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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Andrew Revkin on Making Veracity Cool

 (Photo credit: patries71 via Flickr)

Andrew Revkin posted an interesting article a few weeks back:

Lately, I’ve come to frame the challenge as a question: Can we foster an online (and real-life) culture in which veracity is cool? You’ll see more on this here in the coming months.

As social primates, we are instinctively motivated to seek higher status in our given troop hierarchies. The word cool is sometimes used as a synonym for impressive. Impressive denotes a measure of status. Coolness is any marketer's primary weapon. I like Andy's idea of making veracity cool, but I'm skeptical it could ever take hold. How would car marketers ever convince us to buy their cars? Although, certainly, he's on the right track in that, if you want to change behavior, like getting people to drive electric cars (or Hummers), convincing them it's cool to drive one will work wonders. 

What I think we need is to teach critical thinking skills in our schools as part of every math and science course, from grade school through college, and test for competency like we do for math and science.

His post led me to Climate Feedback, a website designed to fact check climate change articles. I was struck by how similar the format was to the Disqus comment software where you can use a little hypertext markup language to highlight quotes from an article and then discuss it in detail with links to sources, photos, graphs etc. They also made use of a veracity score which I have half-seriously used a few times myself, here and here.

The first question that came to mind was why the scientists didn't simply post in the comment field under the article? I suggested as much in a comment under Andy's article and interestingly enough, at least to me, my comment never made it past the Dot Earth moderator. So, maybe that was the answer to my question.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The "Does Nuclear Really Help The Integration Of Renewables?" Strawman Argument

Photo courtesy of tracie7779 via Flickr
Cross posted at Energy Trends Insider

What's with the green parrots you may be asking? A parrot repeats what it hears without understanding what it's saying. And by "green" I'm referring to people who, like myself, consider themselves to be environmentalists (whatever exactly that means). To the left of the green parrots is a screenshot of the "shares" from a guest post on the Clean Technica website, which has at least 99 parrots sitting on their wire.

It all started when an apparent shale gas enthusiast (Nick Grealy) wrote a 1,100 word article at his blog about the use of shale gas in France which contained the following rather cryptic throwaway sentence:

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Articles of Interest and Commentary--5/7/2016

 Cross-posted at Energy Trends Insider

Green Tech Media


I Was Wrong About the Limits of Solar. PV Is Becoming Dirt Cheap

by David Keith

Although quite upbeat about solar PV (and I'm also a big fan of solar PV), this article generated almost 300 comments because it was also frank about the limits of solar PV, and wind, and to make matters worse, he concluded the article with the following statement:
My view is that only two forms of energy -- solar and nuclear power -- can plausibly supply tens of terawatts without a huge environmental impact.
This is tantamount to blasphemy in most green (whatever exactly that means) technology websites. Which explains much of the action in the comment field but one comment in particular by Susan Kraemer caught my attention. She feels that CSP (concentrated solar power) with molten salt for heat storage is the answer to solar intermittency. I found this interesting because she had recently written an article at Earth Techling titled How a Hotter Climate Destroys Thermal Electricity Generation. CSP is thermal electricity generation (spins turbines with hot gases and must dump waste heat). The irony (is that the right word?) is that I had explained this to her in a comment under her article:
Thermal power simply becomes less efficient. It will be no more "destroyed" than solar photo voltaic:

"As part of Power System Program of the International Energy Agency (EIA), a study was conducted to analyze data from 18 grid connected PV plants located on different geographic locations and it showed a direct relation between temperature and PV module efficiency. The plants were located in Austria, German, Italy, Japan and Switzerland. The study concluded that 17 out of the 18 systems showed annual losses in efficiency due to temperature changes by 1.7% to 11.3%."

Also, solar thermal power plants have the same efficiency loss as any other thermal power source.

So, that leaves wind. Nobody is planning to run civilization only on wind. The future will be some mix of wind, solar, hydro, and nuclear with just enough natural gas to stitch them all together. The fact that higher temperatures will reduce efficiency is just something engineers will compensate for, and the lower efficiency would, all things being equal, result in higher prices, but I suspect the price difference will be negligible. can lead a horse to water.

But the the study she wrote about also pointed out that hydro, the undisputed king of renewable energy, is going to be in a world of hurt. There are a lot of environmental bloggers out there without any kind of engineering background who write about energy issues, and the fact that they don't always understand the engineering principles behind what they write is obvious, at least to an engineer.


VOX doesn't allow comment under its articles. I try to make it a policy not to provide links for (or usually even read) articles without comment fields under them. Comment fields go a long way to keep blog authors honest. Would you buy stuff on Amazon from a retailer that does not allow reviews of their products? Me either. Why should you have to buy what an author says without seeing what reviewers think? I'm making an exception in this case because I'm essentially providing a comment field for these articles and anyone is welcome to participate.

Two articles by Dave Roberts caught my attention.