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New Study Shows Total North American Methane Leaks Far Worse than EPA Estimates | DeSmogBlog

New Study Shows Total North American Methane Leaks Far Worse than EPA Estimates | DeSmogBlog.

Fri, 2014-02-14 12:40SHARON KELLY

Sharon Kelly's picture

Just how bad is natural gas for the climate?

A lot worse than previously thought, new research on methane leaks concludes.

Far more natural gas is leaking into the atmosphere nationwide than the Environmental Protection Agency currently estimates, researchers concluded after reviewing more than 200 different studies of natural gas leaks across North America.

The ground-breaking study, published today in the prestigious journal Science, reports that the Environmental Protection Agency has understated how much methane leaks into the atmosphere nationwide by between 25 and 75 percent — meaning that the fuel is far more dangerous for the climate than the Obama administration asserts.

The study, titled “Methane Leakage from North American Natural Gas Systems,” was conducted by a team of 16 researchers from institutions including Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and is making headlines because it finally and definitively shows that natural gas production and development can make natural gas worse than other fossil fuels for the climate.

The research, which was reported in The Washington PostBloomberg and The New York Times, was funded by a foundation created by the late George P. Mitchell, the wildcatter who first successfully drilled shale gas, so it would be hard to dismiss it as the work of environmentalists hell-bent on discrediting the oil and gas industry.

The debate over the natural gas industry’s climate change effects has raged for several years, ever since researchers from Cornell University stunned policy-makers and environmentalists by warning that if enough methane seeps out between the gas well and the burner, relying on natural gas could be even more dangerous for the climate than burning coal.

Natural gas is mostly comprised of methane, an extraordinarily powerful greenhouse gas, which traps heat 86 times more effectively than carbon dioxide during the two decades after it enters the atmosphere, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, so even small leaks can have major climate impacts.

The team of researchers echoed many of the findings of the Cornell researchers and described how the federal government’s official estimate proved far too low.

“Atmospheric tests covering the entire country indicate emissions around 50 percent more than EPA estimates,” said Adam Brandt, the lead author of the new report and an assistant professor of energy resources engineering at Stanford University. “And that’s a moderate estimate.”

The new paper drew some praise from Dr. Robert Howarth, one of the Cornell scientists.

“This study is one of many that confirms that EPA has been underestimating the extent of methane leakage from the natural gas industry, and substantially so,” Dr. Howarth wrote, adding that the estimates for methane leaks in his 2011 paper and the new report are “in excellent agreement.”

In November, research led by Harvard University found that the leaks from the natural gas industry have been especially under-estimated. That study, published inthe Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, reported that methane emissions from fossil fuel extraction and oil refineries in some regions are nearly five times higher than previous estimates, and was one of the 200 included in Thursday’s Science study.

EPA Estimes Far Off-Target

So how did the EPA miss the mark by such a high margin?

The EPA’s estimate depends in large part on calculations — take the amount of methane released by an average cow, and multiply it by the number of cattle nationwide. Make a similar guess for how much methane leaks from an average gas well. But this leaves out a broad variety of sources — leaking abandoned natural gas wells, broken valves and the like.

Their numbers never jibed with findings from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Department of Energy, which approached the problem by taking measurements of methane and other gas levels from research flights and the tops of telecommunications towers.

But while these types of measurements show how much methane is in the atmosphere, they don’t explain where that methane came from. So it was still difficult to figure out how much of that methane originated from the oil and gas industry.

At times, EPA researchers went to oil and gas drilling sites to take measurements. But they relied on driller’s voluntary participation. For instance, one EPA study requested cooperation from 30 gas companies so they could measure emissions, but only six companies allowed the EPA on site.

“It’s impossible to take direct measurements of emissions from sources without site access,” said Garvin Heath, a senior scientist with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and a co-author of the new analysis in a press release. “Self-selection bias may be contributing to why inventories suggest emission levels that are systematically lower than what we sense in the atmosphere.” (DeSmog haspreviously reported on the problem of industry-selected well sites in similar research funded by the Environmental Defense Fund.)

Worse than Coal?

There was, however, one important point that the news coverage so far missed and that deserves attention — a crucial point that could undermine entirely the notion that natural gas can serve as a “bridge fuel” to help the nation transition away from other, dirtier fossil fuels.

In their press release, the team of researchers compared the climate effects of different fuels, like diesel and coal, against those of natural gas.

They found that powering trucks or busses with natural gas made things worse.

“Switching from diesel to natural gas, that’s not a good policy from a climate perspective” explained the study’s lead author, Adam R. Brandt, an assistant professor in the Department of Energy Resources at Stanford, calling into question a policy backed by President Obama in his recent State of the Union address.

The researchers also described the effects of switching from coal to natural gas for electricity — concluding that coal is worse for the climate in some cases. “Even though the gas system is almost certainly leakier than previously thought, generating electricity by burning gas rather than coal still reduces the total greenhouse effect over 100 years, the new analysis shows,” the team wrote in a press release.

But they failed to address the climate impacts of natural gas over a shorter period — the decades when the effects of methane are at their most potent.

“What is strange about this paper is how they interpret methane emissions:  they only look at electricity, and they only consider the global warming potential of methane at the 100-year time frame,” said Dr. Howarth. Howarth’s 2011 Cornell study reviewed all uses of gas, noting that electricity is only roughly 30% of use in the US, and describing both a 20- and a 100-year time frame.

The choice of time-frame is vital because methane does not last as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, so impact shifts over time. “The new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report from last fall — their first update on the global situation since 2007 — clearly states that looking only at the 100 year time frame is arbitrary, and one should also consider shorter time frames, including a 10-year time frame,” Dr. Howarth pointed out.

Another paper, published in Science in 2012, explains why it’s so important to look at the shorter time frames.

Unless methane is controlled, the planet will warm by 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius over the next 17 to 35 years, and that’s even if carbon dioxide emissions are controlled. That kind of a temperature rise could potentially shift the climate of our planet into runaway feedback of further global warming.

“[B]y only looking at the 100 year time frame and only looking at electricity production, this new paper is biasing the analysis of greenhouse gas emissions between natural gas and coal in favor of natural gas being low,” said Dr. Howarth, “and by a huge amount, three to four to perhaps five fold.”

Dr. Howarth’s colleague, Prof. Anthony Ingraffea, raised a similar complaint.

“Once again, there is a stubborn use of the 100-year impact of methane on global warming, a factor about 30 times that of CO2,” Dr. Ingraffea told Climate Central, adding that there is no scientific justification to use the 100-year time window.

“That is a policy decision, perhaps based on faulty understanding of the climate change situation in which we find ourselves, perhaps based on wishful thinking,” he said.

For its part, the oil and gas industry seems very aware of the policy implications of this major new research and is already pushing back against any increased oversight of its operations.

“Given that producers are voluntarily reducing methane emissions,” Carlton Carroll, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute, told The New York Times in an interview about the new study, “additional regulations are not necessary.”
Photo Credit: “White Smoke from Coal-Fired Power Plant,” via Shutterstock.

New Study Shows Total North American Methane Leaks Far Worse than EPA Estimates | DeSmogBlog

New Study Shows Total North American Methane Leaks Far Worse than EPA Estimates | DeSmogBlog.

Fri, 2014-02-14 12:40SHARON KELLY

Sharon Kelly's picture

Just how bad is natural gas for the climate?

A lot worse than previously thought, new research on methane leaks concludes.

Far more natural gas is leaking into the atmosphere nationwide than the Environmental Protection Agency currently estimates, researchers concluded after reviewing more than 200 different studies of natural gas leaks across North America.

The ground-breaking study, published today in the prestigious journal Science, reports that the Environmental Protection Agency has understated how much methane leaks into the atmosphere nationwide by between 25 and 75 percent — meaning that the fuel is far more dangerous for the climate than the Obama administration asserts.

The study, titled “Methane Leakage from North American Natural Gas Systems,” was conducted by a team of 16 researchers from institutions including Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and is making headlines because it finally and definitively shows that natural gas production and development can make natural gas worse than other fossil fuels for the climate.

The research, which was reported in The Washington PostBloomberg and The New York Times, was funded by a foundation created by the late George P. Mitchell, the wildcatter who first successfully drilled shale gas, so it would be hard to dismiss it as the work of environmentalists hell-bent on discrediting the oil and gas industry.

The debate over the natural gas industry’s climate change effects has raged for several years, ever since researchers from Cornell University stunned policy-makers and environmentalists by warning that if enough methane seeps out between the gas well and the burner, relying on natural gas could be even more dangerous for the climate than burning coal.

Natural gas is mostly comprised of methane, an extraordinarily powerful greenhouse gas, which traps heat 86 times more effectively than carbon dioxide during the two decades after it enters the atmosphere, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, so even small leaks can have major climate impacts.

The team of researchers echoed many of the findings of the Cornell researchers and described how the federal government’s official estimate proved far too low.

“Atmospheric tests covering the entire country indicate emissions around 50 percent more than EPA estimates,” said Adam Brandt, the lead author of the new report and an assistant professor of energy resources engineering at Stanford University. “And that’s a moderate estimate.”

The new paper drew some praise from Dr. Robert Howarth, one of the Cornell scientists.

“This study is one of many that confirms that EPA has been underestimating the extent of methane leakage from the natural gas industry, and substantially so,” Dr. Howarth wrote, adding that the estimates for methane leaks in his 2011 paper and the new report are “in excellent agreement.”

In November, research led by Harvard University found that the leaks from the natural gas industry have been especially under-estimated. That study, published inthe Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, reported that methane emissions from fossil fuel extraction and oil refineries in some regions are nearly five times higher than previous estimates, and was one of the 200 included in Thursday’s Science study.

EPA Estimes Far Off-Target

So how did the EPA miss the mark by such a high margin?

The EPA’s estimate depends in large part on calculations — take the amount of methane released by an average cow, and multiply it by the number of cattle nationwide. Make a similar guess for how much methane leaks from an average gas well. But this leaves out a broad variety of sources — leaking abandoned natural gas wells, broken valves and the like.

Their numbers never jibed with findings from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Department of Energy, which approached the problem by taking measurements of methane and other gas levels from research flights and the tops of telecommunications towers.

But while these types of measurements show how much methane is in the atmosphere, they don’t explain where that methane came from. So it was still difficult to figure out how much of that methane originated from the oil and gas industry.

At times, EPA researchers went to oil and gas drilling sites to take measurements. But they relied on driller’s voluntary participation. For instance, one EPA study requested cooperation from 30 gas companies so they could measure emissions, but only six companies allowed the EPA on site.

“It’s impossible to take direct measurements of emissions from sources without site access,” said Garvin Heath, a senior scientist with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and a co-author of the new analysis in a press release. “Self-selection bias may be contributing to why inventories suggest emission levels that are systematically lower than what we sense in the atmosphere.” (DeSmog haspreviously reported on the problem of industry-selected well sites in similar research funded by the Environmental Defense Fund.)

Worse than Coal?

There was, however, one important point that the news coverage so far missed and that deserves attention — a crucial point that could undermine entirely the notion that natural gas can serve as a “bridge fuel” to help the nation transition away from other, dirtier fossil fuels.

In their press release, the team of researchers compared the climate effects of different fuels, like diesel and coal, against those of natural gas.

They found that powering trucks or busses with natural gas made things worse.

“Switching from diesel to natural gas, that’s not a good policy from a climate perspective” explained the study’s lead author, Adam R. Brandt, an assistant professor in the Department of Energy Resources at Stanford, calling into question a policy backed by President Obama in his recent State of the Union address.

The researchers also described the effects of switching from coal to natural gas for electricity — concluding that coal is worse for the climate in some cases. “Even though the gas system is almost certainly leakier than previously thought, generating electricity by burning gas rather than coal still reduces the total greenhouse effect over 100 years, the new analysis shows,” the team wrote in a press release.

But they failed to address the climate impacts of natural gas over a shorter period — the decades when the effects of methane are at their most potent.

“What is strange about this paper is how they interpret methane emissions:  they only look at electricity, and they only consider the global warming potential of methane at the 100-year time frame,” said Dr. Howarth. Howarth’s 2011 Cornell study reviewed all uses of gas, noting that electricity is only roughly 30% of use in the US, and describing both a 20- and a 100-year time frame.

The choice of time-frame is vital because methane does not last as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, so impact shifts over time. “The new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report from last fall — their first update on the global situation since 2007 — clearly states that looking only at the 100 year time frame is arbitrary, and one should also consider shorter time frames, including a 10-year time frame,” Dr. Howarth pointed out.

Another paper, published in Science in 2012, explains why it’s so important to look at the shorter time frames.

Unless methane is controlled, the planet will warm by 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius over the next 17 to 35 years, and that’s even if carbon dioxide emissions are controlled. That kind of a temperature rise could potentially shift the climate of our planet into runaway feedback of further global warming.

“[B]y only looking at the 100 year time frame and only looking at electricity production, this new paper is biasing the analysis of greenhouse gas emissions between natural gas and coal in favor of natural gas being low,” said Dr. Howarth, “and by a huge amount, three to four to perhaps five fold.”

Dr. Howarth’s colleague, Prof. Anthony Ingraffea, raised a similar complaint.

“Once again, there is a stubborn use of the 100-year impact of methane on global warming, a factor about 30 times that of CO2,” Dr. Ingraffea told Climate Central, adding that there is no scientific justification to use the 100-year time window.

“That is a policy decision, perhaps based on faulty understanding of the climate change situation in which we find ourselves, perhaps based on wishful thinking,” he said.

For its part, the oil and gas industry seems very aware of the policy implications of this major new research and is already pushing back against any increased oversight of its operations.

“Given that producers are voluntarily reducing methane emissions,” Carlton Carroll, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute, told The New York Times in an interview about the new study, “additional regulations are not necessary.”
Photo Credit: “White Smoke from Coal-Fired Power Plant,” via Shutterstock.

» Harvard Professor Warns of “Devastating” China-Japan War Alex Jones’ Infowars: There’s a war on for your mind!

» Harvard Professor Warns of “Devastating” China-Japan War Alex Jones’ Infowars: There’s a war on for your mind!.

Russian study says U.S. could easily defeat Beijing in nuclear conflict

Paul Joseph Watson
Infowars.com
January 23, 2014

Image: Ezra Vogel (Wikimedia Commons).

Harvard Professor Ezra Vogel warned of the devastating consequences of a potential war between China and Japan during a conference in Beijing.

Vogel, a Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences Emeritus at Harvard University, is an expert sinologist having written extensively on relations between the two countries for decades.

During his speech, Vogel highlighted Japan’s historical revisionism, characterized by the refusal in Japanese school textbooks to accept responsibility for the second world war, as well as the territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands, as the two key factors driving hostilities.

“Any potential war between the two nations would be devastating to both, Vogel said,” according to the Want China Times, “adding that it would take at least 10 years for Beijing and Tokyo to resume normalized relations if a third Sino-Japanese war were to take place.”

Vogel also urged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to stop visiting the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo that honors 14 war criminals who were executed as a result of post-war Allied tribunals. During his speech at Davos yesterday, Abe warned that the global community must restrain military expansion in Asia. Although he didn’t name them directly, Abe’s comments were obviously aimed at Beijing.

Vogel’s warning arrives concurrently with analysis by Moscow-based Expert magazine which suggests that the United States would easily defeat China in a potential nuclear war because Beijing is reliant on decades-old Soviet technology. Back in November, Chinese state-run media released a map showing the locations of major U.S. cities and how they would be impacted by a nuclear strike launched from the PLA’s strategic submarine force.

Earlier this week, state media reported that China’s new hypersonic missile vehicle is primarily designed to target U.S. aircraft carriers.

A deluge of aggressive rhetoric has emerged out of official Communist Party organs in recent months, including discussion about China’s ability to attack US military bases in the Western Pacific, as well as a lengthy editorial which appeared in Chinese state media last month explaining how the Chinese military’s current reformation process was part of a move by President Xi Jinping to prepare the People’s Liberation Army for war.

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Ponzi World (Over 3 Billion NOT Served): The Promise of the Joker and the Fool

Ponzi World (Over 3 Billion NOT Served): The Promise of the Joker and the Fool.

Blogs like this one are a total fucking waste of time. We are a handful of hardcore realists reading each others’ blogs and reinforcing what we already know. All while the stoned masses sit at home fat and happy watching the Kardashians, hypnotized by Dow Casino ticking higher with every passing day. After 2008, the comfort-seekers at large curled up into the fetal position and have remained that way ever since. Regardless, how can we possibly warn the oblivious masses about today’s economic risks when it’s all doomed to collapse under the weight of its own moral depravity? Basic logic dictates that the majority can’t all get out of a house of cards intact. The Idiocracy at large is totally bought in and sold out to the promise of the jokers and fools who run this globalized catastrophe, you know, the same ones who collapsed it the last time…

There is nothing any bearish blogger can do to bring about the collapse of this fabrication that global thought dealers are not already doing. They collapsed world markets in 2008 and they are fully capable of doing it again all on their own. These people went to the top schools in the U.S., the UK, Canada – across the world. They know what they are doing. They generated the 2008 clusterfuck, profited from it, and now are guiding us straight ahead to the next catastrophe. Who was at the helm of the Federal Reserve in 2006, 2007 and 2008?  Bernankenstein of course. And who until this very month has steadfastly been Wall Street’s largest leveraged banker? Bernankenstein. He saved us from a catastrophe that he himself subsidized. Soon he will hand over the reins to Janet Yellen, who has degrees from Yale and Brown, two more Ivy Leagues. Surely she can finish the job and pile drive this fucker straight into the ground. Yellen admits that she didn’t see the 2008 financial crisis coming – apparently giving subprime loans to illegal immigrants and watching Goldman invent the self-imploding CDO didn’t raise any alarm bells with her. So she is definitely the right person to finish the job. Speaking of which, the self-imploding CDO that took out AIG and Lehman was invented at Goldman Sachs under current chairman Loyd Blankfein (see: Ayn Rand Gone Wild), who was Harvard roommate to the Bennie Bernank. Fortunately Goldman was bailed out by that other Harvard/Goldman alum Hank Paulson as Treasury Secretary (and Bernanke). The Credit Default Swap (CDS) was invented by JP Morgan/Cambridge superstar Blythe Masters who was just let go from JPM for her alleged role in an energy market manipulation scheme a la Enron. The CDS may well be the ultimate financial weapon of mass destruction (WMD) – still out there working its magic. Meanwhile, Central Bankster Mark Carney, another Harvard/Goldman Sachs alum, just finished inflating Canada’s massive real estate bubble and has now moved to the UK to help top off their real estate bubble. And if only Larry Summers, Dean of Harvard, had been picked as Fed chairman, surely this clusterfuck would already have collapsed by now. It was Summers who suggested just last year that the secret to improving a nation’s credit rating was to borrow more not less. Genius ! Summers also of course was a key proponent of repealing Glass-Steagall, the Depression-era law meant to preclude another financial crisis. The other key proponent behind Glass-Steagall repeal was Robert Rubin (Goldman/Citigroup/Yale/Harvard). Obama/Bush, two more Harvard frat boys gleefully sowing the seeds of anarchy. This is all well in hand. Clearly, we need to sit back and wait. There is nothing we can do to end this shit show that the dumbfucks from Harvard and other Ivy League schools are not doing on their own. No offense, but I highly doubt if anyone reading this blog could collapse the world financial system – I doubt if I could. So the longer we doom forecasters warn of risks and otherwise prescribe caution, the longer this circus will continue. Think about it. Harvard dunces will end this globalized catastrophe once and for all. We just need to be a bit more patient and give them time to work.

Bernanke fixed Wall Street by giving them $3 trillion to play with…

Fed balance sheet (blue line) with Dow Casino. Fast, slow, fast. Sounds familiar…


Apparently we’re still waiting for the melt-up to occur. Sure, whatever…


Nasdaq 100 – 70% retracement
Speaking of melt-ups…


And Priceline (Nasdaq in background)
Top performing S&P stock – Up 2200% in five years
Are we in a bubble? I can’t tell. Although the last time this stock went parabolic I lost a shit ton of money shortly thereafter that’s all I know. It’s a good thing I’m not bitter, especially towards Central Banksters and their continued market manipulations…


IPO Casino
Twitter (below) priced at $26 and recently traded at $75 for a 200% gain in 6 weeks. Its price to sales ratio is a ludicrous 75. Apple’s price/sales ratio is 3. Twitter’s profit margin is -25% so it sells dollar bills for 75 cents and yet its market cap is greater than that of 80% of S&P companies. It’s the most overvalued piece of shit on the entire planet. 

Meanwhile, per IBD on Friday, “Investor’s Intelligence (sentiment) bulls v.s. bears ratio is in the silly zone” That’s because there are no bears left except for a handful of bloggers engaged in a mutual admiration circle jerk…


Ode to Ponzi Capitalism and Securitization
In a big FU to customers, BusinessWeek informs us last week that companies with the poorest customer service have outperformed in the stock market. There is actually negative correlation between customer satisfaction and stock performance. Time Warner Cable is the reference company (appearing on the list multiple times); however, Facebook is at the very bottom of the ratings. 

Fadebook: Shitty service and abuse of customer data privacy
The strategy is working – Booyah Skidaddy !

 

U.S. admiral: Global-warming threat dwarfs N. Korea

U.S. admiral: Global-warming threat dwarfs N. Korea.

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