January 31, 2007

Misplaced efforts in global warming

The President Pro Tem of the Vermont Senate, Peter Shumlin, was in St. Johnsbury last night talking about climate change: "Ski areas and even snowmobilers have been hit by the changes in climates," he said, to illustrate how dire the situation is.

What this really illustrates is the twisted thinking around this issue, because ski areas and snowmobilers are major contributors to climate change. The crisis is not that recreational energy use is threatened. And the solution is certainly not in protecting such wasteful and environmentally damaging recreational energy use.

In fact, it is in encouraging their further demise. Alas, politicians would rather pretend to tackle an issue with grand symbolic gestures -- no matter who or what it might harm -- than face it honestly. And so President Bush invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, and Shumlin would invade our forested ridgeline and rural communities to erect giant wind turbines of very doubtful benefit.

And the crises remain. Which may, of course, be the whole point.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, Vermont, anarchism, ecoanarchism

January 27, 2007

Noise, birds, permit madness

The wind energy facility on Mars Hill in Maine is still under construction, but the 16 operating turbines are already causing noise problems:
the best way to describe it is you step outside and look up thinking there's an airplane. It's like a high-range jet, high-low roar, but with the windmills, there's a sort of on and off "phfoop ... phfoop ... phfoop" noise.
One of the turbines has even been shut down. Residents are understandably worried about what it will be like when all 28 turbines start running next month. This is a project of UPC Wind under the name Evergreen Wind Power. They (surprise!) said noise from the towers would not be an issue. But (surprise!) it is. People are already being kept from a good night's sleep and can no longer hear the gentle sounds of the natural environment.

Residents have also noticed a disappearance of wildlife and are dismayed by the how much the mountain has been destroyed. The story from the Bangor Daily News is archived at National Wind Watch. See a photograph of one of the turbine sites under construction at Vermonters With Vision (another UPC project for the Vermont town of Sheffield is currently in the permitting process).

Another story that makes the developers' lines harder to believe is that of another buzzard killed by turbine blades in Forss, Scotland. According to the Aberdeen Press and Journal, "The buzzard was one of a pair, with its local nest also including a nine-month fledgling." The report went on to state, "Work is under way to build a further four turbines at the site."

Finally, are wind energy developments held to unfairly prejudiced standards in the permitting process? Perhaps it's the other way around. (See a relevant piece in The Examiner by Tim Carney about big energy -- particularly wind turbine manufacturer GE (who bought the business from Enron) -- making sure the way is cleared for and taxpayers fund their predations.)

This comes from The Journal of Newcastle (again, via National Wind Watch):
Last July Tynedale Council refused permission for Ali Johnson's [paralysed from the neck down in a rugby accident in September 2004] father, Ken, to build a three-bed [specially-equipped] bungalow on the grounds of his own home at Wolf Hills Farm, Coanwood, near Haltwhistle in Northumberland, saying that regulations didn't allow for any new developments in open countryside because they wouldn't fit in with the surroundings. ...

But the same council has now decided those rules and regulations don't apply to a 165ft wind speed recording mast despite admitting in its own documents that it "would represent an intrusive feature" and be "alien and incongruous" -- because it would only be in place for three years.

Yet that same mast, according to Doncaster-based Harworth Power which applied for planning permission, could eventually be used to try to get the go ahead for up to 24 permanent giant wind turbines above rural Northumberland.
wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, environment, environmentalism, Vermont, anarchism, animal rights

January 26, 2007

Illusions of progress and victory

As the landscape turned increasingly chaotic and murderous, the streams of refugees swelled. Another headlong, fearful escape of the kind that in collective dreams, in legends, would be misremembered and reimagined into pilgrimage or crusade . . . the dark terror behind transmuted to a bright hope ahead, the bright hope becoming a popular, perhaps someday a national, delusion. Embedded invisibly in it would remain the ancient darkness, too awful to face, thriving, emerging in disguise, vigorous, evil, destructive, inextricable.

--Thomas Pynchon, Against the Day

anarchism, anarchosyndicalism

January 23, 2007

Vermont legislators want to dump renewable energy

Newly introduced Vermont House bill 104 revises last year's renewable energy bill (which requires new in-state electricity generation to be renewable). H.104 essentially scratches out "renewable" to require specifically "wind."

Dick Cheney couldn't have written a more blatant example of crony favoritism. When it was brought to your editor's attention, he first thought it was a spoof. But there it is on the state legislative web site: AN ACT RELATING TO INCREASING THE USE OF WIND POWER TO MEET PART OF THE STATE’S ELECTRICITY DEMAND.

With a major push currently underway for real alternatives like methane from landfills and cow manure and run-of-river hydro, along with growing awareness of the low benefit yet substantial negative impacts of industrial wind, the industry must be feeling unloved. (And they'd be right.)

That so many legislators -- including 2 Progressives -- have jumped on to sponsor this wind industry protection bill is pathetic indeed. Not one of them, needless to say, represents a town targeted by wind developers. Not one of them lives in the northeast counties which are particularly targeted.

This bill is unlikely to go anywhere, and perhaps we can hope that such a desperate act is a sign that big wind is at last finished in Vermont.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, Vermont, anarchism

January 20, 2007

UPC's continuing misinformation

Your editor contributed to a report on Wednesday by Pat Bradley of New York Public Radio station WAMC. She was covering the third version of UPC's plan to erect 16 420-ft 2.5-MW wind turbines on mountain ridges overlooking historic and peaceful rural communities in remote northeast Vermont. Their moving of 2 turbines across a town line seemed to have been timed to overshadow a more dramatic development in one of those affected communities. The town of Barton voted 120-0 (yes: zero) Tuesday night to oppose the project.

In the demand for sacrifice from these communities, for utterly changing their character for very much the worse, one asks "what are we weighing here? It's very clear that wind energy is just not going to make any significant contribution to replacing fossil fuels or reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

Matt Kearns, hired flack for UPC (backed by private equity firms Madison Dearborn Partners of Chicago and D.E. Shaw of New York), calls that statement "one of the disingenuous arguments regarding wind power. One of the issues that we hear is that wind power will not provide an offset to other forms of energy generation or that somehow this won't produce a benefit in terms of the use of some other fuels. Y'know, any green electrons that you add to the grid it means that there's less need to bring on other units that are fossil fuel based."

Then where are the numbers showing a reduction of fossil fuel use due to wind power on the grid? The disingenuous argument is Kearns's, because it claims a result for which it has no data. The evidence (see, e.g., the graph from the International Energy Association of Denmark's fuel use for electricity generation from 1971 to 2003 at National Wind Watch) is clear that large-scale wind has negligible, if any, effect on other sources. This is probably because, although their electricity generation may be displaced, they either must continue burning fuel (less efficiently, i.e., less cleanly) on standby or burn more fuel (again, less efficiently) in more frequent ramping up and down or switching on and off.

Besides, in Vermont almost no electricity comes from fossil fuels.

tags: wind power, wind energy, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, Vermont

January 18, 2007

Against the day

It went on for a month. Those who had taken it for a cosmic sign cringed beneath the sky each nightfall, imagining ever more extravagant disasters. Others, for whom orange did not seem an appropriately apocalyptic shade, sat outdoors on public benches, reading calmly, growing used to the curious pallor. As nights went on and nothing happened and the phenomenon slowly faded to the accustomed deeper violets again, most had difficulty remembering the earlier rise of heart, the sense of overture and possibility, and went back once again to seeking only orgasm, hallucination, stupor, sleep, to fetch them through the night and prepare them against the day.

--Thomas Pynchon, Against the Day

tags: anarchism, anarchosyndicalism, Finnegans Wake

January 17, 2007

"Wind power not such a good idea"

Richie Davis of the Greenfield (Mass.) Recorder wrote a fair article (click the title of this post) about opposition to industrial wind energy, featuring a couple of the founders of National Wind Watch.

I want to call attention to the final quote from William Labich, resource planner for Franklin County: "The technology isn’t the issue; it’s the siting of the technology, and how you apply it."

Notice how that attempts to evade the fundamental problem industrial wind energy on the grid has had, namely, showing that the technology actually reduces other sources, especially carbon-emitting fossil fuels.

Saying, as Sally Wright -- of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst -- does elsewhere in the article, that "for every kilowatt hour that you make with a wind turbine, that’s a kilowatt hour not made with a fossil plant" ignores the real-world effect of adding large amounts of a highly variable, intermittent, and significantly unpredictable source such as wind to the grid. The extra work to balance the wind-generated power and the lower efficiency of extra ramping appear to cancel out much, if not all, of the benefits hoped for from wind.

In other words, every kWh from wind may indeed replace a kWh from other sources (and not necessarily fossil-fuel plants), but that is very different from actually reducing the fuel use of other sources, what with standby, spinning reserve, or extra fuel burned in ramping up and down.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

January 15, 2007

"Bush Must Go"

Paul Craig Roberts writes at Counterpunch (click the title of this post):

When are the American people and their representatives in Congress and the military going to wake up and realize that the US has an insane war criminal in the White House who is destroying all chances for peace in the world and establishing a police state in the US?

Americans don’t have much time to realize this and to act before it is too late. Bush’s “surge” speech last Wednesday night makes it completely clear that his real purpose is to start wars with Iran and Syria before failure in Iraq brings an end to the neoconservative/Israeli plan to establish hegemony over the Middle East.

The “surge” gives Congress, the media, and the foreign policy establishment something to debate and oppose, while Bush sets his plans in motion to orchestrate a war with Iran. ...

Bush’s entire “war on terror” is based on lies. The Bush Regime, desperate to keep its lies covered up, is now trying to prevent American law firms from defending the Guantanamo detainees. The Bush Regime is fearful that Americans will learn that the detainees are not terrorists but props in the regime’s orchestrated “terror war.” ...

The only reason for the Bush Regime’s policy of indefinite detention without charges is that it has no charges to bring. ...

Nothing can stop the criminal Bush from instituting wider war in the Middle East that could become a catastrophic world war except an unequivocal statement from Congress that he will be impeached.

[This essay also describes the treasonous cover-up of Israel's attack on the U.S.S. Liberty in 1967.]

January 14, 2007

the spineless ledger

It might have been comforting to think of himself as one of Yashmeen's holy wanderers, but he knew the closest he'd ever got to a religion was Vectors, and that too was already receding down a widening interval of space-time, and he didn't know how to get back to it any more than Colorado. Vectorism, in which Kit once thought he had glimpsed transcendence, a coexisting world of imaginaries, the "spirit realm" that Yale legend Lee De Forest once imagined he was journeying through, had not shown Kit, after all, a way to escape the world governed by real numbers. His father had been murdered by men whose allegiance, loudly and often as they might invoke Jesus Christ and his kingdom, was to that real axis and nothing beyond it. Kit had sold himself a bill of goods, come to believe that Göttingen would be another step onward in some journey into a purer condition, conveniently forgetting that it was still all on the Vibe ticket, paid for out of the very account whose ledger he most wished to close and void, the spineless ledger of a life once unmarked but over such a short time broken, so broken up into debits and credits and too many details left unwritten. And Göttingen, open to trespass by all manner of enemies, was no longer a refuge, nor would Vectors ever have been Kit's salvation.

Someplace out ahead in the fog of futurity, between here and Venice, was Scarsdale Vibe. The convergence Kit had avoided even defining still waited its hour. The man had been allowed to go on with his dishonorable work too long without a payback. All Kit had anymore. All there was to hold on to. All he had.

--Thomas Pynchon, Against the Day

anarchism, anarchosyndicalism

January 13, 2007

More about extreme wind turbine noise

Farmers Weekly, 12 January 2007, p. 10, has an article about the Davies, a farming couple in Lincolnshire who have had to sleep away from their home 60 nights since September, because of the Deeping St Nicholas wind energy facility 3,000 feet from their home (see the excerpts from forum posts by "wiggyjane" posted yesterday). The article is accompanied by a sidebar:
The Wind Turbine Noise Working Group has been asked by the DTI [U.K. Department of Trade and Industry] to provide expert advice and guidance on issues surrounding what has become known as Amplitude Modulation of Aerodynamic Noise.

This is a low-frequency whooshing sound caused by the passage of air over turbine blades under certain atmospheric conditions. So far, little is known about the phenomenon or how it might be controlled.

Because amplitude modulation is difficult to predict, it is often not until a turbine is erected and fully working that the noise becomes evident. An acoustics expert, who asked not to be named, said that, although rare, it was becoming more common.

"The concern is that bigger, more modern turbines may be more prone to this problem," he told Farmers Weekly. ...

Because of the nature of sites required for wind farms, turbines are often in areas of low background noise which makes the noise of the blades all the more noticeable -- especially for rural residents used to peace and quiet.

Last month, noise worries contributed to the withdrawal of an application to build three turbines at Weston, Herfordshire. Noise has also been an issue for residents living near wind farms at Bears Down, North Cornwall and Askham, Cumbria.
wind power, wind energy, wind farms, wind turbines, environment, environmentalism

Unintended consequences

Industrialists are seizing the opportunity created by the successful effort of many environmentalists to scare everyone shitless about global warming, as seen in these recent stories, courtesy of the Climate Crisis Coalition (click the title of this post).

Schwarzenegger Argues that Global Warming Justifies Two Big Dam Projects. By Bettina Boxall, The Los Angeles Times, January 12, 2007. In proposing two big, expensive dam projects this week, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger made a novel argument to justify the old-fashioned public works projects. Advocating $4 billion in bonds to build reservoirs in Northern and Central California, the administration emphasized not population growth or the specter of future drought, but global warming. 

Construction Begins on Giant Quebec Hydro Plant. CBC News, January 11, 2007. "Construction has begun on a controversial $5-billion hydroelectric project, the Quebec government announced Thursday, calling it the biggest and most important of its kind in a decade. ... To construct the two power stations, Hydro Quebec will build four dams and 72 dikes, and will flood 188 square kilometres of forest land along the river. Quebec Premier Jean Charest announced the start of the project at a press conference at Hydro Quebec's headquarters on Thursday, a last-minute venue chosen after the government cancelled a northern ceremony in Waskaganish, where it was rumoured that Cree opponents to the project were going to protest… Charest lauded hydroelectricity as a cornerstone of Quebec's heritage that has 'become a tool of economic development for Quebecers,' including the Cree. ... Quebec Environment Minister Claude Béchard said the project will create cleaner, more environmentally friendly energy than other power sources. The power stations are 'long-term solutions to fight greenhouse gas emissions' that will put Quebec at the forefront of the fight against climate change, he said ...

Tighter CO2 Caps Push Finland to Nuclear. By Sami Torma, Reuters, January 11, 2007. Finland can meet EU limits on carbon dioxide emissions by 2010 through more use of renewable energy and biofuels but further tightening of the limits would push it to build more nuclear plants, its energy minister said. ...

January 12, 2007

Give Conservation Another Chance

By John H. Herbert, Baltimore Sun, Jan. 1, 2007:

Since 1997, utility demand-side investments such as efficient lighting programs, heat recovery systems and advanced electric motor drives have yielded returns for consumers that far exceed the cost. Since 1997, every 3 cents worth of conservation investment by utilities has reduced demand by 1 kilowatt-hour. Electricity costs about 9 cents per kilowatt-hour. Thus, for every 3 cents worth of conservation investments, consumers avoid paying 9 cents and thus obtain a 6-cent gain. ...

Why is there no federal support? Because Washington understands the impact of programs that involve tax credits, subsidies and government expenditures that increase energy supplies rather than reducing demand. Support for these programs provides paybacks for specific industries. ...

In the 1970s, prices were high and energy security was a pressing issue as Middle East oil supplies were at times curtailed. The national government responded by promoting energy conservation on several fronts such as tax credits for domestic conservation investments, energy-use labeling of appliances and automobiles, and frank talk about the value of saving energy for economic and security reasons. ...

By 1985, U.S. imports from OPEC fell to 1.8 million barrels per day from a peak level of 6.2 million in 1977, a decline of 70 percent. ...

According to the Department of Energy's Annual Energy Review, from 1978 to 1982, energy consumption per household declined by 26 percent, and in the major consuming region in the nation, the Midwest, it declined by 32 percent.

From 1973 to 1982, industrial consumption of natural gas declined by 32 percent. The industrial sector is the major user of this most environmentally benign hydrocarbon. During the same period, fuel consumption per vehicle declined by 19 percent. ...

[W]ill we stay entrenched in the known comforts of energy dependency and legislation written by lobbyists supportive of particular groups? The smart money may be on the latter, but there will be more money and security for everybody if we give conservation another whirl.

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, environment, environmentalism

Rosenbloom's law of wind turbine output

Eric Rosenbloom, currently the president of National Wind Watch, has observed from cumulative output vs. time graphs (see the samples from Germany, Ireland, and Denmark) the following:

Whatever the capacity factor, or average output over a period of time, any turbine or aggregate of turbines generates at or above its average rate only 40% of the time.
A recent illustration of this law is the output from the 240-MW Maple Ridge wind energy facility in Lewis County, N.Y., as compiled by Richard Bolton:

For this period from July through September 2006, the output represented 25% of capacity, or an average rate of 80 MW. As the graph shows, the facility produced at a rate of 90 MW or more only about 520 out of the total 1,883 hours of data collection, i.e., about 28% of the time. Adding the number of hours that it generated at 80-90 MW brings the time figure close to a third.

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, wind turbines

Turbine noise driving Brit mad

"Wiggyjane" has described her distress over the noise of the 8-turbine (16-MW) Deeping St Nicholas wind energy facility on the U.K. site "Yes2Wind." Hers is not a so-called "aesthetic" complaint, as she was and still is supportive of wind energy and finds the turbines a fine addition to the landscape.

In response to a question about how far turbines should be from a residence, she writes:
Visually no problem -- they are quite beautiful at times to watch, menacing at others (with dark clouds behind and a storm approaching) but in the main soothing and rhythmic.

Noise -- well that's a different story altogether and will depend on the grid layout, the ground/soil type, your dwelling's position with regard to the predominant wind, the topography, geography and geology ... plus wind shear effects, particularly where there are stable air conditions ...

But we are 903 m (2,963 ft) away from the end of a row of five -- and that isn't far enough -- and we can go another 500 m (1,640 ft) and still have the same issues ... so at least a mile based purely on our experience. [Emphasis added.]
In another discussion, about Deeping St Nicholas, she writes:
I too live in Deeping St Nicholas -- but at the other end ... the northern end of the wind farm, and sadly we do suffer from both aerodynamic modulation and vibration from the low frequency noise. Environmental Health officials have already taken recordings that demonstrate a 20 dB differential between no wind turbine noise and turbine noise when they are running. [20 dB difference is experienced as a quadrupling of the noise level. --ED.]

There is no doubt anymore that some areas in some places near some windfarms DO cause problems. Not enough is really known about why this is the case, but we suspect that it's a combination of geography, topography, air conditions and ground density combined with the actual planting pattern of the turbines. In our case when all five nacelles are pointing at us normal life is impossible as they pick up resonance from each other and create an harmonic that resonates around and within the house, with levels that exceed ETSU [Energy Technology Support Unit of the U.K. Department of Trade and Industry] recommendations. ...

We have always supported the concept -- and indeed the visual look of wind turbines -- and never expected to have our lives totally disrupted and to be advised that it is not worth us building our new extension as our house would currently be unmarketable. ...

To the correspondent that started the thread -- at the southern end of the farm -- in Deeping St Nicholas itself you should have no problem ... and think of us when you sit in your garden enjoying the peace and quiet and go to bed to sleep at night, and stay asleep uninterrupted.
And more on sleep deprivation:
The hum/drone/whine is constant whether the turbines are running or not. [Emphasis added.] 24/7 it does vary a bit in intensity and volume but never goes away. Flicker isn't a real problem. The whoosh and thump noises are only really bad when the wind is in a specific direction (from SSE to SSW) then they top 40 dB(A), which when our ambient noise level is 20-25 dB(A) (pin drop quiet) means that they are very noticeable.

The wind direction also means that when we get all 5 nacelles "firing" at us, we get a harmonic and a quarter octave (???) in the farmyard that can exceed 60 dB(A).
One problem with noise regulations is that they use averages, and any limit is in fact only one that cannot be exceeded typically more than 10% of the time. So even where night-time limits are lower, which is usual, sleep can be still be legally disrupted. As Wiggyjane writes:
The problem is that raw noise measurements do not necessarily equate to ETSU regulations as they are not measured in LQ10's and LQ90's ... but what I can tell you is that our mean ambient is 22-25 dB(A) and last night ... we hit over 60 Db(A) but that was at the peak and would not be valid for ETSU. It made sleep well nigh impossible though -- and was the worst we have had for some months.
See "Wind Turbine Acoustic Noise," by Anthony Rogers et al., for a primer on sound measurement and regulation.

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, wind turbines

January 11, 2007

Wind industry complains it isn't favored by E.U.

The European Union (E.U.) has announced its ambitious energy plan, which includes a goal of 21% of electricity generated from renewable sources.

The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), however, is complaining that the goal does not specify which sources. It wouldn't make sense to do so, but that is clearly the worry for the wind industry, since without mandated support wind is a source that is not practical and therefore would not be widely used.

The E.U. supports all renewable energy, but the EWEA wants special support for wind.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

January 6, 2007

Noam Mohr on meat-eating and the environment

The global costs of a meat diet
The Green Times (Penn Environmental Group), Spring 1997
If you care about the environment, you had better be a vegetarian. Why? Because meat consumption is one of the primary causes of environmental devastation, including the misuse of natural resources, the polluting of water and air, and the destruction of rainforests. All this comes in addition to the immense cruelty to animals and the contribution to the world hunger problem caused by the modern meat industry. In short, a carnivorous environmentalist is a hypocrite. Strong words? take a look at meat industry and judge for yourself.

Modern meat production is both wasteful and destructive. Each pound of steak from feedlot-raised steers that you eat comes at the cost of 5 pounds of grain, 2,500 gallons of water, the energy equivalent of a gallon of gasoline, and about twenty-five pounds of eroded topsoil. Indeed, over a third of the North American continent is devoted to grazing, and over a half of this country's cropland is dedicated to growing feed for livestock. What is more, the livestock industry consumes over half of the water used in the US.

In every one of these ways, as discussed below, a vegetarian diet exerts less strain on our resources that does a carnivorous one. ...

Meat production around the globe not only wastes the water it uses, it also pollutes the water it does not use. ...

Perhaps the most devastating environmental impact of America's appetite for meat is deforestation. The primary reason for the destruction of rainforests in countries like Costa Rica, Colombia, Brazil, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia, is to provide grazing land for cattle, virtually all of which goes not to the poor in these third world nations, but rather is exported to wealthy countries like the United States. ...

Meat production is not only damaging to the environment, but in more immediate ways to the global human population as well. Land that could be used to grow food to feed hungry people is instead used to grow food for the animals we eat.

How environmentalists are overlooking vegetarianism as the most effective tool against climate change in our lifetimes
The McDougall Newsletter, December 2006
Summary: Global warming poses one of the most serious threats to the global environment ever faced in human history. Yet by focusing entirely on carbon dioxide emissions, major environmental organizations have failed to account for published data showing that other gases are the main culprits behind the global warming we see today. As a result, they are neglecting what might be the most effective strategy for reducing global warming in our lifetimes: advocating a vegetarian diet. ...

By far the most important non-CO2 greenhouse gas is methane, and the number one source of methane worldwide is animal agriculture ["Global Warming Potentials," National Emissions, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency].

Methane is responsible for nearly as much global warming as all other non-CO2 greenhouse gases put together [Hansen, James E. and Makiko Sato, "Trends of measured climate forcing agents," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 98, no. 26, 18 Dec. 2001, p. 14778-14783]. Methane is 23 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than CO2 ["Global Warming Potentials"]. While atmospheric concentrations of CO2 have risen by about 31% since pre-industrial times, methane concentrations have more than doubled ["Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the United States 2002," Chapter 1, Energy Information Administration, U.S. Department of Energy, October 2003]. Whereas human sources of CO2 amount to just 3% of natural emissions, human sources produce one and a half times as much methane as all natural sources ["Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the United States 2002"]. In fact, the effect of our methane emissions may be compounded as methane-induced warming in turn stimulates microbial decay of organic matter in wetlands—the primary natural source of methane [Hansen, James E. et al., "Global warming in the twenty-first century: An alternative scenario," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 97, no. 18, 29 Aug. 2000, p. 9876].

... [U]nlike carbon dioxide which can remain in the air for more than a century, methane cycles out of the atmosphere in just eight years, so that lower methane emissions quickly translate to cooling of the earth. ...

Moreover, the same factory farms responsible for these methane emissions also use up most of the country's water supply, and denude most of its wilderness for rangeland and growing feed. Creating rangeland to feed western nations' growing appetite for meat has been a major source of deforestation and desertification in third world countries. Factory farm waste lagoons are a leading source of water pollution in the U.S. Indeed, because of animal agriculture's high demand for fossil fuels, the average American diet is far more CO2-polluting than a plant-based one [Pimentel, David and Marcia Pimentel, "Sustainability of Meat-Based and Plant-Based Diets and the Environment", American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, col. 78, no. 3, September 2003, p. 660S-663S; Tidwell, Mike, "Food and the Climate Crisis: What You Eat Affects the Sky," Sierra Club Redwood Chapter Newsletter, Dec./Jan. 2005].
Click here to see a graph showing the greenhouse effects of various diets.

tags: environment, environmentalism, ecoanarchism, animal rights, vegetarianism

January 5, 2007

UK coal use up 23% in past year

The U.K. Department of Trade and Industry has released its Energy Trends and Quarterly Energy Prices for the 3rd quarter of 2006:
* Energy consumption in the third quarter of 2006 was 1.9 per cent lower than in the third quarter of 2005

When examining seasonally adjusted and temperature corrected annualised rates:

* Total inland consumption on a primary fuel input basis was 220.0 million tonnes of oil equivalent in the third quarter of 2006, 0.4 per cent higher than the same quarter in 2005.

* Between the third quarters of 2005 and 2006 coal and other solid fuel consumption rose by 21.2 per cent.

* Oil consumption decreased by 1.8 per cent.

* Gas consumption fell by 5.2 per cent.

* Primary electricity consumption decreased by 7.1 per cent.


* Fuel used by generators in the third quarter of 2006 was, in total, 1.1 per cent lower than in Q3 2005.

* Coal use during the quarter was 22.9 per cent higher than a year earlier, while gas use was 11.6 per cent down and nuclear sources were down 8.1 per cent due to maintenance and outages in the third quarter of 2006. Hydro sources fell back 6.1 per cent on the level of the third quarter of 2005.

* Total electricity supplied by all generators in third quarter of 2006 was 0.5 per cent lower than a year earlier.

* Overall final consumption of electricity was unchanged from the level in the third quarter of 2005 at 77.4 TWh. Domestic use fell 0.5 per cent, industrial consumption rose by 0.2 per cent and consumption by other final users increased by 0.4 per cent.
                                2006Q3 TWh      Percentage change
on a year earlier
Electricity supplied from
Coal 26.77 +25.3
Nuclear 17.24 -8.1
Gas 35.74 -11.0
Industry 28.18 +0.2
Domestic 23.76 -0.5
Other final consumers 23.36 +0.4

No sign of the "banner year for wind energy."

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

January 3, 2007

What's missing from wind promotion

fuel consumption per demand after wind energy installation
fuel consumption per demand before

The "penetration" figure (percentage of total generation provided by wind) usually provided is meaningless, because there are so many other factors operating in the power balance of the grid.

What is needed is proof that wind energy actually reduces the use of other fuels to a degree that justifies its own undeniable negative impacts. Yet that is precisely what is missing from wind promoters' material.

wind power, wind energy

January 2, 2007

Sierra Club flacks for big energy

The January/February edition of the Sierra Club magazine explores the energy issue, starting off with an essay by the tireless Bill McKibben.

He sets the tone of mockery (of logic, mostly) right away, causing one to wonder just how seriously the Sierra Club wants to be taken in these articles:
Much of what passes for discussion about our energy woes is spent imagining some magic fuel that will save us. Solar power! Fusion power! Hydrogen power!
But not wInd power, Bill?! No -- much of the rest of his article is a paean to wind industry insider Jerome Guillet, a developer of wind energy who boldly envisions more government subsidies to protect his investors.

McKibben is equally courageous, gratuitously attacking most defenders of New England's (and mid-Atlantic) ridgelines as "semi-ridiculous NIVMVDs, or not in view of my deck." He also threatens them, asserting wind "will continue to grow."

This fine nature writing serves only to ignore the many other reasons for opposition, most notably preservation of much needed forest habitat. It is pathetic indeed to see the Sierra Club -- along with many other now mainstream environmental groups -- shutting out environmental concerns and instead acting as peons of big energy.

Another article, by Frances Cerra Whittelsey, looks at the impact of wind turbines on birds and continues the mockery of not only reason but also passion.

Whittelsey first establishes that the decimation of raptors and other birds in Altamont Pass, California, is an exception. (In fact, what is exceptional is that bird deaths have routinely been counted there.) She admits that "at least 22,000 birds, including some 400 golden eagles, have collided with wind turbines (or been electrocuted by power lines) there." Per turbine, however, that's 4.1 birds -- total since the 1980s! That's a lot less than her later-cited study of turbines outside California showing "only" 2.3 birds killed each year per turbine. So if Altamont is a recognized problem, other turbines appear to be even more dangerous to birds ...

Never mind, though, because she then allows the industry trade group American Wind Energy Association assure us that new turbines are safer. Laurie Jodziewicz sez, "today's turbines are taller and more efficient." Yep, they are now "above the flight paths of many birds" -- and now in the flight paths of more birds. And the giant new models are not "more efficient." They are just bigger. More energy per turbine, yes, but not more energy per wind resource, acreage, or area swept by the blades (which are moving 150-200 mph at the tips).

Not reassured? "Some residents remain opposed on aesthetic grounds," writes Whittelsey in an effort to corral anyone left standing after Jodziewicz's not quite incisive analysis. No, Frances. A lot of people remain opposed for other environmental and wildlife concerns as well. You have convinced only a straw doll of your own imagining.

Most people are also not reassured that the industry is now working "to find a means to warn bats away from the spinning blades."

But ultimately, Whittelsey writes, why should we care? Millions of birds are already killed by domestic cats, radio towers, windows, and cars.

With friends like these, wildness ("the preservation of the world," in the words of Henry David Thoreau) clearly doesn't stand a chance.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, environment, environmentalism, animal rights

Energy choice: drive cars or eat meat

Excerpts from "Ethics of Biofuels," Sharon Astyk, 28 Dec 2006 (click the title of this post):
[I]f ethanol means that poor countries are taking grain (good food for humans) and converting it to ethanol (gas for people wealthy enough to have cars -- i.e., us) and food for livestock (i.e., meat, which many poor grain producers worldwide are also too poor to have), what we will achieve is total net transfer of food from the poor of the world to the rich of the world, to put in their gas tanks and eat as beef.

Ethical Principle #5 -- Either we must address the more basic injustices that lead to hunger, or we must acknowledge that large-scale use of biofuels will increase hunger and inequity.

[T]he present emphasis on "selling" biofuels as dual purpose, because they can feed animals, ignores the fact that in many poor nations, most meat goes for export, and most poor people can afford to eat little meat.

Ethical Principle #6 - We must make the relationship between biofuels, meat eating and hunger explicit, because we can’t have it all.

Ethanol is booming, despite the fact that it may be a net energy loser. There are enough plants either in existence or being built in Iowa to use every grain of corn grown in the state, and if the ethanol industry gets its way, there will be enough plants to use up fully one half of the US corn crop. Now as might be expected, this makes people from the meat, dairy and poultry lobbies quite nervous. Because right now, more than 70% of all our corn production goes to feed livestock. Take half of the corn away, and we’ll be faced with a problem – do we reduce our meat consumption by 1/3 - 2/3 (the proportion of feed value removed from the grain in ethanol production) in order to fuel our cars, or do we keep eating and pay $6 per gallon for gas? But you will note that no one in the ethanol or biodiesel debate has suggested that if we want cheap, sustainably produced fuel, we ought to go vegetarian as a nation.

The danger, then, is that Americans, being rich, will continue to do both. They will eat meat and they will drive ethanol cars, and because our own grain is going to produce ethanol, we will import more grain, grown in poorer nations, to feed our livestock. We are doing this right now, and it is already raising the price of grain. Poor nations will be unable to compete, and unjust trade policies will continue to have them export food to us while they go hungry.

[T]he energy intensive quality of meat production may necessitate reducing our consumption of animal products ...

Any plan for large scale biofuel production must recognize that the first priority is the restoration of the world's grain reserves back to at least a six month reserve supply, and that expanding those reserves further ought to be a high priority. This would be easy to do, if most of us abjured grain fed meat, but we haven't. And as always, the cost is greatest for the weakest and poorest people in the world.
peak oil, biofuels, vegetarianism