Monthly Archives: February 2012

Germany Surrenders on Solar Power

The title of this blog is a direct lift from an American Thinker posting of the same name.   Bjorn Lomborg, the Skeptical Environmentalist reports that Germany once was proud to call themselves “photovoltaic world champion”.  But nation has found the solar-power subsidies are expensive and inefficient.  Accordingly Lomborg:’ Using solar, Germany is paying about $1,000 per ton of CO2 reduced. The current CO2price in Europe is $8. Germany could have cut 131 times as much CO2 for the same price. Instead, the Germans are wasting more than 99 cents of every euro that they plow into solar panels.”

The Germans are phasing out these subsidies over a 5 year period.

In the US, we need to get serious about stopping the handouts to the Friends of Obama too.


Fisker Appoints New CEO- Can He Save This Company?

Fisker has appointed Tom LaSorda CEO replacing Henrik Fisker.  Fisker, founder and co-owner of Fisker Motors, will assume the role of executive chairman.  LaSorda’s skill is said to be manufacturing.

The first model from Fisker is the Karma.  A terrific looking automobile but beauty may only be skin deep as the vehicle interior is rated a sub-compact by the EPA.  The Karma’s range is 32 miles on the battery.  It is a hybrid so the gasoline driven generator comes on when the battery is exhausted, at which point the EPA rating becomes 20 mpg.

According to a Bloomberg posting, Jeremy Anwyl, vice chairman of, an automotive data and pricing company had this to say about the Karma: “The odds are stacked against Fisker.  The car may be an interesting toy for people who have $100,000 to spend on such a thing, but Fisker will run out of those people quickly, and how tolerant of glitches will those people be?”  He probably was referring to the recent recall to fix the battery cooling system.

The current issue for Fisker is the DOE $529 million in loans granted to Fisker in June 2009.   The first part, $169 million was for engineering of the Karma and the second part of$360 million for the development of the NINA, a mid-sized hybrid to built in the old GM plant in Wilmington, DE.  Fisker, according to Bloomberg, has used $193 million of the loans.  But Fisker stopped work at the old GM plant when the DOE blocked further access to the loan saying that Fisker had not met the required milestones.

The battery supplier for Fisker is A123.   It has had to lay off workers due to the Fisker delays.  A123 is also an investor in Fisker.  A share of A123 stock closed on the 28 Feb at $1.91.  The 52-week range is $1.51 to $9.60.  Earnings per share are   $-1.88.

A posting late last year by Discovery asked: IS FISKER A ‘GREEN CAR’ SOLYNDRA SCANDAl? The author, John Voelker, said:   “We’d like to see three specific questions answered.

— Since Fisker backers have contributed to Democratic party causes, is there any hard evidence of improper influence over the DoE loan process by the White House?

— How did Fisker come to select a closed assembly plant located in Vice President Joe Biden’s home state, since Delaware is no longer an obvious place to build cars?

— What steps does the DoE take to monitor compliance with the loan terms–and why won’t it release the revised terms of the Fisker loans?”

Good questions.


Reliable Solar Cycle Forecasting Requirements


Dr David Hathaway is NASA’s solar cycle guru.  In 2010, he published in Solar Physics a review of the methods used to forecast solar cycle activity.   The review, titled TheSolar Cycle” is worth reading.  He discusses many of the techniques currently in use that purport to be the method for solar cycle forecasting. 

This post will only look at the key features that Hathaway says must be explained by any viable theory or model in order to provide a reliable forecast. 

The Abstract for “The Solar Cycle”  follows:

The Solar Cycle is reviewed. The 11-year cycle of solar activity is characterized by the rise and fall in the numbers and surface area of sunspots. We examine a number of other solar activity indicators including the 10.7 cm radio flux, the total solar irradiance, the magnetic field, flares and coronal mass ejections, geomagnetic activity, galactic cosmic ray fluxes, and radioisotopes in tree rings and ice cores that vary in association with the sunspots. We examine the characteristics of individual solar cycles including their maxima and minima, cycle periods and amplitudes, cycle shape, and the nature of active latitudes, hemispheres, and longitudes. We examine long-term variability including the Maunder Minimum, the Gleissberg Cycle, and the Gnevyshev–Ohl Rule. Short-term variability includes the 154-day periodicity, quasi-biennial variations, and double peaked maxima. We conclude with an examination of prediction techniques for the solar cycle.

Hathaway lists the critical features for making an accurate forecast:  

Understanding the solar cycle remains as one of the biggest problems in solar physics. It is also one of the oldest. Several key features of the solar cycle have been reviewed here and must be explained by any viable theory or model.  (I am adding several charts to aid in visualize his thinking.)

  • The solar cycle has a period of about 11 years but varies in length with a standard deviation of about 14 months.
  • Each cycle appears as an outburst of activity that overlaps with both the preceding and following cycles by about 18 months.
  • Solar cycles are asymmetric with respect to their maxima – the rise to maximum is shorter than the decline to minimum and the rise time is shorter for larger amplitude cycles.
  • Big cycles usually start early and leave behind a short preceding cycle and a high minimum of activity.
  • The activity bands widen during the rise to maximum and narrow during the decline to minimum.
These  sunspot charts show the last stages of cycle 21, cycles 23 and 23 fully and the current status of cycle 24.  The overlapping between the end of one cycle and the start of the other is apparent.   The relatively steep rise in the sunspot count at the begining of a new cycle and the more gradual decent.  Cycle 24’s rise is not nearly as steep as its predecessors.  Charts by Leif Svalgaard.
  • Sunspots erupt in low latitude bands on either side of the equator and these bands drift toward the equator as each cycle progresses.
  • At any time one hemisphere may dominate over the other but the northern and southern hemispheres never get completely out of phase.
  • Sunspots erupt in groups extended in longitude but more constrained in latitude with one magnetic polarity associated with the leading (in the direction of rotation) spots and the opposite polarity associated with the following spots.
  • The leading spots in a group are positioned slightly equatorward of the following spots and this tilt increases with latitude.

Butterfly Diagram: All the sunspots in a give cycle are plotted on the charts above. The initial sunspots appear at about 30° North and South lattitude. As new spots appear they tend to get closer to the equator. Each solar cycle ends, nominally, when the spots reach the equator. Charts by Solar Physics Group @ NASA

  • The polar fields reverse polarity during each cycle at about the time of cycle maximum.

Solar Magnetic Fields: This chart shows the North and South magnetic fields reversing at the end of a solar cycle. Note how weak the magnetic fields are for the start of the current cycle 24. Chart by Leif Svalgaard.

  • Cycle amplitudes exhibit weak quasi-periodicities like the 7 to 8-cycle Gleissberg Cycle.

The Gleissberg Cycle is a period of about 80 to 90 years that overlays the well established 11 year cycle.  The theory is that solar maxima and solar minima are forced by the gravitational pull of the major planets.  The specific alignment, particularily Jupiter and also Saturn Neptune and Uranus have a major effect on the Sun’s activity.  To see graphics of the alignment of these major planets, click here.

  • Cycle amplitudes exhibit extended periods of inactivity like the Maunder Minimum.
  • Solar activity exhibits quasi-periodicities at time scales shorter than 11 years.
  • Predicting the level of solar activity for the remainder of a cycle is reliable 2 – 3 years after cycle minimum.

Hathaway tells us that theory must be able to predict the preceding.  Until then,  people will continue to predict the features of the next solar cycle but it may be just luck if they get it right.


Dr Evans Explains Why Climate Models Overstate Potential Global Warming

Last September, I posted:  Dr Evans:”Climate Models Are Violently At Odds With Reality”.   This posting is a Dr Evans up-date of the September information.  This time he adds a simple explanation of the central issue regarding CO2 caused global warming—will feedbacks from a doubling of atmospheric CO2 be positive or negative?  The Warmers claim that a 1C increase due to doubling of atmospheric CO2 will really become a 3.3C  increase because of positive feedback.  We skeptics believe that the feedback will be negative and the warming will probably be in the range of 0.6C.

For those of you more inquisitive types, Dr Evans in his footnotes, gives more information and references to help you do some research of your own.

Click here to read Dr Evans full posting


When Tesla Batteries “Brick”–They Can Not Be Fixed

You buy a Tesla Roadster.  Depending on your upgrades, somewhere in the vicinity of $100,000 +.   Great acceleration, 0 to 60 in 3 to 4 seconds.  Looks great.  You are cool and everyone knows it.  You decide to jet off to Tahiti for a month.  When you return you go to the garage, ready to drive down Rodeo Drive to let everyone know you are back— let the good times roll.   But your car won’t start.  You check the battery charge level and it is at Zero.  Ooops, you did not plug it in after you last drove it.  Ok so you put the charger on.  It won’t take a charge.  You call the Tesla dealership and ask them to take it to their shop and fix it.  Oddly they come with a flatbed lift truck and some rolling jacks.  When you ask why they just don’t tow it to the dealership they tell you that because you have a brick, the wheels wont turn.  What is a “brick” you ask? They say that your battery is dead, dead, dead and won’t ever work again.  You ask what a replacement battery costs and they say $40,000.  You say “well, I have only had the car for about 4 months and put on less than 5,000 miles so I guess it is covered by warrantee”.  They say “no, not covered by warrantee cause you let it run down to zero charge, so we are not responsible”

Fiction?   Nope, it has happened to some Tesla owners.   The author, Michael DeGusta of the post “It’s a Brick”, whose Roadster was pronounced a Brick, learned from a Regional Tesla Service Manager that he was personally aware of at least 5 cases of Roadsters being Bricked due to battery depletion. DeGusta says the following about bricking:

A Tesla Roadster that is simply parked without being plugged in will eventually become a “brick”. The parasitic load from the car’s always-on subsystems continually drains the battery and if the battery’s charge is ever totally depleted, it is essentially destroyed. Complete discharge can happen even when the car is plugged in if it isn’t receiving sufficient current to charge, which can be caused by something as simple as using an extension cord. After battery death, the car is completely inoperable.

The amount of time it takes an unplugged Tesla to die varies. Tesla’s Roadster Owners Manual [Full Zipped PDF] states that the battery should take approximately 11 weeks of inactivity to completely discharge [Page 5-2, Column 3: PDF]. However, that is from a full 100% charge. If the car has been driven first, say to be parked at an airport for a long trip, that time can be substantially reduced. If the car is driven to nearly its maximum range and then left unplugged, it could potentially “brick” in about one week. [1] Many other scenarios are possible: for example, the car becomes unplugged by accident, or is unwittingly plugged into an extension cord that is defective or too long.

DeGusta conclusions about the problem with the battery are as follows:

The Bottom Line

Tesla Motors is a public company that’s valued at over $3.5 billion and has received $465 million in US government loans, all on the back of the promise that it can deliver a real world, all-electric car to the mainstream market. Yet today, in my opinion, Tesla seems to be knowingly selling cars that can turn into bricks without any financial protection for the customer.

Until there’s a fundamental change in Tesla’s technology, it would seem the only other option for Tesla is to help its customers insure against this problem. As consumers become aware that a Tesla is possibly just a long trip, a bad extension cord, or an accidental unplugging away from disaster, how many will choose to gamble $40,000 on that not happening? Would you?


Warmer “Ethics” Leader Fakes Identity to Steal Documents

Peter Gleick, who stole the Heartland Institute Board of Director documents under false pretenses, is the Chair of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Task Force on Scientific Integrity!!!!   How is that for irony and perhaps it speaks to the overall integrity of the Warmer cause.

Someone made up a fake cover letter to accompany the stolen documents and sent out a package to Warmer supporters in the media.  In the fake cover letter, Heartland is saying that they are going to spend $100,000 in schools with the objective of providing information that would show that “the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain – two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science”.   NOT TO TEACH SCIENCE!  Heartland did not write the cover letter.  Gleick says he is not guilty of writing the cover letter.  Those are leading the investigation believe he did write it.  He has resigned his position as the head of the Scientific Integrity Task Force.

However Gleick says it really wasn’t his fault:“My judgment was blinded by my frustration with the ongoing efforts — often anonymous, well-funded, and coordinated — to attack climate science and scientists and prevent this debate, and by the lack of transparency of the organizations involved.”   So it is Heartland’s fault. They are so well funded.

Jo Nova’s blog has the following table showing only a few of the Warmer organizations’ funding versus Heartland Institute funding:

Entity USD
Greenpeace  $300m  2010 Annual Report
WWF  $700m  ”  ($524m Euro)
Pew Charitable Trust  $360m 2010 Annual Report
Sierra Club  $56m 2010 Annual Report
US government funding for climate science and technology  $7,000m  “Climate Money” 2009
US government funding for “climate related appropriations” $1,300m USAID 2010
US government funding for skeptical scientists     $ 0
Heartland Institute $7m  (actually $6.4m)

Nova’s table highlights the vast discrepancy in funding.  She adds: “So what the expose shows is that the Heartland Institute punches far above its weight with an incredibly efficient budget.” To see Jo Nova’s full posting click here.

Why are the Skeptics becoming so successful in getting their message across?  It is not that they have a lot of money.  It certainly isn’t the media that seem only interested in press releases from the Warmers.  It is not the Governments of the world that support only Warmer climate research.  Its not the school districts that make Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” required viewing.

But rather it is the Internet where people can judge the available reports for themselves. It the exposure of the Warmer leaders hiding the truth, gaming the science, denying Skeptics access to publication of their studies etc. as exposed by Climate Gate.  It is also a public that is weary of Warmer shrill claims of impending disaster—which never materialize.


Wind Farm’s Non-performance Endangers Lives

Kevin Myers posts “Energy policy based on renewables will win hearts but won’t protect their owners from frostbite and death due to exposure”.  He tells us that the early February cold and blizzard that swept across Europe resulted in the deaths of over three hundred people but it could have been worse.  It seems that Gazprom the principle Russian natural gas supply company was not able to keep up with demand in Europe.

Myers asks:  “Did anyone even think of deploying our wind turbines to make good the energy shortfall from Russia?”  Which he answers:” Of course not. We all know that windmills are a self-indulgent and sanctimonious luxury whose purpose is to make us feel good. Had Europe genuinely depended on green energy on Friday, by Sunday thousands would be dead from frostbite and exposure, and the EU would have suffered an economic body blow to match that of Japan’s tsunami a year ago. No electricity means no water, no trams, no trains, no airports, no traffic lights, no phone systems, no sewerage, no factories, no service stations, no office lifts, no central heating and even no hospitals, once their generators run out of fuel.

Modern cities are incredibly fragile organisms, which tremble on the edge of disaster the entire time. During a severe blizzard, it is electricity alone that prevents a midwinter urban holocaust. We saw what adverse weather can do, when 15,000 people died in the heat wave that hit France in August 2003. But those deaths were spread over a month. Last weekend’s weather, without energy, could have caused many tens of thousands of deaths over a couple of days.

Why does the entire green spectrum, which now incorporates most conventional parties across Europe, deny the most obvious of truths? To play lethal games with our energy systems in order to honour the whimsical god of climate change is as intelligent and scientific as the Aztec sacrifice of their young. Actually, it is far more frivolous, because at least the Aztecs knew how many people they were sacrificing: no one has the least idea of the loss of life that might result from the EU embracing “green” energy policies.”

Myers uses Ireland as an example:  “Wind power in Ireland actually produces only 22pc of its capacity: would you spend ¿100,000 on a car if it meant that ¿78,000 of the purchase price was wasted? It gets worse. On a really cold day, we actually need about 5,000 megawatts, but yesterday wind was producing under 50 megawatts: a grand total of 1pc of requirements. “

To read the whole of Myers’ posting, click here.

This is not untypical of wind farms.  Basically windfarms are anathema to operators of the electrical grids that supply our electricity because they cannot depend on them being a source of power.  Some times the wind blows and sometimes it doesn’t.  Customers cannot accept an electrical supply system that is intermittent.  See here, here, here, and  here for more on the unreliability wind farms power.

Routinely temperatures in many parts of the US match or exceed those experienced in France during their August 2003 heat wave. Few deaths occur in these areas of the US due to the prevalence of Air Conditioning units.  This is another example, echoing Myers, where our lives depend on a steady supply of electricity.

And what would this posting be without some comments by James Delingpole who weighed in on this topic as follows:

“Have a look at this debate between pro-renewables campaigner Jonathan Pyke and Mark Duchamp of the European Platform Against Wind Farms in The Earth Times and you’ll see what I mean:

Q: How accurate is the argument that wind turbines have to be ‘backed-up’ by alternative sources of power, eg nuclear or coal, due to the irregularity of wind?

Jonathan: It’s not accurate and I think it stems from a misunderstanding about what wind energy is for. It’s better to think of wind as the back-up for gas, allowing us to make much better use of our existing fossil fuel power plants than relying on gas alone. There’s no need to burn gas when the wind is blowing, which National Grid can predict extremely accurately. So comparing it to nuclear or coal is misleading because wind serves a different purpose; every time it blows there’s a substantial decrease in carbon emissions, volatile fossil fuel costs, water for cooling, manufacturing and pollution. The ‘back-up’ argument just isn’t valid.

R-i-g-h-t. So what you’re saying, Jonathan, is that the ONLY reason we’re carpeting some of the world’s most attractive wild countryside in horribly costly, economically inefficient, bird-liquidising, noise-polluting, view-blighting, rare-earth-metal-exploiting, property-debasing, horse-frightening, rent-seekers’ uber-horrors, is to save the odd tonne of CO2 emissions, as and when, despite the fact that the science increasingly suggests that the difference this will make to global climate will be so negligible as to be beyond measurement?

At first they said they would replace fossil fuel driven electrical generating plants, but as this has turned out badly for them they now want to convince us that what they really, really, really want to do is play the part of backup.  Yikees, the windfarms were not economic as the primary units how on earth can they be anything but less economic as backup units  and they will still be unreliable.

You can read the Delingpole’s article by clicking here.