Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ethanol Subsidies and Production

Time for more "real" debate on energy alternatives. Our Senator from Iowa, Charles Grassley, has been a huge proponent of ethanol and there is no arguing that it has been a good thing for putting cash in midwest farmers' pockets, but at what cost to our environment again? And is it really doing anything to help ween us off fossil fuels?

True cost economics says no way. We continue to put our soil resources to maximum use sending top soil down stream along with more farm chemicals creating a bigger dead zone in the Gulf, growing a renewable food source for unnecessary energy offsets and all the time subsidizing this with billions of taxpayer dollars.

Really people, time for some efficiency. Drill baby drill is not the answer, nor is ethanol, nor are more nuclear plants, coal plants. Efficiency and conservation are the bridges we need now. Better fuel efficiency, for example. An increase of 1 mpg fuel efficiency offsets all the potential oil which could be extracted from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and then we not only keep the refuge pristine, we keep that oil as a real strategic reserve for a time when it may be truly needed not just to keep us in "cheap" gas and oil.

From the Des Moines Register opinion page article on Grassley's ethanol argument:

Energy Security, by the Environmental Working Group

"In 2010 America burned about 12.8 billion gallons of ethanol. But since a gallon of ethanol yields one-third less energy than gasoline, we reduced gasoline consumption only 8.7 billion gallons. We could achieve the same degree of "security" at no cost to taxpayers by increasing average fuel efficiency by just 1.5 miles per gallon. Simply keeping tires properly inflated would do that. The $5.8 billion a year that taxpayers give oil companies to blend ethanol with gasoline buys no real security gains."

This is an example of the real and bigger discussion which needs to take place around energy issues.

Friday, March 18, 2011

MIT Finally Comes Around

MIT has been a mixed bag when it comes to climate science but finally seems to be
coming to a scientific consensus with a new joint study of the earth's climate...

M.I.T. joins climate realists, doubles its projection of global warming by 2100 to 5.1°C
February 23, 2009

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Climate Change has joined the climate realists. The realists are the growing group of scientists who understand that the business as usual emissions path leads to unmitigated catastrophe (see, for instance, “Hadley Center: “Catastrophic” 5-7°C warming by 2100 on current emissions path” and below).

The Program issued a remarkable, though little-remarked-on, report in January, “Probabilistic Forecast for 21st Century Climate Based on Uncertainties in Emissions (without Policy) and Climate Parameters,” by over a dozen leading experts. They reanalyzed their model’s 2003 projections model using the latest data, and concluded:

The MIT Integrated Global System Model is used to make probabilistic projections of climate change from 1861 to 2100. Since the model’s first projections were published in 2003 substantial improvements have been made to the model and improved estimates of the probability distributions of uncertain input parameters have become available. The new projections are considerably warmer than the 2003 projections, e.g., the median surface warming in 2091 to 2100 is 5.1°C compared to 2.4°C in the earlier study.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ice Sheet Melt Becomes Major Concern

This is fascinating science. I am not surprised by this and it tracks with everything which I have been witnessing in 20 years of polar travel.

Research from Geographical Research Letters, Posted By Joanna Zelman, 03/10/11

Ice sheets are now the largest contributor to rising sea levels, a new report has found. If ice sheets continue to melt at their current rates, sea levels may rise over 12 inches in the next four decades.

The study was conducted over the course of 20 years, and the results will be published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The group of researchers examined monthly satellite measurements between 1992 and 2009, using climate model data. The research shows that in 2006, Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets lost a combined mass of 475 gigatonnes -- this ice loss can raise the global sea level by 1.3 millimeters per year.

Ice sheets are melting at a steadily increasing rate. Over the course of the study, the ice sheets lost about an additional 36 gigatonnes per year, compared to each year before.

Melting ice caps have often taken the spotlight, but melting ice sheets are now dwindling at a faster rate than the ice caps and glaciers. Though melting ice caps are certainly worthy of concern, their rate of loss has been three times smaller than the acceleration rate at which ice sheets are melting.

The report’s lead author, Eric Rignot of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is not surprised that ice sheets will now contribute the most to sea level rise. But, Rignot remarks, “What is surprising is this increased contribution by the ice sheets is already happening.

How would these rising sea levels affect us? Another recent study, reported in the journal Climate Change Letters, shows that rising sea levels may threaten 180 U.S. cities by 2100.

U.N. reports have predicted that because of climate change, the world will have 50 million environmental refugees by 2020. That’s less than 10 years from now.

As ice sheets melt at a faster pace, environmental refugees flee their homes, and major cities sink underwater, will climate change finally be taken seriously by everyone?