In the US coal accounts for about 20% of all railroad freight. Coal is going away and that is going to hit the bottom line of many railroads, some of them a lot harder than others. No more sixteen tons to load.
So . . . . what else is there to say
In the US coal accounts for about 20% of all railroad freight. Coal is going away and that is going to hit the bottom line of many railroads, some of them a lot harder than others. No more sixteen tons to load.
Posted by EliRabett at 8:51 PM
I'm sure there's a fact-laden and long version of this post, but the title almost suffices.
Whatever the merit of the argument for natural gas as a bridge fuel may be (never quite decided myself), that bridge is a lot more frayed now than when people started making the argument a decade or so ago. Newly-constructed plants will have a lifetime of 20-50 years. It's unlikely that the developed world would need the additional capacity of new gas plants in 20 years, regardless of whether currently-existing, gas-fired plants will be useful to the grid. We shouldn't need any gas or other fossil fuel plants, new or existing, in much less than 50 years from now. Power variability from renewables could be addressed through storage, hydro, larger power networks, existing nuclear baseload, and lastly through existing natural gas plants. We don't need the new ones, and having the not-fully amortized plants around would tempt people to keep running them when they shouldn't.
I suppose there's always an exception like islands where the need argument might be stronger. New natural gas might run coal out of some regions slightly faster than otherwise, but overall renewables would deploy faster with a near-universal rule of no new natural gas plants.
Obviously there should also be no new other fossil fuel plants, and coal and bunker oil should be shut down in a decade or so.
The case against new natural gas in developing countries is weaker. New coal plants are being built there, so if gas truly is better than coal despite fugitive emissions, then new gas has additional value. The power needs in their near-future will also be far greater than today, so today's existing natural gas infrastructure won't do as much to address power variability as it does in developed countries (and developing countries generally have little or no existing nuclear baseload power to help out). The developed world would have to help financially to make new gas unnecessary compared to more-environmental options.
And yes, an adequate price for carbon/methane would make this command-and-control idea unnecessary.
UPDATE: edited for clarity.
Posted by Brian at 11:59 PM
Interesting piece by Steve Waldman critiquing my two favorite econbloggers, DeLong and Krugthulu, for technocratic approaches in a moralizing political context. I've altered it below to make it about climate instead of economics, and removed references to the two (UPDATE - from the comments, I'm not sure this experiment of mine is very clear, so I've altered it some more):
[The technocrat] laments that we have been “mugged by the moralizers” and admonishes us that “climate policy analysis is not a morality play“.
But the thing is, human affairs are a morality play, and climate policy, if it is to be useful at all, must be an account of human affairs. I have my share of disagreements with climate technocrats, but on balance I view them as smart, well-meaning people who would do more good than harm if they had greater influence over policy. But they won’t, and they can’t, and they shouldn’t, if they exempt themselves from the moral fray.... climate technocrats in general engage in [unrealistic assumptions] when they ignore moral concerns and the constraints “legitimacy” places on feasible policy.
It should be no surprise that human collectives choose bad climate policies when they deem those policies to be alternatives to policies that are wrong or unjust. Individual human beings act against their material interests all the time, providing full employment for economists who endlessly study the “ultimatum game“. Political choice combines diffuse personal costs with powerful moral signifiers. We should expect politics, including the politics that determines climate policy, to be dripping with moralism. And sure enough, it is! This doesn’t mean that policy outcomes are actually moral. (There’s a hypothesis we can falsify quickly.) But exhortations to policy that cannot survive in terms of moral framing are nullities. They are no less absurd than proposals to “whip inflation” by demanding increased production while simultaneously imposing price ceilings....
On the core climate questions of the moment, the climate technocrat explicitly cedes recognizable morality to the other side - the March of Progress, the American/Western World exceptionalism - and in doing so, he cedes the argument. To be fair, moralizing technocratic positions might not be easy....
But even in a challenging landscape it is better to fight than to preemptively surrender. There are ways to address, in explicitly moralistic terms, the arguments of the other side.... Rather than eschewing moralism, the technocrat could turn the table on “energy poverty moralizers” and talk about the responsibilities of fossil fuel companies and their political allies... Ordinary people get this stuff....The lament of the technocrats is self-defeating, counterproductive, and ultimately poor social science. Policy ideas that cannot survive in equilibrium with achievable social mores are useless. This needn’t rule out good policy....Ex post, the “good” in good policy will be a double entendre. Policy will be both effective and right. Ex ante, both policy and morality are contested and undetermined. The policymaker’s challenge is to negotiate a space where morality and policy are mutually reinforcing, and where the results of that coherence are in fact good.(Again, altered from the original.)
Posted by Brian at 3:00 AM
Posted by Brian at 1:57 PM
Peter Ward asks
1. What physically is a photon? The standard answer is a photon is an elementary particle, the quantum of light and all other forms of electromagnetic radiation. This is more a concept than a description of what a photon is physically. Is it simply a massless oscillation in space?Eli goes to the Google: A photon is the vector boson which carries the electromagnetic force. It is a massless particle of spin one and zero charge. Single photons are labelled by energy, momentum and polarization where energy, E = hν and momentum k = 2π/λ
4. Do the photons interact with each other in space? If not, why not? If yes, how?See the lecture. Since photons can decay into electron-positron pairs (or other beast pairs at super high energies) and the other photons can interact with the charged particles before they recombine, yes in principle, in practice not damn much in labs with budgets under the price of unicorns. Without virtual pair production uncharged massless particles like photons do not interact. No gravitational attraction either, they are massless.
7. We talk of an electromagnetic field that can be mapped out in three dimensions and time with a suitable sensor. What is the physical relationship of such a field to photons?
Posted by EliRabett at 12:54 AM
As the summer approaches Eli is polishing up his ethics lecture for the REU program Since there is nothing new under the sun, the lecture is not original, but some parts are worthwhile thinking about. Ours is a joint engineering/science program and the lecture starts by discussing the difference between the two fields.
Posted by EliRabett at 9:29 PM
With a cabal of attorneys general gathering information about Exxon and its withholding of information that it had about the risks of climate change, some, not Eli to be sure, but some who the bunnies would not be surprised to have identified, are seeking to frame the matter as an issue of free speech.
It's a matter of securities law.
Publicly traded companies are required to report known risks to their business
Exxon clearly knew early on that the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions were a threat to their business, and therefore, as soon as they knew this they were required to report it.
Emphasis on as soon as, because they have put some boiler plate into their disclosures recently or at least since the SEC noticed in 2010 that there are climate risks.
Even if Exxon were uncertain, they knew there was a significant risk and they had a duty to report it.
Posted by EliRabett at 12:03 AM
A reporter tried to trap Justin Trudeau (the dreamy PM of Canada according to Ms. Rabett) by asking if he could explain quantum computing and Trudeau provided a serviceable answer
Posted by EliRabett at 9:27 PM
Project Title: An Investigation into the Mode of Communication of Cholera
DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant):The cholera has wreaked intermittent misfortune and death upon large swaths of civilization. While its reach extends ever farther, engulfing new port cities and populations, we have come no closer to fathoming the mode of its communication nor to stopping this awful malady. The disease affects the alimentary tract first and foremost, which implies strongly that one should look to contaminated water or food to explain its transmission. Its epidemic spread is along the pathways of human commerce, but it spreads no faster than people travel. As it usually appears first at seaports, it would appear to be spread by mariners, but it only affects mariners sailing from cholera-affected ports. There are numerous examples of the cholera apparently being transmitted by consumption of water polluted by excreta. Nonetheless, the hypothesis that cholera travels through humans and especially through contaminated water has not been put to crucial scientific examination. Herein, the PI proposes to conduct that crucial study.The Panel was having none of it
We believe that the proposal would have been stronger if the PI had forged some institutional ties, or had proposed to collaborate with the local sanitarian community and to integrate this project into a broader effort to study and control cholera. His lack of experience doing this type of research, his self-employment as a general practitioner of medicine with a practice largely devoted to administering anesthesia, his coolness for collaborating with the broader London medical community, and his single-minded attitude toward other currently debated scientific theories, all underscore our concern about the research environment and the likelihood that the PI can successfully conduct this work as proposed.Moar, much moar at the link, but if a bunny is hopping about London looking at the sites a visit to the pump handle is worthwhile if only to say you were there and the pub opposite is not bad
Posted by EliRabett at 7:55 PM
William Gray, a person who had the most deep down understanding of hurricanes than any other, passed yesterday. His former student, protege and collaborator, Phil Klotzbach, has written an appreciation of Gray.
With rare exception Rabett Run's policy is to speak no evil of the dead, or even the retired (Eli will soon join the tribe), still Gray reminded Eli of a number of senior guys he knew who did their training when theory was a weak reed and worthy only of derision, but by careful observation developed a set of ad hoc models, which turned out to be way wrong but extremely useful for prediction.
Joel Achenbach had the ultimate read on Gray back in 2006 when he was already retired. Read it if you have not
As Eli noted at the time, Gray was not one to go quietly into the night, but he also was not one to consider that he was ever mistaken. Owning an area of knowledge, if only for a minute tends to do that to people.
Posted by EliRabett at 6:38 PM
It's, April 15, tax day here in the US, and Eli and Brian have been thinking about how to save the world.
Everybunny knows that a carbon tax is the best way to minimize the damage from climate change that is coming, and we all know that the chance of a real carbon tax anywhere depends on changing the political climate.
The elevator version is that it is fairly simple to calculate one's own emissions, just electricity, heating and fuel (yes, there are other things, but that is not a bad estimate and fudge factors can always be added). With those three number and the amount of CO2 generated for each (easy to find on the net) one can pick a price of carbon of one's liking and calculate the tax on your cell phone (Millenials), spreadsheed (GenX) or the back of an envelope (folks as old as Eli)
Eli will even provide a Google Sheet to calculate the tax. The example covers what we used in the hutch in March.
Posted by EliRabett at 9:45 PM
Yes, Eli's new favorite toy pinata, Peter L. Ward (As Hank points out below not to be confused with Peter D. Ward, an entirely reasonable fellow) just continues to amaze. Now some, not Eli to be sure, might consider Eli's behavior in this matter to be a tad evil, but there is good science to be learned fisking Ward apart. Why just in his next paragraph from the one Eli started with he continues to misunderstand pretty much all of thermodynamics and a whole bunch of other stuff.
The concept of flux as presently calculated is incorrect because it assumes that thermal energy is the same at every frequency.We observe that when ozone is depleted, more UV-B reaches Earth. We measure the changes in UV-B at earth’s surface. UV-B is the hottest solar radiation to reach Earth. If enough UV-B reached Earth, it could warm Earth to be 48 times hotter than Earth is. Luckily the amounts are low, the dosage is low. One can make the case that the mean surface temperature of Earth is directly proportional to the mean optical thickness of the ozone layer modified primarily by volcanic aerosols in the lower stratosphere that reflect/scatter solar radiation worldwide.Note the bolded phrase "thermal energy is the same at every frequency" because is it is a keeper.
If enough UV-B reached Earth, it could warm Earth to be 48 times hotter than Earth is.(Eli hides his ears in shame for missing this. Rrrussel notes beow that 48 x 280K = 13,440K a reasonable temperature for the interior of a white dwarf star)
Posted by EliRabett at 10:56 PM
Posted by Brian at 1:36 PM
It may be unfair, but when somebunny volunteers as a pinata, who is Eli not to go to Bad Bunny. Peter L. Ward has been spreading nonsense like fertilizer, most recently at Walter Hannah's blog, and neither Ankh nor AT were kind enough to clue Eli in on the fun, so the Rabett will have to simply cut and snip. To say that Ward is a few drops short of a clue, would be generous. OTOH, Eli is rather better prepared to deal with the nonsense than most because he has studied and worked in the areas of atomic and molecular physics, physical chemistry, chemical physics, spectroscopy and kinetics so he can recognize climate baff on sight.
It is such a rich display, that were it a buffet the Bunny would have to check in for lap band surgery. The choice is difficult, but one must start with something Ward gets wrong (and there is little he gets right), perhaps here
Heating of the stratosphere is done primarily by O2 absorbing UV-C and being dissociated. Many other gas molecules are dissociated in the stratosphere including CO2, but their concentrations are very low. We have observed for a long time that the top of the stratosphere averages about 70oC warmer than the tropopause. These facts are not included in typical energy balance efforts by Trenberth and others. Why not?Let Eli start at the top
Heating of the stratosphere is done primarily by O2 absorbing UV-C and being dissociated.Well, as a matter of fact not. Heating of the stratosphere is initiated by dissociation of O2 (Step 1) but the heating is done primarily by absorption of light and dissociation of ozone (Step 2) followed by regeneration of the ozone (Step 3). The chain is terminated in Step 4. The name for this is the Chapman cycle
(1) O2 + hv (< 200 nm) --> O + O
(2) O + O2 + M --> O3 + M
(3) O3 + hv (306 < λ < 200 nm) -- > O + O2
(4) O + O3 -> O2 + O2
Many other gas molecules are dissociated in the stratosphere including CO2Nope, CO2 won't be dissociated in the stratosphere, because it doesn't start absorbing until 180 nm or so. Absorption by oxygen higher up will stop any of the < 180 nm light from reaching CO2 in the stratosphere.
We have observed for a long time that the top of the stratosphere averages about 70oC warmer than the tropopause. These facts are not included in typical energy balance efforts by Trenberth and others. Why not?
Posted by EliRabett at 10:20 PM
Two interesting and warring perspectives on Libya and foreign intervention - I agree with main points of both.
The first by Shadi Hamid at Vox argues the intervention was a success - obviously not as compared to democratic Tunisia, but as compared to the most likely alternative scenario, Syria's, with two orders of magnitude more deaths. What I'd add to Hamid is that another alternative, complete victory for Qaddafi, would also have caused thousands of deaths, many more imprisoned and tortured, and active military intervention throughout Saharan Africa today by Qaddafi. Libya is obviously in bad shape, a 1980s Lebanon, but that's better than the alternative.
The second by Micah Zenko in Foreign Policy argues, accurately, that the seven-month military investigation quickly went beyond protecting civilians to regime change. I agree with the slippery slope between what was said and what was done (and quite possibly intended from the beginning). What Zenko doesn't do is analyze whether and where things were done right or wrong during the intervention, focusing solely on the issue of what Western leaders said they were doing. And the many predictions of a Western ground war intervention against Qaddafi, made by people who now proclaim how right they were to oppose any military action while ignoring Syria's outcome, were simply wrong.
Hamid says the solution to the problem identified by Zenko is defining aims broadly, maybe including regime change, but I disagree - the problem is moving from the original stated strategy. The foreign military intervention started too late and then intervened too much, doing too much of the fighting for the rebels. I don't know if doing less intervention may have led to more cooperation between rebel groups, or even negotiations with pro-Qaddafi tribes, but maybe Libya could've been better off.
The point is that there's a coherent policy that was almost followed in Libya and could be followed in Syria for military intervention - do it defensively in support of forces that are Much Less Bad than the dictator. Air strikes are appropriate to keep dictator armies from overrunning rebel-held cities, as was the case in Libya. Keeping it limited forces the rebels to win, hopefully through obtaining support, in new areas. Military support short of direct intervention, through weapons and training, but not the classic boots on the ground, could help them expand without taking too much of the leading role away from them.
You also don't need to have 100% confidence that the rebels are perfect Madisonian democrats, if they're clearly Much Less Bad than the people they're fighting, because you get a much better outcome, a Libya instead of a Syria. I'd say that the people we support at least need to give cursory support for democratic government though - otherwise there's little evidence that they're really better..
I am concerned that Clinton is oversupportive of military intervention, although she's miles better than anything on the GOP side. I hope she could support a limited and coherent doctrine for when intervention should and should not occur.
One last thought that I haven't seen elsewhere: people on the left who blame the current bad outcomes in Libya, Iraq, and Egypt primarily on Western actions are denying agency to the people and forces within those countries. Check your assumptions and possibly your biases. That's not to say Western and US leadership didn't screw up - they did - but the outside world is just a vector among other forces and not the all-responsible controller of what happens in other countries.
Accepting a limited role that may help to a limited extent is a much more realistic and better foreign policy, especially in what should be the very rare case of military intervention.
Posted by Brian at 3:57 PM
Kind of along the lines of Eli’s Lighter-Than-Air musings, I wondered the other day about why tugboats couldn’t be electric. It’s not as if they need to go hundreds of miles. And it turns out the very initial steps are being taken on that, with prototype tugboat hybrids and an electric boat on the Erie Canal.
This isn’t the grand solution to marine traffic, but imagine at each port one set of tugboats took a massive boat 11 miles out, another set took it another 9, and then other boats did the same on the receiving end. That’s four percent fewer emissions from a 1000 mile journey. Not a huge reduction, but might as well take it. It also has some significant environmental justice and urban quality of life benefits by reducing pollution at urban ports where many poor and working-class people live and work.
Some ports have made initial steps to electrify marine transport, requiring cargo boats to turn off their polluting diesel engines when they’re docked, running their onboard machinery through a connection to shore power instead. Some similar steps have also happened at airports where planes are driven to and from gates by efficient land vehicles instead of using aircraft engines. So there’s precedent for piecemeal electrification.
More on the fantasy side, I wonder if there couldn’t be a category of shipping material that absolutely positively does not have to get there overnight, or very fast at all. Maybe drone cargo ships powered by solar, maybe with floating pontoon panels to add some extra oomf, could slowly get the material to wherever it needs to go. Maybe combine that with a SkySail.
Posted by Brian at 1:47 AM
The overwhelming majority of climate scientists — over 97 percent — understand that humans are the primary cause of climate change. This is one of the central facts about human-caused climate change that any climate communicator needs to keep repeating, for several reasons.
First, it’s true, as Politifact detailed on Monday. The scientific literature is clear on this.but Joe gets something completely wrong a couple of times in the post
The thing is, by 2013, the IPCC’s summary of the science — which are notoriously conservative in part because they require line-by-line approval by every major country in the world — concluded. “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”That should read
The thing is, by 2013, the IPCC’s summary of the science — which are notoriously conservative in part because they require line-by-line approval by every
majorcountry in the world — concluded. “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”
Posted by EliRabett at 7:12 PM
I've been sitting on this for a long time, but California received its first offshore windfarm application last fall that sounds pretty interesting to me. Whether it's truly a good idea or not comes down to details, but I am concerned that some people may say they're open to offshore wind in theory and then oppose every proposal in practice.
Posted by Brian at 6:55 PM
The lawprofs said it was an offensive contact with another person, as a reasonable person defines offensive. The "reasonable person" found everywhere in legal theory implicitly consents to some level of physical contact in this world, the question is how much. It's a civil violation if done negligently, and eligible for criminal prosecution if done intentionally.
Florida law sounds a little different, just touch without consent, but implicit consent presumably raises its head again. I consulted my sister the Florida criminal defense lawyer, and she confirmed that battery can be all kinds of unusual contact - an unwanted kiss, a bite - and physical injury isn't required.
So consider a hand lightly touching someone's arm, like when Fields' hand brushed up against the garment of The Donald:
@MichelleFields you are totally delusional. I never touched you. As a matter of fact, I have never even met you.— Corey Lewandowski (@CLewandowski_) March 11, 2016
Posted by Brian at 1:41 AM
Eli and Jim Hunt (Great White Con) as mentioned here and there are engaged in a fun thing with the hard heads over at Bishop Hill. OTOH Willard Tony protects his tiny flock by censoring Eli and many others,
Now there is all sorts of fanciful at both dens of denial, unicorns and such, but it occurred to Eli that there must at least be proxy records way back into the past for Arctic Sea Ice extent, and, indeed there is, from Reconstructed changes in Arctic sea ice over thepast 1,450 years by Christophe Kinnard, Christian M. Zdanowicz, David A. Fisher, Elisabeth Isaksson, Anne de Vernal and Lonnie G. Thompson, Nature 479 (2011) 510. It's open source so anybunny and their favorite hares can read it.
Our proxy-based reconstructed history of late-summer Arctic sea ice extent over the period AD 561–1995 is presented in Fig. 3a along with the observed sea ice record. The reconstruction and observational record were smoothed with a 40-year lowpass filter to highlight the best-resolved frequencies (Fig. 2b). The uncertainty range around the reconstruction widens notably before about AD 1600 as a result of reduced proxy availability and consequent decrease in reconstruction skill. Within this uncertainty range, this reconstruction suggests that the pronounced decline in summer Arctic sea ice cover that began in the late twentieth century is unprecedented in both magnitude and duration when compared with the range of variability of the previous roughly 1,450 years. The most prominent feature is the extremely low ice extent observed since the mid-1990s (T1 in Fig. 3), which is well below the range of natural variability inferred by the reconstruction. Before the industrial period, periods of extensive sea ice cover occurred between AD 1200 and 1450 and between AD 1800 and 1920. Intervals of sustained low extent of sea ice cover occurred before AD 1200, and may be coincident with the so-called Medieval Warm Optimum (roughly AD 800–1300) attested in numerous Northern Hemisphere proxy records18, but the pre-industrial minimum occurred before, at about AD 640 (T3 in Fig. 3). Two episodes of markedly reduced sea ice cover also occurred in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries (T2 in Fig. 3). However, by the mid-1990s the observed decrease in sea ice cover had exceeded the lower 95% confidence limit of these prehistorical minima.
Posted by EliRabett at 10:26 PM
If Eli had a unit in any devalued paper currency for each time some fool uttered
even when they get it right,@theresphysics @JoanneNova @MJIBrown @SouBundanga @p_hannam 0.003% increase results in what, four orders of magnitude greater heating? Hunh.— Bad Alex (@BADALEX_) March 30, 2016
he would be swimming in carrots.@BADALEX_ @theresphysics @JoanneNova @MJIBrown @SouBundanga @p_hannam It is wrong. 300ppm = 0.0003 =.03% For air = 8 E 15 molecules/cc— eli rabett (@EthonRaptor) April 1, 2016
Posted by EliRabett at 10:26 PM