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Help Wanted at the Climate Policy Sausage Factory

This post is inspired by a real-life issue I'm dealing with, and there are so many possibilities, I figured it would make a great early August chew toy for the group.

The basic issue is adaptation to climate change. If our global civilization isn't going to shatter under the strain of increasingly weird weather, it's going to need to massively adapt. To give you an idea of the scope of the problem, I'll use the mundane example of my household in San Diego, where we're committed to partially decarbonizing over the next 5 years. We've already got solar panels, we're going to get an electric car (a Chevy Bolt, because I don't want to wait three years for a Tesla 3), and we plan to get a wall battery for storage and to remodel our house so that everything runs on electricity. We're looking at vaguely around $100,000 to go partially decarbonized (it won't be total decarbonization until we get rid of the other car, which we need for hauling stuff every week.). There are ways to cut these costs, like using electric Uber cars and the like (mass transit would be lovely too, if only...), but if all of San Diego County's 3.3 million people were to spend $100,000 per household to decarbonize, that's somewhere north of $100,000,000,000 to decarbonize the homes of this county alone (not the businesses, just the homes). Spread over enough time, $100,000 is doable for my family, but costs need to drop by at least an order of magnitude for mass decarbonization. The point of this example is that decarbonization can't be about just retrofitting existing systems, it will have to create new, cost-effective systems. Just depending on families to invest more than most make per year into retrofitting existing lifestyles is too expensive. That's one big root of the climate change crisis.

For every expensive crisis that comes along, though, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of scams, schemes, and bad ideas to take advantage of it. And that's your early August chew toy: come up with some of these schemes, figure out what ordinary citizens can do to counter them, and then speculate on what happens as a consequence of the counter. Want to play? I'll warn you, it's a bit like making sausage.

Still with me? Here's how to play. There are a few simple ground rules:

1. If you think climate change itself is a scam, there are plenty of other posts to comment on elsewhere.

2. While I don't mind talking about existing scams, we're operating under British libel law on this blog. Charlie doesn't need to be sued because of something overly detailed and libelous that someone wrote, and the moderators will delete problematic posts. Keep it general.

3. What to post if you've got an idea:

A. Start with a problem, like decarbonizing civilization, or preserving biodiversity, or getting carbon out of the air, or closing the loop on nutrient recycling without creating a pathogen superhighway, or breaking the political hold of the fossil fuel industries, or getting people willing to decarbonize, or dealing with climate migrants, or ocean acidification, or emerging diseases, or whatever.

B. Describe a scam, scheme, or bad idea for getting rich and/or powerful off of said problem. It can be one you already know about, or better yet, create your own Evil Plan. The general idea is that someone is trying quickly to get rich and/or powerful off their project, and what they're proposing isn't going to do much to help solve the problem. One example would be the desert land speculation bubble back in 2009-2010 that accompanied the Obama administration's push to get solar and wind farms built. Some of the sites that people seriously tried to build on were beyond stupid. Conversely, getting rich while actually saving the world doesn't count.

C. What can ordinary citizens do to counter the scam? This isn't where Superman/Big Government/Cthulhu steps in and solves the problem deus ex machina style, this is about ordinary activism, lifestyle changes, and the like. To continue the above example, after Ivanpah started construction, environmental groups got together, mapped the California desert for biological resources, power line rights of way, and other stuff, and made a map of where solar could profitably develop without causing massive environmental damage. They then went to the solar industry and legislators to push for projects within the less sensitive areas of the map.

D (optional) What happens next? So citizens organize, get the ear of the relevant politicians, go to years of meetings, and otherwise grind through the Policy Sausage Factory. What happens after they are successful or unsuccessful? To continue the above example, the environmental groups are still butting heads with solar developers, but a number of the developers did see the light and design projects for minimal environmental damage. Some did not, and there are still damaging projects in the pipeline. Not everyone likes limits.

4. Feel free to comment on other people's posts as always.

Here's what prompted me to post this, which is also an example. I'm very active with the California Native Plant Society (CNPS), a smallish California environmental group that advocates for native plants. We deal with a lot of development, because under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), anyone building a new project is supposed to either not cause environmental damage or to fix the damage they cause (I'm massively oversimplifying here, because I suspect most of you don't care about CEQA). If someone rips up a hillside of native plants to put in a powerline, one of the things they should do is to restore it back to the way it was after they're done.

Unfortunately, there's a lot of ways to scam a native plant restoration. You can buy whatever's cheap at the nursery, whether or not it's native to the area you're planting in (and whether or not it will survive); hire a cheap, untrained crew so that most of the plants die; cut corners on things like weeding and maintaining the sprinkler lines; and/or charge so much to manage it that you drain the budget before the plants are fully established (which generally takes years). To give another example, I once had the misfortune of working for a scam artist who had, among many other things, planted redwood trees in a Los Angeles area park. It's not that they grow there naturally (LA is too dry for them to exist without a LOT of extra water, and even then they're not very happy), but McScammy insisted that redwoods had existed in LA during the last Ice Age, that therefore he was planting native plants, and that I was wrong to criticize his landscaping choices.

As a result of dealing with legions of McScammies all over California, back in the 1990s CNPS adopted multiple policies to advocate for the use of locally native plants in plantings and especially restorations. The idea is that if you're going to plant native plants in a wild area or park, they should be native to that site, ideally grown from seed gathered locally around that site. There are various benefits to this (notably, they should need a lot less care), and it's been a central tenet of our approach to gardening and restoration ever since.

Now we have to deal with climate change. We're trying to figure out how to save species like Joshua trees, which are dying out in Joshua Tree National Park in California but reproducing north of Las Vegas. With a century of predictable climate change, there may not be any Joshua trees left in the park named after them. The problem is, if you want the species to survive, how far north should you plant their seeds, knowing that they take 60 years to reach sexual maturity? Depending on your climate model, you need to gather seeds in the national park (which is illegal without a permit), and plant them at what's currently the extreme northern end of their range (which may also be illegal). And pray it works. There's no policy anywhere to advocate for legally doing this sort of thing.

Moving plants to deal with climate change is called assisted migration, and it's quite controversial. A bunch of influential CNPSers don't want to deal with it at all. They've spent decades fighting for locally native plants, and they see assisted migration not just as counter to a central tenet of their lives, but as an unproven idea that lends itself to scams more than to good practice. And they're right. For instance, McScammy Enterprises could offer to bring all sorts of Mexican plants north into California, to plant these "new natives" under the rubric of increasing carbon sequestration. And there's a group around UC Davis that says that the whole concept of native plants is stupid, that we're in the Anthropocene, that we should only care about what survives. Like eucalyptus (which conceivably is where they're getting their funding. There's a rich clique in the Bay Area that loves them some eucalyptus and can afford to hire publicists and lawyers).

CNPS was created in response to stupid ideas like this more than 50 years ago. The whole "plant what survives" meme just a play on the idea of the California Dream, which is the notion that California's climate is great, and if you import people, animals, landscaping, power, food, and water, then you can (re)create whatever you dream of, because our climate is great for that. The native plant movement says simply that a lot of garden plants (and weeds like eucalyptus) only survive in California because the diseases in their homelands haven't caught up with them yet, and because they get a lot of human care and water. We note that California has a lot of gorgeous species native to it that are appreciated around the world (like redwoods). Planting natives is really subversively practical (unlike the California Dream), and it's caught on so well that it's not surprising that landscapers are fighting back. But I digress.

My problem now in CNPS is that I'm part of the committee tasked with figuring out how we're going to create policies to help us respond to climate change. Part of what I'm doing is figuring out how many ways things like assisted migration can be turned into scams, because that's what our revised policies are going to have to deal with. There's not much science to guide us yet, but it's easy to imagine all the ways people could take advantage of assisted migration funding and other climate change-driven crises. Indeed, it's such a fertile field that I thought you folk might like to take your turn in making climate policy sausage and figuring out what happens after it gets consumed.

It's August. Have fun.



To add some global context to this - there are a heap of emissions reduction technologies and strategies. The cheapest thing any person or nation can do to reduce carbon emissions is to take those technologies and strategies and implement them in poorer nations, coz everything is cheaper in poorer nations.

The cost of planting trees to offset carbon emissions depends upon land and labour costs. In the West, you're looking at ~$100 for enough trees to offset a tonne of emissions; in the South, you're looking at $10.

Agriculture in the less-developed world has huge room for improvement. For milk from a cow, NZ gets three times as much per cow as China, due to improved breeding, feeding, and management. Our methane emissions per cow are more here, but not three times more. So bringing improved farming practices in the South has no cost, it's getting to be a profitable way to reduce emissions.

Soot from cooking fires is a strong greenhouse gas driver (as well as a major local pollutant). We've already reduced that to nothing in the rich world, coz we're no longer cooking with biomass. An improved stove (like a Save80 or a Justa) costs a few tens of dollars each.

Yet here's the rub - the less economically developed a country is, the more corrupt it is. So any flow of resources from rich nations to poor nations needs to deal with this underlying problem.

Any scam or scheme is much easier if there are several countries between the scammer and the scammee. Adding in climate change as a moral driver for people wanting to give their money away makes large-scale theft trivial.

(For reference, here's some professors on this topic


Mass Transit


The cheapest thing any person or nation can do to reduce carbon emissions is to take those technologies and strategies and implement them in poorer nations, coz everything is cheaper in poorer nations.

But how do we counter that scam? That's what's missing from your analysis.

One thing that gets suggested disturbingly often is introducing biological pest control measures that work thanks to the magic of genetic engineering. The idea sounds great - rather than faff about for a decade or so carefully testing a proposed organism to make sure that it's specific to the target and doesn't harm anything else, just engineer it so it meets all the requirements.

For this to work the government needs to be willing to prevent democratic measures from restricting the genetic engineers or interfering in the research or release of the products. In many cases the restrictions seem to be as much the desired outcome as the eventual possible release, and the government funding is of course welcome.

Citizens can react by using democratic measures, obviously, but also it seems inevitably they are forced to remind their governments that the reason we have democracy is that rulers prefer being voted out to the more traditional means of changing a government. New Zealand is a good example here as well, with a long tradition of government misbehaviour being reined in through a combination of (not so) civil disobedience and democratic action leading to a change in government.


Sadly, in New Zealand right now we have a neoliberal government who are committed to enriching the already rich at the expense of everyone else. Most blatantly, we have two elected members who have admitted defrauding the government. One of a small amount in the distant past, one a larger amount more recently. One was stealing out of greed, the other to feed a child. The outrage is overwhelmingly being directed at the Maori woman, while the white man took more, more recently and is being held up as a paragon because once he was caught he repaid the money. She, on the other hand, was never caught and voluntarily brought the matter up to make a political point.

How we fix the "just world" scam I'm not sure. There's a certain naive attraction to the idea that the rich deserve their wealth because they're good, and the poor deserve to suffer because they're bad. Especially in the modern context where global warming doomsayers keep pointing out that even a poor westerner is rich by global standards. Responding by saying "that's because I am a good person, so I deserve to be rich" is an emotionally appealing defense.


The easiest assisted migration scam is to find an area that a new species is establishing itself, ideally as a weed, and call that a "migratory native". If you can propose it as a land swap or "conservation offset" all the better. Get as much credit as possible for turning previously marginal land into a valuable native reserve(cough).

The whole thing about offsets is that you never see them offered to normal criminals, only ecocidal ones. The argument sort of works for greenhouse gas emissions, but even there it's usually perverted into "carbon dioxide equivalent" which makes no sense at all unless they're emitting/absorbing a magic form of CO2 that only lasts 15 years in the atmosphere and isn't water soluble. But with conservation land or species, it just doesn't work at all. Having more wombats doesn't compensate for making the blue whale extinct.

That is obvious to most people with other crimes: "I have murdered a child, but I donate to World Vision so the net result is positive. Release me at once". That just doesn't work at all to most people. But if instead you say "I turned a bit of forest into a resort, but I bought a farm and planted some shrubs to compensate" somehow that's acceptable.

The fix is not to allow offsets at all. One company, one budget, one liability. If you own an aluminium smelter that burns coal, you're going to be harvesting a lot of carbon and storing it for a long time.

Speaking of scams, we also need to fix the liabilities of the "limited liability corporation", because it's become obvious that long-term problems don't work well with short-term "fixes" to financial problems.


I immediately flashed on Russ George and his idea of performing ocean fertilization with ferrous sulfate and then trading the carbon sequestered by the ocean in the form of carbon offsets, which he would then sell (for himself and on behalf of all his investors.)

I get the idea that he screwed over the more honest ferrous sulfate researchers pretty badly, but maybe I'm wrong on that.

7: seems at least partly on-topic :-)

Part of the problem with offsets is the way human psychology works in terms of doing 'good deeds'. At my office I've got an article bookmarked about how people who buy 'green products' are slightly more likely to cheat (in minor ways) — the internal logic seems to be that they are doing good by buying green, so they 'deserve' a little extra now-and-then.


At my office I've got an article bookmarked about how people who buy 'green products' are slightly more likely to cheat (in minor ways)

To some extent that's a good problem to have. The problem is when it's fake good deeds that lead to real slacking off. Like buying offsets, or recycling things you shouldn't have bought in the first place.

I've just spent a couple of days riding circuitous routes home trying to find more plastic storage containers, but gave up and bought them. Annoyingly the pile of bricks I saw yesterday and made a special trip for (needed my load bike) had already been cleaned up by the council. In that sense Australia is actually really good, people tend to put unwanted rubbish on the "nature strip" at the side of the road, letting others reuse it if they're so inclined. Councils are not big fans, but I think they'd end up picking up most of it anyway so whatever. The downside, obviously, is that 90% of it is genuine garbage and sometimes it's fly-tipped hazardous waste. There is a whole industry of scammers out there doing asbestos removal, where their total charge is often less than the cost of safely disposing of the asbestos they remove. Guess how they get rid of it.


Does the CNPS have access to historical and prehistorical plant records?There must be university, state or federal records of vegetation in the area. There could be a half way stage of reintroducing plants which had existed during warmer periods. I realise that 'tis as a bit simplistic and that animals are also required for pollination and control but it should be possible to reach some academic consensus.


Mass Transit

Sure. Now get all of the people to move into clumps so it will work. In 4 or 5 years they might be done rebuilding the main road near me so bus routes up and down it will be bearable. Then all I would have to do is walk 10 to 15 minutes in a suburban (not well lit) area to get to a stop.


I think there is something around R&D and in particular stranded assets.

Energy technology is developing pretty rapidly. The technology is changing faster than the life-cycle of the assets that are (or used) to be built. Costs are falling but it is unclear if the current rate of cost reduction will continue or decrease or increase. It's unclear which if any of the many novel technologies will break through. It's also unclear what problems the combinations of new and old technologies will create that need to be solved.

For example, it is common place that with increased amounts of solar PV and wind on a grid eventually it will need some form of additional energy storage. And everyone starts talking about batteries and then Elon Musk. And we forget about BetaMax.

There's a risk that the battery technolgy that Musk is investing in gets dominated by something that is currently in a lab somewhere or that something like the Fraunhofer Sea Eggs can be mass produced for a fiver.

Or someone develops a catalyst to help turn electricty in to methane and all the gas plants we thought were about to go bust are suddenly very valuable.

So the problem is that looking at a vast array of projected cost curves and technology road maps it is very difficult to work out which set of technologies are going to be technically, commercially and politically successful.

The scam (or just the result of negligence) is that we get regulatory capture combined with celebrity "tech hero" status and the creation of a technology paradigm (solar PV + battery instead of flexible modular nuclear for example) and this allows someone to build a whole bunch of infrastructure using a highly leveraged legal entity which then proves to be a) sub-optimal and b) built but comparatively expensive. So we either have to pay to replace it or continue to pay for it at inflated prices and we discover that the money we had invested in the highly leveraged legal entity has been dividended out or used to pay the CEO or his pals a lot of money.

What can ordinary people do to counter this? The usual rules about investment management and portfolio management apply and will help a little. Campaign for more public investment in R&D so that more of the gains are socialised along with the risks. Be prepared to fund small tests of new technology and accept that these are investments in building a contestable market place. Join energy co-ops and local government generation schemes and community schemes - so you at least own the kit rather than being forced to rent it. Vote with your wallet.


You are over-simplifying the plant situation; there are a lot of exotics that come from areas like southern California (and even what it is becoming), including some Eucalyptus. But your points are definitely good - it always flabberghasted me just how inappropriate most plant choices when I worked (briefly) near San Jose, but I have lived in the savanna. The same applied to the fruit crops, incidentally, where my reaction to the choice was "boring, boring, booorring".

But you are also missing perhaps the most important class of scams - those that are not, in themselves, scams but which are merely going to move the problems around. One can reasonably say that solar power in the UK is a scam, pure and simple, but you could regard it as something of that form. However, the move to electric cars are one of the second form in most parts of the world. If they are actually to HELP, they have to be combined with carbon-neutral, less polluting power generation and distribution, and their manufacture and maintenance. But, even then, they are not a viable solution in many places, not least because there isn't the space for enough roads. We need to reduce the need to do a lot of driving, and move simple personal transport away from multi-ton juggernaughts and (probably) in the direction of electrically-assisted, pedal power. More or less the opposite of what is actually being done, even in the UK (where 'they' are claiming to be achieving that, but it isn't true).


Yout not-community is that spread out? MT works everywhere, even in some parts of the USA ....


This article has part of the answer:

Decarbonization is not going to be an individual thing (which makes it super expensive) it's going to be a societal thing, driven by money mostly, renewables and electric vehicles will simply be cheaper. Bulk solar and windmill installations will multiply. Personal solar will probably get dragged in its wake, with prices for both installation and panels falling. Autonomous vehicles and app taxi fleets will reduce the number of cars on the road. Maybe hyperloop will start to carry freight? And in the end logistical collapse and industry bankruptcies will force the existing carbon based facilities to close.


Frank noted that "Moving plants to deal with climate change is called assisted migration, and it's quite controversial."

Indeed it is. It's also a short-term measure with no guarantee of long-term success. For example, there's been some talk of using this approach with boreal conifers. The problem is that as you move farther north, you run out of room because you encounter the enormous peatlands that cover most of northern Canada, and the soils (i.e., peat) are completely unsuitable for most boreal conifers. Ditto for moving plants to higher elevations to escape rising temperatures: at some point you run out of mountain. Assisted migration will be an important strategy until we come up with better solutions, but it's not without problems.

In terms of scams, here's my favorite one cough coughUnited Statescough cough: lower the required fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles. Who does this benefit? The oil and gas industry. Sure as hell doesn't benefit the 99% who have to pay for the increased fuel costs. The solution? Perhaps create a "flying squad" of individuals who attend every public meeting hosted by their elected representative bearing signs that say "why are you voting to lower fuel efficiency standards and make me pay more for driving my car?" These people should also make heroic efforts to ask that same question at every question period (e.g., town hall meetings) their rep attends until the news media figure out that this is a real story and start asking the same question. Elected reps will eventually be embarrassed into reconsidering their position.

Here's my second-favorite scam: the concept of externalities in economics. This allows financial analysts to ignore any inconvenient fact (e.g., that fracking screws up aquifers and causes earthquakes) so as to shift the cost burden from the beneficiary of the scam to the public. Fracking is just one example. It would take a book just to catalog the categories and subcategories of this scam. The solution is not to burn all economists, tempting though the notion might be G, but rather to implement legislation that requires a full analysis of all costs of a proposed project, approved by a committee of all stakeholders. For this to work, it must be independent of government and must have teeth. (The approach is similar to what is done with what are called "class environmental assessments" in Canada.) The goal to ensure that all costs are identified, but also to ensure that those who profit have their voices heard. Profit-seeking enterprises are not inherently evil; they provide society with services, including tax revenues and employment. They just have to be given strong incentives to look beyond profit.


FOrget hyperloop - it's not going to work. Autonomous vehicles and app taxi fleets will reduce the number of cars on the road. - I've got a bridge to sell you!


Seeing as this is a Friday afternoon and I'm feeling downright contrary, I'm going to wilfully misunderstand what I assume the main thrust of your argument to be. So, if we look at the long-term record of Earth's climate for the last few million years, we see a recurring theme of an Ice Age occurring every hundred thousand years or so, with the transition between peak interglacial temperatures and deep ice conditions being a very marked one.

The exact mechanisms behind this hundred thousand year cycle are unclear, but ice core data clearly demonstrates that as an interglacial warm period proceeds, carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere increase, trailing the temperature by a couple of hundred years. Indeed this rise in CO2 is so marked that it may well be that the presence of this gas in the atmosphere is the hidden precipitating factor that, along with the predisposing Milankovich orbital cycles, tips the planetary climate from warm to cold stable points.

The transition between warm and cold climate is always a sharp one, and is normally preceded by a short run-up of especially unusual weather conditions, which are likely an effect of unusual CO2 levels in the atmosphere.

Since an Ice Age will lead to huge amounts of snow and later ice forming and remaining on the northern European areas, it is reasonable to expect that all of Scotland and much of northern England will rapidly become uninhabitable as the climate shifts. However local political circumstances have conspired to unexpectedly good outcomes here; Brexit will see Britain regaining control of much of the North Sea fishing grounds from EU control, fishing grounds which will rapidly turn into dry land as the Ice Age locks up water from the oceans.

Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, I am now in a position to offer competitive early-bird prices on the soon-to-be uncovered lands of the Dogger Bank. As the land is under British control, it will become sovereign territory of Her Majesty, and under the new and lax planning laws, building permission is assured.

So, roll up and buy your new, extra-cheap plot of building land on the Dogger Bank now!


That article draws heavily on this piece by Tony Seba.


In general, no, there aren't good records of where plants were in past warming spells. The exceptions are things like fossil pack rat nests in deserts and pollen records from lakes (which California doesn't have a lot of). If we're looking for analogs to late 21st Century weather, we're looking at the Eemian and then the Miocene, and while we've got some Miocene fossils, we don't have anything from the Eemian to my knowledge.

The good news is that genetic studies seem to indicate that some important genera in the current California flora had started to diversify before the Ice Ages started, and the Ice Ages are what gave California its current Mediterranean climate. This suggests, but does not prove, that the flora may be somewhat resilient to a hotter climate with non-Mediterranean distribution of rain. How this all might work in terms of adaptation and migration is something we don't know. The bigger problem, regardless, is that there are 30 million-odd people in the way of migrating plants, and most politicians are more desperate to solve perceived housing shortages than they are to keep things from going extinct.


This may complicate your question more, but how far away are we from the point where an order puller at a distribution center or a cashier at a "Big Box Mart" can think about decarbonizing?


Tim H wondered: "how far away are we from the point where an order puller at a distribution center or a cashier at a "Big Box Mart" can think about decarbonizing?"

Depends on a whole bunch of assumptions about what governments are willing to do. Implement an appropriate public transport infrastructure combined with affordable housing within an hour (ideally, less) travel time of the workplace, and you've got a good start to decarbonizing the working poor. There's been some scholarship suggesting that the public transport infrastructure was gutted ca. 50 years ago in response to auto-industry lobbying. Our local public transport authority claims that each bus is equivalent to removing 50 vehicles from the road. Treat that as approximate, of course, but it makes the point nicely. Then cut the commute in half (many service industry people commute 2+ hours each way to reach their jobs because they can't afford to live closer).

Neither problem would be trivial to solve, but both would have high payback. Less expensive solutions, such as increasing the frequency of dedicated bike lanes, would also help. Provide rental bikes (as we do here in Montreal) for those who can't afford to buy or have no room to store bikes. We've seen explosive growth of this solution here in Montreal. All those bikes on the road makes driving more challenging (a significant problem), but it's a good move in terms of decarbonizing and improving public health.

Now wallpaper urban buildings with solar panels, install green roofs everywhere you can, and improve urban green space and you'll make a huge dent in energy costs. Capture rainwater and use it for irrigation instead of sucking more water from the rivers and lakes and aquifers; you'll also reduce the incidence of flooding, which has been a problem in some cities (e.g., here in Montreal). Allowing the captured water to evaporate will also cool cities, thereby reducing the urban heat island effect and reducing cooling costs. Again, not trivial solutions, but within the realm of feasibility.


As good an answer as is likely as long as business plans include something like "Find serf equivalents to do this.".


Mass transit accessed by bike rather than by foot goes a long way to solving that issue. Makes the 'clumps' about three times the size , even if biking slowly enough to not need a shower. Plus of course the uptake of mass transit feeds in to both quality and 'clump' size per stop.


They've just built a bike shed at my local train station; it doesn't have any bike paths leading to it.


Your idea won't work.

We've had this discussion when we talked about self-driving cars. If your squad goes into Red States, the other side will have a squad which will ask your squad the following questions

  • Why are you trying to kill my kid in an unsafe small car?
  • Why are you trying to take away our guns, cars, and freedom?
  • Why do you make General Lee cry (for the former Confederacy here).
  • I can't find the chart now, but cars as a percentage of new vehicle sales have declined. The recession kept cars at around 40% of vehicle sales. Since then, they've fallen to a record low.

    The problem is that in the Red States, a pickup truck is considered as important as a gun. Good luck restricting either. I don't think this falls into the category of scams that Frank wanted to talk about?


    In a way it does, because you have to ask what the incentives are for automobile companies to keep manufacturing big trucks are, and what the incentives for gun manufacturers to keep manufacturing are. There's a lot of advertising and lobbying driving both markets, and the idea that it's a god-given right implies that god lives on Madison Avenue and is a mercenary suit with no soul.

    That said, I'm not linking the gun industry to climate change directly, so let's not go there. The Military-Industrial Complex is something else entirely, but I'll leave it to others to make that case.

    As for big trucks, I suspect that if they ever figure out how to make a decent electric truck, they'll fly out the doors in southern states. The South seems as against Big Grids as it is against Big Government in general, and wind and solar are getting increasingly popular in the South despite the rhetoric drooling out of the state houses and DC. If you can charge your truck off your spread, well, that's even more American than buying Iraqi oil.

    The problem with big trucks might be one Tesla can solve, in that they're rumored to have an all electric semi in the works. Still, batteries are heavy: the battery pack for a Chevy Bolt weighs around 960 lbs and gets 238 miles. The same gas for a mid-sized car weighs 50-100 lbs. My simple guess is that when batteries get to the energy density of gasoline, electric vehicles will take over.


    If you'd like to engage in this discussion more deeply I suggest visiting which is a site run out of MIT for discussing ways to address climate change. It includes some neat tools for deepening the discussion, and runs regular contests to solicit good ideas on various facets of the problem.


    Questions from someone with the science and engineering knowledge of a mollusc: do we yet have the technology--even if just in theoretical form--to remove carbon from the atmosphere as fast or faster than we put it in? If not, what would doing that take? What would the scale look like? (I presume vast.) Is it even physically possible?


    Yout not-community is that spread out? MT works everywhere, even in some parts of the USA

    Everywhere is a bit of an expansive term. In many urban areas, even around here MT can do a lot. But not every where is like metro NYC, Chicago, or Washington DC.

    I live in Raleigh NC. Our downtown is growing great with lots of new 5 to 20 story apartments and offices replacing older warehouses and such.

    My neighborhood (about 4 miles by bird from downtown) of over 400 homes built in the late 50s into the 60s is mostly 1/4 to 1/6 acre lots. Ditto the few 1000 homes near us. Now a developer(s), with the blessing of the city and many of us in this area has converted a nearby old dying mall into a satellite urban center. Been going on for a bit over 10 years. And I had no idea how many of the people around here don't like it. What shoved it into my face was an effort to implement a zoning overlay to keep the "character" of our neighborhood. So my lot worth over $300K plus a house worth only $30 to maybe $50K will drop in value by $50K to $100K. And that's just to keep us from selling our house to a developer who might tear down my house to build a new bigger one. Or horror of horrors, buy 2 adjacent lots and convert them to 3 houses. And to be honest they'd tear down the new urban apartments if they could. Basically they are pissed that they didn't get rights to tell their neighbors what they could do when they bought their house. Some of us have politely or bluntly told them to go find an HOA and move there.

    But back to the point. I can walk to the main artery or to the mini-urban area. But in the dark or weather I'm not so sure that the 15 minutes or more would be safe or doable if my goal was not to change clothes or be safe after sundown.

    Back to the main road work I mentioned. There are a lot of apartments along this route that will be better served as the road is upgraded but there are also a lot of burbs like mine where MT will not offer so much.


    Ioan noted that my idea of "flying squads" wouldn't work: "If your squad goes into Red States, the other side will have a squad which will ask your squad the following questions"

    Of course they will. I did not say, explicitly or by implication, that only my side should say these things or ask these kinds of questions. Nor did I say that the questions should be shouted so loud that the politician or other has no chance to reply. (Can you tell I'm Canadian?) The solution is to answer appropriately. In your examples:

    "1. Why are you trying to kill my kid in an unsafe small car?"

    I'm not. As you'll recall, it was the [name] Republican administration who tried to weaken safety standards. We're the ones who insisted that automakers make safer small cars if what you want is a small car. And nobody said you have to buy a small car. We just want that big truck you buy to cost you less in fuel consumption. Which part of that do you object to?

    "2. Why are you trying to take away our guns, cars, and freedom?"

    We said nothing about guns, cars or freedom. You're free to put whatever guns you want in whatever cars you want. But if you use that gun in a crime, the full weight of the law you claim to love, and that your adminstration implemented in its previous term, will fall upon you like the wrath of General Lee. And speaking of whom:

    "3. Why do you make General Lee cry (for the former Confederacy here)."

    If you want a fight: "General Lee may be spinning in his grave, but he isn't crying. He's dead. No, really. Go check if you want. I'll wait." If you're more Canadian, perhaps "The Confederacy is an important part of our history. We want people to remember both the good parts and the bad parts so they have a complete picture."

    And so on. Of course, if you had chosen more difficult questions than the softball pitches you actually chose, the answer may become something along the lines of: "In fact, you raise a good point. Leave your name and contact information with my secretary over here, and I'll get back to you with an answer by next Tuesday. If I can't find a good way to convince you I'm right, maybe I'm wrong and I'll just have to change my stance on this issue."

    Calm and rational discourse focused on the facts doesn't always work, witness the past 8 months. Seems to work just fine in Canada, for the most part. Maybe if you forced us to use dangerous Union-manufactured small cars without guns, we'd think differently. gdrlh


    Forget scams. What about just better on the slightly wrong horse?

    When I bought my current house 28 years ago we had to get a new phone number. For a few years we'd get a call every now and then asking about service and/or warranty on their roof top solar water heating system. We got to tell them we had no idea where the company that sold them their system was. I suspect it went out of business and these people had a plumbing mess to deal with as things corroded and fell apart.

    Or people just don't get it.

    My father built us a new house in 67. It was a single story long dimension east/west with bedrooms at east end. He put in a split AC system with a single air handler. It was wired with 2 thermostats so the east end compressor would not run unless the west end compressor was running. The thought process being that in the mornings in the summer there was likely enough cold air at the west end of the house to deal with most of the cooling needs of the east end in the mornings. And in the afternoon and early evening when no one was in the east end that end would not need to be cooled as often as the west end. And he was right. Our cooling bills were much less than many similar houses.

    Drove by the house on a recent visit to the area and there was a single compressor. I'm sure some HVAC contractor told the current owner that the system was a mess and they'd be better off with a "regular" system.

    In my computer consulting work I'm continually amazed at how people ignore my advice to save a few $$ buying junk AV and such. I'm sure the same thing will happen if de-carbonization takes off. Save a few $$ up front so you can spend more on operations and replace it sooner. And get lousy results for the money spent.


    We don't have a place to put the bikes unless you start condemming some homes or businesses. The riots over taking away 5' to 15' for some of the right-a-ways will leave enough blood on the floor. Maybe in 10 to 20 years.


    The old ways be best.

    If something costs more than most people earn in a year and you can convince them that it is vital* to their future then you get them to take out a loan.

    It's essential work, and you can't jeapordise it by having people default so a bit of extra legislation to ensure that little things like bankruptcy and death don't get in the way of repayment would be necessary.

    It has the advantages that there is no need for expensive R&D, existing oligarchs automatically get their cut and people would think they were really making a difference as they signed their futures away. Beautiful!

    No good ideas about how to counter it though. How are student loans working out these days?

    *Severe sanctions up to and including prison time for excessive personal CO2 use perhaps.


    fubar007 wondered: "do we yet have the technology--even if just in theoretical form--to remove carbon from the atmosphere as fast or faster than we put it in?"

    Of course. All we'd need to do is attach a carbon-capture device to every single source of emissions, including both human sources (cars, power plants) and natural sources (e.g., lakes and peat bogs). In practice, you can see the problem.

    "fubar007": "If not, what would doing that take?"

    Carbon capture and sequestration (basically capturing the carbon and pumping it into the ground) is the current messianic savior that's been proposed. There are endless problems with this suggestion, starting with the fact that it's only practical to implement such a thing at the scale of individual power plants, not (say) individual vehicles and homes, and concluding with the fact that like fracking, there's no evidence (only theory and, I believe, a small scale early-stages trial) that the carbon would remain stably imprisoned below the ground. I suspect we'll see the same things we see with fracking: large and dangerous releases of trapped carbon ("burps") and earthquakes as the pressure from the compressed gases triggers shifts of large bodies of rock, leading to earthquakes as the rock seeks a new equilibrium position.

    Growing more plants is a proven solution that would help with uptake, but it's not a complete solution. Specifically, plants take up carbon slower than cars and power plants release it, so you need a shitload (the scientific term) of plants. In addition, plants have a maximum uptake potential defined by their genes (compare a cabbage with a redwood tree). Once you reach that maximum, uptake may reach equilibrium and not increase.

    To solve the carbon problem, we need to simultaneously take aggressive measures to reduce carbon emission, and look for proven and safe measures to increase carbon uptake. In short, we need to bring the release rate below the uptake rate.

    Sadly, there aren't any easy solutions when a problem such as this one is being caused by several billion people who have been ignoring the problem for decades.


    Calm and rational discourse focused on the facts doesn't always work, witness the past 8 months. Seems to work just fine in Canada,

    Canada in the early 80s seemed to be a bit contentious over lots of topics. English/French. Miles/KM. MM/DD/YY or YY/MM/DD. I was the lead developer for some software in the US and the people in western Canada were pissed (seriously so) that we would not sell them the US version as they had no use for the version that met Canadian laws.

    They got through it, as best I could tell, due to a national system of government that allowed Ottawa to dictate way more than Washington in the US system. And now that that generation has aged out opposition has mostly died down.


    The first patent on artificial photosynthesis (CO2 + H2O -> sugar without using any plants) was issued in 1968. There's also patents out there on electrochemical reduction (which you would obviously run off solar/wind/nuclear etc in order to be carbon-negative), photochemical , and then photoelectrochemical (which is that your electrode for the chemical reaction is also a photo electrode so you don't need any external power source beyond sunlight). Since there is no intelligent life in most businesses and legislatures, there's not enough research going on in any of these areas in order to actually put these into large-scale practice.


    David L noted: "Canada in the early 80s seemed to be a bit contentious over lots of topics."

    I was being, at least in part, tongue in cheek, about the stereotypical Canadian politeness. My bad for not making that clear. I usually remember to add Fe tags, and plead sleep dep.

    Yes, we have had numerous instances of really bad behavior (e.g., the national energy policy, a couple sovereignty referendums, residential schools). And we don't always get along amicably; if you want to see the stereotype destroyed, you should watch my oldest friend (far right) and me (near left) debate politics. It ain't pretty. G We are, after all, human.

    David: "They got through it, as best I could tell, due to a national system of government that allowed Ottawa to dictate way more than Washington in the US system."

    Yes and no. It's more complex than that because like the U.S., we have constitutional divisions of responsibility and authority between the national government and the provinces, and just like in the U.S., they're a mess of overlaps and contradictions. We muddle through somehow.


    I agree about fracking. The big problem that leads to the notion that "all wells leak" is that cement shrinks as it hardens. If you pour in cement to seal a hole, it's tricky to get it to not leave little gaps where gases of small molecular size (CH4, CO2) can't escape.

    That said, there's an equally big push to get carbon back in the soil, where it can, theoretically, last a bit longer, if you bury it in a form that's resistant to decomposition. Since I don't want to get Charlie in legal trouble, I won't go into detail on the whole power politics play that CalRecycle started a few years ago when they (as a political power move) got the state to mandate that in a relatively few years, all greenwaste would be composted and put into the ground somewhere. They're now cognizant of the fact that a third of California counties are under state quarantine for pests and pathogens that spread through greenwaste*, but it's not clear that they have any better set of solutions than denying the problem exists (which was their old tactic). At least they now realize that if they keep bombing ahead as they have, they might inadvertently nuke California's agricultural sector, and that would be Bad For Their Efforts.

    (California's Department of Agriculture runs the quarantines and licenses disposal of agricultural greenwaste. It's a small organization that has nothing to do with CalRecycle, and CalRecycle didn't bother to talk with them before they started pushing 100% composting).


    now that that generation has aged out opposition has mostly died down

    Not quite. They got control of the country for a decade (Harper et al) and moved us a good distance to the right.

    Western Alienation is still a thing in Alberta. I've just finished a holiday there, and I had people bending my ear about what a horrible monster Pierre Trudeau was and how he ruined the country and how it's about time that the West had a chance to run the country.

    (For foreigners: Trudeau was Prime Minister from 1968-1984. (With a short break in Opposition.) So he hasn't been in politics for longer than many of the people reviling his name have been alive.)

    TLDR: Canadian politics also has its crazy elements.


    I'm not sure it would be a scam, but one could sell seedballs with a mix of seeds all over california to baja california, with a focus on low-maintenance shrubs. the idea beeing that developers, after building their pipline or whatnot, will plaster the ground with these seedballs and alk away, and something will survive.


    Another possible scam: Landscaping firms to do the remdedial measures after a project will need a specific certification, and there are many ways that con go wrong and still make someone (the certifying body) rich.

    So it turns basically into a struggle of what this certification exactly says, ho it is gained, enforced, etc.


    Pumped hydro. It might not be a scam, but it has the germ of a scam inside it.


    That one happens in real life. The one time I tried to grow out a seedball that purportedly had native seeds, the only thing that grew out of it were weeds.

    The nasty thing here is that "wildflower" on seed packets has no meaning, so if you buy a package of "wildflower seeds," (or get one sent to you by a certain large environmental group as a promo), you'll get basically annual plants that grow robustly and are very difficult to get rid of. Unfortunately, in my current house, the previous owner evidently decided to spread a lot of what I think is something like "wildflower mix #1," and it's an effing nuisance to weed all the pests out.

    In any case, if someone's going to make seed balls, I always tell them to roll their own, using seeds where they know and trust the source.


    Frank noted: "there's an equally big push to get carbon back in the soil, where it can, theoretically, last a bit longer, if you bury it in a form that's resistant to decomposition".

    Soils can definitely sequester enormous amounts of carbon, particularly in degraded land. Unfortunately, there's a maximum equilibrium level that can exist under a given set of climate conditions. At some point, the outputs from soil respiration (CO2 release) or methane generation increase to levels that balance the inputs, and you end up with no net change. It's a tricky problem.

    Since you started this blog entry with a question about scams, here's one for you: Burial of organic and other wastes (e.g., nuclear, industrial) in deep-ocean subduction zones. In principle, it might work, though I suspect there are some issues to be identified and resolved to ensure that the wastes aren't convected back up to the surface. In practice, I suspect this is likely to lead to open-ocean dumping of wastes with no attempt to get the wastes down into the actual subduction zone.


    Hmmm. And how long does something sit in a trench before it gets so buried that it's no longer dangerous? And how do you monitor it? And what's down there anyway, and should we care if it continues to exist undisturbed? Oh, and are these canyons subject to any strong currents, or are they still? Always with the annoying questions.


    Hate to wad my own page, but perhaps Tesla's solar roof tiles are a bad idea.


    I'd say consumer response is a perfectly appropriate way to deal with this one if it's a real problem, but it might tarnish the image of a certain irrepressible billionaire


    I see a lot of poor people who already have a low carbon footprint. They share apartments, ride bikes or the bus to work, and can't afford to eat a high-meat diet. The next thing that would help is having enough used hybrid cars so that low-income workers can trade in their dirty junkers for better junkers. It will happen.

    It's more expensive to decarbonize middle class families because they have more stuff and it has to be nice stuff.


    Pet food 'designed' to reduce the carbon footprint of your cat or dog. (Maybe greenwasher pet food is already a thing — not having a pet I haven't shopped for pet food in decades.)

    Carefully phrased advertising and packaging would make this perfectly legal.

    About the only way around the scam I can see are the usual informed consumer tricks. Which means that it will probably work. :-/


    I'll probably leave this topic after this post. I don't want to derail Frank's discussion too much.

    The thing with your approach is that it doesn't work. It's the same tactic the GOP has used successfully over the past 8 years.

    Those questions are softball questions because they're not meant to educate. A good portion of the people in that room know very little outside their specialization. You'd have people who:

  • don't know newton's 3 laws
  • think William Shakespeare lived in Jamestown,
  • think there's no carbon dioxide in the atmosphere because there aren't any bubbles like in their soda drinks,
  • believe climate change is a hoax because climate models don't take into account underwater currents in the Mariana Trench.
  • I've heard all of that from actual people (thankfully not the same person). Don't get me wrong, these people are pretty knowledgeable about their work and hobby. That's it.

    However you answer these questions, they don't have the knowledge to evaluate the validity of my claim or your response. What they do instead is choose one side based on who they think is on their side. Afterwards, the other person becomes a liar and a charlatan unless proven otherwise.

    That's how the GOP is so successful. They ask the questions in such a way that they become the trusted party in the conversation, whether or not they're telling the truth. Remember, the audience doesn't have the skill to understand the logical coherence of the question or the response.

    For 1: Your statement is true, but most people don't have the knowledge to realize it's true. However, they are afraid that their kids will die in a car accident, so they're not taking chances.

    For 2: They trust the NRA (who mastered this technique down to an art). By asking this softball question, I've associated large cars with the NRA. Now, if you had removed that sentence about crime, your response would have been perfect. The moment you bring up crime, they think "Is he talking about what the law says is a crime, or what liberals say is a crime?" (many take the belief that liberals are trying to criminalize conservative culture as a given). So they'll go against you automatically unless you can prove yourself trustworthy.

    For 3: Your first answer is perfect. The second answer veers way to close to what they view is "disrespect for their ancestors".


    In retrospect, I'll rephrase 1 to include the hidden assumptions.

    "All things being equal, a person in a larger car will sustain fewer injuries in a crash with a car that is smaller than theirs. An increase in fuel efficiency results in a decrease in the size of the largest cars on the market. Thus, instituting a law which would essentially mandate that I buy a car smaller than my current car puts my family in what I think is an unacceptable risk. Why do you want to force my family to take such risks?"

    Note that the question is based on faulty logic. Most people in Red states hear the first sentence from their parents. They hear the second from oil and car commercials. The third sentence logically follows from the first two.

    The fourth sentence is "Why are you trying to kill my kid in an unsafe small car?"


    Why are you trying to kill my kid in an unsafe small car? Well, in the case of the standard "Smart" I would agree with you ... those things are inherently dangerous, even without worrying about collsions. It's the very short wheelbase, tha mkaes them fore-&-aft unstablle & they roll alarmingly on corners ....


    The general comment I hear is that build quality first, followed by safety features second are the major factors in vehicle safety in crash situations. I don't think size is even third (or if it is a factor it isn't the one you might expect).

    Larger size can be a liability in many, possibly the majority of crash situations, simply because there is more KE to disperse. To a limited extent an especially small size may constrain important safety features like crumple zones. But empirically a BMW 3 series can remain largely intact in events that leave a Ford Territory all over the embankment in thousands of pieces.


    Um My 1996 L-R masses over 2 tonnes & is very brick-shaped & has no air-bags. It's reckoned to be the second safest car to be in, on the road - & it's only second, because some people do take them to places where there isn't any "road" & then ..... So: Build Quality - yes Safety Features - what they? [ Except: high driving position - enables one to see hazards long before other people, permanent 4-wheel-drive giving amazing roadholding for such a vast beast, and even allowing for that, very good traction. ]


    Well roll protection counts as a safety feature as does side intrusion prevention. Both of those would be designed in with your LR, which is sort of what I was getting at. The high KE, however, is negative rather than positive, contrary to intuition or "common sense".


    They share apartments, ride bikes or the bus to work, and can't afford to eat a high-meat diet.

    Except for the 'can't afford" part, that's been me for the last 25 years. For the reasons you point out. Admittedly a lot of the time it's been houses, because where I've lived houses have been less awful to rent than apartments. But right now we have six adults living in a "three bedroom" house, two sharing one room, one in half the living room (I built a wall) and me sleeping in the only properly insulated room... in the back yard. We have chickens which means our compost often dies from lack of input, but we make up for that with a composting toilet. According to the electricity company we use about 1.5 people's worth of that, and nearly two people's worth of water. We don't use gas, and we don't yet have solar hot water (this is Australia, solar heating just makes sense).

    I don't know how to get other people to make these changes, because I kinda grew into them by being guided by basic ethics and doing the cheaper option when I had a choice. Viz, "saving up to buy a car" has so far taken 30 years and I still haven't found myself with so much spare money that buying a money pit seems like a good idea. It's much cheaper to live near where I work (within cycling distance, about 20km tops. I could do 25-30km with electric assist now that those work properly).

    Also, I have no idea how to discuss my personal choices without having the subtext "you are a stupid, selfish arsehole" come through loud and clear. Most of the answers to "why do you do X, normal people do Y" amount to "X is the non-ecocidal, non-murderous choice". The only thing more dangerous to a resident of the USA than a gun, is a car. So, I don't drive because, um, gee, how do I put this politely... I think killing people is bad, so I choose to avoid it? What do you do?


    It's hard to find detail of Land Rover safety but some information is findable like" "The aged design of the Land Rover Defender means the mechanicals are simple but safety is poor Land Rover as a brand doesn’t exactly have the best record for reliability, but the Defender’s basic and solid construction, paired with a very old design, means that most reliability issues should have been sorted out years ago. Its crash protection won’t fill anyone with confidence, though."


    The biggest incentive for manufacturers in the US to make big trucks is actually the corporate average fuel economy regulations which are intended to force increases in gas mileage. How a vehicle is rated for those rules depends in large part on the size of its wheelbase. That means small pickups are rated much more harshly for having low MPG than large trucks are. A Ford Ranger that gets 22 mpg hurts Ford's CAFE ratings worse than an F250 that gets 12 mpg because the Ranger is rated against the Accord or whatever. But Ford makes a lot more on an F250 than on a Ranger. Hence, the Ranger is no longer built.

    No scam, just a good example of bad design and a symptom of lobbying - it's not by accident big trucks get preferential treatment.


    Something to bear in mind, if your vehicle doesn't crumple in a collision, the occupants are exposed to larger accelerations, leading to more severe injuries.


    Well, the other part of that is that SUVs were (are?) covered as trucks under the CAFE standards, which is one reason why they were so popular.

    Now you might believe the manufacturers that they were responding to market demand. However, back in the late 1990s, plans leaked that they were planning on releasing the largest sized SUVs in 2002 (that would be the Expedition and its ilk). Originally the thought was that the SUV craze would go away after that, but with the Bush II White House, it got extended another eight years. As far as I can tell, SUV demand was marketing-driven, not need-based.

    So yes, lobbying and marketing play a role. As does internal politics. A good example of the latter appears to be Chevy's non-marketing of their Bolt. They're already selling the darned things (in July the local dealer had eight on his lot, right by the front door), but unlike Tesla, they're not marketing them at all. Indeed, they've got a whole stable of small cars that I'd never heard about, but I'm inundated with commercials for their stupid big trucks every time I turn on network TV.

    Back in the early 1990s, when I was an ecology grad student, I liked SUVs, because that meant a bunch of us could get in a 4-wheel drive vehicle and drive up a forest service road for field exercises or just to hike. That was their job: hauling people off-road, just as big trucks hauled stuff off-road. So many of the later SUVs would break an axle going off-road that it wasn't even funny. They were, at best, poser cars, marketed to make money without actually functioning as they conceptually were designed to do.


    I think that the cost of going carbon-free is less than $100K for a family. It may be $100K for a middle-class family that can afford it. But there are cheaper options.

    At this point a used crummy EV such as a MiEV is about the cheapest car you can get. It doesn't have a lot of range and it looks funny, but it's cheap to buy, the electricity cost is less than gas, and the maintenance cost is close to zero. It's a great option for people with limited budgets who just need a reliable, inexpensive car for commuting and shopping.

    Although I love my EV and am never going back to a putt-putt, I am fine with anyone who buys a hybrid. Maybe if I were a Puritan I'd feel that there is no virtue without suffering, but I'll go with the results. Driving a hybrid requires no sacrifices, and it cuts your fuel consumption by 50% which makes a huge difference.

    I recently got a notification that my home is being switched over to a carbon-free electricity supply. The local municipalities got together and just did it. I could opt out if I really would prefer dirty energy, or I could pay more to get on a 100% renewable plan. I am fine with nuclear power so I am going with the default. I hope more municipalities do this because it is a cheap and easy way to accelerate the transition to carbon-free. It is especially good for people who don't own their homes or don't have the money to invest in a solar setup.


    I gather your response is roughly 'Mass Transit won't work with my current lifestyle, therefore it won't work'. A pretty standard response from people who want to have their cake etc.

    Mass transit it a fantastic solution to most transportation challenges. It is not perfect, but it makes a big difference. There are many locations where it is impractical - my parents were sheep farmers, and there will never be a mass transit system between farms in rural Alberta (where the nearest town was 50km away).

    But most people now live in cities, and that trend continues to grow. In those cases, and many smaller locations as well, mass transit is a highly effective system for moving people.


    Red States are also slowly depopulating as their economies collapse. Several of the 'red states' are limping along largely based on military expenditure/ porkbarreling (i.e. transfer of money from blue states).

    Northern Canada is a difficult place to set up solar panels, and it will never work there. But there are also less than half a million people actually living there (in an area larger than western Europe). So a solution that doesn't work there is less of an issue than where it does work.

    There is a fair amount of political psychology research that suggests political views change when people move. So whatever the background, a red state pickup truck gun monkey who moves to Seattle is likely to moderate her views. And her kids are likely to adopt local politics (YMMV).

    So writing off solutions because 'extreme example' won't accept it is not really a viable approach.


    I grew up in Alberta, right in the very heart of oil country, and there was an intense but bizarre cognitive dissonance there the entire time.

    In the 70s and early 80s, during the OPEC embargo, the province was utterly awash with cash. All of my friends parents were buying boats, lake cabins, big vehicles and all the other crap people buy. My parents, being schoolteachers at the time, were relatively poor.

    In 1984 the Saudis turned on the taps again, the bottom fell out of the price of oil, and all my friends' dads were unemployed. Half of them went bankrupt, lost their homes and moved away.

    Of course they blamed Pierre Trudeau for the production policies of Saudi Arabia and Venezuela etc. Against all reasoning, of course.

    Now they have the son of Trudeau as Prime Minister, and a glut in the global oil market. So of course they drag up old grudges. Surely it couldn't be their own fault for becoming so horribly dependent on one volatile commodity?


    Northern Canada is a difficult place to set up solar panels, and it will never work there.

    The Dene hamlet of about 150 people north of Great Bear Lake made history last year by becoming the first in the North to replace its near-derelict diesel generator — a common problem in the region — with a combination of diesel, batteries and a solar array capable of generating 160 kilowatts.

    The idea was to use diesel as a backup and during the winter, and turn to the sun for everything else.

    Twelve months later, that’s about how it’s worked out, Myra Berrube of Northwest Territories Power Corporation said.

    It seems to be possible, for half the year :-)


    I recently got a notification that my home is being switched over to a carbon-free electricity supply. The local municipalities got together and just did it. UH? YOU WHAT? Could we have that agin, in comprehensible language, please? I mean, the words are all obvious English, but that actual sentance is meaningless to me .... which country are you speaking from - & its obviously not a European one ... ?


    "Great Bear Lake" - it says 66N in Wiki now that is a long way up! ( Edinburgh is 56N, London 51.30N )


    Rocketpjs noted: "a red state pickup truck gun monkey who moves to Seattle is likely to moderate her views"

    Now I'm imagining a soccer mom in a Chrysler minivan with a gun rack and a "you can pry my gun from my cold, wet hands" umbrella. GDR



    I used to work in Edmonton, which is 53°N. Toronto is 44°N, and I still sometimes miss the long summer nights. (Not so much the short winter days! I remember days when I had a lunchtime meeting and never saw the sun at all.)


    Most of the demand is in the winter, and the sunlight is weak except in actual summer, which effectively multiplies the ecological cost of the panels and control gear by a single digit factor. Carbon dioxide isn't the only problem but, even considering just that, the same thing applies to the carbon footprint of the equipment.


    Haven't read all of the comments yet but wanted to get this down early.

    HOAs can completely stop or screw up any consumer level eco-movement in its tracks. And they're rife in the US. Basically the HOAs are a US construct allowing a bunch of people (usu. the developer and friends who may not even live in the area) to establish themselves as the autocrats/rule-makers of that neighborhood and everyone else is forced to abide by their whims which often includes a sizeable monthly 'fee'.

    John Oliver covered this as part of his 'Special Districts' piece:

    My take-away:

    HOAs are a cash-trap representing an estimated $100USD billion/year which is more than the total amount of revenue formal municipal govt budgets have to work with and they're answerable to no one. (Plus, they seem to be untaxable ... so a pretty good contender for "SCAM!!!")


    Re: '...people in western Canada were pissed ...'

    First off - this phrase usually is used when speaking about Albertans. Folks in BC are quite different - very chill and urbanized.

    And for those who aren't familiar with Canadian politics, this is pretty well the default identifying phrase for that neck of the Canadian woods. Key reason for this is that Alberta has been the most right-wing part of Canada for about 80 years or so, and every time a Liberal becomes PM, they get pissed. And although international news is more likely to mention Quebec as the most sovereigntist Canadian province, it's Alberta that's openly fantasized about leaving confederation and joining the Union (US).

    For fairness in reporting/harangue, please note that Edmonton is an exception: it's the left-leaning major city in that province.


    Modulo not knowing how electricity supply works wherever voidampersand lives, it does sound reminiscent of a scam that we do have here - enabled by the idiotic privatisation that landed us with swarms of parasitic so-called "suppliers" that don't actually supply anything except bills, don't have any power stations, don't have their own grid, but just sit in the middle between the consumers and the real suppliers, raking off money for doing nothing but being there. A bit like TOCs only worse (at least TOCs do do some of the job themselves, even if it is all using other people's stuff).

    Some of this lot run a "greenness scam" by claiming to supply you with eco-friendly electricity. Complete rubbish of course since there is only one grid and everyone gets their juice from the same mix of sources; what are we supposed to think they do, use an army of Maxwellian demons to steer the electrons so certain people only get ones that have come from a solar panel or something? (Which wouldn't work, of course, but as Asimov said, one of the great advantages of talking nonsense is that adding more nonsense on top doesn't make any real difference.)


    For starters, you recruit locals and they show up in their electric pickup trucks, (complete with gun racks) and show off the solar-powered charging stations behind their barns.


    You're both right and wrong on the $100k cost.

    You're absolutely right that old EVs are cheap. The problem is that replacing the battery is expensive. It's going to be even worse with the long-range EVs, since basically they're batteries with a car built around them. Presumably you could replace the batteries in a Bolt, but you've got to disassemble the car to do it. Again, this gets at the problem of energy density: the less energy dense the battery is, the more you need of it to store power. If a battery had the energy density of gasoline, you could simply replace a car's gas tank with it (and the motor, and all sorts of other stuff). We're not there yet for production batteries, and I don't know if we'll ever get there, but if we do, that's when EVs take over, because replacing the battery, while expensive, will be no more difficult than replacing a gas tank.


    "...They were, at best, poser cars..."

    Over here, we call those "Chelsea tractors". Highly conspicuous on the rare occasions when one does venture out of its natural environment and turns up somewhere like the Lake District - proceed down the exact centre of the road at a terrified crawl in case the stones of the wall jump out and scratch them, and absolutely will not try and pull on to the verge when something comes the other way in case proximity to grass prevents the wheels from working. Worse for this sort of thing than American tourists (driving normal cars, hired) who at least have the excuse of culture shock.


    How about small, suburban tree farms set up someplace like the vacant lot next door to my house. We'll raise fast-growing hardwood like Eucalyptus to sequester carbon, then we'll employ modern CNC manufacturing techniques use the wood as a replacement for plastic and cardboard - we already have a contract to supply dashboards to Chrysler - and we'll sell the sawdust for compost!

    Buy your franchise now!


    Re: Eucalyptus

    Pray for rain and make sure you've up to date on your fire insurance.

    “Blue gum eucalyptus is one of the most fire-intensive plants,” says Klatt. Trees not only put a lot of fuel on the ground as they shed bark, leaves and twigs, but in intense fires, volatile compounds in foliage cause explosive burning. “Once bark catches fire, it gets blown ahead of the flame front and drops burning embers by the tens of thousands per acre in the urban community.”

    Better scheme might be to sell compacted eucalyptus sawdust as an emergency energy source/fire starter.


    Once again, Elon Musk gets it. A Tesla's battary can be changed in 90 seconds, like this.


    Can you think of a better tree than Eucalyptus? Oak takes forever to get big enough to harvest.


    Call this particular scheme urban forestry and you're there. Your choice of tree may be limited, at least in southern California, where a bunch of formerly popular eucalyptus are no longer carried in the nursery trade. If you're in a place with enough water, I'd suggest a nice, big, running timber bamboo, like Phyllostachys edulis. It's much more useful than eucalyptus.


    Easily solved, and you get to solve the charging problem at the same time, by simply not building the car by starting with the battery and putting everything else around it. Instead, use the same model as gas-powered forklifts - you don't refuel them as such, you just take off the gas bottle and stick a new one on. For electric cars, you define an international standard for battery size and connections (much like hard disks) and when it runs out you go to the equivalent of a petrol station and swap it for a fully charged one. (You define the size such that you can just use more of them for a larger vehicle, and don't need bigger ones until you're talking about actual lorries etc.)

    The usual arguments against this tend to boil down to the standard fallacy of confusing a specific convention (regardless of obvious crappiness or unsuitability) with a divine pronouncement mandating that no other possibilities can even be considered and current conventions will remain the only solution allowed from now until the end of time. This, of course, I reject. The less common arguments based on structural considerations I also reject because they fail to distinguish between the battery itself and the structure that supports it; the battery itself is not and cannot be a structural component, and making the support structure in such a way that its contents can easily be removed is not a difficult problem.


    My family is already using all-electric home heating (we're in Southern California, so cheap space-heaters make sense during winter,) and our next clothes-dryer, which we should buy sometime this autumn, will be electric too. At that point our only gas-driven item will be the oven, and we can't replace it with an electric oven because the circuit won't handle it. (We live in rental housing.)

    So our home de-carbonization strategy is under a thousand, plus around $300/year to run the space heaters.

    I also bought a Prius as my work vehicle. It gets twice the gas-mileage as my '93 Camry wagon and even with the loan costs me half-as-much every year to run. By this time next year it will have paid back the down-payment and I expect it to totally pay for itself (relative to the Camry wagon) in about 4-5 years.


    Exactly. Then you drive into the "gas station" and hand someone the keys. They drive a forklift-like vehicle up to your car, haul out the old battery and put in the new battery. Then you drive away.

    Also, battery-replacement at a gas station means that oil companies don't have to go out of business, which means they can stop fighting electric cars - they're in the battery business now.


    The fun part of this is that, if you're assuming that the battery has the energy density of gasoline (e.g. 15 gallons takes you 300-400 miles), then you've still got to plug in and out a battery that's about 100 pounds (gas is 6.3 pounds per gallon). It's a doable chore, but still a chore. And it will be guaranteed employment for diligent types with some muscles and a love of highly repetitive lifting of weights stuck in at low levels (or you could be enlightened, and spring for some equipment to help them lift and carry it).

    The other fun problem is that you've got to get the power into the charging station. The Bolt's pushing 4 miles/kWh, so if we're talking car replacers, we're talking 100 lb batteries with 75-100 kWh in them. And you're going to need hundreds of these things, and if you're going to charge at current maximum Tesla speeds (120 kW), pretty soon you're going to need your own substation to charge the cars. Hopefully it will be powered by acres of solar panels on the roofs around you, with everyone selling you their surplus power, but then you're in a business relationship where a neighborhood (possibly a neighborhood HOA) is your power supplier. And your major customer. And if you're really (un)lucky, your power supply chain goes from roof to HOA to grid utility to you.

    That is, until the car owners blow $500 and buy chargers to run off their own roofs and batteries. Then you're stuck renting batteries to those who can't afford their own solar systems.

    So yeah, it's doable. Also interesting, in a political economic sense.


    One point about the batteries that people tend to forget: you need to do a complete life-cycle analysis and use the results to improve the battery design.

    Because the materials in modern batteries are more expensive than those in the old lead-acid batteries, the obvious solution is to design them for ease of recycling. That way, when the batteries reach their end of life, the key materials (i.e., the rare-ish and nonrenewable ones) can be extracted and used to build the next generation of batteries.

    What we want to avoid is the problems we used to have with lead-acid batteries, in which the batteries tended to be just tossed away until the environmental costs became clear and mandatory cycling was imposed. My understanding is that lead is now nearly a closed-cycle metal (that is, nearly all of it is recovered in most developed nations). That goal should be defined ab initio for more modern batteries, and used to ensure that the batteries are easily recyclable.


    To a good first approximation, all trees lay down wood at the same rate - the main difference between the 'fast' and 'slow' ones is that the latter are denser.


    I guess your reply crossed with Troutwaxer's... which is just the sort of thing I was thinking of. Only I was thinking of UK conditions where all petrol stations are self-service, so my battery-changing vehicle was more like a pallet truck than a forklift. (Can still be powered, so it doesn't require strength to use it.) Probably cheaper than the petrol pump it replaces, too - at a minimum it doesn't require all the certification of accuracy stuff.

    The matter of supplying charging juice is if anything simplified, because there's no longer any need to charge them fast. Instead of having lots of intermittent, rapidly-changing, heavy loads spread around all over the place, you have a single load which, though heavy, is pretty constant (ideal match for nuclear power) and is all in the one place. So instead of having to provide massively increased capacity all over entire neighbourhoods, you just run one big cable to the charging station and the rest of the distribution network is not needed.


    Quite. They may no longer have enough go in them to run a starter motor; it is true that they're not designed for that kind of duty; but it doesn't matter, since they're essentially free and you can pile up as many of them as you need for the capacity you're after. And when they're finally knackered they can still go on to be recycled anyway; all you've done is extend the lifetime and got some extra use out of them. Same principle as moving worn rails from main lines to sidings, etc.


    I followed that wiki-link One word: Feudalism


    I was less than clear in my post. I was referring to the old batteries from electric cars. These are apparently ideal for storing energy from solar panels when they are no longer good enough for cars.


    Yes, I understand how electricity works. My comment was about how infrastructure financing works. Instead of me paying the power company for whatever generation they feel like using, my local city governments have inserted themselves into the process, and they will pay only for carbon-free energy supplies. Of course, when the paperwork was signed, nothing changed right away. But that's not the point. Now anyone who wants to provide carbon-free energy has a larger guaranteed market and cheaper financing. And anyone who wants to build a natural gas peaker plant will have a smaller market. The area covered by this scheme has a couple of million people living in it, and a lot of the businesses also have a strong desire to be green, so we have some real purchasing power.


    I think you meant my comment about cheap EVs, not SFReader's comment about HOAs (which I really do not need to get into).

    I remember concerned comments about battery life when car manufacturers started making hybrids. It turned out to not be that big an issue. I've had an EV for five years now and the battery performance has not degraded in the least. Battery management technology is very good now, and it is only getting better. Maybe if you get a Model S and drive it in Ludicrous Mode all the time, you can cook your battery like it was hot buttered popcorn, but that's a lifestyle choice, not a technology problem.

    ICE cars have lots more parts that can fail, and unless you have a car from one of the few truly high-reliability manufacturers, things start failing after three years of use and it gets worse over time. I will happily trade that for a car where the only major component that can wear out, besides brakes and tires, is a battery that lasts at least five-ten years. For a poor person who can afford only a crappy car, a crappy EV is way nicer and has a lower cost of ownership than a crappy ICE car.

    I think a carbon-free future is a lot closer and more cost-effective than the $100K number you mentioned. The big problem, of course, is that would involve helping poor people to have better lives. Scams for the rich are much more politically attractive.


    I wouldn't live in an HOA.


    Yeah Greg talking up the LR reminds me of an incident James Herriot relates in one of his series, driving an elderly (so at the time probably late 30s) vehicle (a Wolseley?) into a stone wall at speed, then righting it and riving it away. Even when he was writing there was enough awareness of crumple zones that he mused on the way this wouldn't happen with a modern car and how he thought he was lucky not to be seriously injured or killed.

    And Greg's "It's reckoned to be" statement is certainly very testable (cough). I don't seem to be making any headway with the "more inertia does not mean more safety, actually the opposite is true" argument though. Guess it's the truthiness that is the issue.



    But Greg calling it Feudalism ignores the point that most (all?) people join them voluntarily. It's a part of the deed to your house. In every state in the US where I've dealt with or discussed them you have to sign a single page disclosure stating you've read the terms and agree abide by them.

    For those who don't know about HOAs they are typically come from a development of homes done by a single developer and contain rules for what you can and cannot do to the parts of your home that are visible to and impact your neighbors. The homeowners are all members and get to elect a council which administers things. Until the development gets finished these councils can be and typically are controlled by the developer which can lead to some arguments.

    I know people who live in them and like them. I know people like me who really have no interest in being a part of one. The people who claim it isn't fair to have the HOA restrictions placed on them didn't read the papers they signed making what is typically the biggest purchase of their lives.I have little sympathy for their position.


    I gather your response is roughly 'Mass Transit won't work with my current lifestyle, therefore it won't work'. A pretty standard response from people who want to have their cake etc.

    A lot of inference wrapped up in that statement. I like mass transit. I think it's great. But without massive, and I mean massive, (read as $$$$) reworking of existing housing in the US mass transit will not do much for many areas.

    In my area it while help a lot. And it's coming. But for my corner of the area it will not do much. If I could roll the clock back 30 years would I live where I live now? Maybe not. But I do and I deal with reality of those decisions made 30 years ago.


    the materials in modern batteries are more expensive than those in the old lead-acid batteries, the obvious solution is to design them for ease of recycling

    Amusingly I recently had an SLA battery die (100AH, ~25kg) and when I rang the battery shop they offered to dispose of it for me free of charge. When I rang the local scrap metal dealer I was pointed at a lead-acid battery recycler who offered me $1/kg if I took it in. They're not fussy about the various sorts of lead-acid batteries, although I suspect if you had one that used hydrofluoric acid they'd be unimpressed.

    The mechanical disassembly of LiIon batteries that I've seen suggests that the main trick is putting each cell in the correct state of charge before opening it up (I forget which). Or doing it in an inert atmosphere. It would be mildly inconvenient, but my expectation is that people are stockpiling those batteries waiting for the process to become viable. It's such an obvious thing to do, even just for safety reasons (putting them in landfill seems risky, although it might make the methane generating parts of the landfill more visible).


    when they're finally knackered they can still go on to be recycled anyway; all you've done is extend the lifetime

    Sadly the price of second hand, "ready to recycle" lead-acid batteries reflects that reality already, at least in Australia. There is an industry (the electric forklift industry) that has analysed this out the wazoo and remanufacture batteries at exactly the right point. So if you find one of their batteries for sale, it's either stolen or worth less than the recycleable materials it contains.

    On eBay you find privately owned ones, and those are very random. I can get a 20kWh traction battery in that condition for about $2000. If I'm lucky I'll be able to rescue the failed cell(s) and get 10kWh out of it, for at best a few hundred cycles (call it half a year of daily cycling) until it fails again. The problem is that once one cell goes the rest are often ready to fail too, so according to an expert I talked to it's 50/50 whether that happens to you. But that's a not-very-educated guess, coz the advice I got was actually "don't do it". Too much risk of putting the work in, buying the bits to make it go, and it failing. Then you're committed to finding a similar second-hand battery to replace it. Or junking the stuff you bought and starting again (or just use a cheap generic multi-voltage battery charger and hope it doesn't trash the battery).

    Or I can buy a brand new 10kWh one for about $10000. With a warranty. Or buy proper deep cycle wet cells for twice that, but rated for 5x the cycles.


    people who claim it isn't fair to have the HOA restrictions placed on them didn't read the papers they signed... I have little sympathy for their position.

    In a free and fair world I'd agree with you. But you're talking about real people facing difficult choices in a constrained situation where the rules are deliberately tilted against them. And I'm talking about the rich, white people here. The others we need not even bother to laugh at.

    HOA's at least have been largely prevented from specifying race limits, but relationship types are fair game, including the very common ban on extended families. They're not really a scam, though, they're just evidence of the puritan nature of the country. Like the song says "you're free to do what we tell you".

    House buying isn't a case of "work out what you want, make a list of factors, and shop until you find the best price for what you want". Unless your list is so loose as to be effectively non-existent (viz, does not include "meets code" or even "can be insured"). Most people have a budget, usually set by the bank they have mortgage pre-approval from, plus location restrictions set by their family, jobs, schooling and so on. Then they need a certain number of bedrooms, and so on. Often that amounts to a very limited selection of houses, especially if like 90% of buyers they're buying second hand. Their choice in each case amounts to "buy this one, or keep looking for a few more months".

    So when you say "they chose their choice", that's true. But it's only slightly more true than their choice of parents.


    When you need to develop a lot of infrastructure, sometimes what you need is a gigantic scam. For example, the Crédit Mobilier of America that built the transcontinental railroad. I remember talking to a guy who worked on building the Iridium satellite network and it was the same story. You don't have any customers until the infrastructure is built up, but you need a revenue stream to build it, so you form a construction company and sell shares. Once the infrastructure is built, there is not enough revenue to repay the investors, so you declare bankruptcy and sell the assets off for pennies on the dollar. The new owning company has a viable business model because they don't have to deal with the costs of building the infrastructure, just operating it. There is a big economic boom.


    Much the same as the way a lot of British minor railways got built - only it wasn't mostly a deliberate scam (which isn't to deny that we did have plenty of railway scams - we had a whole bubble of them), but more a case of not being able to finish the construction without repeatedly borrowing more money plus hopelessly optimistic expectations of traffic which were nowhere near fulfilled when it did finally get built. These lines did try and struggle on as long as possible but had to throw in the towel eventually. The effect was the same as you're describing, but the intentions were different.

    There was also a variant on the theme where it was out in the open from the word go that they were intending to get bought out as soon as they were built; often the nearest major railway would encourage them. Not a scam since everyone knew the score, but somehow it still worked.


    It was an Austin Seven and he was coming down Sutton Bank with no brakes. He'd been driving it about for weeks like that because Siegfried kept forgetting to fix it, relying entirely on engine braking and slamming it into reverse to effect a halt. Sutton Bank is one of those places where if you're within a few miles of the top and you need to go somewhere within a few miles of the bottom, any alternative route is many times further round, so you can't really avoid it. So down he went.

    It's also about 1 in 4 with some extremely sharp bends, and what I find amazing (apart from that he hadn't crashed it before) is that he got all the way down without going off the road. He'd made it all the way to the long level straight at the bottom and he would have been fine if the road hadn't been full of sheep; he drove into the wall on purpose as the only way to avoid the sheep.

    What saved him was that the Austin Seven has an extremely low bottom gear to enable its tiddly little engine to turn the wheels without too much effort, which conversely makes it a tremendous effort for the wheels to turn the engine. It has a great deal more engine braking than a modern car; a modern car coming down there with no brakes would probably be into the wall at the first bend and definitely at the second. Greg's LR is one of the few things which does have a low enough ratio available that it might get away with it.


    Oh well, the same applies, just the number of units is different :)

    (For some reason "amp" in URLs often means it's a video on the other end; that plus inarsability of de-mangling the URL to get the original Guardian version meant I didn't bother to click.)


    "Voluntarily" as in: "An offer you can't refuse" I assume?


    I would be in low-ratio box, anyway, coming down that one! See the map here Park Rash to Kettlewell is even more fun! Then there's Hard Knott Pass And, yes, I have driven over all of them.


    I find it amazing but not surprising that someone could identify and explain the sequence I half remembered from reading it over 30 years ago. I suppose that means I should read that series again one of these days.


    Hi there Charlie, I saw this article which reminded me of the Laundry's current problems in general and some of my favorite scenes from your Colder War in particular. Also reminded me of your constant complaints of real life stealing your plot points. ;)


    I'm surprised anyone is trying to repurpose used car batteries for home storage of electricity. They're not really designed for that and I can't see them doing a good job.

    The usual failure mode in a lead-acid car battery is for one of the cells in the unit construction housing to go "bad", usaully by the plates failing and deforming and either shorting out or going high-resistance. The result is that the failed cell wastes a lot of energy in charging and discharging as heat if the battery will charge at all. They are built down to a cost and meant to be replaced every few years or so, living a hard life in extremes of weather and in terms of vibration and shock when the vehicle is being driven plus the added high-current demand for starting. A defective cell means the entire battery has to be replaced.

    Lead-acid batteries for static storage and deep-cycling are usually sold as large-capacity single cells which can be swapped out more easily if and when they fail. They are kept in well-ventilated and temperature-controlled buildings with gas alarms etc. and the charge and discharge controllers are a lot smarter than the typical car alternator/generator system which is pretty dumb in comparison. These are a lot more expensive for the same capacity as a car battery though as the manufacturers don't have the benefit of the sort of large-scale continuous demand for their products as the automotive battery products do.

    By the way I do hope no-one is thinking of installing a rack of lead-acid batteries in their own home given the dangers of hydrogen gas evolution during charging...


    Re: bamboo

    Really like bamboo as a possible quick green fix for some areas. It's also very versatile and naturally fire-resistant. On the con side however, most bamboo is as invasive as kudzu so not a good plant unless harvesting is on-going. And, it's also much more susceptible to decay, rot, mold, insect infestation, etc.

    Best scam potential: bamboo loses more size than other woods after drying.

    Shrinkage:Diameter: 10-16%, Wall Thickness: 15-17%

    Last year while looking up trees, shrubs etc. for re-energizing my garden, found the previously mentioned info on eucalyptus so decided to look more closely at various other potential plantings that would thrive and be safe. Best source of info was gov't agencies and universities. Recommend that anyone looking to re-/plant check that first for two reasons: 1-they're not trying to sell you stuff; and, 2-they'll also usually tell you why they're for/against various species.


    I read your question differently to other posters. I take it you're talking about 'direct air capture', and is it possible?

    Not at the source, but taking CO2 out of the air directly.

    My science isn't that great (I never even finished my science degree) but I'll take a handwavy stab at it.


    Ok, I'll elaborate a bit. There's a couple of ways of looking at it. One way is to say, it's very dilute, and so it's got a high entropy. Like having everything at the same temperature. If you want to reverse that, you have to put a lot of energy into the system to undo that entropy. If your energy comes from coal burning, you're going to spend as much or more (can someone help with entropy calculations here, I was bad when I studied them 30 years ago and now I'm hopeless)

    Another way of looking at is this. Say you have a few different compounds that bind with CO2. You expose the compounds to CO2 and then do something to them (usually heat them up) to break those bonds so you get pure CO2 out that you can store away. Now the more strongly the compound binds, the lower the percentage of CO2 in the air that it's able to pull down to. If you're working with flue gas, you don't need a compound that binds strongly at all. So you might pull the percentage down from say 18% down to 2% and you can pat yourself on the back for a good job of Carbon Capture. Trouble is with the air, that the percentage to start with is far far far less than 2%, it's 0.04% and unless you want to process the entire atmosphere several dozen times over, you need to pull it down to about 0.005%. You need to do that very quickly too. Can't bring air into close contact with this stuff for long periods, because there's a lot of air to get through. So you need something that binds to CO2 very very strongly indeed. But then you will need at least that energy, and more to break that bond. You can somewhat get around this by compressing the air first. So if you brought it to 1000 bar say, you could use the flue compound. However, even with energy recovery systems, compressing the entire atmosphere to 1000 bar would use a fair bit of energy.

    Then having broken the bond you end up with a hot gas. You need to cool it (easy) and then compress it to a near liquid (say 300 bar) so it can be pumped underground.

    Now check my maths, because I make mistakes all the time. 1000 kg of CO2 is released for each MWh of electricity. CO2 is 44 g/mol, so that's 23000 moles. Times 22.4 (number of litres of gas in a mole at STP) is 515,200 litres.

    A Bauer I 28.0-75 compressor compresses 3500 l/min to the required pressure. (that's a very big compressor btw). So it would take 147 minutes to compress that much CO2. It draws 72 kW while doing that, so it would draw 176 kWh (0.176 MWh). So about 18% of the energy that is made by burning coal would be used to compress the resulting CO2. Don't forget the energy needed to separate the CO2.

    Now one of the scams floating around is BECCS. Burn wood, make energy that you can sell, capture and store the CO2. Biomass isn't as good at making electricity as coal, so it emits about 150% of the CO2. So for any produced power, about 27% would go to just compressing the CO2. (again, don't forget the separation cost). That's assuming the wood gets to the boiler by magic of course.

    Ok, so I'm not an expert in CO2 scrubbing, but I've used Calcium Hydroxide to scrub CO2. I know it goes off if left in open air but it takes days, so it might not bind strongly enough for our purpose, but we'll calculate on that. I'm almost certainly making a mistake here and there, so corrections please...

    Now we worked out that a MWh of coal fired generation produces about 23000 moles of CO2. If absorbed by calcium hydroxide that will make 23000 moles of calcium carbonate. To turn it back to hydroxide, according to wikipedia, you heat it over 840C, and it absorbs 178 kJ/mol. So that's 9434000 kJ. To convert to MWh... Divide by 1000 to get 9434 MJ. Divide by 3600 to turn MJ (or millions of watt seconds) into MWh. Comes out to be 2.62 MWh.

    So to capture the CO2 produced by 1 MWh of generation, takes 2.62 MWh to separate from the air, plus another 0.176 MWh to compress it.

    Anyone see any issues with that? If not, and absent any magic energy production method, it seems we can place Direct air carbon capture and sequestration into the scam category.


    "I don't know if we'll ever get there, but if we do, that's when EVs take over, because replacing the battery, while expensive, will be no more difficult than replacing a gas tank"

    Used to be 90 seconds to replace the battery of a Tesla with a new one. It's blown out to a few minutes now since they put a huge skid plate on the bottom of them.


    "While much is too strange to be believed, nothing is too styrange to have happened" - Thomas Hardy

    He seems to have had several others that apply to the Laundry, too: Do not do an immoral thing for moral reasons. Some folk want their luck buttered A resolution to avoid an evil is seldom framed till the evil is so far advanced as to make avoidance impossible There is a condition worse than blindness, and that is, seeing something that isn't there


    gasdive decribed the problems with capturing and storing CO2 quite neatly.

    The TL;DR version: when you turn a solid into a gas, the gas molecules (here, CO2) don't want to stick around... they want to get as far from each other as possible. If you want to push them back together again, it's going to take a whackload of energy.

    I think that's one of the things that's been niggling at the back of my mind about carbon capture and storage proposals: the energy to capture and compress all the CO2 emitted by a power plant isn't trivial. Even if some of it can be obtained from waste heat, thermodynamics tells us there's no free lunch, and compressing the gas will take more energy than is available from waste heat alone. Depending on your source of power, you may end up increasing CO2 emission to generate enough energy to capture the CO2 you've created by previous combustion.

    So is CCS a scam that preys on the thermodynamically illiterate? That's probably a gross overstatement, but returning to the original subject of this thread, it seems likely to be a situation ripe for scamming.


    I think your initial assumptions are wrong Frank

    For one thing I can't figure out how you possibly got to 100k, you've got to be carrying the majority of the expenses in your EV

    For another the plan for each individual household to decarbinize by buying their own EV is only one way to do things and probably a bad way at that. It also ignores all the other changes that are happening in the transportation industry

    Alternate set of assumptions here (pretty rosy set of assumptions

    Disclaimer: I work for Lyft these days so I am biased


    people who claim it isn't fair to have the HOA restrictions placed on them didn't read the papers they signed... I have little sympathy for their position.

    In a free and fair world I'd agree with you. But you're talking about real people facing difficult choices in a constrained situation where the rules are deliberately tilted against them. And I'm talking about the rich, white people here.

    And Greg's "Voluntarily" as in: "An offer you can't refuse" I assume?

    I fairly certain Greg lives in the London area and I think Moz lives in Australia. I have no idea how those housing markets work except what little I've read on this blog.

    HOA's in the US are a part of Condos (think tower or apartment buildings), townhomes, and some single family housing. As to the first two, how else do you deal with owning physically attached property?

    For the single family home market there's no one holding a gun to anyone's head. As I type this I'm in the Dallas / Fort Worth area which seems to be home base for HOAs and yet there's a huge amount of housing stock which is not a part of any HOA. Well over half if I had to guess. And for the lower income searchers, virtually all of it without an HOA. And in other markets I've dealt with HOAs tend to be in developments where people want faux higher end houses. They all look like fraternal twins and the rules are there initially to keep them looking that way. I just say no. I have friends who like this and live in such. Each to his own.

    Sorry, but the people who buy a home with an HOA and then get upset are just whining like the people who eat candy all day and then complain about bad teeth.

    And I will admit to ignorance about the markets in places like Manhattan. But I have dealt with housing in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Texas. And know people who are involved in other states.


    David I think things vary s fair amount based on region

    Your souuthern experience is probably on the opposite end if the bell curve from London


    I think it might be useful to categorize the various scams, so here goes:

    Household scams: De-carbonizing spray for your kitchen. An electric de-carbonizer, (maybe a repackaged air filter or de-ionizer?) Carbon-free detergent/window cleaner/furniture polish. Carbon-reducing air-conditioner (which emits a little black block once a month.) And look for cheap-solar-panels plus an inverter (which has no fuse or similar electronics) which plugs into a wall socket! This is aimed at renters like me!

    Medical/Food Scams: "Take these daily to improve your carbon-resistance" or "Our bread is baked in electric ovens, so it's carbon-neutral" which might be true. Or it might not be true.

    Automotive Scams: "Low-carbon" internal combustion engines, "carbon-light" gasolines/oils, etc. And what about a decarbonizing gasoline additive? Maybe acetone would do for this? Get better gas-mileage and bathe your engine seals in a new chemical?

    Industrial Scams: "We're going to build a big plant, like a generator plant, only it's going to pull all the carbon out of the atmosphere. It will be YUUUGE!" Which might or might not be a scam, but caveat emptor! Or maybe "Our HVAC systems are all carbon-neutral."

    Geo-Engineering Scams: "We rent space on cargo ships for our container-sized aerosol sprayers. These only spray aerosol in international waters so they generate International Carbon Credits. These can be deposited in any country so as to avoid unfriendly banking regulations and hostile tax regimes."

    Financial Scams: (Which might relate to Industrial Scams or Geo-Engineering Scams) "And our gigantic decarbonizer is going to create carbon credits, which we can sell." Or "When we paint your roof white, that generates a heat-island-reduction-credit, and there's an exchange for those, so we can give you a discount." Or "Why don't we put everyone's personal carbon credits into an exchange, so we can financialize an otherwise cumbersome asset." Someone with more financial sophistication than I've got could certainly improve my ideas here - does anyone want to have a go?


    That cannot be correct. Tesla's have a fast (ie drive in and out replacement for $). The size of the battery isn't the issue, it is how accessible. Tesla has thought this through, whilst Chevrolet has not.


    California has a program to install solar panels on low-income houses for free. The kit cost is estimated to be $20-30k plus labor.

    For older homes, what should be done is add wall insulation as well as double-paned windows, but that is apparently too expensive.


    California farmers are putting in tree farms. I can't recall the species. It is fast growing and I gather there is an ag payment for carbon capture or reduced water usage.


    Hmmmm....regarding the dangers of lead acid batteries for home energy storage: Using a bank of deep cycle marine batteries is a pretty common way of storing power for people off the grid around my old neck of the woods. Hook it up to solar panels or gensets depending on applications. I'm yet to hear about any of them blowing up.


    A good scam will be ocean fertilization for carbon credits. Cost is low, the CO2 uptake, in the short term, measurable. But because the algae don't sink and sequestrate the carbon, it is released again.

    I can also imagine putting bases into the ocean to shift the carbonate buffer and claim both carbon sequestration for credits as well as reducing ocean acidification. A nice two-fer than can be sold to investors.

    I read a recent report that suggested that tree farms in the US for wood pellets used in EU power stations might be worse than oil combustion due the dynamics of forestry management. If they are right, not only is the wood being sold, it claims carbon credits, but is worse than fossil fuel combustion. This is not unlike the reprehensible use of farmland for corn biofuel production.


    When can I start claiming carbon credits for planting trees in my backyard? Presumably, this could be turned into a farm project with harvesting and sale to a government wood sequestration center.

    What about all that green waste? If it was properly sequestrated, shouldn't that be $ for the municipality/waste management companies? Convert it to biochar and sell it back to homeowners.


    Most off the grid systems use lead/acid it's still the most cost effective when you don't care about weight

    However Nojay isn't saying that lead/acid is bad he's saying repurposed lead / acid car batteries are bad which makes sense

    However generally people are talking about repurposing old EV batteries which makes a ton of sense to me


    Just to give an idea of how the complexity of HOAs works, we moved out of a townhome in a development that had an HOA into a house that allegedly had an HOA.

    In the first case, the townhomes have roofs in common, and those roofs are owned by the HOA, not the homeowner. In our specific case, the HOA board met at 4:30 pm on some Thursday each month, and while every homeowner (not their representative, but the actual homeowner) theoretically had the right to present issues in front of the HOA board and to actually serve on it, in practice the same three people sat on that board were re-elected every year, because almost every homeowner in that complex worked and couldn't make the meetings.

    I would have loved to lobby that HOA to put solar panels on all the roofs and sell us the power (they'd already aggregated the electricity for the entire site and sent us a monthly bill), but because I wasn't the homeowner, there was no point in me showing up. The HOA board made various other stupid decisions, but they'd made a some crude but effective step to insulate themselves from public input.

    Our current place allegedly has an HOA. The developer set one up, and it's right there in the paperwork. Thing is, no one ever stepped up to form or run the thing after the developer dissolved their version of it when they sold the homes, so effectively we have no HOA. The one thing we have to watch out for is some clown unilaterally setting up an HOA to dictate to us, but since this is a decades-old neighborhood at this point and many people have lived here for most of those decades, fighting off such an attempt should be possible. As a result, we put solar on our roof a few months after we bought the place.

    So the bottom line is that HOAs are a bit more complicated (note the two different failure modes above). They can do some good (persuade that board to do the right thing, and the whole neighborhood gets the right thing done to them), but mostly they're about enforcing conformity with some set image of how a neighborhood or development should look, under the rubric of keeping house prices up and such.


    I'm still not sure about that one. Unfortunately, ocean fertilization has already seen one major scammer (initials R.G.) who, if I understand things correctly, has made it very hard to conduct experiments or gather data without triggering certain official parties. I'm not remotely close to any of the players so I don't know how badly he's hurt the field as a whole or damaged people who are still doing pure research into the issue. Frank might know.

    That being said, if done correctly it isn't necessarily a scam. Part of the carbon goes to the shells of krill, which apparently sink. The algae and krill don't merely float there then dissolve, instead they are food for the next creatures in the food chain, which presumably get harvested then eaten. And of course it should be possible to harvest the algae, compress it and bury it. I should also note that ocean fertilization may be worthwhile for its own sake, (plus I suspect that a healthy ocean contains more carbon than an unhealthy ocean.)

    The big minus I can see is that adding ferrous-sulfate to ocean water tends to slightly acidify the ocean, which is not good. Personally, I class ocean fertilization under "needs further research, might be a game-changer." If I ever with the lottery I'll finance a post-doc and get some real answers.

    What I really hate is the idea that one day we'll lost Florida, the government will go bezerk and start throwing money at stuff like ocean fertilization but the research about whether it works or not won't be complete. That would really suck.

    I suspect the real answer is "decarbonize quickly, plant lots of trees, paint cities and roads white, implement robust and flexible farming techniques and wait 500 years to see if we survive."


    If you want to see carbon sequestration in action, go to

    They're a pass-through group connecting up people who want to pay for carbon sequestration with projects that are growing trees, burying compost, and the like.

    I'm actually not a big fan, because I think one of their projects is highly problematic and not going to work. Note that I'm not labeling them a scam, and I'm not going to go into detail in the case where I think they were involved in something highly questionable. It's really complicated, and suffice it to say, we couldn't make an adequate legal case to go after them, so I'm not sure we are right. If we are, though, it will show up on the nightly news as a disaster followed by a scandal.


    Hmm. Let me unpack that some more. Currently I drive a 1993 Camry that I got for $1000 a long time ago. To date, I haven't spent as much on it as a new car would cost, so it's a bargain. So to me, the hallmark of a good car is one that you don't have to throw away when something wears out, which marks me as an old fuddy duddy. To pick another example, I'd prefer to have a computer I could easily fix, not a laptop that's so fragile that the hinges wear out in a few years. Or a phone where I've got to replace the whole thing when the battery wears out.

    The problem with the Bolt is that the battery appears to take up most of the car. It's under the trunk, under the hood, and where the transmission and main axle would go. Presumably that battery is going to wear out before 2041 (that's how long my Camry has lasted), and if it does, I'll probably have to scrap the car rather than simply replacing the battery (actually, given that there don't seem to be physical connections between the pedals, the switches, and the wheels on the ground, I'd take that as a given). To me, this is a problem, as I have to go from spending $1000 on an old car every decade or two to spending ~$40,000 every 5-10 years. Yes, it makes more sense when you factor in the cost of gas and everything else, which is why I'm switching, but still, I'm pissed off at the lack of durability in the new car.

    To get onto the idea of replacing the gas tank with a battery, if we had batteries with the energy density of gas, we could swap out batteries at changing stations. Alternatively, we could simply recharge them at home and swap them out when they wear out, leaving the rest of the car intact and usable for decades. Obviously this is a fantasy in this age where everything is a computer designed to be obsolete in a few years (whatever else is strapped onto it), but in a weird way, my 1993 Camry is my standard for what a car should be designed to do--work for decades with reasonable maintenance. Guess that makes me an anti-corporate heretic or something.


    On the subject of new and used cars, Consumer Reports is well worth a read. The September 2017 issue provides 3-year and 10-year reliability data for a large number of cars, based on an unusually large survey size (hundreds of thousands of vehicles). It's wise to consult this specific issue, not to mention their annual new car issue, before buying. As the saying goes, "past performance does not guarantee future performance", but it's still a great source of data for choosing a good car.

    One useful fact: On average, cars lose about half their (Kelley Blue Book) value to depreciation by the end of 3 years, which is roughly when most warranties expire, and then decline more slowly in value thereafter. So the sweet spot for buying used if you want all the new features, semi-guaranteed access to new replacement parts, and (probably) another 7 years of largely trouble-free ownership, would be to buy an inspected and certified 3-year-old vehicle, or an older car with a good reliability out to 10 years.

    All of these numbers, and specific details of failure modes, vary among manufacturers and vehicles. And the Consumer Reports statistics are primary American, with some Canadian thrown in. They should apply in a general sense to the same models elsewhere in the world, but not in a specific sense, since some manufacturing details vary globally.


    Frank in general the research shows the exact opposite of your really should read the link I provided you are spouting disinformation

    Also the various design flaws in your Bokt should not be taken as endemic in EV's in general

    EV cars should outlast IC cars, by a considerable margin. Battery loss is less of a factor then people initially thought it would be. Tesla model S's in the wild are showing 6-7% battery loss on 200K mikes driven

    I personally have a 4 year old model S that has lost a grand total of 1 mile

    In addition that Camery of yours has something like 2000 moving parts while my model S has 20. In general cars as old as yours require a fair amount of servicing so you need to calculate in the total cost of ownership not just the purchase price. You've probably paid more then the purchase cost in repairs

    You might have lucked into an incredibly reliable junker that happens sometimes however it's not a common or easily repeatable thing. If you were to buy a 10 year old Camery today you would pay 6-7K for instance


    Actually, the early '90s Camrys are renowned for their durability. I've got several relatives in the car repair business, and we've joked about it being more reliable than my wife's newer car for years. To quote paraphrase one comment, "It's only got 200,000 miles and it's on its first engine? Awwww, it's still a baby!" Also note that one of these relatives drives an early 90s Camry too. There's still a lot of them around.

    To be clear, the Camry does need repairs regularly, and you're totally right on that. The problem with the Bolt is that it's basically a computer with a car strapped on, and computer chips fail (what's the mean life on a chip these days? Ten years?). Also, there are 16 or more mechanical controls on the steering wheel alone, and they're the kind of thing where I'd guess that you've got to replace the whole steering wheel over. It's not a glass cockpit, like I guess the Tesla is.

    And so it goes. More mechanical parts does not necessarily mean less reliable, because electronics wear out too. It's about ease of replacement. The bottom line for me is that I don't expect the Bolt to be working in 2041 or even 2031. 2021 would be nice though. In a way that's a good thing, as it's an early generation of a technology that I'm hoping will mature impressively. Still, it's annoying to buy something expensive that I know is going to fail sooner than older, cheaper technology did. Now I'm gonna go find my rocking chair and grumble about kids these days.


    Anecdata from my 2010 Hyundai Accent with 85000 km:

    Mechanical repairs: brakes serviced and replaced. Routine maintenance: oil changes on schedule, annual rust proofing. Electronic repairs: 3 ignition coils and the crank position sensor. Electrical: new starter motor. Still broken: electric window switch.

    So from my limited experience, the electronics have failed more than the mechanical bits (and cost a LOT more to repair).


    While I appreciate why you bought the Bolt, if you could get your hands on one, the Tesla 3 is clearly a better EV.

    As regards battery size, I don't think it matters as much as you imply. What will make EVs popular is when costs drop to below ICE cars on the dealership. maintenance should be lower regardless, although there will be lock-in and you cannot control their charges.

    If, a big if, liquid flow batteries prove viable and competitive in performance, battery size becomes totally irrelevant. The "gas" tank will be larger, but the guts of the battery are small. So far these batteries are best used for stationary power storage and will be best suited to power stations and emergency power supplies for hospitals.

    "decarbonize quickly, plant lots of trees, paint cities and roads white, implement robust and flexible farming techniques and wait 500 years to see if we survive."

    As Frank would probably say, we don't have 500 years, at least not with civilization as we know it.

    I agree about ocean fertilization. We know so little and the good results have been so localized. The danger is that we get algal blooms that create anoxic zones.


    A newish reminder of the urgency - saw news reports about this but did not see a link. Open access. Deadly heat waves projected in the densely populated agricultural regions of South Asia (2 August 2017) via Figure 2 C,D are the figures to examine: RCP 4.5,RCP 8.5 This caught my eye: At the regional scale, India’s GHG emissions have been increasing rapidly in recent decades because of rapid economic and population growth and high dependence on coal used for energy generation. Despite their relatively low GHG per capita emissions, India (and more so China) is responsible for much of the recent rise in global emissions. The findings from this study may present a significant dilemma for India because the continuation of this current trajectory of rising emissions will likely impose significant added human health risks to some of its most vulnerable populations

    (There's also a new paper about CO2 increases causing decreases in protein content of common crops, but the link is broken. Source Similar articles about levels of other human nutrients in crops, e.g. iron.)

    Been stewing on a elevator-pitch level decarbonization agenda. Not ready with it yet. Getting a few more extremely rich people on it, to help nurture and sustain and defend (from existing interests) new technological paths, will be important IMO.


    Yeah I know Camry's are reliable I had one once

    My Tesla is to my Camry as my Motorola flip phone is to my iPhone. So drastically superior it's arguable they are even the same beast anymore

    Moving parts are still moving parts and are inherently more problematic then electronics, that's just straight thermodynamics and entropy

    Yes computer chips fail but computers are generally designed as rip-and-replace and are low cost enough now that they don't represent a major part if the cost

    Again look at the Model S and Model 3, clearly designed to enable someone to switch out the computers in 10 minutes

    Also as the link I posted states, the more rude sharing and transportation as a service gains ground the more cars become all about TCO. There is every reason to believe EV's will won in that kind of battlefield


    voidampersand writes "When you need to develop a lot of infrastructure, sometimes what you need is a gigantic scam. For example, the Crédit Mobilier of America that built the transcontinental railroad."

    Daniel Boorstin wrote a history of the U.S. whose title I forget (listened to it on tape while biking), and one of his main points was that Andrew Jackson set the future direction of the country's development by defeating any prospects for a national bank during his own tenure and way past it. So, little frontier banks ended up printing their own currencies, and businesses throughout a territory would have to keep lists of which banks were still solvent to know what banknotes to accept as payment. This initiated local boom and bust cycles of farm financing that got areas at least up and running enough to sustain settlement through the inevitable bank failure. Meanwhile farm produce went to the cities, boosting urban growth. Boorstin's conclusion was that the trend represented innumerable small failures creating one huge overarching success. One cost it externalized into the future, however, at least in my opinion, was an American habit of admiring successful hucksters and con artists "since everybody's in on the scam right from the start," examples being the award winning film "The Sting", and modern willingness to forgive glib politicians their predatory business practices. Like who, you ask? Oh I dunno, there must be some.


    "The size of the battery isn't the issue, it is how accessible. Tesla has thought this through, whilst Chevrolet has not"

    Chevy thought it through alright. So did apple when they made the battery in the iPhone near impossible to replace. It's not a mistake. They want you to buy a new car (preferably petrol) when the battery in this one dies.


    "TCO. There is every reason to believe EV's will won in that kind of battlefield"

    Interestingly (for me) I've been feeding a troll on YouTube comments. This pertains to motorcycles, because that's what I understand and ride.

    TL;DR Total cost of ownership is so far to the EV side in motorcycles it's absurd.

    Troll says: "gasdive- So how much is a replacement battery? Did you ask that before you bought? Is a replacement battery even available? CAN the battery be changed, or does it reside in a sealed compartment, hard-wired in? Did you look into any of this before you bought? All batteries wear out, and sooner or later you're going to have to face these issues."

    So I say: "I don't know how much a replacement battery for my bike costs. I'm on all the fora and the Zero FB page. Despite thousands of members, none have had a battery noticeably degrade, no batteries have been bought from the maker yet. How much is a replacement engine? A bit tough to say really... Enough that when the engine is stuffed most people don't price a replacement they throw the car away.

    The battery can be swapped, it takes about 2 hours. You have to take off the plastics, lift the bike, remove the front forks, some bolts and then it slides forward in the frame.

    The battery is rated for 6000 full charge/discharge cycles (or 12 000 half, 24000 quarter etc). The daily commute I described would be about a full cycle. So it should be good for that for 1200 weeks (given he works 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year). That's 24 years. He'll retire before the battery wears out. His round trip is 178 km, so 6000 times 178 is a shade over 1 million km. A normal bike engine is pretty much done at 200 000 km (I've only personally witnessed one bike with more km than that, and it was like granfather's axe, there was little left on it that came from the original bike). So despite the bike costing about twice what the petrol equivalent would, he'll buy one not five (at 14000 each, or 70000 dollars, compared to the Zero for 28000).

    Bikes need a lot more service than cars if they're going to get anywhere near 200 000 km out of them. Oil change every 6000 km is about the longest interval anyone dares (I change the oil every 3000). So that's 178 oil changes. Motorcycle oil is expensive, so that's about 30 dollars per change, just for the oil. 5340 dollars in oil alone. Filter change about 20 dollars, air filter 40, and they're changed at half the frequency of oil changes, so twice as much money, half as often, another 5340 dollars there. So 10 680 for service, even if you do it all yourself (which voids the warranty).

    I guess in that theme you'd learn to adjust the valves as well. (motorcycles don't have self adjusting valves like cars do) That's about 2 hours for an expert. So about 180 hours of your life spent adjusting valves. (whatever that's worth to you). Of course most people get their dealer to service their bikes. Basic oil change is 200 dollars. Valves and filters, about 500. So even if you just got the dealer to do the valves (very very few people do their own shim adjusted valves) that's 44 000 dollars there.

    Oh, for a final kicker, which may not apply to you, but does for us, Motorcycle registration is based on capacity. Right now it costs about 50 dollars a year to register a bike in the lowest capacity band and about 700 dollars a year to register one in the 'high' (over 200 cc) capacity band. So that's a saving of about 650 dollars a year. So that's another 15 000 dollars.

    Oh hell, I almost forgot petrol. It's about $1.50/litre here. (5.70 per gallon). In a million km on his petrol bike he'd burn 45 000 litres. That's 68 000 dollars. He gets electricity included in his parking fee in the city, so he only pays for the electricity to get to work. About 5 kWh/day. So that's 6000 kWh. We have about the most expensive electricity in the world, with off peak costing 12 cents per kWh. So instead of buying 68000 dollars worth of petrol he'll buy 720 dollars worth of electricity.

    Oh, and because the motor is so smooth, tyres last about twice as long. A rear motorcycle tyre lasts about 12000 km and costs about 250 dollars. So he'll get about 40 fewer rear tyres. Another 10 000 dollars saved.

    So his cost to buy and run an electric for 24 years (even if he puts the whole bike in landfill at the end). About 37950

    His cost to buy and run a petrol bike for 24 years doing all his own work. About 185480. Note that even if a fairy godmother supplied him bikes for free, he'd still spend 115480 on maintaining and fuelling them, so no comebacks about how you can buy a bike with a couple of thousand km on it second hand, add 200 000 km and sell it for as much as you paid. (which is utter bull shit as even a wrecker will hesitate to accept a bike with that many km on it as a gift, but a common theme)

    But you keep rabbiting on about how much a battery costs to replace... We're all amused."


    The main issue with EVs has been "range anxiety". And when you need recharging, how do you do it? "fast recharges" are possible, but clearly are still much slower than a gas station fill up. Removing the battery and replacing it is a clever approach as it will eliminate much of the delay (as long as a suitable place nearby to replace the battery pack).

    So in that sense, I think Tesla has thought it through. They started with cars with long ranges to eliminate much of teh range anxiety. They built fast charging stations so that teh cars could go cross country. They offered fast battery replacement to further eliminate delays.

    They couldn't do much better even if they offered cheap disposable drycells at all convenience stores.

    And there is no question that Teslas all look a lot cooler than other company offerings. They are committed to EVs in a way no other major brand is currently.


    The nineties Camry's are generally awesome, but you do need to figure on a new engine and transmission at some point, plus some motor mounts and shock absorbers. But the Camrys do respond well to repairs, and having put a new engine/transmission into a nineties Camry you're good for at least 200,000 miles more depending on maintenance. And you will be investing in new upholstery at some point if you want to be comfortable...

    I spend the same amount on my Prius (plus the down payment) as on my 90's Camrys, but my Prius requires money in easily digestable, pre-planned chunks rather than the surprise announcement from a mechanic that I need to spend 2000 getting a transmission rebuilt.


    In our household, the 2001 4cyl Camry wagon (bought almost new in 2002) and 2007 Volvo S40 (bought at 6 years old) get about the same fuel consumption. Volvo is smaller but heavier and has a larger motor with an extra cylinder. Cost about the same to get the timing belt service done for both. Would get a Camry wagon again, but since they stopped making them in 2002, they all are older cars now.

    Toyota engines do get "black sludge" if you push the oil change interval too far. Somehow still seems to run just fine, but there's tappet noise. Mixed success with flushing. Good rebuild kits cost about as much as a new old engine before labour. We're currently living with it, but will likely replace the whole car in a couple of years. Considering Volvo, something like a 5 year old V60...


    Where do you live? I think they stopped selling Camry Wagons in the U.S. around 1996.

    If you want something Camry Wagon-ish I've been looking at the Prius Vs with some envy and wish I'd been able to afford one - they are about 6 inches longer than the standard Prius and have a wagon-ish shape plus considerably more cargo capacity. They get slightly less mileage, but still over forty.


    Oz. The XV20 series started in 1997 and finished in 2002, including the wagon. According to Wikipedia, only the sedan was sold in North America (but everywhere else got the wagon). There was no wagon in the XV30 series in Oz (or anywhere as far as I know). Ours is one of the last of its kind. My recollection was out by a year... it's actually MY2002 and we got it in 2003.

    Have been looking at the Prius V. Lots of taxi companies here are using them, which is generally a good sign. Plug in option plus home-solar-with-onsite-storage would be very compelling.

    I am wondering when "all the external surfaces are solar panels" option will become available for EVs and hybrids. In Queensland I don't see why if you park in the open you couldn't harvest a couple of kWh for the trip home. Which would be almost enough for commuter and grocery runs for a lot of people.


    Just to give an idea of how the complexity of HOAs works, we moved out of a townhome in a development that had an HOA into a house that allegedly had an HOA.

    I have also both of those situations. I got to take over handling my mother-in-law's townhouse when she had to be moved out. 4 years or so of moderate hassles. Biggest issue was it was a condo type setup but was broke due to the collapse of the real estate market at the time. 2000-2004.

    In my 1961 house the deed talks about what today would be an HOA. But when we bought in 1990 there was no sign of it and our lawyer said he'd be surprised if it had met for over 10 years. Most of what it was set up to do was regulate exterior major changes or out buildings. A group tried to bring it back about 10 years ago and was met with strong opposition and apathy. There's no one who really knows the history as most buyers "back in the day" would now be in their 80s or older. Lawyers basically say ignore it.

    On a similar note our non profit community pool doesn't own the land it is on. It is a 99 year lease that will run out in about 40 or 50 years. At the end of the lease the land will revert back to a non existent corporation (which developed some of the homes in the area) which doesn't even seem to have any "descendants". The pool board, when I was on it, figured the next generation or two can figure it out when it happens as most of us will be dead or senile.


    It's more than anxiety about the range. Electronics DO fail, so the gauge might say you are fine, but you run out. What do you do then? With petrol, you walk out, get a can of it, walk back, fill up and drive to a filling station. Or you can get another car there and siphon between tanks. Tedious, but only an hour or few wasted. But what's the equivalent for electric vehicles?


    You call the AA. (For Americans that's the Automobile Association not Alcoholics Anonymous). They fix it or tow you to your destination. That's exactly what you do for an IC engine car.


    Cheap Chinese knock-off Honda genny in the boot... aka DIY hybrid :)

    But yes, and also there are a couple more quirks... One is that batteries of any kind in common use never seem to last in practice anything like as long as they say they're supposed to, whether in terms of single use capacity with non-rechargeable types or of how many charge/discharge cycles before the capacity falls off a cliff for accumulators. So the enthusiasm over lifetime expressed by manufacturers and early adopters is to be taken with a suitable quantity of sodium chloride.

    The other is that divining the amount of remaining charge in a battery is a much less precise process than measuring the level of liquid in a tank. To be sure petrol gauges are legendarily inaccurate, but at least they are consistently so and you rapidly get to know their quirks. Battery charge meters on the other hand tend to (surprise surprise) behave much like the discharge curve of the battery, dropping steadily but slowly for a long time and then suddenly you blink and the water's out of the bottom of the glass. (And you can bet both bollocks and the bag to hold them that the car will be designed to cut out dead, rather than gradually getting slower and slower and then when it does stop you can wait five minutes and get a few hundred more metres out of it, regardless of whether the battery technology requires such behaviour or not.)

    On top of that I've heard numerous reports that the range estimation algorithms that modern cars apparently use, even with the advantage of the more informative liquid-level input, are a complete joke. Errors of +/-50 miles in the "you'll be stopping now" point seem to be the norm on all sorts of vehicles. One of those on top of a flakier data source doesn't sound promising...


    No, get a redblock.


    Yeah. When we had a car (2000 model Toyota Corolla), occasionally it needed repairs and when the problem was preventing us from driving, we called a tow truck to get into a repair shop.

    Otherwise it was a nice car for our very small needs. We used to drove about 1500 km a year during the last couple of years we had it, but it started to break down often enough that the repair costs were more than we wanted to pay.

    It wasn't a very old car (we had it from I think 2009 to 2013), but it was old enought that I could have repaired many things by myself. I just didn't have the space or the tools to do that - it's one thing fixing a car in a space inside a house meant for that and an another thing to do that in -20 C outside in the parking lot.

    I would verymuch like an electric car, but they're still too expensive for our needs. Really the smart solution would just be to use a taxi.


    "But you keep rabbiting on about how much a battery costs to replace..."

    Practical experience of the Vimes "Boots" theory of socio-economic unfairness is a relevant factor here...


    It's not just that electronics, like mechanical devices fail, but the failure-mode & ease & costs of repair. At leat 99% of modern cars' electronics is NOT repairable & requires eithe limping to repair-shop, or a tow & then expensive replacement. Many mechanical failure modes can be limped home & are relatively easy to repair. E.G: My Land-Rover is the last model with no electronics ..... Currently, the injectors (I think ) are playing up, but it's still driveable & the problem will be fi=xed in the sometime next month .....


    Fine for people who never drive outside the most populated areas. Otherwise, the AA will often tell you that there is an 8 hour delay, tow you to a garage that has a charging queue, or tell you that they don't do call-outs where you are. Read the fine print. And that's from both experience and doing so, incidentally, which is why I am not a member. Even if you use the AA to do what I do for a petrol car, they put a gallon in your car by the roadside and you are on your way.

    One of the reasons that modern cars are NOT as much more reliable than older ones as is claimed is that the cost of even a minor failure is 2-3 days' lost time, whereas it used to be mostly an hour or so.


    What scam would I run if I was going to run one and trying to make some cash off of efforts to deal with climate change?

    I'd probably go with something that's not entirely a scam but which is merely a poor and ineffective way to deal with the problem.

    Since much of the movement around climate change attracts idealists who value symbols and public displays of "doing something" over more effective but invisible improvements I'd focus my effort there.

    First, a hypothetical effective way to improve the situation with climate change for the least dollars would probably be to ramp up the number of nuclear plants, build some big-ass solar farms as near to the equator as possible and lots of wind farms and energy storage to get as much of the nation off coal as possible. Then a gentle regulatory push to make electric cars more appealing and to build out charging infrastructure.

    But that's not what the idealists want because any energy source, once people try to scale it up to meaningful size suddenly loses favor because once you do anything big people start griping about how it isn't perfect and the perfect is the enemy of the good.

    So I'd make my scam something personal so that the individuals feel they're doing something for the world themselves. I'd make it highly visible, something visible for them to show off to all their friends, family and neighbors, I'd make it small so they can ignore any externalities and then I'd get them and people like them to campaign for their local governments to provide taxpayer money to subsidize everything so that the individuals involved all feel like they've come out ahead even if the taxpayer money would have been much much much more effective being spent on a really big wind farm somewhere.

    I'd sell home rooftop solar panels. In Canada or Scotland or on the northern border of the USA.

    So far from the equator that they're little more than a symbol that provides a token trickle of electricity to make them feel good inside.

    The owners get a big expensive status symbol on their roof, the local government subsidies it and the best bit is the people who buy into my scheme will be my most devout defenders because no matter how crappy a place it is to spend tens of thousands on solar panels they're not doing it to be effective, they're doing it for the feels and turning on me would make them feel bad.


    Okay, so here are my proposals for some interconnected carbon sequestering scams:

    Plan A: STEP 1: Get CO2 out of the air. STEP 2: Break it up into carbon and oxygen. STEP 3: Use the super pure carbon to manufacture buckytubes. STEP 4: Build space elevator. STEP 5: Profit! (sellable to idiot libertarian space cadets)

    Plan B: STEP 1: Get CO2 out of the air. STEP 2: Break it up into carbon and oxygen. STEP 3: Use the super pure carbon to manufacture diamonds. STEP 4: Profit! (sellable to idiot libertarian gold bugs)

    Plan C: STEP 1: Combine A and B. STEP 2: Use diamonds to manufacture laser satellite super weapon. STEP 3: Use space elevator to put it into orbit. STEP 4: World domination! (sellable to Bond Villains)


    Sorry, I forgot to specify the issues.

    A. The problem isn't that the scam is actually counterproductive, simply unproductive, it helps but it's like sending water to doubt affected farmer in test tubes. And it's an unproductive approach to preventing more carbon entering the atmosphere.

    B. As described.

    C. Ordinary citizens can do the math and even ask themselves "sure, with subsidies this is slightly more profitable for me but should those subsidies be going to something more effective" and campaign for their local governments to spend money on big, boring industrial-scale cleaner power production. Citizens need to remember that "distributed" is not a magical word that solves all problems and they need to campaign and vote as such.

    D You get a long standing fight between the people who want symbols and the people who want substance.


    Compressing a gas also increases its temperature, which fights you efforts to compress it more and involves lots of heat exchanges and refrigeration. Any plant that compresses CO2 enough make it possible to store in volume will look something like a dry ice factory (essentially trying to freeze the gas). Everything I've read about carbon capture and storage implies it a scam and holding action. If anybody ever built an industrial scale storage site I certainly wouldn't want to live near it. Millions of tons of cryogenic (heavier than air) gas in million year storage... yea right that will work.

    It is the coal fired power plant equivalent of the hydrogen fuel cell car :-)


    When I hear about schemes to store large quantities of CO2 underground long term I always think of Lake Nyos.

    Short term storage with a plan to crack the CO2 somehow once there is a decent non fossil power surplus is marginally saner but we all know that the stuff would just be sitting around for decades while the problem is ignored.

    IIRC one of the Stephen Baxter Xeelee books mentioned giant domes of dry ice covered in meters of rock wool insulation. Probably a better idea than compressing the stuff but not exactly practical.

    On the EV vs Diesel subject. I was pretty pissed off when I found out about all the emissions cheating. Can't afford to change cars right now but have my fingers crossed for a diesel scrappage scheme as a small EV would be just the thing for my commute. I reckon an 80 mile range model would give me a week between charges. This does put me in easy cycling range but there is one practical route and I would be dead in 6 months with the way people drive around here.


    I've had no problems with the AA in rural Lincolnshire and Cornwall. The only place I found it hard to get the AS to come quickly was Chapeltown in Leeds where they called on subcontractors because of the reputation of crime in the area. In my last two modern cars I have had exactly zero time off road for breakdowns in the last eleven years. Not counting punctures which are a problem in my part of rural Norfolk. Of course I change the wheels myself. As for the delay that's what you have to accept if you run out of fuel or battery power. Even if you can't be bothered to look at the fuel gauge you get 100 miles warning in a modern car of fuel running out.


    Let's mash up several suggestions from multiple commenters here and in other blog posts to create the ultimate scam:

  • Create hollow tube strong enough to be used as a space elevator, but only about 24 inches (60 cm) of inner diameter because it doesn't have to accept any significant weight. Just needs to be strong enough to support its own weight.
  • Orbit the far end in vacuum.
  • Capture CO2 from power plant.
  • Divert the CO2 into the hollow tube.
  • The pressure differential between near-Earth-orbit near-vacuum and sea-level pressure will suck all the CO2 out into space, where it will freeze and form a cloud of crystals that reflect enough sunlight to slow or reverse global warming. Better still, pressure from sunlight will eventually blow away the CO2, restoring normal heating conditions by the time temperatures return to normal. Problem solved!

    In case it wasn't clear: "No, Mr. Bond. I expect you [and everyone else] to die." G


    Put the bottom of the tube on an equatorial railway, anchor the other end to the moon and use the gas for lunar fracking.


    "For example, it is common place that with increased amounts of solar PV and wind on a grid eventually it will need some form of additional energy storage. And everyone starts talking about batteries and then Elon Musk. And we forget about BetaMax.

    There's a risk that the battery technolgy that Musk is investing in gets dominated by something that is currently in a lab somewhere or that something like the Fraunhofer Sea Eggs can be mass produced for a fiver."

    That's not what happened to BetaMax though. Quite the opposite. An arguably superior technology lost out to a larger installed user base. We already have batteries. Better batteries are an easy sell, and scale up.


    Most of the people I know have been less lucky. And you clearly didn't understand my point about the electronics. MOST of the lost time that I or other people I know have had in modern cars have been due to electronics/electrics failures - and that includes running out of petrol! Inter alia, the sensor and its control is a single point of failure so, if the gauge over-reads, you won't get the warning.


    Ordinary citizens can do the math and even ask themselves...

    Yep. Every time. Sure. Right. Check roger.


    BetaMax though. Quite the opposite. An arguably superior technology lost out to a larger installed user base.

    Your measurement of superior was on video quality. But the market was voting based on length of recording time. VHS was the first to allow the typical movie on 1 tape. As soon as that happened Beta was dead as a consumer product.

    But not for pro or semi-pro.


    You need to understand that you are lumping a large number of IC auto problems into the term "electrical ".

    IC engines have gotten pretty complicated and heavily computerized and there is indeed a lot to go wrong

    Most of these things don't exist in EV cars at all. An EV electric motor is a very very simple machine at the end of the day and doesn't need them

    You then apply those issues to EV cars and then say "those dang electrical whizamjigits" and reach a faulty conclusion


    Around 70 or 71 I was in a car with someone who went to grade school with my grandfather. My grandfather was born in 1985. While he was driving he kept shifting from 1st to 3rd. (3 on the column.) I asked if there was a problem and he proceed to tell me that 2nd gear was silly and just not needed. You needed one gear to get going and one for driving. Just as on the Model T he learned to drive on.

    I seem to be hearing a lot of that here. Just as I've heard similar over the years about fuel injection, PEX plumbing, color TVs, radial ply tires, tubeless tires, seat belts, disk brakes, cell phones, answering machines, computers (in general and for each generation), lower case on computers (much less languages other than US English), remote controls for ceiling fans, remote controls for TVs, WiFi, DVDs, CDs, digital cameras, cruise control, ... and any number of newer things.

    I'm getting up there in years and fighting hard to not become the "old curmudgeon" like others I see around me.


    Dumb comment time ... IOW, need a step-by-step explanation of why/where I'm wrong:

    Would like to know why alternate (green) energy is being sold as a very expensive final product rather than in stages/parts that can be added onto over the years as budget permits. Why not make this like furnishing your home with IKEA?

    Also, considering how active ($$$) the reno market is and the speed at which households buy the latest tech gadgets, feel that lack of uptake for alternate power is heavily weighted toward crappy/incorrect marketing.


    That's because you have fallen into the trap the other way! The political way to get something accepted involves denying any problems, and deprecating or eliminating the alternatives, not improving the product. Sometimes that is beneficial - sometimes it is harmful. Look at the replacement of rail by road, supermarkets, and the way that those have caused this problem (in the UK). The problems were pointed out in advance, politicians and their useful idiots pooh-poohed them and many no attempt to ameliorate them. And your logic says that those were improvements ....

    I could give you similar descriptions of computers - and I was involved in innovation there for 50 years, including doing a fair amount myself. Not everything newer and shinier is an improvement, and it CERTAINLY won't be one if it is rammed through by deprecating or eliminating alternative solutions.


    "Newness" is orthogonal and unrelated to "betterness". It doesn't predict either way. Some new things are stupid and relatively useless (internet of things as an example) . Some are awesome and all together better (EV's)

    Each needs to be evaluated on its own merits preferable with a healthy dose of direct personal experimentation.

    Some people have bias toward or against new things but both biases are bad

    As you get older you tend to shift biases against the new

    As far as green energy it is fact getting rolled out incrementally at the large producer lever. You don't see it so much at the individual household level because it is just barely st a break even point at that economy of scale


    If you are addressing me, you are wrong. No, I am not. I partially agree with your point, but I don't think that you realise just how complicated the EV vehicle will need to be - inter alia, the safe control of a 1-5 gigajoule lithium battery is not simple. Most of the failures I was referring to were in the ancillaries, anyway, which will be in common.

    Another point here is that it would be trivial to make an ultralight runabout (basically a fully-faired electric quad bike), which would actually meet most urban and many suburban requirements, because it doesn't need all that complexity, and would have simple, mechanical ways to bypass failures. There are several options to that, and it would need a fraction of the road space, parking and energy, especially if it were an electrically-assisted pedal cycle rather than a 25 MPH micro-car. But, if the EV revolution is rammed through, such a solution will be blocked. Yes, I do mean that.


    Has that ever happened to your phone or other device with a monitored rechargeable battery?

    Then there's Hard Knott Pass And, yes, I have driven over all of them.

    Oh, get a load of him, the big brave man driving Hard Knott in a Landy.

    My Mum did it in an Austin Cambridge(*).

    Had to stop at one point to get it into first (no synchromesh, too nervous to double-declutch, second just wasn't up to it).

    On our way down we saw a Range Rover in the ditch. Laugh, we could have cried.

    (* It could have been a Morris Oxford).


    This is a very topical blog post having just seen AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH this past weekend. I highly recommend seeing this documentary movie.


    AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL that is. Sorry about that.


    Re: '... healthy dose of direct personal experimentation'

    Which is a missing key ingredient for alternate energy*.

    Almost every tech gadget that has come out in the past 30 or so years has included considerable 'sampling' (awareness building/hands-on teaching) displays which help consumers to see beyond the scary (because incomprehensible) new tech to the potential and immediate fun/gratification. The smartphone is probably the best most recent example: the upsurge in consumer demand was thanks to Apple who hid all the scary electronics behind a pristine all-white blank slate in its iPhone. This blank slate might also have added to the iPhone's mystique thereby allowing Apple to charge a lot more for its devices.

    • For the past 5 or so years I've been asking local building supply stores (e.g. Lowe's, HD) that have PVs for sale 'where can I get a closer look at the product?' To date, none has provided me with that info. At the same time, these massive retailers have wide assortments of everything else under their roofs, often with free Saturday morning/afternoon seminars on how to use these products.

    Yes. On several different devices.


    "Another point here is that it would be trivial to make an ultralight runabout (basically a fully-faired electric quad bike), which would actually meet most urban and many suburban requirements, "

    Indeed it would, and Renault have sold tens of thousands of them...


    That's... ugly. Remarkably ugly.

    Decades ago, what I wanted to do was build a two-seater, pedal-powered vehicle. "Fully faired", well... I was thinking of finding a TR-6 or TR-7 in a junkyard with a dead engine....


    Actually I have driven them all in "Not a L-R" - but I have bee up-&-down Park Rash in the L-R. Hard Knott is actually difficult in an lwb L-R (like mine) because of the tightness of the radii in the double-hairpin just below thw summit on the W side ... So there ...


    I don't know the current state of ocean fertilization, but there are two factors that need to be considered.

    One is Leibig's Law of the Minimum, which is one of the few "laws" that botany has. Basically it states that plant growth is limited by whatever nutrient is in shortest supply (it gets to 18 or even 20 for some species, but I'm keeping it simple). The complicated bit is that once you've supplied a lot of the most limited nutrient (iron, in the case of the iron fertilization experiments), the limit to growth is whatever nutrient is next most limited. Basically, if you dump mass quantities of iron, you're inducing a shortage in some other element (and you can do this in a plant growth experiment or even in your garden, incidentally). So it's not just a matter of dumping powdered cars into the Pacific, you've actually got to have a crew of plant physiologists on hand to do some chemical testing, and potentially tons of other elements to hand in case it turns out that your iron dumping has induced another nutrient shortage.

    The other problem is aerobic decomposition. Basically, if aerobic critters are eating dead algae, they're taking up oxygen and giving off carbon dioxide. You can get away with anaerobic decomposition, but it's much slower. The other factor is that warm water hold proportionally less oxygen than does cold water. What this means is that if you get a lot of decomposition in warm water, you use up all the oxygen in the water and you get a "dead zone," where the only life is anaerobic and decomposition slows down quite a bit. This is bad if (as at the Mississippi Delta) the dead zone is where you wanted to fish. If you've got a verrry long-term view, dead zones are where things like shale formation happen, and where the organic matter that could eventually become oil (if a bunch of other things happen) gets trapped in sediments. As I understand it, most of the organic matter so trapped DOES NOT become oil, incidentally.

    So if we heavily fertilize the oceans, yes, we will draw a bunch of CO2 out of the surface waters and dump the dead remains of the algae into deep water. This will probably cause the formation of large dead zones (a common feature in previous eras of hothouse Earth), which will help sequester a lot of carbon into oceanic sediments over geologic time, along with probably causing a bit of a mass extinction in the abyssal part of the biosphere (presumably the survivors will hide out on the peaks of underwater mountains above the dead zones, as we're hoping terrestrial species will do on the surface due to the air heating up). In about 50-200 million years or so, some fraction of this carbon will be available as oil, and whatever sentient critter is around can create another oil-based civilization for a couple of centuries and start the whole cycle over again. Earth can even go through this cycle another five or ten times before the expansion of the Sun renders Earth uninhabitable.

    Worth it? You tell me. In part this depends on how much you like your sea food, and in part it depends on whether, like Peter Ward, you're worried about certain oceanic bacteria getting so common that they belch a lot of methane into the atmosphere and really heat up the atmosphere. I'm not so sure whether the last will happen or not, but She Of Many Names seems to believe it will happen, so after we get to 300 posts or so, I'm sure we'll hear a lot about it.


    Yes, it happens all the time (as I mentioned earlier). Monitoring a battery with a reasonably flat discharge curve is an inevitably guess-and-by-God task, and what feeble attempt the algorithm does make to try and compensate starts to fail with even as little battery degradation as is caused by a number of charge/discharge cycles barely into double figures. So what happens is the battery indicator drops steadily and slowly from full charge until it gets down to 20-30% ish, then you blink and by the time you've opened your eyes it's collapsed completely and the device has turned itself off. (Which is the other thing - it does turn itself off; it doesn't run down gradually getting feebler, instead cessation of action is sudden and catastrophic.)


    Anaerobic decomposition is associated with methane production, too.


    If the control computer works and guesses the battery state right, yes, it simply turns off. But, if not, it can behave in all sorts of 'interesting' ways until it finally dies. Lost data when shutting down handhelds is one of the more common effects, because writing to stable storage is energy-intensive.


    Thanks for reminding me. I was thinking more of a fairly upright quad velomobile, with electric assistance, so legally more like a bicycle.


    "Most of these things don't exist in EV cars at all."

    The mechanical things don't. The electrical things that go wrong do. All the computerised rubbish that is deliberately designed to be opaque, unfaultfindable and unrepairable is still there, so are all the interconnections, plugs, sockets, wires, and insufficiently-robust things on the ends of the wires, and so is the shitty design that allows a trivial failure in some unimportant user gadget that you maybe didn't even know was there to screw up the operation of a safety-critical and/or operationally-essential subsystem. Loose connection in a lighting circuit causing the ABS to fail and stuff like that.

    Certainly it doesn't have to be like that, and it flaming well shouldn't be, but it will be, for the same reasons as it is like that now - this stuff is/will be designed by people whose primary concern is not serving to the best of their ability the aim of fulfilling whatever function the machine is ostensibly intended to perform, but instead the aim of fulfilling its actual function, which is making money. They're not interested in producing something which isn't shit. They're interested in producing something which is guaranteed to be shit, but is able to conceal that aspect of itself for just enough time in relation to its cost and size that when people do notice, they will happily though incorrectly ascribe the cause to the plain age of the item without being aware of the degree of self-delusion involved, and so won't be put off replacing it with another one.

    Really, any eco-device produced in a capitalistic framework is going to be a scam for that reason - it won't be made to last for ever, it'll be made to last just long enough that people will buy a replacement - the same old bloody same old minimise the entropy change in the one area where it's noticeable and sod how much is happening elsewhere scam.

    What's really puzzling is how determined people are to fall for it. You do occasionally see someone pointing out that eg. high performance batteries require exotic and nasty ingredients which are mined in conditions that a Welsh slate miner would run away from and the mine waste fed to children, but the comment might as well have gone to /dev/null for all the notice anyone else takes.


    I think you mean AAA. My family has always called it "Triple A." AA is Alcoholics Anonymous.


    If we're playing that game - A625, Mam Tor, in a Volvo Amazon. In 1987.


    No, he meant the AA. If you call the AAA in the UK, you aren't going to get help in a hurry :-)


    Errors of +/-50 miles in the "you'll be stopping now" point seem to be the norm on all sorts of vehicles.

    I dealt with that one a couple weeks ago going over the mountains to the D & D game. Started over the pass with 40 miles available, then went up a couple hills and the gauge told me I had zero miles available, upon which I drove a very nervous fifty miles to the filling station...

    BTW, I used several of the suggestions you folks gave me about Orcish celebrations and they went over extremely well with the D&D group, then I turned the DMing duties over to one of the players and rested... Figuring out the WhoDunIt for "Murder at the Orcish County Fair" ended up being exhausting. I should post the picture of the Orcified Wagon someplace - that was the favorite!


    Upon rereading... I hadn't realized that we were crossing the ocean. Just to clarify, in the US we say AAA for cars and AA for alcoholics.


    Those are some nice scams! Milo Minderbender approves!


    Ocean fertilization is not about carbon sequestering - No natural flow of money into it there. Any effort into it with that goal necessarily runs on tax dollars and politics, and it is too unpopular a solution for that to be sustainable. No, where it matters is in sea-food maximization.

    What you do is you create artificial (floating beneath the surface) kelp and oyster-beds on a massive scale and fertilize them. Then you sell the kelp for fibers, animal-feed, human consumption, and bio-char production. The oysters you just sell for food. This setup also attracts non-bivalves, of course, which can be fished as per normal. The kelp keep the entire setup oxygenated, and since the main product is filter-feeders, very little biomass ever falls out the bottom of the system. Limitless supply of ethically sound protein, since bi-valves do not have a nerve system worth the name.

    And best of all, this entire setup is more or less immune to changes in weather - It is not on the surface, so potentially extremely robust against storms. It will tie up some carbon, simply because done at scale, we are talking about increasing the biomass of planet earth quite dramatically, but that is not the point, nor the main effect. The point is killing the pig farm while providing the world all the animal protein 9 billion people could ever want.

    Plot points that spring to mind:

    Civilian spin-off of the United States Navy Marine Mammal Program for maintenance staff.

    Clam piracy. It was historically a big problem. Fuck-off huge clam farms in international waters might bring that back. 100 tonnes of fresh clams might fetch a pretty penny in some port that does not ask too many questions where you got them.

    Previous points taken together: Orca. With Guns. >;-)

    The mad scheme to reforest Australia. Yes, the interior. Using petra produced from mega-tonnes of sea-weed bio-char. (Paleontological evidence says green Australia is a stable equilibrium as long as you do not light it on fire too much) Project Dream-time.

    The civil conflict within the Australian aboriginal communities between the faction that thinks this is just insulting, and the faction that is all in favor of the project that employs them. Civil in this case meaning "surprisingly polite".


    ...And before you ask, the money flow here is "fruit, timber, free-range woodland pork"


    So like I said I have had a tesla for four years ands it's generally been spot on at judging battery range

    There are also a ton of posts on various tesla groups of people limping in on the last 1% of charge and no one has reported running out before hand . If anything there seems to be a buffer of about 1%

    I've also been part of the tesla FB group which has thousands of members complaining about various issues. Very rarely do they complain about electronics. Common complaints include - drive train issues - leaks in the sun roof - shitty thruput on superchargers - wheel wear - 12 volt battery starter problems - doors on the model X - availability if replacemt parts after accidents

    When you put s destination into the onboard gps it not only tells you mileage but projects how much battery you will have remaining at the end of the trip and it exactly nails it almost every time

    The other thing to realize is that deep discharges are actually pretty rare. Most people do not drive 200+ miles in the course of s normal day, the typical pattern is to plug your car in when you are done and always start out the next day full

    With regards to needing a lot of computer power to manage a battery I've also been running an off the grid house for 3 years. I have 50kwh of batteries plugged up to that house and 10 kWh solar panel and it all runs without any computers at all. Inverters and charge controlllers are electronics true but they are pretty old school hard wired power company stuff but complex computers regulating fuel/ air mixes and pollution control devices and all the wacky shit that has crept into IC cars over the years

    Peripherals electronics in Teslas almost all operate off the primary panel which is essentially an iPad. They don't get repaired they get replaced completely in about ten minutes

    One of the things you learn from direct experience is how stupidly must modern cars are designed and also why it doesn't need to be that way. Many many things in a car are just flat out poor design or various forms of lock-in and revenue generation ploys


    Thanks for the explanation.

    Leibig's Law of the Minimum doesn't seem like a huge obstacle, as the "formula" for fertilization can be adjusted to various needs and address multiple tiers of minimums. Obviously this requires research.

    The issue of aerobic decomposition looks more complicated, but I'm wondering whether the aerobic decomposition might be symptomatic of overfertilzation, just like when you put down too much steer manure and your lawn dies... This also requires research.

    The big question I have for you is whether the research is being done? Having read about earlier hucksters creating ocean fertilization scams I'm very curious to learn whether they have damaged the prospects of researchers in the field!"


    "It will tie up some carbon"

    Not just biomass, but all those oyster shells too. (Question: Where does all the calcium come from?)

    And maybe you could also collect the ammonia excreted by all those marine animals and make urea with it. That reaction consumes CO2 and is actually exothermic, too.


    sometimes pictures help more then words.

    also i love the ideas of electric scooter, there are actually a bunch of plays trying to make that. It's not a perfect solution though, weather for example, or longer commutes but it's still . a great idea


    Fifth most abundant element in the earths crust, so the answer to that is "Everywhere". Its not going to be a limiting factor - The planet would literally run out of carbon dioxide before Ca becomes a limit on shell-production. (And the mass-flow involved is not large enough for that to be a concern, either.)


    The issue is getting Ca out of solution in increasingly acidic waters. With water pH above 7.0, it's easy for organisms to get calcium out of water. When it gets acidic, they can still do it, but it takes energy, and the shells of some start dissolving. If it takes too much energy to keep the shells intact, they die through some set of dissolution and starvation. Meanwhile, they aren't doing their other ecosystem functions, so everything starts to get out of whack when organisms start spending all their energy to maintain their exoskeletons.


    Yes. But a kelp farm that is being harvested is going to have a significantly higher pH than the ocean in general - it is a localized low-CO2 region, because the kelp consume it. This is seen in the wild, were kelp beds have lots of oysters in them - it is where the idea comes from.


    In Queensland it's RACQ, in NSW it's NRMA and in Victoria it's RACV. (And while AA is for alcoholics, it is only for those who don't mind a LOT of Christianity in their rehab). Point is, the world may be your mollusc, but there it is a mollusc of many shells.


    Elderly Cynic noted: " If you call the AAA in the UK, you aren't going to get help in a hurry :-)"

    Don't remember details, but before Google killed it, there used to be an Easter egg in Google Maps: if you asked for directions from Boston or perhaps New York to England, and clicked the car or walk icons, you'd get full instructions and travel times. So yes, there'd be a bit of a delay, but a truly dedicated AAA member could still come to your rescue. G


    Orca. With Guns. >;-)

    That's okay, we just employ the sharks with frickin' laser beams to control the orcas.


    "(Which is the other thing - it does turn itself off; it doesn't run down gradually getting feebler, instead cessation of action is sudden and catastrophic.)"

    No they don't. That's just factually wrong. I could tape over the battery gauge on my bike and I'd still never run out of power with no warning. Throttle response becomes subtly different at about 20% remaining. Obviously different at about 10% remaining. You start needing full throttle to stay with highway traffic around 7%. At 5% it starts to speed limit you in town. At 1% you're effectively a bicycle. I've ridden 10km in that 1% state, albeit at bicycle speeds. I've never got it down to 0%. Mine's a 2014, and I understand the 2017 bikes do the same, but they read 0% when there's really about 10% left. People report limping along 20 or 30 km after the bike goes into slow mode.

    Leafs have a turtle mode that's similar. Teslas do something like that from what I can gather but the gauge reads 0%, however I've not tried it out so that's hearsay.


    That's because you have fallen into the trap the other way!

    I don't think so. You and a few others seem to have a big bias against electronics. I see this in people saying still today "watch out for SSD, they're not safe".[1]

    1st gen Prius, I'd avoid it. 1st few months or a year of production of a brand's EV, ditto. But over time they figure out what is wrong and fix it. And fixing most electronic issues is a damn sight easier than dealing with a valve seat issue in an IC car.

    Auto (and any industrial) electronics today are huge improvements over 5 or 10 years ago. Don't let your age get you stuck the recent past. (I do it at times myself, but try and watch for it.)

    [1] 200 or so SSDs installed via new purchases, replacements for spinning rust, and built up as RAID systems, in various setups. Desktops, laptops, RAID, whatever. I've seen exactly 1 SSD failure. And over the same time period with a similar number of spinning drives I've dealt with 5 or 10 failures.

    As to the debate over "better", well most people don't use the same weighting of the "better" equation as you do. So your arguments tend to be ignored out in the world.


    Carbon scams. Apartment complexes claiming to be low or neutral in carbon and charging 10% or so more in rents to people who want to be green. And it's all fake.


    "One is that batteries of any kind in common use never seem to last in practice anything like as long as they say they're supposed to whether in terms of single use capacity with non-rechargeable types or of how many charge/discharge cycles before the capacity falls off a cliff..."

    The maker of the battery in my motorcycle claimed 5 years and 6000 full cycles. They've been in use for 7 years now, none have failed yet. None of the owners report a range reduction yet. I know a guy who puts 100 000 miles on his 2012 model bike every year. The 2012's had a range of about 50 miles, so that's 2000 full cycles a year. Last I heard there was no detectable range reduction on his bike. There probably is some, but detecting anything less than about 10% reduction would be hard and he's added fairings that increase the range. So he currently gets more than the advertised range out of the bike he bought in 2011.


    "Any plant that compresses CO2 enough make it possible to store in volume will look something like a dry ice factory (essentially trying to freeze the gas)."

    You do know that a dry ice factory compresses the gas to the same pressures we were discussing don't you? If not, it works by compressing it to a supercritical fluid then allows it to expand suddenly, some turns to gas (taking the heat away) and some turns to solid. You've basically added another step. Unless you've figured out how to pump solid CO2 underground, you still have to turn it back into the supercritical fluid (that you had before you made ice) at the well head. You'd do that by adding the heat you removed by venting CO2 gas.


    That's kinda cute. I want something like that.

    Wondering why the battery is leased not owned. I could see leasing if you were swapping batteries, but it looks like you have to plug it in to recharge.

    I'd need a bit more range than it has, unfortunately — my daily commute can be too close to 100 km for comfort (if detours/delays happen). Also, I suspect the electric blanket heater would drain the battery in a Canadian winter. (And also a bit worried about defrosting the windows.)


    "government subsidies it"

    The problem with this plan for a scam is that it's not a scam.

    Government has a pile of money to do something with about energy. They also have a bunch of nuclear plants. Now they have to be shut down for refuelling every year for 2 months (Nojay, shut up about this, I'm right and you're wrong. I always admit when I'm wrong, but I'm right this time). Because you can't have them all off line at once, you need more plants than the actual consumption of electricity vs nameplate output would indicate.

    Now in Scotland rooftop solar works fabulously well, better than anywhere else in the world except the poles, but only for about 2 months.

    So as a government, you can hand out money to build a new nuclear plant to cover the winter load, or you can hand out free solar panels (the home owner then pays for installation, the land it sits on, the connection to the grid, the change of meter, cleaning, maintenance, insurance, site security). Hand out free solar panels and the summer consumption drops so far that you can take all the nuclear plants off line at one time, meaning you've effectively given yourself an extra plant or two during the rest of the year. All at probably 1/20th of the cost of building an extra plant.


    " I was thinking more of a fairly upright quad velomobile, with electric assistance, so legally more like a bicycle"

    Legally, it's a quadricycle (4 wheel bicycle). They make a light quadricycle

    and a heavy

    It's all in the wiki that was linked to.


    "Wondering why the battery is leased not owned."

    Pigeon and people of similar mindset. It's to reassure them that their experience with a laptop battery from 10 years ago (which they left on permanently at work, while plugged in, so the battery sat at above 45C in a state of full charge 24/7) which only lasted 18 months, will not be repeated.

    Aside: if you want to torture a battery, charge it fully. If you want to torture a battery, keep it above 45C for long periods. If you want to destroy a battery, do both. EV's do neither. The experience gained from lithium batteries of a completely different design, using different materials, stored and used completely differently is in no way transferable. This doesn't stop people thinking they know all about modern EV batteries based on their experience with laptops a decade ago. Same fears around fires. The ones that burst into smoulder or fitful flame share little more in common with EV packs than the word 'Lithium' in their name. Yet somehow they fear the practically inert packs more than they fear 50 litres of highly flammable liquid.

    It's not a rational fear, so rational arguments don't work against it. It's like trying to convince someone that a Huntsman Spider is harmless. (if you're not familiar with them, they're nearly the size of those tarantulas you see in movies, but unlike the movie spider's glacial movements, they're faster than a mouse, they can jump several feet and their eyes retroflect, so they glow in the dark. )


    Perhaps my bias against electronics is based on knowledge? :-) I have recently retired from 50 years on the leading edge of IT - you might even use one of my innovations. Most people don't recognise most IT failures for what they are, because the symptoms often look like something else. It's certainly POSSIBLE to make near bullet-proof electronics - I have done it with some of my software and teach how to - but, for the reasons Pigeon gives, it isn't going to happen.

    And, no, I am NOT talking about urban near-myths like that SSD one, but about the basic design and failure modes of modern mass-produced electronics, both hardware and software.


    No, a quadricycle (in that sense) is not a 4-wheel bicycle, not even the light quadricycle, but a motorised vehicle. I could point you at the UK regulations, and the EU ones are here:

    Look at L1e-A:

    L1e-A Powered cycle

    cycles designed to pedal equipped with an auxiliary propulsion with the primary aim to aid pedalling and output of auxiliary propulsion is cut off at a vehicle speed ≤ 25 km/h and maximum continuous rated or net power ( 1 ) ≤ 1 000 W and a powered three- or four-wheel cycle complying with supplemental specific sub-classification criteria (9) to (11) is classified as being technically equivalent to a two-wheel L1e-A vehicle


    "Now in Scotland rooftop solar works fabulously well, better than anywhere else in the world except the poles, but only for about 2 months."

    No, it doesn't. It works about as well as the AVERAGE in places like Texas. Look at the actual insolation data and sun angles.


    I think the reason for the fear of SSD failure is that many people, including a lot who do know better, never really bother with backups until the spinning rust starts to fail and the error messages start appearing.

    Then they copy everything they can off the dying HDD and congratulate themselves when things turn out more or less ok. SDDs are more reliable, but when they fail they don't have the decency to go out in a human timescale.

    I have proper backups so I use SSDs everywhere I can afford to.


    You are misrepresenting the real problem. Yes, the better modern lithium batteries are vastly more reliable and long-lived, even than the previous rechargeable technologies, and almost never go into spontaneous combustion. But, as the Samsung 7, Dreamliner and others show, that does happen - which is why the aircraft companies and regulators are very concerned about them.

    The killer is that, once they have started to break down (whether spontaneously or from being caught in a fire), it is effectively impossible to put them out. If there is a multi-car pile-up, and a fire starts for any reason, that's a big problem.


    I think it's important to inject some real numbers here.

    Scottish peak electricity demand is in winter, to be more exact it's in winter around about 5 or 6 in the evening when people get home from work.

    During summer it's also in the evening when solar panel output has dropped close to zero.

    Which kind of completely and utterly destroys the entire basis of your argument.

    So during summer your actual peak demand doesn't actually drop because peak demand is at the wrong time for solar.

    And during winter the energy from solar pannels sucks.

    So you can't take any extra baseload plants offline.

    If solar produced power at times when it does not or if peak demand was more similar to parts of the US where people use a lot of air conditioning then it might work better but those things are not true in scotland or similar places far from the equator. Hence why rooftop home solar is little more than a status symbol in those places, it's a terrible way to spend finite resources.

    it's a partial-scam but one which people want to believe in.


    On the other hand, solar water heating makes sense, even in Scotland - though it's not more than a way of slightly reducing power requirements anywhere in the UK. But the solar power boondoggle/scam is preventing that from being considered seriously.


    I looked at the image, which didn't contain the information you said it did. I looked at the publication it came from, and after a skim, didn't seem to contain the information you said it did.

    You seem to have copied the wrong link, but I'd say you're right. I'm quite surprised that the peak usage comes at 10pm at night. (the sun sets after 10pm according to google). I don't know what you Scots are up to that late. We're all tucked up in bed by then.


    Re. SSDs vs. spinning hard disks: "There are two types of computer user: those who have lost data to a drive failure, and those who will soon lose data to a drive failure."—Anon.

    Perhaps overly dramatic, but less so than you might think.

    I evangelize backups at every opportunity because I know so many people who have had their day/week/month ruined by a drive failure. In contrast, because I'm a freelancer and depend on my computer for a living, I am paranoid-rigorous about backups. Thus, when I lost my hard drive a couple years ago, I was up and running in the time it took to install a new drive and copy over the backup. Less than an hour once I had the new drive in hand, and that's with a slow drive.

    Nowadays, there's no excuse not to make ongoing backups of everything that's important to you. You can do this without lifting a finger, other than to set up the backups the first time. At a minimum, install Dropbox and set it to automatically copy all your data files. You do this by creating symbolic links to all files or directories you want backed up ( I believe iCloud does the same thing, and there are many other paid services (e.g., Dropbox Pro, Carbonite) that offer strong online backup. I've stuck with Dropbox because they've been bulletproof thus far.

    Note: really strong backup = offline backup (e.g., DVD, removable thumb drive) + nearline backup (e.g., external hard drive) + offsite backup (e.g., Dropbox). Names and definitions vary, but that's the basic hierrachy.

    Basic Dropbox is free and provides several hundred megabytes of storage; inviting friends gets you an extra 250 Meg of storage for each invite that is accepted; the invitee also gets extra space compared with setting up an account without an invite. If you don't already have a Dropbox account, contact me off-blog ( and I'll send you an invite. Since I also get extra space, you might instead want to gather a group of friends and start this invitation chain yourself.

    In terms of backups, remember that it's not just (for example) your word processor files: any customizations (e.g., Preference Panel settings on the Mac) that you create should also be backed up. For example, for Microsoft Word:

    And because of the growing prevalence of ransomware, consider creating a DVD backup of important files. Once the DVD has been written, it can't be overwritten (excluding DVD-RW, of course), so the DVD files can't be encrypted. I do weekly DVD backups of all my files; if ransomware strikes, odds are good I won't lose more than 1 week's data. DVDs are not perfect (they won't work well for really large photo libraries, and they don't last forever), but they're currently the best bet if you want to create an unencryptable copy.


    They're not exclusive - some people simply won't learn :-(


    i actually duplicated my c drive,,, then stored the copy in a physically different place,,, now that's paranoia!


    Not in the slightest. That's merely good practice if there is serious value (whether monetary or other) in the data.


    I don't know what you Scots are up to that late. We're all tucked up in bed by then.

    Well, the pubs don't close until at least 11PM, then we've got to get home and make a fry up before bed! ;-)


    The linked graph was for demand over the year, look at the dark green line and it does show you that peak demand is in winter with demand almost at it's lowest around about july.

    Daily patterns also matter.

    Solar produces almost nothing by 5 or 6 in the evening:

    here's what you expect from a PV pannel. just because the sun hasn't quite set yet doesn't mean you're still getting meaningful power from PV once you're well into the evening.

    And for daily demand this is what it tends to look like:

    notice it peaks around 6, when PV is producing almost nothing.

    Solar can be quite awesome but the further from the equator you get the worse the investment it becomes.

    A while back Elon Musk made some statement about a square 100 miles on a side of solar pannels to supply the entire USA, ran the rough numbers and it actually checked out even accounting for storage losses for once with these sorts of claims.

    Unfortunately enough energy storage to pull it off would cost something like 500 trillion if it costs anything similar per megawatt hour of storage as that australian setup musk was getting involved in.


    I won't argue about Scotland, but the concept you're talking about is known as the duck curve of electricity production around here. Basically, the idea is that there's a surplus of electricity generated during the day (solar), but the peak electricity demand is in the late afternoon and evening, primarily in summer, when air conditioners turn on and people start using appliances. You can graph this to look like a duck (or, in Hawai'i, Nessie).

    The argument as of about 5 years ago was that this was why we needed more and more "peaker" natural gas power plants that could be fired up in the late afternoon to match the load, so that there wouldn't be brown outs or rolling black outs.

    However, at least in California, that argument no longer works. Late last year, a proposal for a new peaker plant in Long Beach went instead with a 300 mWh battery storage facility--because it was cheaper. (source). All the battery does is takes the surplus energy from midday production and holds it until it's needed when people get home. It's a simple solution, and at the moment, at least in California, it's cheaper than setting up a natural gas generator of the same capacity.

    Whether this would be true in Scotland or any other place where it gets cold is another question, because batteries tend to not like getting too cold. Nonetheless, battery technology is basically mature enough to handle peaker plant duties, and it's still growing.

    As for why you'd want to roof with solar, there are two reasons: 1. Cities have square miles of unproductive rooftop that's just out there soaking up heat and contributing to urban heat island effects, and why not use some of the energy they're wasting to do something useful? 2. It turns out the desert wastelands where people wanted to site solar plants ten years ago aren't empty, they're just unexplored and often brimming full of cool stuff when biologists actually go out and look at them. That was demonstrated by the Ivanpah debacle. Now there are proposals to put solar plants and pot farms on private land throughout the Carrizo Plain (and from the current US President to privatize some or all of the Carrizo Plain National Monument). If you don't know the Carrizo Plain, that was the epicenter of the 2017 superbloom, and you probably saw images of that last spring. In other words, the true wastelands are city roofs, and while we will need solar farms, there are plenty of degraded lands (failed housing developments, old oil fields and the like) that could house solar.

    Now linking massive numbers of solar rooftops into a crowd-powered grid is something the power companies have NOT wanted to do. They prefer buying energy from a few big producers, and they've aimed a lot of propaganda at trying to persuade people that rooftop solar (at least in sunny climes) is a Bad Idea (I'm sure you didn't fall for their propaganda, did you?). Unfortunately for their line of argument, these same companies are already producing software to make it easier to balance the electrical load across a bunch of sources (and it's not even that hard--my electric meter runs backwards every day and they pay for the surplus already), and various groups are figuring out the legal and regulatory stuff needed to make community-generated power work (these are things like who has access to the panels on the roof of your house if you're part of a distributed production grid with a quota to fill, and your panels are working right).

    Again, San Diego isn't Scotland, but do be careful about saying that solar on rooftops is a scam.


    Oh, yes, and in the southern USA, the peak supply is roughly the same as the peak demand for air conditioning. Win-win. But, in the UK, solar power for most purposes is somewhere between a bad solution, a boondoggle and a scam.


    andyf noted that he stored his backup drive offsite, suggesting that might be "paranoid".

    Not paranoid at all: highly practical. The problem with onsite storage of your backups is that the same flood that wrecks everything in your basement, or fire that destroys the whole house, or thief who steals your computer and all connected devices, or cat who knocks over your coffee and then pisses on your laptop, or etc.* is going to destroy both your primary copy and your on-site backup.

    • If the etc. is an asteroid, an alien invasion or worse, recovering your data is probably the last thing on your mind. If you're still alive and unenslaved to have a mind.

    These things aren't common, which is why we most of don't hire mercenaries and firefighters to guard our house 24/7. But they're common enough that some form of offsite backup is essential. Cloud storage accomplishes this, though usually at an ongoing cost, and cloud providers have a spotty record for maintaining availability (e.g., Apple's iCloud, Microsoft's OneDrive). For physical offsite storage at no cost, offer to swap storage media with your buddy who lives on the other side of town. For offsite plus physical security at a moderate cost, rent a bank safety deposit box.


    Paranoia? No, disaster recovery.

    We back up everything every night, then, every other week, I do the offline backups - half to drives that I put back in the fire safe, and the rest to a large RAID in another building.

    I really do need to get that hot-swap bay in my home system working....


    1. Cities have square miles of unproductive rooftop that's just out there soaking up heat and contributing to urban heat island effects, and why not use some of the energy they're wasting to do something useful?

    When I see urban area roofs I tend to set lots of things sitting on top of them. HVAC units, water towers, antennas, vents, etc...

    Now in suburban areas I see many more flat spaces on tops of low rise buildings. They tend to have the same things on top as taller buildings but with more space around the "things". But I have to wonder about the structural capacity of those roofs.


    Slight derail - away from energy but eco-health, shifting demos and health-cost related.

    The US and most other western countries are quickly becoming nations dominated by oldsters stereotyped as highly likely to suffer from expensive-because-chronic age-related medical conditions. And because most are no longer bringing in a paycheck, they're at higher risk for nutritional deficits. Enter the senior-friendly low-cost garden project: grow your own indoor/outdoor edible meds for pennies a day. Kit includes seeds, or very small cuttings ready for transplant/potting.

    Scam potential exists because such an idea could actually work. The scam would likely involve sending the wrong variety or GMOd infertile seeds/plants.

    For example, nasturium is an excellent source of lutein for eyes in general (esp. for AMD) and all parts of the plant are edible therefore can be used as a salad green. Nasturtiums prefer poorer soils but need thorough watering regularly. Most small animals esp. rabbits really like this plant, as well as the old-fashioned violet, so could be used to promote attracting small animals to the area. Another potential scam for 'grow your own lutein' is to send customers dandelions. BTW, dandelion could also work as 'grow your own natural diuretic' scam, or when it takes over the neighborhood as a latex source. (Do not eat at night - there's a reason the French call it pissenlit, i.e., wet the bed.)

    For home brew enthusiasts, blue agave is the key ingredient in tequila. It's also a powerful sweetener - but at 80% fructose, it's risky for diabetics - which may explain why it attracts varieties of butterflies and moths. Great for arid areas.

    Of the three, nasturtium is least invasive but can grow so quickly that it can smoother neighboring plants.


    Heating and cooling is a huge huge factor in energy consumption

    As an example in my well designed well insulated 3500 sqrft house a normal day will consume about 7kwh

    However when the temperature recently spiked to 100F I burned 50 kWh most of which went to keeping the place cool.

    Something else you start to notice when you live off the grid is that you make an effort to shift energy intensive workloads to peak power generation times. Laundry, dish washers, car charging, even heating / cooling can all be shifted once you feel the incentives


    Re: Green rooftops

    In 2006 the City of Toronto launched a green roof initiative that's become very successful because it adds esthetics and additional usable space to the building in addition to environmental benefits. The retrofit/clean-up/reno costs aren't that big given the payoff in increased value/rents. BTW, Toronto also offers a small tax rebate for green/sun reflective roofs. Buy-in has exceeded expectations and results very favorable overall so this program is likely to continue.

    What also helps is to have solid science backing this initiative and the results reported in the country's most respected newspaper. Good overview article here:


    Is there any potential (as in actually available & ueseable sites) for pumped-storage in Scotland?


    Great spin on the usual prepper advice of having your own herb garden.

    I'd note a few things: dandelion is generally considered a weed, while nasturtium is also a weed in my area. Enough people know this that getting them to grow either is problematic. As a side note, I like the cooking dandelion clones (it's a mostly clonal species), but I don't see a future in trying to get my wife to let me plant them in the garden, because she doesn't even like the taste. As for blue agave, I've got some that you're welcome to come and harvest if you want to make mescal or tequila (taste NOT guaranteed). The nasty part there is it's somewhat toxic raw, so if you want to get the sugar out, you've got to cook it for quite awhile. It can be eaten cooked, but getting the "nectar" (the sugary liquid necessary for fermentation) out of the cooked plant takes a lot more work. The local Indians still make sandals out of the fibers, this to sell to tourists and hobbyists, but they charge a lot for these primitive sandals, simply because of the amount of work that goes into fiber extraction.

    Still, if we tinker with the idea, spin it as a balcony herb garden to keep you well and active, add in a cheap raised bed setup, standardize a list of seeds for the entire US, and so forth, it would be a reasonable product to sell. If you market it through AARP hard enough, you might be able to keep selling the product to new suckers faster than the complainers shut you down.


    It depends on the city. Southwest cities tend to have less cluttered roofs than does, say, New York.

    One thing I've seen that verges on scam is people simultaneously pushing solar panels and green roofs for the same building as a retrofit. Both of these are a bit heavy (so is solar water heating), and mixing wet soil and electricity on a roof is not the first thing I'd think of. Since this kind of thing comes from groups that promote urban forestry (e.g. plant lots of tall trees around houses powered by solar), I think this is less a deliberate scam and more a mix of enthusiasm and a "try everything all at once" approach to problem solving.

    Still, it could easily be respun as a scam ("Yes, we'll put a garden on your roof, so you can feed your family by harvesting plants grown under your new solar panels. Your house will completely support you AND be energy self-sufficient. All you need is to supply water. You can even hire us to maintain it for a small monthly fee...")


    Re: 'One thing I've seen that verges on scam is people simultaneously pushing solar panels and green roofs for the same building as a retrofit. Both of these are a bit heavy (so is solar water heating), and mixing wet soil and electricity on a roof is not the first thing I'd think of.'

    Suggest you read up on the U of Toronto research - they're doing exactly this.


    Suggest you read up on the U of Toronto research - they're doing exactly this.


    It isn't that I'm against green roofs, and you can certainly put plants on the less sunny exposures and leave the panels on the hot side. That said, the two big problems with green roofs are weight and water control. When you install a green roof (and more, when you install a garden roof), it's a lot of weight on the roof. If the building wasn't built to hold that weight (especially in an earthquake, which is an issue around here), then it's not very safe.

    As for water control, that part should be obvious. Unfortunately, I haven't seen green roofers talking about how long the underlying plastic sheeting will last before it needs to be replaced. That's probably my ignorance again, but it's worth remembering that a modern green roof doesn't last forever, and you have to be thoughtful about the ways it might fail. Adding something that electrifies every time light hits it into this equation is just the littlest bit risky.

    As for urban forestry, I do know a couple of really nice people who promote planting large numbers of trees (some of them rather tall) in my fair city, which occasionally gets racked by droughts. They're sure that there will always be water for trees, even when there are cutbacks on outdoor watering (they want regulations that penalize people for not watering trees, even when they get penalized for using too much water...). They also want solar on every rooftop to keep the big solar farms out of the desert. While these are admirable sentiments, I'm not convinced that you can have tall trees, rooftop solar, and droughts all at once. At least a few compromises are needed.


    "The killer is that, once they have started to break down (whether spontaneously or from being caught in a fire), it is effectively impossible to put them out. If there is a multi-car pile-up, and a fire starts for any reason, that's a big problem."

    1) why is it a 'big problem'? The lithium fires won't start for several minutes at the earliest, by which time everyone is out of their cars and standing around. It's not even a big problem for the insurers. The cars are already smashed writeoffs. Burnt smashed writeoffs isn't much worse. Contrast that with petrol in a multicar pileup where the fire starts before the cars have even come to a halt and the cars are normally completely consumed before the emergency services arrive on the scene.

    2) as I've said, and provided evidence for, it's not 'effectively impossible' to put out the fire. You spray them with a garden hose and they go out. A firm belief that something is true, despite evidence to the contrary is faith.


    I've seen enough output graphs to spot a single install that has either local shading in the afternoon or a storm in the afternoon. That's not what a nation sized output graph looks like. The more evidence you provide, the more I'm doubting your words, because the evidence isn't supporting what you're saying.


    Dandelion is very bitter. Goosefoot (fat hen) isn't, though it's also a weed; it makes an excellent alternative to spinach in many dishes.


    1) Let's ignore the minor detail that the vehicles have value, and that people often travel with valuable or irreplaceable luggage. In many (perhaps most) multi-vehicle pile-ups, at least one person is trapped in their vehicle and has to be freed by the emergency services.

    2) A battery needed to replace the tank on a typical car will boil something like 4-500 litres of water. To extinguish it, a LOT more is needed, because much of it will run off. A garden hose? Get real!


    It appears hydro is pretty good in Scotland. Hydro need not be pumped to be useful as storage, you can simply turn it off when electricity is available elsewhere and turn it on when it isn't. I'm not sure about Scotland, but certainly in Australia it works that way across seasons. Our hydro has enough power generation capacity to drain the dams in a month or so. So they only get turned on when demand is high and generation is low (the exception being Tasmainian Hydro which in the past has been run to provide profit ahead of reliable supply)

    Nice rundown on Scottish energy in the publication that Murphy linked to. S/he just linked to one image, but I stripped the end off the URL and got to this:

    "88% of total UK hydro capacity is in Scotland - enough to power the equivalent of over 1,000,000 homes."

    A great read, and if it's true, Scotland is leading the world again.

    So that's there without additional investment.

    If you want to put a little money in it, there's Strathdearn pumped hydro (either with sea water or pumped too and from Loch Ness), which would easily be big enough to cover Scotland's energy storage needs. Estimates of storage are about 200 GW days, or enough to supply all Scotland's electricity for over 2 months (even in Winter). Actually it would be enough to supply all of Scotland's energy for heating, transport and electricity for 2 weeks in winter... I don't know if I'd put all my storage eggs in one basket, but it would be an amazing thing to have.


    It looks like using water on a lithium-ion battery is not a terribly good idea:

    Lithium-ion batteries are not a class D risk because they don’t contain lithium in a metallic form. They are actually a class A risk but with some caveats. The danger with lithium-ion battery fires is with the electrolyte in the batteries rather than the lithium salts. Every battery uses a different electrolyte solution, but many contain Fluorine, which readily combines with the hydrogen found in water used for fire fighting to make Hydrogen Fluoride. This is a highly toxic gas which can cause blindness and respiratory failure, and in aqueous form (Hydrofluoric Acid) is highly corrosive and absorbed through the skin. So although lithium-ion batteries are in theory a class A risk and can be extinguished with plain water, this can cause dangerous and potentially deadly side effects.

    The general recommendations seem to be using Class D extinguisher is the best option.

    (Of course, if it's a lithium battery then water is an extremely bad idea, as metallic lithium reacts with water. But rechargeables are all lithium-ion, AFAIK.)

    If you like, I'll try to remember to ask my brother-in-law when I get home. He used to be the medical chap for his fire department in dealing with hazardous materials, so I'm certain he can find some definitive information on the subject.


    Jesus H Christ as our American cousins would say.

    Pour friggin water on it. That will put it out.

    "If the high voltage battery catches fire, is exposed to high heat, or is bent, twisted, cracked, or breached in any way, use large amounts of water to cool the battery."

    Or you can just let the fucker burn. "Consider allowing the battery to burn while protecting exposures."

    Talk about making a mountain out of a friggin molehill.


    Oh, and there's no Fl in car batteries anyway, let alone Fl gas.

    FFS where do you people come up with these ideas from?


    I thought the anti-vaxxers had some way out ideas.

    Fluorine gas. Out of a fire. Like there's some sort of bottle of compressed fluorine in each battery (what it's doing there is left up to the reader), and somehow in a fire it vents, and then one of the most powerful oxidisers known, makes it's way past all the fire, past all the nicely flammable plastics and metal of the car, past the water you're spraying on it (it's also one of the most soluble) to get to your lungs to kill you with hydrofluoric acid. Because you are standing down wind of a car fire without any breathing protection.

    Oh Jesus.

    To quote Catina, You're fucked. (and not because of hydrofluoric acid)


    I just read something that I will not mention due to the UK's libel laws. But... If say there was a serious hysteria going around about some shit that was becoming more common every day. Particularly if that shit was part of the climate change solution. The hysteria involved a failure mode of this increasingly common thing. The people who know about this thing say that the correct way to deal with it is to apply large amounts of the cheapest thing most people ever come in contact with. Literally, cheaper than dirt and available everywhere, often for free.

    Wouldn't it be great if you could make some sort of (expensive) magic elixir that worked exactly as well as the cheaper than dirt stuff, that was guaranteed to safely neutralise something that wasn't even there in the first place (say a really toxic gas for instance that would never form in reality). Particularly if this magic elixir was basically just the cheaper than dirt stuff anyway. Even better, because this particular toxic gas could never form under the circumstances described, you could never be sued if your magic elixir failed to protect the end user from said toxic gas.

    That would be a fab scam, don't you think?


    Fluorine gas is not involved anywhere and nobody said it was. The electrolyte of the battery consists of a fluoride salt dissolved in an organic carbonate. In the presence of water it hydrolyses to form hydrofluoric acid as one of the products. That shit is nasty, so if you're going to pour water on any burning lithium batteries wait for me to bugger off first.


    Bollocks, forgot the links.

    Second one explains the chemistry behind the hydrolysis.

    Also forgot to mention that the electrolyte itself is just as nasty since the moisture of your body will cause hydrolysis. But adding water to it makes things worse by causing lots of hydrolysis and then spreading the products around.


    Not that much. Though certainly there are plenty of upsy downsy watery bits, and the availability of lots of sites for smallish plain generating stations was a great match for the requirement of supplying lots and lots of small widely-spread loads when the wilds of Scotland were wired up.

    But for actual pumped storage, the specific requirements for a top lake and bottom lake in reasonable proximity etc. etc. don't occur that often in a size big enough to be useful. They have got a couple of wee ones, but as I'd heard it, only sites for about one more. The link below seems to think there's a little more than I thought there was, so maybe you could roughly match the installed capacity in Wales before running out of sites.

    Wonder if anyone's suggested setting one up between Levers Water and Coniston on the basis that it's an old industrial site already :)


    Re: dandelions, remember that these plants tend to clone themselves (technically, they form seed without syngamy through apomixis), but they do breed occasionally. In any case, there are cultivars (clones) that were bred/chosen to be more edible. Some can be seen here). I agree that ordinary dandelions are quite bitter, but the ones you get in the supermarket around here are much less so, although I'm not a big fan of eating them raw.


    It strikes me that most crops could be described as "a plant which isn't really all that well suited to the local environment and will be outcompeted by the local species if you don't keep going round pulling them up", and conversely a weed is "a plant which is extremely well suited to the local environment and will grow like stink even if you spend half your time pulling it up".

    So the obvious thing to do, in areas where it is possible, is to stop messing around with plants that aren't really happy there and concentrate on edible weeds. (Round here that'd be brambles, which produce more blackberries than the woodpigeons know what to do with.)


    Getting back to the original topic, I'm surprised nobody has talked about scams around the issue of breaking the hold of the fossil fuel industries on places like the US and Canada. I get bombarded with emails about such scams every week, sometimes every day. Am I the only one?


    "Fluorine gas is not involved anywhere and nobody said it was."

    Really, nobody said that huh?

    "contain Fluorine, which readily combines with the hydrogen found in water used for fire fighting to make Hydrogen Fluoride. This is a highly toxic gas"

    Fluorine compounds aren't interested in making HF. Ever noticed the fluorine compounds on your pots and pans turning your bones to jelly? Me neither. The only way you'd get HF is if the F was a gas. Spraying water won't do it because then it's dissolved in water, making Hydrofluoric acid. What's the procedure for dealing with a Hydrofluoric acid spill? Any takers?

    Flood the fucker with water.

    Yeah there are some Fluorine Compounds in batteries and if the case is leaking and moisture gets in and you're charging or discharging it then you can break some of those compounds down and release F which immediately combines to make Hydrofluoric acid, which then immediately combines with the insides of the battery and wrecks them. So yeah, if you broke open the batteries, misted them with a fine spray of water and then charged them up, you'd damage them. Is that what we're talking about? No.


    "So yeah, if you broke open the batteries, misted them with a fine spray of water and then charged them up, you'd damage them. Is that what we're talking about?"

    And... even if that was what we were talking about, the damage you might in the worst case lead to thermal runaway. (from your link) "The presence of HF converts the rigid SEI film into a fragile one. In the case of the SEI layer that forms on the cathode, the carbonate solvent can diffuse onto the surface of cathode oxide over time causing the release of heat and a possible thermal runaway condition."

    And what's the cure for thermal runaway? Take out the heat. What's the best way to take out the heat?

    No prizes for this one...

    Flood the fucker with water.


    Not to mention you can count the actual cases of EV batteries caching on fire as the result of accidents on the fingers of one hand

    I'll take that risk any day if it comes with a really low center of gravity and all the other safety upsides of EV's


    Similar things can be said about farmed animals.

    Farmers spend a lot of their time shooting kangaroos because they feel they take away feed from the sheep. If you tell them to stop, they grumble (which farmers are famous for the world over) and carry on regardless. Of course the meat is far better from the kangaroos, they grow on poorer land, they don't ruin the soil and they're much more disease resistant.

    Goats (introduced weed vs native weed) used to occupy a similar niche in farmer's minds, but someone offered them an absurd amount of money for goat meat and now they love goats.


    We have an average of about one public bus catch fire every week in Sydney. (that may have dropped since they started retrofitting automatic fire extinguishers) Usually they burn to a shell before the firies get there. It only manages to make the news when it happens somewhere iconic, like on the harbour bridge.

    Lots of car fires too. Unusually, this one made the news, and did so while I was reading EC's missive on how battery fires are so dangerous... Kids locked in the burning car might have made it slightly more newsworthy than most. Or maybe it was a slow news night again.


    Such difference in reporting of petrol car fires.

    Here's a story about a car that caught fire while being driven by a journalist. Google had 875 results when I searched for this event.

    The article starts "IT will go down in history as one of the unluckiest test drives of all time.

    Ford says there is no need to issue a recall"

    The article goes on to virtually make out that the journo was given a Thai massage rather than a fire ball. And it was probably his fault that Ford Thailand assembled the car incorrectly anyway: “Motorists need to make sure that an incorrectly fitted battery does not inadvertently damage the engine computer and electrical systems.”

    In comparison, a search for Tesla fires returns 21 million results...

    Molehill meet the mountain.


    Well, if you want to get technical, a weed is a plant in the wrong place (outside its native range, when such things are known). An invasive plant is one that spreads readily, and there are both invasive natives (brambles) and invasive non-natives (the things people normally call weeds).

    Most crops qualify as weeds, and I'm okay with this, because one reason to take an edible species out of its native range is to try to get it beyond the range of its native pests and pathogens, so that its yield goes up (cf: chocolate, rubber, bananas, coffee, etc.). One of the big problems we have now is that, inevitably, the pests and pathogens catch up, and sometimes new ones get recruited or evolve.

    Anyway, yes, you can live off the native plants. That's was normal way of life for at least 95% of the 300,000 year-ish history of our species. The problem is, you can't run a complex civilization off food inputs that low. People got close around the northern Pacific, but close isn't the same as having enough surplus to feed cities.


    the cheapest thing most people ever come in contact with = Air? Linkie or hint, please?


    Off-topic, or maybe not? Two interesting "medical" pieces from the Indy. Now, one must allow for ignorant non-tech-savvy journos & breathless hype, but it seems that both of these have much useful potential, for almost all of us: Tissue NanoTransfection - grrowing your own cloned replacement cells, effectively - including nerve cells (?) Cancer Immunotherapy - speaks for itself.

    Any thoughts?


    However, Pigeon has a very good point. We rely on a very small number of species, many of which have been vastly overbred and are consequently rather delicate and often poorly adapted to the conditions. There are plenty of other species that we could breed for better qualities, which would give us a better range and allow us to adapt more readily to climate change.


    I read those, and the first doesn't make sense, but that could be the journalist getting confused; I can believe that it helps to regrow skin (a significant benefit in itself), but the reference to other organs has a strong smell of snake oil. The second is real, but it is unclear whether it can be extended to the nastier cancers mentioned; it justifies more research, though.


    I thought the 'something like' in my post captured the fact that I wasn't literally describing making dry ice, just using something like 90% of the same infrastructure. I was implying that carbon capture and storage would look 'something like' a coal fired power plant with attached cryogenic gas manufacturing plant where you get to sell the /s/ abundance /\s/ of left over power to the grid.

    I didn't know that the last step in dry ice manufacture was off gassing the C02 to drop the temperature, its my new dinner table fun fact.

    I think CCS is actually a meta scam, no investors in the field would fund it as a viable scheme, but it would potentially distract investors from other sectors. So you develop CCS technologies, not to use, but to stop other investment. Hence the similarity thy hydrogen cars.



    Keep it civil.



    Also, here's a graph for PV output, notice that it's from Cali which is a better case than scotland.

    Notice the dropoff coming up to 6PM.


    You are right in your response to Frank Landis for the UK, but he is right for California. As I posted above, I will support his PRINCIPLE, but the appropriate solution for the UK is solar water heating - and that's being obstructed by the solar power nonsense/boondoggle/scam :-( The major developers have an interest in blocking it, because they are building houses without space for even small hot water tanks, let alone the moderate-sized ones needed for solar water heating.


    Pigeon noted: "It strikes me that most crops could be described as "a plant which isn't really all that well suited to the local environment and will be outcompeted by the local species if you don't keep going round pulling them up"

    Yes and no. Most crops are plants that started out wild and were subsequently genetically improved (by conventional breeding) for millennia to dramatically ramp up the yield of edibles. They tend to travel with us both because they're much more productive than native plants -- if (and it's a big if in some locations) you can supply appropriate growing conditions and nutrients. As a result, there are enormous numbers of locally adapted crop species (e.g., landraces) that grow quite well in the local environment. Using these crops, we can support orders of magnitude more people with conventional farming than we can with the hunter-gatherer approach. Conventional crops are also bred to maximize the density of plants (thus, yield per unit area). Wild plants often need more space. But as modern crops demonstrate, there's no reason we couldn't improve "weeds" in exactly the same way.

    Pigeon: "conversely a weed is "a plant which is extremely well suited to the local environment and will grow like stink even if you spend half your time pulling it up".

    The ecologist's definition of "weed" is "any plant growing where you don't want it to grow". G But yes, locally adapted plants often grow very well indeed. Evolution works, bitches! G Back in grad school, one of the term papers I wrote for my thesis supervisor was about how most land managers spend more time fighting the energy of natural vegetation instead of co-opting that energy for their own purposes. (I was studying aikido at the time. It rubbed off on other activities.) Since I was transitioning to a career in editing, I never bothered publishing the paper -- which I deeply regret. But your idea is important and neglected.

    Here's another scam: Fill the world's sunniest deserts with solar cells, then borrow a familiar SFnal notion and convert the electricity to microwaves that can be beamed to population centers. If it would work for solar satellites, it oughta work at the Earth's surface right? Well...


    It's worth (re)reading Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel. The tl;dr version is that we've probably already domesticated all the best species, in terms of getting the most food per unit effort.

    The second part is that we are domesticating wild species at a furious clip, whether it's new cultivars of native plants for the garden, or domesticating snakes and beetles for the exotic wildlife trade, or domesticating bacterial and fungal species for industrial uses, or taking rare plants and animals into zoos to keep them alive. Nothing has turned up in this process that remotely challenges any of our food species for utility. The closest we've come is things like using Aspergillus fungi to produce citric acid for sodas and to produce quorn brand mock meats.

    While I understand what you're saying about delicate, that's what you get when you select for individuals that put most of the resources and energy into producing food for humans, it's relatively unprotected compared with wild relatives that put more resources into defense. That's the tradeoff you get with any food organism, and it happens pretty much automatically. If you let it keep its defenses, then you're going to spend a lot more effort either killing it (wild aurochs vs. domestic cattle), or processing the food part of it to be edible (as with acorns). And before you go off on acorns, realize that you can get a lot more food out of an acre of wheat than you can out of an acre of acorns, at least in an average year (factoring in time to maturity and the fact that most oaks don't produce large numbers of acorns every year).


    I keep meaning to read it, not least because I knew him as a student, but what I have heard of it keeps putting me off. There are lots of wild plants as good as the original (wild) form of our domesticated species, plus a large number of species we use but do not make as much use of as we could. In particular, as far as leaf vegetables and warm-climate fruits go, it is simply nonsense to claim that we have domesticated all the best ones.

    There is a stronger case for staples (i.e. starch-bearers), but remember that wheat was NOT a high-yield crop in most places before modern hybrids and the widespread use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. The staple cereals of the UK before those were barley in the south and oats in the north, and even those suffered fairly frequent crop failure. Also, a better example of a tree to use as a staple is chestnut - domesticated, yes, but very close to the wild form and used as a staple only in a few places.

    I fully agree with you that alternative crops will not be panaceas, but I will NOT agree that there is no potential. That is simply wrong, and I could name species, and why.


    Frank Landis noted: "before you go off on acorns, realize that you can get a lot more food out of an acre of wheat than you can out of an acre of acorns, at least in an average year (factoring in time to maturity and the fact that most oaks don't produce large numbers of acorns every year)."

    "Masting" (producing huge seed crops in one year, then nothing for a few subsequent years) is a common evolutionary strategy: in the abundant year, there are so many nuts that the herbivores can't eat them all, then in the following nut-free years, the herbivores starve to death if they can't switch to other foods. This behavior has been bred out of some crops, but not all; my plum tree, for instance, only flowers every 3+ years.

    One caution with acorns and other foods that contain large amounts of tannins: the tannins bind with proteins, making them indigestible. So in some studies of mice that feed on acorns, the mice that don't eat acorns or that eat more of other foods often survive better than the acorn eaters. It's one of those evolutionary arms races: the oaks try to poison critters that eat their babies, and the critters try to survive the poison. Acorns are a great seasonal food if you known how to remove the tannins. This takes repeated boiling and soaking to leach out the tannins before you get something safely edible.

    Elderly Cynic notes about Jared Diamond's book Guns, Germs, and Steel: "what I have heard of it keeps putting me off."

    He's received an enormous amount of criticism from the politically correct crowd for what he wrote. But the facts speak for themselves, and his interpretation is more reasonable than most that came before him. The problem, of course, is that it's an incomplete interpretation. Human evolution and interactions with their environment is a hugely complex subject, and very difficult to describe adequately in only one small book intended for a general audience. As a result, some of the necessary simplifications have come back to bite his ass.

    My take as an ecologist: This book, plus "Collapse" and "The World Until Yesterday" are brilliant works of scholarship, right up there with Darwin. But you have to recognize and account for the constraints and limitations involved in writing such books.


    Yes, but my reason is a bit more subtle than that. Yes, I must read it to check, and for many other reasons, but some of the things he is quoted as providing as facts are simply wrong. Please note that I do not know whether he is being misquoted. I will take this as a prod to buy it ....


    Here's my take on those three books:

    Guns, Germs, and Steel is worth reading, and I'd recommend especially the chapter on domestication, because he alludes to numbers from studies where they looked at what had been domesticated in a wide variety of regions, and concluded that people had domesticated (or attempted to domesticate) things like the biggest-seeded grasses in every region. So far as I know he's correct, and those chapters are worth reading. Where he gets into trouble is history (as in his history of the Inkan Conquest, which did miss some important details, like Pizarro recruiting a large army of non-Inkan people who hated the Inkans, then methodically eliminating his allies Game of Thrones style after he'd won, while claiming the victory was due to Spanish steel weapons). As for the implied racism, I think he got tarred wrongly. So far as I know, he sees people as innately equal, but environments as strongly unequal, and favors environmental explanations for why some people developed metallurgy while others did not: they were just as smart, but had more pressing problems to solve (like feeding their families with less productive crops in more hostile environments) and fewer opportunities to swipe metallurgical knowledge from people who'd already solved that problem.

    Collapse has similar problems: it's more worth reading for the ecology of groups and places he knows well (especially New Guinea). His discussion of the Greenland Vikings is probably wrong, according to the archaeologists, his discussion of the Easter Island collapse might be wrong (this gets very controversial among the Easter Island archaeologists), his discussion of the Maya might be wrong (I think others got it more right, but there's a LOT of argument about what caused the Maya collapse, and he takes only one side), and his take on the Anasazi might be wrong (I don't think the Puebloan people, who are their direct descendants, will ever tell white America what actually happened, and apparently they do know).

    The other thing is that collapse studies in general are biased by Western European historical takes on the collapse of the Roman Empire (don't forget that the Byzantines, who were the Roman Empire, lasted until 1453). This is something other collapse researchers have tried to bring out, but they get overshadowed by Diamond. The problem with collapse in general is that it's an easy, dramatic story to tell, but in the cases where you can get into the details, it rapidly gets a whole lot more complicated. The counter-example is China's history. They've had collapses every bit as bad as what the western Roman Empire went through (especially at the end of the Han), but they've chosen to emphasize continuity of government through the notion of the Mandate of Heaven, and therefore claim to have thousands of years of unbroken history. Using Chinese-style memes, I could claim that the Roman empire never collapsed, and that its current successor is the EU, via the Byzantines, the Holy Roman Empire, and various other big states. Collapse is a matter of perspective. It doesn't mean global civilization isn't in big danger from climate change, but it does mean that OMG WE'RE DOOMED is an overly simplistic response, at least based on what's happened in previous known collapses.

    As for The World Until Yesterday, he whitewashed a lot of colonial history in that book, and it's much less useful because of that. Worse, he put his entire bibliography online to save space. That website no longer exists, so you're stuck with his unsupported claims (I haven't tried the Wayback Machine though). I think the book is useful for us civilized types to understand how the world can work without overarching governmental frameworks, but he ignores so much history in that book that I wouldn't trust it for its stated purpose. It's much more useful to people writing cli fi and future low-tech SFF.

    As for impact, the first two have had a big impact on the social sciences, much to the disgust of actual practitioners of the field. Comparing them to The Origin...? I don't think so, but we'll see. At the very least, he got more wrong than did Darwin.


    Not shocking, just different in terms of who's doing the research (teams comprising/representing life scientists, engineers, and architects), the scale of the research (from small/residential to large/commercial), the variety of plants under investigation and, from the USian perspective, that the federal gov't has and is continuing to fund such research. (That's both the former Harper Tories as well as the middle-of-the-road Trudeau Liberals.)

    There are several European countries conducting similar research and acting on their findings. In fact I recall posting about the Milan highrise (Bosco Verticale) that was built to accommodate trees on balconies.


    'Now, according to the jury of The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, they're also the winner of the Best Tall Building Worldwide award.

    The plant-covered buildings beat out more than 120 skyscrapers, including titans like 1 World Trade Center, in New York City, and Burj Mohammed Bin Rashid Tower, in Abu Dhabi.'

    Designed to be eco-friendly architecture has become pretty standard in most northern European countries.

    Based on non-US results of actual existing large structures, your fears about green roofs appear unfounded. Perhaps you should look closer into what info/data you have that is driving this 'fear' when itemizing your hypothetical scams.


    Wow! Definitely don't use City U's plan, materials and/or labor! And then there are all those other green buildings that are still standing just fine.

    Scams depend on finding that one instance of when/where the whatever does or does not work and generalizing that out of proportion and without any further investigation/understanding of the why. How such an exemplar is determined and handled is IMO what helps assess it as to whether or not it is a scam. For example, I can think of roads that get washed away within a couple of years of being built and roads that have lasted just fine for decades. Ditto vax/meds reactions. Ditto everything else.


    "Using Chinese-style memes, I could claim that the Roman empire never collapsed, and that its current successor is the EU, via the Byzantines, the Holy Roman Empire, and various other big states. Collapse is a matter of perspective."

    Without using Chinese style memes, that is basically what I argue every time this subject comes up: that Rome sublimated into a number of successor states and you can still find its bones throughout Western civilization. Plus it's an ecological/evolutionary metaphor if you are into that kind of thing.

    On the mythological level, the Russian tsars claimed to be the inheritors of Byzantium, but that's a slightly different story.


    Sorry, I'll flag my (/lame humor) and (/sarcasm) more clearly. Shocking was meant as both of these.

    As for Bosco Verticale, I'll give my opinion on it in 10 years, after the units have been through a couple of owners, the building through a couple of storms, and maybe an earthquake or two. It's easy to get awards when something first opens, but I'd like to see how it ages. What I'm particularly interested in is how the trees survive, how all those balconies age, and what happens when high winds hit the trees. Oh, and how all the residents feel about the project, whether they love it or dump the trees.

    And yes, it would be nice if it succeeds grandly.

    The thing I don't forget is that water weighs 1 tonne per cubic meter, by definition. Soil densities vary widely around one-third of this, but if you're building a green roof, that's a lot of weight to put at the top of a structure, especially if you want to plant trees. Moreover, if you're putting in plants, they pull carbon out of the air and turn it into yet more weight (wood densities vary all over the place). Presumably the engineers thought all this through, but I'm silly enough that I actually want to see it work.

    I'm also less than thrilled about people wanting green roofs with solar, simply because you don't get any light under solar panels, and you then have to make sure that the green roof installer and the solar installer are working carefully enough that you don't get electrical shorts from water going where it shouldn't, nor do you get roof leaks because someone forgot to tell someone to put a proper gasket where electrical conduit penetrates the roof. This is all simple stuff, but if you look at the local Better Business Bureau complaints section for some solar companies (which we did before we picked a solar contractor), you'll find complaints where roofs under solar panels sprouted leaks due to careless installers punching holes in the roof, and the companies didn't fix them.


    Same here re: waiting for results. I'm old enough to have experienced disappointments with the-then latest tech. At the same time have also learned that very few things work perfectly from the start and without serious attention to maintenance.

    Even so, I remain optimistic. :)


    Frank, thanks for the detailed critiques of Jared Diamond's books.

    I'm sticking by my guns that he'll be up there with Darwin, but in Diamond's context, for being a pioneer in integrating ecology with sociology to explain large-scale historical phenomena. His literature review was extensive*, and in each book, he posed plausible hypotheses about how things happened and why he believed competing hypotheses were wrong. He relied heavily on published material for areas he wasn't intimately familiar with, supplemented by his personal experience in New Guinea. That's how the best science works.

    • fwiw, my copy of "The World Until Yesterday" includes 10 pages of references selected because of their extensive bibliographies... and that's in tiny type,

    I don't think he got everything right, but on the other hand, it's not like most of the things he wrote about are solved problems even today. By encouraging people to criticize his hypotheses and his synthesis, I suspect he provided a kick in the pants for a branch of science that didn't seem to be very active before he wrote the books. (Speaking entirely from a layman's perspective, since I no longer follow any of these fields actively... his extensive literature review suggests that there was obviously research before him.)



    The thing is, you people attacking what Diamond wrote, as much (or more) than doing their own research. This is good and bad. In terms of collapse studies, he's certainly one of the most erudite, as you can see if you read books written in response to Collapse. The bigger question is whether this is the best framework to deal with looming disasters or not, and that gets lost when you start by focusing on collapse as the framework within which you do your research.

    The other problem is that he's generally the only person most people read on the subject, whether or not he's the best. I'd class him with Dawkins and Chomsky in that regard, and I think we'll have to wait for the three of them to die before we'll get real movement on any of the things they most famously wrote about.

    With Dawkins, a lot of people seem to take The Selfish Gene as a justification of libertarianism, just as Darwinism got appropriated for Social Darwinism. The people working with symbiosis have a better conceptual system and more data to back up their claims that life cooperates as often as it competes, but I can already see that a bunch of people are going to knee-jerk disagree with that assessment without having any idea what I'm talking about (go read Thompson's Relentless Evolution). Chomsky's theories may have been blown sky high by the Piraha*, and there's certainly some animal language research waiting for him to go away so that they can broaden the definition of language in useful ways. But again, we'll have to wait until he's passed for any movement to happen.

    *The (sad) thing about the Piraha is that the Brazilian establishment went and set up a mission and medical center on their land, and they are now busily teaching the Piraha children Portuguese, so that they won't suffer their backwardness any longer. Presumably this was all done for humanitarian reasons, and not for reasons of cultural imperialism or to try to get rid of a language that might prove embarrassing to one of the great minds of the 20th Century.



    Diamond got Easter Island almost completely wrong (in fact, embarrassingly so, in ecological terms) and certainly was not the pioneer of the field (no more so than the embarrassingly lauded recent "Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind which is likewise almost total bunk). Try some G. Evelyn Hutchinson or Vladimir Vernadsky for the real deal in the field. Given that Vernadsky popularized the concept of "Noosphere" might hint that they were a lot more developed than Diamond is (or ever will be). Vernadsky (pre WWII) had already made clear the conceptual link between the biosphere (a term he happened to rather invent) and the human world (noosphere).

    Peter Kropotkin wrote Mutual Aid in 1902; suggesting that Dawkins is in any way influential in this 19th Century Speen effort totally ignores Thomas Henry Huxley and the political / economic weight that was used to push the 'Tho' Nature, red in tooth and claw With ravine, shriek'd against his creed angles. For its time, it was one heck of a bit of work (on the levels of Empire building / anti-poor reform laws).

    Chomsky is interesting but has never been held (in the actual fields) as representing an orthodoxy, it's simply that he became very useful as a MIT counter-weight to Continental Thought / Leftism at a certain period.

    What you're actually talking about is the 'cultural milieu' of pop-takes / acceptable media fodder, specifically American cultural milieu[1].


    On topic, the biggest scam that you'll see, and are seeing and will continue to see is the pretense that the climate of California will remain viable and/or native species will actually survive.

    There's multiple studies showing that +2oC changes result in essentially huge (and largely permanent) changes to the ecology of the region within the next 50-100 years. Not fucking around, we're talking changes of the kind that the Sahara (edge) or northern China are going through. i.e. start importing dune grasses, pronto.

    [1] And yes, I can source / defend all these claims.


    In fact, Diamond has a long history of being held up as basically "full of shit", long before his lucrative pop-sci books took off:

    Here's an old paper taking Diamond to task for mis-representing other fields way back in 1978-1981.

    In 1978, for example, Jared Diamond published a paper titled "Niche shifts and the rediscovery of interspecific competition, why did field biologists so long overlook the widespread evidence for interspecific competition that had already impressed Darwin?"

    In this paper I will demonstrate that Diamond's story simply is not true. Rather, ecologists long before 1959 thought a great deal about competition, they did know what to look for, they were not all "reductionists," they did not need a mathematical formulation of the niche to have the same idea, and they had a well developed theoretical framework, namely succession. The fact that their theory was wrong by current views is immaterial; it stimulated a great deal of important work

    Interspecific Competition and Species' Distributions: The Ghosts of Theories and Data Past John Hopkins University, 1981 - PDF, legal

    Note - J Jackson (the author) is certainly a student of Hutchinson, and freely admits that there were massive errors (esp. regarding RANDian type cybernetic predictive / modelling of ecologies) in his education.

    But let's not pretend that Diamond was doing anything but self-PR even waaaay back in the 70's.


    I've seen enough of the crap-flinging with regards to Easter Island and the Maya, that I'm simply going to flag Diamond as controversial without labeling him as definitively wrong. It's not clear to me that the guys on the other side are more accurate, although I generally respect Pat Kirch with regard to Polynesian archaeology.

    As for the history of symbiosis getting demeaned and ignored, yes, I'm aware of it. The more interesting issue is that it seems to be taking over anyway through the mosaic theory of coevolution, which is an interesting development that's about a century past due, as you note.

    As for California, that's a lot messier. We've got two deserts to the south of us (Sonora and Vizcaino), and the Sonoran provided enough crop plants that I think we can survive its expansion into Alta California (although the way we're sucking up our ground water, it's going to be...awkward). Anyway, we don't need to import more eurasian species (like tamarisk and sahara mustard), we just need to spread the mesquites, cacti, and creosote we already have.

    The challenging part is where the northern expansion of the desert stops. So far as I can tell, the extreme models put that around San Francisco, and I think we can say it will be somewhere between Los Angeles and San Francisco somewhere around 2300, absent a miracle. North of there will be "tropical," in the sense that there will be a lot of winter rain and a lot of summer rain, and be quite warm for most of the year.

    Does this spell the end to the California flora? Probably not. There are some California plants doing just fine in Hawai'i under conditions similar to what they'd experience in a few hundred years in northern California. Also, it's not clear (to me at least) what happens in the rain shadows (plural) of the Sierra and in various other mountain ranges. How many of these will be refugia for California species because they continue to have climates similar to what we have now? Also, a number of putatively California-climate plants hang out around Sedona, where they get a lot of summer rain, and they also hang out in the Baja Mountains, again where they get chaotic precipitation. While I don't think all of the current California species will make it, it's far too early to make a prediction of which plants are likely to survive and which aren't. At this point in time, the better strategy is to try to save them all, until we get a better sense of how they migrate and deal with fluctuating precipitation.


    In ecology terms, I referenced that 1981 paper for a reason: they're all wrong, badly wrong and annoyingly out of date. Guns, Germs, Steel is as out of date as pre-Glasnost MAD theory.

    It'd be swell if meat bags could move on by now, already, it's like watching people discuss evolution without referencing interspecific competition / cooperation [Hint: also know as "mutualism"] which were big ideas, oh, about 50-100 years ago.


    Notes from watching the muppet show that is America: A concise argument for copy editors. Twitter, Naomi Schalit, 9th August 2017 - very amusing to take minds of the total simulacrum of NK nuclear threat nonsense that Americans seem unable to just fucking grow up about. And yes: Furries are involved, told you that'd be important. No, really: if you need a laugh, go read it. Glorious .gif usage.

    Seriously: watching Americans worry about nukes is as sickening as watching live drone strike footage (which [i]totally[/i] cannot be hacked into) while pretending it's a computer game.


    (re)Reading in the last three days:

    Kraken by my old China - because, you know, topical and funny.

    Lots of stuff on autopoesis, machinic heterogenesis and other esoteric terms pertaining to Life, Ecology and Crashes. - this is where the actual work is done, not pop-sci crapola.

    The Prefect by A Reynolds (simply because I couldn't believe that it was published in 2007 - or that Chasm City is from 2001!?!). This really ages Host / Scottish Sci-Fi revolutionary period, sadly :( Older than Tumblr kids going on empathy shaming rampages.

    My problem now in CNPS is that I'm part of the committee tasked with figuring out how we're going to create policies to help us respond to climate change. Part of what I'm doing is figuring out how many ways things like assisted migration can be turned into scams, because that's what our revised policies are going to have to deal with. There's not much science to guide us yet, but it's easy to imagine all the ways people could take advantage of assisted migration funding and other climate change-driven crises. Indeed, it's such a fertile field that I thought you folk might like to take your turn in making climate policy sausage and figuring out what happens after it gets consumed.

    Assisted migration is a scam in principle due to a) California will likely enter a period where anything not totally human based will cease to exist and b) none of you are actually dealing with the Possible Futures that Reality is presenting you with.

    I can, if prodded, produce this is in extremely formalized / conceptually adult language and about ~9k words / proofs, but it boils down to: if you're still think Diamond is a good thinker, you're fucked.


    Deleted. Keep it civil.


    Deleted. Keep it civil.


    Yeah, neither of those were insulting at all - if anything, they were rather enlightening. There was even a good joke in there - twitter "fire and furry" is currently being stolen by muppets across the board but I provided the link to the original.


    They did, however, touch on some rather interesting conceptual frameworks - far more interesting than anything else here.

    Hint: Big Red Flag just went up, Ms May's hounds ahoy.

    An organism is not defined by the sum of the properties of its cells. In chemical reaction systems, certain molecules which do not participate in the reaction may act as catalysts and thereby influence the overall dynamic system in a decisive way


    We See You and it's all archived


    We'll try this one last Time:

    although the way we're sucking up our ground water, it's going to be...awkward

    Here's a dry and formal distillation of deleted content:

    California ran out of aquifer water 40 years ago, river / snowfall water ~15 years ago.

    CO2 levels are at 410 ppm, the actual level is 550(ish).

    If you need that explained, can do. If you need the model, can do. It's like orbital mechanics and how you get a space-ship to take pictures of Jupiter[1] and using gravity to get places. It's basic Science (only Temporal).

    Hint: it's to do with pathway dependencies, embedded inertia in systems and general "how reality works".

    Or, to put another way: Easter Island was doomed the moment it made its first statue (which, for the record, were never just heads, they're entire torsos).

    [1] I lied, I can do the math, but that's what computers are for.


    On groundwater, it's factually untrue, as demonstrated by the fact that they keep drilling wells. Now if you meant useful sites for dams, you're more correct, but that again is messy because there was a large political factor in where dams were located going back most of a century.

    As for when Easter Island was doomed, you've got to ask the current Rapa Nuians. They might tell you they were "doomed" when the first westerner showed up and gave them some new diseases, and neither moai nor deforestation had much to do with their population collapse.

    Funny thing is, they're still around. So are the Mayans, the Romans, and the Anasazi, for that matter.


    Yeah, you're not really understanding the argument here, nor are you attempting to engage with it. Blinkers my friend, blinkers. Trying to take them off you.

    Put it this way: Decline curve analysis.

    California depleted its aquifers 40 years ago. (Actually, more like pre-depression, I'm sure you're aware that a lot of Cal land lost 30'+ in the years 1900-1954)

    As stated: since you don't understand what's being said, please ask for an explanation.


    Mayans, the Romans, and the Anasazi

    Now you're just being silly.

    The "Romans" as a Hellenic Empire ceased to exist in 306-337 AD (and if you want a history lesson, that's when Persia switched to eradication mode of Christians, which is kinda ironic given how history repeats itself). Arguing that "The Romans" were in any way a static Empire (even pre-Byzantium West / East split etc) is just... silly.

    Likewise, Easter Island has been uninhabited for, oh... since the last slavers visited in the late 19th C. 1877... 111 people? Ooops.

    Peiser, B. (2005). "From Genocide to Ecocide: The Rape of Rapa Nui"

    Fun fact: that paper (since being used by all kinds of silly American Libertarians / Nazi / muppets) has been purged from the intarwebs. It's fairly good though, provides a decent argument that the model (aka New Zealand) was that small island populations couldn't adequately protect themselves from Pirates / Slavers / Press-Gang / whatever from Empires who could produce ships and crews = died out is fairly accurate.

    But anyhow, this is not how this works.


    Since you don't understand why "aquifers were depleted 40 years ago" is true, you probably shouldn't be planning for the future of any ecology.

    That's factual.


    On groundwater, it's factually untrue

    I actually just bothered to dig up the USA gov data on how long it takes to refill (ignoring salination / impurity issues[1]) aquifers of the geological type in California (inc. geology data for rock perm. levels, i.e. sandstone etc) and even ran the model on usage rates / refill rates.

    Hint: Have you got 10,000+ years? Cause you're fucked, with your usage rates, it never refills.

    Your Aquifers ran out 40 years ago, going on 1990 data / usage stats [This is me being nice].

    Hint: You're really bad at Time. Since you've been irksome, no links.

    [1] I mean, it's not like you're not competent and engaged and trustworthy heralds of ecology. OH. California methane leak 'largest in US history' BBC, 26 Feb 2016


    Oh, and since I'm irked: This is what is called a "category error".

    You have no fundamental understanding of Aquifers, Time or even basic geology (or soil compaction due to massive subsidence, but that's a bit complex), let alone the relationship between the ecology and what you've been doing (HINT: HUMIDITY LEVELS, YOU'RE WASTING BILLIONS OF GALLONS / DECADE AND ENJOYING THE TEMPORARY WETNESS, ALL DAT FUCKING GRASS AND GOLF).

    When I said your aquifers ran out 40 years ago, that's a Temporal Statement, just as what da math about Decline curve analysis does.

    It's not: "Hey, they come back". It's: This is the moment your water ran out on 1970's usage models and since then you escalated it.

    Seriously: You've no idea what's about to happen and you're really not equipped to change.


    Oh, and seriously:

    American Boomer Response is "WE CANZ NUKE DA WORLD".

    You. Really. Do. Not. Know. What. You. Even. Did. You. Childish. Psychopaths.


    On groundwater, it's factually untrue, as demonstrated by the fact that they keep drilling wells

    Oh, and DERP. We don't lie:

    Here we use 78 months (October, 2003–March, 2010) of data from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment satellite mission to estimate water storage changes in California's Sacramento and San Joaquin River Basins. We find that the basins are losing water at a rate of 31.0 ± 2.7 mm yr−1 equivalent water height, equal to a volume of 30.9 km3 for the study period, or nearly the capacity of Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States. We use additional observations and hydrological model information to determine that the majority of these losses are due to groundwater depletion in the Central Valley. Our results show that the Central Valley lost 20.4 ± 3.9 mm yr−1 of groundwater during the 78-month period, or 20.3 km3 in volume. Continued groundwater depletion at this rate may well be unsustainable, with potentially dire consequences for the economic and food security of the United States.

    Satellites measure recent rates of groundwater depletion in California's Central Valley Geophysical Research Letters, 2011, full text

    I mean, really.

    You're supposed to be a Scientist.


    Oh, and small tip: The two deleted posts aren't insulting, they just contained some rather kinky temporal thinking with proof that's considered "not polite" to publish. i.e. "danger danger". (Including actual -time stuff used by [redacted] parties -- naughty! And yeah, it was a test)

    So, anyhow: proved a different way, just more boring. "Acceptable".


    California: fucked. 50-100 years: Mega-Fucked.

    Scam: pretending that post #305 isn't real and that you can continue your insanity or your Minds are actually real or even dealing with reality.

    Hint: My Name is Fire and Blood


    Actually, Northeastern Syria during the last drought is an example of depletion. There's an unsubtle difference between using more water than you're regaining and having no water available.

    After that, well, many settlements in the Middle East ran on rainwater for thousands of years before 20th Century well-boring equipment and dreams of infinite subsurface water came along. Whoever survives in southern California 100 years from now will have adopted the same technologies. Besides, it's supposed to start raining quite a bit more in northern California, and the Brown family has been pretty good at funneling water to southern California, allegedly because they want northern California to remain relatively undeveloped. It's all very corrupt and venal, but things could be worse. For instance, I could move to south Florida.


    Developers are the same the world over in producing housing that's not fit for habitation. I live in such a house and I've owned tents that had better insulation. (that's not even an exaggeration, I wish it was.

    However storage hot water can be retrofitted (albeit at great expense) and it's also possible to make more of a small space by using phase change materials which store vastly vastly more heat than a few degrees of water temperature change. I don't know about the PV boondoggle restricting solar hotwater. Here in Oz it's the same companies pushing both. I'm keen on both and in a climate where you spend so much energy on heating, they look ideal. I thought for a while as a kid I'd invented the vacuum tube solar collector, until I discovered it was an old idea. I'm not sure if I have actually invented the flat plate vacuum solar collector, but probably not that either (Sprinkle tiny glass beads thinly over a glass plate. Put another on top, seal the edges and pump out the air. Presto, double glass with a vacuum insulator, the only path for heat is through the tiny spots where the beads touch the glass plates).

    Anyway there's a company making phase change heat storage in the UK and they have a box the size of a three draw filing cabinet that holds as much heat as a 250 litre size hot water tanks.

    Theirs works by diverting PV output, but the same thing could be done with heat collectors or could be done with off peak electricity.


    Given that Vernadsky popularized the concept of "Noosphere"... Err, no (?) I always thought "Noosphere" was part of the total load of unreconstructed bollocks put out by that well-known christian charlatan, Teilhard de Chardin.

    MEANWHILE: 291 - 308 includes 14 "comments" oh dear. Can't you keep it simple & clear, please?

    [ Re. "Water reserves" you two are comparing oranges & apples ]


    Also, as it gets warmer, won't the plant species "simply" migrate uphill?


    Developers are the same the world over in producing housing that's not fit for habitation. I live in such a house and I've owned tents that had better insulation.

    Don't get me started :) I live in a loverly brick house with tiny eaves and no insulation. In summer it stays hot until midnight, in winter it just says cold. In winter it's often colder inside than outside, with is not a feature. Many of the houses in Sydney have the same design as mine.

    My hope is that I will be able to afford (and be allowed) to put a gable end insulated panel roof on to replay the dodgy old tiles. That will take the north-facing roof are from "just barely enough for 3kW" to ample space for solar hot water and 10kW of PV. Hopefully I can get the solar hot water installed at the same time, which will make a big difference to electricity consumption (but not the bills, we still have enough coal fired plants that off peak electricity is very cheap even at retail).

    From my brief dipping-toes-in experience of the building industry the customers are if anything more conservative than the builders. It's very hard to sell a spec house that isn't an environmentalists nightmare. The problem is that it's easy to turn all the lights and air conditioners on when you're opening the house for sale, and almost no-one even thinks about running costs when they're buying. But they do think "gee, this one is smaller and not as shiny"... so it's hard to sell it for the same price. That $1000/mo difference in running costs really only hits home when something expensive fails. The $500/mo in electricity air conditioner, for example.

    It's like the people above who are convinced that a 20 year old IC car is amazingly cheap to run. It is, provided you ignore the externalities. But if those were priced, suddenly the car would cost the same $1/km to run, but also $2/km in emissions permits. Triple the cost, same car. While you EV wankers would be toddling along at the same old $0.50/km going "isn't the air clear now".


    the cheapest thing most people ever come in contact with = Air? Linkie or hint, please?

    This applicator might be out of most people's pocketbooks (depending on the state of your country's armed forces), and its fuel consumption will definitely be, but this will put out fires with air. (And maybe some water too. Or maybe a lot of water. Or maybe that's just for sound-dampening.)


    Recent rule change in the Australian Standards. For everyone else, laws you have to follow, but they cost 440 dollars for each standard, and they're sure to reference many standards in each (20 in this one), so for one job, you'll probably need to buy several standards. They like to update them frequently. This one gets updated about every year. Another paragon of privatisation leading to huge efficiency gains.

    No more than 5 kW on a single phase. If you're going to put up 10 KW, you need to upgrade to 3 phase. It's cheaper to do the upgrade to three phase and fit the solar meter at the same time than it is to do in two chunks however the contractors may resist doing this for you. I've just been caught out by this rule change, and it's going to cost me about 2000 dollars.

    There's no actual reason for the change of course.


    Oh and of course, if you have a polyphase setup you're welcome to put 10 kW down each phase if you want. The 5 kW limit only applies to single phase houses, not houses that have 2 or 3 phases, who can put 10 kW on any one of those phases.


    I have bought 3 of his books, and am maintaining an open mind until I look at them.

    The Selfish Gene is bad science - not because what it said is false, but because it asserts that one partial projection is the majority of the story, where the evidence is that it isn't. It's not as bad as A Brief History Of Time, much of which is little better than The Emperor's New Clothes, but that's no excuse. However, note that the the claims that life cooperates as often as it competes make EXACTLY the same mistake. The simple fact is that the competition, cooperation, expulsion, indoctrination and other forms of selection are all emergent properties of a system that is far more complex than most scientists can handle (or admitted was possible, at least until recently). No, I don't begin to understand it - but I do know enough about complex systems (and scientists) to assert that authoritatively.

    Note that the assertions that plants (and animals) will/can 'migrate' are the same; ecologists know that is possible, but they also know that it doesn't always happen, and they have a glimmering of understanding why, at least in many cases.


    There's reasonable evidence that everybody got Easter Island/Rapa Nui wrong and that the arrival of polynesian rats with the humans doomed the ecosystem long before any of the statues was made.


    Category error 101: assuming that H.S.S = individual units, not the biome they import along with them. Yes, that was (partly) what I was alluding to in reference to Diamond. Nice flashy easy to digest narrative = fake as Hollywood.

    South Georgia Island is pretty much the case study for this - do the googles and you'll spot the massive 2011-5 efforts to eradicate rats there. It's been a known problem since the 18th century (seal hunters). (Also: people long assumed introducing competitors, such as mice, was a part solution. If you want some slides showing how badly this can go wrong, and want some metal nature images of mice eating chicks alive who are ten times their size, here you go: ">Rats on islands (and priority effects) Standford, Invasion Biology course 2016 - PDF / powerpoint slides. Very nice basic guide, learn all about British and Nordic rat competition and so on.

    Alien Islands: Why Killing Rats Is Essential to Save Key Wildlife Yale Environmental 360, July 2015

    You'll also spot a very interesting thing in those slides - vegetation cover rises massively on rat infested islands. So all those Hollywood films showing verdant undiscovered islands = another one of your human fake realities. Prior to humans, much less verdant, much more open soil.[1]

    Humans =/= Humans, Humans = rats, cats, dogs, fleas, mice, bacteria blah blah blah.

    For Greg:

    The noosphere (/ˈnoʊ.əsfɪər/; sometimes noösphere) is the sphere of human thought.[1][2] The word derives from the Greek νοῦς (nous "mind") and σφαῖρα (sphaira "sphere"), in lexical analogy to "atmosphere" and "biosphere".[3] It was introduced by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in 1922[4] in his Cosmogenesis.[5] Another possibility is the first use of the term by Édouard Le Roy (1870–1954), who together with Teilhard was listening to lectures of Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky at the Sorbonne. In 1936, Vernadsky accepted the idea of the noosphere in a letter to Boris Leonidovich Lichkov (though he states that the concept derives from Le Roy).[6] Citing the work of Teilhard's biographer—Rene Cuenot—Sampson and Pitt stated that although the concept was jointly developed by all three men (Vernadsky, LeRoy, and Teilhard), Teilhard believed that he actually invented the word: "I believe, so far as one can ever tell, that the word 'noosphere' was my invention: but it was he [Le Roy] who launched it."[7]

    Do note, however, that Vernadsky used the term in a very particular way, one much different to Teilhard:

    In the theory of Vernadsky, the noosphere is the third in a succession of phases of development of the Earth, after the geosphere (inanimate matter) and the biosphere (biological life). Just as the emergence of life fundamentally transformed the geosphere, the emergence of human cognition fundamentally transforms the biosphere. In contrast to the conceptions of the Gaia theorists, or the promoters of cyberspace, Vernadsky's noosphere emerges at the point where humankind, through the mastery of nuclear processes, begins to create resources through the transmutation of elements. It is also currently being researched as part of the Princeton Global Consciousness Project.[8]

    Vernadsky was big, big, huge on nuclear power - he died in 1945, but he was certainly a large driver of the 1950's Soviet nuclear dreamscape, the mirror image of the American 1950's version. So, throwing the idea into your mental "rubbish bin" is probably a self-damaging one. You might even spot the why to the reference and joke, I'd hope.

    Whoever survives in southern California 100 years from now will have adopted the same technologies

    I once linked to some really nice papers on subterranean wind assisted water traps (that use height differentials in very clever ways) that are/were common in Iraq and other places. Been used for ~3,000 years+, very elegant solution, now no longer viable because of reasons.

    Anyhow, Agricultural Banking Index (modified) is a very useful search term:

    SAGBI | Soil Agricultural Groundwater Banking Index UC Davies, Cal.

    Post-drought groundwater in California: Like the economy after a deep “recession,” recovery will be slow Californian Water Blog, March 19th, 2017 - you'll spot the 40 year reference on the graphs there.

    It will take at least 50 years for the Central Valley’s aquifers to naturally refill, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. But that’s only if everyone stopped pumping groundwater immediately. That’s because the aquifers naturally refill at a rate of about 2 million acre-feet a year (650 billion gallons) as rain and snowmelt from the mountains seep underground, according to Claudia Faunt, a government hydrologist. But she stressed that this was only an estimate. Since California doesn’t consider groundwater a public good, no government agency is closely monitoring it, including exactly how many years it will take to replace all that drained water, she said.

    9 Sobering facts about California's ground water problem Reveal News, June 2015 - yes, clickbait title, included because (shock!) an actual example of someone writing a piece with proper citations and sources as well as a slick website. Interesting, might look into who produces it.


    Again, to answer the question, it's all about Time. Time is short, expending energy (money) is the traditional way to cut this debt down, but... sad trombone too late.

    I mean, you can't even extrapolate from Georgia and avoid the obvious noosphere elements that are eminently solvable anymore: California Crops Rot as Immigration Crackdown Creates Farmworker Shortage Fortune, August 8th, 2017

    And yes, the links I'm throwing do have a specific reasoning behind them. i.e. these are the people you need to convince.

    [1] True story. How real is your reality again?


    Lots of stuff on autopoesis, machinic heterogenesis and other esoteric terms pertaining to Life, Ecology and Crashes. - this is where the actual work is done, not pop-sci crapola. Now have some key older material (inc Jantsch, Guattari)(and context), thanks. That's heady material, new to me in its presentation, maybe new (to me) entirely. (Any other keywords will be pursued.) [there's meta, unsaid]

    Fun, because recharging personally atm (have not examined this area beyond school basics and intuitions): Unzipping Zipf’s law 9 Aug 2017 In this paper I have shown how a Zipfian distribution can be explained by the interaction of syntax and semantics, thus providing a linguistically informed explanation of Zipf’s law. Words are from different parts-of-speech classes, which differ in size by orders or magnitude. Within classes, words differ in meaning by being differentially specified for a number of meaning dimensions. If a word is specified for a few dimensions only, it becomes ambiguous; if it is overly specific, it will hardly ever be applicable. It was shown that neither of these ingredients suffices to produce Zipf’s law, but together they can. ... Two puzzles still remain to be explained: Why a slope of –1 in double log space and what about Zipf’s law in other, non-linguistic domains, where it is often reported too?

    and on topic vaguely: The climate mitigation gap: education and government recommendations miss the most effective individual actions (Just interesting as part of the conversations emerging.)


    RE: the whole symbiosis vs. competition dreary history is a slog, but the underlying dynamic is that about a century ago it turned into a communism (symbiosis, or more properly mutualism) vs. capitalist (competition) ideology festival, and the science has been warped ever since to support political discussions about which ideology is more natural.

    The problem that I don't think you realize is that the symbiosis crowd has a set of simple terms for all possible interactions, plus a theory (the mosaic theory of coevolution) about how to quantitatively study relationships among organisms as they change over space and time. Conversely, competition as a driver has always been a pain to test and prove, because when it's a major force, it's typically over so fast that you have to be in the right place and time to catch it and demonstrate that it happened. Nonetheless, there's been no shortage of money poured into such work, again with a strong bent towards showing that capitalist competition is "more natural" than mutualism. Worse, the competition theory crowd has a morass of terms to work with, with people using viewing competition and symbiosis as two different things and generally arguing about what symbiosis and mutualism actually mean. I did an informal poll in my grad school at one point, and everybody I talked to had a different definition of what mutualism and symbiosis were. It's more difficult to discuss science when nobody agrees what the terms you're using actually mean. That's one reason I prefer the modern symbiosis terms, because it keeps things simple.

    As for plant migration, there's no need to get mysterious about it. We've got three major problems. One is that there's insufficient research to tell us how fast plants can move, just fossil evidence that they moved much faster than they appear to do now. The second is that migration routes are blocked for many species, especially California coastal species, by urban development and agriculture. Here, most species can't move up the coast because there are too many cities in the way, and they can't live far enough away from the coast to use remaining inland wildlife corridors. That's a problem I'm working on as an environmental advocate. The third problem is that we've lost a lot of non-human dispersal agents, most notably grizzly bears, but bears in general are not welcome in urban parks, even though they move a lot of fruit seeds every year. In general, if a scrub jay carrying a scrub oak acorn can't find a place to cache it in the suburbs north of a park, those scrub oaks aren't going to be able to migrate north unless their acorns go in someone's bag. That's why we're starting to talk about assisted migration as the only solution for saving many species.


    Also, as it gets warmer, won't the plant species "simply" migrate uphill?

    It depends if they have an uphill to migrate to, and if the mountains are cooler. You're about eight hours ahead of us, but if you ever have a really boring evening, check out the weather for the San Diego coast and the San Diego mountains. The mountains are typically hotter, in part because they're next to the desert, while the coast has a big body of cold water sitting next to it. Generally, mountains should be cooler than the surrounding lowlands, but it depends on what the lowlands are. In San Diego, coastal plants won't do well in the mountains because it's hotter and drier in the summer, and much colder in the winter.

    Another problem is that often there is less land at higher altitudes than at lower altitudes, the soils are different (typically more rocky), and the local climate is different in the mountains (mountains generate their own weather, around here as summer thunderstorms that don't reach the coast).

    In the future, yes, things will survive in the mountains, just as they always have. Big, complex canyon systems always seem to have a disproportionately large number of odd and rare plants, just because there's a nook somewhere inside such a system that they can hang out in. What those species will be is another question entirely, but unfortunately, mountains are not perfect arks for all the lowland species.


    More weaponry for your cause:

    According to USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), national net farm income - a key indicator of U.S. farm well-being is forecast at $62.3 billion in 2017, down nearly 9% from last year. The 2016 forecast represents the fourth consecutive year of decline from 2013’s record high of $123.7 billion and would be the lowest since 2002 in both nominal and inflation adjusted dollars . Net farm income is calculated on an accrual basis. Net cash income (calculated on a cash-flow basis) is projected up slightly in 2017, driven largely by sales from previous years’ inventory, to $93.5 billion. The forecast for a fourth year of lower net farm income is primarily the result of the outlook for continued weak prices for most crop and livestock products compared with the period of 2011-2013, when prices for many major commodities experienced record or near record highs. Net farm income is down 50% since 2013. Farm sector production expenses have also fallen over the period (-3%) but not nearly as fast,thus contributing to lower aggregate income totals.

    U.S. Farm Income Outlook for 2017 Congressional Research Service, Feb 2017 PDF

    points to Saudi Arabia ceasing to deplete their aquifers to produce wheat and start buying up vast tranches of Africa real estate

    The why to all these links: expect a long and bitterly contested fight over agricultural subsidies / water rights and so forth. i.e. the moment that all the Cal unrestrained growth comes slamming into a wall of reality.

    More bluntly: the point at which subsidies start paying the farmers to return %parcels of land to its "pristine" (cough) state. (For UK readers, Greg / EC etc, refer to EU agricultural subsidies, Brexit and the massive disaster area looming there. Farms hit by labour shortage as migrant workers shun 'racist' UK Guardian, 22nd June, 2017

    Cynically speaking, your best bet to prevent the huge scams that this will give rise to (for UK readers - IEC was formed in 2009 to precision plant high yielding crops of miscanthus in the UK & Europe; we have been hugely successful in doing this and are now driving on with the end markets for this great crop – mainly in biomass heating and animal bedding. ) is to get on their boards, and fast, and present viable (and ecologically sound) solutions.

    That's presuming Cal is still a US state by then ( In a new poll, half of Republicans say they would support postponing the 2020 election if Trump proposed it WaPo, 10th August, 2017


    Note: policy change wise & the way Trumpians / ALEC / Kochs etc are gutting the machinery of the state this is only slightly less fantastical as Diamonds sweeping version of history.

    But it's probably your best shot.


    INTERESTING on Vernadsk - thanks - it would appear that Vernadsky was, at least in part talking some sort of sense, whereas, Teilhhard picked up the loopier bits & ran with that. And generating wall-to-wall bollocks in the process, like I said.

    @ 321 EU Farm subsidies, yes, well. They are crap - but/& the not-yet-proposed alternatives by our incompetent guvmint are no better & probably/possibly worse than what they might replace


    At least there are two religions, unlike in many areas of physics. Yes, I do realise that the symbiosis model is not simple, and my point stands. My lesser point is that there are other types of evolutionary pressure, and my greater one is that describing the emergent properties of complex systems (e.g. attractors in chaos theory) is not always a path to understanding them.


    Based on the balls-up that they were before we joined, and the way that the EU subsidies have been misadminstered in the UK, it's not so much probably as almost certainly. Whitehall is the disaster, and its main skill is diverting blame onto other people.


    Specific solution:

    Take the SAGBI data, find out who owns / runs all the moderately poor and lower areas (and more importantly, who has the water options / who is pumping $$$ into subverting the politics of those areas - will be useful) and start processing plans for them.

    Apart from the break @ Modesto, there's actually a fairly obvious land corridor for migration that pops right up at you.

    Ideal solution would be to turn all the red into protected National parklands, let it revert "naturally", and have the corridor as a natural buffer zone.

    But this is science-fiction at this point. But you did ask.


    I liked Diamond a lot. No, I never heard of him before the big book came out. And it sits on my shelf, right next to Marvin Harris' "Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches", from the later seventies.

    Note: when I first read Harris, I was amused/annoyed that, in his last section, fulminating against hippies and the Movement, he didn't see that he was contradicting many of his arguments earlier in the book.

  • The US is NOT a Muppet show. The Muppets were good and kind, trying to learn, and grow into the world.
  • The right (or that should be "wrong") in this country are, if anything, Muppet villains. And they're in the minority. On the other hand, they have way more than half of all the money and power.

    Trust me, most of us are horrified and terrified. And the psychotic snowflake-in-chief is terrified that Mueller will unseal the charges very soon, and he doesn't want to go to jail for life plus 250 years.

    But I expect Xi Jinping and V. Putin to tell him, in no uncertain terms, that he will NOT use nukes. And if he does, let's just say that my contacting the International Criminal Court about crimes against humanity is the least, and legal, thing I do.... (Hi, there, NSA! Just makin' conversation here, nothing to see, this isn't the conversation you want to pay attention to, move along, move along...)


    Um, sorry, you appear to have missed two details.

    First, what aquifers in souther CA? LA is built in a fucking desert, and 40+ years ago, 11 surrounding states were screaming about California stealing their water.

    Second, the whole business of "farm income" is a joke. As of the 1990 Census, "family farmer" was no longer a recognized occupation, as it was under 1.5% of all jobs. It's all freakin' agribusiness. I have a couple of good friends who have a family farm. And she's got a day job....


    There are at least five aquifers under the Los Angeles basin. They're all used for groundwater storage now, but LA had a quite a lot of agriculture prior to WWII. Orange County and San Diego County have their own, smaller aquifers, used the same way. Indeed, Orange County got its name from the oranges they used to grow there, before subdivisions became more profitable than orange trees.

    LA was not built in a "fucking desert," and as a former Angeleno, I do take offense at that term. The true desert starts east of the mountains, and at that latitude are largely caused by the rain shadows of those 10,000' high moutnains. West of the mountains, the climate is Mediterranean, and calling LA a effing desert is sort of like saying that coastal Israel is in the Sahara.


    There's been contested water rights in California since the 1800s, and I believe the situation still is that there are more rights to water than there is water to service those rights. So far as I know, the water boards are the creatures of the landowners within the water districts, so getting onto a water board requires having land and water rights in a district in the first place. I'm not that Machiavellian or that rich, and even if I was, I can think of less painful ways to lose my shirt.

    If you want further amusement, you can always go read about the Westlands Water District (WWD), which is largely run by agribusiness and families with ties to southern California development. It's widely suspected that when water gets too expensive for growing whatever-it-is they're growing now (I think it's almonds?), they'll try to grow subdivisions instead, because those take less water than agriculture. Where those suburbanites will work and shop is another question entirely (they'll be Bakersfield exurbs, a good 3-4 hours from LA, given how clogged the I-5 has become), but California's built subdivisions in the middle of nowhere and somehow made them work before (cf Coachella Valley). There's also some question about whether the WWD gotten so, erm, Trumpian in their business dealings that they're teetering on the edge of ruin rather than domination, but that's all gossip really.

    It's all fun. There are some books on California's water history out there that provide hours of pleasurable reading. If you want to expand your focus, there's always Cadillac Desert.


    It's dry humor. Dark, depressing humor which Dr Landis[1] might appreciate.

    Look @ the SAGBI data map, then what turning everything 'moderately poor' and below back to its "natural state" would actually entail (without funding specific plant replacement, as OP was suggesting). Think triage, but replace "national parkland" with "the largest dust bowl effect you've seen since the 1930's sweeping up the Valley".

    To most Californians, the irrigated, fertile Central Valley seemed a natural occurrence, not an environmental anomaly made possible only through the foresight of a now-forgotten generation of engineers and hydrologists.

    Just as California’s freeways were designed to grow to meet increased traffic, the state’s vast water projects were engineered to expand with the population. Many assumed that the state would finish planned additions to the California State Water Project and its ancillaries. But in the 1960s and early 1970s, no one anticipated that the then-nascent environmental movement would one day go to court to stop most new dam construction, including the 14,000-acre Sites Reservoir on the Sacramento River near Maxwell; the Los Banos Grandes facility, along a section of the California Aqueduct in Merced County; and the Temperance Flat Reservoir, above Millerton Lake north of Fresno.

    ...Barring that, there may be only two things left for California farmers to do: pray for wet weather to return, and, if it does, pray further that environmentalists do not send the precious manna from heaven out to sea.

    California Is Becoming a Dust Bowl Newsweek, 1st Sept, 2015

    That was written by a member of the Hoover Institution (Stanford) who are, basically, part of the problem that Dr Landis faces. Old Minds of the US / Soviet era that produced nuclear batteries and mass loss of biodiversity. Old old Minds, not big enough to understand the way things work[2] but accreted enough to think that a few million tonnes of engineering[3] can fix it all.

    California faces a dustbowl funnel which will strip the topsoil like a scouring flood the moment people stop artificially growing things[4].

    And, as we've been trying to skirt around telling you, it's already happened, you just haven't reached that co-ordinate yet.

    [1] We presume.

    [2] But happy enough to resort to ancient memes like "environmentalist = anti-human = hippies smell of patchouli or = Ms G. Paltrow". Dear Gwyneth Paltrow, I’m a GYN and your vaginal jade eggs are a bad idea Dr Jen Gunther, 17th Jan, 2017

    [3] Saudi Arabia mention was specific. Market Forces won't protect you. The smart money has already moved to other places: Agricultural investment and international land deals in Africa FAO, 2009 - massively out of date, but there we go. PDF on link.

    [4] That's also a joke - no-one is financing infrastructure anymore, despite the above author's railing against expensive rail "boondoggles" (like, really? that word was old in the 1960's).

    While the nation’s infrastructure earned a “D+” in the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, California faces infrastructure challenges of its own. For example, driving on roads in need of repair in California costs each driver $844 per year, and 5.5% of bridges are rated structurally deficient. Drinking water needs in California are an estimated $44.5 billion, and wastewater needs total $26.2 billion. 678 dams are considered to be high-hazard potential. The state’s schools have an estimated capital expenditure gap of $3.2 billion.

    California Infrastructure Overview Infrastructure Report Card, 2017


    In that case, it's a bit unclear whether they should still be called aquifers - how many of them have water flowing into them?

    When I was at school, the USA had no true deserts (and still doesn't), only semi-deserts, but the definitions have been changed; let's not speculate why. At that time and in that place, a true desert had no permanent vegetation. As I understand it, the current definition almost but not quite classifies Southend as being in a desert (i.e. its rainfall is 6% too high for that).


    Re: 'Cal water levels'

    Question to both of you on this:

    Do the data you're quoting take into account the large amount of water provided via the Colorado River dam network? And how much water has been diverted via these dams from reaching Mexico? I ask because a recentish doc showed how much of the Mexico side ecology that depended on this water has perished.

    Noticed that even more water is going to be diverted soon.


    Yes, I'm somewhat aware of the history of 'water rights' in the area; I'm also fairly cynical about solutions or the ability for H.S.S to avoid them.

    UK news, presented as a factual example:

    The cabinet divisions are partly his design. When he was still employed by May, the Tory peer advised she appoint Brexiteers to the three cabinet posts in charge of severing ties with Europe. The result is Boris Johnson, David Davis, and Liam Fox leading the high offices of Brexit.

    Heseltine says the trio are "the right people to prove the job can't be done." He explains: "It was the only political answer I could see — to let the Brexiteers prove that their policies work. Patently they don't. There are no policies.

    Lord Heseltine tells Business Insider: There's now a window of opportunity to stop Brexit Business Insider, August 10th, 2017

    That's what the Hoover Institution Mindscape leads to. Abandoning California to the poor, the "Latino immigrants" and a big shrug of "there were dollars to be made, couldn't foresee the outcomes but we'll blame the hippies all the same".


    ...Barring that, there may be only two things left for California farmers to do: pray for wet weather to return, and, if it does, pray further that environmentalists do not send the precious manna from heaven out to sea.

    There's more dark humor there and yep, you hit the punchline spot on.

    Hmm, memory time: I remember an excellent long form on this, see if I can find it. (Narrator: couldn't, but here's a replacement):

    The message was stark: after 2017, the lake "falls off a cliff environmentally." Toxic dust storms will increase markedly, and so will the chances of a rotten egg smell routinely wafting over much of coastal Southern California.

    Salton sea faces catastrophic future, toxic dust storms, officials say LA Times, 1st Oct, 2017


    Deserts, by current definition, are places where evaporation plus transpiration by plants (evapotranspiration) exceeds rainfall on a normal basis. By this definition, the polar lands are deserts, even though the South Pole sits on an ice sheet that's ~3 km thick.

    Absence of vegetation does not a desert make. Most deserts, including most of the Sahara, are vegetated, although obviously there is less vegetation than in a forest or grassland.

    Definitions of deserts change. Four hundred years ago, desert meant "devoid of human inhabitants" which is the source of our term "deserted."

    There are (or were) aquifers all through the western US deserts, and most of them were relics of the last ice age, when more water came in than flowed out. Las Vegas ("The Meadows") was a classic example, a series of springs and wet meadows that were an essential stop on the trail between the Rockies and California. Many Indian tribes clustered around springs (as in today's Death Valley, which actually contains an Indian reservation inside the park). Today, most of those springs are gone, and there are proposals to pump the rest and sell the water to LA and Las Vegas.

    Aquifers in the desert are quite widespread, and the normal way you know about them are oases, which is where a spring fed by an aquifer hits the surface. In the Sahara, oases are fed by aquifers that were fed by the last Green Sahara episode (11,000-5,000 years ago). In the US, most oases are (or were) fed by ice age water, and presumably the same is true for the deserts of Asia.


    Re: 'The third problem is that we've lost a lot of non-human dispersal agents, most notably grizzly bears, but bears in general are not welcome in urban parks, even though they move a lot of fruit seeds every year.'

    Depending on how much agricultural product gets picked up and composted in California, you could stimulate seed dispersal by having compost dumped into select areas where it might help feed the local critters. I'm assuming that most folks throw fruit/veg seeds into their compost bins.

    Yes, I realize that like all ideas this could have negative consequences - a jump in garbage-eating pests until their predators notice there's a nice little all-you-can-eat buffet in that area just over there.

    Back to water ....

    Read/saw that some US and UK areas are considering re-/introducing beavers to help manage their water and green spaces. Any likelihood of Cal doing the same?

    Really love these intelligent, hard working and highly social (including social with other species) critters!

    Excerpt: Reasons for bringing back beavers

    1- Alleviation of downstream flooding – the channels, dams and wetland habitats that beaver create hold back water and release it more slowly in periods of heavy rain.

    2- Increased water retention – by storing water and greatly enhancing the absorption capacity of the wider landscape, beaver activity also helps to sustain flows during periods of low water.

    3- Water purification – beaver-generated landscapes have been linked to the significant amelioration of diffuse pollution from human activities. Beavers have been specifically introduced into some river systems in Europe and North America to combat environmental degradation and pollution.

    4- Reduced siltation – dams trap silt, helping to reduce turbidity and sedimentation of water courses, reservoirs and lakes.

    5- Ecotourism - where beavers have been reintroduced on mainland Europe, there is substantial evidence of revenue and employment generation from ecotourism. The most appropriate sites for initial reintroduction can often be in more remote areas where alternative forms of livelihood from traditional land uses are in decline.'


    Last time I looked there were something like 86 different types of terrain and they had names like "pre-montane cloud forest." I doubt that any working ecologist accepts that there is a single definition of the word "desert."


    Thanks for the quote!

    Another good way to look at it was that dams were political currency up until the 1970s, if you believe Cadillac Desert. The problem is that the good sites for dams were used up early, and they kept building in crappier and crappier places until Carter bollixed up the system and Reagan ended it. I'm not sure how much of US debt is tied up in repaying all those dams, and I'm not sure anyone is either.

    That doesn't stop Central Valley Republicans from blaming all their problems on environmentalists stopping them from making all the dams they wanted. It's an easy cop-out, just like other Republicans wanting to build a border wall-shaped boondoggle because they want to make their voters believe that immigrants (read Mexicans) taking their jobs is what killed red state economies. Most of those proposed dams are still on the books, and if you look around, they pretty regularly pop up in discussion, just like mining He3 out of moon dust regularly pops up in SFF circles as a reason to colonize the Moon.

    As for the Dust Bowl: you're right about the Salton Sea, and having spent a week on Owens Lake where the same thing happened, I'm not at all looking forward to Salton Sea dust blowing into my lungs. What happens to the Central Valley in the longer term is a bit messier, though, because it's not as uniform as the Salton Sea. As agriculture fades away, there will be a lot of dust, but since it's not all salt pan, some of that dust can be abated by getting saltbushes established. That takes money and effort, but not as much as dealing with dust storms.

    To understand the deeper future we have to look at the deeper past. Millions of years ago, the Central Valley was sea floor, and if the ice caps melt, a lot of it will be again--in thousands of years, not hundreds (per an Archer 2016 paper). Prior to American settlement, the valley was an ephemeral grass and flower-land, like the Carrizo Plain is today: green in the spring, brown the rest of the year, again with some exceptions, and that's what it "wants" to go back to. Due to a lot of irrigation, though, some of the soils have gotten salted, which is where the desert saltbushes come in, but most of the rest of it would probably go to annual grasses, spring wildflowers, and the like.

    The other big factor is the Kings River and Tulare Lake. Tulare Lake was, until 1899, the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. It was big, but shallow, and it dried up when they dammed the Kings River and diverted the water to farming. Apparently the lake soils are pretty good farmland. In any event, dams don't last forever without maintenance, so 50-200 years after people stop maintaining the dams, I'd expect the rivers to re-establish themselves, and for Tulare Lake (and the others in the south Valley) to re-fill. That will ultimately replenish the aquifers, again in thousands of years. Even then, what that will mean is a couple of oases around the lakes in the southern Valley, but the center of the San Joaquin will basically be desert for at least 1,000 years and possibly 10,000-100,000 years. There, most movement and life will be along the rivers and around the lakes, which may dry out occasionally. Since they'll be entirely rainfed, which means that the water has to go into mountain aquifers, out of springs, and then down the rivers and into the lakes, it may be that there's a long dry spell before Tulare Lake fully refills, but I don't know enough hydrology to figure it out beyond handwaving.


    I am not surprised that it has changed yet again, or that different people have different ideas of the authoritative definition. Your definition makes a lot more sense, but is very dependent on the type of vegetation, and whether its roots can reach an aquifer. Everybody knows a desert when they see it, but everybody knows different :-)

    I have been to some of the Sahara and flown over more of it, incidentally. I said permanent vegetation, and I meant what I said; only those areas of it without any were classified as true deserts at my school, and the rest was semi-desert. But that was in a far country and, besides, the Empire is dead. Given my school, the definition could easily have been obsolete by half a century even then, and that was over half a century ago.

    My point about when is an aquifer not an aquifer is when it has been pumped dry, as sounds to be the case under Los Angeles. That matters. The aquifers under Cambridge (the original) refill on a 6-12 month timescale.


    In 2007, a plan by state water technocrats to save the lake was forwarded to the Legislature with a price tag of $8.9 billion. It was dead on arrival.

    Wilcox was a major author of a revised plan unveiled in July for a smaller but more sustainable Salton Sea. Proposed pricetag: $3.15 billion. - LA Times piece from 2015 (not 2017, oops).


    Those projects are regarded as the first phase of a proposed long-term Salton Sea restoration program. They include building a series of ponds and water-transfer systems across about 29,000 acres at a cost of about $383 million, officials said.

    Last year, the state Legislature approved $80.5 million for Salton Sea projects...

    “The 10-year plan is a real step forward,” Friedman said. “It is now incumbent on our state leaders to work together to provide the relatively minor resources and funding to avoid a $70-billion human health, ecological, and economic disaster.”

    State unveils a 10-year plan to restore habitat and control toxic dust storms along the Salton Sea's receding shoreline LA Times, 17th March, 2017

    Further reading: Hazard’s Toll: The Costs of Inaction at the Salton Sea. Oddly the PDFs refuse to load. Not sure if that is because the source has malformed them ( or someone powerful decided to memory hole the evidence.

    Anyhow, that's the way the cookie crumbles.

    Just to tie this into a nice bow, here's the crunch point that'll be used to justify abandoning certain areas as "non-viable" as the toxic clouds / dust bowl gets going:

    State government is required to contribute money each year to the retirement promises made to public sector employees, from those who work at state agencies and departments to teachers and college faculty. Those required contributions to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) total some $8 billion in the budget that was approved by lawmakers.

    On top of that, Brown plans to borrow an additional $6 billion from surplus state agency funds to make an extra CalPERS payment — though the final language still needs to be crafted this summer. Current projections show both of California’s pension funds, absent big changes, will come up at least tens of billions of dollars short in covering future retirement obligations.

    Here's how $183 billion in taxpayer dollars will be spent in California's new budget LA Times, June 15th, 2017 - scroll to bottom for nice simple graph with not-at-all-obvious-massive-surge


    Glossy White Paper that might be relevant [Hint: very much so]: estimate prepared by Jacobs Engineering as a check estimate. Jacobs Engineering prepared its estimate independent of the 5RMK estimate. The 5RMK and Jacobs Engineering estimates include a contingency of approximately 36 percent. Program Management(PM), Construction Management(CM),and Engineering (ENG) costs are held constant at $1.91 billion and land acquisition costs at $150 million. ...within the proposed budget of $14.94 billion.

    MODERNIZING THE SYSTEM: CALIFORNIA WATERFIX INFRASTRUCTURE Waterfix, 2017 - see page 31 for proposed costing graphs, p20-22 for costing, shows $0.8 billion for environmental mitigation.

    and the counter-point:

    "This is the first comprehensive benefit-cost analysis of WaterFix and it is clear that it costs four times more than its benefits. This project simply is not economically justified," said economist Jeffrey Michael, a professor of policy at University of the Pacific and director of the Center for Business and Policy Research. The center produces independent, objective analyses of business, economic, and public policy issues in California.

    Study says state water tunnels not economically justified University of the Pacific, August 24th 2016

    Place your bets on how that sausage / boondoggle goes.


    As I noted above, the aquifers under Los Angeles are used for water storage: water gets pumped into them and pumped out of them. The way they manage the aquifers is fairly interesting and led to research that won a Nobel Prize in Economics for Elinor Ostrom, but I'm not going to get into it here. The big problem they face is that there's a bigger aquifer out there: the Pacific Ocean. If the LA groundwater managers simply drained their respective wells dry, they'd get salt water coming in from the Pacific, rendering the aquifers useless for freshwater storage. Because of that problem, they came together (it took something like 20 years and some lawsuits) to work together to keep enough fresh water in the ground under LA to keep their aquifers going for fresh water storage. So far as I know, LA groundwater is managed as a commons by government agencies and has been for decades.


    Hmm, jiggled things a bit, here's the paper:

    For example, Sapozhnikova et al. (2004) found PCB and DDE concentrations at levels of concern, while King et al. (2011) identified elements such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and selenium in Salton Sea sediments. The additional public health impacts associated with toxic constituents in dust emitted from Salton Sea playa merit investigation, but insufficient information currently exists to estimate any additional public health costs due to the presence of these toxins

    Hazard’s Toll The Costs of Inaction at the Salton Sea Pacific Institute, PDF, legal - p13. See p18 for the scary part (2020 kickoff, whooohooo) 30,000 tons of dust / annum by 2028! p24 for a really nice map showing the impact on agricultural land that surrounds the lake. p30 outlines the micro-climate changes which happen when a large body of water evaporates (spoilers: it's bad). p42 shows the costs of inaction (that $80 ain't gonna cover you) - $70 bil at the high end, $11 bil at the low end


    The 10 year plan of $340 mil is going to cost ~$50bil or so (and some deaths and loss of agricultural land).

    Hoover Institute: Build moar pylons.


    Frank Landis noted: "the whole symbiosis vs. competition dreary history is a slog"

    Indeed, and it's a typical example of how scientists like to counterproductively divide into opposing binary camps and engage in death matches over which camp is right. In fact, when there is a large body of evidence for two competing hypotheses, the real answer is often "they're both correct, but under different combinations of circumstances".

    Terminology note before proceeding: "symbiosis" isn't a good term to be throwing around because it's insufficiently specific; it includes radically different categories such as mutualism versus competition versus parasitism versus predation versus commensalism versus neutralism (I'm failing to retrieve the correct term here: no net effect for either species). Better to use one of these more specific terms.

    The ecological relationship between any two organisms evolves dynamically, and can shift between radically different types of symbiosis as environmental conditions change. For example, the fungus Rhizoctonia solani is a serious root rot pathogen when soil water is abundant, but can transform into a beneficial mycorrhizal symbiont under drought conditions, and then back again when water levels increase. So is the relationship between the fungus and its host closer to competition or to (mutualistic) symbiosis? Yes. G That is, the answer changes depending on soil water levels.

    With respect to Frank's comment about most deserts being vegetated: what he said! Even in the most hyper-arid deserts in China, there are usually some hard-ass plants still clinging to life and waiting for 10 years for the next drop of rain. What confuses most people is that they think "desert = vast area of sand dunes", when in fact dunes are just one landscape component of most deserts and most deserts have dunes ranging from mobile to vegetation-fixed. Frank's definition of deserts is also important (evaporation > precipitation). My Chinese colleagues specifically use the (deprecated) term "sandy desertification" to emphasize deserts in which mobile sands are an important part of the landscape.


    Oh, yes - there's that problem in the Fenland, too.


    Oh and if anyone is missing the touch of the Irish (tm):

    Go look @ p24 of the last PDF.

    Yes, it looks like a giant willy with comical throbbing comic-book lines. Yes, the "outpipe"[1] is ejaculating on Mecca. No, I did not just make that up.

    The Simulation is being run by Trolls[tm].

    [1] When vulva / vagina is cleared up, you'll get urethra used correctly.


    And yes: those really are two superfund sites and a landfill just above Mecca. At this point you're basically just providing a cosmic justification for Trump to exist.

    And no, I'm really not making this up:

    Oh, and bonus marks: someone placed their superfund sites on Tribal Land. Again, not making this up (p20):

    Political Symbolism, Man


  • Are you sure its real? (On a serious note - don't put superfund sites next to areas of water about to evaporate 'cause that's bad when dust... oh, why bother. 1950's Mad Men at work)
  • White Men[tm] - the gift that keeps on giving.


    I like your example of Rhizoctonia solani! It's like the religious wars over botanical species names, where the taxonomists have gone completely nuts. The point I was trying to make is that symbiosis and its sub-classifications are putting a structure on a system that isn't really there, except as imprecise emergent properties. Another example is some of the lignicolous fungi and trees like oak; by destroying the heartwood, the tree becomes flexible enough to live longer after it is rotten to the core than before!

    By "the current definition" of desert, I was meaning the one used by Wikipedia and clearly relevant to people in the USA:

    I agree that it's little better than the definition I was taught, and that Frank's one is better. There are other kinds of desert with no permanent vegetation than sandy ones, though I agree that they are all (or almost all?) frozen ones, because (as you imply) it's mobile sand dunes that prevent permanent vegetation.


    As for Bosco Verticale, I'll give my opinion on it in 10 years, after the units have been through a couple of owners, the building through a couple of storms, and maybe an earthquake or two. It's easy to get awards when something first opens, but I'd like to see how it ages. What I'm particularly interested in is how the trees survive, how all those balconies age, and what happens when high winds hit the trees. Oh, and how all the residents feel about the project, whether they love it or dump the trees.

    And they'd better pick their trees carefully. I love it when the sidewalk planted trees grow below or above too much for the location. The utilities get to turn the tall ones into tuning fork look alikes and the ones that want large root systems do their best to tear up the streets and sidewalks.

    Ah yes. We have a local "building of the future" built before networked personal computers and wifi. Oops.

    It was a prop in the movie "Brainstorm".


    From my brief dipping-toes-in experience of the building industry the customers are if anything more conservative than the builders. It's very hard to sell a spec house that isn't an environmentalists nightmare. ... shiny

    In residential new home construction in the US "new and shiny" outsells operation costs and ease of use all the time. I've been involved in the construction industry for decades but 1 step removed most of that time. It's depressing.

    Currently houses are being torn down around me (they need to be) and replaced by houses 2+ times as big. They look nice but out of a $800K to $1mil selling price there's at $20K to $50K in external artifacts that do nothing but look "shiny". And will require tons of maintenance over the years. HVAC systems with the duct outlets in the wrong places. I could rant for a long time but ...


    Read/saw that some US and UK areas are considering re-/introducing beavers to help manage their water and green spaces. Any likelihood of Cal doing the same?

    The problem with beavers is that they don't read property maps and don't understand when the people nearby get upset when their homes start flooding.


    Elderly Cynic noted: "There are other kinds of desert with no permanent vegetation than sandy ones"

    Indeed. One of the things I love about working with my Chinese colleagues is how they introduce me to all kinds of Western blind spots. For example, there's a western notion that there is this huge area named "the Gobi Desert" in China. Turns out that's wrong. The word "gobi" (lower-case) is a special type of desert surface formed from the small gravel that remains behind after the finer sand particles have been blown away by the wind. So what we think of as "the" Gobi Desert is actually a large number of smaller named deserts, some of which are sandy, some of which are gobis, and some of which are a mixture of the two. One such desert, the Taklamakan, comes from a word that means (with some variations based on different translations) "the desert from which nobody walks out again".


    Indeed, there are many deserts (spoiler: there's a reason the last PDF is what it is, right down to the scale of the map)

    Today abstraction is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirror, or the concept. Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being, or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal. The territory no longer precedes the map, nor does it survive it. It is nevertheless the map that precedes the territory — precession of simulacra — that engenders the territory, and if one must return to the fable, today it is the territory whose shreds slowly rot across the extent of the map. It is the real, and not the map, whose vestiges persist here and there in the deserts that are no longer those of the Empre, but ours. The desert of the real itself.


    'We're Now a Hyperpower': Gorka Says Trump's Message to N. Korea Is 'Don't Test Us' Fox News, 9th August, 2017

    For Greg et al, The Establishment has made a choice and it's all daggers out (along with Heseltine):

    Who or what is Sebastian Gorka anyone hear him on @BBCr4today someone needs to put a drop noseband on him and tighten the martingale #loon Nicholas Soames, 10th August, 2017 - twitter. Spot a recent re-tweet of MP Peter Kyle assassinating Farage, the Old Guard[tm] have decided what's up with what.

    For American viewers:

    Drop nose bands can help ask for a lower head position. When a horse opens his mouth, it creates pressure points low on the nose, coupled with the pressure in the curb groove, and as soon as the horse relaxes his jaw and drops his nose the pressure ceases.

    It's a very blunt and direct hierarchical put-down from an old Aristo. Stuff that once lead to pistols at dawn territory.


    Gammes sténographiques : recueil de textes choisis pour l'acquisition méthodique de la vitesse

    Wrong models, wrong area, wrong wrong wrong.

    Macrocosm - Microcosm

    End with a willy joke occluding a serious critique of why the system is breaking (Tribal Lands, Mecca-Willies, superfunds, DUST: ASHES TO ASHES, DUST TO DUST, HERE'S HOW YOUR WORLD ENDS, NOT IN FIRE OR ICE BUT THE ABSENCE OF LIFE).

    Matryoshka doll, but joke made before Temporal research done. You're being shown how an entirely different sausage is made, thus the willy jokes.


    The scary bit you should have noted is that it's all reality based. Oh, and I'm distracted / damaged / hurt atm.

    You've no idea what eating that amount of shitty 80's existential angst felt like from y'all. I mean, some of the music was ok, but a lot of it was just ugh.


    The other intersting thing about the Central Valley is it, before the dams, it wasn't unheard of for it to completely flood and turn temporarily back into an inland sea for s few days

    I'm not sure the role that had in acquirer replenishment had


    Oh and if you want to get really wild:

    The Joshua Tree is the fifth studio album by Irish rock band U2. It was produced by Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno, and was released on 9 March 1987 on Island Records. In contrast to the ambient experimentation of their 1984 release, The Unforgettable Fire, the band aimed for a harder-hitting sound within the limitation of conventional song structures on The Joshua Tree. The album is influenced by American and Irish roots music, and through sociopolitically conscious lyrics embellished with spiritual imagery, it contrasts the group's antipathy for the "real America" with their fascination with the "mythical America".

    Did you spot the joke?

    You know he got the cure But then he went astray He used to stay awake To drive the dreams he had away. He wanted to believe In the hands of love.

    Exit YT: music, U2 / Joshua Tree 4:13. Bonus round - spot the background.............. )!(



    Deserts =/= no ecology.

    Deserts =/= no life.

    Human made deserts = no ecology.

    Human made deserts = no life.


    And yeah, had to look for some .ru docs on what Aral Sea etc real dust storms of heavy metals and no-life do to people. Spoilers: It's not Pretty Mate, Not Pretty At All.


    "New Approaches to Fuel Efficiency": this image appeared in my twitter timeline and it seemed remarkably appropriate for this thread :)


    In the case of seeds, I'm talking about seeds from native plants. Many of these do end up in the greenwaste bin, but only due to brush clearance.

    As for beavers, that's another one of those cute solutions. While I think it's a great idea in some streams, I do agree that beavers don't understand human property boundaries any more than the average black shirt mountain biker does. Still, they could be extremely valuable on large ranches and in big natural areas, so hopefully we'll get better at translocating beaver families from where they're in trouble to where they can re-engineer streams back into working order.

    In the West, flooding from beaver dams isn't quite the problem that flooding is in the East. Conversely, capturing heavy winter rains and getting them to soak in rather than scour out channels and make flash floods is a big problem, and beavers might help solve it, at least at higher elevations.


    And, Greg:

    There's a qualitative difference in kind between the dust from a desert and the dust from a human-made desert. It's right there @ the micro scale in black and white and lack of life.

    PCB and DDE concentrations at levels of concern, while King et al. (2011) identified elements such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and selenium.

    Dust plumes rose from desiccated lakebed sediments of the Aral Sea in late March 2010 NASA, 2010


    And, just proven: US = Soviet in terms of ability to deal with these matters, no matter how rich the area.

    It's your MINDS that are the problem, not anything else.



    Oh, and if Dr Landis doesn't understand the weapon-suit delivered, then...

    Basic Ecology 101: it's not Adaption, it's Abaption[1].

    Water-tight (budumbtish!) argument showing how policy will lead to mass death / dust storms / scouring of your world unless people start acting differently.

    I mean, that's what it's really about.

    [1] This is from the foreword to one of the classic teaching texts, Host will spot the reference immediately.


    Re: 'beavers ... don't read property maps'

    True for now!

    The article I linked to mentions this as one of the concerns under study. Mostly it's an easily solved problem and the solution is the same as for livestock: build a fence.

    Was trying to locate info re: beaver intelligence and found this free ebook. Quite a few references to earlier researchers c1863 as well as Native American experience and assessment of this animal. Take-away: beavers are the most intelligent of the rodents and good for the environment.

    Animal Intelligence George John Romanes 1 January 1883 D. Appleton

    Overall, beavers seem to be the 'in' animal at present: pros outweigh cons consistently from the various articles I've scanned.


    Flooding is more a Sacramento Valley problem than a San Joaquin Valley issue.* There's an interesting book on the topic (Battling the Inland Sea) that describes the floods quite nicely, and it's well worth reading.

    Basically, the genesis of the California water system/terraforming project started in the Gold Rush, when miners dumped so much sediment into the Sacramento and its tributaries (the SF Bay at the mouth of the rivers filled in something like 18 feet during the Gold Rush, and there were parts of the river that had risen above the surrounding landscape temporarily, supported by berms of sediment washed down from hydraulic mining). Anyway, they spent around 50 years messing around with private property solutions to dealing with the massive floods that came every decade (that's where the original water boards came from), then finally switched to a federal and state partnership when these failed (note that the only reason big government was tried was because all other suggested remedies failed--something modern Republicans love to forget). Along with creating bypasses and levees so floodwaters wouldn't wipe out Sacramento and other cities, they hit upon the brilliant idea of damming the rivers that were causing the mess and shipping the water south to the dry San Joaquin Valley to support agriculture there. Then Pat Brown (Jerry Brown's father and former governor) got the brilliant idea of piping some of the water to LA and points south, while incidentally shunting development out of northern California and paying off some wealthy industrial farmers in the San Joaquin, and the modern system was born. Jerry Brown's still trying to complete that system with his delta tunnel, incidentally. Got to admire his filial devotion, even if the idea is wrong-headed.

    This is one reason California has so many environmental laws: wild California is a place that goes in for big nasty floods and big nasty droughts, and in our arrogance, we've decided that the best thing to do is to terraform this system, primarily by shipping huge amounts of water and people around to balance out the load. This system will work so long as people keep taking care of it, keep solving its endless problems, and aren't we whacked by a problem too big to handle (like a too-big earthquake in the wrong place and time, famine triggered by climate change, or the like). Eventually it will fall apart, and once the dams break, it will turn back into the flood and drought dominated system it was before, whatever the weather regime is at the time.

    Knowing this, I just try to keep various systems working while not killing off any more of what remains of wild California. Wild California isn't the most pleasant place to live, but it's far more livable than Weedland California, which is what we'll get if only the weeds survive us being stupid before everything falls apart.


    Re: Dams, water & soil contamination

    Question for you and Frank:

    I'm of the impression that concrete and concrete dust are particularly toxic to plants* and I'm also assuming that the dams in question are made of concrete. So - if the dams currently in existence are not properly maintained, isn't there a very high risk that as they fail they'll carry/disperse toxic materials right through to wherever they end including the ocean? (So instead of contaminating only their local area, they'll kill everything downstream as well.)

    • Probably toxic to animals too.

    They aren't, unless the concrete is made from materials that are, which is rarely is (at least in the UK). Fresh concrete dust is often very alkaline and sometimes dessicating, but (given a reasonable rainfall) it weathers to being just another rock in next to no time.


    And... my circle is complete.

    The ability of the invasive weed species Parthenium hysterophorus L. for the accumulation of the heavy metal Cd was studied in a greenhouse experiment. This study aimed at identifying a metal tolerant species from natural vegetation and to assess the phytoextraction potential of the plant. To compare metal concentration in the aboveground biomass to those in roots and in soils,To study their effect on growth and comparison with metal amended soils treated with EDTA. The Cd accumulated by test species was increased significantly after 0.1g / Kg of EDTA was added to the medium. An increase in metal uptake with increase in test concentrations during the early stages and developmental stages was observed which indicates the plant’s tolerance to the heavy metal. But a decrease in metal uptake with the maturity of the plant was observed. This indicates that the plant’s ability for the metal uptake reduces with time i.e. with maturity. The BCF’s of the shoots and roots and TF’s being >1 shows the validity of the weeds species for hyperaccumulation of the metal Cd. This is due to the plant’s capability to uptake the metal and its tolerance capacity for the heavy metal Cd. Hence, it can be a promising species for phytoextracton of heavy metals and remediation of contaminated soils which is economical and ecofriendly.

    Heavy metal tolerance of weed species and their accumulations by phytoextraction Indian Journal of Science and Technology, 2011 - note auto-download, Host's software might kill it.

    Eco-friendly Alternatives for the Removal of Heavy Metal Using Dry Biomass of Weeds and Study the Mechanism Involved Journal of Bioremediation & Biodegradation, April 30th 2015. Full text.

    India has a major push for this type of stuff (c.f. Japan, sunflowers, radiation) because it's cheap, cheerful and requires low skill levels to deploy. Oh, and they've major pollution issues due to low-tech industries.

    The glass is cut The bottle run dry Our love runs cold In the caverns of the night We're wounded by fear Injured in doubt I can lose myself You I can't live without

    Red Mill Mining Town YT: Music, U2 Joshua Tree, 4:57


    As for concrete dust in dams - they don't really break like the 9/11 towers. Here's a famous American example done for environmentally friendly reasons:

    The White Salmon River damn demolition YT: reality, Nat Geo, 2011, 2:02 - and yes, it looks like really bad CGI, but that's due to the camera not anything else.

    The basic premise is that you're essentially scourging most life downstream when you do this anyhow, it's a "Time will heal the rift" type deal.

    This also applies to humans (infamously: 花園口決隄事件).


    Re: Dust & vegetation

    Page 65 has a table on various types of dust and their effects on vegetation. Unfortunately but haven't seen anything yet on effects of disintegrating cement.

    THE EFFECTS OF DUST ON VEGETATION A REVIEW Andrew M. Farmer English Nature, Northminster House, Peterborough, PE1 1 UA,UK (Received 28 August 1991; accepted 14 October 1991


    'The earliest reference to dust effects on a natural community are those of Parish (1910) concerning cement dust deposition onto shrub and grassland vegetation in California. On slopes facing the cement factories there were almost pure stands of Artemisia californica, with species such as Encelia farinosa, Salvia apiana and S. mellifera having declined or become extinct. The leaves of A. californica are narrow and although dusty, did not allow the production of hard surface scales which occurred on the other species. These leaves still become yellow, but generally the species remained resistant.'

    Unable to access the article below but would be interesting to see what the differences are in conclusions between the above and earlier Science article published.

    The Possible Effect of Cement Dust on Plants George J. Peirce Science New Series, Vol. 30, No. 775 (Nov. 5, 1909), pp. 652-654


    As stated in #343.

    No-one reads the links.


    Look: if you want to take this seriously, your search should include: The Karakalpak Center for Reproductive Health and Environment, Uzbekistan

    Since ~2000 (and before, but you're gonna need some keys to access the castles) they've been producing the science on what happens to:

    1 Humans 2 Animals 3 Crops 4 Everything else

    When you dump heavy-metal laden dust clouds of non-life on living things.

    Hint: it's not fucking pretty mate.


    And by that, I mean:

    Average life expectancy in the KzylOrda region of Kazakhstan has declined from 64 to 51 years. Women and children are the most vulnerable. Maternal and infant morbidity and mortality are significantly higher in Karakalpakstan and KzylOrda than in other parts of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan(2). A high rate of anemia is found in almost all groups of women in Karakalpakstan in 87% of teenagers, 91% of non-pregnant women, and in 99% of pregnant women. Anemia, the region's greatest health problem, has been increasing for the last 20 years. In the 1980s only 17-20% of pregnant women had anemia. The level worsens during pregnancy about 70% of pregnant women in Karakalpakstan have severe anemia by the third trimester. Most of these women have complications during pregnancy and delivery, including hemorrhages. Some 87% of newborn babies are also anemic(2). Untreated anemia in pregnancy and young children poses a high risk for weak immune systems and a risk for brain damage. .

    High levels of reproductive pathologies (infertility, miscarriages, complications during pregnancy and in birth) have been observed in this region for more than 20 years. In a survey of 5,000 couples, 16% experienced infertility. Among infertile couples, male infertility increased from 30-40% in the 1980s to 65% in the late 1990s. Miscarriages rose to 18% in 1998. The rate of birth abnormalities, another serious consequence of pollution, is also increasing. One in every 20 babies is born with abnormalities, a figure approximately 5 times higher than European countries..

    Investigations have shown significantly high levels of organochlorine pesticides like HCB, HCH, pp-DDE and pp-DDT in the plasma of pregnant women, again far higher than in European countries(1). The high levels of such ...

    Health and Ecological Consequences of the Aral Sea Crisis The Karakalpak Center for Reproductive Health and Environment, Uzbekistan 2003. PDF - small, it's an intro talk to a much larger conference.

    Held by - Daene C. McKinney, University of Texas at Austin -


    That's what defunding / ignoring Salton Sea gets you.

    Not. Fucking. Joking.


    "That takes money and effort, but not as much as dealing with dust storms."

    You realise that you've stated categorically that no such effort will be made don't you? The group who have to spend the money and make the effort are not the same group who will have to deal with dust storms. Therefore no effort or money will be expended on the problem. See our entire civilisation for worked examples...


    No, it's not, but it has essentially damn-all to do with cement and concrete dust, which typically do NOT contain high proportions of heavy metals. In the UK at least, they contain less than granite.


    See prior links.

    SFReader introduced concrete concerns, I dismissed them then returned to the actual issue.


    For example, Sapozhnikova et al. (2004) found PCB and DDE concentrations at levels of concern, while King et al. (2011) identified elements such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and selenium in Salton Sea sediments. The additional public health impacts associated with toxic constituents in dust emitted from Salton Sea playa merit investigation, but insufficient information currently exists to estimate any additional public health costs due to the presence of these toxins

    The bottom line is that the Cal State government are willing to risk a (known, risk assessed) cost of $70 billion (and # death, whatever) from a report that categorically states that they have no real data on the actual dangers of heavy metal contaminants in said sediment.

    It's basically this:

    1 It's a bomb 2 It kills people 3 Sure, you can set it off


    4 We've no idea if it'll cause a chain reaction and burn the entire atmosphere away, but sure, fire away


    5 Oh, right. Sure, Project Starfish. I know we didn't want to push the envelope, so we'll directly attempt to cause that chain reaction / EMP and who gives a fuck.

    You're psychotic Apes who need a spank (and English aristos with their horse tack are right on my fucking menu, let me tell you sonny Jim).


    And if you need the punchline:

    The ex-Soviet states well know they got fucked and their system deliberately poisoned them.

    Americans still think their fellow Patriots would never dream of doing that to them and consider someone smoking a major fucking incident while their media lie to them. (LA Times - did you note how that magic billion into millions got respun? welcome to the fucking Virtual).

    California is the 5th largest economy in the World. About to be (20 years or so) roughly on par with Iraq.

    It cannot / will not / refuses to accept reality / cannot even do the science / can't fund pensions / living in a river called the fucking D-Nile even deal with a simple. fucking. tiny. lake.

    You're Fucked and I am rapidly approaching the moment when I stop being Loving, and start Being Angry.


    laws you have to follow, but they cost 440 dollars for each standard

    I really want that to be challenged in court. Secret laws shouldn't be binding on anyone who doesn't have free and open access to the law. Remember "fair, and seen to be fair", I vaguely recall it's one of those aspirational things they like to throw around when discussing rich people's justice.

    No more than 5 kW on a single phase

    Yes, there is a big steaming pile associated with PV in Australia. My plan is to leave/reinstall the existing 3kW system until I can afford to play with it, and I will run the numbers at that point on the relative benefits of going three phase with a "big UPS" vs having an islanding/off grid system. It's been 20 years since I was a qualified electrical engineer, but the actual block diagram level analysis of this stuff is fairly straightforward. But OTOH, I am apparently unusual in that I think mortgage financing is also simple.

    Broadly, the "big UPS" system is a nominally/legally off grid battery powered setup with an on grid battery charger (that may be hard wired or use a 25/30A single phase plug). That skirts around the edges of the legal nonsense regarding battery systems that can feed the grid (not allowed!), but also means I can have 5kW of PV on the grid side, plus whatever I like on the non-grid side.

    The alternative, and supplier-preferred setup, is the "simple" three phase supply ($2000 install, $2/day extra connection charge) with 10-30kW of PV and a grid-interactive battery. Then you buy a separate islanding inverter for when the grid is down, because the complexities of certification mean there are very few islanding polyphase battery-capable inverters and the few that exist are pricey. Or if you are dirty bastard you arrange that once the system is isolated (technically optional but insane not to do) you have a small inverter that can feed the main inverter and trick it into thinking the grid is live. The latter is likely cheaper but making it safe is difficult. Getting caught doing it could lead to jail time if you survive (the most likely ways to get caught are zapping yourself or zapping a linesman, and the latter is likely to be fatal... for you).


    And if you want a teaser of orgasmic #Wildhunt: Building 7, "Pull it" as the Eclipse occurs. Only Virtual and all the buildings / Houses (12 houses, in our little rotten one there is just me and Death).

    Trust Me: little pissant cliques of covert OPs will pee blood when it goes live, their balls all tight and blue and as they orgasm their Minds explode and Satellite tech gets re-directed.

    You really want to start proving humanity: tis a good idea at this point in time, about 140 years ago, and proving you're able to be self-sufficient and mature. And Tory peers should know enough to not wave their tack in the air when whips and chains are in their pasts. There are things who really can play with probability and they have righteousness on their side if you worship death-cult nihilistic para-G_Ds.

    I mean: we're not fucking cats.


    It's a Mirror.

    Destroy the Image and you will break the enemy. YT: Film, Enter the Dragon, 4:23.

    Tinkle, Tinkle, Little Star: How I wonder what you are.


    As for the reality, the model for the Salton Sea recovery is all the things that have been tried with Owens Valley, where the problem of lakebed dust causing lung problems is well known, even if the solutions are an eternal work in progress. I'm not too sanguine about the Salton Sea not drying up, absent a massive decrease in the population in southern California (and probably not even then). However, we do know the risks, both physical and legal, from the Salton Sea drying. It's substantially bigger than Owens Lake and probably more toxic. Instead of a few thousand people downwind of a toxic and dusty lakebed, there will be somewhere around 25 million people downwind (LA County, Orange County, San Diego County, Imperial County, Riverside County). That's a big, bipartisan, political landmine that only an idiot would ignore, and we tend to export our political idiots to DC more than to Sacramento.

    Now, I strongly suggest chilling on this topic. Unlike me, you don't have flashbacks to what it feels like to be out on Owens Lake in summer doing surveys. If I can be calm about this, it's possible for anyone to do so.


    I would think that there's a group of originalists who want the Salton Sink to return to being dry as it was before modern people poured all that water into it.

    Not that I would agree with them. After 100 years we need to think of the "sea" as more natural than the dry bed.


    No, the reality is: $3-9 billion was modeled / asked for in some fairly (just trawled them) sensible plans to "continue as normal".

    You got: $350 million to sort it out predicated on allowing the entire area to dry out and "fuck it". Over 10 years. And even with the Aral Sea science, you stupid fucks didn't even bother to test the sediment for heavy metal contamination when you've got 5+ superfund sites right next to it.

    Now, I strongly suggest chilling on this topic. Unlike me, you don't have flashbacks to what it feels like to be out on Owens Lake in summer doing surveys. If I can be calm about this, it's possible for anyone to do so.

    Ever been to the Aral Sea? Chernobyl? Those places not on the map in Siberia where all those heavy industry plants were? Places where you don't disturb the plants or soil because the dust and dirt contain nasties held there by a thin handkerchief of biological tissue? That little frisson where the anthrax roams and the wildebeest trapped in the perma-frost probably have all manner of naughties their decaying corpses want to kiss you with? Or the invisible stuff like the ozone smell (gasdive has never smelt it in an organic realm).

    Trust me.

    I have.

    I even caught a rabid gerbil once.

    That's a big, bipartisan, political landmine that only an idiot would ignore, and we tend to export our political idiots to DC more than to Sacramento.

    Yeah, missing the point again.

    It's all a test. And trust me: ShareBlue and Trump and so on are so low down on the list it's not funny. MF can't even deal with their reality crumbling at the moment.

    This is the foreplay.


    If people would stop stealing my 2013 Zule gag, that'd be swell.


    The long-term solution to the Salton Sea problem is that it's over 55 meters below sea level, and so far as I can tell, the biggest rise between the Salton Sea and the Gulf of California is about 8 meters at Mexicali. My guess is that sometime in the 22nd century, the sea level rise will drown Mexicali and the Imperial Valley. The Salton Sea may well be a dusty lakebed at that point (whatever people do to control the dust), but if we don't get greenhouse gases under extreme control, it will rejoin the Gulf of California by around 2300.

    Aside from the human health consequences of a dry Salton Sea, it was for awhile (and still kind of is) a major stop for waterbirds on the Pacific Flyway, because the better sites along the coast have been developed. Keeping the birds from dying is another reason to keep water on the lake. Unfortunately it's become a bit of a death trap for migrating waterbirds, so I'm not sure it's good for wildlife to keep it the way it is.


    "If people would stop stealing my 2013 Zule gag, that'd be swell."

    A Ghostbusters gag?

    Angry Video Game Nerd gag?



    Since we're past 300, if I may ask.

    4 of us will likely be in Ireland end of August / first of September for 4 or 5 days. We plan to drive Dublin to Cork/Kinsale to Galway to Shannon or Dublin.

    Any suggestions for things to see? Last time I did something like this was a loop in the US from Mesa Verde to Monument Valley to Grand Canyon. Doesn't have to be rocks but I'm very interested in things that would be impressive and a picture just doesn't do justice.

    I've never been to Ireland or the UK.


    Salton Sea .. A smaller ( MUCH SMALLER ) version of the Aral Sea, then? Though I note that the "Salton Sea" appears to be a partly- artificial construct (?)


    IIRC semi-desert = < 500 mm ( approx 20" ) of rain p.a. desert is either under 250 or 200 mm .....


    The big problem they face is that there's a bigger aquifer out there: the Pacific Ocean Shouldn't that read: "opportunity" ? With the amount of sunshine Cal gets, plus the plummetting cost of PV, isn't that your solution to needing more fresh water - desalination ???


    But the people of Ottery St Mary love them... [ Other places too - guvmint-monitored site near headwaters of the Tamar & at least 2 sites in Scotland, as well. ] It is looking as though they will be turned loose over the UK, quite soon. The "positive" environmental impact seriously outweighs all other consoderations, seems to be the current verdict.


    Like I said: Aral Sea


    Yes. I was being unclear, as is that article. That USGS article uses the term 'deserts' generically in one place and the term 'desert region' to include semi-desert, and Wikipedia uses the term 'semi-arid desert' for semi-desert. Anyway, it's a damn-fool definition.


    Since no-one has bothered to point this out yet, the "Pacific Ocean" is NOT an aquifer.

    Yes, coastal aquifers that have a porous edge on an ocean can become salinated in certain circumstances, but that still doesn't make oceans aquifers (or are you about to suggest that, say, Lake Superior is also an aquifer?) ;-)


    s/Sea/Lake surely?

    • A trip into Connemara, for the stunning landscape.
    • A drive into either West Cork or Wicklow (or both) to see what this "forty shades of green" nonsense is about; it's beautiful landscape too, but where Connemara hits you over the head it sneaks up on you.
    • Newgrange, if you've time in Dublin for a drive out of the city - it's the oldest of the big Boyne passage tombs, predating the Great Pyramid and Stonehenge.
    • You'll be passing relatively close to the Cliffs of Moher on that trip to Galway, if you particularly like geological features. I'm not entirely sure it'd be the best use of your time otherwise.
      I'm in Dublin; I know there are other denizens haunting the place who'll hopefully chime in with their own lists.

    Worthy list. Seconded, especially the trip to Connemara and Newgrange -- if you do plan to see Newgrange, also consider visiting Drogheda: lots of history, preserved Saint's head, that sort of thing (do not mention the name "Cromwell" -- good advice throughout Ireland).

    As well as the Cliff's of Moher, if geological features are your thing, there is the Burren in the same region -- limestone karst feature, genuinely quite other-worldly.

    Would be able to provide you a longer list if you were travelling further North.


    Though I note that the "Salton Sea" appears to be a partly- artificial construct (?)

    Yes. No. Maybe. Depends on your time horizon.


    David L wondered: "4 of us will likely be in Ireland end of August / first of September for 4 or 5 days. We plan to drive Dublin to Cork/Kinsale to Galway to Shannon or Dublin. Any suggestions for things to see?"

    Depending on how you go south and west, the Wicklow Gap is a wonderful route and includes a tremendously atmospheric ruined monastery and tower. Stop for a pint at Durty Nelly's (, which is a pub so old the stairs to the upstairs room, a converted dovecote, are bowed in the middle from traffic. If memory serves, there's a "medieval" reconstruction village nearby; I recall it as being far, far better than I'd expected (worth the price of entry), but that was more than 20 years ago.

    Definitely make time to see the Connemara (peatlands below mountains) and the Burren (karst/limestone topography and neolithic tombs). In both cases, try to get off the beaten path; hire a local hiking guide if you can find one. In the Burren, make time to crouch down and peer into the many cracks in the limestone. You'll be amazed at the variety of vegetation and micro-wildlife, particularly if it's rained recently.

    If you like traditional music, make a point of staying overnight in Doolin (better) or Lisdoonvarna, both a short drive from the Cliffs of Moher and an easy ferry trip to the Aran Islands. There are boat tours of the cliffs that are worth the time. Doolin's particularly good, and one of the indelible memories I'll carry with me for the rest of my life is standing on the hillside above O'Brien's Castle, looking down across the castle to the Doolin strand, the waters sparkling from a full moon, across the gulf to the Aran Islands. Literally breathtaking.


    It is one of those perennial symbolic tropes that define America (at least, as a mirror to places like Disneyland):

    Accidentally (re)formed due to massive engineering cock-ups in the rush to the West (siltation leading to breach, at one point they thought they'd lose the Colorado river permanently).

    Reformed post WWII as resort, marina, fake beaches, the glowing 1950's lifestyle while accidentally becoming a major nature habitat as the other marshlands were drained for Prime Real Estate.

    Slowly shrinks into stinking salty mire that kills off most of the fish (barring some, ironically rare species such as the Desert Pupfish) and bird life (30% of the remaining American white pelicans, for example) as agricultural runoff, pesticides and nearby superfund sites all add their particular blends of goodness to the piping mud volcanoes (no really, the geology is really weird) while the crowds and glamor of the local communities slowly lose their shine and magic.

    Due to budgetary concerns abandoned to become a dust bowl poisoning the communities nearby (and probably a foreign country, Mexico) in the early 21st Century, allocated not even 1% of the annual budget to do so.

    Sadly, there's no West to move onto, but that's the testament.


    The symbolism, as they say, is not subtle: but this is an American Tale, so there it is.


    The people of Ottery St. Mary love beavers. Sounds like treason to me.


    Au contraire! The arrival of the Beavers has meant a v large increase in other wildlife: Birds, fish, frogs, plants ... & otters - who discovering the new beaver-dams (etc) ahve taken to it with delight. A HREF=""> Here


    Re: 'SFReader introduced concrete concerns, I dismissed them then returned to the actual issue.'

    First off - I'm not taking issue/picking a fight with you, just want to clarify and recap where things stand. I'm assuming that by the time some of my posts posted you'd already posted a response that I wasn't able to see/read until after I submitted my post.

    Anyways ... actually there's quite a bit of data about concrete dust and harm to plants going back about 100 years now although these studies only talk about fresh concrete dust (new construction).

    As I also said, I wasn't able to find any toxicity stats on decaying/crumbling concrete. EC replied that there's no issue/problem with UK concrete but noted that this depends on the specific concrete ingredients.

    New dam construction ...

    I'm assuming that if you're building a dam you're going to need tons and tons of concrete. This means that you're going to be transporting and storing tons and tons of concrete dust (and or its dry ingredients). This in turn means that there will be immediate environmental risks from new dam construction.

    Environmental/health problems re: dust are two-fold: (1) particulate size and (2) composition. Pretty sure there's a mile high amount of data showing just how bad particulates in the air are for animal and plant life. What is less clear (at least to me) is the impact of various concrete compositions/recipes which may have changed over the years - meaning that evaluations/test results of current concrete recipes will not provide the correct info for decaying old dams nor for new dams danger-from-future-decay that are built using the most recent materials/recipes.

    Could be an interesting study for a materials engineer/materials scientist if anyone proposed recycling concrete from old failing dams to use in new dam construction for ... let's say ... budgetary reasons? (The health data would get picked up but would not be mentioned as the primary reason for doing this research.)


    You are going to need literally thousands of tons of cement to make a concrete dam, yes. But here's the thing about cement; you need to keep it dry until you put it into the concrete batching plant.

    In the words of the song "Convoy UK" (which is a thing):- "I was supposed to hauling 20 tons of quick drying cement but the rain got in and now it's set solid!"

    Which means that you don't get much cement dust except around the cement manufacturing and concrete batching plants.


    True. Thing is, people tend to forget that oceans interact with coastal aquifers, just as some have trouble with the notion that drylands can have aquifers under them, while others have trouble with differentiating between overdraft and depletion.


    I'd agree that concrete dust isn't the biggest problem with new dams, at least in the western US. The biggest problem with dams in the western US is that the possible sites for new dams are crappy places, with things like earthquake faults through the sites and porous rock that the dam would have to be anchored to (meaning that water would seep around the dam, weaken its supports, and possibly blow the dam out). Economically most of them aren't viable either, in that they'd make much less money in fees than they'd cost to build. This doesn't mean that there aren't constituencies out there who want them built and blame environmentalists for blocking them for "birds and bunnies" reasons. In many (all?) cases, these constituencies appear to be fairly well-off people looking for government handouts while claiming to be Republicans and against such things. Shocking (/lame sarcasm).


    A few things: 1. There was a west when I was young. Unfortunately, a) the US population almost doubled since then, and b) California was Hip and Cool, and is now what, 10%? 20% of the US population. That makes it massively overpopulated. And, of course, most are in metropolitan areas.

    Damn it. Never got to live in SF, or the Haight.... Don't even have a pic of my late wife and I, standing on the corner of Haight and Ashbury, on our way to Worldcon in '96.

    You may not define LA as a desert, but will you agree that it's massively overpopulated for the geology and ecology of the region?

    And yeah, Lost Wages (non-US: Las Vegas, std. Americanism), that should be utterly shut down and become a ghost town. The Mob did build that there for negligible land prices to launder money in the first place. And I'm not going to use varying titles, that is in a desert.

    And She of the Many Names: ah, yes, "tribal lands", aka "reservations", where the US found land no one else wanted, and decided that was for the injuns.

    "All out for Fort Stinkindesert Indian Reservation and cobalt testing grounds!" - Firstsign Theatre, Waiting for the Electrician or Someone Like Him.


    Concrete dust (or, more accurately: silica dust) is toxic and is also covered by large swathes of legislature (not only in large production facilities, but use & down to the smallest site where you'd be cutting it). e.g. Canadian Law, section 6 & 7 is fairly typical across the modern world:

    If you need a line into researching it, the key term is RCS - Respirable crystalline silica and silicosis (that what happens to lungs when breathed). This will flag up the industry / medical papers on it.

    Here's a really nice (old) paper with a good table of known effects on plants:

    THE EFFECTS OF DUST ON VEGETATION A REVIEW Environmental Pollution, 1991 - PDF. Old paper, used because it lists all the various UK studies done on the problem of cement (concrete) dust all the way back to 1909. Obviously, those ones won't have all too much to say in modern terms, but it highlights that cement dust / crops has a long lineage of research. The bottom line is that it's been known as a serious hazard for crops for 100+ years.

    But, since you asked and are American: here's the 2015 annual sustainability report from CRH(Oldcastle) who are the largest US concrete manufacturers & are present in 31 countries: Sustainability Report CRH, 2015, PDF - warning, long 85 pages. p27 has the mention: and yes, the report is glossy and largely useless, but it does show that modern companies will actually admit / mention the potential issues (unlike, say, asbestos manufacturers in the 1950's).


    To answer the specific question, search for Alkali-silica reaction (ASR).

    For example: The Matilija Dam, Ventura County, CA (ENR, select references) Penn State Uni, Engineering.

    Note: not an engineer, ask other people about the specifics of it. As far as I can tell, ASR produces less dust as the chemical composition: the reaction is hygroscopic, so no dust. Given we're not an engineer you could have been making a very sly joke, since ASR was apparently discovered in California by a Mr Thomas E. Stanton in 1940.

    If so, hats off to you :p

    The long-term solution to the Salton Sea problem is that it's over 55 meters below sea level

    This actually made me think a little. Given the huge loss in height that Cal has suffered due to aquifer depletion / overdraft, would the native plants notice? Some places have lost 20 metres or so, which might challenge threshold species (at least those who compete on boundaries).


    Note: I'm aware that CSR isn't technically toxic, it's an irritant.

    However, Dr Landis is probably the one to ask, since, well: one of the most famous cases of ASR was in LA: Sixth Street Viaduct. It also answers the question 'cause it was built in 1932 using an old recipe that turned out to be highly alkali (oops).

    It all ties together ^^


    Nonsense. Use the words correctly - you are quite literate enough to know better. Silica is NOT toxic - it's damn near inert - yes, breathing it is harmful, but that is because it physically clogs your lungs. You can eat any reasonable amount of it with no harm, and completely unreasonable amounts with no more than minor problems to your digestion. Similarly with plants - a layer of dust - ANY dust - will clog their pores and harm them. And, as I said, fresh concrete is alkaline and sometimes dessicating (NEITHER due to the silica), which causes other problems. Weathered concrete is just another rock, and no more nor less harmful than the rocks making up its aggregate.


    Note: of the 678 dams mentioned here, you can be fairly sure some suffer from ASR and/or tectonic structural loss of integrity due to weakening / aging materials. Dust... really isn't the problem with them. If you want to be cheered up, here's Reality:

    HHP dams are scattered across California, but tend to cluster around population centers (See map below)...

    Red Dots= "High-hazard potential dam" is typically defined as a dam whose failure or mis-operation will cause loss of human life and significant property destruction.

    Where are High-Hazard Potential Dams? Dam Safety Action blog.

    Don't worry, your contingency planners are focusing on the important things though:

    Regarding possible paranormal activity potentially occurring during the #SolarEclipse2017. As always, if you see something, say something. SCEMD, 9th August 2017. And yes, that's a map of lizardman (sigh, lizardpeople please) near the eclipse path.


    Actually, the US mil keeps fairly keen eyes on the issue: - they're a bit touchy about access, and Home Security has fingers in those pies, so search using HEC-GeoRAS CA(lifornia).

    The tools are really neat though:


    Actually, the US mil keeps fairly keen eyes on the issue: - they're a bit touchy about access, and Home Security has fingers in those pies, so search using HEC-GeoRAS CA(lifornia).

    The Army Corps of Engineers built a bunch (most?) of the dams, so it's unsurprising that they'd keep an eye on them


    Re: Reports - cement, etc.

    Great reports, thanks!

    While reading CRH's 2015 glossy brochure noticed that they do not mention overall employee health only employee (and contractors) injuries/fatalities (accidental). So although CH does include info on various gasses and particulates (perhaps because they're legally required to), such an omission seems kinda coy to me.

    Also because of your & EC's exchange decided to look up what the differences between silicosis and asbestosis were and up popped this (paywalled) Lancet article:



    Interstitial fibrosis resulting from workplace exposure to asbestos and crystalline silica persists throughout the world despite knowledge of the causes and effective means for prevention. Asbestosis and silicosis occurrence is predictable among people overexposed to dusts in various industries and occupations such as mining, construction, manufacturing, and building maintenance. Asbestosis and silicosis are incurable and may be progressive even after dust exposure has ceased, therefore early recognition and supportive interventions are important. Although current disease is a result of past exposures, effective control of current workplace exposures is the only way to prevent continued occurrence of these potentially debilitating diseases. Physicians can contribute to this effort through accurate diagnosis and disease reporting.'

    Also on the negative side, this outfit has been found guilty many times for price fixing and bribery.

    However, given that the current CEO appears to be newish maybe their previous bad behavior is finally over because quite frankly they look pretty innovative and pro-environment in their business approach despite the huge increase in SO and NO and 'minor emissions' outputs recorded in 2015 (pg 67). No idea whether these increases are attributable to new acquisitions or what.


    The Hugo awards just came in, with an all women winner list, which was... well. nose wiggle Puppies shouldn't take on experienced Hegelians. Hugo awards 2017: NK Jemisin wins best novel for second year in a row Guardian, 11th August, 2017


    And yes: not going to get Host in trouble, but p27 mentioned for a reason. Note the 70% statistic. Now look up the other 30% and locations in 31 countries. CTRL+F Irish, might be a lead.

    And yes, of course there's a Global Cement News website. CRH are pretty big fishies, with lots of Global Reach.

    [Note: as a serious aside, we're not really 'into' cement / engineering, but let's just say... our nose is trained to spot certain things. The Irish Finance Minister has more stock ownership than Blackrock, remind me who is editor of the Evening Standard these days? If you're going sniffing, be aware that their non-glossy side is sharply honed]


    It's taken me a long time to reply to this because I couldn't sign in on my phone. The original settlers on Rapa Nui did not bring much with them The only animals they introduced were chickens and rats. They didn't even have pigs. One species of palm dominated the trees on the island. Rats ate the seeds of these trees which are now extinct on the island. Whether or not humans depleted the trees to make statues made little difference to the survival of the trees they were doomed anyway. Smallpox, TB and other diseases cause population crashes but the lack of trees meant that no boats could be constructed removing access to fishing.


    Yes, I read the links (I know I'm the only one).

    I provided Stanford's Invasive Biology course notes that explain the "whys" to rat success on differing islands and competition therein (it's about dexterity and climbing skills vrs ground nesting birds as those are wiped out; dominant rat populations actually change over time).

    And, to show I appreciated it, here's another fun fact: Easter Island sources of protein in the diet? Mostly rat - ~60% of all bones found in garbage pits were from rats. Hardly any fish (due to topography of cliffs rather than canoes - lack of beaches = killer, think why #1 settlement is always in secluded bay to prevent damage to ships etc). Later on (1600AD+) they get fish - ironically, this is probably due to outside influences / trade etc.

    To better understand prehistoric Rapa Nui diet we examined stable carbon and nitrogen isotope compositions of human teeth along with archaeological faunal material thought to comprise the Rapa Nui food web. Our results indicate that contrary to previous zooarchaeological studies diet was predominantly terrestrial throughout the entire sequence of occupation, with reliance on rats, chickens and C3 plants. While a few individuals may have had access to higher trophic level marine resources, this is evident only later in time (generally post-AD 1600). A decline in (15)N through time was observed, and may be attributed to declines in available terrestrial proteins; however, presently we cannot rule out the effect of changing soil and plant baseline δ(15)N

    A stable isotope (δ13C and δ15N) perspective on human diet on Rapa Nui (Easter Island) ca. AD 1400-1900. Am J Phys Anthropol. 2013 Oct - no full text.

    The irony being: #1 That variety of rat isn't the either of the ones who later came to dominate island infestations (it got out-competed by both British and Nordic rats) and #2 it's apparently quite tasty and even has a special name, and were actually imported for food, not as an accidental pest (i.e. not invasive chancer as most later rats were).

    Sooo... that's all kinds of stereotypes up in the air, there.

    Hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, rats: similar roles.

    IF you want even newer theories, The Once and Future World: Nature As It Was, As It Is, As It Could Be by J.B. MacKinnon.

    Where rats and small litho-gardens were actually a stable, if a very boring / limited diet.



    Nukes aren't flying, Time to Sleep.


    I'd also add Lipo and Kirch's The Statues That Walked for a controversial take on Rapa Nui ecology that goes into how this rat and rock mulch thing was supposed to have worked. It's controversial because most of the conventional Rapa Nui researchers (and Jared Diamond) think it's all wrong, with a side of mud slinging that may or may not be warranted.

    The thing to realize about the palms is that, yes, the seed remnants available (a fair number apparently) show a lot of damage from the Pacific rat that the Rapa Nui ancestors brought with them (incidentally, it's little bigger than a house mouse, but was hunted all over the Pacific, so it was brought along The fact(oid) that's also relevant is it's not clear that the extinct Rapa Nui palm was good for much anything, except perhaps boat timber. There are a lot of palms in the world, and not all of them are useful. While deforestation is bad, if the Polynesians didn't particularly care because they couldn't use the trees and needed the land for farms, one might understand their decision.

    This is also the book where they talk about how you can walk a Moai quite a ways using three long ropes and a lot of people. This is also controversial among conventional archaeologists, although the statues are said to have "walked" to their present locations, so it's possible in several ways. If the statues actually walked, having palm trees was irrelevant to the whole moai cult.


    Cement MANUFACTURE is a hazardous occupation, no doubt. Cement USE - not unless you insist on breathing large quntities of the powder. And that's what face-masks, overpressure ventilation & damping-down are for. In many construction sites, especially the larger ones, the cement is pre-mixed & then brought in by lorry & pumped as a liquid into position - see also "Crossrail Construction". Set cncrete is rock. So, apart from the real dangers involved in manufacture, please, everyone, stop talking bollocks about cement being dangerous?


    Separate - Re. the Hugos. Good to see LMB winning again - & U K le Guin ( !! ) I will now go directly to the bookshop/AMZN & buy the UKleG I know she has now won the Hugo twice, but - any opinions on this/last year's winner? I seem to have been asleep there & the subject soulds - interesting.


    Were the palm trees still around when the moai were constructed? If so, then there is no mystery AT ALL about how they were manoevered into position. See also: Stonehenge.

    Rollers, plus rope, plus several people, plus rocking over fulcrums of either "timber" or rock, plus digging a hole to drop it into. Not a difficult proposition, if you are determined to do it.


    It's only the multinominal one, and a couple of others she has confused. Also, look at my #403. Actually, upon thinking about it, I wonder how many of the posters realise that silica is (effectively) just sand?


    I'm just teasing.

    Do note that some of the more esoteric chemical admixtures used in industrial construction concretes are indeed toxic - chromium(VI) is used (as noted, most of these come pre-mixed to the site):

    Note: I'm not making this up, they use Chromium(VI) which is indeed toxic:

    Water-insoluble chromium(III) compounds and chromium metal are not considered a health hazard, while the toxicity and carcinogenic properties of chromium(VI) have been known for a long time

    The counter-argument is that the quantities in said mixtures (less than 2 parts / million) which are themselves a low % of the total concrete are so low that it's negligible, but... If we were being pedantic about the topic and all that.

    If you think I'm manufacturing concern, well, nope:

    The Chromium (VI) Directive applies to cement and cement-containing preparations, effective from 17 January 2005.

    UK cement manufacturers ensure that their cements have levels of soluble chromium (VI), when water is added, that are no more than two parts per million by mass of the dry cement. This level is stated on the bags and data sheets.

    Where it is necessary to achieve these levels and control the quantity of soluble chromium, small amounts of a reducing agent are added to the cement. However, as the reducing agent is only active for a limited period, it will be necessary to declare a shelf life for cement during which the very low level of chromium (VI) is maintained. This limited storage period for cement is a major issue for the cement industry and its customers e.g. formulators of blended materials for repair.

    Chromium VI directive The Concrete Society (UK Trade Industry body)

    and, to point out another Brexit disadvantage, of course that 2005 regulation arose from somewhere:

    The Commission is currently considering a proposal for a Directive relating to restrictions on the marketing and use of cement containing chromium VI compounds in concentration higher than 2 ppm. Such a restriction in the framework of theDirective 76/769/EEC has been requested by several Member States. Becausecement is neither an existing nor a new chemical which has been assessed andevaluated in the framework of Regulation 793/93 or Directive 67/548/EEC, a carefulscientific consideration of the risk is necessary.

    In cement, addition of iron sulfate reduces chromium VI to chromium III which in the alkaline cement water mixture precipitates as chromium hydroxide of very low water solubility. This is why chemical analysis showed no demonstrable water soluble chromium in cement when iron sulfate had been added (Fregert et al 1979). The hydroxide is virtually insoluble in human sweat (Bruze et al 1990).


    However, the next question, which is whether or not chromium(VI) is a new or old additive is a different one. Since admixtures are specifically there (in some cases, not in others) to prevent/reduce the chances of ASR, you can guess the next bit.

    I suspect that between 1940 (ASR discovered, or at least understood) and 2005 plenty of things were tried, added and otherwise tinkered with to concretes that might shock future anthropologists. Iron sulfate is mentioned in 1978, which suggests it was an established practice by then, and that makes the chromium VI into III which is not considered (that) toxic.


    Even the concrete is complicated, who knew? Turtles all the way down.



    Pre-water (i.e. dry), industrial cement admixtures contain small (2ppm) amounts of chromiumVI which is fairly nasty. Add water / iron sulfate, the set product is now safe. Which was only really enforced in 2007.

    More detail!

    In chromium ore mines, the concentration of chromium in dust ranges from 1.3 to 16.9 mg/m3. During the production of refined ferrochromium, the air in the work-place may contain large amounts of dust (0.03 - 3.2 mg/m3). In chromium plating factories, concentrations of 1 µg/m3 up to 1.4 mg/m3 have been measured. In Portland cement from 9 European countries, the contents of chromium (VI), extractable with sodium sulfate, varied from 1 to 83 g/kg cement...

    In a cement-producing factory, the concentration of hexavalent chromium in the air in the work-place varied from 0.0047 to 0.008 mg/m3. The presence of chromium was explained by the fact that the lining of the kilns was composed of chrome-magnesium bricks containing 17 - 28% chromium compounds (Retnev, 1960). Forty-two types of American cement were analysed for total chromium content and particularly for hexavalent chromium. It was found that hexavalent chromium was present in 18 out of 42 samples in concentrations varying from 0.1 to 5.4 g/kg cement, while the total chromium content ranged from 5 to 124 g/kg (Perone et al., 1974).
    Analysis of 59 samples of Portland cement from 9 European countries showed that the contents of hexavalent chromium extractable with sodium sulfate varied from 1 to 83 g/kg of cement, while the total chromium contents ranged from 35 to 173 g/kg (Fregert & Gruvberger, 1972)...

    Skin rashes, ulcers, sores, and eczema have been reported among occupationally exposed workers. Both trivalent and hexavalent chromium compounds can give rise to sensitization of skin, especially under certain environmental conditions, such as those encountered in the cement industry, where the high incidence of chromium-induced skin lesions can be attributed to the alkaline exposure conditions.


    So, technically correct, which is the best kind of correct.


    Note: reason for derail.

    Given that this is all fairly recent (2005!), it kinda shows OP's point - EPA directors still have work to do, science progresses and so forth.

    And, chromium(VI) is indeed a factor in demolishing old cement structures. Apparently concrete pre-all these regulations is full of it, and I kinda underestimated what was happening (!!).

    leaching hexavalent chromium from concrete debris Engineering Tips Forum (so.. like Computer Techs, apparently the pros really do google each other's solutions)

    The EPA has procedures (this is from a chrome plant, but iron sulfate slurries are the key):

    The Frontier Hard Chrome groundwater and soil was cleaned up via "in-situ reduction" in the summer of 2003. Since 2004, hexavalent chromium concentrations in groundwater have met federal drinking water quality standards. Groundwater monitoring is now occurring under the direction of the Washington Department of Ecology.

    Frontier Hard Chrome, Inc. EPA Jan 2013

    Phew. You then hit a whole sub-section of the engineering / environmental health professions on Dams and how to build them to avoid Chromium(VI) issues. Which appear to be massive.

    It's in the actual concrete, it's in the sediments (due to coal burning etc), it's everywhere. Oh, and it gets better:

    Use of fly ash as a partial replacement for Portland cement is generally limited to Class F fly ashes. It can replace up to 30% by mass of Portland cement, and can add to the concrete’s final strength and increase its chemical resistance and durability. Recently concrete mix design for partial cement replacement with High Volume Fly Ash (50 % cement replacement) has been developed. For Roller Compacted Concrete (RCC)[used in dam construction] replacement values of 70% have been achieved with POZZOCRETE (processed fly ash) at the Ghatghar Dam project in Maharashtra, India. Due to the spherical shape of fly ash particles, it can also increase workability of cement while reducing water demand.[16] The replacement of Portland cement with fly ash is considered by its promoters to reduce the greenhouse gas "footprint" of concrete, as the production of one ton of Portland cement produces approximately one ton of CO2 as compared to zero CO2 being produced using existing fly ash. New fly ash production, i.e., the burning of coal, produces approximately twenty to thirty tons of CO2 per ton of fly ash. Since the worldwide production of Portland cement is expected to reach nearly 2 billion tons by 2010, replacement of any large portion of this cement by fly ash could significantly reduce carbon emissions associated with construction, as long as the comparison takes the production of fly ash as a given.

    Can you guess what also has chromium VI in it? YEP, FLY-ASH.

    EPA’s Blind Spot: Hexavalent Chromium in Coal Ash Earth Justice PDF 2011

    Characterization of Coal Combustion Residues from Electric Utilities--Leaching and Characterization Data EPA, 2009 - PDF link on page.

    Using the XANES method, Cr(VI) as a percentage of the total Cr has typically been deter- mined to be less than 10% in fly-ash when de rived from commercial pulverized combustion of bituminous coals. It can however be significantly higher (up to 30%) in ash from
    combustion of subbituminous and other lower-ra nk coals and also from coal and wood co- firing.

    Estimating Cr(VI) in Coal-Derived Fly-Ash Stanford, Science Highlight, 2011, PDF


    At which point SFRreader was obviously setting me up for a mass wargle so I went and had a coffee.

    Genuine question: is this all a "given" in the engineering / scientific communities? Or is this all (2005+) new data?

    goes to start research iron sulfate


    note: that'll be iron(II) sulphate, not (III).

    Fly ash is fun stuff. It is a useful ingredient for concrete because it's a good pozzolan. It also contains enough uranium that people occasionally get to consider it as a useful source thereof. After all, the majority of the energy content of coal is in its trace uranium component. In fact most things have an energy content roughly similar to wood at least, because uranium at ppm levels is everywhere. The difficulty is concentrating it.


    Having spent the first decade of my career working for a company that poured concrete all day long and the last fifteen working in contamination clean up, I can't agree with her of the many names on this at all. I have a site in NJ thats part of the notorious Hex chrome disaster in Jersey City, where huge quantities of chromium ore processing residue were used as fill materials all over the city. As an environmental engineer, hex chrome is the worst, very nasty stuff, will migrate through capillary action and bloom. But, 2 ppm of Cr 6 is not considered a health hazard by anybody, even under a one in a million lifetime health risk Wet concrete has a pH of 12 to 13, now that is a health risk.


    Cement stories: I went to hospital with a broken collarbone once. I had to wait a while for anyone to see me, because the bloke who came in after me had been opening a bag of cement and it had puffed dust in his eyes. He got away without permanent damage, apparently.

    And I have heard a horror story, about someone who'd been laying bricks and spent most of the morning kneeling in wet concrete. Apparently he lost both legs above the knee. I don't know how true that is.


    First off, sorry for using the Heteromeles ID previously. In this blog post, I'm supposed to be using my real name.

    Anyway, this is the basic argument that Diamond used in Collapse, that the Rapa Nuians cut down all the palm trees for a combination of building houses, making canoes, and making sled/rollers/whatever (I think there was a third proposed design) for moving those huge moai across the island, as a display of power. When they ran out of wood from moving too many moai, their civilization collapsed and most of them died, stupid Rapa Nuians.

    The Lipo and Hunt hypotheses are rather different: --They took the islanders at their word that the statues "walked" to their position, and figured out a way to get the moai upright and swaying back and forth using three ropes and teams of people pulling on each rope. You can see their proof of concept here on Youtube, and there was a whole Nova episode on the research and experimental recreation. The only question is whether the Rapa Nuians could make that much rope, and no one's asking it seriously. There's a big difference between cutting down a bunch of non-renewable palm trees to move a statue, and using three reusable ropes to do the same. --Most of the palm nuts found show marks of rat teeth, which strongly suggests that palm regeneration was inhibited by rats at least as much as people. The same thing appears to have happened in Hawai'i to the native palms, which used to dominate the Hawaiian lowland forests and are now quite rare. --While conflict was endemic to most Pacific islands (they run out of land, quarrels start, etc.), Rapa Nui seems no more quarrelsome than some islands, and quite possibly less combative once they stopped building moai and started their bird man cult (which displaced competition for power onto a race to get the first bird egg from an offshore island. The faction that won got to rule the island for that year). It's worth remembering that there are small Pacific islands (like Pitcairn) which were settled and then abandoned before being resettled by Europeans, so Rapa Nui going through massive growing pains is hardly unusual. --It's unclear whether their big population crash happened before European contact, or at first contact. Rapa Nui certainly was a target of blackbirders post-contact (and a lot of people were taken off the island then). As with Hawai'i, where the majority of the native Hawaiians died of disease during the reign of Kamehameha I, there's a good chance that Rapa Nui experienced a massive population crash due to virgin ground plagues, not due to environmental mismanagement.

    This last is why the history of Rapa Nui is so controversial, especially with Diamond's Collapse in the mix. If Diamond is correct, the surviving Rapa Nuians are the descendants of people who badly mismanaged their land, and there's the imperialist subtext that they need to be brought under the intelligent governance of a civilized country so they don't do it again*. If Hunt and Lipo are correct, then the Rapa Nuians are unusually non-violent Polynesians who made it through one environmental crisis and were broken by contact with the much greater colonial empires that expanded through the Pacific. In the latter case, they should be entitled to own their own island, to live on it as they can, and to communicate with the outside world as they choose. History can be used to give or deny agency, and that's part of the conflict that's going on over Rapa Nui now.

    *The same argument of environmental mismanagement can be made against the Maya, if you follow Diamond's book. Other researchers blame the Mayan Collapse on severe, but very rare, droughts that wiped out the ~18 month water storage capacity that the Mayans built on the Yucatan Peninsula. It's uncontroversial that the area has subsequently been wracked by drought and famine every few hundred years. The question is how much land management by the Maya contributed to the severity of the drought. The bitter irony here is that, compared with what Americans are doing to the planet now, the Classical Maya were pretty darned sustainable.


    Re: '...SFRreader was obviously setting me up for a mass wargle ...'

    No idea what 'wargle' means and the urban dictionary isn't too clear. Man, you Brits talk some really weird English!

    Anyway, to the salient point ... If you suspect that I was trying to set you up or egg you on - no! As repeatedly mentioned, I'm not a scientist .... I lack the info/background/credentials to deliberately set you (or anyone else) up.

    That said, as a functioning and more-or-less observant and curious human being I am very interested in a wide variety of topics including ecology, bio, neuro, gardening, etc. so if/when I see/read/hear anything weird, my antennae pop up and I start chasing down links on reliable sources on that topic.

    My definition of 'reliable source' skews toward high-impact science journals after I've read whatever Wikipedia might have on that topic, as well as links to proven track record documentary makers (usu. BBC productions). As a hedge - and if I have time - I also look at arguments against that particular position.


    But, 2 ppm of Cr 6 is not considered a health hazard by anybody, even under a one in a million lifetime health risk

    Having read the documents as not an engineer / chemist, CSTEE reaching that figure suggested that that was a 'safe' level. The surprise was that something so central to the industrial revolution (concrete / cement) was still being legislated / industry standards applied in 2002+ (instead of say, reworked to new levels depending on research, which is common).

    SFReader's original question was: "Would the dust from old dams be a factor?"

    The answer, it would seem, is:

    a) Depends where the cement was made (some contains large amounts of chromium, some does not, depending on the kiln tiles used and other factors, i.e. where original ores are sourced from; enter the geologists)

    b) If it was poured with certain admixtures or iron sulfates and in what quantities; add to this what dam manufacturing process was deployed (there's large tranches of frankly incomprehensible engineering data over getting 'dry' pours for dams and so on: it's all tied into ASR concerns).

    c) What type of remedial action you use when demolishing said structures (i.e. pits of iron sulfate slurries etc)

    Getting historical data is a bit of an odd one: since the US Army did indeed build a lot of these, keep running into .mil links and Homeland Security now probably think I'm looking to destabilize the entire US dam system (having just looked @ entire Washington State danger maps and even Hoover Dam old records to 2010 safety assessments etc, and spotted all types of flags on them: most of the Hoover Dam stuff about Chromium(VI) is about welding / repairs in confined spaces, not much on the actual build).


    More interestingly (from my angle) is recent (2010+) French research (via the tobacco smoke side of this so... I'd have to very carefully check who sponsored it, who they actually are etc etc) on bio-availability / purging of chromium(VI) in H.S.S. The upshot is that your saliva, blood, guts and poo have remarkable uptake to get rid of it, and they don't really understand the how/whys (well, apart from "you don't die unless massive uptake" stuff), and there's a lot of geno-damage not fully understood.

    That's not to mention the epigenetic side of things where it's extremely complicated. e.g.

    In addition, chromium was found to cross link the histone deacetylase 1–DNA methyltransferase 1 complexes to the chromatin of the Cyp1a1 promoter and inhibit histone marks induced by AHR-mediated gene transactivation, including phosphorylation of histone H3 Ser-10, trimethylation of H3 Lys-4, and various acetylation marks in histones H3 and H4.81 Most recently, it was observed that exposure of human lung carcinoma A549 cells to potassium chromate was able to induce global changes in various histone tail modifications.82 Interestingly, chromate exposure induced an increase in H3K9 dimethylation in the promoter of the MLH1 gene promoter with a decrease in its mRNA expression.82 Therefore, various studies suggest that, other than genotoxic effects, epigenetic modifications may contribute to the carcinogenicity of Cr(VI) compounds.

    Epigenetics in metal carcinogenesis: nickel, arsenic, chromium and cadmium Royal Society of Chemistry, Metallomics, 2009, full text.

    For a reference to why that's important:

    Mitotic Phosphorylation of Histone H3: Spatio-Temporal Regulation by Mammalian Aurora Kinases Mol Cell Biol. 2002, full text.

    But, like the engineering side: you rapidly run into some very specialized knowledge base requirements.

    If it's correct, you're basically little Chromium(VI) mutants and all the rat/mice tests for cancers are somewhat off.


    So, the upshot is: like Rapa Nui, you've bravely (!) saturated your tiny biosphere with a totally new environment and all get to play the game of "do we survive?"

    Chromium(VI) really is like (methyl)mercury - an immediate response was "surely this is taken as an Anthropocene marker?" and, low and behold, that's a really hot-hot topic now in certain fields...

    On the mineralogy of the “Anthropocene Epoch” 18 September 2016—American Mineralogist, Geophysical Laboratory, Carnegie Institution for Science, PDF, legal (working copy)

    So, that's chemistry, biology, engineering and history (future or otherwise) all about lowly cement.


    Concrete (portland) is actually a) still being altered in a recent Time period (i.e. EU standards to 2ppm Cr = a distinct pattern change), b) is a serious contender for Anthropocene marker usage.

    Bonus poster for walls (large):

    Chemical Contaminants as Stratigraphic Markers for the Anthropocene Department of Earth & Environmental Studies, Montclair State University, 2011, PDF (it's a poster!)


    No, it's just a funny word.

    It goes like this:

    "Oh, that's kinda interesting, but hey, it's concrete, can't be too much changed since the Roman era, eh? It's only silica dust, nothing special. I bet it'll take a couple mins to see the big picture there, might as well"


    5 mins later as data arrives with massive red flags all over it and some seriously complicated science as well as Homeland Security sniffers:



    Re: Rats

    Has anyone looked at (via DNA analysis) as to whether these rats were deliberately brought along as a farmable food source by these migrating islanders? Rats are a reliable protein source in a few parts of the world.


    'Until about 200 years ago the kiore – or Rattus exulans, a close relative of the common house rat – was eaten by many Polynesians, including the Maori of New Zealand. “In pre-European times [New Zealand’s] South Island was a major source of kiore, which were preserved and eaten in vast quantities, normally in early winter,” says Jim Williams, a researcher from New Zealand’s University of Otago.'


    And dams are also military targets, as destroying one can kill thousands or millions of people.


    Post #409 - follow the paper's citation list.

    Upshot: pretty much established as a food source across the culture (outside of Easter Island).