Category Archives: energy

Choices

The total sum the U.N. says is needed each year is $267 billion. “Given that this is more or less equivalent to 0.3 percent of the global GDP, I personally think it is a relatively small price to pay to end hunger,” Graziano da Silva said in a statement.

Though much progress has been made in recent years, nearly 800 million people worldwide do not have enough to eat. Most live outside cities. reuters

Climate change idiots claim that we are now spending 1 billion dollars a day to “fight climate change”. (cite)

Given that there has been no global warming for 18+ years and that CO2 emissions continue to rise, maybe we should think about feeding real, hungry, people rather than pissing away billions on windmills and bio-fuels.

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A thought

The King of Saudi Arabia is dead. His successor is rumoured to be suffering from dementia. Saudi’s oil war is reducing revenue to the Kingdom. ISIS has already begun border attacks and there is rumour of fifth column activity in the Kingdom. Yemen is under Iranian backed Shi’te pressure with its capital overrun. In the Eastern province, where the oil is, there is a pro-Iranian Shi’te majority.

At this point the survival of Saudi Arabia in its current form is in some doubt. Certainly ISIS has no reason not to continue to attack. Running the table from Medina to Mecca looks like a stretch but that takes the loyalty of the Saudi Army and Air Force for granted. Are they loyal? And it is no stretch to note that the non-royal Saudis are not over enthusiastic about their lot in life. Less so when cuts to the Saudi welfare state occasioned by the reduction in oil revenues begin to bite.

ISIS is now in a stalemate in Iraq with the Iranian backed militias and the Iraqi army holding a line West of Baghdad. For ISIS to continue it needs to keep its momentum and wheeling south may be the best way to do that. Hitting the sacred territories of Islam could draw recruits and, weirdly, Saudi money from people who will back the perceived strong horse.

The derisory airstrikes of the anti-ISIS coalition have damaged but not destroyed ISIS. The logic of their strategic position combined with the politics of the Caliphate may make Saudi the right target at the right time. Which could make the entire situation radically more dangerous.

It might be time for the West to think more seriously about how and why it is conducting war in the Middle East. Air war is clean, low casualty and somewhat effective;it is not, however, decisive. Does it make sense to put boots on the ground and, if so, whose? Or are there other strategic options. China has a large Army. And buys a heck of a lot more Middle Eastern oil than the US.

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Oil Wars

oil price

If you want to understand the future a look at the price of oil is never a bad place to start. That price is down and pixels are dying in their billions with commentary as to what that means for Russia, Iran, fracking, IS, Canada and your car’s gas bill.

Oil prices have fluctuated significantly for years and I expect they will continue to do so. What interests me is the implication of a low oil price for the longer term prospects of the West. And, in general, there seem to be more positives than negatives.

When oil prices are high there is a rush of investment into oil based enterprises from multi-nationals to frackers. No bad thing but there is always a real danger of over investment leading to the exploitation of very marginal resources. A lower oil price will strand some of that investment and, just as importantly, postpone a great deal of it. Which frees up investment for other, potentially more useful, purposes.

The second thing which happens is that governments become addicted to the joys of relatively painless oil royalties. This looks like revenue but, because it is drawn from a diminishing resource, is actually a rather dangerous drawing down of capital. A lot of oil “revenue” is seen as general revenue and is spent on non-capital expenditures. With a booming oil sector governments are tempted to think the exaggerated revenues are available for general expenses and will continue to be. Which means that government budgets are set based on a purely extractive draw down of a province’s or nation’s capital. This is a poor idea.

Not to take anything away from the bright guys who are fracking and mining their way to oil fortunes, the reality is that extracting oil does not leave much in the way of useful, secondary industry, much less innovation. Which, in turn, means that when the oil is no longer profitable to extract there is no residual, non-oil, economy left behind. If a government spends the oil revenue as it comes in, or worse uses it to secure loans, when the oil revenue dries up there is nothing to cover the spending or the debt.

(The polar case here is Saudi Arabia. If Saudi oil dried up tomorrow, other than terrorist and Islamoloons, what else does Saudi make? Take a look here for the answer. And here is Canada by contrast.)

The “bingo” of high oil revenues has been largely wasted by governments. This is not intentional, it is just what government, confronted with a big pile of money does. From Russia to Iran to Alberta, government grabs the money and spends it on day to day operations. There is virtually no way to stop this so long as we have politicians with month ahead horizons. However, the current crash in oil prices means that there will be less money to squander.

The golden lining of additional pressures on nasty states like Russia, Iran and Venezuela is likely not as significant as the prevention of malinvestment and governmental squander. In time, as various emerging economies continue to grow, demand will drive the price of oil upwards again. With luck investors and governments will not make the same mistakes twice.

(One unalloyed good arising from the collapse of the price of oil is that so called clean energy renewables like wind and solar look even sillier with their present technology. I suspect wind will always make zero economic sense; I have more hope for photo voltaic solar as new materials promise significantly higher efficiency. And those same materials in a different configuration promise radical gains in battery efficiency for that daily occurrence known as darkness. Again, a low oil price will dampen the insane over investment in these marginal technologies.)

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Climate Explainations

I used to write about climate a lot but when things got busy stopped.

When I did write I tended to suggest that a) the models were uncertain, b) natural variability was a much bigger deal than the warmists admitted, c) things like the Sun, the PDO and the vagaries of the Atlantic Ocean might have had something to do with the warming to 1998. I was certainly willing to concede that humans made some contribution to any warming which might have occurred but I suggested that it was unlikely to be just the CO2 emitting side of human activity. Finally, I suggested that the less significant CO2 was in the scheme of things the less it should signify in policy. In other words, I didn’t think the various carbon dioxide reduction schemes were worth the money.

The warmists, two or three years ago, denied each and every one of these ideas. The warmist position was that the Earth was warming fast and that man made CO2 was the only possible cause of such warming. They cited the IPCC Fourth Report to support their assertions and suggested that anything less was not peer reviewed and thus worthless.

and then, well and then came the pause. And with the pause the realization that the models and reality were gradually drifting apart. And with that drift there arose the need to explain where the heat in the models could be hiding and why it was hiding there.

The scientific immaturity of climate science was on full display as no less than 38 separate and often contradictory explanations for the pause were put forward. Many of which would have been heresy only a couple of years before.

As the explanations have been launched we’ve seen the curious spectacle of grown scientists coming up with enough cooling to overwhelm the observed warming all together. And many of these explanations involve the Sun, ocean currents, clouds and a host of other variables which we were assured could not have any effect on climate just a few short years ago.

It turns out that, in general, the climate science community has been exaggerating the precision of its models and the robustness of its physics. In the face of the unpredicted pause they have had to admit that maybe Nature and not Man might be responsible for at least a bit of the warming which has, well, disappeared.

The one thing which has become absolutely clear: the IPCC science and the policy recommendations based up on it are ungrounded in any serious, measurable, predictable science at all. There is no current theory of climate which implicates CO2 exclusively. And there is a great deal of uncertainty as to what the temperature’s sensitivity to CO2 actually is.

All of which means that any economic or energy policy based upon the theory that CO2 will create extreme climate change needs to be discarded at once before any more money is wasted.

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Form Factor Future

robot

Tackle Box Robot

A lot of the substantive content with my homeschooled boys is looking at interesting things and then discussing them and digging a bit deeper.

For no particular reason this past couple of weeks we’ve been discussing:

  • pallets and containers
  • delivery drones
  • 3D printing
  • autonomous and electric cars
  • economic aspects thereof

Now the fun part of this is that we can find useful things on the internet like Captain Capitalism’s thought provoking post on “Post Scarcity Economics” or Walter Russell Mead’s post on “Is Downton Abbey the Future of the US Economy?”.

While the economics are interesting, the actual history of things like containers can be riveting for boys and their father. (Susan decamps with a good book.) An article about the humble pallet gives the boys a fair bit of insight into everything from the global economy to the logistics of Ikea cup design.

One of the recurring themes which has emerged is how standardization improves efficiency. Containers have to be the same size, pallets – in an ideal world – would be the same size. A decision would be made about metric vs. imperial. Merchandise packaging would be optimized to max out pallet efficiency. There’s room for a bit of math and some basic geometry.

Once you start talking about pallets and containers you can also consider the “last mile” problem. How do you get the goods to the customer? Amazon uses the mail and UPS. Walmart wants you to actually go to their store. Nothing is more fun than thinking about how that last mile can be crossed without a trip to the mall or the UPS guy finding you are not at home.

In Australia there is a company set to deliver text books by helicopter drone. (And, yes, we did discuss this quaint idea of a paper “textbook” in a Kindle world.) No question that for things like pizza, prescriptions and drycleaning the flying delivery drone makes sense.

But, for my money, the autonomous vehicle is a better bet for the day to day business of getting stuff to people. (3D printing is still a distance away for every day use.) The excitement and hype in the autonomous car world has been about passengers – essentially moving people rather than things. But moving things is a huge business and it could get much bigger if an easy, inexpensive, means to get your groceries to your house could be devised.

We already have automated warehousing. (Worth looking at this video at Amazon’s Kiva systems site. However those robots merely pack the boxes with the customer’s order. Now what?

The last mile problem is going to get a lot of attention in the next few years. Autonomous delivery vehicles are one part of the solution; but the other part is actually delivering to the customer. Canadian start-up Buffer Box (recently bought by Google) has a fairly elegant partial solution. Your stuff is delivered to a Buffer Box kiosk which has electronic lockers you can open with a passcode from your phone. Nice for your online kite purchase, not too brilliant for the chicken you want to cook tonight.

There are lots of ways to attack the last mile problem. Each family gets a personal box and deliveries are made right to your box. Or, if price can be brought down, a person or family would have one or more “boxes on wheels” which would travel on some sort of schedule to the various places the family needs to have stuff picked up.

Part of the educational process here is that these are not questions which, at present, have answers. But they are not abstract issues: even a partial solution to the last mile problem is a billion dollar business. And it is a business which will occur very, very quickly. The horse was replaced by the internal combustion engine in less than 20 years.

Marrying a GPS/internet/Google Map aware computer to the rather well understood technology of the golf cart or electric scooter and you have an autonomous delivery vehicle prototype. With a secure storage capacity – think trunk of a car – you could probably build such things for $1000. They don’t have to go fast and, with good logistics design, they would not likely have to go far.

Now, think about what the introduction of such personal pick up and delivery ‘bots would change, especially in cities. Just one example: at the moment even if the Lady of the House is hyper aware of which items are on sale at which grocery stores this particular week, she is not particularly willing to make five stops and go through five checkout lines to save a total of, say, $10-20. But her pick up agent would be delighted to make those stops. (And, of course, now the supermarkets – if they are smart – are going to want to attract the pick-up agents so the scope for price matching and agent loyalty programs is huge.) On the other hand, think of the congestion these pick-up agents might cause. How to solve that problem. (Two hints – first, the number of car trips to get stuff would go down as would the number of manned delivery vehicles, second, it should be possible to build anti-congestion imperative right into the software which runs the pick up agents.

As I have pointed out to the boys, one interesting thing about robotic pick up agents is that they can operate continuously and therefore quite slowly. If your agent has to make four pick ups all within a one mile radius of your home over the course of, say, three hours it can accomplish that at a walking pace even allowing a ten minute stop at each pick up location. While I am not all that thrilled with the prospect of driverless semi-trailer trucks running at 60 miles an hour (which is an irrational fear but there it is), box toting pick-up agents sauntering on the sidewalk or in designated road lanes seems pretty manageable.

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Lack of Interest

Screen Shot 2013-09-30 at 11.16.13 AMWhatever its merits, and they are few, the IPCC 2013 Summary for Policymakers attracted rather less interest than the IPCC reports of 2007. While there were news stories on the release date the fact is that the number of searchs strongly suggests (95% confidence level) that interest in the whole global warming thing is waning.

Which, of course means that the issue will be pushed down the political agenda.

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IPCC on the Rocks

(I posted this over at WUWT)

If ever there was a one day wonder the IPCC Summary for Policymakers (SOP) is it. (And it is being largely ignored in the non-committed media.)

However, the fun begins Monday when the actual report is released. At that point we can see what, if any, references to the peer reviewed literature there are to support the ocean heat idea. And we will be able to see the sensitivity which has been left out of today’s summary. And we will be able to see the divergence problems with respect to the Antarctic and models vs observations.

We will also have the opportunity to do the detailed analysis of that the difference is between AR4’s “CO2 caused warming (90%)” and AR5’s “50% of warming caused by humans (95%)”: these are two very different claims. 50% of warming being caused by humans leaves 50% caused by other things….like what?

The fact that sensitivity has been left out of the SOP means that it is now, officially, impossible to determine what, if any, effect reducing CO2 emissions is likely to have. No longer can politicians tout “carbon taxes” or “cap and trade” as having any IPCC sanctioned effect on climate. [Of course, I suspect the sensitivity issue is in the full report but it must be really uncertain if it did not make it into the SOP.)

Finally, the IPCC seems to be of two minds in dealing with the pause. On the one hand they want to claim it takes 30 years to make a trend – which opens a lot of the prior science up to questions and every claim about extreme weather up to derision.) On the other, it is willing to entertain assorted, apparently non-peer reviewed, ideas as to where the heat may have gone. “Into the deep blue sea” is adorable but even the IPCC admits it lacks the data and the instruments to confirm this wild assed guess. Not to mention that there was no indication in the SOP as to when this convenient submersion began. There is much fun to be had here, especially if the pause continues.

Here’s the thing: tomorrow the committed media will have moved on. The public did not give a rats arse before the SOP and there is not the slightest indication that today’s sloppy, ill written, scientifically incoherent, bit of alarmist puffery will change that. And, for the first time, sceptical voices are being heard in the MSM.

There is still a fight ahead. However, that fight will be against a demoralized, confused and divided foe. The IPCC juggernaut has hit the reefs of reality. For the sceptical community the task ahead is to point to the mistakes, incoherence, illogic and lack of scientific rigor or principle which today’s report has exposed.

Should be fun!

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Stillborn

The IPCC is in a Hell of a mess because nothing in its pending report can really get to the heart of the significant mismatch between what the climate models predict and what reality is serving up. Plenty of “climate scientists” are aware of this mismatch and there have been some papers – too late for inclusion in the current report – confirming the over warming of the models.

But Canada’s own Steve MacIntyre has a must read post up today which sums up the fatal damage years of denial have inflicted on the IPCC. Here’s a quote but make some coffee, put on your thinking cap and read the whole thing.

Gavin Schmidt excused IPCC’s failure to squarely address the discrepancy between models and observations saying that it was “just ridiculous” that IPCC be “up to date”:

The idea that IPCC needs to be up to date on what was written last week is just ridiculous.”

But the problem not arise “last week”. While the issue has only recently become acute, it has become acute because of accumulating failure during the AR5 assessment process, including errors and misrepresentations by IPCC in the assessments sent out for external review; the almost total failure of the academic climate community to address the discrepancy; gatekeeping by fellow-traveling journal editors that suppressed criticism of the defects in the limited academic literature on the topic. climate audit

And, by the way, where is MacIntyre’s Order of Canada? No, seriously, MacIntyre had the wit and the courage to realize that the fairy stories of the IPCC did not stand up to scrutiny. His contribution has brought the IPCC and its enabling scientists under proper scrutiny and, as the wheels fall off the global warming bus, that contribution has certainly saved the world hundreds of billions of misallocated dollars. Which, in turn means that MacIntyre is directly responsible for saving millions of lives which would otherwise have been forfeit had the crazier Green ideas been implemented in their full lunacy.

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Suzuki nailed Downunder

David Suzuki on the very first question is revealed as a complete know-nothing. His questioner tells him that the main climate data sets show no real warming for some 15 years.

Suzuki asks for the references, which he should have known if he knew anything of the science.

His questioner then lists them: UAH, RSS, HadCrut and GISS – four of the most basic measurement systems of global temperature.

Suzuki asks what they are. andrew bolt

In the next couple of weeks I suspect we will see a lot of climate alarmist “experts” melting down as they have to answer fact based questions. There will be plenty of hand waving and appeals to the bogus 97% consensus; but as soon as these loons are confronted with hard questions based on real data they are going to crumple.

Delightful!

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Collapse

I have been saying the wheels on the climate bus have been falling off since 2008. Now we’re down to the rims:

FV: They certainly find themselves in a serious jam. That‘s why they are now trying to gain time by claiming that the models first become falsified if there has been no warming over a period of 30 years – never mind that the warming of 1977 to 1998 was only 22 years and deemed to be long enough to “prove“ the CO2 theory. A few years ago climate scientist Ben Santer said only 17 years were necessary before we could talk about a real climate trend. Now that reality is pulling the rug from under models, some scientists are having misgivings. Some are praying for an El Nino year, which would allow them to beat the drums of fear again. They’ll hype up every single weather effect to get attention. Prof. Fritz Vahrenholt- no tricks zone

And from Canada’s own Ross McKitrick we have this rather perfect graph:

First, something big is about to happen. Models predict one thing and the data show another. The various attempts in recent years to patch over the difference are disintegrating. Over the next few years, either there is going to be a sudden, rapid warming that shoots temperatures up to where the models say they should be, or the mainstream climate modeling paradigm is going to fall apart. financial post

As the observed climate diverges from the models the “science” based on the models will become less and less plausible. While the warmists try to pretend that the models are somehow not central to the science, the reality is that every scare scenario relies heavily on models which are no longer working.

When the IPCC releases its much leaked AR5 in a couple of weeks we will see the last media hurrah and then the final collapse of climate alarmism. The body will twitch for a decade with every snow storm and heat wave pressed to serve the cause; but the policy makers and politicians will no longer be confronted with a monolithic wall of consensus science. Instead they will realize that they have been taken for a ride.

The public already knows AGW is a crock and they are damned angry as their energy bills rise to pay for useless solutions to a non-problem.

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