Sunday, May 17, 2015

Heartland Institute - Convenient Cognitive Dissonance


Coal at any cost to help the poor of Africa and elsewhere has become the cudgel of climate change denial.  Led by Bjorn Lomborg the usual suspects, who never otherwise really gave a moments worth of notice for the people of the developing world, have tried it on.

Eli, Eli is a museum goer, and has seen the pollution and illness caused by burning coal in the world both in pictures from the 19th century and in person. Eli thinks that the developing world does not have to replicate the mistakes and misery the developed world suffered through to get to where it is, which is not such a bad place. The developing world does not need telephone poles, they have cell phones and working cell phone systems.  The same cannot so clearly be said about their centralized electrical generation and distribution systems.  Mini-networks based on solar and wind have many advantages.

So, how bad is it out there in China, whose energy economy is built on coal?  Kevin Drum at Mother Jones, prints a letter from a reader about the quality of life there and economic growth

I believe the macro-level statistics and phenomena you discuss are all trailing indicators. I left China with my family almost five years ago as a large number of interrelated quality-of-life issues became increasingly unbearable. Those factors have continued to worsen since then at an accelerating rate, to the point where the economy is now largely driven by people trying to earn or steal enough money to leave.

The once-thriving expat community in Beijing has shriveled to nearly nothing. The cost of living is approaching world-capital (NY, London, Tokyo, etc.) levels for a  miserable existance. The local culture has become increasingly desperate and cutthroat. And Beijing is one of the more attractive places in China to live, work, and raise a family.

People, generally, and Chinese especially, will tolerate all sorts of deprivation in service of a better future for their children. And that is largely what has driven the rapid pace of Chinese development since the end of the Cultural Revolution and the beginning of Deng Xiaoping's opening and reform policies. My feeling is that biggest challenge ahead for China is when the population at large concludes that a better future for their children is no longer in the cards.

When it happens, it will happen gradually, then suddenly. And what happens after that, no one can say, but a continuation of the policies driving hyper-accelerated GDP growth over all else probably isn't it.
It is this sort of misery that lead to the Chinese pledges on climate action for the upcoming Paris talks.

The Rabett's friends at the Heartland Institute, on the other hand, have again shown their adherence to the hypocrats oath.  They too have taken up the Lomborgian call for more coal now, more coal tomorrow, and more coal forever
These policies prolong reliance on open fires fueled by wood and dung. They mean families are denied lights, refrigeration and other benefits of electricity, and millions die every year from lung and intestinal diseases, and other effects of rampant poverty. With hydrocarbons still providing 82% of the world’s energy – and China, India and other rapidly developing countries building numerous coal-fired generating plants – retarding Africa’s development in the name of preventing climate chaos is useless and immoral.
But, of course, the US EPA's new regulations for cleaner burning wood stoves, is to the Heartlanders, an abomination
According to University of Houston professor Larry Bell, “80 percent of wood-burning stoves currently used by homeowners [do not meet the new standards.]”

Close to 2.5 million homes in the United States, 2 percent of all households, use wood as a primary heating source, a figure that has increased 38 percent since 2004. Another 8 percent of households use wood as a secondary heating source.
Of course, the smoke from burning biofuels for cooking and heating indoors, according to the Heartlanders, does nothing in the US, nothing.  Indoor air pollution from burning biofuels only kill Africans and Indians who don't burn Matt "King Coal" Ridley's special blend healing coal.
When EPA proposed the rule in 2014, Stonehill College professor Sean Mulholland submitted comments stating there are “several reasons to be skeptical of the level of benefits claimed from this regulation.” He cited literature questioning the link between particulate matter and mortality, and he criticized EPA for assessing benefits based on national averages rather than accounting for local variability. 
Ron Arnold, executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, says the link between particulate matter and health problems is not as clear-cut as the agency claims.

“Does [a wood stove] cause smoke? Yeah, of course it does,” Arnold said. “And has that got particulate matter in it? Of course it does. Is it killing everybody? No, it’s not. Is it making everybody sick? No, it’s not. Do some people get sick? Yeah. Is that what’s causing it? Well, EPA says it is, but we really don’t know. But we’ve got predatory scientists who will say it is.”

Critics point out EPA’s new rules will place an increasing financial burden on poor and rural residents who rely on wood stoves as their primary source of heat.
The echos of convenient cognitive dissonance fills the sky.

52 comments:

PG said...

Predatory scientists. I saw them at Glastonbury in '13

Fernando Leanme said...

I'd I like to interrupt for a brief commercial on behalf of poor Africans. Their future will be brighter if we help finance a giant hydropower dam on the Congo River. Please pass this on.

Unknown said...

Being one of the 2% of Americans who heat with wood,I have been following this matter with some interest.
Believe it or not, the Heartland and related groups are being their usual deceptive selves.
Yes, cleaner stoves are a good thing, but the EPA, despite what Heartland implies, are not going to burst into my home and confiscate my stove.
As with higher mileage rules, old stoves will get replaced with cleaner burning ones.
The air will gradually improve as the change occurs.
This will be sufficient as wood is mainly used in rural areas.

Barton Paul Levenson said...

Donora PA 1948.
London 1952.

In the latter, 4,000 people died. So much for the harmlessness of coal.

Fernando Leanme said...

Barton, we just need to develop clean burning coal technology. The Germans are building dozens of latest generation coal plants.

As an engineer I'm also wondering if we shouldn't try to develop the technology to build combined cycle coal turbines. The key will be to develop some sort of super turbine blade technology.

EliRabett said...

Fernando, building a large damn in a conflict zone may no be the best idea for now. Not only do you have the issue of power transmission lines being borrowed, but damn breech by purpose is not out of the question

Barton Paul Levenson said...

LP: we just need to develop clean burning coal technology.

BPL: They would still give off carbon dioxide. Coal has to go. Period.

Bernard J. said...

"Barton, we just need to develop clean burning coal technology."

Effective 'clean coal' is about 30 years behind fusion technology, and about 30 years ahead of interstellar travel.

"As an engineer I'm also wondering if we shouldn't try to develop the technology to build combined cycle coal turbines. The key will be to develop some sort of super turbine blade technology."

I'd beg to differ and suggest that the key would be to torture the First Law of thermodynamics into allowing useful EROI over unity after all the costs of discovery, extraction, processing, capture and sequestration are accounted for. Whiz-bang turbine blades (once again, see what I did there...) are probably not the weakest link in the chain.

Oh, and the second key would be to find a pool of global repositories that won't fail over millenia - thermodynamics has rather a bit to say about that too...

Russell Seitz said...

Silicon nitride gasified coal burning turbines have been in development for upwards of 40 years, but so far have got nowhere because of erosion and cost issues.

Of course everyone wants unobtainium turbine blades that last 100,000 hours at 2000K and yield 80% thermo efficiency


But that still makes coal no better than natural gas

Kyle Splawn said...

"Oh, and the second key would be to find a pool of global repositories that won't fail over millenia - thermodynamics has rather a bit to say about that too..."

Which is, of course, why the best carbon sequestration method is to leave it in the ground to start with.

EliRabett said...

Thanks Ankh. Fixed.

Nigel Franks said...

The Germans are building dozens of latest generation coal plants

No they aren't.
http://www.cleanenergywire.org/news/moorburg-power-plant-last-dying-breed-or-future-coal-germany

Anonymous said...

Fernando is vying with the CEO of Peabody Energy for wrong-headed thinking, if not world ostracism, by suggesting that burning coal is a solution to Africa's problems: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/may/19/peabody-energy-exploited-ebola-crisis-for-corporate-gain-say-health-experts

What fine company you keep, Fernando.

This "think of the children in Africa" meme that Fernando and his coal-buddies keep flogging is just a load of coal-turds masquerading as a gift. It has nothing to do with helping the poor; it's about grasping at any straws they can think of to sell a discredited product.

Taylor B

Tom said...

You don't have to be a fan of coal to support measures that work to bring access to energy to the developing world.

But you do have to realize that coal is cheaper than the alternatives, so if we want them to use something else they will need our financial help now, right now, to change their choices.

If we do not, then when they do choose coal, and they will choose coal, we must accept their decision as the right one for their situation.

Coal is far better for their health than dung burnt indoors on a three stone hearth in a one-room house with an 8' by 8' window on the other side of the building.

Coal is a horrible choice as fuel. Until you compare it with dung burnt indoors.

If they do choose coal then what we should do is give them scrubbers.

Barton Paul Levenson said...

T: coal is cheaper than the alternatives

BPL: Only because you're not counting the environmental damage as a cost. But even then, solar and wind are now competitive with coal on a cost-of-electricity basis. Coal is dying, deservedly.

Tom said...

Hasten the day. And yet China is building 364 coal fired power plants even as we chat.

Barton Paul Levenson said...

T: China is building 364 coal fired power plants even as we chat.

BPL: Then we ought to be pressuring them not to, and if they don't listen, impose a carbon tariff.

Tom said...

They didn't pressure us when we built ours. They may not take kindly to our attempts to interfere with their development. I would think paying them might get a little further.

EliRabett said...

Having tasted some of the plants that are being replaced, Eli is not of a mind that this is all a bad thing both from a health and an emissions point of view. The question of course, is what comes next. China is also installing a lot of solar/wind/nuclear.

Tom said...

And nuclear, too. They're doing it as fast as they can.

If they build all the green energy generation they have planned, coal will drop as a percentage of total portfolio from 69% to 65% by 2050.

Barton Paul Levenson said...

T: They didn't pressure us when we built ours. They may not take kindly to our attempts to interfere with their development.

BPL: Too f*ing bad. A carbon dioxide molecule doesn't know whether it comes from the first world or China or Somalia. Every one contributes the same amount to global warming. No one has a "right" to develop by trashing the globe, any more than they have a right to develop by enslaving their neighbors.

Mal Adapted said...

Tom:

"[China] didn't pressure us when we built our [coal-fired power plants]. They may not take kindly to our attempts to interfere with their development. I would think paying them might get a little further. "

I have to acknowledge one point Tom appears to be making, which is that while controlling our own emissions is important, our ability to control those of other countries are constrained. If we imposed a Border Tax Adjustment on imported goods along with a domestic carbon tax, there would be pushback from China. Negotiations will be necessary, but that's no reason to give up on the whole idea of a carbon tax.

The idea of buying out US fossil-fuel investors in order to overcome their obstructionism is distasteful, but some compromise might help get us unstuck. I could live with buying back extraction rights for FF reserves on public land, for example.

Tom said...

BPL, are you willing to go to war to force China to abandon fossil fuels or do you think gunboat diplomacy will suffice?

Maybe we could take advantage of the opportunity to sell them opium, or oxycontin or something...

Barton Paul Levenson said...

Tom, do you work for the Tenth Bureau?

Tom said...

I'm sorry, BPL. Whatever the Tenth Bureau is, it has not reached Taipei. I don't know what you're referring to.

Barton Paul Levenson said...

T: I'm sorry, BPL. Whatever the Tenth Bureau is, it has not reached Taipei. I don't know what you're referring to.

BPL: If you're living in Taipei, you either know damn well what the Tenth Bureau is, or you're pretty ignorant. I'm referring to the Tenth Bureau of the People's Republic of China's Ministry of State Security. Foreign covert activities.

Tom said...

When I was living in Shanghai they had a different name for it. Doesn't mean I'm not ignorant, but you might try localizing your terms.

There's the National Administration for the Protection of State Secrets. There's the Ministry of State Security.

Only 10th Bureau I ever heard of was for the China Railways Group.

Tom said...

Oh, yeah--using da google I see they're a subgroup of the Ministry of State Security. Big whoop.

Tom said...

But I guess that answers your question.

I guess someone who's convinced that drought will take us all would also think that anyone worried about the reactions of the developing world to blatant interference in their sovereignty must be a spy.

Why would I spy on the Chinese when the Koch Brothers are paying me so much?

And you guys are the ones who talk about conspiracy ideation...

Tom said...

On the org chart your dreaded 10th Bureau is actually two spots above the Retired Cadres Bureau.

BBD said...

Tom, do you work for the Tenth Bureau?

Ha! Very funny BPL.

I imagine that the Chinese state security apparatus could find better uses for its budget that that ;-)

neverendingaudit said...

> You don't have to be a fan of coal to support measures that work to bring access to energy to the developing world.

Who can afford to be against measures that work? What works just works. The tepid, it hurts.

You don't have to abide by the Lomborg Collective to beg the question and create a straw man with "measure that work." It just so happens that this is often the case.


neverendingaudit said...

Via Andy Skuce:

> "Either you've got to kill those plants early," Cohen says, "or you're going to have to retrofit them."

http://www.vox.com/2015/5/22/8645455/china-emissions-coal-drop

Retrofitting indicates that China might live another cultural revolution: hipsters, hipsters everywhere.

BBD said...

Willard

Plus ça change...

I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.


And a beard, of course.

Since we're loving the smog:

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

Tom said...

BPL, I'd still like to know (if you have time, of course):

"BPL, are you willing to go to war to force China to abandon fossil fuels or do you think gunboat diplomacy will suffice?

Maybe we could take advantage of the opportunity to sell them opium, or oxycontin or something..."

BBD said...

Tom

Why so sure that China will have to be *forced* to decarbonise by 'the West'? IIRC climate change impacts for China are likely to be fairly severe. Perhaps China will decarbonise voluntarily because it realises that it has absolutely no choice.

neverendingaudit said...

> Why so sure that China will have to be *forced* [...]

Because that's the only way Groundskeeper can show how mean you are to the human race, BBD.

Here's an idea I just had: sources tell me that the Chinese culture revere posterity. Most of what people do over there, they do it for their children. Etc.

If that's the case, why not sell them **Storms of My Grandchildren** ?

EliRabett said...

The Chinese have their own

http://rabett.blogspot.com/2015/03/under-dome.html

Tom said...

200 million Chinese people saw that video before the censors pulled it. It's powerful stuff.

It also is not about climate change. It's about conventional pollution in China and the harm that it causes.

BBD said...

There are so many good reasons to burn less coal, aren't there? Perhaps the Chinese will do so of their own accord without any external pressure, political or otherwise.

Russell Seitz said...

If the environmental left took counsel of better Mad Men than the ones they've got, they might counsel giving tobacco a ret and opening a chain of Authentic Chinese Restaurants using imported powdered coal wok briquettes to stir fry everything on the menu, and empart the true taste of Devonian air to their neighborhoods.

Tom said...

The Chinese people will be overjoyed to quit using coal as soon as they can.

It won't be soon.

BBD said...

It won't be soon.

Says the omniscient and prescient Fuller.

The West will just have to go further and faster with its own emissions reductions to compensate.

We've already had a big head start from exporting so much of our filth to China in the first place.

Hank Roberts said...

http://www.smh.com.au/business/carbon-economy/time-for-change-china-flags-peak-in-coal-usage-20130206-2dxrv.html (2013)

http://www.hellenicshippingnews.com/china-coal-imports-set-for-rebound-april-shipments-fall-from-a-year-ago-amid-easing-demand-in-downstream-industries/ (2015)

in Dry Bulk Market,Freight News 25/05/2015

"... China’s coal imports from top supplier Australia fell almost 18 per cent year on year last month .... with imports from No 2 supplier Indonesia also dropping nearly 13 per cent.
However, imports from both countries were up from March, with analysts forecasting further gains.
“Power plants began replenishing their coal stocks from April, and due to cheaper transportation fees compared with domestic coal mines, imports from Australia were expected to climb from a month earlier,” said Zhang Xiaojin, an analyst with China’s Everbright Futures. “Given that civilian use of electricity will increase dramatically over the summer, imports will rise further.”
China imported 6.6 million tonnes of coal from Australia last month, down 17.7 per cent from the same month last year but up 23.3 per cent from March.
Imports from Indonesia fell 12.45 per cent year on year to 3.13 million tonnes, but grew 18.1 per cent from March.
Total imports, excluding lower-grade lignite, reached 14.94 million tonnes last month, down 27.85 per cent on the year, according to data from the General Administration of Customs. Coal imports slipped 39.1 per cent over the first four months to 51.72 million tonnes.
China’s coal consumption has remained weak as demand has slowed from key downstream industries, including electric power, steel and cement.
Domestic coal output fell 7.4 per cent last month and 6.1 per cent over the first four months.
In a bid to prop up prices, Beijing has been trying to impose domestic production curbs ...."

Breathing trumps getting rich....

BBD said...

Returning to the letter quoted by Kevin Drum quoted in the OP:

People, generally, and Chinese especially, will tolerate all sorts of deprivation in service of a better future for their children. And that is largely what has driven the rapid pace of Chinese development since the end of the Cultural Revolution and the beginning of Deng Xiaoping's opening and reform policies. My feeling is that biggest challenge ahead for China is when the population at large concludes that a better future for their children is no longer in the cards.

When it happens, it will happen gradually, then suddenly. And what happens after that, no one can say, but a continuation of the policies driving hyper-accelerated GDP growth over all else probably isn't it.


A universal truth, I suspect. But given that we are monkeys, not bunnies, we will probably be late to our own tea party.

Tom said...

A ‘quad’ is one quadrillion BTUs. A BTU is the amount of energy required to heat one pint of water by one degree Fahrenheit. It’s about the same amount of energy as in burning a wooden match. One quadrillion of them is about the same amount of energy as in a train full of coal, a very long train. Each car in the train would contain 100 tons of coal. The train would extend 3,789 miles.

The world consumed a projected total 558.7 quads in 2014, according to the EIA. 160 of those quads were fueled by coal. By 2040, again using the EIA estimates, that will grow to 219.5 quads from coal.

That’s a scary figure. Most of that coal will come from China (121.5 quads in 2040), India (22.4) and the U.S. (20.4), a total of 164.3 quads. That’s 75% of 2040 coal consumption from just 3 countries.

BBD said...

Tom

Are those EIA projections based on BAU without any emissions abatement policy?

Could you link to the primary source and quote the actual text which describes the assumptions under which the projections were made?

Thanks!

Barton Paul Levenson said...

T: The world consumed a projected total 558.7 quads in 2014, according to the EIA. 160 of those quads were fueled by coal. By 2040, again using the EIA estimates, that will grow to 219.5 quads from coal.

BPL: Then we're all as good as dead.

Tom said...

As good as dead?

https://thelukewarmersway.wordpress.com/2015/05/28/ipcc-wg2-tells-us-what-26-key-risks-of-climate-change-are-and-how-to-fight-them/

BBD said...

Could you answer my question about the assumptions on which the EIA projections were made now you are back Tom?

Brian said...

BBD: this is somewhat relevant - EIA consistently underestimates the role of renewables:

http://getenergysmartnow.com/2015/04/15/department-of-energys-annual-outlook-2015-is-out-what-do-we-know-wout-reading-it/

BBD said...

Thanks Brian. One has to take these things with a hefty pinch of salt. As Tom is omniscient and prescient, I would have expected him to know this. However, it is possible that Tom *knows* that the EIA coal projections are correct (coz he's prescient; see upthread).

Time will tell ;-)