Posts tagged ‘EIA’

Perfect the Enemy of the Good

For years, my observation has been that the perfect has been the enemy of the good in energy policy.   Now, I don't support the feds making energy policy at all, but given that they do, too often the government has ignored the 80/20 solution that would get most of the desired benefits for a fraction of the cost of alternatives being considered.

For example, in California, the state could have made a ton more progress reducing vehicle emissions had they  accepted a low emissions standard decades ago that allowed for things like compressed natural gas (CNG) as a vehicle fuel.  However, environmentalists insisted on zero emissions, and thus only electric vehicles passed muster, and the technology simply has not been there  (not to mention that at the margin, new electric vehicles in the state would at best be powered by natural gas and at worst by Arizona and Nevada coal plants, making the very concept of "zero-emissions" crazy).

I am thinking of this by looking at this chart from the EIA of CO2 emissions per BTU for various fuels (pounds per million BTU):

Coal (anthracite) 227
Coal (bituminous) 205
Coal (lignite) 215
Coal (subbituminous) 213
Diesel fuel & heating oil 161
Gasoline 156
Propane 139
Natural gas 117

Looking at this, and given the huge amounts of natural gas in this country, one might reasonably expect that a logical policy suggestion would be to try to provide incentives to substitute natural gas for coal and diesel fuel.  The technology exists right now, today, to produce electricity with gas and to power large vehicles with CNG  (and focusing on truck fleets eases the distribution issues with CNG).

But of course absolutely no one in the global warming movement is suggesting this (except for T. Boone Pickens, and he is involved in climate bills as a rent-seeker, not as an advocate).  You see, we want "renewable" energy, and natural gas does not fit.  Though for some reason ethanol does, despite the fact that ethanol probably creates more CO2 than it reduces.

No point here really, since I am not advocating any sort of energy policy.  But it reinforced to me why no one should claim as a justification for energy policy that somehow the system will be more efficient if a few smart people design it top-down, when one of the most obvious 80/20 solutions to Co2 reduction is not even considered.

My Personal Experience with Climate Alarmist Spin

We see all kinds of alarmist spin being attempted on the CRU emails.  For those who are interested, this is best layman's article I have found to discuss the now-famous Michael Mann "trick," what it is, and the obfuscation in the CRU's response.

I have at least one experience with the core alarmist community responding where I pointed out an error.  The responses I got in that case are very similar to the ones today for the CRU - basically the responses either are tangential to the basic point or try to retroactively change the alarmists original assertions.  They are responses that stand up only if the questioner is unwilling or unable to do the smallest amount of verification work (in other words, they work with most of the media).

The series of posts began with this image from the recent US government climate assessment.  Its point was to provide electric grid outages as a proxy measurement variable for severe weather, the point being that severe weather must have increased.


I thought this chart smelled funny

This chart screams one thing at me:  Basis change.  Somehow, the basis for the data is changing in the period.  Either reporting has been increased, or definitions have changed, or there is something about the grid that makes it more sensitive to weather, or whatever  (this is a problem in tornado charts, as improving detection technologies seem to create an upward incidence trend in smaller tornadoes where one probably does not exist).   But there is NO WAY the weather is changing this fast, and readers should treat this whole report as a pile of garbage if it is written by people who uncritically accept this chart.

So I called the owner of the data set at the EIA

He said that there may be an underlying upward trend out there (particularly in thunderstorms) but that most of the increase in this chart is from improvements in data gathering.  In 1997, the EIA (and Makins himself) took over the compilation of this data, which had previously been haphazard, and made a big push to get all utilities to report as required.  They made a second change and push for reporting in 2001, and again in 2007/2008.  He told me that most of this slope is due to better reporting, and not necessarily any underlying trend.   In fact, he said there still is some under-reporting by smaller utilities he wants to improve so that the graph will likely go higher in the future....

At the end of the day, this disturbance data is not a good proxy for severe weather.

The author of that section of the report, Evan Mills, responded and then I dealt with his response here.  Here is just one example of the BS we have to slog through every time we criticize even a tangential analysis like this.  See the links for his whole response, but he says in part:

As noted in the caption to the figure on page 58 of our report (shown above)"”which was masked in the blogger's critique [ed.  actually it was not masked- the source I got the chart from had left off the caption]"”we expressly state a quite different finding than that imputed by the blogger, noting with care that we do not attribute these events to anthropogenic climate change, but do consider the grid vulnerable to extreme weather today and increasingly so as climate change progresses, i.e.:

"Although the figure does not demonstrate a cause-effect relationship between climate change and grid disruption, it does suggest that weather and climate extremes often have important effects on grid disruptions."

The associated text in the report states the following, citing a major peer-reviewed federal study on the energy sector's vulnerability to climate change:

"The electricity grid is also vulnerable to climate change effects, from temperature changes to severe weather events."

This was pretty amazing - citing his chart's caption but hoping that somehow I or other readers would miss the very first line of the caption which he fails to quote:

To Dr. Mills' point that I misinterpreted him "” if all he wanted to say was that the electrical grid could be disturbed by weather or was vulnerable to climate change, fine.  I mean, duh.  If there are more tornadoes knocking about, more electrical lines will come down.  But if that was Dr. Mills ONLY point, then why did he write (emphasis added):

The number of incidents caused by extreme weather has increased tenfold since 1992.  The portion of all events that are caused by weather-related phenomena has more than tripled from about 20 percent in the early 1990s to about 65 percent in recent years.  The weather-related events are more severe"¦

He is saying flat out that the grid IS being disturbed 10x more often and more severely by weather.  It doesn't even say "reported" incidents or "may have" "” it is quite definitive.  So which one of us is trying to create a straw man?   It is these statements that I previously claimed the data did not support, and I stand by my analysis on that.

I deconstructed a lot of the rest of his longer post, and you can follow it all, but the bottom line is that if a you are drawing a trend line between two points, and you have much more data missing from the begginning end point than the end, your trend is going to be SNAFU'd.  Period.  No point in arguing about it.  See the chart below.  It represents the situation at hand.  The red is the reported data.  The blue is the unreported data, which declines as a percentage of the total due to a push for better data reporting by the database owners.  My point was simply that the red trend line was meaningless.  Its amazing to me that even accepting the basics of this picture, Dr. Mills wants to fight that conclusion.


I am reminded by one of the now-famous quotes from the CRU emails

I really wish I could be more positive about the Kyrgyzstan material, but I swear I pulled every trick out of my sleeve trying to milk something out of that. I don't think it'd be productive to try and juggle the chronology statistics any more than I already have - they just are what they are...

Yep, sometimes the measured results from nature are what they are.  Well, I actually that most of the time they are what they are, but not in climate apparently.  Never give up a flawed analysis that yields the "right" answer without a fight.  I concluded:

Look Dr. Mills, I don't have an axe to grind here.  This is one chart out of bazillions making a minor point.  But the data set you are using is garbage, so why do you stand by it with such tenacity?  Can't anyone just admit "you know, on thinking about it, there are way to many problems with this data set to declare a trend exists.

I Wondered Why They Weren't Pounding the US

Usually an article like this would blame the US:

Global carbon dioxide emissions in 2008 rose 1.94 percent year-on-year to 31.5 billion tonnes, German renewable energy industry institute IWR said on Monday, based on official information and its own research.

Several other leftish / alarmist sites picked up the story, but still didn't hammer the US, saying only that the US is the largest contributor to total emissions but not whether it contributed significantly to last year's rise.  It turns out there is a reason for this.  US emissions were actually way down, falling far faster than the drop in economic growth:  (from the EIA)


The story tries to put a positive spin on Europe  (again, the preferred story line is always Europe-good-America-bad):

Carbon dioxide emissions from heavy industry participating in the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme fell 3.1 percent last year compared with 2007, the EU's executive Commission said in mid-May

This is a carefully worded cherry-picking on one sector of the economy.  I would be willing to bet almost any amount of money that the rest of Europe's economy saw less of a drop or even an increase.  Even so, the cherry-picked sector, the one subject to cap-and-trade, still underperformed the US.  Overall, US emissions have fallen since 2000 without any real regulatory program and just the normal incentives of economic efficiency at work.

The US is NOT the problem when it comes to future emissions growth.

Where the Subsidies Go

A week or so ago, I discussed federal energy subsidies and hypothesized, without a lot of facts, that a lot of them go to failing alternative energy projects rather than to oil company shareholders.  I asked readers if they had any more information, and the discussion is here.

But ask and ye shall receive, and the WSJ has an article today on federal energy subsidies and where they go.  The answer is:  in bulk dollars, a lot of them go nuclear, hydro, and traditional fossil fuel production.  However, it is interesting to look at them on an output basis:

For electricity generation, the EIA concludes that
solar energy is subsidized to the tune of $24.34 per megawatt hour,
wind $23.37 and "clean coal" $29.81. By contrast, normal coal receives
44 cents, natural gas a mere quarter, hydroelectric about 67 cents and
nuclear power $1.59.

The wind and solar lobbies are currently moaning that
they don't get their fair share of the subsidy pie. They also argue
that subsidies per unit of energy are always higher at an early stage
of development, before innovation makes large-scale production
possible. But wind and solar have been on the subsidy take for years,
and they still account for less than 1% of total net electricity
generation. Would it make any difference if the federal subsidy for
wind were $50 per megawatt hour, or even $100? Almost certainly not
without a technological breakthrough.

By contrast, nuclear power provides 20% of U.S. base
electricity production, yet it is subsidized about 15 times less than
wind. We prefer an energy policy that lets markets determine which
energy source dominates. But if you believe in subsidies, then nuclear
power gets a lot more power for the buck than other "alternatives."

The same study also looked at federal subsidies for
non-electrical energy production, such as for fuel. It found that
ethanol and biofuels receive $5.72 per British thermal unit of energy
produced. That compares to $2.82 for solar and $1.35 for refined coal,
but only three cents per BTU for natural gas and other petroleum

I will repeat what I said in my earlier post, just so no one is confused about my position:

I personally don't care where [the subsidies go]. I am all for eliminating all
of this subsidy mess, equally, whether it's for oil exploration or
energy-from-donkey-poop or for CEO salary enhancement.