Week in review – energy, water and food

by Judith Curry

A few things that caught my eye this past week.


Obama Says Truckers Must Pay Fine To Avoid New Climate Regs [link]

“EPA’s Absurd New Fuel Standards for Trucks Will Raise Upfront Costs”  [link]

The Uncomfortable Truth About Aviation Emissions [link]

White House takes aim at a fast-growing source of emissions: airplanes [link]

Hybrid Hydrogen on the horizon: Mercedes-Benz GLC plug-in hydrogen fuel-cell coming in 2017  [link]

Jim Hansen works to save nuclear power plant at Diablo Canyon [link]

Wholesale electricity prices could rise 15% under CPP with nuclear closures. [link]

“EPA Skips Required Research, Now Has No Clue If Biofuels Hurt The Environment” [link]

Why Aren’t Ships Using #Wind-Power to Cut Their #Climate Footprint?[link]

Should Britain lead 21st century nuclear energy? [link]

Secretary# Moniz: #Fracking Has Been Good for the #Environment [link]

Buffering volatility: A study on the limits of Germany’s energy revolution  [link]

Subsidizing #Nuclear Will Only Make Our #Grid Problems Worse [link]

Inadequate transmission is the main challenge facing the US nuclear industry. [link] …

Energy experts warn more reliance on air conditioning, particularly in China, will accelerate climate change [link]

Level versus Variability Trade-offs in Wind and Solar Generation Investments: The Case of California [link]

Nuclear Power Is Losing Money At An Astonishing Rate [link]

Can it be? Europe Aims to Close Loophole on Wood Energy [link] …

Lithium Oxygen batteries breakthrough: Their time has come [link]


Hydropower could be huge . . . if [link]

Don’t be fooled: “run-of-river” hydro is NOT green. [link]

‘Climate change is #water change’ — the Colorado River system is headed for major trouble [link]

Newsflash: Building dams in Patagonia will not mitigate climate change. [link]

The toilet revolution [link]

Sri Lankan Navy and village women restore mangroves to revitalize their ecology and economy. [link]

Water Diversion: A Re-emerging Threat to Mekong Water Security [link]

To fight water scarcity, poulation growth must be considered [link]

Yellow River yields clues to Chinese legend of ancient ‘Great Flood’ [link]

A Storm Without Rain: Yemen, Water, Climate Change, and Conflict [link] …


The challenges, and rewards, of switching from corn/soy to fruit/veg in the midwest. [link]

How three U.S. mini-farms are sowing the seeds of global #foodsecurity [link]

Climate change, food security and trade linkages in South Asia [link]

Managing climate risk using climate-smart agriculture [link]

What #nutrition policies and investments would give Bangladesh the most impact for every taka spent? [link]

What would it take to mainstream “alternative” agriculture? [link]

Which diet makes best use of farmland? You might be surprised.  [link]

Climate-Smart Agriculture for Drought-Stricken Madagascar [link]

The tree that ate the west [link]

“Carbon farming” good for the climate, farmers, and biodiversity [link]



62 responses to “Week in review – energy, water and food

  1. Pingback: Week in review – energy, water and food – Enjeux énergies et environnement

  2. Thanks to you, Professor Curry, society will gain a better understanding of our place in the universe. I admire your calm courage in this storm!

  3. Geoff Sherrington

    Terms like ‘organic’ or ‘carbon’ farming are tossed around as if hey create overall benefits.
    They are the agricultural equivalent of wind power for global electricity, being over- hyped under- performers.
    If all the world was to switch suddenly to organic farming, rejecting synthetic fertilizers and so on, hundreds of millions of people would diemuch sooner than they should, many promptly from starvation.
    You can’t feed on fad.
    For d cases to centuries farmers have managed their fields to keep soil carbon levels high. The common practice has been hijacked by do_folders and rebranded as one of their own.
    Unfortunately, they seem to misunderstand some fundamental science. The purpose of high soil carbon is to be there to be broken down, with a main by_ product being CO2. All they are doing is fiddling with rates of conversion of carbon_ containing compounds, for a long-term net result of no reduction of atmospheric CO2.
    Yet they advertise the way of salvation. Charlatans of the modern style.

  4. Bravo fer Norman Borlaug, so much more achieved by
    his green revolution than by profits of doom, Ehrlich
    and the Club of Rome.

    • The Green Revolution was financed with public research funds, limited to support green policies with “consensus scientific evidence.”

    • Borlaug’s story is a saga of American 20th Century
      exceptionalism – of opportunity, individuality, tenacity,
      courage and monumental achievement. He strove to
      exploit new technology in a way that was based on good
      science and good sense. Although he worked under
      the auspices of the Rockefeller Foundation, this was no
      pampered boffin working in sparkling, state-of-the-art
      labs; Vietmeyer’s account describes vividly the primitive
      and sometimes dangerous conditions that Borlaug
      endured in Mexico and how, lacking animals — let alone
      tractors — he and his few Mexican helpers plowed
      experimental plots harnessed like beasts of burden.

      I was privileged to know Norman Borlaug personally
      during the last two decades of his life. As remarkable
      as his scientific and humanitarian accomplishments
      were, Borlaug’s modesty, guilelessness, and desire to
      contribute to society were also among his salient qualities.

      Borlaug’s world-view was shaped by his roots and by
      his experiences as a young man. He applied throughout
      his professional life what he had learned during the
      late 1930′s when he saw Iowa corn farming transformed
      by the advent of new hybrid corn seeds and appropriate
      amounts of fertilizer. These advances boosted yields
      from the traditional ceiling of 30 bushels per acre to an
      astonishing state average of 75, which in turn
      transformed Iowa farming from subsistence to a more
      assured, civilized existence.

      • johnvonderlin

        Your serfness,
        I’m envious you knew him. I’ve been amazed that a man who “saved a billion lives,” and thereby may have prevented World War Three, saving another billion, is less well known than such fluff as the Kardashians and a thousand others of similar ilk. I’m guessing he preferred it that way. Mr. Borlaug, is one of the pillars supporting my optimism in technology continuing to provide the support for my belief that, “nearly everything gets better in nearly every way, nearly every day. Life is great and getting better. Drink it in.

      • My Dad also knew Dr. Borlaug and was a great admirer. One of the 20th century’s truly great men.

  5. The water links should remind us there no simple answers and when you pick a flower you change everything.

  6. Re: “EPA’s Absurd New Fuel Standards for Trucks Will Raise Upfront Costs”

    As usual, EPA uses social cost of carbon calculations to inflate its impressive 8-to-1 benefit-to-cost claims for this regulation. In reality, that’s about all SCC estimates are good for. But the direct fuel cost savings and reduced diesel pollution are sufficient to pass the OMB test without the climate hoo-ha touted in the EPA press release.

  7. Quotation marks needed re Forbes’ comment.

  8. Re: Nuclear Power Is Losing Money At An Astonishing Rate

    Joe Romm actually gets some things right in his article. The economic problem for baseload nukes is coming from natural gas competition, not solar/wind. However, it is interesting — heretical? — to see him criticize the subsidy for nukes derived from social cost of carbon calcs.

    Perhaps he is being driven more by anti-nuke passion (cf., Hansen) than his stated fears of climate change?

    • Whether it is wind or cheap nat gas depends on where the plant is located. It is both in most locations. However, for the Midwest Exelon plants, Quad Cities and Clinton, it is primarily wind and transmission congestion. In New York it is mostly low nat gas prices.

      The Forbes article on transmission points out the transmission issues. Quad pays about 10 dollars per MWh to put its power on the grid. When the value of that product is 35 dollars or so on average it makes it hard to make a profit.

      • Being from the South, I wasn’t aware of the transmission congestion problems that exist in the North and Northeast — and how that effects existing nuclear’s competitiveness in these areas.

        Could Planning Engineer (or Others) give us a brief overview of the major transmission congestion issues, and why, in Northern States — maybe some links if one wants to go into greater detail.

        Also, how do these transmission congestion problems effect the generation bid and accept rates for existing nuclear in these markets?


      • Google the term. There are multiple links and studies, as well as a basic definition.

      • Interesting — I didn’t even know about LMPs: http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=3150

      • http://www.pjm.com is the PJM ISO website. If you look now (Sunday night) all LMPs are about 20 to 25 dollars per MWH. Look during a hot, or cold, weekday and you will see the real time impacts of transmission congestion in the LMP heat map. There is lots of other info on that website also. For example, real time wind generation in MWs.

        Pipeline constraints can also impact electric markets. A northeast pipeline compressor station went out of service August 16th and nat gas prices went up 85% on the 16th in the region due to the outage.

    • Rough and oversimplified characterizations here that maybe provide a flavor. Within the U.S. there is a transition from building the grid just to meet firm power needs to building the grid to accomadate market needs and support intermittent power. In different regions there is a mix between those perspectives. The old way was to ensure that the grid would meet system needs delivered from “firm” or committed resources. (Resources that the utility had full capacity rights for and that could be counted on as dependable). Economy exchanges (when someone had excesses from a cheaper resource that could substitute for a more expensive resource elsewhere) were accommodated on a mostly space available basis. Because there are advantages to economy echanges occasional transmission improvements and enhancements would be made to support such. Looking at the world the old way it was problematic if conditions did not allow for full dispatch of firm resources to their load targets. Problems might occur if there were component outages or the generation from others imposed loop flows. Systems frequently would not allow all potential economy transactions. This was not necessarily seen as a problem.

      The old way does not do a good job of supporting intermittent resources and wider area economic dispatch associated with markets. Instead of studying in advance for committed resources (an endeavor that did not look at costs) LMP (locational marginal pricing) looks at what paths are creating bottlenecks in the dispatch and seeks to improve those and allocate costs among those who use the paths. There are all kinds of coast allocation challenges. Do you pay for improvements from charges by those who use them based on “auction” type considerations at one end or grant priority to those who prepaid for the paths?

      The piece talking about nuclear and grids could be written very differently from the perspective of “firm” nuclear power serving as a baseload for specific generation as opposed to nuclear trying to play a role within a market. For different parts of the country the different version might be more or less appropriate.

      • Thank you.

        Question: Under an assumption that we need existing nuclear, what would be your mechanisms to have the units compete (especially in de-regulated markets)? New York chose a social cost of carbon subsidy.

      • I think you’d need a carve out for the nuclear (I.e. sell as a base block not subject to the market). I am sure there are problems with such an approach, but they may well be less than otherwise.

  9. The price of WTI oil has been hovering around $48. It is up on talk by Saudi Arabia and Russia that they want to freeze production. This has happened before recently and the odds of OPEC sticking with any freeze agreement are slim to none.

    In the US production has been stable for the last couple of months and the rig count is rising. The lift of the export ban has helped US producers.


    Rig count breakdown:


  10. The prices being paid for undeveloped acreage in the Midland Basin continue to shoot into the blue empyrean.

    Four recent acquisitions: one for $28,000/acre, two for $32,000/acre and one for $42,000/acre.

    Concho Expands Midland Footprint with $1.6B Acquisition

  11. May’s Government Must Ensure Fracking Stays Safe in the UK

    • UK Prime Minister Theresa May sent a strong signal that her government is very keen to develop a shale gas industry in the country.

    • Number 10 Downing Street issued a statement that a portion of profits from shale gas drilling must go directly to households in the vicinity of such drilling.

    • Recent media reports suggest that the new plan would end up seeing families living near shale gas fracking sites receive five-figure sums.

    • Clearly May believes hard cash in the back pockets of people who may have concerns about shale gas drilling near their homes will speak better to them than rhetoric about the future energy security of Britain or promises of funds for new community facilities.

    • The Brexit vote that led to May’s appointment as Prime Minister has had some economists forecast doom for plenty of industries in the UK. Yet a UK shale gas industry could end up supporting some 30,000 full-time jobs directly involved with the activity as well as tens of thousands more in associated sectors, according to estimates. So, as an unintended consequence of Brexit, it isn’t as bad of a result from an economic perspective.

    • Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth are ideologically opposed to the production of hydrocarbons in whatever form they exist.

    • May’s move to give cash directly to households could prove a masterstroke, but Greenpeace’s Dr. Doug Parr doesn’t think so and pointed out in a recent statement that “public opposition has soared and support for shale has tanked.”

  12. “Wholesale electricity prices could rise 15% under CPP with nuclear closures”

    No problem– simply raise taxes on the productive to give government workers a raise to cover the increased of energy.

  13. A couple of thoughts on the nuclear power losing money article.

    The Price-Anderson act is a benefit to the nuclear industry. The difference is that it costs taxpayers nothing, whereas the “green” energy subsidies are in cash from the taxpayer to companies in the private sector. And it could be argued that the act saves the industry from irrationally high insurance rates.

    And IMO small, modular nuclear reactors will be cheaper to produce and operate per megawatt. We need to put taxpayer money into that bucket rather than wind and solar.

    • J2, there are a number of gen 4 fission concepts worth exploring in addition to Lockheed Skunkworks high beta fusion. General Atomics’ small modular is just one. I think we should work on all of them through some sort of pilot build to work out the kinks, and then chose one or two for commercialization. Right now the US system is rigged against any progress. Covered that waterfront in essay Going Nuclear.

  14. Hydropower…If. The DoE report the article discusses is ridiculous nonsense: 35.5 GW of pumped storage to offset renewable intermittency at 45% penetration by 2050. Ludington is 1,9MW x ~12 hours. Took 5 years to construct. Raccoon Mountain is 1.6MW x 22 hours. Took 8 years to construct. These are two of the largest pumped storage facilities in the US. Neither has the capacity to offset multiday wind intermittency (median capacity factor of wind is ~31%). DoE is calling for more than 20,000 additional equivalents to be on line by 2050. Utterly impossible.
    Pumped storage needs two things in the same place at the same time: lots of water and sufficient head. Ludington has Lake Michigan and a 200 foot bluff. Raccoon Mountain has TVA dammed Lake Nickajack on the Tennessee River plus (wait for it) Raccoon Mountain in the Tennessee Appalachians. Did these government idiots bother to look at maps to identify the >20,000 similar situations their report proposes? Pure green fantasy. Therefore so is 45% intermittent renewable penetration by 2050.
    As Heisenberg once said about a physics proposition, ‘So bad it is not even just wrong’.

  15. Biointensive minifarms. Great idea–not All we have to do is abandon cities and revert 90% of humanity to farming full time like in 1800. Another green fantasy where scope and scale perspectives are completely lost

    • Curious George

      The Congress should get a taste of it. Ban cars from Washington DC. Allow only horses and carriages. Force all members of the Congress to live in the city, and ban them from the subway.

  16. Truck efficiency climate regs. Things can be done for pickups and class 6-7 delivery trucks, albeit at some net cost. Specific examples include aluminum (new Ford F-150), DCT transmissions, and hybridization.
    None of that works for class 8 long haul semis. The single biggest cost is fuel, and truckers would ‘kill’ for a tenth of a mile efficiency advantage. Engine and truck manufactuers have been working very hard on this for decades. In 1985 I was part of the management team that redesigned the 9600 cab over. Moved the front wheel ~18 inches back (complete new steering and suspension), moved driver entry to forward of wheel, all to have room to install better front underside aerodynamics. Cost several tens of millions over 3 years. Navistar picked up about 0.1 MPG. Sold like hotcakes for three years until the competition copied. That why there are 10 liter turbos replacing 14 liter naturally aspirated diesels, cab top flare hoods, tank and side skirts, and trailer skirts lessening aerodynamic drag.
    The EPA reality is like CPP killing all coal generation. These regs would kill long haul trucking (forcing it to intermodal rail) and putting about 1.5 million people out of work. No wonder Buffett likes Obama and Clinton.

    • David L. Hagen

      EPA Regulations & Standards: Heavy-Duty

      The final standards are expected to lower CO2 emissions by approximately 1.1 billion metric tons, save vehicle owners fuel costs of about $170 billion, and reduce oil consumption by up to two billion barrels over the lifetime of the vehicles sold under the program.

      EPA Tells Trucking Industry to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Raise Fuel Efficiency

      The 1,690-page document, unveiled Tuesday following a multi-year review process, is intended to slash CO2 emissions by approximately 1.1 billion metric tons over the lifetime of the vehicles sold under the program, or about a 25 percent reduction compared to the current rules.

    • Re the programs to improve truck mileage: from EERE Network News:

      “The Energy Department on August 16 announced up to $137 million in investments for two programs to develop next-generation technologies and to accelerate technology advances for passenger cars and light trucks.

      One initiative, SuperTruck II, will continue work that originally began in 2010 to improve heavy-duty truck freight efficiency by 50%. Now, the Energy Department will fund four projects to develop and demonstrate cost-effective technologies that more than double the freight efficiency of Class 8 trucks, commonly known as 18-wheelers. These trucks haul 80% of goods in the United States and use about 28 billion gallons of fuel per year, accounting for around 22% of total transportation energy usage.

      The Energy Department awarded the following four projects $20 million in federal funding, and each recipient will match that amount, dollar-for-dollar:

      Cummins Inc. in Columbus, Indiana, will design and develop a new, more-efficient engine and advanced drivetrain and vehicle technologies.

      Daimler Trucks North America in Portland, Oregon, will develop and demonstrate a tractor-trailer combination using a suite of technologies.

      Navistar in Lisle, Illinois, will design and develop a vehicle and powertrain with electrified engine components that can enable higher engine efficiency and a significantly more aerodynamically reengineered cab.

      Volvo Technology of America in Greensboro, North Carolina, will develop and demonstrate a tractor-trailer combination with a lightweight cab that achieves the freight efficiency goal using alternative engine designs and a variety of system technologies.”

      My own comment is that large trucks have abundant areas for mileage improvement. This has been known for decades. The technology now exists to make those improvements. The improvements will last for lifetimes, just as more aerodynamic features still exist on passenger cars.

      A barrel of oil saved is a barrel of oil not purchased from the Middle East. That’s a win for the USA.

      With electric cars soon to decrease gasoline demand, aerodynamic trucks with efficient drive trains decreasing diesel demand, what we need now is a way to decrease jet fuel demand.

      Or, we can just hydrocrack our own US-produced gasoil to jet fuel.

  17. It’s worth mentioning Clean Energy Fuels founded and run by T. Boone Pickens. They build and supply natural gas filling stations across the country. The stock hasn’t done well primarily due to the station build-out debt. But they showed a profit last quarter which was not expected by Wall Street. They are growing their customer base as well as the station footprint.


    • J2, a bold move but probably self limited to niche profitability.
      CNG for local fleets that switch to spark ignited diesels makes sense at some CNG/diesel price delta. E.g. refuse haulers. Reason is trash truck routes are short by definition (trash volume limited) and refueling stations are always nearby–just put them at destination landfills. Republic refuse trucks here in Fort Lauderdale are already all CNG. So are about half the metro busses– including even some CNG hybrids (regenerative braking is economic in metro routes). Maybe CEF enabled, dunno.
      Regional distribution hub fleets, dicey. Depends on route lengths and stop densities. Probably some leverage with high enough diesel prices and route densities (metro, not suburban), but probably not now.
      But a nationwide long haul network, that is very risky. There are two problems. 1. Distance between refuelings is less with CNG than diesel. Is inherent in volumetric energy density and max fuel tankage. So more stops equals less driver productivity. 2. Route certainty. Truckers pick up loads via dispatch. Very few have any route certainty. Maybe regular daily US postal between cities. Certainly not general freight long haul.

  18. Colorado River climate change trouble. Interesting article, especially for a number of misconceptions. For the history of hydrology of the Colorado River basin, see USGS fact sheet 2004-3062. The Colorado compact allocated water between the states and Mexico based on a historic high flow from 1910-1922. In fact the century long trend has been negative, so nothing to do with CAGW since 1975. The “mid century drought” from 1952-1962 did not draw down Meade and Powell because the water consumption of Nevada, Arizona, and California was much less than now. See fig. 3 for both facts.
    The 21st century drought starting ~2000 has drawn the reservoirs down because the net flow shortfall is about 1.5 million acre feet annually, while Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California are consuming their maximum allotments under the 1922 compact.
    The present drought may be regional climate change, but not CAGW since during that period satellite global temps havn’t changed–except for the now rapidly cooling 2015 El Nino blip that temporarily helped alleviate the drought.
    The Colorado basin is another physical example of how global climate models do NOT regionally downscale.
    The linked article is confused concerning the two previous paragraphs.

    • Danny Thomas

      While reading the WAPO article it struck me. Mead is a man made lake being impacted by man modified climate. The water use is for man modified land practices.

      Guess I’m not very observant or a very slow learner.

  19. Nothing surprising about the best use of farmland diet piece. Typical tree hugger, anti meat bs.

  20. Why aren’t ships using wind power?

    Only a journalist could ask such a dumb question. Well, I should also include politicians and environmentalists.

    I noticed nothing about payback period in the article.

    • Curious George

      Columbus’s ships ran on wind power. But not on a fixed schedule.

      • Bunch of knee-jerk BS.

        You could actually read the article or the paper it references before making d00mb comments.

      • Curious George

        AK, thank you for your informed reply. Please go on.

      • I did read both articles. While I am not a farmer, I am a sailor. Sure one can harness the wind to move across oceans. But if you think the volume of goods shipped on a daily basis can be significantly impacted by a return to wind power, well I won’t say which part of you has been immersed in water the longest, out of respect for your opinions, which I have a great deal of, AK.

      • But if you think the volume of goods shipped on a daily basis can be significantly impacted by a return to wind power, […]

        Which isn’t what they’re talking about. Which you’d know if you’d read the article.

      • Here’s a video from (the marketing dept.) of one company. (Yes, I noticed that none of their pictures includes containers on deck.)

      • AK,

        That a kW hour costs half as much as running the engines is only half of the equation. The other half is the rate of use. Investing in high tech sails may not be all that attractive if you only can utilize them maybe 10% of the time.

        When steam was first introduced into ship design, the designers kept their sails and rigging. Once fossil fueled mechanical propulsion proved reliable, they got rid of sails. For a good reason – they were inefficient and added cost. Now, can technology and human ingenuity lead to sails being re-introduced? Sure. But I’m betting it will be very limited. At least until fossil fueled propulsion is no longer an option.

      • That a kW hour costs half as much as running the engines is only half of the equation. The other half is the rate of use. Investing in high tech sails may not be all that attractive if you only can utilize them maybe 10% of the time.

        Sure. But they’re probably going to be used 30-80% of the time.

        The point is, what these articles are talking about is not turning off the engines and ;pulling the boat with sails. It’s using the sails whenever the wind’s right to reduce the fuel consumption. Totally different set of cost/benefit calculations.

        The numbers they’re offering, based on live trials, are 5-20% fuel savings. At the high prices a couple years ago, that made very good economic sense. At the present prices? My guess is that anything with these sails already installed will get good benefit from them, but nobody’s going to install/retrofit any more till the price of fuel goes back up.

        Or the cost of the sails goes down far enough with learning curve.

      • A common tactic used by the Anti Renewable Energy crowd here at C.E. is an absolute refusal to consider the concept of penetration levels. Their comments will always be to maximize conflict with a paradigm of 100% Renewables versus 100% fossil or nuclear energy. This is clearly not “good faith”.

  21. Buffering volatility: A study on the limits of Germany’s energy revolution

    Well, duh. Only read the abstract but that is enough.

    With only wind and solar power, if Germany wanted to have enough wind/solar capacity to have avoided the need for over 17 TWh of storage on at least two occasions over the the past year or so, then it would need more than 5x the windmill and solar panel capacity that it currently has in place. This would require the equivalent of about 125,000 2MW wind generators in a country of about 140,000 square miles of land area. Of course, on windy sunny days much of that capacity must be curtailed or huge sinks found for the excess power.

    Some “futurists” think that international subsea power cables may help. A relatively recent example feeds Tasmania under the Bass Strait and cost over two million US dollars per kilometer to build. There are real concerns about fragility, difficulty to repair (research the Basslink 6 month outage), and vulnerability to undersea sabotage. I don’t believe that the German industrial sector would be willing to hang from such a slender thread.

    The German experience will continue to provide real data which will become increasingly difficult to spin. So far it looks like wind + solar may provide some power to their national grid at prices which may or may not be competitive with fossil fuels, depending on accounting methods and ongoing technological improvements. It does not seem that Germany will ever be driven by wind + solar without very significant supplement and backup from fossil fuels, nuclear, or some other technologies currently unknown.

  22. The toilet revolution

    I have always had a fascination with simple inventions which had a huge impact upon society.

    Few ideas are simpler or as impactful as the “s” trap and the indoor toilet and sink which it enabled. With the indoor flushing toilet, mankind could occupy housing stacked vertically and compressed horizontally with few limits and still enjoy clean and healthy conditions. The “petri dish” effect of large cities was eliminated with this one improvement, using far less water than was needed for Roman-style sanitation. Once carried away, waste could be treated at a few key locations chosen by urban planners and engineers.

    But country folks and mariners, among others, have long known that the flush toilet may not always be the optimum solution. Many smart people have studied the problem for a long time, and for certain situations some pretty good solutions already exist. In any case, the world could certainly use more options which are socially acceptable and capable of improving local living conditions and community health. This seems like a very worthwhile project. I hope that it is managed well enough to avoid the human tendency to infest and destroy such well-intentioned initiatives.

    • Can I agree with both of your above comments? I live in a state with a flush tax. Your optimum comment struck me.
      Years ago I read a piece about a physician (I think he was in India) who worked with the U.N. Diarrhea and dysentery were responsible for most of the child mortality. He tackled the treatment rather than prevention. He put together medicinal clay, electrolytes, and vitamins in an in-expensive packet and then taught mothers to boil water and administer the medicine to the ailing child. Clean water and counter the effects of dehydration.
      I have tried to find citations to credit this champion of humanity on the web but have so far failed. The old article said he saved millions of children’s lives.
      Best is the enemy of good enough.
      If just one of those kids whose lives he saved, grows up to invent the magic toilet, that would be the best mud slushy money could buy.

  23. Good news, Wapo, Op-ed piece says Bay healthier (sorry can’t figure out how to do links, luddite) google news, read the article. Treasure the Chesapeake.

  24. From the article:

    Nuclear accident in New Mexico ranks among the costliest in U.S. history

    When a drum containing radioactive waste blew up in an underground nuclear dump in New Mexico two years ago, the Energy Department rushed to quell concerns in the Carlsbad desert community and quickly reported progress on resuming operations.

    The early federal statements gave no hint that the blast had caused massive long-term damage to the dump, a facility crucial to the nuclear weapons cleanup program that spans the nation, or that it would jeopardize the Energy Department’s credibility in dealing with the tricky problem of radioactive waste.

    But the explosion ranks among the costliest nuclear accidents in U.S. history, according to a Times analysis. The long-term cost of the mishap could top $2 billion, an amount roughly in the range of the cleanup after the 1979 partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania.


    • Curious George

      They should have outsourced the cleanup to the EPA. EPA managed to pay the Navajo Nation only $150,000 for a major toxic spill into Animas river.

      • It wasn’t toxic. It was rust. Iron oxide. Not usually the stuff of murder mysteries.

  25. The Niskanen Center has a piece on how Clinton will wage the war on coal.

    It comes in the form of the Social Cost of Carbon meets Section 115 of the Clean Air Act.

    On August 8, the Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) took another step closer to being the default monetary value applied to each ton of CO2, when the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals rather casually approved the Department of Energy’s cost-benefit calculations for commercial refrigeration equipment efficiency standards. Because the standards’ energy-saving benefits far outweighed the costs, the SCC was essentially a footnote to the rule, and the court’s brief affirmation contained little substantive analysis. But it is another brick in the wall. Or nail in the coffin. Choose your own metaphor.

    The SCC is a complex and controversial concept that has—to our surprise—faced little coherent opposition and no serious legal challenge from those with most to lose from its application.