Friday, July 31, 2009

Boeing Commits Airship Heavy Lift Design

This one snuck up on me. Bringing back the airship to provide heavy lift capability has been almost a no brainer once we entered the world of modern materials and design engineering.

The market niche that it tackles is not unlike the niche filled for the past decades by the de Haviland beaver which was launched back in the late forties with hopes for sales of perhaps a couple of hundred and went on to sell thousands. It became the general’s jeep in pre chopper days.

Heavy lift air ships have a natural market once you need to run a truck load past any road head. This is already thousands of trips supplying the diamond mines in the high Arctic. In fact, such a service can allow shipping there to return to just in time delivery and avoid the use of the ice roads.

Also during the past decade, this world has been massively explored for new mineral wealth and the need for cost effective infrastructure has exploded. This technology allows the necessary movement of heavy equipment.

Setting the obvious aside, moving a truck load of fresh food from California directly to the East coast with no mechanical vibration at a speed of around 70 mile per hour is a huge commercial improvement. You also can achieve point to point delivery rather easily from a parking lot or open field in California at the processor to a field beside the distributer in New York. This technology package makes this all plausible and economically feasible.

That means that if your local market can absorb a truck load of fresh mangos from Belize, it can be delivered as ripe fruit in possibly two days. I can even contemplate shipping raspberries to such markets and that is a product that wants to spoil in twenty four hours and is subject to severe damage from truck vibration. Now it is plausible to pick the fruit all day and pack a refer at the field until sunset, and then it can be lifted and transported almost a thousand miles to arrive fresh and undamaged at six in the morning.

Though we associate heavy lift with unique problems, the real market will be those we just described because they will sustain a huge fleet. In short, I predict that once the economics are shaken out to the levels able to easily move foodstuffs sensitive to spoilage at competitive rates, then Boeing will actually sell thousands. Remember how many trucks are today hauling perishables.

Another major market will be plucking stems out of the forests, possibly cabled together for tonnage. Since the operating costs should be a fraction of those of helicopters which mandates rapid turn around, the option immediately exists to grab a fifty ton log bundle and to carry it a few miles to a good road head. Again, each trip can pull out half a truck load or more out of the woods and your costs may not be particularly different from actual trucking so even a long haul may make sense.

All of a sudden you are not a complete slave to road costs or even having to design around road beds. You can cut a contoured belt and easily leave refuges for seed trees and then extract the wood with no particular sacrifice. You would still have to skid a bundle together on site, but not over any distance at all. Once you have assembled a forty to seventy ton bundle, it becomes more difficult to come back and grab wood on the edges and these naturally provide refuges.

This technology may make best forestry practice actually economically feasible here on the west Coast.

Boeing Completes Major Design Milestone For SkyHook Heavy Lift Vehicle

SkyHook is designed to carry 80,000-pound (40-ton) sling loads up to 200 nautical miles without refueling - a capability that is not currently available, but is desired by several industries, including oil exploration and mining operations in the Canadian Arctic and Alaska, as well as companies operating in remote locations in South America, Europe and Africa.

by Staff Writers
St Louis MO (SPX) Jul 29, 2009

Boeing and SkyHook International have announced that the design of the SkyHook Heavy Lift Vehicle (HLV) has reached the configuration freeze milestone, meaning the aircraft's overall performance and layout have been established.

Boeing and SkyHook have worked on the SkyHook HLV's structural and systems design and its concept of operations since July 2008, resulting in the following improvements:

+ the addition of a three-piece tail for enhanced maneuverability

+ integration of lifting and thrusting propulsion systems

+ improved aerodynamics for increased payload capacity and range.

"Boeing's Advanced Rotorcraft Systems team and our industry partner, SkyHook International Inc., are extremely pleased with the progress on the engineering of the aircraft," said Kenneth Laubsch, SkyHook program manager for Boeing.

"We all sense that we are part of something revolutionary in the advancement of this extraordinary technology, and the aerospace industry in general."

The next major program milestone will be Detailed Design in 2011, which centers on the design, analysis and specification of all hardware, software and related aircraft and ground support systems interfaces.

"The SkyHook HLV technology is like nothing that has ever existed. We anticipate that the operational capability of this aircraft will allow SkyHook's customers to radically change the way they resupply and operate in remote regions, especially the north," said Rob Mayfield, director of SkyHook.

"In the oil and gas industry, there are significant pressures on cost, speed, safety, and environmental impact, and the SkyHook HLV represents solutions to each of these challenges in various applications."

SkyHook is designed to carry 80,000-pound (40-ton) sling loads up to 200 nautical miles without refueling - a capability that is not currently available, but is desired by several industries, including oil exploration and mining operations in the Canadian Arctic and Alaska, as well as companies operating in remote locations in South America, Europe and Africa.

Boeing is designing and will fabricate a production SkyHook HLV prototype at its Rotorcraft Systems facility in Ridley Park, Pa. The new aircraft will enter commercial service after it is certified by transport Canada and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. The first SkyHook HLV aircraft is scheduled to fly in 2014.

Targeting Cancer with Nano Package

This is a nifty trick that finally finds a way to send toxins directly to and into the cancer cell. A very small liposome carries the toxin to the target and accommodates the attack.

This makes me recall some work that I was involved with twenty years ago when we discovered that extraordinarily small bits of carbon would form a shell of large organic molecules. This method should be applicable to a wide range of organic molecules. The trick was mainly to produce the form of the carbon we needed and it was derived from Korean War era work on artificial blood.

This makes the production of a range of organic nanoparticles feasible and opens the door to many serum based directed delivery systems

Presentation at AAPM Meeting on Nanoparticles That Package Cancer-killing Isotopes and Deliver Them Into Cancer Cells


A group of researchers at Johns Hopkins University has designed nanoparticles that can carry cancer-treating radioisotopes through the body and deliver them selectively to tumors. Today in Anaheim, CA, they will report the latest results of their research, including studies in animal models, at the 51st meeting of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM).

Newswise — A group of researchers at Johns Hopkins University has designed nanoparticles that can carry cancer-treating radioisotopes through the body and deliver them selectively to tumors. Today in Anaheim, CA, they will report the latest results of their research, including studies in animal models, at the 51st meeting of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM).

The nanoparticles are made with a commercially available product known as "liposomes" -- small chemical spheres made of fatty molecules that can package drugs and other chemicals. Liposomes are a powerful emerging tool in medicine because they can be designed to carry many different drugs and manipulated to control how long they stay in the bloodstream. One type of liposome, Doxil, is already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for delivering Doxorubicin, a chemotherapeutic that is toxic to the heart.

The Hopkins scientists are using liposomes that have been modified with antibodies, a class of immune system proteins that recognize and bind to many different microscopic targets -- bacteria, viruses, other proteins, and human cells. Some antibodies specifically bind to cancer cells, and by attaching these cancer-specific antibodies to the liposomes, the scientists have created "immunoliposomes," which will wend their way through the bloodstream and seek out tumors inside the body. When they come into contact with their target cells, they deliver their payload into the cells.

"It's a promising approach to solving the problem of how to deliver more of a therapeutic to cancer cells," says George Sgouros, a radiology professor at Johns Hopkins who led the research.

Similar studies by other groups of researchers have already demonstrated how immunoliposomes could be packaged with tiny radioactive tracers used for imaging tumors. What Sgouros and his colleagues have done is figure out how to reproducibly package much more powerful radioisotopes, called alpha-particle emitters that have the ability to kill cancer cells without damaging nearby normal cells, and they have tested how effectively they can treat mice with a very aggressive type of metastatic breast cancer.
Early results show that they can pack a relatively large dose of radionuclides into the liposomes and substantially extend the life of treated mice.

"This treatment is much less toxic than chemotherapy because it is targeted to tumor cells rather than to all rapidly dividing cells " says Sgouros. "Nanoparticles designed to deliver these powerful isotopes have a great potential in cancer therapy, particularly for metastatic disease."

MORE INFORMATIONThe talk "Immunoliposomes for Targeted Radionuclide Therapy" is at 2:45 p.m. on Tuesday, July 28 in Room 303A. See:

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Meat of the Problem

Once in a while someone unloads with a suitcase of shoddy science that is really annoying. There is only one word to describe it and that is rubbish. There are two arguments here, both are cow manure.

The first argument is that we are using grain to feed cattle that could be more efficiently be fed to people. I will give you a hot tip. What people are going to eat what is euphemistically called feed grade grain. There is a good reason it is called feed grain. Our millers do not want it, nor will they pay human grade prices for it. The point is that cattle represent an essential element of the whole agricultural equation by consuming all the stuff that fails to make the cut for human consumption. What cattle cannot consume, the hogs get. And then the cattle only get it for fattening in the last part of their lives. Most of the time they are out consuming grass or perhaps converting grass and some feed grain into milk.

The second argument is even more specious, but I have run into my share of true believers. It is that they produce copious amounts of methane which is magically a green house gas. Well, yes it is, and if it actually accumulated enough, besides killing you it would also warm up the environment. In fact if you lit a match, the environment would become red hot.

The catch is that it is a very light gas that heads for the troposphere above the working atmosphere and neatly removes it self once and for all. Lest we have any doubts a global map of atmospheric content shows its presence disappearing down wind and offshore pretty well confirming a fast rising gas.

Otherwise ammonia production is very welcome as a fertilizer and we need more.

So before anyone jumps on this particular band wagon, please investigate how cattle fit into the big picture. It was the be all and end all of European agriculture for an amazing nine thousand years and in spite of some of our less wise practices is likely to be there for us for another nine thousand.

The Meat of the Problem

By Ezra Klein
Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The debate over climate change has reached a rarefied level of policy abstraction in recent months. Carbon tax or cap-and-trade? Upstream or downstream? Should we auction permits? Head-scratching is, at this point, permitted. But at base, these policies aim to do a simple thing, in a simple way: persuade us to undertake fewer activities that are bad for the atmosphere by making those activities more expensive. Driving an SUV would become pricier. So would heating a giant house with coal and buying electricity from an inefficient power plant. But there's one activity that's not on the list and should be: eating a hamburger.

If it's any consolation, I didn't like writing that sentence any more than you liked reading it. But the evidence is strong. It's not simply that meat is a contributor to global warming; it's that it is a huge contributor. Larger, by a significant margin, than the global transportation sector.

According to a
2006 United Nations report, livestock accounts for 18 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. Some of meat's contribution to climate change is intuitive. It's more energy efficient to grow grain and feed it to people than it is to grow grain and turn it into feed that we give to calves until they become adults that we then slaughter to feed to people. Some of the contribution is gross. "Manure lagoons," for instance, is the oddly evocative name for the acres of animal excrement that sit in the sun steaming nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. And some of it would make Bart Simpson chuckle. Cow gas -- interestingly, it's mainly burps, not farts -- is a real player.

But the result isn't funny at all: Two researchers at the University of Chicago estimated that
switching to a vegan diet would have a bigger impact than trading in your gas guzzler for a Prius (PDF). A study out of Carnegie Mellon University found that the average American would do less for the planet by switching to a totally local diet than by going vegetarian one day a week. That prompted Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to recommend that people give up meat one day a week to take pressure off the atmosphere. The response was quick and vicious. "How convenient for him," was the inexplicable reply from a columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. "He's a vegetarian."

The visceral reaction against anyone questioning our God-given right to bathe in bacon has been enough to scare many in the environmental movement away from this issue. The National Resources Defense Council has a long page of suggestions for how you, too, can "fight global warming." As you'd expect, "Drive Less" is in bold letters. There's also an endorsement for "high-mileage cars such as hybrids and plug-in hybrids." They advise that you weatherize your home, upgrade to more efficient appliances and even buy carbon offsets. The word "meat" is nowhere to be found.

That's not an oversight. Telling people to give up burgers doesn't poll well. Ben Adler, an urban policy writer, explored that in a
December 2008 article for the American Prospect. He called environmental groups and asked them for their policy on meat consumption. "The Sierra Club isn't opposed to eating meat," was the clipped reply from a Sierra Club spokesman. "So that's sort of the long and short of it." And without pressure to address the costs of meat, politicians predictably are whiffing on the issue. The Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill, for instance, does nothing to address the emissions from livestock.

The pity of it is that compared with cars or appliances or heating your house, eating pasta on a night when you'd otherwise have made fajitas is easy. It doesn't require a long commute on the bus or the disposable income to trade up to a Prius. It doesn't mean you have to scrounge for change to buy a carbon offset. In fact, it saves money. It's healthful. And it can be done immediately. A Montanan who drives 40 miles to work might not have the option to take public transportation. But he or she can probably pull off a veggie stew. A cash-strapped family might not be able buy a new dishwasher. But it might be able to replace meatballs with mac-and-cheese. That is the whole point behind the cheery PB&J Campaign, which reminds that "you can fight global warming by having a PB&J for lunch." Given that PB&J is delicious, it's not the world's most onerous commitment.

It's also worth saying that this is not a call for asceticism. It's not a value judgment on anyone's choices. Going vegetarian might not be as effective as going vegan, but it's better than eating meat, and eating meat less is better than eating meat more. It would be a whole lot better for the planet if everyone eliminated one meat meal a week than if a small core of die-hards developed perfectly virtuous diets.

I've not had the willpower to eliminate bacon from my life entirely, and so I eliminated it from breakfast and lunch, and when that grew easier, pulled back further to allow myself five meat-based meals a month. And believe me, I enjoy the hell out of those five meals. But if we're going to take global warming seriously, if we're going to make crude oil more expensive and tank-size cars less practical, there's no reason to ignore the impact of what we put on our plates.

Ezra Klein can be reached at or through his blog at

Scientists Get Annoyed

This report is rich and worth the read if only for the evident wit of a mob of angry scientists.

The esteemed editor’s error was in failing to understand that ‘all scientists’ having been so characterized have been succumbing to pangs of guilt and have been actually checking out the relevant science to discover what they all agree with. It is a little like the famous three day scam show laid on by Huck Finn’s fellow travelers. The esteemed editor forgot to be long gone on the third day when the natives show up loaded for bear.

As anyone who has followed my investigations knows, there are several credible variables effecting climate change and recently we have picked up on an additional one that effectively eliminates any need for CO2 to be x or deus ex machina on the stage of climate change. They are all nicely channeled in the stable climate called the Holocene that ended the ice age Pleistocene.

And yes, there is more heat presently in the northern hemisphere but it appears to be slowly dissipating after been built up over the eighties and the nineties. It continues to reduce the northern sea ice. In spite of all this the globe did warm up for a couple of decades and we appear to be on the way to producing another pleasant medieval warm period.

And again what is important is not the warming part of this equation at all. Left to its own devices, the Earth will be naturally at the top end of the Holocene range. We need to be far more interested in what can actually cool the Earth and do it quickly, since all cooling episodes have been abrupt. All evidence that I have been able to scare up so far, points to causation by exceptional volcanic activity in Alaska and environs. A blast there needs to be a lot smaller than those at the equator for equal effect and are thus much more common.

Right now I would love to have an eruption history of all prospective Alaskan volcanoes in order to discover any linkage. The fact that it was the farthest end of the earth eliminated eye witness reports. It has also been difficult to explore and to get data even today. Also an under water event would leave little evidence. Imagine if Pele had blown up without witnesses. Would anyone recognize a recent event? The answer has been not easily at all.

Climate Revolt: Major Science Group 'Startled' By Outpouring of Scientists Rejecting Man-Made Climate Fears! Clamor for Editor to Be Removed!

Scientists seek to remove climate fear promoting editor and 'trade him to New York Times or Washington Post'

Wednesday, July 29, 2009 - By
Marc MoranoClimate Depot

Climate Depot Exclusive

An outpouring of skeptical scientists who are members of the American Chemical Society (ACS) are revolting against the group's editor-in-chief -- with some demanding he be removed -- after an editorial appeared claiming “the science of anthropogenic climate change is becoming increasingly well established.”

The editorial claimed the "consensus" view was growing "increasingly difficult to challenge, despite the efforts of diehard climate-change deniers.” The editor now admits he is "startled" by the negative reaction from the group's scientific members.

June 22, 2009 editorial in Chemical and Engineering News by editor in chief Rudy Baum, is facing widespread blowback and condemnation from American Chemical Society member scientists. Baum concluded his editorial by stating that “deniers” are attempting to “derail meaningful efforts to respond to global climate change.”

Dozens of letters were
published on July 27, 2009 castigating Baum, with some scientists calling for his replacement as editor-in-chief.

The editorial was met with a swift, passionate and scientific rebuke from Baum's colleagues. Virtually all of the letters published on July 27 in castigated Baum's climate science views. Scientists rebuked Baum's use of the word “deniers” because of the terms “association with Holocaust deniers.” In addition, the scientists called Baum's editorial: “disgusting”; “a disgrace”; “filled with misinformation”; “unworthy of a scientific periodical” and “pap.”

One outraged ACS member
wrote to Baum: "When all is said and done, and you and your kind are proven wrong (again), you will have moved on to be an unthinking urn for another rat pleading catastrophe. You will be removed. I promise."

Baum 'startled' by scientists reaction

wrote on July 27, that he was "startled" and "surprised" by the "contempt" and "vehemence" of the ACS scientists to his view of the global warming "consensus."

"Some of the letters I received are not fit to print. Many of the letters we have printed are, I think it is fair to say, outraged by my position on global warming," Baum wrote.

Selected Excerpts of Skeptical Scientists:

“I think it's time to find a new editor,” ACS member Thomas E. D'Ambra wrote.
Geochemist R. Everett Langford wrote: “I am appalled at the condescending attitude of Rudy Baum, Al Gore, President Barack Obama, et al., who essentially tell us that there is no need for further research—that the matter is solved.”

ACS scientist Dennis Malpass wrote: “Your editorial was a disgrace. It was filled with misinformation, half-truths, and ad hominem attacks on those who dare disagree with you. Shameful!”

ACS member scientist Dr. Howard Hayden, a Physics Professor Emeritus from the University of Connecticut: “Baum's remarks are particularly disquieting because of his hostility toward skepticism, which is part of every scientist's soul. Let's cut to the chase with some questions for Baum: Which of the 20-odd major climate models has settled the science, such that all of the rest are now discarded? [...] Do you refer to 'climate change' instead of 'global warming' because the claim of anthropogenic global warming has become increasingly contrary to fact?"

Edward H. Gleason wrote: “Baum's attempt to close out debate goes against all my scientific training, and to hear this from my ACS is certainly alarming to me...his use of 'climate-change deniers' to pillory scientists who do not believe climate change is a crisis is disingenuous and unscientific.”

Atmospheric Chemist Roger L. Tanner: "I have very little in common with the philosophy of the Heartland Institute and other 'free-market fanatics,' and I consider myself a progressive Democrat. Nevertheless, we scientists should know better than to propound scientific truth by consensus and to excoriate skeptics with purple prose."

William Tolley: "I take great offense that Baum would use Chemical and Engineering News, for which I pay dearly each year in membership dues, to purvey his personal views and so glibly ignore contrary information and scold those of us who honestly find these views to be a hoax."

William E. Keller wrote: “However bitter you (Baum) personally may feel about CCDs (climate change deniers), it is not your place as editor to accuse them—falsely—of nonscientific behavior by using insultingly inappropriate language. [...] The growing body of scientists, whom you abuse as sowing doubt, making up statistics, and claiming to be ignored by the media, are, in the main, highly competent professionals, experts in their fields, completely honorable, and highly versed in the scientific method—characteristics that apparently do not apply to you.”

ACS member Wallace Embry: “I would like to see the American Chemical Society Board 'cap' Baum's political pen and 'trade' him to either the New York Times or Washington Post." [To read the more reactions from scientists to Baum's editorial go
here and see below.]

Physicists Dr. Lubos Motl, who publishes the Reference Frame website, weighed in on the controversy as well,
calling Baum's editorial an "alarmist screed."

“Now, the chemists are thinking about replacing this editor who has hijacked the ACS bulletin to promote his idiosyncratic political views," Motl wrote on July 27, 2009.

Baum cites discredited Obama Administration Climate Report

To “prove” his assertion that the science was “becoming increasingly well established,” Baum cited the Obama Administration's
U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) study as evidence that the science was settled. [Climate Depot Editor's Note: Baum's grasp of the latest “science” is embarrassing. For Baum to cite the June 2009 Obama Administration report as “evidence” that science is growing stronger exposes him as having very poor research skills. See this comprehensive report on scientists rebuking that report. See: 'Scaremongering': Scientists Pan Obama Climate Report: 'This is not a work of science but an embarrassing episode for the authors and NOAA'...'Misrepresents the science' - July 8, 2009 )

Baum also touted the Congressional climate bill as “legislation with real teeth to control the emission of greenhouse gases.” [Climate Depot Editor's Note: This is truly laughable that an editor-in-chief at the American Chemical Society could say the climate bill has “real teeth.” This statement should be retracted in full for lack of evidence. The Congressional climate bill has outraged environmental groups for failing to impact global temperatures and failing to even reduce emissions! See:
Climate Depot Editorial: Climate bill offers (costly) non-solutions to problems that don't even exist - No detectable climate impact: 'If we actually faced a man-made 'climate crisis', we would all be doomed' June 20, 2009 ]

The American Chemical Society's scientific revolt is the latest in a series of recent eruptions against the so-called “consensus” on man-made global warming.

On May 1 2009, the American Physical Society (APS) Council decided to review its current climate statement via a high-level subcommittee of respected senior scientists. The decision was prompted after a group of 54 prominent physicists petitioned the APS revise its global warming position. The
54 physicists wrote to APS governing board: “Measured or reconstructed temperature records indicate that 20th - 21st century changes are neither exceptional nor persistent, and the historical and geological records show many periods warmer than today.”

The petition signed by the prominent physicists, led by
Princeton University's Dr. Will Happer, who has conducted 200 peer-reviewed scientific studies. The peer-reviewed journal Nature published a July 22, 2009 letter by the physicists persuading the APS to review its statement. In 2008, an American Physical Society editor conceded that a “considerable presence” of scientific skeptics exists.

In addition, in April 2009, the
Polish National Academy of Science reportedly “published a document that expresses skepticism over the concept of man-made global warming.” An abundance of new peer-reviewed scientific studies continue to be published challenging the UN IPCC climate views. (See: Climate Fears RIP...for 30 years!? - Global Warming could stop 'for up to 30 years! Warming 'On Hold?...'Could go into hiding for decades,' peer-reviewed study finds – – March 2, 2009 & Peer-Reviewed Study Rocks Climate Debate! 'Nature not man responsible for recent global warming...little or none of late 20th century warming and cooling can be attributed to humans' – July 23, 2009 )

A March 2009 a 255-page U. S. Senate Report detailed
"More Than 700 International Scientists Dissenting Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims." 2009's continued lack of warming, further frustrated the promoters of man-made climate fears. See: Earth's 'Fever' Breaks! Global temperatures 'have plunged .74°F since Gore released An Inconvenient Truth' – July 5, 2009

In addition, the following developments further in 2008 challenged the “consensus” of global warming.
India Issued a report challenging global warming fears; a canvass of more than 51,000 Canadian scientists revealed 68% disagree that global warming science is “settled”; A Japan Geoscience Union symposium survey in 2008 reportedly “showed 90 per cent of the participants do not believe the IPCC report.” Scientific meetings are now being dominated by a growing number of skeptical scientists. The prestigious International Geological Congress, dubbed the geologists' equivalent of the Olympic Games, was held in Norway in August 2008 and prominently featured the voices of scientists skeptical of man-made global warming fears. [See: Skeptical scientists overwhelm conference: '2/3 of presenters and question-askers were hostile to, even dismissive of, the UN IPCC' & see full reports here & here - Also see: UN IPCC's William Schlesinger admits in 2009 that only 20% of IPCC scientists deal with climate ]
Selected Excerpted Highlights of American Chemical Society Scientist's Reaction to Baum's Editorial: (For full letters see

Instead of debate, members are constantly subjected to your arrogant self-righteousness and the left-wing practice of stifling debate by personal attacks on anyone who disagrees. I think ACS should make an effort to educate its membership about the science of climate change and let them draw their own conclusions. Although under your editorial leadership, I suspect we would be treated to a biased and skewed version of scientific debate. I think its time to find a new editor. [...] How about using your position as editor to promote a balanced scientific discussion of the theory behind the link of human activity to global warming? I am not happy that you continue to use the pulpit of your editorials to promote your left-wing opinions.

Thomas E. D'AmbraRexford, N.Y.
Baum's remarks are particularly disquieting because of his hostility toward skepticism, which is part of every scientist's soul. Let's cut to the chase with some questions for Baum: Which of the 20-odd major climate models has settled the science, such that all of the rest are now discarded?
Do you refer to "climate change" instead of "global warming" because the claim of anthropogenic global warming has become increasingly contrary to fact?

Howard HaydenPueblo West, Colo.
I was a geochemist doing research on paleoclimates early in my career. I have tried to follow the papers in the scientific literature. [...] I am appalled at the condescending attitude of Rudy Baum, Al Gore, President Barack Obama, et al., who essentially tell us that there is no need for further research—that the matter is solved.
The peer-reviewed literature is not unequivocal about causes and effects of global warming. We are still learning about properties of water, for goodness' sake. There needs to be more true scientific research without politics on both sides and with all scientists being heard. To insult and denigrate those with whom you disagree is not becoming.

R. Everett LangfordThe Woodlands, Texas
Your editorial in the
June 22 issue of C&EN was a disgrace. It was filled with misinformation, half-truths, and ad hominem attacks on those who dare disagree with you. Shameful!

Are you planning to write an editorial about the Environmental Protection Agency's recent suppression of a global warming report that goes against the gospel according to NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies Director James Hansen? Or do you only editorialize on matters in keeping with your biased views on global warming?

Trying to arrest climate change is a feeble, futile endeavor and a manifestation of human arrogance. Humankind's contribution to climate change is minuscule, and trying to eliminate even that minute effect will be enormously expensive, damaging to the poorest people on the planet, and ultimately ineffective.

Dennis MalpassMagnolia, Texas
I can't accept as facts the reports of federal agencies, because they have become political and are more likely to support the regime in power than not. Baum's attempt to close out debate goes against all my scientific training, and to hear this from my ACS is certainly alarming to me.

Edward H. GleasonOoltewah, Tenn.
Having worked as an atmospheric chemist for many years, I have extensive experience with environmental issues, and I usually agree with Rudy Baum's editorials. But his use of "climate-change deniers" to pillory scientists who do not believe climate change is a crisis is disingenuous and unscientific. [...] Given the climate's complexity and these and other uncertainties, are we justified in legislating major increases in our energy costs unilaterally guided only by a moral imperative to "do our part" for Earth's climate? I am among many environmentally responsible citizen-scientists who think this is stupid, both because our emissions reductions will be dwarfed by increases elsewhere (China and India, for example) and because the models have large uncertainties. [...] I have very little in common with the philosophy of the Heartland Institute and other "free-market fanatics," and I consider myself a progressive Democrat. Nevertheless, we scientists should know better than to propound scientific truth by consensus and to excoriate skeptics with purple prose.
Roger L. TannerMuscle Shoals, Ala.
I would like to see the ACS Board cap Baum's political pen and trade him to either the New York Times or Washington Post.
Wallace EmbryColumbia, Tenn.
In the interest of brevity, I can limit my response to the diatribe of the editor-in-chief in the
June 22 edition of C&EN to one word: Disgusting.
Louis H. RombachWilmington, Del.
I am particularly offended by the false analogy with creationists. It is easy to just dismiss anyone who dares disagree as being "unscientific."
Daniel B. RegoLas Vegas
While Baum obviously has strong personal views on the subject, I take great offense that he would use C&EN, for which I pay dearly each year in membership dues, to purvey his personal views and so glibly ignore contrary information and scold those of us who honestly find these views to be a hoax.
William TolleySan Diego
I appreciate it when C&EN presents information from qualified supporters of either, and preferably both, sides of an issue to help readers decide what is correct, rather than dispensing your conclusions and ridiculing people who disagree with you.
P. S. LowellLakeway, Texas
I am a retired Ph.D. chemical engineer. During my working years, I was involved in many environmental issues concerning products and processes of the companies for which I worked. I am completely disgusted with the June 22 editorial. I do not consider it to be very scientific to castigate skeptics of man-made global warming. [...] [Global warming fears are] not of particular concern because "the ocean is a very large sink for carbon dioxide." [...] The overall problem here is that there is already an abundance of scientific illiteracy in the American public that will not be improved by Baum's stance in what should be a scientific magazine. Theories are not proven by consensus—but by data from repeatable experimentation that leaves no doubt of interpretation.
Charles M. KrutchenDaphne, Ala.
Please do not keep writing C&EN editorials according to the liberal religion's credo—"Attack all climate-change deniers, creationists, conservatives, people who voted for George W. Bush, etc." It is a sign of weakness in your argument when you attack those who disagree. [...] Your choice of terminology referring to skeptical scientists who don't toe your line as CCD, climate-change deniers, and putting them in association with Holocaust deniers, is unworthy of an editorial in a scientific periodical. Who don't you go head-to-head with the critics? Please don't keep doing this. Find a scientific writer for the editorial page. We get plenty of this pap from the mainstream media and do not need it in C&EN.
Heinrich BrinksMonterey, Calif.
Your utter disdain of CCDs and the accusations of improper tactics you ascribe to them cannot be dismissed. However bitter you personally may feel about CCDs, it is not your place as editor to accuse them—falsely—of nonscientific behavior by using insultingly inappropriate language. The growing body of scientists, whom you abuse as sowing doubt, making up statistics, and claiming to be ignored by the media, are, in the main, highly competent professionals, experts in their fields, completely honorable, and highly versed in the scientific method—characteristics that apparently do not apply to you. The results presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which you call the CCD's "favorite whipping boy," do indeed fall into the category of predictions that fail to match the data, requiring a return to the drawing board. Your flogging of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change is not only infantile but beggars you to contribute facts to back up your disdain. Incidentally, why do we fund climate studies by U.S. Global Change Research Program if the problem is settled?
William E. KellerSanta Fe, N.M.
For all of the letters send in repsone to Baum's editorial see

Marc Morano ClimateDepot.comCFACT1875 Eye Street, NWFifth FloorWashington, D.C.

Oilsands and Bakken Developments

The bottom line here is that a revolution in completion technology is changing everything in the oil industry.

We commonly have drilled through multiple formations bearing hydro carbon content and then completed on what appeared to be best. Suddenly it has become possible to achieve multiple completions in the same well. I am not sure yet what this means. On vertical wells pressure and water issues usually narrowed the options. However on horizontal wells this should be ameliorated.

The Bakken is all about fracturing and nifty completion technology. The same is true for gas shale. These are indications that the industry is making huge advances over past practice.
Also note the Bakken is at 10,000 feet and that only a few are been drilled at a time and cannot be compared to the thousands of much shallower shale gas wells been drilled.

Now if we could find a way to access those bypassed hydrocarbons we might be onto something big. Obviously the big thick zones (over 200 feet here) are the low lying fruit for the industry. However, imagine running a horizontal on the basement of an oil rich Mississippian sand, mapped to maximize gravity feed and enhanced with nitrogen injection. Those reserves are huge but the lack of a gas drive has produced wells able to make a barrel a day. A thousand meters of this oil behind pipe should happily make a thousand barrels for a century or so.
Recent developments suggest that we may not be too far off.

Update on the Oilsands, Bakken, Bakken-Three Forks and Oil and Gas Drilling Technolgy

Oilsand Slower Growth and Lower Costs

Suncor expects its [oilsand] capital costs to decline by as much as 20 per cent from the peak of 2008 when it resumes oil sands expansion after its merger with Petro-Canada, which is expected to close this fall.

Oil sands producers faced increasing bottlenecks in accessing pipelines and a lack of refining capacity at the height of the boom last year. A moderate development schedule will allow time for pipeline companies to complete their expansions, and refiners to reconfigure their plants to handle the Alberta bitumen.

Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers at the height of the boom predicted oil sands production would grow to 3.5 million barrels a day by 2015. It has since revised that forecast to between 1.9 million and 2.2 million barrels a day.

Bakken - Three Forks : Possible New Oil Formation

The Bakken formation encompasses some 25,000 square miles within the Williston Basin in North Dakota and Montana. The U.S. Geological Survey has called it the largest continuous oil accumulation it has ever assessed.

The Three Forks-Sanish formation is made up of sand and porous rock directly below the Bakken shale. But geologists don't know whether the Three Forks-Sanish is a separate oil-producing formation or if it catches oil that flows from the Bakken shale above.Fort Worth, Texas-based XTO Energy Inc. has reported to the state that one of its Three Forks wells pulled more than 2,100 barrels a day.

State and industry officials are conducting a study to determine whether the Three Forks is a unique reservoir. The plan is to compare results from closely spaced wells, one aiming for the Three Forks, and the other at the Bakken. Researchers will look at pressure changes in the formations to determine if they are connected.

Results from the study could be ready later this year, officials say. It already is spurring some speculation that the state has billions of barrels more in oil reserves.

"Eventually it could equal the Bakken, which is remarkable, and that's an understatement," Helms said.
"Is it the same or is it a separate formation? I think everybody is hoping for the latter," Harms said. "That could literally double the potential we have — a Bakken 2, if you will."

Kelso, of Whiting Petroleum, said his company's drilling activity shows that Three Forks likely is a separate formation. He said core samples taken from the Bakken and Three Forks show more hydrocarbons in the latter.
"From the core samples, Three Forks looks better for us than the Bakken," he said.Promising production results from the Three Forks could mean that companies that come up empty in the Bakken could use existing leases to drill in the same area for Three Forks oil.Geologists say the Three Forks-Sanish is typically about 250 feet thick. Julie LeFever, a geologist with the state Geological Survey in Grand Forks, has studied the Bakken for two decades. She believes oil found in the Three Forks-Sanish has come from the Bakken over millions of years.

Packers Plus MultiStage Drilling

Where analysts once warned of looming gas shortages and the need for massive imports from offshore, now they're complaining of a popped gas bubble that has driven prices to decade lows, down more than 75 per cent from last summer. Some say $10 is a distant memory, never to return.

Three years ago, Packers could insert a half-dozen or so "stages" into a single well. As horizontal wells got longer, that number has grown to 22, and Themig says new advancements will allow virtually "unlimited" stages in a single well. That, in turn, has resulted in an order-of-magnitude higher production for a basic well that costs only about twice as much to drill.

The average conventional gas well in Western Canada produces about 250,000 cubic feet of gas a day. EnCana Corp. CEO Randy Eresman said in releasing the company's second-quarter results this week that its latest Horn River wells that use the multistage technology are coming on at initial rates of up to 11 million cubic feet per day.

Note: this is a misleading implied comparison. avg production is long after the well has been stabalized and run for a long time. Initial production is often very high and makes a great press release but is totally misleading as to final production.

Drilling results from the new shale basins are just starting to trickle in, but reserve replacement south of the border seems to validate the notion that fewer wells are producing more gas, even in the midst of a downturn.

American gas reserves grew almost 40 per cent last year and production in the Lower 48 states posted the biggest increase since the Eisenhower years, mostly due to new fracture technology. In June, the U. S. Potential Gas Committee issued a report that suggested more than a third of new gas reserves--some 600 trillion cubic feet--are found in shales that need extensive stimulation to be productive. According to Ziff Energy, Canada replaced about 91 per cent of production, even as producers slashed drilling to decade lows.And that could be the tip of the iceberg. Eresman said North America now has enough gas to last a century at current consumption rates.

One of the earliest converts to Packers was Petrobank Energy, which used the technology to create a dominant position in the Bakken oil play. Like shale gas in northeast B. C., rocks in southeast Saskatchewan require the same drilling techniques to make the oil flow, according to Gregg Smith, the company's chief operating officer. Three years ago, the company was producing 100 barrels a day from the unconventional oil play. Today that number is around 17,000.

Brigham Exploration in Bakken, Three Forks Using Multistage Drilling

Brigham Exploration Company reports continuing reductions in drilling and completion costs. The company is now using up to 24 stages in long laterals. The Strobeck 27-34 in Mountrail County, North Dakota flowed 1,788 bbl/day of crude oil and 1.2 million cubic feet/day of natural gas. The well, completed in the Three Forks, had 18 effective fracture stages. The well also confirmed core results from the Anderson 28-33 which showed that both the upper Three Forks and the middle Bakken were oil saturated. Completed well cost was $3.9 million, 33% less than similar wells drilled in 2008.

The average horizontal well was expected to recover between 600,000 and 800,000 barrels over a 15 year well life. Some time will have to elapse before it will be possible to extrapolate production curves from long lateral wells far enough into the future to make an educated guess about ultimate recovery. Based on experience in the Middle East, ultimate recovery could be in the millions of barrels/well. Bakken basin crude oil sells at a $5/bbl discount to Nymex traded light crude. At $40/bbl (according to a report in the latest Oil & Gas Financial Journal), profit on a well that cost $5.5 million can be $24/bbl. Now, with crude oil trading at $60/bbl, profit should be considerably higher.

Fiona Kobusingye's Africa

It is about time that someone pointed out the obvious. It is outrageous to suggest that modern methods not be used to produce the wealth for others that it has produced for us. That modern methods are not perfect is irrelevant. They were replacing methods that were even less perfect. I tend to actually get angry about such profoundly ignorant assertions.

The magic of modern methods is that they begin an optimization process that step by step eliminates new problems as they arise.

The present emphasis on CO2 production is well met because it forces us to create far better energy regimes. That was simply overdue and required a blanket decision by governments to do it.

Subsistence farming, which only exists because the farmers do not have access to credit on reasonable terms, is the worst producer of CO2 imaginable. Slash and burn is just that.

The reason that I have been pushing subsistence biochar using maize culture in emulation of the Amazonians is to end the folly of slash and burn. My initial posts on this now go back two years and the general methodology has made great strides into agricultural consciousness. However, we still do not have the picture show made on the earthen corn kiln method that could be used to get the information to everyone out there. Good progress is been made in applying biochar with zao holes by hugely reducing the need for biochar. Hills are better still in well watered climates.

Africa’s real climate crisis

Life in Africa is often nasty, impoverished and short. AIDS kills 2.2 million Africans every year according to WHO (World Health Organization) reports. Lung infections cause 1.4 million deaths, malaria 1 million more, intestinal diseases 700,000. Diseases that could be prevented with simple vaccines kill an additional 600,000 annually, while war, malnutrition and life in filthy slums send countless more parents and children to early graves.

And yet, day after day, Africans are told the biggest threat we face is – global warming.

Conferences, news stories, television programs, class lectures and one-sided “dialogues” repeat the claim endlessly. We’re told using oil and petrol, even burning wood and charcoal, will dangerously overheat our planet, melt ice caps, flood coastal cities, and cause storms, droughts, disease and extinctions.

Over 700 climate scientists and 31,000 other scientists say humans and carbon dioxide have minimal effects on Earth’s temperature and climate, and there is no global warming crisis. But their views and studies are never invited or even tolerated in these “climate crisis” forums, especially at “ministerial dialogues” staged with United Nations money. Al Gore refuses to debate any of these experts, or even permit questions that he hasn’t approved ahead of time.

Instead, Africans are told climate change “threatens humanity more than HIV/AIDS.” More than 2.2 million dead Africans every year?

We are warned that it would be “nearly impossible to adapt to the loss of the West Antarctic ice sheet,” which would raise sea levels by “5 to 15 meters.” That certainly would impact our coastal communities. But how likely is it?

The average annual temperature in Antarctica is minus 50 degrees F! Summer in its Western Peninsula barely lasts two months and gets maybe 10 degrees above freezing for just a few hours a day. Not even Mr. Gore or UN computer models talk about raising Antarctic temperatures by 85 degrees F year-round. So how is that ice supposed to melt?
Let’s not forget that sea levels have risen 120 meters since the last Ice Age ended. Do the global warming alarmists think cave men fires caused that? Obviously, powerful natural forces caused those ancient glaciers to come and go – and caused the droughts, floods and climate changes that have affected Africa, the Earth and its animals and people for millions of years.

Just consider northern Africa, where green river valleys, hippopotami and happy villages suddenly got turned into the Sahara Desert 4,000 years ago. Scientists don’t know why, but it probably wasn’t Egyptian pharaohs building pyramids and driving chariots.

However, the real problem isn’t questionable or fake science, hysterical claims and worthless computer models that predict global warming disasters. It’s that they’re being used to justify telling Africans that we shouldn’t build coal or natural gas electrical power plants. It’s the almost total absence of electricity keeping us from creating jobs and becoming modern societies. It’s that these policies KILL.

The average African life span is lower than it was in the United States and Europe 100 years ago. But Africans are being told we shouldn’t develop, or have electricity or cars because, now that those countries are rich beyond anything Africans can imagine, they’re worried about global warming.

Al Gore and UN climate boss Yvo de Boer tell us the world needs to go on an energy diet. Well, I have news for them. Africans are already on an energy diet. We’re starving!

Al Gore uses more electricity in a week than 28 million Ugandans together use in a year. And those anti-electricity policies are keeping us impoverished.

Not having electricity means millions of Africans don’t have refrigerators to preserve food and medicine. Outside of wealthy parts of our big cities, people don’t have lights, computers, modern hospitals and schools, air conditioning – or offices, factories and shops to make things and create good jobs.

Not having electricity also means disease and death. It means millions die from lung infections, because they have to cook and heat with open fires; from intestinal diseases caused by spoiled food and unsafe drinking water; from malaria, TB, cholera, measles and other diseases that we could prevent or treat if we had proper medical facilities.

Hypothetical global warming a hundred years from now is worse than this?

Telling Africans they can’t have electricity and economic development – except what can be produced with some wind turbines or little solar panels – is immoral. It is a crime against humanity.

Meanwhile, China and India are building new coal-fired power plants every week, so that they can lift their people out of poverty. So even if Africa remains impoverished – and the US and Europe switched to windmills and nuclear power – global carbon dioxide levels would continue increasing for decades.

Even worse, the global warming crusaders don’t stop at telling us we can’t have electricity. They also campaign against biotechnology. As American, Brazilian and South African farmers will tell you, biotech seeds increase crop yields, reduce pesticide use, feed more people and help farmers earn more money. New varieties are being developed that can resist droughts – the kind Africa has always experienced, and the ones some claim will increase due to global warming.

Environmental radicals even oppose insecticides and the powerful spatial insect repellant DDT, which Uganda’s Health Ministry is using along with bed nets and modern ACT drugs to eliminate malaria. They claim global warming will make malaria worse. That’s ridiculous, because the disease was once found all over Europe, the United States and even Siberia.

Uganda and Africa need to stop worrying about what the West, the UN and Al Gore say. We need to focus on our own needs, resources and opportunities.

We don’t need more aid – especially the kind that goes mostly to corrupt officials who put the money in private bank accounts, hold global warming propaganda conferences and keep their own people poor. We don’t need rich countries promising climate change assistance (maybe, sometime, ten years from now), if we promise not to develop.

We need to stop acting like ignorant savages, who thought solar eclipses meant the gods were angry with them, and asked witch doctors to bring the sun back. We need to stop listening to global warming witch doctors, who get rich telling us to keep living “indigenous,” impoverished lives.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Toward Better CO2 Capture

I have posted on the problems related to CO2 separation from flue gas in the past while to be fair the literature has been silent. My interest was initiated by the discovery that one can produce acid rain in a pipe and thus separate out everything except the CO2. That struck me as the most likely practical method available to us.

This discovery or advance allows CO2 capture by potentially a wide range of ionic solvents, should that prove to be a good thing. More likely it will lead to dozens of research projects that sort of do the job but continue to have the difficulties of the conventional system.

During the Acid rain panic, over 160 research projects attempted to eliminate SOx and NOx and all were inherently flawed by the slow process velocity of the targeted reagents.

An acquaintance had the insight that the obvious reagent was chlorine gas injected with moisture directly into the hot flue gas stream and then into a water quench to absorb remaining chlorine and heat. We discovered in bench tests that the Sox and NOx were preferentially reduced and the resultant acids attacked available heavy metals in the quench. The CO2 was partially reduced to carbonic acid but most escaped.

The bottom line is that present flue gas is still a toxic brew escaping into the atmosphere and I have every reason to think that the above method solves the problem.

Livermore CA (SPX) Jul 28, 2009

Separating carbon dioxide from its polluting source, such as the flue gas from a coal-fired power plant, may soon become cleaner and more efficient.

A Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researcher has developed a screening method that would use ionic liquids - a special type of molten salt that becomes liquid under the
boiling point of water (100 degrees Celsius) - to separate carbon dioxide from its source, making it a cleaner, more viable and stable method than what is currently available.

There are major efforts to reduce CO2
emissions from burning fossil fuel, but before it can be sequestered, it must first be separated from its source, a step known as "capture." This new technique could significantly enhance the efficiency of the CO2 capture process.

Currently, the few coal plants with commercial CO2 capture capability all use processes based on chemical absorption with monoethanolamine (MEA), a general-purpose solvent developed by chemists some 75 years ago. Unfortunately, it is non-selective, corrosive, requires the use of large equipment, and effective only under low to moderate partial pressures of CO2.

But the new system overcomes many of these shortcomings. Chemists recently became interested in ionic liquids because they are solvents with almost no vapor pressure, and do not evaporate, even under high temperature conditions.

Using ionic liquids as a separation solvent has unique advantages over traditional solvents, according to LLNL scientist Amitesh Maiti, whose research appears as the cover article in a recent issue of ChemSusChem, a new journal focused on chemistry
and sustainability.

Advantages include high chemical stability; low corrosion; almost zero vapor pressure; supportable on membranes; and a huge library of ion choices, which can be potentially optimized for CO2 solubility.

Maiti's work involved devising a computational strategy that can reliably screen any solvent, including an ionic liquid, for high CO2 capture efficiency.

"It's a great advantage to have a method that can quickly and accurately compute CO2 solubility in any solvent, especially under the range of pressures and temperatures as would be found in a coal-fired power plant," Maiti said. "With ionic liquids serving as the solvent, the process could be a lot cleaner and more accessible than what is used today."

Over the last few years several ionic liquids have been experimentally tested to be efficient solvents for CO2, providing data that could be useful in optimizing the choice of ionic liquids for CO2 capture.

"But each new experiment
costs time and money and is often hindered because a specific ionic liquid may not be readily available," Maiti said. "By creating a computational tool that can decipher ahead of time which ionic liquids work best to separate CO2, it can be a much more efficient process when field tests are conducted."

Maiti developed a quantum-chemistry-based thermodynamic approach to compute the chemical potential of a solute (CO2 in this case) in any solvent at an arbitrary dilution. He found that this result coupled with an experimentally fitted equation-of-state data for CO2 can yield accurate solubility values in a large number of solvents, including ionic liquids. He confirmed this by directly comparing the computed solubility with experimental values that have been gradually accumulating over the last few years.
Next, he used this method to predict new solvent classes that would possess CO2 solubility nearly two times as high as the most efficient solvents experimentally demonstrated.
"With the vast choices of ions, we have barely scratched the surface of possibilities," Maiti added.

His hope is that the accuracy of the computational method will allow scientists to see useful trends, which could potentially lead to the discovery of practical solvents with significantly higher CO2 capture efficiency.

Solar AC Output

I actually do not buy this effort at all. The power densities are way too mismatched to plausibly be put together this way with any economic convenience. Of course I am willing to be surprised again.

The more interesting point is that it is plausible to convert buildings to DC power systems, if it can be done safely at all. So much equipment is DC it seems obvious, yet our power consumption is from the fridge and the stove and other associated power pigs. DC becomes tricky here.

Super storage and associated direct current avoids a lot of loss, so we may yet be going there. Dribbling energy into an application super capacitor all day avoids the heat risk by having it reside close to the application.

Certainly, we are well into the needed tech to create a whole new home energy system and initially it still needs to have access to both types of supply somehow. Quite clearly this is a problem that calls for a top down mandated clever engineering solution that is also easily retrofitted.

The key is to start thinking about all this and to try out various options. Direct current straight of the roof is a resource. Pushing that resource into a super capacitor seems to be an obvious first step, if only because all applications are typically intermittent. And that is the real answer. All these problems are because of our difficulties with storage technology and that problem appears to be realistically on the verge of resolution.

The moment that I can collect solar all day and store it with a minimal loss in a super capacitor battery to be then drained in the morning into my vehicle for transportation with also a minimal loss, is the moment that all these problems and options become easy and directly resolved. In short, hang on a little and we may well have it all licked.

New Solar Panel Goes Straight To AC

Written by Yoni Levinson on 22/07/09

The electricity that comes out of a photovoltaic panel is always DC. Since our buildings tend to use AC electricity, that means that a standard part of every PV solar installation is installing a big inverter to take the DC input from the panels and produce an AC output which is identical to what’s coming from the local power line.It’s possible, though, to build small inverters (aptly named microinverters) directly into each solar cell or module; instead of feeding all the electricity through a single, large inverter, you feed small streams of electricity through many small inverters. Startup
GreenRay Solar is getting funding to develop this kind of technology, so that one day a homeowner can buy a solar panel and pretty much install it him/herself. Right now, you usually have to be a licensed electrician to do the electrical work needed to install conventional panels. But GreenRay’s panels would be a lot simpler, because they bypass the inverter step. It still might not be as easy as plugging in an appliance, but it would bring PV installation down a couple notches, within the reach of aspiring DIY-ers.To answer the unasked question – yes, these solar panels will cost more money. But, as GreenRay will tell you, microinverters offer additional benefits. For example, if part of the panel is blocked, it will not affect the other parts. And, if you are the kind of person who wants to carefully monitor your system’s performance, the microinverter panels will give you more precise and detailed information. However, as more and more electric devices require that electricity converted back to DC, and as PV electricity becomes more prevalent, one might wonder why we don’t begin to design DC houses from the start.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Biological Immortality

This development was certainly imagined when stem cells were discovered but now they seem to be able to bravely try it all out. It really pretty exciting stuff for the human race.

Logically, any organ can be replaced by the expedient of using one’s own original organ as a scaffold. It does not cure cancer, or at least not yet, but it allows removal and restoration as a future option.

Considering the endemic nature of diabetic issues, been able to restore natural insulin function is a certain priority in the near term.

The present question is how efficious this all is and I think that we are about to find out. It seems that if we can bathe damaged heart cells with a flood of stem cells and displace scar tissue that we are onto something.

Recall that natural scar tissue slowly reverts over time to the original tissue. It takes most of a lifetime unfortunately so does not do much immediate good to the victim of damage. I think that a heart attack damaged heart will naturally recover thirty percent of the loss of function over a couple of years. This is all very good except that there is little improvement thereafter and certainly because the body is no longer stimulating the arrival of stem cells.

There may be something to this. Dawn age reptiles never really quit growing and thus seem to avoid classic old age. Whether that is true or not is another issue. However supercharging stem cells into the body would stimulate something and doing so may be something that we can stimulate the body to do naturally.

It is possible though that we evolved into organisms that have out stripped our ability to produce stem cells. In short we simply have metabolisms that operate far to fast to be able to replace all the damage as needed unlike the above mentioned reptiles. Thus creating a mechanism that takes up the slack may be a way to bring the human aging cycle under control and restore the possibility of biological immortality to humanity.

Conjecture: biological immortality is lost in higher life forms because the operating tempo of the metabolism greatly exceeds the stem cell production tempo.
It could be that simple and the speed of stem cell development supports it.

Man Receives His Own Stem Cells as a Treatment for Heart Failure

The first person to receive a new cardiac stem cell treatment in a U.S. Food and Drug Administration clinical trial is doing well, it was announced last week.On Friday, doctors at the
University of Louisville School of Medicine, in collaboration with the nearby Jewish Hospital, issued a press release stating that one week after treatment, Mike Jones’ heart was getting stronger.Jones, whose heart tissue is permanently scarred and weakened by two previous heart attacks, suffers from congestive heart failure, a condition affecting about five million Americans each year, according to the National Institutes of Health.Currently, two treatment options predominate for patients with heart failure, said Mark Slaughter, a cardiovascular surgeon who aided in the trial. A person can receive a heart transplant or a mechanically assisted heart device.The new approach, using a patient’s adult stem cells to regenerate healthy heart tissue, is currently in phase I clinical trials to test for safety. The procedure consists of removing healthy heart tissue from the patient, purifying the stem cells from the material, and allowing the stem cell population to grow.
Once ready, the stem cells are reintroduced into the scarred region of the heart using a minimally invasive technique.Since the re-injection of his own stem cells on July 17, Jones’ heart has increased its ability to pump blood by about 5 percent. Jones commented in the University of Louisville School of Medicine press release that he felt so good he might “even start jogging again.” The doctors will continue monitoring Jones every few months for the next two years to measure his recovery.
There are currently 13 more patients going through the phase I trial, and the researchers hope to eventually test a total of 20 patients.Last month, a group at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles made news with a similar technique that was undergoing clinical trials. Instead of using purified stem cells, the group is using a mixture of cells, including stem cells, to regenerate heart tissue. Ken Miles, the first patient to receive the treatment, told CBS’s The Early Show that he “feels great.”

Markets Do Not Work?

There is nothing that I find more annoying that the refrain that ‘markets do not work’ that arises whenever we have a crisis or even when someone dislikes an economic outcome. Markets as an abstraction can be always shown to be functioning quite nicely. The difficulty arises when the market is deliberately or accidently distorted to misplaced advantage. We have in fact a barbarian horde attacking our economy at all times with battalions of lawyers and paid flacks.

And here is where I must wade into the debate. Any given market is like a game of poker or like any game whatsoever. It requires a commonly agreed upon set of rules to work by. These rule books if created properly will optimize the given market. If they are distorted to one group’s particular advantage, then the market will be optimized for that group and offsetting distortions will arise. Thus when we investigate a market it is necessary to discover who if anyone is gaming the market to his particular advantage. And after saying that, is this gaming in the common good?

I hope you got all that, but it eliminates a lot of confusion and double talk.

A good example is the Canadian milk marketing boards. Its outcome was to stabilize selling prices and over forty years to produce equity for supply participants in terms of quotas. It also produced a large number of prosperous producers large enough to attract capital to support fairly large scale operations that are probably too big. This was not a bad out come.

In the USA, the industry found that unlimited access to capital for the few created far larger operations even more disconnected from good farm practice, while also driving out the small individual producer by income suppression. Those folks are no longer dairy farming.

One point here is that agricultural industrialization was going to sharply reduce the number of participants regardless of the system over the past forty years. In Canada, a managed decline optimized the process itself and likely optimized government revenues while certainly producing all the milk needed.

Now in the above case, we are dealing with a truly finite market that is not overly flexible regarding price unless you think any agribusiness is willing to sell seriously below cost. We presently buy milk at a premium over US prices but not significantly so and our industry is finally waking up to the potentialities of making artisan cheeses.

The real lesson here is that so called free markets are often gamed by capital sources themselves. This is particularly true when there is no proprietary title to the knowledge involved. It is no trick at all for a source of capital to bank roll a large buggy whip concern and then to sell in a given market below cost until the competitors exit the market. At that point you can gain the advantage of monopoly pricing. Usually this strategy will work out just fine because reentry into the market is again prohibitive in term of capital.

So let us return to the healthcare industry which is the subject of this particular article.

First off, we are dealing with a universal human need whose delivery cost per individual life varies across a wide spectrum and is individually unpredictable. Secondly, healthy individuals produce income and taxes. Thus we have a universal societal need to optimize our human capital by keeping them somewhat healthy.

The only effective way to deliver at least a basic service is to provide it for all. That will at least lower the delivery cost to the lowest per capita base. That is what universal health coverage means. Then let providers capitalize the extras that can improve upon the base itself. They will buy MRI machines and the like to provide a superior service.

In the USA the insurance industry has grabbed this market and will stoop to any lie to preserve this capital based monopoly. It is managed only to the extent of shortchanging the customers.

Let us recall what they deliver. They provide full service to a third of the population at top cost to the customer. He is kept happy. They provide a base service to a third and over manage that and none at all to the remaining third. All of this costs about twice what universal service costs in Canada and elsewhere. Could we do better in Canada? Surely, but to do worse in terms of patient outcomes is hard to imagine when a third get none.

Of course, the insurance industry wants to keep their fat one third of the pie when the USA finally institutes a valid universal coverage. I wonder how many of the prosperous will stomach paying three times what their next door neighbor pays for exactly the same service.

Let me assure you, if I walk into my doctor’s office and offer to pay cash for a procedure in Canada, it will happen in twenty four hours. However, the real wait times in Canada are in fact quite minimal, unless you are unlucky enough to have a specialist with little seniority.

My wife needed a serious hernia operation. She first went to a specialist by the simple process of picking up the phone. The wait time was an impossible six months or so. So instead she got a referral from her GP who knew better and was in and out in a week. A young surgeon may be excellent but so far down the ladder that you get to wait for him.

Of course the industry flacks work the worst case scenario with enthusiasm.

The whole point of this article is that a viable market must be designed well and gamed properly to maximize benefits and to minimize the cost structure. We have shown a bit of how a better system can work for all participants. Do we have to remain vigilant to keep folks from unfairly gaming such a system? The answer is a loud yes.

Except that the cry of free market has been used in the US to blind everyone to the fact that they have been grossly swindled by the insurance industry who have dodged half to two thirds of the real costs while charging double for the part they do service. In what way has the American consumer been vigilant?

July 26, 2009

Markets Don't Work in Health Care?
Don Boudreaux

At Marginal Revolution, Tyler today quotes (and intelligently challenges) Paul Krugman; says Krugman:
There are, however, no examples of successful health care based on the principles of the free market, for one simple reason: in health care, the free market just doesn’t work.

First of all, I can list lots of examples of successful health care based on the principles of the free market: the regular, smooth, widespread, and affordable supply of aspirin, bandages, decongestants, toothpaste, dental floss, toothbrushes, contact lenses, running shoes, and gyms. I could go on.

But, of course, Krugman (rather circularly) is referring to those health-care services and products that are typically believed today to be poorly supplied. So let's play along.

A good rule of thumb is to always be very skeptical when someone -- even if he or she boasts a Nobel Prize -- proclaims that "markets don't work" for this particular good or that particular service. That person is either a special pleader (such as the college professor who insists that markets don't work to supply education) or he or she is someone with an excessively narrow (and, hence, mistaken) understanding of markets. Alas, far too many economists have an excessively narrow (and, hence, mistaken) understanding of markets.

I recommend to Krugman (and to Kenneth
Arrow, Paul Samuelson, Joseph Stiglitz, the ghost of George Stigler) and to too many other economists, great and not-so-great, to name, that they read Jim Buchanan's 1963 Presidential address to the Southern Economic Association; it's published as an article entitled "What Should Economists Do?" Here's a key passage (which appears on pages 31-32 of a collection of Buchanan's essays by the same title):

The motivation for individuals to engage in trade, the source of the propensity [to "truck, barter and exchange" - Adam Smith (1776)], is surely that of "efficiency," defined in the personal sense of moving from less preferred to more preferred positions, and doing so under mutually acceptable terms. An "inefficient" institution, one that produces largely "inefficient" results, cannot, by the nature of man, survive until and unless coercion is introduced to prevent the emergence of alternative arrangements.Let me illustrate this point and, at the same time, indicate the extension of the approach I am suggesting by referring to a familiar and simple example. Suppose that the local swamp requires draining to eliminate or reduce mosquito breeding. Let us postulate that no single citizen in the community has sufficient incentive to finance the full costs of this essentially indivisible operation. Defined in the orthodox, narrow way, the "market" fails; bilateral behavior of buyers and sellers does not remove the nuisance. "Inefficiency" presumably results. This is, however, surely an overly restricted conception of market behavior. If the market institutions, defined so narrowly, will not work, they will not meet individual objectives. Individual citizens will be led, because of the same propensity, to search voluntarily for more inclusive trading or exchange arrangements. A more complex institution may emerge to drain the swamp. The task of the economist includes the study of all such cooperative trading arrangements which become merely extensions of markets more restrictively defined.

Textbook economic theory blinds too many who master it to the myriad cooperative ways -- ways broader than simple arms-length exchanges -- that persons seeking each their own best advantage creatively figure out mutually advantageous means of cooperating. The
research of the great Elinor Ostrom supplies just some real-world examples.

Quoting Buchanan and linking to one of Ostrom's books hardly proves that cooperative, mutually advantageous arrangements to better supply health care would happen if government removed its bulky, blind, and burdensome self from this arena. But it does expose the limited intellectual purview of Krugman (which, again, he shares with most modern economists). And so pronouncements made from the vantage point of persons such as Krugman ought to be treated skeptically. Reality is more creative than the typical economist realizes.

Polar Bears and 2012

I find it very hard to get too exercised over the fate of the polar bears when by all calculations; their populations are at a peak. The only place they are under pressure, and quite frankly, it is pressure to go back further north where the season is clearly longer, is the bottom of Hudson Bay. If they simply developed a habit of migrating north in the spring they would be in great shape.

If anything, an expansion of their food stocks has likely expanded the population and as the ice disappears further, I expect that seal stocks will increase further supporting more bears.

There is presently conversation saying that the areal extent of this summer’s sea ice will not approach that of 2007. True so far as that goes. The wind has not returned and the ice pack is not concentrating. The ice itself is continuing to get thinner and thinner with each passing year. The downward collapse spiral is well entrenched and becoming more obvious. My prediction in 2007 for clear seas of sorts for 2012 is looking better every month.

It may well take 2007 type winds to actually clear these seas in 2012 or sooner. I think now that some new winter ice may last about two years as it rotates through the Arctic Gyre. In the meantime, three year and older is essentially getting eaten up if much is now left at all. In fact, that is perhaps the important question that needs to be asked. NASA has an expedition out there this summer and I am quite sure they are trying to map the real present extent of multi year ice.

If most multi year ice disappears by 2012, then sea ice coverage will consist of fairly thin one and two year ice that will be vulnerable to any decent wind system, even though it may still provide a sea ice cover as erratic as that presently in the Bay. The chances are that this can still provide huge tracts of open water in late August in most years throughout the high Arctic.

Thin ice for arctic beasts

Last Updated: July 23. 2009 3:04PM UAE / July 23. 2009 11:04AM GMT

The world’s largest land-based hunters, polar bears stand on the edge of rapid decline, unable to adapt quickly to a shrinking habitat as Arctic sea ice melts. Last year the US government added the animal to its threatened species list, but Tim Skelton examines whether it’s too little too late.

Images of starving polar bears are a poignant symbol of the state of our planet. When, in May 2008, the US government added the animal to its threatened species list, it became the first large mammal recognised as being in decline as a result of global warming. Polar bears have a major problem. Their habitat is changing fast, and it’s threatening their survival. Moreover, it won’t just be the bears that are affected. As the Arctic region’s top predator, their disappearance would have an impact on the entire food chain.

The world’s largest land-based hunters, adult male bears can weigh 750kg. They are perfectly adapted to cold climates, with fur designed to trap heat, and furry feet giving good grip on ice. They spend winters on the Arctic sea ice, and are expert seal hunters. But summers are a different story. When the ice melts they spend their time on land fasting, shedding a kilogram a day.This unusual fast/feast cycle worked well until global warming upset the balance. In summer 2007, satellite images revealed that Arctic sea ice retreated to a record level many climatologists had predicted would not happen until 2050. A US Geological Survey report concluded that two-thirds of the polar bear’s habitat could disappear by 2050. And some experts believe sea ice may have passed a point of no return, and may disappear entirely during the summer within 25 years.

Researchers from NASA and the Canadian Wildlife Service have also published a study on the extent of sea ice since 1978. Focussing on Canada’s western Hudson Bay region, they found the ice there was breaking up earlier and earlier, shortening the polar bears’ hunting season by three weeks. “If they feed for a shorter time, they’re going to accumulate less fat,” said Ian Stirling, a polar bear expert with the Canadian Wildlife Service, and co-author of the study. “At the same time, they’re going to be on land and fasting for longer.”

The bears have few food options on land, and must scavenge for whatever they can find. “There are a few sources of nutrition, but not enough to sustain the population,” Stirling said. The lack of food has even forced some animals to resort to cannibalism.Another effect of diminishing ice is that bears must swim longer distances across open water, further depleting their energy. This has led to an increase in cases of drowning. Moreover, as females become thinner, their reproductive rates drop and the survival chances of their cubs declines. The average weight of female bears dropped from 290kg in 1980 to 230kg in 2004.

The global population of polar bears has actually doubled since 40 years ago. Widespread hunting had driven numbers to a low of 12,000 in the 1960s, and a rebound occurred when strict controls were introduced. Today the global population is thought to be 20,000 to 25,000.But this apparently good news is hugely misleading. Virtually all experts agree a time bomb is ticking, and a rapid decline is imminent. With the Arctic warming faster than anywhere else on the planet, the bear’s natural habitat is changing too quickly for them to adapt.

Significant falls in local populations have already been observed. Numbers in the western Hudson Bay region declined from 1,200 in 1987 to 950 in 2004, a 22% drop. Unfortunately, because hungry bears congregate around human settlements in the hope of scavenging for food, native Inuit hunters actually see more bears than they used to. Some treat this as evidence the population is growing.Overall, the US Geological Survey predicts two-thirds of the world’s polar bear population will disappear by 2050, vanishing from all but their most northerly ranges. By 2080, there may only be a few remaining. The US government’s decision to list the bear as “threatened” is a step in the right direction. But it may be too late.

The future doesn’t look bright. But the polar bears’ one remaining trump card may well be their appearance. Despite their ferocious nature, we perceive them as “cute”. When we see them on TV, we sit up and take notice. So with documentary films such as Earth bringing the animal’s suffering right into our living rooms, their plight has become impossible to ignore. For thousands of years, polar bears have been an integral part of the Arctic. If they are going to be around for another thousand, it’s time to act now.