Another Environmental Fuss Over Nothing

They keep saying “Plastic is forever” and wanting to ban plastic bags and straws to save the planet. It turns out that plastic does degrade realtively rapidly in the environment, under the influence of sunlight and microbes.

This article talks about plastic in the ocean, and we still need o be responsible in disposing of rubbish. There is no denying that animals near coastlines can be badly damaged by plastic, but outside of that particluar niche, not so much.

From wattsupwiththat.com

Plastics: Science is Winning

Kip Hansen / 2 hours ago October 18, 2019

Guest Essay by Kip Hansen — 18 October 2019

Science is beginning to win in the long battle over misinformed anti-plastic advocacy.  It has been a long time coming.  The most recent paper on the subject of pelagic plastic (plastic floating in the oceans) is from a scientific team at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, Mass., and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The study is “Sunlight Converts Polystyrene to Carbon Dioxide and Dissolved Organic Carbon” by Collin P. Ward, Cassia J. Armstrong, Anna N. Walsh, Julia H. Jackson and Christopher M. Reddy.   It is good basic science.

styrene_cups

We are all familiar with polystyrene — it is prevalent in modern packaging, both as a solid,  such as yoghurt cups, or in expanded form used for disposable foam drink cups.  Much of the plastic flotsam found on the worlds beaches and floating  in rivers is this ubiquitous plastic, particularly the expanded foam.

The new abstract of the new study starts with this:

“ABSTRACT:   Numerous international governmental agencies that steer policy assume that polystyrene persists in the environment for millennia.  Here, we show that polystyrene is completely photochemically oxidized to carbon dioxide and partially photochemically oxidized to dissolved organic carbon. Lifetimes of complete and partial photochemical oxidation are estimated to occur on centennial and decadal time scales, respectively. These lifetimes are orders of magnitude faster than biological respiration of polystyrene and thus challenge the prevailing assumption that polystyrene persists in the environment for millennia.”   [ bolding mine — kh ]

It is about time that someone scientifically challenged the activist position held and promulgated by many environmental, anti-plastics and anti-corporate groups that “Plastic is Forever”.

Plastic is not forever.  Glass, both natural and man-made,  is forever, but not plastic.

Read the rest of the article here

Solar Roads Epic Fail

Remember the hype a few years ago about “solar roads”? These were roads with embedded solar panels that would generate enough power to save the planet. It seems that, as any engineer can tell you, the real world is a much tougher place than a lab. Things get dirty and wear out so that you $6 million dollars investment in 1 km of road in a cloudy part of France might not be terribly effective.

From Jo Nova

Solar road is $6m epic disaster — 4% capacity, broken and so noisy speed-limits were cut

Solar Road, Normandy, France, photo.

Solar Road, Normandy, France   |  Credit: KumKum

Would you like to drive slower, add to noise pollution and waste money? Then solar roads are for you:

The world’s first solar road has turned out to be a colossal failure…

Ruqayyah Moynihan and Lidia Montes, Business Insider

  • Two years after the world’s first solar road — the Normandy road in France — was set up, it’s turned out to be a colossal failure, according to a report by Le Monde.
  • The road has deteriorated to a terrible state, it isn’t producing anywhere near the amount of energy it had previously pledged to, and the traffic it has brought with it is causing noise problems.

The original aim was to produce 790 kWh each day, a quantity that could illuminate a population of between 3,000 and 5,000 inhabitants. But the rate produced stands at only about 50% of the original predicted estimates.

Even rotting leaves and thunderstorms appear to pose a risk in terms of damage to the surface of the road. What’s more, the road is very noisy, which is why the traffic limit had to be lowered to 70 kmh.

Despite costing up to roughly $6.1 million, the solar road became operational in 2016.

The 1km road is in Tourouvre-au-Perch, Normandy, France made by Colas.

Leaves fall on the road, then cars grind the leaves on the beautiful polymer surface. The road isn’t angled towards the sun, gets brutally hot, and both reduce efficiency. If the top polymer layer was thicker and tougher, less solar energy would get through. Planting trees beside the road would cool it, but the shade…

Who likes trees anyhow? Not the Greens.

 Getting 50% worse than expected every year:

Anna Versai, Technowize, Aug 19th, 2019

The stretch of the road in Tourouvre-au-Perch, Normandy, France was meant to produce about 150,000 kWh a year, which is enough to provide light to up to 5,000 people, every day. Instead, it made less than 80,000 in 2018, and fewer than 40,000 by July 2019.

Meant to power lights for a city of 5000 people:

Translating the Le Monde article, for €5 million in public funds they now generate € 1,450 worth of electricity per year and falling.

Financed by public funds of € 5 million and supported by Colas (Bouygues Group), the subsidiary Wattway aimed to provide the equivalent of the annual consumption of public lighting in a city. of 5,000 inhabitants.

The general director of services of the departmental council of the Orne made his accounts: “The revenue from the sale of electricity produced by the road should bring us 10 500 euros per year, details Gilles Morvan. In 2017, we received 4,550 euros. In 2018, 3,100 euros, and for the first quarter of 2019, we are at 1,450 euros. “

Not much sun there to start with? From Science Alert:

There proved to be several problems with this goal. The first was that Normandy is not historically known as a sunny area. At the time, the region’s capital city of Caen only got 44 days of strong sunshine a year, and not much has changed since. Storms have wrecked havoc with the systems, blowing circuits. But even if the weather was in order, it appears the panels weren’t built to capture them efficiently.

There’s 40 smaller roads like this?

For its part, Colas has admitted the project is a bust. “Our system is not mature for inter-urban traffic,” Etienne Gaudin, Colas’ chief executive of Wattway, told Le Monde. The company also operates 40 similar solar roads, smaller than the one in Normandy.

A solar bike path in the Netherlands works better:

In the Netherlands, a solar bike path has been declared a success. Dubbed the SolaRoad, the bike path is exactly what its name suggests. The electricity generated by SolaRoad is used for various purposes such as traffic management systems, public lighting, households, and electric mobility.

At the beginning of the trial, an energy yield of between 50 and 70 kWh/m2/year was expected. SolaRoad exceeded expectations by yielding 73  kWh/m2/year (first version, built in 2014) and 93 kWh/m2/year (second, improved version, built in 2016).

There were hiccups despite its impressive results. Due to poor weather conditions, a top layer of the solar bike path came off, and a major path had to be shut down.

The French solar road has a capacity factor of 4%

And this was a year ago. Probably that capacity factor is now 2%.

Dylan Ryan, The Conversion, Sept 2018

One of the first solar roads to be installed is in Tourouvre-au-Perche, France. This has a maximum power output of 420 kW, covers 2,800 m² and cost €5m to install. This implies a cost of €11,905 (£10,624) per installed kW.

While the road is supposed to generate 800 kilowatt hours per day (kWh/day), some recently released data indicates a yield closer to 409 kWh/day, or 150,000 kWh/yr. For an idea of how much this is, the average UK home uses around 10 kWh/day. The road’s capacity factor – which measures the efficiency of the technology by dividing its average power output by its potential maximum power output – is just 4%.

In contrast, the Cestas solar plant near Bordeaux, which features rows of solar panels carefully angled towards the sun, has a maximum power output of 300,000 kW and a capacity factor of 14%. And at a cost of €360m (£321m), or €1,200 (£1,070) per installed kW, one-tenth the cost of our solar roadway, it generates three times more power.

Dylan Ryan is a lecturer in Mechanical & Energy Engineering at Edinburgh Napier University.

In Idaho a solar road had an 83% failure rate:

Andrew Follet, Daily Caller, October 2016

Despite massive internet hype, the prototype of the solar “road” can’t be driven on, hasn’t generate any electricity and 75 percent of the panels were broken before they were even installed. Of the panels installed to make a “solar footpath,” 18 of the 30 were dead on arrival due to a manufacturing failure. A short rain shower caused another four panels to fail, and only five panels appear to be presently functional. The prototype appears to be plagued by drainage issues, poor manufacturing controls and fundamental design flaws.

Can’t power a whole microwave oven, April 2017

The Solar FREAKIN’ Roadways project generated an average of 0.62 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity per day since it began publicly posting power data in late March. To put that in perspective, the average microwave or blow drier consumes about 1 kWh per day.

Modern Wheat More Robust Than Older Varieties

From wattsupwiththat.com:

Wheat myth debunked

The pervasive myth that intensive breeding has made modern wheat cultivars weaker and more dependent on pesticides and fertilisers is debunked by a major new study

University of Queensland

This is Kai Voss-Fels at the wheat trial site. Credit: Kai Voss-Fels

This is Kai Voss-Fels at the wheat trial site. Credit: Kai Voss-Fels

The myth that modern wheat varieties are more heavily reliant on pesticides and fertilisers is debunked by new research published in Nature Plants today.

Lead author on the paper, Dr Kai Voss-Fels, a research fellow at The University of Queensland, said modern wheat cropping varieties actually out-perform older varieties in both optimum and harsh growing conditions.

“There is a view that intensive selection and breeding which has produced the high-yielding wheat cultivars used in modern cropping systems has also made modern wheat less resilient and more dependent on chemicals to thrive,” said Dr Voss-Fels.

“However, the data unequivocally shows that modern wheat varieties out-perform older varieties, even under conditions of reduced amounts of fertilisers, fungicides and water,” he said.

“We also found that genetic diversity within the often-criticised modern wheat gene pool is rich enough to generate a further 23 per cent increase in yields.”

Dr Voss-Fels said the findings might surprise some farmers and environmentalists.

“Quite a few people will be taken aback by just how tough modern wheat varieties proved to be, even in harsh growing conditions, such as drought, and using less chemical inputs.”

Dr Voss-Fels said the findings could have potentially important implications for raising the productivity of organic cropping systems. “It’s been widely assumed that the older wheat cultivars are more robust and resilient but it’s actually the modern cultivars that perform best in optimum and sub-optimum conditions.”

Wheat is the world’s most important food crop.

However, with global wheat yields reduced due to droughts in recent years and more climate risk anticipated in the future, the hardiness of modern wheat varieties is an issue of global significance.

The study is believed to provide the most detailed description of the consequences of intensive breeding and genetic selection for high grain yield and associated traits in European wheat over the past 50 years.

It was led by Professor Rod Snowdon of the Justus-Liebig-University Gießen (JLU), who is also an honorary Professor at UQ, in collaboration with seven other German universities.

The genetic analysis was undertaken at QAAFI under the leadership of Professor Ben Hayes.

The first part of the study involved testing 200 wheat varieties that have been essential to agriculture in Western Europe in the past 50 years.

Performance was compared between those varieties in side-by-side field trials under high, medium and low chemical input conditions. The second part of the study was undertaken at QAAFI, to match the performance differences with the different varieties’ genetic make-up.

“This genetic information allows us to take the discovery to the next level,” Dr Voss-Fels says.

“We can use artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to predict the optimal crosses needed to bring together the most favourable segments as fast as possible.”

###

The paper ‘Breeding improves wheat productivity under contrasting agrochemical input levels’ was published in Nature Plants 17 June 2019 (DOI: 10.1038/s41477-019-0445-5).

 

The Great Extinction Myth Exploded

A few weeks ago when the UN report about biodiversity was released, the media unquestioningly reported that millions of species were going extinct and humans are the problem.

My initial, cynical reaction was, “Gee they have discovered that nobody is listening to the climate change scare any more so they’ve found a new scare.”

It also runs counter to what we are seeing around the world. Every year more and more land is converted to national parks, and for some years now the amount of land being reforested exceeds the area being cleared. Agriculture is becoming more efficient, food is more plentiful, people are moving to cities. Even with a still increasing global population we will have plenty of potential food for decades to come.

In fact, the only bleak spots are those caused by the demands of environmentalists. For example the EU has mandated a certain amount of so-called bio-diesel to be used in vehicles, leading to massive clearing of forests in Indonesia and Malaysia to plant palm trees. The other folly is the requirement to use ethanol in petrol in many developed countries. The main source of this is from corn in North America, leading to an increase in the price of corn, a staple food for millions of poor people, of between 5% and 10%

Anyway the extinction report claims that millions of species are going extinct in our time. Here is the only graph in the Summary for Policy Makers

Scary graph, until you look at the labels on the axes. “Cumulative % of species driven extinct.” It is not clear exactly what that means, but it does seem to be adding all the previous values as you go. That curve can never go down. It’s a bit like the old “hockey stick” of Al Gore fame.

Here is the actual number of extinctions per decade recorded by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

So, it’s not quite zero, but we are heading in the right direction- the opposite direction to the one the UN would have us believe.

Oh look that decline is happening right through the period of time when so-called human caused global warming is happening.

These graphs are from a much more detailed article by Gregory Wrightson which I encourage you to read.

The so-called “Mass Extinction” is, sadly, another example of science being politicised and twisted to cause alarm.

Volcano produced in 6 months

Some people ridicule creationists for believing in a “Young Earth”, but when geology happens in front of your eyes, then there is a deep flaw in the “deep time” theory.

From wattsupwiththat.com

Birth of an underwater volcano: “This thing was built from zero in 6 months!”… Which is a lot less than 12 years

David Middleton / 1 hour ago May 22, 2019

Guest geological observation by David Middleton

From the American Association for the Advancement of SCIENCE! of America…

Ship spies largest underwater eruption ever
By Roland PeaseMay. 21, 2019 , 1:20 PM


Last week, Marc Chaussidon, director of the Institute of Geophysics in Paris (IPGP), looked at seafloor maps from a recently concluded mission and saw a new mountain. Rising from the Indian Ocean floor between Africa and Madagascar was a giant edifice 800 meters high and 5 kilometers across. In previous maps, there had been nothing. “This thing was built from zero in 6 months!” Chaussidon says.

His team, along with scientists from the French national research agency CNRS and other institutes, had witnessed the birth of a mysterious submarine volcano, the largest such underwater event ever witnessed. “We have never seen anything like this,” says IPGP’s Nathalie Feuillet, leader of an expedition to the site by the research vessel Marion Dufresne, which released its initial results last week.

The quarter-million people living on the French island of Mayotte in the Comoros archipelago knew for months that something was happening. From the middle of last year they felt small earthquakes almost daily, says Laure Fallou, a sociologist with the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre in Bruyères-le-Châtel, France. People “needed information,” she says. “They were getting very stressed, and were losing sleep.”

[…]

Science! As in “She blinded me with…”

China Leaps Forward With Fusion Power

From the ABC, an exciting step forward in cheap, sustainable power generation

China’s ‘artificial sun’ reaches 100 million degrees Celsius marking milestone for nuclear fusion

By Jack Kilbride and Bang Xiao

Chinese nuclear scientists have reached an important milestone in the global quest to harness energy from nuclear fusion, a process that occurs naturally in the sun.

Key points:

  • The ‘artificial sun’ is designed to replicate the fusion process that occurs in the sun
  • Dr Matthew Hole said the achievement is significant for fusion science around the world
  • Fusion is seen as a solution for energy issues as it is clean, sustainable and powerful

The team of scientists from China’s Institute of Plasma Physics announced this week that plasma in their Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) — dubbed the ‘artificial sun’ — reached a whopping 100 million degrees Celsius, temperature required to maintain a fusion reaction that produces more power than it takes to run.

To put that in perspective, the temperature at the core of the sun is said to be around 15 million degrees Celsius, making the plasma in China’s ‘artificial sun’ more than six times hotter than the original.

The news comes after China shocked the science community last month with plans to launch an ‘artificial moon’ bright enough to replace city streetlights by 2020.

A moon, which replaces the globe in a light globe, hangs over Chengdu's cityscape.

PHOTO: Chinese scientists plan to send three artificial moons into space in the next four years. (ABC News: Graphic by Jarrod Fankhauser)

Speaking to the ABC, associate professor Matthew Hole from the Australian National University said the achievement was an important step for nuclear fusion science.

“It’s certainly a significant step for China’s nuclear fusion program and an important development for the whole world,” Dr Hole told the ABC, adding that developing fusion reactors could be the solution to global energy problems.

“The benefit is simple in that it is very large-scale base load [continuous] energy production, with zero greenhouse gas emissions and no long-life radioactive waste.

“It provides a silver bullet energy solution … providing that one can harness it.”

Fusion vs fission

How close are we to having nuclear plants that fit the clean, green bill? We explain the how different nuclear technologies work and where the research is up to.

He added that nuclear fusion reactors also avoid risks associated with the currently employed nuclear fission reactors, which can be adapted into dangerous weapons and are prone to possible catastrophic meltdowns.

The news went viral on Chinese social media, with most users excited by the achievement.

“There is nothing China can’t make,” one user on Weibo said.

Another proclaimed that “if this technology is put in use, the world will no longer feel anxious about the energy crisis.”

So how did China manage to pull it off?

China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST), dubbed the 'artificial sun'.

PHOTO: China’s Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST), dubbed the ‘artificial sun’. (Supplied: Institute of Plasma Physics Chinese Academy of Sciences)

While current nuclear power plants rely on nuclear fission — a chain reaction where uranium atoms are split to release energy — nuclear fusion effectively does the opposite by forcing atoms to merge.

One way of achieving this on Earth is by using what’s known as a tokamak, a device designed to replicate the nuclear fusion process that occurs naturally in the sun and stars to generate energy.

The EAST that pulled off the 100 million Celsius feat stands at 11-metres tall, has a diameter of eight metres, and weighs around 360 thousand kilograms.

The metal insides of the EAST

PHOTO: High-powered magnets line the ‘doughnut shaped’ inside of EAST. (Supplied: Institute of Plasma Physics Chinese Academy of Sciences)

It uses a doughnut-shaped ring to house heavy and super-heavy isotopes — atomic variations — of hydrogen known as deuterium and tritium.

The isotopes are heated by powerful electric currents within the tokamak, tearing electrons away from their atoms and forming a charged plasma of hydrogen ions.

Powerful magnets lining the inner walls of EAST then contain the plasma to a tiny area to maximise the chance that the ions will fuse together.

When the ions fuse they give off a large amount of energy, which can then be harnessed to run a power plant and produce electricity.

The Chinese research team said they were able to achieve the record temperature through the use of various new techniques in heating and controlling the plasma, but could only maintain the state for around 10 seconds.

The latest breakthrough provided experimental evidence that reaching the 100 million degrees Celsius mark is possible, according to China’s Institute of Plasma Physics.

Nuclear fusion a global mission, but not in Australia

Aerial shot shows the construction of the ITER

PHOTO: ITER is set to be completed around 2025. (Supplied: ITER Organization/EJF Riche)

Dr Hole said that while the energy possibilities of nuclear fusion as a clean energy source has attracted large investment from countries all over the world — including China — Australia has lagged behind.

“As a nation, Australia is about to lose its capability in fusion,” Dr Hole said, adding that many of his colleagues have changed field or are looking for work overseas due to a lack of investment in fusion science.

“Australia used to have good investment in this space, but it has really been neglected in recent years.”

He said that the achievement by EAST will be important to the development of the next major experiment in global nuclear fusion science: the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER).

Currently being built in southern France with collaboration from 35 nations including China, ITER is set to be the first fusion device to consistently produce net energy, producing 500 Megawatts of clean and sustainable power.

As EAST has a similar design to ITER but on a far smaller scale, it is likely to be an important testing device during the development of ITER, according to China’s Institute of Plasma Physics.

ITER is expected to be ready to create its first plasma and begin operations in 2025.

An aerial view shows the ITER site spanning across the French countryside

PHOTO: ITER will be the first in the world to produce more energy than it takes to run. (Supplied: ITER Organization/EJF Riche)