 7% renewables.  
  • Germany’s carbon emissions have stagnated at roughly their 2009 level. The country remains Europe’s largest producer and burner of coal, which generates more than one-third of Germany’s power supply. Moreover, emissions in the transportation sector have shot up by 20 percent since 1995 and are rising with no end in sight

Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report

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Vernunftkraft. 2018. Germanys Energiewende – where we really stand.  Bundesinitiative für vernünftige Energiepolitik, Vernunftkraft.

The Energiewende has the goal of making Germany independent of fossil fuels in the long term. Coal, oil and gas were to be phased out, allowing drastic reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. However, these goals have not even begun to be achieved.

The idea of meeting our country’s energy needs with wind power and solar energy has proven to be an illusion. At present, around 29,000 wind turbines and 1.6 million photovoltaic systems together account for just 3.1 % of our energy requirements.   There were hardly any successes in the heating/cooling and transport sectors.

Well over a hundred billion euros have been spent on the expansion of solar and wind energy over the same period. The financial obligations undertaken in the process will continue to burden taxpayers for another two decades and will end up costing German consumers a total sum of around 550 billion euros.

To compensate for the lack of reliability of wind and sun and to be able to actually replace conventional power generation, gigantic amounts of electricity storage would be required. The replacement of controllable power generation with a fluctuating power supply is impossible without storage and unaffordable with it.

A reliable supply of electricity around the clock is taken for granted by citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany. But only those who have taken a closer look will appreciate the importance of a reliable power supply for our highly complex, high-tech society. It is not just about comfort and convenience. It is not only a matter of maintaining an essential input for important manufacturing processes; it is about nothing less than the functioning of civilized community life.

A fundamental characteristic of electrical current must be taken into account when answering this question: it must be produced, to the millisecond, at the moment of consumption, giving an exact balance between power supply and demand. Stable power grids are based on this principle.

At the end of September 2017, more than 27,000 wind turbines with a rated output of 53,374 MW were installed in Germany. Nominal power is defined as the highest power that can be provided permanently under optimum operating conditions (strong to stormy wind conditions). In Figure 2, the dark blue areas represent the delivered power from the German wind turbine fleet during September 2017. A total of 6,380 GWh (1 GWh = 1 million kWh) was sent to the grid, corresponding to just 16.6 % of what was theoretically possible.  

For approximately half of September 2017, the power delivered by the wind fleet was less than 10 % of the nominal capacity. Values above 50 % were reached only 5.3 % of the time, in essence only on 8 and 13–15 September.

Electricity consumption in September 2017 was 39,000 GWh. Wind turbines delivered for 6400 GWh of this and PV systems another 3100 GWh. The minimum power input by all of the PV and wind energy systems was below 0.6 GW, representing less than 1% of the installed capacity of 96 GW.

Since wind and solar are often absent, conventional power plants are needed to ensure grid stability at all times – often over long periods.  Consumers pay for the costs of maintaining two parallel generation systems.

There is no discernable smoothing effect from the size and geographical spread of the wind fleet: the argument that the wind is always blowing somewhere is not true. Even a Europe-wide wind power expansion in conjunction with a perfectly developed electricity grid would not solve the problem of the fluctuating wind energy generation. It is quite possible for there to be no wind anywhere in Europe.

Anyone who studies the feed-in characteristics of electricity generation from wind power and PV systems thoroughly must realize that sun and wind usually supply either far too little or far too much – and that one cannot rely on anything but chance.

Despite the increased capacity and the increasing peaks, the guaranteed output of all 27,000 wind turbines and the 400 million m² of PV systems remains close to zero because of their weather-dependency. This is a particular problem in the winter months, when electricity consumption is high.

Even the ‘dumping’ of electricity abroad to reduce the surplus energy will become increasingly difficult, since neighboring countries are closing themselves off with electricity barriers in order to protect their own grids.

There is no sunshine at night and electricity cannot be stored in bags

The wind energy statistics reveal the absurdity of wanting to tackle the problem of intermittency through construction of additional power lines and extensive wind power expansion.

So even with a European electricity grid based on wind turbines, a 100 % replacement system would always have to be available to ensure the security of electricity supply.

With PV systems, the lack any smoothing of electricity over the diurnal and seasonal cycles is even more evident. It is obvious that the generation peaks in Germany occur at the same time as the peaks in the other European countries. This is due to the size of the low pressure areas, which results in a positive correlation of wind power generation levels across the continent: if too much electricity is produced in Germany, most of our neighbors will be over-producing too. This calls into question the sense of network expansion a priori.

German energy consumption is particularly high in the winter months, especially during inversion weather conditions, when PV systems barely supply any electricity due to clouds and wind turbines are usually at a standstill. The weather-dependency of electricity generation would thus have direct and fatal effects on the transport sector. It would not be possible to heat electrically either. In other words, renewable energy can’t keep transportation or heating going.

Climate protection: a bad joke with deadly undertones

No discussion about the construction of wind turbines and no energy policy document of the last federal government can avoid the suggestion that the Energiewende might help avert the dangers of climate change. This is why the last German government continually described the EEG as a central instrument of climate protection. The thesis – often presented in a shrill, moralizing tone – is that the expansion of ‘renewable energies’ is a human obligation in view of the impending global warming apocalypse. Particularly perfidious forms of this thesis even suggest that not expanding wind power plants in Germany would mean that we would soon be dealing with ‘billions of climate refugees’.

At least one hectare of forest is cleared per wind turbine and is thus permanently destroyed. Afforestation elsewhere cannot make up for this, since old trees are in every respect much more valuable than new plantations. The negative effects of global warming predicted for Germany are more frequent floods and droughts, but forest is the best form of protection against soil erosion, cleaning soil and storing water.

Whether it is forest destruction, cultivation of maize for biogas plants, the destruction of habitats or the direct killing of birds and bats – the massive expansion of ‘renewable energies’ has appalling consequences, the result of their low energy density and the resulting requirement for vast areas of land.

Besides intermittency, the core problem of wind and solar energy is that it is generated in a very diffuse form. Anyone who has ridden a bike against the wind will understand: a headwind of 3m/s makes clothes flutter a little, but hardly makes it difficult to pedal. Water, on the other hand, flowing towards us at the same speed, will wash us away. This is because the power of water is comparatively concentrated, while the power of the wind is much more diffuse. In the case of hydropower, ‘collecting from the surface’ is done by a wide system of ditches, brooks, rivers and streams. If you want to ‘capture’ the power of the wind, you have to do the tedious work of concentrating the energy yourself – requiring a multitude of collection stations and power lines to connect them. Instead of ditches, streams, and rivers wind power required 200-m-high industrial installations, pylons and wires. Inevitably, natural areas become industrialized and opportunities for retreat in nature are gradually destroyed.

A few years ago, a wind turbine invasion of the many forests that have been managed for decades in accordance with the principle of sustainability was still unimaginable. But huge pits are now being dug and filled with thousands of tons of reinforced concrete, with considerable effects on the ecosystem. The effects on wildlife, soils and water as well as on the aesthetics and natural harmony of hilltop landscapes are catastrophic.

The direct cost drivers of electricity prices are the feed-in tariffs set out in the legislation: operators of wind farms, PV and biomass plants will receive a guaranteed price per kilowatt hour, fixed for 20 years after commissioning. This is set at a level that is many times higher than the market price. The difference is passed on to (almost) all consumers via the electricity price. In addition, producers are guaranteed to be able to sell electricity into the grid at that price, regardless of whether there is a need for it or not.

In the period 2000–2016, 176 billion euros were paid by electricity consumers to renewables companies, for electricity with a market value of just 5 billion euros.

What else could have been done with this money?  This is known in economic terms as the ‘opportunity cost’.  For example, the St Gotthard tunnel opened in 2016 at a cost of 3.4 billion euros; the Hamburg Elbe Philharmonic Hall cost 0.8 billion euros. The refurbishment needs of all German schools are estimated to total just 34 billion euros.

The fact that electricity from wind and sun is randomly produced puts the power supply system under considerable and increasing stress. The task of transmission system operators to maintain a constant 50Hz alternating voltage becomes more difficult with each additional weather-dependent and privileged feeding system. In order to cope with increasing volatility, the generation output must be repeatedly intervened in order to protect line sections from overload.

If a bottleneck threatens at a certain point in the grid, power plants on this side of the bottleneck are instructed to reduce their feed-in, while plants beyond the bottleneck must increase their output. The need for re-dispatching  will continue to increase.  Together with the expansion of wind power, the costs of these re-dispatching measures rose continuously. By 2015, grid operators had to spend a billion euros to protect the power grid from the blackout. Since this billion did not ‘fall from the sky’, the unreliability of EEG electricity is reflected in higher electricity prices.

But that’s not all: In order to protect themselves from unwanted erratic electricity inflows and to prevent their grids from being endangered, our neighbors in the Czech Republic and Poland were forced to install phase shifters, i.e. to erect ‘electrical current barriers’. The costs of these self-defense measures are also borne by German consumers.

The ‘energy revolution’ is often referred to as a modernization and innovation program. Germany will become a global leader in technology development, is the slogan. In green-inspired literature, ‘wind and solar’ should be celebrated as the ‘winners’. However, the real world is only partially impressed by this case: those technologies that prove to be economic will win, not those that bureaucrats and officials favor. Long-term economic gains can only be made through competition. However, with renewables, the competitive mechanism is switched off: prices and quantities are determined in a political process, the outcome of which is ultimately determined by the producers of renewable energy themselves.

If post-war governments had adopted the same approach for the automobile industry, it might have demanded that by the year 2000 every German must have a car. The Volkswagen Beetle – at the time, one of the most technically advanced cars in the world – would have been declared an industry standard and a purchase price that would deliver `cars for all’ would have been determined in a biennial consultation process between government and manufacturers. As a result, we would still have vehicles of the technical standard of the VW Beetle, innovation would be irrelevant, and the German industry would never have achieved its position of global leadership.

The plight of the German photovoltaic industry, which rapidly lost international market share and had to cope with many insolvencies, is an example of this. The availability of easy money – subsidies – was the main rea son for the sector’s loss of competitiveness.  It is a harbinger of what can be expected in other artificially nurtured segments of the renewables sector.

Subsidies, however, take away their incentive to innovate. German PV companies invested only 2–3 % of their sales in research and development. In the highly competitive automobile industry, the equivalent figure is 6%; in the pharmaceutical industry it is even higher, at around 9 %. Subsidies make businesses sluggish.

Green jobs? On large posters and in advertisements in autumn 2015, the Energiewende congratulated itself for the creation of ‘230,000 sustainable jobs’. This myth of a ‘job creating’ energy transition is regularly disseminated. Of course, the energy transition is shifting purchasing power from traditional consumer and capital goods industries to industries that produce wind turbines, solar panels and other equipment. This shift generates gross jobs in the those sectors: wind turbines, solar parks and biogas plants must be built. The components have to be produced, delivered and assembled; the finished systems have to be maintained. The investments require financing and credit agreements. This creates employment in banks and law firms. Subsidies must be regulated and monitored, which leads to even employment in the bureaucracy and, once again, lawyers’ offices.  

It should also be noted that were the money not spent on ‘renewable energies’, investments could have been made in other areas that would also have created employment. If, for example, the 178 billion euros mentioned above had been used to renovate schools, the order books of countless businesses would have remained full for many years to come.

If one wants to focus not only on short-term economic effects, but also on long-term growth, one has to ask not only about the scope, but also about the type of investments made. Otherwise you run the risk of losing to ‘Broken Window’ fallacy. According to this, a large stone would have to be thrown through the nearest window as powerfully as possible as an immediate measure of economic policy. This would ultimately give the glazier a large order and thus income, of which he would spend a portion on the confectioner, for example, and thus generate income again. An income that he in turn would spend partly on the butcher, resulting in a virtuous circle that would ultimately benefit everyone and increase national wealth…

Anyone who produces electricity will be remunerated at a guaranteed rate far above the market price for a period of 20 years. EEG beneficiaries do not need to worry about the needs of customers, the offerings of competitors, technical progress or other such ‘banalities’. The search for profitable locations is made easier for wind power producers insofar as the fixed prices per kWh are in essence higher at ‘bad’ locations than at ‘good’ ones. This principle – of incentivizing the use of bad locations – can intuitively be recognized as foolish, but was nevertheless adopted in the tendering procedures of the 2017 revision of the EEG. This absurdity was justified with a claim the fact that an expansion of the area covered in windfarms would lead to a reduction in the volatility of the electricity supplied – a fundamentally wrong idea

Tax consultant Daldorf, analyzed over 1600 annual financial statements of wind energy projects between 2005 and 2013. They found that the vast majority of wind farms in Germany operate at a loss. With many local wind farms, investors are lucky to get their original investment back at all. Daldorf gives the following reasons for the poor performance of windfarms:

  • poor wind assessments or no one-year wind measurements on site
  • erroneous wind indexes as a basis for planning
  • overly low margins of error in wind forecasts
  • underestimates of plant downtime for maintenance and repairs
  • ’planning optimism’ of the project promoters as a strategy for maximizing profits

The operators and investors bear the full risk. Before they can make a profit, the following costs must be covered from the sales achieved:

  • lease costs
  • insurance premiums, fees
  • maintenance costs
  • repairs, reserves for dismantling costs
  • management costs
  • administrative and other costs
  • interest-costs
  • taxes

The cubic relationship between wind force and power generation is decisive for the frequent red numbers: a doubling or halving of the wind speed changes the generation by a factor of eight. The smallest deviations from the expected wind input are reflected in sharp deviations in power generation and thus in revenues. Measurements on wind masts are the most accurate method, but even here the typical error range is 2–8 %. The uncertainty of measurement alone causes an uncertainty of the expected yield of up to 16 %. Measurements with optical methods (LIDAR) or even wind assessments are even less accurate. Anyone who evaluates such measurements will find that the operation of wind farms entails considerable economic risks. These risks apply in particular to wind assessments, whose error rate is in the order of 20 %.

The profit is almost solely determined by the annual electricity yield. No matter how clever the marketing may be, it cannot influence profitability, which depends on the whims of the weather.

Investment in wind turbines on the basis of wind assessments is close to gambling. Anyone who does so is responsible for their own downfall. However, anyone who lives in a community whose elected representatives fall for the promises of windfarm promoters is virtually forced to the roulette table.

The cardinal problems – weather-dependence and low energy density – are unsolved or unsolvable.

My note: there are even more reasons in this document than I have listed above for why Energiewende is a failure. And also see:

Posted in Alternative Energy, Wind | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

European Power plants are burning American forests

Preface.   Incredibly, this article doesn’t address the fact that after you cut down a forest and convert the wood into pellets destined to be burned in European furnaces for “clean energy”, the next forest won’t grow back with nearly as much lumber.   So CO2 isn’t being replaced, not even after 100 years.

Forests don’t regrow to their former magnificence because logging causes soil erosion, depletes the water retained in soil needed for regrowth, and compacts the soil (Elliot 1999).  Therefore the new growth won’t be able to absorb as much CO2 as their burned parents emitted because they contain less biomass, and since it takes half a century for a forest to regrow, whatever CO2 replacement occurs will take an awfully long time. Too long given the State of the World.

But left out of the equation is the lost soil carbon. Clearcutting disturbs the soil, which gets oxidized, which releases carbon that would remained stored, and a lot of it: According to the US Forest Service, soil can sequester up to twice as much carbon as the above ground forest ecosystem (Ellis 2016).

The article also doesn’t mention the energy returned on invested.  Think of all the fossils used to drive logging trucks and heavy equipment to the forests, cut them down, lift entire trees with giant grappling buckets, chopped on the site for different uses (pellets, lumber), loaded and driven to the pellet factory where the wood is heated in massive drying units to get the water out, then send the wood through “a labyrinth of massive tubes and conveyors that ferry treetops, sawdust, and whole trees up to 26 inches in diameter through grinders, dryers, and presses. The resulting pellets are loaded into the contains of 27 ton transfer trucks, driven to a port, shipped to Europe, taken by truck to the European power plant, and finally up a conveyer belt for their final doom in the furnace.

Like coal and natural gas, two-thirds of the wood energy will be lost to heat, and another 10% over the electric lines.  That can’t possibly be net energy positive. Or carbon neutral, since all of these transportation and industrial processes emitted CO2 long before the pellets were even burned.

That’s one reason some scientists estimate that burning wood could release 1.5 (Hanson 2017) to three times as much CO2 as coal. Biomass plants also produce more than twice as much nitrogen oxide, soot, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic matter as coal plants. Worse yet, many wood-burning power plants are partly fueled with contaminated waste wood which can emit toxic compounds like dioxins; heavy metals including lead, arsenic, and mercury (Upton 2014).

Much of the wood sent to Europe comes from the south-eastern US, from private land with zero regulations. Large-scale clear cutting is routine and old growth and endangered forests fall to the chainsaws as well. Worse yet, much of this destruction is done with an extensive use of chemical herbicides (BLI 2014).

After fossils are gone, people will turn back to wood to heat their homes and cook, make bricks, ceramics, metals and all the other things wood used to do before coal and oil took over starting in the 19th century

So I’m sad and alarmed that Europe is going after American forests.  We’re going to need them someday.  They are not renewable.  They are not zero carbon.  Related post: Wood, the fuel of preindustrial societies, is half of EU renewable energy

Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report

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Cornwall, W. 2017. The burning question. Science 355: 18-21

It took half a century for an acorn to grow into the 20-meter-tall oak tree standing here in a North Carolina hardwood forest near the banks of the Northeast Cape Fear River. But it takes just seconds to turn the oak into fuel for the furnace of a European power plant.

With a screech, a spinning blade bites through the trunk. Ultimately, the thickest bits of this tree and hundreds of others from this forest will be sliced into lumber. But the limbs from large trees like this, along with entire small or crooked trees, go to a specialized mill to be squeezed into tiny wood pellets. Shipped across the Atlantic Ocean, they will likely end up fueling a giant power plant in the United Kingdom that supplies nearly 10% of the country’s electricity.

The trans-Atlantic trade in wood pellets is booming due to a push by policymakers, industry groups, and some scientists to make burning more wood for electricity a strategy for curbing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Unlike coal or natural gas, they argue, wood is a low-carbon fuel. The carbon released when trees are cut down and burned is taken up again when new trees grow in their place, limiting its impact on climate.

European wood burning power plants claim that this emits zero carbon.  Which is totally untrue – some actually emit more CO2 than coal or natural gas, partly because wood has a higher water content and extra energy goes to boiling the water off.  Regulators designated wood as carbon-neutral anyway which led to many countries building new wood-fired plants or converting coal plants to burning wood.  The UK even provided subsidies that make wood pellets competitive with fossil fuels.

To feed these European plants, wood is imported from all over the world. The Southeast sends more than 6.5 million metric tons of wood pellets today.

Critics counter that favoring wood could actually boost carbon emissions, not curb them. Some scientists also worry that policies promoting wood fuels could unleash a global logging boom that trashes forest biodiversity in the name of climate protection.  It basically tells the Congo and Indonesia and every other forested country in the world: ‘If you cut down your forests and use them for energy, not only is that not bad, it’s good.

Scientists disagree about whether burning wood is carbon-neutral because so many assumptions are made that a model could spit out results that were only true for a particular kind of tree, the assumption of how long the CO2 of burned trees takes to be absorbed, and other factors.  Also time is a factor – widespread wood burning will cause emissions spikes for half a century, more than a coal power plant would have.  So it’s possible for scientists using a 100-year time frame to say that forests will have regrown in a century and recapture the carbon of their burned ancestors.

And after a forest is cut down, it doesn’t necessarily return to being a forest, but instead might become housing lots or farms and never grow more trees to suck up the excess carbon.

And there’s no guarantee forests will keep returning after being mowed down.  Asko Noormets, a North Carolina state ecologist, has been running an experiment for 11 years that shows that every year each square meter of forest loses about 125 grams of carbon to the atmosphere. Over time, logging is likely to wear this fertile, peat-based soil down to the sandy layer below, releasing most of its carbon and destroying long-term productivity.  And this is true of other managed forests around the world he adds.

Right now carbon accounting is only for the burning of the wood itself, but clearly needs to also add in the soil carbon being lost as well.

Plus add in land use changes.  Just as rainforests are being mown down to plant soybeans, hardwood forests may be logged to establish fast growing pine plantations.  As much as 10% of North Carolina hardwood ecosystems could be lost by 2050.

References

BLI. 2014. Wood pellet industry cheats on sustainability evidence shows. Bird Life International.

Elliot, W.J. et al. 1999. The effects of forest management on erosion and soil productivity. Chapter 12 in Lal, R., ed., Soil Quality and Soil Erosion. CRC Press. 195-208.

Ellis, E. G. 2016. The senate says burning trees is carbon neutral. Oh really now? Wired.com

Hanson, C., et al. 2017. Why burning trees for energy harms the climate. World resources institute.

Upton, J. 2014. What’s worse than burning coal? Burning wood. Grist.org

Posted in CO2 and Methane, Deforestation, Wood | Tagged , , | 7 Comments