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*Ring* *Ring*

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It’s 1978 calling, telling us nuclear power plants are safer to live near than those of the coal-fired variety.

This, per a Gristmill article:

Former ORNL researchers J. P. McBride, R. E. Moore, J. P. Witherspoon, and R. E. Blanco made this point in their article “Radiological Impact of Airborne Effluents of Coal and Nuclear Plants” [PDF] in the December 8, 1978, issue of Science magazine. They concluded that Americans living near coal-fired power plants are exposed to higher radiation doses than those living near nuclear power plants that meet government regulations.

[…]

The fact that coal-fired power plants throughout the world are the major sources of radioactive materials released to the environment has several implications. It suggests that coal combustion is more hazardous to health than nuclear power and that it adds to the background radiation burden even more than does nuclear power. It also suggests that if radiation emissions from coal plants were regulated, their capital and operating costs would increase, making coal-fired power less economically competitive.

Hmmmm. Don’t we look silly for wasting our time on coal? Sure, we’ve got a ton of it, but we can surely find some other use for that black stuff (hard, not liquid variety) than our open-pit strip mining.

Used under a Creative Commons License. "Coal mine Lake" by Nitin Kirloskar (via Flickr).

Used under a Creative Commons License. "Coal mine Lake" by Nitin Kirloskar (via Flickr).


Sure makes for cool pictures, though.

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Written by walonline

August 6, 2008 at 10:44 pm

Laughable

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The situation in China with regards to pollution is laughable. They promised to clean up, and it hasn’t worked out. Wired Magazine’s Science blog reports it isn’t working, even after their “specialized” anti-smog measures. In another post, they look at independent particulate readings from the BBC’s Beijing bureau. Here’s the explanation bit:

On most days, Beijing’s air clearly remains poor, rarely dropping below 50 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic meter of air. The World Health Organization considers any concentration of particulate higher than 50 to be unhealthy. While the BBC sensor has a large margin of error (20 percent), on most days the readings have been far above the threshold. The pollution levels have been clearly reflected in daily photographs taken from the same location by the news agency’s reporters.

The Chinese government has been working on an ambitious plan to improve the air quality in Beijing for the games including traffic bans, factory shutdowns, cloud seeding, and construction slowdowns.

But the city’s air quality has not varied in response to the city’s anti-smog efforts, according to the BBC’s readings. Pollution levels are changing, however, but only in response with meteorological conditions, i.e. rain. That’s exactly what University of Rhode Island professor Kenneth Rahn predicted would happen in a Wired.com story last month.

The Chinese are adament that they are being successful. And that haze and clouds should not be confused with particulate in the air.

“Clouds and haze are not pollution. This kind of weather is a natural phenomenon. It has nothing to do with pollution,” Du Shaozhong, deputy director of the Beijing municipal bureau of environmental protection, told Xinhua last week, the official government news outlet.

But, it looks like China is manipulating numbers.

The problem, however, is that there is compelling evidence that the Chinese government is cooking the pollution accounting books. As laid out by Steven Andrews, an environmental consultant, in an op-ed earlier this year in the Wall Street Journal, he describes three number manipulations:

  1. Seven sensors were used from 1998-2005, but after that, as international scrutiny was increasing, the government dropped two sensor stations from polluted areas of the city and added three in less polluted areas. These changes had a very significant impact in showing air quality increases.
  2. The government subbed nitrogen oxides out and nitrogen dioxide in to its air pollution index calculations. Of the various substances that the sensors measure, nitrogen oxides were the most likely to exceed air pollution standards.
  3. The Chinese government considers an air pollution index rating of under 100 to be a “blue sky day.” In 2006, 49 days were reported to have an air pollution index between 96 and 105. 47 of those days were — what “luck”! — reported under 100, a near statistical impossibility. 2007 data shows “a similar bias.”

The end result of the system is that the Chinese government gave August 4, seen above, an air pollution index rating in its “Good” category.

The Government doesn’t even really believe their measures have been successful. Pollution is proving difficult to clean up. It also shows how worried the officials are with the very real possibility of being humiliated on a world stage after all the promises they’ve made.

[…] the Chinese government doesn’t seem to believe that its efforts are working. There is word in China Daily, a government mouthpiece, that officials are considering an even more drastic plan that could take 90 percent of the city’s cars off the road, if the pollution readings don’t cooperate.

At least the Americans remain skeptical of the air quality. This morning, the Drudge Report led with a picture of US cyclists wearing black face masks as they arrived in Beijing.

Wired’s blog really has its bases covered with links to other independent environmental monitoring blogs, such as BeijingAirBlog.com.

Even more laughable has been the Chinese and IOC dealings regarding internet use. Initially, it was promised that China would be open to the full internet during the games. A week ago, the Chinese were going to sensor everything. Now, it appears that only the media village will have access to certain sites. Still, David Wallenchinski writes that you may be able to access Amnesty International and the Drudge Report, but you can’t access the Huffington Post!

You may have followed the ongoing controversy about the Chinese government blocking foreign journalists’ access to certain Internet sites during the Beijing Olympics. Most of the attention has centered on the censoring of the sites of Amnesty International, BBC News and the Falun Gong religious group. Under pressure, the Chinese Communist Party has lifted the bans on Amnesty and BBC News, but one site has continued to be totally blocked: Huffingtonpost.com.

In Beijing, we can get Drudge; we can get Common Dreams; we can get Raw Story and Truthout. But Huffington Post: censored completely.

You really can’t make this stuff up. Its sure to only get better… meaning funnier.

Written by walonline

August 5, 2008 at 1:07 pm

Some People Finally Get It

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Gristmill, an environmental news blog, has an interesting post on the inefficiencies of gasoline blended with ethanol and how more people are catching on:

In Oklahoma, some vendors are refusing sell ethanol-spiked gasoline. And they’re winning customers with signs like “No Corn in Our Gas” and “Why Do You Put Alcohol in Your Tank?” the Times claims. In Oregon, new rules requiring the state’s fuel supply be E10 — a mix of 90 percent ethanol and 10 percent gasoline — are being associated with sputtering boat engines and failing weed whackers.

Used under a Creative Commons License. "Gasohol (Ethanol)" by Todd Ehlers (via Flickr).

Used under a Creative Commons License. "Gasohol (Ethanol)" by Todd Ehlers (via Flickr).

The idea that ethanol is less efficient than straight gasoline is easy to document: drive your car to or from a state with an ethanol blend from one with the opposite. Check your milage going either way. Even with other factors (such as wind), you’ll notice a marked difference. I did this at the beginning of the month, travelling from the Minneapolis area to Nebraska and back.

This is nice to hear, since I wrote on this back in April. And my accounting theory professor railed on it numerous times last fall. Gristmill also gets into it. What makes this policy so sickening are the huge amounts of taxpayer dollars being poured into a policy that raises food prices. This effects our nation’s (and the world’s) poorest people–not exactly something any politician would consider politically expedient. Portfolio.com‘s Felix Salmon is writing today with regards to a World Bank report sayng that:

The combination of higher energy prices and related increases in fertilizer prices and transport costs, and dollar weakness caused food prices to rise by about 35-40 percentage points from January 2002 until June 2008.

Salmon also notes:

According to Chakrabortty, World Bank president Bob Zoellick tried to suppress publication of the report – something which, if true, probably only served to draw further attention to it.

Its not exactly like I was expecting a World Bank president clean of politics.

Written by walonline

July 30, 2008 at 12:40 pm

“Two Forms of Ignorance” and the Global Warming Debate

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EconLog discusses an issue brought by Andrew Gelman regarding levels of education and the climate change debate. It appears that non-graduates have not made up their mind because they don’t have enough information. On the other hand, graduates continue to become more partisan as their level of education increases. This confirmation bias, one way or the other, to adjust their beliefs along the party lines of their specific party, would appear to seriously cloud our abilities as a society to give both sides of the global warming/climate change debate a fair shake. Here’s the moneyquote:

Among college grads, there is a big partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans. Among non-graduates, the differences are smaller. This is completely consistent with research that shows that people with more education are on average more politically polarized (see, for example, figure 9a of my paper with Delia). Basically, higher educated Democrats are more partisan Democrats, and higher educated Republicans are more partisan Republicans. On average, educated people are more tuned in to politics and more likely to align their views with their political attitudes.

EconLog furthers the debate, asking what information would help to change your mind on the debate? For me, it is a determination that this up-swing in temperature is outside the bounds on the global tendency for climate to vary within a range. This change would not just be from a few locations, either. Some parts of the globe can witness highs, while others can witness lows at the same time. What about you?

Written by walonline

May 19, 2008 at 9:27 am

The Need For More Evidence

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Leave it to a newspaper in Canada to publish an article that attempts to poke a hole in the current global warming orthodoxy among scientists, politicians and news media. Those Canadians would benefit most by having some warmer weather, so why stop warming? Many people residing in the higher and lower latitudes wouldn’t mind it either.

In truth, the article is very true. Many people are so utterly convinced of global warming’s existence (consider your author a skeptic)–much as I am convinced of my Apple computer at home’s superiority to the PCs I use at work and school–that they have staked careers and reputations on it. News media is quick to brush aside decent as well.

What scientists on both sides of the argument need to do is push for more empirical evidence and less modeling (or re-thought models). For example, classic Economics–the idea of a continuum of shocks–can show where an economy has been, but has great difficulty predicting the future. Econometrics,a more in-depth level of modeling and mathematics, has improved upon classic Economics. In the same way, climate modeling is limited by current knowledge and has a very difficult time determining where the climate is headed. There is an ever-present need now for a balance in rhetoric and further responsible scientific research, not fire-and-brimstone rhetoric and models that give apocalyptic predictions of earth’s destruction.

Written by walonline

March 25, 2008 at 12:02 pm

Posted in Climate Change

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