HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » NNadir » Journal
Page: « Prev 1 2 3 Next »


Profile Information

Gender: Male
Current location: New Jersey
Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 24,106

Journal Archives

Kinetic Modeling of the Sulfur Iodine Process for Thermochemical Water Splitting to Produce Hydrogen

The paper from the primary scientific literature in this post is this one: Building and Verifying a Model for Mass Transfer and Reaction Kinetics of the Bunsen Reaction in the Iodine–Sulfur Process (Zhang et al Ind. Eng. Chem. Res., 2018, 57 (23), pp 7771–7782).

The "Sulfur Iodine Process" sometimes called the "Sulfur Iodine Cycle" or "SI cycle" or (herein) the "IS process" is a process for splitting water using heat, and thus is vastly thermodynamically more efficient than electrolysis and almost infinitely cleaner, depending on the source of heat, the primary energy, than the process by which 99% of the hydrogen on this planet is produced today, the steam reforming of dangerous natural gas or dangerous coal.

There are many thermochemical water splitting processes by the way, and over the years I've familiarized myself with many of them.

The paper is product of scientists at Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology, Tsinghua University, Collaborative Innovation Center of Advanced Nuclear Energy Technology, Beijing, 100084, China. For those who don't know, in international rankings, Tsinghua is known to be one of the greatest universities on this planet, and is sometimes ranked in international rankings higher than MIT, depending on the ranking criteria. The people who do research there are smarter than I am, and, I'm sure in many cases among readers, smarter than you are.

Nevertheless, I still feel free to disagree with the last sentence in their opening paragraph:

Hydrogen has received increasing attention in recent years as a potential fuel for fuel cell vehicles (FCV), and the demand for hydrogen will dramatically increase with the maturity of the FCV technology.1 However, most of the currently used hydrogen is produced from fossil fuels by reforming accompanied by emission of large amounts of CO2, which is assumed to be responsible for global warming. Hydrogen can be produced in an efficient, CO2 free, and large-scale manner through a thermochemical water-splitting process using nuclear energy, specifically, using the process heat of a high temperature gas-cooled nuclear reactor (HTGR).2,3 The iodine−sulfur (IS) process is considered the most promising thermochemical technique for nuclear hydrogen production.4

I personally believe other thermochemical cycles may be more promising, including some involving boiling metals or nanoceramics in flow cells, but that's just my opinion, and again, I'm not that smart.

In any case a 10MW high temperature gas cooled nuclear reactor has operated at Tsinghua University since the year 2000. It's a "pebble bed" type reactor modeled on German technology developed before Germany went "Energy Stupid." It's not my favorite kind of nuclear reactor, but it works.

The Chinese are smarter than we are because they built the reactor in the first place, and it was a new reactor in this century.

I had heard that Chinese scientists were going to fit this reactor to demonstrate the "SI cycle," but haven't kept up with progress in that area, but apparently the process is still getting significant consideration there, as demonstrated in this very recent paper.

The authors describe the "IS process" thusly:

The IS process consists of the following three chemical reactions: (5)

Bunsen reaction: I2 + SO2 + 2H2O = H2SO4 + 2HI

HI decomposition: 2HI = H2 + I2

Sulfuric acid decomposition: H2SO4 = SO2 + 1/2O2 + H2O

The net reaction of the above-mentioned chemical reactions is water decomposition (H2O = H2 + 1/2O2).

Actually in many accounts, what is called the Bunsen reaction above can be actually divided into two separate reactions with the intermediate being sulfuryl iodide, SO2I2, not to be confused with thionyl iodide, a sulfur species in a lower oxidation state. In theory and perhaps in practice, this intermediate could be isolated. I believe that like its chlorine analog, it's a distillable liquid.

An putative advantage of the SI cycle is that most of the materials in it are either liquids or gases, with the possible exception of iodine, although if you have ever worked with free iodine, you have noted that it appreciably sublimes, a gas phase is always above the solid phase, a situation that is also observed with liquid elemental bromine. (There are many variants of bromine based thermochemical cycles by the way.)

The authors discuss these properties, the phase related systems in their text considering how these phase relations affect kinetics that is, the speed at which the process can operate, which is the focus of their beautiful paper. They write, describing the focus of their work:

In the IS process, H2SO4 and HI are produced by the Bunsen reaction among SO2, I2, and H2O, thereby inducing the decomposition reactions of H2SO4 and HI acids. The decomposition products of HI and H2SO4 (i.e., SO2, I2, and H2O) are recycled for the Bunsen reaction. At the initial stage of the IS process, the Bunsen reaction is a three-phase heterogeneous reaction; that is, the gaseous SO2 reacts with solid I2 and liquid H2O. The Bunsen reaction becomes a gas− liquid slurry reaction, in which the recycled gases react with I2 in the HI solution when the IS process is continuously operated under cycling conditions. Most studies on the Bunsen reaction have focused on thermodynamics, including phase separation characteristics, side reactions, and optimization of operational parameters.11−14 The results guarantee that the Bunsen reaction favors thermodynamic conditions and spontaneous product separation. Kinetics data are crucial to reactor design and nonsteady-state operation. However, few studies involved the kinetics of the Bunsen reaction.

A graphic from the paper touches on some issues with phase behavior that they examine:

The caption:

Figure 1. Gas−liquid Bunsen reaction.

In phase interfaces in chemical processes surface area plays a huge role, and hence the discussion of thin films.

The authors construct models for various aspects involved in the kinetics of this system and produce some graphics involved in considerations of various reaction conditions comparing the model with experimental conditions obtained.

For example:

The caption:

Figure 3. Comparison between the model results using eq 42 and the experimental results: (a) 161 kPa, [I2] = 0.6521 mol/L, 40 °C; (b) 163 kPa, [I2] = 0.4933 mol/L, 40 °C.


The caption:

Figure 4. Comparison between model results based on the average parameter and experimental results

Then there are some Henry's law graphics about mass transfer:

The caption:

Figure 7. Comparison of the mass-transfer coefficients between the model and the experimental results under different initial SO2 pressures and I2 concentrations.Figure 7. Comparison of the mass-transfer coefficients between the model and the experimental results under different initial SO2 pressures and I2

More mass transfer:

The caption:

Figure 8. Comparison between the model and the experimental results under different initial pressures and I2 concentrations.

If you are a scientist you already know this, but if you aren't, and find this topic interesting, this might be helpful.

Anything that is flammable is thermodynamically unstable. Wood, for example, in an oxygen atmosphere would rather be carbon dioxide and water, but is stuck being wood because of kinetics, and kinetics in turn is determined by activation energy required to start it. When you burn wood, you provide this activation by using a match, and the match in turn, is ignited by the energy input from friction when you strike it. Because some thermodynamically favorable reactions require energy inputs to get them started, they are able to persist for long periods of time, we say they are "metastable." You by the way, are metastable. So are diamonds at ordinary temperatures and pressures; diamonds are not forever.

One of the first Nobel Laureates, Svante Arrhenius, found a way to determine the activation energy to make thermodynamically favorable reactions like the combustion of wood happen. It is called the Arrhenius equation, after its discoverer and it remains more than a century after its discovery one of the most important equations there is. It is exponential in format, but is often treated as its natural logarithm which makes it essentially linear:

The authors construct Arrhenius plots for the Bunsen reaction:

The caption:

Figure 11. Arrhenius plot for eq 42.

And they find the rate equation for the reaction:

The authors conclude:

An integral multiphase Bunsen reaction model is built on the basis of double-film theory and experimental results. A Bunsen reaction mechanism is proposed, and different reaction rate equation models are deduced on the basis of different rate determining steps. The parameters in the reaction and mass transfer models were regressed, and the models were verified on the basis of the experimental results and differential equation parameter regression approaches. The empirical relation equation of the mass-transfer coefficient of liquid phase with SO2 pressure and iodine concentration is established. All model results agree well with the experimental results, thereby indicating an error of lower than 1%. This result reflects that the established model can simulate and predict the experimental process accurately. The proposed reaction mechanism and deduced reaction rate equations are reliable.

Whether you believe it or not - despite whatever horseshit you've heard - the conversion of nuclear energy into chemical energy without the intermediate use of electricity is one of the key technologies for the creation of a sustainable and just world, which is, regrettably, not even close to the world in which we live.

These Chinese scientists irrespective of who pays them or the government under which they live are working in service of humanity, even as the world lives increasingly under a dictatorship of self serving mindless fools.

I am thankful this work is being done.

I am having the best Father's day in my life as a father, since both my sons are doing very well at the things they love, which is all for which a father can hope. If you are a father, I wish you the same.

Large-Scale Uranium Contamination of Groundwater Resources in India.

The paper to which I will refer has the same title as this post, and is published in the current issue of rapid communications environmental journal published by the American Chemical Society. It is this one: Large-Scale Uranium Contamination of Groundwater Resources in India (Vengosh et al Environ. Sci. Technol. Lett., 2018, 5 (6), pp 341–347.

Some text from the introduction to the paper:

India, the world’s second most populous country, extracts more than a third of worldwide groundwater resources, more than 90% of which is used for irrigation.1 Intense abstraction has led to severe groundwater table declines in many parts of the country, especially in the northwestern Indian states of Punjab, Haryana, and Rajasthan.2−5 In 2013, the Indian Central Groundwater Board estimated that groundwater in the majority (66−70%) of blocks (Indian administrative division above village) in these three states was either critically exploited or overexploited.5 At the same time, parts of northwestern India that import surface water through canals are dealing with water logging issues, even in arid, previously groundwater-deficient areas.2,4−6 Overexploitation of groundwater and the use of imported surface water, combined with reported changes in precipitation patterns induced by climate change, have raised concerns about future water sustainability in India,2−4 yet water quality issues are perhaps even more pressing. High concentrations of salinity, fluoride, and nitrate are widespread in groundwater resources throughout the country.6−8 Groundwater arsenic problems have been reported in the delta aquifers of West Bengal and Bangladesh, as well as along the Indo- Gangetic Basin aquifer in Pakistan.2,9 There are also reports of high levels of uranium in groundwater, particularly in northwestern India, which is the focus of this study.

Uranium’s threat to human health comes from its chemical rather than it's radiological properties. Epidemiological and toxicological studies have examined the link between the prevalence of uranium in water and chronic kidney disease (CKD) and demonstrated that exposure to uranium through drinking water is associated with nephrotoxic effects.10-12

The authors produce a map as a graphic to show where the problem is worst:

The caption:

Figure 1. (A) Distribution of major geological formations in India that compose local aquifers, combined with identified districts in India where uranium in groundwater has been reported to exceed (red zone) or not to exceed (blue zone) the World Health Organization provisional drinking water guideline value of 30 μg/L. (B) Distribution of uranium concentrations in groundwater collected in this study, together with the major geological formations and identified districts in Rajasthan and Gujarat, where uranium content in groundwater has been reported to exceed (red zone) or not to exceed (blue zone) 30 μg/L.

30 μg/L is the cutoff in the World Health Organization's provisional guideline for uranium concentrations in drinking water which is or was the equivalent standard at the EPA, at least before it was taken over a corrupt politician who hates science, scientists and the environment and is treating that organization as a personal bank for corrupt politicians who hate science, scientists and the environment.

Note that the authors attach this situation to geological formations, and that this situation is not involved with uranium mining but with the apparent occurrence of uranium ores through which the drinking water percolates.

This does not, however, imply that human activities have no connection to this situation, which the authors note.

The ocean contains about 5 billion tons of uranium, albeit in considerably lower concentrations than is found in the water supplies studied here. If we take the density of seawater to be 1030 kg/m^3, the figures given in this paper, which I pulled up more or less at random from such papers in my files Chemical Geology Volume 190, Issues 1–4, 30 October 2002, Pages 45-67, we can calculate that the concentration of uranium in seawater is about an order of magnitude lower, 3.4 μg/L. Many scientific publications give a figure close to this, with minor fluctuations owing to fluctuations in the density of seawater, which is not constant in all places.

Despite all of the talk from people who hate nuclear energy because they know nothing at all about the subject, who have appealed to "peak uranium" to claim that nuclear energy is not sustainable, uranium is not exhaustible, and no human technology can ever consume it.

It is easy to show that if world per capita average power consumption doubled to around 5000W, (which is still half of the average power consumption of an "average" American), that a person living for 100 years would consume about 100 grams of uranium (converted to plutonium) in their entire lifetime. An appreciation of how much uranium has already been mined shows that the quantity is sufficient to supply 100% of humanity's energy consumption for several centuries, even without the greater quantities of thorium that have been mined and dumped as a side product of the lanthanide industry that supports our stupid, environmentally unacceptable and useless wind industry, among other industries.

The recovery of oceanic uranium for use in nuclear reactors has been under study for more than half a century and the technology is well understood. Because uranium is so cheap from terrestrial ores (and would be even cheaper were we to do away with the stupid practice of dumping so called "depleted uranium" ) the cost of recovering uranium from seawater is not justified as of yet, but since in terms of cost per unit of energy provided, the cost of uranium is trivial with respect to the cost of nuclear energy. Like the cost of the useless and failed solar energy industry, the cost of fuel doesn't matter all that much; it's the device that counts.

If at some point stupid people stop ruling the world, and thus the world energy supply goes nuclear, several hundred years from now, people might be inclined to obtain their uranium from seawater, which is possible because of the extremely high energy density of uranium. (Since it is this factor, the energy to mass ratio, is the most important in determining the environmental impact of a form of energy and its economic viability and sustainability, it follows that nuclear fission is the cleanest form of energy possible, unless of course, as had yet to happen, a viable fusion energy device is made to work.) But one might argue that doing this, obtaining uranium from seawater, one could drain the seas of its uranium.

This however is not possible, because the uranium in seawater is actually a tiny fraction of the uranium on the planet as a whole and in fact represents a small part of a natural uranium cycle.

This brings me back to India.

Most people who have studied nuclear issues and nuclear policy - this excludes 99% of nuclear energy opponents, the overwhelming majority of whom argue from ignorance - will understand that the Indian nuclear energy program is geared to utilizing India's large thorium reserves, primarily because India has very few reserves of terrestrial ores of uranium that can be recovered at current low prices. For this reason the majority of nuclear reactors in India are heavy water reactors, which are suitable for breeding U-233 from thorium. However the solubility of thorium is rather low in most aqueous systems (although this is not the case for its radioactive decay daughters). This means that if one considers eternity a thorium/uranium cycle is not sustainable but a uranium/plutonium cycle is.

Since uranium is not present in Indian ores, they have actually built a pilot plant to extract uranium from seawater. Here's a picture of it:

(Source: Linfeng Rao, LBNL Paper LBNL-4034E (2010))

In a blog post elsewhere, I examined the uranium cycle in some detail and using one of the references I supplied therein, among many others, U-Th-Ra Fractionation During Weathering and River Transport (Chabuax et al, Reviews in Mineralogy and Geochemistry (2003) 52 (1): 533-576) A nice table in the paper gives the quantities of uranium transported by rivers to the sea from the weathering of rocks. Three of the top five are major rivers in India: They are the Indus, the Ganges, and the Brahmaputra rivers, with the other two in the top five being the Mississippi and the Yangtze.

Sustaining the Wind, Part 3, Is Uranium Exhaustible?

Now let's return to the paper cited in the beginning of this post.

The authors note that the mobilization of uranium into the ground water is only possible if two conditions are met. One is the presence of carbonate, because in the ocean and in any other aqueous system this solubility is tied to the carbonate complex. The other is the presence of an oxidizing agent, since the carbonate complex of uranium (VI) is soluble, and the same complex of uranium (IV), the other common oxidation state in terrestrial uranium ores is not.

They write:

Controls on the Occurrence of Uranium. Bicarbonate complexation and oxidizing conditions are two of the most important chemical factors controlling uranium concentrations in groundwater20,25,26,32−34 and appear to be the key factors for the alluvial aquifers in northwestern India. The accumulation of bicarbonate in groundwater enhances the formation of highly soluble uranyl carbonate complexes, which results in elevated uranium concentrations in groundwater. This process is evidenced by the correlation between bicarbonate and uranium in groundwater from most of the aquifers in Rajasthan and Gujarat (Figure 2B and Table S6). This is consistent with speciation modeling conducted with PHREEQC, which predicted that uranyl carbonate species, especially ternary complexes with Ca, are the predominant uranium complexes in groundwater from the alluvium aquifers (Table S7).

Additionally, previous studies have observed massive groundwater table declines in many areas in the unconfined alluvial aquifers of northwestern India.5 This hydrogeological condition likely promotes oxic conditions, which favor the occurrence of uranium as a soluble complex and migration into deeper parts of the aquifer. Although neither oxidation−reduction potential nor dissolved oxygen concentration was directly measured, relatively low concentrations of both iron and manganese and high nitrate concentrations further support our hypothesis of oxidizing conditions in the shallow U-rich groundwater (Table S2).

They note that the conditions under which the uranium is mobilized are obtained by the percolation of water through agricultural fields, particularly because of the accumulation of nitrate, as well as the effect of cycling water through the air, which is increasingly concentrated with the dangerous fossil fuel waste carbon dioxide while we all wait, like Godot, for the grand so called "renewable energy" fantasy to become reality.

They have a nice graphic discussing carbonate and uranium fluxes in drinking and agricultural water:

The caption:

Figure 2. (A) Box plots of uranium concentrations of groundwater from different aquifers in Rajasthan and Gujarat investigated in this study. Red lines represent the WHO’s provisional guideline values for uranium in drinking water. For statistical analysis of the differences in U distribution by aquifer, see Table S4. (B) Uranium vs bicarbonate concentrations in groundwater sorted by aquifer lithology. See Table S6 for Spearman correlations sorted by aquifer.

That the source of the uranium derives from naturally occurring rocks and not from human industrial nuclear practice is indicated by the U234/U238 ratio since U234, always in equilibrium with U238 is mobilized by the recoil of alpha decay. A graphic on that point:

The caption:

Figure 3. 234U/238U activity ratios vs uranium concentration in groundwater from the alluvial aquifers in Rajasthan and Gujarat. The blue line represents secular equilibrium in which the 234U/238U activity ratio is ∼1. 234U/238U activity ratios of >1 observed in most of the investigated groundwater indicate selective 234U chemical mobilization and/or physical recoil from the aquifer rocks.

I believe that the value of "1" here refers to the normal secular equilibrium conditions, and not the actual ratio between U234 and U238.

I have written here that the extraction of uranium from seawater is not economically justifiable, and I certainly consider that the nuclear enterprise in a rational world as opposed to the one in we actually live would be powered essentially by so called "depleted uranium" with a little thorium thrown in to keep up supplies of neptunium to void nuclear weapons proliferation issues.

But the question is whether there is a moral and health reason to do it beyond the cost of ores.

Suppose the Indian government decided to purify the groundwater to remove the uranium it extracts from geological formations. Perhaps some of the cost might well be defrayed by selling or utilizing the uranium so recovered. There is no good reason that any of the many systems known to extract uranium from dilute solutions could not be used to remove uranium from drinking and agricultural water instead of seawater. And indeed, the higher concentrations in this water when compared to seawater would make the economics less onerous.

It's worth a shot.

Later, maybe this weekend, I hope to write a post, in response to an excellent question in one of my earlier posts here, to cover the "external costs" of dangerous natural gas, which will show despite common parlance, including much of it by idiotic anti-nukes who claim as evidence of their stupidity that "nuclear energy is not competitive," that natural gas is not cheap since it incurs a health and environmental cost that will fall mostly on future generations, who will have derived none of the benefits of the "cheap" natural gas now being burned in a sybaritic fashion by people with no concern whatsoever about the future.

The authors of the paper from which this post takes its title specifically mention climate change as a factor in the situation with respect to uranium in Indian drinking water. Of course, I assume that every time the words "uranium contamination" appear, the usual anti-nukes perk up their selectively attentive ears to find another insipid "argument" to criticize the nuclear industry. But to whom does the "external cost" of the uranium in Indian water actually accrue? Could it be that some of the moral responsibility lies with those who either deny climate change or propose silly failed schemes to address it?

I pose this question as I finish up by wishing you a very pleasant weekend, a pleasant "Father's Day," if you are involved in some way with a father.

Bats in the Anthropocene.

Many years ago, when my two sons were small, our neighbor used to invite us over to his house on summer evenings for drinks and conversation. Our kids kind of grew up to be different kinds of men, and we got busy and we sort of fell out of touch not because we didn't like each other - we still greet each other very warmly when we do see each other, but because...well, you know, "responsibilities..."

One such summer, a colony of bats moved into the rafters of his house, and at the crepuscule, the bats would come out, swarming and eating mosquitoes. Of course I couldn't tell much about the bats, they were shadows against the colored dying light on the horizon, but I remember how beautiful they were, God they were beautiful.

Some time back, in this space, I referred to a book I had just added to my collection called "Why Birds Matter," which was a book which I claimed justified the existence of birds on economic grounds.

We are so pathetic...

A Minor Problem For Sound Science of the Effect of Offshore Windfarms on Seabirds: There Isn't Any.

The wind industry is a trivial industry that is material intensive, unreliable, ineffective, expensive and dependent on the continuous manufacture of transient junk that last just a short time before becoming landfill, the ultimate consumerist bourgeois exercise in planned obsolescence that is designed to "make jobs" that are not only unproductive, but are actually destructive.

Despite half a century of cheering, and the expenditure of trillion dollar quantities of resources, climate change is worse than ever and we are using more dangerous fossil fuels than we have ever used.

Despite the obvious failure of this awful experiment there are still people who believe that every bit of open space should be turned into industrial parks for producing electricity in a way requiring redundancy and, as I will point out by reference to my latest edition to my collection of books on wildlife, destructive to an important element of the worldwide ecosystem, the creatures I evoked at the beginning, bats.

Before pointing to the book, let me point to a relatively recent paper from the primary scientific literature that states the problem quite clearly and well:

Behavior of bats at wind turbines (Cryan et al PNAS October 21, 2014. 111 (42) 15126-15131). This paper seems to be open sourced, but I'll excerpt it anyway:

Bats are dying in unprecedented numbers at wind turbines, but causes of their susceptibility are unknown. Fatalities peak during low-wind conditions in late summer and autumn and primarily involve species that evolved to roost in trees. Common behaviors of “tree bats” might put them at risk, yet the difficulty of observing high-flying nocturnal animals has limited our understanding of their behaviors around tall structures. We used thermal surveillance cameras for, to our knowledge, the first time to observe behaviors of bats at experimentally manipulated wind turbines over several months. We discovered previously undescribed patterns in the ways bats approach and interact with turbines, suggesting behaviors that evolved at tall trees might be the reason why many bats die at wind turbines...

...Bats are long-lived mammals with low reproductive potential and require high adult survivorship to maintain populations (1, 2). The recent phenomenon of widespread fatalities of bats at utility scale wind turbines represents a new hazard with the potential to detrimentally affect entire populations (3, 4). Bat fatalities have been found at wind turbines on several continents (3⇓⇓–6), with hypothesized estimates of fatalities in some regions ranging into the tens to hundreds of thousands of bats per year (4, 6). Before recent observations of dead bats beneath wind turbines, fatal collisions of bats with tall structures had been rarely recorded (7). Most fatalities reported from turbines in the United States, Canada, and Europe are of species that evolved to roost primarily in trees during much of the year (“tree bats”), some of which migrate long distances in spring and late summer to autumn (8). In North America, tree bats compose more than three-quarters of the reported bat fatalities found at wind-energy sites (6, 9), although there is a paucity of information from the southwestern United States and Mexico. Similar patterns occur in Europe (4). Another prominent pattern in bat fatality data from northern temperate zones is that most fatalities are found during late summer and autumn, sometimes with a much smaller peak of fatality in spring (4, 6). Concurrent involvement of species with shared behaviors suggests that behavior plays a key role in the susceptibility of bats to wind turbines, and that tree bats might somehow be attracted to wind turbines (8).

Don't worry, be happy. Wind turbines are "green" even if they have done absolutely nothing at all, zilch, zip, zero to arrest climate change, which is now taking place, after half a century of cheering for wind, at the fastest rate ever observed.

It's not results that count; it's "good" intentions.

The book I just downloaded is this one: Bats in the Anthropocene: Conservation of Bats in a Changing World

Apparently you can download this book for free. God bless Springer publishing, I love them.

An excerpt:

...This brings up an important question: Do nocturnal animals benefit less from legal protection than diurnal animals? Are we more concerned about animals that we see and interact with during daytime? Do human societies perceive and evaluate, for example, fatalities of birds of prey at wind turbines in a different way than bat fatalities when both ought to benefit from the same level of protection? Do we consider recommendations to reduce light pollution for the sake of nocturnal animals such as bats, or does the expansion of the human temporal niche into the night come at high costs for all nocturnal animals? In summary, we speculate that bats as nocturnal animals might be particularly exposed to human-induced ecological perturbations because we are driven by our visual system and therefore tend to neglect the dark side of conservation, i.e., the protection of nocturnal animals.

The authors then ask the question, "Why should we care about bats."

There's some nice and gracious lip service to the beauty of bats before we hear about the only thing we care about, money.

Recent attempts to critically review the ecosystem services provided by bats have revealed that many species offer unique and large-scale monetary benefits to agricultural industry (Kunz et al. 2011; Ghanem and Voigt 2012; Maas et al. 2015). For example, flowers of the Durian tree are only effectively pollinated by the Dawn bat, Eonycteris spelaea, in Southeast Asia (Bumrungsri et al. 2009). Durian is a highly valued fruit in Asia with Thailand producing a market value of durians of almost 600 million US$ annually (Ghanem and Voigt 2012). Other bats consume large amounts of pest insects, thereby offering services that could save millions of US$ for national industries (Boyles et al. 2011; Wanger et al. 2014). However, the monetary approach for protecting bat species is a double edged sword, since bat species without apparent use for human economy may not benefit from protection compared to those that provide some ecosystem services.

We are so pathetic...

Chapter 11 of this book is all about the high number of bat deaths at wind turbines, which is entirely OK because we need to grow the wind industry by zillions of percent because, who gives a shit about bats when we can all be "green" and drive swell electric cars made by the ever popular Elon Musk?

In this book, wind power is discussed as one of "the fastest growing sources of energy" even though it, um, isn't, and grew at 1/10th the rate of coal in the 21st century.

IEA 2017 World Energy Outlook, Table 2.2 page 79

But even if its useless, it's pretty good at killing bats.

However returning to accurate statements about their area of expertise, bats, even if they apparently don't know very much about energy they write:

Wind energy development is not environmentally neutral, and impacts to wildlife and their habitats have been documented and are of increasing concern. Wind energy development affects wildlife through direct mortality and indirectly through impacts on habitat structure and function (Arnett et al. 2007; Arnett 2012; NRC 2007; Strickland et al. 2011). Bats are killed by blunt force trauma or barotrauma and may also suffer from inner ear damage and other injuries not readily noticed by examining carcasses in the field (Baerwald et al. 2008; Grodsky et al. 2011; Rollins et al. 2012; Fig. 11.2). Kunz et al (2007a) proposed several hypotheses that may explain why bats are killed and some of these ideas have subsequently been discussed by others (e.g., Cryan and Barclay 2009; Rydell et al 2010a). Collisions at turbines do not appear to be chance events, and bats probably are attracted to turbines either directly, as turbines may resemble roosts (Cryan 2008), or indirectly, because turbines attract insects on which the bats feed (Rydell et al. 2010b). Horn et al. (2008) and Cryan et al. (2014) provide video evidence of possible attraction of bats to wind turbines.

Regardless of causal mechanisms, bat fatalities raise serious concerns about population-level impacts because bats are long-lived and have exceptionally low reproductive rates, and their population growth is relatively slow, which limits their ability to recover from declines and maintain sustainable populations (Barclay and Harder 2003). Additionally, other sources of mortality cumulatively threaten many populations. For example, white-nosed syndrome causes devastating declines in bat populations in the USA and Canada (e.g., Frick et al. 2010), and national programs for improving insulation of buildings, particularly in Northern Europe, cause losses of roosting opportunities for bats such as the common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus; Voigt et al. 2016). Thus, high wind turbine mortality poses a serious threat to bats unless solutions are developed and implemented...

There's plenty more where that comes from.

You know, when I was a kid, I was a member of the Sierra Club, which I then took - it may have been true then - to be an organization dedicated to saving the open spaces, habitat and ecosystems. And of course, I did that thing that clueless bourgeois types like me do, which was to dutifully drive to a shopping mall every Christmas season to get that de rigeur Sierra club calendar with all the rock formations, stream and forest pictures, all printed on recycled paper.

Eventually whether you like it or not, most boys grow up to be men.

That's not what the Sierra Club is today. Recently I attended the New Jersey "March for Science" which turned out to be, to my disgust, a "March for Renewable Energy" where I had to listen to the drivel of the asshole who heads that organization whose "environmental program" calls for destroying the offshore Benthic zone of New Jersey by turning it into an industrial park for wind turbines.

This so called "environmental" organization actually has photographs of a wind industrial park on its web page, at crepuscule no less, the perfect time to kill New Jersey bats.

To the modern New Jersey Sierra club, birds don't matter, nothing matters other than producing electricity some of the time using inefficient material intensive and most importantly useless.

The pathetic asshole who apparently hates bats is in the picture wearing a blue tie. He is, if you must know, one of the most ignorant people you can ever meet, that is if you, unlike him, actually know something about the environment.

Glenn Seaborg, winner of the Nobel Prize, adviser to every President from Harry Truman to Bill Clinton, former chancellor of the University of California, President of the American Chemical Society, discoverer of the final shape of the periodic table, discoverer of more than 10 elements in the periodic table, and Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission during the most productive period of nuclear reactor building in world history, lead by the United States, was a member of the Sierra Club.

I can't speak for the great man, but I wouldn't be surprised if he would be as disgusted as I am by what that club has become.

I wish you a pleasant Tuesday.

All the World's Coal Plants, Mapped.

All the World's Coal Plants Mapped

This is an interactive map, and when it comes up, it will show 2017 on the slider bar.

You may have heard somewhere coal is dead. Maybe you believed it, or at least wanted to believe it.

Expand to Europe, push the slider bar to "Future" from 2017.

Take a look at China and India.

The US, a country of myopic provincials, is closing coal plants because in the US dangerous natural gas is believed to be "cheap." It isn't. It only appears so because the external costs of gas will fall on future generations who will conversely reap none, absolutely none of the benefits.

I wish you a pleasant work week.

Ameliorating the Fire Risk of Energy Storage Devices.

The paper I will discuss in this link from the primary scientific literature is this one:

Promising and Reversible Electrolyte with Thermal Switching Behavior for Safer Electrochemical Storage Devices (Xu et al, ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces, 2018, 10 (8), pp 7171–7179)

As I frequently point out energy storage wastes energy, a consequence of the inviolable second law of thermodynamics, a law of physical science that all the wishful thinking in the world cannot repeal.

Nevertheless, like so called "renewable energy" itself, the idea of energy storage is inexplicably popular, perhaps because even the most enthusiastic and delusional partisans of so called "renewable energy" recognize, at least in the back of their minds if not consciously, that there are times when the wind does not blow at night. Since they are under the erroneous opinion that so called "renewable energy" is "green" and sustainable, they like to pretend that there is a simple solution in energy storage, and do all kinds of cheering for absurd stuff like Elon Musk's crappy car for billionaires and millionaires.

So called "renewable energy" has not worked; it is not working and it will not work to address climate change or reduce the use of dangerous fossil fuels.

On the other hand, energy storage devices are in fact commercial and work quite well, and are utilized on a grand scale in all sorts of devices, the overwhelming majority of them being portable devices even though, again, they waste energy. The idea of making portable devices however into utility scale devices, while already in some marginal practice to support the marginal and insignificant so called "renewable energy" devices is dubious, especially when one considers that large scale devices, since they waste energy, they can and sometimes do, exhibit heat exchange problems that can become uncontrolled and lead to fires and even explosions.

News item: Lithium-Ion Battery on Delta Air Lines Flight Explodes, Catches Fire

The ignition of batteries brought down UPS Flight 6 in Dubai, killing both pilots, one by asphyxiation, the other being killed when he couldn't land the plane because of smoke. It was covered in the wonderful if scary Smithsonian Channel Show Air Disasters.

News Item: Why the Fire that Incinerated a Tesla Was Such a Nightmare to Put Out

Reducing this risk is the topic of the paper cited at the beginning of this post.

Some commentary from the introduction to the paper:

Advanced electrochemical devices, such as supercapacitors, lithium-ion batteries, and nickel−metal hydride batteries, have been large-scale applied in energy storage because of their properties such as high power and energy densities,1,2 stable cycling performance, and long cycle life.3−8 Delivering energy at high rates, however, could cause security issues with respect to considerable amounts of gases and heat generated by ultrafast charging and discharging processes, especially in some extreme conditions such as short circuiting and overcharging, thus resulting in catastrophic burning or explosion.9,10 With the increasing oil crisis and continuous development of new energy vehicles, safety problems of large battery packs with high specific energy density are in urgent need of technical breakthroughs.

A series of exothermic reactions leading to a rapid rise in temperature and to thermal runaway can be initiated in addition to the charge/discharge cycle, including the thermal pyrolysis of electrodes and evolution of oxygen and hydrogen between the electrode/electrolyte interface, which in turn increases the internal cell temperature and pressure.11 Accordingly, effective suppression of thermal runaway is the premise of achieving safety application and plays a very important role in the research studies of high-energy storage devices.12

You hear people talking as if battery storage and so called "renewable energy" are already mainstream. They are not. They are trivial and if one believes these scientists - contempt for scientists and engineers is very popular on both political extremes - there are serious technical "breakthroughs" required.

The question that should arise in people's minds is therefore a question of time. It's 2018. We're at close to 412 ppm for the concentration of the dangerous fossil fuel waste carbon dioxide in the planetary atmosphere. We cannot continue - if, in spite of all evidence, we want to have any hope of elevating our ghastly impoverished moral standing - to bet the future on hopes for "breakthroughs." We're out of time to wait for them.

Nevertheless, the authors are doing what good scientists do, they are working to solve the problem that the existing problem represents. Their work involves "thermoresponsive polymers." The idea is to shut down the device before it gets too hot and catches fire or explodes. (It's better to have your swell Tesla car stall and be even more useless than it is to have it catch fire and kill people.)

They describe the current state of affairs:

Recently, researchers proposed to develop smart reversible electrolytes based on thermoresponsive polymers, which have unique lower-critical solution temperature (LCST), to cope with the issue of thermal runaway. The migrations of conductive ions in the reversible electrolytes exhibit temperature dependence due to the phase separation of LCST polymers, thus providing or inhibiting conductive paths to achieve the thermoreversible protection. To date most of the research studies have focused on poly(N-isopropylacrylamide)-based copolymers because of its extensive mature application in biomedicine.23,24 However, their actual applications in electrochemical energy storage are restricted by the low LCST at around 32−34 °C and complicated synthesis with low productivity. Although commercial thermoplastic elastomer Pluronic [poly(ethylene oxide)-block-poly(propylene oxide)-block-poly(ethylene oxide)] have been dissolved in the electrolyte to shutdown the electrochemical devices upon heating, the high concentration up to 30 wt % influences the electrochemical properties at room temperature and increases the cost.25

Then they discuss their approach:

Here, methyl cellulose (MC) is used as a stimuli-responsive material in the smart electrolyte because of its thermoreversible gelation property in aqueous solution at elevated temperatures. MC, a type of modified cellulose with a portion of hydroxyl groups substituted by hydrophobic groups, has been increasingly investigated as separators or binder materials instead of synthetic polymers for electrochemical devices owing to its characteristics such as abundance, regeneration, and low cost.26−31 In this study, MC molecules exist as randomly isolated chains in the electrolyte below the LCST when ions can move in the interspaces freely, enabling a high ionic conductivity, which is not possible with conventional flameretardant additives. When temperature increases, the electrolyte undergoes a thermally activated sol−gel transition, which results in a decreased ion concentration and broken circuit because the hydrophobic segment in MC molecular chains is tangled to inhibit the motion of ions. This process is reversible and returns to high conductivity after cooling, as shown in Figure 1. We chose MC as the stimuli-responsive material in reversible electrolytes based on the following considerations: (1) MC solution exhibits relatively proper transition temperatures, so that system can be shutdown before or at the early stage of thermal runaway; (2) it is sensitive to temperature change in abnormal conditions and low concentration (∼2 wt %), making it a cost-effective system; (3) it is inert and stable within the electrochemical environment, having little impact on the electrochemical performance.

Methyl cellulose can be obtained of course from wood and other biological materials and to the extent biological sources are used, this material might represent economically viable sequestration of atmospheric carbon, probably in amounts that would be trivial compared to our 35 billion ton dumping practices in use today, but perhaps meaningful in a world where carbon dumping was arrested by the expanded development and embrace of nuclear energy.

They then produce a graphic showing how their system is designed to work:

The caption:

Figure 1. (a) Schematic illustration of the smart electrolyte with reversible thermoresponsive gelation properties for electrochemical energy storage devices. The system works normally at room temperature because of the free migration of ions in the interspaces. On heating, the hydrophobic crosslinked network leads to the sol−gel transition and absence of moving ions from solution, thus effectively shutting down the device above the LCST. Upon cooling, the electrolyte reversibly transforms to solution and recovers its ion motion. (b) Structures of MC, showing hydrophilic and hydrophobic groups. (c) Digital photograph of a MC solution below and above the LCST. (d) FTIR of pure MC and the mixture solution of MC and 1 M H2SO4-based electrolyte before and after 10 CV cycles, respectively.

Here are the cyclic voltammetry (CV) curves showing the reversibility of charge and discharge, a property essential to make a viable battery:

The caption:

Figure 2. Electrochemical properties of AC electrodes in 2 wt % MC-based electrolyte (1 M H2SO4). The CV curves were performed at scan rates of 10, 50, and 100 mV/s on AC electrodes at (a) 25 and (b) 70 °C. The charge/discharge characteristics in reversible electrolyte using a current density of 3 A g−1 at (c) RT, 25 °C and (d) HT, 70 °C.

They test the shutdown of current in terms of heat responsiveness:

The caption:

Figure 4. (a)Temperature-dependent CV tests of the system based on electrolyte with 1 wt % MC solution. (b) Storage modulus G′ (black) and loss modulus G″ (red) as a function of temperature in heating processes for a 1 wt % MC solution. (c) Illustrative DSC trace for 1 wt % MC solution on heating. (d) The temperature-dependent G′ value curves for MC with different concentrations.

The DSC curve, curve C, is a differential scanning calorimetry curve, which shows the transition temperature at which the electrolyte converts from a liquid into a gel. This temperature is comfortably low.

And finally, a nice picture of stuff in their lab by which they do the testing:

The caption:

Figure 6. (a) Illustration of thermal switching behavior of the coin cell supercapacitor using 1 wt % MC solution-based electrolyte: digital photographs show the decreased light intensity of the LED while heating to 70 °C. (b) The reversible specific capacitance summary of thermal-responsive supercapacitor cycling between 25 °C and shutdown. (c) Ionic conductivity response to temperature of 1 wt % MC solution-based electrolyte.

Interesting work, I think. If we must waste energy by storing it, let's try to do it safely at least.

Now of course, I fully recognize that our concept of "safety" is a function of selective attention. I recall a mindless fool here, for example - whose happily made it to my "ignore" list - who focused on the "major news" that a tunnel at the Hanford Nuclear Weapons site collapsed, which in his tiny brain "proved" that nuclear energy was "unsafe," while so called "renewable energy" was without risk.

And of course, people couldn't care less if Tesla cars for billionaires and millionaires catch fire, or if computer batteries bring down planes.

I submit that this kind of thinking is the reason we are at 412 ppm and out of time. It didn't have to be this way, but it is.

All this said, I applaud the fact that these Chinese scientists, if not the general public here in the United States and indeed around the world, are paying attention to risks that are real as opposed to those that are inflated.

Have a pleasant Sunday afternoon.

Solar ENERGY production in the United States in March 2018.

Often in this space we hear how "falling solar prices" are driving the coal industry out of business.

Because I find this rhetoric annoying and delusional to the point of toxicity I decided to look up how much solar energy was produced in the United States in recent times. The data is reported at the EIA website and can be found here:

EIA US Electricity Browser (Accessed 06/09/18).

It shows the entire output of the entire United States for solar energy, with the latest data figure being March of 2018.

In March of 2018 US solar, residential and utility scale combined produced 7513 thousand MWe, which translates to 0.027 exajoules of energy. World energy demand was, as of 2016 for the entire year, 576 exajoules, and will surely be higher this year.

In terms of average continuous power, the entire solar industry produced in the entire United States 10,483 MW of power.

The Navajo coal plant in Arizona has been killing Native Americans, with their active acquiesce and, indeed, enthusiasm, since 1974. It's power rating is 2,250 MW. The capacity utilization of coal plants is on the order of 80%, second only to cleaner and far more sustainable nuclear plants, which typically run at capacity utilization of greater than 90%. For generations native american miners have been laboring in the Kayenta coal mines to feed that plant. They're worried they're going to lose their jobs.

It follows from the above numbers, - people buying into the so called "renewable energy" scam are very, very, very, very, very poor at numbers - that if the Navajo coal plant operated at 80% capacity utilization, producing average continuous power of 1800 MW, all the solar plants combined in the entire United States produced less energy than six coal or gas plants the size of the Navajo coal plant.

The United States has 844 plants capable of running on coal.

Actually, since solar energy requires the operation of redundant systems it could be free and still not be "cheap" depending on the external and internal cost of back up systems which are always required, since it is widely reported that an event called "night" happens once in every 24 hour period almost everywhere on the planet, with the possible exception of areas inside the arctic circles. (Our habit is to ignore external costs - the costs paid by human and other species flesh, and the cost to the destruction of environment. This is precisely why solar energy is often described as "green." )

Boilers at coal plants cannot be thermally isolated, since boiling water by definition implies heat exchange. Thus if one shuts a coal or gas plant of the increasingly prevalent combined cycle type because the sun is shining, it follows that one must waste energy to bring cooled water back up to its boiling point under pressure.

By the way, as I noted elsewhere, a great hullabaloo has been raised about the fates of uranium Dine (aka "Navajo" ) miners. Many books have been written about them. By contrast nobody gives a shit about black lung disease or other health effects related to the jobs of native American miners at the Kayenta mines that supply the Navajo coal plant.

In the link immediately above, I analyzed the entire death toll of all Dine (Navajo) uranium miners from radiogenic cancers:

As I prepared this work, I took some time to wander around the stacks of the Firestone Library at Princeton University where, within a few minutes, without too much effort, I was able to assemble a small pile of books[50] on the terrible case of the Dine (Navajo) uranium miners who worked in the mid-20th century, resulting in higher rates of lung cancer than the general population. The general theme of these books if one leafs through them is this: In the late 1940’s mysterious people, military syndics vaguely involved with secret US government activities show up on the Dine (Navajo) Reservation in the “Four Corners” region of the United States, knowing that uranium is “dangerous” and/or “deadly” to convince naïve and uneducated Dine (Navajos) to dig the “dangerous ore” while concealing its true “deadly” nature. The uranium ends up killing many of the miners, thus furthering the long American history of genocide against the Native American peoples. There is a conspiratorial air to all of it; it begins, in these accounts, with the cold warrior American military drive to produce nuclear arms and then is enthusiastically taken up by the “evil” and “venal” conspirators who foist the “crime” of nuclear energy on an unsuspecting American public, this while killing even more innocent Native Americans.


I am an American. One of my side interests is a deep, if non-professional, reading of American History. Often we Americans present our history in triumphalist terms, but any serious and honest examination of our history reveals two imperishable stains on our history that we cannot and should not deny. One, of course, is our long and violent history of officially endorsed racism, including 250 years of institutionalized human slavery. The related other stain is the stain of the open and official policy of genocide against Native Americans: There is no softer word than “genocide.” Both episodes, each of which took place of a period on a scale centuries, were policies with open and “legal” sanctioning of the citizens of the United States and their “democratic” government, and were often justified by some of our most educated and influential leaders. I cannot reflect on my country without reflecting on these dire facts. I am not here to deny the role that genocide played in our history, and I note with some regret that the last people born within the borders of the United States to achieve full citizenship rights – this took place only in 1924 – were the descendants of the first human beings to walk here, our Native American brothers and sisters.

Still, one wonders, was hiring Dine/Navajo uranium miners yet another case of official deliberate racism as the pile of books in the Firestone library strongly implied?


A publication[51] in 2009 evaluated the cause of deaths among uranium miners on the Colorado Plateau and represented a follow up of a study of the health of these miners, 4,137 of them, of whom 3,358 were “white” (Caucasian) and 779 of whom were “non-white.” Of the 779 “non-white” we are told that 99% of them were “American Indians,” i.e. Native Americans. We may also read that the median year of birth for these miners, white and Native American, was 1922, meaning that a miner born in the median year would have been 83 years old in 2005, the year to which the follow up was conducted. (The oldest miner in the data set was born in 1913; the youngest was born in 1931.) Of the miners who were evaluated, 2,428 of them had died at the time the study was conducted, 826 of whom died after 1990, when the median subject would have been 68 years old.

Let’s ignore the “white” people; they are irrelevant in these accounts.

Of the Native American miners, 536 died before 1990, and 280 died in the period between 1991and 2005, meaning that in 2005, only 13 survived. Of course, if none of the Native Americans had ever been in a mine of any kind, never mind uranium mines, this would have not rendered them immortal. (Let’s be clear no one writes pathos inspiring books about the Native American miners in the Kayenta or Black Mesa coal mines, both of which were operated on Native American reservations in the same general area as the uranium mines.) Thirty-two of the Native American uranium miners died in car crashes, 8 were murdered, 8 committed suicide, and 10 died from things like falling into a hole, or collision with an “object.” Fifty-four of the Native American uranium miners died from cancers that were not lung cancer. The “Standard Mortality Ratio,” or SMR for this number of cancer deaths that were not lung cancer was 0.85, with the 95% confidence level extending from 0.64 to 1.11. The “Standard Mortality Ratio” is the ratio, of course, the ratio between the number of deaths observed in the study population (in this case Native American Uranium Miners) to the number of deaths that would have been expected in a control population. At an SMR of 0.85, thus 54 deaths is (54/.085) – 54 = -10. Ten fewer Native American uranium miners died from “cancers other than lung cancer” than would have been expected in a population of that size. At the lower 95% confidence limit SMR, 0.64, the number would be 31 fewer deaths from “cancers other than lung cancer,” whereas at the higher limit SMR, 1.11, 5 additional deaths would have been recorded, compared with the general population.

Lung cancer, of course, tells a very different story. Ninety-two Native American uranium miners died of lung cancer. Sixty-three of these died before 1990; twenty-nine died after 1990. The SMR for the population that died in the former case was 3.18, for the former 3.27. This means the expected number of deaths would have been expected in the former case was 20, in the latter case, 9. Thus the excess lung cancer deaths among Native American uranium miners was 92 – (20 +9) = 63...

...On the other hand, roughly 7 million people will die this year from air pollution.[52] Of these, about 3.3 million will die from “ambient particulate air pollution” – chiefly resulting from the combustion of dangerous coal and dangerous petroleum, although some will come from the combustion of “renewable” biofuels. Every single person living on the face of this planet and, in fact, practically every organism on this planet is continuously exposed to dangerous fossil fuel waste, and every person on this planet and practically every organism on this planet contains dangerous fossil fuel waste...

...Seen in this purely clinical way, this means that all of the Native American uranium miners dying from all cancers, 93 lung cancer deaths and 54 deaths from other cancers, measured over three or four decades, represent about 23 minutes of deaths taking place continuously, without let up, from dangerous fossil fuel pollution.

The modern equivalent of coal miners are the miners for the material intensive so called "renewable energy" industry. This mining is a toxicological nightmare but we couldn't care less. Most of the miners who will suffer the health effects of this latest affectation are overseas, particularly in China. Most of the people who will die from recycling this garbage are also overseas, living in the poorest places on earth.

We couldn't care less.

I wish you a pleasant Saturday afternoon.

Electricity Carbon Intensity Viewed in Terms of Export and Import.

The paper I will discuss in this brief post comes from the most recent issue of Environmental Science and Technology, a scientific journal that is a publication of the American Chemical Society.

The paper is here:

Virtual CO2 Emission Flows in the Global Electricity Trade Network (Xu et al, Environ. Sci. Technol., 2018, 52 (11), pp 6666–6675)

Some introductory text:

Electric power generation contributes significantly to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In 2014, over 40% of the global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions were from the electric power sector.1 Mitigation initiatives, strategies, and policies related to the power sector have taken place at various scales, including the national, regional, organizational, and even individual scales. Underpinning such effects is the accurate and fair accounting for GHG emissions, for emissions from both electricity generation and consumption. Consumptionbased accounting is particularly relevant to initiatives and policies at regional, organizational, and individual levels. Converting grid electricity consumption (or purchased electricity) into emissions from power generation requires the measurement and use of the emission factor, which is defined as the emission generated due to unitary electricity consumption.

Current practices mostly use production-based emission factors for estimating emissions driven by electricity consumption...

...However, as electricity is purchased and consumed from interconnected grids, production-based emission factors lead to inaccurate measurements of emissions due to electricity consumption. In particular, power grids are connected and interdependent at the regional and even the global level. Indeed, global electricity trade has been steadily increasing in past decades. For example, electricity exports and imports of OECD countries have been growing by 4.5% and 4.3% annually from 1974, and reached 511 TWh and 510 TWh in 2015, respectively.5 Electricity trade brings about economic benefit, since it opens the opportunities to exploit region variations in natural resources, climate and load timing, reducing the surplus generation capacity needed.5,6 However, similar to the fact that globalized supply chains distance production and consumption and render environmental responsibilities more “invisible”,7,8 cross-border electricity trade furthers the separation between electricity generation and consumption...

In other words, if you live in a prominent middle European nation that makes a big deal about its Hoary Bat and Raptor grinding wind turbines, but import lots of electricity when the wind isn't blowing from the neighboring country of Poland - where almost all power is generated by burning coal - that counts.

One would think that would be obvious, but somehow it's not.

The graphics in this paper can be a little challenging to look at, but here are two that are straight forward:

Figure 1. Global electricity trade network in 2014. Curves represent direct electricity transfers, which flow clockwise from origins to destinations. Curve widths indicate the amount electricity transfers, some of which are labeled in TWh. Node size represents electricity generation of countries/ regions. Countries/regions are labeled with their ISO codes. The insets of (A) and (B) zoom in the African community and the European part of the Eurasian community, respectively. Map images are from the GADM database of Global Administrative Areas.30

The caption:

Figure 2. (A) Emission factors of electricity consumption of countries/regions. Shades of color represent the values of emission factors (efi C,network for country/region i), while sizes of circles represent total electricity consumption. White areas are where data are incomplete. (B) Differences between various accounting methods for country/region-level emission factors of electricity consumption. Blue area indicates that emission factors for electricity consumption (efi C,network) is smaller than those for generation (efi G); red area indicates the opposite. For hashed/meshed areas, enlarging the system boundary of accounting for electricity trade significantly changes estimates of emission factors, either downward (in hashed areas, where efi C,network/efi C,direct adjust < 95%) or upward (in meshed areas, where efi C,network/efi C,direct adjust > 105%). Map images are from the GADM database of Global Administrative Areas.3

Some more text:

When a country/region is a net virtual CO2 importer (or exporter) in the electricity trade network, the CO2 emission responsibility for its electricity consumption is greater (or less) than that for its electricity generation. In Europe, countries with the largest amounts of net virtual CO2 imports through electricity trade are Italy (11 Mt), Austria (7.7 Mt), Switzerland (5.5 Mt), and Hungary (5.1 Mt); and the most important net virtual CO2 exporters are Germany (32.4 Mt), Czech Republic (8.5 Mt) and Ukraine (5.4 Mt). In Africa, Mozambique, and Botswana have the largest net virtual CO2 imports (5.5 Mt and 4.9 Mt, respectively), and South Africa is the most important net CO2 exporter (12.4 Mt).

While the paper itself is not open sourced, the supplementary information is open sourced. It is here: Supporting Info Environ. Sci. Technol., 2018, 52 (11), pp 6666–6675

One may refer to table S4 in the supporting info to see the carbon intensity of almost every country in the world, based on production and then adjusted for consumption of imported electricity.

France for example, a country largely dependent on nuclear energy although there is an idiotic quest to destroy that happy circumstance along with the entire avian ecosystem, as my son, who is spending the summer in France, reports, has a carbon intensity based on production of 41.0 grams CO2/kwh, adjusted for trade and consumption to 44.2 grams CO2/kwh. The offshore oil and gas drilling hellhole of Denmark, internationally worshiped for its hatred of hoary bats and seabirds, has a carbon intensity for production that is 620% times that of France, at 255.1 grams CO2/kwh based on in country production but only 522% times that of France, at 227.2 grams CO2/kwh when adjusted for exports, compared, again, to France's 44.2.

The raptor and bat hating country of Germany, which can't grind up its avian ecosystem fast enough to satisfy world cheering, has an electricity carbon intensity based on production of 474.0 grams CO2/kwh, in "percent talk" so favored by people who love grinding up hoary bats and raptors, 1156% greater than that of France, but when adjusted for exports is "only" 1026% greater than that of France, at 453.6 grams CO2/kwh. This figure is very close to the standard figure for a dangerous natural gas fueled power plant, although Germany still produces lots of coal based electricity along with its bird and bat grinding based electricity.

This year the dangerous fossil fuel waste carbon dioxide concentrations peaked in the planetary atmosphere at close to 412 ppm. No one now living will ever see concentrations below 400 ppm again. Twenty years ago they were around 370 ppm, and 20 years before that they were at 338 ppm.

We're doing great. We really know what we're doing. Even if we hate bats and raptors and every other damned creature that flies, we're practically breaking our arms patting ourselves on our backs for being "green."

Have a great weekend.

The Epigenetics of Fish in Warming Water.

Many years ago, on a website where I was ultimately banned for telling the truth, I made fun of the "science" of Joseph Stalin:

The Most Interesting Chemistry of Lenin's Dead Body.

In this post about the "real stable genius" Stalin, and his relationship to Ilya Zbarsky and his father, I referred to Stalin's belief in "Lysenkoism," a belief which rejected natural selection and genetics and substituted a nonsense theory about heritability of acquired characteristics, a system of beliefs harking back to the ideas of Lamarck.

Stalin's faith based belief in the work of Lysenko set Soviet biological science back decades, resulting in the collapse, among other things, of Soviet grain harvests even years after Stalin had kicked off, much to the improvement of the world in general.

While it is true that natural selection is safe from political stupidity in most places - the rather communist style Republican Party notwithstanding - it is also true that a case can be made for genetic transmission of environmental conditions even without changes to DNA sequences, something.

This area, which has been burgeoning only in the last 20 years or so, is the fascinating subject of epigentics.

A very nice lecture on this topic, epigenetics is available on line: Professor Shirley Tilghman: The Wild and Wacky World of Epigenetics I attended this lecture when it was given and it was really, really informative and I recommend it highly.

Epigenetics involves the chemical transformation of the nuclear bases, often in the form of methylation of a cytosine, which is controlled by the proteins wrapping DNA, proteins known as histones, these in turn being controlled by post-translational modifications of the protein sequence by, for example, methylation or acetylation of lysine residues which are prominent in the sequences of histones.

Epigenetics, which also can involve the bonding of far more complex molecules, including many pollutants, is thought to result in many diseases, notably cancer, as well as somatic mutations. (One of my sons has a somatic mutation that resulted in a birth defect that proved to be minor though it need not have been. It involved, apparently, the deamination of a guanine moiety during gestation.)

In the most recent issue of Nature Climate Change epigenetic changes to fish are reported.

Some of these modifications are, despite the deserved rejection of Lysenko/Lamarckian ideas or ideology, heritable.

The paper is here: The epigenetic landscape of transgenerational acclimation to ocean warming (Munday et al Nature Climate Change Volume 8, Pages 504–509 (2018))

The introduction:

Epigenetic inheritance is a potential mechanism by which the environment in one generation can influence the performance of future generations1. Rapid climate change threatens the survival of many organisms; however, recent studies show that some species can adjust to climate-related stress when both parents and their offspring experience the same environmental change2,3. Whether such transgenerational acclimation could have an epigenetic basis is unknown. Here, by sequencing the liver genome, methylomes and transcriptomes of the coral reef fish, Acanthochromis polyacanthus, exposed to current day (+ 0 °C) or future ocean temperatures (+ 3 °C) for one generation, two generations and incrementally across generations, we identified 2,467 differentially methylated regions (DMRs) and 1,870 associated genes that respond to higher temperatures within and between generations. Of these genes, 193 were significantly correlated to the transgenerationally acclimating phenotypic trait, aerobic scope, with functions in insulin response, energy homeostasis, mitochondrial activity, oxygen consumption and angiogenesis. These genes may therefore play a key role in restoring performance across generations in fish exposed to increased temperatures associated with climate change...

Some elaboration:

Recently, we have shown that the common reef fish, Acanthochromis polyacanthus, can fully acclimate its scope for oxygen consumption (net aerobic scope) when both parents and their offspring experience the same increase in water temperature2,9. They do this by changing their transcriptional regulation of metabolism, cytoprotection, immunity, growth and cellular organization. Furthermore, these fish that are transgenerationally exposed to 3 °C warmer water (transgenerational treatment) differentially express a similar suite of genes compared with fish that are exposed to elevated temperatures from early development for just one generation (developmental treatment), albeit with more genes and higher magnitude changes in expression9. Reproductive capacity, however, was impaired in developmental and transgenerational fish, and only improved when temperature was increased incrementally (step-wise treatment) across two generations10. Here, we investigate if genomic DNA methylation could be implicated in the observed transgenerational plasticity of A. polyacanthus in an ocean warming scenario.

The methylation at the 5 position of a cytosine often initiates DNA repair, however under some conditions, the cytosine can deaminate to be converted into thymine, in which case a permanent mutation results.

I don't have a lot of time tonight, so I'll just cut to the pictures, which often is enough to induce an understanding of a paper if one hasn't much time.

The experimental set up:

The caption:

Fig. 1 | Experimental design and summary of the DMRs. a, Design of the fish rearing experiment and summary statistics of the genome, methylomes and transcriptomes. b, The number of DMRs between treatments for three methylation contexts. Hyper and hypo indicate higher and lower methylation, respectively, in the treatment in the left of the Comparison column compared to the right. The Unique column represents the unique number of DMRs in each methylation context. c, DMR distribution across genomic elements for CpG and CHH contexts. The CHG context is not shown due to the low number of DMRs.

CpG is a cytosine phosphate guanine system. "CHH" or "CHG" refer to triples where H can be adenine, thymine or another cytosine.

Some plots of the methylation patterns of fish in different groups.

The caption:

Fig. 2 | Differential methylation patterns. a,b, Heatmap of DMRs for CpG (a) and CHH (b) contexts. c,d, MDS plot of DMRs for CpG (c) and CHH (d) contexts. Each coloured circle represents one fish sample and treatment groups are denoted by different colours. C, D, S and T represent control, developmental, step and transgenerational treatments, respectively. Each ellipse represents a 95% confidence region from 1,000 bootstrapping of DMRs from each sample. Non-overlapping ellipses implies statistically significant differences among samples.

A heatmap of the genes involved in respiration and their differential methylation:

The caption:

Fig. 3 | Heatmaps of differentially methylated and net aerobic scopecorrelated genes. a,b, Negatively (a) and positively (b) correlated differentially methylated genes (adjusted p < 0.05; > 25% difference in methylation between treatments) from A. polyacanthus, comparing control, developmental, transgenerational and step treatments. Genes described in the text are marked in bold. The colour scale indicates the per cent difference in methylation between two treatments

Some more results:

The caption:

Fig. 4 | DNA methylation patterns for thermal acclimation. a–f, Density of methylcytosines from the CpG context are shown for selected genes: trpm2 (a), pctp (b), cidea (c), gab1 (d), igf2 (e) and ddx6 (f). Red rectangles represent differentially methylated regions. Genomic locations are indicated below the density plot. Gene models are shown for the corresponding coordinates.

The paper's conclusion:

In conclusion, our study indicates that the epigenome is altered following exposure to increased temperatures via DNA methylation of specific loci. Although our results are consistent with transgenerational epigenetic effects, we cannot exclude a role for developmental epigenetic effects during the gamete and embryonic stage because eggs experienced the parental conditions until hatching. To conclusively demonstrate transgenerational epigenetic inheritance, future experiments should test if differential methylation and gene expression is retained when fish exposed transgenerationally to high temperature are returned to ambient control conditions in both parental and offspring generations. Nevertheless, we identified 193 DMGs that correlate to aerobic performance, of which many play key roles in metabolic homeostasis, insulin sensitivity and improved oxygen delivery, thus suggesting that these are the core genes associated with physical acclimation to heat stress across generations. Our study shows that exposure to higher temperatures associated with climate change causes genome-wide changes in DNA methylation, demonstrating that epigenetic regulation is possible in a coral reef fish facing a warming ocean, and that DNA methylation could play a role in transgenerational acclimation.

In my position as an advocate of nuclear energy, I often hear all kinds of idiotic remarks about mutations. Of course, radiation can and does cause mutations, but so do many other things, including, apparently doing exactly what we're doing about climate change, which is, um, nothing at all.

Have a pleasant day tomorrow.

I'm having a hard time because my little baby got his first summer job...

...and it's in Europe.

And the thing is that, sniff, he isn't a little baby any more, he's a man.

He'll be gone until August working under an NSF grant in France.

I'm proud of him of course, that he was selected for this job, but I miss him terribly already and he's only been gone for 24 hours.

It seems like only last evening he was eight years old and I was explaining the Fibonacci numbers to him, and now...and now...he's already over my head in so many places.

He called me this morning from Madrid, deliciously tolerant of my hover parenting but also being sure to let me know that he's a man, not a child.

He's a man...

Life moves so fast.

Climate reddening increases the chance of critical transitions.

In electrical engineering - and many other disciplines - "white noise" is referred to as an effect tied to random fluctuations that give signals as output that can obscure or bury "real" signals. The most familiar form of white noise is static, and the elevation of signal over static is a very important feature to - for one example - audiophiles who might pay many thousands of dollars to hear a minor scratch of a bow against a string in a recording of Benjamin Britten's "War Requiem".

In physics one of the most famous examples of "white noise" is Brownian motion, which is famously the effect, explained by Albert Einstein, thus proving the reality of atomic theory (which in 1905 still had prominent doubters), by which small particles observed under a microscope in solution seem to vibrate and move in a way that cannot be predicted.

The "signal to noise ratio" is an important issue in many branches of science, and is, in fact, an important feature of many important international regulations wherever scientific expertise applies, for example, in drug development, aviation, and many areas of engineering.

It is common to think of "white noise" as having no meaning other than providing difficulties for instrument makers, but this is not exactly true; random fluctuations can result in the generation of very real and important effects on a macroscopic scale. This is known as the "Butterfly Effect," an important feature of chaos theory.

A famous electrical engineering paper proposed an example and some mathematics of how white noise can generate real signals:

A statistical model of flicker noise (Barnes Allan Proceedings of the IEEE Vol: 54, Issue: 2, Feb. 1966 pp 176-178)

The effect they described has become known as "red noise," in which seemingly random effects result in changes to the overall state of a system by generating low frequency ("red" as opposed to "white" ) signals that persist for a long time, and in fact can result in permanent changes to the state of a system.

A paper from which the title of this post is taken has just been published in the journal Nature Climate Change to show how the climate can be permanently placed rapidly into an alternate and different state owing to the seemingly random fluctuations in the weather (as distinct from climate, climate being the integration of individual weather events.)

The paper is here: Nature Climate Change Volume 8, pages 478–484 (2018).

Some excerpts from the paper:

Although many systems respond gradually to climate change, some systems may have tipping points where a small change can trigger a large response that is not easily reversible1,2. Such critical transitions have been studied mostly in simple models3,4, where climate variability is either left out or modelled as white noise5,6, that is, noise that is uncorrelated in time. However, such uncorrelated noise is a mathematical idealization. In reality, the climate system involves slow processes, causing the power spectrum to have pronounced low frequencies (a red spectrum). As a result, climatic time series are often autocorrelated on timescales that correspond to the diurnal to decadal timescales of change that are also characteristic for key variables of ecosystems and society7. For instance, the state of the atmosphere is highly correlated from one day to the next, anomalies in surface ocean temperatures can persist for several months8,9 and there are modes of decadal variability10,11. Importantly, the autocorrelation in climatic variables may change over time12. For instance, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and North Pacific sea surface temperatures (SSTs) have become more autocorrelated in the period from 1900 to 201513,14, and large changes in climate variability are to be expected in the Arctic where sea ice loss leads to larger persistence and smaller variance in temperature variability15,16...

...To explore how changes in climate variability may affect systems with tipping points, we first ask how the size and duration of single environmental perturbations affect these systems. Next, we examine systematically how the autocorrelation and variance of climate variability separately affect the likelihood of a critical transition and how the autocorrelation of climate variability affects the duration of extreme events using an established ecological model as an example. Subsequently, we discuss evidence from five systems in which the duration of anomalously warm or dry events has been shown to elevate the chance of critical transitions: forests, coral reefs, the poverty trap, human conflict and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS).

Note that not all of these five transitions are physical in nature, specifically two are social effects.

The authors continue:

Response to single perturbations
As a first step to see how changes in the dynamic regime of climatic drivers may affect the likelihood of critical transitions, consider the effect of an idealized single perturbation such as a temporary change in environmental conditions (Fig. 1, red arrow). Because it takes time for the system to respond to a change in conditions (Fig. 1, black arrows), the moment at which the conditions are reversed to the original (Fig. 1, green arrows) determines the fate of the system. If the conditions recover quickly, the system reverts to the original state (Fig. 1, trajectory 1→ 2→ 3→ 4→ 1). However, recovery of the conditions at a later moment can cause the system to settle in the alternative equilibrium (Fig. 1, trajectory 1→ 2→ 3’→ 4’→ 5).

One example, one close to my heart since my liberalism does not involve worship of Elon Musk's stupid car for billionaires and millionaires, but concern for those who lack basic resources:

Poverty traps.

People whose livelihoods depend directly on natural resources and ecosystem services are particularly vulnerable to climate change and changes in weather variables61. For example, the herds of pastoralists in East Africa graze extensively and the growth of the forage mainly depends on rainfall. Consequently, drought can lead to substantial herd losses. The effect of drought on the livelihood of people depends mostly on its duration — in 1981 the seasonal rainfall totals in Brazil were slightly above average, but longer periods of drought resulted in yield losses that year62. Interhousehold differences in the capacity to deal with these losses can lead to variability in income and wealth63. The poverty trap is a critical minimal asset threshold, below which families are unable to build up stocks of assets over time64. When households are close to such a situation, losses as a result of weather variability can have permanent adverse consequences as they invoke a transition into a poverty trap. An example of the differential effects of a prolonged weather event on poverty is the three-year drought in Ethiopia in the late 1990s; wealthy households were able to rebuild their assets, while the adverse effects for the low-income households lasted longer65...

An closing remarks from the paper:


The transitions we have reviewed illustrate the potentially wideranging implications of our theoretical prediction that a reddening of climate fluctuations may promote the likelihood of inducing self-sustained shifts into alternative stable states of climate-sensitive systems. Clearly, there is a huge gap between our limited understanding of such real-world cases and the simple models we have analysed. Our initial theoretical analysis captures the essence of how the duration of an event may affect the likelihood of invoking a shift to an alternative attractor. Subsequently, our red-noise simulations illustrate that this basic conclusion may indeed apply more broadly to include the effect of temporal correlation in regimes of permanent fluctuations. Clearly, we merely scratched the surface of the question of how the timescale and magnitude of fluctuations may affect the scenarios we outlined. In any of the discussed systems, reality is much more complex than the schematic representation in the deterministic and stochastic parts of our models...

An interesting paper, well worth a read.

We're playing with fire, and in saying this, I'm not merely referring to the rapidly increasing reliance on oxidative combustion to power the world, no matter what you may have read on those self declared "green" websites where they hype the failure of so called "renewable energy" as a grand success.

I trust you will have a pleasant Sunday.

Go to Page: « Prev 1 2 3 Next »