What I Learned This Decade

In this, my last posting of the decade, I thought I would write something profound. Then I realized I don’t really have anything profound to say today, so at the risk of violating Point 9 below, I thought I would summarize some of the things I have learned since starting this blog.

I am closing in on the 4th anniversary of R-Squared. This essay is my 895th. Based on recent trends, 2010 should bring the one millionth viewer here as well as the one thousandth essay.

I had no high hopes for the blog when I started it. As I told a friend at the time, I looked at it as more like a place to archive some of the research I was doing. My thinking was that there are a million blogs out there, and it would be hard to differentiate mine from the others.

On the other hand, there weren’t a lot of energy-themed blogs covering the specific issues I was looking at. I knew because I was trying to do research on some topics, and ran into a wall of misinformation. So, I would write the stories, mainly for my own reference, until I ran out of things to write about. But on the topic of energy, I would soon find that it is hard to run out of things to write about.

I remember in the beginning that I would get 1 or 2 viewers a day. That changed pretty quickly after Andrew Leonard at Salon linked to one of my ethanol essays. From then on, the number of viewers increased. Shortly after that, one of my essays ended up in the #1 slot on the first page of Reddit. That was only a few months in, and 5,000 viewers linked in from Reddit in a single day.

Of course I have learned a lot since starting the blog. My breadth of knowledge across the energy sector is much greater now than in the beginning. Even so, energy is a huge field, and if I tried to cover all of it the coverage would necessarily be superficial. This is one reason you don’t see more stories here on wind and solar; they are not my core area of expertise so they don’t get a great deal of coverage.

In no particular order, here are some of the other lessons I have learned since starting the blog.

1. Choose my words carefully

I remember this lesson well. The blog readership had grown quite a bit, but I did not really appreciate the diversity of the audience. At that time I was still prone to write blistering, no holds barred critiques of energy companies making outrageous claims. I had written a bit about Coskata, and I felt like their claims were dubious. But then I finally looked a bit deeper, and I wrote Coskata: Dead Man Walking.

Of course I was being flippant with the title, but hey, it’s only my blog. It’s not like I am writing a news story. People know it is my opinion, and thus I can say pretty much what I think. Right?

Then the floodgates opened. I got contacted by the media. I got contacted by investors. I got contacted by the DOE. I even got contacted by Coskata. With the exception of the last one, the others all wanted to know “Are their claims really invalid?” Of course Coskata wanted to let me know that their claims were valid.

But the episode was a turning point in the way I write. I can remember at the time doing a media interview on the story, thinking “Holy Cow! I have to be more careful with my phrasing in the future. That was unnecessarily antagonistic and there are apparently a lot of people reading this stuff.”

Since then, I have tried to exercise more caution. I still maintain that there is no way that Coskata can make ethanol for $1/gallon, but I have to keep in mind that if I write an overly critical story of a company it could influence some investors which could influence the fortunes of the company. (A long shot, but something I have to keep in mind). Thus, I am potentially impacting people’s livelihood with what I write, and as such I have a duty to be very sure about my statements before I make them. No more flippancy or unnecessary antagonism.

2. Don’t make it personal

A friend once said that it is OK to disagree, but you don’t have to be disagreeable. I try to keep this in mind as I debate and engage people. Check the personal stuff and the ad homs at the door. Let’s debate the data, and if the data dictate that my position should move, then it shall move.

3. Not everyone cares about the data

I have learned a lot about how people behave. I have learned that not everyone is interested in objectivity; some are only interested in a very specific viewpoint. In these cases, inconvenient data are either to be rejected outright (That’s absurd!) or discredited (the guy who did the research has a cousin who works for ExxonMobil; thus the study is no good).

Dealing with people like this is never a fair fight, because I am interested in looking at their data. They are only interested in looking at mine if it supports their point of view. Otherwise, they go into the mode of defense attorney attempting to exonerate their client.

4. I love to write

That should be obvious, given that for the past 4 years I have averaged 4.5 essays per week. People often ask “Where do you find the time?” I find the time the same place people find the time to watch TV or play video games (and I do some of that as well, but not so much TV). The fact is that I can type out what’s in my head very quickly. My routine is that I wake up early, read through the latest energy headlines, and write if I see something that I want to comment on. I spend less than an hour on the average essay, so it is not a major time commitment each week. Answering e-mails is a different story, which is why my e-mail address disappeared from the front page.

5. I don’t write well to deadlines

I am prolific when the subject is wide open and there is no schedule involved. When I am writing an article for a website or a publisher, and there is a specific deadline involved, I find that it is much harder to get motivated. There is a different dynamic involved in waking up, seeing a story of interest, and making a post on it than there is if the subject is defined and I have a week to fill in the details.

I have been asked twice about my interest in writing a book, but it would take me 10 times as long to do a book as it would to do enough essays to fill a book. So right now I do a book chapter now and then (I have three that are either published or in process, with another two due next year) and in the back of my mind I hope eventually to pull those chapters together as the basis of a book. But to just sit down and start writing a book? Not at this point in my life.

6. Trying to predict which essays will get a lot of hits is futile

I found out early on that I could spend 3 hours on an essay, pepper it with references and links, and yet another that I spent 10 minutes on may get 5 times as many hits. The essay that ended up on the front page of Reddit was a puzzle to me. I had under 20 essays under my belt at that time, and in fact it was well after I published it that it claimed the top spot on Reddit. But I thought I had written essays that would have been much more deserving. To this day I am puzzled as to why that one made it to the top, and not some others that I think are much better. Here it is: Fuel Efficiency and Lessons from Europe. (Another one claimed the top spot a year or so later, but I don’t even remember which one it was).

In fact, probably the most read essay in the history of this blog is one that I wrote just a couple of months ago. I buried it on the 2nd page of my blog and locked the comments on it. It was off-topic and I didn’t want regular readers to be distracted by it, but I wanted to document something. It was again picked up by Reddit and a number of media outlets, and was read almost 20,000 times in under two weeks. It hasn’t fallen out of the Top 10 since I published it. For the curious, here is that one: Exposing a Two-Bit Scammer. I must warn you that it has zero to do with energy, and should only be read if you are bored and have nothing else to do.

7. Keep an open mind

I pride myself on my objectivity. I consider it a critical aspect of my job and my writing. But I have to constantly guard against slipping into a bunker with a particular ideology, defending against all outsiders. I recognized early on in my blog that most of my essays were anti-ethanol, and that I was starting to come across as an ethanol foe. But that is not a universal truth. I am against aspects of our ethanol policy, and in speaking out against those I sometimes appear to be anti-ethanol without qualification.

But that certainly isn’t the case. I see ethanol as I see other fuels. There are trade-offs. There are vested interests. Some will gain and others will lose. But with this, as with any position, the question I try to keep in mind is “What would cause you to shift your viewpoint?” If the answer to that is “Nothing” then you are truly in the realm of dogma and there is no point discussing data. As I stated earlier, it wouldn’t be a fair debate. But I try to always have an answer to that question in mind. For ethanol, I attempted to answer that question very early on: Improving the Prospects for Grain Ethanol

8. Sometimes you are going to make enemies

I don’t like to make enemies, but when you are speaking out against vested interests you are going to make them. Reasonable people sometimes disagree, but vested interests aren’t necessarily reasonable and their disagreements can quickly become personal. A corn farmer in Iowa isn’t necessarily interested in data that argues against more corn production. (In fact, I got a death ‘wish’ from a corn farmer once; one of maybe half a dozen threats/wishes I have received).

So if you have convictions, even if they are data-based, you are going to make some enemies if you speak out on them. This is especially true when dealing with vested interests. It is simply impossible to please everyone.

9. Don’t force content

While I have written a lot of essays over the past four years, I have had some periods of time in which I didn’t really have anything topical to put out there for a week or more. That has led me at times to post guest essays or 3rd party content that really weren’t up to the standards I have set for this blog. Worse, I have been occasionally guilty of that myself by quickly throwing something together and publishing it. I can avoid this by refusing to listen to the inner voice that says “It’s been a week. You really need to publish something.” If I maintain discipline, then I will only post when there is something worth posting, even if that means I don’t put anything up for a month.

10. The spam bots are getting much better

It won’t be long before I have to start locking comments on the essays that scroll off of the first page. The spam bots – those that write something like “Great blog” with a link to some off-topic business – have gotten much better at breaking through the word verification than they were even a year ago. I get an e-mail of every single comment posted, so I am able to catch and delete all spam, but it is taking more of my time every day.

11. I learn a lot from the comments

The blog would not have continued had it not been for so much good feedback that I received. I find myself learning an awful lot from reading comments. Often, it is through the comments that I first learn of a new development or a new research paper.  The comments also frequently force me to reevaluate my positions, which is something I value greatly.

12. Self-link to my previous essays

Some people may have noticed that I almost always link each essay back to a previous essay. That isn’t so much about self-promotion as it is about maintaining a connection when others pick up and republish an essay. I have given permission to many other websites to republish content as long as there is a note that indicates the origin of the essay. Still, some websites will grab essays and republish content as their own. By putting links in, readers can be linked back here, and since I have a StatCounter that indicates where visitors came from, I can spot the websites that are republishing content as their own.

13. There is no money in this

If I was trying to make a living at this, I would have to move to one of those countries where you can live on $2 a day. Of course I am not doing this for money, nor have I ever tried to write in a way that would maximize ad revenue.  If I was trying to write for a living, I would have picked a different topic, like Hollywood Gossip. Of course then I would have to start watching TV, and who has time for that?

On the other hand, there have been a lot of opportunities that have arisen as a result of the blog. I have had numerous job offers/inquiries since I started this, I have been asked to write for books and magazines, and I have given media interviews and made presentations. This increases the audience that I can reach.

14. People’s interest in energy goes up and down with the price of oil

It is really hard to get people engaged on energy unless prices are climbing. To this day, the query that most frequently brings readers in for the first time is “Why are oil/gas prices rising?” If prices aren’t rising, people don’t care and there isn’t much interest in energy policy. But we have lived through interesting times since I started the blog; prices steadily climbing for the most part. When they level off, the number of readers falls.

So that’s a bit of what I have learned, and hopefully those lessons have improved the quality of the essays over the past four years. May we continue to live during interesting times, so there will be lots of new stories to report on.

Happy New Year to everyone.

95 thoughts on “What I Learned This Decade”

  1. Well, here's a "developing" story to which I don't think anyone, other than a few "savvy" traders, is paying much attention.

    If it's true that we're drawing a million barrels/day out of floating storage, and if it's true that the OECD nations are drawing a million barrels/day of product out of inventories,

    Then, in about 5 months, or so, we're going to wake up to the fact that the Equivalent of Two, One Million Barrel/Day Oil Fields have Quit "Producing."

    Two Million Barrels/Day is a lot of oil, buckaroos. Especially when you're trying to revive moribund economies.

  2. Rufus – look at TWIP and you will see why. US crude inventories in 2009 have exceeded the top of the 5 year range for the entire year. There is little mystery in this. Crude was selling for $35 a year ago and is $79 today. For most of the year you could buy physical crude that day store it, and sell into the futures market and make a tidy profit. There was a whole fleet of tankers parked off the coast of Malaysia full of crude that is now getting worked off.

  3. In this, my last posting of the decade,


    Small point, but the decade doesn't end for another 366 days – on 31 Dec 2010.

    The year 2000 was the last year of the second millennium, and the last year of the decade 1991 thru 2000. The current decade runs from 2001 through the end of 2010.

    Happy New Year!

  4. I understand that, K. And, at the same time we (the OECD) are working off inventories (mostly, products) to the tune of about A Million Barrels/Day.

    In other words, even before we've really gotten on our feet, we're using Two Million Barrels/Day more than the "producers" are producing.

    At the present rate that Two Million Barrels/Day will go away somewhere around May, or June.

    Add that to the fact that "Our" Trucks are starting to move, again, and that China, India, and the OPEC nations are steadily increasing their Consumption of oil (it looks like between 1.5 and 2.0 Million bpd, annually,) and it's looking more, and more like a big ol' brick wall dead ahead.

    Oh, wait, I forgot. Saudi Arabia has umpteen gazillion barrels/day "spare capacity." They just misplaced it in July '08 when the price hit $147.00 Barrel. But, they're going to bring it out this summer, and save our bacon.

    There; I feel better now.

  5. Nope, 12:00 tomorrow night is the end of the decade of the "oughties."

    Just like Dec 31, 1999 was the end of the "nineties."

    1960 belonged to the "sixties."

    The Decades start with a year whose last digit is zero.

  6. Sorry for an off topic post, but on the previous thread someone mentioned the volt being $40K, it should be mentioned that the gov. gives a $7500 tax credit for buying one and the Canadian gov. is offering a $10k tax credit. Seems this would put the price level in reach for many drivers.

    I see tons of Chevy Tahoes and such on the road every single day. Those are over $40K brand new, just sayin'


  7. Of course, the Chevy Volt, itself, doesn't have to be a "success" for the technology to be a success.

    For instance, it might be "rebranded," and come back as a Cadillac. Or, the batteries might become cheaper, albeit, too late for the Volt. Which means "It" might go away, but the second adapter (Toyota, maybe) will be the one to "Jackpot.")

    The "Second" decade should tell the tale.

  8. Great blog, the best in the energy field.
    Your lessons from writing ring true–I was a professional writer and journalist for many years.
    There is an old expression, probably forgotten by now: "When a newsreporter sits down by his typewriter, he has no friends."
    The longer you are a reporter, the more that sentence makes sense.
    In the end, you can only call it like you see it.
    Good job.

  9. RR –

    As a college sophomore (environmental studies/political science double major at Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA) who has to deal with fellow students who think they know everything about energy/environment but actually just know what commentators with their preferred ideology think, your blog is a VERY refreshing breath of fresh air!

    Reading this blog has seriously enhanced my knowledge base, and I am thankful that you take the time to write here. I find your insight to be very balanced and free of an ideological standpoint, and I trust your writing very much.

    Your "spat" with the author over sustainable forestry and biomass has lead me to enroll in a class that teaches the scientific foundations of environmental studies.

    Please keep up it up!

    Best to you in the new year!

  10. Happy new decade to you, too, Robert!

    I've been enjoying your posts most of these four years, and had the pleasure of meeting you at the Sacramento ASPO conference.

    One topic I miss is your old gasoline supply updates from "This Week in Petroleum" – how are we doing these days, compared to then?

  11. Thanks for the great blog!

    My most common complaint is someone blogging from conviction rather than knowledge. To many from both extremes have this burning desire to force their viewpoint on everyone.

    Guess it is the old thing about, if you repeat a lie enough times it becomes the truth – at least to the writer and their friends.

    Your faith in data is well placed. Good data at least gives a possibility of good results.

    Looking forward to hearing more about your process as is possible.

  12. Indeed, maybe the whole story about coskata was rather extensive, but their and other companies announcements are also very strong with little "true data" shown, and people are skeptical and appreciate that someone with more insight is capable of doing and showing the calculations and how reasonable their claims are… too bad for coskata to have been the one mentioned, but it just holds to most of these projects… and oil companies just put some in any of these projects to show their interest in other alternatives!

    it doesn't go only about which feedstock, but all the other requirements involved in the whole process and it just freaks me out how using some keywords can make others irrational…

    I still believe/hope these or other solutions may have some interest locally, as you already mentioned if coupled with other processes, either waste conversion or secondary production, but not a global solution for transport fuel.

    On the other hand, if it's not this big no money is involved and little research is done and little progress happens. And as a scientist i prefer to dedicate myself to these issues (energy/sustainability/white biotech/environment), instead of developing new medicines for whatever use, but by the end, what drives(/is behind) it all, is not that different…


  13. I'm a terrible typist. I subscribe to the K.I.S.S principle.Thus far my diesel engine runs on svo/wvo.Am now going into wood gasification for the spark engine plus all that can be powered by wood gas.(which goes along with your renewable forest.)I believe renewables can be more of an offset.(e.g. start and/or run a percentage of fossil fuels.) The thrust of this effort is for a small community to be able to make a percentage of energy themselves with very simple tech. and infrastructure.

  14. The Decades start with a year whose last digit is zero.

    Negative. That's the popular misconception, but it's not correct. Let's try this thought experiment:

    I owe you ten dollars (a "decade" of dollars). I start laying dollar bills on the table and counting. Are you going to be happy if I stop laying dollars on the table when I get to nine?

    A decade is one through ten ~ not zero through nine.

  15. aol.comCongratulations, Robert! You have accomplished something quite unusual with your blog. And you serve as an object lesson for those of us who can never quite get our act together.

    One observation, if I can offer the following without sounding snarky. It certainly is not intended that way.

    The Master laid out the Rock Solid Standard: "Let's debate the data, and if the data dictate that my position should move, then it shall move."

    We all have blind spots, and yours is Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming. You have said in the past that you are just too busy to study the data in that field — which is understandable, albeit leaving you with a big blank hole in an area which could have a lot of influence on our energy future.

    Then you say that, since you don't know anything about it, you default to lining up behind the "concensus" — even though everyone knows that "concensus" is meaningless in scientific terms, and that there are substantial numbers of active scientists who have severe reservations about the IPCC's "consensus". That much was obvious long before the Climategate confirmation of data manipulation by key IPCC figures.

    That default position is not so reasonable — although I do understand that you would be off of a whole lot of Christmas card lists if you came out and said that you simply do not have the information to support any view on Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming, for or against.

    Here's a constructive suggestion for a gentleman with your voracious appetite for reading. Fred Singer wrote a book a couple of years ago titled "Unstoppable Global Warming, Every 1,500 Years".

    I had seen reviews of it, but thought ho-hum. Recently, I picked up a copy in a used book store to read on a flight, in the absence of anything better.

    Page 32, Figure 2.1 reproduces data from Soon's (peer-reviewed) article from Geophysical Research Letters (2005). The figures show Arctic temperatures from about 1875 to about 2002, overlaid with atmospheric CO2 and with a proxy for solar activity. There is no correlation to CO2, and a staggeringly good correlation to solar activity. Worth your taking a look at sometime.

    The impact on future human energy sources could be very liberating. Since the CO2 mechanism for Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming does not hold up scientifically, we can consider large-scale long-term transportation fuel sources such as "mining" liquid hydrocarbons from tar sands & oil shales with nuclear energy.

    Here's wishing you a Happy New Year, and every success in 2010!

  16. Thanks so much for your work over the years. I think especially of articles like your critiques of Hubbert Linerization, which rightly pointed out glaring flaws in what so many accepted as gospel, predicating their beliefs accordingly. It is rare to find somewhat with solid insight and real objectivity; so many start with a desired outcome and work backwards, an intellectually shallow modus.

    Best wishes for the coming decade, and keep your powder dry for Peak Lite!

  17. “I subscribe to the K.I.S.S principle.”

    Me too, we buy transportation fuel from Shell and electricity from AEP. At the refinery and power plant there industrial hygiene professionals checking the air quality of the workers. Cooking biodiesel on the kitchen stove might not be so good for rugrats.

    Keep it safe stupid. There are some cases where safe and simple correspond.

    An air tight wood stove is a simple solution to replace fuel oil for home heating.

    I also buy my nails at the hardware store. It is called division of labor.

    I am in favor of community scale renewable energy protects. Let say we have 5 projects producing transportation fuel or electricity to meet local demand, weekly safety meeting can be held via the internent

  18. “We all have blind spots, and yours is Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming.”

    Kinu has one too, arguing for the wrong reasons. While I am an AGW skeptic, I do not see a reason to not consider ghg gas emissions as one of many criteria. AD of dairy farm manure, wood waste, and nuclear power top my list of good ways to make base load electricity while also not contributing to AGW.

    I agree with RR that we focus our efforts discussing solutions.

  19. "Are you going to be happy if I stop laying dollars on the table when I get to nine?"

    No, but I will be if you stop laying them on the table when you get to the end of nine. That's where we are right now: The end, not the beginning of nine. 1-1-09 would be equal to $9.00, and 12-31-09 is equal to $9.99.

  20. I, also, like This for the Southwest.

    Nevada Solar One

    At $0.10 kwh it will pay for itself in 20 years, it looks like; and at $0.20 kwh about 10 years.

    May not be so hot for Seattle, but it looks pretty good to me for Phoenix, and LA.

  21. @Rufus – They claim between 9 & 12 cents but no backup for that. What all is included – Who knows?

    Peaking power only with no heat storage plus a water hog at 2.5 to 3 liters per kWh.

    The latest projects are starting to use heat storage and air cooling which helps.

    İt is a start but well short of the finish line.

  22. Sure, Russ; it's a "supplement." But, in the heavily "air conditioned" Southwest it looks to me like it makes a little sense.

  23. 12-31-09 is equal to $9.99.

    'tis not. The first decade was the years 1 through 10. The second decade 11 through 20. Third decade 21 through 30, etc.

    Why would we stop using that scheme now that we are in the 201st decade? The 201st decade would be the years 2001 through 2010 ~ not 2000 through 2009.

  24. "The first decade was the years 1 through 10."

    How do you know whether year 1 began at the start of year 1 (end of Year 0) or the end of year 1? I don't think they started tabulating the years until later on. In other words, after 1 year had passed, was it 1/1/0001 or 1/1/0002?

    In any case, I recall this argument in 2000 that the new millenium wouldn't start until 2001. Those technicalities, whether true or not, were ignored by 99.99% of the population who celebrated on 1/1/00.

  25. Great Blog! Buy high quality hair pieces at http://www...

    I have also learned a few things. Human nature is ugly, and unstable personalities can be physically dangerous.

    Just the other day a commenter offered to rearrange my face for critiquing corn ethanol.

    I've had people call me at home to make threats.

    Pissing off billionaires is also an iffy thing to do. One letter from a billionaire will make whoever you may write for pee their pants.

    The advantage of being an independent blogger is that you can be open. Writing for a living would force you to throttle your opinions, or get fired.

    Commenters will keep you honest.

    Speaking truth to power usually comes with a price. Powerful people are not powerful because they are smarter than everyone else.

    I play basketball. A buddy of mine once saw another player get shot in the head. I personally once watched another player try to shoot another player.

    If people are willing to shoot each other for losing a basketball game, why not for losing an internet debate?

    Spambot users are criminals, shutting down the dissemination of information, and worst of all, debate.

    Every comment field is different, with each using different methods in an attempt to control the spammers. If only there were a way to get your hands around their pencil necks…

    Having to wait for a moderator to approve a post slows debate down. And worse yet, having a moderator toss the comment you invested time and effort in just because it had links back to your own blog essays is very demotivating.

    I use my posts for reference quite often, for similar reasons.

    I recently had a comment rejected from the Huff Po under an article by the CEO of the RFA. It had no links. It was perfectly civil so the reason for it never showing up will never be known. It inspired me to write a blog post.

    Who wants to debate on a site that may not publish what you write? This happens at the NYT, Huff Po, and various other blogs, all because of the spammers, or advertisers.

    Other sites restrict the length of essays. Others don't allow any html, so debate becomes a liar's club with nobody able to link to sources.

    Anonymity may protect from attack, but it also emboldens the attackers to say things they would never have the balls to say to a guy on the next bar stool, and it also seems to free them from telling the truth, spinning yarns like shooting a shotgun, hoping one of them hits a mark.

    The last remaining hominid species on the planet is by and large, and by most definitions, an utterly self-interested, deceptive, and self-deceived monster that isn't nearly as bright, or good looking, as it thinks it is.

  26. First of all, thanks to everyone for the kind comments. Let me address a couple of questions/comments (as I watch OU try to pull the game out against Stanford).

    One topic I miss is your old gasoline supply updates from "This Week in Petroleum" – how are we doing these days, compared to then?

    There just hasn’t been much to report this year. Inventories have been in good shape all year. A couple of years ago when inventories fell so low – that was an interesting period of time because it set up the first run to $3 gasoline.

    I recently had a comment rejected from the Huff Po under an article by the CEO of the RFA.

    I have had the same experience at Huff Po:

    Due to Censorship at Huffington Post….

    If you look at the comments following that post, you will see others talking about their experience there. After it happened to me I quit trying to comment over there. It is one thing to censor personal attacks, ads, and such. They are censoring legitimate criticisms of some of the tripe they post.


  27. Oh, wait, I forgot. Saudi Arabia has umpteen gazillion barrels/day "spare capacity." They just misplaced it in July '08 when the price hit $147.00 Barrel. But, they're going to bring it out this summer, and save our bacon.

    There; I feel better now.
    Now you're sounding like the White House, for both parties!

    Energy independence, they both say. With striaght faces. Ever wondered why his nose was so brown?

    Small point, but the decade doesn't end for another 366 days – on 31 Dec 2010.
    Oh, look at me! I'm SUCH a smart one! Sorry Wendell, since this was only (mis)calculated several hundred years later, it is much simpler to go with the Rufus rule: The Decades start with a year whose last digit is zero.

    Happy new decade, everybody!

  28. Oh, and happy new year!

    Kinuachdrach said…

    "..I do understand that you would be off of a whole lot of Christmas card lists if you came out and said that you simply do not have the information to support any view on Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming, for or against.."

    Unlike the Armchair Climatologists, those who acknowledge that they are not qualified to peer review climate research, don't attempt to do so.

    There are hundreds of books published annually about UFOs and aliens, but virtually no peer reviewed science, and we all know why. It has nothing to do with passing muster to get your research into peer reviewed science journals, as with climate change, it's a colossal cover up, a world government conspiracy ; )

  29. Happy New Year, everyone.

    Oh, and I might recommend you snug them seatbelts up real tight. This one (decade) could be quite a ride.

  30. Kinu,

    You described the high degree of correlation between temperatures in the arctic and a proxy for solar activity.

    Based on that information and ignoring the fact that it's a local, not a global, dataset, we've learned nothing about AGW, except perhaps that more than one sail moves the boat. To say otherwise would be to use false dichotomy.


  31. Kinu said: "We all have blind spots, and yours is Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming."

    Without meaning to be snarky either, Kinuachdrach, so far I've counted several utterly baseless claims you've made here about global warming. I'd much prefer a fence-sitting R-Squared than the opinions you've dished up so far.

  32. "… we've learned nothing about AGW …"

    Au contraire, dear anonymous.

    The only scientific mechanism that has been proposed for Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming is that anthropogenically-sourced CO2, a radiatively active gas, modifies heat transfer in the atmosphere resulting in (scary!) Global Warming.

    That is a hypothesis. Scientific hypotheses must make testable predictions. In this case, one prediction is that there is a strong correlation between atmospheric CO2 and global temperature (however that may be defined).

    The point of the data in Soon's paper is that the Alleged Anthropgenic Global Warming hypothesis fails the test. The hypothesis can be revised, for sure, but it cannot be accepted as it stands. That may be disappointing to you personally, but that is Science!

    RR's approach is the right one — Let's start with the data. Why don't you read the book, review the papers referenced in the book, then let us all know what you think — and why.

    Dr. Samuel Johnson (surely you know who he was, anonymous?) once wrote: "A man may be convinced against his will, but never pleased." There's a thought for you to begin the new year. Let's hope it's a good one.

  33. "I'd much prefer a fence-sitting R-Squared than the opinions you've dished up so far."

    Pete – I have no problem with fence-sitting.

    The problem is with saying one is fence-sitting while functionally lining up on the side of political correctness.

    Personally, I have no idea whether the Higgs boson exists. I'm on the fence. But I don't go around saying that, in the meantime, I will support an alleged scientific consensus that the Higgs boson exists until someone proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that it does not.

    And if we all happened to find out that the people at CERN were fudging the data to make it seem that the Higgs boson exists (which ain't going to happen – those guys are Scientists!), it might make me reconsider my fence-sitting!

    Here's wishing you personally a great New Year, Pete. May 2010 be the best year yet for you & all the good people of Ireland.

  34. Happy New Year to all!

    Here in northern Minnesota it is -4 F (-20 C). We just shot fireworks off out on the lake. Ice was 20 inches thick before plowing and getting thicker. No sign of global warming here.

    Ethanol will be the fuel of choice for the rest of the nights activities.

    Robert mentioned his Coskata episode (#1). I was talking to a colleague about some work he was doing on a new separation technique for biofuel production. I mentioned Coskata, because their separation seems to be a big part of what they claim to be doing. He laughed and said that PR is what they do best.

  35. It is much simpler to go with the Rufus rule: The Decades start with a year whose last digit is zero.

    It may be simpler, but it is not correct. That would have meant the first decade (Year 0001 through 0009) was only nine years long.

  36. but on the previous thread someone mentioned the volt being $40K, it should be mentioned that the gov. gives a $7500 tax credit for buying one and the Canadian gov. is offering a $10k tax credit. Seems this would put the price level in reach for many drivers.


    Any business plan that relies on tax credits is seriously flawed. That means whether or not the Volt will be a business success is a function of the whimsy of politicians instead of the soundness of the product and their business model.

    If GM is relying on government tax credits and/or subsidies for the Volt to be successful, that puts the Volt in the same league as corn ethanol.

  37. First: To Robert: Thank you very much for your efforts. I have learned a lot.

    Second: to all: Happy New Year, May you have a good, and healthy, New Year.

  38. The problem is with saying one is fence-sitting while functionally lining up on the side of political correctness.

    It isn’t political correctness. It is in fact the standard that most of us apply all the time. If you ask me for the best treatment for lymphoma, I am going to defer to the experts. Now a few years ago, they might have steered me wrong on ulcer treatments, because in fact the conventional wisdom on ulcer treatments was wrong. The conventional wisdom was eventually overturned – by other experts.

    So I let the experts – the people who deal with this stuff every day – hash it out. What I am opposed to is the level of rancor in the debate. I am also opposed to science being driven by agendas. But the experts generally get it right in time.


    P.S. No New Year for me yet. I still have almost 3 hours to go.

  39. I mentioned Coskata, because their separation seems to be a big part of what they claim to be doing. He laughed and said that PR is what they do best.

    That's really the reason I went after them. I know a bit about separations. In fact, early in my career it is what I specialized in. I thought some of the things they were throwing out there were pretty funny. It seemed like the term "membrane separation" gave their technology some kind of magical quality in some people's eyes.

    Membranes aren't new. There is a reason that they aren't widely used for separations. They don't have nearly the versatility of distillation. And they are definitely problematic for trying to take a 4% solution of ethanol to fuel grade.

    I don't regret going after them, though. But I wouldn't do it in the exact same way again.


  40. "If I was trying to make a living at this, I would have to move to one of those countries where you can live on $2 a day".

    It's amazing how often the faulty folk wisdom in this turns up. An outsider living just on cash in one of those countries would have to spend rather more than $2 a day to do it, because people living "on" that are usually only using it as a top up. Just today I emailed Counterpunch the following about one of Patrick Cockburn's articles:-

    Patrick Cockburn writes that Yemen has "almost half its 22 million people trying to live on $2 a day".

    While I cannot comment on the specific circumstances of Yemen, this is perpetuating a widespread misunderstanding of how such things work out in developing countries in general. Almost by definition, in such places the economy is not a pure cash economy as in developed countries but there is a combination of cash and subsistence activity with neither enough on its own for survival. This is usually because outside globalising processes have made the subsistence resources inadequate (e.g. by effectively removing land and/or water rights, or with cash taxes), an effect which in turn forces people to compete so much for cash work that they bid wages down to very low levels, a condition which is sustainable as cash wages are only needed for a top up. Consequently the "$2 a day" is a very necessary top up for subsistence activity, and as such a real marker for poverty, but people are NOT trying to live "on" it; that would be physically impossible in even the medium term. It seems likely that this pattern obtains in Yemen as in other developing countries.

  41. Kinu,

    Sorry if I wasn't clear on the false dichotomy. I didn't like the suggestion that global temperatures being linked to any one driver could be used as evidence against any other driver. It's not an either or question. Does solar activity impact global temperatures? The correlation you cited suggests it does. Does that mean that GHGs have no impact? No, there is no mutual exclusivity. Ditto the pacific decadal oscillation or ice against open ocean ratios.

    You mentioned that looking at the data is the best way to draw a solid conclusion(as has Robert). I agree data is key, but I think logic is even more important. Apply fallacious logic to good data and the resulting conclusion is worthless.

    Since measuring the output of a system with as many interactions as the Earth's atmosphere isn't ever going to be clean, why not build the case from the opposite end:

    1) The GHG effect exists – some gasses (such as water vapour) effectively trap heat in the atmosphere. True or false?
    2) CO2 is a GHG. True or false?

    Which of those statements do you flag as false? From there, add the anthropogenic part:

    3) CO2 concentrations are higher than they've been in the past. True or false?
    4) Humans have contributed to those higher CO2 concentrations. True or false?

    Somewhere, one of those four links is the weak one. Which is it (so we can focus on only the one)?

    Cheers and Happy New Year.

  42. P.M. Lawerence – it is easy to understand you have never lived in the poorer parts of Asia.

    With or without globalization, people would be living on 2 dollars per day – that has nothing to do with anything.

    İn İndia and many other places many live on less than 2 dollars – there is no top up! İt is not on top of subsistence farming or anything else.

    This is one of the liberal bogeymen out there – all the fault of globalization – not at all.

  43. Kinu – thanks for the mention of Soon's paper … I hadn't come across it and it looks interesting on first speed-read. (It's this one, isn't it?).

    Happy New Year. You'll be happy to know the year has started here with unprecedented heavy snow … must be the Al Gore effect.

  44. RR,

    I think it is a wise decision for you not to post on AGW. It is a rathole that can burn a whole year of posts and comments. I'm sure that readers can find that conversation at many other places.Thank you for spending time on other subjects.

    Your post got me thinking about what I have learned from reading your blog (and similar ones) during the past year.

    I see that every attempt to come up with new energy source or improve existing one has many facets.

    Press releases,news articles and technology announcements tell part of the story. The complete picture is not always thought through, completely divulged, not good press or is just unknowable.

    There are people who benefit from the new technologies or belief systems who think one way and others who benefit from alternatives or squashing other technologies who think the opposite. A person who is paid to think one way finds it impossible to think the other way.

    I do think there are a number of people who post on blogs and comments on blogs who care less on the facts than on squashing or promoting a point of view. Uncertain if some of these commenters are on a covert compensated mission, stock market touts or just gadflys like myself.
    I think most of us are just people who are interested.

    I appreciate your attempts to be a fact based/data based blog and to encourage conversations. I'm sure this has lead to your large following and professionally interesting energy projects to find you.

    Happy New Year Everyone,
    Jim Takchess

  45. “Without meaning to be snarky either ..”

    As I have said before, people PeteS are the reason that I do not like to debate AGW. I took the time to read the links PeteS posted. It was scare mongering propaganda masquerading scientific literature. I do not blame PeteS for being taken in, it was very slick propaganda.

    To be sure, I am a skeptic and not fence sitting. In my opinion, PeteS has provided no claims that have merit. PeteS missed the point, I was not saying Kinu position on AGW was unfounded. I am saying that I would rather debate solutions to environmental issues.

  46. Willie Soon is an astrophysicist, not a climatologist. His studies are localized and thus fail to assess what conditions were globally; this RealClimate piece sums up his shortcomings. Over a dozen studies have supported the hockey stick hypothesis.

    If you can refute every chapter in The Copenhagen Diagnosis you'll be on your way to proving that CO2 is wholly irrelevant to global temperature. Good luck with that.

    Years ago Robert posted an image of the Keeling curve, commenting on how inexorable the rise in CO2 was, even when measured emissions dropped in the early 80s. Here's an article I found that has a chart which shows much greater variability and detail, which may be of interest.

  47. Rufus wrote,

    “I, also, like This for the Southwest. Nevada Solar One

    At $0.10 kwh it will pay for itself in 20 years,..”

    How do you figure that? Your link provided no information on how much electricity was produced, what the O&M cost, or what the contracted price for electricity was.

    The reason I am skeptical about Nevada Solar One is that there are not recent press releases. Operators of steam love to brag about performance. My heat rate is better than yous. Well my capacity factor is better than yours.

    What I learned in the 90s was that there was no public tolerance for nuke plants that were not reliable and therefore expensive. A few plants were shut down early.

    What I learned this decade is that there is public acceptance to extending the life of nuke plant 20 years if it is producing the cheapest electricity in the state. This has lead to public acceptance for new nukes. If you have a reliable old nuke that is paid off, it is not a leap of logic to see a time when the new nuke will be an old paid off nuke.

    The good news for solar thermal is that the companies that bought unreliable nukes and turned them into reliable nukes, have bought unreliable solar thermal. I have not seen any data yet on what it is costing rate payers in California.

  48. Anonymous wrote (inter alia): "Since measuring the output of a system with as many interactions as the Earth's atmosphere isn't ever going to be clean, why not build the case from the opposite end:"

    Because "logic" which is not constrained by data may describe an alternate universe. That is the basic problem with the mathematical models used to come up with scary predictions on
    Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming. The models tell us only the consequences of the assumptions made – not whether those assumptions are correct.

    You started your post, Anonymous, by acknowledging that there are many factors which influence climate. Most of them are natural. If you then want to make the claim that anthropogenic CO2 outweighs all the other factors, then you need to quantify it. "Logic" alone won't do it. You need data.

    For example, your "logic" chain fails to note the obvious — the concentration of the main radiatively active gas in the atmosphere (water vapor) is up to 3 orders of magnitude higher than that of CO2. Guess which dominates? "Logically", of course.

    RR is right — Start with the data.

  49. Pete — looks like some similar data was reported in that Soon paper. However, the one referenced in Dr. Singer's book was:
    W. Soon
    "Variable solar irradiance as a plausible agent for multidecadal variations in the Arctic-wide surface air temperature record of the past 130 years".
    Geophysical Research Letters 32 (2005)

  50. KLR amazingly wrote: "Over a dozen studies have supported the hockey stick hypothesis."

    Earth to KLR! — There is extensive independent historical data that the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age really happened. Things like the Romans growing grapes in England, and the Rive Thames freezing over.

    The climate change denialists at RealClimate wanted everyone to believe their lying statistics and ignore the evidence of historians eyes.

    You do know, KLR, that Gavin Schmidt of RealClimate is up to his neck in the data fudging & cover up confirmed by ClimateGate? Not a credible source.

  51. Kit P said: "As I have said before, people PeteS are the reason that I do not like to debate AGW".

    I guess I am getting used to your standard MO … starting with ad hominem snarks. However, it won't stop me mentioning (again) that it has nothing to do with the merits of any argument.

    I took the time to read the links PeteS posted. It was scare mongering propaganda masquerading scientific literature.

    You didn't mention which links. Nor do you provide any argument whatsoever, apart from your own opinion. I believe all or most of the links I've posted have been to organisations and publications doing actual science, not opinion pieces or propaganda, to my knowledge. You DO realise that your mere assertion to the contrary is not going to carry much weight with anyone who cares about FACTS. Especially since you've already posted here that one of your main arguments against AGW is that it is "doomsterish".

    "I do not blame PeteS for being taken in, it was very slick propaganda."

    a) You seem to be assuming that I accept the theory of AGW, which I haven't said I do; b) you claimed to have read the Copenhagen Diagnosis, but it is a summary paper with links to 250 research papers. How many of those did you read? (You chose not to answer last time I asked). What's the basis of your "propaganda" assertion? Have you actually read the details?

    "In my opinion, PeteS has provided no claims that have merit."

    I haven't provided any claims at all. I have merely posted some links in response to some of the more ideological arguments propounded here. I think it is important to reference the actual science. I've certainly not said I am persuaded by all of it.

    "PeteS missed the point, I was not saying Kinu position on AGW was unfounded."

    With respect, it is a bit pompous to suggest that I was responding to your point at all … something that I've been avoiding doing since you sank below zero on my credibility scale some time back. On rechecking, I don't see that any of my posts in this thread mention any point you made.

    "I am saying that I would rather debate solutions to environmental issues."

    That, perhaps, we can all go for.

  52. I still stop by and read most everything you post, but I have severely cut down commenting on Internet forums in general. I believe I have learned two things in the last four years (no, I didn't know either five years ago):
    1. Being right and being at peace are usually mutually exclusive.
    And from Bucky Fuller:
    2. I learned very early and painfully that you have to decide at the outset whether you are trying to make money or to make sense, as they are mutually exclusive.

    Happy New Year! Keep up the writing and best wishes to you and your family.

  53. Russ wrote "P.M. Lawerence [sic] – it is easy to understand you have never lived in the poorer parts of Asia".

    Er… that is what is called jumping to a conclusion. It so happens that I spent much of my childhood and adolescence in Southwest Asia and central and West Africa (Iraq, the Belgian Congo, Turkey, Ghana and Nigeria), which drew my attention to such things enough that I have kept tracking them.

    "With or without globalization, people would be living on 2 dollars per day – that has nothing to do with anything".

    No; if they all had their former access to resources, proportionately fewer of them would be bidding wage levels down. There is ample historical evidence that colonialists couldn't get enough locals to work for money, even at high wages, until they changed the rules in various ways to encourage it (those countries were not so much developing as undeveloped then). I suppose you could say that the present round of globalisation didn't cause all the pressures – but on the other hand, it is adding to pressures which people had somewhat adjusted to.

    "In India and many other places many live on less than 2 dollars – there is no top up! It is not on top of subsistence farming or anything else."

    Er… not for very long, they don't live like that. You will find on closer inspection that the group with no subsistence resources is continually being refilled with new entrants who did have some until very recently. Over time, people aren't in the set with few cash resources and no subsistence resources – it's a life cycle snapshot. Hopefully the arrival of new entrants makes it possible for older members of that set to climb to higher levels rather than perishing.

    "This is one of the liberal bogeymen out there – all the fault of globalization – not at all".

    More jumping to a conclusion. Did I say that it was all the fault of globalisation? Did you not spot the qualification I wrote?

  54. Speaking of very slick fear mongering propaganda, KLR wrote,

    “If you can refute every chapter in The Copenhagen Diagnosis ..”

    So KLR that is a nice tactic requiring people to refute a large volume of junk science. Let me put the ball back in your court. I will deem you worthy of carrying on a scientific debate with me if you can explain off the top of your head the fugacity of CO2 in seawater.

    Based KLR third link, I would thing understand the fate and transport of CO2 in the ocean might be more than 'wholly irrelevant to global temperature'.

    He is where Kinu has a point,

    “functionally lining up on the side of political correctness”

    Where I have a problem with the AGW fear mongers is that they reject effective solutions. The drama of the debate is more important than solution.

    All the Bush haters failed to acknowledge that the Bush administration made solutions to AGW a priority. Furthermore, instead of just talking the issue we started building renewable energy project like had been happen in Texas when he was governor.

    All the watermelons want to make heating my home more expensive. I see not reason not to outlaw driving to the beach, mountains, or casinos. I can think of lots of solutions that are not aimed at my personal freedom. The well also serve the purpose removing the loons from congress.

    I sure that Waxman is old people outside his district.

  55. Robert:

    I believe energy and environmental policy will remain the issues for our civilization for the rest of this century. On behalf of our children and those yet to be born, thanks for your tireless efforts. In a policy area crowded with folks who have questionable motives, and with others whose hearts may be in the right place but just don't have the engineering background to reach realistic conclusions, you are one of the "good guys". Have a great 2010!

  56. I recommend that anyone skeptical about AGW read the many articles on this site:


    The author does an outstanding job bring the science to a lay reader. As with any scientific matter, you may never prove anything beyond all doubt, but AGW theory is proven beyond reasonable doubt IMO, to the point where at least some action is warranted.

    The fact that CO2 and other GHGes affect the radiation balance of the biosphere is beyond question – even folks like Patrick Michaels accept this as it's basic science. By narrowing radiation bands that allow energy to escape the biosphere, the Earth must reach a new (hotter) equilibrium point where the energy flows into and out of the biosphere are back in balance, said balance achieved by more radiation in lower bands. Again this is basic science of bodies in a vaccuum and beyond dispute. Measurements of the radiation balance have been made, and show that net energy is accumulating in the biosphere as we move towards whatever the new equilibrium point is.

    Since energy is never lost, it must end up somewhere. Here's a hint: water has a much greater capacity to store heat than air, for a given volume. Also, the Earth is largely a water planet (over 70% of the surface is water). Lost in the endless debates over air temperature measurements is the fact that the excess energy is most definitely accumulating in the oceans. We also know (by direct observation over the past decade) that sea levels are rising at a faster rate (currently 3.1 mm/year, up from 1.5 mm/year). A large portion of this is calculated to be due to thermal expansion. We also know, again by direct observation, that the mass balance for Greenland's ice sheet is negative, that is, there is less snow accumulating as ice in the interior than is calving off at the edges. These effects are happening right in front of our eyes.

    One doesn't need to believe that GHGs are 100% responsible for these effects to be concerned. Nor does one need to look to unprovable assertions about hurricanes, droughts, etc., to recognize a serious and expensive problem in the making – sea level rise alone is a sufficiently alarming problem. One doesn't need to appeal to computer models and such to see that the equilibrium temperature has moved higher, since as noted it's a matter of basic science.

    I agree that AGW doom-mongers undercut their own message by gaming the data, attempting to silence critics, conjuring unprovable disaster scenarios, and most of all by dogmatic opposition to obvious solutions such as nuclear power to replace coal. It doesn't change the fact that there's a real problem, and that we are at least part of the problem.

  57. Kinu,

    Once again, lets put away the false dichotomy. I have no problem with your statement that water vapor is up 3 orders of magnitude more than CO2, and that it will have a bigger impact as a result. But it does not mean anything to the case being made for a CO2 impact. It's not an either or.

    That is, at least, until we start to look at magnitude. For now I'm just trying to establish whether the logic is right (does the sail exist). Later we can look at data to support size of the CO2 sail relative to the water vapor, solar radiation, and other sails driving our little climate ship (I'm picturing one of those old 3 masted frigates here with plenty of cloth to pass around).

    Back to the original case for a moment. From your water vapor statement, I take it that you buy the GHG effect (#1 from the chain). In that case, is it #2 (CO2 is a GHG) that you flag as false?

    PS I can dig up data all I want, but before I do I want to make sure it's relevant. Like I said earlier, even the best data is useless when poor logic is applied to it so just throwing it out there is not likely to help.

  58. Anonymous wrote: "I take it that you buy the GHG effect (#1 from the chain)."

    Anonymous — first, I fear that we will try the patience of our gracious host if we delve too deeply into Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming. The AGW scam is relevant to our human energy future because (a) it may result in rejecting key processes necessary to meet the almost unbelievable scale of global human power demands, and (b) it may divert our limited resources from real human needs to frivolities such as Carbon Capture & Storage. The bottom line is that far too much human effort has already been wasted on this topic.

    Second, we all have to fight hard to keep using language in a meaningful way. The expression "Greenhouse Gas" (or, even worse, GHG) is an unscientific abomination. No-one who wants to be taken seriously on this topic should ever use it.

    As you ought to know, Anonymous, a greenhouse works by reducing convective heat transfer; a radiatively active gas such as water vapor has effect through an entirely different physical mechanism. The "Greenhouse Gas" name is simply wrong. And sloppy language usually implies sloppy thought.

    Now, to get to your "chain" of logic. You omitted step Zero — Is there natural variability of climate, in the absence of anthropogenic influence?

    We know the answer to that — natural variability has been huge, as far back into the past as we are able to peer.

    With our own eyes today, we can see evidence that there have been repeated Ice Ages, and periods of desertification too. There are raised beaches in many locations throughout the world hundreds of feet above current sea level. The planet's climate has been in constant flux.

    Even the bastardized fudged data the University of East Anglia has bequeathed to us show that temperatures have been dropping for the last 10 years; were as high in the 1930s as at the end of the 1990s; and were higher still during the Medieval Warm Period. Those changes show no correlation to anthropogenic CO2.

    The key step in scientific research is asking the right question. The question you should be addressing, Anonymous, is what are the natural forces that have caused such tremendous variability in planetary climate — far greater than the minor fluctuations since the Industrial Revolution?

    Once you have answered that key question, Anonymous, then is there any minor residual in recent decades that can not be explained by the planet's demonstrated natural fluctuations? If so, then there might be something to discuss on Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming.

  59. Maybe I should take a step back, Kinu.

    Unfortunately for the third time you're pointing at other sails on the ship and saying their existance is evidence that the CO2 sail doesn't exist. That's false dichotomy. A false dichotomy is when you argue that there are only two mutually exclusive options, ignoring other options or a combination of the first two. You are arguing that natural variability exists, therefore human induced variability (more specifically CO2 induced) cannot. The premise behind that is a fallacy. They can both exist.

    The zeroeth step in the chain that you proposed is absolutely a valid question when the debate reaches the point where we're assigning different weightings to the atmospheric drivers (sizes to the sails…etc). However, in establishing whether CO2 is capable of being a climate driver it is not relevant.

    You suggested that my first question should be what are the great drivers that caused massive prehistoric climate changes. Well, that again depends on my objective. My objective (at this point) is to determine whether CO2 that humans have put into the atmosphere is capable of being a climate influence. So, for now, it's not relevant. It will be later.

    I could have started the discussion with a higher level set of questions. Do you:
    a) Believe that higher concentration of CO2 CAN impact the evironment but does so to such an insignificant degree we shouldn't care (ie you believe in AGW but think it's negligible).
    b) Believe that atmospheric CO2 is completely unrelated to climate.

    The original four chain questions are only relevant if you answer b).


  60. David Mathews, you are a liar and an idiot. RR has mentioned his Petrobras investment here a number of times.

    Dave T.

  61. Folks, for those who don’t know Mr. Mathews (whose post I have now deleted – after deleting several last week a well), please do not feed the troll. Some of you have heard me mention that I have only ever had to ban one person in the history of this blog. You all know I have quite a high tolerance for disagreement, but Google some of Mr. Mathews old posts to get a flavor of why I banned this kook.

    Here is the executive summary, and then I won’t discuss him again until I have to explain all of this again next year. He calls himself a Christian, yet his perverted idea of Christianity is to come on here (and The Oil Drum before he was banned there), lie, make accusations, and make threats against me. It got so bad that I finally contacted his local police department. He is a lowlife loser whose life fell short of his hopes and dreams, so he is trying to make up for it by striking a blow against Big Oil. So while he has admitted that he enjoys the modern comforts brought to him by fossil fuels, in his mind it is all OK if he just comes on here and lies about me over and over – because in his demented mind I am Big Oil.

    He is a horrible person and a coward. No way would he say any of these things to my face, so he hides behind his keyboard and believes that by lying for Jesus he is striking a blow for the downtrodden. I hope to catch up with him some day and ask him to repeat some of the things he has said here to my face.

    Now you have had your moment, Dave. Happy New Year. I know you are a lonely old man, so I fully expect you to continue posting garbage just to get some attention. But know that I will simply delete all of your posts, as I have the last 50 posts you have made here. Now go lie for Jesus somewhere else.

    By the way, I know I have recommended it before, but you should really see a shrink about your unhealthy obsession.


  62. Anonymous wrote: "Do you:
    a) Believe that higher concentration of CO2 CAN impact the evironment but does so to such an insignificant degree we shouldn't care (ie you believe in AGW but think it's negligible)."

    Asking about 'believing in Anthropogenic Global Warming' is plain silly, Anonymous. It sounds like the kind of question the Spanish Inquisition would have asked, if those old Catholics had seen Anthropogenic Global Warming as a competing religion.

    In technical areas, I try not to "believe" things; I prefer to make judgments based on the best information I can find. And when better information comes along, I am happy to modify my judgment appropriately.

    Data on global climate is incredibly sparse — and temperature is only a part of climate. (Astonishingly, the number of data collecting stations has actually declined in recent decades — despite the billions of dollars that have been spent on Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming; money that could instead have been spent on things like schools & hospitals). When we look back into geological time, most of the measures are indirect, as well as being even more sparse.

    With that qualification on the inadequacy of the data, what it seems to show is that, over geological time, atmospheric CO2 has been higher for much of the past than it is now — sometimes much higher. Planetary temperatures have repeatedly been both higher & lower than currently.

    Key observation is there is no evidence of a causal correlative relation between atmospheric CO2 and global temperatures. CO2 has apparently not been a significant driver of global temperatures.

    Now, let's talk about Global Warming.

    There are a number of ways to express the average temperature of the Moon, but what we can see suggests the airless Moon is much colder than Earth — even though they are both the same distance from the Sun. Thanks to the atmosphere, the average temperature of the Earth is about 60 Farenheit degrees warmer than it would otherwise be.

    This Natural Global Warming (without which Earth would be a lifeless frozen ball) seems to be well-explained by the presence of radiatively active gases in the atmosphere. About 97% of Global Warming is due to water vapor, with the balance due to the minor amounts of other gases such as methane and CO2.

    To summarize: We face great uncertainties because of sparse data. We know that the planet's temperature has varied substantially over time. We know that the planet's temperature is higher than it otherwise would be because of the presence in the atmosphere of significant amounts of a radiatively active gas, water vapor. We know that carbon dioxide is also a radiatively active gas, and we know it is present in the atmosphere in only trivial amounts relative to water vapor. We know that atmospheric CO2 has not been a driver of global temperatures — not in recent times, not in historic times, not in geological times.

    What is there to "believe in" about Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming, Anonymous?

  63. Hi Kinu,

    Belief has many connotations, but for the sake of the question I was trying to dig into where and if our interpretations differ. Although you didn't address it directly, your third to last paragraph supports a), which I'll rephrase to include your objections; "based on the data and theory currently available, CO2 concentration changes can impact the global climate (temperature), but to an insignificant degree".

    I think a position like that is much different from your position in the original post, and one that would find a lot more support (it's more than just semantics). Also, from here we could start to look at data that can quantify the actual severity of the change (the size of the sail), having put the question of the existence of the sail behind us. Also, now the previously proposed questions become more relevant.

    When you originally posted in this thread about "alleged AGW" you came across as dismissing the entire linkage between CO2 and the environment. Now (I think) you've acknowledged that AGW is for all intents and purposes very real, but we might be talking about a 0.0001 degrees per 100ppm of CO2 impact or something else like that which we really shouldn't care about.

    If that's the correct interpretation, then the data we should be looking for is data which will specifically quantify the magnitude of the impact of CO2 changes (again, the size of the sail) either in absolute terms (modelling/experimental) or relative to all other inputs on a global scale (statistical).

    Next up…what makes more sense, modelling/experimental approaches, or statistical approaches based on global data and why.


  64. Actually, I think most of us are willing to "stipulate" that 2 ppm CO2 for fifty years (that's about all you can get with the amount of Fossil fuels available, probably) will lead to a "small" amount (maybe, 0.5 C) of warming.

    The question for many of us would be: is that "Good," "Bad," or "Insignificant?"

    A lot of us would, I think, put it somewhere between "insignificant," and "Good."

    I know, to get ME off of that line of thought you would have to convince me there was going to be some monstrous "Positive" Feedback initiated by that half a degree or so of warming.

    Then, I'd want to know why this "Monstrous Positive Feedback" has never kicked in before – even when it was Much hotter, or when the CO2 component was ten, or twenty times higher?

    I think you've got your work cut out for you.

  65. One very funny part with most people (say 99%) arguing about global warming is that they are simply parroting things they have heard or read with little or no idea if they have any relevance or if they are at all correct.

    And then they ask for someone to convince them when chances the explanation will be understood are zero.

    İ have no idea if global warming is real or not. İ do know mankind has made a rather grand mess of the environment – including air pollution and we should be working at seriously reducing/controlling the mess.

  66. Agreed, but we have to be careful what we call, "Pollution." Ozone is pollution. Particulate matter (soot) is pollution. Sulfur Dioxide is pollution. Mercury, zinc, lead, etc are pollutants.

    CO2 is Plant Food. CO2 is, most assuredly, NOT "Pollution."

    We, also, know something else as a "true fact:" More people die weather-related deaths in Cold years than in Warm years. A Lot More. Cold Kills.

    We know something else. Crops grow better in Warm weather than in Cold weather. Much better. Warm Grows.

    Whether 100 parts per Million more CO2 will make it a little warmer, I Don't know. Whether a little warmer is better, I'm pretty sure of.

    Convince me if you can; but, in the meantime, I'd just as soon you didn't go spending another $Trillion or so of Our Money. At least, not until the "results are in."

  67. Robert,

    You provide an invaluable service by addressing the technical / engineering issues of energy production.

    Enjoy the blog, keep up the good work.


  68. The indefatiguable Anonymous continued: "Next up…what makes more sense, modelling/experimental approaches, or statistical approaches based on global data and why."

    Asked & answered, Anonymous. Refer to our esteemed host's guideline — start with the data.

    And, by the way, Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming refers to the Al Gore/United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assertion that human activities will cause a scary large increase in global temperature, ending life as we know it. Anonymous, do you "believe" in the UN IPCC's Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming?

    Before you tear off into modeling hell, ask yourself about the inputs to the models.

    How good is the very sparse data we have on atmospheric CO2?

    We have evidence that the CO2 content of the atmosphere has varied substantially throughout geological time without any anthropogenic influence. How do we know that current apparent changes are anthropogenic and not a continuation of natural variation?

    Even with the sparse data we have, atmospheric CO2 has risen much less than would be calculated from anthropgenic activities. There are Gigatonnes of "Missing Carbon". What are the mechanisms that are removing CO2 from the atmosphere?

    Once you strip away blind "belief" and start to look at science, the concept of scary planet-threatening Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming starts to look very threadbare.

    Now, that does not mean that Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming might not be real. Perhpas it is. But at the moment, it is an unproved hypothesis with a number of very significant strikes against it — particularly the hypothesis-killing lack of correlation between CO2 and global temperature.

    You have a tremendous amount of work ahead of you, Anonymous, if you want to demonstrate to normal scientific standards that the UN IPCC's Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming is real.

  69. KLR wrote: "No one disputes that the LIA or MWP happened."

    LIA = Little Ice Age. MWP = Medieval Warm Period.

    Come on, KLR! You are not fooling anyone else, and fooling yourself is dangerous.

    The whole point of the "hockey stick" (should we call that "HS"?) was to remove the inconvenient truth of the Medieval Warm Period.

    The "hockey stick" claimed that the planet's temperature had been essentially constant for a thousand years, until the Industrial Revolution.

    However, the "hockey stick" was false — inappropriate statistical manipulation of selected data.

    The planet is documented to have been warmer before any significant anthropogenic influence. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tried to deny the existence of climate change. Quite ironic!

  70. “I know, to get ME off of that line of thought you would have to convince me there was going to be some monstrous "Positive" Feedback initiated by that half a degree or so of warming.”

    Control systems are something that mechanical and electrical engineers study and design. We like stable systems that respond in a timely manner. We do not like unstable control systems. A simple example of a systems would be springs and shock absorbers on a car. You hit a bump and you do not loose control of your car.

    Evolved life on the earth would not exist if climate was an unstable stable system. If you plot climate on a geological scale (billions of years), it would look like an unstable system. Sometimes earth is an ice ball sometimes it is a jungle.

    If you plot climate on a biological scale (100 of millions of years) climate is a very stable system. Something happen 40 – 65 millions years before present to change climate from warm to glacial. There are long periods of (100,000 years) when it is colder than present and mile thick glaciers cover much of the north hemisphere. Periodically, there are shorter periods (10,000 years) where it is a little warmer.

    Civilization has has flourished during this recent period. Man came out of caves and started farming. This allowed other time to study science. By understand control theory, we can make electricity with 1000 MWe steam turbines generators. A few people can make electricity for a city of a million.

    Others study journalism and convincingly tell people the sky is falling. If is too complex for them to understand they fear it.

  71. Hi Kinu,

    If AAGW, when used by you, refers only to the catastrophic warming proposed by Gore et al, then I'd suggest changing it to CAGW (catastrophic anthropogenic global warming), since you don't in principle have any problem with AGW itself (it looks like the only resistance you might have to that is that the ~150 year climb in CO2 concentrations may not be anthropogenic).

    So, back in the original posting, when you accused Robert of lining up behind AGW by default, you're really accusing him of buying the "concensus" version that AGW will lead to severe consequences to civilization, rather than an extra layer of noise within an already noisy temperature signal that will not effect civilization at all. Your problem is with the outcome, not the cause (in which case conventional data won't help much, soothsayers and maybe Merlin would be more suitable…but by both sides of the argument). No?


  72. Indanon leaped in the wrong direction: "Your problem is with the outcome, not the cause"

    No, Indanon, my concern is with the science — and particularly with the abuse of science.

    There is no question that human activities have had observable effects on at least parts of the planet. Just look out the airplane window on your next flight across Europe — big changes in land use due to agriculture and industrialization; artificial lakes and altered water courses.

    The issue with alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming is exactly the assertion that human activities are alleged to result in catastrophic runaway global warming which will have devastating impacts on all life on the planet.

    Al Gore and the usual suspects are definitely NOT out there arguing that anthropogenic activities are having a subtle effect on global temperature which is too small to distinguish from natural variation. Those guys are arguing for catastrophic change. They couldn't justify the impoverishment of the human race on the basis of a tiny anthropogenic temperature response which is lost in the noise of much larger natural fluctuations.

    To its eternal shame, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (and its enablers at the University of East Anglia & elsewhere) have abused science and misused mathematical models to allege that human activities will result in catastrophic change. Where's the evidence for those allegations, Indanon? What do the facts tell us?

  73. Kinuachdrach – I think that's the $64k question — how big is the change going to be. Coupled with that is the question of how justified is huge expenditure on avoidance now, versus mitigating action as required in future. At that point we have (quite properly) left the realm of science and engaged in a discussion about comparative value.

  74. Kit P — quite a lot of non sequiturs in that last post. There are no guarantees for biological life on earth, that we know of. Life itself has completely changed the environment we live in. Without the discovery by nature of aerobic respiration, microbial live would have drowned in its own waste products a long time ago. On the other hand, microbial life would probably have survived the hypothesised environment of "snowball earth" 700mya than humans could now. Before 500mya there was no life on land, and very little even in the way of multicellular life. Warm-blooded animals may be less than 100m years old. The current cycle of periodic glaciations is only several million years old. Mankind, depending on how you define it, is only 60k to 2m years old. There is absolutely no guarantee that in the long run (or even in the geologically short run) that conditions on earth will be suitable for human life. The tenure of any species on earth is only 6m years on the average. And mankind is the only species that has boxed himself into a technological trap where society is increasingly vulnerable to dislocations from any number of relatively minor upsets. Stability is the last thing we can assume.

  75. I know, to get ME off of that line of thought you would have to convince me there was going to be some monstrous "Positive" Feedback initiated by that half a degree or so of warming.


    That's not likely since we are still coming out of the effects of the recent Pleistocene Ice Age. If half a degree of warming will trigger a terrible, cascading, positive feedback loop, that half a degree of warming would happen whether humans cause it or not.

    One truth the AGW crowd are reluctant to pass on is that it has ALWAYS gotten warmer after an Ice Age — whether humans were around or not.

    To sum up: "It always gets warmer after an Ice Age — until the next Ice Age."

  76. PeteS wrote

    “Kit P — quite a lot of non sequiturs in that last post. There are no guarantees for biological life on earth,”

    Sorry you did not follow by discussion on stable and unstable systems in response to Rufus.

    “Stability is the last thing we can assume.”

    I am taking about the stability of the climate. However, PeteS did a pretty good good of describing how stable life is on earth too. Naming species is an invention of man, evolution of life is an invention of nature that results from a stable climate.

  77. Hi Kinu,

    Excellent, then we're roughly on the same page, or at least in the same chapter.

    AGW is real, but it's impact and consequences are overstated (we'll probably still differ on how much it's overstated by).

    Would it be fair to you to use Soon's paper referenced by PeteS as our data set and analysis supporting the "no/minimal impact" version of events?


    On the separate but related topic of modeling vs experimental vs real system data, I think we differ a lot more.

    I read a book several years ago called Not Much of an Engineer . It's the fascinating story about a scientist-cum-engineer involved in the design of the old Rolls Royce Merlin engines (30's). He talks about how they would build lots of these complete engines, then run them on test stands until something broke, then dissect them until they could determine what it was that failed, then redesign said component, rebuild, and retest the engine. Sounds insane in comparison to how we design things today.

    I see trying to determine the strength and reliability of a tertiary widget on a something as complex as a aircraft engine by measuring and analyzing the entire system as being analogous to trying to determine the actual impact of CO2 by using exclusively system (global temp output) data. To me establishing relationships (the formulas and material properties we use in mechanical models today to avoid doing things the 1930's Rolls Royce way) is best done on a small scale in a lab where all inputs are known and controlled.


  78. Can we stop talking about AGW and go back to discussing whether peak oil is going to kill us all or not? Thanks :p

  79. Kit P — I'm glad to hear you're happy as long as the climate remains sufficiently comfortable for microbial life. Personally, I hope for a little more stability than THAT.

  80. Indanon wrote: "AGW is real, but it's impact and consequences are overstated"

    You are headed in the right direction, Indanon, but I can't agree with that formulation.

    Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming is BY DEFINITION huge, catastrophic, planet-threatening. We have only seven weeks to save the planet, as the English Prime Minister said ahead of the Copenhagen Jamboree. Fortunately, the planet is still here (albeit cold & shivering).

    If you now want to define your acronym "AGW" to mean something that is trivial, what expression are we going to use to refer to what Al Gore & James Hanson have been talking about for years?

    Here are the facts.
    Carbon dioxide is a radiatively active gas — we know that is true because we can measure it in the laboratory.
    Carbon dioxide is present in the atmosphere in a very minor concentration — that is also true because we can measure it.
    Carbon dioxide is present in trivial amounts relative to the major radiatively active gas in the atmosphere (water vapor) — that is true because we can measure all the concentrations.

    The difficulty with your airplane engine analogy is this — the builders of the Merlin engine knew everything about the engine; in contrast, the builders of models of global climate do not know where the system boundaries are. They don't even know for sure what the engine looks like.

    Are variations in cosmic ray intensity important for global climate? What about variations in solar output? Or variations in the heat flux from the planetary core?

    Back in the 1920s, Prof. Knight at the University of Chicago came up with an interesting distinction between risk & uncertainty. Risk is quantifiable. Knightian Uncertainty is the "unknown unknown" — the important factor(s) we left out of our analysis.

    Climate science has a long way to go before it can demonstrate there is no Knightian Uncertainty and that we have fully defined the system.

  81. Hey Kinu,

    To be revived soon enough, no doubt… But despite the moniker you've given me you've demonstrated an indefatigability that trumps mine.

    Since I can't…resist…one…last…comment: You asked me what I would call the catastrophic version of AGW. I suggested it earlier – if it's the catastrophic version of AGW you mean to refer to call it catastrophic AGW, or CAGW. Drop the ambiguity. AGW, literally interpreted, describes a process (and a cause). In the interest of clarity let a process descriptor describe a process. Adding Alleged only makes it sound like you're challenging the process.


  82. Indanon — In referring to 'Alleged' Anthropogenic Global Warming, I am simply following the example of my betters. After all, in Obama's America, a person who is hauled off an airplane with burnt pants has to be called an "alleged" terrorist! Surely CO2 deserves the same respect?

    Basically, I agree you do have a point in this discussion. A small increase in a minor radiatively active gas would be predicted to have a trivial warming effect — IF (big IF) everything else in a very complex system remained the same.

    But it would be a deliberately misleading perversion of language to call that trivial effect by your acronym of "AGW".

    Al Gore got there first. There is an established meaning for "AGW", and it is not a trivial effect. AGW means the end of life as we know it.

    George Orwell pointed out years ago the importance of language to our ability to think about topics. If the same term can mean (1) an insignificant change, of academic interest only, or (2) a runaway catastrophe which will melt the ice caps and end all life on the planet, then we are deep into doubleplusgood duckspeak.

    You, Indanon, are the one who needs to come up with a new term for the minor effect you are talking about — perhaps Inconsequential Anthropogenic Global Warming?

  83. Hi Kinu,

    Only to clarify, I do not propose to use AGW to refer to AGW with a minor or medium degree of impact. I think AGW describes a process not a conclusion.


  84. Then, Indanon, you are speaking a private language. Your use of your acronym "AGW" means something completely different from what the rest of the human race understands.

    Language matters! To repeat, sloppy language implies sloppy thought.

  85. The one thing I've learned from this blog is there are no easy solutions, the solutions will be a long time coming and will require sacrifices of some kind.

    However solutions are out there and I see no reason to go full doomer.

    No one should discount political obstacles and roadblocks put up by entrenched economic interests. These things do exist and account for a great deal of the problem in my view.

    If some folks really believe there's a solution to these problems (I like LFTRs myself), advocate for it – tell your friends, write your government representatives, etc. – but spend no more than a few hours a week on it.

    There's just more to life than worrying about things you can't control.

    In the meantime minimize your personal energy expenditure, get out of debt, live simply and fully.

  86. LFTR fan — just a word to the wise …

    The percentage of the human race who could define the term "LFTR" is insignificant. Acronyms have their place, but if you want to inform & influence, they should be used cautiously.

    By the way, I am intrigued by the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor too. Human ingenuity — it got our naked hungry ancestors out of the caves; it can get us out of the current energy situation too.

  87. Thank you for taking the time to write this blog.
    You have inspired me to start a blog on alternative energy and physics.

    Also, I'm glad that you have the courage to be critical of companies that over-promise. (I left one of theses companies in part because of a series of blogs you wrote about the company and the difficulty of separating ethanol from water.) I'm a physicist, not a chem engineer.

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