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Chernobyl, 25 Years Later

April 12, 2011 by Contributor Columns, Sustainable Planet Be the first to comment

By Dr. Janette D. Sherman, MD

Dr. Sherman is the author of Life’s Delicate Balance: Causes and Prevention of Breast Cancer and Chemical Exposure and Disease, and is a specialist in internal medicine and toxicology. She edited the book Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and Nature, written by A. V. Yablokov, V. B., Nesterenko and A. V. Nesterenko, published by the New York Academy of Sciences in 2009. Her primary interest is the prevention of illness through public education. She can be reached at: toxdoc.js@verizon.net and www.janettesherman.com. The following article was originally published by Counterpunch on March 4 – 6, 2011 http://www.counterpunch.org/sherman03042011.html. … Continue Reading

After the Empire – Book Review

April 9, 2011 by Tony Noerpel Columns, Sustainable Planet Be the first to comment

“America’s real war is about economics not terrorism. The country is battling to maintain its status as the world’s financial center by making a symbolic show of its military might in the heart of Eurasia, thereby hoping to forget and have others ignore America’s industrial weakness, its financial needs, and its predatory character. However, instead of reinforcing the image of America’s global leadership as the current [Bush] administration in Washington expected, its forced march into war has produced a rapid decline in the international status of the United States.” Emmanuel Todd, Preface to the English translation of After the Empire, 2003. … Continue Reading

Fukushima Daiichi

March 22, 2011 by Tony Noerpel Columns, Sustainable Planet Be the first to comment

“Speaking in Tokyo, government spokesman Yukio Edano said the plant – which has six reactors – will eventually be scrapped once the emergency is brought under control. Mr Edano said the plant will be in no condition to be restarted after corrosive seawater was pumped into the reactors to help control the overheating core.” [1]

Last September I described five serious concerns with nuclear power before their vulnerability was made evident by the Japanese earthquake/tsunami disaster which unfolded last week. The first is the critical supply shortage of fissile uranium U-235 [2]. Based on a European study of all known and speculative reserves and resources, we might be able to derive all of human exosomatic energy from nuclear power for perhaps 12 years. There simply isn’t enough of the stuff. In 2006, the United States imported 84% of our nuclear fuel, so the argument that nuclear power would help wean ourselves off of imported energy doesn’t fly [3].

Second, if we consider nuclear power the solution then it is the solution for all of mankind so we had better get used to Iran processing their own fuel. Given the United States government discomfort with that idea speaks volumes about the inherent security problems, real or imagined, with nuclear energy. Third, we described the impracticality of building out nuclear capacity and the huge investment in capital which would be required and which would have to be siphoned away from more useful enterprises. Fourth, we described the rising costs of the nuclear power plants [4]. It was already prohibitive before the Japanese earthquake disaster. The industry can only possibly make money or be a viable investment if taxpayers and ratepayers are forced to subsidize and take on all of the risk. Since nuclear power cannot happen without the substantial investment of the public, the public has a right to object even if those objections are based on a “not in my back yard” attitude rather than on the very serious and specific objections which I am raising. This attitude happens to be far more rational than that of nuclear proponents.

Fifth, we have no solution to the nuclear waste problem even if Yucca Mountain storage facility were to be opened. This fifth point was highlighted by the accumulation of spent fuel at the Fukushima reactor site, which turns out to be a more serious problem than the partial meltdown of the reactor cores themselves. This happens to be the situation in the United States where most of the spent fuel is stored on-site in similar pools of water.

A sixth very serious problem which I did not discuss is the critical requirement for cooling water. Nuclear power plants cannot be built where there is or might be a water shortage. During droughts, nuclear power plants have to be taken out of service. Water problems are why so many plants need to be constructed on coast lines. This week, we’ve seen though that even that placement is no guarantee of a usable supply of cooling water.

Here is a partial list of nuclear accidents which resulted in decommissioning of the reactor as a result of the incident. Text is from reference [5].

January 21, 1969 — INES Level unknown – Lucens, Canton of Vaud, Switzerland – Explosion. A total loss of coolant led to a power excursion and explosion of an experimental nuclear reactor in a large cave at Lucens. The underground location of this reactor acted like a containment building and prevented any outside contamination. The cavern was heavily contaminated and was sealed.

February 22, 1977 – INES Level 4 – Jaslovské Bohunice, Czechoslovakia – Fuel damaged
Operators neglected to remove moisture-absorbing materials from a fuel rod assembly before loading it into the KS 150 reactor at power plant A-1. The accident resulted in damaged fuel integrity, extensive corrosion damage of fuel cladding and release of radioactivity into the plant area. The affected reactor was decommissioned following this accident.

March 28, 1979 – INES Level 5 – Middletown, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, United States – Partial meltdown Equipment failures and worker mistakes contributed to a loss of coolant and a partial core meltdown at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station 15 km (9 miles) southeast of Harrisburg.

April 26, 1986 — INES Level 7 – Prypiat, Ukraine (then USSR) – Power excursion, explosion, complete meltdown. An inadequate reactor safety system led to an uncontrolled power excursion, causing a severe steam explosion, meltdown and release of radioactive material at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant located approximately 100 kilometers north-northwest of Kiev. Approximately fifty fatalities (mostly cleanup personnel) resulted from the accident and the immediate aftermath. An additional nine fatal cases of thyroid cancer in children in the Chernobyl area have been attributed to the accident. The explosion and combustion of the graphite reactor core spread radioactive material over much of Europe. 100,000 people were evacuated from the areas immediately surrounding Chernobyl in addition to 300,000 from the areas of heavy fallout in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. An “Exclusion Zone” was created surrounding the site encompassing approximately 1,000 mi² (3,000 km²) and deemed off-limits for human habitation for an indefinite period. Several studies by governments, UN agencies and environmental groups have estimated the consequences and eventual number of casualties. Their findings are subject to controversy. Four reactors were decommissioned.

October 19, 1989 – INES Level 3 – Vandellos Nuclear Power Plant, Spain -fire in one of its two turbo generators. After the fire in the turbo generators the Spanish commission determined a large list of issues in the plant that was closed by the owners due to economical unviability.

There are about 440 operating nuclear reactors in the world today. At least eight reactors failed beyond recovery as listed above. With the six reactors which will be decommissioned at Fukushima, 14 reactors had to be decommissioned before their service life because of catastrophic failure. That is a failure rate of 3 percent. What entity in the private sector would fund an enterprise which requires billions of dollars of investment up front which has a 3% catastrophic failure rate and unlimited liability?

In a real free market system, nuclear power would not even get a second glance. And since public funding is required then the public has a right (assuming we still have a functioning democracy) to veto their tax dollars and energy rates subsidizing a technology which they do not want.

[1] http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/fukushima-nuclear-plant-shut-for-good/story-fn3dxix6-1226025025196

[2] http://www.energywatchgroup.org/fileadmin/global/pdf/EWG_Report_Uranium_3-12-2006ms.pdf

[3] Joseph Romm http://www.americanprogressaction.org/issues/2008/pdf/nuclear_report.pdf

[4] http://climateprogress.org/2009/07/15/nuclear-power-plant-cost-bombshell-ontario/

[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_civilian_nuclear_accidents

Tragedy of the Commons – Part One

March 17, 2011 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, Sustainable Planet Be the first to comment

Tony Noerpel

“Palaeontologists characterize mass extinctions as times when the Earth loses more than three-quarters of its species in a geologically short interval, as has happened only five times in the past 540 million years or so. Biologists now suggest that a sixth mass extinction may be under way, given the known species losses over the past few centuries and millennia. Here we review how differences between fossil and modern data and the addition of recently available palaeontological information influence our understanding of the current extinction crisis. Our results confirm that current extinction rates are higher than would be expected from the fossil record, highlighting the need for effective conservation measures.” Barnosky et al, March 3, 2011, [1]. … Continue Reading

Greed or self-interest

March 12, 2011 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, Sustainable Planet Be the first to comment

“Power tends to confuse itself with virtue and a great nation is peculiarly susceptible to the idea that its power is a sign of God’s favor, conferring upon it a special responsibility for other nations to make them richer and happier and wiser, to remake them, that is, in its own shining image.” Senator William Fulbright (D., Ark.)

“What’s the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?” Madeline Albright, Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton

I received several emails regards my article “Wisconsin Greed”. Some simply wrote “well stated.” Others suggested I was too pessimistic and that in fact “greed is the answer. We must demonstrate what saves real money now.” In other words, the opportunity exists to appeal to greed to achieve a sustainable society.

I hadn’t realized I was such a bad writer. I don’t mean to belabor the point but given that the point was not appreciated, perhaps I should try again. I introduced the concept of a zero-sum game such as poker, where the sum of money at the start is the same as the sum of money at the end. No wealth is created. It is simply redistributed. Somebody has to lose for somebody else to win. So imagine you are in a high stakes poker game and losing badly; the rent money, the money you need to feed your kids, their college funds and so on. Try negotiating with the winners. “If you guys would let me win a few hands, the game would last longer and everybody’s enjoyment would be increased.” Good luck with that. My point is you cannot negotiate with greed in a zero sum game.
… Continue Reading

Wisconsin Greed

March 8, 2011 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, Sustainable Planet Be the first to comment

“And he said to them, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’” Bible New Testament, Luke 12:15.

“And in their greed they will exploit you with deceptive words.” Bible New Testament, Peter 2:1-3.

“But greed has grown into a parasitic infestation of the body politic that bleeds us weak. Just look at the multinational corporations’ lobbying, the resulting flow of taxpayer subsidies, and the failure of government oversight.” Carl Safina, The View from Lazy Point, 2011.

“I hope we shall …crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of the land.” Thomas Jefferson, 1816, cited from Carl Safina, The View from Lazy Point, 2011. … Continue Reading

Mankiw Verses Daly – Part One

March 8, 2011 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, Sustainable Planet Be the first to comment

The recent economic collapse encourages us to understand what just happened and why so we might extricate ourselves from the current crises and avoid such a calamity in the future. An interesting observation is that while the collapse was anticipated by ecological economists (Herman Daly, for example), biophysical economists (Bob Costanza), energy analysts (Vaclav Smil), oil geologists (Colin Campbell) and historians (Kevin Phillips), it was a complete surprise to neo-classical economists (for example Phil Gramm and Alan Greenspan). This despite the irony that Gramm and Greenspan share culpability for the collapse. In their own words:

“I made a mistake.” Alan Greenspan testimony before Congress, October 23, 2008. The Wall Street Journal article continues: “In his prepared remarks to the committee, Mr Greenspan said he was in “a state of shocked disbelief” about the breakdown in the ability of banks to regulate themselves and, without putting a number on it, predicted a significant rise in unemployment in the coming recession.”

“You’ve heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession …We have sort of become a nation of whiners” John McCain’s Economic advisor and former senator Phil Gramm in an interview with the Washington Times, July 9, 2008. The recession officially began in the fourth quarter 2007.

Secondly, the science of Anthropogenic Global Warming is robust and there is a lack of science supporting denial. One wonders then what motivates people to invent nonsense to support the denial view. It turns out that in addition to the bad science there exists a large body of global warming denial argument based on bad economics. While economic arguments are not relevant to any scientific discussion in any event, the nature of these arguments and the fact that they are even proffered at all gives us a hint as to why deniers are motivated (and why they are being generously paid) to make stuff up.

Surprising to an engineer or “hard” scientist is that economic study is a collection of disparate “schools” of thought which generally contradict each other. As we have shown previously using the example of the recent housing bubble, we seem to be able to find economists who will support almost any opinion, such as that the housing bubble existed and its bursting was imminent (Shiller [1]) and that it did not exist at all (Smith and Smith [2]). The Smiths were clearly wrong and one wonders if they’ve ever come clean or simply made excuses.

I thought it would be interesting to compare two assessable and divergent economic points of view: Gregory Mankiw’s neo-classical views reflected in his popular text book Principles of Economics, 2007, and Herman Daly’s ecological economic views reflected in the text book he wrote with Joshua Farley titled expectedly Ecological Economics, 2004. While they don’t reflect extremes in economic thought by any means, I selected these two principally because I happen to own them. Daly is the founder of ecological economics, was a senior economist with the World Bank and is Professor Emeritus at the University of Maryland. Mankiw is a neo-classical economist, who served as President George W. Bush’s economic advisor, and is currently a professor of economics at Harvard University. As Bush’s economic advisor, Mankiw has a share of the blame for our current economic mess.

Whenever I read a non-fiction book, I begin with the front and back matter: the introduction, table of contents, acknowledgements, references, endnotes and index. If there are no references, I generally don’t read the book because by definition the material will not be verifiable.

As it turns out, Mankiw’s book, surprisingly, contains no reference section and no obvious references to the economic literature. There are references to some articles and commentary in the main stream media but these are themselves opinion and not information. By contrast, Daly’s book contains a reference section as well as generous references throughout the text as footnotes in addition to referencing my two favorite economists Frederick Soddy and Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen. Mankiw’s book presents this problem for students: some bits of it may be correct and some may be wrong but we don’t know which bits are which and no easy way to find out. It is strictly speaking for the lack of references a useless text book. By contrast, I’m reading Dan Simon’s text book Optimal Estimation for work. Simon provides a wonderful and rich reference section at the back of the book but he also provides an appendix which gives an historical perspective on the subject matter and another appendix which describes other books on the topic. This book is highly theoretical and that book has practical applications, and so on. Simon’s book reflects quality. There are several very good reasons for insisting upon good references in a text book. The first is so that the student can verify the material contained in the book. Secondly, the student might need to do a research paper on a specialized topic and the reference section would provide the sources a student needs to learn more about a particular topic. The third is a matter of attribution. Peter of Blois wrote (cited by Simon): “we are like dwarfs on the shoulders of giants.” Attribution is simply a demonstration of integrity.

As I generally have some reasons I’m exploring a field of study, the index entries can tell me if the book covers what I may be interested in. I would expect an introductory college level text book on economics would contain these entries: energy, material, thermodynamics, entropy, pollution, agriculture, production, or similar. On this basis, Daly’s book offers considerably more insight. Mankiw’s book strikes out again.

Considering our motivation to understand the recent recession, the following entries are also of interest: recession, depression, inflation, deflation, housing bubbles, derivatives, credit default swaps, total credit market debt, and similar entries. Neither book scores well here.

In the future, I want to address a couple of topics which are well known to economics such as the tragedy of the commons and private property. Both books address the tragedy of the commons. As we might expect, Daly references the salient paper on the topic by Garrett Hardin, published in Science in 1968, and Mankiw does not. We can compare the treatment in both books against the original Hardin paper plus the considerable scientific progress on the topic since 1968. Another topic worth examining is Adam Smith’s invisible hand. Again, it is useful to compare the treatment in Daly and Mankiw with the original text in Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations.

[1] Robert J. Shiller, “Long-Term Perspectives on the Current Boom in Home Prices,” Economists’ Voice www.bepress.com/ev March, 2006.

[2] Margaret Hwang Smith and Gary Smith, “Bubble, Bubble, Where’s the Housing Bubble?” Preliminary draft prepared for the Brookings Panel on Economic Activity, March 30-31, 2006.

Wind Energy Alternative to PATH

March 8, 2011 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, Sustainable Planet Be the first to comment

Contributed by Jane Twitmyer

This is a guest article written by Loudoun county resident Jane Twitmyer. It is her testimony at the SCC PATH Hearing on February 3, 2011 at Loudoun Valley High School, Purcellville, VA.

Hello. My name is Jane Twitmyer, I am a resident of Loudoun County and I am here is to ask you to disallow the siting of this line. At the hearing held here on August of 2009 I made the same request. My reason then was that “the need for this addition to the grid is based on old assumptions.” A year and a half later my argument is infinitely stronger, backed up now by the reality of a changing energy landscape.

The PATH transmission line is proposed for the purpose of upgrading and expanding the amount of electricity that can be transmitted from the coal plants of West Virginia to the Mid-Atlantic States. The original application was premised on the need for additional power based on a 2006 projection. Since 2006 the need has changed dramatically. Demand for electricity has been reduced by the recession. Demand has also been reduced by the commitment of the Mid-Atlantic States to develop the next generation of renewable power sources as well as a renewed commitment to energy efficient buildings. Their commitment to Clean Power is demonstrated by strong Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards (RPS) as well as the number of projects now underway. The PJM website lists 3,900+MW of offshore wind projects in the ‘queue’ on the coastline of NJ, DE, and MD.

The Mid-Atlantic commitment to Clean Energy:

DELAWARE – offshore capacity to meet 137 percent of current electric requirements (2.8GW) … RPS – 20 percent by 2019 … Power cost savings – $274million annually. (Oceana 10/10 “Untapped Wealth”)

MARYLAND – offshore capacity to meet 63-79 percent of current electric requirements even when accounting for various social, environmental, and nautical exclusion zones and conflict areas.

RPS – 20 percent by 2022 – Power cost savings

(‘Maryland’s Offshore Wind Power Potential’ A Report Sponsored by the Abell Foundation and Prepared by the University of Delaware’s Center for Carbon-free Power Integration, College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment.)

NEW JERSEY – offshore capacity – 92 percent of the current needs (16GW) … RPS – 22 percent by 2021

The transmission potential for Offshore Wind on the Mid-Atlantic Bight is 6000MW by 2017.

The Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC) has announced their plans to build an offshore transmission backbone for wind farms on the Atlantic Bight between NY and MD. In the initial phase, the plan will be able to connect 6,000 MW of wind energy to the Eastern Grid. According to a release from the Atlantic Wind Connection the Mid-Atlantic region offers more than 60,000 MW of offshore wind potential in the relatively shallow waters of the outer continental shelf. These shallow waters, which extend miles out to sea, allow for the development of large, distant wind farms, mitigating visibility issues and allowing for greater energy capture from stronger winds. With few other renewable energy options ideally suited for the Atlantic coast, this transmission project will help states meet their renewable energy goals and standards by enabling the local offshore wind industry to deploy thousands of megawatts of clean, cost-effective energy.

(Markian Melnyk developed the AWC concept while researching Offshore Power: Building Renewable Energy Projects in U.S. Waters, his book on offshore renewable energy. AWC Release)

AND beyond 2017 … the second phase of AWC would reach to VA.

the Virginia Offshore Wind Studies, July 2007 to March 2010 concluded: “Development of an offshore submarine high-voltage, north-south “backbone” (with offshore interconnection capability) would enable Virginia’s large offshore wind resource area to supply Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.”

The Myths of Wind Power’s requirements for LARGE SCALE BACKUP, massive new energy STORAGE CAPACITY, and Vast Open Land availability.

Wind power opponents have claimed that wind energy requires an equivalent amount of “backup power”, negating the benefits of energy produced by the wind for fuel savings and the environment. That requirement is simply not true. The same tools that utility system operators use every day to deal with variations in electricity supply and demand can readily be used to accommodate the variability of changes in wind energy production.

System operators always maintain significant “operating reserves,” typically equal to 5-7 percent or more of total generation. In addition, grid operators provide interconnections to pool those reserves among operators, enhancing a given utility’s ability to deal with rapid and unpredictable changes in electricity demand. On the other hand, changes in wind supply actually occur more gradually when wind turbines are spread over a reasonably large area, as they are in offshore projects, giving the operator time to bring reserves online. On average, adding 3 MW of wind energy to the U.S. electric grid would at most require anywhere from 0 to 0.01 MW of additional spinning reserves, and 0 to 0.07 MW of non-spinning reserves. Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA)

In addition, wind turbines generate more power than on-shore turbines because wind speeds are generally greater offshore, the wind itself is steadier and the blades used can be larger. The ‘sea breeze effect’ of wind farms this far offshore means that the power generated from the offshore turbines occurs during times of high electricity use. Finally, transmission loss is minimized as the power is produced close to the major population center. 75% of the population lives in relatively proximity to our coastline.

Substantial Investment is required now in our power industries

$70+ Billion is the cost estimated by several large banks to upgrade or replace our current power plants. That investment must occur over the next 10-20 years and is based only partially on the requirement to meet enforced and expanded Clean Air regulations. The main reason is the age of the plants. Seventy percent of our coal plants and all of our nuclear facilities are more than 30 years old. Thirty percent of the coal plants in the U.S. are more than 40 years old. Some have no pollution controls installed at all. They must be replaced and upgraded and that will require a massive investment.

The Better Investment … Use less & develop micro-power or energy produced on-site.

Renewable energy and efficiency can save Mid-Atlantic ratepayers billions by 2020, and more billions by 2030.

From a report published by Duke and Georgia Tech in 2010 “Energy Efficiency in the South”

“Under realistic renewable expansion and policy scenarios, the region could economically supply a large proportion of its future electricity needs from both utility-scale and customer-owned renewable energy sources.”

The nine energy efficiency policies evaluated in Energy Efficiency in the South could reduce energy costs for Maryland consumers and could generate jobs in the State. Energy savings of $2.1billion would accrue to customers in 2020 and $3.6 billion in 2030.

Rooftop solar PV can meet up to 86% of total US residential electricity demand. This estimate excludes 35 percent of commercial and 78 percent of the residential roof area in the US as not well sited for solar.

New Jersey ranks second only to California in installed solar capacity in the U.S. with over 5,800 rooftop installations.

Finally, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has produced guidelines based on research and best practices that will save 54-58 percent of energy used in medium and large commercial buildings.

A recent study from the Pew Foundation is entitled, Global Clean Power, a $2.3 Trillion Opportunity. The study states that policy matters if we are to seize this opportunity. One small part of that opportunity is before us today. Careful analyses, many quoted here, predict that with substantial investment in Clean Energy, we will save consumers money, provide jobs, develop new manufacturing capacity and protect our health. The PATH line represents old thinking. It was developed using an outdated energy model and should be rejected.













Yard Sale – Part 3

March 8, 2011 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, Sustainable Planet Be the first to comment

“…the relationship between the economic process and the Entropy Law is only an aspect of a more general fact, namely, that this law is the basis of the economy of life at all levels.” Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, The Entropy Law and the Economic Process, Harvard University Press, 1971.

Economists are fond of arguing that since no model, whether in physics or economics, is accurate in an absolute sense we can only choose between a more and a less accurate model. …Such a position ignores an important detail, namely, that in physics a model must be accurate in relation to the sharpest measuring instrument existing at the time. If it is not, the model is discarded. Hence there is an objective sense in which we can say that a physical model is accurate… In social sciences, however, there is no such objective standard of accuracy.”

In the first two articles in this series, I introduced two elegantly simple models which we can bring to bear on the study of human economy in order to explain some general observations. The first, Pareto’s Yard Sale model [1], teaches us that migration of wealth from the middle class and the poor to the wealthy is the natural direction of flow in any human economy. The second, the gambler’s ruin problem of probability theory [2] teaches that this flow proceeds even as a result of pure chance or happenstance. It would seem that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer and that money does indeed attract money. Personal characteristics, such as hard work, intelligence, cleverness, athletic ability and dishonesty certainly improve the odds of one person over another acquiring riches but can only exacerbate the natural flow, the aggregation of wealth. We also learn that initial conditions matter and of course, how much money one inherits is also a matter of chance. The aggregation of wealth and resultant poverty and misery would appear to be the real eventual outcomes of Adam Smith’s invisible hand such as it were.

I posited that it was the discovery and exploitation of fossil fuel’s low entropy that enabled the rise of middle class fortunes and democracies during the last couple of centuries. Basically, the creation of wealth from the exploitation of fossil fuels exceeded the natural flow of wealth from the middle class and poor to the exceptionally well off. Coincidentally, Adam Smith first invoked the invisible hand of the market in the same year, 1776, that James Watt invented his steam engine, which enabled England to exploit its vast coal reserves and consequently become an empire.

This week, I introduce a third elegant model, which appears to be the bane of all neo-classical economic thought, Herman Daly’s ecosystem model of the economy [3]. An accessible version of his theory was published in 2005 in Scientific American [4]. Herman Daly is the founder of ecological economics. He is not the first to recognize the importance of the entropy law to human economy. That might be the Nobel Prize winning physical chemist Frederick Soddy, whom we’ve discussed previously [4]. Daly makes the distinction between an empty world and a full world. He suggests that neo-classical economics works well in an empty world but fails in a full world. Figure 1 below shows the human economy embedded within an empty world. In this case the economy is only a very small part of the Earth ecosystem. As a consequence, the neo-classical economic assumption that the economy is a closed isolated system independent of any inputs and outputs, or that resources and sinks for waste are infinite, has some validity as an approximation when the human economy is far from physical limits.

Figure 1. “Since the ecosystem remains constant in scale as the economy grows, it is inevitable that the economy becomes larger relative to the containing ecosystem.” Herman Daly.  This is Daly’s view of an Empty World. [3]
Figure 1. “Since the ecosystem remains constant in scale as the economy grows, it is inevitable that the economy becomes larger relative to the containing ecosystem.” Herman Daly. This is Daly’s view of an Empty World. [3]

The salient observation from Figure 1 is that the economy runs entirely on the ability to transform low entropy into high entropy and in the process do useful work. I previously introduced the term entropy and the all important physical Entropy Law here [5]. Suffice to say that this is the most important physical law and indeed the one law which defines time’s arrow. Your car sitting as it is out in the driveway is a hunk of metal and plastics which exists far from thermodynamic equilibrium. Eventually, your car will rust to pieces and end up crushed in some junk yard. The car can only go in one direction in time. The rust it will become cannot reconstruct the car. Physicists discovered that time flows in the direction of low entropy to high entropy. Time cannot flow in reverse. Meanwhile, if you want to use your car, you need gasoline which consists of hydro-carbon molecules which themselves are far from thermodynamic equilibrium, and your engine needs to combust these low entropy molecules with oxygen transforming the chemical energy into high entropy heat, motion and carbon dioxide pollution. You cannot reconstruct the gasoline from the scattered heat and carbon dioxide molecules.

I know it is confusing that physicist chose rather arbitrarily to label high quality energy and matter (your brand new car and all that wonderful gasoline) as “low entropy” and low quality energy and matter (your old rust bucket and the scattered molecules of carbon dioxide) as “high entropy”, but that turns out to be just a matter of convention that one simply has to get used to. Erwin Schrödinger introduced the term negentropy which may be more easily understood. In any event, the concept of entropy cannot be dismissed if one is to comprehend reality. In a discussion with a conservative Republican friend back in the 1990’s, he pointed out rather uncharitably but accurately that I didn’t know a damned thing about economics and advised me to take a class in economics 101. I advised my friend in turn to take a class in thermodynamics.

Economists only concern themselves with the little oval labeled “economy” in Figure 1 and generally ignore the more interesting and important ecosystem in with the human economy resides. Economists populate their models of the goings on in this oval with firms and households, unions and corporations, and governments and banks and so on and study the interactions between these groupings in great mathematical detail. Any ideology or economic opinion finds a home in one or another economist’s theory. The study of economics is really an aggregate of diverse and disparate and contradictory opinion or “schools”. In 2006, my daughter sold her home in Pensacola Florida and moved back up to Virginia. She wanted to take the proceeds of her house sale and purchase a home in the Washington D. C. area. Home prices had risen dramatically and there was some opinion that this was near the peak of the mother of all housing price bubbles. I found two academic economic articles on the subject. One written by Margaret Hwang Smith and Gary Smith [6] states:

“These data indicate that the current housing bubble is not, in fact, a bubble in most of these cities in that, under a variety of plausible assumptions, buying a house at current market prices still appears to be an attractive long-term investment. Our results also demonstrate the flaw in models that …”

It is amazing that they found the flaw in the models which turned out to be correct. The second written by Robert Shiller [7] compared then current housing prices with historic values. You can see a version of Shiller’s house price index here [8], but they are all over the internet in dozens of forms. Clearly from an historic perspective we were indeed experiencing an unprecedented housing bubble. Shiller wrote:

“The news is not good for homeowners. According to our data, homeowners face substantial risk of much lower prices that could stay low for a long time after.”

In my view, the Schiller conclusion was consistent with the Entropy Law and the conclusion of Smith and Smith was in contradiction. The challenge for the latter two would have been to discover why the economy of 2006 was behaving radically different than at any time before if we were not in fact experiencing a housing price bubble. Why was it different this time? This of course was not their hypothesis at all. The point of my exercise was to discover how to advise my daughter. The lesson for me is that you can find learned economic papers which thoroughly contradict each other. Based on Shiller’s well presented data, I advised her that we were experiencing the mother of all housing price bubbles and that she should not purchase a home at that time.

The collection and analysis of economic data, what Shiller did, is comparable to what physicists do and is entirely rational and relevant. As Georgescu-Roegen points out, physics hypotheses that don’t explain the data don’t survive. In economics, they appear to thrive. The Smiths published their paper in March, 2006, just months before the collapse of the housing bubble in December of that year. How could such learned economists get it so very wrong? By the way, Shiller gets no free pass either. He also wrote:

“Luckily, though, derivatives products, notably a futures market, are being developed that they [homeowners] will soon be able to use to insure against this risk.”

Personally, I don’t know a single homeowner who was spared foreclosure by the purchase of lucky derivatives and I wasn’t about to advise my daughter to compound the purchase of a home at the top of the market by purchasing derivatives. We’ve all since learned more than we would have ever wanted to know about derivatives and their contribution to the recession.

Another thing which the study of neo-classical economics has going against it, is that those economic schools which favor the extremely well heeled (and the continuation of economic growth) will receive the most funding and will tend to proliferate, quite independent of their relevance to any concept of reality or their ability to make actionable forecasts about possible future events such as the rather obvious ones which are only nine months away. This may explain why Mankiw’s economics text book [9], which we briefly cited last week, became popular. Without any economic training and without having ever ventured into an economics class room, I saw the housing bust coming at us like a freight train as early as 2003. In this regard, I will unhesitatingly recommend the importance of good economic data such as presented by Shiller. But I would study that data with the eye of an engineer.

Figure 2, by contrast, shows the economic model in a full world where the limits of low entropy matter and energy within the ecosystem impose themselves rather forcefully onto the economy. Also in this figure, the economy runs smack into its own high entropy pollution. Figure 2 shows precisely the situation which exists today. This is what the authors of the sapient book Limits to Growth saw coming.

Figure 2. “The evolution of the human economy has passed from an era in which man-made capital was the limiting factor in economic development to an era in which remaining natural capital is the limiting factor.” This is Herman Daly’s view of a Full World. [3]

From an examination of figure 2, solutions to our entropy problem are evident. First, we need to reduce our consumption of low entropy converting as quickly as possible to reliance on solar energy inputs or we need to quickly discover another source of low entropy. I want to emphasis that conservation is not the same thing as increasing efficiency. Increasing efficiency is an important strategy for reducing our consumption but it can also lead to an increase in consumption. This effect is called Jevon’s Paradox and we will discuss it in a future article because it is quite interesting. Second, we need to reduce our emissions of high entropy or waste. We need to make stuff which lasts longer for example. We also need to recycle waste as much as possible back into the input hopper.

Third, and most important, we need to reallocate the transformation of entropy to more productive pursuits. The latter suggests some rather obvious immediate actions. Military and defense spending is purely waste when not used and is the best way to destroy wealth when it is used. The most important action we Americans can do is cut our defense spending by 95%. This is not proposed here as an option. The argument that it is politically impossible is only an argument that the destruction of our nation is inevitable. When I discuss this with people they argue that surely we need to cut defense spending somewhat but it is impractical to cut it by 95% because we need a strong national defense. So I ask why we need to spend more than say Canadians and the response is that nobody hates the Canadians but there are lots of people in the world who hate us. But why I ask do most people in the world hate America but not Canada? Please keep in mind that whatever you’ve been taught by the American Media regards why we invaded Iraq, the rest of the world is convinced we invaded the country to steal its oil and if you look at the evidence with an unbiased eye, you will have to admit that it is hard to escape that view. I’ll leave that for you to ponder and we will return to it in future articles. Unfortunately, the Entropy Law demands that we stop misallocating low entropy on military misadventures. Otherwise, we are screwed.

If you need motivation, consider that eventually, all our sophisticated military apparatus may be used against us, citizens who protest too much.

I recommend the study of ecological economics and its more recent child biophysical economics.

Tony Noerpel

[1] http://brleader.com/?p=2646

[2] http://brleader.com/?p=2661

[3] Herman Daly, Beyond Growth, Beacon Press, 1996.

[4] Daly, Herman E., “Economics in a Full World”, Scientific American, September 2005, Vol. 293, Issue 3

[5] http://brleader.com/?p=1201

[6] http://brleader.com/?p=2025

[7] Margaret Hwang Smith and Gary Smith, “Bubble, Bubble, Where’s the Housing Bubble?” Preliminary draft prepared for the Brookings Panel on Economic Activity, March 30-31, 2006.

[8] Robert J. Shiller, “Long-Term Perspectives on the Current Boom in Home Prices,” Economists’ Voice www.bepress.com/ev March, 2006.

[9] http://brleader.com/?p=2047

[10] Mankiw, Principles of Economics, Fourth Edition, South-Western Cengage Learning, 2007.

Yard Sale – Part 2

January 25, 2011 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, Sustainable Planet Be the first to comment

“A guiding principle is that new ideas come from profound analysis of simple models – thinking deeply of simple things.” Ray Pierrehumbert, Principles of Planetary Climate, Cambridge University Press, 2010.

“Misery and poverty are frequently confused, because they are close – close, but located on either side of a limit. On one side, economic life is not assured; on the other side, it is assured. Beneath that limit, there’s misery, no certainty of a viable life, constant risk; above the limit, the risk stops, and poor or rich, there is assurance. Immediately above the limit is poverty, and above that are the successive zones of affluence. All below is misery; poverty is only a little above; thus the two are close in quantity, closer than much affluence is to poverty. Judging only by quantity, wealth is much further from poverty than poverty is from misery; but between poverty and misery is a distinction in quality, in nature.” Charles Péguy, 1902 essay “De Jean Coste.” [1]

Tony Noerpel

Following Pierrehumbert’s advice, Last week I discussed the need for simple economic models and listed some requirements of a good model. I suggested Pareto’s Yard Sale model [2] to describe the observed migration of wealth from middle class and poor to the wealthy which seems to have occurred in all human civilizations since humans discovered the principle of private property and commerce. Prior to about 10,000 year ago, humans lived as small (between 75 and 150 individuals) egalitarian groups based on hunting and gathering with little concept of private property. With private property came trade and with trade came inequality. Pareto’s yard sale model suggests that inequality is inherently a result of commerce even without considering individual characteristics such as intelligence, good looks, shrewdness or dishonesty. In a large population some individuals will win big and many will lose. There have always been kings and emperors, dictators and captains of industry while most of the population either just got by or were slaves or destitute. According to the yard sale economic model with near certain probability somebody will become as wealthy as Bill Gates. The probability that Gates’ himself would turn out to be that person were probably rather low but because of his personal characteristics and inherited wealth certainly much higher than most people.

Another simple model that can show that this propensity of commerce to make somebody rich and many people poor is the Gambler’s Ruin problem from probability theory [3]. If two gamblers start with an equal amount of money and make a series of small wagers on the outcome of the toss of a fair coin, it is easy to show in closed form that there is a 50 percent probability that the first player will become bankrupted and a 50 percent probability that the second player will become bankrupted and zero probability that the game will continue without bankruptcy. This result is exact.

Further, we can calculate the probability of ruin for the two players if they start with unequal amounts of money. As you would expect, the player starting with the most money is most likely to win. The problem can be made more interesting by varying the relative probabilities of each player’s chances of winning. In other words, if the first player cheats a little bit, he may increase his probability of winning each coin toss slightly but he will increase the probability of the second player going bankrupt substantially.

At this time, 129 million Americans have health care problems which qualify as pre-existing conditions. All of these people could be denied coverage by their private-for-profit health insurance companies if the GOP/FOX/corporate elite succeed in overturning Obama’s health care plan [4]. Since health problems are the principle reason families are forced into bankruptcy in the United States, more American families will become vulnerable if Republicans were to succeed.

A recent report published by the Levi Institute finds that the top 1 percent of American households by income hold 37.1 percent of all wealth. The next 4 percent hold 27.9 percent. The next 15 percent hold 22.2 percent. The next 20 percent holds 10 percent of all wealth. The middle quintile holds 3.1 percent of all wealth. The bottom 40 percent of American households hold -0.8 percent of all wealth. 24.1 percent of all American households have negative net worth [5]. We see that wealth distribution is highly skewed and most Americans are vulnerable to economic failure even without suffering a debilitating injury or illness. The author of this report, Edward Wolff, concludes:

We can see how the rising debt of the middle class made them vulnerable to income shocks and set the stage for the mortgage crises of 2008 and 2009 and the resulting financial meltdown. The rapid decline in house prices over these two years (on the order of 24 percent) left many middle-class families (I estimate 16.6 percent of homeowners) “underwater” (greater mortgage debt than the value of their homes) and, coupled with a sharp spike in unemployment, unable (or unwilling) to repay their mortgage loans.”

Since the exploitation of fossil fuels, humans have been able to create new wealth faster than the natural migration of wealth from middle class and poor to the wealthy. In the recent past, this has led to increasing prosperity for a greater number of people but it has not eliminated misery. The large middle class was a positive feedback further increasing total wealth. This led to the evolution of modern democracies and the sense of fairness in which we all believe. A prudent and honorable goal of our society might be that no American has to live in misery and indeed we were on our way to achieving this goal. Poverty as defined by Péguy is fine so long as all Americans have equal opportunity, access to education, freedom from hunger and adequate health care and nobody is forced into misery. While some unequal wealth distribution may be acceptable and even desirable, vast accumulation of wealth is quite unnecessary and is harmful to the democratic process. Chief Justice William Brandeis wrote [6]: “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” One of the mantras of the current economic crises is that failed banks were “too big to fail” and were subsequently bailed out. The lesson might have been that we should not let corporations become too big to fail or individuals to wealthy and powerful to corrupt, but we appear to have lost the opportunity to learn and apply this important lesson.

Naturally, extreme wealth is connected with extreme influence and power and of course that corrupts democracy. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision allowing unlimited funding of political campaigns by wealthy individuals and corporations probably signaled America’s transition from an oligarchy to a keptocracy [7]. Since Justices Scalia and Thomas met with the Koch Brothers who directly benefitted from the decision several times while the Supreme Court was dealing with the issue, they should have recused themselves. This is of course text book corruption.

Since the natural flow of wealth seems to be from poor to already wealthy and the natural evolution is to fewer and fewer larger and wealthier entities and individuals, we need a progressive income tax in order to redistribute wealth back to society. This is not a new idea but it is one that has been both successful and then successfully attacked by corporate elite, since the Reagan administration. We need to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision and institute real campaign finance reform. We can learn from more successful democracies. We also need to decide, as a nation, whether or not we are going to tolerate misery, as we do today, or work to eliminate it. Since most of us are perhaps a single transaction away from misery, this might be the preferred choice of a majority of well informed citizenry.

I don’t suggest that excess wealth be taxed and then simply given to the poor. What I suggest is that it be taxed and then invested in the needs of society such as building schools, financing single payer federal health care, building mass transportation systems and of course funding research and development.

In part 3 of this series, I will describe Herman Daly’s ecological economic model of the economy and how it can show us how to invest in society in a sustainable way.

[1] http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2011-01-17/decent-poverty-report-poverty-and-misery

[2] Brian Hayes, Follow the Money, American Scientist, Volume 90, Number 5
Page: 400, DOI: 10.1511/2002.5.400September-October, 2002 http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/pub/follow-the-money/2

[3] Ghahramani, Fundamentals of Probability, second edition, Prentice-Hall, 2000.

[4] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/17/AR2011011702842.html

[5] http://www.levyinstitute.org/pubs/wp_589.pdf

[6] http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Louis_Brandeis

[7] http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2011/01/20-2

Yard Sale – Part 1

January 18, 2011 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, Sustainable Planet Be the first to comment

“We make models in science but we also make them in everyday life. Model-dependent realism applies not only to scientific models but also to the conscious and subconscious mental models we all create in order to interpret and understand the everyday world.” Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, The Grand Design, 2010 [1].

by Tony Noerpel

In my last article [2], I discussed the difference between thinking dogmatically and thinking critically. In either case we construct models to help us understand reality. Using Paul O’Neill’s terminology, recall that an ideologue’s model is arbitrary and rigidly maintained without regard to facts. A philosopher’s model is based on facts and is continuously adjusted to accommodate new information. One might say that a philosopher (or physicist) is willing to accept the possibility that she might be wrong. The physicists Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow write in The Grand Design [1] that a good model:

  1. Is elegant
  2. Contains few arbitrary or adjustable elements
  3. Agrees with and explains all existing observations
  4. Makes detailed predictions about future observations that can disprove or falsify the model if they are not borne out.

We can ignore the first two points for now as these are subjective. The third point requires hard work, anathema to ideologues according to O’Neill, and the fourth point requires courage, as the models must be tested with the possibility that they may be incorrect or inadequate. Though economics is a soft science, a good economic model should have these properties also. A good economic model should explain observation and would have anticipated the recent housing bubble, the recession, the run up in gold and oil prices and the credit crises. The economist Gregory Mankiw in his popular text book, Principles of Economics [3] writes:

“In his 1776 book An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, economist Adam Smith made the most famous observation in all of economics: Households and firms interacting in markets act as if they are guided by an ‘invisible hand’ that leads them to desirable market outcomes. One of our goals in this book is to understand how this invisible hand works its magic.”

An astute observer might note that James Watts invented the steam engine in the same year, 1776, which allowed the British to exploit the low entropy of their coal and that British coal production peaked in the early 1900’s coincident with the decline of their empire. In other words, a robust economy may have more to do with thermodynamics than magic.

Mankiw’s free market, small government model works reasonably well, though not perfectly, when the resources it ignores are not limited and when pollution does not overwhelm the economic system, but eventually it fails utterly. Given that the U. S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) and the International Energy Agency (IEA) have both acknowledged that peak production of conventional crude oil has already occurred in 2005 and 2006 respectively, our economy is clearly resource constrained. Given the size of ocean dead zones, mountaintop removal mining, soil deterioration and global warming, our economy is further constrained by our pollution. Since our current and on-going economic crisis is thermodynamic in nature, a model which ignores entropy is not likely to do well. Recall that the physicist Arthur Eddington wrote that if your model contradicts the second law of thermodynamics there is no hope for it. We need better economic models. In this series of articles I propose three.

Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian engineer/economist who died in 1923, collected vast amounts of data on wealth and income distribution from many different countries and from several time periods, which included a variety of economic and government types. He found that wealth was always distributed inequitably, following a power law distribution sometimes called the 80-20 rule or the Pareto principle, i.e., 80 percent of the people owned 20 percent of the wealth and 20 percent of the people owned 80 percent of the wealth [4]. One might observe that the invisible hand inevitably makes the rich richer and the poor poorer.

Pareto developed the “yard sale” economic model, which was nicely described in an article in American Scientist by the mathematician Brian Hayes [5]. This is the first of our three simple models. This model holds wealth constant and the initial distribution of wealth is uniform across the population. If the participants engage in transactions which are of exactly fair value (market efficiency holds) then the economy is stable and robust and continues forever with the same equitable distribution of wealth. However, if we assume instead that transactions are of unequal value even if only by a very small amount relative to the total value of the transactions, eventually one person accrues all of the wealth and the economy dies. To justify the latter assumption note that everybody who purchased a home after 2003 paid too much. Cleary the market is not efficient and there is no invisible hand guiding the economy. And this result is independent of skill, hard work, avarice, or intelligence as well as the details of the way the economy operates. An unregulated free market leads to inequality at least until it becomes so unstable that the economy breaks.

Pareto observed that the wealthy accumulated power as well. This destroys democracy and feeds corruption further aggregating both wealth and power in a positive feedback loop.

According to Mankiw a free market economy will encourage entrepreneurial ambitions and economic growth. This can appear to work if at the same time society is discovering and exploiting new sources of energy. With the discovery of fossil fuels wealth was created faster than the wealthy could co-opt it from the majority. Thus prospects for the majority improved and a large middle class was created in many societies including the United States. This in itself was a positive feedback which encouraged yet more growth. In the end though, the momentum of the unregulated free market is to aggregate wealth in a highly skewed power law distribution. As resources are depleted, wealth aggregation overwhelms wealth creation. The middle class becomes poor and the poor fall out of the economy altogether. This is happening in the United States today. Mankiw’s model does not predict this. In fact Mankiw reprints a gushing article by the articulate and insouciant free-market cheerleader David Brooks from November 27, 2004, just before the economic collapse, titled “Good News about Poverty” [6], describing how remarkably well the world economy was doing.

Pareto’s yard sale model while elegantly simple has obvious deficiencies. It ignores avarice and greed, intelligence and hard work, ambition, and other personality characteristics which might favor some individual’s fate over others. But we can show that these differences exacerbate inherent inequitable wealth accumulation. The yard sale model also starts from an equitable initial condition. In reality some of us are born into poverty and others into wealth. How we start out in life is a substantial disadvantage or advantage. Mankiw writes: “A person’s earnings depend on the supply and demand for that person’s labor, which in turn depend on natural ability, human capital, compensating differentials, discrimination, and so on.” While all that is true, Mankiw ignores initial conditions and pure luck or happenstance in the eventual distribution of income. We can appreciate how these differences might exacerbate inequitable distribution by considering a second model, the Gambler’s Ruin problem from probability theory [7]. We will do this in part two.

Finally, neither Pareto nor Mankiw consider thermodynamic limits. When we discover how to exploit new sources of low entropy, more surplus wealth is created. On the other hand, all wealth is far from thermodynamic equilibrium so that cars rust and bananas rot. Our clothes become threadbare and our infrastructure deteriorates. Wealth is continually destroyed and needs replacing. Pollution and misallocation of resources extract wealth from the economy. The eventual cost of addressing global warming will far exceed, by several orders of magnitude, the relatively meager immediate gains (capital formation) made by the wealthy as a consequence of ignoring the problem. The nuclear arms race had cost the United States over five trillion dollars by 1998 [9]. All of our federal debt can be attributed to misallocating the nation’s capital and low entropy towards military spending and as a consequence our country is being bankrupted by the same forces that bankrupted the Soviet Union. All of these factors, including the incipient housing market collapse were evident by the time Brooks wrote his ill-considered column.

Consider that Mankiw published the fourth edition in 2007, after the housing bubble burst and well into the credit crises and several years after peak oil, yet his book does not contain any information about bubbles, resources, crashes or derivatives. One would think that it would not be so difficult to make predictions after they’ve already happened.

Thermodynamic impacts can be appreciated by considering our third model, Herman Daly’s ecosystem model of the economy. We will address this aspect in part three.

These three models (perhaps not elegant but simple) together can suggest in broad terms what we need to do in the United States in order to preserve our economy and society and ensure its sustainability. They are too crude to supply the detail. However, given the direction in which we are headed, and which most of us inherently understand is not good, comprehending those broad terms would be an enormous benefit.

The conclusion of Pareto’s yard sale model is that happenstance alone naturally exacerbates inequality. As we will see human frailty, such as greed, inevitably makes this condition worse.

[1] Hawking and Mlodinow, The Grand Design, Bantam Books, 2010.

[2] http://brleader.com/?p=2550

[3] Mankiw, Principles of Economics, Fourth Edition, South-Western Cengage Learning, 2007.

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vilfredo_Pareto

[5] Brian Hayes, Follow the Money, American Scientist, Volume 90, Number 5
Page: 400, DOI: 10.1511/2002.5.400September-October, 2002 http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/pub/follow-the-money/2

[6] David Brooks, Good News about Poverty, The New York Times, November 27, 2004, reprinted page 435 in Mankiw, 2007.

[7] Ghahramani, Fundamentals of Probability, second edition, Prentice-Hall, 2000.

[8] Herman Daly, Beyond Growth, Beacon Press, 1996.

[9] Stephen I. Schwartz, Atomic Audit The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940, Brookings Institution Press 1998.

Forecasting the Future Climate – Part 3

December 7, 2010 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, Sustainable Planet Be the first to comment

“The EU has pledged to cut emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by 2020, which will require a 35 percent cut in emissions from electricity generation and a vast expansion of renewables.” Colin Macilwain, Nature, 468, December 2, 2010.

Tony Noerpel

We’ve seen in parts 1 and 2 that whether the peak oil community view, that we are fast running out of fossil fuels or the cornucopian view, that there is plenty of fossil fuels, is correct, we will suffer significant consequences to continued unregulated use of fossil fuels. The announcement a few weeks ago from the International Energy Agency, which has traditionally taken a cornucopian view, that we achieved peak production of conventional crude oil in 2006, weighs heavily on the side of the peak oil hypothesis. However, it has always been known that the supply of liquid fossil fuels was more fragile than the gas (methane) and solid (coal, tar, kerogen, heavy oil, etc.) resources. At any rate, realized supply problems render global warming denial arguments as completely irrelevant to policy as they’ve always been to the science. We need comprehensive energy and climate legislation now. Putting aside the difficulty of achieving that in the next two years, and accepting that here in the United States we have a serious political intransigence, I want to focus instead on the engineering aspect. The news here is very good.

Figure 1 shows per capital fossil fuel energy use for several countries and the world. There is good news and bad news in this figure. Note that the average American uses more than 2 times as much fossil fuel energy as the average European and six times as much as the rest of the world’s citizens. Several years ago when I first forecast a possible oil crisis (the one that did happen) people would object that since we have a service economy, we would be less vulnerable to oil shortages than a manufacturing economy which actually produced something, such as Germany or China. My reply was to point out that regardless of what we may imagine our economy to be; we used a whole lot of fossil fuels to accomplish it. The service economy argument was a red herring. We are more vulnerable to an oil crisis because we use more oil, regardless of what we do with it. We are unprepared for a future with less oil. This is the bad news.

The good news is that the bulk of our energy use, about 65 percent, is wasted. Europe maintains a higher quality of life, if we use infant mortality rate as the metric, on about 65 percent less energy consumption. Congressman Roscoe Bartlett pointed out in 2005 that 65 percent of future energy in America has to come from conservation. Conservation is the cheapest from of energy mining and given our level of waste, would be easy to achieve with good federal policy. Cutting our energy consumption to European levels should be easy. Cutting our electricity generation a further 35 percent should be our goal. These are exactly the kinds of policies which President Carter initiated in the late 70’s as a response to the oil crises during that decade. This is low hanging fruit: car pooling, tax credits for replacing leaky windows or installing extra insulation, etc.

annual per capita fossil fuel consumption in metric tonnes of carbon.

annual per capita fossil fuel consumption in metric tonnes of carbon.

Our energy and climate legislation needs to include aggressive tax policy to encourage conservation. Clearly, such a policy generates jobs here in America which cannot be exported overseas. Figure 2 breaks down the energy use by sector in the United States.

Figure 2 Energy use by sector in the United States

Figure 2 Energy use by sector in the United States

Note that buildings, combining commercial and residential, use 41% of our energy principally for lighting, heating and cooling. This is low hanging fruit. We know how to build zero-carbon homes and buildings. We need to employ energy auditors, and trades people to install energy efficient retrofits to homes. The stimulus package was supposed to have included this.

To address transportation, our energy and climate legislation needs to include funds for high speed rail, light rail and pedestrian and bicycle paths. A few years ago one of our local architects, Alan Hansen, sketched out for me a plan for a light passenger rail loop connecting the future Moorefield Station Metro stop with the rest of Loudoun County. I thought it was brilliant. These are jobs created right here in Loudoun County. We also need higher fuel efficiency standards, equivalent to those adopted by the rest of the world.

Having cut our energy consumption by half or more, we can more easily transition our energy supply to wind and solar. Trans-Electric Development Company in cooperation with Google is proposing to build an Atlantic Wind Connection offshore wind transmission line project which would carry 6000 MW of energy flow [1]. This is being financed privately. Offshore wind between Cape Hatteras and Cape Cod in the Mid-Atlantic Bight can potentially generate as much as 64,000 MW of energy flow. This represents four percent of current United States electricity production but with 65% reduction in energy use, it represents 10 percent of our electrical energy needs. Of course, counting on continuous power from wind would reduce this to about three percent. We also need to develop concentrated solar thermal power generation in America’s south west. On shore wind and offshore wind from other areas complete the mix. For more information on the challenges of offshore wind and European development see [2].

We can easily pay for this by cutting our military budget by 90 percent. It is a shame that none of our newly elected representatives, though decrying our huge deficits, have no idea how those deficits were created and therefore which spending is wasteful and has to be cut. We need to cut our losses in Afghanistan. President Bush lost that war, whether or not we think it was justified and President Obama made a mistake, which cost him the support of his base (a mistake Bush never made), by adopting the war as his own. The current Afghanistan leaders are carting money out of that country as fast as we are pouring it in. The Iraq War is lost. We will never seize control of Iraqi oil as intended. If the reader wished to believe that the war was not about oil but about the non-existing weapons of mass destruction, then we had already won the war before the invasion. We lost the war with the first casualty. Either way, it has cost us several 1000 billion dollars, depending on which estimate one wants to believe, leaving aside the human costs. Money that could easily have been spent here in America or simply not spent at all.

The United States currently maintains over 600 garrisons in over 100 countries, and one might reasonably ask why. This is the effort of neo-conservatives through the years and the military industrial complex which President Eisenhower warned us about back in 1960. I mentioned the 90 percent estimate to a friend a few weeks ago and she replied that we could not do that because of national defense. I asked why more money is required to defend America than say Canada, Russia or China. We outspend the rest of the world combined and the military budgets for these countries are all less than 10% of our spending. In other words, cutting our military budget by 90 percent still leaves us with the most expensive military in the world. Military spending is the largest pork barrel in the government budget.

In addition to cutting military spending to help pay for our energy transition, the energy and climate legislation should include a carbon tax. The goal of the tax should be to force coal companies to pay for the external costs associated with mountain top removal mining, the costs which we will have to pay to clean up the mess they are creating. If the carbon tax is set sufficiently high, we will stop destroying valuable and irreplaceable water shed, replacing it as coal companies do with toxic desert.

Finally, we need to increase spending on energy research. Michael Polymenis writes in Nature this week:

“It is worth recalling physicist Michael Faraday’s reply in the 1850s to William Gladstone, then British Chancellor of the Exchequer. Questioned about the practical value of electricity, Faraday answered: “One day, sir, you may tax it.”

I will address each of the topics raised in more detail in future articles. My conclusion is that we can do this and it is not an engineering or science problem, though really cool engineering challenges exist, but a political one.

Tony Noerpel

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/12/science/earth/12wind.html?_r=2&hp

[2] Colin Macilwain, Supergrid, Nature, volume 468, 2 December, 2010.

State of the Union

December 2, 2010 by Blue Ridge Leader Columns, Sustainable Planet Be the first to comment

“No credible climate scientist now doubts that humans have had an effect on Earth’s climate during the last two centuries, primarily by causing increases in the concentrations of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere.” William F. Ruddiman, Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum, Princeton University Press, 2005.

“Growing evidence indicates that human activity is altering the climate in significant and potentially hazardous ways.” Tristan S. L’Ecuyer and Jonathan H. Jiang [1].

“We should see scientific and technological innovation as an important pillar and make greater effort to develop new industries of strategic importance. Science and technology is a powerful engine of economic growth . . . We will make China a country of innovation. . . We will accelerate the development of a low-carbon economy and green economy so as to gain an advantageous position in the international industrial competition.” Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, World Economic Forum, September 10, 2009.

Tony Noerpel, December 1, 2010

By way of introduction to my readers, I’m a satellite communications engineer. Through most of my career, I’ve done research and development beginning in 1977 at Bell Telephone Laboratories. At Bell Labs I crossed paths with Nobel Laureates Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson. I shared an office with Ed Ohm who built the low noise receiver they used to measure the background radiation of the universe which proved the Big Bang Theory. I hold 32 US patents and have over 70 publications including peer-reviewed journal articles, conference papers and book chapters.

In my entire career, no senator, such as for example James Inhofe, declared that satellite communications was a hoax. No syndicated columnist, such as for example George Will, claimed that satellite engineers were wrong about the height of the geosynchronous satellite orbit. No neo-classical economist, such as for example William Nordhaus, presumed that economics determined satellite orbits instead of gravity. No extreme right wing and transparently partisan radio or FOX TV personality (these appear more numerous than stink bugs) claimed that satellite scientists were liars or communists. In short, in my field, engineers and scientists could go about our business without being libeled and contradicted by indignantly self-righteous ideologues.

On July 25, 1997, The Senate voted 95-0 in favor of the Byrd-Hagel Resolution keeping the United States out of the Kyoto Protocol process. During this time the extremist right wing media pontificated that our country was dominated by liberals overlooking the embarrassing fact that no liberal would have voted for such a disastrous and irresponsible resolution. It is literally true that there was not a single liberal in the Senate in 1997; not even one. I do not believe even a moderate would have voted to keep the United States out of the Kyoto process. In fact, no intelligent and well-informed conservative would have voted for the Byrd resolution. We, the people of the United States, were being lied to. Our government was in fact overrun by inadequately informed conservatives, notwithstanding that many of them were apparently not conservative enough. I felt the need to understand the science behind anthropogenic global warming theory not because I mistrusted it. That would have been ridiculous. Climate science is not my field. I mistrusted denialists and their corporate funders and I was curious to know how far from reality modern American conservatism had drifted and how much damage they were going to cause.

I understand Maxwell’s Electro-Magnetic Field Theory fairly well having invented antennas and guided wave devices. Radiation physics is an integral part of planetary climate physics since ultimately a planet’s climate is determined by the radiation budget at the boundary between the atmosphere and outer space. As Joseph Fourier showed in 1824, incoming short wave solar radiation must balance outgoing long wave heat radiation. So I understand one of the more difficult aspects of climatology. However, I am not a climate physicist and do not claim to be.

Therefore, I always accepted and respected the considered and educated opinion of the climate science community that anthropogenic global warming is a serious problem. If George Will, or Glen Beck or James Inhofe held the same level of foolish and ignorant opinion about satellite communications which they hold about global warming I would have hoped they would have been written off as extremist nuts. What was going wrong with our country when such irresponsible and unreliable people were given large soap boxes? I know at least two things. James Inhofe knows more about satellite communications than he knows about global warming and he doesn’t know a damned thing about satellite communications.

I began my study of climatology as any good engineer or scientist would by reading Earth science and climate physics text books. This is a necessary first step in order to understand the lingo of climate science. LGM is the Last Glacial Maximum and it occurred 20,000 years ago, predating the presumed creation of the Earth for some of us, I know. PETM is the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum happening 55 million years ago. Equilibrium climate sensitivity is the amount the Earth would warm if atmospheric carbon dioxide were doubled including only fast feedbacks and after the climate had equilibrated. It helps to know these things if a person endeavors to read and understand the science. If you don’t know this stuff and are a global warming denier, then you must concede that you are not skeptical, but gullible.

A fellow engineer and I were working together on a state-of-the-art satellite system. At the end of one meeting, global warming came up in the conversation. He asked me “Do you believe in global warming?”

I replied “of course not, I understand it.” To which he rolled his eyes.

He told me he had seen just the other night on TV a scientist explain that the carbon dioxide we were putting in the atmosphere compared to something else (he wasn’t sure what) was actually quite a small amount and therefore global warming couldn’t possibly be happening. Humans could not possibly be having an impact. It was a killer argument, he said.

I said: “We have to design the waveform for this satellite project.” Are you going to channel surf tonight to see if you can find a television program that will tell us how to do it?”

“Of course not.”

“Then why would you watch TV to learn about climate physics? Why would you possibly think you were going to learn something useful? Why wouldn’t you do what you do for work and read the science?”

“Look, nobody has time for that.”

“I agree, which is why you should not be wasting time watching TV in the first place.“

I asked him if he knew the name of this presumed scientist. He did not. He didn’t know what kind of scientist the guy was nor actually if he even was a scientist. He did not remember the TV channel or when he saw it. And he could not recall the details of the argument. I pointed out to him that this was the difference between belief and understanding. He believed. I understood. He believed opinion from an unreliable source which he could not verify and I understood information from reliable sources which I had verified. He would rather “believe” some unknown charlatan than trust the science described by the entire climate science community.

Not having much information to go on, I drew a picture of the Earth’s carbon cycle on the white board in the conference room including flows between various Earth subsystems (from memory and based on the scientific publications of Kevin Trenberth and his colleagues at the National Center for Atmospheric Research) clearly illustrating the human impact. I sent him references to the peer-reviewed science for verification when I got back to my office.

While studying climate physics I was introduced to a wide variety of scientific fields, which I previously never had the time to study: geology, paleontology, astrophysics, biology and so on. The point is that anthropogenic global warming is consistent with all of our accumulated knowledge in these other fields. No science threatens the consensus view of global warming so all of science is a wonderfully enticing open book. Denial of global warming is inconsistent with science. Therefore it is a closed book. Deniers are not curious people because self contradiction and cognitive dissonance lurk behind every tree and beneath every rock. Deniers are not skeptics. They are of necessity closed minded ideologues. Ideologies, whether free market capitalism or soviet central planning, are in the end the same thing differing only in detail. Ideologies substitute a belief system for critical thinking. Any ideology can make a fool out of anybody because all ideologies though useful over some period of time or in some place eventually fail when circumstances change.

Take free market ideologue Milton Friedman. He wrote in Capitalism and Freedom, published in 1962, that “the great advances of civilization, in industry or agriculture, have never come from centralized government,” five years after centrally planned Soviet Union launched Sputnik on October 4, 1957 [2]. On November 13, 1957, President Eisenhower said: “The Soviet Union now has – in the combined category of scientists and engineers – a greater number than the United States. And it is producing graduates in these fields at a much faster rate … This trend is disturbing. Indeed, according to my scientific advisers, this is for the American people the most critical problem of all. My scientific advisers place this problem above all other immediate tasks of producing missiles, of developing new techniques in the Armed Services. We need scientists in the ten years ahead…” [3].

The entire satellite communications industry came from two very different centralized governments, the Soviet Union and the United States and as a matter of fact the most centrally planned government beat us to it. This isn’t an endorsement of central planning. All ideologues are fair game and should be ridiculed. Reality is quite complicated and cannot be boiled down to a few rigid beliefs. While free market capitalism has considerable merit over soviet central planning it is clearly not the major cause of human technological advancement as both the Soviet Union and the United States independently developed nuclear weapons, nuclear power, space exploration, and spread their influences far beyond their extensive borders. The major cause was the discovery and exploitation of low entropy (basically energy, see [4]). The major cause for the collapse of the Soviet Union was the misallocation of captured low entropy to military expansion, their nuclear arsenal and the Afghanistan War. These are the same causes contributing to the current collapse of the United States economy.

Studying the science over several years convinced me that there is no science which supports global warming denial. I understand that most of us likely don’t have that kind of time. Fundamentally, trusting climate scientists is the same thing as trusting satellite engineers. Global warming is real and satellite communications works. You don’t have to take a dozen college courses in orbital mechanics in order to convince yourself that your satellite TV or satellite radio system will actually work. The science is the same. If the choice is between Ruddiman, sapient climate physicist, and Will, professional bloviate, then we go with sapience.

I can understand why the CEO of Exxon Mobil is not motivated to tell the truth about climate science. He has to because of his obligation to increase shareholder value. I’m a share holder and I understand this responsibility. The CEO of Exxon Mobil cannot support what is best for America or Americans if he perceives that it threatens profits in the next quarter.

But our representatives and senators have an obligation to us, to future generations and to the truth on which they have reneged. The main stream media in America have let us down to their shame. Jon Stewart makes the point that monkeys (politicians) throw feces. We accept this. It is when the zookeeper (the press) throws feces, too, that we get into trouble. In this regard it is worth noting that FOX News is more closely allied to the GOP than Pravda was to the Kremlin. We saw how well that worked for them.

In future articles, I will explain jut how serious our trouble is. Deniers have left us in a dangerous situation and we are running out of time. The 112th congress is the most clueless congress we have ever elected. Since they are all ideologues, it is just as easy to anticipate the sort of mayhem they will cause as it was to forecast back in 2000 that the Bush administration would cause the worst economic collapse since the great depression. I made that forecast and I was right.

If you want to learn more about the role of satellites in studying the Earth see [1].

[1] http://ptonline.aip.org/journals/doc/PHTOAD-ft/vol_63/iss_7/36_1.shtml?type=RSS&bypassSSO=1

[2] Oreskes and Conway, Merchants of Doubt, 2010.

[3] http://www.energy.gov/media/Chu_NationalPressClub112910.pdf

[4] Tony Noerpel, Entropy, http://brleader.com/?p=2025

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Sustainable Planet

Pungent Curry

9 Apr 2014


The latest version of the IPCC report is published and once again it will go unread by the great masses of climate science deniers and unreported by the media. So it might be useful to revisit the fundamental physical realities …

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Ask Dr. Mike

Understanding Teen Suicide

1 Apr 2014


By Michael Oberschneider, Psy.D. Northern Virginia has recently experienced several teen suicides. Last month, two Langley High School students took their own lives just a day apart from one another, and this month it appears two students at Woodson High …

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Virginia Gardening

Spring Is Coming

4 Mar 2014


By Donna Williamson March is an in-between month – some cold and the return of glorious warmth now and then. One way to bring some delight inside is forcing spring-blooming branches. You can cut branches of forsythia, cherry, crabapple, kerria, …

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Sushi's Corner

An Easter Swim

1 Apr 2014

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 11.10.56 AM

I felt like a silly nim “cow” poop with these Easter bows in our hair. Okay Nelly, maybe you didn’t because you’re a girl. But me, a Mighty Cairn Terrier male? – PLEASE! Pleasing Mrs. B for Easter pictures was …

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Amy V. Smith's Money Talks

What Baseball Can Teach You About Financial Planning

1 Apr 2014

Amy Smith-BRL

Spring training is a tradition that baseball teams and baseball fans look forward to every year. No matter how they did last year, teams in spring training are full of hope that a new season will bring a fresh start. …

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Go Take a Hike

Blandy Experimental Farm

6 Jun 2012


By Molly Pinson Simoneau It’s no secret that I love a challenging hike. I’ve written here about hiking sections of the Appalachian Trail and Shenandoah National Park. I’ve taken vacations with my family to Colorado where I’ve attempted to conquer a “fourteener” (a summit that is higher than 14,000 feet), …


Real Estate Ticker

A Buying Opportunity?

6 Nov 2013

Carl Fischer headshot

By Carl Fischer As a direct result of the uncertainty that has arisen from national and regional politics, with its unsettling effect on the Northern Virginia area, for the past two months there has been a market slowdown which has …

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From the Farm

From the Farm

5 Jul 2012

From the Farm

When the heat index reaches 110 degrees, as it has been doing recently, I try to keep in the shade, or stay indoors. But my lavender, about halfway from full bloom, seems to thrive in it. Hot and dry, I …

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April 2014
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: Art Gallery Reception for Featured Artists -- Abstract painter Evelyn Lopez de Guzman and contemporary painter Sandra Iafrate


April 12, 2014N/A

Meet Evelyn and Sandra and other gallery artists during a free, open to the public reception for this month's Featured Artists' exhibit "Living Color,” showcasing two accomplished painters Evelyn Lopez de Guzman and Sandra Iafrate, in a vivid and dynamic presentation of color, shape and our surroundings.

Evelyn Lopez de Guzman’s vibrant paintings awaken the viewer to connect with nature and the modern world through an interplay of shape, color, and textural materials.

Sandra Iafrate’s combination of realistic and surrealist interpretation of flowers, foliage and landscapes on spacious canvases convey a sense of movement and playfulness.

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Easter at "The Park"


April 19, 2014

Celebrate Easter at historic Morven Park with crafts for kids, an egg hunt in the formal gardens plus a traditional egg roll on the Davis Mansion lawn. Have a family photo taken with the Easter Bunny. Children should bring a basket for the hunt and a large spoon for the egg roll. $10/participating child (ages 2-12), $3/adult. Register at www.MorvenPark.org.

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VAL's Pals Kids Club


April 30, 2014

Join Inova Loudoun Hospital as the present their Beamer the Dog Program.

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May 4, 2014

Scouting for Bricks is an exhibit showing the Love for everything LEGO® . Come see amazing LEGO® creations by Fans of LEGO®, LEGO® trains, Mindstorms robots. We will also have live Star Wars Stormtroopers and an interactive play area with over 100,000 LEGO bricks. Scouting for Bricks is fun for the Whole Family! Visit us at www.ScoutingForBricks.com.

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View From the Ridge

Rural Loudoun Is Different, and We Say Dark Skies Do Matter

4 Mar 2014


In February of this year a sell out crowd gathered at the county public seat in Leesburg to provide feedback to the Loudoun County Planning Commission on the idea of adding additional sports lights to the upper athletic fields at Franklin Park. Franklin Park includes a really wonderful performing arts …



Steady and Nobull

4 Mar 2014

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Park and Ride Lots for Western Loudoun

4 Mar 2014


In 2003, the county purchased 22 commuter buses to serve a growing demand for bus service to Washington D.C. The demand has grown exponentially ever since. The county now owns or leases 65 large commuter buses (with plush seats and on board restrooms) and more are being added every year. The buses are often filled to standing room only as …



Sadie’s Race 5K and Fun Run Scheduled for Sunday May 18

9 Apr 2014


Sadie Smile Foundation is putting on the third annual Sadie’s Race/Walk and Kids Fun Run to Benefit Smile Train in Purcellville Sunday, May 18th this year. The race starts at 8:00 a.m. at the train station at 200 N 21st Street in Purcellville. Sign up at Active.com. When Sara Ablard lost her five year-old daughter, Sadie, two years ago, she …

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Dr. Joseph Rogers Dies at Family Farm

1 Apr 2014

Dr. Joseph Megeath Rogers, 90, died on Saturday March 8, 2014 at his Hillbrook Farm near Hamilton following a stroke. Physician, farmer, businessman, rural land conservationist, philanthropist and expert horseman, Dr. Rogers was a tireless advocate and practitioner of country living whose contributions in a broad range of interests were made quietly and with little fanfare. His public persona was …

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Zoldos Presented Citizen of the Year Award

1 Apr 2014


At the biweekly March meeting of the Lovettsville Town Council, Mayor Bobby Zoldos was presented the 2013 Citizen of the Year from the Lovettsville Waterford Ruritans. Presenting the award was Rick Adams, current president along with Board Member Peter Mullally and  Vice President Jeff Boogaard. Adams said, “On behalf of the Lovettsville Waterford Ruritans, we would like to present the …

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Around Virginia

Wolf Won’t Seek Re-election


Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10th) today announced that he would not seek election to an 18th term in 2014. He released the following statement announcing his decision: “I have decided not to seek re-election to the U.S. Congress in 2014. It has been an honor to serve the people of northern …

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Virginia Can and Should Work Harder to Combat Hunger


By Congressman Frank Wolf Last year, the USDA reported a record number of Americans are struggling to put food on their tables. Across the nation, 49 million people – including 17 million children and six million seniors – are going hungry, a number that has grown substantially over the last …

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Kaine Statement on Navy Yard Shooting


U.S. Senator Tim Kaine released the following statement on today’s shooting at the Washington Navy Yard: “My thoughts and prayers are with everyone impacted by today’s tragic shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. As we learn more about the horrific events that unfolded this morning, my deepest sympathies go out …

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Nominate Your Hometown Hero

9 Apr 2014


Upper Loudoun Little League’s Hometown Heroes scholarship closes on April 21, 2014. The application is available online at ULLL.org. The scholarship is open to all graduating seniors who played baseball for ULLL at some point in their growing up years.

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Lady Vikings Give Back

10 Feb 2014

The Loudoun Valley Girls basketball team held an event on Friday, February 7 at LVHS. The Lady Vikings celebrated “Pink Night” by honoring those who are battling breast cancer or have been affected by breast cancer. The event was held in conjunction with an event held at Woodgrove earlier this …

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Medicaid Expansion Battle Heating Up

4 Mar 2014


Did you know that there’s a very real possibility that a DC-style budget battle and government shutdown could come to Virginia? The Medicaid expansion battle …

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Endorsing for Profit Businesses?

4 Mar 2014

town of purcellville sign

I recently received an automated email message from the Town of Purcellville soliciting nominations for volunteer award recipients in cooperation with the Purcellville Business Association …


Another Vote To Overrule Purcellville’s Board of Architectural Review

4 Mar 2014

town of purcellville sign

The Purcellville Town Council, foolishly, in the view of many and perhaps most, has overruled its Board of Architectural Review and approved Mark Nelis’s and …



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