Blowout week1

World: Extreme cold weather affects Canada and USA; extreme hot weather affects Australia; Iraq continues descent towards civil war.

UK: A giant European network of electricity interconnectors is solution to high energy prices, says climate change minister

The only way Britain can benefit from US-style low energy prices is by creating a totally integrated power market across Europe, the Energy minister Ed Davey has claimed…

..he said there was an urgent need to build a giant network of electricity interconnectors across Europe, allowing vast amounts of energy to be moved between countries, driving down prices.

17 more stories below the fold.
World: To clean up coal, Obama pushes more oil production

America’s newest, most expensive coal-fired power plant is hailed as one of the cleanest on the planet, thanks to government-backed technology that removes carbon dioxide and keeps it out of the atmosphere. But once the carbon is stripped away, it will be used to do something that is not so green at all. It will extract oil.

World: A Fresh Oil-Train Explosion Hits America’s Risky Energy Bottleneck

For the fourth time in less than six months, a train carrying crude oil across North America has derailed, triggering a massive explosion. A small town in North Dakota just west of Fargo was evacuated after two trains collided on Monday, one carrying thousands of barrels of crude, the other filled with soybeans. Despite a huge fireball captured on video, no one was killed.

World: Antarctic rescue of Akademik Shokalskiy ship completed

Rescuers in Antarctica have safely transferred all 52 passengers stranded on the ice-bound research vessel Akademik Shokalskiy.

UK: Rueing the waves

Britain gets more electricity from offshore wind farms than all other countries combined. In 2012 it added nearly five times more offshore capacity than Belgium, the next keenest nation, and ten times more than Germany. Its waters already contain more than 1,000 turbines, and the government thinks capacity could triple in six years. Boosters think Britain a global pioneer. Critics say ministers are flogging a costly boondoggle.

UK: 5 million Scottish trees felled for wind farms

Forestry Commission statistics reveal that about five million trees – almost one for every person in Scotland – have been cut down to clear space for turbines in the past six years but less than a third of them have been replaced.

UK: Europe wants to block UK wind farm subsidies

The European Commission is to order Britain to end wind farm subsidies. Officials have told ministers that the current level of state support for renewable energy sources must be phased out by the end of the decade. Taxpayer support for solar energy must also be cut, the commission will say.

World: US and Canada snowstorm causes travel chaos

A winter storm has blanketed parts of Canada and the north-eastern US with up to 2ft (61cm) of snow. The storm has been blamed for 11 deaths and forced the cancellation of more than 4,000 flights since Wednesday. With the wind chill, the temperature dropped as low as -29C (-20F) in Toronto and -38C in Quebec City, the lowest seen in two decades.

World: Should Australian newspapers publish climate change denialist opinion pieces?

Should Fairfax — or other media publishers — give a platform for climate change denialist opinion pieces?

The most recent example is Fairfax publishing a piece by John McLean, a member of the International Climate Science Coalition.

In the opinion piece, McLean repeats various lines designed to create uncertainty about the recent report by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and to impute a sinister motive on IPCC members of political and scientific deception.

World: Antarctic expedition: ‘This wasn’t a tourist trip. It was all about science – and it was worth it’

The last 24 hours have been sobering. I am sitting in the comfort of a cabin on board the Australian icebreaker the Aurora Australis, one day after evacuating the Australasian Antarctic Expedition from our Russian-crewed vessel, the MV Akademik Shokalskiy. After sleepless nights thinking about keeping everyone safe, it is a relief to know everyone is on board the Aurora and well. [that is everyone apart from the crew]

World: ‘Polar vortex’ to blast frigid air over much of US

The weather warnings are dire: Life threatening wind chills. Historic cold outbreak.

Winter is normally cold, but starting Sunday tundra-like temperatures are poised to deliver a rare and potentially dangerous sledgehammer blow to much of the Midwest, driving temperatures so far below zero that records will shatter.

World: US faces record low temperatures with fresh cold blast

Parts of the US are braced for potentially record-breaking low temperatures as an Arctic chill brings more freezing weather.

A winter storm has already blanketed areas of Canada and the north-eastern US with up to 2ft (60 cm) of snow.

It has been blamed for 16 deaths and the cancellation of more than 5,000 flights since Wednesday.

World: Heatwave hits inland Australia: scorching temperatures tipped to break, bringing relief

Experts are predicting a return to average temperatures in inland areas by the weekend, bringing relief to regions that have been sweltering in record-breaking temperatures.

My selection of stories posted by Luis de Sousa At The Edge of Time

World: Iraqi MPs resign following clearance of Sunni protest camp

During a televised news conference on Monday, more than 40 Iraqi Members of Parliament announced their immediate resignation, citing rising tensions between security forces and the country’s Sunni Muslim minority.

World: Western Iraq on brink of rebellion against Shia regime

Iraq’s volatile western region was on the verge of all-out rebellion against the central government on Monday. It followed the weekend arrest of a prominent lawmaker and the dispersal of a largely peaceful protest in the city of Ramadi that left at least 13 dead, according to news agencies.

World: Al Qaeda sweep in Iraq cities revives battleground

Two Iraqi cities that were strongholds of Sunni insurgents during the U.S. war in the country are battlegrounds once more after Al Qaeda militants largely took them over, fending off government forces that have been besieging them for days.

World: Anbar violence goes beyond sectarian conflict in Iraq

The attacks on the main police station in Fallujah on Wednesday, followed by the takeover of other police stations there and Ramadi on the following day, are part of the escalation in the Sunni-Shia sectarian conflict that has long plagued Iraq and reached its worst point in 2006-2007.

But the violence is also part of the broader malaise affecting all Iraqi provinces, including some of the major Shia ones, as Prime Minister Nouri Maliki seeks to tighten his own political control and power, and in the process to impose a highly centralised system of control, which most provinces are beginning to resent.

World: Prospects Grim for Libyan Oil Recovery

Libyan oil production failed to make the grade for much of the year and there are few signs of improvement on the horizon. High on the market radar, post-revolution Libya ranks low in terms of prospects for medium-term recovery.

Libya’s National Oil Corp. said it expected “good news” from the eastern Hariga port by Monday though the facility remains shuttered nearly five months after protestors closed it down. Two fields south of the port, Sarir and Messla, were open but output was curtailed because Hariga wasn’t able to rotate its daily 110,000 barrel inventory.

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20 Responses to Blowout week1

  1. Kit P says:

    Since when is normal winter weather extreme? The media likes to hype every story. Every storm is a super storm. This does a disservice to the public because there are times when there are super storms. It is just a matter of being prepared for the worst.
    Speaking of hype, what would a media story about renewable energy without statements like, ‘Britain gets more electricity from …’ Never does the story every tell how much actual power in produced in MWh. Wind and solar is interesting because it is shiny not because it a noteworthy better way of producing power.
    The article about cutting down trees does not seem to credible unless I completely underestimate the idiocy of greens to screw up the environment in the name of AGW.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Kit, I hope you and your wife are well and have a prosperous 2014. I’m guessing you are well away from the cold weather up north east.

      unless I completely underestimate the idiocy of greens to screw up the environment in the name of AGW

      I think you may have hit the nail on the head here. Plan A in the UK is to convert the whole countryside into one gigantic Green powerhouse with windmills, powerlines, energy crops, biomass, pump storage dams etc. We have one of Europe’s largest thermal power stations – Drax, used to run on coal but will shortly be running on N American bio mass. A chain saw may be coming to a neighbourhood near you…

      • Kit P says:

        Euan, I have lived just about everyplace in the continental US. Yes, we have currently escaped the bitter cold. I do not miss feeding the wood boiler and buying wood by the ton. We watched the weather very closely. One adult child was visiting us from NYC. I hurt my back booting her out the door but she got home just before it started to snow. Dug out of more than a few noreasters in five winters in the Northeast.
        Our son in college rang in the New Years with a friend in Chicago. After more than 20 winters near Chicago, it was not on my list placed to travel to in winter. I would go back to Seville again and this time I would write down where I parked the car. Since our son came back from Chicago by train, weather was not a problem. Two years ago these lads rang in the New Year in London. It started out a beautiful day but by the time their marching band got to the reviewing stand, they had freezing rain. Next year they are going to go some place warm.

        • Kit P says:

          Most places in the US can use about 25 MWe of waste biomass within a radius of 25 miles reducing the environmental impact of such waste. However, beyond 25 miles the environmental impact of transportation negates the benefit. The largest factor when considering environmental impact of producing power is transportation Every large city needs a mile long coal train daily. This is insignificant compared to transportation in general. High BTU coal has less impact than low BTU coal which is in turn has less wood.
          Bottom line is that while we have plenty of wood, shipping it to the UK is not a good environmental choice. For the record, the name of the place we live is called Forest. Our yard has 20 large trees and if we compost the leaves. If anyone in the UK wants to help the environment, send me money and I will send you a bag of our best compost. Did a mention that we have a son in college?

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Kit, energy accounting on every choice we make is vital IMO. I recall reading one time that transporting coal long distance in USA only works because everywhere else is down hill from Wyoming – it wouldn’t work if you had to haul the coal up hill. That’s why it is common to build a power station at the mine mouth and transport as electricity instead. Get the stuff on water and energy cost of transport goes way down – would be handy to know more about this! I think a lot of global coal reserves are stranded because of the transportation issue.

            Transporting large amounts of biomass from N America to England to make Green electricity just sounds bonkers to me.

            I have two boys still in college. One leaves home today to hopefully take up a one year position at Max Planck in Munich. The other is doing a Masters in Marine Environment in Edinburgh.

          • Roger Andrews says:

            Euan: What’s the EROEI on US wood chips delivered to Drax?

          • Euan Mearns says:

            You should send an email to David MacKay and ask him. But in the eyes of DECC it is irrelevant. If it gives the illusion of reducing CO2 emissions that is all that matters.

  2. Roger Andrews says:

    Miscellaneous comments:

    Re: “A giant European network of electricity interconnectors is solution to high energy prices, says climate change minister”

    After hearing so much about how renewables were going to supply abundant, cheap and clean energy I take this as a confession of failure.

    Re: “Should Australian newspapers publish climate change denialist opinion pieces?”

    Anyone who thinks climate change isn’t a religion should read this article.

    Re: “Antarctic rescue of Akademik Shokalskiy ship completed.”

    According to Chris Turney, the leader of the expedition: ‘This wasn’t a tourist trip. It was all about science – and it was worth it’. Horsefeathers. There are around 80 permanently and seasonally manned bases in Antarctica ans some of them have been collecting climate data for over 50 years. The amount of data collected by the Antarctic climate tourists (who included wives, children and a press contingent) will be vanishingly small in comparison. There will in fact probably be a net LOSS of data because the diversion of ships to succour the icebound tourists delayed a number of other data-collecting projects.

    Also thanks to the climate tourists two ships plus over a hundred crew members remain stuck in the ice with no assurance that they will be able to free themselves, which is why Australia, Russia and China have requested the services of a US Coastguard icebreaker to go down and try to break them out. We can only hope they succeed.

    Re: “To clean up coal, Obama pushes more oil production”

    The flagship of the US CC&S effort is the Archer Daniels Midland Decatur carbon sequestration project, where CO2 is being extracted and injected into a deep sandstone unit at a rate of 1,100 tpd. However, there’s an irony here too, because Decatur isn’t a coal plant, it’s an ethanol plant. So much for biofuels as a carbon-free energy source.

    • Kit P says:

      “it’s an ethanol plant ”
      The purpose of which is to create a market for excess corn production and reduce imports of oil. The programs has been very successful. Any reduction in ghg is nice.
      Each renewable energy project must be judged on its own merits. Whenever there is sun and rain, biomass is produced. Decaying biomass has huge environmental impact and is one of the largest natural sources of ghg. There is no rule that says we can not engineer systems to use the biomass. Putting wind turbines in wheat and corn field is fine with me because the land is already in production that is comparable. Since there are lots of good places for renewable energy, cut down trees would indicate that good environmental choices are not being made.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Roger (and Kit) the big con with US corn ethanol is that the energy return / energy invested is just marginally greater than 1 (multiple peer reviewed studies, I can post references if needs be). The main energy input is natural gas to make ammonium nitrate fertilizer + diesel to plant, harvest and transport the corn + electricity in the “refinery”. Thus, corn ethanol does not reduce CO2 emissions at all, nor does it produce significant primary energy. It is merely a way of converting nat gas to a liquid fuel – this enhancement in energy quality is what drives the whole industry. It also consumes top soil and water in its manufacture.

      Again, USA is different to UK. The USA is bigger and is a net exporter or food. The UK is a net importer of food, hence IMO using agricultural land to make motor fuel in this country is bonkers. It achieves nothing and makes our food security worse.

      • Kit P says:

        Euan are your peer references from the idiots at UC Berkeley or Cornell? No I do not think all college professors are idiots, just the one who do research on why others should not be productive, Being from the corn belt there is a difference sweet corn (people feed) and field corn (animal feed). If you are worried about food scarcity in the UK maybe you should send your farmers over here to learn how to produce food without consuming top soil or water. American farms are very savy and as far from bonkers as you can get.
        Maybe the UK needs to import a few. Keep in mind we have places like Indiana and Iowa almost devoid of the green cult crowd but filled with those who actually protect the environment using science.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Ethanol Production Using Corn, Switchgrass, and Wood; Biodiesel Production Using Soybean and Sunflower
          David Pimentel1,3 and Tad W. Patzek2, Natural Resources Research, Vol. 14, No. 1, March 2005 (⃝C 2005) DOI: 10.1007/s11053-005-4679-8

          Energy outputs from ethanol produced using corn, switchgrass, and wood biomass were each less than the respective fossil energy inputs. The same was true for producing biodiesel us- ing soybeans and sunflower, however, the energy cost for producing soybean biodiesel was only slightly negative compared with ethanol production. Findings in terms of energy outputs compared with the energy inputs were: • Ethanol production using corn grain required 29% more fossil energy than the ethanol fuel produced. • Ethanol production using switchgrass required 50% more fossil energy than the ethanol fuel produced. • Ethanol production using wood biomass required 57% more fossil energy than the ethanol fuel produced. • Biodiesel production using soybean required 27% more fossil energy than the biodiesel fuel produced (Note, the energy yield from soy oil per hectare is far lower than the ethanol yield from corn). • Biodiesel production using sunflower required 118% more fossil energy than the biodiesel fuel produced.

          Pimentel is the “Cornell idiot” you refer to. Patzek is a geologist, I know him, currently at University of Austin. Now I could post several of these – I have a meta analysis somewhere. But writing these posts takes A LOT OF TIME! And I don’t have the time to chase down every single comment.

          The onus is now on you to provide credible evidence that corn ethanol produces significant net energy. FYI, I would consider net energy > 5 to be significant.

          net energy = ERoEI – 1

    • Roger Andrews says:


      I too was surprised to hear the US Renewable Fuel Standards Program described as “very successful”. Even the EPA now admits that ethanol screwed the market up:

      “The (2014 EPA) proposal seeks to put the RFS program on a steady path forward – ensuring the continued growth of renewable fuels while recognizing the practical limits on ethanol blending, called the ethanol “blend wall.” The blend wall refers to the difficulty in incorporating increasing amounts of ethanol into the transportation fuel supply at volumes exceeding those achieved by the sale of nearly all gasoline as E10 (gasoline containing 10 percent ethanol by volume). Although the production of renewable fuels has been increasing, overall gasoline consumption in the United States is less than anticipated when Congress established the program by law in 2007.”

      Estimates of how much CO2 ethanol emits are all over the map depending on who did them (oil industry, Iowa corn growers etc.) but if the EROEI of ethanol is indeed only marginally higher than one then it’s questionable whether there’s any point in manufacturing it to begin with.

  3. Kit P says:

    Gosh Euan I an think that you have never been to the Powder River Basin in Wyoming. Coal is shipped by rail over several mountain ranges to coal plants at Boardman, Oregon; and Centralia, Washington. A raging debate is going on about opening new west coast terminals to export more coal. Check out a satellite view of the coal mine and power plant a few miles yeast of Gillette.
    The concept of ‘stranded’ is odd. As I have said before, the power industry only produces the amount of power customers demand. Coal production is limited be demand. Coal can be stored at power plants to mitigate temporary transportation issues. Poor planning is a reason customer demands are sometimes not met.
    Ask your son about the latest research into the fugacity of CO2 in seawater. One of the many reasons I am skeptical of AGW is the huge areas of uncertainty in the fate and transport of CO2.

  4. A C Osborn says:

    Euan, sorry for this Off Topic, but have seen this post?

  5. Kit P says:

    “Pimentel is the “Cornell idiot” you refer to. ”
    That is right. LCA is used to identify ways to reduce the environmental impact of producing something not further a political agenda. It is easy to spot the difference between good research and not very useful research. So Euan try finding some up to date references that looks at how things are actually being done now not junk science created for a political debate.
    I am not surprised that Iowa was a leader in wind and ethanol after the 2005 Energy Bill Research into renewable energy for many years was being carried out ant the state was ready. Texas a leader in wind was not very interested in biomass. I have yet to see any research out of Iowa explaining why Texas should not produce oil or gas.
    Show me some Patzek or Pimento research on say reducing the impact of dairy farm manure in Texas or New York. I am not surprised that Iowa was a leader in wind and ethanol after the 2005 Energy Bill Research into renewable energy for many years was being carried out ant the state was ready. Texas a leader in wind was not very interested in biomass. I have yet to see any research out of Iowa explaining why Texas should not produce oil or gas.

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