October 2011 Newsletter

Good News/Bad News: First the Grim-(just to get it out of the way)

► Crop scientists Concerned about Heat (not just H2O)

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Crop scientists in the United States, the world’s largest food exporter, are pondering an odd question: could the danger of global warming really be the heat?

For years, as scientists have assembled data on climate change and pointed with concern at melting glaciers and other visible changes in the life-giving water cycle, the impact on seasonal rains and irrigation has worried crop watchers most.

But scientists now wonder if a more immediate issue is an unusual rise in day-time and, especially, night-time summer temperatures being seen in crop belts around the world.

“We don’t grow tomatoes in the deep South in the summer. Pollination fails,” said Ken Boote, a crop scientist with the University  of Florida.

The same goes for snap beans which can no longer be grown in Florida during the summer, he added.

“As temperatures rise we are going to have trouble maintaining the yields of crops that we already have,” said Gerald Nelson, an economist with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) who is leading a global project initially funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to identify new crop varieties adapted to climate change.

“When I go around the world, people are much less skeptical, much more concerned about climate change,” said David Lobell, a Stanford University agricultural scientist.

Lobell was one of three authors of a much-discussed 2011 climate study of world corn, wheat, soybean and rice yields over the last three decades (1980-2008). It concluded that heat, not rainfall, was affecting yields the most.

“The magnitude of recent temperature trends is larger than those for precipitation in most situations,” the study said.

CONCERNS GROWING: Scientists at an annual meeting of U.S. agronomists last week in San Antonio said the focus was climate change.

“Its impact on agriculture systems, impacts on crops, mitigation strategies with soil management — a whole range of questions was being asked about climate change,” said Jerry Hatfield, Laboratory Director at the National Soil Tilth Laboratory in Ames, Iowa.

“The biggest thing is high night-time temperatures have a negative impact on yield,” Hatfield added, noting that the heat affects evaporation and the life process of the crops.

“If you look at a lot of crop insurance claims, farmers say it is the lack of water that caused the plant to die,” said Wolfram Schlenker, assistant professor at Columbia  University.

“But I think it’s basically different sides of the same coin because the water requirement of the plant increases tremendously if it’s hot,” he said.

“The private sector understands the threats coming from climate change and have significant research programs in regards to drought tolerance. They focus less on higher temperatures, but that’s a tougher challenge,” Nelson said.

“We are responding with a number of initatives…the primary one is focusing on drought tolerance,” said John Soper, vice president in charge of global seed development for DuPont’s Pioneer Hi-Bred, a top U.S. seed producer.

Pioneer launched a conventionally bred drought-tolerant corn hybrid seed in the western U.S. Corn Belt this spring, selected for its yield advantage over other varieties.

Roy Steiner, deputy director for agricultural development for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said the foundation is focused on current agricultural effects of climate change.

“It’s amazing that there are still people who think that it’s not changing. Everywhere we go we’re seeing greater variability, the rains are changing and the timing of the rains is creating a lot more vulnerability,” Steiner said.

“Agriculture is one of those things that needs long-term planning, and we are very short-cycled thinking,” he said. “There are going to be some real shocks to the system. Climate is the biggest challenge. Demand is not going away.”

Why do Newspapers Print Propaganda? The Philadelphia Inquirer published a Commentary by S. Anklesaria Aiyar (CATO Institute – lobbying group funded by Oil & Coal) “Let’s prize climate skepticism”.    It focused on why we should doubt climate change because some recent experiments on crystals and speed of light challenged current dogma in those areas.  The author (not a scientist) could have just as easily questioned gravity or magnetism.

It is obvious the Inquirer lacks an appropriate process that would screen out junk science and blatant “spins”.

The scientific consensus on climate change is based on thousands of peer reviewed scientific articles from around the world. The National Academy of Science of every country in the world has stated that it is man made and serious.  NOAA & NASA and UCS and IPCC and American Geophysical Society, etc have all agreed.

Would any paper publish editorials that claim a Flat Earth?


Unprecedented Arctic ozone hole in 2011: Guess What Caused this Hole?   

By Dr. Jeff Masters

An unprecedented ozone hole opened in the Arctic during 2011, Nature. Holes in the Antarctic ozone layer have opened up each spring since the early 1980s, but the Arctic had only shown modest springtime ozone losses in the 5% – 30% range over the past twenty years. But this year, massive ozone destruction of 80% occurred at altitudes of 18 – 20 kilometers in the Arctic during spring, resulting in Earth’s first known case of twin ozone holes, one over each pole. During late March and portions of April, the Arctic ozone hole was positioned over heavily populated areas of Western Europe, allowing large levels of damaging ultraviolet rays to reach the surface.

UV-B radiation causes skin damage that can lead to cancer, and has been observed to reduce crop yields in two-thirds of 300 important plant varieties studied (WMO, 2002.)

What caused this year’s unprecedented Arctic ozone hole?
Earth’s ozone holes are due to the presence of human-emitted CFC gases in the stratosphere. The ozone destruction (a bad thing) process is greatly accelerated when the atmosphere is cold enough to make clouds in the stratosphere. These polar stratospheric clouds (Pisces) act like ozone destruction factories, by providing convenient surfaces for the reactions that destroy ozone to occur. Pisces only form in the 24-hour darkness of unusually cold winters near the poles; the atmosphere is too warm elsewhere to support Pisces. Stratospheric temperatures are warmer in the Arctic than the Antarctic, so PSCs and ozone destruction in the Arctic has, in the past, been much less than in the Antarctic.

Greenhouse gases cause stratospheric cooling-   When ozone absorbs UV light, it heats the surrounding air. Thus, the loss of ozone in recent decades has helped cool the stratosphere, resulting in a feedback loop where colder temperatures create more PSCs, resulting in even more ozone destruction. However, in 1987, CFCs and other ozone-depleting substances were banned. As a result, CFC levels in the stratosphere peaked in 2000, and had fallen by 3.8% as of 2008, according to NASA. Unfortunately, despite the fact that CFCs are falling in concentration, the stratosphere is not warming up. The recovery of the ozone layer is being delayed by human emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane. These gases trap heat near the surface, but cause cooling of the stratosphere and increased formation of the PSCs that help destroy ozone.

We need only look as far as our sister planet, Venus, to see an example of how the greenhouse effect warms the surface but cools the upper atmosphere. Venus’s atmosphere is 96.5% carbon dioxide, which has triggered a hellish run-away greenhouse effect. The average surface temperature on Venus is a sizzling 894 °F, hot enough to melt lead. Venus’s upper atmosphere, though, is a startling 4 – 5 times colder than Earth’s upper atmosphere.

It turned out that the costs of the CFC ban, while substantial, were far less than the dire cost predictions that the CFC industry warned of. It is highly probable that we will see future nasty climate change surprises far more serious than the Arctic ozone hole if we continue on our present business-as-usual approach of emitting huge quantities of greenhouse gases. Humans would be wise to act forcefully to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, as the cost of inaction is highly likely to be far greater than the cost of action.   References (Email billhaaf@verizon.net)

Finally: Good (not so bad) News:

We are earning the scorn and condemnation of history…. It is magical thinking to imagine that somehow we will be spared the plain and foreseeable consequences of our failure of duty.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) delivered a 23-minute stem-winder last week on the failure of the U.S. Senate to act on global warming pollution.  Here’s the remarkably blunt opening:

Mr. President, I am here to speak about what is currently an unpopular topic in this town. It has become no longer politically correct in certain circles in Washington to speak about climate change or carbon pollution or how carbon pollution is causing our climate to change.

This is a peculiar condition of Washington. If you go out into, say, our military and intelligence communities, they understand and are planning for the effects of carbon pollution on climate change. They see it as a national security risk. If you go out into our nonpolluting business and financial communities, they see this as a real and important problem. And, of course, it goes without saying our scientific community is all over this concern. But as I said, Washington is a peculiar place, and here it is getting very little traction.

Here in Washington we feel the dark hand of the polluters tapping so many shoulders. And where there is power and money behind that dark hand, therefore, a lot of attention is paid to that little tap on the shoulder. What we overlook is that nature — God’s Earth — is also tapping us all on the shoulder, with messages we ignore at our peril. We ignore the messages of nature of God’s Earth and we ignore the laws of nature of God’s Earth at our very grave peril.

I have little doubt future generations will curse our names if we keep listening to the “siren song of well-paying polluters.”

Washington Post: For the clueless or cynical diehards who deny global warming, it’s getting awfully cold out there”


The latest icy blast of reality comes from an eminent scientist whom the climate-change skeptics once lauded as one of their own. Richard Muller, a respected physicist at the University of California, Berkeley, used to dismiss alarmist climate research as being “polluted by political and activist frenzy.” Frustrated at what he considered shoddy science, Muller launched his own comprehensive study to set the record  straight. Instead, the record set him straight.

“Global warming is real,” Muller wrote last week in The Wall Street Journal.

Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann and the rest of the neo-Luddites who are turning the GOP into the anti-science party should pay attention.

“When we began our study, we felt that skeptics had raised legitimate issues, and we didn’t know what we’d find,” Muller wrote. “Our results turned out to be close to those published by prior groups. We think that means that those groups had truly been careful in their work, despite their inability to convince some skeptics of that.”

In other words, the deniers’ claims about the alleged sloppiness or fraudulence of climate science are wrong. Muller’s team, the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, rigorously explored the specific objections raised by skeptics — and found them groundless.

Here is the link to Mullers article in Wall St Journal. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204422404576594872796327348.html#articleTabs=article

Small Nukes Get Boost

(I know some of you hate Nuclear; but what is worse famines or nuclear power?  (“I love solar & Wind  but they are just 1% of total USA  generation. We need all low carbon solutions –wch)

The large engineering and construction firm Fluor has taken a majority stake in NuScale Power, a startup that has been developing small, modular nuclear reactors.

The deal with Fluor will allow NuScale to continue its efforts to license its power plant design with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, with the goal of having the first one up and running by 2020.     The investment by Fluor is a vote of confidence in small modular nuclear reactors. These reactors generate 30-300 megawatts vs. over 1000 MW conventional nuclear reactors generate, and are designed to be safer and easier to manufacture.   The technology has been gaining attention in recent years as high costs and safety concerns, such as those kindled by the nuclear accident at Fukushima, have hurt the prospects of large, conventional nuclear power plants..

Other major engineering and construction companies in the nuclear industry have recently shown support for small modular reactors, including Bechtel and Babcock & Wilcox, which this summer announced a partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority to work toward building six of Babcock and Wilcox’s small Power reactors. Worldwide, dozens of designs being developed, including efforts in Japan, Korea, China, Russia, and Argentina.


More– Small Nuclear Reactors and Alberta’s Oil Sands Development

Denise Carpenter, President and CEO of the Canadian Nuclear Association, gave a presentation at the Oil Sands Infrastructure Summit in Calgary.

The Canadian Nuclear Association believe that small modular reactor technology represents a unique and discrete change in the possibilities for applying nuclear energy in the oil sands (as a  replacement for all that natural gas to generate steam).

Why Small Nuclear for the Oil Sands?    Large reactors present a challenge for use in the oil sands. (mostly $$).  SNRs can overcome these shortcomings and that they provide a vastly better match for Steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD). The SAGD process burns lots of natural gas for  high-temperature, high-pressure steam for extraction (for many months) of the bitumen from the oil sands.

Saving Solar Startups:

Bill Joy believes he knows what’s wrong with solar innovation, and how to fix it. Bill Joy helped develop the climate change and sustainability investment strategy at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers.  As an investor, Joy has backed several high-risk solar power companies.

Are there any government policies that are essential to scaling up the technology?

In this country we are very conflicted about whether the government should try to help companies get to scale. But if we want to have the jobs in this country, we should support this. Are we glad we have the PC industry? Yes. Did the government support it? Yes. By doing DARPA, and doing the research.

In the energy space we’re going to have to provide capital to be competitive. The Europeans provided it indirectly with feed-in tariffs. The Chinese provide it more directly. By comparison, what we’re doing in the U.S. is very little.

As the politicians use the Solyndra debacle as a political football, it’s not helping the country. We need to find ways for these companies to get financed. One wasn’t well conceived, and it’s the nature of these things that some of them will fail. But maybe we shouldn’t have ever had the expectation that we couldn’t lose our money.

Maybe the government should ask for some equity as well. They could loan the money and get some stock. And with the ones that succeed, the stock will pay off the ones that don’t. That’s kind of what happened with the auto bailout, right? They got a bunch of stock in GM, made a lot of money off of it. I should say “we” made a lot of money.


New Scientist:  What we Know &  What we Don’t Know



The price of energy worldwide- We have it Cheap !



Finally:  We did Not make these Up!

German PV Solarworld AG is preparing an anti-dumping suit against Chinese firms operating in the EU, following a $1 billion action the German company launched in the US earlier this month.


The move reflects mounting concern in Europe and America about subsidized Chinese firms flooding the market with solar PV panels at artificially low cost.

Solarworld AG argues that China’s $30 billion of subsidies to its solar power companies violates global trade rules and constitute an unfair form of retailing below cost price or “dumping.”

“Our Chinese competitors are going to Greece and telling people: ‘You can buy our products and solar modules and we are here with the Chinese bank of construction and they will give you the money for that,’” Nitzschke explained.


♥ ♥ Sec. of Energy Chu dismissed criticism from those who he said “are ready to wave the white flag and declare defeat.”    The United States faces a choice, he said, to sit on the sidelines or try to win the “clean energy race” with China, Germany and other countries.

He said the U.S. “can’t afford not to” invest in clean energy. “It’s not enough for our country to invent clean energy technologies, we have to make them and use them, too,” Chu said. “Invented in America, made in America and sold around the world.”


♥♥ Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) blasted the decision to issue the permit to drill in Gulf  before BP paid fines stemming from last year’s spill. “The fact that BP is getting a permit to drill without yet paying a single cent in fines is a disappointment, and does not serve as an effective lesson of deterrence for oil and gas companies,”

The well would be in waters 6,034 feet deep, which is deeper than the company’s doomed 5,000-foot Macondo well that ruptured and sparked a fire on the Deepwater Horizon rig that killed 11 workers and led to the biggest spill in U.S. maritime history.


♥  KB Homes  Offers Net-Zero-Energy Homes

For a $50,000 up charge, consider making your next home a net-zero-energy home.

One of KB Home’s first net-zero-energy models is its ZeroHouse 2.0; this model is in Tampa. Other ZeroHouse 2.0 models are being unveiled in San Antonio and Austin. They combine energy efficiency plus Solar systems.


In February, the company announced that it would provide an Energy Performance Guide (EPG) – essentially a “mileage sticker” estimate of monthly energy costs – for each model it offers. EPG energy costs are calculated via the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index, which uses as its reference a comparable home built to the specifications of the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code.


♥ What is a GU24 base and how is it related to CFLs?

The GU24 socket and base system is designed to replace the Edison socket and base in energy efficient lighting fixtures.  The ENERGY STAR® Program Requirements for Residential Lighting Fixtures, Version 4.0 require that residential lighting fixtures cannot use the standard Edison screw base, even if they do not have a built-in ballast. Also req. for California’s Energy Efficiency Standards for Residential and Nonresidential Buildings, known as Title 24.

♥♥ Australia moves closer to law establishing carbon tax

The Australian government’s goal of implementing a carbon tax passed its toughest test as the lower house of Parliament overwhelmingly approved a package of bills that institutes a phased-in carbon tax, to be followed by a carbon-trading system.  The 18 bills now go to the Senate, where the law is all but assured of passage in mid-November.

According to Prime Minister Julia Gillard, the system will reduce Australia’s carbon emissions by 159 million tons by 2020. Australia is the largest per-capita carbon polluter, with an economy deeply dependent on coal.

The first phase of the law will tax carbon at $22.90 a ton beginning in the middle of next year. The surcharge will rise modestly until mid-2015, when the carbon-trading system will take effect. Other bills call for a national emissions caps, exempting farming and other agricultural sectors.

The tax will not extend to the price of gas for consumers, although rail, shipping and large trucking businesses will pay the tax indirectly on fuels such as diesel.

Australia’s biggest carbon emitters — power companies, mining companies and industrial manufacturers — immediately attacked the legislation, and the opposition leader, Tony Abbott, vowed a “pledge in blood” to repeal the law should he become prime minister.

♥ New Battery Could Be Just What the Grid Ordered

A Pittsburgh company says its battery has the long life and cheap cost needed to be practical for energy storage.

Utilities need cheap, long-lasting ways to store the excess energy produced by power plants, especially as intermittent power from solar and wind farms is added to the mix. Unfortunately, the batteries available for grid-level storage are either too expensive or don’t last for the thousands of cycles needed to make them cost-effective.

A new battery developed by Aquion Energy in Pittsburgh uses simple chemistry—a water-based electrolyte and abundant materials such as sodium and manganese—and is expected to cost $300 for a kilowatt-hour of storage capacity, less than a third of what it would cost to use lithium-ion batteries.

The company has now received $30 million in venture capital to step up manufacturing of its sodium-ion batteries. Grid trials are next.



One of the most effective things we can do is to call our Elected representatives: . You don’t need to know the bill name or be an expert ; – just say  your opinion.   You can be sure the Flat earth people call frequently.     A staff member will answer the phone. It’s their job to take calls from constituents, so don’t be shy. To make the most impact, make it personal. E.G.:  “I am concerned about climate change;    Please follow the Science ;   We need to take action.”

Senator Robert Casey: (202) 224-6324; Senator Pat Toomey: (202) 224-4254   These calls really have an impact !


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