Posts Tagged ‘CO2’


Not much of Chinese energy is from wind or solar.

December 2, 2013

A few days ago I wrote about the pollyannish belief that “China is slowing its carbon emissions.”  An essential element of this ridiculous meme is that the Chinese are producing significant portions of their energy via wind and solar. Not true.

Consider just electricity.   Here is a breakdown of China’s installed electricity capacity by fuel type in 2011 and their electricity generation by fuel type for 2000 to 2010 from the The United Stages’ Energy Information Administration’s evaluation of China’s energy consumption (2012)…

"China's installed electricity capacity by fuel, 2011," from the US Energy Information Administration's evaluation of China's energy consumption

“China’s installed electricity capacity by fuel, 2011,” from the US Energy Information Administration’s evaluation of China’s energy consumption

"China's electricity generation by fuel type, 2000-2010" from the US's Energy Information Administration

“China’s electricity generation by fuel type, 2000-2010″ from the US’s Energy Information Administration

What do these charts tell you?

These two charts are drawn from the same data set and appear next to each other in the same document.

As you can see from the top chart, 6.2% of China’s installed electricity capacity is in wind or solar.  That is over 60 gigawatts installed.  Compare that the the US’s 60 gigawatts of installed wind and 10 gigawatts of installed solar.

Alas, the top chart shows installed capacity, not actual production.  There is a little thing called the “capacity factor.”  The capacity factor is the fraction of the time that particular power source can actually produce power at its rated capacity.  For example, a one gigawatt capacity nuclear power plant will have a capacity factor of about 90%, meaning it can produce one gigawatt 90% of the time.  Wind and solar capacity factors tend to be much lower, simply because sometimes the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine.  The capacity factor for wind in China is 22%

The second chart shows the amount of electrical energy actually produced using the various “fuel types”.  Do you see that very, very thin yellow band along the top of the second chart?  That represents the Chinese electricity generation due to that 6.2% of installed wind and solar.  Can’t see the yellow line?  Let me blow up the last year of the chart for you…

Chinas electricity generation by fuel type blown up 3

That 6.2% of installed capacity in the form of wind and solar yields less than 1.5% of the actual energy.

China’s energy future

The Energy Information Administration document tells us…

China is the world’s second largest power generator behind the US, and net power generation was 3,965 Terawatt-hours (TWh) in 2010, up 15 percent from 2009. Nearly 80 percent of generation is from fossil fuel-fired sources, primarily coal. Both electricity generation and consumption have increased by over 50 percent since 2005, and EIA predicts total net generation will increase to 9,583 TWh by 2035, over 3 times the amount in 2010.

Wow!  three times as much as 2010, a mere 21 years from now!  Where will all this energy come from?

Again, the Energy Information Administration…

Total fossil fuels, primarily coal, currently make up nearly 79 percent of power generation and 71 percent of installed capacity. Coal and natural gas are expected to remain the dominant fuel in the power sector in the coming years. Oil-fired generation is expected to remain relatively flat in the next two decades. In 2010, China generated about 3,130 TWh from fossil fuel sources, up 11 percent annually.

Let me be clear, I am not knocking the use of wind and solar.  I have been personally working on solar energy for 17 years.  But I am knocking unrealistic expectations and quasi-religious environmentalist beliefs.  And I am not criticizing the Chinese for their increasing energy consumption.  They understand, correctly, that abundant energy is the key to prosperity.


The Guardian: “China is slowing its carbon emissions.” Huh?

November 27, 2013

Left-wingers in the US have a need to see everything European as superior to American.  But it may be a necessity of left-wingers in general see some other culture as preferable to their own.  So if you are a European left-winger, who do you look up to?  Certainly not the United States!  That’s what China is for!

So a few days ago Jennifer Duggan, in her Guardian column said “China’s action on air pollution is slowing its carbon emissions.”  Maybe Duggan doesn’t know the difference between first and second derivatives and meant to say “China is reducing its acceleration of carbon emissions,” but even that wouldn’t be true.

Duggan tells us…

The latest Climate Change Performance Index published by Germanwatch and Climate Action Network Europe suggests that China is taking action to clean up its act as it tries to deal with its hazardously high levels of air pollution.

The report states:

“Recent developments indicate a slower growth of CO2 emissions and a decoupling of CO2 growth and GDP growth. Both, its heavy investments in renewable energies and a very critical debate on coal in the highest political circles, resulting from the heavy smog situation in many towns, give hope for a slower emission growth in the future.”

OK, sure, “slower growth of CO2 emissions.” Whatever you say Jennifer.

There is rhetoric – and there is reality.  Here is some reality.


BEIJING — China’s coal consumption is expected to hit 4.8 billion metric tons by 2020, the China National Coal Association (CNCA) forecast on Sunday.

CNCA data showed that China’s coal output increased to 3.65 billion tons last year from 2.35 billion tons in 2005, representing an annual increase of 190 million tons. Consumption in 2012 stood at 3.52 billion tons.

So, going from 3.65 billion tons this year to 4.8 billion tons in 2020 represents neither a decrease in usage (first derivative) nor a decrease in the rate of increase (second derivative).


From Trends in Global CO2 Emissions: 2012 Report from PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, here are the CO2 emissions per region from 1990 to 2012…

Global CO2 emissions per region

By the way, how does Chinese emission acceleration compare to US emissions acceleration?

China vs US


From the 2014 China International Electric Power & Electric Engineering Technology Exhibition webpage

China’s five-year plan ending in 2015 envisions adding 520 GW to its current power production, expanding its capacity by 54%. Coal will be the primary source of energy in this increase…Coal-fired plants will contribute 58% of the increase in 2015 to remain the largest contributor to China’s power generation.


From Reuters, October 14th 2012

Coal, propelled by rising use in China and India, will surpass oil as the key fuel for the global economy by 2020 despite government efforts to reduce carbon emissions, energy consultancy firm Wood Mackenzie said on Monday…

The two Asian powerhouses will need the comparatively cheaper fuel to power their economies, while demand in the United States, Europe and the rest of Asia will hold steady.

“China’s demand for coal will almost single-handedly propel the growth of coal as the dominant global fuel,” said William Durbin, president of global markets at Woodmac…

China – already the top consumer – will drive two-thirds of the growth in global coal use this decade. Half of China’s power generation capacity to be built between 2012 and 2020 will be coal-fired, said Woodmac…

“If you take China and India out of the equation, what is more surprising is that under current regulations, coal demand in the rest of the world will remain at current levels,” Durbin said.

In Southeast Asia, coal will be the biggest winner in the region’s energy mix. Coal will generate nearly half of Southeast Asia’s electricity by 2035, up from less than a third now, the International Energy Agency said in early October…

This will contribute to a doubling of the region’s energy-related carbon dioxide emissions to 2.3 gigatonnes by 2035, according to the IEA.


The United Stages’ Energy Information Administration’s evaluation of China’s energy consumption (2012) shows us the breakdown of the fuel types for China’s electricity production for the last two decades.  Do you see the difference in trends for “Total Fossil Fuels” and “Other Renewables?”  You may need a magnifying glass to see it.

2010 china electricity by type from EIA

Air Pollution is out of control in China.

There is no doubt that simply breathing in many Chinese cities can be hazardous to your health.  But CO2 is not the source of that hazard – it is other gasses and particulates that are destroying people’s lungs.  There is also no doubt that China will continue full-bore toward energy-consuming industrialization.

I expect that improvement (if any) in Chinese air quality in the near future will come in the form of particulate removal.   But CO2 emissions will grow and grow and grow in China.


James Delingpole, please correct this mistake

November 23, 2013

The only thing that bugs me more than when climate alarmists get things wrong is when skeptics get it wrong.

A case in point is the assertion by James Delingpole that a recent volcano in Iceland put more CO2 into the atmosphere that all of human activity since 1950.

Delingpole is a vocal supporter of the skeptic community, and the fact the he has a widely viewed blog , writes for several publications and authored several books, all give his words wide dissemination.  The problem is that when a fence-sitter who is trying to make up his mind about the global warming issue realizes that somebody like Delingpole is asserting and defending an indefensible claim, well, that fence-sitter is likely to fall off the fence to the side of the alarmists.  This will happen even if Delingpole is correct on other points.  Fence-sitters don’t necessarily have the time or inclination to sort out and weigh all the arguments, and something like this can easily tip their judgement scales one way or the other.

Delingpole appeared as a guest on the Mike Rosen Show on Denver’s AM station KOA.  This is a 50,000 Watt station and tens of thousands of people probably heard this exchange.  Rosen is a pretty smart guy and usually nobody’s fool, but he let this bogus assertion slide by…

Audio version: Rosen/Delingpole 11/20/13 MP3

Rosen: 713-8585 our telephone number in Castle Rock. Cliff, you’re on 850 KOA. James Delingpole our guest. Hi Cliff.

Cliff: Mike and James, good morning.

Rosen: Morning

Delingpole: Hi Cliff.

Cliff: Hey, I finally think I have somebody who can actually answer this question.

Rosen: Alright.

Cliff: Ah, you know we’ve got, the greenies are all against cars and the exhaust, and you know, all this pollution that we put in the air. Ah, whats the equivalency of a volcano that’s erupting and spewing stuff into the air thirty miles high.

Delingpole: That’s a good question. You remember that volcano that erupted in Iceland a couple of years ago?

Cliff: Yep, that’s the one that made me start thinking about it

Delingpole: Yeah, I think that, I think that that – that volcano produced more CO2 than I think humans have produced in the last, in the last fifty years.

Cliff: Watta we gonna do about that? (…unintelligible…)

Delingpole: We should ban volcanoes.

You  can hear the entire interview (Wednesday, 10AM, 11/20/13) on KOA’s podcast

What are the facts?

The facts are well know, easily accessible, and have been presented to Delingpole before now.  Here it is summed up by the USGS…

Do the Earth’s volcanoes emit more CO2 than human activities? Research findings indicate that the answer to this frequently asked question is a clear and unequivocal, “No.” Human activities, responsible for a projected 35 billion metric tons (gigatons) of CO2 emissions in 2010 (Friedlingstein et al., 2010), release an amount of CO2 that dwarfs the annual CO2 emissions of all the world’s degassing subaerial and submarine volcanoes (Gerlach, 2011).

The published estimates of the global CO2 emission rate for all degassing subaerial (on land) and submarine volcanoes lie in a range from 0.13 gigaton to 0.44 gigaton per year (Gerlach, 1991; Varekamp et al., 1992; Allard, 1992; Sano and Williams, 1996; Marty and Tolstikhin, 1998). The preferred global estimates of the authors of these studies range from about 0.15 to 0.26 gigaton per year. The 35-gigaton projected anthropogenic CO2 emission for 2010 is about 80 to 270 times larger than the respective maximum and minimum annual global volcanic CO2 emission estimates. It is 135 times larger than the highest preferred global volcanic CO2 estimate of 0.26 gigaton per year (Marty and Tolstikhin, 1998). 

It is an embarrassment to me, as a skeptic, that the alarmist site “Skeptical Science” gets it right while Delingpole, a well know mouthpiece for skepticism, gets it wildly wrong.  This meme has been around for years and was long ago thoroughly debunked.  

I would forgive an acquaintance at a coffee shop or around the water cooler for making this mistake.  Then I would gently try to set him straight with the facts  But if you are going to put yourself forth as some kind of expert, then you need to get your facts straight.  This type of mistake may win converts to your side in the short run, but when people realize how wrong you have were, then they will not believe you even when you are right.  Worse yet, they will also be less inclined to believe other skeptics when they are right.

So, James, please fess up on this issue.  Admitting this mistake will only improve your credibility in the long run.


By the way, this reminds me of another misinformed claim:that underwater volcanoes in the Gakkel ridge were causing reduced sea ice in the Arctic.


November 17, 2013

Nuclear Roundup 11/17/13

If you are worried about CO2 (I’m not), then you should be pro-nuke (I am).



Japan slashes climate reduction target amid nuclear shutdown

Japan had previously pledged to reduce its CO2 emissions to 25% below its 1990 levels in a (misguided) bid to battle global warming.  Now it is likely that there will be no reduction below the 1990 level because they have pulled back from nuclear power and have re-embraced fossil fuels 

According to  BBC Asia, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said “Our government has been saying… that the 25% reduction target was totally unfounded and wasn’t feasible.”  Japan’s chief negotiator at UN climate change talks in Warsaw, Hiroshi Minami, said “The new target is based on zero nuclear power in the future. We have to lower our ambition level.”

BBC Asia points out…

Since the Fukushima disaster, Japan has been forced to import huge amounts of coal, liquid natural gas and other fuels.

Reuters reports

“Given that none of the nuclear reactors is operating, this was unavoidable,” Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara said.

Japan’s 50 nuclear plants were closed on safety concerns after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami wrecked the Fukushima reactors northeast of Tokyo. Nuclear accounted for 26 percent of Japan’s electricity generation and its loss has forced the country to import natural gas and coal, causing its greenhouse gas emissions to skyrocket.

Natural-gas consumption by Japan’s 10 utilities was up 8.4 percent in October from a year earlier and coal use was up 4.4 percent as the companies used more fossil fuels to compensate for the nuclear shutdown, industry data showed on Friday.


United States

As nuclear is shut down in California, CO2 emissions rise.

From Bloomberg

Greenhouse-gas emissions from power generators, oil refineries and other plants in California climbed in 2012 as a nuclear plant shutdown and low hydropower supplies increased the state’s reliance on natural gas.

Power-plant releases rose 35 percent to 41.6 million metric tons last year, according to data posted today on the state Air Resources Board’s website. Total emissions were 437.8 million metric tons, up from 429.3 million in 2011. Edison International (EIX) shut the San Onofre nuclear power plant in Southern California in January 2012, and the state that year faced one of the lowest snowpack levels on record.

“The rise in total emissions is primarily due to emission increases from California electricity generation using natural gas as a fuel,” the board said. “The majority of this additional natural-gas electricity generation is due to a decrease in available hydroelectric generation for 2012 and a reduction in nuclear generated power.”


Movie – Pandora’s Promise

This is a documentary featuring prominent environmentalists that are pro-nuclear.  It is soon to be released by Netflix

Netflix description…  

Former antinuclear activists and groundbreaking scientists speak out in favor of the much-maligned energy source in this provocative documentary that explores the history and future of nuclear power.


Profound insight from the National Research Council

June 25, 2012

The National Research Council has released a hard-hitting report about global sea level, and in particular, sea level along the western coast of the United States.  Yup, they really nailed it down.  They predict the sea level along California’s coast to rise somewhere between 4 and 30 cm (between 1.5 and 12 inches) between 2000 and 2030 (see page 5).

Their report is hundreds of pages long because they are very smart people.  But if you want to save some time, you can get an idea of what is really happening by looking at the following three images.  Click on each image to put it in animation mode in its own window.  There is one animation for each of the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington state. 

Be sure to notice the sea level rise rate centered above each graph.  Keep in mind that a 30 cm sea level rise in 30 years requires an average of 10 mm per year.

Click on image to start animation in new window

California sea level data.  Click image to start animation in a new window.

Click image to start animation in new window.

Washington sea level data. Click image to start animation in new window.

Click image to start animation in a new window.

Washington sea level data. Click image to start animation in a new window.

We are already 12 years into the 30 from 2000 to 2030.  As you can see from the above animated plots, there appears to have been a distinct lack of acceleration in the last 100 years or so.  Roughly speaking, the sea level along the coast of California is rising at about 2 mm/year.  So it looks like there will be  a net rise surpassing the National Research Council’s lower limit of 4 cm in 30 years.  On the other hand, it would require an extraordinary, nearly impossible acceleration to get to 15 cm, just half the NRC’s upper estimate of 30 cm, by 2030.  But you can still pray to Gaia for a miracle.

A sure sign of poor scholarship

Here is a little hint for my obvious betters at the NRC: When you rely on the models of Stefan Rahmstorf to make your sea level rise predictions, one of two things will have happened by 2030.  If you are lucky your report will have been forgotten.  If you are unlucky people will simply be laughing at you.

Well, I suppose you can hope for that big earthquake that your report says (page 7) could cause the sea level to rise by an additional meter.  You’d have it made if you could blame atmospheric CO2 for earthquakes.  Your elite thinkers should start working on that paper now.


Nobel Prize winning biochemist says ALL biofuels are “nonsense.”

February 25, 2012

Similar posts from ClimateSanity
Taking Measure of Biofuel Limits 9/24/2009
Biofuels Leading to Disasters 12/28/2011

Hartmut Michel

Hartmut Michel

Hartmut Michel won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on photosynthesis.  So, it is fair to say that he knows a thing or two about energy transport and storage in plants.  Today he is director of the Molecular Membrane Biology at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysics.

He recently penned an editorial in Angewandte Chemie International Edition in which he hammered the use of biofuels for alternative energy.  Note that Angewandte Chemie International Edition has the world’s highest impact factor of all chemistry journals.  His simple but pointed criticism condemns all varieties of biofuels and supports my previous posts on this subject.1, 2

The problem is the inherent inefficiency of photosynthesis.  He points out…

“The photosynthetic pigments of plants can only absorb and use 47%(related to energy) of the light of the sun (“photosynthetic active radiation”). Green light, UV, and IR irradiation are not used…

Photosynthesis is most efficient at low light intensities. It is already saturated at 20% of full sunlight and 80% of the light is not used…In addition, high light intensities lead to photodamage of a central protein subunit of the photosynthetic apparatus…3.5 billion years of evolution have not been long enough to develop a mechanism for preventing the photodamage….

The dark reactions are limited by an insufficient discrimination between CO2 and O2 by the enzyme RuBisCO, which inserts CO2 into ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate. One third of the energy of the absorbed photons is believed to be required to remove the product of the O2 insertion…[and] photosynthesis depends on the availability of sufficient amounts of water, a condition that is not met during much of the day.”

Current biofuel technologies

Taken as a whole, conversion efficiency of sunlight to usable chemical energy in biofuels for commonly used technologies is extremely low.

“For German “biodiesel” which is based on rapeseed, it is less than 0.1%, for bioethanol less than 0.2%, and for biogas around 0.3%.”

But is it actually much worse than that when you consider

“… these values even do not take into account that more than 50% of the energy stored in the biofuel had to be invested in order to obtain the biomass (for producing fertilizers and pesticides, for ploughing the fields, for transport) and the chemical conversion into the respective biofuel.”

Michel confirms what I have pointed out before, biofuels of all stripes put a great burden on arable land.  He says…

“Taken together, the production of biofuels constitutes an extremely inefficient land use. This statement is true also for the production of bioethanol from sugar cane in Brazil.”

“Second Generation” biofuels

Some people hold out hope for “second generation” biofuels where the whole plant is utilized.  Michel explains that this is an illusion because the energy input for these types of processes in ever greater than for first generation processes.  For example…

“in the production of biodiesel by the Fischer–Tropsch process, hydrogen has to be added because syngas obtained from biomass contains insufficient amounts of hydrogen.”

More distant possibilities

“Hydrogen production by photosystem II would reduce the number of photons required by more than 50%.  However, this protein engineering task appears to be insurmountable at present.”


“Microalgae have been advertised as the ideal candidates for biofuel production. There are many unsupported claims about their efficiency, some even exceeding the theoretical limits of photosynthetic efficiency…the existence of photoinhibition and a poor RuBisCO will limit the advantages of microalgae together with the demands for growing and harvesting them.”

But biofuels will save us from CO2

Sorry, no.

“The production and use of biofuels therefore is not CO2-neutral. In particular, the energy input is very large for the production of bioethanol from wheat or maize, and some scientists doubt that there is a net gain of energy. Certainly the reduction of CO2 release is marginal.”


“Clearing rainforests in the tropics and converting them into oil palm plantations is highly dangerous because the underlying layers of peat are oxidized and much more CO2 is released by the oxidation of organic soil material than can be fixed by the oil palms…it would be even much better to reforest the land used to grow energy plants, because at a 1% photosynthetic efficiency, growing trees would fix around 2.7 kg of CO2 per square meter, whereas biofuels produced with a net efficiency of 0.1% would only replace fossil fuels which would release about 0.31 kg CO2 per m2 upon combustion!”

His conclusion

“Because of the low photosynthetic efficiency and the competition of energy plants with food plants for agricultural land, we should not grow plants for biofuel production. The growth of such energy plants will undoubtedly lead to an increase in food prices, which will predominantly hit poorer people.”

Read the entire editorial in context here (The Nonsense of Biofuels, Hartmut Michel, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2012, 51, 2–4)

Here is a video of Michel making the same point.

His Noble Prize was for the determination of the three-dimensional structure of a photosynthetic reaction centre, as seen here


Modern Luddites

December 31, 2011

A friend of yours

Suppose a friend of yours believes that the world is facing a dire future because of too much CO2 in the atmosphere.  The problem seems clear to him, he says, and so does the best course of action.  The fossil fuel powering of the world must come to an end.

He knows that bringing that end about is very difficult, but he perseveres.  It will be very expensive.   Many of the worlds assets will be consumed replacing a thriving fossil fuel based economy with a new “cleaner” economy.

The entire world must be convinced to cooperate, so he cajoles and he scolds.  The standard of living of the wealthy nations must be reduced.  The rest who are embracing the benefits of an energy rich society for the first time will have to wait.

Huge administrative changes will be needed, so he manuevers for control.  Great swathes of the planets landscape will have to be altered to accommodate some combination of wind power, solar power and biofuel production.

But he also has faith that the hardships of his solution will be offset by other (perhaps vague) benefits beyond the reduction of CO2.

A new idea

Now suppose along comes somebody who has another idea to solve the problem: an idea that might not result in a huge disruption of the economy. It’s an idea that might not result in all the hardships.  It is only an idea, in its infancy.  He would like your friend to take a look at it.

What does your friend say?  Does he say “Let’s see this new idea, look at the pros and cons.  Let’s run some simple tests.”  Or does he say “Go away!” and stick his fingers in his ears and say “NANANANANA – I can’t hear you – NANANANANA.”

Would you doubt your friends sincerity, or even his sanity, if he chose the latter response?

Suppose the idea was this…

The Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering (SPICE) study, which considers the possibility spraying sulphur particles into the stratosphere, like a volcano, to force global cooling.  This is a big idea and it would be no simple feat to accomplish. What are the advantages and disadvantages?  Who knows?

The stratosphere is 20 km above the surface of the Earth.  The amount of material that would be required is enormous.  The idea is that huge balloons would pull hoses up into the stratosphere and particulate material would be pumped up from the ground.   

It is worth at least thinking about.  A small-scale project to test of the concept was planned in the UK for this fall.  A balloon would hoist a hose only one kilometer and water would be pumped into the atmosphere. 

Image is from "Good governance for geoengineering," Nature, 479, November 2011

Modern Luddites

Alas, this experiment may never take place because a lot of people like your friend may have killed it.  In effect, they said “Go away!” and stuck their fingers in their ears and chanted “NANANANANA – I can’t hear you – NANANANANA.”

According to Nature  (the journal where every environmentalist is a saint),

“the EPSRC [UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council], one of the study’s main funders… received a letter and open petition, also sent to UK energy and climate-change secretary Chris Huhne and signed by more than 50 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil-society organizations, demanding that the project be cancelled.”

The source of the letter and petition?  An organization called “Hands Off Mother Earth.”  The 75 or so signatory organizations to the petition include the following organizations: Amigos da Terra Brasil, Earthpeoples, Gaia Foundation, and my favorite, the Gender Climate Caucus.

Their letter states…

We believe the experiment planned to test equipment for injecting particles into the stratosphere with the aim of counteracting global warming through solar radiation management (SRM) should be cancelled…We believe that such research is a dangerous distraction from the real need: immediate and deep emissions cuts.

In other words, they do not want a simple test of an alternative idea.  I believe that makes them anti-science and anti-reason, modern luddites.


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