Monday, March 31, 2008

Peak Oil and Tibet at the Statehouse

I was at the Massachusetts Statehouse for the Peak Oil Hearing. I went as a sceptic, having recently listened to the President of Shell America interviewed by Charlie Rose (more in a subsequent post, when I finish my notes, but I can insert here that he shared that notion that Watts will become conflicted again if there is not a serious increase in availability of gasoline at lower prices), and having spent a lot of time around MIT, where the word is that oil will simply increase in price as it becomes more scarce. I left not as a convert, but as a person who realized that there may be something in the Peak Oil argument. I was particularly intrigued to learn that the Department of Energy has been funding Peak Oil studies, Portland OR has had a committee looking at how to cope with a Peak Oil situation, and that the State of CT has also been looking into the matter. I will be looking into it further, and sharing thoughts and references.


This is the reasoning I find compelling, whether or not it corresponds to a situation approximating Peak Oil: The demand for oil is rising rapidly in China and India as they develop their economies and their people become richer, demanding a higher standard of living that requires more oil. This at a time when demand has already exceeded supply. Simply economics yields a prediction of ever increasing oil prices. Although the Peak Oil people argued that tappable oil reserves are in fact misrepresented on the high side, I agree with the MIT view that the higher the price for oil, the more oil can be tapped from more costly sources, such as tar sands and oil shale. The problem is that we cannot burn any more fossil fuels, and that places a limit on oil consumption. But the further, and possibly more stringent limit at this point may be refinery capacity, which produces as I see it a modified Peak Oil situation. Refineries are not being built, and whenever there is a refinery malfunction or explosion, more capacity is lost, at least for a time. According to a colleague, the timeline for getting new refineries on line is 2-3 years in emergency priority such as existed during WWII, and 12-13 years for just the permitting under today's priorities. This strongly suggests gas and diesel shortages will be normal, and prices will continue to rise. Again, simple economics would indicate that they would rise independent of the refinery situation, because demand exceeds supply.







Meanwhile, this was the scene outside the Statehouse: the Boston area Tibetan community demonstrating about the Chinese violence in Tibet and their desire for a free Tibet.












And this is what was happening a couple hours later at Harvard ... a lecture by a Harvard Professor and the Julliard's first violinist (as the others were stranded in Cleveland due to airline cancellations) interspersed with recorded playing (the consolation prize) by the Julliard String Quartet, all a detailed view of the first movement of Beethoven's String Quartet Opus 59 No. 1. Not nearly the attendance we can expect at the Final Four, but more than attended Ed Markey and Ian Bowle's much more important presentation on Energy Independence and Global Warming, and a lot more than at the Free Tibet demonstration at the Statehouse. (Note that the Tibet demonstrators did get a lot of passerby attention.) Is this skewed priorities? Well, for me it has to do with working very long hours at my profession, and a passionate involvement with music. Because I work evenings and weekends, I feel OK about taking in an occasional special music event, even if it is during the day. The others I spoke with at Harvard are the same way although a little different because most were a lot older than I am. It is very hard to spend all our time and resources addressing the world's challenges. The couple who sat next to me at the concert and shared their score with me were very much worried about global warming. They said that they had heard enough about it, and felt it was time to get into action mode doing something about it.




Sunday, March 30, 2008

Broken Ice in Antarctica: New York Times Editorial

My estimation has for some time been that the climate modeling experts have been too conservative, that the changes are happening faster than they are predicting. The recent beginning breakup of the Wilkins Ice Sheet in Antarctica gives further reason for concern.

Something to think about:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/28/opinion/28fri3.html?sq=wilkins%20ice%20shelf&st=nyt&scp=1&pagewanted=print

Chinese Modulations at Brandeis University

Last night I attended a lecture and concert of Chinese and Chinese-American music at Brandeis. The theme of Long Yingtai’s lecture was that it is in the nature of the Chinese culture to have change. Thus, the Chinese will adopt an instrument such as the erhu, originally from Central Asia, and then they will modify it again and again. It was finally in 1930 that the design of the instrument was frozen. Confucianism states that only the root, or chi, remains unchanging. Another example that he mentioned after I asked my question was that the Mainland Chinese leadership is changing. So hearing this notion of change, I asked how the Chinese therefore see Western elementary particle physics, which has morphed from the quantum mechanics of Bohr and Heisenberg, to quantum electrodynamics, to the standard model, for example SU(3), and now to string theory. The answer was that all of this is considered to be the changeable part, not the root.

There was a series of works for erhu and yangqin, then for yangqin, then for erhu, yangqin, viola, cello, and percussion, then again for erhu and yangqin. All so outstanding that the audience gave the performers a standing ovation. The man next to me had tracked Jiebing Chen since 1997, and had seized the opportunity to come to the concert when he was up from New York City anyhow. He told me that Chen is the worlds best erhu player. I will not pretend to know very much about this music, which was extraordinary. Instead I will write about other matters.

There were three people on the stage at one time with perfect pitch. You could tell with Yangqin Zhao, because she tuned her 150 yangqin strings straight off with no reference to a tuning fork or any other notes. You would seem to be able to tell with Jiebing Chen because she walked in with an independently tuned instrument, and merely verified that it was still in tune with the yangqin, which it always was. Then she played this instrument with no frets or other reference points for notes, which it is all but inconceivable that a person could play well without having perfect pitch. But I am told that she does not have perfect pitch. Of course cellist Josh Gordon also has perfect pitch. It turned out, when I asked her about it, that the Chinese-American composer/conductor also has perfect pitch. This was actually likely because, as I was explaining to her when she admitted her gift, a very high percentage of Chinese have perfect pitch because they grow up from a very early age listening to pitch in their tonal language. So they use and develop that part of their brains as children, and don’t lose it.

I had a chance to talk with Jiebing Chen after the concert. Vibrato is standard for the Erfu (pronounced “air-foo”). A difference between the traditional playing of the vibrato and Jiebing Chen’s playing is that the traditional way is to create the vibrato by pressing in and out on the string, while she also does vibrato by rolling the finger up and down on the string.

The approach uses a lot of trills. Chen even would trill notes as she rapidly descended the scale, moving up the string.

She said that the early tradition involved not sliding very far up and down on the string, but rather playing notes within the span of the hand. I commented that this would make sense, since the early flute was somewhat similar to an ocharina, and likewise played only a handful of notes. She did not disagree.

She did not have much at all for calluses on her left hand. She attributed this to the lack of a fingerboard on the instrument, explaining that the fingerboard does not give like a string does, and therefore introduces a lot of pressure on the fingers. When I described the large, ugly callus that “serious” cellists develop on their left thumbs, and that she could probably verify this by looking at Josh Gordon’s thumb, she seemed not to have realized this before, and spontaneously turned to where she thought Josh was, almost as if to check his thumb right away.

She is the teacher for the husband of theYu-Hui Chang, who composed the last work before intermission. A cross cultural piece for erhu, yangqin, cello, viola, and percussion, what was extraordinary was that it actually worked and was beautiful, not just modern music. I urged Chang to continue to compose such works when we spoke after the concert. She had already composed a concerto for the erhu, and indicated that she would compose more, for the repertoire is too limited for the erhu.

The evening was altogether an outstanding experience.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Russia and Oil/Gas Control

I ate lunch today with a couple of people from Europe. They commented on the way Russia now holds Europeans at risk for fuel, and worried that the KGB was taking over Russia.

In the evening I found myself in a conversation with three young men from ByeloRus. So I asked them if the KGB was taking over Russia. They laughed. Then they laughed again as they explained that the KGB had taken over Russia already, when Putin became President. Then they laughed again.

In one dimension, this would seem to underscore how important either some appropriate sort of energy independence is, or sufficient multi-sourcing is. The challenge is for nations to keep their eye on collective effort to avoid damage from global warming rather than succumbing to the temptation to fragment by focusing on international power politics.

In another dimension, this would suggest that it was and remains important how we as the reigning world power treat the Russians. If we gobble up the satellite states in their former empire, as we did, do we create a backlash as they attempt to regain their sense of dignity? (Of course one can easily argue that those satellites wanted to be gobbled up, and that they never wanted to be part of the Soviet Union or the Soviet sphere ... but there are clearly also tradeoffs ...) Should we have learned more from Germany's reaction to defeat and devastation in World War I, and then their nationalistic backlash as they reasserted themselves? Did we do enough of a "Marshall Plan" with the failed Soviet Union, and did we do it wisely, so that the remains of that nation could re-emerge strongly and positively into the world sphere? Could our nation and advisors have made a difference in making it less likely that the vast Soviet resources would simply be given away, creating the plutocracy that led to Putin's rise and intersession as a corrective action? Are there things we can do now to lead to Russia's cooperation with the rest of the world, so that we can focus on dealing with the global warming issue rather than international conflict?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Small Oil Spill with Possibly Big Significance

Oil spills represent a form of collateral cost for the oil industry. (Those against Cape Wind have raised the issue that the proposed wind turbines will introduce a risk of a small oil spill in the Sound. Interested readers should look to the materials at http://www.mms.org/ for more detail on the government's risk analysis.)

The most recent oil spill to hit the national media occurred in San Franscisco and was reported in media including the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/08/us/08spill.html?scp=1&sq=Ship%27s+Pilot+is+charged+in+Oil+spill+in+California&st=nyt.

A useful understanding of the reaction to this spill comes from a person who teaches at the Coast Guard Academy. It turns out that prior to 9/11 the Coast Guard would have reacted quickly to the spill and contained it within about two hours. However, after 9/11 the Department of Homeland Security was created and the Coast Guard was placed within it. This changed the chain of command and the priorities. Tradeoffs could have been anticipated, and in fact were abstractly anticipated by myself right away, and more formally by Richard A. Posner in Preventing Surprise Attacks: Intelligence Reform in the Wake of 9/11. In this case the Coast Guard reaction was delayed while they sorted out authorization to address the spill. A lot of this can be understood and predicted by reference to organizational theory, the psychology of organizations, and strategy and structure from business school. I understand that the Coast Guard is now challenged to come up with solutions, and that they are working at it.

Bicycles In Every City

When I was a graduate student, I biked every day from Route 128 to MIT and back. Many would have thought that this would have been not only an arduous chore (sometimes it was!), but also that a graduate student in physics would not have the time to do this kind of thing. Setting aside the issue of my questionable decision to live as a dorm parent in a private school at the time, a time analysis revealed that I was actually saving time. A 45-minute trek by bicycle competed with a 40-minute trek by car and foot from a remote parking lot at MIT to the main building. I used a good rucksack to carry my things. Add into the equation that I took my exercise in the process, and I was way ahead.

Now it appears that there is increasing awareness of the value of bicycling. Here is an article about it from the Boston Globe (http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2008/03/23/world_class_bike_cities_why_not_boston_1206254626?mode=PF). Part of what will be required to make bicycling really feasible is a rapid transit system that allows cyclists to bring their bicycles with them, or that supports a kind of share-a-bike system. Another alternative is shared cars that will accomodate bicycles, or alternatively, bicycles that fold up so they can readily fit in cars, buses and trains. Portland OR has had a good share-a-bike system for decades. Maybe soon lots of people will be able to get back to biking.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter: Hidden Mysteries of Life

May we travel ever deeper into the mysteries of life. There are hidden secrets that emerge out of involvement and commitment. It has been Holy Week. I could write here about religious things, but I won’t. I had a Fundamentalist aunt with whom I made the mistake of talking about Light, so I avoid those kinds of discussions. The Puritans worked hard to understand members’ spiritual experiences. Unlike the Puritans, my aunt thought she could discern in a quick conversation whether one or another person had had a true religious experience, and of course, it was always in the negative, except for members of her immediate congregation. From when I was young, my mother had warned me to avoid such conversations with my aunt. It only took one when I was in graduate school to make me realize that my mother was quite correct about avoiding such discussions.

So I am going to write about music, as I have played cello and have sung such pieces as Mozart’s Requiem. There are so many little secrets that one learns from actually playing or singing music. Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony starts on an upbeat. A note in the cello part of the first movement of Beethoven’s Quartet Opus 131 is a B-sharp, which is slightly higher than a C on the non-tempered stringed instrument scale, and in light of the ambiguity about just how to play the note physically, it often is played as an open-string C. This could be significant because Beethoven had perfect pitch and might well have known precisely what he was doing, even if he could no longer hear when he composed the work. Beethoven’s Third Symphony has open string fifths (C-G which would also correspond to a perfect fifth rather than a well-tempered fifth) at two key transition points that would insert a special musical psychology possibly informed by Pythagoras’ notions about perfect fifths. The tuning of the strings for Bach's Fifth Suite for Unaccompanied Cello is, according to a college classmate who sings sacred music, also a special tuning for sacred choral works from circa 200 years before Bach lived.

I listen to J.S. Bach's Morimur (also authored by an academic who recently figured out that several Bach works went together), done by the Hilliard Ensemble with Christoph Poppen playing baroque violin, mostly during Holy Week because I associate it with an experience in which I received Jesus during church a few years ago during Holy Week. So Morimar is too precious to me to listen to just anytime, even though I would like to do so. Morimur is the result of an academic discovering a secret -- that the basso continuo that completes Bach's Partita #5 for Violin basically starts with the chorale Christ Lag im Todesbanden which Bach also embodied as a Cantata, and continues with that and a couple of other religious choral works. Another way of saying this that would probably be eschewed by musicologists is that the partita is a sort of an obligato around and above the sacred music parts that the Hilliard sings. The overall result of combining works that appeared to be separate but written at the same time is profound and even more sacred.

This is going to sound like a contradiction, but I sometimes have played it in my car as I have driven long distances, and sometimes I have sung to it. Toward the end of the combined Deller Consort and violin version on the Track 21 of 22, I sing along in the falsetto, and it matches with one of the voices. I noticed particularly that the tone quality and stresses of my voice matched that of the singer on the CD. (Those who have heard counter-tenors will know that they have a different tone quality than sopranos.) However, even in the falsetto I cannot get up to the counter-tenor part. No surprise, as my falsetto would be that of a counter-baritone, which I figured was one of the parts in the performance of the piece.

Yesterday my wife and I were at her sister’s house while they were preparing to sing in the choir, and the conversation swung around to Morimar. It turned out that Mary had her own copy and also found it entrancing. It also turned out that she had studied briefly at Oxford, where she had come to know Alfred Deller, the great counter-tenor. She said his speaking voice was a normal male voice, and that he had as a boy learned to sing in the falsetto with excellence and complete control. He was neither a genetic freak nor castrated. So this matched with my experience of singing with the CD, and I determined that I would ask the counter-tenors in my church choir whether they also had learned to sing in the falsetto.

We thus go another long step deeper into the mysteries of church music.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Energy/GHG in the Little Decisions

Rank the walls below in the energy and greenhouse gases required to create them.

Rank the walls below in terms of their maintainability in the year 2108.

1.


















2.


















3.


















4.




















Answers:
4,1,2 & 3
#4 has a large cement core with rocks cemented in place. It was made with rock shipped in.
#1 has indigenous rock from an old farmer's fence cemented in place.
#2 and #3 have indigenous rock piled and no cement.
Cement requires very large amounts of energy and the processes send very large amounts of GHGs into the atmosphere.

2&3, 1, 4
When a rock falls down from #2 or #3, someone needs to notice and replace it.
When weathering and frost breaks a cement connection on #1, it the rest of the wall tends to stay in place, and the broken part needs to be cemented back in place. The cement can be for the most part broken free from the stones as preparation for doing the job.
When weathering and frost breaks up the cement core to some degree, as it will within 100 years, it needs to be cemented back in place. If the weathering and breakup become significant enough, then the cement core must be removed and disposed of. When the cement holding the stones in place fails, the stones will fall completely to the ground, exposing the inside of the wall to further weathering. The cement can again be for the most part broken free from the stones as preparation for doing repairs.

Human Factors in Libraries

Little things seemingly far from the domain of burning fossil fuels can contribute to energy conservation and lowered risk of global warming. This offers case in point, because one would never think that software user interface design and implementation would make that kind of difference.



I was working on references in the Woods Hole library this afternoon, when I began near the end of the day to attempt to find McCullough's book 1776. I had been reading by listening to a CD in my car, and now needed the exact words to use in a blog entry I am developing on Posner's book Surprise Attacks. Since it was not in the Woods Hole Library, I tried to find it in the library catalog prior to driving to the parent Falmouth library to get it.

When I entered the electronic catalog, what I saw was the display in the first picture below. My eyes were draw to the middle, and I quickly realized that I was not likely to find a search screen there for the title of just any book. After some thinking and searching, I clicked "Virtual Catalog" and was presented with a logon screen. I could not get in without my library card information ... something I thought strange for a public library. I entered my card, but Woods Hole and Falmouth were not options for the city entry that was required to log on. At a loss, I discontinued the effort.

When I asked the librarian, she said that there was a a dedicated terminal for such searches. I went there and quickly started the search, which now took 1-2 minutes instead of the few seconds it ought to. This was a high cost in a situation in which I had maybe 5-10 minutes to decide whether to drive to Falmouth. I was then presented with a long screen of listings, and when I clicked on one, I saw the second screen below. Well, it did not do much good since it was not apparent how to limit the search to copies of the book in the Falmouth Library.

Time was up. I could not find the information I needed, and I would not be able to get to Falmouth in time if I futzed around with the system very much longer. Thus I drove almost 9 miles round trip to try to get the book. Happily the book was there. In fact there were three copies. There were only 15 minutes left before the library closed when I arrived, so I asked a librarian for help. She went to the computer catalog (showing me that her version of the user interface was possible to use ... at least if you knew it well) and then right to the books. She then suggested I might be interested in William Martin's historical novel Citizen Washington. I was interested and took it out. Sometimes computers are great; sometimes people are a lot better than computers.



Alternative morals of the tale:

1. People like me need to be more perceptive and intelligent under time pressure.

2. People like me need to live lives that are not under time pressure.

3. User interfaces need to be done more skillfully so that people who have not used them before can readily figure out how to use them.


I have considerable experience designing and coding software and user interfaces, so I tend to believe that #3 is the most important of these three morals.

Since I drive a Prius, the incident had a GHG cost corresponding to burning about 2/11 gallon of gas. For the driver of a more conventional car or SUV, the cost would correspond to about 1/2 gallon or more. But the cost in general is much higher. One can bank on the factoid that many other people this day or this week have driven when maybe they did not have to.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

MMS Public Hearing for Cape Wind in Boston

I attended the Cape Wind hearings again on Thursday, March 13 at the University of Massachusetts, Harbor Campus. The points of argument continued to sharpen. A pleasing development was that Sue Reed of Conservation Law Foundation spoke specifically in rebuttal of some claims of the Save Our Sound group. I think that this development may mark a beginning of people not just talking past each other, which might represent one conceivable means by which to fix the broken process that has been happening. After making my comments about aggressive campaigning at West Yarmouth, I found it interesting that there were signs indicating that people could not bring signs or placards in to the basketball arena where the hearings were being held.



Here is a picture of the proceedings. There was the usual low density of people near the front, and higher densities further back. It was not obvious when I entered about a half hour into the proceedings, but the pro-CapeWind people were on the far side bleachers, and the anti-CapeWind people were on the near side bleachers. In West Yarmouth there were clusters but much more mixing. I counted 230 attendees on the "Pro" side, and 118 on the "Anti" side. I recognized quite a few people on each side who had been at the West Yarmouth public hearing, and I heard at least one speaker refer to having been at the Martha's Vineyard public hearing. It would be interesting to know more about how many people in attendance simply went to most or all of the public hearings.

I am working on a newspaper article about the hearings. This post will get longer but the newspaper article, a business meeting, and tomorrow's session with Congressman Ed Markey have my first priority.

Do Tornadoes Indicate Climate Change?

The tornado that hit downtown Atlanta yesterday during the Southeast Conference Basketball Tournament was unusual, but is it a sign of increased tornado activity that might be expected by climate theorists: "more heat into the atmosphere leads to more activity and more violent activity in the atmosphere?" The answer is difficult to discern because any changes over a period of decades could be the result of natural trends. Other alternative hypotheses might be that this just happened to be a one-off tornado of no more significance than that it was an aberration, or that, to stretch things a bit, since downtown Atlanta is somewhat near the ocean, it was really a misidentified waterspout or other ocean-based phenomenon. At the same time, the argument might be made that there is a trend occurring that matches up with increased GHG in the atmosphere. A year or more ago I looked at the data on tornadoes in the United States. It was "apparent to the eye" that there was a trend of increasing numbers of tornadoes, that they were occuring in numbers over an expanding geographical area, and that there was an expanding period of months during each year that constituted the "tornado season."

Now we see a tornado in Atlanta GA, well outside "tornado alley," and we wonder. The article in the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-Atlanta-Storm.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin) indicates that it is not the first tornado in the area, but unfortunately, there is no indication as to whether there were tornadoes prior to 1975.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, the most
recent tornado to hit a major city's downtown was on Aug. 12, 2004, in
Jacksonville, Fla. Downtown tornadoes have also struck Fort Worth, Texas; Salt Lake City; Little Rock, Ark.; and Nashville, Tenn., in the past
decade.

If confirmed, the tornado would be the first on record in downtown Atlanta, said Smith, the meteorologist. The last tornado to strike inside the city was in 1975, and it hit the governor's mansion north of
downtown, he said.

I have had the data for more than a year on tornadoes in the United States and will see if I can allocate time to do a statistical analysis to determine whether there is likely to be anything to the climate change theory. If anyone out there would like to participate in the effort, I'd be pleased.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Cape Wind: Demonstrators at West Yarmouth

In an earlier post I commented on my feelings of discomfort with the behavior I witnessed at the Monday hearing in West Yarmouth. In this post I will explore that a little.

The URL below is to a video of the approach to the facility. One can hear the chanting and see activity from a considerable distance, so it does not come as a surprise that I was ready for whatever happened, and had my camera running. Chanting communicated to me that at least one group was actively encouraging attendees to join them in their view of the proceedings, and I strongly approve of such persuasion. It is democracy in action.

http://www.sesenergy.com/Blog/CapeWind_OutsideYarmouthSchool.AVI

What made me feel uncomfortable was having to walk a narrow sidewalk with demonstrators close up on both sides of me. You can see the people in front of me accepting the offered necklaces with banner indicating that they are against the Cape Wind project. I imagine these people felt vastly more comfortable than I did. I was not accepting any literature or banners from either side, and I had a camera out in public to document what was happening. With hands and arms coming into my walking tube, and the owners of those hands and arms aggressively reaching out and proselytizing, I really was a little anxious about how they would take my not embracing their cause. While I clearly did not even hesitate to proceed, this forced me to think a little about escape routes should escape become necessary.

It would have been better if the SOS demonstrators had placed themselves back a little toward the school and in the area to the left of my path. They could then had drawn attendees toward them rather than reaching out into their path.

There was only a single person from the KY coal mines handing out their literature. While this person presented the literature "in your face," one had the choice to move around to the left to gain greater distance ... and it was only a single person, therefore not offering the same potential threat.

I felt that the Cape and the Islands (pro-wind) people had appropriate positioning and activity. They were also smart enough to smile at the anti-wind people in front of me. This may be a matter of their having learned the ropes in terms of successfully encouraging people to move in their direction.

Note the considerable police presence at the very end of the video. I was surprised with the extent of police coverage. Police were everywhere. It gave me considerable comfort that they were present, as the animation of many of the anti-wind people made it an uncertain situation should they react negatively to anyone who did not clearly embrace their position. Only once did it appear that security personnel were needed for a specific action. One of the early anti-wind speakers refused to end his presentation when his 3-minute time allotment was up, repeatedly ignoring the moderator. A very large hired security guard walked over near him, establishing a clear presence and statement that there would be order, and the speaker backed down.

Plastics Manufacturer Looks Into Green Opportunities

John Gravelle, president of Mar-Lee, an innovative plastics manufacturer in Leominster, MA reported in a public meeting In Worcester MA on March 12 that representatives of his company were in a Florida meeting to learn about likely plastic manufacturing that will be required by the emerging Green Revolution. With many green energy companies developing new products in New England, it is likely that there will be a need for features such as biodegradable plastic in manufactured goods.

Gravelle commented that he had sent some of his lieutenants to the conference to learn about the full gamit of futures in plastics. These representatives would then return and educate him about the likely future opportunities. The company re-invests 10% of its profits each year in new equipment, often in the context of a contract with a client that wishes to push the limits in plastics manufacturing. Examples of already existing products are the special plastic wrappers for tiny medical devices used in torn anterior-cruciate ligament surgery. The medical device delivers a timed drug dose and the plastic packaging dissolves over a period of a year or two. Wrapping such a package in very thin plastic in a standardized manufacturing process increases reliability, decreases risk, and decreases cost. Mar-Lee is embracing the Innovation Economy as a key means for achieving its next target of $50M in yearly revenues.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Cape Wind: MMS Hearings in West Yarmouth

Today was the first of four days of evening hearings about the Draft Environmental Impact Statement of the Federal Minerals Management Service (MMS). This first event was in West Yarmouth on the Cape. Attendance was significantly higher than at the last event I attended, a hearing for the Cape Cod Commission deliberations. Before the auditorium was pretty full, but this time it was a challenge to find a seat in the main auditorium, and perhaps a hundred people were seating on portable chairs on the basketball court behind the last row in the auditorium. Here is a picture of the auditorium and the gym two hours into the program, after about two hundred people had cleared out.


This was indicative of a hardening of positions for and against, as well as greater vociferousness about those positions. As I entered, a small group of SOS advocates were chanting and handing out necklaces with big SOS signs. Then there were the Cape and Islands people with their placards urging acceptance of the Cape Wind project. Once inside, I sat behind 2-3 rows of people hardened in their position against Cape Wind, and it was quite educational. Repeatedly, when a speaker would state a fact that favored Cape Wind, the people in the row in front of me would shift their bodies, grumble, and then deny the truth of that fact. This made me feel very uneasy, and I found myself comforted by the presence of police. When a speaker said something against Cape Wind, whether fact or opinion, those against the project would applaud and/or cheer, even though the moderator had explicitly asked the audience not to do this kind of thing because it delayed progress through the long list of speakers.

Indeed, it was an event of curious contradictions. On one hand, a recent poll (http://www.commondreams.org/news2008/0306-08.htm) indicated that 74% of Cape residents are now in favor of the Cape Wind project. On the other hand, one politician after another expressed strong sentiment against the project. It was if the politicians were listening to the group that was more vehement in its position. Further, a number of community members of committees presented themselves as representing the views of the entire committees when in fact this was readily disputable. In one such dispute a later speaker pointed out that two Yarmouth selectmen had seemed to do this when in fact other Yarmouth selectmen who had not spoken were in favor of the project. In another such dispute, I noted that a community member of a committee for the Barnstable airport at first seemed to be representing his personal views, and then suddenly in his final statement, was seeming to represent the entire committee. Then about twenty speakers later another speaker escalated, refering to such people as "professionals" who were qualified to make judgments that we should all respect. The sense was of an escalating fabricated reality, initiated by people who intentionally supply disinformation, and then augmented: in which a group of people don't really know the facts, don't want to know the facts, and interact with each other as they weave their own group reality out of their misstatements. I found myself sitting there, thinking to myself about how one might approach fixing this fundamentally broken communications system. Here are some of the other problematic statements made by people against implementation of Cape Wind:
  • A commercial fisherman claimed that striped bass would vacate Horseshoe Shoals once the wind turbines are implemented because they want to avoid obstructions. At the same time, individual fishermen know to look for stripers around such obstructions as docks near the shoreline.
  • Several people claimed that wind projects cannot be financially successful without Federal and state subsidies...pretending that fossil fuels and nuclear are not heavily subsidized by the government. (This was also a misconception expressed by the New York Times's Andrew C. Revkin on a recent panel at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. I confronted him about it.)
  • A "green" advocate claimed that his carbon footprint was very low because he heats his living space with "corn oil" ... not acknowledging or perhaps not knowing that petroleum is used at least in producing fertilizer, for tilling the field, and for transporting the corn oil to his burner.
  • Two or three people claiming that the cost of wind-generated electricity is three times the cost of oil generated electricity ... while the electricity goes into the grid through an auction in competition with other forms of electricity, and Cape Wind has to match those prices or lose money.
  • A claim that rows of wind turbines in California produce a low rumbling noise, when in fact, I have been there on a mountain filled with turbines packed as tightly as the owners dare, and I can confirm that they don't make such a sound.
  • A claim that the "as many as 600" bird deaths to be anticipated per year is tragic, eggregious, and unacceptable, while ignoring the more than a billion bird deaths that, according to Audubon, occur in West Virginia as a result of strip mining that cleaves off the tops of mountains.

If I can get some reasonable confirmation of their comments, I will be inserting a paragraph about here addressing the Francis Lowell's comments about tech risk assessment, and Regina of the Wayland [Allston] Conservation Society about potential mammalian impacts and their amelioration. Both of these comment sets seemed new and substantive, but neither seemed to block progress toward implementation.

Speaking of West Virginia, there were at least three speakers who had traveled all the way from there to the Cape to express their support for the project. For me, their presence underscored the important point that environmental impacts may not be merely local, that there are tradeoffs that span considerable geographical reach. In this case, Massachusetts generating more of its own electricity without coal means that less coal may be mined in West Virginia. The argument is that this would allow the West Virginians to move on to salvage their way of living without mines that destroy their water, their people, and their environment. More on that when I return to update this entry.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Doubling Vehicle Fuel Economy by 2035

A rather interesting energy article appeared in Vol 1 of "Energy Futures, MIT Energy Initiative." I come to this article with a point of view based on personal experience driving energy efficient cars: In 1980 I was driving a Volkswagen Rabbit Diesel, getting 60 mpg at 60 mph. I have read about new European engines that allow 80 miles per gallon and wonder why such engines are perhaps not available or perhaps even common in the United States. (Simple answer: it is political.) My wife and I currently drive a Honda Hybrid and a Prius hybrid, both burning gas at 42-60+ mpg, depending on the season and the circumstances of driving. I have also noted that Toyota made the commitment to hybridize its entire line a couple years ago. So why is there such an issue about it within the United States. It would seem that it is easy to read the writing on the wall and get moving as a sheer matter of competitive survival.

Since some of my comments on this summary of Heywood (et al) will push in the direction of change, I should also comment that I know John Heywood to some degree and have great respect for him. I embrace almost all of what is in the research results. There is some with which I, in a sense, disagree. I think he knows more than I do about how the automotive industry actually works, something that makes his paper excellent. On the other hand, I have some definite notions about how organizations can be designed and managed to be leaner, more efficient, more flexible, more effective. That is the way that I run organizations and parts of organizations. So when my comments differ with those of John's team, it is likely that the differences reflect those views.

The results of this paper are heavily dependent on the quality of AVL's ADVISOR (see http://www.avl.com/ about this software package), which was originally developed by NREL and then handed over to AVL for commercialization. AVL says this about the program:

ADVISOR is designed for rapid analysis of the performance and fuel economy
of conventional and advanced, light and heavy-duty vehicle models as well as
hybrid electric and fuel cell vehicle models. It tests the effect of parameter changes
in vehicle components (such as motors, batteries, catalytic converters, climate
control systems, and alternative fuels) and other modifications that might
affect fuel economy, performance or emissions.
...

  • Reduces testing time to evaluate various vehicle powertrain alternatives

  • Estimates the fuel economy of vehicles that have not yet been built

  • Compares relative tailpipe emissions produced during various drive cycles

  • Shows how conventional, advanced, light, and heavy vehicles use, and
    lose, energy throughout their drivetrains
~


The article mentions human behavior, but only in the sense of a change in what people will buy. There is much more behavior that is relevant. A key area is how people drive. A woman stopped to get directions from me near Central Square near MIT, and we got into a discussion of why she got very ordinary mileage in her Prius. Very quickly the discussion evolved into my explaining to her how to change her driving habits so that the Prius would get outstanding mileage. For example, I almost never accelerate while going uphill. I use cruise control whenever my car is fundamentally traveling on flat ground, because the car's systems are much better at minimizing gas use than my foot and brain are, no matter how I try. However, I never use cruise control when going up even a moderate hill, because it wants to downshift and accelerate in that situation.

There are many additional examples of the importance of psychology and behavior in regard to driving and purchasing vehicles. The above is only a start.

Heywood et al identify changes in powertrains as a key part of the transition to more efficient vehicles in 2035. Using recent adoption rates for powertrains in Europe and the United States, they conclude that 2035 will see 85% conversion in new vehicles to more efficienct powertrains such as hybrid, diesel, and turbocharged gasoline. This is an example of my thesis that normal adoption processes and rates are insufficient for mankind's transition to avoid serious impacts from global warming. We need to achieve substantially 100% of all operable vehicles with innovative powertrains by 2035. Heywood et al also discuss means to achieve weight and size reduction of vehicles. Yet much more can be achieved and sooner than 2035 if there is the will to do so. Amory Lovins (http://www.rmi.org/) last year proposed an extremely lightweight approach based on composites. It may be that the modeling program does not support such extreme weight reduction approaches.


This chart is a very powerful tool. It is worth taking some time to understand it.

It would seem to me that a more aggressive target for mileage and carbon footprint could readily be achieved if we were serious. When we as a society get serious about this kind of thing, the targets will become much more aggressive, and we will attain them much more rapidly that we currently think we can.

Right now, the work that can be done is biased by the ADVISOR model and its assumptions, which is based on recent practice in the automotive industry.





It seems at face value unreasonable to me that the factor of two target will cost manufacturers $50 - $65 billion in the 2035 model alone. Is this Detroit lining up again to block progress and to argue for more government doles, doles that the Japanese manufacturers seem to invest in as a matter of competitive opportunism? This seems more manageable when Heywood characterizes it as a 20% increase over business as usual. It also seems more manageable when one realizes that there are perhaps 5-10 manufacturers, so that the total is distributed over all of them, yielding a cost of $5-$13 billion on average for each, most of that being a normal cost of the evolution of models.



The issue is whether this is based on a business-as-usual model, or rather on a leaner, more directed model. About two years ago I witnessed a business plan presentation by a former manager for one of the auto companies. I was flabbergasted at the expense in his plan. I was flabbergasted at the salaries this particular startup was paying its managers. I recognized that this probably reflected the logic and values of Detroit. I suspect the above cost projections reflect similar logic and values. I suspect they also reflect the costs of a highly complex, bureaucratic organization that has been somewhat dysfunctional for many years. We need to find ways to make our organizations leaner, more efficient, more effective. Thankfully, there are other people who also recognize this. There is a lean manufacturing initiative a MIT addressing these and many other critical questions.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Computers, Watches and Living at Lower Temperatures

For some time I have been experimenting with living at ever lower temperatures, that is, with use of ever less fossil fuels for heating and cooling. Typically at this point I set my thermostat to 50F, but I actually have the heating system off during the day and much of the night. At the time of this post, it is sunny outdoors and the temperature at my workstation is a balmy 58F. There are impacts that I continue to seek to identify. Most of these are qualitative impacts, such as the fact that my liquid peppermint soap clouds up, and my ViewSonic monitor does not start up if it has been off at low ambient temperatures for a day or so. This posting addresses the impacts on computer clocks, which is a natural concern for many people.

This from Wikipedia on March 2, 2008 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crystal_oscillator):

A crystal's frequency characteristic depends on the shape or 'cut' of the crystal. A tuning fork crystal is usually cut such that its frequency over temperature is a parabolic curve centered around 25 °C. This means that a tuning fork crystal oscillator will resonate close to its target frequency at room temperature, but will slow down when the temperature either increases or decreases from room temperature. A common parabolic coefficient for a 32 kHz tuning fork crystal is −0.04 ppm/°C².




In a real application, this means that a clock built using a regular 32 kHz tuning fork crystal will keep good time at room temperature, lose 2 minutes per year at 10 degrees Celsius above (or below) room temperature and lose 8 minutes per year at 20 degrees Celsius above (or below) room temperature.


Thus for ordinary applications in the home and office, there is no significant problem with "clocks" even if one lives at 50F or 100F.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Microsoft and Security


On Valentine's Day this year, I went to my workstation to discover a polite message from Microsoft that they had, without my knowledge or permission, downloaded a software update to my computer. Not only this, but they had also rebooted my computer, destroying all of the placemarks and work-in-progress that I had left up and running so that I could continue working on it the next morning. Thanks Microsoft!

This issue relates to "green" because the proper functioning of the Internet relates to "green," assuming that the Internet helps us to be "greener." (That the Internet does this has been disputed. However, my experience with the Internet as an expediter of productivity and an alternative to physical transportation indicates to me that almost any detailed calculation of electricity use by computers will be swamped out by these energy saving factors. It is sort of like comparing the green-ness of the New York City subway system to having all of those people driving cars instead. It almost does not matter how inefficient the subway is. Because of economies of scale, it will still be vastly "greener" than a system that requires people to drive in invidual vehicles.)

Microsoft has done something similar at least once before. About six months ago they had what they considered to be another security update, and I had elected not to download and install it. This update would verify [for Microsoft] that my operating system was a legitimate licensed version of the Microsoft XP operating system. Well, I already knew that, many times over. I had purchased my Hewlett-Packard computer from a legitimate store, and it came with the operating system installed. I knew Microsoft had checked it many times over the Internet, whenever I did an update from their website. I also, out of curiosity, had run their internal operating system check to verify that this was a legitimate version. Enough is enough. So I elected for a long time not to download this verification system. Then one day, the option to download it had disappeared. I doubted that it disappeared because Microsoft simply averred in its persistence.

It is time for Microsoft to reduce or drop its paranoia within the boundaries of America. Yes, I can understand their paranoia with respect to China, for the stories are many about piracy there. Such piracy simply does not make a lot of sense when most computers are sold with the Microsoft operating system already installed. I remember some years ago when Microsoft first came out with its inflated figures for how many of their operating system instances they thought had been installed or pirated. My reaction to that was to note the larger number of copies of Microsoft operating systems my businesses and I had disposed of than we were currently using. Many of them I have never registered formally with Microsoft, because it took time and offered little to me. So I figured that MS must be counting all of those unregistered operating systems, and many of those discards as pirated operating systems, even though they clearly were not. If Microsoft were not using statistics like this in a key way, then how else would they be divining the huge numbers they claimed for piracy?

Summary conclusion: Microsoft paranoia and resulting public relations is not adequate justification for their tampering with computers. I now always make a point of physically disconnecting my computers from the Internet when I am away. I am also one large step further along in dropping Microsoft in favor of Linux or Mac. It is not easy given that I am fluent in Microsoft Access and Microsoft Basic, but it will eventually happen.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Detroit Mis-Attitudes

How can I not comment on General Motors Corp Vice Chairman Bob Lutz's remarking and then backing these remarks? Below is the text of a Reuters article, as well as a pointer to it.

1. Lutz surely understands that what he says as a corporate leader influences at least all those who are under him.

2. Lutz may not be aware of the way his expressed values influence his personal decision making, but they do influence it.

3. One of the problems with filling key positions in major corporations with 40-year-old hotshots is that most of the lack maturity. The shift that is currently underway to enable our society to survive requires that many such corporate leaders have moved on to "generativity" so that they are prepared to take consideration of generations to come.

4. There is longstanding awareness that Detroit (which includes GM) has looked to special consideration from the government instead of getting off the dime about its poor energy and environment performance. Partly this has been made OK by politicians and business advocates who have championed the notion of relying on "market forces" ... as long as those market forces go to their advantage and they still get their special considerations. Advocating reliance on "market forces" can be useful in many circumstances, as long as the advocates are not hypocritical. In Detroit's case hypocrisy has been a loose-loose proposition for all parties concerned. Special consideration as a result of lobbying Washington has led to weaker American auto companies and a weaker America.

4. Lutz was correct about GM's compromised market position. Many of us have been predicting for years that this would happen. Lutz said that it was a mistake to allow Toyota to seize "the mantle of green respectability and technology leadership" with its market-leading Prius hybrid. Lester Brown says that he thinks GM has learned a lesson, that it is really working hard to get the Volt out before Japanese makers get their electric cars into the market. Time will tell.

5. Here is hoping that Detroit learns this time around. I'm sure they can do it if they really want to!

_________________________________________________________________

http://www.reuters.com/article/environmentNews/idUSN2237297620080222?feedType=RSS&feedName=environmentNews&rpc=22&sp=true
GM exec stands by calling global warming a "crock"
Fri Feb 22, 2008 3:08pm EST
DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors Corp Vice Chairman Bob Lutz has defended remarks he made dismissing global warming as a "total crock of s---," saying his views had no bearing on GM's commitment to build environmentally friendly vehicles.
Lutz, GM's outspoken product development chief, has been under fire from Internet bloggers since last month when he was quoted as making the remark to reporters in Texas.
In a posting on his GM blog on Thursday, Lutz said those "spewing virtual vitriol" at him for minimizing the threat of climate change were "missing the big picture."
"What they should be doing in earnest is forming opinions, not about me but about GM and what this company is doing that is ... hugely beneficial to the causes they so enthusiastically claim to support," he said in a posting titled, "Talk About a Crock."
GM, the largest U.S. automaker by sales and market share, has been trying to change its image after taking years of heat for relying too much on sales of large sport-utility vehicles like the Hummer and not moving faster on fuel-saving hybrid technology.
"My thoughts on what has or hasn't been the cause of climate change have nothing to do with the decisions I make to advance the cause of General Motors," he wrote.
Lutz said GM was continuing development of the battery-powered, plug-in Chevy Volt and other alternatives to traditional internal combustion engines.
GM is racing against Toyota Motor Corp to be first to market a plug-in hybrid car that can be recharged at a standard electric outlet.
Lutz has previously said GM made a mistake by allowing Toyota to seize "the mantle of green respectability and technology leadership" with its market-leading Prius hybrid.
A 40-year auto industry veteran who joined GM earlier in the decade with a mandate to shake up its vehicle line-up, Lutz is no stranger to controversy.
As part of a campaign against higher fuel economy standards, Lutz wrote in a 2006 blog posting that forcing automakers to sell smaller cars would be "like trying to address the obesity problem in this country by forcing clothing manufacturers to sell smaller, tighter sizes."
Automakers ended their opposition to higher fuel standards in 2007 when it became clear that proposed changes would become law with or without their support.
In December, President George W. Bush signed a law mandating a 40 percent increase in fleetwide fuel economy by 2020, the first substantial change in three decades.
(Reporting by Kevin Krolicki, editing by Toni Reinhold)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Mort Webster (MIT) on Uncertainties in Models

Based on his talk at MIT in January. The issue to be drawn from Mort Webster's presentation is whether climate models are maybe a little too conservative, and even more important, whether they are interpreted too conservatively in terms of policy initiatives. Coming soon.

Nobska Point Wind

Yesterday I called George Woodwell and we spent some time walking around looking at potential sites for a wind turbine. The Nobska Point area is one of the prime Class 6 wind sites in Massachusetts. Wind comes over a vast expanse of ocean right on to Nobska Point. I have had my eye for years on getting a turbine placed on the lighthouse property, and arranged for an introduction to the lighthouse keeper, but everyone agrees that people's visual sensibilities will prevent any such wind turbine placement. I keep pointing out that the radio tower next to the lighthouse is vastly uglier than a wind turbine, or almost anything else for that matter. People did not complain about that ... or maybe it just went in so many years ago that people did not have a chance to complain.

There are lots of sites in the area for 2 kW turbines. Not so many for 100kW turbines ... which is the size we would like to get in place for the neighborhood. Let's start close to home. George and I are both prepared to site a turbine in our back yards, which are contiguous but for a road between them. The road is owned by a third party, so in the best of circumstances, we all must reach an agreement to proceed, and then get the town bylaws changed so that we can agree to allow a fall zone to extend over our property lines. We looked at my backyard, and the turbine would be too close to my house. It is one thing to place a 2 kW turbine with its skinny pole within falling distance of a house. Quite another to place a 100kW turbine there with its climb-through structure that rises at least 100 feet and a payload weight well in excess of a ton. Looking at George's back yard, well, it is shielded from the wind by my house.

Walking over to the neighbors who have homes on the ocean, the situation changes. One neighbor with arguably the best site looks in one direction all the way to Martha's Vineyard, and in another direction all the way to Long Island (if one could see that far). They would not even need a very large tower. The best location would be on the rocky beach on the side of the house from which trees block the view. George and I agreed that the owners would never place a turbine in their line of site to the Vineyard.

I really do not have to go any further to point out the pattern. In so-called desirable locations on the coast (or in fact anywhere), there is typically already a heavy population density. It is difficult to find a turbine placement that is safe. Even if a turbine whispers (and that is about all the industrial scale turbines do) it could be disruptive to sensitive people's sleep during quiet nights if it is literally located in a small back yard. Further, the locations that are otherwise acceptable often compromise precious viewsheds. In other words, it is one thing to have a large turbine out there in the water at a distance of a half mile or more, and quite another thing to have it 100 yards away.

I have seen this in many situations. As full awareness of the energy and environment situation grows, I recognize that there will be wind turbines put into lots of places that, today, people would not think of placing them. The question is how we get from here to a moderated version of there.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Lieberman-Warner and House Select Committee

Stephanie Herring, PhD , a science policy advisor /ACS fellow for Congressman Ed Markey ,in his capacity as Chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming , spoke at the Weston Public Library at 7 p.m. February 13th. Dr. Herring focussed her discussion on the Lieberman-Warner Bill in Washington to address climate change and promote energy independence. This bill has emerged from committee and appears to be the basic structure around which future debates will be centered. Language from other bills will be inserted if and as appropriate. The event was sponsored by the Weston Climate Group. I was originally scheduled to be in Maine for a call-in program about Wind energy, but was recovering from a bout of the flu and could not engage in an 11-hour junket. Two colleagues carried through on the Maine engagement, and freed me to spend two hours on this event.

Part of Stephanie's involvement is identifying the impacts of global warming on people, a topic near and dear to my heart. Trained in the health sciences, Stephanie could be focussing on being a doctor, but one of the biggest public health issues is in fact these impacts. A common attitude is that people will adapt to whatever climate changes occur, but that is not true. If heat waves are a degree or a few degrees hotter, many more people will die. If there are more severe storms, there will be much more property damage and dislocation, and again more people will die. This important work is almost surely not properly considered in Lieberman-Warner. Stephanie's work will help bring it properly in to play.

"Lieberman-Warner" (Senate Bill # 2191) can be found in its latest version http://www.thomas.gov/. A search under 2191 may not yield a hit, so it may be necessary to search under Lieberman or Warner. Its sections are below my comments.

Thomas.gov is the best place to access the most recent versions of bills. It is updated more frequently than individual senators' web sites.

Bingamon-Specter is not out of committee, and probably won't make it out, indicating at this point that it will be used only to extract added language to update Lieberman-Warner.

The Bill charges the EPA with designing and operating systems for implementing management of GreenHouse Gases (GHG). There is to be a Greenhouse Gas Registry with an advisory board. All information is to be public, with electronic reporting and audits for verification. I asked whether this was similar to the Inventories that many corporations are beginning to perform and publish on the web; the answer was "yes." An issue being debated is what entities to regulate in various sectors of the economy. There are also some problems with this provision. The legislation also depends on EPA leadership for implementation. This means that the implementation will be politicized to a certain extent, a concern for those of us who view global warming as a non-political issue that can be made political to the detriment of all. Additionally, there is nothing in Bush's budget for rulemaking, indicating that there is a shortfall of commitment to this legislation.

The Bill proposes what is basically a cap-and-trade system. There is to be a penalty for over-emitting: $200 per ton of CO2 over your allowance. Legislators may consider something like 3 times the vaue of carbon on the market. The legislation aims to curb 85% to 95% of our emissions by focussing on large businesses, but the initial legislation has some holes in it. Perhaps this is reasonable, if not good. Since "small businesses" would be exempt from this legislation, the logic would be that the huge task of setting up a system could be done with a relatively small sample of entities, making it more feasible. Also, small businesses do not have the resources to deal with the set-up process. Once the system is set up, it could be extended to small businesses. Of course a company that has 400-500 people is not what a lot of us would call a small business, so there is a potential or actual hole there. For example, with the fragmentation of the electric power industry, there may be major polluters that generate electricity with coal or oil and yet qualify for the small business exemption. Meanwhile the high employment part of the industry is in distribution, which would have a comparatively low carbon footprint with or without the legislation.

So there is the big question: What holes does this legislation leave open?
Then there is also another question that emerges: What if this legislation does not tackle the challenge aggressively enough? What if we cannot afford those holes? What if the problem is bigger and more pressing that we thought it was? There is already evidence that the researchers and their models are too conservative in their predictions. Additionally, as Stephanie pointed out, when researchers find that they do not know how to include methane from thawed permafrost in their models, they simply ignore it.

Agriculture represents a very challenging and ambiguous area for the legislation because it proves difficult to know what the carbon footprint is for agriculture, forestry and land use. Stephanie was familiar with the recent research out of Princeton that reconsidered the boundaries for evaluating the net carbon footprint for corn-ethanol. This indicates that reliance on such ethanol increases the carbon in the atmosphere. Is this really all that surprising when we consider the complications and demands of large scale agriculture? I found myself itching to tell the story of how agriculture is now heavily dependent upon petro-chemicals. When I visited an ancestral homestead in Minnesota some years ago, I stood next to the gravesite in the corner of the 40 acres. It was at the level of my eyes as I stood at the level of the cultivated land. The message is that the topsoil has been eroded by wind and water; we have mined out the wealth that was in that deep Midwestern topsoil. We need to shed our illusions about argiculture, petroleum, and carbon.

There is to be a Carbon Market Efficiency Board with 5 members of both parties appointed by the sitting President serving for 15 year terms to insulate them from politics. When the price of carbon reaches the point of impacting our economy, this board can adjust the numbers in the system to ameliorate the effect. It is indeed reasonable to have some sort of mechanism like this. Yet it could be abused. I again raised a question. Why are we so worried about a point or two of economic growth when our entire society and way of life are at stake? Because of this, it will be very important to select good people to this Board, and to make sure that they have the tools and the advice necessary to do their job well. It is perhaps a little like the Federal Reserve Bank in its subtle but considerable power. In the present, with a Bush administration that remains largely committed to a high carbon footprint, early passing of this Bill would then enable Bush to subvert the legislation by appointing troglodytes as Advisors.

Allocation addresses who gets to emit the actual carbon that is emitted. The U.S. is attempting to learn from the Europe's debacle that resulted from giving away all the allowances, which were actually worth a great deal. European energy companies had a windfall profit, for which consumers paid higher rates. Instead, the legislation calls for 26.5% of the allowances to be auctioned in 2012. The remainder are to be given away. I cannot comment at this point on the prudency of this approach, but the question does arise: Why not auction off all allowances, and let market forces play out. Isn't this what Conservatives have always argued for in the public forum, but now that they can get a government dole to their advantage, they embrace the dole rather than their own principles?

Fossil fuel fired electric plants are to receive 19% of the free allowances, while 10% go to energy intensive industries such as steel and cement. 5% go to organizations that have already done things to significantly reduce their carbon footprint. And so forth. I raised this question: If the fossil fuel-based industry is already getting $12B in subidies from the Feds, then why should they get another 19% free allowance to keep the cost of fossil-fuel-based electricity down? A penny or two per kiloWatt hour makes the difference between being competitive and not competitive, and thus the difference between building more fossil fuel plants for electric generation, and alternative energy plants for electric generation. This gift creates an immense government bias in favor of the fossil fuels whose consumption we must reduce, and against the wind, solar and alternative energy approaches whose consumption we must foster.

At the end I asked Stephanie the question that, before her talk, I had warned her would come. I discussed my previous blog entry, and work at MIT that looks at the uncertainties in the models. The spread in the models gives a peak of about 4 degrees Centrigrade as the temperature rise as of 2100, but with consideration of uncertainties and data error, that peak could go much higher. With Ravelo's finding that the Pliocene had temperatures 4 to 9 degrees higher than now with similar carbon in the atmosphere, and measured GHG concentrations already higher than predicted by the models, the question might be "How fast will the global temperatures rise to Pliocene levels or higher?" It would seem likely that excessive moderation right now might be a mistake. Yet Lieberman-Warner assumes a middle-of-the-models challenge and seeks to ameliorate that. What if the challenge is much greater than that? Isn't it more prudent to tackle this problem aggressively? Then if we find we have created slack, we can back off in our efforts? Cannot we learn from the McKinsey Report, implement in the right way, grow our economy in a green direction, and profit economically as a society?

Readers may want to check out the select committee's website at http://globalwarming.house.gov/.

S.2191
America's Climate Security Act of 2007 (Introduced in Senate)
BeginningOctober 18, 2007
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE; TABLE OF CONTENTS.

Sec. 1. Short title; table of contents.

SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

SEC. 3. PURPOSES.

TITLE I--CAPPING GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONSSubtitle A--Tracking Emissions
SEC. 1101. PURPOSE.

SEC. 1102. DEFINITIONS.

SEC. 1103. REPORTING REQUIREMENTS.

SEC. 1104. DATA QUALITY AND VERIFICATION.

SEC. 1105. FEDERAL GREENHOUSE GAS REGISTRY.

SEC. 1106. ENFORCEMENT.
Subtitle B--Reducing Emissions
SEC. 1201. EMISSION ALLOWANCE ACCOUNT.

SEC. 1202. COMPLIANCE OBLIGATION.

SEC. 1203. PENALTY FOR NONCOMPLIANCE.
TITLE II--MANAGING AND CONTAINING COSTS EFFICIENTLYSubtitle A--Trading
SEC. 2101. SALE, EXCHANGE, AND RETIREMENT OF EMISSION ALLOWANCES.

SEC. 2102. NO RESTRICTION ON TRANSACTIONS.

SEC. 2103. ALLOWANCE TRANSFER SYSTEM.

SEC. 2104. ALLOWANCE TRACKING SYSTEM.
Subtitle B--Banking
SEC. 2201. INDICATION OF CALENDAR YEAR.

SEC. 2202. EFFECT OF TIME.
Subtitle C--Borrowing
SEC. 2301. REGULATIONS.

SEC. 2302. TERM.

SEC. 2303. REPAYMENT WITH INTEREST.
Subtitle D--Offsets
SEC. 2401. OUTREACH INITIATIVE ON REVENUE ENHANCEMENT FOR AGRICULTURAL PRODUCERS.

SEC. 2402. ESTABLISHMENT OF DOMESTIC OFFSET PROGRAM.

SEC. 2403. ELIGIBLE AGRICULTURAL AND FORESTRY OFFSET PROJECT TYPES.

SEC. 2404. PROJECT INITIATION AND APPROVAL.

SEC. 2405. OFFSET VERIFICATION AND ISSUANCE OF ALLOWANCES FOR AGRICULTURAL AND FORESTRY PROJECTS.

SEC. 2406. TRACKING OF REVERSALS FOR SEQUESTRATION PROJECTS.

SEC. 2407. EXAMINATIONS.

SEC. 2408. TIMING AND THE PROVISION OF OFFSET ALLOWANCES.

SEC. 2409. OFFSET REGISTRY.

SEC. 2410. ENVIRONMENTAL CONSIDERATIONS.

SEC. 2411. PROGRAM REVIEW.
Subtitle E--International Credits
SEC. 2501. USE OF INTERNATIONAL ALLOWANCES OR CREDITS.

SEC. 2502. REGULATIONS.

SEC. 2503. FACILITY CERTIFICATION.
Subtitle F--Carbon Market Efficiency Board
SEC. 2601. PURPOSES.

SEC. 2602. ESTABLISHMENT OF CARBON MARKET EFFICIENCY BOARD.

SEC. 2603. DUTIES.

SEC. 2604. POWERS.

SEC. 2605. ESTIMATE OF COSTS TO ECONOMY OF LIMITING GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS.
TITLE III--ALLOCATING AND DISTRIBUTING ALLOWANCESSubtitle A--Early Auctions
SEC. 3101. ALLOCATION FOR EARLY AUCTIONS.
Subtitle B--Annual Auctions
SEC. 3201. ALLOCATION FOR ANNUAL AUCTIONS.
Subtitle C--Early Action
SEC. 3301. ALLOCATION.

SEC. 3302. DISTRIBUTION.
Subtitle D--States
SEC. 3401. ALLOCATION FOR ENERGY SAVINGS.

SEC. 3402. ALLOCATION FOR STATES WITH PROGRAMS THAT EXCEED FEDERAL EMISSION REDUCTION TARGETS.

SEC. 3403. GENERAL ALLOCATION.
Subtitle E--Electricity Consumers
SEC. 3501. ALLOCATION.

SEC. 3502. DISTRIBUTION.

SEC. 3503. USE.

SEC. 3504. REPORTING.
Subtitle F--Bonus Allowances for Carbon Capture and Geological Sequestration
SEC. 3601. ALLOCATION.

SEC. 3602. QUALIFYING PROJECTS.

SEC. 3603. DISTRIBUTION.

SEC. 3604. 10-YEAR LIMIT.

SEC. 3605. EXHAUSTION OF BONUS ALLOWANCE ACCOUNT.
Subtitle G--Domestic Agriculture and Forestry
SEC. 3701. ALLOCATION.

SEC. 3702. AGRICULTURAL AND FORESTRY GREENHOUSE GAS MANAGEMENT RESEARCH.

SEC. 3703. DISTRIBUTION.
Subtitle H--International Forest Protection
SEC. 3801. FINDINGS.

SEC. 3802. DEFINITION OF FOREST CARBON ACTIVITIES.

SEC. 3803. ALLOCATION.

SEC. 3804. DEFINITION AND ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS.

SEC. 3805. INTERNATIONAL FOREST CARBON ACTIVITIES.

SEC. 3806. REVIEWS AND DISCOUNT.
Subtitle I--Covered Facilities
SEC. 3901. ALLOCATION.

SEC. 3902. DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM.

SEC. 3903. DISTRIBUTING EMISSION ALLOWANCES WITHIN THE ELECTRIC POWER SECTOR.

SEC. 3904. DISTRIBUTING EMISSION ALLOWANCES WITHIN THE INDUSTRIAL SECTOR.
TITLE IV--AUCTIONS AND USES OF AUCTION PROCEEDSSubtitle A--Funds
SEC. 4101. ESTABLISHMENT.

SEC. 4102. AMOUNTS IN FUNDS.

SEC. 4103. TRANSFERS TO FUNDS.
Subtitle B--Climate Change Credit Corporation
SEC. 4201. ESTABLISHMENT.

SEC. 4202. APPLICABLE LAWS.

SEC. 4203. BOARD OF DIRECTORS.
Subtitle C--Auctions
SEC. 4301. EARLY AUCTIONS.

SEC. 4302. ANNUAL AUCTIONS.
Subtitle D--Energy Technology Deployment
SEC. 4401. IN GENERAL.

SEC. 4402. ZERO- OR LOW-CARBON ENERGY TECHNOLOGIES DEPLOYMENT.

SEC. 4403. ADVANCED COAL AND SEQUESTRATION TECHNOLOGIES PROGRAM.

SEC. 4404. FUEL FROM CELLULOSIC BIOMASS.

SEC. 4405. ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY VEHICLES MANUFACTURING INCENTIVE PROGRAM.
Subtitle E--Energy Consumers
SEC. 4501. PROPORTIONS OF FUNDING AVAILABILITY.

SEC. 4502. RURAL ENERGY ASSISTANCE PROGRAM.
Subtitle F--Climate Change Worker Training Program
SEC. 4601. FUNDING.

SEC. 4602. PURPOSES.

SEC. 4603. ESTABLISHMENT.

SEC. 4604. GRANTS TO STATES.

SEC. 4605. TYPES OF ASSISTANCE.
Subtitle G--Adaptation Program for Natural Resources in United States and Territories
SEC. 4701. DEFINITIONS.

SEC. 4702. ADAPTATION FUND.
Subtitle H--Climate Change and National Security Program
SEC. 4801. INTERAGENCY CLIMATE CHANGE AND NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL.

SEC. 4802. FUNDING.
Subtitle I--Audits
SEC. 4901. REVIEW AND AUDIT BY COMPTROLLER GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES.
TITLE V--ENERGY EFFICIENCYSubtitle A--Appliance Efficiency
SEC. 5101. RESIDENTIAL BOILERS.

SEC. 5102. REGIONAL VARIATIONS IN HEATING OR COOLING STANDARDS.
Subtitle B--Building Efficiency
SEC. 5201. UPDATING STATE BUILDING ENERGY EFFICIENCY CODES.

`SEC. 304. UPDATING STATE BUILDING ENERGY EFFICIENCY CODES.

SEC. 5202. CONFORMING AMENDMENT.
TITLE VI--GLOBAL EFFORT TO REDUCE GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS
SEC. 6001. DEFINITIONS.

SEC. 6002. PURPOSES.

SEC. 6003. INTERNATIONAL NEGOTIATIONS.

SEC. 6004. INTERAGENCY REVIEW.

SEC. 6005. PRESIDENTIAL DETERMINATIONS.

SEC. 6006. INTERNATIONAL RESERVE ALLOWANCE PROGRAM.

SEC. 6007. ADJUSTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RESERVE ALLOWANCE REQUIREMENTS.
TITLE VII--REVIEWS
SEC. 7001. NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES REVIEW.

SEC. 7002. TRANSPORTATION SECTOR REVIEW.

SEC. 7003. ADAPTATION REVIEW.
TITLE VIII--FRAMEWORK FOR GEOLOGICAL SEQUESTRATION OF CARBON DIOXIDE
SEC. 8001. NATIONAL DRINKING WATER REGULATIONS.

SEC. 8002. ASSESSMENT OF GEOLOGICAL STORAGE CAPACITY FOR CARBON DIOXIDE.

SEC. 8003. STUDY OF THE FEASIBILITY RELATING TO CONSTRUCTION OF PIPELINES AND GEOLOGICAL CARBON DIOXIDE SEQUESTRATION ACTIVITIES.

SEC. 8004. LIABILITIES FOR CLOSED GEOLOGICAL STORAGE SITES.
TITLE IX--MISCELLANEOUS
SEC. 9001. PARAMOUNT INTEREST WAIVER.

SEC. 9002. CORPORATE ENVIRONMENTAL DISCLOSURE OF CLIMATE CHANGE RISKS.

SEC. 9003. ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURE AND JUDICIAL REVIEW.

SEC. 9004. RETENTION OF STATE AUTHORITY.

SEC. 9005. TRIBAL AUTHORITY.

SEC. 9006. AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Pliocene Era and Global Warming

On February 11, 2008 I attended a presentation by Christina Ravelo of U Cal Santa Cruz to an audience at Harvard and the Radcliffe Institute. She talked in terms of there being two categories of models for climate change. The now traditional model addresses the dynamics of the earth's systems and calculates incremental changes to global temperature. The other looks back millions of years to determine what global conditions were when the earth was warming and the CO2 concentrations comparable to today's. Her argument is that we as a community can perfect today's global models by seeing if we can make them work in relation to the situation in the Pliocene Era (4.5 M to 3.0 M years ago). I agree with that, with the caveat that the oceans may have had a significantly different thermal and chemical structure then as compared to today.

[As you can see from the graph to the left, CO2 is rising rapidly, and even the slope may be increasing. Cause for concern.]




[In the graph to the left, there is a range of uncertainty to the current models. These uncertainties turn out to be very important, as I will be discussing in a later post. Global warming could be greater than is commonly projected for use in government policy decisions.]

In addition there is a more controversial conjecture that I would make. If you look at the analytical climate models of today you see projections of several degrees of temperature rise by 2050 or 2100. If you look at the MIT model (which I will discuss in a later entry), you see that the global temperature is still rising at 2050 or 2100 even if we keep CO2 equivalents down to the present level. This is consistent with a longterm asymptotic temperature shift such as Christina found in the geologic record: 4 to 9 degrees centigrade. This is of course much greater than the temperature change predicted by analytical models. These values could be conservative because of the large amounts of anthropogenic carbon introduced through burning of fossil fuels as well as conversion of biomaterials currently frozen into permafrost to methane. If these asymptotic values are accurate then the big question is the rate at which the asymptotic limits are achieved.

The intriguing pattern that Christina noted was that much of the global warming effect for the U.S. geographical area during the Pliocene was a warming in the northern parts of North America (pretty nice except for the resulting melting of the permafrost) and increased El Nino effects where they are only occasional now in the Southwest. Here is the map of effects:


You see the term El Padre that she has created. She uses that term because it is like El Nino but different in that it can be more usual and the conditions that lead to it can be quite different from what currently creates El Ninos.