“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” - Often attributed to Plato but likely from Ian McLaren (pseudonym of Reverend John Watson)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A man whose self-love knows no bounds

My greatest daily number of hits ever came subsequent to my Psychologist in the house post. The visitors came primarily from Marc Morano's "Climate Depot" site. He's a "denialist" (from the mainstream climatology side) or a "skeptic" (from those who disagree with mainstream climatology on anthropogenic global warming) whose specialty seems to be torpedoing what he perceives to be the liberal dogma. Among other accomplishments, he spearheaded the Swift Boat attack on Presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004.

There's no question that he's a superb ex tempore debater and an effective advocate for the Alfred E. Neuman position on anthropogenic global warming. His site claims to be a clearinghouse for news on climate science and policy, but it had best be a certain kind of news.

But if there's one thing Morano loves more than s _ _ _ stirring, it's Marc Morano. He's a veritable mother lode of self-citation. In order to keep track of his self-citation, I'm going to start logging the occurrences of "Morano" on his site. I'll periodically report, with raw data as well as trend analysis. Does anyone think I can get Steve McIntyre interested? In any event, yesterday's count was 24, today's is 26.

Update: Climate Depot's "Morano" count hovered in the mid '20s for a couple of weeks; but in the last couple of days has dropped to four. I wonder if he stopped by here?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Leasing the sun

There may be many such firms but I've been hearing radio commercials for a company called "Solar City." The business model is to provide rooftop photovoltaic systems at little or no initial cost. Solar City maintains ownership of the system and leases it to the home or business owner. The claim is that the total cost to the owner (lease payment plus paying for the much smaller amount of electricity used) is less than the electric bill prior to installing the system. They have a javascript application in which you install such information as your typical electric bill, your zip code (then followed by actually pointing to your house on a map), your roof slope and direction, and your electricity provider. It then returns a 15 year projection of savings, with a graphical representation of lease payments, electric bills, and the electric bills that would have been paid. There's an estimated rate of increase built in. The result of my initial inquiry looks like this:

Note that, at the outset, I can save $4.00/month. Not a lot. But I used my current electric energy usage. What if I significantly increase my usage by the purchase of a Nissan Leaf? In my post on the subject I estimated that I'd need to utilize about 17.5 kilowatt hours per day to charge the Leaf. Now, of course, I'd be charging it during the daytime rather than at night so the system would need to be sized for my use other than the Leaf plus the 17.5 kilowatt hours per day, a total I'd estimate at about 66 kilowatt hours per day. Though the javascript application doesn't allow one to play with such fine points as what can be run during the day and during the night and the system doesn't allow for storage, adding the Leaf makes a difference:

Ah, $7/month, now we're getting somewhere. Of course, the Leaf is also busily saving me money. Further, it's better to have $7/month than not to have it and I could save a few bucks more by replacing my wife's car with a Leaf. Or not.

Now, in principle, I've eliminated a large portion of my carbon footprint (moreso if I can coerce persuade my wife as well). If I could really do so, and if the solar system replaced 90% of of my household electricity and all of the energy use of mine and my wife's cars, using the information used in preparing this post and this post I can estimate that as much as 25% of my family's carbon footprint could be eliminated. This is well under the 95% that would appear to be required, but it's better than replacing incandescent bulbs with compact florescent bulbs. After appropriate due diligence, I may do so.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Baseball: thirsty sport

I follow a few sports, chief among them are Major Leauge BaseballNFL Football, college football, and NHRA drag racing. I'm not a zealot and can't quote statistics as many can but I'm emotionally invested in the outcomes. But clearly, these sports and all others require the use of some form of fossil fuels; would their elimination make a big difference in our overall consumption? As I've mentioned, the "Fermi Problem approach" to such questions appeals to me. As it turns out though, it's a difficult problem, at least for me.

I've completed my Fermi analysis of three sports (Major League Baseball, college football, and NFL football). I did this at a very superficial level, only estimating the fuel used by the fans driving to the games and travel by the participating teams. Such a calculation involves estimating the answers to a myriad of data points, among others: how many games per season; how many fans at each game; how many fans in each vehicle attending the game; how far the average vehicle traveled to and from the game; what is the average fuel economy of the vehicle used; how far and by what means did the visiting team travel to the home team's venue; what is the fuel economy of the means utilized by the visiting team; and others. I didn't estimate the coal burned in field lighting, the natural gas used in heating the hot dogs and nacho cheese, the coal burned to power the HDTVs watched by fans not actually attending the game, and many others.

With those limitations in mind, the results of my speculation are as follows (in decreasing order of fuel used):
  • College Football: 9.0*10^6 barrels/year
  • Major League Baseball: 4.2*10^6 barrels/year
  • NFL Football: 1.0*10^6 barrels/year
I arbitrarily speculate that NBA basketball uses considerably less fuel than Major League Baseball not because an NBA team plays fewer games per season (since visiting teams in baseball typically play several consecutive games at each location) but rather because the venues are smaller and thus fewer fans travel to each game. Similar considerations apply to hockey. I think each of the major motor sports (NHRA, NASCAR, IRL) use much less still, because there is only a single event each active week, though it extends over multiple days. A similar consideration applies to golf.

In each of the sports I estimated, by far the largest fuel use was by fans traveling to the games. This use was typically an order of magnitude larger than that by team travel (anywhere from 8 to 40 times as large). And finally, the use by the three sports I estimated totals about 0.19% of our nation's annual oil consumption of about 7.5*10^9 barrels/year. Let's suppose that the sports I've looked at represent 10% of the oil consumed in all sports, then "sport" would be responsible for about 2% of U.S. oil consumption. I suspect this is high, since the fuel is consumed primarily by individuals and the "average person" I know likely doesn't use 2% of her oil consumption on sports. Thus, elimination of all spectator sporting activities is yet one more way not to get us out of our energy dilemma.