October 30, 2013

U.S. CO₂ emissions for electricity from coal have risen over past 10 years

A report from Spain and a news release from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have recently touted a decline in CO₂ emissions from electricity generation. Both, however, actually cite only a reduction of electricity generated by fossil fuels. A much more meaningful measure, considering the complexity of the grid, would be the amount of fossil fuels burned per unit of electricity generated. But that seems to be precisely what is studiously never reported (outside of this space, e.g., here, here, and here).

It requires a bit of digging into many different sources of data at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administrations. To be as up to date as possible, the following has used the latest Electric Power Monthly, release Oct. 24, 2013, to include data from 2012. First, instead of looking at power plant heat rates of fossil fuels, we need to look at their simple heat contents, i.e., not how much electricity they generate but how much energy they contain. This is because not all burning of fossil fuels at power plants goes to generating electricity. The heat content is expressed as Btu/unit of fuel: The present analysis used the values of 9,530,000 Btu/ton of coal, 1,021,000 Btu/1,000 cubic feet of natural gas, and 5,871,390 Btu/barrel of petroleum liquids.

Second, instead of electricity generated by fossil fuels, we need to look at the amount of fossil fuels burned at power plants.

Finally, assigning amounts of CO₂ per unit of fuel, we can calculate the actual CO₂ emitted by each fossil fuel. Here we assume 210 lb. CO₂/million Btu coal, 117 lb. CO₂/million Btu natural gas, and 170 lb. CO₂/million Btu petroleum liquids.

Then we can total them up and express those emissions as a ratio to total electricity generated. If, e.g., wind power is causing a reduction of, say, coal-generated electricity and thus a reduction of CO₂ emissions, then that ratio of CO₂ per unit of electricity will be lower.

Overall, the CO₂ emitted per GWh in total has indeed gone down, from 1,288,801 pounds in 2003 to 1,120,663 in 2013 — a 13% decrease. This is due mostly to the increasing share of natural gas over coal, because natural gas releases almost half the amount of CO₂ as coal. Furthermore, the amount of CO₂ emitted per unit of electricity generated by natural gas has also decreased, from 1,032,279 CO₂/GWh in 2003 to 918,727 in 2013 — an 11% decrease.

The picture is further complicated by the fact that over the past 10 years, the amount of CO₂ emitted per unit of electricity from coal has actually steadily risen, from 2,107,148 pounds CO₂/GWh in 2003 to 2,234,734 in 2012 — an increase of 6%. At the same time, wind energy rose from 11,187 GWh in 2003 to 140,089 GWh in 2012. This suggests that wind does indeed cut into the efficiency of using coal for electricity, because coal plants need to “stay warm” even when not generating electricity so that they are able to kick in when the wind conditions change.

Assuming that wind is the primary reason for coal’s decreasing efficiency, what if the 140,089 GWh generated from wind power in 2013 were generated by coal operating at its heat rate from 2003? Then the overall CO₂/GWh would have been 11.5% instead of 13% lower than in 2003, suggesting that wind power has been responsible for only a 1.5% decrease in CO₂/GWh and a 1.6% decrease in total CO₂ emissions. Considering that wind’s share of U.S. electricity generation increased from 0.3% in 2003 to 3.5% in 2013, it is clear that its effect on CO₂ emissions is very far from — less than half of — what its proponents claim.

In the scale of the graph below, the decrease in CO₂ emissions with wind (blue, mostly hidden - not the teal line for coal generation) or without wind (green) are nearly identical, whereas other changes, including the addition of wind energy, are quite obvious. Also note the exactly parallel lines of coal CO₂/GWh (orange) and wind generation (red).

And that clearly suggests that the costs and impacts of wind energy — the necessary consequence of trying to harness such a diffuse and variable source — well outweigh its benefits. Compared with the very modest conservation that would achieve the same emissions results, wind appears to be a very wasteful and destructive alternative indeed.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

October 24, 2013

It Was Meant to Be

James McWilliams writes:

Grass-fed beef advocates are always going on and on about how cows "were not meant" to eat corn. They were meant to eat grass. This might be true, barring any investigation into how genetics might have structured cows to eat corn, or how grasses and genetics match up. This is might be true, I suppose, if we want it to be true, and the media says so.

But let's just say its true. So, if cows were meant to eat grass and that is why advocates of grass beef support this form of production rather than corn based, feedlot production, we can logically conclude that those who eat only grass-fed beef – again, because it's more natural, and because this was how it was "meant to be" – don't drink milk or eat dairy products.

Huh? How did milk get into this discussion about beef? Well, if we're going to make a fetish out of what's natural, we have an obligation to ask: is forcibly impregnating cows, kidnapping their offspring, and drinking their milk natural? Isn't it natural for a mother to feed her offspring her own milk? Actually, is anything more natural?

Ask this question next time you hear someone justify some form of animal exploitation or another on the grounds of what nature intended. Make them answer. Force them to answer. Because there is no right answer.

human rights, animal rights, vegetarianism, veganism

October 9, 2013

Infrasonic Fear Generator : Industrial Wind Turbines

From Monster-tronics:
The Fear Generator can cause a range of strange feelings, anxiety, sorrow, chills, unnerving feelings, heightened emotions, including visions and vibrations in the chest and other parts of the body, in a large percentage of people.

Infrasound refers to extreme bass waves or vibrations, with a frequency below the audibility range of the human ear. Even though these waves can't be heard by us, they can be felt and sensed and have been shown to produce a range of effects in some people.

Based on previous studies, 20% to 60% of people have reported strange feelings when tests were performed at concerts, in pressure chambers, at home, and in test facilities. No tests were conducted in a scary environment. We believe the percentage of people affected in a haunted house setting will be even greater. Most people will feel vibrations in parts of their bodies (commonly the chest area) similar to audible bass but won’t know where it is coming from since they can not hear it. Vibrations in the chest are a common symptom of extreme terror.

Infrasound is very difficult, if not impossible, to recreate from a standard stereo system. Most subwoofers are only rated down to 40 Hz and the amplifiers, filters, and crossover systems can limit the low frequencies you need to hit even further. The Fear Generator is specially designed to produce a specific infrasound frequency that has been scientifically tested to produce these effects in people.

NOTE: A large pipe is required for the Fear Generator and is not included.
From “Wind Turbines and Ghost Stories: The Effects of Infrasound on the Human Auditory System” by Hsuan-hsiu Annie Chen and Peter Narins, UCLA:
High levels of infrasound and low frequency sounds generated by wind turbines pose a potentially serious threat to communities near wind farms. Wind energy companies remain largely dismissive, claiming that wind turbine noise is subaudible, undetectable by humans, and therefore presents minimal risk to human health. However, various cochlear microphonic, distortion product otoacoustic emission, and fMRI studies have demonstrated the detection of infrasound by the human inner ear and auditory cortex. Additional psychosomatic stress and disorders, including the “wind turbine syndrome” and paranormal experiences, are also linked to infrasound exposures. With wind turbines generating substantial levels of infrasound and low frequency sound, modifications and regulations to wind farm engineering plans and geographical placements are necessary to minimize community exposure and potential human health risks.
Also see:  U.S. Patent 6,017,302, Jan. 25, 2000: Subliminal Acoustic Manipulation of Nervous Systems, inventor Hendricus G. Loos
Abstract: In human subjects, sensory resonances can be excited by subliminal atmospheric acoustic pulses that are tuned to the resonance frequency. The 1/2 Hz sensory resonance affects the autonomic nervous system and may cause relaxation, drowsiness, or sexual excitement, depending on the precise acoustic frequency near 1/2 Hz used. The effects of the 2.5 Hz resonance include slowing of certain cortical processes, sleepiness, and disorientation. For these effects to occur, the acoustic intensity must lie in a certain deeply subliminal range. Suitable apparatus consists of a portable battery-powered source of weak subaudio acoustic radiation. The method and apparatus can be used by the general public as an aid to relaxation, sleep, or sexual arousal, and clinically for the control and perhaps treatment of insomnia, tremors, epileptic seizures, and anxiety disorders. There is further application as a nonlethal weapon that can be used in law enforcement standoff situations, for causing drowsiness and disorientation in targeted subjects. It is then preferable to use venting acoustic monopoles in the form of a device that inhales and exhales air with subaudio frequency.


Experiments have shown that atmospheric acoustic stimulation of deeply subliminal intensity can excite in a human subject the sensory resonances near 1/2 Hz and 2.5 Hz. The 1/2 Hz resonance is characterized by ptosis of the eyelids, relaxation, drowsiness, a tonic smile, tenseness, or sexual excitement, depending on the precise acoustic frequency near 1/2 Hz that is used. The observable effects of the 2.5 Hz resonance include a slowing of certain cortical functions, sleepiness, and, after long exposure, dizziness and disorientation. The finding that these sensory resonances can be excited by atmospheric acoustic signals of deeply subliminal intensity opens the way to an apparatus and method for acoustic manipulation of a subject's nervous system, wherein weak acoustic pulses are induced in the atmosphere at the subject's ears, and the pulse frequency is tuned to the resonance frequency of the selected sensory resonance. The method can be used by the general public for control of insomnia and anxiety, and for facilitation of relaxation and sexual arousal. Clinical use of the method includes the control and perhaps a treatment of anxiety disorders, tremors, and seizures. A suitable embodiment for these applications is a small portable battery-powered subaudio acoustic radiator which can be tuned to the resonance frequency of the selected sensory resonance.

There is an embodiment suitable for law enforcement operations in which a subject's nervous system is manipulated from a considerable distance, as in a standoff situation. Subliminal subaudio acoustic pulses at the subject's location may then be induced by acoustic waves radiating from a venting acoustic monopole, or by a pulsed air jet, especially when aimed at the subject or at another material surface, where the jet velocity fluctuations are wholly or partly converted into static pressure fluctuations.

The described physiological effects occur only if the intensity of the acoustic stimulation falls in a certain range, called the effective intensity window. This window has been measured in exploratory fashion for the 2.5 Hz resonance.
And: Cooperative Measurement Survey and Analysis of Low-Frequency and Infrasound at the Shirley Wind Farm
We consider a 1987 paper entitled: Motion Sickness Symptoms and Postural Changes Following Flights in Motion Based Flight Trainers [R.S. Kennedy, G.O. Allgood, B.W. Van Hoy, and M.G. Lilienthal, Journal of Low Frequency Noise and Vibration, Vol. 6, No. 4, 1987, pp. 147-154].

This paper was motivated by Navy pilots becoming ill from using flight simulators. The problems encountered by the Navy pilots appear to be somewhat similar to those reported by the Shirley residents. This 1987 paper focused on whether the accelerations in a simulator might cause symptoms similar to those caused by motion sickness or seasickness. Figure 1 from the reference shows the advent of motion sickness in relation to frequency, acceleration level and duration of exposure. To develop these data, subjects were exposed to various frequencies, acceleration levels and exposure durations, and the Motion Sickness Incidence (MSI) was developed as the percentage of subjects who vomited. Figure 1 shows two delineated regions. The lower region is for an MSI of 10%. The top end of this region is for an exposure duration of 30 minutes and the bottom end is for eight hours of exposure. The upper delineated region has the same duration limits but is for an MSI of 50%. The acceleration levels indicated for the SH3 Sea King Simulator show that the accelerations in the y and z direction went well into the nauseogenic region as defined by the Navy, whereas the P3-C Orion simulator had comparable accelerations in the x direction and lower accelerations in the y and z direction. Not surprisingly pilots' reports of sickness increased dramatically after exposure to the SH3 simulator while exposure to the P3-C simulator had virtually no effect on reports of sickness.

What is important here is the range encompassed by the delineated regions of Figure 6. Essentially, this nauseogenic condition occurs below 1 Hz; above 1Hz it appears that accelerations of 1G would be required for the nauseogenic condition to manifest itself. While the Navy criteria are for acceleration, in Shirley we are dealing with pressures in a closed cavity, the house. Acceleration of the fluid filled semi circular canal in the ear will manifest itself as force on the canal. The similarity between force on the canal from acceleration and pressure on the canal from being in a closed cavity suggest that the mechanisms and frequencies governing the nauseogenic region are very similar for both pressure and acceleration.

As the generated electric power of a wind turbine doubles the sound power doubles and the blade passage frequency decreases by about 1/3 of an octave. The wind turbines at Shirley have a blade passage frequency of about 0.7 Hz. This suggests that a wind turbine producing 1 MW would have a blade passage frequency of about 0.9 Hz, and on Figure 6, a change from 0.7 Hz to 0.9 Hz requires a doubling of the acceleration for the same level of response. Thus, it is very possible that this nauseogenic condition has not appeared frequently heretofore because older wind farms were built with smaller wind turbines. However, the 2 MW, 0.7Hz wind turbines clearly have moved well into the nauseogenic frequency range.

This analysis suggests that similar problems to the problems in Shirley can be expected for other wind turbines that have the same or lower fundamental frequency. The Navy criteria suggests that to maintain the same level of health related effects as have occurred heretofore, the levels of a 2 MW, 0.7 Hz wind turbine as experienced in the community must be 6 dB lower than those for 1 MW, 0.9 Hz wind turbine. Moreover, Figure 6 does not bode well for future larger wind turbines if they go even lower in frequency.
wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, human rights