If stupid and arrogance shone like the Sun . . .

December 3, 2011

. . . we could solve all energy crises forevermore.

Over at Watt’s Up With That, the leading anti-science blog on the web, Anthony Watt turned the podium over to the indefatigable, often inscrutable, sometimes-funny-but-almost-always wrong, Willis Eschenbach, who worries about when solar power may run out:

Their study includes “renewable” sources like solar, although I’ve never found out exactly how they plan to renew the sun once it runs out.

In a just and sane world, Dave Barry would be preparing to sue Eschenbach for infringing on Barry’s humor patent.

Just when will energy from Old Sol run out?  The Sun will die one day, but well after President Obama’s second term has expired, and long after all current photo-voltaic devices have worn out from providing cheap energy.

The facts:

Our Sun won’t last forever. Dr. Carolyn Brinkworth explains the ramifications for our home planet in this ‘Ask an Astronomer’ video.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

What Will Happen to the Earth When the Sun Dies?, posted with vodpod

Shorter Eschenbach:  Don’t worry about cleaning the air to fight global warming, because in the looooooooooooooooooooooooooooong run, we’re all dead.  Certainly after 4 billion years.

 


Watt’s Up puts collective hand into the fan – er, um, windmill

February 6, 2011

In the march to brand all non-fossil fuel use as politically incorrect (at least for those who deny global warming should get our policy making attention), the poobahs and commenters at Watts Up have outdone themselves in seeing conspiracies under the ice, mountains where there are molehills, and molehills where there are mountains.

If you wonder whether global warming deniers are biased, Watts’s blog just confessed.

We’re quite frozen in here in Texas, you know.  The unseasonable warm air (high pressure) over the Arctic that warms the sea and melts the ice also pushed the Arctic air south over the U.S.  Where that frigid air met wet air coming from the Gulf of Mexico, weather ensued (yeah, warming may have increased the amount of moisture, too — but that just makes the anti-warmists go blind, so we won’t say it).

Texas got hit with rolling power blackouts last week, when the cold weather increased demand for electricity and crimped the ability of several utilities to bring on power plants build to generate to meet such extra demands.  Some coal-fired plants were off-line, a couple froze up, and natural gas supplies were not in the right place at the right time, so some natural gas plants couldn’t fire up.

But Anthony Watts, seeing spooks behind every clump of Texas Bluestem (Big or Little), promptly got a post up blaming wind power turbines. His post’s headline gives you the whole story as Watts spun it:  “We Spent Billions on Wind Power… and All I Got Was a Rolling Blackout.”

If you’re wondering just what in the world he was thinking, you’d be demonstrating more common sense than the average global warming denier.

Freezing rain had been predicted, but not so much as Texas got.  The follow-up snow also surpassed predictions and expectations — for example, the “skiff to 1″ accumulation” predicted for Dallas turned into 5″ to 7″ through much of the area — stopping any hope that the ice might clear so schools could reopen.  Texas got slammed by the same enormous storm that slammed much of the Midwest and Northeast, with similar results.  For Super Bowl host cities Fort Worth, Arlington and Dallas, that created big problems.  Texas is not equipped to deal with much winter weather, let alone so much in so little time.

In cold weather, power plants fail.  Sometimes power lines fail when the plants stay up.  Sometimes it’s just a question of wheeling power from one part of a local, regional or national grids.  Sometimes the wheeling fails because a switch fails or . . . a failure of capacity can have myriad causes.  In the past, we covered for these problems with additional generating capacity, in excess of what might be needed at any point — mandated by state and local utility commissions to insure power at all times.

Texas deregulated electrical power more than a decade ago, too — which means that market forces govern what gets built and whether there is any emergency generating capacity.

Free enterprise cannot take any blame in the kingdom of those who deny climate and economics.  So when the rolling blackouts plagued Texas, the search for a scapegoat became frenetic.   The question was, who could take the blame that could cast what was perceived to be the most aspersional light on Al Gore, the case for global warming, and anything approaching “green energy?”

Ah, there’s the target!   Wind power.

Watts Up quickly claimed that Texas windmill-generated electricity had failed, if not in fact, then in economic hypothesis.  If the windmills didn’t fail themselves, it must be that the money invested in them could have been better invested in coal-fired power plants, or oil-fired plants, and the blame can be squarely laid at the feet of Michael Mann, or the UN’s IPCC, or Al Gore, or Rachel Carson, or John Muir, or Aeolus — or anyone other than the real trouble, the freakish weather.  Avoiding blame on the weather is important to denialists, because such “perfect storm” combinations come astonishingly close to the predictions of some global warming hypotheses.

So blame must be established, far from the house of warming denialists if possible.  Watts’ blog attacked windpower all through 2010; ignoring any rebuttals, all Watts had to do was point to his earlier published articles.

Days later the facts come out, as revealed in a lengthy investigative story published this morning in the Dallas Morning News with this lead:

The operators of Texas’ electricity grid blamed myriad problems at power plants across Texas for last week’s rolling blackouts.  But interviews and a review of documents by The Dallas Morning News reveal that the breakdown of a cluster of coal-fired power plants in Central Texas was at the heart of the problem.

These facts were known days ago.  In fact the second comment at Watts’ blog corrected the record:

Walt Stone says:

I believe it was two power plants, one coal and one gas fired.

http://fuelfix.com/blog/2011/02/02/whats-behind-the-blackouts-power-plants-not-designed-for-cold-weather/

Could Watts ever concede a possible error?  Not yet, not on his blog, nor anywhere else.  Texas electric grid officials said early they had coal-fired power plants down; they’ve stuck to that story.  Reporting by the state’s major newspapers and other news organizations has borne out that story.

Continuing their leading reporting on energy and environment issues, the Texas Tribune, an on-line publication by a non-profit group, specifically asked about wind power shortages as alleged by Watts:

TT: Were there problems with wind-power plants needing to be shut down for high winds or icing blades, and also did nuclear plants have any problems?

[Trip] Doggett [CEO of the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT)]: I’m not aware of any nuclear plant problems, and I’m not aware of any specific issues with wind turbines having to shut down due to icing. I would highlight that we put out a special word of thanks to the wind community because they did contribute significantly through this time frame. Wind was blowing, and we had often 3,500 megawatts of wind generation during that morning peak, which certainly helped us in this situation.

Is there any room for the wind nay-sayers to squirm on this?

One publication which should be keyed into the facts poked fun at Watts’ hypothesis, although in a subtle, implicit fashion.  Energy Tribune’s story by Philip E. Lewis, comparing Texas to King Canute, noted that Texas has bragged about its energy reliability and separateness from the rest of the state.  What to do in the next energy crisis?

But no worries, I have the perfect solution: Next time power plants are “tripping,” ERCOT (irony alert: Electric Reliability Council of Texas) should issue an order for the wind to blow harder in West Texas. If the wind is reluctant to comply, ERCOT should brook no nonsense and immediately escalate. Surely an order from the governor’s office will do the trick.

Based on little more than antipathy towards wind power, bloggers beginning with Anthony Watts started a hoax rumor that wind power is to blame for Texas’s electricity shortage problems.  Very little  basis could be found for such a claim, and in the days since the events, that little basis is evaporating.  It’s time to put that claim to bed.

Sorta post script:  I am aware of the claims at Meteorological Musings that wind generation is, somehow, to blame — if for no other reason than that it could not play Superman and bring a few thousand megawatts online with no notice to save the rest of the grid.  As best I can cipher it, the claim is that because not every wind generator was on line, wind generators should have been able to take up the slack.  Of course, no other energy source could step in to take up the slack, either, including those who were scheduled to do it.  I don’t put a lot of stock in the claim that we need to be particularly stern with wind generating companies when other generating companies fall down on the job.  For that matter, there is a Reuters article listed at Watts Up that said a wind shortage added to the problems, but it didn’t suggest in any way that a wind shortage caused the problems — and it’s from 2008, not 2011.  I don’t believe problems in 2008 contributed to blackouts in 2011.   I’m also aware that Energy Tribune is hostile to wind generated power.  Testimony contrary to interest . . .

More:

Tip of the old scrub brush to a commenter named Bryan Brown.


Lens incompetence: Watts Up looks through the wrong end of the telescope

December 27, 2010

The wags and denialists over at Anthony Watts’ joint are up to their old tricks, accusing others of their own errors.  Today it’s a guest post by Bernie Lewin, in which he claims that climate warming was all psychological, a “scare”:

Yet we can find precedents to this science-base scare in many health scares of recent decades, and also in environmental scares since the DDT cancer scare triggered by Silent Spring, politicised by the EDF and legalized by the newly formed EPA. (See Scared to Death which finds a repeating pattern to these science-based scares.)

Woman looking through the wrong end of a telescope

This woman might be corrected; global warming denialists will staunchly insist she knows what she’s doing and doesn’t need YOUR advice.

He fails to even think that Rachel Carson was right.  Lewin demonstrates incompetence at history, law and science, and the first point of the Scout Law, all in one sentence.

So much error.  So little time to correct.

  1. Carson didn’t claim DDT caused cancer. She noted that we create thousands of chemicals that may cause cancer, that cancers were rising in frequency, and that there was no testing of the new substances prior to their marketing.   Was there a DDT/cancer scare?  Lewin doesn’t offer any evidence.  (We had to correct Matt Ridley on this a couple of weeks ago — see his post here.)
  2. EDF (Environmental Defense Fund, now known as Environmental Defense) was on DDT without Carson — suing to stop DDT spraying (for no good reason) on Long Island in 1968.  EDF relied on science that was courtroom ready.  (I had misremembered the year of EDF’s suit in an earlier version of this post; my apologies to the two or three who may have read it.)  EDF’s suits established, on the basis of science, that DDT is an uncontrollable poison in the wild.  Lewin ignores science and law in his off-hand indictment of Carson’s book and ED.
  3. EPA didn’t act against DDT until 1972.  EPA banned DDT use on agricultural crops in the U.S. because DDT kills non-target species and, basically, entire ecosystems.  EPA was specific:  The ban had nothing to do with cancer.  Once again, Lewin ignores history, science and law.

So, in Lewin’s guest post, we see the pattern that continues at Watts’s place — unfair and wrong indictments of science, ignorance of history, little understanding of law.

All while trying to mock scientists:  ‘Of course scientists are almost always wrong,’ Watts’s blog argues, once again.

Watts won’t let me correct his errors there, even though he’s still coddling those who misdescribe Rachel Carson as a mass murderer, while denying he does it himself.  Consequently his readers won’t be alerted to this post because Watts or his minions will edit out the automatic ping his blog gets that this post is here.  Propaganda promoting falsehood can’t stand the sunlight of fact and truth.

Just because there’s a scare doesn’t mean there’s not a reason to be scared.  DDT is a deadly toxin, so long-lived that it almost cannot ever be eradicated from the environment.  It kills everything small, quickly, unless so much of it is used that the small things evolve quickly to be resistant and immune to it.

So, if we are to assume, as Lewin wrote, that the anti-warming bunch is to warming what the campaign against Rachel Carson by the DDT manufacturers was to DDT’s harms, we get a hint of what’s really up at Watts Up:  Any anti-warming claim is a hoax.  Why put it so cryptically, if that’s what they meant to say?

When Lewin looks at the history of DDT and Rachel Carson, he’s looking at the false history, and he draws the wrong conclusions.  Should we trust a guy so sloppy with the facts to be right on anything else?


Desperation shows in the anti-warming camp

June 30, 2010

Willis Eschenbach, whose credentials I do not know, is back for another guest post at Watt’s Up With That.

Eschenbach contests conclusions drawn by the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, about the effects of warming in New England.

In a probably-unintentionally humorous way, Eschenbach shows just how desperate grow the anti-warming camp.  The purloined e-mails show no wrong-doing, and worse for denialists, no significant errors in the case that global warming occurs and is problematic.  Legislation to fight climate change has a chance of passing this Congress.  EPA promulgated rules on measuring CO2 and other greenhouse gases, and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s resolution to stop EPA failed in the Senate.  There was the hoax about the fourth-grade science project claimed to refute Nobel-quality research, and then there was the bungled story that mistakenly claimed a solar-energy company sent a non-working bomb to an economics professor in Spain in revenge for his paper against government support of green energy.  One can see how such a string of losses might set back the hopes of even the most delusional denialist.

Either ignorant of Godwin’s Law, or so desperate he thinks it worth the gamble, Eschenbach quoted somebody (did he ever name who?) going on about the Big Lie technique attributed to the Nazis in establishing policy in Germany before and during World War II.

Mike Godwin, discoverer of Godwin's Law - Wikimedia image

Mike Godwin, discoverer of Godwin's Law - Wikimedia image

Is there a more plaintive or pitiful way to say one is over one’s head and has run out of argumentative gasoline?

Eschenbach’s case is not particularly strong — he pulled temperature data (he said) from the U.S. Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) to make charts showing, Eschenbach claimed, there is no 4°F rise in average New England winter temperatures since 1970.

After a couple of skirmishes to see whether Watts’ watchdogs still prevent my posting, I offered a small rebuttal that, of course, slipped quickly into the abyss of Watts Moderation.  It may eventually escape that particular eddy, but in case it doesn’t, here’s the post:

Tim Neilson asks:

PS Ed Darrell – do you have any evidence refuting the post?

Most claims of someone practicing “big lie” tactics are self-refuting, the opposite of a self-proving document under the law. Is this any exception? Mr. Eschenbach offers no evidence to suggest that a committee of Congress publishes material it knows to be wrong for propaganda effect. (The quotes relating to Hitler comprise a grand rhetorical tactic known as “red herring.” The mere presence of that material, were we to apply Godwin’s law, refutes Mr. Eschenbach’s case.)

There is no evidence to refute.

Mr. Eschenbach offers a few jabs at data that show the effects of warming in New England, but he does not appear to bother to look at the data the committee used. This is a bait-and-switch tactic of argumentation that most rhetoricians would label a spurious. Does Eschenbach rebut or refute the committee’s data? How could anyone tell?

The site of the committee, the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, offers several arguments to suggest changes in New England from warming might pose problems. So far as I see, Mr. Eschenbach addresses only one of those arguments, and that one incompletely.

1. The committee claims that average winter temperatures in New England have risen by 4 degrees F since 1970. Eschenbach offers a chart that, so far as I can tell, confirms the committee’s claim — but Eschenbach uses a chart that covers a much longer period of time, and offers it in a way that makes it difficult to determine what temperatures are, let alone what the trend is (IMHO, the trend is up, and easily by 4 degrees in Eschenbach’s chart). Oddly, he illustrates the chart by showing a surfer in a wet suit, surfing in winter in New England. Surfing is generally a warm-weather enterprise, and though the man has a wetsuit, and though the Gulf Current would warm those waters, the picture tends to deny Eschenbach’s claim, doesn’t it? If it’s warm enough to surf in winter, it’s warmer than the Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

And look at the actual numbers — Eschenbach confesses a rise of 2.7 degrees, roughly 9/13 of the rise he intends to deny. Heck, that nearly-three degree rise is enough to cause concern, or should be.

2. The committee notes warmer temperatures would put more precipitation as rain, and not snow. Eschenbach offers no comment on this. Ski seasons in New England have suffered recently because it’s been too warm to keep natural snow, and too warm to make artificial snow (68 degrees F on January 6, 2007). (This is a national concern, by the way.) If the committee errs in this claim, Eschenbach offers no data.

And especially, he offers no data to back his “big lie” claim, that the committee knows differently from what it says.

3. The committee notes that warmer temperatures produce later autumns — a huge impact on tourist revenue in New England, where an enormous travel industry has built up around watching the changing colors of the trees. Such a change would be consistent with other long-term observations, such as those by the Department of Agriculture and Arbor Day Foundation, that the plant zones across America show warming (and some cooling).

Eschenbach doesn’t contest this in any way. Should we presume this is Eschenbach’s agreement that this claim is not a “big lie” claim?

3. The committee refers to warming oceans, and the potential effects on certain parts of the fishing industry, especially cod and lobster. This is caused by ocean warming, not atmospheric warming — so Eschenbach is again silent on this claim. The committee’s claim tends to undercut Eschenbach’s claim of a “big lie” here, and Eschenbach offers no support for his own argument.

4. The committee refers to greater storm damage due partly to rising sea levels. Eschenbach offers no rebuttal of any sort.

Eschenbach fails to make a prima facie case for his big lie claim, and his rebuttal is restricted solely to one measure of temperature that Eschenbach fuzzes up with an unclear chart.

May I ask, since you style yourself a skeptic, what evidence you found in the post that makes a case at all?

Will it ever see light of day at WUWT?

Update: Yes, it sees the light of day at WUWT.  Maybe all my kvetching had an effect.

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Basic climate skeptic’s pseudoscience

March 7, 2009

Anthony Watts want to make a case that rising ocean levels aren’t connected to human activities, there’s nothing we can do about it, there’s nothing we should do about it, or something.  Looking for a touchstone in history, Watts said:

In 2002, the BBC reported that a submerged city was found off the coast of India, 36 meters below sea level.  This was long before the Hummer or coal fired power plant was invented.  It is quite likely that low lying coastal areas will continue to get submerged, just as they have been for the last 20,000 years.

Submerged city?  Hmm.  Not in the textbooks published since 2002.  What’s up with that?

NASA Earth Observatory photo of the Gujarat Gulfs, including the Gulf of Cambay (Khambhat), where a lost city was thought to have been found in 2001; later research indicates no city underwater.

NASA Earth Observatory photo of the Gujarat Gulfs, including the Gulf of Cambay (Khambhat), where a "lost city" was thought to have been found in 2001; later research indicates no city underwater.

Oh, this is what’s up:  Watts links to a BBC news story, not a science journal — one of the warning signs of Bogus Science and Bogus History, both.   The news story talks about preliminary findings in 2002 that did not hold up to scrutiny.  Measurement error was part of the problem — the pattern of the scanning radar sweep was mistaken for structures found on the sea floor.  Natural formations were mistaken for artificial formations.  When the news announcement was made, archaeologists and other experts in dating such things had not be consulted (and it’s unclear when or whether they were ever brought in).  The follow-up didn’t support the story, notes Bad Archaeology.  Terrible archaeology to support pseudo climate science?  Why not?

This doesn’t deny Watts’ general claims in his post, but it is too indicative of the type of “find anything to support the favored claim of denial” mindset that goes on among denialists.  (There is evidence of a much lower waterline in the area during the last ice age; water levels have risen, according to physical evidence, but probably not inundating the what would be the oldest civilization on Earth.)

It will be interesting to watch what happens.  Will Watts note an oopsie and apologize, or will the entire group circle their Radio Super wagons around the issue and call it a mainstream science plot against them?  Will Watts correct his citation, or will they move on to cite the disappearance of Atlantis as evidence that warming can’t be stopped?

Anybody want to wager?

What sort of irony is there in a guy’s complaining about a scientific consensus held by thousands of scientists with hundreds of publications supporting their claims, and his using one news report almost totally without any scientific corroboration in rebuttal?

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