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Journal Archives

WHO Authors of the March report into Covid-19 emergence warn against further delay. Nature Aug 2021.

Recently in this space someone posted in this space a piece linked to an opinion piece in Murdoch publication, The Wall Street Journal, saying that the cause of the Covid-19 was a laboratory week from a lab in Wuhan.

This was stated as a "done deal." Of course, Murdoch publications and media, which consist entirely of opinion pieces, sometimes disguised as "news," are famous for firing up often violent support of a very stupid racist overly entitled man who spent an entire sybaritic life behaving like an petulant tantrum prone child, and who for some reason - his only real mystery - liked to paint himself the color of an orangutan, thus insulting orangutans world wide, both in the shrinking wild and in zoos around the world. The petulant child, referred to Covid-19 as the "China Virus," this while being allowed to occupy the office of the President United States.

If one types the terms - Origin of sars cov 2 infection - into Google Scholar, without the use of quotation marks, one will get 142,000 hits in a less than seconds. If one uses quotation marks, and the various names for the SARS-CoV-2 virus and/or disease, one can get different large numbers. However, they are large numbers.

It's a little difficult with even a shred of critical thinking that an opinion piece in a Murdoch publication is "the last word."

I personally do not have the time or inclination to read thousands or even hundreds of papers about the origins of Covid, although virology may be somewhat peripheral to my line of work albeit mostly in connection with AAV vectors. I do, however, scan the table of contents of many major scientific journals and if a paper catches my eye - I will open it; I'd guess I open about five or ten Covid papers a month, particularly as I'm on a personal quest to understand the details of immunology.

However the major journals do have nice science focused news sections, in particular both Nature and Science do, and they can offer insight (and often, almost always, references) to the deeper scientific literature with some discussion of social and political implications.

The World Health Organization (WHO) sent a team of highly trained scientists to investigate the origins of SARS-CoV-2 at a time when the petulant orangutan colored child was pulling the United States out of that August organization while claiming that he "knew more than the scientists do," cheered on by Murdoch Goebbels wannabes.

They issued a comprehensive report on what they evaluated, and what they learned, stating that given the complexity of the issue they had not yet found a definitive answer to the question. That's science. People can spend their entire lives working on a problem and never reach a definitive answer, although one can make serious advances to the answer.

Nature published a news article focusing on this international team. It is here: Origins of SARS-CoV-2: window is closing for key scientific studies.

Here is the subtitle:

Authors of the March WHO report into how COVID-19 emerged warn that further delay makes crucial inquiry biologically difficult.

I am used to reading scientific papers, and may not notice how straight forward it is for untrained people (who nonetheless hold strong opinions) to read, but I don't think the news article in Nature - which I believe is open sourced - can be regarded with a measure of contempt as "badly written jargon."

Again, the full article is available at the link above. Some excerpts:

Our group was convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) in October 2020. We have been the designated independent international members of a joint WHO–China team tasked with understanding the origins of SARS-CoV-2. Our report was published this March1. It was meant to be the first step in a process that has stalled. Here we summarize the scientific process so far, and call for action to fast-track the follow-up scientific work required to identify how COVID-19 emerged, which we set out in this article.

The window of opportunity for conducting this crucial inquiry is closing fast: any delay will render some of the studies biologically impossible. Understanding the origins of a devastating pandemic is a global priority, grounded in science.

The mandate

We, all the members of the international expert team, each submitted detailed, confidential statements to the WHO on potential conflicts of interest, including funding, collaborative studies, public statements and other issues around the origins of COVID-19 that could be perceived as conflicts. After the WHO had reviewed these, team members were appointed in their individual capacity, not as representatives of their employers.

So far, our mission has been guided by terms of reference agreed between the WHO and China in 2020, before our involvement1. These terms tasked us with making a detailed reconstruction of the early phase of the pandemic, beginning in Wuhan, China, where the first known cases were reported. Our mandate was to conduct a collaborative study with leading scientists in China to review data they had generated on the basis of initial questions from the WHO. We refined the generic list of questions described in the mandate into a detailed workplan described in the mission report1 (see also Annex A; go.nature.com/3k26jzx)...

...This January, we undertook a 28-day mission to Wuhan to interview clinical, laboratory and public-health professionals and visit institutions involved in the early epidemic response and subsequent investigations. Our work was supported by a team of staff from the WHO China office and from WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland; staff from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE); and a WHO-appointed team leader1. The huge burden of preparatory work was shouldered by the team in China, including more than 1,000 health-care professionals who collected, analysed, presented and discussed data and study outcomes during our joint mission.

Scientific discussions between the international and Chinese teams during this mission were lively. Large amounts of information were exchanged on the basis of the work carried out. It took days of discussion to develop recommendations on essential further work and ongoing data sharing. We drafted a model of the potential ‘pathways of emergence’ to structure our thoughts. We listed current evidence for and against these pathways (see Fig. 1 of ref. 1)

We found the laboratory origin hypothesis too important to ignore, so brought it into the discussions with our Chinese counterparts. And we included it as one of the hypotheses for SARS-CoV-2 origin in our report.

We had limited time on the ground in Wuhan and a limited mandate. So we prioritized understanding the role of labs in the early days of the epidemic, the overall lab biosafety procedures and potential staff illness or absenteeism owing to respiratory disease in the late part of 2019. We spoke to the leadership and staff at the three Wuhan labs handling coronaviruses: the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Wuhan, and the Hubei provincial CDC. We reviewed published work from these labs to assess their scientific history of working with coronaviruses related to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

The Chinese team was and still is reluctant to share raw data (for instance, on the 174 cases identified in December 2019), citing concerns over patient confidentiality...

The bold in the sentence "We found the laboratory origin hypothesis too important to ignore" was added by me.

Further on the authors continued...

... The Chinese team was and still is reluctant to share raw data (for instance, on the 174 cases identified in December 2019), citing concerns over patient confidentiality. Access to data on these cases was not specified in the mandate, although the WHO had demanded it during the investigation, and has done so since . The legal and possible other barriers could not be addressed in the short time frame of our visit. Also, by then, it was clear that the 174 cases were not likely to be the earliest ones, so we considered them less urgent for understanding origins.

It was therefore agreed that a second phase of studies would address these concerns and review these data.

Again I added the bold.

The authors then went on to describe the criticisms they endured - "endured" is the right word - because their report did not tell people, including an orangutan colored person who somehow stumbled into the Oval Office, shitting and peeing all over it, what they wanted to hear, that there was someone Chinese to blame.

...Our critics have also suggested that the report dismisses the possibility of a lab leak. A laboratory origin hypothesis is presented in the pathway model in Figure 5 on page 119 of the report; we explicitly state in the report that it is possible. We held frank discussions with key scientists in the relevant Wuhan institutions — a line of inquiry that exceeded our original mandate. When we reviewed the responses to our questions on this issue, and all other available data, we found no evidence for leads to follow up; we reported this fact.

In our report, we state that if evidence supporting any of the hypotheses becomes known following publication, phase 2 studies should carefully examine this. For instance, we described that there was evidence of the presence of live animals in the market at the end of December 2019, but that the data presented to the team did not show definitive evidence of live mammals. This evidence came to light after publication3 (as we discuss in more detail later in this article).

Another criticism was that the potential for introduction of SARS-CoV-2 through frozen food was included owing to pressure from China. The report addressed this hypothesis for three reasons: analysis showed that frozen food imported from all over the world was sold at the Wuhan market, including frozen wild-animal meat; foodborne viral-disease outbreaks are widely documented, including occasionally from frozen foods; and SARS-CoV-2 can remain infectious when frozen4. Therefore, the team felt it could not rule out introduction from undercooked meat from infected animals...

Again, it's open, anyone who cares can read the whole thing, written by scientists who were on the ground, this, at the time, at great risk to themselves.

Let's be clear on something, OK? There were good reasons for scientists to be working on the SARS type viruses before the outbreak of Covid, in particular because of the near misses of major epidemics in connection with MERS and related syndromes. MERS was stopped in its tracks by competence. No one at the time of MERS thought that an incompetent clown dressed up the color of an orangutan - again I do not mean to insult orangutans, a valuable and wonderful species, with the comparison - would bring childish ignorance, incompetence, and petulance into the office then occupied by Barack Obama.

Labs all over the world, in Los Angeles, in New York, in San Diego, in Boston, in London, in Paris, in Moscow, and in Dacca work with dangerous virus, including the SARS-CoV-2 virus, because it is essential to do so.

Chinese scientists are by and large excellent scientists. I've personally had the pleasure of meeting and conversing with many of them who were first rate. They are not slobs, and they are not out to take over the world.

A fucking opinion piece in a Murdoch publication has nothing to offer anyone. In my opinion - take it for what it's worth - anything in a Murdoch publication is either propaganda, prurient, and/or sensationalist, in that order.

Have a nice weekend.

Biden's CEQ (Council on Environmental Quality) Restores Rules Rescinded by Trump for Power Plants.

I subscribe online to Power Magazine via email. From a recent issue:

A commentary from it: CEQ Proposes to Restore Impactful NEPA Provisions

Some excerpts:

The federal government’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) on Oct. 7 issued a proposed rulemaking to rescind several Trump-era regulatory amendments that limit the scope of environmental reviews completed by federal agencies under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). If finalized, the proposed rule would restore agencies’ discretion to broaden the scope of NEPA reviews.

NEPA is a procedural law that requires federal agencies to consider the environmental, cultural, aesthetic, and other impacts of their proposed actions, including permit approvals for energy and related infrastructure projects. These requirements are intended to ensure that both federal agencies and the public are adequately informed about the anticipated impacts of a proposed agency action before the action occurs.

CEQ, which is within the executive office of the president, “coordinates the federal government’s efforts to improve, preserve, and protect America’s public health and environment.” In this role, CEQ has adopted NEPA regulations to guide federal agencies’ implementation of NEPA. As a supplement to CEQ’s regulations, many federal agencies have adopted their own NEPA regulations based on their unique roles, responsibilities, and organizational structures...

...According to CEQ, the 2020 NEPA Rule’s language improperly limits the statement of purpose and need to the applicant’s goals and thereby excludes other important factors, including the public interest, regulatory requirements, desired conditions on landscape or other environmental outcomes, and local economic needs. The proposal therefore would restore the preexisting regulatory language, providing that “[t]he statement shall briefly specify the underlying purpose and need to which the agency is responding in proposing the alternatives including the proposed action.” Based on this change, the proposal would make corresponding revisions to the regulatory definition of “reasonable alternatives...”

Besides restoring impactful regulatory provisions that existed before the 2020 NEPA Rule, the proposal gives industry and the public a good insight into how the Biden administration plans on implementing NEPA. The proposal, for example, is laden with statements hinting at robust analyses of impacts related to climate change and environmental justice. Relatedly, it highlights an example where a federal agency could select the “no action alternative” instead of a proposed action related to fossil-fuel leasing (the Bureau of Land Management is currently undergoing a review of its coal-leasing program.). In short, the writing is on the wall when it comes to NEPA reviews, and power companies will need to plan and adapt accordingly.

The Boxer

Facts Matter.

Here's an opinion piece from the former head of the Estonian Geological Survey who cofounded a company, Fermi Energia.

Viewpoint: Energy crisis demands quickly-scalable SMRs

In January 2019, I decided to quit my job as Deputy Director of the Estonian Geological Survey and incorporate a great team of Estonian nuclear engineering PhDs and a former CEO of our national power utility into our new company, Fermi Energia. The reason was that, from my own PhD studies, I became deeply convinced that Europe's climate policy and decarbonisation goal would lead to very high carbon prices and loss of competitiveness of fossil fuels...

...This year started with a new administration in the USA, which shortly after swearing in President Biden, re-entered the Paris Agreement on climate change. New pragmatic diplomacy combined with a joint push from the G7 meetings in June are now clearly impacting the future of coal generation, which is now in terminal decline. Even China is committed to climate neutrality, and coal power generation is in significant decline due to banks and investors being unwilling to finance new mines, plants and equipment providers.

But coal still dominates power generation and the naïve hope of displacement with renewables isn't supported by evidence. The reality of the switch to gas has driven up global gas demand and has led to the energy price crisis of 2021. Power retailer bankruptcies, industrial closures and energy poverty are the new reality that the nuclear industry has long warned the European decision makers about.

This is a significant mid-term problem as the quantity of coal power generation is 8735 TWh globally. In the EU, we still burn about 250 million tonnes of coal annually for power. In comparison, China burns 400 million tonnes of coal for district heat with the national aim to switch to cleaner fuels. Thus, the demand for gas will be very, very strong for decades, creating a very supportive investment environment for nuclear energy, with power prices potentially remaining well above EUR80/MWh for the period of high gas demand. Price of power in Western Europe as of 7 October this year, prior to the closure of three German nuclear power plants, reached EUR302/MWh. Many industries are about to shut down. Political ramifications are about to unfold...

I bolded the sentence containing the words, "...the naïve hope of displacement with renewables isn't supported by evidence."

Facts matter.

So called "renewable energy" has always been nothing more than lipstick on the dangerous natural gas pig, and now the pig owns the world.

We hear a lot that so called "renewable energy" has been killing coal, but now coal prices are following gas prices and going through the roof.

U.K. Turns to Coal as Low Wind Output Increases Power Prices

The decline of coal is entirely a function of the rise of gas, and nothing else.

Gas is not clean; it is not "green." It's a dangerous fossil fuel, and it is becoming clear that it can't keep this big lie, the one about how so called "renewable energy" will save the world, from exposing the obvious reality, reality reflected in the rapidly rising, first and second derivative, concentrations of the dangerous fossil fuel waste carbon dioxide in the planetary atmosphere.

There is no good reason for energy poverty or the destruction of the planetary atmosphere other than the lies we tell ourselves. It is not true that "nuclear energy is 'too dangerous'" but climate change isn't "too dangerous."

Let's be clear: Our reliance on fantasy rather than facts is quite literally killing the planet, quickly.

U.K. Turns to Coal as Low Wind Output Increases Power Prices

Bloomberg: U.K. Turns to Coal as Low Wind Output Increases Power Prices

U.K. power prices rose after a coal power plant switched on Monday to make up for a shortfall in wind generation and limited flows on two power cables to Ireland.

Britain is set to end the use of coal within three years and to make power generation fossil fuel-free by 2035. For now the nation is still reliant on coal when the wind drops or demand increases and this winter is set to be even tighter than grid operator National Grid Plc expected.

High gas prices are making coal generation more profitable and capacity cuts on two interconnectors to Ireland are limiting one source of potential imports. The Irish network operator has cited “system security reasons” for restrictions.

“We’re already seeing in times of tightness in interconnected countries that imports to the U.K are constrained,” Adam Lewis partner at Hartree Solutions said. “This differs from National Grid’s Winter outlook assumptions that the U.K. will always be able to incentivize imports.”

The baseload power price for Tuesday rose 16% to 253.67 pounds (298.96 euros) per megawatt-hours on N2EX-exchange. The U.K. has not seen a daily power price below 100 pounds per megawatt-hour since the middle of August. Intraday prices were 248.10 pounds for the 30-minute period to 9 a.m. on Epex Spot.

The nation doesn’t use coal all the time but it is needed when markets are tight. National Grid asked Uniper to switch on a unit at its Ratcliffe coal-fired power plant to help make up the shortfall in wind. The U.K. has burned 2 terawatt-hours of coal this year, about 2% of total power generation, according to data from Fraunhofer ISE.

U.K. power generation from coal in October

U.K. wind output dropped as low as 4,416 megawatt on Monday, down from high of 13,396 megawatt reached on Tuesday last week, according to National Grid data. The forecast looks set to decline to Wednesday.

Chart of Bloomberg’s U.K. wind model:

European energy markets swung wildly on Monday with the benchmark Dutch gas contract gaining as much as 8.3% to 94.91 euros per megawatt-hours before dropping to 87 euros on ICE Endex. The German power contract for next month recovered some of its earlier 15% loss to trade 5.1% down at 178 euros, while benchmark for next year added 0.5% to 119.50 euros.

The thermodynamics of variable coal use are a sight to behold, not that anyone gives a rat's ass about thermodynamics. It's not quite as popular as the idea of making energy dependent on the weather while weakly addressing the destabilization of the weather with wishful thinking and outright denial.

Romania plans to double nuclear capacity.

Romanian energy policy will see nuclear double

The Romanian government has adopted an integrated energy plan that calls for two new CANDU reactors at Cernavoda by 2031 and the refurbishment of an existing unit there in 2037. It would double the country's nuclear power supply in a decade.

Romanian Minister of Energy Virgil Popescu said the Integrated National Plan for Energy and Climate Change is a "comprehensive document, which has been developed and adapted to the latest realities." It was adopted at a government meeting yesterday, the Ministry of Energy announced.

The plan is designed to address the five main aspects of collective energy policy for countries in the European Union: energy security, decarbonisation, energy efficiency, the internal energy market, and research, innovation and competitiveness. Drafts of the document have been commented on by professionals and civil society groups, as well as by the European Commission. The final version is now to be logged with the EU.

Nuclear energy already plays a major strategic role in Romanian power supply, with two CANDU reactors at the Cernavoda power plant supplying about 19% of electricity, and under this plan it would double in size. Construction of Cernavoda started in 1983 under the regime of former President Nicolae Ceaușescu and the two units were completed in 1996 and 2007. Two more CANDUs were always planned for the site and it is Romania's firm policy to complete them.

The plan approved yesterday foresees these new units - Cernavoda 3 and 4 - starting up in 2030 and 2031, respectively, with capacities of 675 MWe each. Romania has already signed a range of agreements towards this project with international partners, including the USA, France and Canada...

...Refurbishment of Cernavoda 1 and 2 is also part of the plan. Unit 1 could undergo the procedure in around 2027-8 and unit 2 after 2037, granting each unit an extra 30 years of operation. This is "an effective solution" the plan said, given service life extension "is done at costs around 40% of new equivalent capacity." By doing this the country can "ensure the supply of electricity without greenhouse gas emissions, with minimal impact on the environment, at competitive costs, thus contributing sustainably to the decarbonisation of the energy sector and achieving Romania's energy and environment targets for 2030, in line with the objectives assumed at European and even global level (Paris Agreement)", the plan states.

The CANDU reactor is a heavy water moderated reactor (HWR), which allows for continuous operation with natural (unenriched) uranium. To my knowledge, the two existing reactors at Cernavoda are the only HWR reactors operating in Europe.

This puts Romania in the "cat bird" seat in Europe because of the remarkable properties of these reactors. (Of all thermal nuclear reactors, these are by far, my favorite.)

All of Canada's nuclear power reactors are of this type but the biggest player in the world for this design is India, which originally purchased reactors from Canada before deciding to manufacture reactors of the same design domestically. South Korea also utilizes a few HWR type reactors, I believe of Canadian design. India has been interested in this reactor because of its huge supply of thorium. Fueled with thorium, because of the high neutron efficiency of the HWR, coupled with the reasonably high value of the value of "Eta" for uranium-233 which is made from thorium, HWR can act as breeders, albeit with a much lower breeding ratio than fast reactors running on plutonium.

When run on natural uranium, the HWR has low "burn ups" of around 7000 MWd/ton. (MWd = Megawatt days, a unit of energy, not power.) "Burn ups" can be thought of as fuel efficiency, sort of like miles per gallon. PWRs and BWRs which dominate the world nuclear fleet have much higher burnups. Modern fuel management techniques have allowed for burn ups in the range of 30,000 - 40,000 MWd/ton.

HWRs can also run on uranium discharged from other types of moderated reactors, such as the far more common PWR's and BWRs, thus turning so called "nuclear waste" into a fuel source. This fuel cycle is called the DUPIC cycle. It offers a very special tool for avoiding uranium mining. (I argue that pathways exist to eliminate the need for uranium mining indefinitely; the uranium and thorium already mined have an energy content sufficient to sustain all of humanity's energy needs for centuries.)

One of the major advantages of the DUPIC cycle is its ability to provide neptunium and plutonium-238, since once through uranium contains (via neutron capture rather than fission of U-235) significant quantities of U-236. As a result any plutonium produced in the reactor will have a considerable heat load from plutonium-238 - the isotope that powers space craft - making it useless for use in nuclear weapons.

In fact, an option that I feel should be explored would be to denature weapons grade plutonium by running CANDU type reactors on a ternary mixture of weapons grade plutonium, once through uranium, and thorium. Under these circumstances, very high burn ups, perhaps much higher than those found in PWRs and BWR may be achieved. If I recall correctly, I've seen figures of 60,000 MWd/ton.

Nicolae Ceaușescu was, of course, a monster, a Trumpian/Stalinist figure, but the reactors at Cernavoda are nonetheless, a positive resource for humanity and I'm very pleased that Romania has an energy policy that will exploit these resources for all of Europe and all of humanity, irrespective of a tragic history by which they came. This is especially important given the high gas prices in Europe because the wind stopped blowing. These reactors will soften the blow of future Dunkelflaute events like those being experienced presently in Europe and California, softening the climate impacts of the wind/gas pair as well as the economic impact which disproportionately effects the poor.

It is notable, also included in the same article, that Romania plans to develop lead cooled fast reactors. This should put Romania at the center of any European effort to avoid the need for uranium mining for generations.

Have a nice day tomorrow.

There are lots of Nobel Prizes floating around this area.

The fun of living in the Princeton area is you get to see these people walking around.

I used to see John Nash riding on the train, or once, waiting on line at a Japanese fast food restaurant in a mall.

I once waited on a line with Toni Morisson at a falafel joint.

Now more opportunities for the same.

Two more Nobels in two days.

When I was growing up I thought of New Jersey as a kind of ugly pit you had to drive through to get somewhere to which it was worth going.

Man I was a stupid kid! I should have gotten out of the car.

Living in New Jersey is a kind of nirvana.

This said I felt that Katalin Kariko deserved either medicine or chemistry, especially because of all the grief she experienced in the path to saving millions of lives.

Wait 'til next year!

A lot of the fields around here seem to be growing grain sorghum. Any Ag types know why?

I've seen a lot of fields planted with it in Northern Mercer and Southern Hunterdon county.

Most of the time around here people grow corn.

Czech law mandates the increased use of nuclear energy.

Austria built a nuclear reactor, the Zwentendorf reactor, which was completed in 1978 and never operated, owing to a plebiscite, in that year, whereupon 50.8% of voters said the reactor should not be operated ever.

By 2020, Austria had completely shut its reliance on coal, having switched to gas; shortages of gas with other countries following suit has led to a surge in European electricity prices and dangerous natural gas prices; we should expect the same in the United States.

Austria does however, import electricity from the Czech Republic where electricity is still produced by burning dangerous coal.

Austrian activists have long opposed the Czech nuclear plants at Temelin, consisting of the usual bourgeois types with poor educations, and organized groups called "Stop Temelin."

Some Czechs responded by organizing an amusing "activist group" group called "Start Zwentendorf"

Some text from the site:

...Closed Zwentendorf is dangerous

Austria imports about 20 TWh of electricity per year. Czech Republic, the only net exporter of electricity in middle Europe, is and will be the supplier. Production of electricity in Czech thermal power plants results, besides the radioactive emissions mentioned above, in the following dangerous emissions:

solid particles, which cause lung cancer and other severe illnesses
heavy metals, which are the cause of severe illnesses
sulfur dioxide, which causes acid rains and damages health
carbon dioxide, which is the most important greenhouse gas which cause global climate changes
oxides of nitrogen, which cause smog and contribute to global climate changes

Closed Zwentendorf in numbers

Inactive Zwentendorf, which was replaced by coal burning power plants, results in the following yearly consumptions and emissions:...

Austria is "going green," and in Europe, as elsewhere, but particularly in Europe, "going green" means being dependent on burning dangerous natural gas, dumping the dangerous natural gas waste carbon dioxide directly into the waste dump, the planetary atmosphere, and muttering all kinds of rhetoric about how "by 2030" or "by 2040" or "by 2050" one's country will rely on 100% so called "renewable energy." The year chosen after the "by" is usually - almost always - a year in which the speaker will be absolutely not involved in the task of providing energy.

I'm an old man, a veteran of "by 1990," and "by 2000" and "by 2010" rhetoric.

The rising gas prices resulting from Austria (and Germany) going green do not, of course, effect the people carrying on about "going green," by substituting dangerous natural gas for dangerous coal - so called "renewable energy" is completely dependent on access to gas - although coal prices are also spiking around the world. The people who suffer are poor people.

Going "green" means different things to different people. For example, I find this news item in the scientific journal Nature to be more worthy of The Onion than Nature:

Climate change to loom large in talks to form new German government. (Quirin Schiermeier, Nature News, September 27, 2021.)

The amusing - it would be amusing if it weren't so tragic - subtitle is this:

Strong results for green and liberal parties mean climate and energy policies are expected to feature heavily in upcoming coalition talks.

It contains this absurd text:

Climate change was a key issue in this election, and the new government will need to lay out a plan to achieve the country’s climate goals — a 65% reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions relative to 1990 levels by 2030, and becoming carbon neutral by 2045. “Greens and liberals have different preferences as to the mix of market-based instruments, subsidies and regulatory law to achieve carbon neutrality over the next few decades,” says Ottmar Edenhofer, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

There's that "by 2030" language, coupled with obscene "percent talk," followed by "by 2045" promises that show contempt for the people who are now children but will be adults - should they survive energy poverty coupled with climate change - in 24 years.

The so called "Green" party in Germany was instrumental in being sure that no realistic policy for phasing out dangerous fossil fuels in Germany is possible. They demanded, and got, government agreement to shut the only source of energy that had any practical possibility of addressing climate change, nuclear energy. According to the Green Party, Chernobyl proved that nuclear energy is "too dangerous" even though the radiation death toll related the event over the last 35 years in Germany, and in fact everywhere else on the planet is dwarfed by the number of people who will die today from dangerous fossil fuel waste, aka "air pollution," between 18,000 and 19,000 people. Germany has a declared policy of phasing out coal "by 2030." They will phase out nuclear energy next year.

Do tell me, if you care, which form of energy is "too dangerous," coal or nuclear? Is it true on a planet where nuclear reactors have operated for well over half a century that nuclear energy is "too dangerous" but climate change isn't.

Two Czech intellectuals who escaped the former nation of Czechoslovakia during the Communist era have profoundly affected my thinking despite striking me as libertarians - I reject libertarian ideology - the first more strongly than the second. The first was a guy named Petr Beckmann, who was an electrical engineering professor at the University of Colorado, Petr Beckmann, who embraced the ideology of that nutty old biddy Ayn Rand, and claimed he knew more about Physics than Albert Einstein, but nonetheless wrote a book in 1970 that I read probably in the late 1970's or early 1980's, called "A History of Pi," that I found highly stimulating, if only because of its hilarious take downs of things like the Roman Empire, religion, and of course, communism. It also had a very enlightening discussion of what the title promised, the discovery and role of the constant Pi in human history. He also wrote a book devoted to the premise that opposing nuclear energy kills people, and although I never read it, I agree with the general premise. In 2021, I agree with the verifiable statement that opposing nuclear energy does indeed kill people. Petr Beckmann, who reified the concept evoked by the cliched idiom "thinking outside the box," sometimes to the edge of crazy, died in the 1990's. The "History of Pi" changed my thinking inasmuch as it made me do it, made think at all, as opposed to regurgitating the ideas of other people. I was a lazy little brat when I was young.

The second Czech intellectual who has had a far more profound influence on my thinking is Vaclav Smil, who is one of the clearest thinkers on the subject of energy and materials there is. I have not read any of his works without a deep appreciation of his realism; unlike most of the noise one hears as we face the interface between energy, climate, poverty and wealth, Smil states he "has nothing to sell." He is something of a free marketeer, and he is skeptical that governments can legislate technology. Although my admiration of Smil's thought is generally unbounded, and I agree with him that economic "growth" must stop, albeit naturally because of physical limits, I am glad that the Czech government disagrees with him on legislating technology while rejecting the role of the "market forces" that have become cultishly worshiped beginning in the last 5th of the 20th century well into the first 5th of the 21st.

To wit:

Czech support for nuclear becomes law

The subtitle:

Support for new nuclear build at the Czech Republic's Dukovany power plant has been signed into law by President Miloš Zeman. It is designed to remove market failures that stand in the way of the Czech Republic's goal to rely on nuclear energy for secure supply of power and heat.

Some more text from the brief news item:

The new law, approved by a large majority in the Chamber of Deputies on 16 September, allows a state-owned company to purchase electricity from new nuclear plants at a fixed rate for at least 30 years, with the possibility of extension. The power will be resold on the wholesale market and any profit or loss translated into an adjustment to power bills, although the government said it will set an upper limit on any extra cost. It is known as Lex Dukovany, after the power plant site where new build is planned. Zeman officially signed the law yesterday, bringing it into effect.

The Czech government and the International Energy Agency have both said this addresses market failures that inhibit the construction of both nuclear and renewable capacity.

Major drivers of the Czech Republic's pro-nuclear position are that the country needs to reduce the amount of coal it uses without prompting security of supply issues, such as an over-reliance on imports. The government has noted that renewable sources are limited by geographic factors. "In addition to stable electricity supplies," Lex Dukovany reads, "nuclear power plants also enable the provision of stable heat supplies, which is another advantage due to the extensive system of central heat supply in the Czech Republic."

Therefore, "Nuclear energy has been identified as the primary means of ensuring energy security in the Czech Republic in the context of achieving the goal of a climate-neutral EU by 2050 due to its ability to ensure low-carbon, stable and cheap electricity supplies..."

The "by 2050" rhetoric is depressing. It's way too late. The Czech policy also calls for getting 25% of its electricity "by 2038" from so called "renewable energy," at which time it will have, according to the plan, phased out coal and getting 58% of its electricity from nuclear - albeit with reduced dependence on dangerous natural gas than "green" Germany and "green" Austria - if there is dangerous natural gas available in 2038. I personally think the Czech could save money and time by foregoing the so called "renewable energy" and relying solely on nuclear energy. It alone is sustainable.

Pyrolysis Kinetic Modeling of a Polyethylene/Vinyl Acetate Encapsulant Found in Waste Photovoltaics

The paper I'll briefly discuss in this post is this one: Pyrolysis Kinetic Modeling of a Poly(ethylene-co-vinyl acetate) Encapsulant Found in Waste Photovoltaic Modules (Charlie Farrell, Ahmed I. Osman, John Harrison, Ashlene Vennard, Adrian Murphy, Rory Doherty, Mark Russell, Vignesh Kumaravel, Ala’a H. Al-Muhtaseb, Xiaolei Zhang, Jehad K. Abu-Dahrieh, and David W. Rooney Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research 2021 60 (37), 13492-13504)

I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this paper, but just excerpt some statistical portions from the text - some of which are covered in the abstract - and point to aspects that may be misleading or omit some relevant considerations.

From the introduction:

Owing to the ever-growing population and increased energy demand, the world is transitioning away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy technologies in order to decarbonize and meet Paris Agreement climate targets.(1−3) Of these renewable technologies, the solar photovoltaic (PV) devices has gained considerable interest because of their ability to produce electricity without any subsequent noise or air pollution in the form of emissions.(4−6) As of 2018, solar has taken the lead for renewable capacity additions at 55%, surpassing that of its competitive counterparts such as hydropower and wind.(7)

One of the most common misrepresentations about the so called "renewable energy" fantasy is the deliberate lie that putative peak capacity - which in practice is never realized for solar cells - is the same as energy.

I detailed the capacity utilization of solar energy, as reported by the California Energy Commission - capacity utilization is the actual energy produced as compared to the theoretical peak capacity if a generation system (any generation system) functioned at full peak capacity for a given period of time as a percentage - in another post on this site: The Growth of Solar Capacity In California, Capacity Utilization, and Solar Energy Production.

For convenience I reproduce the table from that post:

In general, depending on the geographical area in which it is located as well as the weather, the capacity of utilization of solar energy is lower than the already abysmal capacity utilization of wind. Even in California, known for its sunny weather, the capacity utilization has never, not once, in any year, approached 30%. In fact, in only three years in this century did it exceed 25%, and for five years it was below 20%. Thus to talk about capacity in comparing solar to wind and or hydroelectricity is rather absurd.

Also it is outrageous to claim that "the world is transitioning away from fossil fuels." This is nonsense. According to the World Energy Outlook (2019 edition) in the year 2000, the world was consuming 420.19 Exajoules of energy, 80.0% of which was produced by the combustion of dangerous fossil fuels. By 2018, the world was using 599.34 Exajoules of energy, 81% of which was produced by the combustion of dangerous fossil fuels. The use of dangerous fossil fuels is rising, rapidly, and no real "energy transition" has been observed. It's a lie, a very big lie, we tell ourselves routinely while the world literally burns.

The paper continues:

The solar energy industry is helping to meet the ever-growing global energy demand that is estimated to reach 778 EJ by 2035.(8) At the end of 2019, the global installed capacity of solar PV passed the threshold of 600 GW.(9,10) PV modules have a limited lifespan of 25–30 years, and this is also reflected in the manufacturer’s guarantee.(11−13) However, it is worth noting that the lifespan can vary based on the type of the failure mode or degradation experienced by the module. For example, the recent work of Tracy et al. outlines encapsulant adhesion as a function of environmental stressors (UV exposure, temperature, and humidity) with lab and field data in various climates.(14) As annual installations increase exponentially, so does the waste that will arise. Of the two commercially available generations of PV modules, the first-generation, also known as crystalline silicon (c-Si) PV modules, equates to a market share of 80–90% over the last 40 years.(15,16) In 2012, PV modules were added to the EU’s WEEE directive, making it a law as of February 14, 2014, that PV manufacturers and suppliers are now responsible for their end-of-life (EoL) management.(17−19) Despite this legislative driver, approximately only 10% of PV modules are recycled globally.(20) To date, there are limited studies available on EoL PV modules considering the effect that it will have in the near future.(21,22)

The first sentence is delusional. The world is now consuming about 600 EJ of energy per year. After 50 years of mindless cheering, and the expenditure of trillions of dollars the solar industry doesn't produce 5 EJ of energy per year. It never has.

But solar waste - which is a form of electronic waste - is accumulating. No one apparently bothers to think too much about this issue, because solar energy is said to be "green," but it is very real. How much waste?

Well the paper continues:

PV modules consist of numerous material types, such as glass, metals, and polymers. For reference, please refer to Figure S1 in the Supplementary Information for an exploded diagram of a c-Si PV module. This mixture of material types makes the recycling of PV modules difficult. However, as the decomposition temperatures of the constituent types are vastly spread, thermal treatment such as pyrolysis can be used to selectively remove individual components. The first material to decompose is the polymeric fraction (EVA and PV Backsheet) of the module at approximately 500 °C.(23)
Already, there are approximately 25.8 million tonnes of plastic waste generated in Europe every year.(24) In 2018, 12.4 million tonnes of post-consumer plastic waste were sent for energy recovery,(25) growing at an average of 4.9% every year and a 77% rise from figures reported in 2006.(26)

It is estimated that between 60 and 78 million tonnes of EoL PV modules will be in circulation by 2050.(27,28) Of these 60–78 million tonnes, 6.09–7.92 tonnes equate to the waste polymers found in PV modules when considering the 10.15 wt % that they contribute to the mass of the module. Furthermore, 3.93–5.11 tonnes equate to the waste polymer poly(ethylene-co-vinyl acetate) (also known as EVA), when considering its dominant 6.55 wt % contribution to the mass of the polymeric fraction of the c-Si PV module.(29) EVA acts as an encapsulant protecting the solar cells and metal contacts from mechanical shock and moisture and has excellent adhesion properties to the glass and backsheet layers. EVA is also widely used in a plethora of applications, such as cable sheaths, packaging films, hot melt adhesives, and some drug delivery devices.(30)

In addition to this, EVA has been the industry standard for PV module encapsulation since the 1980s, and according to the current ITRPV report, it is expected to continue to be the industry standard until at least 2029, as there is no available data beyond this point.(31−33)

Note that so called "renewable energy" depends on lots and lots and lots and lots of interconnects because of its poor reliability, this means more wires, more transmission lines and in that "renewable energy" paradise of California, more fires.

Polyethylene is made from dangerous natural gas, as is vinyl acetate. This is yet another way - besides the need for back up power - that the so called "renewable energy" industry is dependent on access to dangerous natural gas.

Note that none of this waste includes the chemical waste, notably aliphatic fluorides, acids, that go into making solar junk, nor does it address the fact that silicon is reduced with carbon using heat generated by the combustion of dangerous natural gas, nor does it account for the trucking of transport to solar plants or McMansion rooves, and the hauling of this distributed waste away.

The paper continues:

hroughout a PV module lifespan, EVA is prone to degradation (sometimes referred to as yellowing) over time. As EVA yellows, the transmittance of light reaching the solar cells lowers and this subsequently has a detrimental effect on the power output of the module. Although not fully understood, it is believed this degradation is related and linked to UV light exposure and moisture ingress.(32,34,35) A mechanism has been outlined recently by Tracy et al. which focuses on the underlying degradation processes that are active at a molecular level and which accounts for the competition of chemical reactions such as cross-linking and chain scission in the bulk encapsulant and bond dissociation because of hydrolytic depolymerization at the cell and glass interfaces.(14) When the power produced by the module is less than 80% of the wattage quoted at the time of manufacture, the PV module can be considered as EoL.(36) However, it is worth noting that there are many failure modes of PV modules that can also deem them as EoL. For example, broken solder connections, failure in lamination, or environmental catastrophes such as storms can also affect how a module can be classified as EoL.

The EVA encapsulant found in first-generation c-Si PV modules poses the most significant challenge in the delamination of PV modules and subsequently in the recycling of the other constituents. Some methods that have been previously utilized to remove the EVA fraction are pyrolysis,(37−39) combustion,(40) organic solvents,(41−43) dissolution in acidic media,(39) high-voltage pulse crushing,(44−46) and shockwave.(47,48) To date, pyrolysis has been reported to be one, if not the most effective, method for the removal of waste polymers found in PV modules, removing a significant fraction with little residual material left post-pyrolysis.

Pyrolysis is of course, causing the plastic to decompose by heating it.

At what temperature you may ask. From the paper:

Pyrolysis of polymers usually involves the heating of waste polymer materials under an inert atmosphere in the temperature range of 300–900 °C.(49) Parameters such as temperature, pressure, residence time, and the employment of a catalyst used in conventional pyrolysis can be altered to optimize product yields of the pyrolysis process.(50,51) From the previous work, conventional pyrolysis is ideal for treating waste EVA as there is approximately 1 wt % residual remaining.(52) A significant drawback in the developmental transition of thermochemical conversion processes from lab to industrial scale is that more quantitative information regarding the chemical reactions in question is needed. An important part of this information is the development of a kinetic model of the given reaction system.

There you have it, 300–900 °C.

Lie to yourself as much as you'd like to do, but let me tell you something. That heat isn't going to come from solar ovens operating for a few hours a day in a vast trashed area of desert covered with bird frying ovens near the summer solstice.

It's coming from combustion.


The planet is literally on fire. It's not getting better. It's getting worse, and its getting worse faster and faster and faster. I know. I keep track.

Might it not be time to think clearly?

Have a nice day tomorrow.
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