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10 to 1 odds for Prof. David Barber

August 27, 2014

Background

Back in 2008 University of Manitoba Professor David Barber made two rediculous statements.  First, National Geographic reported on June 20th, 2008, that Barber said

“We’re actually projecting this year that the North Pole may be free of ice for the first time [in history].”

Of course, that did not happen.  At the low point for the year there were still 3 million square kilometers of ice in the Arctic and 2.25 million square kilometers in the Arctic Basin.   But Barber wasn’t done sharing his insight.   That year the Star Pheonix (Saskatoon) reported

The ice that has covered the Arctic basin for a million years will be gone in little more than six years because of global warming, a University of Manitoba geoscientist said. And David Barber said … he estimates the Arctic sea should see its first ice-free summer around 2015.

At the time I challenged Barber to…

…a friendly wager based on this prediction. I will bet David Barber $1000(US) that the ice covering the Arctic Basin will not be gone anytime before December 31st, 2015. The bet would involve no transfer of cash between myself or Barber, but rather, the loser will pay the sum to a charitable organization designated by the winner.

Definition of terms. The Arctic Basin is defined by the regional map at Cryosphere Today. “Gone” means the Arctic Basin sea ice area is less that 100,000 square kilometers, according to National Center for Environmental Prediction/NOAA as presented at Cryosphere Today . Charitable organizations will be agreed upon at the time the bet is initiated.

David Barber is a smart guy and evidently an expert in his field. Taking on a wager with an amateur like me should be like shooting fish in a barrel. I look forward to reaching an agreement soon.

I got no response from Barber.

On August 15th, 2009, I upped the ante, sending Barber email offering 2 to 1 odds.

Still no response. 

Instead, in November of 2009 The Univeristy of Manitoba published this video of Barber…

Current Ice Status

Anybody who is paying attention knows that Barber has been wildly off the mark for the Arctic, and that the sea ice extent in the Antarctic is pushing record highs.  Globally, the sea ice area has been above its historical average during most of the last year.

10 to 1 odds

Today I am offering Barber 10 to 1 odds.  That’s right, I will put up $10,000 to his $1000 that the ice covering the Arctic Basin will not be gone anytime before December 31st, 2015, all the rest of the terms being the same.  Today I sent Prof. Barber this email, to the address found here.   I am looking forward to hearing from him soon.

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Climate Hockey Stick Confirmed!!

June 29, 2014

The Climate deniers are taking it on the chin again today as another independent source confirms the climate hockey stick that was first revealed by Michael Mann.  It is getting harder and harder for those corporate sponsored capitalist luddites to hide the truth about runaway effects of increasing atmospheric CO2.

See for yourself…

graph 140629_2

 

This satellite data comes to us via an unimpeachable source: The University of Illinois Department of Atmospheric Sciences. What could be clearer than the rapidly rising temperature seen in the blade of the hockey stick on the right side of the graph? Based on this data, it is high time that the deniers are rounded up and punished (executed?) for their greed inspired destruction of the planet.

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News: White house installs 6.3 kW solar PV system

May 28, 2014

You’ve probably seen the news – it been reported everywhere: the White House has installed 6.3 kilowatts of solar PV.  How much energy will that system yield in practical terms?

The rated power of a PV system is the power that it will yield when the sun shines straight on to it with an irradiance of 1000 W/m2, and the temperature is 25 degrees C .  If those conditions are met for one hour, then the white house PV system will yield 6.3 kilowatt-hours.  If they are met for two hours, then it will yield 12.6 kilowatt-hours, etc.

But those conditions are rarely met exactly.  In the United States those conditions will  be approximately met around noon time on a cold sunny day if the panels are mounted at the proper angle.  Your results will vary.

There is another way to approximate the average daily energy that solar panels will yield: multiply the rated value of the panels by the average daily insolation.   The accuracy of this approach depends on the angle that the panels are mounted and several other variables, but this very simple approach will give an approximation good enough for our purposes

The average daily insolation in Washington DC is 4.23 kilowatt-hours/m2/day.  So the White House PV system would yield about 27 kilowatt-hours per day.

How much energy is 27 kilowatt-hours in practical terms?

If you add up all he energy that is consumed in the United States each year and divide it by the population and 365 days, then you will get the average daily per capita energy consumption in the United States.  Many people have a vague (and wrong) idea of what their energy consumption is, perhaps based on their monthly electricity bill.  They are often shocked when they learn the truth.

Here are the numbers…

Total US yearly energy consumption: 97.4 Quads

This is equal to 28,560,000,000,000 kilowatt-hours (since one Quad is 293,000,000,000 kilowatt-hours).

This translates to a daily per capita consumption is 247 kilowatt-hours per day

247

Therefore, the solar PV on the roof of the White House provides about 10% of the 247 kilowatt-hours consumed by the average American each day!

In all fairness though, we have to understand that a large portion of that 247 kilowatt-hours per day per capita does not do any useful work.  I hesitate to say that this large portion is “wasted.”  Rather, it is lost mostly due to the inescapable consequences of thermodynamics.  Look at the energy flow chart from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.  On the right side you can see that out of the 97.4 Quads of energy used yearly in the United States, 38.4 Quads goes to “energy services” and 59.0 Quads are “rejected energy.”  Effectively, 97.4 Quads of energy are consumed in order to yield 38.4 Quads of “energy services.”  That is only about 40% efficient.

Almost all of the energy generated by the Solar PV system on the roof of the White House can be used for “energy services.”  With this in mind we could fairly claim that the PV system on the roof of the White House provides about 30% of the energy needs (or “energy services”) of a single average American.

Some more perspective on 27 kilowatt-hours of energy

A gallon of gasoline has an energy content of about 32 kilowatt-hours.  If you drive a truck that gets 15 miles per gallon, then you are consuming about 2.1 kilowatt hours per mile [ (32 kilowatt-hours / gallon) / (15 miles / gallon) ].  If you are driving down the highway at 60 miles per hour, then you will consume 27 kilowatt-hours in a mere 13 minutes!

If you are driving down the road at 60 mph in the President’s limo, which gets only 8 mpg, then you will burn up your 27 kilowatt hours in only 7 minutes.  Of course, the President travels with an entourage of about 45 vehicles along with his limo.  It is a pretty good bet that most of these vehicles are heavy-duty, low mileage vehicles.  I think a good approximation would be an average of 20 miles per gallon.  At 60 miles per hour this entourage would burn about 135 gallons an hour, or about 4320 kilo-watt hours per hour.  At that rate they would burn the allotted 27 kilowatt-hours every 22.5 seconds

Consider the Boeing 747-200B (or its militarized version: the VC25, such as Air Force One).  It has a range of 6,100 miles on 48,445 gallons of fuel and a typical cruising speed of 555 mph.  That works out to about 8 gallons per mile (that is “gallons per mile” not “miles per gallon!”) and about 9 miles per minute, resulting in a fuel consumption rate of about 72 gallons per minute!  The energy content of the jet fuel is about the same as gasoline, about 32 kilowatt-hours per gallon.  So, in one minute of cruising the 747 consumes about 2300 kilowatt-hours of energy.

2304

At that rate, the 747 will consume a days worth of the energy produced by the White House solar PV system in about 0.7 seconds (after traveling only about 500 feet), and a years worth of energy in about 4 minutes and 15 seconds.  A round trip from, say, Washington DC to Hawaii and back is about 9540 miles.  At 550 mile per hour that would be about 17.3 hours of flight.  How long would the White House Solar PV array have to operate to produce enough energy for that round trip time?  Answer: 243 years.

243 years

My position

I have been working on solar PV research for about 17 years and believe any energy source is worthy of research.  But religious devotion to one source or another does not advance the human race.  Consequently, I am a supporter of both nuclear energy and solar energy (if and when it is affordable and competitive on its own merits – not massive subsidies).

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Washington Post sums up why voters don’t believe White House about global warming.

May 9, 2014

Five reasons from the Washington Post about why people are rejecting the administrations blathering on global warming.  They pretty well sum up the non-technical reason for rejection.

  1. Overreach
  2. Hypocrisy
  3. The global warming cause fits too nicely with the president’s left-wing political agenda.
  4. A lack of faith in foreign cooperation.
  5. This administration lacks credibility.

See the details here.

 

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China to accelerate thorium reactor development.

March 30, 2014

Thorium is a viable alternative to uranium for power generation with some huge potential advantages.  It is a shame that the United States is not aggressively pursuing it as an energy source.  China has been exploring the use of thorium and just announced a rapid acceleration in their development schedule.

According to the South China Morning Post…

A team of scientists in Shanghai had originally been given 25 years to try to develop the world’s first nuclear plant using the radioactive element thorium as fuel rather than uranium, but they have now been told they have 10.

UntitledThat statement isn’t entirely true. There have been several reactors of varying design powered by thorium. My own state of Colorado had the thorium powered Fort St. Vrain power station back in the 1970s and 1980s.  Today, Thor Energy in Norway is pursuing a U-233/thorium fuel cycle

But the Chinese are working toward the holy grail of thorium reactors: a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR or “lifter”). Here is a nice “TED.com” video on the LFTR concept.

smogChina’s appetite for energy is growing by leaps and bounds.  Coal is their primary source of electricity, but the resulting smog chokes their cities.  Coal will continue to be heavily utilized in China in coming years, but they see thorium a likely route to a cleaner future.  They currently have nearly thirty nuclear reactors of various types under construction to meet some of the growing demand.  But the LFTR has the greatest potential for fuel supply, non-proliferation, and minimal long term radioactive risk.

It is sad that the great United States may have to learn this lesson from the Chinese.

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RetractionWatch: Lowendowsky paper formally retracted

March 22, 2014

RetractionWatch.com

A year after being clumsily removed from the web following complaints, a controversial paper about “the possible role of conspiracist ideation in the rejection of science” is being retracted.

Lowendowsky unrepentant about his embarrassment to science.

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Units of energy: homes?

March 8, 2014

corrected 4/12/14

How many BTUs are in a kilowatt-hour?  How many barrels of oil equivalent (BOE) are in a kiloton of TNT?  There are a lot of different units of energy and power.  Which one is chosen at a particular time depends on the field and the customs of its experts.  It can get a little confusing when comparing numbers from practitioners in different fields.

It can be very eye opening to make the conversions.  For example, six sixteen watt CFL bulbs lit up for six hours will use as much energy as released by the detonation of one pound of TNT.  My preference is to convert powers to watts and  energies to watt-hours.

New unit for power

But there seems to be a new unit of power that I can’t find in any of my physics books.  Its called a “home.”  Here are some examples of its usage…

“The Tatanka Wind Farm, on the North Dakota-South Dakota border, will power 60,000 homes.”

“Limon I Wind Energy Center in Colorado is capable of generating enough electricity to power approximately 100,000 homes.”

“[E]nough clean electricity to power over 60,000 homes.”

“A 230 MW photovoltaic solar station in the Antelope Valley of California that will supply enough energy for 70,000 homes.”

“The new Copper Mountain 3 solar plant, which will be finished in 2015, will be able to generate enough power to supply around 80,000 homes.”

“Chicken Manure to power 90,000 Homes in the Netherlands!”

Ivanpah

Ivanpah mirrors

Mirrors at Ivanpah

Brightsource’s Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in California is a case in point.  This is a solar thermal site that uses thousands of mirrors to concentrate sunlight to generate heat to run generators.  Smithsonian.com says  the “$2.2 billion Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System—the largest of its type in the world—will power 140,000 California homes.”  It looks like they are using a “home” as a unit of power.

What does “will power 140,000 California homes” really mean?

According to the EIA, the average home in California consumes about 7000 kilowatt-hours of electric energy each year  (most recent data, 2009).  That means 140,000 homes would use 9.8 x 108 kilowatt-hours (9.8 x 105 megawatt-hours) of electric energy per year.  I think we’re on the right track here, because the National Renewable Energy Laboratory says Ivanpah will produce 10.8 x 105 megawatt-hours per year.

But this unit of power called a “home”  is still a little misleading.  Although the average California home consumes about 7000 kilowatt-hours of electric energy per year, energy from other sources is also consumed.  The other big source is natural gas, which may be used for space heating, cooking or water heating.  If you think this is trivial compared to the amount of electricity used, think again.  The EIA document on residential energy consumption in California shows these graphs…

EIA California energy consumption

I think it is bad practice to use two mix different units for energy (kilowatt-hours and Btu) as the EIA has done with these graphs.  How many people can compare kilowatt-hours and Btu by looking a graphs?

The graph on the top left is where I got the estimate of 7000 kilowatt-hours of electrical energy per year for the average California home.  Notice that it is labled “ELECTRICITY ONLY.”  The graph on the lower left is for “ALL ENERGY average per household,” and indicates about 62 million Btu per California home per year.

How does 62 million Btu compare to 7000 kilowatt-hours?   62 million Btu translates to 18,170 kilowatt-hours!  In other words, 11,170 kilowatt-hours of energy consumed in the average California home comes from sources other than electricity.  If you find this hard to believe, look at the number of kilowatt-hours you used on a recent winter electric bill and look at the amount of energy, usually in “therms,” on a recent winter gas bill.  Convert the “therms” to kilowatt-hours and you will see what I mean.  It takes a lot more energy to heat water and air in your house than it does to light your bulbs or power your TV.  So Ivanpah really only provides enough energy to power 54,000 (≈140,000 x (7000/18,170)) California “homes.”

You might think that providing enough energy for 54,000 homes is still pretty impressive and makes a big dent in California’s energy needs.  Think again.  There are 12.5 million households in California.   So it would take about 240 (≈12,500,000/54,000) Ivanpahs to power them all.  Ivanpah covers about 16 square kilometers.  So it would take about 3600 (= 16 x 240) square kilometers to power all these households.

Building 3600 square kilometers of mirror arrays is a big undertaking, but wouldn’t it be worth it to power the entire state of California?  The problem is that it wouldn’t power the entire state of California.  Residential power consumption is only about 20% (1/5th) of California’s total energy consumption.  Far more energy goes into commercial, industrial  and transportation needs.

If we assume vast efficiencies then we might say that it only takes 2.5 times (instead of 5 times) the residential energy consumption to run the entire state of California.  With these assumed efficiencies Ivanpah would provide the total (not just residential) energy needs for the occupants of only about 22000 (≈ 54000/2.5) homes. It would take nearly 600 (≈2.5 x 240) Ivanpahs, a whopping 9000 (≈ 3600 x 2.5) square kilometers of mirror arrays, and $1.3 trillion (≈ 2.5 x 240 x $2.2 billion) to provide the average energy needs of the entire state.

Why talk in terms of “homes?”

The use of “home” as a unit of power has a warm and fuzzy feeling to it.  I guess good and caring people are concerned about “homes,” while cold and uncaring people talk about “kilowatt-hours.”  Using “homes” as a unit of power gives the impression (intentionally?) that all the energy needs of the people living in those homes are met.  It is much more impressive to say an energy project will “power 140,000 homes” than to say it will compensate for the total energy needs for the people living in 22,000 homes.

I believe this loose use of the English language and lazy, imprecise use of physical values  is used precisely because it yields more impressive numbers.

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