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Low emissions are no justification for Kansas scaling back renewables

Posted on 21 February 2013 by dana1981

This is a partial re-post of an article by Dana Nuccitelli published in The Guardian. For the full story, click the link below.

To date, 29 states in the US have set standards requiring a certain percentage of electricity production to be met by renewable sources. Soon that number may fall to 28.

In 2009, Kansas passed legislation establishing a renewable energy standard requiring 10% of the state's electricity production to come from renewable sources by 2010, and 20% by 2020. The state, the "Saudi Arabia of wind", met the 2010 requirements by exploiting its wind power potential, which is second only to Texas in the US.

Republican congressman Dennis Hedke, the chairman of the Kansas Congressional joint committee on energy and environmental policy – who has ties to the oil and gas industry – arranged for his committee to hear arguments to delay or eliminate these requirements. This Thursday, the commitee has its final hearing on the subject.

The main argument against the renewable energy standards is a common one – that the law will have an insignificant impact on curbing global warming.

Click here to read the full story.

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Comments 1 to 24:

  1. There's a groundbreaking book in American politics, Thomas Franks 'Whats the Matter with Kansas?', that helps explain what is going on here, "where small farmers cast their votes for a Wall Street Order that will eventually push them off their land".  Where former lobbiests for tobacco grower Phillip Morris joined hands with the Koch Brothers to create a 'Heartland' American Astroturf movement of 'Salt of the Earth' dupes.

    The bizarre truth is that Heartland farmers in Kansas are only now in business thanks to 'Big Government'-backed farm insurance programs that tax the ordinary American to help them through their global-warming-induced drought.  And, thanks to 'Heartland-values' propaganda, they then USE their solvent status to proselytize against those very 'Big Government' programs, and the Climate Change 'nonsense' they would otherwise seek to redress.

    "We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto"

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  2. Question.....I personally tend to agree with ubrew12 in post 1.  But what is the deal about political posts in SKS anyway? After several months of research into solar offset enterprises I found that if you go from charities to small businesses to various investment strategies, all are largely controlled by laws and politics. In SKS I feel I must not be too specific, but in essence I became convinced that at least in the U.S. the main impediments to large scale use of  renewables are to be found not in our technology, but in our form of government.  SKS is by good reason non political, and though I do understand why a line must be drawn, I am now somewhat confused about where that line is drawn. 

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  3. In post 2 above I should have said solar enterprises for CO2 offset, not solar offset enterprises.

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  4. ubrew12 says - The bizarre truth is that Heartland farmers in Kansas are only now in business thanks to 'Big Government'-backed farm insurance programs that tax the ordinary American to help them through their global-warming-induced drought.


    Wheres the proof GW caused the drought?

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  5. Clyde, if you want a proof, I suggest you take up theoritical mathmatics; there are no proofs in applied sciences.  There are probabilities.  Droughts have become more widespread, and in particular, 3-sigma heat waves are more than 10 times more common than they were prior to 1980.  

    So, do we know absolutely that there would not have been a drought and heat wave last year (and the year before) in the US with an atmosphere at 290 ppm? No.

    Do we know there is more energy in the climate system than there was prior to the industrial revolution?  The odds that every metric taken on that is wrong are infintesimaly small.

    What do you think is more likely, that adding energy to the system shifts precipitation patterns and results in more frequent high temperatures, or that adding energy to the system has had no effect?

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  6. Clyde...  It's a matter of relative chance.  It's possible you'd see such an extraordinary drought without influence from global warming.  But global warming makes it much more likely that such extraordinary doughts will occur.  

    So, you kind of have two choices.  This was an extreme occurence and unlikely to occur again for a long time, or this is a function of human induced changes in the climate system and more likely to become more frequent, or even normal.

    You choose where you're going to put your money.

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  7. Try Johanson & Fu (2009), Clyde.  Here's the abstract (emphasis mine): 

    "Observations show that the Hadley cell has widened by about 2°–5° since 1979. This widening and the concomitant poleward displacement of the subtropical dry zones may be accompanied by large-scale drying near 30°N and 30°S. Such drying poses a risk to inhabitants of these regions who are accustomed to established rainfall patterns. Simple and comprehensive general circulation models (GCMs) indicate that the Hadley cell may widen in response to global warming, warming of the west Pacific, or polar stratospheric cooling. The combination of these factors may be responsible for the recent observations. But there is no study so far that has compared the observed widening to GCM simulations of twentieth-century climate integrated with historical changes in forcings. Here the Hadley cell widening is assessed in current GCMs from historical simulations of the twentieth century as well as future climate projections and preindustrial control runs. The authors find that observed widening cannot be explained by natural variability. This observed widening is also significantly larger than in simulations of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. These results illustrate the need for further investigation into the discrepancy between the observed and simulated widening of the Hadley cell."

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  8. Drilling a new oil well also has “insignificant impact” on energy supply, but they still do it.

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  9. curiousd @2 - as a general rule it's okay to comment on policy but not politics.  For example, 'the Republican Party is blocking climate legislation' is fine, because it's factually true and deals with climate policy and isn't a political attack.  'He opposes climate legislation because he's a Republican' is not okay, because it's purely a political comment.

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  10. The authors conclude that projections of acute and chronic PDSI decline in the twenty-first century are likely an exaggerated indicator for future Great Plains drought severity. Source   

    Here we show that the previously reported increase in global drought is overestimated because the PDSI uses a simplified model of potential evaporation 7 that responds only to changes in temperature and thus responds incorrectly to global warming in recent decades. More realistic calculations, based on the underlying physical principles8 that take into account changes in available energy, humidity and wind speed, suggest that there has been little change in drought over the past 60 years. 
    Source
     To be clear I'm not saying GW did or didn't cause any one drought. As already stated nobody can say for sure. I thought ubrew12 might of had some new info on the matter.
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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] As noted below, discussions pertaining to drought should be placed on this thread, not here. Leave a redirect message here as appropriate. Thanks to all for your compliance in this.

    Note: extensive block-quoting, as you do here, is frowned upon by the Comments Policy. Individuals here are expected to paraphrase a referent citation in their own words and include a contextual rationale as the the significance and appropriateness of the citations they furnish.

    Fixed quotation formatting.

  11. I hear this argument ocassionally in New Zealand where I live: that installing renewable energy systems will have an insignificant effect on the world's production of CO2.  We are a country of 4.3 million (what is the population of Kansas) and should be doing at least our proportional part in reducing the use of fossil fuels.  In fact, since we, like Kansas and the rest of the Western world use 10 times the fossil fuel per capita as the world average, we should be doing 10 times as much.  But forget all that.  Solar panels are now down to the oft quoted $1.00US per nominal watt which puts them in contention with fossil fuels.  They are economically worthwhile to install right now.  The critical factor is the legislative framework around their installation.  The crazy subsidies that Germany and some other European countries give are not necessary.  All that is needed is a system which is fair to both the small installer and the power company.  Most important the government must not try to milk the calf.

    http://mtkass.blogspot.co.nz/2009/09/german-fit-system-brilliant.html

    http://mtkass.blogspot.co.nz/2007/10/excess-energy-what-to-do.html

    http://mtkass.blogspot.co.nz/2009/11/legislation-for-electric-cars.html

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  12. Clyde:

    IMO your focus on ubrew12's off-hand comment is derailing the thread.

    Drought in the US midwest is off-topic for this post. There are many other posts on Skeptical Science where attribution of dought can be - and probably already has been - pursued.

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    Moderator Response: [DB] Agreed. All further replies to Clyde pertaining to drought should be placed on this thread, not here. Leave a redirect message here as appropriate. Thanks to all for your compliance in this.
  13. Are we to pass on word to the constituents of Congressman Dennis Hedke that he deep down believes they should not vote since each has only one vote that will have an "insignificant impact on curving" the election?

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  14. OK, so I live in Kansas.  It pains me when these kinds of things happen, and this is not the first time.  For instance, our govenor has declared some of the best areas for wind energy to be natural reserves; thereby, short-circuiting the approval process for the company that wanted to put windmills there. I thought this was odd because he hasn't otherwise been a big supporter of conservation, but then, this is the same government that rushed the coal plant in Holcomb through the approval process in order to get it done before the new EPA mandates took effect.

    The state is predominately Republican, and agriculture is probably the largest industry.  I think we are suffering a result of Republican group-think where they simply can't connect the dots between the economy and the environment, because that would cause them to have thoughts which would be seen as being disloyal to their group.

    I mean, the average bushels of wheat per acre for Texas is 30, Oklahoma 35, Kansas 40, Nebraska 44(?).  Not even counting an increase in extreme heat and drought events, we are looking at somewhere in the vicinity of a 25% loss in productivity as the Kansas climate becomes more like Texas.  It's mind-boggling how they can not see this as being bad for the local economy.  But, if you ask one of our politicians, Moran for example, he will tell you he does not support a carbon tax because he believes it will hurt the economy.  (Face-palm)

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  15. In fairness, that bit on the Holcomb coal plant was done by a Democratic governor, who replaced Sebelius when she joined the Obama administration.  Sebelius had previously been opposing the plant.

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  16. curiousd@2: I kind of regret that post @1, in the light of day.  However, this topic has gotten so political in my country that it's difficult not, in a weakened moment, to give in to the seduction.  "Making it political" is how doubt is produced, and nowhere is that more evident than on this issue.  How do you put horns on someone as dry as a climatologist?  First paint him 'red'.  Chris G@14 seems a better guide to how political it is, in Kansas, than I am (and, as with all evil, always behind closed doors).  Clyde@4: I have no further evidence than what appears on this website.  If I remember correctly, logicians can't 'prove' that 1+1=2, so we should cut the climatologists some slack.

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  17. ubrew, fwiw, no worries.  I confess to having had very similar thoughts as you express @1.

    Funny, I once spent what I consider wasted hours in a semester-long philosophy of mathmetics class "proving" that 1+1=2; at least, our professor declared it proved at the end of the course.  Call me crazy, but I was willing to accept that particular statement on faith, or perhaps as a tautology.  Now I'm wondering if perhaps another professor would have taught it as unprovable.

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  18. Curiosity driven follow-up:

    The middle of the area growing wheat in Kansas is about the 38th parallel; the middle of the area growing wheat in Texas is about the 34th parallel.  So, if we can expect climate zone shifts coinciding with Hadley cell shifts, then Kansas becomes like Texas at just over 1 degree C of warming, give or take.

    I realize it is not that simple; I'm just looking for a ballpark figure.

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  19. Hmm, since we are approaching 1 degree already, that would mean that the current drought/heat wave is more likely the new normal rather than an exceptional event.  That's a little frightening.

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  20. With respect to post 11 by William, you might be interested in my post 23 in the thread "In Wall Street Journal OP-Ed, Bjorn Lomborg urges delay with misleading stats". I include history and references on the same kind of problem in the U.S., with specific legislation documentation. I imply that power companies being forced to make a profit is the heart of much of this problem. There is an obvious solution to this impediment to renewables.

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  21. I find the observation that Kansas' average wheat yield is lower than Texas very interesting.  Does anyone have references to peer reviewed papers that shows this is due to the heat in Texas and not soil, water or other causes?  This must be covered in the peer reviewed literature. I agree with Chris G that since we are already close to 1C what should we expect the averaqge yield to be in Kansas in the coming decade?

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  22. Michael, for the sake of simplity, I was only looking at winter wheat, because that is a common crop through those states; so, other crops might do better where it is too hot for wheat.  Also, precipitation varies more east-west than north-south.  Those numbers were from memory and they may not be exact; I pulled the numbers originally from the NASS USDA site, for example, this write-up on Kansas.  Where precipitation is lacking, irrigation from the Ogalla is used (see the crop circles from Google Earth - those are pivot irrigation plots), which is a problem of another topic.  I don't know about soil conditions north to south, but I suspect that isn't a simple conversation either..

    As you can see from the yield by county map, there is kind of a window, east-west and north-south, of conditions where wheat is grown.  If you are wondering why there is not more wheat grown in eastern Kansas (where I live); it is because there is enough rain to grow other crops which yield higher profits per acre.  Soil conditions should be a factor, but then, soil conditions are also a function of precipitation and temperature over time.  The situation is more complicated by the fact that the timing of the precipitation also matters to yields, and I expect that will change as well.  I did a quick Google Scholar search on temperature and yield, and got some hits that might answer your questions better, but hard to tell quickly which articles best represent the state of the science.  I can tell you first-hand that crops, particularly corn, were withering in the heat last summer; lots of fields were total losses.  Pretty sure there are robust findings which demonstrate that more days above some temperature (95 F, 100 F?) reduce yields measureably.

     

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  23. Chris,

    Thanks for the interesting links.  As expected, the situation is complicated.  

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  24. Michael, again, curiousity got the better of me.  Added some info over on the drought thread.

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