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Comments by Robert Rapier Subscribe

On When the Wind Doesn't Blow

"I don't think it is nit-picking to point out that your definition of capacity factor is not correct."

I was about to take exception to your characterization of my definition, but I looked at it and I agree that the way I worded it was poor. I will change it to make it clear. 

June 15, 2014    View Comment    

On When the Wind Doesn't Blow

"I understand that some data centers are using excess solar and wind to make ice to use later for cooling the servers."

We actually looked into that for subcooling food during the day.

June 10, 2014    View Comment    

On When the Wind Doesn't Blow

double posted

June 10, 2014    View Comment    

On When the Wind Doesn't Blow

There is a very vocal minority that objects to it on religious grounds. They get pretty passionate about it. I used to have a link to a video of a guy explaining his opposition. From a scientific/technical point it makes no sense, but for him and those who follow those beliefs it is a matter of utmost importance.

June 10, 2014    View Comment    

On When the Wind Doesn't Blow

I don't know if I have seen it broken out like that, so I don't know for sure.

June 10, 2014    View Comment    

On China's Thirst for Coal is Drying Up

This is a fuzzy, qualitative argument. But if you look at China's actual consumption numbers, they have shown no sign of declining.

May 23, 2014    View Comment    

On Keystone XL's Emissions Versus Coal-Fired Power

"Yet the argument against tar sands oil is that it has a much higher carbon content, some say 20% more, others say 40% more."

That is incorrect. The energy content of a barrel of bitumen is about the same as lighter crude oil. I saw a spec sheet for it listed as 5.8 million BTU/barrel. What is correct is that it takes more energy to extract bitumen than the average light barrel of crude, but it actually takes less energy than it does to produce many California crudes.

May 8, 2014    View Comment    

On Keystone XL's Emissions Versus Coal-Fired Power

"You know as well as I that there are many ways to arrive at a number, some more valid than others."

Bob, I am just trying to show -- and am doing so -- that it won't matter to you. So I am asking you to calculate it yourself. You show me the temperature impact. I know what it is. You can derive it from the paper you linked to earlier. Please show me the number and there will be no dispute about any number I could provide. That cuts right to the chase. There's no trickery involved here; you can calculate an actual temperature impact from that paper you linked. 

May 8, 2014    View Comment    

On Keystone XL's Emissions Versus Coal-Fired Power

"Shall we just let greed be our guide, Robert?  I think that is what you are arguing."

I never cease to be amazed at the conclusions someone comes up with after reading an article -- or maybe not reading it.

May 7, 2014    View Comment    

On Keystone XL's Emissions Versus Coal-Fired Power

Bob, you dodged my question. I would like to know "If the impact really is 1/10,000th of a degree per year, would it change your opinion at all?" Your comment "I won't know it until I see it" is a copout. In what context is this a signficant number for you? Do you want to spend your time working on something that might eventually reduce temperatures by a thousandth of a degree, or something that could add several degrees to the global temperature? I think your mind is made up even though you haven't look at the actual numbers, and therefore this argument is just a waste of time. But you can see from that paper you linked they show climate impacts per barrel of oil. So if you really wanted to, you could just do that calculation yourself. But you really don't want to, do you?

"KXL is a current U.S. policy issue involving a project which "would almost certainly be incompatible with doing a globally equal keeping warming below 2°C"."

Numbers, Bob. Your lifestyle "would almost certainly be incompatible with doing a globally equal share." But what is your ultimate impact on the temperature? There isn't a measurable one. It's the same with KXL. There isn't one. If you think there is, I challenge to produce something different than the number I have given. Show some math. Fuzzy arguments are no good, because those fuzzy arguments are just as relevant to your personal fossil fuel consumption. If every little bit counts, you are a hypocrite. If it doesn't, then you are close to understanding why KXL isn't a big deal.

"In evaluating the future impact of KXL, your attempt to include all prior Industrial Revolution carbon emissions is duly noted"

It's a temperature impact. You can't try to scale the annual impact of KXL on the expected global temperature change unless you are factoring in all the emissions leading to that global change. That's why your math is invalid. The temperature change we are experiencing contains a lot of inventory already up there, so you can't say KXL is 1/1000th of the impact. It is not a logical argument. 

"And the graph you reference is a deceptive one - it assumes consumption of every ounce of coal, and every cubic foot of natural gas."

Deceptive? It just shows the relative threats of the resources, including ALL of the oil. It's also from the same source you used, but there they actually did the math. Showed the numbers. Did you find the oil sands reserves? That tiny red line at the end of the unconventional oil resource line. And KXL is a tiny fraction of that. So there's your threat. No matter how you slice it, coal absolutely DWARFS any contribution from oil. Compare reserves to reserves, or resources to resources. Doesn't matter.

"Do you really believe there will be people around to burn coal when the planet's average temperature is 64°F hotter than it is now, or that we should be taking every step possible to prevent getting close to that point?"

Can you see the relative threats? Coal is a FAR greater threat. Do you see it getting FAR greater attention? I don't, because people are getting the wrong message about KXL's importance.  

"And I'm still driving because my car doesn't use oil, tar sands or not (maybe a few drops)."

Then I conclude that you don't have a car. Because cars are made with oil, transported with oil, and if it's electric in many places it's transported with coal. You must also not fly, because there's no getting away from oil there. Do you use a plastic toothbrush? Aspirin? A computer? Vitamins? Deodorant? Paint? Plastics? You are surrounded by oil. People who try to take an accounting of the oil in their lives are often shocked to find out just how much there is. There's 2 gallons of oil embedded in each iPhone. The point is that people grossly underestimate their oil consumption, and it's a lot easier to replace coal than it is to replace oil.

One final thought. Look at that graph again. Eliminate oil consumption, and coal consumption will still do us in. Eliminate coal consumption, and oil consumption isn't much of a climate threat. 


May 7, 2014    View Comment    

On Keystone XL's Emissions Versus Coal-Fired Power

"Robert, for someone who doesn't care one way or the other whether the pipeline is built, you're certainly devoting a lot of resources to suggesting how others (on both sides) should devote their resources."

I just get bothered by uninformed people who are convinced of the righteousness of their cause without bothering to do actual relevant math. And I have made numerous suggestions on more efficient uses of those efforts. 

"The 100,000 year effect is something someone in your position probably should know, but apparently you know something that Canadian Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver doesn't - he's the source of that "1/1000 of global carbon emissions" estimate"

No, I just read for context and comprehension. The climate impact will be from the emissions that have been emitted, and those still to be emitted. When people talk about a temperature impact, these are all part of the picture. In that context, KXL isn't close to 1/1000. So you mix apples and oranges with your math. 

"Similarly, without references, you claim"

The math is readily available. You can calculate the KXL emissions and you can compare that to the projected temperature impact for those emissions. I will dig up the reference if it actually makes a difference to you. But before I do, if the impact really is 1/10,000th of a degree per year, would it change your opinion at all? If not, then I am not going to bother. 

"That conflicts sharply with this study:"

I am very aware of the study. In fact, it is a graphic from that study that began to convince me that KXL would make no difference. Try this link, and look at the Warming Potentials graph. If that doesn't open your eyes, then nothing will. It is from the same paper. Note that your link doesn't specifically quantify the temperature impact of KXL or the tar sands, but the graphic in my link does quantify the impact of all the tar sands (which is almost undectable on the graph, and the KXL is a tiny subset of that). Your link essentially is "Every little bit counts." Sure, then why again are you still driving? Because it's not really "every little bit", it's "the impact depends on the relative contribution." When you see the difference, you will see my point.

May 7, 2014    View Comment    

On Keystone XL's Emissions Versus Coal-Fired Power

"Robert, again - rejecting KXL requires no resources"

Perhaps you haven't noticed the extremely high profile campaign that is being carried out -- with many people traveling to DC again and again? Those are resources. They are working on a hangnail. Maybe they are devoting 10x as much of their time to the coal problem, but I doubt it.

"Frankly I've never heard anyone suggest we are waiting on KXL for momentum to take on the coal problem. Do you have any published examples or is this anecdotal?"

I have had many people justify the KXL campaign on the basis of what it could do down the road. They never quite connect the dots, but I have heard it compared to Rosa Parks kicking off the civil rights movement. There is this unshakable belief that this somehow leads to us from the hangnail to addressing the brain tumor that is growing day by day.

"You seem to believe that anyone who uses fossil fuels has no right to comment..."

No, but I am interested in hearing how someone who equates KXL with deaths justifies their own consumption. And you justify it in the same way everyone else justifies it: "I do my part to limit my impact, therefore I sleep well at night." Of course the world has a lot of people who would love to consume a fraction of what you consume -- and are moving in that direction. That's why global emissions continue to grow. 

I have said before I don't care whether KXL gets built because it makes zero measurable difference. I object to people elevating the symbolism so far beyond what its actual impact can be. Whether KXL is or isn't built ultimately won't matter. Whether we keep building coal-fired power plants will.  

"To make a crude calculation: if global warming will truly have a 100,000 year effect on the planet's climate, and KXL will result in 1/1000 of global carbon emissions..."

I don't know about the 100,000 year effect, but you probably aren't within 3 orders of magnitude on the 2nd one. Further, KXL or no KXL -- the numbers have been calculated and fed into the climate models. The impact of KXL itself is so tiny as to not be measurable. It is about one ten-thousandth of a degree per year for the next 30 years (and that's assuming the KXL is the difference between 800K bpd coming on the market or not; a rather silly worst case assumption). That isn't the difference between 100 years of climate stability -- or not.

We are going around and around in circles on this, so let me sum up my position. I see KXL protests as time, money, and effort put into a cause that will make zero measurable impact on climate. In the face of growing demand, one can actually make the case that KXL makes emissions worse, not better, as oil hitches a ride on trains (which it will do if demand keeps growing). Meanwhile we have lots of places where resources could be much more effectively deployed.  

May 6, 2014    View Comment