Thursday, April 17, 2014

Major study links catastrophic weather events to manmade climate change

Many of us who have watched the weather get crazier and crazier over the past 25-30 years may find it quite surprising that most mainstream scientists have been highly reluctant to draw links between ferocious weather and climate change.  After all, for most of us, crazy weather is the evidence we have for climate change because we don't have access to the extensive records and expensive equipment necessary to do big science.

For me, my memory and experience has been more than enough to convince me that something serious has gone wrong with the atmosphere.  This winter has been miserable but it was what we used to consider quite normal.  As we bitched and moaned about the snow and cold it was also a reminder of how warm it has been for at least a decade.

But for me, the event that cemented climate change in my world-view happened on Lake Pepin about 10 years ago.  I have sailed that lake since 1970 so have a pretty good idea what sort of weather happens there.  So on a spring day we were sailing up the lake when we rounded a point and discovered the howling wind was being amplified by a chute created by the bluffs that line both sides of the lake.  In seconds, a boat that is North Atlantic seaworthy was knocked flat.  As we scrambled to right the boat, it became impossible to talk to each other because the wind was just screaming.  This was a nice day.  The sun was shining and until that moment, the sail had been pleasant if a bit rigorous.  But now we were coping with conditions I had only read about in books about storms in the Southern Roaring Forties.  I was truly frightened—something that had never happened to me before on that lake—ever!

But now the climate scientists are throwing unnecessary professional caution and providing us with big science backing for phenomenon we have been witnessing for years.  I say, its about time.

Bombshell Study Links Epic California Drought, ‘Frigid East’ To Manmade Climate Change

By Susie Madrak April 15, 2014

For the first time, scientists have made a specific and definitive link from global warming to extreme weather.

It's not as if we didn't already assume this was happening, but scientists have been reluctant to draw a definitive line. But the right-wingers will quickly explain this is simply part of that liberal agenda-driven excuse for science:

Natural variability alone cannot explain the extreme weather pattern that has driven both the record-setting California drought and the cooler weather seen in the Midwest and East this winter, a major new study finds.

We’ve reported before that climate scientists had predicted a decade ago that warming-driven Arctic ice loss would lead to worsening drought in California. In particular, they predicted it would lead to a “blocking pattern” that would shift the jet stream (and the rain it could bring) away from the state — in this case a “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge” of high pressure.

A new study in Geophysical Research Letters (subs. req’d) takes the warming link to the California drought to the next level of understanding. It concludes, “there is atraceable anthropogenic warming footprint in the enormous intensity of the anomalous ridge during winter 2013-14, the associated drought and its intensity.”

The NASA-funded study is behind a pay wall, but the brief news release, offers a simple explanation of what is going on. The research provides “evidence connecting the amplified wind patterns, consisting of a strong high pressure in the West and a deep low pressure in the East [labeled a 'dipole'], to global warming.” Researchers have “uncovered evidence that can trace the amplification of the dipole to human influences.” more
Here at real economics, we have been covering the various attempts to provide us with personal powered transportation that doesn't need fossil fuels.  If this doesn't happen, humans will burn the last drop of oil to keep their cars running.  Not only are folks attached to their cars, in most of USA, there is a low chance of survival without one.  Cars are insanely difficult to build—cars that run without liquid fuels are at least 10 time more difficult.  Here the story is covered as a stock picking story.
Tesla's Next Big Battle: Electric Cars Vs. Hydrogen Cars
APR. 16, 2014

When most people think of green cars, two companies immediately come to mind -- Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA ) and Toyota (NYSE: TM ). Tesla's sleek electric vehicles fueled the stock's meteoric 340% rally over the past 12 months, while Toyota's Prius remains the best-selling hybrid vehicle on the market. However, Tesla and Toyota are also the top names to watch in a critical new battle over the future of green vehicles -- electric-powered vs. hydrogen-powered cars.

In the past, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has dismissed the idea of hydrogen power for vehicles. During a speech in Munich last October, Musk stated there was "no way" for hydrogen cells to be a "workable technology," and that it was "suitable for the upper stage of rockets, but not for cars." When Musk -- also the CEO of SpaceX -- talks about rockets, people listen.

Yet major automakers like Toyota, Honda (NYSE: HMC ) , and Hyundai have recently invested heavily in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) instead of electric ones. Last November, Toyota showcased its stunning concept FCV at the Toyota Motor Show in Tokyo and again at CES 2014 in Las Vegas in January. Two other FCVs -- Hyundai's Tucson SUV and Honda's FCX Clarity sedan -- are also scheduled to arrive soon.

Regardless of which technology represents the future, the battle for the future of green vehicles will start in Tesla's home state of California. California now requires at least 15% of all new vehicles sold in the state to produce zero emissions by 2025.

So who's right -- Tesla or some of the biggest automakers in the world? Let's take a closer look at three key problems facing the adoption of both electric and hydrogen vehicles today.

Problem #1: The cost

The biggest hurdle in making green vehicles mainstream is the price. The average purchase price for light vehicles in America is currently a little less than $30,000, according to A new Toyota Prius currently costs $24,000 to $30,000.

The cheapest Tesla vehicle, the Model S, costs $85,000. A cheaper vehicle, codenamed BlueStar, could cost $40,000 when it arrives in 2016 or 2017. Customers can claim a maximum tax credit of $7,500 for each electric vehicle purchased. President Obama recently proposed boosting that limit to $10,000.

Toyota expects its hydrogen-powered FCV-R to cost a little less than $100,000 when it arrives in 2015. Although that's still a hefty price tag, it represents a huge discount from earlier fuel cell prototypes, which reportedly cost nearly $1 million to develop. Hydrogen-powered vehicles are eligible for federal tax credits up to $4,000 as "qualified light-duty fuel cell vehicles," but that limit could be lifted to the same level as electric cars as more hydrogen cars reach the market.

Problem #2: The infrastructure

The second main question on consumers' minds is the distance that these vehicles can travel on a single charge. The lack of a national infrastructure for electric charging and hydrogen fueling stations makes these vehicles impractical for long road trips outside certain regions.

There are currently 121,000 gas stations across America. Electric charging stations are quickly catching up with over 22,000 locations, a number that's growing rapidly because it's simple to set up these stations on top of existing power grids.

One of the broadest efforts was NRG Energy's (NYSE: NRG ) eVgo, a $39 per month unlimited electric charging service, which was established via partnerships with gas stations, restaurants, and convenience stores. Each electric charging station is estimated to cost between $100,000 and $250,000 to install.

Hydrogen fuel cells, however, are a different story. Since there's no pre-existing hydrogen cell infrastructure for most commercial or residential buildings, charging stations have to be built from the ground up at a whopping cost of approximately $2 million each. That's why there are only 55 hydrogen fueling stations in the U.S. -- most of them in Southern California -- even though the technology has been around since the dawn of the millennium.

Problem #3: Fuel efficiency

Infrastructure growth seems to definitely favor electric vehicles at the moment, but what about fueling costs compared to regular gasoline and hybrid vehicles? Electric charging services like eVgo charge monthly subscriptions for unlimited charging, so they might be the cheapest option if the owner travels a lot during the month.

But to get a better idea of where hydrogen cars stand, let's compare the cost efficiency of three vehicles -- an average, gas-powered 25 MPG vehicle, Toyota's Prius, and the hydrogen-powered Honda FCX Clarity, which can travel 67 miles per kilogram of hydrogen. Let's assume that water -- a radical new process -- was used to create the hydrogen at a discounted cost of $1.00 to $1.80 per kilogram.

Based on those numbers, it's easy to see why companies continue backing hydrogen as an alternative fuel source. More importantly, it shows that a $39 per month fee for unlimited electric charging might not be worth it after all -- by comparison, $39 in hydrogen could possibly fuel the Clarity for 1,400 to 1,500 miles. However, the cost of hydrogen production still varies widely -- using natural gas to produce hydrogen, for example, costs $3 to $4 per kilogram, nullifying the Clarity's advantage.

Regardless of the cost, hydrogen cars have one key advantage -- the fact that they can be refueled in three minutes, compared to an hour for Tesla's vehicles.

The tip of the green iceberg

In conclusion, I've only touched the tip of the iceberg in regards to green vehicles, but those three key problems -- cost, infrastructure, and fuel efficiency -- will remain the epicenter of the electric vs. hydrogen debate for years to come. What's your take, dear readers? Will hydrogen cars triumph over electric cars, or will neither one ever gain traction across the American auto market? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Anyone who looks at the masthead of this blog knows I am a big proponent of windpower. Turns out 12 states generate over 80% of wind-sourced electricity.  Minnesota is one of those 12 states so I guess I really am a product of my environment.

Twelve states produced 80% of U.S. wind power in 2013

APRIL 15, 2014
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Monthly

In 2013, 12 states accounted for 80% of U.S. wind-generated electricity, according to preliminary generation data released in EIA's March Electric Power Monthly report. Texas was again the top wind power state with nearly 36 million megawatthours (MWh) of electricity. Iowa was second, with more than 15 million MWh, followed by California, Oklahoma, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Oregon, Colorado, Washington, North Dakota, and Wyoming.

These 12 states produced a combined 134 million MWh of electricity from wind. Nationwide, 167 million MWh of power came from wind in 2013, a 19% increase from 2012. Wind power increased its share of U.S. total electricity generation in 2013 from 3.5% to 4.1%. All but 13 states reported to EIA some generation from wind, and 23 states increased their wind generation more than 10% above 2012 production levels. California's wind generation exceeded geothermal generation for the first time in 2013.

The proportion of wind to total electricity generated varied widely by state. Leading the nation in wind generation share was Iowa with 27.4% of net electricity production coming from wind turbines. Second was South Dakota, at 26%. Other states with more than twice the national share of 4.1% wind power were Kansas, Idaho, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Colorado, Oregon, Wyoming, and Texas. more

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