Why I changed my mind about nuclear power | Michael Shellenberger

This anthropologist (by training) Michael Shellengerger makes the point that nuclear power generators are less carbon-intensive to construct than are massive solar or wind farms. It takes consume less steel and concrete to build them.  His other big point is the environmental impact that massive wind and solar farms have: degradation of the landscape, birds killed in wind turbines, rare species threatened. Nukes have a much smaller geographic footprint (when they’re operating correctly, I guess he means.)

He claims that as solar and wind generation increase as a percentage of the total they will cause require an increasing amount electricity from natural gas generation in order to quickly ramp up when the sun and wind die down.  That explains to him why some fossil fuel companies are promoting wind and solar “solutions”.

He explains (too briefly) how the waste from the reactors is much lower in volume than the millions of solar panels that will have to be recycled.

The comments on YouTube are pretty negative – “nothing new here”, but it was news to me.


Student confident tiny home will keep mom warm even in winter | CBC News

​This is an interesting architectural exercise…but he wants his mom to live in it?  in winter?  in Edmonton?
The Comments that appear below the article are about 80/20 in favor of the guy’s creation and his motivation.   The nay-sayers figure his mom must have really ticked him off.  Only two of the Comments pointed out that this poop-box of a trailer might provide a big improvement on his mom’s current circumstances.

If you’ve walked through Carleton’s campus in Ottawa, you may have seen him: A young man working away on a wooden structure just outside the architecture building. He’s building a tiny house, but it isn’t for him — it’s for his mother to live in year-round in Edmonton.

Source: Student confident tiny home will keep mom warm even in winter | CBC News

Engineering utility-scale PV installations that are “pollinator-friendly”

It hadn’t occurred to me that there might not be enough acreage to support utility-scale solar electricity.  It turns out that not everyone wants a PV farm in their backyard. And I hadn’t considered the trade-off between lots of available sunshine (Death Valley) and lots of electricity users (not Death Valley).  So….PV site developers have figured out some ways of making their installations more neighbor-friendly.

“Conventional solar installation techniques typically involve turf grass and gravel as ground cover, which removes vegetation and flattens landscapes, according …. These methods lead to high preparation and labor costs, expected to account for 20% of the price of photovoltaic installations by 2020.

“Conversely, seeding solar grounds with native plant species provides agricultural and ecological benefits that gravel and turf cannot, such as better stormwater control because of plants’ deeper roots. Seeding can also boost solar efficiency by creating a cooler microclimate around the panels, which boosts solar efficiency, said Gavin Meinschein, a lead civil engineer at ENGIE Distributed Solar.Although the upfront costs for seeding are higher than installation of turf grass, the maintenance over projects’ 25-30 year lifespan is cheaper because it’s less involved, Meinschein said.Native plant sites can double as pollinator-friendly sites, an “irresistible synergy,” said John Jacob, who founded Old Sol Apiairies in 1997 and now works with solar developers to integrate bee farms and solar developments.The pollinator benefit is a specific twist to the story that has gotten buzz in local and national media.” ….Story continues…..

Source: Pollinator habitats: The bees’ knees of rural solar development | Utility Dive

“Clean Coal” Refinery – Hah!

This is depressing.  I that thought that “clean coal”  was commercially non-viable because of the costs to scrub the noxious gases and particulates from the combustion product.  Here’s a new perspective.  “Clean coal” in this instance means removing impurities from waste coal before it is burned.  The combustion products from the coal itself are presumably unaffected.   Cleaning the coal before combustion enables the mines to use waste coal that would have been uneconomic in current plants.  “It just makes sense to further remove the impurities from coal before burning it,” OMNIS Chairman Simon Hodson said in a statement. “This is truly clean coal production in our view.” And they get a $50 million grant from a new program announced last month by the US Dept. of Energy.


CNX Coal Resources LP and OMNIS Bailey this week announced they will partner to develop “a first-of-a-kind solid energy refinery” that will process waste coal at CONSOL’s Bailey Mine Complex.

The Pennsylvania refinery will ultimately turn waste coal into a clean carbon fuel.

CNX said the project, which began as a pilot earlier this year, aims to generate a clean fuel that can be used to enhance the energy content and performance characteristics of its coal product.

The quest for “clean coal” continues, now by utilizing a process to remove impurities from waste coal that would have been discarded.

Garry Kasparov on Vladimir Putin

I like this G&M article is an edited transcript of an interview with Garry Kasparov on the subject of Vladimir Putin’s past and future tactics.  Here’s a couple of excerpts:

If you are in power for 15 years and you made clear you would like to stay for the rest of your life, you have to convince people that you have something to offer. The shaky Russian economy is no longer a reason. Hence there’s a need for more drastic actions to justify his claim for power: Vladimir the Great, the collector of Russian lands, unifier of a divided empire … I don’t see how he can backpedal because a dictator can afford many things except one, weakness. The moment he shows weakness he’s no longer all powerful, invincible leader who cannot be challenged. He has to push forward with his agenda … there’s no way back.

Dictators of Putin’s magnitude are always testing waters. They can always smell weakness and, if they see the room for them to advance, they do it. So the question a dictator of Putin’s calibre asks is not why, he asks why not? This is the way Putin thinks. He plays by the rules only if he finds it’s convenient and profitable. But the moment that he finds that brute force is more beneficial, he immediately switches to this algorithm. The West needs to send a much stronger message back to his inner circle, to the Russian ruling class, that there will be a steep price for what is happening – everybody will pay, not only Putin. Only then will Putin think twice about this actions.

On a side note, Russia’s central bank increased it’s lending rate on Halloween, in an unsuccessful attempt to step the outflow of rubles – unsuccessful because the exchange rate bounced up for a nano-second and then went back to the old rate. The hike in domestic interest rates is an indication that the sanctions and the drop in the price of oil may be having an effect. So what will Putin do next?–dadhttp://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/why-garry-kasparov-wont-be-going-to-russia-anytime-soon/article21414892/

via Inbox – mike.bedford.1@gmail.com – Gmail.

Canada’s oil sands: The steam from below | The Economist

Please, in the Science and Technology section of The Economist, better science and less use of industry press releases.
The most glaring examples of poor journalism in the puff peace, to my mind:
Bad science:
“Germany’s Siemens is developing a system that floods a thick copper cable with an electrical current to create an alternating magnetic field to melt bitumen.”
Industry press releases:
The electricity required to run such a process might come from small nuclear reactors, says Jerry Hopwood of Candu Energy, a nuclear-technology company.

Canada’s oil sands: The steam from below | The Economist.

Canadian Pipepline Expansion

The oil industry has argued that increased pipeline capacity from Canada (west to the Pacific, south to the Gulf Coast) is necessary to reduce the glut of crude oil in Canadian markets.  The glut is depressing prices, earnings and investment in the oil patch. Canadian GDP is taking a hit  “A TD study last spring found that 10% bump in crude prices was enough to nudge the country’s entire GDP up by more than $5B.”  And from ScotiaBank, “Canada’s oil producers can only continue to crate shareholder value, employment growth and tax revenues if the pipeline companies and regulators sort out the logjams and get prices back up.” (both from Canadian Business, Oct 15/12)

But the oil isn’t going anywhere.  The rush to get the oil to market is entirely to do with generating “growth”  as measured in current GDP.  The same article points out, “Yes, consumers will complain bitterly, but the benefits will more than offset the damage.”  Whose benefits?  The oil companies managers and their shareholders – largely pension funds with boomer liabilities.