Alternative Energy Research Highlighted at Vancouver Engineering Conference

November 18th, 2010 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

I just returned from Vancouver (the one in Canada), where the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) has been holding their annual meeting at the Vancouver Convention Center.

I was asked to present one of their keynote talks, so on Tuesday evening I spent about 45 minutes outlining some of the global warming science that the engineers might not heard about from global warming experts like Al Gore or Leonardo DiCaprio.

It was a treat for me to be able to assume the audience actually knew something about thermodynamics, which all mechanical engineers are taught, and which many of them use in their work.

Other than one lady in the audience who interpreted my message as part of a right-wing conspiracy to thwart saving the Earth from evil corporations bent on destroying it (OK, so I’m exaggerating), the audience was largely sympathetic to the outrageous minority view that climate might be able to (gasp!) change all by itself.

Many of these engineers are now working in various aspects of alternative energy research. I was amazed at how much of this kind of work is being done. Even large petroleum companies like Exxon Mobil are heavily invested in this research.

And why shouldn’t they be? Whoever comes up with cost-effective alternative energy sources will make lots of money.

One particularly interesting talk examined various ways of using solar energy. Growing corn for biofuels turns out to be particularly wasteful of both energy and land resources. (And thwarting market forces by subsidizing it ends up killing poor people around the world by creating fictitious demand, which sends world corn prices soaring. Gotta love the good intentions of politicians and environmentalists.)

Growing algae, in contrast, is very efficient. But getting substantial amounts of fuel from algae still has many practical problems to overcome. The speaker said he believed algae-based fuel will end up being a secondary product to algae-based plastics, pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, sewage treatment, etc.

How much water is required for various energy generation technologies is also a major practical concern, especially in the western U.S. I was amazed to learn that it takes about 150 gallons of water to produce a single Sunday newspaper!

I wonder how many Sunday newspapers have carried op-eds about the need to conserve water?

I continue to believe that alternative energy technologies will germinate and grow without any governmental interference. Humans need energy for everything we do, and the market will never go away. Let free market forces work.

Fossil fuels will slowly become more expensive as they become scarcer and more difficult to extract, and this is the only mechanism needed to ensure that new energy sources will be developed to take their place. Gifts, gadgets, weather stations, software and here!

59 Responses to “Alternative Energy Research Highlighted at Vancouver Engineering Conference”

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  1. coturnix19 says:


    that is, provided they can be developed in principle. we humans know nuclear energy is possible and ubiquitous in the universe; in fact, most energy sources we use are nuclear in their origin, but there’s little doubt we can tap into it directly any time soon, and if we don’t before oil-gas runs out, wouldn’t it severely impede further civilization development?

  2. coturnix19 says:

    damn, this thing interprets tags… there was a citation inside the brackets

  3. Neil says:

    I work in power station development. Traditional stuff like geothermal. Water is a huge issue, even in places where there is a lot of it such as New Zealand. In many places the water has been fully allocated to existing users/uses and in other countries such as Chile, specifically in the north, there is basically no water.

    Water is huge issue that not many people think/know about.

    The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (I only quote them because these are their numbers, no other affiliation or interest etc) has calculated it takes 70 litres of water to grow an apple, 140 litres to get a cup of coffee and 2,700 litres to make a cotton shirt. These numbers are for the full process end to end and include natural rainfall.

    I raise this as it poses an interesting issue. There is clearly plenty of water, but most of it is sea water. We have aquifiers, but many are under significant pressure. We can convert sea water to freshwater, but that takes energy. Producing the energy takes water.

    Water is a phenominal issue right now. All this climate change stuff is a distraction, I wish people would focus on some real challenges like making sure people have access to clean water and that it is used efficiently and effectively.

  4. harrywr2 says:


    Oil-gas-coal never run out. Ask any geologist. At some point they do become so expensive to extract that we use something else, ask any economist.

    The only people who believe mankind will burn all the geologically available fossil fuels are climate scientists.

  5. Jacob C says:

    Another excellent post. Keep up the good work. This is the interesting thing…so many of the alarmists I know assume (again with the assumptions, sheesh) that if you provide skeptical feedback to global warming science, you must be into pumping oil, gas and coal for the rest of time (until it runs out, at which point they assume we will just shrug and say “too bad, so sad”). I for one am for the market generation of clean energy alternatives and the push for implementation as they become more and more feasable. If the government wants to invest in the research, then that is fine too, but artificially making carbon more expensive (before the renewables are ready for deployment) will only serve to weaken (if not devastate) the economy and actually disrupt reneable energy research. But then, maybe that is the point…with things more expensive and renewables even less likely to compensate, we would need the planners and government even more.
    To quote a famous political analyst quoted by the great Friederick Hayek, “Is there a greater tragedy imaginable than that in our endeavor consciously to shape our future in accordance with high ideals we should in fact unwittingly produce the very opposite of what we have been striving for?” 🙂

  6. Leroy Brown says:

    Can someone reflect on the situation in Greenland presented in this article?

    • kuhnkat says:

      There is no issue with Greenland’s glaciers. The central area is gaining mass as fast, or faster, than the edges are losing mass.

      The galloping glaciers that Climate Science was hyperventilating about have mostly slowed. Turns out it is a cyclical happening they still do not understand. My personal opinion from the minority experts is that they are driven by geothermal activity that waxes and wanes on its own schedule. During the same time period there were underwater eruptions of volcanoes in the Arctic Ocean.

  7. DeNihilist says:

    Well Dr. Roy, if you had stayed another week, you could have enjoyed some Vancouver global warming. It is anticipated that temps are going to be as low as -10C next week, with daily highs up to zero. Hope you enjoyed your stay in my fair town!

  8. MyloJ says:

    Dr. Roy,

    Thanks for providing science tested common sense.
    The more we think we know the more we find we don’t.
    Climate Science is great stuff.

  9. Harold Pierce Jr says:

    Since you were coming to Vancouver, you shoulld have sent a message to “climate scientist” at UVic, SFU, and UBC that you were going to be in Vancouver for the AEC and would they be interested in having you present a seminar.

    Usually, the three universites pay the tab for an invited speaker who usually spends a day at each university. In this way you get three days in super-natural, beautiful British Columbia, The Best Place on Earth.

    I am really sure Andy and UVic climate crowd would be quite interested in what you had to say.

    BTW, did you have any salmon? There was a near-record breaking run of about 35 million fish this year. Since it has been recently claimed that global warming has reduced phytoplankton by ca 40%, I wonder where these fish got their food with such a depleted base of the food chain.

  10. Bill says:

    I am quite certain that it is a MAJORITY view that climate can change naturally all by itself….but your assertion to the contrary is a convenient straw man to prop up to be knocked down as a ridiculous premise. It is also natural that streams WILL change all by themselves and that “pollutants” like copper and arsenic will leach (naturally) from soil into a stream. But certainly you wouldn’t argue that because of those natural forces it is Okey dokey for industries to also dump excessive amounts of copper and arsenic into a river above “natural” levels and change the biological diversity and system sustainability above and beyond natural levels. Or maybe you would. Similarly, the wetlands along the Lousiana coast have constantly and naturally changed and would continue to do so if man never walked the Earth; but it is indisputable that channelling the Mississippi River such that the wetlands no longer receive sediment from “natural” flooding and the cutting of channels to lay oil and gas pipelines has greatly accelerated that coastal change to Louisiana. Everywhere we look in nature, we can see that “natural” processes are also impacted by anthropogenic forces. So the question really is not whether climate changes by natural forces. All scientists I know accept that as a fact. The question is whether dumping known green house gases into the atmosphere is contributing to a change that has impacts greater than would be “naturally” seen and whether the actual and intangible costs of adapting to that are truly less than the costs of mitigating it. That is a good policy discussion, but instead we get into silly *and false) debates about whether climate scientists believe in natural change. Even you often state that you believe that climate change is “mostly” due to natural forces. I can see it all over your writings. Jeez, give it a break with the false assertion that climate scientists concerned about anthropogenic acceleration of climate change do not believe that natural factors are largely responsible of the weather and changes in it. Much is said about peer review publications. Show me one single peer review publication where the author has seriously questioned whether natural forces contribute to climate change. For example, I know of no climate scientist who dispute your monthly annotation that Mount Pinotuba (a natural event) was responsible for cooling around that time.

  11. Nonoy Oplas says:

    Right there, Dr. Spencer. Solar, wind, biomass, biofuels, etc., should be made available by various energy producers. It expands energy choices for consumers. Zero government intervention, taxation or subsidy, will be needed there. People who love solar or other renewables should buy that power even if its price is 5x or 10 more expensive than conventional power sources because they prefer to use that power, not because it was made “cheaper” by subsidies from taxpayers.

  12. Andy Roper says:


    I was studying some Vostok Ice core charts on this site:

    Interestingly, on the third chart about 295,000 years ago CO2 appears to precede warming. I haven’t been able to find any comment on this yet – has this been studied? Can anyone shed any light on this? If some event caused CO2 to rise and Global temps followed then that would be good evidence to support the current Man made Global warming theory?


    • Bomber_the_Cat says:

      The resolution of samples from the Vostok ice core 295,000 is insufficient to answer your question absolutely. It is necessary to look at the raw data.
      The lowest temperature anomaly around the time you mention is -6.06 deg.Celsius and is dated as being 294,348 years ago. The temperature is rising again by the next sample, 294,060 years ago.
      Unfortunately, the CO2 samples from the ice-core around this time are more than 1000 years apart. The lowest level (226ppm) is achieved 294,615 years ago. It has risen to 245ppm by 293,676 years ago.
      So temperature started rising between 294,348 and 294,060 years ago; CO2 started rising between 294,615 and 293,676 years ago. Which came first? Impossible to be definitive.But from overall studies of the Vostok ice core record, it is now generally accepted that CO2 follows temperature by about 800 years.

  13. Bill Marsh says:

    Dr Spencer,

    Off topic but I have a question about the Aqua Channel 5 Satellite readings.

    It appears that there was a precipitous drop (dare I say ‘unprecedented’?) in the Tropospheric temps during the period Nov 11 – 16. There seem to be a lot of missing readings during this period, but the temperature seems to have dropped about .3C. Is there a problem with that channel and, if not, is this drop ‘normal’.


  14. Fernando says:

    I take this opportunity to sponsor off topic.

    any thoughts about this piece ….

    • kuhnkat says:

      “The value of multiple independent
      analyses is demonstrated.”

      Sorry, with a statement like this it cannot be taken seriously.

  15. Robert Austin says:

    Bill says:
    November 18, 2010 at 10:48 PM

    While individual and unspecified climate scientists might acknowledge natural climate variability if pressed to do so, it is abundantly clear that the IPCC reports minimize the role of natural climate change and dwell on the role of CO2. And we have been informed ad nauseum that 2,500 eminent scientists support the IPCC report’s conclusions. So your alleged straw man has a core of substance.

  16. Christopher Game says:

    Christopher Game replying to the post of Fernando of November 19, 2010 at 5:54 AM.

    Dear Fernando,

    Thank you for this valuable reference.

    As a small point in it, I note that they authors write:

    “[Models] provide estimates of how the climate system
    should behave (according to theoretical understanding)
    in response to changes external to the system,
    known as ‘forcings’.

    Radiative forcing drives much of long-term climate
    change and is a measure of the imbalance in the
    planetary energy budget, for example, due to increases
    in greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide, ozone,
    and many others), changes in atmospheric aerosols,
    or solar variations.”

    In fact “radiative forcing” is largely determined by internal changes in the system, not by external factors. This is a nice example of how the IPCC “forcings and feedbacks” formalism leads to confusion and muddle. Drs Spencer and Braswell have taken some care to expose this to the light of day in their recent paper.

    Yours sincerely,

    Christopher Game

  17. Growing algae in order to produce oil or gas seems to be a very good idea but why not also use all other kind of sea weed?
    And for that task, fresh water is not necessary at all.
    There is a place in the Atlantic Ocean; South from Bermuda & East of the Caribbean Sea called “The Saragossa Sea”. It is full of sea weeds ready for harvesting. All that is needed is to gather it in and start making oil and gas.

    Oh yes, and then just learn how to grow the stuff ‘en masse’ – Ocean Kelp and Dulis [… fertilizers based on high quality organic seaweed extract(s)] can also go a long way towards making healthy food-stuff for humans and animals alike.

    But once again, grow it where it already does so best – and naturally – In the warm oceans – and for a secondary benefit use the currents to transport it world wide!

    And remember fresh water we need for flushing our toilets and thus is far too valuable for algae production.

    From what I have written so far Dr. Spencer you may quite correctly have deduced that I am not an expert on growing algae. (It’s not in my field so to speak). But I am an ex-mechanical engineer, of the marine variety, that is, and I used to design, build, and for the past 5 years of my career maintain ships & machinery. – Somewhere in between I was a deep sea/ocean going engineer for some 15 years. –

    And you are right; all mechanical engineers are taught thermodynamics and, I do definitely not remember being reprimanded for sleeping during lectures. That is why I am at odds with today’s theories of how the Earth keeps warm.

    To put it simply is to say that what I learnt in those days makes it impossible for me to accept any part of “The Greenhouse Theory”, whether the talk is about a natural or a forced one.

    I have studied many of your own writings where you attempt to explain the greenhouse effect. You are a very good writer and obviously you know your stuff but in each case I find that you can not quite do it when it comes to explaining the “Greenhouse effect” It is almost as if you do not really believe in it yourself.

    For example in “Global Warming 101 ”you say:
    “This is the basic explanation of global warming theory. (The same energy balance concept applies to a pot of water on a stove set on “low”. The water warms until the rate of energy loss through evaporation, convective air currents, and infrared radiation equals the rate of energy gain from the stove, at which point the water remains at a constant temperature. If you turn the heat up a tiny bit more, the temperature of the water will rise again until the extra amount of energy lost by the pot once again equals the energy gained from the stove, at which point a new, warmer equilibrium temperature is reached.)”

    You are putting more heat into the stove and that is what warms the water in the pot. Turn the energy input to the stove down and the water soon cools. -Simple!-

    The tail never wags the dog.

    Furthermore a blanket made of wool, may for a millisecond or less, be warming a man floating in outer space but a blanket woven from the finest Angora – Carbon Dioxide – or “a gas”, if wrapped around a man floating around in the Troposphere will subdue itself to the laws which governs gases and when warmed from the man’s body heat more than it’s surrounding gases it will expand —- etcetera, etcetera. – In other words the gas and body will part company and the gas can no longer influence any body temperature
    And anyway any imagined tropospheric blanket can only contain 0.04% of heat retaining substances, in the form of CO2, anyway.

    And, No Virginia the input from the electric heater seems not to be controlled!

    And lastly, I never learnt how hot air can radiate. Please educate me.

  18. John R T says:


    ´Economics of scarcity´ in advertising travel opportunities.
    —- PR —

  19. John R T says:

    above was a ¨Reply¨
    Leroy Brown says:
    November 18, 2010 at 4:17 PM
    Can someone reflect on the situation in Greenland presented in this article?

  20. Adam Gallon says:

    Response to Leroy Brown (because the reply link doesn’t work properly)
    As John R T points out, you’ve got an advert from a company that offers trips to see something along the lines of “Quick, see it before it goes!”
    Now, ever heard of “Glacier Girl”?
    A P38 Lightening, found in 1988 on the Greenland icecap, well, not actually “on”, but “under” that’s 268ft (Two hundred and sixty-eight feet) under the ice surface.
    Enough snow had fallen and stayed long enough to compact into ice since July 15th 1942, to form ice over 250 feet thick.
    So a bit being lost around the edge as the climate warms, post Little Ice Age, isn’t worrying me much!

  21. Thanks for the information on on demand tank-less hot water heaters. I haven’t decided if this is a do-it-ur-self project I want to to do or not…lol.

  22. Jeff id says:

    “Growing algae, in contrast, is very efficient”

    Doc, like AGW, don’t write this without research. When climatology strays into energy production, everything falls apart.

    Let me correct your sentence according to basic physics.

    “Growing algae, in no contrast, is incredibly inefficient”

    Considering that no algae has exceeded (or appproached) 3% solar energy to oil capture,you have to realize that this is absolutely a non-viable production option for anything but federal dollars. When you look at chlorophyll efficiency you quickly discover that it isn’t possible to do much more than that.

    Algae cannot, and never will work. The math takes only a couple hours with a calculator to figure it out. The human race will never ever produce any energy with algae until we bioengineer 5 times more efficient chlorophyll from scratch.

    I’ve challenged multiple scientists to prove these statements wrong. The fact that I agree with your positions on AGW in general doesn’t change physics though. Do the calcs before suggesting GARBAGE science.

  23. “We have aquifiers, but many are under significant pressure.”

    Aren’t they called geysers? 😉

    Good points though, water use is an issue. I collect the rainwater off my roof, slow sand filter it, and supply my household needs with it. It’s not rocket science, but needs a bit of space and some effort to keep it running nicely.

    There’s a lot of satisfaction in getting it tested , and being asked which spring it came from.

  24. Behold the Four Solaire. The biggest solar reflector of its type in the world, located at the most sunshine hours per year place in Europe – Font Romeu in southwest France.

    They gave up generating electricity with it in the 70’s, and it is now used for nano particle and ceramics research. The focus can reach 4000C or so.

  25. Mac says:

    Hi Roy,

    It only takes 12-15 gallons of water to make a gallon of beer, and most barley is already destined for that market. We should work on a plan to divert the water from obsolete newspapers to beer, the planet would be better off for it (at least the western United States, eh?).

    Good day,

  26. Dan Kirk-Davidoff says:


    Could you watch the level of unprovoked attacks on environmentalism in your posts? I don’t know of any environmental organization that has been pushing subsidies on corn ethanol any time recently. Check out this story from 2007: . Yes, some kind of photosynthetic production of ethanol or diesel would be nice if we can get it without diverting land that would otherwise feed poor people, but everyone in the environmental movement is aware that fermentation of corn kernels for ethanol is a bad way to reduce carbon emissions, and I challenge you to produce a quote indicating otherwise. Quote from Democratic corn-belt senators don’t count!

    The measures that advocacy groups are advocating to address global warming are 1) pushing increased energy efficiency through building codes and automobile regulations 2) shifting of electrical generation away from coal via carbon tax or cap-and-trade and 3) subsidizing research on low carbon power supplies. Sure, when energy bills go through the political process they may wind up getting larded with stuff that cuts their net efficacy, and then the people who pushed for the bills in the first place have to make a judgement call about whether the bill is still worthwhile. This debate was going on actively this summer, when an energy bill still seemed possible in the near term. You can read multiple discussions about it at Grist, for example.

    • Dan, your comments really smacks of “well, our intentions were good….”

      What about the government getting pushed into ethanol subsidies in the first place? Just because many environmentalists NOW recognize its a mistake, everything is ok?

      How about the 20 years (and millions of lives) it took before environmentalists (some of them, anyway), realized that DDT should not have been banned by so many countries?

      And now we are expected to believe environmental activists on global warming policy…so, what if THAT ends up being another mistake they made?

      Do you see a pattern here? I think being suspicious of environmentalist activists is a good going-in position at the outset.

  27. harrywr2 says:

    Dan Kirk-Davidoff says:
    November 22, 2010 at 7:10 AM

    “I don’t know of any environmental organization that has been pushing subsidies on corn ethanol any time recently”

    Obviously you haven’t been following the E-15 debate. No need to push subsidies, just require all gasoline vehicles to run on 15% ethanol blend and require all gasoline to be blended with 15% ethanol.

    The Environmental Protection Agency after all is the only ‘environmental’ group that really matters.

  28. Buzz Belleville says:

    Well said Bill above. It is a straw man I hear far too often that the ‘consensus’ of climate scientists are somehow arguing that climate does not have natural variability. Of course it does. Of course there are natural causes to warming and cooling. No respected “AGW alarmist” has ever argued to the contrary.

    Another straw man, repeated in this article, is that environmentalists (and AGW alarmists) are the ones who continue to prop up ethanol subsidies. Most in the conservation community recognized the net AGW loss from ethanol long ago. It is in fact the farm lobby that is keeping ethanol subsidies alive. The Brands and the Romms and the Lovelocks of the world, not to mention hard-core climate scientists, long ago recognized the net detriment of ethanol to global warming and the fact that corn is among the least efficient of the biomass options.

    Yet another straw man, relayed in the comments repeatedly here and elsewhere, is that environmentalists (and AGW alarmists) are the ones stopping a full scale dive into nuclear as a baseload source. In fact, it is largely the start-up costs associated with nuclear that prevents its deployment on a grander scale, and the GOP keeps shooting down Dem proposals to ease that financial burden. Most who view AGW as a serious concern (including Obama) recognize that nuclear needs to be expanded.

    Finally, letting the markets work is all well and good so long as the price of a transaction truly reflects the societal costs of the goods sold. There is no need for incentives for alternatives so long as the costs of fossil fuel truly reflect its externalities ($120B/yr in health care costs alone, according to the NAS). Until then, those who whine about incentives to alternatives are either uninformed or hypocritical.

  29. Buzz Belleville says:

    Dr Spencer (in response to your most recent comment) — I, as a professor of sustainable energy law and like most good conservationists these days, think ethanol subsidies are counterproductive. But I think your finger of blame is pointing the wrong way in blaming “environmental activists.”

    The ethanol subsidies started in the late 1970s in response to the OPEC scares, and were motivated by (1) energy independence and (2) depressed corn prices. Environmentalism had nothing to do with the Energy Tax Act of 1978. Since then, it has been the farm lobby, most notably the National Corn Growers Association, who has made renewal of the subsidies a top legislative priority. The 1990 CAA Amendments did give ethanol demand a boost by requiring the use of oxygenates as an additive to gasoline to improve air quality in certain areas, but that was not at the top of any conservation group’s agenda. It was the 2005 EPACT (under Bush and a Republican Congress) that went all in on ethanol by mandating the use of billions of gallons of ethanol, with the amount to increase each year. And the amount was upped again with the renewable fuel standard that Bush signed into law in 2007 … solely the result of farm lobby efforts (ask Senator Grassley, R-Iowa), not the environmental lobby.

    I respect your views on climate science, but you’re off base on this straw man.

  30. Stan from Sugar Land says:

    I think the most amusing posts are the “environmentalists” saying hey, it wasn’t us who did whatever, be it ethanol, wrong temps, erronous CO2 data, crappy models, bad assumptions or whatever, someone made us do it – was all you climate change deniers! Re algae – probably as Dr Roy points out the best idea yet. Oil, gaa and coal are derived from organics that get buried in an aneroxic environment, heated and converted, some bacteria are also involved, to oil, gas or coal depending on 1) the organics involved 2) and the burial environment, bacteria, no oxygen, pressure, heat. The organics can vary from algae, think oil shales Utah, Colorado, Wyoming (Green River Shales, thermally immature), yielding paraffanic based oils. Trees, ferns, grasses, etc will yield gas and oils depending on the ultimate temperature at which these get cooked and how transported to final deposition. Typically a good hydrocarbon generating source rock wil require 2-3% total organic content by weight. Mind blowing organic content source rocks – think Bakken in the Williston Basin (ND, SD, MT, Sask) organics approach 35% at the high end, while in the traditional oil and gas we believe the interval is thermally immature – it has generated a huge volume of oil, which may say something about how little we actually know about a whole lot of things!

  31. Plus review. I just stumbled upon your blog along with wanted to assert that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing to your feed and also I hope you review once more , soon.

  32. Kum Dollison says:

    (And thwarting market forces by subsidizing it ends up killing poor people around the world by creating fictitious demand, which sends world corn prices soaring.

    Come on, Doc. There is absolutely NO empirical evidence of this.

    Field corn is eaten by Cattle, not poor people. The cattle are then eaten by Rich people.

    I am naturally inclined to believe in you when you publish on Climate Science, but when you write things this out of line about something I Know Something About, I have to wonder.

    We have, in a couple of years, replaced almost 10% of our gasoline with ethanol, and field corn is still less than $0.10/lb.

  33. MarkR says:

    I agree with Buzz.

    Fossil fuels should include the cost of their externalities – market failures really do exist in completely unregulated markets and there are huge externalities associated with fossil fuels.

    Including, as most climate scientists would say, the potential damages from global warming.

  34. PG says:

    Dr Spencer. How do you reconcile your continued demands for ‘small government’ and for government to ‘get out of our way’ when you currently work in a government bureaucracy employing about 19,000 people?

    Would you prefer the work of NASA, NOAA and NCAR to be handed over to the private sector?

  35. Max Hugoson says:

    Biggest, simplist, “alternate energy” = NUCLEAR.

    I’ve spent 30 years saying this.

    Other alternative, as the CHINESE KNOW is COAL. And there is ENOUGH of that to last 1000+ years.

    All of the “other” options are CRUEL ECONOMIC MILLSTONES to hang on people’s necks. Pure, simple, direct.

    I dropped my ASME Membership 12 years ago because of this “group think” by off by the heirarchy of the ASME.

    I WOULD like to say that this sort of thing is “unprecedented” in human history. But then I do know there was a period of about 150 years, during which the British thought that BATHING was “unhealthy”, and therefore bathed only a few times a year…that, and “Lotus blossem” feet for Giasha’s, plus probably several other (now understood) silly and stupid “public perceptions and believes”, does tell me that it has happened and WILL happen throughout history.

  36. Kevin says:

    Funny thing about those “tank-less” hot water heaters, turns out they are very “fussy” about the water flow rate.

    My Father installed one (from the “more educated” folks in Europe) back in the 1970’s. This was when we were told by the US government that we were going to “run out” of natural gas in 5,10,15,20,… years. Wisely enough he installed it in “parallel” with the “old fashioned” tank type water heater.

    After a few years the “miracle” water heater that was going to save us from running out of natural gas wouldn’t work half the time. Is there anything more annoying than getting in the shower and waiting for the hot water that never comes?

    Turns out he disabled the miracle “tank-less” heater after 5 years or so and fired up the old style heater. About a decade later the supply of natural gas exploded (pun intended) when the government got out of the way and deregulated interstate trade of natural gas.

    After my folks passed away I cleaned up the house prior to selling it and scrapped the “miracle” hot water heater (along with 50 years of other accumulated stuff). As I recall nobody rushed to the curb to “save” it from the landfill.

    Old tricks, old promises, WHERE ARE THE RESULTS ??

    As far as I know before most plumbing shops will install a tank-less water heater they require a survey of the water flow in your residence. I inquired about doing one myself (I am a very very skilled DIY person) and they REFUSED to sell me one. So if they can’t guarantee that a person with average or better skills can do it, why would you trust them to pull it off?

    Cheers, Kevin.

  37. harrywr2 says:

    Max Hugoson says:
    November 24, 2010 at 11:18 AM

    “Other alternative, as the CHINESE KNOW is COAL. And there is ENOUGH of that to last 1000+ years.”

    In 2002 China was exporting steam coal at $27/tonne. Today China is importing steam coal at $116/tonne, some of it from as far away as Wyoming.

    Of the 200 billion tonnes of identified coal in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming about 10 billion tonnes is classed as ‘economically recoverable’.

    Geologically Available and Economically Recoverable are completely different things.

  38. Max Hugoson says:

    In response to Harrywr2:

    Having worked at one time for one of the two major utilities serving Nebraska, I’m aware of the fact that about 40′ below the surface of the Missourri river valley, runs a layer of lignite, about 8500 BTU per lbm, (and 40′ thick) which is the width of the M.R.V. and runs from the Dakotas down to St. Louis.

    If you work out the volume it is HUGE. AND, it turns out the Alberta strip mining practices and experience have shown it could be “harvested” for about 50% extra cost compared to the Powder River Basin. Since the fuel cost in a coal plant is about 30% the production cost, this would make the overall electric cost go up by about 15%.

    If someone said to me: 15% rate increase, lifetime energy…or no rate increase, and “lights out” the choice would be simple. From what I recall, part of the problem with the Chinese coal is that it’s quality IS that of the M.R.V. lignite. Therefore, the 12,000 BTU/Lbm Powder River (and lessor fly ash) can compensate for the “shipping” costs. As I recall, at one time some of our Eastern coal plants were burning coal from POLAND due to it’s high fuel value and low production (and purchase) cost.

    My point about “supply” is that within REASONABLE economics, there are enough sources to last virtually a millenia. AND please note: The Bakken formation is producing significant petroleum now, thanks to horizontal drilling. In the 70’s, although this resource was known, it (as you have pointed out) was completely discounted because of “unfavorable” economics.

    That throws us back, again, to the IMPERATIVE of resolving the AWG allegation, as the sources are NOT a problem, in the short or long run.

  39. Ray says:

    The UK Met. Office has just issued a news release, in advance of the UN Climate Change conference in Cancun.
    While this news release mainly emphasises that the evidence for man made warming has grown stronger over recent years, it does accept that the rate of warming has declined over the last 10 years. In the news release, the M.O. gives one of the possible causes of this decline in the warming rate as “changes in stratospheric water vapour”. It doesn’t say whether the changes were positive or negative, but since I was under the impression that an increase in water vapour would cause an increase in warming, I presume that this implies a reduction in water vapour. Does this make sense?Actually, this news release appears to be a veiled admission that 2010 will not be warmer than 1998, as previously predicted by the M.O.
    The full news release is here:

  40. Andy Roper says:

    I believe I have a confession to make. I recently discovered that the heater in my Garage has been left on since 1975. Therefore this recent warming in Global temperatures may have been entirely my fault. I have now turned off the heater – hopefully avoiding a potentially catastrophic and, frankly, embarrassing event.

  41. Buzz Belleville says:

    Ray — It is a drop in the stratospheric water vapor. The cause is unknown. The info comes from a Jan 2010 article in Science. Here is the Science Daily blurb about it: The cause of the drop is unknown, but it would have a cooling effect. The fact of the drop is counterintuitive to what we know of relative humidity. While today’s models do a good job with water vapor near the surface, this 10-mile-up region is more confounding and has unknown ramifications.

  42. Ray says:

    Buzz, thanks for the reply and the link.
    Of course, while the U.K. M.O. is using a fall in stratospheric water vapour to explain why warming has slowed down, the previous increase COULD have been used as a reason why warming increased during the 1990’s, but I don’t recall that it was. If the reason for the changes in stratospheric water vapour are unknown, doesn’t that mean that the ultimate cause of the unusual warming in the 1990’s is also unknown?

  43. harrywr2 says:

    Max Hugoson,

    The delivered cost of coal in Nebraska is about $1.40/Million BTU. In New Jersey it’s a bit more then $4.00/Million BTU.

    Trains and boats run on oil. Since the price of oil has more then doubled in the last 5 years, the cost of delivering coal has more then doubled.

    In Western Europe the price for imported steam coal is currently about $4.50/Million BTU. The cost for imported coal in Asia(India/Japan/China) is currently running about $5.25/Million BTU.

    Nuclear,Hydro and Wind become reasonably price competitive compared to coal at $5/Million Btu which is probably why China is planning on having 500,000 Megawatts of Nuclear,Hydro and Wind by 2020.

  44. Andy Roper says:

    Hi Roy,

    I have been very interested reading your research and views on this site. It would be great if your views on cloud variation are correct and the Earth’s climate is less sensitive than the current claims by the IPCC.

    However, on a different topic, I have noticed on Wikipedia (Not necessarily the home of sound facts and Science) that you advocate Creationism over Evolution? is this correct?

    Apologies this is off topic, perhaps I should message you a separate way.



  45. What about hydrogen cells? These things cost less than $100 to build and they instantly double your gas milage. Why is gm, ford, and all other car makers not selling these things or even installing them at assembly?

  46. harrywr2 says:

    Alternative Energy

    “What about hydrogen cells?”

    Hydrogen Enhanced Lean Burn engines have been studied.

    It would be a bit more then $100 to introduce on a production vehicle. EPA says any ’emissions related’ device has to be warranted for 100,000 miles.
    There is a saying in manufacturing, $10 on the production floor ends up being $100 on the showroom floor.

  47. Kris says:

    Two remarks: corn-based biofuels did not come from “well-meaning politicians and environmentalists” but were a Bush policy specifically adopted after heavy lobbying from agro-business such as Cargill. The day after Bush announced his targets, The Economist (hardly a paragon of left-wing thinking) warned against exactly what you repeat here in your blog post. This was 3 or 4 years ago.

    Secondly, it’s true that the price of fossil fuels will rise and that there will come a moment that alternative energy sources will be able to compete. However, increases in market price hit people around the world indiscriminately, in practice meaning that the poor are always suffering hardest (a 20% increase of the price of food does not have the same effect on your overall living standard as it does for a subsistence worker in sub-Saharan Africa). The Economist (again) and the Financial Times have since long argued that a global but selective carbon tax whose proceeds would be used to make alternative energy sources more attractive would be much fairer and softer on the poor than letting the market have its way. May be hard to believe for a von Hayek follower, but there are moral limits on markets.

  48. Hi, I just like your posts. Keep up with writing and we hope to read more from you soon.


  49. Roger Wehage, Ph.D. ME says:

    Teaching climate science to mechanical engineers? Nice show.

    I like the expression, “The atmosphere has precious little 39 molecules of CO2 per 100,000 molecules of air.” That sounds much less life threatening than “The concentration of greenhouse gas pollutant CO2 in the atmosphere is 390 parts per million (ppm) and increasing exponentially; it is currently 110 ppm more than the highest estimated values taken from ice core samples representing the past 750,000 years.” Or, “The concentration of greenhouse gas pollutant CH4 in the atmosphere is 1750 parts per billion (ppb); it is currently about 1000 ppb more than the highest estimated values taken from ice core samples representing the past 750,000 years.” Now if I had been attending that ASME conference, I’m sure that if I had heard such shocking news I wouldn’t have gotten much sleep that night. But I didn’t and I didn’t, so not to worry. I’m sure the guest speaker assured the audience that they could keep right on exponentially pouring CO2 and CH4 pollutants into the atmosphere, since it contains so precious few of these life-giving molecules. I believe that most mechanical engineers would agree with the speaker that 0.175 molecules of CH4 per 100,000 molecules of air is not worth losing much sleep over.

  50. harrywr2 says:

    Roger Wehage, Ph.D. ME says:
    “That sounds much less life threatening than “The concentration of greenhouse gas pollutant CO2 in the atmosphere is 390 parts per million (ppm) and increasing exponentially;”

    The price of coal is ‘increasing exponentially’. If you can find an emissions scenario that assumed a coal price in excess of $100/tonne that shows ‘exponential growth’ I would be extremely surprised.
    “Benchmark coal for delivery next month in Northwest Europe has climbed 41 percent this year to $117.25 a metric ton”

  51. actually excellent perspective on the topic and very well written, this certainly has place a spin on my day, numerous thanks from the USA and retain up the excellent work

  52. counsel says:

    I find most “green” supporters don’t know much about the recent ice-age… Will you link to some data/graphs that show historic global average temperatures like the 2billion year graph at tbe PALEOMAP project? That graph is telling everyone that making conclusions from graphs isn’t the best science. We have just begun to start looking at thus field, and i don’t understand why many models of global C are in balance if man’s impact is removed… Thanks for the analyses and data.

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