Sunday, February 12, 2017

Year In Review 2016

Most-viewed new articles on SLB in 2016 were:

  1. Wind Power Facts and Trends 2015  link
  2. Why California Electricity Costs More than US Average  link
  3. A Perfect Correlation - US Electricity Price v Consumption  link
  4. California Electricity Rates - Residential - Not That High  link
  5. Designing an Electrical Grid From Scratch  link

 The most-viewed articles from 2016 all have a common theme: electricity in California.  These were prompted by articles, and the comments on those articles, in various publications.  It is appalling to me that so many people write on such issues when their knowledge is very poor.  They typically opine that California's huge investment in wind and solar power production is responsible for high electricity prices; that is absolutely wrong.  They also opine that California is nuts to install wind and solar, because the electrical grid will have frequent blackouts; that also is absolutely wrong.    They offer statements on the high costs of installing wind turbines and the low productivity from wind turbines; both are absolutely wrong.   My articles above provide factual data from reputable authorities.  

Most important issues in 2016:

  1. President Trump and the Future of American Oil
  2. This Battery is a Game Changer
  3. Nuclear Radiation Illness in Japan after Fukushima Dai-Ichi Meltdown
  4. A Few Excellent Reasons To Oppose Nuclear Power Plants
  5. A Perfect Correlation - US Electricity Price v Consumption
  6. The Case Against Carbon Dioxide - Fatal Flaws
  7. USCRN Shows Slight Warming in 2015

In my view, 2016 had a number of very important issues; the list above is for those that have articles on SLB.  The most important, by far, was the election of Republican Donald Trump as President of the United States.  His pragmatic, data-driven views on many subjects will finally halt the agenda-driven progress that has stifled the US and much of the world for far too long.  In particular, President Trump is not duped by the false narrative that the global climate is overheating due to man's consumption of fossil fuels.  The article above, President Trump and the Future of American Oil, also discusses how President Trump could negotiate and profoundly affect world affairs with the oil from just one oil field known as The Wolfcamp.   (20 to 50 billion barrels of shale oil, potentially wiping out OPEC).

The second article, This Battery Is A Game Changer, is about the novel battery for grid-scale electricity storage that is under development by a California company, BioSolar Inc. The battery would revolutionize power grids by storing excess power from wind and solar, then releasing the power into the grid in load-following mode.  This is the battery we have been waiting for. 

The third article, Nuclear Radiation Illness in Japan after Fukushima Dai-Ichi Meltdown, shows there has been, and continues to be, human suffering from radiation sickness in Japan.  This is part of a long-running controversy about nuclear power plants, whether or not their operation causes any excess diseases.   Nuclear proponents, or cheerleaders, of course claim that the plants are safe and no one gets diseases.  The facts show quite the opposite.  

The fourth article, A Few Excellent Reasons To Oppose Nuclear Power Plants, see link, was a comment I wrote in response to a challenge by a commenter at WUWT, Watts Up With That blog, related to nuclear power.  Anthony Watts' blog (WUWT) is widely read with a huge following worldwide.  Most of the commenters, it appears, are pro-nuclear but are woefully ill-informed on the subject.   Much like the false-alarmism of climate change or global warming, there is a concerted effort in the nuclear power industry to over-sell the technology by ignoring, downplaying, and falsifying the vast number of negative issues and facts. I am continually amazed by how many people dig deep into the data and misrepresentations put forth by the climate alarmists, yet accept the nuclear power industry's misrepresentations without challenge.

The fifth article, A Perfect Correlation - US Electricity Price v Consumption, was also one of the most-viewed articles from above.  As with every article on SLB, hard data from reputable sources - in this case, from US Energy Information Agency - put the lie to California having high electricity prices because of renewable energy investments.  This article shows that nationwide, residential electricity prices are almost perfectly correlated with annual electricity consumption per customer (r-squared of 0.9997).  California price is on the high end of the range, but the specific consumption (kWh/yr/customer) is very low.   California's unique climate results in low electricity use per customer, but the state has a very large infrastructure that must be paid for.  Each kWh sold therefore has a higher price because so few kWh are sold each year on a per-customer basis.  In contrast, the low prices in the US Southeast are due to very high consumption per customer and small infrastructure.  When one obtains an almost perfect correlation using actual data, there can be no argument over the cause.   The anti-renewables crowd refuses to accept this; but science and statistics are not swayed by their acceptance or not.

The sixth article, The Case Against Carbon Dioxide - Fatal Flaws, is yet another article in the long series on why false-alarmism on global warming is in fact, false.  One of the bedrock principles of science, any science, is correct attribution of causation to any observed phenomenon.  The Fatal Flaws article presents and discusses seven actual causes that result in positive temperature trends over time in cities.  None of those seven are increased Carbon Dioxide, CO2.   The only way to correctly measure atmospheric temperature trends is to completely exclude measurements from cities and other non-pristine sites.

The seventh and final article, USCRN Shows Slight Warming in 2015, also relates to the global warming issue.   As expected and widely written about, the El Niño event in 2015 caused a slight increase in the annual average temperature across the US.   The declining temperature trend from 2005-2014 was slowed by the El Niño.  However, it is also expected that the temperatures will continue dropping as the years unfold and the El Niño fades into history.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2017 by Roger Sowell - all rights reserved

Topics and general links:

Nuclear Power
Climate  and here
Fresh  and here
Free Speech.................... here

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Reflections at 100,000 Pageviews

Subtitle: Where Did All Those People Come From

It's a pretty eventful time, and my blog hit-counter rolling over 100,000 pageviews is certainly not a big event in the grand scheme of things.  However, it is a milestone that I certainly was never expecting to see when I started SLB almost nine years ago.  

Somewhere around 2:35 pm on February 10, 2017, the blog counter rolled over to 100,000 pageviews as the screen-capture at right shows. 

No new article was posted that I can point to that led to massive views, indeed, the previous article was posted last November.  It has been a busy couple of months for me, doing other things.   

There was, however, a flurry of blog views during the past three months, November - January.  

I have sometimes posted a year-in-review article around this time, and will do that for 2016 shortly.  

Briefly, the blog has just over 52,000 unique visitors from 147 countries, mostly from the US, UK, Australia, and Canada.  

Looking forward to the next 100,000 views and hundreds, perhaps thousands of more articles.    My thanks to all who visit, read, and leave a comment, even those that are very wrong on their facts and conclusions.   As President Reagan said, "It's not that our ... friends don't know anything, but what they know just isn't so." 

As the world makes progress through this time of light shining on questionable practices in science, engineering, economics, government agencies, world tensions, domestic tensions, it is my pleasure to offer my thoughts and hard facts on some of the issues.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California

copyright (c) 2017 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved.

Topics and general links:

Nuclear Power
Climate  and here
Fresh  and here
Free Speech.................... here

Saturday, November 19, 2016

President Trump and the Future of American Oil

Much to the delight of millions, and the utter dismay of millions more, Donald J. Trump is the President-elect President of the United States.  The likely implications for many areas of the country's economy require much exploration. 

As my two regular readers have noted, Sowell's Law Blog has favorite themes, including Global Warming (it is a non-issue), Nuclear Power (they are all uneconomic and unsafe), Energy Supplies (renewables are growing fast), Fresh Water (too much in many places, not enough in others), Legal Issues (science, technology, First Amendment, engineering, energy, and many others).  There are others, of course.   President Trump already has announced policies that will impact many of these. 

This article discusses one of the important areas of a Trump presidency: the use of a huge oil discovery in West Texas, the Wolfcamp shale oil, and domestic and foreign policy.  

(A big note up front:  Wolfcamp oil was discovered decades ago.  The technology for economically extracting the oil is fairly recent, with precision directional drilling (PDD) and hydraulic fracturing.   In fact, in 2013 an excellent article appeared in Oil and Gas Journal.  This means that President Obama must have known of the huge oil reserves at Wolfcamp, and did nothing with that information.) see link to OGJ article "Wolfcamp shale graduates to 'world class' play"

The oil in Wolfcamp is estimated at 20 billion to 50 billion barrels.   USGS announced last week that 20 billion barrels of oil exist in the "new" Wolfcamp reservoir.  

President-elect President Trump has stated that he will have more drilling and production of domestic oil, part of his plan to make the US energy-independent.   He also requires Mexico to stop illegal immigration and for Mexico to build a border wall on its northern border.   The Wolfcamp oil has a role in each of these.  

The US imports less oil now than in years past, with approximately 8 million BPD at present compared to 11 million BPD in 2005.  (US EIA weekly petroleum status report).   Total crude runs to refineries today is approximately double that, at 16.1 million BPD.   However, the recent imports from Middle Eastern countries were approximately 2 million BPD.   Mexico provides approximately 0.6 million BPD.  

It would not be difficult to stop imports from the Middle East, and produce that oil from Wolfcamp.  That would require 2 million BPD of Wolfcamp production above and beyond its present production.   The Wolfcamp oil would flow for more than 50 years at that rate.   However, stopping imports from Middle East region would have a significant impact on the world energy market.  The first result would be a large drop in crude oil price.   Oil producing nations would be most unhappy, if not furious.  Russia would be one of the furious ones.   However, oil importing nations would be very happy, if not ecstatic.  Those countries would include Japan, South Korea, China, India, Italy, France, and (soon) UK.  

As to Mexico, it would not be difficult to stop imports of Mexican oil (600,000 BPD as above) and use Wolfcamp oil instead.   The impact on Mexico's economy would be severe, potentially resulting in economic collapse and chaos.   President Trump could very easily require Mexico to build a wall in exchange for continued oil imports.  

The implications are numerous for having a huge oil reserve that the US could easily exploit.  Furthermore, the Wolfcamp oil is not the only such oil field in the US.  

These are very interesting times in which we live.   Very interesting. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California

copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Sun's Impact on Clouds via Cosmic Rays

NASA has an interesting article on, see link, which is copied and shown below.   

Key statement:  "Our latest measurements show that cosmic rays are intensifying, with an increase of more than 12% since 2015.  Why are cosmic rays intensifying? The main reason is the sun. Solar storm clouds such as coronal mass ejections (CMEs) sweep aside cosmic rays when they pass by Earth. During Solar Maximum, CMEs are abundant and cosmic rays are held at bay. Now, however, the solar cycle is swinging toward Solar Minimum, allowing cosmic rays to return."

"Cosmic Rays in the Atmosphere

: Sept. 29 2016 // Next Flight: Oct. 1, 2016
Sept. 20, 2016: Readers, thank you for your patience while we continue to develop this new section of We've been working to streamline our data reduction, allowing us to post results from balloon flights much more rapidly, and we have developed a new data product, shown here:
This plot displays radiation measurements not only in the stratosphere, but also at aviation altitudes. Dose rates are expressed as multiples of sea level. For instance, we see that boarding a plane that flies at 25,000 feet exposes passengers to dose rates ~10x higher than sea level. At 40,000 feet, the multiplier is closer to 50x. These measurements are made by our usual cosmic ray payload as it passes through aviation altitudes en route to the stratosphere over California.

What is this all about? Approximately once a week, and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus fly space weather balloons to the stratosphere over California. These balloons are equipped with radiation sensors that detect cosmic rays, a surprisingly "down to Earth" form of space weather. Cosmic rays can seed cloudstrigger lightning, and penetrate commercial airplanes. Furthermore, there are studies ( #1#2#3#4) linking cosmic rays with cardiac arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death in the general population. Our latest measurements show that cosmic rays are intensifying, with an increase of more than 12% since 2015:

Why are cosmic rays intensifying? The main reason is the sun. Solar storm clouds such as coronal mass ejections (CMEs) sweep aside cosmic rays when they pass by Earth. During Solar Maximum, CMEs are abundant and cosmic rays are held at bay. Now, however, the solar cycle is swinging toward Solar Minimum, allowing cosmic rays to return. (bold added) Another reason could be the weakening of Earth's magnetic field, which helps protect us from deep-space radiation.

The radiation sensors onboard our helium balloons detect X-rays and gamma-rays in the energy range 10 keV to 20 MeV. These energies span the range of medical X-ray machines and airport security scanners.

The data points in the graph above correspond to the peak of the Reneger-Pfotzer maximum, which lies about 67,000 feet above central California. When cosmic rays crash into Earth's atmosphere, they produce a spray of secondary particles that is most intense at the entrance to the stratosphere. Physicists Eric Reneger and Georg Pfotzer discovered the maximum using balloons in the 1930s and it is what we are measuring today."

Sowell comments:

The mainstream climate community, especially the IPCC, claims that man-made carbon dioxide (CO2) is responsible for the average climate warming over the past 100 years.  Especially, they make that claim for the last 25 years of the 20th century, from 1975 to 2000.  Since 2000, however, the warming has stopped, a feature that is known as "The Pause."    What is known now, from experiments in the CERN cloud chamber, is that cosmic rays do in fact cause clouds to form, and the sun's magnetic field weakens as the sunspot numbers decrease.  

Given the much weaker sunspot cycle presently, cycle 24, it is no surprise then that the Earth is cooling as more cosmic rays strike the atmosphere and produce more clouds.   It does not take much more cloud cover to change the precarious balance between slight warming and cooling.  

The data from above shows a 12 percent radiation increase in only 18 months.  

This is one to watch. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved.

Nuclear Plants Unreliable In A Hurricane - St. Lucie Shut Down

Subtitle:  St. Lucie Nuclear Plant Unreliable in a Hurricane

The recent flap in Australia that saw the state of South Australia suffer a grid blackout due to high winds prompted a storm of controversy over whether or not wind power, a renewable energy source, was to blame.   Of course, many of the anti-renewable crowd advocated for more nuclear power plants, saying they are reliable where wind power is not.    The irony is that here, half a world away in Florida, hurricane Matthew forced the St. Lucie nuclear power plant to shut down.   The story was given as: 

"St. Lucie Power Plant shut down because of Hurricane Matthew" --  see link to story 10/7/2016. 

From the article: "Federal rules require nuclear plants to be shut down at least one hour before hurricane winds hit the site, spokesman Peter Robbins said. FPL closed the Hutchinson Island plant at 11:15 a.m. and will reopen it after the category 4 storm is over. Its reopening might be delayed if access roads are blocked because rules require an evacuation route for a power plant to remain open, he said."   (note: FPL is Florida Power and Light; the St. Lucie nuclear plant is located on Hutchinson Island just south of Vero Beach, Florida)

For background, Hurricane Matthew was a category 4 that traveled northward as it remained offshore but brushed the entire eastern seaboard of Florida from October 5 through October 8, 2016.  Hurricane winds are sustained wind of 75 miles per hour or greater.   Wind speeds reported by the National Weather Service at Vero Beach, just 10 miles north of the St. Lucie nuclear plant, showed maximum sustained winds of 49 miles per hour at 3:53 a.m. on October 7, 2016.  Winds gradually increased to that point, then decreased steadily after.  Wind gusts were higher, as expected, with the highest at 74 miles per hour. 

It is also noteworthy that Florida reported more than 1 million customers lost power due to hurricane Matthew's winds.   Those were most likely the low-voltage lines, and not the high-voltage backbone of the grid.   This is crucial because an offline nuclear power plant consumes a great deal of electricity to run cooling systems and other critical systems to prevent a meltdown.   St. Lucie also has, by law, backup generation capability to supply power for a few hours when the grid cannot.  

The controversy over wind power continues.    It is clear, though, that nuclear power plants are not quite as reliable as the nuclear cheerleaders claim.    In this case, no one could know if Hurricane Matthew would veer westward and bring 74-mph and greater winds across St. Lucie nuclear plant.   As it turned out, no hurricane winds hit the nuclear plant.   Still, shutting it down as a precaution was the correct thing to do.   Nuclear plants pose a sufficient danger that it is much better to shut one down in a calm and orderly manner than to have a crash shutdown in the midst of a hurricane.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Renewable Energy Saves California from Grid Blackouts

Subtitle: Record-Setting Solar Power Reduces Natural Gas Demand

The peak summer heat is now ended in Southern California, indeed, a winter storm warning was issued for the central Sierra Nevada mountains.  One short and fairly mild heat wave occurred last weekend, with temperatures measured at Los Angeles (USC Campus)  reaching 104 degrees F for one day.  (see adjacent Figure 1).   The orange oval shows the period in which heat waves typically occur, this year only twice did temperatures break 100 degrees F.   The major conclusion is that zero blackouts occurred, because renewable power from solar PV, solar thermal, and wind turbines produced electricity at rates up to 10,000 MW throughout the summer. 

Figure 1  -  2016 year-to-date temperatures
at Los Angeles, California
As is well-known, officials have concern that grid instabilities or blackouts would occur this summer during heat waves, because the natural gas storage supply is much reduced due to the Aliso Canyon storage facility being out of operation.  

However, solar power and wind power need no natural gas, and provided power routinely through the summer.   Solar PV actually broke records for power production.    

The California grid has many efficient, combined-cycle gas turbine power plants with quick response capability to adjust their output when solar or wind output changes suddenly.    The state also imports some power from adjacent states, notably nuclear power from Arizona, hydroelectric from Nevada (Hoover Dam), and both wind and hydroelectric from Washington.    It is notable that long-distance transmission lines are required to ship the power into California.  It is also noteworthy that the adjacent states have surplus power to sell to California and do so profitably. 

Now that Fall and Winter are here or looming, the gas shortage continues due to Aliso Canyon's problems.   However, wind power increases in those seasons, which offsets the declining solar power production.    Next year will have even more solar power production as California installs even more PV power plants.   The state's renewable energy plan requires approximately 3,000 MW of renewables installed each year.  Almost all of that will be solar PV, since wind locations are essentially built out, and solar thermal has much worse economics. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California

copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Improved Solar Cell with Doubled Efficiency

It seems the breakthroughs just keep coming on the energy front, with this week's announcement "Columbia Chemists Find Key to Manufacturing More Efficient Solar Cells".  Columbia Professor of Chemistry Xiaoyang Zhu and his team developed a solar cell using Hybrid Organic Inorganic Perovskites (HOIPs). Their results were reported in the prestigious journal Science.  see link

The HOIP cell has 22 percent efficiency, but scientists see much higher possibilities with this material.  Efficiencies in the mid-40 percent range are expected. 

The material also has a lower cost of production compared to silicon wafers. 

This, too, is one to watch. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved.